Jonah Goldberg

The unofficial Conservative Pundit Full-Employment Act - aka the Howard Dean presidential campaign - currently working its way through the democratic process in Iowa and New Hampshire looks pretty much unstoppable at this point.

If Dean wins those early primaries, it's almost guaranteed he will be the Democratic nominee. Of course, the good people of Iowa and New Hampshire have a rich heritage of smashing such predictions the way John Belushi smashed that guitar in "Animal House." So, let's just assume I've invoked the appropriate "anything can happen" cliche.

I've largely decided that I want Dean to get the nomination. In my more patriotic moments, I realize how selfish this is. As an American, I should hope that the best, most qualified, candidate gets the Democratic nomination on the chance he might become president.

In that sense, Joe Lieberman should be my guy. But he's got no chance of winning the nomination. Richard Gephardt probably wouldn't be a disaster except on economic issues. Meanwhile, John Kerry is the most incoherent major presidential contender of my lifetime, so, frankly, I have no idea what kind of president he'd make. Maybe, if he achieved his lifelong dream of being president, he'd just sit in the Oval Office shooting at TV sets like Elvis.

In fact, with the exceptions of Kerry, Carol Mosley-Braun, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton, I think Dean is probably the worst choice of a pretty awful field. It reminds me of that 1960 bumper sticker that read: "Kennedy and Nixon: Thank God Only One of Them Can Win!"

But then I get selfish. There are at least three reasons I'd like Dean to be the nominee.

First, Dean provides a real alternative to Bush. As commentators Andrew Sullivan and Bill Kristol have already pointed out, an election between George W. Bush and Howard Dean would provide a stark choice in 2004.

To be fair, I thought that the Gore vs. Bush 2000 contest offered a stark choice, too. Gore turned his back on the Clinton legacy of policy centrism and ran as a fire-breathing populist. The problem was that he looked a bit phony, since he'd spent 20 years building up a reputation as a moderate.

Dean has undergone a similar reinvention. But he has the advantage of being an unknown to most Americans, so his reinvention doesn't make him look like an opportunist the way Gore's did.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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