Jonah Goldberg

Fulfilling their obligations in the democratic process, voters in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries have winnowed the field of candidates down to at least eight.

Wait: 8?

Yeah, 3 Howard Deans, 2 John Kerrys, 2 Wes Clarks and 1 John Edwards.

Let's start in that order. First there's the 1990s Howard Dean. He's the centrist "fiscally conservative" former governor of Vermont who implored Bill Clinton to join NAFTA and admit China to the WTO. That Howard Dean spoke fondly of Newt Gingrich and favored curtailing Medicare spending. He's the one who denounced the Iowa caucuses as the playthings of special interests.

Then there's Angry Howard Dean. He's the one we've seen for most of the last year and a half. That Howard Dean thinks NAFTA was a disaster, sees no need to curtail spending on Medicare, wants to rethink the whole WTO thing and firmly believes that Newt Gingrich eats kittens. He despises "Washington insiders," the "Democratic party establishment" and other inside-the-beltway sellouts.

"It's not enough to change presidents," Angry Dean declared to hoards of young "Deaniacs." "We have to change the way Washington works - stand up to the lobbyists and the special interests and make government work for people again!"

Angry Dean lost in both Iowa and New Hampshire when he was supposed to win both by a big margin. So, rather than get angrier, Dean has become "Decaf Dean." Not only does he not yell as much, but he's fired Joe Trippi - the former genius behind Angry Dean's "youth movement" - and replaced him with Roy Neel, a consummate Washington establishment insider who worked for Al Gore in the White House and then became the telecom industry's chief lobbyist.

Then there's John Kerry. It might be slightly inaccurate to say there are only two Kerrys, considering his gift for being on so many sides of an issue. What's also confusing is that, unlike Dean who evolves into new personas and then sticks with them for a while like, say, a Michael Jackson, Kerry tends to switch between his personalities constantly in a Jekyll-and-Hyde fashion.

The best example was reported by The New Republic in 1991, which obtained two letters, both signed by John Kerry to the same constituent. The first read: "Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition ... to the early use of military force by the U.S. against Iraq. I share your concerns. On Jan. 11, I voted in favor of a resolution that would have insisted that economic sanctions be given more time to work and against a resolution giving the president the immediate authority to go to war."


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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