Kathleen Parker

As stereotypes go, few ignite the emotions as reliably as the Southern Pickup Truck With Confederate Flag. Just ask Dr. Howard Dean.

The Democrat front-runner opened ye unholy can of worms recently when he told an Iowa newspaper that he wanted "to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." Dean made the remark by way of explaining his opposition to some gun-control legislation and as part of his Southern strategy of inclusiveness.

As in: "We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross section of Democrats," he explained to the Des Moines Register.

And, "White folks in the South who drive pickups with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us and not them because their kids don't have health insurance, and their kids need better schools, too," he said at a Democratic National Committee meeting in February.

In the wake of Dean's most recent remarks, a veritable maelstrom of Bubba-ness has ensued. You'd have thought Dean had invoked Satan by the reaction of the other Democratic candidates, who began jockeying for Most Virtuous and made literal the politics of bumper sticker slogans.

John Kerry accused Dean of being "craven," and pandering to the National Rifle Association.

"I'd rather be the candidate of the NAACP than the NRA, who understands that the Confederate flag belongs in museums."

Richard Gephardt issued a statement saying he'd rather "be the candidate for the guys with American flags in their pickup trucks."

Oh, yeah? Well, the Rev. Al Sharpton said he'd rather confront people who "wave the Confederate flag," not embrace them.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman's spokesman said Dean's remark was "irresponsible and reckless." John Edwards, a North Carolinian, said that "to assume that Southerners who drive trucks would embrace this symbol is offensive."

And George Bush, who drives a pickup truck, said: "Who?"

This amusing display of Bubba one-upmanship proves only one thing: When it comes to yahoo-ism, nobody can accuse the South of hogging the market. Southern boys who drive pickup trucks - with or without flag decals - are wondering what these guys are talking about, if they're wondering at all.

Living in rural South Carolina, I'm surrounded by pickup trucks and, I reckon, good ol' boys. Yeah, sure nuf, we get together every sundown at the corner Esso to shuck corn, swat flies, chaw tobacco and flirt with our cousins while swapping tall tales about Gen. Sherman's mysterious overnight with Miss Liza's great-grandmama and how her house miraculously survived the Yankee fires. Wee-dawgies.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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