Governor Dean says the Democrats' 2004 presidential aspirations are doomed if he doesn't get the nomination. Dean's Democratic opponents say the Democrats are doomed if Dean does get the nomination. I think they're both right.
Dean said, "If I don't win the nomination, where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, … (are) going to go? They're certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician."
Dean has a point. He's the only one who's been able to fire up the Democrat base. If his opponents can't do that, how can they woo the general election voter? But the very qualities that make Dean so attractive to his extremist base make him a dark horse in the general election as well.
He is antiwar and anti-Bush to the point of seeming irresponsible. He's irascible to the point of seeming unstable. And he is profoundly weak in the areas he needs to be strongest in: foreign policy and national security.
President Bush excels in these areas, which is quite ironic, considering that a few short years ago, elitists were lampooning Bush for mispronouncing the names of obscure foreign leaders. They still deride him for his allegedly simplistic worldview.
What compounds the irony is that the elitists' favorite party, the Democrats, are about to nominate a guy (Dean) who is very unsophisticated and unknowledgeable in foreign affairs and actually does have a simplistic worldview. The Boston Globe reports that Dean's worldview is that of "a doctor who wants to see evidence of a problem and fix it, rather than an idealist with lofty academic visions."
Recognizing this, the Democratic establishment recently organized a six-hour foreign policy tutorial for Mr. Dean. But neither that little homeschooling session, nor Dean's sit-downs with former President Clinton have kept him from further blunders. Dean referred to Russia as the Soviet Union, a faux pas virtually ignored by a media that pilloried Mr. Bush for much less.
Even if we overlook that mistake, it's hard to ignore other evidence revealing Dean's surprisingly shallow foreign policy perspective. He said we should demand that Pakistan cough up Osama bin Laden or go in and get him ourselves, overlooking the complexities facing Pakistani President Musharraf's delicate hold on power and how much his support means in the war on terror. Dean's own advisers have admitted to his naivete on this, as well as his limited understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the broader Middle East picture.
Dean has indicated, essentially, that he would resume President Clinton's failed policies toward North Korea, continuing to bribe them into discontinuing their nuclear program, when we know this policy gave us the worst of both worlds: we lost our money and North Korea continued to produce their nukes.
And Dean has done anything but inspire confidence with his inconsistent positions on SDI. Sometimes he says he would abolish the program and other times that he would only reduce funding for it.
Dean will eventually have to deal with the reality that if he had been commander in chief, Saddam would still be in power. Potentially even more troubling for him is his earned image as a borderline pacifist. Former national security adviser Samuel Berger said he believed that Dean "would be willing to use military force if called for." What? You mean there's sufficient doubt that the Democrats' leading candidate for commander in chief would use military force to defend the United States' strategic interests that Berger felt compelled to dispel it?
Dean has also made some remarkably ridiculous statements that he'll have to explain. He suggested that bin Laden could be innocent. He cited reports that President Bush knew in advance of the September 11 attacks, then quickly denied subscribing to the idea, a ploy even many liberals admitted was intended to smear President Bush. And, Dean said that America was no safer for having captured Saddam Hussein. Finally, The Washington Post reported that Dean admitted in an interview that while he planned to give his base the red meat it craved, he (wouldn't) be talking like this during the general (election)." Quite an admission.
As if all this weren't bad enough for Mr. Dean, understand that a recent Washington Post-ABC News survey revealed that most Democrats know "hardly anything" or "nothing" about his policy positions. And don't forget that the very Democrats who love Dean because of his staunch liberalism deny he's a liberal. Go figure.
Did I mention that President Bush is very strong in the polls right now and is riding a booming economy, brought on by his tax cuts that Mr. Dean advocates repealing?