Dean's loose lips

Posted: Dec 17, 2003 12:00 AM

Howard Dean is increasingly looking like he's come unhinged. While the Democratic front-runner shows no sign of slowing his long march toward his party's nomination, he has begun saying things that are not only irresponsible, they sound downright wacky.

First there was Dean's accusation that the president might have been warned about the September 11, 2001, attacks. On the Diane Rehm show on National Public Radio, Dean said, "The most interesting theory that I have heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can't think -- it can't be proved, is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is."

Dean tried to back away from the nutty accusation a week later when interviewed by Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." "Why would you say that," Wallace asked him, "Do you believe that?" To which Dean replied, "No, I don't believe that. I can't imagine the president of the United States doing that. But we don't know, and it'd be a nice thing to know."

A nice thing to know? I suppose it would be nice to know that the president is not really an alien from outer space sent to rule the world. But most of us who are sane creatures assume that is the case -- certainly no one has to prove it to us.

But Dean can't help himself from saying weird things. On Monday, in what was billed as his first major foreign policy address, Dean said that "The capture of Saddam has not made America safer."

No doubt Dean would be happier if Saddam were still on the loose, since he, and indeed many in the Democratic Party, had pointed to the inability to capture either Saddam or Osama bin Laden as one of President Bush's major failures in the war on terrorism. But to say that Americans are no safer with Saddam behind bars is just plain strange.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman accused Dean of "climbing into his own spider hole of denial." Lieberman sounded offended, as an American: "Saddam Hussein is a homicidal maniac, brutal dictator, supporter of terrorism and enemy of the United States, and there should be no doubt that America and the world are safer with him captured."

Howard Dean is an angry man, and he lashes out with such venom and hatred that he sometimes can't control his words -- or those of his most ardent followers. At a recent fundraiser, Dean stood off stage while comedian Judy Gold said of the president of the United States, "We have to get this piece of living, breathing s--- out of the office." Kate Lloyd, another comedian at the event, drew laughs when she referred to Michael Jackson's pending charges of child molestation. "Frankly, I'm far more frightened of Condoleezza Rice," she said, and then went on to refer to Vice President Dick Cheney's wife as Lon Chaney, an actor in horror movies. And trash-mouth comedian Janeane Garofalo, referred to the new Medicare prescription drug bill as the " 'you can go f--- yourself, Grandma' bill."

Dean chose to go onstage anyway, forfeiting an opportunity to pull a Bill Clinton "Sister Souljah" move. In 1992, candidate Bill Clinton chastised Jesse Jackson for inviting Sister Souljah to a Rainbow Coalition event because the rapper had suggested, in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, "If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people."

The most Howard Dean would say when he came onstage after the comedians had spewed their filth was a vague reference to some of the language that was used -- which was directed more at the "N" word liberally sprinkled throughout some of the routines. "I just don't have much tolerance for ethnic humor," Dean said. "We are all one community."

When a Washington Post reporter asked Dean about the role anger plays in his campaign, "Dean responds negatively -- in fact, angrily, to the suggestion that his campaign is driven by anger." But that anger is making the candidate behave as if he were slightly unbalanced. George W. Bush may drive some Democrats crazy, but they better hope their likely nominee gets a grip on himself soon, or he'll make the whole party look mad next November.