End of year reflections

Posted: Dec 27, 2003 12:00 AM

Today's column is desultory. Kindly indulge me. I have Howard Dean and Time magazine on my mind.

Time magazine has chosen the American soldier as its Person of the Year. Ha! Meaning no disrespect at all to the world's finest fighting force, I have a feeling that the excellence of our men at arms had little to do with this decision.

No, it seems pretty evident that the editors of Time were desperate to find someone, anyone, to name instead of George W. Bush. The person of the year is supposedly selected for having had the most influence on events of the past year, for good or ill. But this standard is not always strictly applied. Think back to 2001, for example. It is blindingly obvious that the one person who shaped the world the most that year, very much for ill, was Osama bin Laden. But Time's editors could not bring themselves to name him -- not when they were receiving daily warnings from readers threatening to cancel their subscriptions; not when so many continue to see the person of the year as some sort of honor. So they punted and chose Rudolph Giuliani.

But (again let me stress that I bow to no one in my admiration for the U.S. military), the persons of the year Time chose would be sitting in Fort Benning and Camp Pendleton, not in Saddam's palaces today had it not been for George Bush. Not only has Bush shown the courage to take the fight to the terrorists and made this a victory year for American forces and American values, he has begun the process of remaking the Middle East in a more democratic mold, a challenge he created and embraced, and on which he will be judged by history. You may consider it too ambitious, or you may think him a visionary, but either way, it seems to me, George Bush must be acknowledged as a huge actor on the world stage. Time magazine needs to work on its news judgment.

I know that many conservatives are praying for Howard Dean's success in the Democratic primaries. They consider him, with good reason, to be the most beatable of the likely nominees. I demur. Despite what liberals always say about us conservatives (we're supposed to be the party of hate), I don't want to spend the year 2004 in a lather. I don't want to hate the Democrats' choice. If they nominate Dick Gephardt or Joe Lieberman, the country can have an honest debate, and bitterness need not reign in the land. Both candidates are honest, and even winsome.

Not Dean. His arrogance is so hot it throws off sparks. Speaking of hate, his campaign has so far been about little else. One searches in vain for any flicker of humor, and his relationship to the truth is showing signs of Clintonitis. The latest example: Last August, the Quad-City Times of Davenport, Iowa, circulated a questionnaire to the Democratic candidates for president. The paper asked the candidates to complete the following sentence: "My closest living relative in the armed services is …" Dean wrote: "My brother is a POW/MIA in Laos, but is almost certainly dead." In point of fact, Dean's brother Charles, whose remains have recently been returned from Laos, was not in the armed services. He was a tourist, visiting Laos as part of a one-year world tour. The Quad-City Times editorially expressed dismay at Dean's mendacity. Instead of apologizing for misleading readers, Dean dashed off an indignant letter to the editor.

What seemed so clear to outsiders -- that the Democrats' best bet was a war-supporting liberal like Gephardt or Lieberman -- did not seem to sway the nominating wing of the Democratic party. They are thirsting for a Bush-bashing, small America liberal -- someone who will genuflect before the United Nations. But Dean is more than a liberal, he is a liar and a narcissist. So if he is nominated, it's going to be long, long year.