My favorite Democrat

Posted: Jan 25, 2004 12:00 AM

As the New Hampshire Primary looms, and her husband?s campaign continues to slip, ordinary Americans are quietly hoping she will pick up the torch and enter the fray. If a Democrat ends up being the next president of the United States, please let it be Judy Dean.

Of course, Judy Dean--married to former Vermont governor and former front-running Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean--is not running for President. She is, nonetheless, being splashed across network television and the pages of People magazine.

Howard wants to be president. Judy doesn?t. Instead, she wants to doctor her patients and mother her son, a senior in high school, and her daughter, away at Yale. Which is why I?m all for her. In not being a candidate, she already demonstrates a level-headedness and sense of responsibility far beyond the others.

"[T]he truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed," Socrates explains in Plato?s Republic, "and the State in which they are most eager, the worst."

Clearly, the Ancient Greeks would have supported Judy for President, too. But she still won?t run. She?s sane.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose earliest statements to the press were to disparage cookie-baking, Judy Dean told People magazine, "I actually do make chocolate chip cookies; they're easy to make....I actually made them for the campaign office. One of my very few contributions. They're definitely not fussy about what they eat."

Baking cookies is not a crime.

But Judy Dean has committed an incredible crime. A political and media felony punishable by endless droning on throughout the modern 24-hour drive-by-shooting news cycle. In addition to not running for president, Judy Dean is not campaigning for her husband, either.

Sure, after the shocking truth of her non-campaigning was revealed, she made one trip to Iowa to stand by her man. But it sounded like fun, an "adventure weekend" for her. She still never pledged to usher in a new Camelot or become a political prop for her country, should her husband become king--er, president.

Now, truth be told, almost everyone who isn?t running for president refuses--like Judy Dean--to campaign for the office. After all, where?s the motivation? But Judy is stuck, because her old man is running for president. Remember?

Myra Gutin teaches a course in First Ladies at Rider University in New Jersey. (Ah, the rigors of college life!) "The whole thing has just struck me as a little odd," she told the New York Times. "There may be some voters out there who say, ?well, why isn?t she here? Why isn?t she supporting him??It?s the most outward manifestation of support."

Yeah, "manifestation of support" and all, but did Professor Gutin not get the memo? About Judy having a son in high school? About her being a real doctor and having patients to see?

"The other candidates will come around with their wives and say ?here we are,?" warns Lewis Gould, historian emeritus at the University of Texas and an expert on First Ladies, "and then there will be these questions?.So, where are you?"

Some "tough" questions are easy to answer. Judy Dean will be back in Vermont seeing patients and parenting, thank you very much. Not doing television interviews and not advising her husband. Sorry, but her number is probably (wisely) unlisted.

Judy Dean says, "I?m very happy doing what I do. He?s happy doing what he does. I think that he?s doing a great job and I think he thinks what I do is a great job." Only in America would we spend $1.5 billion promoting healthy marriages and then fail to notice the real McCoy right in front of us.

True, maybe I?m sympathetic because years ago a friend suggested, within earshot of my wife, that I should run for public office. Unarmed, my wife simply replied, "He?d make a good candidate, but who would his wife be?"

My wife--like Judy Dean and unlike far too many in this Jerry Springer culture--has no desire to ever see herself on television. Or to see me?on television, that is.

Oh, sure, I was a little hurt later when I thought about it, that she wouldn?t throw herself mindlessly into my dream, had that been my dream. And even with all my debonair charm? Apparently, I married someone with more on the ball than to be waiting for me to give her the world.

If Dr. Phil asks, it definitely works for us. I would not trade my wife for a better First Lady.

Would you? Would you want a president who would?

Dean defended his wife against the serious charge of non-campaigning to Diane Sawyer and a national audience on ABC. Sawyer actually compared the interview to Bill and Hillary Clinton?s "60 Minutes" interview in 1992 after his alleged infidelity with Gennifer Flowers hit the press.

Is Sawyer, like other pundits, blinded by fantasies of Kennedy?s Camelot? (A reality that more resembled Caligua?s Rome.) How could she fail to distinguish between Howard Dean?s campaign problems, which certainly haven?t spilled over into his and Judy?s marriage, and the Clintons? marriage-related problems that indeed did spill over into their 1992 campaign. Apparently, speaking too boisterously or having one?s spouse refuse to forsake home and career for political power can topple a campaign. But adultery can wreck something more important: a marriage.

Dean explained to the seemingly baffled Sawyer, that, "My marriage and my family is the most important thing to me. It?s more important than being president."

I can think of lots of reasons not to vote for Howard Dean for president, which I?ve inerrantly espoused to readers of my free Common Sense e-letter. My cup runneth over with reasons --none having to do with the media obsession over his fired-up rant to campaign volunteers in Iowa.

But, his choice of Judy Dean for his wife and his treatment of his wife and family show remarkably good judgment, marking the best reason yet to vote for Howard Dean.

If I was a Democrat. And if Judy still won?t run.