Ed Driscoll

CRISIS MANAGEMENT: Lee Harris's latest

CRISIS MANAGEMENT: Lee Harris’s latest column in Tech Central Station had these thoughts about the primaries and Dean:

This last week, unfortunately for his electoral prospects, Howard Dean revealed the stuff that he was made up and did so in a matter of minutes; and — fairly or unfairly — many of those who watched his performance found themselves convinced that they now knew what Governor Dean would act like in a moment of genuine national crisis, and were not assured by the insight that had been inadvertently given them.

We should keep this in mind whenever we reflect on the seemingly irrational method by which we as a people select the man to fill the most important office in the world. For the real purpose behind the superficially bizarre rituals of an American election — caucuses, primaries, televised debates, concession speeches — is not to provide an exercise in democracy; it is to test the inner resources and character of the candidates, and to do this by exposing them to a grueling series of artificially induced crises that simulate those that he will ultimately have to face as president. The American electoral process is, in a way, like the simulated testing done by the manufacturers of automobile tires — we want to know which ones are reliable before we put them on our cars, rather than afterwards, and that is why the American people tend to respond so harshly to those candidates who fail to make the grade during this our national period of candidate testing.

Iowa was Dean’s first crisis — and he blew it; and in doing so he lost far more than the Iowa caucus: he lost the reputation as a man who could be trusted to act calmly and rationally in the midst of adversity. And that is a lesson that the American people will not quickly forget. We do not live in a world where we can afford to.

What happens next? Take it away, Mark Steyn.