Roger L. Simon

Dept. of Arrrgh!

We may be a long way from Lincoln vs. Douglas and the current Presidential/Vice-Presidential Debates may resemble those arcane sports events that appear occasionally on ESPN II in which “experts” endlessly explain the rules of games we have barely heard of. But still, buried beneath the tedium are occasional epiphanies.

I woke up to one last night: the bizarre and enduring influence of Howard Dean on our lives. The Vermont governor, you may recall in the distant past circa 2000, was a supporter of gun ownership who wanted to run for President as a centrist. Then he discovered, mirabile dictu, that there was a potential goldmine of wannabe-rebellious kids and nostalgic Boomers yearning for a militant antiwar candidate. Voilà – Dean #2. Even he could not have guessed his success as the choir pushed him to number one in the Dem polls, scaring the beejeezus out of longtime assumed nominee John Kerry, not to mention pretender John Edwards. Running scared, Kerry and Edwards hastened to cover their asses, changing their stands on the war by voting against the support of the troops.

But we all know that. And for the willfully disinterested who didn’t, Cheney pointed it out last night with the one slightly witty line of the first two debates in which he wondered aloud how K & E could stand up to Al Qaeda if they couldn’t stand up to Howard Dean. How indeed? Or should I say “Howard indeed”?

But it’s worse, because the ghost of Dean and the Deaniacs sits astride all sides in the current conflagration. Consider the endless debate on the number of troops. Can you honestly suggest that the presence of the “Dean Left” (quotes deliberate) did not influence the size of the deployments? Say what you want about “military advice”… and I am an agnostic on the number of troops issue… I am certain that the administration, as would almost all politicians, was looking over its collective shoulder at its noisy adversaries as they went to war. And they continued to look over their shoulders as they pursued the peace. Consciously or unconsciously, they wanted to believe that lower numbers were acceptable. War-lite, they thought in the shadow of Dean, would garner less resistance. But like many decisions made in fear, this may not have been in true.

Still, Bremer’s complaints on troop numbers do not impress me. He is thought not to have distinguished himself as head of the CPA (who knows the reality of this?), so naturally he is looking to CYA, making his criticism suspect.

But the overweening problem is being governed by fear, fear of Dean (how ridiculous is that, when you think about it). I didn’t need Cheney to tell me that for that reason alone I could not vote for Kerry.