Thursday, August 07, 2003

The Dean Factor

The Dean factor
Critics say the former Vermont governor is taking his party too far to the left, but is he?

Column in its entirety:

First published: Thursday, August 7, 2003

This is a summer of navel gazing for the Democrats. The party that's out of power, and some would even say out of fresh ideas for regaining it, nonetheless seems to be on a mission to reclaim the political center. It's a smart enough strategy, except for the ensuing uncertainty over just where the center is these days. The navel gazers might be startled to see that dead center has moved much closer to the right flank. The old center strikes some in the party as too far to the left.
Nothing illustrates this better than the presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a sort of insurgency effort that's catching fire just as many Democrats who profess to know better had figured his 15 minutes of political notoriety would be over.

Mr. Dean has dared to be among the harsher critics of President Bush on two of the overriding issues of his presidency -- a relentless push for tax cuts and the not-quite-resolved war in Iraq. For that, he's cast as an early 21st century George McGovern, who prevailed over the old guard Democrats in an especially bitter primary campaign and went on to get trounced by President Nixon. Of course, that was in 1972, when Mr. Dean was barely out of Yale and years before he entered politics himself.

Mr. McGovern was on the losing end, ultimately, of nothing less than a political culture war. But it's hard to see how and where Mr. Dean is taking a similarly hard-line stand.

Is his opposition to the Iraq war, fought under circumstances that may yet be the subject of an inquiry by the Republican-controlled Congress, really a guarantee of another landslide defeat for the Democrats, as rival presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, among others, suggests?

If that assertion is premature, an even greater stretch would seem to be the assertion by Mr. Lieberman that Mr. Dean's call for repeal of all $1.7 trillion of Mr. Bush's tax cuts is another recipe for electoral disaster.

Mr. Lieberman says that amounts to a tax increase on the middle class. But didn't President Clinton, whose "third way" politics Mr. Lieberman seems so eager to emulate, raise taxes on the middle class, too? Why could Mr. Clinton get away with that -- literally so, in his case -- in the name of reducing the federal budget deficit? Why is it that Mr. Dean's determination to do away with tax cuts tilted toward the rich, and in the name of cutting a much bigger budget deficit, amounts to radical politics?

Has the political center shifted that much in less than a decade?

Oh, and then there are Mr. Dean's positions on gun control (he'd leave that to the states, mostly, and to the subsequent relief of the National Rifle Association) and the death penalty (he used to be against it, but now he's for it).

And he's too far to the left for the Democrats' best interests?

Somewhere in Mr. Bush's White House, in as right-leaning an administration as this country has had in a very long time, someone is having a good, long laugh.

Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki

An Unthinkable-But-True Anniversary: Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The Living Myths About Nuclear Murder

Hiroshima remembers horror in silence
"...tens of thousands of young Japanese fold origami cranes ever year in memory of a girl named Sadako. She suffered radiation sickness and believed that folding 1,000 cranes would make her well, but died before her task ended...."

Heed the lessons of Hiroshima, Nagasaki
Albany Times Union Aug 6, 2003


"....It is this record of progress toward taming the nuclear menace that makes the Bush administration's nuclear policies so alarming. The President has withdrawn the United States from the ABM treaty, opposed U.S. Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and -- by embarking on the building of a National Missile Defense (i.e. Star Wars) system -- has rendered the START II treaty defunct. Furthermore, the Bush administration is promoting plans for a resumption of U.S. nuclear testing and for the development of new nuclear weapons -- weapons that it hopes will be more practical than the larger variety, now effectively stigmatized by world opinion.

This break with the nuclear arms control and disarmament policies of the past will certainly magnify nuclear dangers. The Nonproliferation Treaty, after all, is based upon a bargain. The non-nuclear powers agreed to forgo the development of nuclear weapons on the condition that the nuclear powers begin divesting themselves of their nuclear arsenals. The result, over time, would be a nuclear-free world. If the Bush administration breaks this bargain, many non-nuclear powers seem likely to go nuclear. Also, the other nuclear powers may well throw off their previous restraint. Furthermore, with more nuclear weapons available, terrorist groups will find it easier to obtain them.

The Bush administration has good reason to be concerned about the dangers of weapons of mass destruction. Surely every sensible person is. But these U.S. government officials do not seem to realize that, through arms control and disarmament policies, we have developed an effective way to address the challenge of the nuclear age. Scrapping it is reckless and foolhardy."