Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 21, 2004
POLITICS: Last Call for Dean-Bashing
It appears for the moment that we've seen the last of Howard Dean as a candidate for national office for quite some time. Although he may be keeping his powder dry for 2008, I suspect that Dean's 2004 problem - people think he's nuts - is a hard one to overcome; ask Dan Quayle how hard it is to change an image that casts you as unpresidential.
Anyway, this makes it time to dump out the rest of my research on Dean, for future reference or just for the sheer malicious glee of kicking a man when he's down:
I still think there's plenty to find fault with in Dean's record, notably two non-fiscal-policy aspects:
*Act 64, the McCain-Feingold-on-steroids campaign finance bill. I tracked here and here the progress of the litigation over Act 64 (NRO was ripping it long before Dean became a significant presidential contender). Last I checked in, the Second Circuit had withdrawn its opinion upholding Act 64, but that was a year and a half ago and I lost track of what happened after the Supreme Court upheld McCain-Feingold. (Here's a Google search on "Howard Dean" and "Act 64" if you want to see what else is out there). The Act 64 litigation was an amusing contrast to Dean's later effort to opt out of public financing.
But wait, there's more:
*Then there was Dean's admission that he'd had therapy for panic attacks. Dean as Tony Soprano? Mild panic attacks aren't that big a deal, although the fact that he sought therapy is a little odd. I've had those myself, mostly right after 9/11, but they were basically self-sustaining: once I knew what they were, they didn't freak me out and they went away. No therapy necessary. Maybe if Dean was more religious, he'd just have talked to a priest or minister.
On this count, however, I think the country's more blase about therapy than it was in 1972 (Thomas Eagleton), since more people seek therapy for small stuff. But it was real bad timing to reveal this when it broke in January - this was one in an avalanche of bad stories for Dean - and it put a very different spin on him saying Bush needed therapy. If you look back at Dean's quote about Bush ("Do I think the president needs psychotherapy? I recommend it; I think it's a great thing for everybody who is struggling with issues. Do I think he's unbalanced? Of course not."), it almost sounded like he was saying it as a guy who'd done therapy himself. (Note also how Dean's account in the Herald story conflicts with his earlier story about how he was in the middle of treating a patient when he got the call in 1991, and kept on what he was doing without missing a beat, finishing up with his patients before taking the oath of office.)