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The political “fun and gun”

Lately, we’ve posted pieces comparing Howard Dean to George McGovern, Newt Gingrich, and even Arthur Goldberg. This piece by William Saletan of Slate suggests that Dean can also be compared to Steve Spurrier, who just resigned as the coach of the Washington Redskins after two dreadful seasons. Spurrier came to Washington touting his “fun and gun” offense that had terrorized college defenses for a decade. He ridiculed traditional NFL coaches who did pedestrian things like staying up late at night trying to discover the other team’s tendencies (he mentioned the New Orleans coach by name; that coach responded by defeating Spurrier twice). Spurrier’s conceit was that his genius and intuition were worth more than the hard-earned knowledge of pro coaches who had spent years learning their craft. Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post captures Spurrier’s early arrogance in today’s column.
Saletan’s piece suggests that Dean suffers from similar flaws. Dean used a compaign van with the license plate “McFun,” and often starts his speeches by saying “we’re going to have a little fun at the president’s expense.” He employs the same expression to defend his belittling attacks on leaders of the more moderate half of his party.
These attacks themselves seem to come from coach Spurrier’s playbook. The Democratic Leadership Council and its former star Bill Clinton have spent years figuring out how to win in an increasingly left-unfriendly political environment. Clinton, aided to some degree by the DLC, is the author of the only significant successes the Democrats have had in more than two decades. Yet, for Dean, the lessons learned by the long-time pros in his party are not only to be disputed, but ridiculed.
As was true with Spurrier, Dean, in Saletan’s words, “isn’t trying to make enemies, he’s just having fun.” But his antics are fun only for the arrogant and the immature. That’s why Saletan concludes that “Howard Dean needs to grow up.” Otherwise, the fate of the “Ball Coach” may await.

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