Howard Dean, Man of the People

Howard Dean has had a rough couple of weeks; tomorrow’s New York Times tries to shore him up with a puff piece by Rick Lyman.
A puff piece, but a weird one. Lyman seems obsessed by the burning question of how “blueblooded” Dean’s Park Avenue family really was. “No question, Dr. Dean’s blueblood credentials are impeccable. But even in prep school he struck classmates as unpretentious and not materialistic. ‘He was not the least bit snobby,’ said Rick Kessler, a scholarship student at St. George’s.” Dean’s mother chimes in: “Mrs. Dean sees her son’s unpretentiousness as something he learned at home, pointing out that her own parents taught her to treat people in an egalitarian way. ‘When I was growing up,’ she said, ‘we didn’t even treat the servants like servants.'”
Whatever. More to the point, Lyman argues that there are many similarities between Dean and President Bush: “George Walker Bush and Howard Brush Dean III are from opposite sides of the nation’s political fault line. Yet it may be their similarities and the inroads Dr. Dean might make among swing voters that worry some Republicans, especially when Dr. Dean’s current image as a Vermont liberal is leavened with details of the fiscally conservative way he governed Vermont for 11 years.”
Sounds like Lyman hasn’t been reading the newspapers lately; they haven’t exactly been filled with accounts of how worried Republicans are about Dean’s inroads with swing voters. And I think the image of Dean as a “fiscal conservative” will be a hard sell, even though, like every politician from Vermont, the newspapers will say he exhibits “prickly independence.” (That’s a quote from the headline on the Times story.)
The more salient facts that emerge from the Times piece include an evaluation by a supervising physician of Dean as a resident: “His major problem continues to be one of impulsiveness.” And Dean’s own assessment of the narrow divide that separates being Governor of Vermont from being President of the United States: “A C.E.O.’s skills are essentially the same, no matter the size of the company. Clearly, with the presidency, you’ve also got to deal with defense. But otherwise, the basic problems are the same and the difference is the number of zeroes in the budget.”
One suspects that the fact that as president you’ve got to deal with defense will continue to be an inconvenient reality for the Dean campaign.


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