HALF A CHEER FOR HOWARD DEAN
A word for Howard Dean before he disappears entirely, his descent too abrupt and ignominious even to secure him a post at the Kennedy School. It's not that I liked him--not so much. He always struck me as a stubby arrogant schmuck, the kind of doctor who'd get a bitter thrill out of giving you the cold-rubber-glove treatment and shooing you out of the office before you got it entirely clear whether you were sick or well. No, I never much liked the guy, but I'm sorry to see him go. He was the least phony Democratic presidential candidate in my lifetime.
He was, for one thing, the only prominent Dem I can remember who wasn't compulsively confessional, letting his every, teary emotion well up so we could share it, as if electoral politics was some kind of big early-70s group encounter session. Dean's reticence is reflective of one of the few admirable traits possessed by New England WASPs--a sense that a person's inner life is his own business, to be shared behind closed doors with one other person at most, not broadcast to the world.
Beyond that, he was a guy who would say what he thought, even when what he thought was stupid or impolitic. You have to--or at least I have to--like a presidential candidate who when asked"do you ever think to yourself, what would Jesus do?" answers, gruffly"No!"
Even when electoral politics called upon Dean to be calculating, he'd botch it in an endearingly ham-handed way, letting everybody know the calculated move he was about to undertake:"I'm heading down South where they expect you to talk about God, so I'm getting all geared up to talk about God."
And another thing--I liked his wife. Or at least I liked her attitude. She took a lot of crap for not standing by her man throughout his year-long idyll through every Goddamned Arby's in Iowa, shaking hands with complete strangers and acting like he was happy to see them. There's something to be said for the idea that you support your betrothed wholeheartedly in whatever they do, but when your lawful wedded husband decides to dress up like a Klingon and head off to the Trek convention, the rational response--Judy Dean's response--is,"have fun honey--I'll mind the home front while you're gone!"
None of this is to say that Howard Dean would have been a good president. Far from it. But as others have pointed out, for most people, politics is about cultural cues. I'm probably not immune to that dynamic. And politics rarely throws up anyone that appeals to me culturally. The choice is usually between some glad-handing B-school jackass and some other guy whose nickname has been"Senator" since he was in prep school. Well, where's the candidate for people of my ilk, who've spent our whole lives making fun of the brownnosing twerps who run for student government? The good doctor was a far cry from my kind of guy, but in this kind of crowd, he was as close as they come.
John T. Kennedy - 2/6/2004
I'm not alking about voting for Dean, I'm talking about voting for any of them.
Gene Healy - 2/6/2004
Umm, yeah--no kidding. I never had the slightest intention of voting for him anyway.
John T. Kennedy - 2/6/2004
"The good doctor was a far cry from my kind of guy, but in this kind of crowd, he was as close as they come."
It's prohibitively unlikely that your vote will have any effect at all on which candidate you end up with.
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