The Incorrigible Governor
For those needing any further illumination
on the question of why Howard Dean is not the Democratic nominee for president
in 2004, it is only necessary to read the remarks of the former Vermont
governor on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. When Blitzer asked him
what he made of the decision by the Department of Homeland Security, to
increase the threat level in Washington, D.C. from, from elevated (yellow)
to high (orange), Dean responded:
"It's hard to know what to make. None of us outside the
administration have access to the intelligence, which led to this determination.
I am concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President
Bush he plays this trump card, which is terrorism. His whole campaign
is based on the notion that "I can keep you safe, therefore at times of
difficulty for America stick with me," and then out comes Tom Ridge. It's
just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this
is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it."
As anyone who followed his primary campaign will recognize,
this is the real Howard Dean, the same eager conspiracy theorist who floated
the possibility…completely without supporting evidence or proof of any
kind…that President Bush might have known about the Twin Tower attacks
in advance, as maintained by former and, sadly, soon to be renegade House
member Cynthia McKinney. This time, he baldly asserts that the President
has set out to create artificial fears and to manipulate a federal warning
system for "politics."
This is illogical, irresponsible, unfair, and, of course, unethical.
Let us count the ways:
- It presumes bad faith on the part of a public servant of high elected
office. Disagreeing with a president's policies does not require, nor
should it involve except in extraordinary circumstances, taking the
position that he is not doing what he views as the best thing for the
country. This was the same despicable attitude displayed by some Republicans,
like the shameless Bob Barr, who accused President Clinton of timing
his attacks on Osama Bin Laden to distract attention from his Lewinsky
- It undermines the faith of citizens in the integrity of their government.
This is playing with fire, and Democrats have opened too many matchbooks
already. The entire conspiratorial mindset embodied by Dean (who should
consider becoming a documentary film-maker, as he appears to have the
one quality most essential for success: a willingness to make sensational
accusations without proof) arose from the understandable frustration
of losing the 2000 presidential election. "They stole the election!"
has been the cry of the losers every time the popular vote and Electoral
College have been at odds; it has happened four times, and the strategy
"worked" the previously three…if you call "working" weakening the ability
of a president to govern and dividing the country in order to win the
next election. The office of the President of the United States deserves
respect and must have respect to function. For any public figure to
attempt to erode that respect out of animus only, without any facts,
simply to make a political assault is a marker of bad character.
- Does Dean have any reason to doubt the integrity of Secretary Ridge,
a man whose public record is distinguished and unblemished? He does
not. But Dean's statement presumes that Ridge is nothing but a conspiratorial
hack, without the courage or the conviction to refuse to deceive the
nation he has taken an oath to serve.
- Dean's statement is dangerous. He is willing to erode the effectiveness
of a national warning system on based on nothing but either (choose
one) his own hatred and paranoia or a desire to assail the president
irrespective of the truth.
- These are ethical considerations, but a word is required on the dim
logic of Dean's accusation. Of course the President maintains, as a
core aspect of his re-election campaign, that he is the leader who is
most able to keep the country safe from terrorism. If he didn't believe
that, he would have an obligation not to run. Dean is using a fact that
has no sinister implications whatsoever, the centrality of terrorism
control to the Bush re-election effort, as his sole proof of activity
that, if true, would be criminal and proof of depravity.
Senator Joe Lieberman, who ranks high on the Ethics Scoreboard integrity
scale, responded to Dean's outburst thus:
"I don't think anybody who has any fairness or is in their
right mind would think the president or the secretary of homeland security
would raise an alert level and scare people for political reasons. That's
Now we will see if candidate Kerry, who has used Dean as a so-called
"surrogate," will relieve him of this role. A surrogate is supposed to
speak for the candidate he represents, and Kerry can ill-afford to have
the irresponsible Mr. Dean behaving unethically in his name.
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