"Mr. Dean"

"Mr. Dean: Beyond the Mainstream":

I have never particularly liked the way that the top four or five US newspapers take it upon themselves to determine what constitutes "mainstream." The NY Times and the Washington Post are particularly frequent offenders. The reason it bothers me is this: All major newspapers are, for economic reasons, located in major cities. Major cities are, as we know from recent elections, the reform-liberal bastions of this country. The reason there are "blue states" at all is because of the cities located in the blue states. Attempting to gauge the "mainstream" from the heart of Washington, D.C., or Manhattan, is an act sure to fail.

However, for the above reason, it is almost always rightists who are declared Outside The Mainstream. Today, the Post made a declaration to the left. The same bias that causes centrist right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh to be put 'outside the mainstream' (which is laughable, given that his audience of American citizens far surpasses the Post's subscription base. You may not like him or agree with him, but by the clear evidence of his following he is at least as 'mainstream American' as the Post, and any argument to the contrary is self-delusion) suggests that anyone the Post finds out of the mainstream on the left is going to be pretty far left indeed.

So who is it? Why, Dr. Dean:

Yet there are important differences between the Democratic front-runner, Howard Dean, and the other five. In his speech Monday, Mr. Dean alone portrayed the recruiting of allies for Iraq as a means to "relieve the burden on the U.S." -- that is, to quickly draw down American forces. Only he omitted democracy from his goals for Iraq and the Middle East. And only Mr. Dean made the extraordinary argument that the capture of Saddam Hussein "has not made Americans safer."

Mr. Dean's carefully prepared speech was described as a move toward the center, but in key ways it shifted him farther from the mainstream. A year ago Mr. Dean told a television audience that "there's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies," but last weekend he declared that "I never said Saddam was a danger to the United States." Mr. Dean has at times argued that the United States must remain engaged to bring democracy to Iraq, yet the word is conspicuously omitted from the formula of "stable self-government" he now proposes. The former Vermont governor has compiled a disturbing record of misstatements and contradictions on foreign policy; maybe he will shift yet again, this time toward more responsible positions.

Mr. Dean's exceptionalism, however, is not limited to Iraq. It can be found in his support for limiting the overseas deployments of the National Guard -- a potentially radical change in the U.S. defense posture -- and in his readiness to yield to the demands of North Korea's brutal communist dictatorship, which, he told The Post's Glenn Kessler, "ought to be able to enter the community of nations." Mr. Dean says he would end all funding for missile defense, a program supported by the Clinton administration, and also has broken with Mr. Clinton's successful trade policies, embracing protectionism. Sadly, on trade his position is shared by every Democratic candidate except Mr. Lieberman (and Ms. Clinton).

It is Mr. Dean's position on Iraq, however, that would be hardest to defend in a general election campaign. Many will agree with the candidate that "the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help and at unbelievable cost." But most Americans understand Saddam Hussein for what he was: a brutal dictator who stockpiled and used weapons of mass destruction, who plotted to seize oil supplies on which the United States depends, who hated the United States and once sought to assassinate a former president; whose continuing hold on power forced thousands of American troops to remain in the Persian Gulf region for a decade; who even in the months before his overthrow signed a deal to buy North Korean missiles he could have aimed at U.S. bases. The argument that this tyrant was not a danger to the United States is not just unfounded but ludicrous.

Mr. Dean may be arguing Saddam Hussein's insignificance in part because he is unwilling to make a commitment to Iraq's future.
If this is a radical position when viewed from the center-left, how is it when viewed from the center-right, i.e., from everywhere in America not in a major city? Remember that Dean has to win 70% of US states if he captures no Southern states, which it is likely that he will not. As I argued earlier, Dean actually looks less radical on domestic issues, and could be a real contender for the victory if this were not wartime. It is, though, and a very large number of Americans care about the war more than every other political issue put together.

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