In the Washington Post magazine, Post sports writer Sally Jenkins composes a valentine to “smart and spiny” Howard Dean, fresh from her sports column last week throwing bombs at Republicans for opposing the George Soros bid to own the Washington Nationals. The most tiresome routine is to pitch Dean as a moderate. As a candidate, his spontaneity “obscured his abilities and more moderate convictions, allowing opponents to paint him as extreme.” For her part, Jenkins tries on the same lame reporter spin we saw in 2003:
He is an old-fashioned Yankee fiscal conservative with moderate social values, the strictly reared son of one of New York’s first families, whose anti-Republican rhetoric comes from a genuine loathing of deficits and resentment of governmental intrusions…At times, he resembles the kind of Democrat that existed pre-Great Society, in the mode of Truman.
Then again, sometimes he doesn’t resemble a Democrat at all. Sometimes he sounds like a Rockefeller Republican, who preaches individual rights “but also responsibilities.” It’s a Deanian irony that the only people he angers more than conservatives are liberals. In fact, Dean resists simple ideology or box politics. What to do with a pro-choice, civil-unions, fiscal-conservative, antiwar, NRA-endorsed law-and-order-pro-death-penalty Democrat who won’t keep quiet? He’s a maverick.
Of course, Jenkins also calls Vermont a “quaint non-conformist agrarian state.” What’s the problem with the DNC? Dean tells Jenkins their number one problem is national security, and then mentoined Democrats “sound as if they’re defending abortion.” But Dean embodied both of those as a candidate, sounding caustically anti-war and pro-abortion, and it wasn’t sounding “moderate.” If you stick with the article, it happens again. Dean was “a fanatical balancer of the budget and also managed to lower taxes” in Vermont. And Dean was “pegged as liberal for opposing the war in Iraq when 70 percent favored it, but his position now looks more moderate.” This is like devoting an article to the theory that the sun is not hot, and it’s not really that bright.