At the risk of pulling a Hitchens, I find myself–excuse me while I pause to catch my breath–finding some fairly salient points in the latest iteration of the National Review, Jonah Goldberg’s bastion of strident conservatism (the very same publication that used to host Ann Coulter’s mad rantings about the Arab world, e.g. pleading for the U.S. to “invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”). You can imagine the horrible, haunting shame I feel right now.
Anyway, regarding Howard Dean’s impending, sure-thing nomination as the Democratic candidate in the 2004 Presidential Election, here is the contentious meat of the right-wing argument, courtesy of National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru:
“No word yet from McGovern, Mondale, or Dukakis. . . . Come to think of it, the Ds now have a candidate with McGovern’s foreign policy, Mondale’s domestic policy, Dukakis’s regional background, and Gore’s arrogance. How perfect is that?”
Of course, this is just a nonsensically reactionary bit of conservative giddiness…but it’s that last comparison that threatens to really pass muster. Howard Dean: the perhaps not unelectable, but unlikable candidate? Ponnuru goes into greater detail on this subject in “Can Dean Win?“:
“Will Dean’s personality wear well? Some people have said that he projects too much anger for the general electorate; arrogance may be the deeper problem.”
This seems to be the core issue. Was it really surprising to anyone that Should-Have-Been President Al Gore endorsed Dean yesterday? After all, they’re both aloof, robotic, smirking politicos, except Dean has the “benefit” of coming off as the aloof, robotic, smirking, and thick-necked jock, as opposed to Gore’s aloof, robotic, and smirking policy wonk.
These aren’t just my concerns, though. Listen to Dean’s own campaign staffers (as gleaned from The Note, by way of Howard Kurtz):
“The dirtiest little secret of the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination is that the pros running Dean’s campaign know full well that the criticisms of The Doctor being made by the press and his opponents are often spot on.
“They know he is regularly careless, volcanic, dismissive, self-important, mercurial, hypocritical, patronizing, and politically tone deaf.”