Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2004 / 8 Teves, 5764
Jay D. Homnick
Watching the Dean's office
For the less skilled contortionist, patting oneself too strenuously on the back may cause injury. Nor is ignoring prophecies of doom a healthful approach to all situations. They say even paranoids have enemies: we add, even a cold shoulder can be dislocated.
Clinton in his day was noted for a roving eye; Bush, in turn, is accused of eying Rove. Certainly Karl has earned high marks for his capital work in getting the w for W. But even political pros should not be averse to finding a morsel of counsel in political prose.
Let the vier for office beware, the following caveat is not empty. No rest for the wary: do not embrace too eagerly the conceit that Dean is unelectable. How often have we seen the uselessness of conventional wisdom when it is pre-Conventional?
Sure it is tempting to write him off as the Happy Meal, give-them-what-they-want Democrat, the McCandidate, eventually the McGovern. Yes, his policies are evocative of the Mondale positions, but let us not lightly assume that his candidacy will soon go on the fritz.
Indeed, the sitting Administration is in good standing. Courting the Iraqis may have proved uneconomical, but our own economy is rocking this quarter. Not only that, but even the economists with the most sinister bias have attributed the boom to the dexterity of the tax cuts.
The Iraqi theater itself has managed to produce some strong acts, some dramatic scenes. Flushing the UnaDictator from his lair has allowed us to have the last leer, to expose all of his lice. By then the behemoth had morphed into a bohemian; out with his suit, in with hirsute. In fact, he was so bedraggled while being dragged that without DNA testing we didn't know him from a hole in the wall. This has put us in good odor with the Iraqis; this, and the newly revamped plumbing.
Additionally, the employment figures back home are said to be encouraging. How these things are computed - can these stats be jobbed? - mystifies me, but I imagine that they must conform to some approximation of reality. Usually, this level of effectiveness would guarantee a President to be a resident of Pennsylvania Avenue until the next Olympics.
Yet, a cool head reveals that the Prez is still on the hot seat. Firstly, the vote of the African-American community has congealed in recent years; since Reagan, no Republican has managed to break a chip off this old bloc. Freed from slavery by the Republicans, they have since become enthralled by the Democrats. Once Sharpton is done pounding the pavement and pressing the flesh as a candidate, he will extract his pound of flesh from Howard Dean and deliver something mind-bogglingly close to 100 percent of the "black vote".
As for the Jews, George W. Bush has shown them enormous respect as a people, hosting many public and private receptions for Rabbis and lay leaders. He has also, in the realm of concrete action, done more for Israel than any President in recent memory, by discrediting Arafat, by allowing Israel to assassinate terrorist leaders and build a wall to keep out infiltrators.
However, in the realm of rhetoric, support for the asinine Road Map and public criticism of the Wall as unhelpful have become the most conspicuous features of the relationship. This serves to alienate the Jewish swing voter, leaving him to join the 60 percent of his brethren and cistern who unquestioningly give the Democratic Party their vote as a penance for abandoning their religion (as was explained in many brilliant Commentary articles of the 80s).
Trying to win with no blacks and few Jews is treacherous work at best. In an environment like this, one factor is more telling than any other, and that is raw emotion. If the Democrats field a candidate with the charisma to tap into the energy, the loyalty, the pride of being a Democrat, then standard political calculations go out the window. Let us never forget that among Bush voters there were many Italians and Irish, even Hispanics, who were casting a cerebral vote despite their lingering nostalgia for their family's days as immigrant Democrats.
He has mojo and a good head, does Dean, and he should terrorize the alert Republican. He may come from a state of varmint, but already he is rising in the arc of Clinton '92, and has much of the sass too. Yes, he is an obstinate fool for saying we are no safer in a world without Saddam, but he brings a ton of stark passion to his vision of a country without Bush. So while Rove may be off getting a manicure, I'm still sitting here biting my nails.
11/21/03: Ronald Reagan so misunderstood