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Jewish World Review Dec. 8 /13 Kislev, 5764

James Lileks

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Does Dean Really Want to Be President? One Wonders, When He Opens His Mouth


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The simplest questions often yield the most revealing answers. Let's pretend we've just asked the Democratic presidential contenders how they feel about apple pie:

John Kerry: Serving in Vietnam, I came to regard apple pie as a symbol of the America for which so many fine men died in a misguided war, and I am determined not to repeat that mistake. And I like it with ice cream.

Dick Gephardt: I will never forget seeing my dad at the kitchen table, shaking his head over the high price of apples, and that's why I'm running today: to give all Americans free and fair access not just to apples, but the whole pie. Government is the crust; people are the filling.

Dennis Kucinich: My dreams are filled with the screams of innocent apples, fed by the millions into industrial mincing machines.

Howard Dean: Well, you have to understand that George Bush not only doesn't get the complex history of splicing and cross-breeding that led to the modern apple, he's alienated the countries in the world whose apple stocks might replenish our own after the worst environmental policies since Catherine the Great threatened the domestic Macintosh-producing regions. You can't solve that by flying to Baghdad and serving pie — which I understand was pecan, an ironic choice, since they've stopped serving pecans at VA hospitals because of Bush cutbacks.

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Notice that the perfect hypothetical Dean comment demonstrates his broad, furious intellect and his contempt for Bush without really answering the question.

Why? Because it's beneath him! Ask him the boxers or briefs question, and you might just get a history of textile tariffs, delivered with testy impatience.

So it was an interesting moment on MSNBC's "Hardball" when Chris Matthews asked Gov. Dean whether Osama bin Laden should be tried in the United States or by the World Court. For a presidential candidate, this is not a difficult question. It requires no long cogitation, no disquisitions about the role of international law from the Wilsonian perspective. It doesn't require any second-guessing. You say that bin Laden attacked America, and he deserves to be tried there by Americans.

That's what you say if you want to be president of the United States, anyway.

Said Howard Dean, in his standard tone of dismissive impatience: "I don't think it makes a lot of difference." Matthews repeated the question. And Dean said it again: "The truth is, it doesn't make a lot of difference."

Try bin Laden in an American court, before an American jury, or try him in The Hague: no difference, monsieur.

Hmmm. The president of the World Court is from China. There is one American judge on the court, and two from the Middle East. No difference between that court and one where the jurists hail from Wisconsin, Missouri and Florida. Noted.

What prompted this opinion? It's one thing to say that terrorists should be hunted down and cuffed, read their Miranda rights and put on trial — as opposed to, say, having gigantic mountain-shearing bombs dropped on their mountainous headquarters. It's another thing to say that the World Court should have jurisdiction over the crimes of Sept. 11. And it's another thing entirely to say that it's six of one, half-dozen of the other.

Has ritual deferment to all manifestations of the "international community" become a requirement for a Democrat nowadays?

In the same interview Dean referred to the Iraq campaign as "a unilateral pre-emptive" action. He meant this in a bad way, of course — as if attacking bin Laden's base in Afghanistan and killing him dead before Sept. 11 would have been a bad idea. Dean said we should also enlist the help of the "Soviet Union" to put pressure on Iran. (They really should update the atlases in the Vermont Foreign Affairs Department.) He vowed to break up media conglomerates like Rupert Murdoch's Fox empire, presumably because it's government's role to save you from Bill O'Reilly.

In short: Howard Dean says a lot of things. Come the presidential election, the GOP will have a two-word response:

Roll tape.


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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.

Up

11/24/03: The real story: Most Brits see U.S. as force for good
11/19/03: The Trouble With Al Gore's Screed on Civil Liberties
11/11/03: Can a fellow win with the Confederate Metrosexual vote?
10/22/03: Let's make Greenpeace pay
09/29/03: Ah-nold & Clark may be on different sides of the aisles, but their supporters are cut from the same cloth
09/19/03: All Hail the Ninth Circuit Court of Surreal
08/26/03: This time, the record industry doesn't stand a chance!
08/18/03: Assessing the Schwarzenegger Factor in Republicanism
08/08/03: No wonder Howard ‘Two Covers’ Dean gets all the buzz
08/04/03: Expect bad news for the foreseeable future
07/28/03: Despot's Deserts
07/21/03: No winners in this game of gotcha
07/14/03: Doing the right thing in Liberia may not be the right thing to do
06/27/03: On feet in Democratic mouths
06/16/03: The real story behind Hillary's book
06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks