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Jewish World Review Jan. 29, 2004/ 6 Shevat, 5764

Larry Elder

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Consumer Reports

How to self-destruct in a few easy lessons | Supporters of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, aka "Deanie-boppers," accuse the media of piling on by repeatedly playing his now infamous Iowa caucus "concession speech," punctuated by his banshee-like "Yeeeaaaaaarggh!"

Dean's admittedly un-presidential behavior gave his opponents, say the Deanie-boppers, a cheap excuse to pound him, causing his sudden drop in the polls and his unexpectedly distant second-place finish to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in the New Hampshire primary.

Only a little over one month ago, national polls gave Dean a commanding 20 percentage-point lead over his closest Democratic rival, yet he staggered to a third-place finish in Iowa. Talk about a meltdown. If Dean continues to under-perform, his campaign ends, and the blame game begins. Expect his supporters to say the overreaction of the media and the pundits to Dean's, uh, rallying cry, brought him down.

Really? Maybe it began when Dean, on National Public Radio, mentioned a "theory" that President George W. Bush possessed prior knowledge of 9/11, yet took no steps to halt it. Two days later, he said that no, he didn't believe the theory. And a couple of days later, he called the theory "crazy."

Or maybe the meltdown began when Dean called himself an anti-war candidate, yet supported a resolution called Biden-Lugar, which authorized military action in Iraq without the need for the president to seek another resolution.

Or maybe it began when Dean denounced the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), co-founded by former president Bill Clinton in order to nominate more electable candidates by fostering "progressive ideals, mainstream values, and innovative, non-bureaucratic, market-based solutions." Dean denounced the DLC as "the Republican wing of the Democratic Party."

Or maybe it occurred when Dean referred to members of Congress as "cockroaches."

Or maybe it began when, after the capture of Saddam Hussein, Dean considered it a non-event, which failed to make America any safer. (Never mind that Saddam's capture resulted in a 22 percent decline in attacks on American troops. Or that when Libya's head, Muammar Khaddafi, volunteered to discontinue its weapons of mass destruction program, the dictator specifically cited our invasion in Iraq as a reason that prompted his decision.)

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Or maybe it began when Dean, asked to name his favorite book of the Christian Bible, replied, "Job," a book in the Tanach. Dean prefaced his answer by saying, "If you know much about the Bible — which I do . . . " Dean also stated that his "Christianity" led him to support civil unions.

Or maybe it started when an Iowa retiree asked Dean to stop "mean-mouthing" President Bush, insisting that Dean and other Democratic candidates divide the country with their Bush-bashing, rather than outlining their own plans and showing respect for authority. The elderly man told the former governor: "You should help your neighbor and not tear him down." "George Bush is not my neighbor," Dean replied. "Yes, he is," the retiree said, at which point Dean blew up: "You sit down! You've had your say . . . " Dean proceeded to "mean-mouth" Bush while going off on the "harm" committed by the president. The candidate explained, "It's not time to put up — any of this 'love thy neighbor' stuff."

Or maybe it began when Dean claimed he governed the state of Vermont as a "fiscal conservative." He omits the fact that he raised the sales tax, cigarette tax, property tax, corporate tax and hotel tax, leaving Vermont — based on the amount of tax revenue collected as a percentage of personal income — the second highest-taxed state in the union.

Or maybe it happened when this "fiscal conservative" called for universal health care, amounting to a Hillarycare-like seizure of one-seventh of the nation's economy. Dean, of course, simultaneously criticizes President Bush for his irresponsible deficit spending.

Or maybe it began when then-governor Dean, on Canadian television, denounced the Iowa caucuses as irrelevant and run by special interests.

Or maybe it began with his call for the repeal of all of the Bush tax cuts, thus increasing taxes on everyone, including income, capital gains, dividends and inheritance taxes.

Or maybe the slippage started when Dean suggested additional regulations on business, implying big business unresponsive and unfair to employees. He even suggested the possible break-up of "giant media enterprises." When asked to name names of businesses he intended to re-regulate, Dean gave non-response responses.

Or perhaps it started when the "fiscal conservative" denounced — as too stingy — George W. Bush's $400 billion 10-year plan for prescription benefits for seniors. He also criticized Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program, calling it "unfunded."

Or maybe . . .

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JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of, most recently, "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America." (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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