January 02, 2004

Who's Nader Now?

Krugman, the Voice of Greater Greenspania and the
Moral Conscience of the NYTwits has said it, this is a
"national emergency," and no time for politics as
usual...Howard Dean (D-Jeffords) and Wesley Clark
(D-NATO) understand this...Sen. John Kerry (D-Mekong Delta), unfortunately, does

Paul Krugman: "Most Democrats feel, with justification, that we're facing a national crisis that the right, ruthlessly exploiting 9/11, is making a grab for total political dominance. "

Restore the Timeline, Show Up for Democracy in 2004:
Defeat Bush (again!)


Who's Nader Now?

Published: January 2, 2004

In the 2000 election, in a campaign that seemed driven
more by vanity than by any realistic political vision,
Ralph Nader did all he could to undermine Al Gore
even though Mr. Gore, however unsatisfying to the
Naderites, was clearly a better choice than the
current occupant of the White House.

Now the Democratic Party has its own internal
spoilers: candidates lagging far behind in the race
for the nomination who seem more interested in tearing
down Howard Dean than in defeating George Bush.

The truth which one hopes voters will remember,
whoever gets the nomination is that the leading
Democratic contenders share a lot of common ground.
Their domestic policy proposals are similar, and very
different from those of Mr. Bush.

Even on foreign policy, the differences are less stark
than they may appear. Wesley Clark's critiques of the
Iraq war are every bit as stinging as Mr. Dean's. And
looking forward, I don't believe that even the pro-war
candidates would pursue the neocon vision of two,
three, many Iraq-style wars. Mr. Bush, who has made
preemptive war the core of his foreign policy
doctrine, might do just that.

Yet some of Mr. Dean's rivals have launched vitriolic
attacks that might as well have been scripted by Karl
Rove. And I don't buy the excuse that it's all about
ensuring that the party chooses an electable

It's true that if Mr. Dean gets the nomination, the
Republicans will attack him as a wild-eyed liberal who
is weak on national security. But they would do the
same to any Democrat even Joseph Lieberman. Facts,
or the lack thereof, will prove no obstacle: remember
the successful attacks on the patriotism of Max
Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, or the
Saddam-Daschle ads.

Mr. Dean's character will also come under attack. But
this, too, will happen to any Democrat. If we've
learned anything in this past decade, it's that the
right-wing scandal machine will find a way to smear
anyone, and that a lot of the media will play along. A
year ago, when John Kerry was the presumptive
front-runner, he came under assault I am not making
this up over the supposed price of his haircuts.
Sure enough, a CNN host solemnly declared him in
"denial mode."

That's not to say that a candidate's qualifications
don't matter: it would be nice if Mr. Dean were a
decorated war hero. But there's nothing in the polling
data suggesting that Mr. Dean is less electable than
his Democratic rivals, with the possible exception of
General Clark. Mr. Dean's rivals may well believe that
he will lose the election if he is nominated. But it's
inexcusable when they try to turn that belief into a
self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let me suggest a couple of ground rules. First, while
it's O.K. for a candidate to say he's more electable
than his rival, someone who really cares about ousting
Mr. Bush shouldn't pre-emptively surrender the cause
by claiming that his rival has no chance. Yet Mr.
Lieberman and Mr. Kerry have done just that. To be
fair, Mr. Dean's warning that his ardent supporters
might not vote for a "conventional Washington
politician" was a bit close to the line, but it
appeared to be a careless rather than a vindictive

More important, a Democrat shouldn't say anything that
could be construed as a statement that Mr. Bush is
preferable to his rival. Yet after Mr. Dean declared
that Saddam's capture hadn't made us safer a
statement that seems more justified with each passing
day Mr. Lieberman and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Kerry
launched attacks that could, and quite possibly will,
be used verbatim in Bush campaign ads. (Mr.
Lieberman's remark about Mr. Dean's "spider hole" was
completely beyond the pale.)

The irony is that by seeking to undermine the election
prospects of a man who may well be their party's
nominee, Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Kerry have reminded us
of why their once-promising campaigns imploded. Most
Democrats feel, with justification, that we're facing
a national crisis that the right, ruthlessly
exploiting 9/11, is making a grab for total political
dominance. The party's rank and file want a candidate
who is running, as the Dean slogan puts it, to take
our country back. This is no time for a candidate who
is running just because he thinks he deserves to be

Posted by richard at January 2, 2004 09:37 AM