Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Love The Tiara, David

David Brooks goes off on Howard Dean:

My moment of illumination about Howard Dean came one day in Iowa when I saw him lean into a crowd and begin a sentence with, “Us rural people. . . .”

Dean grew up on Park Avenue and in East Hampton. If he’s a rural person, I’m the Queen of Sheba. Yet he said it with conviction. He said it uninhibited by any fear that someone might laugh at or contradict him.

Oh, really? How far is Midland, Texas, from Darien, Connecticut?

It was then that I saw how Dean had liberated himself from his past, liberated himself from his record and liberated himself from the restraints that bind conventional politicians. He has freed himself to say anything, to be anybody.Other candidates run on their biographies or their records. They keep policy staff from their former lives, and they try to keep their policy positions reasonably consistent.

But Dean runs less on biography than any other candidate in recent years. When he began running for president, he left his past behind, along with the encumbrances that go with it. As governor of Vermont, he was a centrist Democrat. But the new Dean who appeared on the campaign trail — a jarring sight for the Vermonters who knew his previous self — is an angry maverick.

Perhaps he saw what the Republicans were doing to the country and decided to speak up.

The old Dean was a free trader. The new Dean is not. The old Dean was open to Medicare reform. The new Dean says Medicare is off the table. The old Dean courted the N.R.A.; the new Dean has swung in favor of gun control. The old Dean was a pro-business fiscal moderate; the new Dean, sounding like Ralph Nader, declares, “We’ve allowed our lives to become slaves to the bottom line of multinational corporations all over the world.”

Okay, enough of the point-by-point refutation. David is incapable of understanding someone who is open to change, which is surprising because his hero has gone through even more contortions between the time he was the “compassionate conservative” and “bipartisan” governor of Texas to become the right-wing radical darling of the Grover Norquist wing of the GOP.

What I suspect is really bothering David is that Karl Rove can’t come up with a strategy to run against Dean, so he has sent out the talking points (also leaked to Nick Kristof last week for good measure) to accuse Dean of – gasp! – being open-minded.

Oh, and as for the “rural person” shot – well, Dean’s lived in a rural state for nearly half his life, and I suspect he knows more about rural issues than the Rancher of Crawford does. So, David, although I’ve never thought of you as a queen, if the tiara fits…