WHAT IS THE DIARY OF A DEAN-O-PHOBE?: It's not entirely clear to me why I've taken such an intense dislike to Howard Dean. Yes, I find him arrogant and frequently dishonest. Yes, I'm certain his nomination would lead to a political disaster of historic, and possibly biblical, proportions. And, yes, I'm continuously dumbfounded that a number of highly intelligent people I know have convinced themselves that his nomination is a good thing, or at least that it's not an unambiguously bad thing. But somehow the whole of my loathing for Dean is greater than the sum of its parts. So I've decided to start a blog on TNR's website to indulge that loathing.
I realize that there is a certain irony here. Earlier this year I wrote a piece for TNR that defended hatred of President Bush. (I argued that hating Bush may lead to irrationality--rooting against the capture of Saddam Hussein, or, say, nominating Howard Dean--but it's not irrational in and of itself.) But recently I'm finding that Dean hatred is crowding out Bush hatred in my mental space. It's not that I think Dean would be a worse president than Bush--he'd probably be better, although that's extremely faint praise given that Bush is the worst president of the last 80 years. Bush is like the next-door neighbor who lets his dog poop on your lawn and his kid shoot bb's at your house and who says something irritating to you every day on his way to work. Dean, on the other hand, is like the ne'er-do-well who's dating your daughter. You realize the neighbor is a worse person than the boyfriend, but the boyfriend (and the frightening prospect that he'll become your son-in-law) consumes more of your attention.
But I'd argue that this project is about more than indulging my obsession. There has been a lot of talk about how Dean's critics represent the Washington Democratic establishment. But in fact this establishment has been pretty tame in its opposition. By turning Washington Democrats into a bête noire, Dean has forced many of them underground. And others, seeing that Dean has the inside track, don't want to risk alienating him. So I think there's a need for someone to articulate the reasons Democrats would be insane to nominate Dean. For this job I nominate myself.
I should note a few things here for the unfamiliar. First, I do not represent the unanimous opinion of The New Republic. We've run lots of pro-Dean stories, and will continue to do so. My colleague and good friend, Jonathan Cohn, wrote a cover story on Dean last June that represented Dean's first sustained and positive attention in the race. (In fact I've tried to convince Jonathan that his story may have set in motion a chain of events that leads to Dean's nomination, a Bush landslide, and the end of modern liberalism as we know it.) And second, no, I'm not holding any brief for the Lieberman campaign. In fact Lieberman is not even close to being in my top three favorite candidates. I say this because many Dean supporters out there appear convinced that everything in TNR is written toward the end of nominating Joe Lieberman (just as they believed the same thing about Al Gore in previous election cycles), and no amount of evidence to the contrary will disabuse them of that notion.