IN THE NEW EDITION of Rolling Stone, cover boy Howard Dean puts George W. Bush on the couch: "This president is not interested in being a good president. He's interested in some complicated psychological situation that he has with his father."
That's a pretty creepy statement coming from the frontrunner, at least through the weekend, for the Democratic party nomination. Can you say "projection"? But laying aside that obvious line of inquiry, it's a sign of a fundamental rejection of the ordinary rules of American politics to substitute five-cent cigar psychoanalysis for the serious business of the presidency. I suppose Dr. Dean thinks his medical license puts him above the crowd when it comes to crank stuff like this, but it just makes him a crank with a degree.
There is an ocean of material on Dean's anger, but if Bush wondered aloud whether Dean's internal demons related to getting passed over for senior prefect at St. George's or getting the stiff arm from Skull & Bones, wouldn't the elite media mock the president for bogus cheap shots? If Rove asked whether there wasn't a lot of evidence for some unresolved daddy issues with Dean, wouldn't the cable shows be full of faux outrage? The fellow on the national stage with a temperament problem is the short guy from Vermont, not the Texan in the White House, so where is the follow-up from the big guns?
Evidently, it's in the same place as the follow-up to Wesley Clark's "Read my lips, no new terrorist attacks" swagger. That was a half-day story, too. It seems the Dems are, collectively, gaffe proof.
Or it may be that there are just too many gaffes for any of them to stand out. After all, when Dean started trafficking in nutty "the Saudis warned him" theories in early December, he set the bar pretty low for responsible rhetoric.
Or is it that the boys on the bus can no longer make the weather on a gaffe as they could in the old days before the Internet made news democratic? With 10,000 blogs and every paper online, the big guys no longer get to tap the tempo. With video streaming from a half-dozen news channels, very little has the capacity to shock anymore because there is no unified audience to shock. Dean can shout down an old guy at a town forum, and no one seems to mind.
It's enough to make Ed Muskie cry. Except if he did in 2004, it wouldn't matter.
Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard. His new book, In, But Not Of, has just been published by Thomas Nelson.
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