Friday, April 25, 2003

On Howard Dean

Marty Jezer provides an interesting perspective on Howard Dean as a Vermonter. He says that he is surprised by some of the stands he has taken, but not that surprised by the passion with which he has put them forward. To me, Howard Dean was the governor with the overly-tight collar and a head that looked like the protruding bulge of a squeegee ball. Then came the battle over civil unions. In December 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court unanimously ruled that gay couples are entitled to equal rights and protections under the law. I initially castigated Dean for coming out against gay marriage. He chose to make a stand in support of civil unions. And stand he did. Right-wing Republicans attempted to make civil unions the issue by which they would bring down moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats. The debate was ugly, but Dean was heroic. On radio phone-in shows and in speeches and public appearances, he took on the abuse, bigotry and phony science of the homophobic following and did not give an inch. He turned the debate and the election that followed into a referendum on human dignity and dignity won. The bottom line with Howard Dean is that he’s a decent guy with backbone. As Governor, Dean had little to say about foreign policy and no contact with Vermont’s peace movement. His opposition to the Iraqi War is a surprise. But there is substance to his critique and, as evidenced by the civil union fight, he’s not likely to soften his position in order to pander for votes. I appreciate the comment that there is substance to Dean's anti-war stance. To many in the press have portrayed this as just an attempt to make a name for himself by latching on to a nascent movement. As if the peace movement were just another constituency. Dean's stance on the Iraq invasion is more than just rhetoric, as his recent column on the Bush Doctrine demonstrates. It's a stance that comes from principle, not just political gamesmanship. Here's hoping more people come to realize that Dean is not just a phenom.

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