Kevin Drum identifies a real low point in the typical gotcha game of political reporting:
[...] It's bad enough when media shills insist on playing tiresome "gotcha" games with Democratic candidates by focusing on obscure past statements to try and prove some illusory "inconsistency" — while allowing enormous real inconsistencies by the people who are actually in power to float gently out of sight — but apparently now we're playing the same game even with a candidate who has been as consistent as it's humanly possible to be. It's time to knock it off.
This Mickey Kaus column is what set Kevin off:
There are two interpretations of Dean's transformation from a candidate who said Bush was doing "a good job on the war on terrorism" to the Howard Dean most voters think they know today. One...is that Dean sincerely supported the overall war on terror but thought the Iraq invasion was a misstep, the "wrong war at the wrong time."
....But there's a second, more troubling interpretation, which is that Dean shifted to a strong anti-war position not because of Bush's Iraq actions, but because he saw that that was where the Democratic party's activist base wanted him to go.
Kevin rightly points out that Kaus provides no facts to back up the suggestion that Dean's anti-war stance was pure political opportunism. It's a smear without even the faintest wiff of the kind of evidence that media whores normally use to cover their smears.
Even Kaus admits that it is "Just a thought".
Yet Kaus is surely smart enough to know that its a pretty reprehensible thought that unfairly plants seeds of doubt about Dean's character. So why did Kaus do it? Could it be that he is just afraid to admit that Dean might have been right all along? Is he grasping for some explanation that makes Dean's position look more calculated than it was? Could it be that Kaus is intentionally trying to spread the idea that Dean came to his position through political calculation and not an intellectually honest analysis of the facts on the ground in ordr to damage Dean's reputation?
Just a thought.
Kevin adds this additional comment to his original post:
I don't know if Dean was being opportunistic or not, of course, but he's certainly given us no reason to think so.
In fact, if you'll remember back to June 2002, Iraq was still a marketing program that hadn't been introduced to its consumers yet, so there's really no reason Dean should have reacted to it. As soon as it was introduced, though, he said he didn't like it.
What's more, my recollection is that back then it was the unanimous conventional wisdom that Dean's position was suicidal. If he was being opportunistic, he sure picked a funny way to do it.
Indeed. If Dean was only a political opportunist then he has to go down as one of the most astute political observers in the history of mankind for having realized that being anti Iraq-War was a god-send for his campaign.