Friday, January 02, 2004

Getting it and why I don't support Clark

Paul Krugman gets it:

It's true that if Mr. Dean gets the nomination, the Republicans will attack him as a wild-eyed liberal who is weak on national security. But they would do the same to any Democrat — even Joseph Lieberman. Facts, or the lack thereof, will prove no obstacle: remember the successful attacks on the patriotism of Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, or the Saddam-Daschle ads.

Mr. Dean's character will also come under attack. But this, too, will happen to any Democrat. If we've learned anything in this past decade, it's that the right-wing scandal machine will find a way to smear anyone, and that a lot of the media will play along. A year ago, when John Kerry was the presumptive front-runner, he came under assault — I am not making this up — over the supposed price of his haircuts. Sure enough, a CNN host solemnly declared him in "denial mode."

I am a supporter of Howard Dean, but I will be the first to admit that his critics are not entirely wrong in their criticism. In fact, I toyed for a while with the idea of supporting Clark. But there have been two primary reasons why I have not made that switch: (1) the naiveté of some in the Clark camp who think that their guy will be less susceptible to Rovian style smears and innuendo simply because he is a general and (2) the palpable sense of fear that permeates many Clark supporters about what will happen if Dean gets the nomination. The two things that have killed Democrats in the last few years are precisely those two things. Dems have been looking for a White Knight who's perfect resume will vanquish any smear campaign and they have been running away from taking any stand in serious opposition to Bush because of the fear that doing so would hurt their electoral chances. The two things that have sold me on the Dean campaign more than anything else are that it understands that the best way to defeat the smear campaign is to confront it head on, not waste time looking for a mythical White Knight who's character is impeccable and that the fear of what might go wrong cannot stand in the way of the hope of what might go right.

If I got a good feel for either of those two things coming from the Clark campaign it is quite possible I might switch. I get none of that. So I'm sticking with Dean.


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