It Depends What The Meaning of “Misspeak” Is

June 9, 2005

It’s rather amusing, frankly, to see certain Democrats trying to distance themselves from Howard Dean’s latest round of vitriol against the Republican Party, when you consider the systematic slandering most of them have heaped upon President Bush for more than four years.

Assuming you’re not dwelling in a cave with Osama, you’ve heard that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said that many Republicans “never made an honest living in their lives,” and that the Republican Party is “pretty much a white, Christian party.” (As to the former, remember when Democrats, in their post-election, grief-born introspection promised to redouble their efforts to reach out to the Christian right and “values” voters? As to the latter, I haven’t heard whether Howard cynically attempted this time to pepper his remarks with scriptural passages, as he is wont to do.)

Most of the Democrats who are even bothering to dissociate themselves from Dean’s remarks are ones who aspire to the presidency, such as Sen. Joseph Biden and New Mexico gov. Bill Richardson, who said, variously, that Dean doesn’t speak for all Democrats.

Oh? That’s news to me, since he is occupying precisely the position of one who does speak for Democrats. Indeed, Democrat honchos were well aware of Dean’s proclivity for GOP villification when they deliberately placed him in his current position. And need I remind you that Dean is a perfectly logical successor for Terry McAuliffe, who character-assassinated Republicans for sport?

Democrats knew what they were getting with Dean, and they chose him with malice aforethought. They either affirmatively support his endless defamation or have concluded it’s the price they have to pay to mollify their antiwar, anti-Bush base. Either way, Dean’s words were entirely foreseeable, even predictable.

Which is why it is a little hard to take Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s disingenuous suggestion that Dean’s comments were a mistake. Reid said, “Well, I think, as all of you know, that there isn’t a single person that hasn’t misspoken.”

How true, but don’t insult us by trying to pass this off as a misstatement. Did the faux mild-mannered Reid misspeak when he called President Bush a loser to school kids and a liar? As far as I know, he didn’t retract the latter.

Did Hillary Clinton — also, by the way, a Democrat presidential hopeful, who to this point has been coated with a newly acquired Teflon that has immunized her from serious criticism for her intermittent, intemperate remarks — misspeak when she charged that, “There has never been an administration, I don’t believe, in our history more intent upon consolidating and abusing power?”

Or, did someone fail to deliver the memo to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said Dean had “energized the base of the party. He has a plan for building the infrastructure of the party. People feel very involved in terms of issues, organization and communication?”

So, which is it? Did Mad Howard misspeak, or are his remarks calculated to “energize the base”? (That was a rhetorical question.)

No less a paragon of verbal restraint than Sen. Ted Kennedy said that though some of Dean’s phrases have been “inartful,” he has been an effective party chairman. One has to ask what criteria Kennedy has in mind, given that Dean is reputedly having difficulty raising funds for his party, which one would assume would be the chairman’s primary duty. Or is it to incite the loony Left base, which apparently gets a little antsy between Michael Moore mocumentaries?

And since we’re debating whether Howard Dean said what he meant to say, perhaps we should consider his own reflections after he had a couple of days to ponder the uproar his remarks generated.

Well, in full-throated Bill Clinton mode (attacking his accusers), Dean said, “You know, I think a lot of this is exactly what the Republicans want, and that’s a diversion.” He elaborated that Republicans are feigning outrage to divert the public’s attention away from their problems on Social Security, gas prices and the war in Iraq.

Does this sound repentant to you? Next time I get caught robbing a bank, I’m going to accuse the police of diverting attention away from their failure to bring white-collar crime under control.

I agree with House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, who properly noted that “Democrats, while quick to publicly distance themselves from Dean, can’t hide the fact that their national party chairman remains a sought-after presence in closed-door strategy sessions.”

I’m afraid that Democrats know exactly what they’re doing with Dean. They’ve decided, as a matter of strategy, that they have to vilify and berate President Bush and Republicans because it’s the only real weapon remaining in their arsenal. For now, they’ve quit competing in the marketplace of ideas.