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Sunday, January 25, 2004

What planet does Howard Dean live on?

There are very few politicians who are as glib and clever and articulate as Bill Clinton.  Our current President, whom I support and admire, certainly does not have these as his strongest qualities.  One makes allowances; and one recognizes that these qualities, while nice, aren't the most important attributes of a successful President.  Moreover, when you've got the press following you around day after day, microphones always on, questions coming a mile a minute, you're bound to mis-speak — to say something less than clever, and probably wrong, on occasion. 

But even making allowances, you have to wonder just how to explain this kind of stupidity:

Dean, who charged to the top of the Democratic field last year on his blunt opposition to war in Iraq and to the Washington Democrats who supported it, said in Manchester the living standard in Iraq "is a whole lot worse now than it was before."

Where does this man get his facts?  Where does he get these crazy ideas?  Even if you leave out "fear of having your tongue cut out" and "fear of being fed feet-first into a tree-limb shredder" from the concept of "living standard"  — even if you discount the whole concept of "freedom" to zero, which isn't exactly a calculation most Americans (or most Iraqis!) would agree with — what possible facts could Howard Dean be talking about? 

From the same press account:

"I would never defend Saddam Hussein. He's a horrible person. I'm delighted he's gone," he said, but asked: "Would there not have been a better way to get rid of him in cooperation with the United Nations?"

That would be the same United Nations whose resolutions and sanctions Saddam flouted continuously for over a decade?  Or would that be some other United Nations, King Arthur bests the Black Knightperhaps, to which the French don't belong?

This isn't lying.  It's too counterfactual to take seriously.  It's too fundamental to just be an "error."  It's not just mis-speaking.  This stuff has to make one seriously wonder if Howard Dean has slipped over the edge into "delusional."

Before our eyes, Howard Dean is becoming the Black Knight from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

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Update (Mon Jan 26 @ wee-small-hours):  Notwithstanding its headline — "Howard Dean Says Iraqis Worse Off Now" — another news story provides some context which could be read to suggest that Dean was referring only to dead Iraqis' living standards:

"You can say that it's great that Saddam is gone and I'm sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone," said the former Vermont governor, an unflinching critic of the war against Iraq. "But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before."

If Dean was indeed referring only to dead Iraqis' living standards — even leaving aside the oxymoronic quality of that concept — then his statement goes from colossally counterfactual to merely insipid.  Under either interpretation, it's still a bizarre thing to say.  In fact, the additional context makes it sound as though Dean is lamenting the Iraqis who died while trying to defend Saddam's regime.  I suspect he didn't mean that either, and was trying, very ham-handedly, to refer to innocents. 

Whatever.  I think Dean's been successful in getting across his central theme:  If Dean were the President of the United States, Saddam would still be the President of Iraq.  I'm content to let the voters make of that what they will.

Update (Mon Jan 26 @ even-wee-smaller-hours):  The New York Post has the whole quote but also reads it as though Dean was referring to living Iraqis' living standards.  As, apparently, do those — including Dean's rivals — whom the Post quotes as disagreeing with Dean:

A spokesman for candidate Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), who also voted for the war, said: "I don't think anyone can argue that living under a brutal regime is better than not living under a brutal regime."

John Edwards, meet Atrios and his moonbats.

Posted by Beldar at 11:16 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink

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