Washington — So now it is official, Dr. Howard Dean is running for the presidency of the United States. He is the former governor of Vermont, or is it New Hampshire, or Idaho? I know he was once a governor because for years I appeared across from his lovably lumpy head on a television program we taped in Montreal. I never could get it right in my mind where he was governor. He would quietly slip into the studio before tapings and sit near the make-up room. There would often be an embarrassing incident. A cameraman might tell him that members of the audience were not allowed in the area. Another guest from the show might ask him if he was the production company’s driver. Dr. Howard Dean has whatever the opposite of charisma is in abundance. If he runs representing the common man I shall not be surprised.
Many political watchers are surprised that Dr. Howard Dean is running for the presidency. I am not. I recall that he contemplated running in 2000. In fact, he seemed to consider himself the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000. Dr. Howard Dean is not wanting in self-confidence. Perhaps it comes from being governor of such a state as Vermont or New Hampshire or wherever he comes from. During the period back in 1999 when he was considering a presidential run, I could not resist telling him that I would do whatever I could to help him win the nomination. Most likely, the best thing I could do for him would be to denounce him as a communist or ravenous homosexual or something of that sort. The constituency that he sees himself as appealing to is that stratum of the Democratic party that believes that millions of Americans — and all conservative Americans — think people on the left are communists or homosexuals.
In my hopes of helping Dr. Howard Dean win the nomination in 2000 I envisioned writing columns claiming he was the most dangerous communist to run for the presidency since General Dwight Eisenhower. Then he could wave the column around at “Dr. Howard Dean for President” rallies and josh and insist he is not the communist that the “talk-radio right-wingers” fear, after which he might give a shy wink. The Dean vote would love it.
Of course, Dr. Howard Dean is not a radical in any way. During our days as the stars of Montreal televisionland I studied him carefully. He has the boundless energy that every professional politician must have. He has the ready comeback and the self-assuredness. He also, being a Democrat, has a few bricks of liberalism in his political foundation, but that is about it. I know he is running as a populist firebrand against the Bush monarchy. I know that there are conservatives who fear his ardor and wild charges even as there are left-wing democrats who take heart from it. But let me notify both sides: Dr. Howard Dean is merely a pragmatist who wants to be president, and being a Democrat knows what hot buttons to push. He is also a bit balmy, but that is why I like him. He will be a gold mine of nonsense for this political columnist.
I do remember Dr. Howard Dean as being a superb transmitter of the White House party line during the 1990s, particularly with regard to the top issue of the Clinton agenda, scandal control. Whatever the scandal of the hour might be, Dr. Howard Dean was sitting across from me emolliently mouthing the White House alibi. President Bill Clinton could have been caught practicing cannibalism in the Oval Office and Dr. Howard Dean would neither be embarrassed nor at a loss for words. “Tyrrell, that’s just a little something the President picked up in Arkansas,” he might say. Or being very proud of his progressive insights he might asseverate: “Nutritionists are finding that an occasional leg of human delays the onset of arthritis.”
When we did our television show together I marveled at how swimmingly he got along with all other Democratic politicians who came in to do the show. With Democrats he really was a regular guy. With Republicans or conservatives it was a little different. He was usually polite but there was always a distance that he established between himself and the conservative, rather reminiscent of the distance that is established between a fine high school teacher and a student, a student with the IQ of a moron. Dr. Howard Dean always seemed to be of the opinion that one must attempt to educate the conservative even though the endeavor might be hopeless. His obliviousness is one of the many reasons the Democratic Party has slipped so since Bill Clinton slipped out of the Arkansas governor’s mansion.