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Mean, Mean Howard Dean

Media pundits have been rattling their cages over Howard Dean’s so-called progressive agenda, but how wrong they’ve been. Dean’s back seat criticism of the Bush Administration’s case for war should enlighten us to the fact that this ex-Vermont Governor’s leadership skills are lacking. Prior to the dubious war on Iraq, Dean exclaimed he supported a multi-lateral invasion, but hardly questioned the disinformation spewed from the White House about Iraq’s threat to our national security. And to top it off, Dean may well be a Zionist. His unwavering support for the Sharon regime in Israel calls into question his quest for peace in the Middle East. Dean’s alignment with the pro-Sharon lobbying firm, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is a stark indicator that this Presidential hopeful’s vision for the Arab world is glaringly similar to that of team Bush.

Some Democrats have even been comparing Dean to George McGovern–who back in 1972 lost the Presidential race by a landslide to incumbent Richard Nixon. McGovern was a true liberal Democrat, and many claim that his progressive policies cost him the election.

But what progressive policies could cost Dean the 2004 election? Could it be his support for the death penalty? Maybe it will be his praise of the outlandish Welfare Reform program Clinton and Gore mustered through Congress. Or perhaps it’ll have to do with his recent remarks that Iraq simply needs more troops for the ongoing occupation. He sounds a lot like some prominent Republican spinsters on that one. Someone should ask Howard Dean if he remembers a little country called Vietnam.

How in the heck did he get labeled a progressive anyway? What radical changes is he proposing? His rhetoric is simplistic, and his populist mantra is reminiscent of Gore in 2000–passionate, but toothless. For example, he’ll say he’s for ‘grassroots democracy,’ but won’t support campaign finance reform. He will also beat his chest over ‘universal healthcare,’ but he won’t back any ‘sweeping reforms.’ How can we have universal healthcare without drastically changing our for-profit medical industry? Who is he kidding?

As for his Israel position, his own website exclaims that the United States should ‘maintain its historic special relationship with the state of Israel, providing a guarantee of its long-term defense and security.’ Not only has this centrist politician forgotten the Vietnam monstrosity, he blatantly ignores the thousands of Palestinians that have perished at the hands of the brutal Israeli military machine.

Dean is also a neoliberal. He states that he knows ‘what it takes to generate economic growth,’ and that he ‘will work tirelessly to put the American economy back on the road to prosperity.’ What Dean really means is that he is willing to disregard environmental safeguards and worker’s rights, as long as the wheels of economic capital start churning.

No wonder then that Dean supports the expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). But you won’t find much information about this in his campaign propaganda. He wants the progressive vote, so his conformist stances are blatantly spiced up in hopes his supporters will follow blindly. He calls for structural change, but being a centrist, Dean won’t endorse repealing any of these repressive agreements.

In the first unofficial Democratic primary, Dean won MoveOn.Org’s online poll, garnering 44% of total vote count–this coming from an activist organization. Seems that Howard Dean fooled these lefties into believing he’s one of them.

So as he leads the pack of Democratic contenders, keep in mind that Dean is no progressive. He just wants your vote. And like most politicians he’ll say what he needs in order to get what he wants. Supporting Civil Unions back in Vermont is one of his only plus marks, but that shouldn’t entitle him to outright ownership of your vote. Don’t let him fool you into thinking he’s anything more than regressive. He’s simply not.

JOSH FRANK lives in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at: frank_joshua@hotmail.com

© 2003, by the author.

 

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JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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