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Mean Gov. Dean

There has been a bit of an uproar made over Howard Dean’s recent comments on the proposed cultural center to be built near Ground Zero. Joining Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Dean is the second high profile Democrat to oppose the building.

If you missed it, here is what Howard Dean told WABC radio earlier this week, “We have to understand that it is a real affront to people who’ve lost their lives, including Muslims. That site doesn’t belong to any particular religion,” said Dean. “So I think a good reasonable compromise could be worked out without violating the principle that people ought to be able to worship as they see fit.”

Dean, the former chair of Democratic National Committee, joined the chorus of hate-filled Conservatives who have come out against the so-called Mosque, which isn’t really a Mosque at all. Some may be stunned that one of the more progressive members of the Democratic Party has joined forces with the likes of Sarah Palin and Karl Rove, but Dean is far from progressive.

Six years ago I wrote a little book called Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, which dedicated a good portion to Howard Dean’s gruesome record as Governor of Vermont, his rise to prominence on the heels of the grassroots while running for president, his disastrous fall from power and the symbolic role he was awarded by the Democratic elites who feared his legions of followers.

In all the dirt I uncovered on Gov. Dean I learned few things. First and foremost the man propped up by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party was far from progressive himself.

On civil liberties, Dean had a disgusting track record, going out of his way to crackdown on legitimate dissent in his home state. On foreign policy, Dean proved to be an opportunist and was far from an anti-war candidate. On health care, Dean, a doctor, refused to back legitimate reform. On the economy, Dean was a freewheeling neoliberal.

The list was indeed endless and the point of the exercise was to show just how far right the alleged left wing of the Democratic Party had lurched over the decades.

Such was the setting that allowed the rise of Barack Obama and the legions of supporters that ushered him into office two years ago. In the neoconservative age of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney a smooth talking Obama was deemed a radical departure from politics as usual. Many in fact saw Obama as a progressive candidate, despite a somewhat wretched record as a U.S. Senator and his war-mongering attitudes he espoused along the campaign trail.

And the result was quite predictable once he was elected: more war, more civil liberties infringements, failed health-care reform, free-market energy solutions and more Wall Street bailouts. Truth be told, Obama has brought about as much change as his Republican opponent had hoped for.

As such, Howard Dean, with his anti-Mosque sentiment in tow, may well be angling to enter the electoral fold in six years labeling himself a moderate, Muslim-hating Democrat whose cautious following can save his weakened party from its Tea Party foes.

If anything, Howard Dean’s recent comments about the Muslim center being built near Ground Zero ought to be catalogued up right next to Rand Paul’s disgusting view of monumental Civil Rights Act and Sarah Palin’s belief that the BP oil explosion was the fault of those damn environmentalists.

President Obama and other leading Democrats may pay lip service to Muslim civil rights and support the Ground Zero building, but what good is their rhetoric if they simply turn around and reauthorize the PATRIOT Act and order drones to murder innocent Muslims in the Middle East?

Howard Dean’s opinion should not come as much of a surprise. What should, however, is that people are not flooding the streets in opposition to the White House’s bitter hypocrisy on the issue.

JOSHUA FRANK is author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published by AK Press. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com.

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JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeffrey St. Clair, is Big Heat: Earth on the Brink. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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