Jonathan Chait

Deanophobia Vindicated

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I have a confession: this isn't my first time. Oh, you probably thought that this foray into full-time blogging was a new experience for me. But I've done it before. It was the winter of 2003-2004. Howard Dean was hurtling toward what most observers considered his inevitable capturing of the Democratic nomination. I decided to start a blog dedicated to making the case that this was a horrible idea. I called it "Diary Of A Dean-O-Phobe."

It provoked some support but quite a bit of hostility among liberals. My proudest moment was the formation of a counter-blog, "Diary Of A Chait-O-Phobe." After the shocking implosion of Dean's candidacy, I set aside my blog.

I bring this up because Dean is back in the news, doing everything he can to kill health care reform:

Dean, a physician by training who's a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said that Democrats in Congress -- and President Barack Obama -- would do themselves more harm than good by passing the current healthcare bill.

"The plan, as it comes from the Senate, hangs out every Democrat who's running for office to dry -- including the president, in 2012, because it makes him defend a plan that isn't in effect essentially yet," Dean said during an appearance on the liberal Bill Press Radio Show.

Dean, who has clashed publicly with the White House over the healthcare proposals favored by the administration, said that by passing the bills under consideration, Democrats would essentially be conceding defeat to Republicans.

"It's easy to campaign on repealing something if no one knows what the something is," Dean said. "And fundamentally people don't understand what the president's healthcare plan is."

"And if it passes next week and get's signed into law the week after, we're not going to be able to explain it to people over the din of Fox News and the Republicans," the former Democratic party chairman added.

The defense of Dean was that he was really a mainstream Democrat if you looked at his record. That was true. My response was that Dean was temperamentally unsuited to be president -- he had the resume of a moderate but the soul of a radical. His egomania and extreme pugilism made him a poor advocate and an even worse negotiator. His only solution to political impediments is to pretend they don't exist.

A lot of liberals, including friends with whom I often agree, insisted this was an unfair reading of Dean. I doubt many of them would still say the same today.

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