Howard Dean is Bad, Bad, Bad 

America's media grow stupider by the day

American media have surely gone brain dead. The treatment of Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean is the clearest evidence I've seen in a long time.

Consider this statement from the Jan. 14 editorial page of the venerable Wall Street Journal:

"There is also his -- let's be kind -- mercurial temperament. Mr. Dean often shoots from the lip, a habit his supporters find refreshing but that will make him vulnerable during the crucible of a campaign. To take just one example: In the wake of Saddam Hussein's capture, Mr. Dean declared we were no safer because of it. This was bad enough as a gaffe, but he has stuck by the point, like Mike Dukakis on furloughs for felons, suggesting an obstinate disregard for the judgment of most Americans. This will not wear well from here to November."

Apparently the editors of the WSJ forgot that just because President Bush lies constantly, it's not OK for them to also make stuff up when trying to attack his competition. Far from disregarding the "judgment of most Americans," Dean's statement actually reflected most Americans' views.

In a CBS poll reported Dec. 17, 61 percent said the threat of terrorism remains the same after Hussein's capture and 17 percent said it had actually increased. In a Newsweek poll three days later, 51 percent said the threat remained the same and 41 percent said they felt safer.

If they aren't outright lying, the media are engaging in the kind of distortion that, perpetrated against Republicans, would cause Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to sputter apoplectically for days. On Jan. 14, ABC News ran a highly promoted "exclusive" that implied much but actually said nothing. The story began with this statement:

"In his presidential campaign, and as governor of Vermont before that, Howard Dean has taken a tough, zero-tolerance stand on domestic violence, accusing the Bush administration of not being committed to the issue. Yet Dean said he had no idea that one of the men closest to him was repeatedly abusing his wife."

ABC did not produce a shred of evidence that Dean knew anything about the man's behavior and the story is a rank example of character assassination by innuendo. Not surprisingly, one of the reporters on the story is Chris Vlasto, who was notoriously obsessed with the Clintons and produced an infamous "Nightline" piece that incriminated Hillary with a video clip taken entirely out of context.

The most ludicrous example of the attack on Dean's character is the recent Newsweek cover story that generally packages him as an angry and aloof maverick. Add to that the suspicion that he's the anti-Christ. Reporter Howard Fineman asked Dean, apparently with a straight face, "Do you see Jesus Christ as the son of God and believe in him as the route to salvation and eternal life?" Apparently, it is not enough that Dean has religious belief. He must prove that he belongs to the born-again movement.

And then, of course, there's his failure to demonstrate family values. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, famously obsessed with Bill Clinton's sex life, attacked Dean last week because his very independent wife is not campaigning with him. "Physician, healthy spouse," she wrote without ever explaining exactly why Mrs. Dean has an obligation to behave like Laura.

The most notorious Dean basher is the Bush house organ, aka the Washington Post, which has regularly declared him "unelectable" and -- gasp! -- "beyond the mainstream." Said one editorial, "We are troubled by aspects of Mr. Dean's character and personality." This from the same newspaper that can't seem to editorialize about the character of the president and his staff, even though it is now a matter of record that they baldly lied to rationalize the Iraq invasion.

This is deja vu all over again. During Bill Clinton's campaign, the Washington press corps routinely declared him unelectable and "gaffe-prone." Clinton, I remind you, was 20 points behind the elder Bush, whereas Dean is less than 10 behind Bush Jr., even without the Democratic nomination. While the media obsessively ruminated Clinton's scandalous lie about fellatio and Republicans launched an impeachment, the vast majority of Americans continued to approve of him. Similarly, while the media depict Dean as unlikable, pessimistic and angry, most polled Americans find him just the opposite.

Finally, of course, this all reprises the media's depiction of Al Gore as cold and angry. Nonetheless, Gore won a popular majority but was unable to convince the Supreme Court to let him take office. In terms of the actual sentiments of the country, they belonged much more to Gore than to Bush. Had the leftier Ralph Nader not run, Gore certainly would have occupied the White House.

What does all this mean? It means that Dean is certainly electable and a complete threat to the American media, whose members voted more than 2-to-1 for Bush in the last election. It also should lay to rest the idiotic notion that the media constitute a "liberal elite." They are, with few exceptions, in Dubya's back pocket -- a convenient place for kissing ass.

cliff.bostock@creativeloafing.com

Cliff Bostock's website is www.soulworks.net.

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