By: Charles Geraci
Former presidential candidate Howard Dean wants the media to stuff its new conventional wisdom that “values” or “morals” drove the result of this month’s election.
Speaking Thursday night to 500 Northwestern University students, many of them journalism majors, Dean noted there was little “statistical difference” between the percentage of voters who deemed moral values the top issue (22 %) and those who ranked as their top concern Iraq or the economy/jobs, according to exit poll data.
“How can you get to the conclusion morality was the most important issue in this campaign?” Dean asked. “It’s beyond me, but that was what the media was riding. They’re entitled to their opinion. It doesn’t happen to be the opinion of thoughtful people who are looking.”
Though Dean, a Democrat, complimented President Bush, saying he “ran a great campaign” and was “very disciplined,” he compared the president to former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, at least in one regard.
“The truth is the president of the United States used the same device that Slobodan Milosevic used in Serbia. When you appeal to homophobia, when you appeal to sexism, when you appeal to racism, that is extraordinarily damaging to the country,” Dean charged. “I know George Bush. I served with him for six years [as a fellow governor]. He’s not a homophobe. He’s not a racist. He’s not a sexist. In some ways, what he did was worse ? because he knew better.”
Dean also criticized Bush for the ballot initiatives in 11 states calling for gay marriage to be outlawed, saying this “had only one effect, which is to appeal to homophobia and fear and gay-baiting in order to win a presidential election.”
And he took a shot at Rev. Jerry Falwell.: “Most Americans are decent people — not all. I mean, there are those hate-mongers. I wouldn’t call Jerry Falwell a decent person.”
Scolding Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for, in Dean’s opinion, humiliating people from the bench, he said, “Justice Scalia ought not to be on the bench. Never pick anyone who’s sarcastic and mean-spirited.”
But Dean’s lighter side also was apparent throughout the evening. When a student asked what, if anything, Democrats could do regarding Bush’s Supreme Court nominations, Dean joked: “We can do a lot. But senators have to have some chutzpah, as they say in Yiddish, or cojones, as they say in Spanish.”
The former Vermont governor also responded to an ad by the conservative Club for Growth in which two ordinary Americans said Dean should take his “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs.”
He explained, “I don’t drink coffee. I have three cars — all of which are American. No part of me is pierced that I’m willing to discuss publicly. And if you want to see a freak show, go look at the people who wrote that ad — you won’t believe it.”
Dean talked about his vision for the Democratic Party, saying, “We need to stand up for what we believe in … so that the people who vote against their economic interests will now consider voting for Democrats.”
Complimenting students for “voting in significantly higher numbers,” Dean appealed for them to “run for office” quite a few times. Echoing the now infamous “Dean scream,” he shouted, “You need to run for office — not just in Illinois and Ohio and South Carolina! … You need to run for office in Mississippi, and Alabama, and Idaho, and Texas, and….”