William Saletan’s analysis of Howard Dean’s foreign policy speech at Slate summarizes the message of the speech: I’m no sissy. It’s an interesting analysis.
The risk for Dean is that in trying to sound smart, he’ll come off as a jerk, as Al Gore did in his first debate with Bush in 2000. I still think Dean’s problem on national security is arrogance, not weakness. The election is a choice “between brash boastfulness and considered confidence,” he asserts in his speech. Sounds like a boast to me. Answering the question about inexperience, Dean says he studied “under what I consider to be the best history department in the United States, at Yale University.” I can see the ad. Left half of the screen: “Bush. Won Two Wars.” Right half: “Dean. Studied at Yale.”
But for now, Dean just wants to make clear he’s no hippie. He says he belongs to the tradition of “Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and the first President Bush.” The big lie of the campaign, Daalder tells the reporters in Washington, is that if you’re against the Iraq war, you’re against war. Dean is a “centrist,” Daalder insists. “If there’s a radical in this fight, it is the president. And if there’s a conservative… it’s Howard Dean.” Would Dean cut defense spending? “No,” Daalder replies emphatically, without a moment’s pause.
On my way out, I ask Daalder about something Dean said in Iowa four months ago: that he wants a foreign policy more like Jimmy Carter’s. Daalder practically jerks backward, as though he’s just been told somebody saw his candidate wearing a dress. You can be sure we won’t be hearing stuff like that from Howard Dean anymore.I disagree with that last line. For some reason, to this point in the campaign, Dean has not been wounded by flip flops. He appears to be able to change stripes with impunity. You would think that blogoshpere Deanites would be up in arms. If they are, I haven’t seen it yet.