Thursday, September 04, 2003
Three small, maybe snarky questions about Andrew Sullivan's flirtation with Howard Dean:
(1) Do you actually believe that Howard Dean, Vermont liberal, would do more to rein in Federal spending that George W. Bush? Granted that Bush has been completely hopeless on this front. You don't want Dean to spend less on defense, or on homeland security (and, indeed, Dean has promised to *increase* spending in these areas). You can't expect him to cut spending on health care, 'cause he's running on national health insurance (among other things). Education? You must be joking. What's he gonna cut? You can believe that Dr. Dean will take a scalpel to all the pork being barbecued on the House floor, but that tooth fairy's been seen a few times before. Or you can believe something more plausible: that Dean will balance the budget by raising taxes - income taxes, corporate income taxes, and Social Security taxes (by raising the ceiling on the amount of income subject to the payroll tax). I suppose you could buy into some Mickey Kaus-like notion that a Democrat President and a GOP Congress are, collectively, more fiscally conservative than any other combination (this was part of Kaus's convoluted justification for voting for Gore last time around). But that's a bit of a stretch as a reason to vote for him, isn't it? So tell me: are we supposed to take this flirting seriously? Or what?
(2) Aren't you still, nominally, a Catholic? If so, doesn't it bother you that Dean is an abortion-rights absolutist? Or that he has expressed considerable sympathy for physician-assisted suicide? I'm not a Catholic, nor am I in favor of banning abortion, but *I'm* troubled by these things. For a Catholic, I should think they would be paramount. Indeed, on these sorts of questions, unless I'm mistaken, the Church instructs Catholics how to vote. Okay, you disagree profoundly with the teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality, and you have lost confidence in the heirarchy generally because of the pedophilia scandals and the clerisy's response to them. Does that mean that Catholic teaching on other matters, matters the Church deems fundamental, is now no longer of interest to you?
(3) Do you actually trust Howard Dean to follow through in the War on Terror? Dean's been making noises lately about how we have become committed to Iraq and have to win the peace, even if it means more troops. He's also said he supported the first Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan. And he's talking tough about Saudi Arabia. Do you buy all this? Do you think Dean is a closet anti-Iraq-war hawk a la Heather MacDonald? If so, what makes you think so? What makes you trust this man to be Commander in Chief in a time of war? And what makes you think his party has the resources to draw upon to prosecute such a war? I'm interested, because I was under the impression that this was *the* deciding issue for you, overriding everything else, a question that will determine the fate of Western Civilization itself. You've got legitimate questions about Bush's follow-through; so do many supporters of the war. Notice anyone else defecting to Dr. Dean?
Of course, these questions are not seriously asked. We know why Dean is appealing: he signed the nation's first civil unions law. I understand that this should warm the cockles of Andrew Sullivan's heart. But could he at least be honest and say that, in a pinch, gay marriage trumps the war, rather than play with the notion that Dean trumps Bush?
I mean, here's the question: if you want to defect to a Democrat who'll plausibly be tough on spending and on the war, why not defect to "emergency Republican" Joe Lieberman? He's not out of the race yet, last time I looked. And if you want to send a signal to Bush to stop spending, shouldn't you be threatening to vote Libertarian? The GOP really does worry that Libertarian votes cost them elections. A 5% Libertarian showing in this election would send a strong signal, wouldn't it?