Saturday, February 21

Marry Me, Molly Ivins

I say we're in for a terrific two weeks if both Kerry and John Edwards do the issue stuff they're both well-placed to do. Kerry has a strong, well-thought-out health-care plan, and he should make it his signature issue -- and put some passion into it, if he's got any. Edwards, with his populist riff, is perfectly placed to take on globalization directly.

I recommend that everyone take another look at John Edwards, especially if you wrote him off as too pretty and too light the first time you saw him. I did, too, and I was wrong: I know for a fact he's a much better candidate than he was a year ago. Ever since his speech at Georgetown University last summer, Edwards has shown he knows how to take that old time populist gospel and update it for the 21st century. Of course, the Bushies keep making that easier for him.

Meanwhile, the punditry is busy cranking out mostly pro forma hail-and-farewells to my man Howard Dean. I hate whining and life is not fair, but I still think a whole lot of people who should have known better freaked out over Dean, treating a mostly mild-mannered, perfectly sensible and quite cheerful fellow as some kind of anti-establishment antichrist. I mean, he was governor of Vermont for 10 years, not Lenin.

But he did tap into some real political anger, and look how many people turn out to be just scared to death of that. This is not the fake, pumped-up indignation of Rush Limbaugh's dittoheads over gay marriage -- now there's something that'll cost you your job -- but real anger about being lied to over war.

What was so scary about Howard Dean? Could it be because he (and some very bright young people who worked with him) found this way to raise real money in small amounts from regular people, and that just threatened the hell out of a lot of big corporate special interests? And out of an entire political establishment that is entirely too comfortable with the incestuous relationship between big money and politics? For just a moment in time, Dean was ahead of the pack -- and no one owned him. Go back and look at whom that scared.

Sure, Dean self-destructed to some extent. He now does a very funny imitation of his own "scream speech," delivered in a quiet monotone and ending with a mild, deadpan, "Yahoo." (Come to think of it, he should have done that riff on Leno the night after he made the speech: We all have great ideas when it's too late.)

I'm not crazy about anger as a motivating force in politics -- but didn't someone need to point out that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes? Didn't someone need to say that we were led into war under false pretences? Imagine an entire campaign in which all the candidates ignored that because they were all complicit in it.

I think we owe Howard Dean more than a, "Gee thanks for participating in our noble political system." Personally, I'd like to say, "Gee, thanks for helping keep democracy alive when it looked fairly dicey."