Sunday, December 21, 2003

Notable Quotables I don't subscribe to the view that Howard Dean has boxed himself into an ideological corner--I think he still has plenty of time to position himself as a moderate for the general election campaign (although I'd like to see him start moving in that direction.) And I don't believe he's so bellicose that he'll never win the hearts and minds of independent voters (although I wish he'd spend more time talking about his impressive record in Vermont and less time lashing out at Republicans).

But over the past couple weeks I have grown concerned about Dean's prospects: I'm getting very worried about his ability to survive an entire campaign season without crippling himself with sloppy, misleading statements.

You've heard about many of these statements, no doubt. But the candidate added another unfortunate comment to his collection yesterday, one that has gone almost unnoticed: Dean is quoted on the AP wire as saying, "I'm the only person [running for president] who has done anything about trying to get health care.''

Take a minute to think about the silliness of this claim.

Now, maybe the statement was taken wildly out of context. But even if it was, it's hard to understand how Dean could have let such an unqualified, generalized assertion out of his mouth. After all, this is exactly the kind of demonstrably false, quotable nugget that he's had to apologize for in the past. And his advisers, presumably, have been hard at work scrubbing these kinds of flourishes from his rhetorical repertoire.

So what's the story? Why is it so hard for him to settle for something like, "In Vermont, I achieved healthcare gains that are light years ahead of the accomplishments of the other candidates"? (A bit more cumbersome, granted. But at least it's defensible.)

It's time Dean figured out a way to stop himself from making these kinds of overbroad statements. And fast.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.