Bull Moose is of the opinion that cracks are beginning to appear in the GOP coalition. However, the Moose believes that "the donkey may be riding to the elephant's rescue" by giving the White House a "gift-wrapped" present in the form of Howard Dean as DNC chair. To support this claim, the Moose quotes a passage from the Washington Times:
Critics say Mr. Dean hurt both his candidacy and party with some of his statements during the Democratic primary campaign. Mr. Dean said terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden should not be judged until he has had a jury trial, expressed doubt about whether Iraqis were better off with Saddam Hussein out of power, called Hamas terrorists "soldiers," and angered Jewish Democrats when he said that the United States should be "evenhanded" in its Middle East policy rather than always favoring Israel.
I suppose these quotes are supposed to be self-evidently indicative of Dean's unsuitability to hold the chairmanship of the DNC. Are they? Forget for the moment that not a single verbatim quote is offered; for the sake of argument, I'll assume that what Dean actually said is accurately characterized in this passage.
What, exactly, is so outrageous about these statements? Let's look at them individually.
Mr. Dean said terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden should not be judged until he has had a jury trial.
This sounds reasonable to me: innocent until proven guilty and all. The operative moral principles behind the ideals of due process and presumption of innocence are universal; we don't get to pick and choose who they apply to, if we are going to do anything but make a mockery of them. If we're convinced of bin Laden's guilt, then what do we have to fear from giving him a fair trial?
Dean expressed doubt about whether Iraqis were better off with Saddam Hussein out of power.
I don't remember Dean saying this, but I probably just missed it. As it is, I don't see anything appalling about this statement. It may be false, but it's not obviously false. Given the daily violence in Iraq, as well as the fact that the same kind of human rights abuses that Saddam was guilty have continued under U.S. occupation, the fact is that a lot of Iraqis might very well agree with this statement.
I remember Dean also catching shit for saying that Americans weren't any safer with Saddam in jail (Joe Lieberman said that Dean had "crawled down his own spider hole of denial"). But this is obviously true. Saddam was clearly not a threat to Americans, and the invasion of Iraq has made Americans more, not less, likely to be the victims of terrorism.
Dean called Hamas terrorists "soldiers"
The distinction between soldiers and terrorists is fuzzy at best. U.S. military personnel have routinely been employed by Washington D.C. in the service of terrorism, yet nobody complains about their being called "soldiers". The same goes, of course, for Israeli fighters. Hamas does, indeed, commit acts of terrorism. But in doing so they are no different from the nation-states whose similar acts are cloaked in the rhetoric of national defense.
Dean angered Jewish Democrats when he said that the United States should be "evenhanded" in its Middle East policy rather than always favoring Israel.
This is perhaps the most unobjectionable statement. It's a problem because Dean said we should be fair with regard to the Israeli-Palestine conflict?!? Who argues that we shouldn't be fair? If we want to have any hope of ever resolving this dispute, we had damn well better be.
That's it. That's all these outrageous statements amount to. This is the supposed "gift" to the GOP that Dean represents.
Dean's not perfect, but he's got balls, which is more than can be said of too many Democrats. He is willing to fight, and the importance of that in the party of Joe Lieberman cannot be overstated. This gift to the Republican Party might just end up being a Trojan Horse.