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Dean for President

12/19/01 12:00AM By David Moats

Running for president would be a crazy thing for Howard Dean to do, but as someone who enjoys the craziness, the nonsense, the drama, and the comedy of politics in America, I'd say go for it.

Vermonters might roll their eyes at the thought. A president is a great personage, a mythical figure, surrounded by an aura of authority. To Vermonters, their governor is just Howard, a guy with shows up at chicken barbecues and Fourth of July parades. Every so often he puts his foot in his mouth with great vigor, and he has been around so long that most everybody has reason to be mad at him.

This is not a president, with a capital P. He's just a governor, with a lower case g.

What can he be thinking?

Well, for one thing, he's been around long enough to know that not all the people in the upper echelons of politics are the brightest bulbs. Dean has brains and drive and plenty of chutzpah.

There are a million reasons why it's a crazy idea. Vermont is a tiny state, and Dean is hardly a national figure. But it's surely not lost on Dean that our last president was the governor of Arkansas, of all places, and he had an uphill fight to be noticed.

And I'm sure Dean was paying attention last year when John McCain captured the public imagination with his Straight Talk Express. Dean would probably try to portray himself as a straight-talking Vermonter, which usually he is.

Dean would not be popular among conservatives aghast that he signed Vermont's civil unions law. But he wouldn't be depending on their votes anyway. Besides, Vice President Cheney came to Vermont last year and said civil unions were the business of the states. He had no criticism for
Vermont.

It's hard to say how Dean would come across in Georgia or Texas or Oklahoma or other places far from Vermont. But it would be interesting to see. It would also be interesting to watch the transformation of Howard, the guy at the local hockey game, to candidate Dean, political commodity, sold to Americans like soap or beer.

Is Dean ready for that? Are his wife and kids?

Given the fact that Dean's bid would be a long shot, you've got to figure he thinks it would be worthwhile just getting out and trying to promote his views. If you are a politician with convictions and you have a chance to push the causes in which you believe, what's the harm?

Maybe he'll end up as vice president. I've always thought being vice president would be a great job. You get a great house. You could organize concerts, bring in your favorite musicians, have dinners with interesting people. I suppose there would be work involved. But if you didn't take it too seriously, you could have fun.

Whatever he does, Dean's venture into national politics will be interesting to watch. Earlier this year Jim Jeffords made the rest of the country take notice of Vermont. Maybe the rest of the country will take notice of Howard Dean.

This is David Moats from Middlebury.

--David Moats is the Editorial Page Editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.
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