One of the unique

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November 12, 2002 8:38 p.m.

One of the unique things — possibly one of the lamest things — about ‘blogs’ (hate that word, but I can’t resist the tide any longer) is that you can start commenting on a topic before you’ve really pulled together all the information or even decided quite what you think about it. The generous description would be ‘running commentary.’ Another unique thing is that you can start a post with a dreadfully opaque lead sentence which has little to do with what you’re actually writing about and somehow it seems to work out okay.

That said, let’s talk about Howard Dean.

A few days ago I wrote a post that some took to mean that I was saying Howard Dean wasn’t a ‘serious candidate’ for president.

That is what I meant. But let me take a moment to explain what I meant by those words. Fundamentally, by a ‘serious candidate’ I mean a candidate who I can seriously imagine being nominated by the Democratic party to run for president.

Like a lot of people who follow Democratic politics I’ve watched Dean for a number of years and I find him very compelling. Smart. Good on policy from what I’ve seen. Articulate. Lots of good stuff.

But when the Democrats are out of power there’s usually one person among the field of contenders who is clearly the most thoughtful of the candidates and, perhaps because he also seems — for whatever reason — unlikely to get the nomination, he also ends up being the most courageous in the stands he takes and the interests he’s willing to take on. (Republicans usually take a different course, having one lovable freak like Alan Keyes in the hunt.) Inevitably this candidate becomes the toast of the advanced degree and latte set and various star-struck journalists write “if only…” articles for smart-set monthlies. He often ends up teasing the debate out in interesting directions. But he is pretty much never the one who gets the nomination or even gets close. This guy is the olive in the martini. Or if you’re closer to my habits — and tolerance levels — the slice of lime in the Corona. The archetypal case here is Bruce Babbitt in 1988.

I guess I’m saying that Howard Dean looks a lot to me like the Bruce Babbitt of 2004.

Having said this, though, I’m not certain of it. A lot of really thoughtful people really like the guy. A number of people I know who are serious A-list political operatives have talked to me about possibly working for him — which is an important factor at this stage in the campaign. And I keep getting word from the early primary states that he’s really generating some serious interest. He also just signed up former DNC head Steve Grossman as his chief fundraiser. And that means something — not everything, but something.

So, as I say, I haven’t given the question a lot of serious thought yet. These are the assumptions I have going in. But my mind is open — a bit.

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