"How much do you really know about Howard Dean?" the voice-over says. "Did you know Howard Dean called Medicare `one of the worst federal programs ever?' Did you know he supported the Republican plan to cut Medicare by $270 billion dollars? And did you know Howard Dean supported cutting Social Security retirement benefits to balance the budget?"
As has been well-documented, the cutting-Medicare charge is squishy; that plan was to slow Medicare's growth, not cut a dime. And the quotation of Dean's criticism is a sleazy cheap shot. The full quote criticizes the Medicare bureaucracy-not the benefits. But old people are easily rattled, and they vote.
This ad is what they call "politics as usual," and it is a disgrace.
Poor Dean. Everyone is picking on him. Luckily for him, though, the campaign trail is a voyage of self-discovery. First, in South Carolina, he remembered that, oh, yeah, come to dwell on it, his deep personal faith has retroactively informed his Vermont gubernatorial policies. Now, in Iowa, with opponents bearing down on him, he has discovered that farm families are the heart and the soul of America.
"We need an ag policy that works for family farms, not just corporate farms," he says, while carefully inspecting a shriveled ear of corn. Probably God told him to say that, but it's like, yo, Howard, take a number. Every presidential candidate in the history of the Iowa caucuses has vowed to protect the family farmer, of which about eight remain.
This candidate made a name for himself as a maverick eschewing politics as usual. He does damage to his image, and his chances, by transparently engaging them.
Morris & Carrick, Los Angeles
Trippi McMahon Squire, Alexandria, Va.