am in desperate need of rant time. Oh, and this isn't one of those wimpy rants,
either; no, I'm afraid circumstances warrant every last bit of my ranting
ability in all its lengthy glory. You've been warned.
Tonight USA Presidential candidate and Democratic frontrunner, Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, came to the University of Maryland at College Park and gave a speech.
Of course, he arrived half an hour late, because no campaign advisor, however farsighted, seems to be able to negotiate DC-area traffic to get to places on time. So 3,000 people sat in the miniature outdoor seating arrangement outside the campus Student Union building, listening to a bunch of speeches by citizens of Maryland, hand-picked to give testimonial to the problems America's facing and how Howard Dean would be the perfect candidate to help fix those problems.
Let me tell you: it was one speech of b.s. rhetoric after another. The first speaker went on about the "populist" argument, claiming Dean would listen to the people. The second went on about "diversity." The third claimed we should heed Dean's platform "for the children," giving a long and drawn out speech on education reform (though, to be fair, this is, after all, a college campus that's seen terrible tuition hikes recently). The next speaker gave the speech about America's dignity and foreign policy. After that came former Baltimore mayor, Kurt L. Schmoke (city's worst. mayor. ever. Under him, the city's crime rate climbed to one of the highest in America, right up there with Detroit and South-Central L.A.), and he gave the speech about how he went to college with Dean, saying the governor was a "caring" man. He repeated the word "caring" five times in ten seconds.
But all of these speeches, and I do mean ALL of them, were in cliché sound bytes and useless gibberish. One listened to these speeches and heard the emotion in them, the drive for a political campaign, but not a one said either how it was going to be done or what specifically were the plans for the Presidential platform. The closest anyone came to this was in the repeated phrase, "health care for all Americans." Again, they failed to say just how this would come about.
A degree of this was to be expected, I guess... these are politicians, after all; their entire livelihood relies on b.s. rhetoric. But that's when Howard Dean finally showed up and took the stand.
He contradicted himself several times in the speech. His introduction was something to the tune of, "We cannot win an election just on someone to vote against. We must have our causes to vote for. We have that cause, people:"
After which he immediately proceeded to go into a list of things the President has done wrong, and why he should be thrown out of office. Am I the only one who sees the irony there?
Citing the problems in America, Dean actually started to make some good points. First, he attacked the Bush tax cut. He did what I haven't seen another politician do yet: blamed Bush, not Clinton, for the Enron problems. More than once he said that the tax cut was just for "Ken Lay and the boys in Texas." He asked where the middle class tax cut was, after all; sure, some people got $600 checks from the government, but at the same time, property taxes went up far beyond that. Here I agreed.
"So the tax plan sucks," I think. "But what are you going to do about it?"
He said absolutely nothing about solving the problem. Instead, he went on to the Iraq situation. On foreign policy, Dean had another strong argument, in my opinion. He cited all the lies Americans were told about the Iraqi war, from the fake nuclear threat to the nonexistent other weapons of mass destruction. He mentioned the billions of dollars being spent on sending Americans to die on foreign soil, when money was needed for education back home. These were all excellent points, and even if you disagreed with him, you had to give him credit for good presentation of his views. His best argument was that America has lost its face in the presence of its own allies.
Sounds good so far... until you realize that he has yet to propose a solution. Same song again on issues of the environment. And health care. By the end of the speech, he had said many things about the problems America faces, mostly things no American could disagree with, and yet, he was not about to light a fire under anyone by saying just how it would be physically possible to give every American health insurance, in the face of powerful drug companies that universally oppose the idea.
He stepped out of the spotlight, his last sentence: "You have the power, America!" And I think, there's another "populist" argument. There was nothing in this speech that could not be labeled and shelved as typical politician behavior, and while that was exactly what one would expect, it was yet the greatest disappointment of the speech.
But this rant doesn't end there.
My friend, Eddie, and I both went to the student cultural center, where Dean was meeting with reporters for the standard press conference with CNN, Foxnews, and MSNBC. We hoped to shake his hand and maybe get a few pictures. Well, we went in, and a guy handed us signs and told us to kneel in the background as Dean answered the conference questions. We were the backdrop; the mob holding up the blue "Dean for America" signs. The candidate actually autographed those for us later.
I finally got to take a picture of Eddie shaking hands with the Presidential candidate. Right after the picture, a lady came up to Dean and said, "We really have to go now."
Without a word, Dean walked quickly out of the building and cold-shouldered me before I could get a handshake of my own. Oh well. At least I got the autographed campaign sign. His signature looks like any normal squiggle you'd see a two-year-old draw, with no intelligible letters on it, but I suppose if he ever becomes President, it might be worth something.
My final impression of Howard Dean was as he left in the passenger seat of a red 4x4 Jeep Cherokee. I felt neither honored to meet this man nor utterly put off; I was in a weird state between awe and pity. Awe for just exactly how staged this whole event was; it was the worst amount of publicity stunt you could imagine, and then some. At the same time, pity for Dean himself, having to be puppetted around the country by a platform built on flimsy sound bytes and catchphrases. Also, pity for all the sheer activists I saw at the speech, those who honestly believe this man is the ultimate answer to their prayers. And lastly, if you'll pardon my poetic patriotism for a second, pity for the United States of America, that the nation's best hope for change from the Bush regime's cold and corrupt policy now comes in the form of a Democratic Party to be led by this man, who lets his movements and even beliefs be herded by political correctness and campaign advising. This nation needs a Leader, in every good sense of that word. Tonight I saw a Politician, in every sense of that word.
There's a huge difference.
Here endeth the rant.