Yesterday I caught my husband reading a Kathleen Parker column in the Chicago Tribune. I saw a picture of Howard Dean and the headline "Loud and Loony." I batted the newspaper away.
"I hope you're taking anything she says with a grain of salt," I said.
"Actually, she's defending Howard Dean," my husband said. "She's says he's right in his observations about the GOP, but that he's too heavy-handed in his delivery. She thinks he needs a lighter touch."
Hm, I thought. I grabbed the op-ed page and sure enough, found
shrill apologist for the radical Right, backing up Howard point-by-point.
What did Howard Dean say that was so offensive? His most recent effrontery went like this: "It's pretty much a white, Christian party," referring to the GOP.
Please. Anyone who has attended a Republican convention or sat through a State of the Union address--about the only time elected officials abandon C-SPAN to physically warm their congressional seats--knows that Dean's statement is factually true-ish.
The Republican Party aspires to diversity--and more minorities and non-Christians probably would find themselves comfortable in the GOP--but a few mariachi bands at elephant-hat parties do not a diverse party make.
Dean also wasn't precisely wrong about the Christian composition of the GOP, especially if he intended to suggest the party's ideological tilt. In any case, Jews made up only 7 percent of the Republican Party as of 2000, while 37 percent of Republicans identify themselves as white evangelicals.
And even though blacks and Latinos voted for Bush in increasing numbers in 2004, the party's complexion still needs sunscreen.
Ha ha, Kathleen. Good one. And oh-so-sensitive.
Howard just needed to be ... well, funnier about it, like her. I guess that's because we Americans would prefer to laugh at our white, theocratic government than think about what it is doing in our name. Remember how Reagan made us all feel so good about being American?
What Dean should have said was, "Not that there's anything wrong with that. Why, I'm a white Christian myself. But ..." Ba-da-boom! And made his point. And smiled. (snip)
Put Dean's words in the mouth of a Ronald Reagan, and no one would blink. Like Dean, Reagan said what he thought, but he didn't give the impression that he was about to pop his buttons with the sort of earnestness that makes you want to hand over a Valium.
Reagan's deft touch, his sense of humor and natural timing protected him from condemnation when he said far more inflammatory things than Dean has thought of.
Of course, the red-at-heart Tribune framed Parker's column as another "Crazy Howard" hit, with that headline and a choice photo of Dean looking suitably daft. But if Kathleen Parker can acknowledge the truth in Dean's words, then maybe - just maybe - the Kool-Aid is starting to wear off.