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Saddam's Capture and Dean's Campaign

Win or lose, that won't be the reason.

by Barnabas
December 17, 2003

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Saddam's Capture and Dean's Campaign_Barnabas-Win or Lose, That Won't Be the Reason
This is a great day of pride in the American military, a great day for the Iraqis, a great day for the American people and, frankly, a great day for the administration," Dr. Dean said. He refused to speculate on what it might mean for the presidential campaign or his own candidacy. "This is a day to celebrate the fact that Saddam's been caught. We'll have to wait to see what happens to the campaign later."

And at a fund-raiser on Sunday evening in San Francisco, a center of the antiwar movement, Dr. Dean assured the crowd of 1,800 people that he was not bowed by the news from abroad. "He is a bad person and we are all better off with him in captivity, but you should know that my views on Iraq have not changed one bit," he said to a standing ovation. "Some people said, `Oh, Saddam Hussein, he's caught, now the whole campaign's going to go away.' I don't think so."

—Adam Nagourney, New York Times, December 15
Saddam’s beard was barely shaved by his captors before pundits — and even candidates — were asking the question put by William Saletan in Slate (Dec 14): “Is Dean Toast?” Saletan concluded that Dean wasn’t, mainly on the grounds that he had asked the same question about George W. Bush late in the 2000 campaign. Bush wasn’t “toast” then, and it’s too soon to suggest that Dean is today. I would add that the toaster hasn’t even been plugged in yet.

This speculation about Dean’s chances called to mind an on-camera exchange between Coach Bob Devaney and a television reporter, before an Orange Bowl game back in the sixties. The reporter asked the Coach whether the warm humid weather of Florida would affect the play of his cold-weather Nebraska Cornhuskers. “Win or lose, that won’t be the reason,” Devaney said. If Dean loses the nomination or election, the capture of Saddam won’t be the reason — just as his victory would have not have been certain if Saddam had remained in his hole. Presidential politics may have become absurd, as the 2000 election demonstrated; but not yet that absurd.

Journalists milk events for more than they are worth, then forget them. By the time this column is posted, the capture of Saddam will resemble every other event in this respect: by the very fact of happening, the event changes in meaning. Governor Dean is on target when he says, “We’ll have to wait to see what happens to the campaign later.”

Even on its own terms, however, it’s doubtful that the capture of Saddam will impact the campaign much. Dean wasn’t running for President because Saddam was on the loose, so capturing Saddam changes nothing in what Dean has to say and do. He was and is running for President because he thinks there should be a new President in the White House, preferably himself. For their part, the Republicans are opposing Dean not because he is against the War, but because he is against Bush.

If, as Dean insists, the war was indeed a bad idea, then the capture of Saddam, though good in itself, doesn’t make the war a good war.

If the war was a good idea, as the President and his supporters insist, it would still be a good idea - even if Saddam were still on the run and our worst fears realized, with our troops stuck in the quagmire of an endless, urban guerrilla war. Most wars do not work out as hoped, but it doesn’t follow that none of them should have been fought.

So all of the reasons Governor Dean had last Friday for opposing President Bush are still in place. The reasons for disliking or disagreeing with Governor Dean haven’t changed either. Both men said as much on Sunday.

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