Poor Howard: No Courage to Confront the Rev

The super-Leftist with the lead among the nine Democrats had a tough time of it last week in the polls. Dean found that the nation is happy, Bush’s numbers are up, Clark’s numbers are up, and history is not on his side.

It was then capped off with the Sunday night debate sponsored by MSNBC and the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum in which he was taken to the woodshed by Al Sharpton over the issue of — what else? — race.

Every one of the Democrats on stage was in hyper-pander mode, including Howard Dean who frequently mentions that he knows how to deal with race issues, attempting to pick up as many votes as humanly possible by next week’s Iowa caucuses. In the middle of the debate, Reverend Al jumped on his opportunity to ask a fellow candidate a question and subsequently ridiculed, lectured, and verbally spanked Dean for having a cabinet as governor of Vermont that didn’t “look like America.”

I want to feel bad for Howard Dean, but I can’t. He deserves to get beat up a little, but I certainly don’t want Sharpton to walk away the winner.

For me, it was like watching a game between the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos. I grew up in a Seattle Seahawk home where even thinking about pretending to like either the Raiders or the Broncos was grounds for severe punishment — severe punishment. So when those two teams face off, the best I can hope for is a low-scoring, painfully exhausting tie after which neither side is strong enough to take on the team they play next, especially if that next team is my team.

Here’s what happened in Iowa Sunday night. Sharpton started the row by taking on Dean for skipping a debate last week in D.C., essentially ignoring the D.C. Democratic primary — just like everyone else in the country, including the Democratic National Committee. Sharpton began, “I have to ask you this, Governor Dean, because I was disappointed you weren’t in Washington the other day. But you keep talking about talking about race. In the state of Vermont — where you were governor ’97, ’99, 2001 — not one black or brown held a senior policy position, not one. You, yourself, said we must do something about it. Nothing was done. Can you explain — since now you want to convene everyone and talk about race, it seems as though you have discovered blacks and browns during this campaign. — how you can explain not one black or brown working for your administration as governor?”

Dean feebly replied that he differed with the good-Reverend’s statistics, statistics which, as Sharpton noted, were reported by the Associated Press and quoted by the Center for Women in Government. All the above was followed by this back-and-forth:

    DEAN: Well, perhaps you ought not to believe everything in the Associated Press.

    SHARPTON: Oh, so you’re saying they’re incorrect?

    DEAN: We do have African-American and Latino workers in state government, including…

    SHARPTON: No, no, I said under your administration. Do you have a senior member of your cabinet that was black or brown?

    DEAN: We had a senior member of my staff on my fifth floor.

    SHARPTON: No, your cabinet.

    DEAN: No, we did not.

    SHARPTON: OK, that’s not…

    DEAN: … six members.

    SHARPTON: Then you need to let me talk to you about race in this country.

A few questions Dean should have asked Al:

  • Mr. Sharpton, who are you to lecture me on race relations? Don’t you think your vitriol has done more to exacerbate racial tensions in this country than to help them?
  • Mr. Sharpton, are you aware of the extremely small number of blacks who live in Vermont? As governor of Vermont should I have had a cabinet that “looked like America” or that “looked like Vermont”?
  • Mr. Sharpton, your National Action Network, does it “look like America”?
  • Mr. Sharpton, would you, for the edification of the listening audience, please recount the story of Tawana Brawley?
  • Mr. Sharpton, other than to get attention and, perhaps, make a little money, why are you running for president? No, really, why?
  • Mr. Sharpton, since most pundits are making it sound like President Bush is going to waltz into a second term, would you be my running mate — just for snicks and giggles?