Tuesday :: Nov 4, 2003

Dean Hurts Himself Tonight Over Flag Issue

by Steve

I havenít seen the tapes of tonightís Rock the Vote event with almost all of the Democratic candidates, but from the press accounts I have read, it appears that Howard Dean took some damaging shots over what was to me a nonissue, and then compounded it by slamming the people he was trying to reach out to. Meanwhile, John Edwards got a noteworthy shot in at Dean, and John Kerry succeeded in watching the issue mushroom without putting any more fingerprints on it.

The exchange over Deanís recent comments on the confederate flag and Southern whites began with a question from a studio observer.

"I was extremely offended," Diyday said. "Could you please explain to me how you plan on being sensitive to needs and issues regarding slavery and African-Americans after making a comment of that nature," he said to applause from the audience.

Dean responded by quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as saying it was his dream that "the sons of slaveholders and the sons of slaves" could some day sit down together.

Sharpton interjected that Dean had failed to answer the question, then said the former governor had misquoted King. "You can't bring a Confederate flag to the table of brotherhood," he said.

He added, "You are not a bigot, but you appear to be too arrogant to say 'I'm wrong' and go on."

Dean defended himself and his remarks, telling Sharpton, "We're not going to win this country ... if we don't have a big tent. And I'm going to tell you reverend, you're right. I'm not a bigot."

"We need to bring folks together in this race, just like Martin Luther King tried to do ... And I make no apologies for reaching out to poor white people," Dean said.

Iím not sure about using the possibly condescending line about poor white people, coming as it does from a Yankee blueblood, since it appears that Dean is assuming the role of typical liberal do-gooder trying to help the lower class Southerner. And then to compound it, Dean destroyed the message he was trying to convey with the comment in the first place when he called into question the values and biases of those who fly the flag.

Edwards jumped in moments later, challenging Dean to say whether he was wrong to have made his comments about the flag.

Again, Dean said he was not. He added that people were wrong to fly the flag, which he called a racist symbol. But he added, "I think there are a lot of poor people who fly that flag because the Republicans have been dividing us by race since 1968 with their Southern race strategy."

That led to a two-by-four in the face from Edwards.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina accused Dean of stereotyping Southern whites.

"The last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do," he said. "The people that I grew up with, the vast majority of them, don't drive around with Confederate flags on their pickup truck."

He called Dean's remarks "condescending" and "wrong."

Diyday, the 25-year-old Bostonian who asked the question, said later he was unimpressed with Dean's response. "He took a lot of steps back by completely ignoring the question," he said.

Kerry for his part stayed totally away from attacking Dean on the flag issue and watched others do it instead. He did get a shot in at Dean over gun control, saying that Dean had more endorsements from the NRA than he did from the NEA. A good line that forced Dean to defend himself and point out that he was in favor of the assault weapons ban. But by this point, Dean was apparently looking like a frontrunner under constant assault. Iím sure Dean was doing as well as he usually does, but until I see the tape, I don't know. I only know that it reads like Dean hurt himself on the flag issue, partially through his own comments and characterizations, and allowed Edwards to hit one out of the park, while Kerry let others do the damage.

Steve :: 9:11 PM :: Comments (18) :: Digg It!