What makes Mr. Dean seem radical aren't his policy positions but his willingness — shared, we now know, by General Clark — to take a hard line against the Bush administration. This horrifies some veterans of the Clinton years, who have nostalgic memories of elections that were won by emphasizing the positive.
Indeed, George Bush's handlers have already made it clear that they intend to make his "optimism" — as opposed to the negativism of his angry opponents — a campaign theme. (Money-saving suggestion: let's cut directly to the scene where Mr. Bush dresses up as an astronaut, and skip the rest of his expensive, pointless — but optimistic! — Moon-base program.)
But even Bill Clinton couldn't run a successful Clinton-style campaign this year, for several reasons.
One is that the Democratic candidate, no matter how business-friendly, will not be able to get lots of corporate contributions, as Clinton did. In the Clinton era, a Democrat could still raise a lot of money from business, partly because there really are liberal businessmen, partly because donors wanted to hedge their bets. But these days the Republicans control all three branches of government and exercise that control ruthlessly. Even corporate types who have grave misgivings about the Bush administration — a much larger group than you might think — are afraid to give money to Democrats.
If we learned nothing about GOP ruthlessness during the impeachment, we certainly learned it during the 2000 election. But people like Biden are still playing by outdated rules. To be fair Biden also has a personal relationship with John Kerry so he can’t really be unbiased. It would do him well to remember that Kerry initially got a lot of support because he was questioning Bush and his cronies. The anger of Dean, Clark, and their supporters isn’t belligerent or directionless. It’s constructive and empowering. And the fact is acknowledging that anger has given people hope.