Tuesday, 23 December 2003

You're Inexplicable (with apologies to The Corrs)

Via Bill Hobbs comes the bizarre tale in The New York Times of Howard Dean’s rather odd claims surrounding his younger brother Charles, who went missing—and was presumed killed—in the Laotian jungle in 1974, and whose remains have now apparently been identified. Quoth the newspaper of record:

Asked by The Quad-City Times, which is based in Davenport, Iowa, to complete the sentence “My closest living relative in the armed services is,” Dr. Dean wrote in August, “My brother is a POW/MIA in Laos, but is almost certainly dead.”

Charles Dean, however, wasn’t a member of the armed forces at all—he was, in fact, by all accounts a civilian tourist and anti-war activist, something Dean the elder claims was common knowledge:

“The way I read the question was that they wanted to know if I knew anything about the armed services from a personal level,” he said. “I don’t think it was inaccurate or misleading if anybody knew what the history was, and I assumed that most people knew what the history was. Anybody who wanted to write about this could have looked through the 23-year history to see that I’ve always acknowledged my brother’s a civilian, was a civilian.“…

Dr. Dean called the editorial, which referred to his brother as a “renegade,” “one of the greatest cheap shots I’ve ever seen in journalism.”

“It’s offensive and insensitive not to understand what the impact of this is,” he said, “writing about this in such a tawdry way.”

Personally, the only thing I consider tawdry is the attempt by Dean to link his brother, who was apparently playing Hanoi Jane on the cheap and—amazingly enough—got mixed up with the wrong people in the process, with the real American POWs and MIAs who suffered at the hands of the Vietnamese and Laotian communists. Sorry, but to me little wayward Charlie’s vanity trip to Southeast Asia doesn’t exactly scream “empathy with American servicemen,” either.

I’m not sure what galls me more: that Dean thought he could get away with this, that he genuinely thinks that all there is to empathy with our armed forces is the experience of having a loved one disappear, or that Dean’s circle is so far removed from the military that he can’t even name so much as a sixth cousin with some genuine connection to America’s armed forces. What a truly loathsome creature.

The Quad-City Times editorial is here.

Update: Geitner Simmons of Regions of Mind—whose excellent blog I’d read far more often if he pinged weblogs.com when he made new posts—has thoughts on another concern regarding Howard Dean’s candidacy.