Early in the month, Howard Dean blundered by referring to Russia as the Soviet Union on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.
As we all know, the Soviet Union has not existed for quite some time. A mistake like this can cause many to doubt Dean’s foreign policy knowledge or negotiating skills in general. A more serious gaffe could even offend our allies or damage American foreign policy if he wins the election.
I am not a huge Howard Dean supporter generally, but I would not judge him too harshly on this occasion.
Yes, calling Russia the Soviet Union cannot be tolerated from a president of the United States. But, Dean’s generation had to live in constant fear of war between the Soviet Union and United States. The Soviet Union was the other great power in what was at the time a bi-polar international system, and these things can be difficult to let go off completely.
In addition, Bush supporters can always call our attention to the fact that when one is constantly in the spotlight, they are bound to eventually say something stupid. There are volumes of “Bushisms,” in fact many of them existed two months into his presidency.
My personal favorite is his assurance of mankind that fish can coexist peacefully.
Personal opinions aside, this in itself does not necessarily make George W. Bush a stupid man. It may make him less than eloquent or articulate, but it is possible that a smart person could misspeak and say some of those types of things. However, we should be concerned with phrases the current president has used when describing other countries, such as referring to North Korea, Iraq and Iran as the “Axis of Evil.” That kind of talk is not going to accomplish anything other than making these countries more difficult to handle
We must also be wary when these types of slurs are found in prepared speeches, rather than something mistakenly said on the spot. Compared to our current president, Howard Dean has not said anything unforgivable.
He was being asked some very difficult questions, and the wrong label for Russia slipped out. Is it possible that George W. Bush was aware of the fact that he was summoning an “arborist” to the Crawford ranch rather than an “arbor-tree-ist”? Maybe. Did Howard Dean know that he was talking about Russia when he said Soviet Union? It is probably fair to say that he did.
Kyle Wind can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.