Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Let's fight the Civil War again

My goodness, we must be short on genuine issues these days.

The hottest news in the Democratic presidential race seems to be an offhand comment by Howard Dean about Confederate flags and pickup trucks to the Iowa media, which has boiled over into a national name-calling epidemic.

"I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," Dean said.

Well, ya-hoooo for him. If a wealthy, blue-blooded New England Yalie can convince poor southerners that he is their man, as opposed to, um, a wealthy, blue-blooded Texas Yalie, then more power to him.

Dean, it seemed, was just making a play to broaden the appeal of his campaign. "We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats," he says. Even those with pickup trucks.

But uh-oh, one best take care when invoking the old confederate flag these days. It's only been 140 some years, and folks are still a little touchy about what that sucker flies over.

Dick Gephardt blasted Dean for making a blatant move to win the votes of people "who disagree with us on bedrock Democratic values like civil rights."

"I don't want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," Gephardt, of Missouri, said. "I will win the Democratic nomination because I will be the candidate for guys with American flags in their pickup trucks."

And if you don't drive a pickup truck, looks like you're out of luck this election.

Al Sharpton compares Dean to Stonewall Jackson. And wonders why he isn't taken seriously.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts contended that Dean's "pandering" to the National Rifle Association gave him an inroad to "pander to lovers of the Confederate flag."

Silly. All this fuss for people who may think "pander" is one of them-there black-and-white bears from China down at the Atlanta zoo.

If that remark offends you, it should. It is just about as condescending as Dean's, and just as silly as his follow-up remarks that "poor people" fly the confederate flag because Republicans have been dividing the races. Poverty and redneck are not synonymous terms.

It seems like little more than a slightly foolish remark by a front-runner has drawn an ever more foolish backlash by those who are falling behind. Dean should just take it back, and everyone can shut up about it.

Dean clearly intended no racist overtone. As the time becomes short, candidates may well become both more desperate and more weary, and offhand comments can fall out of context easily. A pack of political wolves is on each campaign's heels to rip apart any set of imperfect words that fall out of their mouths.

Amid terrorism, war, deficit, economy, environment, education and all the rest, many of us may have somehow failed to recognize the importance of pickup trucks and peel-and-paste flags as issues in the new world order.

Let's all declare our allegiance to the Union now, y'all, tip a stovepipe hat to Abe Lincoln and declare the Civil War over, so we can get on with this show.