Dear Editor, I can generally take or leave Michael Ventura's column, but his latest entry begs for a response ["Letters @ 3am," Feb. 6]. First, Howard Dean was governor of Vermont, not New Hampshire, and if Ventura and the copy editors don't know that by now none of you have any business reporting on political affairs. Second, and more importantly, if anyone wants to see how Ventura's theory that effective presidents – by his definition, those who set goals and achieve them – have always "had chops" falls apart on its face, they need look no further than the current resident of the White House. George W. Bush lost the popular vote and yet has managed to get supine Democrats to agree to irresponsible tax cuts, a "preemptive" war in Iraq, the PATRIOT Act, and the disastrous No Child Left Behind. Bush's previous experience? Mismanaging two companies (Harken and the Rangers) and mismanaging an entire state. In fact, a cursory look at the current Bush administration reveals exactly what makes for an effective president: willpower. Clinton didn't fail because he lacked the requisite résumé. He failed because as soon as he took office he backed off on nearly every liberal issue with an eye to future elections. Remember "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 1993? Within reason, confidence and resolve put your opponents on the defensive and show the public that you mean business. By that measure, John Kerry is a miserable failure and Howard Dean a man to be reckoned with. Dean may lose the nomination, but that doesn't necessarily mean he would not be a more effective president. Nor does it mean he is the less "electable" candidate in a general election.
[As readers have reminded me, Howard Dean was governor not of New Hampshire (as I wrote in my last column) but of Vermont. One reader suggested I was thinking of the fictional president Jeb Bartlet, and he might be right, though I prefer to watch Angel in that time-slot. So ... oops. Sorry. Michael Ventura]