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My Dean problem, though, runs deeper than policy. I'm not sure how all the pieces of his personality fit together. I don't know how his almost casual anger and adolescent taunting coexist with the patient idealism inherent in his belated decision to become a doctor. In my experience, even the most arrogant doctors tend to be careful sorts, but Dean is noisy and precipitate. He has trafficked in rumors, as when he mentioned on National Public Radio that there was "an interesting theory" that the President was told in advance by the Saudis about the Sept. 11 attacks. He quickly disavowed the theory, but no responsible politician, much less a candidate for President, should raise such slander without firm proof. I wonder about his often blatant cynicism--how he could suddenly, after insisting that his faith was a private matter, say last week that God had inspired his decision to allow gay civil unions. I admire his wife's choice not to be involved in the campaign and his own choice not to take a maudlin autobiographical path on the stump, but these decisions leave a void. They make it harder to know what sort of man he is. I wonder how he delivered bad news to his patients.
All this, and a certain amount of journalistic voyeurism, lead me to hope that Dean doesn't wrap up the nomination too quickly. We don't know enough about him yet. I'd like to see how he fares in a crisis. Clinton died half a dozen times in 1992 and always showed a winning resilience. In 2000 George W. Bush was clobbered in New Hampshire and showed a ruthlessness in demolishing John McCain in South Carolina that he later repeated in the Florida ballot dispute. Howard Dean has had a relatively easy ride so far. I want to see how he holds it together if he loses a crucial primary or two.