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Crank Yankers

By giving voice to nutty conspiracy theory, Howard Dean is bringing the political fringe one step closer to the center.

11:00 PM, Dec 10, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
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THE WORLD is full of interesting theories.

There's the theory that FDR was warned of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but allowed it to happen in order to enrage America and bring us fully into World War II.

There's the theory that LBJ had JFK knocked off on the orders of Texas oilmen.

There's the Raelians' theory that ancient space travelers planted people on Earth; and there are the very interesting theories contained in "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" along with the theory that the Bilderberger Group is secretly running the world.

And there is the theory that President Bush is suppressing evidence in the investigation of the September 11 attacks because "he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis."

Of all these "interesting theories," however, only one--the last one--has been uttered by the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination. Howard Dean trafficked in this outrageous charge in an interview with NPR's Diane Rehm on December 1. Dean went on to say that it was "only a theory," and backed even farther away in an interview with Fox's Chris Wallace on December 7, but with the exception of a column by Charles Krauthammer, a scolding by Howard Kurtz on my radio show, and a handful of other pinpricks, the national media has allowed Dean to skip away from this walk on the paranoid side.

On the morning of Tuesday's debate in Durham, the Manchester Union Leader's publisher ran a front page editorial calling for the other Democratic candidates and media to force Dean to apologize for his embrace of the nutty smear, but no such accounting occurred. Al Gore's Lord Voldemort-like sudden appearance and attachment to his new host, Dean, seemed to stun Ted Koppel and everyone else, and the Tuesday gathering was dominated, believe it or not, by Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, and Carol Moseley Braun. Dean may thus be allowed to play conspiracy nut and get away with it.

Imagine if President Bush, Vice President Cheney or any administration official were to vocalize any of the assorted Clinton conspiracy memes from the far reaches of the internet, whether about Vince Foster, or the Mena airport, or the list of Clinton associates who have met untimely ends. How furious would the reaction be, and for how long would it endure?

That fury would be justified, by the way, because it is up to the mainstream to protect politics from the fringes of both left and right. But increasingly Dean and some of his colleagues are abandoning this duty.

Both Senators Kerry and Edwards indulged in a little fever when, in Florida this past weekend, they hinted to Democratic faithful that voting machines might be fixed because they were being manufactured by a company whose CEO had contributed to Bush. And Kerry managed to use the "H" word--Haliburton--in the debate Tuesday night. He's an f-bomb away from going Bilderberger on us.

When are the two grownups, Gephardt and Lieberman, going to speak sanity to madness? Or has the crazy caucus grown so large that none dare say "Howard, that's nuts?"

Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard. His new book, In, But Not Of, has just been published by Thomas Nelson.