Dr. No… Dr. Yes… Dr. Who?

drno.jpgDr. No… Dr. Yes… Dr. Who?

: Howard Dean is sliding in Iowa and New Hampshire and all God’s children have their analyses; here’s mine: Victory will not come from sniping. We don’t want to elect Dr. No and then find him in office. We want to elect a Dr. Yes who makes things happen. Howard Dean has not so much made himself into a radical as he has made himself into Dr. No.

He has made himself into the leader of the negative wing of the party. And it’s hurting him now.

Read Paul Krugman today and you’ll see him trying to egg on both Dean and Wesley Clark to lead that negative wing.

Earlier this week, Wesley Clark had some strong words about the state of the nation. “I think we’re at risk with our democracy,” he said. “I think we’re dealing with the most closed, imperialistic, nastiest administration in living memory. They even put Richard Nixon to shame.”

In other words, the general gets it: he understands that America is facing what Kevin Phillips, in his remarkable new book, “American Dynasty,” calls a “Machiavellian moment.” Among other things, this tells us that General Clark and Howard Dean, whatever they may say in the heat of the nomination fight, are on the same side of the great Democratic divide….

The real division in the race for the Democratic nomination is between those who are willing to question not just the policies but also the honesty and the motives of the people running our country, and those who aren’t.

True. Sad but true.

The negative wing of the party has been in control. But we just may be seeing a shift toward the positive wing and an effort to find a leader for it; that’s how I intepret the numbers all coming together in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Wesley Clark might have been a good leader for that positive wing — he might have been Gen. Yes — had he not followed along after Dean, yapping when he yaps at the heels of Mailman Bush. If Clark acted like a general in time of war, I could like him. Instead, he’s trying to act like a sniper.

As for all the others: I just can’t tell yet; they’ve been drowned out by Dean’s barking. And that’s why I think we’re seeing them all so even in the polls: The voters, suddenly tired of Dean, are trying to figure out the rest of the pack.

Dean and company find themselves at a strategic crossroads, perhaps too late. And I smell some desperation. Here Krugman is acting like a losing pit-bull trainer, kicking his dogs, trying to make them meaner, trying to go for the kill — even if it kills them. MoveOn has done that, too, with its no-no-no commercials. They are treating the primaries as their big fight. For them, it’s all about venting, even revenge.

But that doesn’t find a leader. That doesn’t create a winner. That doesn’t build the nation. That just makes them feel better.

And we, the people, are smarter than that. Whether in politics or media or business, you make a mistake if you think we live on the edges. Network executives do it all the time: If we like one hour of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, we’ll want 40 hours, right? And for a while, we do. We Americans are cultural and political and marketing bulimiacs — binge, purge, binge, purge. But then we’ve finished purging our latest appetite, and suddenly you’re Regis Philbin — or Howard Dean — left standing there, yesterday’s fad, yesterday’s news. Nobody wants to be a millionaire anymore. Nobody wants to just bitch anymore.

All the Deaniac pundits — and the posters on those weblogs — may have pushed Dean too far, not toward radical views but toward radical negativity (just read that Krugman snippet again). And Dean let himself be pushed. It felt so good. The people enjoyed getting that out of their tummies. But now it’s time to get serious. Now it’s time to build. Now it’s time to find a winner.

Dean et al have made the mistake of making this campaign about George Bush too soon. He seemed to have believed his polls and his publicity and his blog posters and thought he was fighting for the election, not the nomination. But Bush is not the issue in the Democratic primary; the Democrats are. None of this means that Bush is off the hook; his time in the ring will come. But in the meantime, hose who already like George Bush already like him. Those who hate him already hate him. And everybody else won’t pick Howard Dean just because he hates Bush best.

Of course, it’s too soon by far to write off Dean. John Podhoretz thinks Dean has hurt himself but is still the likely winner. But if he continues to slip, I say this is why: He is Dr. No.