During Monday night's presidential debate, former DNC chairman and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean tweeted: "Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?" Even the tabloid site TMZ described Dean's tweet as a "low blow."
Unbowed, Dean doubled down at MSNBC on Tuesday, to the point where a clearly uncomfortable Kate Snow tried to maneuver him into backing away a bit. He wouldn't, which is fine with Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, who told the network's Peter Alexander on Wednesday that "we should probably be talking more about" Dean’s speculation.
At the Washington Free Beacon Tuesday afternoon, David Rutz reported that Dean deliberately fanned the flames, and would not be deterred by Snow's attempts to inject some caution (video is at the link; bolds are mine throughout this post):
Howard Dean Doubles Down on Suggestion Trump Uses Cocaine: ‘Something Funny Was Going On’
Former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean did not back off his tweeted suggestion that Donald Trump used cocaine during an interview Tuesday on MSNBC, saying “something funny was going on” with Trump’s sniffing and he should be asked if he ever had the drug habit.
Dean tweeted during Monday night’s debate that Trump may be a “coke user” after the GOP candidate sniffed numerous times.
... Asked by anchor Kate Snow why he made such a charge, Dean called Trump’s sniffing a “signature” of cocaine users.
“Well, you can’t make a diagnosis over the television, I would never do that, but he has some interesting—that is actually a signature of people who use cocaine,” Dean said. “I’m not suggesting that Trump does, but–”
“Well, you are suggesting it, actually, in a tweet,” Snow said.
“No, I’m suggesting we think about it,” Dean said. “He sniffs during the presentation, which is something that users do. He also has grandiosity, which is something that accompanies that problem. He has delusions—I’m not talking about being crazy, but for example, when he told everybody it was very smart not to pay taxes and then denied he said it after he said it in front of 100 million people … It’s that he thinks somehow he’s not going to get caught. That is delusional.”
Dean added, “Do I think at 70 years old he has a cocaine habit? Probably not. But, you know, it’s something that I think would be interesting to ask him and see if he ever had a problem with that.”
Really, Howard? You think it's dreadfully important whether Trump "ever had a problem with that," when our current President admitted in one of his books that he used cocaine and marijuana in high school and college? We never heard a peep of concern from Dean about that in 2008, did we? In fact, eight years ago, many people who voted for Obama, and quite a few people in the press, and perhaps even Dean himself in his innermost thoughts, seemed to see his past drug use as a feature and not a bug.
Back to Rutz's writeup:
... “I don’t think this is a ridiculous idea,” he said. “Something funny was going on with Trump tonight. Do I think it was cocaine? Probably not, but, you know, again, the sniffling, the grandiosity, the delusions, the pressured speech—you know, this guy’s already proven himself to be unstable. The question is, why is he unstable?”
Dean also said he would not delete the tweet or apologize.
The "unstable" claim is what should cause readers to consider the idea that Dean saw an opportunity to feed a meme the Democrats have used and apparently plan to widely propagate during the six weeks between now and Election Day. Since he's a participant in that "Trump is unstable" effort now, of course Dean won't back away.
Any number of things, including a mild cold, could have caused Trump's sniffling. Perhaps the atmosphere in the debate room or the hotel room where he had previously been wasn't the best. There was no evidence whatsoever of Trump having the sniffles at yesterday's campaign rally in Melbourne, Florida, nor is there at today's rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which was in progress as this post was prepared.
The Post's Cillizza thinks Dean is meaningfully contributing to dialog about the upcoming election, and that the discussion's existence really shows the weakness of ... Donald Trump:
PETER ALEXANDER: So the bottom line, Chris, what do you make of this moment, and obviously this is not what Democrats want anybody to be talking about now.
CHRIS CILLIZZA: No. Honestly, Peter, I have been watching MSNBC. So I know MSNBC has been covering it. I’m surprised this isn’t a bigger story.
This is the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and someone who's a medical doctor essentially saying, not essentially, (actually) saying that the Republican nominee may have at some point done cocaine, suggesting it happened during the first presidential debate. I mean that’s odd — Howard Dean —
ALEXANDER: Based on no evidence, obviously.
CILLIZZA: Howard Dean is someone who made his reputation on being partisan. This strikes me as something different than that. Look. This is another example you could say of Donald Trump unable to get out of the way of a bad story for him or a good — He makes news that drowns out things that we might be talking about otherwise. I honestly think we should probably be talking a a little bit more about this. I mean, the fact that Howard Dean — okay, tweeting one thing during the debate, I wouldn’t do it. But then going on with Kate yesterday and sort of reiterating everything that he said.
ALEXANDER: Well certainly making no apologies today either. That's for sure.
CILLIZZA: This was not a heat of the moment thing. I’m glad you brought it up. I think it is worth talking about.
If any reader here can explain how Dean's ridiculous tweet and double-down reflect badly on Trump, let me know. I can't figure out what Cillizza was trying to say.
The fact that Cillizza is essentially cheering on the idea of "talking a bit more about" Dean's reckless speculation is rich with irony.
Until early September, the Washington Post writer was adamant that questions about Hillary Clinton's health and strength were out of bounds, posting on September 6: "Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s health now?"
But after her "medical situation" at the 9/11 anniversary ceremonies in New York City on September 11, after which the nation learned that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia two days earlier, Cillizza did a complete about-face, writing that "Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign." incurring the wrath of fellow leftists who don't want to see any news about her health, and ridicule from many on the right who remembered that Cillizza needed no triggering event to openly worry about 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain's health.
I suspect that the nation doesn't want to hear another whining word from anyone in the press about how no one wants to talk about "the issues" as long as discussion of garbage like Howard Dean's "Trump on cocaine" dream is taking up anyone's valuable time. The idea that we, as Chris Cillizza believes, should be talking about it more? You cannot be serious.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.