Monday, January 26, 2004

Garance Franke-Ruta Gets It Right About Dean

If you've ever spent time in the medical arena you know that being a physician is something very different from being an attorney, which is what John Edwards, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman are. Your stance to the world is simply different if you're a physician, because -- outside of a few specialties, like plastic surgery -- your power doesn't come from how you look or how you appear or even how you sound. It comes from your knowledge and the capacity to do things no one else is authorized to do in their daily lives -- to touch bodies, to demand of individuals, to prescribe courses of action -- and from the human power of interaction. You can't convince people to be healed, no matter how eloquently you speak about disease and suffering or what you wear. You have to actually do something to make a person better. You also have to do the right thing. And if you don't, the consequences can be dire and literally deadly. (from Tapped.)
As someone who works in medical settings and grew up in a medical family, this strikes me as absolutely correct. Howard Dean has the consummate physician's personality. He's brash, direct, impatient, and forceful. He's very, very certain about his positions. But he's also ready to change his mind if presented with convincing new data - at which point he'll be very, very certain about the new position. Doctors pretty much have to be that way.

It makes him stick out like crazy in a field of politicians and lawyers, because he doesn't place the same emphasis they do on carefully crafted nuances of language. I imagine that he's just plain baffled by the constant accusations that he's "flip-flopped" on this issue or that. For a doctor, there's nothing wrong with changing your diagnosis and your plan in the face of new information, or changed circumstances. But the other candidates and the media seem to see it as a cardinal sin.