The phone call came around 11 Monday night, from my youngest daughter, a graduate student at Tulane in New Orleans.
"Well," she said smartly. "Wasn't that a nasty surprise?" I could tell that I was in for a lecture, and the ha-ha-ha cackling in the receiver did little to disabuse me of that notion.
"Surprised about what?"
"About Dean getting stomped in Iowa, of course. Just what I told you would happen, right?"
"Well, yes and no. Yes, that's what you told me would happen, and, no, I'm not surprised."
"Oh, come on!" she said, huffily. "You're telling me you're not surprised? Weren't you the guy who said Dean's organization was primo in Iowa?"
"Yep, it sure looked that way. Jackson [Baker; the Flyer's politics editor] is up there, and he told me there were planeloads of Deanies in Iowa working every town, every corner of the state."
"But, Dad, they're not Iowans. They're 'blow-ins,' as you always call those folks who come into Memphis for a few months and then decide how everything should work. Don't you remember how many times we've had a good laugh about Memphis blow-ins?"
"Yes, I was afraid you might bring that up. Point taken."
"So, what happened? After all, you're my dad. You're not completely stupid."
I was grateful at this stage, let me tell you, for even this meager compliment. "Well, thank you, I think. Actually, in a nutshell, I think Howard Dean outran his message. A year ago, he was able to stand out from the crowd by claiming, quite legitimately, to be the only credible candidate opposing the Iraq war. As far back as the summer of 2002 he was ranting and raving about what a misadventure Iraq would become."
"Just like you, Dad. Right?"
"Exactly. Unlike me, though, Dean scored tons of political points by daring to be different, by standing out from the crowd, by doing what the congressional Democratic Party refused to do: oppose the war."
"And he did. And he made Harold Ford Jr. (and all the other Democrats who voted for Bush's war) squeal like a pig, if you know what I mean."
"I don't talk about stuff like that with you. You're my dad."
"But that was then; this is now. And 2003 was an awkward year for Jr. and the boys, including John Kerry and his ilk. But then something amazing happened ..."
"People like Senator Kerry and Congressman Ford realized that the Bushies had sold them a bill of goods and began trying to figure out what to do about it. They're politicians, so it took them longer than normal people. But finally, they actually did. And they started attacking the Bush administration whole hog."
"Dad, you bring up pigs too much in conversation."
"Speaking of animals, Governor Dean was something of a one-trick pony. He'd spent so long preaching the antiwar gospel that he was old news by Iowa caucus time. Without knowing it, he'd turned into Mr. I-Told-You-So. And you know, dear, nobody likes a know-it-all." There was a long silence. "Hey, you still there, girl?"
"Dad, just think about all the e-mails you've sent since you went ballistic about this war. Think about how many times you've embarrassed me at restaurants with your antiwar rants. And you have the audacity to call Howard Dean Mr. I-Told-You-So?"
"Well, there may be some truth in what you're saying. But, Ciara, just why was it you called this evening?"
Kenneth Neill is the CEO of Contemporary Media, Inc.