Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Survivor

Walter Shapiro highlights the conundrum that is faced by those who are trying to bring down Dean: the attacks on the man contradict each other and, in the process, make Dean look even stronger for his ability to survive them. Take the issue of Dean's decision to keep some of his gubernatorial records sealed:

[...] Because Dean made these arrangements for the custody of his public papers as he was leaving the governor's office in January, his goal was obviously to keep potentially embarrassing documents under lock and key until his political career is over. This was not exactly a high-minded stance. And, if Dean is the nominee, it may limit the Democrats' ability to assail the Bush administration for its own penchant for secrecy in matters such as Vice President Cheney's energy task force.

Yet, once again, it is difficult to see how Dean's Democratic challengers get much traction on this issue. At worst, the episode paints Dean as a political operator careful to protect himself on all fronts. But how do you square the notion of Dean the Cynic with the attacks on him as too naive to be an effective candidate against Bush? That's the Dean conundrum: a front-runner with many vulnerabilities but no obvious Achilles' heel.

The mistake so many people make in politics is to think politicians are just one mistake away from political oblivion. Dean is demonstrating, as Bush and Clinton did before him, that it is not the ability to avoid mistakes that defines a good politician but instead the ability to avoid the damage those mistakes should cause you.

Democrats, because of their basic misreading of this reality, have gotten so afraid of making mistakes that they come off looking like wimps afraid to take a stand for anything. Dean may make mistakes, but his ability to correct for those mistakes make him look that much better to the electorate.

He's a survivor.

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