Friday, December 12, 2003


"If I may quote the president," Dean told reporters with a smirk, "Bring it on."

Note that Dean is taunting the Republicans to attack him while the real Smirk was taunting Iraqis to attack US soldiers.

What's with the recent spate of journalists using the word "smirk" when talking about Dean's smile? I've never seen him smirk.

An interesting misunderstanding

Someone quoted to me the following from a Josh Marshall blog post:

Think back to your grade school science class.

We're like the Saber-toothed Tiger sinking into the tar pit. And over on dry land are a few giraffes munching away on some leaves. And we're taunting them with what terms we're going to give them to buy into the good thing we've got going on.

Yes, an over-dramatic metaphor. But you get the idea.

I had to read the whole post to realize that Josh was talking about the Bush administrations involvement in Iraq and their appeal for help from the Europeans. When I first read it, I thought he was talking about the Democratic leaderships' reaction to the Dean campaign.

Time to Believe

Michael Tomasky gets it (emphasis mine):

[...] If one thinks of the Democratic Party as rebuilding itself after its disastrous 1980s, then Dean—or more appropriately, "Deanism"—is a new and potentially more powerful stage of the rebuilding process. Clinton rebuilt (forgive the Marxist terminology, but it happens to fit) the superstructure. Dean is rebuilding the base. "If Clinton modernized the message," says Simon Rosenberg, the most prominent centrist Democrat who's enthusiastic about Dean, "then Dean is rebuilding the party. In the '90s party, it was, 'Write us a big check.' Regular people were left out of that equation. Now, through new technology, we're getting them back in."

There's a tricky thing about this rebuilding stage, though: It excludes party insiders. It has nothing to do with Washington. It's no wonder that Democratic insiders, so accustomed to having complete ownership of a process like a party primary campaign, should dislike Dean and even fear him: He has stolen the process right out of their hands. He is not "of" them in any way, shape or form. In fact, his accumulating successes merely serve to emphasize their irrelevance to this rebuilding stage. No wonder they should take a kind of emotional comfort in writing him off as the new George McGovern; it's much easier to dismiss a thorny thing than to come to terms with it.


The voters, the process and the man himself will tell us [who will be the candidate] in time. Dick Gephardt, John Kerry and John Edwards would all be perfectly good candidates. Each has an argument. With regard to Wesley Clark, we can't quite say yet whether he'd be a good candidate, though he brings a few qualities to the table whose potential appeal in November is obvious. And goodness knows, if any of the above manages to overcome Dean and become the nominee, he sure will have earned the title.

Unless, that is, he benefited from an insider-driven process designed to block Dean at all costs. At this point, after he has amassed the armies of small donors and bloggers and volunteers, blocking Dean is not blocking one man. It's blocking the hopes of millions of Democrats who—understand the importance of this—would walk through fire for a candidate for the first time in their lives. That isn't something that should be done cavalierly; in the long term, blocking the active participation of these millions may do more damage to the Democratic Party than four more years of George W. Bush.


Insiders need to start thinking about making their peace with Deanism. The party—the (still) post-1988 party—needs a rebuilt base, and Dean is doing that in a way that has no precedent. And instead of fretting about all the ways Dean could lose, the insiders might do better to spend some time thinking about how he might win.

Gee, where have I heard that before? :-)

Dean's success isn't all his fault

This USA Today article makes the point that Dean's success is as much because of his attention to the fundamentals as it is his use of innovative new techniques for organizing. I might add that Dean was blessed by a Democratic Party establishment that has become so ossified that it didn't comprehend what was happening until it was (probably) to late. I'm as big a fan of the Dean operation as anyone, but I don't believe he would be the nominal front-runner today if at least one of the establishment Dems had run a halfway decent campaign. Institutional support is hard to overcome.

The battle in the general election will be a lot tougher because, unlike the Democrats, the Republicans have a much more solid and robust political machine up and running. But, I also sense that that machine is becoming complacent in its success and is ripe for defeat.

Dean may not be able to do it. But I have seen no evidence that any other Democrat could do it any better.

Concede nothing

Aziz of Dean Nation makes a point I should have made earlier about this whole "Sista Souljah" idea: if Dean does what some of the experts are suggesting then he will, in effect, be conceding that he is weak on foreign policy. This is precisely the wrong approach to take.

The Bushies want to paint Dean as weak on foreign policy. They want to cast the story as the neophyte vs. the seasoned veteran. Dean has, smartly, refused to abide by this story. This is why he continually talks about how it is Bush who is weak on foreign policy. Dean is trying to turn the story around to say that it is Bush who is the amateur who can't be trusted with the power of the United States. If Dean were to tacitly admit to being weak on foreign policy he would essentially be conceding a major point to the Bush campaign.

Dean has a tough row to hoe in the coming year. The so-called experts want him to put on some more chains to make it even harder.

Google News Democratic Primary Poll for 12/12/2003

  This Week (12/12) Last Week (12/5)
1 Howard Dean 9490 24.2% +2.2 1 6870 22.0%
2 John Kerry 6110 15.6% -2.2 2 5560 17.8%
3 Wesley Clark 5150 13.1% -1.8 3 4670 15.0%
5 Joe Lieberman 4670 11.9% +1.0 5 3410 10.9%
4 John Edwards 4180 10.6% -0.7 4 3540 11.3%
6 Dick Gephardt 3990 10.2% -0.1 6 3190 10.2%
7 Dennis Kucinich 2260 5.8% +0.2 7 1740 5.6%
8 Al Sharpton 2220 5.7% +1.2 8 1400 4.5%
9 Carol Moseley Braun 1180 3.0% +0.3 9 836 2.7%

Gore's endorsement gives Dean his highest media share yet. Ironically, it also improves Joe Lieberman's standing a little, but primarily because of the "did Gore diss Joe?" stories. Kerry and Clark both fell off because of the oxygen sucked up by Dean and Gore. The rest of the field remained the rest of the field.

The following is a chart of the Google News Media Share over the last few months:

(Methodology: All numbers are taken from the hit counts when searching on the Google News Service for news stories containing each candidate's name. Click on each name to rerun the search. You will get different results as the numbers are constantly changing. I make absolutely no claim that these numbers have any real meaning.)

Bush knows politics

There is one thing we should keep in mind about this whole Iraqi reconstruction projects/debt renegotiation imbroglio: it may be bad policy and bad diplomacy, but it may very well be good politics. Bush's stated position that only those who sacrificed blood for the Iraq effort should share in the spoils could have a strong visceral appeal to the average American. There's a part of us, myself included, that says, "Hell YES only those who risked their lives and capital should be able to benefit from the results!"

Bush may be stupid about many things, but when it comes to politics he is one of the sharpest there is (it's not just Rove that is the brains of this outfit). He knows very well that this kind of "stuff it" attitude plays like gold in the heartland. So, if we are going to bring him down over something like this, we have to avoid getting drawn into that kind of argument.


Concede the point that, in principal, only those who take the risk should share in the booty. But point out that there is more to leading this country then simple macho bravado and that those we piss off today could come back to hurt us tomorrow.

Civility and good manners are not just a way of lording it over the uncouth. They demonstrate that you actually care and respect the opinions of others. Why is this important? Because some day we will need them to pull our butts out of the fire!

Bush appeal is of the appeal of the kindergarten bully. He looks strong because he is willing to beat up anyone who crosses him. But, when the bully gets hurt, who exactly is going to step up and help him out? More likely than not most of the playground residents will simply cheer his pain.

That is the kind of future Bush is setting up for us.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

My own conspiracy theory

I've been thinking about the conspiracy theories that are running rampant about what is going on in the Democratic party, particular with respect to the Clintons and Wesley Clark. Frankly, I think most of them are just paranoid delusions.

For one thing, I don't believe for a minute that the Clintons don't like Howard Dean or what he is doing. In fact, I think they are intrigued by the operation he has put together and would much rather get on his good side than piss off the legions who support him.

But it goes back even further then that. Remember, it was Bill Clinton who effectively short-circuited the first attempt by the DLC to stem Dean's momentum when, just prior to the release of the From & Reed anti-Dean screed, Clinton gave an interview in which he praised Dean as a model New-Democrat. I remain convinced to this day that Clinton did this deliberately because he disapproved of what the DLC was trying to do.

That does not mean that I don't think the Clintons haven't been involved in encouraging Clark to enter the race. But I don't think they did so in order to stop Dean.

Here's my own personal theory: at the time Clark entered it was painfully obvious to the politically observant that Dean was trouncing the rest of the field. None of the other candidates had emerged as a viable alternative to Dean. In fact, some of them (Kerry in particular) had failed so badly at the job that it would be a joke if they were to ever go on and win the nomination.

But then, the only way that could happen was if Dean imploded and it was still not clear at that time if his campaign was for real. There had to be a real concern that if Dean imploded there wouldn't be any viable candidate left on the field to pick up the pieces.

I think that if there was any political calculation involved in the Clintons' encouragement of Wesley Clark to enter the race it was the simple idea that he could act as a safety net for the Democrats if Dean's high-wire act should falter.

That's just my theory of course.


I stole this breakdown of the latest SUSA Iowa poll (pdf) from a poster over on the DailyKOS.

        | Dean
        |    | Edwards
        |    |    | Gephardt
        |    |    |    | Kerry
        |    |    |    |    | Other
        |    |    |    |    |    | Undecided
Overall | 42 | 10 | 23 | 15 |  7 |  4 |
Certain | 38 |  8 | 26 | 19 |  5 |  4 |
Probabl | 45 | 12 | 19 | 12 |  8 |  4 |
Male    | 41 |  9 | 21 | 16 |  7 |  5 |
Female  | 42 | 12 | 24 | 14 |  6 |  3 |
18-34   | 45 | 19 | 25 | 14 |  4 |  3 |
35-54   | 42 | 11 | 19 | 15 |  8 |  6 |
55+     | 39 | 11 | 25 | 16 |  7 |  2 |
White   | 42 | 10 | 22 | 16 |  6 |  4 |
Black   | 32 | 12 | 26 |  8 |  0 | 23 |
Hispani | 17 |  0 | 66 |  7 |  9 |  0 |
Other   | 45 | 31 |  6 |  0 | 18 |  0 |
Conserv | 46 | 12 | 22 |  4 | 10 |  6 |
Moderat | 37 | 11 | 27 | 18 |  6 |  1 |
Liberal | 47 |  9 | 15 | 15 |  7 |  6 |
Union   | 44 | 10 | 27 | 11 |  5 |  2 |
Non-Uni | 41 | 10 | 21 | 16 |  7 |  5 |

What I find most interesting in this is that Dean's lead among self-identified Conservative Dems is statistically the same as his lead amongst Liberal Dems. This is in direct contradiction of recent national polls that shows a large part of Dean's support coming from liberal Dems.

Now national polls at this stage still are more about name recognition than anything else and liberal Democrats are probably much more like to have heard and listened to what Dean has to say. But Iowa Democrats of all stripes have been hearing from Dean for months now and have had a better chance of judging him outside the media echo-chamber. This could explain why Conservative Dems are as supportive as Liberal Dems.

It also means that the more people get to know Dean the more they come to like him. So the challenge for the national campaign will be to get people to pay attention to his message is and not what the media says his message is.

Democrats are their own worst enemy

Add Bob Herbert to the "gets it" column (and he proves that you don't have to be a Dean supporter to "get it"):

The Dems may indeed sink like the Titanic next year. But I don't think Dr. Dean is the problem — at least, not yet. The problem is the party itself. God and the Republicans have blessed the Democrats with the high ground on one important issue after another, from the war in Iraq to national economic policy to health care to education to the environment.

But like the Union general George McClellan, the Democrats have been too timid to take full advantage. It's a party for the faint of heart. The Republicans are hijacking elections and redistricting the country and looting the Treasury and ignoring the Constitution and embittering our allies, while the Democrats are — let's see, fumbling their way through an incoherent primary season and freaking out over Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean.

Good to see I'm not the only one who sees a comparison between the Dems and General McClellan (who was a Democrat, coincidently).

To regain control of the White House, the Democrats need to give voters, who are frightened by terrorism and disoriented by the pace of 21st-century events, new reasons to hope. That can only be done by a thoughtful, united, energized and creative party. A party with a plan and a ferocious will to win.

A party that I don't see at the moment.

My biggest fear going into the 2004 election is what the Democratic party will do. Will they, if Dean gets the nomination, heed his call to work their butts off to defeat Bush? Or will they waste their times moanin' and groanin', and frettin' and fumin'?

The Democrat party, as it currently stands, doesn't deserve to win. Dean, so far, is the only one who has convinced me that it could be otherwise.

A useful analogy

There's a quote making the rounds the last couple of days (I just saw it posted on Dean Nation) that I think we should etch in our hearts. It comes from Gen. Sherman in response to criticism about the way Grant was executing the campaign against the South.

"Wilson, I'm a damned sight smarter man than Grant; I know more about organization, supply and administration and about everything else than he does; but I'll tell you where he beats me and where he beats the world. He don't give a damn for what the enemy does out of his sight but it scares me like hell. I'm more nervous than he is. I am much more likely to change my orders or to countermarch my command than he is. He uses such information as he has according to his best judgment; he issues his orders and does his level best to carry them out without much reference to what is going on about him...."

The Dean campaign succeeds because it doesn't suffer from the analysis-paralysis that has characterized the Democrats so much over the last few years. In fact, the Dems of today could be compared to Gen. McLellan. He had all the resources he needed to beat the South, but his hesitancy in the face of risky battles effectively stalled the Northern campaign for nearly a year and probably extended the Southern hope for victory even longer.

There comes a time when you have to stop theorizing and you just have to do. Now is the time.

Another recommendation

Read Steve Gilliard for yet another refutation of the doom-n-gloomers. The point is simple: Bush is very vulnerable to defeat, but we won't defeat him if all people can think about is how he might win.

Leave Bush's winning strategy to Bush. Work on our winning strategy instead.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Texas is Dean country?

There's a new Scripps Research Center poll (mentioned in this article) that shows Dean leading all Democrats in Texas:

Asked to pick the presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, 16 percent said they liked former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, followed closely by retired Gen. Wesley Clark and Sen. Joe Lieberman, who each received 14 percent.

And Bush's approval rating in Texas has dropped to 58%.

The Dean Strategy

Check out this NY Times article about Bush's political advisers starting to focus their attention on Dean. I notice two interesting things in this article. The first is that Bush's advisers can't seem to decide whether Dean should be treated as a joke or not. This is a good thing. The longer they are unsure about how serious a threat Dean is the better chance Dean can slip under their radar (like he did against the rest of the Dem field) and catch them off-guard.

The second thing to notice is the emergence of the Dean campaign's approach to dealing with Republican attacks. I first noticed it with the ad the campaign put on the air in response to the Club For Growth attack. At the end of the responding commercial Dean appears on the screen and says, "I'm Howard Dean and I approve this commercial because they aren't attacking me. They're attacking you."

I noticed it again in the above story where there is a quote from Joe Trippi:

"They're not afraid of Howard Dean, they're afraid of the hundreds of thousands of Americans that are building Howard Dean's campaign up," Mr. Trippi said. "Howard Dean is the only Democrat who's been able to rally all those Americans in common cause to beat Bush, and it's nice that they're noticing."

Here's the strategy: Turn any attack on Howard Dean into an attack on the American people who might consider supporting Howard Dean.

It's almost breath-taking in its simplicity. The negative attacks are meant to make people uncomfortable with Dean. But, by re-directing those attacks into attacks on supporters and potential supporters, Dean can benefit from the natural defensive reaction people have when they are attacked. We have seen this already in the pre-primary season. Anytime Dean was attacked, his support went up! Why? Because those attacks were seen as attacks on the people who were supporting him. The only difference is that, with the Republicans, Joe and Howard are making the link more explicit.

"They aren't attacking me. They're attacking you."

"They aren't afraid of me. They're afraid of you."

"They don't want to stop me. They want to stop you."

Works for me.

Fat Tony strikes again!


Quick comment

Many people consistently misunderstand what "Democratic wing of the Democratic party" means. It means the part of the party that actually wants to act like an opposition party. Politically ideology has nothing to do with it.


Another excellent read

Can I get an Amen?

Open Memo to Clinton Democrats

Democrats are wimps

Go read Atrios now!

Atrios makes the point that all Dems must understand if they are to have a hope and a prayer of beating the Bush machine: do not buy into and propagate the themes manufactured by that same machine.

This is perhaps what has most bugged me about some of the Democratic critics of Dean. Much of their fear and angst seems to be based primarily on right-wing media stereotypes of Dean rather than what he really stands for. Yes, many of his critics know they are stereotypes, but they work from the assumption that those stereotypes will be the operant message in 2004 and that we might as well give up if Dean is going to be the nominee.

This is complete and total bullshit. The reason these lies become "truth" in the minds of the public is not because the Republicans dominate the media machine but because the Democrats don't fight back against them!

Instead, the Democrats consistently roll over and let the Republicans get away with their lies about where Democrats stand. Then they compound the problem by buying into some mythical notion of the perfect candidate who will be immune to these lies.

I have said this repeatedly but it bares repeating until it gets into some people's thick skulls: THERE IS NO PERFECT CANDIDATE WHO WILL BE IMMUNE TO THESE LIES!

The way to fight the lies is not to look for the perfect candidate but to fight them head on. When all you do is look for the bulletproof defense you come off looking weak and wimpy the general public.

And you know something, they're right! It's not just a false impression on their part. Democrats are weak and wimpy and will continue to be weak and wimpy so long as they continue to search for some white knight on a horse with bulletproof shields and an impeccable resume.

The key to the Dean campaign is that it openly acknowledges that its candidate is not perfect. But, it refuses to give into the pessimistic stew that the right-wing is serving up.

Stop being such wusses!

(Atrios' post was inspired by this excellent post by Jesse Taylor)

Bad political advice

Ruy Teixeira, who has argued against a Dean nomination repeatedly, at least goes halfway towards what I have been arguing Dean's critics should do: offer suggestions on how he might actually be able to win instead of focusing so much attention on how he might lose.

Unfortunately, while Ruy me be a good spotter of demographic trends, as a political consultant he is a disaster. His two pieces of advice to Dean are, to put it simply, atrocious.

1. His first suggestion is that Dean pull a "Sista Souljah" on the anti-war movement to demonstrate to the moderates that he isn't a peacenik. This is classic Clintonian triangulation: criticize someone to your left in order to demonstrate that you are more towards the middle. What Ruy doesn't seem to understand is that triangulation is one of the primary strategies that have gotten the Democrats into so much trouble. Not only does triangulation piss off the base because they (rightly) feel they are being stomped on in order to make a point. But it also turns off the middle who eventually see it as the politically calculated move that it is (especially when commentator's like Ruy talk about it so openly). It's triangulation that has given the Democrats the reputation of having no core principles.

2. Ruy then advises Dean to back-track on his promise to repeal all of the Bush tax cut and instead promise to retain the tax cuts for the middle class. This would be a mistake of monumental proportions! First of all, it would play right into the typical conservative spin that Democrats are engaging in class warfare. But, even worse, it would paint Dean as just another political opportunist who really has no principles and doesn't care about anything except what it takes to get elected. If Dean would back-track on such a fundamental element of his platform then what the hell would he stand for?

Dean understands, better than experts like Ruy, that what pisses the electorate off more than anything is political calculation without principle. Ruy's advice to Dean is to do exactly that out of some misguided notion that doing so will appeal to the muddled middle. It will do the exact opposite.

Dean needs to essentially do exactly what he has been doing all along: continue to stand by his positions in spite of the criticism and win the middle over to his point of view. The Undecideds are undecided because they don't know what they want. You can't appeal to their interests because they don't know what their interests are. What you have to do is sell them your interests and convince them that they are the same as theirs.

This is what the Republicans have done so successfully over the last few years. They have managed to convince the muddled-middle that they have the same interests (they don't, but they don't know that). The Democratic nominee has to do the same thing and, so far, Dean is the only one who has demonstrated an ability to do it.

I hope to God Dean ignores Ruy's political advice. It would be a formula for disaster.


Check out this page that keeps track of the current state of super-delegate committments.

Turns out that Dean is leading there as well

(link courtesy Matthew Yglesias)

Knowing the real enemy

Josh Marshall talks this morning about the Pentagon plan to limit contracts for Iraqi reconstruction efforts to coalition partners only. He notes that it is unlikely that this is just an effort to punish those countries that didn't help us out. It appears to be part of a larger effort to leverage other countries into putting troops on the ground "in Iraq and in future efforts".

Says Josh, "You Dutch guys want contracts? You Kuwaitis? You know the price ..."

I think he is right.

I also keyed on this point from the actual order:

4. It is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States to limit competition for the prime contracts of these procurements to companies from the United States, Iraq, Coalition partners and force contributing nations. Thus, it is clearly in the public interest to limit prime contracts to companies from these countries.

You hear that France and Germany? You are now officially considered a potential threat to "the essential security interests of the United States" simply because you opposed the war.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Bending the media

Earlier tonight I was on an online forum reading a post from a Clark supporter who was bitching about some unfair media coverage. It suddenly occurred to me that I rarely find myself getting pissed off about distorted Dean stories anymore. Why? Because I know that those stories can be counteracted.

This person's specific complaint was that some reporter said that Clark didn't have much of a domestic policy compared to his foreign policy. She correctly pointed out that Clark has plenty of position papers on domestic issues but that "the media just doesn't want to talk about that."

My immediate thought was that the media didn't want to talk about Dean and his positions either, but he somehow managed to get them to do it anyway.

It was then I had my epiphany: Dean is controlling the media cycle rather than letting it control him. He doesn't rely on the media to do what he wants it to do. He forces it to do what he wants it to do.

Not even Clinton managed that.

How do you kill a hydra?

Matt Stoller make's an interesting observation:

The web has allowed punditry to scale dramatically, cracking open the social structure of the political establishment and force feeding the real storyline to every political junkie with a computer and phone line. When everyone's a pundit and everyone's a source, it can get pretty hard to 'create news' that isn't true. [emphasis mine - Chris]

That's the beauty of a distributed network like the Dean campaign. Traditional campaigns are easier to deal with because they usually have only one or two heads you have to attack. But the Dean campaign is a hydra. Cut one head off and ten more grow in its place.

Keeping secrets

Whoa! Dean even kept the secret of Gore's endorsement from Joe Trippi!

Dean kept his side of the bargain, refusing to tell even his campaign manager. Joe Trippi said he got wind that something was up Sunday when Dean ordered his staff to charter planes for Iowa. When he asked Dean what was going on, the boss said, "I can't tell you."

Trippi said he had a feeling Gore's endorsement was the big secret, but he didn't find out for sure until late Sunday night or Monday.

Also, apparently the reason Gore didn't call Lieberman ahead of time is because the news leaked out before he got the chance.

[...] Gore apparently wanted to give Dean's rivals a call late Monday night, officials said, but those plans were scuttled when the endorsement leaked.

So maybe the diss of Lieberman was not as bad as it first appeared.

It also looks like Gore's speech against the Iraq resolution last September was what stiffened Dean's own opposition to the war:

[Trippi] said the courtship began in September 2002, when Gore gave a speech denouncing President Bush (news - web sites)'s position on Iraq (news - web sites). He said the address stiffened Dean's opposition, and the former Vermont governor praised Gore in conversations some time after the address.

Sometimes an endorsement is just an endorsement

What he said:

Any pundit who think that Gore's Dean endorsement has anything to do with some secret plan to position him, or someone else, in 2008 is a ridiculous fool. Anyone who thinks that Gore, or the DLC, or the DNC, or the Clinton Cabal, or whoever, is so organized and so powerful that they have control over events 4-5 years from now hasn't been paying too much attention.

Blowing shit up

Matthew Yglesias comments this morning on a post by Glenn Reynold's where Glenn suggests that Dean is not a wimp and thus can be perceived as someone who would respond appropriately (i.e., with force) if terrorists attack (sounds like Glenn might be getting it as well, double damn):

I believe that to be roughly correct. Watch Dean give a speech and he definitely seems like the kind of guy who would have no problem blowing all kinds of shit up in response to a terrorist attack. That should serve him well in the campaign.

I've been thinking about this lately with respect to the Dukakis campaign in '88. One of the seminal moments of that campaign was the picture of Dukakis in the Tank. This has become the classic example of a bad photo-op. But why, I wonder, did that picture strike so many people as wrong?

I think it is because many people had difficulty imagining that Dukakis would ever actually use that tank for the purpose for which it was created. Many people did not view Bush's prancing on the deck of that aircraft carrier in a similar light because they knew that Bush would and had used it. But it was just hard to imaging Dukakis ever getting anything out of pulling the trigger.

The question becomes, why did people come to doubt Dukakis willingness to blow things up when necessary? I think it had something to do with the other seminal moment in the '88 campaign: his terrible answer to the question of what he would do if his wife was raped and murdered. Dukakis answered that question in a reasoned manner instead of demonstrating any sense of outrage over the imagined crime. His response left people cold because it looked like Dukakis didn't really care about the trauma that victims of serious crime go through.

Dukakis wouldn't fire that tank for the same reason that Dukakis didn't get angry about a possible attack on his wife. It doesn't matter if that was a fair perception, it was the operant perception.

Dukakis' mistake was in thinking that he had to act above the normal responses of an ordinary human being. He thought that, because he would be President, it wouldn't be appropriate for him to express anything but a measured, reasoned response to an outrage like that. What he didn't understand is that people want to believe that their leaders are human beings first before they are measured, reasoned individuals. They want them to get outraged. They want them to be angry when an injustice occurs.

But they also want their leaders to use the resources at their disposal wisely. Bush gets the first part of this equation and it is why he is so personally popular. But he has no appreciation of the advantages of restraint and measured response.

Dean gets angry in the face of outrages. But, he understands that he can't let that anger overwhelm the need to do the right thing by this country. The anger drives his campaign, it doesn't dictate it.

And that is why Dean will beat Bush.


William Kristol gets it. To bad. longer the neo-cons and right-wingers continue to think Dean is a lightweight the better for us in the long run.

One negative comment

I am ecstatic about the Gore endorsement. But I have to say one thing before getting back to the celebration: I think it was wrong of Gore not to call up Joe Lieberman and give him a warning beforehand. Lord knows Joe would be my last choice of the present nine, but he didn't deserve that kind of treatment. It doesn't help that this diss is being talked about all over the place and thus distracting from the importance of this event.

Gore endorsing Dean: A+

Gore dissing Lieberman: F

On with the party!

Get back to work!

Monday, December 08, 2003

Dean earns it. We earn it.

Kos has an important post where he knocks down the sour-grape suggestions about Gore's endorsement of Dean. Check it out.

The simple truth is that Dean and the people who support him simply worked harder for this. Dean and his campaign have consistently out-hustled everyone in the field. He is lapping candidates who were considered front-runners nine months ago.

He is winning because he has earned it. Wouldn't it be nice to have a president we could say that about?

Set the wayback machine to 2002

Here's an interesting flash from the past: a MetaFilter discussion thread from Aug. 27th, 2002 about some unknown governor from Vermont named Howard Dean. Selected comments:

"I'm betting he'll get to the primary but be a non-factor."

"Dean can very well be the Democrats' Alan Keyes in 2004 ..."

"The DLC/New Left (progressive centrism) is the future of the Democratic party. Deal with it."

"I don't know enough about him yet to say he should be President, but seeing Dean gave me hope that I might find a candidate I could feel good about voting for."

"I'd love to see a Dean candidacy thrive. Unfortunately, I doubt it'll happen."

Look how far we have come. And still so far to go.

A sillyness break

You need one of these every now and then. This is a transcript from this weeks SNL, the Weekend Update segment specifically:

FEY: Paris Hilton's name has been on everyone's lips these past few weeks. Here now in an exclusive interview with Jimmy Fallon is Paris Hilton.
FALLON: Thanks for coming on. As we agreed, we won't be discussing the scandal that's been in the papers these past couple weeks. We just want to find out about you, Paris Hilton. So, you're family, the Hiltons, own hotels all over the world, right?
PARIS HILTON: Yes, they're in New York, London, Paris.
FALLON: Oh wait, so there actually is a Paris Hilton?
PARIS: Yes, there is.
FALLON: Is it hard to get into the Paris Hilton?
PARIS: Actually, it's a very exclusive hotel, no matter what you've heard.
FALLON: I hear the Paris Hilton is very beautiful.
PARIS: I'm glad you've heard that.
FALLON: Do they allow double occupancy at the Paris Hilton?
FALLON: Is the Paris Hilton roomy?
PARIS: It might be for you, but most people find it very comfortable.
FALLON: I'm a VIP. I may need to go in the back entrance.
PARIS: It doesn't matter who you are. It's not gonna happen.
FALLON: Fair enough. Now, I throw a lot of events. Do they have a ballroom there?
PARIS: We do.
FALLON: Great. I'd love to have my balls held by the Paris Hilton. Sounds awesome. I'd like to check into the Paris Hilton.
PARIS: I don't think you can.
FALLON: Really? Cause I'll only be able to stay there like a minute and a half, two minutes tops.
PARIS: Good luck.
FALLON: Paris Hilton, everybody.

How to make Fat Tony's head explode

Chief Justice Gore

It's not easy being Dean

Courtesy the comments section of the o-blog:

"It's Not Easy Being Dean"

It’s not that easy being Dean,
Having to be the guy everyone misperceives
When I think it could be nicer owning a baseball team–
Or something much more powerful like that.
It’s not that easy being Dean.
It seems you stand out from so many other politicians.
And people tend to step all over you ‘cause you’re
From Vermont and sealing your files and
against the War in Iraq.
But Dean’s the man of the hour.
And Dean can be cool and friendly-like.
And Dean can stand tall like Kerry, dress sharp like Sharpton
Or be Jewish like Joe.
When Dean is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why?
Wonder, I am Dean and it’ll do fine,
it’s Presidential!
And I think it’s what I want to be.

Actually, of late, it's getting easier and easier to be Dean.

Candidate reactions

Courtesy MSNBC:

The Dean and Lieberman campaigns had no official comment, but Lieberman campaign sources told NBC News that they had expected the endorsement. While they would have liked to have had Gore's support, the development will not change the campaign's strategy, they said.  

The campaign of Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina also said it would not comment before Tuesday, while Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri issued a short statement saying Dean was on the wrong side of several issues on which he had fought with Gore, including Medicare and affirmative action.

Another rival candidate, Wesley Clark, the retired Army general, played down the impact of the endorsement. "No kidding -- I think it's wonderful," he told MSNBC's Marisa Buchanan.

I'm not sure what to make of Clark's reaction. You would expect other candidates to remain silent or chew the sour grapes. But to actually react to it as if it were good news?

Winning the media cycle

Ha! Comment from the DailyKOS message board:

Hey, guess what story got buried beneath the Gore endorsement on the networks tonight?

Bush signing the Medicare bill, grinning like a fake Santa Claus.


Great double play, Al.


Update: Another comment worth re-posting:

Gore is reportedly traveling with Dean to Iowa tomorrow after Harlem for an "event that would 'change the face' of the Dean campaign."  Could it be that the rumor mill swirling this morning about Harkin endorsing Dean is true, and is going to be combined with Gore's endorsement in an attempt to clear or winnow the Caucus/Primary field.  

I haven't heard any other confirmation of this rumor, but it would just add to the media steamroll going into tomorrow night's debate.

I have always said that the Democrats need a candidate who knows how to play the media. Looks like we've got one.

What it means

I like Josh Marshall's take on today's news:

The upshot of this endorsement is that the first serious impression that a lot of Democrats will get of Dean will be that Al Gore is supporting him. And that seems like an awfully big deal, especially since it plays favorably to Dean's chief perceived weaknesses -- namely, that he's a weak general election candidate.

It's sometimes hard for political junkies to realize that the vast majority of people just aren't paying that much attention to this stuff. This is probably the first 2004 campaign news that will have a big impact on the minds of those people and, as Josh says, that cannot be anything but a good thing for Dean.

I've always been a big fan of Gore's and I remain one, a strong one. But I was talking to a friend this evening about Gore's announcement and he said that Gore's endorsement wouldn't be all positive since a lot of people are still pissed at Gore for what happened in 2000.

But I think that's very much a DC reaction, and not one, I think, that's shared very widely among Democrats around the country. Whatever they thought of Gore going into 2000, I think most Democrats around the country see him as someone who by every measure was robbed of the presidency and thus has great credibility to make such an endorsement. (It's an estimation I agree with.)

Josh is on to something here as well. There is a huge disconnect between the party establishment and the rank-n-file. I know a lot of Democrats who were disappointed at Gore's performance in 2000, but most of them still have a lot of affection for the guy and honestly believe that he should be our President today. It was the Democratic establishment that ran away from Gore after the 2000 race (even before the Supreme's decision), not the ordinary Democratic voters.

And this is why so many of the other candidates have failed to connect with the voters. When you have John Kerry telling Democrats to get over the 2000 race you have as clear a sign as any that they just don't understand what is going on out here. When you have the DLC spilling more vitriol about their own rank-n-file then they are about the opposition, is it any wonder that they continue to lose?

Not all establishment Dems are like this. But enough is all that is necessary for them to become essentially irrelevant to what is happening in this race.

Al Gore to endorse Dean

Sure, the biggest news of the campaign so far comes down right before I have to go into a two hour meeting. It certainly made it hard to concentrate on work while I was sitting there wondering what was going on with this.

This is easily the 3rd most important endorsement Dean could snag (2nd if you think of Bill & Hill as a single endorsement) and highlights the growing divide within the Democratic party establishment. On one side are the remnants of the Clinton team and on the other is the rising star that is Dean. Now, numerically speaking, the Clinton's out-number Dean. But Dean has the momentum while the Clinton's are standing still. If they aren't careful, the party will rush on past them and they will miss out on all the fun.

It's enough to give one the vapors

If you have a subscription I'd recommend reading this TNR article by Michelle Cottle about Dean's alleged anger problem. Just a sample:

After three months of blissful cocooning with my newborn son, I returned to find the Democratic presidential contenders in an even greater state of disarray than when I last left them. Perhaps most notably, this summer's anti-Dean sentiment seems to have swollen into a barely contained rage, something fit for a Tarantino-style blood bath. Let's call it: Kill Howard. The more Democratic voters to fall under Dean's spell, the more furious--and incoherent--his detractors become. He's a paleoliberal. He's a heartless conservative. He's too naïve to beat Bush. He's too politically cynical to trust. He's a Stalinist. He's a neofascist. He kills babies and drinks their blood. And if someone doesn't stop him right this minute, he's going to destroy the entire Democratic Party!!! Good God. Vermont hasn't unleashed anything this controversial since Ben & Jerry considered coating French vanilla ice cream with chocolate-flavored bullshit and calling them Bush Bars. ...

Cry vote! and let slip the dogs of precinct operations II

Alice Marie Marshall, a reader who sent in some dynamite stuff in the past, sent me a new piece on precinct operations and voter registration drives:

Voter registration is the single most effective thing we can do to win elections. (Well, aside from insisting on a full and accurate count of the vote, but that is beyond the scope of this post.) No other action is as effective in winning elections and no other activity better expresses what we stand for as a party. In that spirit I offer this primer on voter registration.

Republicans fear voter registration drives as they fear nothing else. If you are part of a successful voter registration drive in a tight election, you can expect the Republicans to manufacture some charge against you. ( ) I hesitate to write this as it will discourage some volunteers, but it is important to know with whom we have to deal.

To begin with, review the laws in your state. They are probably on the internet. Your state board of elections may have a page devoted to voter registration; review it. This is another reason to join your local Democratic committee. There will be experienced volunteers who can advise you and most likely a lawyer. If your local committee does not have a lawyer who is available to advise volunteers, your state party will.

Traditional voter registration drives employ what I call the honeybee method. The volunteer sets up a card table at the local grocery store, or similar venue, and asks people to register to vote. Sometimes there is a group of volunteers, one to sit at the table, the others to invite citizens to visit the table to register. In some localities the person sitting at the table can be deputized by the local board of elections to be an official registrar, but usually you just ask people to fill out the applications and then turn them over to the local registrar. I call this the honeybee method, because the volunteers are trying to attract new voters the way blossoms attract honeybees. It is labor intensive, and if you get five new voters in the course of an afternoon, you have done very well.

I prefer the tree pollen method. Volunteers distribute voter registration applications, along with a flier urging citizens to register to vote, in every doorway in a garden apartment complex, mobile home community, or anywhere that Democrats live. In a garden apartment complex, a volunteer can distribute 100 applications in the space of an hour. (Voter registration is very aerobic.) A small group of volunteers can take care of a large apartment complex in a single afternoon. If you distribute 100 applications you can expect five to twenty-five people to register to vote. (It depends on the apartment complex; it also depends on current events. The week the Republicans put Clinton’s testimony on TV was the best week for voter registration when I was chair of the committee. That was when I knew we were going to win the 1998 election.)

Roll up the application and place it between the door knob and the door frame, just the way the pizza places put their fliers in your door. Be sure to pre-address the application so all the citizen need do is fill it out, stamp it, and mail it in. Do not use a rubber stamp to address the applications, because often the address will smear and the application will not be delivered. You do not want a situation where the citizen thinks they are registered, but the registrars office never received their application. I suggest preprinted labels. If you use the tree-pollen method week after week, between now and autumn of 2004 you can, conservatively, bring in a net gain of 300 Democratic votes. We could turn this country around through voter registration alone, and I have never understood why we have not done so.

Always keep in mind that the Democratic party will be judged by the company it keeps. As a volunteer, you represent the Democratic party to your local community. This is especially true of voter registration work. You may very well be the citizen’s first personal contact with the Democratic party, in the case of many immigrants, their first contact with democracy. Conduct yourself in such a way as to give them a good opinion of Democrats and democracy.

Alice Marie Marshall
Volunteer Coordinator, 2003 Joint Campaign
Past Chair, Precinct Operations Committee
Past Chair, Voter Registration Committee
Fairfax County Democratic Committee
Fairfax, Virginia

Text of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee Voter Registration Flier:

Your county, your state, your country needs your wisdom. Only you understand how the economy, education, taxes and the environment affect your life and your neighborhood. Lift up your voice that the powerful may hear it; register and vote. If you are already registered or if you are not eligible to vote, please pass this to a family member or a friend who is.

This was translated into Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Farsi and Hindi. I give it here as an example. Be sure to put the authorization at the bottom of your flier, example:

By authority of Victoria Volunteer, Booster County Democratic Committee, Number 1, Democracy Place, Elysium Fields, Anystate, Phone-Number,

Clark tear-jerker

I don't know. This sounds a bit desperate to me.

Hankies, Please
Wesley Clark's presidential campaign is going for the heartstrings to revive the Democrat's slumping effort. Insiders say they'll host house parties December 18 during which a DVD bio described as a "tear-jerker" will be shown. It might work. It was done by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, the TV producer who made Bill Clinton's campaign movies.

Haven't Democrats cried enough over the last 10 years? What we need is something to cheer.

(link courtesy Political Wire)

F*ck the Heathers

Nick Confessore hits the nail on the head with regard to Dean's "teflon". That is, the phenomena of Dean's star rising any time he is criticized in the press:

In part, this is because Dean -- wisely -- has completely ignored the Washington press, much as George W. Bush did in 2000. (Al Gore, by contrast, paid way too much attention to the Beltway press, constantly reacting to its provocations. It really hurt him.)

The Washington press really is nothing more than a bunch of Heathers. But you know what is worse than the Heathers? Those who are desperate to win their favor. They earn the respect of neither the Heathers, who use them as the butt of their jokes, or the rest of the populace, who rightly look down on them as cloying clowns.

Southern Phobia

Kevin of Lean Left comments on Dean's Southern Strategy and makes an important point:

This is a good move, politically. First, Democrats have to start to understand that the kind of person the Democrats would vote for nationally - meaning the kind of person who can win the presidency - is not the kind of person who Democrats elect in the South - if the current dynamic remains in place. And they need to stop apologizing for it. I don't hear Republicans worrying about how they can never win the Atlantic Northeast by nominating a failure from Texas - they just go ahead and nominate the failure from Texas and worry about winning in other parts of the country. [highlight mine - Chris]

Amen brother! Democrats spend far to much time worrying about how they might lose some particular constituency (and, even worse, worrying more about ones they don't have instead of the ones they should have). As Kevin says, the Republicans don't let their failure to win in New York (or California) bother them. They just form winning coalitions out of other groups of states.

It's long past time for the Democrats to get over their Southern Phobia.

Grace under fire

Check out the transcript of Dean's appearance on FOX News yesterday. Christ Wallace does a hard interview, going after Dean on all the hot-button issues (Dean's calling Bush weak on defense, Dean's mentioning the "interesting theory" that Bush knew about 9/11 beforehand, Dean's gubernatorial records, Dean's call to run a campaign on more than just "God, gays, guns and abortion"). I didn't see the actual appearance, but I would say that Dean did a good to excellent job in dealing with all of these issues.

His weakest moment was in discussing the records. I think his solution of relying on the judge in the Judicial Watch case to decide what should be released is the best solution to the problem, but it is obvious that Dean has not yet found a good sound-bite to present this solution. He gets the point across, but it is mixed in with a lot of hesistancy that probably doesn't look good to some fence-sitters.

His strongest moment comes when he talks about the divisive nature of the "God, gays, guns and abortion" issues. Wallace tries to get Dean into a discussion about whether those are legitimate campaign issues (i.e., to make it look like Dean is attacking people for believing those issues are important). But Dean won't have any of it. He isn't arguing against those issues being discussed. He is arguing against those issues being the deciding factor in the race because Dean understands that they are used primarily as wedges to divide Americans against each other.

Dean is calling for people to look at what we have in common and I think he is doing a pretty good job of it.

Wallace, as I said, gives a tough interview and Dean, at least according to the transcript, held up pretty well under fire.


The Left Coaster reports this morning that the AP story about the White House complaining about John Kerry's use of the F-word to talk about Bush's Iraq policy, while credited to Ron Fournier, was in fact not written by Mr. Fournier.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Is Dean reading my blog?

I ask because a couple of months back I suggested that Dean should hammer Bush on foreign policy by contrasting it with his father's foreign policy and basically force Dubya to either disavow what his father stood for or say his father was wrong. In other words, set father against son.

Looks like Dean may be trying to do just that. Today on FOX he said the following:

DEAN: I think getting rid of Saddam Hussein is a wonderful thing. But the question is, is it a good idea to send 135,000 troops unilaterally to do it?

Let me -- can I just take one second and read something George Bush's father wrote in his book? This is about the first Gulf War. "To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us, and make a broken tyrant into a latter- day Arab hero. It would have taken us way beyond the imprimatur of the international law bestowed by the resolutions of the Security Council, assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator, and condemning them to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerrilla war."

George Bush's father had it right. We could have contained Saddam Hussein indefinitely. We were flying over his country. He had no air force. We were bombing him when we needed to, in response to anti-aircraft fire.

I thought it was a mistake to go into Iraq. If we had gone in, we should have gone in with a real coalition, the way that his father did, and not do it unilaterally.

Karl Rove makes a commercial for Democrats

Courtesy Oliver Willis comes this link to a new web-ad (check it out) from the Bush/Cheney campaign that highlights several clips of "angry" Democrats decrying Bush and then asks (paraphrased), "Are you tired of partisan sniping? Vote for Bush for real leadership."

I agree with Oliver's sentiments: the Democrats actually come off looking pretty good in those clips. People who are used to seeing Democrats as milquetoast appeasers might be pleasantly surprised to see a view of Democrats who fight back. This ad could easily backfire on the Republicans. There base won't like what is said in those clips, but I think a lot of fence-sitters might sit there asking, "and they are wrong exactly how?"

In other words, the Republicans are spending money to propagate the Democratic message: that Bush is a failure.

Thank you Karl Rove!

Dean calls the GOP out

Dean laid down the gauntlet on the Republican's Southern Strategy in a speech delivered at the opening of his South Carolina office (o-blog post on it here). In this speech Dean openly declares that the Republican party has built their coalition, in part, on a deliberate attempt to appeal to racist tendencies among some voters. This is one of the biggest open secrets in American politics of the last 40 years. But this is the first time I can recall a presidential candidate making this a centerpiece of his campaign against the Republicans.

Good for Dean! It's long past time that this ugly truth sees the light of day. It is now up to the Republicans to deny that this is what they have been doing. For once it is them that is being put on the defensive.

Resolving the Dean record's issue

Statement by Governor Dean on Vermont Records

COLUMBIA, SC -- "Last week, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit that presented this question to the court. A judge will now decide which documents should be released. This removes the issue from the context of a political campaign and puts it in the hands of an unimpeachable third party which is where it belongs."

Now there will be some who will say that Dean is just drawing this problem out by not simply opening the records and moving beyond it. Unfortunately, that is not an option for Dean because, as he has repeatedly pointed out, some of those records contain private correspondence that he really doesn't have the right to release to the public.

Here are the options that have been available:

  1. Do nothing and suffer the continued consequences of this story.
  2. Completely open the records and suffer the consequences if some private communications leaks out that damages someone personally and results in additional lawsuits.
  3. Go through the records personally and decide which records to release and suffer the accusation that they are being selective in those releases and are covering up something.
  4. Let some third party do it and accept ANY of the judgments that third party makes.

The last is the option the campaign has gone with. It isn't the full and open disclosure that some would like, but it is the right choice to make in light of very real privacy concerns and it would be hard to reasonably accuse the campaign of covering up embarrassing information it an independent third-party (the judge in the Judicial Watch case) is the one who makes the decisions about releasing the information.

They probably should have done this before, but the Judicial Watch case has given them the prime mechanism they need to make the only viable option work.