Friday, November 12, 2004

All things Dean

From the NY Post:

November 12, 2004 -- BILL and Hillary Clinton are battling behind the scenes to install longtime political operative Harold Ickes as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, replacing Terry McAuliffe. "This is the first test of whether the Clintons can keep their grip on the party," said one Democrat. Ickes was an advisor to David Dinkins during his mayoral administration and was close to the Clintons, helping arrange stays in the Lincoln Bedroom for big contributors. "He was the innkeeper when the White House became the Holiday Inn," said our source. But others are vying for the job. John Kerry's circle is talking up Jean Shaheen, the former New Hampshire governor who chaired Kerry's campaign. And both Howard Dean and Donna Brazile, who ran Al Gore's campaign in 2000, want the job, as well as Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who wants to make sure his state's widely watched caucus continues to be held before any of the presidential primaries.

First, all of these reports should be taken with a grain of salt because, like the NY Sun, the Post is a rag with a right-wing bias and a vested interested in fomenting hurt feelings within the Democratic ranks ("Let's you and him fight!"). I have no doubt that there is a struggle going on, but whether it is just the usual type of political wrangling during moments of transition or whether it is something that could lead to a bloody fight remains to be seen.

Second, we should all note the early attempt to create a negative narrative for Ickes by the Post's description of him as being a central figure in the Lincoln Bedroom scandal's of the Clinton years. I wonder if that source with the "innkeeper" comment has the initials K.R.?

Third, I would hope that if Vilsack is serious about contending for the position that he has bigger priorities than just simply safe-guarding his home state's position as the first in the nation caucus. If that really is his primary concern then he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the position. The DNC doesn't need a leader who is more concerned about defending his turf then advancing the party as a whole.


ABC News also has a good run down of what is brewing, including a report from associates of Ickes that says he doesn't want the job.


And here's some words of wisdom from Dean himself.

“There is an enormous amount we can learn [from Kerry’s campaign], but it’s going to be learned privately,” he said.

Democrats have a habit of airing their internal criticisms. Our openness is one of our strengths because it is in our openness that we reveal our ability to adjust to a changing situation. But it is also a weakness because it harms the attempt to portray a united image to the voter. I think Dean is smart to try to and keep specific criticism of Kerry private. He isn't going to let himself get drawn into that kind of battle. Other prominent Democrats would be wise to do the same.

“We need more discipline in the Democratic Party,” he said. “We have to be a little more serious about what we do...We are going to have to work together, stop fighting over who is going to be this and who is going to be that and realize that if we don’t work together, the greater purpose of Democrats won’t be served.”

This is an interesting comment in the context of the discussion of running for the DNC chair. I think Dean is interested in the position, but I don't think he wants if (1) he won't have real power and (2) taking the job will produce an internecine battle within the party. If either condition holds true then I think he would rather work to reform the party from the outside. On that I would agree with him.

This is also an interesting comment coming from a guy who rose to prominence by openly criticizing the Democratic party. But Dean is not your typical rabble-rouser. He throws the bombs only when he thinks it is absolutely necessary and only where he thinks it will actually do the most good. His criticisms of the party in 2003 were to-the-point and much needed. But by this comment he is signaling to both the insiders and his supporters that he is not going to just be a critic. He wants positive results, not just the cheers of a the red-meat crowd.

“Republicans have the ability to put 60 people on talk shows on one day and have all of them say the same thing,” Dean said. “Bush was terrific on the stump. He repeated the same four things three times a day and that’s what dominated television.”

Dean applied this same principle in his own campaign. Deanizens used to joke about how we could quote his stump speech chapter and verse because it didn't vary much from the early days of his campaign to the end. But it was that very consistent message that was one of Dean's selling points. Dean didn't change his talking points at the first sign of a shift in the wind. It usually took a gale before he would change (e.g., towards the end he started making some noise about compromising on his repeal-all-the-tax-cuts idea). But even in that he demonstrated that his consistency was not of the same nature as the stubbornness of George W. Bush.

Where Dean's campaign was sorely lacking was in having those "60 people on talks shows" all saying the same thing. Dean had no surrogates to push his message. Kerry's campaign wasn't much better. He didn't field a consistent team of spokespeople until the last two months of the campaign (God bless Joe Lockhart). Democrats would be well advised to develop a program to train surrogates.


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