Sunday, December 12, 2004

Dean on MTP

The Left Coaster has the transcript of Howard Dean's appearance on today's Meet The Press (link). I won't comment on the whole thing, otherwise this post would go on forever, but there were a few passages that really stood out for me:

MR. RUSSERT: You just spent the weekend in Florida meeting with the state Democratic Party chairs. Are you close to running? Were they encouraging to you?

DR. DEAN: I am going to run if I think that I can win, if I think that they really want me. This is an institution and the people in the institution know that they have to change, but the pain of change is always greater. Until the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same, they aren't going to change.

I had a lot of debates with myself about whether to try to change things from the outside or change things from the inside knowing it was going to be a significant institutional resistance if I try to change things from the inside, but I concluded it's faster to change the party from the inside.

Dean wants the job. But he doesn't want it unless the people on the inside are willing to let him have it. In other words, he isn't interested in the job if he is going to have to spend all of his time dealing with party insiders who will be sabotaging his efforts. He recognizes that real change can come faster from the inside, but only if those on the inside are really willing to change. As he says somewhere else in this interview, the DNC has to reach the point where they realize the pain of changing is less than the pain of not changing. It is not yet clear whether they have reached that point.

MR. RUSSERT: Harry Reid, the new leader of the Democrats, was on the MEET THE PRESS last week, and he said he would be open to Antonin Scalia being appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court. There may be some ethical problems, he said. If he could get by those, he was very much impressed by the brilliance of his mind.

DR. DEAN: I like Harry Reid a lot. He's a straight shooter, and I think he's going to be a good leader. I disagree with him on this one. I think Antonin Scalia ought not to be on the Supreme Court, let alone chief justice, because I think he lacks judicial temperament.


DR. DEAN: I have appointed a great many judges [in] my career as governor. The second thing - after a work ethic that you look for when you're appointing a judge or a justice - is judicial temperament. That means - in our judicial system, it's very important for the loser and/or the winner in any case to feel like they've been treated fairly and respectfully by the court system. That's the glue that binds us together as a society. When you are sarcastic and mean-spirited, as the justice [Scalia] often is from the bench, it leaves the loser in that case feeling as if they were not respected by the judicial system, and that's why you don't put people with bad temperament on any court, and I certainly don't think they should be on the Supreme Court of the United States.

I like Dean's approach here a lot. He avoids the whole question of ideology or qualification and gets right to the issue that is most important in judicial appointments: can you trust a judge to give a fair hearing to those they might be otherwise inclined to disagree with? Dean is absolutely right that the cornerstone of our system of justice is that the results of deliberations be acceptable to the loser. If the losing parties start consistently refusing to accept the results then the process fails. If this loss of faith becomes endemic then the entire system of justice collapses.

We need judges that even the losers can say they feel they got a fair hearing and Scalia just doesn't pass muster on that test.

Neither does George W. Bush for that matter.

BTW, Dean shows an increasingly adept talent at dealing with potential hostility within the party. He praises Terry McAuliffe where he deserves to be praised, but points out his failings as well. He doesn't take the criticisms of Bob Kerrey or The New Republic personally and says that there is always going to be a diversity of opinions. He doesn't back MoveOn in their recent "We bought it, we own it" email, but he lauds them for the great work they have done. I think he has learned a lesson from the primary campaign that it doesn't help the reform effort to personalize the fight over reform.


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