Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Democratic Leaders Standing With Dean

We've heard from the tutu brigade. Now we hear from the real leaders:

A round of criticism from fellow Democrats and major donors about Howard Dean's four-month tenure as Democratic National Committee chairman has prompted Senate leaders to rise to his defense at a public event planned for today.

Originally scheduled as a private meeting between Dean and the leadership team of Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, today's session instead will now include a news conference and photo opportunity as a public embrace of Dean, who has rocked the political world over the past week with provocative condemnations of the Republican party. [...]

Most of the criticism of Dean has come from prospective presidential candidates in 2008, such as Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, who said Dean does not speak for the majority of Democrats, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who said Dean is not the spokesman for the Democratic Party.

''Time will tell" whether Dean has undercut his standing, said Harold Ickes, a longtime Clinton adviser who supported Dean's bid for DNC chairman. ''There are people who are unhappy about it and think his comments are less than helpful. Some of his comments will reinforce the view that he sometimes talks before he really thinks through the implications."


Bridget Siegel, who resigned last week as the DNC's finance chair for New York State, defended Dean in an interview yesterday. ''He's actually been great in New York, meeting with a number of donors," she said. ''The donors have been very responsive."

The departure of Siegel and two other top financial aides in Washington and California had been cited by Dean's critics among party donors as a sign of turmoil at the top, but Siegel denied any falling-out with Dean and stressed that she supports his mission. [...]

She also noted that the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which outlawed unlimited soft-money contributions and now caps annual individual contributions to a national party at $26,700, hurts Democrats, who historically relied on huge donations from a few dozen wealthy donors.

Dean's popularity in the 2004 presidential primaries opened up a new avenue of fund-raising through smaller Internet donations. His supporters dismiss criticism of Dean as inside-the- Beltway carping and maintain that Dean intends to build a new, more grass-roots donor base.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said that while some of Dean's phrases have been inartful, he has been an effective party chairman so far. He accused Republicans of trying to ''divert the attention" of the American people by focusing on Dean's comments instead of what the GOP has failed to accomplish on pressing issues, such as jobs, health care, and adequate armor for US troops in Iraq.

''There's some areas where you may have used other kinds of words, but I think he's done a pretty good job," Kennedy said.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi also defended Dean, saying he had ''energized the base of the party. He has a plan for building the infrastructure of the party. People feel very involved in terms of issues, organization, and communication."

The article could do a better job of pointing out that the stories about Dean's poor fundraising are bogus, but I appreciate the quote from one of the fundraisers who left the DNC earlier this year. It proves that my previous point was correct: they weren't leaving because they were angry with Dean. They just realized that Dean's emphasis on small-money donations (and the changes brought about by McCain-Feingold) meant that their efforts would be more helpful elsewhere.

It sounds like Reid is going to stand behind Dean tomorrow. That should be a very positive sign for the future of the party.

Of course, I bet Reid and Pelosi have been having a little more "frank exchange of views" behind the scenes. But that's the way these kind of things should be handled. It's fine to criticize out of the view of the cameras and reporters.


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