Screaming at Dean

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 20, 2005 9:03 AM

Howard Dean is in hot water again.

The right-wing blogosphere is after him.

Bob Novak is after him.

Left-wingers aren't really defending his latest outburst.

And he faces Tim Russert on Sunday.

So much for keeping a low profile.

Actually, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee has managed to stay off the media's radar screen since blowing away his rivals in the party election earlier this year. He hasn't been out making policy pronouncements, leaving that to the likes of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

But the former Vermont governor hasn't entirely lost his penchant for eye-catching (or eye-rolling) comments. This was the rap against him when he jumped from his presidential campaign into the DNC race, that he would force the party to clean up his rhetorical messes. Supporters, however, said Dean would bring new energy, Internet savvy and fundraising prowess to the party.

I think it's safe to say the Republicans would love to run against Howard Dean in '06, just as the Dems would love to run against Tom DeLay. Dean had probably hoped that a stint as party chief would change his 2004 image of left-wing bomb thrower into something closer to the moderate governor he was in Montpelier.

But the right is clearly monitoring his every adjective and is determined to make him pay a price (not that Republicans would ever use over-the-top language, of course).

The latest assault began with the Novak column:

"After Howard Dean last weekend declared Tom DeLay ought to be in jail, a longtime Democratic operative told me the party's national chairman had momentarily ripped off his muzzle but that it soon would be restored. My source erred, however, in believing that Dean ever had been muzzled. It's just that nobody has paid much attention to his rants.

"Since his election as chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Feb. 12, Dean has studiously avoided most national television exposure. But he has been talking to party gatherings across the country, and his intemperate language at these outings contradicts the notion that he has been kept under control. . . .

"He was not. He has described the Republican leadership, in various venues, as 'evil,' 'corrupt' and 'brain-dead.' He has called Sen. Rick Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, a 'liar.'

"What he said last weekend differed from this invective only in that it was presented to an urban forum and so became public knowledge. Addressing the Massachusetts Democratic convention in Lowell, Dean declared: '' think DeLay ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence down there courtesy of the Texas taxpayers.' Dean would jail DeLay without trial, without indictment and without accusation of any crime.

"National chairmen are supposed to fire up the troops, but Dean's rhetoric crosses a line."

I'd love to hear what Dean has to say about Novak and, say, the outing of Valerie Plame.

Captain's Quarters makes the contrast that is echoing around the blog world:

"Howard Dean has a well-known problem of foot chewing, and he indulged himself again yesterday on his new favorite subject, Tom DeLay. Despite the lack of any criminal investigation into DeLay -- and the bogged-down ethics allegations that have now enveloped a host of Democrats along with the GOP House whip -- Dean just can't stop declaring DeLay guilty before even being indicted. . . .

"The DNC chairman sang a completely different tune in the winter of 2003, when asked if he supported the death penalty for Osama bin Laden. As the Arizona Republic and Tom DeLay's office recalls, not only did Dean evade that question, he scolded people for assuming bin Laden's guilt before a jury reached a verdict.

"'I've resisted pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found,' Dean said during the 2004 Democratic primary campaign. 'I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials.'

"So what the chair of the Democratic National Committee has pronounced is a dual standard of jurisprudence, one in which Republicans have less due process than Islamofascist terrorists that have declared war on America and murdered thousands of Americans. In the World According To Howard Dean, we must not presume the guilt of bin Laden for mass murder -- but Tom DeLay, as an eeeeevil Republican, deserves no presumption of innocence for campaign-finance and ethics violations."

Jay Nordlinger says the press is giving the Doctor a pass:

"Can you believe DNC chairman Howard Dean? Of course you can -- because you know him, after these two or three years. He can't stop popping off, saying Tom DeLay belongs in jail, that the Republicans are 'evil' (while the Democrats represent 'good'), that 'George Bush is not my neighbor,' etc., etc. He must have learned some weird stuff when he was reading Job, his favorite New Testament book. (Remember that?) Of course, if Ken Mehlman, the RNC chief, talked like Dean . . . he would be run out on a rail. Or at least run out of his job.

"So too, the Democratic leader in the Senate calls President Bush a 'loser,' and the reaction is basically inaudible.

"Look, we're all grownups, but the media's double standard yawns at us again: No injury done Republicans can really count. And if a Republican leader so much as looks cross-eyed at someone media-approved . . . Scandal City.

"I think the press has simply accepted that Dean is a little 'touched,' or alternatively 'passionate,' freewheeling, and that his outrages aren't really news. If Ken Mehlman were grossly insulting or irrational -- that would be 'Man Bites Dog.' But is no Democrat embarrassed by Dean?"

Todd Haskins at Blue State sounds disappointed with Dean:

"While most of us may agree that DeLay engaged in criminal-like behavior with lobbyists, that is not a reason for Dean to lose focus of his main goal: attracting swing voters. Now conservatives like Robert Novak of Crossfire are successfully painting Dean as an extremist. 'This fits the vile pattern set by leftist extremists who send me dozens of e-mails every week saying I should be in prison,' Novak said on yesterday's edition of Crossfire. 'Howard Dean is contributing to this pollution of politics.'. . . .

"Don't get me wrong. Howard Dean is a very smart, articulate and well-educated individual that wants nothing more than seeing his country travel down the right track. But sometimes he needs to put a lid on his loud towards the Republican Party while talking in front of a large media contingent."

The Senate filibuster fight continues, at a snail's pace:

"The bitter struggle in the Senate over restricting filibusters is the culmination of years of growing partisanship and ideological warfare that have transformed this 18th-century institution," says the New York Times. "Many senators entered the battle with a grim sense of inevitability, saddened but not surprised that it had come to this.

"Older senators talk wistfully of a more civil era that they say has now largely vanished. The few remaining centrists say the fierce partisan currents make it very hard to build the bipartisan coalitions necessary to do something big - like shoring up Social Security - or to defuse internal disputes like the present one over judges.

"Senators in both parties complain about the increasingly aggressive demands of outside advocacy groups on issues like judicial nominations, and their unwillingness to settle for anything less than victory."

I guess cheesecake sells newspapers: The New York Post has got pix of Saddam in his underwear. Yowza!

New Republic owner Marty Peretz spanks Newsweek:

"The journalistic establishment is circling the wagons, of course. Journalists usually blame themselves last and forgive themselves first. They are taking special umbrage at the White House's indignation about Newsweek's iniquity and insisting that this is the pot calling the kettle anti-Muslim. It is certainly true that the Bush administration, at Guantánamo and at Abu Ghraib, is responsible for a good deal of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world. The Bush administration is not perfectly qualified to give lessons in transparency. But, if Scott McClellan should not be allowed to hide behind Michael Isikoff, neither should Michael Isikoff be allowed to hide behind Scott McClellan. The subject this week is not the misdeeds of government. The subject this week is the misdeeds of journalism. No wonder many editors and editorialists want to change the subject.

"'We feel badly': With those insultingly wan words, Whitaker thinks that he has wrapped things up. All of Newsweek's penitential protestations notwithstanding, what emerges from this episode is the image of a profession that is complacent, self-righteous, and hopelessly in love with itself. Is this a terrible generalization? Well, there are 17 people who lost their lives because of the state of journalistic practice at a U.S. magazine. When American journalists do not think of themselves as heroes, they think of themselves as victims; but here they are neither. They are--I mean Isikoff and his editors--simply scavengers."

On the never-ending prison abuse debate, Andrew Sullivan quotes a line from InstaPundit and launches his defense:

" I do confess that I think that winning the war is much more important than Abu Ghraib, and that viewing the entire war -- and the entire American military -- through the prism of Abu Ghraib is as unfair as judging all Muslims by the acts of terrorists.

"This sentence is one I can fully agree with. But one has to ask: where has he been for the past year? Accusations - and convictions - of torture and abuse can be found in literally dozens of detainment facilities, across Afghanistan, in Tikrit, Camp Cropper, Basra, Gitmo, and on and on. Thirty six inmates have died under interrogation. No cases of abuse were found in any detention facilities that were not geared toward interrogation. Abu Ghraib is therefore one smidgen of the problem, hyped because of highly selective visuals. . . .

"Glenn [Glenn Reynolds, who is InstaPundit] has one sub-clause in his rejoinder that even says: 'when Andrew was a champion of the war on terror.' Excuse me? My careful, fully documented criticisms of the U.S. treatment of detainees have been made not because I am anti-war or anti-military. They are because I am pro-war and pro-military. Does Glenn really believe for a second that idiotic tactics like brandishing fake menstrual blood or Stars of David at Muslim inmates are good interrogation practices? Does he think these excrescences have helped gain any useful intelligence in any way? The problem with these abuses is that they are evil and stupid; immoral and counter-productive, as so many experts in interrogation will testify. All of this is the gift to bin Laden that keeps on giving. But it wasn't Newsweek who gave him the gift. It was this administration. And, indirectly, those who shill for it."

The press loves to draw huge lessons from single elections, but Joel Kotkin urges caution from L.A.:

"It would be a vast overstatement to ascribe national implications to Villaraigosa's victory. There is little reason to believe that he symbolizes the future of Latino politics at the national level; and even in Los Angeles, the lessons that it is possible to draw from yesterday's election are tempered by the circumstances surrounding this particular race--namely, the incumbent mayor's extreme unpopularity. All of which is to say that Democrats, ever hopeful that Latinos will someday save them from political exile, should not read too much into Villaraigosa's win.

"Villaraigosa, beloved as he is in the parlor left circles in Hollywood and the city's west side, did not run as either a labor or left-wing candidate. Instead, he ran a remarkably tepid, amorphous campaign, presenting himself as a candidate who could unify Los Angeles. . . .

"Unlike African-Americans, who tend to vote solidly Democratic, Latino voters break down into a number of subgroups--some of which tend to be very liberal, while others tend to be far more conservative. This should be obvious to anyone who followed last year's presidential election in which George W. Bush received roughly 40 percent of the Latino vote."

An interesting debate here about journalism, with Atrios saying reporters should wise up:

"What they seem to fail to understand is that they spent the last dozen or so years accommodating and encouraging a bunch of people whose goal it is to effectively wipe them out. Reap, sow, yada yada. As many others have pointed out, while criticism from the left (which they ignore) is about making them better, the right is pretty much out to destroy any media in this country that doesn't exist for the sole purpose of encouraging tax cuts, demonizing gay people, and generally supporting the agenda of Dear Leader."

But Kevin Drum raises a red flag:

"Here's the deal. Newspapers have been slowly dying for a long time. . . . That's a real problem, because newspapers are the only consistent source of real reporting we have. In fact, you can narrow it down further: the only sources of serious, day-to-day reporting left in the United States are the major national dailies: the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, and a couple of others with big reporting staffs.

"But here's what the public hears about newspapers from the blogosphere:

"From the right: newspapers suck because they're too liberal.

"From the left: newspapers suck because they're craven apologists for the Bush administration.

"We can kid ourselves all we want that our toughlove approach to media criticism is aimed only at 'making them better,' but that's not what the public hears. They hear a group of squabbling teenagers who both agree that newspapers suck. So they tune out. And all that's left is network news with its 90-second 'in-depth' segments, 20/20 and A Current Affair, talk radio, and blogs.

"Now, Atrios is correct that the right is out to destroy the media -- especially the major national dailies, which set the tone for so much other coverage because they're the ones with serious reporting capabilities. This has been a key goal of theirs for decades, and conservative bloggers are merely their latest foot soldiers. And why not? 80% of the most popular political blogs are conservative, so media bashing is a twofer: it eliminates an enemy and simultaneously promotes a medium that's dominated by conservatives.

"Given all this, liberals should think very hard before joining the media bashing crusade too eagerly."

I would disagree. Maybe not with the "bashing" part; we could all with a little less he's-evil-and-should-die criticism. And I'd like to see newspapers restore some of their good name. But if folks on the left are just as motivated to object to media coverage as their counterparts on the right, so be it. I think it's healthy for MSM types to have to engage their critics of all stripes and show readers they're not remote and arrogant and defensive.

Finally, Media Bistro nails the puffiest bio among the hordes of Huffington Post contributors:

"After working as an actress, designing a line of women's clothes and running her own public relations company in her native London, Kathryn moved to Los Angeles in 1986. Within six weeks of her arrival she met and married Saturday Night Live filmmaker, Gary Weis. Together with Weis, she produced over thirty music videos in less than three years for performers such as Paul Simon, The Bangles, Foreigner and George Harrison. With the arrival of her three boys, Oscar, Otis and Louis, Kathryn put producing on hold and put her energy into making homes for her family. Her farmhouse in Southern France and her Spanish-style house in Santa Monica both depict her now signature style - a charmed life split between an English manor and French farmhouse. The ambient charm of these design influences have been infused with California cool, producing a casual magic that inspired friends Steve Martin, David Mamet, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Lady Annabel Goldsmith to commission Kathryn to recreate the same style for their homes."

It goes on. And on.

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