Howard Dean is under fire again--this time from some of his fellow Democrats.
By Dean standards, what he said wasn't all that inflammatory. It was obviously a tongue-in-cheek remark that went a little too far--certainly no Tom-DeLay-should-be-in-jail slam. But in his new job Dean sometimes forgets, as he occasionally did when running for president, that tossing off the kind of jokes he did when he was governor of Vermont is risky in the echo chamber of national politics.
It was somewhat predictable, when Dean won the DNC chairmanship, that he'd become embroiled in flaps like this. The red-meat rhetoric that so excited his liberal base in 2003 and '04 is problematic when a chairman speaks, since he is presumed, fairly or unfairly, to be speaking for his party. As a candidate, he can imitate Rush Limbaugh snorting coke, I suppose, but as a DNC chairman, it creates controversy.
CNN even trotted out The Scream yesterday.
(On the other hand, journalists should thank their lucky stars that they have a colorful chairman to cover, as opposed to another strictly-on-message Ken Mehlman type.)
Dean stirred things up last Thursday in talking about Americans standing in long lines to vote: "Republicans, I guess, can do that because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives."
This brought a rebuke from Joe Biden, who told "This Week" that Dean "doesn't speak for me with that kind of rhetoric and I don't think he speaks for the majority of Democrats." And John Edwards said that "the chairman of the DNC is not the spokesman for the Democratic Party. . . . He's only a voice."
In Salon | http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/06/07/dean/index.html, former campaign manager Joe Trippi defends the doctor:
"It's one thing to be that voice as an insurgent anti-establishment candidate, it's another to do that as the chair of the party, and that's part of the wrestling he has to do with himself. But Howard is Howard at times. He will speak off-the-cuff and he will occasionally say something that's sorta impolitic, but that's what everybody loves about him. He's just not your 'watch every carefully crafted, calculated word' politician."
On the blogs, Patrick Carver at Southern Appeal | http://southernappeal.blogspot.com/2005/06/some-prominent-dems-not-happy-with.html sees Dean as a short-timer: "At this rate, I doubt Dean will survive the year as DNC chairman before being quietly asked to step aside."
Asked by whom, I wonder? Dean did win a majority of party delegates.
Ezra Klein | http://ezraklein.typepad.com/blog/2005/06/denouncing_dean.html is with the Democratic debunkers:
"Edwards and Biden, frankly, are right to denounce Dean. I like the Governor but his recent rhetoric doesn't just go too far, it goes there pointlessly. What, for instance, is the use of saying Republicans have never made an honest living in their lives? I'm as partisan as they come, but with Republicans easily winning the middle class, even I'm not able to believe this is a clear cut proletariat v. bourgeoisie confrontation.
"And even if Dean was, as he says, limiting his comments to the Republican leadership, that's still idiotic. Dennis Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach. Having been a wrestler, that means he was sticking around campus from 7AM to 6PM most days, and turning up for weekend tournaments as well. That's the textbook definition of an honest living, as the NEA would certainly tell the chairman.
"There's a right way and a wrong way to be virulently partisan."
Former Hill operative David Sirota | http://www.davidsirota.com sees Dean as a man of the people:
"I've been closely observing Howard Dean for a lot longer than most national political watchers. I first ran into him when I worked for Vermont's Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders. There, I got a close-up look at his governing style. Then, like everyone else, I watched his run for President and DNC Chairman. I'll be really honest - for a long time, I had mixed feelings about him. For many reasons, I never really got on the Dean 2004 bandwagon, even though I was impressed with him in a lot of ways (I think it was mainly because I had trouble pinning him down ideologically).
"But in recent months, I really have been impressed with him. And after spending some time with him yesterday at the DNC's Western Caucus meetings here in Helena, I've decided my recent inklings about him really are true. Dean, even with his minor imperfections, is very good for the national Democratic Party. Dean governed Vermont as a moderate, but ran for President as a populist progressive - which tended to confuse me. But when his progressive message caused controversy and when the media pressure was on for him to abandon that message, he essentially stuck to his guns in trying to give voice to the progressive fight.
"In doing so, of course, Democratic 'centrists' viciously attacked him during the Presidential campaign. . . . These 'centrists' think they do themselves a favor with such disloyalty. But what they have actually done is unify a strong contingent of the Democratic base around Dean. For his part, Dean understands that these centrist elites will never be his base of support within the party - nor should a chairman want them to be. So he has a political incentive to stay on the populist progressive message as DNC Chairman.
"In other words, the grassroots and the progressive wing of the party have become crucial to his political career/survival - and that's who he is going to fight for."
John Edwards | http://www.tpmcafe.com/story/2005/6/1/201845/7332, by the way, has been blogging over at Josh Marshall's new TPM Cafe site:
"One of the great things about what bloggers do is the way they make sure we see certain stories out there in the media that aren't getting the attention they deserve. Matt Yglesias - who puts guest bloggers like me to shame by blogging every day, round the clock, at his permanent home here - does exactly that with a good post about an article he found on Bush's cuts to Community Development Block Grants. It's an issue close to my heart, and one I spent a lot of time working on in the Senate, so I hope you'll check it out."
I know my readers are always hungry for any Hillary news, so here's an item I just wrote for the paper:
The conservative buzz about Edward Klein's forthcoming book on Hillary Rodham Clinton began two months ago, when Internet gossip Matt Drudge quoted "a source close to Klein" as warning that the book's revelations "should sink her candidacy."
"The sources say the revelations inside could torpedo Hillary Clinton's chances at a run at the White House," said MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman. The book "could prove a roadblock" to the New York senator's White House ambitions, said the Washington Times.
Well, maybe. But an excerpt from the July issue of Vanity Fair is less than devastating. Klein reports that the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who endorsed Clinton for his seat, didn't much like the former first lady and was concerned that she told people he never held hearings on her health care plan, when he had convened numerous hearings. Moynihan's wife, Liz, is described as telling a "friend" that Clinton is "duplicitous" and "would say or do anything that would forward her ambitions."
Vanity Fair may have outed Mark Felt as Deep Throat last week, but the hard shots against Clinton are taken by unnamed sources. Klein depicts her as an incompetent candidate who somehow managed to get elected in 2000, is described by visitors as a baggy-eyed "zombie" and is now transforming hersef "from the old, radical Hillary into the new, moderate Hillary." One unattributed tidbit says Bill Clinton wanted his wife to seek the presidency last year but that she decided she needed to establish a longer record.
Penguin Group has moved up to June 21 the release date for the book by Klein, a former New York Times Magazine editor and author of several volumes on the Kennedys.
Meanwhile, guess who was in action yesterday at a 250K "Women for Hillary" fundraiser?
"Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton castigated President Bush and Congressional Republicans yesterday as mad with power and self-righteousness, complained that the news media have been timid in taking on the administration, and suggested that some Washington Republicans have a God complex," says the New York Times | http://nytimes.com/2005/06/07/nyregion/07hillary.html?hp&ex=1118116800&en=95ef0148bfd88dad&ei=5094&partner=homepage.
"Senator Clinton, who is running for a second term in 2006 and is widely seen as a possible Democratic nominee for the presidency in 2008, said that her party is hamstrung in fighting back because Republicans dissemble and smear without shame. . . .
"The senator said that left unchallenged, Republican leaders could ram through extremist judges, wreck Social Security, and make unacceptable concessions to China, Saudi Arabia and other nations that finance the United States budget deficit."
What's particularly fascinating, after her criticism of coverage of her husband's administration in her vast-left-wing-conspiracy days, is the shots she takes at the press:
"'It's shocking when you see how easily they fold in the media today,' Mrs. Clinton said, again to strong applause. 'They don't stand their ground. If they're criticized by the White House, they just fall apart.
I mean, c'mon, toughen up, guys, it's only our Constitution and country at stake.'"
Could both sides run against the nattering nabobs in 2008?
American Prospect's Michael Tomasky | http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=9828 sees a certain gap in the recent Hillary coverage:
"Though the event took place more than a week ago, it's worth taking a moment to remark upon the May 27 acquittal of David Rosen, the fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign who'd been charged in a New Orleans federal court with hiding about $800,000 worth of costs for a gala Los Angeles event thrown for the then-first lady during her campaign.
"Why is it worth remarking upon? For two reasons. First, in the weeks leading up to the jury's decision, one could hear the galloping accelerando of wing-nut anticipation: FOX News, for example, did more than a dozen segments devoted mostly or partly to Rosen's fate in the three months leading up to the acquittal.
"Walking point on this matter, of course, was Dick Morris. He wrote in his New York Post column nine days before the acquittal that the case against Rosen was "getting stronger, increasing the odds the aide will start cooperating with the government"; about a week earlier, he had appeared on a Hannity & Colmes segment -- titled "Are Hillary's Presidential Chances Over?" -- outright accusing Clinton of having known about the under-reporting of the event's costs. I'd love to see the memos that were going around FOX during the trial planning the on-air party in the event of conviction.
"But ho! The party was canceled, and thus, the second reason for pointing out Rosen's acquittal: It's not exactly as if everyone has. FOX, after all the buildup, has mentioned Rosen's acquittal just twice, and both times as quickly and grudgingly as if being forced to report that global warming really did exist. MSNBC, which discussed Rosen five times in the months leading up to the acquittal, has not mentioned him since (most of those five were on Chris Matthews' Hardball; gosh, do you think Matthews would have been silent on the matter if the jury had found the other way?). In addition, the viewers of NBC News and the listeners of National Public Radio, if each group relied only on that source for its view of world, would not know of Rosen's acquittal, according to databases. And Matt Drudge, according to his archives, did not mention the acquittal."
Andrew Sullivan | http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-1641086,00.html offers readers of the Sunday Times of London this view of Hillary's White House chances:
"I can't find a single Democrat of my acquaintance who doesn't believe the Democratic nomination is hers to lose in 2008. . . .
"A couple of things have broken in her favour. The first is that she has proved herself a capable senator. With close to 70% approval ratings in New York state, she has been particularly adept at reaching out to rural voters in the northern parts of her constituency.
"Those voters are much more like Midwesterners than they are the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhattan -- and are a test case of how Democratic candidates can appeal to the swing voters George Bush won in 2004. She speaks about practical issues -- from healthcare to jobs and the needs of children. She does all this in decidedly non-ideological language. And she has formed a strange alliance with, of all people, Newt Gingrich, in formulating practical steps to tackle America 's expensive, inequitable but high-quality health system. . . .
"The second piece of good fortune has been the behaviour of the Republican Congress. Its obsession with ideological issues -- such as the Terri Schiavo case, stem cell research, or civil marriage for gay couples -- has helped her own pragmatism to stand out. . . .
"There is, of course, the question of her husband. Divorce won't happen. But a first husband who is also a former president could be a disaster. The Republican attack machine will try to remind voters of the scandals of the 1990s. But in the wake of 9/11, it may not work. For some the 1990s even seem worthy of some nostalgia. And Hillary's doggedness through all of that slime has dulled the lethalness of this vulnerability."
Of course, Bill is also a pretty good strategist, as I recall.
Tim Russert is widely viewed as being tough on both parties, but Arianna Huffington | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/archive/arianna-huffington/the-russert-watch-ken-m_2169.html is on something of an anti-Russert kick:
"As expected, the latest edition of Meet the Press, featuring RNC chair Ken Mehlman, was another classic example of why host Tim Russert is fast becoming journalism's answer to the 'E-ZPass,' those electronic tags that allow drivers to go through toll booths without having to stop. On the show today, Mehlman was allowed to distort, twist, manipulate, obfuscate and 'disassemble' his way through every stop on the disinformation highway.
"The key to the E-ZPass method, as HuffPost reader Paul Harry points out, is no follow-ups -- or lame follow-ups quickly abandoned. And Mehlman is a master at dealing with those. His technique? Just repeat or slightly rephrase his talking point, and trust that Russert will give up, wave him on, and proceed to the next prepared question."
Um, don't all political guests try to bob and weave?
"Early in the interview, Russert asks Mehlman whether 'the president has hit a wall with his domestic agenda. . . . What's the problem?'
"The RNC chair dances around the question so deftly his moves should be taught at Arthur Murray: 'Tim, I don't think there's a problem,' he responds, and then promptly changes the subject to Ronald Reagan before closing with an RNC commercial:
"'Before we provided prescription drugs for Medicare, we were told it wasn't going to happen. Before the president was able to move forward with No Child Left Behind, we were told it was stalled. We just passed class-action reform for the first time in six years and that, too, was predicted not to happen.'
"If Russert were doing his job, he would have countered with some well-aired problems with these three accomplishments: the Medicare prescription drug plan was promised to cost under $400 billion over ten years but now stands at $724 billion (and, in a stunning giveaway to the drug industry, the government gets no bulk purchasing discount); the No Child Left Behind Act has been such a massively underfunded disaster that 12 states are considering legislation to get out of it; and the class-action 'reform' was just a huge handout to corporate interests."
How dare Russert not act as a Democratic debater!
Finally, no wonder he kept these records secret:
"During last year's presidential campaign, John F. Kerry was the candidate often portrayed as intellectual and complex, while George W. Bush was the populist who mangled his sentences," the Boston Globe | http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/06/07/yale_grades_portray_kerry_as_a_lackluster_student/ observes.
"But newly released records show that Bush and Kerry had a virtually identical grade average at Yale University four decades ago.
"In 1999, The New Yorker published a transcript indicating that Bush had received a cumulative score of 77 for his first three years at Yale and a roughly similar average under a non-numerical rating system during his senior year.
"Kerry, who graduated two years before Bush, got a cumulative 76 for his four years, according to a transcript that Kerry sent to the Navy when he was applying for officer training school. He received four D's in his freshman year out of 10 courses, but improved his average in later years."