Wednesday, December 24, 2003

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Howard Dean is so in the mainstream

For those who believe that Howard Dean is too far out of the political mainstream should consider this defense of him:

Dean’s critique of American politics remains both limited and superficial. It stops precisely where it should begin. This is not primarily a function of Dean’s personality or intellectual powers. Rather, it flows from his position as a defender of American capitalism and the basic interests of the US ruling class.

The source? "Howard Dean rejects Washington Post charge that he is “beyond the mainstream,” David Walsh and Barry Grey, World Socialist Web Site.

UPDATE: On a more serious note, Will Saletan seems to adopt a slightly schizophrenic position towards Dean in two separate Slate stories on Dean's latest speech. Saletan said the following last Thursday:

Dean is doing the same thing [as Clinton did before -- triangulation]. When he claims to stand for a "new era" different from Clinton's, he isn't really ditching Clinton's agenda. He's just bashing Clinton so that his audience—liberals, angry Democrats, and disgusted nonvoters—won't think of his agenda as Clintonism.

Dean's speech doesn't libel Clinton; it plagiarizes him. Clinton advocated a "New Covenant." Dean advocates a "New Social Contract." Clinton promised basic guarantees to all those who worked hard. Dean promises "basic guarantees to all those who are working hard." Clinton proposed $10,000 a year in college aid. Dean proposes $10,000 a year in college aid. Clinton proposed a retirement savings program. Dean proposes a retirement savings program. Clinton created Americorps as a model of community service. Dean calls Americorps a model of community service.

However, this week, Saletan says:

Either all this stuff from the Dean campaign about the establishment is an attack on the Clintonian center, or it's the usual meaningless blather that politicians toss to crowds to make themselves look nonpolitical. Either way, it's fake. I think it's blather, but the more Dean talks about it and applies it to various issues, the more it looks like an attack on the center. And if that's the mission Dean has in mind, Democrats would be well-advised to jump off his truck before he blows it up.

Dean often says Democrats can't win by running as "Bush lite." Thursday, he accused "Washington Democrats" of failing to oppose President Bush more diametrically on Iraq, tax cuts, and education. "The Democratic Party has to offer a clear alternative," he argued. Toward that end, Dean rejects nearly every proposition or policy put forward by Bush. "We are no safer today than we were the day the planes struck at the World Trade Center," Dean said Thursday, adding that the capture of Saddam Hussein "does not mean that this president—or the Washington Democrats—can declare victory in the war on terror."

Picture that debate next year: On one side, Bush, the Washington Democrats, support for some tax cuts, relief at Saddam's capture, and the belief that by toppling the Taliban, if not Saddam, we're safer today than we were on 9/11. On the other side, Howard Dean.

posted by Dan on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM


As they say, where you sit all depends on where you stand (or is it the reverse?).

I looked forward, with great anticipation, to Dean's self-defense on the newly hostile WaPo's editorial page last week. What a bust! That guy can't argue his way out of a paper bag. He starts off with a whine, moves on to an angry denunciation, then (finally) defines "mainstream" foreign policy (rhetorically, where he should have begun, don't you think?) before declaring himself the very epitome of mainstream thinking. All I took away from his piece is that the guy really isn't too bright and his FP advisors either can't or won't take a bright red pen to his work.

I was left thinking, perhaps it is better that a rather incurious fellow like W occupy the White House given that he likes to delegate and doesn't have an inflated opinion of his own intellect.

Merry Everything everyone!

posted by: Kelli on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

I haven't made my mind up on Dean but let's be fair: W. hasn't really shown that he has the ability to keep his team in line. Why else would the pentagon piss of Europe (with the bid restrictions) at the same time that Baker is out there, trying to get the debt relieved?

Lincoln had a great cabinet, but you can't keep a group of intelligent and knowledgeable men in women in line unless you're willing to understand the issues and come up with a coherent narrative. You can complain about Dean's positions on the issues if you want, there’s a lot to disagree with, but I don't think you can accuse him of being weak like W.

After having a long proud tradition of Strong Republican leadership, is W. the best guy that can be found?

posted by: Tommaso Sciortino on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

not a dean backer, but to make the claim that he has no intellect because his level of public discourse relies upon whines, anger, etc. is confused. the two-party, winner take all, u.s. political system rewards this rhetorical style. this is a problem of our antiquated democracy, not our politicians. if anything, this lousy argumentativeness of dean's illustrates he is clever enough to play the game.

posted by: jonk on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

The problem (one of them, anyway) with Dean isn't that he's not smart enough, it's that he thinks he's smarter than everybody else.

Also, being angry helps a candidate win primaries but not general elections.

Happy Festivus

posted by: Hei Lun Chan on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

“Why else would the pentagon piss of Europe (with the bid restrictions) at the same time that Baker is out there, trying to get the debt relieved?”

It’s called bad cop/good cop diplomacy---and it usually works splendidly. I guess the above poster hasn’t been looking at the recent media reports. Already the Old Europeans are starting to come around. Why in heaven’s name do so many Americans think that wimpy rear end licking is the proper way to conduct foreign policy?

posted by: David Thomson on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

“Dean often says Democrats can't win by running as ‘Bush lite.’”

This is just another way for Howard Dean to attack the New Democrats. The latter believe that they are merely seeking a third way between the Republicans and the liberal Democrats. They even argue that their stand is virtuous and not one based on cowardly expediency. Unfortunately, the hard core Democrat leftists are ideologically committed to marginalizing these folks---if not even excommunicating them. It’s time for Robert Rubin and Brad DeLong to wake up and smell the coffee. They are the ones being described as “Bush lite.” The very fact that they support free trade policies is sufficient to position themselves outside the mainstream of those involved in the Democrat presidential nominating process.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

I know Brad DeLong, and his views aren't Bush Lite. (He attacks Bush as often as Krugman does.)

I haven't asked Brad who he supports in the primary, but I very, very strongly doubt if it's Lieberman.

TAPPED has an excellent post on Dean and the DLC (excerpt)

And cooperation is exactly what they've [i.e. Bush–AJL] gotten, from folks like Zell Miller, John Breaux, and Max Baucus, who've helped move terrible legislation to the president's desk and let the GOP get away with running the most partisan congress in generations. The DLC didn't support any of these bills, but I haven't seen them criticizing those who did, many of them card-carrying New Democrats. We know the DLC doesn't shy away from condemning Democrats from the left wing of the party who cast votes that displease them, but they've been utterly silent on the craven behavior of the party's right wing.

posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

If Dean convinces me he will govern like Clinton, then I'll vote for the socialist idiot.

posted by: Matt Young on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

Some people commenting on this blog looking for the guy who really thinks he's smarter than everyone else need look no further than their own posts.

I read and read here day after day because Josh "I'm for the war -- wait a minute -- no I'm not" Marshall has referenced it so favorably. So far I am not impressed.

posted by: The Ox on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

“I know Brad DeLong, and his views aren't Bush Lite. (He attacks Bush as often as Krugman does.)”

Brad DeLong even served in the Bill Clinton White House. More importantly, he believes in free trade. Those who will determine the Democrat Presidential nominee consider that to be Bush Lite! What about the Democrats who will vote in the general election? They might indeed have more in common with Brad DeLong---but it’s the nomination process which selects the Party’s standard-bearer.

posted by: David Thomson on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

Dean backer here. But I have to admit that I do squirm when he comes up with self-lacerating quips. His soundbytes are uncomfortable, to put it lightly - "Bush Lite" is the least of examples. Yeah, he is a smart-ass. But what won me over, personally, is watching him talk in smaller environments - like town halls, interviews - where he fleshes out, rationalizes, his ideas more fully.

Also, just because he is for health care and good education across the board doesn't mean he is an all-out "socialist idiot." Why are people so against these ideas? These seem like reasonable goals for the wealthiest nation in the world. Trust me, if he were 100% socialist or a head-in-the-clouds treehugging liberal, I would not be supporting him.

Another thing, everyone keeps complaining that he always whines and points fingers. I'm not going to make a rebuttal, but I mean, c'mon, like he's the only one who whines. You want to see a real whiner? Look at Lieberman.

A lot of the previous comments talk about how self-important Dean is. It's probably true, but unlike some people here, I prefer a self-important person who can make smart decisions to W, who mind-numbingly offends an entire continent (Europe) one day and then pleads their help the next.

posted by: Jen Park on 12.24.03 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

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