Saturday, February 21, 2004

Dean, Dean, Dean

Last Summer John Kerry was heard muttering, "Dean, Dean, Dean," in apparent exasperation over the media's focus on the Vermont Governor. Last Fall the same media told us Dean was inevitable. After it was pretty clear Dean was done after New Hampshire, he was still treated with about as much media attention as the front-runner, and more attention than the two candidates who may have had a chance to unseat Kerry from that position.

In the blogosphere we saw the Daily Kos turn into the Daily Dean. Now it is the Daily Dean Whinefest. Not Kos himself, who seems to have maturely moved on, but the endless stream of diary entries detailing the blend of paranoia and grief suffered by the most hard-core Deaniacs, who must be the whiniest followers of a candidate ever. Sure, the "I have a scream speech" got too much play. But perhaps not by much. It was the stupidest thing I've ever seen a candidate do. His primary audience was the nation, many of whom were getting their first real look at him, not just the young supporters in the room. Edwards was brilliant in his post-caucus speech. Dean was stunningly bad. Also, Dean largely received a free ride the previous twelve months. Remember, last summer Kerry was getting bashed for ordering Swiss Cheese on his Philly Cheese Sandwich and for letting folks think he was Irish.

Obviously, I'm disappointed that my candidate, Clark, did not fare better. At times I felt the press was less than "fair and balanced" in its coverage and it was as simplistic, sophomoric and wrong as it almost always is. But I also recognize that the Clark campaign made key blunders which led to its demise. Obviously, Clark talking with a group of reporters the night he entered the race was a colossal blunder that put him on the defensive much of the race. The commercials did a good job of introducing the candidate, but failed to close the deal in the closing days of key primaries. Much of the professional staff seemed more focused on self interest than loyal to Clark. I hope no candidate I ever support allows himself or herself anywhere close to Matt Bennett and, certainly, Chris Lehane. And, perhaps the most stunning blunder ever, how is a candidate not prepared for the abortion question? That episode alone should prevent Clark's key advisors from participating in Dem politics forever. Still, I tend to think Clark may have a political future. For a novice, I think he became a fairly strong candidate. At the very least, he certainly should have a key role in a Democratic administration.

Dean, on the other hand, was a lousy candidate. In fact, my second post ever on this blog indicated as much last June:

Sorry Howard Dean lovers. It’s not that I don’t understand the attraction. I kinda do. But he has a long way to go to be viewed as presidential by a majority of voters. Granted, I’m often amazed that anyone with more than a 5th grade education views Dubya as presidential so I’m not necessarily an expert. I know he is going after that John McCain magic, and is closer to it than most. But while John McCain had more candor in 2000 than most candidates, he also had far more political savvy than Dean has displayed. McCain showed unusual restraint for a man with a supposedly legendary temper.

I get the feeling Dean just wants to get back in the ring and wrestle somebody, anybody. And to beat the VRWC a candidate has to have a lot of fight. But he or she also needs sufficient restraint. Dean routinely chooses his words poorly. If he were a football coach other coaches would love the bulletin board material he provides. Russert may have had him in his sights, but he just hit him with the ammo Bush & Co. already had in their quiver. Perhaps now he can get better prepared, but I doubt he’ll come far enough, fast enough. Dean’s relative honeymoon with the media is coming to an end. From here on out it just gets tougher.

I don't see Dean becoming a much better Presidential candidate in the future. Impulsivity has apparently been a problem all his life. And contrary to some of his followers belief, he is no "Goldwater" in the sense that he is presaging a movement. What would that movement be? Goldwater was a conservative who was a counter to country club Republicanism. What are Dean's key ideological beliefs? Fiscal conservatism? Seriously, Dean tapped into a movement, he didn't create it. Is it a peace movement? No, he was against a particular war, sorta. As a serious Presidential contender, Dean is done. Maybe he can replace Jeffords. I think Dean would make an interesting contribution in the Senate representing Vermont.

Deaniacs, if any still read this site, as the title of the progessive website states, Moveon.


A reader asked if "Moveon" meant Dean supporters were not welcome here. That was not what I was trying to communicate and I regret the ambiguity that may have led to that conclusion. As Clinton has said, Democrats fall in love, but there is a time when we need to fall in line. We are rapidly approaching that time. Within a couple of weeks we'll know if Edwards' long-shot campaign still has life. If so, we'll still have a battle. If not, we need to get on the same team. I've slammed Kerry on this site. Not my first or second choice. I'm concerned about what I perceive to be his weaknesses, but I have no doubt that he is far superior to Bush. Then again, the average person on the street would be better than Bush. That's how bad it is. I'd rather take my chances picking a name out of the phone book than have the Shrub for four more years. Actually, I think Kerry would make a reasonably good President. I suspect Edwards is more electable. Either way, the nominee is my candidate.

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