June 05, 2005
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. For an example of the right way, Dean should get some pointers from Harry Reid, who's been landing punches without falling out of the ring. Here's Reid in Rolling Stone:
RS: You've called Bush a loser.
Reid: And a liar.
RS: You apologized for the loser comment.
Reid: But never for the liar, have I?
The lesson? Nail them for what they've done, not what you think of them. DeLay's corruption is proven, his criminality is not. The leadership's myopia is obvious, their working habits are not. It's fine for Dean to punch hard, but even the newest fighter knows you have to hit from higher ground.
Update: I'm kinda fascinated by the idea that Dean was wrong in his comments, but Edwards/Biden was wrong to condemn them. Is there any evidence that private warnings spur Dean to bit his tongue? Further, isn't it likely that Edwards and Biden were trying to separate themselves from Dean's comments, not passing objective judgment on what he said? The fault here, in my eyes, is Dean's for making comments outlandish enough that other Democratic pols are not only being asked about them, but feeling compelled to distance themselves from them.
As comparison, this isn't like Reid's liar comment, where Democrats want to start a discussion about whether or not Bush is a liar. Dean's comments, though understandable, are basically indefensible, and any self-interested poll confronted with them is going to quickly create daylight. Dean should stop putting them in that position. And I, by the way, like Dean very much and think he's been doing a generally good job. But he's got to be smarter about his rhetoric.
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» Edwards and Biden Criticize Dean from Taegan Goddard's Political Wire
Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) "are criticizing party chairman Howard Dean, saying his rhetorical attacks on Republicans have gone too far," the AP reports. Dean recently said Republicans "never made an honest living in th... [Read More]
Tracked on Jun 5, 2005 8:27:42 PM
» Intra-party scuffles from Dadahead
Klein's argument seems to be that since what Dean said was wrong, Edwards and Biden were right to call him out on it in the media. This does not follow. Any 'denouncing' of Dean should be done in private if possible, or at least within the confines o... [Read More]
Tracked on Jun 5, 2005 9:16:01 PM
Tracked on Jun 6, 2005 9:17:39 AM
Tracked on Jun 6, 2005 11:29:33 AM
» A day late, a dollar short from Mark in Mexico
However, in another story, NewsMax reports that Howard Dean may soon lose his position as head of the Democratic National Committee because he has alienated the big bucks contributors. The money issue looks like this; [Read More]
Tracked on Jun 6, 2005 11:36:34 AM
» Howard Dean, the soul of political judgment from Waveflux
Chairman HoDee demonstrates once again that if it's worth saying at all, it's worth saying in the most intemperate way possible. While discussing the hardship of working Americans standing in long lines to vote, Dean said Thursday, "Republicans, I gues... [Read More]
Tracked on Jun 6, 2005 2:44:20 PM
Edwards & Biden certainly have the right to disagree with Dean, but in house, privately.
I saw Biden on This Week today, Stephanopoulos played a couple of 2 second bits hacked from Dean's speech at the "Take back American" convention.
Biden played "sock-puppet" for Steph.
You have a good point about Dean's public comments, but Biden ought to know better than criticizing his party's leadership as he did.
Personally, I would prefer my party's senators not echoing RNC talking points.
Posted by: basilbeast | Jun 5, 2005 8:18:46 PM
Bob Johnson at DailyKos points out that this week was one in which the President and Vice-President pretty much "made shit up" regarding Iraq.
But of course, Democrats are asked what they think about Howard Dean. And Biden and Edwards and everyone else is an idiot for answering the questions, for talking about it, for thinking it's an issue. It's not. So what if Howard Dean says some mean things about the GOP? I've been called all sorts of names by politicians, pundits, letter writers, callers to radio shows and even people I work and go to church with.
If anyone disagrees with Dean's statements, then they can talk to him privately. I have a hard time believing that Biden and Edwards would face difficulty in arranging that. But in public, we should show a united front. Dean said Republicans don't work for a living? Well, if the GOP is so concerned for the working class, then why did they do X, and why are they proposing Y?
I remember hearing about how Bob Shrum nixed some harsh ads that the Kerry campaign was going to run because they were "too negative" and his "working class" father wouldn't have liked them. Well, I think we know where that got us. Civil political discourse, apart from being largely mythological, is for pussies. It's time we fought to win, not score niceness points with people who will then refuse to vote for us because we're perceived as weak.
And really, calling a person a liar, no matter how much substantiation one has, is pretty low. Reid gets away with what he does because the media has not cast him in the role of loose cannon. Reverse what Dean and Reid said, and Biden/Edwards would be denouncing Dean for calling Bush a liar.
Posted by: Stephen | Jun 5, 2005 8:34:44 PM
But this isn't about toughness or negativity, it's about crossing far enough that you open yourself up for attack. Saying no Republican has ever put in an honest day's work is a bit different than calling Bush a liar. As Amnesty showed with their "gulag" comment, some times you want to be extreme to get press coverage. But what Dean's doing isn't offering extremism for good press, it's offering factually incorrect comments to feed his loose cannon persona. As he would've said during the campaign, "we can do better".
Posted by: Ezra | Jun 5, 2005 8:40:31 PM
The sentiment is right, the public denunciation is stupid - especially coming from two prominent Dems who both have "President MEEEEEEE!" tattooed on their foreheads. Dean's more over-the-top sentiments have been mostly local and under the radar; this move raises Dean's profile as "crazy man of the DNC" while starting a new round of news cycles on the doomed Democratic Party and its internecine warfare.
The smart thing to do would've been to get the leadership to sit down with Dean and tell him to get on message. That, however, would've merely been constructive, smart, and far-sighted, instead of a mere shallow display of faux-centrist credentials for a pair of utterly doomed political preeners (no, people, John Edwards will not get any nomination in '08, no matter how much you pretended to like his lame blogging last week).
Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Jun 5, 2005 8:44:33 PM
What you say is true, to a certain extent. Certainly, since he has been typecast, Dean should watch his mouth more. However, it is equally as important - no, more so - that other prominent Democrats do not feed into the various myths about the Democratic Party and certain Democrats in particular. Letting the talking heads ask such inane questions without calling them on it does nothing for us, and we certainly don't need to be giving the impression of party strife.
And this is the type of thing that will feed that meme, not legitimate disagreements within the party. No one is going to care what the president of NOW said about pro-life Democrats. That requires too much understanding of issues for the average "journalist" to get across. But hey look! Howard Dean said Repbublicans don't work, and Joe Biden and John Edwards say that is wrong! Those silly Democrats. Can't they even get along with each other?
Posted by: Stephen | Jun 5, 2005 8:59:07 PM
Edwards and Biden can distance themselves from Dean's comments without denouncing him. If they disagree, they should talk with him privately. If they're on the Sunday talk shows and George S. or Tim Russert are asking them for commentary, they should downplay it. Or better yet, take a page from the Republicans and use it as an opportunity to illustrate how ugly the rhetoric is on the other side.
Posted by: Terri | Jun 5, 2005 9:10:16 PM
Pray tell, then, Iron Lungfish, who is going to get the Dem nomination in 08? Which candiate, certified pure enough by the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party" will lead us down the primrose path to electoral annihilation?
This is what we got when our "grass roots" won the DNC chair for Dean. The more we see Dean, the less likely it is we'll win, for a host of reasons. When other Dems emerge, be they dread centerists or more acceptable "progressives," Dean will become politically irrelevant and we'll be able to lay effective groundwork for 2008. As for this latest tempest in a teapot will be forgotten by, oh, tomorrow, except by those making an ever growing list of slights inflicted on them by the nefarious and "utterly doomed political preeners."
Posted by: Mike in CO | Jun 5, 2005 9:12:44 PM
I am a "Traitor" who "Slanders" America and "Hates" it to boot. Let the Right rein in their name callers. Is there a single thing Dean has said that would rival anything Coulter or Rush has said about us for the last decade?
Republicans declared war in 1994, they dared to call the President "irrelevant". And they never, ever turned on a single member of their party no matter how inflamatory the langauge. And now we are supposed to play nice?
If Coulter is legitimate, if self-hating Melhman is legitimate, then Dean is legitimate. This notion that we should just silence the more strident wing of the party in favor of centrist collaboration with a party that has marginalized its whole center is just the kind of lunacy that got us into Iraqi quagmire to begin with.
There is right and there is wrong, there is fact and there is falsity. Maybe we need centrists to carry the tactical deal here and there, but compromising with the Bush Administration on principle is to ignore that these guys were flat out liars in the run up to war, they are simply lying on the basic finances of Social Security and every bit of both issues are coming to roost in the next couple of weeks.
They feel openly free to make "Liberal" a cuss word, you oppose the Administration on any particular whatsover, you are ipso facto a Traitor. Well I for one am just a little tired of being a whipping boy and being lectured by the DLC besides.
"but with Republicans easily winning the middle class" EASILY! It was 51-49 overall, the margin was in Ohio, and it turns out that most of their fundraising was financed by stealing it from the public employees pension plan through Coingate, not to mention that the Ohio Bush campaign was led by the guy that made the voting machines.
Get a grip. We didn't lose because the Democratic message was irrelevant, we lost because these guys parlayed 9/11 and ownership of Diebold into a razor thin victory. Democrats did Bush-Lite. It didn't work.
We need to channel our inner FDR, screw our inner Biden.
Posted by: Bruce Webb | Jun 5, 2005 9:22:14 PM
Unless Dean proves to be a terrible fundraiser, his role as the DNC chair is not going to be a factor in 2006 and 2008.
Posted by: Terri | Jun 5, 2005 9:30:11 PM
At his recent fundraiser, Tom Delay repeatedly trashed the entire Democratic party. Funny, but I don't remember any Republicans being asked to repudiate those statements. But if asked, I'm sure they would have remained loyal. Misguided and disgusting, but loyal.
Posted by: katthy | Jun 5, 2005 9:40:10 PM
This is outrageous. The Republicans have labelled Democrats freedom and God-hating elitists who have no values. They do this not because of anything we've done, but because that's what they think of us. And the public has begun to buy into it.
I'm damn proud that Dean is out there engaging in the fight. He's getting the base riled up. And it's about time.
When are Democrats going to learn that we may have won Americans' minds, but the Republicans have won Americans' hearts.
Stop limiting the playing field to cerebral battles over policy. Let's go for the jugular.
Posted by: br | Jun 5, 2005 9:50:19 PM
br is right, and y'all ought to look at the bigger picture. Sure, it isn't literally true that ALL Republicans haven't worked a day in their lives - but is it even CLOSE to true that all liberals are traitors? The kernel of the thought is correct: the Republican Party is the party of foppish dilletantes, of Paris Hiltons. Not all Republicans haven't worked a day in their lives - but damn near all people who haven't worked a day in their lives are Republicans.
Posted by: jkd | Jun 5, 2005 10:00:33 PM
I'm getting angrier as time goes on with this. It's not just Coulter and Limbaugh who've called us traiters, godless sinners who should be shot. No, every last one of their stupid listeners, nodding along as they drift lanes in their SUV, or pointing out choice passages to their wife/husband after a long day of cheating investors out of their money has also called me that by their agreement.
And the GOP as a whole could have a better knowledge of hard work. I don't care what Tom Clancy says, just because you spend a lot of hours doing your job and create stress for yourself is not working hard. Hastert may have put in long hours, but that was for the privilege of doing what he wanted to, and when his goals changed he found the means to go and do something else. Let's see some of these guys grow up in a situation where mommy and daddy don't buy them a car, don't help pay for college, can't provide good health care so they can have nice teeth and working hearts - let's see what their political views are then.
I have a friend who grew up in a middle class home with all of its perks, went to a private college that was subsidized by a church, received scholarships provided by someone else's money and took out loans that were guaranteed by the federal government and capped on their interest rate. He now owns his own web hosting business, financed by the SBA and working on a network created by the federal government. He considers himself a self-made man who owes nothing to anyone, and while he will remain my friend, I am sick of this attitude - because this is the attitude of the GOP. They're willing to suck up whatever infrastructure or service the government provides, but geez will they whine about putting in their fair share for it. So this middle American thinks that Howard Dean was right on, and Biden, Edwards and everyone else can suck it.
Okay. I think I'm done for the night.
Posted by: Stephen | Jun 5, 2005 10:09:43 PM
Is there a single thing Dean has said that would rival anything Coulter or Rush has said about us for the last decade?
No, but look at the way you're drawing up the teams. Coulter and Limbaugh are not politicians; they're political partisans. Their job is to say inflammatory stuff so the politicians don't have to. That's why the Democrats need more partisans out there in the media: because it looks bad for politicians, like Dean, to say this stuff.
In the last election, several conservative commentators pointed out that the Democratic candidates were questioning the other side's patriotism directly much more than Bush was. They were, on the whole, right. Dean and Kerry and others directly questioned the patriotism of Bush, Ashcroft, Republicans in general, making them look like the mean-spirited side. But the thing is, Bush didn't need to directly call his opponents unpatriotic because the liberals=unpatriotic equation was being established by the professional partisans, like Limbaugh and Coulter. They allow politicians like Bush to play Good Cop. Liberals need some more Bad Cops of their own on TV and radio.
Posted by: M.A. | Jun 5, 2005 10:21:24 PM
Dean's speech as quoted by Balz in WaPo:
"Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean delivered a broadside at President Bush and the Republican Party yesterday, accusing the president of failing to protect private pensions in the United States and the GOP of embracing a "dark, difficult and dishonest vision" for the country.
The former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate whipped up a liberal audience at the annual Take Back America conference hosted by the Campaign for America's Future with calls for election reform and attacks on what he called "the culture of corruption and abuse of power in Washington."
"Dean also took a jab at the Republicans with the kind of throwaway line that delights audiences of rank-and-file Democrats but that sometimes has caused party leaders to cringe. Speaking about election reform, he said it is unconscionable for voters to have to stand in lengthy lines at polling places given the demands of work and family. "Republicans," he said, "I guess can do that because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives."
Mr. Klein from above:
"Saying no Republican has ever put in an honest day's work".
Can we at least quote our team correctly, hmmmmmmmmmmmm?
Posted by: basilbeast | Jun 5, 2005 11:03:23 PM
AND in context?
Posted by: basilbeast | Jun 5, 2005 11:04:44 PM
The fault here, in my eyes, is Dean's for making comments outlandish enough that other Democratic pols are not only being asked about them, but feeling compelled to distance themselves from them.
I guess this is just basically a judgment call, but I just don't see Dean's comments as being that 'outlandish'. Did he go a bit too far? Maybe. But no Democrat is going to lose an election because he didn't repudiate Dean.
Biden et. al. could create daylight between themselves and Dean without bashing him; all they'd have to do is chuckle and say, "Well, you know, that's Howard; sometimes he's a little over the top." That would be more than enough.
Would wingnuts still scream bloody murder? Probably--but they scream bloody murder about everything.
Posted by: Dadahead | Jun 5, 2005 11:23:29 PM
M.A gets it exactly right. There's a difference between what Dean can do and what Limbaugh can. When Mehlman calls us traitors, then it's equivalent. Until then, we need to outsource this stuff to Molly Ivins, Paul Begala or Al Franken. The right is just being smarter about this stuff than we are and it's time we caught up.
Posted by: Ezra | Jun 5, 2005 11:34:55 PM
I think M.A. and Ezra are right. Leave the mudslinging to the non-politicians.
That said, there is a correct and an incorrect way to distance yourself from remarks. I don't fault Edwards and Biden for distancing themselves from the remarks. I fault them for distancing themselves from Dean.
Look at the GOP. It will be a cold day in hell before prominent Republicans publicly chastise each other. For instance, when Frist jumped the shark with his speech at the "God is a Republican" conference, Bush was asked about it. Bush never criticized Frist by name. Nor did he actually criticize Frist's behavior. Instead, he stated that he believed in religious tolerance.
What Biden or Edwards should have said is the following: "I believe that many Republicans earn an honest living. But I don't believe the Republican party has done enough to protect those who do earn an honest living from those who don't."
Simple. Clear. No friendly fire.
Posted by: space | Jun 5, 2005 11:54:37 PM
Look, the whole thing is a disaster, and I feel it seeping over me just reading about it.
FIRST, we're never going to become the majority party until we learn to return rhetorical fire on the Republicans, to give as good as we get, to be at the right times as loony and ferocious and out there and unfair and stark raving furious as they are. We won't get there without our own lynch mobs of salivating morons. American politics is not a dinner party. There's a time and a place for all stripes of activism and language and tactic and strategy (and not without limits, but a range larger than our party and side currently use). We've played nice for the past quarter century and it hasn't worked. There is a minority on the other side that's beyond reason and appeal, and they have to be destroyed and removed from the spectrum of acceptability. Do you think they feel different about you, dear reader? I assure you, the above is in their hands a charitable assessment. They have to be castigated and shown, to the American people, over and over again, just how utterly radioactive they are. It doesn't matter what some court says; for our purposes (nothing important, just saving the Republic) Tom DeLay is a criminal. What's so controversial about that? When did it become better to be loved than feared? When did it become better to be destroyed? If politics matters, and I think everyone here realizes how the stakes have been raised in the past few years, then it's worth doing what it takes to win, within whatever limits the reason we want to apply to everything else suggests.
SECOND, for chrissakes all 3 of you, haven't you heard of message discipline? It doesn't matter what Dean said so much as it does that there's public, newsmaking dischord on it. No one jumped on Dean when he, on MTP, quite skillfully turned Russert's questions about his statements into further attacks on DeLay. It was for Dean an almost artful move. No, it's this type of internal fighting that is the problem, and I think Ben Franklin would have a choice quote for the lot of them. It's an indicment of the pathetic state of the liberal message machine that we have to rely on someone with the role of DNC chairman to do the heavy rhetorical lifting for us. Mehlman is doing outreach to minority groups and raising buckets of cash. We're still catching up to falling behind. But that's ok for the meantime, I guess. The fact that it's Dean sure strips away the layer or two of deniability the right clings to. I only have objections to the chairman's effectiveness, and I would agree that the line about not working is neither effective nor true. And making folks like Edwards and Biden defend it, without their being on board, isn't fair, and results in the type of disaster witnessed here. But similar language, similarly incendiary points, more sharply honed I am fine with, and they should be too.
But as for Edwards and Biden, quotes like that show that they don't get it half as much as they think they do. Who are they trying to impress? People who don't give a damn about them or the issues we rely on them to champion. The best they can do is turn their fire on Dean when asked a question like that? And these are people with positions of responsibility! Edwards is supposed to be fast on his feat! And that's the best he can do? I don't know, but I sure think it sucks that they can't find an answer better than "we're not Democrats like Howard Dean." As a very, very narrow tactic it's ok. Remember Candidate Bush's emotive calling out of the House GOP for their attempts to cut the EITC? It was effective, but it didn't mean anything. Does anyone think that's the dynamic at work here? Didn't think so.
Now, I am about the most soft-spoken, slow to confrontation person you might imagine, and I cringe half the time when I hear Dean talk. I was against his candidacy for the Democratic nomination and I distrusted at first the movement he unleashed. I supported him for DNC but I think the internet activists are being a bit uncritical of his moneyraising, outreach, and message techniques. It is possible his tenure will have been a mistake that only accelerates our decline. I want him to bear the responsibility for his actions, and I want his champions to hold him to account. Furthermore, none of us want a Democratic party that becomes the bizzaro-world Republican party. We will never, I hope, be a party with their venality and their seething hatred of American decency.
But we've got to hit harder. We've got to embrace our inner extremists, at least some us, and the rest our inner "for the most part defending" extremists. Dean's doing that, even if he's wrong on everything else. And there's no way to victory without it. The irony of this whole episode has been that Biden and Edwards, while couching their language in moderation and diplomacy, have done more harm with their words by making this a bigger story. It goes to show just how true it is that there's a time and place for every variety of language, something the Democrats had better learn.
Posted by: SamAm | Jun 5, 2005 11:59:31 PM
The real problem with what Senators Edwards and Biden did is that they didn't parry the question and turn it into an attack on Republicans. That's what you do when a guy who's on your side messes up; you minimize the statement and change the subject. Now, when scoring internecene intra-Party points is more important than carrying the ball forward . . .
Posted by: Kimmitt | Jun 6, 2005 1:38:18 AM
No, no Ezra. This is totally wrong. Do you KNOW how much mileage they get out of "pointless" attacks on us? Not our politicians, but us actual Democrats. They talk about the highbrow liberal elite, quasi-treacherous (or out and out traitors) who are week-kneed in the war on terror. They make it uncool to be a Democrat. Listen, Catholic Democrats actually WENT TO CONFESSION after voting for Kerry because he's such a baby-killer. Attacking Democrats is one of their most potent weapons. Bubba doesn't want to be a pansy.
It has always intrigued me that their baseless attacks seem to draw on an extant dissatisfaction with Democrats which has no basis in reality. I don't know where it comes from, probably just as much their and the MSM's warped creation. But let me say this: a general assumption that Republicans are rich country-club goers who inherited their money, spent twenty years fucking around whilst ignoring their already-stupid National Guard obligations, then entered politics on their father's money, is just about our only comparable narrative. First of all, it's much more true than their attacks on us, and secondly, Bubba doesn't want to be a trust fund sissy either.
It doesn't fucking matter that most Republicans work for a living. Most Democrats aren't traitors. But Howard Dean is absolutely right to take this line of attack, and the outraged distancing of Biden and Edwards just shows their deficiency of political instinct. I don't care if Dean's line is dishonest. First of all, it isn't, and second of all, it is quite powerful. Though not if the candidates that Dean is trying to help kick him in the balls.
Posted by: Marshall | Jun 6, 2005 4:22:45 AM
Oh, I see from comments that you've drawn a distinction between Limbaughcoulter and actual Republican politicians. That isn't right either. For instance, during the Gay Sex Amendment debate in the Senate, I actually heard Santorum say on the floor "You know what we're hearing from the other side? That marriage is evil, marriage is hate. That's what we're hearing." I'm sorry, what Democratic Senator thinks that marriage is evil? And how idiotic is it for them to make that accusation at the same time as trying to prohibit gay marriage? But it doesn't matter; even having that accusation in the atmosphere paints Democrats as outside the mainstream.
Richard Perle has called Seymour Hersh "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist." James Inhofe (not to mention Joe Lieberman) said he was more outraged by the outrage over Abu Ghraib than he was about the torture itself. Listen Ezra: these people are questioning our manhood. Don't delude yourself. And Dean is firing back on battleground that might, for once, be favorable to us. Shame on those who betray him from the rear.
Posted by: Marshall | Jun 6, 2005 4:32:51 AM
Wake me up if Dean ever says anything as outrageous as the lies and slander of Gillespie and Mehlman.
Posted by: Avedon | Jun 6, 2005 9:16:00 AM
I'm kinda fascinated by the idea that Dean was wrong in his comments, but Edwards/Biden was wrong to condemn them. Is there any evidence that private warnings spur Dean to bit his tongue? Further, isn't it likely that Edwards and Biden were trying to separate themselves from Dean's comments, not passing objective judgment on what he said?
This is superficially reasonable sounding, but I think you're wrong. Even if Dean was over the line (and I wouldn't call what he said all that big of a deal) when it's condemned by Republicans and dismissed as unimportant by Democrats, it's a partisan squabble and nothing sticks. When it's publicly condemned by Democrats, it becomes bipartisanly agreed upon 'objective fact' that the leader of the Democratic party is an intemperate loon. I wouldn't let this get in the way of condemning actually repugnant rhetoric, but what Dean said just wasn't that bad.
Posted by: LizardBreath | Jun 6, 2005 10:05:39 AM
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