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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Magnificent Obsession 

That “Vermont Yankee” made a trip to South Carolina this week and Ms. Wilgoren went along for the ride. After describing a speech “focused on pocketbook issues like jobs and health insurance” and talking a little about the other candidates’ swings through the south, she reaches this interesting conclusion:

Dr. Dean's strategy in the state seems more focused on uniting working-class Southerners for a November general election face-off with President Bush than attracting the African-American votes essential to winning the Democratic primary.
What evidence does Ms. Wilgoren provide that Gov. Dean is “more focused” on “working-class Southerners” than he is on “attracting the African-American votes”? I’m not really sure I saw any. And perhaps more importantly – who says the two are mutually exclusive?

Actually, this rather odd sentence seems to play into Ms. Wilgoren’s ongoing fixation with Gov. Dean’s supposed unattractiveness to African-Americans. She continues:

Both in Florence, where blacks make up 40 percent of the population, and in Georgetown, which is 57 percent African-American, the crowds that turned out were nearly all white. Dr. Dean and his aides have frequently said they do not expect black voters to come to campaign rallies in large numbers, and that they plan to have black legislators and ministers do outreach for them.
(Gov. Dean must be doing something right. The latest ARG poll out of South Carolina shows only one candidates with any upward movement outside the MOE: the Vermont Yankee nearly doubles his support.

Dean         16% (9% in November)
Clark         12% (15%)
Sharpton   12% (9%)
Edwards    11% (12%)
Gephardt    7% (7%)
Lieberman   7% (9%)
Braun         3% (3%)
Kerry          2% 3%
Kucinich      1% 1%
Undecided  29% 32%
December 17-21, 2003, MOE: ± 4 percentage points)

At least this piece is less obsessive about Gov. Dean's ability to attract the black vote than a December 7 article Ms. Wilgoren’s submitted on a previous trip to South Carolina:

''There is nothing black or white about having to live from one paycheck to the next,'' Dr. Dean told a nearly all-white crowd of 300 at a hotel here in a county that is 45 percent black. ''Worrying about making ends meet does not discriminate.''

Earlier, at a sparsely attended black church, Dr. Dean, who normally does not end speeches with the politician's traditional ''God bless,'' spliced into his remarks references to Jesus, the Lord and the New Testament, starting several lines with the words ''we pray.''

-snip-

Dr. Dean has struggled to attract support from black voters, who make up half of this state's Democratic primary electorate; the ''African Americans for Dean'' placard in the back of the hotel ballroom on Sunday was held by a white man.
We get the point already -- he's got work to do.

Finally from the December 7 article, we have this gem of observational brilliance worthy of Sherlock Holmes:

Outside the hotel where he spoke, there were no Confederate flag decals. The lone pickup was surrounded by Mercedeses, S.U.V.'s and station wagons.

Repeat after me: Borrow-and-spend Republicans 

From today's discussion of the subtle difference between the economic plans of the Democratic contenders:

Dr. Dean has campaigned as a devout believer in fiscal discipline, but he has not set out any timetable for balancing the budget, saying only that he would put the government "on a path" toward balance.
But according to your favorite and mine, Nedra Pickler, Gov. Dean has indeed discussed a timetable for a balanced budget:

Howard Dean said he would like to balance the budget in his first term even if it means limiting spending on domestic programs dear to Democrats.

But if he beats nine other Democrats to capture the nomination and then ousts President Bush, Dean said he might have to keep the budget in the red beyond four years to fund his plan for mass transit, renewable energy, road construction, broadband telecommunications and school building.

"I am determined to get rid of the deficit," Dean said in an hourlong interview with reporters and editors from The Associated Press. Later he added, "I am willing to run a deficit longer than I'd like to in order to create jobs."

Dean has yet to release his economic plan but disclosed some elements during the interview. He said he and his advisers are still deciding whether he can pledge to bring government spending into the black by 2008.

"That's an internal debate we are having," Dean said. "I'd like to do that. The economists I'm working with think that is going to be very tough."
Has he given a firm date by which he projects he can have the budget balanced? Not to my knowledge. But asserting he hasn't addressed the issue at all is not quite the truth either.

And what of our Dear Leader's plan for reducing the deficit? Why, it's AMBITIOUS!!!

Mr. Kerry has pledged to reduce the deficit in half by the end of a second presidential term. That may well be a realistic goal, but it is less ambitious than Mr. Bush's pledge to cut the deficit in half after only five years.
Never mind that Bush's pledge is called unlikely and unsustainable by a former head of the Congressional Budget Office and "anemic" by the anti-tax "Club for Growth":

"Is it achievable? Yes," said Robert Reischauer, former head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (search) who is now president of the Urban Institute (search). "Is it likely to occur? No. Is it sustainable? Probably not, because the world turns worse" at the end of this decade. That is when the 76 million baby boomers will begin drawing on Medicare and other costly income support programs, likely pushing federal deficits ever higher.

-snip-

The goal is backed by many Republicans, at least as a starting point. But conservatives want a bolder move against the record deficits and big spending increases that the administration has run up.

"It's a rather anemic goal, actually," said Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth (search). "We should be talking about how to balance the budget."
So according to the NYTimes, Bush has an "ambitious" deficit reduction plan, but I guess they don't want you to know others have criticized it as alternatively "unrealistic" or "anemic".

Thanks for visiting! 

When I sent a mail off to Atrios earlier this evening, 27 people had visited my new site since I created it a week ago.

I go out for thai food and a movie - "Calendar Girls", see it only if you're a big Helen Mirren fan (which I am) or Julie Walters fan, otherwise wait for the rental - and when I get back, over 1,400 people have visited.

Atrios, I am not worthy. ;-)

Thanks for visiting my little site, guys. I'm a newbie at this so any suggestions/comments/assistance will be greatly appreciated. Happy New Year, folks.

Also, think about checking out Charen Watch dedicated to following Mona Charen and let me know if you create your own "Adopt-a-Journalist" site. Liberal Pride has set up a message board to discuss how to keep journalist & pundits accountable.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Option (4) Look at the facts 

Today's William Safire column discusses the "granite curtain" lowered over Gov. Dean's records in Vermont. After patting himself on the back for expressing the obvious -- contempt for the way Vice President Cheney likely handed our nation's energy policy over to energy executives to the exlusion of environmentalists or regular citizens -- Safire writes:

Consider what must be happening within the minds of Dean enthusiasts. A portion of their anti-Bush anger has for years been directed at the covered-up advice of oil lobbyists to the administration's energy task force — but now they must be dismayed at the more egregious refusal of their standard-bearer to reveal his Vermont papers. Didn't a Democratic governor named Al Smith campaign against President Hoover on the slogan "Let's look at the record"?

They could deal with C.D. by (1) suppressing their cognition about executive-branch secrecy, or (2) changing their cognition about Dean or (3) calling on their hero to tear down that stonewall. There is also the choice of emulating the shrewd action of Aesop's fox: deciding that the grapes of wrath are sour.
Or they could decide to go with option (4) look at the facts.

As noted the other day, the sealing of Gov. Dean's records is not without precedent in Vermont and isn't all that worrisome to some of Gov. Dean's former adversaries up there. And in his characteristically magniloquent -- (it means "lofty and extravagant in speech", for you peons) -- and self-congratulatory commentary, Mr. Safire never gets around to comparing how Cheney and Dean have responded to their respective critics.

Cheney - stonewalls and fights tooth-and-nail to prevent the public from discovering exactly how our nation's energy policy was written. (Although we can make a pretty good guess by looking at the final product, full of goodies for energy companies).

Dean -- doesn't fight at all (so much for being scrappy, huh?) and allows a neutral third party to determine what documents will be released to the public, in accordance with Vermont's laws.

Does Mr. Safire mention how Gov. Dean has left this in the hands of the court? How he has decided to fight for the White House and not waste time fighting the Judicial Watch lawsuit? Nope. But then, that would create another round of cognitive dissonance for Mr. Safire and we wouldn't want that, now would we?

UPDATE: Over at DailyKOS, a thorough discussion of Dean's energy group, including a copy of Gov. Dean's official press release on the issue.

UPDATE 2: Ben Brackley in comments points out this item from a few weeks back which says Gov. Dean's successor also agrees this is much ado about nothin'.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Gone fishin' up in Vermont 

In today's "follow-up" on the "red-hot" issue of Gov. Dean's sealed records, the NYTimes interviewed a couple of his old adverseries over similar issues during his time as Vermont's head of state and came up empty:

The Conservation Law Foundation, for instance, tried on at least four occasions to get Dr. Dean to release documents showing his contacts with Vermont industry and utility officials. Each time, the governor's counsel refused to hand them over, citing executive privilege, and the foundation decided it was not worth the time or expense to pursue the matter.

----

Still, Mr. Sinclair said, he did not think the records contained anything that would rock the campaign. "There's no smoking gun," he said.

Peter Freyne, the political columnist for an alternative weekly in Burlington called Seven Days, also tangled frequently with the governor and once sought access to his records. In that instance, it was a lawsuit brought by his and two other Vermont newspapers for the governor's official schedule, hoping to pinpoint how much time Dr. Dean was spending on his nascent presidential campaign.

---

But he also said he did not think there was much hidden in the sealed boxes. "The whole issue has been blown way, way out of proportion," Mr. Freyne said.
Seems like a lot of "attacks" on Gov. Dean are falling into that category: blown way, way out of proportion.

The article also notes that former Vermont Gov. Madeline Kunin had her records sealed for 6 years, the late Gov. Richard Snelling's were sealed for a little over seven years, and Gov. Dean's are sealed for 10 years. Remember those numbers: 6-7-10.

Guess how many years each served in office? Kunin - 6 years (1985-1991), Snelling - 8 years (1977-1985, re-elected and died early in first term), Dean -12 years (1991-2003). Those numbers: 6-8-12.

If anything, we'd say Gov. Dean was due an extra couple of years.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Christmas spirit? 

It must be the holiday spirit, but today's NYTimes piece on Gov. Dean is actually pretty balanced. Check out Dean, Under Attack, Revives Feisty Style. I was expecting to find the usual snark-fest, but it just wasn't there. It is actually a fairly revealing look at how Gov. Dean has had to moderate his tone in response to the barrage of attacks over the last couple of weeks. One of the more revealing quotes:

Having won five races for governor as the incumbent, Dr. Dean said he was used to being the target and aware of the consequences of a steady barrage of attacks.

"Mike Dukakis showed that if you don't hit back at the very next moment that it can be effective," Dr. Dean said, recalling the 1988 presidential election in which Mr. Dukakis's refusal to respond to negative advertisements helped sink him. "I usually let it go for a couple of days, because people don't like it. But I know I have to answer eventually."
And that, boys and girls, is why Bush & Rove are gonna get a run for their money next year.

But my real favorite:

"Ultimately, if I'm going to be the nominee, I have to broaden the message," Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont, said recently in an interview as his van shuttled between town-hall-style meetings on the snowy streets of New Hampshire. "I know that, and I was starting to do it. But you can't do it if every day you know Joe Lieberman is calling you incompetent and John Kerry is whining about something else."
Ouch -- that's gotta hurt.


Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus..... 

....and William Safire is from somewhere past Pluto.

He starts off reasonably sane, dividing the country into Bush-lovers (Republicans), Bush-whackers (Dean Democrats -- might as well get used to that phrase now), and Bush-kissers (the post-Clinton DLCers). But then its all downhill from there, ending up with Howard Dean spurned by the "Democratic establishment" (which miraculously gets its act together in time to annoint someone else) and bolting the party.

In summary, Safire writes:

That split of opposition would be a bonanza for Bush. In a two-man race, the odds are that he would beat Dean comfortably, but in a three-party race, Bush would surely waltz in with the greatest of ease.

Here's my problem: Such a lopsided, hubris-inducing result would be bad for Bush, bad for the G.O.P., bad for the country. Landslides lead to tyrannous majorities and big trouble.

Which is why I worry about Dean not getting the Democratic nomination.
So Safire is worried that if Bush actually wins in 2004 (as opposed to being Supremed in 2000), it'll be an administration defined by hubris and tyrannical excess???

Uh, Bill....where ya been for the past three years, buddy?

Ghoulish Desperation is in the air 

Dean Rebuked for Statement Implying Brother Served in Military

The NYTimes reports that an Iowa paper asked Gov. Dean in August about his "closest living relative in the armed services" and Gov. Dean mentioned his likely-deceased brother, who had been classified by the U.S. Government as POW/MIA.

Two things changed between August and December. One - Charlie Dean's remains were found just before Thanksgiving. Two - Gov. Dean rose to the top of the polls and hence grew a target on his back:

"His answer...drew complaints from readers and a rebuke from the newspaper's editorial board on Sunday. The editorial was circulated to a handful of reporters on Monday by a rival campaign."
Now we can understand how a Gephardt or a Kerry or Lieberman campaign would use any tools at their disposal to bring down Gov. Dean's campaign. We just never thought any of them would stoop so low as to use the man's dead brother to flog the theme of "Howard Dean, liar".

And evidently, the NYTimes considers this ghoulish desperation to be "news".


Inaugural Post 

"Its very impressive that they have this kind of numbers.....I don't know what they're going to go and do for the next five months and then year and a half almost until the election."
                        -- Jodi Wilgoren, August 2003 during the Sleepless Summer Tour

We're going to be dedicated to deconstructing the New York Times coverage of Howard Dean's campaign for the White House. Their main correspondent is Ms. Jodi Wilgoren, but we'll be covering all NYTimes items on Gov. Dean. Please feel free to drop us a line with your thoughts or suggestions.

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