Kunin on Dean

 Posted by at 02:04  Election 2004
Jan 312004

Former Vermont Governor Madeleine May Kunin writes about the Howard Dean she knows…

So who is the real Howard Dean?

I have known him since he first ran for the state legislature from Burlington. We both had the same mentor, Esther Sorrell, who ran for the state Senate after working behind the scenes in Vermont for decades for every brave Democrat who ran and lost.

Vermont was once the strongest one party state north of the Mason-Dixon line. Esther lived to see the change from Republican to Democrat. She was crazy about Jimmy Carter and Howard got involved in that campaign.

Then I knew him as my Lt. Governor. He didn’t make a lot of headlines in that job, but he did it well. His real chance came through tragedy. Governor Richard Snelling had succeeded me and died suddenly on an August day at the edge of his swimming pool. From one moment to the next, Dean was taking the oath of office to be Governor of Vermont.

I have seen him mature, both as a politician and a human being. I think he is smart, a quick study of issues and a good problem solver. He is supremely confident. He treats people well, surrounds himself with good people, and has good judgment. He knows how to build consensus and diffuse tension. And, he listens.

When I was Governor, I had the opportunity to appoint a record number of women. Howard not only kept my appointees, he topped my record. By the time he left office, a woman had served, at one time or another, as the head of every agency.

Do I think he can win the nomination?

It depends. He was the first candidate to raise the important issues that now are the themes of almost every man who is running. His strength is that he can connect with people, he has brought thousands of young people into the process, and he knows what matters most to the public.

If the campaign returns to the issues and does not continue to exact a thousand cuts of negative campaigning, I think he has an excellent chance. His incredible organization is a huge plus. And his passion, which occasionally has gotten him into trouble, is also a plus. This man cares, and he cares deeply.

Having watched him grow over the years, I believe he will grow into the highest office of the land, the Presidency.

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Where’s the anger?

 Posted by at 02:19  Politics
Jan 302004

Paul Krugman hits another homerun…

Where’s the Apology?

George Bush promised to bring honor and integrity back to the White House. Instead, he got rid of accountability.

Surely even supporters of the Iraq war must be dismayed by the administration’s reaction to David Kay’s recent statements. Iraq, he now admits, didn’t have W.M.D., or even active programs to produce such weapons. Those much-ridiculed U.N. inspectors were right. (But Hans Blix appears to have gone down the memory hole. On Tuesday Mr. Bush declared that the war was justified — under U.N. Resolution 1441, no less — because Saddam “did not let us in.”)

So where are the apologies? Where are the resignations? Where is the investigation of this intelligence debacle? All we have is bluster from Dick Cheney, evasive W.M.D.-related-program-activity language from Mr. Bush — and a determined effort to prevent an independent inquiry.

True, Mr. Kay still claims that this was a pure intelligence failure. I don’t buy it: the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has issued a damning report on how the threat from Iraq was hyped, and former officials warned of politicized intelligence during the war buildup. (Yes, the Hutton report gave Tony Blair a clean bill of health, but many people — including a majority of the British public, according to polls — regard that report as a whitewash.)

In any case, the point is that a grave mistake was made, and America’s credibility has been badly damaged — and nobody is being held accountable. But that’s standard operating procedure. As far as I can tell, nobody in the Bush administration has ever paid a price for being wrong. Instead, people are severely punished for telling inconvenient truths. And administration officials have consistently sought to freeze out, undermine or intimidate anyone who might try to check up on their performance.


Still, the big story isn’t about Mr. Bush; it’s about what’s happening to America. Other presidents would have liked to bully the C.I.A., stonewall investigations and give huge contracts to their friends without oversight. They knew, however, that they couldn’t. What has gone wrong with our country that allows this president to get away with such things?

Where’s the anger?

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Diane Sawyer reports

 Posted by at 16:17  Election 2004
Jan 292004

The Dean Scream: The version of reality that we didn’t see on TV

New York — It was the scream Howard Dean says became famous after the media played it nearly 700 times in a few days. Not only that, his camp adds, what we heard on the air was not a reflection of the way it sounded in the room

After my interview with Dean and his wife in which I played the tape again — in fact played it to them — I noticed that on that tape he’s holding a hand-held microphone. One designed to filter out the background noise. It isolates your voice, just like it does to Charlie Gibson and me when we have big crowds in the morning. The crowds are deafening to us standing there

But the viewer at home hears only our voice.

So, we collected some other tapes from Dean’s speech including one from a documentary filmmaker, tapes that do carry the sound of the crowd, not just the microphone he held on stage. We also asked the reporters who were there to help us replicate what they experienced in the room.

Reena Singh, ABC News Dean campaign reporter: “What the cameras didn’t capture was the crowd.”

Garance Franke-Ruta, Senior Editor, American Prospect: “As he spoke, the audience got louder and louder and I found it somewhat difficult to hear him.”

Dean’s boisterous countdown of the upcoming primaries as we all heard it on TV was isolated, when in fact he was shouting over the roaring crowd.

And what about the scream as we all heard it? In the room, the so-called scream couldn’t really be heard at all. Again, he was yelling along with the crowd.

Neal Gabler, Senior Fellow, Lear Center USA: “When you’re talking about visuals, context is everything. So, you’ve got a situation in which you have what I’d call the televised version of reality, which is not the same as the actual reality in room. You know in a situation like this, no one takes responsibility.”

How do the networks see it? Here are comments from network executives to ABC News:

CBS News: “Individually we may feel okay about our network, but the cumulative effect for viewers with 24-hour cable coverage is — it may have been overplayed and, in fact, a disservice to Dean and the viewers.” — Andrew Heyward, President – CBS News

ABC News: “It’s always a danger that we’ll use good video too much.” — David Westin, President – ABC News

CNN: “We’ve all been wrestling with this. If we had it to do over again, we’d probably pull ourselves back.” — Princell Hair, General Manager – CNN

Fox News: “It got overplayed a bit, and the public clearly thought that, too, and kept him alive for another round.” — Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO – Fox News

Too little, too late. Can we go back and hold the New Hampshire primary again? No, we cannot. You would almost think that the television networks would have the smarts not to pull a stunt like this. Obviously, they do not.

All we can do now is move forward and be sure that Howard Dean is our next president. There is not doubt that he is the best qualified of all the candidates running, including George W. Bush. Do your part and contribute right now. America will thank you!

Good news

 Posted by at 04:10  Election 2004
Jan 282004

Some good news, and I need some this morning!

GOP Goose is Cooked

Whatever your progressive persuasion and/or whomever you prefer as a Democratic presidential candidate, last week’s Iowa caucuses were good news. As has been the resultant media storm that greeted the New Hampshire primary this week.

First, the caucuses and primary both inspired record voter turnout and a surge among college-aged voters, a trend that, if continued into November, could mean bad news for the Republican Party. This is especially bad news for Bush. Not only did Democratic doings bury his State of the Union Address, but he lost his final chance to set the agenda going into the election. His recycled litany of tired cliches (“stay the course”), fraudulent policies (privatizing Social Security, tax givebacks to the rich), fear-mongering and broken dreams went over like ice cream in Antarctica.

Secondly, the results are proof that the pundits — none of whom came close to predicting them — are, as I’ve long suspected, pulling stuff out of their asses on a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week basis. I have this recurrent fantasy that all these people, from Tim Russert to Matt Drudge to Sean O’Hannity-reilly-coulter to even “respected” journalists like Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer are machines whose brains have been replaced with harmless mush wired directly to Karl Rove’s red phone. Every time he rings them up, their brains scream: INCOMING! Their lips begin to move, and the words that come out of their mouths are market-tested White House fabrications.

Third, the polls (also bearing little resemblance to the reality of the results) are largely meaningless now. This is more bad news for the White House, which had previously found ways to skew them through Orange Alerts and manufactured news events. A story you probably missed, because it was buried somewhere between Britney’s deflowering and Michael Jackson’s perp walk, reported that more Americans are dropping home phone lines and using cell phones as their only contact point. Since FCC rules forbid pollsters from dialing cell phone users — a violation with a $500 penalty per call — the only Americans whose opinions polls are registering are the few at home these days. Indeed, in most homes, both adults work second jobs, manning Wal-Mart aisles or wiping mad cow drool off McDonald’s tabletops. Eventually, all polls will come down to one hearing-impaired widow in rural Missouri: “Eh, what’s that? What do I think of the job George W. Bush’s doin? Whistle Ass Bush? That pitiful boy still president?”

Fourth, we can happily ignore all conventional wisdom. Howard Dean, for example, is probably not out of the race. In any event, his candidacy has done more to excite voters of all ages than anything the Democratic Party itself has done in the past four years. True, he was pilloried for his post-caucus rant. But as a friend put it, “The press will overplay Dean’s performance. The Iowa results were like a straight right to the face and it made Dean act dopey.”

Fifth: Even if Dean does not get the nomination, he has performed an invaluable service. Dr. Dean’s relentless attacks and dogged battling have given a moribund party a much-needed transfusion. It’s no surprise that Kerry and Edwards only started surging when they stepped up their game to match Howard’s.

Finally, the best news: Voters are sick of George W. Bush. They are not going for Kerry and Edwards and Clark simply because they like their hair and/or sweaters or because they’re blown away by their ideas. They simply want a candidate with the best chance of winning. Many probably favor Dean or even Kucinich (who has emerged as the conscience of his party the way that McGovern was in 1984). But they put that behind them and went for Kerry, longtime senator, war hero, mature, measured.

And, suddenly, it’s a ballgame. This only means the Democrats will dominate news coverage for the rest of the election cycle. What else do Republicans have in their bullpen besides their $200 million “war chest” (how perfect does that hackneyed phrase now sound)? Cheney is roundly despised by most Americans anyway. Nobody else in the party, besides McCain, has any national stature and he despises Bush. Colin Powell has become a tragic figure, giving good spin to reporters from his hospital bed. Condi Rice is a buffoon who can’t answer a question honestly without looking like she’s going to burst out crying.

Bush’s war is his albatross. He can “stay the course” all he wants. But that course will hopefully lead him back to his Crawford ranch. Mark my words: Republicans only understand money and power. They will abandon Bush when they smell that loser aura the rest of us smell. Oh, this is going to be a very interesting and, ultimately, enjoyable year!

The emphasis in the above article is mine.

Howard Dean is still the best man in this race, and will definitely make the best president. I’ll be watching developments over the next couple of weeks very closely!

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 Posted by at 20:37  Politics
Jan 272004

Kerry shifts from reform into reverse

In 1998, John Kerry took on the teachers’ unions. In twin speeches in Washington and Massachusetts, he described school systems that are “imploding upon themselves,” beset with “bloated bureaucracy” and “stagnant administration.” He said we had to “end tenure as we know it” so incompetent teachers could be fired more easily.

“Those going into teaching have the lowest SAT and ACT scores of any profession in the United States,” he observed. The teacher certification process, he concluded, is “an absurd anomaly” that creates a “convoluted monopolistic structure.” He suggested that every school be turned into a charter school to give parents more choice.

In 1992, John Kerry took on civil rights groups. In speeches at Yale University and in Washington, he said affirmative action had achieved many positive results. But he said it was time to acknowledge the costs. Once, he said, the civil rights movement was a “mighty battle between good and evil,” but now the “civil rights arena is controlled by lawyers, [with] the winners and losers determined by rules most Americans neither understand nor are sympathetic with.”

Affirmative action, he argued, “has kept America thinking in racial terms” and has helped foster a “culture of dependency.” Further, “there exists a reality of reverse discrimination that actually engenders racism.”

Thinking more broadly, he described crime-ridden neighborhoods “ruled not simply by poverty but by savagery.” The crime rate, he continued, is “the most deadly poison there is to improved relations between black and white Americans.” He asked how was it that the percentage of black children living with both parents through the age of 17 had plummeted to 6 percent from 50 percent.

Sounding like William Bennett, he declared: “We have to ask ourselves in 1992 whether this social disintegration is merely a symptom of deteriorating values that has swept all of this country to some degree. We must ask whether it is the result of a massive shift in the psychology of our nation that some argue grew out of the excesses of the 1960s, a shift from self-reliance to indulgence and dependence, from caring to self-indulgence, from public accountability to public abdication and chaos.”

These are not the only times John Kerry has uttered what are, for a liberal Democrat, heterodox ideas. Kerry has argued that the Social Security system is unsustainable. He has called for unpopular reforms, including raising the retirement age and means-testing the benefits.

He has argued that the United States should declare war on international crime cartels and consider shooting down airplanes suspected of drug-running. He has argued that the gasoline tax should be raised by 50 cents a gallon.

If you look back over the span of Kerry’s career, you find that every few months or years he takes a hard look at some thorny public issue. Then, after some period of reflection, he unleashes his inner Moynihan and comes out with an interesting and politically dangerous speech.

The problem is that he almost never follows up. He habitually asserts that he will mount a long public crusade. But then he takes his controversial ideas, jams them into a jar and buries them in the back yard.

If you watch him campaign today, you will have no clue that he has ever had interesting thoughts on education, civil rights, poverty and so on. He campaigns as an orthodox Democrat, comfortably in tune with Ted Kennedy and the party’s major interest groups. Far from continuing in the reformist vein when it comes to education, he has a core platform plank that is pure pander: “Stop Blaming and Start Supporting Public School Educators.”

Were these speeches just cynical efforts to inoculate himself from the charge that he’s a conventional Massachusetts liberal?

Both John McCain and John Kerry nearly died in Vietnam. Both say that these experiences have made every day that has followed feel like a gift from God, and that they are going to take this extra time to do what is right. The difference is that once McCain latches onto an issue, such as campaign finance reform, he sticks with it year after year.

Kerry doesn’t. He will momentarily embrace daring ideas, but if they threaten core constituencies, he often abandons them, returning meekly to the Democratic choir.

That is the difference between speechifying and leadership.

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Humor is good

 Posted by at 03:33  Election 2004
Jan 272004

More power to Howard

“Just for the record, I really enjoyed your speech in Iowa,” a woman in New Hampshire told Howard Dean at one of the presidential candidate’s stops in New Hampshire late last week.

And the crowd at the event applauded, loudly.

Even Dean is now joking about what one comic referred to as the candidate’s “I Have a Scream” speech following his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. Dean was suitably self-deprecating in an appearance on CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman,” where he recited “the top 10 ways I, Howard Dean, can turn things around.” (No. 2: “Fire the staffer who suggested that we do this lousy top 10 list instead of actually campaigning.” No. 1: “Oh, I don’t know, maybe fewer crazy, red-faced rants?”)

The former front-runner’s appearance on ABC’s “Primetime Thursday” with his wife, Judith Steinberg Dean, was warm and appealing. His campaign appearances since then have been both thoughtful and energetic.

Bottom line: Dean has acquitted himself well in the aftermath of what even he admits was a bit of a stumble last Monday night. Now he deserves to be judged on his merits. And one of his merits is his admirable ability to laugh at himself – something a lot of politicians, including some of his opponents, lack.

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CBS gets it

 Posted by at 17:55  Election 2004
Jan 262004

Dean’s Scream: Not What It Seemed

The media is having a great time with Howard Dean’s “concession” speech in Iowa last Monday. Like a horrific car accident on the side of the road, the clip of Dean listing the states with early primaries, and ending with a gleeful “yalp,” is hard not to watch, even if there is nothing to gain from seeing it.

On Thursday, while campaigning in New Hampshire, Dean tried to do damage control, looking for some understanding from the public and press.

“There are a zillion mistakes I’ve made,” he said, trying to explain away some of his recent heavily criticized behavior. “I’ve got plenty of warts.”

Dean was not apologizing for his Iowa speech, but he was clearly asking for a pass. The question is, does he really need one?

As is so often the case in politics, there is more to the Iowa speech than meets the eye. On Monday night, as early caucus returns began to be reported, the unthinkable started to sink in on the wide-eyed and true-believing Dean supporters.

The 3,500 staff and supporters who had gathered for what they thought would be a raucous victory party had to face the reality that their candidate had lost – and lost badly. Most held back their tears, but the tone in the room soon turned somber, defiant and bitter.

And then eyes went toward the stage, as Howard Dean’s most dedicated supporters looked for direction from their leader.

Reporters were looking, too. Dean had won the race for governor in Vermont five times in a row. He had skyrocketed to the head of the polls in race for the Democratic nomination, looking for months like the presumptive winner. How would he handle a loss?

By now, everyone with cable TV knows: he’d be fiery.

Before Dean came out onstage, communications director Tricia Enright worked the press in the back of the hall. “He’s going to be fiery,” she told reporters. She said Dean would walk out on stage, take off his jacket, hand it to Sen. Tom Harkin and roll up his sleeves. Dean, she said, was fired up.

The rest, by now, you know.

What you might not know, because it doesn’t play 30 times a day on the cable news channels, is what was happening in the rest of the room. You don’t see the visual and you don’t hear the audio. The television crews recording the event plug into an audio source picking up Dean’s microphone, not the sound of the room. The cameras focus in to a tight shot of the candidate, not the rest of the room.

What you are not hearing is a room with thousands of people screaming and cheering.

What you are not seeing are hundreds upon hundreds of American flags waving.

What you are not hearing are members of the audience shouting out state names urging Dean to list more.

What you are not seeing is the way Dean’s supporters were lifted out of their slump by the speech.

In a nutshell, you are not seeing that Dean’s speech fit the tone of the room.

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We’re back!

 Posted by at 08:36  Election 2004
Jan 262004

Dean back in dead heat with Kerry

Howard Dean is riding a rollercoaster in the New Hampshire polls.

As quickly as he sank in the surveys following his dismal third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Dean is rising again — so dramatically, in fact, that he is in a statistical dead heat with Sen. John Kerry in the latest MSNBC/Zogby Reuters Poll released Monday.

The three-day rolling average has Kerry with 28 percent to Dean’s 25 percent in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, cutting four points from Kerry’s Sunday lead. Factoring in the poll’s four-point margin of error places the Massachusetts senator and the former Vermont governor in a statistical tie.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark is in third place with 11 percent, followed by North Carolina Sen. John Edwards with 10 percent. Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman polled at 9 percent.

Tomorrow promises to be a very interesting day.

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The Deans

 Posted by at 04:24  Election 2004
Jan 262004

Now I’m asking you… would she make a terrific First Lady or what?

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Very interesting

 Posted by at 03:34  Politics
Jan 262004

Kay Doubts Presence of Illicit Iraq Arms

WASHINGTON – The outgoing chief U.S. weapons inspector says his inability to find illicit arms in Iraq raises serious questions about American intelligence-gathering.

Last year, David Kay had confidently predicted weapons would be found. But after nine months of searching, he said Sunday: “I don’t think they exist.”

“It’s an issue of the capabilities of one’s intelligence service to collect valid, truthful information,” Kay said on National Public Radio.

Asked whether President Bush owed the nation an explanation for the discrepancies between his warnings and Kay’s findings, Kay said: “I actually think the intelligence community owes the president, rather than the president owing the American people.”

The CIA would not comment on Kay’s remarks, though one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that Kay himself was vocal in predicting he would find weapons.

Kay said his predictions were not “coming back to haunt me in the sense that I am embarrassed. They are coming back to haunt me in the sense of `Why could we all be so wrong?'”

The White House stuck by its assertions that illicit weapons will be found in Iraq.

But Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, a Democratic presidential candidate, said Kay’s comments reinforced his belief that the Bush administration had exaggerated the threat Iraq posed.

“It confirms what I have said for a long period of time, that we were misled — misled not only in the intelligence, but misled in the way that the president took us to war,” Kerry said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think there’s been an enormous amount of exaggeration, stretching, deception.”

It is very interesting that the Associated Press would choose to quote John Kerry in this article, since he initially believed Mr. Bush’s claims and voted in favor of the Iraq war.

Here is Governor Dean’s statement:

KEENE–Last night, Governor Howard Dean, M.D., issued the following statement:

“Today’s comments by David Kay further undermine this President’s repeated claims that Iraq posed an imminent threat to America with weapons of mass destruction. It is an embarrassment that for the second year in a row, George Bush misled the American people in his State of the Union address about Iraqi weapons.”

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