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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Monday, May 12, 2003


Dean Running Second in TNR Primary

posted by Joe at Monday, May 12, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Matthew Yglesias directs us to the new feature at The New Republic Online -- the TNR Primary. Their description of how it works:
From now until the eve of the first presidential contest in Iowa next January, TNR writers are offering observations, criticisms, suggestions, and, most importantly, letter grades, in response to developments in the primary fight. Each entry will grade a candidate in one of five categories: foreign policy, domestic policy, intellectual honesty, political courage, and general likeability. All of a candidate's letter grades are averaged together, with foreign policy and domestic policy grades weighted double, and the resulting "grade point averages" are used to rank the candidates. (Click here for the current standings). At the end of each month, TNR declares a winner--the candidate with the highest GPA. The candidate who performs the best over the course of the entire TNR Primary will win special mention in TNR's endorsement issue next January. Only the candidates with some shot of winning the nomination--Howard Dean, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman--are eligible to compete.
So, flipping through candidates' report cards (here's the full report for Dean), one finds Howard Dean earning an "A" for his response to George Stephanopoulos when he asked if any of the candidates would raise taxes:
"[A]ll I am going to do is put the tax rate back to where it was when Bill Clinton was president," Dean explained, "because we did a lot better under Bill Clinton than we are under George Bush."
Flip around some more and--ready your gasp, Jim Jordan--someone questions John Kerry's political courage. And it's not Howard Dean! But TNR does use a comparison with Dean to make its point:
On Saturday night George Stephanopoulos asked all the Democratic candidates at once whether any of them would "rule out raising taxes as president of any kind." There followed an awkward pause. No one wanted to be dishonest--but certainly no one wanted to be Walter Mondale, either. Suddenly Howard Dean, always the most impetuous of the bunch, threw up a hand. Down at the end of the table, John Kerry looked at Dean and followed with something that looked like a hand-raise of his own. Only it wasn't quite that. Kerry lifted his forearm halfway up, then left it suspended in an tentative gesture of ambiguous meaning. It was as if he were Dr. Strangelove, wrestling his own arm as his political and intellectual impulses clashed internally. It's possible Kerry was simply indicating he wanted to speak. But when he was called on a moment later, he completely glossed over the question about taxes and proceeded to attack Dick Gephardt's health care plan. We're still waiting for an answer.
After someone resuscitates Chris Lehane, they should let him know that it was Kerry's political courage on an issue that TNR's Michael Crowley was questioning. We all revere Senator Kerry's heroic service in Vietnam. But those -- again, not Howard Dean -- who question his political courage to take a tough stand in a national campaign with his career on the line are talking about a politician's calculations, not a young man's bravery.

UPDATE: Headline edited to reduce obnoxiousness in response to Kerry-bashing sensitivities expressed in comments. For the record, I like Kerry a lot and he's my number two in this race at this point. Jim Jordan and Chris Lehane, though, aren't exactly earning my respect. These two views are not necessarily contradictory.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.