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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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Sunday, July 06, 2003


open thread: meeting Dean

posted by Aziz P. at Sunday, July 06, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
A fellow blogger has a fascinating account of being Dean's chauffeaur for a day in New York:

--Howard Dean was a firebrand when his flame was on.

That is, he seemed to be able to turn his politician face on and off at will. While in the car, he even took a nap, presumably worn out from months of non-stop campaigning. But as soon as the occassion turned to movement and action, he had as much spirit as anyone I've ever seen. Truly, he was a physician. Only a physician can be accustomed to the kind of hours Dean keeps and the kind of work he does, while performing at his peak whenever it's needed. This, ladies and gents, is an extremely efficient human being.

--Dean was gracious but not warm.

Dean was genuinely nice when he first got in the car, introducing himself and thanking me for volunteering. He was being debriefed for most of the rides, but his interactions with his staff were, likewise, gracious, but matter-of-fact. This seems to be corroborated by stories in the press, of which there are many more now that Dean has taken flight.

--Dean was pink.

Not knowing when he'd be thrust in front of a camera, Dean had a centimeter of pink blush coating his leathery complexion. You could barely make out any wrinkles in the jowels of his square-lined face. My first thought was that he looked like he'd just gotten done with dress rehearsal for "Dancing at Lugnhasa," but I realized how necessary this paint job was once he ended up on stage and under harsh lights no fewer than a half-dozen times over the day.

--Dean was an amazing extemporaneous speaker.

Naturally he's practiced his many talking points til he's blue in the face, but he went the entire day without a single written word in front of him. (Try and get President Teleprompter to accomplish that.) I had the good fortune of seeing Dean give his final speech of the night, a 25-minute harangue/panegyric/sermon/inspirational that had the roof shaking. He covered every topic under the sun, and unlike most political speeches, this one was short on platitude and heavy on emotion. At the end, everyone left believing it was up to us to change the world; it felt almost like he'd given us a gift from onstage, passed it around the room and let us all share in a piece of the same token. I got that gentle tickle in my chest I get whenever I feel genuinely inspired.

--Dean never once mentioned his family, and they are being kept out of sight.

I noticed this a couple weeks ago, when the whole thing with dean's son blew up. His family has never been a visible part of his political life. It doesn't look like they're going to be. His wife wasn't travelling with him, even though it's only about a five-hour car ride to NYC.

--Lastly, Dean is an odd duck.

I almost didn't have the opportunity to drive Dean because he had insisted on riding the subway all day. This, in spite of 110 degree weather in the tunnel, unbearable humidity, and largely inconvenient routes for getting from place to place. People have suggested that he just wanted to be 'a man of the people,' you know, for political purposes. Everything I saw yesterday, however, contradicts that impression. Everyone on the campaign was actively trying to convince him to take a car because the weather looked stormy and it was obscenely hot. The distances he travelled by subway made him late for everything. Add to this Dean's relative and continuing annonymity, and he has no reason to go on the trains. No one recognized him; it had nothing to do with political gain. He just wanted to take the train. As a matter of fact, when I picked him up, he had been reluctantly convinced that the distance was too far to manage by train or by foot. The man wanted to walk in 90 degree weather from Madison and 35th Street all the way to Chelsea. Not only would this take far too much time, but it would be unnecessarily taxing on everyone involved.

This intensely personal view of Dean is quite at odds with the view that we tend to get from reading this blog or the campaign site or the other usual stories and coverage. And to an extent, Farhad Manjoo is correct in his recent Salon article, that Dean the real person is almost conspicously absent from the virtual side of his grassroots support (though the recent photo gallery of Dean does help rectify this a bit) Let's try and redress that (unfortunate but inescapable) imbalance - use the comments as an open thread to share your own personal experiences with having met Howard Dean in person.


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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.