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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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Tuesday, September 16, 2003


Dean must clarify NAFTA

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, September 16, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Liberal Oasis has some tough love advice for Dean regarding his words on NAFTA:

Dean blew this big. But it’s fixable, if he’s willing.

On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, he picked a worthless fight with George Stephanopoulos over whether he used to be a “supporter” of NAFTA (Dean’s claim) or a “strong supporter” (George’s characterization).

To make matters worse, the Gephardt campaign did its oppo research, and quickly alerted the media of Dean’s '95 statement (also on This Week) that he was a “very strong supporter” of NAFTA.

(To any skeptics, check the transcript on Nexis. He said it, and it’s in context.)

This particular flub isn’t getting major media attention, but the political press corps (led by The Note) is surely fully aware of it, and is flummoxed, maybe even peeved.
If this is not corrected, he will be open to charges as severe as lying.

Of course, it is far more likely the case that Dean was not actively lying, (that would just be too stupid) but simply had no recollection of his earlier statement.

(There is no Nexis evidence that he ever used the phrase again to describe his position).

But it doesn’t matter.

Furthermore, if he lets this gaffe stand, he won’t be able to make his argument that we need international labor and enviro standards to minimize US job loss, without having others dredge all this up repeatedly.

Dean also said on This Week this past Sunday:

…when I make a mistake, I'm going to own up to it.

This is clearly a mistake. To not own up to it will invite more media skepticism and poison his future coverage on other matters.

The sooner Dean corrects this, the better.

(original emphasis removed, current emphasis mine). The political press corps is not neutral.

Gabriel earlier posted that the media should not be nit-picking and that Bush's own misstatements are actually egregious, deliberate, and harmful to the country compared to Dean's minor mis-step. He's absolutely right. But it's also irrelevant. This is the wrong election cycle to start expecting fair treatment in the media - as nominee, Dean is going to get Gored. This is the pragmatic truth. The campaign must accept this as reality and actively counter it rather than try to "rise above the fray" as Gore did and end up sinking like a stone.

The campaign has been showing dangerous tendencies recently, regarding their attitude towards critique. It's essential that they treat developing media memes with as much seriousness as they do frontal attacks by the other candidates.

UPDATE: I mis-quoted Gabriel. His point was that the feigned outrage over Dean's supposed mis-statements is hypocritical. He wants more nit-picking, of Bush, rather than explicitly decrying nit-picking on Dean. And again, I absolutely agree. But I think that given the media's submissive posture towards Bush, it's unlikely. These are the "facts on the ground".


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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.