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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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Friday, September 26, 2003


Dean vs. Newt

posted by Aziz P. at Friday, September 26, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Liberal Oasis delves into Lexis-Nexis and finds that the record shows clearly that:

  1. Dean opposed the '95 budget that led to the government shutdown: "What they're interested in is cutting the budget and making sure that somebody else gets the blame,"-- Star Tribune 10/27/95

  2. Dean was critical of the lack of health care issues in the GOP budget: "It helps to balance the budget but does nothing to move toward universal coverage in the private system. . . . The Republicans are missing a wonderful opportunity to expand coverage, not reduce it" -- Washington Post 7/11/95

  3. Dean criticized the GOP version of welfare reform (note that Dean successfully implemented welfare reform in Vermont): "When Americans elected the new majority ... they voted to do things in a new way, but I don't think they voted to starve children."" -- Tikkun 5/95

  4. Dean was strongly against cuts in Medicare: "This will bankrupt the state. It will guarantee that either people will go totally without health care or there will be tax increases. This is a disgrace." -- Associated Press, 9/95

However, LO finds that Dean did not toe the Democratic party line, either. He expressed support for some aspects of the Contract with America, and also was receptive to the idea of a balanced budget amendment. Liberal Oasis summarizes Dean's stands on these issues during the time as follows:

So it’s pretty clear where Dean was at:

Opposed to the cruelty and mismanagement of the GOP, but willing to cut spending in popular programs -- not gut them -- to balance the budget and not burden state services.

It’s certainly debatable whether or not Dean was right on those points, but he was not in lockstep with Newt and the anti-government GOP.

However, regarding Medicare, it's a bit more complicated. Gephardt's site is full of out of context quotes, but LO finds that in context, Dean's position was not that much different from Bill Clinton's:

Dean also said he could defend Domenici's approach to reducing Medicare costs…

…"I fully subscribe to the notion that we should reduce the Medicare growth rate from 10 percent to 7 percent, or less if possible,” Dean said.

Dean has acknowledged the accuracy of the quote (not necessarily the preceding paraphrasing).

But technically speaking, this doesn’t mean he “stood with” Newt, as Kerry alleged, and it’s not the “very plan” that Gingrich backed.

And when the final GOP budget bill came down later that year, Dean opposed it, as noted above.

Gephardt and Kerry supporters can rightly retort that the heart of the Medicare portion, the reduction in the growth rate, was still similar, and Dean expressed support for it.

Then again, so did Bill Clinton. Sort of …on Oct. 5, 1993 [Clinton said:]

"Today, Medicaid and Medicare are going up at three times the rate of inflation. We propose to let it go up at two times the rate of inflation. That is not a Medicare cut. ... So when you hear all this business about cuts, let me caution you that that is not what is going on."

"The president said it better than we can," said [Sen. Pete] Domenici.

Clinton proposed to save $ 178 billion from Medicare and Medicaid over five years as part of his plan to guarantee health coverage for all Americans. It failed in the last Congress...

…But Domenici…did not include the rest of the president's remarks…

Clinton went on to say, "We are going to have increases in Medicare and Medicaid, and a reduction in the rate of growth will be more than overtaken by the new investments we're going to make in drugs and long-term care."

So, what you would do with the savings from slower growth matters a lot.

LO concludes that the important question for Dean is not whether he supported Newt then but what he would do with the savings now? Dean needs to put his statements in the past in context, and issue a detailed plan about what his long-range vision is for medicare. Without his own articulation of his broader goals on this critical issue, Dean runs the risk of having it defined for him by his opponents.


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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.