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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, December 26, 2003


death for Osama, gag for Dean

posted by Aziz P. at Friday, December 26, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Well, that didn't take long - Dean is already being forced into defense mode on the Osama issue. Typical example of the way the issue is being framed: the Newsmax story headlined "Dean defends bin Landen".

Dean's response to this was quick - a telephone interview with the AP:

In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, Dean also said he wants Osama bin Laden to get the death penalty, seeking to minimize fallout from a New Hampshire newspaper story Friday in which he was quoted as saying the terror leader's guilt should not be prejudged.

"As a president, I would have to defend the process of the rule of law. But as an American, I want to make sure he gets the death penalty he deserves," Dean told the AP in a phone interview.

The former Vermont governor, who solidly leads the field of Democratic presidential candidates in both polls and money, said he was simply trying to state in The Concord Monitor interview that the process of trying bin Laden needs to be fair and credible.

In that interview, Dean was quoted as saying, "I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials."

Dean told the AP that sentiment doesn't mean he sympathizes in any way with the al-Qaida leader. "I'm just like every other American, I think the guy is outrageous," he said.


The problem here is that Dean still hasn't realized the depth to which his opponents will sink. The "no safer after Saddam" comment should have opened his eyes, but in my opinion he remains remarkably deaf to the way his own words can be twisted about. Since he did say in the Monitor interview it wasn't appropriate to "pre-judge" Osama (in terms of deciding a punishment), and now in the AP interview admits he wants to see a death penalty (in consistent line with his earlier views, I might add), he can easily be caricatured as flip-flopping on the issue.

If the original remark was poorly thouhgt-out, that's understandable, because it was defensible from a righeousness point of view. But with the additional interview he has weakened his position, opening himself up to a new charge of inconsistency, which actually obstructs his own record of consistency about the death penalty and undermines his original point about the neccessity for a fair trial.

Dean needs to stop trying to "fix" things. The people like Drudge and Newsmax who jumped at his original statement did so knowing <>full well what he really meant. Dean needs to stop being reactive and simply change the debate instead of taking the bait and being pulled deeper into the tar pit.

He'd better learn quickly.

UPDATE: Chris in comments on the post below notes:

Dean has to be careful not to fall into the Dukakis trap of trying to be so fair that he comes off sounding like he doesn't care if people were hurt by bin Laden. The best response to questions like this is to first go with the visceral response ("I'd like to string him up by his nuts") followed by the statesmen response ("but doing so without due process of law would make us no better than him.")

People need to feel that you will leap to their defense without a moments hesitation.

exactly right. Someone needs to clue-by-four Dean with this basic knowledge and do it fast.


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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.