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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, December 29, 2003


tarring Dean with Bush and Cheney's brush

posted by Aziz P. at Monday, December 29, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
I have to confess some delight at the way this story uses the inherent wrongness of Cheney's secret energy task group meetings as the foundation stone. The basic story is that Dean, as VT Gov, also had a closed-door energy task force meeting, and now the media is using this to try and paint Dean as a hypocrite for demanding that Cheney release records of his own. The two are not the same however - and the story gives Dean a chance to play up the problem with Cheney's approach:

In 1999, Dean offered the same argument the Bush administration uses today for keeping deliberations of a policy task force secret.

"The governor needs to receive advice from time to time in closed session. As every person in government knows, sometimes you get more open discussion when it's not public," Dean was quoted as saying.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Dean defended his recent criticism of Cheney's task force and his demand that the administration release its private energy deliberations even though he refused to do that in Vermont.

Dean said his group developed better policy, was bipartisan and sought advice not just from energy executives but environmentalists and low-income advocates. He said his task force was more open because it held one public hearing and divulged afterward the names of people it consulted even though the content of discussions with them was kept secret.

The Vermont task force "is not exactly the Cheney thing," Dean said. "We had a much more open process than Cheney's process. We named the people we sought advice from in our final report."

Dean said he still believes it was necessary to keep task force deliberations secret, especially because the group was reviewing proprietary financial data from Vermont utilities. "Some advice does have to be given in private, but I don't mind letting people know who gave that advice," he said.

The article takes a more critical view, arguing that the parallels are "many" and trotting out some Democratic critics of Dean from Vermont on the issue. What's notable is that the story also mentions the sealed-records issue.

There's a similar line of attack in a Boston Globe story that Dean looked the other way with regards to corporation tax incentives:

As governor of Vermont, Howard Dean presided over the creation of a program that authorized $80.1 million in corporate tax credits without verifying that many of the companies had made good on promises to bring new jobs and investments to Vermont, according to a report by the state auditor's office.

The report found that the Vermont Economic Progress Council, the Dean-appointed nine-member body charged with administering the tax-credit program, relied heavily on companies' claims that they were considering bypassing Vermont for their business and needed the credits as incentives. The report also found that the Department of Taxes never checked to make sure that companies followed through on their promises until the Legislature stepped in and required it to do so.
Dean declined to comment through his spokesman, Jay Carson. "The auditor's report aside, the governor's record speaks for itself," Carson said. "There was record economic growth. He balanced 11 budgets, provided prescription drugs for seniors, and provided health insurance for children."

Dean, who regularly criticizes President Bush for doling out corporate tax benefits and has made criticism of questionable business gains a cornerstone of his bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination, took an active role in shaping Vermont's tax-credit program, according to an audit report released in 2000. He sought out companies and encouraged them to apply for the credits and shared his views with council members about how companies' qualifications should be evaluated.

The story is complex, but the main point again is that Dean is critiquing Bush for something he also did. The fact that there were no Vermont Enrons and no "Kenny Boy" close personal ties between Dean and the heads of these companies is not mentioned in teh story.

The common thread here is an attempt to mine Dean's Vermont record to try and undermine his critiques of Bush. In all three cases - energy task force, sealed records, and corporation incentives - Dean's record of success in Vermont is being used against him. One need only comare Vermont to Texas under Bush or the general state of the country as a whole today to realize the difference.

But these attacks do help - because for them to work, they must cut both ways. I think that the campaigns response to these has been sound.

UPDATE: John from the Zonkboard characterizes this attack strategy as "Dean ran stop sign once, yet criticizes Bush's drunk driving". Heh.


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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.