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Friday, January 09, 2004


Lamest Game of 'Gotcha' Ever

posted by Matt Singer at Friday, January 09, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
[Cross-posted at NotGeniuses.]

Has anyone seen this NBC segment about Dean's old appearances on a Canadian talk show? Tonight, during Scarborough Country on MSNBC, they ran them with the heading "Howard's Hypocrisy" or something similar. (Something is amiss when you're making Fox News look Fair and Balanced.)

The old shows are actually fairly positive for Dean, as the NBC Reporter notes (credit given where credit due):
As reported by Lisa Myers on NBC's “Nightly News,” Dean comes across in these tapes as having a wide-ranging intellect, a sharp tongue, and shifting views on some key issues.

Yet he also shows that he’s much more consistent on issues — like affirmative action and trade — than some of his opponents give him credit for. And despite the constant complaints that Dean has no foreign policy experience, he demonstrates a good grasp of international affairs.

According to Ann McFeatters, the Washington bureau chief for both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade who has also been a regular guest on the show, the Dean you see on “The Editors” is the same Dean you see on the campaign trail. “He is very smart, likes an argument, likes to claw around and through a problem, and does speak his mind,” she said.
But this cannot, of course, be the story. No, they dredge up some old remarks to make him look bad.
For instance, in a show that aired almost exactly four years ago, Dean made some less-than-flattering comments about caucuses in the presidential nominating process [...]

“If you look at the caucuses system, they are dominated by the special interests in both parties,” he said. “[And] the special interests don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people. They represent the extremes. And then you get a president who is beholden to either one extreme or the other, and where the average person is in the middle.”

He added, “Here's what happens: Say I'm a guy who's got to work for a living, and I've got kids and so forth. On a Saturday, is it easy for me to go cast a ballot and spend 15 minutes doing it, or do I have to sit in a caucus for eight hours? … I can’t stand there and listen to everyone else’s opinion for eight hours about how to fix the world.”
Of course, there is no discussion of whether this is a fair criticism or anyone who even attempts to make a cogent argument that Dean, based on this criticism of the caucuses, has a duty to opt out of Iowa and other caucus states. No, he's a hypocrite because he prefers primaries to caucuses, but he is leading in caucus polls.

That bastard.

Let's look at what else they can dredge up:
Regarding Al Gore, the very man who endorsed him in December, Dean said back in a January 1998 show: “He has a lot of attributes, but … there are some things that I am concerned about. One of them is being quick on your feet. He is not.”
In another January 1998 episode, he also speculated that there “will probably be good and bad” if Hamas takes control over the Palestinian leadership. Yasser Arafat, he said, “is going to leave the scene. ... When that happens, I think Hamas will probably take over. There will probably be good and bad out of that. The bad, of course, is that Hamas is a terrorist organization. However, if they have to run a quasi-state they may actually have to be more responsible and start negotiations. So who knows what will happen.”

But then he said this in February 1999 appearance: “The next great tragedy is going to be Arafat’s passing, believe it or not. I’m not a fan of terrorism or Arafat. But the truth is that what’s happening here is [former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has thrown away the chance of a lifetime to negotiate with people he could negotiate with. Next comes Hamas, comes far more radical government in Jordan ... which may ally itself with Iraq. I think it’s a frightening proposition.”
Dean is correct about Gore. Gore's endorsing him has nothing to do with that statement. After that comes a change in thinking based on a year's reflection. Maybe he saw something that changes his line of thinking. Unless anyone really believes that Dean moved from "Hamas is bad, but may lose its radical nature" to "Hamas is just bad" because of Presidential ambitions (and no one should believe that -- it would be a ludicrous, inane position to take), then this is all ridiculous mock outrage.

And then, of course, we get to the "flip-flops." This is reporting at its finest.

Look at this gem:
In addition, Dean said some things on “The Editors” that might be considered flip-flops from his current statements on the campaign trail. In an appearance after the 2000 presidential election, Dean made this comment about his former fellow governor, George W. Bush. “George Bush, I believe, is in his soul a moderate.” That’s certainly a contrast from this remark, which he said this November: “I believe that George Bush's philosophy in life is, if you're rich you deserve it and if you're poor you deserve it.”
Someone's opinion of Bush changed in three years!?!?!?!?!?

Sweet Jesus, No!
And Dean seemed to display a sharp tongue a few times on the show. In an April 1998 discussion on welfare policy, one panelist remarked that 80 percent of children who are born to single mothers end up on welfare. Dean lashed out at that statement. “That is absolute crap. This is absolute unmitigated garbage.” (Welfare experts at the Brookings Institution and at the Center for Economic and Policy Research say Dean is most likely correct, certainly according to welfare rolls in the 1990s.)
He accurately defended single mothers and their children against slander?!?!?!?!?!

Sweet Jesus, No!

Still, despite the editorializing tone ("Still, despite the controversial statements, the flip-flops, and occasional heated comments"), the facts in the piece do little but exonerate Dean from virtually every attack against him.

Is he an angry man?
William Powers, a media critic at National Journal magazine, notes Dean always relished a good debate on the show. “He was combative and seemed to enjoy the combat.” But Powers, who wrote a 2002 article in National Journal about Dean’s appearances on the program, stresses he was never the angry person that his critics accuse him of being. “You never got a sense of real hostility.”

“I never saw him to have a temper. I saw him shoot from the hip,” added R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., the conservative editor in chief of the American Spectator who often sparred with Dean on the show. “That’s a difference.”
Dean flip-flopped on affirmative action?
Although in 1995 he once said that affirmative action should be based on class rather than race — a statement that rivals like Al Sharpton and Dick Gephardt have pounced on — Dean was extolling the virtues of affirmative action back in a 1997 appearance. “I think that this country needs affirmative action in order to succeed as a diverse society,” he said.
Flip-flopping on trade?
In addition, while Dean has been critical about free trade on the campaign trail, some of his opponents have blasted his earlier support of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Yet in a February 1998 episode of “The Editors,” Dean said he was already having second doubts about that support. “I’m a little nervous about NAFTA. I was a big supporter four years ago. I’m worried about the condition of Mexican workers around the maquiladoras. And I had hoped that NAFTA would boost the Mexican standard of living.” Such a statement seems to contradict Gephardt’s current argument that Dean’s doubts about NAFTA and free trade are an “11th-hour conversion.”
Flip-flopping on tax cuts?
Dean has also been consistent about his opposition to tax cuts, including his desire to roll back the tax rates to their levels during the Clinton Administration. “There is such a thing as a bad tax cut,” he said in an October 1996 appearance. “It took Reagan’s tax cuts, which were irresponsible, to create an enormous deficit, which has finally 12 years later come home to roost and force us to reduce spending.”

“I’m very satisfied with the income tax levels in the United States right now,” he added in a later appearance that year. “I think they are about right.”
Inexperienced in foreign affairs?
And finally, even though his experience in government hasn’t extended beyond Vermont’s borders, his statements on “The Editors” demonstrated a fairly good understanding of international affairs.


Impressed by Dean’s performance during this episode, host Keith Morrison said, “I think the governor should be the secretary of state.”
Honestly, if I was still doing work with, NBC would be getting a lot of phone calls right now and I would be clipping all of these juicy little tidbits for the DeanDefense FAQ.



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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.