Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Maybe Howard Dean IS the Man...


By Gene Lyons
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Back when former Gov. Howard Dean appeared likely to win the Democratic presidential nomination, I thought he'd make a terrible candidate.

I admired his straightforward style, but I doubted the Vermonter could win a single Southern state. Gay marriage alone would sink him. It wouldn't matter that Dean had brokered a compromise in Vermont favoring "civil unions." By the time Republicans got done demagoguing the issue, most "red state" voters wouldn't notice the distinction.

I also feared they'd tag Dean as unpatriotic for opposing the Iraq war, although he was right about that also.

To the surprise of Washington pundits, most Democratic primary voters turned out to be thinking tactically, too. They gave the nomination to Sen. John Kerry, a fellow New Englander who had the advantage of being a Vietnam war hero. Alas, the Massachusetts Supreme Court hung gay marriage around his neck, he failed to defend himself effectively against the vile smears of the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and he proved incapable of explaining his position on Iraq in two short sentences.

Yet he came within 65,000 votes of defeating George W. Bush in Ohio and winning the presidency.

Would Dean have done better? That's impossible to say. But win or lose, he definitely would have gone down fighting. That's why his recent election as chair of the Democratic National Committee strikes me as good news. If nothing else, Dean's a scrapper, and the Democrats definitely need one.

Bush's ill-conceived Social Security "reforms," moreover, have handed them exactly the kind of issue they need.

"You ever wonder why Republican campaigns are all run the same? Guns, God and gays. That's all they do," Dean said recently. "Why is that? It's because they never have anything constructive to say about jobs, health care and a real defense policy. They bring up those issues because they want people to vote against their economic interests..... We need to stop letting them tell America what we stand for, and we need to tell America what we stand for ourselves."

Almost on cue, a group called USA Next produced maybe the dumbest attack ad in the storied history of GOP smears. The thing is so preposterously over the top it seems like a parody. What's the latest anti-American group to display its unreasoning hatred of Bush? Believe it or not, it's the AARP, a.k.a. the American Association of Retired Persons. Grandma has gone subversive.

The ad, which ran briefly on The American Spectator Web site, showed a camouflaged U.S. soldier under a big red X and a pair of bridegrooms kissing under a green check mark. The caption read: "The REAL AARP Agenda." By resisting Bush's plan to borrow several trillion dollars to set up "personal accounts" and slash guaranteed Social Security benefits, the powerful geezer lobby had shown itself to be anti-defense and pro-gay marriage.

Lest anybody think such grotesque illogic was the result of an LSD flashback, USA Next majordomo Charlie Jarvis warned that AARP could run - well, toddle, anyway - but it couldn't hide. He vowed to spend $10 million exposing its sins.

"They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," he told reporters. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."

Almost needless to say, the 35 million member seniors lobbying group has no position on gay marriage or the war in Iraq. What it opposes is Bush's ideologically motivated Social Security shell game.

Because its members tend to be aware that they already have tax deferred retirement options such as 401(k)s and IRAs, they question the need for another investment plan that would yank the safety net from underneath society's most vulnerable members - especially one like the Bush scheme that would increase the federal budget deficit, as Vice President Dick Cheney has admitted, by several trillion dollars.

If the AARP wanted to fight fire with fire, it might respond with an ad showing Bush himself pledging to protect the Social Security Trust Fund during the 2000 campaign, vowing in 2001 to devote the entire $2.6 trillion budget surplus to shoring it up, then recently telling one of his captive, GOP-only "town-hall" audiences, in characteristically ungrammatical fashion, that no trust fund exists.

"The money, payroll taxes going into the Social Security, are spent," Bush said. "They're spent on benefits and they're spent on government programs. There is no trust."

Geezers being geezers, many also know that they've paid sharply increased payroll taxes since 1983 specifically to pay for the Baby Boomers' retirement. So if the money was spent, Bush himself spent it.

Howard Dean puts it bluntly: "The truth is, not one Republican president has balanced the budget in almost 40 years. You cannot trust Republicans with your money."


Blogger sleepybomb said...

what the dems need is a backbone. i thought dean got a bum rap with the scream thing, but he is not gonna save the party.
look at how they just roll over and take it up the old wazoo. on every issue. the final blow was this weekend.they are afraid of the crap they'll hear if they don't play into the moral issue. it's just more slieght of hand.
the dems need to get their shit together basically.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Absolutely. I dunno if Dean can give them any more spine than they presently have, but I'm hoping he has the smarts to get people energized and to tell some of the Democrat politicians "cut it out" and "get real".

1:08 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

You know Dean is in the right spot to help the rest of the party find their balls and stop letting the repubs win on issue after issue.

7:01 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

I think will be a great DNC chair. He's a master fundrasier and has great passion. I don't think he's necessarily a good presidential candidate so this is probably where he should be.

I actually think the Dems were smart to take it easy on the Schiavo case. They knew if it went to a federal judge it probably wouldn't get reviewed. It's tough enough being the pro-choice party, you don't necessarily want to also be known as the pro-euthanasia party.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

I think the problem with the democratic party is that no one wants to think they are part of the democratic party, even when they regularly vote democrat. In Texas, for example, you are legally a democrat if you vote in the democratic primary, and yet people who do that all the time refer to the democrats as some exclusive organization apart from themselves. There are no memebership dues to the democratic party. There are no hazing rituals other than attending caucuses and conventions if you want to be active.

You notice that this conversation is being discussed as "the democrats need to do X, Y, and Z" or "they aren't doing X." How about we aren't doing X?

Everyone likes to be an independent or third party supporter or a disengaged onlooker because then it's someone elses fault, right?

Last year I got a few of my friends to go through the convention process here in Texas. First their precinct conventions, next their senatorial conventions. Then their state conventions. Caucuses, organizational meetings, etc. I even organized a secular humanist caucus at the state convention and ran for the rules committee at the convention, so if nothing else they should have seen that participating was a fairly easy thing to do. But after doing all this,one of my friends was still talking about what "the democrats needed to do" as if they were some different group apart from him.

It'a our God damn party and our responsibility as well. Distancing oneself from it and couching everything in terms of what "they" are doing is a royal copout.

If you don't like what "they" are doing, then exercise your civic right within our democratic republic and run for office and replace "them."

The system is only as good as we make it. It's not about what "they" are doing. It is about what we are doing as a nation of individuals who make up the collective whole.

And that is what Dean is about to me. He is reminding people that our government is only as good as we make it. He is not the orchestra. He is merely the conductor. If it's going to work, Americans are going to get off their duffs and perform.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

I agree with the article and most of the comments. I think Dr. Dean was a great choice for the DNC chair, but I am not sure he will be the right candidate in 2008. However, if the choice is between him & Hillary, I'm all for Dean. His passion is what this party needs, not Hillary's pandering.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

Thanks for the great comments. Thanks Sheryl, for reminding us we need to think of most matters Democrat in terms of "us"!

8:49 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

I think when most of us refer to the Democrats as "they" we are referring to those Dems in Congress and the Senate. It seems like what many of those Democrats do is getting more and more foreign to what we would like to see them doing. For example, our Oregon Democrat Senator Ron Wyden voted in favor of drilling in the ANWR... arrrgh. Anyway, yes, they are us. Again, Sheryl is correct in saying that if we don't like what they are doing, we need to be more proactive.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Christopher I said...

Given that a significant percentage of the membership of the AARP would be Republican, the AARP's attack on Bush's planned de facto dismantling of the US social security program is another instance that, regardless of our nationality, our political views say more about us as individuals, than about the issues about which we have such strong views.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Damien said...

I'm sure that Dean can whether what may be a diccy 'next election'. Although i am still considering who he will be running against and what the primary issues will be next time around. No doubt the social conservative elements of the right will be strong actors again.

3:40 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

Christopher made a good point. I think Rove and Bush figured they could count on the seniors to be lazy and selfish but they miscalculated. It was a pretty big gamble...alienating the old folks who voted for you and attempting to appeal to the young ones who voted against you.

5:36 PM  
Blogger sleepybomb said...

and now come all the 'swift boat for s.s. reform' ads attacking the aarp. see foot, shoot!
but it is the dems who have a chance to fight the fight, and they only say, 'put up yer dukes'. (i am kinda glad i live in nevada if only for reid, but he is so wishy-washy, like the rest, can't wait to get to new orleans, honest crooks).
still, public op is against ol' georgie on this. . . he won't get it this year, prolly never.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

I agree with Christopher that more AARP members are republicans. I think it was really stupid of the republicans to take on the AARP.
If someone asked me who had more political power, the Republican Party or the AARP, I'd put my money on the AARP.

That's sad to hear that Ron Wyden voted to destroy the Arctic Wildlife refuge. I think when democrats act that way, it's a signal that if we don't want to run against them, then we at least need to get the Greens to rejoin the democratic party and take on these dempublicans in the primaries.

Cause the one thing about the Greens is that they seem to trust themselves to run for office more than most democrats. Perhaps because they don't care if they win. But we definitely need to work on our slate of candidates to these federal offices.

11:22 PM  

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