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Facts vs. Rhetoric on the Dean Campaign

by RonChusid

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone out to sell a book bend the truth a bit. Today Kos, who was on the Dean campaign’s payroll to improve Dean’s perception in the liberal blogosphere, provides an “alternate history” as he does some selective reporting with fund raising totals, and more importantly mischaracterizes those who opposed them. While primarily speaking of the DLC, I suspect Kos believes this to be true of all Dean opponents when he claims:

their attacks had to be based on rhetoric and scare tactics, rather than tangible things like “facts”. They gave birth to the “unelectable” theme and provided the intellectual framework upon which Dean’s critics built their case against him.

It is hardly worthwhile to return to all the facts which led many of us, even people like myself who initially supported Dean, to oppose his candidacy. However, such a broad claim that opposition to Dean was purely based upon rhetoric and scare tactics demands that some of the facts be recalled.

While many “Dated Dean, Married Kerry” for a variety of reasons, for me the major reason came when the Medicare issue arose. While Dick Gephardt and John Kerry had raised valid criticisms, Dean initially stonewalled on answering. I was involved with Doctors for Dean at the time, and even had the opportunity to discuss my concerns with a Dean staffer for health care issues.

During the balanced budget battles, Dean had backed the budget cuts in Medicare which Newt Gingrich had advocated which were designed to destory the Medicare Program. It was a clear mistake, and if Dean had simply said he was wrong and provided a reasonable answer to questions regarding Medicare this might have been forgiven. Instead the Dean campaign came out with a series of evasive answers, ultimately providing outright lies as to what occurred. Dean further destroyed his credibility by proceeding to lie about the votes cast by other Senators. Even when talking about his present plans he was evasive.

Considering this was all a matter of public record, this was rather foolish. While the ditto heads at Daily Kos defended Dean without regards to the facts (with some even arguing to destroy Medicare when I challenged Dean’s position), the media knew better. For those who want to look further at the facts I have attached two articles. Particularly significant is the conclusions each author reached about Dean which forshadowed the problems Dean had with the media in the final stretch. Marie Cocco of Newsday wrote:

Voters generally judge not so much by whether there’s been a change of heart, but by a candidate’s forthrightness in explaining it. And on whether the flip-flopped issue has sufficient importance.

Dean’s already flunked the first test. He’ll find out soon enough that Medicare matters. Especially to the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

Thomas Oliphant also saw the facts he cited as a problem for Dean:

Bottom line: Gephardt and Kerry have a legitimate point, and Dean will have trouble expanding his remarkable base to the elderly and to voters of moderate means unless he does a more forthright job of facing up to his past.

There were other facts which hurt Dean and made the question of his electability real, and not based upon rhetoric and scare tactics. One key difference in positions between Kerry and Dean is that Dean proposed eliminating all the middle class tax cuts, while Kerry advocated eliminating them only for those making over $200,000 per year.

The significance of the middle class tax cuts in a general election is most profoundly demonstrated in a Democracy Corps Poll from October 23, 2003 . They found that a Democrat advocating the repeal of all Bush tax cuts lost to Bush by 5 points (44 to 49 percent). A Democrat who wanted to repeal the top rate cuts and maintain middle class tax cuts won the debate with Bush by 18 points (55 to 37 percent). This is a 23 point swing which provided a strong reason to support Kerry over Dean.

There were many other facts which made many question Dean’s suitability to be the nominee. The importance of military experience was demonstrated as the Bush campaign found it important to attack Kerry’s strength on this issue. While I personally sympathize with Dean’s actions and personally have no objection, the fact is that Dean’s evasion of the draft (along with lack of any military or foreign policy experience) would have been a major political liability post 9/11. The Republicans wouldn’t have needed to come up with the Swift Boat lies (or would they have attacked Dean with Aspen Ski Bums for Truth?).

Dean’s character was also brought into question on how he used Iraq. Undoubtedly he realized that there was ultimately only room in the race for one Northeastern liberal, and in a fair race he couldn’t compete with Kerry’s credentials for fighting unjust wars. Dean responded by distorting the meaning of Kerry’s vote on the IWR, fooling many into ignoring Kerry’s many statements opposing going to war. Ultimately publications from The Des Moines Register to Salon cast doubt on Dean’s integrity on this issue and showed how Dean and Kerry actually held very similar positions regardless of Dean’s rhetoric.

There were also many other facts which harmed the Dean campaign. Dean’s own gaffes did far more harm to him than any “scare tactics” from his opponents. For example, there were his statements on the Confederate Flag, from calling it a state’s rights issue for a Southern state to fly the flag over their capitol to his pickup truck gaffe. Dean’s record and positions on the environment and assault weapons concerned some liberal Democrats. Dean also suffered when he denied others the opportunity to review the facts with his sealing of his Vermont records.

Ultimately the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire took a close look at all the candidates. While Kos may believe that they voted based upon being swayed by scare tactics, it was the facts which decided the race in John Kerry’s favor.

20 Responses to “Facts vs. Rhetoric on the Dean Campaign”

  1. I’m proud to say I never dated Dean. He was so totally not my type, his stance on many of the issues never appealed to me and I always felt that Kerry was far better qualified for the job.

    It’s too bad because I think one of the biggest lessons we could learn from the last election is that Dems need to be more supportive of each other and stay on message. As long as Kos perpetuates this attack dog syndrome he’s hurting the party in my opinion.

  2. It’s both the “attack dog syndrome” and the way they ignore the issues while claiming people could only oppose Dean based upon rhetoric and scare tactics.

    If Kos simply said he prefered Dean because of x, y, and z I would see no point in arguing at this point. When he implies that their is no legitimacy to the opposing viewpoint, that’s another thing entirely.

  3. Ron

    No – no – not the facts! Heaven forbid that Kos should use facts when discussing the primaries. There’s quite an interesting array of comments over there. {{{roll eyes}}}

  4. How strange that you must continue to smear Howard Dean by dredging up muck from 2oo3. Must be because Dean is really beginning to shine over at the DNC. His effectiveness at recruiting and training throughout the country is really taking off. His strategy of winning in all 50 states will surely pay off in November.

    However, if mud must be slung, nothing could be worse than for Kerry, against the advice of John Edwards and against the wishes of his supporters, to cut and run the day after the election!

    He went AWOL in the struggle to stop Bush from stealing another election, thus breaking his promise to have all the votes counted and counted fairly in Ohio. Kerry won, but he quickly gave it all away to Bush without one word of protest. Howard Dean would never have done that.

    The month before the election, Kerry also unwisely held back spending over 20 million dollars that was still leftin the Democratic presidential campaign fund. This too is much worse than anything Howard Dean ever did.

    Kerry still controls this money, even though it no longer belongs to him. The longer he holds onto it, the more inappropriate the situation becomes for him.

    His premature concession, the day after the election, precludes him from ever running for president again. And he can’t ethically use the presidential campaign money for another Senate race either. That’s not why we donated the money to his presidential campaign.

    Nor should he be allowed to profit from his terrible mistakes by being allowed to keep it. He gave up the fight so he should give back the money to the Democratic Party, immediately.

    Was Kerry afraid that he would have to pay for legal battles if he contested the outcome in Ohio? Is that why he conceded so quickly and went into hiding?

    Worse for us, after Ohio was unfairly awarded to Bush, we had to donate more money to finance the ongoing legal battles with the Republicans. without Kerry’s approval or financial support, our legitimacy was questioned, consequently we could not succede with our hard fought efforts to take back Ohio.

    But at least we stayed and fought! So sad for a general to retreat from his troops in the heat of the battle. Not much loyalty there.

    Perhaps there were other reasons for Kerry’s abandonment of the Democrats. But, whatever the real excuse was, his dispicable act is only surpased by Gore’s abandonment of his own struggle to stop Bush from stealing the 2000 election.

    Because of their past behavior, we will never, ever see a Kerry or Gore president. Howard Dean still has a chance.

  5. Dem Dude

    Whether or not Dean shines at the DNC has nothing to do with the fact that some people are persistent in perpetuating claims about why Dean lost in the primaries that really are not factual. I think that Dr Dean probably would be more honest about his loss than Kos.

    And likewise, I am certain that as the now head of the DNC, Dr Dean knows that whatever money was left in Kerry’s campaign chest after the election cycle, belongs to Kerry’s campaign, not the DNC. There are strict FEC rules regarding that money and Kerry is following them.

    Furthermore Dean is not the only person gearing up for the 06 elections and helping candidates, Kerry is as well. His PAC has raised over 5 million dollars for various candidates and causes in the past year.

    We like what Dr Dean is doing for the DNC, but his role as the head of the DNC is far different from the role of a seated Senator. Furthermore, the two men both did a wonderful job in the 04 election and again, I will reiterate, if others stopped bemoaning Dean’s loss in the primaries you would not find the subject discussed here. When false information is perpetuated we will dispute it.

  6. Interesting, but not surprising considering Dem Dude’s history here.

    I respond to Kos’s inacurracte comments on the primary campaign with facts, and Dem Dude considers this a smear.

    Again, this is in response to Kos’s smears, and has nothing to do with Dean’s role as DNC Chair. While his record so far has been mixed, I hope he winds up being as successful as Dem Dude claims.

    Then Dem Dude, who pretends to object to smears, procedes to smear Kerry with a bunch of BS which has already been repeatedly repudiated .

  7. Also note how Dem Dude proves my point about the Kos-types who have no concept of issues.

    His objections to Kerry have absolutely nothing to do with what Kerry would do as President, and are purely based upon (incorrect) claims concerning his campaign.

    However, problems with Dean related to actual policy positions, including Medicare, taxes, the environment, government secrecy, and assault weapons go right over his head and are dismissed as smears.

    Dem Dude–these are the factors which matter, not the nonsense you write about.

  8. Dem Dude writes: “Because of their past behavior, we will never, ever see a Kerry or Gore president. Howard Dean still has a chance.”

    LOL. That may be the funniest thing I’ve read today. Funniest, and saddest.

  9. Todd,

    The funniest part is the “logic” Dem Dude uses.

    If Gore still has a chance, should he decide to enter the race, it is because of the increased support he obtained after the 2000 election due to having the election stolen. No rational person would call taking a case to the Supreme Court abandonment.

    His opinion on Gore shows the absurdity of the echo chamber. The Kos-types have invented the type of charges against Kerry as above, and totally ignore his leading role in fighting for election reform both in Congress and the courts. It is obviously difficult to win the nomination a second time, but whether he does has absolutely nothing to do with the fake issues Dem Dude discusses, which nobody in the real world care about.

    As for Dean, he most likely realized his chances for another run are slim, and therefore had no qualms about taking the DNC job, which is not the route someone would go if they were really interested in another run. I’m not going to totally write anyone off (look at Nixon), but Dean’s chances are clearly much less than either Gore’s or Kerry’s.

  10. Kos just won’t let go. It would be one thing if Dean had lost even one primary by a close margin. None of the primary vote totals were even remotely close between Dean and whomever won them (e.g. Kerry, Clark, Edwards, etc.).
    Ultimately, Ron is right about Dean having to differentiate himself from the other northeasterner in the race. What ultimately turned me off to Dean was how he criticized Dems who voted for the IWR but never explained why he endorsed the IWR and never critized Bush in the run-up to the war got under my skin.
    Most of all, I never saw Dean put forth any detailed plans on health care, the environment, labor issues, education, etc. It was always the war, the war, the war. Sure Iraq is important, but its not the ONLY issue. And Dean didn’t really explain how he would end the war other than say he would not unilaterally withdraw. OK, so what IS the plan doctor?
    Of course the arrogance not so much of Dean but of his disciples was almost as off-putting as the arrogance of Bush disciples. There was a lot of uncontrolled anger at Bush, but no real optimistic vision. Listenting to his disciples reminded me of everything I ever read about McGovern and everything I had seen first hand among those who still worshipped him. And McGovern was most certainly NOT a Democrqatic Candidate I wanted to be reminded of. Sure Dean would’ve been better than Lieberman, but that’s not saying much.

  11. Nick

    “Most of all, I never saw Dean put forth any detailed plans…”

    When I first started talking about JK online in early spring of 03 it astounded me how different their stances were on the issues.

    I remembergoing through every candidate’s website and readiing their plans, and JK had the clearest. The rest were weak. That was before I even got involved. Once I was involved and watched the candidates evolve, it was even clearer.

    And you are right, JK won by a clear margin in the primaries so I have no clue what Kos is basing this stuff on.

  12. Nick,

    Dean did put out some specifics on many issues. They generally were ok, but nothing particularly original or spectatular. Of course the Deaniacs would rave about each one as the came out as if they were something totally spectacular.

  13. Pamela,

    “And you are right, JK won by a clear margin in the primaries so I have no clue what Kos is basing this stuff on.”

    Polls. They are basing this on the early polls which meant nothing, but which they took as a sign that Dean really was way out in front. When Dean lost, they couldn’t accept it and therefore had to come up with all sorts of theories of how it happened.

  14. Ron

    They obviously didn’t understand the value oif “Ignore the Polls”

  15. Especially polls for primaries taken weeks to months before a primary, which are especially misleading.

  16. Starting with Ron, you guys miss the whole point of Kos’s article.

    Kos’s point is the DLC represents the old ways of fundraising and thus who politicians are beholden to by relying on big business and upper class financial support. While Howard Dean represents the new way of fundraising by relying on a much larger and inclusive audience of grass roots support from average citizens. Howard Dean is beholden to average Americans, and not to big business or the upper class.

    The DLC could not control Howard Dean because neither they nor big business and the upper class could not control his fundraising purse strings, so they had to do whatever they could to help bring down Howard Dean.

    Kos writes:

    ‘”The end of June 2003, in that unbelievable three or four days when millions came in [to Howard Dean’s Presidential Campaign Fund] over the Internet and $829,000 came in on Monday, the FEC deadline day.”

    That money was all the more remarkable because it was mostly internet-generated small-dollar donations. The Democratic Party had never seen anything like it before.

    If anything, the Democratic [DLC] establishment perceived it [Dean’s fundraising success] as a serious threat. As for the “centrists” at the DLC, what was amazing was how little dirt they had on Dean.

    If only they had been as effective in helping take down Bush [as they had with helping to take down Dean].’

    For the rest of the Kos article, click through to: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/1/6/1260/48222

    Whether Kos is right or wrong about the history of how Howard Dean lost the Democratic Presidential Primary race in early 2004 is beside the point Kos was trying to make in the article. Thus Ron’s own “Kerry biased” interpretation of the history of Howard Dean’s presidential primary bid is also beside the point. It is nothing more than an ad hominem attack on Howard Dean to illogically attempt to discredit Dean’s success at revolutionizing politics as alluded to in Kos’s article.

    We can argue all day about what actually transpired during the Democratic Presidential Primary. We can argue over what Howard Dean actually said and when he said it and in what context he said it and how much it contributed to his downfall. We can argue over how much Dean was reponsible for his own downfall vs the rhetoric and scare tactics used against him by the DLC, not to mention the RNC, and the mainstream media.

    But the outcomes of those arguments will not change the fact that the main point Kos did make in the article was of the struggle within the Democratic Party between the old guard DLC and the new guard represented first by Howard Dean. Plus, no one can argue the fact that rhetoric and scare tactics were indeed used to help take down the Vermont country Doctor. Dean was clean so they pumped up the scream.

    About a year ago, the DLC went up against Howard Dean again and fought hard to prevent the “gate crasher” from becoming the DNC chairman. But they lost that battle overwhelmingly to the vast majority of average Democratic citizens who also became gate crashers and made their own voices heard by proclaiming they wanted Howard Dean to lead the Democratic Party.

    In the end, the DLC could not overcome the grass roots popularity of the “People Powered Howard”. Since then, Dean has successfully grown the grass roots movement from within the DNC, and has expanded it into its even more inclusive form, “People Powered Politics” reaching out geographically to every state in the Union.

    Politics will never be the same. Thanks Howard Dean for helping us take our country back!

  17. Oops!

    Take out the second “not” in the third paragraph.

  18. No Dem Dude, it is you who miss the point.

    My post was written acknowledging at the beginning that Kos was writing pirmarily about fund raising. As is typical for Kos, he presented incorrect data on fund raising data to falsely exagerate the successes of the Dean campaign. However, I did not find this worth spending much time on as 1) Kos’s tendency to fabricate data is well known, and 2) despite this exageration Dean’s campaign has made valuable contributions in terms of new fund raising ideas.

    I concentrated on a point made by Kos which, while not Kos’s primary point, made a more interesting topic for discussion.

    You continue to miss the point when you claim, “no one can argue the fact that rhetoric and scare tactics were indeed used to help take down the Vermont country Doctor.”

    While rhetoric and scare tactics occur in any campaign, this is not what brought down Howard Dean. The more fanatic Dean supporters, such as yourself, remain totally blind to the fact that Dean, and his campaign, exhibited major flaws which prevented victory.

    While the media’s concentration on the “scream” was rather absurd, it also had little meaning. The scream occured after Dean had lost in Iowa and had fallen behind in New Hampshire. Scream or no scream, Dean’s candidacy was for all practical purposes already over.

    The Dean campaign is an interesting footnote to political history, but Kos’s view of him as a “gate crasher” is as erroneous as his entire view of the significance of his on line activities. Kos’s underlying error here is more important than the comments on Dean and fund raising.

  19. Dem Dude

    You are missing the point. Dean’s ability to motivate the grassroots and raise some serious money through small donations has never been questioned by anyone here. We all applaud that and are happy to see that there has been success so far in doing the same through the DNC.

    However, the “Dean Takedown” that Kos refers to has nothing to do with that. That’s Ron’s point.

    Kos misses the point that Kerry had already set in place a well oiled machine in Iowa that was kept under the radar. Likewise in NH and other states.

    There is still something to be said for keeping things under the radar and not publicly touting what you are doing all over the internet.

    The Republicans understand that. They have a well oiled grassroots machine that they have fostered for years through the churches, the business community (Chamber of Commerce) and other avenues.

    Dean did not have solid positions on many of the issues and when push came to shove and people came out to vote in the primaries they voted overwhelmingly for Kerry because he had the positions and he had been working the ground under the radar.

  20. Pamela,

    “The Republicans understand that. They have a well oiled grassroots machine that they have fostered for years through the churches, the business community (Chamber of Commerce) and other avenues.”

    Yes, and while there were certainly irregularities in 2004 (and we cannot yet say to what degree they were significant factor) the under the radar actions by Republcians were important. While Kerry did a great job of bringing new voters to the polls, the Republicans were doing same under the radar, especially in the exburbs.

    “Dean did not have solid positions on many of the issues. . .”

    I wouldn’t go this far on Dean. He did a decent job of putting out position papers on the issues during the primary campaign. Considering that these were done months before the first primary by someone with limited experience in national politics, he did a decent job.

    While Dean did a decent job, Kerry kicked his ass. Even though I supported Dean when the debates began, I conceded that Kerry out debated him. When Dean and Kerry spoke before crowds in Iowa and New Hampshire, Dean could not compete.

    Dean entered the race to concentrate on health care and early childhood education before Iraq became the dominent issue). He did have some good suggestions on these. Dean’s health care proposals to expand affordable insurance were actually very similar to Kerry’s. National Journal reviewed the plans of all the candidates, and Kerry beat out all the other candidates, including Dean. However, while Kerry did a better job of presenting positions on the issues, this does not mean that Dean failed to also present solid positions.

    Kerry and Dean were actually very similar on most issues. However, where they did differ was crucial. Dean’s position on Medicare was an important issue which led to me and many others not being able to support Dean. His position on the middle tax cuts was simply not a viable position to run on and would have been disasterous for the party.