Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

January 21, 2004

by J

Gut Check

I did a quick gut check the other day, just to figure out my instinctive reactions to the other candidates in case Dean can't get back on his feet. (I think he can, but contingency plans never hurt anyone.) So, I think the viable candidates now are Dean, Kerry, Clark, and Edwards. Note: I'm talking about instinctive reactions, not reasoned substantive or tactical decisionmaking.
  • Dean: Dean is still the most authentic candidate in the race as far as I'm concerned. His beliefs are clear and well-founded and he's interested in getting things done, not just talking for the sake of having talked. He has a superb sense of American's potential based on fundamental American ideals and seeks positive, progressive change not for his own sake, but for the sake of the broader community. I believe him and I trust his judgment.
  • Kerry: I believe that Kerry's heart used to be in the right place. Kerry strikes me as someone who's been co-opted by the system and had to strike so many deals and cave on so many things that he's lost track of his core values. I think he's a liberal's liberal underneath it all, though; I have no idea how he'd behave as President. I don't often believe the actual words that he says, but I generally believe in the direction he seems to want to go.
  • Clark: Clark is very opaque to me. I still can't get past that as a fully-grown and educated adult, the guy voted for Reagan. Twice! He's obviously intelligent, though, and not a right-wing wacko. I think he's a little too impressed with himself, but I don't think he'd do any serious damage as president. I have doubts about whether he'd truly move the country towards solving some of our major problems. And I don't quite trust that he is who he says he is. (Even 400 pages of Waging Modern Wars did not provide real insight into the guy; it was quite vague in many ways.)
  • Edwards: I must confess, the Southern drawl irritates me as do the fake smiles. Nevertheless, his "work versus wealth" and "two Americas" themes strike me as genuine expressions of frustration and a wish for change. Second to Dean in terms of authenticity. I think he's good VP material, but, I want something "more" before I could enthusiastically support him.
That's the gut check. Substantively, they're all close enough for jazz, although Dean's drive to actually get things done makes me put more faith in him for accomplishing anything. Tactically: I still say Dean's best to go up against Bush/Rove. Kerry's the only other viable option because of the matching funds mess. Clark and Edwards will be sitting on their hands from April to July while the smear machine is out in full force. And, as someone over at Kos observed, putting Kerry up against Bush will pose serious problems:
I want you to consider a debate in the fall of 2004.

On one side will be a politician who supported the unilateral invasion of Iraq, in which 3000 soldiers have either lost their lives or been wounded and not one nuclear, biological or chemical weapon has been found.

On one side will be a politician who has supported and continues to support tax cuts even though our country has the largest deficits in its history.

On one side will be a politician who supported the Patriot Act, which granted John Ashcroft unaccountable powers to violate our civil liberties.

On one side will be a politician who supported No Child Left Behind, an unfunded mandate that is bankrupting our public schools.

And on the other side of this debate will be George W. Bush.

Friends, is there any doubt that if nominate a Democrat with such a record on the issues that we will lose this election and lose badly?

We tried this approach in the fall of 2002 and we got killed at the ballot box.

Yet, the above description aptly describes the positions of John Kerry and John Edwards.
Gut check says: Dean. Substance: Dean. Tactics: Dean.

If the other guys, the media, and the RNC in their combined assaults manage to take Dean out, we're in for a very painful election. We still have a chance, because Bush is the worst President in my lifetime, but I would argue it will be a much slimmer chance.
Posted by J at January 21, 2004 02:14 PM

I'm a little annoyed at how quickly we've all started to sign off on Dean. He lost Iowa because Kucinich and Gep torpedoed him by sending their supporters to Kerry and Edwards. That's a little harder to manage in a primary.

Gosh, why don't we all just stay home? I mean, forget the fact that Clinton lost in Iowa, that Bush Sr. lost it, that Reagan lost it. Dean's down and out, right? Loser. Let's all jump ship.

Christ. What, we qall thought we could vanquish ultimate EVIL without breaking a sweat or stumbling at least once?

It's over. We lost. Oh, well.

Jesus, people.

Posted by: Janis at January 21, 2004 02:52 PM

Nobody here has signed off on Dean. And nobody is encouraging anybody to jump ship. I've had to have several discussions with Dean-leaners in the last day or two and have made exactly the same points about Iowa. You'll note I did conclude by saying that Dean's still our best shot.

However, I am particularly annoyed with Joe Trippi and wrote the following at DKos:


I'm not really too concerned about Dean's barbaric yawp or whatever, but I am deeply troubled over the management of the campaign.

Something broke very badly and I'd like some reassurance that they understand what it was and have already started fixing it.

The candidate, Dean, treats Americans like adults. The campaign staff, as evidenced through BFA posts, have not, so much. I want less rah-rah cheerleading and more substance. I wrote up a ton of suggestions in the early days of the Blog of how it could become a premiere resource for the campaign, rather than just a cheerleading/fundraising site.

Too much navel-gazing, not enough policy.

I also think they should return to Dean Corps, which I thought was one of the most brilliant ideas of the summer, and use that to hammer the community theme.

Anyway, they have enough money, they need to hire some pros and Trippi needs to explain himself in whatever way doesn't reveal too much to the other campaigns but does mollify irritated supporters like me.


Yes, the Dems ganged up on him and yes the media did their usual Dem-smearing hatchet job. He's got to be able to beat John F***** Kerry and Judy Woodruff before he can beat George Bush, though.

Posted by: J at January 21, 2004 03:00 PM

Recommended Reading:

The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity: A Diplomat's Memoir
The Politics of Truth... A Diplomat's Memoir

Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush
Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush

Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror

LIES by Al Franken
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right

The Great Unraveling
The Great Unraveling

The Great Big Book of Tomorrow
The Great Big Book of Tomorrow

Clinton Wars
The Clinton Wars

Blinded by the Right
Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative

Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat

Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture

Living History

The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton

John Adams

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace

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