Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

February 20, 2004

by J

Endless Post-Mortems

As is often the case, I agree with Todd at DI -- the endless post-mortems about the Dean campaign are dizzying, even exhausting. Poor ol' Gephardt didn't get such attention. Neither did superhero General Clark -- even after all those wacky, yet earnest, rumors about him being Bill and Hillary's stealth candidate. But Dean... for some reason, everyone just wants to continue to gnaw on Dean. He clearly got under someone's skin -- and not just John Kerry's. And how irritating for the two Johns.... that Dean continues to command headlines, including the front page, above-the-fold, of the Post the other day.

I'm not particularly interested in post-mortems. The professionals within the campaign can do their own analysis. I suspect that much of the theorizing around the web and in the media is just that, withouth much basis in reality. I have my own theories, but, of course, they're filtered through my complete distrust of the corporate media and the spineless Democratic party. Like Todd, though, I did like Greider's piece in The Nation.
In forty years of observing presidential contests, I cannot remember another major candidate brutalized so intensely by the media, with the possible exception of George Wallace.

[...] For the record, reporters and editors deny that this occurred. Privately, they chortle over their accomplishment. At the Washington airport I ran into a bunch of them, including some old friends from long-ago campaigns, on their way to the next contest after Iowa. So, I remarked, you guys saved the Republic from the doctor. Yes, they assented with giggly pleasure, Dean was finished--though one newsmagazine correspondent confided the coverage would become more balanced once they went after Senator Kerry. Only Paul Begala of CNN demurred. "I don't know what you're talking about," Begala said, blank-faced. Nobody here but us gunslingers.
Oh, just a reminder, everyone: Paul Begala is a sanctimonious, elitist prig who has demonstrated his true colors as a corporate toady during this campaign cycle.
The freshness of his style appealed to some but frightened others. His governing ideas were far more unconventional--outside Washington, some would say normal--than the caricature allowed. Still, no one should excuse the editors and reporters: Despite the multitude of media outlets, they collectively block out the content that seems disturbingly new, anything that doesn't conform to insider biases about what's possible.

Posted by J at February 20, 2004 06:05 AM

So we get confirmation of what we knew all along; what we've said all along. Dr. Dean's campaign was destroyed - at least in part - by those who would report that destruction. At long last can the myth of the liberal media be put to rest?

But still they deny and dissemble. They put on their best Alfred E. Newman faces, shrug and say: "Who, us?"

Posted by: Charles2 at February 20, 2004 08:53 AM

Ok, first up William Greider has been writing crypto-conspiratorial pieces about the journalism-industrial complex for over two decades now in Rolling Stone and elsewhere. That he see shadows behind Dean's flame-out is not at all surprising.

Second, I know Paul Begala personally, and he's neither a "sanctimonious, elitist prig" or a "corporate toady", nor was he responsible for some CNN-backed conspiracy against Howard Dean. If he doesn't jump in on the media hemming-and-hawing that Greider posits, perhaps it's because (a) he's not a journalist by training, and thus doesn't have the telepundit's natural instinct to overinflate his/her importance or (b) he was one of Clinton's point people from 1992 through l'affaire Lewinsky, and knows that media coverage can come a hell of a lot more biased and out-and-out unfair than it ever did for Dr. Dean.

Posted by: Kevin at February 20, 2004 10:25 AM

As for Dean post-mortems, I prefer E.J. Dionne's:

"As for Dean, pray that he doesn't go into a self-righteous pout. His campaign didn't fail because the Democratic establishment took him out. The establishment was too timid to do that. He made his own mistakes. He lost the race not in "the salons of Georgetown" but in the cafes of Fort Dodge.

But Dean did something very big. He now has time to grow into the role he carved out for himself."

Posted by: Kevin at February 20, 2004 10:41 AM

Kevin, Paul B. may be a wonderful fellow in private, but publicly he shouts that a candidate with years of governing experience is surely ignorant because he and his family don't watch *Begala's* employer's programming.

Which part of 'corporate toady' does that not satisfy?

Posted by: V at February 20, 2004 11:29 AM

Well, for one, he said cable news, not CNN. And, while you may see that as a dubious distinction, it is one nonetheless.

For another, I think Begala's point, while surely a minor and throwaway one to start disparaging the guy as he's been here, is well taken. I don't see how having years of governing experience means that Dean is instantly informed about what's going on at the moment. In fact, there's no correlation at all between governing experience and knowledge of current events...just look at Zell Miller and rap, to take only one recent ugly example.

In sum, I think it's a bit ridiculous to badmouth Begala as a "corporate toady" because he said in a throwaway segment on Crossfire that Dean should watch cable news, as if to question the good doctor's knowledge of the world instantly makes him part of the cryptomedia conspiracy. And it's more than a bit ridiculous to call Begala an elitist, while positing some wide intellectual disparity between print news and cable news.

In sum, Begala's a stand-up guy, particularly by Washington standards, and I think a stronger case needs to be made than the one here before he deserves epithets like toady, prig and prick.

Posted by: Kevin at February 20, 2004 12:31 PM

Two "In Sums" again...Sigh. I gotta give up that writerly crutch.

Posted by: Kevin at February 20, 2004 12:32 PM

I'm inclined to agree with V. Begala's comment was a cheapshot and based on an obvious logical fallacy to boot. I can count on one hand the number of times that I've watched cable news in my lifetime. Does that make me ignorant? If so then color me ignorant. I'll count myself in good company with Dr. Dean.

Posted by: Kevin @ TIV at February 20, 2004 04:03 PM

Didn't anyone see Begala and Carville on CNN the night of the new Hampshire primary? I wish I could remember exactly what they said, but suffice to say they were showing extreme bias against Dean.

Posted by: Todd at February 20, 2004 09:08 PM

Yeah, I watched it...they were in a little "War Room" mockup, and Carville was back to wearing his purple-and-yellow rugby shirt from the movie.

I didn't sense the extreme bias. They weren't saying anything about Dean that people hadn't been saying about Kerry for months on end...if you don't win NH in your own backyard, you're in serious, serious trouble.

Posted by: Kevin at February 21, 2004 11:13 AM

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