Fineman on Dean


Hat tip to The Note for recommending this must read:

Under the old rules — which may or may not apply to likely Democratic primary voters in the Age of Bush — Dean would seem to be ripe for a fall. For starters, he has perpetrated any number of what, in the trade, are known as gaffes, requiring a crew of staffers (and his skill at fast talking) to constantly clean up after his own parade. Political junkies are familiar with the litany. Among other things, Dean has condescended to Southern, rural white men by inferring that they all drive pickup trucks with Confederate-flag decals on the back; metaphorically compared Washington insiders (including, presumably, those few who support him) to cockroaches; inferred that all his major rivals are really Republicans, and admitted that his lack of foreign-policy experience would require him to “plug that hole in my resume” with his vice presidential pick. In an interview with NEWSWEEK, Dean dismissed such lists as mere catalogs of his brutal candor. “The definition of a ‘gaffe’ in Washington is somebody who tells the truth but shouldn’t have,” he said, echoing the journalist Michael Kinsley, who coined a similar aphorism. Critics see it differently than the governor does. “I think the guy has mad-mouth disease,” said James Carville, Bill Clinton’s former top political adviser and dean of the “Stop Dean” spinners.

More serious, Dean’s foes say, is his penchant for adjusting his positions on issues, especially since he’s hawking himself as a nonpolitical Yankee with a backbone as thick as the trunk of a Vermont maple. Indeed, on the war in Iraq, he was opposed from the start and has wavered very little. On other issues, though, there’s been more swaying in the breeze. Years ago he was a supporter of Jimmy Carter’s against the insurgency of Sen. Ted Kennedy and was, therefore, on the pro-business side of the party; now Dean rails against Carter’s political descendants in the Democratic Leadership Council. Dean was for NAFTA and GATT, but now opposes any further free-trade agreements unless they have higher labor and environmental standards. He once thought it might be wise to raise the retirement age to protect Social Security; now he rules that out. Dean once thought Medicare was a miserable, poorly administered program; now he wants to save and expand it.

Also in the report is a potential mini-scandal in the making. Dean took money from the drug manufacturer Astra for speaking fees while governor of Vermont and while Astra was being sued by multiple employees for sexual harassment.
Fineman also adds this tidbit:

Now, in one of those cruel ironies that only politics can impose, Dean and Gephardt—for disparate reasons—want to prop Kerry up. Dean’s motive: to make sure that Kerry, not Clark, finishes in second place in New Hampshire; Gephardt’s motive: to siphon crucial votes from Dean in Iowa.

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Erick Erickson
By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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