Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Sam Smith

If there is one consistency in media coverage of new administrations, whether Republican or Democrat, it is that the new crowd is brilliant, dramatic, unprecedented, world shaking and historic.

In other words, the coverage is almost always wrong.

The reason nobody cares or notices is that the point is not to demonstrate the sharpness of reporters' brains and eyes but the availability of their butts.

Even with the worst president in history on their docket, it wasn't until both the GOP and Democratic pretenders to the throne led the way that the media was finally willing to describe George Bush as a failure.

And so, less than a week after the polls have closed, we find Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic opening a Facebook group for journalists working on the presidential transition, which promises, "We'll use the space to exchange ideas and stories, and organize social events with members of the transition team." Just what objective journalism needs: more buddy drinking with your sources.

As I described it once: "Official Washington -- including government, media and the lobbies -- functions in many ways like America's largest and most prestigious club, a sort of indoor, east coast Bohemian Grove in which members engage in endless rites of mutual affirmation combined with an intense but genteel competition that determines the city's tennis ladder of political and social power. What appears to the stranger as a major struggle is often only an intramural game between members of the same club, lending an aura of dynamism to what is in truth deeply stable."

Among the victims of this culture - aside from the American people, of course - are those Washington figures who fail to play the game. Howard Dean, in the first post election week, has not only announced his departure from the Democratic National Committee but two hundred staffers of his 50 state strategy - which incidentally helped to put Obama and a Democratic Congress in power - have already been fired.

In another example, John Kerrry - whose only original (albeit inaccurate) thought was that he might be a good president - is among those being mentioned for Secretary of State. That would probably result in a promotion for one of the capital's outsiders and most honorable officials, Russ Feingold. But note how the Washington Post's Al Kamin handles it:

Speaking of secretary of state, it's looking increasingly like Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) may get the nod for that post, a possibility that is driving some Senate Democrats to distraction. No, not that they oppose Kerry. Not at all.

The problem is that the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), has picked up a new job. The second-ranking Democrat, Sen. Christopher Dodd (Conn.), has announced that he's staying on as head of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, what with all the troubles in the industry these days. . .

That means, yes indeed, next in line to chair the committee is Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.), who tends to approach foreign policy and related matters from, let's say, a leftward direction. Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act and is the leading advocate of cutting and running out of Iraq. That means the Obama administration, in addition to getting smacked around from the right on foreign policy matters, could find itself hammered from the left as well.

A town that sucks up to John Kerry and Rahm Emannuel and snubs Russ Feingold and Howard Dean needs some professional help. As things now stand, Jesus couldn't have his second coming in the capital unless it was on the new president's agenda.


The Hill
- Dean paid for national-party staff in all 50 states and developed a single voter database for every Democratic candidate to use in 47 states.

Democratic Party officials are convinced this enabled Obama to build a strong grassroots operation in Republican strongholds, such as Idaho, Nebraska and North Dakota, that pushed him to victory over Clinton in the primary.

The database also helped Obama assemble an unprecedented field operation in other conservative-leaning states such as North Carolina, Virginia and Missouri, throwing McCain on the defensive.

While Republicans had a national voter database for years, Democrats relied on a patchwork of state voter files that were difficult to use. . .

But even while Dean kept his head low and his nose to the grindstone, he still drew fire from Democrats on the Hill.

Dean's emphasis on investing resources in states where Democrats had a paltry record of success drew the scorn of former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), who clashed bitterly with Dean in 2005 over the DNC's spending strategy.

At one point, Emanuel stormed out of a meeting with Dean while unleashing a string of expletives. Emanuel wanted Dean to save more money for television ads to help Democratic House candidates later in the cycle.

James Carville, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, argued that Democrats could have captured 40 House seats in 2006 if Dean had listened to Emanuel.

Democrats have since won special elections in solidly Republican districts in Louisiana and Mississippi and are now poised to capture at least 15 more seats, according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"He was reviled, and this is his ultimate triumph over Rahm Emanuel, who was one of the most vocal opponents of the 50-state strategy," said Ross K. Baker, a Rutgers University professor who specializes in politics.

Wikipedia - Dean was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1982 and was elected lieutenant governor in 1986. Both were part-time positions that enabled him to continue practicing medicine. In 1991, Dean became Governor of Vermont when Richard A. Snelling died in office. Dean was subsequently elected to five two-year terms, serving as governor from 1991 to 2003, making him the second longest-serving Governor in Vermont history, after Thomas Chittenden (1778–1789 and 1790–1797). Dean served as chairman of the National Governors Association from 1994 to 1995; during his term, Vermont paid off much of its public debt and had a balanced budget 11 times, lowering income taxes twice. Dean also oversaw the expansion of a program which ensures universal health care for children and pregnant women in the state.

An early front-runner in the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination, Dean denounced the 2003 invasion of Iraq and called on Democrats to more strongly oppose the Bush Administration. Dean showed strong fundraising ability, and was a pioneer of political fundraising via the internet; however, he eventually lost the nomination to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

By far the most controversial decision of his career, and the first to draw serious national attention came in 2000, when the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the state's marriage laws unconstitutionally excluded same-sex couples and ordered that the state legislature either allow gays and lesbians to marry or create a parallel status. Facing calls to amend the state constitution to prohibit either option, Dean chose to support the latter one, and signed the nation's first civil unions legislation into law, spurring a short-lived "Take Back Vermont" movement which helped Republicans gain control of the State House. . .

On January 19, 2004,. . . Dean, who had been suffering with a severe bout of the flu for several days, attended a post-caucus rally for his volunteers at the Val-Air Ballroom in West Des Moines, Iowa and delivered his concession speech, aimed at cheering up those in attendance. Dean was shouting over the cheers of his enthusiastic audience, but the crowd noise was being filtered out by his unidirectional microphone, leaving only his full-throated exhortations audible to the television viewers. To those at home, he seemed to raise his voice out of sheer emotion. Additionally, Dean began his speech with a flushed-red face, clenching his teeth as he rolled up his sleeves.

According to a Newsday Editorial written by Verne Gay, some members of the television audience criticized the speech as loud, peculiar, and unpresidential. In particular, this quote from the speech was aired repeatedly in the days following the caucus:

Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York ... And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Yeah!

This final "Yeah!" with its unusual tone that Dean later said was due to the cracking of his hoarse voice, has become known in American political jargon as the "Dean Scream."

Dean conceded that the speech did not project the best image, jokingly referring to it as a "crazy, red-faced rant" on the Late Show with David Letterman. In an interview later that week with Diane Sawyer, he said he was "a little sheepish ... but I'm not apologetic." Sawyer and many others in the national broadcast news media later expressed some regret about overplaying the story. In fact, CNN issued a public apology and admitted in a statement that they indeed may have "overplayed" the incident. The incessant replaying of the "Dean Scream" by the press became a debate on the topic of whether Dean was the victim of media bias. The scream scene was shown an estimated 633 times by cable and broadcast news networks in just four days following the incident, a number that does not include talk shows and local news broadcasts. However, those who were in the actual audience that day insist that they were not aware of the infamous "scream" until they returned to their hotel rooms and saw it on TV.


At November 12, 2008 9:54 PM, Anonymous Scalawag said...

Kudos to you and "the Hill" for giving credit where it is due. Dean's much maligned "50 state strategy" is the basis for the Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008. He recieved precious little credit in 2006. Indeed Clintonstas like James Carville poor mouthed him while Rahm Emmanuel hogged the spotlight. And with the exception of Rachel Maddow, I haven't heard anyone in the media show him any appreciation.

The media didn't like Dean in 2004 and went after him in a way they reserve for third party challengers like Ralph Nader or Ross Perot. It seems they still have it in for him.

At November 12, 2008 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Gov. Dean did a good thing for our party. I have supported his 50 state strategy on a monthly basis, but just because Dean doesn't get the postive press or treatment he deserves doesn't give you the right to through Senator Kerry under the bus. You ignorant comments on the senator are meanspirited and show how little you really know about Senator Kerry. The senator by the way, supported Dean's strategy and believes people have a right to have candidates campaign in all 50 states.

At November 14, 2008 3:55 PM, Anonymous Sicnarf said...

Thank you! This is what I've been saying since they made that nasty putz Emanuel chief of staff. Dean will be screwed since he was right where Emanuel was wrong. Dean got screwed in 2004 and he will be surely screwed again. No good deed goes unpunished. But whataregonnado.


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