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Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Letters, we get letters 

One of the nicest things about my experience with this blog in the past couple of months have been the many kind notes passed on by people who have visited. After yesterday's "Shifting Sands" post, I received the following e-mail from Joe J. McGinniss in Washington, DC. I told him he had perfectly expressed a lot of what I've been feeling these last few weeks but have had trouble putting into words:

Sad but true. Thanks for your contribution. It made a difference.

They won - this round. The maverick always struggles and rarely wins. The gatekeepers simply can't allow someone into the kingdom who doesn't ask their permission with a wink and smile and a pat on the head. Writers, pundits, media outlets are insecure, competetive, non-thinking, often cowardly and selectively cynical. Jodi wanted nothing more than to make her mark. Assigned to cover Dean early, when he was an asterik, so what? Hard to stand out. Suddenly thrust into THE reporter of record for THE biggest political story in years, the pressure on young Ms. Wilgoren to stand out -- if not help bring down the emerging front-runner -- was enormous.

So thanks for holding her feet to the fire. Rest well, as Dean and his supporters should. The task was daunting, the mission inspired and the results predictable, but none of it in vain because thousands of people have been moved, have felt something they didn't expect to feel, something they likely didn't think they could feel anymore. There are words for it, a whole lot to choose from. But it's the emotion you can't put words to that was the greatest gift of this campaign.

I for one will never forget this past eight months and will tell my kids some day when they ask, when they pick up one of the buttons or see the worn, faded logo on the T-shirt I'll still wear, who was Dean for America?

He was just a man who said what he believed and didn't back down. And when you do that, win or lose, something somewhere changes for the better.

Thanks.
Thanks to you, Joe. I needed that. ;-)

Only His Hairdresser Knows For Sure 

In the latest round of "Will he or won't he?", we find that lots of people have opinions on when, if and how Governor Dean might end his campaign, but only one guy really knows -- and he ain't conceding yet.

The three main Democratic presidential candidates raced across Wisconsin — their charter jets crossing wings on runways in remote stretches of this state — but the main question was less about what would happen on Tuesday, when Wisconsin holds a primary that Dr. Dean said he must win, and more about what would happen on Wednesday.
In other words, Howard Dean continues to set the pace and the agenda for this race. (“Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean”.) Too bad we’ll likely never see him have a chance to do the same up against G. Dubya.

"We are going on," Mr. Edwards said in an interview, asserting that his biggest obstacle has been a fast-paced primary calendar that has not given him time to catch up with Mr. Kerry. "In every single state, we have been rising on election day, every single one. It's just a time issue."
Join the club, Sen. Edwards. The latest Zogby poll shows what could be a Dean surge in Wisconsin – Kerry 47%, Dean 23%, Edwards 20% -- as compared with last week’s ARG poll showing Kerry 53%, Edwards 16%, Dean 11%. (Insert usual Kossian disclaimer – Zogby’s methodology forces leaners to decide, can’t compare different polls, yadda yadda yadda – here.) If we had another week before Wisconsin, could Dean catch up with Kerry? We’ll never know. Thanks a lot for that front-loaded primary, Terry Mac.

"Let me remind you all that I have more delegates than everyone else in this race except John Kerry," Dr. Dean told reporters, an edge of anger in his voice. "So I think the campaign obituaries that some of you have been writing are a little misplaced. "
"An edge of anger". Gee, we haven’t heard that old chestnut for a while now, have we? Yeah, I’d be fucking angry too after what he’s been through. (I'll also mention before I got to the Times piece, I read that quote in 3 or 4 other places -- and none of them noted an edge of anger or any other emotion in Gov. Dean's voice. A little color commentary, courtesy of the Nagourney/Wilgoren tag team.)

He refused to answer a routine question about whether he would have authorized the use of nuclear weapons were he in the shoes of Harry S. Truman, his favorite president, explaining, "I just don't feel like it."
Perhaps because he’s been blind-sided by so many “routine questions” designed to evoke a “gaffe”, he’s just sick and tired of them?

Ya know, I really sympathize with the Governor. I’m just ready for him to make his decision, step aside, and start on the next chapter of the movement he has started. I’ve got a feeling he might have a chance to make an even bigger difference NOT being the nominee than he could have made if he were walking in John Kerry’s shoes right now.

Mr. Kerry has avoided any criticism of Dr. Dean, with an eye toward rounding up his supporters if and when Dr. Dean drops out. Aboard his plane on Monday, Mr. Kerry reported that he and Dr. Dean had a "very nice conversation" on Sunday night. “He was very warm," Mr. Kerry said.
Don’t hold your breath, JFK. At this point, you've got my vote if I don't have any other alternative in the fall -- but that's it.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Shifting Sands 

It looks like the final nails may be placed in the coffin over the next few days. The Times is reporting Steve Grossman is abandoning ship unless Gov. Dean finishes first in Wisconsin -- which is obviously unlikely to happen. And it looks like SEIU may be following in AFSCME's footsteps as well.

There has been a distinct shift in Gov. Dean's rhetoric in the last week or so, especially in tonight's debate where he avoided several opportunities to attack Sen. Kerry -- I look at him now and believe he's just going through the motions for his hardcore supporters.

The last three weeks have been difficult to say the least - a mixture of mourning and pride. I've given time and money to a candidate and a cause I believe is the best direction for our country. This past Tuesday I cast my primary vote for Gov. Dean here in Virginia -- quite possibly the first time in my life I've cast a vote FOR a presidential candidate instead of against one. And that felt damn good. At the same time, between the media onslaught (which I believe can be traced largely to Gov. Dean's thoughts on media consolidation expressed on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews in early December) and the campaign's own failings, the end is obviously near.

I've been thinking a lot the last week or so about what will happen to this blog when Howard Dean makes his decision, which I'm expecting on Wednesday. Will it switch to covering media coverage of John Kerry? John Edwards?

The answer is probably not. Truthfully, none of the other candidates has inspired me to anything near the extent Gov. Dean did. (John Edwards comes close and I think he would make a better nominee than Sen. Kerry.) But unfortunately, I just don't give much of a damn about those other candidates.

Don't get me wrong, I'll vote for whoever is on the Democratic ballot opposite George W. Bush in the fall. And if the candidate is Edwards, I'll probably donate some time and money along the way. But primarily I'll concentrate on finding ways to get Bush out of office and taking back the Congress. If Gov. Dean transforms "Dean for America" into some kind of organization to continue the movement, I'll be there for that as well.

But for now, yep, looks like they won.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Still here 

Started a new job last week and have been doing some things leading up to today's Virginia primary. I proudly cast my vote for the man I feel is best equipped to take on George Bush in the fall -- Conventional Wisdom be damned. ;-)

Anyhow, I hope to get caught up and post a few things within the next 48 hours. Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Post-mortems 

From Sunday, "Missteps Pulled a Surging Dean Back to Earth". In the "couldn't have said it better myself" category, check out Bad Attitudes and we shall move on.

Following the (hopefully premature) post-mortem, we get the $$$ details in "Figures Detail Dean's Slide From Solvent to Struggling". And which impartial observers do Mr. Justice & Ms. Wilgoren rely on for the majority of opinions on Gov. Dean's money troubles? Why, Gov. Dean's rivals, of course.

Democratic consultants and strategists at rival campaigns said the heavy spending resulted from a number of mistaken tactical decisions, including advertising too early, enlarging the organization too quickly and betting too heavily on the first contests.

-----

"They spent it all in one huge strategic error -- they completely squandered it," said Steve Murphy, campaign manager for Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, who dropped out of the race and has not endorsed another candidate.

-----
"They got overconfident about the money," one fund-raiser for Senator John Kerry said.
This last comment of course from the campaign whose candidate mortgaged his home to keep himself alive. When do we get the in-depth analyses of how deep in debt the Kerry campaign was at the end of Q4? (As a side note for you mortgage wizzes out there, if Senator Kerry has a $6.8M mortgage and is elected President at a yearly salary of $400,000, what kind of interest rate do you reckon he negotiated on that loan?)

Anyway, back to our anonymous experts.

Dean campaign officials said they had to introduce their candidate to voters who did not know him and stake out his policy positions. However, many Democrat strategists said the strategy was wasteful, as was the decision to open campaign offices in multiple states.
Now are these the "independent" strategists or the ones who have a dog in this fight, who are paid to make sure Gov. Dean doesn't recover to fight another day? We're left to wonder.

A final observation from the Kerry camp:

John Norris, Mr. Kerry's Iowa campaign director, said the spending was evident on the ground. For example, he said, the Dean campaign bused in supporters from out of state when Dr. Dean spoke, something the Kerry campaign did not do because of the expense.

"It was all about creating a perception that there was a huge, big crowd, people were everywhere, there was momentum, and that he would inevitably be the nominee," Mr. Norris said. "There was a cost for creating that perception."
To my very limited knowledge, the only time the Dean campaign "bused in" any significant number of out-of-state supporters was at the Harkin steak fry (and maybe at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner?). If this was happening on a regular basis, wouldn't we have heard about it before now and from a source other than a Kerry supporter?

In the final paragraphs, we get a short summary of the other major candidates' tally sheets. For Sen. Kerry, we have:

Mr. Kerry raised $2.3 million in the fourth quarter and lent his campaign $2.9 million, less than half of the $6.4 million he obtained by mortgaging his home to feed the campaign. He raised $25.3 million over all in 2003, spent $23.7 million and had $1.6 million on hand on Dec. 31. His total debt, including the loan to himself, was $3.8 million.
In other words, not even counting the mortgage money, the Kerry campaign had spent themselves $1.1 million in the hole.

The Dean campaign may have raised a huge amount of money -- and blown it on a calculated risk which didn't pay off -- but at least Gov. Dean has been very upfront about accepting responsibility for this risk

Speaking on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Dr. Dean said he did not blame his campaign staff for the spending. "I signed off on all that personally," he said. "So I don't have any thoughts that it was their fault, not mine. It was my fault."
and has been very responsible in not wanting to incur any debt for his campaign.

Another is to keep the campaign from sliding into debt. "He hates debt," the aide said of Dr. Dean. "It's normal for a campaign to incur debt, but he doesn't want to do it."
You can call me a hopeless optimist or politically naive here, but I have a lot more respect for Gov. Dean after reading these two throw-away quotes -- in spite of the parade of expert opinions we are served up from his rival's "operatives" on what a loser he is.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Where's Jodi? 

In a period which has seen Nedra Pickler rack up two Dean articles -- one on Roy Neel's Friday night "Rally the Troops" memo and one covering Gov. Dean's attack on Senator Kerry's "Johnny-come-lately" status when it comes to fighting special interests -- where is Ms. Wilgoren?

The Times strategy coverage is authored by Katharine Q. Seelye. (Oh goodie.) We also get an editorial entitled "Come Back, Little Deaniacs", which isn't nearly as condescending as the cutesy title suggests:

If the product of the Dean movement is thousands of young people who are slightly hardened to the lure of a charismatic candidate, but determined to keep on fighting for a better world, it will have been a success no matter what happens to the former governor of Vermont. That is the way politics, at its best, works. First you discover that your paragon of a candidate is all too deeply human. Then you realize that the real heroics come from you and your friends with the pamphlets, stolidly going door to door.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Exhibit B 

Dean Supporters Voice Frustration but Soldier On

What could have been a "whiny loser" article is actually fairly balanced and almost -- dare I say it -- uplifting. The only problem is that the youth angle persists somewhat. Most of those interviewed and have their ages listed are under 30. We know Ms. Hicks and Ms. Geto are over 30 but we don't see their ages listed. All of us who have volunteered for the Dean campaign know the average age is a lot higher than that.

Beg, Borrow & Steal 

Robin Toner writes a really nice piece -- which still only manages to scratch the surface -- on how some of Gov. Dean's opponents have co-opted his message.

Howard Dean may not have won a primary or caucus yet, a circumstance that led to a major shake-up of his campaign on Wednesday, but his mark on the party is unmistakable. His defeats are less a victory for the Democratic establishment than a sign of the other leading candidates' ability to adjust, and harness the energy originally tapped by Dr. Dean's insurgent campaign: the anger at President Bush, the opposition to the war with Iraq, the demand for a different direction in domestic policy.
Is this the NYTimes starting to give the Gov. some good press in hopes of building him up, keeping him in the race since he is undoubtedly the most fascinating candidate of this election cycle?

"What now?" 

As Corrine pointed out in comments the other day, the Campaign Desk had a little problem with Ms. Wilgoren’s and Mr. Justice’s attribution habits in their report of Joe Trippi’s departure.

And Bob in comments reports that he wrote to Mr. Okrent about Ms. Wilgoren’s lack of attribution in the piece she wrote following Gov. Dean’s Iowa loss:

Why does Jodi Wilgoren continue to bash Howard Dean? In the subject article she claims: Many Democrats say that perhaps the most profound shift in his fortune followed the capture of Saddam Hussein last month, when Dr. Dean declared the United States no safer. Opposition to the Iraq war had propelled his campaign, but his statement drew criticism and led many Democrats to question whether he could take on the president on the critical issue of terrorism. (My emphasis added).

Who are these unnamed Democrats? How many did she actually talk to? These unsourced opinions do not belong in a news article.
In light of those concerns bubbling up, its nice to see more direct quotes in today’s follow-up on the Neel/Trippi trade:

We hear from Gov. Dean of course, but also direct quotes from Roy Neel (new campaign manager), Don Beyer (treasurer) and Steve Grossman (national campaign chairman). But even with those quotations creating more of the “fully-cooked meal” Campaign Desk requested, I still felt the article just kind of…..ended. With no real wrap-up. But honestly, this is a very minor quibble for what amounts to a pretty thorough and well-presented picture of “what now?” for the Dean campaign.

Also, don’t miss Diane Sawyer’s mea culpa, a day late and a dollar short. Check out the video -- make sure to catch the very beginning for Ms. Sawyer's colleague's response to her "First we want to do something you don't see much in television news" opening.

And I know the NYTimes doesn’t take requests, but I wonder if they have anyone looking into this or this:

"In terms of the dirty tricks, I think we are seeing some of those in the primaries. You get used to it," he said. "It's not nice, it's not good for the democracy, but people do them."

Dean did not elaborate, but aides said they included telephone calls at odd hours with scripts that questioned Dean's ability to be "president for everybody" when his wife and children were Jewish and another that was just a loud scream.

Dean spokesman Jay Carson also told reporters fake e-mails had been sent out looking like legitimate Dean e-mail but including offensive lines.

One offered internships, but contained a paragraph that said: "due to close sleeping quarters, homosexuals will not be considered for this position," Carson said. Another, headed "Christians for Dean," contained the line, "due to the constraints of this organization, Muslims and Jews are not welcome," Carson said.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Wired.com 

The piece on "Adopt-a-Journalist" is up at Wired.com.

Good-bye New Hampshire 

Another state, another few delegates, on to fight another day. But lest we miss the point -- Howard Dean lost in New Hampshire:

When Howard Dean entered the crowded college gymnasium after his defeat in Tuesday night's New Hampshire primary, a full three minutes passed before he uttered his first word.

---

.....Though he had lost, he seemed unbowed and committed to continuing his insurgent race.

"The people of New Hampshire have allowed our campaign to regain its momentum," he told his supporters in a 20-minute speech that did not include a mention of the winner, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

---
Dr. Dean declared his double-digit deficit "a solid second," and his aides spent the afternoon searching for the best term for the finish, playing with medical metaphors like revival, remission and resuscitation.

But if they saw the results as a comeback, the campaign still sits at 0-2, with Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont, having collected the first two losses of his political career in just nine days. Only a few weeks ago, the Dean camp was confident that victories here and in Iowa would send them sprinting toward nomination. Now, with two states in Mr. Kerry's column, they will have to race to catch his heels.
Hey, did ya hear Howard Dean lost in New Hampshire?

While the "Dean camp" may have been "confident", I never once heard Gov. Dean say he expected to win either Iowa and/or New Hampshire. Every time I saw him interviewed, he would say the media and pollsters may have declared him the frontrunner, but not a single vote had yet been cast. Now that votes have been cast, he remains optimistic and enthusiastic that we can still pull this out -- and I for one am not ready to give up on him yet. As someone succinctly put it over at Daily KOS, Gov. Dean "had our back" a year ago when we were all shaking our heads at how the Democrats were letting President Bush run all over them. Now we've got his back as he fights on.

Anyhow.....can someone help me figure out this next graph?

For months, Dr. Dean and his advisers have argued that they were the only ones running a national campaign. But they spent more time and probably more money in New Hampshire and Iowa than anyone else. Now, with the money and campaign organization to play in all seven of the states that vote next week, they have no clear path to a sure victory in any one.
Are Ms. Wilgoren and Nedra Pickler hanging out together on the campaign trail?

Saying you're running a national campaign and yet concentrating on the first two states first are not mutually exclusive. Let's say you've got a hundred bucks to spend on 20 states. Are you going to spend 5 dollars in each state or are you going to concentrate say, 20 bucks in each of the first two states and divide the other 60 bucks among the remaining 18 states? And being flush with money and ground troops in next Tuesday's primary states is certainly "no clear path to a sure victory", but I'd argue its a good start. What is Senator Kerry's "clear path to sure victory"? Or General Clark's? Or Senator Edwards'?

Finally, a mention of the Times coverage over at Common Dreams:

Times columnist Maureen Dowd and Dean beat reporter Jodi Wilgoren have distinguished themselves in their cynical disdain for Dean. Dowd's self-satirizing poses lost me long ago, but her condescending admonition to Dean and his allegedly unsupportive, unsavvy helpmate -- "physician, heal thy spouse" -- made me think that the Gray Lady's girlish spinster had finally shot her foot through the barrel of an empty joke.

Wilgoren strives daily to adopt a Dowdian tone, so terribly bored with the poses of politicians. Mrs. Dean is described contemptuously in the Sawyer interview -- "she looked lovingly at her husband and let out a little giggle" -- and Dean, struggling "to halt his dive in the polls" is portrayed on the stump as newly "unsure of himself," failing in one speech to use a stock line about how "even the Costa Ricans have health insurance for all their people." Isn't that just pathetic -- a camera-shy wife who loves her husband but puts her patients ahead of politics, and a candidate who doesn't always follow the script.

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