Sunday, June 12, 2005

Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

Howard Dean speaks truth to power, and power isn’t thrilled.

Howard Dean said Saturday that positive responses from supporters have reinforced his determination to keep talking tough despite suggestions from some congressional Democrats that the party chairman should tone down his rhetoric.
"People want us to fight," Dean told the national party's executive committee. "We are here to fight."

Over the past week, Dean described Republicans as "pretty much a white, Christian party" and said many in the GOP "never made an honest living."

Several Democratic lawmakers distanced themselves from their chairman. Republican officials called on him to apologize. After weathering the criticism, Dean forged ahead with the GOP scolding at the meeting of Democratic National Committee leaders.

“Privately, people have said they don't want Howard Dean to become the story because we have more important issues to talk about," said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2004.

(This is the same Donna Brazile who was handed the ball on the two-yard line in Gore’s campaign and couldn’t get it into the endzone.)

Let’s look at who’s criticizing Dean. There’s Biden, Edwards, Pelosi, Richardson – the usual inside-the-beltway (or aspiring-to-be-inside-the-beltway) crowd. Apparently, Howard isn’t visiting their sandbox enough:
Many prominent Democrats in Washington had publicly opposed his selection as DNC chairman in February. Lawmakers have complained that he does not consult them enough, and major donors have asserted that he does not schmooze them as his predecessor, Terence R. McAuliffe, did.

This is the same group of Democrats who have rolled over and played dead while Bush has pushed through his agenda in Congress. Their strategy has worked so well. They still don’t get it – playing nice with these thugs gets you nowhere. That filibuster compromise? Just wait and see how the Republicans spin THAT when it’s time to vote on a new Supreme Court Chief Justice.

But there are, thankfully, some people who DO get it.

Democratic National Committee leaders embraced feisty party boss Howard Dean on Saturday and urged him to keep fighting despite a flap over his blunt comments on Republicans.

After a meeting of the DNC's 40-member executive committee at a downtown hotel, members said Dean was doing exactly what they elected him to do -- build the party in all states and aggressively challenge Republicans.

"I hope Governor Dean will remember that he didn't get elected to be a wimp," said DNC member Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a South Carolina state representative. "We have been waiting a long time for someone to stand up for Democrats."

"Howard Dean is going to be much more aggressive, much more outspoken and much more of a risk-taker outside the Beltway than any chairman has been. We knew that," said Alvaro Cifuentes, chairman of the DNC Hispanic caucus.

"We have to get our politics out of Washington. We cannot continue to be held captive by party leaders who I respect but who have to play their own local politics," Cifuentes said, calling congressional Democrats "timid" and the flap over his comments "mostly a Beltway play."

Karen Marchioro, a DNC member from Washington state, said she was stunned to see so many congressional Democrats back away from Dean.

"We always defend them, why won't they defend us? And they want us to support them for president?" she asked. "I have no desire to lose, I just think this is the way you win -- you let people know where you stand and you fight."

Cobb-Hunter said Dean "should consider the source -- congressional Democrats. What's their track record? He's doing what a lot of us wanted him to do and expected him to do."

Several DNC members said Dean had done what he promised -- shift the party's focus to local races rather than concentrate solely on the White House, and pump money into "red" states dominated in recent years by Republicans.

Western Democrats said they were thrilled Dean attended a regional meeting in Helena, Montana, last weekend. "How many Democratic chairmen have gone out to Montana?" asked Steven Alari of California.

"When we elected Dean we knew we were getting a leader who would be good at organizing the base and getting the message out to the American people, and that's what he's doing," Alari said. "He's our guy."

Howard Dean gets it. The DNC gets it. The state chairmen get it. And because, finally, someone is standing up for Democratic values and the Democratic vision using Democratic language, these folks are going to get it, too. At least from me. Feel free to do likewise.

UPDATE: Whatever you were going to contribute, double it, just because of this

Howard Dean is "over the top," Vice President
Dick Cheney says, calling the Democrats' chairman "not the kind of individual you want to have representing your political party."

"I've never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell," Cheney said in an interview to be aired Monday on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes."

Dean was elected governor of Vermont five times between 1992 and 2000.


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