The State of the Race

Janet Daley writes that Howard Dean brings back bad memories of Vietnam.

There are ways of disagreeing with Bush’s foreign policy (as, indeed, Senator John Kerry does) without giving comfort to the enemy. There are conscientious arguments to be made against Bush’s handling of post-war Iraq (as there are even within the Administration) without implying that the President’s motives are corrupt and self-serving. There is a legitimate debate about taxation to be had without waging class war.

The kind of national self-hatred that Dean is stoking reminds me (as I suppose it is intended to do) of the 1960s: the most bitter and tragic era in modern American politics. For some bizarre reason, later generations have come to envy that seminal decade of my youth, to regret that they were not there to share in the very heaven of our student revolution and our unambiguous loathing of our own country’s actions. The Dean campaign is only the latest incarnation of that nostalgia. Well, believe me, it was not fun. At least not for more than a moment.

Mark Schmitt doesn’t buy that it was Howard Dean’s loss of “outside appeal” that lost him Iowa.

Again, this is pure speculation, but I think the only thing that happened to Dean was that the intense, almost obsessive nature of his campaign was kind of a turnoff to those later voters. Thirty-five hundred identically dressed kids from places like Evergreen State College filled with messianic certainty can be cool, or it can be a nightmare in a state like Iowa. The thing that always turned me off about the Dean campaign was its self-absorbtion, the idea that the campaign itself somehow transcended ordinary politics. Joe Trippi often says that Dean is unique in that he doesn’t talk about himself, doesn’t say, “vote for me, and I’ll do the following…” Instead, he talks about the people. It’s People-Powered Howard.

That’s sort of true. But it kind of reminds me of Senator Dale Bumpers, in his great defense of Bill Clinton in the impeachment trial, when he said, “When they tell you it’s not about sex, it’s about sex.” When they tell you it’s not about Me, but about The People, it’s usually about Me.

Dwight Meredith on the paradox of Iowa.

When a lawyer objects to the other side introducing a piece of damaging evidence, does he or she wish the judge to sustain or overrule the objection? Leaving aside issues of tactics, the intuitive answer is that the lawyer wishes the judge to sustain the objection. That is why the objection was made. The real answer depends entirely on whether you ask the question before or after the jury reaches a verdict.

During the trial, the objecting lawyer clearly wishes the judge to sustain it so that the jury never gets to see or hear the damaging information. Immediately upon the jury reaching a verdict, however, that changes and the objecting lawyer would prefer the judge to have overruled the objection. Regardless of the jury’s verdict, the lawyer is in a better position if he lost every objection.

If the jury finds in favor of the objecting lawyer, having an objection overruled has the effect of denying the other side grounds for appeal. If the jury found against the objecting lawyer, the judge’s decision overruling an objection of the losing lawyer may provide grounds for appeal.

Matt Zemek creates an Us vs. Them with regards to Dean. You see, people who like Dean actually care about the country.

The fallout from Dean’s post-Iowa speech is so fascinating and revealing, then, because it shows the split between the substance and style camps in American political life.

The substance folks see the speech as, like everything else about Howard Dean, another snapshot of a guy who simply never fails to do the right thing under the circumstances.

The style stalwarts, on the other hand (including and especially the many Deaniacs who are upset at the speech), see the speech as (further) proof of a guy who is tone-deaf, image-blind, and unelectable–UNELECTABLE PRECISELY BECAUSE OF THE REALIZATION THAT A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS HAVE A WELL-DEVELOPED IMAGE OF WHAT THEY WANT FROM A PRESIDENT, NOT IN TERMS OF ACTIONS OR POLICY STATEMENTS, BUT IN TERMS OF HOW THEY CARRY THEMSELVES IN PUBLIC, AND THAT HOWARD DEAN CLEARLY DOES NOT AND WILL NEVER FIT THIS PRE-CONCEIVED IMAGE.

Oliver Kamm writes about Democrats and other opponents of Free Trade.

Finally, there’s probably little to be gained from instructing a certain type of mind-set on the economics of trade and labour standards, but I’ll do it anyway. I’m in favour of good working conditions and environmental protection, and I certainly consider no factory in the world should be without a fire escape; I object strongly to making trade agreements conditional on labour and environmental standards. The reason was well stated by 100 or so Third World intellectuals and NGOs (including incidentally the Secretary of the All-India Trade Union Congress) in a Statement Against Linkage in 1999 to coincide with the failed Seattle summit of the World Trade Organisation. (Contrary to popular mythology, the summit’s failure was due not to the anti-globalisers’ protests but to the insistence of the United States that trade agreements should be linked to labour and environmental standards. The conjunction of the world’s richest country protesting about labour standards ought to have given even the most passionate anti-trade campaigner cause for thought, and perhaps even stirred the realisation that the demand is a transparent protectionist ruse.) The statement observed:

The WTO’s design must reflect the principle of mutual-gain; it cannot be allowed to become the institution that becomes a prisoner of every developed-country lobby or group that seeks to advance its agenda at the expense of the developing countries. The game of lobbies in the developed countries seeking to advance their own interests through successive enlargement of the issues at the WTO by simply claiming, without any underlying and coherent rationale, that the issue is “trade-related”, has gone too far already. It is time for us to say forcefully: Enough is enough.

Those familiar with the recent history of US labour campaigning will recognise the pattern.

Michael Totten links to the new hit single, “Jurassic Yeagh” by Howard Dean and DJ Lileks.

Michael Hanscom writes about one good thing that came from the Bush administration.

If this is true, I think it’s an absolutely great thing. I’ve said for a while that the only good thing I can really attribute to the Bush administration is that it’s gotten a lot more people paying attention to and willing to participate in the political process, and if we’re getting record turnout for the caucuses, this could be a strong indication of just that. If people are tired enough of Bush’s leadership to show up in surprisingly large numbers to be a part of the process of finding the best candidate to oust Bush from office nearly a year before the general elections, it makes me even more optimistic that come November, we’ll be putting a Democrat back in office again.

Humour at The Black Saint is always the best.

I can’t wait for the next debate. It’ll probably go something like this:

Clark: Look, I don’t know why you punks don’t just drop out of the race now. How can you expect to beat me when I have the support of…Madonna?

Everyone stares blankly.

Clark (shakes his hips): She’s hot! She’s one hot piece of democrassy, if you know what I’m sayin’.

Diane Sawyer: Sir, you’re obviously drunk during a televised debate.

The Black Saint has more great stuff, this one about Howard Dean:

The AP has published a snippet of Gov. Dean’s speech from last night as evidence of his apparent instability.

“…with one purpose only, to point out and make public the dishonesty, the downright villainy of George Bush’s political machine, now in complete control of the government of this country. I made no campaign promises, because until a few weeks ago, I had no hope of being elected. Now however, I am something more than a hope. George Bush, George Bush has something less than a chance. Every straw vote, every independent poll shows that I’ll be elected. Now I can afford to make some promises. The working man, the working man and the slum child know they can expect my best efforts in their interests. The nation’s ordinary citizens know that I’ll do everything in my power to protect the underprivileged, the underpaid, and the underfed. [...]

Oliver Willis wonders about the near future of Howard Dean and, more importantly, his bills.

Dean is DOA without a strong first in NH. He has the money to stick around way past that, but it could get ugly. Does anyone know where campaign cash goes when a candidate drops out? Do they just keep it, or does it traditionally go to the party?

Betsy Devine writes about Channel Dean.

If I didn’t already respect the good will and idealism of the Dean team–and of Dave Winer himself–this would make me do it.

First of all, Dave is not working “for” Dean. He’s expending this effort just for the sake of improved technology for democracy. And the Dean team is welcoming this outsider into their headquarters because, to quote the Channel Dean FAQ, “We believe that a more informed electorate is more likely to support our candidate.”

Think about the negative things Dave has said about Dean and his web effort. And if you really think about it, it makes their collaboration more impressive.

A Small Victory has a small joke:

Why did Howard Dean cross the road?

To get to the other YEAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!!!

Kevin Drum “muses” on the post-Iowa apocalypse.

All this could change, of course, and let’s face it: nobody really knows what’s going on this year. Still, the primaries are scheduled so thick and fast that even with a boost from Iowa it’s going to be hard for Kerry and Edwards to turn those poll numbers around in time to make a difference.

One more note: if you’re a believer in conventional wisdom, here’s an apropos piece: except for Bill Clinton, no Democrat in the last 30 years has won the nomination without first winning either Iowa or New Hampshire. If that holds true this year, the race is now between Kerry and whoever wins New Hampshire.

Kevin Lawver realizes he didn’t like Howard Dean the candidate, he just liked the feeling of involvement.

Doc Searls has an absolutely beautiful eulogy for the Dean campaign. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mean it that way, but that’s what it feels like. Through that post, I made my way over to The Cluetrain Manifesto, and was blown away. I get it now. I get why I was so enamored with the Dean organization. It wasn’t the candidate. It was the power of the people contributing to the organization. It was the way the campaign worked as a hub for ordinary people to make a difference. I was floored by the relatively small size of the average donation when compared to Bush’s enormous money-making machine. The campaign, and the internet side of it is a tiny glimpse of what’s possible. It is possible to take the monied corporations and special interests out of the game and win with ordinary people. I’m just not sure it’s possible for Howard Dean. If Dean doesn’t win, we should all thank him, Joe Trippi, and everyone who worked on the campaign for giving us a vision of the possibility that one day, it really will be a government of, for and by the people.

Michael Feldman writes about the feral roar.

The switch went off in the Dowbrigade’s mind just about when Howard Dean let loose with his primal scream, after screeching out the names of all of the states he was expecting to win. There was a fevered, ferrel gleam in his eye. At that moment, we were not sure we would want him as the coach of our kid’s youth soccer team, let alone the free world. Stick a fork in him, we thought, he’s done.

Philip Greenspun on how ridiculous Howard Dean is.

Let’s look at http://www.howarddean.com, for example. A quick read of the “on the issues” section is more informative than 100 hours of TV coverage. Here are some things that I noticed…

[...Old Technology, Backwards Economy, Hand Waving on Education, Strange Foreign Policy, More Backwards Economy...]

It would appear that a thoughtful voter could easily write off Howard Dean as a non-entity after spending 30 minutes at his Web site. And perhaps this process can be repeated for the other candidates. Are there any Dean supporters who would care to use the comments section to note brilliant ideas from the Howard Dean campaign that I’ve overlooked?

This is why the people should be involved in the policies. So that they actually make sense.

Christopher Lydon gives words of encouragement after what happened in Iowa.

Tuesday was a hard day of reappraisal among blog fantasists. But 24 hours after the Iowa returns I am feeling better and not so humble again. Why is it that only bloggers feel expected to apologize for our bad guesses? The shrewest pollsters, pundits and opportunists in the game (including the Dean schmoozers Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Tom Harkin and Jimmy Carter!) have all given us faulty snapshots of the political rockslide we’re in–and will be in for some time. Iowa was long supposed to be all Gephart and Dean. Two days before the caucuses it was said to be a four-way tie. Every guess about about this kaleidoscope is an instant absurdity.

Joe Trippi defends Howard Dean’s Monday performance, oh, and asks for money.

The Governor looked out at the room and saw 3500 people who had come from all across the country because they believed in changing their country and he wanted them to know how proud he was of them and their efforts. And he wanted them to know that we’re going on no matter what.

He wasn’t thinking about the cameras. It was the people right in front of him who had done so much because they believe in a better America that he was speaking to.

That the press would report on his speech for one day is understandable. But what’s remarkable is that they could run it over and over for 48 hours and still call it journalism. The State of the union took place. The next day we find out that Bush plans to ask for $40 billion more for his war in Iraq. But what do they run over and over again?

Tony Pierce supports Howard Dean, apparently.

i have found my leader. hes crazy and he knows the names of states. i dont know what he stands for but the republicans seem to fear him and thats enough for me.

is he coked up? probably. should he be? of course. is it right to elect a president for pure entertainment? isnt that why we voted for arnold?

Marc Nozell investigates the “Doubting Dean? Vote Kerry” signs.