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March 02, 2005


Do you think he's still sparring with Reid as to who will be the 'policy' voice?Right now the issue on the table is S.S. and I just wonder if Reid asked him to hold off commenting on this particular strategery (or judges being sent to the Senate) for a week or two.

I can think of two reasons he might be silent. One I hate: because he agreed to do it, thereby calming fears among the DC crowd that he would become the voice of the party.

One I like: because he is forcing the press to work with him on his own terms. This is akin to BushCo's severe limits on pressers; when they get scarce, people want them more, which means they'll be willing to do more to actually get them. Now I'm NOT hoping Dean limits his press conferences to 12 for the next 4 years. But if Dean can get the upper hand of the crap the press has thrown at him, and THEN go back to being Mr. Charming Likeable but with more confidence the press isn't going to ask about unsubstantiated quotes, then we'll all be better off. This party currently desperately takes whatever press they get, which generally means we get shitty press. We need to fix that if we want to start setting the agenda. And Dean is just popular enough among the media to be able to pull this off.

I heard Ed Schultz (whose show, I have to admit, I don't like very much) complaining about this on Monday. Ed was speculating that the silence might be strategic, but he was still upset that a friendly show couldn't get any tape from Dean.

The next day I saw a diary (I think) over at dKos that said Dean had enjoyed a considerable bump in his "favorable" numbers, and thought about commenting on the coincidence of the two events: Dean's silence and his improvement in the polls. But I didn't.

Because I decided not to jump in, I didn't scour that diary thoroughly, but as I recall, there was some mention of the fact that Dean's "silence" was just a big media silence, and that in fact he was on the road, doing small gatherings and town hall style meetings. In other words, doing the grass roots thing he was supposed to do.

Fancy that.


Yeah, I was thinking about how much grassroots time he has put in (as well as his debate with Perle and one this week with Buchanan). In a sense, it's the same strategy BushCo has used, going directly to the voter and bypassing big media. I'm still not entirely comfortable with it, if it is intended to be a long term plan. But we shall see.

I haven't seen anything that would indicate (or disprove, for that matter) that this is a long-term plan. But whatever it is, it's raising the favorable ratings for the new DNC Chairman, so it can't be all bad.

I also think it's wise not to come out of the box breathing fire, even though many of the people who wanted Dean as Chairman might like to see that. The battleground at the moment is in the Congress, and Congressional Democrats are finding their legs right now, so maybe it's not the time to be in their faces, unless things start to go wrong -- and if they do, some low-key, private discussions might be the way to go.

Among the people who actually cast votes in this contest, there's probably still some hesitency about Dean. They all saw the writing on the wall as far as his candidacy went, but that doesn't mean they acceded to it out of pure belief in his mesage. I think it was what was necessary -- a way to keep newly engaged Democrats excited and in the fold.

This silence seems to me to be an outgrowth of the agreement reached not long ago for Dean to "cede" control of policy to Reid and Pelosi. (I put cede in quotes because really, it was never the role of the DNC Chairman to begin with.) I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that the deal, if one can really be said to exist, is for Dean to lay off for a few months, to let the new Congressional leadership establish itself, before Dean himself starts weighing in on his own.

It's a good lesson for (relatively) newly-minted Democrats and Deaniacs, anyway. These things take time. And cooperation.

Besides, this deal has a flip-side. Reid gets to take the heat for a while, allowing Dean to find his way in the new job, too. If the metric of the "favorables" means anything, it appears to be working well. By the time Dean is ready to hit the circuit, the novelty will have worn off, Republicans will have lost the opportunity to nip his message in the bud, and the national audience will be more favorably inclined to receiving what he has to say.

I think Dean is doing exactly the right thing here. After he's been in the position for a while and the furor has died down, he'll start talking to the press.

As it is, they report what he says without being able to blindside him or detour into things like "how do you feel about taking the chairmanship when all of the senior party members in Washington think you're a scream?" or "Ken Mehlman and a few of the handful of black Republicans called you a racist for the remarks you made. How do you respond?"

The way he's approaching things, he's controlling the media coverage and keeping himself from becoming a distraction from the Social Security coverage.

And I'm trying to decide what, exactly, is going wrong in your opinion. Dean's numbers are going up. Bush's numbers on Social Security are going down. The GOP in the House and Senate are getting scared to act.

The Dems are winning this one.

If I remember correctly, Dean did the same thing during his primary run. During a honeymoon period in which he was still running as a long-shot outsider, he hung out with the press casually and gave extended interviews. As things got tighter (and as coverage of him became more critical -- and more sensationalized or plain silly) he shut out the casual time with the press and communicated with them pretty strictly through spokespeople, prepared statements, or formal interviews. The give-and-take ended. We can debate how well that worked out, but I think Dean knows that if you want to have a finely honed message you need to limit press opportunities.

You can only say the same thing the same way so many times. If you give several interviews every day, each with an interviewer determined to get you to say something new, you lose your message. Better to do one or two major interviews/appearances per week, and make all the other outlets report on what you said there.

Better to have the same soundbite played 800 times than 800 different soundbites played once each.

Dean's numbers are irrelevant. He's not a candidate. He's not on any ballot. His job is first to organize the Democratic efforts for 2006 and 2008, and second to drive Democratic message. I mean, what are Ken Mehlman's numbers? What were Terry McAuliffe's numbers? Has any previous national committe chair been polled? I think that part is irrelevant.

I want Democrats talking to the press, and beating on the Republicans. It's not a campaign, so there's no issue of "peaking" at the appropriate time. He should be out there talking to the press, period. It's the job of the chairs. Mehlman got five minutes yesterday touting Bush and slamming Democrats. Today, we got five minutes about how Dean wouldn't talk to the national press for now, Republicans saying he's a disaster for Democrats, and Democrats saying he's not a disaster for Democrats.

Nothing about social security.
Next to nothing about the budget.
Nothing about the war.
Nothing about DeLay's scandals.
Nothing about any Republican failures and the better ideas and ideals of the Democratic party.

5 minutes on NPR in the morning is a gift. He didn't take it.

Oh, BTW, yes, they said he's doing meeting with Democrats, grass roots stuff, etc, which is great. But there's nothing that says he can't do that AND talk to the national press. He can prioritize the grass roots and travel stuff, and he doesn't have to take every request for his time; he shouldn't do that anyway. But is he doing more good by going to Mississippi and Kansas and only talking to the local Democrats but no national press, or would he be better serving the interests of Democrats nationally by doing both.

Obviously, I think the answer is both.

His numbers are relevant insofar as they indicate a growing level of comfort among the national audience with the idea of "Howard Dean, DNC Chairman." Which is something that neither Mehlman nor McAuliffe had to worry about. The last time you saw a national committee chair polled was... the last time you saw a public, grass-roots campaign for national committee chair. Never.

And that was because it never was relevant.

Dean's numbers are also relevant insofar as they give Paul Begala something to answer Novak with, when he claims in some Crossfire-like environment that Dems are "saddled with an unpopular chairman" who "doesn't reflect the views of real Democrats," or something of the kind. He'll still say it, of course. The reality of the numbers won't change his willingness to lie. But it's a reality-based answer, and also the answer to a question that has never mattered (or at least not as much) until now.

There's never been any need or any value to a "cooling down" period after the election of a new chair. But I think that might be warranted here.

One other related thought to consider: Would the reaction to Dean's first round of national press appearances be different if they had been fresh off his election? And if so, are reactions to his first appearances, if they come soon, going to be different in tenor if they appear to come by popular demand, as opposed to "press hog Howard Dean making a beeline to the cameras?"

On the numbers: I looked at them after RonK pointed out that the Pope had gained a net 10 points among Catholics. If you look at them, Dean's numbers really don't mean anything except maybe as a talking point for Begala. His net favorable was 2 points, compared to net positives of 14 for Bush, 12 for Hilary Clinton, 67 for the Pope, and 32 for Condoleezza Rice. In fact, Rice's net positive is almost as high as Dean's total positive.

In the same time period that Dean gained a net of 9, the GOP lost a net of 8, and the Democratic party gained a net of 12. And since late January of 2004, Dean's negatives AND positives have gone down.

The fact is, roughly 1/3 polled were positve, 1/3 were negative, and 1/3 either admitted to not knowing him or saying they had no opinion of him. About the only explanation for the small movement in his +/- numbers is that since the previous poll he became DNC chair, so some of those Democrats who didn't have a positive view of him last time now do, most likely because now he's chair.

Wasn't this the basic bargain? Someone else is the party spokesman, and he's the workhorse and grassroots organizer?

The GOP wants to make Dean the story ... but he's most effective in working behind the scenes and building the party, IMHO.

I can buy that. I never made it as far as the actual numbers, not having read the diary thoroughly.

Speaking of numbers that aren't relevant, though, how about that Pope thing?

I'll take the Begala talking point, though.

I had a whole strategic theory for the development of the first six months or so of the Dean chairmanship that I worked out on the phone with a friend of mine. I vaguely recall that it could have shed some additional light here. Guess I should have taken notes. I wonder if he remembers what it was.

Maybe your thoughts got recorded, Kagro X? If not by one of Gonzales' folks, maybe by someone who thought you'd be a historical figure some day? ;-0

I'd like to see Dean take legal action against CNN and Novack for misquoting him twice in three days:

There's a link at mediamatters for anyone who wants to join in excoriating CNN & the traitor they keep on staff.

Dunno, Maybe he is waiting to get a better consensus of the overall dem opinions on issues. Rather than going straight out of the box and making statements that he may later have to back peddle on he's getting the party line down.

If so it seems reasonable. Only time wll tell.

Caveat: not a Dean supporter, but part of the job is media spin control. There is always something you can say. You don't have to answer the question, just spin your talking points and stick to them and force them to play your response. If they refuse then accuse them of preferential treat of the other side.

Reporter: "Dr. Dean, who do you think about Bush renominating such and such judges?"

Dr. Dean: "We are presently focused on the fact that George Bush and the Republicans are actively trying to dismantle social security, the most succesful government program in the last 70 years. Why does George Bush hate American seniors and young working people?"

Dean's a rookie in his new job. Rookies keep their mouths shut if they know what's good for them.
HD To Do List:
1. Reorg DNC;
a. smooth ruffled feathers on staff;
b. who's deadwood?
c.What to do about that?
2. Reorg/boost State Parties
a. visit red States
1. check travel budget
2. figure out order
b. call State chairs
1, Who first 10 to call?
3. Talk to press
a. Morning Edition--why them?
b. what have I got to talk about?
What was it Reid and Pelosi and I talked about?

Darn that's too big a list for the next four weeks, what can I cut? I'll dump number 3.


I hear ya on the number of tasks, but I think you're either misunderestimating Howard Dean or overestimating the difficulty, preperation needed or time devoted to doing radio. Radio is the easiest thing in the world. They just want soundbites, so for a minute or two of airtime they'll spend maybe 20 minutes with you on the phone. You don't have to go anywhere, you just need a landline and a quiet room. They usually give you the number to call in to. (I know NPR does.) And what they're going to talk to him about is stuff he can pull off the top of his head, or, along the lines of the tactics described by Ono, he can just wing it.

Should he spend an hour or two with a WaPo reporter, or allow a reporter to travel with him for a day? That's a different story. But saying no to radio, especially national radio? I can't figure it out.

One of the few benefits of being old is I get to say stuff like: Way back when, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, politicians actually would answer some of a reporter's questions with "No comment." Dean may have nothing to say right now. "Don't bother me boy, cain'tcha see I'm working?" Spin withdrawal is hard when you've known nothing else. Pictures at eleven.

As DHinMI continues his hatchet jobs on the reformers (Dean, Stern, who's next?), he should disclose his own past paid political work.

Congratulations, nospam. The New Hurrah's first troll has arrived. Explain why this issue of disclosure is so important to you. How far back should disclosure go? Is it national or local? And why is it a hatchet job to ask a reasonable and mild question of Dean?

P.S. I've never worked for anyone you've ever heard of. Who cares?

So, cowardly nospam, do you have anything of substance to contribute to the coversation, or will this just be a nightly drive-by?

If you think asking why the Chair of the DNC refuses to talk to the press is a "hatchet job," you'll be traumatized for months if you ever see a real hatchet job.

BTW, is that a hatchet in YOUR hand?

The national press loves to make Dean the story. That's especially easy for them to do when he has just become the party chair. I think Dean has decided he'd be more useful if issues were discussed rather than Howard Dean. For that reason, it makes sense to lie low and give a lot interviews to local presses, which he's been doing A LOT. Check out whereshoward.blogspot.com. Dean *has* to start from the grassroots, because that's where his legitimacy comes from. So, he's going around, helping people to unite around his ideas. When he does come back on the national press, hopefully he'll be able to talk seriously about issues.

Btw, I'm afraid some people aren't gonna like it when Dean does start talking ;)

From what I can tell, Dean is accessable to the local press where he appears with local Democrats and Party Officers. Apparently the Mississippi Bash was the biggest and most profitable in years, and enough to finance a major upgrade in the plans for tha state party. Likewise in Kansas.

Face it -- Dean's observations on Social Security are not going to change anything -- but State and Local organizational efforts and bank balances can mean serious races everywhere in 2006. We hired him to work outside the Beltway -- and that is apparently just what he is doing. Much better than being a target for the conservative biased National Press that cannot even bring itself to discourse on the meaning of Gannon.

If you have nothing to hide, DHinMI, why the evasions?

Simply be honest about your background, and the questions will cease.

People deserve to know where you are coming from with your slanted anti-reform commentary.

P.S. DemfromCT - I note how carefully you say "I've never worked for anyone you've heard of" - you can always claim you assumed I never heard of your clients... You, too, have a paid political consultant's background, don't you?

Are you ashamed of your work? If not, why not reveal your background, so people can take your bias (and your experience) into account when reading your posts?

Both of you have made comments about the background of certain conservative commentators, implying that it reflects on their credibility. Why doesn't the same standard apply to you on the left?

No, nospam. I am not now and have never been a paid political consultant. Ever. For anyone. I'm an amateur, not a professional, who like other citizens of this great country, has volunteered time and sweat now and again for my candidate of choice. I do not get paid to blog. But thanks for asking.

Both of you have made comments about the background of certain conservative commentators, implying that it reflects on their credibility. Why doesn't the same standard apply to you on the left?

I probably have (I've written a lot about a lot of things), but it'd be easier to answer if you cite examples. I suspect the issue would be those that get paid (now and secretly, not in the past) to push an agenda like Armstrong Williams.

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