January 02, 2004

This man can survive shark attacks

Yes, there is a war, as Blumenthal writes. It is, so
far a *civil* civil war (but barely). Dean and Clark understand this...Clark has said, "If you want to run against George Bush, you have to ask yourself, "how much pain am I willing to endure?'"

Sidney Blumenthal, Guardian: The sin of the "Washington Democrats" in the eyes of Democrats isn't simply their fecklessness; it's that they have appeared as appeasers. Whether Dean or another Democrat can win the war is another war. But the first requirement for becoming the wartime leader is to understand that there is a war.

Restore the Timeline, Show Up for Democracy in 2004:
Defeat Bush (again!)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1114376,00.html

This man can survive shark attacks

Howard Dean's party rivals scent blood, but he's still unscathed

Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday January 1, 2004
The Guardian

The presidential party of the party that doesn't hold
the White House is like a ghost party that
miraculously springs to life in the January of
election year. It exists apart from the congressional
party and often against it, and it does not proceed
through the tortuous path of legislation but a swift
and unforgiving campaign. Though the curtain is just
rising on 2004, the action is near the end of the
first act.
Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, arrives
at his position as frontrunner for the Democratic
presidential nomination by outpacing three successive
alternative frontrunners. Paradoxically, the fire
concentrated on him has only bolstered him.

Dean's frankness has been accompanied by apparent
gaffes - for example, his remark that the country is
not safer after the capture of Saddam Hussein, a
stunning event that reversed President Bush's poll
slide. In a double whiplash effect, the other
candidates, who had been trying to persuade Democratic
voters that, while they had initially supported the
Iraq war, they were against it all along,
repositioned. "Dean will melt in a minute once
Republicans start going after him," charged Senator
Joseph Lieberman. Dean "makes a series of embarrassing
gaffes that underscore the fact that he is not
well-equipped to challenge Bush," said Congressman
Dick Gephardt. "I don't think (Dean) can win either,"
added Senator John Kerry. Every time Dean makes an
artless comment, his opponents see blood in the water.
There may be blood, they may be sharks, but he emerges
unscathed.

Since 1968, when Eugene McCarthy shocked President
Johnson in the New Hampshire primary, the
establishment candidate has been vulnerable to an
insurgent. The case for strategic voting has without
exception never worked. In 1992, Bill Clinton, under
attack for evading the draft during the Vietnam war,
was excoriated by his rival, Senator Bob Kerrey: "I'm
not questioning (Clinton's) patriotism, but I
guarantee Bush will in November," Kerrey warned. "The
Republicans will exploit every weakness" and Clinton
"will get opened like a soft peanut."

By calling attention to Dean's boldness (or rashness)
without any effectual action of their own, Dean's
rivals are underscoring his fusion of acceptable
political credentials as the only governor in the race
who is also the insurgent. They appeal to a mythical
establishment to stop him, setting themselves up as
the establishment. But the unions are split, with some
of the most powerful backing Dean; African Americans
have no obvious candidate, with many leaders backing
Dean; elected officials are widely diffused, with many
behind Dean; Al Gore has endorsed Dean; Jimmy Carter
is quietly helpful; and the Democratic national
committee is peripheral.

Yet Dean's opponents continue to promote him as the
anti-establishment candidate, an image fitting
Democratic voters' notion of the primaries: a
referendum on their view of political reality. Why
trust Bush and the Republicans, the conservative
establishment ruling a one-party state?

The intensity among Democrats may appear to result
from the debate over Iraq, but its roots go back to
impeachment and Florida. Then, after 9/11, Bush
betrayed the bipartisan consensus that had supported
the Afghanistan war by smearing the congressional
Democrats as unpatriotic. With that, in the 2002
midterm elections, he took back the Senate, rendering
them impotent. The Democrats' illusion of good faith
had disarmed them. They had behaved as though they
were dealing with the elder Bush. Iraq, even for most
rank and file Democrats who favoured the war to depose
Saddam, is understood as an extension of the
anti-constitutional strategy of the Republicans'
ruthless exercise of power.

The sin of the "Washington Democrats" in the eyes of
Democrats isn't simply their fecklessness; it's that
they have appeared as appeasers. Whether Dean or
another Democrat can win the war is another war. But
the first requirement for becoming the wartime leader
is to understand that there is a war.

Lieberman has declared that Dean is not in the mould
of Clinton in 1992, as though attempting to repeat the
past makes a New Democrat born again. But Dean's
pragmatic strategy may be another version of that
which Clinton adopted after he suffered the loss of
the Democratic Congress in 1994. By defining his
position apart from the rightwing Republicans and the
"Washington Democrats", as he calls them, Dean has
reinvented triangulation.

Sidney Blumenthal is former senior adviser to
President Clinton and author of The Clinton Wars

Sidney_Blumenthal@yahoo.com


Posted by richard at January 2, 2004 09:33 AM