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Dean and Libya

[ 99 ] August 25, 2011 |

This really isn’t surprising, which isn’t to say that some of the specific arguments aren’t disappointing. Two points: 1)you don’t have to be very dovish to think that the Iraq War was a horrible idea, and 2)while his aggressive tone made him kind of a liberal hero in the 2004 primaries, ideologically Dean was always a DLC centrist.


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  1. c u n d gulag says:

    Just like a shorter article about Dick Cheney would be about the countries he wouldn’t want to bomb, a shorter list of Democrats would be ones who AREN’T DLC Centrists.

  2. witless chum says:

    I remember Dean giving a Salon interview where he laid out his position on Iraq. He wouldn’t rule out an invasion, just thought Bush had gone into it too quickly.

    Friesdorff seems to be suggesting that Dean was against the Iraq War because it was shadily sold. Which is a stupid reason to be against something. At the time, I read Dean to criticizing Bush’s actions, not just the way he justified them with fake intelligence.

    His criticism doesn’t even make sense because the Iraq War got an okay from Congress. I don’t recall Howard Dean saying, “Oh, okay. I’m not running anymore” after that.

    Do Democrats give the benefit of the doubt to their own? Thanks, Conor, that’s some great insight. Next, where do bear’s shit? The other factor is that principled antiwar people get way less attention with the Democrats in the White House, because they’re standing outside the Republican/Democrat dichotomy. See also, free trade opponents, who don’t have a political party that’s identified with their ideas, so they don’t get any media attention.

    If both political parties would agree that global warming and evolution were a reality, those people would start being ignored, too.

  3. Scott de B. says:

    Dean was always more centrist then many of his supporters thought he was. Kind of like Obama. Had Dean become President, I expect the Left would have had much the same reaction.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Oh, definitely. Even worse, given the congressional context.

    • Mark says:

      Knowledgeable left-wing Dems were Kucitizens, not Deaniacs.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Kucinich ran in both 2004 and 2008.

      • rea says:

        There must not be many knowledgeable left-wing Dems, then.

      • John says:

        Surely one can be a knowledgeable left-wing Democrat and also think that Dennis Kucinich would have been and would be a horrible, horrible president. Ideology isn’t everything.

        • wengler says:

          He would’ve been better than this one.

          I have no illusions though. The only time we got a really good President in the last 80 years he was a class traitor.

          Kucinich was a poor kid from Ohio pushing issues concerning poverty. If he was a poor kid from Ohio pushing issues to make rich people richer his name would be John Boehner. And he would be oh so serious.

        • Mark says:

          I don’t know why you say that he would have been a terrible president. Ideology isn’t everything, but it’s first. Strategy without ideology is just chess.

          Kucinich was and is an experienced Washington politician. He is nearly always correct on the issues, but it is not a complete ideologue as evidenced by his vote for the health care bill. As president, he would not have had time to work on homeopathy or UFOs or whatever weirdness he sometimes wanders into.

          Anecdotally, I think Kucinich’s 2004 campaign was important in terms of allowing leftists to support the Democrats without feeling dirty. I was not registered in a party before I became involved with the Kucinich campaign, and had previously been a member of the Socialist Party for five years. I registered as a Dem to support Kucinich, and ended up voting for Kerry and Obama, which I would probably not have done without the experience of working with Democrats through the Kucinich campaign.

          I know a guy who was a communist, by which I mean a _C_ommunist, and after working for Kucinich he became a local Dem committee functionary.

          I don’t know what happened to that guy later, but I’m still a Democrat, and I vote the straight party line in every election. I had to join the DSA to maintain a bit of my dignity, though.

          • Richard says:

            Great. Kucinish is responsible for that all important bloc of Democratic voters – former Communists and Socialists who led the Democrats to that stirring victory in 2004

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            The “bug-not-a-feature” version of this view of Kucinich was very common in the Green Party in 2004: that he was a kind of false front designed to bait-and-switch potential Greens back to the Democratic Party.

            (My problem with Kucinich has always been that he’s unelectable…not because he’s too left wing, but because he’s a nebbish. Someone with Kucinich’s politics but Obama’s charisma probably wouldn’t win the nomination, but s/he’d at least plausibly compete for it.)

          • John says:

            I guess I don’t see what Kucinich has to recommend him besides “correct” ideology. He’s a flake; he has no friends in Congress; his one experience with executive authority was a disaster; he doesn’t seem to be particularly capable or smart.

            There are tons of people I agree with on most political issues. I don’t think most of them should be president, and I certainly don’t think most any of them should be my party’s nominee for president.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

              Agreed. But Kucinich is the only person from the left wing of the party to seek the nomination since Jesse Jackson. That’s a terrific indictment of the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

            • Mark says:

              My impression of Kucinich is completely different. He appears intelligent and informed, he was the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, and the primary criticism of his term as mayor is entirely ill-founded.

              He is a weird sort of dude, but if the voters choose to waste their vote on coolness, we can’t really blame Kucinich for that.

    • John says:

      The ACA is a much more radical overhaul of the health care system than anything Dean proposed, isn’t it?

      • Malaclypse says:

        But fantasy-Dean would have started out proposing an NHS, and then compromised on single-payer.

      • During the Dean campaign, in fall 2003, I was on a conference call with who knows how many other volunteers. In response to a question as to why he wasn’t out there for single-payer, Dean said it was not politically possible. He said that he would go for it in a heartbeat if it could pass congress. But since that wasn’t possible, he was in favor of anything that would extend coverage to more people. The goal was to get everyone covered by whatever means, a practical approach.

        • Davis X. Machina says:

          Spoken like a real Democrat. Not like that trimmer Obama.

          • Not sure if your answer is sarcasm, but my point was that Dean’s approach, had he been elected, would have been pretty much the same as Obama’s: what can we get congress to pass that will get the most people covered? Short of violent revolution, I don’t see another way to go.

            • Davis X. Machina says:

              Oh, I agree entirely.

              The hard reality is, the first job of any Democratic president is to keep the Congressional coalition between the Democrats and the Democrats from flying apart.

      • david mizner says:

        Right, Dean ran during the first Bush term, when big liberal ideas weren’t exactly the rage.

        I wouldn’t use “radical” and the ACA in the same sentence. Remember, is similar to the plan endorsed by Bob Dole in 1993.

        • Scott de B. says:

          Endorsed only because he felt he had to come up with something. Do you honestly believe that Dole would have worked to pass his plan through Congress had he been elected?

          • wengler says:

            No, but he would’ve signed it had it been passed by Congress.

          • We know the answer to this! Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich controlled Congress just a couple short years later.

            We don’t have to guess on whether the Republicans actually had any intention of passing that plan, or whether it was just a charade until the Democrats’ bill was killed. We know the answer to this one.

            This is what Republicans do to try to kill Democratic health care bills: hide behind bad-faith proposals they don’t mean. I’m old enough to remember when George H. W. Bush was running for reelection on a plan to “only” cover 96% of the public in his health care plan. Too bad he didn’t win: he totally would have signed that plan and pushed for it.

            • Lee says:

              This gets it exactly right. Criticizing the ACA as a Republican plan is moronic because Republicans had plenty of oppotunity to pass something like the ACA but they never did.

              • david mizner says:


                Strong supporters of the ACA have admitted it closely resembles the moderate GOP plans.

                Here’s Chait:

                Obama’s plan closely mirrors three proposals that have attracted the support of Republicans who reside within their party’s mainstream: The first is the 1993 Senate Republican health plan, which is compared with Obama’s plan here, with the similarity endorsed by former Republican Senator Dave Durenberger here. The second is the Bipartisan Policy Center plan, endorsed by Bob Dole, Howard baker, George Mitchell and Tom Daschle, which is compared to Obama’s plan here. And the third, of course, is Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan, which was crafted by the same economist who helped create Obama’s plan, and which is rhetorically indistinguishable from Obama’s. (The main difference are that Obama’s plan cuts Medicare and imposes numerous other cost-saving measures — which is to say, attempting to craft a national version of Romney’s plan would result in something substantially more liberal than Obama’s proposal.)

                Obama himself admitted this:


                We thought that if we shaped a bill that wasn’t that different from bills that had previously been introduced by Republicans, including a Republican governor in Massachusetts who’s now running for president. That we would be able to find some common ground there. And we just couldn’t. And that was costly partly because it created the kind of partisanship and bickering that really turns people off.

                This doesn’t mean the bill is bad necessarily but it means people might want to think twice before pretending is the most awesomest liberal piece of legislation ever.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  the most awesomest liberal piece of legislation ever.

                  I remain puzzled as to who you think you’re arguing with.

                • Nobody’s questioning that the ACA resembles the cardboard cutouts that the Republicans pretended to support in the past.

                  The dispute is whether to take the Republicans at their word – your position – or judge them on whether they took any action to adopt these “Republican” policies they, allegedly, supported so strongly.

                • david mizner says:

                  For some reason I can’t reply to your comments, Joe and Scott, and I’ll do it here.


                  You really haven’t seen people called this historic piece of progressive legislation, the greatest since Medicare and perhaps the New Deal, what liberals have allegedly been trying to pass for a century or some such? If you haven’t, you need to more, blog-wise.


                  In fact, one of those Republicans, a current frontrunner in the GOP race for president, pushed and passed just such a bill. And one of the the plans in the nineties came out of the Heritage Foundation — not out of the lips of Republicans pols.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  You really haven’t seen people called this historic piece of progressive legislation, the greatest since Medicare and perhaps the New Deal, what liberals have allegedly been trying to pass for a century or some such?

                  The thing is, it’s entirely possible for this to be true. Legislation can be historic and major improvement on the status quo without anyone suggesting that it’s close to an optimal health care bill. And it’s not like there’s a lot of competition.

                • Edwin C. Moses says:


                  There are three potential reasons flog the “ACA was Bob Dole’s plan” talking point:

                  1. You are messing with an ill-informed supporter of the Republican party.

                  2. You are casting about for any plausible rhetorical cudgel with which to bash the Obama administration and/or the contemporary democratic party.

                  3. You actually think that “republican plans” that Republicans offer because they don’t want to be accused of not caring about a problem, but demonstrate no actual interest in enacting, even when they clearly had the power to do so, should be treated as serious, good-faith efforts for some reason.

                  Obviously, this website isn’t populated by the natural audience for option #1. So I’m curious: are you a mendacious hack (#2) or hopelessly, pathetically naive (#3)? Because I’m not seeing any other options.

                • In fact, one of those Republicans, a current frontrunner in the GOP race for president, pushed and passed just such a bill.

                  Actually, since I live in Massachusetts, I recall what actually happened: Romney settled for this bill to head off single-payer, as a defensive maneuver.

                  Ted Kennedy and the Massachusetts House and Senate pushed this bill through. I imagine they’re part of the conservative movement, too?

                  And one of the the plans in the nineties came out of the Heritage Foundation — not out of the lips of Republicans pols.

                  Yes, it was written for Republican pols. And? The Republicans had all three branches of government for years. How did they do getting their fervently-desired health care plan passed?

                • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

                  Dole proposed his plan because he had to respond to something more progressive.

                  Romney passed it to head off single payer.

                  Don’t these stories suggest the power of maximalist negotiating strategies?

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Don’t go getting all logical now…

                • Cthulhu says:

                  Don’t these stories suggest the power of maximalist negotiating strategies?

                  Yes. And since Ted Kennedy’s biggest mistake was not taking what Nixon offered, it also shows the wisdom of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the barely adequate.

                • Cthulhu says:

                  And trust me, I know about Nixon, and that was not a nym fuckup at all.

                • david mizner says:

                  Scott —

                  With my snark I didn’t mean to imply that anyone claimed it was perfect. I operate under the assumption everyone in a place like this would like to see some sort of Medicare for All kind of system.

                  I was pointing out the apparent contradiction of its being a grand liberal accomplishment, as many claim, and its being similar to plans backed by conservatives relatively recently. I suppose it could be true that the Heritage Foundation generated a plan that would have resulted in a grand liberal achievement, perhaps the political center really is moving to the right that quickly. I mean, George Bush signed a stimulus package when there was 4.7 percent unemployment.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Don’t these stories suggest the power of maximalist negotiating strategies?

                  In cases where a maximalist position has enough support to viable, yes.

                • IC,

                  Don’t these stories suggest the power of maximalist negotiating strategies?

                  Neither Hillary nor the Massachusetts legislature ever staked out a maximalist negotiating strategy.

                • plans backed by conservatives relatively recently

                  The plans weren’t backed by conservatives.

                  You can keep saying this; the plans still won’t be backed by conservatives.

        • John says:

          I don’t think I’m arguing that the ACA was radical in some absolute sense (although I’m not sure what that even means; it certainly will be a very major change in how health care in this country works). What I said is that it was more radical than what Dean proposed, which was even more moderate and incremental.

  4. david mizner says:

    What would it take to kill the notion that the Doctor is any kind of progressive champion?

    I mean, he became a corporate lobbyist, opposed the building of the Islamic Center near Ground Zero, and spouts neoliberal nonsense:

    Good fiscal management is the underpinning for progressive change. While in the past my party has indeed been guilty of too much taxing and spending, Bill Clinton, who balanced the budget, and George W. Bush, who spent the surplus, reversed that stereotype. The addition to the Democratic Party of a “business wing” which is worried about fiscal issues certainly causes significant short term strains in our traditional coalition, but over the long term traditional Democrats will find that good fiscal management will more easily lead to a well run, frugal universal health care system. It is also likely to lead to a more productive education system, which will help kids that have the least educational opportunity.

    Now he’s waxing romantic about drones, which might be surprising if he’d ever opposed militarism or the GWOT in any way.

  5. wengler says:

    Flying killer robots are magic! They insulate politicians from negative consequences.

  6. Pithlord says:

    Howard Dean never said he was a pacifist. Maybe he was right both times.

  7. […] wrong, but it is possible to exaggerate the importance of partisanship here. As Scott Lemieux remarks, Dean was a Democratic “centrist” by reputation before he became the unlikely tribune […]

  8. apm says:

    It’s hard to understand the rhetorical goals of much of the Liberal Village:

    – Dean marks the left-most edge of the Democratic Party
    – Kerry is a forgettable coward
    – Edwards marks the left-most edge of the Democratic Party
    – Clinton marks the left-most edge of the Democratic Party
    – Obama is a forgettable coward who should never have been President

    Even if you sincerely believe these things – why are you telling everyone else? If the point is to get more and better Democrats, we might need to flesh out Phase 2 a little.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      If tThe point is to get more and better Democrats, we might need to flesh out Phase 2 a little.

      FTFY. More Democrats is good, because it increases the ability of the Dems to extract more money from contributors and improves the career prospects for former Dems and Dem staffers. Better Dems (at least in the sense you mean it) would just piss off the wealthy donor / lobbyist classses.

      • John says:

        Surely when we compare the “more, not particularly better, Democrats” model of the 111th Congress to the “fewer Democrats” model of the 112th, the former, whatever its frustrations, must be seen to be superior? Anyone who doesn’t understand that politics is about choosing the lesser of two evils doesn’t really have any business opining about politics.

        • Holden Pattern says:

          Yes, you are so wise and savvy.

          I hereby abjectly and completely withdraw any criticism I have because I never before realized that. Moreover, I now realized that once you have chosen the lesser evil, you must therefore CELEBRATE your choice of the lesser evil as if the lesser evil were actually good, shut down your higher brain functions and defend any evil done by your lesser evil team might do as not just lesser than their opponents, who are the true greater evil, but in fact an absolute good. The lesser evil are not corrupt, don’t get anything wrong, and must not be criticized in the face of the greater evil.

        • DocAmazing says:

          Zell Miller has your “Miss Sensibile” tiara all polished up to a high gloss. for you.

          • John says:

            Zell Miller is such an extreme case that it’s hard to say he was the lesser evil – I don’t know that, by the end, he voted with the Republicans any less frequently than Isakson does, and he gave tons of cover to right wing lunacy by being “even Democrat Zell Miller.”

        • Cthulhu says:

          Why choose the Lesser Evil, mortal?

  9. After making a name for himself by speaking out against the invasion of Iraq, the former DNC chair is praising Obama’s mission in Libya — an unconstitutional mission that transgresses against values he once touted

    No, exactly the same values that led Howard Dean to oppose the Iraq War led him to support the Libya War.

  10. Jim Lynch says:

    I wonder what Dean would have said if China had thrown-in with Gadaffi in direct challenge to the West?

  11. Stanczyk says:

    Lemiuex almost gets it right.

    Certainly Dean was to the right of the reflexively anti-war left, the kind of lefties who even opposed going after the Taliban after 911. But, to use Lemiuex’s vastly oversimplified 1-dimensional terminology, Dean was well to the left of a DLC centrist.

    Dean wasn’t just about tone. Dean had real courage. He spoke out against ridiculous supply-side tax cuts for the rich and the egregious hoax that was WMD and Iraq way before it was cool. This was not a simply a matter of tone but substance.

    One of the defining characteristics of a DLC centrist is “centrism” i.e. a lack of principles and an “ideology” which is defined in relative terms — somewhere between what is right/makes sense and whatever the Villagers are saying.

    Dean’s ideology was not as far to the left as Kucinich but he had principles and reckoned his positions based on logic, evidence, and the general welfare rather than gratuitous hippie punching to curry favor with the Village.

    He was a leading example of how rhetorical toughness can make a real difference — but of course that is beyond Lemieux’s comprehension. In the end, the Democratic Establishment — whose visceral hatred for Dean behind closed doors had to be seen to be believed — closed ranks and snuffed his candidacy. But for a moment there we almost had a real test case of what a fighting progressive could do.

    • Malaclypse says:

      He did not need to sign civil unions. We forget now that he was bleeding-edge on that.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Actually he did need to sign civil unions. His state supreme court gave him a choice of civil unions or full marriage equality and he chose civil unions.

        There’s no doubt that the Democratic establishment hated him. But that doesn’t make him a progressive.

        Dean actually played perfectly into the progressive narrative that the problem with the leadership of the Democratic Party is that they weren’t “fighters,” a convenient story that sidesteps the ideological issues that actually divide the party’s leadership from progressives.

        • Stanczyk says:

          Choose your own label but Dean was fighting the good fight on Iraq and taxes when many other Democrats were not so — have to ask Lemieux to be sure — but I assume that put him to the left of the median Democrat as measured by those 2 key issues.

        • Stanczyk says:

          And if you add a 2nd, willingness to fight for his principles dimension, to your ideological space, Dean’s ballsiness would put him way down in the southwest quadrant compared to many of the Democratic lames who nominally had the correct position on those issues. And of course way southwest of people like Hillary who were on the wrong side of Iraq. And if you add a sincerity requirement, well that puts Obama on the wrong side of Iraq over there with Hillary.

          Dean looks relatively progressive to me.

        • Actually he did need to sign civil unions. His state supreme court gave him a choice of civil unions or full marriage equality and he chose civil unions.

          Didn’t the state legislature choose for him?

    • Rarely Posts says:

      I agree: Dean deserves better than to be compared to typical DLC. First, when he was Governor, he worked hard to pass legislation to guarantee health care coverage for all Vermont’s children. It showed a real concern for improving the condition of everyday people that you don’t always see from DLCers, and it, combined with other health insurance legislation, was an ambitious program for a state.

      Second, he signed the Civil Union law.

      Third, he did oppose Iraq loudly and openly.

      Fourth, he supported the fifty state strategy and tried to expand the Democratic field.

      It’s true that he is fairly centrist, but he is to the left of the DLC, and equally importantly, he has been willing to challenge the establishment and take tougher positions than most DLC types.

  12. Joe says:

    The article’s title is of the “it isn’t that hard, son” variety — the fact he was against a particular war doesn’t mean the guy is a pacifist. Is a bit of nuance THAT hard to understand?

    I supported Dean in ’04 and was told by at least one person (a bit emotionally) that he simply was not liberal enough. And, he kept on saying outrageous things. Problem was that so many of them were right. It is quite right that President Dean probably would be attacked by the same people attacking Obama as too centrist.

    At times, rightly — his wavering on the Ground Zero mosque (or whatever it’s called) was lame. I still rather have him as the candidate than the Kerry “respectful loss” type.

  13. […] That’s exactly what he did.” I think Larison gets it about right: As Scott Lemieux remarks, Dean was a Democratic “centrist” by reputation before he became the unlikely tribune […]

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