Friday, June 10, 2005

Did Dean Pull the Wool Over Their Eyes?

The piece copied below, written by Harper's publisher, was sent to me by a good friend of mine. It is about Howard Dean's recent "conversion" from fake, anti-war activist and Kucinich-killer to Big Money Dem capitulator. The author says that the transition has been quite a sad one to watch in that it speaks volumes about how the Democratic Party functions and who its paymasters really are.

I think perhaps the saddest thing about Dean's candidacy is how so many people were convinced by this carnival barker that he was the "real deal". They all had their time wasted and he, apparently, didn't even feel a twinge of remorse at betraying them all. They all got sucked into the vacuum he created (seemingly to destroy the anti-war movement, not to represent it). They were then, unwittingly made part of the force that allowed Bush to vanquish their party in an election they could have won handily. One would have to see Dean's strange rise to the top DNC position as quite suspect given his supposedly "anti-establishment, outside the party" status, unless you believe, as I do, that he made the DNC deal with the party establishment long before the electioneering process even began, way back when the DNC was more scared of the very real peace candidate, Denis Kucinich. They needed a way to derail Kucinich and his supporters so that they could throw up their surefire-loser, pre-Hillary, sacrificial lamb candidate (John Kerry). Howard Dean was there to do their bidding and he used many progressives and well-intended, anti-war activist Democrats to make it happen. Shameless.

Dean is one of the main reasons why the Dems lost in this past election. He paved the way for total victory in the primaries by causing Kucinich to lose his base of support. I think we all knew that a phony establishment Dem like Kerry never stood a chance. To paraphrase Truman, "Run a fake Republican against a real Republican and the real Republican will win every time!" When Dean quit, under very bizarre, seemingly pre-planned circumstances, as well, he left the working class with no real choice. They took one look at John "Obviously Fake" Kerry and George "I'm Pretty Direct About My Imperialist Aspirations" Bush and decided to stick with the devil they knew. Given the "choice", I'm not sure I really blame them.

I've recently been listening to all the "brave" interviews and rhetoric and stances being thrown about by Alan "Anti-Third Party" Chartok (WAMC Public Radio) now that the election is over. I find this new "progressive" activity on Alan's part very interesting. To extol the virtues of Howard Zinn and Bill Moyers and Jason West now that there's no election forthcoming is questionable bravery, at best. For three years, he backs third parties and independents and progressives and gives them voice and then, in an election year, he vilifies and ignores them so that the checks keep flowing to fund his very lucrative "apple cart". Chartok and Dean are guilty of using exactly the same technique as corporate media to manipulate the public and effect corporate agenda. Raise a big fuss and say loud, semi-truthful things when you have very little to lose by doing so. When the power base takes notice and gets scared, allow them to woo you. Fully capitulate to them and curry favor until you get paid off. Become part of their machine. Disgusting, sick and sad.

Hopefully, the progressives and activists who fell prey to this simple con game last year will realize the full extent of Howard's betrayal and will work with alternative parties and independents in 2008. I won't hold out much hope as I think that only about seven people really get it (but without that hope where would any of us be?).

The way the Post-Star behaved during this past election as a perfect example of this phenomenon, as well. They cancelled Molly Ivins, virtually ignored all independent and third-party candidates, reduced the space devoted to public voice by over 30%, glorified and marketed the war through pro-war wire stories, published lots of pictures of flags and weaponry and ribbons and "Support Our Troops" rallies while never once showing us pictures of dead Iraqi children or marines. They did these things EVERY day, establishing a PATTERN of irresponsible (but totally purposeful) behavior which cumulatively molds public perception. Then, a few weeks before the election, in a safe state the Dems were sure to win no matter what a small upstate newspaper said or did, the Post Star "bravely" ENDORSED John Kerry for president! Now, when anyone dares accuse them of being a conservative rag (which, truth be told, they are), they can honestly respond with great indignation, "A conservative rag?! Can you be serious? The Post-Star!? We endorsed John Kerry, for Chrissakes! What are you talking about?!"

Dean manipulated his supporters and the anti-war movement on this same exact level. He completely betrayed all of his supporters. Ultimately, one can rightly accuse him of supporting the occupation of Iraq and the warmongers within the Democratic party. Dean will then look back at his campaign rhetoric with indignation and say, "CAPITULATE to the warmongers and the establishment!? I was the ANTI-WAR candidate for Chrissakes!" He can say it, but that doesn't make it true.

If you're a Deaniac, you probably know that I've never trusted "The Doctor" or liked him. If you know something I don't that can explain his bizarre actions or his rhetoric, please pass it along and I'll send it out to this same list. Please try to help me not loathe him for lying to you all and vilifying my honorable candidate, to boot.

Matt Funiciello

Dean's Democrats Remain Pathetic
By John R. MacArthur, AlterNet. Posted June 10, 2005.
The only thing worse than Dean's prepared platitudes is his virtual silence on the war in Iraq and the big-money corruption of electoral politics and congressional legislation.

Is there anything more depressing than watching the Democratic Party lie down in front of the Bush administration's public-relations and political steamroller? The latest cave-in -- giving Bush three far-right judges in exchange for the temporary preservation of the Senate's filibuster perogative -- was enough to make me violate Jefferson's dictum against despairing of the commonwealth.

My question, unfortunately, is rhetorical, for I witnessed something even more dispiriting two weeks ago, at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser and pep rally in New York. It was the sight of Howard Dean, erstwhile Democratic reformer and truth talker, talking nonsense on behalf of a party leadership that hates reform and despises the truth.
As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the lapsed physician now carries the stretcher for a party too sick even to diagnose its own organizational self-interest, much less defend the social and constitutional principles now under siege by the White House. The only thing worse than Dean's prepared platitudes, sometimes shouted, is his virtual silence on the two great issues that Democrats work so hard not to confront: the hideous, mendacious war in Iraq and the big-money corruption of electoral politics and congressional legislation.

Granted, the gathering at the Essex House ballroom, on Central Park South, wasn't an ordinary public event. The several hundred attendees were mostly hard-core party faithful, aparatchiks, office holders, and office seekers, led by New York State Chair Herman "Denny" Farrell and state Senate Minority Leader David Paterson. Nor was the Dean message for party regulars exactly the one he uses for a general audience, such as that of Meet the Press last month.

But it's not that different, either. And that message -- which Dean recites with numbing consistency -- is all about image, and almost not at all about substance: in short, the kind of empty phrases that Dean so effectively ridiculed during his ill-fated presidential campaign.
About all that remains of the old Dean is his "You have the power!" slogan, which sounded absurd in front of this crowd, partly made up of political hacks who already know they have the power -- the power, that is, to slate candidates selected from a pool of uncontroversial yes people, who have proven their loyalty to the Democratic Party. When Dean used to bellow his famous crowd pleaser, he meant quite specifically that his supporters had the power to reclaim the Democratic Party from the cynical Clinton-trained leadership that had voted for war in Iraq and is addicted to campaign cash from corporations, lobbyists, and plutocrats. For all Dean's up-from-the-bottom Internet rhetoric, in today's Democratic Party all cash is created equal, but some cash is still more equal than other cash.

It's significant that Andrew Tobias, picked as DNC treasurer in 1999 by Bill Clinton and his hotel manager, former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, remains treasurer under Dean, and introduced his new boss at the Essex House. "The doctor is in!" whooped Tobias, and so was the cash register.

The doctor followed with a jumble of self-contradicting phrases, amplified with the old Dean lung power: "We are really not in the wilderness," because 48 percent of the people voted for John Kerry. (Maybe I'm naive, but I thought the election was a disaster for the Dems, given their losses in the House and Senate -- even despite Bush's scandalous inattention before 9/11 and equally scandalous lies about Saddam Hussein's weapons. And didn't Dean once call Kerry "another special-interest clone in Washington"? )

"People think we should have good jobs that stay in the U.S.," Dean declared. They disapprove of Bush's "borrow and spend" fiscal policy, and pine for the good old days of Clintonian fiduciary rectitude. (Didn't Clinton ram job-exporting and trade-deficit-ballooning NAFTA and China-trade normalization through Congress, over the objections of many in his party?)

"Maybe we can't win the presidency in Mississippi, [but] we have a moral obligation to win the governorship in Mississippi." (What's that mean? Why not a moral obligation to win the presidency in Mississippi, and why couldn't they win both? Wasn't Dean the guy who said, astutely, that Democrats should appeal to working-class Southerners with Confederate flags in their pickup-truck windows?)

But the most remarkable thing about Dean's speech was, literally, its thoughtlessness -- now a virtue in the Dean playbook. Democrats, he said, need to take seriously the fears of "moral Republicans," instead of saying "That's ridiculous" ("Clinton would have said, 'I feel your pain' "). Pointing to his head, Dean explained how to do it: "We have to stop talking from here anymore"; then, pointing to his heart, he said, "We have to speak to them from here."

As for delivering this heartfelt message, Dean said, "When we're talking to the television, we'll say it in ten seconds or less," just like the "good politician" Bush. (Wasn't the very thoughtful Dean famous for turning his campaign rallies into town meetings, with extensive question-and-answer periods? Can't a redneck tell he's being talked down to just as quickly as a New York intellectual? Does Bush's lying in 10-second sound bites make him a tactical role model for the Democrats?)

I could go on -- Dean did -- but it's too sad. I asked a prominent New York Democrat standing near me why DNC Chairman Dean never denounced the Iraq occupation/bloodbath, and the politician, an old acquaintance, seemed to flinch. I promised I wouldn't quote him by name, but his reaction was worth noting: "Maybe he [Dean] should talk about Iraq. Nine American soldiers died in Iraq in the last two days. If [Al] Gore were president, can you imagine the screams from the Republicans?"

All I heard from Dean was a squeak; "the mess in Iraq" was as far as he would go. Anyway, he had already thrown in the Iraq towel in April, in a speech in front of the Minnesota ACLU: "Now that we're there... we can't get out.... I hope the president is incredibly successful with his policy now."

Thus is the tribune of the anti-war movement reduced to realpolitik. Thus does the crusader from the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" do the bidding of his natural enemies, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joseph Biden, and Evan Bayh -- each one pro-war and each an expert practitioner of the old-school dollars-for-favors fundraising racket.

I can't believe that Howard Dean feels very good about what he's doing. I can't believe that deep down he doesn't hear the hypocrisy when he exhorts his audience, "We've got to stop talking about programs and start talking about principles."

If he really means to pursue this unprincipled strategy in the name of Democratic "victory," he'd do more good back in Burlington practicing medicine.

John R. MacArthur is publisher of Harper's Magazine. This article previously appeared in the Rhode Island Providence Journal.


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