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July 04, 2005

Dean Makes Speaking Up Fashionable Again

Sally Jenkins, columnist at the Washington Post, had a great article on Howard Dean yesterday.  After all the negative press Dean has had, it's nice to see a well-thought out story on what he is doing.  It’s a long article, going into his lifestory in great detail.  Here are a few of the best paragraphs, including a great story about Dean and Harry Reid, which just made me appreciate both of them even more.  Here are some excerpts:

But Dean is also the guy who made speaking up fashionable again for Democrats. And that is one reason his party is wagering on him. If Dean says things that are ill-considered, he also remains his party's leading rebel -- one with enough fresh fight in him to take on not only Republicans but also those change-resistant Democrats who would rather be titular heads of a dying party than less relevant figures in a renewed one. The hope for Democrats is: Dean will be the antidote for a party that is lacking a strong message and that needs somebody, anybody, to say something. Dean likes to quote his political hero, Harry Truman. "I don't give 'em hell," Truman said in 1948. "I just tell the truth, and they think it's hell." And the truth, as Dean sees it, is that mushmouthedness is killing the party, and so is voter neglect. "Somebody has to take those right wingers on," he says, "and I enjoy doing it."

More after the fold.

Later, in describing an appearance Dean made, we get this interchange:

A young man stood up and asked what he could do to help the party, other than give money, which he didn't have. Dean bobbed on his feet, delighted with the question, because it allowed him to show off his best side -- the side that grew a presidential candidacy from a small Vermont operation with seven employees into a national campaign with 600,000 supporters.

"The number one thing you can do is run for office."

[Class giggles]

"I'm absolutely serious. I am not kidding."

The class grew quiet. Here was Dean as a Johnny Appleseed, sowing civics in the young. While Democrats have conceded parts of the country considered hostile, Republicans have left no office untested, he pointed out. The result is that Dems have no farm system, no ability to find young political talent in red states and groom it.

Run, he urged the students. Run for county road commissioner. Run for city council. "If you don't have people running for offices like county commissioner, who do you think is going to run for Congress a generation from now?

And here is the story about Dean’s first meeting with Harry Reid, as told to Jenkins by Tom Ochs, a media consultant and member of Dean’s DNC transition team:

But Dean considered the job doable, and winnable, even if others didn't. It was an act of sheer political will that he got himself elected, despite widespread opposition. Among those who opposed him was Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "He wasn't my first choice," Reid says, "but I admire the way he got the job." An example of Dean's determined buoyancy came when he requested a meeting with Reid to make his pitch. After Dean emerged from Reid's office, Ochs recalls asking anxiously, "How did it go?"

Dean said, "Oh, it went great."

"Really?"

"Yeah, he's not for me."

"Okaaaay," Ochs said. "So, why did it go great?"

"Well, I like him," Dean said. "He just told me right off. He was real straight up about it. He doesn't think I'm the right guy. He doesn't think I should do it. But I like that. When I win this, we'll be able to work together."

Lastly, from Bob Rogan, Dean’s former campaign manager:

"Everyone totally underestimates him. But he's a very smart guy, and a hard worker, and he's got a phenomenal political instinct. I realize a lot of Democrats are nervous about him, but they should just relax, and he will reenergize this party."

Posted by Lynn Allen on July 4, 2005 at 07:30 AM in Media | Permalink

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