December 20, 2003


Dean Lays Out a Domestic Plan to Wake Up His Party (DAVID M. HALBFINGER and DIANE CARDWELL, 12/19/03, NY Times)

Howard Dean sketched out an expansive "new social compact for working families" on Thursday but did so in a way that immediately put him at odds with the moderate wing of his party over domestic issues.

Making explicit reference to Bill Clinton's politically groundbreaking declaration in 1996 that the "era of big government is over," Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont, called for a new era for Democrats — "not one where we join Republicans and aim simply to limit the damage they inflict on working families." [...]

Dr. Dean proposed a "social contract" built on affordable health insurance and child care; a savings plan to help families prepare for retirement; and a "College Commitment," guaranteeing $10,000 in student financial assistance through a mix of grants and loans, depending on family finances.

But the reference to Mr. Clinton by Dr. Dean escalated the tensions between him and the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.

Called for comment, Bruce Reed, a former Clinton adviser who is now president of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, said, "He took a cheap shot at Clintonism which wasn't appreciated." Mr. Reed added: "You know it just doesn't make any sense. One day Dean says Americans are no better off with Saddam out of power, now he seems to be saying Democrats are better off with Bill Clinton out of power."

Dean: I'm not criticizing, snubbing Bill Clinton (JOHN DiSTASO, 12/20/03, Manchester Union-Leader)
[A]t the Manchester City Library on Thursday, Dean unveiled a new “social contract” on domestic policy in a speech that contained the key line:

“While Bill Clinton has said that the era of big government is over, I believe we must enter a new era for the Democratic Party — not one where we join Republicans and aim simply to limit the damage they inflict on working families.”

An earlier draft of the speech, released to the media on Wednesday night, did not mention Clinton and appeared to more accurately reflect what Dean’s campaign is now saying that he meant.

Reportedly, the distributed draft of the foreign policy speech did not include the line about the capture of Saddam not making us any safer either. If the media were capable of analyzing Governor Dean objectively, here's what stands out about the week where he gave his two major addresses on foreign and domestic policy:

(1) By attacking the Bush Administration he buried the foreign policy speech and by attacking President Clinton he buried the domestic speech. These efforts to appear more moderate instead made him look even more extremist.

(2) Both wounds seem to have been inflicted by the candidate himself--ad-libbing or at least acting impulsively--not by staff.

Never mind the question of whether the country would be safe with him as president, these errors have to raise serious doubts for Democrats about whether he's even competent to run a national campaign.

The Era of Bill Clinton Is Over: Howard Dean triangulates the triangulator. (William Saletan, Dec. 18, 2003, Slate)

[W]hat's the difference between Dean and Clinton?

I see two differences. One is that Clinton ran for president promising tax cuts for the middle class. Dean is running for president promising to repeal tax cuts for the middle class and everyone else. Dean says the rich got most of Bush's tax cuts, and he's right. He says the tax cuts came with a hidden price tag—state budget crises, higher property taxes, higher state college tuition, higher national debt—and he's right again. But the first point solves the second. If the rich got most of the money, then the government can get that money back—and alleviate the hikes in tuition, debt, and property taxes—by repealing the tax cuts that went to the rich, while preserving the tax cuts that went to the middle class. That's the position taken by Wesley Clark, John Edwards, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and even Dennis Kucinich. But not Howard Dean.

In his speech, Dean concedes, "The average wage earner did get a few hundred dollars back" in Bush's tax cuts. He says he'll "get rid of the Bush tax program"—notice the absence of the word cut—"and repeal the 'Bush Tax.' " But don't fret about losing the few hundred bucks you got from Bush: Dean says his "New Social Contract … will include fundamental tax reform to ensure that every wealthy American individual and corporation is paying their fair share of taxes—and that the tax burden on working families is reduced." He says he'll crack down on companies that use offshore shelters to avoid "$70 billion a year in taxes—enough money to bring a real tax cut to every family." It sounds like Dean is going to offer you a tax cut in exchange for taking away the one Bush gave you. But he never does.

The other difference is that Clinton got elected.

There's a third difference too: Mr. Clinton ran--though didn't often govern--well to the Right on social issues, from abortion to Welfare.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 20, 2003 8:43 AM

This is disappointing... I was hoping he'd have the nomination sewn up before the Democrats realized he wasn't a viable candidate... at this rate they'll have plenty of time to knife him behind the scenes and line up behind someone else.

Posted by: MarkD at December 20, 2003 10:44 AM

At which point they upset the only portion of their base that truly wants Bush gone. It seems a sure way to make the Greens a realistic third party--based around upper/middle class, technocratic, government employee, socially libertarian, secular, whites--with the Democratic Party devolving into the party of industrial unions, blacks, etc.

Posted by: oj at December 20, 2003 11:09 AM

George Bush caused the budget crises in the states? Saletan has gone off the deep end - or he is trying to emulate Michael Kinsley.

Last time I checked, there were a few states (CO, GA) that seemed to be doing pretty well. The profligates were hurting, but I don't remember seeing Bush on their ballots.

Next thing, we'll be seeing articles from screaming liberals blaming Bush for SARS, the flu epidemic, and the failure of the Red Sox to get A-Rod.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 20, 2003 2:09 PM

Well, it can be traced back to the Rangers' stadium deal . . .

Posted by: David Cohen at December 20, 2003 2:32 PM

"savings plan to help families prepare for retirement"

Didn't Roosevelt call that Social Security?
Or is he admiting it's broke and should be abolished?

Posted by: M. at December 20, 2003 5:26 PM