February 17, 2005


Will Dean be the Dems' Gingrich? (James P. Pinkerton, February 15, 2005, Newsday)

Newt Gingrich says that the Democrats have a "death wish."

As evidence, the former House Speaker cites the election of Howard Dean to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee. But do the Democrats suffer from a death wish - or is it Gingrich Envy?

Elaine Kamarck, a 30-year veteran of Democratic politics (and occasional writer for Newsday), was among the DNC-ers who voted for Dean on Saturday. "He is going to rebuild and energize the party," she declares. That's for sure. Even without his 2004 "I have a scream" speech in Iowa, Dean was infinitely more interesting than all his Demo rivals combined.

But isn't Dean a left-wing ideologue? "No," Kamarck replies. Asked about the gay controversy, she explains, "Dean was out front on the issue because Vermont was out front on that issue." And it was civil unions in the Green Mountain State, she reminds us, not gay marriage. Indeed, "Dean's support for civil unions as a state's rights option is similar to that of both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney."

Of course, Dean is not exactly a conservative. The libertarian Cato Institute gave the Vermonter a "D" in its 2002 grading of the 50 governors' fiscal records. But in the same year, 19 other governors, including nine Republicans, got either "D's" or "F's" from the institute.

But Kamarck insists that the issue is not ideology, but competence - competence at party building, especially in the 31 red states that Bush carried last year.

Competence? When Mr. Gingrich came to office Georgia was a Demopcratic state. Today it is one of the most Republican. Vermont, on the other hand, has five big statewide offices and only one of them is held by a Democrat--Pat Leahy who preceded Governor Dean to office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 17, 2005 7:23 AM

You are counting so-called "Independents" Sanders and Jeffords as part of those non-Democrats? While that may be technically true, isn't that stretching things just a bit? If anything, they show that Vermont is a state unlike the rest of the country, and support the contention that Dean probably is guilty by association.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at February 17, 2005 12:53 PM

Wasn't Dukakis' great claim to fame "competence"? How well did that work? These guys are serial screw-ups.

Posted by: Luciferous at February 17, 2005 1:19 PM

Even if Dean had been a successful party builder in Vermont, what would it prove? The state has been attracting hippies, weirdos and losers for at least 3 decades now. As was said of South Carolina before the Civil War, it is too small to be a country and too big to be an insane asylum.

Posted by: Bart at February 18, 2005 11:13 AM