(As Harry Reid and the Democrats kill off Paul Hackett because he tried to reform the way business is done in Washington, it is instructive to also remember what Beltway Dems did to Howard Dean's campaign during the 2004 elections. They aren't open to reform or competition. - jf)
How Beltway Democrats Sank Howard Dean
As you now know now, Howard Dean was a candidate from the Democratic mainstream. But despite his ideological alignment with the New Democrats, he did take them on, hoping to disrupt their stranglehold on Democratic politics. Dean was empowered. Not because he had a passion for progressive ideals, but because his followers led him down an alternative path. They saw Dean as a chance to challenge the Democrats for their centrist propensities. For that, Dean must be thankful, for the Deaniacs made him a substantial threat.
Immortalized as the reason for the capsize of Dean's campaign is his famous scream after losing the primary in Iowa. The role the incident played reveals a great deal about how our media works, a topic to which we will return. Putting that aside for a moment, it is instructive to see how the Democratic Party dealt with him apart from the issue. The moves of the DLC reveal a great deal about how tight the control over the party is and how narrow the range of acceptable debate can be. The minimization of this so-called debate also reveals how the Democrats and their liberal cohorts enabled George W. Bush to win his reelection effort.
Howard Dean's campaign first took on water after Al Gore endorsed Dean for president on December 9, 2003. Hailed by many in the mainstream press as a huge boost to Dean's bid, the endorsement came at the same exact moment Democratic insiders were meeting to discuss how to sink his advances. For they knew he was a potential threat to the Clinton Democrats.
Theories of why Gore endorsed Dean spread like fire through the media. As political commentator Adam Nagourney told Gwen Ifill on PBS's Newshour on the day of the endorsement: "One [theory] is that what is going on here is a proxy war between the Clintons and the Gores over the future of the Democratic Party. I think there is an element of truth to that. I don't think we want to exaggerate that."
He was right. The war had begun. Verbal bombs dropped -- with one target in sight: the future of the Democratic Party. Dean was out for establishment blood, and Gore gladly went along for the ride. "Howard Dean was assassinated in broad daylight. Unlike Kennedy's 'grassy knoll,' Dean's killers are not hiding -- it was the Democratic Party itself, and more specifically the Democratic Leadership Council, that successfully went after and sabotaged his candidacy " The DLC reacted with fury to [Dean] " going all out to torpedo his momentum," Naeem Mohaiemen correctly opined on Alternet.org following Dean's presidential death.
"Although Democratic nominees soon piled on the 'bash Dean' bandwagon, earlier attacks were carried out by DLC operatives. There was even the smell of scandal when two top Democratic candidates were found sharing information about Dean in an attempt to slow him down."
"But the great myth of the current [Howard Dean] cycle," DLC leaders Al From and Bruce Reed wrote in a May 15, 2003 memo, "is the misguided notion that the hopes and dreams of activists represent the heart and soul of the Democratic Party " What activists like Dean call the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is an aberration: the McGovern-Mondale wing, defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist, interest-group liberalism at home."
No doubt it was scandalous. But there was more to the drama than Dick Gephardt and John Kerry passing notes under the table and the DLC crying foul. In fact, Democratic insiders with deep ties to the DLC began funding campaign ads against Dean, hoping to bring his campaign to a screeching halt.
David Jones, an avid fundraiser and organizer for the Democratic National Committee and a staunch DLC patron who garnered money for centrist New Democrats like Bill Clinton and Al Gore, founded an anti-Dean group that ran vile ads attacking him early on in the Iowa contest. Deceptively called "Americans for Jobs, Health Care & Progressive Values, 2004 Election Cycle," Jones' group conducted a poll, which found that most Americans championed Dean's Iraq war stance. But few knew of his support of NAFTA, Medicare cuts in the mid 1990s, or his endorsements from the NRA.
"The first spot, on Dean's NRA endorsements, ran Dec. 5-12 in Iowa," The Chicago Sun Tribune reported on February 19, 2004. "The second ad ran Dec. 12-19 in Iowa and hit Dean on his NRA backing and NAFTA and Medicare stands. By this time, Jones did not have much money left."
Jones' group raised in excess of $600,000 from numerous Democratic insiders, including former New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli, whose political career ended abruptly when he fell victim to ethics violations. Torricelli donated $50,000 to Jones' group.
As The Washington Post reported on February 16, 2004, "The [Jones' donor] list makes clearer than ever that the rules need to be changed to provide timely disclosure -- to ensure that voters know who is behind this kind of attack advertising in time to factor that into their decision-making, should they so choose. We learn now that unions that had endorsed Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) contributed $200,000 of the group's $663,000 in donations. Two top Gephardt backers also contributed: Leo Hindery Jr. of YES Network ($100,000), who served as a national finance co-chair, and Swanee Hunt ($25,000), who was a national campaign co-chair.
"While Mr. Gephardt's backers [including Jones during the late 1990s] constituted the bulk of the donors, they weren't alone: Slim-Fast Foods founder S. Daniel Abraham, a major Democratic donor who contributed to his home state senator, Bob Graham (Fla.), and to Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), gave $100,000. J. McDonald Williams, a former chairman of the Trammell Crow construction company and a donor to the Bush-Cheney campaign this year, though to Democrats in previous cycles, gave $50,000 " Mr. Torricelli, you will remember, had the cash to spare because he was forced to quit his reelection race after being 'severely admonished' by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting expensive gifts from a campaign donor he was doing official favors for. Now a champion at collecting special-interest money is gathering checks for Mr. Kerry, who's busy railing against those interests."
As it turns out, the Post article doesn't even tell the full story. In reality, the ties between Jones' organization, the Kerry campaign, and DNC chair Terry McAuliffe were much stronger than suggested.
As Marc Brazeau pointed out on the online political site Joe Hill Dispatch, a closer examination reveals "that the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & From was paid $18,000 for legal work by the group and the e-mail contact for Americans for Jobs" ended in skadden.com.
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