...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Friday, September 12, 2003
      ( 1:20 PM )
Uh Oh. The Knives are Coming Out

Looks like things are starting to get a little bit dicey in the democratic primary race. Everybody feeling some heat from the impending speech by Gen. Clark next week, perhaps? Not only are the candidates slinging hard at Dean, but the press has now started in on the pot shots. Here is a great run-down on the way the media is working these days (by Chris at Interesting Times):

1. Howard Dean gives an interview to Wolf Blitzer and says that Hamas invited attacks on themselves by declaring war on Israel.

2. FOX, Drudge, etc. start accusing Dean of saying that Hamas is not a terrorist organization.

3. Dean replies that he said no such thing and of course Hamas is a terrorist organization.

4. The establishment media says that Dean flip-flops on his position on Hamas.

(as Atrios says, If Hey, if ... the National Review, and the LA Times refer to "Hamas Soldiers," why can't Howard Dean?)

It's very clear that this is now Dean's race to lose. How he responds to the continuing attacks and mis-reporting on his statements will say a lot about how he will handle the big time dirty tricks that Rove will throw at the ultimate Democratic candidate. I tend to have faith that Dean will not get dragged down into the dirt on things and that he may in the end be able to use this to his advantage. His campaign is unprecedented - the entire power of it is firmly grounded and based on the work and support of the grassroots volunteers in all 50 states. He and his campaign maintain an active dialogue with the supporters and interested seekers through his blog, and he is consistently rising in all the polls. It is because of this that the slinging of mud may not be as effective, nor the mud itself as sticky when it comes to Dean.

For instance, he has an army of volunteers who will show up to his website to find out the truth about any rumors flying around and then will explain it to anyone who will hear them. This word of mouth will counter much of the rumor-mongering engaged in on Fox TV - whose majority audience won't vote in the democratic primaries anyway. I shall demonstrate:

You, A Curious Voter: Why, Mama - you're a supporter of Howard Dean, what do you think about what Dick Gephardt said today about Dean agreeing with Newt Gingrich's plan to decimate medicare?

Mama: Well, Gephardt is definitely slinging arrows at the wrong target. He has taken Gov. Dean's past record completely out of context and tried to resort to name calling by invoking the name of Gingrich. As one of his many supporters explains, in reality, Dean did support the plan proposed in the mid-90's, but with good reason. The Gingrich proposal was to have the government fund several alternatives to Medicare, ultimately leaving the choice of programs up to individuals. Gingrich's hope was that most would choose other alternatives and Medicare would "wither on the vine." Gephardt and other Dems made it sound like Gingrich was going to simply revoke funding for Medicare and leave Medicare beneficiaries out to dry. This was never the case. Dean's support of the program came from his own experiences with Medicare as an MD. It's a total mess, and it needs reform -- reforms not unlike what Clinton, Dean, Kerry, Kucinich, and even Gephardt have proposed. Ultimately, he DID use a plan similar to this by turning his state's system into a government managed HMO system (with full prescription benefits), thus providing universal health care for his entire state.

YACV: Okay, well that sounds alright. But Mama, what about John Kerry's accusations that Dean is against the middle class because he wants to revoke all of Bush's tax cuts?

Mama: I think Dean has adequately explained that neither can the budget be balanced nor efficient healthcare for all citizens be provided unless these tax cuts are repealed. He said it succinctly on CNN in an interview a few weeks ago: I think most people would be fine with returning to the tax levels of the Clinton years if we could return to the economy of the Clinton years. The plain and simple truth is that the Bush tax cuts haven't helped us. Jobs are still being lost. The child tax credit is nice, but I think most people, like my family, would prefer to have a job than get a tax credit we can't receive anyway because we're below the income level it goes to.

YACV: Alright. But Mama, what about Joe Lieberman's appearances all over the mainstream media saying that Dean is an anti-Semite and is breaking a 50-year tradition of US support for Israel, and Fox News saying that Dean has called Hamas soldiers and does not consider them a terrorist organization?

Mama: First of all, I think it would be mighty odd for Howard Dean to be anti-semitic since his wife and children are Jewish. Secondly. Dean's statement was clear and actually very refreshing. He says that he believes the US should be an unbiased broker in the middle east conflict. He reiterated several times that of course the US has a special relationship with Israel, but we must be a truly fair mediator for any results to ever come of the negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Thirdly, Fox's report on Dean's statement about Hamas was taken completely out of context without using his full statement. What Dean actually said was that because Hamas soldiers have declared war on Israel, Israel is justified in its targeting of them - a position taken by Joe ("It paaaiiiins me to hear you say that") Lieberman himself. (Mama notes here that she does not necessarily agree with Dean's position on this but nonetheless feels it is only fair that he be quoted accurately). Furthermore, it is ridiculous that Israel should be an issue on which the other Democratic candidates and the Bush administration's mouthpieces are focusing on - this is not an issue voters are going to be looking at for this election.

YACV: Well, Mama, thanks for setting me straight. It sure is frustrating when the news media won't report the actual truth and when candidates who are fast sinking in the polls desperately lash out with personal attacks. Maybe the press is more interested in sensationalizing everything than actually reporting on the campaigns?

Mama: I think you may have something there.

UPDATE: Holy crapola. From the looks of the comments on Dean's blog, Gephardt's office is really hearing the backlash today in calls, faxes and emails. There is something to be said for an army of supporters getting your back.

UPDATE 2: Billmon shows why this sort of stuff makes us feel like we're in a parallel universe. Or as one of his commenters, Shaun, this quote from Will Farrell in Zoolander applies: Is everybody blind?I feel like Im taking crazy pills!

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