Sunday, February 13, 2005

Dean Making Positive, Party-Friendly Changes

Interesting excerpts about the election of Howard Dean as DNC chair, from the Los Angeles Times today. Looks like Dean is making excellent changes to his leadership style that'll help focus attention on his message, not his energetic personality.

He's also immediately focusing on correcting Democratic party 2004 mistakes. An even better sign for the future.....
Capping an improbable political comeback, Howard Dean was unanimously elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, accepting the job with a low-key speech that depicted the struggling party as the nation's voice of fiscal responsibility and social progress.

....he won the chairmanship the same way he went from dark horse to onetime front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination: by developing an ardent following at the grass roots and tapping widespread contempt for the party's inside-the-Beltway leadership....

Rejecting talk that the party requires a thorough overhaul of its message and image, Dean said Democrats should not change what they have "always stood for and fought for."He described the party's core principles as "fiscal responsibility and socially progressive values," and said Democrats simply need to do a better job communicating their views.

Toward that end, he pledged to spend much of his four-year term as chairman in the so-called red states that President Bush carried handily in the last two elections."We can't run 18-state presidential campaigns and hope to win," Dean said, an implicit rebuke of Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, who wrote off large chunks of the country in his narrow loss to Bush in November.Dean's red-state strategy for Democrats is simple, he said: "Show up."

His acceptance speech was strikingly subdued for the man who emerged as one of the fieriest speakers of the 2004 campaign, thrilling left-leaning partisans with his lacerating attacks on Bush as well as fellow Democrats. The 20-minute address was tame even compared with the pugnacious speeches he gave while campaigning for chairman.

Dean, 56, assailed Bush's proposal to restructure Social Security as a "dishonest scheme." And he said the $2.5-trillion budget the White House unveiled last week brought "Enron-style accounting to the nation's capital" by failing to include the costs of the war in Iraq and revamping Social Security.

Tellingly, the glancing reference to Iraq was Dean's only mention of the issue that fueled his presidential bid.Citing the record deficits the nation has accumulated under Bush, Dean gibed, "Americans are now beginning to see you can't trust Republicans with [taxpayers'] money."

But deviating from the style that marked his presidential race, Dean worked off a written text, never raised his voice and abandoned the mocking tone he had often used when referring to Bush.At a news conference afterward, Dean denied that he had purposely toned down his approach.Responding to the question, he said: "I'm not a Zen person. It's hard to answer stylistic questions. I am who I am…. It's not intentional."

....In his speech and comments afterward, Dean was highly deferential toward House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).... Days before Saturday's vote, Dean met privately with Pelosi and Reid to pledge his cooperation, and he demonstrated his loyalty Saturday by declining to discuss his opposition to the war in Iraq, even when prodded by a reporter.

The proper place for such talk is Capitol Hill, Dean said, adding that he saw "no need to make announcements on anything I won't be voting on soon."Reid joked about his initial resistance to Dean's candidacy when he spoke to the DNC meeting on Friday. The senator thanked "all the Democrats who ran for chair — and all the Democrats I tried to get to run for chair."

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