A Final Comment on Dean's Precision Before a Break
With the Christmas week upon us, you may notice a slightly fewer number of posts between now and the holiday from your friends here at the Left Coaster. Although I will be away between now and next Friday, braving the crowds at the happiest place on earth in Southern California, our other editors will contribute as they can during the week.
Before I head out, a final word on the post I made this morning and the expected reaction to it. I must say, it was a great thread today. Even those of you who think I am a jerk for saying anything negative about Dean were relatively well-behaved today. But then at least you are consistent; I get trashed whenever I write something negative about Dean. And then Moraks keeps me honest by trashing me when I write something negative about Kerry. Good for all of you. But please get over the idea that just because Dean is angry, aggressive in going after Bush, and excites many of you that it gives him a free pass on accuracy and precision. It does not.
It isn't GOP talking points when I print Dean's exact quote and ask for any of you to provide examples of any Washington Democrat saying aloud that Saddam's capture meant we can declare victory in the war on terror. It may have been a rhetorical device, but those were Dean's words. He has already gotten in hot water in the last two weeks about the comments he made about Bush and 9/11. And now this. It is counterproductive to go to such lengths to distance yourself from your competitors that you set up straw men that do not exist. Why? Because not only does your credibility soon becomes a casualty, but because it is exactly what we accuse the GOP of all the time.
Look, we can't have it both ways. We Democrats, me included, go after Bush tooth and nail every time he tries to parse his way away from his pre-war WMD or Saddam/Al Qaeda claims. We know what he said, or at least inferred or insinuated because we have the quotes and the context in which he said it. So we slam Bush or his defenders when they try and say that Bush himself never said Saddam was an imminent threat or kept qualifying what he said by saying "British intelligence says...." Saddam had WMDs.
So why is it different now when Dean actually said what he said, and I hear some of you Dean defenders telling me he didn't mean it literally? Bush's defenders claim that he didn't say what we assumed or heard him say, and now Dean defenders say he wasn't to be taken literally. Others of you say he isn't off the cuff and in fact is more careful than his critics claim. If so, then why would Dean say something that isn't to be taken literally and that isn't true? Isn't that what we berate Bush for?
It is quite possible to launch scathing and effective attacks on Bush by simply using what he has actually said and done and show his lies. And yes, those attacks can come from an angry and aggressive candidate. But the moment a pattern is established that calls into question the candidate's temperament when criticized or his veracity, we already know what the media and Rove will do with that. And that will cost the Democrats the swing and independent voters that are needed to win next year. Telling me that I shouldn't use allegedly GOP talking points because I am doing their work for them is bogus, because I am dealing with an issue now that Dean had better get control of before it becomes lethal in the general election. Were Dean and Joe Trippi asleep when the course about how the media Gored Al Gore was given?
There is no excuse for the front runner to make the statement he did yesterday that capturing Saddam does not mean that Washington Democrats can declare victory in the war on terror, when they did not claim that in the first place. Precision matters, and can be used against Mr. Bush quite effectively, but only if our candidate has a commitment to it himself. Anger and aggressiveness by our side, as welcome as it may be, does not give Howard Dean a pass. Stick to the facts, do not play word games, say exactly what you mean, be accurate, and drive Bush into the ground with his own words and actions. Failing to do so will result in our candidate spending all of his time explaining what he meant to a Gotcha media and the voters instead of hammering Bush.
Just because Dean is on our side of the aisle and hammers Bush to our liking doesn't mean he shouldn't be held to the same standards we want Bush held to himself.
Merry Christmas and I hope all of you and your families have a happy and safe holiday. I'll catch up to you later next week.