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Dr. Dean and the Democratic Machine

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As an independent, I believe strongly in the checks and balances of the two party system and thusly don’t like to see either party get too far down or up. I want elections, especially presidential elections, to be about the relative merits of the individuals running, not the relative efficacy of their respective parties.

And it is for these reasons that I am quite concerned about Howard Dean taking over as Democratic national chairman, a result that was ensured when his last rival, Timothy J. Roemer, a former congressman from Indiana, dropped out of the running.

Among the statements of concern:

ABC News’ The Note:

    If you haven’t asked several smart people if your icky favorable/unfavorable ratings matter, and, if they do, what is to be done about them, a case could be made that you are even less prepared for your new job than those who are most worried about the words “DNC Chairman Howard Dean” fear.

Timothy J. Roemer:

    “I got into this race five weeks ago to talk about the devastating loss we experienced in November,” Roemer said in an interview. “It was not about 60,000 votes in Ohio. It was about losing 97 of the 100 fastest growing counties in the country. If that’s a trend in business or politics you’re in trouble.”

    Republicans are in the strongest position they’ve been in since the early 20th century, Roemer said. [Washington Post]

John Bunzel, a Democrat and senior fellow with the Hoover Institution:

    “I think if Howard Dean is to be the spokesman for the party, he is going to have to become a different Howard Dean than the one who campaigned for president. So now the question is: What kind of coalition is he prepared to build? We’ll see if he can transform himself into one who represents all parts of the party — and not just the peace wing. Because the Democratic Party can’t win with those people being the vanguard of the party. It won’t work.’ ”

CNN poll: Dean – 31 percent favorable view among Americans in both parties, and 38 percent unfavorable view, with the rest undecided.

On the other hand:

Roll Call’s John Bresnahan and Erin Billings (subscription required):

    “In a series of phone calls with Reid and Pelosi last week, Dean has promised to help rebuild a Democratic Party that was beaten soundly at the polls in November, losing not only the battle for the White House but also ceding four seats in the Senate and another two seats in the House.”

    “Dean has also promised party leaders that he won’t meddle in efforts to set Democratic policy. Instead, he has said he will focus on raising money and building the party infrastructure, hoping to boost the party’s prospects in campaigns beginning this fall with gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia.”

DNC member Steve Ybarra of Sacramento:

    “I hope the Republicans keep thinking that way, that they underestimate the governor.’ .. He argued that Dean’s portrayal as a raging liberal was inaccurate — and unfair because in Vermont, “he balanced budgets, increased medical care, financed schools and was endorsed by the NRA in every election. Now, there’s a left-wing guy if I’ve ever seen one.”

    And Silicon Valley insider Wade Randlett, who backed John Kerry in the presidential race, said Dean has convinced his party that he’s just the ticket to pump up the volume against President Bush — and the GOP.

    “When he’s on a Sunday morning talk show, it will be a little more interesting,” Randlett said. But, as national committee chairman, “it’s not Howard Dean’s position to offer a new policy prescription and platform; that’s (House Minority leader) Nancy Pelosi’s job and (Senate Minority leader) Harry Reid’s job.”

    “Howard Dean’s job is to say the Bush approach to all of the areas is wrong — and to give a sense of why it’s wrong,” Randlett said. “And he’s not going to try to be so bright a star that he’ll dim other presidential candidates.” [SF Chronicle]

Not sure that last bit is exactly a ringing endorsement.

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.
  • Eric Olsen

    yes indeed Sydney, thanks for your good sense

  • sydney


    Maybe I’m wrong but I think ERic Olson was being sarcastic when he said maybe we call them “chicken shits”?

  • Eric Olsen

    read the whole thread, the context is obvious

  • MCH

    “…what do we call those who have served in the military…whose time spent there has caused them to believe that military force is never appropriate…Chickenshits?”
    – Eric Olsen, Feb. 10

    “by the way, I mean no disrespect to any who have served bravely…”
    – Eric Olsen, Feb. 25

    Huh?!?…You show respect to those braver than yourself by calling them chickenshits? Hhmmm, there’s gotta be a psychological explanation there somewhere…

  • Well, like anyone else, veterans have the right to be against all war for whatever reasons, be it their wartime experiences or ideas they developed later in life. That doesn’t make them chicken or deserving of abuse. I think any absolutit position like that is unsustainable and irrational, and that’s my right despite not being a veteran and not being likely to join the military unless they get bizarrely desperate.


  • Eric Olsen

    very well put Dave – this particular case is narrower than that: veterans who “have been turned against all war” by the experience

  • Scoota Rey

    Fuck politics.

  • Anyone who spouts the word ‘chickenhawk’ immediately loses the right to be taken seriously. If you think that the only people who have the right to an opinion about war either positive or negative are those who are in the military fighting it, then you are either being disingenuous, or a fool.

    War impacts the entire society, and everyone in the society has a right to an opinion about it. The opinions of those who have not, cannot or choose for whatever reason not to serve in the military are just as valid as the opinions of anyone else, because their money and their resources and their nation’s reputation are still put on the line in that war, even if they physical bodies are not.

    If you are opposed to war and choose not to be in the military no one calls you a ‘chickendove’. Apparently that’s just fine. Yet invariably it is those who don’t have the guts to serve in the military and also don’t have the backbone to figure out when it is a good time to fight and support that fight, who trot out the insulting ‘chickenhawk’ term.

    Believe it or not, there are lots of people in this country who serve the country better by not actually joining the military. They play a role in the economy, in the corporte structure that keeps the country functioning, or in the government. They may be temperamentally unsuited to being soldiers, they may be too old, or have too many other responsibilities, and it’s ignorant to insult them just because they don’t go off and fight but still support the idea of a just war.

    We have an all volunteer army which is trained to fight and which is an instrument of our national policy. Anyone with a stake in the nation has a stake in the military even if they aren’t directly part of it. No one wants to send soldiers off to fight and die, but that is their job, just as it’s out job to stay home and support them.

    The next time you call someone a ‘chickenhawk’, how about you follow it up with some info on your date of induction into the military, and whether you support a draft or universal conscription for the future. Without that info you’re just as chicken as anyone else who doesn’t serve, but you’re worse because you don’t even wnat to provide the soldiers with your moral and political support.


  • Eric Olsen

    by the way I mean no disrespect toward any who have served bravely, but neither do I have any respect for the “chickenhawk” argument, if you can call it an “argument.”

  • Joe

    I’m sorry MCH, but unless you meet the criteria outlined in comment 28, you’ll need to shut your piehole.

  • Eric Olsen

    it isn’t “brave” or or anything else other than an opinion on the best course of action for the country – why is that so difficult to understand?

    And if this statement doesn’t EXACTLY make my point, nothing will:

    “The things that I witnessed on Iwo Jima turned me against all war,” Harold said.”

  • MCH

    Oh…and Olsen, Nalle, Barger, RJ Elliott, Flanagan, et al:

    Please explain to me how you justify that writing macho pro-war letters, while safely 10,000 miles away from the action, is “brave”…?

  • MCH

    Re comment #27;

    “…what do we call those who have served in the military (and thanks for that, way to go), but whose time spent there has apparently caused them to believe that military force is never appropriate (other than, I am assuming, defense against direct invasion, as in, say, RED DAWN)?
    “Hawkchickens”? Or maybe just “Chickenshit”?”

    I recently profiled two World War II Marines who took part in the battle of Iwo Jima.

    Everett was wounded on Iwo on March 14, 1945, when a Japanese sniper round hit him from the side, entering his chest and exiting from his shoulder. The bullet destroyed the nerves in his shoulder so badly that he was forced to work the rest of his life with one arm. After being hit, he fell back into the foxhole, landing on his head, causing neck and back injuries which still torment him to this day.

    Harold, a machine gunner, fought from the first day to the last day on Iwo Jima, in close-quarters combat against the Japanese. Of the 245 Marines who landed on D-Day, by March 25, 1945, only 19 original members remained, the rest having been killed or injured. He said that for the entire 36 days, he never slept more than 2 hours at a time; and remembers having only one hot meal, the rest being K-rations or C-rations. Both of Harold’s eardrums were punctured on Iwo, but he has never asked for compensation out of consideration for the 6,800 men who did not make it back.

    Both of these courageous warriors are adamantly opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Kind of shoots down your theory that any veteran opposed to military force is a “Chickenshit,” eh, Olsen, Barger, Nalle, et al?

    The things that I witnessed on Iwo Jima turned me against all war,” Harold said. “Whenever I hear someone promoting military action or pre-emptive invasions, the first thing I want to know is if they’ve ever seen combat themselves.” Everett’s comment was, “If George W. Bush feels this war is so righteous, why aren’t his daughters serving over there?”

    – MCH (Vietnam era veteran opposed to the invasion and occupancy of Iraq)

  • You know, the Wobblies are still with us. But they no longer have any influence at all. I think those issues you mention got legitimized by the Progressive Party, William Jennings Bryan and Theodore Roosevelt 10-20 years before the Wobblies promoted them.


  • Dave, I doubt the Socialist Workers Party ever met your 5% criteria, yet their 1920s platform calling for graduated income taxes, government retirement benefits, unemployment benefits, etc became the law of the land, supported even by supposedly “conservative” Republicans.

    And the anti-war soldiers and former soldier “chickenshits” can EAT IT. The military is works for US. They’re on OUR payroll. If you don’t like that, then don’t join.

  • >>However, we can and sometimes have done some distinct good far short of actually winning elections. Even 5% can be a HUGE power base, properly leveraged. << Turn that 5% turnout into 5% of the seats in Congress and you'll have a real party and a real power base. Same thing in the various state legislatures. The only Libertarian group I see making a serious attempt at this is the Free State Project. It will be interesting to see where they are in a decade or so. Dave

  • Ron S.

    Attn, Eric Olsen:
    Concerning your comment in 27, when you refer to Veteran1999 as a “chickenshit.” It is amusing that the guy who actually served his country to help preserve our freedom of speech is made the target of a barnyard reference by a guy who has never served, but benefits from that very freedom of speech, none-the-less.

    Attn, Veteran1999;
    Thankyou for your service to our country.

  • Eric Olsen

    I fail miserably in every aspect of the commenting criteria: I don’t even know what all the acronyms mean

  • Joe

    I refuse to accept it as well.

  • Joe

    I’m sorry, Eric, I cannot except your response, I don’t think you meet the commenting criteria.

  • Eric Olsen

    glaring and critical points I missed Joe, apologies and thanks

  • Joe

    I don’t think it’s enought to have just served in the military. In order to have a valid opinion of military operations you must:
    – possess a current TS/SCI clearance
    – served at least 3 years in a combat arms MOS as and officer or NCO
    – attended and completed Airborne and Ranger School or a Branch of service equivalent
    – served a tour of duty in a combat zone during which time you where subjected to direct and indirect enemy fire
    – awarded a purple heart
    Unless you’ve met all these criteria, you really can’t understand, you know? And if for some reason don’t meet the criteria, you’ve always been free to pursue it so you must be some kind of coward if you haven’t.

  • Eric Olsen

    hmm, let’s look at this from another angle: if all those who have not served in the military but support the use of military force as appropriate under some circumstances, including the current war in Iraq, are to be called “chickhawks,” then what do we call those who have served in the military (and thanks for that, way to go) but whose time spent there has apparently caused them to believe the use of military force is never appropriate (other than, I am assuming, defense against direct invasion, as in, say, Red Dawn)?

    “Hawkchickens”? Or maybe just “Chickenshit”?

  • V1999, you mouth the words to say, sure you believe in civillian control of the military- then you directly deny it in the next breath. “War is best left to the generals.” Jebus Criminy, dude, those words could have come out of the mouth of General Jack D Ripper in Dr Strangelove. Indeed, they pretty much actually DID.

    Do you remember what Clemenceau once said about war?

    I don’t think so, sir.

    He said war was too important a matter to be left to Generals.

    I see.

    When he said it, fifty years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to the politicians. Do you follow me, Major?

    In short, the chickenhawk nonsense is patently a low level ad hominem attack. We need not go into the obvious points of that for the 100th time. You’re not going to impress any thinking person with this crap.

    Mr Nalle, as a lifelong Libertarian Party supporter and frequent candidate, I am nonetheless sympathetic to your point. The knee-jerk anti-military reflexes of many of our members in the wake of 9/11 has made only too clear the extent to which some of our people are not reality based. Even the best ideological map is still not the territory.

    However, we can and sometimes have done some distinct good far short of actually winning elections. Even 5% can be a HUGE power base, properly leveraged.

    For example, as little as 2 or 3% of fiscally conservative voters abandoning W for his drunken sailor spending to vote Libertarian would have cost him his re-election. President Kerry would have sucked donkey balls, but the next hack the Republicans put up would definitely be re-calibrating his pandering.

  • You are quite right about the traditional flaws of the Libertarian Party. Rather than being a political party- meaning, capable of compromise, working to move policy in a particular direction and to elect candidates- the LP has been more of a political debate society or supper club.

    Increasingly, the leadership of the LP has moved towards more truly political operators. Certain state affiliates show this more than others.

    Here in Indiana, I’d like to think that we get the distinction, and are working to build a viable third-party alternative. Our statewide base is about 4%, and in a handful of counties where we have good local leadership, it is as high as 7%. We are most hopeful that as the LPIN continues to grow and show continuously improved results, other states will take notice of our methods and adopt them, transforming the national party.

    Time will tell, of course. Keep your eye on Indiana, though.

  • Veteran1999

    Mike, the Libertarians are the true conservatives of today. Back in the early 20th century there were also neocons. They were called Wilsonian idealists back then, or liberal hawks if you prefer. Constant military interventionism, nation-building, and a pipedream of reshaping the world in our image. Wilson was famous for once saying: “Make the world safe for democracy”. Sound familiar? What we have today is a republican party that is more hopelessly liberal than the democrats. The latter would be proud if they weren’t out of power.

    I’d support the libertarians but unfortunately the two-party corporate whoring is very good at keeping such parties marginalized.

  • >>f you are wanting socially tolerant, fiscally cosnervative, and militarily non-interventionist yet strong on defense, there is a third-party option, that starts with an ‘L’.<< You left out ideologically inflexible and absolutely incapable of ever being a viable national party. Yes, I think there could be a third party with Libertarian values, but the LP as it exists today cannot adjust to political reality enough to become a viable party. They might end up joining a new liberty-oriented party by mass defection, however. Dave

  • Veteran1999

    Looks like I stepped on some chickenhawk toes. Or the office desk jockey cheering on war from the safety of his cubicle. Fair enough, you can’t toss a stone without hitting a half dozen of them these days.

    Eric, you’re daft. Civilian leadership? Sure. Politics are best handled by politicians. War is best left to the generals. What we have today in Iraq is the result of chickenhawk micromanagement reminiscent of LBJ during Vietnam, only this time starring your boy Rummy and his fellow draft-dodging coterie. The military hates that fool for a reason.

  • If you are wanting socially tolerant, fiscally cosnervative, and militarily non-interventionist yet strong on defense, there is a third-party option, that starts with an ‘L’.

    (I can’t bring myself to plug as shamelessly as usual today. Please forgive me.)

  • Relax, Eric – Dean is a great choice.

    Think of him as the Democrats’ Ed Gillespie, rather than their George Bush.

    That still leaves the Dems in a deep hole – Hillary doesn’t cut it for president.

    And no, I don’t know who does for the Dems.

  • In addition to rejecting civilian control of the military, v1999 also seems to wish to limit general political debate by cheap abuse of the language. That is, he would appear to wish to impose the socialist liberal agenda by simply labeling it “centrist.” Thus, anyone who opposes the failed and immoral left wing agenda is by definition some kind of radical, not a moderate “centrist” like him.

  • Eric Olsen

    V1999 apparently resents civilian control of the military

  • NC

    I hate chickenhawks with a passion

    Fair enough, V1999. Not to spin this thread off on a tangent, but what do you propose by way of solving the problem?

  • Veteran1999

    NC: “Think socially liberal, fiscally responsible, and hawkish on foreign policy.”

    I’m an independent centrist. As a former military man and a Kosovo vet, I’ll take the first two but not the last. I hate chickenhawks with a passion, and that’s what you’ll get with a bunch of suits flexing our military might while others do the fighting.

    A centrist party sounds damn good about now though. These democrats and republicans are little more than corporate whores. Our democracy is in sad shape right now.

  • I think for things to be safe, we’d have to jump from the two-viable party system we have now to 4.

    If a moderate party came out, and say 80% of Republicans identify as moderate, and the same for Democrats, with the remaining 20% of each party being extremists, then 80% of each party could go to the new party. That would leave the Republican and Dem parties with only 20% of their current number. I don’t see how that could compete with a party that just got 80% of both. And I don’t see how they can combine for strength since they are so ideologically opposed.

    Which would make us end up with a one party system. I think it’s gotta jump from 2 to 4 to be safe.

    I was told the way it was always supposed to be was that the two parties were supposed to be extreme, and it was through compromise that things settle in a middle. But something happened around the Reagan era and through the Kenneth Starr witchhunt phase. Now neither side wants to compromise, it’s more about attacking the other side.

  • NC

    I wish there were many viable parties to choose from

    I hear this from leftists all the time and never once have I understood it to mean anything other than “I wish there was a viable socialist/Green party.”

  • >>Sounds good, but the Democrat’s have been in better positions than this MANY times in the last century and yet the Republicans held on. I think the Democrats will hold on too.<< If true, this is unfortunate, because the only real chance at a viable third party is if the Democrats collapse puttig the Republicans in a situation where the party might split in two along ideological lines. Dave

  • Eric Olsen

    lots of good points made and I agree Democrtic national chariman is not the same thing as candidate. I think for the Dems to be viable nationally they have to be more centrist, especially involving national security, and Dean was so strongly anti-war he seems about he last guy to point them in that direction. I guess I’m really looking for the thrid party NC described above, but that isn’t going to happen either.

  • Eric – What are your specific problems with Dean? Is it simply that you think he’ll (further) tank the Dems chances?

  • I wish there were many viable parties to choose from, the two party system is not really healthy for either the nation or the parties themselves.

    I do kind of think that all this talk of Democrats being doomed is a bit of wishful thinking by the Republicans.

    “Republicans are in the strongest position they’ve been in since the early 20th century, Roemer said.”

    Sounds good, but the Democrat’s have been in better positions than this MANY times in the last century and yet the Republicans held on. I think the Democrats will hold on too.

  • I predict that Dean will be surprisingly effective as chairman, and won’t be driving the party off any cliffs. He’s there for his fundraising and organizational talents, not as a candidate.

    Also, to whatever extent he’s cast as a spokesman for the party, he’ll do well. He’s smart, witty, and quick on his feet.

    Yeah, he went a little bit over the top last year, and got slapped down. However, that was under the heat of being a leading candidate for president, and his first serious national exposure. He didn’t realize quite how things were going to play in the national press until he got that cute little scream broke off up in him. He won’t make the same mistakes again.

    Also, it won’t really matter so much if he does get a little overheated now and then in this context. It wouldn’t be good for him to seriously cheese off the whole public, but being somewhat disliked won’t matter. He’s not on the ballot.

    Indeed, if he doesn’t have Republicans hating him, then he ain’t doing his job.

  • RJ

    Er, Catch 22, right?

  • johnny7

    The Democrat Party is suffering a ‘schism’. That’s why they seem to have lost direction and fail to speak with a united voice.

    If the party sticks together, it’s doomed to lose. If it splits up… no faction will have the power to win. Catch 21.

    As a conservative, I’m very amused with their dilemma.

  • Eric – pick up a copy of “You Have the Power” and maybe you’ll see why people like me love Howard Dean so much and are thrilled to see him taking the reins of the party.

  • Eric Olsen

    yes, but Ross Perot may have shot that wad for about the next 100 years – of course he added the rampant protectionism to which the unions so desperately cleave

  • From what I hear, it sounds like the Democratic party got Dean to be DNC because of his grassroots fundraising capabilities. The Right already has such a large movement in place, the Left needs one as well. Dean proved during the election, he’s the best one for that job. That’s why he got the DNC. That’s what I hear from sites on the Left.

    Since that will be his focus and not setting policy, I don’t see why anybody should be concerned, he sounds like the best candidate for the job. And actually if you look at his resume as Governor of Vermont, I don’t see why there would even be concern about him setting policy. It’s a pretty glowing endorsement of his political skills.

  • NC

    Mixed feelings here. On the one hand, I’m thrilled by the thought of Howie steering the left off a cliff. On the other hand, I’m afraid that the more entrenched Republicans are, the more brazen the fundies will become.

    There’s a silver lining for folks like you (and me), Eric: this could be the first step toward the creation of a viable third party. As the wingnuts on each side take control, they’ll alienate more and more of the moderates in their camps until, perhaps, a critical mass will come together and form a centrist coalition. Think socially liberal, fiscally responsible, and hawkish on foreign policy. Sound good?

  • Eric Olsen

    one would think former pres Bill could tell them a thing or two about triangulation, which coincidentally enough, seems to be the direction Hillary is headed in.

  • Maurice

    Like the majority of voters I am middle of the road politically and not happy about being overwhelmed by one party. Bush has a big gun and seems to be firing in all directions trying to please everyone. It is interesting to note that as inept as he appears, there is no one from the other side that can compete with him. I don’t think Howard Dean (arrrugh!) is the guy to fix the Demoncats unpopularity. They need to at least appear to be more mainstream than either party appears to be right now.