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Home > World

Please nominate this man

Why is the Bush campaign so keen for Dean?

by Robert Mackey in New York.

12 January 2004

Lately, the debate in the American Democratic primaries - the process by which opponents of George W. Bush chose their Presidential candidate - has been about whether or not the most popular candiate, Howard Dean, is 'electable' or not.

Or more accurately; if Dean wins the nomination among purely Democrat voters, will his consistantly anti-war views mean that he is too far to the left to win over the majority of the electorate?

Meanwhile, the Republicans have now been saying for months that they will wallop Dean if he gets the chance to run against Bush. Something which Dean's rivals within his own party have been using to further their own Presidential ambitions.

And yet, no one seems to have asked the obvious question: if the Republicans would indeed love to see Dean be the nominee, then why on earth would they spend several months before the Democratic primaries begin telling Democratic voters that?

It seems clear to me that the Republican tactic of urging Democrats to nominate Dean is, in fact, a campaign of disinformation being run by Bush strategists to get the Democrats themselves to eliminate the man who would pose the greatest threat to Bush in the general election. In other words, it's Reverse psychology 101.

Here's how the campaign has been waged so far.

Over the last few months, there has been a clear pattern of activity behind the scenes by Bush strategists who keep leaking their hopes and 'fears' to journalists about who the Democrats will nominate.

Back in September, David Brooks, an opinion columnist who has recently shifted from the neo-con house organ The Weekly Standard to the opinion pages of the centre-left New York Times wrote a column claiming that Bush campaigners were beside themselves with joy at the prospect of taking on Howard Dean:

I called eight of the best G.O.P. pollsters and strategists and asked them, on a not-for-attribution basis, if they thought Howard Dean would be easier to beat than the other major Democratic presidential candidates. Here, and I'm paraphrasing, are the results: "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!" You would have thought I had asked them if Danny DeVito would be easier to beat in a one-on-one basketball game than Shaquille O'Neal.

They all thought Dean would be easier to beat, notwithstanding his impressive rise.


As I wondered at the time: if this was true, why would they tell us? If they genuinely thought that they could trounce Dean, why on earth would they tell someone writing for the New York about it at a time when that information could keep him from getting nominated?

Then, in October, we had an article on the related theme of how 'afraid' the Republicans were of facing candidate Dick Gephardt in the Washington Post ('GOP Sees Gephardt as Toughest Rival for Bush') that was based in part on interviews with people in the White House and with Bush spin-doctor-in-chief, Karl Rove's pal Grover Norquist. That article developed the theme of how easy the Republicans thought it would be to beat a 'north-eastern elitist' like Howard Dean.

Again this story seems to have been written by someone who failed to ask himself the question, if this is true, why would they tell me?

More recently, the cover of the right-wing National Review has carried a picture of Dean above the words: "PLEASE Nominate This Man". This cover was then used to illustrate a story in the NY Times about Dean's supposed unelectability without anyone raising the possibility that it is unlikely that the National Review would be acting in the interest of the Democratic party by helpfully identifying the weakest candidate in the upcoming primaries.

National Review

And finally, the kicker is that in Iowa this month the Republican anti-tax fanatics called the Club For Growth has been airing an attack ad directed at, guess who, that easily beatable Howard Dean. The article about this in the conservative Washington Times is priceless because it quotes several confused Republicans, who obviously have no ability to read between the lines, expressing puzzlement at the anti-Dean ads since, as one of them says: "the prevailing wisdom is that Bush can beat Dean hands down... So why would the Club For Growth or anyone else on our side be attacking him now? That doesn't make any sense to me at all."

No, it wouldn't, if you're too dim to spot your own side's disinformation at work.

What the Bush campaign is clearly worried about is having to face someone who will actually say all the things that only bloggers have dared to say over the past three plus years; that the war was a distraction and a disastrous mistake and that the massive tax cuts must be repealed to make it possible for the American government to provide even the minimal public services the American people have come to expect.

That man is Howard Dean and he's the Republican Party's worst nightmare.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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