Keene Sentinel
Sunday, January 18, 2004

Keene Sentinel Editorial: Howard Dean in the N.H. primary

During the long Democratic presidential primary campaign, several candidates have made significant contributions to the national conversation thatís essential to this self-governing society.

Retired general Wesley Clark has brought a calm intensity to the campaign, reflected not only in his exceptional military resume but also in a series of thoughtful reflections on domestic policy that are likely to resonate with the large nonideological center of the electorate. A late entrant to the campaign, Clark has proved to be a quick study and an attractive personality.

Our main reservation about Clark is that he is a lifelong Republican voter, and at times activist, who seems to have come to some of his current positions rather late in life. He is now running against a president whose fund-raiser he addressed just over two years ago. Clarkís candidacy would be more compelling if it reflected more than a few monthsí worth of convictions, however admirable.

Senator John Edwards is probably the most personable candidate in the race. He is offering an appealing progressive political agenda, and he may well have enough charm and ability to work across the political spectrum to carry it out. In many respects, Edwards has become a star of the campaign, an energetic man who no doubt has a bright future in American public life.

But, like the man he seeks to replace in the White House, Edwards has been in political office only a few years, and his inexperience is reflected in his position on the Iraq war. He voted to give the president authority to go to war, and then a year later he voted against paying for that war and its dreadful aftermath, when it is clear that, despite the muddle, the U.S. cannot just pack up and leave.

Former governor Howard Dean has dominated the Democratic primary season. Although he is probably best-known for his stand against the Iraq war, his political agenda strikes us as the most traditional of all. He believes, responsibly, that the United States now has a commitment to put Iraq back on its feet, and he believes, optimistically but with reason, that, as an early opponent of the war, he could enlist the help of the rest of the democratic world in that effort.

Dean offers voters a wide range of well-thought-out policy initiatives, foreign and domestic, based on a dramatic ó and one might say conservative ó theme: I want my country back. That cry, coupled with Deanís direct, energetic style, appeals to a lot of Democrats and independents, and has attracted a large number of people to his campaign who had previously been alienated from politics of any kind. Dean is particularly effective in his open refusal to entice voters with wild promises of expensive new government programs.

Deanís shortcomings may be the best-known of the Democratic lot, thanks partly to his rivalsí persistent efforts to blunt his momentum. In fact, some of those shortcomings are not shortcomings at all, but rather the cumulative effect of the nonstop political wrestling of the past six months. Yet even Dean admits that his no-nonsense campaigning has led to a few embarrassing gaffes ó gaffes that have been magnified by the national attention focused on his surprising success. And, clearly, he will need to strike a balance between invigorating feistiness and chin-out-front combativeness if he is to connect effectively with voters throughout the country.

Today, this newspaper endorses Howard Deanís candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. We come to this decision not without some difficulty, given the appeal of the Clark and Edwards candidacies. But we believe on balance that Dean is best-equipped to restore respect for this country abroad while protecting the interests of Americans at home. And we believe Dean, unlike the current occupant of the White House, understands that the two efforts must be linked. All nations reserve the right to act boldly in their own interests, but no nation ó even our own
 exceptional nation ó can thrive as a go-it-alone force on virtually every matter of international substance: energy, the environment, trade, war and peace. Dean has reasonable and we believe workable ideas for addressing Americansí needs regarding health care, the federal deficit, homeland security, jobs, civil rights and the economy. And he would reverse the current administrationís shameless weakening of environmental laws.

No one will accuse Howard Dean of being soft on anything ó thatís hardly his style. But in the long run, tough policies are most effective when they are also smart policies. We observed Dean through a long career as governor of Vermont accomplishing a great deal by combining diligence with intelligence. Along the way, he usually won the respect not only of his allies, but of many of his adversaries as well. If he can bring that vitality and that sensitivity to the national stage, he and we might well get our country back.

Copyright  © 2004 The Keene Publishing Corporation.  Reprinted by permission.

Editor and Publisher James A. Rousmaniere Jr (02/01/03):

The Sentinel's editorial board consists of Thomas Ewing (publisher); me (editor and president), Tom Kearney (executive editor) and Guy MacMillin (opinion page editor).
This was one of the more interesting primaries we've seen, in that, leading up to the voting, there was a great deal of shopping going on. The final numbers don't reflect how tight things were in the weeks leading up to Jan. 27.
From the structure of the editorial, you can tell that members of the editorial board seriously discussed three candidates: Dean, Clark and Edwards...
The endorsement was written by Guy MacMillin, with input by all three others.