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DeanBlog   Governor Howard Dean: A Satire

 Straight-Talking Governor 
Howard Dean served as governor of Vermont for eleven and a half years, from August 1991 to January 2003.  Under Dean's leadership, virtually every child under 18 in Vermont gained access to health care as a result of the expanded Medicaid program (Dr. Dynasaur), and the child abuse rate was cut in half, in part because of the Success by Six program.  At the same time Dean cut income taxes and reduced the state's long-term debt.  In April 2000 he came to national attention when he signed into law a civil unions bill, granting gay couples the benefits of marriage.  Dean describes himself as "a fiscal conservative and a social progressive."  In November 2002, Governing magazine, terming Dean a "frugal crusader," named him as one of its Public Officials of the Year.

Dean was thrust into the governership when Gov. Richard Snelling (R) died suddenly in August 1991. He was subsequently elected to five two-year terms.  Prior to ascending to the corner office, Dean served as lieutenant governor and in the Vermont House of Representatives.  Dean's training is as a doctor; before he entered public life he ran an internal medicine practice with his wife, who is still a full-time practicing physician. 

Vermont is the second smallest state in terms of population (estimated population in July 2001 was 613,090; only Wyoming and the District of Columbia have fewer people), but Dean has travelled widely nationally and internationally.  During his tenure as governor, Dean was active in the Democratic Governors' Association, serving as chair of DGA's recruitment committee.  Dean has visited some 50 countries >.  He made several overseas trips in 2002, traveling to Laos in February in an attempt to recover the remains of his brother who was killed there in 1974, doing a trade mission to Brazil, Chile and Paraguay from March 5-12, and visiting Israel on an AIPAC-sponsored trip late in the year. 

Dean announced in a news conference on September 5, 2001 that he would not seek re-election in 2002.  On November 8, 2001 he formed a political action committee, the Fund for a Healthy America, dedicated to advancing "the principles of fiscal stability, universal health insurance, better environmental protection, and equality for all Americans."  On May 30, 2002 he became the first candidate to enter the race for the Democratic nomination, mailing the FEC papers to establish Dean for America. 

Summing up his key issues in Spring 2002, Dean stated, "The issues are: balance the budget and stop spending and borrowing--the borrow and spend policy of the 80's.  Two, health care for every American.  And three, investing in early childhood and early education because the huge payoff there on the other end of having to put less money into corrections."

Dean was critical of the Bush administration for imposing upon the states in a number of areas.  In April 2002 he suggested that Vermont might reject millions in federal education funds because of the cost of the testing requirements imposed by President Bush's No Child Left Behind education plan.  In May he condemned the administration's welfare reform proposal, or more formally the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reauthorization bill, as "a step backwards for everyone who believes in welfare reform."  "We are particularly concerned about the extraordinary rigidity of the 40-hour work week [requirement]," he stated.  Dean also raised concerns on the prospect of war with Iraq, stating that President Bush must show the American people proof that Saddam Hussein has nuclear or biological weapons and the means to deliver them, and he must make it clear that American troops could be on the ground there for 10 years.

Laying the Groundwork in 2002
Dean worked tirelessly throughout 2002 to build the foundation for his presidential campaign.  In 2002 he made 21 visits totalling 24 days to neighboring New Hampshire, 11 visits totalling 24 days to Iowa, and 6 visits totalling at least 8 days to South Carolina.  Based upon his support for civil unions, he made a substantial effort to win favor in the gay and lesbian community.

Dean faces several hurdles.  While a U.S. Senator with his eyes on the White House can readily attract the media spotlight by taking on a high profile issue such as drilling in ANWR or Enron, Dean, hailing from Vermont, has not received much national media attention over the years, a notable exception being the debate over civil unions.  A July 2002 profile in The New Republic portrayed Dean as "The Invisible Man."  Two national polls in December 2002 showed Dean trailing other potential candidates with just 2 percent, less than the margin of error.  With the United States facing challenges abroad, Democratic primary voters may opt for someone with more foreign policy experience.  Others may not warm to Dean's blunt persona.  Perhaps the most serious impediment could be Dean's uncertain ability to raise money.  The so-called "money primary" is a key, almost determinative step in the nomination process, and Dean is competing against men who have proven they can raise large sums on a national basis.

Nonetheless Dean has a number of assets which should stand him in good stead as the campaign develops.
Rising health care costs are a major issue; Dean is a doctor, he has focused on health care during his years as governor, and he has produced results.  Governor's offices have proven to be to be an effective route to the White House, and Dean is the only governor in the race.  He is also very smart.  Finally, in an era of poll-driven, consultantized politicians, Dean is given to straight talk.

Updated February 2, 2003
Strengths and Weaknesses
+ Dean can point to substantial executive experience and a compelling record of accomplishments he garnered as a long-serving governor.
+ Governor's offices have proven to be an effective route to the White House; one need only look at our current president and his predecessor.
+ Straight-talking style. 
+ Dean is able to devote full-time to the campaign, having completed his term as governor in January 2003.

- Hailing from a small state, Dean is not well know nationally and his fundraising ability is uncertain.
- Dean begins at a significant financial disadvantage to several of the candidates who were able to roll over funds from their 2002 re-election campaigns.

Readings and Resources
News Coverage
Paul Maslin.  "The Front-Runner's Fall."  The Atlantic Monthly.  May 2004. >

MSNBC "The Campaign Embeds" Felix Schein on Howard Dean. 
ABC News "Field Notes: Inside the Dean Campaign" Marc Ambinder; from Dec. 1, 2003 Reena Singh. >

Roger Simon.  "Is He the One?"  U.S. News & World Report.  January 19, 2004.  [Cover: Moment of Truth]

Dean appeared on the covers of the January 12, 2004 issues of Time and Newsweek.

Mark Singer.  "Running on Instinct."  New Yorker.  January 12, 2004.

Siobhan McDonough.  "Dean's hard-talking, self-assured ways mark a life of achievement and flying elbows."  Associated Press.  September 11, 2003. (1,740 words)

Tatsha Robertson and Sarah Schweitzer.  "Born to privilege, searching for a purpose."  Boston Globe.  September 21, 2003 (Part 1); and "A meteoric rise in Vermont politics."  September 22, 2003 (Part 2). 

Karen Tumulty.  "Is Dean for Real?"  Time.  August 11, 2003.   [Cover: "The Dean Factor"]

Jonathan Alter.  "The Left's Mr. Right?"  Newsweek.  August 11, 2003.  [Cover: "Destiny or Disaster?"]

Roger Simon.  "The Doctor is in--in your face."  U.S. News & World Report.  August 11, 2003.  [Corner of Cover]

"A Day in the Life of Presidential Candidate Howard Dean."  NHPTV New Hampshire Outlook.  July 8, 2003. >

Evelyn Nieves.  "Short-Fused Populist, Breathing Fire at Bush."  Washington Post.  July 6, 2003.  [Sixth of weekly series]. >

Bob Edwards.  "The Candidates: Howard Dean."  NPR Morning Edition interview.  July 2, 2003. >

Matt Bai.  "Dr. No and the Yes Men."  New York Times Magazine.  June 1, 2003. >

Elizabeth Mehren.  "Howard Dean: Wealthy Former Doctor and Longtime Vermont Governor Established Himself as Outsider by Condemning Iraq War.  Los Angeles Times.  June 1, 2003.  [Second of weekly series].

Chris Bull.  "Pro-Peace, Pro-Health Care, Pro-Gay."  The Advocate.  April 1, 2003. >

Meryl Gordon.  "The Unlikely Rise of Howard Dean."  New York.  February 24, 2003. >

Todd S. Purdum.  "The Doctor is In, and Busy Hanging a Bigger Shingle."  New York Times. December 18, 2002.  [Second of weekly series on presidential prospects]. 

William Powers.  "Dean of the Media."  National Journal.  November 22, 2002.

Robert Dreyfuss. "The Darkest Horse." The American Prospect.  Vol. 13 no. 13, July 15, 2002. >

Jonathan Cohn.  "The Invisible Man: Will the Democrats Notice Howard Dean?"  The New Republic.  July 1, 2002. >

Vermont Public Radio's complete coverage of Dean's presidential campaign >

Gov. Howard Dean.  December 3, 2003.  WINNING BACK AMERICA.  New York: Simon & Schuster

Dirk Van Sustern, ed.  November 1, 2003.  HOWARD DEAN: A Citizen's Guide to the Man Who Would Be President.  South Royalton, Vermont: Steerforth Press

Roy Neel: Where We Go From Here, January 30, 2004.

Letter on Public Financing, November 5, 2003.

"The Great American Restoration," Burlington, VT, June 23, 2003.

New York State United Teachers, Washington, DC, April 4, 2003.

California Democratic Party Convention, Sacramento, CA, March 15, 2003.

Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting, Washington, DC, February 21, 2003.

"Defending American Values - Protecting America's Interests"--Foreign Policy Address, Drake University, Des Moines, IA, February 17, 2003.

National Conference of Democratic Mayors, Washington, DC, January 23, 2003.

Farewell Address, Montpelier, VT, January 8, 2003.

Campaign for America's Future's "Reclaiming America" conference, Washington, DC, April 11, 2002.

Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Portsmouth, NH, February 20, 2002.

News conference to announce that he will not seek re-election in 2002, Montpelier, Vt, September 5, 2001.

Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action