Howard Dean: Comedian

I had just about given up on posting for tonight after a long day of finalizing my Christmas shopping, but I read this little gem off the AP wire and couldn’t stay silent:

Howard Dean appealed to fellow Democratic presidential candidates Saturday to stop the bitter attack politics that have come to dominate the race for the party’s nomination. The race needs “a little character transplant,” he said.
“It’s not necessary to tear down the other opponents,” said Dean, whose front-running campaign has come increasingly under fire from Democratic rivals.

Dean’s entire campaign has been one attack after another, not only on President Bush but also on Democratic candidates like John Edwards, who he accused at one debate of waffling on Iraq numerous times when in fact Edwards has been consistent — wrong, but consistent. It’s Governor Dean whose notoriety springs from his red-faced harangues on the campaign trail.

“This campaign needs a little character transplant,” Dean said. “You shouldn’t believe what other people say.”

Dean’s problem is that people can’t believe what he says; he spends so much time trying to deny his policy flipflops that one wonders when he’s got his character transplant scheduled. Either he’s trying to get ahead of the curve on demanding a higher tone, trying to eliminate the ‘anger’ issue, or he’s just showing a Jesse Ventura-like ultrathin skin. Both are laughable.

This Is Why Saddam’s Capture Makes Us Safer

Despite the blatherings of our local broadsheet, the Iraq war and the capture of Saddam Hussein paid off in a spectacular way today:

Libya has tried to develop weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles in the past, but has agreed to dismantle the programs, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday in simultaneous televised speeches.
Bush said Libya’s leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, had “agreed to immediately and unconditionally allow inspectors from international organizations to enter Libya. “These inspectors will render an accounting of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and will help oversee their elimination,” Bush said.

Gadhafi approached US and British officials in March to discuss the disarmament of Libya. Does anyone remember what was going on in March? And does anyone want to hazard a guess as to why Libya approached Bush and Blair, rather than the UN? It’s because with the Anglo-American display of will against Saddam, Gadhafi must have realized that the era of UN dithering had come to a de facto close, if not de jure.
The lesson that this episode should provide to the perpetually benighted Star-Tribune editorial board — and to Howard Dean and those followers who bought the idea that the Iraq war was a “distraction” — is that failure to rise to challenges from tinhorn dictators does not encourage others to cooperate with you; it encourages them to defy you. Tyrants do not respond to sweetness and light. They are only interested in gathering and retaining power. And tyranny is the true mother of terrorism.
Spending twelve years chasing meaningless resolutions around the UNSC only demonstrated the lack of will on the part of the global community to confront tyrants and terrorists. Appeasement has never worked as a permanent solution; it only makes the eventual day of reckoning exponentially more expensive in lives and materiel. In the past year, Bush and Blair have demonstrated that they understand the role that a strong projection of Anglo-American power plays in keeping the peace. The fact that Dean and the Star-Tribune still do not understand this reveals their complete lack of credibility in foreign policy.
Hindrocket at Power Line wonders if he will read approving comments from Democratic leadership in tomorrow’s papers. I suspect a few will acknowledge this stunning diplomatic victory from a man they keep claiming is bungling American foreign policy. I suspect that more of them will try to spin this, perhaps by whining that not every rogue nation has done this yet.
Just wait. It’s going to be a long year coming up to the presidential election, and I suspect that the new, tough foreign policy of Bush and Blair will reap more dividends such as the disarmament of Libya. They have momentum and do not appear to be men who will simply coast to the finish line.
Also covering this development are Blogs for Bush; Hugh Hewitt; Jon at QandO; Strange Women Lying in Ponds; Demosophia; Citizen Smash.

Saddam’s Capture Didn’t Make US Safer?

In yet another breakthrough based on materials found with Saddam Hussein, ABC News reports that Coalition intelligence services have identified moles working for Saddam within the Coalition Provisional Authority:

Among the documents found in Saddam’s briefcase when he was captured last weekend was a list of names of Iraqis who have been working with the United States — either in the Iraqi security forces or the Coalition Provisional Authority — and are feeding information to the insurgents, a U.S. official told ABCNEWS.
“We were badly infiltrated,” said the official, adding that finding the list of names is a “gold mine.”

Would someone at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune like to send a reporter to cover this and inform their editorial board of this development? (via Politburo Diktat)

Hugh Hewitt on Dean’s Retreat: Too Little, Too Late

Hugh Hewitt notes that Howard Dean has modified his stance on Saddam’s capture a few increments:

Yesterday Dean responds with this:”The capture of one very bad man does not mean this president and the Washington Democrats can declare victory in the war on terror.”

But of course, that is not what the President claimed, at any time. In fact, Bush made it very clear on several occasions that Saddam’s capture was only one good step towards our mission to eliminate the international reach of terrorism, and the tyrannies that spawn it:

I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq [emphasis mine]. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East. Such men are a direct threat to the American people, and they will be defeated.

It’s good to see that Dean accepts the Bush position on Saddam’s capture, although it would be nice for him to acknowledge that that is what he did. Hewitt offers Dean some anger management and damage control counseling:

Dean’s only exit is to admit error –quickly and candidly: “I was wrong to state that the capture of Saddam doesn’t make America safer. Obviously it does. In my eagerness to underscore that the war was ill-conceived and the reconstruction of Iraq badly managed, I allowed myself to deny the obvious: It does help us that Saddam is in prison. It does make the U.S. safer. But I continue to believe he could have been brought to heel by other means.”

It’s good advice, but Dean’s political tin ear still seems to be guiding his decisions. I suspect that Dean will eventually contend that he meant the above all along, and right-wing critics are being unfair by judging him on what he actually says.
And anyway, isn’t it a bit presumptuous for a candidate who has been claiming loudly for the past year that we shouldn’t be in Iraq at all to suddenly decide how to define victory there?

Howard Dean’s Hypocrisy on Corporate Tax Breaks

As part of a continuing series on Howard Dean’s association with the offshore “captives” tax shelter he set up in Vermont, the Boston Globe reports today that under his leadership, Vermont actively and aggressively set up tax shelter front companies for offshore corporations to enable them to avoid paying tax penalties for not being headquartered in the United States:

As part of Howard Dean’s effort to attract companies to set up so-called “captive” insurance businesses in Vermont, he signed legislation that enabled a Bermuda-based company to establish a Vermont branch, which industry analysts said at the time could provide a tax break for the parent firm. …
In May 1999, Dean signed a bill designed to help self-owned, or “captive,” insurance companies that intended to remain offshore. The legislation, for example, allowed an offshore-based captive insurance company to set up a “branch” in Vermont as a way of complying with US labor laws. This occurred when the captive wanted to cover employee benefits, a new form of business for the captives. The branch was not in an actual building, but was an operation run by Vermont-based specialists in the insurance business.
The impact of the legislation was described this way in a 1999 publication called Best’s Review — Property/Casualty Edition: “Although a company has a property/casualty captive established offshore, it would take a tax hit under the US Employee Retirement Income Security Act for lumping the employee benefits in with the captive’s business. By creating a branch captive in the United States — in this case, in Vermont — the company would be spared the tax penalty.”

Was this illegal? No. But it points out the hypocrisy of Governor Dean, who handed out corporate welfare on one hand for twelve years, and uses his other hand to waggle his index finger at the Bush administration for allowing corporations to headquarter themselves in Bermuda for tax purposes:

Dean has criticized corporations that incorporate in Bermuda for tax reasons. Yesterday, in a speech prepared for delivery in New Hampshire, Dean said, “It’s time to look behind the fiction that allows corporations to become citizens of places like Bermuda and avoid paying income taxes on their foreign income.”

There may be fair criticism of federal incorporation law, but for one thing, it certainly didn’t start with the Bush administration; the corporations that Dean uses as examples started migrating off-shore years ago, as Dean’s efforts show, going back to 1993. And, to put it bluntly, Governor Dean stuffed the Vermont pocketbook with money that should have gone to whatever tax penalty existed to prevent it. At the very least, Howard Dean was an off-shore enabler for almost a decade, and his angry facade appears to be more of a defense mechanism than previously thought. (via Question Dean Blog)
UPDATE: Dean’s hypocrisy extends past corporate taxes, too:

Democratic front-runner Howard Dean often blames President Bush’s tax-cut policy for rising property taxes, but when Dean was governor of Vermont, his budget frequently came up short, forcing towns to make up the difference with property tax increases. … “Take a look at your property taxes. They probably went up,” Dean said during a speech Thursday in Manchester, N.H. “That’s part of the Bush Tax.”
Yet, in the nearly 12 years Dean was governor, property taxes that support local schools in Vermont nearly doubled. Those that pay for municipal government went up by nearly half to make up for less money from the state.

Blogs For Bush is also covering the story.

Howard Dean: Iraq-Proof?

Hugh Hewitt and Power Line have written interesting posts regarding Howard Dean’s tin-eared declaration yesterday that Saddam’s capture didn’t make America any safer. Despite the objective falsity of the comment — we have lived with the possibility of Saddam’s retaliation for so long, it seemed inevitable until Sunday morning — it’s unlikely to dislodge the vast majority of Dean supporters, nor is it likely to dissuade Democrats from supporting Dean in a general election, if he makes it that far. It’s not that Dean himself is Iraq-proof as much as it is that Bush will always be a bigger bogeyman than Saddam or anyone else, in the eyes of the passionate left.
Why should this be? It is a symptom of a polarized electorate; quite simply, more and more people associate with political movements on a tribal basis rather than a rational basis, and this is true on the right as well. We can argue until death when this started and who’s at fault, but it’s been going on since the 60s, at least. Each side castigates the other as evil incarnate, and while this started out with fringe groups, it has grown into a mainstream phenomenon. Large swaths of the electorate will be unreachable for both Bush and the the eventual Democratic nominee. Only ten to fifteen percent of the vote will actually be in play come November, and maybe less than that. The rest can be safely counted as the true believers.
Nor is this a strictly left-wing issue, and for the best example, let’s consider the curious case of Bill Clinton. Clinton generated more heat and outrage than can rationally be explained for a president who governed primarily from the center. True, he had dodged the draft, albeit legally, and true, he hardly behaved in an honorable manner with women both before and after his election. He was spectacularly stupid in handling the Paula Jones lawsuit, which caused him most of his legal problems during his presidency. But legislatively, he toed a centrist line, signing onto welfare reform and balancing the federal budget, two major policy objectives of the right. He dropped the ball on terrorism, but the American public would not have supported a war in the Middle East without 9/11, and as Clinton’s adventures in the Balkans proved, the right would not have supported him at all. His performance as President could not explain the irrational conspiracies and crimes associated with him by the right, like Vince Foster’s suicide, for example.
You could take this picture and reverse it, and Clinton would come out as George W. Bush. Bush has expanded federal government and pumped billions of dollars into the pet causes of the left (education, AIDS), and they still hate him as much as ever, and as irrationally as the right hates the Clintons. Bush launched a war with more international support (and more American interests involved) than Clinton ever had for Kosovo or Bosnia, but the left is screaming for his blood.
In the end, who does the left hate? Bush, because he is the standard-bearer for the right. Who do they love? Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chaffee, and Colin Powell, who are seen as standing up to Bush (or trying to do so). Who does the right hate? The Clintons, Gore, and Dean, because they are the standard-bearers for the left. Who does the right love? Lieberman and John Breaux to a degree, but Zell Miller certainly, because they stand up to the left. The Saddams of the world quite frankly take a back seat to this calculation.
This is oversimplified, you might say; there are policy differences that play into this. I would agree, but my point is that to a large part of the electorate, the policy differences no longer matter. It’s no longer about rational thought — it’s become tribalism. My tribe, right or left, right or wrong.
So Dean will, I have no doubt, weather the Saddam capture (in the equally tin-eared declaration of his staff) because for Dean supporters, Saddam does not represent the clearest form of evil in the world. That will be enough to get him the nomination. The ten percent sandwiched between the tribes will decide the general election, and in an economy that’s growing, where jobs are being created, and tyrannies are falling overseas, George Bush will win that vote in a landslide.
But after that, Americans need to confront the demons in the body politic and determine whether we can continue to operate on the basis of mutual hate, and that will take some introspection on both sides to answer. In the meantime, each side will continue to tear the center to pieces in an irrational attempt to achieve total victory.
Addendum: Not to ping-pong back and forth too much, but the Deacon at Power Line posted a very good response to my post above. I do agree with him that the problem with the radical left, both then and now, is a fundamental dislike of America and American power as created by its mostly capitalist economic engine. This hatred logically informs the hatred of George W, which then isn’t really irrational for that segment of the left. What seems to be different is that the hatred is not just coming from the socialist left, but also a good chunk of what used to be considered the loyal opposition. I recall this from the Reagan presidency as well, but more muted because Reagan seemed like such a personable, affable fellow, even to his political opponents. While Clinton approaches Reagan in his ability to communicate and connect on a genuine level — a talent unfortunately missing in George W, as Hindrocket notes in the previous Power Line post — it did not shield him from the vitriolic and almost pathological hatred he generated on the right.
Just as a further clarification, though, I thoroughly disliked Clinton as did Deacon and plenty of others who can still build a coherent and rational argument based on policy differences rather than moral clashes. There are a large number of people these days on both sides of the divide who can’t seem to do that without relying exclusively on bumper-sticker slogans and almost complete ignorance of the issues involved.
[As an off-topic aside about Reagan, I remember reading a story about an unplanned appearance Reagan and John Lennon made on a Monday Night Football game in the 70s. Don Meredith, I believe, told the story about how the crew and cast were terribly worried when the two ended up in the booth together; one could hardly imagine more polarized political celebrities. But Reagan wound up with his arm around Lennon’s shoulder, explaining the finer points of American football to a seemingly engrossed John Lennon. Just a reminder of when it still seemed possible to separate the political from the personal.]

“We’re Not About Anger,” He Replied Furiously

Today’s Washington Post takes a look at the Dean campaign, which more than ever seems to be all about tapping into anti-Bush fervor instead of actual political thought:

But even though he has emerged as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination — and his one-sedan campaign entourage has morphed into a full-scale motorcade, complete with press bus — the Dean campaign is still running primarily on the tonic that fueled his rise: Democratic loathing of President Bush.
All over Iowa, Dean encounters Democrats who get a “searing pain” from the president. “What we think of Bush can’t be printed in a family newspaper,” said John Kaiser, a veteran Iowa Democrat who decided to support Dean only after long, personal talks with four other contenders. “And Dean is the guy who has tapped that outrage.”

I recall a time not too long ago when Democrats accused Republicans of irrational hate against Bill Clinton, clucking their tongues at anyone and everyone who opposed him. Now, however, hate seems to be in style. Dean insists that it isn’t the backbone of his campaign, though, in this humorous exchange:

Dean responds negatively — in fact, angrily — to the suggestion that his campaign is driven by anger. “This campaign is not about anger. It’s about hope,” he said testily this weekend as he hopscotched from the heartland to Dixie to California in pursuit of caucus votes and contributions. And yet the “hope” he is offering, he told the crowds, is that “we can give George Bush a one-way bus ticket back to Crawford, Texas.”

The problem for Dean will be translating true-believer-partisan hate into mainstream political support. But Dean’s problem there is that Dean cannot keep his mouth shut, nor can he keep his politics consistent. The Carpetbagger Report noted in September the Top 10 Howard Dean flip-flops, about which I posted earlier. It will make little difference in the primaries — perhaps — but if anger is all Dean has in the general election while running on a record like this, be prepared for a massive Bush landslide, especially with a strong economy, job growth, a free Iraq, and Saddam behind bars or dead.

The Face of the Dean Campaign

You would think that the capture of a known enemy of the United States would be good news for Americans of all mainstream political stripes, but apparently that does not include the Dean campaign supporters, if his weblog is any indication. Here are just a few comments from Dean’s site, Blog for America (via Tim Blair):

HEY GUYS WAKE UP!!! THERE IS NO SUCCESS EXISTS IN THE UNJUSTIFIED WAR WHOEVER WAS CAPTURED!!! IT IS ONLY A DANGEROUS ILLUSION OF SUCCESS WHICH MAY LEAD ONLY TO THE NEXT WRONG JUGMENT AND NEXT WRONG DECISION SUCH AS A NEXT WAR!!! Term “success” in this war should be applied only in the light of bringing international community IN and USA OUT. …
I can’t believe this. I’m crying here. I feel that we now don’t have a chance in this election. …
I am feeling pretty upset as well. I think our chances are dropping fast. …
The damage caused by the Bush administration to our society is unaffected by Saddam’s capture …
In other news this morning — yes, yes, the world still goes on despite Iraq — the AP has a story on Bush’s growing media staff. Yikes. …
If overzealous Bush supporters are murdering people who speak out against the President, then America should know about it. A gun shot to the head. A quick ruling of suicide. Accusations of rape against the President. Prestigious, credible news organizations of Europe are discussing this news story in depth. Why can’t Americans make up their own mind? Why is this story buried in the American media?

I need a shower now … I feel unclean just for reading through this stuff.

Howard Fineman Rips the Other Howard

I swear to you that this will not be the Anti-Dean blog, but the man just gives so much material that it’s hard to keep up with it all. On MS-NBC, Howard Fineman writes a splendid and pointed article on Dean’s adventures in truthtelling, in this example regarding the closed files of his governorship (via Instapundit):

Dean’s public reaction to the mini-furor was revealing. When Matthews asked about the records, Dean—with a straight face—came up with this defiant howler: He had had the records sealed not to protect himself, God forbid, but to protect the privacy of HIV-AIDS patients. I think Chris was too stunned to laugh. As it turns out, the identity of such patients is automatically shielded; and, of course, Dean had long since gone on record with the refreshingly candid admission that the advent of the presidential campaign was the real reason.
Politicians never seem to get the concept of irony: Here is a guy who is running on the notion that he is a fearless, truth-telling outsider, and he’s covering up the reason for covering up.

Dean campaigns furiously, in both senses of the word, and his fury has a sense of self-righteousness that opens him easily to charges of hypocrisy. This mini-crisis started out small, but he managed to blow it up into a big deal by accusing Bush of sealing his records as governor (false, although Bush tried) and then laying the blame off on AIDS patients, of all people. That should be, especially to the leftists that swarm to Dean’s anger and self-righteousness like mosquitoes to a wide-open door, an appalling and insensitive bit of excuse-making.
Earlier, in January, Dean had acknowledged that he had the files sealed for political considerations during an interview on Vermont Public Radio, “Well, there are political considerations. We didn’t want anything embarrassing appearing in the papers at a crucial time in any future endeavor.” Fineman notes:

What about the interview last January, in which he talked about “future political considerations?” Said Dean: “That was sort of a smarty remark. I mean I wasn’t really being very serious about that.” Memo to the governor: When you speak to us from now on, please tell us when you are being serious and when you are merely making another “smarty remark.”

Perhaps the Governor will be good enough to inform us all when he’s being serious, because thus far, the only time we can tell he’s lying is when his lips move. Fineman finishes by talking about Dean’s professed admiration for Harry Truman:

As for the original terms of the agreement to sequester his records, “I didn’t have anything to do with those negotiations,” Dean explained. Hardly a tough-guy answer, and an ironic moment. Just the night before, on “Hardball,” Dean had called President Harry Truman—the guy with “The buck stops here” sign on his desk—one of his heroes. It’s hard to imagine “Give ‘em Hell Harry” saying “I didn’t have anything to do with those negotiations.”

Top 10 Howard Dean Flip-Flops

I got into a big debate the other day with a Howard Dean fan about the merits of his presidential campaign. I think because he saw that I’m a white, tech-savvy, moderate-to-liberal east-coaster, he assumed I’m a Dean supporter. Once he became aware of my skepticism about the good doctor, he asked me to give him one good reason Dean shouldn’t get the nomination.

The first thing that came to mind was Dean’s incessant flip-flopping on a variety of issues. (This is not to say there aren’t other reasons; it’s just the first thing I thought of.)

Dean’s fan acknowledged that a few of his candidate’s policy positions have “evolved” over time, but rejected the notion that Dean is a serial flip-flopper. At a minimum, he said, Dean is no worse than any of the other Dem candidates.

My challenger had a point, at least about Dean’s rivals. All presidential candidates waffle and flip-flop sometimes. It’s been this way for as long as we’ve had presidential campaigns as candidates need to make the adjustment from representing a state or a district to appealing to an entire nation.

The current field of Dems has some candidates who’ve offered a few doozies. When Dick Gephardt first came to Congress, for example, he said that “life begins at conception” and proposed a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions. Now Gephardt is ardently pro-choice.

John Kerry said in 1992 that affirmative action “has kept America thinking in racial terms,” and lamented “the costs” the policy has had on the country. Today, however, Kerry considers himself as a champion of affirmative action.

Carol Mosley Braun said in 1998 that she’d never run for public office again, yet she’s a presidential candidate now.

Dennis Kucinich had a dramatic conversation before entering the presidential race on the issue of reproductive rights. As Common Dreams reported, “Twice in the past three years, NARAL gave him a rating of ‘zero.'” As recently as 2001, Kucinich agreed with a Bush proposal to withhold international family-planning funds from international organizations that even discuss abortions. In 1999 and 2000, Kucinich agreed with the Right to Life Committee on 19 of 20 votes. Now Kucinich, perhaps the campaign’s most liberal candidate, says that he is definitely “pro-choice.”

(And don’t even get me started of George W. Bush, whose entire presidency has been one huge flip-flop. Remember the candidate in 2000 who bragged about a foreign policy driven by “humility,” who emphasized “compassion,” who boasted of bringing Democrats and Republicans together, and ran on a platform of a balanced the budget and a robust job market?)

Yet, despite these examples, I would argue that Howard Dean has flip-flopped more times, on more issues, than any of the Dems running for president. It’s a continuing problem that may ultimately come back to haunt his campaign. In fact, it’s so bad I decided to make a list.

I’m not talking about Dean’s mistakes or apologies. I don’t care that Dean mysteriously called Latin America “the most important hemisphere in American history” last week. It’s easy to overlook the fact that Dean, when asked last month if he supported gay marriage, said, “I never thought about that very much.” It may not matter that Dean said Saddam Hussein’s fall from power is “probably a good thing” earlier this summer. No one will remember that he falsely accused John Edwards of avoiding talk of his support of the Iraq war before an anti-war Dem audience in California.

I mean straight up, direct examples of Dean holding one position and then deciding he believes the opposite shortly thereafter. It’s happened often enough the last couple of months for me to create…The Carpetbagger Report’s Top 10 Howard Dean flip-flops (in no particular order).

1. North Korea

In January, Dean said on CBS’ Face the Nation that he approved of Bush’s policy towards North Korea and agreed with the president that the approach will be successful.

“I concur with most of the president’s policy on North Korea,” Dean said, to the surprise of many Democrats and supporters who had criticized Bush’s approach. “We have substantial differences on Iraq, but I like the idea and I believe in the idea of multilaterals. And the president’s pursuing a policy in cooperation with the Chinese, the Russians, the South Koreans and the Japanese, which we ought to see bear fruition.”

Just one month later, Dean flip-flopped without explanation, describing Bush’s North Korea policy as “incoherent, inconsistent and dangerously disengaged.”

2. Social Security retirement age

At a candidate forum hosted by the AFL-CIO in August, Dean faced criticism from Kucinich for considering moving the Social Security retirement age. Dean responded forcefully that he wanted to “tell everybody that I have never favored Social Security retirement at the age of 70, nor do I favor one of 68.”

In 1995, Dean praised then-Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) for recommending changing the retirement age to 70. At the time, Dean said, “I believe that Sen. Packwood is on exactly the right track.” A month later, Dean said “moving the retirement age to 70” was a way to help reduce the deficit and balance the budget.

Far more recently, in June 2003, Dean said on Meet the Press, “I would also entertain taking the retirement age up to 68.”

3. Public Financing and Campaign Spending Limits

In March, Dean promised to raise a fuss if any of the other candidates decided to abandon spending limits and skip public financing.

“It will be a huge issue,” Dean said in March. “I think most Democrats believe in campaign finance reform…. [I’ve] always been committed to this. Campaign finance reform is just something I believe in.” As recently as June 7, Dean wrote to the Federal Election Commission that he will abide by spending limits in the primaries.

Last month, Dean said his campaign was “exploring” the possibility of opting out of the public financing system because of his success in raising money and his desire to spend more in the primaries than his opponents. He said he “didn’t remember” making earlier promises to the contrary and said his campaign was free to “change our mind.”

(Actually, Dean’s flip-flopped on this issue twice. In addition to the recent conversion as a presidential candidate, Dean also did a reverse on spending limits while governor of Vermont. In 1997, Dean helped create a system whereby statewide candidates would agree to a spending cap and participate in public financing. At the time, Dean vowed that the bill would “change the way campaigns are run” in Vermont. When it came time for Dean to run for re-election in 2000 under the campaign finance system he helped create, Dean rejected public financing and exceeded the spending cap by 300 percent.)

4. U.S. trade standards

In August, Dean told the Washington Post that China and other countries could get trade deals with the United States only if they adopted “the same labor laws and labor standards and environmental standards” as the United States. When a reporter from Slate asked if he meant just general “standards” or “American standards,” Dean insisted that he would demand that other countries adopt the exact same labor, environmental, health, and safety standards as the United States.

Last week in the DNC debate in Albuquerque, Dean shifted gears and said he doesn’t believe that our trading partners have to adopt “American labor standards,” saying that international standards would work.

5. U.S. policy on the Cuban trade embargo

Dean, up until fairly recently, was one of many politicians from both parties open to easing trade restrictions with Castro’s Cuba. He admitted as much in response to a question from a reporter last month, saying, “If you would have asked me six months ago, I would have said we should begin to ease the embargo in return for human-rights concessions.”

According to an Aug. 26 article in the Miami Herald, Dean has “shifted his views” on Cuban trade now that he has “surged to the top of the race” for the Dem nomination. Dean said he believes the U.S. can’t ease Cuban embargo restrictions “right now” because “Castro has just locked up a huge number of human-rights activists and put them in prison and [held] show trials.”

6. “Regime change” in Iraq

In March, before the U.S. invaded Iraq, Dean sounded a lot like Bush on the possible war, suggesting that disarming Saddam Hussein, with or without the United Nations, should be America’s priority.

According to an interview with Salon’s Jake Tapper, when Dean was asked to clarify his Iraq position, Dean said that Saddam must be disarmed, but with a multilateral force under the auspices of the United Nations. If the U.N. in the end chooses not to enforce its own resolutions, then the U.S. should give Saddam 30 to 60 days to disarm, and if he doesn’t, unilateral action is a regrettable, but unavoidable, choice.

When the U.N. chose not to enforce its resolutions, Bush followed Dean’s position and launched a unilateral action against Iraq.

Since then, Dean has held himself out as someone who has opposed the war all along.

7. Death penalty

In 1992, Dean said, “I don’t support the death penalty for two reasons. One, you might have the wrong guy, and two, the state is like a parent. Parents who smoke cigarettes can’t really tell their children not to smoke and be taken seriously. If a state tells you not to murder people, a state shouldn’t be in the business of taking people’s lives.”

In 1997, his position was beginning to “evolve,” but he insisted, “I truly don’t believe it’s a deterrent.”

In June 2003, however, Dean had abandoned his earlier beliefs. He said, “As governor, I came to believe that the death penalty would be a just punishment for certain, especially heinous crimes, such as the murder of a child or the murder of a police officer.”

8. Repealing Bush’s tax cuts

A year ago, Dean started out saying he’d repeal all of Bush’s tax cuts. Asked about how he’d pay for increased spending in health care and education, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, Dean “doesn’t hem or haw” when answering the question. “‘By getting rid of the President’s tax cut,’ Dean says. Not freezing it, mind you — getting rid of it. All $1.7 trillion worth.”

Then Dean began to equivocate. In July 2002, Dean said on Meet the Press, “[T]here’s a few little things I wouldn’t repeal. There are some retirement investment pieces I wouldn’t repeal, although I would have to add some so that lower-income workers could help pay for their retirement, not just people like me.”

Dean’s position changed a little more in March, saying his tax policy would be to “repeal the president’s tax cuts for people that make more than $300,000, with a few exceptions.”

In May, Dean came full circle, saying that he’s back to wanting to repeal “all” of the Bush tax cuts.

9. Troop deployment in Iraq

In June, Dean said on Meet the Press, “We need more troops in Afghanistan. We need more troops in Iraq now.”

In August, Dean said U.S. troops need to stay in Iraq. “It’s a matter of national security,” Dean said. “If we leave and we don’t get a democracy in Iraq, the result is very significant danger to the United States.”

In last week’s debate in Albuquerque, Dean completely reversed course, saying, “We need more troops. They’re going to be foreign troops, not more American troops, as they should have been in the first place. Ours need to come home.”

10. Civil liberties in a post-9/11 America

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, while Dean was still governor of Vermont, he suggested a “reevaluation” of civil liberties in America.

Specifically, Dean said he believed that the attacks and their aftermath would “require a reevaluation of the importance of some of our specific civil liberties. I think there are going to be debates about what can be said where, what can be printed where, what kind of freedom of movement people have and whether it’s OK for a policeman to ask for your ID just because you’re walking down the street.”

More importantly, Dean said he didn’t have a position on whether these steps would be good or bad. When asked if the Bill of Rights would have to be trimmed, Dean said, “I haven’t gotten that far yet.”

In March 2003, Dean told The Nation’s David Cord that he believes “portions” of the USA Patriot Act “overreach,” but added, “I haven’t condemned Congress for passing” the legislation.

On August 19, however, Dean accused Ashcroft of taking advantage “of the climate of fear and adopted a series of anti-terror tactics that go far beyond protecting our country and erode the rights of average Americans.” He added that the U.S. should “roll back” the USA Patriot Act.

I’m not reporting all of this to help Karl Rove and the Republicans, so spare me your emails. The truth is the bad guys already know all of this. I’d hazard a guess that Rove has dozens of college students locked up in the basement of the OEOB, sleeping on cots, and spending their waking hours chronicling every word every Dem candidate utters. Rove and the RNC don’t need The Carpetbagger Report; they have an extensive research operation that blows my little blog away.

The point, rather, is for those of us who want a new president in 2005. Rove may know all about Dean’s flip-flops — he’s probably already started crafting the TV ads — but it’s Dem voters who seem unaware of the good doctor’s policy problems. We need to consider whether this is a problem before we vote for our nominee. Do Dean’s flip-flops mean that he lacks conviction? A problem with discipline? These are questions that Dems should consider before we settle on our choice as a party.

Just as importantly, should Dean get the nomination, we need to know what the GOP will be using against our presidential pick once the election season heats up next year. Hiding public truths in the hopes that the GOP won’t notice isn’t an effective plan for success.

One aspect of Howard Dean’s appeal supposedly rests on his rock-solid convictions and penchant for truth-telling. However, as the Carpetbagger Report noted in September, this does not represent the Howard Dean reality:

Yet, despite these examples, I would argue that Howard Dean has flip-flopped more times, on more issues, than any of the Dems running for president. It’s a continuing problem that may ultimately come back to haunt his campaign. In fact, it’s so bad I decided to make a list.
I’m not talking about Dean’s mistakes or apologies. I don’t care that Dean mysteriously called Latin America “the most important hemisphere in American history” last week. It’s easy to overlook the fact that Dean, when asked last month if he supported gay marriage, said, “I never thought about that very much.” It may not matter that Dean said Saddam Hussein’s fall from power is “probably a good thing” earlier this summer. No one will remember that he falsely accused John Edwards of avoiding talk of his support of the Iraq war before an anti-war Dem audience in California.

Carpetbagger Report, which pointedly is no fan of the current administration, then gives Dean a thorough fisking. I don’t want to repost the entire article, but here are a few highlights:

6. “Regime change” in Iraq
In March, before the U.S. invaded Iraq, Dean sounded a lot like Bush on the possible war, suggesting that disarming Saddam Hussein, with or without the United Nations, should be America’s priority.
According to an interview with Salon’s Jake Tapper, when Dean was asked to clarify his Iraq position, Dean said that Saddam must be disarmed, but with a multilateral force under the auspices of the United Nations. If the U.N. in the end chooses not to enforce its own resolutions, then the U.S. should give Saddam 30 to 60 days to disarm, and if he doesn’t, unilateral action is a regrettable, but unavoidable, choice.
When the U.N. chose not to enforce its resolutions, Bush followed Dean’s position and launched a unilateral action against Iraq.
Since then, Dean has held himself out as someone who has opposed the war all along.

As I posted earlier, Dean’s truth-telling leaves a lot to be desired. Now his supposed rock-hard convictions look an awful lot like convenient political positions, although I would say that point 5, Cuban Sanctions, I’d give him the benefit of the doubt after Castro’s brutal crackdown on dissident; that changed a lot of opinions, a re-evaluation that was long overdue on the left. Make sure you read the entire post. Hopefully, the Carpetbagger Report will maintain access to this post. (via FratersLibertas)