About the playground politics beltway

by Yule Heibel on August 8, 2003

Interesting article in AlterNet, Ganging Up on Howard Dean by Ruth Conniff, that analyzes Tim Russert’s approach to portraying Dean in the media. Conniff concludes as follows:

The Washington press corps can be like a gang of mean junior high school kids. But there is more than fickle dislike for a certain personality in the media tarring of Dean. Dean is an outsider. As the most identifiably progressive candidate-or at least the one with the most money, since Dennis Kucinich, who is running to the left of Dean, hasn’t raised millions and has been almost completely ignored by the press-Dean sticks out. The “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” which Dean claims to represent, is not much in evidence in Washington these days.

To the inside-the-Beltway media, which lives and dies by connections, contacts, and conventional wisdom, “there is something appealing and at the same time unappealing about someone who comes from the outside,” says Hart. “They need to take an extra look. They need to neutralize him by showing that this guy isn’t ready for prime time.” That’s because, at bottom, what most stands out about Dean to Washington insiders is that he’s not an insider himself. That threatens their sense of superiority-not just of the insider candidates in the field, but also of the press corps that follows and anoints them. “Political veterans, insiders, would never get a pop quiz,” says Hart.

Can Dean survive the drubbing? Yes. After all, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush were all governors with little or no military experience. All had to face questions about their preparation for office. Carter even espoused some establishment-shaking ideas about regulation and reform. But Dean needs to do two things to protect himself from being fatally marginalized, one of which he is already doing. First, he needs to stop being needlessly prickly with the press. (He hasn’t done that yet.) And second, he must keep on speaking directly to voters, through his remarkably successful website and in his more plentiful public appearances than the candidates with the inside track. The public, leaving aside gatekeepers like Tim Russert, are less interested in a candidate who can pass a rigged, on-the-spot civics test than they are in someone with the brains and guts to aggressively take on George W. Bush.


Joel August 10, 2003 at 1:54 am

It’s not only the journalists — Democratic Party hacks have started up on Dean, too. Dean represents a challenge to their politics of complacency and sell out.

One trap awaiting Dean: his past work in a Planned Parenthood clinic. Rest assured at the presidential debates some reporter will ask him “Did you ever perform an abortion?” And no one will ask Bush about his being AWOL.

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