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We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers and sisters.

–Martin Luther King


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HOWARD DEAN:Vermont Phoenix


Vermont cartoonist Tim Newcomb penned this prophetic drawing on November 15, 2004, just 12 days after the election.
Copyright © 2004 Tim Newcomb


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In This Issue:

* David’s Notes


* Skiing with Doctor Dean: An Allegorical Tale
by David Rocchio

* A New, More Accomplished, More Tolerant, More Organized and More Self-Disciplined Howard Dean
by Gerry Gossens


* Howard Dean Will Sharpen the Political Debate
by Dirk VanSusteren


* Brave or Foolish or Wise or Just Stubborn Enough
by Stephanie Woods


* Fresh Hope
by Jay Parini


*Vermont: The Shadow Administration
by Philip Baruth

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This issue of The Judevine Mountain Emailite is about Howard Dean. It brings you pieces by people who actually know and have worked with Howard Dean. This decidedly cannot be said of David Letterman, Cokie Roberts, Diane Sawyer and the other media pundits who did so much a year ago to foist off on the American public their distorted and perverted image of Howard. If you want to know what Howard Dean is really like, read the writers here.

What is clear in the pieces below is that Howard Dean is a doggedly determined, focused person with an iron will who can and will jump gladly into what seem like impossible situations. Howard Dean is an honest, blunt–sometimes brutally blunt, straight-forward man with a real vision for the Democratic party–not one concocted by focus groups and opinion polls. As David Rocchio says, below, “Howard Dean is a Teddy Roosevelt in a world of Karl Roves.” It is also clear that Howard Dean is a quick study. He is someone who can and does learn from past mistakes, and who is willing to adapt and change his tactics, while not changing or watering down his vision.

Dean’s biggest problem now that he is Chairman of the DNC is not going to be the Republicans, but, rather, the inside-the-beltway Democrats. Dean’s victory was a genuine coup. This upstart populist stole the chairmanship right out from under the noses of the Democratic establishment power brokers. He was able to do this because American Democrats, those of us outside the beltway, were furious, and still are, with the way the DNC bungled two presidential elections with their willingness to compromise and water down core Democratic values and with their desperate attempts to become Karl Rove wannabees.

Now, for the first time in years, the Democratic Party, led by Howard Dean, the Vermont Phoenix, has someone who can take it and us into the future.


For more articles on the real Howard Dean by people who know him, go to:

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David M. Rocchio

The cold rain slanted sideways against us. The wind blew bitterly. A thick fog sank low against the ice covered ground. The chairlift was slow, cranked low to prevent mishaps in the strong winter rainstorm.

“Governor, I’d be happy to stop. We don’t have to ski today.” The ski day was scheduled based upon the Governor’s calendar, not the weather.

“It’s fine,” he said. “I want to ski the woods.”

Skiing the woods on Mt. Mansfield is one of the true joys of skiing in Vermont. There are steep ravines and frozen mountain streams, beech stands and hidden glades formed by land slides, little cliffs dropping into staircases of ice and snow. I have skied many, many places and the woods skiing at Stowe remains among the most challenging skiing there is.

“Today might not be the day, Governor.” The rain and the wind froze me, shook me. The last place I wanted to be was in the woods on Mount Mansfield.

A steely look. A pause. “I want to ski the woods.”

Skiing fast through a wooded forest is dangerous. Trees do not move. A tree with a six inch girth can destroy a car, never mind a pelvis. The terrain is treacherous. Downed branches and hidden rocks, hidden streams and ice falls lie in wait beneath the snow. It is never a good idea to fly through the woods. It is a bad idea to fly through the woods in the rain, in the fog, on ice.

We skied the woods.

Determination defines Howard Dean. He never steers away, never avoids a challenge, never allows external forces to change his course. The Governor does not temper his opinions, does not downplay disagreement, does not use vague words or phrases to shade his views.

Howard Dean would never cut the Community Block Grant program and call the cuts the ‘healthy communities initiative.’ Politicians mostly run our country without saying what they think, without being honest about what they do, without being honorable in how they attack. The industry of getting a politician elected is stultifying, killing the art of governing. Howard Dean brings life back into it, a Teddy Roosevelt in a world of Karl Roves.

To that end, the Governor has found a perfect new role. He will not obfuscate or concede. He will be clear about issues, critical of what he thinks is wrong in this country, articulate about how to make the country better, and offer frank comments on issues instead of pabulum. I do not always agree with him but at least I know what he thinks.

If the Governor can combine his directness with sophisticated mastery of the media and show his extraordinary warmth (which few around the country seem to know that he has) I believe that the distorted view of him will change.

Two years ago I wound up my work for the Governor and chose to go on to live a private life which I love: great family, fun and rewarding work, time to write, time outside, some travel. What drives the Governor to work sixteen or more hours a day, eat dubious food, and deal with relentless stress and schedules, to obtain a job only a fool would want?

The Governor sees a vision for this country. He is willing to work hard to realize the vision. He speaks from the heart about central issues confronting us every day. He is a leader.

On that rainy day a bunch of years ago, the Governor led me into the woods on a massive mountain. We went into the woods during a violent storm with a cold biting wind, away from ice covered trails. Once off the trails and in the woods, the wind abated, the snow held better, the rain stung less. It was a great day.


From 1997 though 1999 David M. Rocchio served as Deputy Legal Counsel and a senior policy advisor to Governor Dean. From 1999 through January 2003, he was Legal Counsel and a senior policy advisor to The Governor. David is a writer and an attorney.

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Gerry Gossens

I knew and worked with Howard Dean during all four of my years in the Vermont House of Representatives in the 1990s and again in the Vermont Senate during Howard’s last term as governor. As governor, Howard Dean, the “Fighting Moderate” as Paul Krugman has appropriately dubbed him, was a bright, frustrating, passionate loner whom you couldn’t help but respect, despite his managerial shortcomings.

Thus, it was exciting when he ran for President. And it was easy to be proud and inspired by his amazing campaign, especially when he began teaching Democrats inside the beltway how to stand up to George W. Bush.

His spectacular flame-out saddened me, as it did most all Vermonters. Yet, many of us were afraid it would happen sooner or later. We held our collective breath, knowing deep down that he would finally put his foot in his mouth at the wrong time, or that his weak, inexperienced staff would finally fail him.

It was impressive to me how Howard handled his fall. Especially how he appears to have withstood the vicious personal attacks launched by the other candidates in the Democratic presidential primary and the even more virulent attacks launched by Karl Rove’s team. After his fall, Howard worked as a Democratic Party team player and campaigner in a manner quite contrary to his track record here in Vermont. It was a side of Howard Dean which we hadn’t seen much of in Vermont.

Then Howard Dean announced his candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Democrat Party. I was truly surprised, especially when he pledged not to run for President in 2008. Facing broad opposition from the Washington Democratic establishment, Howard put together a systematic, organized campaign in which he quietly gathered support and picked off his rivals one by one. That he finally won the chairmanship unopposed is a great personal achievement.

In my view the chairmanship still does not fit the Howard Dean we knew as governor. Yet, I think it’s time to recognize that we are beginning to see the birth of a new, more accomplished, more tolerant, more organized and more self-disciplined Howard Dean. He has become a national figure, probably beyond anything he ever expected to achieve when he began his run for President. He has become controversial in a way which is even more surprising. And Howard Dean the passionate speaker is certainly different from any Howard Dean we knew as governor!

Howard has accomplished a truly impressive political come-back. He appears to have learned a great deal during the last year and to be enjoying himself. He has the talent, the skills, the brains, the ambition and the energy to accomplish much. He just may pull it off and build the foundation for a political miracle in 2008 for the Democratic Party.

I will not be surprised if he does!


Gerry Gossens served four years in the Vermont House of Representatives and four years in the State Senate. He is a retired foreign intelligence officer.


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Dirk VanSusteren

I am an unabashed Howard Dean fan. And it’s not because he is a liberal or conservative (as some of the very liberal Democrats in Vermont would argue). But I like him because of the excitement and clarity he brings to American politics. I think as DNC chair he will do the job of raising money for the party, recruiting candidates, getting younger people involved in the political process and articulating “Democratic” values on the Sunday morning news programs. All this will be important for his party, but I also think it will strengthen the two-party system in general, which has worked quite well for this country. In his presidential campaign he showed flashes of liberal populism; and the more he continues as DNC chair to promote populist values in his party, the more clearly the Democrats will distinguish themselves from the Republicans, and the more likely American voters will have real choices when they vote. So, Dean, as a spokesman for his party, will force people–Democrats and Republicans alike–to think: which is a good thing.

My only experiences with Dean have been at a few press conferences that I attended when he was governor, where I always found him to be candid, humorous and to-the-point, which, of course, is most refreshing to see in a politician. I do feel, though, that I know him quite well through the book about him that our paper and Steerforth Press published in 2004: Howard Dean: A Citizen’s Guide to the Man Who Would be President It covered Dean’s childhood, school years, early political years and his time as governor and presidential candidate. Working with reporters on it, I was struck by how Dean could transform himself to meet new challenges. Of course, he failed miserably in his biggest challenge–his attempt to win the Democratic presidential nomination–but now he has brushed himself off and quite remarkably is head of his party. Talk about The Comeback Kid! No party chairman has ever run for president, however, but it is possible that with a successful term as party chair, Dean will be positioned to run again for president in 2008. But, ironically, if that were the case, that would also have meant that he failed as DNC chairman: He would have failed to organize and unite the party enough for it to settle on a single viable candidate.

Politics is in Dean’s blood. I can’t imagine him practicing medicine again or being president of some university. He will probably figure a way to remain on the national political stage for many years; and if he doesn’t run for president, he may well wind up in the cabinet of some Democratic president, such as Hillary Clinton in four years, or be ambassador to Canada. Or, he just may decide to run for U.S. Senate in the event James Jeffords decides to retire in two years. There, along with Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, he would be a vibrant spokesman for the progressive politics that have come to define Vermont.


Dirk Van Susteren is editor of the Vermont Sunday Magazine, which is published by the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and Rutland Herald. He was the editor of the book, Howard Dean: A Citizen’s Guide to the Man Who Would be President (Steerforth, 2004)

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Stephanie Woods

“Well, what do you think about Dean being DNC chair?” I ask my good friend down the road in South Hero.

“I just hope he won’t do anything to embarrass us.” she says.

So there it is–she names the nervous feeling in my stomach–the one that keeps me from doing things, taking a stand when I just don’t want to embarrass myself.

I want to be fearless, I want to be like Howard Dean was in the campaign. I had hoped I’d be fearless by the time I reached 60. Well, not yet, but I have learned that if you care about something enough you have to be willing to make a fool of yourself over it.

So, was I embarrassed by his scream? Maybe, yes. Angry and indignant at the media, and a bit embarrassed. But if Dean was, he didn’t show it.

Or maybe he was embarrassed. But if he was, he is also brave or foolish, or wise or just stubborn enough to keep speaking the truth–not because he won’t be making mistakes or embarrassing himself, but because he cares enough to be embarrassed.

My prayer for Howard Dean, and for us, is that he remains fearless in following his instincts and speaking truth. And I pray he keeps faith in our ability to recognize the truth when we hear it.

So sign me on for the ride. I believe in the power of truth, and if Dean’s not going to be embarrassed about what happens, I won’t be either.


Stephanie Woods is a resident of South Hero Island, Vermont. She’s lived in Vermont for the past 30 years. She is a wife, mother, stepmother and grandmother, and a painter of gorgeous, vibrant flowers.

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Jay Parini

I’ve been a fan of Howard Dean’s from the first time I heard his voice on the radio after he first became governor. I was struck at once by the intimacy of his connection to the audience. He seemed like someone who could speak directly about the concerns of the people of Vermont. He appeared honest and willing to take risks. All of these things, during his terms as governor, proved true.

Vermont being a small state, it was not surprising that I ran into Governor Dean on various occasions, and exchanged a few words with him here and there. I was always taken by his practical approach to governance, his willingness to let ideology stand to one side. It was never easy to call him “liberal” or “conservative” or “middle-of-the-road.” Dean was a pragmatist, first and foremost.

I was a strong supporter of his run for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, especially because of his strong and early opposition to the Iraq invasion. More than anyone else in the race, he understood that this war was dangerous, and costly, and potentially catastrophic for the region. He understood that the so-called War on Terror was a bit of a ruse, designed to promote certain interests in Washington, and calculated to aid certain American industries. George W. Bush used the 9/11 tragedy shamelessly to promote his own agenda, to tighten his control over the country, and to frighten the American people, who are among the most easily frightened folks in the known world. Howard Dean seemed instinctively to understand all of this.

Governor Dean was also refreshingly clear on the Middle East, noting that the U.S. has not been even-handed in its treatment of Palestinians and Israelis. This, of course, won him few friends inside the Beltway.

I was not surprised that the mainstream of Beltway Democrats closed ranks to stop Dean’s bid for the nomination. But Howard Dean has persisted, as he will; and he has now triumphed, giving us all fresh hope for the Democratic party and democracy in America itself.

I’m delighted that Dean has taken over the head of the DNC, and I wish him well, as do many of us in his home state.


Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, lives in Vermont. He is editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature.

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Vermont: The Shadow Administration
Philip Baruth
When Jim Jeffords switched his party affiliation in 2001, grateful Democrats started buying bumper stickers that read, “Don’t Mess with Texas” – except the word “Texas” had been X-ed out and replaced with the word “Vermont.” It was a reminder to Bush that even a pebble can stop a tank, if it gets wedged in there just right.

But if you step back for a moment and look at the last five years as a whole, something becomes pretty clear pretty fast: Vermont’s oppositional role to this administration, and the forces behind it, is far larger and much more enduring than Jefford’s move alone. Here are the highlights:
In April of 2000, the Vermont Legislature passes landmark civil unions legislation.
In May of 2001, Jeffords makes his move, and the Bush agenda grinds to a halt in the Senate.
In 2003 and 2004, Howard Dean rides a wave of anti-war, anti-Bush sentiment to national prominence.
And in early 2005, Dean will convert that prominence into a Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

What this looks like to me, when I pull all of these seemingly unrelated events together, is a shadow administration, contemporaneous with that of George W. Bush, but in strong and continuous opposition to it. This shadow administration began as a homegrown phenomenon, but the logic and the courage of its local aspects has led to sustained national backing from a center-left coalition across the United States.

In other words, it is no accident that Howard Dean will become the official voice of the Democratic Party establishment. Far from it. Dean’s installation is a logical next step in a process of political clarification, a process underway not just in Burlington and Brattleboro, but in Binghamton and Bakersfield.

What is being clarified is a political vision to contest that being offered by the Republican majorities in the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the White House. These majorities preceded George W. Bush, and the vision they represent is larger than Bush the man, although he is their most concentrated expression. Similarly, Dean’s rise is not about Howard Dean the man. Dean has become the clarified expression of the opposing Vermont vision, and that Vermont vision has been ratified in no small part by the rest of the country.

If you doubt that, consider civil unions. When Dean signed the Civil Union legislation in 2000, his critics predicted the fall of civilization. Four years later, civil unions seemed quaint and old-fashioned compared to same-sex marriage, and both Dick Cheney and George Bush endorsed civil unions prior to the vote in November.

How does that happen? It can only happen in response to a vision of America that strikes many Americans as socially and morally just. It can only happen in response to a vision that is aggressive and unafraid to square off against all three major branches of federal government.

It can only happen, to put it bluntly, in Vermont.


Philip Baruth is a novelist living in Burlington, VT. He teaches at the University of Vermont. This essay first aired as a commentary on Vermont Public Radio on 15 April 2005. © Copyright 2005, VPR