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HOWARD DEAN: THE VIEW FROM VERMONT

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In This Issue:

  • David’s Notes
  • Comments on Howard Dean’s Race for the Nomination by former Vermont Governor, Madeleine Kunin
  • An Appreciation of Howard Dean by State Senator Gerry Gossens
  • Howard Dean: Pragmatist by Jay Parini
  • We Have the Power! by Stephanie Woods
  • Vermonters Speak Up On Line
  • The Book On Dean
  • Flatlanders Chime in Too


 

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DAVID’S NOTES:
 

This issue of THE JUDEVINE MOUNTAIN EMAILITE is dedicated to setting the record straight about Howard Dean and doing so with the words of Vermonters who have known Governor Dean for decades.

This is our attempt to talk back to, as Stephanie Woods puts it later in this issue, the “gossip and innuendo and fear-based name calling and character assassination”–not to mention gross distortions of his record–that has characterized the media’s approach to Howard Dean for the past few months.

JME #31 contains three essays by people who know Howard Dean. These are followed by links to other Vermonters speaking up and for Dean, plus a few links to Flatlander support as well.

JME #31 begins with an essay by former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin which was commissioned by and written especially for THE JUDEVINE MOUNTAIN EMAILITE.

Gov. Kunin’s essay was written on January 23rd, before the New Hampshire primary.

 


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COMMENTS ON HOWARD DEAN’S RACE FOR THE NOMINATION

by
former Vermont Governor
Madeleine May Kunin

 

When Governor Howard Dean first announced that he was going to run for President about two years ago, most Vermonters absorbed the news with tolerance. It certainly wouldn’t do any harm, and it might sell a little more maple syrup and put Vermont on the map. Let him give it a try. Almost no one thought he had a chance.

He had been a good Governor for almost 12 years. There were lots of things he had done which improved the quality of life for people in Vermont. We saw him as a moderate, and those Democrats who called themselves liberals, referred to him as a conservative.

He had some notable accomplishments after five terms in office:

  • He insisted on balanced budgets. He left Vermont in good fiscal shape last year when most other states were struggling with deficits.
  • He invested heavily in health care, particularly for children. He built on a program that started in my administration, called Dr. Dinosaur, which now provides health care for all Vermont children who do not have private insurance.
  • He initiated a program called “Success by Six” which provides early childhood care.
  • He helped the state purchase a large wilderness area.
  • He signed into law a bill which gave most of the rights of marriage to gay and lesbian couples, called the Civil Unions law.

Vermonters liked Governor Dean. He never had serious opposition except in his last term when a very conservative Republican, Ruth Dwyer, ran against him, basing her campaign on opposition to the Civil Unions law.

As the Dean campaign caught fire, Vermonters were pleased. Hey, he might have a chance, after all, we thought. But frankly, when he started showing up in the polls as a live contender, we were amazed, and thrilled. Our Howard Dean?

And then we began to listen to him. He was talking about opposition to the war in Iraq, and drawing huge crowds, with enthusiastic applause. His most memorable speech was on Church street in the heart of downtown Burlington. The national press was there, his wife Judy was there, and a throng of Vermonters who filled up the pedestrian mall. He proclaimed, “You have the power to take your country back, you have the power, you have the power.” he repeated again and again. We hadn’t seen such a passionate Howard Dean before. This man really believed. And the crowd cheered with him, ready to follow his bidding to take on George Bush.

For the first time I believed that our Governor could win the Democratic nomination and even beat George Bush. One week he was on the cover of both Time and Newsweek. We felt proud. Suddenly Howard Dean was the front runner in a race that few Vermonters thought he could even get into.

Then, the tide began to slowly turn. The front runner was under attack and new scrutiny. He was the target in the debates, having to defend himself on every front. As he said later, “I don’t like being a pin cushion.”

There was controversy over the fact that he had sealed his gubernatorial records for ten years ( I had sealed mine for six, it is customary in Vermont for all Governors to seal their records for a certain number of years.). He was accused by his opponents of not supporting Medicare (he does), changing his mind on NAFTA (he did, but so what? With new information, lots of us change our minds.)

Some of the wounds, I admit, were self-inflicted. His gaffe about knowing the Bible and then mistakenly saying that Job was in the New Testament, his shouting at a heckler at one of the candidate rallies, and of course, the now famous Iowa concession speech where he sounded out of control.

So who is the real Howard Dean?

I have known him since he first ran for the state legislature from Burlington. We both had the same mentor, Esther Sorrell, who ran for the state Senate after working behind the scenes in Vermont for decades for every brave Democrat who ran and lost.

Vermont was once the strongest one party state north of the Mason-Dixon line. Esther lived to see the change from Republican to Democrat. She was crazy about Jimmy Carter and Howard got involved in that campaign.

Then I knew him as my Lt. Governor. He didn’t make a lot of headlines in that job, but he did it well. His real chance came through tragedy. Governor Richard Snelling had succeeded me and died suddenly on an August day at the edge of his swimming pool. From one moment to the next, Dean was taking the oath of office to be Governor of Vermont.

I have seen him mature, both as a politician and a human being. I think he is smart, a quick study of issues and a good problem solver. He is supremely confident. He treats people well, surrounds himself with good people, and has good judgment. He knows how to build consensus and diffuse tension. And, he listens.

When I was Governor, I had the opportunity to appoint a record number of women. Howard not only kept my appointees, he topped my record. By the time he left office, a woman had served, at one time or another, as the head of every agency.

Do I think he can win the nomination?

It depends. He was the first candidate to raise the important issues that now are the themes of almost every man who is running. His strength is that he can connect with people, he has brought thousands of young people into the process, and he knows what matters most to the public.

If the campaign returns to the issues and does not continue to exact a thousand cuts of negative campaigning, I think he has an excellent chance. His incredible organization is a huge plus. And his passion, which occasionally has gotten him into trouble, is also a plus. This man cares, and he cares deeply.

Having watched him grow over the years, I believe he will grow into the highest office of the land, the Presidency.

—–

Madeleine May Kunin, a former governor of Vermont, is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont.

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AN APPRECIATION OF HOWARD DEAN

by
Gerry Gossens


It is sad and very frustrating to those of us who have worked with Howard Dean in politics to read the distorted assessments of him in the national media. Even worse are the acerbic sound-bite attacks on him by his Democratic opponents for the nomination.

I would like to offer a sort of a personal “insider’s view” of Howard Dean. It is based on my experiences with him during four years as Democratic member of the Vermont House of Representatives in the early 1990s, and then as a State Senator since 2000. In the intervening years Howard appointed me to the Water Resources Board, and then as chair of the board with instructions to set a more moderate tone at the board.

I first met Howard Dean on a Saturday in December 1992, just after my first election to the Vermont House of Representatives. The occasion was the organizational caucus of Democratic members in the House in preparation for the 1993 legislative session. The meeting was held in an ornate formal hearing room at the statehouse. Speaker Ralph Wright was there to discuss the Democratic agenda and teach us legislative etiquette. It was quite an exciting and ceremonial affair for the thirty-seven of us who were first-timers, and we were all dressed in our finest.

The highlight of the meeting was to be a mid-morning address by Governor Dean who was about to enter his first term as elected governor. However, word came that the governor was delayed. Later, that he was delayed again. Finally, near noon, there was a flurry in the hall and in walked a sweaty, dark-haired man dressed in sneakers, a hockey shirt and sweatpants with a hole in the knee. He was accompanied by three small children — two he would introduce as his own and one as a neighbor. It was Howard Dean! He had been delayed at his children’s pee wee hockey league game because he had played goalie for their team!

The words he spoke to us that morning escape me now but the first impressions of the man linger. Proud father, family man, unimpressed with his own exalted position, impatient, informal, totally unconcerned about how he looked, friendly, full of self-confidence.

Over the years I have had the opportunity of seeing other sides of Howard Dean.

For example, as the governor who was often waiting in the House chamber on cold mornings at the statehouse to give early-arriving legislators the opportunity for an informal one-on-one conversation with him, during which he demonstrated a quick mind and an extraordinary command of issues;

Or, Howard Dean, the tireless campaigner, who when walking door-to-door with me, loved the limelight as people did a double-take when they recognized him, and who had the knack of making each person or business we visited feel important and as if their concerns were of immediate and enduring interest to him;

Or, the governor who loudly accused the Democrats on the Senate Appropriations committee in 2001 of being in “La-La Land” for proposing more spending on children and Medicaid than he thought Vermont could afford, and who then came and negotiated quietly and seriously with us to achieve essentially the same result;

Or, the extremely articulate and forceful governor who stood alone on a stage for over an hour at a Middlebury legislative breakfast during the 2000 campaign and brilliantly, passionately and politely defended the civil unions law against sharp-tongued and angry opponents who had come from all over Vermont to attack him.

To me, the best description of Howard Dean is that he is first and foremost a doctor, a specialist in internal medicine. He was trained to be in charge of a situation; to be a compassionate listener and to be quick, confident and decisive in reaching a decision. Those are rare attributes in politics where endless discussion and maneuvering aimed at achieving a partisan political agenda more commonly characterizes leadership.

In my experience, internal medicine specialists are usually the brightest of physicians who thrive on trying to solve the most complex of medical problems. Howard Dean is certainly a quick study. I always enjoyed my dealings with him because he is so quick to grasp the essence of an issue. His style is to gather information from a variety of sources and then to rely on his own instincts to decide on a course of action. And, a rarity in politics, Dean has shown himself to be not unwilling to change his position on an issue if new information , or more persuasive arguments, subsequently come to his attention.

The Howard Dean I knew as governor was not “hot-headed” or “arrogant” or “mercurial”. However, in my view he certainly is refreshingly different from the run-of-the-mill national politician. As governor he was usually direct and blunt. He said what he believed, and would never have tolerated “handlers” scripting his remarks. He was honest to a fault. He could become angry but he was not angry by nature. He was a private person who many of us knew but few were really close to. He had little of the ego which seems to afflict so many in politics, both in Vermont and at the national level.

It is nice to have such a competent and down to earth Vermonter running for president.

- – -

Gerry Gossens is a State Senator from Addison County, Vermont

 

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HOWARD DEAN: PRAGMATIST

by
Jay Parini

Purveyors of opinion in the national press continue to brand Howard Dean as a northeastern liberal, an anti-war activist who will appeal mainly to white, well-educated, granola-crunching and latte-sipping liberals of the type who supported George McGovern in 1972. In recent weeks, the infamous McGovern comparison was raised once again by David Brooks, a regular columnist for The New York Times. It’s a ridiculous notion, worth discarding as soon as possible.

I write this as a Vermonter who has known Dean personally (as an acquaintance) for many years. Several of my friends worked with him closely when he was governor, as members of his staff or advisors. Only a few weeks ago I had dinner with Dean (and a small group of local supporters), and he brought up the McGovern comparison himself, drawing a chuckle from everywhere in the room. Dean is, let me tell you, no George McGovern. He is actually the farthest thing from a typical northeastern liberal that can be imagined.

One personal anecdote will suggest something about the man. A few years ago, I was invited to speak (about the poetry of Robert Frost, believe it or not) to a convention of Vermont judges. I was, shall we say, the light entertainment before lunch. After lunch, Governor Howard Dean was giving a talk. As I was leaving the meeting, the governor can up to me with a grin. “I’ve just read your latest book of poems,” he said. (A mutual friend had sent him a copy.) “You’ve obviously been reading Roethke.” Of course I was surprised that Dean had taken the trouble to read my poems; but that he rightly detected I had been reading the poetry of Theodore Roethke seemed, at the time, quite stunning.

It is worth recalling that Dean was elected governor of Vermont five times in a row – a tribute to his appeal in this largely rural state. There are almost as many cows as people in Vermont, which has a population of just over half a million people. Pick-up trucks are the vehicle of choice around here, and deer hunting is immensely popular. Howard Dean is popular with the hunters. Indeed, the National Rifle Association has bestowed upon him its highest rating. Few liberal politicians in the United States have ever received such positive attention from the National Rifle Association.

During his years as governor, Dean was mainly known as a fierce budget cutter, a proponent of fiscal responsibility. I remember complaining loudly to friends that he was just a Republican in disguise. He balanced the state’s budget year after year, even though Vermont does not require a balanced budget, as do many states. My friends in the environmental movement were often unhappy with Dean’s refusals to support their cause if it meant spending money or doing anything that might inhibit the growth of business in our state. Dean’s own father was a well-known figure on Wall Street, and he grew up among business people, in New York City and Long Island. He understands them well, and is genuinely in sympathy with their needs: not something one could say of George McGovern or most liberal Democrats.

Dean is a pragmatist without an obvious ideological bent. Trained as a physician, he studies a given situation, assesses the facts, and makes a diagnosis. As governor, he was remarkably decisive, even combative, willing to make cuts in health care and education to balance the budget. On the other hand, he strongly backed the idea of universal health care, and made sure that medical assistance for Vermont’s children under the age of eighteen was guaranteed. In a country where large numbers of people have no medical insurance, and where the federal government has long resisted the idea of “socialized medicine,” this was a real achievement for Howard Dean. Famously, he supported the idea of civil unions for gay couples in Vermont, although he did so rather quietly, signing the act presented to him by the legislature behind closed doors. In a sense, this pragmatic governor simply went along with the majority opinion in Vermont, where a substantial gay population exists.

I woke up most mornings for a decade listening to Dean on the radio. He is a talker, and was quoted most mornings on Vermont Public Radio. He is, as most Americans have now gathered, a blunt fellow, prone to shoot from the lip. He often speaks before he thinks. But the good news is that, given a few moments, he can think.

It was, of course, Dean’s unambiguous stand against the Iraq war that lifted him into the status of front-runner in the Democratic primaries. He has been able to focus the anger of his party faithful, who have found Bush’s “preemptive” war intolerable. Yet it would be a grave mistake to think of Dean as a left-leaning pacifist of some kind. If anything, he is a warrior by nature. He says he would have invaded Afghanistan and attacked al-Qaida without getting waylaid by war in Iraq. As president, he would probably work closely with the United Nations, as he understands that this is the best way to cultivate American allies in Europe and elsewhere. He would Ð as a pragmatist Ð work to change the conditions on the ground that have made terrorism a live option for so many desperate people, in the Middle East and elsewhere. On the question of Israel and the Palestinians, he says (and got himself into a great deal of trouble here for saying it) that he would be “even-handed.” This would certainly mark a radical shift in American policy, which has lopsidedly supported the Israelis.

Dean is a passionate man by nature. Two years ago, I saw a good deal of him when our sons were playing high school soccer together. He would hurl himself into the games, cheering on his son and the team. He is a straightforward man: a tough, smart fellow with a lot of genuine compassion: he did, after all, choose medicine as a career, and only became governor when the previous one unexpectedly dropped dead from a heart attack. Dean, who was Lieutenant Governor then (not a full-time job in Vermont), was in surgery when the call came. He very reluctantly left his busy medical practice behind to assume office.

An old friend of mine was Dean’s lawyer and close personal advisor throughout his time as governor. We were having lunch shortly after Dean announced that he was running for president, and I asked him what he thought. “Howard will win,” he said. “He is smarter than everybody else, he works harder than everybody else, and he’s luckier than everybody else.” My own experience of Dean is very much along these lines. He has a long road ahead of him, but he’s well-equipped for the journey, and he tends to succeed at whatever he attempts.

—–

Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, lives in Vermont. He is editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. An earlier version of this essay appeared in The Manchester Guardian.

 

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WE HAVE THE POWER!

Stephanie Woods of South Hero, Vermont, has written An Open Letter to Chris Matthews of Hard Ball at MSNBC. This is a hard hitting, well written, cogently argued, fiery piece on how and why the media has attempted to get rid of Howard Dean. Very Highly recommended. Go to:http://wehavethepower.ziby.net/index.html

 

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VERMONTERS SPEAK UP ON LINE

Editor’s Note: In order to listen to these interviews on-line you need Windows Media Player which is a free download and available at:http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/download/default.asp

 

An Interview with Judy Steinberg Dean: In September Judy Steinberg Dean, Howard Dean’s wife, gave two extended and wonderful interviews to Vermont Public Radio about her husband and her own medical practice and the campaign. You can listen to the first half of the interview at:http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/vpr/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=540619 There is a link to the second half of the interview on the first half page.

Kathy Hoyt on Diversity and Howard Dean: Kathy Hoyt, was Howard Dean’s chief of staff until 1997 and secretary of administration from 1997 to 2002. Here she talks about diversity in Howard Dean’s administrations and his commitment to women. Listen at:http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/vpr/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=590289

Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz on the Sealed Records: Deb Markowitz sets the record straight about the brouhaha over Howard Dean’s sealed records and the distortions the other candidates have been engaged in, most notably Joe Liberman. Listen at:http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/vpr/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=588085

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THE BOOK ON DEAN

Far and away the best book on Howard Dean is Howard Dean: A Citizen’s Guide to the Man Who Would be President. The book was put together by a team of reporters from the Barre Times Argus and Rutland Herald, both Vermont newspapers, and edited by Dirk Van Susteren. All these reporters have covered Dean, and have known him, for years. There is none of the mainstream media insanity about Dean here.

To order this book go to: http://rutlandherald.com/deanbook It costs $13.77 including tax.

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FLATLANDERS CHIME IN TOO

This link takes you to William Greider’s piece in The Nation on “Why I’m for Dean”: http://blog.deanforamerica.com/archives/002424.html

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In the New York Times for December 21, 2003, Frank Rich wrote a seminally important essay called: “Napster Runs for President in ’04” about why the internet has become so important to politics and how Howard Dean is using the internet as no one has before. The essay is on-line at The International Herald Tribune at: http://www.iht.com/articles/122221.html

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To read Ariana Huffington’s essay, “Unelectable My Ass” go to: http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=17512

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The subtlest of any endorsement of Howard Dean came from Bob Herbert on the Op Ed page of the New York Times on January 9th. After a column devoted to the sick state of health care in the U.S. Herbert says, “Shoving low-income people, including children, off the health care roles at a time when the economy is allegedly booming is a sure sign of some kind of sickness in the society.”

Herbert concludes his column with, “Maybe the nation itself needs a doctor.”

To read Hebert’s entire article go to: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0C15FF34550C7A8CDDA80894DC404482&n=Top%252fOpinion%252fEditorials%2520and%2520Op%252dEd%252fOp%252dEd%252fColumnists%252fBob%2520Herbert

Sam Smith of UNDERNEWS: And finally, one more comment on how and why the media is intent on ruining Howard Dean’s candidacy. This excerpt of devastating analysis from Sam Smith, editor of Undernews for 20 January 2004, comes from The Progressive Review:

“Dean is in trouble, no doubt of it. Primary cause is the most excessive and gratuitous media assault on a presidential candidate in recent times. . . Dean failed to accept the fact that before you can get elected by the people you have to be selected by the crowd in charge. You don’t just run for president in the Democratic Party (unless you’re a Sharpton or Kucincich doomed from the start); you ask permission nicely just like Clinton did. Show the elite that you want to come to Washington to serve them, not lead others. . . . It’s bad enough when a Georgia peanut farmer like Carter tries it, but Dean came out of the establishment himself so his crime was worse: betrayal rather than naivetŽ. And he paid the price.”

“It’s not political. Washington is a place where more things are done illegally or under the table than just about anywhere in the world. Where your laws are made – and broken – as Mark Russell used to say. And it’s the world’s most powerful private club. If you want to get ahead here the first thing you’ve got to do is shut your mouth, and show you respect the people who really run the place. Dean didn’t do that.”

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For information about subscriptions to UNDERNEWS and THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, email: news@prorev.com

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