While immersed in Republican politics this past weekend, I missed another fascinating Howard Dean interview, which aired Sunday on CNN. At one point, the Democratic party chairman said this: "We are much more united than we appear in the newspapers. And I think -- as often happens -- small differences of opinion get blown up as newspaper articles."
This is the Dean equivalent of President Bush's claim that freedom is on the march in Iraq; in other words, it bears little resemblance to reality.
1. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is on record supporting troop withdrawals from Iraq, yet her own top deputy, Stenny Hoyer, is on record opposing troop withdrawals from Iraq. I guess, under the Dean definition, that this qualifies as a "small" difference of opinion.
2. One of the top Democratic operatives, Harold Ickes, has launched his own national grassroots project - a computerized data base of rank and file Democrats nationwide - because he doesn't think that Dean's Democratic National Committee can pull it off. And he's in the process of raising $11 million or more to defy the DNC. As the Washington Post noted, in its report last week on this ambitious project, "Ickes and others involved in the effort acknowledge that their activities are in part a vote of no confidence" in the Dean operation. Asked about this by CNN, Dean replied, "I would disagree with Harold." But under the Dean definition, this too is a "small" difference of opinion.
3. The news today is that a rich antiwar liberal Democrat, cable television entrepeneur Ned Lamont, will challenge Democratic senator Joe Lieberman in a Connecticut primary this summer. Lamont will get fundraising help from the liberal netroots, which wants to purge the party of politicians it deems to be "Republican lite." The verdict on one prominent liberal blog yesterday: Lieberman is "a cruel, callow, weak little man. He needs to go." Lamont's main beef: Lieberman's support for the war in Iraq. Yesterday he called Lieberman "George Bush's favorite Democrat." He also said that, with the war issue front and center, "We're going to fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party."
I am old enough to remember the Vietnam war, and how it divided Democrats into hawk and dove camps. But under the Dean definition, this too is a "small" difference of opinion.
4. Check out the various Democratic reactions to antiwar Senator Russ Feingold's attempt yesterday to officially censure President Bush over the domestic spying program (Feingold: "The president has violated the law, and Congress must respond"). The liberal netroots community thinks the censure is a great idea, but the entire Washington Democratic establishment (which is loathed by the netroots) thinks that censure is a bad idea, because it might prompt moderate swing voters to think that the Democrats are acting like Bush-bashing extremists.
As Marshall Wittmann, an analyst who works at a centrist Democratic think tank, said on his blog today about the Feingold censure move, "At a time when the Democrats had seized a national security issue (the ports deal), a donkey came to the elephant's rescue with a dramatic over-reach....When will the lefties learn?"
Feingold fired back this afternoon with a swipe at all the fellow Democrats who left him high and dry: "I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide."
Under the Dean definition, this too is just another of those "small" differences of opinion.