The conspicuous absence of Howard Dean from Thursday’s press conference announcing Tim Kaine’s appointment as Democratic National Committee chair was no accident, according to Dean loyalists. Rather, they say, it was a reflection of the lack of respect accorded to the outgoing party chairman by the Obama team.
Despite leading the party in consecutive triumphant election cycles – as well as through off-year races like when Kaine was elected Virginia governor in 2005 – Dean has become all but invisible since Election Day, passed over for the Cabinet position he coveted and apparently not in line for another administration post...
Dean’s reward for the party recapturing the White House, House, Senate, and taking control of seven governor’s mansions and eight state legislatures on his watch? So far, nothing.
A physician by training who devoted much of his time as Vermont governor to health care, Dean had his eye on becoming Secretary of Health and Human Services. But the post went to Obama ally and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. The fact that Dean wasn’t even included in Thursday’s ceremonial — and very public — transfer of power from him to Kaine only underscored his isolation.
"The snub today was no accident," said one Dean ally. “I guarantee you he would have rescheduled his trip if asked to attend. It’s easy to [screw] over people when you are riding high in the polls, let's see how many people are singing his praises in six months."
Asked about Dean’s absence, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt noted that the chairman was out of town and pointed to the president-elect’s praise in prepared remarks: “He launched a 50-state strategy that made Democrats competitive in places they had not been in years, working with my chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to give Democrats a majority in the House for the first time in over a decade,” Obama said of the Vermonter.
The AP further reports that not only was Dean not invited, he was specifically asked not to come.
This is unacceptable. Barack Obama owes Dr. Dean almost everything. Dean was the architect of the 50-state strategy that Obama's campaign perfected, helping him win in places like North Carolina and Indiana; that same strategy is what gave Obama large rather than slim Congressional majorities as allies; Dean's own presidential campaign pioneered activist and Internet tactics that were at the core of Obama's campaign; and Dean, again in his role as a 2004 candidate, infused the party with a spine on Iraq and brought health care to the fore after 12 years of silence, helping set the stage for a candidate like Obama. I cannot for the life of me figure out why Obama would hold him in such low regard.
I'm ok with the fact that Dean isn't the HHS Secretary. I was hoping either he or Daschle would get the job, and I got my wish. Leaving him out of official DNC ceremonies, however, and lumping his campaign successes in with those of his arch-rival Rahm Emanuel is beyond the pale.
If "change" still means a new post-partisan era and the return of competence, great, count me in. But if change means instead poor relations with Democrats in Congress and now in the grassroots, count me out. Snubbing those who crossed your allies in previous cycles no matter how important they are to the nation and the party is bad karma and I want no part of it. Obama holds a lot of promise, but it sure wasn't on display this week.