THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 2004:
Who Is Howard Dean?
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of reports on the 2004 Presidential election by the Chronicle. Please visit the baltimorechronicle.com website for updates and references.
Howard Dean, physician and five-time Governor of Vermont, has a prescription for America: more jobs, improved public education, universal health care, pro-choice, pro-environment, social activism—and fiscal responsibility.
Dean calls himself “a common-sense moderate.” Liberals and progressives, however, criticize him for not being progressive or liberal enough, pointing out, for example, that he backed allowing Vermonters to carry concealed weapons.
Republicans attack Dean for his stands on social issues, assailing, for example, his signing into law recognition of same-sex unions (a mandate of Vermont’s Supreme Court). Mainstream Democrats (those adhering to the middle-of-the-road Democratic Leadership Council, which pushed Clinton forward in 1991) are turning their backs on him, viewing him as unelectable. Dean, after all, spoke out against the Congressional war resolution, a measure that John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards and Dick Gephardt—all now competitors for the Democratic nomination—voted for.
A graduate of Yale (1971) and Albert Einstein College of Medicine (1978), Dean served in the Vermont House from 1982 to 1986, was elected lieutenant governor in 1986, and became governor in 1991 when then-Governor Richard Snelling died.
During his years in office, Dean cut Vermont’s income tax twice, removed the sales tax on most clothing, reduced the state’s long-term debt, and eliminated the state’s $70 million deficit, which Dean inherited. Further, he and lawmakers pulled together to create the state’s “rainy day” reserve fund.
Dean claims that over 41,000 new jobs were created under his tenure, and the state’s minimum wage has been increased twice. His incentive programs attracted new businesses to Vermont and strengthened downtowns.
As Governor, Dean expanded programs to help seniors afford prescription drugs, and signed into law one of the toughest managed care consumer protections in the US.
According to Dean’s campaign literature, over one million acres of farmland, shorefront, forests and wilderness were conserved under his leadership, and 76 of the state’s leaking landfills were safely closed. Vermont, they say, has become a leader in reducing pollution from mercury and fossil-fuel power plants. Bikeways have been created, and commuter rail service has been restored. Yet some environmentalists criticize Dean for having permitted, for example, toxic wastes to be exported to other states for disposal.
Other hot-button areas are covered as well: Dean “cracked down on violent crime and ensured that violent felons spend time behind bars,” protected family farms, increased the number of women and minorities in judgeships and other prominent positions, “cracked down on domestic violence,” and increased child support collections.
“Once written off as a little man from a little state” wrote Matt Bai in the New York Times on June 1 (“Dr. No and the Yes Men”), “Dean has expertly framed the 2004 nomination fight as a choice between white-hot liberal rage on one side and the room-temperature promise of ‘electability’ on the other....”
“Smart, abrupt and clinical” is how Bai describes Dean. These traits may not sit well with an electorate that seems to prefer a personable, charismatic candidate—preferably tall, but Dean stands 5’8”. Dean and his supporters, however—if not the Democratic leadership—believe the public is ready for his brand of no-nonsense leadership.
Other Candidate News
The New Republic (a middle-of-the-road magazine) is keeping track of those whom it considers to be principal Democratic Primary candidates, cataloging stories about them and assigning grades to the candidates’ performances and pronouncements. As of May 26, the overall candidate scores were as follows:
Howard Dean, 2.2; John Edwards, 2.3; Dick Gephardt, 2.3; Bob Graham, 1.7; John Kerry, 2.3; Joe Lieberman, 2.9.
The rankings, the magazine explains, are based on assessments of the candidates’ stands on domestic policy and foreign policy, and on their demonstrated political courage, honesty, general likability, and intellectual honesty.
The Chronicle sent The New Republic an email inquiring why Congressman Dennis Kuchinich (D-Ohio) was not included in this list. As yet, this newspaper has not been favored with a response.
Visit The TNR Primary to keep track of the New Republic pundits’ scoring. From this web page, you can access the stories from which the grades were assessed.
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This story was published on June 4, 2003.