Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Losing A Grip On Losing

We hope, anyway.

Newsday's Jim Pinkerton likens newly elected DNC Chair Howard Dean to Reep Demigod Gingrich:

Gingrich the Republican might not like to hear it, but the figure in politics Dean resembles most is ... Gingrich. Both men are hot-tempered, compelling and, above all else, smart. Beginning in the '80s, Gingrich didn't so much revise the GOP's message as repackage it. The 1994 Contract with America was a masterpiece of politics; it brought the Republicans a majority in the House for the first time in 40 years.

But for all his success as a political tactician, Gingrich failed as an overall leader. He dreamed of the presidency, yet he was forced to retire from public life in 1998.

So now to the Democrats, who need a Gingrich of their own to help them retake power. Dean has the smarts for politics but, like Gingrich before him, he lacks the right stuff for the White House. The big question is whether he is smart enough to keep that in mind.
I'm not sure he lacks the right stuff for the White House - he lacked it last time, but that doesn't foreclose on the future. As far as I'm concerned, if he can bring us a tightly-packaged, "soundbite-y" message, and it sells, he can do whatever he wants, including run for President again.

Now that Dean is in charge, I suppose it should be less annoying to hear Beltway types dismiss him, as does Sen. Joe Biden, whom Pinkerton quotes as saying "no party chairman has ever made a bit of difference in the public perception.. . . He's not going to have a policy role." I guess. But how many Democrats, let alone Americans, could pick Terry McAuliffe out of a line up? How many would even know the name? And, as Pinkerton astutely points out, Gingrich's success wasn't in crafting new policy, just in slapping a better package on the old stuff. It's just a question of marketing, isn't it? (Leaving aside for a moment the muddled foreign policy cowardice we've sometimes evidenced as a party - in that arena, if Dean can bring some more peace rhetoric to the fore, all the better).

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