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Howard Dean Should Have Been Obama’s Pick All Along

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Posted on Feb 5, 2009
Barack Obama and Howard Dean
AP photo / Alex Brandon

By Chip Fleischer

(Page 2)

I suspect that Dean’s strained relationship with Obama’s White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, with whom he famously clashed over strategy during the 2006 midterm election—Emanuel wanted DNC money to be targeted where it could help Democratic congressional candidates win immediately while Dean was intent on a long-range plan to build party infrastructures in all 50 states—might have had something to do with the talk of his unofficial consideration for the HHS post evaporating so quickly. Emanuel, unlike Dean, is regarded as a strident partisan who remembers transgressions and rewards fealty. But just as presidential candidate Dean paved the way for now-President Obama’s use of the Internet as a campaign tool, it was DNC Chairman Dean whose 50-state strategy helped candidate Obama keep John McCain on the defensive in traditional red states.

Obama might have ridden into office on a wave of popularity that included most swing voters and a good number of Republicans, but the Democrats in Congress, who now firmly control both houses, can claim no such appeal. Amazingly, Congress overall had lower approval ratings than George W. Bush going into the 2008 election. The danger of partisan overreach that could produce a crippling backlash against Obama a year or two from now is great.

Dean has been humbled by the challenges and realities of serving as a chief executive. In addition, he deserves credit for his successful turn as DNC chair, a post he aggressively sought and improbably won, and for which many observers did not consider him well suited. Dean was a true Washington outsider who took over a broken political machine and achieved astonishing results.

The position of HHS secretary would play to Dean’s proven strengths—his medical training and his ability to work within budgets, to name just two. And no one could bring more passion to the job. To my mind, an old congressional hand, a Washington insider—another nominee like Tom Daschle—who knows how to wheedle and stroke egos and trade this for that in order to make things happen the old-fashioned way would not achieve meaningful reform on health care. There are just too many entrenched interests, and Washington insiders are congenitally incapable of making things happen with so many well-connected players trying to affect the game’s outcome. If people think insurance company paper pushers are doing more harm than good as they take decision-making powers out of doctors’ hands, imagine the damage that could result from an effort led by a career politician with no understanding of the dynamics at play in our health care system, let alone the human organism.  After so many years of fruitless rhetoric by politicians, why not let a medical doctor with proven success as a political operative and a record for plain talk and common sense have a chance?

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As DNC chair, Dean talked often about the need for politicians to set aside issues that divide us and focus on progressing in areas where common ground can be reached. As governor, he made advances in the area of health and welfare by gaining support for initiatives such as health insurance for children and prenatal care and other preventive wellness measures that cost relatively little and offered long-term savings and sustainability. As a candidate, Obama revealed himself to be a consummate pragmatist. Reconsidering Dean for the post of HHS secretary would be a demonstration of his intention to govern as one as well, and would reaffirm, not undermine, his commitment to work across party lines and be president to all Americans.

Chip Fleischer is publisher of Steerforth Press.


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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, February 7, 2009 at 10:53 pm Link to this comment

An email I recieved which I thought others might be interested in.  TOGETHER…we can do this.

“The Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Healthcare is encouraging everyone to participate in the next National Call-in Day for HR 676. Mark your calendars…

Please note the corrected telephone number for the Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121.

February 12, 2009: Call Congress, and the President
Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121
(ask for your representative’s office)

If your member is a current co-sponsor, thank your rep. and ask him or her to stand firm for HR 676 and actively seek additional co-sponsors.

If your member was a co-sponsor in the last Congress, ask him or her to sign on immediately as a co-sponsor in this Congress.

If your member has yet to co-sponsor HR 676, ask him or her to please become a co-sponsor, select one or two talking points here.

In a letter to Col. William F. Elkins written November 21, 1864, Lincoln wrote:

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

In celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, remind your member of Congress to honor his words and heed his warning as we look to reform his precious nation’s healthcare system.  Urge your member to accept testimony from panelists to explore the serious flaws in the Massachusetts health plan and examine why it cannot serve as a national model for providing universal and comprehensive care, on Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 2:00-4:00pm, 2226 Rayburn House Office Building.


Sincerely,


Quentin D. Young, MD
National Coordinator,
Phyisicans for a National Health Program

Donna Smith
Community Organizer
California Nurses Association
National Nurses Organizing Committee
PDA National Healthcare NOT Warfare Co-Chair

Tim Carpenter
Executive Director
Progressive Democrats of America

Katie Robbins
Assistant National Coordinator
Healthcare-NOW!

P.S. Don’t forget to call (202-456-1414) or fax (202-456-2461) the White House to make sure our current President recalls how very troubled another young lawyer from Illinois was as he viewed the future of the nation under the control of the monied and corporate interests just like those swirling in the for-profit health insurance industry.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, February 7, 2009 at 4:28 pm Link to this comment

Howard Dean would do well in a number of positions.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 6, 2009 at 6:44 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi, February 6 at 1:47 pm #

ITW—You are aware that Gregg made a previous agreement with the Dem Gov of Vermont to appoint a GOP in his place?? Its Bonnie Newman…

New Hampshire’s Democratic governor John Lynch says he will appoint a Republican:

“I have had conversations with Sen. Gregg, the White House and U.S. Senate leadership,” Lynch said in a statement. “Sen. Gregg has said he would not resign his seat in the U.S. Senate if it changed the balance in the Senate. Based on my discussions, it is clear the White House and Senate leadership understand this as well.”
******************************************

No, I didn’t know that.  Thanks—it’s a smart move!

Yeah, Cyrena, my MIL can be a terror (no, she didn’t rip the neighbor a new one in Yiddish, but in English).  She has the biggest heart in the world, but also one of the biggest mouths—I love her but I sure wouldn’t want to live with her.

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By Thomas Mc, February 6, 2009 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment

Obama is too busy kissing GOP butt to do anything else.

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By Margaret Currey, February 6, 2009 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think that Obama should do what is best for the contry not what is best for the party because playing safe does not mean that you win. 

I believe Howard will do what is best for the country because he would have made a much better president than Bush, might have been a better president than Al Gore.

I believe if the congress has less oversight with money this country will run out of money.

I think bailing out Wall Street was not a bail out only a crooked way of rewarding the crooks.

And then Paulson was a fox, like in the parable “hiring the fox to guard the hen house”.

Howard Dean seems like a man that is honest and has the people’s needs in mind.

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By cyrena, February 6, 2009 at 2:54 pm Link to this comment

“You forget—there’s his mother-in-law! Ouch! If I had to live with MY mother-in-law I’d be locked up—either in an asylum or in prison—for murder.  That is, if my wife didn’t kill her first!.....
She’s actually a nice lady—but only in small doses.”
Inherit,
I love it, and sympathize completely! smile

I didn’t really ‘forget’ about Mary Robinson, since she’s actually become one of my heroines. But, the smarter move is to save the mother-in-law power as a last resort. She’s got two hats you see, and she’s the first one to wear them both. She’s the First Granny AND the First Mother-in-Law. So, there’s no reason to distract her from her First Granny duties, unless somebody starts clowning so terribly that she has to go into First Mother-in-Law mode.

Now that DOES happen occasionally, but Barack the also Two-hatted President and Fist Son-in-Law, is a pretty smart dude, (he stalked Michelle and married her) so he’s already given Mrs. Robinson her ‘propers’ as we like to say.

Now I like YOUR mother-in-law too. Doesn’t she like to cuss people out in Yiddish? Or at least, (if memory serves me) she has some great names for those she isn’t so approving of. I love it.

Yep, I know all about mother-in-laws,(and mothers) and some have a few additional stereotypes that I happen to find endearing at the best of times, (when I’m the observer, not the target) and grounds for murder on those occasions when the insanity is directed at me, and then it’s not so funny.

Meantime, you and your wife and the boys could live with your mother-in-law easily enough if you had the White House facilities. She could have her own wing, and then instead of being tempted to murder her, or allowing yourselves to be victimized by the insanity, you could just lock her up in there, whenever she got too motherish. So, it’s doable.

Well…maybe?? wink

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By KDelphi, February 6, 2009 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment

ITW—You are aware that Gregg made a previous agreement with the Dem Gov of Vermont to appoint a GOP in his place?? Its Bonnie Newman…

New Hampshire’s Democratic governor John Lynch says he will appoint a Republican:

“I have had conversations with Sen. Gregg, the White House and U.S. Senate leadership,” Lynch said in a statement. “Sen. Gregg has said he would not resign his seat in the U.S. Senate if it changed the balance in the Senate. Based on my discussions, it is clear the White House and Senate leadership understand this as well.”


Dean did not lose because he “failed to appeal “—he lost because the right wing media hated him, and, ne-liberals failed to support him. That “yell” was amplified, taken out of context, etc. We could USE someone with a little ANGER at people dying in the streets, do you not think????
The Dems would have done much better with Dean than Kerry…

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By Joe Twaddle, February 6, 2009 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

ITW

“Gregg at Commerce??? If I were him I’d reject it—what? is Gregg a moron or so self-important and self-involved he doesn’t see that he gives the Dems 60 votes in the Senate? I don’t like the Republicans, but it’s just bad political strategy—and STUPID to fall into such an obvious trap.”

The Democratic governor of New Hampshire has pledged to appoint a GOP’er to the vacent senate seat. I assume a place holder, someone very old maybe Warren Rudeman.

The Dem’s hold on NH is tenuous to say the least, they better not play with this one.

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By Chill, February 6, 2009 at 11:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you haven’t heard about John Kitzhaber, MD from Oregon, this might be a good opportunity to.  Here is a petetion going around that is in favor of the job going to him.  He’s our ex-govornor and is a doctor who has worked hard for the working people of Oregon for years.  He delveloped the Oregon Health Plan that has help insure thousands of kids acrosss Oregon for many years now.  See what you think: 

http://www.onwardoregon.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=ffIOIRMEG&b=4956727


This guy has the experience, and brains to do an excellent job as Health & Human Services Secretary.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 6, 2009 at 11:25 am Link to this comment

Sleeper, February 6 at 6:29 am #

Howard is the kind of zealot that we need.
************************************************

I don’t usually agree with Sleeper but this last sentence was perfect! Yes, we need Howard Dean at HHS.

Gregg at Commerce??? If I were him I’d reject it—what? is Gregg a moron or so self-important and self-involved he doesn’t see that he gives the Dems 60 votes in the Senate? I don’t like the Republicans, but it’s just bad political strategy—and STUPID to fall into such an obvious trap.

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By grumpynyker, February 6, 2009 at 10:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If she’s still around, how about Joycelyn Elders?  I appreciated her no-nonsense approach to sex education.

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By AmiBlue, February 6, 2009 at 9:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cosign, Hulk and Harper!

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By csavage, February 6, 2009 at 9:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a doc myself, I think Dean would make a great choice, but, everyone’s assuming that Obama is for a single payer system and they have no reason to feel that way. He never said anything in his campaign about a single payer system-he just wanted to expand the very wasteful system we have now. As for Obama knowing about Dean, people are also assuming that he cares about the issue of staffing the post at HHS or SG. His very flippant choice of a CNN contributor for
SG shows that’s not true, either

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By stonecutter, February 6, 2009 at 7:48 am Link to this comment

This is a fine piece of logic and reasoning, and there’s no question Dean would make a strong HHS Secretary.  That is, assuming Obama is the real deal, and actually will fight for “change”, and is not just engaging in performance art now that he’s in the Oval. Choosing a former governor, and executive who happens also to be a physician, instead of the consummate congressional schmoozer Daschle, would be a powerful signal to the Congress and the country that Obama is dead serious, and not just blowing smoke.

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By Shirley, February 6, 2009 at 7:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I was for Dean for President and was for him for this position as well.
I think Obama better take a look at him, instead of rewarding Dashell for supporting his campaign

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By Sleeper, February 6, 2009 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

Rdv,
I think you have the right take on Dean.  He is Honorable.  Unfortunately, that scares the heck out of the power hungry because they are not.  You could check out my comments at opednews.com concerning Obama early in the race, however I think he has played his role better for the People then past Presidents within my lifetime.  Being the Boss has allowed him to break loose from the control of the party.  He is trying to work both sides.

Susan Collins has stepped in the spotlight as a possible swing Repub.  I despise her role in the last Congress.  She provided excellent cover for the criminals.  The best thing she could do for Maine is swing with her vote for some pork for the people of Maine.  Unfortunately Mainers buy her mousy voice and they like putting girls in the Boys House.  Mitchell was the last male Senator.

I’m really not sexist in fact I like having a female Boss.  With me it is probably more that our Senators are Republicans that do not provide for growth in this state.  I’m tired of us having high unemployment while municipal and state work goes to out of state workers who get paid better then the home team when you add in their perdiem checks.  The state goes out of its way to suppress the earning ability of Maine Workers who are known for an excellent work ethic.

Howard is the kind of zealot that we need.

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By Sleeper, February 6, 2009 at 7:27 am Link to this comment

Rdv,
I think you have the right take on Dean.  He is Honorable.  Unfortunately, that scares the heck out of the power hungry because they are not.  You could check out my comments at opednews.com concerning Obama early in the race, however I think he has played his role better for the People then past Presidents within my lifetime.  Being the Boss has allowed him to break loose from the control of the party.  He is trying to work both sides.

He should give Howard the job he is kind of a zealot and that works.
Susan Collins has stepped in the spotlight as a possible swing Repub.  I despise her role in the last Congress.  She provided excellent cover for the criminals.  The best thing she could do for Maine is swing with her vote for some pork for the people of Maine.  Unfortunately Mainers buy her mousy voice and they like putting girls in the Boys House.  Mitchell was the last male Senator.

I’m really not sexist in fact I like having a female Boss.  With me it is probably more that our Senators are Republicans that do not provide for growth in this state.  I’m tired of us having high unemployment while municipal and state work goes to out of state workers who get paid better then the home team when you add in their perdiem checks.  The state goes out of its way to suppress the earning ability of Maine Workers who are known for an excellent work ethic.

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By Deaniac, February 6, 2009 at 5:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Come see Howard Dean at the 6th Annual DemocracyFest! http://www.DemocracyFest.net

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By RdV, February 6, 2009 at 5:25 am Link to this comment

If Emmanuel holds that much sway over Obama, this administration will derail in a heartbeat. Dean is the measure of a true centrist—a truly practical man as opposed to a capitulating pragmatic politician still triangulating with a totally bankrupt Republican minority.
  My cynical guess as to the real reason they avoid the obvious choice of Dean? Dean is sure to deliver and they really don’t want change.

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By matti, February 5, 2009 at 11:46 pm Link to this comment

To Karen Harper,

Don’t forget WHY the “News” Media went after Dean so mercilessly after Iowa 2004…Dean had pledged to BREAK UP THE MEDIA CONGLOMERATES.

It was on Chris Matthews’ show just a week or so before. Matthews was doing these sit-down discussions with all the “major” candidates at the Kennedy School at Harvard. When Dean was on he invoked Keynes’ rule of thumb that with few enough enterprises in any given market, the impulse to compete becomes an impulse to COLLUDE. He then said that 5-6 media companies was too few for that market. Matthews clarified and asked if that meant former Vermont Govenor would BREAK UP these corporate conglomerates when President, and Dean said yes.

There is ALWAYS a “why”, and amongst Big Media, Big Money, and Big Party Politics in the United States today, it rarely has anything to do with ideology.

As for the article, I’d LOVE to see Dean as HHS Secretary, but that would signal that Obama and the Dems are ready to go the “tough way”, the “sick to their guns way”, the “what the People actually expect of them way”.

This wouldn’t really be tough. With hard times looming, an unpopular President from the now opposition Party held for blame, a popular president of their party given a huge mandate, a crushing majority in the House, a dominate majority in the Senate (57 - 41 if Franken finally sits), and with two co-caucusing Independents and half a dozen insecure-in-2010 Repubs to get them “filibuster-proof” in that Body, they SHOULD be able to basically do whatever they want within the Constitution.

But I’ll bet in the short-term at least the Dems take it the “easy way” and Dean would just get in the way.

I’ll still be happy with him at the DNC, outside of the corporate spotlight, quietly ensuring victory for the only half-decent major Party left in the U.S..

-matti.

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, February 5, 2009 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment

An advocacy group for single payer healthcare (HR 676), Change.org carried this story.  (I believe Healthcare Now has partnered with Change.org in the effort to pass HR 676. PNHP, Physicians for a National Health Program also supports HR676)

“Well, Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program, has called on President Barack Obama to nominate Dr. Marcia Angell or Dr. David Satcher to head HHS….”

“....Messages of support for Angell or Satcher could be sent to President Obama by calling the White House comment line (202-456-1111) or the general switchboard there (202-456-1414). Messages can also be faxed to the White House (202-456-2461), e-mailed (visit whitehouse.gov/contact), or sent via U.S. mail (The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20500).”

http://www.change.org/ideas/294/view_blog/daschles_out_lets_get_a_single-payer_supporter_in

Dr. Young’s announcement:

“Both Dr. Angell and Dr. Satcher are thoroughly committed to protecting the public interest,” Young said. “Further, they are untainted by the blandishments of the private insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Our nation would be well served by having either of these remarkable physicians in this critical role.”

Dr. Young details their background experience and qualifications:

“In 1999, Dr. Marcia Angell became the first woman to serve as editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, the premier journal of medical science in the United States. She is also committed to broadening the public’s understanding of science, and has written for a general audience on the relationships between medicine, ethics, and the law.

After completing her undergraduate studies in chemistry and mathematics at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., Marcia Angell spent the next year as a Fulbright Scholar studying microbiology in Frankfurt, Germany. She received her M.D. degree from Boston University School of Medicine in 1967 and completed residencies in both internal medicine and anatomic pathology.”

****

“Dr. David Satcher established The Satcher Health Leadership Institute (SHLI) at Morehouse School of Medicine in 2006 as a natural extension of his experience in improving public health policy for all Americans and his commitment to eliminating health disparities for minorities, poor people and other disadvantaged groups.

As a champion of improved health care quality and expanded health care access for minorities, Dr. Satcher found himself drawn to the Atlanta University Center (AUC), the largest association of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the world, for his next challenge. In an environment with a rich history of nurturing minority leaders who engineered the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Satcher finds both the inspiration and resources to carry out his ambitious mission.

Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1998 as the 16th surgeon general of the United States, Dr. Satcher served simultaneously in the positions of surgeon general and assistant secretary of health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As such, he held the rare rank of full admiral in the U.S. Public Health Corps, to reflect his dual offices.”

(cont.)
http://www.pnhp.org/blog/2009/02/04/dr-quentin-young-marcia-angell-or-david-satcher-for-hhs-secretary/

Resources for single payer and healthcare issues.

http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single_payer_resources.php

http://www.healthcare-now.org/

http://healthcare.change.org/

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By Inherit The Wind, February 5, 2009 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment

cyrena, February 5 at 2:43 pm #

Well, has anybody made all of this information available to President Obama? I’m asking that before I read page 2 of this excellent article. I think most of us know that Howard Dean would have been the best pick from the gitgo, so Obama screwed up with Daschle, (like he’s already admitted) but NOW he has a chance to get it right.

Has anybody TOLD him? THAT’S what we need to do. Box the man’s ears if necessary. My grandma would have. Somebody get the word to him…PLEASE!! Or, tell Michelle. SHE can box his ears if necessary.
***********************************************

You forget—there’s his mother-in-law! Ouch! If I had to live with MY mother-in-law I’d be locked up—either in an asylum or in prison—for murder.  That is, if my wife didn’t kill her first!.....

She’s actually a nice lady—but only in small doses.

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By cyrena, February 5, 2009 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment

Well, has anybody made all of this information available to President Obama? I’m asking that before I read page 2 of this excellent article. I think most of us know that Howard Dean would have been the best pick from the gitgo, so Obama screwed up with Daschle, (like he’s already admitted) but NOW he has a chance to get it right.

Has anybody TOLD him? THAT’S what we need to do. Box the man’s ears if necessary. My grandma would have. Somebody get the word to him…PLEASE!! Or, tell Michelle. SHE can box his ears if necessary.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 5, 2009 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

Let’s not forget that Dean was the father of the 50 State Strategy that James Carville and Paul Begala hated and fought, but that took back the Senate AND the House in 2006.  This strategy was KEY to Obama’s victory, forcing McCain to spend resources in states that should have been safe and losing some—like North Carolina and Virginia.  Dean, in fact, represents an abandoning of the old, tired, failed Democratic ways of doing things.

I forgot Dean was a doctor and that he left Vermont solvent.  He’s the PERFECT choice now that Daschle is out.

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By Karen Harper, February 5, 2009 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sometimes I wonder about the 2004 early primaries.  Howard Dean was doing extremely well until the right wing media made a TV news marathon out of his enthusiastic shout of “yee hah”.  So we ended up being stuck with the most lackluster candidate of them all, John Kerry.  Karl Rove couldn’t have planned it better.

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skulz fontaine's avatar

By skulz fontaine, February 5, 2009 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment

Howard Dean for HHS? More “change” from the Oh-bomb-ah folksies. Yup. Some real ground pounding deep think there.

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Hulk2008's avatar

By Hulk2008, February 5, 2009 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment

Please add my enthisiastic “Yee Hah!” in support of Doc Dean.

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