Howard Dean was on CNN’s State Of The Union today where he diagnosed the problem with administration of Barack Obama. Dean claimed that while America likes Obama, “I think that the people around the president have really misjudged what goes on elsewhere in the country, other than Washington, D.C.”
State Of The Union host Candy Crowley asked Dean, “But certainly, you have voiced, on “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” and on the health care bill, some of the real misgivings that the left has had about some of the things the president has done. And it boils down to this, this fall, do you think the left sits home or do you think the left goes out to the polls? And what gets them there?”
Dean answered, “Well, look, I don’t think that the left — what Gibbs was talking about with the so-called professional left — I don’t know what he meant by that. You know, I think — but that is a very small number of people. I think there are a large number — I think that the people around the president have really misjudged what goes on elsewhere in the country, other than Washington, D.C.”
He continued, “I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while. The average Democrat is a progressive. And, you know, there are some things that are upsetting about the kind of deals that were made by the president’s people on health care.”
Long before healthcare reform, there have been tensions between Dean and the Obama people. Political Intelligence reported in 2009 that, “There were tensions, however, between Dean and Obama during the campaign. So Dean was a curious no-show when Obama made a victory lap last week at DNC headquarters to announce Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as the new chairman. While Obama praised Dean, he was at some party event in American Samoa, and some Democrats privately said that Obama’s team had asked him to stay away.”
Dean wanted a job in the Obama administration, and was passed over, and as soon as the public option was dropped Dean started publicly sniping at the administration. Even though Dean’s criticisms might not be coming from a neutral place, he still brought up an interesting point. While Obama has tried mightily to stay out of the presidential bubble, the rest of administration has not. It is rare that you see high level personnel in the Obama administration taking questions in person from the public. It is equally intriguing that even though Obama wanted a “Team of Rivals” style what he ended up with was a lot of like minded individuals with similar professional backgrounds on the economy.
While it is noble that this administration tries to do what is right over what is popular, there is a political price to be paid for unpopular decisions. I would argue that Dean is wrong. The main problem is not that the Obama administration is misjudging America, but it is that this administration has all too often let the opposition define the debate on the issues. They have done a poor job selling their ideas and accomplishments to the American people, so the result is that America likes Obama the person, but it does not give him credit for his accomplishments.
Most of all I think Howard Dean has seen his influence wane since Obama’s election, and he doesn’t like it. Dean made great points elsewhere in the interview about Democrats coming together before November, but in order for this to happen, Democrats like Dean need to embrace what Obama has done and stop complaining about what he still has yet to do. Use what Obama has accomplished as a stepping stone to greater things instead of feeding the bitterness of angry progressives.