Thursday, February 24, 2005

Where's Deano?

Dean Disappears
Has anyone else gotten the impression that Howard Dean must have seen his shadow and gone back underground for six more weeks of winter? The selection of the former Vermont governor as Democratic National Committee chairman came off as expected earlier this month, but what was not expected is the extremely low profile he has taken since winning the job.

A DNC spokesman confirmed Tuesday that Dean has still not been scheduled to appear on any national television or radio talk show as DNC chairman — no interviews, in fact, for at least two more weeks.

Dean's handlers have done everything humanly possible to keep him away from reporters' questions. At the DNC winter meeting where he was elected chairman, Dean was shuttled out the back door from a "meet the candidates" session ten minutes before reporters were to be allowed entry. He disappeared from his own victory party that Saturday night at Capitol City Brewing Co. after his brief speech, in the first 15 minutes.
I don't know about you, but I'm having severe withdrawal symptoms. I want my Deano!

But maybe it's a clever plan:
The official explanation for Dean's disappearance is that he needs some time to "settle in" at the DNC before he meets the press. That's not terribly convincing. First, Dean's need for acclimation isn't stopping him from giving speeches in Kansas and Ithaca, N.Y. in the coming week (he won't have to face reporters at either event), on the heels of his Oregon debate.
As Dean took the reins as chairman, he faced the dilemma of whether he would bicker with Democratic elected officials about the party's direction, or else disappoint his more radical supporters by becoming, as most party chairmen do, a lapdog who barks out the party line as spelled out by others. Dean may have found a third way: a "stealth chairmanship."

As a stealth chairman, Dean avoids both traps. His actions and words need not bear any relation to what Congressional Democrats are doing from the minority, meaning he's much freer to be himself. Even better, Dean's net-negative approval rating (38-percent unfavorable to 31-percent favorable in this month's Gallup poll) will harm the party much less as long as the general public remains oblivious to him.

But the true believers will notice Dean. His very presence at the DNC is supposed to excite the left-wingers who propelled him to small-donor fundraising greatness in 2003 and early 2004. Even as their money continues to pour in and their energy keeps the party's grassroots ablaze, Dean keeps his low profile, making only private fundraising appeals and addressing only highly partisan Democratic audiences in order to rally the faithful.
The wingnut poster boy goes stealth! Sounds like a fine opportunity for citizen journalists of the blogosphere. If you don't mind hanging out with the unwashed.