February 10, 2004

Dean-ial: Debunking "The Unmaking Of A President-2004 By Carl Jensen"

I wrote the message below for a mailing list, to partially debunk an article on the Howard Dean campaign meltdown, "The Unmaking Of A President-2004 By Carl Jensen". While I have much sympathy for Howard Dean for his suffering a post-Iowa attack of negative pack-journalism (as opposed to his previous months of positive pack-journalism), I can't see this as any sort of willful reaction by Big Media against The Reformer. That's persecution fantasy. It's much more romantic to imagine being hunted down as an Enemy Of The Status Quo, than ignominiously stampeded by a herd of journalist-cattle all MOO-ing after the gotcha. But death by stupid stampede is just as fatal as death by malevolent hunt.

Carl Jensen's article is extremely selective in quoting. To start with one howling example:

> The research Center does not cite any major donors for Dean.

Ahem? http://www.bop2004.org/bop2004/candidate.aspx?cid=8&act=cp

The number-1 donor for Dean is ... drumroll ... Time Warner!

Time Warner $65,225

That does compare favorably to Kerry, where Time Warner is number 3

Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo $230,796
FleetBoston Financial Corp. $182,387
Time Warner $140,710

But note those are career numbers, and Kerry has been in Washington politics for many, many, years.

> As we know, the majority of his contributors are ordinary citizens
> who donate an average of $77 dollars. Dean's "special interest group"
> is the American people.

Bleh. The "majority" of almost any group of contributions will be by ordinary citizens, simply as a function of numbers. But $65,225 in contributions is worth quite a few $77 contributions.

Howard Dean is not exactly without sin, from the same Center:

"While governor, Howard Dean pushed for utility contract provisions that aided the power companies, but cost Vermont families millions of dollars in skyrocketing rates. Vermont has the sixth highest utility rates in the country, due in part to a series of long-term contracts between its major power companies. After years of pushing for Central Vermont Public Service Corp. and the smaller utilities it held to absorb the excess costs of their expensive contracts, Dean's Department of Public Service agreed to let ratepayers be billed for more than 90 percent of the excess costs -- which could soar into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Central Vermont Public Service Corp. donated more than $10,000 to Dean's Fund for a Healthy America PAC -- a hefty contribution in a state that limits campaign contributions for statewide offices to $400."

Regarding media coverage:

> The results of the CMPA study, released January 15, 2004, revealed that
> Gov. Dean received significantly more negative criticism on the
> network broadcasts while his Democratic presidential competitors
> received significantly more positive comments. The research examined
> 187 stories broadcast on the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news in 2003.

Well, he was the front-runner during much of that time, and hence should be expected to receive more criticism. Note the timing problem here: (my emphasis)

> Also on November 19, the Associated Press reported, "Dean, the > former Vermont governor, said Tuesday that if elected president, he
> would move to re-regulate business sectors such as utilities and media
> companies to restore faith after corporate scandals such as Enron and
> WorldCom."
> Dean's idea of re-regulating two out-of-control business sectors
> produced criticism from some of his competitors and surely struck a
> raw nerve within monopolistic utilities and mega-media companies.
> I believe Dean's progressive attack on monopolies helps explain why
> the corporate media started piling on Dean, portraying him with the
> pejorative term of the "angry candidate."

But the CMPA says (my emphasis):


"The Gore Effect--Dean's coverage improved dramatically in December, when nearly one-third of his 2003 coverage occurred. Twenty-eight percent of all on-air descriptions of Dean were positive through the first eleven months of the year, while his coverage spiked to 59 percent positive in December, the month he received the endorsement of former Vice President Al Gore."

While I'll agree the media coverage of Dean has been unfair at times, especially post-Iowa, there's too much of an attempt to force that into a directed attack because of his alleged threat as a supposed supporter of re-regulation/The Internet/People Power/Blog Triumphalism/etc.

I suggest reading an analysis by Clay Shirky: "Exiting Deanspace"

"You can ring doorbells and carry signs and donate and stay up til 4 in the morning talking with fellow believers about the sorry state of politics today, and you still only get one vote. If you want more votes than that, you have to do the hardest, most humbling thing in the world. You have to change someone else's mind."

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on February 10, 2004 09:46 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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