Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 7, 2010 11:58PM

Chief Of Staff Howard Dean Would Fire Up The Left

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It's been widely reported that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will soon leave to run for mayor of Chicago.  The White House is said to be unhappy with the timing of Mayor Daley's announcement that he will not seek reelection, but they should be thrilled. 

Emanuel's reputation as an iron-fisted dictator has probably, on balance, been helpful to President Obama's agenda, but the progressive left, Obama's natural supporters, have been unhappy with Emanuel's willingness to cut unsavory deals with Republicans who will never support the president.

The biggest problem facing Democrats in the 2010 midterms is that their base of progressive, liberal voters is taking a nap... and arguably a well deserved one. 

The White House has either failed to deliver or delivered watered down versions of many of Obama's lofty campaign promises.  Health care looks like a massive gift to Blue Cross.  Wall Street reforms are as toothless as a new born baby.  We're still killing the wrong people and Guantanamo still has movie night on Thursdays.

The White House is running out of time to stop the expected Republican tsunami in November, but in view of Emanuel's anticipated departure, there is one name that could put the Democrats chances back in play:  Howard Dean.


Yes Dean's a little crazy but so what.

*    *    *    *

Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel do not like each other.  They butted heads over Dean's "fifty state" strategy while he was head of the DNC.  Dean's goal was to expand Democratic opportunities in all fifty states while Emanuel, then a Congressman from Illinois and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wanted to focus resources and energy on winnable seats.

Dean guided the Democratic party to huge victories in 2006 and 2008 but as long as Rahm Emanuel was running the show at the White House, he would be relegated to appearances on "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" and the oft lied about desire to "spend more time with his family."

Howard Dean is a beloved figure on the left.  He's seen as every bit as tough as Emanuel but infinitely more principled.  He is smart, tenacious, and not afraid to stand up to the people that would like nothing more than to see Barack Obama as a one term president.

Whether it's true or not lefites believe that if Howard Dean had been Chief of Staff the promises of then candidate Obama might have resulted in a few more Rose Garden signing ceremonies.

For Obama this should be a slam-dunk decision.  The appointment of Howard Dean would send a strong message to his disillusioned base that he's going to move back to the left.  An energized liberal base will not stop inevitable Republican gains but they may very well keep Nancy Pelosi in the Speaker's chair and Congressional subpoenas away from the Oval Office.

President Obama's reaching out to the GOP has only resulted in alienating his base.  He gives the GOP much of what they say they want and they still vote "no."   

The strategy, largely conceived by Emanuel, to seek Republican support for his initiatives, was flawed from the beginning.  The GOP will not give the despised President Obama kudos for anything.  If Barack Obama personally sliced off  Osama bin Laden's testicles and nailed them to a tree, the GOP would wonder why he didn't do it sooner. 

Rahm Emmanuel thought that moving Obama to the middle would ensure a successful first term. 

If given the chance, Howard Dean won't make that same mistake.


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Dean's a lot crazy, not a little. Whatever struggles the Obama White House is having, losing Rahm Emanuel won't help them.
I like Emanuel but if he's going to leave, why not placate and energize the base? I'm hearing Tom Daschle as a possible replacement. Good guy but zzzzzzzzzzz.

Thanks Kathy!
Howard Dean is my favorite Democratic Party leader along with Joe Biden. He is just neither indirect or mealy-mouthed enough for some tastes.
And I loved his "Aaah!" scream that time - I've often thought that he meant something along the lines of Tink's "Woo-woo!" and found it to be truly endearing.
I used to think that I really liked Rahm too, but like the hook-line to a song I once wrote, "The Better I got to Know You (Him) the Easier it Got to Say Goodbye!".
(R)ated for portraying the inimitable Howard Dean in a well-deserved positive light.
Outstanding. This post is as good as any article in the N Y Times. Roger, you are right on.

@Kathy. Obama's attempt to cooperate with the GOP was a total failure and cost him. I'm assuming that the "advisor" Rahm may not have initiated the attempt at bipartisanship , but he was remiss in not trying to end it. As a layman, It only took me three or four months to determine that reconciliation was impossible. Obama was in the position of offering cooperation while the GOP, and their mouthpiece FOX News, was bombing the crap out him and his programs. I agree with Roger. I think that Dean would be tougher.
I like Dean, but I'm just not sure if he's the answer. Rahm's point of reference was Big Willy and he moved to the center during his presidency. What about Podesta or maybe David Plouffe?
Howard Dean in the COS position? Now crazy or not, I admire Howard Dean for...well for just not being a pussy...cat, and a smart, principled guy too of cousre, but I can't see him in the West Wing. Rahm was an odd fit for Obama too, but they had that Chicago thing and Rahm is a staffer. But Howard Dean, he's an executive type. You see what I mean?

Someone wrote this morning about Obama losing his mojo...how the stink of failure is all over him like cheap cologne. Sadly, I have to agree with that assessment, but I just can't see Dean as savior for this White House. Hopefully the Obama team will just find some way to reboot.
Oh, and by the way, great post!
Where do I sign to draft Howard Dean?

I'm so SICK of giving the Republicans everything they want! I want to see them out in the cold, whining, instead!

One little "Aaah!" of frustration is the only evidence I've EVER seen of Dean's alleged "craziness." I sure as hell didn't think his 50 state strategy was crazy--it paid off, big time. I want to see MORE of Howard Dean in a prominent influential party position and a lot LESS of Rahm Emmanuel. Moving to the middle does not work for Democrats. So when is the DNC going to realize that moving left does? Dean deserves a lot more credit than he's had, so far.
Love love love Howard Dean.

A refreshing choice, I think.....spot, friggin' on.

Thanks for posting this, Roger!
Dean may be crazy, but he is tough, smart, and a producer of results. R- So, who isn't crazy in Washington?
Good thinking, Roger.
A great column, and a great idea! Howard Dean would be such a breath of fresh air in the White House. Not only is he principled, but his strategies have been proven as successful as Emanuel's have been disastrous.
Sorry to puncture the balloon, but the sheriff is campaigning very hard already in Chi Town, and the word is the Rahmster's staying in place through the election biz.
I agree that O needs to reach out to the left base. If Dean would lean him in that direction, great.
I definitely agree that the "changers" need changing themselves. An Emanuel exit might be just what Obama needs.
Tom Daschle is just another corporate Democrat. His current income is well-fatted by his lobbying for the "health" industry.
As much as I would love to see Dean, or even his brother in this position, I just dont see the centrist Obama making such a bold move.
On the other hand, if Dean leaked that he would consider challenging Obama from the left in '12, it would behoove Obama to move him in now.
I for one would not miss Emmanuel.
I miss Howard Dean too and would welcome the chance to have him back in a position of power - for the reasons you state. I am one of the "progressive, liberal voters" who has grown more disgruntled each month since Obama took office. He panders to the right too often, then fumbles anyway, to what end. I thought ht needed to shake up his inner circle long ago. But with Dean - how interesting and yes, could be what's needed to bring back the supporters of "Yes, We Can." Thanks also for evaluating an interesting issue so close to my Chicago heart. I could not be happier to see Daley go.
Howard Dean is out there, but what the hell sounds like fun
Thank you all. I understand that Dean might not be the right fit for the job but if President Obama wants to wake up his base, this would be a good way to do it.

Thanks all for the reads and comments!
I'm not entirely sure a polarizing figure like Howard Dean would be the right choice right now. On the other hand, all of Obama's attempts at even-handed bipartisanship have failed because the right just doesn't want to cooperate. So, maybe a SOB like Dean would be the anecdote to that!
Frankly, I would have agreed with you a couple of weeks ago - before Dean came out against the Park Place Muslim community center. We need conscientious, intelligent politicians who will neither pander to fear nor bow to threat. I used to think he was one of those. Now, not so much.

(You know, Roger, you can go to your edit function on the posts and delete those annoying ads. It doesn't take that much time.)
Yes, this gets a harrrumph out of me! We need some fire in our belly. The Obama Administration has been entirely too cautious and too accomodating with the Republicans. Dean wouldn't let them forget who they are and why they're there.
I don't care who it is as long as it's someone who has the courage to call a spade a spade and take the hit for what they believe is best for the country!
Don't underestimate Tom Daschle. The guy is incredibly smart and incredibly well-like, even in the snakepit known as Congress. Personally, I like the idea...
I have to take a contrary view, naturally. What is needed in there is a diplomatic who understands how congress and senate operate. Emanual came out of that environment. A tad chippy, perhaps, but he knew the players and the process. Reagan had James Baker who did well and then later Howard Baker, who came out of the senate.

Furthermore, I question a swing left. If we are correct in asserting the swing right of the tea party movement marginalizes republicans who get tarred with the same brush, then how is it helpful to hew ever leftward?

Neither, strident wing of the parties accurately represents the national mood. It's been this way for quite some time now. The moderates of both parties have bailed, leaving a bunch of junkyard dogs sitting there barking at their own echos while the public more in the middle screams simply ENOUGH!

And hence the huge swings in congressional elections of 1994 and 2006. They are fed up with this. They want action. Rationalize, temperate action.

Dean's a bright guy, but he has precious little experience with a legislature as he was a VT governor. I loved his comment about "Guns, God and Gays don't have a thing to do with the running of this country" when he was a presidential candidate, and I enjoy him on talking head shows, but a Chief of Staff he is not. A useful figure for your side of the aisle, to be sure, but not in that capacity.
Since the Chief of Staff doesn't make too many public appearances, Dean's craziness, which is certifiable, shouldn't be too much of a liability.

What Becky Boop said... and hey Gwool, it's called raising the ante, getting something in the pot that we actually want to win, and not more chump change. Or why even play the game? Just let the Republigarchs do what they like.
celebrity gossip is a hell of a substitute for democracy.
Dean's not crazy at all — unlike Obama, he's actually willing to do and say the things to accomplish the goals he has set. The only reason he didn't get on the ballot for president a few years ago is because of his high-pitched "ahhh" moment, caused by his voice giving out after a few too many campaign stops. After that, the media portrayed it as demonstrating that he was "crazy", because their corporate masters didn't want him to get elected.

Obama and our so-called leaders got themselves into this mess by not confronting the Rethugs and pushing their agenda. Behaving as though the threat of a filibuster is a death blow to passing a bill, without actually making them filibuster is a sure way to alienate your base and accomplish none of your campaign promises.

The terms "left of center" "center" and "right of center" are euphemisms for Progressive, Atheist, and Rethug; there's no point in moving to the "center", as that tells everyone you don't believe your own rhetoric, so your fellow supporters shouldn't believe you, either.

Yes, Obama could certainly use the wisdom of Howard Dean, if he would only listen. But history has shown us so far that he's unwilling to do what's right and necessary.