Tuesday, December 23, 2003

"Frontrunner Dr. Dean is Mr. Flip-flop"
My new column about Howard Dean flip-flopping all over the place ...
One of the great things about politics is the opposition research team. These groups of well-paid, hired hands hunker down in front of microfilm, rifle through paperwork and scan videotapes, in search of all kinds of secrets about a candidate. Sometimes, the hired guns strike pay-dirt - finding a nugget of hidden information they can forward to an eager reporter looking for a hot story.
In the 2004 Democratic primary, research teams have been camped out in Vermont, rummaging though all kinds of information on renegade frontrunner former-Gov. Howard Dean. Since Dean has sealed all his personal files - until 2013 - most of the good stuff will be hidden from the public until then. However, that doesn't mean these teams haven't found anything. Voters are discovering that Dean has flip-flopped on a number of important issues.
Last week, thanks to Sen. John Kerry's research team, it was revealed that Dean actually supported the Biden-Lugar resolution, a mechanism that President George W. Bush could have used to invade Iraq - without a vote from Congress. According to the Associated Press, the resolution Dean supported was only slightly different than the one the Senate adopted.
Kerry's rallying cry? "The facts are now clear: Dean supported giving the President the authority to go to war. Only when he determined it to be politically advantageous, did he take an anti-war stance."
Rep. Dick Gephardt's team has been extremely successful in revealing Dean's flip-flopping.
The first was Dean's rhetoric about lost manufacturing job while at the same time being a champion of "free trade." While campaigning in Iowa last month, Dean complained to the Scripps Howard News Service that, "the manufacturing sector just keeps losing jobs and people wind up taking jobs with no benefits," quickly forgeting his own role in these job losses.
Back in 1993, Dean was a cheerleader for NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, even participating in a press conference with then-President Bill Clinton to show his support for the trade treaty. Dean told the Rutland Herald on Nov. 16, 1993 that NAFTA would create jobs in Vermont and help clean up the environment in Mexico.
However, the opposite occurred: 10 years after its passage, the environment in Mexico is worse than before and over 1.6 million low skill decent wage jobs have moved there from our country. In Dean's home state, exports dropped by 38 percent. An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found over 44,000 jobs have been lost in Massachusetts due to NAFTA, 6,000 in New Hampshire.
Even though some evidence shows that free trade is bad for most American workers, that hasn't stopped Dean [and others] from supporting other bad trade bills, like PMFN trade relations with China. No one really needs to be reminded that China is still a communist dictatorship - one step barely above Saddam Hussein - a country that tortures its people, is involved in piracy, and slave and prison labor.
One other issue which has received a lot of play in the news is Dean's positions on Medicare.
While Dean is now campaigning in support of Medicare, as governor, he supported the 1997 Balanced Budget Act which proposed gutting $200 billion from Medicare - the same cuts that then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich supported. Gingrich cracked that Medicare was "going to wither on the vine" and the government was shut down in a reckless game of chicken with Clinton. Dean's diagnosis at the time was clear: Gut the health plan of poor retirees to balance the budget.
Then, there were the Dean tax breaks for Enron and hundreds of other big corporations, a story someone leaked to the Boston Globe. During his 11 years as governor of Vermont, Dean implemented tax breaks for a number of big corporations, including Enron, to set up insurance businesses. He then signed a measure into law that would reduce public disclosure requirements on the companies that received the tax windfalls. In 2001, Dean said he wanted Vermont to "overtake Bermuda" as the "world's largest" haven for captive insurance industries.
Dean now campaigns against Bush, stating he gave away the store to "Ken Lay and the boys who ran Enron." Isn't this kinda hypocritical?
Another example was Dean's supposed support for college kids. On the stump, Dean said he supports more spending on college education. But according to the Burlington Free Press [Jan. 23, 1992], to balance the budget that year, Dean proposed cutting funding for the Vermont Student Assistance Program, a program which provides aid to poor college students. A few years later, in 1995, Dean proposed eliminating the Vermont Student Assistance Corp., the state student aid agency to "increase efficiency," according to a Montpelier Times-Argus article [Oct. 19, 1995]. The proposal would have ended aid to 3,700 needy students.
On campaign finance reform, Dean has also flip-flopped.
Back in March, he said he would accept matching funds for his presidential campaign, promising to make it an issue in the primaries if others opted out of the public financing system. Then, last month, Dean opted out of the system, choosing to follow the path Bush paved to almost absolute political corruption.
Now, we are all human. People can and do change their minds. But after looking at some of the research done on Dean it becomes clear that he can't seem to hold any political values.
Simply put, Dean's flip-flopping borders on the pathological.
Whether the current Democratic frontrunner's flip-flopping will damage him or not remains to be seen. But the information gathered by his opponents is enough to make a person wonder about Howard Dean. And it is enough to wonder whether he is qualified to be president.