Dean Didn't Want To Be President
February 29, 2004 12:28 AM   Subscribe

Dean Didn't Want To Be President In different conversations and in different ways, according to several people who worked with him, Dean said at the peak of his popularity late last year that he never expected to rise so high, that he didn't like the intense scrutiny, that he had just wanted to make a difference. "I don't care about being president," he said. Months earlier, as his candidacy was taking off, he told a colleague: "The problem is, I'm now afraid I might win."
posted by jbou (28 comments total)
I don't suppose anybody has a working l/p for those of us who don't want to register?
posted by Ryvar at 12:49 AM on February 29, 2004

use any of these
posted by mathowie at 12:51 AM on February 29, 2004

well, that meshes well with those of us who wanted him to make a difference but didn't really want him to be president. i guess everything worked out in the end.
posted by kjh at 1:03 AM on February 29, 2004

Any parent will recognise this as the usual 'I didn't want it anyway' routine most kids spout when the lose. 'It's okay I didn't want to be Class President/Quaterback/Etc anyway...'. Oh well at least once he's over the Denial we can go on to Anger, Depression and finally Acceptance stages (and corresponding MeFi FPP's).
posted by PenDevil at 1:51 AM on February 29, 2004

If this is true, and I had contributred money to Dean, I'd be pissed.

Frankly I don't believe that Dean didn't want to win. If he wanted to "make a difference," he wouldn't have blown all his money in Iowa and New Hampshire in an attempt to KO Kerry. $40 million would have went a long way through the primary season, and Dean could have provided a lot more challenge to Kerry than Edwards (who for some reason doesn't want to challenge Kerry).
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:54 AM on February 29, 2004

I think it was Socrates who first wrote about how no one who wants a position of power should be allowed to have one.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:14 AM on February 29, 2004

You're on to something kaibutsu.

Such a refreshing attitude when compared to someone thinking they're "entitled" to be President as a birthright, voters be damned. Anyone not a bit daunted by the task and responsibility of the office is not someone we should want in office as they don't fully understand the weight of the office.

Draft Dean!!
posted by nofundy at 6:41 AM on February 29, 2004

Amen. I'd much rather have a president who is capable of entertaining the occasional doubt about the correctness of his actions. What normal person wouldn't have a "what have I done?" moment upon election, like Robert Redford at the end of The Candidate?

As a Dean contributor, I'm not unhappy at all about where my money went. I think the Democratic nominee will be considerably stronger because Dean brought thousands of people into the process and demonstrated that strong opposition to the president would attract more support than the mealy-mouthed strategy that got us beat like a drum in 2002.

This Howard Kurtz piece is overblown. Of course there was back-biting, bad blood, and chaos behind the scenes of the Dean campaign. That article could be written about any campaign that lost an election.
posted by rcade at 7:09 AM on February 29, 2004

be careful what you wish for is applicable here too.
posted by amberglow at 7:42 AM on February 29, 2004

Going positive is a little like the light side of the force -- sure, you can claim you'll be more powerful than your dark-side spewing opponents can possibly imagine, but when they strike you down, you just disappear into this disembodied voice who gives a little bit of advice and eventually just waves goodbye.

I'm more and more convinced that the reason we saw Kerry get so much support is that he's the only candidate considered dirty enough to stand up to Bush.

Dean claiming he didn't want to be president may be a way of saying, "I still want to make a difference; give me a role in which it's OK for me to do so."
posted by effugas at 7:56 AM on February 29, 2004

This kinda makes sense, given the campaing up to and after Iowa stuff.

Dean didn't spend that much time building a positive campaign, always attacking. It opened up Bush's flank, and things were said that needed to be. It was no longer wrong to call the Presdient on his b.s. Dean took the heat, and now Kerry, probably, will walk forward with that much less resistance. Because of that attacking style, the campaign was doomed to run out of steam. When he kept attacking, and didn't relent, he seemed like he wanted to force himself out.

Or at least that's what I though. How he was shooting himself in the foot with the continued attacks, and then blew his head off in Iowa.
posted by wah at 8:17 AM on February 29, 2004

Sounds like sour grapes to me....
posted by Durwood at 8:28 AM on February 29, 2004

My sister in NH had never been especially political, had never donated money to a candidate, had never worked on a campaign. Then Dean comes along and she's donating money that she barely has and she is out ringing doorbells and making phone calls in the spare time that she barely has. I asked her why the sudden activism and she told me that I had to hear him myself. "It isn't like he wants to be president, it's like he thinks he has to". She was right. I'll be voting for him this Tuesday.
posted by TimeFactor at 8:29 AM on February 29, 2004

I like Dean and respect the positive impact he's had, that of restoring at least one (if not both) of it's balls to a Democratic Party cowed the mad rogue elephant of the latter day GOP.

Though the conflict may prove pelopennesian, in the present the donkey can kick too, and is, possibly, quicker than that pugilistic but ponderous payola-pustule populated pachyderm, partially paralyzed by prophesies of pyrolysis potentiated putrescence and it's potentially also purulent puppet (pygmalion?) prince reverts to his prior paleo-psychic period of petty petulance. His foes no longer placable, himself no Pizzaro, he perhaps pines for a past parental placenta or, psyche now pervious to puny peccadilloes pines, "Perchance I am platyrrhine? Pshaw! - Am I not a pendragon? Ouch! - My piles! - a prune?"

The penile-swinging is on now, with Democrats ponderous for Dean's gift of Viagra pills. As per prophecy, the petit-prince's priapic puissance puckers, perhaps puny, challenged by another, no plebeian, nor pliable, who - minions pullulating - peremptorily pronounces the prince a pollywog : he of little pulchritude, a potentially plutocratic platitudinizing perambulatory philosopher, a Pliny in a pith-helmet perchance, or possibly pious, but no thespian player (think "Platoon"), in physique a pipefish, a pillar (... phallic!) - a potentate who would plow the planet.

The possibilities, the perils!

( "A man, a plan, Panama!" )


Also (from a recent Metafilter thread, "Exiting Deanspace" - "He unlocked all of that anger and outrage and allowed those feelings to unfreeze, unclench and unconstrict so they released and expressed themselves" - Dean as Goatse therapy ? Unclench! Expand ! Expand ! Everything you need to know about Dean
posted by troutfishing at 9:13 AM on February 29, 2004

Dean also pulled a lot of previously detached, disaffected Americans, many in their 20's and 30's who had never before participated as activists - nor even possibly voted (and certainly never in primaries). With Dean they felt ownership, they felt empowered. I hope they can translate some of that engaged enthusiasm to Kerry or to Edwards.
posted by troutfishing at 9:20 AM on February 29, 2004

<currently visualizing troutfishing's post as read aloud by certain cartoon characters>
posted by kayjay at 9:32 AM on February 29, 2004

kayjay - Daffy duck, maybe? Know any good web flash animators?
posted by troutfishing at 10:18 AM on February 29, 2004

Honestly, after reading this article, I didn't get the impression at all that Dean didn't want to be president. The focus of the article is more on a series of missteps and failure to seize the moment, as well as poor coordination of advisors-- who may well have been out of touch about how to deal with the media. That's the story.

I do like the description above that Dean perhaps felt that he had to be president, rather than wanted to be, but I don't think that he intended to run an entirely outsider candidacy the whole time.
posted by deanc at 11:26 AM on February 29, 2004

I get much more of a "Dean picked the wrong people / didn't have the right kind of control over them" vibe off of this piece than the sexier "Dean didn't want to be president" tagline, which Kurtz just throws out there and doesn't really spend any time with -- pretty irresponsible on his part, IMHO, and feels a lot like a cheap shot at an "anti-journalist" candidate. Basically, I agree with rcade. Dean came pretty close to being my candidate for a little while there, and I hope he winds up in a position of influence where he can do the kind of good work he clearly wanted to do.
posted by logovisual at 11:42 AM on February 29, 2004

Dean also pulled a lot of previously detached, disaffected Americans, many in their 20's and 30's who had never before participated as activists - nor even possibly voted (and certainly never in primaries)

You know, I keep hearing this.... but I would really like to see some data to back it up.
Growth in a state's population may mean more people voted overall, but the percentage of eligible voters who actually bothered to go to the polls has been shrinking for years.

A record number of people went to the polls in Iowa, for example, but in percentage terms, the turnout of eligible voters was about the same as in 1988. In Oklahoma, twice as many people voted in the primary last week compared with 2000 -- but that was only 12 percent of the eligible population, which represents a 30 percent decline from 1992 and 1988. Just 9.8 percent of eligible voters showed up in Missouri, again about a third fewer than in 1988. Arizona and Delaware turned out a dismal 6 percent of eligibles, neither close to a record.

The only solid evidence of a truly energized Democratic base was in New Hampshire, where both the absolute number of voters and the percentage of eligible voters set records on Jan. 27.
Washington Post, February 8, 2004, "A Democratic Rush to the Polls? Well . . ."
The myth about Dean is that he jump-started a moribund Democratic party and brought new people into the fold. Upon Dean's withdrawal yesterday, Edwards gave him credit for enlisting "hundreds of thousands of Americans who had never participated in a campaign before." Kerry echoed Edwards. Dean, he said, "has done an extraordinary job of invigorating a whole group of people who were divorced from the political process."

This is nonsense. If Dean had the effect of enlarging the party, there's one place we would have seen it consistently--in the caucuses and primaries. But it didn't happen.

Let's look at the three contests where Dean made the most vigorous effort: the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire and Wisconsin primaries. In Iowa, the Democratic caucuses attracted an impressive 124,333 voters. This wasn't a record. In 1988, the party's official estimate of the turnout was 125,000. In New Hampshire, turnout did soar from 156,862 in 2000 to 219,787 in 2004. But there were only two major candidates four years ago--Al Gore and Bill Bradley--compared to five this year, two of whom come from states bordering New Hampshire. Still, the 2004 turnout is a record.

Not so in Wisconsin, where Dean recently declared he would win. He finished a distant third. The state has 4 million eligible voters, 25 percent of whom voted in the Democratic primary. That was a nice turnout, but 38.9 percent showed up in 1988 and 27.4 percent in 1984.
The Weekly Standard, February 19, 2004, "Dean-O's Demise"
Even CNN's exit polling from New Hampshire, shows that the "youth vote" (18 to 29) was split between the insurgent Dean (34%) and the Washington Insider Kerry (33%). And New Hampshire self-identified "Independents" broke for Kerry over Dean by 37% to 23%.

While I will not argue that Dean didn't influence the primary, he certainly did... there seems little proof or data that Dean brought in new blood...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:49 AM on February 29, 2004

i think its safe to say ... that anyone (john kerry) who is willing to continue campaigning through prostate cancer, with the prospect of being a lame duck president with the mess in iraq, the budget debacle, and a myriad of other national problems (many but not all created or made worse by george w.) ... really wants to be president and to do his part to improve US and the world.
posted by specialk420 at 11:50 AM on February 29, 2004

Sounds like sour grapes to me....
If he actually said it during the height of his popularity, it doesn't seem like sour grapes. It seems more like he was much more realistic about his chances, and the purpose of his campaign, than I usually picture politicians as being.
As to whether he turned out new would have been nice to see some polling directed at that while he was still running ("would you be voting today if Dean weren't running?")...probably too late now. (If there were such polls, I missed them.) I *do* get the impression he had a real impact on the nature of the race, though -- perhaps in his use of the internet, and more definitely in showing by example that it wasn't dangerous to criticise Bush.
posted by uosuaq at 2:58 PM on February 29, 2004

I'm just glad he took the opening salvos of bad publicity for the Democratic party. I didn't like Dean as a candidate (my first choices were Edwards and Clark), but he provided a valuable service. He stirred up a lot of interest and excitement in the primaries by becoming the surprise frontrunner, and then got everyone's attention with a spectacular burnout. He also gave the others more time to get their acts together.

Mel Gibson himself couldn't have done better.
posted by moonbiter at 9:40 PM on February 29, 2004

One more thing:

Kurtz is a shameless whore. And it's no secret for whom he whores.
posted by nofundy at 5:21 AM on March 1, 2004

someone who lost something said they didn't want to win anyway. news at 11
posted by vvv at 6:02 AM on March 1, 2004

Howard Dean has denied the accuracy of thr Washington Post article. Dean said exactly what I thought while reading it:

"The danger of using unattributed sources as Kurtz and so many others do, is that the veracity of the informants can not be evaluated. In this case Kurtz included a significant amount of material which was not true, and produced a story which was greatly exaggerated."

This is starting to sound like Clinton and Republicans. Even after Dean is out of the race, the media still has it in for him.
posted by terrapin at 7:17 AM on March 1, 2004

Not only is Kurtz a whore, he's also a talentless hack.

Note to Rovian Wurlitzer: hire more talented people to whore for you.
posted by nofundy at 7:36 AM on March 1, 2004

Steve_at_Linnwood - There is clear evidence that young voter participation has considerably increased. The extent to which it can be attributed to Dean is not clear, but the numbers are striking (from : "'Alienated' generation gets politically active" [google cache] ) :

"....The number of 18- to 29-year-olds who turned out at the caucuses quadrupled compared with 2000. In New Hampshire, where Ms. Teresi's group spent almost a week knocking on doors, grabbing young people on the streets, and rallying college campuses, the youth turnout was up 50 percent from four years ago. "We think that young people are going to be the swing voters of the 2004 election, be it Dean or Kerry or George Bush," says Scott Beale of the nonprofit Youth Venture, who's working the Granite State along with Teresi. "It's going to be our generation that decides this election."

Political scientists are less sanguine about that, but they are impressed with this year's youth turnout. They attribute it to a variety of factors, from the multicandidate field, which prompts campaigns to reach down to the very bottom of voter lists looking for supporters, to Howard Dean's and Dennis Kucinich's campaigns, which specifically target the under-30 crowd. And military conflicts, like Vietnam, have traditionally politicized the young on both sides of the issue."
posted by troutfishing at 7:59 AM on March 1, 2004

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