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Every now any then Howard Dean utters an uncomfortable truth. The media labels them "gaffes," the Republicans attack and far too many Democrats wring their hands and fret about the damage being done.

"If only we would speak more carefully, we wouldn't get attacked," is the lesson far too many of us seem to draw.

A few weeks back, Hoffmania posted an article where some Dems thought Murtha couldn't be attacked - but the GOP tried to attack him anyway. And don't think they've given up either.

The lesson we aren't learning is that defense does not win politics.

There are no safe phrases.

John Kerry is the king of playing it safe. He lost.

The lesson we should learn from Dean's gaffes is not that he shouldn't speak the truth. It's that we need to attack the GOP for their lies. We need a coordinated media strategy. We need Dems out there every day with talking points and issues to drive home.

The next time a Howard Dean, or a Rep Murtha or whoever stands up and says an inconvenient truth we need to repeat those truths straight up - with no waffle.

The next time a Republican says something outrageous (say one of them admits to breaking the law in a nationally broadcast speech - crazy I know, but let's pretend) we need to attack. Every talking head needs to hammer points home attacking those positions from the morning shows to the late night talk shows.

Quit playing defense.  Defense loses. Give up on the idea of safe phrases. No phrase is safe. Give up on thinking that any Democrat will get a free pass from the GOP. Every Democrat will be attacked.

Our beliefs must be fought for. They need people to fight for them.

Originally posted to kevin lyda on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 02:57 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good points! (none)
    But gaffes should be in quotes in your title, please. I thought this was going to be anti-Dean diary. Thanks.

    A liberal is a conservative who's been hugged.

    by raatz on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 03:01:56 AM PST

    •  Funny. (none)
      I didn't draw that conclusion.
      •  Actually (none)
        I did assume that this was an anti-Dean diary from its title.

        I was pleasantly surprised.

        The only problem is that we don't have the mouthpiece factor. The reason that the GOP talking points get parroted like there is no tomorrow is that GOP operatives outnumber Democratic operatives 2 to 1 on CNN, MSNBC, etc. And it's even worse on Fox.

        Until we get some other mouthpieces in the media, our side simply won't be told.

      •  Pleasantly surprised (none)
        here too, and recommended the diary, but I nearly passed it by unread, because of the title.
    •  Nope... (4.00)
      Gets people in a "challenge assumptions" kind of mood.  Too many of us assume there's a way to attack the GOP that will be pure and clear and obvious that we are the part of goodness and light.

      Politics only works that way when you look back.

      Going forward, politics is always dirty and grubby and filled with uncertainty.  If we fight hard and win then maybe years from now people will look back and say, "It must have been great to fight back against those neocons mom/dad back when when your cause was so just and clear.  It's not like today's battles where the lines are so unclear."

      And we can just nod and smile.

      But that's for later.  For now, we have to fight.

  •  Exactly (none)
    We need a coordinated media strategy. We need Dems out there every day with talking points and issues to drive home.

    This is exactly what the GOP is good at: getting every conservative hammering the same few points on any given issue. They're often woefully inaccurate, but if they're not forecefully rebutted, they stick.

    The Democrats are terrible at this. The ones they stick in front of TV cameras often seem to barely understand the issue at hand, much less their position on it. When you have talking points, you at least look like you understand the issue. When there's no effective counter-argument presented immediately, you've won.

    Let the DNC do this: take the issue at hand and summarize our position. Never distort or cherry-pick the facts. Figure out where the GOP will attack before they do, and have counter-attacks prepared. Finally, and most importantly, don't you dare let any Dem who doesn't understand the issue represent the party. I'm really sick of seeing Dems get whipped by the usual Republican talking points.

  •  The are gaffes (none)

     You're right about the GOP Flying Monkeys being adept at zeroing in on Dem screw-ups and Dems being woefully incompetent at doing the same.  And it's the Biden- and Lieberman-type enablers that really, really mess this up but bad.

     That said, Dean does need to be a little more wiley with his words and think things through a bit more as he's saying them.  That's not "being careful", it's smart politics.



    . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

    by BenGoshi on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 04:14:32 AM PST

    •  The = They. [ nt ] (none)

      . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

      by BenGoshi on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 04:15:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  asdf (none)
      That said, Dean does need to be a little more wiley with his words and think things through a bit more as he's saying them.

      Care to elaborate?

      That's not "being careful", it's smart politics.

      What exactly is the difference? When the decision is between telling the truth and going for "smart politics", the choice is easy.

      •  Point being... (none)
        If the truth clashes with your cause, you're probably wrong.
        •  No (none)
          there's several different ways to say the same thing and not give the GOP a soundbite.

          Instead of saying "We can't win" Dean should have said "the Bush Administration can't win this war." Puts Bush on the defensive and gets people talking.

          I'm too disgusted right now to think of a sig.

          by Ga6thDem on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 05:06:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  more: no way (none)
            That would be a dishonesty.  We are not going to win this war militarily.  That's the truth and we should tell it....or we could keep pretending and allow more people to die needlessly.
            •  We are not going to win this war (none)
              militarily, because of what that would take. In order to pacify and occupy Iraq, we would need troops in the order of 300,000 plus, which would mean a military draft. We would need to employ savage tactics similar to the kind employed by Saddam Hussein when he was in power.

              Then, after brutally stifling the insurgency, do we expect democracy to flower?  Hello?

              There's a logic disconnect going on here and Howard Dean is trying to wake us all up to reality.

    •  no way (none)
      we've had enough of being careful and it doesn't work.  There is nothing wrong with what Dean says or how he says it.  
      •  You're so not getting it. (none)

         I'm NOT saying be "timid", or ANYTHING like that; I'm saying don't be STUPID.

         Some Dems are as bad about throwing out false dichotomies as the Reps:  it's NOT a matter of either "be timid/careful" or "fight against Bush/Rovism".  It's a matter of playing smart and wiley and dirty when need be - but think, just think, one or two beats before giving the f'ing GOP a friggin' sound bite.



        . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

        by BenGoshi on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 08:19:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's a cliche, but true . . . (none)
    The Democrats need to fight fire with fire! And take those ridiculous Republican "talking points" and hold them up for the ridicule they deserve. The American public is appalled by the wimpiness of the Democrats and have made it clear in the polls that they want the Dems (or someone) to stand up to the Republican bullies who are bankrolled by sleazy "think" tanks (Krugman has a good column in today's times about it--still not up at yet, though).
  •  I also agree that gaffes should be in quotes (none)
    But on the other hand, I think that Howard did indeed blow it last time by picking the absolutely wrong tack.  He focused on "winning or losing" in Iraq, instead of the "no-win" situation that the Bushites have foisted on us.  In saying that we are bound to lose, he opened the door to ad hominem rebuttals of "coward" and "white-flag waver".  If he had instead said that Bush had put us in a no win situation, they would have been forced to argue why that wasn't the case. May seem like splitting hairs, but I think he blew it in the way he (god forgive me) framed the statement.

    Still, your point is well-taken.  As I've said in other posts here, this is not the time for straddling or finesse (which, btw, Dean also did in his subsequent "clarification"), it is the time for full rhetorical assault.  After all, the latter two strategies have got us right to this point, if you think about it.

    This is why I believe that Impeachment of Bush and
    Cheney should be the rallying cry of the '06 Dem campaign.  The Articles of Impeachment should be our talking points.  

    Jorge's a renegade; there's blood on his hands, oil in his arteries and cyanide inside his glands...

    by nailbender on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 04:20:29 AM PST

    •  No that is not what happened (none)
      Dean didn't focus on winning and losing.  He made a throw away statement and the Right, along with the appeasment wing of the democratic party focused on that one sentence.  He didn't straddle or finese his statement and there is nothing wrong with clarification once for those who didn't get it the first time.  
  •  Good point, but ... (none)
    ...if we were able to respond quickly and effectively to the GOP reaction wouldn't that assume we have in place a media strategies and response mechanisms that Dr. Dean would be the head of and therefore he wouldn't be out making "gaffes" but serving as the point man for our message machine?

    Kind of putting the cart before the horse and then closing the barn door after the horse already got out only it's a donkey not a horse and...oh, nevermind.

    My $0.02.

    If He doesn't support consumer capitalism, ok, then why was He born on Christmas?

    by hoipolloi on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 04:37:01 AM PST

  •  Our problem is the Dems... (none)
    As pointed out above, the Dems are not united.  The Liebermans of this world will negate any message--and they get prime time coverage--
    Don't know how you correct that...
    Few Repubs break away from message--even if they don't agree, they just stay quiet.  Not like our guys who go on every Sunday show and criticize.

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