THE DLC AND HOWARD DEAN….I think I’m about to reveal some serious political ignorance here, but what the hell. Here goes.

I’ve been reading all day about the DLC’s attack on Howard Dean. Over at Daily KOS, RonK called the DLC memo “an unwarranted, unfounded, overwrought, sorry-assed attack” on Dean, and Atrios said “They’ve pulled a full rectal-cranial inversion.” That sounded mighty juicy, so I went over to read the DLC memo itself.

The memo’s purpose, it says, is to shatter “the five most dangerous myths about the Democratic nominating process.” Given the DLC’s centrist mission, it’s no surprise that their main message is that the future of the party depends on appealing to moderates, not liberal activists.

So far, no surprise. But what about Dean? The memo mentions him twice:

  • “Unlike Gov. Howard Dean, we never forget to give the late Sen. Paul Wellstone credit for coining the phrase, ‘Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.’”

  • “What activists like Dean call the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is an aberration: the McGovern-Mondale wing, defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist, interest-group liberalism at home.”

Both of those sentences are part of myth #1, and Dean is never mentioned after that. What’s more, Dean isn’t the only candidate mentioned. Toward the end of the memo, the authors take a shot at Dick Gephardt: “While Gephardt is right to base his candidacy on ‘big ideas,’ his health plan only underscores the folly of appealing to Democratic activists instead of the Democratic rank-and-file.”

The DLC memo is clearly a very strident denunciation of “liberal activists,” and they do use Dean as an example of this, but was it really full bore attack on him? Frankly, when you combine the DLC’s belief that national security is vitally important with Dean’s vocal opposition to the Iraq war, the only surprise to me is that their criticism of him was fairly oblique.

But here’s the thing: I’m pretty ignorant of insider politics in the Democratic party, so maybe something that looked like a shot across the bow to me was really a tactical nuclear strike designed to leave Dean gasping for breath. Since I don’t know the usual rules of the road for this kind of thing, I can’t say.

So what about it, folks? Which was this, shot across the bow or nuclear strike? Help educate me.

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