The Deaniac's Dean

Just watched a lunch-room speech by Howard Dean to 100 or so of his most committed Deaniacs. As one said to me mid-stream, "It's interesting that he's giving the speech here that he couldn't give last night.

What does Dean tell the Deaniacs? Much of what you'd expect -- that intense exposure to their anti-war enthusiasm and lefty agenda:

"I ran for the president because I wanted to balance the budget and expand health care for all Americans," he said. He was a "centrist" who had supported the previous four military interventions: Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and the Gulf War. But then came the Iraq War, which he opposed, mobilizing a passionate anti-war base he hadn't been overly exposed to before. "I noticed folks to the left of me...were saying stuff that turned out to be true."

For instance? "It really is true that corporations have an outsized advantage and an outsized influence" on politics and governance. Also, he said he was surprised to discover that in 2000, "there was a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise the black vote in Florida," led by Jeb Bush: "You can't say that election wasn't stolen." To charges that his supporters yanked him over to the near-Naderite left, he shot back: "Since when is telling the truth radical in this country?"

The Dean influence on the convention is interesting, if a bit muted. Here's the sum of the foreign-policy discussion in his speech last night, from a guy whose whole candidacy was propped up, if only briefly, by boiling anti-war passions on the left:

[I stand for] a foreign policy that relies on telling the truth to the American people before we send our brave American soldiers to fight in foreign lands. I'd like a commander-in-chief who supports our soldiers and our veterans, instead of cutting their hardship pay when they'e abroad, and their health benefits when they get home. [...]

I want to see America restored as the moral leader of the world.

That's it (and it overlaps perfectly with the views of John Kerry, who, unlike Dean, supported the war). But, as one member of Democrats Abroad delegation told me, the Dean-roots mobilization and Internet-savvy strategy is transforming the practices and character of several delegations. Everyone wants a little of that Meetup.com magic, and as 78-year-old Seminole County delegate Lee Wild told me, "It's great what he did energizing all those kids." Or, as the post-Dean speaker said at lunch, putting on a brave face, "Howard Dean got the biggest standing ovation of anyone at the convention!"

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