Another Howard Blackout: Don't Assume Everyone Knows Dean's Defeatist Comments

December 11th, 2005 6:46 AM

While conservative talk radio blazed this week over DNC chair Howard Dean's comments on Iraq, that the idea we're going to win is "wrong," an important question arises: did the average American who does NOT listen to talk radio, but relies on network morning or evening news, hear the same uproar? Are the aware of the brouhaha? Don't bet on it. A quick search of the name "Howard Dean" in Nexis from Sunday to Friday showed no Dean mention on ABC. None on CBS. NBC had this snippet on Wednesday morning from Kelly O'Donnell: "The president dismissed comments from Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean, who compared Iraq to the Vietnam war." That's the closest the networks came.

What if you live in fly-over country and read the national papers online, or bought copies across the country of USA Today, or the New York Times? If you read USA Today last week, you'd know nothing of Dean's comments. The New York Times mentioned them in an A-5 story by Sheryl Stolberg on Wednesday headlined "Democrats Still Search for Plan on Iraq." Dean surfaced in paragraph 13. The Washington Post was rare for putting the story front and center on Tuesday, in a story by Jim VandeHei and Shailagh Murray headlined "Democrats Fear Backlash at Polls for Antiwar Remarks" featuring Dean's comments in paragraph two, on the front page. How about National Public Radio?

That was interesting. Their two primary news shows, "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," avoided Dean as the networks did. (Omission is always funny on a show called "All Things Considered.") But other, less widespread NPR shows featured some interesting talk on Friday, as the week-in-review instinct kicked in.

On "News and Notes With Ed Gordon," their show focusing on black issues, Gordon brought up the issue with his pundit panel. "Let's turn our attention now to Democrats who, it is said now, are splitting themselves over how to deal with the anti-war speak, if you will, coming from their party, particularly the comments that we heard from Howard Dean this week with his suggestion that the idea--this is a quote--that 'the idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong.' There is now concern from some Democratic corners, Mary Frances Berry, that this anti-war talk--the strength of it, the zeal of it--may indeed backfire on many of these Democrats as congressional elections roll around."

Mary Frances Berry, a professor and former head of the federal Civil Rights Commission, declared: "Well, one of the things that truly amazes me is how the Democratic leadership at the congressional caucus and all of the Democratic leaders are always telling the press about divisions in their party. You could see all the quotes there from different Democrats saying, `Yes, there are divisions,' while Republicans don't do that." What? She's apparently never heard of John McCain, or the other "Even Republicans" who the press uses to say "Even Republicans think this or that Bush strategy is wrong."

Michael Meyers (not the Michael Myers of "Austin Powers") of the New York Civil Rights Coalition was much harsher: "I think it's interesting that so many Democrats are beating a quick path away from what might call the clarity of their so-called leader, Howard Dean. They're actually seeing that Howard Dean does not speak for Democrats. Look, so many of these Democrats are so disingenuous, craven, feckless, pusillanimous, wishy-washy, criminally weak sisters."

On the NPR show "Day to Day," a show produced in a partnership with the liberal website, host Alex Chadwick played the clip, but Juan Williams sounded very much like the spinning liberal media (back to courageous, hawkish Murtha!) in response:

Dr. HOWARD DEAN (Chair, Democratic Party): The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong. And I've seen this before in my life, and it cost us 25,000 brave American soldiers in Vietnam, and I don't want to go down that road again.

CHADWICK: Juan, I think what he's referring to, the 25,000 dead in Vietnam, he means additional troop lives lost after it started to become clear things were not going well. So is this the position of the Democratic Party? Does the Democratic Party have a position?

WILLIAMS: Well, they're very confused, Alex. And in fact, though, Howard Dean was out at a meeting of Democratic Party leaders in Arizona last weekend and said basically he thought that there was a need to support the idea of a troop presence in Iraq for at least two more years. You wouldn't know that from the statement you just heard. And of course, Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats' leader in the House, has now come out in support of John Murtha's position, the congressman from Pennsylvania. A strong supporter of military and a military veteran himself has said he thinks that the US forces should be out of Iraq within six months.