Rahm-Obama may have done Howard Dean a huge favor when they froze the good doctor out of the Obama administration. Recall that there was talk of Dean as being head of Health & Human Services or even Surgeon General but this was vetoed by Rahm and Obama. Obama didn’t extend his "team of rivals" concept to one of his biggest rivals and that might turn out to be a historic blunder by Team Obama. Because now, Howard Dean is perfectly positioned to primary Obama in 2012. So what was an initial disappointment to the progressive base might turn out to be a blessing.
Dean can publicly criticize the Obama administration as he did recently when he said the health care bill being advanced in the Senate is not worth voting for. He’s not tied in any way to this administration which is looking more and more like the S.S. Titanic-Obama.
That’s why the Obama administration and its various spin-meisters immediately struck back hard at Howard Dean after his comments on the senate bill. Note that press secretary Gibbs and others in the administration even went so far as to invoke the Dean-is-crazy theme that the mainstream media made up after the so-called "Dean Scream." Dean’s having a "temper tantrum" they have complained (this is discussed below in the paragraph on Jane Hamsher’s diary) in language that calls up the images that were played on in 2004 of an unstable Dean.
Notice too that the Obama administration has been far more critical of Howard Dean, an acknowledged champion of real health care reform, than it has been of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Max Baucus–old-line politicians who have never really favored health care reform from the beginning and have been bought off by big Pharma and insurance companies.
Glenn Greenwald made this very point:
Why didn’t they [the White House] do any of that to the "centrists" who were supposedly obstructing what they wanted on health care? Why didn’t they tell Blanche Lincoln — in a desperate fight for her political life — that she would "never hear from them again," and would lose DNC and other Democratic institutional support, if she filibustered the public option? Why haven’t they threatened to remove Joe Lieberman’s cherished Homeland Security Chairmanship if he’s been sabotaging the President’s agenda? Why hasn’t the President been rhetorically pressuring Senators to support the public option and Medicare buy-in, or taking any of the other steps outlined here by Adam Green? There’s no guarantee that it would have worked — Obama is not omnipotent and he can’t always control Congressional outcomes — but the lack of any such efforts is extremely telling about what the White House really wanted here.
Over at Politico, Jane Hamsher documents how Joe Lieberman’s conduct on the health care bill provides the perfect vehicle to advance the agenda of the White House and Harry Reid. Consistent with that, she independently notes media reports that White House officials are privately expressing extreme irritation with Howard Dean for opposing the Senate bill as insufficient, but have nothing bad to say about Lieberman, who supposedly single-handedly sabotaged what the White House was hoping for in this bill.
an NBC reporter explained how Robert Gibbs used his Press Briefing today to harshly criticize Howard Dean for opposing the health care bill. Why did Gibbs never publicly criticize people like Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman and the like if they were supposedly obstructing and impeding the White House’s agenda on health care reform (this is a point Yglesias acknowledges as a "fair" one)? Having a Democratic White House publicly criticize a Democratic Senator can be a much more effective pressure tactic than doing so against a former Governor who no longer holds office.
Jane Hamsher has written a very lucid diary about this: "White House ‘Irritated’ with Howard Dean, Not Joe Lieberman" right here at Firedoglake. From the video clip attached to Jane’s diary:
"A lot of animosity…from the administration (toward) Howard Dean. They’re not pleased with Dr. Dean speaking out about health care reform…They’re irritated…they’re not too angry at Lieberman…the highest insult was to call him (Dean) "irrelevant"…Dean is having, what one official called, a tantrum…
Credit Pat Buchanan (I never thought I’d write that!) for saying on the clip, too, that what Dr. Dean is doing is calling the bill a fraud, a sell-out to insurance companies.
Why has the Obama administration treated Howard Dean so differently than it has Joe Lieberman? Because the Obama-Rahm team has never ever, even remotely had any common cause with progressivism or with progressives. Don’t believe me? Well, just check out who Obama has chosen as his Chief of Staff–Rahm Emanuel–or who he has chosen as his Defense Secretary–Robert Gates, a George W. pick. And look at how few progressives are working in this administration (far fewer than the number of people from Goldman Sachs). Look too at all the progressive positions that Obama successfully ran on but dumped as soon as the election returns came in: FISA, DADT, DOMA, NAFTA renegotiation etc.
Dean, of course, is a progressive. The Obama White House also recognizes that Dean, should he want to, could be a political threat to their sand castle presidency.
Think about it. If Howard Dean wants to (and I don’t know that he does, I have no insider information), he could primary Obama in 2012.
He’d have lots of advantages. Dean has national name recognition. He can crank up a campaign quickly and attract the best people. He’s a Washington, D.C. outsider since Obama-Rahm did him the favor of not letting him in on their gig. He has the backing of most progressives and liberals, the very people who worked hard to win the primaries and the general election for Obama.
If the progressives and liberals bolt from Obama as they surely will if Dean challenges Obama, that leaves Obama with the Blue Dogs in the Democratic primaries in 2012. The progressives and liberals control the path to the Democratic party nomination, that’s why Obama garbed himself in progressive clothing in 2008 but his stealth candidacy has now exposed him for what he is: a DLCer. Obama doesn’t have the warmth of Dean or Clinton to overcome his DLC positions and win the nomination.
Moreover, Dean can use the "change mantra" on Obama in 2012. Wouldn’t it be a pleasure to see Dean taking the 2008 Obama position and Obama taking the W role in 2012?
Far fetched? Not really. Remember that in 1968 an obscure Senator by the name of Gene McCarthy (not RFK) challenged the mighty incumbent, LBJ. In the very first democratic primary, in New Hampshire, LBJ won but McCarthy came close. Just days before the April primary in Wisconsin, with polls showing McCarthy would decisively beat the president, LBJ announced he would not run again for the presidency.
Guess who’d win in 2012? My moneys on Dean and that is precisely why Gibbs and the Obama administration are pummeling him and not Lieberman. Progressives and liberal Democrats are the real enemy of this administration, not the Republicans because Obama is really a Rockefeller-type Republican. Rockefeller-Republicans were/are known for their unabashed support of big business and Wall St. coupled with a virulent and hawkish, expansionist view of American Empire and bread and circuses for the masses. Doesn’t that describe Obama’s agenda perfectly?
Let’s hope that Dean takes advantage of the situation and announces soon that he will primary Obama.