Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean traveled to Capitol Hill on Thursday for what amounted to a visit to the political woodshed. Meeting with Senate Democrats, Dean was essentially told to hire a couple of speechwriters and stick to a script.
Dean had been invited to the meeting before his last public embarrassment, when he claimed the Republican Party was nothing more than a bunch of Christian, white males, and while he expected some kind of a tongue lashing from his Democratic colleagues, he also had come prepared to lecture them on party communication and coordination.
"He hasn't been happy with the support the DNC has been getting from the Hill," says a DNC adviser to Dean. "He feels he and the party are being given short shrift."
Dean never got the chance to unload.
Democrats privately have been happy with Dean's red-meat-but-no-brain comments, which have given the mainstream media plenty to report on, while allowing them publicly to disavow Dean's dementia.
"You have to understand the relationship between the Democrats and the mainstream media," says a Democratic political strategist. "Dean says outrageous things about Republicans, then the MSM reports on that crazy Howard Dean, then, being mainstream media, they report on Tom DeLay or something. On some level, there are a lot of Democrats who think that Howard Dean is helping us, if only because it disguises the fact that our House and Senate guys have nothing to say and no ideas."
That's not what House and Senate Democrats necessarily believe. Last week, when Senate Minority leader Harry Reid called a press conference to discuss the Dems' legislative agenda, he could barely get a word in on policy, and in the end deflected and disavowed Dean.
"It's getting to the point where Dean may be just a two-year, transitional party leader," says a senior Democratic Senate leadership aide. "He might stay in place, but there would be another, more ideologically centrist figure there to overshadow him. Dean thinks the party needs to talk tough, there are a lot of us who think the party just needs to talk sense."
BOXER GETS LOOSE
Sen. Barbara Boxer may be putting on a tolerant face for the Senate confirmation hearing for Rep. Christopher Cox, President Bush's nominee to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, but that doesn't mean that she isn't going to try to embarrass Cox or the Bush Administration.
Already, Capitol Hill reporters have been receiving material from sources connected to Boxer dealing with Cox's role as a securities lawyer in the 1980s for the law firm of Latham & Watkins. Cox did work for First Pension Corp. and the company's founder, William E. Cooper, who pleaded guilty to felony charges in connection with the First Pension scandal that saw investors lose more than $100 million.
Cox was never drawn into the scandal, and there has never been any evidence that he was ever involved or even aware of the company's illegal behavior.
But Boxer staffers are apparently trotting out pieces of an opposition research file the California junior senator's campaign has kept on Cox, and the First Pension story is part of it.
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