The Backlash Against Howard Dean

Dean exhorts Democrats to murder their reform bill, but pundits say he's nuts

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When Howard Dean -- a doctor, former Vermont governor, DNC chair, and 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate -- condemned the current health care reform bill and said Democrats should kill it, he inspired a tide of liberal agreement. But there's another contingent of liberal thinkers who insist that even a bill without a public option would be a crucial development. They and others have responded to Dean's pronouncement with shock, furious that he would undermine the Democratic goal of health care reform. That pushback even includes the White House, with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs blasting Dean today. Here's what the liberal backlash against Howard Dean looks like.

  • 'Irresponsible' Doctor Dean Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat and point man in the fight for health care reform, slams Dean. "It's nonsense and it's irresponsible and coming from him as a physician, it's stunning," he told reporters. "Am I angry that the public option appears to have been dropped? Of course I'm angry. Was I for Medicare buy-in? Of course I was. So what do I do? Do I take my football and go home and sob and complain? No, I look at the bill and say what is in the interest of the people in my state." The Washington Post's Ezra Klein agrees.
  • Dean & Co 'Playing With Fire' The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn reacts to left-wing sulking. "But the best response wouldn't be to demand the politically impossible--that is, to insist upon a restoration of the public plan that simply doesn't have the votes it needs to pass. It would be to demand some other things, like better subsidies and regulation, that do have political potential and could actually make the final bill better. I'm all for a loud, angry left. If nothing else, we need it to balance out the loud, angry right. But there's a fine line between being constructive and destructive. This latest gambit, I think, crosses it."
  • Consider The Long Game The American Prospect's Paul Starr urges Dean. "Liberals in Congress should also recognize that with either a 2013 or 2014 date for implementation, there will be time enough to revise the program before it goes into effect (indeed, time enough for the opponents to roll it back). Many of the specifics, such as the level of subsidies, almost certainly will be changed in the intervening years. And many of those specifics can be changed through budget reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes to pass the Senate," he writes. "If progressives in Congress can see that far ahead, they'll see their way to vote for a compromise."
  • Why He Lost 2004 Presidential Primary The Washington Independent's David Weigel jokes, "Howard Dean is exhibiting all the political skills that made him our 44th president."
  • Dean's Dissent Helping GOP? Twitter user Karoli scoffs, "[T]hanks Howard Dean for handing the GOP its newest talking points. You're a real pal."
  • The Responsible Players The Washington Posts's Ezra Klein surveys the senators who, unlike Dean and Joe Lieberman, he says have acted responsibly and selflessly to pass health care reform. "So let this serve as an encomium to Ron Wyden, Tom Harkin, Chuck Schumer, Sherrod Brown, Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller, among many others. All of these senators could have been the 60th vote. All of them had issues they believe in and worked for," he writes. "But you know what? They're all still there. Because in the end, this isn't about them, and though their states and their pet issues might benefit if they tried to make it about them, the process, and thus the result, would be endangered."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.