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Night Owl - Knowledge is the Past. Wisdom is the Future.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Sharpton Uses GOP Hatchetman to Smack Dean. Now Dean Can Smack Back
With all of the post-mortems on Dean's performance in Iowa, one thing that doesn't get talked about much is Sharpton's attack on Howard at the last debate.

Howard clearly did NOT want to tussle with Al 'the Porcupine' Sharpton over Dean's supposed lack of hiring of racial minorities to Vermont Cabinet positions. There seemed to be no purpose in getting into a racially charged debate which might upset the minority voters Howard has tried so hard to court. Besides, Carol had his back and took Al down a peg as only she could.

Yet, in retrospect, this duck-and-cover strategy looks like a big mistake. White voters as a whole are not racist, but they resent UNFOUNDED charges of racism bitterly.

Howard should have stood up to Sharpton more strongly and called him out on his specious charges. Dean should have pointed out that less than 1% of Vermonters are black, and that hiring minorities from out of state (as Sharpton also said he should do) would have been unfair to in-staters to whom Dean, as Governor, owed his first allegiance. (He also might have asked how many Aleutians Al has hired. Al would have said 'What?' and Dean could say there are as many Aleutians in America as there are blacks in Vermont - just a thought).

I think Howard lost a lot of credibility with Iowa whites when he did not stand up to Al's demagoguery the way he stands up to Bush's. As much as I hate the term, this truly was Dean's 'Sister Souljah' moment* - and he blew it.

Now we find out that long time GOP consultant Roger Stone who has worked for Nixon, Reagan, and even DUBYAH, is an UNPAID consultant to Sharpton's campaign, and most likely was the person behind Sharpton's premeditated smear at the debate.
"I don't share his politics (says Stone). Let's be very clear, if you check the F.E.C. records you will see I am supporting George W. Bush. I am a Reagan Republican."

But the men have found a common agenda in the Democratic primary. They have delighted in skewering Dr. Dean, with Mr. Sharpton generating one of Dr. Dean's lowest moments in a debate when he forced him to admit he had no blacks or Hispanics in his cabinet when he was governor of Vermont.

"I saw Roger's fingerprints all over that," said the developer Donald Trump, who has worked with Mr. Stone over the past two decades.
We've seen this type of GOP meddling before. During the 2000 Presidential campaign, Ralph Nader failed to disavow ads supporting him which were paid for by GOP related groups, in hopes of drawing support away from Al Gore. But the GOP isn't really to blame here, it's the candidate who accepts the support, knowing full well that he is being used to torpedo the more viable progressive candidate. It is the politics of ego over cause - and it stinks.

But for Dean there is a silver lining here. The revelation of a longtime GOP operative in the Sharpton campaign is great ammunition for Howard to use against Al at the next debate. Without necessarily focusing on race, Howard can still 'smack down' Al by exposing his hypocrisy.

Moreover, there is a real opportunity to sink Sharpton's ambitions to take over the mantle of minority leadership from Jesse Jackson. All Howard needs to say is, "You claim to want to be the next Jesse Jackson. Well Al, Jesse never hired a Republican to run his campaign. That's the difference between you and Jesse Jackson."

And with that, Howard might just undo his 'Sister Souljah' mistake, and recapture the support he lost at the last Iowa debate.

*For those who may not remember, during the 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton disavowed the racially charged comments of rap artist Sister Souljah, and gained much support with whites as someone who would stand up against racial demagoguery of any stripe.

Posted by Night Owl at 11:52 AM PST

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