Thursday, March 11, 2004

The Enemy of My Enemy, etc.

John Kerry and Howard Dean have buried the hatchet – and promptly stuck it to Bush:

The so-called “handmaiden of special interests” and the man whose “judgment and sense of responsibility” he frequently had denounced raised their hands in unison on Wednesday, two formerly bitter Democratic rivals meeting for the first time to plot the path to their mutual goal: ousting President Bush from the White House.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, welcomed Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont who once seemed his chief political roadblock, to his headquarters here on Wednesday with an ovation by scores of staff members. The two men talked for an hour behind closed doors, guarded by a phalanx of Secret Service agents — but not before Mr. Kerry hugged Dr. Dean and shook his hand for the cameras.

Dr. Dean made no official endorsement of Mr. Kerry but Democrats close to both men said they expect it to come before the end of the month, quashing any concerns in the party that Dr. Dean would not help the ticket.

“During the campaign, we often focused on what divided us, but the truth is we have much more in common, beginning with our fervent desire to send George Bush back to Crawford, Tex., in November,” Dr. Dean said in a statement after the session. “I will work closely with John Kerry to make sure we beat George Bush in November and turn our country around.” [New York Times]

Did anyone really doubt that Dr. Dean would back the nominee? Maybe in the fevered imagination of the Rovenoids, but no one who has watched the Dean campaign since the beginning can say that the race he ran was about him…it was about beating Bush, and he’s still true to his goal.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are all twitterpated about Kerry’s “off-mike” comments about the Republicans.

After he finished his address via satellite from Chicago, Kerry turned around to speak with a group of union workers standing behind him when the feed ended. The conversation was picked up by his microphone, even though he was speaking quietly and assistants were removing it.

“Keep smiling,” one man said to him.

Kerry responded, “Oh yeah, don’t worry, man. We’re going to keep pounding, let me tell you — we’re just beginning to fight here. These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s scary,” replied another worker.

Kerry campaign official David Wade later told reporters that Kerry knew his microphone was on. Wade said Kerry was not calling Bush crooked but was instead referring to Republicans who launched “crooked, deceitful, personal attacks over the last four years.”

Among the examples Wade cited were comments made about former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia during his failed re-election campaign in 2002 and about Sen. John McCain of Arizona during his race against Bush in 2000 for the GOP nomination, as well as doctored photographs placing Kerry alongside Jane Fonda during protests against the Vietnam War.

Blaming the incidents on a GOP attack “machine,” Wade said, “We are going to make it very clear that [Kerry’s] a Democrat who punches back.”

But Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt, in a statement, chided Kerry for claiming “to be the victim of an imaginary smear machine.”

“John Kerry has run a relentlessly negative campaign from the very beginning, and this comment is completely consistent with that,” Schmidt said. “He has offered no plan or positive agenda for the country and has based his entire campaign on a series of false and inaccurate attacks.” “We have seen that again today when he attacked tax relief for American workers. His campaign-trail promises mean he is going to raise taxes by at least $900 billion.” [CNN]

I’ll say this much for the Republicans: they’re consistent. They deny the existence of the smear machine while they’re using it.