Sunday, February 26, 2006

Return of the ''Aspen ski bum''

Two from Aspen:
"Coming soon to a congressional election near you -- something akin to the Republicans' Contract with America.

As outlined by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean in Aspen on Saturday, the preliminary points to cover in the agreement will include:
* A raise in the federal minimum wage;
* "Real" stem cell research;
* A balanced federal budget;
* Ethics legislation;
* No selling of public lands "for corporate benefits."

Earlier in his talk, Dean said opinion polls show the people of America are ready for a change from Republican to Democratic national leadership. "So we have to position ourselves as a clear alternative to Republicans," he said.

Dean -- a physician, former governor of Vermont and 2004 presidential candidate -- was the guest of the Aspen Institute and was in town to fundraise and meet with Democratic Party leaders. He started his remarks by telling the audience he moved to Aspen in September of 1971 and his first job was pouring concrete. Later, he washed pots and pans at the Golden Horn from 4 p.m. to midnight, and skied during the day. "Season passes were $250," he said. "I skied 80 days."

The former Aspen ski bum made rapid fire points from start to finish, and started by saying the Democratic Party lacked grassroots organization for the past six or seven presidential elections, but is now better organized in all 50 states.

"We want to run a permanent presidential four-year campaign," he said.

Several times, Dean referred to Republican Newt Gingrich's successful election strategies in the early 1990s, and indicated it's OK to emulate them.

"But there has to be a clear difference" between Democrats and Republicans, he said.

Later, during the question-and-answer session, he said, "If you want to win elections you have to be different from the other guy."

To do that, Dean is working with the Democratic leadership to draft a "value statement" to articulate the party's vision. "We haven't seen this since the 1950s ... and it has to mean something."

Dean didn't spend much time on President Bush, but did say the Katrina Hurricane response was the biggest blow to his presidency. Dean said people around the world always thought the U.S. could adequately respond to a disaster, "But America was exposed" as the government's response "fell apart."

As for the war in Iraq, Dean personally agrees with a strategy that others have voiced that includes: bringing home the National Guard and Reserves, stationing 14,000 special operations forces in a Middle East country near Iraq, sending 20,000 troops to Afghanistan for "a fight worth having" and bringing home the remaining 10,000 troops by 2007.

"We need to take the targets off the backs of Americans," he said.

During the question-and-answer session, Dean said the Democrats must work harder to get their message out, and then pointed to a recent success. He said after the Democrats started referring to the Republicans' "culture of corruption" polls showed the American people believe by a 2:1 margin it's a Republican phenomena, and not Democrat.

So to get the word out and to break through, Democrats must "be concise, clear and repetitive on how they are different from Republicans."

-excerpted from the Aspen Daily News. The Aspen Times also covered the speech, but I like this one better.

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