Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 19, 2004
POLITICS: The Dean Delusion
As Howard Dean exits stage left, it's worth looking back at Clay Shirky's widely-linked analysis of what went wrong:
[T]he hard thing to explain is not how the Dean campaign blew such a huge lead, but rather why we ever thought that lead actually existed. Dean's campaign didn't just fail, it dissolved on contact with reality.
The irony here is rich: Dean spent much of his campaign blasting Bush for relying on faulty intelligence to make decisions and for failing to plan ahead for postwar Iraq. Moreover, his party has hung a lot of importance on corporate scandals and the burst of the tech bubble, both of which were grounded in some way in wildly optimistic overestimates of profitability. And after all that, it turns out that Dean himself was the one who was guilty of the very things he charged the president with: he fell for bad information and didn't have a contingency plan in place if things went badly.
Of course, there's a counter to all this: that Dean's implosion was all about Dean's own statements piling up against him, while events outside his control (i.e., the capture of Saddam) worked to undercut the thrust of his case. And you can argue that, given what a longshot Dean was to start with, it made eminent sense for Dean to pursue a high-risk, no-fallback-position strategy aimed at crushing the opposition in the first two contests (in fact, John Kerry has succeeded by pursuing the same strategy). But the fact is, Dean believed his own BS, and he paid for it.