Bad Matt, Bad Dean

Matt's explosion of opprobrium towards my earlier post on Dean deserves a response. Suffice to say there are two schools of thought on Dean's ascension to the chairmanship: mine, which is that Dean is a highly effective media representative and his primary role should be spokesperson, and Matt's, which is that Dean is an enormously ineffective media rep and should keep his goddamn head down so he doesn't paint the left as liberal. Matt's quite pleased that Dean's proving invisible and apparently focusing on the technocratic responsibilities of the job because he believes that if Dean jumps onto the scene Rove will "wet his pants", assumedly from glee rather than fear.

Maybe so. But likely not. To start, Dean is very good in front of the cameras. Aside from the Scream, which has colored a lot of perceptions, Dean was an enormously capable speaker and debater. More to the point, he was brilliantly clear at delivering his message. That was, if you remember, the center of the pro-Dean argument -- he knew what he stood for amidst a party that didn't. The reason for Dean's clarity is that he's a public pugilist, a simple speaker who likes to attack and pummel his opponent's points. Democrats are desperately in need of just that. It relates to the Rude Pundit's graphic post from this morning, when you've got your opponent on the ground, you don't put your hands in your pockets, whistle a triumphant tune and walk away. You finish the job. Democrats desperately need to close the Social Security fight in a way that strengthens the Democratic brand. But we need some of our people hitting the television in order to do so. As it is, we've got no recognizable, ubiquitous representatives trying to drive the debate. The only one who has the star power to do so, at least theoretically, is Hillary, and she's hanging back in anticipation of 08.

Maybe Matt's fine with that -- I dunno. But I've little interest in just beating back privatization as a policy, I want to smash it as a philosophy. And until we've got some public -- rather than legislative -- strategy for moving that attack forward, we're going to lose our chance on Social Security. When Republicans killed health care, they had Gingrich to twist the knife and, indeed, rip out the heart. His brand of hyper-partisan, wholly public warfare was critical in making Clinton's defeat a Democratic disaster, rather than a foiled piece of legislation. We've got no analogue. And that's why the Social Security fight is hurting us as surely as the Republicans.