The Note

So this was all set off by the Washington Post 's Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz, telling the world that Dean and Clark met privately in California over the weekend, and Dean asked Clark to join him if Clark decides not to mount his own bid for the White House. LINK Clark played coy about the meeting — the fourth time they've sat down mano a mano.

"Asked about reports that the two men had discussed a wide range of issues, including endorsing Dean, joining the campaign, possible roles in a Dean administration and the vice presidency, he said only, 'It was a complete tour of the horizon.'"

Some think this could be a political dream team, with ads, money and a devoted following — not to mention that whole Internet thing.

But then there are the downsides. Clark's never run for office and at the moment — despite talks with strategists like Gore 2000 communications guru Mark Fabiani — doesn't have an organization.

VandeHei and Balz remind us all that Clark's scheduled to speak Sept. 19 at the University of Iowa, and maybe then he'll announce his intentions and let us all exhale.

It was up to the AP's Fournier to add some perspective back in:

"Officials close to Dean said there is no such agreement in the works." LINK

The Times ' Wilgoren is forced to write last-minute about the Burlington-and-Brass connection with a Trippi Note that the two men have "been meeting for months … They've had these conversations over the phone. Every time they're in the same city, they meet." LINK ABC News Dean campaign reporter Marc Ambinder reports that in fundraisers when Dean is asked about his vice presidential pick, he demurs and says it's too early, but then ticks off points about how he and Clark might be a good fit.

Dean and himself:

The long-running frustration felt by many presidential candidates and their staffs over Howard Dean's careless use of language (often in furtherance of his presidential campaign and at the expense of his rivals) is now manifesting itself in the attitudes and output of some of America's leading political reporters.

It's easy (almost too easy) for Trippi and Co. to dismiss this as simply the carping of opponents who are frustrated at Dean's success (a la the way Bill Clinton lashed back at attacks in '92 and beyond), and surely core Dean supporters don't care about stuff they think is angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin stuff.

But words have consequences, and Dean's are starting to get the scrutiny they should have gotten even before he got on his glide path to the nomination.

When Dean is caught saying something that seems wrong or different from what he has said in the past on the same topic, various things happen next.

1. Sometimes, he apologizes.

2. Sometimes, he explains that he changed his mind based on new facts or thinking anew.

3. Sometimes, as suggested, he accuses his opponents of attacking him out of frustration.

4. In the case of Dean's Baltimore debate remark about being the only white politician who talks about race in front of white audiences, Dean's defense was that he said the same thing in June at a Rainbow-PUSH event and wasn't corrected, so the attacks now are politically motivated.

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