"While discussing the hardship of working Americans standing in long lines to vote, Dean said Thursday, 'Republicans, I guess, can do that because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives.' Dean said later his comments did not refer to hard-working Americans, but rather to the failure of Republican leadership to address working-class concerns."
"Responding to Dean's initial remark, Edwards said Dean 'is not the spokesman for the party.'"
"Dean is 'a voice. I don't agree with it,' Edwards, a former senator and the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in 2004, said Saturday at a party fundraising dinner in Nashville, Tenn."
(Note Note: accepting for a moment that Dean meant to criticize Republican leaders initially, Edwards we suppose might agree with the point, since it rings of his "Two Americas" theory.)
Anyway, here is the dutiful response from Karen Finney:
"As Governor Dean clarified, he was not talking about hard working American people. He was talking about the failure of Republican leadership to address the issues that affect the daily lives of hard working Americans, which is something all Democrats agree on."
"We will have disagreements, just as there are disagreements in the Republican party, but we are unified in our commitment to getting our country back on track."
The Democratic Party remains as divided about Dean today as they were two years ago -- maybe even more so. Despite his efforts to cultivate Red State media and defer to elected officials on policy (occasionally), his record as chair seems to have hardened the two sides -- at least within the Beltway.
At one wing are his defenders who admit he that he occasionally doesn't express his thoughts all that well but who say he has the right vision and skills to lead the Democratic Party out of wherever it is and into a new era of 50-state campaigns, less reliance on institutional fundraising, and a coherent and acceptable public image so that independents won't feel so icky about voting for Ds.
At the other end are the MSM's political corps and a collection of prominent party fundraisers, strategists, Members of Congress, DLCers, and 2008 presidential candidates.
Their dislike/concern stems from partly-true (but partly oversimplistic) pre-conceived notions - "Dean represents everything Democrats can't be," "Dean doesn't think before he speaks," "Dean will reduce our power in the party," "Dean has poor political instincts and is not aware of his limitations as a public figure."
These notions self-perpetuate. Dean will never get the benefit of the doubt, and news articles about his comments will always quote from internal detractors.
Most every story that's been picked up nationally in the past three months has had three elements: Dean stays "X" about Republicans. Democrats and Republicans who dislike Dean criticize him. Dean's staff wearily explains what he really meant.
But you can't turn the page, as they say in Arkansas, if you keep reading aloud from the same book.
A special problem for Dean, as we have always said, is that THIS press dynamic will probably always be his cross to bear, and if he cannot bypass this filter effectively, then he will never receive the support he needs from the entire party to accomplish his goals.