Thursday, December 4, 2003

Now who's flip-flopping?

Check this out: The Club for Growth announced yesterday that beginning today, it would be airing ads showing “Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean’s abysmal record on taxes.” “Handing over the economy to Howard Dean,” says Stephen Moore, “would give him a license to pick our pockets.” The ads, which will run in Des Moines, Iowa and Manchester, New Hampshire, are budgeted at $100,000. (Watch the ad: RealVideo | Windows Media)

They sure don’t like Howard Dean.

Or don’t they? Stephen Moore is the president at The Club for Growth. In addition to his duties at TCG, he is a fellow at the Cato Institute.

Wait a minute — didn’t Howard Dean speak to the Cato Institute several years ago? Sure enough — as this article points out, he sure did:

Dean charmed nearly everyone in the boardroom. He came across as erudite, policy savvy, and, believe it or not, a friend of free markets—at least by the standards of the Tom Daschle-Dick Gephardt axis of the Democratic party. Even when challenged on issues like environmentalism, where he favored a large centralized mass of intrusive regulations, Dean remained affable.

“You folks at Cato,” he told us, “should really like my views because I’m economically conservative and socially laissez-faire.” Then he continued: “Believe me, I’m no big-government liberal. I believe in balanced budgets, markets, and deregulation. Look at my record in Vermont.” He was scathing in his indictment of the “hyper-enthusiasm for taxes” among Democrats in Washington.

He left—and I will never forget the nearly hypnotic reaction. The charismatic doctor had made believers of several hardened cynics. Nearly everyone agreed that we had finally found a Democrat we could work with. Since then, I’ve watched Dean’s career with more than a little interest and we chat from time to time on the phone.

The writer ended his article by concluding, “Howard Dean could be George W. Bush’s worst nightmare.” Who wrote about this hypnotic Democrat who could give the Republicans nightmares? None other than Stephen Moore, president of The Club for Growth.

In fact, in a 1998 Cato report co-authored by Moore, titled A Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors, you see Howard Dean getting a B, higher than Republicans Pete Wilson, Terry Branstad, Arne Carlson, Marc Racicot, Jim Edgar, and George Voinovich. (To be fair, Dean scored better than a score of Democrats, too.) From the report: “The governors tied with the best budget restraint record were Weld (Massachusetts), Engler (Michigan), and Dean (Vermont).”

But actually admitting that this debate isn’t just about taxes wouldn’t be sporting, would it? Much easier to take this goofy ad and throw up a few pictures of past losers (Mondale, Dukakis), scream TAXES in all caps, and ask sarcastically at the end of the ad “Will Howard Dean ever learn?”

It’s clear that Moore is capable of taking principled arguments on taxes and applying them to both parties; he’s a fan of low taxes and is suspicious of any liberal-leaning policies that rely on tax revenue.

Fair enough. But there’s a big difference between principled arguments and carrying the water for the party who’s showing increasing signs of realizing a nightmare’s a comin’…


  1. Principles before politics

    One of the nice things about running an independent and unauthorized site like this one is that you can pretty much say what you want to, even when that means standing up for a rival candidate who's being unfairly maligned....

  2. Principles before politics

    One of the nice things about running an independent and unauthorized site like this one is that you can pretty much say what you want to, even when that means standing up for a rival candidate who's being unfairly maligned....

  3. Thanks for this post. I have not seen this anywhere else. I have been on the Daily Kos most of the time. Will look but if you post there could you do it there.?

  4. Ron - I don't post at dK, so feel free to put it up and/or point people to it. --Rick

  5. i sent the text of your entry to both o'reilly and cavuto at fox. one correction, the cato document is from 1996. i hope you send this out as a letter to the editor of as many papers as you can!

  6. I wouldn't consider Cato a 'Water Boy' for the GOP. Remember these guys filed a amacus(sp?) breif that was referenced in the ruling that struck down the sodomy laws a little while back.

    Also beign a fellow at Cato does not mean you run the show. Penn from Penn and Teller is a Cato fellow as well.

  7. Dean Fights Attack Ad

    A new ad paid for by the Club for Growth "lashes" Howard Dean's "call for the rollback of Bush's tax cuts," the Boston Globe reports. "It also signals that Republicans are interjecting themselves in the Democratic nomination process at a relatively ear...

  8. Henry - He's a Senior Fellow today, he used to be the Director of Fiscal Policy Studies at Cato.

  9. Kevin - Good catch. It's listed as a 1998 publication here:

    Which is why I went with the '98 publication date. But the publication itself appears to be from '96, as you indicate.

  10. Fear

    The right-wing group Club For Growth has an attack ad going up against Howard Dean. Congrats, Governor, you have arrived. What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Here's more about the Club for Growth. ALSO: MoveOn has an $87 billion...

  11. EXCELLENT blogging. Hope that gets picked up by the media!

  12. Mike - Turns out a few folks agree with you:

    From tomorrow's Newsweek ( ):

    Last week the conservative Club for Growth ran its first ads against Dean in Iowa and New Hampshire, casting the governor as a tax-hiking Democrat in the mold of McGovern, Mondale and Dukakis. Within minutes of the club’s press release, a software executive in Naperville, Ill., was deploying his own instant rebuttal on behalf of the Dean campaign. In the time it took to drink his morning coffee, Rick Klau spotted the ad and tracked down a September article by the club’s CEO, Stephen Moore, hailing Dean as “a Democrat we could work with.” Klau pinged an instant message to the Dean camp, which began citing the article to reporters. “Twenty people sitting in a war room can’t possibly do what 2,000 or 20,000 people can,” says Joe Trippi, Dean’s campaign manager.


  13. "I noticed you arrived here via Google looking for howard dean iowa scream." Then you gotta know Google is losing it! Thanks, though, have bookmarked the site (in aid of linux!).