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Howard Dean: A Citizen's Guide to the Man Who Would Be President [Paperback]

Dirk Van Susteren
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 10 2003
No one knows a presidential candidate like the home state reporters who cover him or her, day in and day out. That's what makes this book about Howard Dean so useful: it goes a long way toward explaining the who, what and why of a man who, until a few months ago, was the widely dismissed former Governor of a small state, but now is a real contender for the White House.” -- Judy Woodruff
Anchor Of CNN’s Inside Politics: An In-Depth Look At Howard Dean

LESS THAN A YEAR ago, Howard Dean was the most obscure candidate in a crowded field of aspirants for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. Today he is widely regarded as the one to beat. Who is this man who came from out of nowhere and how did he move so quickly to the front of the pack? Dean first burst onto the national stage at the Democratic National Committee’s 2003 winter meeting. In the 2002 mid-term elections, Democratic leaders had calculated that if they supported a slightly smaller tax cut and a slightly larger prescription drug benefit, and showed slightly less eagerness to go to war in Iraq than President Bush, they could keep control of the Senate and win back the House of Representatives. That approach didn’t work. A few months later the former governor of Vermont strode to the podium at the DNC’s worried winter gathering and blurted out, “What I want to know is why so many Democrats in Washington aren’t standing up against Bush’s unilateral war in Iraq. My name is Howard Dean, and I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” The effect was electric. Dean had seized the moment, and he has followed it up with aggressive campaigning and a record-setting fund-raising effort.

Howard Dean:A Citizen’s Guide to the Man Who Would Be President sets out to answer “Who is Howard Dean?” What do his life experiences and, maybe more importantly, his performance as Vermont’s governor for nearly twelve years, tell us about what he believes, how he operates, his strengths and weaknesses as a chief executive and on the campaign trail, and what kind of a president he might be? And what do those who know him and have worked for and against him really think?

Energetically reported by nine journalists whose experiences range from the Vermont statehouse to past presidential campaigns, Howard Dean: A Citizen’s Guide to the Man Who Would Be President is filled with fresh, often surprising information and keen new insights. Separate chapters cover Dean’s boyhood and college years, his time as a family doctor and citizen legislator, his record on the environment, health care, and budgets, and his campaign’s revolutionary use of the Internet as a grass-roots organizing tool. For readers looking to determine whether Dean can go the distance and how to cast their votes in 2004, this book is indispensable.

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About the Author

DARREN ALLEN, former reporter for the Baltimore Sun, who is chief of the statehouse bureau for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus.

MARK BUSHNELL, former editor and reporter at the Herald and Times Argus, who is now a free-lance writer. Bushnell writes a weekly column for the paper on Vermont history called "Life in the Past Lane."

HAMILTON DAVIS, former Washington Bureau chief for the Providence Journal and former managing editor of the Burlington Free Press. Davis covered the presidential campaigns in 1968 and 1972. He is author of the book Mocking Justice.

JOHN DILLON, reporter for Vermont Public Radio and former Sunday writer for the Times Argus and Rutland Herald.

SALLY JOHNSON, a former reporter and editor at the Herald, and the former editor of Vermont Magazine. She has been a free-lance contributor to The New York Times and the Boston Globe.

DAVE GRAM, Associated Press reporter, Montpelier Bureau.

JON MARGOLIS, former national political reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who has covered presidential politics since 1968. He is author of The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964.

DAVID MOATS, editorial page editor of the Herald and 2001 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for his editorials on the civil unions issue. His book, Civil Wars: Gay Marriage Puts Democracy to the Test is being published by Harcourt in February.

DIRK VAN SUSTEREN, magazine editor for the Herald and Times Argus and former Sunday editor. He was project editor for A Vermont Century, a book of essays and photographs on Vermont in the 20th Century.

IRENE WIELAWSKI, former reporter for the Burlington Free Press, Providence Journal, Los Angeles Times.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I GOT THE CALL AT home on the morning of August 14, 1991. Gov. Richard Snelling was dead. The Rutland Herald would publish an extra edition that afternoon, and I needed to get to work. For Vermonters, the shock of Snelling’s death was considerable, and it was magnified by the uncertainty we felt about his successor. The question we were asking ourselves was an obvious one, but it gained new importance in those hours of shock and grief: Who is Howard Dean? It took the next decade for those of us in the press, and our readership, to gain an understanding of the energetic, ambitious politician who was sworn into office that summer afternoon in 1991. When Snelling died, Howard Dean was in his fifth year as lieutenant governor, and we were at least superficially acquainted with him, but we had little notion about the scope of Dean’s ambitions or what kind of governor he would make.

Who is Howard Dean? Vermont is small enough that many Vermonters have the chance for personal encounters with their political leaders, and Howard Dean had already had a close encounter with a friend of mine. It was at a political gathering in Castleton, a small college town near the New York border, and my friend, a Congregational minister, fell unconscious from cardiac arrest. Dean, a physician, applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and kept my friend alive.

That was one thing we knew about Howard Dean. He was a physician who had a practice with his wife. In fact, he was seeing a patient when he learned that Snelling had died, and it was part of the lore of that historic moment that Dean finished his appointment with his patient before heading for Montpelier to become governor.

We knew also that he had come from a privileged background that included a childhood on Long Island, prep school and Yale. As a Democrat, he had risen quickly to a position of leadership in the Vermont House of Representatives, and then he ran successfully for lieutenant governor. As with most lieutenant governors, we presumed he had plans to run for governor. No one foresaw that he would claim that office so soon. Who is Howard Dean? We learned quickly that he had an off-the-cuff manner and habit of frankness that led him to say things that were insensitive or brash. Over the years, the press chided him for his insensitivity and praised him for his candor. His candor seemed to arise from a brimming self-confidence and from a doctor’s habit of giving the news straight. He did not agonize or apologize, and he relished the give-and-take with the press and the public.

Over time Dean’s political profile began to take shape. After he was sworn in as governor, he declared his intention to stick with the economic recovery plan that Gov. Snelling, a Republican, had put in place the previous winter. Vermont state government was digging out from a deficit after the recession of the early 1990s, and Dean established from the outset a reputation for fiscal austerity.

He began to focus on some favorite initiatives, such as programs for children and families and health-care reform. He promoted land conservation, which won him praise from environmentalists, and he bemoaned excessive regulation, which won him praise from business. He mounted campaigns against drunken driving and drug addiction, and he gained a reputation as tough on crime.

Dean signed his name to two landmark bills during his tenure. One of them refashioned the state’s system of education finance, eliminating disparities between revenues available from town to town. The other established civil unions, which gave gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples. Dean did not lead the way for either bill; the legislature passed the bills in response to rulings by the Vermont Supreme Court. But he supported both bills, and he did not back away from the controversies they created.

Over the course of 11 years in office, Dean’s ambitions as governor began to wane, and his attention began to shift to national politics. Those who followed his career began to sense that Vermont was no longer a large enough stage for him. We knew he had considered a presidential campaign in 2000, and when he announced after his election in 2002 that he would not seek re-election, we understood he had his sights on a presidential run in 2004.

It is an astonishing lesson in American politics to watch a political leader grow from a familiar local figure, someone known as a doctor, a youth-hockey coach, a governor, to a politician of national stature. Every word now spoken or written about him has a heightened importance, and the discussion of his history, personality and ideas takes place in a resounding echo chamber of intensified media scrutiny. That is because the stakes have become so high.

As that scrutiny has intensified, it seemed like a useful exercise to share with readers the perspective of the most experienced observers of the phenomenon of Howard Dean. We have gathered those observations together here. If readers in San Diego or Seattle or Tallahassee find the story of Dean’s sudden rise curious and surprising, so do those who know him, though we also have an insight into how it all came about. Even before a single vote has been cast, Howard Dean’s rise has become a remarkable story of ambition and accomplishment, of craft and luck. And it is a story worth telling now.

David Moats

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars ...I'll agree with my friends on this one March 27 2004
Format:Paperback
After reading Howard Dean's political biography, I decided to read this book, which was compiled by a team of reporters from Vermont who have been following his career. Although I found nothing of earth-shattering significance, the book did provide a bit more background for the themes covered in the political biography.
As Dean suddenly appeared on the presidential campaign radar, he evidently appeared on the Vermont political radar. Leading up to his stints as governor, Dean was not widely known in his own state. Politicians and reporters alike seemed caught unawares by this rise in the political ranks.
As governor, he received kudos and complaints. This book provides some of the problems with getting particular legislation going and some of the fallout, which his book did not have. The creation of civil unions legislation is one such example as is his environmental record.
This leads to my problem with the book. The book's intent is to inform us about Dean rather than persuade us one way or the other. In a few articles, the writer takes the time to quote as many pro-Dean people as anti-Dean people. Even though I feel good about being empowered to choose my own path, I would like to have seen the writer's stance stated more aggressively.
I would recommend this book for those wanted to know a bit more about Dean or those who wish to "fill out" what they've read in the political biography.
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Format:Paperback
I read this book hoping to gain enough information to decide whether or not to support Dean's candidacy. My ambivalence stemmed largely from my questions about Dean's record on environmental issues during his Vermont governorship -- which has been bitterly criticized by some Vermont environmentalists. I am also troubled by the fact that Dr. Dean is much more conservative than I on issues such as the war on drugs, gun control, welfare reform, and the death penalty. On a deeper level, my ambivalence was rooted in my concern whether his apparent forthrightness and appearance of being a rare, principled politician was "for real."
Dean is under attack from opponents who portray him as waffling on issues according to political expediency, not trustworthy or reliable, etc. Such attacks are to be expected, but I wanted more detailed background information on his history and record than what I could find on the Internet to determine whether I thought they were founded in truth or just more political rhetoric.
This book was what I had hoped for -- packed with facts which appear to be objectively presented. It covers Dean's Vermont environmental record in detail, allowing me to conclude that, although I will probably be disappointed with some of his environmental actions on a national level if he becomes president (he sided with business interests in Vermont to the lasting detriment of long-standing environmental protections), he does also have a history of going against the flow to make major contributions in the environmental arena in that state -- that he is not nearly the environmental radical that I consider Bush & Co. to be.
The book also covers a broad range of Dean's other positions and political history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Topical Outline of Dean Jan. 7 2004
By MZ
Format:Paperback
There are several books out there on the shelves about, or authored by, Howard Dean. I chose this one because it was written by independent observers; people who are not connected to the Dean Campaign for President. I wanted an objective account of the his background and his political record. That is exactly what I got.
The first few chapters that detail his adolescent years are kind of dry, but informative. This book changes speed and gets interesting as soon as it tackles his public service career. His political record is one of a fiscal conservative, and a proponent of states' rights. If it wasn't for his passion for universal health care and land conservation, you might think he is Republican. He balanced the budget in Vermont, and when almost every other state had a budget crisis, his state was financially comfortable. At the same time, he was able to attract new business to the state, expand health care coverage, and protect wild lands from development. This book has a separate chapter for many separate issues, which enables the reader to study specific items of interest, and pass over those of little concern.
The mass media has painted Howard Dean as a left-wing liberal. Part of this stems from the Dean Campaign's attempt to unite the Democratic base. But the other factor in this misrepresentation is the Vermont civil unions law. Howard Dean did not write this law, but he did sign it. His postion being that he supports equal protection under the law. As the book explains, Dean is not a social radical, but simply felt giving equal legal rights to same-sex couples was the right thing to do.
The final chapters of this book attempt to explain the "Dean phenomenon," including his use of the Internet as a major campaign tool. And since the book was finished and rushed to publishers in the fall of 2003, the material is topical and will still be useful throughout the election year.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An accurate and clear portrait of Dean Dec 16 2003
Format:Paperback
Many people hear the words of Howard Dean, and his words echo their own deep and unspoken sentiments. They have been afraid to voice their concerns, but here is a man with the courage and moral strength to stand up and speak his mind in spite of the political pressure to stay silent.
Read this book to get a thorough understanding of the man who would be President. He comes from a conservative and privileged family, the product of private boarding schools and Yale. But it is clear that he was never driven by the need for wealth or power. Instead, his values are centered on family and community, and the virtue of hard work.
Even in his early years, his classmates recognized him as a moral leader and a courageous defender of justice. The anecdotes told from those years are revealing and uplifting.
His early years in Vermont paint a picture of a man active in his community and willing to quietly work hard to improve the lives of everyone. He was also a natural politician, with a knack for recognizing the most direct path to his goals.
As a husband and father, one can hardly imagine a man more devoted or loving. Yet he also managed to practice medicine while serving as Lieutenant Governor, no easy balancing act for anyone.
When he was thrust into the job of Governor, after the untimely death of the Republican Gov. Snelling, he managed to push ahead with Snelling's economic plans and go one better. An ex-stockbroker, a medical doctor, and a political veteran, he had the breadth of experience and personal strength to truly improve the lives of everyone in the state of Vermont.
Read this book if you want to understand what kind of President Howard Dean will be. Think of Harry Truman mixed with James Madison, a courageous and outspoken leader who will improve the lives of Americans and make our nation a beacon of hope in the world again.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Vermont journalists know Dean best
This book is very interesting, because it isn't a fluff piece.
The Vermont journalists who wrote the chapters know who
Dean is, and how he behaved in times of... Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2004 by B. Currin
4.0 out of 5 stars A very useful Introduction to Dean
This brief book is well written and researched, a collaborative effort on the part of journalists who have been covering Dean's career for many years. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by Mark C. Aldrich
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good but...
I enjoyed this book but am left wondering if the second edition will feature "updates" that switch Dr. Dean's position on some issues. I thought Dr. Read more
Published on Dec 28 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Separates the man from the spin
It has been my experience of Dr. Dean that, because he has taken stances and voiced concerns absent from the political arena for a very looooong time-and therefore recapitulates,... Read more
Published on Dec 24 2003 by BJS
4.0 out of 5 stars A terrific objective bio-develops thirst for second edition
I have just finished the book and have scrambled to the computer to write this review while my perceptions are fresh. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2003 by David G. Moquin
4.0 out of 5 stars A terrific objective bio-develops thirst for second edition
I have just finished the book and have scrambled to the computer to write this review while my perceptions are fresh. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2003 by David G. Moquin
5.0 out of 5 stars Vermont reporters spill the beans on Gov. Dean
I am a Dean supporter and I've read all three books currently available on his campaign. This is the one that best "explains" Dean. Read more
Published on Dec 10 2003 by Julie Fanselow
5.0 out of 5 stars Howard Dean is now my guy
I was on the fence, between Dean and Kucinich. THis helped me decide on Dean. And it's not as far as I can tell Dean related. The book is by a bunch of Vermont connected Journos. Read more
Published on Dec 8 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for such a rush job
I'm extremely impressed that they were able to get this book to press in under three months, and at how good a job they did in such a short time. Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2003 by Ofer Inbar
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