Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Grading on a Curve? TNR's Primary feature has been one of the most entertaining outlets for news and spin in the Democratic nomination race. (If you haven't seen it, the candidates are given school-style letter grades in a number of categories (Intellectual Honesty, Political Courage, Domestic Policy, etc.) But every so often you get the feeling somebody there is pulling a punch. An example from yesterday, in the category of Intellectual Honesty: Howard Dean is in the midst of the mother of campaign finance flip-flops, according to Michael Crowley's mini-feature. He cites these two quotes:
The former Vermont governor promised to make it an issue in the Democratic primaries if any of his rivals skip public financing. "It will be a huge issue," Dean said. "I think most Democrats believe in campaign finance reform," he said.

--Associated Press, March 8, 2003

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said Friday that his campaign's recent fundraising success has prompted him to consider foregoing federal matching funds and opt out of the spending limits placed on candidates. "We're going to leave the option open," the former Vermont governor said after a campaign stop outside this central Iowa town.

--Chicago Tribune, August 16, 2003

Clearly begging the bullshit flag, eh? How would you grade the good doctor for his intellectual honesty? Crowley gives him a "C."

Compare with this piece, in which Gregg Easterbrook slaps Joe Lieberman with a "D" in Intellectual Honesty for claiming he'd reverse Bush's ban on stem-cell research. Actually, says Easterbrook, there's only a ban on future federal funding of research. Yes, it's a distinction worth noting, but does it rate lower than Dean's gentleman's "C"? Grade fairly, please.

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