Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Canellos calls Dean a liar - and gets it wrong. The Boston Globe's Washington-bureau chief, Peter Canellos, has hit the Iowa campaign trail to find out what it is that makes Howard Dean tick. Canellos's answer: anger. Grrr! Where have we heard that before?

But Media Log was especially struck by this Canellos passage, since it suggests that he simply hasn't been paying attention:

Now, Dean's tendency to shoot from the hip has become an issue unto itself, as the other candidates contend, reasonably, that Dean's arguments don't always square with the facts. Take his oft-repeated insistence that "there was no middle-class tax cut." There was. It just wasn't nearly as big as the cut for the wealthy.

Did Canellos accurately portray what Dean has been saying? Not even close. Here's Dean at the Des Moines Register debate of January 4:

Well, we've got to look at the big picture. If you make over $1 million, you've got a $112,000 tax cut. Sixty percent of us got a $304 tax cut.

And the question I have for Americans is, did your college tuition go up more than $304 because the president cut Pell Grants in order to finance his tax cuts for his millionaire friends? How about your property taxes, did they go up more than $304 because the president wouldn't fund special ed, wouldn't fund No Child Left Behind, wouldn't fund COPS and - how about your health care payments? Did they go up more than $304 because the president cut thousands of people all over America off health care because he wouldn't fund the states' share that they needed to continue to insure people, and that was shifted to insurance and the health care premiums?

Middle-class people did not see a tax cut. There was no middle-class tax cut. There was a Bush tax increase with tuitions, with property taxes, with health care premiums, and most middle-class people in this country are worse off because of President Bush's so- called tax cut than they are better off.

Now, I have no idea whether Dean's $304 figure is a fair representation of the middle-class tax cut. Some of his critics - like John Kerry - have argued that it was actually quite a bit more than that, and that it was pushed through by Democrats over Republican objections.

But Dean's rhetorical intent is absolutely clear: to disparage the Bush-era middle-class tax cut as piddling, and to argue that it was more than offset by increases in property taxes, college tuition, and health care caused by Bush's ridiculous tax cuts for the rich - tax cuts that we now know, thanks to Paul O'Neill and Ron Suskind, even Bush thought were absurd.

It's very simple. Canellos mischaracterized Dean, and then used that mischaracterization to build his case that Dean is an angry guy who has a "tendency to paint complex issues in very stark terms."

The truth is that it's Canellos who is shooting from the hip here.

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