Message ideas for Howard Dean 
(for use AFTER winning the nomination)

You can't win using the standard strategy of attacking Bush on specific issues on an issue by issue basis (even though you are right on the issues) because he has more credibility (only by virtue of the office he holds) and more money than you do.

Instead, you must re-focus the campaign around pointing out the differences in goals, process, and comparing the track record of results, rather than the differences in approach to individual issues. Pick a campaign theme and tagline consistent with this emphasis. Then align the media campaign around educating people about these differences. 

The reason is that these differences are actually more meaningful, and it much easier to provide clear differentiation that Bush will have no way to defend.

The message you want to leave with voters is this: 

"I'm focused on the right goals, using a sensible responsible process for policy creation and decision-making, and I have a history of having achieved spectacular results that no other state has achieved. Bush is focused on the wrong goals for America, using a partisan, special interest process that will never give acceptable solutions to the problems facing America, he makes decisions by carefully selecting those facts that support his beliefs and disregarding the facts that don't, and, as a result of this lack of goals and process, he has compiled a track record of some of the worst results in history."

Finally, the stuff below is probably too complicated to put in front of voters. The trick is to take the approach and package it for delivery. But first, it's important to understand the strategy shift we're talking about and that's the purpose of this web page; to articulate a different approach, not to outline a specific campaign.

You must rise above the merits "my plan/policies" vs. "his plan/policies" because Americans can't evaluate either one
Most politicians attack each other over their stands on the issues. I think that's always been a mistake and still is a mistake. It's time we had a candidate that can rise above that level of discourse for a number of reasons: 1) it's the not the right level of debate because there are major differences on more important levels and more importantly, 2) the public is virtually never in a position to objectively evaluate the Bush policy vs. the Dean policy because Bush can provide a reasonable-sounding argument that can resonate with the average American. Trickle-down economics is a perfect example: if you don't have an economics degree, it sounds plausible that Bush's tax cut will help the economy. For every issue ad on all the bad stuff Bush has done, he can run a success ad on how he "made America safer", "stood up to the terrorists", "cut taxes", "stopped the slide in jobs and turned it around due to his economic policy",  refused to sign an irresponsible global warming treaty, etc. etc. It's basically his word against your word. And he's got more money and more credibility. So you'll lose if you attack him like MoveOn is doing, issue by issue even when you're right (because they will lie or confuse people with equally good sounding arguments). It's simply a losing strategy. It only works if you are President and have more money to spend.

Re-focus your efforts on contrasting goals, process, and outcomes between yourself and Bush: these three contrasts are both meaningful and clear
Change the battlefield to point out important differences that will be obvious to anyone. These are in 3 key areas: goals, process, and outcomes. Each one is discussed below. These are much more important than any single issue, and the differences couldn't be more obvious.

The contrast on GOALS
The central point you want to get across is this: Bush has constantly focused America on the wrong goals and solving the wrong problems; Dean will focus America on solving the right problems.

Here's the justification for the claim; a table that makes this very clear.

Bush goal Dean goal
Our top focus should be on rebuilding Iraq Our top focus should be on rebuilding America
Seek out and destroy terrorists and terrorism. We must be strong and not waiver. Our focus shouldn't be on fighting terrorism; it ought to be on making the world a safer place. 

Osama was merely a symptom of a much larger issue. The facts are that it isn't just one or two guys that are a threat to us. Osama was funded with lots of money from lots of people. And he had lots of followers. Same with Saddam Hussein. So this isn't an isolated incident, but a bigger problem. We first need to have a clear understanding as to what we are doing that drives so many people to sacrifice their lives to kill innocent people. Then we need to examine how we can change our foreign policies and improve domestic security in order to make the world a safer place for all Americans.

Cut taxes Our national focus shouldn't be on lowering taxes; it ought to be on making government more efficient, i.e.,  in providing government services that increase people's standard of living at the lowest possible cost.

Cutting taxes is simply a ridiculous goal. This is exactly like deciding you are going to be paying half your credit card bills for the next few  years while the balance on your statement goes up and up. So after the party is over, you now face credit card bills that are unaffordable. Not only that, there is no way out. That's exactly what Bush has set up with that policy. 

What's worse, is that he's increased government spending, not decreased it. He's made government less efficient. So to use the credit card analogy, he has temporarily cut your monthly payments while increasing the amount of money he's charging on your credit card each month. And he's going to walk away and stick you with the bill, and he's given you absolutely no credible plan for how you're ever going to pay it.

My goal is to make government more efficient so we can increase government services that matter to you, cut the pork projects that are a waste of taxpayer money, and reduce the amount of taxes that you have to pay to the government to provide essential services necessary to maintain our standard of living including defense, health care, social security, environmental regulation, and education to name a few.

My focus will be on improving your standard of living at the lowest possible cost. And any costs I cut will go back into your pocketbook. The order here is important; I'll make government more efficient and then return the savings. Bush is temporarily reducing your credit card payments, making government less efficient, and then sticking you with a huge bill after he leaves office. It's like inviting you to dinner for free at an expensive restaurant, then skipping out before the waiter comes with the bill at the end of the meal. He didn't give you a free meal, he just is shifting when you have to pay for it. I guarantee you'll pay for it out of your pocket; it's not coming out of his pocket or his rich campaign contributors.

Hold schools accountable Our national focus shouldn't be holding schools accountable, it ought to be in providing the resources so our schools can become the best in the world.

We've got to stop treat our education system like schools are the enemy and that we've got to punish them if they don't perform. Our focus should be on providing resources and training and incentivizing them to adopt best practices and giving them the money to afford to do all this. Our focus ought to be in replicating the success models and making it easier for schools to do that.


Eliminate the imaginary WMD in Iraq Our goal shouldn't be to eliminate the imaginary WMD in Iraq. Our goal should be to adopt a foreign policy that makes the world a safer place for Americans.

Eliminating WMD was the key reason for the war in Iraq. And it is the single best example of a government that is completely out of control. Bush attacked Iraq because he believed their weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to our security. We now know that there were no weapons of mass destruction. 

Why is it that of all the countries who possess weapons of mass destruction that are a threat to us, we chose to attack  a country without any WMD whatsoever? This kind of decision making is both dangerous, expensive, and it has needlessly cost many American lives. All to destroy something that never existed.

My commitment is that I require evidence beyond any reasonable doubt that we are in imminent danger before I will go to war. Bush's standard of proof for going to war was simply irresponsible. If Bush's standard of proof was high, we'd have found the WMD by now. All of his key information was false and he ignored those who pointed this out. We need a commander in chief with better judgment about the facts he's presented with who does not arbitrarily believe some reports and ignore those reports that are inconsistent with what he wants to believe. 

The lack of any discovery of the purported WMD in Iraq 7 months after the invasion is absolute proof that our commander in chief lacks the ability to assess the credibility of the evidence he is presented. This presents an enormous risk to the future safety of the United States. This time we lost hundreds of lives. The next time, Bush's complete inability to assess the credibility of information and the fact that he has not held the people responsible for feeding him bad information accountable, means that it will happen again. And the next time, it might cost millions of American lives.

The fact that a newspaper reporter easily got inside 60 chemical plants inside the US points out that Bush's focus on eliminating non-existing WMD on the other half of the world demonstrates a complete lack of judgment and focus. He should be protecting us against the lack of security on the the WMD right in our own backyard that can be used against us! Even efforts to fix the problem were defeated; Corzine's bill to protect America was crushed; where was Bush?  (see 60 Minutes Nov 16 story). 

Bush has completely the wrong focus and priorities for America.

Bring democracy to Iraq Our goal should be to stop the senseless loss of American lives by extricating the US from Iraq as quickly as possible, not to bring democracy to Iraq. 

We had no moral right to invade them because we were not threatened. And believing that we are the only nation in the world that can help Iraq is simply not credible. The US killed 15,000 Iraqis. There is going to be hatred for that for the rest of our lifetimes. We need to let other nations help Iraq. There is simply too much history for us to be successful there, even if we are the smartest people on earth.

We should be focusing on what is important, namely securing the WMD in the US, rather than bringing democracy to Iraq. Ask the average American: which is more important to you: democracy in Iraq or securing the unguarded chemical plant in your backyard that can be used by a terrorist to kill you? Is Bush focused on how you'd answer that question?

Eliminate imaginary WMD in a country halfway around the world from us Secure the known WMD in our own backyards. 

Did someone forget to tell the President that in 911, the WMD was from the US, not Iraq?

The reasons terrorists don't use WMD from Iraq is 1) they can't find it either, and 2) it's too hard to transport without detection (even if you could find it), and 3) it's so much easier to blow up a chemical plant in the US and impact 1M people or more.... 

No better illustration of the WMD threat in our own backyards than the lead story on Nov 17, 2003 60 minutes about our unsecured chemical plants and how Republicans killed Senator Corzine's bill that would secure the plants.

So there are the two sets of goals laid out for you. 

We ask voters: which set of goals do you think America should be focused on?

Additionally, Bush waivers all the time on goals if needed. 

For example, "The most important thing for us is to find Osama Bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him".
--Bush 9-13-2001

"I don't know where he is. I have no idea and I really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority".
--Bush 3-13-2002

My favorite is with Iraq where our goal was to eliminate the WMD. When it looked like there weren't any, our goal changed to free the Iraqi people. Now our goal is to bring Democracy to Iraq.

The contrast on decision-making and policy creation PROCESS
The way you solve difficult problems is to use the following process:

  • start with a clear definition of what the problem is
  • task a team of non partisan subject matter experts to come up with a plan to achieve that goal
  • validate that plan with a second independent panel of experts. 
  • implement that plan through legislation and policy changes. 

That's the way the Dean administration should operate. The contrast in process is striking when you compare it with how Bush operates. This is a contrast that needs to be pointed out to the American people.

Here's what it looks like in a table:

Dean's problem solving process Bush's problem solving process
Start with a clear definition of what the problem is and a clear, measurable goal. Start with the wrong goal (as detailed in the table above on goals) or simply avoid setting a goal at all and focus a task force on solutions in a specific area (e.g., energy) without clearly defining exactly what problem they should be trying to solve
Task a team of  the country's best non partisan subject matter experts to come up with a plan to achieve that goal Pick a partisan task force of people who know little to nothing about the issue, but are loyal to the President
Allow the public to provide input to the panel.  Be sure that the partisan task force gets input only from your top campaign contributors. 
Hold discussions in a public forum. Keep all records on the Internet. Don't reveal who is on the committee and keep all the deliberations secret. If they try to get notes of meetings, force them to file a lawsuit, and then only give up the information under threats of contempt from the judge and only at the last possible moment. And even then, make sure that what you do release is heavily redacted. Tell the public that you have nothing do hide; you are merely protecting the principle of executive privilege.
Deliver a credible plan with specific measurable goals, and a set of strategies and tactics that can credibly be executed to achieve the goal Deliver a plan without any goals you can be held accountable for. Instead, provide recommendations for future study.
Validate the plan with a second independent panel of experts.  Make sure that no independent panel of experts is allowed to validate the plan. Deliver the plan to the American people without an independent non-partisan validation whatsoever.
Implement that plan through legislation and policy changes that are consistent with the goals and strategies outlined in the plan


Now that the plan is complete, put the plan aside and don't refer to it again. Instead, implement legislation that provides maximum benefit for the key campaign contributors, e.g., $20 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries (a tidy payback for over $71.8 million in campaign contributions since 1999).

Implement legislation that lets key campaign contributors off the hook for their mistakes and shifts the cost to taxpayers, e.g., the MTBE liability provision in the energy bill.

Develop the legislation in secret -- e.g., by a partisan task force whose very participant list was kept secret, even from Congress. Finalize using Republican Senators and House members and literally lock Democrats out of the final negotiations. Give Democrats and the public just 48 hours to review a 1,000-page bill, released it on a weekend, and begin voting immediately.


Hold yourself accountable for meeting the goals detailed in the plan Don't worry about holding yourself accountable since by the time you're done, people will have forgotten what the goal was if there even was one in the first place. 

If you fail to achieve a goal, don't admit failure. Just change the goal to something you can achieve (e.g., if you can't find Osama, attack Saddam; if you can't find any WMD, change the focus and it "Operation Iraqi Freedom"). Or just promise success to a time you are out of office, e.g., the economy, but don't make any commitments as far as dates or numbers.

If you fail to meet a goal, blame it on some external event over which you had no control.

Here's a specific example for energy:

  • The energy task force never had a clear goal like cutting our dependence on foreign oil or ensuring low cost energy for all Americans for the next 50 years; instead, they were just supposed to come up with an energy plan for America which presumably included figuring out what the goals should be. So in essence the problem was a "we don't have a plan; create one"
  • The energy task force was comprised of all Republican members of the Bush administration except for one Democrat who was marginalized. There were no subject area experts.
  • The energy task force met only with special interest contributors of the Bush campaign
  • The plan that was delivered contained many recommendations about what to study, but it didn't contain a single measurable goal that the Bush administration could be held accountable for, e.g., like "reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 20% by 2020
  • The plan was never given to an independent, non-partisan review panel to ask for validation.
  • The plan has not been referred to since it was created that I can tell
  • Legislation has been passed that helps Bush's key campaign contributors at the expense of the public interest
  • The energy bill has provisions such as:
  • Increase oil dependence by failing to improve fuel efficiency standards for cars and SUVs, and by short-changing the development of clean and renewable energy resources.

    Increase oil drilling in wild areas of the Rocky Mountains and Alaska, and along our coastlines.

    Do virtually nothing to address global warming and air pollution resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.

    Prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from applying the Clean Air Act to certain cities with severe air pollution problems, letting communities off the hook from tackling serious air pollution problems.

    Give taxpayer dollars to inefficient and unsafe energy industries like the coal, oil, nuclear and ethanol industries.

     Promote a takeover of America's oceans by the Secretary of the Interior.

    does little to improve U.S. energy conservation, require improvements in car fuel efficiency or wean us from our dependence on foreign oil.

    it lets oil and gas companies off the hook for contaminating the water in at least 35 states with a toxic gasoline additive called methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and instead puts the burden for cleaning up the mess on public authorities, i.e., you the taxpayer. Even though secret oil company studies obtained by the Environmental Working Group show the oil industry knew as early as 1980 that MTBE was toxic, the energy bill shields them from any legal liability for their actions

  • The bill was developed in secret -- first drafted by a Cheney task force whose very participant list was kept secret, even from Congress, and now finalized by Republican Senators and House members who literally locked Democrats out of the final negotiations. Democrats and the public have been given just 48 hours to review the 1,000-page bill, released Saturday, before voting begins later today.
  • Nobody has ever held Bush accountable for achieving a single goal in outlined in that energy plan (since there weren't any). It has been forgotten.

The process for foreign policy and the economy was similar. We basically don't get good solutions to the problems we face because the Bush problem solving process starts with either no goal or the wrong goal and is either shrouded in secrecy or completely irresponsible when it is a public process (like the energy panel which was sort of public). That's why, for example, we get a "job stimulus" tax cut package that has been panned by every Nobel prize winning economist in the US as "anything but a job stimulus package."

So there are the two problem solving processes clearly laid out for you. 

We ask voters to decide: which process do you think will result in better solutions to America's top problems?

The contrast in outcomes
We may differ on goals and process. But comparing historical results is the best way to compare candidates. Bush touted himself as a reformer with results. The only problem is that his results pale in the light of what Dean has achieved. 

Issue Dean result Bush result
Economic performance during the same time period when both were Governor Surplus Deficit
Government spending Inherited a deficit; turned it into a surplus

Kept it under control.

A balanced budget x years in a row


Inherited a surplus, turned it into a deficit.

Totally out of control.

Increased federal spending so much that he has achieved the biggest federal deficit in history. He's moving in the wrong direction.

Job creation ? The worst job creation record of any President since Herbert Hoover. Zero new jobs. Lost 3M jobs since becoming President. He's moving in the wrong direction.
Health care Health coverage for every resident of Vermont ?
Body count A commitment to reduce it to zero. It's been rising and there is no commitment to have it decrease
The Iraq War Dean wouldn't have sent in our troops and will pull them out when taking office Bush sacrificed the lives of hundreds of Americans only to find out that there was never a threat to America. He's still sacrificing America lives. And the numbers are growing every day, not declining. He's moving in the wrong direction.

Bush still hasn't realized that the WMD are already in the US and pose a far greater threat to America than the imaginary WMD half way round the world! An explosion at a typical chemical plant can put millions of people at risk.

National security there is still no serious strategy for domestic security that protects critical infrastructure such as electric power lines, gas pipelines, nuclear facilities, ports, chemical plants and the like.

They're still not checking incoming cargo carriers for radiation. They're still skimping on protection of certain nuclear weapons storage facilities. They're still not hardening critical facilities that must never be soft targets for terrorists. They're still not investing in the translators and analysts we need to counter the growing terror threat.

The administration is still not investing in local government training and infrastructures where they could make the biggest difference. The first responder community is still being shortchanged. In many cases, fire and police still don't have the communications equipment to talk to each other. The CDC and local hospitals are still nowhere close to being ready for a biological weapons attack.

The administration has still failed to address the fundamental disorganization and rivalries of our law enforcement, intelligence and investigative agencies. In particular, the critical FBI-CIA coordination, while finally improved at the top, still remains dysfunctional in the trenches.


The top 6 problems facing America today

  • The economy
  • Foreign policy/national security
  • Health care
  • Protecting the environment
  • Energy independence
  • Education

If these are the top 6 areas, let me know and we'll put goal statements together for each of them. For example, a simplified set of goals (stripped of numbers and dates for simplicity):

  • Reduce our dependence on foreign oil
  • Balance the budget
  • Pull out of Iraq
  • Restart the economy
  • Provide health coverage for every citizen
  • Provide our public schools the resources and incentives to be the best in the world
  • Make the world a safer place
  • Significantly reduce the amount of air and water pollution every year
  • Get the money out of politics so we have government serving in the public interest, not the special interests

Possible campaign slogans/themes conceptual ideas

  • Government in the public interest, not the special interests
  • Better outcomes
  • Results you deserve
  • A better way to solve the issues confronting America today
  • America has problems, we have the answers :)
  • For government in the public interest, not special interests
  • Results, not rhetoric
  • A non-partisan approach to solving the issues confronting America today
  • Sensible solutions
  • Meaningful goals, sensible policies, spectacular results
  • Meaningful goals, a better process, and extraordinary results
  • The right goals, extraordinary results
  • Focused on the issues you care about
  • Focused on the right set of goals
  • Focused on the right set of issues
  • Focused on the right goals for America
  • For a better America
  • Meaningful goals, sensible policies, measurable results
  • Solutions, not promises
  • Non-partisan policies that work
  • Sensible polices that work
  • Common sense approach to tackling America's toughest issues
  • Meaningful goals, measurable outcomes
  • Meaningful goals, spectacular results

Some ideas that have been suggested for a Democratic theme

  • The Democrats care about you, the people. The Republicans care about them---big business like Halliburton and Enron and other special interests.
  • Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?
  • The Democrats care about women's rights and children. The Republicans don't.

Misc thoughts
The sad fact is that today we find that more and more it is the special interests, rather than the public interest, that is driving the course of legislation -- amounting increasingly to a government of the dollars, for the dollars and by the dollars.

see also 
feedback on this page
10 goals 
Presidential goal ideas
Goal requirements