Making amends with Howard Dean

By Tim Grieve
Published February 11, 2005 5:08PM (EST)

War Room pulled into Washington Thursday night just as the Terry McAuliffe era came to an end. The Democrats sent their outgoing chairman into the night with rousing tributes from the likes of John Kerry and Bill Clinton. And now, as the Democratic National Committee's Winter Meeting begins in earnest, the Howard Dean era begins.

That means there's some sucking up to do. At the DNC's plenary session this morning, a string of establishment Democrats who tried to bury Dean rose to praise him instead. There was Nancy Pelosi, who pushed pro-lifer Tim Roemer into the race as an anybody-but-Dean candidate, declaring her support for Howard Dean and calling him a "great Democrat" who will "make a great chairman." Pelosi was followed on the stage by Mark Brewer, the head of the state party chairs' association who tried to orchestrate an endorsement for one of Dean's vanquished opponents. Brewer introduced Bill Richardson, who tried to orchestrate a scheme to minimize Dean's powers by saddling him with a more politically palatable "general chairman."

And then there was Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader who was making the point just a week or so ago that he and Pelosi have a larger constituency than the DNC members who will vote for Dean Saturday. Reid and Pelosi met with Dean Thursday to make amends, and Reid did it publicly Friday. Calling DNC members and "the grassroots activists you represent" the "foundation" of the Democratic Party, Reid pledged "to work with Governor Dean to make sure that your work is celebrated and honored and given all the support it deserves."

Reid, at least, had the courage to admit that he'd had other horses in the race. After saying that Dean has his "enthusiastic support," Reid said he wanted to thank "all the Democrats who ran for chair, and all the Democrats I tried to get to run for chair."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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