Dean spends first day as visiting fellow

by Colin Barry | 7/1/04 5:00am

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean offered his thoughts on campaigning and policy issues in the first of several planned summer visits to the College on Tuesday. Dean -- who carried Hanover in January's New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary -- spoke in two forums and two classes. He also taped a segment for the political commentary show "Hardball" in the 1930s Room of the Rockefeller Center.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Dean praised Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry as an internationalist and expressed deep dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush and his cabinet.

"The current administration has the lowest standard of ethics since the presidency of Warren Harding," Dean said. "Most of them are charming people, [and] it's not what they say but what they're doing to the country."

Dean, named a distinguished visiting fellow of the College in March, analyzed the growing use of data mining for political strategy at a lunch round-table. Dean particularly emphasized what he considered disturbing implications for civil liberty and fair governance.

Extraordinarily detailed electronic information on American citizens, Dean said, is already being used to target campaign advertisements and consolidate power bases during redistricting.

Political groups often gain access, legally or otherwise, to magazine subscription lists, credit card receipts and demographic details that reveal political inclinations on a person-by-person basis. Dean pointed to the recent theft and sale of approximately 92 million America Online screen names as evidence that even the law doesn't stop the diffusion of personal information into the public sphere.

"Campaigns can target ads, for example, at men of Italian-American descent who subscribe to 'Field & Stream,'" Dean said.

The rise of cheap computing power and storage has made it easier than ever to "collate" a wide range of demographic data and run tailor-made, though morally dubious, political campaigns, Dean concluded.

The dialogue eventually broadened as questioners probed Dean on a variety of other issues. The former governor derided the Patriot Act, noting that without judicial oversight on law-enforcement organizations, "you eventually do what J. Edgar Hoover did and attack political entities and not people who did anything wrong."

Dean also attacked Bush's foreign policy and moral principles, calling that the President's "character is deficient."

He subsequently lectured on issues of healthcare policy as part of a three-doctor panel in an engineering class focused on virtual medicine and cyber care.

Dean described the relatively progressive state healthcare system in Vermont, which guarantees health insurance to young citizens.

An ideal national healthcare system, Dean said, should offer similar universal coverage to the young and also the old while covering middle-aged Americans through private insurers.

The former governor rounded out the day with an evening panel discussion that concentrated mostly on the upcoming November elections and Democracy for America, a grassroots Democratic advocacy group that Dean founded.

According to Dean, Democracy for America is helping to fund Democratic candidates in an assortment of local races in traditionally conservative states such as Alabama and Utah.

Most candidates will probably not win, Dean allowed, but will help spread a progressive message. The former presidential candidate also answered several questions about the role of the media in politics, commenting at some length on his personal observation of media bias.

Tuesday's visit to campus was the first of six planned summer appearances for the former governor at Dartmouth. Dean's successive visits are scheduled to take place twice per month for the remainder of Summer term.