- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

The brothers Dean

“I thought Jim Dean made sausage.”

Such is one familiar refrain whenever conversation of late turns to brothers Howard Dean and Jim Dean, who together, one might argue, are steering the Democratic Party into the 21st century.

We know the former as a past governor of Vermont and unsuccessful 2004 presidential candidate who recently took control of a Democratic National Committee in need of jump-starting. The latter isn’t as well-known.

“Let me introduce my brother, Jim Dean — the new chair of Democracy for America,” Howard Dean told a Washington audience recently. “Jim has been a tireless supporter of the grass roots and … like many of you, he wasn’t very political until recently. He was drawn into political life because of his deep concern for the credibility of our political process.”

And whereas Howard Dean is the new chairman of the DNC, Jim Dean, in his brother’s absence, has become chairman of Democracy for America (DFA), a political action committee inspired by Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. Founded one month after he withdrew as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, the DFA supports progressive candidates — from school boards to the White House — while fighting “the far- right-wing and their radical, divisive policies and the selfish special interests that for too long have dominated our politics.”

Bottom-line goal: rebuild the Democratic Party from the ground up.

“It really started out as an initiative similar to what Ralph Reed did during the 1980s — trying to bring back progressive politics into places that have not had progressive politics for a long time,” Jim Dean tells Inside the Beltway, referring to the former Christian Coalition leader who gave voice to a “silent majority” that has since propelled Republicans to the White House.

A former market researcher, Jim left the business world in 2001 to, as he tells this column, “hit up family and friends for money because nobody had heard” of Howard.

“I must say it was a remarkable campaign,” Jim says. “And what he is doing now, in many ways, is more remarkable than his running for president. He got up off the ground to keep this job going.”

Last year, the DFA supported 800 candidates for local, state and national office. This election off-year, it has kept busy drafting state referendums and opposing PresidentBush’s partial-privatization plans for Social Security. In the past six weeks, the DFA has expanded from 350 to 470 groups in all 50 states. For all that, Jim credits Howard.

“He’s sure worked hard enough,” he says. “He’ll outwork just about anybody.”

Federal flyspeckers

National Head Start Association (NHSA) board Chairman Ron Herndon has been administering a regional Head Start program “for decades now, and I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like this OSHA-run-amok style of flyspecking that federal reviewers are now exhibiting in order to taint the good name of Head Start programs.”

This time you can’t finger OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Instead, hundreds of Head Start grantees charge they are being unfairly tagged by Department of Health and Human Services review teams as being out of compliance with federal standards under a wide range of subjective and even bizarre “parking ticket” citations.

They include flashlights with dead batteries, toaster-oven crumbs said to pose a fire hazard unless cleaned every day, unraked playground leaves described as a “choking hazard,” even a toddler’s lunch money trumped up into a fiscal management complaint.

NHSA President and CEO Sarah Greene says “bogus” noncompliance findings are suddenly being handed out routinely by Uncle Sam’s investigators, who, she suspects, have been instructed to find problems in nearly every program they inspect.

“[W]e cannot stand by idly and watch as people falsely claim that their agenda is ‘accountability’ when that is just a label that they have hijacked in order to disguise their true intent of dismantling Head Start as it exists today,” she says of the nationwide effort, which represents more than 1 million children in 2,700 Head Start programs in the United States.

President Bush has long proposed turning control of Head Start over to the states. Democrats argue that would jeopardize what has been a successful preschool program for the poor.

Basket case

My obesity just isn’t funny,

And I’m suing for bundles of money:

When a basket of candy

Is too full and too handy,

Who’s to blame but the old Easter Bunny?

F.R. Duplantier

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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