The papers all seem to agree, Howard Dean
may be an M.D., but really he also has a Ph.D.: his Playa
Hater’s Degree. The papers and major newsmagazines portray
Dean as an angry man, perhaps too pissed off for the
The cover of the Economist declares this “America’s
angry election year,” both Newsweek and Time feature Dean on
the cover and The New York Times ran a profile on Dean’s
temper last Saturday. Behind it all is the question of whether
Dean’s propensity to say things as he sees them, with a
minimum of diplomatic filter, will lead to killer gaffes and slip
ups that will doom his candidacy. The conservative National Review
perhaps leads the pack, urgently begging for a Dean candidacy with
the assumption Dean’s anger would not resonate with voters
and he would self-destruct, guaranteeing a second term for
Alright, I’ll buy that anger alone doesn’t win an
election. But what wins the election is honesty and passion. And
right now if other candidates aren’t angry and pissed off
about the direction of the nation they should be. Either the other
candidates are actually angry and hiding it behind slippery phrases
or they aren’t really that angry — either choice is
Let’s look at these supposed gaffes, the things Dean has
said in the heat of the moment.
Lately Dean has gotten a lot of heat for suggesting that Osama
bin Laden deserves a fair trial before punishment is handed down.
It’s a sorry state indeed if Dean is attacked for suggesting
we follow the rule of law instead of vigilante justice.
Saddam Hussein was captured right before Christmas, making the
world safer, right? Well, judging by the increasing casualties in
Iraq, the boost to Code Orange and the return of fighter plane
escorts of commercial planes, apparently not. Dean was right to
point out that the capture of Hussein is not a significant
improvement in the actual safety of U.S. citizens compared to
Hussein hiding in a spider hole.
Dean has also caught heat variously for suggesting that Bill
Clinton is not perfect (he’s not), that Democratic national
Chairman Terry McAuliffe is killing the party (he is) and that the
Democratic Party needs to reach out to poor white southerners (they
So what’s the problem? The supposed slip ups are in fact
right on. That Dean has backtracked a little from these quotes is
not evidence that they were wrong, simply that in this hyper media
age a few quotes out of context can kill a campaign.
The real reason Dean is getting attacked for his anger is
because everyone in power is afraid he will win not just the
nomination, but the presidency. Dean is an outsider, who built an
entire campaign from the ground up, using real honest grassroots
appeal and not relying on the grimy hands of the Democratic
Leadership Council to guide his actions.
There’s a reason Dean says a third of his followers are
under 30. Dean is doing a lot to bring in new members and
first-time voters to the party. During the last 15 years, largely
under Clinton and the leadership of the DLC, Democrats lost the
Senate, the House of Representatives, numerous governorships and
the last bit of the South. If Democrats want to sally forth from
their bastions of power in the cities, they seriously need to
re-evaluate their image, and Dean, despite his supposed
Northeastern elitism, is the only one I have seen with new
In a world where the United States has few allies and where
international relations are as sour as the milk I left in the
fridge over break, there is something to be said for diplomacy. The
Bush administration’s efforts at diplomacy managed to
actually eliminate the post Sept. 11 goodwill of other nations. Can
Dean, with his temper and off-the-cuff remarks, truly rebuild
America’s standing in the world?
If the organization of his campaign is any guide, then the
answer is unequivocally yes. Dean may have anger on the surface,
but his ability to build a nationwide coalition of support and to
do it over the Internet with minimal central control and open trust
is refreshing and stands in sharp contrast to the top-down
precision-guided control of the Bush campaign.
While Bush has carefully poll-tested responses and virginally
tight-lipped spin control, the looseness with which Dean speaks
reveals a confident candidate not afraid to speak his mind or say
unpopular truths that the public should hear.
Dean says what he thinks and is called an angry man. If
that’s supposed to stand in contrast to the other candidates
and Bush who apparently hide behind rhetoric and say what they
think is popular, then sign me up for Dean.