There were two observations to take away from the speech and the media reaction to it. One was the inevitable media reaction to negatively frame it out of proportion and the other was to admit how that passion spoke to me.
First in the article The Phony Dean 'Meltdown' Russ Baker describes the process of taking a relatively innocuous event and spinning it negative:
As far as I can tell, the worst Howard Dean has done is to try to be himself. (And, when criticized for that, to show some willingness to alter his demeanor.) But neither of those is good enough for a media that smells a good story--allegedly about personality, much more interesting than issues.
We saw and see nearly every news outlet playing the footage of the rally again and again. We see headlines in the less-cautious papers about Dean "imploding," and gleeful spin from Republican strategists that Dean is "finished."
From Slate magazine ("Mean Dean Loses Steam") to The New York Post ("Dean's Ballot-Box Conspiracy Theory"), it's all about painting him as unseemly, unstable and irrationally angry, rather than focusing on his ideas. And yet, carefully scrutinized, virtually everything the man has said accords with the beliefs and understanding of a significant portion of the American populace, and, significantly, of what has been reported in the media.
But once something like this "meltdown" story gets started, the media go into a kind of inexorable black hole, and the pull is so great it becomes hard for thinking journalists and editors to resist. And not just journalists. It takes extraordinary mettle for anyone in the limelight to resist this. Once the howl of the pack gets loud enough, questioning the seriousness of Dean's so-called 'problems' becomes tantamount to downplaying allegations against Michael Jackson.
Personality matters more than substance with the media dictating the need for Democrats to have gravitas, seriousness and demeanor at all times. Which of course leads to Democrats who are dull, out of touch, and wimpy.
Dean's passion at least shows a Democrat who cares enough to show it(I have seen Clark explode out of expected Ken-Barbie doll look of mindlessness to the same effect). His passion rather than alienating me actually made him more appealling. Why? As Paul Vitello put it, There's A Little Bit Of Dean in Me:
Dean has spoken for me. Whether I ever get to vote for him or not, Dean has captured the real frustration in me, and I suspect millions of people, as citizens of a country gone nuts.
I have liked the campaigns of some of the other Democratic candidates. Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, in particular, spoke well. But Dean is the only one who ever voiced the level of anger and alienation I've felt since the launch of the war in Iraq.
For that, I thank him. He pulled me back from the brink. You can't be truly alienated from the political process if there is someone running for president on your platform of indignation.
In psychobabble-speak, Dean validated my sense of betrayal and, by extension, my sense of patriotism; because when I look in the mirror, I don't just see an angry guy - I see an angry, patriotic American guy.
Dean has his faults, but passion is not one of them. If you need Democratic Ken-Barbie dolls as a model, look no further than the Senate where these types got rolled again on the Spending Bill. This phrase says it all, Congress snuffed out Democratic opposition Thursday. It seems to be a pattern. Sigh!
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