(Host) Commentators, editorial writers and late night talk show hosts have seized on Howard Dean’s emotional appearance before a crowd of supporters Monday night in Iowa. Dean’s wild exuberance and loud yell have spawned both light-hearted jokes and serious questions about his candidacy. VPR’s Steve Zind has reaction from some Vermonters who have worked with Dean.
(Zind) The yell has been described as screechy, guttural and primal – and it continues to reverberate. It punctuated a speech in which a jet-propelled Dean peeled off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and stood before a noisy crowd of supporters.
Anger was what many people saw in Dean’s expression and speech. One newspaper editorial described him as “a simmering volcano of uncontainable rage.”
But Democratic State Senator Susan Bartlett who has known Dean for more than a decade says she saw intensity and passion, not anger.
(Bartlett) “For those of us who know Howard well – and if you’ve ever seen Howard at a hockey game – you can maybe put that in perspective. Most of the country hasn’t had that ability so they haven’t seen that.”
(Zind) Bartlett says Dean’s Monday night performance has been the talk of the State House this week. Privately some say they are embarrassed by the speech. But even sometime Dean adversaries are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
(Doyle) “I think everyone in public office has off days. That, obviously, wasn’t his finest hour.”
(Zind) Two years ago Republican Senator Bill Doyle got into a well publicized finger pointing row with Dean at the State House. Doyle says that was their only angry exchange in 11 years.
Dean’s former Press Secretary Susan Allen works for the campaign. Allen says the Dean’s behavior Monday night was understandable considering he was speaking to a room packed with hundreds of screaming young supporters.
(Allen) “I’m sure that because he’s in a room where the volume is phenomenal where he could probably not even hear himself speak, it probably felt fine and comfortable. I’m sure when he picked up the paper this morning and saw that it appeared different, that was probably a shock to him.”
(Zind) Allen says if there was anything that was unusual in Dean’s appearance that night it was his obvious fatigue.
Veteran journalist Hamilton Davis says fatigue was certainly a factor. Davis says there are enormous pressures in running a national campaign, especially for a frontrunner. He says Dean appears to have cracked under that pressure and allowed some of his less appealing qualities to come through.
(Davis) “My guess is that his internal discipline just cracked and his natural aggressiveness and some harsh notes that have always been present underneath in his political personality just got loose.”
(Zind) As a reporter in 1972 Davis traveled with the campaign of Democratic Senator Edmund Muskie. Hamilton says he watched the campaign wear Muskie down physically. Eventually he lost the nomination to George McGovern. Is it fair for the public to use Dean’s Monday night speech as a measure of whether or not he has the wherewithal to handle the pressures of the Presidency?
(Davis) “I think the public certainly judges it that way, and I think it’s fair to do so. I think that’s by far the most difficult challenge that Howard Dean that faces now. I believe that he could have overcome the fact of losing the way he did in Iowa. It will be much more difficult to overcome that speech.”
(Zind) Since the Iowa speech, Dean has clearly changed his campaign demeanor. He’s dialing back the intensity and taking a more restrained approach.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.