All Scream, All the Time

We’ve all said and done things we wish we hadn’t. Luckily, for the vast majority of us, we didn’t do so microphone in hand, with a couple hundred people in front of us, television cameras trained in our direction, and in view of a press corps whose job it is to write about us.

Howard Dean, as we all know, had just such a moment.

After a disappointing showing in the Iowa Democratic caucus in January 2004, Dean let loose with the infamous “scream” that was blown up, and generally out of proportion, by reporters bored with and/or embarrassed by the horse race stories they’d been writing — stories that had incorrectly portrayed Dean as a lock in Iowa. Although Dean has since moved on to chair the Democratic National Committee, and the nation didn’t even elect the guy who beat him in Iowa, some people just can’t seem to let go of that strange, brief moment 15 months ago.

One newspaper that apparently hasn’t forgotten is the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which used a speech by Dean on Wednesday in Minneapolis as an excuse to mention the Dean scream not once, but twice in a 384-word article.

The Trib hit the ground running in the lede: “Howard Dean came to Minnesota Wednesday evening without the scream that ended his 2004 presidential campaign, or the anti-Iraq war rhetoric that started it.” Nice. OK, we get it, Dean behaved himself in Minnesota.

But really, does anyone believe that the scream ended Dean’s shot at the Democratic nomination? Let’s remember, his inglorious moment happened after he lost big in Iowa, placing a distant third in the balloting. It was the personality that gave rise to the scream, not the scream itself, that more than likely doomed Dean’s nascent presidential bid. But hey, who needs analysis when there’s an easy joke to be made?

The Trib, not one to leave a dead horse unbeaten, harks back to January ‘04 again in the fourth paragraph, in a sloppier (and more forced) reference: “Dean regaled an appreciative audience for nearly 90 minutes without once raising his voice, as he did after last year’s Iowa primary election.”

“Without once raising his voice”? The construction smacks of a cheap excuse to take another lame shot, and as such hardly rises to the level of responsible journalism.

Dean is certainly fair game for political attacks, and has a knack for opening himself up to criticism more often than most Democrats would like, but it seems a waste of space — not to mention lazy writing and a failure of the imagination — to mention the scream twice in describing a speech more than a year later.

Give it a rest, guys.

Paul McLeary

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.