In 2004, Dean was guilty of telling inconvenient truths and mobilizing the support of grassroots and netroots across the country. As a genuine populist unbeholden to party apparatchiks and their backers, he represented both a threat and an opportunity. The threats was neutralized by a backroom deal that shunted Dean to 3rd place in the Iowa Caucus. The opportunity was realized by putting Dean into place as DNC chairman to implement his "fifty state strategy"... essentially, to become the architect of the solid Democratic majority that Barack Obama and his advisers have squandered.
Many of Obama's progressive supporters expected Dean to be rewarded with a cabinet post or other position within Obama's administration; at the very least, they expected themselves to be rewarded by seeing some measure of Progressive representation in Obama's cabinet and/or inner circle. Both of these expectations were in vain. Instead, the Obama Administration has been stocked with Clinton-era holdovers, Bush Administration retreads, "centrists" of various other stripes, and even Republicans. Not surprisingly, this team has managed to botch or renege on virtually every promise made in the course of Barack Obama's lengthy campaign for the White House. When it became evident that healthcare reform would almost certainly join the list of botcheries and broken promises, Howard Dean stepped forward and announced that the bill under current consideration in the Senate was no longer worthy of consideration or support.
The reaction from The White House has been a study in ignominy. As a former state legislator, national party chairman and one-time Presidential candidate, Dean is arguably the most senior member of what he once described as "The Democratic Wing of The Democratic Party." As a practicing physician and former governor of a state--Vermont-- that has actually delivered on affordable healthcare reform for its citizens, his credentials to critique the current effort at national reform is beyond dispute. The White House's reaction to such criticism? To engage in ad hominem speculations on Dean's sanity. Howard Dean deserves better treatment than this-- as do his current and former supporters, who have more reason daily to question their support for the Democratic Party in general and Barack Obama in particular.
The Administration wants to pass a health insurance reform bill in the worst way imaginable. They are rightly concerned that a State of the Union Address that lacks "Healthcare Reform" among its listed accomplishments is the first step in a process that puts Congress--and very possibly The White House-- back in Republican hands. In his own condemnation of the Senate bill, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann raised the very real possibility of a Primary challenge to the President in 2012. This is no more impossible than would be a successful third party bid for the loyalties of disaffected progressives--who at this point are very much tired of playing battered wife to the abusive and lying spouse that has become The Democratic Party. If Howard Dean had aspirations in either of these directions, he would have my support... and I would not be alone.
In the meanwhile, it is high time The White House and congressional Democratic leaders stop trying to "shoot the messenger"--and started listening to the people who got them elected them in the first place.