Typical Fineman: Dissecting Howard Dean's Implosion http://www.msnbc.msn.com/Default.aspx?id=4037574&p1=0 Former front-runner undone by long list of flawsWEB EXCLUSIVE By Howard Fineman Newsweek Updated: 10:26 a.m. ET Jan. 23, 2004Jan. 23 - Like the Challenger explosion, the faltering of Howard Deans campaign will occupy crash-site investigators for years, maybe decades. How did a guy who rose to frontrunner with such a powerful message the war is wrong, the political system needs profound reform get so sidetracked between Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl? PRIVATE GUY. Dean is an unusual character in politics. He thinks it is his right to guard his privacy in the most public line of work. When he rose to prominence he didnt realize that he needed to develop a narrative to explain, in detail, why he was who he was as a public man. By the time he started giving interviews to People and Diane Sawyer it was too late. Hes a doctor. Isnt there a positive message in his practice somewhere? We still dont know. EMOTIONAL. Paradoxically, as private as he is, Dean is capable perhaps too capable of showing emotion. When I interviewed him for Newsweek last year, he broke down in tears when I asked him about his lost brother. I had never seen a politician do this: he turned beet-red and sobbed. He told me he had had counseling. It was touching, but, in retrospect, a harbinger of his angry reaction to his loss in Iowa a fateful moment to say the least. NO SENSE OF HUMOR. Dean is in many ways an unassuming guy, but he doesnt like criticism, and cant stand being teased. I had dinner with him in late 2002, just as he was gearing up to run. He told me that he wasnt a typical liberal, and by way of explanation said that he had supported civil unions, but also had never supported gun control. Being the jerk that I am, I said: Well, governor, I guess you have the gay hunter vote locked up. (It was a fresh joke at the time.) His response was an icy stare. Maybe it wasnt that funny. But he couldnt fake tolerance for sophomoric humor and isnt that required in politics? NEVER LOST. My friend Bill Greider, the eminent author, pointed out to me the other day that Dean reacted the way he did after Iowa because he had never lost an election. So he never had to examine what he had done wrong in politics. Failure is a good thing, in politics as in life. TRAPPED IN INSURGENCY. Dean and his advisors knew last fall that he had to somehow move beyond the outsiders first phase of his campaign to something broader and more comprehensive by way of a message. He and his aides have deep convictions about whats wrong with the System, political and economic. But they had trouble translating that sweeping critique into a coherent set of policy proposals. He went back and forth about taxes. His message on health care was heart-felt, and his record in Vermont a good one. But after the war in Iraq became the central focus of his campaign, the rest of the message drifted away. HYPNOTIZED BY PROCESS. For months the central message of the campaign was the campaign itself: its success on the Internet, its blogs, its meetups. There was too much self-satisfied discussion of just how much money was being raised. It was: we deserve to win because we are going to win. SADDAM CAPTURE. Its not that voters thought, or think, that the war on terrorism had been won by the capture of Saddam Hussein. And many would probably agree that we are not really safer as a nation. But he was so grudging about the event as to seem churlish and, to sophisticated Democratic voters, too willfully defiant to make him a trusted figure. ENDORSEMENTS. On Hardball last week, my colleague Chris Matthews kept demanding to know why Dean had spent so much time acquiring and advertising the endorsements of what he called yesterdays men Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Tom Harkin and Jimmy Carter. It was a very good question. The parade of endorsements ran counter to Deans main message, which is: I am something different, not the usual political politician. COPYCAT RIVALS. The other candidates have appropriated Deans outsider themes. It remains to be seen if they believe them, if they embody them, or if they can sell them. But they all sound like Howard Dean now. Theyre all talking passionately about special interests now. He won, in a way, but the victory may belong to someone else in this crazy race. © 2004 Newsweek, Inc.