When I first saw the snippets of Dean's Monday night speech, they struck me as little more than the fiery rallying cry of an exhausted, hoarse campaigner trying to keep disappointment from sapping his troops. His final grunt did sound sort of odd, but juxtaposed against Dean's other comments that night, which were subdued and conciliatory, his overall reaction seemed reasonable.
Within 24 hours, however, a consensus among the news commentators had congealed that Dean had lost it. Cable news replayed the offending speech fragments over and over Tuesday. Pundits tittered and shook their heads over Dean's eruption of "anger" — a quality of Dean's they had always overstated and overrated anyway.
Ultimately, television pumped this nonstory so full of life that many newspapers felt obliged to run another round of articles about it Wednesday and even Thursday. Dean was described as a "rabid dog" and "borderline psychotic" by analysts. Soon the conventional-wisdom buzz was not that Dean's third-place showing would doom him but that his grunts and howls would.
What had been a relatively innocuous, if slightly goofy, speech has metamorphosed into a real threat to his prospects, as late-night comedians drill home the image of a deranged Dean. Perhaps the propensity toward hysteria and overheated rhetoric belongs to the media, not to Dean.
Friday, January 23
David Greenberg in today's L.A. Times:
Posted by Howard Hoffman at 9:13 AM