Jonah Goldberg

He continued: "We will not give up! We will not give up in New Hampshire! We will not give up in South Carolina! We will not give up in Arizona or New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan! We will not quit now or ever! We'll earn our country back for ordinary Americans!"

Dean then went on to list more states "And we're going to win in Massachusetts! And North Carolina! And Missouri! And Arkansas! And Connecticut! And New York! And Ohio!" These last six happened to be the home states of his Democratic rivals, though poor Dick Gephardt was already in the process of dropping out.

Now, compared to some of the other things Dean has said over the last year, his list of states is not a big deal. Even his bloodcurdling scream probably isn't anything new to the people who know him best.

But it was something new to many Americans. Moreover, at the very moment the voters had declared they wanted more moderate and reasonable candidates, Dean gave them undiluted rage. Disc jockeys like Howard Stern are already - unfairly, it should be said - playing Dean's diatribe against the soundtrack of Nuremberg rallies.

Dean has spent the better part of a year running as the candidate of rage. With his bulging neck and slightly mirrored eyes, he looks like the Hulk in that interim stage in between man and monster, you know right before he rips his clothes and turns green.

Dean may have talked about domestic policy, but his popularity was due to a single issue: his neck-bulging opposition to the Iraq war. Yet three-fourths of Iowa caucus voters opposed the war, but they still dropped Dean in favor of two men who voted for it.

In short, at just the moment Dean should have made it clear he's more than just his berserker schtick, he decided to make a parody of himself. In other words, he jumped the shark.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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