“George Bush is not my neighbor!”
—Howard Dean, January 2004
Five years ago, George W. Bush finished the last good year of his presidency. Things were looking up. The Democratic front-runners seeking their party’s presidential nomination lauded the historic accomplishments in Iraq, particularly Saddam Hussein’s capture.
Well, not all Democrats.
Perpetually angry, Vermont Governor Howard Dean not only disagreed with George W. Bush but detested him. In fact, it was that palpable sentiment that on Jan. 11, 2004 prompted 66-year-old Iowan, Dale Ungerer, to rise at a Democratic debate and question Dean.
Appealing to the spirit of the season, Ungerer asked Dean why he acted “crass” and did not treat the president in a neighborly way. He urged Dean to “please tone down” the heated rhetoric, invoking Scripture: “You should help your neighbor and not tear him down.”
Dean was displeased. The physician-turned-governor leveled his finger at the senior citizen and ordered, “You sit down!” To raucous applause from a hall of screaming liberals, he shouted: “George Bush is not my neighbor! … It is time not to put up [with] any of this ‘love thy neighbor’ stuff!”
Ultimately, Dr. Dean's presidential bid failed, torpedoed by too many outbursts, most notably an infamous episode where he looked into the camera, clenched his fist, and yelped a primal scream, sounding like a disturbed man.
But Dean wasn't finished. Amazingly, Democrats had the audacity to tap him to run the Democratic National Committee, where Dean's revulsion of George W. Bush and "white, Christian" Republicans—which was Howard Dean's divisive description—could be channeled into a campaign to take the presidency—and Congress—by 2008. Unthinkable as it seemed, it worked.
And now, his work finished, and Bush’s destruction sown, Dean steps down from his post this January—the same month a Democrat is inaugurated president.
Let me be clear: I’m not blaming Dean and the Democrats for President Bush’s failures, which resulted in a stunning liberal takeover of the executive and legislative branches, with the judiciary to follow. A number of factors sunk Bush: the body bags in Iraq in 2005-6, the drunken-sailor-like spending, a crashing economy, a maddening inability to respond to critics—including the most outrageous claims. The end-result is a president with record disapproval.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."