Howard Dean doesn't mind talking trash, but the folks who made him chairman of the Democratic National Committee knew that going in. There was, notably, that famous scream and the promised courtship of "guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks."
Last week he was at it again, saying of the GOP, "It's pretty much a white Christian party," which, in fact, it pretty much is but coming from him is an insult.
The week before he said of the Republicans, "A lot of them never made an honest living in their lives." At least Dean is safe from a slander rap because one defense is that a statement is so outrageous no reasonable person would believe
And before that he convicted Tom DeLay of charges no legal authority has made and then urged the House Republican leader to return to Texas to do jail time. That falls in a category known technically as just plain dumb.
Still, House Republican whip Rep. Roy Blunt retorted, "Howard Dean continues to throw some of the most below-the-belt political punches in recent memory."
For a veteran politician and a guy who is, after all, his party's designated arm twister, "recent" must mean two, maybe three, weeks.
Actually, Ken Mehlman, Dean's counterpart as head of the Republican Party, had the best rejoinder to the "white Christian" jibe, saying that "a lot of folks who attended my bar mitzvah would be surprised."
Nonetheless, Dean was making some Democrats nervous. While insulting Republicans was OK, they feared their chairman might be alienating some of the undecideds they're trying to lure into the party.
House GOP leader Nancy Pelosi labeled his Christian statement "unhelpful"; Sen. Joe Lieberman, "over the top;" and Rep. Rahm Emanuel "gratuitous hits."
Dean's defense is that by attacking him the Republicans are only trying to deflect attention from the real issues. And he does fire up the party's base. In the first quarter of this non-election year, traditionally an off time for fund-raising, Dean raised $13.8 million for the party, and that, students of politics, buys a lot of trash talking.