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Wednesday, January 21, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Dean's theatrics draw mixed reviews
By Verne Gay
And loud. Very loud.
In one of the most remarkable concession-non-concession speeches in recent U.S. political history, the former governor of Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate gave supporters and viewers a performance late Monday night that was both inspirational and riveting. But also let's just get this out of the way right now strange.
Dean appeared before chanting supporters in a 1950s-style ballroom after the devastating results were apparent. The fist-shaking, red-faced candidate sleeves rolled up and face twisted in determination gave a concert-tour-like list of states where his insurgent campaign would rebound, noticeably including his rivals' homes.
"And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House!" he shouted. Then, he ended with a guttural yell.
In the process, he left this important question hanging: Did he lose or did he win? (And this one too: Is he running for president of the United States or commissioner of World Wrestling Entertainment?)
The experts are divided. "Man, it was a little too close to a wrestling speech for my taste," said Mick Foley, a best-selling author, pro wrestler and former commissioner of the (yes) World Wrestling Federation (as WWE was previously known). "If he had leveled with the people, saying, 'I am disappointed, (and) things are going to be tough down the home stretch ... ' Instead, we got a full-fledged WWE wrestling promo, and that's not what I'm looking for in my president."
Asked about the speech by reporters in New Hampshire yesterday, Dean noted that his audience consisted of young people from across the country who had trekked to Iowa to help him.
"I thought I owed them the reasons that they came to the campaign, which was passion," he said.
Seattle-based motivational expert Chris Widener explained that Dean's passion Monday night could cut two ways: "If you position him as a more regal type, it wouldn't fly anyway, (because) he's the firebrand. You want him to come out and get fired up. He's the one railing against the establishment." George W. Bush, he added, "would never have yelled like that because people would have thought he was off his rocker."
But "the downside of screaming," Widener said, "is that it gets down to: The guy with the nuclear football is given to emotional tirades. We want him to be even-tempered and regal."
Information from the Dallas Morning News is included in this story.
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