Months before Howard Dean’s self-defeating “I Have a Scream” speech, White House political strategist Karl Rove produced a TV spot featuring an earlier Dean outburst and quietly showed it to focus groups.
Although the ad never aired, Mr. Rove found that even Democratic voters were turned off by the anger of a political phenomenon that had come to be known as Bush hatred.
So, Mr. Rove said in an interview with The Washington Times, he was not surprised when Mr. Dean compounded his big loss in the Iowa caucuses in January with an emotional rant that became fodder for late-night comics.
“That was not the first night he had a screed,” Mr. Rove said.
He cited a speech by the former Vermont governor to the California Democratic Convention in Sacramento on March 15, 2003.
“We want our country back!” Mr. Dean thundered, drawing cheers from the party faithful. “I’m tired of being divided! I don’t want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore!
“I want America to look like America, where we are all included, hand in hand, walking down! We have a dream! We can only reach the dream if we are all together — black and white, gay and straight, man and woman! America! The Democratic Party! We are going to win in 2004!”
Mr. Rove said he considered the California speech angrier than the Iowa outburst 10 months later.
“Worse, worse, absolutely worse,” he said. “In fact, we tested the dang thing. The peroration at the end is, like, 27 seconds long, so you can use it for television spots.
“And you just show it to people without any commentary. We showed it to people, and Democrats would say: ‘Why does he hate gay people?’ And it was because he was just so angry.
“And yet read how the press wrote it up: ‘Dean energized them; took the campaign to a new level,’” Mr. Rove said. “What it tells us is, the press misses it.”
Bush hatred is the “natural evolution of the politics of personal destruction, carried to its ultimate end,” he said. “And what it becomes, ultimately, is self-destructive.”