Howard Dean's Scream (or the ultimate performative piece)
Dean's campaign suffered a blow when a last-minute surge by rivals John Kerry and John Edwards led to a disappointing third-place defeat for Dean in the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucuses, representing the first votes cast in primary season. Dean had been a strong contender for weeks in advance in that state, battling with Dick Gephardt for first place in the polls. To the surprise of the Dean and Gephardt campaigns, Dean finished third in Iowa behind Kerry and John Edwards, with Gephardt finishing fourth. Since Dean had spent months leading Iowa tracking polls, his third-place finish was widely considered a sign that the campaign was losing momentum.
Dean attended a post-caucus rally for his volunteers at the Val-Air Ballroom in West Des Moines, Iowa and delivered his concession speech, aimed at cheering up those in attendance. Dean was shouting over the cheers of his enthusiastic audience, but the crowd noise was being filtered out by his unidirectional microphone, leaving only his full-throated exhortations audible to the television viewers. To those at home, he seemed to raise his voice out of sheer emotion. Additionally, Dean began his speech with a flushed-red face, clenching his teeth as he rolled up his sleeves.
According to a Newsday Editorial written by Verne Gay, some members of the television audience criticized the speech as loud, peculiar, and unpresidential. In particular, this quote from the speech was aired repeatedly in the days following the caucus:
“ Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York … And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Byaaah!!! ”
This final "Byaaah!!!" has become known in American political folklore as either "the Dean Scream" or the "I Have a Scream" speech (an allusion to "I Have a Dream").
Dean conceded that the speech did not project the best image, jokingly referring to it as a "crazy, red-faced rant" on The Late Show with David Letterman. In an interview later that week with Diane Sawyer, he said he was "a little sheepish … but I'm not apologetic." Sawyer and many others in the national broadcast news media later expressed some regret about overplaying the story. In fact, CNN issued a public apology and admitted in a statement that they indeed may have "overplayed" the incident. The incessant replaying of the "Dean Scream" by the press became a debate on the topic of whether Dean was the victim of media bias. Such reports certainly fit with reports of "unelectability," as shown by Green's Atlantic Monthly piece. The scream scene was shown an estimated 633 times by cable and broadcast news networks in just four days following the incident, a number that does not include talk shows and local news broadcasts. However, those who were in the actual audience that day insist that they were not aware of the infamous scream until they returned to their hotel rooms and saw it on TV.