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Dean jabs at Bush, GOP to large MacMillan crowd

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean spoke to a packed MacMillan 117 last night about his 2004 presidential campaign, his four years as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the 2008 presidential election.

Students seemed to enjoy Dean's characteristically direct - and often blunt - rhetoric, and responded with a standing ovation at the end of the lecture. Speaking and answering questions for just over an hour, Dean's addressed a wide variety of topics and criticized, at times pointedly, the Bush administration, the Republican Party and conservative pundits Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

The Bush presidency was "not normal," he said. "The president and vice president did not respect the Constitution."

"They did what Joe McCarthy did," Dean said. The presidency "was totally ideologically based."

But Dean said he was confident President Obama would usher in an "extraordinary" time.

"You have no idea how extraordinary Barack Obama is," he said, likening Obama to President Kennedy. "Barack Obama is your generation's president. He brings your generation into politics."

Dean discouraged students from "abandoning" the commitment to politics they showed during the 2008 campaign now that Obama is in the White House.

"(My generation's) biggest mistake was that we decided we could take a vacation from politics," he said. "I think if we had stayed in politics, George Bush would have never become president."

"This doesn't stop with Barack Obama," he said. "It starts with Barack Obama. Now you've got to do the work."

During the question-and-answer session after the approximately 35-minute speech, Dean was asked about rumors that he had sought a cabinet appointment in the new administration.

"Obviously I was disappointed," Dean said, but "what really matters is that they produce what they're supposed to produce."

"There are more important things than whether I serve in Barack Obama's cabinet," he said.

Though the talk was titled "The Internet Revolution 2.0: A New Age of Politics," Dean quickly dismissed the idea that his use of the Internet in the 2004 campaign revolutionized politics.

"Don't pay attention to what people say," he said. "The Internet is a community. It's not just a tool that you can use to raise money."

"What we found (during the 2004 campaign) was that if you had something to say and you understand the Internet, the Internet will make your campaign," Dean said.

Dean said the Internet allows like-minded people to "connect with each other" and form "affinity groups" to support a certain candidate.

"The basic notion is that you develop affinity groups initially around a candidate and eventually to each other," he said. "When (people) care about each other, it's almost impossible to pry them away from the candidate."

Despite the success of Dean's Internet strategy, the former governor did not receive the Democratic nomination in 2004. And though some pundits said his infamous "scream speech" after the Iowa caucuses cost him the nomination, Dean said he did not lose the election because of that speech.

"The scream speech is not why I didn't win the presidency," he said. "I didn't win the presidency because I came in third (in the Iowa caucuses) when I was supposed to come in first."

Dean became chairman of the Democratic National Committee in February 2005 and shifted his focus toward rebuilding the party.

"We didn't have a national party," he said. "We were in 25 or 30 states ... The Republicans had everything."

"They knew what they were doing and they knew how to talk people," he said.

Dean sought to emulate Republicans by building a database to track voter information for the entire country. The party invested money, people and resources in every state - which Dean said aided both Obama and his main opponent, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in their respective primary campaigns.

The "voter profile," Dean said, referring to the database, was part of a larger initiative known as the 50-state plan. Dean explained the motivation behind that plan - often mentioned as a factor in Obama's victory - last night.

"I don't believe that you can win with 25 states," he said. "If you want to govern, you have to be the president of everyone."

"I think George Bush's biggest mistake, among many large mistakes, was that he decided to care about only half the country," Dean said. "That is a short-term strategy for winning elections. The long-term strategy is that you ask everyone to vote for you."

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