PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Dean finds another way to make noise

WASHINGTON: Not since Edvard Munch has one scream so utterly dominated the public's impression of a man. But unlike the artist's 1893 masterpiece, Howard Dean's "I Have a Scream" speech in Iowa two weeks ago threatened to capsize its creator. Thanks to a street-smart media strategy, Dean's drive may yet survive the terrifying moment.

WASHINGTON: Not since Edvard Munch has one scream so utterly dominated the public's impression of a man. But unlike the artist's 1893 masterpiece, Howard Dean's "I Have a Scream" speech in Iowa two weeks ago threatened to capsize its creator. Thanks to a street-smart media strategy, Dean's drive may yet survive the terrifying moment.

Dean had eight days before the New Hampshire primary to prove he wasn't a lunatic - not an easy task given the immediacy with which his public implosion became a phenomenon. TV airwaves were saturated with the clip, and DJs quickly discovered how catchy the rant sounded sampled over a disco beat. Dean's plan was inspired but risky: shun the "hard news" media all week in favor of lighthearted, youth-targeted fare. Avoid those who want to grill you on your embarrassment, embrace the ones who want to exploit it for a cheap laugh. The dethroned front-runner turned up on the very next Late Show with David Letterman, reading a self-effacing Top 10 list that gave the networks a clip to run alongside the Iowa rant. He then sat for an exclusive "interview" with The Daily Show's Jon Stewart - a scripted exchange mocking Dean's predicament. What's perhaps most shocking is what Dean didn't do last week. He turned down an offer to appear for the entire hour of NBC's Meet the Press and risked being the only candidate not to appear on ABC's This Week. Indeed, his only network appearance was a softly lit Q&A with Diane Sawyer and his previously MIA wife. It's a strategy that's hard to imagine working for other candidates, but the Dean movement has always been fueled by the 18-24 crowd. Dean appealed to his most ardent supporters, regrouping his base while softening his image for others. A 13-point loss to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in Tuesday's primary was hardly what Dean had in mind. But his campaign's quick thinking and willingness to take a risk turned a potential annihilation into a mere drubbing. To our eyes, that's art.

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