BURLINGTON, Vt.—The story of this would-be president does not come out of the Democratic consultant's playbook. There is no tale of humble origins, no parents who were union members and no fabled remembrance of young Howard being the first to go off to college with pennies in his pocket and the hopes of his family riding on slender shoulders.
The Dean family homes are on New York's Park Avenue and in the Hamptons. Private prep schools were the launch pad for Dean, the oldest of four boys, to attend Yale, and a trust fund provided him a comfy economic cushion.
- Howard Dean
- Dean ends presidential campaign
Howard DeanBORN: Nov. 17, 1948, New York.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's, Yale University, 1971; medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1978.
CAREER: Governor of Vermont, 1991-2002; lieutenant governor of Vermont, 1987-1991; member of Vermont House of Representatives, 1983-86; internist, 1978 to 1991.
FAMILY: Wife, Judith Steinberg Dean; married, 1981; children, Anne, Paul. No previous marriages.
MILITARY SERVICE: None.
BOOK: "Sometimes a Great Notion," by Ken Kesey.
MOVIE: "Animal House."
PASTIMES: Hiking, canoeing, puttering around the house.
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The family political heritage is Republican -- Dean's father, an outspoken Wall Street stockbroker known at home as "Big Howard," managed the campaigns of a Republican congressman from Long Island. Dean's mother, who wore a dress emblazoned with the word "IKE" during President Dwight Eisenhower's re-election bid in 1956, voted for George W. Bush in 2000.
Big Howard was the uber dad in the Dean household, "a guy who did not keep his opinions to himself," his son said. "He knew everybody, he had friends all over the world."
The Dean family values are hard work, personal responsibility, frugality, pragmatism and -- except for son Howard -- the Republican Party. The Deans have always been tight with a dollar. The lone and conspicuous departure from the Protestant work ethic was Big Howard's fondness for playing the craps tables, and "he was really good at it," said Andree Dean.
Now young Howard, who is not a gambler and was not a risk-taking governor, is at the table rolling the dice and facing far more difficult odds.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would run for president," said his mother, with a mixture of shock, wonder and pride. Her first-born son has always had a capacity to surprise.
Under the shimmering golden dome of the state capitol in Montpelier, large, somber portraits commemorate the two Vermonters who hit the political jackpot: Calvin Coolidge, the nation's 30th president, and Chester A. Arthur, the 21st.
Around the corner to the left hangs the most unorthodox canvas in this graceful, 144-year-old capitol. It's an oil painting of a smiling Howard Dean, striking the outdoorsy pose of a cover model for an L.L. Bean catalog. Holding a canoe paddle, he's wearing chinos, a chamois-cloth shirt and hiking boots. Any moment, it would seem, Vermont's former governor would paddle off in fashionable splendor on some gentle pond.In a state where governors have nicknames -- Kunin was "Queen Madeleine" and Richard Snelling was "King Richard" -- Dean was "Hoho." It was attached to him during his early days in the legislature, when the peripatetic Dr. Dean could be seen darting around the hallways or leaving the capitol in his blue pickup truck to tend to patients or his two children.
"He was kind of regarded as a lightweight," recalled Republican Sen. Vince Illuzzi. "I remember a conversation we had in the hallway of the House chamber, and he wanted mandatory jail terms for people who drove with a suspended license."
Political attitudes toward "Hoho" began to change on an August afternoon in 1991. Snelling, a Republican, died of a heart attack. Dean, the lieutenant governor, was performing a physical examination when the news came. He finished the exam and had little time to ponder his fate as an accidental governor plopped into the midst of a serious state financial crisis.
"He didn't know a lot about how to run state government when he came in," said Kathy Hoyt, Dean's former chief of staff.
But he knew enough to keep Snelling's key advisers and the deficit-cutting tax hikes Snelling moved through the legislature before his death. He "dealt with the role of governor much as he did with his role as a doctor," said former House Speaker Ralph Wright, a Democrat. "He did the best he could and didn't get fancy."
Dean's ascension to the governor's office raised expectations among Democratic lawmakers. In Vermont, Democrats tend to be free-spending, "Ben & Jerry liberals." In the capital, Montpelier, cars sport bumper stickers that read "Free Tibet" and "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" With a governor of their own party in the executive office, Democrats figured the treasury vault would be opened wider.
They would be wrong. Soon Dean would visit the Senate Democratic caucus to lay down the rules.
"He came in and told us, `I don't care what your liberal agenda is," Sen. Dick McCormack recalled. "He said, `You're not going to accomplish it if people don't trust you with their money.'"
"I think what he did was address the fundamental weakness of liberalism in the 1990s," McCormack added.
Demanding and often impatient, Dean's position on spending launched a more than decade-long battle with legislative Democrats. "He protected the Vermont pocketbook like it was his own money," said former House Speaker Michael Obuchowski. "I have to laugh about people who look at him now as if he's a liberal. He's no flamer."
"He was a pseudo-Republican," added John McClaughry, who was a Republican state senator and now runs the Ethan Allen Institute, a Concord, Vt.-based think tank. McClaughry, whom Dean defeated in the 1994 gubernatorial race, thinks Dean was always interested in furthering his own political ambitions that, at that time, only Dean knew.
Vermonters came to expect periodic outbursts from Dean, especially on talk radio shows. "There were times when things were really rocky with the Democrats," said Hoyt, who also carried the unofficial title of "smoother" when Dean popped off.