Money line of the night was early: "The Republicans have brought a culture of corruption to Washington," and he hammered at an overarching theme that the Democrats are the party with real morals and convictions. Some other noteworthy highlights, not necessarily in any kind of order, including chronological:
- He challenged Bush to fire Rove, and show that he values the cover and safety of an undercover agent working for our security more than he values protecting a loyal crony and political operative.
- He took a swipe at Santorum, referring to him as one of Virginia's senators, and also pointed out DeLay's ethics deficiencies as further examples of Republican "moral values".
- He made the point (in defense of Bob Casey, Jr.) that he would much rather have a pro-life Democrat in his corner than a pro-life Republican - because pro-life Democrats at least care about children after they're born. And, of course, he mentioned that there were fewer abortions under Clinton than Bush.
- He emphasized that Democrats must campaign and try to compete everywhere, not just in blue states and swing states. We can't just write off Mississippi, or we'll guarantee that we'll never win there.
- He spoke of the need to count every vote - he expressed admiration for the Oregon law that prohibits use of any voting system that cannot be recounted by hand, and asked How Dare Republicans make a show of trying to attract blacks and Latinos while at the same time trying to repress their votes.
- He pointed out Bush's cocoon and imperial arrogance in a very interesting way, saying that when he was governor of Vermont, he considered the people his boss, that even the ones who didn't vote for him still paid his salary. But President Bush, by contrast, will not even allow any of the 48% of the country who voted against him to participate in any of the town hall meetings he's been holding all across the country, and Dean drew a line from that to the incredible political incivility that has taken over this country.
- He also shared an anecdote about when he asked a young evangelical Christian woman why she supported him - she said she disagreed with most of what he stood for, but the Texas Republicans had screwed over her family's healthcare, and she (and other evangelicals) placed a great value on convictions, especially in positions of high office, and she felt Dean had them, and Republicans didn't (he also disparaged the notion that Democrats should be centrist "Republican Lite").
Basically, if this is the message and strategy Dean wants the Democratic party to adopt, then I feel pretty good about it. The only major theme I'm sorry he didn't cover was The War On Terror - the Republicans have done a shite job at it before and after 9/11, and they need to be called on it, repeatedly. I would have liked to hear more about the Downing Street Memos and how Bush lied us into war, but Plamegate at least touches on that indirectly. I also would have liked to see him follow Hillary's lead and address the lapdogginess of the media, but that's maybe just my obsession, and might not have been appropriate or necessary for a fire-up-the-faithful address like this one.
And I realize this is a bit strange, but spork_incident backs me up (or at least humors me) on this: When Howard smiles, he looks a bit like the middle-aged, Monsieur Verdoux/Limelight-vintage Charlie Chaplin.