The killing of Howard Dean‘s Presidential primary campaign was a deliberate media hit job. News producers played that “yeeahhhhh!” video clip (pulled from Dean’s speech to followers after his third-place showing in the 2004 Iowa caucus) hundreds and hundreds of times over the next two or three days until Dean had been turned into a complete clown, a punchline, a living Wilhelm scream.
And now Leonardo DiCaprio wants to portray Dean in a film version of a play called Farragut North, written by former Dean staffer Beau Willimon about “a novice but inspired campaign staffer who works for an unorthodox presidential candidate. George Clooney would direct and produced the film for Warner Bros.
The most interesting story, for me, wouldn’t be about the experience of a Dean campaign worker, but about how and why the “yeaahh!” clip was seized upon and exploited by the media in order to destroy Dean. He might have lost the nomination to John Kerry in the long run, but the clip killed him. It was one of those amazing media moments in which a political movement was assassinated so that a few hundred TV stations could broadcast a cheap laugh and maybe boost ratings. It was a defining triumph of media mediocrity.