Howard Dean blasts White House for treating liberals with 'contempt'

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean criticized departing White House aides for acting like 'they knew everything and we knew nothing.'

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Former Vermont Governor, presidential candidate, and DNC Chairman Howard Dean speaks to reporters at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast Wednesday in Washington, DC

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean endorsed Chicago businessman Bill Daley, a rumored candidate for White House chief of staff, and criticized Obama administration aides who are departing for treating Democratic progressives “with contempt.”

Speaking at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters, Mr. Dean said, “The core issue is the contempt” with which not just progressives “but lots of people were treated by a group of senior advisers around the president who had been here for 20 years and thought they knew everything and we knew nothing. That is a fundamental flaw in any kind of administration.”

Dean, a former presidential candidate and Vermont governor, tried to steer the conversation away from naming specific departing advisers. “It was more than just [outgoing press secretary Robert] Gibbs or Rahm” Emanuel, the recently departed White House chief of staff, he said. “It was the whole mindset that was going on there.”

“Most of the people who were doing this stuff are either out of the White House or going,” Dean said. His comments came on the morning Mr. Gibbs announced he would leave the briefing room podium in February to become an outside political adviser to the president and to give speeches in the private sector.

The White House has not named a permanent successor to Mr. Emanuel, who is now running for mayor of Chicago. The acting chief of staff, Pete Rouse, and Mr. Daley, a former Commerce Department secretary, are widely rumored to be in contention for the job on a permanent basis. Daley is the son of legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and the brother of current Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“I think if Bill Daley becomes the new chief of staff that is going to be a huge plus because he is outside of Washington. He sees things the way people outside of Washington do,” Dean said.

The atmosphere of what he called contempt “will change dramatically especially if Bill Daley comes in,” Dean said. He added that he disagrees with Daley on a “lot of stuff politically, but I do think, A, he is a grown-up and B, he gets that you don’t treat people like you know everything and they don’t.”

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