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Monday, September 22, 2003

Globe Dean Profile

The Boston Globe ran part 1 of its Howard Dean profile Sunday, with part 2 on the way Monday. The long article takes a somewhat negative tone (unfair in my view) about Dean's early life, portraying him as a directionless young man. Here's a passage on alleged tension between Dean and his black roommates at Yale:

"Roman and Dawson became officers in the black student organization, which made their dorm a magnet for African-American students. Most of the black students who visited the dorm accepted Dean. They included him in late-night card games and welcomed him in heated discussions about civil rights.

"'He was not one of the blue-blood types or the private-club types who wore their school colors on their arm,' Roman said. 'Howard was very unassuming, very low key. I think he was willing to be treated as others treated him. ... But that's not to say we didn't have our challenges.'

"For one thing, Dean liked quiet and was not keen on the Motown sounds that Dawson and Roman, both members of a band, loved to blast. And Dean wasn't a political activist like Dawson and Roman. He made it clear that he believed in community service rather than protest marches. When Martin Luther King Jr. died, the four roommates spent the night talking. Dean remembered it as a sobering experience, when the men drew closer. Mancini recalled it differently: The stress of King's assassination brought back some of the same racial barriers the four thought they had knocked down."

A related article brings up the Vietnam deferment issue again. The article sounds like he sought out the medical reference on his back condition:

"In February of 1970, with the Vietnam War raging, 21-year-old Howard Dean carried a set of X-rays and a letter from a Manhattan orthopedist named Hudson Wilson to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, where US military doctors determined that he was not fit for military service because of a back condition called spondylolisthesis."

The Globe makes clear checking on whether the deferment was legit is hard to do:

"The basis for his classification is difficult to document. The Selective Service System, following standard procedure, destroyed all records in Dean's file save his classification listings. Dean said he did not keep copies of the X-rays or Wilson's letter. Nor did he keep a copy, he said, of the letter he believes he wrote requesting a deferral from military service. His physician, Wilson, is dead."

The close of the article makes Dean sound defensive about the issue:

"When he chose to seek the presidency, Dean made sure official records of his health problem contained no surprises. 'We didn't want my draft file becoming public without knowing what was in it,' he said."

Unfortunately I have a feeling we haven't heard the last about the unfused vertebra and the winter in Aspen.