Howard Dean has reached the kitchen sink phase of his candidacy, which is to say his opponents have decided to throw everything at him, including the kitchen sink and more.
He has obliged them by giving them plenty to throw.
At the same time, his opponents are employing time-honored techniques of exaggeration and distortion. His own hostile reactions to their attacks have soured the atmosphere further, igniting a gleeful glow in the eyes of Karl Rove and other Republican strategists.
Dean has a way of saying things that are obviously true but which leave him open to attack by those wishing to make him look bad.
In America the holidays were accompanied by the second highest state of alert, suggesting that what Dean said was true: A sense of safety has never been more lacking.
Yet Dean's opponents have twisted his statement to suggest Dean actually thought it would be better if Saddam were still in power.
A statement by Dean about Osama bin Laden has been used against him in a similar way. Dean was talking about the fact that, were bin Laden to be tried by a war crimes tribunal, he would enjoy the presumption of innocence.
That is the way trials work.
Otherwise, the proceedings would not withstand the international scrutiny that President Bush has said is important.
But it is a dangerous thing for Dean to say the obvious, and his opponents were only to happy to suggest Dean thought Osama might be innocent.
Dean's record in Vermont has also come back to haunt him. Thus, tax incentives for economic development - something all 50 states probably have - could be portrayed as a mini-Enron scandal. Dean's private discussions of energy deregulation could be likened to Vice President Cheney's secret talks on energy policy.
"Will absolutely be likened" is closer to the mark. The details of conflicted-interest Cheney's Enron energy policy and Halliburton Iraq invasion will remain top secret and off-limits to public inquiry, while candidate Dean's routine discussions will get the full brunt of a press inspection. In the court of mainstream media, why are Democratic candidates more accountable than Republican executives in power? (The answer is not "9-11.")
Political reporters and editors — where is your sense of shame?