There’s an old saying in management circles that “the fish rots from the head.”

The head of the fish, in this case, is Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. What we smell rotting away is the Democratic Party, riven by self-seeking state pols who would rather lose the White House than play by the rules established by their own party.

Only one person can be blamed for this unparalleled party chaos: The Doctor, Howard Dean.

Although politicians in Florida and other states want to blame “rogue states” like New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada, for forcing them to break ranks with the party, Dean is the real architect of this madness.

As chairman of the DNC, Dean is responsible for ensuring that state party leaders enforce reasonable order within their state organizations. Dean, who has previously demonstrated his inability to manage any political organization, has utterly failed to enforce compliance with DNC primary rules. What can be more basic to the job of DNC chair than creating and enforcing those rules?

What’s worse, Dean had a chance more than a year ago to shut down party renegades when Nevada and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid snookered Dean into giving Nevada a front row primary seat. That back room deal started the caterwauling from other state party leaders about creating “more diversity” in the early primaries. 

The only thing that got diversified was political patronage and the egos of some state party leaders. Dean could have stopped the Peasant Rebellion with Nevada, but instead his mismanagement of that crisis induced the catastrophe we are facing today.

The last time I saw this level of management-induced misbehavior was in my 10th grade French class. Our “manager” was a substitute teacher, a thin, frail old man who looked like he was regularly whipped by his macho wife. One rabble-rousing student in the back of the room started humming “Ba ba ba ba barbara ann.” Then another student starting singing. Then another. And another. Before the teacher knew what hit him, there was a chorus of whirred-up boys singing a Beach Boys tune at the top of their lungs, and there was nothing he could do to stop us. That was in a nice Catholic high school in the nice ‘burbs of Connecticut. Our substitute teacher didn’t lose control of the class; he never had it.

Neither did Dean.

No one should be surprised that Dean lost control of the Democratic primary calendar. It was Dean, after all, who lost control of his own presidential campaign and — more relevant here — lost total control of himself during his Iowa concession speech.

We were warned. At least two months ago, James Carville railed about the almost Rumsfeldian incompetence of the DNC and Dean’s handling of the primary system.

Anyone who wants to see a Democrat win the presidency in 2008 needs to demand that Howard Dean resign NOW as DNC chair. Considering the mess he has already created — and the primaries have not even started — it is much too risky to entrust the Democratic Party to his shaky hands during the general election.

It is time for The Doctor to retire.

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