Howard Dean Back in White House’s Good Graces

Once banned by top staffers, the former DNC chairman has patched it up with the president. By Lloyd Grove.

Charles Dharapak / AP Photo

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean—who as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and then as an outside advocate for health-care reform, regularly annoyed President Obama’s lieutenants Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod—is apparently back in the good graces of the Obama White House.

“Since Rahm left [to become mayor of Chicago], I get over there a fair amount,” Dean told me Tuesday night in New York before participating in an Intelligence Squared debate on fixing Social Security and Medicare. As an Illinois congressman heading up the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emanuel clashed bitterly with Dean over allocation of resources.

As White House chief of staff, Emanuel made sure to publicly humiliate Dean by banning him from the DNC announcement ceremony when Obama appointed Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine as Dean’s replacement. Media guru Axelrod was equally scornful—and an April 2009 White House lunch did little to bury the hatchet.

But now Dean—who believes Mitt Romney will be “a very formidable” Republican nominee—says he plans to campaign for Obama’s reelection.

“I’ll defend him,” Dean said, but couldn’t resist adding pointedly, “where I can.”