Dean’s no different than you or me

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has been the subject of much television and newspaper punditry over the past weeks for a couple things.

The first was the fact that his wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean, was not accompanying her husband on the campaign trail. The second, of course, was his psychotic, red-faced rant at the conclusion of the Iowa caucuses. I can’t help but think that the two matters are intrinsically connected.

I’ve been married for 17 years. Early on in my marriage I moved my wife hundreds of miles from her home. We had lived in Hopewell about 9 months when our son was born in 1989. We had no friends, no relatives, no emotional support.

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With that being the case, Cathy would frequently pack a bag, the baby and sometimes a cat and drive to West Virginia to stay with her mother, often for extended periods. There, she had her mother, grandmother, aunts, cousins and friends to talk to, to help out with the baby.

At that time, though fairly young, I was a mostly responsible editor of a daily newspaper, a member of the Rotary Club, the Red Cross Board, and a Little League baseball coach. As is the case with most such men, I bathed and shaved regularly and wore clean clothes.

That was because of Cathy’s presence. When she would go to her mother’s, left to my own devices, within a day or two I would make the transformation from responsible adult to slovenly, immature fraternity boy.

The first casualty would be nutrition. Instead of taking three squares a day I would generally subsist on a diet of frozen pizza and Budweiser. I would amuse myself at home at night during the week watching sports late into the night and being flatulent. It was rare that my body would touch water or a razor from Friday morning until it was time to go back to work Monday.

The weekends were the worst. I would leave for the golf course at 7 a.m. Saturday, golfing, swilling beer and gambling until dark. Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, often in the same underwear. In short, when my wife was away, I was a pig.

I’d live like this for a week or two until Cathy and the baby would return, by which time I would be physically exhausted and morally bankrupt.

This is not behavior of which I was particularly proud. At heart, I knew that I was a reasonably kind and responsible husband and father and upstanding member of the community. But had television cameras been following me around during my wife’s absence, I can see how some people might have inferred that I was some kind of animal. But I am a man. I can’t help it. At heart, we are almost all pigs, driven by our most primal urges. It takes a woman – usually a strong one – to keep us from devolving into some sort of simian beast that wallows in its own feces.

Such is the case with Howard Dean. He needs his wife around him to keep him in check. In fact, I think he is far superior to most men. He’s been out on the campaign trail for almost two years without his wife and all that anyone can pin on him is an angry outburst or two. If my wife were out of the picture for two years I’d probably be sitting in a jail cell somewhere, as would most otherwise responsible adult males.

So men in particular should take it easy on Dean when passing judgment. Here’s an intelligent and courageous public servant who seems to genuinely want to do good for his country and his people. He’s all right. He’s just like you and me. He just needs a woman around to subdue his natural instincts.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or via e-mail at