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The battle between former Democratic Party Chief Howard Dean got ugly today, as Dean said he would support Obama for re-election but not vigorously. The Political equivalent of a declaration of war. He was basically saying that he would sit on his hands in 2012 and has one of the leaders of the Progressive movement, that statement is a hint for his supporters to do the same.

Dean’s battle with the Obama administration became public a few days ago when Dean,  who was ousted from his party chairmanship  by Obama after the successful 2008 campaign, suggested that so much as been taken out of the Obamacare bill that maybe it should be killed and congress should start over.

Robert Gibbs answered Dean with the typical Obama nastiness.

According to Jake Tapper Senior White House officials began to more aggressively dispute criticisms of Democratic Senate health care reform legislation from former Democratic National Committee chairman Dr. Howard Dean Wednesday, saying the former Vermont governor made arguments that “simply weren’t true” and “flat-out wrong.”

On “Good Morning America” this morning, Dean argued that the bill’s mandate that individuals obtain health insurance, while not offering a government-run public health care option, means the bill is “an insurance company’s dream.”

“If this is an insurance company’s dream, I think the insurance companies have yet to get the memo,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said at his daily briefing. “Insurance companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying against this legislation… If this is such a good deal for them, I’m not entirely sure why they’re fighting it.”

On Vermont Public Radio Tuesday, Dean called for Democratic senators to kill the bill.

“I don’t think any rational person would say killing a bill makes any sense at this point,” Gibbs said today.

Asked why he thought Dean was making the arguments he’s making, Gibbs said, “I can’t tell what his motives are.” He said the Senate legislation was essentially what Dean “campaigned for in 2004” but better.

The 2004 presidential candidate told George Stephanopoulos on GMA that “there are some good things in this bill. The problem is, we’re now committed to a solution using the private insurance companies. And you will be forced to buy insurance. If you don’t, you’ll pay a fine. And 27% of the money that you put in will not go to your health care. It will go to CEOs, who make $20 million a year. This is a bigger bailout for the insurance industry than AIG.”

Dean added that he doesn’t “believe there’s going to be the money around in five years… because the insurance companies are charging so much.” He said a provision in the legislation prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals based on pre-existing conditions “has disappeared essentially. The fine print in this bill allows that insurance companies charge you three-times as much if you’re older than they do if you’re younger.”

Said Gibbs, “I don’t know what piece of legislation he’s reading.”

Gibbs offered a detailed rebuttal of Dean’s assertions, saying “nobody will be required to purchase something they can’t afford. There are hardship exemptions and subsidies based on income levels that help people afford insurance.”

Dean said that 27% of the fine imposed on those who don’t have insurance “will go to CEOs who make $20 million a year.”

“I don’t have the slightest idea where the fact of 27 percent came from,” Gibbs said, adding that Dean “went on later in the interview to discuss the notion that legislation…no longer contains anything that addresses pre-existing conditions. That’s simply flat-out wrong. Later in the interview, he said that he didn’t see any cost control in the bill, when every health economist that’s evaluated the bill says that any idea that’s out there to contain costs is actually contained in the bill.”

Earlier today, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer posted a blog item calling Dean’s argument “somewhat perplexing” given that the “insurance industry has been leveraging its considerable resources in a ferocious effort to defeat this bill, including producing a report the day before the Senate Finance Committee vote that was so misleading the firm behind it had to walk away from it.”

Pfeiffer claimed that among the many provisions in the bill are those “to end insurer abuses, lower premiums, and hold insurance companies accountable.” Moreover, he said, insurance reforms “will prohibit abuses such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, charging exorbitant premiums based on gender, age, or health status, dropping coverage when people are sick, and imposing lifetime limits on benefits.”

Dean said on GMA that in Washington, DC, “passing any bill is a victory. And that’s the problem. Decisions are made about the long-term future in this country for short-term political reasons.”

Today Dean appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe:

oe Scarborough suggested that Dean would be accused of dragging down his party and helping Republicans.

HOWARD DEAN: Look, here’s the thing: every politician says this and I hesitate to do it because they all say it, but sometimes the country’s more important than either party.


DEAN: I’m going to support President Obama when he runs for re-election. Not vigorously.  I’m going to vote for him.

Scarborough can be heard bursting into laughter off-camera.
DEAN: I am, I am.

SCARBOROUGH: “Not vigorously.”  Boy, I can almost feel the confetti [presumably from GOP victory celebrations] falling on my head here!

Grab some popcorn and see the video below (H/T Newsbusters)

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