To hear Howard Dean declare how he and Democrats will rescue the United States from those mean Republicans, Americans should expect a quake-sized upheaval in Washington that no one, by heavens, can stop.
However, when Dean's bravado was tested on a small scale last weekend, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee showed himself to be more bluster than believable.
The man who would topple the Republican colossus couldn't find the guts to cross a picket line at the University of California-Berkeley manned by a measly 20 campus janitors peeved about the disparity between their wages and those of top school officials.
So, rather than make a long-scheduled commencement address to hundreds of graduates and spread the Democratic message in national media, Dean turned tail and ran from 20 janitors, a stunt he figured would earn points with what's left of organized labor -- just 10 percent of the U.S. work force.
This makes Dean look like a cowardly lion that roars but can't bite. What does this say of his saber rattling about routing the GOP beast? Oy.
Dean's trifling thinking is a symptom of the national Democratic Party's inane famine in big thinking and its profusion of bloated ambitions. Does Dean really believe he gained ground nationally by pandering to 20 picketing janitors?
Not much more can be said for the party's other leadership figures, the lifeless U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid and the painfully limited House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi flubbed her chance big time, too. Given a half-hour guest shot on the premiere Sunday news program, "Meet the Press," Pelosi showed up fastidiously prepared in makeup and coordinated lime-colored fashions -- but barren of a single memorable thought.
To moderator Tim Russert's questions, Pelosi parried with tinny rehearsed clichés and the fixed grin of a Miss Teen contestant. Viewers expecting spellbinding Democratic vision for America were left agape, aghast that this woman could be picked to "lead" Democrats in the House, much less get elected in California.
As for Sen. Reid: At the height of last week's storm about spying on Americans' telephone calls, reporters sought Reid for comment. He looked and sounded like a man just unplugged from oxygen support.
Advice for Democrats considering sending big bucks to the party headquarters in Washington: don't. Local grassroots Democrats have more vision, more brainpower and more spine than the increasingly irrelevant Washington Democrat elite.
If Democrats recapture Congress, credit wont belong to the party bumblers, but to Republicans who're worse botchers.