Republicans laughed when Howard Dean was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Many GOPers viewed Dean as a foolish choice, especially when he spoke of a 50-State Strategy. There was zero chance, the conventional wisdom held, of competing in states such as Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina. That thinking was conventional, but definitely not wise.

Dean's actions planted the seed, in effect, for what became a model for the Obama campaign. No doubt, President Obama ran a near-flawless campaign — shattering fundraising records and overcoming every obstacle that came his way. But in saying Democrats would compete in all 50 states, in every congressional, senatorial and gubernatorial race in the nation — and putting his money where his mouth was — Howard Dean helped make Barack Obama's improbable win possible. In fact, in its own special way, "The Dean Scream" in 2004 laid out the path for Obama's victory.

So what has his reward been?

He lost his job, for starters. As president-elect, Obama made it clear that he wanted to make changes at the DNC. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was in; Howard Dean was out. To add insult to injury, when President-elect Obama paid a visit to the DNC, he did so when Dean was off in American Samoa.

After former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) removed himself from consideration to be secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), one might assume Dean's name would feature prominently. After all, his résumé would seem to be perfect for HHS in an Obama administration — successful DNC chairman, longest-serving governor in Vermont history and one who made healthcare a top priority. Oh, and Dean's a doctor. So is his wife.

Instead, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone in Washington who believes Dean has the slightest chance of being nominated. His name is not even being whispered by Obama insiders, who seem loath to mention that name for any reason. And the visit to the DNC when Dean was, literally, half a world away struck many as an unnecessarily personal and callous slap in the face.

The Obama team's treatment of Howard Dean brings to mind the line from Fat Albert: "It's like school on Saturday — no class."

Chris Matthews echoed this sentiment recently, stating, "How come he's not the HHS secretary? He's getting squat from the president. Howard Dean is the chairman of the Democratic Party … he had a big hand in bringing this victory that you all enjoy this year; he's a medical doctor; he succeeds in so many ways in building your party up and raising money and doing everything right; he began this populist thing back in the last election … he's getting nothing!"

Some might call it the cold shoulder. In dating terms, it's called "The Heisman."

Whatever it's called, Howard Dean deserves better.