The Democratic party is fat
Howard Dean is a doctor by training. As such, a doctor cannot afford to let the feelings of his patient get in the way of telling them something that they need to hear. If he is treating a patient his is grossly obese, he can't let the fact that saying so might hurt their feelings get in the way of telling them that they need to lose weight.
The Democratic party has lots of problems right now, but many of those problems are exacerbated by the fact that many people within the party don't want to talk about those problems. The confederate flag flap is a prime example of this.
Regardless of whether Dean could have chosen a slightly different way to approach this issue, Doctor Dean was correct in highlighting a problem that the Democratic party has. That problem is that continued insistence that rural white southerners do penance for a racist past before they will be allowed to participate in the discussion of where the Democratic party should go. The flag is not the issue, it has simply become the symbol for that issue. As long as Democrats insist on getting upset about the flag, as long as they continue to look down their noses at people who put flag decals on their pickup trucks, they will continue to lose.
It is the height of irony that John Edwards yelled at Dean about stereotyping southerners because it was the stereotype that Dean was directly attacking in his comment. The stereotype is not that all southerners drive around in pickup trucks with confederate flags on their bumpers. The stereotype is that those who do should be an embarrassment to anyone who associates with them.
Dean is not a perfect spokesmen on this issue. He is not the great speaker that we had in a Kennedy or a Clinton (or, if what I have seen holds true, Wesley Clark). But he confronts the issues that more erudite politicians are afraid to confront because, as a Doctor, he knows he does no service to the people he is serving if he tries to appease their sensitivities.
The Democratic party is fat. The Democratic party doesn't want to hear about it. They better start listening before it is to late.