NEW YORK – The Rev. Jesse Jackson (search) said Tuesday that some Democratic rivals of presidential hopeful Howard Dean (search) have succumbed to "mad Dean disease" and warned that the party would self-destruct if the campaign remained "too hostile and too bloody."
Appearing with presidential candidate Wesley Clark (search) at his annual Rainbow/Push job fair, Jackson urged civility among the nine Democratic contenders for the White House.
"In this whole battle, we must have one eye on competition and one on cooperation," Jackson said. "Democrats must not self-destruct in a bloodbath by attacking each other in ways that amount to providing sound bites for George Bush."
The civil rights leader, whose son, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., has endorsed Dean, said too many of the former Vermont governor's rivals "have 'mad Dean disease."'
"They can't see past that fight. ... In the end, that could be damaging," Jackson said in an apparent reference to mad cow disease, which eats holes in the brains of cattle and is incurable.
Jackson also said it was unfair to criticize Dean for not hiring any black or Hispanic cabinet secretaries or top commissioners during the more than 11 years he served in office.
"Vermont doesn't have any blacks hardly in the state," Jackson said.
Dean, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has complained that his rivals are ganging up on him. "I'm going after everybody because I'm tired of being the pin cushion here," he said Monday.
Clark, the retired Army general, toured the expo with Jackson, and said he was there "to talk about economic development in minority areas and how to help urban Americans and rural Americans who are denied access to capital."
The expo, part of Jackson's annual Wall Street Project conference, is aimed at improving the economic conditions of minorities in American through corporate investment and support of minority businesses.