Dean: Bush policy provokes division
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean delivered a blistering assault on President George W. Bush in a speech yesterday at the Top of the Hop, calling him "the most conservative and economically destructive president in our lifetime." Dean also declared that his own unabashed party principles and straight-talking manner make him the only Democrat who can beat Bush in 2004.
The former Vermont Governor elicited his loudest cheers by urging Democrats not to be intimidated by the Bush administration. "Stand up, Democrats! Stop being cowed by enormous poll ratings, right-wing talk show hosts and fundamentalist preachers," Dean said to the crowd of over 150 people comprised mostly of students and area residents.
Dean said he is running because he believes that the country is "fundamentally going in the wrong direction," especially in the areas of foreign and economic policy. As president, Dean said he would repeal Bush's tax cuts to pay for increased homeland security spending, job creation and, perhaps most ambitiously, universal health care.
Dean argued that Bush's policies have divided the nation, ruining the country's sense of community. "I'm tired of being divided by income, I'm tired of being divided by gender -- with the president's attack on Title IX and women's reproductive rights -- I'm tired of being divided by religion, where fundamentalist churches get all the benefits of faith-based initiatives," he said.
"I want our country back again," Dean continued.
Dean's refusal to grant concessions to Bush and his promotion of core Democratic principles such as universal health care and education are part of a larger argument directed at Democratic primary voters, political analysts have observed. His speeches urge voters to choose an ideological candidate, such as himself, rather than a pragmatic candidate, they say.
Dean singled out Florida Senator Bob Graham, who recently declared himself part of the "elect-able wing of the Democratic Party," a reference to Dean earlier proclaiming himself part of the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."
During yesterday's speech, Dean said, "If we're so concerned about elect-ability that we're willing to give up Democratic Party principles [then who will be able to] tell the difference between the Democratic and Republican Party? We're never going to win if we support a $350 billion tax cut ... We're not going to win by being Bush Lite."
Political analysts have claimed that Dean's stance as the only major candidate who did not support the recent war in Iraq leaves him open to being labeled weak on national defense. Dean pre-empted these criticisms through several comments yesterday. He told a questioner from the audience that he would not cut military spending, and he said that Homeland Security is under-funded. He also reiterated his support for the war in Afghanistan.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Dean attacked Bush in the area many regard as the president's strength. "I think [Bush] is vulnerable on national security," Dean said.
He explained that the administration's failure to promote alternative energy sources keeps the country dependent on oil from the Middle East.
Dean argued that this dependence prevents Bush from confronting the government of Saudi Arabia, "who are funding not only terror but the teaching of hate to small children in Islamic countries, which undermines us eventually."
"Part of defense is renewable energy and human rights and trade -- not just a strong military," he said. Dean added he would invest in wind farms in the Midwest to generate electricity.
In an interview with The Dartmouth, Dean acknowledged that if he were to face Bush, a key battle would be to direct voter's focus toward issues like health care and the economy and away from Bush's perceived military strength.
"Most people are hurting. If you ask people if they've had a raise in the last five years, if their kids have health insurance, what kind of education their kids are getting -- they are not going to give you answers that you are going to like," Dean explained in the interview.
"They have to realize that as long as they keep Republicans in office, those things aren't going to get any better. We've got to make sure that people understand that Republicans may be terrific at marching around in uniforms and sending the military into foreign countries, but that does not put food onto the American table."
Dean said he did not support the recent war in Iraq because the country was not a "significant danger." Rather, North Korea and Al Qaeda are the greatest threats to the nation, he told The Dartmouth. A military move against the Communist peninsula is not required, as he explained "there's clearly some things that they want and I believe that we can get there through negotiation."
Dean said during the speech that he supports using a NATO-led coalition to maintain order in Iraq and to guarantee disarmament. "The longer we stay the more we are seen as occupiers and not liberators," he said. "Our troops will pay the price for that as targets."
Dean warned that if America fails to create an Iraqi democracy it risks the rise of a fundamentalist theocracy. America would be "worse off than ... when Saddam was there," he said, because that government would "harbor groups like Al Qaeda where Saddam would not."