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The Problem With Howard Dean

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Question: How is Howard Dean like the Bible?

Answer: There is no position for which you cannot, with a little research, find both support and opposition in the pronouncements of Howard Dean.

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Today exulted: "DEAN GETS IT! Hurrah! Hooray! A million kudos! Howard Dean says that Democrats have to start telling the truth!!!

Quite an accomplishment, no doubt, but is that ALL that Dean said? And what did he say about the war?

Here's the section of Dean's recent interview with CBS that elicited such cheering:

HARRIS: What are the activists in your party expecting from senators on the Roberts nomination? As I said, as long as I've been listening to you speak, your message has been consistent: The party's got to start fighting, stop getting along to go along, show some backbone.
DEAN: I think what activists are expecting is for them to be tough but fair. I mean, the hallmark of the Republicans is, Say anything. If you keep saying it people will believe it even if it's not true.
HARRIS: Does that work for them?
DEAN: I think it has worked for them because we haven't stood up and said, "This is absolutely not true and therefore, you ought to be embarrassed to be saying so. " And we need to say that every single day. So we want to be tough but we want to be fair. I think the damage the Republicans have done to this country not just in the largest deficits in the history and this bumbling stuff that they've done in Iraq. The real damage they've done is they've undermined people's belief that democracy can work and the way to fight this is to be tough but fair.

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Notice that Dean never says to tell the truth. He says to point out the Republicans' lies. He also fails to show much backbone. He refers to the illegal aggressive war on Iraq as "this bumbling stuff they've done."

The vast majority of Democrats strongly oppose the war, and many of those paying attention have long been wondering when Dean would get around to oppposing it too. Here's what he said in the CBS interview:

DEAN:Well, I think, first of all, we need a plan. The saddest article, in a series of very sad articles about people losing their lives--the saddest article I saw was in The Washington Post this morning, talking about the insiders of the administration saying, 'Well, now we misjudged. We really can't achieve any of the things--or many of the things we said that we were going to achieve when we went.' Eighteen hundred and fifty Americans lose their lives because the president can't figure out what he's going to do, had no plan when we got there and has not plan when we get out.
First thing we need to do have a plan for leaving. And the second thing we need to do is to make sure that to the best of our ability we can influence the writing of the constitution. It looks like today, and this could change--as of today, it looks like women will be worse off in Iraq than they were when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq. That's a pretty sad commentary on this administration's ability to do anything right.
SCHIEFFER: Well, when you say, 'We need to have a plan,' you mean a plan to leave?
DEAN: We do.
SCHIEFFER: A plan to get out?
DEAN: We need to have a plan to leave.
SCHIEFFER: Should we leave now?
DEAN: I think that's going to be very problematic. I mean, I think we've gotten in there, we've made a huge mess in there, we've created a terrorist danger for the United States where one did not exist before. But to pull out before they even have a chance to write their constitution I think is wrong. But I do think that time is coming very quickly. And if it turns out that this constitution really does take away the rights that women have enjoyed in Iraq before, then I can't imagine why we're there.
SCHIEFFER: Well, I'll go back and ask you about that in a minute, but I know the president said, and I think it was just this week, giving a timetable for leaving Iraq would be the worst thing we could do because it would just tell the people who oppose us there, 'Look, all we have to do is hang in till they leave, and then we're OK.'
DEAN: We need to leave. We're not going to be there forever, I hope. We're not going to be there forever. So the question is: What is a reasonable way to get out? And that's--we have no answers from the president on that at all. He keeps saying--well, his administration appears to be divided. Some of the generals have said, 'Well, we can withdraw some of the troops, perhaps as many as 30,000, after the elections.' We have others saying, 'Well, we're not going to leave.' These people do not know what they're doing. They didn't know what they were doing when we got in, they had no plan then. They have no plan now. They do not know what they're doing.
HARRIS: Governor, you're the political leader of the Democratic Party. As you well know, many of the--your people in Congress, Democrats in Congress, voted for the war in 2002. Next year, 2006, do you expect this will be a good political issue for Democrats to run on, what you consider the president's failures on Iraq?
DEAN: Well, we don't--I can't imagine using 1,850 lost American soldiers, who have died in defense of their country, using that as a political issue. I think there's a lot of--I think this is certainly going to be an issue of disagreement and it's going to question the president's credibility, the president's competence. But I--you know, using it as a political issue, I think is--I don't think the Democrats are going to do that.

That's right. That is not a typo. Dean wants to NOT use an illegal war based on lies that has made us less safe and less well off and, in thousands of cases, wounded or dead, as a political issue. What does he propose to use as a political issue? Has he noticed that this is the biggest political issue in the media and in Congress whether he likes it or not? Unbelievable!

CBS News even seems to get it. After asking Dean whether Bush should meet with Cindy Sheehan (he said yes), the interviewer proceeded like this:

SCHIEFFER: Why do you suppose it is, though, Governor, that while people are losing confidence in the president's handling of the war that--and every poll suggests that--why do you suppose that people are not buying what Democrats are saying? They don't seem to be taking too much to the Democrats on that.
DEAN: I think they are buying what Democrats are saying. I think people believe that we need a plan to get our troops to come home. I think that people do understand now...
SCHIEFFER:: But if may say so...
DEAN: Sure.
SCHIEFFER:: ...I mean, saying we need a plan. I mean, sure, you need a plan, but do you have a plan? Is anybody working on a plan? What would you propose?
DEAN: Well, Bob, the president of the United States is commander in chief. It is up to him to come up for a plan. You can't expect a congressman and senators who don't have the same access to intelligence as the president does to come up with a plan to withdraw our troops from Iraq. We look--the president got us into Iraq 'cause people were willing to trust the president, even some Democrats were willing to trust the president in assuming he knew what he was doing. The problem is now that there's ample evidence to say that they didn't understand what they were getting into and they still don't know what we're doing there. They changed their goals. The troops are still not properly equipped. The constitution looks like it may take away freedom from the Iraq people, at least half of them, instead of added to them. What we need is a plan from the president of the United States. You can't expect a particular senator or particular congressman to have a plan. Only the president can do that.

It would be so much easier if this were a dictatorship, is, as I recall, how Bush put it.

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Should we be shocked by this abject failure of the chair of the Democratic National Committee to acknowledge that he has a role to play in politics?

I'm not sure we should. I've collected a little evidence of why we should have seen it coming:

Dean was asked "Over what period would you leave our troops in Iraq?"

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)

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