June 24, 2003
Ex-governor Dean joins race with attack on Bush
Democrat says U.S. 'is in crisis'
By TOBY ECKERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
BURLINGTON, Vt. – Declaring that America "is in crisis" because of President Bush's policies and vowing to "forge a new American century," former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean formally launched his presidential campaign yesterday.
Dean expanded on the populist, progressive themes that he is counting on to motivate Democratic voters and make him the nominee to challenge Bush in 2004.
"You have the power! You have the power!" he chanted at the climax of his 26-minute speech to more than 2,500 supporters packed into a pedestrian mall.
Dean has been criticized for staking out positions viewed as too liberal to win the general election. But on this day, he did not stray far from his familiar themes.
Listing the reasons why he started fighting for the nomination a year ago, Dean said, "Most importantly, I wanted my party to stand up for what we believe again."
Dean then tore into Bush's economic and social policies, saying the Republican president was dividing the nation by class, race and gender.
"At home, the crisis manifests itself in the president's destruction of the idea of community," he said. "The president pushes forward an agenda and policies which divide us. He advocates economic policies which beggar the middle class and raise property taxes so that income taxes may be cut for those who ran Enron."
Dean, a physician, has advocated revoking the tax cuts championed by Bush and using much of the money to fund a plan for universal health care.
Continuing to highlight the issue that has brought him the most attention as a candidate – his staunch opposition to the Iraq war – Dean suggested America was in danger of becoming a "new Rome."
"Every American president must and will take up arms in defense of our nation. It is a solemn oath that cannot – and will not – be compromised," he said, trying to counter critics who have questioned his commitment to a strong military and national security.
"But there is a fundamental difference between the defense of our nation and the doctrine of pre-emptive war espoused by this administration," he added.
"Our foreign and military policies must be about America leading the world, not America against the world," Dean said, without explicitly mentioning Iraq.
Initially considered a long shot for the nomination, polls show Dean, 54, running well against the eight other Democratic candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he is vying for regional appeal against Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. Iowa and New Hampshire hold the first two contests in the Democratic battle.
"Whether or not he is a true contender for the nomination, he has become a factor in the race," said political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. "He's obviously touched a nerve in the Democratic Party among activists who feel that the party has failed to stand by its traditional instincts and values."
But political observers note that Dean had an ideologically mixed record as governor: cutting taxes while expanding access to health care; supporting gun rights and the death penalty, as well as gay and lesbian "civil unions."
"The national view of Howard as this ultra-liberal candidate is at odds with how he's viewed in Vermont," said John Burke, a presidential scholar at the University of Vermont. "On a range of things, some of his views were not predictably liberal."
Dean's aggressive campaign has worried some Democratic strategists who say he is too liberal to appeal to most general election voters. They have compared him to George McGovern, the South Dakota senator who won the party's nomination in 1972 and was defeated in a landslide by Republican Richard Nixon in the general election.
Dean entered state politics in 1982, winning a seat in the Vermont House of Representatives. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1986 and assumed the top executive post when then-Gov. Richard Snelling died in 1991.
Before his bid for the Democratic nomination, Dean was best known nationally for supporting and signing into law Vermont's civil union legislation, which gave gay couples the same legal rights as married couples. He decided not to seek re-election in 2002, setting up his run for president.