Dean Shifts Focus From Katrina Tapes to Election Hopes

July 7, 2008 - 8:31 PM

(CNSNews.com) - One day after Democratic leaders in Congress used news videos to bash the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean played down the controversy during a speech in Washington, D.C., instead focusing on his party's hopes to win back Congress next November.

On Thursday, shortly after the Associated Press misrepresented details of a videotaped teleconference featuring President Bush and emergency management officials discussing the hurricane threat to New Orleans, Dean alleged that Bush "misled the American people" when he said days after the storm that no one had expected the New Orleans levees to break.

On Friday, amid growing criticism of the A.P.'s original story and the reaction to it by liberal politicians and Bush critics in the media, Dean made only passing reference to the videotape.

Dean told a group of party loyalists: "You will never see a videotape of a Democratic president getting information that he denied point blank to the American people knowing anything about."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had joined Dean in Thursday's assault on the Bush administration, accusing it of having "systematically misled the American people to hide the basic incompetence of the recovery and the response."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday called the video an "eloquent statement" that "speaks very clearly to the fact that there was a predictable tragedy that was about to befall the people of that region, and the administration's response was inadequate."

Instead of focusing on the videotape Friday, Dean shifted to general criticism of a man he called "a weak Republican president." He blamed Bush for the continuing situation in the Gulf Coast, complaining that "people are still today living in tent cities -- if they have tent cities at all -- in Mississippi and Louisiana."

The former Vermont governor and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate also faulted Bush on North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons and the administration's failure to capture al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"Democrats historically are the party of strong defense -- from Truman to Roosevelt, to Wilson, to Jack Kennedy," Dean said, referring to past Democratic presidents.

"We can and we will do better than this weak Republican president," who "deserves to be sent back to Crawford, Texas, so we can stand up and defend America and make America safe again.

"You're all residents of other countries but citizens of America," the DNC chairman told members of the organization Democrats Abroad. "You know better than anyone else that in the last five years, under George Bush's presidency, America has lost its moral leadership."

Dean accused Bush of lying to the American public. "We have got to start telling the truth to the people of this incredible country so that we can have a policy that works because if the American people don't trust the president of the United States, as is the case now, you can't have a successful nation," Dean stated.

Turning his attention to the upcoming mid-term elections, Dean made a bold prediction. "I do intend that we will pick up a large number of governorships and take back the Congress this year.

"We're starting to win elections now" in such conservative states as Mississippi, Alabama and Utah, Dean said. "Of course, we're not going to be satisfied simply with mayorships and state houses of representatives. We're going to have 50-state campaigns, and we're going to have a permanent campaign in every single state."

Unlike the 10-item Contract With America on which Republicans campaigned successfully in 1994 and seized control of the U.S. House, Dean promised that a new Democrat-controlled Congress would address six topics during its first 100 days in session.

"We want honesty and openness back in our government again," the DNC boss said. Also, "we want a strong national defense which depends on telling the truth to our citizens, our soldiers and our allies before we send troops abroad."

Dean declared that his party's third objective will focus on "American jobs that will stay in America, using energy independence as a new industry to create both manufacturing and construction jobs." Fourth, "we want a health-care system like that of 36 other countries that includes everybody."

A "real strong public education system that will restore opportunity and optimism back to America" is the fifth item on Dean's agenda. The final issue, he said, is that "we want retirement security so we can count on Social Security and stop the corporations of this country from raiding pension funds."

The DNC chairman called that list "a pretty reasonable agenda," one that "clearly differentiates us from what the Republicans have done.

"We are not perfect in the Democratic Party," Dean admitted, but "when we say something, we will do it."

It's not part of his six-point agenda, but Dean promised that his allies "will balance the budget if the American people restore power to the Democratic Party," boasting that only one president in the past 40 years has accomplished that goal. "His name was William Jefferson Clinton, and he was a Democrat," Dean said.

"You can't trust the Republicans with your money. You can't trust them with your education system. You can't trust them with protecting the environment. You can't trust them to tell the truth, and you can't trust them to defend America," he added.

See Earlier Story:
Media, Democrats Exaggerate Warning of Levee Breaches (March 03, 2006)

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