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Dean stumps in city, derides Bush policies

Sunday, October 19, 2003

By Joe Smydo, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Assailing President Bush for misleading the American people about the Iraq war, Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean told supporters in Pittsburgh last night that the Bush administration "looks more like the presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon every single day."

Dean, whose campaign fund-raising totals for the third quarter of the year broke Democratic Party records, raked in $76,000 more appearing at a dinner and reception at the Westin Convention Center hotel, Downtown. About 175 attended the events.

A medical doctor and former governor of Vermont, Dean spent as much time ridiculing Bush -- "having a little fun at the president's expense," he called it -- as he did promoting himself.

Dean said he wouldn't hesitate to send U.S. troops abroad to defend America's interests but promised to tell the nation the truth about their mission.

He faulted Bush and presidential aides for tying former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; for saying Iraq had been trying to purchase uranium from Africa; and for saying Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. None of those claims has been substantiated.

Dean said he supported the 1991 Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi army. He said he supported the war in Afghanistan targeting Osama bin Laden and the Taliban regime that supported al-Qaida training camps.

But Dean has been an unwavering critic of the Iraq war, telling the cheering crowd last night, "That was a mistake, in my view."

Dean said Bush's foreign policy of "petulance" and "confrontation" not only has divided the nation but has diminished America's standing in the world community.

And he said Bush's track record on domestic policy is nothing to cheer about, either.

He said Bush's economic policies have cost the nation 3 million jobs. He said Bush's tax cuts have done little to help the average American but enriched "Ken Lay and the boys," a reference to the former Enron Corp. chairman who was a friend of the president.

Dean took a swipe at U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, saying Ashcroft's national tour in support of the controversial USA Patriot Act didn't make him a patriot. Dean opposes the law that Ashcroft calls a tool against terrorism and others call an intrusion on civil rights.

Also, Dean took an indirect poke at U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. He criticized Bush for standing by "nice, inclusive" Santorum after the senator was quoted in an Associated Press article comparing homosexuality to bigamy, incest, adultery and polygamy.

As Vermont governor, Dean in 2000 signed a first-of-its-kind bill giving gay couples nearly all of the benefits of marriage. Robert Beckwith, coordinator of Pittsburgh for Dean, said Dean has shown political courage by standing by the bill through the tumultuous political campaign.

Beckwith said his group has tried to bring Dean to Pittsburgh since July and ended up getting him only for a couple of hours. Dean was in Iowa, Detroit and Baltimore yesterday before his two-hour visit to Pittsburgh and said he was to fly to New Hampshire last night.

Dean broke party records by raising $15 million during the third quarter . Most was raised over the Internet and through large networks of modest donors.

Beckwith said those who attended last night's events were "high-end" givers, paying $250 to $1,500 per person.

Pittsburgh Controller Tom Flaherty, chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, said he isn't committed to Dean but found his message compelling.

"I think he has a great message of social and economic justice," Flaherty said. "He sounds to me like he's a real Democrat, and he's certainly energized the party."

Dean has had remarkable success courting young voters. But he said last night he's also reaching out to women, labor unions and the black and Latino communities.

Joe Smydo can be reached at or 724-746-8812.

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