Democratic chairman speaks at conference

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    Stephanie Diamond Member Supporting Member

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    By Philip J. LaVelle
    July 16, 2006

    Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean accused President Bush last night of being weak on national defense and absent in the escalating violence between Israel and Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

    In remarks at San Diego State University, Dean urged activists to fan across the nation – including deep into the heart of Republican-rich “red” states – to tell voters that Bush has failed as president – including in national defense, which Republicans tout as their core strength.

    “There are a lot of things we can say when we knock on the door (of voters),” Dean told hundreds at San Diego State's Open Air Theatre.
    “You know, people say the Republicans are tough on defense. How can you be tough on defense if five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still at large, the Iranians are about to get nuclear weapons, North Korea's quadrupled their nuclear weapons stash. . . .

    “Explain to me how it is that this president is tough on defense? I think this president is weak on defense and he's hurt America because he hasn't done the right thing,” Dean said.

    Dean was the keynote speaker on the second day of a three-day conference called DemocracyFest, billed as part conference, part festival for progressive activists.
    Dean waged a rollicking bid for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, which fizzled en route to the nomination battle in Iowa. He built on the strength of his grass-roots network, expert at raising money on the Internet. He promised to apply that knowledge when he became chairman of the Democratic Party last year.

    Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, dismissed Dean's attack on Bush's national security policies.

    “Howard Dean is the chief spokesman of a party that has highlighted obstruction and hasn't provided real answers that matter to the American people,” Bounds said.

    “He's not going to be able to come into San Diego and disguise the fact that the Democratic Party doesn't have real answers for the issues that are important to the American people.”

    Introduced by comedian and radio host Al Franken, :happy2: Dean touched on various high points of the Democratic Party's national agenda, including a higher minimum wage, environmental protection and voting initiatives.

    Dean was especially pointed in an area the Bush administration has long claimed as its home turf – a muscular national defense.

    Dean said the Bush administration's decision to go to war against Iraq and its overall foreign policy have hurt America's standing in the world.

    “This country is in the worst shape since Richard Nixon, and probably before that,” Dean said.

    “We've lost the high moral high ground everywhere in the world. We want to be respected around the world again.

    “We want our moral authority to be restored, because part of defending America is not just well-armed troops; it's having the high moral ground.”

    In an apparent reference to Israeli military action deep inside Lebanon, Dean said:

    Dean also focused on the battle this fall in the midterm election in the 50th Congressional District, where Democrat Francine Busby hopes to unseat incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray. Dean predicted victory for Busby.

    Bilbray defeated Busby last month in the contest to fill out the remaining term of disgraced former Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, now in federal prison after taking more than $2 million in bribes from defense contractors.

    The outcome of the November Busby-Bilbray rematch will determine who holds the seat for the next two-year term.

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