- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

Howard Dean is too liberal and would lead a “ticket to nowhere” if he were to snag the Democratic nomination for president next year, said Sen. Joe Lieberman, one of Mr. Dean’s chief rivals in the race to take on President Bush.

Mr. Lieberman never mentioned Mr. Dean by name in remarks yesterday before the National Press Club in Washington. But there was no mistaking the Connecticut senator’s targeting of the former governor of Vermont, who has surged to front-runner status among Democrats largely on his strident antiwar views.

“Some said ‘no’ to overthrowing Saddam Hussein, or were ambivalent about it, before and after the war,” Mr. Lieberman said. “But we must not shrink from the use of force when our security and our values are at stake. That would be wrong for America and wrong for the Democratic Party.”

Mr. Dean was asked on CNN in April whether Iraq was better off with Saddam out of power. “We don’t know yet,” he replied. Asked for his reaction to the deaths of Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusai in a firefight with U.S. forces last month, Mr. Dean said “the ends do not justify the means.”

Mr. Lieberman, 61, who served as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council from 1995 to 2000, is attempting to position himself as the only Democrat with the broad, “centrist” appeal to attract independent voters.

The other leading candidates — Mr. Dean, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Rep. Richard M. Gephardt of Missouri — are too far to the left, he said.

“Bill Clinton won the presidency by running against the ‘stale orthodoxies of left and right,’ and demonstrating that Democrats were not big on spending, soft on crime and weak on defense,” Mr. Lieberman said.

Mr. Kerry, who voted to support the use of force to oust Saddam, has all but disavowed that position, claiming the Bush administration hyped the case for war. Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Dean have pledged to repeal the two major income tax cuts signed by Mr. Bush and use the money to pay for universal health care and pay down the national debt. Mr. Kerry said he’d also roll back some of the tax cuts “aimed at the wealthy.”

“The answer to [Mr. Bushs] outdated, extremist ideology is not to be found in the outdated extremes of our own,” Mr. Lieberman said. “That path will not solve the challenges of our time, and could send us Democrats back to the political wilderness for years to come. I don’t want that to happen.”

The key to Democrats’ earning “the opportunity to govern again” is “to reclaim the vital center,” Mr. Lieberman said.

Although Mr. Lieberman has cultivated a centrist reputation, his “liberal quotient” since 1990, as measured on a scale of 1 to 100 by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action, was 79 percent. Mr. Kerry’s rating is 94.

Mr. Gephardt earned a post-1990 liberal quotient of 87 percent. Before he first ran for president in 1988, Mr. Gephardt’s rating was a middle-of-the-road 63.

The ADA had no rating for Mr. Dean because the group tracks only congressional votes.

Mr. Lieberman has enjoyed strong numbers in national polls, but has weakened steadily in measures of the first two tests at the ballot box, Iowa and New Hampshire. A poll released yesterday by the Des Moines Register put Mr. Dean in first place with 23 percent, followed by Mr. Gephardt with 21 percent, Mr. Kerry with 14 percent and Mr. Lieberman with 10 percent.

An American Research Poll in New Hampshire released July 25 put Mr. Kerry at 25 percent, Mr. Dean at 19 percent, Mr. Gephardt at 10 percent and Mr. Lieberman at 6 percent — a five-point slide in one month.

Mr. Lieberman, however, leads in the latest South Carolina poll with 13 percent.

Asked yesterday about his flagging poll numbers, Mr. Lieberman brushed them off, stressing that “it’s very early in the contest.”

“This is a long journey,” Mr. Lieberman said. “By the end of February we’ll have had 17 different primaries. I expect to do well.”

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