- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2003

At the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, Pat Buchanan was excoriated by liberal pundits for saying “we must take back… our country.” Critics wondered what country he was talking about, and wasn’t it their country, too?

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean’s book is titled “Winning Back America,” and some people who criticized Mr. Buchanan for expressing similar thoughts, but from the right, think nothing about Mr. Dean’s similar sentiment from the left.

What does Mr. Dean mean? Mr. Dean is appealing to the basest of liberal instincts, which the Democratic Party seemed to leave behind during the eight years of the Clinton presidency. A product of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council, Mr. Clinton spoke and sometimes acted as a centrist, which is why he won in 1992 and 1996 when his liberal predecessors (Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and George McGovern) lost by landslides. Al Gore, who has just endorsed Mr. Dean, tried running as a moderate, but his heart and mind were much farther to the left, as the Dean endorsement suggests. Otherwise, Mr. Gore would have endorsed his 2000 running mate, the moderate Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Mr. Dean would take the country to higher taxes, bigger government, more regulation and moral decline. On foreign policy and the use of American power, Mr. Dean has been anything but consistent. Sometimes he has sounded like one of those Internet conspiracy theorists.

On Dec. 1, Mr. Dean suggested to National Public Radio host Diane Rehm that President Bush knew the September 11, 2001, attacks were coming but failed to stop them: “The most interesting theory that I’ve heard so far — which is nothing more than a theory, I can’t think; it can’t be proved — is that [President Bush] was warned ahead of time [about the September 11 attacks] by the Saudis.”

On Fox News Sunday, Dec. 7, Mr. Dean was asked by host Chris Wallace why he would say such a thing. Mr. Dean replied: “Because there are people who believe that. We don’t know what happened on September 11… .” Asked if he believed it, Mr. Dean said: “No, I don’t believe that. I can’t imagine the president of the United States doing that. But we don’t know, and it would be a nice thing to know.”

If Mr. Dean does not believe American power should be used when it is possible to stop a mass murderer like Saddam Hussein, when would he use American force and for what purpose? Would he subsume American authority and power to the morally and politically comatose United Nations, which will not enforce its own meaningless resolutions? Domestically, does he not know — or does he not care — that terror cells are operating in this country, looking for the best time and place to strike? Would he not do everything possible to find and uproot them?

Has the left’s hatred of President Bush gone so far as to abandon all rational thinking about the security of this country?

What about those documents from his years as governor of Vermont — 145 boxes of them? Mr. Dean directed they be sealed for six years, much longer than his predecessors ordered. What is he hiding? In response to a suit by Judicial Watch, Mr. Dean now says a judge can determine which documents can be made public.

There is something else afoot with Mr. Dean’s candidacy and Al Gore’s endorsement. It affirms Mr. Gore’s unvarnished liberalism and reveals he is not the moderate he portrayed himself as in the 2000 campaign. But it also suggests the Clinton-Gore-Terry McAuliffe wing of the Democratic Party wants to set the stage for the biggest liberal takeover of America since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. An election loss by Mr. Dean would clear the deck of lesser lights, so Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has an unobstructed path to the nomination — and, liberals hope, the White House — in 2008.

If, as many expect, Mr. Dean follows the McGovern-Mondale-Dukakis wing of the party to another major defeat, Hillary Clinton will step in as the Democrats’ savior, by which time she will, like her husband, have reinvented herself. Mr. Dean wants to take back America to the Carter era of economic weakness and military vacillation. We live in a dangerous world. A Dean win would make it even more dangerous for America.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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