- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Democratic Party leaders' uproarious reaction to a weekend speech by anti-war presidential candidate Howard Dean shows they are becoming the "appeasement party," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday.
"Their reaction just proves who the Democratic Party is, and it reflects the votes that we had here votes on the Iraqi resolution and other ones. They are in fact becoming the appeasement party of the future," the Texas Republican told reporters in a briefing.
Mr. Dean, the former Vermont governor who is running for his party's 2004 presidential nomination on a message strongly opposed to President Bush's policy in Iraq, received the loudest applause from Democratic National Committee members at their winter meeting in Washington this past weekend.
"What I want to know is, why is the Democratic Party leadership supporting the president's unilateral war on Iraq?" Mr. Dean said as he sought to distinguish himself from other candidates.
Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, all support the president's Iraq policy to some degree.
Mr. DeLay said Mr. Dean's remarks ought to disqualify him from the presidency.
"I thought it was outrageous. He either doesn't know what he's talking about when he says we're going to take unilateral action or he's seriously uninformed, or he's just misleading the American people and his party," Mr. DeLay said.
Susan Allen, Mr. Dean's press secretary, did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.
After November's elections, Democrats were faced with the question of whether they lost seats in the House and Senate because they ran too far to the left or because they embraced the president too much and failed to draw distinctions between him and themselves.
This weekend, DNC leaders seemed to answer that question for themselves by embracing Mr. Dean. At another point, one of them shouted "shame" when Mr. Gephardt said he was proud to have authored the resolution allowing the president to use force in Iraq.
There are some Democrats who say Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been given enough time to disarm, including House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, who has said his party needs to earn the American people's trust on national-security issues in order to win back a majority in Congress.
But yesterday Mr. Hoyer, asked about the political risks of being seen as an appeasement party, defended Democrats like Mr. Dean for creating a good debate.
"I think dissent is very important to have in a democracy, and full disclosure is very important, and I think the American public, as supportive of the president as they are, have serious questions," he said, listing the potential cost of a war as one of those unanswered issues.
One of those dissenters, Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, has traveled last year to Iraq to consult with members of that nation's government, and also went to New York to consult with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Democrats privately worry that those actions will reflect poorly on the entire party, and Republicans are happy to highlight the actions.
Rep. Mark Kennedy, Minnesota Republican, sent a letter to Mr. Annan earlier this month signed by 170 House members, including two Democrats from Texas, reiterating Congress' support for Mr. Bush's policy on Iraq.


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