- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2003

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean sought to redefine and broaden his liberal, antiwar campaign in formally announcing his candidacy yesterday, telling disenchanted American voters they “have the power” to oust President Bush and rid Washington of special interests.

With at least 2,500 supporters crammed into a brick-lined town square, the steeple of a Unitarian church behind him, the former Vermont governor pledged to speak “for a new American century and a new generation of Americans.”

Mr. Dean pledged to fight conservative Republicans, docile Democrats and the rest of the Washington establishment — all of whom he holds responsible for turning Americans away from the political system.

“You have the power to take our country back,” he shouted. “You have the power. You have the power. You have the power.”

He accused Mr. Bush of dividing Americans, creating a “chain of insurmountable debt” and promoting tax cuts “designed to destroy Social Security, Medicare, our public schools and our public services through starvation and privatization.”

The president’s foreign policies, Mr. Dean argued, have alienated allies much like the ancient Roman empire once did.

“Every American president must and will take up arms in the defense of our nation. It is a solemn oath that cannot and will not be compromised,” said Mr. Dean, knowing he faces questions about his lack of foreign-policy experience.

“But there is a fundamental difference between the defense of our nation and the doctrine of pre-emptive war espoused by this administration,” Mr. Dean said. “The president’s group of narrow-minded ideological advisers are undermining our nation’s greatness in the world.”

Mr. Dean, 54, a 20-year veteran of Vermont politics, actually began his campaign months ago. But he staged a formal announcement to draw attention and money to his long-shot bid.

The nine Democratic candidates are in a race for cash before the second fund-raising quarter closes June 30. Mr. Dean is expected to raise at least $4 million by the deadline, a jump from the $2.6 million he collected in the first quarter, a senior campaign official said.

Mr. Dean is airing the first political ads of the 2004 campaign, spending $300,000 in Iowa through July 2. Supporters were urged through e-mail last week to help pay for the TV time.

A former governor in a race dominated by congressional Democrats, Mr. Dean has gotten off to a surprisingly strong start despite a lack of money and meager support from party insiders.

The liberal tag defies his record in Vermont, where Mr. Dean was known as a centrist, pro-business governor for 12 years.

He battled Democrats to restrain spending and balance the state budget, even pushing for cuts in human-services programs such as benefits for the aged, blind and disabled.

He nominated tough-on-crime judges, most of them former prosecutors. And he imposed work requirements on welfare recipients well before Congress and former President Bill Clinton did.

As governor, some of his strongest supporters were Republican leaders of the business community. Difficult to label, Mr. Dean once called himself “an odd kind of Democrat.”

The physician-turned-politician once intended to make health care and children’s issues the cornerstones of his campaign, but then came the war and his introduction to a disenchanted electorate. His cause changed, Mr. Dean said.

“Everywhere I go, people are asking fundamental questions: Who can we trust?” he said.

Polls place Mr. Dean among the top three candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first votes for the Democratic nomination will be cast. He lags in nationwide polls.

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