Friday, April 22, 2005

Howard Dean, who promised to change the way Democrats speak about the issues, has accused Republicans of being “evil,” “corrupt” and “brain dead,” attacks that are reminiscent of the angry language he used against the Republican Party in the 2004 campaign.

The fiery former presidential candidate and Vermont governor was elected to run the Democratic National Committee after promising to reach out to voters, especially in Republican states, with a new and more positive outreach message aimed at expanding his party’s shrinking base.

But a review of his speeches on the stump in the past month or more shows that his shoot-from-the-hip style remains as angry as ever. Among his most recent remarks:

• In a speech in Kansas in February, not long after his election as DNC chairman, Mr. Dean said the contest between Democrats and Republicans was “a struggle of good and evil. And we’re the good.”

• In Florida earlier this week, he accused Republicans of being “corrupt,” saying, “You can’t trust them with your money, and you can’t trust them with your votes. … Evangelicals don’t like corruption either.”

• In a closed-door Democratic fundraiser in Lawrence, Kan., he said conservative Republicans were “intolerant” on the issue of abortion. “They don’t think tolerance is a virtue. I’m not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant.”

• Speaking to Democrats Abroad, Mr. Dean called Republicans “brain-dead,” saying the reason his party lost the 2004 race to the “brain-dead” Republicans was because of the Democrats’ “tendency to explain every issue in half an hour of detail.”

“This is the wrong message at the wrong time. The country is already bitterly divided. No sense pouring acid on it,” independent pollster John Zogby said yesterday. “The Democrats need a proactive, positive set of prescriptions, not simply a condemnation of the other side.”

Dean spokeswoman Laura Gross said yesterday that “if you look at his speeches overall, he has been very positive. He’s been talking about the Democratic agenda, about moral values, all over the country.”

When Mr. Dean took over leadership of the DNC, he promised to cool the attacks. “We cannot win if all we are is against the current president and his administration,” he said at the time.

He since has been on a nearly nonstop tour of the red states that Mr. Bush and the Republicans carried last year — from Kansas to Mississippi — but critics such as Mr. Zogby think too many of his remarks have been attacking Republicans.

At a sold-out dinner address last Saturday at the California Democratic Party’s convention, Mr. Dean “brought the audience to its feet with his full-throated denunciation of the Republican Party,” the Associated Press reported. At a homosexual rights breakfast in Los Angeles the day before, he vowed to “use Terry Schiavo” to attack Republicans who rallied on behalf of the brain-damaged Florida woman who died March 31 after her feeding tube had been removed.

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