Sunday, May 22, 2005

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean yesterday defended his public mocking of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s battle against addiction to painkillers, saying, “It is galling to be lectured to about moral values by folks who have their own problems.

“Hypocrisy is a value that I think has been embraced by the Republican Party,” Mr. Dean told NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday. “We get lectured by people all day long about moral values by people who have their own moral shortcomings.”

Mr. Dean last month did an impression of Mr. Limbaugh for a gathering of Democrats in Minnesota that included the sound of someone snorting cocaine. Mr. Limbaugh became addicted to the painkiller OxyContin while dealing with years of chronic back pain, but entered a rehabilitation center last year and says he is now drug-free.

Mr. Dean, a doctor, was unapologetic about his parody, even when “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert asked whether it is “appropriate for a physician to mock somebody who has gone into therapy and the abuse for drug addiction?”

“Rush Limbaugh has made a career of belittling other people and making jokes about President Clinton, about Mrs. Clinton and others,” Mr. Dean said. “I don’t think he’s in any position to do that.

“I will use whatever position I have in order to root out hypocrisy,” he said. “Democrats have strong moral values. Frankly, my moral values are offended by some of the things I hear on programs like “Rush Limbaugh,’ and we don’t have to put up with that.”

In the wide-ranging, hourlong interview, Mr. Dean also said his comments in January that “I hate Republicans and everything they stand for” and that “this is a struggle between good and evil, and we are the good” were taken “a little out of context.”

“I don’t hate Republicans as individuals,” he said. “But I hate what the Republicans are doing to this country. I really do.”

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said Mr. Dean’s “unfocused performance” yesterday is “emblematic of the larger problems facing the party he leads.”

“Sadly, Chairman Dean and the Democrats on Capitol Hill have become singularly focused on obstructionism and negativity, which is why they have become the country’s minority party,” Miss Schmitt said, adding that “Dean and the Democrats launch disappointing personal attacks.”

Mr. Dean, who said he “doesn’t go to church all that much,” said he is irritated at those who would say that makes him a less-devoted Christian.

“I consider myself a deeply religious person,” he said. “And some of the other Christians would dare to say that I’m not a Christian. Frankly, it’s what gets my ire up.

“I am sick of being told what I [am] and what I’m not by other people,” Mr. Dean said. “I’m a committed Christian. I worship in my own way. … That’s my business. That’s not the business of the pharisees who are going to preach to me about what I do and then do something else.”

Mr. Dean also stuck by his statement that the Democrats would “use” the effort to save the life of the brain-damaged Terri Schiavo against Republicans in the next election.

“The Schiavo case will probably be the turning point about our ability to make our case to Americans about the incredible invasiveness of Republicans when it comes to making personal, private decisions,” Mr. Dean said.

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