Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Several Senate Democrats yesterday distanced themselves from national committee Chairman Howard Dean, whose spate of inflammatory comments about Republicans has prompted renewed criticism of his leadership.

Mr. Dean told a round table of California journalists this week that Republicans “are not very friendly to different kinds of people,” referring to minorities, the latest in a series of attacks in which he characterized the GOP as “evil,” “corrupt,” “brain-dead” and “liars,” who are “not nice people.”

“They’re a pretty monolithic party,” he said Monday. “They pretty much all behave the same, and they all look the same. It’s pretty much a white Christian party.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — who like Mr. Dean sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 — said he doesn’t think he will be the only one to recommend an apology when the chairman meets for lunch today with Senate Democrats.

“I thought the comment that he made about the Republican Party being a white, Christian party was just way over the top,” Mr. Lieberman said. “It was divisive and wrong, and I hope he apologizes for it.”

On NBC’s “Today” show yesterday, Mr. Dean defended his generalization, saying: “There’s nothing the matter with that. I’m a white Christian myself, but they don’t include other folks.”

Mr. Dean also has said that he “hates the Republican Party and everything they stand for,” and said in an address to the all-Democrat Congressional Black Caucus that the GOP “couldn’t get this many people of color in a single room” unless “they had the hotel staff in here.”

Last week, he told his mostly liberal audience at the Campaign For America’s “Take Back America” conference that “a lot of [Republicans] have never made an honest living in their lives.”

Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said Mr. Dean “doesn’t speak for me.”

“I’ve always preferred the unity approach rather than the dividing approach, so I’ve not been very pleased with the comments,” he said.

Earlier this week, other prominent Democrats, including Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, former vice presidential candidate John Edwards and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer also disassociated themselves from Mr. Dean’s comments.

Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey said he is “not much into personal attacks” and said Mr. Dean’s style “gets away from how the Democrats should frame issues.”

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said he is sure that Mr. Dean “regrets how his statements were interpreted,” adding that he will be advised to tone it down from the Senate Democrats today.

“I’m somebody who tends to try to have a message that draws people in, and I think there have been a couple of times when the way he phrases things seem to be pushing people away,” Mr. Obama said.

Not all Democrats are running from their party’s chairman. Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, said he thinks “it’s great” that Mr. Dean is visiting Capitol Hill today and supports the chairman’s attacks.

“The Republican attack machine goes after anybody, and they’ve said far worse things about many, many of our people,” Mr. Schumer said, adding that Mr. Dean has “worked great with the DSCC” and expects his Senate colleagues to be “supportive” of him during the meeting.

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