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Howard Dean Foreign Policy Speech

Aired December 15, 2003 - 13:33   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go live now to California, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean on the day after the capture of Saddam Hussein with an important foreign policy speech.
Let's listen.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have the honor to just mention briefly the elected city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo is here.

Thank you.

City council member Eric Garcetti, U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren, U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra, U.S. Representative Hilda Solis.

And I would also just like to recognize my mentor, who is not an elected official, but the superintendent of schools, former governor of Colorado, former chairman of the National Governors Association, Roy Romer.

Thank you for being here.


The past year, our campaign has gathered strength by offering leadership and ideas and also by listening to the American people. The American people have made their voices clear. And they have the power to elect and change -- to elect a new president and change America's course for the better.

What are the people telling us?

They're telling us that a domestic policy centered on increasing the wealth of the wealthiest Americans and ceding power to favored corporate campaign contributors is a recipe for fiscal and economic disaster; that the strength of our nation depends on electing a president who will fight for jobs, education and health care for every single American.

But the growing concerns of the American people are not limited to matters at home. They are also increasingly concerned that the country is squandering the opportunity to lead the world in a way that will advance our values and our interests, and that will in fact make us more secure.

When it comes to our national security, we cannot afford to fail. September 11th was neither the beginning of our showdown with violent extremists nor is it the end. It was a monumental wake-up call to the urgent challenge that we face, and today I want to discuss those challenges.

But I first want to say a few words about the events over the weekend. The capture of Saddam Hussein is good news. It's good news for the Iraqi people and for the world.

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who can and now will be brought swiftly to justice for his crimes. His capture is a testament to the skill and the courage of our military leaders, our U.S. forces, our intelligence personnel.

They have risked their lives -- some of their comrades have given their lives -- and they have performed extraordinarily well.

Every American should be grateful. And I thank these outstanding men and women for their services.

We hope very much that Saddam will give us the information that we desire about weapons of mass destruction and other things which led us into this war.

And I want to talk about Iraq in the context of all our security challenges ahead. Saddam's capture offers the people of Iraq, the United States and the international community a new opportunity to move ahead, but only an opportunity, not a guarantee.

Let me be very clear. My position on the war in Iraq has not changed.

The difficulties and the tragedies which we have faced in Iraq show the administration launched the war in a wrong way at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, at the extraordinary cost, so far, of $166 billion.

An administration prepared to work with others in a true partnership might have been able, if it found no alternative to Saddam's ouster than to rebuild Iraq with far less cost and far less risk.

As our military commanders have said and the president acknowledged yesterday, the capture of Saddam does not end our difficulties from the aftermath of the administration's war to oust him.

There is a continuing challenge in securing Iraq, protecting the safety of our personnel and helping that country get on the path to stability. There is the need to repair our alliances, to regain global strength and global support for American goals.

Nor, as the president seemed to acknowledge yesterday, does Saddam's capture move us toward defeating enemies who pose a much greater danger -- al Qaeda and its terrorist allies.

And nor, it seems, as yesterday's capture -- or Saturday's capture -- address the urgent need to halt the spread of the weapons of mass destruction and the risk the terrorists will acquire them.

The capture of Saddam is a good thing, which I hope very much will keep our soldiers in Iraq and around the world safer. But the capture of Saddam has not made America safer.

Addressing these critical and interlocking threats, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, will be America's highest priority under a Dean administration.

O'BRIEN: Howard Dean in California, addressing foreign policy matters, specifically on the day after the capture of Saddam. What does an antiwar canidate say? To talk a little bit more about that, let's turn to our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. I've seen headlines today that actually say, Bill, Dean is toast.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's not quite true. It's only because Democrats remain resolutely opposed to this war, that really hasn't changed. When we asked Democrats after the news of the Saddam Hussein capture came out yesterday, did they think that the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over? Their views, the views of Democrats have really not changeds. They still said by two to one, it was not worth going to war over, and Howard Dean said a few minutes ago, my position on the war has not changed. That's in tune with most Democrats. Their position on the war has not changed.

O'BRIEN: In the primaries that works well. In the Iowa caucus, when you get to the mainstream of America, he might have a problem; if Americans are, by and large, pro-war, dean is antiwar, we are back to the toast term again, aren't we?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the general election could be a very different story, because most Americans said even before the capture of Saddam Hussein, when we asked him last week and, again, even more emphatically yesterday, that they do think the war in Iraq was worth -- that Iraq was worth going to war over for the United States. So it appears that both Howard Dean and his party are out of sync with the views of most Americans that this was a war worth fighting, and I think the issue that drove that wasn't particularly weapons of mass destruction, which of course, have never been found, or at least not yet. Howard Dean, interestingly just mentioned, that he hopes they will be found, or expects they will be found, but what really drove it was 9/11, and the American anger over 9/11 and the widespread belief that Saddam Hussein was somehow connected with those who threatened the United States and those who attacked the United States. So the Americans think the world is justified, not Democrats.

O'BRIEN: Bill, you mentioned anger. Howard Dean has run a campaign that's kind of built on anger, anger directed at George W. Bush. If you take war away as a lightning rod with that anger, what is Dean left with?

SCHNEIDER: He is left with a lot of anti-Bush sentiment on the part of Democrats, and on the part of a lot of voters. Bush has proved to be a very divisive president. The war in Iraq really brought that to a head, and there's divisions over a lot of other issues -- his tax cuts, his policies on medicare, all of those issues divide a lot of Americans. Democrats remain extraordinarily critical of President Bush, in many ways the mirror image of the situation under Bill Clinton, where Republicans were very harsh their criticisms of President Clinton. Democrats now are equally harsh on criticisms of President Bush.

Now the focus of those criticisms is Iraq. I don't think even a successful conclusion to the American presence in Iraq will diminish those criticisms. About half the country still say that they do not think Bush should stay for a second term as president.

O'BRIEN: Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst, giving us some instant analysis of Howard Den's speech. We'll keep you posted on all of that.


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