Dean, Kerry comment on Iraq resolution one year later

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(Host) Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is on the offensive over the congressional resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. Dean says his opposition to the resolution shows better judgment than his opponents in the race, who voted for the resolution. He says these candidates should admit to the American people that they made a mistake.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Dean made his comments on the first anniversary of the passage of the congressional resolution that gave President Bush the authority to take military action against Iraq.

Four of Dean’s opponents in the Democratic race, Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards and Congressman Dick Gephardt all voted for the resolution. Dean notes that these four candidates are now very critical of the war effort in Iraq but Dean thinks they share some of the blame for the situation there:

(Dean) “The Democrats who voted for it bear a responsibility and bear a hand for having sent us to war. Because the president, I don’t believe, would have sent us to war if the Democrats had stood tall and said what they believe at the time – or at least what they say they believe now. And I believe that those who are criticizing the president ought to say straight out that they made a mistake. Tell the electorate they made a mistake. It was an error in judgement, they shouldn’t have supported the war.”

(Kinzel) Massachusetts Senator John Kerry bristled at Dean’s comments. In an interview with Vermont Public Radio, Kerry said Dean’s criticisms don’t carry much weight because Kerry says Dean doesn’t have a comprehensive policy concerning Iraq:

(Kerry) “Governor Dean has no policy on Iraq, evidently, except ‘No.’ ‘No’ is not a policy. I voted to hold Iraq accountable and to hold Saddam Hussein accountable and that was the right vote for the defense of the United States of America. It was the right vote for our security. For seven and half years we found weapons of mass destruction in that country and we were destroying them. And it was the right thing to do to hold him accountable to the resolutions that he said he would live up to.”

(Kinzel) Dean countered that he’s always encouraged the president to seek the support of the United Nations to help contain Iraq. And Dean says Kerry is trying to play both sides of this issue with voters:

(Dean) “And I find that quite amusing, that Senator Kerry – who’s been on every side of this issue – should even have the nerve to say that. But I suppose if you have the nerve to cover your own vote and then try to pretend you didn’t vote that way, you’ve got the nerve to do anything in Washington.”

(Kinzel) Dean says the United States can’t abandon its involvement in Iraq at this point. And he says it’s critical that the president seeks the assistance of the United Nations for the reconstruction of Iraq.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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