Dean says helicopter attack emphasizes flawed policy

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(Host) Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean says the attack on an American helicopter in Iraq this weekend underscores the basic flaw with the president’s policies in that country. Dean says the Bush administration and members of Congress who support the war effort failed to consider the kinds of major problems that would emerge in post war Iraq.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Dean says the missile attack on the U.S. Army helicopter is a huge tragedy that’s further proof that the situation in Iraq is out of control, and that the Bush administration lacks a coherent policy to make things better.

Speaking to regional reporters on a conference call from Iowa, Dean said the attack in which 16 soldiers died is the kind of incident that will continue to take place because the president and his top aides didn’t develop a comprehensive long term strategy for Iraq:

(Dean) “I think it’s a horrible, horrible tragedy and I think in underlines again that things are not under control as the president’s men continue to try to pretend they are, and again underlines the divide. It’s much better to think about these things before we’re there than afterwards. And now we’re all paying the price for what Congress and the president did.”

(Kinzel) Dean also told the reporters that he doesn’t regret recent comments concerning his effort to appeal to southern white male voters. In an interview with the Des Moines Register Dean said, “I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pick up trucks.” Several of Dean’s opponents have jumped on this statement. The criticism of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is the strongest. Kerry accused Dean of pandering to the lovers of the Confederate flag – a flag that Kerry called “the most racially divisive symbol in America.”

Dean says Republicans in the South have been successful in attracting white male voters by continually raising racial issues. Dean says it’s time for the Democrats to appeal to these same voters on economic issues and he’s disappointed that Senator Kerry would try to exploit this issue:

(Dean) “I regret Senator Kerry trying to twist my words around but I don’t regret saying that we need to broaden our tent. Everybody understands the Confederate flag is not a symbol that we admire, everybody understands that. But we do need to broaden our tent. And I think Senator Kerry is doing what Senator Kerry always does, which is to try and twist things around and seek the advantage. And I think that’s regrettable in this case.”

(Kinzel) Most of the Democratic candidates are scheduled to meet in a campaign debate in Boston on Tuesday night that will focus primarily on issues affecting younger voters.

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

(Host) In other Democratic presidential news, Vermont’s statewide teachers’ union has endorsed Howard Dean’s Democratic presidential bid; Dean is calling for better incentives and benefits for nurses to prevent a possible nursing shortage; and the Associated Press is reporting that Dean plans to launch a series of 30-minute TV infomercials in Iowa this week.

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