Kerry, Lieberman lash out at Bush, Dean
Lieberman, left, and Kerry took aim at President Bush and fellow Democrat Howard Dean.
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(CNN) -- Democratic presidential candidates who supported the Iraq war lashed out Tuesday at anti-war rival Howard Dean for saying the capture of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein did nothing to make Americans safer
Sen. John Kerry said Bush and Dean offered "a false choice between force without diplomacy and diplomacy without force."
Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and another Democratic contender, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, both voted to authorize Bush to go to war in Iraq, though both have criticized the administration's handling of the resulting occupation.
In a speech at Iowa's Drake University, Kerry said Bush "has taken America off onto the road of unilateralism and ideological preemption," while Dean would take Democrats "down a road of confusion and retreat."
"When America needed leadership on Iraq, Howard Dean was all over the lot, with a lot of slogans and a lot less solutions," Kerry said. "One moment he supported authorizing the use of force, the next he criticized those who did."
Lieberman, D-Connecticut, tried to dub the physician and former Vermont governor "Dr. No."
"In this campaign, I've put forward a strong, positive vision for America, and that stands in sharp contrast to what Howard Dean offers America today," Lieberman said in a speech at an electronics company in Londonderry, New Hampshire.
"He seems to believe if you are just against everything, that's enough -- against removing Saddam Hussein, against tax cuts, against knocking down walls of protection around the world so we can sell more products that are made in America by Americans."
Lieberman warned Democrats not to let "our well-justified anger toward George W. Bush for protecting the special interests and yielding to ideological extremists" lead them "to fall back on the failed policies and positions of the past -- weakness on defense, silence on values, raising walls of protectionism around our country, and raising taxes on the middle class."
Dean was in Sun City, Arizona, on Tuesday where he declined to comment on Lieberman's remarks. He repeated congratulations to U.S. troops who captured Saddam, but again said that his detention won't make the American homeland safer.
"We hope that he will give us information about weapons of mass destruction," Dean said. "We hope very much that this will begin to diminish the attacks on our troops.
"But I do not think that it makes America's homeland safer, and we do need to make sure that we focus and continue to focus on stopping terror and stopping al Qaeda, because al Qaeda is the real danger and focus for the United States of America."
Dean's early opposition to invasion of Iraq catapulted him to the front rank of Democratic candidates, though his rivals have attacked him for what they called inconsistent statements in the period leading up to war.
Another candidate, Dick Gephardt told reporters that Dean's comments indicate that his position is not "grounded in serious foreign policy experience and expertise."
"I think it's a really poor statement. It's disingenuous," said Gephardt, a former House minority leader. "On the one hand, he says it's a good thing -- and then in the next breath, he says it doesn't make it us any safer. ... How can anybody say we're safer with Saddam Hussein loose in the world torturing his people and causing all the problems he's caused for 30 years?"
Kerry defended his vote to authorize the use of U.S. military force, saying it was the only way to get Iraq to accept U.N. weapons inspectors. And he took a jab at Dean's comments Monday that the capture of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would not make Americans safer, saying anyone who believes that lacks "the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."
"Americans deserve better than a false choice between force without diplomacy and diplomacy without force," he said. "To provide responsible leadership, we need to take the third path in foreign policy -- a bold, progressive internationalism backed by undoubted military might that commits America to lead in the cause of human liberty and prosperity."
And Lieberman said that if Dean doesn't think Americans are safer with Hussein in custody, "he has climbed into his own spider hole of denial."
Lieberman said the former Vermont governor "has made a series of dubious judgments and irresponsible statements in this campaign." Those statements, he said, "signal he would in fact take us back to the days when we Democrats were not trusted to defend America's security."
Bush, on the other hand, has left the country weaker at home in his nearly three years in office, Lieberman said.
"George W. Bush has lost more than two and a half million jobs, abandoned the middle class, ransacked the treasury to give tax cuts to people who don't need them, jeopardized Social Security and Medicare, done nothing to help with health care, and left our workers defenseless against unfair trade practices," he said. "The real question is: What are we as Democrats going to do to make things right?"