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Inside Politics

Dean sticks to his guns, still aimed at GOP


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean is defending remarks he made that enraged Republican leaders this week.

"I don't hate Republicans," he said, in an interview Friday with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "But I sure hate what this Republican Party is doing to America."

In a speech Thursday before a Washington conference sponsored by the "Campaign for America's Future," Dean told the audience that many Republicans "had never made an honest living in their lives."

His comments irked Republican leaders and sparked a quick response by Republican National Committee press secretary, Tracey Schmitt. In her statement, issued Thursday, she said, "Dean's priority is to generate mudslinging headlines rather than engage in substantive debate."

His speech, she added, "illustrates that the Democrat Party not only lacks leadership but is overflowing with anger."

In Friday's interview, Dean said that he did not intend his remarks to refer to the more than 50 million American people who voted for President Bush's re-election, but rather to Republican leaders whom he said do not understand the difficulties of waiting in line for eight hours to vote, as some did in Florida during the last election.

"We don't go after voters," he said. "But we do go after bad leadership," and cited the national deficit and the war in Iraq as evidence of the Republican administration's incompetence.

Thursday's comments were not the first of Dean's to generate controversy. In April, he called Republicans "mean. They are not nice people." And in May, in his first televised interview after being elected to DNC chairman, he said that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay should go to jail.

Dean's comments spring from scandals involving alleged illict campaign contributions and corruption revolving around DeLay. Last fall, three political fund-raisers with ties to him were indicted in his home state of Texas. Then the House ethics committee admonished DeLay three times. Since then, questions have been raised about whether he knew about the dubious sources of money behind trips he took to Britain and South Korea.

Dean said Friday of his characteristically strong words, "I guess my job is to outrage the Republicans these days."


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