Sunday, October 23, 2005

Dean calls for end to 'culture of corruption'

"LEWISTON — The Bush White House is the most corrupt administration in U.S. history since President Warren G. Harding's, said Howard Dean during his first visit to Maine as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Dean's comments Saturday came as top White House advisers are being investigated for their roles in the outing of a CIA operative and Tom DeLay, the former second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, faces conspiracy and money-laundering charges.

"The first thing we're going to do is we're going to have ethics come back to Washington again," said Dean, the keynote speaker at Saturday night's annual fundraising dinner for the Maine Democratic Party at the Lewiston Armory.

To deal with the "culture of corruption," Dean said, there needs to be an ethics code in Congress and stronger campaign finance laws.

Dean, a former Vermont governor who was once a front-runner in the 2004 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, alluded to criticism that Democrats have been too timid and vague in their message and have not capitalized on Republicans' weaknesses.

Dean said that if Democrats don't stand up for themselves, voters won't have any reason to believe they would be well-represented.

"We have to stand up and say who we are and why we believe what we believe," he said.

Dean said if the Democrats were to regain power, the party would be strong on national defense. He said the party never would send troops abroad without telling them the truth about why they were going, and without adequately arming them.

Dean said that Democrats also would make sure every American has access to health insurance.

"If 40 industrial nations can do it and balance the budget at the same time, it's time to have somebody in the White House who can chew gum and think at the same time," he said.

More than 400 party loyalists listened as Dean described Democrats as a party of moral values, while criticizing Republicans as trying to divide Americans over race, sexual orientation and country of origin.

Dean said Republicans should not have interfered in the Terri Schiavo right-to-life case.

"I'm tired of the ayatollahs of the right wing," Dean said. "We're fighting for freedom in Iraq. We're going to fight for freedom in America."

Dean urged Maine Democrats to run for state office in 2006, and to maintain Democratic control of the State House that Gov. John Baldacci needs to push through his initiatives.

Maine is the 33rd state Dean has visited since taking over as chairman this year. He received several standing ovations during a program that also included Baldacci and Democratic U.S. Reps. Tom Allen and Michael Michaud.

The purpose of the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was to raise money and rally the party faithful, and the event often took a light-hearted tone. Allen made one of several DeLay jokes of the night when he said he heard there was a new television show called "Desperate House Leaders."-from the story in today's Portland Press Herald (ME), part of Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

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