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Hopeful Relishes His Outsider Role

January 15, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont, is at the bottom of presidential polls for 2004, an outsider among Democratic candidates -- and making the most of it.

The 54-year-old physician told a packed room at the National Press Club on Tuesday that he's willing to challenge President Bush on his policies ranging from Iraq, to the administration's education plan, to its tax cuts. He argues that he is the outsider Democratic candidate free of any congressional entanglements and willing to take on the president on a variety of issues. Most others currently in the race are in Congress. The debate in Washington over whether to pass a $670-billion tax cut or a smaller version is missing the point, Dean said.

"I call this the Argentine fiscal policy," he said at the event sponsored by Atlantic Monthly and the New America Foundation. "We are headed down a path in this country of borrow and spend, borrow and spend....

"George Bush 41 had it right," Dean said, referring to the president's father. "It is voodoo economics, and Democrats ought to stand up to the president and say, 'The right thing to do is repeal your tax cut because it did nothing to stimulate the economy and not talk any more about tax cuts until we've found, Mr. President, how we're going to pay our bills.' " Dean said people in his party are "so afraid to talk about that because they see the president's popularity and think, 'Boy, people want tax cuts.' "

Dean criticized Bush's education plan, the No Child Left Behind Act, by calling it the "no school board left standing" act.

"Everybody running for president, except for me, and the Republicans got together on this wonderful bipartisan bill that is the second-largest unfunded mandate in the history of education," he said. "Do not prescribe the Texas system and hope it fits the rest of the country."

Dean says he agrees with accountability testing, but not other requirements.

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