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Flip Flop or Distortion? - The Assault on Howard Dean
by Todd Smyth
January 4, 2004

The mainstream TV news media have used repetitive distortion to create a negative impression of Howard Dean. They take a sound bite out of context, imply there own meaning, blow it out of proportion and hammer the public over and over again. People regurgitate what they hear and pass it on. Now they just refer to Dean as flip flopping on issues but if you ask someone to give you an example they can't, because they just heard the words "flip flop" "erratic behavior" and "angry." The truth is simple. The mainstream news media are lying. What a surprise! Let's take a look at how this works.

When asked in an interview what should happen to Osama Bin Ladden, Dean said he should have a trial. The media goes crazy: "Dean would allow Osama Bin Ladden to be set free by a jury." When Dean is asked about this again he tries to explain that the death penalty should apply but he should first have a trial, the media goes crazy again: "Now Dean is flip flopping....he thinks Bin Ladden should be killed....what a maniac this Dean is."

Dean always supported a coalition war in Iraq but not an illegal war that would destabilize our position in the world. When Bush pulled the trigger with more than 120 countries, representing two thirds of the worlds population, opposing the war in Iraq, Dean also opposed the war strongly. Among the 10 largest nations in the "Coalition of the Willing" between 67 and 86 percent of their own people opposed the war in Iraq.

After the war began and Americans were getting killed, Dean was attacked for opposing the war. When he stated that he supported the troops and always supported a coalition war, the media jumped all over him: "First he's against the war, now he says he's for the war." But his position had never changed.

When Howard Dean stated: "... the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safer," the press jumped all over it. They gave everyone they could find air time to attack Dean. Almost everyone they talked to responded the same way saying that anyone who doesn't think the world is better off must be crazy. Wait a minute! Dean didn't say, the world wasn't better off. Actually this is what he said:

"The capture of Saddam Hussein is good news for the Iraqi people and the world. Saddam was a brutal dictator who should be brought swiftly to justice for his crimes. His capture is a testament to the skill and courage of U.S. forces and intelligence personnel. They have risked their lives. Some of their comrades have given their lives.

All Americans should be grateful. I thank these outstanding men and women for their service and sacrifice.

I want to talk about Iraq in the context of all our security challenges ahead. Saddam's capture offers the Iraqi people, the United States, and the international community an opportunity to move ahead. But it is only an opportunity, not a guarantee.

Let me be clear: My position on the war has not changed.

The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show that the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at unbelievable cost. An administration prepared to work with others in true partnership might have been able, if it found no alternative to Saddam's ouster, to then rebuild Iraq with far less cost and risk.

As our military commanders said, and the President acknowledged yesterday, the capture of Saddam does not end the difficulties from the aftermath of the administration's war to oust him. There is the continuing challenge of securing Iraq, protecting the safety of our personnel, and helping that country get on the path to stability. There is the need to repair our alliances and regain global support for American goals.

Nor, as the president also seemed to acknowledge yesterday, does Saddam's capture move us toward defeating enemies who pose an even greater danger: al Qaeda and its terrorist allies. And, nor, it seems, does Saturday's capture address the urgent need to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the risk that terrorists will acquire them.

The capture of Saddam is a good thing which I hope very much will help keep our soldiers safer. But the capture of Saddam has not made America safer."

The following week we saw a color coded system designed by our own government telling us as clearly as possible that America was now less safe than before Saddam's capture.

Just to be thorough let me clear up a few more.

Dean has been accused of questioning whether Saddam was a bad guy or not when he said: "We've gotten rid of him, and I suppose that's a good thing." But if you include what he said before and after, it's clear he was commenting on whether the war was justified based on the long term cost of fighting and occupying Iraq. Not whether Saddam was a bad guy or not.

"We should've contained Saddam. We've gotten rid of him, and I suppose that's a good thing, but there's going to be a long period where the United States is going to need to be maintained in Iraq, and that's going to cost American taxpayers a lot of money."

Dean did change his opinion on the death penalty over an eleven year period while he was governor. He changed from ruling it out completely to considering it only in very serious cases such as mass murder, murder of a child, cop-killing and a rape-murder of a previously convicted sex offender. I have no problem with this. It is consistent with a compassionate effort to not be in such a hurry to kill people. It's hardly a radical flip flop or erratic behavior as it has been described.

He's been accused of changing his stand on the Social Security retirement age from eight years ago. But in 1995 he was responding to a question on how to balance the budget based on the economic situation in 1995. The same situation is no longer true today and so his answer is different today. Not so hard to understand.

And just what exactly is wrong with asking Democrats to do more than limit the damage Republicans inflict on working families? The fact that he is right on target here seems to escape most people. This is what most of the disenfranchised in all parties are looking for.

Dean has also been unfairly attacked for sealing his records as Governor of Vermont. Most governors seal their records because they include investigations and letters that reveal things like rape victims, people with AIDS and people who are gay that do not want identities revealed. For instance, a rape victim that never came forward may send a letter to a Governor asking them to not grant clemency or release a rapist on parole. That letter would be included in his records. And that is why Governor Dean turned all of his records over to a judge to determine which documents should be released.

When I see a candidate or another party attacking their opponent by distorting the truth, it tells me they've lost faith in their own ideas. When I see the media do this it tells me the same thing.

Just for the record, despite the number of US casualties reported from Iraq (483) the total coalition casualty number is 576 soldiers killed with 2779 wounded, according to "official reports." More than 20,000 Iraqi civilians have been seriously injured and 7798 killed in our liberation of Iraq. Our military used cluster bombs in civilian areas, which leave hundreds of unexploded bomblets that look like toys. Although you won't see it on TV in this country, the foreign press has shown the footage of children blown up or mangled when they picked up the bomblets that we left behind. Nice goin' George.

Todd Smyth
Alexandria, VA

Posted: January 4, 2004


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