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Jewish World Review Jan. 5, 2004 / 11 Teves, 5764

John Leo

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Dean's World | This is a make-believe interview with Howard Dean. All the questions were made up, but all of the responses are real-life direct quotes from Dean.

Q. Dr. Dean, it's been 28 months since the 9/11 attack. How would you assess the job President Bush has been doing in the war on terror?

A. The president spent 30 months destroying our ability to defend ourselves against terrorism.

Q. I see. What about catching Saddam Hussein?

A. The capture of Saddam has not made America safer. If we are safer, how come we lost 10 more troops and raised the safety alert?

Q. When Saddam's regime fell, you said, `I suppose that's a good thing.' How about something a bit more positive?

A. I think it's terrific that he's gone.

Q. Much better. What about your comment that we mustn't assume that Osama bin Laden is guilty of attacking us on 9/11. Isn't it a clue that bin Laden made a videotape bragging that he did it? How about saying something more forceful?

A. I share the outrage of all Americans. Osama bin Laden has admitted he is responsible for killing 3,000 Americans as well as scores of men, women, and children around the world. This is exactly the kind of case that the death penalty is meant for.

Q. Nice one. I understand you have some interesting theories about why President Bush is reluctant to cooperate with the Kean commission investigating 9/11.

A. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can't think — it can't be proved — is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is . . . "

Q. But why would you float a no-evidence rumor like that and call it interesting?

A. Because it's a pretty odd theory.

Q. So it's interesting because it's odd. Now about "partial-birth" abortion. Though you are a supporter of the abortion lobby, surely you must acknowledge that this is an issue that morally serious people can disagree on.

A. This is an issue about nothing. It's an issue about extremism.

Q. I see that in Iowa you said it might not be fair to blame President Bush for the current mad cow case, but didn't you go on to blame him anyway?

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A. Ordinary farmers in Iowa can't sell their calves right now because the president of the United States did not take the precautions that we could have easily predicted.

Q. Didn't you say that if you don't get the nomination, your backers would boycott the election?

A. Where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, where do you think they're going to go? I don't know where they're going to go. They're certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician.

Q. Franklin Foer, writing in the New Republic, says you are "one of the most secular candidates to run for president in modern history." Would you like to say a few words here about religion?

A. I don't go to church very often. My religion doesn't inform my public policy.

Q. It must be a very private and special thing. How do you feel about conservative Christians?

A. I don't want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore. We've got to stop voting on guns, G-d, gays, and school prayer. Democrats should not write off communities of faith, including evangelicals.

Q. Dr. Dean, a lot of people think that when you do talk about religion it tends to be some vague and gassy mention of "spirituality" that doesn't include anything about G-d or church. I wonder if you could comment on that.

A. We are human, spiritual beings who deserve better consideration as human beings than we are getting from this administration.

Q. I have another religion question, and it's only fair to warn you that I intend to use the words "church" and "G-d." When Martin Luther and Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, powerful and wrenching issues were involved. When you broke with Episcopalianism in the 1980s, the big issue was your church's opposition to a bike path. Since few of us have found anything in the Bible about G-d's position on bike paths, I wonder —

A. Churches are institutions that are about doing the work of G-d on Earth, and I didn't think [opposing the bike path] was very G-d-like and thought it was hypocritical of me to be a member of such an institution.

Q. Bikes matter, Dr. Dean. JWR columnist Mark Steyn says you represent the passion of the bike-path left. Good luck with this crucial constituency.

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JWR contributor John Leo's latest book is Incorrect Thoughts: Notes on Our Wayward Culture. Send your comments by clicking here.


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