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I recall when this happened, and how the Dean campaign tried backing away from it at warp speed. Quite frankly, I just considered it to be a typical reaction from the no-war-for-any-reason set, and in that context it makes perfect sense:
"Questioned about the deaths of Saddam's sons, Odai and Qusai, in Iraq, Dean dismissed suggestions that it was a victory for the Bush administration. `It's a victory for the Iraqi people . . . but it doesn't have any effect on whether we should or shouldn't have had a war,' Dean said. `I think in general the ends do not justify the means.' "
Nevertheless, when challenged on this, Dean has gone on the attack rather than explain what he meant, or more likely, that he forgot he said it because he shot his mouth off without thinking about it at the time:
"I never said that. I never said that," the man from Vermont insisted. "McCain claimed I said that on television. We called the station and said we never said that. This is the problem with LexisNexis. It's great, but it circulates urban legends and creates them and I had never said that. . . ."
What was the "that"? Dean angrily denied being "soft on the death of Uday and Qusay. That was something McCain said, and it got quoted in my story and I've been a victim of it ever since. McCain said I said it. We talked and called the station and said we never said any such thing."
The problem for Dean is that he did say it, and blaming McCain makes him look a bit ... well, paranoid. Safire never actually says this, but implies it through a comparison with Richard Nixon. He pegs Dean thusly:
But it is not Dean's way to explain "what I meant was . . ." His eagerness to expunge from the record his snap judgment about the killing of Saddam's sons — to claim falsely "I never said any such thing," to suggest it is a McCain concoction, an "urban legend" — tells us that he is a man who treats a toothache by biting down on it hard.
By repeatedly denying the words ever came out of his mouth — thereby imputing inaccuracy to the A.P. reporter and blatant dishonesty to McCain — he compounds the original blunder that all too tellingly revealed his mindset.
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