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December 19, 2003
Hugh Hewitt on Dean's Retreat: Too Little, Too Late

Hugh Hewitt notes that Howard Dean has modified his stance on Saddam's capture a few increments:

Yesterday Dean responds with this:"The capture of one very bad man does not mean this president and the Washington Democrats can declare victory in the war on terror."

But of course, that is not what the President claimed, at any time. In fact, Bush made it very clear on several occasions that Saddam's capture was only one good step towards our mission to eliminate the international reach of terrorism, and the tyrannies that spawn it:

I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq [emphasis mine]. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East. Such men are a direct threat to the American people, and they will be defeated.

It's good to see that Dean accepts the Bush position on Saddam's capture, although it would be nice for him to acknowledge that that is what he did. Hewitt offers Dean some anger management and damage control counseling:

Dean's only exit is to admit error --quickly and candidly: "I was wrong to state that the capture of Saddam doesn't make America safer. Obviously it does. In my eagerness to underscore that the war was ill-conceived and the reconstruction of Iraq badly managed, I allowed myself to deny the obvious: It does help us that Saddam is in prison. It does make the U.S. safer. But I continue to believe he could have been brought to heel by other means."

It's good advice, but Dean's political tin ear still seems to be guiding his decisions. I suspect that Dean will eventually contend that he meant the above all along, and right-wing critics are being unfair by judging him on what he actually says.

And anyway, isn't it a bit presumptuous for a candidate who has been claiming loudly for the past year that we shouldn't be in Iraq at all to suddenly decide how to define victory there?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 19, 2003 12:24 PM

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