July 27, 2006
By BRIAN SKOLOFF, Associated Press Writer
Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean on Wednesday called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki an “anti-Semite” for failing to denounce Hezbollah for its attacks against Israel.
Al-Maliki has condemned Israel’s offensive, prompting several Democrats to boycott his address to a joint meeting of Congress and others to criticize him. Dean’s comments were the strongest to date.
“The Iraqi prime minister is an anti-Semite,” the Democratic leader told a gathering of business leaders in Florida. “We don’t need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion dollars bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn’t have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah.”
On Tuesday, leading Senate Democrats said in a sharply worded letter that Al-Maliki’s “failure to condemn Hezbollah’s aggression and recognize Israel’s right to defend itself raises serious questions about whether Iraq under your leadership can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East.”
The Republican National Committee rejected Dean’s criticism of Al-Maliki, saying, “It is incredibly troubling that Howard Dean would seek to score cheap political points by attacking the democratically elected prime minister of Iraq.”
On Capitol Hill, Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said: “I dismiss Howard Dean. Really, he’s a disappointment, even to Democrats. I don’t care to deal with that.”
Dean also used the Florida appearance to criticize President Bush, calling him “the most divisive president probably in our history” as he complained that Republican policies of deceit and finger-pointing are tearing the country apart.
“He’s always talking about those people. It’s always somebody else’s fault. It’s the gays’ fault. It’s the immigrants’ fault. It’s the liberals’ fault. It’s the Democrats’ fault. It’s Hollywood people,” Dean said. “Americans are sick of that. Even if you win elections doing that, you drag down our country.”
Dean spoke to about 240 business leaders in Palm Beach County at a gathering of the Democratic Professionals Forum. It is part of a nationwide grassroots campaign to get voters involved in politics on a local level ahead of the November elections.
Republicans welcomed Dean’s appearance in Florida, criticizing him for the same divisiveness he accused Republicans of creating.
“Howard Dean’s divisive rhetoric has done nothing more than drive the Democrat Party further to the extreme left of the political spectrum,” said Carole Jean Jordan, head of the Republican Party of Florida.
Associated Press Writer Anne Plummer Flaherty in Washington contributed to this report.
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