Democratic presidential contender Joe Lieberman began the final month of the New Hampshire primary campaign with an attack on Howard Dean’s lack of foreign policy experience, calling him a rookie.
Trying to close the gap between himself and the leader in the polls, Lieberman said it is no time for “on-the-job training” in foreign policy.
“I just don’t think it’s time for a rookie,” he told reporters on one of his six campaign stops during the day.
“We’re not going to convince the American people to replace George W. Bush with someone who’s taken repeated impulsive positions and then constantly had to explain what he said,” Lieberman said at another stop.
While most campaigns have a rapid response team, “Howard Dean has a rapid retraction team,” Lieberman said.
Points to Saddam, bin Laden remarks
Lieberman pointed to Dean’s comments that he was unsure if the American people were safer with Saddam Hussein out of power, and a few days ago he said he was unsure about prejudging Osama bin Laden’s guilt “though Osama confessed on tape that he was responsible for the attack on the United States that killed 3,000 people on Sept. 11,” Lieberman said.
“If Howard Dean is unsure about Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the American people are going to be very unsure they have the confidence they need to make Howard Dean their president.”
Dean has stood by his comment on Saddam and the country’s safety, and noted that the federal government increased the terror alert level last week despite Saddam’s capture.
“If Senator Lieberman and the other Democrats had challenged President Bush’s foreign policy last October as much as they are attacking (former) governor Dean now, we might not be bogged down in Iraq,” said Matthew Gardner, Dean’s New Hampshire press secretary.
Dean was quoted earlier this week by the Concord Monitor saying he had “this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials.”
Dean later said that doesn’t mean he sympathizes in any way with the al-Qaida leader and wants him to get the death penalty.
Dean also said he has visited 50 countries and met foreign leaders on trade missions as governor of Vermont, and that all presidents listen to advisers with experience in particular areas.
Lieberman took a jab at Dean’s boning up on foreign policy by talking to experts in President Clinton’s administration.
“This is no time for on-the-job training no matter how many courses on foreign policy Howard Dean takes,” he said.
Instead, Lieberman pointed to his own foreign policy experience as a U.S. senator and a member of the Senate Armed Services and Governmental Affairs committees.