Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean, who famously refused to prejudge Osama bin Laden’s guilt, is standing by his judgment that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay may deserve jail time for allegations of corruption.
“Tom DeLay is corrupt. No question about it,” Dean said Friday. “This is a guy who shouldn’t be in Congress and maybe ought to be serving in jail.”
The House ethics committee is investigating whether DeLay violated congressional rules by taking foreign trips paid for by lobbyists. The Texas Republican has not been charged with a crime, but Dean said he would not apologize for saying earlier this month that DeLay “ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence.”
He told The Associated Press on Friday, “Maybe I’m prophetic.”
Asked whether he was rushing to judgment, the former Vermont governor said with a laugh, “I got in trouble because I wouldn’t convict Osama bin Laden. Maybe I’ve learned something.”
Delay spokesman responds
As a Democratic presidential candidate in December 2003, Dean refused to say whether bin Laden should be tried in the United States and put to death for terrorism. “I still have 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 said in 2003.
DeLay spokesman Dan Allen said Friday, “Howard Dean’s latest outrageous antics are the reason why his own party tries to distance themselves from him and the reason why Congressman Frank rebuked him for his original remark.” Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, a harsh critic of DeLay, has said Dean was out of line for talking about jail time for the majority leader.
Allen also said of Dean’s remark on Friday: “That’s what we’ve come to expect from a party that has no agenda, no solutions and no ideas.”
In the AP interview, Dean accused Republicans of abusing their powers by pushing to change Senate rules to make it easier to confirm President Bush’s judicial nominees. If the effort fails, the GOP will be politically weakened, he said. If the rules are changed, voters will “see the arrogance of power in the Republican Party.”
Dean lays out vision for Democrats
“It’s a win-win for us,” the Democrat said.
Dean’s needling of DeLay and the GOP came in a brief interview about the future of the Democratic Party. He laid out his plans to build the party’s grass roots and reshape its message to attract rural and exurban voters who have been moving to the Republican Party.
He pledged to put a party organizer in every U.S. precinct. He is putting money and time into GOP-leaning states, Dean said, because Democrats must start winning state and national races in places they’re currently not competing.
One way the party can do that, he said, is to understand why middle- and low-income Americans are voting for Republicans. Instead of accusing them of voting against their self-interest, which too many Democrats do, Dean said party leaders need to identify the voters’ interests.
Democrats should focus on kids
“They’re voting against their economic interests because they have higher interests” usually centered on their children, Dean said.
Parents in particular are worried about the coarsening of popular culture, the availability of drugs and other issues that affect families, he said. Democrats may speak to voters’ economic interests, Dean said, “but their children are more important. They’re no longer in control of their economic life, they have no doubt about that, so they’re looking for some help in raising their children. We have to offer them that as a party.”
Dean said he was not worried that Republicans had raised $43 million this year, compared with the $18 million he has collected. The party chairman said he is still getting to know donors, and predicted that the gap would close.
Dean, whose presidential campaign broke new ground in Internet fundraising, said he has brought much of his team to the DNC and has instructed them to help state parties tap the powers of the Internet.