The Dean scream gets softer?

The former presidential candidate turned DNC chairman moderates his stance on the Iraq war. Will his loyal troops desert him?

Published April 22, 2005 10:11PM (EDT)

Progressive Democrats for America, a grass-roots group dedicated to steering the Democratic Party clear of any rightward drift, criticized Howard Dean on Friday for comments he made about U.S. troops' continued presence in Iraq. "Now that we're there, we're there and we can't get out," Dean told an audience at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Thursday. "The president has created an enormous security problem for the United States where none existed before. But I hope the president is incredibly successful with his policy now that he's there."

"Incredibly successful" isn't exactly how we would describe the current state of affairs in Iraq.

"We were taken aback by his remarks," said Tim Carpenter, the national director of PDA, who spoke with War Room this afternoon. "We remember the Howard Dean that ran for president. He was an authentic antiwar voice, and we were hoping that voice would carry over to his work at the Democratic National Committee."

Carpenter said Dean's current stance on the occupation shows him to be out of touch with the party's base, noting that 80 percent of the delegates at the Democratic National Convention last year were opposed to the war. And last weekend, at a party convention in California, 2,000 state Democrats passed a PDA-sponsored resolution calling for U.S. troops to depart "at the earliest possible time."

Carpenter also pointed to a rising grass-roots movement in Dean's home state: In March, constituents at 49 different town hall gatherings in Vermont overwhelmingly passed resolutions calling for the speedy return of the state's National Guard troops serving in Iraq.

PDA is normally a big Dean fan. Its support base boasts many Deaniacs and Kucitizens, and the group played an important role in encouraging and supporting Dean's run for DNC chair. But in the interests of keeping him honest, the group won't be letting up with its criticism; according to Carpenter, they'll continue taking Dean to task on their site, and will circulate a petition next week critical of his softer stance on the war.

By Julia Scott

San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.

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Democratic Party Howard Dean Iraq War War Room