Shooting From the Hip, Dean Drew FireSomeday, more people will pull their heads out and realize that concentrating on Iraq took America's eye off the ball and we just might get beaned for it for not going after the right bad guy.
By Matea Gold and Mark Z. Barabak
The day after Saddam Hussein was caught in his spider hole, Howard Dean stepped before a crush of TV cameras to offer a statesmanlike appraisal.
It was "not a day to talk about politics," the former Vermont governor said that muggy December morning in Palm Beach, Fla. He saluted the military and called it "a great day" for the Bush administration.
Fewer than 24 hours later, however, Dean's tone shifted — and along with it the fortunes of his high-flying campaign.
As his caravan motored to a Los Angeles hotel, Dean penciled a new line into the foreign policy address he was about to give. He had labored for months over the speech, helped by a team of eminent advisors that included former Vice President Al Gore.
But that one line inserted on the spur of the moment, an assertion that Hussein's capture had not made America safer, dominated the headlines and reverberated in the Democratic presidential campaign for weeks.
The statement was the kind of off-the-cuff observation that had long endeared Dean to legions of disaffected Democrats. But to many just tuning in to the presidential contest, it seemed wrong, and even a little reckless.
Although it was unclear at the time — and the truth of Dean's statement can still be debated — the comment marked the beginning of his descent from front-runner to the straits he finds himself in today.
"I think it sent shock waves," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. "It was just too out there for a lot of people … and Dean's believability index started slipping."
Reckless? Unbelievable? Wrong? Shock waves? Well, I guess America REALLY won't want to hear this. Stick your fingers in your ears, yell "NANANANAH" and read this from today's N.Y. Times:
Regional Terrorist Groups Pose Growing Threat, Experts Warn
JAKARTA, Indonesia, Feb. 7 — The landscape of the terrorist threat has shifted, many intelligence officials around the world say, with more than a dozen regional militant Islamic groups showing signs of growing strength and broader ambitions, even as the operational power of Al Qaeda appears diminished.
Some of the militant groups, with roots from Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus to North Africa and Europe, are believed to be loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda, the officials say. But other groups follow their own agenda, merely drawing inspiration from Osama bin Laden's periodic taped messages calling for attacks against the United States and its allies, the officials say.
The smaller groups have shown resilience in resisting the efforts against terrorism led by the United States, officials said, by establishing terrorist training camps in Kashmir, the Philippines and West Africa, filling the void left by the destruction of Al Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan. But what is also worrisome to counterterrorism officials is evidence that like Al Qaeda, some of them are setting their sights beyond the regional causes that inspired them.