Dean candidacy not a lost cause - Billy Corriher

With presidential candidate Howard Dean facing a shrinking lead in New Hampshire polls, many are counting him out in tomorrow's primary. Dean finished a surprising third in the Iowa caucus last week, and Sen. John Kerry is hoping to capitalize on his momentum tomorrow.

Dean's anti-war message catapulted him to the front of the Democratic pack last year. He gave a credible voice to the many people who doubted Bush's case for going to war.

I graduated from the University of North Carolina (supposedly an institution saturated with liberal thought) in May, and I remember one professor asking his students last March to raise their hands if they agreed with Bush's case for invading Iraq.

After the vast majority of my classmates' hands went up, I was one of the few to explain why I didn't think Bush's case was convincing. I didn't think Bush had presented solid evidence of Iraq's ties to terrorism or proof that Iraq's weapons program was an imminent threat to the United States.

I also told the class about Dean's candidacy (hardly any of them had heard of him), and how people would flock to his campaign once they started paying attention to this war.

While the other Democratic candidates went along with Bush's plan because there was such overwhelming public support for it, Dean had the boldness and foresight to stand up against the president's weak case for going to war with Iraq.

After Dean's poll numbers skyrocketed, the other Democratic candidates tried to backpedal on their stance on the war, criticizing the way Bush handled the war, not his reasons for fighting it.

Many Americans said they voted for Bush in 2000 because he seemed like he had honesty and integrity. I've been rooting for Dean because he proved that he had honesty and integrity when so few were willing to stand up for the truth.

Dr. Dean, who's more famous for his gaffes than his policy stances, received a lot of attention for saying the United States was no safer once Saddam Hussein was captured by our military.

I, for one, agreed with this statement. I hoped the dictator's capture would lead to fewer attacks on our brave soldiers in Iraq (it hasn't yet), but I don't think our country is any safer from terrorism because Hussein is behind bars.

I believe that when our children look back on this war, they'll realize that it was a distraction from the real War on Terror. Future generations will have trouble understanding how the public, and candidates from the president's opposing party, were so convinced Hussein was an imminent threat to our security.

And there are plenty of people today who are still angry about this war, so I wouldn't count Dean out yet. New Hampshire primary voters are known for their opposition to letting Iowa determine the nominees.

But even if Dean does not receive the Democratic nomination, history will judge the former Vermont governor as having the guts to stand up to a popular president who was misleading his constituents. He gave a voice to rational dissenters who were largely ignored before his candidacy.

Billy Corriher covers government and politics for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 281 or at bcorriher@news-daily.com