Pubdate: Mon, 06 Oct 2003
Source: Capital Times, The  (WI)
Copyright: 2003 The Capital Times
Author: David Callender
Note: our newshawk writes: The 'heckler' was Jim Miller, assisted by 
myself, Gary Storck


Candidate: Flag not owned by Ashcroft, Limbaugh, Cheney

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean had one of those moments
Sunday that give politicians pause whenever they consider visiting

As the physician and former Vermont governor was turning from his
pledge of universal health insurance for Americans to assail the
nation's prison-building binge, he was interrupted by a heckler.

The voice asked: Could Dean justify why the government is jailing
patients who use marijuana for medical purposes?

Dean told the crowd of about 5,000 outside the Kohl Center that his
stance on the issue was "a little complicated," but "since you asked
about it, I'll divert from my speech for one second."

The crowd erupted in cheers.

Dean, who is promoting himself as a grass-roots alternative to
Republican President George W. Bush, told the crowd that the reason
he's been so successful "is not just because we say things and get in
the president's face, but because we believe that all of you are not
foot soldiers, but that all of you are in a sense running the campaign."

That means listening to his supporters and not just giving speeches,
he said. So Dean responded to the question.

Dean said the nation needs to consider nonviolent drug crimes as a
"medical problem and not a judicial problem," a statement that drew
more cheers.

He said he is reluctant to promise action on the issue "for the same
reason I'm pro-choice: I don't like politicians making medical decisions."

But he said if he were elected, he would ask the Food and Drug
Administration to review all studies, recommend the appropriate
medical uses, "and we will follow their recommendations."

Dean added that based on his review of the studies, the FDA would most
likely recommend that marijuana is "fine for HIV/AIDS and cancer
patients and ... it would probably not be fine for glaucoma, where the
risks outweigh the benefits."

Dean's response won grudging approval from longtime pro-marijuana
activist Ben Masel, who said a friend posed the question.

"It was the best answer we've heard from him to date," said Masel, who
said he was pleased by Dean's answer that drug abuse should be treated
as a medical problem and not a crime.

"And I give him credit for being willing to take a
less-than-sycophantic question. There are a lot of campaigns that
would have hauled us out rather than answer the question."

The departure from Dean's standard stump speech was just the kind of
exchange that some supporters said attracted them in the first place.

While the event was part of a four-day, seven-city swing through
college campuses to draw what the campaign calls "Generation Dean," or
18- to 30-year-olds, at least half of the crowd looked like it was
well past the generation's upper age limit.

Among those supporters were Henry St. Maurice, his wife, Mary, and
4-year-old daughter Emma, who made the two-hour drive from Stevens
Point so they could finally hear their candidate speak.

The couple said they've already donated more than $1,000 to Dean and
are part of about 40 regular volunteers in their community who first
came together via one of the campaign's Web-based "meet-ups."

St. Maurice said he first encountered Dean while he was living in
Vermont, "where it's so small you can't avoid shaking hands with the
governor sometime." When he saw Dean on the campaign trail on C-SPAN
in June, "it just clicked with me right away."

St. Maurice, who traces his political roots back to Gene McCarthy's
insurgent campaign for president in 1968, says Dean's organization is
unlike anything he's ever seen. "This has really been a ground-up
organization," he said.

Like many in the crowd, the St. Maurices were first drawn by Dean's
early and outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq, but ultimately
chose to support him because of his unabashed liberalism on a host of
other issues.

Dean received some of the heaviest applause when he told the crowd to
wave the American flags many had brought to the rally.

"We are going to win because we are going to remind Americans that
that flag does not belong to John Ashcroft and Rush Limbaugh and Dick
Cheney. It belongs to the people of the United States of America, and
that is us," he said.

Dean also drew heavy applause as he recounted how many of the reasons
Bush gave for invading Iraq have since been proven false.

Bush promised that as president, "I will send our troops anywhere in
the world to defend the United States of America," but "I will never
send our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters and our
grandchildren to a foreign country in harm's way without telling the
truth to the American people about why they're going there."

He was just as aggressive defending organized labor. His campaign had
asked supporters to bring canned goods to help striking Tyson Foods
workers from Jefferson, a request that yielded about six large. He
also assailed last year's Republican-inspired tax cut.

"The truth is the middle class never got a tax cut," he said,
contending that any tax breaks that middle-income taxpayers may have
received were swallowed up by tuition and property tax hikes or cuts
in local services. "This was a service cut, not a tax cut."

This was Dean's third trip to Wisconsin this year and the first visit
by any of the major Democratic candidates for president. Dean is
widely regarded as the party's front-runner.

With Democratic primaries set between the traditional early primary
states of New Hampshire and South Carolina and the vote-rich primaries
in New York and California, political observers say a win here could
provide candidates with much-needed momentum, and potentially weed out
some weaker contestants.

Many Democratic leaders here have yet to endorse a presidential
candidate. Senate Minority Leader Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, was one
of the first in the nation to endorse Dean. Dean also met Sunday with
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, Attorney General Peg
Lautenschlager and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, but Dean aides stressed that
the meetings were a courtesy call and not a prelude to

Wisconsin, which Bush lost by about 6,000 votes in the 2000 election,
is also expected to be a key battleground state next fall. Bush has
already visited the state eight times since taking office, most
recently last Friday for a $2,000-a-plate luncheon in Milwaukee.

Dean swiped at Bush for that visit, saying the president "could never
draw 5,000 people out in Madison to support his policies."

But not everyone in Sunday's crowd was sold on Dean.

Brian Buchanan, a law student and potential member of the "Generation
Dean." was among about 40 students camped outside the Kohl Center
waiting to purchase Badger basketball tickets, which go on sale Nov.

"His issues don't appeal to me," said Buchanan, who described himself
as a Republican. "I expect this to go over well in Madison, but I
don't think it will go over nearly as well in the rest of the state. I
definitely think he'll really excite the primary voters, but he might
be a little too liberal for the general election. He brings back
memories of Mondale and Dukakis." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake