Lake Placid, N.Y. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, lashing out at his chief rival for the hearts of New Hampshire's Democratic primary voters, charged Saturday that Sen. John Kerry was becoming a copycat.
"I appreciate Sen. Kerry saying we don't need Bush Lite, and we don't," Dean told about 1,000 people at a forum on rural issues in Lake Placid. "But, Sen. Kerry, we don't want Dean Lite, either."
Early in the campaign for the Democratic nomination to run against President Bush next year, the liberal Dean often introduced himself as representing "the Democratic wing of the Democratic party."
Dean said he had heard about fellow Democratic hopeful Kerry's speech to the forum and the warning by the senator from Massachusetts that Democrats had to stop acting like Republicans.
"I heard he did a great job giving my speech," Dean said.
In his speech to the state Democratic Rural Conference forum for presidential contenders, Kerry had said: "Never again can the Democratic Party fail to stand up and turn away from its accomplishments of the last 60 years. ... The one thing this country doesn't need is a second Republican Party."
While Dean directed most of his criticism at Kerry, the former Vermont governor also said his other rivals from Congress too often have supported President Bush on the war with Iraq, tax cuts and other issues.
To the forum audience, he was as blunt: "What we need in this party is not just people who talk about backbone, but people who have it."
Kerry aimed many of his barbs at Bush.
Belittling the president, Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, harked to his time with a ship in the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam and said, "When I was in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1968, I learned what it was to work with an aircraft carrier for real."
That was a swipe at Bush's May 1 landing on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off San Diego to welcome the ship's crew home from the Iraq war.
Kerry also took issue with the "voicelessness of 2002" that he said cost the Democratic Party control of Congress in the last election.