WASHINGTON – Just a few weeks ago, Howard Dean (search) was a bitter critic of John Kerry (search), his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. But on Sunday, and in the name of party unity, Dean turned the tables and praised the Massachusetts senator as someone who will "make a far better president" than George W. Bush.
Dean said Kerry won "fair and square" and that it was now time for the party to pull together as a team with one goal: evicting Bush from the White House.
"There's no question in my mind that John Kerry will make a far better president than George Bush, both on the economic and jobs side, which is going to be the biggest issue in this campaign, and most certainly, in my view, in the conduct of foreign policy," Dean told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Kerry, Dean said, has the leadership and experience to help make the country safer, something the former Vermont governor contends Bush has not done. "John Kerry, when he becomes president on January 20th, I have no doubt will defend us against terrorism, having served abroad in a war," Dean said.
Dean and Kerry met for nearly an hour last week, and aides said he will endorse Kerry soon, though no date was set. Afterward, Dean issued a statement in which he pledged to work closely with Kerry, the all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee, to "make sure we beat George Bush in November and turn our country around."
Dean also had said he would announce details of his new grass-roots advocacy organization on Thursday.
"We built an enormous grass-roots organization. We want to keep that very active," he said.
Dean had excoriated Kerry during the campaign as a Washington insider who shifted positions with each new poll and was beholden to special interests. But Dean, who had not won a single state when he dropped out of the race on Feb. 18, says he's accepted the decision of the voters.
"I don't get to be the captain of the team. That's not what the voters said," Dean said. "John Kerry gets to be the captain of the team. And the question is, do you want to be on the team and work for change or do you not? And I do want to be on the team, and I'm going to work for change."