Howard Dean Courts Young Democrats

Howard Dean (search) personally appealed to young Democratic activists to support his campaign for the presidential nomination with a stinging attack on President Bush as someone who favored the rich and was fiscally irresponsible.

"Borrow and spend, borrow and spend," Dean told about 700 enthusiastic young party members on Saturday. "He would like to run the United States the way Argentina was run."

"Our oil money goes to the Middle East where nations like the Saudis used it to fund Hamas (search), to fund the teaching of small children to hate Americans, Christians and Jews," he added.

And, Dean took the administration to task for its recent opposition to an affirmative action (search) admissions program at the University of Michigan.

"The word quota is a racially loaded word that is designed to frighten people," Dean said. "This president played the race card and for that alone, he deserves to be sent back to Crawford, Texas."

A call to the White House was not immediately returned to The Associated Press.

The former Vermont governor was the only one of the nine active candidates who appeared in person at the biennial convention of the 43,000-member Young Democrats of America being held in Buffalo.

Asked about that after his speech, Dean said: "I think they missed a great opportunity. This group of people are the people who are putting us over the top." He told the crowd that it was his third, straight YDA convention.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich aired videotaped message to the convention on Saturday, as Sen. John Edwards (search) of North Carolina had done earlier in the week.

Kerry's well-received video, using an often shaky, hand-held camera and quick-cut editing, showed him sailboarding, playing hockey, riding a Harley-Davidson (search) motorcycle and talking to lots and lots of young people. If the message was lost on any of the young Democrats, Kerry, 59, told them: "Hopefully this gives a feel for the young people driving my campaign every day ... Without young people I couldn't have a campaign."

"I certainly wish the other candidates would have had time on their schedules to stop by and talk to these young Democrats," said Chris Gallaway of Kansas, the new president of the Young Democrats (search).

A spokeswoman for Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri said he was busy with a six-day trip across Iowa.

"We did have volunteers at the convention handing out literature and signing people up if they were interested in getting involved in the campaign," said Gephardt aide Kim Molstre.

At a news conference after his speech, Dean said, among other things:

-That "the straw that broke the camel's back" when it came to his concerns over radio and television monopolies was when one radio group refused to air Dixie Chicks records after one of them complained about President Bush taking the country to war in Iraq. Dean is also opposed to the war.

-He wasn't leading a Eugene McCarthy-like, liberal "Children's Crusade." "I wouldn't call these people children exactly. This is an awakening of America," he said. The YDA is open to Democrats under age 36.

-That while some of his aides are "chomping at the bit" for him to give up public campaign financing given his fund-raising success, "I would prefer to take matching funds." Dean said there would be "no serious discussion about that certainly until after Sept. 30 and maybe not until after Dec. 30." Those are the next two financial filing deadlines for candidates.

Dean aides provided all those attending the convention with pledge cards they could sign, promising to get at least 10 young people each to register to vote. And, Dean was promoting his own special Web site for young voters:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (search) of New York had appeared before the young Democrats on Friday and stressed the importance of their involvement in the political process.

The former first lady said the fact that only one-third of those between the ages of 18 and 24 cast ballots in the 2000 election was bad for young people and for the country.

"As a result, politics is more focused on people who are older than people who are younger, which is exactly the opposite of the way it should be," she said. "We need to be building the country you will inherit."

Clinton drew repeated cheers and applause during her 30-minute speech, heavily laced with attacks on President Bush.

While Clinton has said she will not run for president in 2004, she has not ruled out a later run for the White House and that was much on the minds of many of the young Democrats.

Ashley Bell of Georgia, president of the College Democrats of America (search), predicted to the convention delegates Saturday that Clinton would become "the first woman president of this country." Afterward, he said: "'08 looks like a good year for her."

"If she runs for president in 2008, I think it'll be an exciting time and it'll be interesting to see how the party reacts," YDA President Gallaway said.