MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – Democratic presidents have taken tough stances and defended America’s freedom for generations, while Republicans have “failed miserably” in foreign policy, national Democratic Chairman Howard Dean told New Hampshire Democrats on Saturday.

Dean cited President Bush’s and Sen. John McCain’s recent criticism of the Democrats’ willingness to talk to foreign leaders of countries such as Iran.

“The Republican party is the party of the past, and how dare John McCain and George W. Bush question our ability to run foreign policy. Look what they’ve done to the foreign policy of the United States of America,” Dean said to loud applause from the crowd of delegates estimated at about 1,000 people.

The convention drew the largest turnout of Granite State delegates in at least the past 30 years, according to organizers.

Drawing some laughs, Dean brought up the television show “Can you outsmart a fifth grader.” He said neither Bush’s nor McCain’s refusal to meet with the leaders would sit well with 10 and 11 year olds.

“I think it makes sense to try to have a world where people can talk to each other … We know we have to be tough. We will be tough.”

Dean said Democratic presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Lyndon Johnson have stood strong when it comes to foreign policy.

Dean also criticized Republicans’ handling of the economy, saying McCain and Bush only know the cycle of “borrow and spend.”

“We learned a long time ago that Democrats have the party of fiscal responsibility,” Dean said.

Dean said McCain is out of touch with most Americans on the economy, has no plans to create jobs and blames homeowners for the foreclosure crisis.

During the convention at McLaughlin Middle School, delegates narrowly rejected a proposed amendment to their platform to abolish the death penalty.

Democratic candidates Jeanne Shaheen, who is running for the U.S. Senate, and Rep. Carol Shea Porter and Paul Hodes made campaign speeches that touched on the theme of uniting New Hampshire Democrats and defeating the GOP in the November elections.

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