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2004-02-06

Dean Talks to Democracy Now! on War, His Future, the Media & Washington Insiders

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Presidential candidate Howard Dean speaks to us from Wisconsin, the state where he admitted yesterday he must win in order to keep running. Although he raised over $40 million in fundraising, Dean’s campaign is faltering after he failed to finish better than second in the first seven races. [includes transcript]

After nine contests in the Democratic presidential race, the six remaining candidates look ahead to the crucial next few weeks in the bid for the nomination.

The field stands with Senator John Kerry in a clear lead, winning seven of nine the nine contests. Senator John Edwards scored a big victory this week in South Carolina — where he said he must win or drop out. Wesley Clark also picked up his first win this week in Oklahoma. The Rev. Al Sharpton and Congressman Dennis Kucinich trail further behind.

Howard Dean, whose best showing was second in New Hampshire, draws the line at Wisconsin saying he must win the February 17th primary in the state or he will be forced to abandon his campaign. Howard Dean joins us on the phone from Wisconsin.

TRANSCRIPT

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AMY GOODMAN: Joins us on the telephone right now from Wisconsin. Welcome to Democracy Now!

HOWARD DEAN: Well, good morning. Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us.

HOWARD DEAN: Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.

AMY GOODMAN: You said that you represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party. What do you mean by that?

HOWARD DEAN: Well, I think that Democrats failed to stand up to George Bush on a lot of issues when he came in. They’re finding their legs now after I showed them it was ok to stand up. I stood up against the war when Kerry and Edwards and all those folks voted for it. I stood up against No Child Left Behind, which is a huge unfunded mandate aimed at gutting the public school system. They all voted for that too, but now they’re all saying "we criticized it." That’s fine. The Democratic Party is at least behaving like democrats. The problem is, I don’t really think it’s in their soul and if they weren’t willing to stand up when it really counted, I don’t think they’re going to stand up for ordinary Americans when the corporations come knocking at the door.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve talked about the Democratic Leadership Council. Can you explain what it is and what your objections are to it? And it’s influence in the party…

HOWARD DEAN: I don’t have any objection to it. We need conservative democrats as well as the liberal democrats to win. They…some of their leadership chose other candidates and, therefore they used that perch to attack me, which is what you expect. I mean, this is a group that’s anti-labor. It is pro-free trade. But the problem is…and I think trade is a good thing. But what we’ve done is globalize the rights of working…I mean, of the multinational corporations without globalizing the rights of ordinary working people and that is a huge mistake. And we proved that 100 years ago in this country, during the trade union expansions, which finally created the middle class in America. My analysis of what is going on in this election is, like McKinley and the Hoover Administration, corporations have so much power that ordinary Americans are being crushed. Their living standards are going down and we have an administration in Washington which is actively taking our money — our tax money, and giving it to big corporations and people who make a million dollars a year. That is not what I think America is about. And historically America has become weak when we have administrations that do that. And I don’t stand for that. I stand for an administration where ordinary Americans do get the benefits of their tax dollars. And, you know, we’re the last country in the world, in the industrial world, that doesn’t have universal health insurance. I can’t imagine why that could possibly be or how that could possibly be in this country. Except that special interests, who are fueling everybody’s campaign except ours, are dominating…dominating the political scene in Washington.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Dr. Dean, there’s no doubt that you’ve transformed the discourse in this debate through the many debates in the campaign. You set now a do-or-die stand for Wisconsin. Why should democratic voters who may support many of the stands that you’ve raised and who are noticing now these other candidates espousing many of your viewpoints, why should they who are so concerned about defeating President Bush, decide now in these upcoming primaries to vote for you?

HOWARD DEAN: Well, we have a website: Deanforamerica.com. Yesterday we raised almost three quarters of a million dollar on that website in 48 hours, simply for the Wisconsin effort. What is at stake — I’ll give you an example. We all understand that President Bush’s record is really dreadful. On the environment it’s dreadful; on jobs it’s dreadful, on foreign relations. The problem is that Senator Kerry, the democratic frontrunner, has according to the Washington Post, taken more special interest money than any senator in Washington the last 15 years. Now that means we can change presidents and certainly get an improvement. We’ll have an improvement in the Supreme Court nominees and so forth. But we are not going to get a significant change in Washington if we do that. And I believe with all the new folks that I’m bringing to the party, that we can beat George Bush. I think the other folks are going to have a tough time because I don’t see how we beat George Bush with the same electorate that we had in 2000.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the issue of special interests and it’s one that the other candidates have certainly picked up on. John Kerry, certainly John Edwards. And yet after firing your campaign manager, the long-time…

HOWARD DEAN: I didn’t do that.

AMY GOODMAN: Or his resignation.

HOWARD DEAN: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: The key issue is who you hired, the close friend of Al Gore, Roy Neil and then the e-mail that went out to all of your supporters, "Roy Neil, CEO of Dean for America," which I think shocked a number of people, concerned with the tone changing.

HOWARD DEAN: Well, the tone of the campaign…

AMY GOODMAN: And also him being the former president of the United States Telephone Association, a major lobbyist.

HOWARD DEAN: Yeah. He has been a college professor for the last four years and I don’t think the tone has changed in our campaign at all. Again, I’ll say raising three quarters of a million dollars in a short period of time, in $53 average donations is a strong sign that grassroots people really do want a substantial change in Washington. It is true that when you are running a campaign, you have to have a tight organization. We didn’t. We went through $41 million in a short period of time, and unable to pursue the campaign until now. So, you do have to take on managerial skills of a real campaign. You can’t just run in a joyous grassroots way the whole way and we’re putting ourselves back together again. I think what are at stake are the lives of ordinary middle-class people and working people in this country and we have not seen a whole lot of concern about that. And I might say in defense of Al Gore, Al Gore’s given the two best speeches in this campaign. One in March against the war. One in September, concerned with the roots of what’s happening in our democracy. I don’t see Al Gore as a quintessential insider anymore. I think Al Gore is someone who’s learned an enormous amount about politics, particularly in his last race and his view of what is going on in this country is similar to mine.

AMY GOODMAN: About the other candidates, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt. This is not the first time they have run for president. If it turns out that your campaign does not succeed, will you be considering or thinking in terms of future run?

HOWARD DEAN: I don’t know about that. I’m hopefully thinking about this present run. And my attitude is this — we want to win. We want to really change this country. If we can’t win and change the country we want it to be, into what we want it to be, which is something like Vermont, where budgets are balanced, yet every child has health care, a third of our seniors have prescription benefit, all of our working poor people are insured. If we can’t do that, then I’ll settle for second best. We’ll support the democratic nominee. The democratic nominee won’t be perfect, but he will be a whole lot better than George Bush and in the next election, we’ll try to do more. Whether I run or not, I don’t know. I’m trying to win this election. I’m not much thinking about the next one.

AMY GOODMAN: Governor Dean, you had a lot of opposition as you were the frontrunner for a long time, not only republicans and your fellow democrats, but it looked like also the national media as well.

HOWARD DEAN: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: There is an editorial cartoon that’s run in the Time Argus, in your paper in Vermont, that is a picture of a dog house, your name being ripped up and it’s referring to your opposition to deregulation of the media and your reference to keeping the media on a short leash. Can you talk about your views on what’s happening with the FCC right now and your views of why the national media, if you believe that they turned against you?

HOWARD DEAN: Well, you know, certainly there’s evidence in surveys from the Center for Responsive Media that our press was much different than everybody else’s press, no question about that. I got two responses to that. First of all, I do believe that the media is an established group of people that resists change. I don’t believe that they went after me because I espoused reregulation of the media, even though most of the people in this country vigorously support that. But I do believe they went after me because the media is essentially a conservative group of folks that are uncomfortable with change and they saw that an outsider was coming in and threatening their view of how America should be run. I also believe, though if you want to run for president, you’d better be prepared for that. I think John Kerry is now the frontrunner. He is going to get a rough ride. Unfortunately, the media set a very low standard with me and unfortunately we’re going to continue to see that. I wish they would focus on the president. I think one thing, I’ll be very frank about, is that the media has not done their job or what they think their job is, with the president. The energy scandals and the business about his military records. You know, I went to my draft physical and failed a draft physical. And they carried that for a long, long time. Now I think it is proper for them to investigate the president’s military records. So, you know, I think they have set a different standard when covering my campaign and now they’ll feel some obligation to set that same standard in covering other people’s campaigns.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you find it unusual that folks like conservative columnists like George Will and Robert Novak last week started saying that the Democratic Party looks like it is coming to its senses by voters moving towards someone like Kerry instead of you?

HOWARD DEAN: When I went to see Bill Clinton about running a long time ago, he told me never to read anything written by somebody inside the beltway. I don’t read those columnists or actually I don’t read anything that’s written inside the beltway in Washington. I know what they’re about. They aren’t constructive people. And I just frankly don’t pay any attention to them. I also don’t think anybody else does, either, except inside the beltway.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, governor Dean, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. You opposed the war. You as well as the other democratic candidates, except for Sharpton and Kucinich, said that you have never been in doubt about the evil of Saddam Hussein or the necessity of removing his weapons of mass destruction. Going along with the idea that he had those. Other candidates said they did not feel that the evidence was credible. What made you feel it was credible?

HOWARD DEAN: I don’t think the evidence was credible. I believe they had weapons of mass destruction, but I did not believe that they were an imminent threat to the United States and said so. I did not believe they were buying uranium from Iraq. I did not believe vice president Cheney asserted that they were about to develop nuclear weapons because all the intelligence that I saw was different. This is exactly why I’m running. Senator Kerry, Senator Edwards, General Clark, they all though the war was a fine idea at the time and now they’re backing away from it since they’re running for the presidency. That is the kind of leadership we really don’t need in Washington and I really hope to provide a different kind of leadership for this country. There are an awful lot of people out there supporting that kind of change in leadership and I hope very much that I will prevail in Wisconsin.

AMY GOODMAN: Governor Dean, I want to thank you for being with us.

HOWARD DEAN: Thank you very much.


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