Newsweek Interviews Howard Dean

May 16, 2003

NEWSWEEK: Two leaders of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council, Al From and Bruce Reed, criticized you on May 15 as an elitist McGovern liberal. What's your reaction to that?

Howard Dean: I really think this is mostly the old Democrats, not the New Democrats talking. These are the guys that want to protect the inside-the-Beltway folks and it's not going to work. Inside the Beltway doesn't win this election.

NEWSWEEK: How do you combat this?

Howard Dean: I don't worry about it. Bill Clinton and [Independent Sen.] Jim Jeffords [who have both defended Dean] have already done more than I could ever do.

NEWSWEEK: Did it surprise you that the DLC would come after you like this?

Howard Dean: It was stunning. I couldn't believe it. I only thought Republicans treated other Republicans like this … [But] I'll tell you something. I was in Seattle last night. We had a crowd of 1,200 people. I asked at one point, “How many of you have not been involved in politics in the last 10 years,” and half of them raised their hand.

NEWSWEEK: That's the Democratic dream, to bring in new voters.

Howard Dean: That's right. That's the Democratic dream, and the tired old folks from inside Washington can't do that.

NEWSWEEK: Earlier this week you unveiled a health-care plan that expands existing federal programs to offer universal coverage. What reaction have you had?

Howard Dean:   The people who really know what they're talking about like the plan a lot.

NEWSWEEK: Can it be characterized as nationalized health care?

Howard Dean: No. We're setting up something called the Universal Benefits Health Plan, which means there's a consortium of private insurance companies that bid on doing that business. Everybody's covered so it's universal, but it's not national in the sense that the private sector still has a major role.

NEWSWEEK: You have gotten a lot of attention as the antiwar candidate. What happens now that the war in Iraq is over?

Howard Dean: Domestically, health insurance is a huge issue, and how to pay for it. Balancing the budget is a huge issue that the president's not doing. The No Child Left Behind bill, which I view as a disaster, we need to completely revise or eliminate. The war issue stays alive because of what's happening in Iraq now. We're clearly not doing a particularly good job reconstructing Iraq … We ought to internationalize the occupation of Iraq, bring in NATO and then bring in the United Nations.

NEWSWEEK: Do you have any qualms about being portrayed as the candidate of the left?

Howard Dean: I don't think it's accurate, but I don't worry about it.

NEWSWEEK: You were supposed to be the health-care candidate, but Dick Gephardt got there first. Does it look like you're stealing his issue?

Howard Dean: I don't think so. For those who have covered me, they know I've talked about this. It's going to be hard to take health care away from a physician and a governor who's done it.

NEWSWEEK: The DLC also took a swipe at Gephardt for his plan.

Howard Dean:  That's the same swipe I took at Dick. It's very expensive. But I'm delighted that Dick has a plan. I want everybody to have a plan by the time we get done.

NEWSWEEK: What is it about you personally that you think will connect with voters?
Howard Dean: I'm willing to say things that other people aren't.

NEWSWEEK: Voters like your directness, but some of the reviews of your early appearances use words like “hard-edged,” even “mean.” You have said that when you looked at yourself in the South Carolina debate on May 3, you were amazed how grumpy you looked.

Howard Dean: I think there's a lot of adjustment that happens to candidates like me when you go from nowhere to the first tier, and I don't pretend for a moment that I don't have a lot to learn.

NEWSWEEK: Your campaign manager says you've only delivered one speech from a text. Being unscripted is refreshing, but what about the mistakes—like saying the U.S. won't always have the strongest military.

Howard Dean:  The problem with that article is the poor reporter only had about eight column inches to discuss a subject that was a lot more complicated than that. My position on that and what I said in fact was really no different than what Bill Clinton has said, or what John Kerry has said in previous speeches. It just didn't all get in the article.

NEWSWEEK: But the larger question about mistakes if you're unscripted?

Howard Dean: For me, this is a big learning process, and I now realize that that's not what the campaign is about. People will pounce on those individual words, and the best thing for me to do is to stick to the broad themes that we're going to take the country back, and we're going to take the party back.

NEWSWEEK: Are you going to do anything to head off the brewing feud with Senator Kerry so that things don't get so personal that you alienate each other's supporters?

Howard Dean:  Absolutely. I think both camps are doing the best we can to avoid this and make it less personal. We're not interested in continuing a personal fight.

NEWSWEEK: What do you mean when you talk about changing the Democratic Party?

Howard Dean:  I think the party's been too accommodative to the president—the leadership has.

NEWSWEEK: John McCain was the Internet candidate in 2000, and now it's you. How do you turn cybersupport into the real thing?

Howard Dean: We've raised a fair amount of money over the Internet—three quarters of a million dollars in the first period.

NEWSWEEK: How much money will it take to win the nomination, and where will you get it?

Howard Dean: I originally said that I wanted to raise $10 million, not including the match [from federal funds], and I certainly think that will get us where we need to go.

NEWSWEEK: I want to get back to Iraq. Was it the war itself you were against, or the way the administration went about it?

Howard Dean:  I think disarming Saddam Hussein was a good thing. It needed to be done by the United Nations, not by the United States, because for the United States to attack a country that was not a threat to it, I think is a huge problem in terms of setting a policy that's not consistent with American values. So if the United Nations had voted to disarm Iraq and asked the United States to be part of that effort, I would have supported it.

NEWSWEEK: We haven't found weapons of mass destruction, and the Bush administration says that getting rid of a tyrant like Saddam Hussein was reason enough to go to war.

Howard Dean: I think the administration is on very, very thin ice here. I have not said anything yet, because I always believed they did have biological weapons and chemical weapons … Here's the problem the president has with this: if they don't find chemical or biological weapons, it's not so much that they may not have had them, or they may have gotten rid of them, but the president's assertion that they were giving weapons to the terrorists is going to lack credibility in its entirety.

NEWSWEEK: Overall the public tends to give Bush credit for being straightforward and candid. Is it a fruitful line of attack to go after his candor?

Howard Dean: Part of it is that we're not taking him on on those issues. If you say the tax cuts are bad and then you're willing to vote for some of them, it's hard to make the case. [Bush] cannot deny that he put forth a budget four or five weeks ago that had a $670 billion tax cut. The average income in 2010 that would be affected by that tax cut was a million dollars a year, and he paid for it by cutting veterans' benefits and children's health care. That is a huge vulnerability, and I have not heard anything about that from the other candidates.

NEWSWEEK: In the postwar period in Iraq, could you estimate in round numbers how many billions of dollars, how many thousands of troops, and for how long, you would commit the United States to Iraq?

Howard Dean: There needs to be a foreign presence in Iraq for a long time—at least 10 years. We have now gone into the swamp, and if we leave prematurely, Iraq will become a dangerous nation to the United States. Should a fundamentalist theocracy arise in the south of Iraq, in the Shia region, that will be more dangerous than Saddam to the security of the United States because the possibility of having a fundamentalist terrorist group set up shop there would be significantly greater than it was under Saddam. So we're stuck there now.

NEWSWEEK: Any Democrat who hopes to win has to have the confidence of the American people on national security. You opposed the war. How can you prove yourself to voters as a potential commander in chief?

Howard Dean:   I'm one of two candidates that's ever had executive experience. Being a strong commander in chief means making strong, hard-nosed decisions and sticking to them. The rest of it, specifically on the defense issue, you have to have a defense policy that makes sense. Mine does. I have very clear guidelines of when you use force and when you don't.

NEWSWEEK:   President Bush says Iraq is only one battle in the war on terror. How important do you think national security will be as an issue in 2004?

Howard Dean:  I think it will be an important issue, and I think there's a case to be made that the president is not doing a very good job on homeland security. We have no oil policy of any kind other than drill in the national parks, which means that our oil money goes to countries like Saudi Arabia, which then uses it to fund fundamentalist schools to teach people to hate Christians, Jews and Americans. We are not doing anything very much to buy the plutonium stockpile in Russia. For the price of the war in Iraq, we could have bought the whole thing, and we should—immediately.
NEWSWEEK: North Korea offered to give up its nuclear program in exchange for more substantial aid, which the president characterized as blackmail.

Howard Dean: I think the president is absolutely wrong on this issue. Let me tell you what I would do. First, the United States cannot tolerate nuclear arms on the Korean peninsula. Secondly, in order to get them out without having a war, there's a deal that could be made. Third, anything that brings the North Koreans into the community of nations makes it much easier to deal with them when they behave badly than when they're outside the community of nations. What we ought to do is accept verifiable-on-the-ground destruction of their nuclear capacity in return for trade, fuel oil, food and diplomatic recognition.

NEWSWEEK: As you pointed out, more than 2 million jobs have disappeared since Bush became president, yet his popularity is in the 70 percent range. How do you explain that?

Howard Dean:  Two reasons: ineffective opposition, and everybody's going to rally around a wartime president.

NEWSWEEK: Some of my liberal friends have pointed out that you weren't always pro-choice on abortion.

Howard Dean:  What??

NEWSWEEK: It's not true? That is going around, that you changed when you were governor.

Howard Dean:  That is just ridiculous. I was on the board of Planned Parenthood before I was governor.

NEWSWEEK: Your membership in the NRA …?

Howard Dean: I'm not a member of the NRA either. I've been endorsed by the National Rifle Association. We have no gun control in Vermont because we have one of the lowest homicide rates in the country. My position nationally is I'll support the federal laws and instant background checks at gun shows. And then I think every state ought to make its own laws.

NEWSWEEK: The last three Democrats elected president have been from the South. Is it a coincidence that there hasn't been a northerner since John F. Kennedy?

Howard Dean:    I think that we're in a different time in the Democratic Party. I think that's partly because Southern Democrats tend to be more centrist. But now we're in a place where the whole party has gotten so conservative.

NEWSWEEK: The whole Democratic Party?

Howard Dean: The whole Democratic Party has gotten so conservative that I think it's more about what your position is on the issues than what region you come from. This is really going to be a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party, and a battle for the soul of the country.

NEWSWEEK: You've said that your wife will stay out of the campaign. How do you think that will play with voters?

Howard Dean: She's not going to stay out of the campaign. What I've said is that she's not going to give up her medical practice. She's a great doctor; she likes being a doctor; and that's what she does, and that's what she's gonna do. And if I win, she'll do it in Washington.

NEWSWEEK: You've been campaigning now for more than a year. Have you gained weight? Lost weight? Got any fitness tips?

Howard Dean: Oh, man. I stay in shape by running through airports.

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