Interview With Howard Dean on "All Things Considered"

Seattle, WA, March 18, 2004

Michelle Norris: Former Presidential candidate Howard Dean today announced that he's forming a new political organization that will help support progressive causes and candidates. Dean says the organization, called Democracy For America, will also try to harness some of the grassroots activism that helped fuel the early stages of his candidacy. Howard Dean joins us now from Seattle, where he announced the creation of this group.

Governor, thanks for being with us.

Howard Dean: Thanks for having me on, Michelle.

Michelle Norris: As we said, your stated goal is to help progressive causes and candidates. It's interesting, because the presumed Democratic nominee for President, Senator John Kerry, is someone that you wouldn't exactly call progressive.

Howard Dean: Well, as a matter of fact he is. He has an excellent record on the environment. He is experienced in national affairs, international affairs, as the President is not-- or was not when he took office. And so, certainly he would be a vast improvement over President Bush. We certainly-- I certainly plan to support him. This group, however, is not just about supporting Senator Kerry. The group is also about encouraging ordinary Americans to run for office. (I think) what we've seen, and what we uncovered during my campaign was, that many, many people giving small amounts of money can take back this country from special interests, and so we plan to help them raise that money in the way we did, and we also plan to help train them and encourage them to run.

Michelle Norris: How closely will you work with the Democratic National Committee, the DNC, and are you also willing to support independent candidates?

Howard Dean: We haven't gotten that far yet. Certainly we don't-- we wanna do everything we can to break the hold of the right wing on the Congress and the Presidency. I think that, in terms of independent candidates, the only circumstances I could see that we would help independent candidates is if one, if they could win, or raise issues that weren't being raised in the other campaigns, and two, if they did contribute to sending Tom DeLay either back to Texas or at least putting him in the minority status, because that would be our goal there.

Michelle Norris: Well, while we're talking about independent candidates, I'm curious to get your thoughts on Ralph Nader at this point, and whether... what role you think he might play in the upcoming general election, and if you find it at all interesting that he seems to be pulling support from voters who at one time were backing your candidacy.

Howard Dean: You know, I think that Ralph Nader has contributed an enormous amount to America. But unfortunately, I've got a lot of experience with third party voting, and this election is between George Bush and John Kerry. One of those two people will become the next President of the United States. Unfortunately, a vote for Ralph Nader makes it more likely that George Bush will be that next president of the United States, and so I would urge people to support John Kerry.

Michelle Norris: Now that you've had the gift of time to move beyond the daily juggernaut or the daily clutch of the presidential campaign, I imagine that you can look back and see things a bit more clearly now. And, I'm wondering, at what point, Governor, did you realize, I guess really admit in your heart, that your campaign had started to stall?

Howard Dean: Well, I actually sensed that our campaign had started to stall before the Iowa caucuses. You know, we were under withering attacks from all our opponents and from the media, which now, certainly, has a sense of, 'maybe we went too far'. (laughs softly) ... after the fact. No, we were just an outside-Washington frontrunner that... perhaps we could have been a little more "politic" with the powers that be, but that's not what the campaign was about. What the campaign was about, was taking on the assumptions of Washington, and showing the people in Washington that they actually have an obligation to the American people, not just to themselves. A lot of people didn't like that message, and I knew that that was going to be trouble. And it was.

Michelle Norris: Now that you've stepped away from the campaign, Governor, I'm wondering what's the most satisfying part of that, now that you're not involved in that sort of daily drumbeat of having to get up on the stump?

Howard Dean: What's the most satisfying thing about not being on the stump, you mean?

Michelle Norris: Mm hmm.

Howard Dean: There isn't one. (they laugh) You know, if I could have had the nomination I would have liked to have had it. I would have liked to have been President of the United States. That's not gonna happen. The voters have spoken, they've nominated Senator Kerry, and I'm gonna do everything I can to help Senator Kerry-- in a different role.

Michelle Norris: Governor, thank you for speaking with us.

Howard Dean: Thank you so much.

Michelle Norris: Governor Howard Dean, speaking to us about an organization he launched today, called Democracy For America.

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