Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

The Democratic National Convention, July 29, 2004

COOPER: And welcome back to 360's special coverage of the final night of the Democratic National Convention here at the FleetCenter in Boston, Massachusetts.


Joining us now is the man a lot of people thought early on, at least, would be making the big speech this evening, the former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean.

Appreciate you being here.

Are we going to hear from John Kerry a lot tonight specifics about Iraq? Because the I-word has not been used here. You didn't even use Iraq in your speech.


COOPER: I'm sorry, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) told, we -- we got to have -- we got a problem with your mike. If we're going to fix it, and just quickly go to "CROSSFIRE." We will be rejoined by Dr. Dean in just a few moments.

[Interlude with Crossfire while they fix Dean's mike. Then:]

COOPER: We're going to leave it there. Tucker Carlson, Paul Begala, thanks for joining us.

We're rejoined now by former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

DEAN: Try this one again.

COOPER: We're going to try this one again...

DEAN: Right.

COOPER: I hope it's working. It's a little hard to tell over here. In your speech, you did not mention the word Iraq. You of all people who really came to the fore by talking about the war in Iraq. Was that a conscious choice?

DEAN: What I did talk about is the morality of American foreign policy. The issue with Iraq is the president's credibility. The fact that we're at war is not a negative or a positive for the president (UNINTELLIGIBLE) most Democrats don't like it. Republicans think it's fine. The trouble the president is in is over the scandal at Abu Ghraib, the torture, it's the memo that the Justice Department wrote saying it was OK to torture people. It's now obvious that the president did not tell the truth about how we got in Iraq. The 9/11 commission even said so. That's what hurting the president on Iraq. It's not whether we're there or whether we're not there.

COOPER: Well Republicans, of course, say it wasn't the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not telling the truth, is that he himself was misinformed.

DEAN: But it doesn't matter what the Republicans say. Most people -- I have seen this polling on CNN. The majority -- vast majority of Americans believe that President Bush at least exaggerated the facts, a significant minority believe that he didn't...

COOPER: Do you think things are going to get very nasty in this race? I mean Republicans are already saying perhaps no great surprise that they've heard a lot of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at this convention. Others are saying look, you know this has been a pretty muted convention. President Bush hasn't even been mentioned by name very much here.

DEAN: The American people will make the final judgment on this. I think it is going to be ugliest race that we have seen in a long time...

COOPER: Really?

DEAN: ... and we've seen some pretty ugly races. Yes, these -- the Republicans' problem is that they believe that -- their ideology justifies doing almost anything. And they will stop at nothing to try to win this race. John Kerry is a good nominee for this party. He's tough and he's got some very tough people around him and they are going to need that toughness before we get done...

COOPER: So you think this is really going to be the nastiest campaign...

DEAN: I think it is going to be an incredible ugly race. When the Republicans start losing and I think they're going to be behind by a certain amount in mid September, late September. They are going to do anything they can. You're going to see push tolling (ph). You're going to see rumors. It is going to be a really difficult tough race. These are mean nasty people on the right side of the political equation here.

COOPER: But as you just said, there are some tough people on the Democratic side...

DEAN: Yes.

COOPER: They're going to be taking the gloves off as well.

DEAN: We're going to have to hit him right back. I have long advocated that you do not lie down in front of the extreme radical right, but you hit them right back as hard as you can.

COOPER: A figure came out today, I think it was - I don't want to misquote - I think it was $3.2 million Kerry/Edwards raised yesterday on the Internet, the most ever raised on the Internet in one day. Did you get a thank you call?

DEAN: Listen, they have all adopted our stuff and I'm grateful for it. I think it's great. Even John Edwards said something about race last night that I have been saying for months on the campaign trail. And I sat back and I looked at that and I said this is fantastic. We need to start talking about race to the general audience in this country. And I didn't win but I sure put my stamp on the way...

COOPER: Well, it's interesting you talk about that because the whole flap over the Confederate flag statement you make about the pickup trucks, I mean the debate that I moderated, that was a big contention between you and John Edwards. Interesting to see how things are...

DEAN: I think it is great. I really do. I bear no ill will to everybody taking a lot of stuff out of our platform. I think it's absolutely fantastic. I do agree -- I don't agree with Tucker Carlson on very much, but I do agree that the more we say what we think the better off we are. People -- the American people want conviction. They want conviction.

COOPER: Well have they heard conviction here this week?

DEAN: I think they've heard conviction. What they've heard is conviction in a nice way. And I agree with this notion that we ought not take the hide off the president at this convention. This convention is about presenting John Kerry to the American people. The American people have already decided, the majority of them, that they might not want to retire George Bush for four years. That's why his re-election is below 50 percent. Now the question is will they hire John Kerry and if the answer to that is yes, he wins. That's why we don't want a lot of Bush bashing at this convention.

COOPER: Tonight, there's John -- I don't want to over blow tonight, the importance of it, but a lot of people are probably taking a first look of John Kerry in some parts of the country. Does he have to show that he is as strong, if not stronger on defense than -- and the war on terror than the president.

DEAN: No he doesn't. We don't believe he did. When I was the frontrunner, we calculated that if we could get the defense down, that gap down from 50 points where it was against any Democrat, to less than 10, that we would win on the economic issues. The economy even though the numbers are better, the economy is awful in the border states, in the battleground states.

Manufacturing jobs going, being replaced by Wal-Mart jobs, just barely above minimum wage with no benefits. And you can't dress up the figures. You know those folks don't read "The Wall Street Journal" they just know what is going on in their lives and their neighbor's lives. The economy is going to be won or lost -- excuse me -- the election is going to be won or lost on the economy. What John Kerry has to do is show that he is as good as President Bush and 10 points disagree...

COOPER: So it's not a rocket -- it's the economy...


DEAN: All Iraq can do is hurt the president because it's his credibility is the issue. I think whether we have -- it's true the majority of the people think it was a mistake now to go into Iraq. I don't think that's going to hurt the president. I think what's going to hurt the president is he didn't tell the truth about why we are there. That is going to bother people about the stability of this president and his ability to control the armed forces, to send the armed forces in a way that will defend the country and Kerry's strength. The reason Kerry beat me and everybody else in Iowa and went on to win the nomination is ultimately Democratic voters decided that in a match with George Bush, John Kerry's military experience and his ability to think about foreign policy was going to carry the day for the Democrats and I think they may be right.

COOPER: Do you talk with John Kerry, with John Edwards much? I mean you're out there, you're campaigning in many different ways for them. Do you talk to them a lot?

DEAN: I talk to -- well I run into John Edwards from time to time on the trail. I haven't seen him since he was named vice president. John Kerry and I talk every two weeks roughly either in person or on the phone and it's substantive. It's not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) conversation.

COOPER: Dr. Dean, it's always good to talk to you. Thank you for being with us tonight.

DEAN: Thanks.

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