CNBC Special Report with Maria Bartiromo

May 5, 2003

Howard Dean Discusses Political Issues Relevant to Campaigning for the US Presidency


(Excerpt from May 3rd debate, courtesy ABC News)

Senator JOE LIEBERMAN (Democrat, Connecticut): I know I can beat George Bush. Why? Al Gore and I already did it.

Senator JOHN EDWARDS (Democrat, North Carolina): Governor Dean or Senator Kerry, either one would be a better president than the one we have.

Representative DICK GEPHARDT (Democrat, Missouri): If we're going to win this election, we cannot be Bushlike. If you like George Bush's tax cuts, stick with him, vote for him.

Former Governor HOWARD DEAN (Democrat, Vermont): Not that we don't have to say some nice things about Republicans here, but we should avoid it when possible.

Senator BOB GRAHAM (Democrat, Florida): We need to return to the days of fiscal discipline as we did under the administration of Bill Clinton. When he left office, we had a $5 trillion surplus. Barely two years later, we've got a $2 trillion deficit.

Reverend AL SHARPTON (Community Leader): I call George Bush's tax breaks, even the small amounts that he gave working class people, is like Jim Jones giving Kool-Aid. It tastes good, but it'll kill you.

Representative DENNIS KUCINICH (Democratic Presidential Candidate): We have to get the profit out of health care, and that means get the private insurance companies out of health care.

Former Senator CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (Democrat, Illinois): It's time for a woman to be considered seriously as a candidate for the highest office in this land.

(End of excerpt)

MARIA BARTIROMO, host: Ah, an interesting race is upon us. Next July, the Democratic nominee for president will be selected at the party's national convention in Boston. As you just saw, on Saturday, in South Carolina, the campaign got under way with nine candidates making their case for why they should be the next president of the United States. Earlier today, I spoke with one of those seeking the Democratic nomination, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. As President Bush continues to tour the country, promoting his tax cut plan, I began by asking Mr. Dean if the economy remains the key issue in '04.

Dr. DEAN: It is the key issue. When I came into the governorship, it was during the first Bush recession in 1991, and we were faced with the same kinds of problems. We had to balance the budget. We had to create jobs, and make it possible to create jobs. The key to this economy is to--is to balance the budget. The president's taking the country in exactly the opposite direction with these enormous tax cuts, some of which, unfortunately, my Democratic colleagues are going along with, which I think is a mistake. When the economy took off under Bill Clinton, it was because he determined to balance the budget, the only president that had a balanced budget in the last 34 years. That's what we need to do in this country. We don't need more tax cuts. What we need is more jobs. I helped create jobs when I was governor of Vermont. We're down two and a half million private sector jobs since this president took office. That's going to be my first priority, is to restore our economy by balancing the budget and creating jobs.

BARTIROMO: Take a look at something that Senator Lieberman said over the weekend in that Saturday debate about the choice the American people are going to have to make. Listen to this.

Sen. LIEBERMAN: (From May 3rd debate, courtesy ABC News) The fact is, they're not going to choose anyone who sends a message that is other than strength on defense and homeland security.

BARTIROMO: Defense and homeland security. Now right now, the American people know about you--what they know about you most in regards to defense and national security is that you opposed the war in Iraq. How can you make your case that you will keep this nation safe and secure if elected president?

Dr. DEAN: I think it's almost as tough to make the decision not to send people to war as it is to make the--a decision to send people to war. No one should mistake my opposition of the war in Iraq for a lack of toughness. Any commander in chief has to be willing to defend the country. I am as well. The problem with the war in Iraq is that Saddam did not pose a significant danger to the United States. There was very little evidence of that. And now that we're in Iraq, our hardest days are yet to come, because we now have to pacify a country. That's going to take a lot of American money to do that. Some of that American money could be spent at home on our schools, on creating jobs, and on balancing the budget, which is going to be essential for--for creating jobs. So I'm not opposed to war. I don't think you can run for president if you're opposed to war, if you're opposed to using the full force and military might of the United States. But I am opposed to making decisions that are not in the long-term best interest of the United States, and I don't think the war in Iraq is one of those decisions.

BARTIROMO: Bottom line: Is--is the world safer with Saddam Hussein out of power?

Dr. DEAN: We don't know that yet. My judgment is that we were able to contain Saddam Hussein for many, many years with a relatively mi--minimal expenditure of both money and American lives with flyovers and so forth. Today we're delighted Saddam is out of office. He's a dreadful human being. However, if a fundamentalist Shia regime arises in the south, or if we have to put one down to prevent one from arising, clearly, the game changes for America. A fundamentalist regime in the south of Iraq is a much more dangerous situation for the United States than Saddam Hussein was. That would be a direct threat to the United States, because they would fu--harbor fundamentalist terrorists.

BARTIROMO: All right. Talk to me about that debate on Saturday. There were some contentious moments, some fireworks between you and your rival John Kerry. It bordered on the personal. Let's listen to this and then talk about it.

(Excerpt from May 3rd debate, courtesy ABC News)

Dr. DEAN: Everyone respects Senator Kerry's extraordinarily heroic Vietnam record, and I do as well, however what I would have preferred--this is 30 years later, I would have preferred if Senator Kerry had some concerns about my fitness to serve that he speak to me directly about that ra--rather than through his spokesman.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts): I really think that anybody who has measured the tests that I think I have performed over the last years of any number of s--of--of--of fights in the United States Congress, as well as my service in Vietnam...

Mr. GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (Moderator): OK, now...

Sen. KERRY: ...knows that I don't need any lectures encouraged from Howard Dean.

(End of excerpt)

BARTIROMO: Mr. Dean, how can you hope to rally a party behind you that seems to be divided against itself, especially considering the squabbling we just saw in that first debate of--of the campaign?

Dr. DEAN: Well, as--you know, I think Senator Kerry did--did have some disagreements with me; I had some with him. We're locked in a very tight contest in New Hampshire, and perhaps elsewhere, and there are going to be differences of opinion, but I think that John would be the first one to say what I'm about to say to you in reverse. If John Kerry's the nominee, I'll cheerfully support him and I s--would expect that he would support me. As John Edwards said, 'Either Senator Kerry or myself would be a vast improvement on what we've got in the White House today.'

BARTIROMO: Well, you--wh--what would you like to be known a--as far as what you're running on? You've been portrayed as the anti-war candidate. Is that an unfair shortcut to what your candidacy is all about?

Dr. DEAN: Well, look, I took a position on the war and I'm very happy to stick to it. I don't believe in changing positions because the polls change. I did what I thought was right, and I still think it was the right thing to do in the long-term interest of the United States. But I'm principally interested in creating jobs, balancing the budget and health care for every American. Most of you know I'm a doctor. In our state, everybody under 18 is either eligible for health insurance or has it. So we have universal health insurance essentially for everyone under 18 in Vermont. If we can do that in a small rural state like Vermont, we can do that in the whole country and expand health insurance to everybody.

BARTIROMO: H--how about campaign finance reform? So far, approximately $25 million has been raised by the Democratic presidents and the election is 18 months away. How far have we come on campaign finance reform and how far do we need to go?

Dr. DEAN: I'm one of--we're one of three states that has public financing of campaigns. Our statue wasn't very well put together and our courts have thrown some of that out. Maine and Arizona have really good public financing laws. We ought to have one in the whole country. We're never going to get the money--the big corporate money out of politics unless we have public financing of campaigns and spending limits with run-off voting. So those are the things I believe in. If I'm--become president, I'm going to work towards that in a really serious way. I think the big money in politics is really making people cynical about politics, and the more cynical this country gets the weaker the country gets.

BARTIROMO: Governor, y--so far you've received endorsements form the NRA. You support the death penalty. These positions place you on the right. Is--is a Democrat with some moderate and even conservative views necessary to win this next election?

Dr. DEAN: Well, I have been s--I'm not endorsed by the NRA in this race, of course, because I think they'll endorse President Bush. But my gun con--we have no gun control in Vermont and we have the lowest homicide rate in America. We had five homicides one year when I was governor. So we don't need gun control in Vermont. They do need gun control in places like New York and California, so they should have it. So my position is we'll keep the assault weapons ban and the Brady Bill and the gun show, so forth--federal laws and enforce them and then let each state make as much or as little of gun control as they want after that. And Vermont is--probably won't make much; neither will Wyoming and Montana. Massachusetts might--might make a great deal of it. Let the states decide how much they need. One should just enforce the federal laws that we already have.

BARTIROMO: But the NRA has supported you in the past, correct?

Dr. DEAN: Yeah, they did. They did because we don't need gun control here because we have hardly any homicides.

BARTIROMO: You don't have the name recognition of a Joe Lieberman or a John Kerry. According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 3 percent would vote for you to be the Democratic candidate for '04. Does that relatively low-profile nationwide concern you?

Dr. DEAN: No, because we're building our profile steadily in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, where the first primaries are going to be. And traditionally, the way candidates like myself get ahead is to talk directly to voters in states like Iowa and New Hampshire and that's what we're going to do.

BARTIROMO: But what about the state of the states right now? We're going to be talking about this in our next couple of segments. What is your antidote to the fact that we're looking at deficits across most states in America?

Dr. DEAN: Well, there's good news and there's bad news. In Vermont, we're not looking at deficits 'cause when I was governor we managed properly. I never let the Legislature spend more than 5 percent or 5.2 percent increases. We put money aside. We paid off about a quarter of our debt. A lot--lot of the states' problems come from two things. First, the president's awful fiscal policy just run huge deficits and, therefore, no money left for the states.

Secondly, the states were pretty irresponsible themselves. A lot of governors, particularly in New York and--and New Jersey, but there are many others that had huge tax cuts in the '90s that can't be sustained. So I'm very willing to help the states by funding special-ed, by helping to fund Medicaid properly, but I think some of the irresponsible fiscal tax cuts that went on in the states in the '90s were purely done for political purposes with no notion that they were ever going to need the money have to also be changed. I'll help any state that's willing to help themselves.

BARTIROMO: And that was former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean from earlier this afternoon.

When we return, several years ago policy-makers talked about budget surpluses. Now every level of government is faced with dire budget concerns, with one recurrent theme: deficits. Next on SPECIAL REPORT, we will talk to two mayors about the challenges they are facing and the strategies for getting through these tough times. Back in a moment.


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