CNN American Morning

Thursday, November 6, 2003

BYLINE: Bill Hemmer

Howard Dean has a few regrets after comments that ignited a Confederate controversy on Tuesday evening. The Democratic presidential candidate is now apologizing for saying he is a candidate for guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Regrets. Howard Dean has a few after comments that ignited a Confederate controversy on Tuesday evening. The Democratic presidential candidate is now apologizing for what he says is a candidate for guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.

A bit earlier today, I talked with Dean about the political fallout from his so-called Southern strategy.


HEMMER: Governor Dean, thanks for making time with us this morning.


HEMMER: I want to play a portion of your speech from yesterday here in New York City. Listen here.


DEAN: I regret the pain that I may have caused either to African-American or Southern white voters in the beginning of this discussion. But we need to have this discussion in an honest, open way.


HEMMER: Governor, was that an apology?

DEAN: Absolutely. You know, I very much believe that we have to have an open dialogue about race in this country. There was a study not too long ago that showed that an African-American with a clean record will have a harder time getting a second job interview than a white person with a drug conviction. And we've still got some significant race problems in this country, and we need to talk about that.

I got off to a pretty clumsy start by making references to the Confederate flag, and that was a painful reference for a number of people, and I regret that and I apologize for it.

HEMMER: What you're saying this morning, Governor, why not say that on Tuesday night during that debate?

DEAN: Well, I tend to be somebody who, under pressure, tends to fight back. And the setting of the debates, as you know, has been one of all of the folks deciding they'd better attack me because I seem to be at least far enough in front so I can pick buckshot out of my rear end after each debate. And, you know, when they come after me, I tend not to give an inch. And I've had the opportunity to think about it most of the night, and I concluded that I was wrong.

HEMMER: Governor, did you change your mind, or did someone change it for you?

DEAN: No, no, it's very hard for anybody to change my mind except for me.

HEMMER: The AP quoted a member of the DNC in South Carolina yesterday saying he now calls into question your political judgment. What do you say to voters like that in the South now?

DEAN: I think that, first of all, I've spent a lot of time on the phone with a lot of my African-American supporters. They were with me. They understand that this is an issue of race, and we've got to get Southern white voters and African-American voters to vote together if we're ever going to have a chance at winning back the South.

So, certainly I'm going to make mistakes. I'm not perfect, and I don't think anybody who has ever been president is perfect. But I know what needs to be done. I think the support that I've gotten from around the country is with me. Everybody in America who believes in what I believe and knows that we have to have a candid, open discussion about race in this country. And if we don't do it things are not going to improve.

HEMMER: Some would say the one gaffe like you had this past week sometimes can doom a candidacy. Do you put that in this category right now? Or do you think this is something from which you can recover?

DEAN: I think, you know, I made a mistake. I apologized for it. I think it's time to move on. I think people—again, the people who are most concerned about this are the people that are with us, and I think we'll be fine.

HEMMER: On the federal matching funds, you have asked supporters what they think. What do you want to do right now? Do you want to forego the federal matching funds and get more money sooner, or have you made that decision?

DEAN: The president is going to have over $200 million. He's going to raise that from corporate special interests, including people like the president of the guy who makes the voting machines, which doesn't give you much confidence in the electoral process. And I think that in order to compete with him, we can either take the federal matching money, which means we're limited to $45 million, or we can go to our huge network of small supporters and try to beat the president who is going to try to run his campaign on those $2,000 donations by amassing a million people who are going to give us an average of $75. And that's what we're suggesting to our supporters.

But we're putting this up to a vote. We've been in this with our 600,000 people all along, and if we do forego federal matching funds, they're the ones that are going to have to come up with all of those small donations. And we thought we'd give this to them to make that decisions.

HEMMER: So, you don't think you can compete unless you get more money and get it sooner?

DEAN: I don't think any Democrat can compete with George Bush if he has $200 million from all of those corporate interests and we have $45 million in public financing. I don't think it's going to work.


HEMMER: And a bit later today, there is an anticipated endorsement from the largest union in the country, the SEIU, Service Employees International Union, 1.6 million members. Early word now says it will endorse the candidacy of Governor Dean.

Content and programming Copyright 2003 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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