CNN American Morning

Chicago, IL, Wednesday, October 1, 2003

BYLINE: Bill Hemmer

Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean was working the crowds yesterday in Los Angeles. The former Vermont governor has come a long way from obscurity now to contender for that nomination.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Recall candidates are not the only ones stumping for votes in California; Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean working the crowds yesterday in L.A. The former Vermont governor has come a long way from obscurity now to contender for that nomination. His fund-raising prowess has made him a Democrat to be reckoned with. They believe he has raised almost $15 million in the past three months alone.

A bit earlier today, I talked to Howard Dean, now in Chicago this morning, about the political fight for him ahead.


HEMMER: You have been slammed by Dick Gephardt for seven days running about your position on Medicare from 1995. Listen to a portion of the debate from last week, again, very critical of your position from eight years ago.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Howard, you were agreeing with the very plan that Newt Gingrich wanted to pass, which was a $270 billion cut in Medicare. Now, you've been saying for many months that you're the head of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. I think you're just winging it. I really—this is not the view of Democrats.


HEMMER: In 1995, Republicans led an effort to control the growth of Medicare. Is it not a fact that you did support that program eight years ago?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I agreed with is what people like Senator Bob Kerry agreed with, and ultimately what Bill Clinton agreed with. We did save Medicare. We also created a program to get prescription benefits for some people. Six million seniors signed up for it.

I'm a supporter of Medicare. It's not a well-run program, and I'd like to change the way it's run.

But here are the facts. In my state, almost a third of seniors have prescription benefits. And I'm running against four or five guys from Washington who have served nearly a century. American seniors have yet to get a prescription benefits out of Washington, and they have one in my state and in some other states, where governors have done that.

I am tired of the old Democratic Party politics. I want to change this party, so we stand for something and get something done. And then, I want to change this country, so we can be proud to be Americans, both abroad and at home.

HEMMER: Back to the point, governor. “Montpelier Times” from 1995 -- we'll put it on the screen for our viewers to read it. You say, I'm quoting now—“I fully subscribe to the notion that we should reduce the Medicare growth rate from 10 percent to 7 percent.”

Are you backing away from this statement in any way right now?

DEAN: Absolutely I'm not backing away from the statement. That's exactly what we did, and let me—and Bill Clinton signed the bill in 1997. Let me repeat: I have delivered prescription benefits to my folks in Vermont. None of the Democrats who are running for president have ever delivered any health care to anybody, other than the SCHIP program which was led by Bill Clinton.

We need to change in Washington. We're not going to do it by electing people who have served in Washington as long as these folks have with so little to accomplish for it.

HEMMER: Your Web site boasts that you balanced the budget in the state of Vermont for 11 straight years. What's wrong with recognizing and, in fact, bragging about the fact that you believe you are fiscally conservative?

DEAN: I am fiscally conservative, and I'm very proud of it. I think that what we need in this presidency is the opposite of what President Bush is. He is a borrow and spend, borrow and spend, credit card president, who is not conservative about money at all and not socially progressive. I'm socially progressive. I'm fiscally conservative, and I have a record to show it, and I'm very proud of that.

HEMMER: Yes, over the next 13 months, what's the biggest issue facing Americans? Is it Iraq or is it the economy?

DEAN: It's jobs, but the Iraq mess is getting more and more concerning to me. As you know, I did not agree with Dick Gephardt or General Clark or Senator Kerry or, Senator Lieberman or Senator Edwards. I thought going into Iraq was a mistake. I said so at the time. Now many of my opponents are agreeing with me, which I think is great, but that doesn't get us out of Iraq.

We need to internationalize the occupation of Iraq by bringing in large numbers of foreign troops, which I will be able do as president, which President Bush's father was able to do as president, because what we share in common is a notion that we ought to be internationalists; that we ought to cooperate with other countries.

This president has not shown that, and now our service men and women are paying the price of that—over 300 dead, over 1,100 injured and wounded in a war that we still don't know why we went into, because the president has not told us. He's told us a number of things that weren't so, but he hasn't given the reasons.

HEMMER: Back to this issue, the list of issues facing Americans today. Front-page news this week is the CIA leak. Where does that rank on your list right now?

DEAN: It's a serious problem. I think it undermines the integrity of the presidency. This president knew quite some time ago that this was on the table, that someone from his White House or his administration had revealed that there was a CIA agent who was a covert operative who happened to be an ambassador's wife, when the ambassador simply was factual about what the Bush administration was saying about Iraq, which is that they weren't telling the truth about the African uranium purchases.

So, the revenge apparently was to discredit this ambassador's wife. She turned out to be a CIA operative, which now endangers her contacts in other parts of the world. That is a criminal offense. It's punishable by, I think, 10 years in prison. The president needs to fire the people who did this, and he needs to find out who did it. This is a serious, serious matter.


HEMMER: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean earlier today with us on AMERICAN MORNING.

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

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