CNN's 'Capital Gang'

March 20, 2004

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is former presidential candidate Howard Dean, who this week introduced his Democracy for America organization. Our Al Hunt spoke with Governor Dean, from New York, earlier this week.


HUNT: Governor, why a separate Democracy for America? Aren't you going to compete with the Democratic National Committee and the Kerry campaign for contributors and resources?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: No, we won't be doing that. What we're doing, Al, is trying to get a lot of people to run for office at the county level, at the state legislature level and the school boards. We're going to teach people how to raise money from small donors all over the Democratic Party, all over America, because that's the best way to get rid of special interests, and it's also the way -- frankly, it's something like what Ralph Reed did 15 years ago. He was very, very effective in getting members of the right wing Christian Coalition to infiltrate school boards and so forth. And we need to do that. And the Democrats have no mechanism for doing that.

HUNT: You compiled an extraordinary (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Internet contributors. Will you give that list to the Kerry campaign, the DNC?

DEAN: We won't give that list to anybody, nor will we rent it, or sell it. Those names were given to us in confidentiality.

HUNT: You said that never again should the Democratic Party lie down and stop fighting. Which Democratic leaders laid down and stopped fighting?

DEAN: Well, in general, the Congress, right after George Bush came into office, with 500,000 fewer votes than Al Gore, gave him what he wanted. No Child Left Behind, enormous tax cuts, which are bankrupting the country, a war in Iraq. That is not the way to beat George Bush. This is the most far right, extreme administration in my lifetime. You do not compromise with the right wing of the Republican Party, you've got to fight back. And that's what we're going to do, and I think that's what the Democratic Party is doing now.

HUNT: Well, your Web site also says that you're going to end the era when politicians equivocate about matters as fundamental as war and peace. Isn't that what John Kerry did, in your view?

DEAN: I don't think we used the word "equivocate." I think we might have used the word "lie."

HUNT: The quote is, "when politicians equivocate about matters as fundamental as war and peace." Didn't John Kerry equivocate?

DEAN: Well, you know, that -- that -- we had lots of accusations flying back and forth when I was running against John Kerry, we're on the same team now, and I plan to focus on what we have in common, which is changing presidents and getting jobs back in this country again, and balancing the budget. George Bush sent this country to war without telling us why he was sending us. He gave us a lot of reasons that turned out not to be true. The administration then concealed the costs of this big Medicare prescription benefit bill, which gives our taxpayers' money to insurance companies, HMOs and drug companies. This is an administration that doesn't tell the truth very often, and that is what we're going to be outlining as we go around the country.

HUNT: Governor, you also say you'll work to persuade those that, quote, "might be tempted," end quote, to support an independent candidate. How seriously do you take the Ralph Nader threat?

DEAN: Pretty seriously. You know, Ralph Nader had a long 40- year career of doing great things, consumer protection, environmental protection. Because of this, I think, Quixotic campaign, he risks his entire legacy. If George Bush were to get a second term, he would undo everything that Ralph Nader has built in his whole career. Unfortunately, a vote for Ralph Nader has the same effect as voting for George Bush.

HUNT: Governor, in addition to school boards and local races, a major purpose of your new organization is to support, quote, "progressive," end quote, Democratic congressional candidates. What are the several most important criteria, and would you for instance support a Democrat who voted for the Iraqi war or any of the Bush tax cuts?

DEAN: I don't think there is a particular single vote that would disqualify anybody. I think there are some that would make it more difficult than others. If you're out there supporting the president's tax cuts, I don't think our folks are going to be interested in supporting a candidate like that. But it's going to differ, you know. We're not going to do this nationally, necessarily. For example, in Texas, there is a terrific guy named Chet, I think it's Chet Edwards, he's a congressman who was redistricted out of his seat by DeLay and the Texas legislature.

HUNT: Governor Dean, you still attract controversy. This week, top GOP politicians had blasted you for suggesting that President Bush is partially responsible for the terrorist bombings in Spain.

DEAN: That's a ridiculous print story made by journalists who forgot that they shouldn't take everything that the White House reads and put it in the paper. What I said was that the president dragged our troops into Iraq, and I mean, into Iraq, and one of the reasons the terrorists bombed Spain is because of that. They said so themselves.

HUNT: The person second most identified with the remarkable Dean campaign was your former campaign chairman, Joe Trippi. There are rumors that a rift between you two has continued, and he plans to make separate use of some of the Dean contributor list. Is any of that true, or is that just idle print speculation?

DEAN: I think that's idle speculation. There's not going to be anybody who's going to be able to make use of the Dean contributor list, because I don't plan to allow anybody else to use it. Candidates, DNC, previous employees, or anybody else.


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