CNN Late Edition

August 24, 2003

BLITZER: Rym Brahimi with the latest for us, of course, in Baghdad.

Rym, thanks very much.

Now to presidential politics here in the United States. When he first announced his intention to seek the Democratic Party's 2004 presidential nomination, Howard Dean was considered a longshot in the race.

But a surge of support has the former Vermont governor now leading among likely voters in two key early states, Iowa and New Hampshire. Today I spoke with Governor Dean.


BLITZER: Governor Dean, thanks very much for joining us.

Everyone around the world knows you opposed the war going into it, but knowing what the situation is right now, what would you be doing right now with the current situation if you were president?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wolf, I'd be going to the United Nations Security Council and trying to get a resolution to bring in U.N. troops and NATO troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The president doesn't have enough troops in Afghanistan either. Imagine making deals with the warlords to preserve democracy in Afghanistan. I think these—our military did a great job in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, but the administration certainly hasn't done a great job of keeping the peace.

BLITZER: Well, would you insist that U.S. forces remain only under U.S. control? You wouldn't budge from that doctrine, would you?

DEAN: No, I wouldn't. I think historically U.S. troops have always been under United States control. But we are going to have to give up some authority over the occupation when the other troops come in, and that's what they're insisting on. I think that's what the president's going to ultimately have to give them.

The problem is that he managed to insult most of the countries whose help we now need in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and that's what happens when you have a foreign policy that's based on petulance.

BLITZER: Well, how much control would you be willing to give up specifically? Where are the areas that you would delegate or give up responsibility to other countries?

DEAN: Well, I'm not sure you'd work it like that. I think we may need to be patrolling side by side with other troops. I know that they had sectors assigned in places like Bosnia and Kosovo.

But in this case, one of the things I would try to do is get the United Nations, as they send their troops, if we can get such a resolution, to include Arabic-speaking troops, perhaps from Egypt or Morocco, countries that are friendly to the United States.

We desperately need this not to be an American occupation. We need this to be something more like a U.N. mandate, a temporary occupation by world forces in order to bring Iraq into a democratized situation.

BLITZER: Right after the fall of Baghdad, you made some comments which have caused somewhat of a stir. I want you to listen to what you said on April 9th, when you were speaking before the Children's Defense Fund. Listen to this.


DEAN: We need to contain Saddam. We should have contained Saddam. Well, we've gotten rid of him. I suppose that's a good thing.


BLITZER: When you say you “suppose that's a good thing,” do you have any doubt that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was a good thing?

DEAN: Well, here's the problem. Saddam is obviously a horrible person. I think the Iraqi people, at least for now, are much better off without him.

But from the point of view of the defense of the United States of America, it's not clear that we are safer now than we were when Saddam was in power.

Contrary to the president's assertion, there's really very little evidence there was ever a deal between Saddam and al Qaeda. But it looks like it may be that al Qaeda is in Iraq now, at least partially involved in some of these attacks on American troops. So if that's the case, it may be that the United States is not as safe because of what the president has done.

If there is really a collapse of the occupation, and a fundamentalist regime, a Shiite regime under the influence of Iran, or a chaotic situation in which al Qaeda can really move freely around Iraq takes place, then we're in a much worse situation, in terms of our national defense, than we were when Saddam was in power.

So I think we have to see if the president's enormous risk pays off, and so far I think that's very much in question.

BLITZER: A lot of people are paying much closer attention to your views right now, Governor Dean, because you're doing so well in the Democratic race for the White House. You're very strong in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the early contests early next year. Our viewers around the world, therefore, are interested in your views on international affairs.

Who are your principal advisers, when it comes to national security?

DEAN: Well, we pay attention to a lot of people who are not simply along our own campaign—former secretaries of state, national security advisers and so forth.

We have a core group of people who I don't think most of your viewers would have heard of, people who worked in the Pentagon during the Clinton administration, people who worked in the State Department. On the military side, retired Marine General Commander Joe Hoar (ph) has recently signed on.

So we have a good group of people who know what they're talking about, although I doubt your viewers would have heard of them.

BLITZER: Can you give us one or two more names?

DEAN: Probably not, because I probably ought to consult with them first. Ivo Daalder certainly, from the Brookings Institute, has been very helpful to us. Susan Rice has been helpful to us. But I don't think you know who those people are.

BLITZER: I know precisely who both of them are.

DEAN: You do know who they are, but your viewers may not.

BLITZER: Susan Rice, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the Clinton administration.

DEAN: That's right.

BLITZER: Ivo Daalder is over at the Brookings Institute as well, a former NSC official.

DEAN: Yes.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about General Wesley Clark. He may or may not, in the coming days, decide to become number 10, the tenth Democratic hopeful for the White House.

You have high regard for him. Would you consider him as a potential running mate?

DEAN: Yes. There would be a great many people, of course, that would be considered as potential running mates.

And I must say, I think it's much too early to discuss potential running mates. I mean, we're five months from the time the first official vote and delegate-selection process takes place, so I find it very premature.

But I think Wes Clark, he is somebody I keep in close touch with. He's a terrific person, very bright, very capable, very thoughtful. Our views coincide on a number of matters, and he is a—I certainly can't say enough good things about him. It'd be tough to run against him.

BLITZER: Well, if he decides to run, would you be disappointed that he throws his hat in the ring?

DEAN: Not a bit. You know, I think this is a democracy, and I never get disappointed when people throw their hats in the ring. You know, he has every right to get out there and give his views and do the Iowa and New Hampshire and so forth thing, and I wouldn't be the least bit disappointed.

BLITZER: One of the Democratic candidates who's been hammering away recently at you is Joe Lieberman.

He was on this program a couple of weeks ago. Listen to precisely what he said, raising alarm bells about your candidacy. Listen to this.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He could well be a ticket to nowhere. He could take the Democratic Party out into the political wilderness for a long time, because his positions, in my opinion, don't even reflect the majority of Democrats, let alone the majority of the American people.


BLITZER: He also went on to suggest you could be another George McGovern for the Democrats—George McGovern carrying barely one state, the District of Columbia, in 1972. Those are strong words.

DEAN: They are, but I think Joe's campaign is in some trouble and he knows it.

My view is—really, I think, is in the mainstream of where America is on defense, contrary to perhaps both Joe's and President Bush's.

I supported the first Gulf War because I thought when one of your allies is attacked, you have an obligation to come to their defense. I supported the war in Afghanistan. Three thousand of our people had been murdered by people who intended to do more harm. That was clearly an issue of national defense.

But all these Democrats and this Republican president went to war based on telling the American people that Iraq was purchasing uranium from Africa. That turned out not to be true.

It turned out that—the president had told us that there was an imminent deal between al Qaeda and Saddam and cooperation between them. That wasn't true.

The vice president said they were about to get the nuclear bomb. That wasn't true.

The secretary of defense said he knew exactly where the weapons of mass destruction were around Tikrit and Baghdad. That wasn't true.

You know, I'll send troops anywhere in the world to defend the United States of America. But I'm never going to send troops abroad, our sons and daughters and our brothers and sisters, without telling the American people the truth about why they went.

And I think that's a fundamental error the Democratic Party made, and I think that's an error the president made. And I think America's going to be paying for it, as we are every week with eight to 10 more soldiers being killed.

BLITZER: There's a line that the late senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone, he used to say, and now you've picked it up. I want you to listen to this line, because it's caused some controversy among Democrats. Listen to this.


DEAN: I'm Howard Dean, and I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.


BLITZER: The Democratic Leadership Council, which is the so- called New Democrats, the moderate Democrats, centrist Democrats if you want to call them that, put out this statement that said, “What activists like Dean called the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is an aberration—the McGovern-Mondale wing, defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist interest group liberalism at home. That's the wing that lost 49 states in two elections and transformed Democrats from a strong national party into a much weaker regional one.”

Those comments, you've heard them before. Are you moving now toward their views on some of these issues, as you become more of a mainstream kind of candidate?

DEAN: I am a mainstream candidate. I am a centrist, I always have been. I think what you're seeing is the clutching at straws, both with Joe's remarks and with the DLC staff's remarks, which I think do not represent the majority of DLC members, many of whom I know personally.

This is clutching at straws by a Washington Democratic establishment that's failed in the last election cycle and lost the House—or lost seats in the House, lost the control of the Senate and lost the White House. And we need to stand up for who we are.

The DLC and other's leadership—and I'm not talking about the membership, because many of them are going to support me and they have supported me—but the leadership believes somehow that you've got to be like George Bush in order to beat him. I think that's a mistake.

I think we've got to go back to our base, get them energized. We're talking about the African-American community, Asian-American community, the Latino community, women, the unions, the trade union movement. We've forgotten our base in this country. They aren't excited. They won't come out for a candidate who doesn't stand up for what we believe in. And I talk about...

BLITZER: Which Democratic...

DEAN: Go ahead.

BLITZER: I was going to say, which Democratic candidate do you see as your biggest challenger right now?

DEAN: I think that's impossible to say, and I think they all have to sort out who is going to end up being the Washington inside candidate. The odd thing about this race is that the insurgent has been defined before the sort of the establishment candidate. I think the establishment candidates have to sort out among themselves who that's going to be, and I don't have any control over that.

BLITZER: The Republicans, Karl Rove, the chief political adviser to the president, others, they've been widely reported as saying they would be thrilled if you were the Democratic candidate. They think they would be able to defeat you decisively.

I want you to listen to what Tom DeLay, the majority leader in the House of Representatives, said about you and your views. Listen to this.


REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: While everyone else got the memo that big-government, blame-America-first liberalism died with disco...


... the Howard Dean Democrats still want to party like it's 1979.




BLITZER: He got a good laugh with that line. But what do you say to those Democrats who are concerned that you might be a little bit too liberal or too left for the mainstream of the country?

DEAN: I balanced budgets; Tom DeLay has never done that.

I made sure every child in my state had health insurance. In Tom DeLay's state, they just cut 230,000 children off health care because they couldn't balance their budget.

I delivered jobs. The Republicans haven't delivered any jobs for a long time. And the Republicans haven't balanced the budget for 34 years in this country.

Let's let the American people decide who's the centrist, who's the mainstream political force here. I think Congressman DeLay and the president are way out there on the extremes.

And I just might add one more thing: We're not going to let them take our flag anymore. That flag belongs to everybody in the country; it doesn't belong to Tom DeLay.

BLITZER: How much of a problem is the Howard Dean temper, as some have called it?

DEAN: Oh, I think that's something that's been pushed hard. Look, some of the folks who are running have become desperate. They've attacked my personality. They've said I have a terrible temper. They've said I'm, whatever Joe said, I was too far to the left, I was going to bring everybody, you know, down, lose 49 states and all that stuff.

When you can't have a debate about issues, that means your campaign is in real trouble.

And I have every intention of winning the nomination. I have every intention of sending George Bush back to Crawford, Texas. This is the most inept regime in America that we've had in a long, long time. Enormous job losses, 3 million jobs gone; adventures abroad which have resulted in enormous amount of loss of face. You know, we've lost our most powerful weapon in our struggle to democratize the world, and that's the respect of every nation around the world.

And I'll tell you one thing, if I become president of the United States, I'm going to make sure that I restore the dignity and respect that America deserves around the rest of the world.

BLITZER: Are you ready to guarantee right now, if you get the nomination, you'll accept the matching funds, as far as campaign financing is concerned?

DEAN: Well, we're not going to have any serious discussions about that. You know, we raised $7 million last quarter, not $70 million. And I think that kind of is a premature discussion.

We are going to have to figure out how to cope with $200 million that George Bush was able to raise from all his friends that got those tax cuts. He really can raise a lot of money from those few numbers of people, and we're going to have to figure out if our grassroots people can try to match him.

BLITZER: So you're leaving open the possibility you might not accept the matching funds, is that right?

DEAN: Yes. If we conclude that we can raise a lot of money and be competitive with George Bush in a better way, we're going to beat George Bush any way we can.

BLITZER: We're going to have to leave it right there.

Governor Dean, thanks for getting up and spending some time with us.

DEAN: Thank you.

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

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