CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer

October 17, 2004

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Straight ahead, perspective from two key political players. We'll ask Kerry supporter and former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean about what Ralph Nader just said and about the tight race for the White House.

. . .

BLITZER:Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Howard Dean once battled Senator Kerry on the campaign trail. Now he's fighting for him. Joining us now from his Democracy for America headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, is Howard Dean.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: Thanks for having me on, Wolf.

BLITZER: What do you say to Ralph Nader? I assume you just heard what he had to say.

DEAN: I did.

BLITZER: He's staying in until the bitter end, even though he acknowledges that John Kerry, in his words, would be less bad for the country than George W. Bush.

DEAN: First, let me say that I have a lot of respect for Ralph Nader's career. He had 40 great years of doing tremendous things for reform politics in this country.

He's beginning to sound -- remind me of George Bush, though. Blame everybody else for all the things that are wrong.

He gets thrown off the ballot in Pennsylvania for doing something that even the Republicans haven't done, in terms of election fraud. I mean, enough is enough already with Ralph Nader. He's bank-rolled by Republicans. He got put on the ballot in Oregon temporarily by catering to a virulently anti-gay right-wing group. Enough of this.

You cannot run as a progressive and get your support from right- wing Republicans, anti-gay people and crooks who put people's signature on the ballot who didn't sign the petition. This is ridiculous.

BLITZER: Governor, what do you say though about his proposal? You heard it here on this program. He says he would like a Democratic fat cat, in his words, to give him enough money to go on national television for a minute or so and rail against the president and the vice president, not say a word about John Kerry. Is that a nice gesture on his part?

DEAN: You know, he can get that money from the Republican fat cats. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who have been busy attacking John Kerry, are also funding Ralph Nader's campaign. He can just ask them for the money. I'm sure they'll give it to him.

Frankly, I've had it with Ralph Nader. Enough self- righteousness, we've got an election to go here. Four more years of radical right-wingism in the White House is not what this country needs. We need to get John Kerry elected.

I'm tired of debating about Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader may be a factor in some states. There's nothing we can do about it. But I think it's gotten to the point now where most people who want a progressive change in this country are going to support John Kerry. And I certainly do.

BLITZER: How worried are you, though, about the 1 or 2 or 3 percent he might get in some of the states?

DEAN: I'll tell you what's happening. I am worried, but I'm not as worried as I was, because he's gotten to the point now where only his hardcore followers and some disgruntled Americans who are not going to vote for either side are going to vote for him.

I really don't think he will take as many votes from John Kerry as I thought he originally would. But he will take some. And in some cases, every single vote counts. The ones I'm most concerned about are New Hampshire, which we should win. I'm concerned about Iowa. And I'm concerned about Florida.

But, you know, this is a very close election. People have a right to run as third parties in this country. Ralph's had a great career. I just wish he weren't doing this, because he's demeaning and debasing himself in the process. And it's very painful to watch.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the whole flap over Mary Cheney, the Democratic candidate John Kerry's decision to go ahead and mention the fact that she's gay, a lesbian, during this last debate in Arizona.

The Washington Post has a poll now and asked, "Was Senator Kerry's comment appropriate or inappropriate?" Sixty-four percent of those responding said inappropriate; 33 percent said appropriate.

Looking back with hindsight, was it appropriate?

DEAN: Well, here are the issues.

The first is that, Dick Cheney himself, much to his credit, has mentioned his daughter's sexual orientation.

My attitude of course is, so what? I mean, there are plenty of gay Americans who have contributed enormously to this country. And Mary Cheney is one of those people. I don't see why this is a big deal. And I wish the Republicans would shut up about it.

BLITZER: Well, you understand, though, a lot of Americans think it's nobody's business, the nature of somebody's private sexual orientation.

DEAN: I agree with that. I don't think it's anybody's...

BLITZER: It's one thing for Dick Cheney to mention it or for Lynne Cheney to mention it, but it's another thing for someone else to mention it. And they accuse him of mentioning it to try to score political points, to weaken the Republican base, if you will, against the Cheneys and the Republican ticket.

DEAN: Might it also be possible that Karl Rove is making such a big deal about this and Lynne Cheney is making such a big deal about this because they don't want to talk about the fact that we lost a million and a half jobs under George Bush? We don't want to talk about the fact that, in 2001, the General Accounting Office warned the Bush administration that they might run out of flu vaccine if they didn't do something about it?

What about these colossal failures...

BLITZER: Looks like we've lost our connection over there, unfortunately, with Howard Dean. We're going to try to fix that. Apologize to Howard Dean right away for that. We'll try to reestablish our communication with Burlington, Vermont, get right back to Howard Dean.

But we'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Let's get back to Burlington, Vermont. Governor Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont joining us.

Happy we've reestablished connections with you, Governor.

DEAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: I apologize for that little technical lapse over there.

Your name keeps coming up on the campaign trail, not in ways that you would like, by the Republicans. They keep bringing it up. Listen to what the vice president said this past week in railing against John Kerry, bringing your name into the equation.


CHENEY: The real reason he turned his back on our troops was Howard Dean. Dean was the anti-war candidate, and Dean was surging ahead in the polls. And so John Kerry, in order to advance himself in the Democratic primaries, turned his back on our troops.


BLITZER: He's referring to that vote from John Kerry and Senator Edwards, for that matter, when they first voted to fund the $87 billion and then they voted not to fund the $87 billion. You were the front-runner at that time, and you had a clear anti-Iraq-war position.

DEAN: I'll tell you something. Dick Cheney, once again, did not tell the truth. This is one of the least truthful group of people I've ever seen running the country.

I saw George Bush whacking John Kerry's health plan. First of all, the president has no health-care plan. Second of all, John Kerry's health care plan is not a takeover by the federal government.

These guys are just lying through their teeth. And I'm getting tired of it, and I think the American people are getting tired of it.

John Kerry never turned his back on the American troops. He was one of those troops, which is more than I can say for Dick Cheney.

And I am fed up with people questioning John Kerry's patriotism. Here's a guy who served his country honorably, more than either George Bush, who never set foot overseas to defend his country in his life, or Dick Cheney, who never put the uniform on and had five deferments.

I am not going to listen to that kind of stuff about the person who I believe is going to be the next president of the United States.

BLITZER: All right. Well, listen to what John Edwards said this week on the whole issue of stem-cell research in the aftermath of the death of Christopher Reeve, the actor. Because a lot of people are outraged by what John Edwards said this week. Listen to this.


EDWARDS: If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.


BLITZER: All right. The accusation against Senator Edwards is that he's being cruel. He's raising expectations, unrealistic expectations that people who do have spinal cord injuries or other injuries -- that if John Kerry is elected president, they're going to be cured.

DEAN: Now, this is an area that I happen to know something about. Because unlike everybody else who's been talking about this, including George Bush, Laura Bush, Dick Cheney and John Edwards, I'm a physician.

The truth is that stem-cell research ought to be done in this country because it does provide hope for people like Christopher Reeve.

It is true that there is no breakthrough on the horizon tomorrow that would have let Christopher Reeve walk. But it is also true that the president has been cruel in shutting down hope for millions of diabetics, millions of stroke victims, millions of people who did become quadriplegic or paraplegic like Christopher Reeve. There is hope. There is promise in real stem-cell research. I'm tired of listening to the Republicans pontificate and become self- righteous about something they, frankly, know very little about.

BLITZER: But was Senator Edwards raising false hope to all these millions of people out there by suggesting, just get John Kerry elected and you're going to walk?

DEAN: I don't think he was suggesting that. I think that he was suggesting that John Kerry offers hope, where George Bush offers none.

George Bush has cruelly deprived an enormous number of Americans of the hope that this stem-cell research may at some time develop, as we know it's possible to do theoretically, into a cure for the things that I've talked about.

And I think it was pretty cynical of them to have Laura Bush, who is popular and deserves to be popular, come out and defend the president's position, which is indefensible from a medical point of view.

The president has taken a political view on stem cells. My biggest objection to the administration: they never care about the facts. They care about politics.

The fact is the president is wrong on this issue. And he owes an apology to every diabetic in America, to every stroke victim in America, to every family member who has a quadriplegic in their family.

We don't know if this will work or not, but we know it might. And the president's taken that hope away, and that's wrong.

BLITZER: Governor Dean, we're going to leave it right there. Thanks very much for joining us.

DEAN: Thank you.

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