'Late Edition' with Wolf Blitzer

October 3, 2004

BLITZER: What days are ahead for the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry after Thursday night's debate at the University of Miami? Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Joining us now from Burlington, Vermont, a man with experience in political combat, specifically political combat with John Kerry, the former presidential candidate, the former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean. He's also author of a brand new book. It's entitled "You Have the Power: How to Take Back our Country and Restore Democracy in America."

Governor Dean, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We'll talk about the book shortly.

Let's talk about John Kerry, first of all. Did you sense, as so many others have sensed, that since capturing the Democratic presidential nomination, especially in recent weeks, John Kerry has increasingly moved toward the position that you took during the Democratic presidential primary?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: Well, I would argue that he had never left it. Even though we disagreed on whether or not we should go in or not, his position and mine have been similar. You've got to do the responsible thing.

But the points that I thought he made was so effective on Thursday, is, first, that he would put together an international coalition like George Bush's father, and by contrast, pointing at the failures of George Bush.

I was shocked to read in The New York Times today that the news media is now documenting the fact that this administration was fundamentally dishonest in bringing us to war. They knew there was a case against going to war, and they did not share it with the American people.

In the largest circulation paper of the United States of America, The New York Times, I think that's -- or Sunday paper, I think that's an appalling admission. And I think this president's going to pay an enormous price for sending us to war without telling us the story about why we should go.

BLITZER: But on the fundamental question of weapons of mass destruction, it's been widely known now, since the U.S. won the war, at least the major combat operations, in Iraq the last year and a half, they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction.

The intelligence that was provided to the president, to members of Congress, to the American public, to the U.N. Security Council, the intelligence to put it mildly was flawed.

DEAN: No, it's worse than that. Because Condoleezza Rice's staff, according to The New York Times, was told that there was another part of the story about the aluminum tubes that were going to create the nuclear weapons. They didn't believe there was any evidence.

Dick Cheney knew, when he insisted that the nuclear weapons were just at the verge of being developed by Saddam Hussein, he knew there was a strong body of evidence in the Energy Department and strong counterpoint of view in the CIA, that said that was not true.

We never heard about that. All we heard was, "War, war, war, nuclear weapons are about to be developed." And in The New York Times this morning, it turns out that they knew very well that that was not true.

That is why this president ought not to be re-elected. He needs to be fired by the American people for what he's done.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let me very precise, because at the time, even I, a simple reporter in Washington, knew that there was a dissent on the aluminum tubes being used for nuclear purposes by the Department of Energy. That was pretty widely known. There was dissent elsewhere among some at the CIA, at the State Department, as well. But the prevailing view, the view that George Tenet, the director of the CIA, put out in that National Intelligence Estimate was that it looked like those aluminum tubes were, in fact, going to be used for some sort of nuclear centrifuge program.

DEAN: George Tenet said yesterday in a prepared statement that he made it very clear that there were two points of view on this issue. The administration, according to The New York Times, never checked with the Energy Department because they didn't want to hear the other point of view.

You cannot trust this administration. They sent us to war without giving us the full information to the American people. I think that was wrong.

And that's why John Kerry won the debate, because the truth is, the most important thing John Kerry said, I thought, in the debate was, you know, being certain and being stubborn ought not to be confused with leadership.

We have a certain president. He's certain about the things that are wrong, and they're wrong for America. We need a president that's right for America.

BLITZER: John Kerry was debating you way back in December. It seems like a long time ago, it's not even a year.

DEAN: It does, doesn't it?

BLITZER: As I'm sure you will agree.

Among other things, when he was debating you, he said this, and we'll put it up on the screen, December 16, 2003: "Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."

He was taking a direct swipe at you. Do you remember the context of those words?

DEAN: Oh, sure, absolutely. Look, this is a hard-fought campaign. And we're tough competitors, and politics is a tough business.

But there's a very small difference between John Kerry and I, compared to the enormous gulf between -- John Kerry and I on the one hand, and George Bush on the other.

The reason I'm a whole-hearted supporter of John Kerry is, I don't believe that John Kerry would ever send American troops to war without telling the American people the full truth about why it is we're going. George Bush did not do that. And I don't think he ought to be president.

BLITZER: Let's take a phone call, because we have a caller out there who wanted to ask a specific question to you, Governor.

Go ahead, Minnesota.

CALLER: Good afternoon, Wolf and Howard Dean. I'd like to ask Howard Dean what his interpretation of the exact language that John Kerry used to describe the global test, because it seemed to me to be talking about a -- approval about a country, and to prove to the world after he'd done it that it was reasonable.

DEAN: I actually have a transcript right here, because I was anticipating that.

Seems to me that he talks specifically in the debate, the global test is that you've got to prove to your own people that you're doing the right thing. George Bush didn't do it. George Bush just told us a lot of things that turned out not to be true.

I think the global test that John Kerry talked about was the kind of global test that John F. Kennedy illustrated -- that John Kerry illustrated in the debate, when John F. Kennedy's people went to de Gaulle and said, "Here's our evidence."

Well, George Bush never gave us any evidence. He asked us to take his word for it. And most Americans did take his word for it, because we want to trust our president. Now we know we can't trust this president.

BLITZER: In that same quote -- you have the quote there -- it was not only the global test to convince the American people, but he went on to say to convince the world that what United States would have to do, as far as a preemptive strike would be concerned, would be justified.

DEAN: Exactly so. And the reason that America, under this president, has lost its moral leadership in the world is that George Bush didn't care what the world thought.

You know, I want John Kerry to be president because I think he's going to restore the moral leadership that America has exhibited in this world since the end of World War I. I want him to be president because I want to restore our good name around the rest of the world.

I don't think George Bush understands that strength and power come not just from a strong military, but come from moral leadership. This president has not provided moral leadership. He did a lot of things, including sending 1,000 Americans to their deaths, without telling people why.

And now it turns out that he knew very well that the case was not as strong as it was, and I think that's a disqualification to be president of the United States. And hopefully the American people will see it that way on November 2nd.

BLITZER: Howard Dean, stand by for a moment. We're going to take a quick commercial break. Howard Dean, speaking out forcefully, as he always does, just as in the first hour of "LATE EDITION," Dr. Condoleezza Rice, speaking out forcefully, as she always does, with a very different perspective.

Coming up, more of our conversation with the former Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean.

First, though, we'll get a quick check of what's making news right now, including the latest on Mount St. Helen's in Washington State. Experts say it could erupt literally at any moment. We're watching.

Please stay with "LATE EDITION."


BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our conversation with the former Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean, also the former governor of Vermont. He's got a new book that's out. We'll talk about that, as well.

One of the things you write in a column this week, in the past couple weeks, on the reviving of the U.S. military draft. Among other things, Governor, you write this:

"Because of the president's military adventurism, our armed forces are under enormous pressure. The only place to go for more troops is a draft. Selective service boards have been already notified that 20-year-olds and medical personnel will be called up first. Bush will be forced to decide whether we can continue the current course in Iraq, which will clearly require the reinstatement of the draft."

Now, everyone from the president on down says you're totally wrong on this, at least in the administration. Listen to what the vice president said in Iowa.


CHENEY: The suggestion that somehow there's a plan out there for a secret draft is -- I'd call it either an urban legend or a nasty political rumor, but it's not true.


BLITZER: On what basis, Governor, do you say there's a secret plan out there to reinstitute the draft?

DEAN: Well, first of all, let me go back to, just for the shoring up of my credibility, since it's under attack by the vice president.

I was able to call the president on his misrepresentation on Iraq simply by looking at the facts and the public information. It turned out I was right. It turned out we did go to war without being told the facts, and that they concealed information. And that's all over the front page of The New York Times today.

Now let's go to the matter of the draft. As I said in the column, which is available at democracyforamerica.com, which is our Web site that I put the columns out on, in addition to newspapers, you will find that the president, first of all, was withdrawing troops from South Korea. He's announced that.

I think that's an incredibly dumb thing to do while we're trying to convince the North Koreans that they ought not to have atomic weapons. That's an ambiguous signal. We ought not to send ambiguous signals in terms of our military.


BLITZER: Well, what about the draft? What about the draft?

DEAN: What I'm trying to do is make the case to you that they have mismanaged our military resources. They haven't sent enough troops to Iraq. General Shinseki told them they'd need more. We need more troops in Afghanistan. They are now pulling in people who are 40 years old who haven't trained in years, waiting for retirement, individual ready reserve.

So the case is very clear that the president has overstretched the military, extending National Guard tours to 12 months at a time when they have no business being in Iraq.


BLITZER: But you write specifically -- let me just press you, Governor, on this point -- "Selective Service boards have already been notified that 20-year-olds and personnel will be called up first."

Where do you get that?

DEAN: Because I've talked to two members of local Selective Service boards. Governors actually recommend to the president who gets appointed to the local Selective Service board. I've talked across the country to at least two members of local Selective Service boards who have already been told that 20-year-olds will be first if there's a draft. Medical personnel will be next, and then there's a scaled-up until 26-year-old -- draft commitment after that, as to who they will be calling.

The plan is in place. I can't guarantee you there's going to be a draft. But I don't trust George Bush, and I don't think anybody else should either, having been told that we went to a war because Saddam Hussein was about to get nuclear weapons. And they knew all along that there was a strong argument that was not true.

We find that today. Why would we believe the vice president when he talks not drafting people? It'd be a sad thing for American families to re-elect President Bush and find out next March that their 18-year-old kids are going to end up in the army in Iraq.

BLITZER: Let's move on and -- let's talk a little bit about your book. The title of the book, "You Have the Power."

Among other things you write this. It's an intriguing passage that I marked. You quote Bill Clinton: "Bill Clinton once told me the American people will always vote for someone who is strong and wrong before they'll choose someone who is weak and right. I think that's true."

So what's the context of what -- you obviously write that thinking that Bill Clinton is probably right, in terms of the current race between Bush and Kerry?

DEAN: Well, again, I think it's something that John Kerry brought out in the debate.

George Bush keeps insisting that people know where he stands. Well, the truth is they don't know where he stands. He just insists, insists. He reminds of my son when he was about 12. He insists and insists.

He insisted that we weren't going to have a 9/11 Commission. Then we had one. Then he insisted he wasn't going to testify. Then we had one. He insisted Condy Rice shouldn't testify. Then she did. On and on it goes, back and forth and back and forth.

The president believes that appearing certain somehow means that what he says is true. And bad leadership when you're strong is not a good thing for the country. Fortunately, Senator Kerry showed on Thursday night that he's strong and willing to give us the right leadership and take the country in the right direction.

BLITZER: But it's not just the president. General John Abizaid, the commander of the central command in charge of that entire region -- he says the situation in Iraq is a lot better than a lot of people think. Listen to this little excerpt of what he said this week.


GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID, CENTCOM COMMANDER: I do think that there is a general lack of understanding in the United States of how things are going. The images that are on the screens are almost always of negative images as opposed to the important and positive steps that are taken.


BLITZER: Is General Abizaid credible in your eyes?

DEAN: Well, certainly he is. I have enormous respect for the American military. They've done a great deal for my family. And I think they're terrific.

However, 35 children were just blown up by terrorists who attacked American soldiers and Iraqi children in the opening of a water cleaning plant the other day. This does not strike me as being a situation that's well under control.

I have enormous respect for our American military. The problem is I don't have much respect for the civilian leadership.

BLITZER: And I think that's clear because you don't mince any words. Governor, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

DEAN: Thanks very much. Good to see you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And the name of the book again is "You Have the Power." Howard Dean is now an author. "You Have the Power" -- Howard Dean's book. Thanks very much.

DEAN: Thanks, Wolf.

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