CNN Newsnight with Aaron Brown

November 12, 2003

HEADLINE: Planting Democracy in Iraq; Interview With Howard Dean

GUESTS: Howard Dean, Noah Feldman

BYLINE: Mary Snow, Jamie McIntyre, Matthew Chance, Dana Bash, Jonathan Karl, Wolf Blitzer

The United States is focusing its efforts in Iraq on speeding up the formation of some kind of legitimate Iraqi government and stepping up the fight against insurgents. Governor Howard Dean discusses the perils and advantages of being the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Republicans are staging a 30-hour marathon in the Senate that will feature lots of talk and plenty of political theater.

BLITZER: And still to come on NEWSNIGHT, my extended interview with the man who is taking the Democratic presidential race by storm.


BLITZER: New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina may be targets in the race to win the Democratic Party, but there are some other keys to victory that you can't find on a map. Support from labor unions is one.

Today, former Vermont Governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean won the endorsement of two major labor unions, AFSCME, or the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the SEIU, the Service Employees International Union. With this newest feather in his cap, Governor Dean joined us for a conversation this afternoon.


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

Let's get right to the issue at hand, Iraq right now. There seems to have been a dramatic turn as we speak, with U.S. forces going on the attack against a target in Baghdad. What do you make of what's going on?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think the U.S. has to defend itself against the forces of, likely, al Qaeda or Saddam loyalists.

Of course, there were no al Qaeda in Iraq before we invaded. Now there are. So I think the president has, because of his policies, made Iraq into a far more dangerous place to the United States than it ever was when Saddam Hussein was ruling it.

BLITZER: The administration says there was al Qaeda in Iraq before the invasion, in the form of Ansar al-Islam up in the northern part of the country, and that there were some al Qaeda operatives even in Baghdad.

DEAN: Well, there's not-first of all, there is not great evidence for that that's been discussed in the press.

Secondly of all, Ansar al-Islam was a group that was harassing Iran. And there was some question about whether the United States was, in some way, tacitly supporting them. So I don't think it's quite proper to call them al Qaeda, in the same sense that al Qaeda existed in Afghanistan and killed 3,000 of our people at the World Trade Center.

BLITZER: If you were president of the United States right now, what would you do to resolve this Iraq situation?

DEAN: We need to bring foreign troops into Iraq, preferably from Arabic-speaking and Muslim countries.

George Bush's father, who was a much better diplomat than the president is, had over 100,000 troops in Iraq the first time we went in, which I supported, incidentally. We need to bring troops from Muslim countries into Iraq to help reconstruct Iraq. That should be an international...

BLITZER: But they don't want to go. The U.S. has offered-invited them. Even the Turks decided, this is not a good idea.

DEAN: Well, the Turks should not have been asked to go in the first place. The idea of Turks patrolling in Iraq, historically, is an incredibly foolish idea. And I'm incredibly disappointed that someone at the State Department didn't figure that out before we asked them to go.

This president will never get the cooperation of the rest of the world. He has alienated practically everybody that's worth alienating in this country. It's a personal matter. He has some part of his personality which leads him to humiliate people who disagree with on policy matter.

BLITZER: So, how would you get Arabic-speaking and Muslim nations to get involved? What would you do?

DEAN: If I become president, before I'm inaugurated, I will go to Europe and I will go to other capitals around the world where the president has gone out of his way to humiliate and ruin our relationships, and to begin to rekindle those relationships.

These relationships can be fixed. We just need a new president to do it, someone without the baggage of this president. We will have, I think, the opportunity to have other troops in Iraq from other countries. Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Indonesia, India, which has a substantial Muslim population, as you know, those are the kinds of countries we need help from.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to stop paying the bill. This president has committed us to $87 billion on our credit card every single year for the foreseeable future, until this is straightened out.

BLITZER: General Wesley Clark says, bring NATO in, let NATO take charge, fire Ambassador Paul Bremer as the chief civilian administrator, and, on the political front, let the United Nations take charge. Is General Clark right?

DEAN: Well, I think the United Nations would be the group under which the troops served, barring American troops, because, of course, American troops have never been commanded by anybody that wasn't American.

But I think having the U.N. play a major role in the reconstruction of Iraq is the right thing to do.

BLITZER: What about NATO?

DEAN: NATO is fine. But, remember, most NATO countries are not Muslim countries, other than Turkey. And I think the Turks do not belong in Iraq. I think that was a wise decision on the part of Turkey. And it's one that we shouldn't have asked them to fulfill.

BLITZER: You may have seen this new commercial, this ad that Senator Kerry has put out showing the president landing on the aircraft carrier. But the impression he leaves is that he is someone who knows national security. He served in the military. He fought in Vietnam. He could bring the Democratic Party to victory. And it seems to be a slap at you.

DEAN: I think the principal problem with Senator Kerry's ad is, it implies that he didn't support the war in Iraq. And he did.

We wouldn't be in Iraq today if it hadn't been for people like Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards, Senator Lieberman, and Richard Gephardt, because they all supported the president, when they should have been asking the tough questions last October.

BLITZER: So you're blaming them for the predicament the U.S. is in right now?

DEAN: If the Democrats had stood up to the president and said, this is not wise. Let's take our steps very carefully. Let's bring in other countries.

But they didn't do that. They gave the president a blank check. And Senator Kerry was one of those who gave the president a blank check to go into Iraq. So I find it hard to believe that their foreign policy expertise is so extensive that they would be able to get us out of it.


BLITZER: More on my interview with Howard Dean in just a moment. He's still rethinking his controversial words about the Confederate flag. We'll have that.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Governor Howard Dean has said a couple of times that he's taking buckshot in his rear end from all of the attacks coming from his Democratic opponents. That, of course, hasn't stop the pro- hunting candidate from taking a couple shots himself.


BLITZER: Governor, a lot of pundits say you're the front-runner right now for the Democratic presidential nomination. And there's a debate over who is your main opponent right now. Who do you fear most capturing the Democratic nomination?

DEAN: I'm not worried about that.

If I'm the front-runner, I can tell, because I'm picking the buckshot out of my rear end every single day. I'm running this race to beat George Bush. And I'm sure we're going to have plenty of fireworks among the Democrats on the way to doing that. But the goal is to beat George Bush. He is the most dangerous president in this country's-in terms of this country's security, we've had in my lifetime. He has hurt the economy more than any other president in my lifetime, with these enormous deficits. We cannot afford four more years of George Bush in this country.

BLITZER: But, before you get to that point, you have to beat the Democratic candidates, the other eight Democratic candidates. Who's your biggest challenger?

DEAN: I don't know. That's up to the voters to find out.

Even the fact that I'm the front-runner, supposedly, not a single vote has been cast here. And the last time I looked, the voters still have the say over who we're going to nominate. So...


BLITZER: I was going to say, in Iowa, Gephardt seems to be doing very well. He won in '88. But you have managed to get these union endorsements, these two major unions. How significant is that?

DEAN: I think what people need and people want in the Democratic Party is new leadership.

The people I'm running against, for the most part, have been there for a long, long time. We've seen the Democratic Party decline under Dick Gephardt's leadership and John Kerry and Joe Lieberman and so forth. We need new leadership from outside Washington in order to beat George Bush.

BLITZER: General Clark is new leadership.

DEAN: He is. That's true. And we don't know a lot about him. And I guess we'll learn more as time goes on.

BLITZER: You told me a few months ago that you would seriously consider him as your running mate.

DEAN: I think that's true. He would be, certainly, on anybody's short list. He certainly has the ability to do that.

I think he needs to clear up questions about where he stood on the war. He claims vigorously now that he opposed the war. But the fact is that he had said last-the previous October, advising a congressional candidate, advised her to support it, wrote favorably about-that we needed to go in. He needs to square those statements with the American people.

But he's certainly capable and he has an excellent resume. And we'll see how he does in the primaries.

BLITZER: Is he still on your short list as a potential running mate?

DEAN: Well, to say that I have a short list would be a little presumptuous.

BLITZER: But is he still someone you would consider?

DEAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. Many of the people who are running today are excellent people. And, as I have said before, if I don't win this nomination, I will very vigorously support the person who does win the nomination.

BLITZER: Besides General Clark, any other of the Democratic candidates on your potential list for running mate?

DEAN: Yes, but we're not going to go through a list, because I don't have a right to make a list like that yet. I have not one single vote yet in the primary. None of us have. And the voters get to choose who is going to be the nominee, not me.

BLITZER: It would be a little arrogant, is that what you're saying?

DEAN: Yes, it would.


BLITZER: Well, let's talk about the campaign financing that you're going through.

A lot of people are suggesting, including Congressman Gephardt-I interviewed him over the weekend-that this is a big mistake, for you to abandon this campaign finance reform and just go out and raise as much money as you can.

DEAN: Well, we're raising the money in small donations. We raised three times as much as every other Democrat in the race last time. But we did it by getting 200,000 people to give us an average of $77 apiece.

BLITZER: But what's the message it sends to McCain-Feingold that you're going to basically abandon the procedures that all the other Democrats have accepted in recent years?

DEAN: The message it sends, that, if the president of the United States raises $200 million from every corporate magnate in America, you can't beat him if you're limited to spending $45 million. We're trying to get two million people to give us $100 each to send George Bush back to Crawford, Texas. And I think we're going to do that.

BLITZER: Arguably, your biggest campaign supporter, fund-raising supporter, right now is George Soros, who is devoting $15.5 million of his own money to beat George Bush, to get him out of the White House. In effect, he becomes your biggest supporter.

DEAN: Well, not really.

I have nothing to do-he wrote us a $2,000 check, but he can't give us $15 million. He's going to do what he wants to do, just as there are many people on the president's side who will do what they want to do.

BLITZER: But do you feel comfortable with him doing this, because it seems to be skirting the ban on so-called soft money, which was supposed to be eliminated from the political process?

DEAN: If I could do anything I wanted and have campaign finance reform, here's what I would do. I would have small donations allowed, $100 or less. I would have public financing of everybody's campaign. And I would limit people's spending, so nobody could go outside the public financing system.

And I would have instant run-off voting, so, when you had more candidates than just two, the person with the most votes would win. Now, that's what I would like to do. I believe in campaign finance reform. But I don't believe in campaign finance reform that gives a significant advantage to the Republican Party. And that's what we have now.

BLITZER: Is the issue of the Confederate flag, is that behind you now? Any final thoughts on that?

DEAN: Well, it is and it isn't.

Having to do it all over again, I wouldn't use the Confederate flag, because it is such a divisive symbol. But the key underlying issues are not dead. They are an essential part of my campaign. We need to bring Southern whites into the Democratic Party or we're not going to win elections in the South anymore. And we're not going to abandon the South. And I'm certainly not going to abandon the South.

Secondly, we need to have a discussion about race in this country. In “The Wall Street Journal” three or four weeks ago, there was a study that showed, if you're white with a criminal conviction, you have a better chance of getting a job interview than if you're African-American with a clean record. As long as that kind of thing goes on in America, we need to openly have a dialogue about race.

BLITZER: Governor Dean, thanks for joining us.

DEAN: Thanks, Wolf.


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

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