The Capital Report with Alan Murray

August 4, 2004

The Great Terror Alert Timing Controversy, touched off by Dean's interview with Wolf Blitzer, continues ... - Crocuta

ALAN MURRAY: Our top story tonight: politics and the war on terror. John Kerry and John Edwards say they take the White House at its word on the need for a heightened terror alert, but Howard Dean is still making waves this week with this accusation against President Bush.

Dr. HOWARD DEAN (Former Vermont Governor) [video clip from Sunday]: What I mean by that is the president himself is playing politics with it. The president is basing his political campaign for re-election on the notion that he ought to be re-elected because terrorism is a danger. And his case to the American people is, 'I'm the only person who can get us through this.' So of course this is politics. The question is: Do I believe this is being fabricated? No, of course I don't believe that. But I do think that there is politics in this. And the question is: How much is politics, and how much is a real threat?

[End video clip]

MURRAY: Joining me now: former Vermont governor and former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Governor Dean, thanks for being with me. You have gotten a lot of grief from Republicans, but even from some of your fellow Democrats, for suggesting these terror warnings are political. How come?

Dr. DEAN: Well, you may remember that I got a lot of grief in December for saying that we're not any safer since Saddam Hussein has been captured. Since that time we've lost about 450 brave American soldiers, and not to mention thousands of Iraqis have died. So I think I was right then. I'm used to getting grief for saying things that happen to be true--that the Washington establishment doesn't want to hear about it right now.

MURRAY: Well...

Dr. DEAN: The truth is...

MURRAY: Go ahead.

Dr. DEAN: The truth is the president of the United States' chief political mentor, Karl Rove, put out a memo a couple of years ago suggesting Republicans run on the war issue and on terrorism. The president's made it clear he's going to do that. The time line of these announcements was such that the information was in the administration's hands as of July 13th; the information was three years old. All of a sudden we find that two days after the Democratic convention, the information now becomes public. I don't doubt for a moment that there's a serious terrorist threat in this country. I do believe the president chooses the time at which this information is released to benefit himself politically, and I think that's wrong.

MURRAY: Well, your understanding of the time line is different from mine. I mean, my understanding was there's this fellow named Khan, who was picked up in Pakistan on July 13th. But the information didn't actually reach the White House until fairly recently. And I guess the question I'd ask you is: What would you have them do with the information? Should they not be telling the public about it?

Dr. DEAN: Well, Alan, first of all, the time line that you just described was the time line that was constructed after the Republicans were criticized for using this information politically. So I'm not so sure what's clear and what isn't. We know that the information, which was seized from the al-Qaida detainee on July 13th, was available fairly recently, fairly soon afterwards. We also know the White House had it for a number of days at least before they chose to release it. Now having the information, here--the next question is: What should you do about it?

MURRAY: Exactly.

Dr. DEAN: This is the fir--and I give the administration some credit for this. This is the first warning since September 11th, almost three years ago, where we have actually seen specifics.

MURRAY: Right.

Dr. DEAN: That, I think, is very helpful. That, I think, is a good thing. I think all those other warnings were relatively useless. It doesn't do any good to say the sky's falling and not tell somewhat what part of the sky is falling and where you might want to watch out.

However, here's the dilemma that the administration's now gotten themselves into. The information is that these buildings are targets; probably the targets were also the World Trade Center and otherwise. Now we've instituted security measures, which I think is a good thing. How--when do we take those security measures off? If these plans have been in place for three years, and if the administration contends, as I agree with this, that al-Qaida's very patient and this is a real danger, you can't take the security measures away from these buildings for the foreseeable future...

MURRAY: Well, I think that's...

Dr. DEAN: ...not until al-Qaida is destroyed and until Osama bin Laden is destroyed. So we are now--have these security measures in place for the foreseeable future. And there will be other building that have been cased, there will be more evidence like this coming to go light. I don't dispute that terrorism is a serious problem for the United States and that it's a good thing to put these safety measures in place. I do dispute the timing. I do dispute the relevance of this particular information at this time, given that Washington, DC, senior law enforcement people saying they don't believe there's anything new in these disclosures.

MURRAY: Yeah. Let me show you what Governor Pataki of New York had to say about what you said.

[Video clip]

Governor GEORGE PATAKI (Republican, New York): (From August 2) To me, it's just sad that someone, for political reasons, would engage in that type of attack when, you know, I spent the weekend being briefed by Secretary Ridge. And I'm sure the entire administration was working at trying to understand and put together the best response to the latest intelligence. So this president is doing an outstanding job of leading the war against terror. And I don't think he needs any advice, I do not think the American people need any advice on how to win the war on terror from Howard Dean.

[end video clip]

MURRAY: What's your response?

Dr. DEAN: I think the president's doing a miserable job with the war on terror. He's gotten us bogged down in Iraq when we should be chasing and capturing Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and Afghanistan. There was a long series of terrorism announcements, which have been of no effect to the United States at all, including, red, yellow, orange, red, yellow, which means nothing to the American people.

MURRAY: But, Governor Dean...

Dr. DEAN: I'd like to get, Alan, a real president in there who understands terrorism...

MURRAY: Governor Dean...

Dr. DEAN: ...and who's willing to set their priorities in fighting terrorism the right way.

MURRAY: That seems to ignore the fact that the information that led to these terror alerts came from the arrest of high al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan over the last couple of months. We've just had more apprehended in Britain. It feels like, reading the newspaper accounts, that they're actually making some significant progress in reining in this operation.

Dr. DEAN: If they had made the progress they should have made, maybe we'd have Osama bin Laden. Maybe if we hadn't sent 135,000 troops to Iraq, we'd have some more Special Forces, as John Kerry would like to do, in Afghanistan chasing after Osama bin Laden.

MURRAY: Let's...

Dr. DEAN: These people are not going to be stopped until we've got Osama bin Laden, and that's what we need to do, and that's what we need to focus on doing.

MURRAY: Let's talk about Iraq a little bit because during the primary battles, you were the candidate who was opposed to the war in Iraq; John Kerry, of course, had voted for it and continued to defend it. Do you think he's come around to your side?

Dr. DEAN: I think George Bush has come around to John Kerry's side, which I think is fascinating. John Kerry and I both have called for United Nations and foreign troops to be introduced into Iraq in great enough numbers that we can begin to bring ours home and so that we can internationalize the conflict in Iraq. George Bush has taken up that position. Unfortunately, he is unable to deliver on it because he managed to alienate all the nations he would like to have send troops into Iraq on the way in.

MURRAY: But the...

Dr. DEAN: I think the president will be able to have the kind of relationship with our allies that we ought to have.

MURRAY: But there's still this very fundamental question--was: Given what we know today, was it a mistake to go into Iraq and take out Saddam Hussein?

Dr. DEAN: I think...

MURRAY: You say yes. George Bush says no. What does John Kerry say?

Dr. DEAN: I think you have to ask John Kerry that question.

MURRAY: We've tried.

Dr. DEAN: What I tell you is that four out of the five things that George Bush told us about why we had to take out Saddam Hussein were not true. He had nothing to do with al-Qaida, he had nothing to do with 9/11, he had nothing to do with getting uranium from Niger. They did not have nuclear weapons--or were not about to get them. They didn't have weapons of mass destruction. The one thing that George Bush said was true is that Saddam Hussein was a dreadful person and a very bad human being. There are many dreadful people that run countries around the world, but I don't see troops in those countries. I'm deeply troubled about why we got into Iraq, and I'm even more deeply troubled about the credibility of the president of the United States.

MURRAY: Governor Dean, on a lighter note, I know you're going to be the special guest host of "Topic A with Tina Brown" this weekend, and one of your guests is Jon Stewart. We've got a little clip from that upcoming show. I'd like to show it here.

[Excerpt from upcoming "Topic A with Tina Brown" courtesy CNBC, not transcribed here]

MURRAY: So you're a Jon Stewart fan?

Dr. DEAN: I am a Jon Stewart fan. But didn't it sound like Jon Stewart's agenda was the same as FOX: entertainment?

MURRAY: Well, that's...

Dr. DEAN: No attempt at balance?

MURRAY: get an audience. Well, I think there's some--we like to think that there's some important journalistic principles here that we try and uphold on shows like CAPITAL REPORT.

Dr. DEAN: I'll tell you one thing that I learned by doing that show, which took me two and a half days. You guys work very hard at what you do. It is hard work to do that stuff.

MURRAY: All right. Well, we look forward to seeing the entire show, "Topic A with Tina Brown." That's running Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern and Pacific. Don't miss it. Thank you very much, Governor Dean, for being with me.

Dr. DEAN: Thanks, Alan.

Thanks to Tara Liloia of DFA for posting this transcript on the blog. - Crocuta

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