Interview on Hardball

July 6, 2004

On "Hardball" Tuesday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews sat down with former Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean. Dean ceased campaigning in February 2004 after finishing third to John Kerry and John Edwards in the Wisconsin primary.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Governor Dean, what do you make of this new ticket on the Democratic side?

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's terrific; a great choice. I think this assures the election of Erskine Bowles to the United States Senate from North Carolina, so that's a Senate seat we're going to get out of this.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the Democratic Party that you've worked in for several months. You woke up the party back in the fall of 2003. You got the campaign going, and then you lost it. What would you call that thing out there that seems to be getting hotter every day?

DEAN: I think it's unease, really, as things have gone along. Many of the things that I said during the campaign have turned out to be true. The president wasn't truthful about why we went to Iraq and the vice president still is insisting on things that his own 9/11 Commission says weren't true. The Halliburton contract looks fishier every day as the president-- the vice president continues to draw a deferred compensation salary.

I think it's great, going to be great to have a young, wholesome vice presidential candidate to contrast himself with Dick Cheney, who's really gotten this administration in a lot of trouble, and I think people are very uneasy-- it's one thing to be uneasy about a president's policies. It's another thing to be uneasy about the president's integrity, and I think that's where the American people are starting to head right now.

MATTHEWS: Do you think that John Kerry and John Edwards together can tap into that 40 some percent or whatever it is of unease in the country and make it 51?

DEAN: I think that they can and I'm certainly going to do everything I can to help them. This is an election which is going to determine whether America continues to go in a direction towards the far right, or whether we go back to our middle class, middle America values.

It used to be the Republican Party had the monopoly on values. Now they've lost those values. They can't run a budget properly. We've had a half trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, as long as this president is there. They can't seem to be truthful about why we're in Iraq. They've lost a million and a half jobs, and the ones that we're getting back are being paid for at 65 percent of the wages of the ones we lost.

We got a real crisis on our hands, this is a really pivotal election, and I think we can win.

MATTHEWS: Were you surprised that in the entire speech today announcing his vice presidential running mate, John Kerry, mentioned the war in one sentence, the entire time?

DEAN: I think the war is an issue, as you know, one of the ones that I picked up, and I think people are very uneasy on it.

MATTHEWS: Well, why doesn't Kerry talk about it?

DEAN: I think he does. I was a little surprised at the speech today, but I've been out on the road with him, and he is very effective talking about the war. I think the biggest difference between John Kerry and George Bush in the war is John Kerry essentially believes in cooperation with other nations and the president doesn't. That makes all the difference in the world.

MATTHEWS: What about John Edwards, who wholeheartedly supported the war? How can he claim the votes of anti-war Democrats?

DEAN: I think the way that we get anti-war Democrats is to say, look, it doesn't matter what you did as much as it matters what you're going to do. It's very clear that the very things that John Kerry was talking about, and for that matter that I was talking about during the campaign, are now being adopted by President Bush. Bringing the U.N. in, getting our troops home as soon as we can get them replaced by foreign troops. Those are the things that need to be done. Highly unlikely that President Bush is going to be able to do that. I don't think we want American troops in Iraq for the next 10 years. SO that's why I would recommend switching presidents.

MATTHEWS: Do you think that John Kerry and John Edwards share your gut sense that going to war with Iraq was outside the tradition of American foreign policy?

DEAN: Well, my objection wasn't so much that it was outside the tradition of American foreign policy, because I supported the first Gulf War. The reason I didn't support this Gulf War is that I didn't think we were being told the truth by the president of the United States, and I don't think you send people to war without telling them why they're going. We saw this in Vietnam, where we had two presidents, one of whom I've come to admire greatly, Lyndon Johnson, for his civil rights achievements, and Richard Nixon, who did not tell the truth to the American people about the war. You cannot send American troops.

MATTHEWS: What did President Bush say that was dishonest about the war in Iraq?

DEAN: He said they had weapons of mass destruction, he implied that... they had weapons of mass destruction and it still wasn't true. He implied that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, which was flat out not true. He implied that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were working in common. That was flat out not true. He said in his State of the Union that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger. That was flat out not true. I'm trying to think of anything that he said that's actually been true.

He said that Iraq was a danger to the United States. That was flat out not true. I mean, when you think about it, it's pretty scary that the president would send 850 brave American troops to their death without telling us still why we're at war with Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Well, we just checked the poll, Governor, and just the other day we checked -- yesterday, in fact -- 40 percent of the American people believe that Iraq was involved in 9/11. Why do so many people believe that?

DEAN: Too many people watch Fox. If they had watched the 9/11 Commission, they wouldn't believe it, because it's not true. It used to be 80 percent, by the way.

MATTHEWS: Right. Well, why do so many believe something you say is not true?

DEAN: People want to believe the president. I want to believe the president. It takes a long time to come to the conclusion that the president wasn't telling the truth. But that's the conclusion I think many Americans have now come to.

MATTHEWS: Did you see the new movie by Michael Moore

DEAN: I have not seen the movie. I just haven't had a chance to see it. My daughter saw it, and she was moved to tears by the woman who lost her son in Iraq.

MATTHEWS: It also has stuff in there that suggests that President Bush is involved with bin Laden. He's running with him. He's part of the problem. He's part of the terrorist family. I mean, it's incredible the charges made in the movie. Do you believe that George Bush is involved with terrorism?

DEAN: No, of course not. And I don't think that's true but filmmakers get a little bit more license than the president does in terms of portraying facts as they are.

MATTHEWS: I know. Let me ask you this. Do you feel that you could have won the presidency if the timetable of this unease in the country was a little more advanced at the time we held the primaries? Do you think you were a little bit ahead of schedule?

DEAN: Well, I wasn't on schedule, whether I was ahead or behind, I don't know. But that all comes under the heading of would have, could have, should have, if only this had happened, if only that had happened. You can't look back.

We've got a great ticket. I think John Kerry and John Edwards are going to do really well and I think they're going to win, and I think they're going to pick up some states that we don't expect.

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