'Hardball' with Chris Matthews

October 7, 2004

MATTHEWS:  Good evening.  I'm Chris Matthews and welcome to a special edition of HARDBALL. We're live from the campus of Washington University in St. Louis where tomorrow night, President Bush and Senator John Kerry will debate for the second time before an audience of uncommitted voters.  But something is happening in the country.  Kerry is closing on the president including in those states where the election is most likely to be decided.  Voters are finding their way to a candidate struggling for their final answer in this national moment of passion and reflection. 

...But first, we're joined by former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.  Governor Dean, thank you for joining us.  Would you please explain to me how you talk to an audience on national television during a crowd behind you so you don't get your voice at the wrong level? 

How do you do that? 

HOWARD DEAN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don't know but I can hear you. 

Welcome, Washington University students.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this race.  How do you see it going right now three weeks out? 

DEAN:  I think Senator Kerry is closing fast.  We're a long way out.  I think the biggest problem the president has is that almost every day, a new document like the one we saw today comes out that shows the president wasn't truthful to the American people.  It wasn't so much that we're in Iraq.  I think that's a policy disagreement.  But it's the credibility of the president of the United States that's at stake.  And people will not tolerate a president of the United States who does not tell them the truth.  That's apparently what this president did when he got us into Iraq.  That's his biggest problem for the next 25 days. 

MATTHEWS:  But if his people, meaning half the country that support the president on the war, are they going to stop supporting this war?  Even John Kerry says the war was, he hasn't said it was a blunder yet exactly.  Your party is not an anti-war party like you were.  How can you benefit from concerns about a war if your party even now doesn't want to oppose? 

DEAN:  Chris, the reason I was an anti-war candidate is-- remember, I supported the first Gulf War.  I supported Kosovo.  I supported Bosnia and I supported the war in Afghanistan.  This is a matter of telling the truth.  You can't build good public policy when it is built on things that are not true, when the facts are ignored.  That's my objection to this presidency.  The president doesn't care what the facts are.  It's not a matter of I'm always against war.  I supported the past four wars.  My party was a little slower, although now Senator Kerry I think is doing a fantastic job explaining to the American people, the issue is not just the war.  It is the president's judgment and the president's truthfulness.  That is the central issue of this campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Governor Dean, your name came up in Tuesday's vice-presidential debate.  Let's listen. 


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT:  Howard Dean was making major progress in the Democratic primaries, running away with the primaries based on an anti-war record.  So they in effect had decided they would cast an anti-war vote when they voted against the troops.  Now if they couldn't stand up to the pressures that Howard Dean represented, how can we expect them to stand up to al Qaeda? 


MATTHEWS:  Was it your sense, Governor Dean, at the time that John Kerry and John Edwards both voted against the $87 billion for the rebuilding in Iraq, that they were trying to catch up to you on the anti-war front? 

DEAN:  No.  It was my sense that they understood that the president didn't put a high enough priority on that $87 billion to pay for it.  This  is the biggest borrow and spend, borrow and spend Republican administration we've ever had.  They don't balance budgets.  We have a half trillion dollar deficit.  What Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards said was, if you care about this issue, Mr. President, you will raise taxes on people who make more than $200,000 and restore the taxes to what they were when Bill Clinton was president so we can pay for this war without charging it to our children.  I thought that was an admirable stance of John Kerry and John Edwards.  Somebody has to stand up for the American taxpayers.  They did.  George Bush didn't.  That's why we're going to change presidents. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, we read a lot in the papers about the concerns of the rest of the country outside of New England that this candidate, the Democratic party, John Kerry, isn't sufficiently religious in his public manner.  Do you think New Englanders, when they run for president, have to change their manner towards their religious belief in order to accommodate the more overt religious expression of people in the Bible Belt? 

DEAN:  I don't think it hurts to openly discuss religion.  It is something we don't do all that much in our part of the country.  But the truth is, New Englanders have a lot in common, and Democrats have a lot in common with the religious community.  I sort of think of the president's party as the Sadducees and the Pharisees.  They talk a lot about things but they're kind of the money changers.  They make the big money, they give our taxpayer money to the big corporations. 

Democrats ought to be, if they're good Democrats, more concerned about working people, the ordinary kinds of people that Jesus really cared about in the Bible.  So I think it is fine for Senator Kerry to talk about religion.  I think it is in the context of religion that we can relate to people who, for whom religion is a very important part of their life.  I don't think we have to give up on the religious community.  As long as we make clear our values are not the values of the Republicans who care about the rich men trying to get into Heaven just like passing the camel through (the) needle's eye, I would like to see Democrats stick to their values of helping the kind of people that Jesus talked about in the New Testament.  so I don't think there's anything wrong with talking about religion as long as we keep our values. 

MATTHEWS:  Actually, it was the Pharisees up in the front row in the temple, and the publicans in the back.  It was the tax collector who was being humble in that particular sermon. 

Anyway, let me ask you, Governor, in this race, do you believe the people who oppose the war in Iraq as you did should vote for Kerry? 

DEAN:  I do.  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that the people who support the war, who think it was a great idea, a necessary act of U.S. foreign policy, worth all the cost regardless of the new intel coming in, the failure to back up the cost of the war in the beginning of it, weapons of mass destruction, the failure to connect it to 9/11, do you think those people who still support the war should go with the president? 

DEAN:  I don't.  And the reason is that the war has not made us a safer place.  I said that eight, 10 months ago.  I say it today.  More American troops have been killed since Saddam Hussein was captured than before.  Furthermore, the president continues to run up these enormous deficits.  This is a president who has failed us on many fronts.  I'm in Pennsylvania right now.  350,000 jobs lost in Pennsylvania in the last four years.  Hundreds of people, thousands of people losing their health insurance.  There's a lot of failure in this presidency.  It is not just our intervention in Iraq that's a failure.

MATTHEWS:  I'm still trying to find an answer out from a top politician.  I'm going to try one more time with you.  If there was no WMD, if there's no connection to al Qaeda which even the administration is now admitting, if there's no happy Iraqi to greet us there, if there's no Iraqis to pay for the war, why did we go to war?  Why did they take us to war? 

DEAN:  Only George Bush knows the answer to that.  We do know that Paul O'Neill in the book about-- in "The Price of Loyalty," the former secretary of the treasury said in his very first cabinet meeting with President George Bush, he announced he was going to take out Saddam Hussein.  That was long before 9/11 and long before we knew that al Qaeda was about to drive planes into the World Trade Center and kill 3,000 Americans.  This president has some kind of obsession with Iraq and I think that's fine to have an obsession with Iraq but not if you're the president of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  One of the first steps taken by the vice president-elect Dick Cheney was to call for a briefing by incumbent secretary of defense Bill Cohen.  When Bill Cohen was told to do the briefing by the vice president for the new president, the vice president-elect said don't give me one of these tour (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the whole world.  Focus entirely on Iraq.  That's what I heard from Bill Killing (ph) so they were thinking earlier about that campaign in Iraq.

Thank you very much, Howard Dean.  When we come back, we'll talk to the panel and have the latest polls in this tight race, it's getting tighter.  You're watching HARDBALL's coverage of the eve of the second presidential debate live from St. Louis.

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