Interview on "Hardball"

September 26, 2007

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: ...Where—well, will the independents vote this way? A lot of you are already talking right now, why run Hillary if she is going to get blown away in the general election by men who don‘t like to vote for women, or conservative women, or whatever, or whatever. We are going to talk right now about the independent voter, because one of the three big issues of this campaign is campaign fund-raising, and whether it is sleazy or not, this war in Iraq, and whether the Democrats can actually pick a winner, because everybody knows they have had a history of picking losers.

How many times have the Democrats gone up to the plate and picked people like McGovern, picked people like—well, Gore, Kerry, Mondale make the list.

We are here with Howard Dean, who never quite got the title shot, but he is chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

You could have been a contender.


MATTHEWS: Well, you were a contender, but you didn‘t get to the title shot.

DEAN: That‘s right. That‘s right.

MATTHEWS: Why do Democrats keep running these weird presidential candidates, who always seem—ever since Jack Kennedy and maybe, well, Bill Clinton, they always lose the personality question. They always seem geekier, nerdier than the Republican guy. Why is that the case?

DEAN: How do you really feel about that, Chris?

MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s true. It‘s an objective assessment. Look at Dukakis in the tank. That‘s an objective reality. I mean, Mondale.

DEAN: Let me tell you— let me tell you what we have to do.

MATTHEWS: Jesus, a good guy, but unacceptable on television.

The Republicans, they get the charm school. They got Reagan. they have got this guy George W. Bush. You know, they seem to run charming people.

DEAN: What Democrats have to do is talk about their values. People vote on values. They don‘t vote on position papers.

MATTHEWS: No, they vote on personalities.

DEAN: They vote on— well, they vote on what they think you‘re like.

What kind of a human being are you? And that is your core value.

So instead of explaining our position papers, what we need to talk about is the things that matter to the American people—that is, what kind of a human being are you? Are you tough enough to stand up for terrorism? Are you a fair person? Do you believe in helping the 80 percent of the people who have really been in trouble in the Bush administration in the last seven years?

Or are you just going to be giving tax credits to the same people that George Bush gives tax credits to?

MATTHEWS: What is George Bush‘s problem—in terms of basic humanity?

DEAN: His basic problem is he‘s incompetent.

MATTHEWS: Is he— is he...

DEAN: George Bush‘s presidency and...

MATTHEWS: ... incurious about the American predicament?

DEAN: I don‘t think— look, lots of people have been incurious in the presidency before. The problem is, he‘s surrounded himself with people who wouldn‘t tell him the things he needed to hear, and his presidency ended with Katrina. People no longer believed that the president and his people were competent.

And, then, of course, the revelations about how we really got into Iraq began to come out.

But you know, what, Chris? That is not going to win us the election. That was fine for the ‘06 election, to talk about how terrible the Republicans are.

We have to talk about what we‘re going to do differently to get out of Iraq with a reasonable timetable, do a health care bill that the president won‘t veto because we will have a Democratic president. We‘re going to have real campaign reform and ethics, which the candidates have talked about, and we have actually passed a pretty decent ethics bill, and things like minimum wage increase and doing something for working people. Those are the things that matter.

MATTHEWS: Do you think Hillary Clinton is a credible reform candidate?

DEAN: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: On campaign finance?

DEAN: I think she‘s— absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Come on, she‘s got money from Hsu and this guy, this Italian guy. And she‘s got all this—she‘s wallowing in all this strange money.

DEAN: That‘s totally untrue. She gave it all back.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, I mean, when she got caught.

DEAN: No— she— look, I know...

MATTHEWS: She didn‘t give anything back until she got caught.

DEAN: Nobody expected what we got from Norman Hsu. Look...

MATTHEWS: Eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars in bundled money from a crook, an international crook.

DEAN: And who was to know he was a crook, if the California court couldn‘t even keep...

MATTHEWS: Well, shouldn‘t there be some checking on these people?

DEAN: Chris, come on. Look, this is not about this kind of nonsense.

This is about, what are you going to do Iraq? What are you going to do about health care?

MATTHEWS: You said it was about campaign reform.

DEAN: And it is.

MATTHEWS: Two seconds ago, you said...

DEAN: And we will have it.

MATTHEWS: And you think your party‘s credible on that issue?

DEAN: I think we‘re a hell of lot more credible than the Republicans.

MATTHEWS: When Bill Clinton used the White House as Motel 6 and he was moving people in and out of the Lincoln Bedroom every night for fund raising, do you think that‘s a credible case for campaign reform?

DEAN: The only people who have led campaign on finance reform in this country are the Democrats. And the only two states that have campaign finance reform, Arizona and Maine, have Democratic governors.

MATTHEWS: John Edwards has been running his campaign since day one on trial lawyer money. You know, is that the reform movement? Make sure there‘s no caps on financial settlements?

DEAN: Look, the system is the system the way it is. I‘m not defending it.

MATTHEWS: OK. You‘re going to fall back...


DEAN: But this election is going to be about Iraq, it‘s going to be about health care, it‘s going to be about the economy and it‘s going to be about helping middle class people achieve the American dream again, which they have been unable to do for the last seven years.

MATTHEWS: You opposed the war in Iraq before anybody else did. When the Clintons and the Bidens and the Edwardses were all voting yay—yay, yay, sir—aye, aye, sir, supporting the war, you were prescient enough, for whatever reasons of values and character and prescience, to know that this war was going to be a catastrophe.

What does that tell you about you? What does that tell you about the people you‘re trying to promote now, the ones that were wrong when you were right?

DEAN: I— you know...

MATTHEWS: How you can sell their judgment when your judgment was 180 from theirs?


DEAN: Look at our candidates, first of all. They look like the future of America. Look at their candidate. They look like the 1950s and they talk like the 1850s.

Every single one of our candidates thinks we ought to be out of Iraq. Every single one of their candidates thinks we ought to be in Iraq. Every single one of our candidates thinks we ought to have universal health care. Their candidate are calling it “socialized medicine.” Not one Republican even voted for Medicare since 1964.

Our candidates think it was a bad idea to pardon Scooter Libby and pass an ethics bill. Their candidates think Scooter Libby should be pardoned. What an incredible, clear difference there is between every single Democrat and every single Republican.

The important stuff here is not who voted for what and when they voted for it. The important stuff is, do you want America to go forward or do you want America to go backward?

MATTHEWS: Do you still want to be president?

DEAN: Not this year.


MATTHEWS: You were right the first time, Governor.

DEAN: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

DEAN: We will see you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Dean.

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Transcript originally from MSNBC Transcripts.



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