Hardball with Chris Matthews

September 27, 2004

MATTHEWS: ... Joining us right now is former presidential candidate Howard Dean, whose new book is called "You Have the Power."

Governor Dean, thank you very much for joining us.

I have to have you comment as soon as-- right off the bat here about something that Senator Kennedy said on the show tonight. He said that the vice president of the United States is guilty of McCarthyism for accusing the Democrats of hurting the war effort over there.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think it's not just the vice president. It is the president himself who said that John Kerry's criticisms are undermining the war.

The truth is, the president got us into a war that we didn't need to be in to improve the safety of the United States of America. The president has jeopardized the safety of the United States of America by creating a situation in Iraq which is far more dangerous to our security than it was before we got rid of Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein was a terrible person. He was not a danger to the United States. The 9/11 Commission says so. I think the president is in deep trouble.

MATTHEWS: Let's show Senator Kennedy and what he had to say.


KENNEDY: What they have done is spend all of their resources in distorting and misrepresenting. It is a campaign of anger and insult. And the most egregious examples are the examples of the vice president, Cheney, when he even goes on to suggest that the al Qaeda wants John Kerry to win. That is the most outrageous charge. It's the most anti-American. It is McCarthyism of the first order.


MATTHEWS: Is that your sense of what the vice president has been saying, that he's even accused al Qaeda of rooting for the Democratic candidate?

DEAN: Well, I think not only has the vice president done that sort of thing, but the president himself has in much more subtle language.

They have tried to imply that John Kerry is unpatriotic, even though he's the only person who represented his country in uniform in combat in the last 30 years of the people who are running for president of the United States. These people are tough people. They will hold power and they put the interests of their own power above the interests of the United States of America. That is why we need a new president of the United States. And that's why I'm working so hard to get us one.

MATTHEWS: If a person supports the war with Iraq, should they vote for Bush?

DEAN: I don't think so, because if you support the long-term interests of the security of the country, you've also got to think about the half-trillion dollar deficit that the president is borrowing his way into. You have got to think about the security impact on having the Saudis and the Japanese and the Chinese hold so much American debt.

There's a lot of problem with this president in terms of security.

And it's just his lack of military experience.

MATTHEWS: If you oppose the war with Iraq, should you vote for Kerry?

DEAN: Well, again, I don't think it is just about Iraq. I think you've got to look at the long-term future of the country.

Here's the real issue. The first issue is credibility. The president really is the real flip-flopper and the flimflam artist of this one. He opposed the 9/11 Commission. Then he supported it. He wouldn't testify. Then he did. He said they had weapons of mass destruction. Well, then they didn't. He said Osama bin Laden had something to do with 9/11. Well, the 9/11 Commission said it didn't. Mr. President, which is it? Which is the truth?

The long-term future of this country depends on sound fiscal management and balanced budgets. John Kerry has supported that. President Bush has not. He talks about it, but he doesn't do anything about it. It depends on economic security for Americans. That depends on-- that means a health care policy that will help all Americans. George Bush will not do that. John Kerry has clearly said and outlined a way to do that.

It depends on a moral future for the leadership of the United States in the free world. I've been to Europe three times since I left the presidential race. People over there despise America and they despise us because of one man, George W. Bush. Until the time that George Bush went into Iraq, we were the moral leaders of the free world since the end of World War I. We need to resume our rightful position of leadership in the world. And we can't do it with this president.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your own role. Are you convinced supportive of John Kerry 100 percent?

DEAN: Absolutely I am.

John Kerry will make a smart, informed president who will look at the long-term future of the country, not just the next election.

MATTHEWS: When he fought against you in the Democratic primaries, he sort of supported the war and now-- or at least supported his vote for authorizing the war. And now he's clearly came out as a Deaniac in the last couple of weeks.

He's clearly come out and said this war was wrong. This president-- called it the wrong war at the wrong time. He's made it a 180 alternative, his candidacy, to the president's. Has he morphed into you?

DEAN: What I think that John has done is, he voted for-- what he voted for was to give president authority to go to war.

As you know, look, Chris, you have spent a lot more time in Washington than I have. You know very well that the bipartisan traditional of this country is to give the president authority to conduct foreign policy and military policy.


MATTHEWS: Well, you're misinterpreting what I think. I think that Congress should declare war when it wants a war and not declare it until it wants a war. It is a constitutional prerogative it must hold dear and not give a president a blank check, which I think is the issue here. If Congress had been asked to support the war when the war was declared, then it would be clear now what Kerry meant by it.

I don't think it's clear at all by what he meant, because he has-- it is allowed to be murky because he gives the president a blank check. Do you think that's good constitutional government, to have Congress give the president a blank check to go to war when and if he decides to go?

DEAN: In general, of course you know very well that I don't think that's a good idea. And I said so during the campaign.

But the truth is, I believe that, historically, since Vietnam, Congresses have given that kind of latitude. George Bush showed that he didn't deserve that kind of latitude because he didn't do what he said he was going to do when the president gave him authority. Now, I made it clear that I disagreed with John Kerry and Dick Gephardt and Wes Clark and all those guys. I wouldn't have given him that authority. Nonetheless, that's been done.

The question is now, did the president take us into a war that would preserve American security? The answer is, no, he didn't. Did the president have any idea what he was going to do after our armed forces performed as they always do with extraordinary resolve and admirable ability? No, he had no plan whatsoever. The president didn't think about what was going to happen next. And to this day, he won't admit his excuses -- he won't make excuses and he won't admit that he was wrong.

MATTHEWS: We're going to come right back and talk to Governor Dean about John Kerry and whether he has the spunk that was shown in the early Dean campaign...


MATTHEWS: We're back with Governor Howard Dean.

The name of your book is "You Have the Power." Somebody once said during your campaign when you were doing very well last year that you had the best "you" in American politics, when you said "you."

Tell us about that when you were speaking in the second person to the American people.

DEAN: You know, the truth is that American people have the power to change this country. They just don't use it because they've been beaten down by people who assert that they don't.

The fact-- and they're made fearful by our own president and vice president. America-- this is an extraordinary country with wonderful people, conservatives, Democrats, liberals, Republicans. This is a very strong country. We just lack good leadership. And what I tell people is, you have got to get out and run for office. Voting is not enough. You have got to go out and run for office. You have got to give small donations to candidates you trust.

When middle-class and working people give $5 or $10 or $20, that begins to negate all that corporate money that is, for example, electing President Bush. We do have the power to change this country. We just have to use it.

MATTHEWS: They have a wonderful expression in the state of Israel, where they say everybody in the country is a prime minister. And you and I know what that means. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody wants to call the shots. Have we lost that sense of proactive citizenship?

DEAN: Yes, we have. And it is a huge problem. We think -- 50 percent of us vote. We think-- everybody thinks their neighbor is going to do the work for them. When you think your neighbor is going to do the work for you, your country doesn't work anymore. And ours is really in trouble.

We have got the Patriot Act. We have got presidents who say and vice presidents who say that to question the president is to undermine-- is to be unpatriotic and undermine America.


DEAN: That's simply not true. And we can come back from this, but it is going to require ordinary Americans to get to work.

MATTHEWS: Remember when we were growing up and we looked at the United States Senate, with all its incredible people, and we used to think, they were all-- and they're right-wing, left-wing, whatever their-- Jacob Javits, people like Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey, Everett Dirksen, incredible figures, I mean, almost statesman. Have we dropped in class?

DEAN: Yes, we have. You see a lot more meanness, a lot more ugliness, a lot more epithets thrown, personal attacks on members of minorities.

MATTHEWS: Would you want to join that club, I'm asking, because if the people look at the kind of people who are senators today, are they still looking up to them the way we, you and I, did as kids and say, God, he's a senator?

DEAN: Yes, but I'm not asking people to do that. First of all, there are some outstanding people in the United States Senate. Patrick Leahy comes to mind as one of them. Ted Kennedy is another one. Chuck Hagel is another one. John McCain is another one. These are outstanding people who are patriotic, who are going to stand up for their country. Now, these are widely different people.


DEAN: But they all, I believe, are patriots and they're going to do what they think is right, at some cost to themselves.

MATTHEWS: Well, they're all anti-war. That's for sure. That's why you like them.

DEAN: Well, I don't know that-- I think...


MATTHEWS: Every one of the guys you listed is against this war.

DEAN: Well, they are now. But I think Hagel and McCain both voted for it.

MATTHEWS: Well, that's true. Actually, and McCain is still for it, I think.

DEAN: Right. I think that is right.


MATTHEWS: But Hagel-- Hagel is getting very critical. You're right about him.

DEAN: But there are-- what we need is independent-minded people.

Now, of course I'm more liberal than some of these folks.

MATTHEWS: Than everybody.

DEAN: Well, that's actually-- well, you know what I say about that is, I cop to being a proud liberal because I balance budgets and conservatives don't. And I think it's time we had a liberal back in the White House so we can have a balanced budget to get this country moving forward ahead.

MATTHEWS: Do you think President Bush, if he gets reelected, will name you head of the budget so you can balance the budget?

DEAN: I think President Bush won't get reelected and that will solve a lot of problems.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you very much, Governor Howard Dean. The name of your book is "You Have the Power," one of the great lines in American political history. "You Have the Power."

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