CNN's Inside Politics

August 18, 2004

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was the early front- runner in the Democratic race for the White House. Now he is backing John Kerry, of course, and he joins me from Burlington, Vermont, where I bet the weather is lovely.

And you're looking very rested, Governor.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is lovely. I've lost a few pounds, not so many of those peanut M&Ms we used to have on the campaign plane all the time.

CROWLEY: Well, you look terrific. I wanted to -- I wanted to take you back to your signature issue, which was the war. And you were highly critical of the votes for the war from your opponents, being Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards. And I wanted to play for you what John Kerry said last week, I believe, when a questioner asked him, "Given what you know now, would you have still voted for the war?"

Here's what he said.


KERRY: Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it's the right authority for a president to have. But I would have used that authority as I have said throughout this campaign effectively. I would have done this very differently from the way President Bush has.


CROWLEY: Now, Governor, early on, you knew how anti-war the Democratic Party was, particularly in the grassroots. Is that a satisfactory answer, do you think, for those voters that you appealed to?

DEAN: I think if you understand John Kerry you have to take him at his word. John Kerry has served in Washington 20 years on the foreign -- I mean, on the Intelligence Committee, on the Foreign Relations Committee. He has an understanding of foreign policy that George Bush never did have and probably still doesn't.

He favored giving full responsibility to the chief executive, who he assumed would use it in a reasonable way. George Bush did not use it in a reasonable way.

I don't find fault with that. I would have voted differently than Senator Kerry. That was a difference that we had during the campaign. But the truth is, the difference between John Kerry and I is very small compared to the difference between George Bush and all of us. And that's why I'm supporting John Kerry.

I don't think George Bush gives me much confidence in the future of our defense. And I think John Kerry has made that very clear.

CROWLEY: And I understand that. But getting out to vote is about passion. And what you were able to do was to take the anti-war voters and really make them passionate about voting. And I'm wondering if that position can instill that sort of passion in November?

DEAN: I think a lot of people in the press made the same mistake that you just made. It turns out I supported the four prior wars. I supported George Bush Sr.'s Iraq war, I supported the Afghanistan war, I supported -- of this president -- I supported Bosnia and Kosovo. I didn't support this war because I didn't think the president was telling us the truth. I still think the president wasn't telling us the truth.

Not only that. Even today, why would anybody in the military trust this president? He sent them to war without equipment, he sent them to war 50,000 short of what General Shinseki told them they needed.

And today, a year after we've been in Iraq, he's now saying, well, maybe we should give the National Guard some benefits. Why would anybody in the military trust this president with our defense?

The reason that I inspired Democrats is I was able to stand up and say, this president does (says) one thing and does something else. He has done it today again. I wouldn't trust him -- I wouldn't trust him if I was in -- had a friend or a family member in the armed services today.

CROWLEY: Well, let me get back to Doug Bereuter. I don't know if you heard, but a congressman from Nebraska, both on the Intelligence and other committees, a Republican, he's retiring, he says, 'look, it was a mistake to vote for this war, it's gotten us into a mess, and I made a mistake.' Wouldn't that sort of statement, which was fairly easy for him to make, be a lot more effective towards voters who, regardless of how they felt about past wars, are also against this war?

DEAN: You know, I give Kerry some credit here. It would have been the easy (thing) to say, is, "Oh, yes, I made a mistake," and cater to the base. I think John Kerry said what he would do.

He -- what John -- if you served in Congress as long as John Kerry has, you believe in giving the president of the United States the traditional latitude that the president gets in foreign policy and military affairs. The mistake was not John Kerry voting that way, although I would not have done that. The mistake was giving that authority to a partisan president who did not care about what anybody else thought.

He was bound and determined, as Paul O'Neill said in his book, to go into Iraq long before 9/11. He did it, he misused his authority. That's what the issue is, and that's why I'm supporting John Kerry for president.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about your future role. Win or lose -- and I think that the calculation is different if John Kerry losses than if he wins -- what happens to the Democratic Party that you were quite critical of in terms of being an insider, Washington party, special interest, kind of lost its voice, not the real wing? What happens to the party after November and what is your place in it?

DEAN: Well, I have no idea my place in it. I think that will be determined by a number of factors. But, as you know, we started an organization called Democracy for America after the campaign ended. We have almost 1,000 people running for offices. I've got -- and a lot of those are school boards and county commissioners. I'm going down to Texas this weekend to promote some people's candidacies, including somebody running against Tom DeLay.

We need to go back to the grassroots of the Democratic Party if we're going to take back our country from the radical right wing that's now running it. This is not a matter of conservative versus liberal. This is a matter of a group of people who are intolerant of others, who don't care what they think, who are shipping our jobs to China and who can't balance the budget.

We don't have to put up with that. But you are -- we are going to put up with that unless we're willing to do something about that at the local level. So I intend to continue to try to get people at the local level to stand up for themselves and run for office.

CROWLEY: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, former presidential candidate, I hope you'll come back and talk to us again soon.

DEAN: Thanks, Candy.

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