Real Time with Bill Maher

October 15, 2004

This page extracts the Howard Dean portion of the interview. For the full Bill Maher episode, complete with witty skewerings of the Shrubya Administration, go to the transcript on Bill Maher's site. For that matter, check out all his other shows, Main Maher transcript page.

. . .

But first up, earlier today I spoke with the founder of Democracy for America, and author of You Have the Power. You all know him as the guy who ran for president this year, Governor Howard Dean.

[applause] [cheers]

MAHER: Governor, Dr. Governor...

HOWARD DEAN: Thanks for having me on. This is great.

MAHER: Please, you're one of our returning champions. Yes. We've had you on a lot. You're like that guy on "Jeopardy."

DEAN: That's right.

MAHER: We just can't seem to find a guy who knows more answers than you. So, I'm not going to ask you who you thought won the debates because you're a loyal Democrat obviously.

DEAN: That's right.

MAHER: This is not spin alley and so we – I know you're going to say Kerry. [Dean smiles and nods his head vigorously, "yes"] So, let's go right to the next question about what that means to you personally, on a very personal level, if Kerry wins, it's bad for you. Come on. If Kerry—

DEAN: It's great.

MAHER: Are you kidding?

DEAN: Send George Bush back to Crawford, Texas? That's the best thing for the country and for me. [applause] [cheers]

MAHER: No, but I mean, for you personally. You're still a relatively young guy – from politics anyway. Especially – and you're in good health, you're a doctor, so – I mean, if Kerry wins, that's eight years you're out of it. If Kerry loses, then your people, who are very legion out there, and very passionate, we heard them today when you just walked out, they're going to say, "Look, okay, we tried Al Gore, we tried John Kerry, we tried these droning centrists. Now, next time, you're going to give us the candidate we wanted to begin with, in 2004, and it's going to be Howard Dean." Come on, that is... [cheers]

DEAN: Here's where I am. You know, that's all the fun part of it. But the truth is that what I have in common with the 700,000 people who are really cranked up about our campaign, or whatever the number was, is that we want fundamental change. So, sure, it'd be great to be president, da-da-da-da-da. What would be really great – you know what would be really great?

MAHER: You say it, "Well..."

DEAN: What'd be really great is to have health insurance—

MAHER: "...I can take it."

DEAN: –for every American, right? That's what we really want, you know. [cheers] It'd be really great to have a president who thought that it was important to be the moral leader of the free world again. Those are the kinds of things we want. So, you know, sure, do I wish I were the nominee? Of course, I wish I were the nominee. But the truth is, I'm not, so I've got a great choice.

MAHER: Okay.

DEAN: I can pick somebody who's going to do the right thing, or I can pick somebody who's been doing what they've been doing for the last four years—

MAHER: Yeah.

DEAN: –to the greatest country on the face of the earth. He needs to go back to Crawford, Texas.

MAHER: Well, okay. [applause] [cheers] All right, please... they're going to think we stacked the audience with Democrats.

DEAN: We would never do that.

MAHER: I don't know how that happens in Hollywood here. You know what bothered me was the things that were not mentioned in these debates, not mentioned at all. The drug war, not mentioned. You know, George Bush, who has this – he's just the man who knows evil when he sees it. The Sudan, pure evil—

DEAN: Right.

MAHER: –going, never mentioned in the debate. And this isn't corporate – Kerry didn't mention it either, the corporate stranglehold that's going on in America, the Ralph Nader issue. The environment, only came up once, when a citizen in the second debate asked it.

Now, I mean, it seems to me that these are issues that should have been raised. If you were the candidate, would you have raised some of those issues?

DEAN: Well, we have to be fair to both candidates on this one. The truth is, the candidates didn't get to raise many issues. The moderator controls the agenda, and the people in the audience raise the issues. So–

MAHER: But, come on, Doc.

DEAN: –it's true.

MAHER: But they also don't answer the questions. I mean—

DEAN: Some of that went on, too.

MAHER: –George Bush was asked about taxes and a million other things, and his answer every time was, "No child left behind." [laughter] So, you can raise the issue if you want to.

DEAN: Yeah. You know, that's right . That's right. And I agree – I fundamentally agree with you. But, you know, I used to have a lot of people come up to me after I gave a speech and they'd say something like, "Well, you didn't raise the environment," or something like that.

The thing is, if you're giving a 30-minute speech, you can't fit it all in, in 30 minutes, unless you want to do, which I think is kind of awful, which is to sort of mention everything, so that people can't come up and say, "Well, you didn't mention the environment."

Well, if you mention the environment and you don't say anything substantive about it, what good did it do to mention the environment. So, I – I'm a little sympathetic with the candidates on this one, I have to say.

MAHER: Well, they had—

DEAN: I agree we should be talking about Darfur and we should be talking about – particularly about renewable energy, and we should definitely, given what's going on with Sinclair Broadcasting, be talking about the corporate stranglehold in America.

MAHER: We're going to talk about here tonight. But I mean—

DEAN: But it's not entirely the candidate's fault.

MAHER: As far as the environment goes, I mean, do you think that an average American is more likely to be killed by terrorism, or by the fact that there's too much mercury and coal in the air? I mean, you're a doctor, this week we found out that... Vioxx, right – Vioxx – can ease the pain and stiffness of arthritis by killing you. [laughter]

Apparently 27,000 people was the figure in the paper, who may have been killed by Vioxx. 3,000 died on September 11th, which is awful, but, I mean—

DEAN: Right.

MAHER: –the whole campaign is about that, and it seems like this barely makes the papers.

DEAN: No. And one of the reasons – and I think a lot of this is part of the media's problem – I'll give you another interesting statistic, which used to drive me crazy during the Vietnam War, we lose as many people every year on the highways to automobile fatalities as were killed in the entire war—

MAHER: Yeah.

DEAN: –in Vietnam. People don't talk about that—

MAHER: Right.

DEAN: –because it's become a commonplace occurrence . The other reason they don't talk about it, it would require congress and big corporations actually spending money to protect people, which they're not very interested in doing.

MAHER: Right. [applause] One of the questions that comes up in the debate, almost all of them, was "why are health costs up so much." And to me, none of them were addressing the elephant in the room, which is the reason why health costs are up so much is because America is in the slow process of poisoning itself to death. [smattering of laughter]

The air is not clean, the water is not clean, our food supply is awful. The things that we put in our body, the aggregate toxicity, I think, is responsible for most of what is going on, and our health costs going up. And just the way they used to talk about a military industrial complex, would you agree that there is some sort of a medical pharmaceutical-food industry complex? Where there's a lot of profit in getting us sick, and a lot of profit in selling us pills that don't really get us better? [applause]

DEAN: Well, now you're going to see the more conservative side of me. The answer—

MAHER: Doctor...

DEAN: I do believe there's a medical industrial pharmaceutical complex, but I don't think the food industry is part of it. I really don't think – I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist. I think the food industry puts out plenty of things that are bad for us, but I don't really think they deliberately – the doctors want to make people sick so then they can get them better and crank up their P&L sheets.

MAHER: All right... not—

DEAN: I don't—

MAHER: Not deliberately. Not deliberately. But I do think there is – I wouldn't call it a conspiracy, but I think there is just too much motivation on the part of everybody to keep this merry-go-round going, and not tell people what really would make them healthy.

DEAN: Let me put it in a different way. Let me put this in a different way. [smattering of applause] Here's what I think. I think the problem with the country is that we operate on a sickness model, not a wellness model. It's a nicer way of saying what you just said.

MAHER: Uh-huh.

DEAN: Basically, we treat people who become ill. What we don't do is do a very good job in keeping them healthy in the first place. And that is true. And because the whole system is around making people better who become ill, we lose all the educational benefits, all the things we could be doing, all the things we ought to be doing, in terms of food safety, that we're not doing, we lose out on all that, because the emphasis is on sickness. But I really don't think there's a conspiracy to make people sick so we can heal them. That I don't agree with.

MAHER: Next time you come back, I do want to pursue this.

DEAN: All right.

MAHER: Because I do – don't get a flu shot, it's bad for you. [Dean laughs] Dr. Howard Dean, thank you very much, Governor.

DEAN: Thanks very much.

MAHER: Howard Dean, everybody. [cheers] [applause]

DEAN: Thank you.

. . .

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