Real Time with Bill Maher

September 3, 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, he is the former Vermont governor and the Democratic presidential candidate who got his party's blood moving this year. He now heads Democracy For America. Howard Dean up here! [applause] [cheers] Governor.

HOWARD DEAN [via satellite]: I can't hear anything.

MAHER: Are you there?

DEAN: I'm here. Finally, at last.

MAHER: Oh, okay. I didn't know if we had the connection there. How are you doing, Governor?

DEAN: We had a great connection until Zell Miller challenged me to a duel. Then I knew I was in trouble. [laughter] Hey, you know, I shouldn't be seizing control of the show—

MAHER: No, please.

DEAN: But I got such a kick out of that. I knew that my “Yahoo” was nothing compared – they'll never run that again. Now they've got Zell Miller challenging Chris Matthews to a duel.

MAHER: You're right. He's – he's the new crazy man of politics. [laughter] [applause] But I'm going to get to that. But I want to ask you first. I mean, you have to admit – I know you're a Democrat, of course – but this was, you've got to say, an impressive convention. They did everything they wanted to do. Bush came out with a huge bounce. When Kerry's convention ended, they said, “Well, there's no undecideds, that's why he didn't get a bounce.” Obviously, there's a bounce to be had. The Republicans got it. Is this election slipping away from the Democrats?

DEAN: I doubt it. As you pointed out in your opening, there's an awful lot of stuff that was said up there that was – I'll put it a little more politely than you did – “not true.” [laughter] And eventually that catches up with them.

MAHER: All right. Well, listen, you—

DEAN: I mean, he get a degree of difficulty: 9.0; factuality and truth, about 0.0.

MAHER: Yeah, well…[applause] We'll see which matters to the American people. But you lost this race in the primaries to John Kerry because people said you weren't elect-able. And I'm wondering, now John Kerry, it seems to me, by staying very close to President Bush on a lot of key issues – he's not that different on Iraq; he's not that different on tax cuts; he's not that different on gay marriage – seems to have paradoxically made himself less elect-able.

DEAN: Well, to be fair to John Kerry, George Bush adopted John Kerry's position on the war rather than the other way around. [applause] Kerry's position on the war – Kerry's position on the war was essentially the same as mine. Now that we're there, you can't just pull out right away. You've got to bring in foreign troops and substitute them for our Guard and Reserve, who have no business being over there for this kind of length of time, and make this an international reconstruction effort. And George Bush has now adopted that position. The difference is he's incapable of doing it because he's managed to insult everybody whose help he needs to get foreign troops into Iraq and bring ours home. [applause]


DEAN: Geez, Bill, I like your audience a lot!

MAHER: Yeah. [applause] [cheers] Fair and balanced.

DEAN: You know what? We're going to take them to Vermont , and then we're going to go to New Hampshire . And after that, we're going to go to Iowa ! And then we'll go to Missouri ! [applause] [cheers]

MAHER: You know, I have to say – I have to say, you know, considering that a lot of people think that John Kerry is not looking that strong nowadays, it just seems to me that people are saying, “Maybe we have buyers' remorse about this Democratic election. Maybe Howard Dean was a loose cannon, but at least he had a cannon!” [applause] And a little red-faced screaming would look pretty good right now.

DEAN: [overlapping] Let me just – let me – right.

MAHER: I mean, really, doesn't John Kerry look weak when he can't even take on George Bush? I mean, at their convention, their mantra was “we're not going to attack the Republicans.” And meanwhile, the Republicans tore his face off. And I think people say, “Look, if you can't even attack a guy like George Bush, how are you going to deal with a smart guy like Bin Laden?” [laughter] [applause]

DEAN: Well, George Bush hasn't done such a great job finding Bin Laden either. If you can't find a guy who is 6-foot-4 and dragging a dialysis machine behind him in the desert, you've got a big problem. [laughter] [applause] You know, let me be fair to John Kerry for a second. John Kerry – there is two people in this country who know how tough John Kerry can be when he has to be. One is Bill Weld and the other is me.

MAHER: Right.

DEAN: I do think that John Kerry is a tough closer. I do think he is going to close this gap and I think he's going to ultimately win because in the long run, the people of the United States want somebody in the White House who is a real grown-up, not somebody who has crazy theories about sending troops to Iraq and allowing North Korea to become a nuclear power while you're doing that. [applause] If you want to be safe – you want to be safe, you ought to worry about Iran and North Korea instead of sending 135,000 people to Iraq and having 950 of our brave American men and women die as a result of theoretical neo-conservative nonsense.

I'd like somebody in the White House for a change who actually had some experience in combat and had some experience in leading America , because I don't think we ought to be sending troops – especially by people who have never served one day in their life in the uniform of the United States of America . [applause]

MAHER: Well, okay, I'm glad you brought that up because I don't know for sure if this election is slipping away, but it seems to me like Iraq is slipping away. It seems to me like Iraq is becoming more like Afghanistan instead of the other way around. We don't control a good deal of that country. I don't know how they're going to have elections if they don't control so many of these major cities that they've turned over to the insurgents. What would you do? Say you are a key advisor to John Kerry; he wins in November and takes office in January. What would you advise we do about Iraq ?

DEAN: Well, first of all, you have to understand that people in this world really do want to cooperate with the United States . We have the lowest approval rating that we've ever had since the end of World War I because of the actions of President Bush. So there's going to be enormous upwelling of positive – I think – of positive change in attitude towards the United States as soon as George Bush goes permanently back to Crawford , Texas . [applause] People want to like Americans. They just can't stand George Bush. So I believe that the first thing John Kerry is going to do is go to our traditional allies, including our Arab allies, and ask them to help us police Iraq so that we can bring our Guard and Reserve home. We can bring some of our troops—

MAHER: Who – come on, who wants to jump on that sinking ship? What ally is going to say, you know what, good offer, we can't wait to get there and have our people beheaded?

DEAN: No, I think when you realize that what George Bush has done in Iraq is turn a country that was dominated by a horrible dictator but no danger to the United States into a major danger to the United States, because now we're facing the possibility of a Shiite theocracy or a government dominated by Al-Qaeda. Then I think the Europeans and even the Arab nations like Jordan and Egypt and Morocco, who have already talked about sending troops, will be more willing when they realize they are threatened themselves by what George Bush has done in Iraq, to send some troops. It is a morass. It is a mess. But George Bush has turned a minor problem into a major problem, and we have to fix it. [applause]

MAHER: Okay. Governor, you look tan, rested and ready. 2008, think about it. All right, Howard Dean, ladies and gentlemen. [applause] [cheers] All right, time to meet our panel. [applause]

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