The Majority Report on AirAmerica Radio

April 2, 2004

Browse this interview by topic

Janeane Garofalo: (This is the Maj)ority Report, I'm Janeane Garofalo with co-host Sam Seder, and our next guest needs very little introduction, so I'm just gonna say: on the line from Vermont is Governor Howard Dean, and Governor, we are so pleased to have you.

[sound of clapping in the studio]

Governor Howard Dean: Thank you.

Garofalo: (?) would be applause, I don't know if you can hear that...

Dean: That's really applause for you, you did a great job here on the campaign, and I appreciate it.

Garofalo: Oh, no problem, and I'd love to take a moment to just thank you for galvanizing myself and millions of other Americans in--

Dean: -- Well, now, we've just got to keep them galvanized til November, so we can have sanity back in the White House again.

Garofalo: So why don't you tell us a little bit about your organization, Democracy For America?

Dean: Yep. We started a new organization,, and we want everybody to go visit it on the Web.

What the Republicans did, about 15 years ago, was to begin to infiltrate city councils, school boards, county commissions, with these kind of these right-wing extreme people, who we've now seen have now taken over the White House. And, we want the country back for ordinary people. These folks are ideologically motivated. That means they care about philosophy and ideology but they really don't care very much about people's quality of life, or health insurance for kids, or good public schools, or any of those kinds of things. They'd like to take us back 2 or 3 or 400 years, and I wouldn't like to do that, and I think most Americans are with us.

So, we're gonna, through this organization, encourage people to run for office, we've got 200 of them across the United States now. Many of whom are former Dean backers, but some are not. Mostly Democrats, but there'll be some Greens and Independents and even moderate Republicans who are in the organization. Just to try to get some normal, sane people in public office and build a "farm team," so we can gradually work our way up through Congress and the Senate and put some thoughtful, middle-of-the-road policies back in charge of America.

Sam Seder: Governor Dean, I also want to thank you. I think you've set up the Democrats for victory in November, and I think you've also, sort of rescued the Democrats from some of the mistakes that they were headed down, through the wrong path, and I think you put them right on the...

Dean: Well, we're only gonna find that out if we win in November. No, otherwise it'll have been a valiant effort that doesn't work, and that's really not acceptable, because there's gonna be too many people that-- without jobs, without health insurance, too many people lose kids (who) are sent to Iraq and aren't coming back.

Garofalo: Well, if we keep our eyes on the Diebold touchscreen voting...

Dean: Right.

Garofalo: ...I think that would be a good thing, a good first step. The touchscreen voting has me a little concerned.

Dean: It should. I'm not an expert in this area, there are experts. One of the first things John Kerry and I talked about when we met after the nomination was essentially over, was that issue. And I heard that every single day from ordinary people when I'd go out and talk to all these different groups that you talk to when you're trying to get yourself elected. There's a lot of concern on two fronts.

First of all, the technology's not accurate, it's not very good. There's no reason not to have a paper trail so that we can recount the votes. And the worst thing is that the president of the corporation that makes the voting machines has sent a letter around saying he's going to do everything he can to make sure George Bush gets elected. Well, you know, [laughs sardonically] that doesn't give you a lot of confidence in the electoral procedure.

And of course, 'Bush vs Gore', the case that, where the Supreme Court gave Bush the Presidency, doesn't give me much confidence in the electoral procedure either.

Garofalo: Well, I think that that's been one of the things that you've been very instrumental in tapping into is the anger felt by millions of Americans when they felt that there was a grave miscarriage of justice in the 2000 election, and when the Supreme Court basically installed Bush into the White House...

Dean: The interesting thing about that, is for me the anger is not that George Bush ended up as President. We've had 3 situations in the past where presidents who got fewer popular votes than their competitor ended up in the White House. The thing that really was bad, was what the Supreme Court did. They did this for political reasons, not for legal reasons. There was no legal, real legal basis in doing what they did.

This particular conservative Supreme Court has made a big deal about respecting local courts and state courts. They overturned the Florida Supreme Court's verdict that they ought to have a recount, and refused to count the votes a second time. I never heard of such a thing. So they fundamentally undermined Americans' faith in democracy, and I don't think they're suited to be Supreme Court justices as a result.

Seder: Now, I have to agree with you. I think what happened with the Supreme Court was probably one of the most damaging things to happen to this country...

Dean: --I think that's right.

Seder: generations. I mean, at the very least, I think legal scholars always used to accept the fact that there was some ideology in Supreme Court decisions, but it's as if this Supreme Court, this five-person majority, didn't even pay lip service to the notion of appearance or pretense, basing a decision upon precedents that that majority had set in the past.

Dean: That's right. That's right. I mean, this is a court which has lost its legitimacy, and that's what is really bothering Americans. I think there are a lot of people who disagree with George Bush, it's -- I'm one of them. But what we've seen is a crumbling of the democratic system. It's been pretty insidious and I think most Americans haven't noticed it, but it's real. When you don't respect the courts any more because you believe their motivation is not upholding the law, or the Constitution, but upholding ideological principles which transcend the law, then you've got a very serious problem in (our) democracy.

Seder: Well, you know, I think the right likes to give the Democrats a tough time, 'When will you get over it'? And I decided that I'm going to be getting over the 2000 election the day after Scalia is impeached.

[They laugh]

Dean: There we go.

Seder: We'll probably go out and have a nice dinner, celebrate it. And then the next day I'll forget about it.

Dean: I love George Bush talking about 'activist judges', when he's talking about gay marriage...

Seder: Exactly.

Dean: If it wasn't for activist judges, George Bush wouldn't be President of the United States!

Garofalo: No kidding! That's the kind of dishonest language that really insults me, 'activist judges' and things like 'partial birth abortion' and 'death tax,' neither of which exist.

Dean: That's right.

Garofalo: There is no 'death tax', it's called the 'inheritance tax,' and it affects estates which I believe are above $3.5 million. And the 'partial birth abortion' is a procedure called 'dilation and extraction', that is done very rarely, and I find that I am insulted by that kind of language and by saying 'activist judge'.

Dean: These guys, you know these guys have a pollster, who I actually like, very bright, named Frank Luntz, who teaches them to talk like that. That's what they pay him a lot of money for. He goes out and he tells them, "Don't say you're gonna put 500% more mercury in the air, call it 'the Clear Skies Initiative'. Don't say that you're gonna make it impossible for the public schools to succeed, call it 'No Child Left Behind'." And that's how they get these names for these things that do the opposite of what they say.

Seder: Well, I have to say that "Toupee Frank" [Garofalo laughs] is one of my favorite pollsters... and he was actually also written up for ethics violations in '97...

Dean: Is that right?

Seder: Yeah, for fibbing about the "Contract For America", which he actually helped draft, and then "fudged" some results as to whether or not Americans were still interested in it.

But with that aside, let me ask you this question; one of the big things that I think has got Democrats a little bit worried, is the Nader campaign. You know, from your perspective, because I think you brought in a whole new group of people into the Democratic Party, and have started a grassroots movement that I think the Democrats have lacked for a long time. What do you say to people who are interested in the Nader candidacy, in terms of what the differences between Democrats and Republicans are?

Dean: Well, I think we've learned, since 2001, what the differences between Democrats and Republicans are. I think Democrats by and large have not lied to get us into war. Democrats by and large do not believe in enormous tax cuts for the biggest corporations in the world and essentially raising middle-class taxes, as George Bush has done, by raising property taxes, raising health insurance premiums, raising college tuitions, because he's underfunding things like Pell grants and Medicaid and so forth. He-- this President's cut half a million children off health insurance since he's been in office. A million adults-- that has to be paid for by somebody, so your health insurance premiums go through the roof. It actually-- the "Bush Tax" increase-- the largest middle-class increase in the history of the country.

So, there's a big difference between Democrats and Republicans. I actually met with Ralph Nader yesterday, and tried to get somewhere with him... didn't, with that. But there's a huge difference.

And, here's how I figure this. You know, I was disappointed that I didn't win, and we had a progressive agenda... But my choice is now between John Kerry and George Bush. And that's who the choice is between. It's not between Ralph Nader and John Kerry and George Bush, 'cause Ralph Nader's not gonna be President, he knows it, and everybody else knows it too. So, you can either vote for George Bush, or if you wanna elect George Bush you can vote for Ralph Nader. There's two choices you could make to help elect George Bush. I'm gonna vote for John Kerry 'cause I think there's a really big difference between John Kerry as President, and George Bush as President.

Garofalo: But, I think most Democrats are of that mind at this point. It would be really kind of a self-defeating exercise to vote for Ralph Nader, even though one might think it's voting their conscience. But, a vote for Kerry this time around is definitely voting one's conscience, because if we were to have eight years of Bush, it would be devastating, and [wryly] it would bring on "the end of days." [this gets a few chuckles]

Dean: Well, first of all, yeah, I believe we-- we're gonna have a half trillion dollar deficit a year under George Bush. Social Security-- his Chairman of the Federal Reserve is already trying to cut Social Security benefits so they can give more tax cuts to people who make a million dollars a year. This is insanity, what's going on in Washington, very bad for the country. Because ultimately when the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest in our society gets too big, you get the kind of social unrest that we had in the Depression.

So, we can't afford four more years of George Bush, the middle class is suffering enough as it is. He doesn't care about middle class people. That's why there've been no jobs created in this recovery. The stock market's going up, which is good for his pals, but it's not very ... it doesn't have much of an effect on middle class Americans. So we really do need a change.

Now, my argument with those who may wanna support Ralph Nader is, "look, this is not the year. If you wanna make a principled statement that the two parties aren't doing enough for campaign financing, I'll be the first to agree with you. But this is not the year. Do that in 2000. Do that in 2008."

In fairness to Ralph Nader, nobody could have predicted that he was gonna end up costing Al Gore the Presidency. And a lot of people who voted for Ralph Nader said, "Well, what's the difference here. We've got two politicians, and they're saying this, and they're saying that." Well, that clearly turned out not to be true. And everybody knows how dreadful George Bush has been for this country now, in terms of his complete mismanagement of the economy, his total failure to tell the truth about why we went to Iraq. We still don't know why we went to Iraq.

And, so there's no excuse for saying, "well, I'm going to make a philosophical statement in this election." 'Cause there is an enormous difference, and that difference is translated on the street to small children, to the public school system, to wage earners, to single women. You know that more women filed for bankruptcy last year than graduated from college? That is the world of George Bush. And we need to change that, and voting for Ralph Nader is gonna prolong it.

Seder: Now, I think you're absolutely right, and we have two Nader voters from 2000 sitting... [laughs] sitting here in this studio... [Garofalo laughs too] and...

Garofalo: (?) mea culpa, would I mea culpa is...

Dean: Nobody knew at the time. You know, nobody-- I didn't know how bad a President...

Garofalo: -- Well, Katharine Harris is to blame. I mean nobody knew about what Katharine Harris was gonna do, and you know Greg Palast's book, 'The Best Democracy Money Can Buy', is a great learning tool for what went on during the 2000 election.

Seder: The Democrat did win in 2000, and it just...

Garofalo: -- And that is without any media assistance. You know, the Democrats always have a tougher time with the mainstream media, and they've got no talk radio assistance -- until now--

Dean: Right!

Garofalo: -- and Pacifica Radio with Amy Goodman.

Seder: And that's a perfect segue, actually, into our first break, so that we can get commercials to pay for all of this.

Dean: All right!

Seder: So you're listening to Majority Report, we have Governor Howard Dean on the line, he's going to be back with us for a couple more moments after we get back.

[Commercial break]

Garofalo: Welcome back to the Majority Report on Air America Radio, I'm Janeane Garofalo with Sam Seder, and it is our great honor to be talking to Governor Dean on the phone.


Seder: -- I'd like to applaud again.

Garofalo: -- applaud again, yeah!

[sound of clapping]

Garofalo: Yes!

Dean: Don't go overboard, I'll get back in the race!

[Seder and Garofalo laugh]

Garofalo: I wish! I wish... I tell ya, I loved being in Iowa. I loved it.

Dean: You guys were great. I appreciated the help.

Garofalo: It was, you know, one of the most wonderful things about working on your campaign and being in Iowa was when we went out to meet some of the young people who had come from all over the country.

Dean: Yeap.

Garofalo: ... to help out in Iowa, and they were in bunk beds, and the cabins out in Iowa somewhere... And they were just the most idealistic, most wonderful young people from all around the country, who really believed in something, and were inspired by you. And it was really, just wonderful to see-- and seeing you speak live was just fantastic for me and for millions of other Americans.

Dean: You know what my favorite gig was? The night we did that big thing in New York, at the opening of the, of that club that was in a church...?

Garofalo: Avalon.

Dean: Avalon. That was dynamite.

Garofalo: That was really fun, except I don't like to dance in front of people.

[Dean laughs]

Dean: Didn't we dance together?

Garofalo: We did a little bit, and I... get so embarassed dancing in public.

Dean: Believe me, those people didn't care. They were dancing themselves, they had a great time.

Garofalo: Yeah, but they don't struggle with the insecurities that I do, I think is the issue. But I-- getting back to something I think is probably of great interest to you, is a story that many people have been following, is how the White House politicizes science. And, how incredibly dangerous that is, and very recently, 20 Nobel laureate scientists condemned the Bush White House and their policies regarding global warming and other scientific --

Dean: -- Interestingly, Janeane, this actually one of the reasons I decided to run. These folks don't care about the facts. If they could get away with teaching creationism in the schools, they would. And--

Garofalo: -- And they're trying to.

Dean: Well, yeah, I know. You can't run a country, you can't run a state, you can't run your family, you can't run a business, if you don't care about the facts. And they don't.

One of the extraordinary things in this administration is their blatant disregard and misuse of science. We talked a little bit about the "Clean Air -- Clean Skies Initiative", which puts 500% more mercury in the air for us to breathe. Taking the word "condoms" off the HIV portion of the CDC website... I mean, most people understand that if you're not willing to talk about condoms, you're not gonna stop the spread of AIDS. These guys don't do it, for ideological reasons. They make things up, and they pass them off as truth.

The general-- one of the generals, General Eric Shinseki, testified before they went to Iraq that they needed another 50,000 troops. They didn't care, they just didn't pay any attention, and did what they wanted to do. Facts don't matter to these folks. They make it up as they go along, they do what they want. That is very, very bad for the country. Making up stuff about the size of the deficits... making up the number jobs we were gonna see, only to have to retract it later on. And they do it with no shame whatsoever. The great failure of the American media is, that they aren't doing the kind of investigative journalism on this White House that they should have been.

Seder: The entire... Washington is littered with just people who have been intimidated for actually coming out with, bureaucrats, for coming out with what actual numbers are.

Dean: Right.

Garofalo: It's like a, it seems to me that in Washington right now, with the Bush Administration it's like going to Catholic high school, where there is intimidation, and the people that are like, the hallway bullies are the least likeable. And they completely rule by fear. It's almost like the Cosa Nostra inside the Beltway, and it's very insulting -- again, if I can use that word -- thing to see, and I think that, you know, when you bring this up, Governor, about how they don't care about people, that's absolutely clear. They -- and it really galls me when Bush Sr., at some oil industry dinner or other, got all emotional saying that 'he is tired of intellectuals and elites criticizing his son.'

Now, first of all, that's code, that's language for, code words for, that's red meat for the dopes, so they go, [she uses a 'dopey' voice here:] "does he mean liberals and John Kerry, intellectuals and elites?" First of all, you gotta be worried when somebody is frightened of intellectualism. That's (a). And (b), who's more elite than the Bush dynasty? That's about as -- so it --

Dean: I wouldn't have really called it the 'Bush dynasty'. When you think of what they have not contributed to America. I'm trying to think of three good things that either President has done for this country, and I come up with... pretty short. [chuckles drily] Now, I do think that Bush's father did us a ser-- I supported the first Iraq war, as you know, because I thought that when you invade another neighboring country, we have an obligation to come to their defense if they're our ally. But I can't think of a whole lot that -- I wouldn't really call them a 'dynasty' because they haven't accomplished anything. Um...

Garofalo: -- Well, I meant 'dynasty' in the Blake Carrington, Crystal Harrington way.


Dean: Uh, huh.

Garofalo: Fictional.

Seder: They've been able to amass a massive fortune for themselves.

Dean: Well--

Garofalo: Through the Carlyle Group being just one example of ...

Dean: I don't know much about that, but I do know that they've looted the country, they've looted the Treasury, half a trillion dollars a year, tax breaks for Ken Lay and the boys, and taking it away from middle-class people who are trying to send their kids to college. That is the kind of thing I think we need to stand up against. This is our country. The middle class people built this country, not people like the Bushes, and we need to remember that.

[Garofalo and Seder both start to speak at the same time]

Garofalo: Well, that's why they ha-- I'm sorry, Sam -- I was going to say, that's why they really did have a distaste for leveling the playing field. That's why that, a lot of right-wingers, especially in this Administration, cannot stand any kind of social justice program, or grassroots organization that attempts to level the playing field.

Dean: Their philosophy is, 'if you're rich you deserve it, and if you're poor you deserve it,' and that's not the kind of country I grew up in, and that's not the kind of country I wanna have any more. That's why we need to change governments here.

Seder: Governor Dean, you may have a better sense of this. Has there ever been an administration that is so lacking in policy people and so full with political hacks? And one that has been, just, so blatantly corrupt? I mean, it's -- I mean it-- there are times where I feel like we're living in a banana republic.

Dean: I think Warren Harding probably came close. I think this President... this President has, you know, this administration is much like Harding's. I don't even think Harding's vice president, whose name I don't recall, but I think it was Cox, [mutters to himself, too low to hear] ...his opponent, actually... But his -- our Vice President is on salary from Halliburton.

Seder: He still receives about $250,000 a year!

Dean: No, it's a little less than that, it's a little under a hundred thousand, it's vary-- it goes slightly down as his deferred compensation expi-- you know, grows towards its end. But, you know, that's a violation of the Federal Ethics Code. Nobody's doing anything about that.

Washington... both parties, really, are responsible for this, and the Republicans have carried it to a new art. But, both parties have -- are responsible for this. A thing called the "Truth and the Ethics Committee"... both the Republicans and the Democrats were using ethics as a political -- ethics probes as a political weapon against each other. Then both parties decided they wouldn't file any more out... so that's great. So now nobody files ethics complaints against members of Congress when they're found to, for example, go dove shooting courtesy of Halliburton.

We've got a really serious problem in Washington with our government, and we've gotta change that. I think sweeping these folks out of office will change it, and then the next job after that, is to hold the feet to the fire of both parties, to make sure they do what they're supposed to be doing.

Garofalo: Well, the Bush Administration really practices the philosophy of "Accountability Last". And, you know, you hear the phrase "drain the swamp", but I think a good swamp to drain first is the White House and K Street... and the American Enterprise Institute would be a good drainage place to go to.

Dean: Yup.

Seder: I gotta say, that's the thing that I think that was most impressive about your campaign, and it really is -- the really truly revolutionary part about it was, how it was financed. I mean, it's amazing, the discrepancy between the type of financing that you received, as opposed to really, any other candidates out there. Obviously, including Bush, but ... I mean, it really is revolutionary in American politics.

Dean: One of the things we hope to do in -- with, which I encourage people to go on the Web and look up, '' -- is to use the money we raise to teach other candidates how to do what we did. We raised $50 million -- an enormous amount of that was in small donations. I think the average gift that we had was well under $200. If we can teach candidates, even of both parties, to be honest with you, how to raise money like that, then that's gonna be the end of the special interests. Because if you're more concerned with people who've given you 50 or a hundred dollars than you are with people who write $2000 checks, or $5000 PAC donations, then that really is gonna change America, and begin real campaign finance reform.

Garofalo: Let me ask you a question about the 9-11 hearings that are going on -- "probably"(ph) they have been going on for much longer than we've seen on television these last couple weeks. But as you know right now, Bush is going to 'allow' Condoleeza Rice to testify. And then, the trade they make for that is that Bush does not have to testify under oath and Cheney has to be with him, because clearly the White House doesn't trust him on his own, to be testifying.

Seder: Cheney's arm is not long enough, to actually go up Bush's backside. [Garofalo laughs] ... to actually work his mouth. So he has to be in the same room, I think.

Garofalo: But I think it's preposterous that we have a President that cannot be trusted on his own to testify on something like this. And I think it's the audaciousness of this administration that allows them to get away with so much of this. Because I think so many people are just in... shock... over what's unfolding.

Dean: I think they're afraid. And a lot of them are afraid for silly reasons. There are some parallels between the Bush Administration and the McCarthy era, where people were just were so concerned about their own careers that they forgot what was good for the country. It's only when you forget about what your own career has in store, and stand up for what you think is right, that we make progress. And lo and behold, as Frederick Nye Welch showed ... [mutters to himself] I think it was Joseph Nye Welch... (it was) but anyway, Attorney Welch showed, when you stand up to the bully, lo and behold the bully turns out to be a house of cards.

And that's what we don't see in Washington, is people standing up for what they believe in. They get-- I think that's what our campaign was about, was standing up for what you believe, because when you do that, people will follow you.

You know, it's interesting, I went down and gave a speech last night* in Washington, to a group called 21st Century Democrats, which is a grassroots Democratic organization, and there was a bunch of folks down there who were big supporters, who were lawyers from Mississippi. So we were talking about Mississippi, and how conservative it is, and so forth, and these guys said, "you know what, you'd do great in Mississippi." I'm gonna go down there in a few weeks. Because, what people really like in Mississippi is not because they're so conservative, but what they really want is somebody to stand up and be strong. Because that's what they really want more than anything else.
*(this show was taped the day before it was aired )

Well, that's what this country wants. Somebody who stands up for what they believe in, and that's what I think Democrats are going to need to do to win. If we keep wimping away 'cause we're afraid of the Bush administration, then we're never gonna win, because people in this country don't like people who don't stand up for what they believe in.

Garofalo: That's absolutely correct, and the reason this has gotten so out of hand, with the rise of the right wing dominance in radio and media, is that so few people over the last 30 years since, I'd say, the late Lee Atwater, really kicked off a partisan slugfest during the Reagan years, is that so few Democrats, and people on the left, were willing to stand up, as you have, and really call them on their nonsense, and the myth-making that they-- and the myths they perpetuate, that somehow 'Democrats are always raising taxes,' and 'they're lax on security', when actually, the opposite is usually true.

Dean: Right. (It's) the Republicans who can't handle money, and certainly the Republicans have a much worse record on security in this country than the Democrats do.

Garofalo: That's exactly right--

Dean: -- You know, George Bush is proof of that. We're far less safe since 9-11 because of George Bush's mistakes, than we would've been, if Bill Clinton had been in the White House, for example. And I'll give you some examples of that. The President thinks it's fine to give 3 trillion dollars worth of tax breaks to the biggest corporations in the world, but he didn't have enough money to put in the budget to buy the enriched uranium from the Soviet Union. If that gets in terrorist hands, we've got a huge problem. The President didn't have enough money in the budget, because he was so busy giving tax breaks to his pals, to make sure that all the cargo containers get inspected that come into this country.

So, what we see is a President whose priority is not defense. His priority, when Richard Clarke told him about Al-Qaeda, was not Al-Qaeda, it was Iraq. It turned out that we spent 566 brave American lives attacking a country that was no threat to the United States. That is why this Republican President is a danger to America, because he's not strong on defense.

Seder: Now, when they talk about "winning the war on terror, I don't know how-- what kind of scorecard they use. I mean, honestly, I mean, I think, you know, you really-- I mean frankly, I don't feel like you were going out on a limb when you said 'we're not any safer now that Saddam Hussein is caught,' and it's clear that we're not. Now. In hindsight. But -- I mean --

Garofalo: -- No, it was clear right away. It was clear --

Dean: -- You know what, I never thought the media did much damage to me on that one, because people knew it wasn't true. And it sort of underlines what happens in the press.

The press is a failed institution in this country. They really have lost their way. Because what they did when I said that -- all the other Democrats jumped on me, because -- and the White House jumped on me -- but the press printed it. And without any analysis. Or any attempt to find-- figure out if we really were safer, or we weren't safer. And two weeks later, when F-16s were meeting foreign jetliners and escorting them to airports in America for the first time in a long time, maybe if ever, then everybody said, "oh, yeah, we're not safer." But, you know the media has just kind of lost its way, because it's become more interested in entertainment than it has in reporting actual things that happen, or doing serious analysis.

And the problem is, it's like the person who called "wolf". It's so bad that the ones that are doing a good job aren't paid any attention to any more, because when the media as an institution loses credibility as ours has, then the folks that are doing a good job still, get thrown out with the bad-- I don't bother to read the last two pages of any newspaper in the country any more. Because there's so much nonsense in there, that it's not worth my time to try to pull out the gems. So, it's another issue, and I'm still wrestling with how to deal with it. I think shows like this are great, because it does lend some counterweight to the poison of Rush Limbaugh and the wackos out there on the right.

But this isn't enough. We've gotta figure out a way -- obviously, the government can't run the media, the country's founded on the notion that government can't run the media, and it shouldn't. But we've gotta have some way of trying to get the media to be more responsive and responsible and realize that there's a public service that they have, and it's not just a matter of the bottom line. I know why they do what they do. Because editors and people who run the shows are always in favor of the flashy graphics and the shorter the content, the better, and the more jazzed up it is the better, and even at the expense of the facts. But it's terribly dangerous for the future of the republic. They have an obligation and a responsibility that they're not carrying out. And I haven't figured out how to get them to change that.

Seder: Well you know, there was a time, 20-30 years ago, where, even, you know, take for instance, network news... The networks' news divisions were responsible only for returning 10% profit on their costs, whereas the entertainment division was responsible for 25%, let's say. And now, they have the same responsibility, to return the same level of profits.

My feeling has always been, the American people own the airwaves, we've given them to the networks for free, to supposedly help this new technology called "television" out, and I don't see why we can't simply regulate that 'as a part of your public service responsibilities, and having the public airwaves, that you have to limit the returns on your news to 10% return on what you spend there, and you have to have a certain amount of hours of news.'

Dean: Well, I agree with a certain amount of hours of news, I think that's important. I think the limitation of profit, probably what would happen, instead of beefing up the news organizations -- because, you know, those networks in the old days did have a sense of public responsibility-- and I think that what they would do is just cut back on the expenditures.

Seder: That may be the case, but I always find that the less money you have in some type of profession like that, the more dedicated people you have--

Dean: That's true.

Seder: -- to the profession.

Dean: That's true. And I actually think that the three network news shows, by and large, are a better source of news than most everything else. I don't even watch cable TV news any more, 'cause it's just people paid to fill up air space with whatever nonsense comes into their heads.

Garofalo: Well that's just painful. MSNBC and Fox is just -- I don't understand how any--

Dean: -- They're all like that, though, even CNN does that. I mean, it's amusing if you're in politics, but there's not much content there.

Garofalo: That's true, but it makes me wonder, what motivated these people to get into that business in the first place? You know, when you watch, mostly -- I know CNN is guilty of this too, but I find shows like "Scarborough Country" and the ...

Dean: -- Well, that's just -- you can't take that stuff seriously, that's just entertainment.

Garofalo: How does it exist? How does it get there? How does the NBC--

Dean: I'll tell you what my theory is, but I don't know for a fact. My theory is, they have 24 hours a day, and they have 5 or 6 cable networks. They gotta fill it with something.

Garofalo: But why not something good?

Dean: Well, because what they care ab-- see, this is sort of -- this is part of the thinking that I haven't yet done on this. What I think is that there are a lot of (it is?) money -- and this is what the Bush Administration does -- in appealing to the worst in people instead of the best in people. It's always quicker and easier and less expensive, and you get more return for the buck in the short term, for focusing on people's-- on what's negative. On people's anger, on people's disappointment, on people's biases, on people's prejudices... and that's what shows like "Scarborough" or "O'Reilly", or even the Bush Administration does.

When George Bush used the word "quotas" to describe the affirmative action program at University of Michigan, he-- the word "quota", every pollster in America knows, is a race-coded word. It's a subtle message to white folks that 'don't worry, I'm on your side, I'm not letting any of quote, "them", take your position in university.' It's an appeal to bigotry and prejudice.

Now, that's what a lot of those shows do, is appeal to the worst common denominator in human beings, instead of the best common denominator. Because it's an immediate emotional payoff, and people tune into it, because they kind of enjoy that. Because part-- every part-- every person, including us on this show, has both a good side and a bad side.

I think what I'd prefer to do in the long-run best interests of the country, is take a longer view and try to appeal to people's best interests, but that's a little bit more difficult and it's not something that's easy to do and since these networks are principally interested in making money, that's not something they'd prefer to do.

Garofalo: Well, you have definitely done that, and we're going to take a short break right now, and we'll be back with Governor Dean.

[commercial break]

Garofalo: (Welcome back to Ma)jority Report with Sam Seder and Janeane Garofalo, we are here talking to Governor Dean on AirAmerica Radio.

So Governor, when we last left, you were talking about appealing to the worst in people. And what you did with your campaign, and what you're doing now, with your organization, Democracy For America, is raising all boats, as they say, by appealing to the best in us.

Dean: One of the things we want to do is focus on community, because people can relate to their own community more easily than they can relate to the federal government. So by getting local people to run for office, including a lot of idealistic supporters, maybe we can infuse local communities with some real idealism again, and give them some hope that they might actually have a government that cares about their own needs, instead of cares about perpetuation of power or some right-wing ideology.

Seder: Well, I think that's a tremendous goal, and I can't imagine there's anybody out there who can argue against it. We want you to know that as we get more and more stations across the country, and people are listening to us on the Web, anything we can do to help people running for local office, to promote Democracy For America, your organization at, we're here for you, we hope that you'll join us in our 'plush' [Garofalo chuckles] studios in New York City...

Garofalo: But feel free to always pick up the phone if you have anything you want us to talk about on the show that you're doing, locally and at the grassroots level with your group, Democracy For America. We would absolutely be honored to help you in that effort.

Dean: Thank you very much, and I hope I get to see you in New York one of these days.

Garofalo: Thank you so much, Governor.

--- End ---

Audio file of the interview.
Thanks to MoveLeft for providing this audio file on the Web, and to the Dean blogger who pointed it out. Thanks also to the person who took the trouble to set their PDA next to the speakers of their PC, or however they recorded this. It's skosh, it's distorted and odd-sounding, every so often there is a Windows sound effect-- but without it we would have no record of this interview. So thanks - Crocuta

Browse the debate by topic:



Back to Dean Speeches

Or else I'm just a Luddite