National Public Radio -- All Things Considered

Sunday, February 15, 2004

HEADLINE: Howard Dean discusses his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination



And we did speak with Howard Dean himself a little bit earlier today about his campaign plans. And we started by asking about the way his thinking has changed about the importance of winning Wisconsin.

Dr. HOWARD DEAN (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Wisconsin is a state that's been very hard hit by the president's economic policies, or the lack of them, I should say. They've lost an enormous number of manufacturing jobs since this president's taken office, and they've also been forced to pay higher property taxes, higher college tuition. And it's a state with a long history of tradition of electing populist progressives, going back to Bob La Follette, Bill Proxmire, Russ Feingold, of course. So it's a state that we think we can do well in.

INSKEEP: It's a state where, as people have noted, you at one time said you had to win, and now you've changed your mind. Can you describe why your thinking has changed there?

Dr. DEAN: Well, of course, we really do need to win here, anyway. I mean, it's an important state from that point of view. But we have enormous numbers of supporters all over the country. We had really set this up so it would be a national campaign. And I think it's fair for people to want to stay and support reform. We're really trying to reform the Democratic Party and the country as a whole. And in order to do that, we've really got to have at least one candidate that's not dependent on special interests for money, and I'm not. And so an awful lot of our supporters don't want this campaign to stop, and we're going to oblige them.

INSKEEP: What you're saying about special interests I want to ask about in a moment. But before I do, on this program yesterday, our correspondent Robert Smith reported that you had no appearances scheduled after the Wisconsin voting at this time. What are your plans after the voting on Tuesday?

Dr. DEAN: Our plans are to take-we actually will make some appearances, but our plans are to take stock, try to figure out where we are, spend a lot of time talking with supporters. If we win, clearly, we mount a full-fledged campaign in all the Super Tuesday states; if we don't win, then we've got to figure out how we're going to continue the campaign.

INSKEEP: And, of course, when you say Super Tuesday, just for those who aren't familiar, at the beginning of March, all on one day there are votes in New York, California, Ohio, a lot of other places. And that's going to be quite expensive-Isn't it?--to campaign in those states.

Dr. DEAN: Well, I think it's so expensive that nobody will have the money to go on television there. That'll be a series of votes having to do with, really-I mean, the nomination will really be well set after Super Tuesday.

INSKEEP: Now, Governor, you mentioned special interests. On the 30th of January, you said that John Kerry, currently the front-runner, had the same financing habits as a Republican. And I wonder, in your mind, is there no difference between John Kerry, if he were your party's nominee, and President Bush when it comes to taking money from special interests?

Dr. DEAN: Well, I wish there were. The president, of course, has been far more egregious. You know, Senator Kerry is unable to plunder the Treasury. So in terms of sheer audacity, the president far outstretches anything a member of the legislature could do.

INSKEEP: Do you think it's possible, Governor, that if John Kerry were to become your party's nominee that some of your statements about John Kerry and special interests would end up being quoted by Republicans this fall?

Dr. DEAN: Oh, I'm sure they will, just as the things that John Kerry's said about me would have been quoted had I been the-when I was the front-runner-would have been quoted if I had been the nominee.

INSKEEP: Do you foresee any possibility of a third-party candidacy, a serious third-party candidacy, either on the left or the right in this election year?

Dr. DEAN: Oh, I hope not. I'm going to do everything I can to discourage such a thing. That is, on the left. Now certainly, if somebody on the right wants to run a third-party candidacy, I mean, I may encourage that.

INSKEEP: You would encourage that, Governor?

Dr. DEAN: Sure. I mean, anything that'll take-look, we need to win the presidency. We're not going to survive as a world economic power if this president is able to continue in power for four more years. You cannot run half-trillion-dollar deficits year after year after year.

INSKEEP: And one other thing about the campaign here. We heard in this past week about a group of Democrats who paid for ads saying that you would be soft on terrorism. There was a visual of Osama bin Laden on the screen.

Dr. DEAN: Mm-hmm.

INSKEEP: You're very familiar with those ads, I'm sure, Governor.

Dr. DEAN: You're right. I am.

INSKEEP: In your view, have your fellow Democrats waged a fair fight against you?

Dr. DEAN: There's no such thing as fair in politics. But this really is a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party, and it's a battle against the kind of rather sleazy stuff that goes on in the establishment party. I thought that Senator Torricelli, who's raising money for Senator Kerry and helped finance these ads, is sort of the represen-the poster child for what's the matter with Washington. I haven't actually ever heard-I've been involved in politics for a long time. I never heard of a case where two candidates cooperated through a secret political action group to go after a third one. But you know, politics is-as Winston Churchill used to say, 'This is the worst system in the world except for every other system.'

INSKEEP: Are you charging that these two candidates, Kerry and Gephardt, actually did cooperate through this secret political action group?

Dr. DEAN: Well, it does seem circumstantially since the personnel from both campaigns worked on it. And since their sources of funding were the same sources that funded their campaigns that that might be a likely conclusion, yes.

INSKEEP: Because if they did deliberately collaborate, I would think that'd be a violation of a number of laws. That's what your charging here.

Dr. DEAN: Well, I'm sure there are ways of getting around that. You know, you don't have to have Senator Kerry and Representative Gephardt on the phone together to get something like this done.

INSKEEP: Have you been surprised at all either about the way that you rose so remarkably, the the manner in which that happened, or the way in which you've gone so remarkably in poll numbers and in caucuses and primaries recently?

Dr. DEAN: No, not really. But you know, the media-we were a creation of the media, to a certain extent. They were fascinated by us. The other candidates didn't seem to be able to get their campaigns off the ground. And then when they did get their campaigns off the ground, part of it was a very concerted attack, I think particularly after Al Gore endorsed us, I think that other folks felt, 'Gee, they might really win.' And then there was the real-a sort of a collective shudder in the Washington establishment, and that did result in a lot of different treatment than one might ordinarily expect.

INSKEEP: How would you stop Senator Kerry's momentum now?

Dr. DEAN: Oh, I think it's very difficult. I think he's got tremendous momentum. Certainly, we did make a concentrated effort in Wisconsin and we'll see how that pays off on Tuesday.

INSKEEP: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean.

Governor, thanks very much for speaking with us.

Dr. DEAN: Thank you.

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