National Public Radio -- All Things Considered

Friday, January 23, 2004

HEADLINE: Howard Dean discusses his campaign and place in the polls



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

With four days left until the New Hampshire primary, polls show a widening lead for John Kerry. And it was Kerry today who called for anger, saying it's time to get angry and restore real democracy. Meanwhile, polls show Howard Dean running second. And throughout the week, he's been trying to shed an angry image.

SIEGEL: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean joins us from upstairs at Martha's Exchange Restaurant in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Governor Dean, over the past 24 hours, you were on “Primetime with Diane Sawyer” with your wife, who had joined you in Iowa. You read the Top Ten on “David Letterman.” When other politicians have done such things, they said they're trying to reinvent themselves. Is that what you're doing? Or, if not, what's happening?

Dr. HOWARD DEAN (Democratic Presidential Candidate): No, I'm not really reinventing myself. What I'm really doing is trying to get the message out, the message that if we really want to change America, we're going to have to change the whole Washington culture, not just presidents. And it's hard to do that when the media's running tapes of you hooting and hollering in Iowa every 10 minutes. So I just thought I'd laugh at that.

SIEGEL: This has been a problem all over-the attention given to that speech you made in Iowa.

Dr. DEAN: Well, it's not a real problem, it's just the problem is getting the message out.

SIEGEL: Much of President Bush's State of the Union address the other night was about Iraq. He is going to run very strongly, it seems, on what he has done not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq. Do you still stand by the judgment that Americans are no safer for the capture of Saddam Hussein?

Dr. DEAN: That's absolutely correct. And the evidence is that a few weeks after his capture, we found the spectacle of commercial airliners being escorted into American air space by jet fighters, American fighters. We found that we'd hit 500, in terms of the death toll in Iraq, and it was very clear that we were no safer. And the reason we were no safer was not that Saddam is a nice man. The reason we're no safer is because it's the wrong target. If we had put 500 lives and $160 billion on the line to get rid of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, America would be a great deal safer.

SIEGEL: For much of the past year, we've regarded you, on the basis of polling, as the front runner in New Hampshire. And now we regard you, on the basis of the same polling, as the guy who slipped down into second place and has been slipping. Must you win in New Hampshire? Is it vital to your presidential campaign to show that you can win in the state next door to the state you come from?

Dr. DEAN: It's not vital. You know, if you'd told me I was going to come in second in New Hampshire a year ago, I would've been delighted. You know, I was the front runner for a long time. The price that the front runner pays is to have intense media scrutiny and, of course, become the pincushion for all the other candidates. So I'm not the front runner anymore; it's kind of nice not to be running as the front runner. But we're going to work really hard to try to come back. And the message that I have is a message that I think people from New Hampshire really like, which is tell the truth, don't promise everything to everybody, and be fiscally conservative. All those I fit well with, and they know me 'cause I have lived next door for so long.

SIEGEL: Before I let you go, I just want to return to your efforts to get beyond the replaying of that speech in Iowa the other night. Were we seeing enjoying yourself, or were we seeing the side of you at that moment that you had concealed up until this point in the campaign? Explain to us who that Howard Dean was who was giving out that yell.

Dr. DEAN: Well, the best way you can explain it is to look at the tape and turn the sound off. It was in some ways a joyful moment...

SIEGEL: We can't do that on radio, you understand.

Dr. DEAN: There were 3,500 kids there all waving American flags. We had not done as well as I'd hoped in Iowa. I felt that it was my obligation to those kids who'd spent three weeks coming from all over the country-I thought I owed them something. I owed them to pump them up, I owed some fun. And that's what we had. Was it presidential? Of course it wasn't presidential. But I'm not presidential at a hockey game when my son scores. I jump up and down also. And so, you know, I'm not perfect. I'm an ordinary human being, and this campaign is about putting ordinary human beings back in charge of America instead of corporations, which is what's going on now.

SIEGEL: And are you, by the way, disappointed that in Iowa at least, more young voters and more first-time voters weren't coming out for you in the caucuses? More of them seemed to come out for John Kerry. What happened?

Dr. DEAN: I think when there's a momentum switch, there's a momentum switch. And again, taking that pounding for six or eight weeks as the front runners didn't help. But now we're in New Hampshire, we're looking forward, things are turning around, and we'll just have to see how they go for the next four years-four days. And hopefully, four years as well.

SIEGEL: Governor Dean, thank you very much for talking with us.

Dr. DEAN: Thanks so much.

SIEGEL: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean speaking to us from Nashua, New Hampshire.

Copyright 2004 National Public Radio ®.

--- End ---



Back to Dean Speeches

Or else I'm just a Luddite