CBS' The Early Show

Thursday, November 6, 2003

HEADLINE: Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean discusses his remarks about the Confederate flag and possible rejection of federal campaign funding


HARRY SMITH, co-host:

As we noted, Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean has been on the political hot seat. The former Vermont governor has been criticized for a reference he made to the Confederate flag. He's also thinking about becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate ever to reject federal campaign funding and campaign spending limits. Governor Dean is with us this morning.

Good morning, sir.

Former Governor HOWARD DEAN (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: Let me just get back to this. These are comments you've made on the stump over the last couple of months about, 'I want to be the candidate for guys with the Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.' You were asked to apologize for those remarks during the Rock The Boat debate earlier this week and you refused. You've had some second thoughts. Where are you today?

Dr. DEAN: Well, what I—what I did was give a speech last February which said something like that which has gotten huge applause from the Democratic National Committee which is between a quarter and a third African-American. However, as the time went on, the remarks got more condensed, the media short-handed it, we short-handed it, and it became a painful symbol because the Confederate flag is a painful symbol to African-Americans all over the country because it reminds us of the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. And clearly I made a mistake in using that symbol and I shouldn't have done it. We do need to bring white voters and African-American voters together in the South or the Democrats are not going to win anymore and I want to do that on economic grounds...

SMITH: So you...

Dr. DEAN: ...because—but—but it was clearly...

SMITH: So you acknowledge it's a mistake—it's a mis—it's a mistake to use those words, but are you going to apologize for it?

Dr. DEAN: Oh, I did. I have. I did apologize yesterday. I think, you know, for whatever pain that I have caused. Now I talked to a lot of African-American supporters, most of them were fine. They knew just what I meant. But I think I did cause pain to some African-Americans and also some Southern whites who felt that they were stereotyped because they don't have a Confederate flag and—and so forth and so on. And so I think—I just need to be more careful in my choice of words and I do apologize for the—for the pain. But I also want to say that we are going to have a dialogue on race in this country. We have to do it. If we don't do it, this country cannot be the great country that it needs to be. We still have racial problems in this country, racial divides; African-Americans with clean records have a harder time getting a job than whites with drug convictions. And in a country like this, that should not happen.

SMITH: Let's talk about the federal matching funds. You said last March already that you would take them. Now you've decided to leave this up to your supporting base and—and let there be an e-mail vote. Why did you decide to change your mind?

Dr. DEAN: George Bush has raised $200 million from corporate interests. Even the president of one of the largest mach—companies that makes voting machines has said that he'll do whatever he can to make sure George Bush gets re-elected which isn't very—doesn't give you much confidence in the electoral process. And in the face of $200 million raised from these corporate special interests that the president has, we need to compete with that. If we take federal matching funds, we only get $45 million. We can't spend anymore. So what we're going to do is ask our supporters if they're willing, in small donations, to try to match the president. And that vote's going on now. It'll be over Friday at midnight. And we'll announce the results on Saturday.

SMITH: Isn't this counter to some of the things you've said, though? Because you've said that campaign spending is out of control. I—does it seem like now a—sort of disingenuous for you to say, 'Well, listen, if I—if I can't beat him the old way, I'll just join him'?

Dr. DEAN: Well, we're not exactly joining him. We're getting our money from 200,000 people and up who are giving us $75. That's how we outraised everybody in the third quarter. It's a whole lot different than the president getting $2,000 checks from the largest corporate interests in America. The fact is, if we—if we're maxed at $45 million, he gets to beat the daylights out of us between March and August with his $200 million and we can't win that way. So we're going to give our supporters the choice because they're going to have to raise the money for us if we decide not to take public financing.

SMITH: I've got about 30 seconds left. The Service Employees International Union is going to give you its endorsement today. It certainly seems likely. What does that mean to your campaign?

Dr. DEAN: We hope they do give us their endorsement. The vote is this afternoon. It—it's a huge boost to the campaign. They're the largest union in the AFL-CI—CIO. They're a very diverse union. It's going to help our campaign and the Democrats enormously if we could get that endorsement because it does mean we have a great chance of taking back the White House.

SMITH: Governor Dean, we thank you for your time this morning. Do appreciate it.

Dr. DEAN: Thank you.

SMITH: Right-o.

Now here's Rene.

RENE SYLER (Co-host): All right, Harry. Thanks.

Copyright 2003 Burrelle's Information Services

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