"This Week" with George Stephanopoulos

January 23, 2005

George Stephanopoulos: That was Kweisi Mfume on last week's program, Now we're joined by the man he's talking about, Governor Howard Dean, who is running for DNC Chair. And let me put up that map, that Kweisi Mfume was talking about. Boy there is just a sea of red across the country there and a lot of Democrats fear that you're not the man who can turn it blue. What do you say to that?

Howard Dean: Well, I say the Chairman of Mississippi, and the Chairman of Oklahoma and the folks in Utah and the whole delegation in Florida think I can change it. I'm doing fundraisers in these places, whether I become the Chair or not. You know, the way you win in the red states, George, is first of all to show up. We've conceded the entire South and a good bit of the Rocky Mountain West. We can't do that anymore.

Stephanopoulos: Is showing up enough though?

Dean: No, it's not enough, but it's a good start. There is a reason the trial lawyers used to pick Mississippi for their favorite venue before tort reform down there. Because juries in Mississippi are suspicious about large corporations. That's something they share with a lot of Democrats. In fact, a lot of Americans all over the place. There is no reason we can't win in Mississippi.

I have an organization called Democracy for America; we elected the first African-American judge in Montgomery, Alabama—or helped elect—the county executive in the largest county in Utah, state senators in North Carolina and Idaho and places like that. These are all red states. I think that we Democrats can win in red states. We've got to push what we do down to the states. We cannot run an 18-state strategy, it has to be a 50-state strategy.

Stephanopoulos: You know, we heard from a DNC member who loves what you're doing with that organization, he also says he expects you're going to bring a lot of energy to the party. In the email he also raises some concerns about you, I want to show them. He said, "1) He's worried that you're going to perform the role of a punching bag for the right as the embodiment of Democratic detachment and 2) That your candidacy is enforcing the press' view the Democrats are lost and dispirited by turning to a madman to lead us." You're talking to all of these delegates, and I assume that many are raising similar questions. How do you answer them?

Dean: [Laughs] Well actually, many aren't raising similar questions. Many believe that the way to win races is to run a 50-state strategy and build grassroots efforts and put money into all 50 states and the territories. The other thing that they believe is that we need a clear message.

Look, Newt Gingrich—who I'd agree with almost nothing about in terms of policy—but Newt Gingrich decided that he was going to try to take back the Congress by drawing a clear distinction between Democrats and Republicans. And he succeeded. Before that, the minority in the House—Republicans—were really kind of around the edges of what the Democrats were doing and they weren't getting anywhere. I think we've got to draw a clear distinction.

We have different moral values than what the Republicans say they have. They say their moral values are about making sure gay people don't get ahead and making sure that women can't make up their mind about their own kind of health care. I say our moral values are feeding hungry children, having job opportunities and educational opportunities for every single American, and restoring a foreign policy which is not just based on a very strong military—which I'm very proud of—but also strong moral authority, which this president has abdicated in the world.

Stephanopoulos: You say you want to draw a clear distinction, but right now Republicans have the White House, they have the House, they have the Senate, so drawing a clear distinction means opposition. You saw the charge that was leveled against Tom Daschle when he lost last year... obstructionist. How do Democrats avoid that charge?

Dean: Well, they're going to call us every name in the book, and that's what they've done for a long time. Look, there are some things we can support the President on. I happen to support the President on the notion that we ought to have elections on January 30th, so we can withdraw—

Stephanopoulos: In Iraq?

Dean: In Iraq... well I wouldn't mind here again either...[laughs] but in Iraq, so we can withdraw our troops as fast our possible in an orderly way. So there's some agreement that I have with the President. I daresay other Democrats find some common ground with the President. But the truth is, the President has embarked on a course which is bad for this country.

Borrowing $2 trillion and then cutting benefits for seniors is not a good thing for either our children, or for the seniors. I think Democrats are justifiable in standing up against a President who wants to cut benefits and then pass the debt onto our children. Those are the kinds of things we need not support the President on.

Stephanopoulos: Let's stick with Iraq for a second, you say you support the elections. A lot of people are wondering what happens the day after, and some Democrats are starting to say, what we need now is a fixed timetable for withdrawal. Marty Meehan of Massachusetts just got back from Iraq and called for that. Is that a good idea?

Dean: I'm not going to get into that—that's a policy area that Congress people are going to be responsible for. If Marty Meehan just got back from Iraq, who am I to come on a Sunday talk show and disagree with his assessment?

The way that I hope we're going to have a unified message—should I become the DNC Chair—is to sit down with the Democratic leadership in Congress and then find a common thread that will help us win, not just in Minnesota and New York, but in Alabama and Mississippi.

Stephanopoulos: In the short term, does that mean opposing the President's agenda?

Dean: It means opposing the President when he's wrong, and the President is frequently wrong. The President says nice words, but there's little follow up or the follow up is inconsistent with what Americans want. Which, as I said, is job opportunities and better opportunities for their children in education. And we need to do something serious about health care. We are the last industrialized country on the face of the earth that does not have some sort of health insurance for all of it's people. There's no reason we shouldn't join the rest of the civilized world in that area.

Stephanopoulos: You mention the President's nice words. What did you think of the Inaugural?

Dean: I thought it was nice words. Who could possibly disagree with "freedom" and "liberty"? Of course we want freedom and liberty around the world. I didn't hear anything about the mess he's created in Iraq, I didn't hear anything about health care, I didn't hear anything about jobs. You know, the stock market is doing okay, but ordinary people are not doing okay in this country and I think the Democrats are the ones that can fix that.

Stephanopoulos: Let me turn back to some of the other concerns that have been raised about your candidacy. One of them is that a lot of Democrats look back on your Presidential campaign, saw that you raised $50 million and then wondered what happened to it. Here's a clip from Knight Ridder—it said, "Dean's campaign raised a Democratic record $50 million, but he spent it as fast as it came in. They invested in expensive gimmicks such as Vermont chocolates for supporters and elaborate four-color fliers. After Iowa, only about $3 million was left." If you're going to be running the DNC, you're going to be running a $300 million enterprise. How do you convince Democrats you can manage that money?

Dean: First of all, we've obviously changed around the management team that we had in the campaign, we're not doing those kinds of things. Second, when I was governor, I was once rated (as shocking to me as it was to them), the fourth most fiscally conservative governor in the country by the Cato Institute—not exactly known as a great supporter of liberals. I would say that I have a long track record of fiscal responsibility. Terry McAuliffe has left the DNC in fantastic shape, fiscally. I went to visit with them, I'm convinced there are very good fiscal controls over there and that we will spend our money wisely.

Stephanopoulos: Some Democrats urging Terry McAuliffe to stay on.

Dean: I've talked to Terry about it and I'm going to let him speak for himself on that. I think that we always see those things come up in hard-fought campaigns. I saw it in the presidential campaign. I think he probably won't do that, but he should speak for himself.

Stephanopoulos: Why do you think that so many Democrats here in Washington—and I'll take two, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House and Harry Reid the Democratic leader in the Senate—are encouraging others to get into this race?

Dean: I'm very independent and I'm from outside of Washington. Washington has a peculiar culture that's different than everywhere else in the country. In Washington, it's very important to know your place and to have a place. People have worked hard to get to Washington, and once they are here, even second or third place is better than first place. I don't believe that in politics. I think there's only one place in politics that counts, and that's first place and I think it's time the Democrats took first place back.

Stephanopoulos: We've read that you've been talking a lot to former President Clinton, what kind of advice is he giving you?

Dean: I never say and I'm always asked. President Clinton is a delight to speak with and he gives great advice on practically every subject. I do talk to him from time to time, as well as other prominent folks in the Party, but I never reveal—

Stephanopoulos: Do you think he could have won last year's election?

Dean: I think Bill Clinton could probably win any election he ever ran for. We don't see people like Bill Clinton come along very often. The last one with that particular blend of both charisma and political savvy was probably F.D.R.

Stephanopoulos: And what lessons do you draw from that? I mean, the next time around do Democrats need a candidate that's from the South—

Dean: That's exactly what we cannot do. That's why I'm running for DNC Chair. Democrats hope that once in a while a John F. Kennedy or a Bill Clinton will come along and all of the sudden... aha. We can't do that. What the Republicans have is a better system than ours. Now we made great strides in this election, but the Republicans have 14,000 people on the ground in Ohio, we have to bring them in.

Now the next time, through training and through money to the state parties and building up state parties and grassroots organizations, I want to have a system that's as good as the Republicans'. And the time after that, I want to have a system that's better than the Republicans', because the one thing the Republicans don't do is empower their people on the ground. They give the orders from on high and then the masses go forth and do their bidding. I think if you empower people on the ground to make their own decisions, the Democrats can win again. I'm interested in this because of the systems, not because of the policy.

Stephanopoulos: We're just about out of time. Two quick questions. Would you vote to confirm Condi Rice as Secretary of State?

Dean: No. I think John Kerry and Barbara Boxer made the right vote. I think Condi Rice is a capable person, but her chief attribute in this position is loyalty to the President. I think we need someone who is an independent thinker who is willing to give the President advice that he doesn't want to hear. I don't think that's a hallmark of most Bush appointees.

Stephanopoulos: And how about Judge Gonzales for Attorney General?

Dean: I haven't made up my mind on that because it's too far out, but I'm inclined to agree with Senator Biden. I think Alberto Gonzales is a wonderful American story of somebody who started from nothing and has a tremendous career, but the torture memos are deeply, deeply concerning for any American Attorney General to have said it's okay to use torture under certain circumstances, which is essentially the thrust of those memos. That's of deep, deep concern to me.

Stephanopoulos: Governor Dean, thank you very much.

Dean: George, thanks for having me on.

Posted at DFA by Tara Liloia

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