CNN Crossfire

Iowa City, IA, September 1, 2003

GUESTS: Tony Coelho, Dan Lungren, Howard Dean, Tom Nides, Steve McMahon, Steve Elmendorf, Cruz Bustamante, Art Torres, Dana Rohrabacher

BYLINE: Charles Feldman, Suzanne Malveaux, Candy Crowley, Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson, Judy Woodruff, Bill Schneider, Rusty Dornin, Bob Franken, Bruce Morton

The presidential race shifts into high gear. Howard Dean, who is leading the pack of possible Democratic presidential replacements, discusses his candidacy. How are Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and some of the top challengers spending their Labor Day?

WOODRUFF: Possible voters and everyone else will be seeing more of Howard Dean soon. The Democrat is launching TV spots in six states this week. The doctor turned governor, now presidential candidate, is leading the Democratic pack in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. He's taking a break from campaigning in Iowa this afternoon to join us.

Governor, thank you for being with us.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Judy. And hello, GW. Thanks for all the help you're giving us, too.

WOODRUFF: Well, we want to ask you first about taxes. Yesterday, Senator John Kerry said, “When you look at Howard Dean's position on taxes, on repealing the Bush tax cuts, what he really wants to do is raise taxes on the middle class.” In fact, he said, “If you're a $40,000 a year income earner, Howard Dean is going to raise your taxes more than 20 times.”

What do you say to John Kerry?

DEAN: Well, I think it sounds like John's using the Bush Treasury Department's numbers, which we know are cooked. The bottom line is this: what Democrats can't afford to do is what Democrats have done in the past, promise everything to everybody.

What I want to do is fund special ed, have a health care plan that's comprehensive, which actually costs about as much as Senator Kerry's does, although it's a little more comprehensive, and begin to invest in America so we can have jobs in this country again. Now, we discover that when you crunch the numbers, you can't do that unless you get rid of the Bush tax cuts.

So I guess my retort is, if you're not in favor of getting rid of all the Bush tax cuts, tell me what you don't want to do. But don't go and tell us you're going to balance the budget, promise them everything, because people don't believe that from politicians anymore. And that's why we're doing well, is because we're not going to say things that aren't true.

WOODRUFF: But taxes would go up on the middle class, right?

DEAN: Taxes will go up on the middle class? Let me tell you about taxes on the middle class. This president has raised taxes on the middle class indirectly. Forty-eight percent of the people in this country got less than $100 on the tax break.

Let's talk to the GW students. Has your tuition gone up a lot? Has your Pell Grant gone down? Because the president cut Pell Grants in order to fund taxes.

WOODRUFF: All right.

DEAN: Most middle class people, whatever they got, are paying more in local taxes and college tuition than they ever got from the president. All I want to do is reduce people's property taxes and level out the income tax rate. Most Americans would gladly pay the same taxes they were paying when Bill Clinton was president if only they could have the same economy they had when Bill Clinton was president.


WOODRUFF: All right. Governor, I want to ask you about a couple things. As you've done better in your campaign, you have changed or modified your position on a couple of different issues. For example, on social security, you once talked about raising the retirement age to 70. A few months ago, you said you'd consider raising it to 68.

Now you say that's not an option. That you can find another way to fix Social Security.

DEAN: Sure. I don't think there's anything different...

WOODRUFF: I was just going to say, when it comes to the trade embargo—go ahead.

DEAN: Well, I don't think there's anything different than I've done than anybody else. Some of the people who have gone after me on that have had their own prescriptions, for example, for means testing Social Security or raising the retirement age and looking at different things. You have an obligation to look at different things.

Bill Clinton proved that if the economy goes well, you take in more payroll taxes and you don't have to raise the retirement age. What we may have to do, however, is eliminate or reduce—excuse me, increase the cap on wages. Right now, a CEO who gets $40 million pays the same Social Security tax as somebody who makes $86,000. That doesn't make any sense. That's how you can fix Social Security if you have to fix it.

WOODRUFF: But my question, Governor, is not just on this, but on the trade embargo with Cuba, which you once said should be undone and now you said you're still in favor. Should voters expect you to continue to change positions as you're more successful in this campaign?

DEAN: Let's see what I did say about Cuba. What I said is, in general, I think we ought to deal with the removal of the embargo gradually in return for human rights concession. I said that about six months ago.

Since that time, Castro has locked up an enormous number of human rights dissidents for very lengthy terms. It seems to me that this is not the right time to reduce the embargo on Cuba it if it ends up having the appearance of rewarding Castro for even more repressive behavior. I think in the long run, it is a good idea to enter into constructive engagement with Cuba, but we should not do it now.

Look, I'm not ashamed to change positions that I have if the facts dictate that they ought to be changed. The hallmark of this administration is, if you have a fact that contradicts your theory, you throw the fact out. I'm a doctor. I don't throw out facts, I throw out theories.


WOODRUFF: All right. Let me ask you about something else that John Kerry said. John Kerry said “Howard Dean has zero international experience.” And he went on to say that you've really never explained how you would have dealt with Saddam Hussein, how you would have held him accountability.

Can you explain in a nutshell? John Kerry says he doesn't understand.

DEAN: I can tell you exactly what I said from the beginning is that Saddam should be removed by U.N. forces. And in the meantime, we should contain him.

Look, I've been in more than 50 countries, which is more than the president of the United States will have been in by next November. I have more foreign policy experience than Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush did when they took over the presidency. And let me tell you something else. I figured out with my foreign policy team as an outsider that George Bush wasn't being candid about the purchase of uranium from Africa, that he wasn't being candid about Saddam Hussein making a deal with al Qaeda.

There are more people from al Qaeda now in Iraq attacking us than there were when Saddam Hussein lived there. If I could figure that out, and all the other major candidates were being misled, I don't think we want that kind of foreign policy experience in the White House. We need somebody who can see through misinformation and make tough decisions.

WOODRUFF: Governor, let me also—I want to also ask you about—you know, you are doing well, we know. We've said this in Iowa, in New Hampshire, some key early states. But there is some veteran political observers in the south.

A man named Farrell Gilary (ph) who was a veteran reporter in North Carolina, he's now a professor at the university there, who says when it comes to the rest of the country—and I'm quoting him—he says “another northeastern liberal, the prospect is that it could be just another Dukakis or McGovern landslide for Republicans. The way that Republicans could treat him and depict him could set the stage for landslides that could take Democrats down in the south.”

Are you worried about having that effect on your own party?

DEAN: No, actually, I'm not. As a matter of fact, I balance budgets. No Republican president has balanced the budget in 34 years in this country. You can't trust them with your money.

The South lost tons of jobs as well. And my position on guns, because I'm from a rural state, is much more conservative than other Democrats will be. So I think I'll do better in the South than most other Democratic candidates, and I think we need to have somebody who will do well in the South.

WOODRUFF: One other quick question, governor. You said some time ago that it would be a big issue if any Democrat were to opt out of spending limits and raise money without any limit on the amount that could be raised and spent. Now we understand that you were seriously considered doing this yourself. Is this—again, is this another example of saying one thing and turning around and doing something different?


DEAN: Well, let's look at what really happened. I was speaking of someone who was able to self-finance their campaign. George Bush has gone outside the limits to finance his campaign with $2,000 donations.

We're financing our campaign and doing it better than any other Democrat with $58 average donations. The only way to beat this president is to get a lot of people to give you $58. That's exactly what we're going to do.

So I'm not—we're not going to do this to win the Democratic nomination. Because I don't think we're going to have to do it. But we may have to do it to beat George Bush if we can do it. And I'm going to beat George Bush, and I don't care what it takes.


WOODRUFF: All right. I was going to ask you, Governor, if you think you're going to win the nomination. But obviously if you think you'll win the election, presumably you think you're going to win the nomination.

Thank you very much, Governor.

When we return, we're going to have more questions for Howard Dean, including questions from our studio audience. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: All right. Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is with us from Iowa City, Iowa. And let's turn now to the audience here at George Washington University to find out what they want to know from the candidate. All right. First question for Governor Dean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. My name is Anthony Deangelo (ph), and I'm from Florida. I'm a student at American University. My question for you, Dr. Dean, is, with so much of the country and your party leaning towards the centrist point of view, how do you plan on appealing to the center while still adhering to your left-leaning views?

DEAN: Well, I am a centrist. I balance budgets. Nobody else in this race other than Bob Graham has ever balanced a budget.

My position on guns is that—we have no gun control in Vermont. My position on guns is we ought to enforce the federal laws and then let states decide how much or little gun control they want. I also believe in health insurance for every single American and I believe in jobs again in this country.

I think that makes me a centrist, and I think that's how we're going to beat George Bush. George Bush is not in the mainstream of where American politics are. And I think most Americans believe in fiscal conservatism. I've exhibited that.

Most Americans believe in social progressivism. I've exhibited that. And that's how we're going to beat George Bush.

WOODRUFF: All right. Another question for Governor Dean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Dean, hi. Bill Reilly (ph) from Nashburn (ph), Virginia. You've clearly been against the war in Iraq. If you became president today, in what way would you change our current military involvement in Iraq?

DEAN: I would begin immediately to bring in United Nations troops, NATO troops, and some Arabic-speaking troops, preferably from places like Egypt and Morocco, who are strong allies of the United States. By doing that, we'll be able to bring our guard and reserve troops home and be able to reduce the tour of duty to six months again.

We need to internationalize the occupation of Iraq. Because if we don't, we're going to continue to be the victims of al Qaeda's attacks and other attacks in Iraq. We can't leave Iraq. We can't pull out, because if we do that, chaos ensues or else a fundamentalist Shiite regime may arise with undo Iranian influence, both of which would be more dangerous than Saddam Hussein.

So in order to preserve our national security situation, we need to continue the rebuilding of Iraq. But it can't be done solely by Americans.


WOODRUFF: All right. Governor Howard Dean joining us today from Iowa City, Iowa. Governor, we're going to let you go back on the campaign trail. We thank you very much for joining us today. We appreciate it.

DEAN: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Content and programming Copyright 2003 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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