Interview on CNN Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics

August 6, 2003

HEADLINE: Huffington in, Springer out, no Word on Schwarzenegger

GUESTS: Garry South, Howard Dean

BYLINE: Judy Woodruff, William Schneider, Bruce Morton

Arianna Huffington is in California's gubernatorial race, Jerry Springer is out of the Ohio Senate race, and there's no word on Arnold Schwarzenegger's stance.

WOODRUFF: Howard Dean's campaign says the number of people signed up to attend Dean meet-ups has topped 75,000. Some 338 Dean meet-ups are scheduled around the country just tonight, and the candidate is to be at one in Des Moines, Iowa.

The former Vermont governor is with me now from Creston, Iowa, where he 's meeting with undecided caucusgoers.

Governor, good to talk to you.

DEAN: Thanks for having me on, Judy.

WOODRUFF: I want to bring up, first of all, something former New York Governor Mario Cuomo had to say today. He's urging Al Gore to get into this race. He said the Democrats are not speaking with a single voice. He said it's not a chorus, it's a babble. And he said this a field without a positive agenda.

What do you say?

DEAN: Well, first of all, I think Al Gore's terrific, and if he did get in the race, I'd certainly welcome him.

Secondly, I think I have a very positive agenda. My agenda is jobs for America, a foreign policy consistent with American values and health insurance for all Americans and consistent with a balance budget, which is what we did in Vermont. Balance the budget, gave health insurance to all kids and all working low-income people. If we can do that in my small state and balance the budget, we can do that in America.

WOODRUFF: So Mario Cuomo is all wrong?

DEAN: Well, Maria Cuomo is a very well-respected statesman in the Democratic Party, but on that—on the issue of not having a positive agenda, I think I would respectfully disagree.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about something your competitor Joe Lieberman had to say just two days ago. He said, talking about you and the other so-called left leaning candidates in the Democratic field, he said these are people who are going to pull the Democratic Party into the wilderness. And he said you would have a tough time winning the election if you did win the nomination.

DEAN: Well, in all due respect, I am the only one other than Bob Graham that's ever balanced a budget, that's ever appointed a Supreme Court Justice in my state. I'm the only one that's ever delivered health care in the entire field to anybody, both as a physician and a governor. So I actually think that I am—I'm the centrist in race. Joe's a little more conservative, perhaps. But I governed as a centrist in Vermont, I'll govern as a centrist as president.

WOODRUFF: Well, what do you say, though—that he also said at this AFL-CIO forum last night that the Democrats aren't going to win with a candidate who is weak and ambivalent on national defense,meaning—referring to your opposition to the war.

DEAN: Well, I—with all do respect, I think that those who voted for the war, bought, hook, line and sinker the president's assertions that there was uranium bought in Africa, which wasn't true; that there was a link between al Qaeda and Iraq, which wasn't true; that Iraq was on the verge of getting nuclear weapons, which wasn't true; that the secretary of defense knew exactly where the weapons were, which wasn't true.

If you are running for president of the United States and you accept on face value five months before the war starts, then I think you need to have some hard questions about—asked about why you didn't ask those questions before you gave the president authority to go to war and not after.

Look, I supported the first Gulf War. I supported the invasion of Afghanistan. I will never send American troops abroad without telling the people the truth about why they're going there. That's why I think I'm electable.

WOODRUFF: Governor, your opposition to this war, there are two polls—some polls I want to cite to you now done by CNN/Gallup/”USA Today,” one of them showing 63 percent of the American people still believe that war was worth fighting. Another poll showing 65 percent believe the Democrats' criticism of the president on the war are all about politics and not about valid points.

DEAN: I think some of the Democrats that may be true for, but since I've consistenly opposed the war based on principle and regardless of what the polls show, I think I would have to be excluded from that group.

WOODRUFF: But what about the fact that almost two of thirds of Americans are saying the war was worth fighting?

DEAN: Well, I don't agree. I think it's very hard to go to war when you haven't been truthful with the American public about why you went to war. And right now, I think the Iraqi people are better off and right now, for the moment, America may be safer.

We're going to be there for a long, long time. We're losing American soldiers at the rate of seven or eight a week, and I believe that in the long run we would have been better off in terms of our own safety, had we continued to contain Saddam Hussein, which we could have done indefinitely. The time to remove Saddam Hussein was in the first Bush administration, when he was murdering tens and thousands of Shiites. The United States chose not to do that at that time. I thought that was the wrong choice then because I think the United States has a right to intervene to stop genocide. But suddenly, 12 years later, to decide that Saddam is a big danger to the United States on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, I think is a mistake.

WOODRUFF: And, finally, governor, one of your rivals, John Kerry, has a campaign manager, Jim Jordan, who is saying, among other things—he's saying, until you can convince Americans and especially women that you can keep this country safe, they're not going to hear you on the other issues you're trying to talk about.

DEAN: I agree with that and I think that my record in terms of being tough and forthright in what I believe in is what's going to keep this country safe.

This president, for examples, chose tax cuts over buying the enriched uranium stocks of the Soviet Union under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Agreement. This president chose not to inspect the 94 percent of the shipping containers that come into this country because he gave tax cuts instead. This president chose tax cuts instead of funding homeland security for the states and cities.

It seems to me when it comes to homeland security, this president has talked a great game, but it's all hat, no cattle, as they say in Texas.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to leave it at that. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean talking to us from Creston, Iowa. Governor, it's good to see you.

DEAN: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much. Talk to you again soon.

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

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