CBS' Face the Nation

Bangor, ME, February 8, 2004

HEADLINE: Dr. Howard Dean discusses the presidential race



And with us from Bangor, Maine, Governor Howard Dean. Joining in the questioning this morning, Karen Tumulty of Time magazine.

Well, Governor, it's no secret the president was out on the Sunday talk show circuit this morning. He said that he went to war in Iraq because he knew from the intelligence that Saddam Hussein had the ability to make a weapon, and he said, 'We can't stand by and wait for the actions of a mad man.' What's your response to that?

Dr. HOWARD DEAN (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Well then how come i-in my view, how come he has done nothing about the North Koreans, who not only have the ability to make a weapon, but almost certainly do have a weapon? This president has some peculiar thing going on about Saddam Hussein. There's no question that he's a terrible person. There's also now-no question at this point that he was never a threat to the United States, nor an imminent threat to the United States. The president, for whatever reason, has not been truthful with the American people about why we went to war. Whether he was deceived by his own intelligence or the vice president's office, or whether he knew that he wasn't being truthful to the American people, we don't know. And if there were a Democratic Congress right now, there would be a series of very ser-ser-serious inquiries along the matter-along the lines of what was going on during Watergate.

SCHIEFFER: D-did I understand you to say that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to this country? Is that what you just said?

Dr. DEAN: Well, I, at the time, believed he was not an imminent threat, but he pro-posed a threat. Now we found out that he posed no threat. David Kay has very clearly said that he did not believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons at all when we went in there.

SCHIEFFER: But the president...

Dr. DEAN: That was a shocking admission.

SCHIEFFER: But the president just said he had the capacity to make these weapons and he said, indeed, he did pose a threat and that he had no choice that he had to protect this country.

Dr. DEAN: But that's totally inconsistent with the president's actions. The president has done absolutely nothing about North Korea, and in the three years he's been president, he's allowed North Korea to become a nuclear-armed power. So i-if Saddam is such an im-imminent-imminent danger who turned out not to have any weapons of mass destruction whatsoever, then what in the world is the president doing-doing ignoring the North Korea threat and hoping to get in and out of sputtering negotiations? Are we then to go to war in North Korea? Is that-is that what's next? I think this president has been completely inconsistent. I think there needs to be a bipartisan inquiry that is not appointed by the president of the United States, and if Congress was doing its job, they would ha-open an inquiry tomorrow to find out what really happened, just as they did in Britain to find out what Tony Bla-Blair knew and when he knew it.


Ms. KAREN TUMULTY (Time Magazine): Well, Governor, this-this inquiry, this-this commission that's been appointed is, in fact, bipartisan. Do you think that it can be independent? Do you think it can be effective and do you think the president should testify in front of it?

Dr. DEAN: I think this commission needs to be a great deal more independent than it is. If you were investigating the fact that we went to war, apparently, on false information, it seems to me that you need an inquiry is-that is not appointed by the president of the United States, no matter how good the people on it may be. They owe something to the president of the United States. They owe their appointment to the president of the United States. The president of the United States sent our troops to war. Over 500 people have been killed. Over 2,000 people have been wounded. We spent $160 billion. And now we find out there were no weapons of mass destruction. That is a major, major-I think a major error on the part of the president, a major error on the part of intelligence. I think we need to find out the truth, and I think we need to find out the truth before November of 2004. If Tony Blair can do it, we can do it here.

Ms. TUMULTY: Well, the president did say that CIA Director George Tenet's job is safe. But he also said-and I quote-I expected to find the weapons. Should somebody's head roll here and whose should it be?

Dr. DEAN: I think the president ultimately has to take responsibility for this, and I think we need an open statement by the president of the United States about what went wrong here. This is a major thought-I mean, a major new development here. We have gone to war. We've lost over 500 people, 2,000 people wounded, many of them permanently so; $160 billion spent at a time when we have a half-a-trillion-dollar standing deficit because of this president's mismanagement of the economy. It seems to me that an inquiry that is independent of the president must be undertaken, and that the president himself must tell what he knew and when he knew it.

SCHIEFFER: Governor, at the time Saddam Hussein was captured you said it did not make the United States any safer. Many people thought that-that when you said that, it may have hurt your chances in the campaign. Do you still feel that it made no difference, the capture of Saddam Hussein?

Dr. DEAN: It was clearly true that we are not any safer. I'm delighted that Saddam Hussein was captured. He was a terrible human being and he'll now get his just desserts. The problem is that two weeks after Saddam Hussein was captured, we then had code orange. We had fighter planes escorting commercial airliners into the United States' air space. We had the highest levels of alert that we've had since shortly after September 11th. It seems to me that it's very-and we lost an additional 23 troops in the ra-aftermath of Saddam Hussein's capture. It's very clear to me that Saddam Hussein's capture has made us no safer. And my Democratic opponents who pounced on that really were simply playing politics. I think you've got to be truthful with the American people, and that's in short supply in politics on both sides of the aisle.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's talk about politics just a little bit. Do you think that when you made that statement, that that did hurt your chances, that Saddam Hussein...

Dr. DEAN: I don't...

SCHIEFFER: ...made no difference?

Dr. DEAN: I don't know if it did or not. Look-look, Bob, I just say what I think is-is true. I can't gauge it on a politics scale. I mean, the-the person I admire the most that's been in the White House in the last 60 years is Harry Truman. Harry Truman said what he thought for the benefit of the-of the people and he didn't worry about the polls. The truth is, w-as great as Saddam's capture-and we're no safer. That's true. It's true now. It was true when I said it. Whether that kind of stuff hu-hurts my political career or not, I can't tell you.

I-I didn't get in this because I love politics and I'm a born politician. I got in this because I thought there was a lot of-there are a lot of things wrong with this country, especially in Washington, DC, with both parties. I got in this because my own Democratic Party didn't have the nerve to stand up to George Bush, and I got in it 'cause George Bush was-w-Bush was not being truthful about either the war or the economy. And if I start pulling my punches because I'm worried about the political consequences, that's not going to help the country.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's talk a little bit about your campaign. You had another bad day yesterday, to put it bluntly. You were overwhelmingly beaten in Washington state, where you once had an enormous lead. You got beat in Michigan, where I think you also once had a lead. And the big union, the State, County and Municipal Employees, who had endorsed you, withdrew their endorsement. You say you're going to stay around until the Wisconsin primary, which is-What?--two weeks from now. It seems to me that a lot of Democrats are going to be asking, 'Why are you still in this and why are you going to stay around till then?' So I guess that's my question, Governor. Why?

Dr. DEAN: Well, we have-as y-if you look at the charts we have the second number of highest delegates after Senator Kerry. I think we had a good day yesterday. We picked up delegates in both states. Nobody else did that other than Senator Kerry. So it seems to me that w-we're doing OK. I mean, it's tough, and I would have liked to have been the front-runner, which I was six weeks before Iowa, but I'm not now. I think this party needs a real choice. I'm here in Maine, going on to Wisconsin. These are states that I think are not ready to close out this nomination. We've had less than 80 percent-or less than 15 percent of the delegates selected so far.

I think it's a mistake to choose somebody that most people in this country don't know. Senator Kerry's a fine person, but according to The Washington Post, he's taken more special-interest money than any other senator in the last 15 years. I don't know how he's going to run against se-se-Geor-George Bush if he supported his agenda. He supported the president on the war, supported the president on No Child Left Behind. Look, I-I'm going to support Senator Kerry or anybody else who wins this nomination. We desperately have to get rid of this president. But the fact is, I don't think Democrats are quite ready to choose just yet. I think they want to see a real choice. And as I say, I've got the second highest number of delegates.

SCHIEFFER: Well, this...


Dr. DEAN: It seems to me I'm the logical...

SCHIEFFER: I don't want to quarrel with you, but-but why would you say that? I mean, what do you see that suggests that Democrats are-are not ready to settle yet? I mean, every time Senator Kerry runs, except in two cases, he's won an-and won pretty handily. What do you see in these numbers that tells you that they haven't made up their mi-that they're not satisfied at this point?

Dr. DEAN: Well, you know-and this is-this shouldn't be a referendum on Senator Kerry. There are other people with other ideas. For example, all these folks from Washington are running. That's fine. They talk in Washington. All my kids have health insurance under 18 in my state. A third of my seniors have prescription benefits. I think if you want a real change in this country, we can't just change presidents; we also have to change what goes on in Washington, DC, and that's exactly why I'm running. Now it seems to me that with 15 percent of the delegates selected, that is not exactly a mandate to choose anybody for president. I think we do re-need a real choice and I think we need a real change.

Ms. TUMULTY: Ho-however, over the past week, you and your campaign have used very dire language in describing Wisconsin, do or die, make or break, must win. Does that mean that if you do not win Wisconsin you're going to get out of the race?

Dr. DEAN: Well, I am going to borrow a line from other politicians in this one. We intend to win and we're not looking at what happens if we don't win. We're just going to have to go out and win Wisconsin. We're doing everything we can to do it. We've managed to raise some money from our very loyal supporters who really do want change in Washington and now we're going to tr-go out and try to win it and I think we will.

Ms. TUMULTY: OK. So if you win Wisconsin, then you've won one state. Where do you get the momentum and the money to-to go forward? You've got some really big states coming up next month and that's going to take a lot of-a lot of energy.

Dr. DEAN: Well, nobody has ever accused me of being short on energy. And, luckily, we have a--700,000 supporters who helped us raise a million dollars in four days to compete in Wisconsin. I-you know, I think there needs to be some real discussion of the Democratic Party. I-I don't think Democratic voters are going to let you-all close out the nomination by-you know, they didn't let me close out the nomination when I had my picture on Time magazine's cover and all that five or six weeks before the Iowa caucus. And I don't think the voters are going to let you-all close out the nomination this time.

We really do need a choice. What do we want for a president in this country? Do we want somebody from inside Washington who's taking a lot of special interest money and who supported most of the Bush agenda or do we want somebody from outside Washington who actually has a record of delivering health care, delivering jobs and balancing a budget? Not one person in this race except for me has ever balanced a budget. I think that's a skill that's been-pretty severe demand. We've talked about what the president said that wasn't true about Iraq. What about what the president said this morning that wasn't true about the economy? He said, 'These tax cuts have created good quality jobs.' And the truth is we're short 2.2 million jobs since this president has come to office and the jobs, meager as they are that are being created, are service jobs that pay low wages. There's a lot to answer for...

Ms. TUMULTY: But...

Dr. DEAN: ...and the question is: Do you want just to change presidents or do you want a real change?

Ms. TUMULTY: But, yesterday, in addition to having lost a string of primaries here, you've also lost one of your biggest and most powerful supporters in th-in the form of the second biggest union in the country. How is that going to affect your campaign and-and what difference has it made so far to have these-these three big unions behind you?

Dr. DEAN: Well, it's always great to have unions and it's always great to have support, but in the end, as has been going on for the last few years, union members vote by what they think, not what they're told-not how they're told by the folks in top. We're going to go out and compete for every union member. Now that Dick Gephardt's out of the race, I've got the best labor record of anybody who's running. And I think union-union people know that. And the reason I've got a good labor record is because I believe that strong unions are the way to recapture for American middle-class people and working-class people the rightful role of those people in our government which has been lost since George Bush has been catering to all the special interests and doing everything he can to help corporations. The Medicare bill is a perfect example. It helps the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance industry much more than it does ordinary seniors.

SCHIEFFER: Well, if-if all that's true, then why did this union withdraw its endorsement of you, Governor?

Dr. DEAN: Well, you know, the momentum is important. And Senator Kerry-certainly, no one would argue that Senator Kerry doesn't have a great deal of momentum right now and momentum does affect people. People like to go with the peo-person they perceive as a winner. At some point, I know from my own experience 'cause I had all that momentum in December that people are going to say, 'Now wait a minute here. Let's take a closer look. Let's really have a close look at this.' And that's what I think the process in Maine and-and Wisconsin is going to be about. If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong.

Look, I've said very clearly I'm going to support Senator Kerry or whoever wins the nomination 'cause we need to beat George Bush and that's one of the reasons I got into this race 'cause our party wasn't standing up against him. And I knew we would-if we didn't stand up against him, we wouldn't beat him, but I think that as-there are a lot of Democratic voters out there certainly that are supporting our campaign that want a real change and a real choice.

SCHIEFFER: Speaking of momentum, if-if-if Senator Kerry has it as you say, yo-one of your most famous endorsements came from Al Gore. Do you have any indication that he might withdraw his endorsement?

Dr. DEAN: No, and I think it would be very unlikely. Neither he nor the SCI know the-nor the painters have given us any indication that they're the least bit interested in endorsing-in endorsing somebody else.

SCHIEFFER: Some people said-you know, somebody-some people said that Senator Gore's endorsement may have actually hurt you because it was the endorsement of-of the insider, the Washington politician and so on. Do you think it hurt or helped you?

Dr. DEAN: Well, it-I think it-both, in a funny way. It helped because it clearly showed that I could bring the party together. It hurt because at that b-at-it threw everybody else into a panic. And once that happened, everybody was pretty sure I was going to get the nomination and everybody threw everything they could at us. All our five other major opponents, actually ev-even including some of the minor opponents, started throwing stuff at us. The media just t-completely threw everything they could at us. So we really got hammered by everybody once Al and the SIU and AFSCME had endorsed us, and the painters. They figured 'Hey, this guy is inevitable. Let's really-we got to stop him now while we can.' And they succeeded in doing that.

Now what I'm hoping to do in Wisconsin and Maine is to give voters a second opportunity to figure out who they really do want to have lead this party.

SCHIEFFER: So-so what you're saying...

Ms. TUMULTY: Gov...

SCHIEFFER: that when you got his endorsement, everybody judged you to be the front-runner. All of them at one time turned their-their guns on you. Is that what-is that what happened to your campaign?

Dr. DEAN: That is what happened to our campaign, Bob. And I don't begrudge anybody. I think if-if-you shouldn't be in this-if you can't take the heat from the media, you shouldn't be running for president. I don't begrudge it at all. It's part of the process.

SCHIEFFER: Well, could it have been-could it have been anything you said or did?

Dr. DEAN: Well, you know, th-there-I said plenty of things that the opponents pumped up. For example, the-you brought up earlier I said that we're not any safer that Saddam Hussein-now that Saddam Hussein is captured. All the other opponents huffed and puffed and carried on but it was true. It was true. It's true today as we sit here. You know, 100--now 100 more troops killed in Iraq. Still, you know, you got-they got to cancel flights coming into the country from France and Britain. I mean, if we're safer, you got a lot of convincing to do to the American people or ordinary people who just think about these things. So all the establishment huffed and puffed and bought the opponent's line that, 'Oh, he said this and it's just not so.' It's the truth.

You know what a gaffe is in Washington? The definition of a gaffe in Washington is somebody who tells the truth when the people from Washington don't think you should have. Well, I did. And they all jumped you and down and you all jumped up and down about it, but I don't think it hurt me very much because the American people knew it was true.

Ms. TUMULTY: But, G...

SCHIEFFER: Well, I'm going to ask you, then, what about the speech, that-in, my view, scared some people. Do-do you think that hurt you?

Dr. DEAN: The Iowa speech? Well, by that time I'd already lost the primary-the caucuses in Iowa and come in third.


Ms. TUMULTY: But s-s...

Dr. DEAN: Yeah, I think-I think the speech didn't help. It didn't make me look very presidential. But the truth is, you know, I-I'm a normal person. I'm not-you know, I'm not a crafted politician. I jump up and down at my kids' hockey games when they score. But that speech-as NBC News showed that speech was totally taken out of context. It was played-played 673 times on the cable networks, which I don't subscribe to so I didn't notice, but, yeah, I don't think that helped me very much, I have to say.

SCHIEFFER: OK. Final question.

Ms. TUMULTY: Governor, the-the big buzz word since Iowa has been 'electability.' Would Senator Kerry beat George Bush?

Dr. DEAN: Look, if Senator Kerry gets the nomination I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that he beats George Bush. I just think I have a better opportunity. I'm the only person who has brought new people to the party. We can raise a lot of money from a huge small donor base. I don't owe anybody anything except my ordinary Americans who are giving us $100 or $50 at a time. I think that's a better candidate against George Bush than John Kerry is. But if John Kerry gets the nomination, believe me, I'll be there for him.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Governor, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

Dr. DEAN: Thank you very much.

SCHIEFFER: We'll be back in minute with another FACE THE NATION 50th anniversary Flashback.

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