NBC's Today Show

December 10, 2003

HEADLINE: Howard Dean discusses Al Gore's endorsement


KATIE COURIC, co-host:

On CLOSE UP this morning, Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean. Governor Dean joins us this morning.

Governor Dean, good morning.

Governor HOWARD DEAN (Democrat, Presidential Candidate): Good morning to you.

COURIC: What does this endorsement mean to you?

Gov. DEAN: It means that I now have some support from somebody who knows an enormous amount of foreign policy and defense policy and who knows an enormous about environment-amount about environmental policy, which has been very helpful to me. And someone who got 500,000 more votes than President Bush did. It means a great deal to me.

COURIC: Did you approach Al Gore about this endorsement or did he approach you?

Gov. DEAN: We have-I have sought out his advice throughout the campaign and also Tipper's. Particularly, she-Tipper had a lot to do with my mental health policy which I unveiled about three months ago here in New Hampshire. And we've just gotten to know each other. He's a really-not only a good person, but he's got an enormous depth of knowledge about American government and foreign policy. We just-we just became comfortable with each other. I actually did not ask him for an endorsement. I knew that he would make his own decision. I knew that he said he would endorse eventually. And he actually called me and I was, of course, just delighted and thrilled.

COURIC: Delighted and thrilled and perhaps a bit surprised at the timing?

Gov. DEAN: Well, you know, he's a-he's a very smart guy, and I think he knows what he's doing. And he-I think he thought the timing would be helpful and I think it has been.

COURIC: Senator Joe Lieberman was on this program yesterday. This is what he had to say about Al Gore's endorsement of you.

Senator JOE LIEBERMAN: Clinton made our party once again fiscally responsible, pro-growth, strong on values for middle-clalss tax cuts. And Howard Dean is against all of those. So Al Gore will have to explain why he is supporting somebody who I think would take our party and country backward.

COURIC: What is your reaction to that?

Gov. DEAN: Well, I am the only candidate running who's ever balanced a budget, including the president. Our values in Vermont are health insurance for every American and protection of ordinary people who are trying to send their kids to college, and struggling every day because this president's lost us three million jobs, and he has a $500 billion deficit year after year after year. I think those are the values of the Democratic Party, and I think those are the values that can beat George Bush.

COURIC: If-in his endorsement Tuesday, Al Gore said, 'We need to remake the Democratic Party. You are considered, Governor Dean, more-more left leaning, and Al Gore is considered sort of a-a hard-core centrist, if you will. The two of you, specifically, what do you think needs to be done to remake the Democratic Party?

Gov. DEAN: I think we have got to get enthusiastic about being a Democrat again. Fifty percent of the people in this country don't vote because we don't give them a reason to vote. And now we're going to do that. My-and all of this stuff about being left leaning is silly nonsense that's put out by the other campaigns, particularly the Republicans. I balance budgets. President Bush can't do that. You can't trust Republicans with your money. They just borrow and spend, borrow and spend. This is the credit card presidency and we can't afford that anymore. Even the drug bill that passed last week gives $85 billion to the insurance companies, and a 38 percent in profitability for drug companies that bars citizens from going to Canada to get cheaper drugs and stops the government from asking drug companies to give us their best price. This is crazy. The corporations have taken over the government. They are dictating policy in Washington. We can't afford that anymore.

That's what I think Al Gore meant when he said we are going to need-remake the Democratic Party to stand up for this kind of stuff. After George Bush was selected for the White House by the Supreme Court, the Democratic Party laid down in front of him as if he had gotten an enormous mandate. Al Gore got 500,000 more votes than George Bush did, and I think he better represents where this country needs to be going. And I am really, really proud of his endorsement, and I plan to take this country in a different direction than this president has.

COURIC: The speculation is that you need a good deal of help in the South and with the black vote, though it's not monolithic. Do you think Al Gore's endorsement will help you both with African-American voters and in the South, specifically in the increasingly important upcoming South Carolina primary?

Gov. DEAN: I think Al's endorsement will help. I think the endorsements that I just picked over the weekend, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the black caucus is coming on board, Bobby Scott from Virginia. So I think I'm going to be in decent shape in the South. Look, the key in this country, not just this...

COURIC: Al Gore, himself, though, Governor Dean, Al Gore, himself, didn't do all that well in the South.

Gov. DEAN: Al Gore is a Southerner. He understands the South. I think what happened in the 2000 election is we allowed the Republicans to get to set the agenda instead of us. Are age-they always used divisive social issues. They used issues like guns, prayer in the school, gay rights, abortion rights, all of these divisive social issues. What I'm going to say to the voters everywhere, but particularly Southern voters, 'Look, we're going to have to agree to disagree on some of these issues, but the truth is our values are about jobs, education and health care.'

In the South there's been a tendency to vote Republican for the last 30 years. Tell me what you've got to show for that? Your jobs have gone off-shore. You haven't had a raise in five years because health-care premiums have been eating everything up. You've got to run-the president is running a $500 billion deficit. We can't afford anymore Republican presidents and borrow and spend credit card presidencies. We've got to pull this together. What we all have in common, whether we are Hispanic, African-American, white, Asian-American, Indian, American Indian is that we need jobs. We need health care. And we need a decent educational opportunity so we can get ahead. And those are the values that I think are good for the whole country.

COURIC: Governor Dean, while the White House publicly is saying, quote, “We expect this to be a close, hard-fought election,” privately, apparently, many people are saying that White House staffers and officials are absolutely giddy at the prospect of facing you in a presidential campaign. Let me read some things that were said in the Daily News by White House sources: “The best thing Bush has going for him is that Dean is a weak Michael Dukakis. Dukakis won 10 states. And unless things turn out-turn very bad for Bush, I don't see Dean winning more than five. Dean drags the Democratic dialogue even further to the left, and this is not a left-wing country in presidential elections. Dean will never pass the leadership threshold test. He comes across as a morally superior, liberal elitist who is not ready to be president.”

What's your reaction to those comments?

Gov. DEAN: Would you believe that from an administration that's given us a $500,000 billion deficit, has 135,000 troops stuck in Iraq and wasn't truthful about why they went there in the first place, and who has lost three million jobs, the most jobs lost since Herbert Hoover was president of the United States. If you believe that, you should vote for President Bush. It reminds me of-I have to be honest with you-the way I felt. I was thrilled as a Jimmy Carter fan in 1980 when the Republicans voted for-or nominated Ronald Reagan. I thought that was going to be, you know, an easy mark. And he was going to be easy and Jimmy Carter was going to get re-elected.

Let's let the American people decide whether they want a president who's going to lose jobs, or whether they want a president who's going to run up huge deficits, whether they want a president under whom the dollar is sinking every single day, whether they want a president who got us into Iraq without being candid with the American people about why we went there. That's what this election is going to be about.

It's going to be about jobs. It's going to be about education. It's going to be about health insurance for every single American, which most of which we have done in my state already. And it's going to be about our-our place in the world. Are we ready to resume the moral leadership of this world in this country, or are we going to continue to support a president who has unilaterally ticked off every other country around, all those people that we need to help us won't help us now.

COURIC: All right.

Gov. DEAN: Just this morning we saw-just yesterday we saw the president banning Russia, France, and Germany from any contracts in Iraq. That is not the way to be the moral leader of the world.

COURIC: Governor...

Gov. DEAN: And I'm going to restore the honor and the dignity and the respect this country deserves around the rest of the world.

COURIC: Governor Howard Dean. Governor Dean, thanks so much for talking with us this morning. We appreciate it.

Gov. DEAN: Thanks very much.

COURIC: It's coming up on 7:14. Now here's Lester.

Copyright 2003 National Broadcasting Co. Inc.


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