Video: Gen. Wesley Clark on his campaign

NBC News
updated 1/4/2004 1:46:36 PM ET 2004-01-04T18:46:36

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NBC News


Sunday, January 4, 2004

GUESTS: WESLEY CLARK, Democratic presidential candidate; DAVID BRODER of the Washington Post; DAVID YEPSENof the Des Moines Register; WILLIAM SAFIRE of the New York Times and JOHN HARWOOD of the Wall Street Journal.


This is a rush transcript provided for the information and convenience of the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed. In case of doubt, please check with MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS(202)885-4598 (Sundays: (202)885-4200)

Meet the Press (NBC News) - Sunday, January 4, 2004MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Just two weeks from tomorrow, the presidential nomination process begins in Iowa. Howard Dean leads the Democratic field. Can this man overtake him? Our guest, former NATO supreme allied commander, now candidate for president, General Wesley Clark. And this afternoon, The Des Moines Register Democratic candidates presidential debate. What can we expect? We're joined by one of questioners, David Yepsen of The Register, as well as David Broder of The Washington Post, John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal, William Safire of The New York Times and Karen Tumulty from Time magazine.But first with us now from Manchester, New Hampshire, is General Wesley Clark. General, good morning. GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Good morning, Tim.MR. RUSSERT: The campaign against George W. Bush, let me show you and our viewers what you said about the president. "Clark referred to Bush as `a reckless, radical, heartless leader.'" Why such harsh words from a general about a commander in chief?GEN. CLARK: Well, Tim, that's the truth. We went into Iraq. It was reckless. We didn't have our allies. We didn't have the right number of troops. We didn't have a plan for what happens next. And we can see the results. Radical, because he's not taking care of the American people. He's pursuing a radical rightwing agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy. Just today there is a story that they're going to try to reduce the budget deficit by cutting veterans' benefits, going after people who need job training, at a time when we've got nine million people unemployed in this country, going after housing for people with low incomes. That's a radical agenda.Heartless, because if he had any sympathy and compassion for people at all, he wouldn't take those kinds of leadership steps. This man is pursuing a right-wing, radical agenda for America. It's not what the American people want; it's not the way our country should be led.MR. RUSSERT: General, you also said something else. And this is how the Baton Rouge Advocate captured it: "Clark said the president `didn't do his duty' to protect American from attack on September 11, 2001. `I think the record's going to show he could have done a lot more to have prevented 9/11 than he did.'" What else could George Bush possibly have done, and why didn't anyone else in Congress or in the military suggest things that could have protected us on 9/11?GEN. CLARK: Well, when this administration came to office, Tim, they were told that the greatest threat to American security was Osama bin Laden. And yet, on 9/11, there was still no government plan, no plan sanctioned by the president of the United States, no plan directed to go after that threat of Osama bin Laden. The ship of state was on autopilot. People in agencies were doing what they had been told to do. But the top leaders in the government hadn't focused the resources of the United States of America to take action against the greatest threat facing America. And that's the job of the president of the United States, especially when it comes to national security. The buck stops on his desk. He's the man, or woman, who's supposed to pull things together and get the focus right. He didn't do it.MR. RUSSERT: When you were supreme NATO commander, were you aware of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and did you warn anyone about the threat?GEN. CLARK: The information was coming out of the Central Command's area. What my responsibility was, was to take the measures in my area. In fact, we did have threats by Osama bin Laden. We were under high alert starting in late summer of '98, all the way through. We were very concerned about this. We had continuing discussions with this in our commanders conferences with the secretary of defense.MR. RUSSERT: Republicans will say that four months after September 11, General, you were still praising President Bush, saying things like, "I tremendously admire, I think we all should, the great work done by our commander and chief, our president, President George Bush." And now that you're running for president, you've changed your tune.GEN. CLARK: Well, when I made that speech, I made that speech talking about Afghanistan. And I support the action in Afghanistan up to the point at which the president didn't follow through and get Osama bin Laden. We should have gone after the Taliban. We should have stayed there. We should have worked Afghanistan. We had Osama bin Laden in a box, and we should have stayed there in the spring of 2002 and finished the job against him. But four months afterwards, we didn't. That was the point at which the United States of America began to cut back its resourcing and direct all of the internal intention to going after Saddam Hussein. I remember being overseas in late January of 2002 and I was already getting the rumblings from inside the Pentagon and from my friends there, saying, "Oh, well, you know, Afghanistan, that's a holding action. You know, we've cut any additional forces going there. We're going to let them do the best they can, but we've got to get ready to go after Iraq." And there was no reason to have gone after Iraq at that point. Saddam Hussein wasn't connected with 9/11. He didn't have an imminent threat to use weapons of mass destruction or use them against us. There just wasn't an imminent reason to divert attention from terrorism to go after Iraq. There was no reason to do that, but this administration chose to do it. It was a mistake.MR. RUSSERT: You have said, "I would have gotten Osama bin Laden." How are you so sure you could have done that?GEN. CLARK: He was there. He was in Tora Bora and he was boxed in. And what I would have done before I started the operation in Afghanistan is look for a success strategy. After you've had experience with military planning and the way political military actions operate, you know that you have to start at the back end and work forward. So it's: What are the conditions you want to have achieved when the operation's over? What I would have said is, "We want to take the Taliban out of power and we want to bag Osama bin Laden and the top leadership in al-Qaeda." And then I would have directed the military to plan for that result and work backwards to when do you start the operation, how do you open the operation, and so forth. I don't think that was done in this case. I think in this case, they started at the wrong end of the operation. The president reportedly said, "Hey, I want bombs falling within 30 days." He wanted to have a perception of action. He didn't have a thoughtful, effective plan to deal with the threat of terrorism. And this administration still doesn't, Tim.MR. RUSSERT: In terms of Iraq, you said this the other day. "When I am president, I will go over to Iraq and it won't be to deliver turkeys in the middle of the night." What does that mean?GEN. CLARK: When I go over to Iraq, I'm going to talk with the people that are on the ground. I'm going to consult with the military leaders. I'm going to consult with the Iraqi leaders. And we'll have a political success strategy that turns this problem back to the Iraqi people in a way that brings us out of there with success, with honor and gets our forces back and reconstituted to meet the real national security challenges facing America.MR. RUSSERT: Isn't that what the president did, met with military leaders, met with Iraqi leaders?GEN. CLARK: Well, he was on the ground for about two hours, as I read the report. I don't think he had any substantive discussions with either military leaders or Iraqi leaders during that period. He only met, as far as I could determine, with some of the very pro-American Iraqi leaders like Chalabi. To my knowledge, he did not meet with Sistani. There's been no real discussion with the Shia leadership and certainly not by high-level U.S. authorities.MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe the situation is secure enough to risk the life of the president of the United States to do that?GEN. CLARK: I think that arrangements could have been made to hold those kinds of meetings had there been a desire to do so. Yes, I do.MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about the Democratic presidential race that you're now in. Last October 10, you said you were the front-runner in the race. And now in all the national polls, Governor Howard Dean is outpolling you two-, three-to-one. He's ahead of you considerably there in New Hampshire. What happened?GEN. CLARK: Well, I think what happened is that as we got into this race, we had to build the foundation in the key primary states. When I first went into the race, I got a lot of support from a lot of different news media and my name was splashed across the United States. But we've done the quiet, behind-the-scenes work in states like New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona and across Oklahoma and across the country to put the foundation in place. So I think we're doing very, very well. We've raised a tremendous amount of money. We've got a very strong message. We're drawing increasingly enthusiastic crowds. So we feel like we're well on our way.MR. RUSSERT: General, you had this to say. "Having other people tell you what to do is no substitute for having been there in the arena yourself. ... You need a candidate who's got foreign policy expertise." Do you believe that Howard Dean has the necessary foreign policy expertise to be an effective president?GEN. CLARK: Well, I'll say this to you, Tim. If George W. Bush is qualified to be president of the United States, then any of the Democratic candidates are more qualified. I just don't believe that at this time in American history the Democratic Party can field candidates who can only represent the education, health, job and compassionate sides of the party. We have to be a full-spectrum party. We have to deal with the challenges facing America at home and the challenges facing America abroad. And that's why I'm running.MR. RUSSERT: But Governor Dean, in your mind, is lacking foreign policy expertise?GEN. CLARK: That's right.MR. RUSSERT: You had this to say as well. "I didn't have as much practice skiing as the governor did. [Dean] was out there skiing when I was recovering from my wounds in Vietnam." That's pretty tough.GEN. CLARK: Well, it was in--yes. But let's put it in context, Tim. I was asked in a radio call-in show about having a skiing contest with Governor Dean. And sometimes, as you understand--I mean, politics is easy but humor is tough. And that was an attempt at a little bit of humor that some people didn't laugh at.MR. RUSSERT: But is there some resentment the fact that you went and served in Vietnam and...GEN. CLARK: No, I don't feel any resentment of that, no.MR. RUSSERT: None?GEN. CLARK: I mean, he made his decision. He'll take responsibility for it.MR. RUSSERT: Governor Dean also said this the other day. "...the Democratic Leadership Council...the Republican wing of the Democratic party." Do you believe the DLC is the Republican wing of the Democratic Party?GEN. CLARK: No, I don't. But I do believe this, Tim, that if you are in the Democratic Party, and you do believe that elections should be about the issues and about the candidates themselves, then you shouldn't be trying to win Democratic primaries by the amount of money that you spend in the states. And I think all of the candidates in this race should abide by the state spending caps that--just as though they had received federal matching funds. I don't think they should be attempting to win by outspending opponents. They should be out politicking opponents.MR. RUSSERT: As you know, the Democratic Leadership Council was once headed by then-Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas. Is Governor Dean insulting former President Clinton?GEN. CLARK: Well, I think that's really up to the president to decide. But I'll tell you this. I very much admire what Bill Clinton did as president of the United States. In foreign policy, he helped structure us to face a very uncertain world. We had success in the Balkans. We saved a million and a half Kosovar Albanians from being killed, ethnically cleansed, thanks to his leadership. And at home we created 22 million jobs. And for the first time in a generation, we began to lift people out of poverty. He was a terrific president. He accomplished some great things. And I think Howard Dean or any other Democrat should be very proud to follow in his footsteps.MR. RUSSERT: He was also impeached, general.GEN. CLARK: He was. But he wasn't convicted.MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe he was appropriately impeached?GEN. CLARK: No, I don't.MR. RUSSERT: Are you concerned that people may suggest that by embracing Bill Clinton you're embracing all his values?GEN. CLARK: No, I'm not concerned by that. I think you have to look at the record of what he did as a president. I think he did some great things as president of the United States.MR. RUSSERT: You are the first Democratic candidate to use President Clinton in your commercials. That was obviously very deliberate on your part.GEN. CLARK: Well, actually, I'm very proud to have received the presidential Medal of Freedom, Tim, and it was a public ceremony. It was given to 14 people at that time. And it was also given to another military officer, Admiral Crowe. And I'm very proud of having received that. So, yes, we did use that.MR. RUSSERT: Is there any downside by trying to associate yourself with Bill Clinton?GEN. CLARK: Well, you know, I'm not associating myself with Bill Clinton deliberately. All I'm doing is advertising to the American people who I am and what I did. But I'm not concerned about downsides with Bill Clinton because I think he did a great job as president.MR. RUSSERT: Has President Clinton suggested he may endorse you?GEN. CLARK: No, and I haven't asked him to do that. President Clinton is a national figure. He's the leader of the party. I'd be very honored to have Bill Clinton's endorsement after I win the nomination.MR. RUSSERT: Let me go through this whole exchange with Governor Dean that you had about the vice presidency. In December you said this. " a matter of fact, [Howard Dean] did offer me the vice was sort of discussed and dangled before I made the decision to run." "It was a meeting that we had...This was in early September." Governor Dean responded "...I can tell you flat out" that "I did not ask [Gen. Clark] to be by running mate." Who's telling the truth?GEN. CLARK: Well, I don't think we need to play semantic games with this. I stand by what I said. And I also will tell you this, Tim. I'm not going to be Howard Dean's vice president.MR. RUSSERT: You said something else: "I'm not going to be Howard Dean's Dick Cheney. We've already tried that model of government and it doesn't work. That's what misled America thus far."GEN. CLARK: That's exactly right. We need people who are experienced not only in the domestic issues but in the foreign policy issues.MR. RUSSERT: Another general who entered politics, William Sherman, was asked whether or not he would seek elective office. He said: "If nominated, I will not accept. If elected, I will not serve." If General Clark is nominated as vice president, will you accept?GEN. CLARK: Well, I've said I'm not going to be the vice president, and that's what I stand by. I'm running to be president of the United States. This country needs a higher standard of leadership, Tim, and to get that higher standard, I'm going to have to be the commander in chief and the president of the United States. That's why I'm running.MR. RUSSERT: But General Sherman had a very understandable formula: "If nominated, I will not accept." Is that your view?GEN. CLARK: I'm saying that I'm not going to be the vice president. I'm not going accept that nomination. I can't make it any more clearer than that.MR. RUSSERT: So if nominated, you will not accept the vice presidency?GEN. CLARK: I'm running to be president of the United States. I am not running to be vice president, and I do not intend to accept that nomination, and I will not.MR. RUSSERT: Absolutely.GEN. CLARK: That's absolutely the facts.MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you what a Clark strategist said about some television ads you are running. He said that he "did not dispute that Clark is running on his resume. He said the ads avoid policy specifics because most voters are not following them." Do you believe that there is a need for you to be specific about policy, particularly on the economy and taxes?GEN. CLARK: Of course, and I am very specific on the economy. But, Tim, you and I both know that when people are voting for president of the United States, they're looking at character, they're looking at value, they're looking at resume, they're looking at the person. The policies are important and they're out there. They're all over my Web site, I talk about them in every speech. But in a 30-second or a 60-second ad, what's really important for me to convey to the Democratic Party in which I'm running is what I did as a person, who I am, what my military leadership meant for this country and for the individuals who served with me. Because frankly, let's be honest: It's been a long time since we had a general who came out and ran in a Democratic primary. And we're in the process of introducing me to the Democratic electorate. That's what these commercials are all about. There's plenty of policies out there, too, and I'm proud of the policies we have. We've got some very good ones. And I'll fight to get them implemented.MR. RUSSERT: Tomorrow you will address the whole issue of tax cuts. What will you say?GEN. CLARK: Well, we're going to have a major policy pronouncement tomorrow. We're going to be talking about new tax code, a way of simplifying the tax code to make it fairer, more progressive. It's going to be major step forward in tax reform.MR. RUSSERT: Will it be translated by Republicans as a tax increase?GEN. CLARK: It's going to be translated by Americans as a fairer and simpler tax code. And that's the way it's going to communicate, and it's going to help our country meet the challenges ahead.MR. RUSSERT: Will some people be paying more taxes?GEN. CLARK: Some people will be receiving more benefits and it'll be more fair and more progressive than the current system.MR. RUSSERT: General, as you know, there's a big debate in Iowa this afternoon. You will not be participating. Was it a mistake by you to bypass the Iowa caucuses?GEN. CLARK: Absolutely not.MR. RUSSERT: Why?GEN. CLARK: Because to participated in Iowa would have taken 20 to 30 days and $4 million starting in mid-October, and I just didn't have the time to do it. I had a lot of support in Iowa, and I still have a lot of support in Iowa. And when I'm the nominee, that'll be the first place that I campaign. But, Tim, just to be practical, I couldn't split my efforts or the resources starting in mid-October between Iowa and New Hampshire. It just wasn't practical.MR. RUSSERT: If Howard Dean wins the Iowa caucuses and then a week later wins the New Hampshire primary and you run third in New Hampshire, is your race finished?GEN. CLARK: No. I think it's just beginning. We're going to be very strong across the South, the Midwest and in the upper Midwest. We've got great organizations. We've got great support. And I'm the one candidate in this race who can carry the South for the Democratic Party. Over the last few days, we did our True Grits Tour and we swung through eight Southern states, 10 cities. We picked up a lot of support. We brought lots of local people in and I got nothing but enthusiasm for my candidacy. We've got five Senate seats in the South by opening up in the fall of 2004. This is a crucial election not only for the presidency but for the future of the United States Congress and the future of the United States of America. And our party needs a candidate who can carry the South. I can do that.MR. RUSSERT: Can Howard Dean carry the South?GEN. CLARK: Well, I don't know. That remains to be seen. But I know that I can.MR. RUSSERT: General Clark, thank you for joining us. Be safe on the campaign trail. And congratulations on becoming a grandpa.GEN. CLARK: Thank you very much, Tim. Good to be with you.MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, just 15 days before the Iowa caucuses, insights and analysis from David Yepsen of The Des Moines Register, David Broder of The Washington Post, John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal, William Safire of The New York Times, Karen Tumulty of Time magazine. They are all next on MEET THE PRESS.(Announcements)MR. RUSSERT: The Iowa caucuses just two weeks away, New Hampshire primary only three weeks away. Our roundtable is next.(Announcements)MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Welcome, all.David Yepsen of The Des Moines Register, let me start with you. Your paper is hosting a very important debate in Iowa this afternoon. What do you hope to achieve with that debate? What issues are foremost on the minds of Iowans?MR. DAVID YEPSEN: Tim, the paper has done this debate--a debate since 1980. We try to do it simply as a service to Iowans. Give them a chance close to the voting to see and hear from all the candidates. What's on the minds of people here? The economy, jobs, health care, the war on terrorism. Not unlike the concerns most Democrats and most Americans have all over the country.MR. RUSSERT: On the early reports, way back last year from Iowa there was a sense that Governor Dean was gaining traction because of the anger that existed with the hard-core Democratic activists. What's the lay of the land right now, David? Does Dean have a strong base in Iowa? Is he going to win? How do you see Dick Gephardt, John Kerry and some of the others?MR. YEPSEN: Tim, I think he does have a very strong base. He has energized a lot of new people, a lot of young people who are angry, as you say. I think he probably is a little bit of a favorite to win this thing. Not by much, though. Dick Gephardt has been a very strong contender here. He's getting a lot of support from labor unions. And John Kerry has come up handsomely here in the last couple of weeks. I think Governor Dean really had some momentum coming out of--excuse me--out of Al Gore's endorsement. But after the capture of Saddam Hussein, I think some of Dean's support kind of flattened out. He's come under a withering attack from the other candidates. And so some of the earlier momentum he had has kind of flattened out. But I still think, Tim, you've got to say he's the odds-on favorite to win.MR. RUSSERT: Have some of Governor Dean's misstatements caused concern amongst his supporters?MR. YEPSEN: Not among his supporters, Tim. They find some of that refreshingly candid. But it has caused concern among a lot of the undecided Democrats. I mean, Howard Dean is getting 25 to 30 percent, depending upon whose polls you believe. But those same polls show 20 to 25 percent of the caucus goers are undecided. Some of these people are a little wary about Dean's statements, about his electability, about whether he can keep his cool. And so I think it may have impeded Governor Dean's ability to make any more progress.MR. RUSSERT: You're also joined in Iowa out there by David Broder of The Washington Post, covering his 12th presidential campaign. David, welcome. What's your sense of Iowa, David? What kind of fervor or interest are you finding in the state towards the Democratic field?MR. DAVID BRODER: Well, there's enormous interest here, as contrasted with South Carolina, which was my last visit. And people here are engaged because they've seen the candidates time after time. I was out with Senator Kerry yesterday afternoon and my sense--this is purely anecdotal--is that there's still a number of Democrats who are shopping these candidates. They're looking around, trying to figure out who has the best chance to defeat President Bush because that is an important goal for them. But I'm not quite so sure that this is a locked-down situation as maybe some of us back East had thought.MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, there has been talk about a stop-Dean effort; that according to the rules of the Iowa caucuses, that if you are in one hall and your candidate's getting less than 15 percent, rather than be shut out with no delegates, cast your lots with a more friendlier opponent who then could stop Howard Dean. Are you hearing any talk of that?MR. BRODER: There's talk about it. That's fairly sophisticated strategy. I'm not sure it can be organized from the top down. But these are smart folks who go to the caucuses and they understand the rules. They also understand that if Governor Dean wins Iowa, no matter what the margin is or what percentage of the overall vote it is, it gives him a tremendous head start on winning the nomination. And if they prefer somebody else, they will figure out that that's not a useful way for them to let the caucuses end.MR. RUSSERT: David Yepsen, have you been hearing any talk about a potential stop-Dean effort at the caucuses?MR. YEPSEN: There's always talk Dean, but I think David Broder is correct. It's difficult to execute that maneuver. I mean, what you're essentially having to do is tell people, "Oh, you can to the caucuses for one candidate but you really have to go into the hall and be for another candidate." That gets real difficult to pull off in a major fashion.MR. RUSSERT: Let me go back here to Washington with our group gathered at the table. The author of the Time magazine article out tomorrow--and here's the cover: "Who Is The Real Dean? The Democratic front-runner is still a mystery to most voters." A look at what they'll see when they fill in the blanks, and that white beard around Governor Dean is fill in the blanks, finish coloring the picture, if you will.Karen Tumulty, you wrote the piece. Let me show you a quote that the governor gave you in a two-hour interview. "I'm intuitive and I jump steps ahead. Part of what gets me in trouble on the stump is that I shorthand things. I know what I'm thinking, but I don't say every word of it. I was that way as a doctor. I eliminate possibilities unconsciously, before they get to my consciousness." What's that mean?MS. KAREN TUMULTY: Well, in fact, he said sometimes he knows what he wants to do even before he knows why he wants to do it. This is a man who is supremely confident in his own instincts. And in some ways, this is almost the person that draws the most comparison with is George W. Bush, but as he said, this is also what has gotten him in trouble as well.MR. RUSSERT: Dick Gephardt, one of Governor Dean's opponents, had this to say. "There's a pattern with Governor Dean...first, say something indefensible. Then deny you ever said it. Then when it's proven you said it, don't tell anybody why you said it. And then go and say it all over again." Bill Safire, is that a good formula?MR. WILLIAM SAFIRE: The trouble with our program so far is that we're talking about Howard Dean and only Howard Dean. Now, of course, you just had a great interview with Wesley Clark. But I think looking at Iowa, you've got the look at the other candidates. How is Gephardt doing? This is do or die for him. And the labor unions that he supported so strongly over all these years are split on him. Can he bring it off? If he does bring it off, will that derail Howard Dean?Let's assume--look, there are two things that could happened, either Dean wins or he loses out there. If he wins, that does not mean that New Hampshire becomes a shoo-in because what it will do is energize the--I hate to use the word "energize." We all talk about energizing bases. There's such a thing as an independence in the middle. They get a little energy, too. But if Dean loses in Iowa by one vote, that will only energize his support in New Hampshire. If he wins, it could be that they'll relax little bit in New Hampshire.And then the Independent voters--you've got to remember New Hampshire's different. It's predominantly a Republican electorate, and Independents up there can vote in either Republican or Democratic primary. Since there's no serious Republican primary, the Independents will vote in the Democratic primary. They are not hard-lined Democratic activists. They're not necessarily Dean's people. And there's where you may see not necessarily an upset but there's where you may see the terrible, dreaded less-than-expected, and if he wins by 5 percent or 10 percent and not the 25 percent that the polls are saying, we'll be here saying, "Oh-oh, Dean's in trouble."MR. RUSSERT: And, in fact, it is those swing voters, those Independent voters, that went for John McCain in 2000 that Wesley Clark is targeting in New Hampshire. But, Mr. Safire, you showed your cards in your Office Pool column. Let me show that on our screen. This your Bill Safire on Wednesday. "Office Pool 204, Howard Dean will ... a) sweep Iowa and New Hampshire and breeze to a boring nomination; b) lose to Gephardt in Iowa and do worse than expected in N.H., leading to a long race; c) transform himself into the centrist, affable `new Dean'; d) angrily bolt and form a third party if the nomination is denied him." And Safire voted: "b) lost to Gephardt in Iowa and do worse than expected in N.H., leading to a long race."You pundit, you.MR. SAFIRE: That was a few days ago.MR. RUSSERT: Yeah. John Harwood, get in here.MR. JOHN HARWOOD: A couple points. One, on the Independents that Bill mentioned in New Hampshire, if you look at the polling, Howard Dean right now is doing just as well among Independents who are going to vote in that primary as he is among core Democrats. On Iowa, I think the real question is turnout. If you talk to senior strategists in both the Gephardt and the Dean campaigns, they say the key to Gephardt's chances are a big turnout. If fewer than 70,000 people turn out for these caucuses--in 2000, between Al Gore and Bill Bradley, in the past there have been 100,000 turnout. A large turnout is good for Gephardt, and especially because he--there's a very bitter fight between the two flanks of the labor movement right now. You have the manufacturing unions who are very strong for Gephardt and the service and government employee unions for Dean. The--at a time where we're losing manufacturing jobs overseas, those manufacturing unions are at a fight for relevance within the labor movement. That's going to give them some extra push to pull out those Gephardt voters.MR. RUSSERT: David Yepsen, based on what you're observing on the campaign trail in terms of turnout, the last time you joined us on MEET THE PRESS, you said you were seeing people you had never seen before at Dean rallies. Do you expect a large turnout, larger than the 70,000 in 2000, that John Harwood talked about?MR. YEPSEN: I do, Tim. The official number for the turnout in 2000 was 61,000. I expect it to be at least double that. Most of the campaigns are using a turn-out model of 130,000 that they expect to turn out. I've had political observers here tell me that they could see it go as high as 150,000. I can tell you, Tim, the party is planning for this. Only 4 percent of the caucuses are going to be held in living rooms this year. Instead, they're going to be in church basements, community centers. I think it's going to be a very big turnout.MR. RUSSERT: David Yepsen, you had said that John Kerry was coming up handsomely, I think was your word. David Broder, you said that you were out with John Kerry yesterday. What has caused him to gain some new traction in Iowa, if in fact that's what you're observing? David Broder, go ahead.MR. BRODER: Go ahead, David. Oh, well, I think a couple of things have happened with him. One, there's been a change in the top command of the campaign. And I think he is now delivering his message in language that is understandable to voters instead of talking constantly in "Senatespeak." For a long time, John Kerry could not utter a simple declarative sentence without the words "amendment" or "provision" in it. And as soon as you use either of those words, you've lost much of the audience. He stopped doing that now. And I think he's communicating much better. Secondly, he knows he is in a fight for his life, politically, now. And I think the blood is up. And there's a lot more passion in what Kerry is doing now.MR. HARWOOD: Tim, I heard Kerry quote de Tocqueville in a Cedar Rapids sports bar earlier this year. I don't think he's doing that anymore.MR. RUSSERT: Karen Tumulty, in your interview with Governor Dean he raised with you, as he has with several people over the last couple of weeks, this concern that the Democrats are all pounding him, beating up on him. Went so far as to say that the Democratic National Committee chairman should intervene and say, "Peace, everybody. Why can't we love one another?" But the fact is that Governor Dean made his mark in this race by being very outspoken about George Bush but by also attacking the Washington Democrats and all the members of Congress who voted for the war in Iraq.MS. TUMULTY: Oh, exactly. You cannot spend 11 months going around insisting that every single one of your opponents is some kind of weak-kneed Washington insider, and then turn around and, you know, ask the teacher for some help when the little kids start picking on you on the playground. It's not working. And I think he even in the interview said that that was really more of an expression of his own frustration than a smart thing to be saying.MR. RUSSERT: Bill Safire, do you believe that the capture of Saddam Hussein has changed the debate in the Democratic Party? Or is the party activists--are they so adamantly opposed to the war that it will have little effect?MR. SAFIRE: I don't think it's changed the debate at all. I think the people who are for Dean are a--not only a minority in the country but may or may not be the majority in the Democratic Party. When we see Dean ahead, we're talking about ahead of a field of nine. When it comes down to, oh, March, then we'll see Dean against somebody. Great likelihood at the moment is Wesley Clark, because he's not taking a chance in Iowa. He is betting everything on New Hampshire. But it becomes one against one, Dean vs. the anti-Dean, then we will see what I hope is Dean's winning of the nomination. I'm a right-winger. I'd like to see another McGovern because I envision a Dean candidacy that not only reaffirms a second term for George W. Bush but drags down Democrats all across the country.MR. RUSSERT: Isn't this exactly what the Jimmy Carter White House was saying about Ronald Reagan?MR. SAFIRE: Ah, you're looking at history. Look ahead. Look ahead. And I can hear David Broder laughing out there in Iowa. David is--the problem David has is he's both a reporter and a pundit. And he sometimes lets the facts warp his opinions.MR. RUSSERT: We're going to take a quick break and we're going to come back with a whole lot more and talk about politics, Iowa, New Hampshire, and also religion. What role is that going to play in this primary and in this general election? A whole lot more coming up on MEET THE PRESS.(Announcements)MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Let's talk about religion. This was the cover of The New Republic magazine last week: "Howard Dean's Religion Problem." And then this headline in the newspapers the other day: "Jesus to Join Dean on Campaign Trail." All the major papers today, John Harwood, have Howard Dean talking about religion and about the Book of Job. What are we seeing here?MR. HARWOOD: Howard Dean has got to make himself acceptable as a mainstream candidate, and if you look at those exit polls from the 2000 campaign, religion is a major, major cultural divider in this country. Forty-two percent of Americans go to church at least once a week. George Bush beat Al Gore by 20 percentage points with those voters. Howard Dean can't sustain a deficit like that, so he's got to start showing some more dimensions of himself to be a mainstream candidate. He's not going to compete in the South, though, even if he does. You know, this has come up in the context of him competing in Southern primaries. Howard Dean and--George Bush's campaign is very affirmative about that. He can't compete anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line. He really needs to look elsewhere in the country. But this could be relevant in places like Missouri, southern Ohio, where you have culturally conservative voters. Howard Dean cannot be made into an unacceptable candidate for those voters.MR. RUSSERT: Karen Tumulty, Howard Dean emphasized with you the need to be consistent and how his supporters like that, or at least be consistently outspoken. But the fact is, if he was baptized a Catholic, then became an Episcopalian, left that church because of a feud over a bike path, as he acknowledges, and now a Congregationalist, is he going to be seen as someone who is trying to trim his views a bit to publicly embrace Christ to be seen as more religious than he really is?MS. TUMULTY: Well, you know, I have actually been in a black church with Howard Dean, and, you know, it was very clear that this was not the man's first time to set foot inside a church. I mean, he does have some familiarity with religion and, believe it or not, some comfort with it. However, the real contradiction is that it was only a few weeks ago that Howard Dean was saying publicly that the Democratic Party has to quit talking about guns, God and gays and move on to issues where they can, you know, find common ground with voters. I mean, so he was almost ceding the religion issue a few weeks ago, and now he's talking about the need to bring it back in. And there's the political inconsistency.MR. RUSSERT: Bill Safire, what's wrong with a candidate for president running as a secular candidate?MR. SAFIRE: I kind of like that guns, gays and--I--I dig alliteration. What's wrong with him running as a secular candidate? He would win strongly in the Northeast, but he'd have difficulty in the rest of the country. I think, however, he would be making a much bigger mistake by ostentatiously embracing God as a driving force in his life. That rings hollow. I wrote a book about the Book of Job. The essence of that book is Job's complaint at his unfair treatment by God. And as you read the book, you realize he was unfairly treated. Now, here is a candidate saying, "I'm in this and I'm being treated unfairly." There's a whining quality to that. That should not be Howard Dean. I mean, if I were Howard Dean out to win the nomination, I would never whine. I'd keep slugging and getting in their face and being myself, because that's the essential power of his campaign.MR. RUSSERT: And this is Howard Dean saying the Book of Job was his favorite book in the Bible. Let me show David Broder and David Yepsen some graphics from a Bratt/O'Leary/John Zogby poll on American cultural values. This is church attendance. But we have the red states, the states that voted for George Bush; the so-called blue states, the states that voted for Al Gore. Fifty-two percent of the voters who live in the red states, the Bush states in 2000, attend church services--church, synagogue, temple--once a week or more. Only 34 percent of those in the blue states attend church service once a week or more. And then this: "Do you want a president who does a good job and is deeply religious?" Red states, 67 percent; two-thirds of the voters in the states that voted for George Bush in 2000 want a deeply religious president. Only half in the blue states. David Broder, how much of a cultural divide do we have in this country between red states, blue states and, frankly, between Democrats and Republicans?MR. BRODER: It's huge, probably as much or more than the economic divisions in the country. And what--we're going to have an interesting test of this, Tim, not too far down the road. When the campaigns swing South, particularly to South Carolina, we will get a measure as to whether Howard Dean is culturally acceptable in that part of the country. All the polling that I have seen indicates that on cultural issues, South Carolina Democrats are much more conservative in their views than the people who are supporting Dean in Iowa or New Hampshire. And we will find out, I think, on February 3 in South Carolina whether he can make that transition that he's now attempting to make.MR. RUSSERT: David Yepsen, even during the 2000 campaign, Al Gore was asked about how he would approach decision-making in the White House, and he said, "WWJD: What would Jesus do?" How much of a role is religion in the Iowa caucuses amongst party activists?MR. YEPSEN: I don't think it's a very big issue amongst party activists. I mean, this is not--we're talking about a Democratic family feud here. This is within the Democratic family. So I don't think it's a particularly dividing issue here, but I think it is, as you've noted, in any general election campaign.MR. RUSSERT: John Harwood.MR. HARWOOD: Tim, one thing I think that's important to remember about the Howard Dean campaign is the theory of this campaign is that cultural issues, which hurt Al Gore very badly in 2000, are going to be much diminished as a role in the 2004 campaign, despite the rise of issues like gay marriage. They say, "We're going to take this off of a left-right continuum and it's going to be an inside-outside campaign." Howard Dean is going to run as the outsider, which is one reason not to rule out the notion of Wesley Clark running with him as a vice president, despite what he said on your program this morning.MR. RUSSERT: Well, General Clark said he wouldn't run.MR. HARWOOD: He said he wouldn't run, but aides to both men don't rule out that possibility. He fits very well with Howard Dean for a couple of reasons. He would help Howard Dean on his national security problem, and he's also the outsider in the race. And he could help in some of those border states. Howard Dean--nobody--Wesley Clark or anyone else in the Democratic Party is going to sweep the South. The question is: Can Howard Dean get a running mate who could help him compete in some border states? Louisiana perhaps. Pick up a few electoral votes there.MR. RUSSERT: Well, if Howard Dean is the nominee, I better save this tape from this morning, Bill Safire.MR. SAFIRE: Well, obviously what you're now thinking of, "Boy, I've got a Shermanstatement out of Wesley Clark." You know, one general speaking to another across a century and a half. And yet, when it comes right down to it, if Dean has the nomination--and if he doesn't have it, I think he will bolt and thereby really make a shoo-in for President Bush.MR. RUSSERT: This is more wishful thinking from right-wing Safire.MR. SAFIRE: Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah.MR. RUSSERT: Yeah.MR. SAFIRE: But I think when the moment comes in the convention, there you are sitting in NBC's booth, right, looking down at all these people waving their banners, and Dean realizes that he has to bring the party together, and he sends an emissary to Clark's emissary, who will be one of the Clinton people, and say, "Hey, how about it now? Now, I'm really offering it to you. I just sort of dangled it last time. This is a firm offer." And let's say Clark says no. What do you do if you're Dean? You pick up the phone, you call Bill Clinton and say, "Hey, get this guy on the ticket because that's the only way we're going to bring the party together, and that's the only way I'm going to support Hillary in 2008 if I don't win." And if you're Bill Clinton, will you then turn to General Clark and say, "Do your duty to the party"?MS. TUMULTY: And on the suggestion that perhaps he is keeping a little bit of his--that Wes Clark is keeping a little bit of his powder dry here is the fact that he has not been among the candidates who have been out there just being scathing about Howard Dean. And you even saw on your program this morning how he tried to portray that joke about skiing, which is how Howard Dean spent the Vietnam War, as just a joke and something that he was trying to...MR. RUSSERT: But he did say that Howard Dean did not have the foreign policy expertise to be commander in chief.MS. TUMULTY: But guess what? That could also be as Howard Dean himself has said that that's a gap in his resume, that he may be looking for a running mate to fill.MR. RUSSERT: Let me pursue that, Karen Tumulty, because it's an important point.Howard Dean says, "I have a gap in my resume," in terms of lack of national security. His comments about Osama bin Laden. His comments about religion. His comments about Social Security and Medicare and changing his views. And yet to hard-core Dean supporters, it doesn't seem to matter. Why is that?MS. TUMULTY: To hard-core Dean supporters, it helps. To them, this is refreshing candor. This is getting away from Washington speak and Dean says, you know, a lot of people are like him, that sometimes they say things that they don't always--you know, that they live to regret. Again this is something that people in the party establishment find absolutely frightening, the prospect of this going on for another year, but for Dean's supporters, it is just yet another measure of his authenticity.MR. RUSSERT: Go ahead, John.MR. HARWOOD: Yeah, Tim, if he gets the nomination, it's going to be another test of whether or not the Democratic primary electorate is in tune with the rest of the country. Dean is running on a changed message right now. If you look at polls in the country, most Americans say they think the country is headed in the right direction. It's not clear whether he can translate a message that's perfectly pitched for the Democratic primary into a general election where the general public might be in a different place.MR. RUSSERT: Let me go out to Iowa for our Davids; David Yepsen first and then David Broder. David Yepsen, why is it that despite these faux pas and inconsistencies people supporting Howard Dean continue to hold on to him tightly, saying, "Oh, leave him alone. Sometimes he misspeaks, but, you know, we've figured out what he really thinks"?MR. YEPSEN: Tim, it's because he's different. The man is--he's a physician, for example. He's not a traditional politician. He speaks frankly and candidly. He does not parse his words. Excuse me. One of Howard Dean's great strengths is this shoot-from-the-hip sort of thing, say what he thinks. People like that. They find it refreshing. It's non-Washington. Now, it can get him into trouble at times, as it's been doing here lately. But, you know, at some point, you've got to let Dean be Dean. This is his great charm. It has brought a lot of new people into the electorate here in the caucus campaign. It'll be interesting to me to see whether Dean can continue to do that in a general election campaign--bring in Americans who have not been participating and there are an awful lot of them who can attract Americans on the strength of this new, fresh style and message.MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, what's your sense of letting Dean be Dean? And will that play through a general election if he's the nominee?MR. BRODER: Candidates who base their hopes on an alienated population generally do not do very well in this country because Americans tend to be optimistic more than pessimistic. I think it has to be linked to a much more specific economic message than what Governor Dean has delivered so far. If he does that, then we might have the possibility of a relatively close election. But my basic feeling, Tim, is that it's going to be difficult for any Democrat to defeat George Bush in 2004.MR. RUSSERT: Bill Safire, we have 10 seconds. Let Dean be Dean, music to your ears?MR. SAFIRE: That was coming from the "let Reagan be Reagan" thing. And I just hope Dean stays Dean, keeps shooting from the hip, becomes Mr. Impulsive, and goes down just as Barry Goldwater did.MR. RUSSERT: William Safire, John Harwood, Karen Tumulty, David Yepsen, thank you-all, and, David Broder, thanks for your wonderful piece this morning on Mary McGrory.We'll have to leave it there. We'll be right back.(Announcements)MR. RUSSERT: Start your day tomorrow on "Today" with Katie and Matt, then the "NBC Nightly News" with Tom Brokaw. That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS. 

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