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MEET THE PRESS
Sunday, January 11, 2004
GUESTS: Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, presidential candidate; David Broder, Washington Post; Ron Brownstein, Los Angeles Times; Roger Simon, U.S. News & World Report; Chuck Todd, The Hotline/National Journal
MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert - NBC News
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 11, 2004
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday—only one week to the Iowa caucuses. Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, John Edwards, and this man, John Kerry, battle to the wire. Can the one-time front-runner Kerry re-ignite his campaign? We’ll ask him. Our guest: Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.
Then, which issues are resonating with the Iowa voters? And the Internet—how important is it in Decision 2004? Insights and analysis from David Broder of The Washington Post, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, Roger Simon of U.S. News & World Report and Chuck Todd of the National Journal Hotline.
And Senator John Kerry is joining us from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Senator Kerry, good morning.
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA): Good morning, Tim. How are you?
MR. RUSSERT: All right. Let me show you and America...
SEN. KERRY: How about our Patriots first?
MR. RUSSERT: We’ll get to the...
SEN. KERRY: I’m sorry it’s not the Bills.
MR. RUSSERT: We’ll get to football. Let’s do a little politics first. Let me show you and...
SEN. KERRY: Well, that’s football, too.
MR. RUSSERT: ...America the very latest tracking polls from Iowa from MSNBC, Reuters and Zogby: Howard Dean at 25; Dick Gephardt, 23; John Kerry, 15; John Edwards, 14; Joe Lieberman, 3; Wesley Clark, 3. And the latest poll from New Hampshire, the American Research Group has Howard Dean at 35; Wesley Clark, 20; John Kerry, 10; Joe Lieberman, 9;Gephardt, 4; Edwards, 3; undecided, 17.
Senator Kerry, about a year ago, maybe perhaps a year and a half, you were widely considered the front-runner, ahead of Howard Dean 2:1 in New Hampshire. You’re now loosing to him 3:1 in New Hampshire. What happened?
SEN. KERRY: Now, Tim, it’s not important. I don’t even accept those polls. This is the same pollster who had Democrats winning every race in the Senate last time and they lost them all. Look, the polls are all over the place. We have very different polls from those. Yesterday, in Iowa, I had 1,000 people at two different rallies. Dean had about 200 with Al Gore. We’re moving out here. We have a lot of energy out here. The people of Iowa are independentminded. This isn’t about polls. This is about people. This is about health care for Americans. It’s about jobs. People are feeling extraordinarily angry about a Medicare bill that pushes seniors off of Medicare into HMOs and gives a windfall profit to the drug companies. I’m telling you, there’s energy out here. It is moving. I am confident, and the polls are all over the place. We have very different polls that show a very different outcome. This is not about polls, Tim. This is about people. And we need to focus on that.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator, last two times the Democrats have been successful with Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, they were governors. Do you believe that the Democratic primary electorate has a disposition to nominate governors because they think they’re more electable?
SEN. KERRY: No, I don’t, Tim. Not at all. And, in fact, if you look back in history—and I’ve reminded people of this—we’ve had great presidents who’ve come out of the Senate: John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson. Al Gore was a great vice president, out of the Senate. I mean, the fact is that what people are looking for is leadership, real leadership, leadership that can stand up and make America safer in a very dangerous world. This is not a time for governors who have no experience whatsoever in foreign policy and national security and military affairs. And if you need any proof of that, just look at what George Bush has done. This is not a time to hire advisers. This is a time to hire a president, a president who has experience and an understanding of how you really make our nation safer. So we need a president who knows how to negotiate with North Korea directly, who knows that we should be buying up the loose nuclear materials in Russia and making the world safer from potential nuclear dirty bombs. We need a president who knows how to make peace in the Middle East, deal with AIDS globally, go back to the table on global warming. We can’t be safe at home, Tim, unless we’re safe abroad. We also can’t be safe abroad unless we’re doing better at home, and I have a 35-year record of fighting in both of those arenas. I think I’m the strongest candidate to run against George Bush.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator, as you sit there in Iowa, back in 1984 you entered the Senate with someone from Iowa named Tom Harkin. He has served with you for 17 years. And yet on Friday he said: “I believe Howard Dean would be the best Democrat to face George Bush.” What do you say to the people of Iowa when their senator, who has worked with you for 17 years, chose to support Howard Dean?
SEN. KERRY: Well, I understand he sent an e-mail out to Gephardt’s supporters that said that he thought Gephardt would make the best president, but that he thought Howard Dean was going to win. You have to ask Tom Harkin about his own decision. On the same day I had Tom Miller—he is the attorney general of Iowa. He is the largest vote-getter in the state. He’s been attorney general since 1978, a man of great respect. And he toured the state of Iowa with me, endorsing me. I have now won the endorsement of three newspapers here in Iowa: the Burlington paper, the Iowa City paper, the Davenport quad cities paper, the Quad-City Times. I’m moving out here in Iowa, Tim. This isn’t about endorsements in the end. The people of Iowa are remarkably independent-minded. Teresa and I have been so stunned by the welcome that you receive when you go to farms, you go to Elks Lodges or VFW posts or restaurants. And crowds of people come in, some of them with notebooks, and they sit there and they compare and they listen to your points. They come back again and listen again and ask questions. This is the best working of democracy that I’ve ever seen. And I believe that next Monday, you and others are going to see a tremendous surprise out here in Iowa. You’re going to see democracy working at its best. And the people of Iowa are going to act outside of all the polls, outside of all the pundits, outside of all the endorsements. They’re going to make their decision about who they believe can lead America and, frankly, elect not just a president of the United States, but a leader of the free world at a very dangerous time in America’s history.
SEN. KERRY: Well, I think Iowa Democrats are listening very carefully, Tim, and they understand that my vote and the vote of Tom Harkin, for instance, and the vote of Hillary Clinton and the vote of Joe Biden, was not a vote specifically to go to war; it was a vote to do what President Bush said he would do, which is hold Saddam Hussein accountable by going to the U.N., working to build a legitimate global coalition, working to have an inspection process that was legitimate and that we were patient about, and finally, the president said he would go to war as a matter of last resort. The president broke every single one of those promises. He broke them to us as senators. He broke them to the Congress. Most importantly, he broke them to the American people. Now, I’ve fought in a war, Tim. You know that and other Americans know that. I know the responsibility of a commander in chief to send people off to war. And there is no way that I would ever have taken America to war the way George Bush did. He owed us a legitimate last resort. And he didn’t. The only way to get the inspectors into Iraq—everybody knows this—was to have that legitimacy of force. We spoke with one voice out of Congress because we needed to for the security of our country. And it was the right thing to do. There was a right way to do this. There was a wrong way to do this. George Bush did it the wrong way. And I have said again and again, I have consistently said, that I believe that he’s run the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in modern history. And I also remind you, Tim, that Wes Clark and Howard Dean both supported giving the authority to the president of the United States, both said he ought to be disarmed, both said he was a threat, and subsequently switched. So everybody exercised that authority at that time, and I think a lot of people aren’t aware of that.
MR. RUSSERT: Joe Lieberman, your Democratic colleague, said it this way, Senator: “I thought that John Kerry’s statement in his announcement address, that he voted for the resolution just to threaten Saddam Hussein, was unbelievable. It was clearly an authorization for President Bush to use force against Saddam. We don’t need a waffler in charge of our country’s future.”
SEN. KERRY: It was an authorization, if the president held accountable what he said. Absolutely, Tim. No question about it. Absolutely. I believed we needed to have Saddam Hussein held accountable. But you needed to do it right. And doing it right meant going through the United Nations properly, exhausting the remedies of the inspections. It meant taking the time to build a legitimate coalition, not a fraudulent one. And it meant going to war as a last resort. Now, under those circumstances, and those are the circumstances the president promised, yes, of course we would. But the fact is, the president broke that. Now, look, people have known me for a lifetime, Tim. Here’s the deal. I’ve stood up and fought against Richard Nixon’s war in Vietnam. I stood up and fought against Ronald Reagan’s illegal war in Central America. I led the fight to try to hold Noriega, the general and the dictator in Panama, accountable for drugs and CIA connections. I blew the whistle on Oliver North and his illegal aid network. I’ve stood up with John McCain and led the fight to make peace in Vietnam. I’ve had a lifetime record of fighting for reasonable approaches in foreign policy. And if anybody out there believes John Kerry would have led us to war the way George Bush did, they shouldn’t vote for me. But if people know my record and know exactly how I’ve talked and thought about foreign policy seriously, and how we protect the United States, I hope they will respect a lifetime of fighting to make America safer and stronger in a reasonable way. We needed to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. We needed to get the world involved. I tried to do that in 1998 with Bill Clinton. This was entirely consistent...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, what...
SEN. KERRY: ...but there was a right way to do it.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator, you say hold Saddam Hussein accountable. This is what you told Rolling Stone magazine on December 2. “If I were president, we would not be in Iraq today...” So if you were president...
SEN. KERRY: What I told them was we wouldn’t have—Tim, what I said...
MR. RUSSERT: No, if—but you said—let me finish, Senator. “If I were president, we would not be in Iraq today...”
SEN. KERRY: What I...
MR. RUSSERT: What that would mean is Saddam Hussein would still be in power if you were president.
SEN. KERRY: What I was talking about, Tim, was how you go to war. We would be in Iraq if it—if we had exhausted the remedies of the inspections and Saddam Hussein had not complied. We would have used the legitimate threat of force. But if, in fact, he had complied, if he had done—look, Colin Powell said, and the president said, there’s only one reason to go to war, originally, when that was voted on, and that was weapons of mass destruction. And if you go back and read my speech on the floor of the Senate, and I ask you to do it, I said clearly, “I am voting to hold him accountable for the weapons of mass destruction.” And no other reason to go to war. I did not buy into preemption. I never bought into the notion that you should just remove him for the sake of removing him the way Joe Lieberman and others did. I thought that was wrong. When Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman went down to the White House and cut their own deal with the president, many of us in the Senate were flabbergasted because we felt that the resolution we were working on was a stronger one. I did what was right to protect the security of our country. I believe the president of the United States made an end-run around the Congress, an end-run around the American people, and I’m going to hold him accountable for doing that.
MR. RUSSERT: You have said that President Bush’s foreign policy has made America less safe. “He’s creating more terrorists.” Where specifically has George Bush created more terrorists?
SEN. KERRY: In Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: In Iraq? So there are more...
SEN. KERRY: Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: ...terrorists in Iraq now than there was when Saddam Hussein was there?
SEN. KERRY: You bet there are, Tim. Every intelligence estimate will tell you that.
SEN. KERRY: I think the judgment of a nominee who doesn’t understand that having Saddam Hussein captured will make it extraordinarily difficult to be able to beat an incumbent wartime president who captured Saddam Hussein. And let me tell you why, Tim. Saddam Hussein took us to war once before. In that war, young Americans were killed. He went to war in order to take over the oil fields. It wasn’t just an invasion of Kuwait. He was heading for the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. And that would have had a profound effect on the security of the United States. This is a man who has used weapons of mass destruction, unlike other people on this Earth today, not only against other people but against his own people. This is a man who tried to assassinate a former president of the United States, a man who lobbed 36 missiles into Israel in order to destabilize the Middle East, a man who is so capable of miscalculation that he even brought this war on himself. This is a man who, if he was left uncaptured, would have continued to be able to organize the Ba’athists. He would have continued to terrorize the people, just in their minds, because of 30 years of terror in Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator...
SEN. KERRY: There isn’t a soldier there, Tim, who doesn’t understand that the capture of Saddam Hussein helps to reduce the capacity for the insurrection, for the insurgency, and helps move forward. We are safer with the capture of a man who wanted to build weapons of mass destruction and who, actually, had them and used them at one point in time.
MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, you can just hear the Republicans saying, “John Kerry said if he was president, we would not be in Iraq, and that there are now more terrorists in Iraq, despite the capture of Saddam Hussein. Therefore, John Kerry does not have the judgment or the credibility to be elected president.” You can hear the Republican commercials.
SEN. KERRY: Tim, this debate—no, because if you look at what I said, in the fullness of that interview, Tim, as well as in every other interview that I’ve ever had, I have said we have to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, but I’ve also said we have to do it in a way that is smart and legitimate. In my speech on the floor of the Senate I made it clear, you are strongest when you act with other nations. All presidents, historically, his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, did a brilliant job of building a legitimate coalition and even got other people to help pay for the war. The American people have been left stranded, almost alone, occupying a Middle Eastern nation in a way that we didn’t have to. What I would have done is exhausted the remedies—and I wrote this in The New York Times- I have been consistent and clear, yes, you have to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. Yes, you have to be prepared to go to war, and I’m prepared to go to war if you have to. But a last resort, Tim, means last resort. And one of the lessons I learned in Vietnam is, you better be able to look, as commander in chief, in the eyes of families who lose their son or daughter and say to them, “I tried to do everything in my power to prevent the loss of your son and daughter.” I don’t think the president passes that test in Iraq. Whether Saddam Hussein is gone or not, we went to war in a rush, we went to war without a plan for winning the peace. This has been a disorganized, haphazard effort. They failed in Afghanistan, to capture Saddam Hussein in Tora-Bora. That was a miserable operation because they refused to put the American military into the operation. I think they are accountable for a foreign policy that had overextended the armed forces of the United States, turned our Reserves and Guard into active duty, and they are even abandoning the veterans who come home by cutting the VA budget by $1.8 billion. We can do a better job of making America more secure.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator, you have said that, as I mentioned, Howard Dean does not have the judgment or credibility to be president, that he would be “eviscerated” by President Bush. Do you believe if the Democratic party nominates Howard Dean, it would be the equivalent of a suicide mission in the general election?
SEN. KERRY: That’s for the voters to decide. I have said that I think it is going to be very difficult for a person in a post-September 11 world, who has no foreign policy experience, no national security experience, no military experience, very difficult to stand up against a wartime president and convince America that that person has the ability to make our country safe. And, Tim, you can hear the advertisements now; so can I. We saw what they did to challenge the patriotism of Max Cleland, a triple amputee, a man who left three of his limbs on the ground in Vietnam. They challenged his patriotism. His regret is he didn’t stand up and fight back. I’m going to fight back, and I’m going to fight back with Max Cleland at my side and with a lot of other veterans who understand that this war is a war that they rushed into, that they have put our troops at greater exposure of risk than we had to. We could have had other nations in the ground with us. We should have had other nations on the ground with us. We should have had a legitimate plan to secure the nation more effectively, and as long as it’s an American occupation, America remains at greater risk. And we’re also paying more money out of the pocket of taxpayers than we need to be paying.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator, you can hear Howard Dean watching, saying, “Hold on, John Kerry. You voted to authorize the president to go to war. I’m the only Democrat who opposed this war from day one.” Senator, why do you think...
SEN. KERRY: And you know what I’ll say? Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...that Howard Dean is doing so well with Democratic voters?
SEN. KERRY: Tim, you know what I’ll say right back to Howard Dean if he said that? And I’d love to have a face-to-face debate with him. Let’s have you and me and Howard Dean together. Howard Dean, on the 6th of October, five days before we voted on this resolution about authorizing, he stood up and he supported the Biden-Lugar resolution that gave authority to the president to go to war. All the president had to do was write a little letter and say, “I tried to do the diplomacy but it didn’t work.” Howard Dean exercised the same judgment as the rest of us that he ought to have authority. He just put it under a different resolution and then he could run around later on and say, “Oh, I’m against the war,” because he didn’t have a recorded vote.
MR. RUSSERT: But why is he doing so well...
SEN. KERRY: He also stood up—just a minute, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: ...with the Democratic voters?
SEN. KERRY: Tim, I don’t think they’re aware of that judgment. I don’t think they’re aware. I think that what’s happened is there’s been—you know, when you don’t vote, you’re not accountable. The fact is that I think people are listening now. I know they’re listening now. And people are beginning to make up their minds about who can be the nominee. Look, you know, Governor Dean has said that he thinks we have to prepare for the time when America is not the strongest military. I don’t. Howard Dean has said that Hamas’ soldiers—no one has ever called Hamas soldiers before. Howard Dean has said we don’t take sides in the Middle East. We took sides in 1948. Israel’s our ally. We always knew that. We can’t have a president who is conducting American foreign policy by press release clarification, and we’re certainly not going to beat George Bush that way. I think we need somebody who has 35 years of experience, who has been consistent from day one. I said we have to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, but from day one, Tim, I said there’s a way to do it. And this president kept going away from the way to do it that was correct. So I believe that I can be trusted to do what’s necessary to make the United States secure, and that’s what the American people want.
MR. RUSSERT: For the record, a year ago in May, we asked you to debate Governor Dean on health care here on MEET THE PRESS when you were the front-runner and you chose not to. Ironically, he will not debate you now because he’s the front-runner which is the way of politics. But let me ask you about George Bush and show you the way The Washington Post described the economic record. “The Dow Jones industrial averaged ended 2003 up 25 percent. The economy grew at a blistering 8.2 percent annualized rate in July, August and September. Housing and other construction are at record highs. Interest rates remain low and ... the manufacturing sector last month expanded at a pace not seen since 1983, when another economic recovery ushered Ronald Reagan toward his landslide reelection.” Is the only way the Democrats can win in 2004 is by saying, “We have a bad economy”?
SEN. KERRY: Absolutely not. I hope we have a good economy. I don’t think any American should ever wish we have a bad economy, but every statistic that you just read off, Tim, works wonderfully if you’re looking at a Republican recovery. You know, corporate profits are up 46 percent, but they’re up by consolidation. They’re up by increases in productivity. They’re not up because Americans are going back to work, and they’re not up because Americans are earning more money. Just this last month—yesterday, the president talked about how his tax cuts have been good for the recovery. Well, the fact is they projected 250,000 jobs but they only created a thousand. They’re 249,000 jobs short. And every month, there are about 250,000 people who drop out of even looking for work. I met a guy named Bob Anderson in Waterloo the other day. He’s 49 years old. He’s been out of work for two years. He sends out his resumes. When he goes to have an interview, there are 200 other people there looking for the same job. His wife has been diagnosed with MS. He has no health care. He doesn’t know where to turn. There are people like that all over this country who are desperate. The wages of workers, Tim, went up three pennies, meanwhile—three pennies an hour, and the overall wages of workers have gone down $1,500. Meanwhile, Medicare lobbyists have turned a Medicare bill into a windfall profit for the Medicare companies, $139 billion. The energy companies got $50 billion of oil and gas subsidies. Everybody in America understands the economy is tilted against them. The economy—Americans are working for the economy, Tim, but the economy is not working for all Americans. And I believe there’s an enormous issue there about the fundamental fairness of the workplace in America.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator, if you do not win Iowa, if you come in third, and come in third in New Hampshire, is your race over?
SEN. KERRY: Tim, I’m going to do great. I’m going to surprise you and a lot of people. I’m fighting for every vote. The one thing people know about me is I’m tenacious. I’m a fighter. I’ve got great energy out here in Iowa. I am very, very confident about what we’re doing.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you going to win?
SEN. KERRY: And I think next Tuesday, you and others are going to be scratching your heads and say, “How did Kerry do it?” And there’s a surprise story out of Iowa.
MR. RUSSERT: So you’re going to win.
SEN. KERRY: You keep watching. It’s going to be a fun ride.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you going to win Iowa?
SEN. KERRY: I’m going to do the best I can. Tim, I’m doing the best I can to give you a good surprise and we’re going to keep on working. I’m not making any projections. I’ll just tell you this: We had 1,000 people were at two different rallies yesterday. The energy is enormous. I’ve been endorsed by three newspapers out here. People are coming board—the attorney general. Tomorrow I’ll be standing up with 27 legislators in the state of Iowa. That’s more legislators than Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt have put together. They’re standing with me because they’re the people who do the work every day of trying to get things done for their own people, and they believe I’d be the strongest nominee to run with. They believe that I’d be the best president. And I think we’re beginning to make great progress out here in Iowa.
MR. RUSSERT: We’ll be watching you and the Patriots. Senator...
SEN. KERRY: Oh, I’m glad you’ve admitted you’ll watch the Patriots.
MR. RUSSERT: Thanks very much. We’ll see you out in Iowa. Be safe on the campaign trail.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next: the strategy, the issues and the Internet. David Broder, Ron
MR. DAVID BRODER: Well, the two at the top of the poll also have probably the biggest field organizations in Iowa. So I think that it would be surprising if Kerry or Edwards snuck into first or second place. But, I don’t think we’re going to know until the caucuses are over who’s actually won in Iowa.
MR. RUSSERT: Between Dean and Gephardt?
MR. BRODER: It’s that close.
MR. RUSSERT: Ron Brownstein, is there a silent vote out there for Howard Dean, people who’ve never gone to caucuses before, who perhaps aren’t being polled because the polltakers just don’t know that they’re going to be potential caucus attendees?
MR. RON BROWNSTEIN: Well, yeah. One of the hardest things in any race, but certainly in a race involving a candidate like Dean, who changes the electorate, is deciding who is really going to vote. Now, we have an LA Times poll out taken a couple days before the Zogby poll that had Dean at 30, Gephardt at 23, a little wider advantage. But, Tim, I think all the polls, including ours, finds a lot of fluidity. Forty percent of the people in our survey said they could still change their mind. And even in doing follow-up interviews with people who responded to the poll, several people said to me, “Yeah, I said I was for Gephardt to the pollster, but now I’m leaning toward Edwards.” Or, “I said I was for Dean and now I’m leaning Kerry.” People are still moving out there, even after a long time of intensive campaigning.
MR. RUSSERT: We also were able to ask people about whether they thought that their candidate had a chance to beat George Bush. These are Iowa Democrats. The Iowa Democrats believe that Howard Dean is likely to beat Bush, but a third of the Democrats say that he’s probably not likely to beat George Bush. And look at this. “Are you voting for this candidate because he can beat Bush?”--46. Forty-nine percent of Iowa Democrats say, “No, no, I want a candidate who agrees with me.” Roger.
MR. ROGER SIMON: And this is very much what the Dean campaign has been about, empowering Democrats. When he attacks George Bush, and when he attacks the other Democrats who vote for the war, he’s doing more than just attacking a position. He’s saying to Democrats, “Don’t worship at the feet of George Bush. Don’t cooperate with him. Don’t be afraid of being accused of being soft on war. Stand up to the guy. He lost to Al Gore by 500,000 votes and he acted like he won by 500 million votes,” as he says. He’s empowering his party to stand up on their own two feet, to stop playing games with George Bush, and be a real party. And what you’re seeing is that people are proud of being Democrats again, at least in this poll, and saying, “We’re going to vote for Howard Dean whether he’s going to win or not.”
MR. RUSSERT: Last week, at the end of the week, he was saying, “People are playing ‘gotcha,’ people are coming after me, we have to stop all this negativity.” At the same time, this flier was being put on the windows of people attending a Wesley Clark rally, quoting Wesley Clark for several past years, put out by the Dean people, which could be perceived as a negative piece of literature.
MR. SIMON: Right.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: Well, Dean did a mailing on Dick Gephardt and the war in Iowa. He did a television commercial, one of the few in the history of the Iowa caucus ever attacking another candidate by name. I mean, Howard Dean defined himself in this race as the outsider who ran against Democrats from Washington who supported Bush too much on No Child Left Behind, on taxes, and on the war. So for him to turn around now and say people are going after him is a little disingenuous. It’s also a little unnecessary. I mean, Howard Dean has made very clear he can take care of himself. He doesn’t need Terry McAuliffe or anybody else to come...
MR. SIMON: Right.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: ...in and protect him on the school yard.
MR. SIMON: But they’re very worried about Clark. They’re not happy with the collapse of Kerry in Iowa. They wanted Kerry to fend off Clark in New Hampshire for him, and they don’t really want Kerry out of this race. They don’t want anyone out of this race. They want the anti-Dean vote to be divided by eight people for as long as possible.
MR. RUSSERT: The more the better. To underscore the point, Chuck Todd, about the fluidity of Iowa, not only people moving around from candidate to candidate, 14 percent of the people telling us that they’re still undecided. I want to show you some of the things that cause the volatility. Lisa Myers of NBC News did a piece where she reviewed the Dean tapes of a program called “The Editors” that he had done four years ago where he talked about the Iowa caucuses, and this is what he said four years ago:
(Videotape, “The Editors,” 2000):
MR. RUSSERT: The special interests, when asked who they were by the other candidates, Howard Dean said, “I’ve learned a lot about Iowa.” Then on Thursday night after that piece aired and received heavy air play in Iowa, Howard Dean sank dramatically in the polls. Gephardt spiked up, and the Dean people rushed out Tom Harkin, the Iowa senator, to endorse Howard Dean. One Dean supporter said it was “a tourniquet endorsement, we had to stop the bleeding from the NBC News piece.” Here was the scene at the University of Dubuque Saturday night. Al Gore, Howard Dean, Tom Harkin, Rocky-style, trying to whip up the base. Do these endorsements matter? Why the volatility? What’s going on?
MR. CHUCK TODD: Well, I think the endorsements matter. Are they going to bring votes? I don’t know. But the endorsements certainly are going to get Howard Dean on the lead of the local news in Iowa. It’s certainly going to give this a sense of momentum. You know, all of Howard Dean’s message in Iowa now is: We’re going to win. That’s the momentum. In fact, among the attack ads that he’s done in Iowa include a mailer against John Kerry alone which tells Iowans, “Hey, we’re beating John Kerry in a poll in Massachusetts,” and then they have a tag line underneath that says, you know, “if Massachusetts people don’t think that John Kerry can beat George Bush, then, you know, what are we going to do here in America?” I mean...
MR. RUSSERT: I thought we had too much of this negativity.
MR. TODD: But this is the whole Howard Dean campaign is: We’re momentum, we’re going to win, and Harkin plays into that.
MR. RUSSERT: We’re on a mission.
MR. TODD: Yeah.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: But you know—I’m sorry, excuse me—when you look at Iowa, you look at both the Zogby poll and our poll, these are two very different Democratic parties that are coming onto the field against each other. I mean, you look at Gephardt and Dean, and they have assembled virtually mirror-image coalitions at this point. Gephardt—less affluent, fewer college graduates, older, sort of the brawny New Deal coalition from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson; Dean—more upscale, many more college graduates, younger, more socially liberal, pretty much the Democratic Party since the 1970s. And it’s almost as if you have different generations of the Democratic Party being summoned here and, you know, we’re going to see which one is larger in Iowa. In New Hampshire, there’s no question the Dean side of the party is larger, but in many of the Southern and Midwestern states, this kind of balance, this sort of division of attraction of voters could be a problem for Dean if someone can consolidate that other side of the party against him.
MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, to that point, John Zogby, in his analysis of the polls this morning said that “Look at the parking lot of the Iowa caucuses and if you see Volvos and people getting out of them with sandals, it’s a good night for Howard Dean. If you see Ford Crown Victorias and people wearing wing-tips, it’s Dick Gephardt.” Young voters overwhelmingly for Howard Dean. voters over 60 in Iowa, they’re still attached to Dick Gephardt.
MR. BRODER: I saw the same kind of contrast when I was out there earlier this week. Gephardt gave a pep talk to about 175 union business agents and staff people who’d come in from around the country. I’d say it was about 98 percent male and the median size of these guys, about 6’3”, 250 pounds. Then I went over to...
MR. RUSSERT: My kind of guy.
MR. BRODER: Then I went over to the Dean headquarters, they’re young, they’re female, they’re gay, and they’re small. And I thought to myself, I hope those Gephardt guys don’t run into the Dean people. You know it would be a bad scene.
MR. TODD: You know, it’ll be interesting at the caucuses, on caucus night, if there is some physical intimidation, or not, I mean...
MR. RUSSERT: Punch everybody out.
Mr. TODD: Yeah.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: I wanted to add a shirt size cross tab to our poll after experiencing the same thing. I think we’d find a pretty clear division.
MR. RUSSERT: Double XL.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, absolutely.
MR. SIMON: What you’re really going to see in the parking lots, though, is buses rented by the Dean campaign to get people to the polls. I mean, the whole story in Iowa is turnout. People have to come out at the same hour of the night, not vote throughout the day and cast a secret ballot. They have to come out at 6:30 at night, the average temperature is 25 degrees, historically. They have to stand around for three hours and argue with people before they can cast a vote. Will older voters do that? They’ve done it for years; they’re more experienced. Or will younger voters who are maybe more mobile do it, but on the other hand, they haven’t had experience of doing it before.
MR. RUSSERT: How things have changed. Four years ago, Howard Dean said, “Why would anyone want to spend eight hours standing around doing that?”
MR. SIMON: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: He now loves Iowa. One of the things that we will find out is just how truly effective is the Internet in this presidential race? Johns Hopkins University has already been studying it. Look at this: “The Use Of Blogs In The 2004 Presidential Election,” a study by Johns Hopkins University. And now for the computer illiterate crowd, this is a blog. This is Howard Dean’s blog. Here’s Wesley Clark’s blog. Here’s George W. Bush’s blog. And here to help us is Chuck Todd of National Journals Hotline.” What is a blog.
MR. TODD: The actual term itself, by the way, is short for Web log. And, you know, you drop the W and you get the blog. I’ll just describe what Howard Dean’s blog since it’s the one that has the most traction and the most attention. It’s essentially like a digital bulletin board saying, “Hey, look, this is what we’re up to today. This is our message today. These are some of the things we’re doing today.” And then it allows a section to comment about what’s going on during the day. And this is where you find out who the bloggers are. These are these troops of people—Howard Dean, on any given posting, will have 150 to 200 comments per these posting. That means there’s probably about 80 to 100 people at any one time, they’re just chitchatting. It could be that they’re immediately responding to seeing Dean on television or they’re probably blogging right now while they’re watching us talking about them right now. No doubt probably they’re getting mad at us. They’re very anti-media. Reading the Dean blog is like reading Republican message points from years past and they’re anger toward the media. They felt very mad at NBC News and Lisa Myers over the last couple of days over the story, felt like somehow NBC News took his comments out of context. So it is a little...
MR. RUSSERT: Which Lisa Myers did not...
MR. TODD: No, not at all, but it was...
MR. RUSSERT: ...and the Dean campaign will acknowledge that.
MR. TODD: They acknowledge it. They did, but...
MR. RUSSERT: In effect, it’s a cyber-bulletin board.
MR. TODD: Yeah, exactly.
MR. RUSSERT: But now people who don’t like Howard Dean have occasionally gone up there and said some negative things and they are called trolls.
MR. TODD: You love this term, don’t you?
MR. RUSSERT: Correct?
MR. TODD: Yes, it is the term.
MR. RUSSERT: Roger Simon, when I say troll, I think of you.
MR. SIMON: Well, thank you very much.
MR. TODD: You’re a blogger, Simon.
MR. RUSSERT: But you’re a blogger.
MR. SIMON: I am a blogger sort of. I mean, the difference between—look, a true blog is I woke up this morning, I decided to skip chem class, now I want to write about the last episode of “Friends.” That’s what blogs are. You know, it’s people talking to each other. My site is actually written columns. There’s a difference between writing and typing basically. Well, I mean, the theory between blogging is half correct. It’s everybody has an opinion and then the other half is: And everyone else wants to read about it. That’s not necessarily true. When I first put up the site, it got all these responses. I thought people wanted me to respond to them. They don’t. They want to talk to each other. And that has been the power that Dean has tapped into.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: A long time before the Internet, Henry Luce said, “A magazine creates a community of interest that it did not know it existed.” And the blog does something of the same thing, but I think there’s a broader political question here, Tim. If you think of the blog as part of the overall phenomenon of the Internet growing in importance in politics, one question that has to be raised looking at Dean’s success is whether what it takes to succeed on the Internet and to generate this passion is inimical to what it takes to win a general election and to win over a lot of voters who are less passionate. Does it take a message and a persona that is so cutting and polarizing to attract attention on the Internet that you will then have trouble in November winning over the Senate. I mean, in the end, you need 50 million votes or so to win a presidential election and that’s a lot more people than you have at any given moment signing on to your blog.
MR. TODD: Well, building off of Ron’s point, you know, this whole growth of the Internet for Dean support, it was exponential in the summer and in the fall, and you know what? It’s really slowed. This week, you know, they throw up these fund-raising goals and they do it as a bat. It’s like the old Red Cross goals where you see the progress as you go. They had the Sweep The Seven. On February 3, 700,000, Sweep The Seven. You know what? It was one of their slowest fund-raising bats we’d seen. They didn’t allow the goal by midnight Friday to even show up. They changed it. You know, they realized something wasn’t working, they changed it to say, “Thank you, Tom Harkin” and they made it to about 800,000.
MR. RUSSERT: You know, it’s so striking to me. When we had the big Internet bubble and everyone was saying, “The Internet’s the wave of the future and all the brick-and-mortar businesses are in trouble”—and the AOL Time Warner merger and on and on, and suddenly people said, “How do we make money off the Internet?” The question here is: Will the people who use the Internet, and talk to the blogs, will they show up on caucus night? Will they show up to vote? We have not seen it. We do not know. If they do, Howard Dean will win big. Ironically in all this, I was reading New Yorker magazine the other night, and at the end of 2002, Howard Dean himself said, “What’s a blog?”
MR. TODD: Ooh. But—yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: He did not know much about the Internet. It’s Joe Trippi, his campaign manager, who actually surfs the Net, reads the blogs and steals—not steals, borrows—ideas from them. Right.
MR. TODD: I’ll give you one that he took. I was fascinated one time when he had this whole phone-banking idea asking these young Dean volunteers to use their unused cell phone minutes from the weekend to make calls on the weekend to undecided Iowa supporters. This was, like, months ago. And I asked the campaign about it and Trippi said, “Oh, we got it from the blog.”
MR. BROWNSTEIN: I think the one thing we know that’s lasting—sorry, Roger—is that this has clearly provided a new way of raising money. I mean, Howard Dean is following in the footsteps of moveon.org, the liberal online advocacy groups. And both of them have demonstrated that you can raise very large sums of money from small donors who, in effect, give on the installment plan, Tim. They come back again and again. If Howard Dean wins Iowa or New Hampshire, his ability to then turn to his base, very few of whom have given the maximum, and raise a very large sum of money very quickly is a significant tactical advantage in this race, and I think every candidate from here on in is going to have a major Internet fund-raising strategy.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, looking at these blogs, I was somewhat taken by the similarity. David, your paper, The Washington Post, has an article by David Von Drehle talking about how similar they are. And he has a wonderful line. He said, “‘Immature poets imitate,’ said T.S. Eliot. ‘Mature poets steal.’” But when you think about the Internet, in 1992, the race of Bill Clinton and former President Bush, there were about 50 pages on the World Wide Net. There are now five billion. For someone who’s covered politics a long time, what is your sense of the Internet? And how much of a role is it playing in this election?
MR. BRODER: Well, I am not and I never have blogged, and I’m going to get to the end of my career without blogging. I think...
MR. RUSSERT: Are you now or have you ever been a blogger, Broder?
MR. TODD: DavidBroder.com, we’re going to...
MR. BRODER: No, but I think it’s a tremendous tool, and it’s part of what is the healthiest trend in our politics, which is going back to personal communication, away from the mass media—forgive me, NBC. But I think the healthiest thing that’s going on now is people talking to people, either through the Internet or, as we’re seeing on the ground in Iowa, face-to-face communication.
MR. RUSSERT: Right. Writing letters, real-time democracy.
MR. BRODER: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: Also which...
MR. SIMON: Dean has been—I’m sorry. Dean has been accused for a long time of being just an Internet phenomenon, and his response has always been, “If you think that’s true, come out and see my crowds.” You know, the Internet may have gotten 12,000 people to come out to a rally in Washington state, but people actually had to go and do it. They had to leave their basements and push aside their Burger King wrappers and actually get out in life, in public, which some of them don’t want to do. And they do that for Howard Dean. His crowds are almost always overflow crowds.
MR. TODD: And this letter-writing thing that you talk about—that was done at the meet-ups, these monthly meet-ups. They write these letters. They’re handwritten letters. You know, they did a poll, the Dean campaign, to find out how many likely Iowa caucus-goers said that they had received a handwritten letter to ask them to support any candidate; 70 percent said they had received a handwritten letter. That’s stunning.
MR. RUSSERT: We have to take a quick break. We’ll be right back with more of our roundtable. And, Big Russ, don’t go near the blog.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. David Broder, if it’s a close race in Iowa next Monday between Dean and Gephardt, and the following Tuesday, relatively close between Dean and Clark, the front-loaded system, is it over, or does it go on? MR. BRODER: No, it goes on. And we’ve got seven states on February 3, and then a whole bunch more later in the month, including our favorite state, Wisconsin. We’ll get back to having a real Wisconsin primary.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: If Dean wins in Iowa, Iowa has a tendency more to bury than to launch candidates. It could bury Gephardt and Kerry. The risk to Dean, then, even if he’s be in a strong position, is that leaves Clark as the clearest alternative. He’s the one with the most money. It’s not the situation Dean wants. It could create the more competitive race over time.
MR. SIMON: And Joe Trippi says if Dean wins Iowa, it’ll be over quickly. If he doesn’t win Iowa, it’s going to take a long time. They’re worried about February 10, Virginia and Tennessee in the same day, two states that look good for General Clark. And they think that’s going to be the choke point of this campaign.
MR. TODD: I think the biggest thing to watch right now this week is going to be can Dick Gephardt get any of the undecided vote? The only thing all the polls agree on is Dick Gephardt’s number. He sits at 23, 24 percent, every single poll we see. He’s had 16 years to get these voters in Iowa. He’s going to get any of that undecided vote.
MR. RUSSERT: So he’s the incumbent in the race, in effect.
MR. TODD: He really is the incumbent.
MR. RUSSERT: And if the undecided hasn’t moved, will they move?
MR. TODD: Exactly.
MR. RUSSERT: If Wesley Clark, however, begins the surge in New Hampshire and he has now gone from 12 to 20 in a week, is there a chance he could overtake Howard Dean in New Hampshire?
MR. TODD: Well, that, I think—and a lot depends on Dean’s margin of victory in Iowa. If we assume he is going to win Iowa. And, at this point, I think the expectation is with him. The margin of victory in Iowa may dictate what happens in New Hampshire.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, whether Clark overtakes him or not, it looks like as with John McCain in 2000, Clark could be the big winner in Iowa by staying away.
MR. RUSSERT: You know, David Broder, there were 60,000 people who attended caucuses between Gore and Bradley in 2000. They expect double that this year. And to give you a sense of the campaigns, the way they’re planning, I’ve learned that Wesley Clark, on the night of the State of the Union, which the president, by the way, has scheduled for the day after the Iowa caucuses to make sure America knows that he’s the president, and can share the headlines, as well, Wesley Clark is going to have a town hall meeting watching the president give his State of the Union address and then respond to it in real time with this town hall meeting. These are candidates who are really thinking this through and trying to think of creative and interesting ways to motivate their voters.
MR. BRODER: Right. But one point about the Iowa turnout, even if it doubles from what it was four years ago, it’s still about a quarter of the Democratic registration in Iowa. Yeah, I love Iowans. They’re great people. But it’s not a terribly accurate reflection of the views, even of Iowa Democrats.
MR. SIMON: We all keep writing “this is a grass-roots campaign.” There’s very few roots out there. As David said last time, 10 percent of the registered Democrats voted; 90 percent did not. It’s a gain for party insiders. And they want to keep it that way.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: So Howard Dean was right. It is about...
MR. SIMON: Well, his definition—he says a gaffe is when you tell the truth.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: It’s supply-side election. The candidates create the electorate. There will be more voters because there are more organizers out there rustling them up.
MR. RUSSERT: That has to be the last word. Ron Brownstein, David Broder, Roger Simon, Chuck Todd, thank you all, and we’ll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: Tonight, The Black & Brown Forum in Iowa’s having a debate, and NBC News will carry it live at 8 p.m. Lester Holt will be the moderator. That’s 8 p.m. on MSNBC, a debate of the Democratic candidates in Iowa.
That’s all for today. We’ll be back next week, live from Des Moines, an exclusive interview with presidential candidate Dick Gephardt. That’s next Sunday, MEET THE PRESS in Iowa. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.