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Dean on the last week of the presidential campaign

Former presidential candidate Howard Dean talks about the 'Iowa scream,' campaigning for John Kerry, and whether or not the Democrats can take back the White House.
Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont Ron Edmonds / AP

DON IMUS, HOST:  Governor Howard Dean—He’s got a book called “You Have the Power.”  How are you, Governor Dean?


At least I am right now.  We’ll find out what happens after the program.


IMUS:  You’re fine.

So I’m not just saying this because you were here—I’ve said this a number of times, that Iowa—was Iowa the scream deal?

DEAN:  Yes.


IMUS:  I was watching, as were a lot of other people at the time—I didn’t see anything wrong with it.

DEAN:  You know, neither did the press that was traveling with us, but you know, cable is entertainment.  We’re on cable, right?  It’s entertainment and that’s what they do, so it’s—I think it played 763 times in a week, I was the best known guy in America that week.

IMUS:  Well, I remember I was watching—and not because we’re on MSNBC, it’s just I happen to like them is all—I was watching them and I can’t remember who it was who just made a big deal of it.  It could have been Patrick Buchanan.  It could have been Scarborough.  Gee, what a surprise.  But the point was I didn’t understand it.  I mean, it was just enthusiastic.  It was whatever.  But, man, they nailed you with that, didn’t they?

DEAN:  Yes, they did.  They did.

But, you know, that’s—as Winston Churchill once said, democracy is the worst system of government in the world except for every other.  What are you going to do?

IMUS:  When did you realize that the wheels were coming off, that that was going to...

DEAN:  Well, the wheels actually came off when we lost.  I mean, whoever won Iowa was going to win the whole thing, and Kerry ran a great campaign in the last three weeks and did a great job.

So I kind of had a feeling—I kept being told by everybody that we were going to be fine, but I kind of had this feeling that things weren’t going as well as they should. 

We kind of topped out—I didn’t expect to be the front runner.  You know, the whole plan was to be the guy from—that nobody ever heard of that came up and snuck up on everybody in the primaries, but that wasn’t quite the way it worked out.

IMUS:  Well, you weren’t that enamored of Kerry though then?

DEAN:  No.

IMUS:  Even now right?

DEAN:  Well, I am. 

I’m working my butt off for him now because I think that we got a choice and I think Kerry is going to be a lot better on the deficit, which I care a lot about.  I think he is going to be a lot better on the environment.  I think he is going to do health care.  And it’s about time we do something about that.

IMUS:  This is not about me, we’re talking to you, but I have known him for a long time and intend to vote for him, but I just almost can’t stand him.

DEAN:  I don’t think he should have gone goose hunting, but...


But, you know, I heard what you had to say about that last week and he did have the goose shipped home and he’s going to eat it.


DEAN:  ... in his favor.

IMUS:  Do you actually believe that?

Well, here’s the thing that I’ve been disappointed about, about him.  And I actually—I don’t barely stand him.  Well, we both like him actually.  But is that they have—he and Senator Edwards have both demonstrated that they’re willing to do what the president and vice president do, and that is say and do anything to get elected, and I find that disturbing.

Do you?

DEAN:  Well, I’m not quite sure I agree with all that.  You know, I think the president and the vice president certainly will do that.

I think that if you look at Kerry’s votes, he’s had some pretty courageous votes.  He was one of 14 people who voted against this thing called the Defense of Marriage Act, which basically is—I think it’s unconstitutional.

IMUS:  Explain that to me.

DEAN:  Well, what it says is that one state doesn’t have to recognize the marriage contracts of another state.  It’s a way of fighting against gay marriage. 

But the problem is it’s an interference—as a former governor of course, naturally I’d take this point of view, but it’s really a big interference in what states can and cannot do and I don’t think it’s any of the federal government’s business.

However you end up on the issue—now, I know Kerry is against gay marriage and all that, but however you end up on the issue, when you’re one out of 14 people and you vote your principle, I think that’s pretty reasonable. 

I’m a huge fan of Russ Feingold because he voted—he’s the only guy that voted against the Patriot Act.  Now, I never criticized people for voting for the Patriot Act when I was running, -- I thought there were some problems, because how do you know what you’re going to do three weeks after the World Trade Center gets blown up; you know, you’re going to pass some emotional votes.

But for somebody who has the courage to stand up and say, “I don’t believe this and I don’t care if anybody else is going to vote for it, I’m not—I like those kind of people in Washington.”  I think if we had more of them, then the country would be in better shape.

IMUS:  Well, wouldn’t it have been better had we know that, for example, Senator Kerry voted against the Gulf War...

DEAN:  Right.

IMUS:  ... when it was—we had all of these allies on board and Saddam Hussein had clearly attacked somebody, Kuwait and...

DEAN:  Yes.

IMUS:  It seemed to me at the time to be a politically expedient vote as was the vote for this war.

DEAN:  When he voted against it—why would that be politically expedient?

IMUS:  Well, because I think at the time he thought, you know, that that’s what the people of Massachusetts wanted and I just thought that he thought that was—I think that he put his finger in the air and he thought that that was the thing to do.

DEAN:  I don’t know.  I thought—I mean, I didn’t agree with him on the last vote when he voted in favor of the Iraq war, but I didn’t have—nor did I agree with him on the first one.  I supported the first Gulf War.

But I actually thought that was a fairly courageous vote too.  I mean, I think that’s what you get hired to do is vote what your people in Massachusetts or wherever you, you know...

IMUS:  Well, let’s say you’re right—maybe you are.  Then why wouldn’t he do what you did—he’s tried to morph himself over to your position...


... since you caught fire, but wouldn’t it have been better—because it’s too late now—if he simply said, which many people think it was, that this Iraq war was just a hideous, horrible mistake and we got hoodwinked?

DEAN:  Well, you know, I thought about that a lot since I’m out working for him and people have asked me a lot, you know, “How come he voted that way and then how come he didn’t say, well, ‘I just made a terrible mistake’?”

You know, in Washington, things are a little different than they are outside Washington.  And there is a long tradition in the Senate of giving the president authority to conduct foreign and military policy, and I think he did that and he did get hoodwinked—you know, the president said a whole lot of stuff that just wasn’t true.  I mean, one thing after another.

The only reason I can figure out that President Bush went to war in Iraq was because Saddam was a bad man—well, that’s the only true thing he said.  I mean, there wasn’t any nuclear weapons.  There wasn’t any weapons of mass destruction.  There wasn’t any link with al Qaeda.  There wasn’t any link with 9/11.  All that stuff turned out not to be true, not that I said so, because it was right in the 9/11 Commission report.

And so, I think that John  voted to give the president the power that most senators vote to give the president.  You know, I wouldn’t have voted that way, but I don’t think it was an unprincipled vote.

IMUS:  I don’t know what he’s said lately, but the last time I talked to him, he said that even knowing what he knows now he would have still voted the same, which sounds foolish, doesn’t it?

DEAN:  I didn’t agree with that, but again, when you look at where we are—I think there are two things that John Kerry cares a great deal about other than jobs and all the things that every president ought to do the right way.  And one is international relations—I think we’re going to be a lot better off if he wins, because he’s going to re-establish our place in the world.  And the other is the environment, and that’s a really long-term important issue.

I think people—I just wouldn’t agree that those two votes were politically expedient.  I mean, when you cast 20,000 votes in your career some of them are going to be politically expedient.

I mean, I’d like to say that I never did anything politically expedient—that’s not true.

IMUS:  But that’s a difference, see.  You’re willing to own up to that.

DEAN:  Yes.

IMUS:            How do you make a living now?

DEAN:  I actually mostly make paid speeches.  I wrote a book that brought in a little dough. 

But mostly what I’m doing is running this thing called Democracy for America, which is a lot of fun.  We’re actually having a big fund-raiser tonight called Retire Tom DeLay.  We have a Web site,  Because the guy down there who’s running is only 7 points behind DeLay.

Because his people are very conservative and  a lot of them are Christian Coalition folks.  But they do not like bad ethics.  And they love President Bush but they’re not so hot on Tom DeLay, because, I mean, they’re sick of this ethics stuff.

And there’s a great guy running down there who’s never run for office before.  He’s a real son of Texas and he’s pushing DeLay hard.

IMUS:  You’re really surprised that Tom DeLay was making deals and trading votes and stuff.  Gosh, I was just shocked, weren’t you?


DEAN:  Yes, well, it’s probably better not to have three ethics violations in four years if you’re the majority leader.

IMUS:  Do you think John Edwards was a good choice?  I guess you have to say yes.

DEAN:  Well, I think he was. 

I mean, I thought so at the time and I’m not that much for looking back on decisions.  I think he’s actually done pretty well.  I think the last couple weeks he’s really been out around the country speaking up about the stuff he’s got to speak up for.  I do think he was a good choice.

IMUS:  Being a doctor as you are, a physician, this isn’t my address with him and I think it’s fair talking—but the thing that I’m just very (inaudible) is that thing on his lip and you could easily remove that.

DEAN:  I don’t know what it is and I’ve never asked him about it.  So I figure it’s none of my business.

IMUS:  But you’ve noticed it, right?

DEAN:  Sure.

IMUS:  Everyone’s noticed it.

DEAN:  Yes.

IMUS:  Well, I asked him what it was.  He wasn’t that clear about it.

DEAN:  It’s probably in his medical records.  God knows you’ve got to unveil every last thing you did for the last 25 years when you run for president.

IMUS:  Except your war records, if you’re Senator Kerry.


You don’t have to reveal those, do you?  Wouldn’t that be...

DEAN:  I guess it would have been better if I hadn’t brought that up, wouldn’t it?


IMUS:  Or if I would have just ignored it.

DEAN:  But remember, we don’t have President Bush’s war records either.  We’ve got three versions of it; we just don’t know which one’s the right one.


IMUS:  The thing with that, it changes size depending on—I don’t know if it’s like the Pinocchio’s nose deal...


DEAN:  I’ll tell you something interesting about politics. 

The best information you get is from people who don’t know anything about politics.  I was out in L.A. doing some campaigning a couple of weeks ago.  A woman told me, who was a very smart woman who doesn’t know that much about politics, that whenever President Bush is about to say something that’s not true, his eyes start blinking rapidly.

Now, I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I thought that was a very interesting observation from somebody who knows a lot about looking at people but doesn’t know a lot about politics.

IMUS:  Well, during that last debate, his eyes were blinking like a...



DEAN:  That’s why I thought about it, yes.

IMUS:  ... like a ferret on crack, weren’t they?


Tell me your gut now, who do you think is going to win the election?

DEAN:  It’s tough.

IMUS:  You think Bush, don’t you?

DEAN:  No, I don’t actually.

I think if the election were held tomorrow, it would be Kerry, but it’s not held tomorrow.  And I worry a lot about—I think probably the person who takes two out of three of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida is going to win.  And I think—I just spent a week in Ohio and I think Kerry is going to win in Ohio, and I think he’s going to win in Pennsylvania.

But it’s going to be very close.  And who knows on these machines—I don’t like these electronic voting machines at all.  I don’t think they’re accurate and you can’t recount them.

IMUS:  David Boies was on—I was talking to him the other day and—have you read his book, by the way?

DEAN:  I have not.  Books are on hold until after November 2nd.

IMUS:  You know, usually I can get a book on the best-seller list in a heartbeat and I couldn’t understand—he’s written a great book about all of these cases he’s involved in, everything from, you know, Microsoft, of course he handled the Gore-Bush thing, the deposition of Bill Gates, the Westmoreland (ph) case with CBS.  I mean, he’s handled great cases.

DEAN:  Yes, he’s a very, very bright guy.

IMUS:  But he was talking about how he couldn’t understand—I’m sure he could understand—but how in Florida they had an opportunity to buy appropriate voting machines, voting machines—even though these automated voting machines still left a paper trail, they chose not to do that.

DEAN:  Well, that’s because the head of Diebold is one of Bush’s power rangers.

IMUS:  Yes.

DEAN:  It’s a huge mistake.  It really is a huge mistake.

These machines are really scaring me.  People like them too, because they’re convenient.  The trouble is you can’t recount them.

The secretary of state in Oregon is a guy named Bill Bradbury.  He had a law passed in 2002 that said we will—nobody in Oregon will use voting machines unless they can be recounted and I think that was the right thing to do.

I’d rather go to paper ballots, because at least you know where they are and you can look at them after the vote if you don’t think it was done right.

IMUS:                I’ve seen a scenario drawn suggesting that if he won one, but then you put together Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa...

DEAN:  That’s what President Bush is trying to do, is put together Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

It’s a good strategy.  I think we’re going to win at least one out of those three, in which case—I also think we’re likely to win in Colorado.

Colorado is very, very close.  I was out there about three weeks ago.  We have potentially four congressional seats we could win out there.

I don’t think just on the odds we’re going to win all four of them, but we have some very strong candidates out there.  Colorado has not done well economically under President Bush and I think if we get one of those states, then we’re definitely going to win, assuming we get two out of the three, Ohio, Florida or Pennsylvania.

IMUS:  When I talk to people who support Bush,  they’re not confident.  So I’m thinking that that’s why I feel the way I do, but I just don’t think Kerry has a chance, but then I’ve always thought that.

DEAN:  I think he’s got a shot, I really do.  And I think, as I said, if the election were held tomorrow, we’d win, but it’s not going to be held tomorrow and a lot can happen in a week.

IMUS:  She’s really crazy though, isn’t she?

DEAN:  Teresa?  I love Teresa. 

IMUS:  So do I, but...

DEAN:  You know why I love Teresa? 

I love Teresa because she told that reporter to “shove it” at the Democratic convention, and she didn’t just tell him to shove it—this is a guy who’s been harassing her for years.  He gave her a hard time.  She walked away and then she thought better of it and walked back.

IMUS:  Oh, I loved that.

DEAN:  And you know why I love that?  Because it’s the kind of thing I would have done on the campaign and all my people would have gone crazy – “you can’t treat the press like that.”  Well, why not?


IMUS:  No, it’s the thing where you get—you’re absolutely right.  You get to thinking about it and you figure...

DEAN:  Yes.  Why do I have to put up with this?

IMUS:  I’ve done that, but I realize that I’m not a stable person.


DEAN:  Well, I don’t know.

IMUS:  Anyway—well, thank you for coming in, Governor.

DEAN:  It was my pleasure.

IMUS:  The book is called “You Have the Power.”

DEAN:  It’s a fun one too.  You’ll like it.

IMUS:  What is this about now?

DEAN:  It’s basically about how the Democrats screwed up and got where they got and what they need to do to fix it, and a lot of it is behaving like Democrats again and not being afraid of standing up for what they believe in.

IMUS:  Would you do something in a Kerry administration if they ask you?

DEAN:  If I’m asked, but he’s got to get elected first.  I usually find that those who pick their Cabinet before Election Day don’t get to do it afterwards.

IMUS:  This Weekly Reader poll says 65 percent Bush, 37 percent Kerry. The theory is these are children who are overhearing their parents and...


IMUS:  Because my son, when I ask him who—he’s 6 and somebody asked him who he’s going to vote for and he said John Kerry because he’s heard me say that, but who knows.

Well, anyway, Governor Dean, thanks very much.

DEAN:  Thank you.

IMUS:  Nice to see you.

DEAN:  My pleasure.

IMUS:  Nice to meet you.  Nice talking with you.

Good luck with this.

DEAN:  Thanks very much.