Interview with Newsweek
August 11, 2003
Dean whacks the Bush White House, scolds his Democratic opponents and talks bluntly
about deficits, taxes and gays
NEWSWEEK: You emerged in part when you said that you're from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. What did you mean by that?
DEAN: I think Americans are incredibly hungry for someone who says what he thinks. Particularly as compared with this president, who basically says whatever Karl Rove tells him to say.
Are some Democrats selling out to the conservative movement?
I think that there were a lot of people in Washington who thought that the way to beat a popular Republican incumbent is to try to be like him. Lieberman, Kerry and Gephardt voted for the war. They all supported some form of tax cuts. But I didn't support those things. I am a fiscal conservative, unlike the president, who is running a credit-card administration. I think you've got to balance the budgets in order to get the confidence of investors and create jobs in America again.
People who visit your home region might wonder why there has been so little economic development in Vermont versus New Hampshire.
Well, we have a much lower unemployment rate than the national average. We're either seventh or ninth in high-tech jobs. If you want to build shopping centers, of course, New Hampshire's going to be ahead of Vermont because they have no sales tax and we do.
The president tries to draw a distinction between tolerance and gay marriage. Are you comfortable with calling it marriage?
It's not marriage. My position is, it's none of the federal government's business. I have said as president that I would recognize it for the purpose of equal rights, whatever domestic-partnership arrangements they came to.
Your position is similar to Bush's. Does that take the issue off the table if you were to meet in the general election?
They'll say anything, and 96 percent of it won't be true. They're the meanest-spirited people.
Since you opposed the current operation in Iraq, if they catch Saddam Hussein and the situation improves on the ground, doesn't that put you at a disadvantage?
It puts me at a disadvantage because the public is focused on the end result. They're not focused on the process. I don't believe you send your kids to war unless you have a firm understanding and willingness to explain to the American people exactly why that is. I don't think the president did that. So whatever the results in Iraq are, it doesn't change the initial thought process.
How do you defend yourself against the charge that your proposed repeals of the Bush tax cuts would effectively raise taxes on the middle class?
I'm not proposing to increase taxes so much as I'm proposing to go back to the tax system we had under President Clinton. Most people know that they didn't actually get tax cuts because their property taxes went up. I'm saying, stop promising people things you can't deliver.
You say the president has broken promises. Which ones?
His environmental record is widely understood to be probably the worst in most people's lives. His promise to create jobs—he lost jobs not created them. His promise of tax cuts in the middle class—most people's middle-class taxes went up because their property taxes increased. His promise that he would make the next generation more financially secure. It certainly was the opposite of that. He's massed trillions of dollars' worth of debt. The list goes on forever.
If you were to guess at what ignited the Dean prairie fire, what would it be?
I think it was being outspoken.