NPR's All Things Considered
July 27, 2004
Michelle Norris: This is 'All Things Considered', from NPR News. I'm Michelle Norris.
Robert Siegel: And I'm Robert Siegel.
Tonight Howard Dean addresses the Democratic Convention in Boston. John Kerry's onetime rival now has his own group, Democracy For America, to promote progressive causes. And this week, he has been everywhere at the convention, as our colleague Melissa Block found out.
[crowd noises in the background]
Melissa Block: Try to keep up with Howard Dean on a fast walk through the throngs of Kerry supporters here, and you get a sense of what might have been.
Supporter #1: Oh, yeah, Howard Dean!
Melissa Block: Hands reach out to grab his.
Supporter #2: Thank you!
Howard Dean: How are you doing?
Supporter #3: Thank you!
Howard Dean: Thank you very much.
Supporter #4: Thank you!
Howard Dean: My great pleasure.
Melissa Block: To some, he's a rock star. Others look puzzled, like "who is that guy, again?"
[Sound of crowd cheering]
Howard Dean: Sí, se puede!
Melissa Block: When Howard Dean vows, 'yes we can,' in a speech before the California delegation, they eat it up.
Howard Dean: California's been great to us, and I would often say if only we'd started in California, I wouldn't be here, and somebody else would be, but... [chuckles slightly, audience laughs]
Melissa Block: Michael Colbruno (ph) is a California delegate. He's now pledged to Kerry, but his heart is with the doctor and former Vermont Governor, Howard Dean.
Michael Colbruno: Well, you know it's amazing, though, when they introduced him at the breakfast this morning, the minute I heard his name I got goosebumps... it's just the kind of passion that Howard Dean invokes. We were all signed up to go travel the country on his behalf, and now I think at his call, I'm willing to go to other states, I'm willing to go to Oregon, Nevada, and work for the Democratic Party, because Howard Dean made the call to do it.
Melissa Block: Talk to Jerry Brown about Howard Dean. Brown's the mayor of Oakland, former governor of California, three-time Presidential candidate, and a legend among some progressives. Howard Dean was in essence driving very fast in Jerry Brown's lane. But now, Brown, too, is sounding like a moderate.
Jerry Brown: You can't keep, you know, pounding your chest and yelling. You have to inspire a confidence. That's the number one quality in a Presidential candidate. Howard Dean had other qualities. He had qualities of innovation, boldness, striking out on his own, and if he'd maybe just modulated it a little differently, he mighta gotten the nomination.
Melissa Block: Howard Dean is given credit for shaking the Democratic field out of its torpor, giving the candidates a "spine transplant". We sat down with Howard Dean, to talk about how he shaped the race, and whether his influence is now marginalized.
Melissa Block: There are people, your strongest supporters, who were with you from the start, who were fired up by your passion, shared your opposition to the war, who say that this party, this convention, this ticket, has lost its soul. And I wonder if you share that--
Howard Dean: I don't really think that's true. I think that the soul doesn't reside in the party, and it doesn't reside in politicians. The soul resides in the American people. And, I don't think it's gonna be possible for a while for this party to lose its soul, because of the way our campaign went. Our campaign was all about restoring the soul, not just to the Democratic Party, but to America. And I think John Edwards and John Kerry do have that, and I think they have picked it up, and I think they are talking about it.
Melissa Block: I know a lot changes between a primary and a general election, a lot of things are said, that people later rethink; but I do want to ask you about something you said about John Kerry, this was in Wisconsin...
Howard Dean: ... Mm hm...
Melissa Block: ... back in February, after Iowa, after New Hampshire. You said of John Kerry, 'he's behaved so much like a Republican. When you act the way Senator Kerry does, he appears to be more like George Bush than he does like a Democrat.'
Howard Dean: That was... I was actually very angry when I said that. That was after the 527 in Iowa funding was revealed, where they had a special group of people to go after us with a million dollars worth of negative ads. So it was not a very good move when I said that.
But the truth is, that the differences between John Kerry and I are -- or Dick Gephardt, or Wes Clark, or any of the people who ran, are very small compared to the differences between George Bush and any of us.
After the primaries were over, John said to me, "how did we get so crosswise with each other?" and I said, "Look, we're two very, very tough competitors, and neither one of us was gonna give an inch." And that's the way it was in the primaries. But, you know, we're all on the same team, and the team is the American team.
Melissa Block: What do you say to your voters, who look at John Kerry, don't see something they like, and look at Ralph Nader, and do see something they like?
Howard Dean: --Well, Ralph Nader, I think, is really in trouble, because Ralph's cachet* was that he was purer than everybody else. And his campaign in the last three weeks has sought help from right-wing anti-gay groups in Oregon. 46% of the signatures he got in Arizona were from Republicans. Ralph Nader's behaving like every other politician, except worse. He's just another politician, and I don't think he's gonna be quite the threat that I thought he was gonna be three or four weeks ago.
Melissa Block: There are over 100 Dean delegates at this convention, proud self-described "Deaniacs". Yesterday Dean released them to vote for John Kerry on the first ballot tomorrow night.
We talked with two of those Dean delegates in the Boston Public Garden. Sarah Ayres, from Hanover, New Hampshire, is 20 years old, a student at Dartmouth College. She took a semester off to campaign for Dean. Keith Orr (ph), from Ann Arbor, Michigan, owns a bar and cafe called "Out Bar." He held house parties for Dean, even traveled to New Hampshire to help with the primary there. Both say they'll stay involved.
Sarah Ayres: This was my first real experience being deeply involved with a campaign, and a candidate, and I am so grateful that that was the Dean campaign, because I think that it showed me, from the beginning of my political involvement, how... how good politics can be. And that it can mean ordinary people getting involved, and reaching out, and talking to their friends.
Keith Orr : Indeed, a lot of the Dean people are remaining engaged politically. They are going out and they're running for precinct delegate. They're helping their city alderman or city council people that they see as progressive Democrats. Will there be the same enthusiasm for John Kerry? Probably not. But because they are remaining engaged, they are going to be voting for John Kerry. So I do believe that "Deaniacs," his army, will be an important part of this election.
[Sound of applause and noisemakers]
Melissa Block: Delegates are jumping out of their seats when Howard Dean talks before a caucus of the powerful labor union AFSCME, which endorsed him during the primary.
[cheers of approval]
Howard Dean: We have sat on our hands for too long. We built this country. Carol Mosely Braun, one of my favorite people when I ran for President... She told me that her grandmother used to tell her, sit her down and tell her, 'you know our ancestors came to America on a slave ship. And some other people's ancestors, they came through Ellis Island. And some others came across the Mexican border, and some people's ancestors came on the Mayflower, but we are all in the ...
Dean and Audience together: ... same boat now.
[cheers and applause]
Howard Dean: And we're gonna take that boat, and we're gonna sail it right down Pennsylvania Avenue... (remainder drowned out by:)
Melissa Block: Howard Dean is red in the face with a wild grin. He pumps his fist, and yes, he lets out that infamous roar. He can laugh about it now. And, he's among friends. This is the Howard Dean they've always loved. Fired up, fearless.
Then Dean is handed a beanbag. He tosses it at a lineup of life-sized cardboard cutouts-- John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George Bush.
[sound of a beanbag impact]
Howard Dean and crowd: Yayy!
Melissa Block: Cheney falls to the floor. The doctor is in.
Melissa Block, NPR News, Boston.
* pronounced ("cash-ay")
The audio of this program was originally posted at http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=3623219.