CNBC's "Special Report with Maria Bartiromo"
March 29, 2004
Maria Bartiromo, Host: Good evening. President Bush and John Kerry remain neck and neck, in what is turning out to be one of the most hard-fought springs in presidential-year politics on record. There are conflicting signals regarding the impact of the past week of criticism of the Bush Administration's record on terrorism and 9/11.
Bartiromo's voice: A new poll finds that Bush continues to lead Kerry by a wide margin on who would do the best job defending the country against terrorist attack.
However, according to a new Newsweek poll, the percentage of voters who approve of the way the President has handled terrorism and homeland security has dropped to 57%, down from a high of 70% just two months ago.
Bartiromo: Joining us now is a man who can now observe these developments from the comfort of his home town in Burlington, Vermont. [Dean smiles] Former Governor and Democratic Presidential candidate, Howard Dean. Governor, good to have you with us.
Howard Dean, former Democratic Presidential candidate: Thanks for having me on.
Bartiromo: Are you glad to have your life back?
Dean: [smiles] Uh, no, I'd rather be where John Kerry is right now, but I'm certainly glad to be in Burlington and the sunny spring weather.
Bartiromo: After more than two years of intensely running for President 24-7, how does one wind down from that?
Dean: Well, I cleaned up my garage. I deposited the contents of the governor's office in the left-hand side of my garage, so I had to clean all that out-- I hadn't done anything about that for a year. There's a lot of things to be done.
Bartiromo: What do you want to do now?
Dean: I started something called Democracy For America.com, it's on the web. And it's an organization to boost grassroots candidates. We are going to take this country back from the right wing, and we are gonna take this country back from special interests. The way to do that, frankly, is to model ourselves a little after what the 'Christian Coalition' did. They insinuated themselves into ordinary Americans' lives simply by running for school boards and city councils and county commissioners and we need to do the same thing.
We're training people to do that. We've made alliances with groups like SEIU and 21st Century Democrats and AFSCME and others, so that we'll be moving a lot of ordinary people who would like their country to represent them instead of the biggest corporations in the world, as President Bush is, to get back into government again. They understand, now, from this campaign, that they've gotta do that, and Democracy For America's the vehicle for them to do it and to help them do it.
Bartiromo: It is really a big story, and I want to talk a lot about your grassroots organization, but let me first ask you about this tremendous fascination with you; lots of talk, including a tell-all from your former pollster [Dean grins] in the new issue of the new Atlantic out today. Why do you think people are so fascinated with dissecting you and your campaign?
Dean: I have no idear, but I do think we represented something new and different in American politics, and we're going to continue to do that. What you had for a long time was both parties playing a little inside tea-party game in Washington, where the majority of Americans didn't get the things they need.
We're the last industrialized country in the world that doesn't have health insurance for all its people. That's inexcusable, and that happened under Republicans and Democrats both.
So I'd like a government that's gonna represent Americans who work for a living again, and not Americans who reward the accumulation of capital but who reward hardworking people who've got to work 40, 50, 60 hours a week, two jobs. Those are the kinds of Americans I'm interested in.
Bartiromo: Well, let's talk about some of the perceptions, the first big rap-- Howard Dean never expected, even worse, never really wanted to be President.
Dean: Oh, that's kind of talking silly. I am absolutely not gonna respond to kiss-and-tell articles. There's a lot of stuff in those articles that wasn't true, and believe me, I'm not gonna spend my time going through them one by one. I was disappointed in that article. I think staff oughtta keep their opinions to themselves, either before and after the campaign. But we're certainly not gonna go through those articles piece by piece.
Bartiromo: Well, you're smart not to. Were you surprised that people said that you were too blunt, that you were too human to be President, that's not necessarily criticism, should there be some truth to that?
Dean: I think that Washington gossip is Washington gossip and one ought not to respond to it. I'm much happier talking about issues than I am about silly stuff like that.
Bartiromo: All right. What is being said about you and your campaign in any form that that you believe is most inaccurate?
Dean: I don't pay any attention to what's being said about my campaign. What I really care about is the 640,000 people that we still have, who are active in the campaign. What I really care about is the efforts to elect John Kerry as President and send George Bush back to Crawford, Texas, who's really damaging our economy, and damaging our ability to defend ourselves, as Richard Clarke talked about this week.
Bartiromo: Is that-- do you think, what caused the downfall, Governor? I mean, in retrospect, what do you think it was?
Dean: I don't pay any attention to that stuff, Maria. I hate to disappoint you, but I'm not going there.
Dean: We're not gonna do a-- we're not gonna spend time dissecting the campaign. I am gonna-- I believe in looking forward. We changed a lot of things in America. I didn't get the nomination. So I can do one thing-- I can whine and moan about what didn't go right, or I can look forward, and I think we need real change in this country and that's why I'm supporting John Kerry.
Bartiromo: And you endorsed Senator Kerry last week, inevitably--
Dean: -- I did --
Bartiromo: --Your comments took on a different tone than some made a month before; let's listen to what you said.
[Begin video of Dean speaking at a microphone]
Bartiromo: So now, has your opinion of Bush gotten worse, or your opinion of Kerry gotten better?
Dean: I think when you campaign... you know, John Kerry's a tough competitor and so am I. I think when you campaign for a nomination; you're campaigning against people, you tend to focus on the differences. Now we are gonna focus on the things-- on things we have in common. John Kerry and I both believe that everybody oughtta have health insurance in this country. John Kerry and I both believe that half-trillion-dollar deficits every single year are really bad for the economy. And we both believe that working people oughtta get a better shake than they do from this Administration.
We both believe, I think, that John-- that George Bush is not the President that we need in order to fight terrorism. I think certainly, Richard Clarke's comments over the past couple of weeks about the President's lack of attention to terror before 9/11 is something that both John Kerry and I are very concerned about. I'd like a President who actually had combat experience, and one who understood what it really did take to defend America, and I think that President's John Kerry, not George Bush.
Bartiromo: So-- so based on what we've seen over the last week, the Dick Clarke comments, the commission, the 9/11 Commission, how big of an issue do you think that foreign policy will be come November, as opposed to the economy?
Dean: I think foreign pol-- I think jobs and the health insurance are the biggest two issues. I think foreign policy's important, but what really may be the biggest issue of all now, is the credibility of the United States-- of the President of the United States. This President does not appear to have told the truth. Not only did he appear to not to have told the truth about going into Iraq, but it appears that he did not focus on the things that needed to be focused on prior to 9/11 to protect us.
Bartiromo: Governor, we will take a short break. When we come right back, we will talk to the Governor about Ralph Nader, Dean's new grassroots movement, and what Dean got for the $50 million he raised and spent in the campaign. Stay with us.
Bartiromo: Welcome back. I'm back with Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and onetime frontrunner among the Democrats vying for the White House. You and an all-star lineup, Governor, of Democrats raised $11 million for Senator Kerry at a gala last week in D.C. But he still lags far behind the President. You clearly have expertise in the area, how do you think he's gonna catch up?
Dean: I think-- he actually has adopted one of the ideas of our campaign, which I'm very happy to see. He'd like 2 million people to give him a hundred dollars apiece. I think that's possible. He's raised $10 million in 10 days, Internet has been a big piece of that. We really do need to build a community in this country, a community that's going to bring back American values in government.
The President doesn't exhibit those kinds of values. He does things for big corporations and the top 1% of Americans. He's forgotten the rest of us.
And, I think there is gonna be a coming together around Senator Kerry's candidacy, and I've seen that already. He doesn't have to have as much money as the President, but he does have to be in the same ballpark, and I think we're gonna get there.
Bartiromo: Has he really forgotten the rest of us, I mean, Governor? When you look at this economy, you can't argue with the fact that things have turned. Things are better than they are-- than where they were one year ago. And a lot of people will attribute that to the President's tax cut plan.
Dean: Well, they may be better for you or for me, but they're certainly not better for ordinary Americans. Where have the jobs been created? The tiny number of jobs that have been created are all service jobs, minimum-wage jobs. The President cut health care for young-- for people who aren't making much money, cut help for colleges, so most people are paying more for tuition.
No, the President actually passed the biggest tax increase in history on the middle class. What he did was cut income taxes for people who make a lot of money. The ordinary people got $304 on income taxes and in return their health care premiums went through the roof, 'cause the President cut so many people off government health insurance. People's college tuitions went through the roof because Pell grants were eliminated in order to pay for tax cuts for people like Ken Lay, who ran Enron. And, property taxes went way up because of things like 'No Child Left Behind.' The President claimed he was doing something for public education, but what he was really doing was raising your property taxes by passing unfunded mandates. This is not a President who has any concern for ordinary Americans. This is a President who's concerned for the people who are writing him $2000 checks so he can get reelected. That's the President who oughtta go back to Crawford, Texas.
Bartiromo: Let's talk about the fundraising, in terms of strategy for fundraising. You could not be more different than both George Bush and John Kerry. Even in January and February, when your candidacy was losing steam, you raised money at a prodigious rate from your grassroots constituency. We're looking-- we're gonna show you now a graphic showing the number of Zip codes donating to you. Yours was nearly double that of John Kerry, just shy of George Bush. Our second graphic here, shows that even your biggest contributions were on the low end, averaging around $200 each.
Now that you're out of the race, how do you keep these folks active in politics?
Dean: Well, DemocracyForAmerica.com is the way to do that. Democracy For America is really the Dean infrastructure. What we're trying to do, as I said before, is we're trying to elect a Democratic Congress and Senate, and certainly elect a President Kerry. But we also wanna really reform the Democratic Party. And the way to do that, is to get regular people that haven't been involved in politics, which is the people who are supporting us, involved with politics, sometimes for the first time, or again. Give them hope again.
You know, democracy's not a spectator sport. If you don't vote, and you don't run for office, then you really can't complain. I think that's what's happened to our country, is that ordinary people have been so busy trying to make ends meet and raise their family, in the case of an increasingly hostile government in Washington, or uncaring government in Washington, that they've become overwhelmed, and democracy has suffered. Getting people to take responsibility for their schools, for their city councils, who are not idealogical clones of the right wing, that's what you need to bring America back to where it should be again.
Bartiromo: But how is your grassroots group different from others? Even your former campaign manager Joe Trippi's group?
[Footage of Joe Trippi, talking to an interviewer]
Dean's voice: Well, what we do is, reach out and...
Dean: ...train and deliver people; we already have 200 people signed up to run for office around the country, all the way down-- from U.S. Senate all the way down to school board. And we can raise money to support our candidates, which we have done also. I don't think other groups do those things. When we found out about other groups that do do those kinds of things, we try to cooperate with them instead of compete with them, because we find that there's just so many dollars to go around. We don't want to take a lot of money away from our folks, who are basically very low donor folks, for the most part... if somebody else is doing the same work.
Bartiromo: What's your take on Ralph Nader's candidacy, Governor?
Dean: I think Ralph Nader served this country very well. He has a forty year history of strong consumer protection. Things are in law today that wouldn't be there if it wasn't for Ralph Nader. Environmental work.
It's ironic though, that Ralph Nader's candidacy in this particular race runs the risk of undoing everything Ralph Nader built for 40 years. You know, a vote for Ralph Nader, unfortunately, has the effect of being a vote for George Bush.
One of two people are gonna be President of the United States next January. One is George Bush, the other is John Kerry.
For those who could vote for John Kerry but choose to vote for Ralph Nader, that's a vote that allows the reelection of George Bush, which I think is a disaster for America, and a disaster for the American people.
Bartiromo: Governor Dean, good to talk to you. Thanks so much.
Dean: Thanks very much.
Bartiromo: Former Governor Howard Dean, joining us tonight from Vermont.