Hardball with Chris Matthews
March 18, 2004
(Notes: this video was recorded off the TV by a Dean supporter, 'balconycollapse'; is truncated at the beginning, and has a Bush ad cropped out, with accompanying satirical comment.)
Chris Matthews: (remarks joined in progress)...Hardball, former Presidential candidate Howard Dean today announced the formation of DemocracyForAmerica, a new grassroots organization designed to recruit candidates for office, and to (??) the policies of the Bush Administration. Howard Dean joins us from Seattle. Governor, will this be a Democratic organization?
Howard Dean: It is pretty much, although, you know there are a lot of people in our organization who are Greens, independents, and moderate Republicans, as well as Democrats. But, you know, the way to replace George Bush is to elect John Kerry, and, so, a lot of people are gonna think it's a pretty Democratic organization.
Matthews: What about this idea floating around glitzing up the political skyline, of a possible Kerry/McCain ticket? What's your reaction?
Dean: Ah, you know, I doubt very much that John McCain's gonna cross over. But we'll see.
Matthews: Would you ah, would you support a guy who is as hawkish as Wolfowitz for vice President?
Dean: Well, you know, personally, I don't get to choose the vice President, if I--
(the next few lines, they talk over each other:)
Matthews: -- But you do get to choose who you support--
Dean: -- (simultaneously) (??... have confidence? ) I might--
Matthews: -- You could support --
Dean: -- I (?) support --
Matthews: -- a ticket like that.
Dean: Now, John Kerry is gonna be the person I support for President. I mean, we have two choices. One is George Bush, the other is John Kerry. If you vote for Ralph Nader that has the effect of helping George Bush.
Dean: So, there're really two choices. And there's no question, obviously I would prefer someone with strong Democratic credentials to be the vice Presidential candidate, but I'm gonna support John Kerry, period.
Matthews: Let me ask you about this uh, these developments the last couple days, and your feelings about the, first of all, the attacks on the trains in Spain, and then the latest attack, that 500 to a thousand pound bomb in Baghdad on that old hotel over there. What do they tell you? Do they support or undermine the argument that you made all through the campaign that going into Iraq was a mistake?
Dean: Well-- here's the problem with going into Iraq. It's now become a much bigger issue than simply whether we should have gone into Iraq or not. The issue now is whether the President is a credible person or not. He's made up all kinds of stuff that he told us that wasn't true. Ah, you know, that 'Iraq's about to get nuclear weapons,' 'they're in bed with al-Qaeda,' 'Saddam has weapons of mass destruction,' none of that was true. Now we find out that the President, er-- the Administration withheld information deliberately on how much the Medicare prescription bill was gonna cost-- deliberately. This is an Administration whose credibility has a lot of problems with it, and I think people do not tolerate Presidents who can't tell the truth, and this President is rapidly falling into that category.
Matthews: What about the dynamic in this war? We were hit on 9-eleven by al-Qaeda, apparently. We go to war with Iraq. Al Qaeda joi-- goes into Iraq and starts playing the champion of the Ira-- Arab world, especially Iraq. They attack Spain, they say they did it because they're part of the resistance, of the nationalistic Arab resistance against Western attacks in Iraq, or takeover Iraq (sic). How do you separate yourself out of this dynamic? I mean, as a critic of the war, how do you avoid being tied into the, sort of the other side of the policy machine, (which) includes the al-Qaeda people? I mean, how do you find a third position which is 'our side was wrong, they're the bad guys, but we're making a mistake in how we fight them'?
Dean: Our side-- that's exactly what we're doing. We're making a mistake in how we fight, and there was never a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The President and the Vice President kept insisting or implying that there was. It wasn't true. The problem is that we should have been spending our troops' lives and our money fighting al-Qaeda, which has now killed 200 Spaniards, which killed 3,000 Americans. The President's obsession with Iraq, which Paul O'Neill identified long before the 9-eleven attack on the World Trade Center, is something that's separate and distinct from the war on terror. And I think one of the things we've gotta get across is that this President's made us weaker, not stronger, by recklessly using our army and our armed forces in a way that has not made America a safer place.
Matthews: Let's talk about your campaign, your grassroots campaign right now, you're organizing as of today. Is this going to be a ally of the Kerry campaign. Will you be supporting Kerry right down the line?
Dean: Yes, but the purpose of the campaign is not to support the Kerry campaign, although I personally will certainly will be doing that. The purpose of DemocracyForAmerica.com is to get grassroots people to run for office. We can't-- the hallmark of the Bush Administration is of forgetting in Washington, that ordinary people actually pay taxes and deserve something back from their government. There's been one of the largest transfers of wealth from the middle class people to the big corporations and the wealthiest Americans. And, so, what I wanted to do, and the whole purpose of the campaign, not just DemocracyForAmerica but also its predecessor, DeanForAmerica, was to give people the power to take back their country, which they've begun to do. The way to get rid of special interests in Washington is not just campaign finance reform, but it's also teaching people how to run campaigns based on small donors, so you can raise more money than the special interest folks, and therefore be beholden to ordinary American citizens. That's something we're gonna try to teach people how to do. We're gonna recruit members of DeanForAmerica, 700,000 or so of them, to run for school boards and county commissioners. Frankly, one of the models we've looked at is what Ralph Reed did. Ralph Reed with the Christian Coalition, has been one of the most successful organizers in the country-- all to bad effect, moving us further and further to the right. We need to move us back to the center by getting ordinary people back into office again and giving them the confidence and the resources to do that.
Matthews: We'll come right back with more with Governor Howard Dean in a moment.
Dean: (rejoined in progress) ... this and everything else the Republicans have been doing the last three years. Out of context... What Kerry did, was he voted the way I would have voted. He voted to give the troops the $87 billion dollars if the President would pay for it. This is a President who knows nothing about the struggles of ordinary taxpayers to make a living. So he's willing to just throw this $87 billion onto the debt of the American people, of our grandchildren and our children. This President is grossly irresponsible when it comes to handling money. He doesn't mind spending other people's, but he certainly has no idear how to balance budgets, how to respect the needs of ordinary Americans, and I think that's a cheap shot ad.
Matthews: Well, how do you hold back money from a President, Commander In Chief, that's protecting our troops with body armor et cetera, ammunition, and because you don't like (?) policy--
Dean: --First of all, Chris, the President sent people over there without adequate body armor. He's cut Veterans Administration benefits by $1.8 billion. He cut 166,000 American veterans off their health care. This President's no friend of the American soldier, and he's no friend of the defense of the United States of America. Somebody's gotta make votes to hold this President accountable for all the money he's spending. He's spending a lot more than Bill Clinton ever spent. You can't trust Republicans with your money. They don't balance budgets, they don't create jobs, and they spend more than Democrats do.
Matthews: Well, isn't Kerry-- Senator Kerry's problem that he did vote for an amendment which would have tied the money-- the $87 billion for reconstruction and the troops-- to raising the money to pay for it; that went down. And then he (ph: paid?) final passage, after that vote was over with he had lost that fight, and then the only question then was 'do you support final passage or not?' Anything el--
(Crosstalk-- Dean tries to interrupt, Matthews drives right on)
Matthews: -- 'over again, I'm not voting for final--' He did, in the end, vote against the $87 billion, didn't he?
Dean: Sure. As he should have. Most Americans thought that was a waste of money. The President of the United States is not willing to say with some courage, where he's going to get the money to send to Iraq, then the President of the United States ought to be replaced, and that's exactly what we intend to do.
Matthews: Let me ask you about your organization, DemocracyForAmerica. Will you maintain control of the contributors' list yourself. Will this remain in the hands--
Dean: --Yes --
Matthews: -- Well-well, where's Joe Trippi come in here. Does he have a hand in grabbing any of those names or not?
Dean: No. The list is the property of DeanForAmerica and will transfer to DemocracyForAmerica, which is probably gonna have to pay something for it. But we don't feel that other people should get their hands on that list. Those are people who are our supporters, and we certainly will ask them to help people. We will suggest that they support other people, and their names will find their way to other lists, but we're not gonna give, sell, or rent the list.
Matthews: Right now, John Kerry as you know is your ally right now, he's up against a formidable fundraising machine in the Presid-- the vice President-- they're able to go to Republican groups and raise huge amounts of money. They've already got over 150 million or something, and they can spend that right through the Democratic convention blasting away at the same messages that we just showed on TV. Show it over and over and over and over again till people can't think about anything else. Are you going to help him raise money to match that, or are you going to keep this money to your organization, yourself?
Dean: No, we will also help raise money for John Kerry, and we're already doing that.
Matthews: Would you give your names to him for him to use in a fundraising drive?
Dean: Pardon me?
Matthews: Would you give the names of your contributors' list to John Kerry so he could use those--
Dean: -- no, no, no--
Matthews: --...the Democrats to raise money?
Dean: Let me repeat myself. The list doesn't go anyplace. We will maintain control of the list because that's the integrity-- that's the deal we have with the people who joined us. But what we're gonna do is do what we've done for a lot of candidates, is put up notices and send out some emails suggesting people contribute to John Kerry. If they do, then they're willingly giving their names to John Kerry and that's great. We're gonna help these candidates, but we're not gonna wreck the integrity of the list. I can't stand it when I get mail from some group, well-intended though they may be, 'cause I happened to give a donation to some other group who then sold their list to somebody else. That's not right, I don't like it, and we're not gonna do it.
Matthews: Well, that's happened to me too, but let me ask you, has John Kerry asked you for the list?
Dean: (smiles) He's-- No, no he hasn't.
Matthews: Let me ask you about Terry McAuliffe, the re- head of the regular Democratic Party. You were in very much a way a maverick against the old order of the Democratic Party. Has he asked you to join forces?
Dean: No, I have not met with him; I'm sure I'll run into on--
Matthews: -- What do you think of him? When you run into him, do you think he should stick around as party chair, (or) there should be a new kind of person--
Dean: --That's-- you know-- Chris, not my call. That's John Kerry's call, not my call.
Matthews: What do you-- what do you think of Max Cleland, as a new chairman of the Democratic Party?
Dean: (thinks for a moment) I-- well, you know, I'm not gonna have any say over who gets to be, ah--
Matthews: --You sound so-- you sound so weak, Governor. You have a lot of say-- you've got this big organization of people who are activized (sic) by your campaign--
Dean: --We're gonna--
Matthews: -- talking about (??) keeping 'em busy. You don't see yourself to be a faction of the Democratic Party alliance right now? With a lot of (?)--
Dean: -- We're going to-- we're going to work independently of the Democratic National Committee. We are an independent group. We've got Greens, we've got Democrats, we've got independents, we've got Republicans in our group. We're not gonna be working hand in hand with the Democratic National Committee, but I will certainly be working very hard to get people elected like John Kerry, like the members of Congress who supported us, like the Congresspeople who are running for the two open seats out here in Washington, so we can start sending people like Tom Delay and George Bush back to Texas where they belong.
Matthews: Let me ask you a specific question that Kerry has to answer between now and July. The strategy of this campaign, how he picks up the border states (?) he targets, or Florida if he targets that, or the West if he targets Hispanics; where would you advise him to go strategically to try to win those extra electoral votes?
Dean: Well, let me just first say, that I don't give candidates advice and then go talk about what the advice was on television, but since we haven't had that discussion, I can tell you what I've been saying on the campaign, what I've said publicly in the past. I think Ohio is a key battleground state, the President won it the last time, we've since lost over 200,000 jobs in Ohio, I think they're ready to vote Democratic. Florida-- Senator Kerry had a lead in Florida the last time I looked, so that's certainly up for grabs. I believe we can do well in Arizona. There are (ph: candi--?) that state that we won the last time. I'm determined to win back West Virginia.
Dean: There's no reason with the job losses they've had in West Virginia, for us not to be able to win that as a Democratic column. So, those are all states I think we can do well in.
Matthews: (?) recap, if he called you one night and did ask for your advice about whether to put John McCain on the ticket with him (Dean grins here) because he needs him, based upon his research and polling, and figures that he needs a guy like John McCain who is a man very popular with independent voters-- and the media, I have to admit-- to win the election, to beat George Bush, to take over foreign policy; would you say that's a good idea, or would you say, 'it's up to you'? (Dean has smiled all through the latter part of this)
Dean: (amused) First, Chris, I want to ask you if you're John McCain's campaign manager, 'cause it does seem like I've heard more about this on your show than I have anyplace else. (grins)
Matthews: (smiles) Well, you've been watching.
Dean: Right. That's right.
(They both grin)
Dean: You know-- I-- First of all, I do-- John Kerry has a--
Matthews: --I have a prejudice here, I must explain to you my prejudice, Governor. My prejudice is, I want an exciting general election campaign that doesn't get bogged down in crap. And one good thing about putting McCain on the ticket would do; there're lots of other ways to do it; would make the issue policy. Foreign policy. It would make the issue 'who's good at protecting this country.' It would be an exciting campaign, and it wouldn't get bogged down in a lot of little stuff. That's what I think.
Dean: I think it's very-- I think it's very clear from John Kerry's background he'll do a much better job protecting America than George Bush has. All George Bush has done, is spend $160 billion in Iraq which has cost us 566 American soldiers, and I can't see that we're any safer now than we were after 9-eleven.
Matthews: OK. Well, thank you very much, Governor Dean. You're as feisty as ever, sir. (Dean grins) It's great having you on.
Dean: Yes, sir.
Matthews: Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger...
(end of clip)