Minnesota Public Radio's "Midday"
September 14, 2004
Gary Eichten, Host: ...Howard Dean has largely disappeared from the front-page headlines, but he has not disappeared from public life. [As a] matter of fact he's been out campaigning for Kerry, he's been cultivating his grassroots political action committee, Democracy For Ammerica, and he's out with a new book about his campaign and his long-term vision for the Democratic Party, titled, "You Have The Power: How To Take Back Our Country and Restore Democracy In America."
Howard Dean is in the Twin Cities for some events today, including a book signing at 4:30 this afternoon at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at the Galleria in Edina. ("Ed-eye-na") He's also stopped by our studios this morning to take your questions, so if you'd like to join our conversation with former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, give us a call. [gives phone number]
Governor Dean, thanks for coming over.
Governor Howard Dean: Thanks for having me in, I appreciate it, Gary.
Eichten: I think there is a general sense out and about that George W. Bush has pulled ahead in the presidential race. Polls seem to bear that out. Is that your sense as you travel around the country?
Dean: Well, actually, I hate to be contrarian, but no. I think it's very close. I think in the battleground states, including Minnesota, it's still very close. In fact I think-- well, we're gonna see -- I think we're going to come out with a poll tomorrow, we don't know what that shows yet, of course, but I think this-- Here's the problem with this election. In years like 2000 or 1992-- excuse me, like 2000 or 1988, where there's an open seat, people decide first whether the-- excuse me, people decide between two candidates.
Eichten: Mm hm.
Dean: George Bush and Mike Dukakis in 1988, Bill Clinton and -- I mean, Al Gore and George Bush in 2000. However, in years like this, where there's somebody sitting in the office, they decide first whether they wanna rehire the guy that's in the office, and second, whether the person that's running against them ought to be put in that position. And they usually decide the first question early on. I think George Bush has shown that there are a lot of people who don't want to reelect him. He's got a very low numbers, he's not doing particularly well, and we're in a mess 'cause of his stewardship of the country.
Now they've gotta decide whether to put John Kerry in or not, and that's the battle they're having with themselves, and I think John's got seven weeks to show that they ought to make that decision. That decision's not gonna happen til about two weeks before election time.
So I think it's gonna be very close, I think it's gonna be close right down to the end, and I don't know how to predict this one.
Eichten: What do you see as, perhaps, the deciding factor two weeks out from the election, when people say, "Okay, I can make up my mind now."
Dean: Character. I think after all the issues stuff is said and done, character matters the most. Jobs is a big issue for people. The war is an issue, because I think it goes to the President's competency, and credibility, 'cause he wasn't very truthful about how we got in, and that's gonna bother people. But in the end, I think they wanna know-- they want somebody who they think is a strong person that's able to lead the country in the direction that they wanna go in.
Interestingly enough, in the polls which do favor George Bush right now, also show that most people don't agree with him on the issues. They don't think he's done a very good job on the economy, they don't think he's somebody who cares about them, he's mostly-- you know, I think they have him pegged pretty well. He's mostly in favor of big corporate interests. But they like-- he did a good job at the convention kind of portraying himself as a strong leader, and that's important, and that will override people's consideration of issues.
Eichten: Doesn't that mean, then, he's gonna win?
Dean: No. Because his administration's built on a house of cards. He's in fact not a strong leader. He's a good actor. Most of the stuff that was said in that speech was not true. I mean, it was just plain not true. There wasn't this usual political shading of this and shading of that-- there is no connection between Al-Qaeda and Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein was never a threat to the United States. Not a day goes by where he doesn't make that claim and Dick cheney doesn't make that claim. Now you don't have to take my word for it, the 9-11 Commission, headed by Tom Kean, ("Kane") a respected Republican, and Lee Hamilton, a respected Democrat, clearly said there was no connection between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. [The] President asserts every day that the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror-- that was not true. And, a thousand people have died, of our brave American soldiers have died. If there were [a] Democratic Congress right now, there'd be hearings into this.
So I think that George Bush is in a lot of trouble. I really do. And I think it's up to John Kerry to prove to the American people that he can take over this position. If he can prove that, he'll have it, because people do not want to hire this President again.
Eichten: [There] does seem to be some nervousness among Democrats about the Kerry campaign. You know, the argument is, "well gosh, he's just not strong enough, and not taking advantage of the openings and so on, and..." There was a column, Maureen Dowd wrote a column for the New York Times, quoting somebody who she identified as "a Democratic insider" as saying, "Howard Dean had the base all warmed up, and now Kerry's turned into a girly man." Is that fair?
Dean: Ahhh, I never read the New York Times columns, except for Paul Krugman who actually is an economist, and knows what he's talking about.
You know-- I dunno-- it's silly. To be honest with you, I have a chapter in my book about the media, and, you know, it's mostly an entertainment medium. She's terrible about-- she says terrible things about George Bush, too-- I don't read that either.
I think that everybody is different. It is true that I could really excite our base. And I actually believe, not surprisingly, that the way you win elections, which is what the Republicans have been doing for twenty years, is to give your base a reason to vote. To stand up for what you believe in. Don't worry about trying-- about the center. The center will come along to the candidate who gives the most excitement and sincerity and ability to manage. I think the way you win elections is to go to that base and get them to increase their turnout by 10%.
John Kerry represents a different point of view. His campaign is more aimed towards the center. I don't think there's a big difference in terms of our ideology, to be honest with you, but not surprisingly I have a different sense of how you might win elections.
Eichten: One thing that causes confusion, I think, among the voters is the issue of Iraq. What is John Kerry's position on Iraq? How does it differ from George Bush's position on Iraq?
Dean: Well, actually, here's what happened, and if I may be a little immodest, and I don't mean this immodestly, but my position on Iraq was that we shouldn't have gone in [there] in the first place, from which I differed from George Bush and John Kerry. And I came to that not because I'm a pacifist; I supported the last four wars. I supported the first President Bush's war in Iraq, I supported Bosnia, I supported Kosovo, I supported this President's war in Afghanistan.
The reason I didn't support this war was, I didn't think the President was being truthful about why we were going, and I don't think you send a thousand brave American kids to die without telling the truth about why we're going. There was no truth to the fact that the Iraqis were getting uranium from Niger; there was no truth to the fact that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9-11; there was no truth to the fact that Saddam Hussein was hiring Al-- harboring Al-Qaeda. Those were lies... very much reminiscent of the Nixon administration. Out-and-out lies that were told to the American people. I don't believe American foreign policy should be based on lies, and that's what this President did, and that's why I didn't support the war.
Now, now that we're there, there's a confluence of opinion. ( = 'opinions merge together') My view is we can't pull out immediately, because we have created-- this President has cre-- this President I think is very weak, actually, not strong. I think he's been terribly weak for the country.
I just got back from Rome, at a conference. People hate this country, in Italy, even though they have troops over there, they hate this country in Britain. We're not talking about hating us in Iran and Iraq, we can understand that. These are our allies. These are our Western European allies that hate us. They don't respect us, and they despise our leader. There's something wrong with this picture, and I think what's wrong with this picture is the President has created a haven for terrorists in Iraq when none existed before.
No one is going to make the case that Saddam Hussein was a genial old fellow that we ought to leave in charge. He was a terrible person, and I think we could've gotten rid of him with a little more patience, with some concerted effort. But be that as it may, he was never a threat to the United States of America and not one single person in the administration has ever proved that he is. In fact, most of the things they've said have been proven to be not true.
So my position was, 'OK, now that we're there, what do we do?' We need to get out. We can't get out immediately. We need to replace our troops with foreign troops, preferably from Arabic-speaking countries or Muslim nations. That's what John Kerry's position is. Interestingly, George Bush has adopted John Kerry's position on the Iraq war.
Eichten: But nobody-- none of these other countries are stepping forward to do anything.
Dean: They'll never do it for George Bush, because we're the most despised nation on the face of the earth right now, thanks to George Bush's incredible arrogance. They'll never do it for him. They do believe, however, that America is important, still, and they wanna get along with us, and with a different President, who didn't spit on them and... You know, it's not disagreeing with people that gets you into trouble, it's spitting on them as you disagree with them, which is essentially what the President did, to the Germans and the French and our longtime allies in Europe.
What you need, is someone who's a grownup in the White House. And someone who's willing to extend a hand and say, "Look, whatever mistakes we made, we now are in a position where we need to work together to get through this," and the best countries we could possibly get-- have soldiers come in from-- are the Muslim countries and Arabic-speaking countries. We do need NATO help to train the police, more than [the] 50 people willing to do it, which is what George Bush has managed... George Bush is incapable of doing that, because people dislike him with such intensity, they're not gonna take the political risk to send troops when they know it's unpopular, for this President.
Eichten: Talking this hour with former Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean, who is in town for, among other things, a book signing this afternoon, at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in the Galleria in Edina. 4:30 is the time for the book signing.
Howard Dean is here to take your questions, and lots of callers on the line. Let me give you the number; don't dial in right now, you'll just get a busy signal, and then you'll be unhappy. Try us in a few minutes when some of the lines clear. [gives phone number and email]
Linda, you're first. Go ahead, please.
Linda: Hi, Governor Dean, it's a pleasure to talk to you.
Dean: Thank you for calling!
Linda: Paul Krugman, who you said that you really admire, he has an excellent article in the New York Times online today, telling Kerry to attack Bush on Iraq. Do you think it's proper that John Kerry should attack Bush on the situation in Iraq, since it's worsening daily?
Dean: I think he has, actually. I think the mainstream media won't figure that out for a couple more weeks, 'cause they're mostly writing stories about who's mad at who in the Kerry campaign and all that kind of stuff. But he gave a great speech about a week ago where he really took the President to task, and I think that's what needs to be done.
Eichten: You are not a big fan of the media.
Dean: Well, I think the-- I'm not one of these people who believes that the media has a big conspiracy theory, and all that kind of thing. But I think that in general, and we'll exempt National Public Radio from this--
Eichten: -- No, no, throw us in there, too--
Dean: --No, no-- [they chuckle] --I think that this is a good illustration to what the problem is. I'll tell you an interesting study that went on. Fox News, which is essentially the propaganda outlet for the Republican Party-- and I don't say that to be mean to Fox News; in Europe, that's standard operating procedure that every party has its own propaganda outlet-- that's just an unusual thing for America, but it's what Rupert Murdoch brought to America.
Other than Fox News, I think the biggest problem with the media is that they are owned by corporate conglomerates for the most part, and their principal interest is profits. And they expect their news division to show profits as well. And so what happens is, there's enormous pressure in editorial rooms around the country to jazz up the stories. To have exciting stories. And not necessarily what went on, it's not unusual for editors to override their reporters in terms of what the reporters actually saw on the ground, but doesn't get in the story, or gets changed in the story. And I think that's because editors have pressure on them from publishers to make those kinds of changes. They want entertainment, and if the truth has to get sacrificed in the service of entertainment, well that's just too bad.
So the real problem with the media is not that they're evil and malevolent and all that kind of stuff. They're not. They're people who are trying to do their jobs just like everybody else. But because the profit motive is now so incredibly strong, because I think, a study that I saw showed that 90% of Americans get their news from eleven corporations. They're very competitive and the bottom line is very important, and not getting "scooped", and going with information whether it's right or not, sometimes, is what they do. And it's really hurt them badly.
Eichten: David, your question, please?
David: Sure. Thanks, Governor Dean, for being here. Your candidacy really got me fired up, and I'm very involved in the party now, thanks to that.
Dean: Thank you. Thank you for getting fired up, because it's the only only way we're gonna take this country back for real Americans, is to get fired up and get involved in politics.
David: I couldn't agree more. So, I worked really hard for you, and I seem to recall that John Kerry was really effective in, sort of, spinning what you said, and using it against you, and I'm wondering what-- if you think he's gonna start doing that with Bush more effectively soon.
Dean: Well, he's a very strong closer. He's a very motivated person. He really wants to be President in the worst way, and he's got some strong staff people around him. So I do expect a very strong, tough closing to this campaign, and I... you know, no one knows what's gonna happen, I think it's very close. I still believe John Kerry's gonna win, but it'll be very close right down to the day the ballots are cast.
I'm very concerned about electronic voting machines because they're un-auditable, and that, unfortunately, could make the difference.
Eichten: Did you really want to be President or were you more concerned about getting a message out to people?
Dean: No, I think that's-- you know, people have said that, usually the media, of course, who's always the last to know. Nobody spends $53 million and as much time as I did on the campaign trail away from your kids and family without wanting to be President of the United States. I-- you know, I've been in difficult positions, I became Governor because the Governor [I] served under dropped dead of a heart attack. I know how to run things. I think this country is being-- is incredibly badly run-- half trillion dollar deficits, jobs going to every country but ours... I think these folks have no idear what they're doing in terms of how to run a well-run organization, and they've gotten us into enormous trouble. And I wanted to be President 'cause I thought I could have done a much better job than they are.
Eichten: Is there a sense, though, when it was done, a sense of relief, 'well at least you're out of the line of fire now'?
Dean: I think there's always a sense of relief, but if you haven't gotten the job done, there's never-- there's always the sense of incompletion as well. I believe the best thing for this country is to remove this President from office and put somebody in there who's willing to think through carefully what the issues are, even whether I agree with them or not.
I haven't felt this way about a President in a long time, not since Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon was a better President than George Bush because he really did have a world view, even though it was corrupted by this extraordinarily peculiar personality traits that the President had, which sort of bordered on paranoia, I thought. But I haven't felt this-- I dislike being lied to. I just intensely dislike being lied to. I never was so angry at Reagan, because Reagan had a strong sense of principles; he was sort of a cheery, outgoing person. He had some very sensible people around him, who I mostly, of course, disagreed with. But he wasn't the kind of guy you got angry with. You didn't agree with him... but not angry. I'm really angry at this President for what he's done to our country, and I really don't want him to be in office anymore.
Eichten: You said that you're convinced he's lied. Other people though, say, you know, the President, and the Congress for that matter, made the best call they could given the information they had at hand, in terms of Iraq. That there wasn't--
Dean: --I disagree with that. I think that may be true of the Congress, 'cause they were given a limited amount of information. It's very clear from the 9-11 Commission that the President's people had more information than they were letting on. And you've seen a pattern in this administration, when the pharmaceutical bill passed, which gives most of the money to insurance companies and drug companies, and not seniors (which seniors have figured out). The Administration deliberately lied to Congress about how much it was gonna cost. This is not a group of people who think the truth is terribly important, and they believe what they want is important, and they'll do anything they have to do to get that done. So there's a pattern in this administration, of concealing the facts in the service of what they want, because they believe they know best for everybody and if they have to lie a little to get what they want, that's perfectly all right.
Well, the last people I know that were in government that were doing that in this country were Richard Nixon, who got us in a great deal of trouble, and he ended up leaving office, and I'd rather have George Bush leave office by election, than I would have him removed by some panel who finally finds out that he was just... has constructed a war by not telling the truth.
Eichten: Gary, your question, please?
Gary: Ah, yeah. You said that Mr. Kerry is trying to appeal to the center, before?
Dean: Mm hm.
Gary: And if you're an undecided voter, how is it that John Kerry's gonna convince people over the next seven weeks, when his voting record in the Senate is very, very liberal?
I'll hang up; take my answer off the phone.
Dean: Well, you know, I don't see his voting record in the Senate as "very, very liberal". I mean, here's a guy who voted to give the President of the United States permission to go to war. [chuckles] So I think he... here's a guy who, unlike the Republicans, voted to balance the budget. He was one of the Senators who voted for Bill Clinton's budget-balancing package in 1993 when every single Republican voted against it. But you know, not one Republican's balanced the budget in 34 years, so I suppose that's not that surprising.
But I think... you know, actually I don't get defensive about saying "liberal," I mean, liberals balance budgets, right-wingers, conservatives don't, so I think maybe it's time for a liberal in the White House if he is one. But I find labels not terribly useful. I mean, now it's the Democrats who [are] the party of fiscal responsibility and the Republicans [who] are irresponsible, 'cause they are borrow and spend, borrow and spend, when we used to be accused of "tax and spend, tax and spend."
So I think people have to decide whether they want John Kerry instead of George Bush, based on what John Kerry's programs are. I've made the decision to support John Kerry, because I believe he'll do something about the environment, which the President does-- is not a high priority for the President... that he'll balance the budget, which I think is really important. I think that's a major long-term issue in this country... that he'll be strong on defense, because he understands defense, and he served honorably in Viet Nam. Nobody in the President's administration has served abroad, other than Colin Powell, and they don't pay much attention to him, which I think is unfortunate.
And so I look at these two men, and I want strong defense and strong leadership, and that's John Kerry. I want [a] balanced budget, and that's John Kerry. I want environmental protection, and that's John Kerry, and that's how I get to support John Kerry. Other people are gonna make different choices based on what they believe.
But I think labels like-- for example, I don't consider the President "conservative". 'Cause conservatives balance budgets, and they're careful about money, and they... You know, George Bush's administration has spent money at twice the rate that Bill Clinton did. How this guy runs as a "conservative" I do not know. So I consider labels like "conservatives" and "liberals" not very helpful.
Eichten: Other side of the coin, online question from Chris in Minneapolis. Chris says, "Kerry voted for the Patriot Act, the Iraq war resolution, 'No Child Left Behind', and NAFTA, isn't it time for progressives to give up on the Democrats?"
Dean: Well, not yet. [laughs]
At some point it may be... and as you know, I disagreed with Senator Kerry on all those issues except for NAFTA. The truth is, I wouldn't vote for NAFTA the way it was today, but at the time I did support it, and I wanna make that clear. I think trade is a very good thing. I think the problem with trade is, we've only globalized the rights of multinational corporations, not the rights of multinational workers, and environmental laws, and until we do that, globalization's really not gonna work the way it's supposed to.
Globalization, I think, is a very good thing, from a geopolitical/strategic point of view, it's made China into a more... a better world citizen, but I think it's also cost us an enormous number of jobs, because we have no environmental or labor standards.
But there's a very clear difference between John Kerry and George Bush. And presidential elections are about electing a President, they're not about protest votes, and we... if you want to make a protest statement, be my guest, but you're helping George Bush become President. I think sometimes you can't do everything all at once. I think John Kerry is a very good alternative to George Bush from a progressive point of view; [he] would make a far better President than George Bush... he won't do everything I agree with, but he'll do a lot more that I agree with than George Bush will, and I think he'll be much better for the country in the long run.
The key is balancing the budget. Even if you are a very, very liberal progressive, or left-wing, or whatever you wanna call yourself, you can't have social justice without a balanced budget, because then you put in a bunch of programs you can't afford, and eventually the whole thing falls apart. And I think Kerry'll balance the budget, and I think George Bush won't.
Eichten: Pretty strong statement in your book about the... about Ralph Nader, you say that "voting for Nader would make a sham of progressive politics".
Dean: Well the reason for that, was Ralph has really sold himself out. It's really awful. He has a wonderful 40-year legacy of being extraordinarily helpful to America; a strong environmentalist. He's responsible, probably, for saving hundreds if not thousands of lives, because he was really responsible for forcing the automobile industry to adopt seat belts and other things. But in this election he's been an exceptional disappointment. He gets on the ballot in Oregon by going to a right-wing, anti-gay group, and gets their signatures. He gets the Republican chairman in Michigan to get him 40 out of the 50,000 signatures he needs to get on the ballot. He takes money from Ambassador Eagan to Ireland-- Bush-appointed guy who's a Bush "Power Ranger" or whatever you call these people.
Now, I don't know any Democrat that would take support from right-wing anti-gay groups in order to get on the ballot. I mean, it matters who your supporters are, and Ralph sort of blithely says, 'oh, well, you know, they have rights too.' Well they do have rights, but if you stand for something and if you're a principled person, you don't take that kind of support. It's like taking support from a racist organization. You just don't do that.
Ralph is-- this has become more about Ralph Nader than it has become about progressive politics, and I don't consider Ralph to be an icon of progressive politics any more.
Eichten: Topping this hour with former Democratic Presidential candidate and former Vermont Governor, Howard Dean. He's joined us here in the studios. Let me give you the number again; we have a full bank of callers, so hold off on actually calling, but try us in a few minutes. 651-227-6000, or 1-800-242-2828. You can use our online service if you prefer. Go to our website, MinnesotaPublicRadio.org, and click on "send a question". And we'll get to more of your questions here in just a couple minutes.
[pledge drive/auction announcement, then Steven Jones gives the news and weather]
Eichten: ...This hour we're talking with former Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean. He is in the studios to take your questions, and Festus is on the line with a question for Governor Dean. Festus, go ahead.
Festus: Thank you, Gary.
Eichten: Mm hm.
Festus: Um, I would say, only the good Lord, Kerry would every staff of Minnesota public radio for the good works you do. (sic)
Eichten: Well, thank you.
Festus: I have seven quick points, I won't expatiate on them (='go on at length about') so I don't waste too much time.
Eichten: Can you just pick a couple?
Festus: I will be very quick. I'm a little expatiate on them. People will understand.
Bush said America cannot be all things to all people, when was campaigning the first time. He's taking a different turn now. Because he didn't understand what he was getting into in the first case. His policy has always been wrong-- in the world, and in Iraq. For example, the Kyoto agreement.
When he got through deposing Saddam, he didn't, as we did in Kosovo, take the back seat and allow the international community to take charge, including the United Nations. But that's what he's doing now.
Eichten: All right, one more.
Festus: Okay. Yes he lied, he's subbing(?) the budget without any specific or some proposed amount for the war that he's fighting, yeah for example. And he's teaching serious irresponsibility to public at large. Yes, teaching people to be irresponsible. Because in the U.S., we have tax(es?) structure. We can collect taxes, and it's mostly spent wisely. Not absolutely. But in some developing countries, like where I'm from, they can't even collect taxes, much less spend it wisely, but here, they teach people not to pay taxes. That's not-- I don't know.
Eichten: All right. Thanks, Festus.
Dean: You know, a lot of this goes back to the idear that government is a bad thing. And the Republicans have sort of pushed this "government's bad, government's bad." Most Americans don't think government's bad. When they want government around to help 'em, they'd really like [it] to be there. And what you've seen is an erosion of living standards in the last 15 or 20 years, and even under President Clinton we had some erosion of the middle class living standards. More potholes in the streets, tougher time financing schools.
And it's because principally, folks, politicians, mostly Republicans, have convinced the American people that paying taxes is a bad thing 'cause government's a bad thing. Well, if that's what you think, then don't expect education services to be good, don't expect your infrastructure to be good, because that takes money, and that's what taxes go to. Taxes are basically something for the common good. Money set aside for the common good, for things like defense, for things like infrastructure, education, health care. You-- we have to make a choice. You cannot continue to have tax cuts and have trillion-dollar deficits, because one way or the other the living standard goes down.
And what hap-- I was in Britain about 30 years ago on an exchange scholarship. I saw the end of the British Empire and the decline in their standard of living, 'cause they had governments that kept telling people they could have it all. 'We'll cut your taxes, and no problem, you get the same services.' Well, that's not true.
Inflation is an enormous tax on working people, and that's what you're now gonna start seeing. Increased interest costs, you're seeing a lot of middle-class people having trouble paying for their kids' college education-- why? Because universities get their budgets cut by state legislatures and governors because they're not getting the kind of money from the federal government they used to get, and yet the deficits continue to go up. We can't afford it and we can't afford any more Republican Presidents.
Eichten: Isn't it a tough case though, for Democrats to make, to say essentially, "we're against tax cuts." Everybody likes to have their taxes cut, do they not?
Dean: Sure they do--
Eichten: --As opposed to a kind of an abstract "well, if you, well if we don't cut taxes then you'll get these services." Isn't there a suspicion on the part of a lot of people that we'll never actually get those services, it'll just cost us a ton of dough, so 'gimme my money and I'll spend it the way I'll want to.'
Dean: Well, and that's essentially what the Bush folks have done, and now people are gonna get-- decide for themselves whether they like things like "No Child Left Behind," which actually raised your property taxes and cut back your schools. Whether they like things like this enormous tax cuts that went to the zillionaires and then the local middle- class people have to pay more in health care premiums, because--
You know, George Bush has cut a million and a half people, half a million of them kids, off health care since he's been President. Somebody's gonna pay for that. They're gonna go to the emergency room, they're gonna get expensive health care anyway, and you get that passed along to your insurance bills. So one way or the other, it's through higher college tuition, higher insurance bills for health care, higher property taxes for local schools. One way or the other, there's no free lunch. You want the services you got, sooner-- one way or the other, you're gonna pay for it. And I don't know why people can't be truthful about that.
Eichten: John from Oakdale sends in an online question, Governor. John says, "how can you claim that most Americans want to move to the left? I'm 42, my middle-class neighbors don't want gay marriage, most oppose abortion."
Dean: I don't think moving to the left has anything to do with gay marriage and abortion. I think most people in this country aren't very concerned about gay marriage, I don't think they're as concerned about abortion. What I call mov-- and I actually think we need to move to the center, 'cause I think the country's moved so far to the right. What I call 'the center' is balancing budgets. I think that really makes a difference. I think it's stopping the emigration of our jobs all over the world. I think it's having a decent healthcare system like every other industrialized country in the world has. Why should it be that the British, the French, the Israelis, the Canadians, the Italians, the Greeks, everybody has health insurance for all their people except for us? Why is that? Well, I think it's because we haven't come up with a system that makes any sense, and we're not committed to doing that, and we oughtta be. Now I don't consider that 'left wing'. That's where every other industrialized country but us is. I just think it's common sense.
Eichten: Anne, your question, please?
Anne: Hi. Dr. Dean, first of all, I'd like to thank you for-- you inspired me to get movin' this campaign. And I thank you for that.
The second thing I'd like to say is that a couple of area people here in Grand Rapids are telling me to cancel for Kerry 'cause he is pro-choice. However, once the children are here, can you kind of talk about what the Bush Administration has done for child health care and... or hasn't done?
Dean: I think it's two separate issues. First of all, there are people who will vote only on the issue of abortion, and if they feel very, very strongly that abortion should be made illegal, because they believe abortion is murder, then you're not gonna talk them out of that, and I never try to do that. I think you do have to look, as you have, though, at the big picture. What about what happens after kids are born?
I think the Republicans do a terrible job. They've cut half a million kids off health insurance since George Bush has been President. Education is going backwards in terms of the funding. There's no long-term vision on the environment, which has a huge effect on children's health. There's no serious investment in pre-school. Those things make a difference. There's a lot of talk about strengthening families, but not many money to do it, because we've given all the money away to people who make a million dollars a year. You can't just talk about these things and then nothing happens.
I often talk about making room for pro-life people in the Democratic Party. Some pro-life people are Catholics. The Catholic Church's agenda is much closer to the Democratic Party's, if you look at it, than the Republicans'. On the issue of gay rights and abortion, the Catholic Church deeply opposes what most Democrats believe. But on the issues of helping poor people, and trying to bring equality of opportunity to America, and on the war, the Catholic church's agenda is much closer to the agenda of the Democrats. So... which is why I think, still, the Catholics are deeply divided, and I think about half vote Republican and half vote Democrat.
You're not going to get every candidate to agree with everything that you say. You have to make choices. And so to those people who say, "I can't vote for Kerry 'cause he's pro-choice," ask them just to consider, if that's their priority, is if abortion is their major priority, well, then you're not going to change their mind. But if they have other priorities, ask them to look at all their priorities and then try to come to some kind of a balance about how they want to vote.
Eichten: How in your mind should Democrats deal with the... what appears to be the nagging suspicion that many Americans have that Democrats are weak on defense. It certainly has been a central feature of the Bush campaign. We've heard this over the years--
Dean: --I think you look at the facts. Who is it that got us into more danger than we were in before? I mean, who was it that got us into the position where, I think where our popularity rating is, you know-- George Bush-- in some countries George Bush's popularity rating is below that of Osama Bin Ladin. That's pretty awful. Who is it that forfeited America's traditional position as the moral leader of the free world? That is not good for our defense. Who is it that has gotten us into a half trillion dollar debt every single year? You know who owns that debt? [The] Chinese, the Saudis, and the Japanese. One out of three, I would say, are reliable partners, and that'd be the Japanese.
So, I think the President's actually very weak on defense, if you take in the effect of the economy on our defense, which I think is not short-term.
The other thing is, half-trillion-dollar deficits every year prevent us from actually, ultimately, spending enough money on defense to protect ourselves. Right now the defense budget's going up like crazy; so is the deficit. You keep doing that, something's gonna have to give. And I do not think, no matter what the Republicans wanna do, I do not think we're gonna give up Social Security in this country. I don't think that's gonna happen. The seniors are not gonna put up with that no matter what the President says about gay marriage or any of these other things that he tries to crank people up about.
So, I just think this President's been terribly weak for America. I don't think that-- I think that John Kerry's got a proven combat record and he understands defense, and I think we just have to keep stressing that if you look at the overall picture, America's gotten weaker in the last four years, not stronger, and despite the President's swagger, you can't shoot swagger. You need real weapons.
He doesn't take advice from the Pentagon. General Shinseki told him he needed 50,000 more troops to do the job in Iraq; he just went in and ignored him. They were sent over there without proper equipment, without proper bullet-proof vests. I know parents who sent their kids in Iraq equipment, paid for by themselves. I don't think that's a President that's strong on defense.
Eichten: And yet the polls repeatedly-- that's the one thing that has been consistent right along. When Americans are asked who do they think is going to stand up for America, and strong on defense and so on, George W. Bush has been way ahead on that right along--
Dean: --That's actually not quite true. After the Democratic convention, when John Kerry did lay out his VietNam record and positions on defense, the gap was closed to about 9 points. Now it's bigger because we've had the Republican bump. So I think we'll see what happens. I think it's a very important issue, and makes a big difference to Americans, 'cause they wanna know that they're gonna be safe. I would make the case they're not safer under George Bush, that America's a weaker country and therefore we're in more danger.
Eichten: Paul, your question, please?
Paul: Yeah, I don't recall which novel it was, but the concept of "The Big Lie" always comes to mind when I think of Iraq.
It seems to me that John Kerry was hurt very badly by the month delay between the Democratic and Republican conventions, because of the provisions of the Presidential campaign funding. Is there any hope that that law can be changed so that we can start the funding on an equal basis for both candidates? That is, possibly, not kick in the public funding until both parties have had their conventions?
Dean: Yeah, I think that's the right thing to do, and I-- obviously, that's partisan considerations. Any kind of campaign finance reform is always gonna be-- that's why it never gets done. Because when the Republicans are in power, they don't want any change, and when the Democrats are in power, they don't want any change. That's why most campaign finance reform gets done by referendum, or once in a while, when you have real reformers in power. So I don't look at a chance for a lot of change there, but I think it should be changed, and I think we oughtta try to do that from outside the system.
Eichten: Kelly sends an online question in, "Mr. Dean, if President Kerry asked you to be part of his administration as Secretary of whatever, [they chuckle] will you accept?"
Dean: You know, I've tried very hard not to even think about that. I think you get in terrible trouble taking your eye off the ball before it's gotten to the plate, and we have an election to win in seven weeks from today. If we don't win it, I'm not gonna have to even think about it. So I'm gonna worry about that after November 2nd.
Eichten: What, in a nutshell, happened? As we started the program, we noted that this time last year, well you were just the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination, you had been on the cover of both Newsweek and Time, and it seemed like you had the thing all sewed up. What happened?
Dean: Well, first of all, you can't cut the voters out of the process. I think the voters in Iowa, who really basically determined the outcome of it, ('cause we knew whoever won Iowa was going to win the whole thing, because of the way the primaries were put together this year)... you know, I don't think they appreciated being told that I had it all sewn up by the media. Secondly, we made lots of mistakes in our campaign, just as every campaign does. Thirdly, everybody else thought we had it sewed up, so they all worked together to try to undermine us. They had all kinds of cooperative ventures to try to take us down, which they succeeded in doing.
You know, Winston Churchill once said, "democracy is the worst system ever, except for every other system." And it's a tough business. Politics is a tough business. You know, we didn't win. There are lots of reasons for it. We could go in and spend the rest of the show on them, which I wouldn't find particularly exhilarating.
But in the end, you know John Kerry deserves some credit for winning in Iowa, for convincing people, with the other candidates, that I was not the most electable person, which Democrats cared a lot about. Obviously I don't agree with that assessment of the voters, but that's how they voted, and you gotta respect the views of the voters. In the end, they run the place and they should.
Eichten: Mm hm. Joan, your question?
Joan: Yes, I have a couple of comments and a question. The thing is, that I completely agree with you, the United States is being hated by Europeans and other countries because of Bush's policies. But no one has pointed out what has happened in Viet Nam was Part One of the abuse of Abu Ghraib. And what's happened in Abu Ghraib was Part Two of a continuation of abuse by the military. What Kerry has stated took a lot of courage for a man to get up and state, and no one is stating that. They're making a wimp out of him. The campaign manager of...
Eichten: --You mean his anti-war comments after Viet Nam?
Joan: -- Karl Rove, is the one who's attacking him on the grounds of, 'oh, he's a wimp' in so many words, because he went out and he talked about these things, and 'it takes a wimp to do what he did,' and that he was really, basically a 'weak wimp and therefore cannot be President'. It took a great deal of courage for a man to say, 'I was involved in atrocities and I saw them.' And they have never brought that out as the continuation of the same policy, both in Viet Nam, and what is happening in Abu Ghraib.
Now, the most important point I have to bring out to you, which is really important now.
Eichten: -- well, very quickly--
Joan: -- on the radio. The important point that came up. There is an attempt by Allan Dershowitz, who was a professor at Harvard, to put out a bill, to introduce a bill to the legislature that will allow the torture to continue as it has continued in Abu Ghraib, and therefore they would never have to try it, and bring out hearings, it would then be a fait accompli (done and nothing can be done about it).
Eichten: OK. All right.
Dean: Lemme address the question of the military because I actually don't agree with the caller. I actually have a lot of respect for the military in this country. Partly because of personal relationships and the things they've done for our family. I don't think that the military sanctions things like Abu Ghraib. They happen. Soldiers are no different than anybody else, they're not all gonna be perfect, upstanding citizens, and some of them are gonna do bad things, just like lawyers, doctors, teachers and everybody else. But I don't think it's the policy of the military to commit atrocities, and I don't think it's the policy of the military to commit the things that happened in Abu Ghraib.
I will say-- I do believe there's similarities between Viet Nam and Iraq. One of them is that-- although I think that the government in this case, in the second case, is actually dumber than the government when Viet Nam was going on. Because I think what happened in Abu Ghraib was not a policy of the military that they were gonna torture people. I think it was incredibly fai-- incredible failure of the chain of command.
First of all, the Bush Administration has privatized in the Armed Forces. They have 20,000 mercenaries in Iraq, who work for private corporations, and they were involved in the questioning. So there was no clear chain of command at Abu Ghraib. So those soldiers, like Lyn England, who did participate in some of these things that ought not to have been done by anybody, particularly a member of the American military, did not have the kind of supervision and leadership that they were entitled to have, 'cause they didn't have a clear chain of command.
Secondly, I think that Rumsfeld is a, you know, I've called for his resignation a long time ago. He doesn't know what's going on. He's out of touch with what the Pentagon wants, and he doesn't pay attention to his military leaders. And I think that he was so lackadaisical, it was kind of a signal-- you don't have to say 'yes' to torture to let it happen.
All you gotta do is not pay attention to it. There was allegations in the last couple of days by major news organizations that he knew about this kind of stuff two years ago and didn't do anything about it. Which I find, yet again, grounds for resignation. That'll never happen in this tight-knit Bush administration, where loyalty is more important than what's good for the country, but it should.
But I totally disagree about the military. I think the military in this country is terrific, I truly do. I think they're-- they're the only people in both Afghanistan and Iraq who can say they did their job and they did it well. It was the civilian leadership that failed them. But I don't in general think that the military leadership is-- are bad people. I think there are bad things that happen in every organization, I think that's more the fault of the Bush administration than it is of the military.
Eichten: I know we have to let you go here. But in 30 seconds, no matter who wins in November-- will he be able to govern, given the nature of things these days?
Dean: It's gonna be very tough. I truly believe that the right wing-- not all Republicans are like this, by the way. We used to have a lot of Republicans supporting us, because of my views on jobs, and my views on balancing the budget. But the right wing of the Republican Party truly believes that they're on a mission that's more important than the safety and sanctity of the United States of America. They've put their loyalty to their country below their loyalty to their mission. I don't think they are fit to govern. I think we oughtta get rid of them as fast as possible. I don't think they're gonna be nice in opposition, and I think this is gonna be a long struggle for the soul of this country, and I'm absolutely committed to winning it. This country belongs to the people that built it. They came from all over the world and they were here when we got here. It does not belong to big corporations and right-wing ideologues like the present administration.
Eichten: Thank you so much for coming in today. Appreciate it.
Dean: Thank you.
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