The "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno

November 30, 2005

[Renee in Ohio, transcriptionist: What follows is, more or less, a transcript of Howard Dean's appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night. For some reason, even though we have cable, we consistently get really crummy reception when we try to watch anything on our local NBC affiliate. Also, our dog started barking for no apparent reason toward the end. The combination of those things made me miss the part at the very end, where Leno brought up something about Springsteen being a possibility for some office in New Jersey and punned "Born to run!" Maybe in the comments someone can clarify that for me.] (Comments in italics are hers- Crocuta)

Leno: Let's talk about some of the issues. Bush's speech today, what did you think?

Dean: Part of my job is I'm supposed to be tactful now, and it doesn't come easy.

Leno: Oh no-- forget that!

Dean: I thought it was his usual nonsense and repetetive drivel that we've heard for the last 4 years.

Leno: Well, that's tactful. (Yep, cause we know there's a less tactful word than drivel that would have fit perfectly at the end of that sentence!)

Dean: He didn't say anything new. He's defending a strategy that was built on things that weren't true, and of course we're in trouble. And I think "staying the course" is not a strategy, especially when you didn't tell the truth to get us there in the first place.

Leno: Well, how about Joe Lieberman, a fellow Democrat--

Dean: Now I really have to be tactful!

Leno: He's been there a few times to Iraq, and he more or less agrees with the President.

Dean: Everybody gets to march to their own drummer in this party. What we need to do is have a real plan for strategic redeployment. We need not to have 150,000 troops that are being attacked every single day in Iraq. We shouldn't have been there in the first place, and the fact is we've made a big mess over there. We've created more of a danger than there was in the first place, and probably one of the results is that we did something that Iran couldn't do, we helped them win their objectives in the Iran-Iraq war. So, we're in a lot of trouble in Iraq, and John Murtha's right, we ought not to be hurting more Americans, and having more American wounded kids come home.

Leno: So what would your plan be?

Dean: I think withdrawing immediately is not the right thing to do, but there is a plan that was authored oddly enough by a guy who worked in the Reagan defense department by the name of Lawrence Korb. Where we would withdraw the National Guard troops over 2006, and even Joe Lieberman voted for 2006 being the year of transition there. We would withdraw the Guard troops, move 20,000 troops to Afghanistan, where they are needed, keep a force in the Middle East, not in Iraq, because we are going to have to deal with the terrorist threat that Bush created by going in there in the first place. And then the rest come home over the period of 2006 after this election. That gives us a redeployment opportunity, it doesn't show weakness, and it does show the ability to continue to deal with the problems in Iraq without having our guys be the targets.

Leno: Let me ask you something. Now, normally-- the President's approval rating is 35%, it's the lowest it's ever been. It seems in years past that when one party was down, the other party would be up. For all the things the Republican are doing wrong, the Democrats don't seem to be gaining. Why aren't they gaining?

Dean: Well in some ways we are. The polls show that if the election were held tomorrow that we would take back Congress and all that. But, the Democrats have a lot to learn about standing up for what we believe in. You cannot win elections simply by criticizing the other guy, you gotta stand up for what you believe in. We're beginning to do that. I thought Harry Reid was really courageous when he shut down the Senate and demanded some honesty out of Republicans about why we got in Iraq in the first place. And I thought John Murtha, a decorated 37 year Marine Corps veteran was incredibly courageous when he got up and said, "Look, this isn't working. We need a strategic redeployment in Iraq."

We're going to have to do a lot more of that. We're going to have to do it on jobs, we're going to have to insist that we have health insurance for everybody in this country like 36 other countries in the world do. We've got to stand for something different from the Republicans and then we can win.

Leno: I remember once you said you HATED Republicans-- you remember saying that? You said you hated-- (There was some crosstalk here, and it's hard to hear Dean's response, but watching the video one could see the immediate bemused reaction on Howard's face, and he interjected something like, "Well, I was kind of misquoted there...") In the spirit of bipartisanship, can you think of one Republican you like?

Dean: Abraham Lincoln! (Laughter and applause)

Leno: The very first one! All right--

Dean: If he were alive today, he'd be a Democrat!

Leno: You're sure of that-- really? Do you think Rove will be indicted?

Dean: I'm not a lawyer, but-- I would say there's a reasonable chance. You generally speaking don't get asked to go to a grand jury and testify four times during the life of the grand jury without being under some suspicion. So, I guess that, though I'm not a lawyer, I'd be nervous if I were him.

Leno: This culture of corruption we see now-- we were just joking about this congressman, 2.4 MILLION dollars. Okay, he's a Republican, but this is the perception about politicians. Because this happens on both sides-- how do we change that? Do we need campaign finance laws?

Dean: What we need is real ethics legislation in Congress, because the Ethics Committee has been a farce. There was a truce at one point where nobody would indict anybody, or complain about anybody else. That was ridiculous. We really do need real campaign finance reform. We need to get the big money out of politics.

Leno: How do you do that?

Dean: You know, in the state of Arizona, there's a wonderful Democratic governor by the name of Janet Napolitano who got elected on a clean money campaign. She did not have to go to special interests to raise money to do it. They've got a great law that was put in by the voters, because the legislature of course wouldn't do it. The voters of Arizona put in a law that said there would be public financing of campaigns, so that if somebody comes along and wants to spend a gazillion dollars of their own money, the state will give you more to combat it. Now, nobody who runs on that clean elections plan in Arizona owes anybody anything. All they have to do is go in there and do what they think is right, which is really what the American people want. It's not so much about being a conservative or a liberal or a Democrat or a Repubublican. What people are mad about is that politicians go to Washington and then they won't stand up for anything, and that's what has to be changed. (Applause)

Leno: What I would like to see is some sort of truth in campaigning law, because we see these ads, "My opponent voted to give handguns to pedophiles" But that isn't EXACTLY what the law was... and you end up voting for which one you hate the least.

Dean: (reception was bad here and I can't make this first part out). But the flip side is something that's been very good for this country, and that's the First Amendment. Being able to say pretty much whatever you want, within some reason. Britain actually has laws where you can sue somebody for something like that, and maybe we need to do something like that, but free speech is very important in this country.

Leno: Yeah, law suits, we need more of those! (Laughter.) Okay, how about the 2008 presidential election? I know you can't pick somebody. Hillary seems to be way ahead. Could a Democratic candidate, late in the game, come from behind, out of nowhere? And possibly--

Dean: I know one that did, but unfortunately he went back to nowhere after that.

Leno: (Laughing) Really? Well, would you ever run again?

Dean: Not in 2008. I've sworn-- well, not sworn, but I've said that as long as I took this job as DNC chair my job is to fix the party. I'd like to make a big change in the White House. Whether I'm there or not is not so important.

Leno: Like in 2012, you'll still be a young man, you could do that.

Dean: (Smiling) That's right-- you're very kind. Thank you.

Renee in Ohio, a longtime Dean blogger, originally posted this transcript on the Shadow BFA blog. Thanks, Renee!

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