Interview on Vermont Public Radio's "Switchboard"
June 15, 2004
Streaming audio of the interview (55+ minutes)
Bob Kinzel: Good evening, and welcome to "Switchboard", on Vermont Public Radio. It was almost a year ago that Howard Dean stood on Church Street in Burlington and formally launched his bid to win the Democratic Presidential nomination. Despite being the front-runner last fall, Dean was not successful, and now he's started a new group to influence the direction of the Democratic Party. Tonight on "Switchboard", we'll look at Dean's past, and his future.
You're listening to "Switchboard" on Vermont Public Radio.
Audio Clip of Dean: There is a fundamental difference between the defense of our nation and the doctrine of preemptive war espoused by this administration.
The President's group of narrow-minded ideological advisers are undermining our nation's greatness in the world... (end audio clip)
Kinzel: Former Governor Howard Dean a year ago making his formal announcement on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington. Former Governor Howard Dean is our guest this evening on "Switchboard." Governor, welcome back.
Howard Dean: Thanks for having me on, Dan-- Bob! Dan, Bob, whatever... (laughs ruefully)
Kinzel: We want to mention that production of "Switchboard" is made possible by a grant from the "Lintellect" (ph) Foundation, and in just a little while we'll be taking your phone calls, and I'd like to thank Long Distance from Unicell for making these services available.
There you were, about a year ago, talking about the war in Iraq. It was an issue a year ago; it's still an issue today, and initially, it really distinguished your campaign from others in the race. Were you surprised that early on you really touched a nerve with Democratic voters with this issue?
Dean: Um, I wasn't that surprised. You know, I think that the Washington folks really were out of touch for a long time. They-- Washington is a funny place, and it happens to both parties. When you get down there, a lot of times you just forget what the people who sent you there really are like.
There are a lot of things that we talked about early on in the campaign that I think other people were shocked turned out to be big issues. The war was one of them. And as I said during the campaign, you know, I supported the first Iraq war, I supported the war in Afghanistan, I supported going to Kosovo, I supported going to Bosnia, but I didn't support this one because I didn't think the President was being truthful, and it turned out he wasn't.
I didn't... you know, No Child Left Behind was an outrage-- I knew that, because school boards were starting to talk about how terrible it was while I was still Governor, what it was doing to the school system. And I knew if school boards were doing it, taxpayers wouldn't be far behind.
The Patriot Act ... when I found out that conservatives in the Northeast Kingdom (a region of Vermont) were worried about the Patriot Act because, it was clearly an invasion of their civil liberties be able to rummage through their video store files to see what you borrowed, just at randomly, without a search warrant.
So a lot of the things that I talked about early on, that the Washington folks didn't talk about, is because I was a Governor. And I was the Governor in a state where politicians are pretty close to the-- to people, and I heard from them early on.
I think the real issue in the end in the campaign is the credibility of the President, and I think that's what Kerry's gonna win on.
Kinzel: Very early on, you tapped into this frustration among rank-and-file Democratic voters. I'm not sure where it was, where you spoke, at some teachers' convention somewhere, (it was here) but you really took the President on at a time when the other candidates were holding back somewhat.
Dean: Well, it wasn't-- it was only because I didn't think the President was being truthful. I mean, this Administration's the most Orwellian administration I ever saw. They say-- the "Clear Skies Initiative". Well, that actually allows you to put 500% more mercury in the air. This is a President who talks about "clear skies" and then gets rid of the suit which Vermont's been working on for 30 years, to try to clean up the smokestacks of the MidWestern pollutants. "No Child Left Behind"... raising property taxes all over the country because it was a huge unfunded mandate, the federal government trying to tell us how to run the schools. Look, they say one thing and they do the opposite, and I think there's a huge amount of frustration with that. And since the Democrats were voting for a lot of that stuff early on, I think people felt that nobody was listening to them at all in Washington, Democrat or Republican.
Kinzel: -- for the transfer of power?
Dean: I do. I think, you know, you have to, as a public policy person, we're there. You can yell and scream about the President and how he got us in there and all the things he said that turned out not to be true, but we're there. Saddam Hussein is gone, and we have a chaotic situation in Iran.(sic)
And the truth is, I said this at the time-- you know Barry Goldwater once said "I'd rather be right than President." Well, I can tell you he was wrong about that-- but the truth is, I was right about a lot of the things. I'm not saying that to say "I told you so," but the big-- I said during the campaign that the bigger danger than Saddam Hussein would be if Al-Qaeda were to take over in Iraq. Were there to be a fundamentalist Shi'ite theocracy, or were there to be a civil war with the ensuing chaos. That would be more of a danger to the security of the United States than Saddam, notwithstanding the President's and the Vice President's insistence that there was a longstanding relationship between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, which is just a flat-out falsehood.
The concerns about leaving now that Saddam is gone, dreadful as he was, are that we will have chaos, a fundamentalist Shi'ite theocracy as we have in Iran, or Al-Qaeda, which is certainly already-- I mean Al-Qaeda clearly is-- are some of the folks that are killing our people over there and ambushing convoys and roadside bombs. That's clearly-- so they call them "foreign fighters" but their real name is Al-Qaeda.
And... we gotta stay, until we can try to stabilize Iraq and it's safe for America to leave. And that means that we do have to hand over sovereignty. I support the June 30th deadline, although it's not gonna be real sovereignty. Because I think if there were an election, for example, and a rise to power by fundamentalists, my guess is the United States would and should intervene.
Kinzel: Now how about this idea of handing over Saddam Hussein to the Iraqis on June 30th?
Dean: Here's the big problem with that. In theory, it's a great idear... (laughs). You know, Iraq is not a very stable country. Suppose a Sunni militia attacks the prison that he's being held in and he goes free. Then we've spent our whole, you know, 800 lives, and billions and billions of American dollars for nothing. I don't think that's a very practical idear, turning him over. I think the Iraqis oughtta try him, but I think the Americans are gonna have to maintain security so he doesn't get-- escape in a very chaotic country.
Dean: In Seattle. In Seattle during the "Sleepless Summer" tour in August, we had huge crowds every place-- 4,000 people in Falls Church, Virginia, we had 900 people at 8:00 in the morning in Boise, Idaho... Big crowds everywhere. Portland, Oregon, 4,000 people. When we got to Seattle, this entire plaza was filled between 10 and 15,000 people. And I realized I could win.
Kinzel: So I know there are a lot of people listening tonight who are wondering, at the end of the year, you were the front runner. It looked like you'd have victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. In your mind, where did it go wrong?
Dean: There were a lot of things. There were some tacti-- first of all, the other 5 guys-- once Al Gore endorsed me, I think everybody, including Bill Clinton, who called me that day, thought we were gonna win. And so did we.
The other five guys, you know, this is a tough business, and you don't go in to run for the Presidency lightly, and as Gary Hart once said to me, "no wimp ever got elected President of the United States." Given what you have to go through. And the other five guys just got together and figured out how they were gonna take us down and they cooperated in doing it. And that's always tougher when you're taking on five people at once.
I made some fundamental mistakes, the campaign made some fundamental mistakes, some strategic mistakes.
But I think the largest piece was, we just peaked too early. People didn't know me that well. They really didn't know any of us.
Kerry ran a great campaign in Iowa. Nobody should take anything away from John Kerry. He really did a good job focusing on veterans, getting out votes, hammering away at me on electability issues, temperament issues, and all these issues, some of which were real and some of which were false issues, but nonetheless they were effective. And he ran an effective campaign. I think if he runs that kind of effective campaign in the last three weeks of this election he'll beat George Bush.
Dean: -- Yeah, I think he's doing very well. I was out on the road with him about two weeks ago.
One thing I learned about the national media, which we were talking about earlier... they rival only Congress in being out of touch with what's going on in the country. Local media gets it far better than the national media does. I was reading all these nasty, catty stories in the New York Times about John Kerry's campaign, of the same kind that they used to write about me, and then I went on the road with him. He does great.
We had 4,000 people in Portland. He gave a great speech about the economy, which is a big issue. Then we did a jobs forum with about 150 people, some of whom had lost their jobs. It was-- you know, they got up and talked about their experience. He was terrific! He got great press. It was the day that gay marriage started in Massachusetts, so that was the headline. But he got a huge above-the-fold picture, it was the whole width of the paper.
He's doing fine. He's doing what he needs to do. He's going to Ohio, and West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and the places where the big job losses have occurred, and hammering home the economic message. You wouldn't know that to read the national press, but as I said before, the national press is probably not the best way to inform yourself about what's going on in the campaign.
Kinzel: Our phone number here at "Switchboard" is 1-800-639-2211. Our guest this evening, former Governor Howard Dean, talking about the past and the future. 1-800-639-2211, if you've got a question or a comment for the Governor tonight.
What do you see as your role with the Kerry campaign? Have you got it all defined on what you're going to be doing this summer and fall?
Dean: I actually-- I try to talk to him every couple of weeks. I talked to him last night. And they want me to do a lot of surrogate stuff, which we're willing to do, of course.
But Democracy For America, which we started right after the campaign was over, to keep the grassroots organization going, is gonna play a big role, not only in trying to refurbish (I hope) and revitalize the Democratic Party and the country, but to get ordinary people involved in politics-- that's gonna help Kerry a lot, indirectly.
We have about 600 people around the country running for office who are long shots in some areas, people running in Congressional districts where Democrats usually don't win... But you gotta get the message out, otherwise you're never gonna win.
We're about to endorse our third candidate in a county in Florida who's running for Registrar of Elections. This one's a guy named Arthur Anderson who's running against the woman who invented the butterfly ballot for Palm Beach County, so of course we're most anxious to win that one.
But those are the kinds of things that the Republicans, the right wing did a long time ago, and that's why they're running the country right now. Ralph Reed and Newt Gingrich made sure that we didn't just focus on the House and the Senate, which is what the Democrats have been doing for twenty years. We made sure we had the people on school boards-- or they made sure that they had people on school boards. And freeholders and county officials, those kinds of-- that's your bench, and we don't have a bench. And we need to build a bench.
Now, if our organization-- we still have 350 MeetUps, the last time I looked, all over the country, every first Wednesday of every month. Those people are now focusing on local campaigns. If you get another thousand votes out for a person running for the school board somewhere, those people aren't going to vote for George Bush, and so that's going to help John Kerry indirectly, in addition to the stuff I'm trying to do directly that'll help him.
Kinzel: Democracy For America is still raising money...
Kinzel: ...and you've put out a list of a couple of different "Dean's Dozen"--
Dean: Three of them so far.
Kinzel: ... and, it's really all across the board. It's from someone who's running for Congress, to Governor, to... school board.
Kinzel: And you really are running the whole gamut there.
Dean: Yup. And we're probably gonna endorse John Lynch in New Hampshire, he-- we wanna hear from our local people first, running for Governor, and I think he'd be a good grassroots candidate. We have-- we've endorsed Barak Obama, the first African-American male we've seen as a candidate for the Senate in a while, in Illinois.
But, those are the high-profile races. The much lower-profile races are a guy-- for example, my cousin is running. He ran my campaign in Utah, he ran, now for county executive of the largest county in the state, which is about a million people, and he won the primary by 70% of the vote, so, you know, I went out there and campaigned for him, and he's on the Dean Dozen.
There's a lot of
people like that in places like Mississippi and Texas and Utah where the other guys aren't gonna go,
'cause they know that we're not gonna win those states in the presidential. But if we don't start putting
people on the ground in those states, we're never gonna win those states. You've gotta show the
American people that a progressive agenda makes sense for the country. (Kinzel starts to chuckle)
Dean: Well, I'm fortunate enough to be in a position to be giving him private advice, and my basic bottom-line is, if I'm giving somebody private advice, I don't give them public advice. (Laughs). So, I'm afraid I'm not gonna be able to tell you, what the kinds of things I've discussed with John Kerry, nor am I gonna tell you any of the content, because the quickest way I know to cut your line off, to people that you are talking with, is to go public with the advice you give them in private. I'm not gonna do that.
Kinzel: Maybe we can look at it in a more general way. Do you think it's important that he pick somebody who can help deliver a particular state-- Bob Graham is mentioned in Florida, perhaps Dick Gephardt in Missouri. Is it important that whoever the nominee is, that that person brings a state along with them?
Dean: I have a different view than most candidates about how to win this election. And that is, to do-- I think we ought to do what the right wing did. They've been incredibly successful in the last couple of elections because they don't worry about the swing vote. They go to their base. They beat us in 2002, and we had some wonderful people-- Jean Carnahan, Max Cleland, Jim Hodges, the Governor of South Carolina, Roy Barnes, Governor of Georgia-- all lost. Incumbents. Because they did a great job getting their base out. I think the way you beat these guys is to get our base out. Give our people a reason to vote. The swing vote's about 5% of the country. I think Ralph Nader is a bigger threat to John Kerry's presidential hopes than his failure to capture swing voters. Swing voters get excited when your people are excited. So I think we need, we really need to excite our base, and we need to talk to Democrats about why they should be getting out and vote, and give them a reason to vote. Give them a reason to believe again.
I saw the most fascinating statistic I've seen in quite a while. This was a poll done by Celinda Lake, who's a well-known Democratic pollster. Half-- over half the Nader votes are not young, enthusiastic college kids. Half of them are from union households without college educations, who are just simply disaffected Americans worried about too much corporate power, and they don't think either party pays any attention to 'em. Now, that's a constituency that oughtta be a Democratic constituency. But it won't be, unless we can convince them that there's a reason to vote, and a reason to get out there, and a reason to support the Democrats instead of Ralph Nader.
Kinzel: Your thoughts are very similar to a columnist in the Boston Globe this morning. The headline of that column is, "How About Howard?" (Dean laughs) For Vice President?
Kinzel: Now that John--
Dean (still laughing): I'm not goin' there, Bob, but it's a good try.
Kinzel: Now that John-- the basic thesis here, is now that John McCain has made it pretty clear that he doesn't wanna be on the ticket, that the Democrats really oughtta go to somebody who can energize the base, as you were just saying, and here's just a quote from that: "The old conventional wisdom about a vice-presidential candidate concludes that the best pick is the one who can deliver the electoral votes of his or her home state on Election Day. That's what keeps names like retiring Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt or Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack in the mix. Neither excites, and one is virtually unknown beyond the corn belt. Dean's constituency is bigger than a single state. It's a movement synonymous with change and excitement. But excitement from the left scares the middle. The middle is where Kerry thinks he wants to be in an election that has come to be defined as 'Bush versus not-Bush'. It's too bad a party has to lose its heart and soul to put a body in the White House."
Dean: Well I don't think-- I'm obviously not gonna comment on that, and whether I'm gonna be the Vice President or not. That is John Kerry's decision, not anybody else's. But I don't think we have to lose our heart and soul, first of all, and second of all, I disagree with the fact that I'm a candidate of the left.
I still believe strongly in balanced budgets, I was the only one ever to balance a budget that was running for President, including George Bush, because the governor doesn't balance budgets in Texas, that's the Lieutenant Governor's job. And so, you know, I believe I carry-- although I was characterized by the media-- national media as the candidate of the left, much to the amusement of my constituents in Vermont, or my former constituents. The truth is, I believe in the same things I believed in when I was governor. You've gotta have fiscal accountability. I'm more conservative about guns than some-- most Democrats probably are, because I come from a rural state. But I am. I do believe we oughtta have health insurance for every American, there's no excuse for us being the only industrialized nation in the world without health insurance for everybody, and I hardly find that to be a left-wing position. Bill Clinton took that position. Jimmy Carter tried to do it. Harry Truman tried to do it. So, I would disagree with the characterization.
But I do think we need to go after the base.
Kinzel: Let's turn to our callers and start off tonight with Matt, who's calling from Burlington. Hi, Matt, what's your question for Howard Dean?
Caller Matt: Yeah, my question, Mr. Dean is when you first were running for the nomination, your message sounded so great, it was so full of spirit, so, I-- to me true of the nature of the corruption of our system. Now, it seems like the only candidate that really sounds like you did when you first ran is Nader. And I realize the argument that you've mentioned and I've heard it many times and I understand the "lesser of two evils" kind of argument, but it just makes the spirit, I really would hope that you would keep to that spirit, that I only hear right now from Ralph Nader.
Dean: Oh, you know, the message hasn't changed. I think corporations have too much influence in our lives in this country. I think the media is a problem because they worry so much about the shareholders that they've forgotten about the reading public. There's a lot of things that are going on that we talked about during the campaign. I haven't changed my mind on that.
But my view is that one of two people are going to be President. And one of those names is not Ralph Nader. So, if you believe that John Kerry is a better-- would be a better president than George Bush then you oughtta vote for John Kerry, 'cause Ralph Nader can't be President. And much as it makes you feel-- look, don't you think it would have made me feel good if I could have lashed out at everybody after I lost? It would've made me feel great, but it's not very good for the country.
I happen to believe that George Bush is the worst President for this country at least since Warren Harding. And all he did was get involved in a corruption scandal. We haven't had a President who's done what George Bush has done to us, in terms of the enormous budget deficits, in terms of our standing in the world, which is at its lowest point, probably since before we were a country. I haven't seen that ever happen in this country before.
This is an emergency, and my argument about third parties is: look-- third parties have contributed a great deal to this country. They often bring up idears the two major parties won't do, and then they get absorbed by the major parties and the country changes. But this is not the year for a third party. We cannot afford four more years of this Presidency. It's-- he's bankrupting the country, putting our children into debt, making it harder to get a college education, the middle class continues to shrink, and we're going through this foreign adventurism. There's even been talk about putting back the draft. Well, I went through Viet Nam, and I-- that was an era that really did divide the country, and I just don't think we oughtta have four more years of that, and voting for Ralph Nader does nothing to stop George Bush.
Kinzel: Matt, thanks for your phone call. Let's talk to Catherine, who's calling from Franconia, New Hampshire. Hi Catherine! Welcome to "Switchboard."
Caller Catherine: Thank you very much. Governor Dean, thank you for all you have done and all you are doing for our country. I agree with you completely, this is an emergency that we are living in or through. My question is this: recently on National Public Radio, an interview with Brzezinsky, I can never pronounce his first name...
Dean: You did right. 'Zbigniew', right. (she laughs)
Caller Catherine: Oh, good, you knew how to do it, I don't. Um, he recently said, that unless the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is resolved, the next government in Iraq will be strongly anti-American and fiercely anti-Israel. My question to you is: what can you, and all of us who are your followers do to move the Democrats so that this matter gets on the table, which it is not at present, in this Presidential campaign?
Dean: Well, this President is the first President in my memory who did not get involved in the Israeli/Palestinian situation until late in his first term. He's hoping that... I think he just threw up his hands for the first eighteen months. So I think, really what this requires is the American President getting back to the table and being serious about this.
I think that there's-- the Sharon solution is not all bad. I strongly disagree with taking what is Palestinian territory, that ought to be part of the Palestinian state. But I do think that the withdrawal from Gaza may be the only thing they can do. This is a very complicated situation. You cannot expect Israel not to defend itself against terrorists and suicide bombers. On the other hand, to continue to push the envelope in terms of taking additional territory, I think is a problem, and it's gonna continue to be a problem.
Ultimately-- and I also-- this is one of the few things I agree with George Bush on-- I think Arafat is an enormous problem. He does not have the will or the desire to confront his own terrorists. And until the Palestinians can run their own affairs, the Israelis are gonna have a lot of incentive to go and stop the suicide bombers before they cross the fence.
So it's a hugely complicated problem, I think a President of good will who understands that both sides have to respect the United States in order for the United States to play a reasonable role, is gonna be essential. I think they-- both sides clearly do not respect our current President, and I'm hoping that that will be the-- that will change after November.
Kinzel: Catherine, thanks for your phone call. Let's talk to Richard, who is calling tonight from Piermont, New Hampshire. Hi Richard, welcome to "Switchboard".
Caller Richard: Welcome, nice to hear you, Governor Dean.
Caller Richard: Um, I'd like you to talk a little bit about Instant Runoff Voting. And I'd like you to talk about it in a way that you've spoken about medical coverage in the past, and the way that you've spoken about same-sex rights in the past. It seems to me I learned from DeanForAmerica that there are fundamental problems. One with media deregulation, which seemed to spell the end of what occurred to you at Harvard, during the Hardball college tour. But, I'll skip that for a moment, you asked me to stick to one thing, and I'd like to talk about Instant Runoff Voting and why certain Democrats and certain Republicans are so afraid of that subject.
Dean: Instant Runoff Voting is actually a good thing. Just so the listeners know what that is: What instant runoff voting is, many states have a system where if you don't get 40% or 50% or something like that of the votes in a multi-candidate field, there's a runoff. And usually the pattern is, 3 weeks later you have another election between the top two candidates. Instant Runoff Voting, for those who don't know what it is, simply means you list your top two or three choices when you go to vote. Now-- so you don't have to have a runoff. If your top choice is not in the top two candidates, then the next vote counts. And if that candidate choice is not in the top two candidates then the next vote counts. So, you have an automatic runoff essentially by going down the list and excluding the vote from those who, after the first votes are counted, didn't get into the top two.
The reason that's such a good idear is-- there's a lot of reasons. First of all, it saves money. You don't have to have another election. Second of all, you take advantage of the turnout in the first election, because usually there's a falloff in the runoff turnout. Thirdly, it's the fairest situation in a multi-party race.
Vermont, for example, doesn't have a runoff. The Legislature elects the Governor if somebody gets less than 50% of the vote that's running for a statewide office. Now, most Vermonters would never approve of a Legislature that elected a Governor who came in second, and that's happened about 6 or 7 times in our history. They think that they deserve the power to elect people, not the Governors-- not the Legislature, and I think that's true.
So, what I believe we oughtta have in Vermont, and nationally, since we're having-- we now have more than two parties, is Instant Runoff Voting, so that you can never say, "well a vote for..." --let's suppose we say we have Instant Runoff Voting in 2002, when I-- er, 2000 when I ran against Anthony Pollina and Ruth Dwyer. Anthony Pollina took 6 votes away from me for every 3 he took away from Ruth, and one of those 10 would not have voted at all if Anthony hadn't been on the ballot. Well, if we'd had Instant Runoff Voting, Anthony's vote count probably would've been bigger, 'cause people would say, "well, I can vote for Anthony, 'cause my second choice will be Dean." Same is true for the Republicans on the right. If you've got a right-wing independent running against some moderate, the Republican doesn't have to worry so much, because the fringe parties don't hurt the mainstream parties, and everybody gets their say in a fairer way. So it benefits the mainstream parties, it benefits the more extreme parties on the left and the right, and I think it benefits the voters, and that's what we oughtta use.
Kinzel: Richard, thanks for your phone call. Let's talk to James, who is calling tonight from Granville. Hi, James, what's your question for Howard Dean?
Caller James: Hi, Governor. I'm actually calling from Granville but I live in Tallahassee and I'm part of the DemocracyForAmerica group we've got going down there. And my question has to do with the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. It just seemed that when you came down to the Florida State Democratic Convention, which I attended, you were the hit of the party, and it certainly would've carried Florida, if Florida had been voting before Iowa. And I want to know how we can, as Democrats, get some more representation or equality back into the system, because as you know, Iowa and Vermont are fairly white, fairly rural, and not really representative of the country as a whole.
Dean: Well, the one advantage, for candidates like me, in places like Iowa and New Hampshire is, they're not very big, and it's true that their populations are not representative, demographically, of the rest of the country. But it's also true that you can go around and shake a lot of hands, and people get to judge you as a person before they see your spin doctors and your ads on television. And if people like you, then a candidate like me has a chance. I had a chance because of Iowa and New Hampshire, where I was able to negate all the advantages of the big, well-financed Washington candidates early on. I think there are some structural problems in the Iowa caucuses. I did not know, for example, that you can go into an Iowa caucus and badmouth the other candidates, and try to convince people to switch their votes right then and there. I don't like that feature very much. But, I do like the idear of having small states first, with an opportunity for candidates who are not well-financed to get their idears across, and be judged on their merits as people and not how much money they have and how many ads they can put on television.
Kinzel: James, thanks for your phone call.
You know, that was the most interesting thing for me, going into the Iowa caucuses. It's sort of like Instant Runoff Voting in a sense. I went to a caucus where you did not get the threshold of 15%. I think your count there was at 13 or 14%.
Dean: Mm hm.
Kinzel: And so that meant that your group, your delegates there, your supporters there were really "up for grabs," and there was a short period of time when the other-- leaders from the other candidates could come as you mentioned...
Kinzel: ...and make their pitch about why your supporters should either go for John Kerry or John Edwards. And you could see the agony with your supporters saying, "well, if we stick with Dean, we don't get counted because he didn't make 15%. So, are we gonna leave Dean and go with Edwards or Kerry?" And, depending on who the spokespeople are for those other groups, they can be very influential in the caucus.
Dean: That I don't mind. I mean, I think that's kind of the fun part of the caucus. What bothers me, what went on in the caucuses, which I was unprepared for, is that you can actually go to people who've made the threshold, say "you know your guy's a pretty bad guy, and I think he's pretty awful for the Democratic Party, and furthermore I'm the high school principal and you know, your kids are in my school." Or, "I run the union down at such-and-such, and our union guys told us to vote for somebody else, and we're gonna remember this if you don't vote our way." That goes on, and I didn't have any idear that went on, and I think that kind of stuff is bad. So I think they need to clean the system up a little bit.
Kinzel: You're listening to "Switchboard" on Vermont Public Radio.
Tonight on "Switchboard", our guest is former Governor Howard Dean, and our phone number here is 1-800-639-2211, if you've got a question or a comment for the Governor.
(Administrative notes omitted)
1-800-639-2211 is our phone number, let's talk to Peter, who is calling from Brattleboro. Hi Peter! What's your question for Howard Dean?
Caller Peter: Well, Governor Dean, I want to thank you for what you're doing. It's so wonderful. I run the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution down in Brattleboro, and we're really concerned with the dramatic expansion of nuclear power in this country as exemplified by the proposed 20% power boost at Entergy Nuclear Vermont at Yankee. It's indicative of, basically what we consider an insane energy policy. And I'm wondering if you plan to, and how you plan to, insert energy policy and nuclear issues in particular into the campaign at both the local grassroots and at the national levels.
Dean: Well, the biggest focus that we've had is on renewables. As you can-- Vermont actually has a fairly decent renewable energy policy, and because of our contract with HydroQuebec we-- actually about 45% of our power is renewable, which adds the hydro piece, both locally and in Quebec. There's no source of power that's perfect. But I think that clearly renewables, even big hydro projects, are safer and better than nuclear power in the long run.
We really-- you can see what's happening to the economy because of the increase in oil prices. That's only gonna get worse over the long term. China's economy is really expanding and industrializing now, and the biggest single reason between-- because of the-- that caused the increase in oil prices, was the huge increase in demand in China, and supplies are not expanding that rapidly. So, we oughta take a page from what we've tried to do in Vermont. We do need wind, we do need solar, we do need hydro, we do need biomass. Those are the kinds of things-- we could produce 20% of our electrical supply using renewables by 2020. That's a goal that's not difficult. I think hydrogen fuel cells right now, are fine researches, but that's not gonna be in cars in the next five years. But we could have ethanol in cars. Some say, "well, that uses up too much energy." Well, it does, maybe if you make it from corn, but it doesn't do it if you make it from sugarcane. The Brazilians have been running their cars on ethanol for a long time. So, there are a lot of things we could do differently in energy, and what we need is a administration with some far-sightedness.
Now, let me just say, a good thing about John Kerry in this regard... I didn't come on this program to talk about John Kerry, but the truth is, Kerry's a real environmentalist. And I think he's gonna give us a much better shake, and a much more farsighted shake in terms of energy policy and environmental protection than President Bush will.
Dean: Good heavens! This must be on the web stream. Is it?
Caller Ted: Yeah, we're all listening to you on the DailyKos community, here, Gov.
Dean (chortles): All right.
Caller Ted: Now, we really liked that breakfast event you had recently, and we would like to see you expand it around the country, 'cause who wouldn't wanna have breakfast with you, and listen to you on the stump. We really like the feature you did with John Stewart, and my question is, there's a big article that came out today in Family Circle and it quotes a lot of military experts, inclu-- and people like Ron Paul, the Congressman from Texas...
Dean: Sure, yep..
Caller Ted: ... who's a doctor just like you. And they're all saying that if Bush is elected to another term, there's gonna be a draft. What are your thoughts about that?
Dean: Well, I think-- I have to say, I think Nancy Pelosi's right, I think these guys are inept. They weren't thinking about what they did when they got into Iraq, and we're stretched very thin, and I wouldn't be surprised if they did try to put back a draft. I think that's a mistake. This... We need a new President. We need a President who understands that problems like Iraq and Afghanistan directly affect not just the United States, but other countries, and it's all of our job to make sure that terrorists aren't in those countries, not just America's job. Because this President was so hasty, and didn't have the facts, and so petulant, he managed to deliberately insult all the people who usually supply troops to help us in places like that, and I think that's a-- a new President will be able to go back and cooperate with these countries, because they basically do want to help us, they just are pretty upset with a guy who referred to them as "old Europe" and turned his back on Vicente Fox, and all these kinds of things that the present-- President Bush did. So I, I just think that we don't need a draft, what we need is cooperation with other countries who can supply some military force to help us defend ourselves against terrorism.
Kinzel: Ted, thanks for your phone call. Let's talk to Jonathan, who's calling from Marlboro. Hi Jonathan, welcome to "Switchboard".
Caller Jonathan: Thank you. Governor Dean, I want to ask you about your fall from the ratings during the campaign. It seemed to me that it started happening right around the time that you started getting hard on some of the powers-that-be in the Democratic Party. And you made some statements that were not very favorable to some of them. And suddenly, you went down, like a bullet. And, do you think that the Democratic high powers actually did away with your candidacy?
Dean: Um, no, I don't. I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist. I think we were subjected to an enormous amount of scrutiny and pressure, both from the other 5 candidates and the media, which is natural when I became the front-runner. The problem was that we weren't expecting to be the front-runner as early as we were, we weren't prepared to respond as a front-runner oughtta be able to. And the other candidates successfully raised doubts about whether I would be the best nominee for the Democratic Party against George Bush. And that's basically-- I don't-- I mean, sure, there were plenty of people in Washington who I made nervous, who are, I'm sure are happy to see me go. But I don't think there was a big conspiracy among the media, or among the other Democrats to, you know, to make sure I never saw the light of day again; they were just doing what they're supposed to do in a primary, which is to make sure that they win and not me.
Kinzel: So as you laid out your game plan for the summer and fall of 2003, you didn't anticipate that you were gonna be emerging as the front-runner.
Dean: No, I didn't anticipate it. And then when I realized we were, we tried to turn it into a juggernaut that was gonna blow everybody else out of the water. We almost succeeded. It was pretty close. John Kerry was down to his last dollars, he couldn't have made payroll in New Hampshire if he hadn't borrowed the money from his house and all that. And the other guys weren't going anywhere. The only-- the biggest rival we saw was Wes Clark, who was doing pretty well in Wisc-- in New Hampshire. We figured if we won Iowa, we were gonna win the whole thing, but that was not to be, and we didn't win the whole-- we didn't win Iowa, and we certainly didn't win the whole thing.
Kinzel: Let's talk to Bruce, who's calling from Hampton, New York. Hi Bruce, welcome to "Switchboard".
Caller Bruce: Thank you. I had a question regarding the conservative movement in the Republican Party. Last week the nation mourned the death of Ronald Reagan, the Republican governor who was able to galvanize the conservative movement and religious fundamentalists. Since that time, obviously, the Governor's alluded to, we have gay marriage, and we have a crisis there in Iraq. Do you think, Governor Dean, that the Republican Party is on the cusp of, perhaps, a sea change, that is, the abandoning of the fundamentalist movement that supports them?
Dean: No. I think they're getting stronger and stronger. I think what the Republicans have decided to do is what the Democrats oughtta be doing. The Republicans have decided that a very enthusiastic base that's really ready to go to the polls in a very dedicated way, is the ticket to re-election. I think they're absolutely right and I think we need to do the same thing.
We-- don't forget, there are a lot more people who agree with Democrats than they do with Republicans. The problem is, the Republicans are much more disciplined in their message, much more clear about what their agenda is. They don't try to appeal to three sides of an issue. They just say, "look, this is what we believe."
I tell you, something really interesting happened to me about 3 or 4 weeks ago. I went down to a big meeting in Princeton, New Jersey. A very, very smart-- academics on the liberal side. One of the women there was an evangelical Christian. And we got talking about separation of church and state and she sort of piped up and said, "well, you know..." -- these were all supporters. And she said, "look, let me tell you how we see it as evangelicals." And explained, and it was a pretty interesting interaction. So afterwards, I went up and said, "Look, I-- you're an evangelical Christian," and she said yes, and I said, "You probably, you and I probably disagree pretty strongly on issues like abortion and gay rights." And she said, "Yes, those issues trouble me deeply." I said, "Well, how did you come to support me?"
And there were two reasons that she gave me. The first was that her-- she had a child with polycystic kidneys who couldn't get health insurance in Texas, which meant none of them could get health insurance, so they moved to New Jersey, which, like Vermont, has guaranteed issue and community ratings. So they could get health insurance.
And the second was, that she said, "You know, you're a person of conviction. Evangelicals are a people of conviction. We admire people who have strong convictions".
Now, George Bush, whatever you want to say about him, comes across as somebody with strong convictions. People like that. Even if they don't agree with them on everything, they like that he has strong convictions. If you wanna mobilize your base, you've gotta stand for something. And if you stand for something, people will say, "OK, I don't agree here, but at least I know where he is." And you'll get a lot more credit, and people will respect you, more than if you're just a-- you're willing to say this, and then that, and then something else... it just doesn't work that way.
So I think the ticket to making the-- putting the Democrats back in the majority is to say what you believe. And don't worry about it, don't be afraid to say what you believe, because more often than not, people will give you credit for it even if they don't agree with you.
Kinzel: Bruce, thanks for your phone call. Let's talk to Paul, who is calling from Weathersfield. Hi, Paul, welcome to "Switchboard".
Caller Paul: Thank you for having me on your show tonight. Governor, a belated welcome home to you.
Dean: Thank you.
Caller Paul: I just want you to know that you made this Vermonter very proud over the past year, on the campaign trail. And, what I'd like to do is actually ask you for a piece of advice that may help Senator Kerry, and I'll hang up and listen to your answer. Do you think it would serve Senator Kerry well, if he were to have, I guess essentially a "shadow proposed Cabinet", or maybe perhaps, you know, at least 4 members of that ca-- his putative Secretary of State, Defense, Health and Human Services, who can cover-- obviously, cover more territory, but specialize among the critical issues that-- you know, I have to agree with you. I think our country is at a very urgent point, and I think it's important that the Senator's able to address an entire array of issues, and it might be helpful if we had people like you out on the campaign trail as somebody who we might be able to expect being Senator Kerry's Secretary (of) HHS.
Dean: Well, let me respond to that, because it's something we thought about doing when I was the front-runner, expecting I was gonna get the nomination. The reason we would've done it, is because people didn't know me all that well, particularly in Washington. We wanted to send a strong signal that we would have high-quality people. We thought of doing exactly what you're suggesting, that is, naming ... I think we would have tried to name Defense, State, Treasury, and Attorney General, because those are the supposed "big 4" in the Cabinet. And to give people some idear of what we might do.
Now here's the problem with that. In order to make those appointments, you've gotta do something called "vetting". That is, you gotta make sure that the candidates haven't cheated on their income tax, and they didn't have involved in(sic) domestic violence 15 years ago that you know nothing about. Those are the kinds of things that come out in a vetting process. And in the middle of a presidential campaign, when every day you-- somebody says something about you that you have to respond to right then and there, and you've gotta be in six places, is very, very hard to do the vetting process. And you don't do anybody a service, particularly the country, if you name four people, and suddenly discover after the election that a couple of them have some pretty serious problems and they probably ought not to serve in the Cabinet. So, in principle, I think your idear's a pretty good idear, it's something that we thought about, but that the process is a very difficult process to go through when you're trying to run a Presidential campaign at the same time.
Kinzel: Paul, thanks for your phone call. Let's talk to Lynne, who is calling from Richmond. Hi, Lynne, welcome to the program.
Caller Lynne: Thank you. My question is, how can we, as a general public, and voting members of the public, do things to kind of stem the power of the media, when there is a viable candidate like yourself, that basically was run over by the media, and because of that ended up having a lot of strikes that ended up hurting in the long run. What can we do to help control some of the power that media carries?
Dean: Well, first, vote for people who will break up the conglo-- the big conglomerates. Yeah, I saw a statistic, and I'm not sure this is true, 'cause I'd really like to be able to evaluate the source, and I don't have the piece of paper in front of me, that showed that 90% of Americans get their news from 11 corporations. Well, that's not a good thing. The press is-- has a problem because they're-- there's a huge entertainment component, and this enormous pressure in the news rooms, from the publishers to the editors, to make things "sexy", and to give a big story. Well, it turns out that, sometimes some of the things that make stories sexy don't happen to have the virtue of being true.
There was just a very interesting thing the other day. Chris Graff wrote a very nice story about what I was doing now, and all this stuff, and in the story I said that the day Al Gore endorsed us turned out to be a tough day for us, because everybody including Bill Clinton assumed that we were gonna get the nomination, including me too, and it made our 5 opponents work even harder and begin to have meetings about how to beat us, working collectively against us. That article went around the country and there were several headlines, some of them put in by major newspapers, that said "Dean Blames Gore For Defeat." Now, that's obviously not true, but it appeared in the newspapers. So, I believe that that kind of news coverage partly comes from the idear that you gotta, you know, say things in big headlines that may turn out not to have the virtue of being true. That's the first problem.
The second thing you can do is, use the 'Net. People under 30 years old, now, get most of their news from 'The Daily Show' and from the Internet. They don't-- the New York Times has no more credibility than the Internet. Now, I think that's too bad, in a way, 'cause anybody can say anything they want on the Internet. But, if you look at the front pages of the New York Times, I don't mean just to pick on the New York Times, but it's true-- almost every piece is an opinion piece. But it's not labeled as such. I saw a piece in another major newspaper yesterday, that was a piece that was sort of a snarky piece about Kerry, and it said, 'if Kerry doesn't do this that and the other thing he may regret it come the fall.' Well, that's fine to put that opinion in there, but it's not supposed to be (an) opinion piece, it's supposed to be a news piece. That's what passes for political reporting these days in the country.
The way you can do it is to just get-- go to the websites of these candidates and find out exactly what they say, don't necessarily take it from the news media, and secondly, vote for candidates who will go out and lay out the problem with having a corporatized media, because that is a huge problem. Media doesn't understand its role in the country. Media's principal role in the country is to keep people like me, or at least when I was in office, from putting my hand in the till or just telling the public things that aren't so. They've become an entertainment media, largely because of the enormous success that Rupert Murdoch has had with Fox. And it's put pressure on their bottom lines, and it's a failing institution, in terms of its responsibility and role in a democratic society. And you can fix that by ignoring it, and getting news that (you can get) your own way, and voting for candidates who will encourage independence of small community newspapers who get it right.
I-- you know, I'll hardly ever say a bad thing about the Vermont media again, because many of the fights I had with them when I was Governor, to be nonwithstanding, I really appreciated the fact that you could actually call up somebody and say, "Look, I didn't think that you got the facts right in the story." And then you'd have a discussion about it, and maybe they were right and maybe you were right, but at least you could have that discussion. That discussion doesn't exist at the national level.
Kinzel: Lynne, thanks for your phone call. In that article with Chris Graff, I think there was something in there, you were looking back at things you might have done differently, and dealing with the media, I think, was one of them. Were you thinking that you needed to develop different relationships with the media?
Dean: No, not so much that. I don't believe that. Because I am who I am, and I'm not gonna cater to people if I don't think they're right. But, we were paying for mistakes we made in March, stuff that people said about us. I'll give you an example. There were spin doctors from the other side, from other campaigns, who went after my draft record. They tried to make me seem like a draft dodger. The truth is, I went to have my physical, and I failed the physical. It was the Army's decision not to take me, nothing I did had an effect on it. But that was worth a few stories.
There were stories-- most of the negative stories about you are not dug up by the press, they're dug up by other campaigns who then spin them to the press. They'll call 90 reporters and maybe one of them will take it. The others'll say, "oh, come on, we're not interested in this kind of stuff." But one will take it, and then when the one puts it out there, then everybody else chases after it. And we were unprepared for that, partly because we didn't have any money, and then later it just, things were moving so fast. And that-- we did pay in November for stuff that was done to us in March, because we were not able to fend off that kind of attack.
Kinzel: Let's go back to our callers, and talk to Reg, who's calling from Bennington. Hi, Reg, welcome to "Switchboard".
So much of what you said makes so much good sense, I wish the whole country could be listening to this. The thing I guess I wanna focus on is (a) report I heard a few days ago, and I don't remember the exact percentages, about the youth vote, and the young people, mostly the young college kids, I guess, they were polled, and it seems to me that there was something like, somewhere in the 30% felt that their voting didn't (mean) any difference at all. It just-- now, we know that the youth vote always has been small, it's not an age where they're sort of shaping the world figure (sic).
But when you look at the total destruction this administration is doing to the environment, and to so many... you said that it was good to have strong convictions, but you've gotta be sure you don't have wrong convictions...
Caller Reg: ...is what seems to be-- this Administration's viewpoint.
And I think things like you mentioned, the instant runoff voting, I don't understand why Bill Doyle refuses to put that on his "Doyle Poll". I mean, why can't we have it? Because I think young people would then see, and say, "hey, I can vote for Nader, and then second choice, you know, for whoever, because I'm not throwing away my vote," if the other guy isn't strong enough to get to the second point, then, OK, fine...
It seems to me that things like that, that might stimulate the young people, but everybody is fighting it, and I'm wondering if you have any thoughts as to how, perhaps, to generate-- and I don't think that it's just a malaise among the young people, I think that there's a ton of people in this country who are just so fed up with the whole way that they're seeing-- you know, with Cheney bringing in his cronies to write the environmental policy, which as you said with 'Clean Air' is just a joke. How can we get America, if you're the only one that's out there or Ralph Nader, I mean I don't hear Kerry saying the things you were saying. The press doesn't have Kerry saying much of anything at all. How do we energize that?
Dean: Well, first of all, I think you're right, I think it's not just young people, I think there are a lot of Americans who just don't think it matters anymore. The destruction of Bush versus-- the decision of Bush versus Gore served America so badly, not because Bush was elected President, or selected, whatever your point of view is, but because the justices wouldn't count the votes the second time. That was the terrible shame of that decision. And I think that has discouraged a lot of people.
Interestingly enough, I discovered on my travels that particularly, African-Americans are discouraged about democracy, because so many African-Americans were deliberately disenfranchised by the Bush-- by George Bush's brother, Governor Bush in Tex-- in Florida, who actually hired a private firm to get felons off the rolls. 85% of the people they identified were erroneously labeled 'felons'. These folks showed up, primarily African-Americans, and couldn't vote. And they were just de-- that population, I suspect, is more devastated than any other in America, in terms of believing that this is a democratic country that really works.
And those are huge, huge problems. So let me just-- here's some of the solutions. First of all, you gotta say what you think. People are attracted, particularly young people, to candidates who say what they think, and damn the consequences politically. Stand up for what you believe in, you serve the country well, win or lose, if you say what you believe.
Secondly, young people use the 'Net. Now it turns out not to be true that John Kerry's not talking about-- he's not talking about instant runoff voting, that is true. But he is talking about things that affect young people. His policies on the environment are very, very good. He's got a pretty good economic plan, that he believes is gonna create 10 million jobs. Well, if it creates 4 million jobs, that's 5 ½ million more than George Bush created in his first four years. So those are things that matter.
And what we can-- the advantage that young people have is, they're incredibly Web-savvy-- they can just go find out the positions of the New York Times and the Washington Post, (who are) concentrating on who's doing what to who, and who's badmouthing the candidate and all that stuff, which is what they usually write about, both about Republicans and Democrats.
Go to the web site, and find out what Kerry's plan is. And you'll discover, lo and behold, if you take the time to go see him, which is hard in the Northeast, because we're pretty, you know, most of the Northeastern states are probably gonna end up in Kerry's column, so he's not gonna come up here a lot. But if you get a chance to go see him, lo and behold, you'll be surprised that what he says on the stump is something that's very different than what you're reading about in the papers. We've gotta get-- find ways, as we did in our campaign, to connect voters directly to the candidate, and the Internet is one of the ways to do it.
Kinzel: Reg, thanks for your phone call.
Dean: Well, I'd wanna see how that worked at a state level before I'd do that federally. I'm-- encour-- I think participation's great, but let's see what happens when a couple of states do that, before we do that as a nation.
Kinzel: That's gonna do it for our show tonight. We'd like to thank Howard Dean for being our guest this evening. Governor, thanks very much.
Dean: Thank you, Bob. Pleasure to be here.
(Kinzel lists the credits for the show.)
Secondly, a hearty doff of the hat to professional transcriptionists everywhere. I have breathed silent
thanks to you all along, but this piece has given me new appreciation for all the hard
work you do. 55 minutes. Oh, my sore wrists.