Wolf Blitzer Reports
May 24, 2004
BLITZER: The latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll numbers are out, and while they continue to show problems for President Bush, the good news for the administration is that they haven't gotten any worse over the past two weeks.
When likely voters were asked their choice for president between President Bush and Senator John Kerry, Kerry leads 49 to 47 percent. That's statistically just about where the polls have been for the last two weeks.
And when candidate Ralph Nader is factored in, John Kerry still beats President Bush 47 to 46 percent, with Ralph Nader getting four percent of the vote.
Howard Dean, never at a loss for words, has a quick response to the question on how to end the mess in Iraq. His answer: defeat President Bush in November.
The former Democratic presidential candidate also says his former rival, John Kerry, has the right solution for Iraq.
Earlier I spoke with Howard Dean about this and other key issues of the campaign.
BLITZER: Governor Dean, thanks once again for joining us.
Let's get right to the issue at hand. What does the president need to say tonight?
DEAN: Well, first I hope he won't be giving a political speech at the War College. The War College ironically did a number of studies which showed -- which, had the president read, we would not be in Iraq today.
They raise exactly the issues the president now has to face tonight.
And those issues are how do you, on the ground, after the military victory, create a democratic Iraq. The president has had no plan. We're waiting to see what it is.
I think the plan has to be a real plan. It has to show that we're going to have order in Iraq, not civil war. It has to show that minority rights have to be protected so that we don't have a Shiite theocracy, which would be a greater danger than Saddam Hussein was to the national security of the United States.
We have to have minority rights protected in a constitution. And there has to be a real exit strategy. This can't go on forever.
BLITZER: It sounds, though, if you look closely at what the president's position, how it's evolving, he's moving toward the positions that John Kerry wants: greater internationalization. A multinational force. A new U.N. Security Council resolution.
It seems these two positions, the Kerry and Bush positions, are getting pretty close.
DEAN: The difference between the Kerry position and the Bush position is the Bush position is probably unrealistic for Bush but very realistic for Kerry.
That is George Bush got us into this by ignoring and humiliating our allies. It's very unlikely he's going to be able to get out of it.
The truth is we need a new president to get us out of this. And I don't think George Bush has the capacity to undo what he has done.
It's true the right thing to do, as the president will undoubtedly say, is to turn this into an international reconstruction and not an American occupation.
You've got to get -- the soldiers have to be safer. Our soldiers have to be safer. And that's not going to happen in an American occupation.
John Kerry has been saying that and has the wherewithal to deliver it. George Bush does not, which of course, is why I'm supporting John Kerry.
BLITZER: But are there differences in the John Kerry position on Iraq and the Howard Dean position on Iraq?
DEAN: No, all the time, other than the vote for the initial resolution, I continually said this needs to be a foreign reconstruction effort.
We need to bring our guard and reserves home. They have no business being in Iraq with this kind of length of time. We can bring one of the two divisions home and replace all of them with foreign troops.
I think Kerry will be able to do that. I think Bush will not be able to do that, because he got us into it simply by denigrating the advice and ignoring our allies and humiliating them deliberately if they disagreed with us.
That is why George Bush needs to be a one-term president if we're ever going to get out of Iraq.
BLITZER: How concerned are you, Governor, that Ralph Nader is emerging as the so-called peace candidate, the anti-war candidate, because unlike Bush and Kerry, he wants U.S. forces out of Iraq almost immediately?
DEAN: Well, I think that's irresponsible. I never took that position when I was running.
It's one thing to be against the war, which I am and was. It's another thing to allow our troops to be pulled out without any kind of police protection for the Iraqis.
What's going to happen if we adopt Ralph Nader's position is that we'll have civil war, a Shiite theocracy. Or worse, al Qaeda will do in Iraq what they did in Afghanistan. That's a genuine danger to the security of the United States.
George Bush has created this danger to the security of the United States when none had existed before. That's why I want John Kerry in.
But I don't think it's realistic to just pull our troops out tomorrow. And I actually have not even heard Ralph Nader advocate that.
BLITZER: He says -- he says six months.
DEAN: Well, you know, you'd like to be able to get them out as fast as possible. and I think a Kerry presidency will enable us to do that. Ralph Nader is not going to be president. The question is, do you want somebody with a chance of getting us out of Iraq or do you want four more years of the guy who got us into it?
BLITZER: How concerned are you, though, that Howard Dean supporters could be enticed to vote for Ralph Nader and that, in some states, that could be significant?
DEAN: Well, obviously, I am supporting John Kerry because I believe that there's only two people who can now be president of the United States. One is John Kerry. The other is George Bush. Ralph Nader isn't going to be president of the United States.
So if a choice for a voter who supported me during the primary is between Ralph Nader and John Kerry, the unfortunate conclusion is that a vote for Ralph Nader is the same thing as a vote for George Bush. And I think that John Kerry would be a far better president than George Bush.
BLITZER: What is your political advice to John Kerry about delaying accepting the nomination at the Democratic Convention in Boston scheduled for the end of July in order to be able to raise more money?
DEAN: Well, since I give political advice to John Kerry in private, I'm not going to do it in public.
But I will say that we did explore that in November and December when I thought I was going to be the nominee. And I think it's a very smart thing for the Kerry campaign to be doing. Essentially, George Bush would get two-thirds or a third more money than the Kerry campaign because of the way the schedule has been manipulated by the Republicans, an extra five weeks of spending.
And so if there's a way to do this, I think we ought to seriously consider having Senator Kerry be officially nominated on September 1, so that the Republicans and the Democrats have the same amount of money to spend in the same amount of time. I think that's fair. I think that's reasonable. And I don't think the convention schedule ought to be manipulated the way Karl Rove and George Bush did manipulate it.
BLITZER: Even if it means the Democratic Convention in Boston, which is not far away from where you are right now, becomes merely a pep rally?
DEAN: I don't think it will be a pep rally. There's a lot of business that can be done. There's platforms. Senator Kerry may choose to select his vice presidential nominee at that time. There are a lot of things that can be done in the every-four-year convention time.
But we're fighting here to take back our country from what I consider to be a band of extremists. And this is too important to worry about timing of the convention. If the timing of the convention gives an advantage to the Republicans, which it now does, we ought to get rid of that advantage and play -- have an even playing field. And I think there's an opportunity to do that.
BLITZER: Governor Howard Dean, thanks for joining us.
DEAN: Thank you, Wolf.