NBC Meet the Press with Tim Russert
June 22, 2003
DR. DEAN: Good morning.
MR. RUSSERT: Tomorrow, you will formally announce for president of the United States in Burlington at noon. Will you be joined by your family?
DR. DEAN: I will. My son Paul, who's gotten a little scrap over the weekend, is not going to be there, but he wasn't planning on that in the first place. We have four very independent-minded people in my family. My wife is a physician. She's going to continue to practice medicine. She'll do interviews and so forth but won't campaign. My daughter's actually working in the campaign, so she's in a different place. And then my son is very guarded about his privacy and so forth. And so he's chosen not to come and I said that's fine.
MR. RUSSERT: You said that your son got in a scrap. He was arrested for driving a car in which some of his friends broke into a beer cooler and stole some beer...
DR. DEAN: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...and was indicted. How are you...
DR. DEAN: He hasn't been indicted, but he...
MR. RUSSERT: Cited.
DR. DEAN: He's been cited, right.
MR. RUSSERT: But how are you as a father dealing with that?
DR. DEAN: Well, I'm not very happy about it. I think that 17-year-olds sometimes do extraordinarily foolish things and this is an example of that. We had a very difficult weekend at home, and I think it was a good thing for me to go back and try to get this straighten out and he's going to have to pay the price. If you do things and make mistakes like that, you have to pay a price.
MR. RUSSERT: He's grounded?
DR. DEAN: He's more than grounded; he's going to have to go through the judicial system and they're going to figure out what to do about him and his four friends.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's turn to the campaign. This is what you said last month about the Bush tax cut and I'll show you and our viewers. "It has become clear what this president is attempting to do and why we must repeal the entire package of tax cuts." The Department of Treasury, we consulted and asked them: What effect would that have across America? And this is what they said. A married couple with two children making $40,000 a year, under the Bush plan, would pay $45 in taxes. Repealing them, under the Dean plan, if you will, would pay $1,978, a tax increase of over 4,000 percent. A married couple over 65 making $40,000 and claiming their Social Security, under Bush would pay $675 in taxes. You're suggesting close to $1,400, a 107 percent tax increase. Can you honestly go across the country and say, "I'm going to raise your taxes 4,000 percent or 107 percent," and be elected?
DR. DEAN: Well, first of all, were those figures from the Treasury Department, did you say, or CBO?
MR. RUSSERT: Treasury Department.
DR. DEAN: I don't believe them. This administration has not been candid about the impacts of this tax cut. A few months ago they had the deficit coming in at $290 billion. It's at $400 billion. The administration simply has not been forthcoming and factual about the impact of their tax cuts.
Setting aside whatever the real numbers might be, the accurate numbers, let's look at what the tax cuts have done. Property taxes are going up in places in New Hampshire because the president has cut services, because he has not given the right amount of money to the states for special education, for No Child Left Behind, for all these unfunded mandates that he's passed.
The real effect of the Bush tax cuts has actually been to raise taxes on most middle-class people and to cut their services. Their public schools are suffering. Health care is suffering for middle-class kids. And that's because of these tax cuts. These tax cuts are incredibly bad for the economy. I believe their purpose is essentially to defund the federal government so that Medicare and Social Security, the icons of the New Deal, will be undone.
Karl Rove and others have talked about going back to the McKinley era before there was any kind of social safety net in this country. Really that's what the campaign's about. It's to undo what I consider radical Republicanism.
MR. RUSSERT: But in the middle of an economic downturn, Howard Dean wants to raise taxes on the average of $1,200 per family.
DR. DEAN: So says the Republican Treasury Department which I think has very little credibility in this matter. Let's look at the record.
MR. RUSSERT: But you would raise taxes?
DR. DEAN: I would go back to the Clinton era of taxes because I think most Americans would gladly pay the same taxes they paid when Bill Clinton was president if they could only have the same economy that they had when Bill Clinton was president.
MR. RUSSERT: Ted Kennedy says that we should have a prescription drug plan. It's the first step, a compromise. Democratic leader Tom Daschle says he's right. Are you with Ted Kennedy?
DR. DEAN: Well, this is a tough one. I've actually talked to Ted Kennedy about this, and also talked to Tom Harkin, and Jay Rock--well, I haven't talked to Jay Rockefeller, but who I deeply respect, who are on different sides of this issue, and let me speak about the dilemma. First, this is an opportunity to set up an entitlement program for people who need a prescription drug benefit. We need to do that. Secondly, the bill won't work. And it won't work because it uses the private insurance companies to deliver the health-care benefits. They actually signed a bill like this in Nevada. Kenny Guinn signed a bill like this two years ago, Republican governor, and nobody got health insurance or got prescription benefits out of it because no insurance company would sign up to insure a product that's going up at five times the rate of inflation.
So the bill won't work. It's clearly an election-year sop, but what Senator Kennedy says, and he has probably the most extraordinary record on health care of any United States senator, what he says is this is the opportunity to get this in the door. We know it may not work. But let's do the best we can. And we'll try to fix it later once the entitlement is established. So I think the bill is not a particularly good bill but I--out of respect for Senator Kennedy, it's hard to really completely trash his position.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you vote for the Kennedy proposal?
DR. DEAN: I'd want to see what is in the bill, the amendment. There are more amendments. And one of the critical amendments is what's going to happen to Iowa and New Hampshire and Vermont and so forth, Medicare assessments. I was the 50th in the country, Vermont is 49th in the county--there's talk about Senator Grassley putting some money in Senator Harkin for Iowa and to fix Medicare reimbursement. That makes it more attractive. So I don't know how I'd vote on this bill right now, and I'd want to see the last amendments before it goes out the door.
Here's the other problem. This is a political trap for the Democrats. What will happen I'd flatly predict now is that it will pass the Senate, it will go to the House, the right-wing majority in the House will pass some unacceptable piece of nonsense that's clearly nothing but election year goodies, it'll go to a conference committee that the Democrats will have no say in, and then the Democrats in the Senate will be forced to vote up or down on unacceptable bill and it will be positioned by the Bush administration to say they killed drug benefits for seniors even though it won't be true. So it's a political Washington type of trap and it's a terrible, terrible dilemma for the Democratic senators to be in.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you still in favor of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget?
DR. DEAN: You know, I go back and forth on that. It's not very good public policy but I'd love to see the Republicans hem and haw about what they would do about a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. The constitutional amendments to balance--we don't have one in Vermont. We're the only state that doesn't require a balanced budget, and we actually have the best fiscal record, or one of the best, of any state. But a constitutional amendment might--has forced Republicans who are really the party of fiscal irresponsibility, borrowing and spending, and borrowing and spending, and borrowing and spending, has forced them to balance the budgets when they otherwise wouldn't. So what I--I really don't like the idea of a federal balanced budget amendment, but I am very tempted.
MR. RUSSERT: But through your entire career you have been for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
DR. DEAN: Yes, because I just--I have, and it's because I think that there's so little fiscal discipline in the Congress that you might just have to do it. I hate to do it because we didn't have to do it in Vermont, but, God, the guys in Washington just never get it about money.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, in 1995, when you were advocating that position, you were asked how would you balance the budget if we had a constitutional amendment...
DR. DEAN: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...calling for that, and this is what Howard Dean said. "The way to balance the budget, [Gov. Howard] Dean said, is for Congress to cut Social Security, move the retirement age to 70, cut defense, Medicare and veterans pensions, while the states cut almost everything else. 'It would be tough but we could do it,' he said."
DR. DEAN: Well, we fortunately don't have to do that now.
MR. RUSSERT: We have a $500 billion deficit.
DR. DEAN: But you don't have to cut Social Security to do that.
MR. RUSSERT: But why did you have to do it back then?
DR. DEAN: Well, because that was the middle of--I mean, I don't recall saying that, but I'm sure I did, if you have it on your show, because I know your researchers are very good.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, Miles Benson is a very good reporter for the Newhouse News.
DR. DEAN: Yes, he is. No, no, no. I'm sure I did. I'm not denying I said that. I have...
MR. RUSSERT: But you would no longer cut Social Security?
DR. DEAN: But you don't--no. I'm not ever going to cut Social Security benefits.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you raise retirement age to 70?
DR. DEAN: No. No.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you cut defense?
DR. DEAN: You don't have to do that either. Here's what you have to do. You got to get rid of the tax cuts, all of them, and then you have got to restrict spending. You've got to control--well, here's what we did in Vermont. We had some mild tax cuts in the '90s, not the huge ones that most other states did. Secondly, we put a lot of money into a rainy day fund, and I never let the Legislature spend more than the rate of growth of the economy, so the biggest increase I think we had in the almost 12 years I was governor was I think 5.2 percent or something like that. And then we paid off a quarter of our debt, which is what Bill Clinton did when he was president.
Now, we're not cutting higher education, we're not cutting K through 12, we're not cutting Medicaid for kids, and we have a balanced budget. So if you restrain spending, which is long-term spending, that's the key to balancing the budget. But you've got to get rid of the tax cuts because the hole is so very, very deep. And Social Security, I--the best way to balance Social Security budget right now, other than stop taking the money out for the tax cuts, is to expand the amount of money that Social Security payroll taxes apply to. It's limited now to something like $80,000. You let that rise. I also would entertain taking the retirement age to 68. It's at 67 now. I would entertain that.
MR. RUSSERT: But the deficit's $500 billion. Half the budget goes to Social Security, Medicare and Defense. They asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks? He said, "That's where the money is." You could close down the entire United States government, other than Social Security, Medicare and Defense and interest on the public debt, and you still wouldn't balance the budget.
DR. DEAN: But the problem for Social Security is that it is actually in fine shape until, I don't know, 2040 or something like that.
MR. RUSSERT: No, no, no, no, no, no.
DR. DEAN: Well, it's in fine shape--it's actuarially fine until 2025 or '23 and then the trust fund doesn't run out...
MR. RUSSERT: Receipts and outlays begin...
DR. DEAN: That's right. Around--in the middle of the 2020s.
MR. RUSSERT: When the baby boomers retire, we have a real impending crisis.
DR. DEAN: That's right. But, in some ways, that's unrelated from the budget problem because what the people in Washington have been doing is taking money out of Social Security to balance the budget and then spend enormous amounts and run huge deficits. So there's two separate problems. First of all, you've got to fix Social Security and you've got to fix the budget. Fixing Social Security is an independent problem from the budget. And that's what I talked about.
You've got to look at expanding the amount of money that gets taxed for Social Security. You know, if you make $100,000 a year, the last $15,000 doesn't have to pay Social Security tax for it.
MR. RUSSERT: But, Governor, if you don't go to near Social Security or Medicare or Defense and you have a $500 billion deficit, if you're not going to raise taxes $500 billion to balance the budget, where are you going to find the money? Which programs are you going to cut? What do you cut? Education? Health care? Where?
DR. DEAN: Here's what you do. As a veteran of having to do this, because this is what I did in Vermont, Social Security, you fix actuarially. It's just like an insurance policy. Right now there's--eventually, in the middle of the 2020s you're going to see more money going out than coming in. You've got to fix that. We've talked a little bit about how to do that. Maybe you look at the retirement age going to 68. Maybe you increase the amount that gets--payroll tax--I'm not in favor of cutting benefits. I think that's a big problem.
MR. RUSSERT: But you would consider increasing the payroll tax?
DR. DEAN: Absolutely. You don't have to increase the amount of the payroll tax, you increase the salary that it's applied to. You see what I mean?
MR. RUSSERT: Yes.
DR. DEAN: $85,000, maybe you raise it to $100,000 or whatever the numbers are. We've got to look at the numbers to figure out what you do. You get the Social Security problem off the table first by fixing it and then not allowing the Congress to keep taking money out of the trust fund. The president's financing his tax cuts by taking money out of the Social Security trust fund. That's ridiculous--first. Secondly, what do you do about the budget? You restrain spending. You do not have to actually make cuts in things like Medicare or in things like Medicaid or even in Defense. What you have to do is restrain the increases in spending.
MR. RUSSERT: When the Republicans tried to limit the growth, the Democrats said that was an actual cut.
DR. DEAN: Well, they're going to say what they're going to say. All I...
MR. RUSSERT: You would be willing to limit the growth...
DR. DEAN: Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: ...in Defense, in Medicare and Social Security?
DR. DEAN: You have to do that. If you don't go where the money is--Social Security, we're going to fix differently. We're not talking about Social Security. We're talking about Medicare. We're talking about Defense and we're talking about all the other things the federal government does. But I want to put the tax cut back into that budget. They need it to balance the budget.
MR. RUSSERT: That's raising taxes, though. Let's be honest.
DR. DEAN: Here's what I say to people. You have a choice. Do you want to have the president's tax cut or would you like a health-care program that nobody can ever take away? Do you want to have the president's tax cut or would you like to fully fund special education, which is an obligation to the states, which is raising your property taxes? Do you want the president's tax cut or would you like to go back towards a balanced budget so we can actually create jobs and have a healthy economy again? Because a balanced budget, I believe, is the key to turning the economy around, as Bill Clinton showed.
So, if you ask that to most Americans, they're going to say, "I would much rather pay the taxes that I was paying when Bill Clinton was president if I could have health care and my property taxes would go down and we could have jobs again." Because they never got the president's tax cut. The vast majority of people in this country either got no tax cut or got a small few hundred dollars.
I had a guy in New Hampshire one time who stood up and said, "Governor, you may make some sense here." This is New Hampshire. "I got a $600 check from the president, but my 401(k) went down $60,000. I think I was better off before the president's tax cut." Most people got hurt by the president's tax cut and they're paying more property taxes because of what the president's tax cut has done to their state and local government.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to an issue that you've been very identified with and that's gay rights. Here you are on the cover of Advocate magazine, put out by the National Gay and Lesbian Newsmagazine. Canada--and this was the way the papers reported it this week: "The Canadian cabinet approved a new national policy today to open marriage to gay couples, paving the way for Canada to become the third country to allow same-sex unions. ...The policy opens the way for same-sex couples from the United States and around the world to travel here to marry, since Canada has no marriage residency requirements. Canadian marriage licenses have always been accepted in the United States."
And hundreds of American gay couples are now going to Canada to be married. When they return to the United States, married in Canada legally, should that marriage be recognized?
DR. DEAN: You know what we do in this country? We focus so much on gay marriage that I think we've missed the real point of what this debate is about, which is equal rights. As you know, in our state we have a civil unions statute which says that gay couples, while they can't get married, have the same rights as everybody else, exactly the same rights--inheritance rights, insurance rights, hospital rights--that's what this is all about. So the answer is, "Will I recognize the equal rights of people who get united in Canada, whether it's married or anything else?" Yes. I think that it...
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah, but will you recognize them as a married couple, as President Dean? A couple is married in Canada, comes in the United States, legally married in Canada, are they legally married in the United States?
DR. DEAN: I can't answer that question because it's a legal question, but I can tell you what I will definitely do. I will definitely make sure they have exactly the same rights as married people, which is what we've done in Vermont. I can't tell you about the marriage question. I think the answer probably is they are legally entitled to be recognized, but I don't without--I'm not a lawyer and I don't know the answer to that.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you--do you think they should be?
DR. DEAN: Well, that's a very difficult issue. The position I've always taken is that it's the church's business to decide who they can marry and who they can't marry.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, there's civil marriage. A judge marries people in the United States.
DR. DEAN: We have civil unions in Vermont. I will recognize the legal--it's the federal government's and the states' business to recognize the fact that everybody has the same legal rights as everybody else. That's why we did civil unions. Marriage is also a way of getting those exact same legal rights, so the question is, "Is a marriage in another country recognized in this country here?" My guess is the answer is yes. I don't know the answer, but I can tell you what I stand for. I stand for equal rights for every single American.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you seek...
DR. DEAN: And so the legal parts I would definitely support, then I've got to get some opinions about, you know, what we're doing to the Catholic Church and other churches that oppose this kind of stuff. But I definitely believe that you have to recognize equal rights. So if a couple goes to Canada and gets married, when they come back, they should have exactly the same legal rights as every other American.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you, as president, seek the same kind of legislation that now has passed in Canada, allowing formally gays to marry?
DR. DEAN: No, because I don't think that is the right of the federal government. I was very much opposed, unlike some of the folks I'm running against, to the Defense of Marriage Act. I did not support the Defense of Marriage Act, because I do not think it's the federal government's business to get involved in what has traditionally been the matter for the states to deal with. But by the same token, I would not tell other states that they had to have a civil union statute or that they had to have a marriage statute. That is the not the province of the federal government. What I will go as president of the United States is insist that every state find a way to recognize the same legal rights for gay couples as they do for everybody else. Equal rights under the law is a fundamental tenet of America, and that's where we need to be.
MR. RUSSERT: Another debatable and controversial issue is the death penalty. This was the headline in your home state paper the other day: "Dean Aligns With Bush On Death Penalty. Former Governor Howard Dean appears to be shedding some of the liberal tendencies that have won him national attention as he now expands his support for the death penalty...His shift on the death penalty...has some questioning his motives."
"'This doesn't surprise me. I think Dean's willing to do what he has to do to win,'" said Frank Bryan, a political science professor at the University of Vermont and longtime observer of Dean. 'I really believe he's very ambitious and he wants to win badly. He has to get to the final plateau, and I think he will take risks with his inconsistencies being discovered in order to get to the next step.'...
"Eric Davis, a Middlebury College political science professor," also from Vermont, "summed up Dean's change in two words: South Carolina. ...'I think what's going on here is Dean is trying to appeal to electorates in more conservative states...'" South Carolina being the third primary after Iowa and New Hampshire.
DR. DEAN: It's a very interesting article, and turned out to be wrong, which was kind of embarrassing. In fact, I figured I was going to get asked this. In 1964--excuse me, in 1994, in the very paper that this was printed in, they ran a series of articles saying I was rethinking the death penalty. This has nothing to do with running for president. It happened while Bill Clinton--before Bill Clinton had even run for his second term. I began to rethink the death penalty in 1994 because of the Polly Klaas case. The Polly Klaas case was the case of a young girl who was kidnapped from her house, abducted and raped, and murdered by a felon who never should have been let out of jail. We had a very similar horrible case in Vermont a few years earlier, and I began to rethink my position on the death penalty as a result of that, and the article was just plain wrong.
MR. RUSSERT: But in terms of rethinking--let me show you what you did say in '92 and think about...
DR. DEAN: That's right. You don't have to show me. I know what I said in '92.
MR. RUSSERT: But I want to talk about it...
DR. DEAN: OK.
MR. RUSSERT: ...because I want the country to see it because it's important. "I don't support the death penalty for two reasons. One, you might have the wrong guy, and two, the state is like a parent. Parents who smoke cigarettes can't really tell their children not to smoke and be taken seriously. If a state tells you not to murder people, a state shouldn't be in the business of taking people's lives." The Catholic bishop up in Vermont has said this, and I'll show you and our viewers. "I am sorry that Governor Dean has expressed second thoughts on his support for the physicians' pledge to 'do no harm.' ...as Governor Dean himself said: 'I truly don't believe it's a deterrent.' What then would be the motive for the death penalty except vengeance?" Do you believe there's still a possibility, as you said, the wrong guy could be executed?
DR. DEAN: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: And number two, as you said, if a state is like a parent saying don't kill, why is the state killing?
DR. DEAN: It's a deeply, deeply troubling issue. Let me explain to you why I changed my position and why I've began that process in 1994. These were two horrible murders of young children and I oppose the death penalty in most instances. Here's the areas I've changed and here's why, and I'm very supportive for exam--we don't have a death penalty in Vermont just so most of your viewers know that we're one of the states that doesn't and we don't need a death penalty.
But here's the problem, Tim, the state executes people improperly if they're improperly convicted--Illinois was the classic case. There were a number of people that were death row that turned out to be innocent. Deeply trouble. I came to realize because of the Polly Klaas case and because of similar other cases that sometimes the state inadvertently has a hand in killing innocent people because they let people out who ought never to have been let out. And so the judicial system's imperfection hurts us in two ways. It executes innocent people because they were convicted and put to death, which is a terrible thing which is why I support Pat Leahy's innocents protection bill, but they also allow people to get out of jail when they're supposed to be in there for life and then those people go and repeat their crimes, oftentimes sex offenders.
So I came to the conclusion that a person who murders a child shows a depraved indifference to life which will never be--incapable of being rehabilitated. Secondly, that a mass murderer, such as a terrorist, is someone who can't be rehabilitated and to let these people out is too dangerous and it's too high likelihood that they'll repeat their crime. And thirdly, I don't believe the death penalty is a deterrent, but I think there may be one instance where just possibly it could be and that's the shooting of a police officer. If you're about to pull a trigger on a guy who's in uniform and you know that you're going to get the death penalty and if you don't pull the trigger something different will happen, maybe that might save the police officer's life.
The only three instances that I support the death penalty are, one, murder of a child, two, a mass murder like a terrorist and, three, the shooting of a police officer, and that's how I came to the position that I came and I began that process in '94 which is...
MR. RUSSERT: What's wrong with life imprisonment without parole--it's $2 million per inmate cheaper than the death penalty when you consider and factor the cost of all of the appeals?
DR. DEAN: You know, I had said this before and I'll say it again: I don't think what's cheap and what's not cheap has a bearing on whether you use the death penalty or not. Other people have said it's cheaper to do the death penalty because you get rid of them. You don't have to give them room and board for life. Those kinds of arguments are irrelevant here.
So I just--life without parole, which we have which I actually got passed when I was lieutenant governor--the problem with life without parole is that people get out for reasons that have nothing to do with justice. We had a case where a guy who was a rapist, a serial sex offender, was convicted, then was let out on what I would think and believe was a technicality, a new trial was ordered and the victim wouldn't come back and go through the second trial. And so the guy basically got time served, and he was the man who murdered a 15-year-old girl and raped her and then left her for dead and she was dead.
So life without parole doesn't work either. If life without parole worked 100 percent of the time, there'd be no need for the death penalty because I agree with the bishop. Vengeance should never be a piece of this. As human beings, we all want to get revenge. That should never part of public policy, to get revenge, but the trouble is that life without parole is not perfect either and the victims in that case are 15- and 12-year-old girls. That is every bit as heinous as putting to death someone who didn't commit the crime.
MR. RUSSERT: We're going to take a quick break and come back. More of our conversation with Howard Dean about defense issues; Iraq. A whole lot more right after this.
MR. RUSSERT: More with one of the Democrats who wants to take on George Bush in the fall, Governor Howard Dean, after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back, talking to Governor Howard Dean. Texas Democrat Martin Frost said the other day, "We need a candidate who is credible on national security. I think Howard Dean has the appearance of being another McGovern." Worried about your national security experience and views. The headlines: "Foes Warn Of Dean Debacle; Will Dean '04 Be A Disaster For Hill Democrats?" And they talked--they point to comments like this, Governor, and I'll show you and our viewers, from April. "We have to take a different approach [to diplomacy]. We won't always have the strongest military." Do you, as a potential commander in chief, really believe that the United States will not always have the strongest military?
DR. DEAN: What I said was, if we don't begin to use diplomacy as part of our foreign policy, we won't always have the strongest military. And that's absolutely true. And there have been many other people who know a great deal about national security, including President Clinton, who have said that's true. We have got to take on a different posture in the world where we don't simply push everybody aside who disagrees with us without trying to actually accomplish some things through diplomatic means.
MR. RUSSERT: But we will always have the strongest military under President Dean.
DR. DEAN: Oh, under President Dean, we certainly will always have the strongest military, because this is a long-term phenomenon, not a short-term phenomenon. In foreign affairs, there's a phenomenon called encirclement, where--and it's a historical phenomenon. A single, very great power with no obvious rivals in the world who exercises that power unilaterally and in contempt of other countries will result in the formation of an alliance of other second-tier powers to contain the power of that great military power. That's exactly what I was talking about in that quote, and that's absolutely true. It will happen over a period of years. Should I become president...
MR. RUSSERT: It will happen? We will have a secondary military power?
DR. DEAN: If we continue following George Bush's military policy and defense policy, will become a secondary military power. Under President Dean, that won't happen for two reasons. First of all, it's a long-term phenomenon. And secondly I will begin to set us on a path where cooperation as part of our foreign relations and our diplomatic policy. This president has essentially pushed aside people who disagree with him, using our military might, and using threats and intimidation. In the long run, that does not work.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's talk about the military budget. How many men and women would you have on active duty?
DR. DEAN: I can't answer that question. And I don't know what the answer is. I can tell you one thing, though. We need more troops in Afghanistan. We need more troops in Iraq now. I supported the president's invasion of Afghanistan for the obvious reasons, what had gone on and the murder of people. But I do not support what the president's doing there now. We need more people there. We cannot be making alliances with warlords in the hope that we're one day going to have the democracy in Afghanistan. And what I would do in Iraq now is bring in NATO and bring in the United Nations, because our troops on the ground deserve better support than they're getting.
MR. RUSSERT: But how many troops--how many men and women do we now have on active duty?
DR. DEAN: I can't tell you the answer to that either. It's...
MR. RUSSERT: But as commander in chief, you should now that.
DR. DEAN: As someone who's running in the Democratic Party primary, I know that it's somewhere in the neighborhood of one to two million people, but I don't know the exact number, and I don't think I need to know that to run in the Democratic Party primary.
MR. RUSSERT: How many troops would have in Iraq?
DR. DEAN: More than we have now. My understanding is we have in the neighborhood of 135,000 troops. I can't tell you exactly how many it takes. General Shinseki thought that we were undermanned by roughly 100,000. Maybe that's the right attitude.
Tim, you have to understand, and I know you do understand, that as you run a campaign and as you acquire the nomination and as you go on to be president, you acquire military advisers who will tell you these things. And, no, I don't have a military background. Neither did Bill Clinton. George Bush had a National Guard background. Ronald Reagan did not have a military background. I will have the kinds of people around me who can tell me these things. For me to have to know right now, participating in the Democratic Party, how many troops are actively on duty in the United States military when that is actually a number that's composed both of people on duty today and people who are National Guard people who are on duty today, it's silly. That's like asking me who the ambassador to Rwanda is.
MR. RUSSERT: Oh, no, no, no. Not at all. Not if you want to be commander in chief. But we now have 9,000 troops...
DR. DEAN: So your perception--your position is that I need to know exactly how many people are on duty today in the active military forces...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, have a sense...
DR. DEAN: ...six months away from the first primary?
MR. RUSSERT: If somebody wants to be president of the United States, have a sense of the military.
DR. DEAN: I do have a sense of the military.
MR. RUSSERT: ...of how many people roughly...
DR. DEAN: I know there are roughly between a million and two million people active duty. I know that we don't have enough people in Iraq. I know that General Shinseki said that we need 300,000 troops to go into Iraq, not 200,000 troops, and I'm prepared to assume the burden and have the proper people around me advising me on what needs to be done.
MR. RUSSERT: All right, Afghanistan, we have 9,000. You would bring it up to what level?
DR. DEAN: Well, I believe that we need a very substantial increase in troops. They don't all have to be American troops. My guess would be that we would need at least 30,000 and 40,000 additional troops. They don't all have to be American because we have got to start taking over the security functions from the warlords in order to prepare the way for a unified Afghan police force that's a national police force.
MR. RUSSERT: There is concern about your awareness and positions on national security. You must acknowledge that.
DR. DEAN: Sure there are. Because just like President Reagan, President Clinton, and President Bush, I do not have extensive experience in national security.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to a Boston Globe article about the military service during the Vietnam War as it applies to you and I'll put it on the screen. "Dean did not serve in the military during the Vietnam War because he received a medical deferment for an unfused vertebra in his back. Several articles in the last year have noted that after his deferment, Dean spent 80 days skiing in Aspen, Colorado."
And then The Aspen Times wrote this profile. "In Howard Dean, we could have a president who spent the winter of 1971-72...pounding bumps on Aspen Mountain. 'I paid $250 for a ski pass and skied 80 days on Ajax. It was the greatest mountain. ... I went to work pouring concrete for a small company.'"
Why were you able to ski on Ajax Mountain, pounding your back, and pouring concrete, and not serve in the military?
DR. DEAN: First of all, let me say that there's only one person who's contending for the Democratic nominee for president who did serve in the military, nomination for president, and then let me explain the circumstances of my draft classification. I went to my physical in Ft. Hamilton in Brooklyn, which was a great deal like the scene out of Alice's Restaurant in terms of the different sizes, shapes, colors, and all kinds of people were there. I was given an examination. I had a previous back problem, which is evidently congenital, which prevented me from doing any sustained running, a problem that I've had since then, since that time, which requires that when I get out of the car I often have some pains up and down my leg and back and so forth.
But I have been able to exercise at--ry vigorous athletic life except for some things. One of those is long-distance running, which is how the problem came to my attention in the first place. I noticed the pain when I was in high school running track. In any case, the--after the physical, I received a one Y deferment. That's how the United States government decided that they would use me. One Y deferment means you can only be called in times of national emergency. I didn't have anything to do with choosing any draft deferment. I didn't try to get out of the draft. I had a physical. The United States government said this is your classification. I'm not responsible for that. I didn't have anything to do with the decision. That was their choice.
MR. RUSSERT: A military physical.
DR. DEAN: Yeah. I had a military physical. I had a draft induction physical in Ft. Hamilton. I think it was, perhaps, during my senior year. I don't remember the exact date.
MR. RUSSERT: If called, you would have served?
DR. DEAN: Of course.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iraq, and this is what you said in April. "We've gotten rid of [Saddam Hussein], and I suppose that's a good thing."
DR. DEAN: Here's the problem. We don't know whether in the long run the Iraqi people are better off, and the most important thing is we don't know whether we're better off. This president told us that we were going to go into Iraq because they might have--they had atomic weapons. That turned out not to be so. The secretary of Defense told us that he knew where there were weapons of mass destruction around Tikrit and around Baghdad. We've been in control of Iraq for 50 days. We haven't been able to find any such thing.
MR. RUSSERT: But you also said...
DR. DEAN: So...
MR. RUSSERT: ...and I'll show it to you. You said in January, Governor, "I would be surprised if [Saddam Hussein] didn't have chemicals and biological weapons."
DR. DEAN: Oh, well, I tend to believe the president. I think most Americans tends to believe the president. It turns out that what the president was saying and what his administration's saying wasn't so. We don't know why that is. So...
MR. RUSSERT: But the Iraqi people are not better off without Saddam Hussein?
DR. DEAN: I think right now they are. Here's the problem. If we can't get our act together in Iraq, and if we can't build Iraq into a democracy, then the alternative is chaos or a fundamentalist regime. That is certainly not a safer situation for the United States of America. And we don't know for sure if it is or not. Saddam Hussein is a dreadful human being. He's a mass murderer. I think it's terrific that he's gone. But the fact is, that in the long term, we went into Iraq for reasons the president of the United States still has not made clear. And because of that, we really don't know what the outcome is going to be.
MR. RUSSERT: What did you think of Senator John Kerry's comments that President Bush misled the country.
DR. DEAN: Well, I thought it was Senator Bob Graham that said that and I agree with that. And Bob Graham is in a position to know. He's a senior senator on the Intelligence Committee and...
MR. RUSSERT: No, John Kerry said the president misled us and...
DR. DEAN: Well, I wasn't aware that Senator Kerry said it. I knew Senator Graham had said it in Iowa. But I believe that. I think we were misled. Now, the question is did the president do that on purpose? Was he misled by his own intelligence people? Was he misled by the people around us? Or did he, in fact, know what the truth was and tell us something different. I've called for an independent investigation headed by Republicans and Democrats who are well respected in the country to find out what the president did know and when he knew it. We essentially went to war, supported by Senator Kerry, Representative Gephardt, Senator Lieberman and Senator Edwards, based on facts that turned out not to be accurate. I think that's pretty serious and I think the American people are entitled to know why that was.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you something in April you had to say about your competitors. "I think we're going to beat the living daylights out of these other candidates because they need a backbone transplant."
DR. DEAN: Oh, you know I never would say on this show.
MR. RUSSERT: But you believe some of your Democratic contenders, opponents need a backbone transplant?
DR. DEAN: At that time what was going on was that a number of people had voted for the war and were going to Iowa saying "Well, I only"--some of them are still doing it. I...
MR. RUSSERT: Who?
DR. DEAN: I'm not going to mention them by name. There's no need to do that.
MR. RUSSERT: But, Governor, if you're a straight-talking, blunt-speaking candidate and you're saying some of your opponents need a backbone transplant, who needs a backbone transplant?
DR. DEAN: There are a number of people, Tim, who have gone out on the campaign trail, one as recently as last week, and said "I only voted for the resolution to go to war with Iraq because I knew that the resolution would force the president to send the matter to the United Nations." That is false.
MR. RUSSERT: Who said that?
DR. DEAN: I'm not going to tell you who said that.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, why--if you're going to make a...
DR. DEAN: Because I'm doing my best to try to keep some semblance of unity in this party. We are all going to need each other by the end of the day. I'm the non-Washington candidate. I'm going to run very hard against all the candidates who are inside the Beltway from Washington because I think they're going to have a hard time convincing the American people that somebody from Washington ought to beat this president. But to s...
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you--do your best. Let me show you...
DR. DEAN: I know. I haven't always done my best.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, let me show you exactly--here's the headline from today's Washington Post and I'll show everybody: "Misfires From The Hip Creates Problems Dean Discovers. ...[Dean ] is finding that his outspokenness can get him in trouble. Last week, Dean issued what was his third apology to a rival presidential candidate. After telling the Associated Press that he did not consider Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) a 'top tier candidate,' Dean recanted, telling the news served that he regretted the remark. Earlier this year, he apologized to Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) for tagging his broad health care initiative a 'pie in the sky' plan. Beefier that, Dean apologized to Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) after accusing him, during a Democratic gathering in California, of muddling his position on the war in Iraq."
This is what an aide to John Kerry had to say about all of this. "What we haven't figured out yet is whether these harsh, personal attacks are part of a long shot's strategy to get noticed, or whether this unpleasantness is just intrinsic to his personality. Or both." A very serious question. Do you have the temperament to be president?
DR. DEAN: Not only do I have the temperament to be president but I have the honesty to be president. When I make a mistake, I'm very pleased to apologize for it. The fact is that a lot of this stuff is about what goes on spinning, and I'm surprised the reporters take the bait all the time. I've issued one apology, and it was an apology I ought to have issued. I mischaracterized John Edwards' position in March at the California convention because I didn't know what he had said.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you apologized to Bob Graham.
DR. DEAN: No, I didn't.
MR. RUSSERT: You called the AP and recanted the statement.
DR. DEAN: I called the AP and said, "I'm sorry I said that."
MR. RUSSERT: Well, that's an apology.
DR. DEAN: No, it's not.
MR. RUSSERT: "I'm sorry I said it" is not an apology?
DR. DEAN: I didn't actually say I'm sorry. I said, "I shouldn't have said it because it's not my business to handicap the races." Look, Tim, if I make a mistake, I'm happy to say so, and I'm happy to say why I made a mistake. But to say that I don't have the temperament to be president, I actually think maybe I have a better temperament to be president because wouldn't it be nice to have a president who's actually admitted he was wrong when he made a mistake. If I insult somebody by mistake and it's my fault, I'm very happy to say so. I'm not afraid of that. I will not be the scripted candidate who is going to do all the things that their handlers tell them to do. I suppose my own handlers have a nightmare over that fact.
MR. RUSSERT: But is there...
DR. DEAN: But the fact is: Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who wasn't on the one hand or on the other hand who said, "Well, I voted for the war, but I only did it to send the thing to the U.N.," when, in fact, the resolution didn't require the president to go to the U.N.? I'm tired of hearing politicians that make--that do those things deliberately. I'm going to say what I think. Sometimes I'm going to be wrong, and when I'm wrong, I'm going to say so.
MR. RUSSERT: Is there a risk, though, that you'll be seen as described in Time magazine today as a bomb thrower and not have the statesmanlike qualities necessary to be a president?
DR. DEAN: I think that's up to the American people to decide. What they're going to decide is that I'm going to say what I think. I have a long record in Vermont of running the budget better than any of these other folks could because they haven't run a budget with the exception of Bob Graham. I have a long record in Vermont of delivering program that they all talk about at election time that we've all actually done like health insurance stuff for all kids in our state. And I think the American people get to decide. That's what the primary's about: Do you want somebody who inside the Beltway people consider a statesman because they hedge on every issue and they are scripted and they never say anything that the focus groups don't approve of or do you want somebody who's going to lay it on the line?
This whole campaign really has been about it's time for Democrats to be proud of being Democrats again. Stop voting with the president and then try to justify your actions, stop supporting stuff that makes no sense and stand up for what you believe in. That's the basis of this campaign, and I think that's the basis of a reformation of this country. We need to take this country back. This country's in a lot of trouble. It's in trouble because we have a radical right administration that are dismantling the New Deal and it is not telling the truth about a lot of things that they say.
The Clear Skies Initiative which basically allows you to put more pollution into the air, No Child Left Behind, a slogan cribbed from a liberal activist group and then the tax cuts are funded and health care's cut for kids. That's what this campaign is about. It's not about arguing with some inside the Beltway person about whether I did or did not apologize to Bob Graham or not. Bob Graham is a terrific guy. If I wronged him, I'm happy to apologize to him. The real issue is what is this country going to stand for and what is this party going to stand for.
MR. RUSSERT: In terms of who you are, I want to refer you to your comments at the National Abortion Rights Action League in January. And I'll read it to you and our viewers. "One time a young lady came to office who was 12 years old, and she thought she might be pregnant. And we did the test and we did the exam and she was pregnant. ...And after I had talked to her for awhile, I came to the conclusion that the likely father of her child was her own father. You explain that to the American people who think that parental notification is a good idea. I will veto parental notification." And then this in USA Today. "Dean told a powerful story but left out a key fact. ...What Dean didn't say was that he knew the father was not responsible, someone else was convicted." That's a pretty big omission.
DR. DEAN: What do you mean?
MR. RUSSERT: To say to people at NARAL, "Leave us a suggestion"...
DR. DEAN: I don't think it's--omission. A pretty big omission, you mean? Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah. That's a pretty--to say that...
DR. DEAN: I don't think it is at all.
MR. RUSSERT: To suggest her father may have been...
DR. DEAN: I thought it was. At the time, I thought it was.
MR. RUSSERT: But when you told that story, you knew otherwise.
DR. DEAN: That's right.
MR. RUSSERT: Why didn't you say that?
DR. DEAN: Because it didn't make any difference. Because the fact that I thought that at the time, that that girl had been made pregnant with her father, under a parental notification law, I would have then been required to report that to her family.
MR. RUSSERT: But parental notification for a 12-year-old--this woman wants an abortion. According to Vermont law and all the laws I've checked across the country, a minor needs parental consent to get a driver's license, a tattoo, see an R-rated movie. When we talked about the death penalty, you talked about the 12- and 15-year-old young girls.
DR. DEAN: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: And you said we need a death penalty as a way of dealing with those kinds of situations. Why not tell a parent, notify a parent that their 12-year-old girl is going to have an abortion, or if it's an abusive situation, go to a judge. Why not?
DR. DEAN: Here's what you do, and here's what we do. You know, I, as an internist, saw a number of--I took care of all kinds of ranges of people. I saw a number of girls like this, none of whom I suspected what I suspected about this girl. I always tried to get the parents involved. Usually I knew the parents, and I would--the way I would do it is I would bring them in my office and I would say, "Look, the smartest thing to do is call your parents." "My parents are going to kill me." I said, "They're not going to kill you. I know them. They're going to be very upset. We need to get them involved." I would never pick up the phone against their will and call them. Sometimes they'd say, "I can't deal with it. You call them." Once in a while, when a child says "My parents are going to kill me," they're not kidding.
MR. RUSSERT: But you go to a judge in that situation.
DR. DEAN: But judicial bypass has been shown not to work. There's been a lot of studies about it in Massachusetts. It just doesn't work. You have to rely--look, nobody's going to take a 12-year-old child and give her an abortion without being--I hope without being sensible, thoughtful and trying to get an adult involved. But to have rigid parental notification laws make it more difficult to practice medicine. This young girl that I talked about turned out--of course, we reported the whole situation--turned out the person who had sexually abused her was convicted. Fine. That's the right thing to have happened. But suppose we'd had a parental notification law, and suppose under the law I was then obliged to call up her parents and say, "I have this young girl here who, you know, is pregnant" and so forth and so on. What would have been the fate of that girl when she went home?
MR. RUSSERT: If you, in fact, thought it was an abusive situation, you can go to a judge. That's the point of notification laws.
DR. DEAN: Yeah, but you know what?
MR. RUSSERT: And if you have one for tattoos and driver's license and movies, why not for something as serious as abortion?
DR. DEAN: Every doctor knows that you should get a responsible adult involved, and I hope that every doctor fulfills that mission. I'll give you an example. There have been judges that say, "Under no circumstances will I provide certification that this girl should have an abortion, because I'm against abortion." Now, there are bad judges in the system, and some of them rule on these cases. Why can't this be a matter between the doctor, the family and the patient? Why can't it be like that? Why do we have to have politicians always wanting to practice medicine? Whether a woman can have an abortion, what has to happen...
MR. RUSSERT: But some 12-year-olds don't want to tell their mom and dad, and you are supporting that.
DR. DEAN: No, I'm not. What I'm saying is if the 12-year-old doesn't want to tell their mom and dad because they're afraid of their mom and dad is going to hurt them, then you have an obligation to make sure that you talk with that 12-year-old and work--first of all, 12-year-olds don't get pregnant, usually speaking, unless there's a real problem. But if the 12-year-old has a legitimate reason, then there has to be a different way to do this.
MR. RUSSERT: Talking about politics and saying what you believe in, you said in July of last year that Al Gore should have taken the gun issue off the table. It cost him three states and he lost the presidency. Why would you be afraid to take--stand up for any issue? Why take issues off the table if you really want to...
DR. DEAN: Because I don't think it should be on the table.
MR. RUSSERT: Why not?
DR. DEAN: We have no gun control in Vermont.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you're for the Brady Bill...
DR. DEAN: Yep.
MR. RUSSERT: ...which means there's a waiting period before you buy a gun. You're against...
DR. DEAN: Well, I'm for--it's backgrounds.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, OK.
DR. DEAN: The Brady Bill's InstaCheck. It's not a waiting period.
MR. RUSSERT: But you...
DR. DEAN: Well, there's a small waiting period, that's true.
MR. RUSSERT: Well--and loopholes at gun shows, there is a waiting period if you have it on a weekend.
DR. DEAN: Background check, right.
MR. RUSSERT: And you're for a ban on assault weapons, so you are for gun control.
DR. DEAN: Look, what I've said is we should keep the federal laws and support them, and we should apply background checks, InstaCheck, to gun shows, right?
MR. RUSSERT: But why take the issue off the table? Debate it.
DR. DEAN: Because--well, you can debate it all you want.
MR. RUSSERT: Because it may hurt Democrats politically?
DR. DEAN: No. Different states are different. My state, we have no gun control. We also have one of the lowest homicide rates in the country. We're a rural state with a lot of hunters in it. Right? In New York and New Jersey and California, they ought to have as much gun control as they want. My position is this is a state issue. Keep the federal laws. Enforce them vigorously. And then let every state decide what they want. Because when you say gun control in my state, people are going to think you're taking the squirrel rifle their parents gave them away. When you say gun control in New Jersey and California and New York, they say "Great. Let's get the machine guns and the handguns off the streets." They're both right. So why can't each state decide for themselves over and above the federal law what they want or don't want? What the result will be, you won't get more gun control than what you've already got in Wyoming or Montana and Vermont, and you'll get a lot more in California and New Jersey. Fine.
MR. RUSSERT: We got 15 seconds. How's this race going to play out?
DR. DEAN: Who knows? That's up to the voters. I'm going to work. My message is be strong for the Democratic Party. The only way to beat this president is to be proud of who you are and stand up for what you are and who you are, and that's how we can beat George Bush. And I don't think the other guys from Washington are going to be able to do that.
MR. RUSSERT: Governor Howard Dean, we thank you for joining us this morning, sharing your views. And be safe on the campaign trail.
DR. DEAN: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: And we'll be right back right after this.