Howard Dean's Secret Past

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Dec. 1, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Howard Dean (search) has been criticizing the White House for keeping too many secrets. It turns out that Dean himself has legally sealed the papers from his days as Vermont governor.

Earlier, I spoke about those Dean documents with Peter Freyne (search), columnist for the Vermont weekly Seven Days. His paper sued the Dean administration last year — actually, the Dean campaign — for access to his daily schedule. I asked him... why is Howard Dean obsessed with keeping his papers secret? That's the big question.


PETER FREYNE, COLUMNIST, SEVEN DAYS: I don't think it's an obsession. It's probably an indication of how smart the guy is, because when he did this, he finished up as governor of Vermont in 2002. The new governor came in January 2003 of this year. But Howard Dean had the foresight to pick the number in terms of sealing part of his gubernatorial record and documents for 10 years.

And, coincidentally, 10 years works out exactly to when he will be finishing up his second term in the White House, in the best of all possible worlds. I think the number 10 here, as opposed to previous governors who were happy with six, 10 is a reflection of that — for quite some time, Howard Dean has been planning on his future.

GIBSON: All right. You've been calling around. Have you found out what's in these papers that he doesn't want you to see, therefore, the rest of us to see?

FREYNE: I think, you know, we'll find out when we get there. We know from previous governors whose papers have become public after the six-year period in which they were secret, that they were extraordinarily boring...

What I think is probably in the governor's documents, this governor and other governors, is probably correspondence relating to communication, with members of the administration in terms of developing policy.

What's the position going to be? The internal arguments of what do we do on a cigarette tax increase? Should we raise the sales tax? Those kinds of nuts and bolts issues of government, which would show inner division.

The records would probably include the ones that are sealed, personal correspondence from citizens in Vermont relating to personal matters at the time they wrote them, be it related to the death of a loved one, someone who's incarcerated, etc., and so on.

GIBSON: Well, Peter ...


GIBSON: Is there potential for embarrassment in here, in that, you know, perhaps Dean was a little bit left of where people thought he was, that he was more extreme ...

FREYNE: Oh, God, no.

GIBSON: Or is it that he was consorting with the hated Republicans in figuring that position?

FREYNE: If anything, in terms of the politics of Howard Dean's past will come out was what we know in Vermont, is that for the first three terms that he was in office, we considered Howard Dean a Republican governor.

In fact, the Republicans considered him a Republican governor. He won with vote totals in the 70 percent range. Republicans were happy with him. He knew how to manage money and he proved it back then. I think there would be a few Republicans that might be embarrassed by how closely they were aligned to Governor Dean.

But when Michael Isikoff called last week on this issue, and now it is in Newsweek magazine, when I knew that Michael Isikoff (search) was snooping around, I thought maybe — Governor Dean had Monica Lewinsky's phone number? Wouldn't that be fun? But, you know, knowing Howard Dean as we've known him in Vermont, we won't find Monica Lewinsky's (search) phone number in there.

GIBSON: No, I wouldn't expect it, either. But, on the other hand, there are other kinds of political embarrassments and Dean seems to have some reason to want them locked up until he would not be president anymore if he were to win two terms.

FREYNE: Well, in terms of what's locked up, we have over 300 boxes, 170 of them are open to inspection. In fact, John, today I called down to the secretary of state. There's been one Dean diver there today. Anyone could come in and you don't even have to identify yourself, give your name. You will be assigned a member of the staff to make sure you're not stealing anything. But you can go through the raw materials.

Right now in Texas, since Gov. George Bush left office in Texas, very, very few, perhaps a handful of people, have seen any of the gubernatorial documents of George Bush.

In fact, the story of why George Bush's gubernatorial records were concealed, I think, would be a little more interesting than why Howard Dean has concealed part of his.

GIBSON: Peter, we will have to save that for another day, although I know it has been litigated to heck. And they will be released soon. Peter thanks a lot, appreciate it.

FREYNE: In three years, in three years.

GIBSON: Three years it is. He might still be president, Peter. Peter Freyne, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

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