Does Saddam's Capture Hurt Howard Dean's Chances?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Dec. 16, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what this president fundamentally does not understand about the defense of the United States of America, it is not enough only to have a strong military. We must also have high moral principles and a set of ideals to which the rest of the world aspires.


TONY SNOW, GUEST HOST: Well, the Howard Dean (search) doctrine on foreign policy can be boiled down to -“President Bush is screwing things up and he needs to spend more time cultivating friends in Europe.”

Even some of Dean's fellow Democrats are questioning the candidate's constant negativity and the suggestion that we are no safer today than we were before Saddam was taken into custody.

My next guest has covered Dean as governor and as a presidential candidate. He is Burlington Free Press political reporter Sam Hemingway (search). And that's today's big question. Sam, does Saddam's capture hurt Howard Dean's chances?

SAM HEMINGWAY, POLITICAL REPORTER FOR BURLINGTON FREE PRESS: Not in the short run. I think in terms of the Democratic primary, he's got a very solid base. It is one that's not going to go away. Most Democrats have varying degrees of opposition to the war. That should hold him in good stead during the primary phases. In the long run, though, sure, this could — especially if things get — calm down in Iraq and the — we get down to the general election phase of the campaign, this gets to be more of a problem for Dean.

SNOW: One of the interesting things, and you can shed light on this, people are interested in the character of folks running for president. And one of things I have wondered is does Howard Dean have a sense of humor about himself?

HEMINGWAY: I suppose he does. Dean is an interesting character in that he is sort of the antithesis of Bill Clinton, who was all southern charm and outgoing. Dean has sort of a frugal, flinty, Yankee personality... he keeps his family private, as you know. He really — when he is not on duty, he is really not on duty and he likes his privacy.

So, you don't get a chance to see a lot of Howard Dean, the human. But the folks who work around him over the years, both in the governor's — when he was governor and now on his presidential campaign are exceedingly loyal to him. So there is obviously a chemistry he builds with people and, you know, that seems to — that says something about his character, anyway.

SNOW: How about the press corps? You mentioned that this is a guy that has a flinty exterior. One of the things that often happens in a campaign is you have reporters chasing after you, asking impolite questions, getting into your personal space. Is he likely to keep his cool through all that?

HEMINGWAY: My theory on Dean is that you will get those off-the-cuff remarks that he might even have to apologize for later. But it is a controlled anger. He uses it usually for good effect, for his own good effect.

He's not chummy with the press. He doesn't pal around with them. And I think the national press is finding that out about him. But if you are with him for a while, he will let down the guard and he'll crack a joke. He can be very funny. But it is not one that you're going to see a whole lot. You are not going to see that side of Howard Dean, whether as a candidate or if he made it to the White House as a president.

SNOW: We've seen a couple of times on the campaign trail that he does something that a number of politicians do, which is to say something controversial and then when confronted to say, "I never said that." Or "It's time to move on." Is that something you've seen a lot or is this a new addition to the Dean personal behavior on the stump?

HEMINGWAY: No, he'll apologize — if he says something that he wishes he hadn't or maybe that's now served — it's been useful to him, but now needs to be withdrawn, he might pull it back. There is an underlying core of views that he'll hold on to. But sometimes he'll say something off the cuff and then he'll retreat. We've seen it when he was governor.

He once made a remark about people on welfare who don't really want to work. It was when there was a discussion of welfare reform was going on in the state. It was not a good statement. He did apologize for it. But it sent a signal and I guess he wanted to send it at the time and I think it worked

SNOW: It's also been said by some Democrats that he ran a moderate governor's mansion. He was a moderate governor of Vermont. True or false?

HEMINGWAY: Well, Vermont's a liberal state. So, in that context, yes, very true. He was a moderate — I was just reviewing some old stories of him, reporters even called him conservative. In our definition of politics, I would count him as a very much a moderate Democrat. How that's viewed in the South or the West is a whole other matter.

SNOW: OK. Sam Hemingway, thanks for joining us.


Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2003 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2003 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.