Transcript: Howard Dean on 'Fox News Sunday'

Published February 15, 2004

| FoxNews.com

The following is an excerpt from FOX News Sunday, Feb. 15, 2004.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Earlier this week, former Governor Howard Dean said that he will press on no matter what happens in Wisconsin this Tuesday. But overnight it was learned that he will return to the Vermont after the primary to reassess his campaign. Can the once high-flying, front- running Dean campaign still turn things around?

Howard Dean joins us now from Burlington, Vermont.

And good morning, Governor. Good to have you with us today.

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning, Chris. Nice to be on. Thank you.

WALLACE: Over the last week, you have taken a lot of shots at John Kerry, and we have strung together some of your greatest hits. Let's take at look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DEAN: Senator Kerry apparently also supports the kind of corrupt fund-raising — politically corrupt fund-raising mechanisms that George Bush is also employing.

DEAN: I've actually said on the record that I think Senator Edwards would be a stronger candidate against George Bush than Senator Kerry.

DEAN: One of President Kerry — "President Kerry," please, spare us.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

WALLACE: Governor, you also called a Bush-Kerry race a choice of the lesser of two evils.

Is John Kerry really that bad?

DEAN: Well, the thing that has disturbed me the most is the fund-raising practices. When you have Robert Torricelli, who had to step aside from a Senate race because of his ethical concerns of New Jersey voters, raising money for Senator Kerry, and also raising money for a secret political action group which he and Dick Gephardt financed to attack us in Iowa, that is the kind of practices that I'm trying to get rid of.

The whole reason I ran in this race is because I wanted to get rid of George Bush, who I think is the worst president we've had since Warren Harding, and that I wanted to try to reform politics in Washington, which is pretty bad.

And the thing that concerns me so much about what's going on, even on the Democratic side, is that all these folks are so beholden to special interests, and that, of course, is why we don't have things like health insurance in this country, after every other industrialized country does.

WALLACE: Governor, it almost seems to have gotten personal for you. Do you somehow feel that Kerry has stolen your message and is posing as something that he isn't?

DEAN: Well, they've all stolen my message, which actually is a good thing. It's one of the things I wanted to do, is to get the Democratic Party moving again. It was sort of moribund after the Bush election and after the 2002 elections, they all sort of caved in Washington.

So, I think the fact that they've taken my message as a very good thing. That's one of the things I wanted. But now the question is, is this conviction or is this convenience? And only time will tell.

WALLACE: But you've got to know that a lot of people feel that this race is already over and that all you're doing is weakening the eventual Democratic nominee.

DEAN: Well, you know, that — certainly, people didn't feel like that when I was the front-runner in December. So I think we do have a right to press on our campaigns. Senator Edwards and I are working very hard. And I think voters really do need a choice.

This is based on momentum. We know that people don't know any of the three of us particularly well. And what's going on now is simply a rush to anoint the front-runner.

DEAN: Well, I really hope that Wisconsin folks will take a closer look at that, because I think we really need to know something about the candidates before we decide who's going to be the strongest nominee against George Bush.

WALLACE: Governor, our chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron, is reporting that several of your top campaign aides have already told your campaign that they're going to leave Vermont after Tuesday, they're going home, that there's no point in continuing. Is that true?

DEAN: Not to my knowledge. Nobody's told me that. So, you know, news is entertainment these days, and you can believe some of it but not all of it. And I have no knowledge if that's true, but nobody's told me that.

WALLACE: We've also been told that you have no charter, no schedule booked after Wednesday. Is that true?

DEAN: That is true. We're going to reassess — we're going to keep going, no matter what, because I think there are a lot of people all over this country who want to rebuild the party and rebuild America in a different way. And I think they — a lot of those people are delegates in New York and Illinois and beyond.

Florida, for example, votes on March 9th. I have no intention of depriving Florida of a meaningful role in politics twice, once in 2000, once in 2004.

So we're going to keep going, one way or the other. The question is, what's our schedule going to look like? We need to take stock and figure out where we are.

WALLACE: But, sir, is it fair to ask your supporters, who have given so much to your campaign already, to throw what some would consider good money after bad?

DEAN: Well, we have enough money to keep going. We're not going to have to put on a huge fund-raising push. My supporters actually are the people who talked me out of quitting after Wisconsin. There are just a lot of people who don't — I just got a letter from a congressman today who says this has got to go on in some way. And we're going to figure out how to make this go on.

We've come too far in such a short period of time to give this up. Change takes a long time. There's a lot of people who vigorously resisted change, which is why we're not seeing that kind of change in the front-runner.

But I am determined to change this country. We've started to change the Democratic Party. We've gotten Democrats excited again about standing up to George Bush. That's very positive.

There are a lot of things that are really wrong with this country, as there were during the McKinley era and during the Hoover- Coolidge-Harding era. There's too much corporate power; not enough power in the hands of ordinary Americans. And I'm determined to change that, one way or the other.

WALLACE: I want to ask you about several groups and the role that they have played in your rise and fall so far.

First of all, the Democratic establishment and especially Democratic chairman Terry McAuliffe.

DEAN: Well, obviously, the Democratic establishment in Washington was not helpful to this campaign. They didn't like us, from the beginning. You know, I didn't owe them anything — 89 percent of our money comes from ordinary people giving small donations. We have no connection or we're not beholden in any way to special interests in Washington. I think they've kind of resented that.

I think the Washington media was very resentful because we wouldn't go down and kiss their ring, because we didn't care what they said. And so, there was some resentment about that, as well.

But I think this is really a movement for ordinary people to take back their government. We're in big trouble in Washington. Both parties take enormous amounts of special-interest money. And when it comes down to voting, the special interests come first and the ordinary people come second.

The president's Medicare bill is the perfect example. There's more money that goes into HMOs and insurance companies and drug companies than there is to help ordinary seniors. Now, that is not what we ought to be doing in Washington.

Washington folks are plundering the Treasury, particularly this administration, and giving our money to their friends and interest groups. And that has got to be changed, and we will change that.

WALLACE: I'm curious about your comment about the media and that you didn't come down and kiss the Washington media's ring. Why do you think that the media — I can understand Democratic establishment — but do you feel you've gotten unfair coverage? And why do you think the media would be threatened by whether or not you become president?

DEAN: Well, that's a good question. You'd have to ask them. I mean, there have been studies that have shown that our coverage was much different than everybody else's coverage. And I don't mind that, because I think you shouldn't run for president unless you want to take the full heat of the media, and I'm perfectly willing to do that. But I'm not willing to cater to them.

WALLACE: And let's talk also about Howard Dean. How much do you hold yourself responsible for your troubles, Governor?

DEAN: Oh, when we get to sort out what went right and what went wrong in the campaign, I'm sure I'm going to take, you know, plenty of responsibility for things that didn't go right. I've already taken responsibility for some of the things that the press folks have blamed on the people who worked for me.

I approved every major decision in the campaign, so I don't have any ability to blame the people who worked for me in any way, whether they're the consultants or the people who worked in the office, for the things that went wrong. And I'm not. I mean, one of the things...

WALLACE: But you sound, I must say, sir, you sound like you do feel that some of the people in the campaign let you down.

DEAN: No, that's not true. I just said the opposite. Exactly what I'm talking about, with the Washington media. I said the opposite of what you just restated.

WALLACE: No, no, you said you'd take responsibility, but that didn't sound like you didn't think they didn't make mistakes.

DEAN: I take responsibility because I approved every major decision in the campaign. That's just what I said.

WALLACE: Do you ever feel, sir, that you have let down the thousands of people, a lot of them young people, who cared so deeply about your campaign and, frankly, contributed so much money?

DEAN: The only way I'd feel that is if I'd quit. And I didn't. And I won't. You know, this is a long — I think the young people's energy has been fantastic. A quarter of all the people who gave us money were under 30 years old.

But the one lesson I hope to impart is you never quit, because change is very difficult.

 

DEAN: It's not easy. If it were so easy, we'd change all the time. There's an enormous resistance to change in this country, and we really do need it.

This is one of those times where we really need very substantial change, and we're going to have very substantial change. But that's not something you just get by having a great time and going rallies and even contributing money. It's really hard work. And the hardest work is still ahead of us.

WALLACE: Party officials have reportedly asked all of the candidates to pledge that they will help raise money for the eventual nominee. Do you promise that you will turn to your donor base and ask them to support whoever the nominee is?

DEAN: We've already done that. We've already been to dinners that help to support the nominee, and we'll continue to do that.

WALLACE: I have to ask you, sir, on a personal level, this obviously has got to be difficult. You were the cover boy on the magazines at the end of December, raised an enormous amount of money. Now, as you go to campaign rallies, there are fewer people there, there are fewer people in your press plane, travelling around. You've got to notice it. How do you handle that?

DEAN: Well, that may be a good thing.

(LAUGHTER)

I don't. I just keep going ahead.

You know, this is — there are many peaks and valleys to things that you do, the major things. This is the biggest thing I've ever done in my life. And you've just got to keep soldiering on, through the good times — it's easy to be up in the good times. You've got to work at being up in the tough times.

And, you know, you cannot win if you quit. You cannot win if you let yourself get down. You've just got to keep pushing ahead.

We are going to change this country. This country's the greatest country in the world, but it is great because it has had changes from time to time, when Washington got sclerotic.

Washington is sclerotic right now. Both parties are wallowing in their own special interests. There are significant policy changes, which is why I think it would be a huge advantage to have a Democratic president over a Republican president.

Washington needs a good kick in the butt. That's what we're going to give them.

WALLACE: And, Governor, if you end up taking your place among failed Democratic candidates, alongside Muskie in tears in New Hampshire and Dukakis driving that tank...

(LAUGHTER)

... can you live with that?

DEAN: I can live with anything. I don't really — you know, the honest truth is, I don't mean to be arrogant about this, but I really don't care what you all write or say. I never have cared, and I — what I want to do is change the country. That's what I focus on.

I don't read the press clippings. Bill Clinton told me when I first started this out, "Never read anything that's written inside the Beltway," and I think that's very good advice. Washington is a peculiar place which has its own rules. And I've discovered one thing in this campaign: The American people are much better than the people who govern them.

So, we're going to continue to push on this, because there have been extraordinary times in America — Andrew Jackson's election in 1828, Franklin Roosevelt of course in 1932, Theodore Roosevelt, who took power because of the assassination of McKinley, but was a totally different president — those kinds of major changes are what I'm looking for. And that's what we've got to keep pushing for, working hard.

WALLACE: Governor, finally, let's get to something really important. I know you broke away from the campaign last night to see your son's hockey game. How did he do?

DEAN: We won. We won.

I mean, I always think that family comes before politics. Family comes before everything for everybody, and it should. And those are the kinds of values we need in Washington, and I think every American has those values.

WALLACE: Governor, thank you. We want to thank you again very much for joining us today. And safe travels on the campaign trail, sir.

DEAN: Thank you very much. It's my pleasure. Thank you.

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