The following is a rush transcript of the November 29, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Joining us now, two influential political voices. Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic Party, comes to us from his home state of Vermont. And Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential candidate and author of the new book "A Simple Christmas," which is already a national bestseller — he joins us from his home state of Arkansas.
Governors, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday" and happy Thanksgiving weekend to the two of you.
MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Chris.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks — thanks, Chris.
WALLACE: Governor Dean, you gave an interview to the liberal Web site Huffington Post this last week in which you said that Senate Democrats are in deep trouble on health care reform. And let's put it up on the screen.
You said that moderate Democrats are likely to water down the bill further and then added, "This is going to be death for Democratic campaign committees. Why would anyone donate to them if they're supporting candidates who defeat the Democratic agenda?" Governor Dean, things really that bleak?
DEAN: Well, you know, I think it's tough right now. We've got to get a decent bill with a public option in it so that we don't — aren't forced into this — what we've been forced into for the last 30 years.
Look, insurance companies take 27 percent off the top. They don't do a terribly good job. The costs have been going up at 2.5 times the rate of inflation. And the Democratic base expects, as we say, change you can believe in.
And so I think Harry — who I'm a huge fan of — Harry Reid has got a real problem on his hands, and he's got to get these folks to pass a decent bill.
WALLACE: Governor Huckabee, one area that you and Governor Dean seem to agree on is that — as I was doing the research yesterday, you both say that there isn't all that much reform in this health bill — health care reform bill. Explain what you mean from your point of view.
HUCKABEE: Well, I think the critical area has to be to move toward a preventive-based system rather than what we currently have, which is intervention at the catastrophic level.
Eighty percent of the $2.5 trillion we spend on health care in this country is spent on chronic disease. We really don't have a health care crisis, Chris. We have a health crisis.
And the American population is like an NFL football game, 22 people on the field in desperate need of rest, 70,000 people in the stands in desperate need of exercise.
If we don't address this fundamental difference between the health and unhealthiness of the American population, we can spend all kinds of money, but we're never going to spend our way into a system that will be functional and affordable.
WALLACE: But, Governor Huckabee, what about all these restrictions in the bill on insurance companies that you can't drop somebody if they're sick, you can't drop somebody if they have a pre- existing condition? Isn't that reform?
HUCKABEE: We need to touch the difference between the uninsured and the uninsurable. There are people who are uninsured because they choose not to be. They'd rather have a new truck. But there are people who truly need insurance coverage, and they're the uninsurable.
But a better way is to look at something like we already have in about 18 states called TEFRA, passed back in 1982, the Tax Equity Family Relief Act, which empowers families, does not bankrupt them, but lets them have access to affordable health care for developmentally disabled family members.
That makes a whole lot of sense, and I think Republicans could go along with something — because you don't want to see families bankrupted because, through no fault of their own, they have a family member with a severe, debilitating disease, illness or medical condition.
But there's a way to do that without upending the entire health care system in which 85 percent of Americans had rather have what they have than to have the government take the system over.
WALLACE: Governor Dean, if you're as down as you are on what it looks like's going to get passed by Congress, and if there is not much real reform in health care reform, why spend a trillion dollars over the next 10 years?
DEAN: Well, let me say, first of all, I think Mike Huckabee just said the most sensible thing I've heard about health care reform in a long time. We need a preventive-based system. We've got an illness- based system here.
We're spending trillions of dollars on it, because all the incentives are to take care of people when they get sick instead of doing something about it. So there's one thing we agree on. Secondly, there isn't a lot of reform in this bill. The insurance reform doesn't exist anymore. You know, we've done all this stuff. Fifteen years ago when I was governor, we did real insurance reform.
And here's the problem with the insurance reform in the House and the Senate bills. You can still charge two, three or four times as much to sick people as you do to healthy people.
We don't do that in Vermont. We have guaranteed issue. But you can't charge more than 20 percent above what you charge your lowest rate to anybody that gets insured.
So if you — you don't really have insurance reform. All you've got is the public option. Now, I know Mike and I disagree about the public option, but I think people ought to have a choice.
We have a socialist system of health care in this country that's called the Veterans Administration. It's the number one rated health care system by its consumers of any system in the country, private or public.
We have a single payer in this country. It's called Medicare. Most people like it. I think the Republicans actually did some good things with it with Part D. And I was wrong at the time about Part D. It's worked out very, very well.
But why can't we have a choice between the private system, between the so-called single-payer system of Medicare and between the socialized system of the Veterans Administration? Give us choices. Those are the kinds of choices that will make a health care system better.
WALLACE: Before we get into another subject, I'd like you to respond to that, Governor Huckabee.
HUCKABEE: Well, the one fear that I have about a public option is if you have the entire system subsidized by the federal government, then you put one entity — in this case, the government — ultimately in control. And more people, particularly small business owners, are going to be forced into that system because they can't compete.
And one area that just has to be confronted is that Medicare, all the way to tout it — recent studies show that it is twice as likely to deny a person a claim as is private insurance.
I'm not here to defendant private insurance companies, but to make it as if Medicare is wonderful and never makes a mistake, and the private insurance companies are demons — the facts just don't always bear that out.
WALLACE: Let me...
DEAN: Well, Medicare can...
WALLACE: Well, go ahead. DEAN: ... make mistakes, but let us have our choice. We can leave Medicare if we want to under the system that's in the House...
HUCKABEE: But not if there's not...
DEAN: ... and go back to the private sector.
HUCKABEE: ... a system to go to. If the private...
DEAN: Sure there is, in the private sector.
HUCKABEE: ... system goes out of business, there won't be any.
DEAN: There's not going to — nobody's going to put the private sector out of business. That doesn't happen even in places like Germany or France or Britain.
Fifteen percent of all the dollars are private dollars, even in Britain, which is the most socialized system in the west.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, let me step back, if we can, for a minute. Let's take a look at the — at the big picture.
Governor Huckabee, how do you think President Obama is doing so far? You said recently that you think his priorities are wrong and that he is emphasizing redistribution over recovery.
HUCKABEE: I really believe that, and I think it's unfortunate. We have an unemployment rate of 10.2 percent. The actual unemployment rate — probably more like 17 or 18, because so many people just quit looking for work.
The number one issue in this country is jobs, getting people to work. That is not going to happen if government continues to scare the daylights out of business operators who — every one of them I know — every one is hunkering down. Nobody's hiring. Nobody's expanding.
They're trying to hang on. They're scared to death of what government is going to do to them. And that is affecting the fact that a person cannot find a job today who wants it. That ought to be the number one priority. Everything else needs to be put on back burner until we get Americans back to work.
WALLACE: Governor Dean, I'd like you to respond to that, but I'd also like you, if you would, in your answer, to answer this, which is that it seems that a number of — a growing number of Democrats are having doubts about this president, that he has not delivered on the kind of transformation either in policy or process that he promised.
So answer Governor Huckabee's question, but also answer the question, "How much trouble is he in with his own base?"
DEAN: I think he's not in big trouble with his own base. I think we need to give him time. If we are successful — and I do think there's a better chance than not that we're going to pass a decent health care bill at the end of the day. It's just a frustrating, difficult time right now.
But I think he needs some time, and he's going to have that time. And we're going to pass a decent health care bill that really is going to start reform.
I think Mike is right. Jobs are the biggest concern right now. I will say this, the stimulus package, which has come under — come under Republican attack, has been unbelievably successful in saving jobs, hundreds of thousands of teachers and police officers that would have been laid off by the states.
Now, we've got a big problem coming up. That money is going to be spent halfway through the next fiscal year, and states are really going to be on the hook — these huge drops in state revenues as we go through this recession.
But I'm more optimistic than that. I think small businesses are going to be helped enormously by health care reform. Small businesses with payrolls less than half a million dollars don't have to buy health insurance anymore for any of their employees. I think that's a big step forward.
So I do think the president's going to do fine. I think he's going to get re-elected. But I think we're going to have a tough election in 2010 unless we can start dealing with, as Mike says, the job situation.
DEAN: We have some very capable...
WALLACE: ... let me — let me bring in...
DEAN: Go ahead.
WALLACE: ... Governor Huckabee, if I may, because I could see you coming out of your chair at the — at the argument that more stimulus and health care reform...
WALLACE: ... are the answers to the job issue.
HUCKABEE: Yeah, I've got to throw a flag on that one, Chris, because I'm looking at the stimulus bill, $787 billion. The unemployment rate wasn't going to go above eight. Now it's well above 10.
The only jobs we're creating are government jobs. This nonsense about we're creating and saving jobs — they're non-existent. Four hundred and forty phantom congressional districts that don't even exist — now we find out that thousands of these jobs — they don't exist either.
This has been the biggest scam and waste of taxpayer money. And Howard is right on one thing, and I think we both would agree as former governors, the impact on states is going to be huge, but the states' economy impact usually is 12 to 18 months trailing the feds.
So watch for states to be sucking air somewhere this year and going into the election cycle of 2010, and it is going to be brutal — equal to, if not worse than, '01 and '02.
WALLACE: Let me...
HUCKABEE: ... struggling.
WALLACE: Since you — since you brought up the election cycle, let's end with a little bit of politics, gentlemen.
Governor Huckabee, I want to show you a couple of polls that I suspect you already know about, but let's put them up on the screen.
Seventy percent of Iowa Republicans view you favorably. That is more than any of the other mentioned likely presidential possibilities for 2012. And a national poll of Republicans last month had you in first place — national poll — ahead of Romney, and Palin and Gingrich.
So, Governor Huckabee, why wouldn't you run for president in 2012?
HUCKABEE: Well, there's obviously a lot of smart people in Iowa and the rest of the country. Let me acknowledge that. But the reason I wouldn't is because this Fox gig I've got right now, Chris, is really, really wonderful.
And you know, it's easy to say, "Oh, gee, don't you just want to jump back in it?" But jumping into the pool — you've got to make sure there's some water in it. And there's a whole different deal of saying some folks take a poll and whether there's the financial support.
Howard and I have both been there, done that. It's a wonderful experience. But I am nowhere near ready to say that that's what I want to do three years from now.
WALLACE: So let me ask you a silly question three years out. What do you — would you say at this moment are the chances that you will run, 50/50, better, worse, what?
HUCKABEE: It's hard to say. A lot of it depends on how the elections turn out next year and whether Roger Ailes continues to like my show on the weekends. And if all those things factor in, you know, it's less likely than more likely, just because I would have to see that the Republicans would be willing to unite behind me.
The last time out, my biggest challenge was with the establishment Republicans who just never showed their support. And while I think a person can possibly win without them, the Republican Party needs to unite if it's going to win in 2012. And anyone who thinks Barack Obama is an easy mark off, just remember Bill Clinton was just labeled politically dead and came back to win a resounding re-election in 1996.
WALLACE: And, Governor Dean, we have less than a minute left. When you look — let's not talk about 2012. Let's talk about 2010. When you look at the Federal Reserve, which came out with a — with a projection this last week that unemployment's going to be up at about double digits at the end of 2010, and the Federal Reserve says that the economy won't get back to normal for five or six years, how much trouble are the Democrats in in 2010?
DEAN: Well, a lot of it is whether our base comes out or not. And that's why I said what I said to the Huffington Post about health care reform. In politics, as Mike well knows, your base matters. That's where the enthusiasm — that's where the activism is.
We didn't see our base come out either in New Jersey or Virginia in the 2009 elections. I don't think it was a referendum on Barack Obama. Barack Obama wasn't on the ballot.
But you've got to do the things that — to get your base energized. And if you don't do that, they're not going to come out in 2010. And that — that's why we need a — real health care reform — that's real health care reform — and not just some papered-over subsidy for the insurance industry.
WALLACE: Governor Dean, Governor Huckabee, we want to thank you both so much for coming in today. And, gentlemen, please come back.
HUCKABEE: Thank you, Chris.
DEAN: Thanks, Chris.
HUCKABEE: Thank you, Howard.
DEAN: See you, Mike. Take care.
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