Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., Presidential Candidate

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, November 10, 2003, that was edited for clarity.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, will ceding control in Iraq get others like France and Germany to help us in Iraq? Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt says yes and it's time that President Bush listen up.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT, D-MO., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’ve thought for a long time that the president needs to get us help with Iraq. I have thought for a long time that we ought to turn the civil reconstruction of Iraq over to the U.N. and get a lot more help from...

CAVUTO: But do you trust the U.N.?

GEPHARDT: I trust them on civil reconstruction. I think on the security end of it, we ought to be getting a lot more help from NATO because we have done joint things with NATO in Bosnia. We have gotten help from NATO countries in Afghanistan. And I think we need their help in Iraq.

CAVUTO: But are you discouraged, sir, when you see the U.N. reduce its presence because of the escalating violence there, the Red Cross essentially pulling out, that if we are going to rely on foreign institutions, they have to have essentially more guts, right?

GEPHARDT: Well, they’ve got to have more security, and that brings you back to NATO. I mean, look, reconstructing Iraq is a democracy was always going to be a long, difficult, complicated task. I told the president over a year-and-a-half ago, if he wanted to deal with Iraq, if he wanted to bring about change in Iraq, we needed the U.N., we needed NATO. This is a tough job.

CAVUTO: Nevertheless, you stuck by him.

GEPHARDT: This is not Japan and Germany.

CAVUTO: True. You stuck by him, you stuck to stay there, and also to support the $87.5 billion that he wanted which -- in which you part company with those who are challenging the president for the presidency. Do you think that hurts you, that you are so aligned with the president, by and large, on Iraq right now?

GEPHARDT: I try to do what I think this is right thing to do.

CAVUTO: Well, Howard Dean seems to give the impression he'd pull all our troops out.

GEPHARDT: I think that is a big mistake. I mean, you can disagree on why we went there and what the information was and all of that. I understand all that.I still believe it was the right thing to do because I’m worried about weapons of mass destruction in the United States. And I didn’t just listen to George Bush. I went to the CIA myself, listened to all of their information. I talked to former Clinton officials, and they all felt there was a real danger, that either he had weapons or the components of weapons.

CAVUTO: Where do you think those weapons are now?

GEPHARDT: I don’t know. Hopefully, we’ll find what was there and what wasn't there. I also think we need a blue ribbon commission from the outside, not just Congress, looking at the intelligence.

CAVUTO: But some of your colleagues, sir, have said that the president misled the people. Do you think that this president misled either you or your colleagues about the presence of weapons of mass destruction, or the threat of Iraq, period?

GEPHARDT: I didn't just take his word for it. It may be that, in the end, we find out that the intelligence was not what the CIA thought it was, or even former Clinton administration officials thought it was. That is why we need an outside commission. You are getting into partisan fights now in the intelligence committee. You are never going to solve this that way. We need outside sources.

But let me go further. Put all of that aside. Once we’re there, we cannot fail. We cannot just cut and run and leave the place, as we did Afghanistan in 1989, in chaos. It will be the mother of all terrorist training camps. It will be a continuing source of turmoil and problems not only for the region, but for the United States as well. So we've got to see this through but we need help. The president is failing us by not getting the help we need.

CAVUTO: Well, let me ask you, Congressman. I know you are saying we can't be too partisan about it. But don't you think you sound very partisan when you call him an arrogant cowboy or a miserable failure?

GEPHARDT: That's what I believe. I've tried to help him, and I've tried to help him fight against terrorism, because I think that is our responsibility. But I think...

CAVUTO: But this still is -- regardless of your position, sir, he is the president of the United States. Do you think that sends the wrong signal...

GEPHARDT: No, I don't.

CAVUTO: ... to terrorists, when you are calling him a miserable failure?

GEPHARDT: I supported his effort. I have supported the money to win this effort and to get the right things to happen. But in a democracy, you've got to be able to constructively criticize what the leader is doing or not doing that you think is wrong. And I think it is a failure of leadership to not get our troops and to not get our taxpayers the help that we've got to have to win this thing.

CAVUTO: But if you were president, President Gephardt, and you had a lot of Republicans questioning you, or calling you a miserable failure, don't you think your leadership would be compromised?

GEPHARDT: Not at all. You have to have oil in your feather to do these jobs. And you've got to take that criticism and listen to some of it. And he just -- he doesn't listen to what -- I have been trying to tell him this for a year-and-a-half.

I was the constant voice to him, saying, please, go to the U.N., get the inspections started, talk to the people in Europe, talk to these other countries, try to get their help. He waited too long to do it and then he didn’t get it done. But put all that aside. We're there now.

This is a world -- he gave a good speech at the U.N. in September of last year. He said this is a world problem, not just an American problem. I agree with that. And we need the world’s help in solving this problem.

They face terrorism just as much as we do. And they need to help get this thing to go in the right direction.

CAVUTO: Al Gore over the weekend, Congressman, was saying that the Patriot Act has been way overused, it’s a big mistake, a lot of liberties are being compromised. Do you agree with that?

GEPHARDT: I think it is not being administered correctly. I voted for it.

CAVUTO: Yes, you did.

GEPHARDT: Because after 9/11, I knew we had to rebalance freedom and security. Everybody knew that. And I think we did need to do that. But I think there needs to be more oversight by the Congress in what is actually being done day-to-day.


CAVUTO: All right. More with Congressman Dick Gephardt after this, and whether he and the Democrats are fighting for a prize for which any of them could possibly be wiped out in a general election after this.


CAVUTO: Well, many attack the Patriot Act, yet a lot of them voted for it. They attack the tax cuts, yet the economy appears to be coming back because of the tax cuts. So my question to presidential candidate Congressman Dick Gephardt, as we continue, are Democrats putting themselves in an unelectable box? He says no.


GEPHARDT: I want us to do what we think is right. We're going to have disagreements among Democrats and between Democrats and Republicans.

That is the way a democracy functions. You need debate. You need discussion. That is the way you learn things, that's the way you do better. But, I think I'm going to say what I think is right, whether it is taxes, which I don’t think worked well, or whether it is...

CAVUTO: Well, wait a minute. You don't think they worked well? We had 7.2 percent growth in the latest quarter, consumer spending is up, retail sales are up.

GEPHARDT: One quarter.

CAVUTO: Well, you're right. We had...

GEPHARDT: One quarter does not a good economy make.

CAVUTO: But you are a good economic watcher as well, Congressman. And you know this numbers have been very, very strong. Do you think the tax cut got any credit for that?

GEPHARDT: It undoubtedly had an impact, at least the part of it we put in the tax cut, which was to get some of it to the middle class. But...

CAVUTO: But the rich appear to be spending too.

GEPHARDT: But you have to look at a longer period. You've got to say, are we creating jobs, is this economy really moving in the right direction?

CAVUTO: Well, we created 126,000 last month.

GEPHARDT: This president has lost manufacturing jobs in every month that he has been president, 37,000.


CAVUTO: But now you also know history. You know September 11th, you know the decline that was beginning in the last six months of the Clinton administration. All I'm saying is, given three gains in the last three months, albeit small, you are right, is it fair to say that the direction of this economy is better now than it was?

GEPHARDT: For one quarter, you’ve got some growth, finally. We don't have job creation, and I don’t think we have good long-term prospects.

The test of any economic program is, does it create the conditions with which you can get long-term economic growth with low inflation? That is what we did in the Clinton years.

CAVUTO: But we do have growth now and we do have low inflation.

GEPHARDT: But, is it long term? Is it going last? Is it going really create jobs? Is it going to create the virtuous cycle that we created in the '90s with the Clinton economic program?

CAVUTO: But Congressman, that seems like a weak economic platform. You're saying, look, it looks good now, but it won’t be for long. I mean, is that what you're hanging your hat on?

GEPHARDT: But you are still not creating jobs, you are still losing jobs. Jobs is the most important thing in the economy. I have three goals for my presidency: jobs, jobs, jobs. And this president...

CAVUTO: But what if for every remaining month until the election, congressman, we see average growth of 100,000 to 200,000, maybe more, would you at any point say, all right, we're percolating?

GEPHARDT: I don't accept your hypothetical. We don't know that that's going to happen. I'll tell you what I don't like about this economy. We are not creating jobs. The deficit is going into huge numbers. That will complicate our ability to have long-term economic growth.

And we're not solving the health care problem. We will not solve this economic problem until we solve this health care problem.

CAVUTO: But on the health care issue and Medicare funding for prescription drugs, something you were way ahead of your colleagues, both Republican and Democrats on, are you for a sort of middle ground solution that some have said kind of means testing those Medicare recipients who earn more than $80,000 to cover the cost of drugs that they pay, either a higher premium or slightly more for their drugs?

GEPHARDT: No. I think the flaw in the program that’s being talked about now is that it doesn't get all the seniors into one consistent program within Medicare so that we can use the buying power of all the seniors in the country to get the price of pharmaceuticals to a more reasonable...

CAVUTO: So you saying everybody in?

GEPHARDT: Everybody in, use the buying power of everybody together to get the price down. The reason this program is bound to fail and the reason they need a means test is they are not going to affect the price equation. We have got to get the price of these pharmaceuticals down.

CAVUTO: To pay for, you have advocated, readdressing some of the president's tax cuts. Where do you stand on that?

GEPHARDT: I’m for laying aside the president’s tax cuts.

CAVUTO: Entirely or just...

GEPHARDT: Entirely, and using the moneys for health care, for my health care plan, to get everybody covered with good health insurance through the present system.

CAVUTO: You know what your opponents are saying?

GEPHARDT: Oh, I realize.

CAVUTO: Here comes Dick Gephardt, tax-hiker.

GEPHARDT: Well, they are wrong. I do more for the average family than the Bush tax cuts. I get $2,000 to $3,000 a year into the average family, as opposed to Bush cuts, which are $500 to 700 a year. So if you just do your arithmetic, I’m better for the average middle class family than the Bush tax cuts.

CAVUTO: You are up in Iowa -- by the way, this poll is by 7 points. That surprised a lot of people. Furthermore, your approval ratings in Iowa are an enviable eye-popping 82 percent. So some people now are beginning to say you have the big mow there. Is it incumbent on you win there, that you have no other choice but to win Iowa?

GEPHARDT: I’m going win Iowa. And I'm going to win this nomination. And I'm going to defeat George Bush in November of 2004. And...

CAVUTO: Do you think Howard Dean is sort of like a fast-fading flavor of the month thing, or does he have more staying power?

GEPHARDT: I think it will turn out to be a race between the two of us. I think he's more likely to win New Hampshire. I'll win Iowa, and then go into to the Western and Midwestern states.

CAVUTO: But you won the state in '88 and then ultimately lost to Michael Dukakis, who ultimately lost big time to George Bush, Sr. There is a perception out there, Congressman, rightly or wrongly, that all of you guys are fighting over something that could be a wipeout next fall.

GEPHARDT: I really believe I'm going to defeat George Bush. And it's not -- it's because of one basic thing: I think I've got bold but realistic ideas that will solve the major problems that we face in this country. And I think I provide a real contrast with George Bush.

I think Howard Dean's ideas on Medicare are very different than mine. He thinks it is a bad program, I think it's a good program.

CAVUTO: But does it worry you, sir, when you get a lot of the unions -- who you have done a great deal for -- sort of saying, well, you know, Howard Dean is a front runner, the Service Employees International Union, maybe the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees. That's three million strong there who will ultimately likely go to Howard Dean.

GEPHARDT: I have been endorsed by 20 international unions, there will be more in the future, in my view. I'll be endorsed by many, many more employees who happen to be in unions than Howard Dean or any other candidate in this race.

It is where I come from. It is the fight I've made my entire life. My dad was a truck driver and a teamster. It is the best job he ever had. That is where I come from, and that's what I fight for, the middle class, union, hard-working families. That is what made the country great.


CAVUTO: All right. Dick Gephardt.

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