This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, December 26, 2003.
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TONY SNOW, GUEST HOST: Is [Democratic Presidential Candidate and former Vermont Governor] Howard Dean using Christianity to win the Democratic presidential nomination? In a recent interview with The Boston Globe, he discussed his intentions to talk about his belief in Jesus and God in future campaign speeches, especially when he stumps in the Bible Belt in the South.
Joining me for reaction is the editor of The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol. Bill, I want to start by reading a Howard Dean quote, because this is an interesting one. This is where he was talking to The Boston Globe. He said "Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind. He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything. He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2,000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it." Not exactly theological discourse.
BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD EDITOR: Yes, right. You know, the famous joke about -- the secular joke about the Bible, you know, impressive or interesting, if true? I mean, that seems to be Howard Dean's attitude. Well, who knows what the real theological truth is? But it's -- he was a liberal 2,000 years ago and he's an inspiration to us liberals today. That's Howard Dean's view.
SNOW: What was an interesting thing -- because two or three weeks ago he said we are not going to talk about God, guns, and gays. We're going to talk about jobs and employment and so on in the South. All of a sudden now he's saying well, when I go down South, I'm going to talk about the bible, I'm going to talk about my Christian faith.
Now I don't want to question anybody's faith. I mean, I think faith is an extraordinary and an important thing. However, for this to pop up unexpectedly, no doubt it's going to raise questions among friends and foes of Howard Dean.
KRISTOL: It's a very odd thing to say. You don't usually advertise your strategy. You just adjust your speeches quietly, if he chooses to. And he doesn't need to, incidentally. The Democratic party is a secular party. Even in the South, I mean African-American Democrats, are more churchgoing, but they have interests in other issues that Dean can speak to them about. So there's something almost bizarre about it.
I mean, but you wonder if Dean's losing his grip a little bit in all this -- you know, the last couple, two or three weeks. Just seems to be veering back and forth publicly discussing his strategy.
SNOW: Well, he said this in a statement today that he wasn't sure that bin laden was culpable. And you know, but what's also interesting is that while all these little, you know, while the cigar's exploding, you also have Democrats cuing up to be his vice presidential nominee.
It's the conventional wisdom now that he's got it locked up. Do you think he has it locked up, that is the party nomination?
KRISTOL: Not quite, but the stunning thing is he's made all of these mistakes in the last two or three weeks. Now if this were the Bush-McCain campaign, and I deny the fact of the Republican nomination, if one of these guys had said something like this, the other guy would have been on the air with a paid advertisement in Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina, wherever the competitive states were, within 24, 36 hours hammering the guy who had made the mistake.
Dean is not being made to pay a price for his gaffes because none of the other candidates is advertising against him. John Kerry, whose you know, desperate attempt to save his campaign went up on the air this week in New Hampshire with a 30 second ad about energy independence. He doesn't mention another candidate. It's just this kind of vague thing that John Kerry is going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
It's pathetic. They need to attack Dean. He's the frontrunner. They need -- and I'm curious to see whether any of them just has the nerve really to go after him.
SNOW: Well, there's safety in numbers for Howard Dean. You were talking about Bush-McCain. That was a two-man race.
SNOW: Here, Howard Dean has eight competitors, none of whom seem to stand out from the others. So as a result, they also cannot settle on a single line of attack against him.
KRISTOL: Right. And also, if you asked your campaign consultant should I attack Dean, they'll say no because you'll take Dean down, but then the other -- but you'll hurt yourself, too. The Dean supporters will be angry at you for the negative ads. And a third party will benefit.
So it's harder in a multi candidate race. But at the end of the day, Gephardt has to beat Dean in Iowa, I think, for Dean to be stopped. And then either Gephardt or I think Clark has to surge in New Hampshire and run second to be able take the race against Dean in the South. So I think we need to watch Gephardt and Clark.
And Clark has a lot of money. I mean if Clark went up on the air against Dean in New Hampshire with a serious national security oriented ad, Clark can say I'm against the war in Iraq, too, but Dean is not serious about being commander in chief, I know when I'm going to do with bin Laden when I get him, even if Dean doesn't know, etcetera., someone like Clark could actually do some damage to Dean.
SNOW: This gets us into one of those interesting areas, too, in campaign finance reform, where somebody like George Soros, who clearly is rooting for the Democrats but may be souring on Howard Dean, could do a lot of that advertising himself.
KRISTOL: Yes, and there are all these Democratic independent groups, mainly dominated by Clinton supporters, who presumably don't want Dean to win the nomination. Dean's taking the party away from Clinton. At least, that's the conventional view. It will be a big -- an interesting month to see whether the Democratic establishment or the Democratic candidates are willing to really try to take down Howard Dean, or whether they've decided he's going to be the nominee, that it's better to get along with him than not do too much damage to him.
SNOW: Let me ask you. The -- another conventional wisdom here in Washington, very quickly is the Clintons want Dean to be the nominee. Do you think that's true?
KRISTOL: Who knows? Who knows? Reading the Clinton's minds is beyond even my abilities. Yes, I mean, that's striking that Hillary Clinton has distinguished her views from Howard Dean's. And she seems to be set up extremely well. If Dean gets the nomination and loses, the day after the election, November 3, 2004, Hillary Clinton stands up and says I can save the Democratic party. Time to turn to me.
SNOW: I never thought I could do it. I stumped Bill Kristol. Bill, thanks.
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