Transcript: Howard Dean Takes Iowa Words Back

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This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Jan. 9, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The big story today: Howard Dean's past coming back to haunt him. Some of Dean's prior statements are stirring up a hornet's nest of trouble for his campaign. He's now scrambling to limit the damage...

So is this the real Howard Dean (search) as seen on "The Editors," castigating the Iowa caucus, puffing up the president?

Our Emmett Tyrell Jr. (search), publisher of "The American Spectator," has appeared on the program "The Editors" several times with Dean.

Mr. Tyrell, today's big question, can Dean talk his way out of this talk show problem?

EMMETT TYRELL, "AMERICAN SPECTATOR" PUBLISHER: I think he can. He's talked his way into this race from no place. Why can't he talk his way through the rest of it?

GIBSON: ... Wesley Clark (search) in New Hampshire is closing the gap with Dean. I mean, not terribly significantly, but some action in favor of Clark. And in Iowa, Dick Gephardt (search) is coming up a little bit. So it sounds as though this stuff may be hurting Dean.

TYRELL: Well, I think Dean has got the — look, I think the powers that be have decided that he's their man. And I take this blip as just a momentary blip. I think he's going to get through it. I think he's going to get the nomination.

Senator Harkin is coming out for him. Gore has come out for him. "The New Yorker" magazine has written a big piece that tries to make him sound like a man at one with Bobby Kennedy. He'll get through this.

I mean, I was on that show with him for a year, and he talked his way through problem after problem. He just kept on talking. And as you can see, he's come from no place to the frontrunner today.

GIBSON: I think Dean did 90 episodes of that program. I mean, many of them with you. And you probably got a good sense of what he's all about. And he's kind of a walking contradiction.

Do you like him? Do you think he is a good candidate for the Democrats? Do you think he could possibly be a good president?

TYRELL: Well, John, they have a terribly weak field right now.

One of the interesting things about Dean was that he was actually contemplating running in the year 2000 against Al Gore.

He's got a great deal of self-confidence. He's a bit arrogant. He doesn't have a bad temper. That's untrue and unfair. He knows the issues as well as most of these politicians know the issues. And I think in a weak field, he's going to be a strong candidate.

I'll tell you one of the things that amazes me is people haven't fastened yet sufficiently on what a weak candidate General Clark is. Clark came out with all of these glowing endorsements from major figures and the idea that Clinton has admired him and he was Clinton's candidate.

And the fact of the matter is he did a very bad job, and he's got some skeletons in his closet, as we all know. I think the Democrats would be lucky to have Howard Dean representing them.

GIBSON: ... how do you say, "Gee, I thought Bush was a moderate, but I don't think so now?" How do you say the Iowa caucuses were a terrible thing a few years ago and now, that they're your personal savior?

TYRELL: Well, as I say, reality hasn't been a stumbling block for these people in the past.

I think what he's going to say when he steps forward is that "I've now been out here with these wonderful people in Iowa, and I have found out that this is one of the most wonderful states, filled with patriots that I've encountered, with the possible exception of Vermont. And now I'm on my way to New Hampshire and after that South Carolina, where I'm going to see even more wonderful people."

I'm sure he can get around it.

GIBSON: What about this whole business that is next going to pop up in South Carolina that Dean has suddenly found God and that Jesus walks with him every step of the campaign trail?

Did you ever see any hint of that during his tenure with "The Editors," the Canadian TV show?

TYRELL: No, he struck me as a very secular man. I saw no indication of it. In fact, he was an active supporter of abortion.

GIBSON: When Dean gets called on these things — and I guess he wasn't called in a very strenuous way on the TV show — we've seen plenty of incidents of him seeming pretty brittle, if not losing his temper, but you say he doesn't have a temper? We shouldn't expect him to get angry at this news conference?

TYRELL: Well, I think you can see him startled. There was a great moment in television that you had just a bit ago when your reporter in Iowa followed him with that microphone and kept asking questions of him about his remarks on Iowa. He looked like a man on his way to the guillotine.

But I think he'll relax, gain his composure, and I suspect he'll do a good job in this press conference. He's been involved in controversy before.

I mean, remember the most amazing thing he said of late was he was asked by an Iowa paper who his closest living relative was that was in the armed forces.

And what was his answer to that? He answered his brother, who is not living. He died in 1974 and had never been in the armed forces. And he walked through that blunder pretty easily, and I suspect he'll walk through this.

GIBSON: All right. Emmett Tyrell.

TYRELL: I'll tell you one thing, John, my guess is with all those 90 appearances, there's a lot more on those tapes. This is just today's tempest.

GIBSON: Mr. Tyrell, we've got the tapes. We're going through them now. Thank you very much. More chapters to follow.

Our Emmett Tyrell, "The American Spectator." Thanks.

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