Rep. Richard Gephardt Goes On the Record

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, December 10, 2003.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Has the Democratic Party picked its nominee? Our next guest says absolutely not.

Joining us from Washington is Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt.

Nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Let's talk Iowa first because that's the big first contest. How are you doing in Iowa?

GEPHARDT: Doing great. We're going to win there. It's the first event, January 19. It's a real organizational challenge, and we think we have the best organization, we've got good support, and I am going to win.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you neck and neck with Governor Dean, do you think, in Iowa?

GEPHARDT: That's what I think. I think it's a close race. It will probably break after the first of the year when people really begin to focus. But I really feel confident about it.

I've been endorsed by 21 labor unions, and they're all out there working hard. They represent 95,000 workers in Iowa. A winner there is probably 35,000 votes that night. So I really feel good about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, let's talk -- you have 34 endorsements in the House of Representatives, right?

GEPHARDT: That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is -- and does anyone have anymore endorsements here in Congress?

GEPHARDT: No, I think John Kerry has -- probably second at 20, 22, and I think Howard Dean has close to 20 now. So we're all getting some good endorsements.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. I don't know if individual voters pay that much attention to even whether Gore endorses Dean or whatever. But, anyway, I do want to talk about a big -- you did pick up a big endorsement today, didn't you, in South Carolina?

GEPHARDT: Jim Clyburn is the most prominent African-American political figure in South Carolina. He was statewide officeholder. He ran the affirmative-action program there.

He's a wonderful man. He's a leader in the House. He's vice chair of our caucus in the House. And I'm truly honored, truly, truly thrilled to have his endorsement because he really can help me in South Carolina.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do endorsements trump each other? I mean there's been a lot of discussion about former Vice President Al Gore endorsing Governor Dean. I mean how do you -- how do you react to that?

GEPHARDT: Endorsements are not today what they once were. Once we moved away from a convention picking the candidate, the -- and the people now do it, endorsements don't mean as much.

But you look for endorsements where the endorser can really try to bring people to the candidacy in the primary election in their particular state.

So Jim is a real -- really good endorsement because he brings with it tremendous political skills. He's a very gifted politician and has tremendous support in the state.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. A lot -- people don't realize how hard it is to actually run for president. It is tough, physically exhausting. But why do you want to be president? I mean what -- what's the -- what's the attraction?

GEPHARDT: It's not about me. It's about all of us. It's about the country. This is the greatest country that's ever existed on earth. I'm so thrilled to be a citizen in this country.

I've been in the House for 27 years. I've been in the leadership for 13 years. I know I can do this job, and I know I can do it better than it's being done and lead the American people in a time of great tumult and danger and terrorism in the world and solve big domestic problems.

I'm going to use my experience to come up with bold but realistic ideas on health care, on energy, on international minimum wage.

VAN SUSTEREN: But let's take energy. I mean you've been -- and you've talked about -- you've been in Congress for a long time. I mean we still are dependent on foreign oil. I mean -- I mean isn't -- hasn't that been part of your responsibility as a member of Congress going back a number of years?

GEPHARDT: Now we have a new context. We have 9/11. And I would intend to go to the American people as president and say we have security reasons, environmental reasons, and economic reasons that we have to solve this problem.

We have to be independent of Middle East oil. And if we use renewables like wind and solar and hydrogen, we can do this. It's optimistic, it's bold, and it's realistic to the American people. I know that I can lead this country to do something we should have done a long time ago.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who do you think is the head of the Democratic Party now in this country? Is there a leader?

GEPHARDT: We're a very diverse party, and I don't know that any one person would be the leader of the party.

Obviously, the president, when you have a president, is the leader of the party. So Bill Clinton being the most recent president who was a Democrat would be a -- certainly a very prominent leader in the party.

But we're very diverse. We're not like Republicans. We -- we have a very wide range of folks, and we pride ourselves on our diversity. It's part of our real strength.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Nice to see you, sir. And hope you come back, as we go through Iowa, New Hampshire, and all the other primaries. Nice to see you, sir.

GEPHARDT: Thank you.

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