FTN - 9/28/03

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BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face The Nation, Howard Dean. The former Vermont governor is the front-runner so far in the race among the 10 Democrats for the presidential nomination. Will the newest entry, retired General Wesley Clark, cut into his support? And how will he deal with the attacks on him by the other candidates? Is he electable? These are the questions for Howard Dean.

Then we'll talk about the rest of the week's political news with Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report."

I'll have a final report then on debates.

But first, candidate Howard Dean on Face The Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face The Nation, with CBS Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: Good morning again. We're going to Davenport, Iowa, this morning to talk to Howard Dean. He's campaigning out there for the Iowa caucuses. He's in a diner in Davenport this morning.

And I would also begin by saying, Governor, most of the polls show that you and Dick Gephardt are pretty much in a really tight race at the top of the polls out there in Iowa, so congratulations on that.

Former Governor HOWARD DEAN, D-VT, Presidential Candidate: Thanks. Thank you very much.

SCHIEFFER: I want to begin by asking you about a report that's in "The Washington Post" this morning.

It says that the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss, and the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Jane Harmon, have written a letter to CIA Director George Tenet. They've criticized him for using what they call 'outdated and circumstantial and fragmentary evidence.' They say there are too many uncertainties in the evidence that he presented to the White House about whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to conclude that Iraq did, in fact, have such weapons.

Now you call this week for the resignations of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. In light of this, do you now think that George Tenet, the CIA director, ought to resign?

DEAN: Well, I had thought that some time ago, not because of this, but because George Tenet took the heat for something that we knew very well what was going -- that went on in the White House, that is, these intelligence reports now appear to have been exaggerated. George Tenet knew that and took the blame for it even though he knew that someone in the White -- that he had told the White House that, and someone in the White House had made this error.

Look, this -- here's what's going on here. This president sent us to war in Iraq without telling the American people the facts about why we went there. He let us believe that Iraq had something to do with al Qaeda. He admitted that wasn't true last week. He let us believe that Iraq was -- and their atomic weapons program was buying uranium from Africa. He admitted that wasn't true a couple of months ago.

We now have 135,000 troops in Iraq under fire. We've lost over 300 people and over 1,100 wounded or injured because this president was not candid with the American people and his administration was not candid with the American people.

I think at the very least Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz should resign and I had thought for some time that George Tenet should be let go as well, and there may be others because this is not over yet.

We have been misled. I thought that -- this is why I had such strong differences with Senator Kerry, Representative Gephardt, Senator Edwards, Senator Lieberman and now General Clark, who also apparently last October advocated that we go into Iraq, despite his opposition to that now.

We have got to do better in this country. I'm very willing, to -- as commander in chief -- to send our people anywhere we have to do it to defend America, but I am not willing send them abroad in harm's way without telling the truth to the American people as to why we're sending them there.

SCHIEFFER: So just to make this clear, you are calling for George Tenet to resign as well as Secretary Rumsfeld?

DEAN: I had -- Bob -- I had done that about two or three months ago. I thought after the allegations and the revelations about the false information in the president's State of the Union address that George Tenet should step aside simply because he took the fall for something he knew was not his problem. And I don't -- I think loyalty can be rewarded but not -- not obfuscation of the truth.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about what you would do about Iraq. You obviously were against going there and were -- got right out in front on that. But let's say you became president. What would you do now?

DEAN: Ironically enough, I would do what George Bush's father did. George Bush's father had well over 1,000 foreign troops in Iraq. We need those troops there. Many of them were Arabic-speaking and Muslim troops.

We have got to turn Iraq from an American occupation into an international reconstruction. We cannot lose the peace in Iraq. If we do, al Qaeda may blossom there. There are already more al Qaeda likely there today than there ever were before we went in.

If we leave, there may be a fundamentalist regime that's friendly to Iran. Both those would really be national security emergencies.

What this president has done is turn an ugly dictatorship into a national security threat for the United States. I would bring in as many foreign troops as we can get our hands on. I would bring home all the Guard and Reserves and bring home one of the divisions that's over there.

SCHIEFFER: But what if you can't get any foreign troops? And it does not look like at this point there are very many countries that are going to be willing to send troops there. Do we leave the American troops there?

DEAN: Bob, the reason this president can't get any American troops to come over and help us -- I mean -- excuse me -- can't get foreign troops and NATO troops to come help us in Iraq or -- and Afghanistan where we also need more troops -- is because he's systematically insulted everybody who disagreed with us on the policy in Iraq.

The truth is, this president takes things very personally when you disagree with his ideals. He calls people unpatriotic or his people do. And he managed to be, I thought, pretty disrespectful of now the countries that -- whose help we very badly need in Iraq so we can bring our troops home.

SCHIEFFER: Let's -- let's turn to the Democratic debate this week where things also got kind of personal.

There was quite a to-do in that debate when Dick Gephardt said that when he and the Democrats were fighting to keep Newt Gingrich from shutting down the government, that you had sided with Newt Gingrich, who wanted to cut Medicare $270 billion. You said that is flat out not true.

Well, Governor, I have to tell you, I've been doing some checking, and it appears that that is not false. On May 17th, 1995, several newspapers, including the newspapers in your home state of Vermont, said that you supported slowing the growth of Medicare to 7 percent, which would have cut $270 billion from the program. So why would you say that's not true when, in fact, it appears that it was true?

DEAN: Well, it wasn't true. What I support was what Bill Clinton signed, which saved $200 billion out of Medicare and saved it. I'm running against the people like Dick Gephardt who I worked for in '88 when he ran for president. And I'm running for -- against a group of people from Washington who have done the same thing for as long as they've been there, years and years and years. A third of the seniors in my state have prescription benefits. What has Dick Gephardt or John Kerry or Joe Lieberman or John Edwards done in their careers in the Senate to do that?

SCHIEFFER: But...

DEAN: I am not going to be compared to Newt Gingrich by my rivals. They can say anything they want about me.

I did support slowing the growth of Medicare. And I think that was a good thing. It worked out well. Bill Clinton signed the bill and Medicare is still solvent because of that. And the folks in Washington didn't do one thing about it.

SCHIEFFER: Well, why did you say then that that was false when, in fact, you just said you did support that and that's--that's what he accused you of? I mean, put Gingrich to the side.

DEAN: But he -- no. What -- no, because what he accused me of is siding with Newt Gingrich and that was flat out false.

SCHIEFFER: Well, that's what -- that was Newt Gingrich's position.

DEAN: In fact, I was, Bob, actually -- I was actually the first person who took on Newt Gingrich when he became speaker over the cowed reticence of the Democrats in Washington. Look, I want change in this country.

SCHIEFFER: We...

DEAN: We are not going to get change by voting for people for president who behave in the same way for years and years and years.

SCHIEFFER: But...

DEAN: They have been in Washington too long; they're not getting the job done.

SCHIEFFER: Governor, I don't want to just make the whole program about this one point, but you say you didn't side with Newt Gingrich but you took the same position that Newt Gingrich took at the time that Newt Gingrich took that position and all of the other Democrats were against that. So, I mean, I still don't understand how you can say that -- that it was not true that you did that.

DEAN: The person I supported was Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton signed a bill which was very much like what I was -- I was -- like what I was proposing, which reduced the growth of Medicare so that Medicare could be sustainable for seniors well into the future. That's what I believe for Dick Gephardt or any other of these Washington Democrats who have nothing to show for all their time they lived in -- they have been in Washington on health care, to accuse me of being like Newt Gingrich when I've delivered health care for every child in my state and for a third of the seniors and a third of the seniors get prescription benefits I think is beyond the pale. And I'm not going to put up with that.

SCHIEFFER: OK.

DEAN: I'm just simply not going to take any guff from Washington Democrats who are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

SCHIEFFER: OK. Here's a quote that you said along about that time: "The way to balance the budget is for Congress to cut Social Security, move the retirement age to 70, cut Defense, Medicare and veterans' pensions." You said at the time it would be tough, but we could do it. So let's just go through that. Do you want to extend the retirement age for Social Security to 70?

DEAN: No, I don't. I want to leave the retirement age exactly where it is. That was a time where the budgetary situation was a disaster in this country. Bill Clinton has shown that when the economy gets better and people start paying payroll taxes, Social Security becomes solvent. We had no inkling that we were ever gonna be able to balance the budget under, frankly, a Democratic Congress and then a Republican Congress who had no spending controls whatsoever.

SCHIEFFER: OK. How about veterans' pensions?

DEAN: Now...

SCHIEFFER: Do you want to cut veterans' pensions now?

DEAN: We're not -- no, I don't. No, I do not. I want to restore t he health benefits that the president -- President Bush has cut to veterans.

SCHIEFFER: Do you want to slow down the cost-of-living adjustments for people on Social Security?

DEAN: No, I do not. The cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security have now dropped to about 1.2 percent per year, and they can barely survive on that.

SCHIEFFER: But you don't deny that at one point you did favor all of those positions?

DEAN: I -- I -- what I sus -- I don't have the quote in front of me because I'm in Mary Sue's Cafe in Davenport, Iowa, but...

SCHIEFFER: Well, I've got it here.

DEAN: ...I appreciate that.

SCHIEFFER: Trust me.

DEAN: I -- look, we have to balance the budget. We have to -- Social Security is not on the table. It's a separate trust fund. You don't have to deal with Social Security.

But we do have to deal with balancing the budget. Now Bill Clinton has shown us you can balance the budget without doing any of the things that we were desperately clawing around for. I wasn't alone in talking about those things. There were a lot of Democrats that were talking about those things. And we don't have to do that. We've shown that we don't have to do that and we're not gonna do that.

SCHIEFFER: OK. Let's...

DEAN: That was eight years ago. If Congress had taken a little more responsibility in stopping their spendthrifts -- and I'm talking about Republicans as well as Democrats -- we wouldn't have been in this position that we were in in the first place. Bill Clinton got us out of that and we need to stay out of that.

SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about the newest member of the Democratic Party, Wesley Clark. How does his entry into the race change things, Governor?

DEAN: Well, I think that Wes Clark is, first of all, a good guy, a guy who I sought out for advice on military matters. But I think what you see in the Wes Clark candidacy is somewhat of a desperation by inside-the-Beltway politicians.

You've got a lot of establishment politicians now surrounding a general who was a Republican until 25 days ago, voted for Ronald Reagan, voted for Dick Nixon, supported the war last October in Iraq, although he's opposed it, I thought, eloquently, since that time. Praised Dick Cheney, praised Donald Rumsfeld.

And, you know, what I want is change in the Democratic Party. We are not gonna win elections anymore by trying to be Republican-lite, and I think what the Washington Democratic establish is terrified of is now that their candidates are not doing so well, they've gone out and found another one. Again, a good guy, very qualified, but he was a Republican until 25 days ago, and I think that's gonna be hard to swallow for a lot of Democrats.

SCHIEFFER: Well, he really says he wasn't anything. I mean, he says he was a member of the military, as I understand it. So -- but you say he is a Republican.

DEAN: Well, he was a member of the military...

SCHIEFFER: Why do you say he was a Republican?

DEAN: He was a member of the military -- he was a member of the military who he says voted for Reagan, voted for Nixon, praised Dick Cheney, praised Donald Rumsfeld, whose resignation I and others have called for. If he -- I -- he certainly was a member of the military, and a very good one, but he also was a Republican. If you have a voting record like that and you support Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, it's pretty hard not to draw the conclusion that you're a Republican.

Now he has switched to the Democratic Party. I appreciate that, but I do not think that the solution for Democrats to become Democrats and win again is to draft Republicans and to support people who have been in Washington for 25 and 30 years. The combined experience of the people I'm running against in Washington, is -- if you include Wes' time in Washington -- is over 100 years. A century in Washington. That is not a party of change, and I want the Democrats to be a party of change.

SCHIEFFER: Governor, I have heard reports that you actually talked to Wes Clark -- I know you had some meetings with him about what would be possibility of him possibly being a running mate with you if you wound up with the nomination. True or false?

DEAN: I have talked to Wes Clark extensively. I have not offered him any positions and I had not offered him any positions. You cannot offer somebody the vice presidency on the basis of one series of meetings. That requires a very lengthy vetting process, and at no time is -- has that vetting process been done or been considered.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about one other issue and that is this whole subject of trade, which with the economy in the shape it's in right now, is a very important issue.

Ten years ago I'm told that you supported NAFTA, publicly supported NAFTA, but this summer you told a labor group that the NAFTA agreement is a disaster. Are you for NAFTA or against NAFTA?

DEAN: I supported NAFTA and I supported the WT -- the Ch -- the joining of China into the WTO in 1999 four years ago, partly because Bill Clinton supported it, and partly because I thought it was a national security issue.

However, what we've seen is that both NAFTA and the WTO are agreements that trade is a good thing, but there are agreements that foster trade by benefiting multinational corporations at the expense of working people.

Free trade works only if you have the same environmental and labor standards and human rights standards in all the countries. And what I've said is that if we're going to continue with the trade agreements that we have, they have to be modified to include human rights standards, labor standards and environmental standards. That's the only way that trade can be fair.

SCHIEFFER: All right. A couple of the candidates -- Joe Lieberman comes to mind, John Kerry comes to mind -- they say that if we traded only wit countries that adhere to U.S. standards -- as you once said that that's what we ought to do, that Lieberman says that would put us, number one, into a depression and Kerry says, in fact, it would mean that we could trade with no one.

DEAN: Well, I think, you know, both of the senators, with all due respect, are exaggerating, as is sometimes our wont in politics, because the fact is -- clearly we have a lot of trade with places like Japan, places like Europe, places like Canada. We're not going to go to -- into a depression, but I'm not advocating that we cut off all trade immediately.

What I am advocating is that we rework our trade agreements and that ultimately you have to, for example, have the right of the trade union movement in the United States to also export what they do. They have to be able to organize plants around the world in a free and open way as we do in this country or as they do in any of the other countries, or Europe, that I mentioned, in order for trade to be fair, because right now we are importing products that are made by 12-year-olds in Indonesia at -- probably less than 50 cents an hour. That's not right. It doesn't help the kids in Indonesia and it doesn't help Americans.

SCHIEFFER: Listening to you talk about this, listening to you talk about some of the things that you said about Medicare and so forth, the Republican National Committee has put out a long press release that just says you're a flip-flopper, that you've changed on so many issues. How do you respond to that, Governor?

DEAN: I have changed on some of the issues. I think that's one of the hallmarks of who I am. I'm a doctor. I believe that if you have a theory and the fact comes along that changes the theory, then you throw out the theory.

What the Republicans believe is that if a fact comes along that changes their theory, they just throw out the fact. They deny there's such a thing as global warming. The president made a case now that the bipartisan committee in Congress admits was exaggerated and ignored the facts for going to war in Iraq. This is pretty serious stuff.

I have no complaint and no embarrassment about changing my positions at all. If facts come along that show you that things need to be changed, then you need to change them. I don't think there's any virtue in stubbornly clinging to a theory when the theory is wrong and has led us into trouble. And the Republicans in this administration have proved that.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Governor, thank you very much. We appreciate your being with us this morning. We wish you good luck as we wish all the candidates down the campaign trail. Hope we'll see you again here. Thank you.

DEAN: Thanks, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: I'll be back in a moment with a little roundtable, in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And with us now is our friend Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report."

For those of you who do not know, "The Cook Political Report" is sort of a bible for all of us that cover politics and follow politics because it tracks each and every race around the country.

Amy, I thought it was kind of interesting today that Howard Dean took on Wesley Clark.

Everybody gave him a pass in that debate the other day, but he didn't get one from Howard Dean today, did he?

AMY WALTER, "The Cook Political Report": No, certainly not. He went after him, certainly, on issues like who's the real Democrat in this race? That's sort of the theme that Howard Dean has been working on greatly, is that `There are inside-the-Beltway folks and then there's me, and I'm not part of the establishment and Wesley Clark is essentially either part of that, or he's not a real Democrat because of his past support for Republicans, or for the Bush administration.'

And so I think what's interesting is that Clark is cutting into everybody a little bit; certainly, he's gotten the spotlight. He's taken a lot of attention, and he goes in for almost every one of these candidates and takes a little piece of them. He's now the new, fun person to watch and to pay attention to. He certainly can make some inroads in New Hampshire and that's, I think, the biggest danger point for Howard Dean.

SCHIEFFER: And he came right at the administration on this report from the Intelligence Committee chair and the ranking Democrat...

WALTER: Certainly.

SCHIEFFER: ...repeating, he says, that George Tenet should also resign. How do you see -- let's just talk about the politics of it here.

WALTER: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: How do you see it for the president right now? His poll numbers are dropping, no question about that. Is he vulnerable?

WALTER: Well, you know, what's really interesting is if you go back in history and you look at the last five presidents, you'll find that where the pres -- this President Bush is, is really at sort of the historical norm. And you go back to Nixon, all the way up till now, about November or so of the year before the election, they all were in between 50 percent, 55 percent of the vote. So you're sort of at a normal point.

The really fascinating thing, though, is what happens after December. That's when the polls really start to count, and what you notice was that for all of those incumbent presidents in their first term who start getting over 50 percent of the vote in these Gallup polls, they went on to win re-election. The ones that started to drop below 50, they went on to lose re-election.

So it's a little bit like watching the baseball playoffs right now. Every single game counts. The polls before now, I think, were much more -- and they were very volatile -- but not quite as important for Americans as they start to focus in on this election. Now the polls really, really, really do start to matter.

SCHIEFFER: So what you're saying is that whether you're really high in a poll or low in a poll, by the time you get to about October, November...

WALTER: That you can't -- yeah.

SCHIEFFER: ...of the year before the election, they all come down to around 50 percent...

WALTER: Yeah.

SCHIEFFER: ...and it's from here on, not what's happened before so much that counts but what happens from...

WALTER: What happens after.

SCHIEFFER: ...from here on in.

WALTER: Yeah. It's very interesting regardless of how volatile your first -- you know, first couple of years in office were, what happened in those few months, it's almost like we now are paying attention as Americans to this election, and what happened before not as important as what we see happening January, February and on through November.

SCHIEFFER: OK.

WALTER: Yeah. Very interesting.

SCHIEFFER: Amy, always good to have you.

WALTER: It's great to be here.

SCHIEFFER: Back in a minute with a final word.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And finally today, it was debate week in politics and, frankly, I enjoyed both of them. If it accomplished nothing else, the California set-to reminded all of us of that old truth: Be careful what you wish for. Californians wanted a recall election, and, boy, have they got one. But as they say in Hollywood, that's entertainment.

And with sequels so big now in Hollywood, there's another plus. If they ever remake "The Odd Couple," the casting will be easy. Who now but Arnold in the Walter Matthau role and Arianna as the persnickety Felix?

As for that run-in of the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, it showed the field is beginning to shake down. Clearly the candidates themselves have now concluded the race is coming down to one of them and Howard Dean. Who'd have thought it? But why else would they all turn on him? New candidate Wesley Clark held his own, which was all he needed to do first time out, but he won't have it easy from here on. The rest made their early mistakes while no one was watching. He starts in the spotlight; no place to hide.

These days politics usually comes down to no more than who can raise the most money to make those nauseating TV commercials. Debates, though, are about the only vehicle left that can counter the power of those commercials, the last place we can actually watch candidates think on their feet.

So for all the silliness, the canned zingers, and the rehearsed `Gotcha!' lines, debates are valuable, and, for those of us of a certain age, about all that's left of the politics we used to know.

That's it for us. We'll see you next week right here on Face The Nation.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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