The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota that aired on "Face the Nation" on Aug. 6, 2023.
MAJOR GARRETT: Welcome back, we turn now to Minnesota Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips, who might in fact be able to answer a question he's given some energy to, are you going to run for president against Joe Biden?
REP. DEAN PHILLIPS: Well, Major, I have not decided yet. But I will tell you why I'm here. And I lost my dad in Vietnam in 1969. Lived with my great grandparents for two and a half years, and my mom was 24 and widowed. I was adopted when I was three by an extraordinary dad into a remarkable family. I know a little something about living on both sides of advantage. And I woke up the morning after the 2016 election, the one you just spoke about, saw fear in my daughter's eyes, my two daughters. I recognized at that moment that millions of Americans have had that same fear for generations. And I promised them I would do something, I ran for Congress. And I ran a campaign that was about everybody being invited. That was my slogan. I listened to Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and I discovered that everybody wants the same thing, everybody. We want to be safe. We want to have security, both economic and otherwise, we want opportunity, and we want unity, serving our country, and Congress has been a joy.
I know you don't hear that too often, it has been a joy. And I've discovered that everybody in the middle, the massive majority of Americans are sick of anger-tainment, telling us we're more divided than we really are. They're sick of members of Congress state houses attacking each other instead of attacking problems. They want their families back, their friendships back, their communities back, they want unity. And I want to give voice to them. And then secondly, I want to give voice to Democrats. I'm a lifelong passionate Democrat inspired by Hubert Humphrey and Martin Luther King. Democrats are telling me that they want, not a coronation, but they want a competition. The New York Times poll from this week shows 55% of Democratic voters want some alternatives to the current people in the primary. 83% of those under 30. Democrats under 30 want alternatives, and about 76% are independents. So I just want to make my case–
MAJOR GARRETT: When you're going to decide? When are you going to decide?
REP. PHILLIPS: I think, well, let me get to my point. Okay. So if we don't heed–
MAJOR GARRETT: I've given you some room.
REP. PHILLIPS: Yes, you have, if we don't heed that call, shame on us. And the consequences, I believe, are going to be disastrous. So my call is to those who are well positioned, well prepared, have good character and competency, they know who they are, to jump in, because Democrats and the country need competition. It makes everything better. That's my call to them right now.
MAJOR GARRETT: So if they don't, you will?
REP. PHILLIPS: I'm not saying I will. I think I'm well positioned to be president to the United States–
MAJOR GARRETT: You do.
REP. PHILLIPS: I do not believe I'm well positioned to run for it right now. People who are should jump in because we need to meet the moment. The moment is now. That is what the country is asking.
MAJOR GARRETT: I gave you some running room. So let's tighten up the answers if we can. Can President Biden beat Donald Trump?
REP. PHILLIPS: I think he can. But I think the only way to determine that, objectively, is to go through a process by the way before it's too late. And I want to tell you this about President Biden, an amazing man, I love the man he is competent. He is honorable. His integrity, I believe is unvarnished, he has led this country through extraordinarily difficult times. And this is not about him. This is about listening to people, and I'm afraid in this bubble here in Washington, people get real tone deaf real fast, and we should be listening. That's what this is about. It's my call to action.
MAJOR GARRETT: Assess Robert F Kennedy Jr's campaign.
REP. PHILLIPS: Well, first of all, I like competition. I'm pleased that people see an adequate competitor, not the one that I'm looking for. I don't believe him to be a Democrat. (CROSS TALK) Let me say this– (CROSSTALK)I think there is something telling, I think he's using a very similar playbook to a former president who did the same in the Republican Party just a little while ago. And I think we should be cautious of that. I also think that's why we need alternatives. I don't believe him to be a Democrat. I do believe though, that speech is good, more speech is even better. We need alternatives for the massive majority of the middle in America–
MAJOR GARRETT: Let me make sure I heard that correctly, you don't believe Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is a Democrat?
REP. PHILLIPS: Not-not from the positions he's been taking no.
MAJOR GARRETT: Assess Cornell West. Do you have any anxiety about him running as a Green Party candidate?
REP. PHILLIPS: I do. Anybody who wants to turn the page and go to the future in this country should be worried about Cornell-Cornell West's candidacy. Any third party entrance that would take votes from whoever is going to take on the likely nominee from the GOP and that's probably Donald Trump. So I would ask Mr. West, I would ask others who are contemplating third party runs to please think about your legacy, think about the future and consolidate around entering a Democratic primary because that's why we have primaries.
MAJOR GARRETT: I'm confused. Congressman, if there's a conversation that you say needs to occur within the Democratic Party about an alternative to the sitting President of the United States, why isn't the leading contender for that the sitting Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris?
REP. PHILLIPS: I think we have a- I think we live in an era of fear. What if I get out of line? What if I take on my party? I know the feeling this week, I--
MAJOR GARRETT: Is she not qualified?
REP. PHILLIPS: I think she's absolutely qualified. In fact, I think she's misportrayed. I think everybody in this country should take a little bit of time and sit with people, observe them, know them before you draw conclusions. I think she is more competent and able than many people give her credit for. The job of the Vice President is not an easy one.
MAJOR GARRETT: Would she, in your mind, be the heir apparent if for some reason the President of the United States were not to seek the nomination in 2024?
REP. PHILLIPS: I'm glad you asked the question. And my answer is really simple: competition. As many people as humanly possible with the talent, the time, the energy, the ethics to enter a primary should do it. We have 12 Republicans as options for Republican primary voters. Right now, we only have three in the Democratic side. I believe in competition. We're the Democratic Party. Democracy means the freedom to make choices, and we don't have many of them.
MAJOR GARRETT: Let me ask you a historical question. You've invoked the names of many Minnesota Democrats, let me invoke the name of another. Eugene McCarthy ran in 1968, against a well positioned president with a substantial record of accomplishment for Democratic Party agenda items. He said the reason he had to run was because of the overwhelming issue of Vietnam, that it had to be addressed. Dean Phillips, what's the Vietnam of this election?
REP. PHILLIPS: The Vietnam of this election? I think everybody knows. And it's about turning the page to the future. That is the Vietnam of right now. That's the quagmire in which we find ourselves. Mr. Hurd, who you just had on the show, if you could see the green room moments ago, the camaraderie between Democrats and Republicans who all want the same thing, was represented right there. And I want to remind the American people, that's the Vietnam of right now. The quagmire in which we find ourselves, we will not get out of from a single leader. If everybody takes a pause, starts reaching out their hands to one another again, starts electing and selecting people of competency and good character, we're gonna get out of this and I'm optimistic.
MAJOR GARRETT: Dean Phillips, Congressman from Minnesota, Democrat, keep in touch.
REP. PHILLIPS:Thank you, Major.
MAJOR GARRETT: We'll be back in just a moment.
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