Campaign Snapshot: Howard Dean
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HOWARD DEAN: You have the power to take this country back from a president who has forgotten ordinary Americans. You have the power to take this party back and make it stand for something again so we’ll be proud to be Democrats. And together we have the power to take the White House back in 2004, and that is exactly what we’re going to do. Thanks very much.
( Applause )
As they say in New England, I’m happy to take comments, questions, and rude remarks, if necessary. ( Laughter )
MAN: Every day we see our sons and daughters dying in Iraq. Talk to us about that.
HOWARD DEAN: Well, as you know, as I said in the speech, I didn’t think it was a very good idea in the first place. People are always saying, “oh, Howard Dean, he doesn’t have any foreign policy experience.” Well, it looks like I was the only one that had enough foreign policy experience, which is mostly composed of patience and judgment, to figure out it was a mistake to go over there. And now what are we going to do about it?
We don’t want to leave Iraq more dangerous to the United States than it was when we found it. So we’re going to create an international reconstruction effort, instead of an American occupation. (Applause )
WOMAN: That answers one of my questions, because I have a son who is serving there, and whose time has been extended. Also, I have a son who’s a senior in college, and I need to know about the economy and what we’re going to do to get some of this going for this generation coming into the workforce.
HOWARD DEAN: The labor movement has really been attacked by George Bush in ways that even Ronald Reagan couldn’t dream up. Now, I think we have to understand the history of the labor movement in this country. There’s a reason this country’s the greatest country on the face of the earth, and that’s because we have the largest middle class on the face of the earth. But the biggest problem in this country, in the long term, is the growing gap between people who have every thing, who George Bush is in favor of, and those who are rapidly losing their middle-class status.
It’s tougher and tougher to make a living in this country. And if we don’t stop that, we’re in big trouble. And the trade union movement in the past has been a very successful antidote to that, because it guarantees if you’re willing to work hard for a living, you’re going to get treated properly by the management.
So investment in small business, investment in infrastructure, getting rid of the president’s tax cuts, which were really a tax increase for middle-class people, and strong support of the trade union movement, I think is going to begin to turn this country around.
WOMAN: I heard a rumor– and I don’t know if it’s true– about the voting, the actual computerized voting, and I’m really nervous about it. Would you address that.
HOWARD DEAN: One of the most shocking things in this administration is that the head of a company called Diebold, that makes voting machines, sent around a letter in Ohio promising to do “whatever it takes to get this president elected in Ohio.” It doesn’t give you a lot of confidence in the electoral process. ( Light laughter )
I hear this question almost every day. If I do four or five meetings in a day, somebody almost always brings it up sometime during the day. We don’t know a lot about this. But I’m very worried about the voting machines that don’t leave a paper trail, because there’s no evident way of auditing that. So, it is a real issue.
We’re not on top of it yet, because we have so many things to do to try to get the nomination. But we will be on top of it, and it’s going to be a big issue in November of 2004.
Yes, in the back.
MAN: Just a few days ago, Congress got a big increase in pay. It’s been about six or seven years since the minimum wage has been raised a little bit. Now we can create a lot of small business, but if you don’t have purchasing power, then you don’t sell the product that you build.
HOWARD DEAN: In my state, we tried to create a livable wage by having every child under 18 insured. Our minimum wage as of this January… as of next January is going to be $7 an hour. And our economy is a little better than most places, for exactly the reason you just said.
If you put a little money in working people’s pockets, guess what? They get to spend it downtown at the local store, and that’s good for the economy. I cannot understand these people who supposedly know something about economics working in Washington, who think the way to save money is to short working people. That’s not the way to save money, that’s the way to ruin our economy, and that’s exactly what George Bush has done.
George Bush I call “Hood Robin.” He takes from the middle class and he gives to his wealthy friends who are giving him those $2,000 contributions. And I think that’s the wrong thing to do. Republicans don’t understand economics. They don’t. You cannot trust Republicans with money, because most of them never had to earn much of it. (Laughter)
MAN: I want to know about Howard Dean. What kind of man is he?
HOWARD DEAN: I’m a doctor. I grew up in New York State, sort of New York City and New York State. I went to medical school in New York. And I went to Vermont because when you leave medical school, they assign you more or less to a place, and I like Vermont. I got into politics because of Jimmy Carter.
In 1980, I met a woman who ran his campaign in Vermont, and just volunteered in the office. And I ended up going to the convention in New York. And that was the year Ted Kennedy was running against Jimmy Carter, and I was about 30 years old. I was just starting out.
Most of the Carter people were older, and they were teaching me all about Vermont politics. And so I… when I went to New York, I voted all day with the Carter people and then I partied all night with the Kennedy people. ( Laughter ) So when I came back to Vermont, the state chairman called me up and said, “you know, the county chair is about to resign, we need a new county chair. We’d like you do it.” I said, “well, I can’t do that. I don’t know anybody.” And he said, “you’re going to have to do it, because you’re the only one I can find that gets along with the Carter people and the Kennedy people.” ( Laughter )
So I became county chair for a while, and then I ran for legislature, which was a part- time job. I was there for two terms, then I ran for lieutenant governor, which was also a part-time job. So I was practicing medicine part-time, usually at night after the legislature closed or on Mondays when we didn’t meet. And then one day in August of 1991, the governor died of a heart attack and I was governor. Then in January of 2003, I stepped down from the governor’s office and decided that I would run for president. And I did it because I was tired of having the Democrats lie down in front of George Bush. And I thought we needed to stand up for something once again.
You know, this campaign is about change. It’s not just about getting me elected to the White House. I’m running because I want to change this country. And I want to change this country so it stands for what I believed in when I was 21 years old, at the end of the civil rights movement. I want us all to be in this together in this again. That’s what I want back. And we’re not going to get it back unless we stand up to George Bush. ( Applause )
JIM LEHRER: As I said, that was just the beginning. We’ll have similar takes from other Democratic campaign appearances in the days and weeks ahead.