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Dean Goes After Dems

Aired October 23, 2003 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: Dr. Howard Dean goes after his fellow Democrats on health care.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Instead of fixing the problem, the best my opponents can do is talk about what was said eight years ago.

ANNOUNCER: He also takes a shot about Iraq.

DEAN: The best my opponents can do is ask questions today that they should have asked before they supported the war.

ANNOUNCER: Is this a prescription for going negative?




ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Governor Howard Dean is beginning to draw some distinctions between himself and his opponents.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: And he's doing it by attacking everyone else. Is that the right diagnosis for what's ailing the Democrats? We'll debate it right after the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Bill Clinton was the most liberal president in U.S. history. Consider, then, how far to the left this year's crop of Democratic presidential hopefuls are, if Clinton thinks they're too far to the left. In an interview published in a liberal magazine, the former president said -- quote -- "We can't win if people think we're too liberal" -- end quote. He spanked candidate Howard Dean for saying he represents the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. The Clintonites see that as the McGovern-Mondale wing that lost 49 out of 50 states. But wasn't it the Clinton wing of the party that lost control of Congress and suffered eight years of defeats across the country?

BEGALA: It was Clinton and the Democrats who won the last three presidential elections. They stole the last one from us. Al Gore actually got more votes. No, he was not only the most successful Democratic politician in my lifetime. He was the most successful president of my lifetime.


NOVAK: Paul...


BEGALA: Because of jobs, the economy, crime, welfare.

NOVAK: Paul, have you -- have you looked at the numbers of how many Democrats in Congress, in state legislatures, in local office, lost during the Clinton administration, how the party was depleted under Clinton?

BEGALA: So you blame Clinton because other people lost?


BEGALA: Clinton won. If more Democrats would act like Clinton, more Democrats would win.


BEGALA: Well, speaking of my former boss and our former president, he had an important announcement today. President Clinton announced an agreement with four drug companies that will dramatically reduce the cost of anti-retroviral AIDS drugs for millions of people.

Now, under President Clinton's plan, anti-AIDS drugs would cost as little as 38 cents a day, literally a gift of life for millions of people. You may recall that President George W. Bush promised $15 billion to fight AIDS back in his State of the Union address. I and others applauded that then. But nine months later, our Republican president has not been able to persuade the Republican Congress to fund even a dime of that $15 billion.

President Clinton, meanwhile, is bringing help to millions of people without an act of Congress. I guess that's the difference between a cheerleader and a real leader.

NOVAK: Paul, let me...


NOVAK: Let me tell you something.

No. 1, Bill Clinton is not president of the United States anymore. He's a pretend president. He's trying to do it.


NOVAK: And, No. 2, AIDS is the most politically supported disease there is. If we would spend as much money on a disease that affects American men, prostate cancer, we may be much better off.



BEGALA: America does a great job with prostate cancer. But I just want President Bush to be as effective as President Clinton. He says the right things. And God bless for that commitment of $15 billion, but show me the money, like they said the movie.


NOVAK: The new political pinup boy of the liberal Democrats, retired General Wesley Clark, is having trouble finding a presidential primary that he can win. On Monday, he announced he was pulling out of the Iowa caucuses. Yesterday, he told "The Boston Herald" that, at best, he will finish fourth in the New Hampshire primary.

So if it's not Iowa, not New Hampshire for the general, where does he win? He got to be a four-star general and NATO supreme commander by lobbying the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Unfortunately, for Wes, they don't nominate presidents in backrooms anymore. You have to win over the voters, General.



BEGALA: That's a very good point. You make a very good point.

But he's a guy, as a general, who knows you have to pick your battles. He did not get in the race in time to organize well enough for Iowa. So he's moving on to other states.


BEGALA: No, he's just setting expectations, I suspect, in New Hampshire.

NOVAK: He's giving up in New Hampshire.


BEGALA: Bill Clinton lost New Hampshire. George Bush lost New Hampshire. They both went on to become president.

NOVAK: But he finished -- but Clinton finished a strong second.

BEGALA: Yes, he did.

NOVAK: If he finishes a poor fourth in New Hampshire, doesn't run a in Iowa, do you think he's going to be nominated?

BEGALA: He has got to -- he has got to do better, I think, than a poor fourth in New Hampshire. But we'll have to wait and see how he does it. The question will be, how will people react to his ideas, which he's beginning now to lay out? He's fleshing out his candidacy.

NOVAK: What ideas?


BEGALA: Huge story in "The Wall Street Journal" today. He's got a big article in "The Wall Street Journal."


BEGALA: Well...

NOVAK: Sorry I asked


BEGALA: Two new studies conclude that President Bush's environmental policies could lead to 1.4 million tons of new air pollution in the skies over 12 states.

Now, 146 million Americans already live in counties where the air has been found to be unhealthy at times. One of those studies also concluded that the Bush administration was not telling the truth when officials said Mr. Bush's lax new rules would not jeopardize tough enforcement actions that had been taken by President Clinton.

Now, Mr. Bush's supporters call environmentalists extremists. Perhaps we are. I'm extremely addicted to breathing.



BEGALA: I am extremely concerned about lung damage in children. And I'm extremely interested in having a president who doesn't let corporate bandits use our air as their garbage dump.


NOVAK: Well, let me -- since you used the word extremist to describe yourself, which I think is apt, let me tell you what else you are. You're also extremely hostile to corporate business. You're extremely favorable of government regulations. And you're extremely dangerous to the state of corporate America.


BEGALA: I'm extremely against air pollution. We can create jobs and clean up the environment. Again, President Clinton proved that. President Bush released clean air, laxed...


BEGALA: What I am saying? Lessened clean air standards and lost jobs in the process. So we can do better.


BEGALA: Well, the question of the day, though, is, is Howard Dean on the right track? His campaign is running a new ad attacking the dreaded Washington insiders. Now, could that be senators like Kerry and Lieberman and Edwards, or congressmen like Gephardt and Kucinich, or maybe talk show hosts like me and Novak?

Well, we'll debate the increasingly hot Democratic contest with top strategists from two leading campaigns right after this.




NOVAK: The Democratic presidential candidates still have very little to say, but at least a few of them are doing something besides attacking President Bush all the time. They're attacking each other.

Dr. Howard Dean leads the way with a couple of new commercials blasting his opponents on health care and on Iraq. Is this the right strategy for winning the nomination and the presidency?

In the CROSSFIRE, Dick Gephardt's campaign manager, Steve Murphy, along with Democratic strategist and Dean leading adviser Steve McMahon.


BEGALA: I thank you both for joining us.


BEGALA: First, as you know, I don't take sides in the primary.


BEGALA: And our viewers should know that, in '88, the last time Dick Gephardt ran for president, I worked for him, as did Steve Murphy, as did you, Steve McMahon.


BEGALA: Novak is the only guy on the stage that never worked for Dick Gephardt.

STEVE MURPHY, DICK GEPHARDT CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Are you sure he didn't work for Dick Gephardt?


NOVAK: That's one thing I can reveal.

MCMAHON: I'm actually a little nervous sitting on this side of the table with Bob.


BEGALA: Well, that's true. Well, we'll bring you over here.


BEGALA: I do want to raise some...

MURPHY: It's fitting with Howard Dean's record.


BEGALA: Let me go to that.

Gephardt's campaign is attacking your man, Howard Dean, Steve McMahon, on the issue of Medicare. Governor Dean says he's angry and that it's unfair. Well, I went and got our researcher. Hillary (ph) actually got me the article in which Howard Dean praised the Republican plan on Medicare, the plan that Bill Clinton was fighting against. Let me read you Governor Dean's words from 1995. Here's what he had to say.

This is in the newspaper the Montpelier, Vermont, "Times Argus": "Dean also said he could defend the GOP approach to reducing Medicare costs. He said he supported requiring some Medicare recipients to pay a greater share of their medical services. 'I fully subscribe to the notion that we should reduce the Medicare growth rate from 10 percent to 7 percent or less, if possible,' Dean said."

Isn't that a fair criticism, that he supported the Republican plan on Medicare, when he says so himself?

MCMAHON: Well, it's kind of funny coming from Congressman Gephardt, who voted for the Reaganomics package that created the deficit.

You know, Paul, because you were there at the time, that Bill Clinton said in 1995 that Medicare was going to be out of money in 2002 unless someone did something. Howard Dean is a governor who has balanced budgets. He understands what it takes to balance budgets. And he thought at the time that, if you needed to do this to preserve the program long-term, then it's something you should look at.

By the way, Bill Clinton voted -- actually signed a bill that did exactly what Howard Dean was advocating, that slowed the growth of Medicare spending, Paul.

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: I worked for Bill Clinton. In fairness to President Clinton two years later, two years later, he had a Medicare plan that cut Medicare by two-thirds less.


MURPHY: And those cuts had to be restored three times.

MCMAHON: Just because Howard Dean saw the problem before other Democrats did, just like he saw the Iraq problem before other Democrats did...


MCMAHON: He was right. He was proven right.

NOVAK: Steve -- Steve Murphy, I want to run the Dean ad. Let's just run just a little snippet of it.


DEAN: Seniors today are getting clobbered by prescription drug costs. And Instead of fixing the problem, the best my opponents can do is talk about what was said eight years ago.


NOVAK: Isn't that pathetic on Dick Gephardt's part that he goes to something that's eight years old? I mean, why don't we talk about the future? I mean, the things that Begala said eight years ago, he wouldn't want on the air.


MURPHY: Well, first of all, first of all, Bob, voters in Iowa aren't going to know what Howard Dean is talking about in this ad. They're going to be asking the question, exactly what Howard Dean, what did he say eight years ago?

And what he said eight years is very consistent on his record on Medicare. He's said repeatedly, it's the worst federal program ever, it should never have happened. And he has said, it should be converted, just as Republicans in Congress today are trying to do, convert it into completely a managed care program.


NOVAK: I have to say, I'm liking Howard Dean more and more all the time.


MURPHY: I'm not surprised.

(CROSSTALK) MCMAHON: Can I just correct the record, if you will? Howard Dean has experience with Medicare as both a doctor who has actually delivered health care and had to deal with the administrative quagmires associated with Medicare, as a son who watched his father struggle and ultimately die and who got this 15-page thing that nobody could possibly understand, and as a governor.

He's also said that Bill Clinton demonstrated that growing the economy and creating a healthy, robust economy eliminates the need to consider any of these things. Medicare cuts are absolutely off the table. He said that. He said it last week in Iowa. But, you know, you don't want to give...

MURPHY: Two months ago, he said that Medicare cuts are on the table.

MCMAHON: He said there's no need to cut Medicare. He said there's no reason to put Medicare on the table. Dick Gephardt used to support a constitutional amendment that would take away a woman's right to choose. He's changed his mind. And nobody is suggesting that that's not genuine. Why can't Howard Dean...

MURPHY: This is another inconsistency of Howard Dean's.

Howard Dean has been attacking his Democratic opponents throughout the entire campaign. He started off by saying, everybody else was Bush-light, he's the leaders of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. It was only a matter of time before he started attacking his opponents televisions spots.

BEGALA: Well, in fact, Steve, the ad, which I trust you made as Dean's media adviser...


BEGALA: Actually targets what he calls -- and I'm quoting the governor in your ad -- politicians in Washington. Now, let me give you a couple of other politicians in Washington. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a politician in Washington, Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, three of the great presidents of American history. Were they bad because they were politicians in Washington?

MCMAHON: No, because they got something done.

And the politicians in Washington that we're talking about, some of whom are running for president, have been here a long time, some of them -- I think, collectively, there's about 75 years of Washington experience. There's about 25 years of experience talking about health insurance for every American. Dick Gephardt started talking about a prescription drug benefit in 1987.

All Howard Dean is saying: Look, I was the governor in Vermont. While they were talking about this stuff in Washington, I insured every kid in my state. Every family up to 150 percent of poverty has health insurance. And every senior up to 225 percent has a drug benefit. NOVAK: I want to -- as much as I love health insurance, let me change the subject a little bit to Iraq.


NOVAK: And, Steve Murphy, this is Governor Dean's statement on Iraq. Let's listen to this, in his campaign ad.


DEAN: One hundred and thirty thousand troops in Iraq with no end in sight and a price tag that goes up daily. The best my opponents can do is ask questions today that they should have asked before they supported the war. I opposed the war from the start.


NOVAK: Now, isn't -- isn't that -- he's got you nailed there, because Dick Gephardt votes for the war. Then he -- now he says, gee, I was wrong to vote for it, because he's cutting off money. Dean was consistent and Gephardt wasn't. Isn't that true?

MURPHY: Absolutely not.

Dick Gephardt has been very consistent about the war in Iraq. He absolutely supported removing Saddam Hussein and believes it's the right thing to do. He believed it then and he believes it today. He also has been highly critical of George W. Bush for tearing apart our international alliances, the international alliances that were in place during the first Persian Gulf War, and for the president not going to the United Nations and putting together the international effort necessary to do this right, especially in the aftermath of the war.

NOVAK: Just one thing I lost. You said he supported removing Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein has been removed from power there, right?

MURPHY: Yes, absolutely.

NOVAK: All right. But now he's against the war, after he got


MURPHY: Dick Gephardt has never said he's against the war. Absolutely not.

BEGALA: Well, he did say something I found interesting in the last debate. Again, as an old Clinton hand, he praised President Clinton again and again and again in a way that Al Gore, frankly, never did in the 2000 election, particularly on the economy.

And he said -- and, rightly, because I was there -- that he helped push through Gephardt -- Gephardt helped push through Clinton's economic plan. But what he left out was that he also bitterly opposed Clinton on trade, which was a big part of the Clinton economic agenda. Shouldn't he come clean about the fact that he actually opposed a big part of Clinton's economic agenda?

MURPHY: Dick Gephardt has said repeatedly that one of the things he disagreed with his president that he worked so hard with to turn around the economy in 1993 and 1994 is trade.

And the facts over the ensuing 10 years have borne out the truth in Dick Gephardt's position. We've lost hundreds of thousands of jobs because of these bad trade agreements that don't protect jobs here at home, that don't protect worker rights, that don't protect the environment. So Dick Gephardt has stood up clearly and strongly and said, NAFTA was wrong, the China PNTR was wrong. Fast track is wrong. It not good for America. It's driving wages to the bottom all around the world. These are bad trade deals.

BEGALA: We've got to take a break.

Steve Murphy from the Gephardt campaign, Steve McMahon from the Dean campaign, keep your seats just a second.

When we come back, we're going to ask this question: Does a winning presidential campaign really have to go through Iowa? We'll put our guests in the "Rapid Fire" on that and other topics next.

And then, right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on efforts to get more countries to help with paying to rebuild Iraq.

Stay with us.





BEGALA: It's time now for "Rapid Fire," where the questions are almost as short as the amount of time some of the presidential candidates will be spending in Iowa.

Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark have decided they're not going to run there. They're going to skip next January's caucuses. So the question is, does Iowa matter anymore?

We're talking with Howard Dean's media adviser, Steve McMahon, and Dick Gephardt's campaign manager, Steve Murphy.

NOVAK: Steve Murphy, can't you say that, if Dick Gephardt doesn't win, does not win Iowa, he is dead, he is finished?

MURPHY: It's fair to say Dick Gephardt has to do very, very well in Iowa.

NOVAK: Does he have to win it?

MURPHY: We're trying to win in Iowa. BEGALA: Steve McMahon, only 8 percent of the people in Iowa vote in those caucuses. Is that representative?

MCMAHON: Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But 8 percent do vote and that's where it starts. And we're going to run a national campaign and we intend to win everywhere.

NOVAK: Mr. McMahon, the latest the poll shows that Governor Dean, who was leading in Iowa, now has dropped to second behind Gephardt. Is this the beginning of a freefall for you?

MCMAHON: No. No, Bob. First of all, the Iowa campaign has never been inside or outside the margin of error for any candidate. It's not the beginning of a freefall. Look at New Hampshire. Look at Arizona. Look at California. Look at Michigan. Howard Dean is running a national campaign. And he is winning, winning.

BEGALA: Steve Murphy, your man, Gephardt, has been endorsed by 20 unions, Dean I think by one. Is there any issue that Dick Gephardt disagrees with organized labor on?

MURPHY: Well, there's a number of issue that he disagrees with organized labor on. But the No. 1 issue, probably -- one of the No. 1 proponents of drilling for oil in the Arctic is the Teamsters. And Dick Gephardt totally disagrees with that and led the fight in Congress against.

NOVAK: General Clark has pulled out of Iowa. He says he's running fourth in New Hampshire. Where is he going to win?

MURPHY: You've got me.


NOVAK: What do you think?

MCMAHON: I don't think it looks very -- I mean, if you're a national candidate or you're the front-runner, in which case Joe Lieberman and Wes Clark claim they are, it's hard to imagine why you can't run a race in Iowa.


NOVAK: OK, Steve Murphy of the Gephardt campaign, Steve McMahon of the Dean campaign, thank you very much.



NOVAK: Most people are aware Howard Dean is a medical doctor. Do you know what other member of Dr. Dean's family is also a doctor, his mother, his father, or his wife? We'll have the results right after the break.

And in "Fireback," one viewer explains how Paul Begala could be a secret weapon for Republicans.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Before the break, we asked you, which other member of the Dean family is also a medical doctor. We asked our audience here in the studio. And guess what? An awfully smart audience. They got it right; 63 percent said Dr. Dean's wife is, in fact, a doctor. And she is.


BEGALA: Judith is, in fact, not only a doctor. She and her husband, Governor Dean, began their medical careers together in the South Bronx treating poor people.

NOVAK: And she's going to run for president in the next election.


NOVAK: All right.

From the e-mails, Michael Haven of Cincinnati says: "Paul, please spend more time on the air. Every time I hear you talking politics, it makes me want to go out and vote for a conservative, any conservative. The more you talk, the better the chances that W. will be reelected."


NOVAK: As I've always suspected, Paul, you're a secret weapon for the Republicans.


BEGALA: That may be, but you know what? When I started attacking George W. Bush, he was at 90 percent. Today, he's at 49 percent, so I'm going to keep doing it, Michael Haven.


BEGALA: And Scott Metz of Nashville, Tennessee, writes: "I was Republican for 30 years. I will be voting for a Democrat for president in 2004, no matter who wins the nomination. Call it Bush bashing if you want, but one term letting the village dunce run things is enough."


NOVAK: I'd like to see his Republican papers. I really doubt it. OK, Scott Volkert of Saint Louis Park, Minnesota, says: "Saying, 'Support our troops, bring them home' is like saying, 'I'm a huge fan of the show, and to prove it, I'm not going to watch it."


NOVAK: Now, I think -- I think Scott has got a point there, because when you say we'd support the troops, we bring them tomorrow, you don't agree with that, do you?

BEGALA: I didn't understand the e-mail. It didn't any sense. It was a nonsensical e-mail.

NOVAK: It makes sense to me.


BEGALA: You know what the troops need? A new commander in chief who knows what the heck he is doing and won't put them in a war with no purpose.


BEGALA: Tony Martella of Deland, Florida, writes: "Negative politics is the nature of the beast. How can one expect to outline the differences between oneself and the others?"

Good point, Tony. I like negative campaigning.

NOVAK: I do, too.

BEGALA: I hope there's more of it.

NOVAK: More and more, especially by the Democrats.


BEGALA: From the left, I'm Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak.

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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