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Hurricane Ivan's Path of Devastation; Interview With Howard Dean

Aired September 16, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, what a mess, the devastation of Hurricane Ivan, the Gulf Coast ravaged, more than one million people without power, billions of dollars in damage.
The latest on Ivan in a moment, but ahead tonight on PRIME TIME POLITICS, war and politics. Why does a classified intelligence report contradict the president's view of Iraq? Where does the campaign stand today? A PRIME TIME POLITICS exclusive look at our electoral map.

And the doctor diagnoses the Kerry campaign. My candid conversation with the outspoken former Governor Howard Dean.

Now on the big storm. Ivan is a tropical storm now pushing through the Deep South. Before it left the Gulf Coast, by one estimate, it did $4 billion in damage.

Anderson Cooper is standing by in Gulf Shores, Alabama, tonight, a lot more securely fixed to the ground than he was last night. He joins us live with the details.

How does bad does it look from where you're standing?


And the things is -- I talked to the mayor of this town, Gulf Shores. He says he can't even estimate at this point what kind of damage they're getting. The problem is there's still a lot of water here from the storm surge. I'm not sure -- the light's failing, so I'm not sure how much you can see behind me.

We're about six blocks, six or seven blocks from the Gulf Coast. All of this was flooded. The water just came up. It's actually receded, you know, probably about 100 feet in the last couple hours that we've been here, but there's not supposed to be water over there. That's supposed to be a road. So it's very hard for people here, for the emergency officials to even assess how bad things are. The mayor had to take a boat to try to get the coast, taking a boat on the highway.

But, at this point, they're still not sure. They did not have any loss of life in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and for that they're very thankful indeed, but there's a lot of cleanup work ahead. It could have been a whole lot worst. And you heard that all throughout Alabama, people saying the electricity may have gone out, we may have had some damage, but it could have been a whole lot worst. Two people, as you know, died in Panama City Beach, Florida. There were other fatalities along the Gulf Coast as well. But Alabama for the most part seems to be OK, though there are still tens of thousands of people without power at this point.

And there's no telling when that power is going to get restored, Paula.

ZAHN: Well, we're happy to see you standing still this evening. Sorry to hear about all the destruction. Anderson Cooper, thanks for that update.

PRIME TIME POLITICS begins now with the presidential race and Iraq. This afternoon, Senator John Kerry stood before members of the National Guard Association. He accused President Bush of not telling the truth when he spoke to the same group two days ago. The president gave an upbeat assessment of U.S. progress in Iraq. But today we learned that a secret intelligence report repaired two months ago and sent to the White House paints a troubling picture of Iraq's future, including the possibility of civil war.

Here's our Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bleak intelligence report has come to light during a particularly violent period in Iraq. But on the campaign trail, President Bush remained optimistic.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It wasn't all that long ago that Saddam Hussein was in power with his torture chambers and mass graves. And today, this country is headed toward elections. Freedom is on the march.

FOREMAN: But the White House admits the classified report written in July by the National Intelligence Council says Iraq's political, economic, and security troubles could lead to civil war at worst and a shaky democracy at best.

John Kerry jumped on it.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe you deserve a president who isn't going to gild that truth or gild our national security with politics, who is not going to ignore his own intelligence.

FOREMAN: Even some of the president's supporters are worried that Mr. Bush is playing politics. Tony Blankley of "The Washington Times" writes, "I find it hard not to suspect that an aggressive military policy to put down the insurgency is on hold until after the American election."

While major operations against insurgents would have potential political risks, such as many casualties and Iraq spinning out of control, CNN's Jamie McIntyre says: JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Pentagon officials that I've talked to insist that the subject of the presidential elections has not come up in any of the planning meetings they've had about the strategy in Iraq.

FOREMAN: Still, many presidents have faced this. Bill Clinton was accused of launching missiles to distract from his troubles, Ronald Reagan of invading Grenada to improve his poll numbers.

(on camera): Historians say the facts almost never support such claims and trying to manage a war for political gain is a bad bet, because wars are too unpredictable.

ALLAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Every decision is infused with politics. But typically it is a grand strategic vision of the president, right or wrong, that motivates war, not naked, raw politics.

FOREMAN: Whatever the motives behind the management of this war, this new information makes clear only that Iraq's future remains confoundingly uncertain.


ZAHN: And that was our Tom Foreman reporting.

Joining me now from Boston is Dan Senor, who served as the spokesman for the Iraq Provisional Authority before it turned over sovereignty to the Iraqis at the end of June.

Good to see you. Welcome.


ZAHN: So, Dan -- thank you -- as you may know, the U.N. secretary general said today he sees no possibility these elections will take place in January on time because of the ongoing violence. Do you believe the elections in Iraq will be held in January?

SENOR: Well, I think it's premature to say anything with certainty now. Certainly, we have had elections in postconflict transition situations all over the world, from Colombia to Liberia, where there's been violence. So violence doesn't preclude elections. And certainly special circumstances can be worked out.

I think it's important to note, however, that the majority of Iraqis want elections. They want elections quicker than we or the U.N. could set them up.

ZAHN: But that's a different issue, is it not?

SENOR: I agree. And certainly deferring to their wishes is important. And to the extent that they can help us overall in securing the security -- improving the security situation and setting up elections is an important step going forward as we try to meet that deadline.

ZAHN: Dan, can you explain something to me? It was September 10 when President Bush, when talking about the national elections of Iraq, said -- quote -- "They will be held in January." And just today, in a speech he said only that national elections are scheduled for January. Is the president losing confidence that they will happen as planned?

SENOR: I wouldn't put too much analysis into each twist of a word there.

I think, look, every milestone that we or the U.N. or the Iraqis have set in Iraq has been met, despite the fact that skeptics have predicted that they'd never be met. I remember the interim constitution, which was supposed to be finalized by the end of February, people said, it will never get done, the situation's too chaotic. It got finalized on schedule. The formation of the interim government by the 1st of June was part of our plan. The skeptics said, can't be done, won't be done. It was on schedule.

The handover of sovereignty to the interim government, which was supposed to happen by the end of June, the same skeptics said couldn't be doing done because of the situation on the ground. In fact, it was done ahead of schedule. So let's wait and see here. So far, the record is pretty good.

ZAHN: Let's talk about the handing over of power to Iraqis, because it's not only Democrats who were critical of what they called an arbitrary date, but there were some Republicans out there saying the date was rushed because the president needed protection as it got closer and closer to the general election cycle. Is that true?

SENOR: You know, last November, we were approached by the Iraqi Governing Council. And they told us that they would have a hard time moving forward in the political process unless sovereignty was handed over as quickly as possible. We were reacting to the Iraqis, not the other way around. And that was how that date was set. There were no other distractions.

President Bush always made it clear to us that we were to move forward with our plan without any distractions, be they domestic or international.

ZAHN: Finally tonight, Dan, there is a "Washington Times" editorial that Tom Foreman just mentioned in his piece suggesting that aggressive military action to put down the insurgency movement has now or might be put on hold because of the general election. To what extent is the president's campaign affecting what's going on in Iraq?

SENOR: As I said, the president's approach has been to not allow any domestic or other international matters outside of Iraq distract us from the task at hand. It's just not acceptable.

What we do is, we coordinate with the Iraqis. And, certainly, the Iraqis have sensitivities about when's the best time to move forward with military action, when's the best time to recede based on their own political timeline, setting up for elections in January and bringing other parties to the table.


ZAHN: So you deny the president is playing any politics here?

SENOR: Absolutely. Absolutely. We are working closely with the Iraqi government. The U.S. government is working closely with the Iraq government in making these decision because they're standing with us in this overall fight with the terrorists, and that's what's driving decision-making.

ZAHN: Dan Senor, thank you so much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.

SENOR: Good to be with you.

ZAHN: And in just a moment, I will ask two more guests, including Bush administration critic Pat Buchanan and a presidential defender, about the continuing violence in Iraq and how it's affecting the race for the White House.

But we have more than Iraq to talk about as well.


ZAHN (voice-over): Tonight, we put the 2004 election on the map, so to speak. A campaign snapshot of the electoral vote, a PRIME TIME POLITICS exclusive.


HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Howard Dean and I'm voting for John Kerry.

ZAHN: That was then. But what is Howard Dean saying about the Kerry campaign today?

And tonight's PRIME TIME POLITICS voting booth question: Is the situation in Iraq affecting your vote, more likely to vote for President Bush, more likely to vote for Senator Kerry, doesn't affect my vote at all? Just go to We'll have the results at the end of this hour.



ZAHN: And welcome back.

Tonight, we're focusing in on Iraq and a pair of upcoming elections, the U.S. race for president and the first democratic elections in Iraq scheduled for early next year.

Iraqi democracy is starting up amid violence and chaos. Here is a look at just the past week. Imagine a viable political process taking place against this background. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): U.S. soldiers fight insurgents in Baghdad's Sadr city. U.S. airstrikes hammer targets in the Fallujah area for the fourth day in a row. Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi marks September 11, noting what he calls the heavy price terrorism has inflicted around the globe.

An upsurge in violence. Car bombs, mortars and rockets shake Baghdad. Fighting is reported in other cities as well. Sunday's toll, 78 dead, 204 wounded. U.S. ground and air forces move against insurgents in Fallujah; 20 people are killed, including civilians. A car bombing and a drive-by shooting, both target police. Those attacks and other fighting leave 74 people dead, 184 wounded. Fighting in Ramadi; 11 more Iraqis die. Three headless bodies are found near Baghdad. And the U.S. military updates its overall death toll. It's now 1,020.

Two Americans and a Briton are kidnapped in central Baghdad.


ZAHN: And, as we reported earlier, even some prominent Republicans are questioning whether a more aggressive against the Iraq insurgency is being put off until after the presidential election in November.

Joining me from Washington to debate that, James Carafano is a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation. His specialty is defense and homeland security. And two-time presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, his new book is called "Where the Right Went Wrong."

Good evening, gentlemen. Glad to see both of you.



ZAHN: Good evening.

So, Pat, I want to start with you this evening.

Do you believe the presidential campaign is affecting war strategy?

BUCHANAN: Well, I think the president of the United States is going to have to take a decision after this election that he's not taken before as to whether or not we've got adequate forces in Iraq to win this war.


ZAHN: Don't you want him to make the decision now?

BUCHANAN: Well, maybe he's taken it in his own heart. But if I were him, I'd wait and after the election, I'd bring all those generals back and say, look, they've increased the number of insurgents from 5,000 to 20,000. Can we win the war with the forces in place or are we going to have to send 50,000 more troops? How long will we have to fight? How much blood and treasure would it cost? And what's the ultimate outcome likely to be?

ZAHN: But, Pat, you still didn't answer the question. Do you believe the president or his campaign is playing politics with this war?

BUCHANAN: No, I don't believe -- I don't know that they're playing politics with the war.

I do agree with "The Washington Times" and our publications that the president's going to make a decision with regard to taking down Fallujah and Ramadi and pacifying Sadr City. Do I know that he's put that off until after the election? No, I don't, but I do believe that's got to happen before you can have elections.

ZAHN: James, do you believe this administration would be more aggressive militarily in putting down the insurgency if there wasn't a general election just a couple months away?

CARAFANO: Politics should drive military action, but it's Iraqi politics. Clausewitz, the Prussian military philosopher, said it best, that war is an extension of politics.

We have to do three things in this country as an occupying power, prevent a humanitarian crisis, set up a legitimate government and get Iraqi domestic security forces in the field. Getting a legitimate government in place, that's the key. We're not going to snuff this insurgency out in the next 10 minutes or even -- no matter what level of violence we use.

The American military is not going to win this campaign against terrorism. And the key thing is to get a legitimate Iraqi government in place and whatever make that happens is what we need to do.

ZAHN: So, James, you still didn't answer the question. Are you saying that you don't believe the general election has anything to do with what's going on in the ground in Iraq?

CARAFANO: Well, you make a presumption that escalating violence is going to get rid of the terrorism and move the political process forward. And I'm not sure that's true.

Yes, Fallujah has to be dealt with. Yes,, Sadr has to be dealt with. Yes, the terrorists have to be dealt with. But the key thing, the most important thing, is to move the political process forward. So whatever works best for that, that's what we need to do. People want a short-term answer. They want this to be over by the 6:00 news and it's just not. It is going to over when the Iraqis have a legitimate government and when they have their own security forces to deal with this. Terrorist campaigns are a lot easier to do than they are to finish. It's going to take time. It's not going to end before the election no matter what we do.

ZAHN: For the record, here, both of you, gentlemen, I'm not making assumptions about any levels of violence.

What I want to move on to now, Pat, is the question of whether you believe, as John Kerry charged today, that the president is living in -- quote -- "a fantasy world of spin and is not leveling with the American public about what lies ahead in Iraq."

BUCHANAN: I think that -- to be honest, I think that the situation in Iraq, from what we know and we can see, is very, very serious and approaching the point of being grave.

I do not think we're rocketing right along toward free elections and democracy in Iraq. I think we've got a tremendous amount of fighting. I think when John McCain and others say it may take 10 years of fighting, I think they're being more realistic than what we're hearing from the Republicans in the campaign. I think that's very true, Paula. But I must say, I cannot hear my colleague on the other side, so that's why I'm not able to respond to him.

ZAHN: Oh, I'm so sorry that's happening.

Well, I'll replay it to you on the next answer.

James, you may have to say everything twice tonight.


ZAHN: So, James, you touched on the issue of elections. And Pat, you could hear what he just said. He doesn't believe, maybe, that the administration is being realistic about the timeline. And he brought up James -- excuse me, Senator McCain.


ZAHN: Do you think elections will be held in January on time?

CARAFANO: Well, again, the key thing is setting up a legitimate Iraqi government. Elections are just one step in that process. If they can be sooner, that's great. If they have to be done later, so be it.

But, again, you know, America is not going to win this war. Europe rebuilt Europe. Japan rebuilt Japan. The United States didn't do that. The people did that. All we can do is the prerequisites, lay the foundation. That's get the Iraqi government in place, get the domestic security forces in place, make sure there's not a humanitarian crisis.

And really the Iraqis are going to have to take responsibility for their own future. So it's not going to be all over by January one way or the other. So we need to focus on the key thing, which is the political process moving forward, not one election or a level of terrorism.


ZAHN: Did you hear any of that? Because the essence of what James was saying is, ultimately, it's going to be up to the Iraqis if this is going to work.

BUCHANAN: It is. Ultimately, I agree with him.

But let me say this, Paula. Look, you've got 20,000 or more insurgents. You've got 85 attacks a day, for heaven's sake. Reporters can't even leave the Green Zone. The Green Zone is not secure, according to the commanders there. You've got Fallujah or Ramadi or places that belong to the opposition. You've got long years of fighting ahead, if you're going to pacify this country and turn it over to a government which can control it with its own forces, its own police, its own army.

I don't think we're anywhere near there and I think we're going to have to make a decision, after this election, because it ain't coming before, as to whether we're going to go in, whether we're going to send in more troops and get this job done. We are at a Westmoreland moment. When Westmoreland came back to the United States in late '67 and said, I need 200,000 more troops to do it, and Lyndon Johnson said, no, you can't have them.

And I think we're approaching that moment, but I do believe it will wait until after the election.

ZAHN: James Carafano, Pat Buchanan, thank you for both of your perspectives, two distinctly different ones worth absorbing.

And sorry, Pat, you couldn't hear James.

BUCHANAN: I can hear you, Paula.

ZAHN: We'll make sure we book you for a return visit.

CARAFANO: Thanks a lot.


ZAHN: My pleasure.

The continuing violence in Iraq is just one of the factors that could move undecided voters in November. We have an exclusive look on how the election would play out today on the electoral map.

And Howard Dean's strong opinions of John Kerry as a campaigner. Our conversation coming up.


ZAHN: It has been two weeks since the Republican Convention.

And the very latest poll indicates we've moved past the president's bounce into a new phase of the campaign. A new nationwide poll by the Pew Research Center indicates John Kerry may be on a slight rebound. The race has tightened. The president is ahead 47-46 percent among likely voters. It is a 46-46 tie among all registered voters. But, as we all know from the 2000 election, it is the voting in each state and the Electoral College that will decide the race. And that brings us to our weekly look at the CNN Electoral College map.

For that, "INSIDE POLITICS" anchor Judy Woodruff joins me from Washington.

Good to see you. Welcome, Judy.


ZAHN: I wanted to start off tonight by talking about the Pew Research numbers first. They certainly indicate that we've got a very volatile electorate here, don't they?

WOODRUFF: Well, more volatile than some of us had expected. Something like a little under 40 percent of the electorate is strongly favoring George Bush right now, under 40 percent strongly favoring John Kerry.

What's interesting is there are about 25 percent of the people who we expect are going to go to the polls who say they aren't solidly with either candidate, or they haven't made up their minds and they're not sure if they may end up voting or not. So we are looking -- and this percentage, this 25 percent, Paula, has increased since the spring and summer. So this is an unusual election. Usually the undecided, volatile numbers get smaller. In this case, it's gotten a little bigger.

ZAHN: Do we know why?

WOODRUFF: Well, it's interesting. We can speculate a lot.

In my view, it's because the issues in this campaign have been all over the map, from Iraq to the economy to George Bush's National Guard service and what John Kerry did in Vietnam. It's been a very negative campaign. It is a campaign of high interest. You and I both know people are paying close attention to this campaign. So I think all of those things probably contribute.

ZAHN: Let's talk now about the electoral map. Every week, CNN releases its own analysis of the horse race as it stands today. If this election were held today, CNN projects Bush would receive 290 electoral vote to Kerry's 248. This map actually matches last week's, except this week CNN has split Maine's four electoral votes between the two candidates.

So when we look at this new analysis, how many states are truly toss-ups?

WOODRUFF: Two states today that are as close to toss-ups as you can get are Oregon and Pennsylvania. Now, those are states that just not very long ago were reliably in John Kerry's column, so that's not good news for John Kerry. On Election Day, it's impossible to say. There are a number of states that you could say are toss-ups, from Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Iowa. Those states, right now, we say they're leaning Kerry.

Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Wisconsin, we say right now they're leaning Bush, but that could change.

ZAHN: And that's why your team and our team here is going to pay very close attention to all these. Look forward to seeing you back next week when the new numbers come out.

Judy Woodruff, thanks.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: Time now to get some perspective on the numbers from the standpoint of the campaigns. The president is taking a bus through the pivotal state of Minnesota today -- that would be bus ride.

Senior White House correspondent John King is traveling with him. He joins us from Rochester.

Hi, John.

So we know the president lost in Minnesota in 2000. But these numbers have been a little encouraging to him, haven't they?


He lost by about two percentage points here last time. The Bush campaign says they view the race here right now as a dead heat. And they believe like Minnesota, like West Virginia last time, perhaps Iowa and Wisconsin in this campaign, they say something significant is happening and that we should watch.

If you look in rural communities, small-town communities, small cities like here in Rochester the Republicans say, very much like what happened in the South in the '70s is happening. Those rural towns are trending conservative, trending Republican. That's why you see the president campaigning so frequently these days not in big cities, but in very small communities. And they feel pretty good about their chances here in Minnesota.

No Republican has won here since 1972. I can tell you, I visited a local Democratic office today and they're nervous. They think they may lose this state. They're very worried. But they say, because they're worried, they're working hard. So a state you would think is a Democratic stronghold that will be fought, hard-fought, right to the very end, we think, Paula.

ZAHN: John, on to the issue of Iraq. We have talked throughout this show about this report came out this morning painting a pretty pessimistic picture in Iraq, at best showing a shaky democracy, at worst, a civil war. And both candidates stepped up their attacks on each other when it came to the issue of Iraq. How much of it has to do with that report this morning?

KING: Has very much, a lot to do with that report. And the candidate who gets the upper hand in this debate could well, strategists in both parties think, win the election.

Senator Kerry saying today said that that report, the intelligence assessment of possible civil war, very bleak outlook of the political transition, Senator John Kerry said that is proof that this president simply has not told the American people and not told the troops the truth, and that his Iraq policy is a failure.

Now the president here today saying that Senator Kerry has eight or nine, seven or eight positions on Iraq. He was for the war, then against it. He said spend more money. Now he says spend less.

The president is trying to convince the American people even if the situation on the ground might look bad, that putting John Kerry in charge of the war would make things worse because he is, in the president's view, indecisive.

The senator is trying to say you have an incumbent president who has failed, kick him out. Both campaigns think the one who has the upper hand at the end on that question could well win the election. And Paula, look for that question to dominate the first debate in this election, scheduled, if they reach agreement, for two weeks from tonight.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: We always listen to your predictions and projects. You're always on topic. John King, thanks so much.

Many Democrats who backed Howard Dean early on in the Democratic campaign are wondering what he is thinking these days. I'll ask him about the Kerry campaign, the National Guard dispute and much more. That's coming up.

And remember our "Prime Time Politics Voting Booth" is open. Tonight's question: "How is the situation in Iraq likely to affect your vote?" Go to and have your say.


ZAHN: On the campaign trail today Senator John Kerry went to Las Vegas to speak to the National Guard Association convention. He came armed with the day's headline story, that U.S. intelligence report we mentioned earlier that includes dark prospects for Iraq.

Here's Dan Lothian.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Taking advantage of President Bush's address to this same group two days ago, Senator John Kerry told National Guard members in Las Vegas the message they heard from him failed the truth test, especially on Iraq.

KERRY: He didn't tell you that with each passing day, chaos. More violence. Indiscriminate killings. He didn't tell you that with each passing week our enemies are actually getting bolder.

LOTHIAN: The crowd remained silent, mostly tepid response as Kerry charged on, saying they deserved better from their commander in chief.

KERRY: Those in uniform, those of you here are duty bound to carry out the orders of the commander in chief, and you do so with distinction. I know for those of you serving there is a special natural affection and a sense of duty with respect to that. I respect that.

LOTHIAN: Kerry, who has spent much of the week trying to focus his campaign on so-called pocketbook issues, is also aggressively turning up the heat of the president's record in Iraq, hoping to draw a clearer contrast for voters.

KERRY: And this is a hard truth: that our president has made serious mistakes in taking us to war in Iraq.

LOTHIAN: On Tuesday, President Bush received a warm welcome here as he touted his efforts to assist members of the National Guard.

Kerry also appeared to connect with guard members when telling them about his plans to make their lives better with improved health benefits.

KERRY: How can we refuse to give them the same resources and the same respect that we give to the regular troops? I believe we can make better choices.

LOTHIAN: There was no mention of the controversy over Bush's service in the Guard. Some here say questions about that and Kerry's Vietnam record are non-issues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could care less about his Vietnam service 35 years ago. We could care less about George Bush's National Guard service 35 years ago. We're interested in the present.


ZAHN: John Kerry's one-time Democratic rival, Howard Dean, is on Kerry's side now, and former Governor Dean joins us from South Burlington, Vermont.

Good to see you. Welcome, sir.


ZAHN: We're going to quickly review the electoral map that we shared with our audience just about five minutes ago. And it shows that if the election were to be held today, George Bush would win. Why do you think that is?

DEAN: I don't know and I don't really think about it very much. Those questions are all interesting, but the election's not going to be held today. It's going to be held in about 47 days.

Much to my chagrin John Kerry's a very strong closer, and I think he's going to do fine.

The facts don't support the president. That's the problem. The president can be as cheerful and upbeat and resolute. But if you're resolute and you're leading us in the wrong direction that's not very good. I think in the next 47 days the American public's going to figure that out.

ZAHN: The president has come out swinging against John Kerry. In particular, what he calls his eight positions on Iraq. You were the antiwar candidate. Do you believe that John Kerry has bungled the Iraq issue?

DEAN: I think that's -- that would be a preposterous thing to say. George Bush is the one that's bungled Iraq.

The reason why I didn't support this war is because the president didn't tell us the truth about why we're there. And I think when you're president of the United States you do not send a thousand American men and women to their death without being truthful to their parents and to their families about why they're going.

There was no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam never had anything to do with Al Qaeda. He was never a danger to the United States. And you don't have to believe me. All you've got to do is go to the bookstore and buy the 9/11 Commission report.

This president led us to war without telling us the truth. For that reason alone he's not qualified to be elected.

ZAHN: So since you obviously believe that the president, as you just said, misled the American public, was it a mistake for candidate Kerry, when posed the question, "If you had to go back to do it all over again would you vote the same way, vote to authorize the war and then not vote to fund it?"

DEAN: I know what John was saying when he said that. What he was saying was, "I think we ought to be able to give the president of the United States the power to conduct foreign policy." That has been a bipartisan position for many, many years.

So, you know, I understand what John was saying. Under normal circumstances, Republicans and Democrats would rally around the president. We did that around 9/11; we rallied around this president. We rallied around this president when he went to war in Afghanistan, which I think was the right thing to do.

But he -- when you're not truthful, that never leads to good policy. The president wasn't truthful, and I'm supporting John Kerry vigorously for that reason. We can't afford to be misled by the president of the United States.

ZAHN: Help me understand the numbers here, Governor. Even the president has conceded there were miscalculations in the post-war plan. There was a devastating report that was released today showing some pessimistic predictions about what would happen in Iraq.

Yet look at these numbers. The president still leads John Kerry in a significant way on the issue of Iraq. When people were asked what do you trust most to handle the situation in Iraq, it is the president by some 20 points. Why?

DEAN: Well, you know, I can't tell you the answer to that. My actual belief is that they are unacquainted with the facts.

I'm not the least bit worried about these poll results right now. I have been here before. I can tell you. I was a frontrunner for three months. And if polls were so accurate, then I probably wouldn't be sitting in front of you, I'd probably be in an audience of 10,000 people somewhere giving a speech.

So you know, the only poll that counts, as I always used to say is the poll on election day and that's the one we ought to be focusing on.

Sooner or later the public's going to figure out that it's not in their economic best interest to vote for George Bush, no matter how charming he is and how many times he repeats things that aren't true.

ZAHN: But do you not concede that John Kerry bears some of the responsibility for these numbers because of all of the flip-flops that have been pointed out by the Republicans and even some Democrats concur with?

DEAN: Should John defend himself vigorously? I think he should. I thought today's speech was a very tough speech, a very good speech in front of an audience that needed to be reminded that President Bush talks about defending the country, but then 20 percent of National Guard people in this country don't have health insurance.

ZAHN: Do you believe it was a mistake for John Kerry not to turn up the heat earlier on the president?

DEAN: You know, that -- in medicine we have something called the retrospectoscope. That's an instrument where you always get right because you're always two weeks after all the...

ZAHN: Yes. Well, how would it read on your retrospectoscope?

DEAN: That's all woulda, coulda, shoulda. Should he have done this, and should he have done that? Maybe he should have done this? That's not helpful.

Where we are now, and what we need to do in the next 47 days is what's most helpful. I think John is on the right track. I think he's hammering the president every single day, because the president says one thing and does another. The truth is that George Bush has got more flip-flops in him than John Kerry ever thought of having.

ZAHN: Governor Dean, we've got to leave it there for the moment. Please stand by. We're going to come back to you straight out of the break.


ZAHN: And we are back now with former presidential candidate and former governor, Howard Dean.

Sir, even you would have to concede, you were highly critical of candidate Kerry. I want to read to our audience something you said as recently as February of this year.

Quote, "We now see Senator Kerry is supporting the Bush agenda on war, supporting the agenda on No Child Left Behind; Senator Kerry supports the kind of corrupt fundraising that George Bush has also employed. I intend to support the Democratic nominee under any circumstances. I'm just deeply disappointed that once again we may have to settle for the lesser of two evils."

Governor, do you regret having said that?

DEAN: Look, John Kerry and I had a knockdown, drag out fight. I'm a very competitive person. But I care deeply about America, and I want a president who is willing to restore America's moral greatness.

I just got back from Europe. I can tell you that people despise America in many of the countries that I went to, and they despise our president. I don't want to live in a country like that.

This country was the moral leader of the world until George Bush became president. I want a president who will bring us back to that, and I think John Kerry's that president.

So yes, I had a tough, knockdown drag out fight with John Kerry. I don't shrink from battles. But there's not any question in my mind that John Kerry will balance the budget. He'll bring healthcare to people, and he'll make us the moral leader of the world not just the military leader of the world.

And that's what I want in the president, and that's why I'm supporting John Kerry, and it's not hard for me to do, believe it.

ZAHN: Let's move on to issue of the CBS News National Guard story and whether you think it will have any traction at all on election day.

DEAN: You know, I actually think that in the long run people don't decide about who did what in Vietnam and who did what in the National Guard and so forth and so on. I think in the long run they decide who should be the president of the United States based on their credibility.

I don't think George Bush has much credibility left. He blundered into Iraq. He sacrificed a thousand American lives because he wasn't truthful about what was going on in Iraq. He's -- Iraq gets worse every day because he doesn't listen to the military's advice on the issue.

We have a half a trillion-dollar deficits. The budget's not balanced. Our jobs are going to China, Brazil and Mexico.

You know, I think eventually Americans are going to decide that what they really want is a competent person who's going to think through the issues carefully and be truthful with the American people.

ZAHN: Even some of John Kerry's advisers have told us that those issues have gotten all but drowned out, because John Kerry focused in on Vietnam at the convention. That it is his fault that the American public got sidetracked by that issue.

DEAN: I don't think that is actually true. I think that, for example, you saw today President Bush attacking John Kerry on health care, just making stuff up that wasn't so.

Now, finally the president thinks that he can start to talk about domestic agendas. I think that's going to be a big mistake for the president, because he gets about a zero in every major domestic agenda piece that there is. Those issues matter to people.

Right now this entertainment. Frankly, the swift boat stuff is entertainment. The stuff about the president's National Guard stuff or lack of it is entertainment. That's what the media likes to focus on. That's what they'll spend their time on.

But the stuff that Americans are going to vote on is what's going to happen to their families, and they're going to decide that about two weeks before the election.

ZAHN: Could Ralph Nader cost John Kerry the election?

DEAN: I think Ralph Nader's deeply hurt himself. I happen to think that Ralph Nader's 40-year career was an outstanding career in the service of Americans.

But he's gotten on the ballot with the help of antigay right wing groups. He's gotten on the ballot with the help of the Republican chairs in places like Michigan and Arizona. He's gotten on the ballot by taking large amounts of money from George Bush's power rangers or whatever they're called, raising all that money.

You know, Ralph is -- was a great American and a great servant of the public, but this has become about Ralph Nader. If you're willing to take support from the right wing to get on the ballot, there's something the matter with you. And people know that.

ZAHN: Do you think anybody will be able to talk him out of the race, or do you think he's in it up until the end?

DEAN: No, I don't think so. I mean, lord knows everybody I know has tried, but he's become obsessed with this. I just hate to see him go out this way. And I can't understand it. I just scratch my head and think what has become of this person.

It's not a bad thing to run, because I think people have a right to run for president as third parties. And third parties traditionally have done a lot for the American political debate.

But it's a bad thing to take money from people whose principles you completely disagree with and get on the ballot and then pretend you're doing something in the service of democracy. And that's what Ralph's doing.

ZAHN: We really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks so much for joining us.

DEAN: Thanks very much. And I'll make the prediction right now, November 3, John Kerry will be the president-elect.

ZAHN: All right. We'll come back to you on November 4 and see if you got it right.

DEAN: That's right.

ZAHN: Thank you.

DEAN: Thanks very much.

ZAHN: Back now to the issue of the president's National Guard service, the uproar over disputed documents has the talk radio show airwaves crackling with controversy. Two radio hosts weigh in on the latest great divide in American politics when we come back.


ZAHN: The CBS News report on the president's National Guard service and the dispute over documents in that report, that's the stuff talk radio hosts and their fans live for. So tonight we're pitting conservative versus liberal.

Joining us now from Washington, G. Gordon Liddy, host of "The G. Gordon Liddy Show," and with me here in New York, Katherine Lanpher, cohost of "The Al Franken Show."

Welcome to both of you.


ZAHN: Gordon, is it your belief that President Bush got preferential treatment to get into the National Guard to avoid serving in Vietnam?

G. GORDON LIDDY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, there is a myth that there was this long line of people trying to get into the National Guard, over which he was jumped by like 150 places.

The fact is there was a long line for those who sought to be enlisted members of the Air National Guard. There was no line of people seeking to be fighter pilots. I mean, just the qualifications alone for eyesight would keep it from being a long line.

So there was -- there was no preference that way at all.

ZAHN: But Katherine, at the center of the storm is a secretary who basically now has said, while she doesn't believe the memos are genuine, they accurately reflect her boss's concern that in fact, then, George W. Bush was getting special treatment.

LANPHER: To me it's such a 21st Century moment that you have this wonderful 86-year-old secretary that says her head and says, "They're fake but they're true." What are we supposed to get from that?

And one of the things I think you can glean is that George Bush did get some preferential treatment. Otherwise, how do you get an honorable discharge when you don't show up for duty when you're supposed to in Boston?

ZAHN: What about that, Gordon?

LIDDY: OK. First of all, you get an honorable discharge for six years if you've got 300 points. Now President Bush had more than double that number of points, including two complete steady years of extended active duty and training as a fighter pilot.

Secondly, with respect to the lovely 86-year-old woman, she is an anti-Bush partisan who has said, "Bush was selected, not elected." I hardly think that she is a credible witness on this.

ZAHN: Why is she a credible witness to you? You can't -- you can't remove that from the equation here?

LANPHER: I -- I think that if you look at reporting that's already been there by the "Boston Globe," the Dallas papers, I think the "Washington Post" as well, there is some sort of story here.

Although I have to say what actually really worries me is all of this focus on Dan Rather and his career, were they forgeries, they're not forgeries. They're obfuscating much bigger issues that the American public should be dealing with. And I think to its credit the American public knows that, which is why they're not paying that much attention here.

ZAHN: Another question to you, Gordon. There was a piece in "The New York Times" written Maureen Dowd suggesting it was a fantasy of the Democrats to believe that Karl Rove, a chief adviser to the president, had something to do with the dumping of this document into CBS' hands.

Your reaction to that?

LIDDY: Well, it's so sad. It's a paranoid fantasy. I think Maureen Dowd had that correctly.

The fact is that these documents are as phony as the war record and medals of John Kerry, and everybody knows it. And poor Dan Rather, I think he so wanted it to be true that, in spite of the fact that before he went on the air with it, several highly trained document examiners said, "Don't go with this, Dan; they're phony," but he went with them and he got trapped.

ZAHN: All right. But as you know, Katherine, in a statement from CBS News last night, they maintain those people did not express the reservation that they're now publicly expressing.

LANPHER: One of the things you have to remember is that news is a business. You go out of business if you do bad news. I think there's more to say on the story.

ZAHN: Does Dan Rather lose his job?


ZAHN: All right. We will have you back and see if your prediction holds true. G. Gordon Liddy, Katherine Lanpher, thank you for joining us.

And we're going to be right back with the results of tonight's "Prime Time Politics Voting Booth" poll.


ZAHN: Here are the results now of tonight's "Voting Booth" question, "How is the Iraq situation likely to affect your vote?" Here's what you had to say. Eleven percent said more likely to vote for the president. Eighty-six percent said more likely to vote for Senator Kerry. Three percent said, "It doesn't affect my vote at all."

This, of course, is not a scientific poll by any means, just a sampling of audience feedback. And we love hearing from you every night. Keep it coming.

We're glad you could be with us tonight. That wraps it up for all of us here. Tomorrow, more on the unfolding developments in the dispute over the president's National Guard records.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next with the latest on the aftermath of deadly Hurricane Ivan. Again, thanks for joining us tonight. Hope you'll be back with us, same time, same place tomorrow night. Good night.


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