Saturday, May 26, 2007

Howard Dean on Ring of Fire

Thanks to floridagal for the heads-up that Howard Dean was going to be on Ring of Fire this afternoon. Below is a transcript of most of the segment.

David Bender: When you were out there doing the 50-state strategy, how important was it that there was a balance, particularly of radio, in the world?

Howard Dean: Well, as you know, right wing radio is, as I call it, "hate radio", and it takes advantage of the very worst that people have to offer. They're always appealing to people's bigotries and people's prejudices and racism and all that other stuff. So, what I like to think of Air America as, is a place for optimism and idears. And I think that's really by and large, what it's been. We need a place where Americans can tune in and listen to things that are going to be good about America. Different ways of doing things, and not the kind of fearmongering and hatemongering that goes on on the right.

David Bender: Speaking of which, last week we saw the passing of Jerry Falwell, and Republicans were jumping all over themselves to eulogize him. What do you think his legacy is to the political process.

Howard Dean: I think he has been an incredibly divisive person in terms of American history. He did appeal to sometimes the very worst in people--the anti-gay stuff, the racism that was going on at Liberty University with White folks not being able to date Black folks and stuff like that. So, you know, it's a mixed bag. He certainly was a potent political force in the Republican party, but in some ways he represented the worst of the Republican party.

David Bender: And we saw, what was so interesting, in the debate a few weeks ago, three Republican candidates raising their hands saying they didn't believe in the theory of evolution. Isn't this part and parcel of appealing to the Falwells and the Pat Robertsons of the Republican party?

Howard Dean: Those folks are a passing generation. The Democrats are actually starting to reach out to Evangelicals. Young Evangelicals would rather hear what we're going to do about Darfur, poverty and global warming than they would beat up on their gay neighbor. And you know, in some ways, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and Oral Roberts and these people are dinosaurs. They're people who represent the anger part of Christianity, and there really is no justifiable anger part of Christianity--they're showmen, they make money off it. But the new generation are people that are emphasizing what was really in Jesus' message, which had to do with reaching out to people, taking care of the least among us. It's a much more American message, and the young, smart Evangelical preachers are creating *huge* congregations with that kind of a message of hope. And that's something the Democrats can work with, and I'm looking forward to that.

David Bender: Well, you have been reaching out to them. We've talked about that in the past. And that's a perfect opportunity to talk about the fact that you have not written off any state in the union. I want us to tick this two years as chairman, the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, took control of the Senate, won a majority of the nation's governorships, and added ten new chambers in state legislatures. And then, James Carville said you should step down the next day, because, of course, that makes sense...

Howard Dean: The generations are passing in every institution, including ours. (Laughter). Look, I didn't do all that stuff by myself, without Chuck Schumer we don't win the Senate, and without Rahm Emanuel we don't win the House. It was a team effort. But, what we did do is go into new territory. Territory like Kansas and Minnesota and upstate New York--territories that hadn't been aggressively attacked. And of course we're delighted that we won the majority in the House and the Senate, but the really exciting thing is that we forced the president and the vice president to be campaigning in Idaho and Nebraska the last two weekends of that campaign.

David Bender: You put them on defense.

Howard Dean: You gotta be playing offense all the time. When you start playing defense, which we've been doing for thirty years, then you're not winning. And now we're winning, and we're winning because we're asking everybody for their vote. There's not a vote that I'm afraid to ask for, and we do not have to give up our principles to ask people that don't agree with us for their votes. People will respect you if you respect them, and that's something we've learned by watching the terrible mistakes of the president. The president has not just been incompetent because of his policy mistakes. He's been incompetent because he set out from the beginning of his presidency to only be the president of half the people. And we want to be the president of ALL the people, including those that don't vote for us.

David Bender: And you took the words right out of my mouth, because, in fact, not giving up our principles involves being able to stand strong in opposing this war. And we saw candidates in unlikely places, people like Jim Webb in Virginia, John Tester in Montana, who, in red states, ran against this war and won majorities.

Howard Dean: That's right. I think that people understand now that when you don't tell the truth about why you're going to war, the war effort's not likely to be successful. And the president and his folks simply didn't tell America the truth.

David Bender: I've asked you this before, Governor--what does it feel like to have been essentially four years ahead of your time? (Laughter) You were a lonely voice--within the Democratic party, I might point out, calling for an end to this war. How did it feel to you watching people come around?

Howard Dean: You were part of that campaign, and I think you remember the day that I said capturing Saddam Hussein would not make us any safer, which created a huge uproar. Unfortunately, "I told you so" is not a good campaign slogan. So, I'm happy doing what I'm doing. We have a *great* field of people running for president. It's a great time to be chairman of the DNC, and I'm really looking forward to seeing our presidential candidate win.