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Gore Endorses Dean

Aired December 9, 2003 - 08:36   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It looks like Howard Dean is taking the podium. Let's break away and listen.
HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER GOVERNOR: I want to note that we have the speaker of the city council here, Gifford Miller. I don't where he is, but I know he's here. We thank him for being here.

And I also want to note, in addition to our special guest, that we have Karenna Gore here.

And we thank you very much for being here as well.


I am deeply grateful to my former roommate, Ralph Dawson, and all his friends and committee that put this together. It is great to be back in Harlem and I really appreciate all the community leaders that have come out.

And I thank you for your help.

I am, of course, going to make very brief remarks. When we set this even up, I had absolutely no idea that we were going to have the elected president of the United States here with us today.



And I am very, very grateful for our special guest.

I'm just going to make a few very, very short remarks.

First, I think many of you know that this campaign is about some issues that are important: about jobs in America again; about investing -- instead of giving $3 trillion worth of tax cuts to the top 1 percent of Americans, it's about mass transit and schools and investing in roads and bridges and renewable energy and broadband telecommunications so we can eliminate the digital divide and have jobs all over America.

DEAN: It's about health insurance for every American. In my state, everybody under 18 has health insurance. And if we can do those kinds of things in a small rural state, we can do that in the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the face of the Earth.

It's about educational opportunity. It's about a president who says, "No child left behind," but leaves many children behind. We're going to change that and this time there really will be no child left behind. We're going to start right here in Harlem.


But there's also a much broader theme, and that is a theme to do with community. When I was 21 years old, it was toward the end of the civil rights movement, and it had been a very difficult time for America. Martin Luther King had been killed, Bobby Kennedy had been killed and a number of other people, including four little girls in a Birmingham church, gave their lives so that every American could have equal rights under the law.

But it was also a time of extraordinary hope, a time where we felt like we were all in it together; that if one person was left behind, then America wasn't as good as it could be or as strong as it should be.

That's the kind of America we want back again, the America where Medicare passed for the first time, Head Start passed, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, the first African-American justice of the United States Supreme Court.

A time when it wasn't enough for me, as a citizen of Vermont, to say, "I wanted good schools," or you, as a citizen of New York, to say, you want good schools. But I had a responsibility not just to have good schools in Vermont or you to have good schools in New York, but as Americans we had a responsibility to have good schools in our states and our towns and good schools in Alabama and in Mississippi and in Brownsville, Texas, and in Oakland, California, and East New York; that was our responsibility too.


What we want is our community back and our country back, the country where we are all in this together.

It is an extraordinary honor for me to be standing on the stage with someone who I have admired greatly, who has taught me a great deal during this campaign on issues such as foreign policy, such as defense.

DEAN: He's an extraordinary human being who I have gotten to know over the past few years, someone who has a long career in public service, who served his country honorably in the armed services, someone who I believe in and somebody who we believe in and we admire.

It is an honor and privilege to present to you former Vice President of the United States Al Gore.


AL GORE, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE) I'm really proud and happy to be here with you. It's great to be back in Harlem. We shot basketball together one of the last times I was here.

Howard Dean and I are traveling from here to Iowa, and I'm going to make a more extensive speech at Cedar Rapids a little bit later today, but I said when I announced last year that I was not going to be a candidate for president myself that I would endorse one of the candidates who is running. And I had no idea at that time which candidate that would be.

But I have watched this campaign and I have listened to all of the candidates. I think it's a great field. There are a lot of great Democratic candidates out there. But what I'm about to say doesn't come as a secret or as a surprise to anybody within the sound of my voice, and that is that Howard Dean really is the only candidate who has been able to inspire, at the grassroots level all over this country, the kind of passion and enthusiasm for democracy and change and transformation of America that we need in this country.


We need to remake the Democratic Party. We need to remake America. We need to take it back on behalf of the people of this country.

GORE: So I'm very proud and honored to endorse Howard Dean to be the next president of the United States of America.


Democracy is a team sport, and I want to do everything I can to convince anybody that is interested in my judgment about who among these candidates has the best chance to win and the best chance to lead our country in the right direction -- I want do everything I can to convince you to get behind Howard Dean and let's make this a successful campaign as a group.

It is about all of us. And all of us need to get behind the strongest candidate.

Now, I respect the prerogative of the voters and caucuses and in the primaries and I'm just one person, but I'm offering my judgment.

And I'm also going to say one other thing here. Years ago, former President Ronald Reagan said in the Republican Party that there ought to be an 11th Commandment, "Speak no ill of another Republican."

Well, now, we're Democrats and we may well not find that kind of commandment as accessible. But to the extent that we can recognize the stakes in America today, I would urge all of the other candidates and campaigns to keep their eyes on the prize. Here we are in Harlem. We need to keep our eyes on the prize.

This nation cannot afford to have four more years of a Bush- Cheney administration. GORE: We can't afford to be divided among ourselves to the point that we lose sight of how important it is for America.


What is going on in this Bush White House today is bad for our country. And it's slowly beginning to sink in to more and more people out there. And we don't have the luxury of fighting among ourselves to the point where we seriously damage our ability to win on behalf of the American people this time around.

Now, one other thing: I've spent a long time thinking about national security and national defense, and I've heard a lot of folks, who in my opinion made a judgment about the Iraq war that was just plain wrong, saying that Howard Dean's decision to oppose the Iraq war calls his judgment on foreign policy into question.

Well, excuse me. He was the only major candidate who made the correct judgment about the Iraq war.


And he had the insight and the courage to say and do the right thing. And that's important...


... because those judgments, that basic common sense, is what you want in a president.

Our country has been weakened in our ability to fight the war against terror because of the catastrophic mistake that the Bush administration made in taking us into war in Iraq. It was Osama bin Laden that attacked us, not Saddam Hussein.


Saddam Hussein is a bad guy and he's better off not in power. We're all better off. But it was a mistake to get us into a quagmire over there.

So don't tell me that because Howard Dean was the only major candidate who was right about that war, that that somehow calls his judgment into question on foreign policy.

So whether it is inspiring enthusiasm at the grassroots and promising to remake the Democratic Party as a force for justice and progress and good in America, whether it is a domestic agenda that gets our nation back on track, or whether it is protecting us against terrorists and strengthening our nation in the world, I have come to the conclusion that in a field of great candidates, one candidate clearly now stands out.

GORE: And so I'm asking all of you to join in this grassroots movement to elect Howard Dean president of the United States. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

DEAN: Mr. Vice President, I want to thank you for your generous and thoughtful words, particularly those words that said that the 11th Commandment now also ought to apply to Democrats. As you know, I've been picking buckshot out of my rear end in these some of these debates, and we're going up to New Hampshire tonight and see if I do some more.


And I particularly appreciate all the people that put this event together.

I think it's important that we started in Harlem. And the reason I think it's important that we started in Harlem is because in 2002 we lost a lot of races in the Democratic Party because we decided that we were going to go to the swing votes and we were going to try to get them and our base is going to come along later on.

I think it's important in this campaign that we recognize those people who were with us all the time.


And so we made a conscious decision to start with women, to start with the African-American community, to start with the Latino community, to start with the trade union movement, and make sure that people understood that when they went to the polls this time we lost five great governors and some senators in the last three years because our campaign was, "I voted with the president 85 per cent of the time."

If you're a Democrat and your campaign is that you voted 85 percent of the time with the president who's the most conservative -- well, he's not a conservative -- radical president since we've had -- in my lifetime, then of course, the people are going to say, "Let's vote for the guy that's going to be with the president 100 percent of the time."

I thank Al Gore for his extraordinary leadership in this party in the last couple of years. I told him -- and I'm embarrassing him in front of you all -- but I told him -- you know how I am; I say what I think, for better or worse -- I told him that the two best speeches in this campaign were given for somebody who's not running for president. And that was his March speech and his September speech about the war and about foreign policy.


We have needed a strong, steady hand in this party. And I appreciate Al's willing to stand up and be one.

And so let me thank you again.

This event turned out a little differently than I expected. A little more higher profile.


The one thing I regret is that I have not had a chance to come around and meet all of the people individually who have come here and made this event. I am proud to be here in the city of my birth. I am proud to be here in the capital of African-American community in the country in the United States of America, a community that goes back a long, long time and has contributed so much to America.

And I am very proud of your support. This campaign is not about Howard Dean going to the White House. This campaign is about us going to the White House, all of us. And I look forward to the day, on January 20th, 2005, when we do what Andrew Jackson, another great Tennessean, did: We will open the doors to the White House and let the American people back in.

Thanks very much.


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: It's official, official now in Harlem, Al Gore throws his weight behind Howard Dean. We'll measure the impact throughout the morning and the day here. Back to Jeff Greenfield quickly, though, you heard the strong words from Al Gore, "a catastrophic mistake to get us into a quagmire regarding Iraq."

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: You know, Soledad was asking whether there was an Al Gore version 2.0. The tone of this thing, when he got to Iraq, was very blunt. About the other candidates, he said, excuse me, he was -- you know that Steve Martin thing, excuse me, he was the only major candidate who made the right judgment, and said, don't tell me this guy can't deal with national security when the Bush people and some of the Democrat candidates supported him in getting us into what he calls a quagmire, that's a Vietnam phrase.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: No surprise he's really highlighting his connection with the African-American community. Obviously, he's In Harlem, he's surrounded by a lot of black elected officials. But I saw you sort of write down a lot when he talked about the mistake as actually looking for a swing vote as opposed to the Democratic Party, really focusing on the people who have always been with them, African-Americans across the country.

GREENFIELD: This has been a theme of Dean's campaign from the very beginning. I heard him say the same thing up in New Hampshire months ago and it's a very controversial notion, because the notion has been, you have to go for the 10 percent to 15 percent who are in the middle. The other theory is no, it's an increasingly polarized country. The way Democrats have to win is to fire up -- this the phrase, fire up the base.

So what struck me was how knows he's on national television, he's speaking to a whole country, and Howard Dean is very clearly sticking with that message, go to your base first, fire them up, and we'll worry about the swing voters later. That is a clear strategic decision. What I think some people are say, is it the right one?

O'BRIEN: We've got Victor Kamber and Clifford May standinby by for us, and so let's go to them, because we've been listening in on this announcement, as we all have all been.

First, just give me overall an assesment. Victor, why don't we start with you?

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Terrific morning for Howard Dean, no question about it. Al Gore was at his top form. It's another indication, validation, of Howard Dean as the front-runner. It's not over yet. There's clearly -- you know, first vote hasn't been cast. But clearly there's no doubt this is a big, big plus for dean.

O'BRIEN: Cliff, what do you think, as we heard from Jeff just a moment ago, a very different Al Gore taking the stand at the podium there.

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMM. DIR.: Well, yes, Gore is -- one of the more interesting things Gore said is he wants to remake the Democratic Party as well. And he's bid fair to do that, because essentially, he's saying he wants this to be his candidate, not Bill Clinton's and Hillary's candidate, and that does, in fact, remake the Democratic Party. I think it is over before the first vote is cast. I think the other candidates don't know what to do. And Gore said, you can't do the one thing that can help you win against Dean is attack Dean. If you don't attack Dean, you don't win, so it's over right now. Then you have a couple of other important things.

Gore branding Dean as the anti-war candidate, very bold, risky. And also you have to ask yourself, does Gore want to be secretary of state in a Dean administration, even though that's going to mean that Hillary doesn't run for president in 2008.

O'BRIEN: We certainly heard in fact Al Gore talking about his own comfort in national security, his own comfort in national defense. But, Victor, do you think when he was chiding everyone to keep their eyes on the prize, people in the Democratic Party, keep your eyes on the prize, essentially saying he believes Howard Dean can be elected, and by looking at these other candidates, that's going to chip away at the support of the Democratic Party, do you think that, in fact, as we're hearing from Cliff, this is a shoo-in, it's over at this point?

KAMBER: Well, as I say, I don't think it's over. I think there's no question this enhances Howard Dean, it continues to make him the front-runner, it gives him more of the natural base of the party, and it does chip away at the notion that he's not electable.

One of the things that the other candidates and the Republicans, Karl Rove, has said, is that he could be the weakest candidate. I think what happened this morning, and what Al Gore is saying will continue to happen in the Dean campaign is to say, that's ridiculous, that not only does he have this excitement out there, this enthusiasm, he is going back to the base of the party, he will continue to have the base of the party. And if he's the nominee, I assume we'll see an extremely close race in November, right down to the wire, with both candidates being equally polarizing to their own segment of the parties.

MAY: But, Victor, if it's not over, you tell me as a strategist what other candidates...

KAMBER: You said it, they've got to attack him, they've got to find a vulnerability, an achille's heel, or he's got to destroy himself, which I don't see happening right now.

MAY: And here's the problem -- I think Jeff would back me up on thsi. The candidate that attacks Dean may hurt Dean, but may not hurt himself, the blowback. And none of the candidates now in the race wants to help any other candidate. They may want good relations with Dean if they think he's absolutely going to be the candidate, which is why I think it's pretty much over, but it is a risky and very bold approach they're taking.

KAMBER: The only thing I can say is that exactly this time in 1991, Bill Clinton was 2 percent in the polls, running against a field, and he ended up being the nominee and the president. So anything can happen. Howard Dean is, today, the front-runner.

O'BRIEN: As everyone has said, nobody's voted yet. All right, guys, thanks, as always, appreciate it.

Cliff May and Victor Kamber joining us this morning as well.


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