HH: I begin with my debating partner from later tonight. I’m going to be debating Dr. Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, former presidential candidate. Governor Dean and I will be debating at Houston’s Baptist University at 7:30 tonight if anyone in the Houston area wants to join us. Governor Dean, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
HD: Thanks for having me on, I think (laughing).
HH: Ah, it’s going to be fun tonight. This is the interview portion. Tonight, we can mix it up, but I want to start with a few quick questions for you. Will you absolutely, unequivocally rule out seeking the Democratic nomination in 2012?
HH: Not a chance?
HH: Do you expect anyone to challenge President Obama?
HD: I don’t. Look, I’ve been in this business for a long time. When either party has a challenger, that doesn’t help at the end of the day. Pat Buchanan running against George H.W. Bush, Ted Kennedy running against Jimmy Carter, it’s just not helpful. And the president and I may have some disagreements, but I want a Democrat to win.
HH: We’ve had a pretape of Bill Kristol for an interview so we can be debating later, and Bill thought you were setting yourself up for some kind of a challenge from the left. It’s just never crossed your mind?
HH: Okay. In terms of the Republican side, what do you make of Sarah Palin?
HD: Very charismatic, articulate, not very knowledgeable about the issue, and she could win the nomination if she decides to win.
HH: Do you think she’s going to?
HD: I don’t know. I mean, you know, first of all, this is the sort of the inside the Beltway speculation game. And I don’t think I’m all that good at it on the Democratic side, leave alone the side that I don’t know much about. So I don’t know. I mean, I think you have to know Sarah Palin to have any kind of insight into whether she’s really going to do it or not, and I don’t know her.
HH: You came this close to running the board. What do people need to know about Iowa that you didn’t know when you started?
HD: It’s the most complicated state. I knew all the other 49 states, but I didn’t know the operation in Iowa, didn’t know how it worked. It’s just a very complicate, not terribly democratic process. And so, but I believed that after Iowa this past time around, that Obama not only could win, but could be president, because you have to be so incredibly well-organized, and so incredibly well-disciplined, and have a team that you can trust in order to win. It is an incredible test of the first test of a presidential campaign, which we unfortunately did not pass.
HH: Do you see anyone on the left being sufficiently upset with the president’s policies that they mount a symbolic challenge to him there, or in New Hampshire?
HD: Well, you can always have that, but nobody’s going to beat the president.
HH: No one’s going to beat him, but is there, do you see, do you hear that?
HD: I don’t think, no, I don’t, because it’s just, it would be nothing but a symbolic challenge. He wouldn’t, the person wouldn’t win a primary.
HH: Do you think Vice President Biden will be on the ticket in 2012?
HD: I hope so. I think he’s an enormous asset. The criticisms of the president had to do with not connecting with people at their kitchen table. Well, nobody’s ever accused Joe Biden of not being able to connect with people at their kitchen tables. So I think he provides great balance, and he really does connect with ordinary Americans. I think he’s a terrific asset.
HH: Quite a lot of speculation of a Hillary Clinton for Joe Biden swap, sending the Vice President to State, and putting Mrs. Clinton on the ticket.
HD: No, I think that’s just speculation. Hugh, people in Washington love to do that. They just do that for games, and often times, they’ll just invent stuff like that, and then pass it around A) to show that they are in the know, and B) to start stuff and stir stuff up. I think that’s nonsense.
HH: Who is the most formidable Republican as you look out for the fifteen months from now, Republicans vote in Iowa. Who would you least like to see come out of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida as the Republican nominee to take on President Obama.
HD: Same reason I was most afraid of him the last time. Very articulate, and he’s got plenty of money. He is good looking and all that kind of stuff, and that matters. I suspect strongly that his personal life is squeaky clean, very bright. And the interesting thing, however, though, is of course Obamare and Romneycare are one and the same. So Obama’s health care plan, we’ll get into this tonight, but I actually think Obama’s health care plan was incredibly bipartisan, despite the fact that I don’t think it got one single vote in either chamber, when all was said and done. And the reason is it was a carbon copy of something that Governor Romney passed in Massachusetts.
HH: You know, it’s interesting you would say that. And this is one of our fundamental differences of political theory.
HH: The fact that it was done at the state level and not the federal level makes it a different order, and different kind completely. It’s good to try those things on at the state level. It’s terrible to try them on in D.C.
HD: Not necessarily. I think one of the reasons I ended up supporting the bill, I didn’t like the bill, and we can talk about why I don’t like the bill tonight, but one of the reasons that I thought that it was worth supporting is because I think Massachusetts passed it four or five years ahead of the federal government, and they’re going to learn a lot from that. There are going to have to be some, I don’t believe this bill is health care reform. I think it’s simply an extension of the existing system, which I think is in bad shape and very expensive, and isn’t working right. And I think we’re going to learn a lot from what happens in Massachusetts. They’re going to have to undertake some really big reforms in order to control costs, and I think we’re going to see what those reforms are, and we’re going to have to adopt them ourselves.
HH: A subject for tonight. Let’s turn to taxes. The largest tax increase in American history is scheduled for January 1. Should that be postponed?
HD: Well, let me just say that there, most economists wouldn’t agree with the fact these are supposedly the largest tax increase in American history, simply because, I suppose in a dollar amount it is, but if you adjusted for inflation, it certainly isn’t. Should it be postponed? The Bush tax cuts ought to be allowed to expire for, I’m with Obama on this, for people who make over $250,000 dollars a year, and I’ll tell you why I think that. First of all, I don’t think you should raise taxes on people in general during recessions. But there’s a difference between the middle class and people in my bracket. In my bracket, I’m just going to save the money. Well, that’s fine. That’s good. But it doesn’t create jobs, and it doesn’t do anything. If you give middle class people a tax cut, or if you give them a tax increase, that’s money out of their pockets that attacks the ability to expand the economy. So I think wealthier people behave differently with money than middle class people do. And no, we had a great economy when the tax rate was 39.6% under Bill Clinton. You can’t convince me that that’s a bad, those tax increases are a bad thing in the long term.
HH: What about all those small businessmen, and small businesswomen who are out there who may be finally going to make more than a quarter million dollars, but they’ve also got debts of $100,000, $150,000 dollars start up, and this is going to flow through on their Schedule C, and it’s going to get taxed like they’re wealthy, and in fact they’re not wealthy, they’re up to their neck in debt, and they need to hire people, but they can’t.
HD: Hugh, if they have those kinds of debts, they’re writing off all the interest costs against their income, and their income is less than $250,000 dollars.
HH: Absolutely not….do you really believe that, Governor?
HD: The kind of debt you’re talking about, people struggling to get by, are not making $250,000 dollars a year.
HH: Oh yeah, but lots of people work for ten years to get to a quarter million. They finally get there, and now the government wants to raise their taxes.
HD: Wait a minute.
HH: They make expenditures, they buy…
HD: Wait a second. I look at this in a very different way than you do. It won’t surprise you. I think, and I was pretty conservative when I was running, in terms about money, when I was running Vermont. And I wouldn’t let them raise the income tax. We actually cut the income tax. But taxes are like an expenditure. If you don’t take in the revenue, you’re still causing a big deficit. I happen to agree with conservatives that deficits are an enormous problem in this country. To give everybody a tax cut, now George Bush financed the tax cuts with deficits. He didn’t ever pay for those tax cuts. And now the question is are we going to take that money back when we need it to pay off the deficits, or are we going to continue to run a huge deficit to cover these tax cuts.
HH: Well, the question is, is it moral to crush people who finally got success in their life?
HD: I don’t think you’re crushing people who make $250,000 dollars a year.
HH: Oh, you’re taking away their ability to finally get their retirement set up, pay for college education…
HD: That’s absolutely nonsense. They’re going to increase their tax rate by three or four percent.
HH: And it’s going to go on for year after year, and they’re not going to be able to pay down their debt, they’re not going to expand or invest.
HD: I didn’t hear anybody complaining about the economy we had when Bill Clinton was president. All we’re doing is going back to the tax rates that Bill Clinton had.
HH: So there’s no problem in your mind whatsoever in grabbing those people’s money, it belongs to the government, it’s right for the government to take it?
HD: It doesn’t belong to the…look, I make a lot of money. And I don’t mind paying a share of my money, even if you want to add five or six percent of it, because I live in the greatest country in the world which lets me make this kind of money.
HH: And on that note, Howard Dean, I look forward to carrying on that conversation tonight. Good to have you. Are you going to come back sometime on this show?
HD: I’d like to.
HH: I’d like to do an entire hour with you. Governor Howard Dean and I will be Houston Baptist University tonight at 7:30. It could get sparky. We’ll see.
End of interview.