Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a top Democratic presidential challenger, called President George Bush's Iraq policy a failure and said he had "poisoned the well" against assistance from the United Nations.
ABCNEWS' Charlie Gibson interviewed Dean on Good Morning America today. The following in an uncorrected and unedited transcript of the live interview.
ABCNEWS' CHARLIE GIBSON: Are we any closer today to getting assistance from other nations in Iraq?
GOVERNOR HOWARD DEAN: I don't think so. I think the president poisoned the well and now he's going to have a hard time getting help. His father had over 100,000 troops in Iraq, and that's the right way to go about it. Now all Americans, including our soldiers, are paying the price.
GIBSON: Would you cede control to the U.N. for the rebuilding effort?
DEAN: I would not cede control of American troops, but I would bring in the U.N. I think ultimately both Afghanistan and Iraq have to be international reconstruction efforts.
GIBSON: But that's not a popular political move in this country. And you're giving control in Iraq to countries that opposed the war in the first place?
DEAN: It is a popular political move in this country, because people want out and we can't get out. We can't lose the peace in Iraq but we didn't afford to get out without somebody taking up the slack. If we do, al Qaeda, which is now in Iraq — wasn't before, but it is now — or a fundamentalist regime will take over, and that — particularly since they're likely to be friendly with the Iranians — is a huge problem to the United States.
GIBSON: Would you vote for the $87 billion?
DEAN: If the president will begin to balance the budget. Take that $87 billion from somewhere, mainly from the tax cuts, then I think you have to support the troops.
GIBSON: Absent tax cuts, would you vote for?
DEAN: Unlikely. You can't continue to tell the American people that you can go to war, do something about education, have health care and continue to finance these enormous deficits.
GIBSON: Do you agree with Senator Kennedy that the reasons for going to war were a fraud?
DEAN: Nobody has any way of knowing that, but I think the president was not truthful. He told us Iraq was buying uranium from Africa and admitted there was no obvious connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. Those are the reasons he gave us for going to Iraq and turns out he admits they were not true. That's a serious problem.
GIBSON: You said in a rally in Boston this week, democracy is itself is at stake and then you said the extreme right wing has shown nothing but contempt for democracy. Do you think the extreme right wing is in control of this administration?
DEAN: I think the right wing is in control of this administration, and I do think they show contempt for democracy. The Supreme Court wouldn't count he votes again in Florida. I think that was a mistake. The impeachment of the president, which had nothing to do with his administration, but that was clearly political. Now we have reapportionment in Texas and Colorado with the delivered intent of taking votes way and the California recall election, which is about taking or undoing an election that took place in 2002. These folks believe they have a god-given right to run the country the way they want.
GIBSON: And you think this administration shows contempt for democracy?
DEAN: I do. I do not believe that the rest of us have a voice and this is our country.
GIBSON: Let me turn to the Wesley Clark phenomena. New man in the race. Some people thought you were the frontrunner, all of a sudden he is. How do you explain that?
DEAN: I never get into saying who the frontrunner is. You guys all like to do the horse race thing. I think he's got good credentials.
GIBSON: Is he a true democrat?
DEAN: I think we have to find out about that. we don't know what his positions are.
GIBSON: He said he voted for Nixon and Reagan. Does that disqualify him?
DEAN: It doesn't, but I am surprised. I spent a fair amount of time with him before he got in, because I thought he has very good credentials on foreign policies.
GIBSON: do you think the clintons are behind him?
DEAN: I don't think there's much evidence of that.
GIBSON: We've been asking candidates some sort of frivolous questions but interesting in showing perhaps their character. Your favorite movie?
DEAN: Oh, gosh, there's a lot of them. I would say Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid.
GIBSON: Favorite book?
DEAN: Sometimes A Great Notion is one of them. All The King's Men is another.
GIBSON: And favorite car?
DEAN: Favorite car? Oh, my goodness. Well, the politically correct answer is a Toyota Prius, but I would have to say Chevy Blazer.
GIBSON: Good to have you with us, covering all the bases.