1:57pm

Wed September 5, 2012
Presidential Race

The Political Junkie Recaps The DNC So Far

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 2:35 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The forecast drives the Dems back indoors, a wildcard on the presidential ballot in Virginia, and Paul Ryan runs into trouble. It's Wednesday and time for a...

PAUL RYAN: Two hours and fifty-something...

CONAN: Edition of the political junkie.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDINGS)

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

SENATOR LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Oops.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. The media hordes made the trip from Tampa to Charlotte over the long holiday weekend, from watching Clint's empty chair to listening to the mom-in-chief. Mitt Romney uses Bob Portman for - Rob Portman for debate prep in Vermont. Paul Ryan asks if we're better off than we were four years ago. The Constitution Party candidate makes his way onto the ballot in the Old Dominion State. And tonight Bill Clinton goes up against the Giants and the Cowboys.

In a few minutes, we'll focus on what President Obama needs to say tomorrow now with former Clinton scribe Paul Glastris and former Reagan writer Peter Robinson. Later in the program, we'll talk with the former governor of Vermont and former Democratic Party chair Howard Dean.

But first political junkie Ken Rudin joins us as usual here in Studio 3A. And as usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal. Earlier you said media hordes.

CONAN: Hordes, hordes.

RUDIN: OK, OK.

CONAN: Wanted to make sure that word was right, yeah.

RUDIN: Yeah, please. Well anyway, there's some exciting news to report. TALK OF THE NATION and the Political Junkie segment have just been picked up by member station WILL in Champagne, Illinois. And so of course a somewhat-Illinois-related trivia question.

CONAN: OK.

RUDIN: President Obama, Illinois's favorite son, is giving his acceptance speech tomorrow night in Charlotte. Tonight a predecessor, Bill Clinton, will be giving his full-throated nominating speech endorsing for Obama tonight. But when was the last time a former president openly attacked the person who would become the nominee of his own party?

CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, the last time a former president openly attacked the person who would later become the nominee of his own party, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Of course, the winner will get a promissory note for a political junkie no-prize T-shirt.

So Ken, we need to start with the conventions, and just a terrific speech last night by first lady Michelle Obama.

RUDIN: It was, and I think she did everything she needed to do. First of all, the whole evening was basically leading up to Michelle Obama's speech. Everything was an attack on Mitt Romney: his record, his business acumen, his stewardship as governor of Massachusetts, the Romney-Ryan plan. And while the other candidates, while the other speakers for better or worse were attacking Romney, Michelle Obama basically gave the personal touch to endorse - not that she wouldn't endorse - but backing her husband for another term.

CONAN: And directing her appeal directly to the middle class.

MICHELLE OBAMA: He believes that when you've worked hard and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.

(APPLAUSE)

CONAN: Now, that was an indirect dig at Mitt Romney, whose name she did not mention.

RUDIN: That's exactly right. She did not mention his name, but she did not have to. She said so many times that, for example, our families don't - didn't begrudge anyone else's success, basically refuting what both Mitt and Ann Romney said at the Republican convention in Tampa.

She said that President Obama could have made a lot of money but didn't. It's not about how much money you make but how much you make a difference and again contrasting President Obama with Mitt Romney.

CONAN: The party that holds the White House gets to hold its convention last. Now that's one of the advantages of incumbency because you know what the other side's already done.

RUDIN: That's true. And, you know, in the past, there have been more than - this was only basically 48 hours between conventions, give or take the Labor Day holiday. But in the past, we always think of Michael Dukakis coming out of the Atlanta convention in 1988 with a 16-point lead over then-Vice President George Bush. But then the Republicans had their say.

So it's not - it doesn't give the Republicans much time for a bounce. But we'll see. I think basically the Republican convention ended with both Obama and Romney in a basic tie. So we'll see what bounce they get out of the Democratic convention.

CONAN: You mentioned most of the speakers last night at the Democratic convention in Charlotte were attacking Mitt Romney's record with one exception, the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, who was talking not to the general public but to his fellow Democrats.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK: And if we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, my message is this: It's time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe.

(APPLAUSE)

PATRICK: Quit waiting for pundits or polls or superPACs to tell us who the next president or senator or congressman is going to be. We're Americans. We shape our own future.

CONAN: That was a corker.

RUDIN: I think it was a great speech, actually. And, you know, there was a lot of people who really were excited by Ted Strickland, the speech by Ted Strickland, the former governor of Ohio, who I thought was really over the top.

Now of course, you know, I mean, everybody says how do you go over the top in a partisan convention. But, I mean to call him - for Ted Strickland to say that Romney lacks - doesn't believe - doesn't have economic patriotism or questioned whether he's a liar or not, I thought that was over the top.

But Deval Patrick, what I thought was very effective was the fact that he was very, very strong, very inspirational without having to go mean or snarky.

CONAN: And there was also a rising star to show off, of course there is at every convention for every party, but this time not one but two, the Castro brothers. The one is a congressional candidate. They're identical twins. And he introduced his brother, Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, Texas.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: A few months ago, he visited a university in Ohio and gave students there a little entrepreneurial advice. Start a business, he said. But how? Borrow money if you have to from your parents, he told them.

(LAUGHTER)

CASTRO: Gee, why didn't I think of that?

RUDIN: You know, he gave - it was a very good speech. Basically there were a lot of people drawing parallels to another guy very few people heard of who gave a keynote speech in 2004, Barack Obama. And of course nobody knows...

CONAN: Nothing ever happened to him, yeah.

RUDIN: But I mean, the difference, of course, is then Barack Obama was running for the Senate in Illinois, a seat that he would win, and of course he was elected president four years later. It's tougher for Julian Castro in Texas because while there is a growing Hispanic population, growing Hispanic voting strength, it's still a red state, and there are not many openings for him.

CONAN: It's going to be tough to run statewide and get elected as a Democrat in Texas.

RUDIN: That's correct.

CONAN: In the meantime, we forget, as you mentioned, it's just a long holiday weekend, and, well, since our last edition of the Political Junkie, that Mitt Romney formally accepted his nomination to be the presidential candidate of the Republican Party and addressed the crowd in Tampa. This is Mitt Romney, the - well, this was after, this was after the crowning event of the Republican convention.

MITT ROMNEY: If I'm elected president of these United States, I will work with all my energy and soul to restore that America, to lift our eyes to a better future. That future is our destiny. That future is out there. It is waiting for us. Our children deserve it. Our nation depends on it. The peace and freedom of the world require it, and with your help, we will deliver it. Let us begin that future for America tonight. Thank you so very much. May God bless you. May God bless the American people, and may God bless the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

CONAN: So that was a good ending to what everybody's calling a fine speech.

RUDIN: It was a fine speech, and yet when you think of the Republican convention in Tampa last week, I think less of Mitt Romney and more of a very bizarre event that happened just shortly before Romney's speech.

CLINT EASTWOOD: I've got Mr. Obama sitting here.

(LAUGHTER)

EASTWOOD: And he's - I just was going to ask him a couple questions.

CONAN: That was the coherent part of it.

RUDIN: Well, you know, the scary thing is that the Republicans were scared to death that Donald Trump would do something embarrassing. Here you have Clint Eastwood who, you know, is very strong politically, very conservative, and yet this was - he suddenly became - in my view he suddenly became old and 83 years old.

And there's nothing - I'm not being ageist here, but just to watch Clint Eastwood, again it was all on his own, it was not scripted. I think apparently the Romney people said look, do what you want, this will be a lot of fun. And there were a lot of - I've gotten a lot of emails from people who said he did exactly what he wanted to do. But I thought it was just very bizarre.

And in a sense, you know, I expected the Republican convention to be much more enthusiastic than we've seen with the Democrats so far, that their anger towards Obama would be far stronger than a defensive Democratic convention. And yet Ann Romney gave this great speech. But then it was tempered by Chris Christie's keynote speech attacking Obama that came after it.

It didn't have the cohesiveness that at least after one night in Charlotte I see with the Democrats.

CONAN: And coming on the heels of each other, there is a stark difference in the visuals as you look at who was in the crowd at the Republican convention and as you look at who's in the crowd in Charlotte.

RUDIN: Well, that's always the case. I mean, every time I go to these conventions, I always say there are more African-American and Latino Republicans on the podium than there are in the - on the hall. And of course, when you look at the floor of the Democratic convention, it's certainly a convention of color.

CONAN: And we have to apologize. We're having some technical difficulties with our telephone system here. We know that all of you know the answer to this week's trivia question, and all of you are calling in to answer it, but we're having some difficulties. So we're going to have to postpone the trivia segment this week, and I apologize for that. So we'll try to get it right and get calls up later in the program.

In the meantime, it is not as if there was only one actor who has taken the stage, well in this case a television commercial, Chuck Norris and his wife Gena appear in a political ad posted to YouTube. It doesn't explicitly endorse Mitt Romney, but it warns of the perils of another four years of Barack Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV AD)

CHUCK NORRIS: We know you love your family and your freedom as much as Gena and I do. And it is because of that we can no longer sit quietly or stand on the sidelines and watch our country go the way of socialism or something much worse.

CONAN: And this is in the age of YouTube and in the age of superPACs the difficulty of controlling a message. You have messages like this from out of the blue, from who knows where. This is a very strange little spot. And it's taken as something from the Romney campaign by most people.

RUDIN: It is, and I don't think that's the kind of message that Romney wants to come out of - certainly come out of the convention in Tampa. But it was a very bizarre thing. If you look at it on YouTube, you see Chuck Norris and his wife standing side-by-side. I don't think they blinked throughout the, you know, commercial.

And I'm not saying that it's OK for one side to be negative, and it's not OK for the other side to be negative. But this just seemed just unusually harsh and no crack of a smile. At least Julian Castro, as he was ripping Mitt Romney last night, he had a big smile on his face.

CONAN: We're talking with political junkie Ken Rudin. Up next, our team of former presidential speechwriters. Paul Glastris and Peter Robinson tell us what President Obama needs to say tomorrow night. Call and tell us what you want to hear from the president. We'll hope to get the phone system working, 800-989-8255. Drop us an email, talk@npr.org. That'll work. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan. It's Political Junkie day. Ken Rudin is with us, always better than an empty chair. Ken, did you get a ScuttleButton winner last week?

RUDIN: We did, actually. The answer to the puzzle was Cancun, Mexico, which just so happens was where I spent my vacation at the end of August. And Kim Wright(ph) of Goshen, Indiana, is the winner, and she does win a T-shirt.

CONAN: A promise of a T-shirt.

RUDIN: Well, yes, but it's coming.

CONAN: It's coming. The latest ScuttleButton puzzle and Ken's new column are both at npr.org/junkie. We have some emailers who weighed in on the trivia question. This is - again if you forgot it all those weeks ago - the last president, former president to attack the nominee, the person who would become the nominee of his own party.

This is from Gary(ph) in Houston: Sirs, Gerald Ford attacking Ronald Reagan and Ted Kennedy as nostalgia candidates in 1980.

RUDIN: Well, actually Gerald Ford did mess around with Ronald Reagan prior to Reagan's nomination, but at the convention, himself, Gerald Ford absolutely embraced Ronald Reagan, said that there was no question he would be far preferable to Jimmy Carter. When there was a rumor that Gerald Ford was going to challenge Reagan, there was some dissention, but he never attacked him.

CONAN: Jim(ph) emails: My guess is Jimmy Carter attacking Bill Clinton.

RUDIN: Well, you know something? There was some - Jimmy Carter always feels that nobody could do the job as well as he can. But again at the time of the convention, Jimmy Carter was on board with Bill Clinton.

CONAN: Kurt(ph) in Renton, Washington, suggests Theodore Roosevelt, 1912.

RUDIN: That's a - first of all, that's absolutely true. Theodore Roosevelt absolutely attacked William Howard Taft, his anointed successor who turned out to be a disappointment for Teddy. But of course that's not the most recent time.

CONAN: And James Edelstein(ph) emails: Harry Truman.

RUDIN: Well, Harry Truman actually is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: At the 1952 convention and the 1956 convention, Harry Truman ripped apart Adlai Stevenson, called him a defeatist who could not defeat President Eisenhower. And as it turns out he could not.

CONAN: He was right, but in any case not the thing to say, really. In any case, James, congratulations, we'll be sending you - getting in touch with you by email to send you that political junkie no-prize T-shirt.

RUDIN: And we're going to send him the T-shirt by email, as well.

CONAN: By email as well, absolutely. In the meantime, we're going by the fly here at Political Junkie. We're going to be talking later in the program with Paul Glastris and Peter Robinson. In the meantime, joining us now is - from Charlotte is Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, and this is of course the former Democratic Party chair. Governor Dean, nice to have you on the program again.

HOWARD DEAN: Thanks very much for having me on. I appreciate it.

CONAN: And if you had to say this election was about one thing, what is it?

DEAN: It's about the future of America as a vibrant democracy. I think we have been put in grave danger by the United States Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to put as much money as they want to into elections. I think this approach by the Republicans to try to take the right to vote away from people by putting in fraudulent voter ID laws where voter fraud doesn't exist is something that's very bad for the future of the country.

And I think there's a very clear distinction between the parties on every issue from women's rights to how to manage the economy in terms of whether you give tax cuts to millionaires and hope that works or whether you help the middle class.

CONAN: The Republicans say the president cannot run on his record, that anything else is a distraction, his entire campaign is tear down Mitt Romney, destroy the Republican candidate. There's no positive side to the Democratic campaign.

DEAN: I think Mitt Romney's pretty much destroyed his own candidacy by attacking immigrants and Latinos, by attacking women's rights, by having a bank account in the Swiss banks and the Cayman Islands and these kinds of things. He doesn't play by the same rules that most Americans do, and I think that's going to be very tough for him.

I think on the other hand you have heard some positive things by the president. The president has a real energy policy, which includes renewable energy, which the Republicans refuse to look at. The president has passed a health care bill. While it's complicated, it's starting to kick in for everybody under 26, for example, for seniors.

So I think there's some - we're not in Iraq anymore. We certainly were put there by a Republican president, and Mitt Romney's - has talked about his disapproval of withdrawal from Iraq. So there's almost no area in which there's agreement between these two people, and I think the president's record speaks for itself. We are definitely better off than we were four years ago.

Four years ago, we were losing $600,000 - 600,000 jobs a month. Today we're gaining 150,000 or 200,000 jobs a month. It's not a full recovery, but it sure is a lot better than it was.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Governor Dean, of course I'm asking a former Democratic national chairman what he thinks about the differences between Democrat and Republican convention, but what did you - the sense I got out of the Republican convention is that the delegates seemed to be more - not so much pro-Romney as they were anti-Obama.

And here we are at a Democratic convention with 8.3 percent unemployment. Yet this seems to be much more enthusiasm for the candidate as on the Democratic side than there was on the Republican side.

DEAN: I'll tell you why that is. I think that's right. I'll tell you why it is. I'm here, of course, and I watch television, and this has happened the last few times. I was actually on the floor of the Republican convention four years ago because as opposing chair, I was doing some press out there.

Our party looks like the rest of America. If you look at the floor and who's on the floor, not the podium, which is carefully scripted and so forth, but if you look at the floor, our floor has got every kind of American on that floor who's a voting delegate. Their floor looks like America looked like 150 years ago.

So they are fighting a rear-guard action to keep America the way it was 150 years ago. We're not interested in that. We know we're moving forward. We're moving forward whether we like it or not. And the question is do you want to plan for moving forward to update our economy so we can compete in a world economy?

Do you want to have a defense policy that makes a lot more sense than it did under George Bush? Or do you want to continue giving tax breaks to millionaires, which was George Bush's solution to the economy and now is Mitt Romney's solution to the economy.

CONAN: Last week we spoke with one of your former counterparts, Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi. And he rattled off I think nine or 10 states where he says this election is going to be decided. It's pretty close, a dead heat pretty much, and everybody says nine or 10 states, that's where the election's going to be.

DEAN: I think that's right. I'm pretty confident that the president's going to win because I think he's going to win in Virginia for sure. If the election were held today, he'd win in both Ohio and Florida, and that would be game over for the Republicans. The Republicans can't lose Ohio or Florida and still win the election.

They think Virginia's critical for them. I think there actually is a way to win even if they don't win Virginia. And I think we're definitely going to win Virginia. That - I'm willing to bet on that. The other two will be very close.

CONAN: What gives you such confidence? What gives you such confidence in Virginia?

DEAN: Because first of all, there's an extreme agenda among the Virginia Republicans. The local Republicans have hurt Romney greatly in a few states. One of them is Ohio. Another is Wisconsin. Florida is one, and Virginia is one. When they passed that bill that required vaginal ultrasounds for anybody who wanted to have an abortion, that was really - I mean, they tried to pass it. They didn't because McConnell finally - McDonnell finally pulled back about it.

CONAN: The governor.

DEAN: The governor did. But that really identified the Republicans as the extremists they are in terms of women's rights. People aren't going to buy that. You know, women do matter in this election. It's not an accident that we have a huge lead among women and also among Latinos. You can't badmouth women and Latinos from the podium of your convention by your policies and then expect suddenly they're going to vote for you.

And in Virginia is - really is a swing state. It's going to be an enormous African-American turnout, and there's going to be enormous turnout in northern Virginia, which is well-educated women and lots of immigrants. And none of those people have been treated particularly well by the Republican Party in the last four years in terms of their rhetoric.

CONAN: We should also note Virgil Goode, the candidate of the - former congressman and a candidate, presidential candidate of the Constitution Party, has earned his way onto the ballot in the state of Virginia. He's not expected to get a lot of votes. The great majority of them, however, might have well been expected to go to the Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Ken?

RUDIN: Governor Dean, again President Obama seems to be a very disciplined candidate. Bill Clinton, shall we say, was not so disciplined. And yet he brings a lot to help President Obama in tonight's nominating speech. How do you see the two of them working with each other?

DEAN: Well, President Clinton is a pragmatist, and this is a pragmatic election. Look, I have my differences with President Obama over health care. But when you have a choice between the Republicans, who stood in the way of everything possible in the last four years and whose agenda was only to get rid of Barack Obama, I don't think that serves America well.

So for me, there's a really clear choice. If you want to do what's right for the country, you support somebody who wants to move the country forward, and that's Barack Obama. Getting rid of Barack Obama is not an agenda for public policy. It doesn't make the economy better. It doesn't improve anything about America. It's just a political slogan, and that's what the Republicans have become is a giant political slogan.

I think Clinton recognizes that. I think Clinton's going to go out there and talk about the differences, and the difference is really, really clear. And I can't imagine anybody in America who's going to be able to deliver that message more clearly than Bill Clinton.

RUDIN: And Bill Clinton does - what does he bring to the table? I mean, when he was president, of course, the economy and the unemployment rate was far different than it is today.

DEAN: Well, let me point out that Bill - we need to go back to Bill Clinton's tax rates because we had a much better economy before we started giving away the store to George Bush and Mitt Romney's millionaire friends and then not paying for the tax cuts by cutting services. They didn't have the courage to cut services, but they did have the weakness to cut tax cuts and not pay for them.

Bill Clinton didn't do that. Bill Clinton balanced the budget. He gets credit for that. I remember it was Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky's vote which cost her her seat that put Bill Clinton's package over the top without a single Republican vote to raise taxes and balance the budget. We need a balanced budget in this country. The Republicans are right about that. The problem is they can't deliver it, and they won't deliver it.

RUDIN: Governor Dean, you ran for president in 2004. Did you ever see yourself accepting the presidential nomination at a convention like this?

DEAN: I have to say I never thought about that. I did think about a lot of things that I'd like to do, but I don't - I didn't imagine - I don't - the pageantry has never turned me on very much. I enjoy it, but I didn't - no. The answer is no. I never actually did imagine myself doing that.

CONAN: In a very close election, it looks as if the Republicans have every chance of holding on to their edge in the House of Representatives, and just the way the math works out, 33 seats up in the United States Senate, Democrats are defending 23 of those, and they have a real good chance of getting majorities in both houses of Congress.

DEAN: It's true. They do. I do believe if the president wins by three or four points, we'll take the House back. It will be very close. And I do believe we can stay at 50 in the Senate plus Joe Biden's tiebreaking vote. So I'm hopeful, of course, that the Republicans won't be that successful. You know, the Republicans' agenda for the last four years has been nothing but negativity. All they do is tear down Barack Obama. They don't have - at their convention, they did not advance one single plan for the economy, for defense, for the environment, for education, not one plan.

It was all platitudes and bupkis. And, you know, don't take my word for it. Ask anybody in your audience: Name one specific plan that the Republicans advanced to fix anything other than kind of broad-brush platitudes about tax cuts. So, you know, there's a really clear difference. I think you're going to see some real specifics in the president's speech tomorrow night, which it's going to talk about the plan. This is an experienced president. He's been there for four years, and I think he knows how to lead.

CONAN: If the differences are so stark, why is this a dead heat?

DEAN: Because there are a lot of people who don't like Barack Obama, because they don't like to change. You know, I don't - I mean, there's racists all over the place. I don't think the Republican Party is a racist party, but I do think the Republican Party's biggest problem is they are afraid of change. And this is a huge change. We now have the first African-American president in America's history. The demographics is we're going to have a lot more people of color in the presidency of the United States over the - next century or so.

It is very difficult to make that change. I know about that because I did the first civil unions' bill in the United States. It was really hard. Even in mellow Vermont, it was really tough to run for re-election having done that. People really resist change, and then they get used to it, and it's OK. So we're going to get by this, but we're a very cankerous part of our political history right now and part of it is because we just had enormous change in who runs the country and what kind of country we're going to be in the future, and it's going to take a - it's very hard for a lot of people to get used to. And they are reacting by saying no, no, no, no, no, no to everything, and that's what we see in the Republican Party.

CONAN: Last week from Tampa, we spoke with former RNC Chair Haley Barbour. Today, we're speaking with former Vermont Governor and DNC Chair Howard Dean on The Political Junkie. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken?

RUDIN: Governor Dean, if the Republicans do retain control of the House and if they - and assuming the Democrats don't have 60 votes from the Senate, you have basically a Republican Congress and a Democratic president if President Obama is re-elected. What changes, and what is the next two years going to look like?

DEAN: I think you'll see a lot of changes made by regulation of the kind the president is already making. I think we'll go over the fiscal cliff, which I think is a good thing. It's not a great thing, but it's certainly better than all the alternatives. That will start - it will begin to - it will raise tax revenues and start to balance the budget, as we should. It will also cut some things. I hate the idea of cutting, but we're all going to have to give something. We're going to have to deal with the deficit.

That will get dealt with by the fiscal cliff. The Republicans don't like it. But, you know, they don't have an alternative. It's reasonable. They just like to cut the hell out of all the millionaires' taxes and raise the middle-class taxes by $2,000 and pay for it. I don't think that's much of a solution. So, you know, we're going to have gridlock, but the president is pretty experienced. And sooner and later, the Republicans are going to want something positive. And when they decide what that is, then we can start to negotiate with them.

CONAN: Step off the fiscal cliff, you've read the same things that we have all read. All the experts say that's going to trigger another recession. Is that a good thing?

DEAN: No. It's not a good thing, but the deficit is the worst thing. The recession will be relatively mild. It's going to be very tough on those who use their - lose their jobs. There's going to have to be a reckoning for all these deficits. And we can point the finger at who's caused the deficits. I happen to think it was the ridiculous supply side economics of both Bushes and Reagan, where they cut taxes and didn't have the courage to cut programs to pay for it. So we're going to have to deal with these deficits.

You can't spend on a credit card forever. Well, there's a solution to deal with the deficit. The Republicans and Democrats agreed on it. It was the fiscal cliff. Now, the Republicans would like to back down on their agreement. I don't think they're going to be willing to make the concessions that are necessary to do that. We're going to have to pay a price. The truth is the recession will be short. It will be six months. We'll end up with positive growth at the end of the year.

I think it's tough. I think the economy can sustain it, and I think in the long run, dealing with the deficit is important enough to stimulate our economy that we need to do this. We need to deal with the deficit. The fiscal cliff is not the perfect way to do it, but it's a lot better than you can get out of Congress people who can't talk to each other.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Governor Dean, one other thing - I was thinking about this. The Democratic - the language we heard yesterday on the podium was certainly about gay - a lot about gay marriage, about pro-choice. Four years ago, I thought that the Democratic Party seemed to be reaching out to pro-life Democrats, like the Bob Caseys of the world. Is there a chance of any kind of alienation? I mean, the Democratic Party is clearly on the side of abortion rights and same-sex marriage, but in certain swing states, is that a risky strategy?

DEAN: There's a difference between a Bob Casey being pro-life and the extreme views of the Republican Party. The Republican platform says abortion is illegal, including cases of rape and incest. I don't know very many Americans, including a lot who are pro-life, who think that a girl ought to be able to - ought to have to carry a pregnancy to term if she's been raped. I don't know that, and I think that's a decision left to a woman, not left to some bureaucrat or some politician. So we're not trying to chase people out of our party at all. I respect people who are pro-life. What I don't respect is people who get up there and use that issue to demagogue their own constituency and without any consideration for women whatsoever.

CONAN: Gov. Dean, thanks very much. We just have 30 seconds left. What are you doing now other than appearing at the Democratic National Convention?

DEAN: Oh, I do a lot of politics. I'm raising money for various congressional candidates, for the president, doing a lot of politicking in some places that folks don't go to. I'm still very committed to the 50-state strategy.

CONAN: Still thinking about 2016 maybe?

DEAN: Not for me, but for - oh, who knows? You never say never in politics, but probably not.

CONAN: All right. Well, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

DEAN: Thanks so much.

CONAN: That's the former governor of Vermont and the former DNC chair Howard Dean, with us from radio row, our spot there at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Last week, from Tampa, we spoke with Haley Barbour, the former RNC chair. Political junkie Ken Rudin will stay with us. When we come back, we'll be going to our panel of former presidential speechwriters, to Paul Glastris and Peter Robinson, to talk about what President Obama needs to accomplish when he addresses his convention tomorrow night in Charlotte. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.