Iowa Public Television

 

Gov. Tom Vilsack

posted on March 2, 2007

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Borg: STEPPING TO THE SIDELINE. FORMER IOWA GOVERNOR TOM VILSACK WAS FIRST TO OFFICIALLY SEEK THE DEMOCRATS' PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION AND FIRST OUT. WE'LL TALK WITH HIM ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: COUNTRY MUSIC LYRICS 'YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHEN TO HOLD THEM AND KNOW WHEN TO FOLD THEM' HOLD TRUE IN POKER AND IN POLITICS. CITING THE LACK OF CAMPAIGN FUNDING, TOM VILSACK TOOK HIMSELF OUT OF THE 2008 PRESIDENTIAL RACE. SOME POLITICAL ANALYSTS SAY THE SILENT PRIMARY DID HIM IN. SILENT PRIMARY, AS IT'S CALLED, IS BUILDING A CASH FLOW AND NOURISHING A HIGH-PROFILE CAMPAIGN, ESTABLISHING AN IMAGE AND MESSAGE, AND SUPPORTERS WHO THEN GENERATE MORE MONEY. AS ALREADY HIGH-PROFILE CANDIDATES ENTERED THE RACE AFTER TOM VILSACK, SUFFICIENT CAMPAIGN CASH DIDN'T COME HIS WAY. NOW THE QUESTION IS WHAT'S AHEAD FOR THE FORMER SMALL-TOWN MAYOR, STATE SENATOR, TWO-TERM GOVERNOR, AND NATIONAL LEADER IN HIS PARTY. WE INTEND TO ASK. WELCOME BACK TO 'IOWA PRESS.'

Vilsack: NICE TO BE BACK, DEAN.

Borg: AND, YOU KNOW, YOU'VE BEEN FLIRTING WITH SOME OF THE BIG-TIME NAMES IN TELEVISION, AND IT'S NICE TO HAVE YOU BACK AT THE 'IOWA PRESS' TABLE.

Vilsack: IT'S NICE TO BE HERE.

Borg: ACROSS THE TABLE: 'RADIO IOWA' STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT -- AND I SHOULD SAY PUBLIC RADIO STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JENEANE BECK AND 'RADIO IOWA' NEWS DIRECTOR KAY HENDERSON.

Henderson: GOVERNOR?

Vilsack: YES.

Henderson: WHAT HAPPENED?

Vilsack: NOT ENOUGH MONEY. WE WERE RAISING ABOUT $100,000 TO $125,000 A WEEK. AND IT TAKES A LOT MORE THAN THAT TO RUN AN EFFECTIVE CAMPAIGN NOT JUST IN IOWA BUT ALSO IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. WE WERE ABLE TO MAKE THE CASE TO INDIVIDUALS THAT WE MET WITH, BUT IN THIS NEW AGE, IT'S IMPORTANT TO HAVE PEOPLE THAT THEN GO OUT AND CONVINCE THEIR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS TO SUPPORT A CANDIDATE SIGHT UNSEEN. AND WE WERE JUST NOT ABLE TO DO ENOUGH OF THAT.

Henderson: WHAT IS THIS NEW AGE YOU SPEAK OF?

Vilsack: THE FACT THAT IT'S PRETTY MUCH DRIVEN BY IMAGE AND PERCEPTION. AND MY IMAGE AND PERCEPTION WAS OF A ROCK-SOLID GUY WHO ACTUALLY GOVERNED EFFECTIVELY AND WELL. NO ONE DOUBTED MY ABILITY TO GOVERN AND NO ONE DOUBTED MY ABILITY TO BE A GOOD GENERAL ELECTION CANDIDATE. THE QUESTIONS WERE ALWAYS WHETHER I'D BE ABLE TO RAISE THE RESOURCES. AND AS IT TURNED OUT, I WASN'T.

Henderson: THIS MAY BE A CHICKEN AND AN EGG QUESTION, BUT IT WASN'T A MONEY PROBLEM SO MUCH AS IT WAS A POLL PROBLEM, RIGHT, THAT YOU WEREN'T REGISTERING IN POLLS TO THE EXTENT THAT YOU COULD RAISE THE MONEY?

Vilsack: WELL, THE POLLS -- YOU KNOW, THIS IS THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT POLLS, PARTICULARLY THE IOWA POLL. IOWA POLLS ARE NOT ACCURATE IN TERMS OF CAUCUS SUPPORT, AND THE REASON THEY'RE NOT IS BECAUSE THE MEDIA OUTLETS DO NOT PURCHASE THE VAN, WHICH IS SORT OF THE BIBLE OF CAUCUS GOERS AND IT'S SORT OF THE BIBLE OF HOW TO DETERMINE WHO'S ACTUALLY GOING TO STEP UP FOR YOU. I CAN TELL YOU THAT WE WERE ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED AND I REMAIN CONVINCED AND WILL AS LONG AS I LIVE THAT I WOULD HAVE WON THE IOWA CAUCUSES BASED ON THE INFORMATION THAT WE HAD THAT IS LEGITIMATE. IT DID NOT MATCH UP WITH THE POLLING INFORMATION BECAUSE THE POLLS BASICALLY ASK A BROADER RANGE OF DEMOCRATS THEIR OPINIONS AND SUPPORT AND VIEWS ON SUPPORT RATHER THAN THE SMALLER UNIVERSE OF PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY GO TO CAUCUSES.

Beck: WHAT DO YOU SEE YOUR ROLE AS NOW? YOU'VE HAD A LITTLE TIME TO DIGEST THE FACT THAT YOU'VE GOTTEN OUT OF THE RACE. WHAT ROLE DO YOU INTEND TO PLAY IN OTHER CAMPAIGNS, IF ANY?

Vilsack: WELL, THE FIRST THING IS TO OBVIOUSLY MEET ANYONE WHO'S COMING INTO TOWN AND WANTS THE OPPORTUNITY TO SIT DOWN WITH ME, AND I'M HAPPY TO DO THAT. THERE ARE SEVERAL CANDIDATES THAT I'LL BE MEETING WITH IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS, AND I'LL BE HAPPY TO PROVIDE ANY ADVICE OR ASSISTANT ON IOWA ISSUES. I HOPE TO BE ABLE TO CONTINUE TO ADVOCATE THE POSITIONS THAT I THINK ALLOWED ME TO WIN THE IDEA PRIMARY. UNFORTUNATELY WE WERE IN THE MONEY PRIMARY STAGE, BUT CLEARLY WE HAD I THINK THE RIGHT POSITION ON THE WAR. IT'S TIME TO END THIS WAR, AND I THINK WE HAD THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE POSITION ON ENERGY TO AVOID THE NEXT OIL WAR. SO MY HOPE IS THAT I HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY AND A VENUE TO CONTINUE TO ESPOUSE THOSE POSITIONS.

Beck: I WOULD ASSUME SOME OF THOSE CANDIDATES MAY ASK FOR YOUR SUPPORT OR YOUR ENDORSEMENT. WILL YOUR ADVICE EVENTUALLY TURN INTO AN ENDORSEMENT?

Vilsack: I'M GOING TO TAKE A STEP BACK. YOUR QUESTION SUGGESTED THAT I'VE HAD TIME TO REFLECT. THE REALITY IS I REALLY HAVEN'T HAD MUCH TIME. THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF ACTIVITY IN MAKING SURE THAT STAFF HAVE FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES. THESE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WORKED SO HARD FOR ME, I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY LAND ON THEIR FEET. WE ALSO HAVE A DEBT THAT WE HAVE TO RETIRE, AND WE HAVE TO WORK ON THAT. SO AT THIS POINT I'M NOT THINKING ABOUT FUTURE STEPS IN TERMS OTHER CAMPAIGNS. I'M TRYING TO MAKE SURE THAT MY CAMPAIGN HAS ENDED PROPERLY.

Beck: WELL, AS GOVERNOR, YOU ALWAYS HAD TO REMAIN NEUTRAL, BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO THAT ANYMORE. I MEAN BEFORE NEXT JANUARY, YOU COULD ENDORSE SOMEONE.

Vilsack: THAT'S TRUE.

Beck: DO YOU THINK BEFORE THEN YOU WILL?

Vilsack: I THINK THE CHANCES ARE GOOD THAT I'LL DO THAT, BUT I DON'T KNOW THAT FOR CERTAIN.

Henderson: WHAT CRITERIA WILL YOU USE TO MAKE THAT DECISION?

Vilsack: WELL, I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THE INDIVIDUAL THAT I SUPPORT HAS A CONCERN -- OBVIOUSLY A CONCERN FOR THE COUNTRY AND THE ABILITY TO GOVERN AND THE ABILITY TO LEAD AND HAS SORT OF THE CHARACTERISTICS THAT I THINK WILL APPEAL TO A BROAD ARRAY OF AMERICANS. AND I REALLY HAVEN'T THOUGHT A GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE CRITERIA. I'VE BEEN TRYING TO FOCUS ON MY CRITERIA, AND OBVIOUSLY WHAT I HAD WASN'T ENOUGH.

Henderson: WELL, LET'S TALK ABOUT SOMETHING YOU MENTIONED PREVIOUSLY, THE IRAQ WAR.

Vilsack: YES.

Henderson: YOU CAME TO A POSITION THAT WAS ALMOST DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED TO MANY IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND SOME IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. HOW DID YOU ARRIVE THERE SO QUICKLY, AND WERE YOU SORT OF TRYING TO BE THE HOWARD DEAN OF 2008 BY COMING OUT SO FAR AGAINST THE IRAQ WAR?

Vilsack: NO, 43 PHONE CALLS TO FAMILY MEMBERS WHILE I WAS GOVERNOR EXPRESSING CONDOLENCES, EACH ONE OF THEM BECAME TOUGHER AND TOUGHER TO DO OVER TIME. MY TRIP TO IRAQ AND TO AFGHANISTAN IN MARCH OF LAST YEAR LED ME TO BELIEVE THAT THERE WAS ABOUT SIX MONTHS LEFT IN THIS PROCESS FOR AMERICANS TO HAVE ANY KIND OF IMPACT. AT THE END OF THAT SIX MONTHS, THINGS WERE WORSE AND NOT BETTER. GENERAL CASEY HAD INDICATED TO US IN PRIVATE BRIEFINGS THAT THERE WERE ABOUT SIX MONTHS AND IF THINGS DIDN'T IMPROVE IN SIX MONTHS, IT WAS TIME TO TURN OVER THE RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE IRAQIS. AND I THINK WHAT YOU'RE SEEING IS A GRADUAL EVOLUTION ON THE PART OF FOLKS IN WASHINGTON, D.C., TO THAT POSITION. SIX MONTHS FROM NOW WE'LL BE TALKING ABOUT HOW WE'RE GOING TO GET OUR TROOPS OUT OF THERE.

Borg: THERE'S A SENSE, THOUGH, THAT DESPITE YOUR EMPHASIS ON -- AGAINST THE WAR IN IRAQ THAT THE VERY PASSIONATE ACTIVISTS, WE MIGHT SAY, WERE GRAVITATING TOWARD TWO OTHER CANDIDATES, JOHN EDWARDS AND BARACK OBAMA, RATHER THAN YOU. DID YOU SENSE THAT TOO, AND WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE THAT WAS?

Vilsack: YOU KNOW, I DON'T THINK THAT THERE -- I CAN TELL YOU IN IOWA THAT'S NOT THE CASE. THAT WAS ABSOLUTELY NOT THE CASE IN IOWA. WE DID -- WE HAD 28,000 PHONE CALLS WITH CAUCUS GOERS -- LIKELY CAUCUS GOERS. OF THAT NUMBER WE ACTUALLY TALKED TO 13,000 PEOPLE. AND I CAN TELL YOU THAT WE WERE IN GOOD SHAPE AMONG CAUCUS GOERS. IT WAS NOT REFLECTED IN THE POLLS BECAUSE, AGAIN, THE POLLS DON'T ASK -- THEY ASK A BROADER RANGE OF INDIVIDUALS. SO IN IOWA, THAT JUST WAS NOT THE CASE. AND I WAS NOT AS WELL KNOWN, OBVIOUSLY, AS SOME OF THOSE OTHER CANDIDATES OUTSIDE OF IOWA.

Borg: DO YOU THINK THAT OVERALL THAT WAS A GOOD STRATEGY TO EMPHASIZE YOUR OPPOSITION TO THE WAR IN IRAQ?

Vilsack: YOU KNOW, DEAN, THAT'S A MORAL ISSUE. THAT'S NOT ABOUT POLITICS. THAT'S ABOUT WHAT YOU BELIEVE THIS COUNTRY OUGHT TO STAND FOR AND WHAT YOU BELIEVE THE LEADERS OF THIS COUNTRY OUGHT TO BE DOING. THEY'RE PUTTING YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN IN HARM'S WAY. IT IS AN OUTRAGE -- AN ABSOLUTE OUTRAGE THAT WE CONTINUE AFTER FOUR YEARS PLUS IN THIS WAR THAT WE'RE PUTTING PEOPLE IN HARM'S WAY WITHOUT ADEQUATE PROTECTION, WITHOUT AN ADEQUATE PLAN, WITHOUT A WELL THOUGHT OUT STRATEGY. AND THE NOTION THAT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A SURGE OF ADDITIONAL TROOPS, THAT SOMEHOW THAT'S GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, IT'S NOT GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. IT'S THE WRONG POLICY. SO THIS WAS NOT A POLITICAL CALCULATION. THAT WAS A CALCULATION THAT I MADE BASED ON THE FACT THAT MY EXPERIENCE AS GOVERNOR, THE PHONE CALLS I HAD TO MAKE, MY EXPERIENCE ON THE GROUND IN IRAQ LED ME TO CONCLUDE THAT AMERICA'S ROLE THERE NEEDED TO CHANGE DRAMATICALLY.

Beck: YOU SAID YOU TALKED TO ABOUT 13,000 IOWA CAUCUS GOERS. WHAT OTHER ISSUE DO YOU THINK IS DOMINATING THIS RACE? WHAT OTHER ISSUES DID THEY TELL YOU THEY'RE GOING TO BE PRESSING THE CANDIDATES ABOUT?

Vilsack: YOU KNOW, THAT'S ONE OF THE INTERESTING QUESTIONS, AND THERE'S A BROAD ARRAY OF ISSUES THAT PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT. THE WAR OBVIOUSLY IS FRONT AND CENTER, BUT THERE ARE ISSUES ABOUT HEALTH CARE, ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT, ABOUT ENERGY POLICY AND EDUCATION POLICY, SEVERAL DOMESTIC ISSUES. AND WHAT WILL LIKELY ARISE OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT SEVERAL MONTHS IS A DISCUSSION ABOUT FEDERAL BUDGETS AND DEFICITS AND WHAT WE DO ABOUT VARIOUS PROGRAMS THAT ARE -- THAT WE HAVE TO REFORM AND WE HAVE TO CHANGE IN THIS COUNTRY IF WE'RE REALLY GOING TO PROVIDE A BRIGHTER, BETTER FUTURE FOR THE CHILDREN IN THIS COUNTRY. I THINK, JENEANE, ACTUALLY, IT ISN'T SO MUCH AN ISSUE AS IT WAS A FEELING. PEOPLE WERE ANXIOUS. THEY WERE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE FUTURE, VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN. AND THEY WANT SOME DEGREE -- THEY WANT SOMEBODY WITH A PLAN. THEY WANT SOMEBODY TO TELL THEM THAT THIS IS WHAT WE'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO TO GET YOU OUT OF THAT FEELING OF ANXIETY.

Beck: WELL, AND THAT'S MY POINT. I MEAN IN THE LAST ELECTION, THAT ANXIETY LED TO DEMOCRATIC CONTROL IN CONGRESS, BUT THERE IS A FEELING THAT EVENTUALLY DEMOCRATS WILL HAVE TO COME UP WITH SOME PLANS ON ISSUES LIKE LEAVING IRAQ. AND IS THERE ANOTHER KEY ISSUE THAT YOU EXPECT THE DEMOCRATS WILL HAVE TO HAVE A PLAN ON TO TAKE THE WHITE HOUSE?

Vilsack: WELL, I WOULD SAY FOR CERTAIN TWO OTHER ISSUES FOR CERTAIN. ONE IS HEALTH CARE. IT'S GOING TO GO BEYOND UNIVERSAL COVERAGE OF HEALTH CARE. THAT IS CERTAINLY, I THINK, EVERY DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE IS GOING TO AGREE THAT WE HAVE TO HAVE UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE. THE QUESTION IS HOW DO WE ACTUALLY REDUCE HEALTH CARE COSTS SO THAT WE HAVE A SYSTEM THAT'S SUSTAINABLE OVER TIME. THE SECOND ISSUE IS HOW DO WE AVOID THE NEXT OIL WAR. I MEAN WE LEFT AFGHANISTAN. WE WENT INTO IRAQ. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ? WELL, IN AFGHANISTAN WE HAD A MISSION, WHICH WAS NOT YET COMPLETED. WE HAD INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR US BEING THERE. THE REALITY IS WE DIDN'T HAVE INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR BEING IN IRAQ. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE? WELL, ONE MIGHT SUGGEST THAT THE DIFFERENCE IS OIL? SO WE NEED TO HAVE A STRATEGY THAT MAKES US LESS DEPENDENT AND ULTIMATELY INDEPENDENT OF FOREIGN OIL AND OF OIL GENERALLY. WE NEED TO CHANGE THIS ECONOMY, AND THAT'S WHAT WE TRIED TO LAY OUT IN TERMS OF OUR ENERGY POLICY. AND I THINK YOU'LL SEE BITS AND PIECES OF THAT IN OTHER CAMPAIGNS.

Henderson: ONE OF THE BITS AND PIECES OF YOUR ENERGY POLICY WAS A CALL FOR THE IMPORTATION OF BRAZILIAN ETHANOL, WHICH IS SOMETHING THE IOWA CORN GROWERS CERTAINLY DON'T WANT TO HAVE HAPPEN AND LEADS THEM TO SUGGEST IT FURTHER ENHANCES OUR DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN SOURCES OF FUEL.

Vilsack: NOT EXACTLY. THE REALITY IS THAT WE SHOULD ALWAYS WELCOME COMPETITION BECAUSE IT'S GOING TO MAKE US BETTER AND STRONGER, WISER, MORE INNOVATIVE, AND MORE CREATIVE. THE REALITY IS WE'RE GOING TO BE MOVING FROM CORN-BASED ETHANOL AT SOME POINT IN TIME TO A BIOBASED AND BIOMASS-BASED ETHANOL, AND CORN GROWERS CAN PARTICIPATE THAT WITH SOME OF THE RAW MATERIALS, THE STALK, THE HULL OF CORN, WHICH IS THE RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT FROM BROIN. AND EMMETSBURG IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR THE STATE OF IOWA. IT'S SOMETHING THAT WE'VE PUT IN MOTION. BUT THE REALITY IS THAT WE NEED TO INCREASE THE SUPPLY OF RENEWABLE FUELS SO THAT WE BECOME LESS DEPENDENT ON OIL. THERE ARE THREE REASONS WHY THAT HAS TO HAPPEN. ONE, WE NEED A MORE INNOVATIVE AND CREATIVE ECONOMY. THIS WILL DRIVE IT. TWO, WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE RECLAIM MORAL LEADERSHIP ON THE DISCUSSION OF CLIMATE CHANGE, ON GLOBAL WARMING. THIS WILL ALLOW US TO DO THAT. AND THREE, IT WILL MAKE US A SAFER NATION. THE REALITY TODAY IS THAT WE'RE PUTTING AN IMPORT FEE ON BRAZILIAN OIL -- BRAZILIAN ETHANOL, BUT WE DON'T PUT A FEE ON OIL THAT WE'RE GETTING ULTIMATELY INDIRECTLY FROM PLACES LIKE IRAN AND VENEZUELA, COUNTRIES THAT DO NOT WISH US WELL. PEOPLE SAY, WELL, WE GET IT FROM CANADA, WE GET IT FROM SAUDI ARABIA. WELL, THE REALITY IS YOU BUY IT ON THE OPEN MARK. AND TO THE EXTENT THAT AMERICA IS BUYING MORE AND MORE OF IT, YOU'RE BASICALLY PROVIDING CASH TO COUNTRIES THAT DO NOT LIKE US. AND THAT'S WHY YOU'RE SEEING A MORE BELLIGERENT RUSSIA. THAT'S WHY YOU'RE SEEING IRAN WITH MORE BELLIGERENT ATTITUDES AS WELL.

Borg: THERE'S SOME SPECULATION, ESPECIALLY SINCE THE ACADEMY AWARDS, ON -- THAT AL GORE AND HIS REPUTATION ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES MIGHT STILL MAKE HIM A FORMIDABLE CANDIDATE EVEN ENTERING THIS LATE IN THE CAMPAIGN. DO YOU THINK THAT'S POSSIBLE?

Vilsack: WELL, I THINK VICE PRESIDENT GORE OBVIOUSLY AT ANY POINT IN TIME COULD BE A FORMIDABLE CANDIDATE BECAUSE HE'S BEEN THROUGH THIS PROCESS, HAS WON A NOMINATION, ARGUABLY WON AN ELECTION. SO HE OBVIOUSLY WOULD BE A FORMIDABLE CANDIDATE. NO QUESTION ABOUT IT. I DON'T KNOW THAT HE'S NECESSARILY INTERESTED. I CALLED HIM AFTER HE RECEIVED THE NOBEL PRIZE NOMINATION. WE HAD A BRIEF CONVERSATION. I GOT A SENSE THAT HE SEES HIS MISSION TO BASICALLY DRIVE THE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE, NOT JUST IN THIS COUNTRY BUT GLOBALLY. I MEAN THE REALITY IS EVEN IF THIS COUNTRY DOES EVERYTHING IT NEEDS TO DO TO GET ITS ENERGY POLICY AND ITS ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY RIGHT, IF WE DON'T DO IT INTERNATIONALLY, IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK. SO THAT MEANS A TOUGHER STANCE IN CHINA, INDIA, AND SOME OF OUR OTHER TRADING PARTNERS TO ENCOURAGE ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS AND LABOR STANDARDS IN TRADE AGREEMENTS.

Borg: BASED ON THAT CONVERSATION, THOUGH, YOU DON'T EXPECT HIM TO BE A CANDIDATE?

Vilsack: I DIDN'T GET ANY SENSE FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT THAT THAT WAS IN THE WORKS FOR HIM.

Beck: YOU KNOW, GORE HAS SORT OF FOUND HIMSELF MORE POPULAR AND MORE PERSUASIVE AS A NONCANDIDATE. WHAT DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS? DO YOU THINK THERE'S A FUTURE RUN IN TOM VILSACK, MAYBE FOR THE SENATE?

Vilsack: THE STATE SENATE?

Beck: YEAH -- NO, THE U.S. SENATE. THE U.S. SENATE. I MEAN DO YOU SEE A SENATE SEAT IN IOWA THAT'S APPEALING TO YOU?

Vilsack: NOT TODAY. NOT TODAY. YOU KNOW, I -- WHEN I SPENT TIME IN THE LEGISLATURE, I SPENT TIME AS AN EXECUTIVE AND I REALIZED THAT I'M MORE OF AN EXECUTIVE KIND OF GUY.

Henderson: LET'S TALK ABOUT THE IOWA CAUCUSES.

Vilsack: MM-HMM.

Henderson: HAS THE NATURE OF THE IOWA CAUCUSES CHANGED FOREVER WITH THESE HUGE CROWDS THAT ARE GATHERING TO SEE HILLARY CLINTON AND BARACK OBAMA?

Vilsack: I THINK THERE IS A REAL RISK, NOT FROM THE CROWDS OR FROM THE CANDIDATES, BUT FROM WHAT'S HAPPENING TO THE CALENDAR. THE REALITY IS AS LARGE STATES LIKE CALIFORNIA, FLORIDA, PENNSYLVANIA, MICHIGAN, CONSIDER MOVING UP THEIR PRIMARY TO FEBRUARY 5, YOU COULD HAVE A 20-DAY PRIMARY SEASON AND IT'S OVER. THAT PUTS A PREMIUM ON RAISING MONEY. YOU CANNOT BE SPENDING TIME IN LIVING ROOMS TALKING TO 50 OR 75 OR 100 PEOPLE AND RAISING MONEY AT $2,300 A DONATION AND RAISING $100 MILLION. YOU HAVE TO SPEND A LOT OF TIME RAISING MONEY. SO THAT, I THINK, IS CHANGING THE NATURE OF THIS PROCESS, AND IT'S UNFORTUNATE BECAUSE IT'S -- AND I'LL ENCOURAGE EVERY CANDIDATE WHO TALKS TO ME OR IS INTERESTED IN MY VIEW ABOUT THIS HOW TO DO WELL IN IOWA. YOU HAVE TO TALK TO PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE. YOU CAN'T EXPECT THEM ALWAYS TO COME TO YOU IN LARGE GATHERINGS.

Beck: THEY HAVE SO FAR, THOUGH.

Vilsack: WELL, THEY HAVE. THE FIRST TRIP IS ALWAYS THAT WAY. BUT YOU'RE NOT GOING TO CONTINUE TO HAVE 5,000 PEOPLE COME SEE YOU ON YOUR FIFTH TRIP TO IOWA. THE REALITY IS YOU HAVE TO GO OUT AND YOU HAVE TO RECOGNIZE THAT TO WIN A CAUCUS, YOU HAVE TO DO THE BASIC ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE AND WORK, WHICH REQUIRES THE CANDIDATE TO GO OUT TO FORT DODGE, REQUIRES THE CANDIDATE TO GO TO MT. PLEASANT, REQUIRES THE CANDIDATE TO GO TO DECORAH, THOSE FAR-AWAY PLACES THAT MAKE IT, YOU KNOW -- THAT AREN'T EASY NECESSARILY TO GET TO BUT HAVE IMPORTANT PEOPLE THAT YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO.

Henderson: DIDN'T YOUR PARTY PUT THE NATION ON THIS PATH BY ALLOWING CAUCUSES IN THE STATE OF NEVADA TO FALL BETWEEN IOWA AND NEW HAMPSHIRE AND SORT OF BREAKING THE DEAL?

Vilsack: NOT NECESSARILY. YOU KNOW, THE REALITY WAS THAT THERE WAS A NEED FOR A CONTINUED DIVERSIFICATION OF FOLKS WHO HAVE OPPORTUNITIES TO HAVE INPUT. NEVADA IS DIFFERENT BECAUSE OF A WESTERN STATE. CLEARLY THERE NEEDS TO BE A RECOGNITION OF WHAT THE WESTERN STATES CAN PROVIDE DEMOCRATS IN TERMS OF A NATIONAL OPPORTUNITY. LOTS OF GOVERNORS FROM WESTERN STATES NOW THAT ARE DEMOCRATS, SO THERE'S AN INDICATION THAT WE MAY HAVE FERTILE GROUND THERE. SECONDLY, LABOR UNIONS, OBVIOUSLY AN IMPORTANT CONSTITUENCY OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. ON THE FLIP SIDE, SOUTH CAROLINA, THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING MINORITY VOICES AGGRESSIVELY INVOLVED IN THE SELECTION PROCESS, THAT WAS ALL GOOD. THESE WERE ALL RELATIVELY SMALL STATES, MANAGEABLE STATES WHERE YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO RAISE $100 MILLION TO BASICALLY BE ABLE TO COMPETE. BUT WHEN YOU PUT CALIFORNIA, A WEEK OR TWO AFTER THOSE STATES, YOU HAVE TO HAVE TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. YOU DON'T DO RETAIL POLITICS IN CALIFORNIA. IT'S ALL TV. IT'S ALL IMAGE. IT'S ALL MONEY AND IT MAKES IT VERY DIFFICULT TO RAISE THE MONEY.

Beck: IS THERE A RISK IF -- LET'S HARKEN BACK TO, SAY, THE GARY HART INCIDENT -- I'M NOT SUGGESTING THIS WOULD HAPPEN IN THIS YEAR'S CYCLE -- BUT SUDDENLY YOU HAVE A BIG NAME WHOSE CAMPAIGN IMPLODES WITH A SCANDAL. THERE'S NO LESSER CANDIDATE STILL IN THE RACE TO MOVE UP THAT TIER. I MEAN IS THERE -- IS THERE A FEAR FOR YOUR PARTY THAT SOMEBODY KIND OF RUNS AWAY WITH THIS EARLY AND THEN TAKES A BIG TUMBLE AND THERE'S NO ONE THERE TO TAKE THE NOMINATION?

Vilsack: WELL, YOU KNOW, CLEARLY IN TERMS OF SENATOR CLINTON, THAT'S NOT A POSSIBILITY BECAUSE EVERYBODY UNFORTUNATELY KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT THE CLINTONS. AND THAT'S, YOU KNOW, THAT'S --

Beck: THERE'S NO NEW SCANDAL THERE.

Vilsack: THERE'S NO NEW NEWS THERE, SO THAT'S ONE BENEFIT THAT SHE BRINGS TO THE PROCESS.

Vilsack: THERE ARE A LOT OF GOOD CANDIDATES IN THIS RACE. I MEAN I KNOW THEM ALL AND I HAVE RESPECT FOR ALL OF THEM. YOU KNOW, SENATOR BIDEN, SENATOR DODD, I MEAN I DON'T WANT TO NAME THEM ALL, BUT THE REALITY IS THAT YOU HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT ARE VERY COMPETENT, GOVERNOR RICHARDSON, A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE VERY COMPETENT THAT AREN'T NECESSARILY IN THAT FIRST TIER. AND WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN IN THIS PROCESS IS THAT YOU HAVE TO GIVE PEOPLE AN OPPORTUNITY TO FOCUS ON IDEAS FIRST. THE REALITY IS THAT WHEN YOU FOCUS ON POLLS AND FOCUS ON MONEY, YOU BASICALLY NARROW THE FIELD IMMEDIATELY. IT OUGHT TO BE THAT YOU FOCUS ON IDEAS. YOU OUGHT TO COMPEL THE CANDIDATES TO COME OUT WITH DETAILED PLANS ON VARIOUS ASPECTS OF LIFE IN AMERICA AND THEN HAVE PEOPLE OPINE BASED ON POLLS AND MONEY.

Beck: YOU'RE NO LONGER IN THAT TIER, THOUGH. DID YOU GET OUT SO SOON THAT YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH LEVERAGE ANYMORE TO SORT OF PROPEL YOURSELF TO THE NEXT LEVEL, OR DID YOU GET OUT SO SOON HOPING THAT YOU DIDN'T HURT YOUR POLITICAL STOCK WITH A LOSS IN IOWA?

Vilsack: I DIDN'T THINK ABOUT POLITICAL STOCK AT ALL. I GOT OUT PRIMARILY BECAUSE WE -- I COULDN'T SEE A SITUATION WHERE WE WOULD BE ABLE TO RAISE SUFFICIENT RESOURCES TO MAINTAIN THE KIND OF ORGANIZATION WE NEEDED TO HAVE OUTSIDE OF IOWA TO DO WELL OUTSIDE OF IOWA. AND WITH MOVING UP THE CAUCUSES, IT BECAME INCREASINGLY LESS LIKELY THAT SOMEONE WITH A SMALL AMOUNT OF MONEY COULD SURVIVE EVEN IF YOU DID WELL IN THE FIRST SEVERAL STATES. THE STRATEGY THAT ANY CANDIDATE THAT'S NOT IN THE TOP TIER HAS TO FOCUS ON IS WINNING EARLY AND THEN USING MOMENTUM FROM THAT TO DO WELL LATER. WELL, IF EVERYTHING IS CONDENSED, YOU JUST DON'T HAVE THE TIME. SECONDLY, I HAVE DEEP CONCERN ABOUT MY STAFF. THESE ARE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WORKED REALLY HARD, AND THEY DESERVE TO BE TREATED WELL. THEY DESERVE OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTINUE IF THEY WANT TO IN OTHER CAMPAIGNS. AS OTHER CAMPAIGNS BEGAN TO HIRE PEOPLE, THOSE OPPORTUNITIES WERE RESTRICTED. SO THAT WAS THE THOUGHT PROCESS BEHIND MY DECISION.

Henderson: HOW HAS CAMPAIGNING FOR PRESIDENT CHANGED TOM VILSACK?

Vilsack: WELL, YOU KNOW, I TOLD MY STAFF LAST NIGHT -- WE A LITTLE GOING AWAY DEAL -- THAT I'VE LEARNED THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO SUCCEED AT EVERYTHING YOU DO. ALL MY LIFE, I THINK BECAUSE OF THE WAY I GREW UP AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH I GREW UP, I FELT THIS COMPULSION TO ALWAYS SUCCEED AND THAT MY WORTH WAS BASED ON SUCCESS. AND I REALIZED AS A RESULT OF THIS PROCESS THAT, YOU KNOW, THERE'S A GREAT LIFE AHEAD AND IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY ALWAYS HAVE TO COME WITH SUCCESS. YOU DON'T ALWAYS HAVE TO WIN SOMETHING. SO THAT LIFTED A TREMENDOUS PRESSURE OFF ME. I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW DIFFERENT I FEEL TODAY THAN I'VE FELT MY ENTIRE LIFE.

Henderson: IS THERE ANY BITTERNESS TOWARD POLITICS? I MEAN YOU'VE TOLD JENEANE IN PREVIOUS ANSWERS THAT YOU DON'T INTEND TO RUN FOR THE U.S. SENATE. YOU DON'T SEE THAT FOR YOURSELF NOW. I MEAN DO YOU SEE YOURSELF EVER ENTERING THE POLITICAL FRAY AGAIN, OR ARE YOU MR. CORPORATE MAN OR COLLEGIATE MAN?

Vilsack: WELL, THANK YOU. YOU KNOW, YOU NEVER WANT TO SAY NEVER IN THIS BUSINESS BECAUSE YOU DON'T -- YOU REALLY CAN'T ANTICIPATE WHAT THE FUTURE MIGHT HOLD. I'VE HAD AN EXTRAORDINARY OPPORTUNITY TO BE A TWO-TERM GOVERNOR, TO BE IN THE SENATE, TO BE A MAYOR. I MEAN I'M PROUD OF THE WORK WE DID AND PROUD OF WHAT HAPPENED IN IOWA. I'M PROUD OF WHAT I DID AND WAS ABLE TO CONTRIBUTE TO MY PARTY. I DON'T WANT TO SAY NEVER, BUT I DON'T SEE IT TODAY BUT, YOU KNOW, SOMETHING COULD COME UP.

Borg: IN THAT SAME VEIN, I'M THINKING OF JIMMY CARTER AND WHAT HE'S DOING AFTER THE PRESIDENCY. IS THERE SOMETHING MAYBE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DIRECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FUTURE CAREER TOWARD IN A HUMANITARIAN ENDEAVOR?

Vilsack: YOU KNOW, THE PROBLEM, DEAN, IS THAT I HAVE SO MANY INTERESTS, THE ISSUE NOW WILL BE WHERE DO I FOCUS. I MEAN I HAVE DEEP CONCERN ABOUT THE STATUS OF CHILDREN IN OUR COUNTRY AND IN THE WORLD. I'VE TALKED FREQUENTLY AS GOVERNOR ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE HAVE SO MANY MALNOURISHED YOUNG PEOPLE AND CHILDREN IN THE WORLD, WE REALLY OUGHT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT AND IOWA OUGHT TO BE INVOLVED IN THAT. YOU KNOW, THE WHOLE ISSUE OF ENERGY AND THE MORAL IMPERATIVE THAT THAT NOW PROVIDES TO THIS COUNTRY AS A WORLD LEADER. THE ISSUE OF EDUCATION. YOU KNOW, AS I TRAVELED AROUND THE COUNTRY, I GOT TO APPRECIATE WHAT WE HAVE IN IOWA BUT ALSO RECOGNIZE THAT WE NEED TO CHANGE IN IOWA BECAUSE OTHER STATES ARE RAPIDLY EMBRACING REFORM. AND WE NEED TO BE WILLING TO DO THAT IN THE STATE. SO THERE'S EDUCATION. AND THERE'S ELECTION REFORM. THE REALITY IS IF WE HAD A SYSTEM TODAY WHERE THERE REALLY WAS AN INCENTIVE TO GO OUT AND RAISE MONEY OUTSIDE OF THE SYSTEM, YOU'D HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR LESSER-KNOWN CANDIDATES TO HAVE A CHANCE TO HAVE THERE VIEWS AIRED. THAT'S NOT THE CASE TODAY. THERE'S NO -- THERE'S NO DISINCENTIVE, IF YOU WILL, TO MOVE OUTSIDE OF THE SYSTEM, SO EVERYONE IS MOVING OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM. IF YOU HAD A PUBLIC FINANCING SYSTEM THAT SAID IF YOUR OPPONENT RAISES $100 MILLION, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WILL MATCH THAT, OR IF YOU HAD A SYSTEM THAT SAID, YOU KNOW, CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND THAT'S ALL THAT YOU COULD RAISE, YOU WOULD BE ABLE TO HAVE A -- I THINK A HEALTHIER DEBATE AND DISCUSSION ABOUT IDEAS. THAT WOULD BE MY HOPE.

Beck: WE DON'T HAVE MUCH TIME. CAN YOU HANDICAP THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES LEFT IN THIS RACE? I MEAN IS THERE A DARK HORSE CANDIDATE IN EITHER THAT YOU THINK IS GOING TO MOVE UP, OR IS THERE SOMEONE THAT YOU THINK IS GOING TO IMPLODE?

Vilsack: YOU KNOW, IT'S EASIER FOR ME TO DO THAT ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE --

Beck: ALL RIGHT. WELL, START THERE, THEN.

Vilsack: I MEAN ALL MY FRIENDS ARE ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE. I WILL TELL YOU THAT I THINK PEOPLE DO NEED TO KEEP AN EYE ON GOVERNOR HUCKABEE AND SENATOR BROWNBACK IN THE REPUBLICAN RACE. I THINK CONSERVATIVES WILL GRAVITATE TO THOSE TWO INDIVIDUALS BECAUSE THEY ARE VERY CONSISTENT IN THEIR VIEWS ON THINGS.

Beck: SO GIULIANI'S EARLY POLLS MAY SLIDE?

Vilsack: YOU KNOW, THIS MAY SOUND -- AND I DON'T WANT IT TO SOUND LIKE SOUR GRAPES, BUT YOU SHOULD NOT PAY ATTENTION TO EARLY POLLS. EARLY POLLS -- ABSOLUTELY IT'S JUST ABOUT NAME IDENTIFICATION. IT'S NOT ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY GOING TO DO. WITH DUE RESPECT TO THE MAYOR, WHEN PEOPLE GET TO KNOW HIS RECORD AS MAYOR OF NEW YORK, I DON'T KNOW THAT THEY'RE NECESSARILY GOING TO GRAVITATE TO HIM. WHEN CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS FULLY APPRECIATE AND UNDERSTAND ALL THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT RUDY GIULIANI AND THEN COMPARE THEM TO A SAM BROWNBACK OR MIKE HUCKABEE WHO HAVE BEEN VERY CONSISTENT IN THEIR PERSONAL AND POLITICAL LIFE, I DON'T KNOW WHAT A CONSERVATIVE WILL DO. BUT I DON'T THINK YOU SHOULD DISCOUNT THOSE FOLKS.

Borg: YOU USED THE TERM ROCK SOLID INSTEAD OF ROCK STAR. WE'VE ONLY GOT ABOUT TEN SECONDS LEFT. BUT DO YOU THINK ROCK STAR IS GOING TO FADE?

Vilsack: WELL, I THINK THEY'LL BOTH EVENTUALLY TURN INTO ROCK SOLID; THAT'S MY HOPE.

Borg: THANKS FOR YOUR CANDID COMMENTS TODAY. IT'S BEEN GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK ON 'IOWA PRESS.'

Vilsack: YOU BET. THANK YOU.

Borg: WE'LL HAVE ANOTHER EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS' NEXT WEEKEND BUT WITH A TIME CHANGE SO THAT WE CAN FIT INTO SPECIAL FESTIVAL PROGRAMMING HERE AT IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. YOU'LL SEE 'IOWA PRESS' AN HOUR EARLIER THAN USUAL. AGAIN, NEXT FRIDAY NIGHT; IT'S 6:30. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.


Tags: governors Iowa presidential candidates Tom Vilsack