..on “Hardball” tonight> Early transcript:
MATTHEWS: Well, we have Governor Dean joining us right now.
Governor Dean, how do you see the administration playing this, do you believe they jacked it up to create some heat, to cause a rally-around-the-flag mentality in the country?
DEAN: Well, here’s what happened, in the middle of June, in the middle of July, two operatives from al Qaeda were captured. With the second capture, which happened almost three weeks ago, some information was released which then became public because of Tom Ridge and the president.
The buildings were then sealed and so forth and so on and highly guarded. The truth is that these buildings — this information was three years old. These buildings were identified three years ago, not anything new.
Now I don’t think for a second that there’s no terrorist threat in the United States. There is a terrorist threat and it’s a serious one. And I think this warning was a good warning in that it is specific. In the past it has just been , watch out, watch out, watch out. Which I find totally unhelpful.
Here’s what deeply concerns me. If this information was three years old and if this al Qaeda operative, the most recent capture was on July 13, that means that this administration knew about this at least three weeks ago, that the information was three years old, that they could have chosen any date they wanted to to reveal this to the public.
Isn’t it unusual they might choose two days after the Democratic National Convention when John Kerry was in the middle of his bounce. They — this information is important information. It is three years old and the administration has known about it for three weeks.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you this, according to your statement the other day over the weekend, you said, “I’m concerned that every time something happens that’s not good for President Bush, I assume you’re referring to the Democratic Convention, he plays this trump card which is terrorism.” Are you saying he timed it after the Democrats to kill the bounce?
DEAN: There’s no way that we can know that, but the president has made it clear that he’s going to run as a wartime president. And unfortunately since that is his one really strong point with the American people — we know from the polls that every time terrorism is mentioned and put in the front issue, President Bush’s numbers go up a little bit.
I find that since this information is three years olds, since the administration has known about it for three weeks, that it’s a very peculiar coincidence suddenly after three years of information and three weeks of knowledge that the barriers go up around Citicorp and the Federal Reserve and so forth.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let’s put you in a winning position. Suppose, Governor, you were president now and you had this information and you knew the climate right now, politically as well as — just in terms of a sense of national security, and you found these tapes that show that they were casing these financial centers.
And you also saw that in the tape was an updated bit of information, as recently of January of this year. So you know it was an ongoing effort to case these particular financial centers. If you hadn’t told the public, wouldn’t you feel like you’d let them down if something did happen in those places?
DEAN: I think I would have been inclined to tell the public as soon as I got that information, which was in mid-July. Probably I would not have waited until this particular moment.
MATTHEWS: So you think it’s timing?
DEAN: The timing bothers me deeply. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the president was credible. …