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Jewish World Review August 6, 2003 / 8 Menachem-Av, 5763

Roger Simon

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Up close and personal with the Flavor of the Week | BURLINGTON, Vt. -- - Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is definitely the Flavor of the Week. He is on the covers of the newsmagazines, and on "Larry King Live" and the "Today" show. I sat down with him recently over lunch in a small restaurant near his campaign headquarters. (He had a cup of soup and an oatmeal cookie, which he admitted was not the most nutritious lunch an internist could order. I had a Coke to make him feel better.)

ME: You went to Yale from 1967 to '71. What were you like during that time?

DEAN: I had long hair. My drug of choice was beer. I didn't generally engage in an excessive lifestyle. I mean, you know, I dabbled in a little of this and a little of that. We did some heavy-duty partying, but I didn't do anything outrageous.

ME: Did you ever break the law?

DEAN: I'm not going to answer that.

ME: Were you ever arrested for drunk driving?

DEAN: No. Never arrested for anything.

ME: You were a political science major. Did you envision a career in politics?

DEAN: I wrote a paper for a sociology course in my freshman year that said when I was 40 I'd be in my third term in Congress -- so obviously I must have done some thinking about it. But I probably became pretty disillusioned with government because of the conduct of President Johnson and President Nixon over the Vietnam War, so I thought that the way to save the world was one life at a time.

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ME: After you graduated, you became a ski bum in Colorado, then went to work on Wall Street. How did you get into medicine?

DEAN: I decided to seriously figure out whether I really could be a doctor. So I went to work as a volunteer once a week at night at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York. Mostly, I wanted to see if I could deal with the blood and gore without passing out. And for the most part, I did.

ME: What did you like best during your medical training?

DEAN: The three things I liked the best were psychiatry, surgery and medicine. I decided against surgery, which I love, because I didn't want to be married to the hospital. And I decided against psychiatry because I didn't think I could listen to everybody's problems eight hours a day. Which, of course, is what I do now. Except it's 13 hours a day.

ME: During the debate in Vermont on civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, which you supported, did you have to wear a bulletproof vest?

DEAN: Sometimes.

ME: Would gun control laws in Vermont have made that unnecessary?

DEAN: No, because in Vermont gun control laws would have no effect whatsoever. They certainly don't seem to have much effect in New York. Although my position is New Yorkers can have as much (gun control) as they want.

ME: You were once a supporter of Bill Clinton and stayed over in the Lincoln Bedroom in 1995 with your wife. What do you think of Clinton now?

DEAN: I still think that Bill Clinton has more talent in his little finger than anybody else in America and really, I think, Bill Clinton is the most politically talented president of anybody since FDR .

ME: What about Hillary?

DEAN: Hillary was the only person I went to talk to before I decided I was going run for president. I just wanted to make sure she wasn't going to run.

ME: What accounts for President Bush's current popularity?

DEAN: I think people like the president. I like the president.

ME: You do?

DEAN: Yeah, I do. He's an engaging person, but I think for some reason he's been captured by the neo-conservatives around him.

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