Transcription – Joe Trippi Interview

Q:              There was some sense — some thought that, having this mass infusion of Dean volunteers from around the country into Iowa, right before the caucus, wearing their orange baseball caps and so on — some observations that that might have backfired.  What’s your sense of that?  Because that’s where the national meetups and all of that coincided with an actual event going on, for the first time where people are voting.  And did it work?  Or did it not work?

TRIPPI:       [01:29:00] Well, I kind of, like, OK, when I ran the campaign for Walter Mondale in 1984 in Iowa, we had five hundred people from outside Iowa every weekend, bused into the state, whether from Illinois or Minnesota, Nebraska — usually — I mean, from the reg– mostly from — because of the mechanics of doing it every weekend, who wear blue beanies.  And we — and our unit was called the Hogs.  And we got 49% of the vote and beat Gary Hart, the second-place guy, by 31 points.  So, I don’t buy any of that. [01:30:00] Iowans are the most hospitable people on the planet. The way we did it in ’84, there were 500 Iowans who would put them up in their homes.  When I went to Iowa in 1979 for Kennedy, from California, [Irv Godine?] — a farmer in Monticello, Iowa — put me up in his house.  That’s Iowa.  And so, I think this is like another one of the press’s or the opponents’ mythologies about the Dean campaign.  I mean, you’ve got to remember that the Kerry campaign was basically just — and the other campaigns just thought we were Martians.  I mean — I don’t mean Martians because we were — we had tinfoil hats on, but because it was this web thing.  We had people connecting together over the internet, and [01:31:00] using this — we weren’t using TV the way everybody else did, and things like that.  But — and so, everything — they tried to couch everything as weirdness.  And, you know, we were the bar scene out of Star Wars, was one of the — the Dean campaign was the bar scene out of Star Wars, according, I think, to some very courageous, anonymous quote by a staffer in one of the other campaigns, because they would never attach their names to any of it, because there were so courageous.  So, I th– I mean, I don’t think — the problem is, when you knock on the door of a one who’s decided he’s not voting for you or she’s not voting for you because she saw her — your guy yell at a 75-year-old guy, or saw Trippi say something about… Or, [01:32:00] got their phone called 16 times by somebody, I don’t think it matters what color their hat is, or where they came from, I mean, or what the — you know, is going on there.  I mean, they’re just — they — we were losing voters, and we were losing them for a bunch of reasons that had nothing to do with a volunteer coming from Illinois or Alabama or, you know, California.  It had to do with — that wasn’t the first time that had ever — I mean, that’s a very normal thing.  And the other one would be — was Paul Simon, who would bus in tons of people from Illinois.  Cranston, in ’84, was, I mean, literally, Californians were coming in.   Gephardt  had — I don’t know if you remember, but Gephardt — we would have — we had, like, something like two hundred members of Congress come in — I mean, fly in, get their beanies on, and they were all — and made this big deal [01:33:00] about three planeloads of congressmen coming to go door to door for Dick Gephardt in nineteen eighty s–  Now, they’re congressmen, and, you know, that’s different than volunteers with orange hats.  But it’s not — that’s, like, a very common thing in Iowa.

Q:              OK.  Well, the story with the scream speech, which you mentioned earlier, is that Dean had a roomful of dispirited volunteers, and he was trying to provide them with some renewed inspiration or consolation or something.  And that, in the room, it worked.  It was only translated into television that it didn’t.  What’s your take on all that?

TRIPPI:       No, if you — any of the press that was there, anybody who was in that room, you couldn’t hear him.  He — I mean, you didn’t hear a word he said.  The room was exploding, I mean, in terms of just the cheers and the chanting and the clapping and the… [01:34:00] And that — that’s the fun—- when he walked out on that stage, you couldn’t hear anything that he was saying.  The — there was just no way.  The din of the crowd was, like, too loud.  So, all — so, he’s yelling so that the crowd can hear him.  No matter how hard he yelled, you couldn’t hear him.  And part of that was an advance mistake, or, I mean, you’re not — the advance guy did not know that this moment was going to occur this way, but basically it was a unidirectional mic that only picked up what was coming from here, not from behind the mic.  So, the unidirectional mic, which was for the TV crews — I mean, mostly for — so the TV stations were getting him, not — and some of the crowd, but not, like, the crowd.  So, the unidirectional mic — [01:35:00] he’s yelling to make sure the crowd can hear him.  The crowd can’t hear him, because they’re too loud.  And the TV stations don’t get any of the crowd noise — or hardly any of it — and only a guy screaming.  I mean, that’s the — that’s what happened.  So, you know, that’s — OK, you call that — OK, he yells at a seventy-five-year old guy.  I blunder into Plains, Georgia.  And an advance guy puts a one-directional mic in his hands.  And, put on top of that, we lost and took third place.  So, I mean, I’m not… But that’s how that how that moment happens.  It wasn’t — and Howard Dean didn’t go up there, you know, trying to do anything but just have the room hear him.  And, like I said, I don’t think — there was not a single press person [01:36:00] in that room going, “Oh, my gosh, this is horrible.”  No one real– I mean, no one in the room realized that until you got to the bar an hour later, for a beer, to commiserate over the loss.  And you looked up at the TV screen, and there was — and the screen was starting to play — do its miraculous seven days of hell, because they couldn’t — they just couldn’t get enough of running it.  And that’s when you went — and the press.  I mean, I’m not talking about the press that were in the control rooms during the speech.  I’m — they heard it and recognized it right away.  But the press that was in that room — no one that I know of thinks that anything other than it was a normal campaign event, where a guy’s — can’t — you know, trying to be heard above the crowd.  And, by the way, never accomplished that the entire speech, because no one in the crowd heard him.

Q:              [01:37:00] You said — well, I guess we should take this to its conclusion. Are you —

TRIPPI:       Yeah, I’m fine for another 5 or 10 minutes.

Q:              Five or 10 minutes would be perfect.

TRIPPI:       I’m pretty sure.