Interview on "Countdown" with Keith Olbermann
August 30, 2006
Keith Olbermann, Host: ...Both sides can say whatever they want, but the latest facts in Iraq are these, a series of bombings, killing at least 66 people today, more than 200 killed since Sunday.
Time now to call in the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean.
Good evening, Governor. Thank you for your time tonight.
Howard Dean, Chairman, Democratic National Committee: Keith, thanks for having me on. It's my first time on the show.
Olbermann: Indeed it is, sir.
Is it, do you know, technically possible to impeach a secretary of defense? And have we gotten to that stage after these remarks?
Dean: You know, I suspect it probably is, but I have to say I'm not a lawyer, and I wouldn't know how to do it.
Olbermann: If it's possible, should we be doing it? Should we (INAUDIBLE)?
Dean: Well, you know, I think we've gotten to—- the whole government has sort of become ridiculous. You have the secretary of defense and the vice president essentially saying that 54 percent of the American people are—- whatever they said, they're morally confused. When 54 percent of the American people believe something, they're the boss.
And we need a new direction in this country. And in order to get a new direction in this country, we need a fundamental change in Congress. They've rubber-stamped an incompetent administration. We can do better than this. We don't have to have this silliness.
Honestly, truthfully, I was going to say all kinds of things, but the bottom line is, the administration looks ridiculous at this point. And there's no point in refuting it all line by line. They have, in Iran, about to get nuclear weapons, South—North Korea has nuclear weapons, got more of them since the president has been president of the United States. Osama bin Laden's still at large.
We need somebody who knows how to defend the country the way Jack Kennedy did, Harry Truman did, and Franklin Roosevelt will, and the Democrats will. We need to be tough and smart, not just talk tough.
Olbermann: Nevertheless, in the next 69 days, there are going to be people calling for a line-by-line refutation, and obviously Mr. Rove and company are clearly going back to the playbook that has worked in the last two elections. Obviously, based on what we heard this week, they're ratcheting up even further.
What are the Democrats going to do to combat that, in places where what Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Rove, Mr. Bush say is still taken seriously?
Dean: This time, we're not gonna lay down and worry about what their supposed toughness on defense. The truth is, the defense issue works for us now. They have a war on terror, they have a war in Iraq, and they have a war on the middle class. They've attacked people's—- kids' ability to go to college, healthcare, wages have gone down. Katrina has been a mess. We're in a middle of a civil war in Iraq.
They don't know how to deal with anything. They can't get anything right, including defending America. You can't trust the Republicans with your money, you can't trust them to fix really big natural disasters, and you can't trust them to defend America.
It's not because they don't want to defend America, the truth is, they can't. You got to be tough and smart. You got to know what you're doing. They clearly do not know what they're doing.
No amount of name-calling is going to save them. The majority of the American people do not believe the President Bush is telling the truth, the majority of the American people do not believe this administration is competent. We want a new direction in America, and the Democrats will provide one.
Olbermann: Back to Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks yesterday. Is there not something in them, though, that transcends political parties? Do we not need opposition and critics questioning policy, whoever's policy that is? I mean, during a Democratic administration, don't you want Republicans and media and citizens saying, 'Hold on, prove what you just said?'
Dean: Nobody in power ever likes to be criticized. When I was governor, I didn't like to be criticized. But it's part of the American system. And what the Republican administration and the Republican Congress has forgotten, is that the voters are the boss. The voters eventually get their say. And they're going to have their say in 69 days. And my guess is, they're not gonna want to continue in this direction. This is nuts.
Olbermann: At this late date, though, in the atmosphere that you've described, in terminology that merits someone saying, 'This is nuts', why are Democrats appearing always to be on the defensive on the subject of Iraq, about the need to supply an exit strategy for Iraq, when it was a Republican administration that put us there? Is there still a tentativeness among Democrats to touch this?
Dean: I don't think there is. You know, the Republicans are big on policy—- on politics, but they're not very good at policy. They're good at winning elections, they're not very good at governing. So five weeks ago, they decided they would maneuver us into a political decision. So they had a vote on the war in Iraq, 75 percent of the voters—- of the Democrats in the Senate and 80 percent in the House voted to get out of Iraq, not precipitously, you can't bring all the troops home tomorrow, but they voted to have a plan to get out of Iraq.
So there's a clear difference, and the American people know that the president started this war, he decided that he'd keep it going. We think it was a mistake. We think we need a decent exit strategy. We may have some differences on the Democratic side about exactly what that exit strategy is, but there's a very clear difference.
We believe that security starts at home, and the president has forgotten about home, both in terms of our security, and in terms of our economy, and we believe we need to be tough and smart when we deal with terrorists, and not just talk tough, but have no idea what we're doing.
These guys got us into Iraq without asking the military for their opinion, and then when they got their opinion, they ignored it. You can't conduct a war without listening to the military. They know what they're doing. And frankly, the people who got us into this, very few of them ever served abroad in the uniform of the United States of America. We need to listen to the military before we do things like this.
Olbermann: You just said the president started this war. We've already heard today from comments from the White House, even comments from the president speaking to Brian Williams in an interview we'll be playing in part in a few minutes, that the new terminology, as of tomorrow, is, we, meaning this country, did not start this war, meaning Iraq, plus counterterrorism, again merging these things. Is that going to be...
Dean: Well, that is simply—- well...
Olbermann: ... going to be...
Dean: ... that's false. Look at Paul O'Neill, the former secretary of treasury's book, an honest, decent guy, happens to be a Republican—- there are honest, decent Republicans—- who ran Alcoa Aluminum. He wrote in his book, written by Ron Susskind, he said that George Bush had said he was going to get rid of Saddam Hussein when he got into office in his first cabinet meeting. That was nine months before Iraq.
This administration has simply not told the truth. The American people don't believe by almost a two-to-one margin that they don't tell the truth. We just need a change. That's all we're asking for. What we're asking for is to get out of the gutter with this debate. We want real healthcare that works, we want jobs in America that stay in America, and we want a strong, tough, and honest defense policy, where we actually have some allies who respect our country.
We were the most respected country in the world before George Bush took office. And I want to be the most respected country in the world again, before this decade is over. And with a new election and a new way of doing things in a new direction, I think we can do that.
Olbermann: Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on the Rumsfeld speech and the current political climate.
Many thanks, Governor, for your time tonight. Thanks (INAUDIBLE).
Dean: Hey, thanks, Keith. Thanks for having me on.
Olbermann: My pleasure.