Interview on 'Face The Nation'
February 12, 2006
BOB SCHIEFFER: Mr. Dean, welcome. Let me ask you something. We talked a lot about Iran and the threat that it poses to the United States in the interview we just had with the secretary. What would you do if the Administration came to the American people and said: There's no other way, we think they've got a nuclear weapon and we're going to have to take military action? What would the Democratic response to that be?
DNC CHAIRMAN HOWARD DEAN: First, I'd be amazed because I think this President has been weak on defense - not strong. He's been in the White House for five years. We have nuclear weapons in North Korea. Nothing has been done about it. Making little progress in Iran in five years. Sending our troops abroad with no body armor. Misleading the American people about why were in Iraq. On and on it goes. I have long thought and have said publicly that this President sent us to Iraq without justification, because the real problem is Iran. Iran is a terrorist government. We cannot permit them to have nuclear weapons under any circumstances. The President has said - properly so - that no option can be taken off the table. I think that's true.
ELIZABETH BUMILLER: Let now go to domestic politics. Senator Chris Dodd told the "New York Times" last week that the Democrats seem to be losing their voice when it comes to the basic things that people worry about. You're the Chairman of the Party. Do you agree with that assessment?
DEAN: It's simply not true. I can tell you what our agenda is for the '06 elections, which we've agreed with Senator Reid and Leader Pelosi and others. One, we want honesty and openness back in government again. Two, we want a strong national defense, first of all, based on telling the truth to our citizens and our soldiers before we send troops abroad to defend America. Three, we want American jobs that will stay in America using energy independence as a new industry to create millions of construction and manufacturing jobs. Four, we want a health care system that works with everybody just like 36 other countries have in the world. And five, we want a strong public education system so we can have optimism and opportunity back in America. I think that's a pretty good agenda and that's one that could win it for us in '06.
BUMILLER: Have you had trouble getting traction on this agenda?
BUMILLER: There seems to be a lot of dismay in the party about its ability to .. ..
DEAN: I don't know one Senator's dismay qualifies as dismay.
BUMILLER: I think there's more than one.
DEAN: There may be some. I think that Senator Reid has worked hard inside his caucus to get agreement on this agenda. For the first time in a long time we had Mayors, Governors, the Congress and the House and the DNC all sitting at the same table. We think this is a real agenda for change. Were going to win a majority in the House and maybe the Senate, if we are the party of change. That's what we need to be. We do not need to behave like the Republicans. We need to be very clear that we want fundamental election reform and ethics reform. We're going to turn around our posture on defense and really be vigorous about the real problems which are North Korea and Iran and strategic redeploy(ment of) our troops so they are out of harm's way in Iraq. We need to reverse the down slide that's happened to this country under President Bush and we will.
SCHIEFFER: The Chairman of the Republican National Committee, your counterpart and the Vice President say they believe that this election ought to be (about) national security. The Vice President suggested last week that the debate over eavesdropping should be a political issue basically in the coming election. In other words, he said 'we need to put this on the table. We're trying to protect America and the Democrats don't seem to understand that'.
DEAN: As you know there was testimony this week leaked from the grand jury, that it may be the Vice President that leaked security information in a time of war in order to discredit political opponents. I don't think the Vice President has any credibility on national security whatsoever. I think he's in deep trouble. If it turns out that Scooter Libby -- who said this week that his superiors ordered him to leak the information for political reasons-- then this Vice President may not be Vice President very much longer.
SCHIEFFER: Just to make sure everyone understands what we're talking about. This is that leak investigation about who disclosed that Administration critic Joe Wilsons wife was an undercover operative for the Central Intelligence Agency.
DEAN: The President promised two years ago that he would fire the leaker. He hasn't kept his promise. Karl Rove is not only still working in the White House but he has security clearance. Now it turns out that the Vice President of the United States may have been responsible for those leaks for political reasons. That is the kind of thing that is not been done to my knowledge since Aaron Burr was Vice President.
SCHIEFFER: What's the remedy here, if it turns out that the Vice President was the one who leaked that information? So far there's been no indictment. Are you suggesting an indictment or would you suggest impeachment as a result?
DEAN: I would suggest we have to find out if its true or not.
SCHIEFFER: Well, if it is what?
DEAN: If it is true, the President cannot remain in office.
SCHIEFFER: The Vice President.
DEAN: Excuse me. The Vice President cannot remain in office. If that's true, the Vice President cannot remain in office. If it turns out that what Scooter Libby testified that his superior-- and he has only one. If you're the Chief of Staff to somebody, that is your superior. Scooter Libby testified to the grand jury that his superior ordered him or suggested that he leak the information to the press in order to discredit one of their political opponents. If that happened at a time of war, the Vice President cannot sit in the office he now occupies.
BUMILLER: What does that mean specifically? Are you asking him to step down?
DEAN: We need to find out first if this is true or not. This is an allegation that was made to the grand jury.
BUMILLER: What course of action are you recommending here? Having the Vice President step down or ....
DEAN: The first course of action I would recommend that is that if we find out if this is true or not. I'm not going to recommend a course of action. If it is true then the [Vice President] has to step aside.
SCHIEFFER: Would you favor an impeachment proceeding?
DEAN: I think that's getting a little far down the road. I think first we have to find out if it's true. It's been alleged by Scooter Libby, who has been indicted for leaking information, that his superiors ordered him to leak that information. If that's true, his superior is Vice President Cheney. If that is true, Vice President Cheney cannot remain in office.
SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about Ken Mehlman. The Chairman of the Republican Party said last week that Hillary Clinton was angry -- and too angry -- and that Americans will not elect an angry candidate. What do you say to that?
DEAN: Well, first of all I generally don't talk about 2008 because I have to be the referee in that race. If I say anything about one of them, I've got to say something about--
BUMILLER: We're just talking about what Mr. Melhman said.
DEAN: I'm going to get to that in a minute. I'm going to leave the question of Senator Clinton's remarks aside. I recall Senator Clinton said something to the effect that this was the worst presidency we've seen. Now the facts are that they've bungled the response to Katrina and there's more evidence now the President misled the nation about that as well. Because this week we see evidence that, in fact, as he told the American people the opposite of what he told the American people, he did in fact know how bad it was because the White House was told the night before. He misled the American people about Iraq. He misled the American people about the cost of the drug benefits for seniors. What has this President done right?
BUMILLER: Let me talk about Mrs. Clinton.
DEAN: I'm not going to talk about Senator Clinton.
BUMILLER: Do you think she is too angry? Do you agree with Mr. Melhman?
DEAN: I said I'm not going to talk about the 2008 race. I do agree that Senator Clinton has said a number of things about the President, which are true, which Mr. Mehlman finds inconvenient because the President's list of accomplishments is incredibly short.
SCHIEFFER: Governor, time runs short when you're on the show. We're out of time.
DEAN: Thank you.