Interview on 'Good Morning America'
February 9, 2006
CHARLIE GIBSON: Joining us now from Burlington, Vermont is Howard Dean, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Good to have you with us.
DNC CHAIRMAN HOWARD DEAN: Thank you for having me on.
GIBSON: Senator Clinton's central point, it seems to me here, is that the Republicans are doing a far better job of convincing the country they can keep them safe and the Democrats aren't doing a very good job of countering that strategy. Do you agree?
DEAN: Your poll shows otherwise. Your poll shows that they have a small edge and that's a smaller edge than they had before. The truth is the Republicans haven't defended us any better than they had dealt with Katrina or senior drug benefits or balancing the budget. On this President's watch, Iran is becoming a nuclear power. The President has nothing, done little about it. North Korea-- after five years-- North Korea still has nuclear weapons. The President sent our troops in battle without adequate armor. He wouldn't listen to the generals who told him if he were going into Iraq that he needed more help. This is not a President who's been particularly strong on--
GIBSON: But --
DEAN: What about our borders? President has been in office for five years. What about the security of our borders? I think the President is weak on defense. They have a great propaganda machine but the fact is they haven't delivered on American security.
GIBSON: You're shot-gunning me on a lot of issues. But, on the issue of national security, 64% of the country says we're a stronger country than before 9/11. Given the mood of this country and the concerns are country and the personal fears, isn't that game, set and match for the Republicans?
DEAN: Absolutely not because the truth is we're not safer than we were when George Bush came into office.
GIBSON: --but the country thinks we are.
DEAN: That's an interesting poll but I've seen many others with folks who don't agree with that. Polls are polls. The fact is this President has not defended us because he hasn't listened to the military. He has not treated our military properly. Our soldiers are losing their lives over there. For us to have to wait three years to get them adequate body armor, that is something the Democratic Party will not do. If we send our troops into battle after we take power, I can tell you two things. First, we will tell the truth to the country and our soldiers about why they have to go. And secondly, they'll be adequately equipped.
GIBSON: But she's saying essentially we've lost two elections because we were not able to convince this country that we could keep it safe. That is her central point. And I think there may be in people's minds a real question: What is the Democratic position on national security?
DEAN: The Democratic position on national security is that we will hunt down Osama bin Laden, enough is enough. Two, we will under no circumstances allow Iran to become a nuclear power. Three, we will make the deal that has to be made with the North Koreans and get that done and put pressure and pay attention to that. And four, that we will always adequately equip our troops if we need to send them into battle to defend the United States.
GIBSON: There has been a lot of discussion in Washington in recent days about the warrantless wiretaps that have gone on. The President says this is necessary to fight terrorism. Do you think this is a winner for the Democrats?
DEAN: Many in his own party disagree. Wiretapping is certainly necessary and the Democrats certainly approve of as much spying on Al Qaeda as we possibly can. What we don't approve of is breaking the law in order to spy on Americans. The present law is very adequate and the White House itself said so four years ago. All we ask is that we not turn into a country like Iran where the President of Iran can do anything they want at any time. The reason the constitution of this country has lasted as long as it has and this country lasted as long as it has as a real democracy is because there is a check on presidential power. Now, there's not a big check on this one. We just ask the President to go get a warrant after the fact if he thinks there is an emergency. But there is no reason this President shouldn't obey the law. And, we expect him to obey the law while defending the country.
GIBSON: Governor Dean, appreciate you being with us.
DEAN: Thanks for having me.