Interview on 'Hardball'
October 5, 2005
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Where do the Democrats stand on the Harriet Miers nomination, on the war in Iraq, on abortion, on taxes and spending? You will the get answers here tonight from the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean.
But, first, where is the leadership of the Democratic Party today?
I went straight to the top and talked to the chairman of the DNC, Dr. Howard Dean.
MATTHEWS: Dr. Dean, were you surprised by the nomination of Harriet Miers to be a member of the United States Supreme Court?
HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I was surprised. I'm like most every other American, including the ones in Washington. We know almost nothing about her. And there's a lot of questions to be answered before she gets a lifetime appointment.
MATTHEWS: Would you have ever thought of her as a possible court nominee?
DEAN: No. You know, she's a person who's very much below the radar screen as the president's legal counsel.
But there's a lot of questions. I do think the president should make sure the Senate knows about her positions that she took while she was the president's legal counsel, because it's the only documentation that we 're going to have about what she believes.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the president can claim executive privilege?
DEAN: Well, certainly the president can claim executive privilege. But, in this case, I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can't play, you know, hide the... the, uh, salami or whatever it's called. You gotta go out there and say something about this woman. She's going to get a 20 or 30 appoint-- a 20 or 30-year appointment, to influence America. We deserve to know something about her.
MATTHEWS: Are you being consistent? During the campaign, there was an issue of you releasing records from Montpelier. And you were fighting that case. You were saying, "I don't want to release these records. They divulge a lot of personal matters. I'm not going to do it." Now you 're saying the president should release these papers.
DEAN: Well, actually, I did release about two-thirds of my records. The stuff that I didn't release was stuff people that-- it was not about people who were up for appointment to the United States Supreme Court, I can assure you of that.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, is this a case of cronyism?
DEAN: I wouldn't go that far. We don 't know Ms. Miers. I have always believed people ought to be given the benefit of the doubt.
I thought long and hard before I opposed Judge Roberts, and I opposed him because I thought he would not protect the most vulnerable Americans. Now we 'll get a chance to see. Until I know something about her, I'm not willing to condemn her.
MATTHEWS: Judge Roberts got an even split among the Democratic senators. I think it was 22-22. Do you think this woman will do as well?
DEAN: I just have no idea, Chris. I have no idea. I know nothing about her. And I don't think many people in America know much about her.
MATTHEWS: John Roberts, when he was up before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was not an ideologue. In fact, he was implying he wasn't a partisan politician. Do you think she can make that claim, having served so loyally this Republican president?
DEAN: You know...
MATTHEWS: Can she claim not be an ideologue when she's been such a Bushie?
DEAN: Well, I don't think she probably is an ideologue. I think she's probably a pretty smart lawyer, but that doesn't mean she ought to be on the Supreme Court.
I think we ought to know whether she's going to defend Americans, whether she's going to defend all Americans. I wasn't very impressed by Judge Roberts questioning the voters of Oregon on the euthanasia laws they have. It seems to me that, if you believe in states' rights, that you ought to support the state's rights.
And he seemed to take a contradictory view of that. So, I think let's find out what these folks are like, which you find out pretty fast when they go on the bench. And I think it's really, really important that we know a lot more about her than we do right now.
MATTHEW: George Will said in a column this morning that there's no reason right now why this woman should be approved for the court. It's up to her to prove herself. Do you take that stand, that it has yet to be proven, and she has to do it, that she deserves a seat on the Supreme Court?
DEAN: Yes, I think she has to prove that she can defend the American Constitution, something which Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, for example, did not do and have not done very well.
We need people who will-- will actually do what the Constitution says, who will protect all Americans equally under the law and not try to rewrite the Constitution, so it looks like a right-wing Federalist Society agenda. That's all I ask for, is somebody who is going to be thoughtful.
MATTHEW: Does it bother that she's been to pro-life events?
I mean, you know, I 'm a strong believer that the government ought not to tell women how-- what kind of health care they ought to have. But I don't mind what her religious convictions are, as long as she upholds the law.
MATTHEW: The Democratic Party supports abortion rights. Do you?
DEAN: Yes. I believe that a woman ought not to be told by the government what kind of health care she ought to have. That's not the government's business.
MATTHEW: Do you believe the Democratic Party is still consistent on that position, despite the comments by Hillary Clinton about the need for dialogue and all that? Do you think...
DEAN: Hey, listen...
MATTHEWS: ... the party is still sound on this?
DEAN: ... I think we ought to have the smallest number of abortions as possible.
You know, abortions have gone up since George Bush has been president. I think we ought to reduce abortions to the smallest number possible. But I don't think you do it by taking away the right of women to make up their own mind about the way their lives are going to be shaped.
MATTHEWS: So, in this upcoming birth on partial-birth that's coming -- there's going to be a verdict on that sometime after Thanksgiving-- do you think it's important that the new justice be a person who supports abortion rights down the line, supports Roe v. Wade?
DEAN: I think it's important that the new justice is willing to grant individual freedoms to all Americans, not just on the issue of abortion, but the individual freedom to make up-- for voting rights, for example.
I think they ought to defend people's ability to vote unharassed. I think this thing they're doing down in Georgia, where they're going to charge people 20 bucks for an I.D., so they can vote, that's going back to the days of Jim Crow. Those are the kinds of things I really care about. I want people to-- to defend the individual freedoms and rights of Americans. And, so far, we haven't seen that happen from the right wing.
MATTHEWS: Dr. Dean, you've been very cautious here, and I think a lot of Democrats have. You're not alone. Why are the right-wing people, the people on the radio all day, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, people like David Frum, Bill Kristol, who was immensely important in knocking the Hillary Clinton health care plan-- he has a big power in this country-- why are they out there with their blunderbuss going at this nomination, and you're so cool about it?
DEAN: Well, I don't know. They can say whatever they want. That's what they do. Sometimes the people who talk the most know the least.
Let me ask you about Iraq. One in six Democrats now tell pollsters that the war in Iraq was worth it. Are you one of those one in six, or one of the five in six-- I should say, well, only one in six say it's worth it. Are you one of the one in six or one of the five in six who don 't think it was worth it?
DEAN: Well, I think, Chris, one thing I am is consistent. I thought this was a bad idea in the first place because I believed that we would get just in the kind of mess that we have.
It looks like, first, now the Iraqi government that George Bush is supporting so hard is trying to rig the vote on the constitution. Women appear to be worse off under this constitution than they were under Saddam Hussein. I think this president's made a terrible mistake. Now we're stuck. We're in there. It's not responsible to take our troops out tomorrow, but we need to get our troops out of there and we need to do it in a reasonable way and not lose any more lives.
MATTHEWS: Most Democrats, in fact all but a quarter, think that your party, you, don't have a policy, an alternative, to President Bush on Iraq. What is your clear-cut alternative to what he's doing now in Iraq?
DEAN: Well, our clear-cut alternative, of course, wouldn't have been to get in there in the first place.
But I think our clear-cut alternative is, we know we have to come home. The American people are sick of this, they think this was a mistake. The question is, what-- the timetable to come home. There's a lot of reasonable alternatives. I personally don't think it's reasonable to pull out all the troops tomorrow. But I clearly think sooner is better than later.
MATTHEWS: If we haven't begun that withdrawal by next November, the election of congressmen and senators across the country, will this be a campaign issue?
DEAN: It will be, but I think the culture of corruption that Tom DeLay and Karl Rove and Scooter Libby and Bill Frist and the Ohio people are bringing to the Republican Party is a much bigger campaign issue.
You can't trust Republicans with your money. Not only can they not handle, in terms of driving up huge deficits, but it turns out they're also putting it in their own pockets. Nobody likes corruption, not conservatives, not liberals, not Democrats, not Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Who-- Dr. Dean, who was putting money in their pockets in the Republican leadership?
DEAN: Well, first of all-- well, certainly Tom Noe was, who gave money to a lot of other people. Jack Abramoff was putting money not just into his own pocket, but into...
MATTHEWS: The former aide to Tom DeLay, right.
DEAN: Right, maybe into Tom DeLay's pocket, which was certainly benefiting a bunch of folks in Texas who were running for reelection.
And then you have the issues of revealing what may be national security secrets...
DEAN: ... which Karl Rove and Scooter Libby are accused of. And then you have the question which would be money in their pockets if it is proved to be founded, of whether Senator Frist participated in insider trading or not, which is currently being looked at.
You're talking about these junkets that DeLay's accused of taking at the behest of Jack Abramoff, his former aid, when you say money in his pocket.
DEAN: I'm talking about the junkets, the free trips-- but I'm also talking about the indirect benefits of having more Republicans by circuitous-- circumventing the campaign laws in Texas by putting corporate money, washed through the Republican National Committee, into Texas illegally, which is what he's charged with in his indictment.
MATTHEWS: If Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, says that the vice president's office was involved in leaking the name of that CIA agent, do you believe-- what do you think his status would be, the vice president, if his office was named to be involved in this?
DEAN: Well, I think that depends on what kind of evidence there is, if that's true. Obviously, the person, I think, who's indicted would have to step down immediately. And then we'd have to ask the question, was the vice president himself personally involved in this? And that of course would extend the...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe it's credible that the vice president's chief of staff, his office, his operation, were involved in such a scheme to hurt somebody like Joe Wilson, that he wasn't personally involved in his own office's activities? Do you think it's credible?
DEAN: Sure. Well, I don't think it's very credible that he didn't know anything about it, because the M.O. of the Bush administration is to discredit your opponents and attack them personally...
DEAN: ... rather than attack them for their position, which this is an example of.
These guys are bad for democracy. They're not interested in ideas. They're interested in power. And, frankly, they're not very much interested in the best interests of the American people. They're interested in the power for the right wing of the Republican Party, and that's why they'll be gone after 2006.
MATTHEWS: Well, back that up, Dr. Dean. What other examples can you point to-- or any examples can you point to where the Republicans in power right now, in the White House or in Congress, have gone after somebody and tried to discredit them?
DEAN: Oh, I think there are numbers of them, not just Valerie Plame, but look at what they did to John Kerry with the Swift Boat ads. Certainly, they certainly tried to marginalize me during the presidential campaign. I think they would have done that...
MATTHEWS: Well, you helped a little, didn't you?
DEAN: I don't really think so. I think the press probably helped some. But...
MATTHEWS: I mean, the Dean scream was good material, like the ride in the tank was good material for the Republicans when they went after Mike Dukakis.
DEAN: Well, as you know very well, based on Diane Sawyer's report on ABC, that didn't exactly happen the way it was shown on television 700 times that week. But leaving that aside, I think it's very clear...
MATTHEWS: I know. It was a directed mike. I understand the technology.
I've got one last question, Dr. Dean.
MATTHEWS: One last question. The price of gas, it's a huge issue, heating oil up in your part of the country. You know it, as being governor. It's a huge issue in New England. It's going to be high heating bills this winter. What can Democrats say that they would do if they were in power to reduce the price of heating oil this winter up in New England?
DEAN: Well, you can't do anything to reduce the price of heating oil in New England. You've got to subsidize it and help poor people with their heating bills.
In the long term, we're going to see a new Democratic Party. We need renewable energy; we need a balanced budget; we need to talk about the moral values of making sure that kids don't go to bed hungry or cold at night.
DEAN: And that's what's lacking on the Republican side, that, plus the culture of corruption that they've brought to the statehouses and to Washington, D.C. is going to win us the election in 2006, I think.
MATTHEWS: Should-- should Democrats, Dr. Dean, drive SUVs?*
MATTHEWS: I mean it.
MATTHEWS: They want to set an example. Should they drive gas-guzzling SUVs, if they're going to be liberals?
DEAN: I'm not getting near that one.
MATTHEWS: They shouldn't drive them?
DEAN: I'm not even going to answer that question. It's not up to me to tell people what kind of cars they ought to drive.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.
DEAN: And I don't think having-- I don't think it's a moral imperative to drive a big car or a little car.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you for that libertarian view, Dr. Dean.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean. Thank you, sir.
DEAN: Thanks, Chris.
Originally posted on MSNBC.
"If you visit the Dean garage, though, you'll find a couple of gas-guzzling, American-made SUVs.Well, if you compare a 1978 rice-burner (when, if you'll remember, they had just started making cars!) to a 2005 rice-burner, well, it's no comparison. Hell, it was like night and day between my 1980 Toyota Corolla and my 1994 one. Wow, Japanese cars in the '70's were just little matchboxes. It ain't like that no more.
My friends in Michigan absolutely swear by Subaru-- the all-wheel drive, small wagon combination is perfect for people who don't want to get stuck in the snow but don't want to drive a frickin' tank around either.
I heard a rumor Ford now has plans in the works to produce more economical cars. I hope it's true.
However, his SUV(s) don't always get respect:
SubEd 10-21-2003, 11:10 AM
One of them met its end in a scary, but fortunately non-injurious accident in November 2004, in which Dean's daughter Anne was a passenger-- New York Daily News
Salami, truth or dare?