Interview on MSNBC's 'Decision 2006'
September 6, 2006
David Gregory, Host: And welcome back to MSNBC's Decision 2006, "Battleground America". If you care about politics, MSNBC is where you want to be all day long. We are looking at the hot races in this country, for what is a very important fall election. Will Republicans hold onto control of Congress, or will Democrats take over this November? And joining us now is the Democratic Chairman-- the Democratic National Committee Chairman, Howard Dean, joining us this morning from Vermont.
Chairman Dean, welcome.
Howard Dean, DNC Chairman: David, thanks for having me on.
Gregory: All right.
Let me begin with you where I ended with Ken Mehlman. And that was the question of whether there is a national wave here against incumbent Republicans. Do you believe there is?
Dean: I certainly do. I think enormous numbers of people in this country want a new direction for the country, and they're not gonna continue to elect people who just rubber-stamp the President's agenda. The President's gotten us into the middle of a civil war in Iraq, people have lost jobs... Every year this President has been in office, one million middle-class Americans have lost their health insurance. The Republicans cut the ability of middle-class kids to go to high school.
There's another war going on, which I haven't heard anybody mention yet, and that's the Republican war against the American family. It makes it harder to do the things that we need to do to raise our kids properly. And there is very much a deep feeling, I think, of almost disgust with the leadership in Washington, which is 100% Republican.
So, yeah, there's gonna be a national wave that says, 'we need a new direction.'
Gregory: Yesterday as I mentioned with Chairman Mehlman, the President spoke about the nature of the enemy in this 'war on terror', with security politics looming over this fall campaign, and he spoke a great deal about Osama Bin Ladin. Let's listen to a portion of what he had to say.
George Bush, President of the United States: Bin Ladin and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is, will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say?
[END VIDEO CLIP]
Gregory: The President's point, Chairman Dean, is that this war on terror is just as important as the Cold War, the war against Soviet communism; and World War II, the war against Nazi Germany. Does the Democratic Party have what it takes to fight and win this war?
Dean: I think we-- the Democratic Party can offer something that the President has not offered. We believe we need to be tough, but we believe we need to be tough and smart. The President simply has made a huge number of blunders. The Iraq war was a war of choice on the part of this President. The war on terror is not a war of choice. We oughtta have more troops in Afghanistan than we do right now, and that's part of our redeployment philosopy. We need to capture or kill Osama Bin Ladin, and focus on what's going on in northwestern Pakistan.
This President has simply gotten us into a place where he is unable to adequately fight the war on terror. For three weeks of what we spend in Iraq, we could make every port in America secure. The Democrats have proposed that in the Senate, and the House, and the Republicans have voted that down. We need to be tough and smart, not just simply talk tough at election time.
Gregory: But if it is the position of the Democratic Party that troops need to be immediately redeployed or pulled out of Iraq, what will that leave behind in that country?
Dean: Well, first of all, I didn't say "immediately". I don't think anybody that I know believes that you can immediately pull all our troops out of Iraq.
Gregory: So what's the timeframe?
Dean: But I was very interested to hear Chairman Mehlman previously echo the Bush line. The Bush line is, 'we can't leave Iraq because it'll make us look weak.' So essentially, the President is proposing that we stay forever.
Well, that is-- I hate to say it, but that's just patently ridiculous. The President has put us in a situation which has-- gives us a very bad choice. We can continue to be in the middle of a civil war and occupying Iraq, and having our brave soldiers killed, or, we can leave. Neither one of those is now a good option. But I'm with George Aiken, the wonderful Vermont Senator, who once said about Viet Nam, "declare victory and get out." Ten or eight years later, we did; it cost us 25,000 more troops' lives. We've got 20,000 kids wounded in Iraq because this President put us into a war of choice. We ought not to be there, we need a real strategy to leave.
Gregory: But are you suggesting, Chairman Dean, that we declare victory in Iraq and simply leave, and you think that will leave behind a safe Iraq?
Dean: Eventually, we're gonna have to leave Iraq. We can't stay forever.
Gregory: -- But, but, but when? It's easy to say we don't stay forever, but isn't it important if you say you believe in phased redeployment, to say when, as a party, you believe troops should come out?
Dean: No, I don't think it's important. I believe we need to be in power before we can make those determinations.
Look, the Democratic Party voted, on the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate, that we ought not to be in Iraq. We've offered a number of plans that hav to do with timetables and getting out of Iraq. I think that there's widespread agreement in the Democratic Party that we oughtta be out by the end of 2008. But, we are not the governing party. The Republicans run the White House, they run the House, and they run the Senate. And what we're saying is, it's time for a new look, time for a new leadership, time for a new direction in this country.
We haven't even talked about what we need to be doing about health care and jobs in this country. You know, there was previous discussion about the northeastern Ohio-- Ohio and the Midwest is bleeding jobs because of this President's lack of leadership. We need a new direction in this country.
Gregory: Lemme ask you, if Democrats were to take over control of Congress, what would be a priority in terms of investigations? Are there areas of national security policy that you feel should be investigated, of this administration?
Dean: Well, Chairman Pat Roberts, who's the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, promised a long time ago-- a promise that he has still failed to keep-- that we would investigate how we got into Iraq, and who was telling the truth and who was not. That's probably a good place to start, since the Republicans have already agreed to have that investigation.
But our priorities are not gonna be investigations. Our priorities are gonna be to put America back on the track. We need a new direction. We need focusing on health care, on jobs, on education, on opportunities, and we need a strong national security policy at home. Remember, homeland security begins with home town security. We don't see any of that.
Gregory: Chairman Dean, you talked about the Northeast, and one of the key races, as you well know and have been talking about, is Connecticut. It's a very tight race there. You said critical things of Senator Joe Lieberman. Should he win, will you welcome him back as a Democrat?
Dean: Well, you know, I'm the chairman of the Democratic Party, and I'm doing everything I can to support Ned Lamont. So I don't deal in hypotheticals of 'should he' or 'should he'. He has said he'd caucus with the Democrats. I'm hoping that Ned Lamont, who's very bright, is a very successful young businessman who does represent the future generation, will win that race, and we're certainly gonna do everything we can to help him.
Gregory: But if Senator Lieberman, the sitting Democratic Senator from Connecticut, were to hold on and win, are you now prepared to say you would welcome him as a Democrat?
Dean: Well, sure I would. Of course we would.
Gregory: All right. Chairman Howard Dean, thank you very much, a lot more to watch...
Dean: Thanks very much.
Gregory: ...in the runup to this election. Thanks for being with us.
Dean: Thanks, David.