Interview on "Meet The Press"
August 13, 2006
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Coming next, how will the war in Iraq and our national security affect the political landscape in the midterm elections? The chairmen of both political parties, Democrat Howard Dean and Republican Ken Mehlman, are next.
MR. GREGORY: And we are back. DNC chair Howard Dean joins us this morning from Vermont.
Chairman Dean, good morning.
MR. HOWARD DEAN: David, thanks for having me on.
MR. GREGORY: Chairman Dean, are you able to hear me OK?
MR. DEAN: I can hear you fine, can you...
MR. GREGORY: OK, fine. Welcome, welcome to MEET THE PRESS. Let me...
MR. DEAN: Thanks for having me on.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about the big political news of the week, that of course related to Senator Joe Lieberman. Six years ago he was the vice presidential choice for your party. What happened?
MR. DEAN: I think he embraced George Bush’s policies, and the American people are tired of George Bush’s policies. They want a new direction in this country, and, and the voters have spoken.
MR. GREGORY: Should he get out of the race now?
MR. DEAN: I think so. Look, I know how hard this is for Joe, and he’s a good, good person. But the truth is I, I lost one of these races, and I got right behind my party’s nominee, and I think that’s what you have to do if you want to help the country. The way to help this country is to limit Republican power. They have failed in, in the budget, they’ve failed in Iraq, they’ve failed at—- with Katrina. I just got back from North Dakota; there’s not—- more than a war on terror going on in this country, there’s a war on the middle class going on. There—- those folks need help, and we need help domestically. We need a change in this country. We need a new direction, and I think Ned Lamont will give us that new direction.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Lieberman led the charge against the new face of the party after his defeat, saying, in effect, it had been taken over by the liberal wing. This is what he had to say the day after his defeat on NBC’s “Today” show.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN: I am committed to this campaign, to a different kind of politics, to bringing the Democratic Party back from Ned Lamont, Maxine Waters, to the mainstream.
MR. GREGORY: “Back from the extreme.” Has the Democratic Party that, that you represent been taken over by the extreme?
MR. DEAN: You know, I think that was an unfortunate statement that Joe made.
That’s exactly the same line that Ken Mehlman and, and Dick Cheney are using. The truth is, Ned Lamont is a moderate. Ned Lamont earned his own living. He made a lot of money—- and good for him—- in, in this American system. He wants a balanced budget, he wants a sane defense policy, he wants health care for all Americans. That is what the Democratic Party believes in. The truth is, most Democrat—- most people in this country, let alone Democrats, most Americans, by a large majority, agree with Ned Lamont and not George Bush and, and Joe Lieberman.
MR. GREGORY: On the issue of the war, is the Democratic Party welcome to differing views about the war?
MR. DEAN: Sure we are. I think we very much are. You don’t see some of the other senators who were supportive of the war. This is simply—- the problem that Joe had was he embraced the president. This is a president who’s been bad for America. You should see what’s going on in North Dakota—- farmers who’ve not had any drought relief, people losing their health care. There’s a—- the president’s paying no attention to the middle class. Kids want to go to college; they can’t do it now because the president’s cut their Pell grants. There’s a lot of problems in this country that are not being addressed, and Ned Lamont will address those questions.
MR. GREGORY: But, Chairman Dean...
MR. DEAN: And the Democratic Party will address those questions.
MR. GREGORY: --you say that there’s room for other views on the war in Iraq. Senator Lieberman, supportive of the war, didn’t believe in a—- in a date certain for troops. Is that view welcome within the party?
MR. DEAN: Sure. There are many other candidates running who don’t believe in a deadline for the troops. The Democratic Party itself is on record saying that we ought to bring our troops home, but we’re not committing to bring our troops home immediately. I don’t know of any—- or very few Democrats that want to do that. But we believe, along with the majority of the American people, that this war was a mistake and that it’s, it’s a complete lack of leadership for the president of the United States to say, “Well, we’re going to leave this to the next president.” That is not leadership. This guy got us into this mess; he needs to get us out of this mess.
MR. GREGORY: As you well know, there’s...
MR. DEAN: And we—and we will do it if he can’t.
MR. GREGORY: As you well know, there’s a number of, of Democrats, potential nominees, candidates in 2008, who have, in effect, recanted their support of the war, saying it was a mistake. A notable potential candidate who has not done that, of course, is Senator Hillary Clinton. She has not supported a date certain for withdrawal, nor has she said that her vote of support was a mistake. Does she need to recant that support in order to be the Democratic nominee, in your view?
MR. DEAN: Look, first of all, I don’t comment on 2008, I have to be the referee. Second of all, there’s plenty of room for differing points of view on how to defend America.
The problem is, the president has failed to defend America. Since he has been in office, the number of nuclear weapons in North Korea has quadrupled, Iran has moved closer to nuclear weapons, Osama bin Laden has set up shop in Pakistan five years after the fact. I think one of the 9/11 chairs just said it very well: If your top priority isn’t defending the American homeland, then you’re not doing your job. And I think President Bush is not doing his job on defense or domestically.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about something Senator Lieberman also said in the wake of the UK bombing plot. This is how it was reported in The Washington Post on Friday: “Campaigning in Connecticut, Senator Joseph Lieberman ... said the antiwar views of primary winner Ned Lamont would be ‘taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England.’” Your, your reaction?
MR. DEAN: I think that’s—I think that’s outrageous. I mean, that’s the same—again, the same thing Dick Cheney, who’s been widely discredited by most Americans as essentially a propaganda machine, has said. It’s ridiculous. That is saying to the Connecticut voters that you don’t care about American security and saying to the Connecticut voters that they like al-Qaeda. That is a ridiculous thing. The Republicans hope, once again, to win an election based on fear. They—- you know, fear-mongering, whining and complaining and name-calling is not going to lead America.
We need a new direction in America, we need a new direction to defend America, and we need a new direction to make the homeland safe, not just in terms of safety from terrorists, but safe for the middle class again. We have seen a decline in the middle class. We need a strong middle class to make America strong again, and with Democratic leadership we’ll have that middle class strong again, with the ability to go to college, with the ability to count on your pension, with the ability to have decent health care.
MR. GREGORY: You talk about defending America. What is the Democratic Party’s prescription for fighting and winning the war on terror?
MR. DEAN: Well, first of all, if you want to fight and win on the war on terror, the fact is Iraq is a distraction. Iraq never had anything to do with the war on terror and that’s just a fact and that’s what the 9/11 Commission said. So it’s not enough to listen to the right-wing folks that claim that we’re fighting the terrorists off the shore so they don’t come on the shore. That is hooey. The people who fought the terrorism best in the last couple of weeks have been the British, who uncovered this plot. We need to upgrade our airport security and we’ve tried to do that in the Democratic Party, and our additions to the budget in Homeland Security have been turned down by the Republican majority. We need a real tough fight on terror, but we need to be tough and smart, not just talk tough.
MR. GREGORY: You heard the 9/11 co-chairmen. Does the Democratic Party believe—- do you believe that a push for democratic reform in the Middle East is vital to winning the war on terror?
MR. DEAN: Yes, but I think the way that the president went about pushing for democratic reform was incredibly foolish. It blew up in his face and now Americans are paying the price for that. We needed a much different strategy. The truth was, we were controlling Saddam Hussein’s air space, he had no air force, he had little army. Saddam Hussein was a pain in the neck and a bad person, but the fact is there are a lot of pains in the neck and bad people in this world. And what we should have been concentrating on is getting rid of the Taliban once and for all in Afghanistan who are now making a resurgence, making sure that Iraq—Iran does not have nuclear weapons. That we cannot afford to have—- to allow. And to make sure that North Korea is disarmed. Those ought to be the major priorities, because if nuclear weapons get in the hands of terrorists we have a much more serious problem than Saddam ever posed to the United States or to the region.
MR. GREGORY: Governor Howard Dean, thank you very much for your views.
MR. DEAN: Thanks very much for having me on, David.
Originally from MSNBC Transcripts.