Interview on CNN's 'The Situation Room'
April 13, 2006
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean often finds himself on both the giving and receiving end of partisan attacks. Some members of his party have questioned his ability to lead them to victory in the 2006 elections and beyond, but Dean is trying to keep his fire on President Bush and the Republicans. I spoke with Dean a short while ago.
COLLINS: Governor Dean, you came out yesterday and blasted the president saying that he ignored intelligence on WMD. Are you implying that the president lied about that?
HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATL. CMTE. CHMN.: We don't know, Heidi, once again, whether the president wasn't informed -- in which case the administration is incompetent -- or whether he did know and then he deliberately lied to the American people. We deserve to know that.
What I asked the president to do was declassify this report. The president was willing, as it turned out two weeks ago, to declassify classified information for the purposes of defaming his political opponents.
Well, I don't think that's a very good reason to declassify information but I do think it's a good reason to declassify information to find out if the president of the United States has told the truth to the American people before he sent hundreds of thousands of Americans abroad to fight in the Iraq war.
So I want the president to declassify that report, let the American people know what did the president know and when did he know it? Did he deliberately mislead us? Or did he do it because people kept information from him in his administration?
COLLINS: Governor Dean, do you believe that that is moving forward or moving backward in continuing to talk about an issue that some would say has been covered?
DEAN: I think the issue of honesty and ethics in this administration is front and center. We've had arrests and convictions -- excuse me -- arrests in the White House, investigations in the White House. We've had arrests in the vice president's office, investigations in the vice president's office.
We've had the Republican leader of the Senate under investigation for insider trading, the Republican leader of the House having to resign. This Republican administration is full of corruption from top to bottom. We need to know if that reaches the president of the United States or not. If it reaches the president of the United States, he's in deep trouble.
COLLINS: Let's go ahead and listen for just a moment to White House press secretary Scott McClellan with something that he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCLELLAN: This is nothing more than rehashing an old issue that was resolved long ago. I cannot count how many times the president has said the intelligence was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Your thoughts, Governor Dean?
DEAN: The -- this is not a matter of intelligence. This is a matter of what our people knew about those trailers and the fact that they reported those trailers did not have and were not being used as by biochemical laboratories.
That information was available to the president of the United States. He sent us to war using that information. It wasn't the intelligence was wrong, they had the intelligence. The intelligence was right and the president ignored the intelligence or else did he not know about it.
Only one of two things can be the case. Either the president deliberately misled the nation and sent our troops to war anyway, or people from the administration withheld that information from the president of the United States.
That goes to the heart of two issues of this next election is going to be about. One is the qualifications and competency of this president. And the other is the honest and trustworthiness, honesty and trustworthiness of this president. The American people deserve to know if their president is honest.
COLLINS: Governor Dean, you talk about elections. Let's move forward to that for a moment. Midterm elections coming up and there is a 30-seat majority in the House that the Republicans have. There is a headline in "The Washington Post" today that I'm sure you probably saw. "Democrats face uphill battle to retake the House." Uphill battle in your eyes?
DEAN: Well, we think the election issue is, do you want more of the same or do you want a real change? What we're willing to do is first have real ethics legislation that we will vote on in the first hundred days.
Second, we want a strong national defense that depends on telling the truth to the American people. Third we want American jobs that will stay in America using energy independence. We think these kinds of issues are the issues that are going to change the tide in America. We offer a change. We offer something new, a bolder vision.
COLLINS: What exactly is that change? How does the Democratic Party differentiate itself from the Republican Party? Because the goals that you mention or the agenda that you mention, I think a lot of people want.
DEAN: I think they do. A lot of American people including Republicans are tired of the dishonesty and the culture of corruption the Republicans brought to Washington.
I think a lot of American people believe they ought to be told the truth before people get sent to war. And I think a lot of American people are wondering why the president persists in sending every manner of job to other countries.
Under this president, for five years, the average income adjusted for inflation of average Americans has gone down by $2,300 dollars. I've not seen that. I think this country hasn't seen it since the Hoover depression. So...
COLLINS: ... Exactly the change though, what will be glaringly different?
DEAN: Glaringly different, we will pass real ethics legislation that denies corporate trips on corporate planes in the first hundred days. And denies the Republicans the right to stick things in conference committees that were never voted on, these kind of things.
That cost us $20 billion in December when the Republicans stuck something in the budget that sent $20 billion to HMOs. Tens of billions of dollars went to oil companies under this Republican legislation.
Enough of that stuff. The American people are sick of it. We want American jobs to stay in America and that means creating jobs that will stay here using energy independence.
COLLINS: But what about the Democratic Party and their thoughts on you in this job?
DEAN: We've turned this party around. I meet every week or every other week with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. We're working together. We have a message that we think is a strong message. We have a grassroots operation in every one of the 50 states now. None of those things we had before. We're remaking the Democratic Party into the party of change, the party that can bring real change to America.