Interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer
June 3, 2005
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Howard Dean isn't running for president anymore, but he's still making Republicans angry. This week, the Democratic National Committee chairman spoke to liberal activists, used some choice words to describe the other party.
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HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIR: Well, Republicans, I guess, can do that, because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives.
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BLITZER: The Republican National Committee was quick to respond. It said "Dean's speech shows that the Democratic Party not only lacks leadership but is overflowing with anger."
Joining us now from Kansas City, the Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean.
Governor, thanks very much for joining us. Those were strong words. I'll give you a chance to explain what you meant.
DEAN: Sure. I guess my job is to outrage the Republicans these days. Harry Truman, as you well know, was once told by a campaign supporter, "Give them hell, Harry."
And he replied, "I don't give them hell. I just give them the truth and the Republicans think it's hell."
Here's a group of Republican leaders who think that they're appealing to working people. They don't want a minimum wage increase. They're cutting police people off the beat. They're attacking Social Security. Now comes out that people's private pensions are in trouble under this administration.
Tell me what the Republican leadership has in common with ordinary working people. It is as if the Republican leadership never had to work a day in their life. What possible understanding could they have of what a working person in this country has to go through, if they're against everything that's good for working people?
BLITZER: But there are millions and millions of Republicans, more than 50 million of them, voted for President Bush's re-election. Are you saying all these Republicans, they don't have to work for a living?
DEAN: No, no, no. Look, we don't go after voters. Voters are the ones that pay our salaries. No matter whether they agree with us or not. But we do go after bad leadership.
And the Republicans, they have run up the largest deficit in the history of the country. They're attacking Social Security. They've got us mired down in a mess in Iraq, of their own making. We need some real leadership in this country.
And they've got to have some understanding of what ordinary Americans are going through. It is hard to make ends meet. It is hard to raise a child in a morally ambiguous environment. And Democrats need to speak to those issues. We are going to speak to those issues.
But we ought to go after the Republicans when they are once again hypocritical about what they're going to do for working people. They do nothing for working people.
BLITZER: This -- this comment comes only a few days, or a few weeks after some other comments the Republicans and others are saying were outrageous. Republicans, you said, on April 4, are "mean, they are not nice people." That was a pretty strong comment right there.
DEAN: Do you think Rush Limbaugh is a nice person? I don't think so. I didn't think John Ashcroft was very nice, the way he treated American immigrants, either.
I don't -- you know, I think a lot of these folks aren't very nice. I didn't think it was very nice to put gay marriage on the ballot of a -- of 11 states where gay marriage was already against the law.
These folks are telling people things about the Democratic Party that aren't true. We believe in equal rights. Gay marriage doesn't appear in our platform. Nobody's pro-abortion in this country. The abortion rate was lower than Democrat -- when Democrats were in charge, than they are when the Republicans are in charge.
I'm tired of being told what to do by the Republican Party. Democrats are now going to speak for ourselves. We're going to tell the Americans what our message is. It's clean government, no more corruption in Washington. It's a Social Security system that works for people. It's a health care system that works for people like all these other countries have. That's what the Democratic Party's going to stand for.
BLITZER: So -- so when you said back in January, and I'll put it up on the screen, "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for, but I admire their discipline and their organization." This -- I guess what I'm suggesting is that -- you're talk about Republican leaders, political leaders.
BLITZER: But the impression you're giving is that you're talking about these millions, tens of million, of Republican people, average people, across the country that seem to be -- a lot of people are taking your words very personally.
DEAN: Well, you know, in part that's fueled by the Republican spin machine. I'm sure you must have gotten press releases about this, because as soon as I say things like this, the Republicans put out a cascade of paper.
My parents were Republicans. I don't hate Republicans. But I sure hate what this Republican Party is doing to America.
BLITZER: Well, maybe you should be more precise with the words, Governor. Instead of simply saying, as you say, "I hate the Republicans," you should say, "I hate the Republican political leadership."
DEAN: Well, that's -- you know, you've got a good point there. A little more precision in words is always a good thing.
But I think what the Republicans are doing to America is awful. We need a balanced budget. We haven't had a Republican balanced budget in almost 40 years. We need some kind of decent health care system.
We need a strong defense that's going to do more than wink and nod at Iran and North Korea. This president's been in office for four and a half years. Tell me what he has done to defend us against Iran and North Korea.
I'll tell you what he's done. He's sent 135,000 troops to Iraq, which was never a threat, as documented by the 9/11 Commission, to the United States. We need somebody who knows what they're doing in defending America. We don't have that in this leadership and we need it now.
BLITZER: Why -- why have the Democrats been so spectacularly unsuccessful in recent elections, losing not only the White House, but the House of Representatives, the Senate, state houses throughout the country?
Your party seems to be doing, you know, very, very badly. Republicans seem to be doing very, very well. They must be resonating, the Republican political leadership, with lots of people out there.
DEAN: Well, actually, that's not entirely true. We're actually picking up ground. In the last election, we picked up five legislative bodies around the country. We have more Democratic governors.
BLITZER: But you lost seats in the Senate and the House.
DEAN: That's right, we did. We need a national message. We cannot ever again run a campaign that's confined to 18 states. We have to be in all 50 states.
I'm actually out in Kansas City, Missouri, right now. And tonight I'll be in Kansas City, Kansas. Last night I was in Atlanta. We're going to take these places back. And it's going to take us some time. We need to build an on the ground infrastructure.
Part of the quote when I said, "I hate what the Republicans are doing to America," the part that you didn't read is, "but I admire their business model for winning elections."
BLITZER: I did read -- I said, "I admire their discipline and their organization."
DEAN: OK. Right.
BLITZER: I did read that. Let me get back to the latest statement that you made. Because when you suggested Republicans don't really have to work for a living or anything like that, it was in the context of the win that they had in Ohio, and that was, of course, the decisive factor in President Bush getting re-elected.
Are you suggesting, as you seem to be implying, that that race in Ohio was not fair, that there was something untoward in what happened in Ohio?
DEAN: Well, the only thing that we know was untoward is that -- is that African-American voters voted -- waited three times as long to Vote as white voters did. And in Democratic districts, there were some problems with voting machines.
What I believe, and what I said the other day was, if they think that people can wait sometimes up to eight hours to vote, they must have no idea, these Republican secretaries of states and legislatures, they must have no idea what people's time is worth.
On a Tuesday, you've got to take off work, then -- or you've got to figure out how you're going to pick your kids up after school or after you work. Where do Republicans think that people can afford to wait for four or five or eight hours or whatever it is?
That's not right. We want as many people to vote in America as possible. Look, if we're going to lose, we're going to lose, but let's lose with 100 percent turnout...
BLITZER: So -- so are you saying that it was unfair what happened in Ohio, that President Bush should not have been re-elected, that John Kerry should be in the White House?
DEAN: No, I didn't -- you're a -- that's a wonderful reporting technique, but of course, as you well know, I didn't say anything like that.
BLITZER: Well, tell us what you meant.
DEAN: I meant just exactly what I said. I think the Republican leadership in this country is completely out of touch with what ordinary Americans have to deal with in their daily lives.
And the idea that you ought to have to wait for hours and hours in order to cast your ballot is wrong, and those things are easily fixable. We simply need the right amount of voting machines in every precinct so you can wait for shorter periods of time to cast your ballot. We need things like same-day registration. And frankly, it wouldn't be such a bad thing to have a holiday so people who voted could get there and vote.
You know, this is the most important thing we do in America to maintain our government. We should make voting more easy, instead of less easy. And I don't think Republicans have any idea how hard it is for ordinary Americans to get to the polls.
BLITZER: One -- one other quote you made that's been -- you've been asked about this -- you don't have to respond, but I'll just read it. You said that the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, and I'm quoting now, "ought to go back to Houston, where he can serve his jail sentence."
He hasn't been charged with any crimes at all right now. But I guess the fundamental...
DEAN: That's not entirely true. It's true that he hasn't been charged with any crimes. But he has three ethic violations. He's working on a fourth. He's being investigated by the district attorney in Austin.
And three of his buddies have been already found guilty of diverting corporate money, which -- through a group that he was very closely tied into. So you know, this is corruption at the highest levels of the House.
BLITZER: I guess the question is, are you just trying to get your base really excited and to try to motivate them? Is there a strategy behind some of these more controversial comments that you've made?
DEAN: What I need to do is make sure the American people are aware of the corruption that's going on in Washington, the abuse of power that's going on in Washington, how difficult it is for ordinary Americans to live, how out of touch Washington politicians are with what ordinary Americans have to go through.
The president seems to want freedom in Iraq, but he's busy taking away the freedom to make the most personal kind of medical decisions in your family here at home. Those kind of decisions don't belong in politicians' hands; they belong in ordinary peoples' hands.
Our platform, oddly enough, may end up being like the Republicans of the '70s. We want fiscal responsibility back in this country again. We want personal freedom. We want individual responsibilities here.
We can have that kind of a country again. But we can't have it with a group of people that comes in and says they're going to have less government. In fact, they give us more government in the most personal decisions we have.
We need real freedom. We need individual and personal responsibility, and we need a safety net so that seniors can continue to live in dignity after a long period of hard work. Those are -- that's not too much to ask from an American government.
BLITZER: Howard Dean, the always outspoken chairman of the Democratic Party. Governor, as usual, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us.
DEAN: Thanks for having me on, Wolf.