American Morning on CNN

December 8, 2005

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Can the war be won in Iraq? How should the war in Iraq be won? You'll get all kinds of opinions on that particular set of questions and that's just within the Democratic Party. Joining me now is Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who on the radio just the other day, a San Antonio radio station, weighed in on this and caused -- well, sparked additional debate on this subject.

Dr. Dean, good to have you with us.

Let's just share with viewers, just to remind them, because I'm sure they've heard it by now, but just let's share a little excerpt of that interview for just a moment with them.


HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: I supported this president's war in Afghanistan, but I do not believe in making the same mistake twice. And America appears to have made the same mistake twice. I wish the president had paid more attention to the history of Iraq before we'd gotten in there. The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong.


O'BRIEN: All right. Out of context, you want to recant it or is that how you feel?

HOWARD DEAN: No, it was a little out of context. They kind of cherry-picked that one the same way the president cherry-picked the intelligence going into Iraq. We can only win the war, which we have to win, if we change our strategy dramatically. The Democrats are coalescing around a very different strategy. We hope the president will join us.

This is a strategy of strategic redeployment. We want to serve our troops well who are doing a fantastic job in Iraq. And if we want to win the war on terror, we cannot pursue the failed strategy we've pursued for the last three years in Iraq and we've got to start telling truth to the American people about what's happening there. We have a plan to do that and I'd be happy to outline it for you.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, let's -- I want to talk about strategic redeployment in just a moment, because that's an interesting notion. It seems like there's some Democrats coalescing around it. But first, I do want to get this notion that there's somehow this sense of pessimism that is at the root of all this. Let's listen to the president for just a moment.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be good days and there will be bad days in this war. I reject the pessimists in Washington that say we can't win this war.


O'BRIEN: All right. Are you a pessimist?

DEAN: The president has said it himself we couldn't win the war. Matt Lauer showed that clip himself. I mean, the truth of the matter is, this president got us into this war without telling us the truth, he didn't listen to his own military advisors. This sounds an awful lot like Vietnam when the government's not truthful with our soldiers, our citizens or our allies. We will be, as Democrats. We can and we have to win the war on terror. We can't do it with this kind of approach, with this leadership that this president's showing. As he's going in the wrong direction, we'll go in the right direction and save soldiers' lives while we're doing it.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's go to the right flank of your own party, Senator Lieberman, and listen to what he has to say about this.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, (D) CONNECTICUT: It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years. And that in matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril.


O'BRIEN: Do you beg to differ with the senator?

DEAN: I'm not as worried about the president's credibility as I am about the lives of brave American soldiers who are giving their lives and coming back wounded. I'm with Jack Murtha on this. We need a strategic redeployment of our troops. We need to bring the 50,000 guard troops home in the next six months. They don't belong there in the first place. We need a special task force of anti-terror troops stationed in the Middle East because we're going to have to deal with Zarqawi for a long time. We need 20,000 additional troops in Afghanistan, not in Iraq. We need to redeploy our troops and make -- and stop making our troops the target over there.

We can turn this over to the Iraqis. It's time to change our strategy and the Democrats have a strategy, we're supporting a strategy. We believe that talking about the president's failed strategy in Iraq is not unpatriotic. It may undercut the president, but it does not undercut our troops. We're going to save our troops' lives and we're going to learn from the experience of Vietnam and not wait for five years with promises made for political reason here at home. We are for the troops. We're going to stand up for these troops. They deserve better support than what they're getting.

O'BRIEN: All right. Final, quick thought here though. With all the debate within the Democratic Party, you lay out a plan, a strategic redeployment, which seems to be gaining some steam in certain quarters. The American people, though, think the Democrats don't have a plan. Why not?

DEAN: I think that's mostly press gobbledygook. The press wants to focus on the differences. The differences are pretty small. Perhaps Senator Lieberman excepted. Most -- not only do most Democrats, most Republican senators now believe that the 2006 has to be a transition year. Even Senator Lieberman voted for that resolution. We need a change in Iraq and we will provide that change in the Democratic Party.

We have a plan that we can coalesce around. We may have some small disagreements on timing. We know the direction we're going on is a very different direction than the president. We want to serve our troops better. We believe they deserve better. We want to serve our people better and we want to win the war on terror and we want to do it smart because we can't do it the way we're doing it now.

O'BRIEN: Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, thanks for your time.

DEAN: Thank you.
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From CNN Transcripts.
For fun, see also the transcript on The BFA Shadow Blog which has comments and screencaps added. (Scroll to 1/4 of the way down from the top.)



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