Interview on CNN Saturday Morning

April 29, 2006

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Dr. Dean's his mind totally clear since he's on high alert this morning as he joins us. In this age of cell phones, blogs, instant messaging and the rest, the Democratic party is rolling back the clock to get their message out. It's a grassroots effort. Volunteers are going door to door today talking to voters about the issues coming up in this fall's mid-term elections.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is leading the charge, and he joins us from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Dr. Dean, welcome.

HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thanks for me having out. I'm glad Keith Richards didn't get hurt too badly.

HARRIS: Well, maybe. We need to update that story, I'm sure. But thanks for your time this morning.

I have to ask you, this feels a little bit like a throwback campaign, going door to door like this, particularly from a man whose presidential campaign really embraced the new technology. Talk us to about this.

DEAN: Well, we think that -- we want to be everywhere and we're in all 50 states now. We're starting to win elections in places like Mississippi and Alabama and Utah, conservative states. We think that if the American people know what we stand for, and given what the Republicans have done to the country, that they'll ask us to control the House and the Senate again in 2006.

So we have this door hanger, which has the six points of the Democratic agenda on it. It will be on a million doors by the end of today. I will talk -- we hope to talk to a million people. We're going to knock on a million doors in every single state. And I'm here in Charlotte, North Carolina, to do some of that myself.

HARRIS: Well, let me ask you, when folks open the door today -- and you're starting in North Carolina; that's a red state, if I remember correctly -- when folks open the door, what are you going say?

DEAN: I'm going say we're here to talk to you a little bit about the Democratic party and what we believe. And what we believe is pretty clear. Honesty and openness in government. American jobs that will stay in America. Strong national defense based on telling the truth to our citizens and our soldiers. A health care system that works for everybody, just like 36 other countries have.

I mean, these are agenda items that really make a difference to the American people. Gas prices. I mean, the president's been in office for five years, and we've seen this coming. The Iraq situation obviously makes that worse. But what really I think makes Americans mad is that Republicans gave away $16 billion of our taxpayer money to the gas companies. This is ridiculous. And we've got to get an administration that has more sympathy with ordinary America, ordinary working Americans.

HARRIS: Well, let me follow up on that. We're at a place now where gas prices are at a point where folks who are on a fixed income are really, really beginning to feel the pinch of this. Let's assume that Democrats win either the House or the Senate or perhaps both. What then becomes the Democratic plan?

DEAN: Well, I think that you'll see -- first thing you'll see is rolling back all of the tax breaks that the Republicans have given to the oil companies. There's no reason to give federal money, our taxpayers' money, to the tune of $16 billion to oil companies. I'd like to use that $16 billion to make it easier on ordinary Americans to drive their cars. And I think we can do that.

Secondly, you're going to see a real push for renewable energy and energy independence. The president's been talking about it, but hasn't done anything about it. He's been there for five years. Thirdly, I think you're going to see an energy policy that works for ordinary American citizens and not guided so much to the oil companies as the president and the vice president have done.

HARRIS: We see that your handouts are both in English and Spanish. And as you know, on Monday there is a massive demonstration or demonstrations planned for the entire country on immigration reform. From a Democratic point of view, what is the best immigration bill for this country?

DEAN: Well, there's a couple of things. First of all, unlike what the Republicans have done, we believe we need to strengthen the border control. Other folks that have been there for five years -- we think we need additional help with the border. We got to -- it's chaos there. We've got to resolve and secure our borders.

But after that, we think it's really ridiculous to do what the Republicans are trying to do. The Republican bill makes criminals out of doctors, priests, lawyers, anybody who helps people who are illegal. That's not right. These are folks -- people, too.

Secondly, I don't believe the guest worker -- the president's guest worker program is a good idea. Thirdly, we believe the people who are already here should be able to get to the end of the line and get -- and earn their citizenship. Except for the people who, of course, have been in trouble with the law. They need to be deported.

But the president's idea that we're going to deport 12 million people, that's not going to work. You know, so let's just be practical. But the first emphasis on securing...

HARRIS: Well, you know, the president doesn't want to -- the president doesn't want to deport.

DEAN: The president endorsed Tom Tancredo and Sensenbrenner's bill in the House, which deports 12 million people and makes criminals out of clergy people and doctors. And that's wrong.

HARRIS: But you know that just last week he said it's impractical, so...

DEAN: Well, the president needs to stand up and say what he means, then, and stop all this stuff the winking and nodding at the extremists. He needs to stand up to the extremists in his own party. We need to secure the borders. That's the first thing that should be done and it should have been done five years ago. We'll do that and then we'll move on to treat people who are already here working hard reasonably.

HARRIS: Let me ask you about what we're reporting and following on this morning. The Justice Department sending out these letters, these national security letters, 9,000 of them, requesting information without the authority of the courts. What are your thoughts on that? Should we be concerned?

DEAN: I believe, in general, we ought to have a system that's served us well for 200 years, which is that if the government wants to intrude on people's lives, they ought to tell the judge about it first. We certainly want to spy on al Qaeda and do all the things we have to do to make ourselves safe. But giving the government more power over the lives of ordinary American citizens is not the way to do it.

HARRIS: How many folks do you plan to shake hands with today?

DEAN: Personally?

HARRIS: You and everyone else you've enlisted to help.

DEAN: Oh I -- we hope to -- we're going to knock to doors of a million homes. And we're going to do this again. This is not the last time we're going to do this. We need to make personal contact with people. You know, the Republicans have said a lot of things about this party which aren't true, and I think it's time we talked -- spoke for ourselves and not let the Republicans do it for us.

HARRIS: Governor Dean, thanks for your time.

DEAN: Thank you...

HARRIS: We appreciate it.

DEAN: Thanks for having me on.

HARRIS: Our pleasure.

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Originally posted on CNN's Transcripts site.



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