In CNN's 'The Situation Room'

October 31, 2005

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: We've been getting reaction from all sides to the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we heard from Ken Mehlman. He is the Republican Party chairman. Now it's the Democrats turn.

Howard Dean is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's the chairman of the DNC.

Governor, thanks very much.

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Samuel Alito, is this worthy of a filibuster, if necessary, to defeat him?

DEAN: I think it's too soon to tell. Obviously we're very disappointed. We think the president looks weak, he's letting the right wing run the White House. Mr. Alito, Judge Alito appears to be well outside the mainstream in some of his decisions.

BLITZER: He was unanimously confirmed in 1990, when the first President Bush nominated him to the court of appeals.

DEAN: Yes. There's been some troubling decisions since that time.

He has upheld all white juries trying African-American defendants. Upheld a strip search of a woman and her 10-year-old daughter who happened to be in a house where there was a warrant given.

There's some -- had some controversial cases that made it harder for people with disabilities to avoid discrimination. So there's some troubling decisions that he has made. We need to spend some more time look into that. But it does appear that he may be outside the mainstream of American judicial tradition.

And it does also appear that the president is so weak now that he's putting up people to appease his hard right, because he has simply not been truthful to the American people about firing Karl Rove and a number of other things.

BLITZER: But as far as his qualifications are concerned, Yale Law School, Princeton, 15 years on the court of appeals, a former U.S. attorney in New Jersey, in terms of the basic qualifications, he's got it.

DEAN: Well, in terms of the basic qualifications, Harriet Miers also was qualified.

BLITZER: Well, she had no judicial experience.

DEAN: That's not necessary. There are people on the Supreme Court without judicial experience.

BLITZER: One of the criticisms against her was she really didn't have that kind of...

DEAN: No, the criticism against her was, one, she was a woman, and two, that she was not suitable for the right wing in this country. Now we apparently have a nominee who is suitable for the right wing. And of course that gives us in the mainstream a great deal of concern.

BLITZER: I don't remember people criticizing her because she was a woman.

DEAN: The -- there was a lot of implication that somehow she wasn't suitable. A man who had gone to SMU and was the president's legal counsel I think would have fared far differently.

BLITZER: But did anybody actually say that? In all the criticism from conservative pundits and others, I never heard anyone say, because she's a woman, she wasn't qualified.

DEAN: They don't say things like that, just as Judge Alito didn't say, it's perfectly all right to discriminate. The issue is, if you uphold, for example, an all-white jury, impaneled because the prosecutor systematically excludes black people from the jury, that somehow that's not discrimination, you know, you don't have to be bluntly discriminatory to be discriminatory.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the Patrick Fitzgerald indictment on Friday of Scooter Libby. Among other things, he said this -- I want you to hear what he said.


PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL COUNSEL: This indictment is not about the war. And I think anyone who's concerned about the war and has feelings for or against shouldn't look to this criminal process for any answers or resolution of that.


BLITZER: The day before the indictment, you said all of this is is really about the war.

DEAN: Well, of course it wouldn't have happened had it not been for the war. And it wouldn't have happened if the president hadn't misled the country. Now the president has misled us twice.

First, he didn't tell the truth when we got into the Iraq war, and that's why Ambassador Wilson posed a threat, because Ambassador Wilson was talking about, in fact, the very evidence that the president had used, which was false. Then this was all aimed at discrediting Ambassador Wilson.

And now the president, who two years ago said he'd fire anybody who leaked, is refusing to fire Karl Rove. Karl Rove was exposed in the indictment as "Official A" who had in fact passed the name of the CIA agent on to columnists.

BLITZER: But Patrick Fitzgerald did not accuse him of committing any crime. And as far as leaking is concerned, he didn't accuse Scooter Libby or anyone else at the White House of committing a crime.

DEAN: In the indictment it talks about "Official A," who did in fact leak the information.

BLITZER: But he didn't say that was a crime.

DEAN: He didn't get indicted for it. But that's not what the president said. The president said anybody who leaks should be fired. I would like to see the president keep his word.

BLITZER: But I think what the president also said was anybody who committed a crime should be fired.

DEAN: That's what he said after it looked like Karl Rove leaked it, after Karl Rove lied to Scott McClellan.

BLITZER: So what do you want? What do you want, Karl Rove to be fired?

DEAN: Karl Rove has a security clearance. He not only shouldn't have a security clearance, he shouldn't be working for the Untied States of America on taxpayers' money.

BLITZER: But these are decisions the president of the United States should be making.

DEAN: Yes, and I think he ought to fire Karl Rove. Karl Rove lied to the American -- or concocted a lie to the American people. He lied -- evidently either lied to the press secretary, or the press secretary is a liar. And I don't think the press secretary is a liar.

And the president told -- lied to us once again when he told us he would fire anybody who leaked. He has not done so. I call upon him to do so.

BLITZER: But you trust Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel.

DEAN: I do.

BLITZER: You think he's doing a good job.

DEAN: I do.

BLITZER: And if he comes up and says, you know what? The only crime I saw was the crime of perjury, obstruction of justice, the false statements that Scooter Libby is alleged to have made, that will satisfy you?

DEAN: It will not satisfy me to have a president who says one thing and does another. And this president is in the habit of doing that again and again and again. As every day that goes on, it looks like we can't believe the president of the United States.

BLITZER: But you think that Patrick Fitzgerald, you can rely -- you can go to the bank on what he's doing?

DEAN: Patrick Fitzgerald is not a political person. He's simply looking at the law. What I'm looking at is ethics.

We have -- we have an indictment of the chief procurement officer, an indictment of Tom DeLay, an investigation of Bill Frist, an indictment of Karl Rove -- excuse me, of Scooter Libby. Karl Rove has been identified as the leaker.

This is a corruption -- a culture of corruption that's been brought to Washington by these Republicans. We need a fundamental change, Wolf, a fundamental change in Washington.

BLITZER: Did you see Lanny Davis' article in Saturday's...

DEAN: Yes.

BLITZER: ... "New York Times?" The former Clinton White House special counsel, among other things, he wrote this -- and he was referring to you. "Even before yesterday's indictments," he wrote, "Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee were accusing the Republicans of being responsible for a culture of corruption." "In the end," Lanny Davis writes, "using an isolated scandal to tie up an entire administration only hurts the nation and tends to come back to haunt the scandal-mongering party."

DEAN: I think Lanny Davis is a delightful person and very bright, but he's absolutely wrong. This is not a single scandal.

We went to war when the president of the United States misled the nation. This is a little different than a sex problem.

BLITZER: But, you know, you're -- basically what I hear you saying is the culture of corruption is there, even if no one is accused of directly -- of corruption.

DEAN: But they are. Jack Abramoff.

BLITZER: Well, that's...

DEAN: That's a criminal...

BLITZER: In the White House.

DEAN: In the White House the chief procurement officer is indicted from the White House.

BLITZER: That's David Safavian.

DEAN: Yes.

BLITZER: He was with the General Accounting Office.

DEAN: Yes.


DEAN: Look, this corruption, the Abramoff scandal, the DeLay, the insider trading that Frist is accused of, the leaking of the -- of the secrets -- or the perjury by Libby -- in Ohio, even the governor was found guilty of a misdemeanor. In California, the governor vetoes a bill and then finds out -- we find out that he's under a retainer from bodybuilding magazines.

This is a culture of corruption which appears to be spreading throughout the Republican Party.

BLITZER: If you could speak directly to the vice president, Dick Cheney, what would you tell him?

DEAN: Probably not much. I doubt I could speak directly to him.

I mean, I'm very disappointed. This is not what's good for America. And, you know, I understand the vice president appointed today two new people to fill the role that Scooter Libby filled, both of whom had prior knowledge of what was going on.

They are both named in the indictment. Not as a -- they weren't indicted, but they're both named in the indictment. They're a part of this piece.

They need to clean house over there. I think if the president is going to save his presidency he needs to clean house.

BLITZER: So you want him to, what, address the nation and do what?

DEAN: I think he ought to do what Ronald Reagan did when he got in trouble and just clean house. Get rid of all the folks that are causing the trouble, start all over again, and be truthful for the last three years.

BLITZER: Including the vice president?

DEAN: Well, that's up to him.

BLITZER: But is that what you would like to see?

DEAN: Look, I'm not going to call on the vice president to resign. But if there were Democrats in Congress, I suspect this stuff would be investigated. And if this stuff had happened in a Democratic administration, with a Republican Congress, I suspect this stuff would be investigated by Congress.

BLITZER: The chairman...

DEAN: Look, we know that from the vice president's office came, with the knowledge of the vice president, some criminal indictments. There should be more discussion about what really is happening in this country.

BLITZER: Well, what we know is what Fitzgerald has alleged in the indictment...

DEAN: That's right.

BLITZER: ... that Scooter Libby lied.

DEAN: And we also know that Vice President Cheney was the one who gave Scooter Libby the information.

BLITZER: But that wasn't illegal. The vice president can talk about classified information with his staff.

DEAN: We're not -- we're not talking about what's illegal. We're talking about what's unethical.

BLITZER: Well, what's unethical about the vice president speaking with his staff about a CIA operative?

DEAN: Because the question that remains to be answered is, did the vice president know, or did he authorize Scooter Libby to release this information?

BLITZER: Well, that's another separate question. But the vice president has high security clearances. Scooter Libby used to have high security clearances.

DEAN: And Karl Rove still has them.

BLITZER: And presumably he still does.

Thanks very much, Governor.

DEAN: Thanks.

--- End ---

Originally posted on CNN's transcripts site.



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