Interview on 'Hardball'

April 28, 2006

NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. I'm Norah O'Donnell in tonight for Chris Matthews.

But first, I spoke with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean earlier today and began by asking him what is it that the Democrats can do about high gas prices that the Republicans can't?


HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN: We can do a lot. The first thing we would do is give back the $16 billion giveaways that the Republicans gave to the oil companies. Here you have the spectacle of them giving away, in the middle of the night, $16 billion worth of tax breaks, which are paid for by us and then we gotta pay $3 a gallon on top of that. That's not right. If the Democrats had been in power, those kind of tax breaks never would have been given away.

O'DONNELL: President Bush said today that he would reject calls in Congress for attacks on oil company profits. He said the temptation in Washington is to tax everything. Do you disagree?

DEAN: Well, I think the president is an oil guy. What do you expect? You know, the vice president came from Halliburton, the big drilling company. The president's had an oil background. Of course, he doesn't want to tax the oil companies, but he doesn't have to give away our tax money to do that. I can't believe that we are now giving $16 billion in tax breaks to oil companies as a result of this Republican administration.

O'DONNELL: But with all due respect, Mr. Chairman, ending that subsidy if you will is not going to lower the price of gas at the pump.

DEAN: It may actually, however, have an effect on oil company profits, which don't have to come out of our pockets, and it could lower our taxes or lower the amount of deficit. That would be something that would be a good thing.

O'DONNELL: OK. That's one part of the problem.

DEAN: That's a huge part of the problem.

O'DONNELL: --But the issue that Americans care about is that when I go and fill up, that, you know, last month it was 30 bucks and now it's 45 bucks all of a sudden. What can anybody in Congress do? Tom Friedman wrote about this today in “The New York Times.” It doesn't appear that either party could do anything that would result in a quick fix.

DEAN: Well, I have talked about getting rid of the big tax breaks that the Republicans are giving to the oil companies. The next thing is Iraq. There's not anybody on the planet who believes that the situation in Iraq is not tied to high oil prices. It has destabilized the world oil market, decreased the output from Iraq dramatically.

Perhaps if we had a different kind of management in Iraq or perhaps if we hadn't gone in the first place, we wouldn't be seeing these problems either. So I think it's much more likely that the Democrats, because we have better expertise in foreign policy and security than the Republicans do, would do a better job keeping gas prices down.

O'DONNELL: But most experts who look at this and who study high gas prices and the oil industry say this is an issue about supply and demand and the United States is dependent on foreign oil, period. And China needs more oil. India needs more, and that's causing the prices of gas, oil, crude oil and then of course gas, to go up. What's the Democratic plan for the future to reduce our dependence on foreign oil?

DEAN: Well, I just mentioned two things. First of all, we'll be getting rid of all those big subsidies that the Republicans are giving to the oil companies.

Secondly, we'll stabilize the situation in Iraq and bring our troops home eventually and quickly, much more quickly than the Republicans will and stabilize the world oil situation.

Thirdly, I think you'll find a much more friendly environmental approach in terms of using alternative sources of energy. Let's not forget, the president and his party have done nothing about alternative sources of energy, such as wind, such as solar, such as getting better mileage out of our cars. Nothing has been done by this oil-thirsty addicted Republican administration.

And I think if you really want environmental protection, which goes hand in hand with reducing our oil use, then you gotta have Democrats in office, as plain as that. And the American people know it.

O'DONNELL: So you're telling me that if in these midterm elections that if Democrats win, that Americans will see an immediate drop in the price of gas at the pump?

DEAN: What I'm telling you is that if Democrats win, we'll be able to stop the president from doing the kinds of things that he's done that have increased oil prices dramatically. If Democrats win in these midterm elections, we still won't control the White House, so it's hard to set the policy, for example, for the Department of Interior.

But we'll stop the president's giving away our tax money to oil companies, and we will change the course of the war in Iraq. And we will pass and ask the president to sign the kind of environmental legislation that will result in reduced oil use.

O'DONNELL: Let's turn to the issue of the shakeup that's going on in the White House as the president reorganizes in his second term, of course. Also, we have learned that Karl Rove testified for the fifth time before the grand jury this week. His lawyers say, however, not to expect any indictment any time soon, that he may in fact get the all clear from the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald.

If Rove gets the all clear, will you have been wrong all this time saying that he was involved?

DEAN: There's no question that Rove was the one that leaked the information about the CIA agent's name, and he still has security clearance. So the presence of Karl Rove in the White House continually reminds the American people that the president wasn't truthful about firing leakers, in addition to not being truthful about a number of other things, so I think he's a big liability for the administration, as long as he's in the White House.

O'DONNELL: If Democrats win in the midterm elections in November, will the Democrats in Congress move to impeach this president?

DEAN: I doubt it. It's possible. I mean, no doubt, there will be investigations because there's been so much corruption in the White House and the vice president's office, even the Senate president— the Republican Senate president is under investigation for insider trading. The Republican House leader had to resign. The new Republican House leader just killed all the ethics legislation.

So this is, it's pretty much of a culture of corruption on the Republican side in Washington now, and I think you're certainly going to see some investigations.

But look, the Democrats believe that we need to do something about jobs, we need to fix our security-- especially our port security. We want honesty and openness back in our government, so we want to have real ethics reform. That's a big list of important things.

You know, unless there's a terrible smoking gun, I think impeachment is gonna come pretty low on the list, because we have got to really turn this country around. And that is a big job.

O'DONNELL: But let's be honest, I mean, we just had of course the NBC News-“Wall Street Journal” poll come out, and I know you probably took a look at that, and it shows that Congress's approval ratings are lower than what the-- the Republicans in Congress-- lower than what the Democrats were in 1994. And of course they lost control, so that might signal, of course, that Democrats might do well if the midterm elections.

But we also found in our polling that Americans out there don't think that the Democratic Party is much better. Why can't you come up with— and I know you get this question, you've been getting it for months— why can't you come up with a 10-point plan, put it on a web site, advertise it here on this program here today that shows the American people how you would do something differently?

DEAN: Well, other than advertising on this program here today, we actually have a six-point plan. It is on our web site, and we have one million households that are going to have their doors knocked on, on Saturday. We have a million doors going to be knocked on with a million flyers and the agenda is very clear.

O'DONNELL: And what's that knocking on doors supposed to do?

DEAN: It's supposed to show people what our message is, since we seem to have trouble getting it out.

[Dean and O'Donnell chuckle]

DEAN: And it's very clear. We want honesty and openness back in our government. We want real security and a real strong defense based on telling the truth to our soldiers and our citizens.

We want American jobs that'll stay in America. We want a health care system that includes everybody, like 36 other countries have. We want a public education system that allows optimism and opportunity back in America again, and we want real retirement security.

I think that's a great agenda for the Democratic Party. We're all united from the Senate to the House, to the governors to the mayors in that agenda, and a million people are going to have that agenda in their hand by the end of this weekend.

O'DONNELL: Let me ask you about big controversy brewing today over whether or not the national anthem should be sung in Spanish. President Bush today commented on this, and he said no, that the national anthem should be sung in English. Do you agree?

DEAN: This is the kind of thing that's a bit of distraction. In Canada, they sing the anthem in— the Canadian anthem in French and English. You know, I'm a patriot. I'm proud to have our anthem sung in any language possible. I don't care if you translate it into German. As long as people are singing the national anthem in the United States of America and being patriotic, I think we ought to be pleased with that.

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, critics of this are calling it the illegal alien anthem and asking the question, it is the national anthem, why can't those who come to this country learn English and sing it in English.

DEAN: I think they will both learn it in English and do it in Spanish. And I'm kind of tired of the right wing picking out different groups every two years to win elections on.

We have an immigration problem in this country. The president has been president for five years. The Republicans have been in charge for five years, and they did nothing about it. I tell you, that's another thing the Democrats are gonna do differently. We'll pass a real immigration control bill. We'll secure our borders. We'll put the money in.

Just the other day, a group of Democrats asked the Republican Congress for money, to— for border security, they wouldn't pass it. Finally they passed it a couple of days ago. It is— this is ridiculous, and, you know, this— immigration should not be used as a scapegoating issue. I don't think we need a guest worker program like the president does. I do think we need to take into account the 12 million people who are here working hard.

O'DONNELL: But Ted Kennedy supports a guest worker program.

DEAN: The president's guest worker program is indentured servitude for immigrants, and we ought not to have it. It doesn't help the immigrants, and it doesn't help our workers. What we should do, however, is not this ridiculous right-wing bill in the Congress, where they are going to take, you know, 12 million people and kick them all out of the country? Americans know that's not realistic. Let's have a real immigration law, and let's start with securing our borders.

Now, the Congress did do something— the Senate did something the other day, which I think is sensible. They're gonna hire up to 15,000 new workers, and I think that makes a lot of sense. But we have been fighting for that for five years, and the Republicans have been stonewalling it. Now, they want to do something about immigration in an election year. That's not going to pass muster.

O'DONNELL: All right, Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic Party. Thank you.

DEAN: Thank you.

--- End ---
Originally posted on MSNBC's website.
Checked against an recording on YouTube.



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