Interview on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews

March 19, 2007

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: ... But first, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who ran against the Iraq War in his 2004 presidential race. He is now chairman of the DNC.

Governor Dean, thank you for joining us. Why can‘t the Democrats agree on a war policy?

HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think we do agree on a war policy. We believe we ought be out.

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton does not say so. She wants to keep our troops in there permanently. And she said so this week. Permanent U.S. troops in Iraq. And she is the frontrunner in your race for nomination.

DEAN: The Democratic plan to leave Iraq is something we have talked about for at least a year-and-a-half, which is, we are going to bring home the National Guard and Reserves. Then over a period of time, we are going to send some troops to Afghanistan, leave a permanent force in the Middle East, although not in Iraq. And then leave some small number of people there to train folks, all of whom will be out by the end of 2008.

Or, you know, depending—it could be earlier depending on some other things. It is in the Senate bill. I think you have to—I am not familiar with what Senator Clinton says, so I‘m not going to reference that.

But in general, the Senate bill and the House bill, which are very close to each other, is what the policy of the Democratic Party is. And I agree with it. I think we need to be out of Iraq. We should never had gotten in. Now that we are in, we need to leave in an orderly, thoughtful way. And I think that is what the Democrats are trying to do. And I don‘t think this is a nation divided anymore, 70 percent of the American people agree with us, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton doesn‘t. Hillary Clinton said this weekend that she wants a permanent base over there. She said its important for various reasons, including support for Israel. She made a very clear statement this weekend we cannot take our troops out of Iraq. She also—

I mean, also I hear her talking like a hawk about Iran and our need to get ready to fight them. Are you sure you speak for the whole Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton on this issue?

DEAN: Well, I don‘t think anybody speaks for any of the presidential candidates except themselves. So I‘m not going to respond to anything because I haven‘t heard those statements, haven‘t seen them. But I do believe that the Democrats—the vast majority of Democrats support the bills that are in the House and the Senate. And I would be surprised if Senator Clinton didn‘t vote for those bills.

MATTHEWS: So I agree with you in terms of the numbers...

DEAN: Senator Clinton...

MATTHEWS: Clearly the Democratic Party, in every poll we get here at NBC and all of the other polls we see, supports leaving from Iraq, an end to this war. That is why I was taken aback by Hillary Clinton‘s strong statement of keeping our troops there permanently.

Let me move to the issue.

DEAN: Well, Chris, again, let me just say, I did not hear the statement, but I suspect that Senator Clinton voted for the Senate resolution last week which gets us out of Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Well, she has offered a codicil, Governor.



MATTHEWS: And that is, she wants to keep the troops there.

DEAN: All right.

MATTHEWS: So she is doing her own political business while the Democratic Party is doing it. Let me ask you about this president. There is a strong pattern, I have noticed over the last several years, where every time something is wrong and everybody agrees it is wrong—whether it is Abu Ghraib or the leaking of CIA official‘s name to the press or whatever it is, or now this issue of firing of these U.S. attorneys, every time something goes wrong, they throw a little person to the bears, to the wolves.

And that little person, whether his name is Scooter, or it is one of the lower-ranking officials over in Iraq, they get thrown the wolves and the big boys walk away. How do they keep getting away with that?

DEAN: They don‘t anymore, Chris, now that Pat Leahy is head of the Judiciary Committee, he has said everybody is going to be testifying under oath, because the American people are tired of hearing one thing and then reading something else in the papers the next day.

The year of accountability is here. Now that the American have elected us to make sure the president doesn‘t have a rubber stamp Republican Congress and doesn‘t get away with stuff like that anymore.

You know, corruption turned tout be one of the top tree three issues in the last election. And evidently the Republicans have not learned anything about corruption. And so corruption is going be another big issue again in the 2008 presidential election. These folks are not telling us the truth.

The issue isn‘t whether somebody got fired for political reasons, the issue is they lied about it afterwards. Senator Leahy is going to have folks under oath before the Judiciary Committee. The American people—I don‘t care if you are Republican or a Democrat or a conservative or a liberal, the American—nobody likes lying in the government.

And we have seen it again and again and again. This time we are going to get to the bottom of it.

MATTHEWS: What happens if the president calls executive privilege and says—he thumbs his nose at Leahy and the rest of them and says, we are not going to go to the Hill and testify, Karl Rove is mine, I‘m not letting him talk.

DEAN: Well, Richard Nixon tried the same thing and it didn‘t serve him well to do that. I think the American people deserve an honest response to this. Again, you cannot continue to say one thing and then something else turns up that it wasn‘t true the day after that.

They say, well, we didn‘t know much about this, this wasn‘t political. And then we find this was all Harriet Miers‘ idea. And then we find e-mail saying Karl Rove knew full well.

Here is what happened. The Republican—the United States attorney, for example, in California investigated and led to the imprisonment of Duke Cunningham, the congressman. He then started investigating another Republican congressman. And then they began to send e-mails from the White House to the Justice Department saying, this is too much. We have got to watch out. We have a problem here.

That is not OK. You cannot fiddle with how the Justice Department works—excuse me, how the justice system works in this country. If you do, you place yourselves above the law. And that has been a hallmark of the Bush Republican administration. And we are going to put an end to that.

MATTHEWS: Are you going the mattresses on this one?


DEAN: Am I personally going to the mattresses? I don‘t--

MATTHEWS: Yes. It is an old mob term. I learned it from “The Godfather.” That‘s when you bring the mattresses in the mob guys stick around until they have won the war.

DEAN: Look. This is not a war between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. This is a war to stand up for American democracy. Every time you get an administration that thinks it is OK to mis— to bend the truth and to abuse power, thinks they are more important than the Constitution, then you have these kinds of things.

This is exactly what Sam Ervin, the Democratic senator from North Carolina did during the Watergate scandal. It wasn‘t about Democrats versus Republicans. In fact, at that time, the Republicans also went to see President Nixon, told him he had to step aside because this was going too far.

So I am very proud of my home state senator, Pat Leahy, for standing up and doing the right thing. And says, we will take testimony under oath. We want the truth for once from the Bush Republicans.

MATTHEWS: If Karl Rove switched sides and offered himself up to the Democrats to be their fire-eater, would you take him?

DEAN: We have actually had other operatives do that, and the answer is no. We— you know, I admire how thorough the Republicans are. I don‘t admire their divisiveness and I don‘t admire their dishonestly.

MATTHEWS: How is the Democratic Party doing this year towards winning the election for president for next year? You have got some strong candidates. You have got Obama out there getting 10,000, 20,000 people at a pop. I have never seen anything like him. You have got Hillary there with the establishment behind her. What kind of a candidate are you going to have? Are you going to have establishment candidate or are you going to have something brand new like Obama win this thing?

DEAN: Well, the last thing—time I looked there were six or seven candidates. And as you know, I not only am completely neutral, I think we would be well-served by having virtually all of the candidates become the nominee.

MATTHEWS: But in your heart, you are an Obama guy. I can see it in your face. You have got the old ideals. You are an anti-Vietnam, anti-Iraq guy. In your burning soul, the little votive candle you light before you go to bed at night has Obama dedicated.

DEAN: Chris, what I--

MATTHEWS: It is not Hillary— you don‘t like the Clintons. Come on.

DEAN: What I am, Chris, is a good management person. I want somebody who is going to run the country properly. And I think we have got a great many candidates on our side who can do that. And I‘m going to work very hard to make sure one of them gets elected.

MATTHEWS: So you don‘t like Obama as much as I think you do.


MATTHEWS: I am just teasing.

DEAN: You are a piece of work.

MATTHEWS: You are great. But I totally believe that you are an idealist, a man of the fervent activist wing of the Democratic Party. As you used to say, the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” Thanks very much, Howard Dean.

DEAN: Don‘t forget I was governor for 12 years. I know how to run things, right? We need that.

MATTHEWS: Well, Obama might be able to run something. Anyway, thank you.

DEAN: I didn‘t say he couldn‘t--

MATTHEWS: He is a competent guy.


MATTHEWS: I was going to say, “articulate,” but I think he is competent. I am just teasing. Senator, I am teasing. Thank you. It is always great to have you on, Governor Dean. Thank you very much.

DEAN: Thanks, Chris. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I know you are an executive. And we need more executives like you and Bill Richardson running for president...

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Originally from MSNBC Transcripts



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