Hardball with Chris Matthews

October 30, 2007

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: ...Howard Dean is chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Governor, thank you for joining us.


MATTHEWS: You know you‘re in Philly...


MATTHEWS: And these are the people that root for the Eagles.


MATTHEWS: They root for the Eagles...

DEAN: And the Phillies.

MATTHEWS: And the Broad Street bullies, the hockey team, the Flyers (ph). This is a noisy, sometimes tough crowd. Will the Democrats give us a great debate tonight?

DEAN: Well, I think we always give you a great debate. I think, you know, the big thing about the Democrats is they look like the rest of America. The Republicans look like America in the 1950s, and our guys look like the future of America. And it‘s particularly true among younger voters, who voted 61 percent for Democrats in the last election.

MATTHEWS: What do you mean by the Republicans look like the 1950s, like they‘re all white guys? Or what do you mean by that?

DEAN: Well, that‘s part of it, but it‘s the same old tired stuff. They all support the president on Iraq. They all think Scooter Libby should have been pardoned. They all supported the veto of the president‘s health insurance—I mean of our health insurance plan for kids.


DEAN: And the Democrats not only look like what America really looks like in terms of ethnicity, Hispanic and African-American and women, you know, among the leading candidates for president of the United States in the Democratic Party, we look like America is. They look like the—you know, the America from 50 years ago, and they think like America 150 years ago.

MATTHEWS: Well, they‘ve got an Italian guy that‘s been married three times. They got a Mormon guy running. They‘ve got some diversity.

DEAN: Yes, they have some diversity...


DEAN: I‘m not touching that one with a 10-foot pole, Chris!

MATTHEWS: Well, they‘ve got a Mormon guy who‘s been married once and a Catholic guy who‘s been married three times. It‘s kind of mixed up.

DEAN: Yes, it is a little mixed up.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your party. Will Barack Obama take her head off tonight?

DEAN: I‘d be surprised if anybody takes anybody‘s head off. One of the things I‘ve been very pleased about is that our debates have been pretty civil. I know that‘s a disappointment to the media, but...

MATTHEWS: No, it‘s a disappointment to me personally.


MATTHEWS: I want to know when we‘re going to have the anti-war party sound like the anti-war party. Everybody voted last November for the Democrats that gave your party control of the Congress so that you‘d end this war. I haven‘t noticed any change in the war policy.

DEAN: Very hard to do when you have a president who vetoes everything and a determined minority in the Senate who stops everything from being voted on.

MATTHEWS: You guys control the purse strings. The president doesn‘t get a dime for this war unless the Democratic Congress gives him the dime.

DEAN: We passed...

MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you just cut off the money?

DEAN: We passed George Bush exactly the bill the American people wanted, which is to support our troops but to give a particular timetable for getting out of Iraq, and the president vetoed it. And the Republicans in the Senate have not allowed us to bring that bill to the president since that time.

MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you just cut off the funding for the war?

DEAN: You can‘t cut off the funding for the war. The only way you can cut off the funding for the war is not to pass a budget of the United States, and I don‘t think anybody (INAUDIBLE) do that.

MATTHEWS: Why not do that?

DEAN: Because you shut down the entire government, and I don‘t think that‘s what the American people want.

MATTHEWS: You can‘t just cut off the Defense Department budget and say, Stop?

DEAN: You cut off the entire defense of the United States of America?

I don‘t think that‘s what the public wants us to do.

MATTHEWS: You can‘t cut off the war spending?

DEAN: Look, the American people want us to get out of Iraq. There‘s only way to get out of Iraq, and that‘s elect a Democratic president because every single one of the guys on the other side...

MATTHEWS: OK, wait a minute—that sounds good...

DEAN: It‘s true.

MATTHEWS: ... like a good political statement...

DEAN: It‘s absolutely true.

MATTHEWS: ... but in a recent debate a couple of weeks ago, maybe a month ago, all the top contenders for the Democratic nomination, all of them said we‘d still be in Iraq at the end of their first terms.

DEAN: They did not say that, Chris.

MATTHEWS: In other words, until 2012, 2013, they‘d still be there.

DEAN: They did not say that. They said they couldn‘t promise to get out because they didn‘t have enough intelligence services...

MATTHEWS: You mean they couldn‘t promise...

DEAN: ... at their disposal to know.

MATTHEWS: ... that this war wouldn‘t last 10 years?

DEAN: No, they didn‘t. What they—the question, the way it was asked, was, Can you promise every one of our troops will be out by 2013? I think they will be, and I think any of those Democrats will get them out. But that wasn‘t—the question wasn‘t will the war—the war will be over easily by 2013. Some of the candidates believe there may be some need to keep a small garrison in Vermont. In fact—excuse me, in Vermont—in Iraq. In fact, most people, including sensible Republicans, believe that you‘re going to have to leave a garrison of special ops troops somewhere in the Middle East to deal with al Qaeda, which has moved into Iraq since George Bush sent troops there.

MATTHEWS: Let me read you something that was said back, a while back, in 2003, in February. “That the president”—that‘s President Bush—

“was given open-ended authority to go to war in Iraq resulted from a failure of too many in my party in Washington who were worried about political positioning for the presidential election.”

That was you, Governor. You said that your Democrats gave this war authority to the president so that they could position themselves to run for president. You were talking about Hillary, clearly.

DEAN: Actually, she wasn‘t running for president at the time.

MATTHEWS: Well, you were...

DEAN: Chris, I think I had some other people in mind on that one.

MATTHEWS: Kerry. OK. Well, were you right? Did they, in fact, give away this war so that they could get elected president?

DEAN: I don‘t know. I think—you have to accept them, and I certainly do, at face value, that they gave the president authority to go to war because that‘s what you do when the president asks for it. They had no idea the president was going to pay no attention to any intelligence.

MATTHEWS: Why give a blank check to a guy who wants to go to war?

DEAN: Well, because I think we hoped for more from this president and we were badly disappointed.

MATTHEWS: If somebody says, I‘m thinking of robbing a bank, can I borrow your car, and they robbed a bank, are you responsible for robbing the bank? Yes.

DEAN: I think...

MATTHEWS: The president was said he was thinking of going to war, they gave him the authority, and he went to war.

DEAN: Let‘s not forget that we didn‘t know this president was the way he was at that time. We thought he was like...

MATTHEWS: OK, 80 percent of the American people said we were going to war at the time. Hillary and John Kerry voted for that authorization. Were 80 percent, four out of five Americans, right and they were wrong?

DEAN: Well, you know, one of the things I learned in my life is that, I told you so, is a terrible...

MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m going to say...

DEAN: ... campaign slogan...

MATTHEWS: ... you told us so.

DEAN: ... but the fact is...

MATTHEWS: Howard Dean, you told us so. I give you credit because you were right.

DEAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Democratic Party. Will this election be the decisive factor in our foreign policy?

DEAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Will our foreign policy change if we have an election...

DEAN: Absolutely. The first way it will change—and I hope that our candidate, when she wins or he wins, will go to all these other countries, Latin America, the Muslim world and Europe, before they even take office and say, We‘re here for a different reason. We‘re going to work with you in a positive way. We‘re going to become citizens of the world. And most importantly, we‘re going to regain the moral authority that America had from the end of World War I until George Bush went into Iraq.

It‘s going to require a Democratic president to do that. We need to start over. What the Bush Republicans have done is put us in a position in the rest of the world where people don‘t think we have moral authority anymore. Having moral authority and moral legitimacy is part of defending America. It‘s not just about well-equipped troops and well-trained troops, it‘s also about having the moral high ground, and we haven‘t had it since George Bush took us into Iraq and we need to regain it. And the only way to do that is to be cooperative with other countries and not dismissive of them.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the war in Iraq by us is an immoral war?

DEAN: I think it‘s a huge mistake. I don‘t—I mean...

MATTHEWS: You said we have to regain the moral high ground. Have we lost it?

DEAN: We‘ve lost it, not so much because we went to Iraq, although that was a terrible blunder. We‘ve lost it because the president wasn‘t honest with the American people. The president and the Republicans were dismissive, insulting our allies whose help we need. And they picked the wrong fights.

MATTHEWS: You know, this presidency has been scarred by the conviction—not just the prosecution but the conviction of the vice president‘s chief of staff for perjury and obstruction of justice. And he wasn‘t committing crimes at that time out of the line of duty. He was doing them in the office, as part of his role in that office.

DEAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: Why has the administration been so successful in commuting the sentence of Scooter Libby and thereby making everyone forget that it ever happened?

DEAN: I don‘t think, Chris, they were successful. Among evangelical Christians, the culture of corruption that the Republicans have brought to Washington was the number one issue, more important than the Iraq war. We got an increase of 10 percent among evangelicals probably on the issue of corruption.

MATTHEWS: Is that Larry Craig and Mark Foley or what?

DEAN: It‘s...

MATTHEWS: Or it‘s spending money or what?

DEAN: You know, the Mark Foley thing—it‘s interesting that Larry Craig—Larry Craig is different than Mark Foley. Larry Craig they can survive. There was an individual Republican that did something he shouldn‘t have done. With Mark Foley, it wasn‘t the individual Republican act, chasing the pages around, which I think disgusted most people.


DEAN: It was the fact of the Republican leadership in the House covered up for him and put their political self-interest ahead of the interests of our kids. That‘s what killed the Republicans in the ‘06 midterms.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe they have to put barriers up in the Minnesota men‘s room out there in the airport to keep senators from sliding under the stalls?


MATTHEWS: They have, like, the wall in Israel. They got to put a wall up to keep these guys from doing this stuff. I‘m stunned by it.

DEAN: Chris, I‘m not touching this one, either.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Dean. You were right.

DEAN: We‘ll see you later.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.

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Transcript originally posted on MSNBC Transcripts.



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