Interview on CNN's 'The Situation Room'

April 4, 2006

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now from Memphis, Tennessee, is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Well, is this good or bad for the Democrats, the fact that Howard -- that Tom DeLay has now decided to step aside?

DEAN: Well, I don't know if it is good or bad for the Democrats, but it's very good for the country.

There's an awful lot of corruption, not just, of course, Tom DeLay, but Bill Frist, the leader of the Senate is under investigation for insider trading. Karl Rove still has his security counsel -- security clearance, despite the fact that he has leaked information to the CIA -- for the CIA identifications in a time of war.

The vice president's chief of staff is under indictment. So, this is a very deep problem, this Republican culture of corruption. But, certainly, for the country, it's a good thing that Tom DeLay has left.

BLITZER: Well, let's forget about the country for a moment. Talk about Democrats.

You're the chairman of the Democratic Party. Do you see this as a net political gain for the Democrats, or a loss, given the fact that so many Democrats were trying to make Tom DeLay sort of a whipping boy for the Republican Party?

DEAN: You know, in general, I think whatever is good for America is good for the Democratic Party.

The big problem with the Republicans is, they put their party in front of their country. And that -- Tom DeLay did it. Others have done it. And that is what we are trying to get away from. We are going to offer a real change, Wolf, in this election.

Do you want more of the same or do you want real change? Do you want ethics legislation that really means something? Do you want American jobs that will stay in America? Do you want real security, instead of just talk about security?

So, the theme of the election is not just going to be about Tom DeLay and the corruption the Republicans have brought to Washington. It's going to be about a real change for America, putting America back in the right direction again.

BLITZER: Here's how Tom DeLay explained his decision last night. Listen to this.


DELAY: The voters of the 22nd District of Texas deserve a campaign about the vital national issues that they care most about and that affect their lives every day, and not a campaign focused solely as a referendum on me.


BLITZER: You believe him?

DEAN: Well, I do think that's what they deserve. And Nick Lampson is a terrific candidate. He has represented part of that district before. And we do have a chance of taking back that seat.

But, again, if you look at the big issues, I think what voters want is real change. Republicans and Democrats have something in common. None of the Republican or Democratic voters like corruption in government. We have a Republican culture of corruption that the -- this administration has brought to Washington. Now voters have a chance to say no to that. And I think they really sort of did in the Republican primary in Tom DeLay's district.

BLITZER: Tom DeLay has never been shy about lashing out at Democrats. And even in his announcement to step down from the Congress, he continued that theme.

Listen to what he said. Listen to this.


DELAY: A Democrat Congress in 2007 would, without doubt or remorse, raise hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes, summarily cut and run from the war on terror, and immediately initiate an unconstitutional impeachment of President Bush.


BLITZER: Would you, as the leader of the Democratic Party, take those three steps?

DEAN: No, we're not going to do any of that.

That's why the Republicans are going to lose in 2006. They're -- I think the American people have finally figured out that what the president and the Republicans do is divide people and name-call.

What we are going to do is balance the budget. Nobody has done that in a long time, other than Bill Clinton. Not one Republican has balanced the budget in 40 years. Balancing the budget is a moral value, not simply a good-government piece.

What we are going to do is restore a real defense policy to America. And we're going to restore the moral imperative that the United States had before President Bush came into office.


DEAN: What we are going to do is make sure we have a health care system that includes everybody, instead of adding to the number of insured people.

But, no, we're not going to raise hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax -- taxes. Not one Republican -- Democrat -- not one Democrat I know of is talking about cutting and running.

BLITZER: Well...


DEAN: Look, I opposed the war. It was a big mistake to get into it. Now we are there. We need to come home gradually and carefully.

BLITZER: But, if you would eliminate the tax cuts that were approved by the Bush administration and the Congress in the first term, in effect, you would be raising taxes.

DEAN: Wolf, you know, I never used to like to say what I'm about to say when I was governor. But, in this administration, there is so much waste, fraud and abuse.

Just before Christmas, the Republicans passed a bill to put $20 billion into the pockets of HMOs, $10 billion into the pockets of oil companies. There is so much bad stuff the Republicans have spent out money on. All we have got to do is get rid of a lot of that, and we can go well on the way to balancing the budget.

BLITZER: All right.

You clearly have a tough road ahead of you, based on our sister publication, "TIME" magazine, and its most recent poll. "Do Democrats have a clear set of policies for the country?" Only 36 percent of those who responded said yes. Fifty-six percent said no.

Why are you, the Democrats, having such a hard -- tough time convincing Americans that you do have a set of policies for the country?

DEAN: Well, we do have a set of policies. And I just laid out some of them, in terms of health care, jobs -- American jobs that will stay in America, security, and honesty in government, retirement security. But, when you're in the minority party, you don't have a bully pulpit.

What I have told the House and the Senate -- and I believe this in all -- with all my heart -- that, if we have 435 members running for Congress with the same message, our values message and our agenda, from now until the election, we're going to win. But that's what it's going to take to get our message out, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to get your thoughts on another issue that a lot of Democrats are speaking out on today, Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, who charges that she was racially profiled as she tried to walk into the Longworth House Office Building, and stopped by a Capitol Hill police officer.

Here is what she said to me last night here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Listen to this.


REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA: The bottom line on this is that it doesn't matter if you are in the United States Capitol or the Georgia Capitol. The issue is racial profiling. And that is something that we are going to have to deal with as a country.


BLITZER: What -- what do you -- what do you think of this uproar over Cynthia McKinney?

DEAN: I think there's two separate issues.

First of all, racial profiling is a real issue. But, secondly, I have absolutely no knowledge of what happened to Congresswoman McKinney at that checkpoint. I wasn't there. I don't know any of the people involved, and I haven't talked to them. So, I have no comment on what went on when Congresswoman McKinney was going into the Capitol, since I have no knowledge of what went on.

If there's a separate question, do we still have a problem with racial profiling, yes. It's getting better, but we still have a problem.

BLITZER: Howard Dean is the chairman of the Democratic Party.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

DEAN: Wolf, thanks for having me on.

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Originally posted on CNN's Transcripts site.



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