"The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer

January 12, 2007

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats made some news of their own this week, naming Denver as the site for their 2008 presidential convention. The underlying theme, as the campaign, though, gears up, is certainly Iraq.

Joining us now to discuss all of this, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean.

He joins us from his home state of Vermont.

He's in Burlington.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.


Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: I want to talk about all the politics in a few moments.

Let's talk about Iraq right now.

The Democrats seem to be split on whether or not they should use the power of the purse to try to get U.S. forces out of Iraq.

Where do you stand on this?

DEAN: Well, I think that there's a lot of options being discussed right now. We need to be out of Iraq. We never should have gone in there. We went in there under false president -- false pretenses. The president was not truthful with the American people when we went in.

But we have to leave in a careful, methodical way so as not to allow more destabilization to occur than is already going to occur.

Now, the question is how to get the president to do that. There are going to be lots of different opportunities, I think, to express our displeasure and there will be some opportunities to have some effect on the course of the war and how to bring our troops home.

But the thing to remember is this. The president of the United States constitutionally has authority over our military policy and our foreign policy. That's not going to change. It didn't change when Richard Nixon pursued the war with a Democratic Congress. Cutting off funds didn't work then. I think we have to be very careful what we do in terms of abusing the power of the purse, because we don't want to cut off support for our troops.

You know, the president is sending the troops over there now without adequate body armor.

Our question is what's he doing spending another $6.5 million sending more troops over there when he hasn't done right by the ones that are there already?

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying is you don't necessarily think Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator who's made a proposal to use this power of the purse, that that's the right way to go, at least not yet.

DEAN: I think that, you know, first of all, I don't have a vote here, so I think -- I think I'd like to make it as easy as possible on the leadership. There are differing opinions. There's pretty much unanimity of opinions among Democrats that we don't belong in Iraq.

Now, the question is how to get out of there in a thoughtful, careful way without making things worse than they -- than the president has already made them.

But there'll be debate in the Congress and I think there's plenty of time to have that debate. The bill will perhaps -- the appropriation will pass the House first and then go to the Senate.

BLITZER: Listen to Senator John McCain. He's an outspoken supporter of what the president is doing and even if he would have even sent more troops in as part of this increase. But he says that you, the Democrats, have a responsibility to tell the American public what the consequences of the withdrawal you're calling for would be.

Listen to what he says.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Do they not fear Iranian, Saudi and Turkish involvement in Iraq? A wider regional war? A haven for terrorists? A humanitarian catastrophe?

Do they truly believe that we can walk away from Iraq?


BLITZER: All right, what do you say to Senator McCain?

DEAN: He sounds very much like Richard Nixon, you know, just stay a little longer, stay a little longer. We'll stay long enough to lose another 5,000 or 10,000 people. It still won't change anything. We never should have gone there in the first place. Senator McCain bears some responsibility for supporting the president when we went. His prescription for getting out is no prescription for getting out.

The American people have already rejected the stay the course position of Senator McCain and of President Bush. We need new leadership in this country and that's what the presidential election is going to be about in 2008.

BLITZER: You announced yesterday that Denver is the winner for the Democratic presidential convention. That'll be in the summer of 2008.

Why Denver as opposed to New York, which was also in the running?

DEAN: New York is a great city and they've done this before. They know what they are doing. It was a close call. We took a lot of time to do it. But, you know, since I've been in the chairmanship of this party, I've tried to expand the battlefield with the Republicans to the West and the South and other places where we have not been particularly competitive.

We know we can win in the West. We've had a great run in the '04 elections and in '06 elections. And I think we have five or six governors in the Western states, in the Western Rocky Mountain States. It's terrific. And we need to continue there.

I, you know, in politics, I think if you're playing defense, you're losing. And I think we ought to be fighting on the Republican grounds, not on the Democratic grounds. And that's what we're really doing. We're looking to make the West a reliably Democratic part of the country and I think we can do that.

BLITZER: You ran for president four years ago. You spent a lot of time in New Hampshire in the process. A neighbor of yours. We're going to be co-hosting this first Democratic presidential debate and the first Republican presidential debate April 4th and 5th in New Hampshire.

I'll ask you a question I asked our Strategy Session earlier.

How important is it for presidential hopefuls to show up at these early debates?

DEAN: I think it's important. I think you'll see people doing it, too. We went through about 27 of them four years ago and the reason is if four or five people say yes, then you really have to not miss the opportunity to go and speak your piece or people are going to wonder why.

I'm glad you chose New Hampshire. I think New Hampshire has been feeling a little bruised since we added two additional early states to the early times. But this -- I think this shows that New Hampshire remains just as important as it always was. And I'm -- I welcome that and I hope to be able to be there in the audience.

BLITZER: We'll see you there, Governor.

Thanks very much for coming in.

DEAN: Thanks, Wolf.

--- End ---

Original transcript from CNN Transcripts.



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