Interview on CNN's 'The Situation Room'

July 3, 2007

SUZANNE MALVEAUX*, HOST: Top Democrats aren't mincing any words in their criticism of President Bush for commuting the sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. And now that Mr. Bush is not ruling out an eventual pardon, the cries of outrage may only get louder.

We're joined now by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

Welcome to the show.

I want to start off by playing a bit from Romney to give you a sense of what he thinks is kind of the hypocrisy coming from the Democrats' reaction.



MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wasn't it Bill Clinton that was handing out pardons like lollipops at the -- at the end of his administration?


ROMNEY: And isn't there some -- some recognition that perhaps you might look a little silly if you didn't have anything to say, when he was handing out pardon after pardon after pardon for political purposes only?


MALVEAUX: A lot of Republicans are saying this really smacks of a double standard here, that we are not hearing the kind of criticism coming from Democrats regarding Clinton that now we are hearing when it comes to Bush and Libby.

DEAN: That's actually not true. If you look -- go back and look at 2001, I did criticize President Clinton.

But this is a different matter. This is -- this -- this Republican Party doesn't believe that equal justice under the law as a basic standard. I thought the interesting thing about Mitt Romney and every single other Republican politician running for president, they're all in favor of a pardon. Every single Democrat says equal justice under the law -- what's good for the ordinary Americans who lie to prosecutors and who obstruct justice is the same thing that ought to be good for members of the Bush administration.

That's the fundamental difference. We believe in equal justice under the law. We believe in getting out of Iraq.

Every single Republican candidate running for president believes in staying in Iraq and evidently supports this pardon. They are wrong. The American people, by huge numbers, think the president did the wrong thing by commuting "Scooter" Libby's sentence and they think they're doing the wrong thing by staying in Iraq. And I do not see how any of these guys are going to get themselves elected president of the United States by supporting things that the American people really disagree with.

MALVEAUX: Which one of those pardons did you object to with President Clinton, that you considered wrong, as well?

DEAN: The one I said -- the one I criticized at the time was the Marc Rich pardon. But I also criticized the first President Bush's Caspar Weinberger pardon.

Look, pardons for people that are based on justice are perfectly acceptable. But pardons for people out of political convenience -- this is a good way to shut "Scooter" Libby up. Now he doesn't have to testify about some of the other misdeeds that went on in Vice President Dick Cheney's office and possibly President Bush's office.


DEAN: This is a political pardon and political pardons are never good things.

MALVEAUX: Well, the Democrats are already furious with the president. Why not? The thinking here is what does the president have to lose?

Is this going to -- do you think -- affect the Republican candidates for president for 2008?

DEAN: Of course it's going to affect the Republican presidents for -- they all of course, it will.

They all supported the pardon. And it's completely out of step.

Look, the ordinary person somewhere in America who maybe whose kid did something dumb, like the kid in Georgia, who's serving 10 years for a sexual indiscretion, that kid's serving 10 years. Nobody is there standing up for him.

How come somebody is going to stand up for a guy who lied to and obstructed justice and was condemned?

We know we spent about $2 million or $3 million getting a conviction here. The president throws it all out.

Whatever happened to respect for law and order that the Republicans used to talk about all the time? This is wrong. The Republican candidates are wrong on this. They're wrong on Iraq. And I don't think they're going to have much chance convincing the American people that they're the ones that ought to be running the country.

MALVEAUX: Let's talk about Hillary Clinton.

We're seeing what is being dubbed as "the Bill and Hillary Show" in Iowa, campaigning together. There are some who are suggesting it's not necessarily a good idea to see him on stage with her, perhaps upstaging, but, also, perhaps, invoking those memories of infidelity and impeachment.

You had an experience with just a moment the what's called "The Dean Scream," that that really set the campaign in that direction.

Do you think people are going to just simply dismiss these kind of memories and the --

DEAN: First of all, we had already lost the campaign when the famous scream speech came about. So I had already lost in Iowa.

You know, this is all inside the beltway bath blather. You've got some fantastic candidates. This is the strongest field we've had in my memory. And, you know, however they want to campaign is their business. I don't advise them what to do, nor do I comment. I'll leave that stuff up to you.

I think they're doing great. I'm delighted by our field. I'm delighted how well they're all doing. I'm delighted by the vast amounts of money that the Democrats are raising compared to the Republicans, although, frankly, I'd prefer public financing of the campaigns for everybody.

MALVEAUX: You did very well when it came to raising money through the Internet, a lot of contributions.

What kind of advice would you give to Barack Obama, who seems to be getting the kinds of numbers and the kinds of funds that you had and that his campaign ultimately will make good use of that, that that will --

DEAN: Well, if I were going to give anybody advice, it certainly wouldn't be in public. I would just say this. Look, these candidates are raising money, especially in small donations. That's really critical for the party. The campaign -- the good that our campaign did for the party and for the country was to raise huge amounts of money in very small donations and lots and lots and lots of people. And those people stayed in the political process.

If you want America to be a strong democracy, you've got to get as many people involved in politics as possible. And I think that's what our candidates are doing. And I'm just thrilled.

MALVEAUX: Well, thank you very much. A thrilled Howard Dean with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks again.

DEAN: Suzanne, thanks you so much for having me on.

MALVEAUX: Have a good holiday.

DEAN: Thank you.

*Pronounced "mal-voe"

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Transcript originally from CNN.



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