Interview on "The Situation Room"

June 19, 2006

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And joining us now, the former governor of Vermont, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean. Governor Dean, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Where do you stand when it comes to a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq? How quickly would you like to see them out? And be specific.

DEAN: Well, I think the Democrats have been pretty clear about what they want. They want a transition, and now there's going to be a vote on asking the president for a timetable. We need to be out of Iraq. We know we can't leave immediately, but we need to be out, and we need to hear from the president something other than, "I started this, but we're going to leave this to the next president."

BLITZER: Do you think they should be out by the end of the year, like Congressman John Murtha, Senator Kerry, Senator Feingold? They say get them all out by the end of this year.

DEAN: Well, I haven't heard anybody say that, Wolf. What I have heard is that people want a plan to transition out of Iraq. And what's going to be voted on tomorrow in the Senate is a plan to re- deploy some of the troops in Iraq, some to Afghanistan, others to the region, bring some of the National Guard home, keep some in Iraq in order to train folks. But I haven't heard anybody say they want everybody out by the end of the year.

BLITZER: Well, Congressman Murtha has been pretty specific, Senator Kerry, they say that that should be the target, by the end of the year, to get them out. Re-deploy them. Those are the words -- that's the phrase that Congressman Murtha uses.

DEAN: Well, what I have heard from these folks -- and I haven't heard it described the way you just described it -- what I've heard is that they want the National Guard and Reserve to be home, some 20,000 troops to be moved to other countries in the surrounding region so they can come back into Iraq as needed, and then leaving a force still that's much smaller in Iraq training the police.

Look, the bottom line here is not what the specifics of the plan are. The bottom line is the president doesn't have a plan and the Democrats believe that we should be heading in another direction, which is what the American people believe.

BLITZER: Here's what Karl Rove said last week in Manchester, New Hampshire. He said, "Like too many Democrats, it strikes me they are ready to give the green light to go to war. But when it gets tough, they fall back on that old party's platform of cutting and running. They may be with you for the first few bullets, but they won't be there for the last tough battles." Karl Rove in New Hampshire last week.

I thought Jack Murtha, who's a 37-year-old decorated Marine, had the best retort. Karl Rove is sitting in his air conditioned office on his big fat you-know-what, and he's never served. George Bush has never served abroad. Dick Cheney's never served abroad. Don Rumsfeld's never served abroad.

Republicans are great at sending other peoples' kids to war, but not so good at following up. You know, it's not good enough to just be tough. You've got to be tough and smart. Here we are. North Korea is in the process of firing a missile, a test missile. George Bush has been in office for 5 1/2 years, has done nothing about that.

We've got 200,000 brave troops pinned down in Iraq. You can't trust the president to defend America, not because they don't want to defend America, because they're not smart enough to defend America.

But they point out that things appear to be moving in the right direction in Iraq right now. In fact, earlier today, the Vice President Dick Cheney had this exchange with a reporter at the National Press Club. Listen to this.

QUESTION: About a year ago, you said that the insurgency in Iraq was in its final throes. Do you still believe this?


BLITZER: He then went on to say that last year, the tide began to turn against the insurgents. And now, the U.S. is winning, and it's just a matter of getting the job done.

DEAN: First of all, Vice President Cheney has no credibility in this matter. Second of all, we have two of our brave soldiers that have been kidnapped by the insurgents, who are still in captivity right now.

You know, this -- we have been hearing this, a lot of this stuff, from this administration. I thought John Kerry had it right when he made a speech on the Senate floor, saying, we stayed in Vietnam a long time because politicians couldn't figure out what to do. And that cost us thousands of American troops.

We don't need to do that again. We know these guys got us in under false pretenses. The truth is, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

And the irony of this is, one of the things that Jack Murtha has proposed is to put 20,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, where they are needed, because Afghanistan is now going south on us. Now, that's a war we believe we should have been in and we are still in.

The fact of the matter is that you can't trust the Republicans to defend the country, again, not because they don't want to, but they are not smart enough to listen to the military and listen to people who have served, like Jack Murtha.

BLITZER: Frank Rich, the columnist for "The New York Times," a strong critic of the Bush administration, wrote a very stinging column yesterday in "The New York Times," in which he was very critical of the Democrats, because he fears that they are once again being outmaneuvered politically by Republicans, as they were, he says, on the eve of the 2004 elections.

And then he goes on to say this: "Those who are most enraged about the administration's reckless misadventure -- misadventures are incredulous that it repeatedly gets away with the same stunts. But, as long as the Democrats keep repeating their own mistakes, they will lose to the party whose mistakes are, if nothing else, packaged as one heck of a show. It's better to have the courage of bad convictions than no courage or convictions at all."

Did you read that Frank Rich column yesterday?

DEAN: I don't read columnists. They are willing to -- they also sit in air-conditioned offices.

The fact of the matter is that we are pushing a -- for a plan to get out of Iraq. The president has no plan. He says he's going to leave that to the next election. The president can't balance the budget. We will. The president has cost millions of Americans their health care. We are going to move towards a health care system that works for everybody.

The president has sent millions of jobs to other countries. We are going to create a new energy independence industry, and do more than talk about it. The Democrats are on the move with a positive agenda. And I think we are going to win.

BLITZER: How worried are you that Karl Rove, now that he won't be indicted, charged with any crimes in connection with the leaking of the name of Scooter Libby -- Scooter -- excuse me, the leaking of the name of Valerie Plame -- only Scooter Libby, the president's former chief of staff, has been indicted in connection with that -- how worried are you that Karl Rove will now be able to focus all of his attention on getting Republicans elected in November?

DEAN: Look, the president -- Karl Rove keep -- keeps repeating the same old tired stuff: Democrats are weak. Democrats are disorganized. Sometimes, he gets columnists to believe it.

The truth is, the Democrats are coming together. It has taken some time. We have been in the wilderness for 12 -- for -- for more than 12 years in the Congress. But we are coming together with a plan to make sure that this becomes a tradition -- a transition in Iraq.

We now have a debate about a plan, which three-quarters of the Democrats signed onto, about a timetable for transitioning out of Iraq, for making us stronger, not weaker, as this president has done. That's a pretty good plan in Iraq.

I think we have a plan for health care. We have a plan to fix the broken prescription drug program that the president crammed down our throats. We have a plan to balance the budget. Republicans haven't balanced the budget for 40 years in this country. Democrats can.

If you want more of the same, vote for Karl Rove's party. If you want real change, support the Democrats.

BLITZER: The -- some of your strategy, as the chairman of the Democratic Party, is under criticism from some Democrats, for example, the effort to reach out to all 50 states.

Rahm Emanuel, Democratic congressman from Illinois, was quoted in "The New Yorker" magazine May 29 as saying, "If you think that Mississippi and Ohio are the same thing, you're an idiot."

Those were strong words, because he doesn't feel, necessarily, you should be reaching out to all of the states. You should be focusing in where you have the best chances.

DEAN: We need to -- we need to be everywhere.

That was one of the mistakes this party has been making for a long time. We just picked up four -- or defended four seats where -- in the -- in the Mississippi House legislature. We have picked up mayorships in Alabama and in Oklahoma, in Alaska, in Utah.

You need -- this party needs to be rebuilt. We are not going to do it by playing in 20 states.

The only other thing I would say is, look, we can have our disagreements. I think those disagreements ought to be behind closed doors, and stay there. This is a party that needs to be pulled together. We have got less than five months before the election. We need to be on the same team in order to win.

BLITZER: We looked at some fund-raising at the DNC vs. the RNC, in terms -- and we will put some numbers up on the screen -- 80 -- almost $80 million, the Democratic National Committee raised, compared to $151 million that the Republicans raised during a similar period, cash on hand, $9.5 million, DNC; $44 million, RNC, during this period.

What's the problem?

DEAN: There is no problem. We are doing great.

We are far better off than we were this time four years ago. We have -- we have actually -- right now, we are on par to out-raise -- we so far have out-raised 2004, which was a presidential year. Now, that is not going to happen, because the last months in a presidential -- last two quarters are going to take off in a presidential year. And they won't now.

We have been making investments all along in strengthening this party everywhere. We are -- we have made the decision to be involved in 40 House races, 10 senatorial races, governor's races, state legislative races. We are going to be in seven states. We have got a lot of responsibility. We started investing very, very early. That's why our balance sheet doesn't look as good as the Republicans' did.

But the only way they are going to -- going to beat us is if we beat ourselves. And we are not going to do that. We are aggressive. We are going to tough. And we are going to be -- in terms of defense, we are going to be tough, just as tough as the Republicans, but we are going to be much smarter than the Republicans, in terms of protecting our troops with adequate armed -- armor, with adequate equipment.

You won't see Democrats simply doing photo-ops in Baghdad. You will see us really supporting our troops and our veterans when they come home.

BLITZER: Governor Dean, thanks very much for joining us.

DEAN: Hey, thanks, Wolf.

--- End ---

Originally from CNN Transcripts.



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