Following the nomination by President Bush of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court and days after the indictment of Vice President Chief of Staff Lewis Libby, Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean joined MSNBC's Chris Matthews on 'Hardball' to discuss the nomination, his party's stance on Abortion, the Libby indictment and more.
To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below, to watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I know this is unfortunate for you, but somebody in the Democratic party is putting out an attack sheet on this new justice nominee for the Supreme Court, Sam Alito.
And the first attack is that he was lenient on the mob back in an 88' case. He let the Lucchese family get off. It says he was an embarrassment to the government.
And here is a guy that has been tough on crime. Why start off on that issue?
HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CMTE.: Well, first of all, I didn't put it out, but somebody did, so I'll be responsible for it.
MATTHEWS: Well, it was put out by Democrats, but go on.
DEAN: The president put out a sheet this morning, Republican talking points. One of the things he said was that Judge Alito was a spectacular prosecutor.
Well, it turns out he wasn't quite so spectacular, and he lost some important cases. And one is which those guys, in that particular case, those guys all got off, 20 of them, without even putting up a defense witness. So, at least in that particular case that's an example.
MATTHEWS: What about the Genovese case the year later where he won the conviction and put three big guys away, including the top guy in New Jersey?
DEAN: I think it's great. All I'm trying to say is, you know, this guy is not the best prosecutor since sliced bread.
MATTHEWS: So, you don't sense a little ethnic aspect to this? The fact that he is Italian-American. They nailed the number one issue against this guy is mob, that he's weak on the mob. You don't see that?
DEAN: No, I don't.
MATTHEWS: I think everybody else does. I see it.
DEAN: I'll tell you what the number one issue is. The number one issue, for me that I worry a lot about, is, first of all, we have a very weak president, who appears to be letting the right wing make judicial selections.
Second of all, we have a president who didn't keep his word and fire Karl Rove as he promised he would two years ago when he said he would fire anybody who leaked.
Well, the special prosecutor identified "Official A," who leaked, and that was Karl Rove. He may not be indicted, but what is going on is unethical.
Third of all, I am concerned about Judge Alito's record. Judge Alito in one case said he believed that Congress did not have the right to regulate the sale of machine guns. I think that's a mistake.
MATTHEWS: I thought they had done that since the '30s. Tommy guns have been outlawed since the mob days back in the early '30s.
DEAN: In a case when he was on the court, he dissented from an opinion that upheld Congress' right to regulate machine guns. In other words, he made the case, in a dissent, that he did not believe that Congress had the right to regulate the sales of machine guns.
MATTHEWS: Automatic weapons?
DEAN: Yes. Machine guns.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I know. I thought that was settled law.
DEAN: Well, it may have been settled law. Judge Alito disagreed. Judge Alito also allowed a case or support of the police when they went in and searched somebody who they had a search warrant for, but then also searched the guy's wife -- and strip-searched the guy's wife and a 10-year-old daughter. I don't think that's a good thing. There was some sex discrimination cases and disability discrimination cases where he raised impossibly high standards.
So we do not think that Judge Alito is a great nominee.
MATTHEWS: What about the husband notification? Does that bother you?
DEAN: It bothers me in the fact that the Bush people seem to insist on inserting the government into people's private family business. And this is a private family matter, not a government matter. To have the government insinuate itself in a relationship between husband and wife I think is a mistake.
MATTHEWS: But that was the Pennsylvania law, and that was passed by a governor, Democratic Governor Bob Casey.
DEAN: I don't care who it was passed by.
MATTHEWS: But it wasn't the Bush people. You said the Bush people did it.
DEAN: No, but this administration continually wants to insert themselves into family business. The Terri Schiavo case, that's the family business, not the government's business. All these abortion cases, that's a family's personal business. That's not the government's business. And we'd like to keep the government out of people's private, personal lives.
MATTHEWS: But the Democratic Party are a pro-choice party, period?
DEAN: The government...
MATTHEWS: The Democrats, your party, is a pro-choice party?
DEAN: No. My party respects everybody's views, but my party firmly believes that the government should stay out of people's personal lives.
MATTHEWS: But you are a pro-choice party? Are you not? You sound like you're against ever being pro-life. Are you pro-choice?
DEAN: I'm not against people for being pro-life. I actually was the first chairman who met for a for a long time with pro-life Democrats.
MATTHEWS: This is the complicated thing for people. The people believe the Republican Party, because of its record, supports the pro-life position. Does your party support the pro-choice position?
DEAN: The position we support is a woman has the right to make -- and a family has the right to make up their own mind about their health care without government interference.
MATTHEWS: That's pro-choice.
DEAN: A woman and a family have a right to make up their own minds about their health care without government interference. That's our position.
MATTHEWS: Why do you hesitate from the phrase pro-choice?
DEAN: Because I think it's often misused. If you're pro-choice, it implies you're not pro-life. That's not true. There are a lot of pro-life Democrats. We respect them, but we believe the government should...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in abortion rights?
DEAN: I believe that the government should stay out of the personal lives of families and women. They should stay out of our lives. That's what I believe.
MATTHEWS: I find it interesting that you have hesitated to say what the party has always stood for, which is a pro-choice position.
DEAN: The party believes the government does not belong in personal...
MATTHEWS: I'm learning things here about the hesitancy I didn't know about before. We'll be right back with Howard Dean.
DEAN: You know what you're learning...
MATTHEWS: Now, you're getting hesitant on the war and hesitant on abortion rights. It's very hard to get clarity from your party.
MATTHEWS: On this leak case, do you think Scooter Libby was a rogue operating on his own?
DEAN: Yes, there's a big question about that, which I think is a serious question. What did Vice President Cheney know and what did he authorize Scooter Libby to do? In the indictment, the prosecutor talks about ... Vice President Cheney being the source of Libby's knowledge. In that case, did they discuss that Libby was going to leak this?
MATTHEWS: And also, that he testified ... to the investigators, that his boss, the vice president, told him how to deal with this information after giving it to him... June 12th; a month later they go meet on the plane somewhere, he says, here's how to deal with it, how -- and then after that, then he started giving it out. ... Libby.
DEAN: Well, I think ... this may reach higher. This is not over yet.
MATTHEWS: Well, don't you think it already has, in your mind?
DEAN: Well, I think that most-it's reached into the president's office, because the president promised, first of all, five years ago, he promised it was going to be an ethical administration, which at this point is sort of a joke, given the vice president and everybody, all these, you know, Frist and DeLay, and their procurement officer Safavian, and all these people involved with scandals of all sorts.
But I think that this is a serious problem, because the president of the United States looked the American people in the eye and said if anybody was leaking, they would be dealt with, i.e. they would be fired. Well, now we know. Karl Rove hasn't been indicted for leaking, but he did leak, and that's in the indictment. So, it seems to me that the question about whether Karl Rove leaked something or not is not at issue anymore. The president promised he'd fire a leaker.
Karl Rove still has security clearance. This is a guy with security clearance, who is a leaker.
Video: Dean on Hardball II
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the vice president confected the case for war? WMD case, the nuclear case and all of that?
DEAN: Well, I don't know who did, but somebody did, because the case wasn't there, and the 9/11 Commission said it wasn't there. The 9/11 Commission, chaired by a Republican, I might add, said there was no connection between terrorism and Saddam Hussein. There was no evidence for WMDs.
Somebody either told the president the wrong information knowingly, or else the president knew the wrong information and lied to the American people.
MATTHEWS: How come 80 percent of your party is opposed to the war in Iraq, believes we shouldn't have gone, and the leadership continues to stick with the war? John Kerry won't come out against the war, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton. They're all for war.
DEAN: Look, first of all, when you say this, look, I was very much against the war as you know, because I suspected...
MATTHEWS: You're with the 80 percent.
DEAN: I suspected we were also not being told the truth, which turns out, we weren't. But I thought John Kerry's speech the other week was very good. We're there now, and whether you know, I was on one side, John Kerry was on the other, whatever. We're now in Iraq, and now we have to figure out how to get out, and Kerry has a plan to get out, which is more than the president.
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