Chris Matthews talked to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean about Tom DeLay's resignation and the upcoming elections in November. This is an excerpt from their conversation.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, "HARDBALL": Governor Dean, as chairman of the National Committee of the Democratic Party, do you have anything to say about the possibility, the probability or even the chance that if the Democrats get control of the House of Representatives and the subpoena power, they’ll use it to investigate, impeach, or censure President Bush?
HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: It's interesting, I think the real election issue in this election is do you want more of the same or do you want something different. We’re different. We’re not like the Republicans.
We don’t jump to conclusions, we don’t think impeachment is as trivial as the Republicans seemed to think it was when they tried to impeach President Clinton.
I think we ought to stick with the facts, lets find out what the facts are. But this notion is automatically we are going to raise taxes, impeach the president, this is nonsense. This is right wing stuff and that’s why the Republicans are in such trouble. They just make this stuff up and they put it out there.
What we want to do is bring the country back together again. We want to bring this country back together again so everybody is respected and when we take power back in 2006. We'll do that in the Senate and the House.
I think these guys are out of credibility. As you were talking about Pat Buchanan and Willie Brown, think of what George Bush has brought to Washington: his own procurement officer, arrested and indicted; the chief of staff of the vice president, arrested and indicted; the Republican leader of the United States Senate, Republican Bill Frist, under investigation for insider trading; Tom DeLay, resigned.
On and on and on it goes. That is the Republicans. We’re going to do this differently. We’ve learned by watching the terrible mistakes that the Republicans have made. This is not so much a difference about policy, although there is one, it’s a difference of how you treat people.
Are we going to treat people with respect? Yes. Are we going to run off and indict the president for no reason? Of course, we’re not going to do that. We want to bring this back to the days when America was governed by people who people understood America is more important than their own political party.
And that’s what the Republicans have made their mistake about. They think it’s more important that Republicans hold power than it is that America be strong. We think Americans come first and parties are second.
MATTHEWS: Is Tom DeLay still a poster boy for corruption for the Democrats?
DEAN: We don’t need Tom DeLay as a poster boy for corruption. We have Karl Rove who still has a security clearance after leaking the name of a security agent. We’ve have got Bill Frist, we’ve got Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. We have got so many poster boys for corruption in the Republican Party that, you know, I think this is good for America that Tom DeLay has stepped down and now we’re on to the next thing.
The other thing is we haven’t even talked about the major issues. Look at security. This is a president who claims he’s in favor of security and sends our folks to Iraq without proper body armor. How about jobs? How about some American jobs that will stay in America? How about health insurance for all Americans, just like 36 other countries have? There are big issues on the agenda out there. The Republicans haven’t been willing to tackle them; we will be.
MATTHEWS: Governor, let me ask you about Russ Feingold. He is making noises about running for president. He's out there, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, saying that he would like to have the president censured for the National Security Agency’s electronic spying.
Do you think that’s something Democrats should be considering doing once you get the subpoena power that comes with the majority status in the Congress?
DEAN: We can certainly look into all that stuff, and we would like to know what the president knew and when he knew it. But there is a lot to do in America, and revenge against the president is not the first thing on the Democratic Party agenda.
The first thing on our agenda is dealing with Iraq. The idea the president is going to leave this to the next president, I think, is a disgrace.
So, again, you know, sure, the president has not been honest with the American people. Undoubtedly, that is a huge problem. Something should be done about it, but that is not the first thing on our agenda.
There are real needs that have been ignored for the last five years under this president. What about balancing the budget? He has run up the largest deficit in the history of the country. He can’t control spending. We have to deal with that, too. And these are real, important issue.
MATTHEWS: Let’s talk about the Democratic candidates this fall you’re going to try to get elected. You’ve got a Web site out there called Fighting Dems. What is that about?
DEAN: An enormous number of veterans are running for Congress. There’s about 50 in all, and there’s 24 of them, I think, that are through their primaries now. And almost every single one, I can only think of one that’s a Republican.
So, you know, the veterans of this country, they have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some are Vietnam veterans. In fact, I’m actually talking to you from a district right across the river from Northern Kentucky where we have a veteran running. And these folks are upset about what this president has done to the Armed Forces and to the veterans of this country, and they’re running as Democrats.
And we’re supporting that. I think this idea that the Democrats are soft on defense is not only ridiculous, but we’ve proved it’s now ridiculous because of all the Democrats running, only one out of, I think, 20 or 30, or maybe even 50, is a Republican. The Democrats have now become the party of Americans, returning soldiers, and we’re proud of it.
MATTHEWS: Why does that not seem to work? I mean, it worked back in 1946 when a lot of young guys like Kennedy and Nixon ran in ‘46 after just coming back from the war. Somebody once said that World War II was their best campaign manager because it got them elected. It doesn’t seem to work as well lately with experience in combat.
DEAN: I think it will work.
MATTHEWS: I mean, John Kerry got nothing out of reporting for duty except the Swift Boaters coming.
DEAN: Well, I think the problem with that is we didn’t fight back fast enough. I think we’ve learned a lot. We’ve never had people quite as mean and arrogant as the folks that are running the country right now. And we’ve had to learn that we’re going to have to be much tougher if we want to run this country. And I think we have learned that lesson.
We’ve now got a group of really terrific people who have served their country in uniform, unlike the people who designed the Iraq war. And they’re going to stand up for the Democratic Party. And we’re proud to have them on board. And, you know, we need to be the party of security. We are the party of security and many of the veterans are now recognizing that.
MATTHEWS: Why doesn’t your party talk like you just did? You said the people who got us in the war are guys who never fought. I think a lot of them were never in a schoolyard fight either. But you have a party of Lieberman and Murtha and you haven’t been able to put it together into one voice, have you? One top voice in opposition? You’ve got people on the right on the war, you’ve got hawks like Lieberman, you’ve got guys like Jack Murtha who served in combat in Vietnam who want to get us out of there very quickly. What is the Democrats’ position on the war in Iraq?
DEAN: Our position is pretty clear. And setting Joe aside, who’s a full supporter, everybody else is pretty much on the same program. Jack Murtha, Joe Biden, we may have some disagreements about what the timetable should be, but we know that one, this needs to be a year of transition. The Iraqis need to get their act together politically because we’re not going to continue to support this nonsense that’s going on right now.
Two, when we send our troops over there, we need to have adequate armor and we need to equip them properly. And we need to listen to military people before we go and not get them into the kind of mess they’re in right now so they’re having trouble getting out. Those there things that Democrats have learned and understand, and now we’ve got some great candidates running for Congress that will back them up with their votes.
MATTHEWS: Governor, thank you very much more coming on.