DNC Chairman Howard Dean on Today's "Meet The Press"

There’s been a lot of suggestion by the media lately -- especially since the elections last Tuesday -- that the Republican Party is in dire trouble, and could lose control of the House and the Senate in 2006. For those interested in a side of this debate that the media are ignoring, you should watch today’s “Meet the Press,” in particular the second-half with DNC chairman Howard Dean.

Some of the pertinent exchanges of note:

DR. DEAN:  I think Democrats always have to stand up and tell the truth and that's what we're doing.  The truth is that the president misled America when he sent us to war.  They did--he even didn't tell the truth in the speech he gave.  First of all, think there were a lot of veterans were kind of upset that the president chose their day to make a partisan speech. 

Really? What veterans or veterans groups, Dr. Dean, have come forward to complain about the president’s speech on Friday? It would have been nice if Russert had asked this question.

DR. DEAN: Secondly, the president didn't even tell the truth in his speech.  He said that the Senate had the same intelligence that everybody else did.  That was not true.  He withheld some intelligence.  Then he said the commissions all said that what he had done in the lead-up up to the war was fine.

MR. RUSSERT:  What did he withhold?

DR. DEAN:  He withheld--he knew, he knew that there was no connection between Saddam and 9/11 and he insisted on trying to make that case to the American people.

MR. RUSSERT:  But he never said Saddam was involved in September 11.

DR. DEAN:  He never actually came out and said just that.  But in every speech he gave during the campaign and afterwards, he left the impression.  He left the impression with 65 percent of the American people, who agreed that Saddam had something to do with 9/11.  It made that--it was dishonest, what he did.

Hmmm. The chairman of the DNC admitted on national television that Bush never said Saddam Hussein was connected to September 11. Instead, according to Dean, the president “left the impression” that this was the case.

DR. DEAN: The truth is, they're concealing the size of the deficit, as well.  Iraq is not on the books.  The money they take out of Social Security is not on the books.  This is an administration that has a fundamental problem telling the truth.

Excuse me, Dr. Dean, but the unified budget that incorporated Social Security and other trusts into the rest of the federal budget was recommended and signed into law by Lyndon Johnson in 1968, and has not been changed since. To suggest that this is something that has just started under the current administration is a gross misrepresentation of fact that Russert definitely should have challenged Dean on.

Another great exchange involved fundraising:

MR. RUSSERT:  Money, the mother's milk of politics, as it's been referred to, here's The Washington Post article.  "The Democratic National Committee under Howard Dean is losing the fund-raising race against the Republicans by nearly 2wto 1 ..."  The article goes on to say that "the Republicans have raised $83.5 million, the Democrats just $42 million."

What is wrong with your fund-raising operations?

DR. DEAN:  Nothing.  It's going great.  We just broke the record with six weeks to go for fund-raising during the off year, and we didn't even have the ability to raise soft money to do it.  We have paid operatives in 38 out of 50 states.  We will be in 50 states by the end of the year.  We just won two really important gubernatorial elections and managed to deep-six all of Governor Schwarzenegger's initiatives in California.  I'd say we're having a pretty good year.

MR. RUSSERT:  But if you're being outgunned 2-to1 in the 2006 elections, how can you possibly succeed?

DR. DEAN:  We did last time.  We were outgunned 3-to-1.

Fascinating. I guess Dean feels that losing the presidency, losing seats in both chambers of Congress, as well as governors’ mansions represents success. No wonder his fundraising efforts are going so poorly. Yet, the most telling exchange was the following:

MR. RUSSERT:  Let's talk about the Democrats and some of the polling data. Congressional Democrats have the same priorities as you:  yes, 26 percent; no, 54 percent.  So the Democrats aren't perceived as the answer.  And look at this, Chairman Dean.  We asked independent voters:  Do you believe that Democrats have a clear message, a vision for the future?  Fifty-two percent of independent swing voters say no.  One in four Democrats say you have no clear vision, no agenda, no clear message.  Joe Trippi, your former campaign manager said, "Obviously, the results" from Election Night "are great for us Democrats.  But given the GOP's problems, the tightness of the results suggest that people aren't happy with either party right now.  Democrats have got to push an alternative agenda."

DR. DEAN:  We have an alternative agenda.  We made it very clear.  We want a strong national security based on telling the truth to our people at home, our soldiers and our allies.  We want jobs in America that'll stay in America, and we believe that renewable energy is one of the areas where we can do that.  We want a health-care system that covers everybody, just like 36 other countries in the world.  We want a strong public education system.  And most of all, we want honesty back in government.  I think that's a pretty good agenda.

MR. RUSSERT:  But those are words that will appeal to people.  But when you go behind them, for example, what is the Democratic position on Iraq?  Should we withdraw troops now?  What do the Democrats stand for?

DR. DEAN:  Tim, first of all, we don't control the House, the Senate or the White House.  We have plenty of time to show Americans what our agenda is and we will long before the '06 elections.

MR. RUSSERT:  But there's no Democratic plan on Social Security.  There's no Democratic plan on the deficit problem.  There's no specifics.  They say, "Well, we want a strong Social Security.  We want to reduce the deficit.  We want health care for everyone," but there's no plan how to pay for it.

DR. DEAN:  Right now it's not our job to give out specifics.  We have no control in the House.  We have no control in the Senate.  It's our job is to stop this administration, this corrupt and incompetent administration, from doing more damage to America.  And that's what we're going to do.  We're doing our best. 

This is what the media should be focusing on, and what should have drawn particular attention by Russert today: the chairman of the Democratic National Committee believes that it is “not [the Democrats’] job to give out specifics.” As he sees it, since they don’t control the House or the Senate, it is not their responsibility to offer different ideas to the American people that are in contrast to those being espoused by the Republicans. Instead, their “job is to stop this administration, this corrupt and incompetent administration, from doing more damage to America.” 

As such, Dean’s view is that the Democrats as the minority party are not supposed to offer new ideas. Their role is just to obstruct those of the majority party. What the press should focus on here is that historically, this is not how the minority party behaves, nor is it how the minority party becomes the majority party. Moreover, if the media wants to advance the agenda of one party over the other, shouldn’t the party they support at least HAVE an agenda? Shouldn't this be a great cause of concern for the left and all who support them?

For those who want to read the entire transcript, please go here. Video portions of the Dean interview are available here and here. All three of these links send you to MSNBC.com.

*****Added after the fact, it is being reported at Drudge's website that RNC chairman Ken Mehlman asked Dean before “Meet the Press” went on the air this morning to reconsider going on at the same time. Dean again declined:

“Moments before taping was to begin with host Tim Russert, Mehlman asked Dean outside the NBC studio’s green room: “There’s still time for us to go on together Governor.” Dean declined with a shrug of his shoulders and an uncomfortable cackle and then proceeded to walk away into the green room. "DRUDGE has learned MEET THE PRESS producers have been working to get a head to head Dean/Mehlman appearance on the program since Dean was named chair back in February. Dean and his handlers have repeatedly turned down the request. The former Vermont governor only agreed to do this week’s program if they appeared in back-to-back interviews.”

This raises an interesting question: Why is the DNC chairman so afraid to go on a political talk-show and debate his Republican counterpart? If the Republicans are as "corrupt and incompetent" as he proclaims, wouldn't such an encounter represent an ideal opportunity to prove it? 

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