This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," June 8, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people. They're a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same, and they all look the same. And it's pretty much the white, Christian party.
KEN MEHLMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think that a lot of the folks who attended my bar mitzvah would be surprised to find that we are a party of white Christians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, HOST: Howard Dean (search) may be controversial, but most people think he's no dope, which raises questions. Why is he saying all of these things that Democratic officeholders keep distancing themselves from? Could there be a strategy here that people are just not seeing?
For answers, we turn to our old friend Susan Estrich, lawyer, professor, columnist, and political strategist.
Susan, what do you think? Is there something I'm not seeing here that Howard Dean is trying to accomplish?
SUSAN ESTRICH, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, if there is, he is keeping it a very good secret. How about that?
I mean, maybe he thinks this kind of rhetoric inflames, I guess — in addition to inflaming everything else, maybe he thinks it pumps up the hard-core liberals who are giving to his grassroots efforts. But I've got to tell you, Brit, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
It's got a lot of people very concerned among Democrats, because the real point is, as Ken Mehlman (search) says — I mean, most people don't know who Ken Mehlman is. He's the chairman of the Republican Party, obviously, but what he's doing that Howard Dean isn't doing is spending a lot of time on the nuts and bolts of putting the party together.
And when Howard Dean is out there defending himself on stuff like this, there is a lot of work that he isn't doing, and that's the problem.
HUME: Well, he is traveling, isn't he? And he is going to places where Democrats have not done too well. And he is reaching out, is he not?
ESTRICH: I mean, but how are they going to do well? I mean, look, the two things that a party leader in his position has to do is reach out and raise a lot of money, and put together the nuts and bolts so that when the next nominee or the next election rolls around, Democrats have the capacity to do what Karl Rove did last time, which was — Karl had a list so that on the Sunday before the election, he could literally squeeze out every single Republican vote in the same way that Amazon can say to me, "You know, Susan Estrich, we think you will like these three books, because we know that are you a mother of teenage kids who worries about these certain things."
Republicans are in a position to do exactly the same thing with their electorate. Democrats need to be able to do the same thing. And you don't get to that point by engaging in public fights about whether Republicans have Jews, or Hispanics, or Asians.
You get to that point by reaching out to the broadest number of people, both high donors and grassroots folks, and getting them into the party. And what Democrats really need right now is a ton of money. And we're getting out-raised, frankly, by the Republicans. And Howard Dean is spending his time defending himself rather than making new friends and building the party.
HUME: What is the effect, in your judgment, of these statements, such as the one about — I mean, it is true, that a huge percentage of the Republican Party is white Christians.
HUME: But is the problem that he didn't mean it as a compliment? Is that the problem?
ESTRICH: Oh, it's a silly thing to say. Come on, look. A lot of Republicans are white Christians, but the Republican Party is reaching out to Hispanics, and reaching out to blacks, and reaching out to Asians. And it serves no useful purpose for the chairman of the Democratic Party to be out there alienating people.
It just doesn't help us. And so you have got Democratic leaders like Biden or John Edwards, Joe Biden, two potential candidates, distancing themselves. And what is he accomplishing by doing this?
At the end of the day, he embarrasses a lot of people. He gives Republicans good talking points. He makes Democrats look like they're way out left. And in those battleground states where people are worried that, you know, Democrats are all a bunch of crazy liberals who don't understand real people, you just reinforced that view.
You know, the Democratic chairman doesn't need to be a household name. Most people didn't know who Ron Brown was when he was chairman of the Democratic Party, but he put the party in a position where Bill Clinton could come in and he had a solid base to run from.
My prediction, Brit, is if Howard Dean keeps up like this, you'll see a movement to make somebody like, oh, maybe a Barack Obama, somebody totally unobjectionable, totally popular — people will say, "Now, that would somebody we would love to have as chair." And then you get somebody like a Jack Corrigan (ph), the master organizer, you put him to work running the place. And you deal with Howard Dean. Let him be on a talk show.
HUME: Let me ask you about how he got — I mean, clearly a lot of people in the party must have liked him and liked the kind of things he says or he wouldn't have gotten...
ESTRICH: Let's not go too far. They didn't vote for him for president.
HUME: Well, I understand that. But Democrats across the country who are members of the national committee voted to make him chairman. Is it your sense that some of these people might now be ready to make him not be chairman anymore?
ESTRICH: Right. Well, look at who — first of all, Hillary, who is the most powerful figure in the party in many respects right now, took no part in the election. So you didn't have anybody moving in and saying, "I want my person in there." He didn't run against anybody who was a bigger name. He did a lot of the groundwork. He was the most visible figure running.
HUME: Got you. Quickly.
ESTRICH: And he said, "If I run, I won't run for president." That seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, maybe not so good.
HUME: OK, Susan. Always good to have you. Thank you very much.
ESTRICH: Take care.
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