March 2nd, 2008
06:11 PM ET
12 years ago

Dean hits McCain's integrity: 'He doesn't seem to have any'

DNC Chairman Howard Dean targeted Sen. John McCain Sunday on CNN's Late Edition.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean targeted Sen. John McCain Sunday on CNN's Late Edition.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean stepped up his verbal assault on Republican presidential front-runner John McCain on Sunday, questioning the Arizona senator's integrity.

"Here's a guy who's a typical situational ethicist. He runs on his integrity, but he doesn't seem to have any," Dean told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

The Democratic chairman has spent a week pounding McCain - one of the architects of 2001's McCain-Feingold campaign finance law - over his attempt to opt out of public financing for his Republican primary campaign. In a complaint to the Federal Election Commission last week, Dean accused McCain of using the promise of federal funds to obtain a bank loan and automatic ballot access for his presidential bid while dodging federal spending limits.

"John McCain has a history of doing what it takes, regardless of what the ethics of this are," Dean said. "I think he's going to be a flawed candidate."

There was no immediate response to Dean's broadside from McCain's campaign.

The FEC has asked McCain's campaign to explain the terms of his loan, but the agency won't be able to resolve the matter until four vacancies on the six-member commission are filled. The campaign has said it acted legally, and did nothing more than what the Dean's 2004 presidential campaign did in rejecting public funding - an argument Dean says isn't true.

Dean said McCain "has a problem with personal integrity," citing his onetime ties to jailed savings-and-loan executive Charles Keating and his refusal to reject the support of televangelist John Hagee. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has criticized McCain for accepting the endorsement of Hagee, who has called the Roman Catholic Church "the Great Whore" and a "cult."

Updated 6:11 p.m. with response from the McCain campaign: "John McCain is a man of integrity who will run on his record.  Senators Clinton and Obama should denounce this desperate, personal smear campaign Howard Dean and the leaders of their party seem intent on running," the McCain campaign said in a statement to CNN.

–CNN's Jessica Rummel

Filed under: Howard Dean • John McCain
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. Bill

    Who pays attention to what Dean has to say anyway? Looks like the Democrats are really hurting when Dean has the gumption to say a war hero has no integrity. Last time I checked, the "wild one" blew his political career on a winter night in Iowa a long time ago. Keep it up Dean, the Republicans love you!

    March 2, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  2. catman

    I am a Democrat but Dean should back off on his attacks on McCain. It can only spur the Republicans to launch similar attacks. We need intelligent discussions of the major issues not personal attacks on the candidates,

    March 2, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  3. Patrick

    That was unbelievably outrageous and it's really dissapointing more democrats aren't calling for the resignation of Dean. Among other things he's called Republicans evil, insulted religion. and now called a man regarded for his integrity by all americans unethical. Dean needs to step down now.

    March 2, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  4. Vig

    Howard Deam should keep his mouth shut or we will have another 4 years of Republicans.

    March 2, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  5. nobama

    don't promote bigotry. anti catholicism is bigotry. 4-8 more years of republican lies? only to be replaced by a lifetime of democratic lies? open your eyes, brainwashed child!

    March 2, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  6. Allison Marie

    I think Howard should have stayed in medicine.

    What's going on with Florida & Michigan, and why did republican get some delegates in Florida & not the dems?

    I heard Wolf today in an interview with Govenor Charlie Crist from Florida, and the Govenor thinks the dems should be seated.

    Wolf commented saying that the candidates did campaign in Florida, however I live her & Obama did TV ads! We're not living under rocks, we've been watching debates, which leads me to believe that Obama would have difficult time here in Florida after his comments in regards to Cuba. Wolf hard to believe 1.7 million people don't know what's going on! General election Obama has serious troubles, he should want Florida & Michigan seated!

    March 2, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  7. spirit of america

    Another good reason why Hillary and not Barack needs to be the Democratic nominee. To pit Barack's integrity (real estate scandal in Chicago) against John's integrity (Keating S&L scandal in America) is to pit one cover-up artist against the other. Hillary comes out shining in the integrity contest.

    March 2, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  8. Marcello

    I won't be voting for McCain in November, but he deserves credit for treating his Democratic opponents with respect. He's repeatedly referred to Obama and Clinton as "great Americans", and he's chastised those who speak disparagingly of them.

    So it would be appropriate for Obama and Clinton to return the respect by denouncing and rejecting Howard Dean. His brand of gutter politics has no place in the Democratic Party.

    March 2, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  9. beckett70

    I am horrified Mccain has not REJECTED the endorsement of John Hagee. I did not realize Hagee had such prejudiced and unheard of (among the educated) opinions about The Catholic Church, Slavery , Civil Rights and Women. Are we going back to the 19th century? Who supports this man?

    March 2, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  10. former democrat voter (military man)


    YOU JUST ALL LOST MY WHOLE Platoon's VOTE.....we'll vote for a war hero over an empty suit !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 2, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  11. J Gilson Valley, AL 36854

    Mc Cain is a man of honor. Dean has always tried to bring others down to his level. Dean need pity. He is so jealous of the victories of others in politics.

    Dean is a master at finding faults with others and not himself. The Democrats need him and Bill. They are from the same mold.

    March 2, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  12. D.L.

    Mr Dean would do well to show some respect for a man
    who has served his country as well as John McCain.

    March 2, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  13. pgl

    In defense of McCain's integrity comes: "DNC Chairman needs to hold his tonque as to John McCain's integrity. The Democrats have a lot of room to talk about integrity and values. Their beloved President was impeached and his wife stole the furniture and silveware from the Whitehouse when reluctantly left the whitehouse."

    Sorry but there was no defense there. But then McCain has lied a lot. On Social Security, on tax policy, on the Iraq War. I guess some would say all politicians lie. Fine – but integrity was supposed to be McCain's strong suit. Which of course, is just another lie.

    March 2, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  14. Bob

    Really, Alice, the MOST unethical couple in politics? George more than makes up for Laura, you realize?

    and Tom Wittman, the "nuances" you "except" are the difference between following the law and not following the law.

    Is Dean wrong for making this statement...even if he is right?

    Of course, you can almost never win attacking the integrity of a five year POW. But anyone who cares to look at McCain's political career will understand the true meaning of 'rhetoric, not substance.'

    March 2, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  15. Pia

    So very tasteless of Howard Dean to attack John McCain. But then again, what could we expect from someone who screams his brains out?

    March 2, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  16. Alaina Crest

    "John McCain has a history of doing what it takes, regardless of what the ethics of this are," Dean said. "I think he's going to be a flawed candidate."

    Substitute Hillary Clinton for John McCain's name and it really is eerie how the truth is found.

    March 2, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  17. John White, Texas

    To Peg:

    Bush has held up the appointment of the other two members of the FEC.

    March 2, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  18. Kevin

    McCain IS a loose cannon. He is wily and cunning, a true politician, and probably the exact opposite of his self-proclaimed "Straight-Talk Express" moniker.

    I agree that Obama is also a charmer and a smooth-talker (though I am supporting his candidacy). I feel Clinton is actually, when it's all said and done, the most authentic, most genuine candidate. However, we need someone that inspires and LEADS the country. We don't need someone to "manage" or "run" the country. That should be the job of congress and the senate and the PEOPLE of this country. We need to get on board, as a nation, and get ourselves back on our feet after reeling from the horrible LEADERSHIP that is the Bush administration in conjunction with the horrible MANAGEMENT that has been our last 4 congresses.

    But back to McCain for a minute...

    Do we really want a man that is probably suffering from post traumatic stress disorder due to his horrible experiences in Vietnam as a prisoner of war?

    He IS an American hero, and should be held in the highest esteem. However, that DOES NOT make him fit to be a LEADER of this country. Times are far too trying, and the stakes are far too high to elect this "straight-talker" who will say and do anything to get elected. Military service should ALWAYS be honored and revered. But military service does not mean that you can lead a country of farmers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, janitors, salesmen, and truck drivers... Obama is a leader. Of the highest caliber.

    OBAMA 08

    March 2, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  19. Matthew Fink

    Dean's comments about McCain are reprehensible. As an independent, I am turned off by the DNCs constant attacks against McCain. If this line of negative campaigning continues, I will be voting for McCain in the Fall.

    March 2, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  20. Susan

    To Peg's question on the FEC –

    Do these members need to be appointed (if so, by whom) or are they elected? It makes absolutely NO sense to me….what is going on?

    The holdup believe it or not was Obama – rather than allow the nominated members to be voted on, Obama spoke against it and so those nominees are in limbo. The republicans want to vote on the four nominees as a group – yes/no. Can't be done until the democrats agree to it.

    March 2, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  21. sean

    how he honored his first wedding vows speaks volumes about integrity.

    March 2, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  22. Mike M

    I'm an Obama supporter, but I wish Howard Dean would just shut up about this. Let people decide for themselves. Republicans and democrats should be able to come together to do what's best for this country, instead of fighting like blood thirsty mobs.

    I hope both Obama and McCain will speak against these kinds of partisan attacks coming from their parties. Might be a bit early for Obama since he hasn't gotten the nomination yet. Both of these people have the power to change their parties, for the better.

    End the bickering, NOW!

    March 2, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  23. ann

    I am a Democrat, but I am not fanObama supporter. Dean should not expect McCain to denounce anyone if BO has as a mentor a man who gave Louis Farrakhan a lifetime achievement award. Farrakhan hates all Jewish people and has called Hitler a great man. Rezko goes on trial tomorrow. Perhaps we'll learn more about BO's character when we learn the full story of his good friend Rezko. Or we learn how much money he got from his other buddy who was a member of the Weatherman. How much integrity does Micelle Obama have to say she was never really proud to be an American but wants us to vote for her husband to be president? Dean should not thrown stones if his chosen candidate can't take the same pressure. Obama's only claim of political action is how he didn't support the war because he knew Afghanistan was the real problem. But he didn't have the integrity to hold hearings on Afghanistan. I believe he avoided it in case he was wrong. Don't disparage a man who spent years in a prisoner of war camp because he defended our country. Was Dean even in the military. Obama sure wasn't! Pictures of him on stage with a line of people who have their hands over their hearts to honor our national anthem while he stands with his hands down, speaks volumes about his support for our country. Ask for our votes, but will not honor our anthem. That means his talk of being president isarrogant.
    NO = Not Obama

    March 2, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  24. RTH, Bellingham, WA

    I've never been a McCain supporter – he always talked like an independent but voted like a harcore, right-wing neoconservative. Even on issues he's been stringently opposed to – like torture – he's changed his position. How can a guy who was tortured in Vietnam change his position on torture?

    Anyway, why is it every time anyone with the slightest affiliation does anything, everyone calls on the candidates to denounce them? If it turns out I voted for Hillary, and I say something mean about gun owners, does she have to denounce me, even though she's completely uninvolved? If McCain wants to disagree with Dean, let him. I didn't see Republicans denouncing Swift Boat Vets, but Dems get backed into a corner and denounce MoveOn? Politics is a tough game, and the crybaby tactic seems unbecoming of a national leader – whether it's McCain, Obama or Clinton.

    March 2, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  25. S. Wright

    There is nothing funnier than watching one career politician attacking another politician's integrity.

    You're in the wrong business, Dean. Looking at the way your party's been controlling Congress, particularly how they were going to clean it up after they took that control, seems to be the biggest act of hypocrisy in recent memory.

    I really don't think the American people will forget those promises either, Howie.

    November's coming, hope you brought your lunch.

    Integrity, indeed.

    March 2, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
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