August 19, 2003 | Broadcast

CNN American Morning

Good morning to you.


O’BRIEN: Victor Kamber joins us as well.

Nice see you as well, Victor.


O’BRIEN: I’m doing great, thanks. Let’s begin first with the lights being back on — back on in New York City, back on in Cleveland, back on in Detroit and elsewhere.

Now the finger-pointing starts. Politically speaking, Victor, who do you think is going to shoulder the blame here? The Bush administration? Do you think the finger-pointing will go back to the Clinton administration, or maybe back even further than that?

KAMBER: Well, there’s probably a lot of blame all over for both parties. I won’t start off being totally partisan. I’ll get there in a second.

But I think that obviously this crisis has been brewing for years. It’s the second blackout in recent times that I can remember in the Northeast. I think the difference is you’ve had administration in power for three years that runs both houses of Congress, the president, and it’s on his watch, and we’ve had no comprehensive infrastructure plan from this White House.

His energy plan would not have solved the problem. In fact, oil and anwar (ph) would not have anything to do with his energy plan, anything without the electric grid in the country. So I think the blame has to be at door of the White House and the Republican administration.

But having said that, again I’ll say it, both parties to blame, because this has been with us for years, the fact that we need to rebuild our infrastructure in this country. The electrical, energy, the bridges, the buildings, you name it, we need to rebuild it.

O’BRIEN: David, the North American Reliability Council says it’s been calling on Congress to comply with reliability standards or face some kind of sanctions. That hasn’t happened yet. In the end then, are we saying that it’s Congress that’s to blame?

SILVERSTEIN: I think I would agree with victor’s conclusion. There’s an awful lot of blame to go around. Congress certainly shares some of it. The fact is there’s been energy regulation, or deregulation or energy transmission and reliability regulation that’s been tied up in Congress for a number of years now. The fact is, is that this has been going on for well over a decade, that Congress has failed to come to some sort of comprehensive settlement, and unfortunately, it looks like it’s unlikely to do so in the present cycle.

If we can only hope for some sort of system where there is inherent reliability, then we won’t suffer the kind of blackout that we just suffered last week.

KAMBER: I think, let me just throw it out, we need crises, and I hate to say that, we need crises to focus attention. This problem, we wouldn’t be having it, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, there wouldn’t be a focus in Congress if it hadn’t happened, and that’s one of the worst things that we as a country — we shouldn’t have to live through crisis after crisis to deal with problems.

Let’s talk a little bit about the California recall, because we don’t have a ton of time.

Victor, you have said in the past this is the Republicans trying to steal the election.

KAMBER: No question.

O’BRIEN: Cruz Bustamante is now in there. He’s not a Republican. You still stand by that then?

KAMBER: Yes. Well, absolutely. The Republicans lost in November. Four months after they lost the election, they started collecting signatures for the roll call. Nothing happened in California, nothing in those four months that made a difference from that election. The voters of California spoke in November, and you had a disgruntled group of people, some very wealthy fat cats said, let’s get Gray Davis out of office by this recall. All Bustamante’s is trying to do right now is trying to preserve a Democratic win. He is against the recall, but he’s saying, if there is a recall and if you do vote Gray Davis out of office, at least there will be one Democrat on the ticket you can vote for. The process is outrageous. George Bush, along with Bill Clinton, should be calling for recall to be defeated.

O’BRIEN: Instead of backing their candidates. David, do you agree with that.

SILVERSTEIN: Well, yes and no. I don’t think this is an issue on the federal level. Neither the current president nor the past president should get engaged. The reality is, this is a California issue. And while Victor may point to fat cats as being behind the recall, the fact is that each fat cat has only one signature, and when you’re talking about a recall, you’re talking about millions and millions of signatures. They went out it there and managed to get enough people to sign on for a recall, and they managed to show that there’s enormous discomfort and dissatisfaction with Gray Davis. I think it’s only the people speaking for themselves. Gary Coleman, by the way, is one of the people who’s competing, and I believe he’s on the Democratic ticket.

KAMBER: No, he’s on the independent ticket.

SILVERSTEIN: The Democrats, in any event, all well represented, and whether Gray Davis survives or if he fails, they will have their say when the election comes along.

O’BRIEN: That is the final word this morning. Gentlemen, we’re out of time. David Silverstein and also Victor Kamber, as always, nice to see you guys. We’ll catch up with you later. Thanks.