September 29, 2003 | Broadcast

American Morning

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMM. DIR.: Good. Good morning, Bill.

HEMMER: Democratic consultant Victor Kamber, back with us again, too.

Victor, good morning. Nice to see you.

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Good morning, Bill. How are you?

HEMMER: I’m doing fine, thank you.

Are Democrats smelling blood in the water right now on this?

KAMBER: Oh, I’m sure there are some. I think the — more importantly than just partisan politics here is really what took place and what happened, and, you know, there’s a lot of ifs here. And if something really happened, we need a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of this. We need to punish those people at stake, or apologize to this administration if, in fact, nothing did happen.

HEMMER: Cliff do you think the White House is being aggressive enough yet?

MAY: Aggressive enough, it’s hard to say. Look, I think there should be zero tolerance for anybody who outs a covert CIA operative. That’s simply inexcusable behavior. That said, we don’t know that’s what happened at all. There’s no evidence that’s the case. I was the first to criticize Joe Wilson in print. In the research I did, I did know that his wife worked for the CIA. I didn’t know if she was covert or whether she was merely an analyst. But it seemed like it was sort of an open secret.

I think if anybody’s going to explore this, it probably should be the House Intelligence Committee, which is bipartisan. Porter Goss, an ex-CIA agent, and Jane Harmon, who are very serious about their matters. And look into other things, too. Why did the CIA not send a CIA agent to Niger to look into the charges that Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase uranium? Why did they send a former diplomat who was very partisan, and his trail of partisanship is overwhelming, and he’s still very partisan today?

KAMBER: The issue is the leak.

HEMMER: That is the issue I want to go to right now, because the issue still remains the leak. The fact as we know it, Rob Novak made a couple calls to the CIA. This name came up apparently a couple times. He printed it back mid-July.

Two questions I guess, Victor, more than just the leak — was it done with malicious intent? And that’s something we don’t know right now.

KAMBER: Yes, I mean, that’s what I said earlier. There’s so many ifs here. We are in a political season, a very partisan season. Democrats want to find fault. Republicans want to defend whatever they’ve done, if they’ve done anything. That’s why I think you need an outside counsel.

And the irony is, my co-colleague here, Mr. May, you know, had outside counsels for everything that Bill Clinton did that didn’t affect lives, that didn’t cause lives. I believe we need an outside counsel, not Ken Starr, but somebody who is certainly nonpartisan, to look at this issue and get to the bottom of it, very quickly.

HEMMER: Let me get back to your question. Why would the White House do it? What kind of punishment is it of Joe Wilson to out his wife as a CIA agent?

KAMBER: Because you’ve got some stupid people there who make mistakes.

MAY: He’s all over the TV. If there’s a Democratic administration a year or two from now, he’s very likely to have a big job in it. He’s a big celebrity. How has he been punished? Maybe there’s somebody at the White House — maybe — so stupid as to think that by telling his wife’s name and mentioning her as part of the CIA that somebody — I don’t really understand the whole thing.

KAMBER: That’s the point, Cliff, you don’t understand, as I don’t. We need an investigation to get to the bottom.

HEMMER: All right, let’s leave it at that guys. Let’s move to California, shall we? Can we, in the time we have left here? After the debate last week, we did an online poll here at The question was asked, who do you think won the debate the previous night? 18 percent said Bustamante. 55 percent said Arnold Schwarzenegger. Is it his race to lose, Cliff?

MAY: Oh, I think absolutely, that’s what your poll is showing. People who saw Schwarzenegger liked Schwarzenegger. And Bustamante’s campaign seems to be collapsing. So at this point — it’s not a long time after all before the election is going to be held, it looks like Schwarzenegger has got it, unless he screws up. And again, he’s very new to politic, so that’s always a possibility.

HEMMER: With a week now counting, Victor, is it fair to look back at the Gray Davis campaign at this point and say that he’s made some mistakes here or there, not going to the debate last week, et cetera?

KAMBER: I’m not sure you can second-guess on Gray Davis. He started off with a very high negative. He started off with the public against him. I think he made some inroads up until the debate. Clearly, if your numbers hold up, the debate basically said that there is somebody else who could take over if we kick Gray Davis out. I don’t see Bustamante’s campaign failing or faltering. He’s got about the same percentage. What’s happened is a lot of the undecideds, based on your polling data, seem to have swung to Schwarzenegger, that their comfortable. A week in this campaign is a lot of time. But if I have to use my money betting, I’d say that Schwarzenegger today is the front-runner, but anything can happen in the next week.

HEMMER: Certainly, 10 seconds left here. I want you guys to get on the record here. Turnout is the key in this race, Victor. Who votes?

KAMBER: I think we’re going to see — based on the absentee ballots, one of the largest turnouts in recent history for these — for off-year elections.

HEMMER: Men, women, minorities, white?

KAMBER: I think you’re going to see it across the board.

MAY: Yes, Victor’s right, as usual, on these kinds of things. This is a celebrity race, this is a national issue. We’re talking about it here on CNN. I think if they’re going to come out for anything, they’re coming out for this election.

HEMMER: Thanks, gentlemen, good to see you. Clifford May, Victor Kamber, Kamber and May, as we call it.