October 28, 2003 | Broadcast

American Morning

Our two guests, as always, have very different opinions. So let’s bring them in to discuss this morning.

Democratic consultant Victor Kamber join us from Miami.

Good morning to you, Victor. Nice to see you as always.

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

O’BRIEN: I’m well, thank you.

In Washington D.C. is Cliff May. He is the former RNC communications director, and he is now with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Cliff, good morning. Nice to see you.

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

Good morning, Victor.

KAMBER: Good morning.

O’BRIEN: We’re all starting off on a friendly tone. Let’s see how long that lasts.

OK, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is under attack from the Democrats. No real surprise there Cliff, obviously. But I was surprised to read that you are have said you think in some ways there is good news in this. Explain.

MAY: Well, first of all, I want to say, we’re lucky to have Rumsfeld right now as the defense secretary. He’s uniquely qualified for that position. He’s done it before. What he is doing is shaking up the bureaucracy as almost nobody ever has before, and that’s important, because the military challenges we face are immense. Back in April, we showed that our conventional warfare abilities are better than any army in history has ever had. But now, he’s trying to shake it up so we can win the kind of low-intensity conflict that’s under way in Iraq, and it’s going to be under way in other parts of the world, too.

Because he’s shaking up the bureaucracy, he has a lot of opponents. Bureaucracies don’t like to be shaken up. It’s a sign he’s doing his job right. I only wish, frankly, the same kind of transformation were under way in places like the State Department and the CIA.

O’BRIEN: Victor, shaking up democracy, doing his job right, would you agree with that assessment?

KAMBER: Well, first of all, let me just say, when you said there was criticism from Democrats, there’s frankly criticism across the board, from Republicans, from military leaders. He has lost the confidence of a number of people in government. This is a man who has forgot than we have a tripartisan form of government, and has forgotten he has to work with Congress.

Donald Rumsfeld, I was a fan of from years, especially from Congress days on. When he became a CEO and he came into government, he thought he was still a CEO. He thinks he is still the person who can say jump, and people will say, yes, sir, how high? Those days are gone. His most recent memo he wrote, which brought into question our relationship and our role in Iraq, I think is the true picture of what’s going on. We are in a quagmire. We have no plan. We have no policy. The face he gave to the U.S. public before of everything’s going well, everything’s hunky dory is just not true. And I think he should go.

O’BRIEN: Cliff is shaking his head no, no, no as you continue to go on. Before I let you answer that, Cliff, I do want to ask, Victor, OK, then who, who is the person in your mind would replace the secretary of defense?

KAMBER: Well first of all, let’s start with replacing the president, then I can give you a number of candidates for secretary of defense.

O’BRIEN: Let’s start with — answer the question.

KAMBER: I don’t think it’s fair to say — the president has the right to name his own cabinet. This person in the cabinet has now failed, and he needs to move on.

MAY: But your point is exactly right, Soledad. There’s nobody in the country I can think of right now nearly as qualified as Rumsfeld.

KAMBER: John McCain. John McCain would be wonderful.

MAY: Again, the victory we had — and right now, our conventional forces are unlike anything ever seen before in history. The only problem with that is our enemies know it, too. So they’re unlikely to come at us with armies in formation. Now they’re to come at us with terrorist bombers and suicide bombers, as you see in Iraq.

KAMBER: Cliff, the president has said we won the war, it’s over. And we’ve lost 113 lives and 1,000 wounded.

MAY: Victor, he didn’t say that, but if you understood that, you are wrong. And let me tell you, I agree with this — and I’ve written this. The president should say clearly, that what we’re doing right now is fighting a war. It’s a different kind of war than we fought in April. It’s the way war is going to look in the 21st century. We will be fighting suicide terrorists all over the world, because they know…

KAMBER: Cliff, you’re right…

O’BRIEN: I want to move to another question since we have some time left. So let’s talk a little about polls. U.S. troops in Iraq right, now, latest poll, the question was, how is the U.S. handling the situation in Iraq since the major fighting ended? 80 percent approved back in April. Now that number down to 47 percent. And another question, 57 percent say they want to reduce the number of troops. That is up from 46 percent back in April.

Victor, start with this for me. Is the public perceiving this as a major failure here?

KAMBER: Well, I think the public is scared. They’re looking to another Vietnam, and they’re worried about it.

The problem I have with the poll and with the numbers, is I agree with the American public in principle. I think we made a mistake going in. I think it’s a mistake staying, but I truthfully don’t know how we pull out at this point. If we pull out tomorrow, I think hundreds of thousands of people are at risk, thousands of Christians will be killed. I think the Sunnis and the Shiites will be at war.

We have taken down a regime, the regime of Saddam Hussein, but we have not yet replaced it with anything, and we’re talking about several years before I think there’s a stable government. So I’m very worried about the future of Iraq.

O’BRIEN: Cliff, what do you read into these numbers?

MAY: What I read into these numbers — I think, first of all, it gets back to Victor’s perception. If we are seeing what is going on now, Iraq as a peacekeeping operation, then it’s a terrible failure. But it’s not that, it’s as a war, and as a war, it’s moving along rather successfully. Wars are always difficult.

As for getting the American troops out, that’s not only the position of most of the American public and the people, it’s my position, and it’s the position of the Bush administration. They’re saying by next year this time, they want to substantially replace American troops, as soon as we can, as soon as possible with Iraqi troops.

KAMBER: And they’ll pull some out before the election. Phony, phony Bush.

MAY: We need to win, not surrender victor.

O’BRIEN: Cliff, hi.

MAY: Hi.

O’BRIEN: We’re out of time. I want to thank you guys, both of you, for joining us this morning. Appreciate. We will have to continue this discussion the next time.

We’ll have to get you a bell, I think.