December 10, 2003 | Broadcast
Good to see you gentlemen with me. Appreciate it.
SIMON ROSENBERG, PRESIDENT, NEW DEMOCRAT NETWORK: Good to be here.
SCHAFFLER: Simon, let me start with you. What is our main issue now? Is it the Iraq issue? Is the economy too much of a risky issue for the Democrats to even try to tackle?
ROSENBERG: Well, first of all, I don’t think we know what the main issue is going to be in November of next year but I think right now, if you ask the two big questions, which are is the country more peaceful and are we more prosperous. The answer is a clear no to both.
And I think the administrations performance has been sub par and I think it’s why the American people are — only about 42 percent of the American people believe he should be elected right now. We’re going to have a very competitive race next year and I think we will be able to take our message directly to the president next year.
SCHAFFLER: Cliff, question for you. Have the Democrats adequately defined that message if that would be the particular message they should take?
CLIFF MAY, PRESIDENT, FDN. FOR DEF. Of DEMOCRACIES: Well let’s start with what your first question, what is going to be the issue next year? And we don’t know, of course, 10 months from now what it’ll be. What we do know is what Al Gore thinks the issue will be. He said so yesterday and read “The Washington Post” today. It’s very clear. Al Gore believes the defining issue will be the war and he has now branded Howard Dean as the anti-war candidate.
Now up to now, Howard Dean has been a little bit — at least a little bit ambivalent about that. On the one hand saying that it was a good thing that Saddam Hussein was out of power, other times saying he wasn’t so sure, saying he wishes we hadn’t gotten into Iraq but it would be irresponsible to leave. But at this point, it’s going to be very hard, I would say, for Howard Dean to run away from that. I’m disappointed in that but I think he is running as the anti-war candidate. That’s a very risky strategy right now.
Of course, 10 months from now things may look very differently if we’re losing this war in Iraq, in Afghanistan and other places. People may want a candidate who takes us away from that. But I think right now with the economy fairly good, you’ve got to say, the war is going to be the defining issue. In wartime, war is always the defining issue, national security.
ROSENBERG: Cliff, even Newt Gingrich said this week that he thinks the administration’s got to get its act together on the war. Clearly, the Iraq policy has been an abject failure. The economic policy has been an abject failure.
ROSENBERG: … a lack of commitment to free trade that …
ROSENBERG: … is unprecedented in modern economic history …
MAY: Simon, you’re doing …
SCHAFFLER: Go ahead, Cliff. Simon, quiet.
MAY: Simon, you’re doing talking points and I’m trying do analysis and it’s hard to do both in the same show. I agree — what Newt Gingrich is saying is — I happen to agree with — he is criticizing the administration but not in the same way Howard Dean, more the way Hillary Clinton is.
Saying this is a war we have to win, here’s what we have to do to win it. Hillary Clinton’s making the same criticism. That is not what Al Gore and Howard Dean are saying. What they are saying is let’s find a way, frankly, to cut and run. It’s different to be the anti-war candidate than to be the candidate who says, here’s how we win this war we’re now in. Very different, Simon. You know that difference.
SCHAFFLER: Simon, a question about that, too. If you run on the issue that we’re not in peace, what about the argument some might make that, listen, we don’t have any more terrorist attacks. Thankfully, nothing in the U.S. happened since September 11th? Couldn’t the Republicans argue that, yes, things are a lot more peaceful now because we went into Iraq and Afghanistan? So isn’t that sort of a risky platform?
ROSENBERG: Tell that to the families of the soldiers who are being killed every day.
SCHAFFLER: Well that’s an excellent point, but beyond …
ROSENBERG: … in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think it’s a major issue. Look, I mean, I think the election will be simple. Are we more peaceful? Are we more prosperous? Clearly, today, the answer to both is no.
MAY: You have to also …
ROSENBERG: And where we will be 11 months from now is going to be how the — I think that’s how the voters are going to make up their minds.
MAY: Simon’s right — Simon’s right that 11 months from now that’s how — but it’s not just a question are we more peaceful and prosperous but how do we get there? It can’t just be a criticism.
Take the Patriot Act. Right now Al Gore and Howard Dean are repealing the Patriot Act. And that was passed with overwhelming support. I believe that if the Patriot Act were repealed, there would be new attacks on Americans, here in America, because it is the one weapon we have to get at the terrorist cells that are already here in America right now.
If that’s the debate, do we repeal the Patriot Act and not give law enforcement the authority and the powers and tools it needs to fight terrorism at home? I frankly think it’s a losing debate for Howard Dean and Al Gore.
SCHAFFLER: Cliff May, Simon Rosenberg, I wish we had more time. We’ll have to debate some other time. Gentlemen, thanks for joining me. Thank you very much.