December 30, 2003 | Broadcast

American Morning

Joining us this morning to lend their insights are our friends Victor Kamber, Democratic consultant, and Clifford May. He’s a former communications director for the Republican National Committee.

Good morning. Happy almost New Year, gentlemen.

Always nice to spend a little time with you in the morning. Let’s get right into it. Three weeks before Iowa, the Democratic — Dean’s, rather, fellow Democrats, are saying things about him, and in fact, Howard Dean is complaining vociferously that the DNC chairman is doing absolutely nothing to protect him and keep everybody else in line. Cliff, let me start with you, do you think he’s got a point there?

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMM. DIR.: Not really. Actually I think it’s kind of odd, the whole primary season. Politics is meant to be rough and tumble. For the most part, it hasn’t been. Nobody’s challenged Howard Dean up until now. The whole contest has been over which candidate dislikes Bush most vociferously, and there’s no question Howard Dean appears to do that. And that’s what this has been about.

Finally, Joe Lieberman and others are saying — are starting to raise some questions about them. and they’re important questions. And it’s not just them, it’s a lot of people in the Democratic Party, who see that Dean is likely to become the nominee, and they worry about that. As Lawrence Captain said in “The New Republic,” which is a pro Democrat and liberal magazine, he said Dean has been an angry leftist with bad ideas, who’s handlers are trying to make him into an angry centrist with no ideas.

O’BRIEN: All right, you’re nodding your head, no. What do you think, Victor?

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: The bottom line, Soledad, is that what election hasn’t the front-runner engendered the kind of animosity or antagonism from his opponents? In 1980, when Ronald Reagan was the front-runner, his biggest critic didn’t come from Jimmy Carter, it came from George Bush, who called his politics voodoo economics. Gary Hart, Mondale, you know, the last election, George Bush versus Lamar Alexander and that other group of dwarfs that ran against him.

I mean, the bottom line is someone will emerge. In this case, Howard Dean today is the front-runner. And the only way to stop him is to knock him down, and that’s what these Democrats are trying to do. Do I believe it will have any kind of impact in the long run? No. George Bush has been the single biggest catalyst to bring Democrats together. The antagonism, animosity, the dislike of his policies, have united the Democratic Party. And when someone emerges, they’ll emerge with unanimity.

O’BRIEN: So, Victor, then you’re saying, you don’t think Howard Dean has a point? He’s sort of making much ado about nothing.

KAMBER: I think he’s doing what you would normally do. He’s calling out to his people join me, send money to beat these people who are beating me up, and he’s going to the party activist, saying, hey, let’s keep this rhetoric down. You know, I don’t think what he’s doing matters; I don’t think what the others are doing matters. You know, the goal is going to be who can turn out people on January 19th in Iowa, and that’s a whole — excuse me — process of get out the vote.

O’BRIEN: Take a moment and have a glass of water while I turn the next question off to Cliff.

Bush administration, how do you think they’re doing? How would you rate the performance about this orange alert? Do you think Americans feel safer? Do we feel protected as a whole? Do we feel this is yet another alert we don’t know what it means and what’s going to happen?

MAY: Well, we haven’t had a raised alert since, I think, last May. I don’t think they’re doing it frivolously. I think we all understand there really is information out there, and there probably have been terrorists who have been thwarted over this holiday season, at least in places like Saudi Arabia. It’s a no-win proposition. If you don’t tell the Americans everything you know and something happens, you’ll be criticized for that. If you do tell them everything you know and nothing happens, you get criticized.

I think the main point is that everybody stay vigilant. Why is that useful? Take Richard Reid. Richard Reid wasn’t stopped by the CIA, he wasn’t stopped by the FBI, he was stopped by a flight attendant who noticed the passenger in 26F was trying to light his sneaker on a no-smoking flight. That’s the kind of vigilance that we absolutely need if we’re going to defeat the threat.

O’BRIEN: Victor, do you agree — I assume you agree about the vigilance overall. Tell me what you think about the Bush administration’s job in light of this orange alert has been?

KAMBER: Well, I think he’s in a no-win situation. I mean, I think you have to alert the American public, you have to keep them vigilant. The idea being if, God forbid, something happened, and you didn’t, the criticism would be enormous. It’s not just because, I’m a Democrat and politics, but it does speak to somewhat of a distrust of this administration. Have they used the threat of terrorism, and the alerts for political gain, as opposed for true terrorism? There’s a point where the American public does become cynical. You can only call — shout wolf so many times before the public starts lowering their standards, and I’m just hopeful this administration really isn’t playing politics with terrorism.

That is our final word this morning, because we’re out of time. As always, gentlemen, Thanks so much, Clifford May and Victor Kamber joining us this morning. Happy New Year. See you in ’04.