January 6, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

Nice to see you, Vic. Good morning.


HEMMER: Thank you, to you as well.

Former Republican National Committee communications director Cliff May, now with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Nice to see you, Cliff. Good morning to you as well.

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMM. DIR.: You, too. Nice to be here.

HEMMER: Let’s talk about the three a’s. Airlines first up — Victor, how is Tom Ridge doing on this?

KAMBER: Good, could be better. I thought yesterday with the fingerprinting issue, increased even more the possibility of security. You know, I’m one of those travelers who goes 100,000 miles a year, and I hate the inconvenience that it’s caused, but I have to tell you, every time I board a plane, I feel a little safer than before, but still not 100 percent safer.

HEMMER: Somewhat of an endorsement, I would say.

Is it overdone in ways, though, Cliff?

MAY: No, I don’t think so. I think we are still very much in the Model T era of airline safety. We’ve got a very long way to go. But at least when somebody comes in from a foreign country, and they hand the passport, they have to do a fingerprint, which means if they come in three times with three different passports, now we’ll know it; previously we didn’t.

But eventually, we’re going to have to have everyone coming in with machine-readable passports, with biometric indicators. That means either fingerprints, or retina scans or facial recognition, some way we have to get a handle on who’s coming into the country and for what purposes. We have never done that in the past, it’s a big project, but we are starting along that road.

HEMMER: I sense a bit of agreement actually on that topic.

Second a is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cliff, at this point, is there any buyers’ remorse in California, or is it too early?

MAY: I don’t think they are starting a recall effort yet. It’s only 60 days. That may not be the honeymoon, but I think Arnold is still a newlywed. This is a pivotal week for him. He is setting out his vision today, and even more with the budget on Friday. He’s trying hard to be conciliatory, not confrontational, so much so that some California Republicans are saying, hey, your mandate is from the people, not from the Democratic legislators, do what the people are asking you to do, but he’s trying to do this in a way that’s bipartisan, and to deal with the fiscal crisis in a realistic way, but a nice way.

Look, I think he’s only begun, but he’s doing well so far.

HEMMER: First two months, first 60 days, just begun? Vic, what do you think?

KAMBER: Well, the state hasn’t fallen into the ocean, so I guess he’s given credit for that.

The fact is nothing’s changed, except for the governor. We still have the deficit, we still have the problems. Maybe the one positive, the attention isn’t on the individual Gray Davis. I haven’t seen — Cliff is correct, we have to see his real vision and his ability to deliver that vision. That hasn’t happened. He has got to work with Democrats. This bipartisanship isn’t some fake thing. The Republicans can complain about it. But in a state that has Democratic leadership in the house and the senate there, he has to come up with a plan that they agree with. Right now, he hasn’t done that.

HEMMER: Let’s get to our third ‘a,’ overseas, for this, Afghanistan. They are now slated to hold democratic elections in that country in six months. Victor, start us off, is this a success right now in the war on terror?

KAMBER: Well, it’s a step forward. Only time will tell whether it’s a success. You are talking about a country, elections don’t have the same meaning that we think of in this country. It’s a country ruled by tribal leaders, and as recent as a month ago, terrorists ran through the country, they still will run through the country.

You know, the one problem I have with the Bush administration is they continue to claim victory and missions accomplished before we know what’s going to happen. It’s a wonderful thing that we’re going to have an election. We’ll have to see if the election can happen, if once there is an election, if the governing body that wins can really govern in a fair democratic way, democratic as to that part of the world.

MAY: It’s not mission accomplished, but it’s certainly milestone accomplished. A couple of years ago, Afghanistan was a place where in the soccer stadium, they would take people, lie them out, and chop off their limps. It was a place where you couldn’t play music on a victrola. It was a place where women couldn’t go to school or hold a job. Now they have a constitution. Does it look like a perfect constitution? I don’t think so. But now, it’s possible for the first time in history that Afghanistan is going to move forward toward elections and a presidential system, and a lot of other thing that nobody believed was possible in that country.

HEMMER: But you’re not suggesting there are not growing pains still there?

MAY: Terrible growing pains, and I’ll tell you what some of them are. Right now, the constitution says there can be no laws that are inconsistent with Islam. Who’s going to make that decision? And what is that going to mean for the minorities. You don’t have quite the same minorities as you do in a place like Iraq, where you have Christians, and Kurds and others.

But I see all sorts of problems, but who expected this to be easy? We are talking about Afghanistan.

KAMBER: But Cliff also said the one thing — the prohibitions, the things you talked about at the beginning — we don’t know that they’ve changed. Women still cannot go to school, we don’t know — all we know is it’s been covered up and it’s quiet.

MAY: They are playing soccer in the stadium, not doing amputations. Women come…

KAMBER: Where are they doing the amputations?

HEMMER: Thank you gentlemen, Kamber and May. Thanks. Victor Kamber, Cliff May, we’ll talk, again, OK. ’04 is just beginning, just scratching the surface. Thank you guys.