January 13, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

Good morning, guys.

Nice to see you, as always.



O’BRIEN: Cliff, let’s begin with you this morning.

Paul O’Neill — because that’s what we’re talking about today — he says that the president wanted to topple Saddam Hussein. This was something that happened in his, the first national security meeting that he was in, before 9/11.
Your reaction to that?

MAY: Oh, I’m shocked, shocked by that. After all, in 1998, under the Clinton administration, the Iraq Liberation Act was passed, which made it the official policy of the U.S. government to seek regime change in Iraq. The only question was how were we going to accomplish this and in what time frame. I would hate to think that Bush didn’t take seriously the U.S. policy. I would hate to think serious — that Bush didn’t understand, even before 9/11, even before last year, that this was a genocidal mass murderer who had threatened the region’s interests and who threatened the strategic interests of the U.S.

The only question was what are you going to do about him, are you going to get serious about it, in what time frame? Do you do it through sanctions or do you actually try to bring it — this was what he was supposed to be doing.

O’BRIEN: OK, well, Cliff is saying no big deal.

But, Victor, the other part of this story, of course, is this heading toward an investigation by the Treasury Department over top secret documents.

What do you make of this part of the story, Victor?

KAMBER: Well, I think Jack said it earlier on your show, it’s petty and it makes the president look petty, which I happen to think he may be. But I think I have to go back to Cliff’s comments. The bigger part of the story that O’Neill made and which even Cliff now is acknowledging is that the president of the United States, when we did the attack on Iraq, based the attack and the regime change policies on 9/11 and the questions of mass — weapons of mass destruction.

There was no hint by his administration that this was done from day one when he took office, that he was thinking this way, whether he should have been or shouldn’t have been. He built the American public on a whole different concept.

And I think the second part of the O’Neill book that’s very, very frightening, frankly, but we’ve — it’s the second time we’ve heard it from an administration leaver — is that there’s virtually no intellectual curiosity by this president. He’s not a listener. He goes into a room already predisposed. He doesn’t really hear what’s going on, he doesn’t — he’s not engaged in what’s going on.

That’s sort of frightening to me when I think of a president of the United States. MAY: Let me just, if I can add this. You know, the old saying in Washington is if you want a friend, you get a dog. Dogs are cute, they’re loyal and they don’t write books. What we heard from Paul O’Neill, even if it’s true, doesn’t suggest what Victor says it suggests. What we heard is that when O’Neill would come into the room, Bush would say yes, tell me. He wouldn’t say a lot. He would listen.

I know a lot of people who are in charge of big organizations who say, when you come into the room with them they say tell me what you’ve got to tell me and they don’t share a lot with you. Well, that’s the way it goes. That’s not their job, to share with you.

O’BRIEN: That’s going to be the final word on this issue…

KAMBER: He is…

O’BRIEN: … because I want to talk a little bit about immigration.

And, Victor, let’s start with you.

This immigration policy that the president has proposed, it’s going to be a very tough sell.

You think it can work?

KAMBER: Well, I think — I hope something works. What he has proposed, I don’t think, goes far enough, and it’s delightful that he’s got the endorsement of the president of Mexico, Fox. Now he needs to deal with Senator Frist, Congressman Hastert, Congressman DeLay, his own party, where I think he’s going to have a very tough sell. And then, of course, the Democrats who don’t think the process goes far enough.

I think it’s a political ploy by the president in a political year. I don’t think there’s any sincerity or desire to accomplish anything.

O’BRIEN: Cliff? MAY: Bush has put forward a very bold plan and he’s gotten the debate started and I think he deserves credit for that. But conservatives are not happy with this because they see it as being easy on those who are already breaking the law. And Democrats don’t like this plan because Bush proposed it and if Bush proposed a $1,000 paid from every Republican to every Democrat in America, they’d say oh, no, we’re not falling for that.

KAMBER: It doesn’t go far enough. MAY: It doesn’t go far enough, give us $10,000 every one.

O’BRIEN: Because… MAY: But, again, but this is an important issue and at least we’re starting to discuss what we’re going to do about the disaster that is immigration policy and has been immigration policy for more than a decade.

O’BRIEN: Victor Kamber and Cliff May this morning.

Thanks, guys, as always. MAY: Thank you.

O’BRIEN: Nice to see you.

KAMBER: Thank you.