January 20, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

Joining us this morning from Washington, D.C. with their take on the upcoming speech, also a look at Iowa’s winners and losers, Democratic consultant Victor Kamber joining us, and Cliff May, former RNC communications director, now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Gentlemen, good morning.

Nice to see you.

Thanks for being with us.



O’BRIEN: Victor, let’s begin with you.

Timing, they say, is everything, and now we’re going to hear from the president just right moments after the Iowa caucuses are over.

Do you think this is a coincidence or just perfect timing on the part of the White House?

KAMBER: Well, I think it’s, I don’t know if it’s perfect timing, but it’s certainly no coincidence I think it’s been planned. It makes sense politically from his standpoint. You come out of a fight and you look serene, you look confident, you look substantive. The difficulty he’s going to have, I think, is I don’t think there’s going to be a great audience watching tonight. I think we’ll have one of the lowest State of the Union attendances ever. And I think he’s going to — and I know Cliff will object to my words — this is going to have to be a justification speech. He’s going to have to justify three years in office.

It is a defense of the war that has no end, of the loss of lives that continue, of the injured that continue, of the deficits that continue.

He can talk about Medicare and education, but he’s going to talk about who’s been cut out of the Medicare process and who’s not getting the monies for education.

So I think he’s got real problems. But he will look statesmanlike. He will look different than the Democrats because it’ll be serene. He’ll get a lot of applause, but so what?

O’BRIEN: Let’s hear from Cliff.

Do you think this is a justification speech, as Victor seems to think?

What issues does the president have to cover in this speech?

MAY: Well, a couple of things. First is that this is the time of year when the president has a constitutional obligation to give a speech and when you have the Democratic primaries like this, almost any time he gives it, it’s going to interfere with the Democrats’ primary process in that way.

But this is what he needs to do. I think it’s not a justification. I think, rather, he needs to make the case, not least to people like Victor, for the war we are fighting, which too many people think of as a war against one man, an Osama bin Laden or a Saddam Hussein or against one organization such as al Qaeda, when, in truth, this is a war against totalitarian ideologies that are using terrorism to destroy the United States and other parts of the free world.

This larger case for the situation we’re in needs to be made.

Beyond that, he has to point out that he’s had policies that have been heavily criticized by people like Victor in terms of the economy and his policies have been working. The economy is on the mend, despite what happened in 9/11, despite the burst of the high tech bubble, despite the corporate scandals. The economy is coming back. And then he’s got to say what else he wants to do in terms of health care and education and other things.

So this is his vision. No one says this president doesn’t have vision. He has a lot of vision. And I think that’s the — there’s a larger case he’s going to make to stay the course for the goals and the strategies that he has in mind for this country.

KAMBER: Three million jobs…

O’BRIEN: Let’s turn…

KAMBER: Three million job losses is not much vision. MAY: You know, as you, after…

O’BRIEN: Let’s turn… MAY: … the most catastrophic attack in American history on American soil, guess what? You’re going to have some job loss. Coming out of the huge recession, you’re going to have some job loss. Victor, you know that. That was inevitable. The economy is coming back.

I’m sorry, go ahead, Soledad.

O’BRIEN: Let’s turn to our next topic, because we don’t have a whole lot of time and I’d like to cover more than just one thing this morning. MAY: Yes.

O’BRIEN: Victor, Senator Kerry walks away with the caucus win in Iowa.

Are you surprised? Are you shocked? Why do you think he won?

KAMBER: Well, I’m not, I want to say the shock to me about both Kerry and Edwards was the size of the win. Yesterday, on various shows that I’ve talked about, I thought any one of the four could win, and, frankly, I stupidly said that if it was betting my own money, I probably would have gone with Dean or Gephardt because of organizational. I dismissed the popularity.

The fact that Kerry won and Edwards, I think, did very well, and the size of their win, I think, speaks to they’ve connected with the American public, at least in Iowa. Whether that translates going forward, I don’t know. As a political junkie, which I am, clearly this will prolong the process.

O’BRIEN: Cliff, I don’t have a ton of time, but I do want to play this clip of Howard Dean rallying his supporters after his third place finish.

Let’s listen.


DR. HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we’re going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico. And we’re going to California and Texas and New York. And we’re going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we’re going to Washington, D.C. to take back the White House. Yes!


O’BRIEN: I think that’s fair to describe as kind of animated, don’t you think, Cliff?

What do you think of that speech there? MAY: I’m afraid what you saw there is Howard Dean rubbing salt into his own wounds. He was badly hurt last night. The first time I covered a presidential race was in 1988 for the “New York Times.” Every time I’d meet a candidate, my editor would say, Cliff, was he presidential? And I understood what he meant. Last night, Howard Dean was not presidential.

It’s not over for Howard Dean, by any means. He’s got resources, he’s got very passionate followers. He was very hurt, coming in a bad third. Also, just a word for Dick Gephardt, who is a man that is respected across both sides of the aisle, great integrity, a man who everyone respects. And I’m sorry he’s out, frankly, because I thought he represented the best in the Democratic Party.

In terms of New Hampshire, Kerry has to do well there. He’s a, he comes from a neighboring state. If he doesn’t, his campaign may falter badly. Why? Because just because he did well in Iowa doesn’t mean that people in New Hampshire, who know him better, are going to endorse him.

Edwards, meanwhile, does very well, coming out second there. He comes in the top three in New Hampshire, then moves to the South, where he has his strength, I would keep an eye on Edwards.

O’BRIEN: And that’s going to be the final…

KAMBER: Soledad, one thing, if I may, on the…

O’BRIEN: You may for about two seconds, Victor.

KAMBER: OK, on the Dean speech at the end, the press is making too much of it. He was exuberant, he was tired. His people in the room loved it. Critics didn’t like it. I don’t think it’ll have one iota of bearing in terms of going forward.

O’BRIEN: You don’t think so… MAY: Do you want that man with his finger on the button?

KAMBER: Any one of those men would be better than the man we have. MAY: Well, I know that’s the way you feel.

O’BRIEN: And that’s going to be the final word, again, this morning.

Gentlemen, thanks, as always.

Nice to see you.

Cliff May and Victor Kamber joining us this morning.

And we should mention that you heard Cliff talking a little bit about Dick Gephardt. We’re expecting to hear his official word. Everyone, of course, is expecting him to pull out of the race, 2:00 p.m. Eastern time.