February 12, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

Let’s talk about this issue now. Back with us Kamber and May.

Democratic consultant Victor Kamber. Vic, good morning to you. Nice to see you.


Also, former RNC communications director Cliff May, now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

HEMMER: Cliff, good morning to you as well.

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMM. DIR.: Good morning.

HEMMER: Let’s kick this off with Jane Fonda on CNN yesterday. Listen to what she said about that photo surfacing yesterday.


JANE FONDA, ACTIVIST: I’m tired of the government lying. I’m tired of people pulling out — desperately pulling out anything they can do to hurt another candidate, and I think that the American people feel that way, too. This is a — it’s a bunch of hogwash.


HEMMER: Jane Fonda with Kyra Phillips yesterday afternoon here on CNN.

Cliff, start us off — Hogwash?

MAY: Well, I think there is a lot of silliness and a lot of mud slinging going on. Certainly the National Guard charges are that. I think the fact that he was at a rally with Jane Fonda doesn’t tell you much. I think he does need to address at some point some of the views he held back in. He went before the Senate in 1971, and he said his fellow veterans were routinely committing atrocities, were acting like Genghis Khan, were acting like terrorists in Vietnam. I assume he doesn’t believe that anymore, and I think he should address that.

He also said at one point that he thought the CIA should be eliminated. I’m sure he doesn’t believe that any longer.

But I think it’s important for him at some point to say, look, I had beliefs then that I didn’t hold now, here’s what I believe now, and here’s how I changed my mind.

HEMMER: Victor?

KAMBER: It’s interesting how Cliff can isolate certain things. I think both people’s records of the past are open to scrutiny. That’s the character. That’s who they are. I — the fact that there’s a picture with Jane Fonda, I found that the most ridiculous issue. I mean, so what, he’s in a picture with Jane Fonda. Those that don’t like Jane Fonda don’t like Jane Fonda, those that like her, like her. I don’t know what point is. He was obviously at a rally. I think he even acknowledges he spoke at that rally. He was head at that point of Veterans Against the War in Vietnam. Here’s a man who served honorably his country, decorated by his country for his service, and then had differences over that war.

In terms of the George Bush and the issue, it’s part of his character, too. I think we need to know. I think the AWOL charge is, again, a ridiculous use of words. Let’s find out what the real record is. We know he entered the National Guard. We know he served less than two years, because he went to Harvard or Yale, whatever it was, got out nine months early. The question is, did he serve at all. That’s an easy thing to find out. Let’s find it out and move on.

MAY: Two things — let me address that very quickly to say, he learned to fly airplanes and he managed to takeoff and land, which shows you something. He was dishonorably — I said that wrong. He was honorably discharged. Let me try to get that right. And let me also point out that they now establish that his dental records were in Alabama. So were know his teeth were in Alabama.

KAMBER: Cliff. I am agreeing with you, Cliff. But what’s the issue? Let’s find out.

MAY: What is the issue? Are we saying that President Bush has a bad work ethic? Because I think we know. Are we saying he didn’t serve his country honorably in the National Guard?

KAMBER: The question is, he has claimed he served during that time in the proper way. The general or others have said, we never saw him there. Let’s find out what the true thing. But also, that’s not the issue today, but is part of the character of the man.

MAY: I think we know the character a little bit, because he’s served as president.

KAMBER: Well, if you want to deal with that, then I think we have real problems.

MAY: I think what we need to do is deal with real issues. Yesterday President Bush made a major speech on nuclear proliferation. He essentially said that up until now our policy on proliferation has been this — keep your fingers crossed and hope nothing happens. I think he offered some goods ideas for how to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We know about the proliferation that’s been going on. Intelligence didn’t prevent it. But to their credit, they unraveled it. Now does Kerry, does he think that this is a good proposal, or a bad proposal, or does he have other proposals? I don’t know.

KAMBER: Cliff, we do know. He has said he thinks the idea is good. The problem is the president over his three years has made a number of good proposals, but doesn’t back them up. The main problem for proliferation in this country that’s happened, he’s underfunded for the last three years programs that would have helped for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons in this country. This man puts up programs, the leave no children behind, a number of other areas, and then doesn’t follow up with the funding, the kind of support that it takes.

MAY: Vic, let me just give you a compliment. You have been more substantive in the last thirty seconds than all the Democratic candidates over the last three months.

KAMBER: Well, thank you.

MAY: Because you’re talking about real proposals on real issues, not whether the dental records have been found.

HEMMER: Victor, the final word. You got to make it quick though.

MAY: Well, I was just going to say, that what’s happened right now, Kerry has solidified the party. You’re seeing groups, Republicans have reached out for building trades unions and others that have joined with Kerry. This is going to be a very tight race. Proliferation, education, infrastructure, all those are going to be major issues, and Bush has to answer.

HEMMER: Thank you gentlemen. We’ve got to run. Kamber and May. You guys make my job, easy by the way, especially on a day like today. Thanks. Come back any time. We’ll talk next week, all right.