June 30, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

Iraq is sovereign, but is that in word only? From D.C., Democratic consultant Victor Kamber of the Kamber Group.

Vic, good morning to you.


HEMMER: I’m doing just fine. Thanks.

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

And, Cliff, we need a much shorter lead-in for you next time.

Good morning to you as well.


HEMMER: Last night Senator John McCain was on with Larry King, and they were talking about the situation in Iraq. At one point, Senator McCain said this: The United States military presence in Iraq is not dictated so much by the time, as by the number of casualties. Cliff let’s start with you. Does that also apply to the election in November — George Bush’s fate tied to how many Americans die between now and then?

MAY: Well, that’s a harsh way to put it. Let me just try to put this into some context, because I think what’s happening this week is significant. First, America kept its promise. That’s important. Secondly, Iraqis now have self-rule. That’s very important to them. Third, the new government has the confidence of the people, and it’s diverse — Sunni, Shiites, Kurds, women are in important positions. And finally, we’re moving towards elections in Iraq. That’s not just important; that’s historic.

And finally, if I may just for one second, there’s an ad in today’s “USA Today,” I would like to call people’s attention to. I had something to do with it. It’s more than a dozen Iraqi organizations, and they’re thanking Americans for the sacrifices that America has made to get them to this point.

Now, to answer your question, John Kerry and George Bush do not, at this point, have very different policies with regard to Iraq. The — and so everybody should be able to celebrate that we have gotten Iraq to this point, and hope that we can take Iraq the rest of the way and have it be a free member of the civilized world.

The only difference is that there are a lot of people around John Kerry, whether it’s Al Gore or Michael Moore, who have very different positions where Iraq is concerned, and some people think that maybe John Kerry believes what’s they believe, but isn’t saying so now, and will change his mind later.

HEMMER: And, Victor, what do you think about that?

KAMBER: Well, to answer your direct question, there’s no doubt that the death of Americans in Iraq will have a toll on the election. The continuation of troops and the money we’re spending in Iraq will have a toll on the election.

I don’t know how else to answer you. I mean, the fact that we turned over in the dead of the night, sort of slinked away in terms of sovereignty on paper, we still are the security force. The Iraqis are no more secure today than we were the first day we entered the country. They’re less secure. And without our troops there, there would be mass murders in that country.

We hope the elections will take place, but they won’t before the November elections. When Cliff says that John Kerry and George Bush have similar agendas, they have similar goals, there’s no doubt. I think the difference is, who can achieve those goals? And one of the goals is to bring world leaders and world countries into Iraq to help. George Bush has been unsuccessful with that. I think John Kerry would be very successful.

HEMMER: Is it just in word only? Is it only on paper, at this point?

MAY: No. Iraqis are making decisions for themselves. Actually, they have been for some weeks. One of the reasons the handover was early, was Iraqis were in charge of all the ministries. And the new prime minister, Ayad Allawi, said there’s really no point in waiting around, I want to make these decisions. Paul Bremer is gone. Look, America is going to play an important role there. Iraqis don’t have the military, and commando forces and police forces to protect themselves from the foreign jihadis and from some of the Baathist loyalists of Saddam Hussein. They need America’s help, absolutely.

KAMBER: Let’s see the first time Iraq says they want to paint the wall green and America says, no, you’ve got to paint it red, and we’ll see whose decision it is.

MAY: It’s already happening. There are Already decisions being made that Americans don’t agree with, that I don’t agree with. But you know what, it’s time for Iraqis to start making mistakes; we can’t just be making mistakes for them.

KAMBER: I don’t disagree. I don’t believe it. It’s that simple.

MAY: It’s already happening.

HEMMER: Thanks, men. We’ve got to leave it there. Listen, we also want to call about Zell Miller talking about the Republican Convention in New York at the end of July — or excuse me — end of August, I should say. We’ll get to it next time. We’re out of time today. Thanks to both of you.

MAY: Thank you.

KAMBER: Thank you.