November 10, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning


O’BRIEN: Cliff May, former RNC communications director, now with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Good morning to both of you.


KAMBER: Thank you.

Good to be here.

O’BRIEN: Let’s get right to it.

Victor, we’re going to start with you this morning.

As we just mentioned, the attorney general out, the commerce secretary out.

Overall, what do you think of this news?

KAMBER: Well, it’s the first good news I’ve had since the election, that John Ashcroft, in particular, is gone. Don Evans was a non-entity. His legacy will be friend of George Bush. He didn’t do much. But clearly Ashcroft was a divisive force, a controversial force within the administration.

This will be George Bush’s first chance, it seems to me, to either live up to his pledge that he wants to try to bring Americans back together or continue four years of the same. I don’t suggest he has to appoint a lefty, a liberal, a Democrat. But there’s plenty of good conservatives out there, but there are people, I think, that bring a greater sense of unity and I think he needs to reach across the aisle and talk about his choice and then appoint somebody that all Americans can feel comfortable with. MAY: Let me be very clear about this, Soledad. I firmly believe there are Americans alive today who would not be had John Ashcroft not been attorney general for the past four years.

O’BRIEN: There’s a lot of double negatives there. MAY: He’s been the most…

O’BRIEN: OK, so you say John Ashcroft was overall a good thing? MAY: Every day he came into his office and he was presented with a catalog of murderous acts, as he called it, that were being plotted against the U.S. Every day he thought what can I do to make sure Americans aren’t killed by terrorists?

More than 500 people who were linked to 9/11 were forced to leave the country. More than 400 people were prosecuted. More than 200 were convicted or pled guilty. He broke up terrorist cells around the country.

Look, the terrorists, from al Qaeda to Adam “The American,” who you just showed, they want to hurt us. They want the streets of America running red with blood. It’s not because of our good behavior they haven’t hit us once, not once on American soil since 9/11. It’s because of John Ashcroft and President Bush. That is the reason.

KAMBER: That is just…

O’BRIEN: He said in his…

KAMBER: That is just baloney.

O’BRIEN: He said in his resignation letter…

KAMBER: Nonsense.

O’BRIEN: Well, I’m asking the questions today.

He said in his resignation letter this: “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, on and on and on. He thinks it needs new leadership and new fresh inspiration, he says.

It sounds like he thinks the war on terror has been fought and won. MAY: No. We’ve got to fight it every day continuing. But for three — but since 9/11, not a single terrorist attack on American soil. By the way, violent crime is at a 30-year low. He gets credit for that, as well. We need somebody as determined and as skillful in that job over the next four years and probably for many years after that.

KAMBER: And we don’t disagree that we need a protection person there. We don’t disagree we need somebody who is looking out for the interests of America. But we do need somebody who also looks out for the civil liberties of all Americans and doesn’t trample on the constitution and as the courts have said…

O’BRIEN: I see you’ve taken your head…


KAMBER: … in his administration.

O’BRIEN: But I’m going to stop you here… MAY: That’s not so.

O’BRIEN: … because I want to get to another topic before we run out of time. And this topic is John Kerry. He — is it too early to talk about 2008? Does anybody feel I’m jumping the gun a little bit? John Kerry, 2008, woo-hoo.

What do you think, Victor, of that?

KAMBER: Well, I think it’s great. I think the more the merrier, frankly. I think John Kerry, with 59 million votes, deserves a place at the table, a major place. He’s a national figure. He’s going to — he’s not going to disappear. He’s going to be in the United States Senate for the next four years. I think if he’s encouraged to run again, that’s wonderful. It doesn’t mean he’s got the nomination slam dunk. But from my standpoint, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, all the better, because I think, I really do believe the country will be ready for a change and I want the best possible candidate for that change.

O’BRIEN: You get the final word this morning on that, Cliff. MAY: Very simply, John Kerry was never credible, he was never consistent on national security. If the Democrats are going to win the White House again during a time of war, which is what this is, by the way, they need a candidate who is credible and consistent on national security. Otherwise they’ll have the same problem they had during the cold war. That’s not John Kerry. There are others in the Democratic Party who are.

KAMBER: Let’s hope we don’t have a war in four years and it still continues. MAY: This, you know, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid this war is a generational thing, like the cold war. We are not going to finish with the terrorists, with the Islamo-fascists, in four years. You keep wanting this to go back to before September 11, where it’s just a nuisance and we don’t pay attention. For 20 years we didn’t pay attention to the Islamo-fascists and the terrorists and the result was 9/11. We need a September 12, not a September 10, attitude.

O’BRIEN: We are out of time, gentlemen. Cliff May, Victor Kamber, nice to see you guys, as always.


KAMBER: You, too. MAY: Thank you.