November 29, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

Good morning, gentlemen. Victor, we’re going to begin with you. Let’s talk a little bit about the delay. To delay or not delay in the Iraq elections? Victor, do you think the elections should go off as planned and scheduled or no? VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: No, I don’t. You know, George Bush won the election, so my view is let’s take Iraq off the table in a political way, just to have an election for the sake of an election. If you really believe in democracy, if you really believe in the safety of Iraqi people, it seems to me we need to secure the country more than it is secure.

The Iraqis need to play a bigger role. Just last week, 80, 85 polling places had to close because they were not safe. They couldn’t arm them, they couldn’t secure them. You have two major groups, the Kurds and the Sunnis, who are asking for a delay. I’m not saying for a delay for the sake of a delay or to help one political party, I’m really talking about the safety and security of those who are voting and participating, and to see a real democracy.

S. O’BRIEN: Cliff, what do you think?

CLIFFORD MAY, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: No, I think you want to go ahead with this if at all possible, and I think it is possible. The last thing you want to do is send a message that the terrorists can dictate when you’re going to hold elections. All they have to do is take some car bombs, some suicide bombers, blow up a few things and say, oh, well, we can’t do it until everything is secure.

Most of the country is secure at this point. But you can never stop the individual suicide bomber. Let the Iraqi people get involved in their own government. Let them have an election.

S. O’BRIEN: But isn’t that the risk there, Cliff? If the Sunnis don’t get involved in their own government, if they boycott, for example, don’t you run a greater risk that they’ll be alienated by the process and in the end, you feed the insurgency, which brings it back around to the car bombs, that could increase. I mean, that’s not complicated math, there.

MAY: I hear you, Soledad. But I think you want to say, first of all, it’s your choice, we want you to participate and we hope you will. In times of war, this is not something unusual. In 1864, something like a dozen states didn’t get to vote for President Lincoln. Was his election not legitimate? It was. The South was told get your act in order, you’ll be involved in the next election if you want to be.

I think — don’t forget, this is not an election for everything, this is an election for those who will get together and write the constitution for the country, which will guarantee rights. I think you want to say we want this to happen, we need your help. You have to protect your polling places, you have to tell where the terrorists are hiding. We want you to you have a choice and we’re going to give it to you.

KAMBER: It is crucial that we protect as many people as possible. Lives lost for the sake of saying we had an election is just lives lost, it’s a waste. I understand what Cliff is saying, we’re not going let the tail wag the dog, in the sense of the terrorists dictating. But I think safety, security — that’s what’s this is about…

MAY: Keep in mind…

KAMBER: We went to war for democracy, supposedly, not just to — and you know, and let’s ensure there is a real democratic process.

S. O’BRIEN: Let’s leave it there so we can ask another question about something we visited last week. 9/11 legislation now stalled in Congress, as we all know. Did you hear Governor Kean, what he said about it? Pretty strong words. He essentially said it’s not going to be if, but when, meaning that if there is another attack, that’s when — another terror attack — that’s when everyone’s going to get on board and pass this legislation. Cliff, what do you think of this?

MAY: Well, look, I think it’s basically a good bill. But I am concerned that General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, has misgivings. I’m concerned that the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — he has misgivings about it. So I think it’s not a time for arm twisting, it’s a time to bring these various people together, all of whom have the same goal, really good reform of the intelligence system that’s been broken for over 25 years. Let’s get them together and see if we can come out with something we all agree on, since the goal is the same for everybody.

S. O’BRIEN: Victor, do you think that some of these misgivings, as we just heard from Cliff, are more about money and control and power than misgivings over the safety of the troops?

KAMBER: I think they’re more about power within Washington and who’s in control. Certain leadership in the House, the White House, certain generals. I agree with Cliff on the one thing, let’s get them together. And that’s the president’s responsibility. The president of the United States should get out of Crawford, get back to Washington, open that Oval Office up and bring people into that office and before they leave, cut a deal that gets this done.

This is the safety of our country that’s at stake. We don’t need another terrorist attack in order to pass legislation. We should pass it now. The two provisions that are at jeopardy here — there’s 100 provisions in this bill and two of them are holding up the legislation. Get those people in that Oval Office and get this resolved, Mr. President.

S. O’BRIEN: Victor Kamber, Clifford May, joining us this morning. You guys, kind of low-key this morning. Wow, you’ve mellowed out a lot over the holidays.