December 1, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Good morning, Soledad.

S. O’BRIEN: And joining us in the studio this morning — that’s a nice change — Cliff May. He’s the former RNC communications director. He’s now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Vic, let’s begin with you this morning. Fresh start, some have said for the department. He’s only been in the job for 20 months. Does the department need a fresh start?

KAMBER: I don’t know if it needs a fresh start. It needs commitment to real Homeland Security. I mean, Tom Ridge is a nice man, and you know, when he was governor, when he was a congressperson was accessible, and I thought a nice human being. In this job, he’s hampered by the administration that hasn’t given him the resources. I mean, the first thing he did, when he came into office was deprive workers of collective bargaining rights, the first federal agency to do that, which I considered to be something that undermined Homeland Security, when you can’t give workers in this country protections.

And then, when we — you know, while we went to oranges and reds and yellows and we dealt with the airlines, we haven’t dealt, in terms of security, with the infrastructure in this country, with our ports, with our water systems, with our power plants. Now, in 20 months, you’re right, no one can do all of those things, but I do believe, if given the resources by this administration by the Congress, more could have been done, should have been done, and I’m hopeful on the next watch it is done.

S. O’BRIEN: Well, Cliff, some people thought the duct tape thing, the color-coded alerts — ridiculed, I think it’s fair to say, by many folks. CLIFF MAY, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes, I think, Soledad, what you have to recognize here, it’s not just that Ridge did a job, he invented a job. He invented the whole concept of Homeland Security, and it’s still being in the process of being invented. You’re taking all these disparate agencies — bureaucracies, really — and you’re trying to get them to work together in a new culture with a new sense of urgency that you absolutely didn’t have before and then have problems like Vic just mentioned.

And I would say Vic is part of the problem. We’re talking about Homeland Security, and Vic says collective bargaining rights, we’ve got to make sure that people are — that the workers are not being told where to go and what to do. The boss of Homeland Security needs powers that you don’t have during normal peace time and if all your worry is about who gets a coffee break when and whether or not the customs guy can also help the immigrations guy, then you’re not going to get nowhere.

KAMBER: Cliff, you need a study in what collective bargaining is. It’s not coffee rights and going (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it’s protecting workers’ rights who are protecting this country.

MAY: Yes. But let’s have a little concern. Your concern is about the workers’ rights and I’m saying…

KAMBER: Who are protecting my rights.

MAY: … we are Homeland Security, we’ve got to worry about the terrorists not getting in and not doing us damage. Now this is..

KAMBER: We agree.

MAY: … now this is a challenge for anybody who does this. How to make these cultures work.

KAMBER: Cliff, we agree, we agree. But this administration’s first task wasn’t protections of our country, their first task were depriving workers of collective bargaining. That was the big fight in Congress. Remember.

MAY: The first task was to give the — the first task was to make the boss the boss, because if you don’t have a boss, you’ll get nothing done. Look, INS and a lot of these agencies are dysfunctional. You know it and I know it. You know it, and I know it. You’re not going to disagree.

KAMBER: Not because of workers collective bargaining, I assure you.

S. O’BRIEN: Before we get mired in this, I want to try to talk a little bit about the oil-for-food program. And I know lots of folks sort of say oh yawn, boring, but actually, it has been such a massive debacle with such a gigantic price tag.

Jack yesterday, calling for Kofi Annan’s resignation, Senator Norman Coleman also calling, listening to Jack, also saying that he thinks Kofi Annan should step down. You guys agree or disagree? Why don’t you start, Cliff?

MAY: Jack is right and Norm is right. Look, this is the biggest financial swindle in world history. We know that because of this, Iraqi children were dying, they weren’t the food they needed. We know that this money, $20 billion, nothing like it ever before, because of this, Saddam Hussein was able to build palaces and amass weapons at a time when he was supposed to be under sanctions.

We don’t know where that money is. We suspect some of it is being used to finance those who are killing Americans right now. It has been used in the past to finance terrorism. This happened under the U.N.’s watch, Kofi Annan’s son is now implicated, Benon Sevan, who he appointed to this, is implicated. Kofi Annan, as a — it’s the right thing for him to do, to step down. What’s more, it can’t be properly — can’t be investigated properly.

S. O’BRIEN: We know what you’re saying.

MAY: Thank you. Properly. As long as he’s there, he’s investigating himself. It’s not going to work.

S. O’BRIEN: Vic, do you agree with that?

KAMBER: Well, I agree with Jack. I mean, that’s partially (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

S. O’BRIEN: Uh oh, now you’re scaring me.

MAY: Jack’s never wrong.

KAMBER: I think that if the investigations are holding up, as they’re said, I think Kofi Annan should go and I would recommend Bill Clinton as his replacement. Let me deal with Senator Coleman — Norm Coleman. I have real questions about him being the person to call for this. Here’s a guy that was a Democrat at one time, supporting Bill Clinton, his hero was Walter Mondale, he runs against Walter Mondale as a Republican. He’s a headline grabber, that’s all he’s after here.

As chair of this investigations committee, let’s investigate Halliburton, let’s investigate the problems in this country which have equal scandals and call for resignations and indictments there. Let the world group take care of itself.

S. O’BRIEN: I have a feeling we’re going to have lots more time to talk about this scandal. It’s going to just keep going on. Gentleman, as always, nice to see you, and thanks a lot, appreciate it.

KAMBER: Thank you.

MAY: Thank you.