December 6, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

Good morning, gentlemen. VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Good morning.

S. O’BRIEN: Cliff, let’s begin with you. Kind of a strange parting shot from Tommy Thompson, I think it’s fair to say. What do you think?

CLIFFORD MAY, FMR. RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes, I think it’s fair to say. The context was that he was asked a question — what do you fear most right now, and he said two things: Asian flu because we have no treatment and we have no vaccine, and also I fear the possibility of food being poisoned.

Now there’s no question that we’re looking at more food than we were, but not enough. Look, A, I think it’s a good thing that people like Tommy Thompson are honest when they’re asked a question and B, that they understand that there are probably a dozen things we could come up with right now where we have vulnerabilities to clever terrorists.

And we need to think of such things, which we were not doing before 9/11 and come up with ways to thwart the terrorists on all of them.

S. O’BRIEN: Vic, is there a thing as being too honest? I mean, he literally said I can’t understand for the life of me it’s so easy to do?

KAMBER: Yes, I think it’s loose lips, frankly. I — you know, obviously a terrorist has thought of those kinds of things probably but the copy cats, the crazies out there, the single people may not of thought of all those things and there’s virtually nothing that the single consumer out there can do.

I mean, we can talk about washing your fruits and boiling your water and all the other kinds of things to do, but there’s not a lot that the American public as individuals can do. There’s a lot the federal government can do, closing our ports, protecting our ports a lot stronger than they are in our borders and the whole like.

I just think it was loose lips on his part.

S. O’BRIEN: Let’s talk a little bit about Harry Reid. He said that he thought Clarence Thomas was an embarrassment; that he would never, ever vote for him to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Of course that’s very hypothetical at this point. Do you think he’s up to the task? Vic, you want to tackle that?

KAMBER: Well, I’ll never speak for another leader of either party. I’ve been criticized some of the other party. I think Harry Reid’s record on Justice Thomas is pretty clear. He didn’t support him when he ran — when he was nominated the first time around and I think he’s looked at his record and said he hasn’t seen much improvement.

The fact is that Clarence Thomas is a puppet for Antonin Scalia; he hasn’t very much done any writing in his own right or said anything — he speaks very rarely on the court during those question and answer periods. I don’t know if the word embarrassment is quite what I would use, but he’s certainly not a distinguished jurist that I would think of for the Chief Justice role.

S. O’BRIEN: Big difference between not distinguished and embarrassment, I would say, Cliff. What do you think?

MAY: I agree with you. I think it’s outrageous. I think that an apology is owed to Justice Thomas. Look, Justice Thomas is African-American and he’s conservative. Some people will never forgive that and think that’s an open opportunity to insult him.

S. O’BRIEN: Wait, wait; wait — whoa, whoa, whoa. So are you telling — are you saying that you think Harry Reid is essentially being racist?

MAY: I say he is evidently one of those people who thinks that African-Americans do not have the right to be conservatives and…

KAMBER: Oh, that’s baloney.

MAY: … and can’t understand why they would be — they would be a conservative. All — I would say to anybody take a look — you can find it on the Web — look at the opinions Justice Thomas has written. And you see if you think those are embarrassing opinions or if those are very clear and logical whether or not you agree with them. He has…

KAMBER: He hasn’t written any.

MAY: Look, Clarence Thomas is an…

KAMBER: He has signed on…

MAY: From the beginning for no good reason.

S. O’BRIEN: Let’s turn and talk about 9/11 legislation, because we’ve got a lot to cover this morning. Here’s my question, Cliff.

Why don’t — why doesn’t Dennis Hastert just call a vote, they take a vote — everyone has done the math — and they say it’s going to pass. Why is it being hamstrung by these albeit powerful colleagues of his?

MAY: Well, he could do that and that would mean that the legislation would get done fast. I think he’s more concerned that it get done right. There are serious concerns here. Someone like Duncan Hunter who has been more than two decades in the Congress; he is the chairman of House Armed Services, he was a Ranger, decorated in Vietnam…

S. O’BRIEN: But if their vote would pass it, I mean I get all the concerns on all the sides, we’ve now been talking about it for a while, but if the vote — if everyone votes, I mean assuming the Congresspeople know the concerns. Why not just vote? MAY: Because I think that Hastert is rightly concerned that a majority of the Republican members of his, of the House, right now, have serious concerns about this bill as does George Tenet we now find out. I don’t agree with everything George Tenet says but he is concerned about it. I think it’s worth taking a little extra time to get it right.

By the way there’s another commission out there, chaired by Chuck Robb, a Democrat, former senator, also by Lawrence Silverman, a former federal judge, they’re not going to report till next March. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to say let’s wait till we have that in. Look, the 9/11 Commission has spent 18 months thinking about this; let Congress take another month and get it right. And they may get it right this week.

S. O’BRIEN: Vic, what do you think? March? And you have about ten seconds. We’re out of time.

KAMBER: I think it just shows the weakness of George Bush and his administration. If Bush wants this legislation, it should pass. Three members, Republican members of Congress, shouldn’t be stopping the will of the people, the will of the Congress, both the Senate and the House and three members are doing it.

S. O’BRIEN: That’s the final word this morning. Victor Kamber, Cliff May — gentlemen as always, thank you. Nice to see you.

MAY: Thank you.

KAMBER: Thank you.