December 8, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

Good morning gentlemen, nice to see you both.

CLIFFORD MAY, FORMER RNC COMM. DIRECTOR: Good morning, Vic, good morning, Soledad.

O’BRIEN: Cliff, we’re going to begin with you. Seventy-five Republicans voted against this — rather — 75 people voted against this legislation. Sixty-eight or 69 of them were Republicans. What do you think that says about the power of the president and the cohesiveness of the Republican Party?

MAY: Oh there are debates within the Republican Party, and you’re going to see a lot of that I think over the next few years. There are those who think that this bill should have included things it didn’t and they just weren’t going to support it until it did.

But I think what we also should say is that the debates of recent days have made the bill stronger. I was on the Hill yesterday and both Republicans and Democrats said it’s a better bill than it was, but it does leave out some things that are important. One Republican House member said this is a little like buying a burglar alarm but not locking your back door. And they wanted the lock on the back door to be part of this as well.

O’BRIEN: Victor, though, some people say, you know what — no legislation is ever going to be 100 percent. You just can’t have that as it comes through the House and the Senate. Agree with that?

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I not only agree, I felt there’s a tremendous arrogance on the part of several House members. They treated this like it was an agriculture bill and they were fighting over corn supplement or a tobacco supplement.

We’re talking about the safety of this country. And the fact that Congressman Sensenbrenner couldn’t get one piece of what he thinks is important and what may really be important into the legislation to hold it up at the risk of this whole country is crazy.

We all know this legislation is not going to stop terrorism per se. But it’s a step in the right direction, it had tremendous bipartisan support, and really it was an arrogance by several House members to hold up a — if I don’t get what I want I’m taking my ball and running home and that’s…

MAY: You know what? It’s — Victor, I think this bill is a good step as the Patriot Act was, I think we’re moving in the right direction, but it’s wrong of you to say that somebody like the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who has got a…

KAMBER: I didn’t say — I said Sensenbrenner.

MAY: Well Sensenbrenner — yes, but you were against Duncan Hunter as well, and he held it up because he wanted to make sure that military intelligence would be available to our soldiers on the streets of places like Falluja and now he feels better about it and it’s a better bill as a result.

KAMBER: Let’s go with Sensenbrenner who is holding it up for immigrants, immigration, which the President of the United States said we will have a bill next year on immigration and lets move this forward.

MAY: And that’s what happened ultimately…

KAMBER: Without him, without him.

O’BRIEN: Let’s turn to talk about a new topic, guys. I want to throw this in front of you because I find this to be one of the most fascinating stories. Eight soldiers, as you know, filed a lawsuit yesterday — Monday — where they challenged the Army’s policy that requires them to serve longer from what they agreed to serve when they enlisted originally.

I’m fascinated, Vic, by this story because it — you think it’s just that they didn’t read the fine print kind of thing? I mean, come on, it’s wartime.

KAMBER: Well, it’s a tough story. I mean, I — my heart goes out to the — to our soldiers in the field and these National Guard people, the people that signed up, obviously, didn’t read the fine print or know there was even fine print. And certainly when they signed up many of them didn’t expect that we’d be in war, and I also understand the dilemma the president is in. He doesn’t want a draft; this is a backwards draft in many ways. He doesn’t — we’re not able to recruit the kind of soldiers, the numbers we want, and we are in war. So, who gets to suffer? These people that have, that are in the battlefield now that can’t come home. Their lives are disrupted.

O’BRIEN: Cliff…

KAMBER: … but there’s no choice at the moment.

O’BRIEN: Cliff, is this sort of a classic bait and switch, though? I mean, I think there was an actual term for sign up for a year and try it out and now they’re not getting what they really signed up for.

MAY: Well, when you sign up for the military, when you buy a car, you better look at the fine print. I mean, you know, I do feel badly.

On the other hand, when you sign up for the military, you may have to fight a war. You may have to stay longer if that’s what the fine print says. Every American has the right to have a lawyer; every American has the right to sue. But we do need more troops. Democrats and Republicans have been saying we probably need more troops on the ground and probably for longer in a place like Iraq. So yes they get to sue but you know what? Read the fine print.

KAMBER: Let me say one thing…

O’BRIEN: If it’s five seconds or less you may.

KAMBER: We need a better job of recruiting so we have replacement troops.

O’BRIEN: Victor Kamber, Cliff May, nice to see you guys as always. Thanks.

MAY: Thanks.