December 27, 2004 | Broadcast





SHARPTON: Doesn’t it seem obvious, with this tape, allegedly, of Osama bin Laden and the pulling out of one of the Sunni political parties, doesn’t it appear obvious now that the whole plan for democracy was really not a plan, that the Bush administration had no plan? We sent Americans in there and now we are seeing the unraveling of a situation that makes it really, really questionable why we ever risked life on a nonplan in the first place?

MAY: Reverend Sharpton, we’ve known since the very beginning what this was going to be about. Osama bin Laden does not want the people of Iraq to have a chance to choose their own leaders, does not want them to sample democracy, because they might like it.

Zarqawi, who, let me remind you, we fought in Afghanistan first — he was a commander in Afghanistan against the Americans. He escaped to Iraq, where Saddam Hussein gave him shelter, gave him refuge. And from there, he planned terrorist attacks against us. He is now the commander for al Qaeda in Iraq. If we’re going to fight al Qaeda, we have to fight Zarqawi in Iraq, because that’s where he is.

SHARPTON: Well, why didn’t we fight them in Afghanistan? That’s the question. Why did we wait until he got to Iraq? Why didn’t we cut off bin Laden and all of them in the first place?


SHARPTON: And if we knew this was going to happen, where was the plan? We planned this?

MAY: We overthrew — we overthrew the Taliban. We pushed al Qaeda pretty much out of Afghanistan. Now, we think that Osama bin Laden is probably in Pakistan in that remote area. We also have Zarqawi of al Qaeda in Iraq. We have to fight them where they are. You want to say you could have come up with a better plan to take on terrorism? You want to say you could have had a better plan to take on Saddam Hussein?

SHARPTON: Yes, I do.

MAY: Maybe you could have.


MAY: But let me tell you something. For 25 years, we had no plan to deal with Islamic terrorism whatsoever, for 25 years.


SHARPTON: … not another 25 years.


NOVAK: P.J. Crowley, Osama bin Laden puts out a tape and we wring our hands. The Sunni party says it’s not going to be in the election. We say, oh, my, lordy, lordy, lordy. And so, I want to show you what a G.I. who met with Secretary Rumsfeld with the troops on Christmas Eve in Mosul said. Let’s listen to him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do we win the war in the media? It seems like that is the place where we’re getting beat up more than anybody else. And it seems like the enemy’s Web sites and everything else are all over the media. And there, they love it, but the thing is, everything we do good, no matter if it’s helping a little kid or building a new school, the public affairs sends out the message, but the media doesn’t pick up on it.


NOVAK: Colonel Crowley, you wore the uniform. What do you think of that?

P.J. CROWLEY, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I think that Secretary Rumsfeld is trying to help us focus on trees in Iraq, when the forest around him is burning.

The fact is, we are not where we should be four weeks before an election. We’re in a very difficult situation. I think we have no choice but to go forward with the election, because this is not a great option for us. It’s the least bad option available to us. But we have to be very clear here. You know, December was the time where, according to the original plan, we would be disengaging entirely militarily from Iraq.

And now you have troops from this recent survey that say that they expect us to be in Iraq for about five years. It’s very clear that we’re struggling with this. It is hard work, but the Bush administration unquestionably underestimated — totally underestimated how hard this would be.

NOVAK: Well, I can’t agree with you more that they underestimated. But I’m saying, do you think — you, as a former Clinton White House aide, do you think that when you are always taking the negative side and saying, boy, this is just terrible, that this is helpful to the troops or helpful to getting a good election?

CROWLEY: I have no doubt that there are discrete, good things happening in Iraq.

But, strategically, we have to recognize that this has been a disaster for us. It really has been. You’ve got — on every front right now. We’re fighting the Sunnis, and right now, they have successfully intimidated the major Sunni party into withdrawing from the political process. We have to find a way to get them back. We don’t know where Zarqawi is, and now we have from bin Laden the third message that he’s had in six weeks.

The administration at one point was chiding, saying, oh, he’s just keeping his head down. No, actually he’s having a very conversant, chatty conversation with the world.

MAY: But, P.J., where you do agree with us, I hope, is that we are fighting a real enemy in Iraq, yes, and this is an enemy we have to defeat, yes.

CROWLEY: Iraq has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is now the central front on the war on terrorism, because we made it so.


MAY: Again, you do understand Zarqawi…

CROWLEY: In Iraq right now, in fact, we are seeing the training of the next generation of jihadists that will continue to threaten…


SHARPTON: You had no plan. Aren’t you embarrassed just a little bit, Mr. May, that, over the weekend, that the White House is now supposedly even saying, if the Sunnis lose, make them winners anyway? How are you teaching democracy by saying, let’s make a deal? Even if they don’t make it, let’s make them make it anyway. What kind of democracy is that? Aren’t you a little — I know it’s hard for right- wingers to be embarrassed, but isn’t that a little embarrassing?


MAY: I know you don’t embarrass easily, because I’ve seen you campaign.


SHARPTON: Well, I didn’t send people over to the war.

MAY: Look, what we have in Iraq is, most people are going to get to vote and anybody who wants to vote. We also have the former ruling class.

SHARPTON: But it doesn’t matter if the losers are going to win because you shouldn’t have done it this way in the first place.

MAY: The losers are not going to — look, what you have got to understand, first of all, is, Zarqawi was there. Al Qaeda was there and there were places like Salman Pak, a terrorist training camp that Saddam Hussein was running long before they we were there.


SHARPTON: So, in Florida and Ohio, you just don’t count the votes. Over there, you let them vote, but it doesn’t matter. We’re going to make a deal.



MAY: It’s important that, in Iraq, as in Afghanistan, people get a chance to vote.

By the way, understand what this vote is about. It’s to pick a national assembly that will put together the political system. This is not a vote to say, should Al Sharpton be president, should John Kerry be president or should George Bush be president?

NOVAK: In the spirit of the holiday season, P.J., I want to give you something that you and I can agree on, I hope. And that’s this “Military Times” newspaper poll of G.I.s, a very respected poll. How do you feel about your job? Completely satisfied, 87 percent. Would you reenlist? Seventy-five percent.

CROWLEY: That’s a low number, Bob.

NOVAK: How likely is success — how likely is success in Iraq? Very to somewhat likely, 83 percent. The fact is, let’s — you and I can concede, we have got a high-morale Army there, and it doesn’t do any good to say that they’re griping and complaining.

CROWLEY: Well, first of all, you know, armies back, you know, for centuries have griped, and when they’re griping, actually, that’s a sign they’re doing well.

God bless the troops. They are doing extraordinary work, but let’s face it. They’re in Iraq in a war, with the civilian leadership they have, not the civilian leadership they deserve.


CROWLEY: And we have to face that for what it is.

But there’s another fascinating aspect of that poll. They themselves accept responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib. They realize that, primarily, that was because of troops that failed them. NOVAK: OK.

CROWLEY: But, you know, ironically, ironically…

NOVAK: We’re out of time.


CROWLEY: You have got a situation where the guys that have screwed up Iraq just got Medals of Freedom.


CROWLEY: … accountability.

NOVAK: P.J. Crowley, thank you. That’s the last word. Thank you, P.J. Crowley.

Cliff May, thank you very much.