January 19, 2005 | Broadcast

American Morning


VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: I’m surprised they’re that high for the president. He doesn’t deserve them.

The fact is the country is not doing well in terms of domestically and certainly foreign policy — the war, the view, the loss of lives, the wounded, et cetera. I think the 51 percent really still probably reflects where we were from the election, which is about where it ended up. About 50 percent of the Americans think he’s great, 50 percent or close to 50 percent really have questions about his leadership.

O’BRIEN: Cliff, do these numbers concern you or, more importantly, should they concern the White House at this point?

CLIFFORD MAY, FMR. RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I don’t really think so. I think Victor’s right in a sense. This is about the numbers with which the president won the election.

There was no big bounce between the election and the inauguration. And I think in a sense, Victor’s right.

A part of the reason, a large part of the reason is the anxiety people feel about the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism. They thought that the president would give better leadership than his opponent. But they’re concerned. They do not want to see us lose that war, and they don’t know whether or not we’re going to win it. So there is no euphoria, no big bounce between the election and the inauguration.

O’BRIEN: Cliff, analyze these numbers for me, before I let you jump in, Vic. Here’s a question. Confident that Bush can — here’s the — handle world crisis is one. Back in January of 2001, that number was at 71 percent. Now it’s at 64 percent.

Use the military wisely, back in January of 2001, that number was at 78 percent. Now it’s down to 56 percent. Cliff, what do you make of these numbers?

MAY: To be honest, I think that people had hoped for more progress than we’ve seen in Iraq between then and now. I think what people have learned, to somewhat to their dismay, is that we have a military establishment, beautifully designed and equipped to fight the Soviet Union on the plains of Europe but not equipped and designed to fight counterinsurgencies and terrorists in places like Iraq. It is a painful learning curve, and I think you’re seeing that expressed in the numbers.

O’BRIEN: Vic, I want to ask you a question about what we saw yesterday, Condoleezza Rice’s lengthy, very, very lengthy confirmation hearing. It continues again today.

California Senator Barbara Boxer kind of leading the charge against, if that’s the way to put it. She came close to, did not accuse Condoleezza Rice of lying, but came pretty darn close to — to — to saying that she was being untruthful at times. Condoleezza Rice sounded as if she were offended. Let’s listen to a little bit of what Dr. Rice had to say.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I have to say that I have never, ever lost respect for the truth in the service of anything. I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O’BRIEN: Why don’t we start with you, Vic. What did you make of that — that comment? And do you think she was rightly offended?

KAMBER: Well, I don’t know. I assume she was offended. I assume that no one wants their integrity questioned, their veracity questioned.

The bottom line is, misinformation, misdirection was given to the president of the United States, or vice versa. Or the president gave it to his people. And he’s now surrounding himself once again with people who don’t want to question facts, who aren’t willing to stand up to him.

I think it’s an obligation of the United States Senate. That’s what advice and consent is about, to call into question the people that surround the president and lead this country.

I would not suggest Ms. Rice — she’s bright — that she lied or anything else. But clearly, we’re in a situation today that no one expected.

There’s no answer how to get out of Iraq. We went into Iraq because a cowboy wanted to go Iraq.

We have no answer how to get out. We’re losing live, we’re wounding people. And is the world better off without Saddam Hussein? Yes, but at what cost? And the people that brought us there include Condoleezza Rice.

O’BRIEN: Cliff, do you think Barbara Boxer crossed the line?

MAY: Yes, I think she definitely stepped over the line. These hearings are supposed to be about policy, not about politics.

Barbara Boxer knows full well that the head of the CIA, George Tenet, told Condi Rice, told the president that it was a slam dunk, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. They had to rely on that, just as John Kerry did when he voted to authorize the president to go to war.


O’BRIEN: Kamber and May joining us this morning.