February 16, 2005 | Broadcast

American Morning

Gentlemen, nice to see you both. Thank you both for being with us.

Let’s talk about the reports we’re just getting about this united front, according to Reuters, between Iran and Syria to confront, as they call it, their enemies. We heard from the former United States ambassador to Syria that in his estimation, that meant potentially unleashing Hezbollah against whatever enemy Syria would be talking about.

Cliff, do you think the yanking of the ambassador was a good move?

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMM. DIR.: Yes, I think it’s very important to send a clear signal to the dictator of Syria, Bashad Assad (ph), that we’re very serious that we’re not going to stand for the kind of things Syria’s doing. We obviously clearly suspect that Hariri was murdered by Syria or by Hezbollah, which is a terrorist organization that’s an agent of Syria or Iran.

And Syria is allowing former Saddam croneys to run, and fund and direct the insurgency against us in Iraq on Syrian soil. So I think what we’ve got to do is make it very clear that unless he changes his behavior, it makes so know sense for him to buy his subway tokens, except one at a time.

BLITZER: Well, Vic, if the message that’s trying to be sent is, we’re serious, then is withdrawing the ambassador not doing enough?

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think part of the problem is the lack of confidence in where the bush administration is getting its information. If, in fact, what Cliff just said is correct, if, in fact, we know or more than just suspect that Assad has been a part of the assassination last week of the former premiere of Lebanon, then we’re not doing enough. If in fact it’s strictly a way of saying I don’t like this guy to begin with, I’m never liked him, let me use this as a excuse, then I think we’re fermenting further problems.

You know, when Cliff talks about a dictator, that part of the world has several. They lists the past week in the news press, “The 10 Worst Dictators in the World,” two of them happened to be in that part of the world, and they’re our friends, in Saudi Arabia and Libya.

So the fact that they’re a dictator, while I hate and deplore that whole part of the world is full of them, we’re just picking and choosing who we get along with this week and who we don’t.

O’BRIEN: Let’s turn to another topic. The president sent 12 judicial nominees back, these are folks he’d been considering around the first time, first administration. Now they’re back again. Ted Kennedy said that it’s more picking fights than picking judges seriously. Senator Reid said that why send back these folks, essentially — I’m paraphrasing, that were found too extreme the first time around? Vic, whose side do you weigh in on this?

KAMBER: Well, I think again, I totally think that the president misunderstands what the term advise and consent is. He has the right to pick his judicial nominees. He has the right to send. He has the right advocate for them.

O’BRIEN: And send them back, right?

KAMBER: Absolutely, and I give him every right for that, but the Senate has equally the responsibility to give advice an consent. And if they don’t want to consent, they shouldn’t, and they have a procedure and both Mr. Frist and Mr. Bush wants to push that procedure aside.

Just yesterday, by the way, in the United States Senate, one Republican who happens to be a good conservative Republican was in Iraq he and said that the Kurdish minority was assured of being comfortable in that legislature with the Shiites because they understood one word that American democracy was based on — filibuster. And they knew that they were going to be protected, the Kurds, in a minority, because they could filibuster there to protect their minority rights. That’s what Democrats have a right to do. Bush and Frist want to get rid of that right.

O’BRIEN: Cliff is smiling when he hears that word “filibuster,” and of course Arlen Specter has got a little strategy to defeat this filibuster. Cliff, why are you smiling?

MAY: Well, look, isn’t it clear that absolutely the Senate has a right to advise and consent, so let’s put these judicial nominees up to a vote by the whole Senate. If they get 51 votes, they win. If they get less than that, they lose. But the idea that the filibuster should be in every case the response to somebody that Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid doesn’t like is absolutely nonsense.

Now there’s a whole another question about what the Republicans do about it. Do they do a procedural thing that kills the filibuster, or do they, as I think they should do, as George Will thinks they should do, they should say, OK, let’s have filibusters the same way it was in the 1950s when Southern Democrats were against civil rights legislation? If they want to filibuster, make them sit there all night reading the phonebook and sleeping on cots. I think that the filibuster should only be used in exceptional circumstances. Most of the time, judges have art to be given a chance to get the votes of the entire Senate, up or down. That’s it.

KAMBER: Cliff, I don’t disagree with you. I’m…

O’BRIEN: But you know what, gentlemen, we are out of time. So Cliff May and Victor Kamber, Cliff got the final word. We’re going to be talking about this more, I’m sure.

Thanks guys — Bill.