March 9, 2005 | Broadcast

American Morning

In Washington D.C. this morning, Democratic consultant Victor Kamber. Also, Cliff May, he’s a former RNC communications director. He’s now the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Good morning, gentlemen. As always, nice to see you.


CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMM. DIR.: Good morning.

O’BRIEN: Let’s get right to it. Cliff, we’re going to start with you. Do you think the president was a little bit too ambitious when he talked about tyranny in our world? He said we’re determined to seek a and support growth of these Democratic movements in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world. A little over the top?

MAY: Not over the top. It’s very, very ambitious. He is harkening back to the kind of thing that President Kennedy talked about, Franklin Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson. I don’t think he believes we’ll get rid of tyranny over the next four years, but he’s essentially saying America’s mission in the world is the spread of freedom and retreat of tyranny, and you don’t want to just say, OK, it’s a stalemate, let’s just have a balance. We’ll have freedom here. They’re be tyranny in other places and it will just stay like that forever. It’s OK. He’s saying no, we’ve got to advance the cause of freedom.

HEMMER: Here’s what Madeleine Albright had to say about it. Let’s listen.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. SECY. OF STATE: Democracy in various ways is being exhibited in these countries, but we’re a long way from a democracy, and for the president to keep pushing and pushing and pushing in ways that sound like this is our program and not theirs, I’m not sure is truly helpful.


O’BRIEN: Madeleine Albright, a person who would certainly know about these issues, saying this is not so helpful. Vic, what do you think?

KAMBER: Well, I think I’m somewhere between both Cliff and former Secretary Albright. I think it’s terrific that the president has a global vision, a big picture, that he is promoting democracy throughout the world. There’s no one that I think would support tyranny, and oppression and terrorism.

The difference is, again, how we approach it, reaching out to other world leaders to join us, making sure we don’t discriminate, that we’re treating Syria the same we’re treating Saudi Arabia, that we’re dealing with Iraq in the same way that we’re dealing with Libya. I think you can’t have it both ways. We’ll be willing to take some dictators and some tyranny, as long as they say they’re our friends, and we want to fight everybody else.

So I think to have the policy, to be thinking in the big picture, to be promoting democracy, it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. But I think we also have to do it with friends, and it has to be their idea when all is said and done.

O’BRIEN: Let’s talk about Dan Rather, because as you both know, he’s stepping down from the anchor chair tonight after 24 years. Did you guys hear what Walter Cronkite had to say about him? He essentially said that maybe replacing him earlier would have been a better thing. Ouch, kind of tough. Do you think after 24 years, the guy deserves a little more respect, Cliff?

MAY: Well, the blood is in the water, and you get a lot of sharks coming around and taking a chunk out of it.

Look, he was in third place for a long time, and that’s a difficult place to be in. Normally, you got, you know, Hertz, then you got Avis, then you got Budget. You’ve got Coke and Pepsi, and then you’ve got RC Cola. And he was sort of the RC Cola to a great extent.

There’s another controversy, as you well know, which is that people right of center thought that for years, he was sort of spinning things from a kind of left liberal point of view, and they will not be sorry to see him go. On the other hand, they don’t necessarily expect that whoever follows him is going to be more neutral, more fair, more balanced in the coverage of the news. There are a lot of people who would like to see more of a distinction between news reporting, analysis and editorial opinion, and it’s gotten mushed together, not on this show, but a lot of other programs.

KAMBER: Soledad, you know, I’m a big Walter Cronkite fan, but people have to remember, Dan Rather pushed him out 24 years ago. There was a big threat, Roone Arledge offered Dan Rather a big spot at ABC. He said if he didn’t get the CBS position at this point, he was going to leave and go to ABC. And so CBS made the effort, got rid of — moved Cronkite out. So Rather starts in controversy, he leaves in controversy. I think he served CBS well for 24 years. But it’s not unusual to see somebody keep attacking. I just thought Cronkite was a bigger man than he is.

O’BRIEN: Let’s take just a few seconds to talk about these remarks from Teresa Heinz Kerry, because I think they’re kind of interesting, but we don’t have a lot of time. She basically said that she thinks, to some degree, the votes were miscounted, because you could hack into the computer system that would be involved in the vote counting.

Cliff, you’re giving me a look like, can you believe this? It is almost six months later. What do you think?

MAY: I’m embarrassed for her. She’s essentially accusing people of crimes with no evidence, and she’s spinning conspiracy theories, and I just think it’s wonderful for America that she’s not the first lady right now. O’BRIEN: Ouch. Vic, what did you think?

KAMBER: I think we don’t know exactly what’s happened. We know there were problems in the last election. When elections are as close as the last two have been, we need to know that every vote that was counted was counted honestly. I think that to investigate, to find out, makes sense. We have a president today, but we do need to find out how honest the elections have been.

O’BRIEN: Gentlemen, we’re out of time. As always, nice to see you, Victor Kamber and Clifford May joining us this morning.