May 9, 2005 | Broadcast

American Morning

Perfect topic today for Kamber and May. Democratic consultant Vic Kamber is back with us. Vic, good morning to you.


HEMMER: And former RNC communications director Cliff May. Both in D.C. Cliff, how you doing? Good morning to you, as well.


HEMMER: Let’s get first — Vic, let’s get to this issue of President Bush, slamming the Soviet Union in speech after speech, literally. Is this the right strategy to carry this message through Moscow?

KAMBER: Well, I don’t think so. I think, once again, it’s the cowboy from Texas shooting from the hip. I mean, bottom line is, we all support democracy. It’s wonderful that this country’s committed to promoting democracy. He went over to Russia for a specific point, which was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Nazis and World War II. I think inappropriate timing to go into an area surrounding Russia and promote something that is offensive to Putin.

HEMMER: He calls it inappropriate and offensive, Cliff.

MAY: He’s missing the point. What Bush is doing is showing that he’s pro-Russian, but anti-Soviet. Very important distinction. The Russian people sacrificed a lot to defeat the Nazis, but the Soviet Union was in league with the Nazis. Stalin signed the pact with Hitler that led to the takeover of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Stalin was right up there as one of the great villains of the 20th century, along with Hitler. It is not a good idea to sort of make that all go away. You don’t — diplomacy doesn’t mean that you whitewash history. And the history of the Soviet Union is a very terrible…


HEMMER: Victor, I’m wondering if we just go ahead and accept the fact that these men choose to disagree on a number of issues, especially how democracy is formed in many different forums around the world.

KAMBER: No question. I mean, I’m willing to accept that. I’m only suggesting there’s a time and a place. I think we do disagree ideologically on a number of issues, and should. I mean — and I’m glad we’re there promoting — I’m glad we are promoting the concept of a free world and democracy. All I’m saying is the timing and the place.

MAY: Straight talk is a good thing. And the timing and place, that’s correct, is when Putin is actually with Bush. Otherwise, you can’t do it. Right now, Putin wants to be part of the developed democracies of the world. Well, you know what? Then you got to develop and you got to be Democratic.

HEMMER: Let’s talk about the next topic.

KAMBER: Well, you do that in a private meeting.

HEMMER: Go ahead, Vic, final word?

KAMBER: Oh, I just said, then you do that in the private meetings.

MAY: No, you pressure them by doing some of it in the public meetings as well.

HEMMER: Let’s talk about North Korea. Apparently they’re getting ready for some sort of nuclear test, if the intelligence is true. The IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei very concerned at this point. Cliff, take it from here. What do we know to believe is true out of North Korea?

MAY: Yes, well, we know to be believe is true is that it’s very likely they have nuclear weapons. They haven’t tested them yet, doesn’t mean they don’t work. They probably do. We also know that Kim Jong-Il, who is the rather crazy dictator there, if he has these weapons, he’d sell them to just about anybody. And if one of those weapons were to go off in New York or Los Angeles, he’d probably be giggling there with his cigars and…

HEMMER: But do you believe the preemptive strike is the right way to go? Do I understand that to be true?

MAY: No. I would say that between doing nothing and a preemptive strike, I hope we have other options as well, including openly throwing leaflets down and talking to colonels secretly who may not be happy with Kim Jong-Il, clandestine activities. There should be a range of things before you get actually into a military conflict.

HEMMER: Let me get back to the original question with Victor. What do we believe to be true about North Korea? What can we believe and what is something that is still up for dispute?

KAMBER: Well, I think we believe that he has nuclear capability. We’ve known that, or been told that, for the last six to nine months. I mean, and one of the problems — you know, I’m assuming it’s true, unlike the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — that we do know something about North Korea. The difficulty is we’ve — we’re so stretched so thin, the concept of a preemptive strike makes no sense. This is a country that frankly could do damage to us, North Korea, or to our allies. This is a time we need world commitment. We need to reach out to our allies. We need to isolate North Korea. We need to make sure that they do not use those weapons in any way, shape or form.

HEMMER: Cliff, you think we’re taking the right moves towards that? What Victor’s describing there/

MAY: We’ve been stumbling, in terms of our policy with North Korea, for more than a decade now. I don’t think Victor’s wrong about our allies. And not just our allies — also, we need to pressure China to help. They’ve not been helpful so far. That suggests our relations with China are in somewhat of disrepair. Very soon, it seems to me that the Japanese are going to have to decide if they’re going to want to have nuclear weapons. They will, if North Korea has it. China doesn’t want that. We need to play that card. But right now, we’ve got a terrible situation and I think we’re trying very hard to figure out what to do about it and nobody has really good answers.

HEMMER: Let’s leave it there. Also, I read something about they were setting up a reviewing stand for this test.

MAY: Yes, that’s right.

HEMMER: Forget about that, huh, guys? I don’t know a whole lot of people raising their hands to stand on that reviewing stand, if, indeed, they test fire one of these missile.

Thank you, gentlemen. Have a good Monday, OK? Vic, Cliff, always good to have you on with us. Kamber and May on a Monday morning. Here’s Soledad.

O’BRIEN: Thanks very much, Bill.