May 25, 2005 | Broadcast

American Morning

Democratic consultant Victor Kamber here this morning. Vic, good morning to you, down there in D.C.


HEMMER: Former RNC communications director, Cliff May, back with us, too. “Kamber and May” is what we call this segment.

Cliff, start here. How do you get Syria back in line?

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: You got to start to put a lot of pressure on Syria in every way you have and let them know that nothing is off the table. We believe that the dictator, Bashar Assad, has a range of advisers, from fairly moderate to fairly extreme. You want the moderate adviser to say, look, we had better be careful and not get the Americans angry at us. You don’t want the hard-line advisers to say, we got to worry about al Qaeda, we got to worry about Saddam loyalist. But the Americans are paper tigers. You push them, they’ll fall over.

HEMMER: So, then, Victor, where’s the incentive for Syria to cooperate? Or do they just look to their east and figure out what happened in Baghdad two years ago?

KAMBER: Well, I think — I think part of what Cliff said I’ll agree with. We’ve got to be firm. The part that he says where everything’s on table, I think that I understand where he’s going with that, which means military, potentially, and we can’t do that. You know, to hear Cliff — we’ve done that on Iran, we’ve done that on North Korea, we should do it on Syria. We don’t have the capability, we don’t have the resources. And we would be a paper tiger.

What we need to do, beside putting whatever economic and diplomatic pressure we could, we need to, once again, go to our world friends, our allies out there, and sell our democracy again to them, so that France and Germany and Britain, et cetera, are all a part of this and collectively, we put a Syria on notice.

HEMMER: In a word, can the U.S. win in Iraq if you don’t clamp down on Syria? If all these foreign fighters — or, you know, Iraq’s getting all this support from…

KAMBER: Bill, I don’t think — based on what we’re seeing, I’m not sure U.S. could win in Iraq if there wasn’t another country in the world, the way it’s going.

MAY: Well, first of all, we don’t know for sure if the command in control of the insurgency comes out of Syria. If it does, obviously, at a certain point, you’ll have to take out that command in control. It cannot be immune. Look, I have great difficulty with what Victor is suggesting, which is a totally defeatist attitude. If we can’t win in Iraq, if we can’t fight a 21st century war and win it, then we lose, we might as well dissolve the entire military, because there’s no point in having a military designed to fight the Soviet Union.

KAMBER: Well, it depends on, again, what the definition of win is. And we haven’t had that. Can we — have we got rid of Saddam Hussein? Yes. Is there a form of democracy there? Yes. But can we stabilize the country as an occupier? I’m not sure, given what we’re seeing right now.

HEMMER: Let’s go to the second topic now. Back to the filibuster ordeal. Vic, do you think Senator Bill Frist is a clear loser in all this? Why?

KAMBER: Mainly because he put so much on the line, and it didn’t happen. And loser only in the context of his national aspirations. I think he put running for president and his national aspirations above the Senate and above common sense, frankly. He should have been the one leading this compromise or be a part of this compromise. He clearly wasn’t. He was the last man standing afterwards…

O’BRIEN: Cliff, do you think he did damage to himself?

MAY: What, and his future? No, I don’t. Actually, I don’t at all, because he said he was going to go down to the max on this, and he wasn’t able to do it because of the so-called moderate groups who decided to make the decision on this and — I don’t think he’s hurt, Bill Frist is hurt, at all on this.

As far as the whole filibuster thing, I’ve been back and forth on it. I’m reminded of what the Communist leader Johann Lye (ph) said when I asked about the French Revolution and the 18th century, was it a success or failure? He said it’s too soon to tell. And I think that’s case here. It’s too soon to tell who’s really won in this one.

HEMMER: So, then where does the argument go next?

MAY: Well I think the argument goes next to when you have probably a Supreme Court nominee. Look, what this — what this deal says is that the Democrats can keep the filibuster if they only use it in extraordinary circumstances, which was the tradition for 200 years. If they keep the deal, we’re back to where we were and that’s fine. But if they pull out that gun from their holster every time President Bush has a nominee, then we’re back to where we started and the Republicans are going to say we’re going to take away the filibuster because you can’t use it responsibly.

KAMBER: And they won’t — and I think that we know that they won’t do it. I think what Senator McCain said, we know pornography when we see it. We know outrageous, inappropriate appointments when we see them. I think those 14 senators will agree.

HEMMER: Thank you, gentlemen. We’re out of time. Victor, Cliff, we’ll talk again. Kamber and May, from D.C.