May 30, 2005 | Broadcast

American Morning

Good morning, gentlemen. Nice to see you.

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


O’BRIEN: You know, we just heard Bill Frist pointing to Democrats. Let’s begin with you, Vic. You think the majority leader has a point there?

KAMBER: His head, maybe. It’s pointed. I think the majority leader doesn’t understand the Senate yet after 10 years. He’s the wrong person to be the majority leader. The Democrats are filibustering, there’s no question about it, or attempting to find out further information and holding up the process. But the fact is, there’s several Republicans joining with him. He doesn’t know how to hold onto his own troops.

You know, “The Manchester Guardian” claimed it best I guess, if you can’t control 55 Republicans, how do you control the United States? And this is a man who wants to be president of the United States. So I think, frankly, it’s a failed leadership. Let’s bring back Trent Lott or Bob Dole, somebody who knows how to run the Senate.

O’BRIEN: Cliff, there’s no arguing it has been a bad week for Bill Frist. How damaging, though, is this to his leadership, and his presidential goals, if he has them?

MAY: Soledad, I think not as damaging as a lot of people seem to believe. Everybody knows that being the leader in the Senate is like herding cats, and the conservatives who are sort of angry about the fact that for four years Democrats have used filibusters to prevent votes, to prevent other senators from voting on John Bolton, on judicial nominees, on that sort of thing, they understand that Bill Frist is absolutely willing and able to take on this fight, if it comes to that, and it probably will. We’re in the middle of the game. The game is not over yet. The deal that was broken could easily fall apart. And if it is, I think then Frist will go to the mats on this one.

KAMBER: But I think the one difference is, that people like Trent Lott and Bob Dole, they understood the institution of the Senate. Frist is walking a fine line, trying to be the spokesperson in the Senate for the president, as well as for the Senate, and I think we know the president doesn’t quite — has a different agenda than the Senate. I think that’s the difficulty. Yes, it is herding cats, but other leaders have herded those cats.

MAY: You know what, the Senate, if I may, the Senate is different today than it used to be. The partisanship has become absolutely poisonous in the Senate, and in the House as well. It’s a different institution, and it’s much more difficult for somebody like — look, it’s difficult for Frist, or anybody who is the Senate majority leader to run for president. That’s not a place from which presidents normally come. But I don’t think Frist has done anything that’s disqualifying.

KAMBER: Hopefully he won’t run. Hopefully no Republicans will run.

O’BRIEN: Hello, I’ve got questions. There are others with presidential ambitions.

In fact, let’s listen to a little bit of what John McCain had to say to Wolf Blitzer.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I’d love to be president of the United States. The question is, is do I want to run for it? I know very few senators that would like… WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So what’s the answer?

MCCAIN: I’ve got to wait a couple of years before making that decision.


O’BRIEN: Cliff, do you think in fact that John McCain, if he decided to run for president, could win?

MAY: Listen, if he can get through the primary process, he’d be a formidable candidate, maybe the strongest candidate against Hillary Clinton, who I think is the prohibitive favorite on the Democratic side.

O’BRIEN: That’s kind of a big if, though. You sort of ran through it, if he gets through the primary process. Vic, what do you think?

KAMBER: I’m all — we’re going to agree for a change. I think John McCain is the strongest Republican and has the best chance of holding onto the presidency for the Republican Party.

Unlike Cliff, I understand the issue of the base of the party and some conservatives are unhappy with him. But the fact has that it’s a wide open field, there probably will be three, four, five conservatives, Brownback from Kansas, Allen from Virginia, Frist from Tennessee, and several others that may be running. John McCain is not a bomb-throwing liberal. He’s a conservative, but a maverick. I think his bigger-than-life hero and leadership role, obviously, propel him to the who top, and I think a number of primaries he’d do well, and could be the nominee if he wants to run. He’s got age and health against him as potentials, but I think, if he runs, I think he could be the nominee, and if he’s the nominee, would be a fight for the presidency.

O’BRIEN: Let’s go to our third topic this morning, the debate over stem cell research. We heard Republican Senator Arlen Specter say that he thinks the Senate has enough votes to override a presidential veto, should there be one. Cliff, just how damaging would that be to the president?

MAY: Again, I don’t think it’s that damaging. The president has decided to take an unpopular position. He has done so out of principal. I don’t think the public gets mad at you for taking a position out of principal. Again, he’s not saying this research can’t go forward any at all; he’s saying there are certain things for which he doesn’t want to put tax dollars. I may disagree with him, others may disagree with him, but I think he’s acting on principal. I don’t think that hurts.

O’BRIEN: Victor, we’re going to give you the final word this morning. What do you think?

KAMBER: Well, I think in the small scheme of things, in the short run, certainly it hurts. It shows a weakness, a lack of understanding, again, of the institution, how to move forward. Long run, I don’t think it hurts electorally, and frankly, I just hope it happens for the sake of research and the future of our country.

O’BRIEN: Gentlemen, we’re out of time, I thank you as always. Nice to see you.

KAMBER: Thank you.

O’BRIEN: Victor Kamber and Clifford May in Washington D.C. this morning