June 29, 2005 | Broadcast

American Morning

Good to have you with us, gentlemen.

Cliff, let’s go to the numbers, because these days, you can’t wait for polls; they come instantly. Just like that, we’ve got a poll. President — well, there they are. Big bump, instant bump. Look at that post speech, keep the troops in Iraq, from 58 to 70. Timetable for withdrawal, people say maybe not now. So obviously Convinced, at least those who saw the speech. What do you think?

CLIFF MAY, FMR. RNC COMM. DIR.: Yes, I think he made the case better than he’s made it in the past. And the one thing I would suggest is you’ve got to make a case like this over and over again. You can’t simply think, you know, I said it, and I said it well, I’m sure everybody understands me; let’s go on and just talk about Social Security now. President Bush has to repeat what the stakes are, what the mission is, why we’re going to complete it and why we’re not going to give a timetable for withdrawal. He did a good job last night to keep those numbers up, to keep support up. He’s going to have to keep up the drumbeat of these messages.

M. O’BRIEN: All right. The one thing that this poll does not account for, Vic, is the tune-out factor. These are people who saw the speech. A lot of people might have just tuned out the president at this point. What do you think?

VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Well, I’m sure the numbers were low on who watched the speech, but I’ll go along with Cliff in the sense that the president last night won some time. I was offended by how he won the time, because of the things he said last night, but he basically won some time from the American public.

M. O’BRIEN: Let’s talk about the 9/11 issue, mentioned at least five, maybe six times. We have a few examples for you.


BUSH: The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September 11th, 2001. After September 11th, I made a commitment to the American people, this nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11.


M. O’BRIEN: All right, Cliff, can you really put — connect those two dots Iraq and 9/11.

MAY: I think the way the president did it, yes you absolutely can, and it’s demonstrably true.

In the 1990s, we let an Al Qaeda leader, Bin Laden, take over Afghanistan, and 9/11 was the result. If in this decade we were to let an Al Qaeda leader, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, take over Iraq, what do you think would be the result? We were hit on 9/11 by Al Qaeda. We’re fighting Al Qaeda right now.

M. O’BRIEN: But didn’t the U.S. create the opportunity for Al Zarqawi by invading Iraq in the first place.

MAY: Zarqawi was there before we got there. Saddam Hussein was training terrorists — we don’t know whether or not they were Al Qaeda terrorists — at Salman Pak, south of Baghdad, where he was telling the terrorists your job is to kill Americans.

The point is I think this, the lesson of 9/11, as the president said it, is we don’t just punish those who have committed terrorist acts. We prevent terrorist acts by going after terrorists. If you don’t want to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, please tell me where you’d rather the battlefield be.

M. O’BRIEN: Vic, do you buy that.

KAMBER: Not at all. That was probably — when I talked about offensive, that was probably the single most offensive part of the speech last night, was once again trying to wrap himself around the 9/11 tragedy. There’s no one in this country that didn’t abhor the tragedy and doesn’t want to get the terrorists. Osama Bin Laden was the enemy, not Iraq.

You know, we heard last night three excuses, or the third excuse for why we went to war. Originally it was because of weapons of mass destruction, then it was because of democracy, and last night it was because of terrorism. The president was not leveling with the American public. Last night was the first time.

M. O’BRIEN: Cliff, doesn’t the president have a credibility problem in all this, because the story has changed on the rationale now three times?

MAY: Look, I think there are many rationales. I think the one the president made last night is the current one. And again, I’d ask Vic the question, if you don’t want to fight Zarqawi and Al Qaeda in Iraq, where do you want to fight him? I mean, that’s the main question, and that is among the main links.

M. O’BRIEN: Vic, the proof is in the pudding. We haven’t had a major attack, and What we’re see something perhaps the focus in Baghdad and environs right now for these terrorists.


M. O’BRIEN: Vic, you finish up.

KAMBER: I don’t want to be proven correct to say that we have to have another attack. We have not had another attack, and there may be a lot of reasons for not. But Iraq did not have the terrorists before we went in in the sense that we’re fighting today.

MAY: Do you want to fight Zarqawi in Iraq, or do you want to fight him somewhere else? Do you think it would be a good idea to let him take over Iraq at this point?

KAMBER: I think we would have the same issue in North Korea, in Cuba, in Libya. I mean, there are terrorists all over the world. Iraq today has gotten the bulk of them because of our intrusion there.

MAY: We want to fight those terrorists.

M. O’BRIEN: Time has expired, gentlemen. Sorry, we could go on, I know.

Vic Kamber, Cliff May, we appreciate your time. Thanks very much for joining us once again — Soledad.

KAMBER: Thank you.