Clifford May in the Media
Debates over Iraq Strategies Focus on Rumsfeld
CNN: American Morning
KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a new flap over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and violence escalating in Iraq, leading some to question again the feasibility of January elections. Joining us from Washington to talk about these and other topics -- from the left, Democratic Strategist, Victor Kamber and from the right, former RNC Communications Director Cliff May. Great to see you both, thanks for being here.
VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Good morning, Kelly.
CLIFFORD MAY, FMR. RNC COMM DIRECTOR: Good morning, Kelly.
WALLACE: Cliff, let me begin with you. As you know, lots of talk about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, also coming from members of your own party. Republican Senator Chuck Hegel, just back from Iraq, says he has quote, "no confidence in Rumsfeld," but says this is a decision for President Bush. Do you believe it's time for Rumsfeld to go?
MAY: I don't happen to think so. I know there's a lot of piling up on him. First of all, I would just say, if you think he should go, tell me with whom he should be replaced and tell me what the policies should of whoever replaces him should be. The military needs very great transformation to fight a kind of war we never planned before. I think right now, Senator -- Secretary Rumsfeld is better qualified to make that transformation than anybody else I can think of.
WALLACE: And Vic, following up on that, because some members of Congress over the weekend saying, if you replace Secretary Rumsfeld now that would destabilize the upcoming elections in Iraq.
MAY: Well, first of all, it's the Republicans calling for his replacement in most cases. And frankly, they should have been calling for and they did of course, or they didn't, Republicans didn't -- George Bush's replacement. It's policy we're talking about, not a person. Donald Rumsfeld isn't a free agent doing his own thing. He's doing the work of the president of the United States.
And if you're unhappy with what Donald Rumsfeld's doing, you're unhappy with what George Bush is doing. That's the one thing this administration has made clear is we don't have free independent agents working for us. We are one policy, one direction, one administration. So Donald Rumsfeld is not the problem, it's George Bush.
WALLACE: Cliff, one more question, though, on Secretary Rumsfeld, how problematic politically for him, the news over the weekend that he was not personally signing condolence letters that would go to family members of fallen soldiers? Using a computer device instead, but that he will start personally signing them from here on out. P.R. problem?
MAY: Yes, I think it does compound his problems, it does hurt his image, I think it was cutting corners in a way he shouldn't be cutting corners and he's acknowledged that. But at the end of the day, what we're looking in a secretary of defense is not the most sensitive guy, it's somebody who can help formulate a killing machine that will destroy our enemies and keep us from being defeated in tough wars like we have in Iraq.
WALLACE: All right, topic two. The situation in Iraq -- as you both know, yesterday, a very violent day, I think the second deadliest day in Iraq since the U.S. turned over control of the country to the Iraqi interim government there. My question to you, Vic, is the violence going to mean that the January election's not possible?
KAMBER: Well, I think that this government, our government, is committed to these elections regardless of the practicality of those elections. We heard this morning, I guess, from Senator Levin, we know from President Bush, they're committed regardless. And you know, we hear people say if you don't have them, you're giving in to terrorists. I disagree totally. I think frankly think safety, providing for the future democracy of Iraq, is much more important than whether we have election in January, February or March.
We scheduled the election in January for George Bush's convenience of this last election of the United States. That's over. Let's not play games now with people's lives. There's at least four, maybe eight provinces in Iraq that cannot conduct elections fairly, democratically, safely. Thousands of lives are at stake. It's not worth it. In this country, our country, United States, we have postponed elections when there are problems, including 9/11 when it happened in New York, we postponed the mayoral election. I don't -- you know, I just think it's more important to have democracy at stake and the future of the country.
WALLACE: Let me -- Vic, let me get Cliff to respond. Final word there, Cliff. If safety's at stake, should the elections be delayed?
MAY: Kelly, understand why the terrorists are blowing up, shooting innocent people in the streets. Because they want to stop the progress toward democracy. If you say, OK, as long as they're killing people, we won't have elections. They'll keep killing people for that reason. That's the only thing they're doing.
What they're doing has no military value, they're not trying to take over cities, they are only trying have to public relations values. They know if they kill people, we'll discuss that, we won't discuss the three million kids who have been immunized in that country, we won't discuss the polls that show that Iraqis -- millions and millions of them who want elections and don't want the Baathists to rule anymore. This is public relations and we shouldn't let them succeed and shouldn't admit defeat.
WALLACE: All right, gentleman, we have to leave it there. Clifford May, Victor Kamber, thanks for being here today.
MAY: Thank you.
KAMBER: Thank you.
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