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Interview With Nancy Bocskor, Kirsten Powers

Aired December 21, 2003 - 11:13   ET


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN ANCHOR: Now time to spin the wheel of hot topics in the world of politics. Leading issues, the capture of Saddam Hussein and what it means to the race in 2004.
For our roundtable, two guests, republican strategist Nancy Bocskor in Washington. Nancy, thanks for being here today.


CALLEBS: And in New York, democratic strategist Kirsten Powers. Kirsten, thanks to you, as well.


CALLEBS: Kirsten, let me start with you. After Saddam Hussein was captured one week ago, President Bush got a big bump in the polls, according to the latest CNN poll, Gallup poll. What's your take on this? Are we that shallow of a nation, we get some positive news and he gets a double-digit jump?

POWERS: Well, I think that capturing Saddam was an incredibly exciting and wonderful thing, and that's reflected in the polls, and most Americans and people around the world, I think, were very excited. We got an evil dictator and he's going to be brought to justice. So I don't think that's surprising.

I also don't think it changes things in terms of what the democrats are talking about, which is that George Bush took us into a war using misleading information, and it was an unnecessary war where we're losing a lot of soldiers. It is very expensive. And, you know, I think the democrats are going to continue to talk about these issues and talk about the things like, you know, Halliburton overcharging taxpayers for...

CALLEBS: We'll get to that in a just moment but, Nancy, let me get you to jump in here. I'm sure you have a different take on this, and does it take away a certain degree of ammunition from the democrats?

BOCSKOR: Well, it does. President Bush has slowly but surely kept every promise, and one was let's meet those terrorists head on. Instead of just always reacting to crises, the first World Trade Center bombings, everything that happened in east Africa, you know, we're actually playing defense and capturing Saddam has really been a good, good bounce for the president, and it's just part of our overall policy of making sure America is safer. CALLEBS: And, Nancy, let's talk about the democrats for just one minute. There's been a lot of sniping among the various candidates who are trying to receive the nomination. From your standpoint, the GOP must be sitting back smiling saying at this point, saying, go ahead. Knock each other down.

BOCSKOR: Well, absolutely. They're knocking each other. Some of them call George Bush the enemy. And it really is -- they've become very much the party of hate speech, and it is all negative against Bush, even though we have...

CALLEBS: It's almost negative against each other, as much as anything else.

BOCSKOR: Well, it's negative against each other, but we know who the target is going to be in the end, and that's going to be George Bush. So let the Dems fight it out amongst themselves. And Howard Dean, because he is the perceived leader at this point, certainly is on the receiving end of a lot of that, and we think that's great.

CALLEBS: Kirsten, I imagine you think the final act of this hasn't played out, and certainly the 11 months until the election, the democrats certainly trying to do their best to put the best candidate forward.

POWERS: Right, and also just to address this idea of -- that we keep hearing from the republicans that the democrats are being negative or using hate speech. I mean, what democrats are doing are holding up a mirror to what's going on, and they're talking about the fact that George Bush is taking the country in the wrong direction. And if republicans want to portray that as democrats being negative, they're just talking about the real issues. And, you know, in terms of the primary we always go through this every time that the democrats are attacking each other. It's a primary. It's rough. This is what we do. And we end up getting the best candidate.

CALLEBS: Kirsten, some news coming out this morning -- want to change gears just a bit. Word from Wesley Clark, he says that Howard Dean has offered him the presidential slot if, indeed, Dean gets the nomination. Dean's people are saying fat chance. Why would Clark say something like this, and do we have any reason to believe it's true?

POWERS: I haven't heard this, and it sounds sort of unbelievable to me, to be honest, that that would happen. And I don't know why Wesley Clark would say something if it wasn't true. It doesn't seem very likely to me that that happened.

CALLEBS: OK. Now, you were talking about Halliburton just a short while ago. And Dick Cheney has been on the hot seat, of course, a former CEO of that company that's being investigated for allegedly overcharging to a wild degree for gasoline in Iraq. How do you think this is going to play out? And this has been going on for months and months and basically hasn't affected Cheney or the administration to a very large degree.

BOCSKOR: No, it hasn't. POWERS: Well...

CALLEBS: Let me start with Kirsten first.

POWERS: OK. Well, this information actually just came out, although the administration has known about it for six months, when Henry Waxman started writing to them in April. Americans have slowly been coming aware of the issue of Halliburton, and I think that this, and the fact that it's going to be going to the Supreme Court, the issue about the energy committee policy, is really going to shine a light on what the administration has been doing, which is a pattern in the entire administration of really favoring their friends, whether it is the tax breaks or the giveaways in the Medicare bill or the no-bid contract with Halliburton, and we find out they're ripping off American taxpayers to the tune of $62 million and the Bush administration showing no oversight whatsoever.

CALLEBS: Nancy, you get the final word here, but President Bush has said if indeed Halliburton has overcharged the U.S., they will have to pay the money back.

BOCSKOR: Absolutely. President Bush and Dick Cheney have been very clear and adamant that if there has been overcharging, we will take care of it. Second, with the Dick Cheney as the energy task force going to the Supreme Court, hmm, go figure. We're having -- discussing energy and we have energy task force, and we speak to energy companies. So that makes just perfect sense to me, why wouldn't we have energy companies involved?

But I do have to have to have a final thing here about President Bush as Kirsten said is on the wrong track. I can't figure out what a wrong track is. We've captured Saddam Hussein, job growth is up in the last quarter...

POWERS: He's created this -


CALLEBS: I have to end it here. Nancy Bocskor, a GOP strategist, and in Washington, or in New York rather, Kirsten Powers, her GOP counterpart.

Thanks very much to both of you for coming in today. It's going to be a spirited 11 months. Thank you.


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