Mary Matalin on Lieberman's Loss

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This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 9, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The big story here at home: the nationwide fallout from a local upset. Three-time incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman loses a Democratic primary in Connecticut. It breaks down like this: Millionaire businessman Ned Lamont, 52 percent; Lieberman, 48 percent. Joe Lieberman's support for the Iraq war and President Bush may have cost him this race. Should this anti-war backlash now worry pro-war Republicans?

Here now is Republican strategist Mary Matalin. She served as an assistant to President George W. Bush, counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney and was a Bush-Cheney 2004 adviser. Also, she's the co-author of "All's Fair: Love, War and Running for President."

Mary Matalin, is that result in Connecticut a warning shot to pro-war Republicans?

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, it's not a warning shot, it's good news. It does reinforce our obligation to continue to be a strong pro-defense party because clearly the opposition party, the Democrats, have been taken over by the resurrection of the peace-knicks, and at a more tactical level it's very helpful for the retention of the three Republican seats that were targeted in Connecticut, Lieberman's run as an independent. So it just shows what we're running to, towards the fall.

What we want to run on is a choice. You have a choice between the peace-knick party, the defeatists, the cut and run, and the pro-defense party, the tough on security party. And if the Democrats take over or they elect or nominate even candidates the likes of Lamont, this country will be far weaker for their effort.

GIBSON: Mary, what the Democrats would say, I think, in response is: Come on, Mary, the polls show, the latest polls show 60 percent of Americans now oppose the war and that indicates to Democrats that they have the support of the American people.

MATALIN: That's a completely (INAUDIBLE) and irrelevant number. Nobody like's war. Nobody is pro-war. What Americans are, in overwhelming majorities, are pro-security. They want to be secure today and they want to eradicate terrorism and the kinds of scenes that we're seeing, that you've just shown in the previous segment. They want to eradicate that into the future.

The Democrats have no policy, no plan. All Lamont said to achieve victory on the Democrat primary is, "I'm not Joe and I'm against the war." Then how are you, what are you about for securing this country now and tomorrow? People do not want to — their tired of the war, their tired of the savagery of it, but they're more frightened of the kinds of enemies that face us and they want to defeat them today and it's going to take a long time to do that.

GIBSON: But is it not some fear for Republicans who might need to get some daylight between themselves and President Bush that the electorate seems to be so sour on the war?

MATALIN: The electorate is — again, no one is pro-war. And it is a concern and it creates anxiety, but no more anxiety — certainly what would create more anxiety is to have no foreign policy as is the case of the Democrats: no security policy and to cut and run.

People do not support cutting and running, particularly from Iraq, or cutting and running from a larger foreign policy, national security policy as is evidenced by the Democratic vote themselves on the Feingold-Kerry which Lamont said he would support. Only 13 Democrats supported that.

So those numbers are nearly not as meaningful or have any meaning whatsoever as the overwhelming majority of Americans that want to have a strong defense policy, strong security policy and a strong long-term strategy for defeating these Islamofascists.

GIBSON: Mary, is there a connection in the minds of Republicans between the Iraq war and what's going on between the Israelis and Hezbollah on the Lebanese border?

MATALIN: Oh, sure. It's all of a piece. It's not just in Republicans' minds. It's in any discerning American or European or Arab's mind that Hezbollah is completely funded and controlled by Iran which is a big threat to us, obviously, as they seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

So this is all of a piece is the point. And Republicans — and you know what? A lot of Democrats, not least Joe Lieberman, do understand this. And my prediction is if he runs as an independent, he would be able to carry that Connecticut seat. It will be a good, strong voice for pro-defense which is not red or blue or right or left. It's the right thing to do for the country.

GIBSON: Mary Matalin, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

MATALIN: Thanks, John.

GIBSON: It was nice to see you.

MATALIN: You, too.

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