War Politics

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 18, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The president's pick for the Supreme Court gets a thumbs up from the American Bar Association, but public support for the war in Iraq is dropping. Could all of this have an impact in 2006 and 2008? Joining me now is the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman.


GIBSON: Ken, before we get to Judge Roberts (search), and I do want to ask you about that, none the less, we're hearing, "Gee, Republicans are getting nervous about the president's subsiding poll numbers, support for the war in Iraq and so forth." With 2006 looming, this would be your job, I think Ken, so what's up with that?

MEHLMAN: Well, I think John, if you actually looked at the divide, not on the Republican side and the democratic side, a lot of Democrats and Independents, as well as almost every Republican I've talked to, understand Iraq is the central front on the War on Terror.

And they understand you have to prevail. And where you see the divide is the Democrats. You saw Chairman Dean last week on, I believe it was "Face the Nation" who said that women were better off when Saddam Hussein (search) was in power. Earlier, he talked, as you know, about the fact that Iraq and America were safer when Saddam was in power. Russ Feingold (search) said we ought to put a timetable, which Republicans and democrats have agreed doesn't make sense. I think like with the Judge Roberts nomination, it will divide, you see, between the hard left in the Democrat Party and a lot of other mainstream Democrats who were shaking their head, or scratching their heads and saying what ever are these folks talking about?

GIBSON: Well, I'm scratching my head too, because I see Chuck Hagel (search) in June saying — a Republican from Nebraska — saying the reality is we're losing the war.

MEHLMAN: Well, I think Senator Hagel is wrong on that, that question, but is the war tough? Absolutely. This is the central front on the war on terrorism. Imagine if in 1942 or 1943, President Roosevelt had said, "OK, we're going to pull our troops out in 1944." You would have had a different outcome to World War II. It will be the wrong message to our enemy. It will be the wrong message to our allies. And it will be the wrong message to the Iraqi people for to us set a date. We've got to prevail on this battle. We've got to remind people what the stakes are and what it is everyone recognizes, including Mr. Zarqawi, the central front in the War on Terror.

GIBSON: Ken, Judge Roberts is going to go into these nomination hearings. Already there are groups around the country who are organizing to oppose him no matter what. It doesn't appear it's going to make much difference in his confirmation, but what is it that this opposition to him tells us? What are these people, what do they want?

MEHLMAN: I think it's a really good question. It's pretty remarkable in the same day the American Bar Association gave the highest rating possible to Judge Roberts, you saw people for the American Way, Move On, NARAL (search), who had to pull their ad down, some of the most extreme groups, attacking Judge Roberts. What's so interesting to me was that Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy (search), the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and Harry Reid (search) didn't respond to the ABA, they responded almost like Pavlovian dogs to what these hard left groups have done and they attacked Judge Roberts too. I think the American people are going to get a very clear window into who leads the Democratic Party. Is it folks who are committed to having qualified, impartial judges, good people like the ABA found, or instead, is it the angry hardcore left?

GIBSON: Mr. Mehlman, is there any doubt he's going to be confirmed?

MEHLMAN: I feel very good about him being confirmed. I think he's an impartial guy. I think the more people hear from him, the more they're going to respect him and like him. But I also think, as you pointed out, there's a lot of anger on the other side, there's a lot of energy on the other side, and there's lot of money on the other side. So, those of us who want to see a fair process need to continue in the arena focusing on it, and working to make sure that we get the result, which is a fair hearing and that'll mean a confirmation for this good man.

GIBSON: The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman. Ken, as always, thanks a lot.

MEHLMAN: Thank you.

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