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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Victoria Clarke, Mary Matalin

Aired July 28, 2003 - 20:47   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: They've been called two of the most powerful women in Washington. They represented two of the most high profile members of government, the vice president and the secretary of defense. Victoria Clarke and Mary Matalin are career women and best friends. And spending a little time away from those very challenging jobs with an equally challenging job at home, right?
Welcome. Good to see you all.

VICTORIA CLARKE, FMR. PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: It is much harder. Home and children is much harder.

(CROSSTALK)

MARY MATALIN, FMR. SENIOR ADVISER TO V.P. CHENEY: We're only here because we want to see each other, and we're going out to dinner was the only way we could get out of the house. Thank you.

ZAHN: I know. Life is probably more chaotic now than it is ever was.

Let's start out by talking about Saddam Hussein. We had the privilege of talking with Dick Armitage, deputy secretary of state, a little bit earlier today and he feels the noose is getting tighter and tighter around his neck and it's just a matter of time before he's either captured and killed. How long you to think it might be and are you that optimistic?

CLARKE: Oh, I'm very optimistic we'll get him. Secretary Rumsfeld talks about tipping points. The more tips you get, the more information you get, the more of the senior people you get. You know, you think about those the top 55, I think they've got close to two- thirds of the top 55 in the regime now under our control. The more of them you get, the less fear of there is in the country among the people, who were terrorized for 30 years. So all of those factors lead to the inevitable conclusion that we'll get him. I don't know when, but we will get him.

ZAHN: How important is the capture of Saddam Hussein or the killing of Saddam Hussein to help restore some of the faith in the American public when you look at the numbers? And I know they probably made you dizzy when you were in the White House looking at them. But there has been a little erosion of support that has been widely talked about. How critical is that to changing the picture?

MATALIN: Well, that presumes that, the White House is setting its policy off the polls, which it never did.

ZAHN: No, I'm not saying that. but clearly you have to be concerned when you see what appears to be 45 percent of the American public in the latest polls saying they don't think things are going too well.

MATALIN: Well, then we have to remind them and they will quickly remember that 9/11 was a watershed, and getting Saddam Hussein had a lot of elements too it, not the least of which was to not -- to preclude the connection of weapons of mass destructions and those terrorists that want them.

But we have to get to the root of this problem. Getting him out of there eradicates the patron of terrorism, sends a strong signal to the other terrorists, we're coming after you and takes a destabilizing element out of the region. This is a long-term hard problem and it's not going to be dictated by snapshot polls.

ZAHN: Talk a little about the continuing furor over the 16 words, the phrase that ended up in the president's State of the Union address there. There seems to be some analysis and you've seen it that some people suggest your former boss had put some pressure on some folks at the CIA. You have seen the accusations that some intelligence have been exaggerated. Your response to those criticisms?

MATALIN: My response is that it didn't happen. What Dick Cheney did do was go to the CIA and ask a lot of questions about the intelligence. And you know why? Because he has to make -- give advice to the president on life and death decisions. And if the intelligence or the people who are providing the intelligence can't support what it is they're providing, then they ought to get another line of work.

I don't think the professional CIA people are easily intimidated. And Dick Cheney did not go over there to intimidate anybody but went to get the information that the president to make the best decision for America's security.

ZAHN: I see you nodding in agreement.

CLARKE: Yes, absolutely. And I think some people -- a small number of vocal people have turned 16 words into a cottage industry. You don't go to war based on 16 words. And we didn't go to war with Iraq because of 16 words and one particular issue. It was because of 30 years of despotism. It was because of invading and threatening neighbors. It was because they had a lively and active program of weapons of mass destruction. It was because the international community, the United Nations, because the Congress in 1998, the previous administration, all those people said this regime has got to end.

It was for a combination of reasons, not 16 words.

MATALIN: And what the intelligence provided was not 16 words of yellow cake. The entire intelligence community agreed that he was reconstituting his nuclear program, enhancing his chemical program, expanding his biological program and had the delivery systems to connect those weapons with their targets. That's why the president made the decision he did.

ZAHN: So what does Mr. Carville have to say about that?

MATALIN: Like I talk to him about this. Yes, he this should be at the State Department. He's such a diplomat.

ZAHN: Talk a little about the transition both of you are making. You knew how demanding the jobs would be when you took them. Did it become all but impossible for you to honor what you thought were your obligations at home and carry on in your very powerful positions?

CLARKE: Not for me. I'm sure this will come out years from now when the kids are in therapy, but -- and maybe I'm just rationalizing, but great husband, we both have great husbands.

MATALIN: Let's not stretch that.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: He'll get you on "CROSSFIRE" tomorrow night.

CLARKE: Great bosses who understood. Of course, in critical times, you were there 24/7. But on the average days, there is no such thing as on average day, you would go home at 7:30 or 8:00.

And I also think, putting all of this in perspective, we are very lucky. We have the ability and the resources sources to make these decisions about how we want to lead our lives. Not everybody has that luxury. I mean, when I think about the men and women in the military, I got to go home every night and see my kids. A spouse in the military can be deployed for six or nine months and the kind of burdens and challenges they have are far more difficult than ours.

ZAHN: So the greatest critics are the ones at home, the little ones. How do they think mom is doing?

MATALIN: They -- you know, the more you're there, the less they want you to be. When are you going to go get a real job? James is happy that I'm home. My husband is happy. He wanted me to go and he's happy I'm back.

ZAHN: Wait until you have a teenager, you two. Just wait.

MATALIN: No. We are still teenagers. That's going to be tough.

ZAHN: Mary Matalin...

MATALIN: Paula, good to see you.

ZAHN: Go ahead.

CLARKE: No, I was going to say, my youngest one the other day is grumbling, I'm asking him to make his bed. And he says, daddy didn't always make us make our beds when we were home.

ZAHN: The drill sergeant is home.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Appreciate you dropping by.

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