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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Ann Coulter, John McIntire

Aired August 22, 2003 - 20:01   ET

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

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our top story this evening: managing the message at the White House. Does President Bush need to prepare the American people for what could turn out to be a very bloody and very long haul in Iraq? Mr. Bush today said al Qaeda-type fighters are moving into Iraq, determined to derail its reconstruction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They can't stand the thought of a free society in the Middle East. They hate freedom. They hate the thought of a democracy emerging. And, therefore, they want to violently prevent that from happening. And it is hard to characterize what kind of movement it is, since this is the -- one of the -- this is one of the major battles of the first war of the 21st century.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I'm joined now from our New York bureau by author and political commentator Ann Coulter, also this evening by talk show host John McIntire. His show, "Night Talk," airs in Pittsburgh.

Good evening to both of you. Thanks for joining me.

Ann, let's begin with you. The president's job performance numbers continue to slip. Peace in the Middle East seems more elusive more than ever. Attacks in Iraq seem to increase in sophistication. The president's message has been: We're winning the war. Let's stay the course.

Do you think, at this point, this message needs to be revised?

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "TREASON": No, I don't think it is true that peace in the Mideast looks farther away than it ever has. I think it does look closer than it ever has.

We didn't just invade Vermont, topple Saddam Hussein from peace- loving people in Ohio. I think, after 9/11, the American people don't need much reminder that we're up against savage fanatics who hate civilization. So I don't really even completely understand the question. The war is going as well as a war could possibly go.

O'BRIEN: John, we have seen the poll numbers dropping some 11 points, if you believe the Zogby poll. Do you think that message is working? Do you think the war is going as well as it could possibly go, to quote Ann there? JOHN MCINTIRE, TALK SHOW HOST: Well, now that we have enraged an entire region of savage fanatics, many of whom hate Western civilization, I would think we have only made the problem worse.

The only message I can think the White House would give that might help is, you are getting sleepy, sleepy, because, short of mass hypnosis, the American people are finally able to wake up and smell the incompetence. It is an incredible disaster. We're losing a soldier a day. We're blowing $1 billion a week. I will say that I don't think they'll necessarily blame him for the Middle East, because that is perceived as a problem unsolvable by any president.

But Iraq is going to grow and continue to be the major quagmire that it is and a big problem for the Bush administration.

O'BRIEN: Some have said, Ann, that Iraq is just this big, giant magnet, attracting extremists into that country. You said, potentially, there could be an upside to that. What do you mean?

COULTER: No, not an upside to it. It is just an example of how we are winning the war on terrorism as well as a war could possibly be won.

I mean, World War II went on for quite a while. We lost hundreds of thousands of men. We also don't have Germany invading other countries anymore. Wars do take time. It is not something that happens overnight. Unlike liberals, I think the American people do understand that. Another approach we could have taken to Iraq, the one that was being recommended by the Democrats, was to continue with the U.N. inspections, to do nothing, to do, in fact, precisely what the U.N. said we should do.

Well, they were just bombed yesterday. So we see how well that approach works. Apparently, the U.N. didn't win a lot of friends.

O'BRIEN: John?

MCINTIRE: If we had actually let the U.N. inspectors continue in Iraq, we would have seen that there are no weapons of mass destruction.

And then we might have figured out there that there was no imminent threat to the United States of America. Then we might have figured out that George Bush and the gang were hyping this thing from the beginning. And then we could have saved ourselves a soldier a day and $1 billion a week.

O'BRIEN: If, Ann, the road map to peace, if it comes to an end with this counterattack by Israel against Hamas, doesn't that, to some degree, undermine the president's argument for war in Iraq, the part that said, we need to keep stability in the region by going into Iraq?

COULTER: I don't think so.

As I say, we're talking about a region that was not stable. Not by a long shot was it stable. Saddam Hussein was gassing his own people, invading his neighbors. The bombing going on in Israel is hardly something that has come about as a result of our invasion of Iraq. That's been going on for quite a while. There are a lot of popular jokes based on that.

This is how you ultimately have to face down angry fanatics. You have to crush them and defeat them. That is what George Bush is doing. And my compatriot here tonight has the alternative approach, which is to do nothing and to back down. Well, that doesn't stop -- we have not learned in 50 years that the one thing fanatics respect is weakness. That is not the lesson.

MCINTIRE: Well, your compatriot believes that the one thing to do is to attack the people who attacked us. And that is al Qaeda.

We were lied to about the weapons of mass destruction, lied to about the imminent threat. I will say that he has finally got his al Qaeda and Iraqi connection, if indeed al Qaeda is invading Iraq, as he said. But this is the first time there is a clear connection. And they've come in to try to terrorize our troops and kill them, because now we're sitting ducks.

And he's still in denial about the amount of troops we need to secure Iraq. And Rumsfeld still says we don't need to send any more. Meanwhile, chaos reigns in Baghdad and Tikrit and throughout the region.

O'BRIEN: Ann, I'm going to give the final question to you.

The soldiers dying at a rate of approximately one per day. The terror attacks on both soft targets and hard targets as well seem to be increasing. If other countries do not send in forces, at some point, don't you think that that's going to affect the president and the polls significantly?

COULTER: No.

I think we can fight terrorism on our own. And I say, again, this war is going as well as it could go. Yes, the casualties, every casualty is a casualty that we're all upset about and pray for the soldier's family. But this is a war. We were attacked on 9/11. And we're going to round up the fanatics. And it is going take time. And the American people understand this. This is going a lot better than World War II went and in response to a devastating terrorist attack.

O'BRIEN: Well, Ann Coulter and John McIntire, thanks for joining me this evening. Appreciate it.

MCINTIRE: I still think Iraq didn't attack us.

O'BRIEN: All right, that's the final word. I gave it to Ann. Thanks, John.

We'll check in with you later.

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