PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: A key element in any war is propaganda and public relations. Spin doctors often help the work of the troops on the frontlines, and in the current conflict, American leaflets are being dropped in Afghanistan, the proclaim, we are watching. They show pictures of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in the crosshairs, so as the Taliban claim that U.S. bombs are killing hundreds of innocent civilians.
From Washington this morning, to sound off about the public relations war, Bob Beckel, Democratic strategist and co-host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE" Sunday. He's actually wearing a suit and tie again.
Bob, you look so grown up.
Clifford May always comes as a grown-up.
And Cliff May, former director of communications for the National Republican Committee.
Good to see you as well, Cliff. Welcome to you two.
So, Cliff, who is winning the PR war here.
CLIFFORD MAY, FORMER NRC DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS: We have been doing a terrible job on PR abroad for a very, very long time. Paula.
Look, the most important thing we can do is through our actions. If we will punish our enemies and protect our friends, that will send a very strong message that you want to be our friend, you don't want to be our enemy. But beyond that...
ZAHN: But, Cliff, you've got to acknowledge, you could be years away from that happening.
MAY: It could be, and so what we have to start doing, what we should have done, is what we did during the Cold War. You're too young to remember, Paula, but may have read about it.
ZAHN: Thank you very much. Yes, I did.
MAY: During the Cold War, we would communicate with people behind the Iron Curtain, and we would tell them a story that was different from the lies that were being fed from their government. I spent a lot of time traveling in the Soviet Union, and people did have a alternative source of information. We have not done the same thing with the third-world, and particularly with the Muslim world. People are being fed lies about America, about Israel, about Christians, about Jews, and we are doing virtually nothing to counter those lies.
We need a massive public diplomacy, public relations, propaganda effort. Call it what you will, we haven't done it, people hate us as a result, we need to tell our story to the world and we need to start immediately, and We dismantled our ability to do that over the past few years.
ZAHN: Bob, the fact that the administration has set up these three public offices that specifically deal with getting the American story out, doesn't that say to you that they recognize they weren't aggressive enough with this from the outset?
BOB BECKEL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don't know, I was a baby during the Cold War myself, and Cliff was in graduate school, but I do know this, yes, propaganda played a role during the Cold War and the Second World War as well, but first of all, this happened very quickly. The apparatus had to be set up. Secondly, you know, this talk about us losing this propaganda war, I'm not quite sure if that's not us being our own enemies here.
The fact of the matter is, I haven't seen one coalition member leave the coalition. The Arab League meets two days ago and reinforces this endorsement of the coalition and dumps on bin Laden.
Look, since Vietnam, we have been living in TV image wars, and people are going to get killed. It's a sad thing. And the Taliban took a page out of Saddam Hussein. You remember Hussein used to take people around, reporters, and show them collateral damage, so I am not sure it is as bad as Cliff does, but the much more important thing is, who is winning the propaganda a war at home? Because just like the economy, Paula, you can sustain a good economy only with the consumer spending, and you can sustain a war only with voters being with us.
ZAHN: All right, I'm not ready to go home just yet. Let's continue to focus on the war overseas, let's talk, Cliff, about any evidence you can point to that shows that there is weakening of support for this American coalition?
MAY: Absolutely. We are hated in country after country, and Osama bin Laden...
ZAHN: We know that, but what about the specific points that Bob made, about the fact that the Arab nations certainly had an opportunity the other day to denounce the coalition if they wanted to, and they didn't do that.
BECKEL: And here is the problem, the countries where there are leaders who like us, their people absolutely hate us. Actually, the countries where the leaders hate us, the people tend to like us, and in Iran right now, there are people beginning to protest against their government, and there is pro-American sentiment that is growing up. A few years ago, I was in Iran, and I asked a farmer there, why do you hate America so much? And he said, because, after the Ayatollah came back, you guys came in your planes, and you dropped worms in our fields, and our crops haven't grown ever since then, and we had no way to counter those kinds of lies.
Also right now, there is something called Al-Jazeera, which broadcasts like CNN into the Arab world on TV. People think that Al- Jazeera is sort of a neutral median of news. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, the new project I'm working on, we've started research on this, it's not, it's the propaganda ministry, it appears, for Osama bin Laden. We need...
ZAHN: But let me ask you this, Cliff, so why is Colin Powell doing interviews with Al-Jazeera, and Condoleezza Rice? Do they feel they have to?
MAY: They feel they have to, and they probably do have to do a little bit more, because that's out there, that's all that's out there. What we need to have is a satellite broadcasting capability that reflects the United States' opinions and editorial beliefs and tells our story to the world. We need to do it through radio. We need to do it through TV, satellite TV. We need to do it anyway we can, so people know who we are, and what -- look, people don't know in these countries that Americans have used force of arms in behalf of Muslim societies, in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, in Bosnia, in Somalia, in Kuwait, they don't how much America has expended on behalf of Muslims; they think we are terrible.
You hear Al-Jazeera spokesman saying, well, America has to change it's egregiously oppressive policies. What egregiously oppressive policies? People need the truth, and we're not giving it to them.
ZAHN: Bob, you acknowledge that the administration has to get out there on the frontline, don't you, with this ongoing battle, verbally?
BECKEL: I am still trying to get over how difficult it is going to be for me to sleep tonight knowing that farmers in Iran are upset with us, but the fact of the matter is, there are people supporting the United States today than there were before September 11th around the world. You had an unprecedented number of governments that, yes, do dislike the United States. I traveled around the world in a lot of different places, and I have just, frankly, haven't seen, you know, the kind of hatred we are talking about.
ZAHN: That's because are you so special, Bob.
BECKEL: I know, because I wore a suit.
MAY: It's in American that people hate, Bob. Abroad, they love him.
BECKEL: We have to ask ourselves a hard questions, do you have to go out and counter the stuff? Of course we do. That's part of modern warfare. I still want some evidence that there is more hatred than there was before September 11th. I think exactly the opposite, and secondly, you have got countries that I don't care how many pictures they show of collateral damage, most of which has been set up by them, they are going to still be left with the choice that Bush gave them, which I thought was, as hard as this is to say, brilliant, when he said, you are either with us or with them.
MAY: Look at the Islamic world...
ZAHN: All right, Cliff, you've got 10 seconds and you have to wrap it up.
MAY: If you look at the polls that can be done in the Islamic world, you understand that people hate us and think of us in ways that have nothing to do with the truth. Look at the protest demonstrations against us. All I am saying is, we need to reinvigorate the USIA, change Voice of America, we need to communicate our message abroad in a way we haven't.
We're going to spend a lot of money on time on this, I hope.
ZAHN: I think we are all in agreement this morning, you have reinvigorated the debate for us.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for your time. Look forward to seeing you in a couple of days.
MAY: Thanks, Paula.
BECKEL: Thanks, Paula.