Blog Conference: Ari Fleischer, Part II

Earlier this week, I posted part of a blog conference we conducted with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. Fleischer gave us quite a bit of his time, and when I posted it, I had not yet transcribed the rest of the interview. Originally I had intended to simply update the post, but after listening to the recording, I found Fleischer’s remarks in the rest of the interview so interesting that I figured it would be a shame to bury them in the archives.
Q: What effect do think the 527s have had on this election?
A: I think it’s almost made a mockery of campaign finance reform. We were warned this was going to happen. The parties are more accountable to the people. These organizations aren’t accountable … People should have seen this coming.
Q: Were you surprised that the Swiftboat ads were effective given their lack of financing?
A: Frankly, this [controversy] has resulted in more money for the Swiftboat veterans. The more controversy, the better they fill their coffers. That’s the reason Senator Kerry never should have picked this fight.
Q: [unintelligible — about his best moment at the White House]
A: I think the best moment is ironic, in bringing this country together, on September 11th. The irony is that such a tragic event like 9/11 led to America’s finest moment. I’m a New Yorker, I was born in the city, and to see people gathered on the highway and cheer the ambulances, cheer the fire trucks, New Yorkers gathered on 42nd Street with signs that said God Bless America, God Bless The USA, Our Prayers Are With You. 42nd Street in my home town, New York, could have been Main Street in any little Midwestern town. This country has an amazing strength of character, which is why we are the greatest country in the world.
Q: You were with the President in Florida that day. I don’t know if you’ve seen Fahrenheit 9/11 or read the transcript, but I just wonder if you had any comment on the kind of stories that people wrote about [his reaction] that day.
Q: Including John Kerry.
Q: Yes, including John Kerry. He’s made this a campaign issue.
A: I used to be a Democrat. I was raised a liberal Democrat in Democratic New York, Upper West Side parents … [laughter and crosstalk] One of the reasons I left the Democratic Party was that strong-on-defense, Scoop Jackson-Zell Miller wing of the Democrat Party shriveled up and went away. We had people apologizing for America around the world. This is what I’m afraid has taken over the Democratic Party, represented in Fahrenheit-9/11 and those who [defend] it. And I’m proud not to be a Democrat any more, because that proud-to-be-pro-democracy, pro-defense wing of the Democratic Party is gone. They’ve become Republicans. It’s too bad. They’ve left reality, and I think that that movie and the people who watch it represent that narrow wing of America.