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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Saber Rattling

Aired October 4, 2002 - 07:46   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: You know the song, "War, What is it Good For?" Well, it seems Iraq's vice president is singing the same tune.
Taha Yassin Ramadan suggesting a way for the U.S. and Iraq to avoid war and bloodshed. His idea is this: Get the feuding leaders together face-to-face -- president vs. president, vice president vs. vice president -- for a duel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAHA YASSIN RAMADAN, IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): Bush wants to attack the whole Iraq, the army and the infrastructure. If such a call is genuine, then let the American president, and a selected group with him, face a selected group of us. And we choose a neutral land and let Mr. Kofi Annan be a supervisor.

And both groups should use the same weapon -- a president against a president, a vice president against a vice president -- and a duel takes place. If they are serious, in this way, we are saving the American and the Iraqi people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: That was the word from Baghdad. The White House, as you may imagine, not responding to that invitation.

But our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, is. Some ideas today about duel diplomacy. Where is the doctor, Freddie Perchanko (ph), when you need him, huh?

Tale of the tape, how do you stack it up, Jeff?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, the first thing I think we have to put on the table is that Ari Fleischer, the White House communications spokesman, has rejected the idea.

But you know, there is some historical precedent for this. Back in 1804, just across the Hudson River in Weehawken, New Jersey, Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the Treasury -- you know him from the $10 bill -- was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. So, perhaps we shouldn't be too hasty about this.

But if we did accept this idea -- and frankly, Bill, I think this is critical -- it's, we get to choose the nature of what kind of duel.

HEMMER: And that nature being what, then, if Saddam has what? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he's not going to get in a rowboat and cross the Hudson really soon (ph)?

GREENFIELD: No, exactly right. You have to be very strategic about this.

Saddam is a swimmer. In fact, there is a pool, we are told, in every one of his presidential palaces -- there is Saddam now in training. He does laps every day.

So, by contrast, we have to go to our president's strength. As we know, Bush is a runner. He does three 7-minute miles a day. He has even appeared on the cover of "Runner's World."

And my hunch, given the climate, is that it's probably not very attractive for Saddam to train for a run in the deserts of Iraq. So, I think we have the advantage on that.

HEMMER: Well, I think they'd make a pretty good biathlon team, with Saddam as a swimmer and Bush as a runner.

What about the vice president match? We just heard the comment about Cheney and...

GREENFIELD: Right. Now, this is tricky. Ramadan is in fairly good shape, and the reason is, is that he was a survivor of Saddam's "lose-weight-or-else" diet that he imposed in 1990. He is literally a survivor.

Now, we know, to be blunt, Mr. Cheney has had four heart attacks, and he is an estimated 30 to 35 pounds above his ideal weight. But, we do have some strengths here. The vice president is a suburb fly fisherman, and I have a hunch there's not too much of that going on in Iraq.

HEMMER: I would say you're exactly right. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is sort of dry at times.

GREENFIELD: Now, here's another suggestion. We might turn to a karaoke contest, because we do know from one of his ex-mistresses that Saddam's favorite song is, "Strangers in the Night." The president favors the classic Everly Brothers song, "Wake Up Little Susie." Frankly, I'm with Team USA on that one.

And I would suggest another crazy (ph) competition, but it's the biathlon, not the one you meant.

HEMMER: It is?

GREENFIELD: The biathlon is a Winter Olympic event, where competitors race on skis, and then drop to their knees and fire guns at their targets. This is what my grandparents saw when they were fleeting Romania.

And once again, given the ski and snow element here, probably not much chance for practice in Iraq.

HEMMER: In 1804, they were fighting with guns. GREENFIELD: Right.

HEMMER: But Saddam, what, he's a swordsman, right?

GREENFIELD: Yes.

HEMMER: Somewhat practiced anyway.

GREENFIELD: We have to be careful about that phrase. But, yes, he is literally a swordsman.

But here, here we take a page from New Jersey Democrats. You remember, stuck with a losing candidate, they simple substituted a different one.

If Saddam tricks us into using swords, a very simple solution. The president steps aside for Air Force Academy Cadet Weston Kelsey (ph). Why? He happens to be the reigning American fencing champion. Now, that is what we mean by preemption. And frankly, Bill, you don't get this kind of analysis anywhere else.

HEMMER: So true.

GREENFIELD: Absolutely.

HEMMER: Who needs the doctor when we've got you, huh?

GREENFIELD: Let's get ready to rumble.

HEMMER: You got it. Thank you, Jeff. Good stuff.

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