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Interview with Mike Boos of Citizens United

Aired March 1, 2003 - 09:17   ET


HIEDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Actor and former senator Fred Thompson is taking a stand against what he says is a false impression about possible war with Iraq. He says most Americans support President Bush's plans despite recent antiwar protests and statements by Hollywood celebrities.

FRED THOMPSON, ACTOR: With all the criticism of our president's policy on Iraq lately, Americans might ask, What should we do with the inevitable prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of a murderous and aggressive enemy? Can we afford to appease Saddam, kick the can down the road? Thank goodness we have a president with the courage to protect our country. And when people ask what has Saddam done to us, I ask, what had the 9/11 hijackers done to us -- before 9/11?


COLLINS: Citizens United is the organization that's putting the ads out. Mike Boos is the group's vice president and general counsel. He joins us now from Washington.

Good morning, and thanks for being here, sir.

MIKE BOOS, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS UNITED: You are welcome, Heidi. Glad to be here.

COLLINS: I want to -- Great. I want to ask you, first, why did your group decide to create this ad?

BOOS: Well, our president of our organization was having dinner with Fred Thompson and Alex Castellanos (ph) earlier in the week, and they were all frustrated over the seeming monopoly that the left was having on this issue with their commercials.

And so they sat down, and earlier in the week, they came up with this ad idea and decided to put it on the air to create some balance among the ads that were on the air, to let people know exactly what's at stake here, that Saddam Hussein is part of the war against terror, and sometimes you have to act first.

The fact of the matter is, if we could have -- if we had known about the threat that the 9/11 hijackers posed, we probably would have acted to take them out. And sometimes you have to act first, otherwise you end up with a major tragedy. COLLINS: Mr. Boos, we have been seeing a lot from some of the Hollywood folks and their positions on the antiwar movement. Why do you think that is? Why so much from them? And, of course, the criticism is that we haven't heard a lot of screaming in the streets, for lack of a better word, from the people who have been convinced that military force is the only way to handle Saddam Hussein at this time.

BOOS: Well, I think there are two reasons. One, conservatives don't tend to go out on the street and protest this as much as the left. And two, the groups on the left that have been sponsoring their ad campaign are pretty much the same groups that opposed American policy in Latin America during the '80s. They were opposed to American policy with respect to the Soviet Union in the '80s and '90s.

And now rallied around a new set of issues, and those are opposition to President Bush and the way he's handling the war against terror.

And as for conservatives, I think a lot were caught off guard. We didn't expect that they would organize this mass media campaign. Support for the war on terror, and even an attack on Iraq, has been largely bipartisan. But these groups are, for the most part, very fringe left-wing groups out there.

COLLINS: In fact, we just saw sort of an opinion poll on the other side of the screen there next to you, talking about a couple of the different actors who've been involved, one of them Martin Sheen. Let's go ahead and hear what he has to say about this.


MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: Don't invade Iraq. Inspections work, war won't. The virtual march on Washington will allow every American opposed to the war to stand up and be counted by calling, faxing, and e-mailing the U.S. Senate and the White House.


COLLINS: All right. So what do you think of that one?

BOOS: Well, I think that, of course, he has a First Amendment right to speak out where he stands on these issues. And he has for a long time been an activist on a lot of issues. He's never been a friend of President Bush. The fact of the matter...

COLLINS: Do you think, though, that they are very effective, any of them? We have some numbers on that, by the way, too, that I would like to show you. We have a CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll that was done just a little while ago about how effective are these celebrities? And if we could take a look at that, we see these numbers as, very effective, 3 percent say so. Somewhat effective, 31 percent say so. And not effective, 64 percent think that they are not effective. Do you think that's a fair statement or a fair poll?

BOOS: Well, I think that ads and people speaking out on issues do have an impact. And a lot of times the public doesn't really realize, or it doesn't register directly with the public, why they are swayed one way or another. But you have seen some shift in public opinion as this debate has gone on. And I think once -- if war breaks out, you will see another shift.

What's refreshing is to know that we have a president who has the courage to lead by principle here, as opposed to a president that would lead according to the polls. And here we're going to have President Bush, irrespective of what the polls say, he's leading by principle. And we're going to back him on this, because it's the right thing to do.

COLLINS: All right, Mike Boos with Citizens United. Thanks so much for being here this morning. We do appreciate it.

BOOS: You are very welcome.

COLLINS: And we will have the other side of this story in the war of words later on today, when we hear from actor and antiwar protester Martin Sheen.


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