SPENCER MICHELS: Thank you all very much for being here, watching the president's speech with us. Mark Ajluni, I'd like to start with you. You're an independent, you're a high school teacher. Did the president change any opinions that you had before?
MARK AJLUNI: No, he didn't change any opinions that I had. I'm most concerned about the war with Iraq, and he talked about how the war was being forced on America, and from my perception, we're forcing this war upon the world. And I don't think he made his case very clearly as to why this war was important now.
SPENCER MICHELS: He said America is threatened. He gave examples of atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein.
MARK AJLUNI: Yeah, I don't think anybody's arguing with Saddam Hussein. He's a brutal man, but the next question is, should we go ahead and wage a war unilaterally without the cooperation of allies? And I didn't see any sense of him reaching out to allies across the world.
GROUP MEMBER: I disagree.
SPENCER MICHELS: You disagree?
LINDA STAHNKE: I think he did. I think he opened the door to more allies. I think he laid out the information in a generic way. I mean, he didn't give us strict intelligence or pictures from spy planes or any of those kinds of things, but in a generic way, he did lay out the course of the things that are forcing his decision.
BETTE ROSE RYAN: One thing I'd have to look at is that he's such a danger to his own people, he's such a danger to America, why aren't the countries around him worried about him? They're obviously not, because they're not standing with us. So you really have to start asking questions about, is this something we're doing for our own benefit?
DENNIS COUGHLIN: I don't know if there are countries around him that are not supporting the president's decision. It was a unanimous vote in the U.N.
SPENCER MICHELS: But did he change your mind at all, Dennis Coughlin, or did you already agree with him and you just accepted it?
DENNIS COUGHLIN: It's a very difficult thing to sit in this chair and make the decisions that the president is making. I think that our concern is always that the president and his advisors know facts that we do not know. And I am a great believer in the representative government, and I believe that these guys are acting according to their conscience. And I am trusting that they are making the right decision. But Mark, in the Vietnam War, I would have said the same thing that America was wrong.
SPENCER MICHELS: Eric Duran.
ERIC DURAN: I just wanted to add that, you know, we sat through a similar speech like this in October. Some of the same information that he laid out today was exactly.. and it seemed most of it is from 1999. He hasn't mentioned what's happened in 1999 and 2003. He didn't lay out why continuing down with united nations on inspections for a prolonged period wouldn't work.
LINDA HOUSTON: We are the most powerful country. We are the leaders, we are the people to take action, and I support the fact that the president knows what he's doing. He's got the military advisors to help him, and I agree that the U.N. will be there to provide the strength behind it.
SPENCER MICHELS: Dee Cisneros?
DEE CISNEROS: I feel like he's just coming across like A... like a macho bully. I think we should continue with diplomacy as long as possible, and just back out if... if the Security Council doesn't agree with us.
DR. MORRIS CLARK: I thought it was very interesting that Pres. Bush did not mention a single ally. He didn't mention the name of a single allied nation that would go with us to war.
SPENCER MICHELS: But at the beginning of his speech, he says, "we're the leader, and we're going to do this because this is the right thing to do. We don't have to depend on anybody else. We're running the situation."
DR. MORRIS CLARK: It does not take into account the vested interest of our allies. They do have different opinions, they may have different objectives, and I think if they felt that some of their objectives were being met, then we would have more of their support. Let's not go off half-cocked. Let's not use any cowboy diplomacy.
BRENT NEISER: I think we have to do it in a united nations manner, because I'm concerned, not just about some kind of coalition attack, it's the aftermath. It's the delicate nation building that's going to have to take place. If it's going to be done, it's got to be done in a multilateral campaign for the long term, and that includes far after the battle.
SPENCER MICHELS: Isn't it implied among the Democrats who are here tonight, that you... you may not take the threat of Saddam Hussein quite as seriously as the president does because you're not willing to go it alone right now. He thinks there's an imminent threat. Jason, what do you think?
JASON MUNDY: Yeah, he keeps saying that all the time, that what if Saddam would give these weapons to terrorists. Well, he hasn't. He's possessed chemical and biological weapons for almost a decade now and he has not given those weapons to terrorists. I can't see all of a sudden that he will do that when he knows it will mean the extinction of his rule, his regime. And I'm not sure the president's willing to go it along... go it alone as much as he... as much as he says it is, because he keeps couching the language in, "we're doing this to protect America and our allies."
LINDA HOUSTON: His chance to disarm has been there for 12 years and he has not been... it was really his choice. The war is something that he's really choosing to have upon him, because he has chosen not to follow any of the resolutions that have been put in force, and he... he's just been belligerent about it.
LINDA STAHNKE: I think our pressure on that region, and specifically on Saddam Hussein, will help this situation bring things up. If we bail, heaven help the world. If we don't do something, what will happen? How far will he go?
SPENCER MICHELS: When you say bail, when you say not do something...
LINDA STAHNKE: We pack up our troops and go home.