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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Millennial Bizarrerie.


Three months are left in the countdown to the new millennium, but the new mania has arrived already. And we are not talking here only about the fundamentalist Christians who this week paraded through Jerusalem to warn about the coming Apocalypse. What we are talking about is other strange, novel, outre, abnormal, queer and quaint behavior, out of joint, as described by Shakespeare, like dogs meowing, cats barking.


Take a look at this week's new bizarreries:


VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (D): (From videotape.) I just told my staff that I've instructed my campaign chair, Tony Coelho, to move this whole campaign, lock, stock, and barrel, to Nashville.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Al Gore has turned his presidential run upside down and inside out. Gore is the Democratic front-runner, and for a front-runner to uproot his entire campaign in this fashion is practically unheard-of in American politics.


Besides this oddity, Gore is trying another one, namely, the foisting of front-runner status onto Bill Bradley.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: (From videotape.) But I now am, in effect, the underdog, and I'm campaigning like the underdog.


And I welcome a close, hard-fought race; really I do. I find it exhilarating and exciting.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And there's more oddity. Would-be underdog Gore challenged real underdog Bradley to debate him. That drew a chuckle from Bradley.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: (From videotape.) I'm going to challenge my opponent for the Democratic nomination, Bill Bradley, to a series of debates on specific issues -- a lot of them.


BILL BRADLEY (former Democratic senator from New Jersey, current Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) You know, for the last 10 months, the vice president's campaign has been ignoring me. And now they want to debate me. I think this shows we're making some progress.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Gore has taken three presumptive corrective steps: one, moving the campaign to Tennessee; two, trying to make Bradley the front-runner; three, challenging Bradley to debates. Are these measures the right ones for Al Gore, Bill Sammon?


MR. SAMMON: Well, John, my dad used to say to me once in a while, "Do something, even if it's wrong." And I think he was right to do something to shake up his campaign.


I don't know whether it's going to be effective. I mean, the fundamental problem is, America is tired of the Clinton administration, and Gore can't really fully repudiate his boss to separate himself. So I think he's sort of doomed, no matter whether he moves his campaign to Nashville or not.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you are, Eleanor: The geography doesn't do it. He's tied to Clinton.


MS. CLIFT: It's far too early to say Al Gore is doomed.


The move is mostly cosmetic, but it does give him a chance to break free, to the extent he can, from the Washington apparatus.


The challenge to debate is very significant because this will be the most high-stakes primary debate between two one-on-one challengers that I can remember. And Gore goes in as a presumptive favorite, and he has really got to win, or then he really could be doomed.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not only cosmetics, is it, Tony? There's also economics involved. He is going "to lean out" his staff.


MR. BLANKLEY: Well, not only is he going "to lean out" his staff as you say, he is also going to have cheaper rentals in Nashville than he will on K Street here in Washington.


I think this is all incidental. I think that Gore has panicked a little bit. I don't think he is in as bad a shape as he thinks he is. I think he did need to take the campaign to Bradley, whether it was by -- what he says, as much as what he challenges him to a debate. That's the right move. And thinning out his staff is necessary.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think these changes were fundamentally correct, Clarence?


And by the way, welcome.


MR. PAGE: Well, thank you very much. Always great to be here, Doctor.


Well --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can call me John, Clarence.


MR. PAGE: Oh, thank you, John. (Laughter.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just don't get overfriendly, that's --


MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)


MR. : That's all right with me. (Laughs.) (Laughter.)


MR. PAGE: Let's go out and have a beer afterwards. (Laughter.)


But, you know, the thing about these changes is Gore has been -- suggested to make these changes by President Clinton, by Jim Carville, for weeks now, and especially pruning out there the staff. He has too many pollsters, too many consultants.


The move itself was -- I think Tony is right -- there is at least the appearance of panic here. It's sort of like the hare, who was racing the tortoise, got -- was so far ahead he fell asleep. And then suddenly he wakes up and says, "Oh, my God, I may be losing this race."


MS. CLIFT: Well, he should be panicked. (Laughs.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you explain the business on the underdog? What is that all about? Why did he want to be the underdog?


MS. CLIFT: It's because Americans love comebacks. Both of them want to look like underdogs. And what Al Gore needs to demonstrate is that he is going to fight for this nomination, that he is made of something.


MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but -- look, I agree --


MS. CLIFT: He needs to show people who he is.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that a classic Democratic sympathy ploy; victimology, be the underdog?


MR. BLANKLEY: Well, victimology isn't a specialty of the Democrats.


But this is just silly. (Laughter.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is it silly?


MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, what Gore -- any candidate --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As he says, "It's better than nothing."


MR. BLANKLEY: No, not always.


Any candidate has to be credible with the electorate. For Gore to wander around saying, "I am the underdog," when he is not simply makes him look foolish and lacking --


MS. CLIFT: For a sitting --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. We have got to move on.


I think it's a smart move. (Laughter.) It may not all that it looks like, but there may be less here than meets the eye. Nevertheless, Gore is looking better, particularly when someone said to him: "What do you think about Clinton fatigue? Is it an issue?"


VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) I think there is fatigue with questions about Clinton fatigue. (Laughter.) I think there is Clinton-fatigue fatigue. (Laughs.) (Cheers, applause.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Doesn't that look a little -- what? -- more pleasant, more -- looser?


MR. SAMMON: Well, yeah, he has been trying to loosen up a little bit, I think with limited success.


I think what's key about this whole thing is the substantive part of this is that he's going to debate. He is one of the most effective debaters out there, and he figures why not use this tool that I have in my campaign quiver to actually, you know, to --


(Cross talk.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's getting overly reliant on a debate? I mean, some think he looks wooden and uninspiring in debates.


MR. BLANKLEY: Look, he is a good debater. He beat Perot, he beat Kemp. On the other hand, he's beginning --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On points?


MR. BLANKLEY: No, they were knock-outs. But on the other hand -- and he does a lot of work; he prepares very hard for his debates. But his expectations now are so high that I think he's in danger of losing the expectations game.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, millennial oddity number two. (Audio break) -- "-- give someone a Hendrix tape and a joint and stick him in the corner and he's happy." That's Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura on the issue of drugs. In a new "Playboy" interview, "Jesse the Body" bared his beliefs on a variety of areas -- religion, politics, gun control, prostitution, the '91 Tailhook scandal, obesity, reincarnation.


Religion: "Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers."


Gun control: "You want to know my definition of gun control? Being able to stand there at 25 meters and put two rounds in the same hole. That's gun control."


Prostitution: "Drugs and prostitution -- those should not be imprisoning crimes. The government has much more important things to do. People who commit consensual crimes shouldn't go to jail. We shouldn't even prosecute them."


The '91 Tailhook scandal: "These are people who live on the razor's edge and defy death and do things where people die. They're not going to consider grabbing a woman's breast or buttock a major situation. That's much ado about nothing."


Obesity: "I love fat people. Every fat person says it's not their fault, that they have gland troubles. Do you know which gland? The saliva gland. They can't push away from the table."


Reincarnation: "I would like to come back as a 38-DD bra." (Laughter.)


Question: Has Ventura helped or hurt his political future with these comments?


Eleanor Clift.


MS. CLIFT: He's got wider latitude, obviously, than a traditional political candidate. But if he wants to play in the big leagues, you have to put together coalitions, and I think particularly with the assault on organized religion, that's the equivalent of Pat Buchanan's refighting World War II. I think there's a crackpot element to this. I think he marginalizes himself as a serious political candidate, but he is a very potent protest candidate.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think his comments will strike a chord with the American people, Bill?


MR. SAMMON: I think they were offensive to many people. But what's weird about him --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So a discordant chord?


MR. SAMMON: A discordant chord. But what's strange about him is that even though people are offended, they sense he's telling the truth, and that's what's refreshing. And so I think they can be offended -- I mean, he's the opposite of the conventional politician. He said enough offensive things to sink the careers of a half dozen politicians -- (laughter) -- but he's the antithesis of the conventional politician. He may thrive from this.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony? Tony? What do you think?


MR. BLANKLEY: I disagree entirely. He ended his career, as far as anything other than the hats getting reelected governor of Minnesota, with his crack about religion. I don't have the slightest -- this is a country where 90 percent of the public believes in God and half of the country goes to church, and his -- that statement was the end of his political career beyond Minnesota.


(Cross talk.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the behavior of the tailhook pilots, he may have dug himself in deeper at his press conference. Watch this.


GOV. JESSE VENTURA: (From videotape.) These are Frankensteins that we create, and they don't have an on-and-off switch. And these guys that are trained to do what they do, which is the ultimate -- they're trained to kill people -- and there is not an on-and-off switch with them. You can't send them out to do what they do and when they get home, flip a switch on them and turn them off.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you figure out the pscyho-sexual ins and outs of what he just said?


MR. PAGE: Yeah, it's macho balderdash. That's what it is. No, Jesse Ventura talks like a wrestler in between rounds, pumping up the gate with all this braggadocio on the camera. The fact is that you can turn it off and they do turn it off. Just because we have produced a Navy pilot does not mean we've produced these walking Frankensteins.


But I'm not so sure whether he's really cooked his whole political career, Tony. The fact is that people expect outrageousness from Jesse Ventura and he can finesse those topics -- he has already said he was only referring to extreme religious fanatics --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see, the standard for Ventura is not that of a moralist like Jimmy Carter, when he got into trouble in a Playboy interview for saying he lusted after women other than his wife. It is that of an entertainer even more than a politician. Am I right or wrong?


MS. CLIFT: Right, which is why the public will watch this and be entertained, but if it gets serious, this man is not going to go to the White House.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean look, how will it --


(Cross talk.)


Wait a minute. How will it affect his inclination, if he has one, to run for president on the Reform Party to block Buchanan?


MR. BLANKLEY: That's my point. I think it weakens him there, I think it weakens his support around the country within the Reform party.


MS. CLIFT: Yeah.


MR. BLANKLEY: He's been hinting that he might want to run himself. I think this K.O.s that.


MS. CLIFT: It deepens the feud with Ross Perot and I think if the two of them get in a ring, I think it's still Ross Perot's party.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question for the segment. Gore -- how does Al Gore get a fresh start, and can he? Bill Sammon.


MR. SAMMON: He can't. He cannot possibly get a fresh start because he's joined at the hip with Clinton and has been for eight years.




MS. CLIFT: A lot of people think Clinton's done a good job. If Gore can show that he extends those policies but adds some sense of change -- he's got to build on the foundation he set this week. Something good has to happen to him in the next couple of weeks.




MR. BLANKLEY: I think the concept of a fresh start in politics doesn't make sense in politics doesn't make sense. You build on -- Eleanor's right, you build on what you have. You have to live with your past, but you can move beyond that and I think an effective campaign focusing on the issues against Bradley could do it.


MR. PAGE: Well, he can get a fresh start very simply by winning some primaries. Gore still has the advantage of the superdelegates, an overwhelming number of them, and within Democratic party rules he has a distinct advantage. So it's still an uphill fight for Bradley and once Gore gets the nomination, then Democrats coalesce around him because he's the only alternative to Bush.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He may be like the sailor in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," who killed the albatross and then had to wear it around his neck -- i.e., Bill Clinton.


When we come back, Gary Bauer, Warren Beatty and the Brooklyn Museum, other millennial news of the week oddities.




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: More Millennial "Bizarrerie."


GARY BAUER (Presidential nomination candidate): (From videotape.) I would like to be president of the United States, but not at the expense of having the record I have as a father and as a husband being undermined by this kind of just ridiculous charge.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a denial that left many reporters in Washington scratching their heads. Gary Bauer? Affair? Bauer is no Clinton. By his image, the conservative GOP presidential candidate is arguably the nation's least likely public political figure to be vulnerable to such an attack. He's the most visible on both a piety and a propriety scale. Even more bizarre is what Bauer pointed to. The Forbes campaign, quote-unquote, "fanned" the rumor. The starched, straight-laced Forbes as gossip queen just doesn't compute, at least on its face.


Question: Should Gary Bauer have called a press conference to deal with this rumor? And what's the rumor?


MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the rumor was that he acted inappropriately by being in a room with the door closed --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His office.


MR. BLANKLEY: -- with a female staffer, which is --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of what age?


MR. BLANKLEY: Twenty-six, I believe.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Doing what?


MR. BLANKLEY: Doing normal campaign work. There was no --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does she do?


MR. BLANKLEY: She is deputy campaign manager.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Researcher?


MR. BLANKLEY: Deputy campaign manager was the title.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, really? Okay.


MR. BLANKLEY: But because there's a conservative Christian principle that a married man shouldn't be in a room with an unmarried woman with the door closed, that created a problem for him. I think he -- it was a very difficult call. He said in his press conference it's a difficult call whether to hold the press conference or not. I think he made a mistake. I think it was chattered in this town, it wasn't around the country, there was apparently no basis for the allegation, so I think he kicked the story up.


MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but it was chattered in the circles that he needs, and his high-ranking staff member had complained to him privately about it and then gone over to the Forbes campaign.


MR. BLANKLEY: I understand, but --


MS. CLIFT: And Forbes may be straight-laced looking, but --


MR. BLANKLEY: -- he could have --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear. What's your point, Eleanor?


MS. CLIFT: Forbes may be straight-laced looking, but, number one, he has motive to spread this rumor because he's competing with Gary Bauer to carry the mantle for the conservatives in the primaries; second, he has a history of negative campaigning; and third, he's got the former aide who's been complaining in his camp.


MR. BLANKLEY: Wait. That's unfair to Forbes. His negative campaigning last time was in public, in his advertising. I have never heard -- I hear from his people. They've never passed any rumors around. Unless you know that, you shouldn't allege that they are passing dirty rumors around.


MS. CLIFT: I'm not --


MR. PAGE: Well, Gary Bauer was alleging it.


MS. CLIFT: I'm saying --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he should have had the press conference? It was only a rumor. It had not reached very high, a totally high -- what kind of visibility did it have as a rumor?


MR. SAMMON: Very high. Very high.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very high? Where? In this city?


MR. PAGE: Do you remember a few years ago --


MR. SAMMON: Well, as a rumor, it did in this town. He gave it great visibility.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He made it high, didn't he? Do you think he did the right thing? Do you?


MR. PAGE: John, do you remember a few years ago when a member of Congress held a press conference to deny a poll that found him to be the dumbest member of Congress? That's what this reminded me of.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It gave it profile.


MR. PAGE: Of course. It gave it profile, it gave it credibility. I mean, in this case, the interesting thing is nobody is denying that Gary Bauer probably didn't have an affair; but to give it this level of profile, I mean, this is the most publicity Bauer has had in --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Forbes did sling mud?


MR. SAMMON: I don't have any idea. But this was like Ross Perot alleging that ninjas were going to disrupt his daughter's wedding. I don't think he should have called this press conference --


MS. CLIFT: No! No, no! That's not true.


MR. BLANKLEY: That's a little ---


MR. SAMMON: No, hold on a second. I hate to be --


MR. BLANKLEY: That's a little unfair to Mr. Bauer.


MR. SAMMON: I hate to be overly cynical, but when you look at how Bauer got himself on the radar screen this week by calling a press conference about a sex scandal, that even though it didn't exist, you have to wonder if it was politically motivated.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could this possibly help his candidacy --




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because of the victim image?




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And also, when you take a shot in politics, make sure you kill? Do you follow me?


MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with the latter point. No, I don't think this helps. This is not good publicity. It doesn't help with his base. It hurts him with his base. And I don't think --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should he have done the conference?




MS. CLIFT: Yes. Yes. Gary Bauer is not going to be president, but he has to go back to the Christian movement.




MS. CLIFT: And I commend him for pointing out, it is a ridiculous standard to say you can't be alone with a woman ever --


MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with you. I agree with you.


MS. CLIFT: -- even if she's working for you in a high --


MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with you on that. That is a ridiculous standard.


MS. CLIFT: So good for him for exposing that!


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He says, "It's insulting to professional women to think that they have to be behind open doors at all times."


MS. CLIFT: I agree.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's insulting to them.


MS. CLIFT: Good for Gary Bauer! (Chuckles.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with that?


MR. : (Off mike.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, millennial oddity number four.


MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (New York City): (From videotape.) They seem to have no compunction about putting their hands in the taxpayers' pockets in order to have pigs in formaldehyde and cows dissected and have their parts put out there, and throwing dung on important religious symbols. I'm not going to have any compunction with trying to put them out of business.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York, is talking about art, or what the Brooklyn Museum calls art. The museum's newest exhibit -- "Sensation" -- features a depiction of the Virgin Mary, revered by Christians as the mother of Jesus, splayed with real elephant dung and surrounded by human anuses and vaginas.


Giuliani is cutting the city's $7 million grant for the museum. But the museum is fighting back, suing the city, pleading freedom of expression. And Hillary Clinton is also fighting back, fighting Giuliani, her prospective opponent for the Moynihan New York Senate seat.


FIRST LADY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: (From videotape.) It is not appropriate to penalize and punish an institution, such as the Brooklyn Museum, that has served this community with distinction over many years.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: If this were an offensive portrayal of an African American, a Native American, a Jewish American, a Muslim America, or say Buddah sitting on a privy, would it still be hanging the New York Brooklyn Museum of Art?


Bill Sammon.


MR. SAMMON: I don't know. There are different levels of sensitivity for different interest groups. And some people feel that Catholics are -- it's open season on Catholics, you know, to bash them. So maybe there's some legitimacy there.


But the point is, is this thing --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Legitimacy? What do you mean, in the view that none of these would have been hung?


MR. SAMMON: Maybe, maybe not. I mean, you could take them on a one by one basis. I think there may be more outrage over certain ones depending on, you know, who's ox is being gored.


But the point is --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose it were Anne Frank embracing Adolf Eichmann?


MR. SAMMON: That would be as highly offensive as this is to Catholics.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would it be hung?


MR. SAMMON: I don't know.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it would be hung --


MR. PAGE: Are you asking us --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a Buddha sitting on a privy, smeared with elephant dung?


MR. PAGE: Well, it would -- it makes no difference to me, but does it make a difference to Giuliani? That's the question, John.


MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)


MR. PAGE: I mean, this was politically motivated. It depends --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you're evading the issue.


MR. PAGE: No, this is the issue. It depends on the size --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know whether this is particularly --


MR. PAGE: I just told you. I just told you. I makes no difference morally. Morally, it makes no --


(Cross talk.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They think they can get away with it with Catholics or Christians. Is that the name of the game?


MS. CLIFT: Wait a second.


MR. PAGE: Morally, it makes no difference.


MR. BLANKLEY: This is a simple one.


MR. PAGE: With Giuliani, it depends on the size of the constituency as to how much outrage he's inclined to get stirred up. I doubt that he would have been as stirred up over a depiction of Dr. King that had been desecrated, as he is over this. But we don't know, do we?


MR. BLANKLEY: This is a simple one. Christianity -- bigotry against Christianity is the last socially approved bigotry that exists in America. Any of those other ones and they would have been pulled down immediately because of political correctness. There's no doubt in my mind --


MS. CLIFT: Now that's nonsense. Try being an atheist in America, first of all.


MR. PAGE: (Chuckling.) That's right.


MS. CLIFT: Second, the artist who did this is a black Roman Catholic from Africa, where elephant dung happens to be a symbol of regeneration.


Secondly, the Whitney Museum is opening an exhibit called "The American Century, Part II," which has the famous -- infamous -- Andre Serrano photograph the "Piss Christ." And the --


MR. BLANKLEY: Look, look, you -- you -- you --


MS. CLIFT: Wait a second. Let me finish.


MR. BLANKLEY: You and Hillary -- you and Hillary --


MS. CLIFT: Let me finish. The mayor's office --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Quickly, Eleanor!


MS. CLIFT: The mayor's office is arranging to have schoolchildren bussed to see that. He's known for more than a year that this exhibit was coming to the Brooklyn Museum. He's trying to show he's a real Republican for the primary. That's all this is about.


MR. BLANKLEY: You and Hillary have now got the museum curator vote, and the rest of the New Yorkers are going to be on the other side.


MS. CLIFT: And the First Amendment.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you edified -- are you edified --


(Cross talk.)


MR. PAGE: Tony, this is New York, not East Podunk.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you edified --


MR. BLANKLEY: This is terrible politics. This is terrible politics.


MS. CLIFT: Have you been to Soho lately, Tony, or the Village lately?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Are you edified that the United States Senate voted on Wednesday unanimously to deny further funding, federal funding, to the Brooklyn Museum of Art until it eliminates the entire show?


MS. CLIFT: Non-binding.


MR. PAGE: I bet Jesse Helms was the first one to jump up, too.


MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)




MR. PAGE: But that's old news here in Washington, John.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a unanimous vote.


MS. CLIFT: It's non-binding.


MR. PAGE: John, this --


MR. SAMMON: It's the unanimity of that vote that proves it's a political winner for Giuliani and a huge loser for Hillary. A lot of these liberals --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That goes to my exit question. Did Hillary Clinton earn any points for her position on the notorious Brooklyn art issue, Bill Sammon?


MR. SAMMON: Even many of the liberals in New York are Catholic, and if she -- it's a loser for her.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She will even lose Albany, which was the only county to have voted for Mario Cuomo in 1996.


Yes or no?


MS. CLIFT: Rudy Giuliani has been sued 20 times for violation of First Amendment -- on First Amendment issues. He's lost 19 times. He's going to lose this one, too.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He will win if he loses, Eleanor. He wins if he wins, and he wins if he loses.


MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, yes, look, it's better if he loses --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?


MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, and this issue keeps going on because of the lawsuit. It's bad politics for Hillary, obviously.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's a Rudy coup, is it not?


MR. PAGE: This issue -- it is not. There are more important issues in this campaign than one stupid painting. I mean, most of the New York voters care about education, housing, those other boring issues. This is a sideshow.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a monumental Rudy coup, and it has legs.


We'll be right back with predictions.




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Seven million Catholics in New York and they're all mad at this.


Predictions: Bill?


MR. SAMMON: Gore said -- you called Gore a "would-be" underdog? He will become a real underdog.




MS. CLIFT: Al Gore gets the AFL-CIO endorsement this month.




MR. BLANKLEY: A disproportionate number of people will be born next October because of lovemaking millennial night. (Laughter.)


MR. PAGE: Pat Buchanan will not leave the Republican Party.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Fed will not raise interest rates in October. The potential Y2K disruption will chill the Fed from tightening.


Bye bye!







MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Fact and fiction.


MR. EDMUND MORRIS (Author, "Dutch," biography of Ronald Reagan): I'm not surprised at the controversy. I kind of expected it as far as the technique of the book is concerned, because of too revolutionary -- new advance in biographical technique.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: New advance? How about new setback? Spare us, please, Mr. Morris. Edmund Morris, the author of "Dutch," a biography, some would say "historical novel," about Ronald Reagan, is busy defending his opus. After being the first biographer ever granted complete access to a sitting president and 14 years to pull it all together, "Dutch" doesn't even look like a biography.


Get this: Morris inserts himself into the work as a fictional contemporary of Reagan's, who interacts with Ronnie. Indeed, Morris depicts the fictional young Edmund Morris as saved from drowning by lifeguard Ronald Reagan. Other fictional characters are also inserted into the narrative to advance it -- such as a student radical and a gossipy news columnist.


Question: Is the book's artifice somehow justified because it reveals a deeper truth than straightforward biography would? I ask you, Bill.


MR. SAMMON: I don't think so, and again, I haven't read it yet. It just came out. But I will say that as someone who covers the White House, we have very limited access to the president and to see a guy get 14 years of unprecedented access and have writer's block, it's a little tough for me to have a lot of sympathy for him.


I don't think this washes. I think it undermines the entire book and I think it's a travesty to waste that kind of access by mixing facts with fiction.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he choked?


MR. SAMMON: Big time.




MS. CLIFT: I think he drowned in his research, but he also made the mistake of thinking that there was more to Reagan than what you got on the surface, and to plumb for these internal depths and insights, he didn't come up with them and in the end, the book is the story of Edmund Morris as related through Ronald Reagan. It's too much Edmund Morris.


And there have been good books written about Ronald Reagan. Lou Cannon wrote "The Role of his Lifetime." There's no new information in Ed Morris's book about the Reagan psyche and I think Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist, had it right when she said that it is somehow just, however, that a Reaganesque biography would have been written of Reagan's presidency because the mixing of fact and fiction was what he did.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cannon pointed out -- Cannon pointed out that it was (too/two) little public policy issues which were at the live center, the nerve center of his presidency that he was able to observe -- that is, the author of this new book was able to observe -- and didn't write about.


What do you think of that?


MR. PAGE: Well, I think there's a good point here. But what people really want to know about Reagan, the man, and what thinking went on behind those policies, here Morris did choke and produce something like Gonzo -- what Gonzo biography, sort of a version --


MS. CLIFT: Hunter Thompson.


MR. PAGE: -- of what Hunter Thompson did with Gonzo journalism.


MS. CLIFT: Right.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Biographers' biases are always present. And whether you use an artifice or not, they are still there.


MR. : Correct.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The trick is to spot those biases, see through them, and try to get at the essence of the character.


MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I mean, I already read part of the book so far. But he had a challenge to have one narrative voice. He spent part of the time actually being first-person observer of the president. The earlier part he wasn't.


Usually, you do a biography when the person is dead. So he kind of created -- so far, it makes very good reading --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will probably make a very good movie. (Laughter.)