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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: GOP isolationism, sir, or your imperialism?

SAMUEL BERGER (national security adviser): (From videotape.) The internationalist consensus that has prevailed in this country for more than 50 years increasingly is being challenged by a new isolationism, heard and felt particularly in our Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So said National Security Adviser Sandy Berger last month in an unusually partisan speech.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS, Senate majority leader): (From videotape.) Well, there's -- nobody can be an isolationist in this world. It's physically impossible. It's irrational. And we're not. Of course, we're not -- we don't want to be international cowboys either.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The debate is as old as the colonization of the New World. The pilgrims who came to Plymouth Colony almost 400 years ago were not just seeking religious freedom; they and other early colonists -- French Huguenots, German Catholics, Scottish Presbyterians -- were fleeing the 16th and 17th centuries' wars of religious persecution and the great power conflicts and intrigues of their era.

The vigorous debate over foreign entanglements in the Federalist Papers show the founders' ongoing skepticism over foreign conflicts, alliances, treaties, intrigues, and wars.

Now, under Clinton, comes the Clinton Doctrine, with a bloating list of international treaties and global commitments signed during the last seven years, a diverse array of obligations, from international rights of children to Kyoto global warming, and these treaties and commitments coupled with an aggressive new military doctrine that says the U.S. and its global allies are justified making war wherever the rights and values undergirding these treaties are violated.

Does this mean we're headed toward the ultimate in foreign entanglements, namely, one world government? Yes, says Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, chief architect of the new interventionist Clinton Doctrine. Quote: "Nationhood as we know it will be obsolete. All states will recognize a single global authority," Talbott says, approvingly.

If it were not for this Talbott globalist one-world spin, critics argue that the Clinton Doctrine would look more like old-fashioned imperialism. It's the doctrine repudiated by President John Quincy Adams, who wrote, quote, "Wherever the standard of freedom and independence shall be unfurled, unfurled there will America's heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be, but she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." It was this imperialism that gave us civilization's First World War, historians note.

Question: Should we confine our foreign policy to the furtherance of U.S. interests or extend it to goals like world justice and global human rights? Michael Barone.

MR. BARONE: Well, the answer, John, is I think that we're almost bound to do that because in the kind of world we live in, we cannot have the kind of isolation that John Quincy Adams was talking about in the 1820s, nor are we as small a part of the world as John Quincy Adams's America was. We are the nation's third -- the world's third-largest nation in population. We are obviously the military power of the globe.

The lesson of the 20th century to me is, what happens around the world affects America. I think the key issue between Republicans and Democrats here is not, as Sandy Berger said in his tendentious speech, internationalism versus isolationism; it's multilateralism, which Democrats tend to favor more, versus unilateralism, the United States acting more on its own behalf without international organization.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean working through the U.N.

MR. BARONE: And it's a matter of degree rather than a total difference in kind.


MS. CLIFT: Isolationism is a straw man. Nobody can be isolated in today's world, and the entry of China into the World Trade Association is the latest evidence of that. But the real question is our military power, to what extent we use it and to further what ends. And this notion that we have all of these deployments around there, John; it's a total of 30,000 people out of a force of 1.4 million. And there are 200,000 people in Asia and Europe. Thirty thousand for all of these other hot spots seems to me not an overwhelming commitment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about the U.S. forces abroad.

MS. CLIFT: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see this, Eric, as really turning on the question of respect for national sovereignty?

MR. FELTEN: It could. I think one reason that the Republicans are open to this charge of neo-isolationism is that they stand against Clinton, saying, "Wait a second, we're not going to spend the money to do that." But where that really comes from is Clinton has failed time and again, when he wants to go on a foreign adventure, to line up his ducks in Congress, to get support, to go there for a vote. And that leaves Congress saying, "How are we going to have any say in how our power is used abroad?" Well, the only thing Congress can do per se is do we spend money or don't we spend money. And the only way they have to rein in Clinton is to say we're not going to spend the money, and that makes them look like they're trying to withdraw from the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The history of U.S. interventionism under William Clinton is awful. Kosovo is a case in point, described as "a perfect failure," correctly, by Michael Mandelbaum in Foreign Affairs in a recent issue. Somalia was a horror story, and Haiti is possibly worse today than it was when it was under the generals. So, what do you think?

MR. PAGE: John, you are entitled to your opinion. (Laughter.) In fact, we are all entitled to your opinion -- (laughter) -- and we get it, don't we? But I would not agree on a couple things. I wouldn't use the word "awful" to describe the president's foreign policy. "Inconsistent," I would say.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about the interventionism.

MR. PAGE: Well, interventionism is inconsistent. For example, we intervene on behalf of Kurds in Iraq, but not on behalf of Kurds in Turkey, for example. I mean, you could go around the world. We pick and choose where we're going to defend human rights, and Clinton has never articulated specifically what the human rights policy is.

But Haiti has not been a failure, John. I would say that even Kosovo has not been a failure. We have actually had a number of remarkable successes, compared to the predictions I was hearing from some people -- I'm not going to mention any names --

MS. CLIFT: No, don't mention names. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) But some people were predicting much greater failure than Clinton has experienced.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you should have seen some of the network packages of the past weeks. For example, CBS had an extraordinary scene where the dead --

MR. PAGE: I did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You did see that?

MR. PAGE: I did see it, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you saw -- you saw also Mitchell's report on NBC?

MR. PAGE: Yes. I didn't say it was pretty. I didn't say it was pretty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't see how you can say that that is worse -- that it's any better today than under the general.

MR. PAGE: It's not -- just --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get over -- I want to get to Strobe Talbott, though. How seriously should we take Strobe Talbott's words? I ask you --

MR. BARONE: Well, remember, Strobe Talbott's words, as you quoted, were quoted before he was part of the Clinton administration, when he was still working for Time magazine. I think one of the interesting --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was idle philosophizing?

MR. BARONE: I think that it represented a strain of thought which -- that he and others in this administration have gone some distance towards carrying out, but not completely, by any means. But there is this sort of feeling that if we don't get the imprimatur of the United Nations, including communist China and Russia, somehow we're not moral. I think that that really miss-sees America's moral position in the world, and, you know, some of these adventures --


MS. CLIFT: Yeah, this --

MR. BARONE: This is a crowd that did not -- this is a crowd that, for the most part, was against the United States participation in the Gulf War, including -- and the fact that we were -- even though we were doing that using the United Nations as an instrument, and then we talk now about how we used to have an international consensus.

MS. CLIFT: There was a sentiment --

MR. BARONE: We didn't and they weren't part of it.


MS. CLIFT: There was a sentiment began under President Bush that we would become a more vigorous part of world organizations, and world organizations would, in effect, police the world. And I think there is sentiment in both parties and among intellectuals of all kinds, looking ahead to the next century, that we might have a U.N. police ???? -- mobile --

MR. BARONE: Well, let's -- and Somalia was started by Bush, just to settle your point.

MS. CLIFT: Right, exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's take note of the fact that there are two strong powers in the world that have great respect for their own boundaries -- China and Russia. So if we wish to ride roughshod over the sovereignty of nations, we ought to think twice before we try it in that sphere. Exit --

MR. FELTON: Well --


MR. FELTON: -- not only think twice, but if Russia can take the lesson away that, you know, looking at what's happening in Chechnya right now, you would -- if the principle was stopping the slaughter of innocents, we would be in Chechnya the way we were in Kosovo, but we're not. And that's because Russia is a strong power with nuclear weapons --


MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. FELTEN: -- and that gives impetus to Russia to say, "If we don't want to get pushed around like Yugoslavia, we have to maintain our strong military." And that is a cost, a huge cost, to us, in our efforts to keep Russia from being a belligerent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, where that logically leads, of course, is the proliferation of nuclear weapons in order to protect -- nations to protect themselves against the incursions of the United States and NATO, to correct their perceived human rights failures.

Exit: In America today, what's the cause for the greater worry, isolationism, meaning withdrawal from the world, or imperialism, meaning interventionism, rash interventionism, throughout the world? Michael Barone.

MR. BARONE: Well, I'd say imperialism, because I don't think isolationism is really on order, unless Pat Buchanan's campaign gets more steam than I think.

MS. CLIFT: I think isolationism, simply because of the way it plays out on Capitol Hill, with a small number of people having a greater voice than they should.

MR. FELTEN: Muddle-headed interventionism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the worse danger?

MR. FELTEN: Readily.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More worrisome?

MR. PAGE: John, I've known imperialism. Imperialism was an enemy of mine. (Laughter.) This ain't no imperialism! It doesn't even compare.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you worry about the more? Isolationism?

MR. PAGE: I worry about isolationism because it is in our national interest to have world peace. We cannot have a peaceful, stable globe without the U.S. being involved.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know --

MR. PAGE: And that means -- if you want to call that intervention, go ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, that psychedelic tie of yours is blinding me.

MR. PAGE: Do you like this one, John? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You understand, of course, that when --

MR. PAGE: This is a MADD tie. This is on behalf of alcoholics --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We are describing rampant interventionism, which I think was demonstrated in Kosovo. Rampant interventionism is imperialism, in its true colors.

MR. PAGE: Well, we --

MS. CLIFT: What would you have done instead?

(Cross talk, laughter.)

MR. PAGE: Yeah, that's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, we have more to worry about in this administration by interventionism than anything else.

When we come back, an overwhelming majority of employers rate high school graduates as woefully lacking in reading and writing skills. Why? What's the root cause?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: It's the formula, stupid.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) I believe when it comes to public education, it's important to measure, to know. When we find success, we ought to praise success. When we find failure in America, we ought to blow the whistle on failure.

(Audio portion: Sam Cooke singing, "Don't know much about history. Don't know much biology. Don't know much about a science book. Don't know much about the French I took.")

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As presidential campaigns hit their stride, polls show that a priority issue of voters in the 2000 election is education. Given the dismal performance of most U.S. public high school graduates, this comes as no surprise.

Why have public schools failed our children? Is it the teachers? Is it the students? Or is it something else? Answer: something else, namely, progressive education. That's what many critics are coming to believe is the problem, the progressive education movement fathered by John Dewey. Dewey believed the purpose of education was not, quote, "imparting information," but instead, quote, "providing situations in which a child can experiment with life, can express himself creatively, can orient himself in his own world," unquote. So writes Elizabeth Irwin, a Dewey disciple. Dewey and the progressives emphasized how children learn as opposed to what they learn. Knowledge is not important, problem-solving is.

Adapting this theory over the past century, schools focused on making their classrooms, quote, "child centered," making learning happen through, quote, "discovery," and teaching children to, quote, "think critically." Now, a turnabout. The largest, most expensive educational study ever completed, Project Follow-Through, says Dewey was wrong. Project Follow-Through lasted from 1967 to 1995, 28 years. It cost more than $1 billion. It followed more than 75,000 low-income students in 170 different school programs from kindergarten to third grade.

Results: The more child-centered the program, the poorer the results. The best academic results are produced when the teacher leads the class, imparts knowledge, data, facts and information to the listening class. "Direct instruction," it's called. This is exactly opposite to the progressive model. A lot of modish educators burlesque the rote memorizing of facts and formulas; they just measure a kind of lowest denominator of facts and skills.

Well, what about that criticism? That facts and skills might be a prerequisite for deeper understanding of math or science, or any subject, for that matter, goes unexplored. In fact, many educational psychologists make just that judgment, that memorization and multiplication tables and formulas routinely excoriated by progressives as "drill and kill" or rote memorization of mere facts can help a student move on to the very higher-order thinking skills progressives want. So says Investor's Business Daily. Direct instruction, by the way, is a methodology that most traditional private schools and charter schools have always had.

Question: Should teachers' colleges today spend less time preparing teachers on how children learn and more time on what children need to be taught? Eric Felten.

MR. FELTEN: Well, I think any time you have the teacher, you know, just staying ahead of the class in the textbook, that's a bad idea. So, definitely teachers need to know their subjects. But I think in athletics, you drill on the fundamentals. That doesn't mean that you go to the game and do your fundamentals. They underlie. If you're a musician, you do your scales. You learn those fundamentals, and that enables you later to play in a symphony orchestra, to do creative things. I think intellectually you have the same thing at work. You have to get the fundamentals down if you're going to make possible the creative intellectual work later on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think you can improve on what he just said, can you?

MR. PAGE: Not anymore. I've actually -- because I've got a son in the fifth grade right now, and three years ago, Eric, I agreed with you. I was quite perturbed that he was not being told to memorize the math, the subtraction tables and all that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pi "R" Square? Pythagorean Theorem?

MR. PAGE: No, "pie are round," John. Don't you know that? (Laughter.)

MR. : And Toys "R" Us.

MR. PAGE: You know, the math tables, he wasn't doing the handwriting drills, et cetera. And they assured me, "Don't worry, he'll catch up on this or he'll learn on his own." He's actually learning on his own in those specific areas. There are some other areas, though, that I'm still a bit upset about. And I think -- I've also learned --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What grade is he in?

MR. PAGE: Fifth grade now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll see what you have to say when he's in about the eighth grade.

MR. PAGE: Well, I've also learned that every kid learns differently. This is another key point --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, no one's denying that.

MR. PAGE: Well -- (inaudible) -- one way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What we're saying is there has to be a substratum of skills, as he well put it, but that requires direct instruction.

MR. BARONE: Well, John, I mean, the answer to your original question is probably the education -- schools should be closed, they're incubators of bad ideas that have been infected by this John Dewey progressive education stuff, which is intended to build self-esteem and doesn't teach kids how to read or write properly. And Tony Blair, the British prime minister, in his campaign to Britain, has called for educational reform along similar lines. His point is that the kids who get hurt by this lack of standards are the poor kids, because the kids from the upper-income homes, like ours, they're going to learn from their peers, from their parents. It's the kids of the poor, the kids of the lower middle-class that are going to be shortchanged by this fuzzy-headed insistence on not teaching kids facts and figures.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And let me just underscore that with appealing to the one big and valid study that lasted for 28 years. We've never done a study like that. And that was with the kinds of children, the lower-class children that you describe.

MS. CLIFT: You know, I think the back-to-basics movement has scored plenty of victories. I don't think we have to debate that here. Michael is right, the schools that don't perform are the inner-city schools. And the lesson is that if you demand more and expect more, miracles can happen. But you've also got to put in the resources and the accountability and, you know, give lots of flexibility. Some kids learn like Clarence's son do, others have to, I guess, be beaten over the hands with a ruler. But, you know, that isn't --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible). Accountability and resources are what it's about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me make a point with regard to teachers being part of unionized bureaucracies. And under those bureaucracies, in order to enhance your income, you go to a teachers' college and you learn more of the Dewey "how a student learns" instead of pursuing your own academic discipline to improve yourself there. So it's kind of a self-perpetuating and extremely exasperating, frustrating phenomenon that we have in the United States today.

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's easy to fix. You have more alternative certification, get different kinds of people in there, have a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good. But you'd be surprised how hard -- how glacial --

MS. CLIFT: Sure it's hard, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- how glacial the movement is towards that kind of reform.

Exit -- quick exit question; we're behind. All parents want the best for their offspring. What's the smartest thing for them to do, wait for public school reform or bail-out now and enroll their kids in the best private school they can afford now?

MR. BARONE: I'd say find the best school for their kid now.

MS. CLIFT: I'd say work in the public schools. Better than 90 percent of the kids are in the public schools; they can perform.

MR. FELTEN: The best school for your own kids -- the best school you can get, and that may be public, it may be private.

MR. PAGE: I think -- I agree. And also, I agree with Bill Bradley when he says maybe a pilot program in vouchers is something that's becoming more appealing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A mind is a terrible thing to lose. Get your kid out of school and enroll him in a private school now.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, John! That's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Christians meet gays, lesbians.

REV. JERRY FALWELL: (From videotape.) We're not going to agree on the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, but we can agree that killing Christians like Columbine High School and Wedgewood Baptist Church, and killing the Matt Shepards and the Billy Jack Gaithers, et cetera, et cetera, must stop. The escalating violence must go away.

REV. MEL WHITE (Founder, SoulForce): (From videotape.) I have to thank Jerry for opening this door. It was an important door because so much of the rhetoric that comes out of the religious right is really destructive to gay and lesbian people.

MR. : (From tape.) But I also believe that a lot of our words against him could be used to justify hate crimes against him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was an unprecedented event. Two hundred evangelicals in the same room with 200 gays and lesbians. The Christians were led by Jerry Falwell; the gays and lesbians by Falwell's former ghost writer, an openly gay minister, Mel White, at a meeting in Lynchburg, Virginia. It was a watershed event, meaning major downstream impact.

Alan Dershowitz, an unlikely Falwell champion, and Southern Baptist leader Bob Reccord both lauded the televangelist acumenism. Two weeks ago in Oakland, before 2,200 gay activists, White expanded the evangelical reconciliation begun earlier at Lynchburg.

Is Falwell sincere in this or do you think he's just playing smart politics?

MR. BARONE: I think Jerry Falwell is out of politics. I think he's sincere in this and I think he's setting a good example, and Mel White is setting a good example for all Americans, whatever your view on these cultural issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Moderation in this instance, and in every instance, I guess, is smart politics.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I can't look into his heart to discover his motivation. But to concede that when you speak hate-filled rhetoric that that can lead people to commit violent acts is a huge concession on the part of the Christian right.

MR. FELTEN: I think Falwell is perhaps making up for the Teletubby incident to some extent where he really made a fool of himself. But also, I think in Mel White's case, the one thing we have to watch out for is it's always good to talk against violence, but then there is this move to say that even to disagree with the agenda of the homosexual rights activists is itself a kind of violence. And I think that cuts into debate.

MR. PAGE: Right. Well, you know, in fairness to Jerry Falwell, he was somewhat misreported on in that "Teletubbies" incident. But I think he did see what happens when you're sending murky signals on this issue. We have seen an escalation into violence by too many people, and he sees a chance to roll it back. I judge him by his actions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are all correct. We'll be right back with predictions. (Laughter.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Michael? Quickly.

MR. BARONE: Vicente Fox, the PAN candidate, will make a serious race against Francisco Labastida, the ruling-party PRI candidate in Mexico, July's election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, good. Keep us posted.


MS. CLIFT: More Republican retirements in the House, which will make it easier for the Democrats to recapture control in November of 2000.


MR. FELTEN: Hillary Rodham Clinton will step and look over the abyss, realize she's too far behind, and will not run for the Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tell us what you have, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: I think Hillary Clinton will run for the Senate. (Laughter.) One of us is right! (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In China, massive capital flight will follow China's entry into the WTO, which is in itself a prediction -- two predictions here. No one will trust China's banks, which have thrived only in their closed system. Do you agree with that, Michael?

MR. BARONE: I'm not sure if that's going to happen, John. I think you may be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's going to happen? Are they going to get into the WTO?

MR. BARONE: They're getting into the WTO.


Happy Thanksgiving weekend! Gobble, gobble!





MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Pat meets Lenora.

LENORA FULANI (Reform Party): (From videotape.) In traditional political terms, Pat Buchanan stands for all the things that black progressives such as myself revile. So how did we get to be standing here together, with me endorsing his candidacy? Because we have a common interest in overthrowing the traditional political terms.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's leftist radical Lenora Fulani, endorsing conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan, Reform Party presidential nomination contender.

Besides this odd couple, the Reformers have attracted billionaire playboy Donald Trump, former independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson, party high-profiler Jesse Ventura, and party founder Ross Perot. Such a collection makes it hard to figure out just what the Reformers stand for, but these tenets do emerge from Reformer Party documents:

One, political system reform. No money from political action committees. And the Electoral College -- get rid of it.

Two, protectionist trade. Withdraw from NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement; GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; and the WTO, the World Trade Organization. Practice protectionism.

Three, social libertarianism. Quote, "Foster tolerance of the customs, beliefs, and private actions of all persons which do not infringe upon the rights of others," unquote.

Question: Is the Reform Party any less focused, when you think about it, in its beliefs than the Democratic or Republican parties? I ask you, Clarence Page.

MR. PAGE: Well, John, somebody said they were less of a political party than a Halloween party -- (laughing) -- and it certainly seems that way with this wild mixture of people and beliefs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the Democratic Party you have your conservative Democrats --

MR. PAGE: You certainly do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and you have your liberal Democrats, like you, right?

MR. PAGE: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. You have gays -- you have gays --

MR. PAGE: Well, I'm not in the Democratic Party, except in Maryland, where I'm registered. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you have gays. You have every stripe in your party. How is it different from the Reform Party?

MR. PAGE: And you don't have Pat Buchanan in either of these parties. (Laughter.) And that's the main reason -- that's the main raison d'etre for the Reform Party now -- the fact that they are not Republican or Democratic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is as little ideological consistency in the Democratic Party as there is in the Reform Party. True or false?

MR. FELTEN: False, actually, because parties are energized by the true believers in the party. In the Republican Party, the true believers tend to be conservative. The true believers in the Democratic Party tend to be liberal. In the Reform Party, the true believers tend to be kooks and crackpots, because the people who are drawn to it out of a kind of independence-mindedness -- they don't have any real solid, true belief that energizes them.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there is some consistency, though -- reform the political system, America first, protectionism, and save sovereignty. What's -- that's a core, isn't it?

MR. BARONE: John, there's a little consistency between animals in a zoo or on Noah's ark. (Laughter.) The fact is that that's about the right comparison.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean? They're all animals?

MR. BARONE: Of different species.

MS. CLIFT: They're all hominids in this case. (Laughter.)

MR. BARONE: I mean, the fact is that we're looking -- you know, the fact is that both the Republican and the Democratic Party have become more cohesive over the last dozen years. There are fewer liberal Republicans. There are fewer conservative Democrats.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I just want to applaud Pat Buchanan for adopting the platform on tolerance. He's going to meet with Al Sharpton, and he said he once wrote Richard Nixon's toast to deliver to Mao Zedong, the Butcher Beijing. So if he can make -- break bread with Al Sharpton -- (laughter).