THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND CLARENCE PAGE
TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1999
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 18-19, 1999
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Happy Faux Millennium.
If you've bought premium champagne to celebrate the new millennium, don't uncork the bottle yet. The real millennium doesn't begin until January 1, 2001, roughly a year from now.
So why are we celebrating a faux millennium now? The confusion started when the Emperor Diocletian readjusted the Roman calendar to begin at Christ's birth. Diocletian did not start at zero, for one very good reason: Roman arithmetic did not include the number zero. The Western world didn't count with zeros until Muslim mathematicians introduced Christians to a brand-new idea: the concept of zero.
So year 1 to 1001 completes one millennium. Two thousand-one completes the second millennium.
A number of things have swept us up in celebrating this coming year -- namely, the year 2000 -- as the millennium.
One of those things is greed, crass commercialism. Tour industry operators, restaurateurs, and souvenir hucksters want us to believe this is the Big One. Then we part with our cash.
Our leaders perpetuate the popular folly. From the mayor of New York to the president of the United States, authority figures are pretending this is the real millennium. The attitude seems to be "scholarly rectitude be damned; let's have a party -- and oh, by the way, spend your money in my city, please." Greed rules.
Question: Given commercial coercion, just described, the Y2K mess, and the worldwide terrorist threat warning, wouldn't be prudent for President Clinton to come clean and proclaim this a pseudo-millennium, a faux millennium, so everyone can cancel his or her big bash plans, thereby reducing personal risk?
I ask you.
MR. BARONE: John, I'm tempted to say "friend or foe." (Laughter.) If you want to get picayune about when the millennium begins, you could get off January 1st, 2001, and go back and reconsider the decision of Pope Gregory XVI in the 16th century to change calendars and we should wait till January 13 or 14, 2001. Or you could go back to the way our British colonist forefathers did when they celebrated the beginning of the year at March 15th. So the fact is, this is really kind of picayune. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you saying, it's a variable feast?
MR. BARONE: It's a variable feast, of course.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Where would you start at day one, year one; at the Big Bang or at the Garden of Eden?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The birth of Christ is zero. From that point on, you count 12 months.
MS. CLIFT: Right, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's never been accounted for in this bony tabulation.
MS. CLIFT: Well, there's a bit of arbitrariness to it all anyway. I mean, the entire world doesn't even recognize the birth of Christ, so we've got our own calendar going here in the Christian world, I suppose. But no president, even in the prime of his powers, could make people ignore that all the 9s will be turning to zeros. You could call it the odometer effect. And besides, it's a good dry run. We can have another millennial celebration next year. The pope's declared the entire year Millennial Year. That's fine with me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you feel about this?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, this is interesting, because 100 years the same debate occurred, and there were people who argued that it should be 1901 rather than 1900. It was generally the elites, the educated, the leadership class who argued for 1901, and the common people who argued for 1900. Then, 100 years ago, the elites won. This time the elites gave up trying to make the case for 2001, and everybody capitulated to the common man and took 2000, and there we are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Something similar happened in 999. That was also a faux millennium. And --
MR. PAGE: Tell us more about it, John. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm going to tell you. And I'm going to turn it over to you, but I want you to hear this scholarship. In 999, the bourgeoisie as well as the peasants were largely illiterate, and they suffered also from innumeracy. Do you know what that means?
MR. BLANKLEY: Unable to count.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They couldn't count. And they were Christians, and they felt by reason of prophecy that Christ would live for 1,000 years and that was the millennium, and at the end of the 1,000 years, it would be curtains, the Apocalypse. Therefore, they were almost hysterical expecting this to happen. The church leaders knew it was the phony millennium, but they said, "Hey, we don't want this to happen again in 2001, so let's go through with it now." You follow me?
MR. PAGE: I'm right with you, John, but I just have one question. Are you practicing zero tolerance? (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what we're celebrating, "2" followed by a bunch of zeroes. That's all it is. It's like rolling over the odometer, as she said.
MR. PAGE: I think we've got to call this the "Gatesian" calendar, for Bill Gates, because we're now in the era of the computer, wherein it is actually more practical for us to talk about the zero year. But in fact, John, I think your commercial interpretation is correct. And why not celebrate twice? That's probably what's going to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we'll put that to a question. Which millennium do you intend to celebrate as the big one? This year's faux millennium, or the Diocletian millennium, the true one, next year? Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: I hope they just keep on getting bigger and bigger -- the Julian calendar millennium, the 18th Century millennium.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you've in favor of multiple millennia?
MR. BARONE: Well, John, until March 15, 2001, at least.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I think this one's the big one.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?
MS. CLIFT: Next year will be anti-climactic. (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, we're celebrating this one. I look forward to celebrating the next one. As long as the champagne keeps flowing, I'll keep celebrating.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence?
MR. PAGE: I'll celebrate wherever there's a party, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is celebrate both. (Laughter.) Party on!
Okay, mclaughlin.com. Last week we asked, Should the U.S. follow through on its promise to hand over the Panama Canal? Get this: 58 percent said no and 42 percent yes.
When we come back, why are so many spies roaming around the Department of State?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: the Beijing-Moscow axis. "I completely understand and fully support Russia's actions in combating terrorism and extremism in Chechnya." That was Chinese president Jiang Zemin reassuring Russian President Boris Yeltsin and simultaneously putting down the United States and Bill Clinton. Jiang threw his full diplomatic support behind Yeltsin's bloody military campaign against the Chechen rebels. Yeltsin warmed to Jiang's support and lashed out against his primary critic of the Chechen War, President Clinton.
Clinton permitted himself to put pressure on Russia. "It seems he has for a minute, for a second, for a half a minute, forgotten that Russia has a full arsenal of nuclear weapons. It has never been the case and will not be now that Bill Clinton alone dictates to the world how to live, how to work, how to rest. These things we have agreed with Jiang Zemin. We will dictate, not him."
It's not the first time Jiang and Yeltsin were drawn together by their feelings towards Clinton and America. When the Chinese president visited Moscow in April of 1997, the two leaders issued an angry condemnation of the United States, quote, "No country should seek hegemony, practice power politics, or monopolize international affairs," unquote.
In 1998, the stern Yeltsin-Zemin warning to the United States to stop being a bully was repeated in another state visit, this time in Beijing. Since those meetings, the U.S. has isolated Moscow and Beijing the more. The U.S.-led NATO war on Serbia rolled over both Russian and Chinese protests, and U.S.-China relations were traumatized when NATO bombs destroyed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
Now Yeltsin and Jiang are bristling over what they see as Clinton's hypocrisy. "The same man, William Clinton, who ordered anti-personnel cluster bombs to be dropped from three miles high, killing thousands of innocent Serb civilians and causing incalculable human suffering now has the gall to blast Russia for trying to hold onto Chechnya and thus prevent other breakaways."
Question: Can we afford to be dismissive of the Beijing-Moscow heated rhetoric, Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, we shouldn't be dismissive of it. Russia is historically -- continues to be a paranoid country. They are going to see threats even where there aren't. And we have been kind of swaggering around in the last few years, and have given Russia some reason to be a little concerned with our expansion of NATO. And they still have 30,000 nuclear warheads; no, we should not be dismissive.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have we driven Russia and Beijing into a strategic alliance?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think "driven" is too strong; I mean, we tried to be friends with both of them. I think we have been inept. And in our ineptness in managing the relationship, we are beginning to undo the Nixon-Kissinger triangulation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there a strategic alliance? What does China want from Moscow, nuclear technology and deep-space competence, as Moscow has? And what does Moscow want from Beijing? It wants -- and from a robust economy and cash heavy, it wants cash from Beijing. So it is a natural attraction, is it not, and that means bad news for us?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, there are things that attract. In fact, they also almost fought a war, some years ago, on the Chinese-Russian border. So there are things that pull them apart. Right now, we are so large and powerful that they are attracted to each other.
MS. CLIFT: I want to untangle some of the things that you've said.
First of all, Bill Clinton and the West do not want Chechnya to break away. I mean, basically, they are trying to get Russia to use less force and not to damage the civilian population as much. And in fact, the Russians have backed off minimally.
Secondly, Russia and China don't trust each other any more than Mao and Stalin did. And the notion that Russia would help China become more of a nuclear power is ridiculous. Russia is a declining nation; China is a rising power. What they have in common is an effort to constrain the West, but there are limited ways that they can do that.
MR. BARONE: Well, John, I think you are sort of getting concerned about the wrong partner in this sort of thing. The Russians, as Eleanor said, are a declining power. Yeltsin's in election season. He is trying to blow off some steam there. He is not necessarily the most stable of leaders, as you can almost tell from the file footage.
It's China -- there was a general of the Chinese People's Liberation Army in 1996, when we put the 6th Fleet into the Straits of Taiwan, who said, "You wouldn't trade Taipei for Los Angeles" -- who made a direct nuclear threat. Chinese are the people who have had their nuclear capacity to deliver nuclear weapons, accelerated by Hughes and Loral with the apparent permission of the Clinton administration, giving away the secrets of how to guide U.S. missiles and how to aim them better. So the fact is that that's really the quarter to be concerned about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of his -- (laughter) --
MR. PAGE: But, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- "he is just blowing off" -- (inaudible)?
MR. PAGE: -- while I would not be dismissive, but I will also say there is no reason to upset the apple cart of international diplomacy either. What we are seeing is, for one thing, China does not want to encourage outside intervention in Chechnya because that might encourage the U.S. to want to intervene between them and Tibet. Russia also wants to practice a form of trilateralism of their own, as well as China, because they can neutralize this enemy on their flanks, while at the same putting the U.S. on notice that they are still players in the era when the U.S. is the last superpower.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think three of you are hearing what you want to hear.
MR. PAGE: Unlike you, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In order to disturb that complacency, let's try this: Okay, blowing off Boris.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) I mean, we can't get too serious about all -- we -- let's not talk about what the leaders are saying and all these words of criticism; let's focus --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bill Clinton is shrugging off Yeltsin's warnings, but does Clinton underestimate Yeltsin's determination to hold on to Chechnya? Look at these factors:
One, domestic support. Polls show exceptionally strong Russian support for Yeltsin's military campaign against Chechnya.
Two, terrorism at home. Chechen terrorists prompted Yeltsin's military campaign. They bombed apartment buildings in Moscow and made raids on neighboring Dagestan.
Three, oil dollars for Russia. A vital Russian oil pipeline originates in the Caspian Sea. That pipeline stretches over 100 miles of Chechen territory. Instability in Chechnya means zero oil and so zero profits. And Russia's desperate economy needs revenue badly, so Yeltsin wants a stable solution to the Chechen insurrection.
Four, sovereignty. With an expanded NATO moving eastward and threatening Yugoslavia-like interventionism at its April 1999 Washington summit, Moscow is determined not to let any nation dictate its management of what Yeltsin calls "an internal affair."
Five, Putin gains from Chechnya hard line. Yeltsin's new prime minister, Vladimir Putin, was hired to handle the Chechnyan problem. Now, thanks to his aggressive Chechen campaign, Putin is favored overwhelmingly in the polls to succeed Yeltsin.
Question: How realistic is it to expect Yeltsin to back down in Chechnya in the light of these factors? I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it depends how the Chechnyan war goes. It's been going very well until a few days ago, when we learned that they lost a hundred men trying to prematurely post a Russian flag in the middle of the city.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that was not much worse than what happened to us in Mogadishu.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, but -- well, keep in mind that after they lost about a thousand men last time in Chechnya, Russian public opinion pulled them back. So if they can't -- and this time they tried to fight the war in the air, but couldn't do it successfully, the way we did in Kosovo, so they're now sending in the troops, who are going to have some difficult fighting with some very experienced Chechnyan fighters. So I'm not convinced that war is won yet.
MR. PAGE: The one difference, though, between that war and this one is those terrorist bombings in Moscow proper. This is something that has galvanized the Russian populace in favor of the Yeltsin government in a war against Chechnya and may keep that -- the momentum going longer now despite this big setback Tony's talking about.
MR. BARONE: I think the election season, John, is going to go for another six months, until they have their elections. Yeltsin, at this moment at least, is backing Putin, and I think they're going to continue an effort in Chechnya.
This has been an ongoing thing, off and on, for Russian history. One of Tolstoy's first short stories is written about a war in Chechnya back in the 1840s or '50s. So this has been --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you read it?
MR. BARONE: -- not yet, I have got it -- (laughter) -- on my list.
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because I had four questions I was going to ask you about it. I want to know why the Clinton administration is not taking this more seriously; I ask you?
MS. CLIFT: Oh, I think they are taking it terribly seriously. But I think that the West is secretly hoping that Moscow gets this over with quickly. And there is no interest in the West in seeing Chechnya break off and become an independent Muslim state. I think there is a fear that if that happens, other sections of that country could follow -- (cross talk) -- and there could civil war across 11 time zones. That's terrifying!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you hit upon the very point; they believe, the Russian military believes, if they reduce their military assault, it will lead to a stalemate. That would mean more international pressure. And it would mean, they think, a possible intervention of NATO.
MS. CLIFT: I don't think that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They don't know what to expect --
MS. CLIFT: -- well, I don't think NATO --
MR. BARONE: That's a pipe dream. Powerful --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Russians are quite xenophobic.
MR. BARONE: The threat there is --
MS. CLIFT: They may think that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I ask you.
MS. CLIFT: -- NATO is not going into Chechnya. (Laughs.)
MR. PAGE: No way.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, you said that, secretly, the West wants the Chechens to lose. But there are experts on our side who believe that, ultimately, we won't have stability in Russia until the non-Russians parts of the Russian empire gain their independence -- they are largely Muslim; they are largely Asian -- and then Russia can become a more European country without those kind of ethnic tensions.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think --
MR. BLANKLEY: So it's not a clear case either side yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get out. Exit: Will victory in Chechnya make Putin Russia's next president, Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: Well, at the moment, it looks -- I don't think victory in Chechnya is on the boards. I think that a nondefeat in there will certainly give him a long haul up, and I think it might very well make him president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: A revolution in Chechnya, which gives them greater independence but doesn't establish them as a separate state, will propel Putin, I think, to the presidency. He is wildly popular now. And the sense of victory that they have gotten so far in this war, has really given the Russian people a badly needed --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The presidential election, by the way, is in June, six months from now.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's really much too soon to tell. Only recently, he was not ahead. Now, the polls, which are historically unreliable -- Russian polls are terribly unreliable -- have him ahead. It depends what happens in Chechnya and how America reacts to it.
MR. PAGE: John, it looks good for Mr. Putin right now. But if he looks back over the record of future premiers predicted on this program, he might think that -- (laughs) -- maybe his fortune is not so good right now. But he is looking good at this point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Duma is having its elections tomorrow -- on Sunday, rather -- and anti-Westerners are going to take it over in large numbers. It's a clear majority. That, coupled with Putin's soaring popularity thanks to the Chechen war, will propel him further on the track to becoming president six months from now.
On a sober note, it was announced on Friday that Russia issued a stark warning that Moscow had been forced to lower the threshold for using atomic weapons.
Issue three: From Russia with bugs.
MR. DAVID CARPENTER (Assistant Secretary of State): (From videotape.) Despite the thawing of tensions between competing nations, government facilities and personnel remain a desirable target for foreign intelligence services.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's Assistant Secretary of State David Carpenter talking about Russian spy Stanislav Borisovic Gusev, who infiltrated the Department of State in Washington, eavesdropping on official conferences under the noses of intelligence officials.
FBI agents accidentally happened upon Gusev last June while on another surveillance operation. They noticed Gusev circling the two-block building, looking for a convenient parking spot, soon watching him with earphones on his head, fiddling with dials, listening to transmissions from a device buried in the building.
That device was located in August, embedded in wood molding in a seventh-floor conference room not all that far from Secretary Madeleine Albright's office. Last week, officials arrested Gusev as he sat on a bench across from the State Department, earphones in full view cupped to his head. Unlike the CIA, which tightened its counterespionage unit after American spy Aldrich Ames was found passing extremely valuable secrets to the Russians five years ago, the State Department has done no such oversight. In fact, quite the opposite.
This week, the State Department's inspector general released an internal audit showing the department's devastating security vulnerabilities. A few: 1) no checkpoint ID verification; 2) unescorted guests; 3) unrestricted maintenance workers; 4) poor protection of classified documents; 5) sophisticated equipment.
Get this -- the miniature transmitter used by Gusev and concealed in the molding of the conference room at the State Department is the most sophisticated piece of equipment the FBI and other security agencies have seen, trumping any U.S. technology available.
Question: How does the lack of security at the State Department compare with the lack of security at Los Alamos? Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: Well, in both cases you had really not paying close enough attention to what ought to be done. The big difference here, John, is what I think they were after. I mean, Los Alamos, if it is true that Wen Ho Lee gave the secret of the W-88 bomb to China -- we don't know for sure if that's true yet, and it's not charged in the indictment -- but if he did, that accelerated their possibility of delivering nuclear weapons on the soil of the United States by a period of some years. That's very dangerous.
But as Pat Moynihan teaches us in his book "Secrecy," a lot of secrets aren't worth protecting, and I have a feeling that what they were overhearing in that conference room on the seventh floor was meant to cure somebody's insomnia more than to reveal secrets. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: Right. Yeah --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, what the Chinese got was an advanced warhead in their arsenal, from Los Alamos.
MR. BARONE: Which is easier to deliver.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know the price of that.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the price of this?
MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, we don't know that that's how the Chinese got the advanced warhead. But there was a culture of laxity at the labs, and there's a culture of laxity at the State Department, because the Cold War is over.
But this was a conference room where they discussed ocean policy. I don't think they got anything worth having.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four seconds. That doesn't mean that there aren't other spies there, and there hasn't been other intelligence appraisals from the CIA --
MS. CLIFT: Well -- right, I think they --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- which are passed to State, taken by others.
MS. CLIFT: Right. Maybe they should sweep it occasionally.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, you can laugh it off if you want, Eleanor.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, look, this administration, from the very beginning, in not getting clearance for their own employees at the White House, have been sloppy and indifferent to security concerns, and we're seeing it in one department after another.
MR. PAGE: While this wasn't invented by this administration, there is a culture of lax security in the post-Cold War.
But isn't it kind of funny how we always seem to catch a spy right after the Russians accuse one of our people of spying?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and that was some timing in that regard, too. But what we need is a congressional commission, like the Cox commission, to probe exhaustively what's happening to our security, notably at the State Department.
We'll be right back.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next week: the long-anticipated, widely celebrated McLaughlin Group Year-End Awards.
Out of time. Merry Christmas! Bye-bye!
®FC¯END OF REGULAR SEGMENT
PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Untying the knot.
Same-sex couples won't be marching down the aisle anytime soon in Hawaii. The state Supreme Court has issued a final ruling on the incendiary issue of same-sex marriage, after nearly a decade-long battle.
Nineteen-ninety-one, gays sue. Three gay couples sue the state of Hawaii for sex discrimination after being denied marriage licenses.
Nineteen-ninety-three, court upholds gays. Hawaii's Supreme Court shocks the U.S. by upholding the lawsuit, telling Hawaii it must justify its ban on homosexual marriage. The ruling sets off a mad scramble across the continental United States, with up to 30 states passing anti-same-sex-marriage laws. Congress passes one, too, the Defense of Marriage Act, in '96 -- translation: no gay marriage -- which President Clinton signs.
Nineteen-ninety eight, anti-gay-marriage referendum passed. Hawaii's voters passed a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
Nineteen-ninety-nine, December, Hawaii marriage amendment trumps lawsuit. Hawaii's high court has now decided that the '98 marriage amendment stands as the law of the land, rendering the original lawsuit, quote, unquote, "moot."
Question: How critical a setback to gay advocates is this ruling from the state, Hawaii, once considered most likely to legalize marriage vows between homosexuals, Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: Very minor. The courts may be balking at marriage, but the trend is towards official sanctioning of unions between gay people and corporations extending benefits to unions. And if you look at the attacks on policy -- the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military, if that gets overridden, it's unlikely that it's going to be more restrictive. There's been a huge sea change in attitudes about gay people being open about their sexuality.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, Eleanor --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor, you're almost entirely wrong on this. This is an important cultural moment. What we've seen is the end -- the edge of tolerance. The American people have become more and more tolerant to the gay lifestyle, but they've drawn the line when it cross into equivalence with the heterosexual marriage --
MR. PAGE: But her point is, it's a moving line, and the line is moving in favor in of more and more real gay tolerance --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, but no, I think -- no, the significance is we've seen the line drawn.
MR. PAGE: Well, I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does any presidential candidate support gay marriage?
MR. BARONE: No, they've all come on the record against it, and Hawaii's congressional delegation, one of the most liberal in the country, was against it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Do you --
MR. BARONE: The Hawaii legislature was against it, which is a liberal Democratic group.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Knight -- K-N-I-G-H-T -- amendment in California is coming up in March, in three months. It stipulates, quote, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Will it pass?
MR. BARONE: I think it probably will, John. But one of the interesting things is, the polls are not as one-sided as I would have thought, or as the Hawaii referendum is. So I think that it's going to be a surprising percentage voting against it.