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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: The Heartbreak Kid.

ATTY GENERAL JANET RENO: (From videotape.) What is at issue is a father who wants his son home, and grandparents who want their grandson home. And these are bonds that should be honored.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Attorney General Reno made clear this week whose side she's on in the ongoing tug of war over little Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban six-year-old rescued off the Florida coast Thanksgiving Day. Reno stands with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the INS, who ruled that going home to Dad is what is best for Elian. The Feds have the jurisdiction, says Reno; the state, Florida, has no standing in the matter. Reno thus shunted aside Florida state court Judge Rosa Rodriguez' call for a March 6th -- seven weeks from now -- hearing on the boy, an obvious dilatory tactic to prevent Elian's return to Cuba.

The Miami relatives will appeal the INS's and Reno's decision, but they'll have to do so in federal court, not state. And the federal courts will echo Reno, not Rosa.

Elian's maternal grandmother, back in Cuba, agrees with the INS and the attorney general. Her daughter, Elian's mother, was lost at sea on the voyage that brought Elian to the United States.

GRANDMOTHER OF ELIAN GONZALEZ (Through interpreter): (From tape.) When Elian is here in Cuba and my daughter knows that he is here with me, with his grandfather, with his father and his paternal grandparents, then she will rest in peace.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Elian also wants to be back in Cuba, if this excited outburst from the boy to a plane passing overhead is a true expression of his wishes. (Short tape of Elian Gonzalez' voice.) Translation of the reporter: "Airplane, I want you to return me to Cuba!"

Grandmother Raquel (sp) says her late daughter was tricked into taking the fateful trip by her boyfriend, who was reportedly a smuggler of people wanting to leave Cuba at $1,000 a head.

Question: Listen closely. Would Elian still be in the United States if his mother were alive in Cuba, pleading for his return, and his father had drowned at sea, Michael Barone?

MR. BARONE: Well, I think -- John, I think the answer is yes, and I think it's for the reason that you've --


MR. BARONE: Yes, he would still be in the United States. And I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come, come. He'd be back there in a flash.

MR. BARONE: And I -- no, John, he -- for the reason that you left out of that clever introductory piece, which is that there is a strong feeling, not only among Cuban Americans but among many people, that we shouldn't send people back to a totalitarian country. It sticks in the throat of many of us who remember that when the St. Louis ship was sent back with a load of Jews, back to Nazi Germany, and those people never emerged alive, that it is a bad thing to send people back to a totalitarian country, even a 6-year-old whose surviving parent wants him to go there.


MS. CLIFT: Michael, we just turned away a boatload of Haitians.

MR. BARONE: We should let them in.

MS. CLIFT: Chinese nationals are coming up on the Pacific shore in metal containers, and you know, we're not necessarily keeping them.

I don't think we've reached the point where, if somebody grows up in a country whose government we don't approve of, that their parents don't have any rights. And I think the Miami Cubans would be as hysterical about this if this was a mother back in Havana, as much as a father. I don't think you can turn this --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they wouldn't get away with it.

MS. CLIFT: Well, American public opinion supports returning this child to Havana and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. What I'm -- the point of the question, what it drives to, is that fatherhood, particularly in this country, has become an object of burlesque. It's burlesqued by the movies. It's burlesqued by the TV sitcoms. Fathers have little or no standing, just as men have lost a lot of standing in this feminist society.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think you can convert this issue into your pet issue, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I think you can.

MS. CLIFT: It's a very minor note.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Well, listen to the -- before I go to you, listen to this Keyes point about fatherhood.

ALAN KEYES (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) It also shocked me a little bit when Gary said he didn't care about the feelings of the father in the Elia Kazan (sic) case. What are we going to do, my friends, if we don't start telling fathers that we care about their hearts and that we care about their feelings, and that they do have a permanent role in the lives of their children? How are we to get them to meet their responsibilities?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The love between a father and a son is special. It's unique, it's irreplaceable, and it should be in inviolable. That was Alan Keyes on fatherhood.

Question: Does it not strike you as ironic that the U.S. Supreme Court is ruling on grandparents' rights to see their grandchildren, while the same U.S. government denies Elian's father the right to raise his son, with the U.S. holding Elian hostage to Cuban American politics?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't think it's ironic. I think this is not a matter --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You -- but what is the irony, as far as you're concerned?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, let me tell you what I think this is about. I don't think it's about which parent is requesting the child to come back. I think it's about the end of the Cold War. I remember a Russian boy in the '80s who got away --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN (?): Sasha Kalavchek (sp).

MR. BLANKLEY: And he was a young boy, ran away from both parents to stay in America. At that time it was a very popular decision. The Reagan Justice Department let him stay. He's now, I understand, happily living in Illinois. But what's different is not the parentage, but the fact that now the Cold War is over, we don't consider Cuba to be the terrible place we used to think it was.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, there are cases in the United States on both sides of this issue; for example, the Jim Baker case that I spoke to you about the U.S. child going to Serbia and his going over there and begging with Milosevic to get him back, and he got the child back because these countries are civilized. They respect the bond between a father and a son, a daughter and a mother.

MR. BARONE: John, are you saying that Cuba is more civilized than the United States? I think you've forgotten the lesson of what totalitarianism -- that the 20th century ought to have taught you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What I am saying is that the point --

MR. BARONE: It's appalling.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- has been obscured by this lousy political rhetoric.

MS. CLIFT: John, the point --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The point is that there is a bond there that is inviolable.

MS. CLIFT: The point you're missing --

MR. DREHER: And that bond should remain sovereign, you're right about that, and Janet Reno's doing the right thing here, for once. The U.S. government is trying to protect that bond between the father and son in Elian's case, and the Supreme Court should protect the bond between the parents and their children.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Florida's Cuban American community really have Elian's interest at heart, or is this a political game? Rod?

MR. DREHER: I think that they believe they have his interest at heart, but it's clearly a political game.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it not true that U.S. and Cuba international diplomacy has effected a degree of detente, and this is what worries them down there, and this boy is being used as an instrument to inhibit the thawing of our relationship with Cuba?

MR. DREHER: I don't know if most Miami Cubans think that strategically about it. I know some of them. I live down there. I'm friends with them. They feel very passionately that this is a case --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, John, you're right that the Miami Cubans are playing right into Castro's hands. They don't want him to democratize at all because it's not in their interest. But the Clinton administration is allowing this to go forward, so he will be returned. You're arguing as though they're on the other side.

MR. BARONE: John, where I would take issue here with some of the things you're saying; yes, the fatherhood relationship is important, and in ordinary circumstances --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that it be governing.

MR. BARONE: -- should be respected, and all of us do have a strong feeling. Very many, or I think almost all Americans also have a strong feeling you should not be returning a child to totalitarianism. I think the mistake on the part of the government here was made not by Janet Reno, who, alas, I think is right about federal jurisdiction, but by INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, who gave full weight to the testimony of the father even though he's in the inherently coerced situation of a citizen of a totalitarian country. We cannot assume that his testimony or that of the other relatives there, under Castro's thumb, with those demonstrations going on, with the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come, come, come!

MS. CLIFT: No! Michael, come off it!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard what the father said.

MR. BARONE: He said it was entirely voluntary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said he was so enraged he'd like to come up here and use physical violence against those people who are preventing his son from going back.

MR. DREHER: John, remember the Moscow show trials. In a totalitarianism, a lot of people say things that they're coerced to say or that they expect to be coerced if they won't say. The fact is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you heard what the grandmother said, the mother of the daughter who died! Is she being coerced? That's rubbish!

MR. DREHER: Of course she's being coerced.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I was in Havana --

MR. DREHER: The situation is inherently coercive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I was in Havana and I've seen these people, and it's true it's a miserable --

MR. DREHER: John, you're not at the kind of risk these people are in in Cuba.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come, come, come! You're being carried away! You've lost your way on this issue.

Exit: Will Elian go home to his father in Cuba before March 1, six weeks from now?

Michael Barone?

MR. BARONE: I think not before, probably after.

MS. CLIFT: I think it's an artificial deadline. He may go home -- he may make the deadline, but he's going home.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think that the litigation will go past March 1st.


MR. BLANKLEY: I think he'll stay past March 1st.


MR. BLANKLEY: Because even with expedited litigation, it's got to go through three courts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think Reno is going to permit it because she is concerned about that boy and his growing up, his maturing, his emotional equilibrium --

MR. DREHER: I agree that he's going home.

MR. BARONE: Wait a second. Then she's got to send security people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When is he going home?

MR. DREHER: He's going home before March 1st. As soon as they can get him into federal court, they're going to send him home.


MR. DREHER: A month -- less than a month.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would say under a month.

When we come back, the smell of anti-Catholic bigotry in the hallowed halls of Congress. How big a blunder has the GOP House leadership made?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: The odor of bigotry in the soul of government.

ACTING SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: (From videotape.) The prayer will be offered by the Chaplain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "It's too soon to say that it stinks of anti-Catholic bigotry, but it sure smells." That's how Roll Call editorialized about the current process of replacing Lutheran Minister Reverend James Ford, who just retired as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives after 21 years.

An 18-member, bipartisan search committee, with three Catholics -- significant under-representation -- narrowed the 40-plus list of Ford's potential successors to three. Their number one choice, Father Timothy O'Brien, a Catholic priest who would have been the first Catholic ever to hold the position, despite the fact that Catholicism is the largest religious denomination in Congress.

But House Speaker, Republican Dennis Hastert, a Protestant, and House Majority Leader, Republican Richard Armey, a Presbyterian, passed over O'Brien and chose instead Reverend Charles Wright, a Presbyterian minister who was voted third by the selection committee.

House Minority Leader, Democrat Richard Gephardt, dissented, supporting Father O'Brien. Fellow Democrat and House veteran Representative John Dingell accused Hastert of tarnishing the selection process and demanded that, quote, "All committee records, transcripts, staff memoranda, correspondence and other materials that referred to or relate to the search for, or the selection of the chaplain of the House be made available to all members and should also be released to the public." Unquote.

Republican Henry Hyde is also worried. Quote, "I hate to think it is anti-Catholic bigotry, but I do not know what other conclusion to draw." Unquote.

As for Father O'Brien, he has lost his faith in the selection process. Quote, "I do believe that if I were not a Catholic priest, I would be the House Chaplain."

There are 125 Catholics in the House of Representatives; that's 125 out of 435 -- a hefty 28 percent, the largest denomination in the House. Note also that not withstanding his serious doubts about bigotry being involved, Henry Hyde, nevertheless, has capitulated, since that sound bite, to Hastert's overtures and he's agreed to stay within party ranks and support the speaker's unenlightened choice.

Question: If Hastert fails to withdraw his support for the non-Catholic Reverend Wright, under these circumstances, will there be GOP retribution at the hands of Catholic voters in November? GOP -- retribution against the GOP. Do you understand?

MR. BLANKLEY: I understand perfectly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the Catholic swing vote, essential to maintaining the House of Representatives by the Republicans, take retribution against the House members in the next election?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think you focused exactly on the right issue. This is turning into -- it wasn't originally -- it's turning into a political issue. Dingell and the Democrats are going to try to play it; they're going to work the Catholic media very effectively.

What's happened, unfortunately, it was a general sense on the Hill that it was a Catholic's turn for this job. And then what happened was, this particular gentleman had a very bad interview in which -- and he'd been lobbying in a Washington political kind of a way for the job. He'd wanted the job -- he had been promised the job by Senator Mitchell for the Senate, and then the Democrats lost control of the Senate. And then --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now don't denigrate this treatise, because I have quite a bit of information on him too, and your charge of lobbying is quite overstated.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. I know for a fact that there was a lobbying campaign for him. In point of fact --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know for a fact that others lobbied for the job. I know the fact that his name was presented, but was presented in an orderly fashion.

Please continue.

MR. BLANKLEY: But there were two problems. One, he did a very bad interview with the leadership and they didn't like the -- because the truth is the members want a man who can give them pastoral counseling. This is a man who has been an educator and other responsibilities, he hasn't done pastoral counseling. They just didn't feel he was right for the job.

MS. CLIFT: But if they want pastoral counseling, there are lots of churches on Capitol Hill --

MR. BLANKLEY: Now, you know --

MS. CLIFT: -- that they could go to. I would --

MR. BLANKLEY: But, Eleanor, you know too well --

MS. CLIFT: Now let me finish!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor finish, please.

MS. CLIFT: Let me finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's making a fine point.

MS. CLIFT: I would question the need for this job, number one. Number two, I don't think the Republicans are anti-Catholic.

MR. BLANKLEY: Thank you.

MS. CLIFT: I think they picked a buddy of theirs from the prayer breakfast circuit --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no --

MS. CLIFT: -- and it's become a politicized issue. It's the Democrats who picked Protestants all these years. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did they kick O'Brien, the Catholic priest, aside, and go for a Protestant?

MR. DREHER: From what I understand, it's because of the reasons Tony said -- because he was more pastoral.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it not because they are also cementing -- the GOP is trying to cement itself with the Christian right --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no, no, no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with the fundamentalist Protestants who, they believe, have to some extent become disillusioned with the Republicans?

MR. DREHER: I don't think they would consciously risk alienating the conservative Catholic vote here. I think that it's going to be easy for the Democrats to spin it that way, because you had people like Representative Steve Largent, whom I believe is an evangelical Protestant --


MR. DREHER: -- asking questions like, "Well, how do you" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you had DeLay.

MR. DREHER: -- asking about the Roman collar --


MR. DREHER: -- asking him about being unmarried.

Now I was raised Protestant and converted to Catholicism. I understand they may not have meant anything harmful by those questions --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, that's ridiculous. The church has been celibate for the entire millennium.

MR. BARONE: John --

MR. DREHER: I think they were foolish questions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we saying the man can't give pastoral counseling because he leads a celibate life?

MR. DREHER: No, of course not.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know his background? He has a Ph.D. He teaches at Marquette University.

MR. DREHER: But they were innocent questions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He has been appointed by Feingold as the Board of Selection of Military Academy Appointees. He has been a colonel -- he is a colonel in the United States Army Reserve, and he gives pastoral --

MR. BARONE: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment. He gave pastoral care at the 452nd General Hospital for 28 years.

MR. BARONE: John, I think we can stipulate that he's a fine man. The fact is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's not what Tony was saying --

MR. BARONE: The 18-member -- let me talk for a second. The 18-member bipartisan, evenly divided committee, when voting on these three people, voted between 14 for Father O'Brien, 10 and a half for one other, and nine and a half for Mr. Wright. In other words, it was a pretty close choice.

I don't think Mr. Hastert or Mr. Armey are anti-Catholic bigots.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BARONE: I don't think that the Democrats who have objected to this are doing so for a bigoted reason --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, why did they overrule --

MR. BARONE: I think Eleanor had --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the superconsensus of that select committee?

MR. BARONE: I think Eleanor had an important -- I think because they were impressed with him in the interview.

I think Eleanor had an intelligent point when she says, "Do we really need one chaplain at all?"

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, you do need a chaplain.

MR. BARONE: The fact is that these people -- no, Tony, it's like the old days with the House bank.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no, this is entirely --

MR. BARONE: It was assumed that we had Capitol Hill up there like -- (inaudible) -- Washington, and you could never go to a bank unless there was one on Capitol Hill.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: There are lots of churches on Capitol Hill, and those ministers and priests would be happy to rush -- would be happy --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, look, look, let me tell you, I worked up there --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment. Let him talk.

MS. CLIFT: -- would be happy to rush over and minister, counsel any time you --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no. Look, let me tell you something.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This man is eminently qualified.

MS. CLIFT: He --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's even in charge of labor relations, appointed by the bishop of Milwaukee.

MS. CLIFT: We need a chaplain here more than the House does~! (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I worked up there for seven years. I know that the members do turn to the chaplain for counseling. Sometimes they can't turn -- the members -- to their chaplains back home. They feel comfortable with the House chaplain, being able to talk about their situation. They wanted to find someone they felt comfortable with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying O'Brien could not administer to their pastoral needs? How ridiculous can you get? He does this every day in his role as colonel in the Army and in going to the hospital.

MR. BLANKLEY: Their sense was, based on the interview, was that they didn't think he was going to be -- he was a man they felt comfortable with. I think he's very --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you realize what's going on? They're trying to cover for Hastert's stupidity.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, look, look, everybody understands that the Reagan Democrats, which are largely Catholic, are the number-one target group.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right, right.

MR. BLANKLEY: So this is not a play to the Christian Protestants. You know --

MS. CLIFT: Hastert made a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a dumb play to the Christian Protestants, because it's estranging the Reagan Democrats.

MS. CLIFT: Hastert made a mistake --

MR. BLANKLEY: It was not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a swing vote that keeps you in the Congress.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree as to the effect. It wasn't the intent. They weren't intending to make this into a political play. They were trying to pick a person they --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, they were trying to hold on to the Christian Coalition -- (inaudible) -- and in so doing, they've lost -- they're losing the --

MR. BARONE: John, that's absurd.

MS. CLIFT: Well, but the results --

MR. DREHER: I'd be very surprised if a Catholic voted for a pro-abortion Democrat because of this stupid issue. I really would. The Catholics who believe in what the church teaches have to stick with a pro-life Republican Party.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they can get their back up when they feel -- and they feel from other sources, too -- (to Mr. Dreher) -- you know about this. You wrote some terrific columns on the Brooklyn Museum. You know that there's anti-Catholicism in the air.

MR. DREHER: Absolutely. I don't question that. I just think this was stupidity, not the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's something he can do. He can persuade Wright to withdraw his nomination --

MS. CLIFT: Well, what's going to happen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- just a moment --

MS. CLIFT: I want to tell you what's going to happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and let the entire House vote on it.

MS. CLIFT: What's going to happen is they've delayed the vote, and it's in the hands of the Democrats. If Mr. Wright can't sell himself to the Democrats, if the Democrats won't accept him, he will withdraw. And that's a likely conclusion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's going to happen?

MR. BARONE: What's going to happen? I think Eleanor's probably right. The fact is, it seems that a real chaplain --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, but what's going to happen if it goes to a full House vote, and this nomination is withdrawn?

MR. BARONE: I think they're going to come back --

MR. BLANKLEY: It won't go to a full House vote.


MR. BLANKLEY: Because he's going to go to each of the Democratic and Republican caucuses. If either of the caucuses doesn't like him, he'll withdraw. There will be no vote. My guess is --

MR. BARONE: It's got to be bipartisan.

MR. BLANKLEY: My guess is, the Democrats will not support him and he'll withdraw. He'll never get to the floor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Democrats might even choose not to vote.

MR. BARONE: That's non-support --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: There's no way that a man who doesn't feel he has the conference --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, can we evaluate the seriousness before we move on to Hillary the Hilarious? And that is, how big a blunder did the Republicans make? (To Mr. Barone.) I ask you.

MR. BARONE: Let's -- yeah, we've got to have a scale, though, when --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's put it on a scale of zero to 10. Zero to 10 is zero blunder and 10 is metaphysical blunder. It's total chaos. It's a metaphysical wreckage. It's like an asteroid the size of Australia striking New York.

So how much political damage has been done by this?

MR. BARONE: I think it's about a one, marginal political damage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predicted you'd say a one, to my staff.

MR. BARONE: You did?

MS. CLIFT: I think it's huge. It's a seven. It's a self-inflicted wound.

But on the scale of things that are going to make them lose the House, it's a .5. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow. Well, why is it so damaging? If they're not -- if it's not going to happen, where is the political payoff?

MS. CLIFT: Because it is so foolish. Because it's almost a year until the elections, and people are going to forget about this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I think you've got to understand the importance of the Catholic vote in this country.

MS. CLIFT: They lost --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a swing vote. Am I right or wrong?

MR. DREHER: You're right. You're right.

MS. CLIFT: They lost the Catholic vote in '98, and they're going to lose it again in 2000.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How big a blunder?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's about a 6.5 or a 7. It's the effect of it, of course. It's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a big blunder.

MR. BLANKLEY: It wasn't intended, but the effect will be about a 6.5.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The effect is smearing Hastert with anti-bigotry charges. Right or wrong?

MR. BLANKLEY: They're unfair charges, but I don't doubt that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard what Hyde said originally. He said he had serious doubts and there certainly was no other conclusion to reach.

MR. BLANKLEY: He misunderstood. I think he misunderstood.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You saw what Roll Call said. It may not be the stench, but it's a smell.

What do you say?

MR. DREHER: It's a six, and we're going to see the Democrats really hammer on this come election season.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give it a six.

Issue four: Hillary the Hilarious.

(Begin videotape segment.)

DAVID LETTERMAN ("Late Show" host): You're living in Chappaqua. You've got a big house. Everybody's seen it on TV.

FIRST LADY HILLARY CLINTON (Candidate for NY Senate): Right.

MR. LETTERMAN: Every idiot in the area is going to drive by honking now. (Laughter.)

MRS. CLINTON: Was that you that -- (laughter)?

(End videotape segment.)

(Begin videotape segment.)

MR. LETTERMAN: Does your husband know you're here?

MRS. CLINTON: Don't tell him. (Laughter.)

MR. LETTERMAN: I had the sense that -- he regards me as a boob. (Laughter.)

MRS. CLINTON: I don't think it's that at all. I think he was just so curious as to why you've never made a joke about him. (Laughter.)

MR. LETTERMAN: (Laughs.)

(End videotape segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary Clinton finally appeared on David Letterman's show this week, and she was a hit; at ease much of the time, and funny. For 20 minutes, Hillary parried fast one-liners with Letterman.

(Begin videotape segment.)

MRS. CLINTON: From the home office, in Chappaqua, New York -- (laughter) -- the top 10 reasons that I, Hillary Clinton, finally decided to appear on the "Late Show."

MR. LETTERMAN: Here we go. All right. (Applause.)

MRS. CLINTON: Number 10: I lost a bet with Tipper. (Laughter.)


MRS. CLINTON: Number nine: I did think this was a show where you answer a couple of easy questions and you win a million dollars. (Applause.)

MR. LETTERMAN: Yeah! Well, guess again.

MRS. CLINTON: Number eight: If Dan Quayle did it, how hard could it be? (Laughter, applause.)

MR. LETTERMAN: (Laughs.)

(End video segment.)

(Begin video segment.)

MRS. CLINTON: And number one --

(Drum roll from the band.)

MRS. CLINTON: -- (a look of surprise at the drum roll) -- (laughter) -- if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere!

MR. LETTERMAN: There you go! (Applause.)

(End videotape segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course, there is a strategic reason why Hillary yielded to Letterman's persistent booking overtures. The latest New York poll shows Hillary nine points behind New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the New York Senate race. Among white women, a key group, Hillary trails Giuliani by 17 points. And what percentage said Hillary should accept Letterman's invitation to be on the show? Get this: Fifty-eight percent said do the show. Immediately after the taping, Hillary jumped into a van with -- guess who -- her pollster, Mark Kent (?).

How much did Hillary help herself with her late-night showing?

MR. BARONE: None. She needed to throw a pie at Suha Arafat.

MS. CLIFT: A lot.


MS. CLIFT: A lot. She helped herself a lot.

MR. BLANKLEY: Because the fix was in, it's going to be like a cattle deal, it will be a negative for her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because the fix was made public?

MR. DREHER Somewhat, but it's only temporary. Wait till she goes on a real news show.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would say moderate boost.

We'll be right back.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iowa -- a week from Monday -- Bush, Forbes, McCain. Yes or no?

MR. BARONE: No. Gary Bauer third place.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I think Michael's right.


MR. DREHER: Yes, it's Forbes' last hurrah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

Happy Martin Luther King Day~!




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue five: X-rated airports.

MS. : (From videotape.) It's very likely that this will soon replace the standard x-ray machine that our hand luggage now goes through. And what will that reveal about us? I, for one, don't want people to know what's under my clothes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The next time you fly, airport security may be looking at more than your luggage. The Customs Service admitted last week that sophisticated x-ray machines have been deployed in New York and five other airports, that can see through passenger's clothing and give a clear outline of their naked anatomies. The Customs department claims that these $125,000 body-search electronic machines will help them find contraband in the waistbands of suspicious airline passengers, so-judged by inspectors. Those suspects are escorted off the line and given a choice -- the x-ray body search or the physical body search.

Civil Libertarians are crying foul about this new form of police profiling. "If there is ever a place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, it is under their clothing." The machines, the ACLU points out, even have a zoom knob, presumably, and hopefully, for close-ups of suspicious objects.

MR. : (From videotape.) And this is just for international arriving passengers that we've identified that have a certain level of suspicion that we feel needed to be patted down for narcotics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is there a presumption of privacy in an airport?

Rod Dreher?

MR. DREHER: Less of one than anywhere else, because everybody is so worried about terrorism. And I don't know why this is especially more invasive than some of these pat-downs a lot of us have had to go through.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So there is an increasingly intrusive expectation at airports, and probably no real right to privacy, certainly not full privacy, because these inspectors can act on suspicion. Pretty low threshold, wouldn't you say?

MR. BARONE: I would say it's a low threshold, John. And it's also been a government program that has really worked. If you go back to the late 1970s, 20-some years ago, we were having lots of hijackings. Everyone said, "Gosh, how are we going to stop them? We don't know what to do." We put those electronic machines to work, and there have been virtually none in the last 20-couple of years. So it has produced something positive.

MS. CLIFT: The notion that this is lascivious in some way or that you're revealing something that can't be seen is ridiculous. This is like looking at an outline in an x-ray.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you go for the electronic --

MS. CLIFT: As opposed to being patted down with the wand or felt up and down? I'd take the picture!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you like both? How about both? (Laughter.) No?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Not yet, John!

MR. BLANKLEY: I actually litigated one of the first cases in 1972. There's no expectation of privacy. Nonetheless, as a policy, I don't like it.