THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, LAWRENCE KUDLOW,
AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2000
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 5-6, 2000
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Invincible No More.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) And South Carolina is Bush country! (Cheers, applause.) I invite my friends, not only in this state but in the early states and all across America, to join us.
My message is to end an era of scandal and bitterness in Washington. (Whoops, cheers.) I ask for your help. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Governor Bush dusted off the New Hampshire snow and his embarrassing 19-point loss to John McCain, and turned to the next showdown: South Carolina, on February 19, two weeks away, a contest that promises to be no cakewalk for W. A new Zogby poll this week of likely Republican primary voters shows Bush trailing McCain by five points.
Question: Can Bush stop the hemorrhaging, Lawrence Kudlow?
MR. KUDLOW: Well, he can, but it's going to be very difficult to do so. Right now he's a stock who's looking for a bottom, and right now John McCain I don't think has peaked yet. The whole momentum story is against him.
But the clip you just showed shows Bush's problem. The message is, he doesn't have a clear message, and he doesn't know exactly who his constituency is, and he's not fighting for anything, except a sort a window-dressing. So he's got major alternation --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His message is compassionate conservatism. Isn't that clear enough for you?
MR. KUDLOW: No, actually, and it's not clear enough for anybody else either. In fact, he's a little too compassionate. What he needs to do, among many things, is fight much harder for his own message and to fight much harder against John McCain's message. He's not fighting on either side, and that's why he's getting crunched.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: There are real doubts about whether he is prepared to be president, and bringing in his daddy to New Hampshire reinforced those doubts. Calling a 53-year-old man "boy" --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who did that?
MS. CLIFT: -- his father did -- basically went straight at people's fears that this is somebody who's not a grown-up, who may not have the gravitas to be president.
What George Bush has to do is quit those terse answers, followed by wise-guy expressions. He's going to have to literally talk his way into the nomination. He's going to have to say what he stands for, he's going to have to debate, and he's going to have to prove to people that he has the right stuff to be president. I'm not sure that he has it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Doesn't she make a good point? Jack Kemp, Elizabeth Dole, John Sununu, George Bush --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Barbara Bush -- isn't it a bit too much?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, of course -- (chuckles) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that George Bush Senior conducted himself with as much lack of skill in calling his son a "boy" as when he vomited on the Japanese prime minister?
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, a couple of night ago, this was all reported that -- I mean, I said it, and everyone is saying it -- that he shouldn't have brought in all the family to support him. That's not his fundamental problem. His fundamental problem is, as Lawrence says, he doesn't have a current message.
Now, he has got a couple of weeks -- a little less than three weeks now, in South Carolina, to retool his campaign, to take on personally McCain.
And I don't know whether it works or not, but McCain is a little bit like Ferraro in '84; he is going up straight like a skyrocket. Now, the Republicans in '84 were able to take her down. We'll see whether Bush is able to find the negatives that can do that. We don't know yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Bush has described this as a "bump in the road." What are you talking about skyrocketing McCain?
MR. BLANKLEY: The bump in the road, every press secretary uses it as a holding place until they come up with a real statement. They are trying to calm the troops while they retool. And in fact, Bush is going back to Texas this weekend to retool his campaign.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are both talking about a lack of message from McCain. But isn't it true that issues is not why McCain won? It wasn't his tax plan, nor was it the iron triangle that he carps against. It was because he looked like he had independent stature, which is something Bush did not look like he had. Am I right or wrong?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah. But I'd also think Bush does have a message. He has a message of massive tax cuts. And that message is being ignored because his problem is that -- it's a fundamental issue, and it's about him -- these focus groups are saying, "We don't like him." There is not much you can do about that. "We don't like the way his face works. We don't like those smirks. We don't even like his parentage in the way it relates to this situation" -- meaning, he is only here because of his parentage. And so there is nothing you can do about that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And also, he is not sufficiently accessible the way McCain is accessible?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah. And McCain on the other side; on the positive side, you have a candidate, McCain, who has found a voice that no one else in this campaign has found. It is the most effective voice. And trying to campaign against that, so far, has been impossible.
MS. CLIFT: Well, McCain is running like a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt; I mean, he really is a phenomenon, taking on the special interests and so forth. But he has not been scrutinized, and he is going to get his turn in the barrel now.
So I think -- you know, this is not over -- at this stage where independents don't have the voice they have in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were Al Gore -- and I know you give considerable -- (laughter) -- thought to Al Gore --
MS. CLIFT: I think what it would be like to be Al Gore all the time, John. (Laughs.) (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were Al Gore, would you be happy or sad at McCain's insurgency?
MS. CLIFT: I think, right now, George W. Bush looks like he could be taken out on the issue of that huge tax cut alone. He is very weak on substance and biography.
McCain looks like the giant-killer. But McCain --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I am talking about Gore.
MS. CLIFT: Today --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were Gore, would you be happy or sad at McCain's success?
MS. CLIFT: Right today, today I'd rather run against George W. Bush. Talk to me again in a couple of weeks, after McCain gets the going-over. He's going to get a lot of scrutiny now from the Republican attack machine and from the media establishment.
MR. KUDLOW: But I've got to rebut this. Of course, these two don't want tax cuts, and the problem is that Senator McCain has essentially been Clintonized on the issue, and he's become a debt reducer. George W. Bush, one thing he can do immediately is take on the tax cut message. If you look at the exit polls in New Hampshire, 65 percent of the Republican voters voted against McCain on the tax issue. But the trouble here is, Bush's plan, it has some good points, the marginal tax rate reduction; it doesn't help business, it doesn't help investors, and he's soft on the Internet tax question. Each step of the way, he needs to bolster his plan, fight harder for it, and then say to McCain, "Look, your debt reduction doesn't help people, you're helping government, not families.?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have a question. And that question relates to the way that McCain assailed the ethics of Clinton. He did it, and Hatch did it much more powerfully -- not more powerfully, but more extensively than McCain, but McCain did it in a way that Bush did not do it. Do you think that the people of New Hampshire liked that, and that helped McCain's big win?
MR. KUDLOW: Oh, definitely. McCain integrates all of the elements of his message perfectly, unlike anyone else on this campaign trail. He begins a paragraph that seems to have nothing to do with Bill Clinton, and it ends in a reminder of the scandal. And he does it through the campaign finance reform thread that he keeps going through everything he --
MS. CLIFT: Bill Clinton is not running in November, though, I might like to point out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, but the distance between Bill Clinton and Al Gore is shrinking with each passing day --
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because of Gore's falsification. We'll get --
MS. CLIFT: As Al Gore (learns ?) to take credit for the economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- into that in a minute.
Okay. Is New Hampshire being over-hyped?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Across New Hampshire, you have spoken, and I have listened.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what does New Hampshire tell John McCain? What did it tell Republican Pat Buchanan when he won New Hampshire in '96, then fell flat afterwards and Bob Dole won the nomination?
Question: These New Hampshire statistics occurred in the 20th century. We are now in the 21st century, where the dynamics are dramatically different: The primaries are less competitive because of compression. There are more independents now than ever, and party loyalists are more prone to ticket-splitting. So the reliability of the past as a predictor of the future is now so weak that this whole review is a waste of time. (Laughter.)
True or false, I ask you, Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: I think this time New Hampshire voters were serious. I think they got a little frivolous last time in voting for Pat Buchanan. And you -- in that list rule out the New Englanders Muskie and Tsongas going up there and winning a New England state, and you get a pretty reasonable predictor. And the test is already with us: Do you have a strategy after New Hampshire? Yes, McCain does. He is leading now in South Carolina.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, except --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, yeah -- I mean -- part of it is that -- look at the candidate who won -- whether Pat Buchanan was not well-positioned to win the election thereafter. But McCain is in much better position; he is in the center. And so he can't exploit his victory much more than Pat could have.
MS. CLIFT: First, this is still extremely fluid. I think this nomination race is still George Bush's to lose, and he has shown us that he can do it very quickly.
MR. BLANKLEY: He can lose it very quickly.
MS. CLIFT: And McCain is only playing in specific states, and so far he has got to win: He has got to win South Carolina, he has got to win Arizona; he has got to win Michigan, because he is nowhere everywhere else.
MR. BLANKLEY: I've got -- look I --
MS. CLIFT: So it's still --
MR. BLANKLEY: -- because I agree with you --
MS. CLIFT: -- it's still a wing and a prayer and a lot of momentum.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- I agree with you.
MS. CLIFT: He could do it, but --
MR. BLANKLEY: But if McCain wins South Carolina, I guarantee you that the Republican establishment goes from a shudder and a shock to a reconsideration. (Laughter.)
MR. KUDLOW: You see, one of the problems is these past winners of New Hampshire had no spin, they had no mission, they had no motive. McCain on the other hand -- I agree with you -- McCain is -- it's not that he is well scripted; he just has great instincts. It's like all of his Senate eccentricity has combined into one heck of a good package on the presidential campaign stump.
MR. BLANKLEY: The fact that he --
MR. KUDLOW: And he is so strong now in South Carolina that you have to give the New Hampshire thing a lot of credit.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's a fact that he doesn't seem to be scripted, which is part of his strength, and that George Bush looks to be too scripted.
MR. KUDLOW: And I must disagree --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that George Bush is a paper tiger?
MR. BLANKLEY: No. It's premature to say that.
MR. KUDLOW: Look, "Bushie" -- "Bushie" has opportunities to pull this thing back together.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you say "Bushie"?
MR. KUDLOW: Yes. (Laughter.)
MR. O'DONNELL: It's an affectionate term. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a diminutive. (Laughter.)
MR. : From one -- (inaudible) -- to another, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN (?): Ah.
MR. KUDLOW: It's a term of endearment. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MS. CLIFT: It's like "Bushie" is the son of Bush. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well if -- "W" is "Bushie," what is the father?
MS. CLIFT: Big Bush. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Big Bushie." (Laughter.)
MR. KUDLOW: His father is yesterday's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Let's go. (Laughs.)
MR. KUDLOW: But the point I want to make is that Governor Bush can retool his message; he probably has to retool some policy advisers, as well. This thing is still up for grabs.
MS. CLIFT: "Retool" means "fire." (Laughs.)
MR. KUDLOW: I agree with Eleanor. Sometimes personnel changes can be very instrumental.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. KUDLOW: But look, he needs a stronger posture. He needs to show fight. But on policy substance, he's got to improve his tax message.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit --
MR. KUDLOW: He's got to improve his campaign reform message. That also is very important.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's got to show that he has independent stature --
MR. KUDLOW: Well, he's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- both independence and stature. That's what McCain has. He has independence, and he has stature.
MS. CLIFT: Well, you know, oddly enough --
MR. KUDLOW: But he also has to show that he's connecting with the conservative grass roots of the Republican Party. Right now neither McCain nor Bush has a claim on conservatives in the Republican Party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain has the temper and he has the dark side. Bush appears smug and he appears privileged. They both have to get rid of these qualities or attributes, or at least hide them.
MR. O'DONNELL: McCain doesn't have --
MS. CLIFT: Well, oddly enough, Bush is going to have to do the same thing that Al Gore did a couple of months ago, and that's get out of the bubble of privilege and get out there and show some fight and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And be more accessible, and not be unwilling to go to Exeter because there's going to be protesters there.
MR. BLANKLEY: But it's later in the cycle for Bush than it was for Gore.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question, multiple choice: Can John McCain beat Bush for the nomination? A, absolutely not; B, probably not; C, maybe -- (laughter) -- D, probably yes; E, definitely yes.
MR. KUDLOW: I think it was C, but what I want to say is maybe.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's -- that's A, B, C. You're right.
MS. CLIFT: Right. I'm going to go with that, too. That's the ultimate weasel word in that -- (laughter) --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I'm going to be a lot bolder. I'm going to say C minus.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: C minus?
MR. BLANKLEY: So, in other words, it's a little bit more likely that's it's probable that McCain could win, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. But you're saying it's somewhere between "maybe" and "probably"?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's neither?
MR. BLANKLEY: It's right in between.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right in between?
MR. BLANKLEY: That's with a slight lean to McCain. Very close.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very skillfully stated. (Laughter.)
What about you?
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm between two also. I think it's between D and E. I think it's between "probably" and "definitely." This campaign is the biggest surge anyone has ever seen in presidential campaigning.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is maybe. (Laughter.)
Last week on mclaughlin.com, we asked, "Is Governor Bush straddling on abortion, or does he make himself clear when he says that he will appoint judges that will strictly interpret the Constitution?" Get this: Sixty-one percent, "very clear." Thirty-nine percent, "straddling."
When we come back: Does Al Gore's propensity to falsify threaten to undo all the progress he has made in separating himself from W.J. Clinton?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Truth and consequences.
SEN. BILL BRADLEY (Democrat presidential candidate): (From videotape.) How can the people trust a candidate who doesn't tell them the truth in the campaign to tell them the truth if he's elected president of the United States? (Cheers.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's Bradley this week, on offense, and, it looks like, for the long haul. As in New Hampshire, Bradley is going straight for the jugular: Al Gore's honesty. It's bad news for Gore because, beyond even Gore's well-known fibs, such as when he took credit for the Internet, the discovery of Love Canal, and claimed he was the subject of Erich Segal's "Love Story," Bradley has a big Gore-falsification arsenal to draw upon.
One, abortion flip-flop.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (Democrat presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I have always supported Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not true, Mr. Gore, says the evidence. In letters to constituents as late as '84, Gore declared that, quote, "It is my deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong." Also in '84, Gore voted for an amendment that redefined "person" to include, quote, "unborn children from the moment of conception."
Two: Tobacco promise broken.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (Democrat presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Three thousand young people in America will start smoking tomorrow. One thousand of them will die a death not unlike my sister's. And that is why, until I draw my last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, 13 days after his sister's agonizing death, Gore took $1,000 in PAC money from big tobacco. And four years later, during his '88 presidential campaign, Gore boasted about his background as a tobacco farmer.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (Democrat presidential candidate): (From videotape.) But I want you to know that with my own hands, all my life, I've put it in the plant beds and transferred it, I've hoed it, I've suckered it, I've sprayed it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three: Phantom recession.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (Democrat presidential candidate): (From videotape.) You know, the Clinton-Gore administration has ended the deepest recession since the 1930s, when New Hampshire was losing 10,000 jobs a year, and brought on the strongest economy in the history of the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The short recession of '90 to '91, to which Gore habitually refers as the worst since the Great Depression, in fact represented a 1.3 percent drop in economic growth -- a hiccup after 92 straight months of expansion under Ronald Reagan and George Bush. This falsely labeled "crippling recession" ended, moreover, 18 months before Clinton's election, and was one-third the size of the longer recessions that gripped the country during parts of the '50s and the '70s.
Gore's detractors are not the only ones pointing out these exaggerations and falsehoods. During Gore's 1988 run for the presidency, aides warned him, quote, "Your main pitfall is exaggeration, and your image may continue to suffer if you continue to go out on a limb with remarks that may be impossible to back up."
Question: Is Bradley enough of a magician to convert doubts about Gore's veracity into doubts about his electability, Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: Not as long as Gore is running even in the polls with George Bush. And we haven't matched him up against McCain yet. But I think the electability argument is gone.
And I think Bradley running one day from an Olympian perch and then getting down in the mud has his own problems of credibility. I think Bradley may very well not win a single primary, or win very, very few.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Gore's propensity to exaggerate removes the distance he's created between himself and Clinton? In other words, the subtext here in all of this attack by Bradley is that the dishonesty being shown makes him akin to Clinton. He's Clintonian, and -- first, his exaggeration, then he's a liar, and then he's a full-fledged, gold-plated phony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I mean, I completely agree with Bradley on this one, and with you, that -- and it's a gift to the Republican Party that Gore's going out making these spectacular lies. And McCain, of course, has caught the theme perfectly; he's going to end the truth-twisting of the Clinton-Gore team. That's his punch line, and it punches hard. And I don't know why in the world that Gore is doing this, because he's making lies that are so easily catchable.
MR. O'DONNELL: And John, you left one off the list, which is the Earned Income Tax Credit. In October, in Time magazine, without any protest from Time magazine, Al Gore took credit for establishing the Earned Income Tax Credit, which was of course established by Chairman of the Finance Committee Russell Long before Al Gore ever entered Congress.
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, I got --
MR. O'DONNELL: And this is, of course, a darling of the Democratic Party -- the Earned Income Tax Credit.
MR. BLANKLEY: And let me give you -- there's one other like that. He claimed that unlike Bradley, he was co-sponsor of McCain-Feingold. But he had quit the Senate to be vice president before McCain-Feingold even was introduced into legislation. This man is a maniacal liar.
MS. CLIFT: Well, braggadocio is a fairly common malady among politicians, and some of this stuff he has a perfectly adequate record he ought not to embellish. And on the abortion question, he ought to say, "Yes, I anguished over this." I think he is just so damned competitive that he has to stomp out the question -- (cross talk) -- but this such minor stuff. To call this spectacular lies is really reaching.
MR. : You know what worries --
MR. KUDLOW: Wait a second. Wait a second.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence?
MR. KUDLOW: Let me just -- the footage that you showed will obviously be showed during the general election campaign, whether it's Bush or McCain. What is so intriguing to me and fascinating about Gore's psyche is how emotionally he gets involved in these dissembling exercises, if you will. That includes the Internet. We didn't even get to that; he's the inventor of the Internet. So this is very interesting, and I think it really brings him much closer to Bill Clinton, who also is a master of getting emotionally involved for that moment in whatever lie he is telling.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you find this particularly worrisome, that the falsification is not only not incidental and not accidental, but it appears to be strategic? For example, this is what was written by the U.S. News and World Report from a quote from a political advisor of Gore about Gore's signing that amendment that put him on the side of the pro-lifers. "Since there's a record of that vote, we have only one choice -- deny, deny, and -- in effect, what we have to do is deny, deny, deny. We've muddled the point and, with luck, the attention will turn elsewhere."
MS. CLIFT: Well, you know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's strategic lying.
MR. O'DONNELL: It is strategic lying, especially, and it's the reason I point out the earned income tax credit. That is a lie told to the minority population and to the Democratic Party that says, "This is the guy who's been taking care of you," and it's something he's -- (inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're almost out of time.
MS. CLIFT: Well, go over the -- well, go over the record of any politician coming from a rural southern district, and you're going to find some strategic comments and votes, and we're going to find that with all these people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. We gotta get out. Has Bradley found the formula to beat Al Gore, yes or no? Lawrence Kudlow.
MR. KUDLOW: I think Bradley showed traces that he is finding the formula.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, quickly?
MS. CLIFT: He's doing the dirty work for the Republicans and he's damaging his own reputation. Democrat --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he has not -- and he has not found the formula, has he or hasn't he?
MS. CLIFT: No. Oh, no! He has.
MR. BLANKLEY: He may have found the formula, but he can't apply it. I think McCain can.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good point.
MR. O'DONNELL: I think he's found the formula, but perhaps too late.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's found the formula, but whether or not he can apply it, as you point out, is correct.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction. Who wins South Carolina?
MR. KUDLOW: I think John McCain wins it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I think it's too early to say. But, you know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly~!!
MS. CLIFT: Okay. No guts, no glory. McCain. (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Too early to say, but it's McCain.
MR. O'DONNELL: McCain.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is McCain.
Next week: Will the peace process in Northern Ireland get back on track?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Let the good times roll.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Because today all of us as Americans celebrate the month where we mark the largest economic expansion in the history of the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One hundred and seven months and counting. That's how long the U.S. economy has been growing non-stop, a period that dates back to March, 1991, the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush.
Achievements during this nine-year sustained growth:
Item: Soaring GDP. Gross Domestic Product, over the nine years, grew an average 4 percent annually.
Item: High employment labor force. During this nine-year period, the unemployment level has almost constantly declined. It stands now at 4.1 percent.
Item: Higher earnings. Household incomes are up 68 percent since 1991.
Those are only a few of the economic highlights of this prosperity record. Who gets the credit for these glories? Well, actually, the prosperity cycle is not 107 months, it's 199 months. And the credit goes not to Alan Greenspan, but to Ronald Reagan. In 1982, the so-called nine-month recession, occurring between July 1990 and March 1991, was almost imperceptible, as noted earlier, dropping a mere 1.3 percent from peak to trough, the third mildest recession since World War II.
Question: Will the Democrats get the credit for these good times?
I ask you, Lawrence Kudlow.
MR. KUDLOW: I think they're going to get part of the credit, and I think there's a lot of credit to go around. I agree with you, that it was Reagan's tax cuts and deregulation policies that launched it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the one thing that Clinton did that he deserves to get a lot of credit for?
MR. KUDLOW: I personally think Clinton's two best moments, number one, he was a free trader in the middle '90s, actively. And number two, his appointment of Robert Rubin to the Treasury --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right, Rubin.
MR. KUDLOW: -- worked well with Greenspan to hold down inflation. So let's give some credit where credit is due. And that, of course, wipes out his goofy tax hike.
MS. CLIFT: Well, no Republican is --
MR. O'DONNELL: Rubin advocated the tax hike, let's remember.
MR. KUDLOW: Well, I know. I don't agree with Mr. Rubin on everything --
MR. O'DONNELL: -- and the deficit reduction package that went with it.
MR. KUDLOW: -- but he managed a strong dollar.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, he had a dumb idea on variable annuities. Am I right or wrong?
MR. KUDLOW: Well, yes, Mr. Rubin, unfortunately, was a corporate loophole closer, no matter what damage --
MS. CLIFT: No Republican is going to ask the question, "Are you better off today than you were eight years ago?" Case closed.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me put this in context. Everybody understands that presidents get credit for the prosperity in that moment, and they don't get it in history. Warren Harding, Coolidge, Chester A. Arthur. They don't get any credit --
MR. KUDLOW: Oh, I love Coolidge. I love Coolidge.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- don't get any credit for --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who lives in history? This is reality.
MR. BLANKLEY: I know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And this is real time.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's why Clinton's still looking for his legacy, because he knows that this won't be it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good.
MR. KUDLOW: Coolidge is the most under-rated guy --