THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2000
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 29-30, 2000
(C) COPYRIGHT 2000, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 620 NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING, WASHINGTON, DC 20045, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.
FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
ANNOUNCER: GE is proud to support the McLaughlin Group. From lighting to financial services, GE: We bring good things to life.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Rudy's crisis.
MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R-New York City): (From videotape.) I was diagnosed yesterday with a -- with prostate cancer. It's a treatable form of prostate cancer. It was diagnosed at an early stage.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One hundred and eighty thousand men every year are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Ninety-two percent will live at least five more years, and two-thirds will live at least 10 years.
So the mayor may need to take time off or, depending on the treatment, may not even have to slow down.
The mayor's political diagnosis may be less clear.
MAYOR GIULIANI: (From videotape.) I don't think it's fair to answer questions about the Senate race right now. I think that my focus right now has to be on how to figure out the best form of treatment.
I hope that I'd be able to run, but the choice that I'm going to make about treatment is going to be contingent upon the treatment that gives me the best opportunity to have a full and complete cure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Regardless of whether or not the New York mayor decides to run for the Senate, what is the impact of this diagnosis on the voters, Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: I don't think it's going to be really a great impact, John. I mean, for some people, this may seem to humanize Rudy Giuliani, who has sort of rough edges, in the views of many voters. That may be offset if some voters feel that he wouldn't be able to -- fear that he might not be able to do the job for medical reasons.
But this is a treatable sort of cancer, and I think that effects are going to be minimal.
The question is how he and his opponent campaign.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I think in the end the voters are selfish and that they really don't want to elect somebody if they think their health is really in danger.
But countervailing that is the fact that so many people have had prostate cancer, so many people in the public eye -- celebrity cases, including Bob Dole -- that I think that the public has gotten used to this particular form of cancer, and I don't think the reaction is going to be that strong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will this soften his negative ratings? I ask you.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, it's conceivable. Obviously, he has a lot of -- he is a very sharp-angled fellow. But I'm not sure how he's going to play it. I mean, he -- I don't -- he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would play for sympathy. My guess is, he'll probably be sort of wry and ironic about it, rather than sentimental.
I think there is a danger. I think the public -- I agree with Eleanor; the public has got a very ruthless view to that. I mean, Bradley's numbers dropped like a stone when he had the heart problem --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Different kind of disease, though --
MR. BLANKLEY: Different disease, I agree. But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- could come on suddenly, whereas this is more or less predictable.
MR. BLANKLEY: And the other piece of this is how does it affect his -- the amount of time he can commit to campaigning. If you lose two to four to six eight weeks of campaigning in a closely fought race, that could be enough to be the difference.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was another person who had cancer, who ran for president. Who was that?
MR. BLANKLEY: Paul Tsongas --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Paul Tsongas.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- who eventually died.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, he did. But there are other reasons why he did so poorly in the election; correct?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah. It had nothing to do with health. But I don't think health is a real issue, in a sense. In a presidential race, in Bill Bradley's situation, it made a big difference, it was very important. In a Senate race, in a place where Strom Thurmond continues to get reelected, 120 --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ninety-eight.
MR. O'DONNELL: Ninety-eight, okay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will be 99 in December.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- it obviously doesn't matter to voters exactly what the health is of a congressman or a senator. They're always reelecting guys who are just on the way up. And we have a very clear system for replacing them if any problem develops. And so I don't think it's going to be a factor that way.
It makes the television -- it really stays in. It makes the television campaign much more important. He will be the most -- probably the most heavily financed New York or any Senate candidate in history. His TV ads are going to have to take the place of running around upstate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the effect on Hillary's TV ads? Would it not seem distasteful for her to run head-on negative ads with Rudy in this condition?
MR. O'DONNNELL: That's a real complexity here, is exactly -- because the Hillary campaign has always intended to attack Rudy Giuliani, in a totally legitimate policy way, but the way you do that now, with someone who is actually living with a cancer condition, is very delicate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would she be clever enough, however, as we know she is, to use surrogates to do her dirty work?
MR. O'DONNELL: You don't need surrogates for this at all. It's such a big subject that the opponent, Hillary, doesn't have to ever mention it.
MS. CLIFT: This isn't about Hillary Clinton; this is about Rudy Giuliani. And this illness does not have to knock him out of the race, but he may choose to use it as an opportunity to get out of the race. It strikes me that he's been ambivalent about running. When his numbers started falling a couple of weeks ago, the rumors started that he might not be, and he has not announced. And there are people waiting in the wings hoping that that job might be --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean Lazio from Long Island.
I have a question for you. Should he enlist the endorsement of Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf, who had prostate cancer and who has rallied from it, or, say, Lance Armstrong, who was the cyclist who had testicular cancer and then went on to become a champion.
MR. BARONE: I suppose you could do that. I think there's a danger of hyping that up too much and sort of elevating the problem. Lawrence is right, the qualifications for a senator are somewhat different from a president or governor. The fact is that if one member of the Senate is out for a couple weeks, the Senate -- for better or worse -- goes on; whereas, with a governor or president, you have a more significant problem. But I don't think Hillary is going to try and handle this in a heavy-handed way. Or if she or her surrogates do, I think they may pay a price as well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a probability scale of zero to 10, zero meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, how probable is it that Rudy Giuliani will drop out of the Senate race?
MR. BARONE: One.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Reading his body language, I would say it's 50-50 in his own mind.
MR. BLANKLEY: About 3-1/2.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three and a half.
MR. O'DONNELL: (Pause.) I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you thought about this?
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm just confused on your number scale. I think the chance --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero is zero probability.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- of his dropping out just went from one to about three.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: About three? The answer is one. He's a fighter. And I think Donna, his wife, will urge him to stay the course.
Okay. Last week on McLaughlin.com, we asked which of these vice presidential candidates gives George W. Bush the best chance of defeating Al Gore come November. Get this: General Colin Powell, 42 percent; Elizabeth Dole, 28 percent; Senator John McCain -- surprise -- 15 percent; Governor Tom Ridge, 8 percent; Governor Christine Todd Whitman, 7 percent.
When we come back, why is Bush's lead over Gore in the polls growing?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Bush has the "Mo." (sp)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) We will win the White House. We will hold the House, we will hold the Senate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Republican nominee for president came to the nation's capital this week to salute the GOP for raising a record-breaking, incredible $21.5 million at a single gala. It's been quite a week for the governor.
Image-making foreign policy trip: Bush traveled to Mexico to meet Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo a half mile across the U.S.-Mexico border and there dedicate a new bridge and promote his free trade agenda.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) I will work to extend the benefits of NAFTA from the northernmost Alaska to the tip of the Cape Horn.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Washington, two days later, Bush met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to talk about the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Emphasize bipartisanship: Bush met with retiring Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey to talk about Social Security and Medicare reform. Started VP search: Former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney will head Bush's vice president head-hunting team. New polls show Bush leads Gore now by nine points, also.
Independents: Bush has picked up their support, now leading Gore 39 to 30 percent. Investors: Now make up 63 percent of the electorate, are bullish about Bush; 46 to 35 over Gore and even though Gore invented the Internet, Bush gets the credit. Internet users favor Bush over Gore 45 to 36 percent.
Question: Why is Bush's lead over Gore in the polls growing, I ask you, Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think, to a certain extent, because of Elian. I think Gore had a very bad month in April. He got off stride, he didn't have any kind of a message going. Bush, on the other hand, a surprisingly good month. He rolled out education issues and foreign policy later on. I think most of the party professionals were a little surprised at the disparity of performance of the two teams. They would have expected the Gore team, which has been together longer, to be performing better.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gore has high negatives, and they're really hurting him, don't you think? He also has had bad headlines this week. Can you add to anything we've said here, Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I think what you're seeing is this what this campaign looks like when no one is making any mistakes. George W. Bush has made no mistakes --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No one's making any mistakes?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, but that controls a lot of campaigning.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think Gore has made any mistakes?
MR. O'DONNELL: If you call --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't call Elian a mistake?
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm going to wait until November to decide whether that's a mistake, John. That's a very tricky one. It's not at all clear to me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We could still be in litigation over this child in November! (Laughter.)
MR. O'DONNELL: It's -- I know! So it's not at all clear to me that Gore was wrong, given the show of force, on his distancing himself on the Elian case.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Politically, it was horrible!
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm not -- I don't see any poll telling me that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He looks like a panderer. He looks like a time-server. He looks like an opportunist.
MR. BARONE: John, some of that -- John, some of that has been unfair press on Al Gore.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let me hear from Michael.
MR. BARONE: Unfair press about Al Gore. The fact is that Al Gore took this position back in January. The press in March ran the issue of saying Al Gore switched his position. This is when he was doing Operation Florida, going into Florida all the time. That was an unfair take. In fact, Al Gore's -- (cross talk) -- position is the same; a minor negative, not a major.
MS. CLIFT: But the point is that Al Gore is venturing into a topic that he has no power over, and he looks like he is pandering, while George Bush has been talking about serious subjects -- education and health care. It's no surprise, however, because Republican primary candidates don't need education plans; they don't need health-care plans. So he is unveiling proposals now that Al Gore was talking about a year ago.
But Gore has got to begin to dress up his own --
MR. BARONE: Gore is so "underwhelming" --
MS. CLIFT: -- proposals and draw the contrast with Bush.
MR. BARONE: -- I think that's right. I mean, Gore has been underwhelming on some of these issues. If you take a look at his Social Security reform, what he says is going to save Social Security is we could add a couple more expenses to the program and then, "Hey, fiscally, it's going to be all right."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN (?): Look.
MR. BARONE: It's a very intellectually and politically weak plan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you like Gore's position about limited privatization?
MR. BARONE: Well, Gore is not talking about limited --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Bush rather?
MR. BARONE: Bush is taking a risk there. He is going against what historically has been the case. But you can find a lot of polling that will support the proposition that people want individual --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. What's the worst --
MR. BARONE: -- retirement accounts voluntarily, as part of Social Security.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- I ask you because of your polling background. Now, we'll put this to the test. All right?
MR. BARONE: And the fact is I that I think he is going to be coming out with this -- he says -- in a couple of weeks.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Coming out with what?
MR. BARONE: With a plan that would allow you to take part of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right, right, right.
MR. BARONE: -- your Social Security and put it in an individual investment account.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He is going to hit that hard coming up.
But I ask you this question, Michael. You know, with your polling background and your encyclopedic knowledge, what -- (laughter) -- what is the worst polling data that's come out about Gore?
MR. BARONE: Well, the worst polling data actually is the polling data on Elian, where he finds a lot of people say that he is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The worst polling (data ?) --
MR. BARONE: And the other one is that people doubt whether he is telling the truth, whether he is candid and whether he is frank.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In high-propensity voters, Bush has gained from 7 percent to 18 percent, which is remarkable.
MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah. But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Exit question. On a "big mo" scale of zero to 10, zero meaning "no momentum at all, dead in the water," 10 meaning "gale-force momentum, big winds straining the sails," how much "mo" does the governor have going for him now, Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: Well, I think the mechanical metaphor is really misleading, John. (Laughter.) The fact is that -- I won't say simple-minded, but I'll say a four in answer to your question. (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: A 2.5. Bush hasn't gotten any scrutiny. If Michael thinks Gore's proposals are "underwhelming," Bush's are "nonwhelming," and there is nothing there but rhetoric. (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: I think that he is at about three, while Gore is at about minus-two, which gives Bush a net --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, wait a second. This is a wrinkle I never heard before. You are adding the minus into the plus.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Gore's spinnaker fell off, and he is sailing backward against the wind.
MR. BARONE: Oh, more metaphors. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: No. (Laughs.)
MR. O'DONNELL: I think he just has marginally more than Gore.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two? Three? One?
MR. O'DONNELL: I think Bush --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five?
MR. O'DONNELL: -- has three, and I think Gore has two. I think they are both doing reasonably well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)
MR. O'DONNELL: But you know, this is a situation where the public in general is tilted against the status quo. So if they are both doing reasonably well, that means Bush is doing better.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five. But the waters are calm, and the shoals are ahead for Bush.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Beware, Sailor.
Issue three: Africa in agony.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: (From videotape.) The biggest mistake America ever made with Africa over the long run was neglect.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Uganda two years ago, President Clinton apologized for decades of U.S. neglect. But since 1997, nothing has changed.
Item, Ethiopia's agony today. Drought has left Ethiopia and its neighbors on the Horn of Africa, helpless. Over 16 million Africans are starving; the worst famine since 1984, when 1 million Ethiopians perished.
Item: Deadly disease. Malaria plagues Ethiopia. Sanitation and health services are unheard of.
Item: Devastating violence. An ongoing border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, its northern neighbor, has pulled resources out of the drought region, compounding the pain and the horror. Ethiopia is paralyzed.
"In Konso they're dying of malaria, after not eating for a week. In Awash they're killing each other over wells. In Tigray they're selling bits of their houses for firewood." So says Hannah Williams, who returned to London from Ethiopia on Monday.
Despite the ghastly dimension of this African tragedy, foreign aid from Washington to relieve humanitarian suffering is at its lowest level on record -- one one-thousandth of our total national economy. Compared to the rest of the industrialized nations, the U.S. comes in a shameful dead last. The richest nation in the world, blessed with incredible abundance, gives the least. Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Finland, Ireland, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italy -- they all give more. Then, the United States -- dead last.
Question: Is it more Congress or more the American public that's being so tight-fisted towards these poor African nations in agony? I ask you, Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Look, those pictures are grim, and I'm for more foreign aid. But if you look at some of the countries -- Germany, for example, has said that they're cutting back -- because if you give aid to Ethiopia, they use it for their border war against Eritrea. The United States government now has 160,000 tons of wheat they bought from American farmers that is sitting in a ship off the coast, and the roads are blocked because of the fighting.
So I think there's an exhaustion that's set in here, and people say, "Another famine in Africa? So what else is new?" And I think it's very hard to get political support.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is true that the Marxist government that contracted this war with Eritrea has compounded the problem. But the problem is the drought. That's an act of God.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now how do you defend the United States and its current foreign aid?
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't completely. There are two points to remember, though. The aggregate amount that we give, while as a percentage of our GDP is low, in absolute terms is very competitive with the highest contributors.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That doesn't get us off the hook.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- no -- however, it is largely a political fact the average American believes -- I've seen polls that show consistently -- that we spend 25 percent of our budget on foreign aid. In fact, we spend 14 billion, not 300 billion. So the politicians have tremendous pressure to cut the spending --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The current --
MR. BLANKLEY: -- and they follow the polls, and they follow public will. This is democracy in action, whether you like it or not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The factual data is that 10.6 -- seven -- .7 billion dollars has been advanced in the current budget of President Clinton for foreign humanitarian aid.
MR. BARONE: Well, but the fact is, John, a lot of these famines are really man-made, in the sense -- you didn't mention Sudan here, but you have a terrible situation where the government in the North has been killing and persecuting Christians in the South. Washington and nobody else has done very much about this at all. It's very difficult to understand just what we could do, but the fact is many of these things are caused by politically evil regimes. And a lot of the foreign aid --
MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second. Wait a second.
MR. BARONE: -- that has gone through years has been a mistake. And a lot the --
MR. BLANKLEY: The fact --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.
MR. BARONE: -- foreign aid has gone through on the mistaken assumption that we'd build these neo-Marxist sort of things.
MR. BLANKLEY: But the --
MR. BARONE: I'm not sure that's fair about Ethiopia now, but it's been wasteful and it's been used by corrupt things. It is a difficult problem, John.
MR. BLANKLEY: The fact that it's man-made doesn't mean that men don't have some responsibility for the short-term cure, which is you get food and water to people who are going hungry.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't we eliminate a lot of the aid going through multilateral agencies, NGOs and international organizations because of their bureaucracies and because they're prone for higher deviation of supplies and getting into the hands of -- and skimming and corruption? Why don't we rejuvenate the AID aid, which has been -- AID, move it over to the the State Department, control it tightly and get the aid in?
MR. O'DONNELL: One of the really sad reasons for precisely that is lobbying, and it is lobbying by lobbyists who are actually hired by countries who are lobbying competitively for this aid to go in other directions, but also just bureaucratic lobbying, this agency lobbying against that agency for getting control of certain sections of the pot of the money. And so we have that on our end. And then when you say we want to direct this over into a place that has border wars and infrastructure problems and inefficiencies that make the distribution of this stuff highly questionable in whatever we do, then that entity becomes just a loser target in the lobbying game of who's going to get what.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the American people are generous?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, I do, but but I do think that doing it as a share of GDP is an unfair calculation about how much we're actually giving.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. O'DONNELL: Because how much of our GDP do we spend on mass transit? I mean, it's minuscule compared to Britain, but that's not a real way of looking at it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it is a real way of looking at it. We have all this money in this country, and we are neglecting --
MR. O'DONNELL: How much more do you want to tax to do this?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think we have to tax. I think we have to distribute the budget somewhat differently.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, we all think you have to distribute the budget --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republicans want to take a billion dollars off Clinton's budget from foreign aid.
MS. CLIFT: Well, the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Should the United States take the lead with famine relief for Ethiopia and other African nations? Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: I suppose it should take the lead, particularly if it can figure out a good way to do this, where you have in some cases tyrannical regimes and in some cases no infrastructure --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Surely you appreciate my enlightened way to do it, don't you, through AID, and tight controls?
MR. BARONE: John, I appreciate all your enlightened ways.
MS. CLIFT: Politicians should take the lead and quite beating up on foreign aid and making it a scapegoat.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I think we have some airlift capability, so all the supplies don't have to go through Djibouti. We should be able to airlift some food to the people who actually need it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well stated.
MR. O'DONNELL: Of course we should take the lead. But when you have a chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, that becomes very, very unlikely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes, the United States of course should take the lead, with our amazing wealth and power. We don't have to be policemen of the world, and we should not be, but we can be the physician and the healer of the world.
Issue four: All's well that ends well.
Elian Gonzalez is at last back in his father's arms. Father and son spent the week bonding and reestablishing their family unit.
A psychiatrist gave Elian toy soldiers to play with, to see whether, because of the raid, he would recoil. Elian did not. In fact, he played with the soldiers in the normal fashion of a 6-year-old, leaving the impression with some that he likes the soldiers because they brought him to his father.
Republicans in Congress, however, look differently on the quote, unquote, "soldiers" and what they did to transfer Elian to Juan Miguel.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS, Senate majority leader): (From videotape.) I felt like a number of the questions were not adequately answered, particularly why you use this amount of force at this particular time? Why did it have to be done that day?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the Senate Republicans have called hearings for next week on the armed transfer of Elian Gonzalez from the house of his great-uncle in Miami when it was surrounded by militant anti-Reno demonstrators, 260 of which were put under arrest for various acts of aggression.
But Democratic senators think differently about the hearings.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT): (From videotape.) And so I would strongly recommend that the idea of a hearing be nixed. Let's get back to the real business of this body, of the Senate of the United States, and not further politicize the life of this infant child.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Americans agree with Senator Dodd. By a margin of more than two to one, the U.S. electorate does not want hearings. And 60 percent support the action taken by the Justice Department to return Elian to his father, Juan Miguel.
Question: In holding hearings on Elian, are the Republicans as bone-headed as they look, Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: Ah, you took the words out of my mouth! (Laughter.) For a time there, it looked like Al Gore, politically, would be the big loser. Then that cavalry of Republicans came riding over the Hill with this ridiculous idea of holding hearings. (Chuckles.)
MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, that's not -- no, no, that's not true.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. We don't have much time. I want to get everybody in.
MR. BLANKLEY: Most of the rank-and-file Republicans don't want to have hearings. My guess is the hearings will be very much back-pedaled, will be requests for some information. But the Republicans have seen the polls, and they don't like them..
MR. BARONE: John --
MR. O'DONNELL: Listen, it's Orrin Hatch running to the rescue of Al Gore. Chris Dodd is absolutely right; these hearings are a big, big mistake.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The rest -- the strategy is to prolong Gore's agony.
MR. BARONE: John, John, as hard as it may be for some people in Bill Clinton's Washington to believe, there are people who sometimes do things because they have convictions that you should not have the government engaging in that kind of brutal and dangerous conduct, which was unnecessary --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Brutal and dangerous? Nobody got hurt. It was over in under a few minutes.
MR. BARONE: You know, somebody could very easily have gotten hurt. Janet Reno hears about child abuse, and she sends guns after children. I -- the gun in this case -- it could shoot 600 rounds a minute, and she says, "Well, it wasn't pointed directly at him." Please! This deserves investigation.
MS. CLIFT: Boy, that's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It would be wise for the Republicans to leave well enough alone and get out of this hearings idea.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's bone-headed!
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will Elian's father opt to stay in the U.S.? Yes or no.
MR. BARONE: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. BLANKLEY: No.
MR. O'DONNELL: Nope.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "With God, All Things are Possible." Ohio is not the only state to mention God in a motto. Arizona's state motto uses the Latin phrase, "For God Enriches"; Florida uses, "In God We Trust"; and South Dakota uses, "Under God, the People Rule." We see the word "God" every time we reach into our wallets. The phrase, "In God We Trust" has been on our money since 1963.
The ACLU claims the problem is that Ohio's motto directly quotes the Bible with words attributed to Jesus Christ, in the case of the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19, Verse 26. The court says that amounts to a government endorsement of Christianity.
The problem is twofold. Christ-attributed words vary from translation to translation. Secondly, the phrase is a truism among theists, and is in no sense an utterance of Christ alone or originated by Christ alone.
Question: Will the lower court ruling that says the Ohio motto violates church-state law survive this ACLU challenge?
I ask you, Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: You know, you can never predict. This is one of the silliest areas of litigation and court rulings where they try to hair-split what's constitutional, what's not. I think your presentation obviously makes the case this is within the zone, has traditionally been legitimate and legal. But you never know, I mean a court can decide that, you know, Matthew is sufficiently specific that they're going to do with it, even though you're talking about translations from Aramaic. It's a very tricky area.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does anyone here think that that motto is designed for the state to erect an official religion?
MR. O'DONNELL: No, but I think it's a weird thing to be throwing onto government stationary. What possible purpose is it? Let's talk about it from that point of view. What is the purpose of the thing?
MR. BARONE: Yeah, but, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the purpose of it is because the America people are by and large God-fearing.
MR. BARONE: Lawrence, that's an argument you'd make if you're a legislator in Ohio and reasonably make, and you could see whether your colleagues would accept.
I mean, the fact is, this has gotten to be kind of farcical. The Constitution says --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's farcical?
MR. BARONE: The set of litigation. -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." That's been applied to the states. The fact is, this is obviously not a law requiring -- what we're going to see next is you wouldn't let Senator Alan Bible????? take his seat in the Senate when he was elected in 1954. Is Minnesota going to have to move its capital away from St. Paul and put it to a city with a secular name?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: Come on Michael! You know, some people view this as a promotion of Christianity. It was a brainstorm of former Governor Voinovich, it seems innocuous; how about, "In this state, you don't have a prayer."? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The ACLU is slowly being taken over by the extremists and becoming increasingly more marginalized.