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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Occidentally Gored.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) This is an administration has had no energy policy. It's an administration that is -- that is hoping the issue goes away.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) It is a new, bold way of thinking, to demand and develop new American technologies to free ourselves from gas-tank price gouging.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's an energy war going on between Republicans and Democrats, namely, whose energy policy is worse?

Al Gore outlined an allegedly new energy plan this week, while the nation's gas prices remained at record highs -- more than $2 a gallon regular, unleaded, in the Midwest, with the national average at $1.68. Gore's $125 billion plan, in the wake of the 2000 gas crunch, sounds a lot like Jimmy Carter's plan in the wake of the 1979 gas crunch. Like Carter, Gore wants alternative energy -- windmills, solar power, and other exotic. Like Carter, Gore puts the blame on big oil and his Republican opponent.

(Quoting the vice president.) "My opponent comes out of the oil industry. His experience is as a oil executive. He called for higher oil prices to boost the oil companies' profits."

Actually, the vice president may be more big oil than the governor is. Gore controls at least $500,000 worth of stock in Occidental Petroleum. That's the same Occidental whose shares jumped 10 percent in 1998, after the company bought the Elk Hills oil field from the U.S. government, a sale urged by Mr. Gore.

Gore says the stock is owned by his father's estate. While he is the executor of the estate, Gore says he exercises no control over the stock.

Question: Whose image has big oil stained the more, the image of George Bush or the image of Al Gore, Lawrence Kudlow?

MR. KUDLOW: Well, I think Al Gore has just gored himself on this issue, and it's just part of his general problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you say that?

MR. KUDLOW: Well, because of the fix he's in with respect to his family's trust and their ownership of Occidental stock. I mean, the irony here is, George Bush comes from the entrepreneurial end of the business. He was an independent oilman -- he was never involved in the big oil companies, the so-called Seven Sisters -- whereas the Gore family, father and son and others, have been involved in Occi. Petroleum (sp), which itself was a large multinational company.

But the other problem Gore is going to have is this 1970s, Jimmy Carter, malaise-type sale he's trying to make, which the public is not buying. Polls show that people blame high gasoline taxes, not oil companies. I think gas taxes should be cut to help solve this problem, on the consumer side. And secondly, Gore's $150 billion of targeted tax credits is another example of bad tax policy. What we need here, for oil companies and non-oil companies, is an across-the-board business tax cut, especially cash expensing for depreciation, so everybody can provide new equipment for all the old-economy businesses.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, can you improve on that? And by the way, Eleanor, congratulations on this great tome, "Madam President: Shattering the Last Glass Ceiling," the story of the emergence of women, full-scale, full-blown, into the political system. You got Margaret Thatcher in here?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. Margaret Thatcher, when she was in office, never did a thing for women. But because she was there, she changed the image of what women could do. We all owe her a great debt.

So we write about the progress of women in the political scene. And my dream presidential contest is Christie Whitman for the Republicans and either Hillary Clinton or Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for the Democrats -- maybe 2008.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Al Gore is going to pick a woman as his vice presidential running mate?

MS. CLIFT: He might. But we do write in the book that the pool of available women with the credentials to be taken seriously as an instant president is very small.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if George Bush, as is rumored, goes with Jim (sic) Keating, the governor of Oklahoma, that will take the heat off Gore to select a woman.

MS. CLIFT: It's Frank Keating --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Frank Keating.

MS. CLIFT: -- but I don't think that it takes the heat off, because the incentive to put a woman on the ticket, sadly enough, is not just her qualifications; it's to either open up or close the gender gap. And Al Gore needs a big gender gap.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll get back to Keating in a moment.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now do you want to contribute something by way of an answer to the question?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he delivered the Bush campaign briefing papers, so maybe I get to do the same.

Look, George Bush is an oilman. He's gotten $1.5 million from the oil industry in his campaign. And his energy policy is that he's going to open up more natural resources to drilling, and he's going to go tell OPEC to open up the spigots. Why? Because his daddy won the war? He can't win this contest. His is big oil personified.


MR. KUDLOW: Actually, what --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait, wait, wait. It's Tony's turn.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, welcome, Admiral.

MR. BLANKLEY: (Chuckles.) Thank you. (Laughter.) It's July 4th -- red, white, and blue.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Anchors aweigh! (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Thank you. (Laughs.)

The question is the politics of oil. I think neither side is playing it very well. The Republicans and Bush have sort of been wandering around, divided on whether to go after cutting back on the regulations or the gas taxes. The best that Governor Bush has been able to come up with is that he would jawbone OPEC, which he might be able to do, but Republicans traditionally have complained about jawboning.

On the other hand --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He also has suggested alternative forms of energy, not in the exotic sense, but, for example, opening up ANWR.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, no, that could --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I believe the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, that's one side of their policy.

But Gore also, I think, has some vulnerabilities here, because he's moving into a zone which, as you mentioned, reminds people a little bit of Jimmy Carter. It's also going to open up the question of his historic desire to see higher energy prices because of his environmental feelings. So I think that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are those?

MR. BLANKLEY: His feeling is, you want to tax energy supplies, make them more expensive, so they won't be used as much, and the world will be beautiful and green.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he wants to rid us of the scourge of the combustion engine, right?

MR. BLANKLEY: That too, from his book "Earth in the Balance."

But I think the danger is that that's a negative for him if it gets developed more.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Gore is kind of in a boomerang embarrassment situation by attacking Bush for being under the control of big oil when he himself has his Achilles' heel?

MR. WARREN: What? His Occidental stock?


MR. WARREN: No. The answer is no. But thank you for saving me some time amid Larry's history of world energy -- (laughter) -- and this much-merited infomercial for Eleanor's book --

MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)

MR. WARREN: -- which, I might note, does not mention you in the acknowledgments. (Laughter.)


MR. WARREN: Congratulations. Congratulations, Eleanor. (Laughter.)

But speaking about Carter, I think the real comparison to make is, if one looks back historically to the Carter era, one finds that demand for oil is still high. Our dependence on foreign oil sources is significantly higher now, and I think that is the real --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the best you can contribute to this conversation?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. WARREN: No, and I think that's a real problem --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That we're dependent on foreign oil?

MR. WARREN: And you add to it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dick Tracy here today?

MR. WARREN: And you add it to the grievously low priority you and your ilk pay to conservation, loving your gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, and I think that's a real problem.

MR. KUDLOW: With all due respect, we've got to have an energy policy in this country that is pro-economic growth, pro-prosperity. This Al Gore, this Jim Warren high-tax, slow-down-energy stuff doesn't wash with working people throughout the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what do we -- (cross talk) -- how do we go about achieving that objective?

MR. KUDLOW: You have to free businesses in general from excess taxation and regulation. And let me make a point about Bush.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, where do you get the high tax? These are tax incentives to industry.

MR. KUDLOW: Hang on. Hang on. Listen, these are not tax incentives. These are targeted subsidies to specific areas. We should be cutting tax rates across the board for business.

MS. CLIFT: No --

MR. KUDLOW: My criticism of the Bush campaign, by the way. He's got a good --

MS. CLIFT: Lawrence, everything with you comes around to supply-side economics, whatever the issue is.

MR. KUDLOW: Hang on a second, Eleanor. He's -- well -- maybe -- you know, it works! You ought to listen more carefully.

MS. CLIFT: It's over.

MR. KUDLOW: The point I'm making is neither candidate, neither Bush nor Gore nor the U.S. Congress is cutting taxes on businesses, and that's the missing link.


MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. It's worth remembering -- it's worth remembering that it was Reagan who focused both on increasing the supply and letting market forces work that gave rise to the 17 years of economic growth that Gore is so proud of.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, my. Oh, my.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And politically, politically. Exit question.

MS. CLIFT: We're in the 21 century. I hate to disappoint you. Ronald Reagan was a long time ago. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was two quarters that had economic growth from 1983 --

MS. CLIFT: Deficit!

MR. BLANKLEY: -- from 1983 until --

MS. CLIFT: Remember the deficit!

MR. KUDLOW: You go, Tony. I love it when Tony talks supply-side like that. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit -- exit question on this 4th of July weekend when everybody will be out in their SUVs, right? -- (laughter) -- burning up that -- oh, by the way, despite the fact that oil prices are way up, the sales of SUVs couldn't be higher. That tells you a lot about the economy.

MR. BLANKLEY: We're going to buy another one in a couple of weeks.


MR. BLANKLEY: It'll be our third one, yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And have you had them all consecutively, or -- (laughter)?

MR. BLANKLEY: Two right now. We're going to get another one. We love them.

MR. KUDLOW (?): They're wonderful cars.

(Cross talk, laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- (laughing) -- about (proposed ?) choice. Who will get the most blame for the gas prices? -- big oil; B, Al Gore -- you know, his environmentalism gone amok; C, George Bush, corporate greed; D -- I mean, we're on the level of rumor, you know, and public image -- OPEC; EPA; or Bill Richardson? We didn't mention him, the energy czar. Lawrence Kudlow, take your pick.

MR. KUDLOW: I would have to say, not given the biggest blame is on high taxes, particularly the gasoline tax. That's what the Rasmussen poll showed 65 percent blame high gas on.


MS. CLIFT: The country is suspicious that big oil is making too much money, but it's a complicated issue and, relatively speaking, gas prices are not that high, when people can afford three SUVs. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you go, Tony. Can you improve on that cop-out answer?

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm going to give you a different kind of a cop-out answer. (Laughter.) I think it's going to be a split almost four ways between OPEC, between the oil companies who don't deserve it but are going to get some of the blame, and Gore's environmental policy.

MR. WARREN: I apologize now for being succinct. (Laughter.) The answer is big oil and OPEC, as long as the economy is strong. If it starts heading south, then Al Gore's got to worry about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is the culpability will be equally distributed among all of those elements and, adding to that, taxes on gas.

When we come back, the Supreme Court rules six to three that computers and other educational equipment paid for by tax dollars can go to parochial school classrooms without violating separation of church and state. Does this ruling give a green light for a national voucher program?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: courting controversy. The Supreme Court reached some big decisions this week. Parochial schools and computers, six to three. What's at issue, James Warren?

MR. WARREN: Forget the headlines. Most of these cases decided in the last month were rather narrow, cautious cases without great ramifications, but not in the instance of this. This could be huge, even though I think the media very much underplayed it. What we're talking about is the issue of treating public and religious school students equally. And it's clear by that decision, which really is an odd majority -- it wasn't really six, it was four and two -- Clarence Thomas in one camp and O'Connor in a camp. But together, if you look closely, particularly at O'Connor, it is clear that there are six votes now in the U.S. Supreme Court for vouchers, if the federal aid goes right to parents, then to the schools, not directly to the schools.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Including, I might -- including Breyer.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think that's --

MR. WARREN: Correct. You can read Breyer that way; that's correct.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think that's clear at all. I mean, first of all, Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, and he went way overboard, and Sandra Day O'Connor wrote a dissent within the majority putting a brake on that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you referring to Thomas' statement that anti-Catholicism had created a climate in which this would have been possible earlier?

MS. CLIFT: Well, this upheld a law that has been distributing textbooks and other aid to parochial schools since 1965. I mean, this is not this huge open door to vouchers, I don't think. And Sandra Day O'Connor is already saying she's putting the brakes on it. I don't think that's clear at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's move on.

The Boy Scouts of America and their right to exclude homosexuals from positions of leadership, not all members, leaders within the Boy Scout movement; that's what this applies to -- 5 to 4.

What's at issue?

I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's an important case. It's a First Amendment question of the right to have free association and free expression, and the combination of the two. And the court said that the Boy Scouts believe in a set of values and they're entitled to vindicate their values by having Boy Scout leaders who live those values out. And even if it's unpopular, and they recognize that homosexuality has more support in the public than it did in the past, that the Boy Scouts has the right, under the First Amendment, to pick the leaders that represent their values, and that's what they decided.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was this a verdict favoring individual rights or not favoring individual rights?

MR. BLANKLEY: It was specifically regarding the associative, that is the collective rights of people to get together and advocate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To be with the people who share their values and beliefs?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. So it's an exercise collectively of rights.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion struck down 5 to 4. What was the reasoning?

I ask you, Lawrence.

MR. KUDLOW: It's a disastrous decision, in my judgment. They tried to find a narrow, technical discussion of the procedures. But what they wound up doing was overturning the decisions of 28 state legislatures around the country which have banned partial-birth abortions. They also overturned certain appeals court decisions. This, I think, is the sort of judicial activism at its worst, overturning federalism, overturning -- (inaudible).

MS. CLIFT: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Wait!

MR. KUDLOW: It's a terrible mistake.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this going to make it impossible for George W. Bush to select a pro-choice vice president, like Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania?

MR. KUDLOW: Well, I think, yes, indirectly. I think Bush's initial response here was to object to the court ruling. Good for him.


MR. KUDLOW: It looks to me like he is going to pick Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating as his vice presidential candidate. Good for Bush and good for Keating.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor Keating? Do you like Keating?

MR. KUDLOW: I think it's a terrific choice, an absolutely terrific choice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That would be quite a conservative ticket, would it not? Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: Well, this is not -- the most important --

MR. KUDLOW: It would be the most conservative ticket in the post-World War II period.

MR. WARREN: Larry? Larry? Larry, on abortion you're slightly bollixed up. The importance here is the fact that they, the court, looked to their own precedents in both the Roe v. Wade and the Casey cases.

MS. CLIFT: The most important thing about that case is it was 5 to 4 and it was based on the reasoning of Roe v. Wade. And basically, what this tells the country is that this court would uphold Roe V. Wade by one vote, and that's going to resound among the electorate, particularly among suburban women --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't forget, that one vote is quite hemmed in because Sandra Day O'Connor said that if the law were phrased differently in Nebraska, she could see a vote going the other way, in other words, a less broad statement of the law. So I'm not sure it's anything more than a Pyrrhic victory for you and your ilk.

MS. CLIFT: Well, this is -- this is -- this is a ruling George Bush doesn't want to talk about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Dr. GOP.

(The song "Happy Days are Here Again" is played.)

HOUSE SPEAKER DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL): (From videotape.) When it comes time for prescription drugs coverage, the time for politics is over and the time for progress is now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republicans are marching to a Democratic anthem -- "Happy Days are Here Again." Why? Because after a battle royal this week, the House of Representatives passed their GOP prescription drug coverage plan, 217 to 214. This pricked the legislative air out of the Democrat's drug balloon.

The essence of the GOP plan is this: private insurance companies will pay for prescription drugs for the most part, not Medicare. Insurance companies pay 65 percent and the government pays 35 percent through subsidies to insurance companies.

Democrats are unimpressed.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) -- and it offers a flawed, unworkable, private insurance prescription benefit that the insurance companies themselves, to their everlasting credit, the insurance companies themselves have said this will not work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Besides the criticism, Clinton has threatened a veto. Clinton is critical, but Democrats are raging at the House passage, and even more so at the GOP co-option.

REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D-RI): (From videotape.) Up until recently, they had no interest in this issue whatsoever. But now, because of their pollsters, all of a sudden they've gotten religion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Democrats were so mad that they staged a walkout on Wednesday to protest the GOP's refusal to let them vote on their own proposal.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): (From videotape.) We're sick and we're tired, and we're not going to take it anymore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Has the GOP successfully co-opted the Medicare drug coverage issue right out from under the noses of Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Richard Gephardt?

Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think they've made good progress in that direction. Look. In an age of surplus, there's no good reason why the government should not be partially subsidizing prescription drugs. Republicans recognized that earlier this year. They allocated $40 billion in their budget for it. Now they followed up with legislation. I think that now the only question is the details, and you don't win elections arguing details.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can anybody here make the case besides me for insurance companies handling the prescription drugs? You want to hear the case? The formularies and complications of pricing drugs are incredibly complicated. Now, in addition to that, the insurance companies can bring a lot of leverage on the pharmaceutical companies in cutting discount deals and keeping the price low. So you let one capitalist group attack another capitalist group, and in so doing, you preserve the interest of the consumer.

MR. WARREN: And in the end --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that?

MR. WARREN: I think it's baloney, because I think in the end, you just have not complexity but you have downright confusion, particularly among seniors, who won't be able to compare the equivalency of the value of these plans, allowing the insurance companies to cherry-pick --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now you listen to them.

MR. WARREN: -- the best seniors.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The private sector can better negotiate deals on pricing than can the bureaucrats in the Medicare or HCFA or any administration.

MS. CLIFT: John, if you want to go out among voters --

MR. KUDLOW: You're quite right.

MS. CLIFT: -- and talk up the verities of the insurance companies, be my guest. The Republicans have tried to confuse the issue, but this is a subsidy to insurance companies.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think you --

MS. CLIFT: Insurance companies say they can't even afford to put out plans for this cost.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think you can --

MS. CLIFT: It's a (non-event ?).

MR. KUDLOW: Can I get in here?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from -- quickly.

MR. KUDLOW: John, your market take is absolutely correct. The problem is the insurance companies don't really want this responsibility. Senator Spence Abraham of Michigan has a new bill. You know, the Senate's going to take this up with their own proposals.


MR. KUDLOW: Abraham's got a new bill, which sets up actually an independent private-sector entity that would use your principles of group insurance --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN Private-sector entities.

MR. KUDLOW: Yes, group insurance, which would put leverage on the drug companies. The most amazing thing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Keep it all away from HCFA.

We've got to move on. Issue four.

MR. KUDLOW: The pharmaceutical drug stocks have rallied on the discussion of this in Washington. It's incredible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to make a five-second point?

MR. BLANKLEY: My five-second point was, when you see how angry the Democrats are, you realize the Republicans are stealing the issue back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And they should be the last ones to be squealing and whining. I mean, look at the way they stole the welfare issue. What else did they steal that's prominent?

MR. BLANKLEY Well, they steal the argument that tax cuts are a good idea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly! They're now in the tax cut business!

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- elections, too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Techno-spy paradise. Xinhua wants to set up a spy tower opposite the Pentagon. That's the Xinhua News Agency, described as a front for the MSS, China's version of the Soviet KGB. The seven-story, 32-unit apartment building, the Pentagon Ridge, near Washington, D.C.'s Interstate 395, will allow its occupants to covertly monitor activity at the Pentagon, not to mention conduct extensive electronic and laser surveillance. Indeed -- get this -- the sixth floor of Pentagon Ridge overlooks the office corridor of Defense Secretary William Cohen.

As for the Xinhua, "They're spies. This is a techno-spy's paradise on Earth, to have complete control of your own building with a line of sight to the Pentagon. The idea the Chinese would allow us to have anything comparable is preposterous. This is a major security breach and goes hand in glove with other security breaches." So says William Triplett, co-author of "Year of the Rat."

On June the 21st, the Washington Times broke the story of the Xinhau sale, which took the Pentagon totally by surprise. Almost immediately, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon -- remember him? -- he said that the Xinhau presence is not a cause for worry. A week later, after the Washington Times coverage, its crack investigative reporting precipitated a House vote deploring the sale, 367 to 34. The Pentagon then whimpered, "We take the issue very seriously."

Question: Why was it left to the reporting of the Washington Times to alert the government to yet another security threat on the Clinton-Gore watch?

I ask you, James.

MR. WARREN: Even a blind media squirrel can occasionally find an acorn. There's less here than meets the eye. I think it's a great real estate story, though. The land -- the building was assessed at about $2.5 million, and they paid about $4.6 million. So find a Chinese if you've got a condo or co-op.

MR. BLANKLEY: I would point out that the blind spokesman at the Pentagon couldn't find that nut. This is a -- Mr. Bacon is going to be eating crow.

MS. CLIFT: Well, this is Republican-induced paranoia. If you've been to the Pentagon, there's a huge concrete parking lot. This building is a mile away. This is no threat. But who wants to fight all of the Republicans screaming about security practices. You know, it's not a fight worth having.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is a central liberal mentality, a central liberal mentality that national security -- (inaudible) -- paranoia.

MR. KUDLOW: I would just point out two things. Number one, the Washington Times is an excellent newspaper.

And number two, to your point, the Chinese are replacing the Japanese -- once upon a time they bought Pebble Beach for $800 million and sold it for $300 million. So the Chinese are the worst foreign investors now.

MR. BLANKLEY: By the way, your former congressman, Mr. Rostenkowski, went to prison because of the Washington Times reporting, I might add.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the anti-missile missile test next week work? Yes or no.

MR. KUDLOW: I hope so.

MS. CLIFT: No, unless they rig the test! (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Whether it does or not, eventually it will work.

MR. WARREN: Not a clue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

Happy Fourth of July! Bye-bye.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue five: Hollywood's Fourth of July.

MEL GIBSON (Actor): (Film clip from "The Patriot.") I've been to war, and I have no desire to do so again. I have seven children. I do not wish to leave them fatherless.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mel Gibson's summer blockbuster, "The Patriot," hits theaters this Independence Day weekend. The movie shows adolescent boys grabbing rifles with their father, Gibson, to defend their country -- a makeshift militia defending its liberty from tyranny. The Second Amendment has never looked so good.

Gibson has been downplaying the politics of the movie: "`The Patriot' doesn't advocate putting guns in the hands of young children, it recalls a time in America's history when that often proved to be a necessity."

Gun-supporter Gibson may not be endorsing it, but the National Rifle Association, the NRA, is having a blockbuster year of its own. The 3.7 million-strong NRA is under attack by lawyers, moms, and celebrities.

But not all celebrities are critical of the NRA. Last month, Charlton Heston was reelected to a third term as president. And Heston is no symbolic figurehead. He uses his celebrity status to fight others with celebrity status, notably those in the Million Mom March.

CHARLTON HESTON: (From videotape.) Rosie O'Donnell -- (boos from audience) -- well, I like to call her "Tokyo Rosie." (Laughter, applause.) And a very fine actress, Susan Sarandon, was there and shouted, with great diplomacy and stateswomanship, "We moms are really pissed off!" I have to ask, "pissed off"? About what? If it's crime, why aren't you pissed off at the failure of this administration to prosecute gun-toting criminals? Why aren't you pissed off at parents who are unaware that their kids are building bombs in their bedrooms?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Heston is dead-set on Al Gore losing in November. Question, James Warren, do you think that the gun issue has lost any momentum it had, because it scores so low on lists of issues that concern voters at this time? Has it somewhat evaporated?

MR. WARREN: No, it hasn't evaporated, but it's a little bit odd when you ask people if they're for gun control, most of them say yes. If you ask them about Gore and Bush, who they figure is better, it's about 50-50. On Capital Hill, not much is happening right now, with both parties unsure what would happen if they reached a compromise on gun control. Democrats wondering, Ah, does that make us -- does that take away an issue which we can bash the Republicans with in the fall?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the gun control people really are after gun confiscation and not control, that the president has shifted to gun safety? How does all of that come together?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, they've shifted to the word "safety" because they think that polls and focus groups better. I don't have any doubt that if you look at even Senator Bradley's statements, that in fact their ultimate goal is to be much more confiscatory of guns.

MS. CLIFT: I think registration and licensing is the goal of the gun control movement, and second of all --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has it lost some of its steam?

MS. CLIFT: No. You put focus groups of women together and you tell them Governor Bush signed a concealed weapons bill, and they peel off in droves.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the women -- the women I know -- the women I know are all carrying their own designer guns!

MS. CLIFT: Oh! Well, that's because you're around, John. (Laughter.)

MR. KUDLOW: But the attacks, you see, the whole point -- the Hollywood attacks on the NRA are really bringing out the fund-raising for the NRA.


MR. KUDLOW: And they're increasing their membership, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what's the lesson here?

MR. KUDLOW: Those people vote 100 percent. This is going to be an important factor for the Republicans and the NRA. This Rosie O'Donnell stuff completely backfires.