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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: W. goes retro.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) I believe you're looking at the next vice president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)

RICHARD CHENEY (former secretary of Defense, Bush's running mate): (From videotape.) Governor, I'm honored and proud to join your team, and I enthusiastically accept the challenge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does this retro Republican, who was President Bush's Defense secretary, bring to the Bush ticket? One, experience; two, loyalty; three, brainy, feisty wife Lynne Cheney; four, solid conservatism.

Cheney minuses: one, solid conservatism; two, George Senior's choice, not George Junior's; three, health condition -- three mild heart attacks, bypass surgery; four, with Bush, the big oil ticket.

The Bush-Cheney honeymoon is already over. Since taking the spotlight, Cheney's been playing defense, answering questions on his tenures in Congress and as Pentagon chief.

Unable to rush to the rescue -- thus far -- are the Republicans. Most were caught off-guard by the Cheney choice, a heavily guarded secret by the Bush campaign -- so no research, no rapid response, and not enough defensive backup from the RNC, the Republican National Committee, as of yet unintegrated into the Cheney operation.

Meanwhile, time is short, and Democrats are on the eye-gouging attack.

Question: Does Dick Cheney achieve the de minimis requirement for a vice presidential pick, namely, do no harm? Michael Barone.

MR. BARONE: Yeah, I think he does, John. I mean, you're correct to point out in that speech that the Democrats sort of won the 24-hour spin cycle. They were out there prepared, with this rat-a-tat-tat against his congressional record. The Republicans were not prepared.

But the basic strategy of the Democrats in this election, with Al Gore having such high unfavorables, is disqualify the other guy. This is how they think President George Bush beat Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Their problem is that voters this year want a consensus-minded candidate, not a confrontation-minded candidate. So winning the rat-a-tat-tat does not win the campaign for you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Dick Cheney brings congeniality and he brings gravitas; but I think this ticket has the potential of backfiring big time. One, it reminds voters that this is the son of a former president. There is no sense that these two men are peers. The stature gap between the two is too great. It also asks the voters to compartmentalize, that Dick Cheney does foreign policy, George W. Bush does domestic policy. I think voters, wondering what compassionate conservatism is, are going to be very suspicious of a running mate who brings the kind of record that Dick Cheney brings on domestic issues. So I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You feel that he flunks the de minimis requirement, "Do no harm"?

MS. CLIFT: Well, what he does do is he nails down the right wing, and I think he basically takes Pat Buchanan out of the equation. I think the Bush campaign has calculated that they were more vulnerable to lose votes on the right than they were of picking up more points on moderation. So, you know, I don't know whether this is a loss yet. I think it has the potential of being that.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think the liberals are seeing a false dawn here with this Cheney nomination. Bush and his team, I think, are a lot smarter than a lot of the pundits who are looking at them, because I think he's changing the rules of how you run a campaign in this season, because right now the public has been so disgusted with partisanship, and that's Gore's vulnerability, that putting a man like Cheney, who is manifestly equipped to be president or vice president, and doing it in a very -- it has a very low-key, nonpartisan-almost kind of a feel to it, sucks in, like a briar patch, Gore and the Democrats into their maniacal attack mode. And I think that's turning off the key independent voters that everyone understands are going to be the deciding votes.

Now, it's true this is probably solidifying Gore's base, but that's going to happen anyway. And I think that Cheney ultimately, while having a slow start, is going to be a very effective campaigner. And I think what they're going to do -- for instance, on the charge of "big oil," which Democrats seem to think is a wonderful charge, at a time -- this country believes in capitalism -- at a time when people are watching CNBC, everybody sees business as a great opportunity, I think the Republicans have a chance to argue, "Isn't it fine; we have two men who understand the energy business."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course, Al Gore also has a half a million dollars worth of stock in Occidental.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, yeah, but he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And there is a long history of Al's father and the former head, now deceased, head of Occidental.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, Armand Hammer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which is not exactly a bed of roses.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you a question.

MR. PAGE: Please, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that one of the challenges to the team, the Bush team, was to somehow win over the "McCainites" and the senator himself, and that Cheney's selection does do that because it is so conciliatory and because it reaches out in a retro way to an earlier generation, earlier, so to speak -- not completely earlier, but seemingly earlier than McCain? Do you follow me?

MR. PAGE: I do. I don't think it wins over McCainites, per se, if we're talking about those people who were attracted to McCain because he was a rebel. He was outside the establishment. He was challenging the party establishment and the old "country club" Republicans. Dick Cheney is very well within that establishment, which is a plus for George W., who has already become the butt of late-night comedians who are calling him "dummy this", et cetera, and saying that, you know, he's light as a feather, doesn't have the gravitas. Cheney brings that gravitas.

The question is not "do no harm", John, it's "Does he do any good?" I don't see where he really advances George W. The ongoing joke this week was that most kids look in their daddy's cabinet and they find --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about -- what about --

MR. PAGE: John, don't step on my -- don't step on my punch line, John! (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: It's weak enough as it is.

MR. PAGE: Most kids look in daddy's cabinet and they find liquor, and George W. looks in daddy's cabinet and finds a vice president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, are you giving sufficient credit to Cheney's vast volume of mind and experience? And it's so difficult to not like Cheney. I mean, he draws you in.

MR. PAGE: Yeah, until you look at this voting record --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you see those values in him?

MR. PAGE: Until you look at his voting record. He has a 100 percent American Conservative Union voting record. And it is too far to the right to reach out to middle-of-the road voters.

On the plus side, he's not a flaming, loud-mouthed conservative. He's sort of a quiet, inside --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that voting record ended in what -- 1988?

MR. BARONE: '89.

MR. PAGE: That's beside the point, John. I'm sure you're going to forgive Clinton and Gore's voting record prior to '88 too, aren't you? I mean, you know better than I do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look how much you've evolved from your former liberal self. Perhaps he's evolved too.

Okay, how well is Cheney defending himself and protecting Bush against the Democratic attacks against him?

Here's a shin-splinter from California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): (From videotape.) He has a voting record that is as strongly anti-choice as any Republican I have ever seen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, Cheney was, and indeed, still is pro-life, like most of the Republican Party. And Cheney here was quick to point out that at least he has been consistent, as opposed to Al Gore's well-documented abortion flip-flop.

DICK CHENEY (GOP vice presidential candidate): (From videotape.) The intriguing thing is to have the Democrats attacking me for having a pro-life position, when during that same period Al Gore was earning a 94 percent rating from the Right To Life Committee because he was pro-life and anti-abortion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that deflection, Michael?

MR. BARONE: Well, I think it's okay. I don't think it's superb. I think, you know, being called extremist by Barbara Boxer is like being called ugly by a frog.


MR. BARONE: I mean, the fact is, she's on the legitimate left wing of the Democratic Party on the basis of convictions. Cheney has been more on the right wing of the Republican Party on the basis of conviction.


MR. BARONE: I think that the Democrats are making some mistakes here, though, when they suppose that some of these issues are total disqualifiers. In the circles in which they travel in Washington, D.C. and New York and Beverly Hills, they are indeed disqualifiers. In the central part of the country, in states where Bush has got -- currently got small leads over Gore, they aren't necessarily.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But doesn't this point -- doesn't it point up again that flip-flopping of Gore, the fact that he doesn't seem to even know what his professional identity is?

MS. CLIFT: I think a more popular position today is, even if you're opposed to abortion, to have exceptions for rape and incest, which Dick Cheney doesn't even agree with.

Second, I'd like to point out Dick Cheney is only six years older than George W. Bush. That's hardly a generation. The notion that he comes across as this elder statesman says something about George W. Bush, too, and the insecurity the country feels about him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he brings in a different dimension of experience and knowledge.

And don't you think, as some commentators have perceptively pointed out, that the very fact that Bush is not afraid to appoint someone who might appear to a lot of people more presidential than he is himself, that shows that he's a man of courage and good judgment.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it shows that both Bushes are men of courage, and Papa sent along a chaperone to go the White House. That's what it looks like. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's hear another attack. And I'll get you into this, Tony. And I don't want you to feel neglected or shut out here.

MR. BLANKLEY: Thank you. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We all love you very much.

MR. BLANKLEY: (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This time it's Jesse Jackson's kidney punch.

REV. JESSE JACKSON: (From videotape.) He voted against sanctions against South Africa, not once, but six times. He voted against freeing Mandela from jail.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Freeing Nelson Mandela from jail, a pretty tough rap. By the way, Jackson is by no means the only party attacking Cheney on this issue. Other politicians have joined the fray in roundly criticizing the vice presidential candidate and his votes on this difficult South African issue. Here is Cheney's response.

MR. CHENEY (Republican Party vice presidential nominee): (From videotape.) They supported apartheid. We were all against it. But there was a big debate over what the best way to proceed was, a debate over how -- the best leverage we could use to get Nelson Mandela freed. One school of thought said that there should be sanctions imposed on South Africa, that American companies should be prohibited from operating in South Africa, that there shouldn't be any trade with South Africa.

The other school of thought said: "Wait a minute" -- that in fact, the only good jobs that were available to black South Africans were with American firms.

This notion that somehow I was opposed to freeing Nelson Mandela is a typical Al Gore distortion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of his manner of rebuttal and his general appearance on television?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, of course, it belies the liberal argument that he is some sort of a wild man. He comes across very passively, very reasonably, very rationally.

You know, a lot of these charges are very anachronistic; I mean, these were -- of course, I was in the middle of the South Africa issue, working in the Reagan White House. Back in the mid-'80s, you had a split. And in fact, the famous one that everyone is complaining about -- 32 Democrats voted with Cheney, and 145 Republicans, on the matter of Mandela. So back then, it was a reasonable thing about both parties voting one way or the other. Now, they have extracted --

MR. PAGE: Don't make it sound like it was a majority. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: No, but you had --

MR. PAGE: Don't make it sound like it was a majority by any means, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- you had 32 Democrats --

MS. CLIFT: Thirty-two Democrats is not a majority.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- 32 Democrats and 145 --

(Cross talk.)

MR. PAGE: All of -- (inaudible) -- all of -- yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Tony finish.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- 32 Democrats and 145 Republicans, so the --

MS. CLIFT: Well, 32 Democrats can be wrong. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor. Let him finish.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- my point being that, at that time, that was right in the middle of the political spectrum.

MS. CLIFT: No, it wasn't.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's not off of the edge --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MR. PAGE: Oh, yes --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: -- when you have got 180 -- when you have 190 votes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was a lot of debate, continuous debate, on sanctions.

I want to ask you this: What about the Nelson Mandela rap?

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Actually, what he says is inaccurate, isn't it?

MR. PAGE: Yes, it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In what sense?

MR. PAGE: Well, his statement makes it sound like he was voting against sanctions --


MR. PAGE: -- not against Mandela's release.


MR. PAGE: Actually, the Mandela release was a separate sense of the Congress resolution that he opposed.


MR. PAGE: And it is true that during that time, among mainstream conservative Republicans, there was a strong belief that Mandela and the ANC were virtually a communist front organization.


MR. PAGE: The African National Congress, which was Mandela's party --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, there were --

MR. BARONE: They were.


MR. BLANKLEY: Well, there were many communists there.

MR. BARONE: Yeah. Right.

MR. PAGE: There were communists in it, Joe Slavo and others.

MR. BARONE: Yes, many.

MR. PAGE: It was by no means a communist front.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and --

MR. PAGE: And Mandela was not Fidel Castro.

MR. BARONE: We didn't know that then.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And during those days --

MR. PAGE: In the year 2000 -- Michael, don't rewrite history; I mean -- (laughter) -- I mean, most of us knew better.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) All right. Let me move on.

MR. PAGE: It was a conservative Republican position. It was Jerry Falwell's position.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me move on.

MR. BARONE: I don't know about that.


MR. BARONE: We did not know about -- as much as we know today about Mandela's wonderful party.

MR. PAGE: Ronald Reagan --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's a lot of people talking. Wait a minute. Excuse me. (Laughter.) Are you saying that the African National Congress was both a communist and a terrorist organization?

MR. BARONE: Well, to this day Mandela has praised the communists for supporting him during that period of time. We did --

MR. PAGE: When no one else would.

MR. BARONE: Yes, when we did not know all about Mandela that we know today. If -- and I think if any of us -- anybody who voted against that --

MR. PAGE: That was -- (inaudible) --

MR. BARONE: No, because Mandela was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. (Cross talk.) Excuse me. Excuse me.

MR. BARONE: Mandela's genuinely saintly qualities of leadership were not apparent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Most of this --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- foresight that one thinks twice about in a vice presidential candidate. Let's think about that. Right?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most of this conversation is really superfluous and otiose because the vice presidential slot is not the basis on which people vote.

However, to continue this, there's good news for Bush and Cheney. A brand-new Gallup poll of 1,035 adults shows, in a two-way match-up of Cheney -- since Cheney was picked, that that boosted Bush's lead over Gore to 14 percent. And in a four-way match-up of Bush and Gore, Bush has an 11-point lead. What do you make of that, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I think the polls are going to bounce around at this time. This is Bush's time. The country's paying attention. Dick Cheney looks like a pleasant man, and the Republicans are trying to so hard to frame this as a referendum on style and manner and civility and a restoration of the good, old, white male Republican days. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: And knowledge and competence and experience --

MS. CLIFT: And once Gore gets this on the issues, the numbers will change. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Give me just a one-word answer, all right? Is the selection of Dick Cheney by George Bush a net plus or a net minus? Just one word. I ask you, Michael.

MR. BARONE: One word? Plus.

MR. PAGE: Too many! (Laughs.)


MS. CLIFT: Wash.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wash. A draw. Eleanor, I'm surprised at you.



MR. PAGE: It was a draw --


MR. PAGE: -- a very safe choice, and that's what he'll wind up being.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have the swing vote.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, it was a plus, a distinct plus.

Okay. Last week we asked, "In light of the projected budget surplus, which tax break do you favor the most?" Get this: 57 percent want a repeal of the marriage tax. Thirty-six percent would prefer a repeal of the death tax. Seven percent don't think either should be removed.

Next week, by the way, from the City of Brotherly Love, on site, the group will give you more than canned convention speeches and more than the biggest balloon dump in history. Join us for in-depth analysis, spin-free insight, and, as Eleanor has demonstrated, unbuttoned opinion. (Laughter.) And we'll be from Philadelphia.

When we come back: Will George Bush's selection of Dick Cheney affect Al Gore's veep pick in any way?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Convention fever.

It's upon us. On Monday the Republicans convene in Philadelphia. Pouring into the convention site this weekend are 45,000 people -- delegates, journalists, candidates, officeholders, dignitaries, volunteers, hangers-on, and party fat cats, all in the mob descending on the city. And nipping at their wing-tipped heels are thousands of disgruntled demonstrators. Twenty thousand hotel rooms have been booked for the horde. Despite the hullabaloo, forecasters are predicting a warm and fuzzy convention permeated with compassionate conservatism within the unity of the "big tent."

Minorities and women get prime time address coverage. Monday, Colin Powell and Governor Bush's wife, Laura. Tuesday, John McCain, Elizabeth Dole and Condoleezza Rice, key foreign policy adviser to Governor Bush. Wednesday, Richard Cheney, vice presidential pick. Thursday, coronation night, George W. addresses the adoring multitude.

Question: What's the bad news and what's the good news for the GOP convention? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think same answer for both; no news. No news means that there's no bad news. It also means there's no good news. This is going to be, as the Democratic convention, inside the convention hall there will be nothing happening of newsworthiness.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, there is some bad -- well, were you speaking about the fact that there's no audience for it? Only 34 percent of the people say they're going to watch some of it. But there's also some good news. What's the good news?

MR. PAGE: Well, the good news for George W. is that maybe 20 million people or more are going to see him give a speech. Right now, most people have not seen George W. speak, and he has a great chance here to get a nice bump in the polls.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The good news is that it looks like it's not going to be marred in any way. John McCain is now with him 100 percent, and Buchanan is nowhere on the horizon. Isn't that good news?

MR. BARONE: Well, John, I think that's right. I mean, I would disagree with Tony here in one respect. I think that we in the news business have this idea that the only interesting news story is conflict, is when people are arguing with each other. I don't know where they get that idea, certainly not from this program. (Laughter.) But the fact is, it's also news when you have consensus. And we've got two great political parties, the first and third oldest political parties in the world. They will convene in two giant rooms, thousands of delegates.

And what consensus do they come on? Bush seems to be developing a consensus -- we'll hear about it Thursday night and otherwise -- around a set of issues that's distinct and different from what Republicans have done in the past, that have moved the argument forward. Al Gore is still struggling. He may come up with a very interesting consensus as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor. Eleanor, I want to know a couple of things from you. For example, I didn't see Dennis Hastert, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, on the list. I didn't see George Herbert Walker Bush, former president, on the list. I didn't see former President Jerry Ford on the list of speakers. What's going -- I didn't see Newt Gingrich. What happened to Newt Gingrich? Why isn't he there?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's letting Dick Cheney take his place. It was Gingrich who said "Cheney's voting record is to the right of mine."

Look, George W. Bush doesn't want to have anything to do with the Republican Congress, which is out of favor with the country. And he needs to look like his own man. He can't come out in the shadow of his father.

This is George W. Bush's opportunity to look and sound like a president. And his set speeches up until now have really not conveyed that. So this is an opportunity for him. It's a perilous opportunity, as well. And I think with all of the focus right now on Cheney, there's going to be great suspicion that compassionate conservatism is extremism with a smile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you a little surprised about the dog that didn't bark, or the absences from the convention?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. I mean it's the same thing the Democrats did in '92, where Gephardt and Foley weren't around. It makes good sense. Congressmen are never as popular as the aspiring presidential nominees of either party, usually, so it makes good sense to not do that.

But I think you miss a point when you say that there's a great danger somehow for Bush's speech. I don't --

MS. CLIFT: I said it's an opportunity, but it's perilous. I didn't say it's a great danger. (Chuckles.)

MR. BLANKLEY: It's not perilous -- well, whatever perilous means to you, what -- defining perilous.

But look, the fact is that no one expects Bush to deliver a brilliant -- he's not a great orator. But he has developed a view of America that is beginning to sell, and he's going to repeat that message and it's going to be very effective.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Al Gore -- since that story is out there -- and his selection of a vice president? Do you think -- and I know you're well plugged-in to Democratic circles, Clarence, and that is a comfortable match to your ideology --

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) Whatever it may be!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Chuckles.) What is the story on Gore? Is he going to be influenced by the selection of Cheney, so that he may try to trump that by selecting George Mitchell as a superior wise man?

MR. PAGE: Well, that would be a wise choice. But the beauty of the Cheney decision is that this does give Al Gore free rein to go in either direction, either to go for more gravitas or to go for someone like himself, like, for example, Dick Gephardt -- I'm not saying he'll pick Gephardt or that Gephardt will agree -- but somebody who is stronger with the AFL-CIO.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gephardt would do a lot to bring the unions back in?

MR. PAGE: Exactly. The problem is, it would also touch off a leadership fight among Democrats in the House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he your prognostication?

MR. PAGE: No, he is not.


MR. PAGE: I'll be happy to give it to you. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give it to me. Give it to me. Hit me hard.

MR. PAGE: Well, I have no idea who it's going to be, but I think Dick Durbin would make a lot of good sense.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'll give you mine --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dick Durbin from Illinois? Really?

MR. PAGE: Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois --

MR. BLANKLEY: I think Gore is likely to pick Senator Lieberman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lieberman?

MR. BLANKLEY: The one man who has a high moral tone that could offset the smell coming out of the Clinton-Gore years. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about you? John Kerry from Massachusetts -- I can tell by the look on your face.

MS. CLIFT: Well, wait a second!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly! We've got to --

MS. CLIFT: In addition to him there's a dark horse candidate, and that's North Carolina Senator Jack Edwards.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jack Edwards?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. And that would be John Edwards.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's a former trial lawyer.

MS. CLIFT: So what?!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't want him to pick a trial lawyer.

MS. CLIFT: It doesn't matter to me.

MR. BARONE: Trial lawyers -- (inaudible). But Governor Bob Gramm of Florida would provide some interesting balance. He, however, like Kerry and like Senator Evan Bayh, is from a state that, if he's elected, there would be a Republican governor appointing the successor. Tom Daschle, the minority leader now, would not like that.

Interesting that he's been looking at Tom Harkin, who is kind of an attack -- a guy that loves to go on the attack.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, that would put the center of gravity of that ticket so far left!

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.

Mr. Barone?

MR. BARONE: Hugo Chavez will win the presidential election in Venezuela and is moving to be another Castro, in that direction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're worried about him?



MS. CLIFT: To tweak the Democrats, George Bush and John McCain will campaign together in Arizona the week of the Democratic convention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you go. A match made in heaven.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)


MR. BLANKLEY: Because Bush already has about 95 percent of the Republican base, the Bush team does not expect to see any bounce coming out of the convention, because bounce usually comes from the coming home of the base vote. Bush has already got almost entire base vote.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, he'll get about five points' bounce.

What do you say?

MR. PAGE: I say an eight-point bounce coming out of the convention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. What's your prediction? Quickly.

MR. PAGE: That's it. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's it?

MR. PAGE: Eight-point bounce for Bush coming out of the convention. That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Napster, the online company that allows users to exchange songs for free, with no fees for the talent or the recording companies, will strike a deal with the recording industry of America to avoid a costly court case.

Next week: It's Republican show time. We'll have full coverage of the GOP convention. Bye-bye!





MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: The price of peace.

"It must be clear that any unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood would be entirely unacceptable and should be met with a cut-off of United States assistance." So pronounced first lady and New York Senate candidate Hillary Clinton this week shortly after the Middle East peace talks at Camp David folded. Mrs. Clinton is referring to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's pledge to declare a Palestinians state September the 13th, even if no agreement with Israel is reached between now and then.

The current impasse seems unresolvable. Not even money could salvage the 15-day Camp David talks. Some estimates have put the dollar amount of the U.S. hinted-at grant to both parties, Israelis and Palestinians, as totalling up to $170 billion.

Lobbyists have already begun hounding Congress for funds. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, for the first time is joined in its foreign aid solicitation by the Palestinian Authority, whose new lobbyist is Edward Abington, a former State Department official.

AIPAC and the PA face a Herculean task.

One, costs. The dollar amount is staggeringly enormous.

Two, politics. Congress signs the foreign aid checks, and the GOP rules both houses. Republicans are wary of rescuing Clinton's tawdry legacy, as they put it, especially with super amounts of taxpayers' dollars.

Question: What explains this utterance by the first lady, the same first lady who was at such pains not to denounce Suha Arafat's anti-Israel diatribe because, quote, "she didn't want to inject her views into the issue"? I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think she's probably missed her bet, because she's burning her bridges. If things go badly in New York, she'd be able to run for the Senate in Palestine. (Chuckles.)

MR. PAGE: (Groans.)

MR. BLANKLEY: No, look, I think she's -- obviously, she's simply paying -- playing to what she considers to be the Jewish vote. I think she misreads it, because her problem in New York isn't policy; it's sincerity, or the lack of it.

MS. CLIFT: No, this isn't "playing to the Jewish vote."


MS. CLIFT: I mean, this is U.S. policy right now -- to put the blame on Arafat for the summit not coming to a good conclusion. She goes further in saying that she would urge a cut-off of U.S. aid. But I don't -- I think that's a message that they probably wouldn't mind Arafat hearing.

MR. BARONE: In fact, she's right.

MS. CLIFT: There is that September 13 deadline, and it's been Arafat's practice in the past not to act until he has to. So this is fine.


MR. PAGE: Well, this is much more --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that $170 billion figure U.S. aid to the Mideast peace process --

MR. PAGE: That --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- divided between the Israelis and Palestinians? What do you think of those apples?

MR. PAGE: Over the course of a number of years. But if you can purchase peace, it's worth the price. We're going to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we have a moral --

MR. PAGE: -- we always spend about a -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we have a moral obligation to underwrite the peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians?

MR. PAGE: Well, this is more than a moral obligation, John. This is sound foreign policy. Our national security is tied up with the Middle East strongly, and of course the Israel-Palestine question is central to that whole formula.

MR. BARONE: John, John, I agree totally with Hillary Rodham Clinton's statement. I think, on the merits, she has it right there, whether she's a Senate candidate in New York or not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But she's trying to put a fire wall up --

MR. BARONE: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because if there is an intifada, and -- she doesn't want to be held responsible in the eyes of the Jewish voters of New York as having promoted that intifada --

MR. BARONE: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- by her inflammatory behavior.

MR. BARONE: Look, I think that the idea that we should put pressure on Arafat not to unilaterally declare independence on September 13th is a very good idea. It has the potential of leading to violence. We do not want that to happen.

The fact is, Arafat was offered on a golden platter just about everything he wanted. He still said no. He is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BARONE: This is the problem with the whole peace process.