THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND JAMES WARREN
TAPED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2000
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 14-15, 2000
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Mid-East explodes. Carnage and chaos in the Middle East keeps escalating. Over 100 people, almost all Palestinians and Arab Israelis, have been killed since the Israeli-Palestinian clashes broke out two weeks ago. Last Thursday, the situation reached a breaking point. Thirteen Palestinian police were wounded trying to stop a Palestinian mob that stormed a West Bank Ramallah police station and killed two Israeli soldiers, then dumped their bloodied bodies from the second story into the street.
The Israeli Army responded immediately, firing rockets and bullets into Ramallah from helicopters. Then, on the Gaza Coastal strip, the sight of Yasser Arafat's headquarters, Israeli helicopters fired directly on his compound. Arafat called the actions "a declaration of war." The Israelis had this to say:
EHUD BARAK (Israeli Prime Minister): (From videotape.) I'm not sure whether we are at war, but we -- it's clear that we are in a violent confrontation with live fire and a use of weapons that had been launched and initiated by the Palestinian Authority.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With fresh fury, hostility towards the United States escalated elsewhere in the region. While refueling in Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula some 1,400 miles from Israel, the Navy destroyer USS Cole, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, suffered a gaping 20- by 40-foot hole in its side after a small boat exploded next to it. The attack on the Cole left 17 Americans dead and more than 35 wounded. Anti-American demonstrations also raged across the Middle East.
Question: Are these two horrors -- the meltdown in the West Bank and Gaza and what happened to the American destroyer, the USS Cole -- do you think, in any way, linked? Michael Barone.
MR. BARONE: Well, I think the fact is, John, we just don't know. I mean, the USS Cole, attack on the USS Cole, is something that probably had to be planned quite a while ago, but the fact is, or the overwhelming likelihood is, that the uprising that Yasser Arafat condoned and, in effect, led, that was started on the pretext of Ariel Sharon going to the Temple Mount on September 28th, that was something that appears to have been planned well in advance, too. We don't know if the Palestinian groups that planned that are in touch with whoever the terrorist groups are, but they might be in the future, even if they're not now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James Warren, Mr. Barone feels that Ariel Sharon's visit to Temple Mount was a pretext for the Palestinians to act. Do you see it as anything else like a deliberate provocation on Sharon's part because Sharon takes the position that Israel's security is bound up almost exclusively with military might, and he did not like the concessions made by Barak? So there is a school of thought that says that Sharon, "the Butcher of Sabra and Shatila," as the Palestinians call him, deliberately wrecked the peace process.
MR. WARREN: What you're alluding to is the fact that in 1982 even an Israeli commission found him indirectly responsible for the massacre of innocent Palestinian women and --
MR. BARONE: Not directly.
MR. WARREN: -- right, indirectly -- children in refugee camps there.
Sure, this was an intentional provocation. I'm not sure why Arafat was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he deserve the most blame?
MR. WARREN: He deserves some blame, but why didn't -- why couldn't the Palestinians, for instance, just let him in, let him go to the mount and leave it at that?
MR. BLANKLEY: Wait --
MR. WARREN: He was goading them, and they went for it. It's a silly move by the Palestinians.
MS. CLIFT: Well, he --
MR. BLANKLEY: But he was asserting his legal right of -- every Israeli or Arab has to go there. So if --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No one disputes that. No one -- that's not in dispute.
MR. BARONE: John, I think it is in dispute.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- so if you are asserting a right, then I think you can't give him the moral negative that he's trying to induce violence by asserting his rights.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do -- can we realistically expect Arafat to be able to control this mob violence at its current level, Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: I think Chairman Arafat probably gave the green light to the violence, because I think he thought a round of rock-throwing that would be faced with military might from Israel would win over world opinion and that he might get a better deal under the ongoing peace negotiations. But I don't think Arafat can control the violence, and I think the reason that he hasn't called for an end to the violence is he doesn't want to be exposed as -- for the weakness that he has. I think it has spun out of control.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James?
MR. WARREN: Well, one thing that's rather notable to me, lost in the fray here, is the fact there had been considerable progress in the negotiations. The fact is, Barak had made rather impressive moves. He had proposed giving 92 percent of the West Bank over to a Palestinian state. He had also proposed giving Palestinian sovereignty to the Muslim and Christian areas of Old Jerusalem. (Cross talk.)
MR. BARONE: Jim, progress in negotiation --
MR. WARREN: Arafat, who seemingly can't close the deal, turns the other way.
MR. BARONE: Progress in negotiations requires two parties to agree. You're quite right that Barak went along and gave them more than anybody ever dreamed that an Israeli prime minister would do. But Arafat refused to do it. I mean, this is the man who has visited the White House more often than any foreign leader -- more often, perhaps, than any Democratic contributor. But the fact is that he has -- he -- Bill Clinton was not able to deliver him at that summit, in an agreement, instead of giving this stuff --
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I wish that Arafat had taken the deal, but I think he believes, if he had taken the deal, he would have been signing his own death warrant. But if he had done it, he would have gone down in the history books as --
MR. BARONE: As like Michael Collins --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.
MS. CLIFT: -- as a Gorbachev. Gorbachev is hated by the Russian people, and Arafat would have been hated by the Palestine people. But this is the best deal that could have been made.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to move on, because these horrors that have occurred are taking place three weeks before the president election, and their effect has to be examined, their possible effect on the election.
In the past, historically, when a United States president and commander in chief is faced with a crisis, there is the rally effect, the rally impact; the country rallies around them. It happened in 1961, in the Bay of Pigs when even in the face of that failure and disaster, Kennedy got his peak ratings, I believe, Michael, at that very time -- at the Bay of Pigs.
MR. BARONE: When he said, "I accept responsibility."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It happened in 1975 with Gerald Ford trying to rescue the U.S. cargo ship, Mayaguez, seized by the Khmer Rouge. That didn't work out very well, initially at least. There were a lot of lives lost, and yet his polls shot up. Likewise Jimmy Carter; when the Iranian terrorists took over U.S. hostages, his polls shot up. Even the following year, in 1980 when he tried to rescue them with the helicopters, and that was a total failure in the desert of Iran, his polls shot way up again.
So the question is, what's going to be the impact of these horrors -- these crises -- on Bill Clinton, who will probably emerge from the mothballs of lame duckery? And secondly, will it have a positive rub-off effect on Al Gore?
MR. BARONE: Well, John, I think if you look at history, the fact is that people have rallied around the president, but they also want a solution by election day in a sense that things are not in chaos but we're on the road to victory.
Voters approved what Jimmy Carter did all the way through the hostage crisis of '79 and '80, but when he failed to bring them home before the election, they voted him out, and his job rating suddenly went down. We've got sort of a four-year --
MS. CLIFT: Well, these events --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the impact -- the impact -- the rallying impact usually runs eight weeks, okay? That carries us well beyond the election.
MR. WARREN: But focus on Gore and Bush. The Gore campaign assertion is, obviously, that he is more competent, more sophisticated, more experienced when it comes to foreign affairs. I don't see how that is anything but sort of underscored. And you better believe he'll somehow try to bring it up in the final debate.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, but --
MR. WARREN: And also, just wait for -- there's going to be a memorial service for the victims, and I wouldn't be surprised if the vice president is right there behind the president in a rare joint --
MR. BLANKLEY: But on the other hand --
MS. CLIFT: It is unknowable how these events are going to unfold, number one; and number two, how the American people are going to respond. Are they going to look at Bill Clinton, if he does manage to bring about a summit and bring an end to the fighting, maybe that will accrue to his benefit and to Al Gore's benefit.
On the other hand, if this spirals --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but --
MS. CLIFT: -- further out of control, the administration could be seen as losing its grip, and then George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Colin Powell might look pretty appealing to the American people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from you in a moment. But bear in mind --
MS. CLIFT: This is unchartered territory.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- but bear in mind that both candidates, Cheney and Bush, are aware of the impact of this, and this is how they are apparently trying to void any rally impact that would help Al Gore.
Critics say that President Clinton pushed both the Israelis and the Palestinians too hard at the hurriedly called Camp David Summit, and set the stage for dashed expectations and polarization.
Governor Bush hinted at this during the debate this week:
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (GOP presidential candidate): (From videotape.) -- that this current administration has worked hard to keep the parties at the table. I will try to do the same thing, but it won't be on my timetable, it will be on a timetable that people are comfortable with in the Middle East.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it not clear -- and this is a question -- that Bush is taking a shot at Clinton's failed diplomacy of Camp David, and that he may be saying, by implication, that responsibility for the violence that is currently taking place is due to dashed expectations and polarization, which set in as a consequence of the badly designed and unprepared-for summit?
I ask you.
MR. WARREN: Yeah, I mean timetable, I think, is a code word for, "Oh, a lame duck president who wants to have some, you know, great victory before he splits." Now, I think that might be a little bit too subtle for most people; I'm not sure that actually works.
MR. BLANKLEY: I think you're right. But Bush has said this before; he's specifically referring to the claim by the White House this summer that he was doing the summit for his own legacy. And they didn't do the diplomatic spadework for that. By example, Mubarak of Egypt was not there to tell Arafat, "yes, go ahead and take the deal", because we hadn't done the spadework. So this -- and all of this was said by Bush before the disaster in the Middle East.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I think --
MR. BARONE: John, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor first.
MS. CLIFT: I think Governor Bush needs to have his memory refreshed, and maybe you do too.
The reason for the intervention on the part of the president was because Arafat was threatening to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state, and all the analysis was that that would invite a violent response from Israel -- and that was a very good reason to get involved.
x x x involved.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But did he make matters worse?
MR. BARONE: The fact is -- John --
MS. CLIFT: I don't believe anybody can predict whether you make it better or worse in the Middle East.
MR. BARONE: John, the fact is that we had this sort of timetable. He pushed Ehud Barak to making all these concessions sort of in line with what was a political time, in contrast to President Jimmy Carter, in 1978, who gave Sadat and Begin long periods of time in a period which was not politically charged with election-year deadlines.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to --
MR. BARONE: I think, though, that Jim's right; that this point is subtle and Bush is wise not to -- (inaudible) -- at home.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Well, let's listen to this. This is a slightly less subtle point that's made clearly, I think, to void any possible positive impact, rally impact, that will help Gore, and it's been made by Cheney late this week.
He said, quote, "It's relatively easy to sit back and say, look, the Cold War is over with; nothing to worry about. Why should we spend any time concerned about the U.S. military today? And then something happens, such as happened this morning, and we lose sailors."
So says former Defense secretary and current vice presidential candidate Richard Cheney. Kind of adumbrating there that the unpreparedness of the United States military, the unreadiness, contributed, howsoever opaquely, to what has happened in the Middle East, and that had there been more attention paid to the military, this lassitude would not have existed which created a climate in which the enemy thought -- the malefactors thought they could get away with this.
MR. BARONE: John, you're drawing too much from this, I think. And I hope Cheney isn't trying to draw this lesson. I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, Cheney has been emphatic in saying, "I am not linking military unreadiness to what happened to the USS Cole."
MR. BARONE: USS Cole.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said that.
MR. BARONE: That's right. That's right. Because the fact is that the U.S. -- what happened to the USS Cole, so far as we know, is not something that happened because of unpreparedness. It was a terrorist attack that could happen anywhere, for which we should be prepared.
He was speaking --
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just get one point -- let me get one point --
MR. BARONE: Cheney was speaking to the broader point of defense preparedness.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you will admit, Michael, that a state of unreadiness does not help our situation in those parts of the world?
MR. BARONE: It doesn't help, but it didn't cause the USS Cole.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it necessary to go to Yemen to have a refueling?
MR. BARONE: That's another day's argument. Probably a good idea.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's right. Let me make --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that tie in with any military unreadiness?
MR. BLANKLEY: John, let me make a quick point.
One of the advantages that Gore has had going into this campaign is a sense of peace and prosperity -- peace abroad. All of the events that are now unfolding is undermining the sense of security that the public has with the Clinton-Gore administration's management of events --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- whatever the causes, whatever the faults.
MS. CLIFT: (Sighs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: This has created an anxiety that perhaps this team is not as good, they're not delivering the peace and, therefore, maybe they should --
MS. CLIFT: Look, even the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on a minute!
MR. BLANKLEY: -- therefore, they maybe should not be continued in office.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not a bad point.
MS. CLIFT: Even the sainted Ronald Reagan had to have -- had terrorist events happen on his watch.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Exit --
MS. CLIFT: This has nothing to do with preparedness. And that whole readiness argument, what a phony issue that is! You know, in the budget that Al Gore has twice as much money devoted to rebuilding the military than Bush does -- $45 billion to $100 billion --
MR. BLANKLEY: Where was he in the last eight year? Where was he in the last eight years?
MS. CLIFT: So all this scare talk --
MR. BLANKLEY: Where was he -- where was Gore --
MS. CLIFT: -- and Bush doesn't even put any money there!~
MR. BLANKLEY: Where was Gore in the last eight years, when the Republican Congress was trying to raise the budget on defense, and Clinton and Gore were keeping it down?
MR. BARONE: John? Let me add one point, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!~
MR. BARONE: The first returns we've gotten from the pollsters -- Gallup had an overnight survey -- Clinton's job rating on foreign policy went down from 62 to 55. That's not conclusive of what opinion is going to be over the time, but it suggests that we haven't yet seen a rally around the president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about military preparedness, has that got much of a cutting edge?
MR. BARONE: I think that that's a serious issue. It helps firm up Bush's base when they bring it up, and that's why they do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know of anybody who is responsible in the United States Congress who feels that this military is anything less -- or is in a state of readiness?
MR. BARONE: I think there's a lot of disagreement in Congress. There's a lot of people that feel that there are serious problems with military retention rates, with recruitment, with supplies, which is going on.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And hardware.
MR. BARONE: And those are legitimate political issues.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Exit question. Exit question. My feeling is that these two horrors are going to have an effect on our election, and it will be powerful, and the election is three weeks away. And let us assume that a U.S. reprisal action taken by the United States, a legitimate action based upon putative but -- where there is evidence -- terrorist malefactors. Okay? An action. Within a week, let us say. There are only three weeks to go. Within a week before November the 7th. My question is, what will be the -- what is the impact of this?
MR. BARONE: John, I don't think it's going to have any net impact one way or the other, because I think with these events in the Middle East, voters are getting a sense that things are out of control. They want a president and administration to keep things under control. I agree with Tony that that's minor damage to Clinton-Gore. It's offset somewhat by rally-round-the-flag. No net effect.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No net effect?
MR. BARONE: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the whole thing factors out?
MR. BARONE: That's what I say.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It doesn't politically redound to the help of Gore or Bush?
MR. BARONE: That's what I say.
MR. WARREN: I think the Bush --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll go around the circle.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I'm uncomfortable with the assumption, because, first of all, I don't know that we're going to know who the perpetrators are with any certainty within a week or two of the election. But if you buy your assumption, you have a surgical strike and the administration looks strong, I think that helps out Gore. I think people will say let's stick with the guys in power because they are handling things. That's a big assumption.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think -- Eleanor -- Eleanor makes a good point that it's unlikely that we're actually going to know, because we don't have very good intelligence on the ground in that area.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which is another complaint against this administration, is it not?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. But -- it is. But because in the past Clinton has used reprisals for what seemed to be political purposes, I think if he does that without ironclad evidence, which he's not likely to have, the public and the press will be ready to question the wag-the-dog efforts that he did in the past.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you thinking about the bombing of the pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, it could -- it could backfire on him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- within four days, and when he was in Nantucket and flying off to that? Do you remember all that?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, and the Lewinsky -- and the Lewinsky testimony, yes.
MR. WARREN: Two final matters. I think it would be wishful thinking on the part of the Bush camp to buy into what I think the suggestion of Tony is that folks across America might find some link between the Clinton administration and the manifestations of the deep tribal hatreds of the Middle East.
MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't suggest that.
MR. WARREN: And secondly, when it comes to Mr. Cheney, we have the best, strongest, best-funded military in the world, period.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So?
MR. WARREN: So the notion that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the bottom line?
MR. BARONE: It would be hard for us to slip to the Vietnamese. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the impact, political impact, positive or negative, or does it factor out, as Barone says?
MR. WARREN: No, I think, if anything, it'll probably -- Bill Clinton will come to the fore, Bill Clinton will be very articulate, Bill Clinton may even put together some final peace summit. In the next week or two things will subside and, if anything, it might be of marginal political help to Gore.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One thing we haven't addressed is, How can the United States possibly pose as the honest broker when both candidates for president have said that they're on the side of Israel? And the president, after Camp David, roundly criticized Arafat --
MR. BARONE: John, why shouldn't we been on the side that is trying to make peace and against the side that's trying to make war?
MS. CLIFT: No, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No one's -- that's not the question. The question is whether we can function as a truly effective honest broker.
MR. BARONE: The question is whether or not Yasser Arafat wants to accept the existence of Israel and the events of the last two weeks suggest that the answer is no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, dear me. Dear me. We're compromised. We know we're compromised.
MS. CLIFT: Well -- well --
MR. BARONE: They're --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back -- The answer to the -- the answer to the previous question is, you are all correct. Let the audience figure it out.
When we come back, the second debate: Why did Bush win on all poll registers?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Vox populi.
Post-debate polls give Bush the edge in every major category. Forty percent say they had a more favorable opinion of Bush following the debate, versus 24 percent Gore. Bush also won on believability, the issues, and likability.
On the question of "whom would you vote for if the election were held today," it was Bush, 46 percent; Gore, 41 percent.
Question: Is the reason Gore lost the debate so -- on so many different fronts -- was it that he was overcoached and he began to look like a seething Buddha? (Laughter.)
What are you laughing at the Buddha reference for, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Seething --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can take the question.
MR. BLANKLEY: Okay. I like the word "seething."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he in an icy rage?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah -- no, I think there's two problems that Gore had. He did take -- he overinterpreted the criticism from his prior performance, and so he wasn't assertive enough. But the bigger problem he has is that he doesn't know who he is. So every time he come out, he's somebody else, and that's why he listens to the coaches.
Bush is the same. He knows -- he's comfortable inside his skin. He -- Bush is always the same.
Gore, for all this year, has been trying to find the new Gore, and we saw that again in these two debates, where he comes out one time aggressive, the next time passive.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Gore still benefitting from the low expectations belief of Americans?
MS. CLIFT: Gore or Bush?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Bush.
MS. CLIFT: I think Bush did a lot to help himself in terms of raising the comfort level that voters have with him. I thought he did come across at ease, and he seemed to be more in command of the issues.
But Gore just gave him an open field. I mean, a muzzled Gore is no Gore at all. And I agree with Tony that this looked like yet another reinvention. And Gore did not sharpen the issue differences. He let Bush agree with him on everything and make it look like they're both in favor of all these wonderful things; they're just a little different on how they might achieve it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gore did less well than Bush, but how did Bush do? I ask you, Mr. Barone.
MR. BARONE: Well, I think, John, this reminded me of 1960, when the challenger candidate, who was from a famous family in his party's history, was against -- running against an incumbent vice president and an administration in which most voters were pretty pleased with the results, and yet the challenger -- John Kennedy in 1960, George W. Bush in 2000 -- exerted a sense of mastery and command --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.
MR. BARONE: -- and the vice president -- Richard Nixon, your sainted friend, in 1960, and Al Gore in this case -- both were playing around saying, "I agree with Senator Kennedy. I agree with Governor Bush."
MS. CLIFT: I'm sorry, but Bush is --
MR. BARONE: I think the body language --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me clarify --
MS. CLIFT: Bush is no -- Bush is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment.
MR. BARONE: The body --
MS. CLIFT: Bush is no Jack Kennedy!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Excuse me.
MR. BARONE: No, it's -- every comparison breaks down at some point, but there was some resemblance.
MS. CLIFT: Well, that just broke down.
MR. BLANKLEY: And Gore isn't Nixon.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. I want to clarify that Nixon was my sainted BOSS.
MR. BARONE: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay?
MR. BARONE: Gotcha.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now let me move on to you. Do you think that Bush did exceptionally well and that even if Gore had been at peak command, that Bush would have been competitive even then?
MR. WARREN: What have you been drinking? No, I think Bush was slightly less underwhelming than Gore, who came off, you know, as --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, this is a maverick view!
MR. WARREN: -- as -- well, I think, in fact, Gore is going to be helped by not coming off as the class bully once again. So I don't buy the -- (emphasizing the last syllable as "lie") -- "vox populi" --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's on a roll -- Bush?
MR. WARREN: Bush? No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't?
MR. WARREN: I think if --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do? Quickly!
MS. CLIFT: Well, no, and he's losing the spin cycle right now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No?
MR. BARONE: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?
MR. BARONE: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's on a -- is he on a minor roll? A medium roll?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think he's between minor and medium.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, actually, he's been on a minor. Now he's on a medium.
MR. BARONE: Major -- major roll.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's headed -- but the low expectations have gone. That's not going to help him anymore. He's heading -- he's still on the roll.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next week: presidential debate, Tuesday night, St. Louis. Who will do better?
MR. BARONE: W.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: W.
MS. CLIFT: Gore can't do worse. Gore. (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gore.
MR. BLANKLEY: I think Gore may do a little better.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Little better?
MR. WARREN: It's the worst format for Bush. Gore.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Answer: draw.
We'll -- bye-bye!
®FC¯END OF REGULAR SEGMENT
PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Of mice and men.
The rats! That's what animal rights advocates are calling members of Congress this week. Congress derailed an agreement made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the USDA, to give mice, rats, and birds laboratory animals all, the same protections larger animals have, like chimpanzees and dogs, under the Federal Animal Welfare Act. Twenty million of these small animals are used in U.S. research facilities every year. Last month the USDA agreed to issue standard rules governing the care of rats and mice, regulations on their food, their water, their housing, their pain relief.
The problem with such higher-status regulations for rats and mice is money, says the biomedical community. "In our view, this does nothing for animal welfare, but does add a tremendous paperwork burden. Paperwork costs could rise as high as $200 million, a barrier to future medical research, to say nothing of taking $200 million out of the budget of trying to find a cure for, perhaps, cystic fibrosis or diabetes or AIDS or cancer." So say the scientists.
Not true, say animal advocates. Reputable research institutions have followed these federal standards for years, even for rats and for mice.
Congress is siding with biomedicine. This week it passed last-minute legislation forbidding for a year spending by the USDA for new welfare rules for rats and for mice.
Question: Was Congress right? Do rats and mice need federal protection from inhumane treatment? I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now let me get this straight. You have 12 cats, right?
MR. BLANKLEY: (Chuckling.) I have 12 cats.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do those cats go after the mice?
MR. BLANKLEY: That's why we have them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you regard it -- you have them? (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you don't regard that as inhumane treatment?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I -- well, I think the only right a mouse has is to a cigarette and a blindfold before he's fed up to the cat. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? Do you --
MR. WARREN: First of all, there are not 20 million chimpanzees being used.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know -- wrong video.
MR. WARREN: Where do you find all those chimpanzees? (Soft laughter.)
Second of all, you laugh at this, but you just wait until Tuesday night when "rat hugger" Al Gore pillories Governor Bush for all those uninsured rodents in the state of Texas. (Laughter.) You just wait.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How's that going to go down with those Texas constituents? Will they believe that federal law is now going to protect mice and rats?
MR. BLANKLEY: And if mice and rats --
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think there are certain sanitary conditions that ought to be imposed, and I think a mouse and a rat and a bird is entitled to be fed and have clean water.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want --
MS. CLIFT: So I don't really know what these rules are that you're mocking.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no. Wait a minute -- the operative word here is "federal." There are local statutes and local provisions for preventing inhumane treatment, even to rats and mice; I don't know whether they're in every state. Do you want federal law --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- do you want the USDA devoting itself to that, rather than finding where E. coli is?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Yeah, because that way -- no, that way if mice and rats travel from state to state, they get the same protection. It makes sense. (Laughter.)
MR. BARONE: You already have states -- you're going to have felonious interstate transportation of a mouse here.
No, I mean, John, I don't know how to weigh the rights and wrongs of this --
MR. BLANKLEY: On a very small scale.
MR. BARONE: -- because I don't know the facts and statistics -- very small scale. (Laughter.)
No, but the fact is, I think as human beings we don't want to -- there are some limits to how we want to treat animals or, arguably, maltreat them.
MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it -- isn't --
MR. BARONE: On the other hand, you do not want to have a crushing burden on medical research, which is so important to human beings to save human lives.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't this typical that extremists, in the final days of an administration, try to get laws passed?
MR. BARONE: Yeah, I don't know if this is one of them or not. It could be.
MS. CLIFT: I don't --
MR. BARONE: There's a lot of nut cases in the Clinton administration that are trying this stuff.
MR. WARREN: No, it's the settlement of a lawsuit, coincidental with the end of the Congress.