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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Rainbow Cabinet. The top tier of the Bush administration is now in place, and it's just beginning to dawn on people how different this presidential Cabinet is from what America has seen before. Collectively, this Bush Cabinet is more diverse, more seasoned, more conservative, more meritocratic.

Eight of Bush's secretaries-designate are women and minorities. The secretary of State is the son of Caribbean immigrants. At Energy, a Lebanese American and, until three months ago, Michigan senator. At Labor, a Taiwanese American woman, former head of the Peace Corps and United Way. At Agriculture, a woman lawyer, negotiator of international trade deals; committed to biotechnology. At Education, a black superintendent of schools who want parents to have more choice over who teaches their children.

The Bush Transportation secretary is a Japanese American, former congressman and former Clinton Commerce secretary; a Democrat. At Housing, a Cuban immigrant and Florida county chairman who cut property taxes and helped low income families find housing. At Interior, a new woman secretary with passionate ideas on the use of America's natural resources, notably oil from Alaska.

Women also filled two additional top Bush posts: Environmental Protection Agency administrator, a former New Jersey governor who protected public land and cleaned the water without stiffing the business sector; and National Security Advisor, a conservative black woman who grew up in the segregated South.

What's left? An outnumbered platoon of seven white corporate types. Vice President Dick Cheney. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, Alcoa's former chairman, open-minded, results-oriented, government-experienced, pragmatic supply-sider with good labor relations. Attorney General, John Ashcroft: staunch pro-lifer, but equally staunch supporter of the death penalty, recipient of an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, and successful opponent of an influential black nominee to the federal bench.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Anthony Principi: Vietnam vet and former acting VA secretary under Bush, Senior. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans: oil executive; down-to-earth, pro-business, FOW -- that's "friend of W." Health and Human Services secretary, Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin's renowned governor, author, and implementer of strong welfare reform and better child care and better health insurance for poor families.

These Bush selectees are not payoffs to ethnic groups, as analysts have noted. Only 8 percent of the African American vote went to Bush. His largest electoral constituency was white males. So, if Bush's motive was to reward loyal constituencies, his Cabinet would be male and would be white.

So, what did Bush give us? A Cabinet of seasoned high-achievers and hefty personalities like, finally, two-time Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose no-nonsense management style, gained in government and at a pharmaceutical colossus, showed itself at confirmation hearings this week, where his control, his knowledge and his fluency were in full and easy display.

DONALD RUMSFELD (Defense secretary-designate): (From videotape.) I want you to know that I understand the task facing the Department of Defense is enormously complex. It is not a time to preside and tweak and calibrate what's going on. It is a time to take what's been done to start this transformation and see that it is continued in a way that, hopefully, has many, many more right decisions than wrong decisions.

There is no one person who has a monopoly on how to do this, or genius. It's going to take a collaborative relationship within the executive branch and with the Congress --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What do these appointments tell us about Bush's leadership style, Lawrence Kudlow?

MR. KUDLOW: Well, I think it tells what an excellent leadership man Bush is, what an excellent manager, executive, what a good president he's going to be. You know, John, except for the loony liberal left in this country, 81 percent of the public, according to a recent Gallup Poll, support this Cabinet. Only 13 percent dissent. That's extraordinary, at this stage of the game.

And I want to add another point. In addition to all the excellent comments you made, with which -- I agree with virtually all of them, this is a free enterprise Cabinet, not just because of the CEOs, but many of the non-CEOs have worked in business and free enterprise and private markets. This is the most free-enterprise Cabinet assembled, probably, since the Eisenhower years and maybe going back to one of my favorite, if underrated, presidents, one Calvin Coolidge. So I think the country is going to be in excellent hands.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does this tell you about Bush's leadership style, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I hope we're done genuflecting here -- (laughter) -- to the new president.

MR. PAGE: The honeymoon's over.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's just the beginning, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: What it says to me he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. Muhammad Ali, of course, will be one of the presenters at the inauguration. This is a Cabinet that certainly outdoes the Democrats from the point of view of surface diversity in terms of, you know, race and gender, but there's a real strong conservative thread there and, John, he's taken care of his base. One out of four Bush voters were self-identified Christian right and they've got their people in some powerful positions here, if they get confirmed. And in terms of women's rights, civil rights and the environment, the uniter-not-a-divider has done a great job uniting the liberal and loyal progressive oppositions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm going to help this along, because I still haven't heard what it says about his leadership style. What does it say?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, yeah -- I'll give you the answer. He is attempting, apparently, to do what has not been successfully done in many a year, which is genuine Cabinet government. He is putting his most powerful players in the Cabinet rather than in the White House. Now, that's a very bold move, because it's very difficult. In recent history -- I was in the Reagan administration -- in other administrations, the tendency is, ultimately, the president wants the power in the White House to manage the agencies. Bush has set up a situation just the opposite, where the power -- these very powerful players are going to be agencies. We'll see whether he can manage them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's it say about his temperament, his character, his personality?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think it shows a confidence that he can manage a Cabinet, and -- and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he's self-assured? He has a sense of self? He has a sense of identity?

MR. BLANKLEY: That's he's self-assured -- and we'll find out when the different Cabinet members start butting heads with each other, as they surely will, particularly Powell and Rumsfeld and others. Then we'll see how he manages that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that's the point that I see here. He wants to interact with rivals.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clinton was not that way.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clinton had a collection of mediocrities, true?

MR. PAGE: Clinton --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he wanted to control all the action.

MR. PAGE: False. (Laughs.) No --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Clinton not control all the action?

MR. PAGE: Clinton did want to control the action. Still, that Cabinet wasn't mediocrities. They were colorful idea people, but he was an idea man, too, which George W. Bush is not. I think it's a reflection of his style as governor in Texas. He wanted people with him who didn't necessarily agree with him and listen to all their ideas, but then he makes the decision, in the end.

It's a corporate-style Cabinet, John, and a reassuring Cabinet for conservatives and for moderates. Larry's right that people on the left don't like it.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, now, he could -- they could roll over him, those personalities. Look at some of them. Look at Tommy Thompson. Look at Rumsfeld. Half a dozen of them have really strong personalities.

MR. KUDLOW: Look, you've got strong players, but I have to disagree with Clarence on one key point. Bush has created a group of people who are not only excellent managers; it's just -- remember, Bush has a degree from the Harvard Business School. Bush himself is a former --

MR. PAGE: It's always easy to forget, but you're right.

MR. KUDLOW: Well, he does, and we should recall that. And Bush himself has been a CEO of an oil company and a baseball team, so he's accustomed to that style. But when you say Bush himself doesn't have those thoughts, I have to disagree.

This group in general is united by a very clear conservative compass. Now, Eleanor is shocked that the president who wins the election as a conservative would appoint a conservative Cabinet, but that's the reality.

MS. CLIFT: Uh, dissent! (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think we have here an Eisenhower-powerful Cabinet; that powerful? Where he had John Foster Dulles, he had Christian Herter following him, he had Oveta Culp Hobby --

MR. KUDLOW: George -- Ed Wilson of General Motors.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He had Charles E. Wilson of the General Motors --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: First of all -- first of all, Bush did not campaign as a conservative. He campaigned as a centrist, and there were more progressive votes cast in that election. He has a responsibility, because of the unique way he was named to his office, to respond --


MS. CLIFT: Named by the Supreme Court. Named --

MR. BLANKLEY: He won the electoral vote count. It's a constitutional process.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, I want to finish, also, about the Cabinet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: Not named.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish, Anthony.

MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.) Every White House I've covered, and I've been in Washington since Jimmy Carter, they all start out saying they're going to have a strong Cabinet. Inevitably, power flows to the White House, because those people have access. And Dick Cheney is not going to be a pushover, and neither is Andy Card or Karl Rove or, God bless her, Karen Hughes. So I -- I still say --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cheney -- Cheney is not a pushover, but Cheney and Rumsfeld will go toe-to-toe and Rumsfeld is not going to be a shrinking violet. I --

MS. CLIFT: What are they going to toe-to-toe about? I think they agree on everything.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I don't know whether that's necessarily true. They've got -- they have a long history, you know.

MR. : One guy -- one guy who should be --

MR. PAGE: I'll tell you one thing about Cheney and Rumsfeld, having known them for years, they're both great foreign policy people, they have very little interest in domestic policy, and that is what voters care about right now. I would look for some of those ideas which we are not -- (inaudible).

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And is there -- all right, I have a question -- I have a question for you.

MR. PAGE: Yes, sir.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you noted that, on the basis of the composition of this Cabinet, diversity does not mean liberalism?

MR. PAGE: Who said it did, John? That's your definition of diversity! You know -

MR. KUDLOW: That's -- that's a key point.

MR. PAGE: You know, this is the thing. People are absolutely -- I'm delighted to see that George W. Bush has produced a Cabinet that looks like America -- what Bill Clinton wanted to produce.

MR. KUDLOW: And also, let's -- let's --

MR. PAGE: And Bill Clinton caught lots of flak for it. George W. Bush gets praised for it! And I think he ought to be praised for it. The Cabinet should like America, and I hope corporate America that will take a tip from this example.

MR. KUDLOW: Yes, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, just before you do that, let me get back to Lawrence on this. It's true that Clinton did it. Clinton did it on the basis of affirmative action. He did it on the basis --

MR. PAGE: By your definition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of political correctness.

MR. PAGE: Your definition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This Cabinet was not formed on the basis of that. It was formed on the basis of knowledge, skill --

(Cross talk.)

MR. KUDLOW: But I want to -- I want to --

MR. PAGE: What did George W. Bush himself say when he was asked about that? He said, they said, "Are you trying to send a message with this Cabinet?" and he said, "Absolutely, because I want to say that you can get wherever you want to in this country if you work hard." What better way to show that than to have a diverse Cabinet?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah --

MR. KUDLOW: Yeah, but the message that is -- but deeper than that, it's a -- look, the center of the USA today is center right, and that's really the unifying compass, if you will, for the Bush group. But on domestic policy, look. The very crucial issue right at the beginning, out of the gate, is the economy and the downturn and the tax cut, which is the centerpiece of the Bush domestic policy. And Paul O'Neill, Treasury secretary-designate, former CEO of Alcoa, is going to surprise a lot of people, John.


MR. KUDLOW: He is going to, number one, be a very strong man inside the Cabinet and the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's soft-spoken.

MR. KUDLOW: He is soft-spoken, but he is, to coin a phrase, no shrinking violet. He has already been named the CEO of the economy, of economic policy.

Number two, O'Neill is a committed tax reformer. He wants lower rates, a simpler system. He wants to abolish or perhaps abolish the corporate income tax altogether, down the road. Watch him become the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To what, a flat rate?

MR. KUDLOW: That is correct.

MS. CLIFT: No, that --

MR. KUDLOW: He is going to be the pivotal player, because the economy is going to be the pivotal issue and is going to wind up determining the success or failure of Bush's term.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the corporate minimum tax is not going to be abolished, and I --

MR. KUDLOW: I'm talking about the corporate tax altogether, not the minimum. The tax.

MS. CLIFT: Well, whatever it is, forget it, Larry.

MR. KUDLOW: It costs more to pay it than it yields to the federal government.

MS. CLIFT: I question your math that this is a center-right country.

MR. KUDLOW: Center right. Center right.

MS. CLIFT: Add Al Gore and Ralph Nader. Who comes out ahead? Not George W. Bush.

MR. KUDLOW: You know, Eleanor --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. We've got to move on.

MR. KUDLOW: George Bush carried 78 percent of the counties and three-fifths of the states. So outside of the urban areas, Bush has a tremendous political base.

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- for Bush?

MR. KUDLOW: He will be stronger than you think.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is -- excuse me! Excuse me! There is another seasoned and competent appointee who now has Cabinet rank by reason of a recent move by the president, and that's Bob Zoellick. Bob Zoellick -- tell us about him. You know him well.

MR. KUDLOW: Bob Zoellick is a very smart guy, a free-market guy, free trade guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's he doing? What's he appointed to?

MR. KUDLOW: He's going to be the U.S. Special Trade Representative. He is a James Baker protege from past administrations, Reagan and Bush. Zoellick is another sleeper, because trade, as an economic issue, is going to be very crucial, and also because of the force of Zoellick's intellect and his grasp of bureaucratic politics. Watch him rise in this Cabinet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. I've got a question, and the question is this: Does the presumed enfeeblement of George Bush due to the long, drawn-out election process contribute to the selection of these particular Cabinet appointees? Do you understand the question?

MR. KUDLOW: Enfeeblement?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's presumed to be enfeebled because he didn't win the popular vote.

MR. KUDLOW: Well, yes --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it was long, drawn-out.

MR. KUDLOW: Well, okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, do you think that the composition of this Cabinet serves as maybe a camouflage for the groups that did not vote for him?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he --

MR. PAGE (?): Well, back to the future.

MS. CLIFT: Well, you could say that he's not afraid to surround himself with strong people. On the other hand, you could say he's afraid not to surround himself with strong people because he is seen as somebody who achieved this office in a rather weak way, or unusual way.

MR. KUDLOW: You know, this --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he also wanted Rice and he wanted Powell all along.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So therefore, he didn't bring these into being to cover his -- to cover his electoral popular weakness. You follow me?

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: And I don't see any relationship between the election process and this Cabinet. I think this is the Cabinet that Bush would have chosen if he'd won by 70 percent. It's a very distinctively selected Cabinet and one that none of us were predicting he would make a few months ago.

MR. KUDLOW: And don't forget, also, you mentioned Condoleezza Rice, which is not strictly speaking a Cabinet job. It's a White House staff job. And don't forget Lawrence Lindsey; Larry Lindsey as his top economics advisor on the White House staff. So you've got strong players all over the place that are going to help determine policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. The exit question is as follows: Will George W. Bush be able to control this Cabinet? Will he be able to manage these strong personalities?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I ask you, Lawrence Kudlow.

MR. KUDLOW: Oh, I think absolutely. He is the quarterback; he calls the shots. And we will see more of that. He's a very strong guy, Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that? Is that your intuition?

MS. CLIFT: No. I can't believe Larry believes everything he's saying -- (laughter) -- but it's great source stroking, Larry, I must say!

I think Dick Cheney is going to negotiate whatever spats there are.

MR. KUDLOW (?): Tax cuts are coming, Eleanor! I've been telling you that all year!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he's going to back and fill as needed?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you don't think -- you do think in your heart -- is it your intuition that George Bush can control these personalities, and will?

MS. CLIFT: I think that Bush sees the presidency as personnel director, and then he hopes everybody gets along, and if they don't, it's up to Dick Cheney to sort it out. I don't think there are going to be a lot of disputes that make their way to Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, his history in Texas demonstrates that he is able to control strong personalities, even when they're on the other side.

What do you say?

MR. BLANKLEY: My suspicion is that several months out, he's going to start strengthening his White House team in ways to try and manage and rein-in this Cabinet. I think it's a formidable job to manage any Cabinet, and this one in particular. So I wouldn't be surprised to see a little shift in -- admittedly, they haven't even started yet, but a shift maybe after the first year to try to get more personnel power inside the White House to manage this very powerful team of Cabinet members.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. PAGE: I think he will be able to maintain control, partly because of his Texas experience, and partly because he's chosen comfortable, familiar faces from his father's administration and the Ford administration. This is really the second Bush Sr. administration right now. So he knows what he is in for basically. I don't foresee a --

MR. KUDLOW: W wasn't hardly born during the administration.

MR. PAGE: He doesn't have to be.

MR. KUDLOW: I love this -- (inaudible) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get out. I haven't spoken yet. I haven't given my view.

MR. KUDLOW: Donald Rumsfeld is going to redo, redo national defense policy. He's going to change the Pentagon in ways it hasn't been changed in at least two decades since the Reagan people built it up --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he has his work cut out for him, you know that?

MR. KUDLOW: And he is capable of that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A president's Cabinet is a reflection of the man, and the man in this instance, I believe, is strong enough to manage, control and optimize these strong personalities.

When we come back: Is the lynch mob atmosphere surrounding John Ashcroft's nomination proof that Bush is in for tough sledding on Capitol Hill?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Targeting Ashcroft.

MR. : (From videotape.) We unequivocally oppose John Ashcroft for the position of Attorney General of the United States.

MS. : (From videotape.) The fundamental rights of every American women is at risk in this nomination.

MS. : (From videotape.) Senator Ashcroft also has an absolutely perfect record of abandoning gay Americans at every turn.

MR. : (From videotape.) This is the worst executive branch nomination I have ever seen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So who is the nominee who is being so slammed, even before he has answered a single question at his confirmation hearing?

Born, Chicago; 56 years of age. Wife, Janet; three children. Religion, Assemblies of God. Republican. Yale University, B.A. in history with honors. University of Chicago Law School, Doctor of Laws. Southwest Missouri State University, law professor, five years. State of Missouri, auditor, two years; attorney general, eight years; governor, eight years -- reelected by 64 percent, largest percentage of any Missouri governor since the Civil War. St. Louis, private law practice, two years. U.S. Senate, Missouri, three years and currently; won 60 percent of the vote; carried every county in the state. Committees: Judiciary, Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Foreign Relations. Subcommittees: The Constitution, Consumer Affairs, and Africa -- chairman of each. Coauthor with his wife, Janet, a law professor at Howard University, Washington, D.C., two text books, "Law for Business," and "It's the Law." Author, "Lessons From a Father to His Son," a tribute to this father's wisdom, 1998. Hobbies: riding dirt bikes on his farm, riding motorcycles, driving his 1973 yellow Mustang convertible, writing gospel songs, singing baritone in the Singing Senators Quartet.

That bio was done about two years ago for the acclaimed "John McLaughlin One on One" program. Mr. Ashcroft is now 58 years old, and last November he lost his Senate reelection bid to the Carnahans.

Question: How will Ashcroft differ from Janet Reno?

Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Jane Reno represented the Bill Clinton that campaigned in 1992. She was a respected liberal, former prosecutor. John Ashcroft is the symbol of the George W. Bush we never saw during the campaign. Ashcroft is a hard-liner on abortion, on gay rights, on guns -- issues that Bush muted during the campaign. That's why there's such an outcry, because again, half the country feels like they helped elect George W. Bush, and they don't want somebody with such absolutist views in such an important position.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'll tell you, among the many ways that he's different. If he were in Janet Reno's position, he would have prosecuted his own president. This is a man who -- this is a man who is completely incapable of not obeying the law and enforcing it scrupulously. He wouldn't be covering up, the way Janet Reno has covered up and covered for her president. And, actually, one of the reasons why presidents often pick a friend is because they want someone to give them a little nudge, a little protection. This is a man who is incorruptible. He is a very tough prosecutor.


MR. PAGE: The big difference is that Ashcroft poses a threat to civil rights as minorities know them in this country, and that's why the opposition to him is so fierce. He has moved to the right since his moderate days as a governor, and you can see it in the way he demagogued Judge White's nomination.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. Exit question: Will Ashcroft make a good attorney general, yes or no?


MR. KUDLOW: Yes, he will. Among many other reasons, he will reestablish due process inside the Justice Department. He's not going to just flick away his FBI director and flick away his assistant AGs. He's actually going to run the department the way it ought to be run.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he won't cover up political misdeeds, will he?

MR. KUDLOW: That's right. Reno never ran the department the way it should have been run. And Ashcroft will restore the department's luster.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He'll dig to the bottom of China-gate.

Eleanor, don't you agree?

MS. CLIFT: No, I don't agree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he be a good or a bad --

MS. CLIFT: I think he would be a terrible example as an attorney general in this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, obviously, I think he's going to be an honorable attorney general. I think he may have some trouble with some of the career staff there because he's going to probably try to get to the bottom of a lot of the mess, and some of them are at the bottom of it.


MR. PAGE: I hope he doesn't escalate the drug war. I hope he protects abortion clinics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he's going to pursue color-blind policies, and I'll predict that he will be a good attorney general.

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Pandas-schmandas. They're cute, they're cuddly, but they're killers and they're costly. Ten million dollars is what the Washington Zoo has forked over to China for Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the new Giant Panda couple now in residence. That $10 million will keep the pandas in the zoo on loan for the next 10 years. But the $10 million doesn't cover the costs of the 20 video cameras that monitor the pandas 24 hours a day, or the zoo keepers or zoo scientists employed for upkeep, or their high-tech housing and substantial feeding costs. Get this -- both pandas eat up 110 pounds of bamboo daily.

Wait a minute, say zoo officials, those costs are offset by the number of extra visitors the pandas attract, which visitors will buy additional food, drinks and souvenirs. Also, zoo officials hope the couple will have a baby. But any baby panda will be the property of China, so no offset there.

Question: Do these pandas belong in captivity?

I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. I think they're wonderful. (Laughter.) A mere half million dollars per pair ---

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many cats do you have?

MR. BLANKLEY: We have about 10 cats -- (inaudible) -- (laughter). I'd love to have a couple of pandas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wrong panelist!

MR. BLANKLEY: They're wonderful animals, and millions of people are going to enjoy looking at them. And I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are wild creatures. They are not domestic pets.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well of course. That's why they're in the zoo rather than my backyard.

MS. CLIFT: Right! (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: But I think people will enjoy them. I plan to go there with the family and take a look at them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If they were not in captivity, they would reproduce better, true or false?

MR. BLANKLEY: They don't do terribly well outside either, do they?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that this panda craze will breed a panda cosmetic, where people will adopt black around the eye? (Laughter.) Do you know what I mean?

MR. KUDLOW: I think there's some panda-monium possible out of this, but I don't know about cosmetics. But the pandas are from China, John, is that correct?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, indeed.

MR. KUDLOW: Well, that leads me to suggest also that an important story here is that the economy of China is growing 10 times faster than the economy of Japan and, therefore, China is the wave of the future in the PAC Rim, pandas or not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do you think that $10 million is going in China? Don't you think that's going to line some Chinese officials' pockets?

MR. KUDLOW: No, it's probably going into new technology investment as they liberalize their economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that that zoo is under the control of the Smithsonian. Do you think that James Smithson, the founder of the Smithsonian -- (laughter) -- would approve of this, or would he think it belongs more in Barnum & Bailey?

MR. PAGE: (Laughing) John, I admire your courage to get to the bottom of this panda story at a time when -- in the midst of this atmosphere of good feeling to even be in any way critical on this exchange.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've been thinking about something when we started this segment and we didn't finish it in the other one. Do you think that the racist charge against John Ashcroft is a bum rap or a fair rap?

MR. PAGE: I think the racism charge is a red herring in itself that the media and the Republican spin doctors have been blowing up. The other question is duplicitousness in the way he handled Judge White's case during the debate on Capitol Hill. That gets more to the point of how capable he'll be as attorney general.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well is he not more opposed to liberal judges than he is to black judges?

MR. KUDLOW: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that --

MS. CLIFT: Well, I want to know what his position is on the pandas.


MS. CLIFT: I mean, let's stick with the topic we started out here.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would think that since he rides a motorcycle and he sings with those fellow senators, that there's a soft side to him. He probably feels like you -- soft on pandas.

MR. BLANKLEY: Soft on pandas, I would say, yes.