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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Tipping the courts.

The 12 federal circuit courts of appeal in the United States are second only in power to the Supreme Court of the United States. The 179 judges who serve at the circuit level are far more powerful than their 674 colleague presiding over the lower federal district courts.

Currently 31 of those 179 circuit appeals judgeships are vacant. This leaves President Bush an unprecedented opportunity to tilt the circuit appeals court system to the right, and that's just what he began doing this week. Of the 31 vacancies, Mr. Bush announced his first slate of 11 nominees.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) A president has fewer greater responsibilities than that of nominating men and women to the courts of the United States. A federal judge holds a position of great influence and respect, and can hold it for a lifetime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president alone appoints, but the president alone does not put the appointees on the bench. He must seek and receive the advice and consent of the Senate. One way the Senate does this is through the confirmation process. Another way called blue slips.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): (From videotape.) You've probably all seen this blue slip by now. It's blue. And let me read from it. It simply says, "Please return this form as soon as possible to the nominations office. No further proceeding on this nominee will be scheduled until both blue slips have been returned by the nominee's home state senators."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was this blue slip leverage that led Bush to leave out, among others, Congressman Chris Cox of California from his first round of nominees, despite Cox's proven intelligence and character. Cox is unacceptable to both Democratic Senators Boxer and Feinstein.

An imbroglio developed over the Democratic charge that Republicans were trying to cancel senatorial blue slip privileges. By week's end, it turned out to be a Democrat fantasy fear. But what was left was a sharp focus on whether senators of either party have the right to spike a presidential nominee without any confirmation hearing and with no vote.

Question: The political year started out with chads, hanging chads, and is now marching forward with blue slips. Is this kind of blackballing intrinsically undemocratic at its core, because it deprives 98 members of the Senate from exercising their advise and consent duty and responsibility, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it is indeed the arrogance of power. These federal appellate judges, though -- they're your bird colonels in the culture war. All your decisions now on abortion, on integration, affirmative action, Boy Scouts -- all the great decisions on the culture war now go through the courts.

Mr. Bush has engaged, I believe, in an act of accommodation, if not appeasement. He did not put Cox up. He appointed two Clinton judges to the federal appellate court. In return, the Democrats are now about to Bork Mr. Olson, Ted Olson, his solicitor general. We are coming to a point where the president's going to have to decide whether he runs this situation and he's ready to confront the Senate of the United States. He hasn't shown he's willing to do it yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well stated, Pat. And it's good to see you.


MS. CLIFT: For eight years the Republicans used the blue slip procedure to torpedo Clinton nominations. Senator Spence Abraham used his prerogative to block a Clinton nominee from Michigan for four years. That's why there are a hundred vacancies on the federal bench. Now the Republicans say, "Oh, let's do away with this and let's just let everybody come through" because the Republicans want to do -- they want to pack the courts with their ideological favorites and accomplish on the courts what they can't do legislatively, the culture war that Pat is talking about. And the Democrats, thank God, have finally gotten some spine and they're going to fight this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please comment on blue slips on merits and whether it should be retained.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it used to be a tradition that you required two blue slips, not the one that the Democrats are demanding, that was exercised with some discretion and balance. Now it's become a strategy to block all appointments.


MR. BLANKLEY: And I think the problem is that this is not just a "Borking." A "Borking" was you went after one man. The Democratic agenda is to go after everyone they don't like ideologically.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush deprived the liberal Democrats of the ABA to do their dirty work. So now they have to do it themselves, and they're in panic because they think that it's going to be taken away from them. Is that your view?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I don't know that the ABA made that much difference, but the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the ABA used to screen them.

MR. BLANKLEY: They screened them. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you know the criteria they used.

MR. BLANKLEY: But the Republican presidents didn't pay a lot of attention to ABA anyway. The big fact is that Bush is going to have to draw the line somewhere and make a fight out of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, what is your perspective on this, Lawrence?

MR. O'DONNELL: The blue slip is an old senatorial courtesy, but it is also an efficiency. What it is, in effect, is a threat to filibuster. You have to remember that even if you take away the blue slips, you still have 100 senators, each of whom can stand up and filibuster, block any one of these nominations any time they want to. And what the blue slip is simply doing is saving you that incredible waste of time on the Senate floor having one of these --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me make a quick point with regard to Schumer. Senator Schumer says the Republicans intend to abrogate the Senate's role in choosing judges by depriving them of the blue slips. They're not abrogating their role. They've got the whole confirmation process.

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got no right -- John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Anything that a person, a senator who signs his name to that disturbs him on that blue slip, that senator can bring to the confirmation process and we can all examine it.

MS. CLIFT: Tony is right that the president is going to have to have a fight on this at some point. And Chris Cox, the congressman from California, may be the person who is going to --

MR. BLANKLEY: I want to talk about the filibuster.

MS. CLIFT: -- because he gets a zero on abortion -- excuse me, I want to finish. He gets a zero on abortion rights. He gets single digits on the environment and consumer protection. That's hardly a centrist to put on the court.

MR. BLANKLEY: John, your point on this being undemocratic, and your point on filibuster, connect. If you actually had to have a filibuster and the public actually saw the argument --


MR. BLANKLEY: -- they might end up not wanting to do it so often. But if you just slip in a blue slip at night, you don't have the democratic process of public awareness to come to bear on senators who want to block.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's a fascist abuse, do you not?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I wouldn't use the word "fascist."

MR. BUCHANAN: John, what they're going to have to do is -- look. And they not only got 40, they got 50 some of these Democrats. If they're united and they decide they're going to stop Cox and they're going to stop a conservative for the Supreme Court, Mr. Bush is going to have to go to the mattresses. It is coming. He can't avoid it by giving away two more --

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's a healthy fight because it's over ideology and politics and it's not over whether somebody did something in their private life that people disapprove of. It's not "Borking."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask a new question, quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's not what they're doing to Olson.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask a new question. The new question is, Pat, you've campaigned across this country; what is your view? What do Americans want on the high -- on any court? Do they want strict constructionists or do they want judicial activists, in the bulk?

MR. BUCHANAN: If you can nominate a candidate who is perceived as a law-and-order conservative for the Supreme Court, you've got two- thirds of the country with you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think on that question? What does the country want? Strict constructionists?

MS. CLIFT: The country does not want judges who are going to trim all of the rights that we have enjoyed in terms of abortion, civil rights, civil liberties, and consumer and environmental protections. They don't want those rights turned back.

MR. BUCHANAN: They want liberals. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that people are fed up with the effort to remake the Constitution by a lot of federal judges, and they want strict constructionists?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think people who think about it deeply are, but the average citizen, I think, is more likely to simply focus on the issue of toughness on law and order. I think that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is your insight?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think the public simply wants pro-death- penalty, pro-choice federal judges. About two-thirds of the public wants that. And the Senate Democrats will be very happy to have a three-week floor debate on Chris Cox, and they don't care how the vote comes out, because that's three weeks where the Republicans are not legislating.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've got another quick question. Should the blue slip be pink-slipped? I ask you. Yes or no? One word.

MR. BUCHANAN: No -- yes. (Laughs.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It should be? (Laughter continues.)

MS. CLIFT: The Republicans used and abused it for eight years. You can't now take it away.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, so one evil justifies another? Is that it?

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Used in moderation, no. Used as the Democrats are planning to use it, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the answer is, give it the pink slip, because it's going to be abused. (Laughter.) You know that.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's what I said. That's what I said.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They don't have the ABA to do their running for them.

MR. O'DONNELL: It makes the Senate floor run more efficiently and gives them enough time on the floor to vote for their tax cuts. That's a good thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a yes. That's a -- that's a --

MR. O'DONNELL: Keep the blue slip. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Keep the blue slip. (To Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Blankley.) You'll get rid of it, you'll get rid of it, and I say rid us of this tyranny. (Laughter.)

When we come back: The Tony Soprano mob. You got a problem with that? (Laughter.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: McVeigh's stay.

It is the biggest federal case of the century, the most devastating act of terrorism on U.S. soil, and the prosecution blew it.

Question: How much damage does this do to public confidence in the FBI? How much psychological empowerment does it give the paranoid fringe types like McVeigh, who see cover-up in Waco, in Ruby Ridge, and now McVeigh documents, Tony Blankley?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, answering the second part first, I think the paranoid folk don't need any encouragement regarding their paranoia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are there many of them?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are there many Americans who distrust the government?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, this -- look -- yeah, a lot of people distrust the government. There are only a handful who are violently paranoid about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sixty percent of the American people believe in UFOs. You know that.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they believe that the government is withholding tapes --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- there's a better way to put it -- documentation on UFOs.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I don't --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, what happened, John, at Ruby Ridge and what happened at Waco were horrible, whatever we think of McVeigh. And this is another foul-up, frankly, by the FBI. It's going to damage respect for them, and I have no doubt it's going to encourage people to say they hid evidence, because a lot of people think McVeigh could not have acted alone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was this done by Reno hold-overs?

MR. O'DONNELL: No, what it should do is give people doubts about enforcing the death penalty. The FBI has been on a 40-year notice on this discovery. This discovery right was actually won by my father in a case in the United States Supreme Court, U.S. versus Campbell, 1962, in which the FBI was ordered to turn over investigative documents for the first time, and they had to in every case since then. To screw up on this one is unforgivable, and for it to be a death penalty case -- what if we discovered this stuff six days --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly. Exactly. Did you hear that point, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, it makes the FBI look like the Gang That Can't Shoot Straight. But look, let's be fair. They have an antiquated computer system. They're upgrading. This was a computer foul-up.

But -- you and I can look at it and say it's pure incompetence, but the paranoids out there are going to look at it; it's going to feed the conspiracy theories. But after --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: But after McVeigh was arrested, the militia groups for a while grew, and now they have died down to where they're practically nothing. I just hope this doesn't give them the energy to mobilize again.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Remember the way the FBI concealed information which covered the issue of who fired shots first and whether incendiary rounds were used on the Koresh compound, and we finally had to get Danforth in there to figure everything out?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, exactly. And people question the Danforth report. But look, this does not mitigate the fact that McVeigh ought to go to his death for what he did. He was a terrorist. He did it. I don't care how many boxes of documents are around. That's not going to change that truth.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it change the jury's mind? Will it be in any way exculpatory to the point where it changed the jury's mind?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. No, the case is overwhelming against him.

MS. CLIFT: It may affect McVeigh.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the impact on --

MR. BUCHANAN: He admitted it!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the impact on your pal, Louie Freeh? By the way, are you tanned up there today? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I've been out cutting the lawn.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony Blankley looks like Tony Soprano. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: For the show today, I thought I'd dress this way.


MR. BLANKLEY: Louie Freeh is going to end up with a wonderful reputation for his leadership, for expanding our attack on terrorism around the world, and he's going to have a couple of administrative snafus which will also be noted. But his ability -- he's moved the FBI from simply in the United States to being out there around the world protecting the country from terrorism, which is probably the greatest danger. That's what he's going to be remembered for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And using agents like Hanssen. What's his first name?

MS. CLIFT: Robert.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Robert Hanssen.

Exit question: McVeigh's execution has been delayed until June the 11th. Will it happen on that date; yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't believe so. I think they're going to push it off.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?

MS. CLIFT: I don't think it's going to happen by then either because of the legal maneuverings, but the one key question we don't have answered here is how Timothy McVeigh himself feels about this. If he wants to hurry up and get his death over with, he can make it happen.




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Notwithstanding the stay?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no. He can't get himself executed --

MS. CLIFT: By June 11th.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- before June 11th, but if he doesn't assert his legal rights, he can be executed then. If he does, it could be more than a year before we finally get his justice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who was the other person with McVeigh part of the time?

MS. CLIFT: Harry Nichols.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nichols. Now, suppose they need --

MR. O'DONNELL: We don't know who else was involved.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose they need McVeigh to give evidence on Nichols? Does that mean --

MR. O'DONNELL: Exactly. This is why executing him is crazy; not just morally, but --

MR. BLANKLEY: We do know.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- we don't know who else was involved.

MR. BLANKLEY: We do know.

MR. O'DONNELL: One of his earlier lawyers says there might have been five or six people involved, including someone who could build that bomb.


(Cross talk.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Why would you want --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- execution?

MR. BLANKLEY: Lawrence, the evidence --

MR. O'DONNELL: Why would you kill the person who knows who else was involved?

MR. BLANKLEY: The evidence is overwhelming. They have records of all their phone calls. The only two people who talked to each other was Nichols and McVeigh. They never called a third person. The evidence is conclusive that it's only the two of them.

MS. CLIFT: The lawyers are pretty persuasive in saying that McVeigh doesn't know how to build bombs and he didn't have the resources to build that kind of a bomb.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Timothy McVeigh will not be executed on June the 11th, I believe.

Issue three: You got a problem with that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Violent. Compelling. Provocative. Controversial. "The Sopranos," HBO's prime-time mobster melodrama. A ratings blockbuster now three seasons strong. Well, box office bonanza or not, Italian Americans hate it; most of them, anyway. Negative stereotyping, creating the impression that 15 million Americans of Italian descent are all mobbed up, even crime bosses.

Chicago's American Italian Defense Association filed a suit condemning the show. Italians as mobsters, declares the association, that's what's projected into the American psyche every week throughout the year, in reruns.

Former New Jersey Congressman Frank Guarini, now chairman of the prestigious National Italian American Foundation, says this: Quote, "Our research clearly proves that programs like 'The Sopranos,' which present Italian Americans as undereducated people who are either criminals or in blue-collar jobs, bears no resemblance to the average Italian American, who is a law-abiding citizen working in a white- collar position," unquote.

Is Guarini correct? The FBI says yes. Of 458 criminals on its "Most Wanted" list over the last 50 years, 26 have been Italian Americans, barely 5 percent. The U.S. Census says 4 million of the 6 million Italian Americans in the workforce are white-collar -- two- thirds.

Now here is the truly troubling statistic. This is a question put to teens in a teen survey: "What is the typical job for Italian Americans in movies or TV?" Answer: crime boss or gang member, 44 percent. Almost one-half of American teens think that a typical role for an Italian American is crime boss or gang member.

Question: Are Italian Americans justified in feeling angry and maligned by the ethnic stereotyping they see in "The Sopranos," Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: I don't think that's a widespread view, and I don't think most people look at the characters in "The Sopranos" as typical of all Italians any more than they would look at the characters in Frank McCourt's books as typical of all Irish people. So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you don't think that they are justified?


MS. CLIFT: I think some people might want to take offense, but I think it's such a minor issue that it barely merits discussion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think about this?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, look, they are justified. On the other hand, Hollywood always does this about -- if there's a stereotype that an audience believes in, they're going to feed into it, whatever the ethnicity is, whatever the job type is. This is simply the way Hollywood makes its money. And Italians no more than Jews or Irishmen or anybody else have any particular complaint.

MR. BUCHANAN: I dissent, John. I strongly dissent. Look, they would not do this to black folks. They won't even put "Amos and Andy" on. They wouldn't do it to gay folks today.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You couldn't use the word "Smith" to describe that family.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If they were the Smiths, it would get nowhere.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, what the problem with this -- unlike "The Godfather," which was a great movie, great two or three movies, this is on week after week. It is lewd, crude, and it's contemptuous of Italian Americans, in my judgment. And they would not -- Hollywood would not do it to other groups. But whites and Catholics --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right --

MS. CLIFT: And Pat, you said that you watch it every week! You love it! (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: I watch it every week. I take notes --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why? Why do you watch it every week, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Because it -- there's no doubt it's well-acted, it's entertaining, but it's other things, too --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You like the writing?

MR. BUCHANAN: The writing is pretty good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You like the directing?

MR. BUCHANAN: Pretty good. Aaron Sorkin does it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Now I have a letter here, a sensitive letter written by Bill Dal Cerro, from Chicago.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he is working with the Italian Americans out there --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with that -- those professional lawyers suing "The Sopranos." And he says this: "Please don't let your panelists ramble on about the superb artistry of the writing, acting, directing, et cetera."


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "One could make an equally strong case for the artistry of D.W. Griffiths's 'Birth of a Nation'" --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- "or Hitler's anti-Jewish movies by Lena (sic) Riefenstahl."


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think about that?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's exactly right. Leni Riefenstahl. He's -- and he's got a good point. "Birth of a Nation" was a great movie in 1915, but it had the Ku Klux Klan favorably portrayed in that. You could never do that today.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. O'DONNELL: The real model of "The Sopranos" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- do you think that the artistry has produced --

MR. O'DONNELL: The real model of "The Sopranos" is Shakespeare.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughing) Shakespeare?

MR. O'DONNELL: The real model of "The Sopranos" is Shakespeare. If any reading Shakespeare thinks that all of the English are homicidal lusters of power, then they're crazy --

(Cross talk.)

MR. O'DONNELL: (Inaudible) -- about a tiny subset of the English called the aristocracy. Sopranos is about a very tiny subset. It is beautifully written.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Congress gets in the act. The longest- serving woman in the U.S. Congress, Republican Marge Roukema, maiden name Scafati, will introduce a Sense of the Congress Resolution decrying the Sopranos as a negative stereotyping maligning Italian Americans.

Now, here's what McLaughlin.commers think about Congress getting in the act: 92 percent say no, and 8 percent say yes.

So I ask you, will Marge Roukema's resolution get anywhere in the Congress, do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: The great thing to know about her is she proudly proclaims she has not watched one minute of "The Sopranos." (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) Oh, you are cruel! You are cruel!

MR. O'DONNELL: I, on the other hand, have never missed a minute of "The Sopranos"; have watched every episode; I will watch every episode. Television does not get better than this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, well, we'll see if this works on you.

Gandolfini's problem. The Tony Soprano role is played by James Gandolfini. Here's what he thinks about Tony Soprano. Quote: "I don't think I will do a Mafia character again. I want to get away from the violence. It's starting to bother me personally," unquote. (Laughter.) Gandolfini is concerned that some viewers see him as a hero. Speaking about the Tony Soprano character he plays, Gandolfini goes on to say this: "In the last series, he" -- Tony Soprano -- "killed his best friend." That was Pussy, you'll remember. "That's why I can't believe it when people come up to me and ask me to come and talk to their kindergarten class about Tony Soprano. It boggles my mind." Unquote.

Question: Does that send -- does that quote speak volumes about what's going on here?

MR. BUCHANAN: It speaks volumes -- speaks volumes about American culture, which is deeply, deeply degraded, and this is an example of the best of the worst.

MS. CLIFT: Maybe Tony needs another visit to the therapist. (Laughter.) It's not the violence that we love, it's his angst about the violence that we love. You don't see that anywhere else where people are bothered about the fact when they do evil things.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When he goes into a small-time restaurant and he takes the guy out and he breaks his legs, he breaks his ribs, he breaks a couple of other bones in his body, he puts him in traction in the hospital because there's no shakedown, you think that that's something good for us to be seeing?

MS. CLIFT: No, no. He's having panic attacks and he's seeing a psychiatrist about it. That's the whole point.


MR. O'DONNELL: I have a question. Didn't his agent tell him what the character was before he took the part? I mean, this is the part of a lifetime for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's getting to him, more than it's getting to people like O'Donnell or Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he might want to broaden his repertoire as an actor after this. I don't blame him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A quick exit question -- yes or no -- does Hollywood discriminate against Italian Americans? Yes or no.

Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: It stereotypes them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's yes, it does discriminate, correct?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it doesn't -- it hires them, but it stereotypes them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, stereotyping is discrimination, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's different. Let's say it stereotypes them, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: Italians are leading men and leading women --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: -- Sophia Loren. I'd say no. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, they stereotype everybody.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stereotyping -- is that discrimination? (Laughter.)

MR. O'DONNELL: The greatest source for "The Sopranos," in addition to David Chase's own genius for creating it, are the wiretaps and all the records provided by Rudolph Giuliani, that great Italian American who loves "The Sopranos."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And so does Joe DiGenova supply material for David Chase, I'm sure.

MR. O'DONNELL: The great prosecutors, Italian Americans, have shown us what the Mafia really is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: David Chase is a genius at this, and it's gripping. But Hollywood does discriminate against Italian Americans.

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will Chris Cox be nominated by George Bush?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes; he has to.


MS. CLIFT: I guess if Pat, speaking for the right, says yes, I'll say yes too.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Hit the road.

Hit the road. That's what the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission told the United States. Get this: Last week, it voted the U.S. off the commission. What nations are on that panel that gave us the boot? Fifty-three nations, of whom 35 had dismal, at best, human rights records, including Sudan, where a civil war has killed millions and slavery still flourishes; China, where students and Falun Gong'ers are jailed, or worse; Sierra Leone, where atrocities include hands, feet or legs cut off, with the death toll now at 20,000; Algeria, where Islamic rebels kill innocent villagers by the tens of thousands, plus murder, 70 international journalists.

The Bush administration is vexed at the U.N., especially since many of the countries who voted for U.S. expulsion had earlier pledged a "yes" vote. To add insult to injury, the U.S. on the same day was evicted from another U.N. panel, the International Narcotics Control Board, which in 1964 -- get this -- the United States helped found.

The U.N. will pay a price for this action. The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to freeze nearly $250 million in back dues, almost one-third of the total owed. This retaliation may be justified, but President Bush opposes it, despite his own irritation over the U.N. behavior.

Question: Is Congress right to cut off one-third of the U.N. back dues in reprisal for being kicked off the U.N. Commission on Human Rights? I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: Congress is wrong. The fact is, we didn't get kicked off, we just didn't get as many votes as Sweden. We do get beaten by these crazy little countries like Sudan. The world is divided on these commissions into different sections of the world. We were competing against France, Austria, Sweden, who came in ahead of us.

By the way, a country that insists on carrying out the death penalty is in questionable status for being on a human rights commission. I'm not sure Sweden doesn't have better standing than us to be on the commission.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the Europeans stabbed us in the back more than China and Sudan did in that little caper you just described very innocently. They don't like us anymore. You know why?

MR. BUCHANAN: You have to lobby for votes. We didn't lobby for the votes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They don't like us anymore because we have sanctions on Iraq and they want to do business with Iraq, and sanctions on Libya. They may be lifted now; I'm not even sure of that. They want to do business with Libya. They don't like us using the U.N. as kind of a British-American utility tool to the exclusion of other European nations.

MR. BLANKLEY: There's a much bigger issue here. The Human Rights Commission has become a defender of the thugs and indifferent to the conditions of the victims of the thugs. We were right to withdraw the money, but I think we should then spend the money and work with other countries that want to on behalf of human rights, legitimately. But until the U.N. rectifies itself, we should stay away from that particular commission.

MS. CLIFT: The Bush administration invited this retaliation by not having anybody in place to lobby --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, Poland invited Hitler to --

MS. CLIFT: -- by not taking the U.N. -- by not --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and Poland --

MS. CLIFT: -- excuse me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: -- by not having anybody in place to take the U.N. seriously. And it is payback for pulling out of the --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, look, that's like --

MS. CLIFT: And Tony, quit it. And it is payback for --

MR. BLANKLEY: That's like saying Poland --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: It is payback for pulling out of the Kyoto treaty and for all of the go-it-alone gestures. You know, we'll accommodate this, and they'll accommodate us. But it's a nice little slap in the face that we deserve.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's like saying Poland's responsible -- okay, you've said it several times. That's like Poland being responsible for being weak enough that Hitler invaded them.

MS. CLIFT: Hardly, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: You can't make the moral equation between negligence and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here we are, one big, happy family -- the Soprano family.