THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED: FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2001
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 26-27, 2001
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Jim Jeffords, a majority of one.
SENATOR JAMES JEFFORDS: (From videotape.) In order to best represent my state of Vermont, my own conscience and principles I have stood for my whole life, I will leave the Republican Party and become an Independent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How should Bush handle this setback? So, Mr. President, I ask you, sir. What are your thoughts on Jim Jeffords' action?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) I respect Senator Jeffords, but I respectfully -- but respectfully, I couldn't disagree more. Our agenda for reforming America's public schools and providing tax relief for every taxpayer represents the hopes and dreams of Main Street America. I was elected to get things done on behalf of the American people and to work with both Republicans and Democrats, and we're doing just that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Can you discern from Mr. Bush's remarks how he will handle this setback? Does he sound like he's going to conciliate with the Senate and maybe let the Senate dictate a centrist agenda to him? Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: Well, I don't think the Senate Democratic leadership is interested in a centrist agenda. John, I think he's going --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are they interested in?
MR. BARONE: I think he's going to continue pretty much as he has been. Basically, Bush set out a program back in the campaign, he's stuck to it so far, with tax cuts, education changes, Medicare is coming up, defense changes, Social Security, on each of which he had some reason to believe he could get votes from Democrats. It was not a program that depended on Republican control or Republican majorities in both houses. The Democrats now having the majority in the Senate, it's going to make it more difficult for Bush, particularly on low-visibility items. But I think on the high-visibility items, Tom Daschle is not going to maneuver to deny George Bush a vote on Medicare, for example. That is not going to happen, because remember, John, nobody controls the Senate. Republicans didn't; the Democrats don't
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before I go to Eleanor -- and I'm very anxious to hear what you have to say --
MS. CLIFT: Oh, I know, and I'll get at least as much time as Michael, I'm sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- I want to tell you that if Mr. Daschle and his Democratic Senate decide to buck Bush, then that would mean no missile shield, no nuclear power, no privatized Social Security, no drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, no limit on punitive damages in patients' rights suits, no corporate income tax repeal, kiss that goodbye, that idea that's floating out there now, no free trade zone in this hemisphere. So my question to you is, what do you think Bush is going to do?
MS. CLIFT: I can hear the applause from the country already as you go through that list. I think President Bush is in denial. I mean, he has not heard the call, not only from Senator Jeffords but from embattled moderates within that party everywhere. He is pretending that he has a mandate that he doesn't have, and he's acting as though he doesn't have to make any adjustments in his agenda. And if he continues to behave that way, I think some of those adjustments will be forced on him, if he wants to accomplish anything.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Bush is going to give way on his agenda and that he's going to yield to a centrist or left-wing Senate?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think it's contrary to his inclinations, and it will be contrary to what will be in his best interests. He hates, and his people hate to make little clever tactical maneuvers for some short-term advantage. I think he's going to go, as Michael said, straight forward with his agenda. Now, I don't think he's going to get much done, as a result, but that's going to differentiate the two parties. Daschle is going to be out there focusing on their issues and we'll have a very tough election coming up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know that you're an authority on the United States Senate, having served there, not as a senator, but as a staff --
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, as a senator, John. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) I thought Hollywood was your future career!
Well, anyway, what about the House of Representatives? Bush has to deal with the House.
MR. O'DONNELL: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you think he should deal with the House? Should he put his Stetson on, should he put his spurs on, should he go up and tell his Rough Riders up there that they have to stand firm? How is he going to feed the conservative yen within that body?
MR. O'DONNELL: Dealing with the House is now easy because the Rough Riders in the House were all rougher riders than George W. Bush; they wee much more extremely conservative than he is. And so now they can't come to him saying, "Why aren't you getting this? Why aren't you getting that?" He has a very simple explanation as to why they're not going to get what they want.
Going back to your list of the things that won't happen because of this change in the Senate, they weren't going to happen anyway. The voting alignment in the Senate has not changed. Jeffords will vote with Bush when he wants to and vote against him when he wants to.
MR. BARONE: Well, I think some of those things are going to happen, John. Tom Daschle does not have 50 solid votes against missile defense. That's simply not the case.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about the --
MR. O'DONNELL: Everything else they vote on procedurally now, for the rest of this Congress, requires 60 votes to pass it, and they will not be able to get that on any one of those things.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me give you the broad design, Tony. Let the House set the agenda, let the Senate kill it, and then the president has his whipping boy.
MR. O'DONNELL: That's right. That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then he can scold an obstructionist Senate.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, he can do that, and that probably will end up being the strategy he's going to be forced into. But keep in mind, we're now going to start seeing punishing oversight hearings coming out of the Senate. The Democrats now have the ability not only to have a break on anything that happens, which they didn't have until this moment, now they have the opportunity to put forward their own case. And so Bush is going to have to consider the consequences of the kind of oversight hearings where they're going to call up his people and have show trials, which is what the Democrats do so well.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that you think the Democratic senators are going to try to humiliate and embarrass the president --
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and the vice president?
MR. BLANKLEY: Of course!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you think of any hearings that they might call?
MR. BLANKLEY: It might be on oil.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Might be on oil. Could it be on parties at the vice president's?
MR. BLANKLEY: It could be --
MS. CLIFT: Well, if the Democrats do this, they have learned at the feet of the masters because this is what the Republicans have done for the last several years.
MR. O'DONNELL: Not very well.
MR. BLANKLEY: Not very well.
MS. CLIFT: You can call it pay-back or you can call it politics. There's going to be lots of jostling, there's going to be --
MR. BLANKLEY: But you agree with me. You agree with me --
MS. CLIFT: There's going to be lots of jostling over issues --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One final --
MS. CLIFT: -- and if the Democrats can go into the 2002 election saying, You know, we don't like nuclear power, we want a Patients Bill of Rights, we want prescription drug coverage --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, they're going to get --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about --
MS. CLIFT: -- and we can't get the Republicans to agree. That's not a bad position for Democrats.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Bush boast that he knows how to deal with a legislature that is dominated by the opposite party?
MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, no.
MR. BARONE: John.
MR. O'DONNELL: There's no Tom Daschle in the Texas legislature.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. He may know how to --
MR. BARONE: Just a minute. One of his -- I mean, look at the tax bill that passed, with most of the Bush tax cut, 62-38 in the Senate. There are majorities for a lot of these issues that cross party --
MR. O'DONNELL: And that would have passed that way even if the Democrat were in control, because Max Baucus is the Democratic chairman of Finance. What a --
MR. BARONE: That -- that was one of my points earlier, Lawrence, when John puts up this graphic that says none of these things are going to happen because you have this majority.
MR. O'DONNELL: They won't. The future things won't.
MR. BARONE: You have a lot of issues on there in which majorities exist for Bush's position. You have issues on there in which you are not going to have 40 Democrats. You're not going to have Democrats willing --
MR. BARONE: Usually they're willing -- they're not going to be willing to filibuster. They can stop low-visibility things. It will be harder for them to stop high-visibility things.
MR. O'DONNELL: They don't even have to take them up. That controlling the calendar, controlling the procedure of the Senate, is what they have. They do not control (individual ?) votes.
MR. BARONE: Well, but it doesn't -- you do not have absolute control when you have that. Trent Lott gave two weeks to John McCain on campaign finance, which he didn't want to do. But McCain was able to get it because he used the force that any individual senator has.
MS. CLIFT: And then -- and then he sends the bill to the House!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me break in here. Excuse me! Excuse me!
MS. CLIFT: Well, say "excuse me" to one of these guys, John, not when I get my one sentence out. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I tried to say it to Michael, and then you spoke up.
Michael raised an interesting point. It may have been by accident, but it somehow got in. (Laughter.) And that was the tax cut that passed the Senate this week by a vote of 62 to 38. They voted to pass an 11-year, $1.35 trillion cut. All the Republicans voted in favor, and the following Democrats voted yes also: Baucus, Breaux, Carnahan, Cleland, Feinstein, Johnson, Kohl, Landrieu, Lincoln, Miller, Nelson and Torricelli. How many is that, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: I wasn't counting.
MS. CLIFT: Twelve. Twelve.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's about 12 -- 12 Democrats.
MR. BARONE: That's 12, of whom eight are up for reelection, by my count, in 2002.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many are up?
MR. BARONE: I believe eight of those 12.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you evolve from that?
MR. BARONE: Well, the fact is that they obviously would rather go before the voters having supported a tax cut rather than having opposed one.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So can we say that --
MS. CLIFT: Well, Democrats are not opposed to tax cuts. Democrats are not opposed to tax cuts --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even this tax cut. Even this tax cut.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Let me finish. Eleven of those 12 Democrats are from the red states, which Bush carried by wide margins.
MR. BLANKLEY: Which are the two blue states? (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: This is incumbent protection as well, probably more than it's doing good for the American people.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look. You've got to remember that as this become less a legislative struggle and more a party struggle -- the people who are happy in this town are the operatives in both parties. The people who are sad are the policy people. You're going to end up having the leaderships in both parties be tougher and tougher on sticking with your party, because it's not about legislation, it's about party. So I think that's going to affect Democratic senators who might have voted, under other circumstances, with Bush. Now they'll be less likely to.
MS. CLIFT: Which implies there's going to be --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, I've got -- wait a a minute. I've got a quick question for Tony. The question is triangulation. Bill Clinton triangulated the U.S. Congress. What does that mean?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. He played off the Senate and Republicans from the Democrats. It's not going to happen under Clinton because -- under Bush because Bush believes in his convictions. Clinton was glad to be on either side of welfare reform, on either side of a balanced budget, on either side of any number of issues. Crime. But on the other hand --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the current guru political talk on the street is sophistry --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Bush is not going to play that game.
MS. CLIFT: So the likelihood is that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.
MS. CLIFT: -- excuse me -- is that Bush is going to unleash more of his petty enforcers of ideology and the moderates are going to feel even more uncomfortable in this party. And parties that exclude people who disagree with all the conventional wisdom --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.
MS. CLIFT: -- are destined to be a minority party.
MR. BARONE: I think we ought to thank Eleanor for that cool-headed analysis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Exit question. I guess we're saying here, in the bulk, is that Bush is not going to really give up his conservative political philosophy and practice. Correct?
MR. O'DONNELL: He's not going to give up the philosophy, but he's not going to win anything.
MS. CLIFT: He's going to give up the legislation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. All right. This will be interesting in these upcoming months.
Exit question: Will the Jeffords loss be offset by finding a Democratic switcher? I ask you, Michael.
MR. BARONE: I think it will not be offset that way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Unusual to find a revolver with two silver bullets in it. No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No.
MR. O'DONNELL: Zell Miller is the candidate, and he has vowed that he's going to stay a Democrat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're saying no.
MR. O'DONNELL: Zell Miller would have to break his own promise that he made --
MR. BARONE: Very recently made.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that means five of us say no such hope.
When we come back: World War II Memorial; welcome addition or unwanted encroachment?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Winners and losers because of the Jeffords affair. Senate Majority Leader. In, Tom Daschle; out, Trent Lott.
Question: Is Daschle now positioned to be both the spokesman and the leader of the Democratic Party, and its certain 2004 presidential candidate? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I think he might enjoy being Senate majority leader and he doesn't have to make the decision for some time. But this does give him an opportunity to burnish his presidential credentials if he so chooses.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where does that leave John Kerry, your Massachusetts compadre, whom you declared to the forerunner on a recent show?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I think John Kerry will end up being the front-runner. Tom Daschle is far less likely now to run for president. He's almost handcuffed to this job of majority leader.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. O'DONNELL: You cannot leave the desk. Bob Dole had to quit the job in order to run for president. Tom Daschle's not going to do that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, on what you think is the unlikely supposition that President Bush will regain control of the Senate, then he's free, is he not?
MR. O'DONNELL: It's not going to happen.
MR. BARONE: John, it's all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not going to happen. Suppose it does, on that presumption?
MR. O'DONNELL: He's not free. Minority leader is still, in such a tightly held Senate, a very important job.
MR. BARONE: Although Harry Reid, the deputy, is a very able guy, spends a lot of time on the floor and could fill in for Tom Daschle.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: New Democratic --
MR. O'DONNELL: You can't afford to miss the votes in a Senate split so --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have an irresistible -- to say something on this subject?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I agree with Lawrence.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to say anything about Trent Lott?
MR. BLANKLEY: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No? (Laughter.) Well, let me ask you this.
MR. O'DONNELL: Nothing publicly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Assume that the Republicans retake the Senate. Would Trent Lott be the majority leader?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, probably. You know, he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He would?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I mean --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with that?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, I do.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me finish the thought. He's taken a lot of shots for no good reason. I mean, he was, in fact, anticipating Jeffords a long time ago. He put Jeffords in his Singing Senators because he understood that he'd have to tend him very carefully. So these shots at Trent Lott --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. You say that even though he had no voice, he put him in with the Singing Senators?
MR. BLANKLEY: He put him on the Finance Committee, he gave him waivers --
MR. BARONE: The Northeast Dairy Compact.
MR. BLANKLEY: So the charge that Lott didn't know what was coming, he knew from the beginning that he had to be very careful with Jeffords. So I think he's got a very bad -- an unfair shot.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, new Democratic committee chairmen. Here is a sampling of the big ones: Judiciary, Leahy in, Hatch out.
Michael, what is the impact on the Bush agenda?
MR. BARONE: Well, I think this is going to be one of the biggest impacts of the changeover to Democratic leadership, and that is Pat Leahy has been a very hard-edge partisan on that. I think they're going to prevent an awful lot of judges from being confirmed. We may not have any federal judges for some period of time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we all share that conclusion. This is perhaps the most important and consequential impact from the change.
MR. BARONE: And for Supreme Court nominees.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Appropriations: Byrd in, Stevens out.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, that's good for everybody because Senator Byrd likes to spend money and he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He likes to spend money at home.
MS. CLIFT: -- he's "Senator Pork". Well, I don't think he'll tie up anybody else's purse strings either. This is more incumbent protection.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Less on defense, I'm afraid.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes?
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me add a quick point on this, because now that Democrats control Appropriations in the Senate, we may be having a shutdown fight with Bush on the theory that Republicans always lose government shutdown fights. It's a real danger that will come out of the Appropriations Committee.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Foreign Relations: Biden in, Helms out. What's the impact on the Bush agenda?
I ask you, Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: Night and day. You now have -- if Joe Biden takes it, He could, by the way, take Judiciary, if he chose. He has seniority to do that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean squeeze out Ted Kennedy?
MR. O'DONNELL: No. Ted Kennedy is Health and Education.
MR. BLANKLEY: Squeeze out Leahy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Squeeze out Leahy.
MR. O'DONNELL: Leahy, yeah. So it's a little unclear right now. But all those confirmations that they have to do of ambassadorships and all the struggle with United Nations dues and all of that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's very annoyed with the Bush administration on the subject of North Korea because -- you know what I'm saying?
MR. BARONE: United Nations dues -- Helms and Biden worked together on that issue in a very bipartisan way. So I'm not sure there'll be as much difference as the reputation --
MR. O'DONNELL: But they worked with Helms because they had to; it was a desperate situation. Not having to work with him, because they will have a majority on the committee; it won't be evenly divided.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He is totally opposed to the shield, the missile shield.
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He thinks it will be destabilizing. Big trouble from Joe Biden, as far as Bush is concerned.
Energy: Bingaman in, Murkowski out. Also a big item and big impact on the Bush administration.
Can you tell me about that?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, well, obviously, you have on the one hand an Alaskan who is committed to drilling; on the other hand, a New Mexican and Democrat and a liberal who is opposed to new explorations. It's going to be very tough for Bush's education (sic) bill as it goes through Bingaman's committee.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Finance: Baucus in, Grassley out. What's the consequence on Bush agenda?
MR. O'DONNELL: Not much. They've already done the tax bill.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want me to help you with that, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Right. I don't know that there's a -- the biggest help is that it helps Senator Baucus get reelected because he's in a position to raise money. I don't think it impacts --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They work closely, but there are differences --
MR. BARONE: Well, there are key questions coming up. Baucus went along totally with Grassley on taxes; the question is Medicare and Social Security reform. There is a bipartisan majority on that committee for Medicare reform and --
MR. O'DONNELL: Also, fast-track trade negotiating authority comes out of that committee.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, here is a beauty. Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, otherwise known as Health: Kennedy in, Jeffords out.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, it's moving to the right with Ted Kennedy. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Ted Kennedy, on the subject of health legislation, is going to be a thorn in the Bush side --
MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.
MR. O'DONNELL: But they don't have --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- on the subject of Patients' Bill of Rights, more lawsuits, more punitive damages; the privacy regulations, which cost a fortunate to implement, he'll be on that side too.
What else in that sphere?
MR. O'DONNELL: The problem with that committee, though, is that it is not representative of the makeup of the Senate. And when it tries to do something significant in the health care region, it tends to get ignored when it goes to the Senate floor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Armed Services: Levin in, Warner out. What's the impact on the Bush agenda?
I ask you, Michael.
MR. BARONE: Well, I think Levin is much more hostile to the missile defense, and this is the committee in which that comes up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.
MR. BARONE: I don't think he's going to get a majority on the committee against missile defense, however.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We ought to really go, I think, to the question, the basic question which evolves from this discussion, and that question is the following: On a Richter scale of political calamity, zero meaning zero calamity, 10 meaning the annihilation of planet Earth, how much damage will Bush suffer by the loss of the United States Senate?
MR. BARONE: Three.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three.
MS. CLIFT: Nine.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nine.
MR. BLANKLEY: He'll lose six on policy, but on politics, it's a zero.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, well, we didn't ask for that really. You say a six, right?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you asked --
MS. CLIFT: So the average is three?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, politically --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was last week's question, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Politically it's useful, but he's not going to get much policy done -- zero and six.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not much policy, but still a six on policy?
MR. BLANKLEY: Six on policy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not all that great -- go ahead -- damage.
MR. O'DONNELL: It's about a seven. It's a gigantic event. But really, the basic legislating of this presidency is done -- it's the tax bill. That's what's going to win him reelection or lose him reelection.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence is right, on a 10 scale -- I'm sorry to say you other three -- it's a seven. (Laughter.)
Issue three: Monumental controversy. (Taps is played.) Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Memorial -- they memorialize the great men and the great moments in American history, and they are all on or near the Washington, D.C. national mall. But conspicuously absent from the mall is a memorial to the 400,000 Americans who died and the 16 million who served in World War II, 1941 to 1945.
That oversight -- some would say that "slight" even that "slur" -- may not last for long. A new World War II Memorial is being planned, at a cost of $140 million, on a seven acre declivity between the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool.
Yet critics are crying foul, even suing. Why?
One, too monumental, meaning it will mar the spectacular uninterrupted vista from the West Steps of the Capitol past the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool straight through to the Lincoln Memorial. But the memorial will be built down into the ground, partially sunken. Even so, it will be too interruptive and aggressive an aspect, say critics.
Two, not monumental enough, meaning that the lowering of the floor of the World War II Memorial will spoil its own grandeur and will fail to honor enough those who fought in arguably the most important war that this nation has ever waged and won.
Well, Congress and the president cut off the debate, legal or otherwise, and passed legislation this week that would start construction at once. With 1,000 World War II veterans dying each day and construction taking years, too few of the 5 million veterans now living will be living then to see the memorial, the embodiment of the tangible and enduring thanks of a grateful nation.
Open question -- or open point you care to make. We've got about 10 seconds each.
MR. BARONE: Well, you know, the courts have really gone through this a couple of times. I'm not a good judge of what these memorials look like. I hope that this will turn out to be something that we'll all feel very positive about.
MS. CLIFT: There should be a grand memorial that tells the story of this war, but it should not be on the Mall grounds. And the way that the Congress has muscled through this legislation is a dishonor to the people who fought in that war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In fact your point is well taken because all further proceedings to challenge the future location of the memorial and its design and to try to modify or check the oversight of the memorial is forbidden under law, which sounds fascist.
Go ahead. Quickly.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's been going on for years. It's right to do it. It's the right place to put it. It's not going to avoid the vistas. And I think it's a wonderful idea. There are only 5 million vets left now.
MR. O'DONNELL: It seems a bit overdone, but Washington is a city of memorials and it can stand one for this. I wish we would learn to memorialize something other than war, though, as this government's biggest achievement.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that can be done if it has a funerary aspect, as does the Vietnam Memorial. The look of this design, I don't think has that aspect. I've got a problem with that. I have no problem with location. I have a real problem with the fascist behavior of the United States Congress in this regard, cutting off all discussion, all oversight review by bringing a legal suit, for example, or whatever.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very fast predictions. Michael.
MR. BARONE: Republican Randy Forbes wins June 19, Virginia 4th District.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: The Jeffords defection will boost Republican fund-raising.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Social Security reform and Medicare reform dead as long as Democrats control the Senate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Breaux from Louisiana will emerge as a more powerful person in the U.S. Senate than the majority leader, Tom Daschle.
MR. O'DONNELL: Tom Daschle will not run for president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next week: Can the Republicans take back the Senate in 2002?
Have a good Memorial Day. Bye-bye.
®FC¯END REGULAR SEGMENT
®FL¯ PBS SEGMENT
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: The San Francisco treat.
(Playing of song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco.")
A lot more than their hearts will be left in San Francisco by certain city workers starting in July. Changing political parties is one thing; changing sex organs is another.
The City of San Francisco is underwriting sex changes for its 37,000 municipal workers. Dollar-wise, a sex change is not small change, so to speak, for the taxpayer. Male to female, $37,000. Female to male, higher construction costs, $77,000. San Francisco is good for $50,000 towards such surgery. No surprise, since San Francisco has long been a mecca for progressive politicians and sexual liberators.
But critics see San Francisco as a mecca for inequitable permissivism, particularly the abuse of taxpayer money. The City by the Bay has pressing social needs, they say, like homelessness and a sky-high HIV rate.
Question: Many health insurance policies do not cover organ transplants, so is it a misuse of public health insurance funds to mandate coverage for sex change surgeries? Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, the people have a right to the government that they elect, and in San Francisco, maybe that's their priority. I think in most of the rest of the country it would be an outrage to allocate money for that, not that there aren't people for whom that's a beneficial surgery.
MR. O'DONNELL:?? This is a government outlay. San Francisco is a democracy. Everyone involved in this government outlay was democratically elected. Of course they should be doing it, and if San Francisco objects to it, which apparently they don't, they could vote these people out.
MS. CLIFT: And I don't think there's any danger of it spreading accords the country, but look. This is not cosmetic surgery. People who go through this are in genuine emotional agony, and there are not long lines for this procedure. I don't think this is going to cost the city of San Francisco very much money at all. And, you know, I don't want to make fun of it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is it a matter of physical health or psychological health and improved self-esteem? And if that's the case, are we going to underwrite orthodontia? Are we going to underwrite liposuction? Is that appropriate? Is that an equitable distribution of tax funds, particularly when there is a presence, as there is in San Francisco, of other overwhelming needs?
MS. CLIFT: Actually, John --
MR. BLANKLEY:?? John -
MS. CLIFT: Some -- some health policies do underwrite orthodontia.
MR. BARONE: It's unusual. It's unusual for them.
MS. CLIFT: Again, it's up to the insurance companies and the elected officials, but it's hardly equivalent.
MR. BARONE: It's unusual for them to. It's unusual for insurance policies to pay for elective things like cosmetic surgery, for which there also can be strong psychological needs, in some cases. I certainly wouldn't be for this if I was a resident of San Francisco, but this is a free country and I don't have to live in San Francisco if I don't want to And if people there evidently like it, they want to pay for it, let them do so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's opening up a Pandora's box?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, because although mental health can be overly abused in insurance, given the treatment for it, this is one I think won't be overused.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, how do we come down on this? What's the verdict of the group? What do you say? Is it okay for San Francisco to do it?
MR. BARONE: It's okay. I wouldn't want --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?
MS. CLIFT: It's okay, and I am surprised at how progressive everybody on this set is.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's okay for San Francisco, but not for me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: It's okay for them to do it, and I would vote for them to do it if I was in the government.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's inequitable, but if that's what people want, it's okay.