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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND JAMES WARREN

TAPED: FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2001
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 14-15, 2001

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Condit cornered.

REPRESENTATIVE DICK ARMEY (R-TX): (From videotape.) You know, I've known Gary for a lot of years. I've known him to be a good, decent fellow. I do think it's going to be hard for him politically to come back from that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what is it that could bring Gary Condit back from that? Congressman Gary Condit represents the 18th District of California. Condit is a Democrat, now serving his seventh term in a very conservative district. He was first elected 12 years ago, in 1989 in a special election. Last November he was reelected by 67 percent. In '96, he got 66 percent of the vote; in '94, 66; in '92, 85; in '90, 66.

Condit is 53 years old, grew up in Oklahoma, the son of a Baptist minister, and gained a BA in political science from California State University in 1972. Condit has the most conservative voting record of any California Democrat. The ADA, Americans for Democratic Action, the premier liberal rating system, gives Condit a low 50-percent rating.

Six years ago, Condit was a founding member of the Blue Dog Democrats, a moderate Democratic coalition who call themselves "Blue Dog" because they're always being choked by their liberal brethren. Condit was one of 31 Democrats to vote for the Clinton impeachment inquiry. Despite his earlier towering popularity, Chandra Levy's disappearance now has Condit's political opponents dancing on what they see as his political grave. Three Republicans have already expressed interest in running against him in 2002: Modesto City Councilman Bill Conrad, State Senator Dick Monteith, and former Assemblyman George House.

Question: Should the Democrats -- what should the Democrats now do if they want to hold onto this seat, do you think, Michael Barone?

MR. BARONE: Well, what the Democrats had been planning to do -- they control redistricting in California -- was to try to create a new Democratic seat in the Central Valley just north of Gary Condit's seat, centered on Stockton in San Joaquin County. And they thought that Condit's personal popularity can pull him through.

I think their best bet may be to try and create that new Democratic seat, take some of the Democratic territory out of Condit's district and give it up for lost.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who would they give it to?

MR. BARONE: Well, it would be a Republican would win in that case.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought you meant they should carve out some -- because it's going to be redistricted right at the --

MR. BARONE: They should carve out a new Democratic district basically next door.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're picking -- Gray Davis is picking up one Democratic seat.

MR. BARONE: They're picking up one seat --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But this seat itself could be reconfigured, and big chunks of it could be given to Democrats in adjacent --

MR. BARONE: Well, give the Democratic chunks away. This seat went 53-44 for George W. Bush in 2000. This is basically a seat that if it was an open seat race, a Republican would probably win. Not for sure, but probably.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Bush lose by in the whole state of California?

MR. BARONE: He lost by 13 points, I think, in the whole state of California.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he won in this district.

MR. BARONE: In this district. Central Valley went for Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cal Dooley, by the way, could benefit by a chunk of this district.

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going in sequence here, James. You haven't been here in some time. I want to refresh your recollection.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the Democrats control redistricting in California. And Michael is right; their best bet to save a Democratic seat is redrawing lines. But, having said that, they can also hope that Chandra Levy turns up alive, that Representative Condit does everything that he said he would do and he clears the cloud away from over his head. That way, he will still be left exposed as a philanderer and a liar, but then he can go to his district and do the confessional and plead for their mercy, and maybe he'll get it.

MR. BARONE: It's worked before.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony Blankley, why are the two Republicans, Weldon of Pennsylvania and Barr of Georgia, calling for the resignation of Gary Condit?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. I don't think it's useful, in fact, for the Republicans to speaking. I think there's enough destruction going on without it. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Haven't the Republicans learned that the last thing they should do is play moral police?

MR. BLANKLEY: I thought so. But look, what the Democrats are going to do with Condit -- they want a resolution one way or the other on him by August, because in September they've got to make their redistricting decisions. So I think we are seeing increasing pressure from the Democrats to have him get everything out, see how it plays, and make a decision within the next two months, so that they can then decide what's useful for them in California.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jim Warren, what do you think of the legal case against Condit?

MR. WARREN: As thin as cheap tissue paper. So far, all you've got is perhaps a vague obstruction of justice charge in a matter -- that one involving the flight attendant, which is really not material at all to the Chandra --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's "he said, she said," right?

MR. WARREN: Totally "he said, she said."

Now if something happens in the Chandra Levy case, you know, well, we shall see. But at this point, there's absolutely nothing.

And just to follow up on something Michael said, there's also a possibility with the Democrats in redistricting. They've got two neighboring Republican seats. You could take, if you wanted to, some Democratic votes there, and try to ensure his election, if he is audacious enough to try to persevere and run once again.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Let us suppose criminal innocence. Has Condit's political handling of this affair put him into the political graveyard? Is Condit a dead man walking, Michael Barone?

MR. BARONE: Well, I think he's walking pretty much in that direction. I think that his --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's not there yet?

MR. BARONE: -- his political career is in shambles.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: His image was that of somebody who's deeply religious and a devout family man, and his secret life exposes that all as a falsehood. So let's see what his constituents think about that. Doesn't look good for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think the moral overtones of -- that's already come out is sufficient to kill him politically. I don't think he will run for reelection.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you take at face value the testimony that has been put up against him?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I just think that the public will believe enough of it that he's not politically viable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're taking into consideration those massive margins that he won by over the years?

MR. BLANKLEY: I am.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?

MR. WARREN: Can a lying philanderer win reelection to the United States Congress? This is not the College of Cardinals. The answer is yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, he can win, yes; you're absolutely right, particularly if he shows penitence for his wayward ways. And with that kind of margin that he's exhibited, that political strength, I think he can make it, providing these other pieces fall into place.

When we come back, the highly renowned, much-anticipated McLaughlin on-site report from the Balkans.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two, bulletin from the Balkans. Slobodan Milosevic is behind bars at The Hague, and the same person who engineered that extraconstitutional but legally defensible act, on the very next day, went to Brussels to collect almost $1.3 billion in Western aid. Forty-eight years of age, doctorate from Konstanz University in Germany, sometime Marxist and even more leftist radical, philosophy professor, founder of the anti-Milosevic Democratic Party, briefly mayor of Belgrade, described as an almost-perfect paradigm of the reformist, post-modern politician in a post-communist country, the true power source in Serbia, the man who runs his nation and most influences the region; not President Vojislav Kostunica, but the prime minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic.

The prime minister granted me a 50-minute interview, and I brought the tape back with me from the Balkans this week. Here are the main points:

Prime Minister Djindjic, why did you forcibly deport Milosevic against the strong wishes and continuing wishes of President Kostunica, and can you tell me whether the $1.28 billion you collected the next day was the U.S. payoff for bagging Slobodan?

(Begin taped interview segment.)

ZORAN DJINDJIC (Prime Minister of Serbia): Theoretically, we had the option, we -- it was possible just to postpone this decision, but I'm sure a few months it would be very, very clear request from all democratic countries to do that. It is too late. We missed the opportunity to start with serious investigation in our country against the war criminals in the last few months, and now our credibility was at stake --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: -- and the democratic world asked, "Are you serious people? Do you want to cooperate or not?" And the proof, main proof, was Milosevic. No one -- no one asked to send Milosevic.

(End interview segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Djindjic says that with no handover of Milosevic, Serbia would have lost all credibility. Has Serbia, in your judgment, gained in international credibility with the handover? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Sure. I mean, they turned over the Butcher of Belgrade to an international court to be tried for war crimes, and this is in the great tradition of Nuremberg, and the fact that they would willingly do this I think shows that they are joining the community of nations. And they're risking something here because there is a danger of inflaming national sentiments in the Yugoslav Federation. And the way the court operates, there's a lot of pressure on the court to act fairly. And this is a trial that won't even begin until next year and could continue for two years, so there is the potential for destabilization.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The international credibility I think, though, we can agree has gone up.

Don't you think so, Michael?

MR. BARONE: Oh, I think so; definitely, John. I mean, this is -- you know, handing over "The Butcher of Belgrade" is a positive step.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Djindjic versus Kostunica.

"Mr. Prime Minister, if you engineered the forced exit of Milosevic against Kostunica's explicit public disapproval of that action, as you did, and if you represented Yugoslavia at Brussels to collect the $1.28 billion, as you did, what kind of credibility can Kostunica claim for himself and his own authority? You're the one who is obviously running the country."

PRIME MINISTER ZORAN DJINDJIC (Prime Minister of Serbia): (From video tape.) His credibility and his legitimacy is based on elections, and he won majority, huge majority, I think, in Serbia. But he is in very strange position as president of Yugoslavia, which doesn't exist really.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Djindjic is saying that the Yugoslavia Federation is a phantom federation and, therefore, Kostunica is a phantom president.

What do you think of that, James Warren? To extend that a bit, the Montenegrins -- Montenegro is the other joint state -- there are two joint states to the Federation. Montenegro, for four years, has never voted, even though it holds seats in the parliament, and the two members of the Supreme Court from Montenegro do not cast a vote.

MR. WARREN: And, of course, the Montenegrin ministers exited the federal coalition after Milosevic was sent off to The Hague --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct.

MR. WARREN: -- which is significant. Although they basically are for a unified republic, so I expect them to come back.

But to answer your question -- Is this guy a phantom? -- he is very, very personally popular. He may well ultimately be a transitional figure of some sort, but at the same time, look at what he's got --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is Kostunica?

MR. WARREN: Look at what he's got; he has got to oversee a totally, inherently, unwieldy 19-party coalition. This makes what the likes of Hastert and Daschle have to deal with look like kid stuff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you talking about Kostunica or are you talking about Djindjic?

MR. WARREN: Right. Right, Kostunica.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, bear in mind now that the person who keeps that coalition together is Djindjic, the prime minister, whom I'm interviewing. Actually, the president has very little to say about it. And so far, the prime minister has been successful in doing that, also in holding together 17 group -- member expert group, including his finance minister, who is totally oriented to the free market, who studied at Harvard.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think that he actually shows a skill that's going to be very needed in the Baltics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is Djindjic?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. Building coalitions, managing the unstable politics of a newly emerging democracy. And in some ways you might want to, with slight exaggeration, call him the FDR of the Balkans; the master of building coalitions, working interests that normally go against each other into a common whole. And this is the potential that I think he shows in his processes so far.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think this upcoming sound bite from him will extend that point a little bit more, so let's do a little bit more on Djindjic and Kostunica. I pressed the prime minister on whether Kostunica was not really a help to him but, in fact, a hindrance.

(Begin video segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does he bring to the table right now?

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: We need --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's slowing you down, isn't he?

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: Yes, but he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, you said yes, he is slowing you down.

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: In this, our reforms. But he brings support for this program. Some --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he supporting the donor nations' gift of --

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: Yes, of course. Of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- gift -- it's not a gift, it's a grant.

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: Of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's got strings on it.

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: Of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's -- you've got to maintain a 5 percent growth rate, et cetera.

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: Of course. He ensures --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he support it?

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: Yes. He ensures support of -- by not-so-educated people, but people who doesn't trust on Western countries. His role is to give us, as government, wide support for these reforms.

(End video segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What he's saying is that Kostunica is an old-line nationalist cut from the same cloth as Milosevic, but clean. And he's still a nationalist, and those nationalists have to be brought in. And this younger man, in his thinking, Djindjic, is bringing in the others, but he needs those nationalists.

So the question is -- he says that Kostunica slows him down, but he's necessary for the reform. What does that tell you about Djindjic? (To Mr. Barone.) I ask you.

MR. BARONE: Well, it tells me that he's a pretty shrewd operator and that the former Yugoslavia, now Serbia, is moving in some direction towards normal politics, as other countries in Eastern Europe did a decade ago, and in the meantime, that Kostunica is sort of, in, I think, Pat Moynihan's phrase, boob bait for the Bubbas -- (soft laughter) -- Balkan version.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Now we head toward perhaps the most inflamed issue, and that's Djindjic and The Hague. I asked the prime minister whether a Nelson Mandela formula had any place in The Hague process.

(Begin video segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to talk to you about The Hague, Carla Del Ponte. They have one of your citizens, a prominent citizen, and the first time ever a head of state. And they have indicted four other prominent members of the Serbian community. One of them is in your government. Is it time to think of a limited amnesty at a certain point, with a truth period where --

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do believe that?

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: Absolutely. It is a -- in our condition, we don't want to spend our full life by dealing with the past.

Of course, Milosevic is a special case. He's a symbol of these 10, 12 years of disaster.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he more than a symbol?

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: He is -- yes, he's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he a perpetrator?

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: Yes, but also symbol. It --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Symbol of what? Of all of the people?

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: Of -- no, no, of these wars and catastrophe happened in this region. And it was not to avoid to -- to organize this process against him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: But I think we should have some kind of bottom line and say, "Okay, let us organize our future."

(End video segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question. Djindjic says that there should be limits on the scope and the ongoing depth of The Hague to continue probing, because the process is producing instability -- witness, for example, Croatia this very weekend -- in the region. Do you think he's right?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I do. I think there's a real danger in unleashing an international prosecutor with essentially no restraints on his or her --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about Carla del Ponte.

MR. BLANKLEY: In this case, or it could be somebody else -- who can reach into sovereign countries. Now, Milosevic is an easy case. He is the Butcher. But when you get --- you start going into lower grades, why not reaching into the United States and picking out politicians he doesn't like here? I think it's a very dangerous precedent. It's a threat to international sovereignty, and we're going down a slippery slope.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's very edifying from a political science point of view, but do you not see this, as I did over there, that it inflames the ethnic hatreds that exist? I had a driver, and I said, "Will you drive me into Kosovo?" He says, "I'll drive you to the border," he says, "but I'm going to stop there." He says, "I'll have to get a colleague of mine on the other side who is Albanian to come up and pick you up." I said, "Why won't you go across?" And he says, "Because they'll kill me."

The hatred over there is unbelievable --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, and yet --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and this, of course, this ongoing process, is inflaming it. What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but the polls in Serbia show that 80 percent of the public supported handing over Milosevic. Now maybe some of them felt that way just to be practical because they wanted to get that foreign aid, but this is a process that's way beyond Mr. Djindjic's control. You've got a prosecutor in place, they've got to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was linked to what went on in four wars, and Newsweek is working on a story. They've got smoking-gun evidence, and that's all going to be carefully laid out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we're not -- we're not talking about him, now. We're talking about the continuation of the process and the scope of it.

MS. CLIFT: But this is what we want. We want a world forum to try --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, we don't.

MS. CLIFT: Well, yes, we do.

MR. BLANKLEY: But we don't --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: We want a world forum to try people who have -- (inaudible).

MR. BLANKLEY: We don't want -- we don't want one world government, and this --

MR. BARONE: I think we wanted --

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- step toward one world government.

MR. BARONE: I think we wanted this one case, but I think there's a real danger, if we go to something like the proposed international criminal court. There are judges over in Europe, for example, who would want to try and indict American governors for carrying out the death penalty and nonsense like --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MR. BARONE: I'm sorry, some of these people are much wackier than you or I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Carla del Ponte in that group>

MR. BARONE: No, definitely not, and I think basically they need to go through this process. But also, you know, we've got settlements in place there now, patrolled by U.S. and other NATO troops in the former Yugoslavia. There doesn't seem to be any way really for us to get out of -- to get out of this --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is not a single Croat that I know of nor a single Serb that I met over there who favors this process, beyond Milosevic. In addition to that, you will not find a diplomat, you will not find a politician throughout Europe, you not find a Cabinet officer, you will not find anyone of rank who will stand up and say, Hey, there has to be a limit to this because there is unquestionable instability being caused by it.

MR. WARREN: The logical extension, though, then is to look the other way and to forget the legacy of Milosevic and how even as you were seeing in this interview, he hangs over this area, even in absentia, like a dead carcass.

The fact is that several million people were killed or displaced, and there are a lot of folks who are directly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we're not talking about Milosevic.

MR. WARREN: -- directly culpable, a lot of his top aides, among others. So if your notion is put him in the dock and see what happens, and then, for the sake of some supposed wishful thinking as far as responsibility --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, as he said -- as Djindjic said, he is a special case. What we're talking about here is constant digging and keeping the wounds open. They have to heal. And there is the principle of the lesser of two evils, and also which is the greater good.

MR. WARREN: What about the notion of moral responsibility?

MR. BARONE: What about the notion of law?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can also set in motion an immorality, if it leads to the killing of Croats by Serbs, and now you have the unleashing of the ethnic Albanians into Macedonia -- are you going after Hashim Thaqi down in Albania? You have Serbs saying, "Are you going to do anything about the Croats who killed so many in Krajina?" Then you have the Serbs saying that. And the tensions are all there smoldering in a hot insatiable caldron.

MR. BLANKLEY: The danger of a prosecutor who is not elected nor responsive to any democratic institution, but simply exists in Brussels to do whatever he or she wants to do, is a danger to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have to move on.

MR. WARREN: Well, Tony, would you not call the United Nations a democratic institution?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, of course it's not a democratic institution.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Djindjic and the possible civil war in Macedonia that may be soon to erupt. What's the worst-case scenario, and what is NATO's role?

PRIME MIN. DJINDJIC: (From videotape.) The worst-case scenario is if Macedonia would disintegrate and it would make stronger the disintegration forces in whole region, first of all Albanians in Kosovo, in South Serbia. And we will continue with this very, very bad scenario. And second worst case is to have NATO involved for many years without resolve problems, you know, as in Kosovo.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Djindjic says that the NATO military should stay out of Macedonia so that we don't have an SFOR operating in Bosnia, a KFOR in Kosovo, and an MFOR -- M for Macedonia -- in Macedonia. Will NATO heed Djindjic's warning not to become embroiled in Macedonia, do you think?

Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Unfortunately, they won't take his good advice. I think we're sliding into further involvement, NATO, and via NATO the United States. It's a dangerous precedent to get further involved in the Balkans.

MS. CLIFT: A Kosovo-like solution is the best you could hope for in that region, and NATO should get involved and will.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BARONE: I think Lord Robertson and the other NATO leaders are negotiating pretty adroitly to try and solve this problem without a major military thing, and I hope they can succeed. We'll see.

MR. WARREN: Someone should take responsibility. It might as well be NATO, unless, for instance, you want the Albanians simply to take over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think NATO will go in, and I don't think they should go in.

We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Michael.

MR. BARONE: U.S. will support NATO membership for the Baltics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Congress will give President Bush fast-track trade authority.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really.

Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Two weeks from now, the House will defeat the Democratic version of Patients' Bill of Rights.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. WARREN: Status quo wins again. Campaign finance reform won't even come up for another vote this term.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Overachievers in the audience would be thrilled to watch the compelling by-play between Prime Minister Djindjic and his interviewer in a half-hour version of this exchange this weekend. Consult your local PBS station for listings of "McLaughlin's One On One."

Bye-bye.

®FC¯END REGULAR SEGMENT

®FL¯ PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Flying the friendly skies.

Six months ago, on the day George W. Bush was inaugurated as president of the United States, Senator Hillary Clinton and her husband took their last ride on Air Force One, to New York's JFK Airport. This week, Senator Clinton boarded Air Force One again, for another trip to JFK. But this time, she wasn't seated in the presidential quarters. The New York trip was Bush's first presidential visit to the state Senator Clinton now represents. Hillary and her fellow Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer, flew as the president's guest. President Bush joined Clinton and Schumer in coach class shortly after takeoff. By all reports, it was a warm and friendly meeting. Topics of conversation included the Middle East and New York state politics.

During the day's main event, a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens on Ellis Island, Senator Clinton reverted to her old habit of giving cues in the presidential ear. When asked how he liked New York, Bush responded, "It's a beautiful day." Then, after a whispered hint from Hillary, Mr. Bush quickly added, "I love New York." A few hours later, the two senators were in St. Patrick's Cathedral as President Bush presented an award honoring the late Cardinal O'Connor.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) And the world will remember the gallant defender of children in their invulnerability, innocence, and their right to be born.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The staunchly pro-choice Senator Clinton stood and joined in the ovation prompted by the president's recognition of the Cardinal's pro-life leadership.

Question: What's the point of all this "making nice" on Hillary's part and Bush's part? What does President Bush, for example, expect to gain from "making nice" with two liberal senators from a state he lost by 25 points last fall?

Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the White House theory is that he wants to change the tone in Washington by showing that he can be conciliatory and polite and pleasant with his political opponents, the Democrats. And he's been doing that with a vengeance, both in trips to Florida, trips to New York and elsewhere. It may play well nationally; it plays very badly in Washington. Republicans, I think, sometimes regret the fact that someone like Schumer, who had just recently, before this trip, announced that he was going to stiff the president on any appointees where Schumer didn't agree -- to the courts -- should now be rewarded with a trip on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For ideology.

MR. BLANKLEY: For ideology.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If they're conservative.

MR. BLANKLEY: And Hillary Clinton says the most terrible things bout the president personally, and they're rewarded by a trip on Air Force One.

MS. CLIFT: Wait --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want some -- wait a minute, I want some inside reporting here. There's quite a bit of controversy between the hawks and the doves in the White House as to which way Bush should go. Should he make nice, as he does here? The hawks say, well, only so much of that, but actually, he should be prepared to use his veto pen, and he should act towards -- what? Why are you shaking your head?

MR. WARREN: Because I know how much you hanker to have had him call them Democratic scum and tell them to take Amtrak up to New York City instead.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. WARREN: I mean, this is the third-largest state!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well what's going on in the White House? They're worried about the fact that his ratings are slipping. They're consulting with people around this city trying to figure out, should he make nice or should he be hawkish.

MR. WARREN: John! John, here is the guy who was hammering Al Gore and Bill Clinton for their poll-driven politics. And maybe he's just being a little bit sensitive to folks in the third-largest state.

MR. BARONE: John, he wants to seem conciliatory. The fact is, we've been hearing a lot in Washington about his polls are like. His approval rating is above 50 percent; it's running at a level slightly above what he got in percentage of the vote in 2000 -- not terrific, but it's there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard that Laura Bush wants him to remain conciliatory, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I think Laura Bush is a smart woman, and she's right that he should remain conciliatory.

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