THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED: FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2001
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 21-22, 2001
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Mr. Bush goes back to Europe.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) World leaders have found that I'm a person who speaks plainly and openly about key issues. We're willing to listen, but I will still continue to stand for what I think is right for our country and the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush made it clear he will stick to his guns on conflicted issues like the Kyoto treaty and the missile defense shield as he deals with world leaders at this weekend's G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy. This is Mr. Bush's debut appearance at the annual economic conference. Other heads of state attending: host Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi; France's Chirac; Germany's Schroeder; Great Britain's Blair; Canada's Chretien; Russia's Putin; and Japan's new prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, who, like Bush, is also making his G-8 debut.
Koizumi stunned many of his global partners three weeks ago when he vowed to back off the Kyoto treaty to reduce greenhouse emissions if the U.S. does not sign on.
PRIME MINISTER JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI (Japan): (From videotape and through interpreter.) Presently I have not -- I do not have the intention of proceeding without the cooperation of the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A Koizumi alliance with Bush on Kyoto effectively kills the treaty. Conversely, if Koizumi does cave, then the European Union, Russia and Japan yield the 55 percent of greenhouse gases needed for Kyoto passage. So Koizumi is the casting vote.
Question: Why are the U.S. and Japan at loggerheads with Europe over global warming?
MR. BARONE: Well, I think the basic reason, John, is that the treaty is a ridiculous treaty. You're pledging huge reductions in American economic growth on the basis of a science that doesn't tell us for sure how much human effect there has been in the relatively small amount of global warming there has been to date.
The fact is that this treaty wasn't just killed by Bush, it was killed in 1997 when the U.S. Senate voted 95 to nothing against any treaty that would exclude the developing countries. And of course that's one of the key ingredients of Kyoto.
I think this is a chance for Bush and some of the others to start again. One of the suggestions I would think they should look at is Gregg Easterbrook's suggestion in the latest New Republic that instead of focusing on carbon dioxide, we should focus on reducing methane and focus on reducing what he calls "black soot"; much cheaper to do so than to reduce carbon dioxide, and to initiate carbon trading in North America.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Methane, by the way, we don't want to forget about bovine methane.
MR. BLANKLEY: I never do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Called flatulence in --
MR. BLANKLEY: I never forget about that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MR. BLANKLEY: I never forget about it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, you can all ridicule the problem of global warming, but the weight of scientific evidence says it's a real problem, and most people in this country, and certainly abroad, acknowledge that it's a problem.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard of the precautionary principle? The precautionary principle has been adopted by the European Union, as opposed to scientific risk and analysis.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I beg to differ, but that would take us too long, John, to have an extended scientific discussion. But it seems to me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this is very brief. Do you want to hear what it is?
MS. CLIFT: No, I really don't. I'd rather hear about black soot, actually. (Laughter.)
MR. BARONE: We're going to reduce --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I mean, they just discard science and they create what's called precautionary principle. We have to be precautious. And of course, in the case of nuclear energy, they want the precaution to extend out to 10,000 years of risk-free nuclear energy. Ten thousand years. That's the extent of the precaution. I'm serious about this.
MS. CLIFT: I want to address the Japanese new prime minister, however. It is hard to think that the country that presided over the creation of the Kyoto Treaty is going to walk away from it. And Japan is an environmentally conscious country. But the problem that this prime minister faces is he can't fight too many battles at once, and he's very much opposed to the missile defense system. And so he can't fight on both fronts, the way the Germans and the French are doing. But I wouldn't count him out yet on Kyoto.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm getting a little bored by the subject of Kyoto. I want to know what Tom Daschle said what he said. Do you know what Tom Daschle said?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Tom Daschle, in an interview he gave to USA Today, timed to be released just as the president was flying to Europe, suggested that the president --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He criticized Bush.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- was isolationist, and inferred that he was incompetent. And it was a real violation of what's left of the concept that we protect our presidents when they go abroad.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And then Bush spoke. And what did Bush say?
MR. BLANKLEY: He said he's not. He denied it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Bush also said that we have a bipartisan foreign policy tradition in this country when heads of state go abroad, at which time Daschle did what?
MR. BLANKLEY: He said he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He semi-apologized.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- that he could have -- he said he might have changed the timing, but not the substance.
I want to go back to Kyoto, because there's a very specific reason why Japan and the United States have a grievance against the E.U. The numbers are based on, you know, status in 1990, pollution standards. And because Germany got Eastern Germany into the fold, and because the British are ready are ready to close down a bunch of old factories and plants in the midlands, they have these sort of free pollutions to give away, so their standard is artificially low. And it's only one part of the imbalance, inequities, between -- for the United States and Europe adhering to the treaty. So there's a very good substantive reason why Japan's against it, as well as a political one.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there a lesson to be learned from Daschle's potshot?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, the lesson was taught by George W. Bush, who as a presidential campaigner was saying much worse all the time. Every time Bill Clinton, president of the United States, was out of the country, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, presidential candidates, were saying he's incompetent; he's ruining, you know, our military. They were making these kinds of comments all the time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this was tit for tat?
MR. O'DONNELL: There's a huge catalogue of such comments. No, it's not tit for tat, because Tom Daschle, who did not realize that his comments were going to coincide --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. O'DONNELL: -- he was at an editorial board meeting at USA Today. He wasn't -- he was responding to questions --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think that the Democrats --
MR. O'DONNELL: He did decently take a step back --
MR. BARONE: Lawrence --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think that the Democrats will stop at nothing to destroy George Bush?
MR. BARONE: Lawrence --
MR. O'DONNELL: Tom Daschle had the decency to step back and say --
MR. BARONE: A public official should know when his stuff is going to be printed. That's one of the questions you ask.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course he knew. Daschle is very cunning.
Let's get out. Okay -- you want to talk about Koizumi, here it is. Okay, Koizumi. Let's take a closer look at the ultra popular Japan prime minister who calls himself "Lionheart."
Fifty-nine years of age. Head of the Liberal Democratic Party. Elected last April in a landslide victory. Lower house of parliament, 25 years; minister of health, one year. College degree in economics. Son of a Tokyo parliamentarian. Divorced; two sons. Listens to opera and heavy metal. Sports a Beethoven hairstyle known to make schoolgirls swoon. In-demand action figure in Japan, the Koizumi doll draped in a lion's skin.
Question: Now that you have seen these details of Koizumi's biography, are you more or less inclined to believe that he will stick with Bush on Kyoto, thus scuttling the treaty?
I ask you, Lawrence.
MR. O'DONNELL: He's not sticking with Bush. Just this week he made comments indicating that he'd be interested in trying go actually get this thing done.
The trouble with the Kyoto treaty is that it's a complete fiction for all of the industrialized countries involved. None of them want it implemented. None of them what to be the bad guy --
MR. BARONE: None of them's ratified it.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- none of them want to be the bad guy who says, "I'm not going to ratify it." So they were all relying on someone else to do that. The United States has done it. None of them could comply with the standards in the treaty, if it was imposed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you see him softening on Kyoto because of the remarks he made, even though the Japanese, when they go to these summits, they always want to appear as though they are in agreement on the principle of "we agree to disagree."
MR. O'DONNELL: He's continuing to negotiate on the Kyoto treaty, and he is demanding concessions in the treaty that he probably won't be able to get.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he's looking for a middle ground.
But listen, I don't want to leave the characterization of Senator Daschle's remarks the way Tony said it.
MR. BLANKLEY: That doesn't surprise me. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: What he said --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Defend him, Eleanor!
MS. CLIFT: What he said is that we as a country are isolating ourselves from Europe on the issue of missile defense and Kyoto. He's absolutely right. Bush --
MR. BARONE: On missile defense, Britain is with us, Italy is with us --
MS. CLIFT: Wait a second! Bush cannot --
MR. BARONE: We're not isolated from Europe on missile defense!
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me! Bush cannot sell a single national leader on his concept of missile defense and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --
MR. BARONE: Tony Blair is with him, Vaclav Havel is with him --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me! I get to finish.
MR. BARONE: -- Silvio Berlusconi is with him. That's more than a single national leader.
MS. CLIFT: Michael, it's my turn!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And so is Putin. Putin is with him, too.
Okay, get this --
MS. CLIFT: I want to finish my statement. And what I want to say is that while Bush may be correct that the Kyoto treaty is flawed, he says we need a new approach; he hasn't delivered it. So he has created a wedge on these issues.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have to move on. We're delayed here.
Get this: Vladimir Putin --
MS. CLIFT: Boy, you fellows are touchy today. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the head of state of Russia, wants Russia inside NATO. Here's what he said on Wednesday:
"We do not see NATO as a hostile organization, and we see no tragedy in its existence, although we don't see why it is needed. Different options are possible. The simplest is to dissolve NATO, but this is not on the agenda. Another possible option -- and by the way, the former is what we would like to see -- the second possible option is to include Russia in NATO."
Question: Is Putin serious about wishing NATO membership for Russia? I ask you.
MR. BLANKLEY: This is a fascinating moment, because what's happening is, between Western Europe, Russia and the United States there's this dance of negotiation going on, and everybody's playing each other off very coquettishly. And so I think this is -- he's not serious specifically about that, but he's serious about trying to lure the United States into a closer relationship with Russia than it currently has with Western Europe. And this is part of those ambiguities in the courtship.
MR. O'DONNELL: He's half-serious. It's a nice argumentative touch to say, "If we presume that Russia is no longer an official enemy of the United States, why can't Russia be in NATO?
MR. BARONE: And we have not supported that process.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think --
MR. O'DONNELL: The purpose of NATO was to contain Russia in the first place.
MR. BLANKLEY: It was the Soviet Union.
MS. CLIFT: Well, it's ludicrous to create NATO of all the countries surrounding it except for Russia. Russia is quite correct to then assume that it's a hostile institution.
MR. BARONE: Well, we don't include all the countries surrounding it. Up to it, perhaps, but not surrounding it.
MS. CLIFT: Well, eventually they're all going to get --
MR. BARONE: And no American -- the first President Bush, President Clinton, and current President Bush have not excluded NATO membership for Russia.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look.
MR. BARONE: But this is something that ain't gonna happen while we're still doing --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he sees Russia as European rather than Eurasian?
MR. BARONE: He wants to see Russia as a great power. He does seem to see Russia as European. His own background of service in Germany, knowledge of Germany --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly.
MR. BARONE: -- and his St. Petersburg background. That was Czar Peter the Great's "window on Europe." He is a European seeker.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit to the issue. Japan. Will Koizumi cave on Kyoto, yes or not?
MR. BARONE: Kyoto is a very expensive treaty with a very uncertain payoff, and I think he will continue to be against it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He will stick with Bush.
MS. CLIFT: No. The Kyoto process will continue. He will search for some middle ground. They're not going to abandon the effort to contain global warming.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, even Bush says some Kyoto process will continue.
MS. CLIFT: Bush hasn't offered anything. Bush is a master of gestures; but where is the reality?
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm glad you're admitting he's a master.
MS. CLIFT: Of gestures.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (He's got mastery ?), at least.
Okay, let's proceed.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think he's going to stay with Bush. Unless Bush goes with Kyoto, he's not going to either.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's something like you. He's obviously a maverick.
MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.) Yes, he is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He marches to his own drum, Koizumi does.
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, he does.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right?
MR. BARONE: Well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wears the Beethoven hair. Are you going to adopt that?
MR. O'DONNELL: Heavy metal music.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Heavy metal. That's all over LA.
MR. O'DONNELL: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's your stomping ground, right?
MR. O'DONNELL: He's going to, like the rest of them, try to fake out everyone on what's going on. He doesn't want to look like the guy who kills this treaty, but he won't do anything to make sure it gets implemented.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nor will he disaffect George Bush. I say he's sticking with Bush.
When we come back: Will the hard sell for stem cell sell?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: First there was Frist.
SENATOR BILL FRIST (R-TN): (From videotape.) I believe with an appropriate ethical construct, we can use that tissue to the benefit of hundreds of others, thousands of others, maybe millions of others.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Bill Frist announced this week a 10-point plan to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Frist's move caught many by surprise because the Tennessee Republican is staunchly pro-life. Frist's endorsement is particularly important because it may well foreshadow the position Bush will adopt, since he frequently consults Frist, the Senate's only doctor. The president is taking his time on this decision.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) This is way beyond politics. This is an issue that speaks to morality and science and the juxtaposition of the both. And the American people deserve a president who will listen to people and make a serious, thoughtful judgment on this complex issue. And that's precisely how I'm going to handle it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: During the presidential campaign, Bush vowed to oppose federal funding for stem cell study. Pro-lifers and the Catholic Church are generally against a Clinton compromise that allows federally funded research on stem cells extracted by privately funded scientists. In favor are celebrities like Christopher Reeve, Michael J. Fox, Mary Tyler Moore and former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who hope stem cell research may lead to treatment for paralysis, Parkinson's, juvenile diabetes and Alzheimer's Disease.
This week they got powerful reinforcement from the National Institutes of Health. Quote: Stem cells present immense research opportunities for potential therapy," unquote. Arguably the strongest case for permitting frozen embryos, otherwise destined for disposal, to be so used came from Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.
SENATOR ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): (From videotape.) While I understand that many in the pro-life community will disagree with me, I believe that a human life -- a human's life begins in the womb, not in a petri dish or a refrigerator.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The President Clinton compromise allows federally funded research on stem cells as long as the stem cells are extracted by privately funded scientists. Can George Bush sign on to Clinton's compromise, or any modification of it, without getting political heat from the political right? I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, no. He's certainly going to get political heat in any decision other than total opposition. My sense is that the president is trying to make a decision that goes beyond merely political calculation, although political calculation is part of any decision that politicians make.
This is one where 70 percent of the public, including 70 percent of self-identified Catholics, are in favor of a process that is very, very close to the concept of abortion. And it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a second.
MR. BLANKLEY: And it creates --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about microscopic, frozen stem cells.
MR. BLANKLEY: I understand. But if you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about something that's --
MR. BLANKLEY: It is, according to the Catholic Church, of course, at the moment of conception you have life, potential life. And that's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well.
MR. BLANKLEY: So the problem is that when you get into analysis, when you get into an --
MR. BARONE: It's not a crazy position. It's an arguable position.
MR. BLANKLEY: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's this?
MR. BLANKLEY: It is arguable --
MR. BARONE: It's an arguable position, it's not a crazy position.
MR. BLANKLEY: The problem is --
MR. BARONE: It's a seriously held position. Reasonable people can also disagree with it, and do.
MR. BLANKLEY: Exactly.
MR. BARONE: And so it's very --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but what I'm attacking is whether or not he is stating the position of the Catholic Church correctly.
MR. : Yes --
MR. BARONE: Well, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I believe it has to adhere to the uterine wall before you have the full blastocyst.
MS. CLIFT: Well, that's the difference. And you do have pro-life Republicans, like Connie Mack, like Orrin Hatch, who make a distinction between the petri dish embryo and the embryo that's in the woman's womb.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: And what they're talking about is using tens of thousands of embryos that are otherwise going to be discarded, for research purposes. And the compromise that Senator Frist has come up with would call for parental consent, the people who have created these embryos, and it has all sorts of safeguards. And if President Bush cannot come down on the side of science with this one, it seems to me he writes off the middle of this country, because for most people this is not a close call.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, as a sometime-Catholic -- right? --
MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- I don't want to invade your private zone. As a reared Catholic, you know that Bush is trying to woo the Catholic vote. If he signs on to this in some form, maybe the Hatch form, that a petri dish in a refrigerated -- a deep-frozen situation is something different from the womb -- do you think he would disaffect Catholic voters?
MR. O'DONNELL: If I could teach non-Catholic Texas politicians one thing, it would be that there is no such thing as "the Catholic vote." In all polling, it behaves identical to the American vote, to the larger set. Therefore, it doesn't function as a separate --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that true on pro-choice issues?
MR. O'DONNELL: On abortion, everything. Catholics are 1, 2 percent more in favor of abortion than the rest of the population.
MR. BARONE: Yeah, John? John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.
MR. BLANKLEY: But there's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you say he is not going to disaffect anyone?
MR. O'DONNELL: It's a mirage. He will --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Except the hierarchy in the Catholic Church?
MR. BARONE: No. No, that's --
MR. O'DONNELL: It's a mirage. He would do himself very well to disaffect the Republican right. That will impress moderates, independents. It will show he's not a slave to the Republican right. He cannot be challenged by the Republican right for his nomination.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Bible --
MR. BARONE: John, you've left something out here --
MR. BLANKLEY: John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what a minute. The Bible Belt will be most offended by this, including the first lady. Correct?
MR. BARONE: John, John, you've left something --
MR. BLANKLEY: John --
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, the Bible Belt's not Catholic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Bible Belt is not Catholic.
MR. BARONE: Wait. You've left something out of this discussion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, what about --
MR. BARONE: You left something out of this discussion --
MR. BLANKLEY: There's an important point, that in analysis of the Catholic vote, technically, what the Republicans tend to look at is the practicing Catholic vote as opposed to mere people who were reared Catholic, and in that vote, it still matters. Now, I don't think the president's going to make his decision exclusively on that basis, but as far as the analysis is concerned, practicing Catholics and partisan right-to-lifers are going to be negatively affected by --
MS. CLIFT: President Bush --
MR. BARONE: John! John, you've left something --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know where the -- just let me make one point. We know where the Catholic hierarchy stands, they're against stem cell research.
MR. BARONE: They're against embryonic stem cell research.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. But we know that the Catholic hierarchy is now suddenly also altering a long-standing, century-long tradition; is now opposed to capital punishment. But that doesn't mean that rank-and-file Catholics are opposed to capital punishment, in terms of what you say.
MR. BARONE: Well, John, you left something out here, which is that we have been talking so far about embryonic stem cell research. There is also stem cell research that takes place through adult stem cells. So far it has not been as productive. We don't know how productive it will be.
One part of Senator Frist's very constructive proposal is beefed-up research on how effective adult stem cells can be, plus, as Eleanor accurately pointed out, carefully monitored research on embryonic stem cells. This seems -- and a ban on a production of stem cells, which would -- which I think responds to the genuinely serious ethical concerns of the Catholic hierarchy.
MS. CLIFT: President Bush, by dragging out this decision, has suspended this research already for several months, and that's a disservice to everyone in this country --
MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, the research goes on every day.
MS. CLIFT: No, he hasn't -- the federal --
MR. O'DONNELL: It's just a question of how much government money --
MS. CLIFT: No! No! The federal --
MR. O'DONNELL: The research goes on every single day!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me him finish. Then I'll go back to you.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me! The federal -- I want to -- he's accusing me of not telling the truth and I am telling the truth.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Chuckles.)
MR. O'DONNELL: Government research, that's all you're talking about.
MS. CLIFT: The federally funded -- well, that's a lot.
MR. O'DONNELL: Okay, the research is going on every day without government money.
MS. CLIFT: The federally funded research -- the grants that the NIH was going to give out, they suspended all of that. So he has put this in a state of limbo. And he has dragged out this decision, ostensibly for theological and moral reasons, when we all know he's trying to figure out a way not to get your crowd angry.
MR. BLANKLEY: I think -- I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I move on?! I want to move on to something else.
Will he lose any votes because this technically -- if he signs on to stem cell research, he will technically be voiding or he will be contradicting his campaign promise.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I mean, this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he going to lose any votes for that?
MR. BLANKLEY: He's going to lose some and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose he says, "I had more time to think about it. It's a very complicated question."
MR. BARONE: He's already said that.
MR. BLANKLEY: He's going to lose some energy on the right. He's going to pick up some support in the center. Nobody knows where the politics of it lies.
But I've got to say it's very unfair to accuse him of cynically making these calculations.
MR. BARONE: If he was cynical --
MS. CLIFT: No? So you don't think politics is what he's concerned -- that he doesn't want to offend the right? Come on~!
MR. BLANKLEY: No. I think what -- no, it's not just politics --
MR. BARONE: No! If he was cynical, Eleanor, he would have made a rapid decision for the very reason you stated, because this pulling it out is exacerbating tensions. It would have been smarter, if it was purely political, to act more quickly one way or the other.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is Karl Rove saying?
MR. BLANKLEY: Nobody knows.
MR. O'DONNELL: Karl Rove -- that's the big question.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll have to tell you.
MR. O'DONNELL: He's trying to navigate the politics of this --
MS. CLIFT: Exactly.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- not the science of it, just the politics.
MS. CLIFT: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Karl Rove has said out there, through Bill Frist, the stalking horse, the trial balloon, and Karl Rove is saying, "Let's see how this plays." And do you think that there is a political imperative developing for George Bush to sign on? In other words, the exit question is this: How will Bush decide on federally funded research, for or against?
MR. BARONE: I think he will come out where Senator Frist has come out. I don't think this is important to that many ordinary voters. It is important to a lot of people with interests in fighting certain diseases. It is important to people that have moral scruples. They both have very serious concerns that ought to be treated with respect.
MS. CLIFT: It's important to every voter in this country who knows anything about it. And if the president makes the right decision, he'll go with Frist. If he doesn't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you saying? What are you predicting?
MS. CLIFT: I think he will go with Frist.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MS. CLIFT: But if he doesn't, the Senate will overrule him. Congress will overrule him. The votes are there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I suspect -- and nobody knows. I suspect he will come down in the compromise position. I would argue just very briefly that of course the political officer -- Rove's job is to give the political analysis. A president has a higher perspective, and he's reviewing, he's talking with ethicists, and he's got a much bigger picture than simply the political guy.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, yes, Tony --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!
MR. O'DONNELL: He will go with Frist's position, which, by the way, is an extremely limited version of allowing this research. It inhibits most of the research --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not sure of that.
MS. CLIFT: No it doesn't. No it doesn't.
MR. O'DONNELL: It does.
But Frist does make a very important point to keep in mind; that the central issue in this discussion is life and where does it begin. And what we thought for hundreds of years was that death occurred only when you had heart stoppage. We now realize that is not the point, it's brain function that determines life. Brain function. There is no brain function in stem cells.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think -- we've got to get out. I think that he will go with Frist on the basis of two principles. One, life begins in the womb, not in a dish and not in a freezer. Number two, it maintains the pro-life principle, in the sense that the "pro" is a "prolongation" of life.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On behalf of the Group, we offer our heartfelt sympathy to the family and loved ones of Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, who passed away this week. She was an icon of American journalism, as is well known. She was also a woman of immense fortitude. Her successes were many, but so were her crises and her personal agonies, as she recounts in her autobiography. Her dealing with them and her triumphs over them are an inspiration for us all.
May she rest in peace.
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®FL¯ PBS SEGMENT
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Love and marriage.
(Song being played: Love and marriage, love and marriage; they go together like a horse and carriage.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Horse and carriage? How about man and woman? They go together too, don't they? Marriage has always been recognized, both legally and socially, as a union between a man and a woman. Well, now a religious group, Alliance for Marriage, is trying to take action to make sure it stays that way, and only that way. The alliance is lobbying Congress to pass -- get this -- a constitutional amendment that states, "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of a union of a man and a woman," unquote. The alliance says the amendment is needed to guard against the rising trend of gay and lesbian couples suing to redefine marriage.
MR. MATT DANIELS (ALLIANCE FOR MARRIAGE): (From videotape.) Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose. We affirm that. They don't have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society through the courts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The alliance wants the amendment to cut off that court route. Gay activists blasted the amendment as anti-gay discrimination, an attack on gay and lesbian families.
MS. DONNA PAYNE (HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN): (From videotape.) This attempt to rewrite our Constitution to deny a group of Americans equal rights is wrong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Alliance for Marriage has an uphill battle. Census 2000 indicates that gay households are on the rise, and it's not easy to amend the Constitution. That requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, and 38 states must ratify.
Question: Why doesn't the sanctity of marriage attract more public support?
I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, it is a sanctified state for some people, but for most people it isn't, it's a legal state. You know, most marriages do not occur under religious auspices. And there's no need for it to be that way.
And you know, the funny thing about this amendment -- which will never pass, and it's hopeless -- is that the very writing of it proves that there is no intent in the Constitution, in the organization of this country, to describe what a marriage is. It never describes marriage in the Constitution. It certainly never says it's a man and a woman.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think time is on the side of the view of the alliance -- that is, a man and a woman, presumably a man and a woman from birth --
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, there's a definitional problem right there. No, I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you could conceive a situation where --
MR. O'DONNELL: I think their time has passed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MR. O'DONNELL: Their time has passed, and time is very much on the side of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very much on the side of --
MR. O'DONNELL: On the side of there being no definition to gender in marriage.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the sanctity of marriage, can we say that the 50 percent, or close to 50 percent, rate of divorce has created a certain cynicism about marriage?
MR. BLANKLEY: No --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That it is a legal contract of --
MR. BARONE: The rate of divorce is declining.
MR. BLANKLEY: Many people who get divorced get married again. So they respect the institution; they're just trying to find the right person.
But there's a more important fact. You say that the trend is against it. Thirty-four states have basically passed a law that says that you've got to have a marriage between a man and woman. So at the state level, the trend is towards trying to enforce only heterosexual marriages. I agree that at the national level it never and shouldn't be put in the U.S. Constitution, which is a wonderful document and doesn't --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Maybe we can --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will this be politically polarizing, do you think, this proposed amendment?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think they're trying to make it politically polarizing. But most people are way beyond this. And we can quibble over the word "marriage" and the word "sanctity", but in fact, most states, most corporations are moving to accepting the definition of civil partnerships, so that people can share benefits and that if somebody is dying they will have some -- their life partner can be there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You would say the probability of a passage of any kind of a constitutional amendment, practically, and certainly this, is zero; correct?
MR. BARONE: Well, I don't know that it's zero. Actually, a lot of people might -- no, what's interesting to me is the opinion on gay issues has changed enormously over the last 10 or 15 years in this country. Opinion on gay marriage has not changed much. Most people are about 2 to 1 against it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Any other term except marriage?