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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: ELEANOR CLIFT, PAT BUCHANAN,
TONY BLANKLEY AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL

TAPED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2001
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 29-30, 2001

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: The three-week marker.

We're on the threshold of the three-week juncture of President Bush's mobilization to end terrorism. Where do things stand? Enduring Freedom, that's the name of the mission, but what's the master plan?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) As I told the American people, we will direct every resource at our command to win the war against terrorists; every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Bush anti-terrorism coalition is coming together with varying pledges of support from many of the world's governments. The important developments:

First, Russian President Putin opens the door wide. He okays U.S. Special Forces mobilizing within two critical former Soviet Central Asian republics, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, both bordering Afghanistan. The three remaining republics, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, have all pledged some degree of cooperation. In addition, Putin is supporting the Afghan Northern Alliance, recently renamed the United Front, with weaponry to fight the Taliban. The Front presently controls some 5 (percent) to 10 percent of Afghan territory.

Second, two naval carrier groups leave their bases in Norfolk, Virginia, and Yokosuka, Japan, to join the two already in place in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, bringing U.S. naval personnel in the area to more than 20,000. These U.S. commitments will complement the British presence in the Gulf, with its 27 Royal Navy vessels, including submarines, and on land in Oman, over 10,000 British troops.

Third, Saudi Arabia ceases to recognize the Taliban, issuing the statement that bin Laden and his allies, quote, "defame Islam and the reputation of Muslims around the world." This break delegitimizes the Taliban and leaves Pakistan as their sole diplomatic connection to the world.

The total number of our Navy personnel in the area will be closer to 35,000.

Two additional pieces of key information. One, the U.S. will not seek to remove the Taliban government. Two, the commander in chief's current military strike plans will target Afghanistan, nowhere else.

Question: Delimiting U.S. military strikes to Afghanistan only is causing a split. On the one side, neoconservatives in the U.S. who want a wide war -- on Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, even Iran. On the other side, Secretary Powell, who is focused like a laser on bin Laden and al Qaeda. Why the split? And who are the principals?

Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the ones who want the wider war are the neoconservatives, the Weekly Standard, Commentary magazine, the New Republic, Empower America, Bill Bennett but not Jack Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick. They want to use the opportunity of American wrath and power to strike blows at what they call the entire network of terror and go to war against it altogether, with Israel as our principal ally. Now that's one side.

The other side is Powell and, I believe, Mr. Bush. They want to put together a U.S.-NATO-Arab-Muslim alliance, like his father did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rumsfeld?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Rumsfeld is there in this sense. The Powell-Rumsfeld idea is, look, whatever you did in the past, if you join the alliance, get rid of your terrorists, help us out in this, you can get out of the penalty box. They want a narrow war as against the wider war, John.

And the president has been given a virtual ultimatum, in an open letter in the Weekly Standard, which says: If you don't go to war against Iraq, it will be a decisive surrender in the war on terror. This --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many signed it?

MR. BUCHANAN: There are 41 signers. They are foreign policy experts and some foreign policy heavyweights.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Richard Perle -- is he the only member of the administration who is on that side? He is assistant secretary of Defense.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he's not an assistant secretary --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's not?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- but he's the head of a defense policy review board, and what makes his signature astonishing is it's an appointee of the president's or of the Department of Defense who is, in effect, telling the president, "Either do this or you have surrendered."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Wolfowitz on that side?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, Wolfowitz is on the side, obviously, of the wider war. But he's in the administration, and he's giving his advice, and he's making his statements. But he's within the administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which side is Buchanan on?

MR. BUCHANAN: On this one, I am 100 percent with Powell and the president, because I believe that if we go to a wider war, the NATO allies will not only peel off; we'll be at war with half a dozen countries. And I think, John, it will be the United States and the West against Islam and Arabdom. And I think it would be a disaster --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the governments -- and certain governments would fall.

MR. BUCHANAN: I find it hard to believe, if you go to a wider war, how all of our allies -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states -- can survive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: The initial reflexive desire to avenge these attacks and punish the attackers, I think, has faded in the face of reality. There are no good targets, and if you want to expand beyond Afghanistan, we've already -- the U.S. has already bombed Iraq, to no good avail, and finding Saddam Hussein, who has 18 palaces with bunkers -- that doesn't look like a likely option either.

So Colin Powell is winning the day with the idea that diplomacy, good old police work, intelligence from countries in that area who will cooperate are a better way of winning or managing, really, this struggle over the long haul.

I also want to take issue with your comment that the administration is not seeking to bring down the Taliban government. I don't know that you can neatly distinguish between the Taliban and bin Laden. I mean, he is more powerful than they are, and he is a state within a state. And I think if you go after him, you are going after the Taliban as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The statement that I made is built on President Bush's statement that we are not into nation-building and his elaboration of that. Now it may well be that we will decide, in order to get bin Laden, we will have to also cleanse the nation, if we can, of the Taliban.

Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think the split is a little bit more apparent than real in this regard. I find it hard to imagine that the statement the president made initially, that we're going to go after the nations that succor terrorists, doesn't ultimately include some resolution in Iraq, definitively. But, it seems to me that in the first round, the Taliban, which is the most vulnerable of the terrorist states, because you've got a active alliance, you've got them surrounded by countries that are going to be working with us --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the Northern Alliance?

MR. BLANKLEY: The Northern Alliance, plus, of course, you've got Russia's cooperation, Uzbekistan, and the rest. Even Iran, perhaps, who hate the Taliban.

So it strikes me that probably their first effort is to do that, and take care of Afghanistan and then look to see -- countries like Syria may -- who are cynical. They're secularist, they support terrorism for cynical reasons. They can be coerced without war, perhaps, to change. Iraq, I don't know.

So, my suspicion is that there's a lot of nervousness on the neocon side. They want to hear the drums beating. I suspect they're going to be satisfied down the line, even though they're not satisfied now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think you may have overstated the Syrian position. Syria permits the Hezbollah to move through it, but that doesn't mean that Syria is on the side of terrorism. Syria is on the side of having the Israelis pull back from the Golan.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, Syria is capable of manipulating a lot of events in the terrorist world, if they choose to, as they did once when they went and killed 20,000 terrorists.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Remind me to give you my full lecture on my visit to Damascus not long ago.

MR. BLANKLEY: I look forward to it. (Laughter.)

MR. O'DONNELL: The problem with holding our war on terrorism exclusively to Afghanistan is that that would violate what the president promised to do in his address to the nation. He said that he was going to go get every terrorist group of global reach, and it is estimated that they reside in at least 16 countries. So if we hold it -- if he holds it exclusively to Afghanistan, then he will not be doing what he said he was going to do.

However, there's one other very important line in that speech that was largely ignored. He said they will conduct secret operations that will be secret even in success. So three years from now you can say to the Defense secretary, "How are we doing?" The Defense secretary can say, "Oh, we're doing great." Say, "What'd you do this week?" Say, "I can't tell you that."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that a bit of duplicity, do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, it leaves every available description to the Bush administration. They are the ones, then, to decide how well this is going because they're doing so much in secret.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the situation demands that he say that and do that, conduct the surveillance and the operation in -- surreptitiously.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he also said -- see, the key thing in the speech, I think, was the president's statement, "From this day forward." And Mr. Rumsfeld said the same thing last Sunday.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: He said, in effect, we don't care what they did; we care what they're doing. And this is where the great break comes. They think that countries cannot get out of the penalty box, you've got to go get them.

MR. O'DONNELL: He's not just after the regimes that harbor them, let's remember, he's after the terrorists themselves.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, let me add --

MR. O'DONNELL: Even if they're in a country that is unfriendly to them, he's still after them.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me add one quick thought here, because when he said these acts -- that people who committed the acts, that may well include Iraq. Iraq is maybe either a co-conspirator or possibly a marionette --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of bin Laden's.

MS. CLIFT: You know, the president can remain true to his rhetoric if he goes after the terrorists in a broad range of countries financially, diplomatically, tries to squeeze them off.

I think what we're mostly concerned about, or the American public is, is where does the military action come. And so far, this administration has shown extraordinary restraint, and I am very comfortable with it.

MR. O'DONNELL: (?): We need to remember that this isn't a question of measuring rhetoric, it's a question of achieving a strategic objective for the country, which is to protect us from terrorists.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is O'Donnell overlooking? O'Donnell is overlooking the fact that the president said I will use multiple means or prongs in this approach. He's going to use financial, he's going to -- that is to freeze things. He's going to use diplomacy. He doesn't always have to exhaust the military means. He can still carry on the campaign without the military.

MR. BUCHANAN: As a matter of fact, he realizes that if you use air strikes, you use missiles, cruise missiles, they create as many terrorist as they kill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're inefficient.

MR. BUCHANAN: You hit Hezbollah, for example, which has a great reputation now because they are perceived to have driven the Israelis out of Lebanon, you strike them, and your Arab Muslim coalition comes right down, and then you are in an Israel-United States allied against --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, another disturbing thing that happened this week was that in Indonesia, where there is the world's largest, I believe, collection or number of Muslims, 190,000 out of a total population --

MR. BUCHANAN: Million.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A hundred and ninety-million out of a total population of about 210 (million), they experienced some of this reaction to possible hammering by the United States and going overboard and hitting Afghanistan with women and children.

By the way, one of the affected parties, of course, is Saudi Arabia, directly affected. The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, a universally worldwide respected man, whom I think you know, Pat, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said this:

PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL (Saudi Arabian foreign minister): (From videotape.) This fight against terrorism should be guided by the principle of bringing the perpetrators, identifying them and bringing them to justice, and that it should in no way follow the objectives of the terrorists themselves in creating an unbridgeable gap between the Western world and the Islamic world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Saudi Arabia is giving limited support, not too limited. But there are a number of countries, including Norway and Sweden and other countries, that are passive partners, and they're supplying under-the-table intelligence; they're freezing the assets, and they are also being willing to exercise their diplomacy on behalf of our mission.

Now, what happens if there is the kind of wider war? What happens to those passive partners who will see that? What will they do? Do you have any thoughts on that, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, if the administration acts effectively and there are minimum casualties, then the U.S. stock rises. But if the administration acts in a way that is seen as indiscriminate of these countries in that region, we might as well be the first recruiting agent for terrorism. It will only increase Arab anger. And that's why you see the administration moving so carefully. They don't want to do anything that makes it worse.

MR. BLANKLEY: But you know, while it's true that we don't want to take any action that adds to the list of enemies beyond that which exists, it's also ultimately the fact we can't make the list of enemies shorter than the ones that currently actually exist to do terrible damage to this country. And that's the other side of the danger. You've identified the danger of bringing on too many enemies, but if we don't define enough enemies, then we're going to continue to be vulnerable till we finish the successful war. There's a danger there, both sides.

MR. BUCHANAN: But you know, if you lose Saudi Arabia, it's like losing the queen in a chess game; you lose it all. What's the sense of gaining Afghanistan, losing Pakistan to a group that's got nuclear weapons?

MR. O'DONNELL: And Saudi Arabia at this point sounds like it supports almost exclusively getting the people responsible for the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

MR. O'DONNELL: They don't seem to support much more than that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Is President Bush moving too fast; too slow, meaning letting the momentum pass him by; or is he moving at the right speed?

Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he's moving at the right speed. We ought to cut him some slack and get behind him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Right speed, although I don't know enough about what's going on behind the scenes to have great confidence that they really do have a plan here. I think they're feeling their way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's going on behind the scenes is a great deal of argument. That's what's going on.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, at the beginning of most big wars, there's a period of some confusion and preparation. And World War II started in August of '39, but then you had what was called the phony war until May of '40. So it's normal to expect delays. I think we're experiencing the normal kind of delays and recalibrations. I think it's probably about the right speed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many emplacements are there by al Qaeda and bin Laden in Afghanistan? I'll give you the answer: 55.

What's the projected number of people that he has working for him in place now? I'll give you the --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I'll give you a number.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You give me a number.

MR. BLANKLEY: I believe, over the last 10 years, he has processed about 70,000 operatives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know how many he's alleged to have in place now?

MR. BLANKLEY: Thirteen thousand --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thirteen thousand five hundred.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's about 280, if they were all evenly distributed on those --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's 57,000 in the West and in the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what I'm talking now --

MR. BUCHANAN: And they are inside the borders, and that is the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about the problem of our expeditionary forces going in there. The Pentagon today is not only alarmed, it's appalled at the prospect of what they're going to face when they go in.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard that?

MR. BUCHANAN: The danger, John -- they are down at the Del Ray Beach Health Club. That is the problem. We've got 11 million illegal aliens in this country, tens of thousands from countries some people say we ought to start bombing tomorrow.

MR. BLANKLEY: There could be thousands of his sleepers here in this country now --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- which is why the terrorist danger is so great and why ultimately this war has to be won.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And then, of course, we haven't said anything about the government of Pervez Musharraf and whether or not that can withstand the Muslim rage going on in his country.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's why I'm being --

MS. CLIFT: There's going to be a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MS. CLIFT: There's going to be a refugee -- humanitarian crisis with all the refugees. That's already begun, so get ready for that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you grade the president?

MR. O'DONNELL: The president seems to be moving with all deliberate speed. If he's going slowly because he doesn't have a plan in place yet, then I applaud him for going slowly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think time is on his side to move slowly? Do you sense, in your vast movements around the United States, especially the Hollywood community, in which you seem to thrive -- (laughter) -- do you sense any wish that he would move faster?

MR. O'DONNELL: No, John. And the public is being very patient on this. They are -- they know that this is a complex exercise. He has said it's more complex than anything we've ever done, and so of course no one expects it to start tomorrow.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Furthermore, we have his father's slow 2D2D slow 2D2D measured buildup -- measured is a better word 2D2D for the Persian Gulf War. Correct?

MR. O'DONNELL: Exactly. That's the model for an extremely organized attack on a known target. This is an attack on a completely disorganized, unknown target, moving target in 16 different countries. Of course it takes time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So far, so good. That's my view for the president.

When we come back: Is the Arab-Israeli conflict and the sanctions against Iraq, and the bombing of Iraq -- are those two roots of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorism?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Enduring Freedom, the defense.

The best defense is to suppress not only the terrorists but also terrorist supply system. Muslim unrest feeds extremist Islamic terrorism, without which bin Laden and his al Qaeda network would cease to function, many believe.

In three news reports on the last Middle East -- on last weekend, on the Middle East -- Ted Koppel on "Nightline," Ed Bradley on "60 Minutes," Jim Maceda on NBC -- what is portrayed therein, and in a growing number of print news reports, as one of terrorism's roots is U.S. foreign policy towards Israel, towards Iraq. Question: Is that the case?

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Look, I think bashing Israel is a great propaganda tool in that area of the world. But I think Osama bin Laden's real goal is to topple those moderate Arab regimes. And he's using us -- he's trying to provoke us into some sort of action that increases Arab anger.

And the Saudi government is a prime example. They've made their pact with the devil, in the sense that they allowed bin Laden to raise money in that country in exchange for him not doing anything to bother them in their backyard. And we support governments that repress their populations and give -- there's no freedom of speech, freedom of religion. And that's what breeds the kind of terrorist mentality that we see today.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the widespread Arab rage is providing a support for what the terrorists are doing?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but look, I want to go back to this point, because we can't evade the obvious fact that if America did not have an important relationship with Israel and an important relationship in the Middle East, that we would not be as much a target of this terrorism as we are. That does not mean that we should change those relationships, but you have to have your eyes open and understand that if we had never sent anything to the Middle East, we probably would not be engaged in the situation we are today.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, listen --

MR. BLANKLEY: And truth is the first path to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Listen to what -- listen to what Osama bin Laden himself gives as the reasons for his vile conduct.

OSAMA BIN LADEN: (From videotape.) The U.S. government has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal, through its support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. And we believe the U.S. is directly responsible for those killed in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. Due to subordination to the Jews, the arrogance of the United States regime has reached the point that they occupy Arabia, the holiest place of the Muslims, who are more than a billion people in the world today. For this, and other acts of aggression and injustice, we have declared jihad against the U.S.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is bin Laden giving us the key on the diplomatic front; namely, that the time has come for strenuous U.S. mediation in Israel, and that Bush should wrestle Arafat and Sharon to the ground now as part of his multi-pronged, Enduring Freedom mission, especially in view of the fact that it is unmistakable that the suppression of terrorism in that part of the world is essential to our vital national security interests, having seen what we saw at the WTC horror?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, no matter what we do, bin Laden is going to kill Americans until we're completely out of that region. However, there is no question about it, that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the perception that the United States supports the suppression of the Palestinian people, the denial of their right to self-determination and a nation of their own, feeds the oceans of hatred that we saw in the streets when people got up and cheered what happened.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could bin Laden survive if he didn't have that ocean there? In other words, would he be able to enlist, would he be able to recruit? Would his whole system dry up if there were peace there, or at least co-existence, and if they stopped the bombing --

Well, go ahead.

MR. BUCHANAN: That would diminish the swamp somewhat. But look, let me tell you something. Bin Laden is not going to stop until we're out of Saudi Arabia --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But his resources would be bled, if he does not have the rage that is now there, which can be reduced if there were peace in Israel. Do you all see that?

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with that.

MS. CLIFT: You know, Sharon and Arafat have actually come together, in a sort of side irony to this whole tragedy. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the president should do more?

MS. CLIFT: I've always thought the president should do more. But look. The troops in Saudi Arabia are a much bigger offense, in the eyes of bin Laden and a lot of Muslims. And the U.S. is there because of oil, not because of anything else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president's program is multi-pronged. It's financial, it's diplomatic, it's military, it's security, especially what he's doing at the airports. Can we not see an exertion, particularly an intensification on the diplomatic front, not compromising him at all, not yielding to the terrorists, but intensifying what we do anyway?

MR. O'DONNELL: Of course. He has to understand, and he must by now, that the Middle East --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Include that.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- the Middle East is his number-one diplomatic mission as president. It has been for previous presidents. It's not something he should have learned as a result of this attack. This administration should have been pursuing that more vigorously already.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Back next week.

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Presidential report card.

His approval rating is at a dynamite 89 percent, and 90 percent of Americans approve of the president's performance since the September 11 WTC -- World Trade Center -- attack.

And when asked, should the U.S. take military action against those responsible for the attacks, 92 percent of Americans say yes.

And should the U.S. take military action if thousands of American military personnel will be killed? Seventy-two percent, yes; 21 percent, no.

Question: Bush's numbers are even higher than his father's were during the Gulf War. The father's highs were short-lived, as we know. Will his son's be equally short-lived? I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, they're going to be longer just because this is going to be a longer war. Bush's numbers were wonderful at the end of the -- Bush Senior's numbers were wonderful at the end of the war. Then he had an economic problem, and he didn't perform very well domestically, and he lost.

This is a situation where the war's going to go on for a while. I think Bush's numbers will stay pretty high. But of course it could be catastrophically expensive in human lives in this country, and you don't know what's going to happen when the other terrorist --

MS. CLIFT: The --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. As soon as he bags bin Laden, don't you think, Eleanor, his numbers are going to collapse, especially with a sputtering economy?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't know that he's going to bag bin Laden. If he does, his numbers will go even higher.

But the potential is here for the son to suffer the same fate as the father, because as this so-called war --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Off mike.) (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Right. As this so-called war goes on, it's going to be an FBI investigation, it's going to be actions that we can't -- that aren't terribly visible, and the attention of the public will turn away from the lives that have been lost to the livelihoods that have been lost. And there are a lot of people out of work. The administration so far has not addressed that, and they're going to have to. And so that's where the danger lies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the nation is --

MS. CLIFT: The economy will become the issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the nation is still in a condition of national jitters, is it not?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When is that going to go away, especially when we start getting the stories on NBC, which is nuclear, biological, and chemical?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, it's still going to be there. So he's got to somehow -- the president has to transition from terrorism to normalcy, and how adroit he is will determine his ratings, and also the economy.

MR. BUCHANAN: But wait a minute, John, look. He hasn't even gone to war yet. When we go to war and air strikes are done or bin Laden is taken and he hits some target or other, the president will stay high. The country will support a war president, especially in this war, for a long, long time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose he doesn't get bin Laden for a year?

MR. BUCHANAN: If he gets him in a year, he goes home!

MR. O'DONNELL: Then if he gets him -- if you're telling me there's a date on which he "gets him," you're going to see whether opinion polls can go to 100 percent on a president of the United States. The -- it could be that he keeps the country psychologically on a war footing, which means a forgiving footing for economic dislocation. You know, FDR had an awful lot of economic dislocation to deal with during World War II. People understood that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, the reason for secrecy is well-founded, because if he makes an attempt and it's publicized, and he doesn't succeed, there will be consequent humiliation and embarrassment, I feel -- at least embarrassment. Humiliation's the wrong word. And that's going to affect his ratings, is it not?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, I think that the most likely path for his declining numbers -- I don't think it's going to happen this way -- is if nothing seems to happen, no strikes at us, we don't seem to do anything to them, and the economy stays bad. At that point, his numbers could go down.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

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