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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST:
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANELISTS:
MICHAEL BARONE, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT
ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK
TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC

DATE: SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2001

.STX

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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ANNOUNCER: It's the 20th annual McLaughlin Group year-end awards, 2001. Here's the master of ceremonies, John McLaughlin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Biggest winner of 2001, Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I've got to say George W. Bush. I mean, he passed his tax cut and education program; more important, superb leadership in the war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I've got to give it to President Bush as well. He started the year with questions about whether he was a legitimate president and a suspicion that he wasn't up to the job. I think he's put both those questions to rest.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was quite a lapse on Eleanor's part, don't you think, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, that is certainly the predominant one in America. I pick Ariel Sharon, because, as a result of his incompetent opponent, Yasser Arafat's actions with terrorism, he now has his enemies, the Palestinian terrorists, designated America's enemies, which bodes well for the Israeli future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: The armed forces of the United States of America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wonderful tribute. Now we'll find out what the answer is. The envelope please, Tony. Thank you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: You're welcome.

MR. O'DONNELL: Biggest winner of 2001 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does this remind you of anybody?

MR. O'DONNELL: It does. (Laughs.) And here's Johnny, right?

MR. BLANKLEY: Johnny.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, the biggest winner of 2001: J.K. Rowling, the richest British woman in England with the exception of the queen, and unlike the royals, earned her money. Rowling's book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," now a movie, total box office -- get this, Lawrence -- first weekend, over $100 million, an all-time high for all movies anywhere ever. And this book is the first of six more movies to come. Interesting. A rich capitalist prediction, wouldn't you say, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I guess. But I noticed when you tore up the envelope, you littered the set, John. I hope you pay attention to that in the future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Biggest loser, Michael.

MR. BARONE: I would say Bill Clinton. I mean, the year started off with the pardon scandals and then -- and I think now, in light of September 11th, his term in office will seem like eight years of partying in which we didn't act to avoid disaster.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Partying and pardons. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The Enron stockholders. Many of them have lost their life savings because of the biggest bankruptcy in history, a well-connected, politically-connected firm went under; ties to the Bush administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Big friends in high places.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Pairing up with my former announcement, the big loser is Yasser Arafat, who could at this time be the first president of the sovereign state of Palestine and instead is on the run and his career is essentially over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: The biggest loser of the year was religion, in whose name the greatest atrocity against humanity was committed, as in many years past in human history has been the case.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's an interesting prediction. Actually, the biggest loser of 2001 is Argentina, South America's third-largest economy in a tailspin, struggling to keep up payments on a $132 billion foreign debt, the government now collapsed, rioting and looting in the streets -- the biggest loser.

Okay. Best politician, Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, there's a lot of possible choices. I'd point to Tom DeLay, the House majority whip. He's squeezing out one close vote after another, most recently trade promotion authority by one vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Rudy Giuliani, who displayed real leadership at a time of crisis, which is the essence of politics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Tom Daschle, although I had Tom DeLay as a close second, who has managed to establish himself as the leading Democrat, both versus the president regarding politics and now going into any presidential derby.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Best politician of the year was Vladimir Putin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Do you want to elaborate on that?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, he has the most difficult job in the world, certainly the most difficult job in politics, and the challenges faced on so many levels, internally and with the war on terrorism and what he's had to do in relation to that. It's just been extraordinary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The best politician of 2001 is Tony Blair. His summertime re-election victory, followed by a superlative showing as America's foremost European ally in the war on terrorism -- a position, by the way, not entirely popular at home -- yet, paradoxically, winning him political points thanks to his rhetoric, which echoes another consummate British politician, the inimitable Winston Church.

Okay. Worst politician, Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, there's a lot of choices there, too, but I'd go with the Nassau County, New York Republican Party. This is the gang that has spent one of America's most affluent counties, governments, into bankruptcy; lots of scandals. And the voters have quite rightly swept them out of office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I've got to go with President Clinton, who, because of a wave of ill-chosen pardons, went out of office putting a shadow on eight years of peace and prosperity that he's still trying to now recreate his image.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also he had an unexemplary record on combating terrorism.

MS. CLIFT: That's pretty unfair, however. But that's for another show to argue. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we're going to send you to reprogramming camp, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Okay. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give us the answer, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Senator Jim Jeffords, who switched parties because he wanted to pass a full budget of special education and get his milk subsidy. He cut the deal with the Democrats and couldn't get either of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he signed away $27 billion.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, and he signed away his tradition and heritage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: I can't believe you've left it to me to say that the worst politician of the year was Gary Condit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You really think so?

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.) How can you not think so?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's not off the radar screen yet. The worst politician, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. He's one of the two brightest members of the president's Cabinet, yet he has a propensity for verbal gaffes, like calling the stimulus package of the Hill Republicans -- and he, of course, is a prominent Republican himself -- quote/unquote, "show business."

Okay, the most defining political moment. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I pick Friday, September 14th, George W. Bush at ground zero, when he said, "The people who knocked down these buildings are going to hear from all of us real soon," and the rescue workers who started saying, "USA, USA, USA."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wonderful scene. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Senator Jeffords switching from Republican to independent, which changed all the dynamics on Capitol Hill. And, contrary to Tony's disparagement of the senator, he's very popular on college campuses and, you know, I think he's going to do just fine outside of the beltway in terms of respect and stature.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you are, Tony. Deal with that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, he just recently, this week, expressed his disappointment with the party he joined. My choice would be --

MS. CLIFT: He didn't join the party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He didn't join the party. He's independent.

MR. BLANKLEY: He's voting with them.

MS. CLIFT: He may still get his programs.

MR. BLANKLEY: He's voting with them. That's what counts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's disappointed with Democrats?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah. A keen insight into the obvious, wouldn't you say?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I've known it for years. The most defining moment was President Bush's speech before the joint session. This was the moment when he delivered his magnificent speech in which he became not just a president but a great national leader.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Eleanor's right. The most defining political moment was Senator Jeffords' decision to leave the Republican Party, thereby flipping the Senate, making Tom Daschle the majority leader. It was the single most momentous political decision made in the history of the United States Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence is right. And, of course, Eleanor is right. Jim Jeffords, most defining moment.

Okay, turncoat of the year. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I'd say John Walker, the American Taliban, who engaged in what seems pretty clearly to have been treason, his activity fighting knowingly against this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. He's not being charged with treason.

MR. BARONE: Not as yet, but he should be charged with something.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You remember my prediction of last week -- jail, but he'll be out before 10 years. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I agree, it's also John Walker. But I don't think he's going to be charged with treason. He'll be charged with something less than that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: It is John Walker. But since everyone will say that, I'll say Harvey Weinstein, president of Miramax, who, on a fit of pique, switched his support from Mark Green to Bloomberg for mayor in one day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Why did he do that?

MR. BLANKLEY: He was peeved with something Green said.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Beware the evils of peevishness.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, Harvey was actually trying to broker a peace between Sharpton and -- oh, it was a mess.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. O'DONNELL: John Walker is turncoat of the year. It's impossible to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Walker. The turncoat of the year: Reuters News Agency for refusing to describe al Qaeda terrorists as terrorists.

Okay, most boring.

MR. BARONE: I'd come up right here with the name of Gary Condit. I mean, when I first interviewed him back in 1989, he was a competent politician till things fell apart for him. But he's boring.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Boy, when people think of Condit, they think of everything except boring. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Right. That's the nicest thing anybody's said about him in a long time. I give it to Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, who is so lacking in sizzle that he couldn't even save the Republican governor's seat in Virginia, a Republican state. And he's the shortest-serving party chairman in history.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's more to it than the fact that you think he's boring.

MS. CLIFT: That helps.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He didn't help them over there with their automobile tax, the way he should have. Yes, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: FBI Director Mueller, whose first name I can't even recall, he's so boring. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Robert.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: The most boring this year and every year is Al Gore. In fact, I propose that we rename the award the Al Gore Most Boring of the Year Award.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I really am shocked. The most boring title still belongs to Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Fed. No one has yet been able to mount a challenge that even remotely threatens the king of boredom.

Okay, most charismatic. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, my choice, I think, is an obvious one -- Vice President Dick Cheney, at least when he's out in public.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Most charismatic is Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. And in his briefings -- they're the most popular show on cable -- he's our John Wayne as he prosecutes this war. Women love him. Men love him. There's no one better.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, this wild infatuation with the secretary of Defense. He thinks that I think Elvis is back. Go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: Mayor Giuliani. I don't think there's any question, in the period after September 11th, he galvanized the whole country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: The most charismatic by far is President Josiah Bartlett, as played by Martin Sheen on NBC's "The West Wing."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hmm. Payback time for you, huh? Actually, Michael is right. The most charismatic is Dick Cheney for his gravitas, tailor-made for this very moment in our history. The charisma of gravitas -- reassuring, solid, authentic.

We'll be right back with more enthralling McLaughlin Group 2001 awards right after this.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, bummest rap. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, this notion that George W. Bush was, until September 11th, a unilateralist just because he would not accept a couple of treaties that were not in the interest of the United States. The (main structuring?) of alliances and working with Russia on a new relationship was already begun. And, of course, that's gone further into fruition since September 11th.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, the bum rap that he had low wattage. That was a bum rap. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Bum rap that the Clintons trashed Air Force Two and stole White House furniture as they left office -- totally untrue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They were just leasing it or borrowing it?

MS. CLIFT: No, it was clever spin by people who weren't their friends.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Much to work with, though, wouldn't you say? (Laughs.) Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Bummest rap, surprisingly, is Gary Condit, the rap that he murdered Chandra Levy. There's no evidence to support that. But that was the reason why the story sustained itself, the suspicion of that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which he fostered.

MR. BLANKLEY: But without any evidence; extremely unlikely. It's a bum rap.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Mark Green got a bum rap from Al Sharpton and that gang, the suggestion that his campaign and that Mark himself is somehow racist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, Mark Green is a real prospect for most boring. The bummest rap: Paul O'Neill allegedly not suited for the job of secretary of the Treasury because of political maladroitness, a bum rap. O'Neill is eminently suited.

Okay, fairest rap.

MR. BARONE: That Bill Clinton sold pardons, in effect, in his last days in office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fair rap?

MR. BARONE: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No question about it?

MR. BARONE: I think it's fair.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought he said that the Justice Department approved of all those pardons. (Laughter.)

MR. BARONE: Pardon me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I've got to point out that the U.S. attorney in New York has not brought any kind of evidence. There's no case. That's also spin. Okay, fairest rap, that the U.S. is a wealthy country, projects its democratic ideals, but doesn't put its money where its mouth is; foreign aid, less than 1 percent of the budget.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Fairest rap is that Gary Condit is an amoral, sexual exploiter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) That's an interesting little twist you've got going there. Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: I will limit my fair rap to simply the rap that Bill Clinton sold the Marc Rich pardon. That was bought and paid for.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. The fairest rap: Enron indictments, slimy deals leading to the biggest bankruptcy in history, with deal-makers getting hugely rich as 20,000 employees lost over a billion dollars of their retirement and investors lost $67 billion.

Best comeback. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I'd point to Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld. He was Defense secretary from 1976 to '77. He came back. He was on his way to restructuring Defense before September 11th in the quadrennial defense review. And, of course, as Eleanor pointed out, he's been a star since.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is this comeback or best repeater?

MR. BARONE: Whatever.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Repeat offender. Hillary Clinton, who started the year on the defensive about pardons and furniture, has now established herself as a serious legislator and potential national candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, really? You think she's moving?

MS. CLIFT: Not for a while.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Michael is right. It's Don Rumsfeld. Before September 11th, everyone was saying he may be the first Cabinet secretary to leave because he wasn't seen to be managing the change. And, of course, since September 11th, he's proved to be the exemplary leader of the war effort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now he's an icon.

MR. BLANKLEY: He's an icon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think the press is building him up just to do our usual tearing down?

MR. BLANKLEY: It always does.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It always does. Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Mohammed Zahir Shah, the king of Afghanistan, and who might soon be giving up the comfort of Rome to get back to work in Kabul.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, that vigorous octogenarian?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The best comeback: Rudy Giuliani, who started the year a lame duck, a prostate cancer patient, who shrank from a Senate bid, was derided for conjugal follies and a tabloidy divorce, now an esteemed New York icon who will be admired forever in American history.

Okay, Michael, most original thinker.

MR. BARONE: Well, I think Karl Rove, President Bush's sort of strategic political adviser. Here's a guy who has a whole coherent and well-informed theory about how Bush can be a transformative figure like William McKinley. That's original.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Senator Orrin Hatch, a pro-life senator who was able to reason his way to support stem-cell research at a time when the White House was looking for allies on the right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, and it looks like Specter's over there, too, with Hatch.

MS. CLIFT: But he's pro-choice.

MR. BLANKLEY: Surprisingly, our own Pat Buchanan, who's doing work on identifying the biggest historical event of the last 2,000 years, which is the collapse of the European white race over the next 100 years and the demographic implications.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who co-chaired the President's Commission on Social Security and delivered a unanimous report in which they recommended a bunch of different ways that they could fix the most important domestic program we have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Regrettably, that's going to be buried.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The most original thinker: Henry Kissinger, whose new book, "Does America Need a Foreign Policy?" is must reading if you want to understand the hard choices America faces between its sovereignty and its national interest, on the one hand, versus runaway one-world globalism, a la Eleanor, on the other.

Okay, most stagnant thinker. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I'd nominate the Near Eastern bureau of the State Department, which is still peddling this idea that we're supposed to sell out Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Joint award to Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Dick Gephardt, who hasn't had a new idea since 1978. He gave up most of the new ones he had back then.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He also was in that boring contest. Yes.

MR. O'DONNELL: I agree with Eleanor: Ariel Sharon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ariel Sharon. The most stagnant thinker is actually Dean Kamen, inventor of "Ginger," a/k/a "It," the overhyped motorized scooter promoted for personal transportation. Well, Dean, be my guest. Try "Ginger" during a Chicago snow storm.

Okay, best photo op. Michael.

MR. BARONE: It's the workers raising the flag over ground zero at the World Trade Center.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I agree. That's got to be it. That's the image.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the two best photo ops. I thought the best one was President Bush when he was speaking at ground zero, and then the evil flip best photo op would have been, of course, the planes dreadfully going into the trade towers --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- which has been the most repeated image of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: I agree with Tony's first; President Bush at ground zero.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The best photo op: The aerial gun sight video showing U.S. weapons striking al Qaeda targets. They asked for it; they're getting it. Great photo op.

Okay, the "Enough, already" award. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Bill Clinton apologizing for America and western civilization.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: John Ashcroft's press conferences and repeat warnings to be on the alert for what he can't tell us to be on the alert for.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. I kind of like those warnings, even though we may have been over-alerted.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm comforted by them. My choice is Senator Daschle for his constantly saying he's disappointed, he's saddened, he's saddened, he's disappointed. Enough, already, please.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Do you think Daschle is a weasel? (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I've known other weasels. He's in the category, but he may have some other categories.

MS. CLIFT: You have known a lot of weasels. I'll second that. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Dealing with the press over the years, yep.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Continue, please, quickly.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, John, despite your praise for the author, the "Enough, already" award goes to Harry Potter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Harry Potter.

MR. O'DONNELL: Harry Potter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah. I sense a little competitiveness springing from the Hollywood connections there. The "Enough, already" award: Reality TV, winners locked in a house, whiners dropped into the African bush, not real at all -- contradicted by the realness of September 11th and its true heroes.

Michael, the worst lie.

MR. BARONE: Well, the worst lie is this one spread by media in the Arab world and the Egyptian government-controlled press that the Israeli Mossad was behind the attacks on September 11th. This is anti-Semitic poison.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: President Bush's assertion that the surplus would more than cover his tax cut, prescription drugs for seniors, and anything else we might need.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Former President Clinton's pathetic effort to claim he did all he could to stop terrorism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: The worst lie was told to the pilots and the hijackers on September that Allah would reward them for killing Americans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to move right along. The worst lie -- that somehow the United States deserved the September 11th attacks.

Okay, capitalist of the year, Michael.

MR. BARONE: We don't know who's the capitalist of the year. Somewhere, somebody in a garage or something has started a business that in 10 years is going to be a big deal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unknown?

MS. CLIFT: Michael Bloomberg, who spent $60 billion plus to become mayor of New York. Capitalist of the year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, don't forget the senator from New Jersey.

MR. BLANKLEY: Brian Roberts, president of Comsat, who turned a small company into the largest cable company when he took over AT&T's cable company. He's now one of the big players in the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well-stated.

MR. O'DONNELL: Barry Diller, who just sold back to Universal what he bought from Universal three years ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well-stated. The capitalist of the year: Vladimir Putin, for keeping the oil flowing, a move that not only helps Russia's economy but cuts down on the leverage Muslim and OPEC countries have on the U.S. at this crucial juncture. Putin's putting money in the bank on two fronts: Petro-dollars for Russia and political currency he can cash in with George Bush.

We'll be right back.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, here it is, ladies and gentlemen: Person of the year. Michael.

MR. BARONE: I nominate the American people, who came together instantly united in the war against terrorism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well-stated. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Todd Beamer, the passenger on Flight 93, who said, "Let's roll," as the representative hero for all the people who lost their lives and the people who survived 9/11.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Let's roll." Great.

MR. BLANKLEY: I pick President Bush. I think his performance since September 11th requires that we give him that title.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. You feel that's an objective judgment on your part.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think it's completely objective.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I feel better now. Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, it's sadly Osama bin Laden, who has defined our times like no one else could.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Person of the year? That was like Time Magazine giving it to Hitler.

MR. O'DONNELL: And Stalin. It's not the best person of the year. It's the person --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I think we can all agree on that. The person of the year is John Ashcroft. He inherited a department awash in apathy with an absentee landlord, Janet Reno. He survived the Senate confirmation process, staring down and out-arguing obstinate liberals. He put a new face on the Justice Department, bringing to it a high seriousness after September the 11th, plus the rigor essential to law enforcement.

Next week: McLaughlin Group 2001 awards, part two. Merry Christmas. Bye bye.

(End of regular program.)

(Begin PBS segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Honorable mention. Michael.

MR. BARONE: I'd make mention of Laura Bush, the first lady. Her role being sort of a national comforter has brought out her strength that she got professionally from teacher and obviously personally from her life. I think she's been an excellent speaker and an aid to the nation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think she's underrated?

MR. BARONE: Well, I think that people didn't know very much about her a year ago. What we know now, I think we like very much.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I agree, Laura Bush has risen to the occasion. But I would give it to Michael Jordan, who came out of retirement. He revived the Washington Wizards. He revived basketball in general and in Washington, a city that really needs people to come visit and go to events. He plays before sold-out audiences all the time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you commend him on his decision to return to basketball.

MS. CLIFT: I do, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Are you entertaining alternate views on that?

MS. CLIFT: Only when it's your turn to speak, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I give the congressional statesman honorable mention award to Senator Bill Frist, the way he handled the anthrax scandal, with knowledge and calmness, at a time when a lot of people were getting a little hysterical.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Does he have national aspirations?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He does?

MR. BLANKLEY: And he should.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He should? Is his name being booted about?

MR. BLANKLEY: It is being booted about, vice president and beyond.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As is Rudy Giuliani, correct --

MR. BLANKLEY: Mmm-hmm.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if Mr. Cheney decides that it's time to roll it up, right?

MR. O'DONNELL: Which is likely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think?

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have inside information?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, we know about his heart. That's kind of all you need to know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, but he's still strong as an ox. He's everywhere, even in a cave. Continue.

MR. O'DONNELL: Honorable mention goes to the Edison schools, which are public schools, privately run by the Edison Corporation, more efficiently, getting better test scores than their counterparts in the public schools.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And who was the founding father?

MR. O'DONNELL: Chris Whittle (sp) is running that, and -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see my brilliant interview with Chris Whittle (sp) on One on One?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, I did. That's where I got the idea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Well-stated. Honorable mention --

MR. BARONE: You have so many good ideas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) You can bring a notebook with you, if you want, or a Palm Pilot. Can you function with those? Are you up-to-date on those?

MR. BARONE: I can handle those things.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because I know you're a good historian. I didn't know whether you were up-to-date with your technology. Honorable mention: Eric Weihenmayor, the blind mountain climber who ascended Mount Everest. Get this: His fellow Alpinists carped at him that he should not take such a risk and he should not imperil his fellow climbers. Well, Weihenmayor not only successfully summited, but his expedition returned safely to base camp, which was not the case with crack climber Krakauer. How do you like those apples?

MR. O'DONNELL: Alpinist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Alpinist. A blind --

MR. O'DONNELL: Blind Alpinist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got to the top of Mount Everest.

MR. BARONE: Are you headed there soon?

MS. CLIFT: If he can do it, you can do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that really --

MR. BARONE: I think a lot of people would like you to go to the top of Mount Everest, John.

MR. BLANKLEY: How can you miss the mountain? It's so large.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Do you have any other honorable mentions? You're faltering. Do you?

MR. BARONE: Do I have any other honorable mentions?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Any honorable mentions?

MR. BARONE: Any honorable mentions?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From the catalogue of --

MR. BARONE: Well, I haven't mentioned Mayor Giuliani on this show, who was fabulous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he has a political future?

MR. BARONE: Yes. I think a guy with a 90 percent job rating around the country -- yeah.

MS. CLIFT: And I would also single out Pakistani President Musharraf, who's taken some pretty extraordinary risks on behalf of this country and may have put himself in peril.

MR. O'DONNELL: I agree with Eleanor on that. Dishonorable mention goes to the New York press, none of whom were able to predict that Mike Bloomberg was a serious candidate. They all thought he was going to come in ninth in the mayor's campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. I'd like to repeat what I said on an earlier show, speaking about faults of the press, the under-representation -- the under-publication of the enormous win that the education bill accrued for the president of the United States, who drafted the language.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On page 28 of the New York Times.

MS. CLIFT: But also a win for Senator Ted Kennedy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True, true.

(End of PBS segment.)


END