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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT,
PAT BUCHANAN AND CLARENCE PAGE

TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2002
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 16-17, 2002

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: "Plenty hot."

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I was stunned and not happy. Let me put it another way: I was -- I was plenty hot.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER TOM DASCHLE (D-SD): (From videotape.) For the life of me, I can't understand how something like that can happen.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This outrage was provoked by the incredible foul-up at the Immigration and Naturalization Service revealed this week. Last Monday, six months to the day after the September 11th horror, INS student visa notices for foreigners Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi were received by a Florida flight school. Atta, the U.S. al Qaeda mastermind, and al-Shehhi are two of the 9/11 terrorists that sent 3,000 Americans to their death.

The embarrassment to the Bush administration was extreme, and it stretched out in all directions.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT: (From videotape.) Fortunately, I only damaged the television set in a minor way when I got the news, which was rather infuriating, that the letter had been sent to the flight schools.

A breakdown of this kind is inexcusable, in my judgment. Now the INS has a very difficult job to do, and it's suffered from decades of mismanagement. But we will correct these problems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Members of Congress were apoplectic.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA): (From videotape.) Basically, we're talking about a horse-and-buggy technology over at the INS at a time of information technology and real-time capability. That has to stop.

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): (From videotape.) This system is broke, and this agency is broke and needs to be fixed and fixed now.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R-CO): (From videotape.) To suggest that there's some degree of true conscientiousness with the INS is ludicrous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: As a result of Monday's INS fiasco, five INS bureaucrats have been reassigned! Can we now take comfort that an INS overhaul is underway? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: That should pretty much fix it up, John. (Laughter.) John, if this weren't so tragic and serious, it would really be comic, but the truth is, U.S. immigration policy overall is the Fulda Gap of homeland security. We've got between eight and 11 million illegal aliens in this country. Three-hundred thousand have been ordered deported and disappeared; 6,000 of those are from al Qaeda countries. I think the United States has got a grave problem here, and this was not helped by Mr. Bush this week giving amnesty to 1 million illegal aliens and the Republican House doing the same. This country is not only an international flop house; it's becoming a crash pad for terrorists, and the United States had better get on this, because this is the real hole in the homeland security of this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we know where those 6,000 al Qaeda adherents are?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, we don't. There are 300,000 people ordered deported who have disappeared into the population -- 6,000 from countries that house al Qaeda. The attorney general is putting them at the top of the list, but those folks are still wandering around this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Wonderfully provocative language, which you're famous for, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Thank you, Eleanor. (Chuckles.)

MS. CLIFT: But the challenge here is to (separate ?) out the few bad seeds from the millions of immigrants that have made this country continue to be the lifeblood. The INS is a mess. President Bush has to take responsibility for what happens in this government; there needs to be a major shakeup -- maybe dividing it. It can't be both a welcoming agency for immigrants and an enforcement agency.

Secondly, tracking student visas: The colleges have been a major obstacle here. They don't want to rat out -- foreign students are a cash cow for American universities, so there's plenty of blame to go around.

MR. BUCHANAN (?): There is.

MS. CLIFT: But for the money that's being spent on anything related to terrorism, it's stunning to me that it hasn't found its way to the INS and that somebody who knows how to manage an agency isn't in charge.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, to answer your question, moving five bureaucrats is not going to make any difference. Look. In 1996, Congress appropriated money for the INS to redo their computers. Half a decade later, they still haven't done that. In that same time period, the Internet essentially came up from nothing to being able to process all the data it does on a daily basis. There's no excuse for the current system's failure as far as particularly tracking paperwork in this one. Now, when it comes to tracking where the individuals go once they get into the country, that's a bigger challenge.

I happen to agree, by the way, with Pat completely that the president made a bad mistake when he, and the Congress, the House, this week voted to give amnesty to illegal entrants. I think although there are lots of good political reasons to do so --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Like what? Latino vote.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BLANKLEY: But having said that, it's not enough to go against the basic principles of obeying the law, and I think it's going to come back to haunt us that -- when that decision was made.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, welcome.

MR. PAGE: Thank you very much, John.

I think we do have bureaucratic problems. We've got systemic problems. And there's been a culture change, too, with 9/11. Prior to that, with the prosperity of the '90s, there was not a sense that the open, y'all come attitudes toward immigration were harmful. And still, there is a lot more good, with all due deference to my friend Pat. This country continues to prosper because of our new immigrants coming in and adding resources, lifeblood, keeping our cities alive.

MR. BUCHANAN: How do you keep these open borders --

MR. PAGE: At the same time, we need to separate out the bad apples -- (inaudible).

MR. BLANKLEY: But the point is, until the INS can function so we can manage the border, we can't make policy on whether to let 5 million, 5,000 people in because we have no control.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you've got al Qaeda cells in 60 countries. They are all over Europe. Of course, Europe is wide open, like we are. You cannot conduct an open-borders immigration policy and fight a war on terror around the world. The Bush administration --

MS. CLIFT: We don't have an open-borders policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- has got one foot --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Bush administration has got one foot in pre-September 11, and one foot in post, and the immigration policy has got to be brought across that line.

MS. CLIFT: I want to defend the Republican House of Representatives for passing that amnesty bill.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why did they do it?

MS. CLIFT: That is for Mexican immigrants only, and it's to allow them to apply for residency in this country without having to go back to Mexico without any guarantee they could get back --

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor, they broke in!

MR. BLANKLEY: But there are hundreds --

MS. CLIFT: It's a good bill.

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second. Wait, wait. There are hundreds of thousands --

MS. CLIFT: It's a relatively small step. And I haven't noticed any Mexican al Qaeda members.

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- thank you.

MR. BLANKLEY: There are hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Mexicans who want to come, who are waiting in line, obeying American law, and we're saying the people who broke the law get to jump to the front of the line. It's not respectful of our own laws.

MS. CLIFT: It's a respectful of reality.

MR. PAGE: But in my opinion, in most of these cases, it's not worth it to try to round up all of those people and kick them out of the country when they're going to be coming right back in anyway. We're talking about a technical amnesty being awarded here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does any --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's saying you can't defend your borders. If you can't, then you're going to lose the war on terror.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see any inconsistency in a Cabinet meeting with President Bush wherein President Bush and Ashcroft concur that it's a good idea to reward illegal Mexican immigrants, to get special treatment in visa applications, and then they pretend to be shocked when the INS sends a routine, if late, visa notice to a flight school?

MR. BUCHANAN: The president's done a good job in this war, but that decision has undermined the rule of law --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see any inconsistency there?

MR. BUCHANAN: It -- not only it's inconsistent, John; he's undermined the rule of law --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: Well, somebody at the INS didn't read the newspapers after September 11, apparently.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Some senators are calling for the resignation of INS chief Ziglar. Should he quit, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I'd give him another chance. He's not at fault here, but he's not in control yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I'd like to know a little more about Mr. Ziglar. Is he put there as a political favor, or does he have real management expertise? You know, I think these jobs should not be given to political friends. They need to go to people who really know what they're doing.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me answer your question.

MS. CLIFT: And so far, the evidence is that he doesn't.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me answer a question. He does have management experience. Prior to the time when he was the sergeant of arms of the Senate, I understand he had substantial management experience.

Having said that, he needs the president behind him in order to get the kind of reforms -- and the attorney general -- in a heavy commitment to quick reform, because this system is not going to be fixed by a mere director trying to change things by himself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's only a question of underfunding, understaffing, undertechnology?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, the whole culture.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there is any corruption at the INS?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, look, there's lots of corruption. But that's not the fundamental problem. The fundamental problem is, the mentality and culture of this whole town has infused through the INS, which is, "Don't worry about it; we don't care." If we care, we'll start making changes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before I hear your learned opinion, class, I want to quote from a former INS inspector, who wrote this: "It is an agency doomed to fail. The organizational structure is rife with nepotism, corruption, and incompetence. The INS gave up on safeguarding America's borders a long time ago. The institutional paralysis that plagues the service may be partly responsible for the September 11th tragedy." This gentleman is a former INS inspector, Marco Fernandez (sp), in Laredo, Texas.

Now we uttered that on this program in discussing the extensive problem in the INS in November. So this is not news to us.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know the problem.

MR. BUCHANAN: The INS has been, I'll bet -- if it weren't, completely demoralized by this amnesty, and so is the Border Patrol, who risk their lives to protect the borders.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think the impact of the amnesty is on our boys and girls overseas, men and women overseas, in the service?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think the real impact is on the folks on the border, who risk their lives to protect the borders.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you think they feel about it? How do they --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- impact of an amnesty --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do they feel about an amnesty?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think they're appalled by it, John.

MS. CLIFT: I don't --

MR. PAGE: A lot of those folks in the service are Mexican-Americans --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. PAGE: -- (chuckling) -- who came here themselves or have relatives who are getting amnesty, John. This is more complicated --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think they like the idea?

MR. PAGE: This is more complicated than you think.

I think, you know, what's going to happen is the typical Washington response will be to dump Ziglar, make a scapegoat out of him, when in fact the whole system needs to be looked at again, in light of September 11th. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly. Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: Well, maybe they need --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clearly there's a whipping boy here somewhere.

MR. PAGE: Yeah. That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's unfortunate, and I don't think Ziglar should go.

MR. PAGE: But we're not going to get the Buchanan fence, Pat. I'm sorry. (Laughter, cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: You got it. Go out to San Diego. It's already built. That's why they're coming two hours --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- do you think --

MR. PAGE: All they're doing is enforcing the laws that already exist --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that there -- I don't he should go. Do you think there is a mental outlook, a -- what? A habitus of mind, as the scholastic philosophers would put it, Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly, exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- as you know from your years at Georgetown, before you were bounced out. (Laughter.) Right?

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now is there on the part on the INS the attitude that we are welcoming people, that we are in --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, we got --

MS. CLIFT: Well, they have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. They are facilitating their entry, instead of saying --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should their attitude be, rather, "Why are you coming here?"

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "What are you going to do here? Where can you be reached here?"

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "What will be your address here?"

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. There are -- this thing is at war with itself. Part of it is the social welfare -- come on in, let's take care of these folks. The other part is, we're supposed to protect our borders. Maybe it ought to be cut in half, as Mr. Sensenbrenner suggests, and part of it used as a security --

MS. CLIFT: Right. Right. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly, because they have a confused mission.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They should be screening, Eleanor. That's their job, screening, not welcoming.

MS. CLIFT: Well, welcoming is part of their function. You've forgotten the history of this country, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, that's not the INS function.

MS. CLIFT: But they need --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the function of the chamber of commerce. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: That's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back, is Arthur Andersen too big to fail?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Israel At War

(Begin videotape.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: Frankly, it's not helpful what the Israelis have recently done in order to create conditions for peace. I understand someone trying to defend themselves and to fight terror. But the recent actions aren't helpful.

(End videotape.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Twice at the White House press conference this week, President Bush called Israel's incursion into the West Bank and Gaza with 150 tanks and armored vehicles, plus helicopters, plus naval bombardment not helpful. That emphasis from the president marked a less-than-subtle shift in the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, namely, faulting Israel's conduct. A further signal of this policy mutation came Tuesday night when the U.S.-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the creation of a Palestinian state, a position not hitherto taken by the U.S., passed 14-0.

Currently, Vice President Cheney is touring the Middle East. He's trying to remobilize support for the war against terrorism. That may be the real reason for Mr. Bush's intensification of his efforts to curb, if not end, the Arab-Israeli conflict. While skirting any admission that al Qaeda is linked to the Israel conflict, Mr. Cheney is hearing again, everywhere he goes, from the region's leaders that if you don't stop the Arab-Israeli war, you won't stop terrorism.

Egyptian President Mubarak said flat out earlier that terrorism would be cut by 50 percent if the Arab-Israeli conflict were to end, adding this comment this week:

(Begin videotape.)

EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK: None of us can tolerate the continuation of that situation.

(End videotape.)

And, Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, says that terrorism's roots go back to Israel's taking of Arab land in the 1967 war, holding onto it, and the ensuing horrible conflict, and that if Israel were to pull back to its '67 borders, Abdullah will get the entire Arab mid-East to recognize Israel's sovereignty. Abdullah says he can deliver that at the Arab League summit in Beirut, two weeks from now, with Arafat okayed by Sharon to attend. There is no way, these leaders believe, that Osama bin Laden, or his Palestinian equivalent could recruit such an array of self-immolating fanatics, including two women, without the perverse stimulus of this ongoing and wretched war.

Question: Can Bush convince our Arab coalition partners to decouple support for military action against Iraq from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. You with me, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I'm with you. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: I don't think so. I think the administration has been so mesmerized by its interest in going into Iraq that it is only now coming to grips with what's going on in the Middle East. And the reason that they are now taking a harder line towards Israel is because Israel is blocking any progress towards getting the Arab allies together. And no progress have ever been made towards Middle East peace without intervention by an American president. And so that's got to come first before they can even think about going into Iraq, or they're going to trigger a complete conflagration in the region.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the president is in denial on this question of the linkage between the two? The linkage is founded in the supposition that Osama bin Laden would not have the recruiting power to get the al Qaeda in such numbers and with such a degree of self-immolating dedication were it not for their emotional and passionate reaction to the suffering their brother Arabs, as they see it. And therefore, the two are linked.

Now is Bush -- Bush is wedded to keeping one on one track and one on another.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't accept the assumption in your question. Al Qaeda has support in Indonesia, in Malaysia, in the Philippines, in Pakistan. None of them are Arabs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they don't self-immolate.

MR. BLANKLEY: Specifically to the question you ask, can those two tracks be separated, yes. I believe that what the Arab princes want to hear from Cheney is that he will -- we will finish the job against Saddam, and that as long as we get rid of him, they'll acquiesce in our efforts.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, I think there is a separation here. Al Qaeda is getting Islamic terrorists, anti-American, partly because of Saudi Arabia and the infidels there. And then there is Palestinian terrorism because the Israelis are basically occupying 100 percent of Palestine and forcing them to live in this small area. But I do believe this: The president has got to make I think now a big move, and what he ought to do is what the crown prince did. He ought to stand up and say, "Look, here is America's idea of what is a just resolution of this crisis," and separate ourselves from Sharon and from the Palestinians.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Mubarak should -- (inaudible) -- when he said you can cut terrorism, al Qaeda fashion of terrorism 50 percent if you stop the war in Israel.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think he could stop 75 percent of the Palestinian terrorism. I don't know about al Qaeda, which is a separate animal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: If the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is in fact linked, as described in this segment, to the terrorism war, does President Bush have a mandate, not an option, to stop the Arab-Israeli war to the extent that he can possibly do so?

MR. BUCHANAN: He certainly does, John, because there's no question but that if he pursues an honorable peace there and is perceived as doing that, he will ease a lot of our problems in the Middle East and he will have more Arab support. But I think Tony is right, he's going to have -- if he's going to Iraq, he's going to have to do it alone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He can't do it alone.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, no -- (inaudible) -- the enemy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He can't do it by amphibious landings and take-offs from aircraft carriers.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got to have the Turks and he's got to have Yemen, but he'll do it alone if he has to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Turkey is not going along with that. They will not accept a decoupling.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes they will, as long --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Saudi won't go along. We have this huge base there that they moved from Dahran --

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second, as long -- as long --

MS. CLIFT: The situation in the Middle East has now gotten so bad, I'm not sure that even without physical intervention, military intervention by the U.S., -- (inaudible) -- of a U.N. resolution, whether we can separate those two people.

MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor is exactly --

MS. CLIFT: But I don't think it's going to stop this administration from going forward, and they may go forward without any Arab help, in terms of Iraq.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: And it is very dangerous.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thirty years -- you don't even see linkage, so he certainly has no mandate to stop --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, putting aside the mandate, it doesn't matter whether he's got a mandate. I don't believe they can impose peace absent, as Eleanor said, by actual American military intervention, because we're not in the middle of a peace process; we're in the middle of a war process. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis would rather continue the status quo than accept the peace that would be available.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did that piece overstate the linkage?

MR. BLANKLEY: They're both deeply --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did that piece overstate the linkage?

MR. PAGE: I think, John, that it might've been a little larger in your presentation than it is in real life.

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- that way. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

Elaine Ciliano (sp), who works for the New York Times -- and she set up those fabulous interviews with the crown prince and the New York Times' Friedman and the gentleman from the Washington Post -- she was over there for a month at the end of January and February. And she says, "Around the clock, what they see on television is Israelis pummeling Palestinians."

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this groundswell is what the crown prince fears, because it's destabilizing to his government.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's why he's in the act. So they're all linked.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Andersen angst!

LARRY THOMPSON (deputy attorney general): (From videotape.) Today we are unsealing an indictment obtained last week from a federal grand jury in Houston, Texas, charging the Arthur Andersen partnership with obstruction of justice for destroying literally tons of paper documents and other electronic information related to the Enron inquiries.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This unprecedented DOJ indictment could make huge ripples. Anderson is a partnership, not a corporation, so all 1,700 of Andersen's U.S. partners could all be held criminally responsible for the admitted bad acts of a handful -- a grave misfortune for its still 2,300 U.S. clients -- 20 percent of the publicly traded companies in the U.S.

The shock waves from that will be felt far beyond corporate boardrooms and resonate in Congress and on Wall Street. The firm is more embattled than ever: Merger talks with two of the other four Big Five accounting firms collapsed; 20 big corporate clients have walked from Andersen, most recently Merck, Delta and FedEx.

If bankruptcy happens, the funds to pay back Enron, Sunbeam and other shareholders damaged by Andersen's flawed audits will vanish, along with the equity of the firm's partners, to say nothing of the 85,000 Anderson employees whose livelihood is already in the balance.

We are all agreed that Arthur Andersen cannot survive.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's doomed.

MR. PAGE (?): Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we agreed that anyone's going to go to jail?

Pat Buchanan? Exit question.

MR. BUCHANAN: No. No, we're not agreed. But this is a horrible, horrible tragedy. Eighty-five thousand people are going to suffer. Four thousand partners wiped out, not because they did anything wrong, but because a couple of cowboys couldn't live on $400 an hour.

MS. CLIFT: The first indictment just goes after the company, which opens the door to the Nuremberg defense, "I took orders from the nameless, evil company." But the Justice Department is not going to stop here. David Duncan, Houston office of Andersen, is going to -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the Enron folk, watching what happened with the Justice Department and Andersen -- what's going through their heads now?

MR. BLANKLEY: They're going to want to cut their deals with the Justice Department because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we're going to have whistle-blowers all over.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- right now there are people from Andersen trying to cut a deal with them.

MR. PAGE: You will soon hear names being named, and then it's possible indictments and possible --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm happy to say you are all correct.

When we come back, we will have predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: In the name of compassionate conservatism, Mr. Bush is going to give $5 billion more in foreign aid. He shouldn't get it, and he won't get it, from Congress.

MS. CLIFT: Fallout from the defeat of Judge Pickering could cost the Democratic governor of Mississippi his reelection.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Democratic Senate and the House will fail to be able to come up with a budget proposal.

MR. PAGE: The Zinni peace mission is going to fail.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The environmentalists have out-lobbied the Teamsters.

Bye-bye.


®FC¯END OF REGULAR SEGMENT
PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS

®FL¯

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: War numbers. Recent polling.

Question: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the U.S. campaign against terrorism?"

Answer: Approve, 88 percent.

What does this poll tell you?

I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it tells me, obviously, that any criticism, like Senator Daschle's, of any aspect of Bush's war-fighting strategy is going to be extremely difficult to make politically. That's useful for the president, it's not necessarily wonderful for the country. There should be some role for dissent. This could almost suppress dissent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the CBS airing of the 9/11 documentary has influenced this poll any? Do you want to address that, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think we just came through the six-month anniversary and we've been re-reminded of what this country faces. But, you know, those poll numbers are predicated on the fact that there hasn't been another attack. And so that's almost a definition of success.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question.

MS. CLIFT: And I hope it continues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to --

MR. PAGE: The thing we don't know is how deep that 88 percent is. A lot of that is good, patriotic solidarity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to advance these polls, and perhaps you'll see the depth of this opinion.

Question: "Do you think the United States has to capture or kill Osama bin Laden for the war on terrorism to be a success?"

Answer: Without him, 53 percent. With bin Laden, 44 percent.

What does that poll tell you?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it doesn't make much sense. I mean, if we -- well, look. I guess these people feel --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want me to repeat the poll for you?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. Well, the numbers are a little backwards, I think. But look. Clearly, most Americans think we've got to kill bin Laden for it to be -- no, don't have to kill him for it to be a success, but they definitely want him killed. But my view is, bin Laden's probably gone.

And I don't agree with the poll. I think the president's got a success already in Afghanistan in knocking off the Taliban, smashing al Qaeda. And frankly, if there's another major attack, Eleanor, I think the president's support will go up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, what I think it points to is the brilliant job of, shall we say, affecting public opinion on the importance of Osama bin Laden, affected by this administration. He started off by saying we're going to smoke him out, we're going to hunt him down, and we're going to get him. And now, quote-unquote, he's marginalized.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he may be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, and everybody I think has come around to that opinion.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think they have. I think they have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's a brilliant job --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's good public relations.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's good public relations, but more than that, it's basically reality. The truth was, at first, all we knew about was bin Laden. Now, as the war's gone on, we're seeing the dimensions of the effort. We recognize that it's al Qaeda we have to get, not just one man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: And bin Laden may be the engine of their fanaticism, but there are others waiting in the wings to replace him. And I think we realize that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, now here -- this is directed, and it's going to give a great deal of comfort to Tony. Question: Would you favor or oppose having U.S. forces take military action against Iraq to force Saddam Hussein from power? Favor, Tony, 72 percent. What you're saying on this program is working. What does that poll tell you?

MR. BLANKLEY: It tells me that the fear of terrorist attack driven by possible weapons of mass destruction coming out of Iraq is central to the president's support for the invasion of Iraq, because if it wasn't for that fear, I don't think the numbers would be that high.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, John, you still need --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But don't forget, he tried to assassinate Bush 41.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but you still need -- look, you still need a national debate on that issue, and you still need a declaration of war before you widen the war to attack Iraq if they're not connected to September 11th.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the country's becoming jingoistic?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the country is hawkish as it can be, but we still should have a debate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they also nativist, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: They're -- (laughs) -- yes. I mean, their Buchananite, not nativist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, reach for the musket on the wall, right?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Get this. Get this, Tony. You'll get more comfort from this. The 72 percent who support an attack on Iraq were asked this question: If you favor military action against Iraq, should the U.S. act even if allies are opposed to it, act unilaterally? Seventy-seven percent say go for unilateral action.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. The central fact is the public recognizes the danger and is prepared to do what it takes.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, that's easy to say, but to quote the secretary of State, Colin Powell, where's the plan? They have not been able to come up with a plan that makes any kind of sense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's the recent emphasis on a potential nuclear strike that we've been hearing about in the revision of U.S. government policy on nuclear?

MS. CLIFT: I think it's a pretty terrifying route that this administration is taking by making nuclear weapons thinkable by talking about creating a new generation of nuclear weapons.


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