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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT,
CLARENCE PAGE, AND RICH LOWRY

TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2002
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 23-24, 2002

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Down Mexico way.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) In Monterrey we have a tremendous opportunity to begin acting on a new vision of development. This new vision unleashes the potential of those who are poor instead of locking them into a cycle of dependence.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush is in Monterrey, Mexico, this weekend for a summit with 17 Latin American heads of state and some 30 other world leaders. President Bush will have plenty of face time with his host and compadre, Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Bush had wanted to bring with him a present for Fox, amnesty for tens of thousands of Mexican illegals now living in the U.S. Mr. Bush wanted an immigration amnesty bill signed into law before he went to Mexico. The House passed it two weeks ago by a single vote more than the two-thirds majority required by the procedural rules under which the bill was considered.

Despite that House approval, the measure is almost certainly doomed in the Senate. In the wake of September 11, Senate Democrats as well as Republicans think now is the wrong time to make it easier for illegal aliens to stay in the country. West Virginia Senator and elder statesman Robert Byrd heaped scorn upon Bush for supporting immigration amnesty, and the House for pushing it.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): (From videotape.) The right hand seems to not know what the left hand is doing. It is lunacy -- sheer lunacy -- that the president would request and that the House would pass such an amnesty at this time. That point seems obvious to the American people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does Bush care whether the Senate passes this bill or not? Rich Lowry?

MR. LOWRY: He cares a lot, for a couple reasons. One is it's important to his relationship with Fox. Mexico depends on the remittances sent back to Mexico from Mexicans working here, billions of dollars a year. And also, Bush is just passionately pro-immigration in his heart. The problem is, is that he's pushing against the balance of opinion in his own party and also pushing against the balance of opinion in the country. It does not make sense to most people that we would reward lawbreaking by letting illegal immigrants jump ahead in the queue to get green cards and get legal residency here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Especially after September 11th, right?

MS. CLIFT: Well, if you frame it that way and call it "illegal lawbreakers" and "jumping to the head of the line," of course people are not going to be for it. But these are basically people who have been in this country for some time, who are paying taxes, who are working -- for you, probably -- and performing many jobs in this country. They are valuable contributors to the society. And this is just a recognition of the obvious. And as opposed to forcing them to go back to Mexico, file papers, and then perhaps try to get back in, I think it's a very small step to acknowledging a reality that's in this country.

And I think maybe there's not a large enough Hispanic population in West Virginia, or Senator Byrd might feel differently as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think I'm in trouble now? She's telling me that I'm hiring illegal aliens. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'm sure you're not!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm sure the Social Security payments, all that is completely above board.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to my question? Is Bush -- does Bush care? The argument is that he doesn't care. He knows this is a lost cause. He introduced the proposition before September 11th. He can't sell the Senate on voting for this now after September the 11th. He's in a position of direct inconsistency with the attorney general, who's cracking down on the INS. Do you want the INS to be in a position to judge whether or not these illegal aliens should be given, quote/unquote "amnesty" -- which is really a misphrase, is what it is. It's a special exemption by reason of overstaying.

MR. BLANKLEY: Right. Eleanor is right, the president does care about it; he cares about that vote. They wanted -- the Republicans -- the House -- the White House wanted the Senate to pass it before he left. This is an issue that he's cared about since he was governor of Texas. His brother is married to a Hispanic. I mean, this goes to the core of how the Bushes view this issue. So yeah, he cares about it. But Rich is right that it cuts against the weight of public opinion right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've got more work to do on this. (Laughter.) Let me try then out on you.

My contention is that Karl Rove, his political director, who wants the Hispanic vote, would like nothing better than to have the elder Democratic statesman of the Senate denounce it and kill it. He would put that message out of a Democrat killing the president's bill with a bullhorn in Spanish, if he could.

MR. PAGE: Well, that's true. I think this is a win-win situation for Bush. In political terms, Rove can spin it that way.

But I think Rich is also right, though, when he says that Bush does want this immigration measure to pass. Remember, this is targeted for Mexicans. Last time I checked, Mexicans aren't accused of being the terrorist nation importing mayhem to the country. This is something --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can still get in trouble for hiring illegals, in case you didn't know it.

MR. PAGE: Well, John, you know, that's the point. These are people who are already here. We're talking about are we going to give amnesty to people who are already here and law-abiding, or are we going to waste time and money trying to go chase them all down.

MS. CLIFT: I agree -- I agree --

MR. LOWRY: This is where security comes in, though. The INS messes up because it has too much work.

MR. PAGE: A separate issue. It's a separate issue.

MR. LOWRY: Why does it too much work? Because so many people are flowing into the country.

And you mentioned Karl Rove, John --

MR. PAGE: Which is -- (inaudible) --

MR. LOWRY: You mentioned Karl Rove. The Rove strategy is total folly. Mass Hispanic immigration is hurting Republicans. They've already lost California over it, and Texas is going to slip away next.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let me ask you this question, if you're such a smarty-pants. (Laughter.) Do you think that the Republicans are going to pick up one single vote by pushing this special exemption, so-called "amnesty" for Mexicans?

MR. LOWRY: No, they'll not pick up a vote because Democrats can always outbid them when it comes to this sort of thing. And Hispanics are just Democratic voters. Even at the highest levels of income, Hispanic --

MS. CLIFT: Well, not everywhere!

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got to remember now that this is all politics going into November. It's all politics. And we can see this on another issue coming up.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the key is, is President Bush going to do anything to try to make this pass on Capitol Hill? You know, if he really works at it, maybe he can pull it off.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't have to.

MS. CLIFT: But if he is doing this morally for cynical reasons, he won't get involved, and there's lots of legislation he doesn't get involved in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Feinstein and Boxer will persuade Byrd not to interrupt the passage of the bill, and I think they may be able to rescue it.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Democrats, in other words.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BLANKLEY: Right. Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think they're afraid of their own Hispanic revulsion at the fact that the Democrats were not able to put it through.

MS. CLIFT: Well, not only afraid; they think this is the right thing to do for the fine working people who are here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's going to be a close -- it will probably be a closer call than --

MR. PAGE: Also, we haven't mentioned corporate America, which also favors the reduction in the cost of labor that a free immigration flow brings.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. PAGE: And as far as I know, Bush has never gone against the interests of corporate America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. They're meeting in Monterrey. There are 52 heads of state there. This is a big meeting. They're going to talk about the foreign aid of the United States. The president's going to talk about that. But also we have faced in Latin America what some observers describe as another lost decade. You have Argentina in chaos. You have Venezuela with Chavez down there, and he's -- his popularity is dropping, and there are strong protests against him. And he's an autocrat, if not worse, meeting with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Then you have -- Ecuador's okay, doing well economically. Brazil's doing okay economically, but they're facing a troublesome election. We have got Colombia, which is a disaster. So what do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think this is a difficult period for Latin America. The cone of South America was trying to work out an accord, the Mercantor (sic) plan. That's broken down because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mercosur.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- Mercosur -- because Brazil and Argentina disagree on how they want to move forward. You've got -- Bush was hoping to avoid terrorism in here. You've got the bomb going off, maybe by the Shining -- something left from the Shining Path, in Peru.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Peru.

MR. BLANKLEY: You've got Colombia, where the congress is giving -- is going to give the president permission to send more troops down there and more support to Colombia. So yes -- so --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The hemisphere is not giving off good vibrations south of the border. Right? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: It's in sync with the rest of the world. It's an ugly situation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's an ugly situation.

Do you think that this president -- we had hopes that Ronald Reagan would do things in the hemisphere that would be meaningful and lasting in the area of trade and --

MR. LOWRY: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course, this president is hamstrung because they are -- because they haven't brought forward trade promotion authority, the fast track.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but we -- but there's been a tremendous advance. I mean, having said all that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Your people, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's going to pass before this Congress goes home.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you sure of that?

MS. CLIFT: I'm convinced it's going to pass.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Trent Lott has the funny feeling that --

MS. CLIFT: But it's not going to transform the hemisphere --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Trent Lott has the funny feeling right now that it might be -- possibly be put off yet again --

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because of a convergence -- a bottleneck in the Senate -- contrived bottleneck.

MR. LOWRY: This is a problem, John. I mean, Bush's vision is fundamentally sound. Free trade will have a wonderful effect on the region. Look what NAFTA did to Mexico. But the problem is, Bush has had trouble with the domestic interest groups -- the agricultural interests, the textile interests, and the steel interests. So he talks a great game, but he hasn't been able to deliver on it, and that's why there are going to be a lot of skeptical ears down there when he comes talking about free trade.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean Bush is a protectionist?

MR. LOWRY: No, he's not, but he's not been able to fight off --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: No president keeps a pure record on that. Ronald Reagan, you know, bailed out Harley-Davidson. There are always exceptions to the free-trade practices.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the irony is that 9/11 has given new life to some of the terrorist groups in Latin America. It's sort of a morale booster for them. It's a rather depressing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it pass in the Senate -- yes or no?

MR. PAGE: It will if Bush really pushes for it, but he shouldn't.

MS. CLIFT: It will, and if anybody is creating bottlenecks right now, it's Trent Lott, who's got the most petty, petulant reaction to the defeat of Judge Pickering that I've seen on Capitol Hill for a long time.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think it will not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will not?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think it will not.

MR. LOWRY: I think it won't pass with Democratic help.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the count here? Who's keeping count? (Laughter.)

MR. PAGE: About three to one. Three to one, I believe.

MS. CLIFT: I think there's one negative.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three to one?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't have a swing vote here?

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can safely vote.

MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Either way --

MR. PAGE: Rick Lowry might switch. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's too close to call. (Laughter.)

When we come back: Why did President Bush invite the ruler of Saudi Arabia to his ranch in Texas?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Well, what is it -- a little bit or a lot?

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: (From videotape.) The trip has taken on, I suppose, a little bit of added significance because of the Middle East crisis. We spent a lot of time on the Israeli peace problems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So acknowledged Vice President Cheney this week at the end of his 11-day trip to the Middle East. The purpose of the trip was to build support for a military action against Iraq. But everywhere Cheney went, he heard the same story: The issue that now matters to Middle Eastern leaders is not the threat of Saddam Hussein; it's the bloody Palestinian-Israeli war. Jordan's King Abdullah minced no words in telling Cheney, quote, "To attack Baghdad now would be a disaster. I have told (Mr. Cheney) that the Middle East cannot support two wars at the same time -- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an American intervention against Iraq," unquote.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia -- both strategically located for an Iraqi campaign -- stated flatly that U.S. troops could not use their bases for such an action. Even Kuwait, the nation that the U.S. rescued in 1990's Desert Storm, rejected the idea: quote, "We will not support this (action) against Iraq; not because Iraq is a friend of Kuwait but because the present circumstances are not suitable," Kuwait's foreign minister declared.

Question: The administration put out the word that privately, Arab leaders who met with Cheney were more supportive of action against Iraq, although publicly, they had to speak out against it. Is this true?

Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, they typically play this double game, but I do not believe that in private they gave his administration anywhere near a green light to go ahead with Iraq. I mean, the message clearly is that this country has to get more involved in tamping down the violence between Israel and the Palestinians. It specifically has got to use its leverage with Israel to force Israel to pull back.

And in terms of going against Iraq, I think maybe they would go along with a war of liberation, if you could really, genuinely get the Iraqi people to cheer up, so that -- to rise up and cheer if Americans came in there, but they're not -- this is not Afghanistan. They're not going to be tearing off burqas and jumping for joy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have a question. This will go to your point, I'm sure.

Last month Condoleezza Rice established a sequence of events. Iraq first, Israel-Palestinian second. Today it's Palestinians-Israel first, and Iraq second. She was right on substance, she was wrong on sequence. Correct?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. If -- no, incorrect. If we wait for the Palestinian-Israeli resolution, then we'll wait until one of those sides is mortally defeated by the other.

In fact, if you paid close attention to what Cheney said when he was on the road, he put both Saddam and Arafat under an ultimatum to act. Arafat had a week, a week to wrap up the terrorist network that he runs. When that week runs out, which will be next week, then Arafat is going to be under the same ultimatum that we have against Iraq.

So I think that in spite of a lot of insincere public comments, it's moving along the path that Cheney intended.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This administration has done a complete, 360 -- or 180 -- whatever it is.

MS. CLIFT: One-eighty. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We started off with a hands-off position, then we exacted terms from Arafat under which Cheney would see him, then we got concessions from Sharon, and then we sent Zinni back, and now we are midwifing a resolution to this crisis. So clearly, Cheney, who knows -- and the president know that if they want to invade or do whatever they want to do against Iraq, they must have Turkey and they must have Saudi Arabia. Do you agree with that?

MR. LOWRY: Well, they need one of them. They certainly need Turkey. They probably need Kuwait. Saudi Arabia would be ideal, but if we don't get them, we can still do it. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well let me see if I can change your mind on Saudi Arabia.

Okay, Saudis Reconnected.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States until six weeks ago were in a downslide if not a nosedive. Then in mid-February, Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, floated his "land-for-peace" solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. To wit: Israel pulls back to its 1967 borders, and the Arab countries of the Middle East recognize Israel's full sovereignty.

Since his proposal, the Saudis are back in the U.S.'s good graces. They are inching the peace process forward, important enough for Vice President Cheney to extend an invitation to Crown Prince Abdullah, on behalf of President Bush, to visit the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, next month.

This U.S.-Saudi detente is a relief to the U.S., as well as to the Saudis, not only because of oil but because of our strategic military stronghold on Saudi soil. The new Prince Sultan Air Base, in the middle of the Saudi desert, is vital to America's projection of military might into the Middle East, notably the Persian Gulf. Replacing former military facilities at Dhahran and Riyadh, the Prince Sultan base hosts 5,000 troops of the U.S. Central Command. It's the home to the U.S. Air Force's most diverse composite wing, with more than 70 aircraft of 11 different types. The base is the center of U.S. efforts to identify threats in two of the three members of the axis of evil: Iran and Iraq.

Question: How important is our reliance on Saudi Arabia militarily?

I call on you, General Clarence Page. (Laughter.)

MR. PAGE: There's something backwards about this, John. You say it's not just because of oil but also a strategic military position. Would our military position matter, if it weren't for oil? Would we be there?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you want an answer to that?

MR. PAGE: Yes, sir.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give you an answer to that. Twenty-five percent of our oil now is coming from Saudi Arabia. We have a heavy reliance on Venezuela, I believe on Nigeria and on Mexico.

MR. PAGE: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And there may be -- and Russia -- and Russia. They constitute 49 percent of our dependence on oil, but Saudi Arabia 25 percent. So oil is still important.

MR. LOWRY: Of course it is. That's the reason why we're there, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm telling you that the linchpin of our strategic military projection in that part of the world is that base at Prince Sultan.

MS. CLIFT: John, can I --

MR. PAGE: Toward what goal though? You know, this is like the question of the chicken or the egg. The fact is we have our military bases there to protect our economic interests in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know we have in our midst -- you know we have in our midst Rich Lowry, who decorated, or -- what shall I say? -- desecrated the cover of the National Review with the most hideous caricature of the crown prince, de facto ruler -- (inaudible) --

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.) John, but let me address --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you have to say about this?

MR. LOWRY: Let me address this. The base is not worth anything to us if they won't let us use it. And they consistently put all sorts of restrictions on us, when we want to fly over Iraq, when we want to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan. And the fact is, John, that base may be important in the short run, but in the long term, we can go elsewhere. We can have bases in Iraq after we take --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. The hard-liners are all very dismissive of Saudi Arabia. They say we can get oil out of Russia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.

MS. CLIFT: And I think it's a very dangerous -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And we all know --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- we all know -- we all know, with the crown prince's visit to Crawford and the ranchette, all of this is changed and everything's back to normal, and we have our bait.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, and -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: See you in court.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER THOMAS DASCHLE (D-SD): (From videotape.) Let us take the power away from special interests and give it back today, to the American people where it belongs.

SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D-NJ): (From videotape.) This is an extraordinary victory for the controlling of campaign fundraising.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (From videotape.) With a stroke of the president's pen, we will eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars of unregulated soft money that has caused Americans to question the integrity of their elected representatives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There were smiles and self-congratulation on Capitol Hill this week as campaign finance reform passed the Senate 60-40. But the Senate McCain-Feingold and the House Shays-Meehan bills have further to go.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): (From videotape.) We'll be going to court soon. We'll have an announcement on what I believe will be an exciting legal team, representing both the right and the left, in the very near future. And hopefully -- you never know what happens when you go to court, but hopefully, we'll be able to remedy the most egregious provisions by getting them struck down.

SEN. PHIL GRAMM (R-TX): (From videotape.) This bill is as blatantly unconstitutional as any bill which has ever been written, any bill which has ever been adopted by the Congress of the United States.

SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R-UT): (From videotape.) The amount of money in politics will not diminish as a result of this bill. It will simply stop flowing to political parties, where it is regulated and reported, and start flowing into dark corners, where we will have no idea how it is gathered, we will have no idea who is behind it, and we will see it pop up in campaigns in ways that political parties would never use it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush says he'll sign the bill into law.

Question: What mostly fueled passage of this bill? Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the conventional answer is the Exxon -- the --

MS. CLIFT: Enron.

MR. PAGE: Enron.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- the Enron case. The real thing that fueled it was a complete lack of support for the First Amendment freedom of speech --

MR. LOWRY (?): Hear, hear. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and the willingness of everyone from the president through House and the Senate to throw it away --

MR. LOWRY (?): Hear! Hear!

MR. BLANKLEY: -- out of political expediency. And it's going to come back to bite a lot of people on the bottom. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: That's nonsense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It wasn't only Enron. It was Arthur Andersen and it was Global Crossing.

MS. CLIFT: And it was Senator John McCain's celebrity and the fact that he really stuck with this. It's his singular achievement. And it is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would it have gone over the edge -- would it have made it into a vote if there were no Enron and if there were no Andersen?

MS. CLIFT: No. If Enron hadn't happened, it would still be bottled up in the House of Representatives.

But it is not blatantly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has said it's okay to put limits on contributions. If -- where it will be challenged is probably in the special interest group advertising, but they may still be required to disclose where they get their money from and how much.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with you, but -- and I think if, on any given --

MS. CLIFT: So parts of this bill are going to survive.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with you. On any given day, five members of the Supreme Court could easily find this constitutional, and that's why it's scandalous what's happened.

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's how George Bush became president, too. (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: It's also shameful -- it's shameful that President Bush is signing a bill that he himself considers unconstitutional, without ever having tried to do anything to strip the unconstitutional parts out of it. It is irresponsible for a highest elected official in the land.

MS. CLIFT: He's a politician, Rich! (Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. We have -- we got to get out. Give me a quick prediction.

Rich Lowry.

MR. LOWRY: By the end of the year, Saddam Hussein is out of power -- a big blow to Crown Prince Abdullah and other radicals in the Middle East.

MS. CLIFT: When George H.W. Bush weighs in on that ranch visit when the crown prince arrives, this administration is not going to be so hostile towards Saudi Arabia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

MR. BLANKLEY: Saudi Arabia will not be considered a strategic ally for us.

MR. PAGE: Bush will resume the shoot-downs of drug planes over Peru.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best director: Ron Howard. Best actor: Russell Crowe. Bye-bye!

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: nautical neuters.

(Music.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Political correctness has launched a torpedo into a sea of tradition. What's the tradition? The gender of ships -- namely, calling ships "she" and "her." The revered British newspaper for seafarers, Lloyd's List, will start referring to ships as "it" beginning on Easter. The reason: "To bring the paper into line with most other reputable international business titles."

Reaction? "It" should be torpedoed. Keep "she." Keep "her."

"You can say it's a small thing, but small things mount up. Political correctness should be resisted at every turn. We will continue to refer to ships as 'she.' " So declares the Greenwich Maritime Museum.

And the British Royal Navy dropped its depth charge on the "it over she" outrage: "Lloyd's List is at liberty to do what they like, but the navy intends to continue in a tradition that goes back centuries, if not millennia. It's not just a sentimental thing but a part of culture," said a spokesman -- I beg your pardon -- spokesperson from the navy.

Question: Back in the '80s, we abandoned exclusively naming hurricanes after women, despite the similarity, Eleanor. (Laughter.)

So is it just a bit overdue, Clarence?

MR. PAGE: Well, we still call them "hurricanes," not "him-icanes." (Laughs.) Let's remember that, right? So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In history --

MR. PAGE: That's right. That's right. I think -- you know, the idea of naming a ship or referring to a ship in the feminine form goes back to the notion that captains were always men. And if that is the message, then that's a sad message.

I think -- frankly, I think God in his total wisdom will sort this out. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are we going to do -- what are we going to do, Tony, with the phrase "mother ship"? Are we going to call it "nurturing ship"? Are we going to call it "care-giver ship"? How are we going to handle that?

MR. BLANKLEY: I guess on this theory it would be "parent ship."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Parent ship?

MR. BLANKLEY: Parent ship, I would assume.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about sportsmanship? Is it going to be "sportspersonship?"

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. You know, there's a story that when the ravens leave London Tower, that will be the end of the British monarchy. And I wonder whether in fact it will be when we stop naming the ships "she". (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, feminine deconstructionists -- maybe that includes you, Eleanor, I don't know -- feminine deconstructionists claim that there is a nuance, a gender nuance embedded in words like "history" and "sportsmanship." Now, what do they do when they're faced with a language like Italian or French where you have words which have gender? What do they do in that regard?

MS. CLIFT: Well, they obviously have not mounted a revolt. You know, there are some things to get worked up over, but I don't think this is one of them. I think the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with the --

MS. CLIFT: I think the naming of ships goes back to the days of Galahad and gallantry when women weren't allowed on ships. It was a sop to women. You know, a ship is clearly an "it" --

MR. LOWRY: What?

MS. CLIFT: -- I prefer to call it an "it." I still call Reagan National Airport "National Airport." So some traditions I'm not going to abandon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will you fight against or argue against calling ships "she" and "her"?

MS. CLIFT: No, I have better things to do than that.

MR. LOWRY: I think that's a --

MS. CLIFT: If some guys want to keep doing that, that's up to them.

MR. LOWRY: That's an ungenerous interpretation of what's going on. I think it's a term of affection. Ships are things that men worry about, that they love --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, ho! That's even sicker than I thought! (Laughter.)

MR. LOWRY: -- and so when they personify them, then it could be a feminine personification.

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