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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: MORT ZUCKERMAN, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND PAT BUCHANAN

TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 5, 2002
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 6-7, 2002

.STX


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Arafat Super-Martyr.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT (former secretary of State): (From videotape.) Obviously we understand why Israel has to defend itself from these suicide bombers, but that the tactics that have been chosen are in fact creating the opposite of what they want. They are making Arafat the super-martyr, and he is getting more and more international attention. And it just makes him much more attractive in many ways to those people who don't like what Israel is doing. So the tactics that Sharon has chosen I think are not suiting what he wants to accomplish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The tables have turned on Ariel Sharon -- and he turned them, a role reversal of his own doing. So, it is not Arafat who is the extremist -- it is Sharon. The mighty hand of Israel inflicted what could be a deadly wound on its own body politic. Many believe smashing into major cities in the Palestinian homeland with a massive, violent and dispersed offensive, Israel has spread unforgettable TV images: Arafat holed up with a cell phone and a candle in Ramallah; Israeli tanks in Bethlehem, the city of Christ's birth; resistance crushed in Nablus, the West Bank's largest city, and now historic Hebron, the resting place of Abraham, crawling with deadly armor.

The brutal offensive provoked an uncharacteristically stinging admonition from United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

KOFI ANNAN (From videotape.): I have also consistently voiced criticism over Israel's use of disproportionate lethal force, especially in civilian-populated areas in response to these attacks. Such use of force will bring neither peace nor security to Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush issued a striking reiteration of U.N. resolutions seldom uttered by a U.S. official, calling for Israel to withdraw from all the territories occupied in 1967, echoing the peace plan set forth by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop, and the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognized boundaries consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From the Vatican came a Papal rebuke of Sharon. Quote: "The Pope rejects the unjust and humiliating conditions imposed on the Palestine people as well as reprisals and revenge attacks which do nothing but feed the sense of frustration and hatred."

Does Sharon even want peace, many ask? U.S. Envoy General Zinni was blocked by Sharon from visiting Chairman Arafat. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana was also blocked. Journalists have been blocked from covering Ramallah -- at least three were shot. In the front-line Arab states on which the U.S. depends in its war against terrorism, leaders condemn the quote/unquote "inhuman siege" and want an end to the military offensive.

"The current policy of the Israeli government will only contribute to deepening the sentiment of hatred of some 300 million Arabs towards the state of Israel and those who support its current policies," says President Mubarak of Egypt.

With the policies of this government so unpopular, the question being asked now is not whether Arafat is a partner for peace but whether Sharon is.

MR. : (from videotape) Mr. Ariel Sharon never supported any peaceful thing. Mr. Sharon since the beginning of his career was a man of blood, of violence, of attack, of you know name it. We don't want to deal with this man. This man is wicked.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Whom did Operation Protective Wall really isolate? Arafat or Sharon? Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there's no doubt it has isolated Sharon, John. When the president of the United States told him to pull out of the -- or stop building settlements and pull back and to get on the peace track and get on the negotiation track, he has scheduled a head-on collision with Ariel Sharon on this. And I think the president is going to have a great deal of difficulty trying to get Sharon to do that. Sharon has opposed Oslo. He opposed the Saudi plan. He opposed the Barak plan. He opposes land for peace. And I don't think the president can break Ariel Sharon on this. But I do think he's scheduled a confrontation with him immediately down this road.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, at week's end, the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, had intensified their activity, not ended it as the president called for. Your thoughts, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, like it or not, Sharon's behavior here has cast Israel has a pariah state in the eyes of the world. And you have a situation where it's Sharon and the U.S. basically against everybody else, which is exactly what bin Laden wanted.

Now, the president didn't wake up one day and just discover that Sharon is a bad actor in this drama. He came to realize that his agenda with Iraq, his war on terrorism, has all jeopardized his foreign policy for the rest of his term -- possibly his reelection all depends on how -- whether he can contain what's going on in the Middle East. So I think this is a seminal moment for the Bush presidency, and I can see more sort of grimacing or grinning over here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean a crossroads? A crossroads?

MS. CLIFT: It's definitely a crossroads, because he had no other choice but to get engaged. And I think if the secretary of State can really bang some heads over there -- not only Arafat -- I mean, it's now Israel has got to pull back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think the president uttered a bold statement?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but they're just words. And I agree with Pat -- I think Sharon has shown no history of bowing to any kind of international pressure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, look, the PR business is transitory. The fundamental facts at play, whether Sharon is popular or unpopular this week, whether Arafat is popular -- Arafat is not going to deal peace. As a result of this coming awareness, we are not at the point -- it is a seminal moment when we realize the whole Oslo process was fated to fail because one party, Arafat's side, refuses to get peace. So I believe that what's happened is the president's speech was essentially -- we understood in the first half of his speech where his sentiments are -- he recognizes that Arafat is a terrorist -- he is no good any more. He has indicated it's time for another leader. And then in the closing part -- this was transactional with all our friends -- our friends, whether it's Jordan or Egypt or Britain or France -- they were hysterical this week. And as a result for transactional purposes the president had to throw them the bone and say, Okay, I think they understand that Powell will probably fail, and it's a price they are going to have to pay in order to calm things down a little bit amongst their friends so they can eventually move forward on what the president's primary objective is, which is fighting terrorism, probably in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Apparently you don't think there will be a regional war? You don't think this will drag --

MR. BLANKLEY: There may well be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- this won't drag Syria into it? It won't drag Lebanon?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- despite the riotous demonstrations that are occurring in Cairo, and Amman and in Beirut?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think -- I think there's a plausible chance that the Jordanian government could fall. I mean, they are the most vulnerable government to fall. I believe --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, won't that be a pretty picture?

MR. BLANKLEY: If -- look, we have a series of ugly, uglier and ugliest choices right now. But I don't think Israel is going to capitulate. And interestingly, at least so far, since the Israeli forces have gone in there have been no suicide bombs. So it's having some effect.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And if that continues, then of course the glare will continue to be on Sharon, and not on Arafat. Morton?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, I think we should understand where this all started. It started with a wave of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings that were the equivalence of a 9-11 attack on Israel every week -- no open democratic society can survive that. They finally had to respond. And they had to respond because Arafat refused to respond. When Zinni came out in the middle of March, he offered a cease-fire. The Israelis accepted it. Arafat refused. The Israelis gave him intelligence -- gave Arafat intelligence about two different terrorist bombings that were -- that they had intelligence on. In one of them they gave the intelligence to the two bombers in order to help them evade the Israelis. That one the Israelis managed to stop. But the other one in fact he blew up the cafe in Jerusalem. So what you have is a situation where they had no cooperation from the Palestinians on the control of terrorism. They were getting terrorist attacks every day, and they had to respond. This is their response to root out -- they are not going to root out everything -- they know they are not -- but they are going to root out the people who make the bombs and plan the bombing attacks. And not every one of those.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So it's just going to diminish it. You and I heard two different speeches -- okay? I mean, I heard a speech from the president in which he said of Arafat, This is of your own making -- you are a failed leader. And what he said --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the words --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He said to Sharon, Now we want to find a way for you to begin to withdraw. Okay? He didn't say to withdraw -- to begin to withdraw, because they understand that the Israelis have to do something in order to get these terrorists out of the way.

MR. BUCHANAN: But the truth is --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Nobody else is going to do it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think you missed a verb there. He used the verb "end" -- to "end" it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He said to end -- he said to begin to withdraw.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get one thing straight with Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: End the incursions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the invasion is a proper response, allowing the horrible pain that has been inflicted upon the Israelis due to terrorism from the West Bank?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The purpose of Palestinian terrorist bombing is to maximize the number of civilian casualties. The purpose of the Israeli effort is to minimize the number of casualties.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: We responded to the terrorist bombing of the United States by going after the Taliban and al Qaeda. We have to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold it, hold it.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it, look. Look, what the president has said --

MS. CLIFT: -- any civilized discussion frankly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat speak. Go ahead, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: What the president has said in effect is Israel's war on terror is America. But Israel's war on the Palestinians is not America's war. And Mr. Sharon has got to stop building settlements. He has got to start pulling back. He has got to go onto a negotiating track. And Mr. Sharon is not going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- not going to do those things -- Sharon will call in all of his cards in this country, John. The neo-conservatives will drop on Mr. Bush's head, the Israeli lobby will drop on his head, the Congress will drop on his head. The president is in for a confrontation -- which Eleanor is right -- which is going to decide the fate of his presidency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clearly the news of that speech that he gave was what you just described -- the settlements --

MR. BUCHANAN: The new point -- the new point --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The ending it, and the withdrawal --

MR. BUCHANAN: The new point is moving --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was new. That was a total reversal of the president --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Pat, I don't think you are going to get the final confrontation described. The history --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- go back down?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. No, the history of Israel from Zionism, before they were even a country, was to align with a great power. It was Britain, and now it's the United States. That's the grand strategic concept of Israel. As a result, after pushing as far as they can, they will defuse. They will not have the final confrontation.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sharon will not back down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute, let him finish.

MR. BLANKLEY: He will at some point back down sufficiently that Bush will not be humiliated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, certainly Sharon -- does Sharon want a war involving Syria and Lebanon?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He knowing that in that instance the United States, or thinking in that instance the United States would come to Israel's --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't think he wants that kind of a conventional war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because at that point there will be a true crisis in conscience for George Bush.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because on the one hand he will have oil, and on the other hand he will have Sharon, and he will have to put Sharon in the scale of U.S. --

MR. BLANKLEY: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think Sharon will eventually give way, because that's part of the -- that's the inherent --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't agree with that?

MR. BUCHANAN: He will not, because he knows Mr. Bush will back -- Mr. Bush will back down, because it is not in our vital interests, but Sharon believes --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: Well, he may back down enough. And, look, I agree, Arafat is not going to make peace. He's old, he's sick. He wants to go out in a blaze of glory and not having made any concessions. But how he goes, if he goes any other way than dying peacefully in his sleep, it will be a long, long time before you get any kind of moderate Palestinians. And Ariel Sharon created the grand design settlements. He has gone after all the places where the water is in the West Bank, and he has created it so that a viable Palestinian state can never survive.

MR. BLANKLEY: If we want to talk about who wants peace, I would just point out that Arafat was offered in the year 2000 97 percent of the West Bank, control of the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and turned it down. Turned it down. So what does that man want? It sure is not a peaceful settlement. And that's what the Israelis have to cope with. They have been unable to make it -- they've had eight and a half years to make a deal with Mr. Arafat --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To mitigate.

MR. BUCHANAN: Does anybody believe the Palestinians will settle for less than what Barak offered? Of course not. They are going to have to --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They were offered it, and they didn't accept it.

MR. BUCHANAN: But that is not relevant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just wait one moment. Before you condemn Arafat anymore unmercifully, what was not resolved was the refugee issue -- four million refugees. There was no way that the Arab League leaders were going to accept that. Arafat knew it. He did not have the support. Now, if that issue -- if they had more time -- and I think Clinton deserves a lot of credit here -- but if they had more time, they might have reached a resolution involving compensation.

MR. BLANKLEY: I love your --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But sooner or later the Palestinians are going to have to give up that right. But in exchange for it, the Israelis ought to pull back for 100 percent of the land, and there should be a three-cleric ruling of Jerusalem.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to do that, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Jews, the Muslims and the Christians.

Next question: Will Secretary Powell be able to achieve a cease-fire?

MR. BUCHANAN: Maybe. Maybe a cease-fire.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe a cease-fire.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, a permanent --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it be a lasting cease-fire?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. No lasting cease-fire.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it be a lasting cease-fire?

MR. BUCHANAN: Perhaps.

MS. CLIFT: I don't see how you get a cease-fire with suicide bombers. I think you'll get a cooling down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It won't last?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the full prestige of this country --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mark Twain quit smoking. Yes?

MR. BLANKLEY: In the Mideast now the age of statesmen agreeing to terms and being able to enforce them is over for the time being. The suicide bombers, the terrorists, whether dependent or independent of Arafat, will be capable and willing of breaking a cease-fire. There won't be a meaningful cease-fire.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you answer the question -- before you answer the question, would you like to see American troops go to Israel a la Tom Friedman?

MR. BLANKLEY: I would not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You would not?

MR. BLANKLEY: I would not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead and answer the question.

MR. BLANKLEY: In the first place, I have to say when you have recourse to Bill Clinton as an authority I know you are really in a desperate stage in terms of your argument. (Laughter.) But let me just say this, okay? They were much farther apart at Taba than you describe. It wasn't just the right of refugees. The European representative, Moratinos, published his notes of that. They were still very far apart, no matter what Israel offered. But let me just -- I believe there will be a cease-fire. And if the terrorism does begin again, the cease-fire will break down, and there will be another military response, because that's the only way Israel can respond to terrorism.

MR. MORTON: I disagree with you with regard to Taba. I think the one hang-up was the refugee issue. Secondly, with regard to Bill Clinton, I think it was seriously erroneous on the president's part to distance himself from Clinton, upset purpose, and in so doing this particular area took the abuse.

The answer to the question is I think that it is important and it is essential that he buy time.

MR. BLANKLEY: That who buy time?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Sharon -- that Colin Powell buy time. Sharon will be in until October 2003. and there must be time in there. There must be time to calm things down. There will be a cease-fire, and there will probably be another cease-fire and other violations. But everything must be done to get time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: D.C. Weed.

(Music.) "I was gonna go to work but then I got high/I just got a new promotion but I got high/now I'm selling dope and I know why/- cause I got high, because I got high, because I got high."

The District of Columbia could soon become the District of Cannabis. Marijuana may be on this November's Washington ballot -- medical marijuana that is -- in a referendum. The cultivation, possession, distribution and use of marijuana for medical purposes would then be legal in the District, if the referendum passes.

Currently, marijuana is prohibited in D.C., including medical usage. A group of medical marijuana activists want that changed. They argue that marijuana helps alleviate the symptoms of people seriously ill with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis.

Before this week, no referendum could be brought because of the Barr Amendment. Bob Barr, a Republican congressman from Georgia, every year sponsors legislation -- the Barr Amendment -- that blocks medical marijuana from the D.C. ballot. A federal judge in Washington this week overturned the Barr Amendment, paving the way for marijuana to make it to November's ballot. Congressman Barr is not happy: "This initiative is about opening the door to drug legalization, and whether federal taxpayer dollars should be used to support a drug legalization agenda."

Barr also said: "Clearly, the court today has ignored the constitutional right and responsibility of Congress to pass laws protecting citizens from dangerous and addictive narcotics."

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who issued the ruling, disagrees with Barr. Quote: "There can be no doubt that the Barr Amendment restricts the plaintiff's First Amendment right to engage in political speech.

Eight states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington -- already allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The Department of Justice has not yet decided whether to appeal Judge Sullivan's decision. But Attorney General John Ashcroft made clear last May his unequivocal opposition to marijuana. "Marijuana use is not tolerable under any circumstance," said Ashcroft.

Question: Did Judge Sullivan make the right decision? Tony Blankley?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think legally probably not. I don't know how he gets around the fact that Congress has control finally over the laws in the District of Columbia. Putting that aside to the policy, there's a strong case to be made that medical marijuana use is very helpful to people in pain in terminal diseases. The problem is it will doubtlessly be abused by doctors who will assign for other reasons. I think it's a hard call. I'm inclined actually to let it happen, because most people who want marijuana will get it anyway, and this gets it legally to people who are suffering terribly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You thought the judge made the right decision? Look, the Congress has power to legislate -- but not legislate against the Constitution. Free speech is the argument.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, the good news about our system is that the courts will ultimately make the decision as to whether it was legal or not, as you say setting aside the legal issue which will be decided by the courts. I do think it is a very tricky issue. I mean, I am totally opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any drugs. But for I have been involved for years with cancer treatments, and there is no doubt that it really helps those people in horrible pain. And obviously it would take a lot of effort to keep it controlled, because it could be used in other ways --

MS. CLIFT: As a resident of the District of Columbia, I would like to point out medical marijuana was on the ballot several years ago. It passed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right, right.

MS. CLIFT: Initially Congress intervened -- wouldn't allow them to count the ballots. It eventually was revealed that it passed. And I thought Bob Barr was a libertarian.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: So he went to intervene on this -- he's supposed to trust the people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, you're a native -- will this lead to an uncontrolled binge of a massive amount of marijuana smoking?

MR. BUCHANAN: Tony is right about opening the door. But we had a friend in the Nixon White House who got medical marijuana for his dying daughter, John, and did it illegally. And I have to commend him. If I were a prosecutor I would not prosecute those cases, but I would probably vote against it in D.C.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are 25,000 drug dealers in Washington, D.C. If you want to get a drug, you don't have to smoke medical marijuana. Right?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's five percent of the population is dealing drugs. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will -- that's what the RAND -- they said 25,000 drug dealers. The question to you is the following: Will it pass if it is a referendum? Quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: It will pass in Marion Barry's city.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, of course. In a civilized city.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but the only people who won't be able to score will be the patients --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it pass?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it will pass.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will pass overwhelmingly.

Issue Three: Fat deduction.

TERRY LEMONS (IRS): (From videotape.) There's been a growing set of evidence in the medical community that obesity is a disease. The IRS factored that in, and we decided that weight loss programs can be deductible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you get that? If a doctor determines that a taxpayer must lose weight, that taxpayer can itemize the cost of his or her weight-loss program and deduct those costs as a medical expense. Previously, calorie-counting tax filers could not deduct the cost of a weight-loss program. But today, obesity itself is seen as a disease.

MORGAN DOWNEY (American Obesity Association): (From videotape.) The effect of obesity on chronic health conditions is the same as aging 20 years. So, if you're 30 years old and obese, you effectively have the body of a 50-year-old.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The IRS agrees. About 26 million Americans can be classified as obese and could qualify under this new IRS allowance.

But don't join the local gym just yet. A doctor must first prescribe any fat trimming regimen. Also, over-the-counter fat burning pills are not deductible. And neither are nutritional supplements.

Question: Is this deduction unfair to fit people, inasmuch as thin people will be subsidizing fat people, the fat cats once again getting all the breaks? (Laughter.) Tony, can you speak to this?

MR. BLANKLEY: I can. Plus I have experience. I don't think that fat people will be able to jump through the loopholes, but -- (laughter) -- but, no, I think thin people -- in that total balance of fairness in life, still have a fairly good reservoir.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I support the fact that there's recognition that carrying around extra weight is a health issue. And if the IRS wants to give deductions for legitimate programs, it may save the society money in the long run in terms of health issues.

The problem is deciding what's legitimate. Do you have your doctor write out a diet for you, and then you can write off your Lean Cuisine from the Safeway? I think the IRS is going to have some interesting cases to resolve.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they have to meet a threshold of 7.5 percent -- can you beat that of adjusted gross income.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, 7.5 percent?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, do you know what I am talking about?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What am I talking about? You speak to it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Before you can take a medical deduction off your IRS, your return, you have to get above seven and a half percent --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In medical costs?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In medical costs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. So if you make $50,000 a year --

MR. BUCHANAN: Go over $3,500 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- bottom -- change for you -- what is it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Thirty-seven fifty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Shoebox change for you. (Laughter.) Anyway --

MR. BLANKLEY: Spoken by a man of the people here. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you have got to get $3,750 medical costs. So that means if you have liposuction, which is a $10,000 tab -- would you say that's about right, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know exactly. I'll find out soon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, then, you go -- this is really a benefit to high rollers and their medical bills -- is that it?

MR. BLANKLEY: I have to say this, to carry on -- with the weight that you just lost, your body now makes you look like you're 25 years younger than we know you really are. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look -- look, there are deductions when you -- you know, for semi -- you have got trouble with your knees, you join a club, and the doctor says you should go in there and work the bicycle. I think in those cases those are deductible. So you are getting very close to something that's realistic, because obesity is serious. But that's a $26 billion hit on the Treasury.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think gym membership to fit trim ought to be a deductible --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, not to keep trim --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why not? If obesity is itself an evil --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, if you've got somebody that goes in there 400 pounds, and they have got to do this exercise, I think that's legitimate. But if you want to lose 10 pounds so you look good at the beach --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: People ought to be able to deduct gym costs, would you say? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, actually, a lot of company health plans give you a discretionary fund, and if you want to spend it on a gym membership, that's part of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was just a laugh over here. What was the laugh over here?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, we were joking about --

MR. BUCHANAN: We're talking about how much you had to lose to look good at the beach.

MR. BLANKLEY: I said about 30 or 40. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll work it out for you, Tony.

Predictions. Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Huge Israeli spy ring using alleged art students was broken up last year. The story will surface.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: A new poll result will show the president's approval down nearer to 70 percent, indicating that his feckless foreign policy is beginning to take its toll.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Former President Carter will go to Cuba, meet with Castro, and make any number of foolish statements. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean Castro or both? (Laughter.) Quickly, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: When the United States goes after Iraq, it will be supported by England, Germany, Italy and Spain -- at least the leading countries of Europe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. I predict that not only will the U.S. economy rebound, but the economy worldwide will also rebound. As for the U.S., 4 percent GDP growth rate, fourth quarter. You can use that in your dealings in New York, Mort. (Laughter.)

Next week: They're back. Top of the agenda, trade promotion authority for quotas. Bye-bye.


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