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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

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

TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2002
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 27-28, 2002


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Crawford Crossroads.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Our partnership is important to both our nations, and it is important to the cause of peace and stability in the Middle East and the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the de facto ruler, met with President Bush at the Crawford, Texas, White House this week. The main items on the agenda were Israel, the Palestinians, Iraq, oil and terrorism. The importance of the meeting cannot be overestimated, and neither can the tension between the two parties. President Bush hasn't been happy in what he sees as a Saudi Arabia policy that's too soft on Yasser Arafat and suicide bombers, and the Saudis aren't happy with what they see as a U.S. Mideast policy that's too soft on Sharon and his criminal cruelties.

The crown prince did not speak after the Thursday summit, but the day before, his foreign minister, whose thinking is exactly that of the crown prince, had this to say about Mr. Bush's earlier comment that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon is a man of peace:


PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL: (Saudi foreign minister): (From videotape.) Ariel Sharon a man of peace? I don't think even Ariel Sharon believes that.

But there are areas of agreement. Here are two in particular:

Abdullah's peace plan. Full normalization with the Arab world will be secured if Israel returns to its pre-1967 borders. Bush likes that idea.

Oil. Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia depend on a stable Middle East for stable oil prices. Saudi Arabia says they won't use oil as a bargaining tool. That's important. The U.S. gets 10 percent of its oil from Saudi Arabia.

Question: Can we afford to part ways with Saudi Arabia, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it would be far more damaging for Saudi Arabia if they parted ways, John. The United States is their mighty protector, and they would be alone.

But what the prince is saying is this: Look, the rage and resentment and anger in the Arab world over the perception that America cannot run a separate foreign policy is getting so grave, it threatens the very survival of the Arab regimes, and they may be forced to make a choice they don't want to make. They may be forced to cut relations or move away from the United States. That would be very dangerous for the United States. It would be disastrous for Saudi Arabia. I think it would hurt the war on terror. It is really a cry for the United States of America to please show that the president of the United States has a policy that is independent of Ariel Sharon's, that while we're allies in the war on terror, Sharon's war on the Palestinians is not America's war. That's what he's asking the president to say.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: I think right now we need Saudi Arabia more than they need us. I mean, the way this country is now viewed in the Arab world, I think Saudi Arabia is less worried about an invasion from another country and relying on the U.S. for protection than they are about being overthrown by their own people.

And despite the fact that you had only a 10 percent figure there with oil, the oil relationship is crucial. There's a lot of anger in this administration against the Saudis and the fact they don't fit neatly into that box -- "they're either with us or against us." And so the anger -- they try to suppress it, but Bush's policy is to speak softly and carry a dipstick when it comes to dealing with Saudi Arabia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Saudi Arabia also controls, pretty much, OPEC.

Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, Pat's right on the point that they need us more than we need them, although we do need them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is your voice dropping, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: I have a little sore throat.

But the House of Saud is in an exquisitely painful dilemma right at the moment. They know that the war is coming, and at the end of the war, we'll have beaten Iraq, and they need to be on our side. But they're not -- they can't figure out to maintain their regime. They've already got violent demonstrations in areas outside of Riyadh. They don't now how to maintain their regime and their relationship with their street during the pendency of the period before we eventually invade and defeat Iraq. And so they're stuck, and they're trying to get it both ways, and they may miscalculate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, what do you think about that Iraq scenario?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's inevitable?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do think it's inevitable, and I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When will it occur, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Within a year, at the very latest. And I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. Even if they admit inspectors, according to the regimen of the United Nations?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, I think however that thing is structured, the openness of Iraq to those inspectors will be limited by the -- whatever happens. I mean, we are going to insist, for example, on being able to go into the palaces, so-called, which are huge, 40- and 50-square-mile areas. And even if we are, the fact is, you can conceal chemical and biological weapons in a country that size, no matter how many inspectors you have. And we know how dangerous they are.

But Saudi Arabia -- I have to get back to that -- Saudi Arabia, we have to remember -- 15 of the 19 terrorists who flew the planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were Saudis. They have been funding the most extremist religious schools, the madrassas, in Pakistan, in -- they were supporting the Taliban. They were supporting al Qaeda. They're giving money to the terrorist groups in Hamas. They're not exactly running a crystal-clear policy. They're running a double-track policy, because what they're saying to these groups is, "You can do whatever you want, but stay out of Saudi Arabia."

So we have a real problem in terms of getting their cooperation. They wouldn't give us their finances on the money that they were financing the -- sending to these groups. They wouldn't even give us the manifests on the planes flying here. So they're -- we have a double track here that we have to worry about.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We want to work with them, and they want to work with us, but it's not going to be easy.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, what is the sense, for heaven's sakes, of the United States invading Iraq to overthrow that regime if every other regime in the area we're supposed to be defending doesn't want us to go to war with them and is getting in bed with them? For heaven's sakes, look, what's at stake here is the whole the United States policy in this region.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Before we proceed further with this learned discussion, let's check our own and refresh our own memories on Saudi Arabia. This is the "Geo-Bio."

Borders: north -- Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait. South -- Yemen, Oman. East -- United Arab Emirates, Qatar. Size: 900,000 square miles, an area in size that would encompass all of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Population: 23 million and growing fast, a 3.3 percent population-growth rate. Capital: Riyadh. Government: hereditary monarchy. No election. Head of state: one man, both king and prime minister. His name: Fahd. De facto ruler: first deputy prime minister, Crown Prince Abdullah, who met with President Bush this week. Ethnic group: 90 percent Arab, 10 percent Afro-Asian. Religion: Muslim, 100 percent. GDP, 2001: 174 billion, as compared with the U.S. 10 trillion GDP for 2001. That's 135 times bigger than the Saudi economy. Per capita income: $10,500 for Saudis, versus U.S. $26,000.

There's an error there, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. I think when you said it's 137 times, that's inaccurate. I think our economy's about 58 times as large. They have almost a $200 billion economy. Ours is about 10 trillion.

MS. CLIFT: Well, and they're --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have --

MS. CLIFT: Whatever they have a less-than-$200 billion economy.

MS. CLIFT: Whatever they have --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a little --

MS. CLIFT: Whatever they have, it's not distributed evenly at all. You've got about 6,000 princes and princesses who behave like a royal family anywhere -- like spoiled brats. They live --

MR. BLANKLEY: Not all royal families behave like spoiled brats.

MS. CLIFT: I think they even have Victoria's Secret in -- that can traffic, and then you have --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They -- (inaudible).

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Let me finish, Mort.

And they have the rest of the population live in virtual poverty. And that's the problem that they're facing. There's going to be an uprising there at some point.

MR. BUCHANAN: The important thing is two factors. One is the explosion of the young population. And second, GDP per capita has fallen dramatically and unemployment's up around 15 percent. And this young population doesn't know a lot of its history, and they are inflamed by this Al-Jazeera, which now spreads all through the Arab world, which didn't exist in 1991.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: As that poverty level increases and the median income goes down, they resent the fact that 7,000 princes are supporting the gambling casinos and the houses of ill repute in Europe and basically living the good life. It's really astounding, what's going on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush has lost his credibility with the Saudis. What can he do to regain his credibility with the Saudis? Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the Saudis want him to take a more even-handed posture in the Middle East and they want him to back up his secretary of State. I mean, Colin Powell has been undercut every step of the way. The administration's Middle East policy is adrift as the president vacillates between throwing some red meat to the neo- conservatives and then backing off when he gets an outcry from the Arab states. There is no clear path where this administration is going.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they want Bush to back an international conference, do they not?

What can -- go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: Bush's credibility hasn't been damaged with them. The trouble is, they believe him only too much that he does want to go to war against Iraq. I mean, it's not that they don't trust his veracity; it's that they're worried about his policy.


MS. CLIFT: A war with Iraq --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you apparently think that the war with Iraq is pivotal to Saudi thinking. Is that right?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, I certainly think that their concern, and justifiably so, is that the result of an American war against war against Iraq is likely to be destabilizing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we have already alienated the Iraqis, there's no doubt about that. We've alienated the Iranians, there's no doubt about that. Now if we alienate the Saudis and then we proceed to go into Iraq, what do you think's going to happen?


MR. BLANKLEY: We haven't alienated the Iranians or the Iraqis; we've alienated their governments, and bloody-well we should have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that's a distinction without a difference when you're dealing with war and peace?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me answer the question. Because there's a very real expectation that both in Iran and Iraq, there will be a lot of opposition to their current regimes once we give them the opportunity.

MR. BUCHANAN: But it's a mistake to say we have not alienated and enraged and antagonized the populations of this region by the perception that we are 100 percent behind Sharon in Jenin and Bethlehem.

MS. CLIFT: But unless this administration --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just remind --

MS. CLIFT: Unless this administration can --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor finish. Let Eleanor finish.

MS. CLIFT: Unless this administration can repair its relationship with the Arab world, war against Iraq is nothing but a pipe dream. You cannot wage war against a country there unless you can use airbases.

MR. BLANKLEY: I want to get in on this. I want to get in on this. The reason why we're engaging in the Middle East is not to make friends in the Middle East, it's to protect Americans --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- from Middle East-based terror, possible weapons of mass destruction.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MS. CLIFT: It's the start of regional war.

MR. BLANKLEY: So we want to have as much friendship as we can.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the best way to accomplish that? Wouldn't it be to gain peace between Israel and the Palestinians?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the best way is to -- we can't get peace there until we've got rid of the terrorism in --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, with Mubarak saying this week that that's the primary thing we have to do in order to reduce terrorism, and that 50 percent of the terrorism would go away in the world if we gained resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, let me tell you where we're headed. If we do not get some kind of resolution and tamp this down, the only way Americans can avoid terror in this region is to get out of this region. And that is what is going to happen with regard to the Saudis if you force them to say the Americans have to go.

MS. CLIFT: We can't get out, but the war against terrorism is dead in the water unless we have the cooperation of those Arab governments.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think you're wrong on that.

MS. CLIFT: Whether it's police work or military.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right now -- right now we should remember that Mubarak this week -- he didn't get much publicity for it in this country. He gave a televised speech. He was visibly angered. He said that the Israelis had gone way beyond any human limit. He said they had committed horrendous acts, and he said the United States was deficient in the exercising of it superpower. It's a national responsibility. It was a very tough speech.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a very tough speech.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And his first --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would be inclined to think if one didn't hear the very end of it that he was planning a different course for Egyptian policy.

MR. BLANKLEY: And his foreign minister said that if they Arab community would give him $100 billion, he'd go to war against Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, not quite. He didn't say that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, he did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, he did not say that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, he did.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, he did not say that.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I just interviewed the ambassador from -- (inaudible).

MR. BLANKLEY: John. John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We went through that line by line. Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Where do those countries -- see, the point is, John, they are threatening to leave home, but where do those countries go if they depart from the United States? Is Egypt going to give up $2 billion a year?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it won't. But Saudi Arabia's not quite in that position. Saudi Arabia could make or break for us. And Saudi Arabia is on the verge of doing so.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: And is there a ripple effect?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have to make a decision: Is the U.S. national self-interest more important to them than their own national self-interest?

MR. BUCHANAN: But they're surviving. The own survival, but the point is --

MR. BLANKLEY: Their own --

MR. BUCHANAN: Strategically, John, where do they go? Their neighbors are Iraq and Iran, and they can't handle either of them without the United States of America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iran may throw its lot in with Iraq if push comes to shove, and the Saudis may say to us, "You may not use our landing strips, and you may not use our Sultan Base."

MR. BUCHANAN: Then if we don't take down Iraq, goodbye, Saudi Arabia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: At this juncture, which nation is more important to our national self-interest? Israel or Saudi Arabia?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, economically, clearly it is Saudi Arabia. But the United States has historic ties to both of 'em. And if we can't manage to maintain both as allies, it is a defeat of the United States as a superpower.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You remember what happened after 1973 Arab oil embargo?

MR. BUCHANAN: It was an oil embargo, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where did it lead? Ten years of inflation, 10 years of stagflation and what? And malaise.

MR. BUCHANAN: But I was in with Nixon. We sent all that weaponry to Israel despite all that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So economically, we're clearly very dependent upon Saudi Arabia, are we not?

MR. BUCHANAN: And its reserves --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about from the point of view of our national security, when we realize that we're in a war on terrorism, and as she points out, we need Israel, and we need Egypt, and they're both wavering.

MR. BUCHANAN: But why are there terrorists coming?

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. We need Egypt, and we need Saudi Arabia, and they're both wavering.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the terrorists are only over here because the American empire is over there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, which is more important at this juncture to our national self-interest: Israel or Saudi Arabia?

MS. CLIFT: I'm not going to fall into that trap of the "You're either with us or against us." The administration should not have to choose between these two relationships, and they better learn to how manage them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you ever hear such a put-down evasion that I just received? Did you ever hear one?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) It's reality, John!

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- just before her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, you didn't! No, you did not!

MS. CLIFT: You're not going to walk away from either of those countries.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I did say --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You said Saudi Arabia's more important.

MR. BUCHANAN: Economically, but we need to maintain a relationship with both --

MS. CLIFT: You can't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Come on now, Pat. Don't pull your punches.

MS. CLIFT: No --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat never used to be that way. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: When it comes to it, Israel's more important.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At this juncture.

MR. BLANKLEY: Both as a potential base --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the war on terrorism --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and should we get into a fighting war there, they actually are a potential military ally of some value.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I have no idea what you're going to say, Mort, as to which is more important. (Laughter.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, let me put it this way: I do think the greatest threat to the United States -- and the president and this administration understand it -- is terrorism. Okay? And Saudi Arabia and those countries are important in that war, but we're going to go out after those terrorists, no matter what happens. I think you should -- I mean, that is very clear, it seems to me, in terms of what's coming up. Iraq is just the first stage and not the last stage, in terms of our efforts to go against terrorism. That's the great threat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the best way to get rid of those terrorists is for the United States to press for and succeed in gaining peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That's the best way.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I couldn't agree with you more. I think that's a wonderful idea. And any time you've got the formula for it, let me know what it is. But in the meantime, we are faced with a country, Iraq, that has the capacity to distribute weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, who can wreak enormous damage on this country. And one, we're in a -- we're going to stop that threat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we get back to the question?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to the question?

MR. BUCHANAN: Israel and Saudi Arabia --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think they're both important to the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There we go. That was another evasion.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, they are. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, it's too close to call.

MS. CLIFT: It's called reality. (Laughter, cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back, why is Europe --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: (Off mike) -- settles it. (Off mike) -- decisive answer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is Europe, and especially France, moving so far right? And what does that tell us?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Issue Two: Le Pen Is Mightier.

JEAN-MARIE LE PEN (French presidential candidate): (Through videotape and translated by Mr. McLaughlin.) Don't be afraid to dream, you the small ones, the excluded ones. Don't let people trap you in the old divisions of the left wing and the right wing. You, who have borne for the last 20 years all the mistakes and the embezzlement of the politicians. You also, who are the first victims of insecurity in the suburbs, towns and villages. I call on the French people, no matter their race, religion or their social conditions, to rally for this historical chance of national recovery.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Earthquake." That's what the European press is calling it, the second-place finish of Jean-Marie Le Pen in France's first-round presidential vote last week.

The 73-year-old former paratrooper, far-right politician, known for his anti-crime, anti-Europe, anti-immigration rhetoric, and sometimes known for rhetoric that some say is tinged with anti- Semitism, Le Pen rode these themes to success, particularly anti- crime, edging out current Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, thus ending Jospin's political career.

LIONEL JOSPIN (French prime minister): (Through videotape, and translated by Mr. McLaughlin.) To see the extreme right wing representing 20 percent of the votes in our country and its main candidate facing the candidate of the right in the second round is a very scary sign for France and for our democracy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Le Pen seismic waves electrified the French and European headlines. "The Le Pen Bomb," Paris; "Earthquake," Paris; "An Insult To Democracy," Stockholm; "France, Earthquake Le Pen," Rome.

Thousands of protestors gathered in Paris, Lyon, Toulouse and Marseille, mostly college students, outraged by Le Pen's platform. And incumbent President Jacques Chirac began urging his political forces for a patriotic defeat of Le Pen in the run-off next Sunday, May 5.

JACQUES CHIRAC (French president): (Through videotape and translated by Mr. McLaughlin.) I call all the French people to unite to defend human rights and guarantee the national cohesion, to assert the unity of the republic and restore the authority of the state.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What does this Le Pen phenomenon tell us, Pat? I call upon you. You can speak authoritatively to this matter.

MR. BUCHANAN: I was wondering why you were going to call on me on this, John.

No, what Le Pen has got going for him is, frankly, he has the issues of the future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a fluke?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, he didn't get that large a vote. If you add him and Megret together, it's 20 percent. But here's what it meant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got 200,000 more votes this time than the last time.

MR. BUCHANAN: Here is what it's saying. The immigration issue, the sovereignty issue, the national identity issue, the crime issue, these are the coming issues in Europe. Secondly, what it says about the establishment -- liberals, Trotskyites, Socialists, the whole left -- they are the ones behaving with fascist tactics. They won't debate him. They're rioting in the streets. They're shouting him down. What he has done is exposed the fact that the new Europe will not tolerate the rise to power of anyone on the populist right.

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this, the phenomenon that's sweeping Europe, is there a right-wing zeitgeist that is wafting through Europe? I will tell you. Austria, you've got Haider's Freedom Party; Denmark, the anti-immigrant People's Party. Italy, the conservative coalition government, led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, includes two far- right parties. Germany, you've got Social Democrats. The party of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder took a beating in regional elections, losing to the right.

What do you make of this, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, none of those governments are as right wing as the government we have here in Washington. Second --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does THAT mean?

MS. CLIFT: We're pretty far to the right here. And Europe, I think most of the parties you're talking about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: -- are still on the fringe. Second of all, Le Pen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a compassionate conservative president! What are you talking about?

MS. CLIFT: That's more talk than reality.

Le Pen is not going to win the election. It was -- his victory here, or semi-victory, is equivalent to Pat Buchanan winning the New Hampshire primary. It's a wake-up call to the mainstream parties that they have ignored the issues that Pat talked about and they better get on it because it's -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Is Le Pen poised to win, or will Chirac pull off a victory? Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Le Pen will get about 25 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He'll get 36 percent. He'll surprise you.

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Chirac's going to win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Chirac will win.

MR. BLANKLEY: Chirac will win the election, but the issues are going to be forced upon the major parties --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Exactly.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- both the Socialists and the Gaullists, or his vote will be bigger next time.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Chirac will win the presidency, but it will be a weak presidency, and the left will carry the National Assembly. He'll have a divided government. And if the president, after seven years, gets 17 or 18 or 19 percent of the votes, he's a weak president going into the election. He's only going to win because Le Pen's going to lose.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, it will be a Chirac win.

We'll be right back with another McLaughlin Y-2-0 -- Year 20 -- Moment.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To mark our 20th anniversary year, we bring you another "McLaughlin Y-2-0 Moment." The time, April 1995, seven years ago. The place, Oklahoma City. The horrific event: A truck bomb explodes outside the Alfred P. Murrah government building, killing 168 people.

(Begin videotape segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it your felt intuition that what we have seen in Oklahoma City, this major act of terrorism, is the beginning of a series of such acts, or is it an isolated horror and unlikely to occur again?

I ask you, Freddie.

FRED BARNES: It's somewhere in between. I think we have to brace ourselves and protect ourselves against further terrorism, but not necessarily a series of terrorist acts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor?

ELEANOR CLIFT: Oh, I'm tending more to the isolated. In fact, if it is homegrown, we do have an FBI that ought to be able to surveil these groups.

CLARENCE PAGE: This group or groups have made a terrible mistake. The national backlash against the horror of this -- those children killed, the calamity that we've seen, the terror that's been inflicted upon the country -- will be such that they will not be safe anywhere.

MORT KONDRACKE: I agree entirely with that, except that I think that we have not seen the last of international terrorist activity in the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think this horror is isolated. I think it's going to be repeated in our land. But I think it's more likely that when that horrible repetition occurs, it will originate from terrorists who live in the Islamic radical environment.

(End videotape segment.)

MR. BUCHANAN: You dug up another one where you're right. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next week -- what?

MR. BUCHANAN: You've dug up another one where you're right. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) I had to go back seven years for that. (Laughter.)

Next week: European Commission President Romano Prodi and Prime Minister Aznar of Spain meet with George Bush in a U.S.-EU summit, doubtless to give him another earful on Palestinians and Israelis.

Bye-.

END OF REGULAR SEGMENT PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS


PBS SEGMENT

Issue Three: Hughes Walks.

KAREN HUGHES (counselor to President Bush): (From videotape.) I said, "I love you Mr. President, but my family and I are moving home to Texas."

The highest-ranking female aide to a modern president announced this week she is leaving the White House -- for family. She's been a senior aide to Bush and one of his closest friends since 1994. In 1998, Bush said he wouldn't go to Washington without her. And in the White House, Hughes was vaulted into power and access to the president, shared only by Chief of Staff Andrew Card and senior adviser Karl Rove.

As counselor to the president, Hughes controlled the White House's communications strategy. Called, quote, "the enforcer" and, quote, "the high prophet," she kept the White House virtually leak- free and on-message.

At five-foot-10, she is formidable, she is frank, and she is said to be Bush's alter ego, which carries with it special privileges.

(Begin videotape segment.)

MS. HUGHES: I promise I will always give you my unvarnished opinion. (Laughs.) (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: No question about that. (Laughter.)

(End videotape segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Counselor Hughes will leave her Washington post in July.

Question: Is there more to this separation than meets the eye, Tony Blankley?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. I called around to everybody when the announcement came, and I couldn't find anybody, close in or elsewhere --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now look, you know that when --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and I don't believe in this case that there's anything other than meets the eye.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- when the reason advanced is family reasons, that's always a fig leaf and -- it's a fig leaf, is a cover for the -- for an ouster.

MS. CLIFT: No, it's --

MR. BLANKLEY: He was -- no, it's not an ouster. She is so tight with the president, there's not a chance in the world --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and the operation was working very well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The closer the person is -- (indicating Mr. Buchanan) -- and he can verify this, because he was carrying the bags of Richard Nixon -- the closer the person is as an aide --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Which bags?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- then they get into the White House, and they see the expansion of -- the radiation of aides around. Then, instead of feeling that they're important, they felt Buchanan felt with Nixon. They felt minimized. They felt shrunken.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Marginalized.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They go through that -- that creates terrible --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, except she was a first among equals.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Pat hasn't gotten over that to this day. (Laughter.) Oh, she wants --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that what's behind these presidential runts? Is that what's behind them?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's just trying to assert himself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: What -- this discussion says more about Washington and the workaholic culture than it says about Karen Hughes, who never really adjusted to this city. And she's going to keep the good parts of her job; she's going to continue to write speeches. They're going to talk every day, apparently. And there's a lot going on in Texas politics she might want to get involved in -- (inaudible) -- Democratic resurgence.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the struggle --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask Pat something. What about the --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Why are you so cynical about it?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cynical?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: When men say they're leaving for family leave --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm a journalist, all right? I'm a journalist. Do you believe anything on face value -- (inaudible)? Do you believe anything on face value?

(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Almost. This one I believe, actually.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do. I really do.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't believe it at all, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This isn't the purest combination where --

MR. BUCHANAN: You're partly true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the spin is the same as the truth?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look: You're partly true. When you have a campaign situation, she is everything, almost, to the president -- right there with him. And now they're focused on the Middle East and these great things, and she sees herself not as central a role and that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not true.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's worn off this tremendous --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You could take the same set of circumstances --

MR. BUCHANAN: But you believe in the other part is true, also.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're describing -- she loves this man, and he loves her -- platonic relationship, but real affinity for each other. And she sees him going through this unusually tempestuous period in history.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. I don't believe that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And therefore, she -- what does she do? She packs a bag and says --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't believe that. You're saying she's deserting under fire. I think it's he's on to something different, and she wants to move back to what she had.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's something else. She had a lot to do with his speechwriting, and there was a mistake made --

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At least, I think there was a mistake --

MR. BUCHANAN: Called "the axis of evil!"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The "axis of evil!"

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And do you know that when you're writing a speech, you get pressures from all over: the Cabinet members -- they want their insertion. The Office of Management and Budget -- they have final control; they want their insertions, too.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think she had enough of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She had enough of it. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. So you're moving away from what you --

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm moving toward your position here, John.

MS. CLIFT: I only wish there were this much intrigue in this departure, because what fun it would be to cover this White House if that were true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we can now -- (laughter) --


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