THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: PATRICK BUCHANAN, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT AND MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN
TAPED: FRIDAY, MAY 24, 2002
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 25-26, 2002
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Not if, but when.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: (From videotape.) The prospect of
another attack against the United States is very, very real. It's just as real, in my opinion, as it was September 12th.
We have to be concerned about a terrorist with a weapon, potentially a nuke.
TOM RIDGE (director, Office of Homeland Security: (From videotape.) While we prepare for another possible terrorist attack, we need to understand that it's really not a question of if, but a question of when.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) We have to recognize that terrorist networks have relationship with terrorist states that have weapons of mass destruction, and that they inevitably are going to get their hands on them, and they would not hesitate one minute in using them. That's -- that's the world we live in.
FORMER SENATOR SAM NUNN (D-GA): (From videotape.) We are in a new arms race between those seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction and those trying to stop that from happening.
If terrorists were to succeed in acquiring a nuclear weapon or enough materials to make a nuclear weapon, there is low probability we would intercept it at our borders or find it once it's here.
SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): (From videotape.) Now I've been to intelligence briefings, and the only thing I can tell you is, when you learn about it -- is, it chills you to the bone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The following day, Senator Schumer added this: Quote, "The bottom line is a simple one. A nuclear device, a large nuclear device, can be smuggled into a large container, put on a ship overseas and brought here with no detection," unquote.
Question: Are we as helpless as Senator Schumer and these other
senior officials suggest, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think they're very close to the truth. If a weapon of mass destruction hits this country, it's going to come in by Ryder truck or merchant ship. We've got an open-borders free-trade policy. There's thousands of trucks that come in, uninspected, from Mexico every day. There are millions of these containers that come into American ports. The technology for a nuclear weapon is now 57 years old. You can build a device without building a bomb and put it into one of these.
I think the best hope we've got is, we've got good intelligence right now. No one has yet acquired this, except maybe North Korea, among these rogue states. There's no hard evidence that these suitcase bombs have been stolen.
But quite clearly, the United States is extraordinarily vulnerable if you had the people that had these devices, and they had the resolve and determination to get them to these shores.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do you agree with that?
MS. CLIFT: I think the "share the scare" strategy is overly defeatist and has a healthy component of politics. It's as though they're saying, "If something happens, we told you so." If something doesn't happen, they can always say it's because of their diligent concern about it.
Look, we have been through the Cold War, where there was a nuclear threat facing us. We staved off that threat until there was a political change. We now don't fear a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. I think we need to take steps here, and things can be done, primarily buying up the loose nuclear material that's floating around the old Soviet Union, and ports can be hardened. I mean, there are steps they can take as opposed to flapping their wings on television.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good intelligence, good diplomacy, good security can forestall the likelihood of any of this taking place.
Is Rumsfeld wise in using the term "inevitability" or is that
defeatist and overstated?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well first let me point out that Senator Schumer was certainly -- a popular Democratic senator, is clearly not trying to
protect a Republican administration. I think this is clearly -- what we heard on those comments clearly reflects the universal judgment of our intelligence and military community. Now, having said that, it's
certainly true that good diplomacy and much better intelligence can reduce the risk.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And good security?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, security can be a long way coming. There are lots of technologies that are trying to be able to detect at more than a couple of feet what's in every cargo container. But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard of NEST, N-E-S-T?
MR. BLANKLEY: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nuclear Emergency -- what? -- Surveillance Team, at the Energy Department.
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One thousand strong, plus. Atomic scientists and engineers.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but the trouble is that right now you can't
detect a shielded nuclear device from more than a few feet away. So you've got to have intelligence in order to get close to the -- (word
inaudible) -- to know where to look. That's the current problem.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're about to break through that and have a remote detection capability. They know all the codes, they can arrive there quickly, they're tipped off, local police notify them --
MR. BLANKLEY: Tipped off. That's the intelligence component, of course.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you speak to this and try to remove some of this excess?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, well, I don't think it's in excess, John. I've got to tell you, I think this is the single-most serious problem that we face, particularly if you have people who are willing to die in the process. I mean, deterrence works if people are unwilling to die, but if people want to die, the only thing you can do is preemption. You cannot protect a society as open as the United States from any kinds of these attacks once they -- as Senator Nunn said, and he's nobody trying to protect the Republicans -- once those things get shipped, it's going to be almost impossible to stop and to detect.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't good intelligence the key key?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, of course. But look, there is good
counterintelligence on the part of the al Qaeda network or on the part of all of these intelligence -- I mean terrorist networks. It's not the easiest thing to break into those intelligence networks.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you missed a key element, a really key element, John. You missed a key element.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me advance this --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You cannot do this and -- you cannot, as a country, go on the assumption that your intelligence is going to find out everything that you need to know on time.
MR. BUCHANAN: The missing element in all this, John, is, it is time to review American policy to determine why it is there are thousands of people in this world willing to commit suicide killings millions of us, and that means looking at American policy in that region of the world. And that is the missing component all along here; yes to intelligence, yes to security, yes to diplomacy, but let's review the policy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you talking about?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. What policy, in particular, are you talking about?
MR. BUCHANAN: I am talking about an interventionist policy in every darn country in the world that is Islamic, where crazies are, so they turn all their attention right to the United States of America. What is there over there that is worth a nuclear weapon in my hometown?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I'm not going to go as far as Pat, who is an
isolationist. I mean, I think we belong engaged --
MR. BUCHANAN: An "America Firster."
MS. CLIFT: -- we belong engaged around the world. But I don't like all this dismissive attitude towards the Europeans and towards much of the Islamic world, because we need their intelligence, actually, if we're going to proceed in this way. I'm not saying this isn't serious, but the plethora of warnings coming out of this administration have not been helpful over the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought what --
MS. CLIFT: We can't do anything about them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought what he was referring to, and I'm sorry he didn't point to it, is the necessity to impose or get a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli problem.
MR. BUCHANAN: That's part of it.
MS. CLIFT: That's part of it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is driving much of this terrorism.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Saudi -- it is. Bin Laden was initially focused on Saudi Arabia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is. There's no question that the recruitment capability --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me a second.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of Osama and al Qaeda is dependent to a great extent upon the irresolvability of this crisis.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: If you listen to what Osama bin Laden said for a
decade, he was out there trying to change, if I may say so, the government in Saudi Arabia.
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That was his principal objective.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know, the classic Muslim Wahhibi (sp) complaint.
MR. BUCHANAN: Why don't we get out of Saudi Arabia?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know all that. But he would not have the edge to get that recruitment going and to get people to commit suicide in the accomplishment of it.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He got the recruitment going a long time before that. I 'm not saying it isn't an issue. Let me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mubarak says if you resolve that crisis, you cut terrorism by 50 percent. I keep telling you --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you're both right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The other 50 percent still leaves you with --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, wait a minute.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I want to say one thing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to advance this --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You've got to advance the argument. That's why you've got to give me a chance to talk. So let me just say, what they resent more than anything else is the success of America. We are the success -
MR. BUCHANAN: That's not why they're killing us, because we
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I am not taking sides in that conflict, but I cannot understand how you minimize the input of that (conflict ?) in giving energy to terrorism.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't disagree with you. It's just not the only issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. I want to go back to Nunn because his testimony on May the 7th was unexcelled. Nunn -- no question about it -- and Lugar are the most authoritative figures in this area. Listen to Nunn. Small point.
SAM NUNN (co-chairman and CEO, Nuclear Threat Initiative): (From
videotape.) In protecting America from nuclear terrorism, an ounce of
prevention is worth a megaton of consequence management.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is what he's talking about. He's talking about bringing homeland security abroad. That's where it has to go. And it has to go to Russia because Russia is the terrorists' gold mine. And he says that that's the big pole in the tent and they have to climb that pole, and once they climb that pole, the rest, he says, is easy, and probably unstoppable on our part. So he wants to raise the $1 billion that now -- we're now pumping into Russia -- he wants to raise that in order to secure nuclear materials. There's an enormous amount of plutonium over there. I think he's absolutely right.
MS. CLIFT: He's calling -- and he's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- wait a minute. Do you think he's right?
MR. BUCHANAN: He is dead right. Get the plutonium. Get all these weapons that they've got floating around. Buy them, bribe people, do whatever you have to do, because all it takes is one of these things,
purchased for $10 million by bin Laden, and you're in trouble.
MS. CLIFT: And he's calling Rumsfeld's bluff. I mean, Rumsfeld says it's inevitable? No, Mr. Secretary, it's not inevitable. But let's see your budget. Now let's see if this administration is willing to put out the money.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now --
MS. CLIFT: Tony's coming out of his seat, saying, "Oh, we don't
really need" --
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm not. I'm not staying happily seated in the seat. (Inaudible.)
Laughter, cross talk.)
MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughs.) Oh, you're coming forward; I can see it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to put another billion into that sector?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look at the billions that we are paying -- 27 billion on homeland defense --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- whereas if they're looking at nuclear or
biologicals or chemicals --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You agree?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Listen, I think that is absolutely essential. All I'm saying to you is that that's not the beginning and the end of the problem. You know, we can spend $10 million, but I've got to tell you, there are a lot of people in the world who also have $10 million to spend, including Iraq and including Iran.
MS. CLIFT: But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think the president of the United States deserves an enormous amount of credit -- or maybe it's a congratulations to his luck -- that he's fallen in so close with Putin, and the alliance between Russia and the United States is getting more secure --
MR. BLANKLEY: He hasn't "fallen in." He --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- especially now, with this bilateral contract --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because the control of terrorism is the control of those materials in Russia?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree with you that I think one of the great
accomplishments of the Bush administration is the enhanced relationship with Russia.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on!
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is in their interest and it is in our interest. It's also helped by the personal chemistry between the two of them.
Having said that, again, there is no single solution to this problem. If Russia --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is saying -- I'm not saying that. I'm just
(Cross talk, laughter.)
MR. BUCHANAN: There's a solution --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- but what he's saying is that you've got to go where the dire threat originates.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree completely.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: The Russians are begging us to buy that stuff. (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Hollywood Horror.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: (From videotape.) The American people must understand the reality of the enemy we're up against.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Furthering that understanding of the reality of the enemy is "The Sum of All Fears," a new Hollywood thriller based on the novel by Tom Clancy. In it, a nuclear bomb is detonated at a Baltimore football stadium by a German neo-Nazi in collaboration with right-wing Soviet military extremists. The scenes of catastrophic destruction are harrowing. According to the CIA and the Pentagon, the film is quote, unquote, "realistic."
(Begin videotape of selected scenes from the film.)
(Sound of mushroom explosion from film.)
ACTRESS: (Inaudible) -- airborne. They think it might be the
BEN AFFLECK (actor): It wasn't the Russians!
(In progress) -- have reason to believe the bomb was the work of
terrorists, not the Russians.
JAMES CROMWELL (actor): Hit 'em. (Sound of explosion.)
(End of videotape.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the remarkable new feature -- that the bomb originated at Savannah River and was given to the Israelis back in the '70s. Do you know anything about that? Did Lyndon Johnson give anything to the Israelis?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, he did not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, they took it from Pennsylvania -- the NUMEC plant. If you're talking about how the Israelis got the bomb, they got our material out of that NUMEC plant in Pennsylvania.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that established?
MR. BUCHANAN: It's -- I think it's fairly well-established --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Johnson make it available to them?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, Johnson didn't make it available! (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, it's not established. It is not established --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean they --
MR. BUCHANAN: What's his name -- Seymour Hersh has a very good book on that whole thing a number of years ago.
MR. BLANKLEY: Seymour Hersh -- (inaudible).
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, question: Is America ready for this kind of movie, Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: It should be, although, obviously, I don't suspect right-wing Russians of being the likely suspect. But yes, of course we should be prepared for it because it's anticipating -- contrary to Eleanor's happy thoughts, it's anticipating a likely future for us.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that America doesn't seem to be ready for too much. There is a limit. For example, now -- just to digress for a moment. In genetic engineering, we have brought forth on the American scene featherless chickens.
Now, you have five peacocks, right?
MR. BLANKLEY: I have five peacocks, yes.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think featherless chickens for roasters is okay?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I just don't want featherless peacocks.
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MR. BLANKLEY: There's no point in having a peacock without the
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have any problem -- does anybody have any problem with featherless chickens?
MR. BUCHANAN: John? John? Tom Clancy was right -- Tom Clancy was dead right --
MS. CLIFT: I have no interest in -- I have no interest in seeing --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MR. BUCHANAN: Tom Clancy was dead right. He had that Japanese
airliner, 747, crashing into the Capitol during the State of the Union,
burning it all up --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A different book.
MR. BUCHANAN: It was an earlier book. As a matter of fact, he
anticipated 9/11. He's got imagination.
MS. CLIFT: I have no interest in seeing that film.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which film?
MS. CLIFT: The film you just touted, the new Clancy movie. I have --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "The Sum of All Fears."
MS. CLIFT: Right. I get -- I get --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I am not touting the film. I happened to be at the premiere.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: Okay. I get frightened enough watching the cable news networks, I don't need that movie! (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: John's now going to be invited to all the premieres! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I interviewed the former secretary of Defense earlier today --
MR. BUCHANAN: Cohen?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and he said that it's realistic, he agrees with the Pentagon, and he thinks it's beneficial. Do you agree with that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, I'll tell you, forget the movie, I mean, as Tony and you were saying before --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hundreds of thousands -- tens of thousands of people are going to see this movie.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- we are faced with an unbelievably serious problem, which the military has been telling us privately for years. This isn't something that they just found out about on 9/11. They have been terrified about this for years.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a quick point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.
MR. BLANKLEY: Once the public truly understands the dimensions of the risk, they may be open to policies, whether it's Pat's or some other policy --
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- or some other policy, maybe much tougher law
enforcement procedures --
MS. CLIFT: Oh --
MR. BLANKLEY: -- in order to protect themselves.
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what's coming --
MS. CLIFT: It delivers the right wing -- (inaudible) --
MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- doesn't understand the danger, they won't pull for the policy.
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what's coming.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!
MR. BUCHANAN: If something like this happens, you'll get massive retaliation, and come home America, we will get out of these countries because there is going to be proliferation whether we like it or not, Eleanor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor? Quickly! Quickly!
MS. CLIFT: Right -- well, right. So they view this -- imaging a nuclear holocaust as a way to advance the radical right-wing agenda.
MR. BUCHANAN: No! If the Iranians --
MS. CLIFT: I love it! You know, come on! Come on! This is
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit -- exit. Is it --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Is it true -- not if, but when -- or is that view too pessimistic, is it defeatist?
MR. BUCHANAN: It is defeatist to say it's going to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: You know, nuclear weapons are probably an eventual tool of the terrorists, but that doesn't mean you do (sic) everything to stave of the threat, just as we staved off the nuclear threat from the Soviet Union for decades.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. BLANKLEY: My old boss, Ronald Reagan, used to say that nothing is inevitable unless our inaction makes it so. And so there's always the potential for our intervention intelligently to protect ourselves, but the risk of it is very high.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, as a Brit, you should be able to quote
Churchill in this regard. Do you think Churchill would say this is inevitable?
MR. BLANKLEY: I never worked for Churchill; I worked for Reagan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could you speak for Churchill on what he would have said in this set of circumstances?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think Churchill said many things, not the least of which was that when he joined with the Soviet Union against Germany, he said, you know, he would sup with the devil if he had to to oppose the Nazis, but when you sup with the devil, you better have a long spoon.
All I'm saying here is that we may have to make all kinds of different alliances and do all kinds of things we don't like for the defense of this country, because I believe that what has been sent by our senior officials as a warning is a real assessment of the situation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the admonitions we're receiving are
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But it gives warnings to a lot of people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think they should be taken literally. I think, like this movie, it could go this way, but it's far more likely that what will happen next on an order of magnitude of significance is probably a suicide bombing over here, which would not be difficult to undertake, as everyone knows.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with the next segment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Another "McLaughlin Y-2-0 Moment" to salute our 20th anniversary year. The event: Civil discourse on The Group.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE SEGMENTS)
JACK GERMOND: The number of people who are willing to defend him in the administration is getting smaller and smaller.
ROBERT NOVAK: All right, let me ask you -- let me ask him a question.
MR. GERMOND: Wait a minute. Let me finish the --
MR. NOVAK: Let me ask you a question.
MR. GERMOND: No, just let me finish the point; then you can ask me a question.
MR. NOVAK: No, I want to ask you a question right now.
MR. GERMOND: I'm not going to answer it right now, Novak!
MR. BARNES: Wait a minute, Mort. You be quiet!
MR. KONDRACKE: Shut up. Let me finish.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: PLEASE stop talking for a minute.
MR. NOVAK: You don't live on this planet!
MR. GERMOND: You're sick, Novak. You're sick.
MR. NOVAK: When you say you can't understand, that's the first intelligent thing you've said in about a month on this program.
MS. CLIFT: Does the PA system work here? We don't have to shout.
MR. KONDRACKE: (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: (Shouting) Let me finish!
MR. KONDRACKE: Just a second.
MS. CLIFT: (Screaming) I want to FINISH!!
MR. KONDRACKE: (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: Okay. I get to finish my sentence.
MR. KONDRACKE: Yeah, okay.
MR. BARNES: Eleanor, come on, now! Don't give me that Hitler stuff.
MS. CLIFT: Decisiveness is not the only thing that counts.
MR. BARNES: That's ridiculous Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: To say he was decisive.
MR. BARNES: I resent that Hitler stuff!
MS. CLIFT: I didn't call YOU Hitler, Fred.
MR. BARNES: Come on! Look, what Pat said --
MS. CLIFT: Let's not carry it too far.
MR. BARNES: I know, but come on, Eleanor. Geez, give me a break!
MS. CLIFT: Give us time; I may get there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- political process!
MS. CLIFT: He's right. He's right. He's right.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you what's going to happen.
MS. CLIFT: He's right. He's right. Political --
MR. BLANKLEY: Is he right?
MS. CLIFT: Yes, he is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, he's right! (Laughing.)
MS. CLIFT: Political campaigns have turned into economic contests.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look. Let me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish! Let her finish.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you've been interrupting --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let her just finish.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on, Tony, don't be such a spoiled little boy.
(END VIDEOTAPE SEGMENTS)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's nice to know that our civility standards have remained constant over the last 20 years. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Hey!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now what about the behavior of this group? Do you care to comment on it?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I do. You didn't have one clip of me, because I have been civil, and we've toned this thing down. (Laughter.) I was delighted to see that. There wasn't a clip of me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A lot of people don't understand that about you.
Isn't that true?
MR. BUCHANAN: They don't understand what a sweet person I am.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: What I think you have to appreciate about this program is that Pat does set the standard for civility. (Laughter.) That's where the -- that's the beginning of the problem, not the end of --
MR. BUCHANAN: That's the problem! (Laughter continues.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Why 9/11?
"A systems failure." That's what Senate Majority Leader Daschle calls it.
SENATOR TOM DASCHLE (D-SD, Senate majority leader): (From videotape.) This isn't a question of why didn't the president act, this is a question of why didn't the agencies work? Why didn't the information get to the appropriate officials -- the president, members of Congress?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "A policy failure." That's what Senator John McCain calls it.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (From videotape.) That was not a failure of intelligence. It was a failure of diplomatic, military and national policy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican, say that the horror of September 11th was so catastrophic and the failures of both policy and systems so sweeping that Congress cannot be entrusted with review and reform. Only an independent commission can do the job.
SEN. MCCAIN: (From videotape.) We need a group of wise men and women who would be appointed by the president and by the leaders of Congress to assess all of the influences that led up to 9/11, and suggested remedies for it.
SEN. DASCHLE: (From videotape.) I have come to the conclusion that a commission is required for us to come to some final resolution in resolving these outstanding questions and intend to support an effort to bring about a commission at the very earliest date.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Democratic Leader Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator McCain have written legislation authorizing the independent commission.
President Bush disagrees. He says no commission is needed. His
congressional allies agree.
REPRESENTATIVE TOM DELAY (R-TX, House majority whip): (From
videotape.) Our work should prevent another terrorist attack and not make Osama bin Laden's job easier. Some of the Democrat activity over the last week has been overzealous and very unhelpful. A public commission investigating American intelligence in a time of war is ill-conceived and frankly irresponsible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think we should have a commission, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: I'd go with "the Hammer," Tom DeLay. There will be no commission. The president will veto it, unless there's a firestorm of new information.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: If Tom DeLay's against it, I'm for it. (Laughter.) And the White House can't stave off a commission forever. We had it after World War II, Pearl Harbor, and it's inevitable.
MR. BLANKLEY: Eventually there will probably be one, but I don't think in the near future. I think the president's opposed to it. Congress is doing it through the intelligence committees, and that'll be sufficient.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm against either of them, because, frankly, the FBI's going through a tremendous upheaval. So is the CIA as it expands its intelligence activities. I just don't think their senior officers should be diverted by having, as you know, to spend all this time. They're going to have to defend themselves in these commissions. It's the wrong time to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jane Harman, congresswoman from California and a major figure on the Intelligence Committee, she says let these committees run their course, and then we'll see whether or not we need and should have another commission, an outside panel.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.
MR. BUCHANAN: An Indian-Pak war will put the Middle East on the back pages.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: The Democratic Senate will kill the nomination of Texas Judge Priscilla Owen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Tom Daschle will back-pedal from his call for an
independent investigation like he back-pedaled from his accusation against the president the week before.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The letter from the field office in Minnesota, from the FBI field office, criticizing headquarters is going to be matched by many others from many other field offices, putting the FBI into a state of chaos and turmoil.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At the Bush-Putin summit, Putin will capitulate: Russia will buy American chickens -- feathered and featherless.
Next week: Is unilateral disengagement the way to go for Israel?
Have a safe and secure Memorial Day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Hassle me no more.
MR. : (From videotape.) We can't continue this impression that's out there that we're going to torture you when you show up at the airport.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Getting tired of random security checks at the
airport? Imagine this scenario. You purchase an airline ticket with your credit card. Your credit card is in turn linked to your Social Security number. That number is then connected to a detailed matrix of
transactions and personal data: your birthplace; job; credit history; current bank accounts; assets; living arrangements; purchases and shopping habits.
This process already has First Amendment protectionists screaming in protest. What will they do if the Transportation Security
Administration -- the TSA -- installs this system of federal monitoring -- as expected -- before the Christmas travel season? The idea is to establish a ranking system that pinpoints how risky travelers are: high, medium or low risk. The quote-unquote "risk potential" system would end the policy and practice that all travelers should be treated as risk equal. They are not, nor should they be, proponents say. Gone would be long metal screener lines, superfluous wand scans, and unwarranted pattings down.
Also, risk potential screening will increase airline passenger volume and help stabilize the industry, exponents say. And the 85- year-old grandmother will sail through security with her shoes on and her eyelash curler safely tucked in her reticule.
Question: Is constructing a risk quotient for travels a good idea?
I ask you, Mort Zuckerman. And what do you think of pattings down?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I'll answer the latter first, if I may, because I have much more to say about that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unwarranted pattings down.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think warranted and unwarranted pattings down should be handled very carefully and only by a selective few, such as myself, under the right circumstances.
But having said that, I think we do need to develop a risk profile. It is the only efficient way that we're going to have to handle the amount of air traffic that we have and still, in a sense, deal with air traffic safety. You have one more airplane crash that is caused by a terrorist bomb and I guarantee you there will be a much more draconian system than this put into place. We have got to understand that we're going to have a different balance between personal liberties and security in order to protect, if I may say, the personal liberties of those people who would have been killed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is sometimes called "profiling" and there's nothing wrong with profiling, and Americans submit to it every day when they seek auto insurance or health insurance, they're profiled and we submit to it.
MR. BUCHANAN: But look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we accept it for the benefits involved; correct?
MR. BUCHANAN: There ought to be ethnic profiling in this particular situation --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ethnic?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. People from the Middle East, who come from al Qaeda countries, who are 6-foot-five should be checked out before
Guatamalan grannies. You need common sense, this kind of profiling, a new foreign policy. What are we defending? Our freedoms are being invaded here. You're taking people and you're establishing "Big Brother" because you won't use common sense?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the ethnicity, Pat, would be one of several diagnostics, maybe a dozen, maybe 20.
MR. BUCHANAN: Get people with common sense to handle these things.
MS. CLIFT: Right, you just rank everybody and, you know, you submit your iris or whatever -- your DNA, and you get checked out. I think it eliminates the kind of ethnic profiling that you're talking about. See, you want to take away everybody else's freedoms but preserve your own.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. We've got five seconds. Quickly.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think political correctness will be the death of us.
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm in favor of rational profiling, and includes a --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're for it.
You're for it?
MR. BUCHANAN: I'm not for what you recommended. Political
correctness is going to kill us.
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm for almost anything that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you for it?
MS. CLIFT: What if al Qaeda --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you for it?
MS. CLIFT: I'm for it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you for it?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm for it.
MS. CLIFT: What if al Qaeda drafts blue-eyed blondes? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm for it.
Sorry, Pat, you're out there by yourself again.
MR. BUCHANAN: I like it out here! (Laughs.)