THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MORT ZUCKERMAN, TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT, AND PAT BUCHANAN
TAPED: FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2002
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JUNE 22-23, 2002
(C) COPYRIGHT 2002, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 620 NATIONAL
PRESS BUILDING, WASHINGTON, DC 20045, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY
REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION
CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION
LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL
REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT
AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.
FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: So long, Arafat; hello, Dahlan.
ZALMAN SHOVAL (Advisor to Ariel Sharon): (From videotape.) We're going to stay there until Jenin becomes a clean town from the point of view of terrorism.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cleaning Jenin means Israeli military re- occupation of Palestinian territory for an indefinite period, coupled with the construction of a new 215-mile security fence separating Jews and Arabs along the entire length of the West Bank. This comes in the wake of an horrific series of Palestinian suicide bombings:
Tuesday, a bus full of schoolchildren bombed: 19 dead, 50 wounded.
Wednesday, a northern Jerusalem bus stop bombed: six dead, 40 more wounded.
Yasser Arafat publicly condemned the bombings, but his continued inability to rein in those responsible has led to a renewed demand for fresh leadership in Palestine. The strongest contender to succeed Arafat, and the one most acceptable to the U.S., is Mohammed Dahlan.
YORAM BINUR (Arab Affairs Analyst): (From videotape.) He's going to have tremendous power, both in the security arena and in the political arena, exactly what Mohammed Dahlan is looking for for many years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The 41-year-old former security chief of Gaza, appointed by Arafat, fought Israeli occupation as a teenager and talks about torture and beatings he got during his six terms in Israeli prison. Dahlan has gained a reputation in the West as a moderate reformist and of late has been raising his profile.
MR. DAHLAN: (From videotape.) There is no benefit to destroy this building and to asking us later on to control the situation here in Gaza. It's really impossible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ariel Sharon sees Dahlan as a terrorist. Though regularly seen at Arafat's side, he has publicly disagreed with the Palestinian leader on several occasions. Ironically, many Palestinians see Dahlan as a puppet of Israel, owing largely to his ties to CIA Director George Tenet, developed during the Arafat-Barak- Clinton Camp David and Wye summits.
Dahlan is frankly critical of the U.S., and especially about the inherent contradiction in the U.S. demand for democratic reform in Palestine, as he stated on CNN: "We are asked to form a democratic system while we are under complete occupation. This is not rational. This is not realistic. We cannot conduct elections while Israel imposes its siege on every Palestinian city and village."
At week's end, more wicked acts, including a Palestinian raid on a Jewish settlement: five Israelis killed. Also, Israelis fired on an open market in Jenin: three Palestinians killed.
Question: Is it time to accept the obvious -- namely, that Sharon and Arafat will never be able to deal, so we must foster new leadership? Is this the way for Bush to jump-start a political dialogue, Pat "Deep Throat" Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the story? Are you Deep Throat or not? Straighten out the record.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you remember me then. I did not hang out in garages with Washington Post reporters. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you were not a -- well, you were a Scotch drinker. No, you were a Scotch drinker, and you didn't smoke.
MR. BUCHANAN: I was ecumenical when it came to drinking in those days, John. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, who was Deep Throat? Do you want to clarify?
MR. BUCHANAN: Deep Throat is someone in the investigative process, and he's not Deep Throat; it's a composite. But secondly, it is a dramatic device that was used by Woodward and Bernstein to try to sell a book and now to keep themselves on television.
But let's get back to a more --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, I should say I concur with you on that.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's a contrivance. And of course, Woodward specializes in those in those in his other books. You remember the visit he made to the dying Bill Casey -- (laughing) -- penetrating --
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, he had the deathbed conversation with a guy in a coma.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- penetrating the CIA guards outside?
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But go ahead.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right. You have stumbled into the truth again, John.
But let me -- this is a serious matter. Look, the kiss of death for this fellow would be the fact that he is supposed to be America's man. I do think Arafat is finished, for the reason that Sharon won't talk to him, and Bush is very much a prisoner of Sharon on these matters.
But the key thing here, John, is, Hamas is running this show. They are playing Sharon like a matador plays a bull. As soon as we get toward peace talks or a peace table, they snap the bloody cape of terrorism right in Sharon's face, and his response is to send these tanks and troops into the West Bank. So Hamas is preventing any kind of move toward peace, and they're running the show.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, is this the way to move the peace process off a frozen dead center, to ask Arafat -- get Arafat -- remove Arafat up and out?
MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, I have to speak up for my journalistic colleagues. Whatever the "contrivance" Woodward and Bernstein used, their evidence was very good, and the facts were good, and I don't think anybody disputes that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Indicating Mr. Buchanan.) You mean you think he's Deep Throat? (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: I don't think he's Deep Throat, but I don't see Deep Throat as just a way to keep Woodward and Bernstein on television. That was very good information that led to the only resignation we've had of a president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think Deep Throat is a solitary individual, right?
MS. CLIFT: I don't know whether it's a solitary individual or a composite.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's what I mean. That's what we mean by "contrivance." It was literary contrivance.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you who he is off camera, John. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, please.
MS. CLIFT: I just felt there was some denigration of the reporting there, which was top-notch.
On the current situation, first of all, I think the notion that we really favor a democracy, a democratic Palestinian Authority -- be careful what you ask for; you may get it. If they had free elections, Hamas would do very well. The Islamic Jihad would do very well. The notion that we can have a policy which says once Arafat goes, you know, the sun will shine, it's delusional, because even if this gentleman that you have selected should rise to the leadership, moderation is not possible in the current climate. Moderation in the Palestinian territories would be widely discredited. It would be like asking President Bush to sit down with Osama bin Laden. I mean, this is not something that can happen. Moderation is dead for the moment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, we look to you for the final answer on this. I noticed in the current issue of The Washington Times that Tony Blankley has been named editorial page editor of The Washington Times. Congratulations.
MR. BLANKLEY: Thank you.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what's the answer to this question?
MR. BLANKLEY: Read it in The Times. (Laughter.) Look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it -- first of all, Dahlan, by the way, knows Hebrew, and I think that helps with his -- in his dealings with the Israelis, especially the older generation -- like you, Mort. Secondly -- what's the other point I want to make?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, let me make my point, which is, I think that -- first of all, I don't think that we are likely to be able to predict who it's going to do. But oddly, Hamas may have more -- which, by the way, Eleanor's right, has probably between 40 and 60 percent support amongst the Palestinians, at least according to some reports I've heard, not the 20 percent that Arafat claims it has. Hamas may actually in the short term be more useful as a interlocutory with Sharon than any of Arafat's people, who I think are generally viewed as having been corrupted, particularly anyone who went with him to Tunis during the period when he was not able to be in country, of which Dahlan, I think, is one of them. Dahlan also suffers from the fact that his car was machine-gunned by Israelis but nobody was hurt, so there's suspicion that he's being set up as a hero to the Palestinians even though he's Israel's man. So I think it's unlikely that he's going, in the long run, or any of the people around Arafat are going to end up in power.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to help me out with this? I'm obviously having a difficult time selling Dahlan.
I also want to point out you can't go the other way, because if Sharon were not out -- if Sharon were out in order to move the peace process, then you'd have Netanyahu. And no help there. What about this guy?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say, in the first place I do think now that there is a disaster in the making there. I mean, if you look on the Israeli side for a second, there was a poll there that showed 92 percent of the Israeli Jews believe that either they or a member of their family will be killed or injured in a terrorist attack. I mean, that's a country on the verge of a nervous breakdown. They have lost complete faith in Arafat. And no progress will be made in any dialogue, no matter who is the prime minister, if Arafat is on the other side.
So the question is -- and the American administration, Bush appreciates this, understands it, knows what Arafat has been doing, knows that Arafat is completely untrustworthy. And, by the way, so do the Arab countries. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, they all know who Arafat is. Whatever they say publicly, they know who he is privately.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They think he's a liar.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. And unreliable. The question is, who will succeed him? The answer is, nobody knows. Mohammed Dahlan, whom you referred to, in fact has lost power. He was the head of security in Gaza. And basically, he resigned because Arafat put somebody else in to head the new security agency.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he tried to resign before that at least three times.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No doubt. But I'm just telling you right now, he is much more on the outs of Fatah. I don't believe that Hamas will be the alternative, by the way, if there is an election because the Palestinians are by and large a secular people, not a religious people. Hamas is a religious organization primarily.
MR. BUCHANAN: But it will be a hawk. It will be a hawk if they --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't disagree, but look, 41 percent of the terrorist attacks in the past year were conducted by Fatah, only 39 percent by Hamas. So --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, let me get you back on this track, all right? Who could succeed Arafat whom Sharon would deal with?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think Sharon would deal with any one of any number of people, but he will not deal with Arafat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who could handle the situation of governance in Palestine other than Arafat?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, frankly, any one of -- Abu Ala, Abu Mazin, who are right now the two senior guys under Arafat. Then you have a younger generation, of which Mohammed Dahlan was one. Jibril Rajoub, he's also being --
MR. BUCHANAN: But John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know the U.S. candidate.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I know who the U.S. candidate is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. candidate is Dahlan; you know that.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They know -- he would be one of the people they would like to work with, but he is not the U.S. candidate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's George Tenet's candidate, is he not?
MS. CLIFT: He --
MR. BUCHANAN: But John, look.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. I want to hear this.
MR. BUCHANAN: Okay.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: George Tenet worked with Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan. He likes them both. But there's nobody --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The central proposition here --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's no internal power other than Arafat. That's the one thing he has made sure of. Nobody has emerged behind him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, I know that.
Is the central proposition true that this peace process will be frozen solid, immovable, unless there is a change in leadership on the Palestinian side?
MR. BUCHANAN: But John, Ariel --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that true?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's absolutely true.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that true?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.
MR. BUCHANAN: Ariel Sharon will veto -- look, the use of the term "terrorism" --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: (Inaudible) -- veto anybody.
MR. BUCHANAN: "Terrorism" is also a term to de-legitimize and to take away any legal sanction for the individual you call a terrorist. Sharon will call anyone a terrorist for the simple reason he does not want to negotiate with anyone. He doesn't want to negotiate --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it's not true.
MR. BUCHANAN: Certainly it's true. The guy wants to hold the West Bank and the settlements. He will not stop building them. He's building them right now. And you name anybody; he calls them a terrorist. Bush backs down and says we can't --
MS. CLIFT: I don't think Arafat --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on for one minute. Just one minute, Eleanor.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I want to point out to you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he -- are they still building --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I want to point out to you that Sharon dealt with both the Egyptians and the Jordanians, who had Sadat and Hussein, and he knocked out the biggest settlement in Yamit. Sharon did when he was in the military.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MR. BUCHANAN: You're talking 1977!
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Whatever it is. You're talking 1982; what difference does it make? All I'm saying to you is that Sharon carries a lot of political baggage, but the would deal with the West-Bankers but not with Arafat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MR. BUCHANAN: He'll deal with a quisling.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He dealt with his two senior guys and Jibril Rajoub. They all came to see him, and he was willing to deal with them, but not with Arafat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Sharon has no strategy other than to just plow into the West Bank and stay there. And in terms of our country's policy, you can't just wait for Arafat to die or go away, you have to deal with the situation as is. And the president should not be backing off and not making his speech. He ought to be going ahead, putting some measure of hope out there on the table, because however big you build a fence, however many incursions you have, you're not going to stop violence in that part of the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor is right. The president should have gone forward with that speech.
MR. BLANKLEY: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It now becomes a victory for Hamas.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, absolutely not.
MS. CLIFT: The terrorists are in charge.
MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor's right. Sharon doesn't have a strategy. I don't think our government does. I don't think anyone's got a strategy there --
MS. CLIFT: I can agree with that.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- that's even plausible. But the proposal that is being leaked around town, that there should be a provisional government recognized by the State Department, is appalling. The deal was always "land for peace." Now, we're going to say, if this proposal comes forward, that we're going to give the Palestinians the land without the promise of peace?
MS. CLIFT: That proposal is a -- (inaudible) -- because the president is going to call for reform of the Palestinian Authority initially, and that's a sham. That would take years or decades, if ever.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So, wait a minute. To support the view that Arafat should go, listen to this from a Friday interview with King Jordan's (sic) Abdullah. On the screen: "What I can say is that over the years, I always thought Arafat was capable of controlling Palestinian public sentiment and extremism. I think that is no longer the case today." Is that not a slide into the view that Arafat should go?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. Events -- events have passed him by.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think the one thing, if you were to speak off the record to the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, and the Moroccans, they'd all say, if there's any way to get rid of Arafat, we'd like to. They all want to do it gracefully. They want to move him to the presidency, where he has no real power. He'll be a ceremonial president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Whatever works. I'm saying -- they know that with Arafat there, there'll be no peace process.
MS. CLIFT: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. I want to nail this down. A group verdict on Arafat: Is it time to start dealing with a successor? Yes or no. Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: It is not. If you do that, the Americans are responsible for dumping Arafat, and the new individual who comes in will bear the mark of Cain, which is the fact that he's America's boy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, you reach out to whatever other leaders may be emerging, but you have to deal with the leader who is in place, and that's Arafat. And he has a long history. He's charismatic. And he's outlived a lot of people. So, I wouldn't write him off.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You say no. What do you say?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think we should certainly be prepared to deal with anyone that's useful to us. I'm not sure whether there is anyone that fits that category.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see this as the only way right now to move this peace process forward and stop -- stop this appalling killing?
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think -- I don't think there is a peace process. I think the killing is going to go on because the passions have been inflamed. And until the passions are reduced, the killing continues. So, I have no optimism.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't believe there'll be any progress on the peace process with Arafat, and I don't believe anybody can get him out, not us, not the Egyptians, not the Saudis, not the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what do you want to do?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We have to -- this is a --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you want to do?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is an international problem that cannot be solved; it can only be managed if it --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's like getting rid of --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- and maybe not even be managed. We cannot stop the violence, and you can't get any progress on the peace process as long as Arafat is there. It's gone. It's not going to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's obvious what you think has to be done, and you're right. Namely, we must talk with a successor.
Okay, another Y20 McLaughlin moment to mark our 20th anniversary year, Pat. The date: June, 1985, 17 years ago. The place: Beirut. The event: TWA Flight 847 hijacked by two Lebanese gunmen and flown to Beirut. One American passenger slain, 39 American hostages held for 17 days. The terrorists make one key demand: Israel must release 766 prisoners.
(Begin videotape segment.)
MORTON KONDRACKE: There's a bigger point being made, and that is it's part of an effort on the part of the Shi'ite to drive the United States and all Western interests out of Lebanon permanently. There's more involved here than this. It is a world terrorist conspiracy against the West.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bob? Quickly.
ROBERT NOVAK: Do you think we are in a state of war in the world today?
HODDING CARTER: I believe that we are under assault, but in no way is this a nation either at hostage or at risk.
MR. NOVAK: I think we are in a state of war, and Americans have got to learn to live with it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that international terrorism is getting worse, or do you think the situation is, so to speak, improving, down the line? I'm talking to you.
FRED BARNES: I know who you're talking to. It will improve down the line if the U.S. begins to retaliate against terrorists.
MR. KONDRACKE: I do think that Ronald Reagan, having spoken so often harshly and done so little again and again and again, is inviting terrorist attacks unless he retaliates.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're saying worse down the line.
MR. KONDRACKE: I do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll agree with you, Morton.
(End videotape segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Due to popular and irresistible demand, we are scheduling a full hour of vintage McLaughlin footage, to be aired in July. Watch this space for future bulletins. Pat, make sure you're on hand.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) A few clips of me would help these -- these -- (laughs) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back, Amtrak on the ropes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: The Big Engine That Couldn't.
(Music: "Chattanooga Choo-Choo.")
DAVID GUNN (CEO and president, Amtrak): (From videotape.) If you do a cash flow for Amtrak, the revenues minus expenses, we have a negative cash flow for July, August and September. And we need to borrow $200 million in order to sustain operations through the rest of the fiscal year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two hundred million dollars isn't all that Amtrak needs. America's passenger rail system has been a sinkhole for taxpayer-funded federal subsidies for years. Now Amtrak's new president, David Gunn, says that without an immediate loan injection, train operations around the country will grind to a halt as of July 1.
MR. GUNN: (From videotape.) If we don't have this issue resolved by the middle of next week, I think we're out of time. I think at that point we'd begin the process of shutting down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Service would resume in October, when Amtrak receives its $1.3 billion appropriation for 2003. After that, Gunn says, he can rescue Amtrak by trimming top-heavy management, centralizing decision-making and opening access to the system's financial records.
But that might not be enough light at the end of Amtrak's long, dark tunnel. The system is $4 billion in debt and is also the target of break-up efforts by some members of Congress and the White House.
On Thursday, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the Bush administration supports privatizing portions of the nation's passenger rail system and promoting competition among the rail lines. But in a recent memo, David Gunn told Amtrak employees that he would, quote, "not participate in the dismemberment of our company," unquote.
There's high moral purpose for you.
Question: Suppose Amtrak does cease service in July, and then we have another 9/11 attack, and the airports are closed. Can we afford that? I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, that was going to be my first point -- that although we can't -- we shouldn't continue the subsidy of a mismanaged operation, we in fact need to have passenger rail service precisely as a backup, should we have any more airplane disasters.
MS. CLIFT: Well, but --
MR. BLANKLEY: And on the hand, they're caught a short-term quandary. They can't get the loan until their ratings get up, and they can't get their ratings up till they get their loan. And so I think we should intervene in the short term and then have a privatization plan out in the -- in the out years.
MR. BUCHANAN: You know --
MS. CLIFT: There isn't a rail system in the world that isn't heavily subsidized by government. The airlines have all gotten their handouts on Capitol Hill. If we were really serious about creating rail travel in this country, we would put money into the infrastructure and maintain it just like we do the highways.
But this -- they're not going to shut down. John McLaughlin and people of his ilk take the Acela train to New York regularly. You can now get grilled swordfish steak on the Acela train, and it's a great mode of travel. The elites are not going to allow it to be shut down.
MR. BUCHANAN: I just rode that train. She's right, the road bed is atrocious. You bounce and rock along all the way.
John, we've put money into it for 30 years. Look, it is time to privatize or perish. And, you know, I think that's really what ought to happen now. You mentioned the countries in Europe, but these are little teeny countries, they go -- you know, you go a couple hundred miles and you need -- we've got the airliners; you got 95 percent travel in cars.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't worry about railroads do you, Mort, huh?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You fly in your own little chopper?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. I like to take Amtrak because I know I have a chance to sit next to you, you know, I learn -- (laughter) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ha, ha! What about us -- what about us little people? Do you want to keep the railroads going?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'd like you to pay for the next swordfish lunch, if you don't mind. I'm tired of standing for it!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- do you think --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, but I don't think we ought to shut it down, but we also can't micromanage it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a larger -- wait a minute, there's a larger question here.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this Republic is any more governable? Every place you look you see disastrous management; you see the CIA, you see the FBI, you see the INS, you see Amtrak. Are we becoming a laughing stock to the world --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No. Let me just say that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- as a Republic?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- whatever you may say about the way we govern, frankly, I think we govern better than most other countries. I mean, if you want -- look at France if you want to see -- or Italy. Do you want to be governed the way they are? If you don't mind my saying so, we do a lot better than most every other country.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But look at what Vladimir Putin is doing over in Russia!
MR. BUCHANAN: Have you been on a Russian train?! (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You really want to be governed the way Russia is governed!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. We all agree that Amtrak should get the $200 million loan, right? We all agree?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, yes.
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the merchandise trade deficit hit $480 billion. The dollar will continue to fall. Big problems for the market and the economy.
MS. CLIFT: That was exactly what I was going to say.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!
MS. CLIFT: The dollar is going to continue to fall against the euro and the yen for at least another year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: Al Qaeda's growing presence in Kashmir is going to increasingly create tremendous problems for us and also for the Pakistan government.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to wear that blue ensemble at the Washington Times when you take over as the editorial page editor?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: During the summertime, yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow! What a standard.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Venezuelans are going to reform their constitution to reduce Chavez's term from six years to four years and get him out within six months.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting.
Ten more major corporate ethic scandals will surface over the next six months.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Jumbo on a jet.
MS. : (From videotape.) Who's going to decide who needs to pay for the extra ticket? Do we have to get on a scale? I mean, my weight is private medical information. It's not for anybody else's knowledge.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A big flap over flab ballooned at Southwest Airlines this week. The airline's "people of size" policy has tubby passengers fuming. Such obese customers are being asked to buy two tickets if Southwest agents deem them too portly for one seat.
The policy, says, Southwest, is not a new one. It's to ensure that all passengers, notably those sitting next to the heavies, have a comfortable flight. It's also a matter of simple arithmetic. "We sell seats, and if you consume more than one seat, you have to buy more than one seat," says Southwest.
But the corpulent class disagrees. "If a person takes up more than one seat, that's not the problem of the person, that's the problem of the seat." So says the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination. Southwest seats, by the way, measure 18 inches wide.
Southwest is not the only weight-conscious airline. American and Continental require passengers to buy a second ticket if they, quote, unquote, "protrude extensively into an adjacent seat."
Question: Smokers have been banned on airlines, so that they cannot even passively infringe on the rights of fellow passengers. So why is it wrong to ban obese people from infringing physically on fellow passengers? I ask you, Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you know, I'd give them a lot more credibility if they'd charge --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who? Who?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- the airlines -- if they charged a half a seat for a very thin person. You know, I mean, I just don't see the point of trying to do this. This is an impossible situation for them. I don't think there's any way they're going to get away with --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you are paying for the room that you occupy, so who's being discriminated against?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Or the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it the obese person, or is the person who is paying for the space that he occupies or she occupies?
Do you have thoughts on this, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I do. I'm all with the airlines, quite frankly. I've flown Southwest. They have -- some of them don't have armrests. You sit next to somebody like Tony here -- (laughter) -- it can be pure hell on a trip to the coast -- (laughter) -- or Jack Germond.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You fly Southwest?
MR. BUCHANAN: Occasionally I've had to take --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're the former head of the Reform Party!
MR. BUCHANAN: I -- (laughing) -- in my campaigns, we even went down from Southwest, John.. (Laughter.) But I've flown that, and they've got three seats together, you know, and you get a huge person taking two seats, he ought to pay for them. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. Look -- look, I -- some months ago I flew on --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (To Mr. Blankley.) You notice that I've been directing the questions to other panelists. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: I know. It was very discreet of you.
MR. BUCHANAN: Probably direct them away from -- (laughs) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But please, go ahead.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you, I completely agree with the airlines. Last year I was in one of those three-seat things. There was me, there was a guy at least as big as me in the window seat -- (laughter) -- and then this huge, fat lady between us. (Laughter.) And it was impossible. I mean, she was perched like a -- (laughter) --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I am not touching that! I am not touching this one.
MR. BLANKLEY: And I can speak, because I'm a man of good proportions myself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you would commend Southwest Airlines?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think -- I don't think they're going to be able to pull it off, but I think it makes perfect sense. The economies of airlines require the seats to be so many per plane. They're not making a lot of money as it is, and if people who -- are going to lean or flow out into the next seat, they should have to pay for it or fly first class.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but the airlines have been making the seats and the space smaller and smaller and smaller. What's to stop them from going from 18 (inches) down to 16?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, they'll find the point where there's no longer (respect for the ?) consumer.
MS. CLIFT: And yes, I have some sympathy with them, but I think they are trying to extract too many seats on a given flight.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's going to be very hard for them to execute, but it's very fair on their part, I think.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's danger, if you try to avoid the roll-out of suet or fat, that you might get yourself contorted, your spine, it might -- you might pinch your spine if you keep cringing in one direction? Is that an aspect of this problem? Who covers that liability?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Did you -- do you think of this question on the show, or did you make this up before? (Laughter.) Because, I mean, it's really -- but let me just ask you a question. You're going to get movie theaters, buses -- you know, every conceivable area where you have seats, they're going to raise this issue --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's called free enterprise. Free enterprise, capitalism --
MS. CLIFT: No lawyer's going to take on your suet or anybody else's suet, John! (Laughter.) It's a losing case.