THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: GERARD BAKER, TONY BLANKLEY, JAMES CARNEY AND ELEANOR CLIFT
TAPED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2002
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 5-6, 2002
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: U.S. occupies Iraq.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) We'll work with other nations to help the Iraqi people form a just government and a unified country. And should force be required, the United States will help rebuild a liberated Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That rebuilding of Iraq mentioned by the president may become a herculean task, eclipsing even the Marshall Plan in Europe post-World War II. If there is going be favorable regime change in Iraq, the U.S. will have to create that new regime from the ground up. Since late summer, special task forces have been meeting at the State Department to plan the aftermath of our presumptive victory.
Item: civilian humanitarian crisis. Every war causes chaos. Refugee aid, shelter, food, water, medical care for the wounded -- without a functioning Iraqi government, the U.S. will have to provide immediate humanitarian relief.
Item: maintain order. U.S. troops will have to keep order in Iraq's 10 largest cities, safeguard its oil fields, secure its borders, prevent fighting between Iraq's fractious religious and ethnic groups.
Item: Seek and destroy weapons of mass destruction. Unless Iraq surrenders every nerve gas canister, Scud and secret factory, the entire country will have to be painstakingly searched -- a country larger than California.
Item: create a transition government. The White House wants a democracy. For that to happen, Iraq needs an interim constitution and an electoral law. A transition government in the interim will have to govern Iraq's 20 million people.
Item: pay for reconstruction. Iraq's infrastructure will have to be rebuilt. One option: use Iraqi oil revenue. That means business for oil middlemen who control the contracts. The carpetbaggers are already lining up outside the White House. Experts warn against underestimating the task. How many troops? One estimate says 75,000 troops for up to 10 years, at a cost of $16 billion per year, and in the first six months, $9 billion per month, or $300 million per day.
Question: How severe is the ethnic conflict that the U.S would face in fighting to maintain order in post-Saddam Iraq, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: By every indication we've had, John, it will be very severe. You've got a country that really never was a country prior to it being brought together by a strong-armed leader like Saddam Hussein.
You've got rebellious Shi'ites, who are the majority in the country, down in the South, who will likely take advantage of the absence of power or the vacuum of power in Baghdad to push for more power, either within Iraq or uniting with Iranian Shi'ites, which would be a terrible situation and possibly put us into conflict with Iran. Then you've got the Kurds, in the North, who might also rebel and try to establish their own state, which could bring Turkey in, and Turkey would welcome any opportunity to thrash a few Kurds because they've got their own Kurdish rebellion problem.
What we have here, John, with a lot of people in the pro-war movement talking about Iraq blossoming as a democracy in the Arab world, is somewhat both naive and unrealistic. I mean, it's a great idea but it's not realistic. And I think what is more likely to happen is that we will support some sort of general who will take over, be friendly to the U.S., at least for now, and try to establish some kind of stability on the perhaps Musharraf model in Pakistan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, you have no history of democracy, as Jay says, in Iraq. And that's not to say that it can't have a history. There was no history of democracy in Japan, either, before the U.S. went in there, but that did take a Marshall Plan --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're not really parallel countries.
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First of all, that's a homogenous culture.
MS. CLIFT: Right. And there are these rival ethnic groups in Iraq, so it would be much -- difficult. But the point is that where democracies have begun to thrive, it takes decades and enormous resources from the outside. And the president has really not leveled with the American people about the costs of this economically alone, and the deprivation this country would have to endure in order to put in the kind of money that it would take to build a democratic Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, do you want to take one of those other concerns that we will have once we are living in the post-Saddam era that the United States will be addressed with?
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't need to talk about that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you can, of course.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- objective and calm view of the future after the war. Look. The fact is, there are problems. You've got divisions within the Kurds, which is being worked on. You've got the Congress outside. You do have these ethic problems, but I don't think they're necessarily insurmountable. In fact, there's a sense of -- some sense of optimism. The two rival Kurd (captains ?) this week are working -- are getting ready to work together and meet for the first time in a long time because they recognize there's a chance now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm.
MR. BLANKLEY: And that's what this is. It's not a guarantee of democracy. It's not going to be New England-style town hall meetings. But the people there recognize that after all these years, they have a chance for something better than they've had, and if we play it reasonably right, and with the assistance of our European friends who will be helping in the post-war period, it has a reasonable chance of being more successful.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to add to this?
MR. BAKER: Yeah. I, too, can offer a slightly more sanguine outlook than that rather apocalyptic view you gave us on the introduction there. I think it does really depend on who is on site, or who is with us in this what we'll be going into. Indeed, as I understand it, one of the reasons that President Bush was persuaded, one of the most important reasons, to go down the U.N. route was precisely because of this question of rebuilding and reconstruction. What do you do? If you have Arab support, if you have European support, if you have, you know, a country, for example, like Germany, where relations are not very good with the U.S. at the moment but has already promised to take over peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, if you get support from the rest of the world for regime change or for an aggressive campaign against Iraq, then you've got a much better chance of getting the kind of support in the region and around the rest of the world to create the kind of conditions you want to in Iraq after the war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. Well, I guess we can relax now, don't you think, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: But don't you need -- you need some sort of agreement on who or what group should be taking control of Iraq once Saddam is gone. And there is no agreement -- not even within the U.S. government -- over which group should. There's a feud between the State Department and the Defense Department over --
MR. BLANKLEY: And the CIA, who's also --
MR. CARNEY: And the CIA.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we're at war internally.
MR. CARNEY: Completely at war internally.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, U.N. on hold -- Hans Blix said this this week: It would be awkward if we were doing inspections and a new mandate with new changed directives suddenly arrived. It would be better to have those early.
What is the new mandate that Hans Blix is talking about, Gerry?
MR. BAKER: Well, we're talking about whether or not there is a new U.N. resolution. This is what this whole process is going on at the U.N. at the moment -- whether or not the U.S. and Britain can persuade France, Russia and China to come along with or at least not to veto a new resolution that would be a much tougher regime. And the current regime of inspections is a very, very loose one. It has this rule about presidential palaces, for example -- the inspectors can't go into presidential palaces without proper diplomatic activity.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I thought the Iraqis said that they're going to have unfettered access.
MR. BAKER: No, they didn't; they said they could have the -- it was a very -- it was a rather clever statement by the Iraqis -- by the Iraqis so far -- they could have unfettered access to Iraq. They haven't said anything about having unfettered access. In fact, what they've said is, they can go -- come back in under the conditions that the previous -- (inaudible) -- U.N. regime --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And (what are those ?)? Would you give us advance notice of three weeks, so we can get everything out?
MR. BAKER: Well, you've got to (have their ?) presidential palaces; you've got to go into presidential palaces with proper diplomatic support. If you get a new resolution of the sort that the U.S. and Britain want, it would be intrusive, it would be aggressive, it would require the Iraqis to open up and --
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. BAKER: -- and with absolutely no notice. It would be much more likely to get the result you want.
MR. BLANKLEY: And the point about Blix is that he had negotiated with Kofi Annan, but now this week, he's recognized that he works for the Security Council, not for the secretary. And his meeting with the Security Council I believe Friday -- he recognizes that the new mandate will come from them, which means comes from whatever agreement we can get with the British, French, Germans -- and Russians -- excuse me -- so he's now on hold, and he's recognized that Kofi Annan is over -- (inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: Well he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do the Europeans not believe the United States is softening, and they will permit the -- that the United States will permit a little less rigorous than we had hitherto demanded?
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment.
MR. CARNEY: I think the real debate will be -- I think the French and the Russians and the Chinese will go along with the idea of intense and aggressive inspections. But the problem --
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think Bush --
MR. CARNEY: -- is over -- the problem is over the second part of this resolution which the United States wants, which is, within one resolution, authorization for using all possible means if Saddam doesn't cooperate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean they want one resolution, and they want that resolution to say, "We can use military force if we do not get cooperation."
MR. CARNEY: And the French --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They also want to have U.N. observers with the actual inspectors -- (inaudible).
MS. CLIFT: Well, Bush has softened his tone and appears to be open to the French solution of the two-step resolution. But I don't think he's changed his timetable. So whatever the U.N. does, I think the administration continues to plan for a buildup that will culminate in probably a February attack. I think that's still on the way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have another -- right. We have another wild card that introduced itself into the equation this week, with more emphasis than it has earlier, and that's Russia oil strategy, the geopolitics of oil, Gerry.
MR. BAKER: Well, the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Russia's strategy in the U.N. for the last few years has basically been to seek to be courted by the Iraqis or the Americans or anyone else who is willing to give them the best commercial deal. And in the past two years, the U.S. and Iraq" -- get this -- "have been fighting over Russia's pocket." That's the interpretation of Raad Alkadiri, quoted in your newspaper, the Financial Times, on Friday. What's he talking about?
MR. BAKER: Well, the Russians have tremendous oil interests in Iraq. I mean, one of the -- the Russians -- let's be clear about this. I don't want to be too crude about it, but the Russians are really negotiating over the price for their cooperation in this U.N. operation in Iraq. They want to be sure that they going to get -- that they are going to maximize their benefits from this. They have tremendous --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is their current asset holding?
MR. BAKER: They have something like two-thirds -- they have rights for exploration and development on two-thirds of Iraqi oil reserves, which are tremendous. Iraq has more oil reserves than any other in the country in world other than Saudi Arabia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, of Iraq oil reserve of 20 billion barrels of oil 60 miles north of Basra --
MR. BAKER: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- they have 68 percent of that territorial oil. Correct?
MR. BAKER: That's right. They have -- that's right. They have that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they have had that for the last 12 years and earlier than that.
MR. BAKER: They have, but they've never been able to develop it, obviously, because the sanctions regime doesn't permit --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct.
Okay. Now where do we go from there? Are they saying to the United States, "If you want our vote, then if you take over Iraq, then you've got to preserve our asset for us"? Is that what's going on here?
MR. BAKER: They want at least a deal which -- I mean, at the moment, it's this -- the rights that they have are not worth much to them, because they can't export the oil, because Iraq can't export the oil, because of the sanctions regime. If they can get a deal with the U.S. whereby we will starting getting Iraqi oil being exported after a war, then they could have --
MS. CLIFT: Now they -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a minute. Just a minute.
MR. BAKER: -- they could have their rights to that oil, and they could get more money out of that than they're getting --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it -- and is this what -- wait -- and what do we get out of it? Is it -- this what we get out of it? That we want their oil, and the combination of their oil and other Iraqi oil, that combination, the Russian oil, the Iraqi oil, would compensate for an absence of Saudi Arabian oil.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. Can I --
MR. BAKER: No.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, that's --
MR. BAKER: We get their acquiescence in military action and in a regime change in Iraq.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we fighting a war on terrorism, or are we fighting a war for oil?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, let me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from Jay.
MR. CARNEY: We're bartering oil for cooperation on the war on terrorism.
Look, the United States -- the government of George W. Bush is perfectly willing to have Russia -- Russian -- Russia's impulses be capitalist, as opposed to ideological, when they're dealing with foreign policy. If the price of Russia agreement on this initiative into Iraq is oil, I think this administration's willing to pay it, especially because they see Russia as a future ally. In an oil war --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, you see this and Gerry sees this as an innocent commercial bartering transaction for the greater good of us taking over Iraq, et cetera.
MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- yes.
MS. CLIFT: Right. And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think there's more here than meets the eye?
MS. CLIFT: Well, that's how they'll --
MR. BLANKLEY: Let --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from Eleanor, then you.
MR. BLANKLEY: Okay.
MS. CLIFT: That's how they'll sell it in this country, and I think people here, for the most part, will treat this as a benign arrangement. But the rest of the world sees this as an oil takeover by bully America and an unholy alliance with Russia. And oil isn't all Russia wants.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, let me make one point. Let me get --
MS. CLIFT: They want trade sanctions lifted. They want -- and they want a free hand in Georgia, so they can behave towards Georgia the -- and take out terrorism there as well. Preemptive --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean Putin wants to make a preemptive strike into Georgia?
MS. CLIFT: He wants preemptive -- yes, he wants the blessing for that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "You have your preemptive strike, Mr. Bush. I want my preemptive strike on Georgia."
MS. CLIFT: Absolutely. Absolutely. I want to ask you a question. The question is, don't we have two odd men out? We have China and France. How is he going to get them off through the geopolitics of oil?
MR. BLANKLEY: China -- his foreign minister's already said publicly that they're likely to, at worst, acquiesce. The oil issue is a legitimate issue. You raise it legitimately. But it is a small subset of a larger geopolitical --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- you think --
MR. BLANKLEY: And by the way, this is not a revelation that Russian oil is the issue. I've been talking on this show for months that -- (inaudible) -- negotiating with the Russians to cut the deal with them. We always understood --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now you're negotiating with the Russians?
MS. CLIFT: But (it's bigger than ?) oil!
MR. BLANKLEY: No. America.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: America!
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm an American, even though I talk this way -- (laughs; laughter) -- and we Americans -- the Americans, through our president, have been negotiating with the Russians for months to get their acquiescence for the war in Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, what's behind some of this is the feeling that the Saudi government may not be all that stable.
MR. BLANKLEY: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And therefore, we want to protect ourselves. In fact, we want to protect ourselves against a cataclysm that could occur in the Middle East because we are going after -- the way we are going after the terrorists.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, the oil strategy --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Therefore, we want to have this oils secure in Iraq and in Russia or through Russia.
MS. CLIFT: But we --
MR. BLANKLEY: The oil issue regarding Saudi Arabia is beyond this. The Caspian oil that we're working with is a long-term strategy of which Iraq is a small part of -- is a part of -- is a part of this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How is this going to sit with the American people? That's what I want to know. How's it going to sit them?
MR. CARNEY: I think, unfortunately, as long as gas is cheap at the pump, I think it will sit fine with the American people -- especially --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's two and a quarter for high-octane gas in Washington.
MR. CARNEY: -- especially with the amount of disfavor we're now seeing with Saudi Arabia. This administration, at least in one area, when it comes to the future of oil, has a vision. And that vision is to gradually move away from our dependence on Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but this is bizarre --
MR. CARNEY: -- and try to work out with Iraq --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: But this is bizarre; we're talking about protecting ourselves against a cataclysm that we're creating. I mean, basically, we're destroying --
MR. BLANKLEY: We're are creating --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We got to get out.
MR. BLANKLEY: We are creating it, for goodness' sake. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: We are destroying the stability in that region.
MR. BLANKLEY: There is no stability. Haven't you noticed in the last few (years ?).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We got to get out. Exit question --
MS. CLIFT: There's more now than there will be after a preemptive strike! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, just resist his temptations that he throws i your way. He's only baiting you.
MS. CLIFT: I can resist him very easily. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Does regime change -- listen to the question, please. Listen closely. Does regime change in Iraq mean that the U.S. will have to create the regime change; that Bush will be involved in the nation-building business for the indefinite future? One professor, Bill Galston, the guru of Bill Clinton, said on air, we should think of it in terms of World War II -- Japan and Germany, where we currently have American troops 50 years after.
MR. CARNEY: I think yes. The answer's yes. Nation-building, yes. And that's what Bush will have to do. And that's why I think he'll go to move away from the rosy visions of democracy blooming in Baghdad and will instead try to find a stable, strong man to run the country, at least temporarily, in a transition.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to --
MS. CLIFT: And it will require more troops than it did in Korea --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please repeat.
MS. CLIFT: It will require more troops than it does in Korea and for a longer period of time, because you will be among rival and warring ethnic minorities who hate each other and hate themselves.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want you to tell me in a future program everything you know about oil. (Laughter.) I don't think you're telling me everything.
MR. BLANKLEY: With another five seconds, I can tell you everything else I know about oil. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, well. Yeah.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, the answer is yes, it won't be just America. I think it will be a largely world effort, or a good part of the world. It will be funded in part by Iraq's great oil wealth, and it may be supplemented by other external resources. And it will be a multi-year, probably multi-decade operation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Putin, by the way, and the government of Russia owns about 13 percent, I believe, of that 100 percent of oil in that same area. And he has assured Lukoil that their oil asset will be safe -- Putin has.
MR. BAKER: You know, you talk about the Germany and Japan experience as though it's some sort of terrible thing, how awful the U.S. is actually having to be there. Germany and Japan have been the great success stories from the point of view of global stability for the last 50 years. They were the great threats to global stability for the first 50 years of the 20th century. They've disappeared as a threat to stability. So maybe it's a price worth paying to have U.S. and allied troops stationed in the region, if necessary, for 50 years or more.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do your fellow brethren in the United Kingdom think it's a good idea for us to expend ourselves with that enormous sacrifice that we so did with the Marshall Plan? You do favor that over there in Europe?
MR. BAKER: Well, the Marshall Plan was very popular in Europe, as I recall.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I recall it.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) They were on the receiving end!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know of any expenditure the United States has made that Europe didn't applaud.
MS. CLIFT: Right!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come -- the answer is -- what was the question?
MR. BLANKLEY: The answer is yes, there's going to be nation- building and we're going to take a role in it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, there's going to be nation-building big time.
When we come back, why did Bob Torricelli announce that he was not running, and then say this, "I will not be responsible for the loss of the Democratic majority in the United States Senate." Why did he do that?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Flame Out.
SENATOR BOB TORRICELLI (D-NJ): (From videotape.) I have asked attorneys to file with the Supreme Court of the United States motions to have my name removed from the general election ballot for the United States Senate. It is the most painful thing that I have ever done in my life.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This week the Torch went out. On Monday, New Jersey Democrat Senator Robert Torricelli -- a 20-year veteran of Congress -- dropped his reelection bid, convinced he could not overtake the double-digit lead of GOP opponent Douglas Forrester. By midweek, both parties were in court fighting over whether Democrats can present a new candidate -- former Senator Frank Lautenberg -- on the ballot. Torricelli was fading fast under storm clouds of ethics violations and campaign blunders.
And there is this:
SEN. TORRICELLI: (From videotape.) But I will not be responsible for the loss of the Democratic majority in the United States Senate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Will New Jersey voters take kindly to the assumption that it's okay for the Democrats to play such games? And what are those games?
I ask you, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think they'll probably accept it. They'd probably rather have a vote between two candidates than a vote between somebody's who running and somebody's who's not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it disaffect them in their
voting Democratic for Lautenberg?
MR. CARNEY: I think that if Lautenberg wins, it will be by a margin much smaller than it might have been had he simply been on the ballot in a legitimate, consistent way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you predicting a Lautenberg win?
MR. CARNEY: I think it's a very Democratic state, and if this gets resolved by the Supreme Court, if the Supreme Court turns down the case, I think the Democratic leanings of the state are so strong that they'll go to Lautenberg.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Frank -- who's a dear friend of mine, Lautenberg -- looks like a knight in shining armor, or does he look like a party flack?
MR. CARNEY: I'll tell you what a Republican close to the White House told me. He said it was a damn bad time for Torricelli to decide to be selfless -- (laughter) -- for the first time, and that was the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. We've got 30 seconds. I'm sorry we don't have more time for this. What do you think is going to happen in New Jersey?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think Lautenberg's a comfortable old shoe for the voters. I think it stays Democratic. And I think the Supreme Court would be nuts to take this case because all it would do is bring up memories of their intervention in 2000.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly. And it's clearly a state's right issue anyway.
MR. BLANKLEY: The independent vote was hustled to Torricelli. Without him in there, it looks like a Democratic pickup, probably.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. BLANKLEY: Probably.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're predicting that? Lautenberg.
MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible.)
MR. BAKER: To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Robert Torricelli this week did the honorable thing, but only after he'd exhausted every other alternative.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the New Jerseyites will find this is a little bit too much for them to swallow and it will be a -- it will be a Republican win.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Well, despite House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt's rallying behind the president, there will be up to 100 defections when they vote in favor of the Iraq resolution next week by Democrats.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that could be anywhere from 10 to a hundred.
MR. CARNEY: No. I'm saying 95 to a hundred.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN Okay.
MR. CARNEY: That shows how deeply divided the Democratic Party is on it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that number could even swell?
MR. CARNEY: I think a hundred Democrats.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where's the momentum? Skepticism or loyalty?
MR. CARNEY: The momentum's with the president.
MS. CLIFT: Homeland Security Department will be kicked over to the next congressional session. Republicans will use it as a campaign issue against Democrats even though the Republicans are the ones who are stalling it on the Hill.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: The Republicans aren't stalling it, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Never. Never.
MR. BLANKLEY: I believe the president will invoke Taft-Hartley to end the longshoremen's lockout on the West Coast -- it's too damaging to the economy -- probably sometime next week.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A good political move for him?
MR. BLANKLEY: A necessary one for the economy.
MR. BAKER: We're going to get regime change this week in Brazil, where a very left-wing candidate is going to win the election, either on the first ballot, on the second or on the re-run, and that will result in further financial turmoil, which will affect everybody around the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict for the first time in 25 years, the Senate will not pass a budget resolution by November the 5th.
Next week: Commander-in-chief Bush addresses the nation on Iraq.
END OF REGULAR SEGMENT
PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Settling scores.
Last week George W. Bush spoke about Saddam Hussein in this fashion:
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) There's no doubt his hatred is mainly directed at us. There's no doubt he can't stand us. After all, this is the guy that tried to kill my dad at one time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This week the White House added to that perception that personal score-settling may be involved in this war, saying that a single bullet was one way of dealing with the Iraqi president.
WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN ARI FLEISCHER: (From videotape.) The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that. The cost of war is more than that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This personal score-settling was ratcheted up another notch on Thursday, when the vice president of Iraq, Taha Yasin Ramadan, suggested that U.S. President George W. Bush should fight a duel with the Iraqi leader. Quote: "The American president should specify a group and we will specify a group, and choose neutral ground, with Kofi Annan as a referee," unquote.
Question: What's the impact of this perceived vendetta between George Bush II and Saddam Hussein, especially on the international community, that is now making the Iraq saga a domestic political issue in their own country? You know what I'm talking about? Everybody around the world is talking about Iraq. What's the impact of this?
MR. BAKER: Well, first of all, I think the Iraqi vice president, who said that, probably isn't fully aware of the way the succession works in the United Sates, because if he thinks that he's having difficulty with President George Bush, imagine what it would be like with President Dick Cheney should Saddam Hussein win the duel.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good point.
MR. BAKER: It would be an awful lot worse for him.
But on a serious note, it does actually -- I mean, it is clearly designed to, by the Iraqis -- and unfortunately, President Bush's remark will have just cemented this impression -- designed to increase the impression among the people in the rest of the world that this is some sort of personal battle between these two, and that all the American claims about weapons of mass destruction and destabilizing the region and all of those things are all secondary and that what really matters is that President Bush is upset that this man tried to kill his father.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do you think it was a "betise" on the president's part to have said what he said about the father having been an object of an assassination attempt by Saddam Hussein?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't think it was smart politically for him to say that. But I have no doubt that that came from his gut. I think going after Iraq is a visceral issue with him. And I think -- I don't know to what extent Oedipal issues rival oil issues. But I think that this president wants to clean up his father's legacy.
And besides, he's now been issued a challenge. And George W. Bush spends so much time on the treadmill, I think that he is in great condition and he can take on this aging Iraqi leader. I think he ought to go for it! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What I'm hearing is that this personal score- settling is given a high level of plausibility in foreign countries.
Can you believe that? You travel a lot.
MR. CARNEY: Well, justifiably in part, because there is no doubt that the president, the current President Bush, takes the assassination attempt against his father seriously and takes it -- responds to it viscerally. It is one of the reasons -- the White House would say many reasons -- why he wants Saddam out of power. But he shouldn't have said it, and the White House concedes that the president was off message when he said it, because they don't want to stir up the very thing you're talking about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They did say that?
MR. CARNEY: Yeah.
MR. BLANKLEY: This is a frivolous point. Nobody in any government position of leadership, even the opposition to Saddam here in America, doesn't think that Saddam is not a dangerous person; they're questioning what the method should be to get rid of him. The idea that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now who's being frivolous, the vice president, who's offering a duel? Do you think that's frivolous?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh.
MR. BLANKLEY: Plus everybody who takes seriously the claim that this impending war is about personalities rather than about national interests.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is there historical precedent for this kind of dueling?
MR. BLANKLEY: Not between nations, no.
MR. BAKER: Yeah! British prime ministers used to have duels quite a lot. At least two cabinet ministers in the early 19th century were killed in a duel. So that may be -- also be a lesson for difficult members of George Bush's Cabinet. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: We have a history of duels in this country, too! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: Right!