MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The Magnificent Seven.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I strongly support a Europe which is whole, free and at peace. I welcome the idea of countries joining NATO whose history has taught them the need to protect freedom at all costs. Countries whose admission to NATO will invigorate our alliance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At its two-day summit in Prague this week, the
19-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, formally invited seven countries to join the club; all former Soviet Union communist satellites: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia. They will become full NATO members in two-and-a-half years.

After 45 years of Cold War Soviet Union domination, the magnificent seven have sought for 10 years entrance into the military alliance as a safeguard against Russian revanchism. Who gets the credit for their entry? Get this. William Safire in a New York Times column gives the credit to Al Gore because Gore kept the momentum going for the seven Eastern European nations to join NATO. Quote: "With the unexpected help of Strobe Talbott at State, and despite resistance of generals who didn't want to move freedom's front line forward, Gore made NATO expansion eastward a part of Bill Clinton's otherwise round-heeled foreign policies."

Question: What's the meaning of round-heeled?

MR. BARONE: Round-heeled. I guess that means that you're wobbly or give in --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It means you're a pushover.

MR. BARONE: -- a pushover.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The serious question is: Who deserves the political
credit for this revolutionary expansion of NATO? Bush? Or Gore?

MR. BARONE: I think they both do, and I would think Bill Clinton
does, as well, John. I mean, Bill Clinton and Al Gore did not take the
advice of some people who said that to expand NATO to Poland, Czech
Republic and Hungary would antagonize the Russians and cause a rupture in our relations.

And George W. Bush has not taken the advice of people that said that
including the three former Baltic republics, which were not satellites,
but were part of the Soviet Union, although the United States never
recognized them as such; that that would antagonize the Russian leaders
and cause a rupture in relations. But in fact, it hasn't done so, as we saw with President Bush meeting with President Putin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush stuck to his guns, and Putin blinked. What do
you think Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, NATO expansion is an extension of the Clinton- Gore
policy, and it is something that the first President Bush resisted.
And I commend this administration, whenever they do something sensible --(laughter) -- even if Bill Clinton did it first.

It also has the added benefit to the Bush administration of bringing
in a whole host of, sort of, client states, who are going to follow U.S.
leadership a lot more unquestioningly than the Europeans. The
Europeans are really quite rebellious right now. And if the administration does go into Iraq, they can say Bulgaria and Romania --

MR. BARONE: Well, you mean some of the West Europeans, yeah.

MS. CLIFT: -- excuse me -- Bulgaria and Romania and Latvia are there,
and the Germans and the French are sort of sitting on the sidelines,
the president can say, "We've got our NATO allies."


MS. CLIFT: So I think it comes at a fortuitous time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got a -- he's got a new seven-member fan club,
does he not --

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to go into Iraq.

MS. CLIFT: Perfect.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what she's also saying is that this may be a
product of bipartisanship in foreign policy, namely, Clinton and Bush. Is that not the case?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And is that not a whiff of nostalgia that we deserve
after this otherwise partisan climate?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. Look, the real cause for the NATO expansion -- and
also, I might add, largely for its irrelevance -- is Ronald Reagan, who
ended the Soviet Union, effectively. Once the Soviet Union was removed
as an enemy force on the table, it doesn't matter who joins, because it
doesn't have a function anymore. And NATO is not going to be helping
us as an entity. They're -- with Germany expressing its own way, with
France showing its resistance, members of NATO may be helpful to us, but NATO itself is an entity looking for a function, and it won't find

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jay, before I go to you, just let me interrupt for a
moment and point out in the International Herald Tribune of Friday we
read the following: "Last month, in an extraordinary first for the
Atlantic Alliance, China formally requested a regularized bilateral
dialogue to discuss strategic perceptions, shared security threats and NATO activities in or near China's border in Central Asia."

MR. CARNEY: Well, John, it's becoming a club that everyone wants to
join, and in some ways the more members there are, the more threatened
irrelevance will face the United Nations, because once NATO becomes --
even with these alliances, as it has with Russia -- not formal
membership, but an alliance -- and if it does pursue this -- some sort of communication or alliance with China, it becomes a global organization. It becomes more of a debating society like the United Nations than an enforcement alliance, like NATO was originally envisioned to be.

But I disagree with Tony, I mean, because, like the United Nations --
because NATO is not a perfect organization that is always unified
behind a desired action of the United States doesn't mean that it's
completely irrelevant. I think --

MR. BLANKLEY: What's its purpose?

MR. CARNEY: Its purpose is to defend the member states --


MR. CARNEY: -- from --

MR. BLANKLEY: From Russia.

MR. CARNEY: -- from Russia -- the original --

MR. BLANKLEY: But Russia is not going to be an enemy --

MR. CARNEY: -- but in fact its original --

MR. BARONE: Well, in fact we now have who else? I think --

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. CARNEY: Look, NATO took the unprecedented action after September
11th of declaring that --

MR. BLANKLEY: Article 5, yeah.

MR. CARNEY: -- that war had been declared on one member and therefore
all members. And I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think NATO will be extinct by the year 2010?


MR. CARNEY: I do not. In fact, I think that its relevance may be
rising vis-a-vis the United Nations.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Hold on.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Right. NATO provides a security apparatus in an
area of the world where small wars tend to break out. And NATO proved
that it could act in 1999, with Kosovo. And there are other threats,
Tony, besides Russia -- terrorism. And --

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- where it's not functioning.

MR. BARONE: Well --

MS. CLIFT: It has the capability to function.

MR. BARONE: You have the possibility of something going on in the
Mediterranean or the Near East in which NATO could play a positive role,
as it did in Kosovo.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Let's take a look at the official statement
from NATO this week regarding a turn that NATO took away from its
dominant purpose, which was to admit these seven countries who have been striving to get in.

Here's the official statement: "NATO allies stand united in their
commitment to take effective action to assist and support the efforts of the U.N. to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq without
conditions or restrictions." Does that mean that NATO stands united in its readiness to join with the United States in military action against Iraq if Iraq fails to meet the U.N.'s requirements?

MR. BARONE: No. No, John, it doesn't mean that, because some members
of NATO, as Eleanor's pointed out -- Germany, obviously, has said that
it does not want to be part of that. But we should also point out that
parts of Western Europe are supporting us in our efforts in Iraq. We
will get support from the British. We will get support from the

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But not as members of NATO.

MR. BARONE: Not as members of NATO. It will be a coalition of

(Cross talk.)


MR. BARONE: And I'd also say that the Eastern European people, as
Eleanor said, have supported us, but they're not doing it mindlessly,
John. On the contrary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, they're getting paid off.

MR. BARONE: No, they're doing it because they know what it means to
have your freedom taken away. I was in Estonia in October, 1989, where
they were just going --

MS. CLIFT: And the Germans don't? The French don't?

MR. BARONE: They have forgotten. They have forgotten. And people in
Estonia know it because they were just in the process of peacefully
demonstrating for their freedom within the Soviet Union in October, 1989. That was 50 years after the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's all wonderful. Let me --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: May I make a point, please?

MR. : Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I was in Estonia two months ago. And to bear out his
point, I feel that there's more residual antipathy towards the Soviets
and their occupation.

MR. CARNEY: Right.

And you can speak to that. You frequently went to Estonia when you
were stationed in Russia.

MR. CARNEY: I spent a lot of time in the Baltics during the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rather than towards the Nazis.

MR. CARNEY: And it's an insurance policy that the Baltic Republics
feel keenly. It's only been 10 years since they were part of the Soviet Union. Russia has throughout its history returned to its aggressive nature. And while it may not this time, the Baltics want the protection of NATO.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we want to make clear that --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just point out one point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: They bring nothing material to the table.


MR. BLANKLEY: The Baltic nations. All these seven nations have no
military utility.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we now have a convenient location on the Baltic

MR. BLANKLEY: Wonderful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that if something like the USS Cole happens in
that area, we can seek refuge in an extremely friendly country.

MR. BLANKLEY: On the remote contingency that Russia should become
aggressive again -- I don't think it's going to happen -- we have now
extended our liability and our responsibilities without getting anything in return.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you think we did it?

MR. BLANKLEY: Because NATO no longer matters as a military entity.
It may well function as a political -- as an alternative --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, have you heard of the European Union? That's
the political union over there.

MR. BARONE: It's economic.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's also political. They're (rendering ?)
judges --

MR. BLANKLEY: He's right that NATO is emerging into a talking


This makes another point about what's happened over there:

Oh! Canada. At Prague, Canada's minister of defense, John McCallum,
the "Rumsfeld" of Canada, admonished President Bush, telling him, in
effect, to mind his own business and stop telling Canada to spend more on defense. Quote: "I think that is a Canadian matter. I think a number of Canadians were a little bit ticked off. It is a made-in-Canada decision, so while Mr. Bush may be asking for what I am asking for, I am not asking for his help," unquote.

What do you make of that, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's totally unrealistic to think that Canada's
going to become a military power. And the U.S., while insisting that
these other countries beef up their military forces, really doesn't want that to happen. I mean, the U.S. wants to be the unquestioned military power.

MR. BLANKLEY: Canada contributed heroically in World War II. I mean,
they were -- their fighting men --

MS. CLIFT: They're not in the same league with the U.S. in any

MR. BLANKLEY: Their fighting men were a wonderful addition to the
alliance in World II, and could be again, if they put money in it. But
unfortunately, Canada is being run by a French Socialist instead of --
(inaudible) -- and now we get this kind of stuff from Canada.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) The conservatives wouldn't put money into it
either, Tony.

MR. BARONE: Well, the Canadians made the decision some time ago, and
I believe it was under the liberal governments, but the Progressive,
conservative party also went along, to severely restrict the size of its military.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, another Canadian cut. Earlier on the same day
as the defense minister bluntly told Bush to stop telling Canada to
increase defense spending, another senior Canadian official, Chretien's
own communications director, called Bush, quote, unquote, "a moron"
because of Bush's efforts to push the war with Iraq to the top of NATO's agenda. The summit was supposed to focus on expansion, not Iraq. Prime Minister Chretien separated himself from the remark saying, quote, "Bush is a friend of mine. He's not a moron at all." (Laughter.)

Now, what's going on with our relationship with Canada?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think, obviously, Chretien's communications
director grossly misspoke.


MR. CARNEY: But I think she, rather, was speaking some of the
thoughts that not just Canadians, but some Europeans feel about Bush because he's not the most articulate leader in the world.

But Bush was doing what of course he should have done, which is press
the Iraq issue. It was going to be discussed anyway. He's trying to
gather allies for this, to create the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It did create tension at that meeting --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and would -- the official statement leads you to
believe that all was happiness and light.

MR. CARNEY: Well, all is not happiness and light.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No. It was a tense meeting. It wasn't just Chretien

MR. CARNEY: So now I think it reveals the tensions in the meeting.

MS. CLIFT: There is no enthusiasm among the NATO members to go into
Iraq. They think it's a gross distraction --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's not true.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Italy is okay on it. Tony Blair is okay on it.

MS. CLIFT: The heavyweight countries, the people who would provide
more in terms of men and materiel and pick up the tab afterwards, are not there --

MR. CARNEY: Tony Blair is 100 percent on board with our policy and he

MS. CLIFT: Tony Blair -- excuse me! Tony Blair wants -- Tony Blair
wants --

MR. CARNEY: -- and the U.K. has the largest out-of-area military
capacity of anybody in NATO.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish!

MS. CLIFT: Tony Blair wants to push the diplomacy as far as it will
go, with the hope that sanctions can be lifted at the end. He does not
anticipate a merry little war, and his public opinion is opposed.

MR. BARONE: Tony Blair knows what the score is and the chances of
military -- (inaudible) -- are high.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's move on.

MS. CLIFT: There's no appetite for it like you have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is NATO more an empty shell, or is
NATO more a solid force?


MR. BARONE: NATO is a shell, but sometimes a useful one that has
served us well and will do so in the -- can do so in the future.


MR. BARONE: Yeah. But it's got some capacity to do things, as it did
in Kosovo and may do in other in-area problems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A shell with some remnant usefulness.

MS. CLIFT: It's a necessary alliance, and one that the U.S. in future
years will be thankful it is part of.




MS. CLIFT: I'm a NATO fan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not a solid force, though?

MS. CLIFT: Oh, it's a solid force. It has a solid potential!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I just want a simple answer. What is it, more an
empty shell or more a solid force?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's a shell, because other than parts of the British
military, there's no other NATO military forces that can fight on the
field with our technology. So they are no longer useful militarily.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?

MR. CARNEY: Well, there are other forces that can help in certain
situations. Not every member is going to go along with Iraq. But there is -- this is a positive development. It's more of a force now, more of a political force than a military one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's an empty shell as a military force?

MR. CARNEY: Not an empty shell -- a half-empty shell.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Half-empty shell?


(Cross talk.) (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: My question was, is it more an empty shell than more
a solid force? So it's more an empty shell.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. I try to avoid exactly this little game you're
playing with me. The answer is more an empty shell.

When we come back: Why doesn't the president inject himself into the
small pox vaccine issue?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: To inject, or not to inject?

Twenty-three years ago, the World Health Organization declared the
deadly smallpox virus eradicated. Seven years earlier, in 1972, the
United States stopped mass vaccinations, saying that the cure was more
dangerous than any remnant smallpox virus. The last case of smallpox in the U.S. was in 1949. But smallpox still exists, in labs. There are two official repositories: The Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, in Atlanta, and the Vektor Institute in Russia's western Siberia. And a few unofficial repositories -- secret ones -- in North Korea, Iraq, Russia and France, although France denies it has it.

Because of the deadliness of the disease -- smallpox kills one third
of those it infects -- and because of the ease of its contagion --
through the air -- and because of the nature of those who possess smallpox -- Axis of Evil countries -- the Bush administration is wrestling with whether to mass vaccinate the public. The problem is that the cure can kill, too.

DR. STEVEN GARNER (Chief medical officer, St. Vincent Catholic Medical
Center): (From videotape.) One out of every million people will have
a fatal reaction to the vaccination.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Up to 500 deaths, should all U.S. citizens be
vaccinated. That's the estimate. The existing vaccine, called Dryvax, is especially dangerous to those with weaker immune systems: Diabetics, organ transplant recipients, AIDS and chemotherapy patients, the elderly, small children. And, some develop side effects that are horrendous: Acute skin lesions, blindness, brain inflammation. Even those who have been vaccinated, moreover, may still be at risk since the existing vaccine loses its effectiveness over time, some say after three years. Definitely at risk is the U.S. military, most under age 30. A new vaccine, a safer one, ACAM-1000, may be available next year.

Question: Is the danger of the vaccine overhyped?

MR. CARNEY: I don't think it is, John, because it's not necessary to
launch a massive full vaccination program now. I think that the plan
that some people in the administration are talking about, which is to
start with the military, which is obviously most likely to be in it --


MR. CARNEY: -- exposed. Then, with health care workers, then with
first responders, and then, get to the point in a year where we might
start vaccinating the entire population makes more sense, especially when you're talking about a less-harmful vaccine becoming available.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the CDC? Does it have a plan of action in
the instance of a civilian attack?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think they have a plan of action. The problem
is, there's not enough vaccine right now available for the entire

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll speak further on that, if I may, unless somebody
else can answer my question -- the answer to my question.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I can.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is their plan?

MR. BLANKLEY: The CDC's plan is to encircle an area where the problem

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excellent. The infection zone. And hold it to that.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But how can it be defeated?

MR. BLANKLEY: But this is a plan that was designed when there were
natural outbreaks. But now we're facing them maybe having them in every, you know, 10 major airports --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Human missiles carrying the virus --

MR. BLANKLEY: Or 10 men in 10 airports in America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If 10 airports were attacked simultaneously, would it
then be compulsory on the president to call for national --

MR. CARNEY: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It would be?

MR. CARNEY: Yeah, it would be.

MR. BLANKLEY: What Senator --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then it would rage out of control.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me say -- what Senator Frist has recommended to the
president is to allow everybody who wants it to have vaccinations.
Keep in mind that the one-in-a-million fatality or mortality rate with
this is safer than the flu shot, which millions of Americans routinely
get. This is a very safe procedure.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the administration -- the government now has enough
vaccine on hand --


(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: -- to vaccinate everybody, and they have, at least on
paper --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With older -- with the older form. Another one -- a
new one is in development.

MS. CLIFT: Right. And they have at least on paper a plan where you
would have clinics open that could immunize up to 300,000 people in
eight hours.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Yeah. We --

MS. CLIFT: It seems to me if they go into Iraq and they're going to
prompt Saddam Hussein into a Doomsday scenario, the administration has
an obligation to offer this free for everybody who wants it.

MR. BARONE: Well, I think we -- it should offer it, and people can
assess the risk themselves. There's a government fund to compensate
people who are injured or killed by this -- by vaccinations. And all
vaccinations have a certain by-product of bad outcomes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If the risk is so great, when we were vaccinated
before for smallpox, there was no great outbreaks. So why the big deal

MR. BLANKLEY: Because right now people who have HIV and AIDS may not
know they have it, and therefore they don't know they're in a high-risk
category, because a lot of people have not been tested for it who
should have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All the baby boomers got smallpox vaccine. What are
they worried about?

MR. BLANKLEY: Because it wears off over time.

MR. CARNEY: It wears off.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what? I mean, what's the --

MR. BLANKLEY: It was made back in the '50s -- (inaudible) -- and so I
think that's one of the policy considerations.

MR. BARONE: If you have certain conditions, you're at higher risk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, the baby boomers have survived a lot
-- wild and free sex, rampaging around in automobiles, heavy drinking.
They're still around. What are they worried about?

MR. BARONE: Speak for yourself, John.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm just telling you what I think is one of the --
that's one of the concerns --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Should the entire U.S. population
against smallpox by presidential mandate? Yes or no? Michael Barone, you have one minute development time.

MR. BARONE: No. No, it should be a volunteer thing, except for
health care professionals and those who should be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. I don't think the benefit versus risks merits
making it compulsory. But I think they should have an emergency plan in place, and if people want to get it, they should be able to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Everyone should have the right to vaccination. I don't
think there's a need for mandatory, but everyone can then protect their
families if they choose to.

MR. CARNEY: Well, yeah, and I think that that's not so different from
what I was saying, which is that you start -- in terms of mandatory
action, you start with those people who are most likely to be exposed.
Then you get to a point where you make it available to the general
population. Make it available, not mandatory.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, the government's policy -- the government's
proposal is not to let everyone get it. Right now, if you want to get a vaccination, you can't get it.

MR. CARNEY: Well, this is still being debated within the

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I know.

MR. BARONE: (Off mike) -- to be debated with a different outcome than
they've got now.

MR. BLANKLEY: CDC has been arguing not to let every American have the

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to the question is no, there should not be
mandatory vaccination. The threat of an attack is exaggerated. The
threat of the attack is more exaggerated, in fact, than the threat of
deleterious effects from the vaccine itself. We'd be better advised to
spend our money on driver education and enforcing the laws.

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have a graphic here of the state legislatures I
want to punch up there. Do we have it on hand? Anyway, take note of the fact that 21 Republicans -- legislatures are 21 Republican, 16
Democrat, and 12 are split, and one is not partisan -- Nebraska. Is it fair to say that the country is not evenly split but, rather, politically speaking, the country is Republican?

MR. BARONE: Well, I think it has been that way for at least this one
election. And the Republicans winning -- they now have a majority of
state legislative seats, which hasn't been true since the 1950s. It also shows that the Republicans are getting more than half the really
talented, smart, young candidates who can win in seats held by the opposing party. That's an advantage Democrats have had for many years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the country is Republican, or is it
evenly split, as the Democrats say?

MR. CARNEY: The legislatures are what make Karl Rove, the president's
political adviser, most happy because it shows the Republicans have a
bench and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What issue will be helped by having state
legislatures in Republican hands? What issue?

MR. CARNEY: Well, also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about vouchers?

MR. CARNEY: Well, vouchers is one, certainly for school vouchers and

MR. BLANKLEY: Medical liability --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, we've got to get out. Predictions. Quickly.
We have very little time.

MR. BARONE: A Republican, Lee Fletcher, will win the Louisiana 5th
District runoff December 7th.

MS. CLIFT: Congress will finally deliver on a prescription drug plan
for seniors because Bush can't go into the next election without it.

MR. BLANKLEY: Democrats will propose tax cuts next year to compete
with Bush's tax cuts.


MR. CARNEY: My prediction is that Bush will go along with some of
those Democratic tax cuts in order to get a whole package through.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. Cyprus has been divided for 30 years -- the
Turkish North and the Greek South. I predict it will be reunited by

Next week, America's galactic pilgrim, the Hubble Telescope.

For our domestic and international viewers, you can watch "The
McLaughlin Group" on our website with streaming video, current and archived shows --

Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble-gobble!




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: The big pig.

MATTHEW AMARELLO (chairman, Boston's Big Dig): And clearly, there
were mistakes made. We are building the most sophisticated, complex
highway ever undertaken in America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's how Matthew Amarello, chairman of Boston's Big
Dig, a 10-year long construction project to rearrange the city's
highways, describes his project. Another way to describe it: It is the
costliest taxpayer-funded road works ever.

Boston's Big Dig has been plagued by cost overruns, delays, design
flubs, not to mention good old-fashioned waste, graft, and payola, since the beginning. The Dig's original cost projection was $2.6 billion. The current projection is $14.6 billion; 10.2 billion of that amount is federal money, meaning from taxpayers in every state of the union. And even that may not be the bottom line.

MR. AMARELLO: (From videotape.) And we're going to do everything on
our end to keep the price tag within the 14.625. But I can't give you
an ironclad guarantee that that's the final price.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Where should the Democrats hold their
national convention, instead of Boston? I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, they've chosen Boston, it's a lovely town. They
could have chosen New York, but that would have been Hillary's hometown,
so they didn't want to do that, I suppose.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about Las Vegas?

MR. BARONE: It would be a scandal.

MR. BLANKLEY: Las Vegas would be a lot of fun, but I don't think it's
the right image for the party, probably.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Boston is?

MR. CARNEY: I think Boston's a problem, too, for the party, but --


MR. CARNEY: New York, I think, was less about Hillary than the fear
that the Republicans would also have their convention there, and they
didn't want to share the same stage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think liberalism is toast? If so, why should
the Democrats go to Boston, the city of big spending, big government --
(laughter) --

MR. CARNEY: Big Dig.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- big pig, taking other people's money, pumping --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. CARNEY: Because it's also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two billion dollars per mile for that Big Dig.


MS. CLIFT: Right. Okay --

MR. BLANKLEY: It happens to be a great town, though.

MR. CARNEY: It's a great town, and it is one of the most important
towns --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By what -- who got the money? Who got the money?
Was it Kennedy?

MR. BARONE: Tip -- the late speaker Tip O'Neill --

MR. CARNEY: Well, Tip O'Neill.

MR. BLANKLEY: Tip O'Neill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More so than Kennedy?


MR. BARONE: This was -- well, but -- sure. But I think this was Tip
O'Neill's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, who keeps rolling it out from $2 to $14

MR. BARONE: Well, there have been a number -- there have been real
mismanagement by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and you know, they -- "Oop! We're off a billion again!" You know, that sort of thing. There has been a whole series --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, well --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A billion here, a billion here --

MR. BARONE: A billion here and so forth. The fact is, these roads
were some of the most terrible roads that --


MS. CLIFT: Massachusetts has had Republican governors for some time.
They're now going to have a Mormon governor, Mitt Romney. And so it's
going to change --

MR. BARONE: Well, it's carried as Republican, not Mormon.

MS. CLIFT: It's going to change some -- well, it's Irish Catholic, is
the image of Massachusetts. A very different place now. And the Big
Dig, when that's fully operational, 245,000 cars are going to move every day, and -- (laughter) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you take comfort from that?

MR. CARNEY (?): Mostly Democrats.

MS. CLIFT: -- and the (highway ?) is not going to be gridlocked, and
it is a triumph of human ingenuity that's going to rank there with the
English Chunnel, with the Panama Canal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give you another triumph of human ingenuity.

MS. CLIFT: And it's the wave of the future. Underground highways are
the wave of the future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Another triumph is -- do you remember Dean Kamen's
Ginger, which is the unicycle that you can get around on fast? Why
doesn't the government just buy one of those for everybody in Massachusetts, and that would cost about a couple hundred million dollars as opposed to 14 billion. Would that help any?

MR. CARNEY: You'd have a problem with weather.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't want to make too much fun out of this,
because I think a lot of people are seriously aggrieved that their taxpayer money -- people out in Wichita, people in Colorado --

MR. CARNEY: The fact is that in those states out West --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These state budgets are -- you know that they're
bleeding to death.

MR. CARNEY: Yes, but those states actually get more bang for their
buck in federal taxes than a lot of states in the Northeast, including
Massachusetts and New York and other states. They have a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think so therefore it's an equitable proposition.

Is Al Gore right that the combustion engine is a disaster?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he's wrong.

MR. CARNEY: No. (Laughs.)

MR. BARONE: No. That's ridiculous.

MR. BLANKLEY: But Eleanor's right that it's not a bad -- it may be
the wave of the future. It's very expensive.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: But it may be the solution to urban traffic problems.

MR. BARONE: Yeah. And the elevated highways -- (inaudible).

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (I'm not ?) drawing a lot of comfort from that.

MS. CLIFT: Right. In 10 years, we're going to be celebrating this --