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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT AND JAMES WARREN

TAPED: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2002
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 4-5, 2003

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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(Opening music: "Entry of the Gladiators," also known as "Thunder and Blazes.")

ANNOUNCER: It's the 21st annual McLaughlin Group Year-End Awards, 2002. Here's the master of ceremonies, John McLaughlin!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Destined for Political Stardom in 2003. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, former heart transplant surgeon. The Bush administration is hoping to put out major transformative health-care finance legislation. Frist would be a key here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: In a rare moment of agreement with Michael, I agree that Bill Frist is headed for stardom, either as the next Republican majority leader or as the lead person in crafting the president's health-care plan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is embarrassing. It's a trifecta.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) It's too obvious.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's Bill Frist.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: And for all the reasons. Health care's going to be the major issue, domestic, for the president next year, and Frist is going to be the leader both in the Senate, effectively, and on the media. It's going to be his year, I think.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James, what do you think? Bill Frist?

MR. WARREN: Well, you're lucky I am here. I apologize for wearing a wristwatch with a dinner jacket, as you are; very declasse. The answer is not Frist; it is the vastly underestimated Nancy Pelosi, the new House Democratic leader, who has been caricatured as an odious San Francisco liberal. She's going to be a star.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, the envelope. Thank you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY; You're welcome.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here we go. Carnac. Gets better every year. (Opening the envelope.)

Most Destined for Political Stardom: Martin O'Malley, mayor of Baltimore, a Democrat. He's turned around chronic crime and urban decay. He's slowed drug addiction. He has incredible voter support that cuts across racial, economic and social lines, with a JFK personality and with JFK political cunning. Martin O'Malley; keep your eye on him.

Okay. Destined for Political Oblivion.

MR. BARONE: I'd say the Arabists, in the State Department and elsewhere, who say that our top goal has to be to preserve stability in the Middle East. Stability in the Middle East gave us September 11th, and we need something better.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You never relent, do you?

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, whose comments saying that he wished Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948 on a segregationist platform have made him radioactive and put him out of politics, whether he survives or not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Dick Gephardt, minority leader of the Democratic House. Stepping down from that, he's going to run for president and lose and disappear.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James?

MR. WARREN: Janet Reno, nice lady, unfairly bashed during the Clinton years, goes down the tubes in that Florida governor's race. See ya...

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Destined for Political Oblivion: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert and Ethel, who ran an awesomely bad campaign and lost her bid for Maryland governor, now destined for oblivion.

Okay. Best Political Theater. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, the best political theater I encountered was a couple days out in the state fair in Iowa in this August, where you had presidential candidates thick on the ground, lots of nice people from Iowa, and the 2,000-pound butter sculpture, and sculptures of the "Peanuts" figures from the cartoons there. It was a lot of fun.

MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Strom Thurmond's hundredth birthday party and Trent Lott's tribute to him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Secretary of Treasury Paul O'Neill's and Bono's African tour.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best Political Theater. James.

MR. WARREN: Hmm. Watching ambitious Republican Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma sticking it to Trent Lott while, off on the sideline, Mitch McConnell, senator from Kentucky, the likely ultimate winner, sits there privately chortling.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best Political Theater: The begging, pleading, ranting, raving of former Congressman James Traficant as he fought expulsion in a wandering diatribe, delivered in the U.S. Congress, referencing his tufted cranium and his irritable colon, before going off to jail.

Okay. Worst Political Theater. Michael.

MR. BARONE: I'll go with Trent Lott on Black Entertainment Television. This was not a marriage made in Heaven.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I'll go with the Baghdad Three, the three Democratic House members who went to Iraq and criticized the president's war policy from Baghdad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really, Eleanor? Really?

MS. CLIFT: I'm not going to name names, though. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Hans Blix landing in Iraq with his 35 jeeps and complaining about how hard it was for him to organize 35 jeeps to start inspecting all of Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) You're relentless, too.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James?

MR. WARREN: Sadly, the memorial service for Senator Paul Wellstone. It became a raucous mess and had something to do with the Democrats losing the Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Worst Political Theater: Senator Robert Torricelli's televised, weepy, soap-opera exit monologue.

Okay. Worst Political Scandal: Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, it's one that hasn't gotten much ink, but the Ullico -- the labor union insurance company scandal, which involves labor leaders getting paid very large amounts of set money for their stock and making huge profits. And to his credit, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney is trying to straighten this out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Enron, Tyco, WorldCom and the wave of corporate scandals that forced the Bush administration to take a tougher stand on corporate reform than they would have liked.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think Trent Lott's circumstances is obviously the scandal of the year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. WARREN: The political class's continuing "see no evil, hear no evil" reaction to mounting evidence that the death penalty system in this country is corrupt. Thank goodness for the Illinois Republican governor, George Ryan, who declared a moratorium, for good reason.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Worst Political Scandal. Tony, let's go global, all right? Corruption at the at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, especially the French judge's corrupted vote in the figure skating contest -- worst by reason of the presumed purity of Olympic athletics.

MR. WARREN: Presumed since when?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Presumed purity of the athletes and the sport.

Okay. Most Underreported Story of 2002.

MR. BARONE: Well, I think the most underreported political story, at least, was the effect of national security, a feeling of personal security, on voters this year. I missed it. Lots of -- I think just about everybody else did, but it's pretty clear from the election results. It moved us to a -- from a 49-49 nation to something a little different.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The ballooning deficits, which, by 2012, will reach a trillion dollars, and that's not counting the cost of a war in Iraq or a prescription-drug plan for seniors.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excellent point.

Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Genuine Pentagon political -- war plans for Iraq.

MS. GOLD: James.

MR. WARREN: Japanese scientists discovering how to grow square watermelons, which will presumably take up less space in our refrigerators. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Most Underreported Story of 2002: The state of Afghanistan after the war and now; namely, still too much Taliban culture left, still too much warlordism left, and still too many al Qaeda left.

Okay. Most Overreported Story of 2002. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, that was the New York Times's stories about how Republicans all over the place were against going to war in Iraq, and they cited such people as Henry Kissinger, who, three days before, had written a piece in favor of going to war in Iraq. I mean, Brent Scowcroft, the one that came closest to the Times's description, told me that he was the least misquoted person in the story. So that was a total non-story, overreported.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Times retracted on the Kissinger --

MR. BARONE: They retracted partly on September 4th, but they were wrong in their retraction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but Brent Scowcroft has been a voice of caution on Iraq, however he was misquoted.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, quickly. We're behind.

MS. CLIFT: Winona Ryder's shoplifting. It was a show trial for a first felon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: False reports of Pentagon war plans. Overreported.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Overreported.

MR. WARREN: The badgering of Tiger Woods and the CBS television network for the Augusta National Golf Club not allowing women in. It's an interesting story, but it wasn't worth a trillion words.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The dangers of the West Nile Virus, the reporting of which almost created a national panic.

Okay. Biggest Government Waste. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I'll nominate the farm bill. We've had these farm -- it's still modeled on the 1933 act. We've taken a step backwards.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The money spent on lawyers defending Vice President Cheney's secret meanings with energy executives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmmmm. Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: A lawsuit he won, by the way.

Ten billion dollars that we have to give to Brazil because Secretary of Treasury O'Neill had said that any money we sent down there would go to Swiss bank accounts; and to re-calm the Brazilian waters, taxpayers have spent an extra $10 billion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. WARREN: The Centers for Disease Control spending $125 million on an incomprehensible ad campaign to try to get kids to lose weight, when all they should have said is, "Kids, just stop super-sizing those Big Macs."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Biggest Government Waste: The hardy perennial, Boston's Big Dig, $2 billion per mile, for this largely underground ultra-superhighway.

Okay. Best Government Dollar Spent. Michael.

MR. BARONE: I think precision weapons, John. If we go -- if and when we go into Iraq, we can project something like -- a carrier could produce 700 hits in the Gulf War, and it's something like 2,700 now with the precision weapons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Especially the drones. They're great.

Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The money spent to investigate what went on leading up to 9/11, money that is spent despite the resistance of the Bush White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: A pay raise for our military men and women.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. WARREN: A Clinton legacy, the Family and Medical Leave Act. It's humane, effective and inexpensive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Best Government Dollars Spent: oil to fill the Strategic Oil Reserve. If the ill-conceived war with Iraq does go forward, the release of this oil will dampen price hikes and keep oil under $40 a barrel, and may stave off a recession.

Michael, the next question is, the next point, Boldest Political Tactic.

MR. BARONE: Boldest Political Tactic. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We caught you off-guard there, Michael.

MR. BARONE: You caught me off-guard, yeah. No, I think George W. Bush sticking it to the U.N. and saying, "Okay, are you going to enforce your resolutions?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Bush gambling that he could convert his personal popularity into votes for Republican senators. He won the gamble.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor's right. It would be a little bit more specific: his willingness to campaign even in congressional seats where Republicans were behind and turning that into victories.

James?

MR. WARREN: Ditto.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Boldest Political Tactic: Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schroeder, sinking lower and lower in the polls, abruptly changes course, refocuses his campaign on the one issue of George Bush's Iraq war policy, faults it relentlessly, saying that even if the U.N. authorizes military force, Germany will not participate. Schroeder won the election, and the breach between the two men remains unbridged.

When we come back: What was the best idea of 2002?

(Announcements.)

(Music: "Entry of the Gladiators," also known as "Thunder and Blazes.")

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best Idea of 2002. Michael.

MR. BARONE: George W. Bush's idea of democracy for the Middle East. The Saudis don't like it, the dictators don't like it, but it's going to be good for humanity and good for the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Al Gore deciding not to run for president in 2004, and announcing it early enough so that the other candidates can fill in the field.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Senator Lieberman arguing for a basic move of intelligence beyond -- away from CIA and FBI into homeland security. He hasn't accomplished yet -- a lot of people have joined him in that yet. It may get done next year or the year after. But it's the best idea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. WARREN: Vermont Governor and presidential hopeful Howard Dean calling for universal medical coverage without it being a government-run program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best Idea: Bush's decision to get a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for Iraq to disarm.

Okay. Worst Idea of 2002. Michael.

MR. BARONE: I would say the argument that said that we should not act in Iraq unless we have a United Nations resolution. That's a good way to have not gotten a United Nations resolution, which you just hailed, and get ourselves vetoed by the moral likes of France and China.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Slightly incunabular, Michael.

Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: There are so many arguments here to be had, we'll have another day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in her bid to become governor of Maryland. Bad mistake to choose a former Republican as her running mate and shun her African American base. Cost her the election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly, Eleanor. I think you're piggybacking off one of my insights.

Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Tom Daschle's decision to fight homeland security in negotiations with the president on defending union organizing rights. It cost him the Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting.

James.

MR. WARREN: This is not a rerun. Presidential hopeful and Vermont Governor Howard Dean's call for universal medical coverage without it being a government-run program. It will never happen. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No single-payer.

MR. WARREN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Other than the government.

Worst Idea: Staging the Miss World pageant, with swimsuits on parade, in Muslim Nigeria. It led to wicked, lethal rioting.

Okay. Sorry To See You Go. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Senator Paul Wellstone, the terrible tragedy that took his life October 25th. I interviewed Senator Wellstone in Minnesota just a week before that, on the 18th of October, and asked him what I think his handlers thought was a tough question. They said, "Minnesota press only," and dragged him off to the Minnesota press. He came back and answered my question fully and with his good humor that he always showed. We'll miss him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wonderful man.

Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I certainly agree on Senator Wellstone.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Her political career is likely over, and a lot of Democrats thought she would be the first female president or vice president. It's the end of a promising career.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're sorry to see her go.

MS. CLIFT: I am. Definitely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Dick Armey, the retiring majority leader of the House, one of the most principled politicians, has been in this town a long time. He's proving how principled he is; he's not going to go into lobbying, he's going to do part-time work for the ACLU defending civil liberties at a time of war. A very principled gentleman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. WARREN: Ann Landers, a grand and decent lady who impacted a lot more American lives than any vain, ego-driven political observers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A lovely lady.

Sorry to See You Go: The nearly 200 people killed in Bali, Indonesia, by a terrorist bomb blast. If Indonesian President Megawati had acted on U.S. intelligence and arrested Muslim cleric Ba'asyir, the architect of the attack, when tipped to do so last summer, their deaths would have been prevented.

Okay. Fifteen Minutes of Fame. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I'll give it to Ron Kirk, the former mayor of Dallas, who was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Texas this year. He's a competent man. He made some mistakes in his campaign. A lot of people thought he was going to win, but Texas stayed Republican by a solid margin for John Cornyn.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Harvey Pitt, who, in his short time as the head of the SEC, became more controversial than some of the corporate crooks he was supposed to be policing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of 15 minutes of fame for Biggs?

MR. BLANKLEY: That's more than enough for him. (Laughter.) My answer, though, is the Northern Snakehead fish, the famous fish in Maryland that could get out of the pond, walk on its fins and kill any other fish in the pond.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: Everyone thought he had a great future, and then they killed all of them in the pond.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. The fish could walk on the highway.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They were coming down the Washington-Baltimore highway, heading for --

MR. BLANKLEY: We were getting the National Guard out to protect ourselves from them. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BLANKLEY: He thought he had a career.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?

MR. WARREN: This is no contest, guys! No, it's Dean Barkley, the independent fellow whom Jesse Ventura picked to be the senator from Minnesota for 15 minutes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long will he serve? How long will he serve?

MR. BARONE: Till January --

MR. WARREN: Till January 1.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Seventy-five days.

You're exactly correct. It was Dean Barkley. Now you see him, now you don't. (Laughter.)

Okay. Best Spin of the Year. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I think the Best Spin of the Year -- pick any press conference by Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld. Great stuff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can't get enough of him, can you?

MR. BARONE: No, I can't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about Wolfowitz? Does that help fill any vacuum?

MR. BARONE: Wolfowitz is terrific.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or Perle, right? Relentless.

Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Best Spin: That Saddam Hussein is somehow behind 9/11. Two-thirds of the American people believe that. There's no evidence, just a lot of innuendo from the administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think the most effective spin of the year was the Republican spin of enthusiastically embracing regulation of corporations following on the Enron scandal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James?

MR. WARREN: No. The Bush administration claiming it's committed to a diplomatic resolution of the mess in Iraq, conning a good chunk of the world, all the time it's getting its military ducks in a row.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best Spin of the Year: The award goes to Saudi diplomat Adel Al-Jubeir for spinning his way through a crisis that could have escalated into a rupture between partners U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Al-Jubeir gives good spin.

Okay. The Most Honest Person of the Year. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I'll nominate somebody from bloggerdom, the Weblog blogger, Andrew Sullivan, of Andrewsullivan.com, a conservative on most issues, who started right from the start against Trent Lott after he made that comment of December 5th. He and Josh Marshall of talkingpointsmemo.com, who is a liberal, were both relentless in going after Lott, and they picked up on the story before anybody in the conventional press did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's a blog?

MR. BARONE: A blog is a Web log. It's where you write up your things and put them out on the Internet. You may write as many as 20, 25 a day, as instapundit.com does.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Larry Lindsey, the White House economic adviser, recently relieved of his job, who blurted out that war with Iraq would cost $200 billion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Paul O'Neill, secretary of Treasury. He made a terrible secretary of Treasury because he was bluntly truthful about all his thoughts. He is the most honest man in town.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. WARREN: Belatedly honest and only after he got out of a hot tub on "Saturday Night Live," the aforementioned Al Gore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. WARREN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting.

Most Honest Person of the Year: Arguably Gore, but I think it has to go to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill for telling it like he saw it. In life, honesty is its own reward; in politics, honesty is its own punishment. Don't commit honesty.

Okay. The Most Overrated. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, at least during the middle of the year, less so at the end of the year, I would say it was then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. A lot of people said he was constructing a schedule so that it was going to put the Republicans at a disadvantage in the election, and it really turned out to be the other way around, thanks to the homeland security issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Most Overrated: Supply-side economics. The first president Bush called it "voodoo economics." The son apparently is going to put his faith and trust in the same voodoo theory.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Of course, Reagan was twice elected, and his father was defeated. But I think the Most Overrated -- I call it an issue, which is that we've increased our security by creating the Department of Homeland Security. While it's a good thing to be done, the people are misled if they think that we're increasing our security from terrorism any time soon. Eventually it will pay off, but no time soon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, sometimes your acuity is so right on the mark that it's frightening.

MR. BARONE (?): Ooh.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's so good. You're absolutely right; 180,000 people, another bureaucracy.

James.

MR. WARREN: Plus he doesn't wear wristwatches --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please continue.

MR. WARREN: -- with dinner jackets.

Karl Rove, Bush's political Svengali. For all the smart counsel he gave, he was also pretty lucky. The planets were aligned on their behalf.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most Overrated: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Okay. The Most Underrated. Michael.

MR. BARONE: I think, for the second year in a row, it was the person that Maureen Dowd of The New York Times calls "boy emperor," George W. Bush. They've misunderestimated him again.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In many ways that's correct.

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana senator, who everybody thought would get crushed by the Bush war machine. She came back and proved Bush is not invincible and the Democrats have a message after all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Bush go down and try to help her opponent?

MS. CLIFT: He did. He campaigned for her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did others from the administration go down, like Mr. Cheney?

MS. CLIFT: Oh, Vice President Cheney, the whole --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm.

MS. CLIFT: Everybody.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That underscores your point, does it not?

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I'm going to do another issue. I think we're underrated that we -- we haven't spent nearly enough on counterterrorism, and it worries me deeply that people think that we have. This is underrated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, James.

MR. WARREN: Vermont Governor and presidential hopeful Howard Dean. Everybody says he can't go anywhere because he can't raise the money. Watch out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Most Underrated is the discovery of a stone burial box containing the bones of James, the brother of Jesus. No one even knew that Jesus had a brother. And even after finding the box and the bones, they still don't know that Jesus had a brother.

We'll be right back with New Year's resolutions.

(Announcements.)

(Music: "Entry of the Gladiators," also known as "Thunder and Blazes.")

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a serious segment. Lighthearted, but serious.

New Year's resolutions. Michael.

MR. BARONE: I don't know if I want to be lighthearted, John, but anyway --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this serious?

MR. BARONE: It's serious.

My resolution is to try and spend less time reading 16 different papers on what's happened in the day and try to spend more time reading history, some of the classics of literature and so forth.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were confined to one newspaper, what would it be?

MR. BARONE: If I was confined to one newspaper, what --

MR. BLANKLEY: The Washington Times! (Laughs.)

MR. BARONE: The Washington Times. The Washington Post, really --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the second newspaper? What would it be?

MR. BARONE: The Washington Post.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Post?

MR. BARONE: No, the Post would be my first newspaper if I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Over the New York Herald -- International Herald Trib? Or over the Financial Times?

MR. BLANKLEY: Or the Chicago --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or over even Christian Science Monitor? Or over Investors Business Daily?

MR. BARONE: Yeah. But the Post has got all this stuff in it. Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would think the Financial Times --

MR. BARONE: And the editorial page has been very supportive of regime change in Iraq, which is, I think, a very important consideration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As long as it's not this regime change, right here.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughing.) Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I resolve not to interrupt Tony any more than he interrupts me. (Laughter.) And when I say, "Let me finish" -- (laughter) -- which I often say -- I will try to remember to say, "PLEASE let me finish." And --

MR. BLANKLEY: This --

MS. CLIFT: And if a shooting war in Iraq starts --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you interrupting her resolution?! (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: If a shooting war in Iraq starts, I will try to be patient with you guys as you get all wrapped up in the weapons of precision.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is uncanny. I was going to have a New Year's resolution not to interrupt you when you say things --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, Tony! (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: -- (laughs) -- that irritate me. I have to say, in good faith, that I have never yet kept a New Year's resolution. But I make it in good faith. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is so emotional.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh. What a moment --

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. WARREN: I resolve to switch TV channels every time I see Ann Coulter, the venomous conservative, who resembles a two-legged PEZ dispenser with a blond mop at the top. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, James, I'm surprised.

My New Year's resolution is to write a book: my memoirs, or a bodice-ripping gothic romance, or a science fiction thriller on the clash of two universes. How's that?

MR. BARONE: Well, you could do them all in one, John.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next week, an on-site report from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman.

Happy New Year! Bye-bye.

®FC¯END OF REGULAR SEGMENT

®FL¯

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Macro-predictions. Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I think the macro-predictions I would make for 2003 and perhaps in the future there is regime change, and in Iraq, in Iran, and in what is now Saudi-ruled Arabia. In Iraq, presumably by military action; in Iran by a revolution of a pro-American people against the hated mullahs. And in Saudi-ruled Arabia, I'm not sure exactly how that's going to come about, but I think that that is a regime which has been doing us terrible harm by exporting -- funding terrorism and by the rich people -- in this sort of government-less place, they've been supporting terrorism with money and have been propagating Wahhabist thing. I'm not at all --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Is this all going to happen all in 2003?

MR. BARONE: I think the last one is probably not going to happen yet in 2003.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Well, Michael doesn't agree with the president. He says the Saudis are good partners. Of course, good partners can always do better. So Michael wants to make the good -- the perfect, rather, the enemy of the good --

MR. BARONE: I want to have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and the good the enemy of the perfect.

MR. BARONE: I want to stop the propagation of this Wahhabist Islam, a perverted form of Islam that is really -- it believes in totalitarian rule.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll stick with the president. I think they're good partners.

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I'd be careful about calling for democracy in Saudi Arabia, because the majority there could well be the people who are the religious fundamentalists, the people you are condemning.

MR. BARONE: No, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what's your macro-prediction?

MS. CLIFT: My macro-prediction is that President Bush is going to disappoint Tony a number of times over the next year, because he's going to be moving more to the middle, and that the Trent Lott fiasco gives the president the excuse that he'll have to say to the base, "You know, I have to do these things because Trent Lott embarrassed us here on the right. So I'm going to move to the middle." And that's smart politics for him as he gets ready for reelection.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I won't go weak in the knees if I get disappointed by a politician.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your macro-prediction?

MR. BLANKLEY: But my macro-prediction is that this is the year when al Qaeda effectuates their second major strike. In -- that's the pattern -- 18 to 24 months between major strikes. And unfortunately, the calendar suggests it falls this coming year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the U.S.?

MR. BLANKLEY: In the U.S.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How worrisome!

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James?

MR. WARREN: The U.S. and the world will be belatedly confront two disasters in Africa: first, the famine in Ethiopia, which could kill 15 million, and the ongoing AIDS health emergency, which will kill about 2-1/2 million. Better late than never.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And don't forget the horrors going on in Zimbabwe.

MR. WARREN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict the long-expected clash between science and religion will break out afresh next year. And it will be fueled by advances in our understanding of the human genome, our ability to alter destiny by altering genes, eradicating disease, eliminating genetic defects, changing behavior, such as violence-prone behavior. I think the clash is going to be the dominant clash of the -- several decades to come. I think it's going to be rich with rewards. We'll have fewer doctors, fewer hospitals, and eradication of a lot of disease. It's the new threshold.

MR. WARREN: Are you a doctor?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll predict it's going to be bigger than the revolutions we have seen, including the Industrial Revolution or even the electronic revolution.

MR. WARREN: Well, if you were a doctor --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that?

MR. BARONE: John, if you're going to have changes in behavior, how's it going to affect this program?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. WARREN: Boy!

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll have to get an immunizing gene at work. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, if we're going to have all these cataclysmic events, some of them pretty dire, voiced here on this set, I'm still glad I'm going to be alive, or I hope -- I'm glad I'm alive to be able to watch this unfold.

MR. WARREN: Are you a doctor?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think it's an extremely exciting era, maybe the most exciting in mankind since Jesus and his brother James. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: And his box.

MR. BARONE: Well, you have a brother, too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now deceased.

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