MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (From videotape.) Issue One: History in the making.

PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR (the United Kingdom): (From videotape.) And what is essential is that in every respect, in every way that we can, we mobilize international support in the international community

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Tony Blair is a friend. He's a friend of the American people. He's a friend of mine. I trust his judgment, and I appreciate his wisdom.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (From videotape.) President Bush is spending the weekend at Camp David with Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair. The eyes of the world are riveted on these partners in power, watching a moment of history unfold.

Bush needs Blair. Blair's support is critical to Bush no matter which way he goes, either with the U.N. or without it. If within the U.N. process, Bush needs Blair to help win over France, because France can veto a council go-ahead military force resolution. Without U.N. approval, Blair becomes indispensable to Bush, because Bush's only allies in that circumstance will be Poland and Australia, as of now. A U.S.-Poland-Australia coalition would not give the U.S. quite enough credibility in the eyes of the world.

But how much does Blair need Bush? At least as much as Bush needs Blair, if not more so. Britain must remain as much Washington's friend in Europe as it is Europe's friend in Washington. Britain's strategic power is as the transatlantic link between Europe and superpower U.S.A. Blair helps restrain Washington's unilateralism and at the same time persuades Europe to back America's tough stands against terrorism and Iraq.

To accomplish all of this, however, Blair needs Bush's consent. Blair's last Camp David visit was in September. Blair made the multilateralist case to a reluctant Mr. Bush. It worked. Bush went to the U.N.

To summarize, last September, Blair's job was to get Bush to accept the U.N. In January, Bush's job is to get Blair to ignore the U.N. But if Blair does ignore the U.N. in a no-go military force U.N. vote and joins Bush in battle, Blair snubs France, Germany and other Europeans still bristling from Rumsfeld's "old Europe" insult. And he rebuffs Britain's 77 percent of the public who do not want a war with Iraq unless it has the full backing of the U.N.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (In studio.) The meeting was in the White House, and it was changed from Camp David because of snow.

Question: Assume that Blair wants to -- Bush to give the U.N. inspectors eight weeks, rather than Bush's presumptive four weeks. Will Bush go along, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, I think Mr. Bush would go along with six weeks or something like that. Tony Blair is the best friend this country has got. The Brits are our best friend in this crisis, John.

But Mr. Blair has only influence over how we go about it. Whether we go to war or not is not in his purview. That's a decision going (sic) to be made by the president of the United States. And now that Mr. Bush has all these forces over there and the Brits are putting 30,000 troops over there, John, there is no way they can bring these forces home with Saddam Hussein still in power. I think the momentum is making the decision for the United States; we're going to go to war with Iraq; we're going to invade; the Brits will be with us. And frankly, once that decision is made and we go, you'll find a lot more folks joining the posse than are there right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Now, we want to clarify here: Either with the U.N. or without the U.N. Here we are talking about that precise distinction. There's a lot of speculation about going in, but it all turns on with the U.N. or without the U.N. Everybody has cover, I think it's fair to say, to go in with the U.N. But the picture changes without the U.N. And the president, it appears, might want to anticipate any final decision from the U.N. So, that's where we are with Blair.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, and the focal point of the meeting between Bush and Blair was Blair's apparent wish to get the president to go along with demanding or agreeing to a second resolution to go to war out of the Security Council. And I don't think Blair is going to take this to the breaking point. I think he would like a second resolution; I think he probably won't get it. But I think in the end, the U.S. and -- primarily the U.S. will strong-arm the other allies; they will reluctantly go along without a second resolution. But the real test is not whether they're going to be there for military invasion, because they're basically potted plants for that. It's -- the real test is what happens afterward, and will they pony up the money and the resources for the rebuilding effort in that region afterwards? That's the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can Powell change the calculus in his appearance before the United Nations next week?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, I think the calculus may be changing a little bit, anyway, and Powell will be a piece of that, although I'm not -- I don't think a decisive piece. Look, on this, I'm going to clarify about the U.N. Under 1441 Resolution, Paragraph 11, that is the authority to go in, because that's the serious consequences if there's a material breach.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're going to the question of second resolutions?

MR. BLANKLEY: So you don't need a second resolution; that was negotiated in the first time. Now, some people would like to have another one saying that, but I think it's plausible they could go without a second resolution and have rhetorical agreement that there's a material breach, and that could move forward.

I want to make one other point about diplomacy, and particularly Rumsfeld -- your observation about Rumsfeld. Something fascinating happening. America's beginning to play Europe the way England for 300 years played Europe, always allying with the second power on the continent against the first power, so that over the centuries, England would ally with France or Germany or Austria or whoever was the second power. Now you see with this letter of eight, you see America allying with England, Spain, Italy, Poland, et cetera, against, as you will, France and Germany, and undercutting their dominance on their own continent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see it that way? And by the way, that brilliant analysis of mine was drawn in part from the column written by Philip Stephens, your U.K. editor in Monday's Financial Times.

MR. BAKER: Yep. Yep, and very impressive it was, too. Tony's right; the actual Resolution 1441 doesn't require a second resolution. That was deliberately left vague back in September, October, when they were negotiating this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Can we get off that and get to the big picture here?

MR. BAKER: So it doesn't need a second resolution. However, here's the critical thing: the European -- Tony Blair -- as everybody's said, the British will be on board eventually. But, it will be politically much easier for Blair to come on board, and most importantly, they want the French on board and they want the Russians on board. It will be much easier for those to go on board if we get a second resolution, which is a formal -- comes close to being a formal authorization of force, if by a date certain Saddam does not finally comply with what he's supposed to do.

So, that's what they want to do. And I think there's a pretty -- I disagree with him on that. I think there's a reasonable chance they will get a second resolution, because in the end, they know that that is what -- the French are increasingly looking for a way out of the mess they got themselves into, quite frankly --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. They need a bridge --

MR. BAKER: -- when they went way out on a limb a week ago by siding with the Germans; they want a way out. The way out for the French is a second resolution which gives Saddam one final chance, and then they come on board.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How come Blix has disappeared from this discussion?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he hasn't.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look -- look -- the decision -- look, they're right. This is down the road, John. The French are looking for a bridge to get back across behind the Americans. And the Brits, I believe, because the Americans and the Brits are going, and since we are going --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they going without the U.N.?

MR. BUCHANAN: We are going. But once you decide you're going, you would like to have as many aboard as possible. And so I think that's what's going to bring it all together.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. The --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What makes you think that Tony Blair is going to disaffect Germany and France and he's going to go against 77 percent of his population?

MR. BUCHANAN: You got -- Powell is going to up there --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't it more likely -- let me finish. Isn't it more likely that Blair will prevail over Bush and tell Bush to cool it and be successful in that --

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush is going! That's all there is to it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but can he slow it down? Can he get a U.N. --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Blair can help -- Let's do this, let's do that, let's do this.

MS. CLIFT: The administration is --

MR. BAKER: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Hold on. I want to hear -- I want to hear Jerry. One minute.

MR. BAKER: You're right about Blix. Blix is actually important too. The two things that the Europeans want in order to come along with this, including Britain, is a second resolution. And they want this to be seen to be, in effect, if not actually, in effect authorized by Hans Blix. They want Blix on February the 14th, to say, "This guy is still not cooperating." And they want -- because the Europeans will not simply accept U.S. evidence that he's not cooperating, they want it to be legitimatized and blessed by Hans Blix. And I think, again, there's a very reasonable chance, given what Blix has already said, that we will end up in that position.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, if the Security Council votes nine in favor and there's no veto, the game is over; everybody can go in. The Security Council --

MR. BAKER: The Security Council won't get to that point --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Security Council has voted in favor of military force.

MR. BAKER: The Security Council won't get to that point until we've had another report from Hans Blix on the 14th.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. But he's going to report fortnightly.

MR. BAKER: He's going to report fortnightly. But the critical one is the next one on the 14th, and then we get to a discussion in the Security Council --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well I'm saying here, why can't Bush wait for eight weeks or six weeks, as Blair wants?

MS. CLIFT: He may well wait. He may well wait.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- you're going to split NATO, you're going to split the European collective agreement. We are now providing military cover for Europe, under the terms of collective agreement. Secondly, you have NATO. NATO will be split too.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes it will.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, they all are going to have to come aboard, they all know it. And provisions will be made, whether it's Blix or the French --

MS. CLIFT: I agree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat. Pat. Pat.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Your assumption that they're all going to go aboard I think is very premature and probably mistaken.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get out.

Will Blair go home with his close alliance with Bush intact, yet without a major rupture with France and Germany? By the way, he's leaving on Friday -- he left on Friday.

Pat, what do yo think?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, look, he's going to go home and he's going to get something in terms of time because the president's not ready to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about --

MR. BUCHANAN: The president can't go before March 15th militarily. And so he's going to go back, and he's got plenty of time, they're going to be working on a lot of things and try to bring everybody aboard. But, John, the decision to go has been made, frankly, long ago by the momentum.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Until they get 200,000 troops in the region, they're not going to be ready to go. So Bush can afford to give away four, six or eight weeks. And Blair is not going to rupture with France and Germany, because in the end, they're going to calculate their commercial interests. And whether there's a second resolution or not, they're going to be there unenthusiastically. And the problem comes in the rebuilding of Iraq because they're not going to want to put their money and their resources into that effort. So they'll get their --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Blair -- I want to know what the answer to my question is. Will he go back with the U.S. alliance still intact, and his friendship with Bush?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's still intact, still a friendship. Blair is not going to be isolated, Germany is getting isolated.


MR. BAKER: He will go back with the alliance with the U.S. intact. And as everybody said, the rest of the Europeans will come on board. But there has been real damage done to the European side of this alliance in the last couple of months, and it's been done by the French and the Germans in particular, and that's going to take a lot of healing over quite a long period. This has been a very significant moment not just for the United States and Iraq, but actually for Europe, too. It's a very, very deep division there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think you've got a collision of titans here, and it remains to be seen who's going to prevail over whom -- Blair over Bush or Bush over Blair. I think Blair can convince Bush to wait maybe four weeks in addition, in order to preserve the European collective agreement that we have, the transatlantic friendship and the solidity of NATO.

MR. BAKER: But that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Otherwise, Germany and France may just decide, "Look, we've had it with Bush."

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: What's four weeks? Who cares?

MR. BUCHANAN: What's four weeks?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As Philip Stephens points out, it's not anti- Americanism over there; it's anti-Bushism.

MR. BAKER: That's correct.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And for his own political preservation, you have Blair, who doesn't want to run into that by getting too close to the United States.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BAKER: The calculation, at the end, is that what -- the proof of the pudding, as we say, will be in the eating. What will matter here is not process but outcome. And if we have a successful war in Baghdad, and we -- and American and British troops and others are in Baghdad in a relatively --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Successful war.

MR. BAKER: -- and there is seen to be a success, then all of this concern about public opinion in Britain or the United States will disappear overnight.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Shock and Awe.

"Shock and Awe" is the Pentagon's current battle plan for Iraq. It's a war concept for producing shock and awe in the enemy, immobilization through fierce, massive, concentrated bombardment. Eight hundred cruise missiles will rain down on Iraq targets in 48 hours -- roughly one deadly cruise missile every three minutes -- wreaking devastation on Baghdad, Iraq's capital city.

"There will not be a safe place in Baghdad. The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before," says one Pentagon official, a CBS News source.

HARLAN ULLMAN (National Defense University): (From videotape.) We want them to quit. We want them not to fight.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Harlan Ullman of Washington's National Defense University was instrumental in the design of Shock and Awe, whose prime target is Iraq's leadership.

MR. ULLMAN: (From videotape.) All of a sudden, you're the general, and 30 of your division command headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, their water. And you begin this relentless campaign to wear them down, so that two, three, four, five days, they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted, so that you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks, but in minutes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unknown is the Shock and Awe effect on Iraq's general populace. One half a million sick and wounded is the World Health Organization's estimated human toll -- civilians ravaged by disease after the destruction of water, sewage and food facilities.

Shock and Awe is the Pentagon's current war strategy for Iraq, but this does not necessarily mean the plan will be executed, especially given this vow from President Bush in his State of the Union Address.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means, sparing, in every way we can, the innocent.

Question: What are the implications of this strategy in terms of the use of ground forces, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, there's been a lot of talk among the chattering class about these stealthy Special Forces and so forth, but that's not what this is about. This is going to be a huge invasion, five divisions, and the idea is to totally overwhelm the enemy, so that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With ground forces.

MS. CLIFT: -- ground forces -- totally overwhelm, so that the Republican Guard feels that they have no chance to win, because what they don't want to do is end up fighting door to door in Baghdad, which would kill a lot of Americans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How are they going to avoid that?

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he pulls his troops back.

MS. CLIFT: I think the idea is that you so overwhelm them with such massive force in such a short time that it's a knock-out punch and you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean in the manner of shock and awe.

MS. CLIFT: In a manner of shock, yes. But you don't bombard Baghdad the way that suggests.

MR. BUCHANAN: Water, sewage and food he will not do. That would be an immoral thing to do. The president is not going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would that be torture?

MR. BUCHANAN: It wouldn't be torture, it would be an unjust war. One pass by 16 stealth bombers, John, can put 256 JDAMs, each of 2,000 pounds, on 256 targets. He's going to take out every military target of command and control and weaponry they have, and the United States has the ability to destroy every weapon they've got. But I do agree we're going to go up to the gates of Baghdad and they think it will come down from within.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do people under seize give way when faced with massive bombardment?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Leningrad --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Think of Berlin.

MR. BLANKLEY: Leningrad stayed --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also Berlin.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- held out for 900-some days. It depends on the people and it depends on the barrage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can they sometimes get their backs up even though they know they're doomed?

MR. BLANKLEY: Of course. Or not doomed, as in Stalingrad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that could even prolong the situation.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but look. We've all heard a lot of different theories leaked about what the battle plans are. I'm confident that the real battle plans have not been put on CBS News or NBC or "The McLaughlin Group." The truth is, the battle plans are being held tight. And we're all allowed to speculate. A lot of this is for psychological warfare against Saddam, and all these different stories that are being floated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this shock and awe is now on the table.

MR. BLANKLEY: The public table.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, was it leaked? Was it leaked? Is it part of SIOPs to convince -- to persuade Saddam to leave?

MR. GERARD: That's all part of the process, the leaking that's been going on for the last six months about the scale of the military assault, and of course that is the ideal solution, that you do something which stops short of actually having to fight street by street in Baghdad. And the best way of getting that is to persuade the Iraqi military, their officers, that this is going to be over and they haven't got a hope.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you imagine what the video would look like from the point of view of American soldiers seizing presumptive enemy citizens, who could be enemies, and how that's going to look, with mothers and screaming children in downtown Baghdad? I don't think they want that.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think we're going to get the video.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are ways of averting war, however. One, for example, is the silver bullet, whereby he's assassinated. Another is the golden handshake. Has that been ruled out?

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen. He's got to "get out of Dodge" by April 1st or he's gone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about complete capitulation? Suppose he says, for example --

MR. BUCHANAN: Gerry's idea is the one that I think they've got some hope for, which is, the Iraqi military looks at this awesome thing and says, "Look, do we want to die for this guy or not? Let's take him out ourselves.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. That's the silver bullet. But what about complete capitulation on his part, and he says -- Saddam says -- let me finish. Saddam says, for example, "A couple of my generals went bananas on me and I didn't know it, and ba-ba-ba, I'm dealing with that." And then he turns over everything.

MR. BAKER: But it depends how plausible it is. It depends entirely. If he says, "Oh, and I found a few hundred chemical warheads," nobody's going to believe that. If he says, "Oh, actually, yes, some of my generals have been hiding this, if you can believe this; I mean, it's so embarrassing, you're never going to believe this, but I found 35,000 chemical warheads, you know, a couple of tons of anthrax" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose he goes a considerable distance, and Blix comes back and he says, "I'm in favor of -- I appreciate the change in attitude I'm experiencing over there." Then he won't get the Security Council vote. How does Bush go in then?

MR. BAKER: There's a (tiny chance ?) of that, but if --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. So it's still possible.

Issue three: The union is strong.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) In all these days of promise and days of reckoning, we can be confident. In a whirlwind of change and hope and peril, our faith is sure, our resolve is firm, and our union is strong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Since we don't have very much time, give me an adjective to describe the president's speech and style. Is it rousing? Masterful? Give me an adjective, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Confident and presidential.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Confident and presidential. Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Manipulative. (Laughs, laughter.) He really worked on the country's emotions, and particularly, the fear of terrorism to sell the war. And he put out a laundry list of wonderful promises. Let's see how he pays for them. AIDS -- helping AIDS in Africa; you know, prescription drugs --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the intelligence -- was the quoted intelligence about Iraq persuasive, or did you --

MS. CLIFT: No. I -- you know, he's totally exaggerated the connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. And poor Colin Powell has been sent out now to do the sales job, and he's not going to be able to do it.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me answer your question. I think for the second half, it was unadorned conviction that typified his speech. For the first half, I think he personalized his sentiment regarding being a compassionate conservative with the AIDS, with the helping of the children of prison inmates. And I think that he -- and the addiction, where those families had addiction problems. I think he created a very strong sense that compassionate conservatism is not just a slogan, but it's part of the philosophy of his administration.

MR. BAKER: Above all, I thought it was martial. It sounded like a speech that a leader makes when he's preparing his country for war.


MR. BAKER: Mm-hmm.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought he was confident; I thought he was forceful in his language; concise, great economy of phrase. And I thought most of all, what matters most is he spoke with conviction throughout. But I want to know, in that connection, what was this all about, Pat? Did you see this bite in connection with this?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's marching us right down the road to war, is what it's all about.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I don't think he changed any minds, but for people who were not eager to go to war or opposed to the war, I think they're now resigned. (Laughter.) There's no way out as far as Bush is concerned.

MR. BLANKLEY: Brief factual correction: He did change a lot of minds. CBS's poll immediately after --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, 59 to 62.

MR. BLANKLEY: Sixty-seven percent --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And then on Iraq, 70 -- I mean -- 67 to 77.

MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, there were huge jumps. And in fact, whether that stays or not depends. But he did, at the moment of the speech, move dramatically the public in his favor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, there is going to be a war against Iraq, and probably begin, I would guess, between March 15th and April 1st. And after the United States takes Baghdad, there is going to be real pressure on President Bush from the British and others, from Blair: Please do something about this problem in the Middle East. And I think the president will have a very, very tough time -- tougher than his father -- biting that bullet. I don't think he will do it because the politics are on the side of leaving Sharon alone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see that new highballing figure on how much this could cost, including occupation: 1.6 trillion, which means 1,600 billion. I presume that's a five -- at least a five-year estimate, if not longer. But that's out there now as an outside figure.

I ask you.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, those numbers are going to make it hard for the president to deliver on some of his other commitments. And if he doesn't make good on his promise to dramatically increase AIDS funding, he will have AIDS activists following him all over the campaign trail in 2004. His track record is not good. (Laughter.) He promised 500 million (dollars) to prevent mother-to-child transmission --


MS. CLIFT: -- and not a penny of that has been distributed. First, the White House quietly got the money reduced from 500 million to 200 million, then it was killed in the end of the year crack-down on spending. Not one penny ever got out. But he had a press conference on it in the Rose Garden.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. Quickly. We're running out of time now.

MR. BLANKLEY: The president's proposal to include prescription drug reform within a Medicare reform is going to fail, and he --


MR. BLANKLEY: Because there's not time to get the full Medicare reform passed, and the question is going to be whether he'll be willing to split it off. My guess is, he won't, and we won't get prescription drugs this year passed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about incorporating the private sector into -- in combination with Medicare?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, it's all a wonderful idea. I just don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think it'll work?

MS. CLIFT: Terrible idea. (Chuckles.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean you don't think it'll pass.

Okay. Then what do you have?

MR. BAKER: North Korea will have a range of nuclear weapons within six months, and we'll be into a crisis with that country as soon as the Iraq situation is dealt with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting, and fearful.

I also think, by the way, the president was very sobering, if I had to pick one adjective, in that speech.

I predict that the Bush proposal to end double taxation of dividends will be modified. Instead of ending it, the tax will be reduced, and the plan will survive in that form. Use this in one of your columns, Pat.

Next week: The U.S. clergy condemn Bush policy on Iraq. Will they influence the president -- or anyone? Bye-bye!



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: For Art's Sake.

Bulgarian-born artist Christo is bringing his work to New York City's Central Park. He has already wrapped Germany's Reichstag in fabric, draped Paris's Pont Neuf in woven cloth and bathed the islands of Florida's Biscayne Bay in pink plastic.

Now New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has okayed Christo's latest opus: a 23-mile-long stream of nearly 8,000 metal frames called gates, installed by Christo and spread along Central Park's walkways. Each frame, or gate, will be 16 feet high and 8 feet wide, and draped with vibrant yellow fabric. The project will create the illusion of strolling under golden gates, says Christo.

The temporary structures will be on display for two weeks in February 2005. Estimated cost to build, drape and remove the frames: $20 million, all of which will be paid for by Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude.

Opponents of the plan say the project is an exploitation of New York City's public space by Christo for fame and money. The Sierra Club says the Christo trestles will upset the park's animal life.

Still, Mayor Bloomberg expects Christo's gates to attract as many as half a million tourists and generate as much as $136 million in spending.

Tony, how do you explain this weird fetish of -- that Christo has of wrapping things up? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. I think this is an opportunity where the Security Council should veto this project. (Laughter.) And I think you'd get a unanimous set of vetoes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, what's wrong with it? It's harmless enough. It's not like some of the stuff we've seen in the Brooklyn Museum. Is it, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it is not. (Laughing.) The Brooklyn Museum should be cleaned out.

Look, I don't object to this. I've seen -- we mentioned before, John, I saw Christo's umbrellas out there, and it was a very dramatic effect, going out to the Central Valley in California. I think it would be a good thing. It's only two weeks. And I'll tell you, this Mr. Bloomberg needs some distraction because he is so far down in the polls from raising taxes and cutting out cigarettes that this is an excellent distraction for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I'd accept that if he really wanted to draw people in, he'd get some young artists in there, as they do in Fort Lauderdale, and they do in the Village in New York, and give them more exposure.

But what is this with the Sierra Club -- your friends, Eleanor. Do they think that the squirrels don't like Christo? Is that their problem?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think the problem is with the dogs that walk there in the morning. They're going to get freaked out by this change in scenery!

But, you know, if you have $20 million to spend, can't you find something that's a little more uplifting for mankind than obstructing public space?

I agree about Bloomberg, though. I mean, Bloomberg can't wage war in Iraq as a distraction --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- talk about it forever.

MS. CLIFT: -- so maybe President Bush ought to wrap Lafayette Park in fabric instead of going to war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's the mayor of London, do you know?

MR. BAKER: Yeah, a guy called Ken Livingstone is the mayor of London.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ken Livingstone.



MR. BAKER: Red Kenny, yeah. Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Ken Livingstone would tolerate something like that in London?

MR. BAKER: Oh, definitely. I mean, any --



MR. BAKER: No grandiose art project is too grandiose for the mayor of London, let me tell you that!

MR. BUCHANAN: He's jealous!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see the Reichtag, when he covered the Reichtag?

MR. BAKER: I did see the Reichtag, yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What a monstrosity that was!

MR. BAKER: Yeah, I have to say I agree with you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, if it weren't for his capitalism, I would totally disapprove of Christo.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

(Laughter.) ####