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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT AND MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN

TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 8-9, 2003


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Rumsfeld Surprised.

U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) Who said that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was taken by surprise by the news that North Korea had restarted its nuclear centrifuge at Yongbyon and was recovering plutonium from fuel rods.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) If that's the case, then obviously, within a relatively short period of time, they would have the ability to produce nuclear materials for additional nuclear weapons.

It's a regime that is a terrorist regime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: North Korea also warns the U.S. not to consider striking its facilities. "If the U.S. launches a preemptive strike on our peaceful nuclear facilities, it will provoke total war." North Korea's Foreign Ministry added this: "The United States says that after Iraq, we are next. A preemptive attack is not something only the United States can do. We can also do that."

North Korea is agitated at reports the Pentagon is bolstering military operations in the region, including the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier deployed there this week; placing 24 B-52 and B-1 bombers on alert, ready to fly to Western Pacific air bases as backup for the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea -- this while the buildup continues in the Persian Gulf -- all of which leads to: Mr. Secretary, can the U.S. manage a two-front war?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) We do in fact have the capability of dealing in more than one theater at a time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Has North Korea made the strategic calculation that it needs a nuclear weapon quickly to avoid the fate of Iraq, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think they have. The -- I think they're going all out for nuclear weapons, for these reasons:

First, it will give them security, permanent security, from an American attack.

Second, you get respect and recognition from the Americans when you go nuclear, just like Mao did.

Third, he wants food and fuel aid.

But fourth, he is going to expose the Bush doctrine, which says the world's worst dictators will not be allowed to get the world's worst weapons. He wants to expose that as a fraud. I think it's a personal thing. I think it's a national thing.

There is no way we can stop him. We are not going to attack him, because that means war. Sanctions -- the Chinese and Russians and Japanese won't go with us, and they say it means war -- the North Koreans.

So I think they're headed down the road to April, when he starts producing enough fissile material, plutonium, for one atomic bomb every single month. And I don't see exactly how we're going to stop him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: There is no force option for North Korea. First of all, they've removed some of the plutonium tubes and put them somewhere else, so even if you wanted to go in and take out the reactor, you -- the plutonium would be somewhere else, and they could sell that on the black market. So there is no military option. And if you did anything confrontational, you would risk a war against their million-man army, and you would risk taking tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of lives with you.

So the administration is left with two choices: one, you revive the Clinton framework idea, where you live with a North Korea with limited nuclear ability, you get weapons inspectors in there, and you give them the food and fuel Pat is talking about; and you use their emerging nuclear capability as reason to go forward with a very expensive missile defense shield, which the administration had trouble justifying without an enemy. They now have justification.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the matter of the agreed-upon framework, the funding that goes with that agreed-upon framework was denied; it is not registered in the president's budget to Capitol Hill. Do you think that further inflamed the Koreans?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no. Let me go back to your first question. You said, is North Korea trying to avoid Saddam's situation? Obviously not, because their nuclear program started before Bush even became president, before there was an announced axis of evil. So, this has been a long-term strategy on North Korea's part. They're trying to create a crisis now for the same reason they've done it before, which is they want money, because they're running out of money and they're trying to call it a crisis so that we'll cough up compensation.

We started off, our government, I thought with a good policy, which was to ease back and wait for China. Now, China's not doing much. Then, in the last couple of months, our government has had sort of a schizophrenic policy. First, we took any threat of military action off the table. And then last week, we started deploying bombers in theater --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why have we gone hawkish?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think the administration has not yet figured out exactly what to do. They've been going back and forth --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this goes to my point of denying them funding. They want money over there, and when they see that they're not even in the budget, where they normally are because of the agreed- upon framework, they're further inflamed. Do you share that view?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think they certainly are looking for money. And I think Tony makes an absolutely critical point; they had a concealed program of developing nuclear capacities that went back even to the 1994 agreement. I would point out that at the 1994 agreement, in that period, Clinton was actually threatening to use military force. Military force cannot be taken off the table with these people; it's the only way you can get an agreement. And we're going to get a very limited agreement because we do not have the ability to stop somebody with nuclear weapons and we're totally vulnerable --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: This may be a technicality, but they did moth ball their plutonium program. And what they did was start up a parallel program with uranium, which violates the spirit of the framework, but not the technicality. And for the U.S. end, we didn't deliver on our end, either, which was to move towards diplomatic relations and to provide them with light water reactors. And we didn't do that either. So, you know, I'm not necessarily defending them, but all the fault's not on the other side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, they have the bomb on the brain ever since 1954, when we had a nuclear bomb in South Korea and we told them we'd use it on them if they didn't stop their behavior.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, we told the Chinese --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they've been thinking about it.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, we told the Chinese in 1953, Eisenhower did, "Look, come and settle this armistice thing, or all limits are being taken off American weapons." The Chinese and the North Koreans came to a deal in 1953 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right. But they've been thinking about that, and now they --

MR. BUCHANAN: But they see how the Chinese have gotten nuclear weapons. What happened when China gets them? All of a sudden, they're in the U.N., they get Taiwan's seat, they get World Bank loans, they get into the World Trade Organization, they get trade.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely. Look -- all right --

MR. BUCHANAN: North Korea's going down the same road.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. The exit question is this: Which situation is the more imminent? The North Korean situation or the Iraq situation?

MR. BUCHANAN: Iraq is incapable of really injuring the United States of America. North Korea, the very contrary is true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So if we're interested in our national self- defense, we ought to take North Korea more serious --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they say take out Iraq because we can take them out. We can't take out the North Koreans.

MS. CLIFT: The administration doesn't want to call North Korea a crisis, because then they might have to do something about it. They're trying to keep it on the back burner and pretend that Iraq is the primary threat. North Korea is a far more clear and present danger.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they are doing something about it. They've got the B-52s on alert and they've got the Vincent steaming towards it --

MS. CLIFT: Well, they're not talking; they're not engaging in diplomatic talks. Colin Powell ought to go over there and sit down with them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of Rumsfeld saying, "Yeah, we can handle a two-front war. We can handle a multi-front war."

MS. CLIFT: That's all the kind of bluster that encourages other nations to get nuclear weapons. I mean, that's not diplomacy.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's also been our policy, being able to fight two medium-sized wars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, our policy is schizophrenic; you know that. We're split down the middle in the administration. Where's the president? Which side is he on?

MS. CLIFT: He's on both sides.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look. You're saying Iraq or North Korea. We have two dangers; we have to deal with them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't say one or the other. I said, which is the more immediate?

MR. BLANKLEY: They are both --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a nu-ance' in there. (Emphasizing the second syllable.)

MR. BLANKLEY: A nu-ance'. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a nu-ance'. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: We're going to manage North Korea while we deal with Iraq before Iraq becomes a nuclear-armed North Korea, and then we'll have to muddle through with North Korea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which is the more immediate?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, in my judgment, Iraq is the more immediate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The immediate danger to the United States, to our national security?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Iraq by far is the more immediate danger, if only because we are so far committed that, were we to back away from Iraq, we would destroy American credibility around the world. In that sense, it has a huge effect on our ability to be effective around the world. And what we are trying to do with Iraq --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Aww.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I know you don't agree with me, John. What we are trying to do with Iraq, frankly, is exactly as Tony said, to prevent Iraq getting to the point where we can't do anything about Iraq!

MS. CLIFT: But that's ludicrous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's quite the opposite, actually.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president would be in higher standing worldwide if he decided that it is time to withdraw American forces. No problem at all with that.

MR. BLANKLEY: We would lose -- America would lose all credibility for a generation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to play Ted Sorensen a little later. He was confronted with that question, and he went through the same thing. He says, on the contrary to your very point, this idea, trumped up by the hawks in the war lobby saying that we have too much credibility on the line, is nonsense. He could easily do it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Who, Bush?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And there would be no reduction in credibility. The president. He could pull back the forces.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Sorensen -- (inaudible) -- a great writer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. This is my answer to my own question. There is no immediacy in Iraq whatsoever.

When we come back: Suppose Saddam capitulates. Will President Bush take yes for an answer?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Endgame for Saddam.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) No doubt he will play a last- minute game of deception. The game is over. All the world can rise to this moment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does this mean that war is now the only option? Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: It's getting close to that point. I think if Saddam backs down, turns over enough material to the weapons inspectors, he can maybe buy a little more time, and the president could then play it as a triumph for coercive diplomacy, for diplomacy backed up with military strength. But I don't think that's how it's going to play out. I think --

MR. I think -

MS. CLIFT: Left me finish, please.

MR. BLANKLEY: Please, go ahead.

MS. CLIFT: I think what's going to happen is that they're going to go back to the U.N., they're going to get some other kind of resolution that will be a fig leaf. It will be enough for the Germans and the French and the Russians to keep their oil contracts going and to say they support the U.S. But I think there's no enthusiasm for this war and, you know, the president has now got his prestige on the line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Colin Powell and the U.K. dossier.

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: (From videotape.) I would call my colleagues' attention to the fine paper the United Kingdom distributed yesterday, which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Powell is referring to a British intelligence dossier. It has been revealed, however, that a large part of the British intelligence dossier detailing Iraqi deceit had been copied word for word from published materials. Several pages were taken from a 29-year-old student's thesis, Ibrahim al-Marashi, others from a six- year-old magazine article. The student says he based his research on Iraqi documents confiscated 11 years ago. 10 Downing Street is looking into the matter, especially since its intelligence dossier had billed itself as findings up to date in intelligence. The word-for-word copying, by the way, even reproduced the typing and grammatical mistakes of the student's original copy. (Laughs.)

Question: The British shadow defense secretary, Bernard Jenkins, a rising Tory star -- as I believe you know, Patrick -- said this: Quote: "This document has been cited by the prime minister and Colin Powell as the basis for a possible war. Who is responsible for such an incredible failure of judgment?" unquote. In light of what Jenkins said, should all of Powell's documentation be subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny, inasmuch as it may bring on a war, as Jenkins notes?

I ask you.

MR. BUCHANAN: You are right, John. I think Powell made a compelling case, but there are parts of that case -- this, of course, also the idea that the al Qaeda are under Iraq, when they're up there in the Kurdish areas -- it should be checked out. I think Powell made a compelling case that Saddam is jerking the inspectors around. He has not made the case that the United States is mortally imperiled or deeply threatened by this regime. He has not made the case for war, in my judgment. But that is moot because they believe they have, and they are going to war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the al Qaeda material?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the al Qaeda stuff -- I mean, that little group has been up there under that Kurdish area for a long time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On that very point, we had special forces designated to go in and remove that concentration. Unfortunately, they were taken off course by reason of the general propulsion of the Iraq effort. Correct?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why couldn't we just go in and resolve that problem? Also, why do we have to go to a total war with Iraq when a few properly targetted cruise missiles could do it for us?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, we don't have to go to war, but the point is, the president is out there, Powell is out there, 150,000 troops are there, credibility is on the line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. I'm going to go back to you right now, but I want to first of all register Iraq's concessions. Iraq has agreed this week to one of the key demands of weapons inspectors. They allowed four scientists to be interviewed alone with no tape recorder, and U.N. officials in Baghdad now believe that Iraq will cooperate in three new ways: more private interviews; two, permit the U2 surveillance planes to fly to assist in the weapons inspection; and three, new law banning weapons of mass destruction, new federal Iraq law.

Now, you can laugh at that, but that's what the inspectors wanted. And this is a consent to them.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to go to Tony first.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look. When President Bush said the game is over, that's the game that is over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we sure of that?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, I'm confident of that. That this idea that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's playing games with the U.N., then.

MR. BLANKLEY: At the 11th hour saying you're sending in a couple of scientists is not going to solve Saddam's problem with George Bush or, I think, with the United Nations.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Now John, much as I respect the legal process, the possibility that you would rely on legislation passed by the Iraqi legislature, a democratically elected legislature which I'm sure received a hundred percent of their vote, is really astonishing to me. I mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, I'm listing for you what the BBC cited as one of the three concessions that it's doing because it was asked to do so. I'm not saying that that law is going to protect our national security.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let's go to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, I don't want to be burlesqued by you. (Laughter.) Even though you're a powerful man, you could not fly down here in your Hawker because of snow, and you had to go to the rails.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Cross-country --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How does that make you feel, to be reduced to the state of the common man?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I did cross-country skiing from New York here just to be on this show, John. (Laughter.) Now let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is time and effort well spent. Hurry up, because we have to get out.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is serious, now, okay?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's very serious.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: On the inspectors (sic), they put a list of 500 inspectors (sic), and they left off about 2,000 -- I mean scientists -- who we know are there. They just left them off the list. So they're playing games.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It takes three or four hours to interview one.

Question: If Iraq gives an unqualified yes to the inspectors and he puts all the WMD on Hadassah Street or whatever it is in Baghdad -- on Mohammed Street, would George Bush accept this? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: If Saddam came up and pushed all this mustard gas, anthrax, and said, "Here's all the garbage; take it," I think he could avoid war, but that -- or him out of there --

MS. CLIFT: There is no evidence --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. We've got to get out. Wait a minute. We've got to go out. Exit question.

(Cross-talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. My turn. There's no evidence that he's reconstituted anything in the last five years. He's got a lot of old stuff. If he puts it all out on the street, maybe. I don't think -- (inaudible) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Where are those 18 trucks going to be? (Laughter.) No, look, this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- this is a joke.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the modified vehicle? What's that all about?

MR. BUCHANAN: Trucks don't threaten us, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: There is no conceivable way in which Saddam can act, after all these years of deception, to satisfy the concerns of the planet.

MR. BUCHANAN: Planet? (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. I will say this; if he does that, if he lays all those weapons of mass destruction on that street, they will change the name of the street from Mohammed Street to Hadassah Street. I do think you're absolutely right -- (laughter) -- that's what it's going to take!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thanks for correcting me. And give me a CD on Yiddish music, please.

Issue three: History repeats in part.

Colin Powell before the U.N. brought back memories of another critical U.N. presence -- Adlai Stevenson in 1962, 40 years ago, when the Cuban missile crisis had the world on edge. Our U.N. ambassador, Stevenson, had sharp questions for the Soviets' ambassador, Valerian Zorin.

(Begin videotape clip.)

ADLAI STEVENSON (U.S. permanent representative to the U.N.): Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the USSR has placed and is placing medium- and intermediate-range missiles and sites in Cuba, yes or no?

VALERIAN ZORIN (Soviet permanent representative to the U.N.): (Through interpreter.) Sir, would you please continue your statement. You will have your answer in due course.

AMB. STEVENSON: I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that's your decision. And I'm also prepared to present the evidence in this room.

(End videotape clip.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stevenson produced satellite photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy's assistant, Theodore Sorensen, also JFK's speechwriter, presidential counsel and alter-ego, recalled this week how JFK was able to resist the advice of his defense secretary and the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs, who all wanted to invade Cuba.

THEODORE SORENSEN (former aide to President Kennedy): (From audiotape.) Because he had experienced the horrors of war, he wanted no more war, especially nuclear war, and he felt that he was strong enough, not only politically, but substantively, to resist the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs. Unfortunately, a president who has not experienced the horrors of war may not feel he's in that strong position.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sorensen was asked just how close in 1962 the world was to nuclear war.

MR. SORENSEN: (From audiotape.) I'm afraid we were extremely close, and had President Kennedy accepted the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and invaded Cuba or bombed Cuba, we now know that the Russians were prepared to reply with nuclear weapons against American forces, which would have required us to reply with nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union, and both sides would have very rapidly climbed the ladder of escalation until very little was left in either country or in the whole world, I dare say. So it's a good thing he did not listen only to the Pentagon, and I hope President Bush is not listening only to the secretary of Defense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question -- do you want to bust right in here?

MR. BLANKLEY: I want to bust right in here. Sorensen is playing a little fast and loose with history. He says that Jack Kennedy, because of his war experience, knew how to stand up to the generals. But in the Bay of Pigs, that happened first, he did not. It was because he regretted, you know, caving to the CIA on the Bay of Pigs, not because of his experience in war.

And to answer the question, not only can George Bush stand up to the generals, he has. And it's only now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It takes a lot of conviction and guts. If you've got this whole machine going --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and you've got Rumsfeld out there beating -- and the war drums are beating --

MR. BLANKLEY: You've got Powell out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and there's war hysteria in the air --

(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute, wait a minute.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but Bush is not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if he's going to stand up and say, "Hey, wait a minute," and he says something like -- standing up to them and saying something like -- to Rumsfeld and Cheney -- "Hold on, boys. We have to work this out without triggering a nuclear confrontation."

MS. CLIFT: Bush is not --

(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is a complete misreading of the role of George W. Bush. He is the man taking the lead on this thing. This was true a year and a half ago. I mean, I happen to have met with him a year and a half ago -- he was absolutely committed to this war against terrorists and to dealing with Iraq, which he believes is a part of the same issue. And that is not something that he's pushed on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- he's not being pushed by the Defense Department on.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, well -- (laughs).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's leading the whole world and the administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. BLANKLEY: Keep in mind that George Bush --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, and you think that's a good thing. I think it's insane. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Keep in mind that George Bush rejected Cheney's counsel in July regarding going to the U.N. So yes, he has the ability to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to point out that there's another Kennedy, the brother of JFK, who also took a position this week. Now, he's a senator from Massachusetts, and this is what he had to say that kind of links, in an analogous fashion and maybe beyond that, Cuba and Iraq. Listen to this.

The younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, Edward Kennedy, the seven-term senator from Massachusetts, pointed this week to the relationship of the Cuban missile crisis to the Iraq crisis, both nuclear threats.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA): (From videotape.) This would add an enormously dangerous new dimension for the United States to be even considering using tactical nukes to bore into some of the alleged places of hiding in Iraq to destroy chemical and biological warfare. There ought to be a very clear statement by the secretary, by the president, that that is not just on the table but not in consideration. The policy implications of that would just be, I think, profound and be disastrous, myself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Do you share Senator Kennedy's views on no nuclear -- tactical nukes in Iraq on the -- put there by this administration?

MR. BUCHANAN: I certainly do agree with that. But you have to know that the administration, in sending that signal to Iraq, was actually sending that one to North Korea, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: God. This is degenerating by the minute.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Well, this administration has made loose references to tactical nuclear weapons in the past. I think it's a huge mistake to even put that on the table. And President Bush has not pushed back -- the fact that he's wanted to go after Saddam Hussein since September 12th, 2001, I don't think is a virtue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tactical nukes -- we're almost out of time.

MR. BLANKLEY: George Bush's father, you know, sent Jim Baker to warn Saddam the nuclears were on the table if they used chemical or biological -- it's right to keep it in reserve. I certainly hope it stays in reserve.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, absolutely. Nobody wants to get involved in that. And I don't think this administration does, either. But they're not going to take anything off the table in the hopes that they deter Saddam Hussein to the extent that they can.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The senator's points are extremely well-taken. We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Kim Jong Il, John, is going to force Mr. Bush into the kind of confrontation on a mini level that Khrushchev forced John F. Kennedy into. And Kim Jong Il believes Bush may have to back down, and he may be right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Democrats will stop short of filibustering the judgeship nomination of Miguel Estrada, a circuit court and appeal and a likely future Supreme Court nominee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: France's Jacques Chirac has talked himself into a position where he may not be able to get back in and support America in the U.N.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he --

MR. BLANKLEY: I think he's undermined that because of the statements he's made for domestic politics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The budget deficit, which has been proposed at being around $300 billion, is going to way exceed $400 (billion) to $450 billion in the current year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict Vladimir Putin will soften his position against the Bush defensive missile shield, to the point where Russia and the United States will be partners in its construction.

Next week: U.N. inspectors Blix and ElBaradei report to the U.N. Will Bush listen?

END OF REGULAR SEGMENT PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Godspeed, Columbia Seven.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The loss was sudden and terrible, and for their families, the grief is heavy. Our nation shares in your sorrow and in your pride.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Solemn ceremonies this week commemorated the seven astronauts who perished during their descent to Earth on the Space Shuttle Columbia. As Texans and New Mexicans and Californians helped the FBI locate evidence strewn across the landscape, NASA began its investigation into the cause of the disaster.

Question: Do you think we will go back to our Apollo-style program, with expendable rockets and orbital capsules? Remember those, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I sure do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Glenn. What did he -- was he the one who dropped into the Atlantic and they had to fish him out?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, that was Gus Grissom, who died --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gus Grissom?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- who died in that accident on the ground. He was burned to death, along with Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I'm talking about the one where they landed in the ocean.

MR. BUCHANAN: That was the first -- it was the Mercury capsule, and you're right. He was the second guy up, I believe, and they had to pull him out of the water because he jumped out of the Mercury capsule.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we going to go back to that? There's some thinking in the enlightened community of Washington --

MR. BUCHANAN: No --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- which is inspired by myself, in fact -- that the shuttle is over-engineered, and it has to be over-engineered, and the result is that it is too complex to maintain. It's just too complicated. This was the result of the finding of Bill Rogers' commission in 1986. And they were against the shuttle pretty much en bloc.

MR. BUCHANAN: After Challenger, for grounding it, you mean?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that -- if you read that document, as I'm sure you will, Pat, because you have pretensions, by reason of your Jesuit training, to be at least somewhat scholarly --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if you read that document, there are a lot of echoes in there. So is that a fact? Should we just face up to it? This whole shuttle idea was propelled by economics. We wanted to have something that was not expendable, and let's just junk it.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: I think President Clinton kept it alive because a lot of jobs were involved, and he cooked it up sort of as an international venture, and it's a partnership with the Russians and a lot of other countries. It's very difficult to pull out of it. And I expect we will continue funding it, but not at sufficient enough levels. And our romance with space cannot be afforded anymore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know --

MS. CLIFT: I mean, the president's just sent up a budget this week that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You spend a lot --

MS. CLIFT: Well, the money is not there.

MR. BLANKLEY: I disagree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: About what? About what?

MR. BLANKLEY: About the romance with space not being affordable.

MS. CLIFT: It's not there.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with you that I think the shuttle has a limited future. But I believe that we're probably going to end up doing a human colony on the moon as the next major project.

MR. BUCHANAN: The space plane is next.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you -- you have relations, that is you see the Russians quite a bit. Is it your belief that the Russians are going to cooperate with us 100 percent in a future program?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, absolutely, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we need the Soyuz to get those fellows back.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. And they need us. So I think the elements of the cooperation are there.

I must say, I don't think we're going to abandon manned travel in space.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I don't think so either.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's just too much now a part of our whole culture, and it would be seen as a great retreat by the United States. We'll work on it --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, they should move on to the space plane now. The shuttle, we've lost 40 percent of the fleet. They haven't figured out exactly what's wrong with these two. You can't send them back up. The International Space Station --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want a seat on -- do you want to be on board that -- ####

END