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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PAT BUCHANAN,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL

TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 1-2, 2003



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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: War of words.

The war of words between President Bush and Saddam Hussein capped this week's confrontation with Iraq.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions.

Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state. (Applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the same night as the Bush address, Saddam gave CBS's Dan Rather an exclusive. Saddam said he'll comply with U.N. Resolution 1441. He will die in Iraq rather than go into exile. Bush should join him in a globally televised debate. And he will never surrender.

SADDAM HUSSEIN: (From videotape.) (Through interpreter.) If there is a law in the world that says the stronger ones get their way, it means surrender to the law of the jungle, and we do not want to surrender to the law of the jungle. It is our duty to defend our country, so we will not surrender -- not to America, not to anybody else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: In the battle for hearts and minds this week, the war to win over world public opinion, whose public relations campaign won, Bush's or Saddam's?

Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush helped himself, clearly, with the elites in the Arab world by indicating we are going to address the Palestinian question. I think he helped himself with a number of people because it was a
calm, cool, reasoned speech.

But Saddam helped himself not so much with the great interview with Dan Rather, but by blowing up, if he's going to do it, those Al- Samoud 2 missiles, because he is dealing cards to the French, the Germans and
the Russians in the Security Council, and he's giving an indication that he just might go further in disarming, which is, frankly, the last chance we've got to avoid a war, which a lot of us would like to see avoided.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As the gloss on that, Iraq sent a letter to the U.N. on Thursday saying it agrees, quote, "in principle," unquote, to destroying the Al-Samoud missiles. The U.N. and the U.S. expect destruction to begin Saturday. And Blix says, quote, "a very significant piece of real disarmament." France says it means inspections are working.

Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, President Bush says it's only a game, and it probably is a game, but it's a better game than going to war. And I think in this contest of public relations that Saddam wins because he strengthens, at least for this week, the pro-inspection side.

Saddam does come across in that interview, though, as a bit of a cartoon character. I mean, it's hard to believe that we are on the brink of war against -- it looks like a made-for-TV movie. But I don't see the president backing down. I think we're still -- I think war is imminent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think of the war of words?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I thought that Dan Rather gave a very weak series
of questions. I don't think it makes any difference. If this war
were being determined by who's winning world opinion, obviously there
would be no war, and I think almost everybody believes there is because
President Bush is not being guided by current world opinion, he's playing
it for what he judges to be history's measure, not immediate public
opinion.

Pat is right that Bush's speech at a technical level provided some
useful support amongst the moderate Arabs, both by saying he was going to
lean on Israel after the Iraqi war to get a viable Palestinian state.
That did not make the Sharon camp happy. But it worked, I think,
usefully to perhaps soften up a little bit the moderate Arab states.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you want Rather to ask him that he didn't
ask?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, he had lots of opportunities --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Like what?

MR. BLANKLEY: When he denied that he had weapons -- any biological
weapons, there were no follow-up questions to cite, for instance, the
U.N.'s own finding of the 300 tons, or whatever the number is, of these
various toxins. When he talked about how much he admired and respected
father Bush, he didn't mention that Saddam had tried to have him
assassinated. I mean, he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now wait a second, he did mention that in his own
stand-up. And he also mentioned that --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but the point was to confront the politician
during the actual interview, and there was a complete failure to challenge
him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he had -- he had some good reasons in his Larry
King interview for why he didn't move into certain areas.

MR. BLANKLEY: But the fact is -- the fact is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The fact is, he asked him tough questions like, will
you go into exile, et cetera?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, the fact that he had to go on CNN to defend his
performance on CBS tells you there was a problem. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it may have been that he wanted to further
promote it.

What do you think.

MR. O'DONNELL: I think he did want to further promote it. Listen, I
don't think it's a battle between Bush and Saddam on public relations.
Bush is going to win that battle. The world doesn't equate the two.
Bush's public relations battle is with the French. It's really Bush
versus Chirac. And that's the one that he has to win or do a lot better
job with. Tony Blair has been helping fantastically. If you watch
Blair, as you can on CSPAN with the full coverage of Blair speeches in
Europe, they're really effective. And the Bush version of it here is not
nearly as effective. The resistance here is -- has more access -- the
war resistance here has more access to the media than it does elsewhere,
and so -- (inaudible) -- ground.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat. Where are the Turks?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Turks are -- I think the Turks are with us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As we go to press.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the Turks are with us, probably holding us up for
a few more dollars. But the real question is whether the Turks are
going to put 80,000 people into Northern Iraq, which the Iraqi National
Congress does not want.

On your point on France, Larry, I think well taken, except this:
There's a huge anti-American hegemony bloc in the world, and France is
bidding for the leadership of that bloc. And if they really are, and that's
where they're going, they're going to use that veto against the
Americans.

MS. CLIFT: I also would like to dissent on your reading of the
president's speech in terms of it bolstering moderate Arabs. What he did was
say that the Israelis should move on the settlements after hostilities
cease. That is exactly Sharon's position. And any daylight --

MR. BUCHANAN: Somebody stuck that into the speech at a late date, I
think. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: I was Elliott Abrams, of former fame, who's now in the
White House.

MR. BUCHANAN: Did he put it in there?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. And any daylight between the U.S. and Israel is now
gone. And I don't think that helps Bush's credibility in the Middle
East in terms of these luxurious promises he's put out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the idea of -- is the idea of liberating Iraq and
creating a democracy going to move the minds and hearts of Americans,
especially those mothers and fathers whose sons are going to war? Do
you think they're interested in a change in government in Iraq, or do you
think it has zero impact on them? They're interested their national
security, but does this have really any cutting edge?

MS. CLIFT: I don't think --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think it moves public opinion, but it does put a
gloss on what they're doing. A lot of people in this country think this
is a war about oil, and if you dress it up and say it's about
liberating oppressed people and that democracy will flower out through the Arab
world, it's a very seductive vision.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's not a question -- let me respond to that --

MS. CLIFT: It is totally unreal.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's not a question of dressing it up. Every major war
that America has gone into -- Civil War for slavery and union; World
War I, Wilsonian principles of self-determination; World War II, to
defeat Hitler -- they're always correctly justified on a higher moral level.
And no, not every American has heard this argument; not every American
agrees -- you know, is going to say, "That persuades me." But you
don't -- an American president doesn't lead America into a substantial war
without presenting a legitimate moral reason.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tony is right that it is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wilsonian idealism does very little to move America
when they're worried about --

MR. BLANKLEY: You're wrong!

MR. BUCHANAN: John!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- when they're worried about the end game strategy.
They don't see any exit strategy.

MR. BUCHANAN: John!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what they're worried about.

MR. BLANKLEY: Americans always insist on a higher moral purpose and
not the real politique of "old Europe."

MR. BUCHANAN: Basically, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly. They're not interested in sending their
sons and daughters into battle to change a regime.

MR. BUCHANAN: No. They need -- but they need -- Tony is right.
Lincoln: You start off, you want to bring the South back, and you -- then
you're going to, you know, end slavery. Wilson: Make the world safe
for democracy, and FDR. They elevate these things. The problem is,
Tony, is every time you do, you get it up to this great level, this vision,
and the vision can never be realized. But democracies have got to put
it out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Enough of this! Enough of this! Let's find
out what the elite think. (Laughter.)

Davos Repudiation. The World Economic Forum, as it's called, is held
each year in Davos, Switzerland, and it brings together a diverse
cross-section of top business, media, academic and world leaders.

This year's meeting was held one month ago, with over 2,000 attendees
from 98 nations, the majority of whom are from Western industrial
powers.

One Davos forum was entitled "The Future of the Middle East."
Questions concerning that region were then put to audience members, who voted
electronically on hand-held remotes, with almost instantaneous results
projected onto a large screen. To the question "Will regime change in
Iraq stimulate the creation of an Arab democracy in the Middle East?" --
as President Bush stated last Wednesday -- 51.4 percent of the audience
said no; 38.6 percent, under 40 (percent), said yes.

DAVID ROTHKOPF (CEO, Intellibridge Corporation) : (From videotape.)
Under 40 percent of you think that it will be a positive factor, and
this is directly contrary to a number of the assertions the
administration makes when it's talking about supporting and promulgating its policy
-- the U.S. administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, a multiple-choice question on the same point
made by the president Wednesday, with three possible answers to the
statement, quote, "The imposition of a U.S.-backed regime in Iraq will:
one, be a temporary phenomenon, and soon after Iraq will descend into
civil chaos; two, will trigger reform in the Middle East; three, be a
stabilizing factor in the region," almost 58 percent said answer one,
"descend into chaos"; 11.4 percent said two, "trigger reform"; and 31 percent
said three, "stabilize the region."

MR. ROTHKOPF: (From videotape.) Again, this skepticism that movement
to war is likely to be positive, with only under 12 percent feeling
that triggering reform is likely throughout the region.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This sampling of elite opinion mirrors widespread
public opinion in this country and the world. And that suggests to you
the reason why governments may be opposed as they are -- namely,
they're reflecting not only general public opinion, but the opinion of their
unconvinced elites. Would you agree with that?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. The most likely result of a U.S.-led invasion will
be an increase in anti-American sentiment. The most likely result of
the Arab governments will be to further crack down on free expression and
dissent. And the only organized opposition in these countries is not
democratic, it is Islamic, and it is based in religious fundamentalism.

This administration may talk about democracy, but they do not want
democracy. They would like a benign dictator that's a pliable dictator.
But democracy would mean what you got in Iran. That isn't what we
want.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I mean, the opinion of these European financiers,
many of whom probably are well-invested in --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they're from all over the world.

MR. BLANKLEY: All over Europe. I know. I mean, I know the group.
And they're not going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you been there?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I haven't. I've kept myself pure. (Laughter.) But
-- in that regard! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Quickly!

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you would just throw away the whole thing?

MR. BLANKLEY: I -- no, I don't think anybody knows the result. It
could be chaos.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There were Japanese there, Asians there --

MR. BLANKLEY: There's a reasonable chance for stability and some
improvement. And for anyone to put -- look into a crystal ball and say
they know, I think, is just being fanciful.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, governments come out of religion, faith,
tradition, history. These guys are pre-Magna Carta over there, and I don't
think you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, get it out of your head; they're not all
Europeans.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are a lot of Americans over there.

MS. CLIFT: He means the Iraqis.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm saying the Iraqis --

MS. CLIFT: The Iraqis. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm saying the Iraqis -- they're pre-Magna Carta.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ninety-eight countries were over there.

MR. BUCHANAN: But I'm talking about the Iraqis. Their governments
come out of their tradition, history, faith, and look, they've got no
tradition of tolerating opposition in Islam. And as she says, Islam is on
the rise over there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Buchanan is brainwashed by the American
media? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: No, he was absolutely right!

MR. O'DONNELL: I would never use that word with Pat! (Laughter.)

No, look, they are accustomed to an extremely rigid society and rigid
governmental arrangements; that is to say, dictatorship. And some
variation of that is the likely outcome in Iraq, no matter who's running
the place.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On a war probability scale from zero to 10, zero
meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, what's the
probability this week -- you were 8.5 last week towards certitude --
(laughter) -- what's the probability of war with Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: You were at seven, John. I'm moving my 8.5 up to 9.2.

MR. O'DONNELL: Ooh, boy.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's Saddam alone coming at us --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about his going to destroy --

MR. BUCHANAN: That won't do it with Bush. He's got to do more.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he wants regime change; this is all
camouflage!

MR. BUCHANAN: He wants liberation! (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Bush can't take "yes" for an answer. I move up from 9.5
to 9.75. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: God.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'll stay steady at about -- what was it -- 9.9 from
last week, when I -- (laughter) --

MS. CLIFT: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're not going to switch from that? You're not
going to go to 9.95?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. I don't want to predict anything.

MR. O'DONNELL: You know, I haven't really been in this poll for quite
a while, so I should go backwards a little bit and say that I've been
up around 10, up until the end of this week, where I'm now slipping down
to about a nine, only because it seems conceivable that Saddam will, in
these last-minute scenarios, do every single thing that is absolutely
necessary to avoid war that day; and he might -- he might -- be able to
string that out to the point and buy enough time that the world
opposition to war and that the Bush administration's success, which has been
enormous. Remember, he's destroying -- he's talking about destroying
missiles that we didn't know existed a month ago. And the only way we
found out that they existed is by all this warmongering on the part of
the Bush administration, which has been hugely successful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, because, of Hans Blix and his great
inspections, right? (Laughter.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, yeah, he wouldn't be there -- Blix wouldn't be in
the country if it weren't for Bush! (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Off mike.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me say the date that I think the war will start
is March 11th, so we've got a couple of weeks. And if during these two
weeks he writes an ironclad letter that he will have done everything
within the two weeks, that's one way to get out. Another way to get out
is exile. Another way is assassination. So therefore, I'm staying
where I am. I'm staying, Pat, with my seven. (Laughter.)

When we come back: In view of Washington's current grave
mismanagement, is it time for Congress to revoke home rule, or at least suspend it?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: D.C., the District of Calamity.

MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS (Washington, D.C.): (From videotape.) People
need to understand we've had a record amount of snowfall, and it would
be irresponsible of me to promise you're just going to have a normal
commute tomorrow.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Last week's snowfall paralyzed the nation's capital
for days. It left residents wondering how the city could possibly have
coped with a terrorist emergency over President's Day orange alert
weekend. The clogged streets and snowbound cars would have made an
evacuation impossible. Any response in an emergency operation would have been
practically immobilized. Large sections of the city remained totally
unplowed -- not a single pass through the entire week, with tie-ups
occurring as late as Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Mayor Anthony Williams left on Friday for a vacation in Puerto Rico
with a major snowstorm warning having been broadcast starting the Tuesday
before and with a terrorist alert Code Orange warning in effect. The
snow debacle is just the latest in an avalanche of calamities, mostly
man-made, afflicting America's premier city, the world's political nerve
center and al Qaeda's number one world target: Washington, D.C.

Item: Crime.

D.C. is America's seventh most deadly city, with murder up 12 percent
so far this year, on top of last year's 16 percent increase.

Item: Corruption.

Mayor Williams' reelection campaign co-chairman, a one-time crony of
former crack-smoking mayor, Marion Barry, Gwendolyn Hemphill, is at the
center of a spreading $5 million Washington Teacher's Union corruption
scandal, with Williams' chief of staff also under investigation.

Item: Deficit.

This year, D.C.'s red ink will be $128 million and rising, but Mayor
Williams wants $275 million in new spending for a sports stadium subsidy
for wealthy owners.

This partial accumulation of D.C. calamities, plus failed schools, led
Colbert King, the most influential voice on African- American issues on
the Washington Post editorial board, to tell it like it is in his
weekly column: "Even with Marion Barry off the scene, the District, under
Tony Williams, remains an insiders game in which things move and shake
according to the dictates of a nest of operators with interlocking
relationships. The whole stinking mess cries out for cleansing by an army
of civic reformers who can no longer stomach the grade-B characters with
big titles who have wrapped their tentacles around the District's
governmental, civic and political institutions. It's time to take back our
city."

Buchanan, you were born here.

MR. BUCHANAN: So was Colbert King, I believe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you moved out pretty fast. Now you're over there
in the shadow of the CIA --

MR. BUCHANAN: I certainly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- probably for protection -- (laughter) --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and wondering how you're going to park your big
car downtown Washington.

MR. BUCHANAN: After hearing that, John, what I conclude is that they
did not dig you out until Friday, is that correct? (Laughter.)

Listen, that was a very good report, though. And frankly, Colbert
King is a D.C. fellow. He grew up here. He loves this city. It does need
to be cleaned up and cleaned out. We should not have had home rule,
but now, having gotten it, there is no way we can go back. But D.C. is
one of the worst-run cities in America. But Congress will pay for it
because it's our capital.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have a budget of $6 billion in this city.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, there's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And your friend Tom Davis, who is a respected
congressman and chairman of the Government Reform Committee, wants to reduce
the control of the Congress's $400 million that the mayor is
requesting. He wants to reduce that amount of control and give it more to
Washington, D.C. Do you favor the relaxation of congressional oversight?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. They're just going to need more money.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get into this for a second, because there's a
lot wrong with D.C. -- the crime rate, the union scandal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Drugs.

MR. BLANKLEY: Drugs are terrible. We've editorialized against
funding the stadium with the taxpayers' funding.

But regarding the snow, I think you've been unfair. Because look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They spent $5 million and climbing -- he changes the
figure -- on snowplows. Anyone who can't clean 1,100 miles of street
with about 100 trucks, I hear -- it goes from 40 up to 800 trucks --

MR. BLANKLEY: But let me tell you. First of all --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- must be -- somebody must have his fingers in the
till.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Look -- now look. First of all, Mayor Williams was on
his 10th wedding anniversary, he came back from it in order to be
responsible. So I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You didn't hear what he said. He said, "Why are
people blaming me? I didn't bring the snow, God did."

MR. BLANKLEY: Now, regarding the snow itself -- when you talk about
terrorism -- the reason that the tertiary residential culdesacs were not
promptly cleared is because of our emergency routes for evacuating the
city, the primary and secondary roads have to be kept clear at the
expense of the tertiary roads.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah, yeah. Well --

MR. BLANKLEY: But precisely because of the terrorism situation, the
third --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please, spare me! Spare me! Here's a man who lives
in a Great Falls mansion. (Laughter.) He has a long, winding driveway
to his estate. He drinks Chablis and he eats Brie, you know?

MS. CLIFT: I live -- I live -- (laughs) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he is -- he is --

MR. BUCHANAN: Defends the elite! (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Mayor Williams --

MS. CLIFT: Hey, I -- I live in the District --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor talk.

MS. CLIFT: I -- I live --

MR. BLANKLEY: Mayor Williams is the best mayor we've had.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor talk!

MS. CLIFT: I live in the District. I got plowed out promptly. Marion
Barry's snow removal plan was wait till spring. I think Williams did a
terrific job with the snow. He did at least as well as Maryland
Virginia, with less money. And he is the man who saved the District, saved
the District financially --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do you live? Where do you live?

MS. CLIFT: Northwest -- 30th and Military Road.

MR. BLANKLEY: Do you want -- (inaudible) -- (laughter).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, you were one of the fortunate few who had
their street plowed. There were large sections of the city where it had
never been plowed, with 16 inches of snow.

MS. CLIFT: There's public transportation, too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now Barry (sic) wants FEMA, federal emergency relief
organization, he wants FEMA to come in and clean the snow.

MR. O'DONNELL: Williams, not Barry.

MR. MCLAUGAHLIN: Can you think of any other city of its size that
would have the gall to call upon a federal entity to do that?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes. Atlanta. The problem is, this is fundamentally
a southern city.

MS. CLIFT: A government city.

MR. O'DONNELL: Snow removal is a Buffalo, New York, problem, it's a
Boston problem, it's a New York problem. We are far enough south here
that you cannot anticipate in any real way what the snowfall's going to
be. It's frequently zero in a year in Washington.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, things have changed. You've got to understand
something. This is the number-one world terrorism target, al Qaeda's
primary target. It's got the Congress, it's got the Federal Reserve
Board, it's got the White House, it's got the Pentagon. And that changes
everything. This city has to be lean and mean.

MR. O'DONNELL: If you want the deficit -- if you want Washington's
deficit to go up -- it doesn't have perfect snow removal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was a lot of har-di-ha-ha here about the
snowstorm and Washingtonians not being able --

MR. BLANKLEY: To be precise --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a minute. -- not being able to take it. But I
live here, and I've lived here for 32 years. And if this is the
number-one city in the world, I want to protect it, as do the other people who
live in this city. And we are at a great disadvantage right now,
believe me.

Exit question: Will the scandals and investigations of Williams
insiders, such as Gwen Hemphill, lead to Williams himself? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'd say no. But maybe Colbert King ought to run
himself.

MS. CLIFT: No, Williams is basically a straight-arrow, good guy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he's just Teflon, and Teflon is smooth and
slick? Is that what you mean?

MS. CLIFT: No. He's a straight arrow.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. There's never been a whiff of personal corruption
around him. There's been plenty of corruption in the city.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, wait a minute. What about his primary campaign
and the petition?

MR. BLANKLEY: That petition --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, what do you mean? What do you mean? What is he,
lights out?

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, please. He does seem incorruptible, and he is the
best mayor Washington's had.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. O'DONNELL: Which is a very easy title to win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean in relation to his predecessor?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, Walter Washington was the best one they had.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I agree with you on that, Pat.

We'll be right back with predictions.

The answer is no, it will not reach --

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: After we go into Baghdad, a falling-out among the
hawks over whether we ought to put pressure on Israel on the West Bank

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The White House plan to target Republicans who oppose the
president's tax plan will backfire big time, especially with George
Voinovich in Ohio.

MR. BLANKLEY: With minor modifications, Bush will hold 50 out of 51
Republican votes for the Senate on taxes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: If the French veto an American-sponsored Security
Council resolution, the French farmer will suffer greatly down the road in
trade wars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pope John Paul II will win the Nobel Prize.

Bye-bye.

END OF REGULAR SEGMENT

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: a bumper crop.

The latest growth industry is the proliferation of Democratic
candidates for president. Here's the current starting line-up for the
Democratic nomination. New Hampshire likely voters in next January's
first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential primary shows Massachusetts Senator
John Kerry with a strong lead, 26 percent, over his next band of
challengers: former Vermont governor Howard Dean, 13 percent; Missouri
Congressman Richard Gephardt, 11 percent; Connecticut Senator Joseph
Lieberman, 9 percent. No other contender polled more than 2 percent in this
Zogby -- last weekend -- survey.

The most crowded field in 25 years also includes North Carolina
Senator John Edwards; former Illinois senator Carol Moseley-Braun; former
Colorado senator Gary Hart; Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich; civil rights
activist Al Sharpton; retired General Wesley Clark, and Florida Senator
Bob Graham, who filed this week. All but Clark and Hart have formally
declared their candidacies.

Why are so many Democrats willing to run against George W. Bush, who
seemed not so very long ago politically impregnable? Lawrence
O'Donnell?

MR. O'DONNELL: The real story is the Democrats who are afraid to run
against him, just as in 1992, against his father, Mario Cuomo wouldn't
do it, because he thought he would lose. Al Gore wouldn't do it,
because he though he would lose. Tom Daschle wouldn't do it, because he
thought he would lose. Hillary Clinton wouldn't do it, because -- those
are the three most popular, most powerful possible entries into that
race.

Then comes John Kerry, who is rightly leading this field, because he
is the strongest of the group. But he's the strongest of a group, the
rest of which -- there's three or four real candidates in there -- are
absurdities. There are ridiculous things in there, like Sharpton, that
you can't count in this kind of list.

But the real story remains the big three who chose not to do it,
because Bush is so powerful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's more to it, and that is the conditions
in the nation. What are the conditions in the nations that have
induced these candidates to run in such numbers? You want help?

MR. O'DONNELL: The condition in the nation that has induced them is
that they, as individuals, have absolutely nothing to lose by --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. O'DONNELL: -- and they -- the only ones who have nothing to lose
-- that's why they're running.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence, number one is the economy.

MR. O'DONNELL: I know, but if they have something to lose, they
wouldn't run.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number two is, he's showing signs -- the president is
showing signs of weakness in the Midwest. And number three, he's
showing serious signs of weakness among female voters because of his
position on the war. Did you know that, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. He's going down. In one poll --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going down?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- well, Bush -- that shows 47 to 39 or 38, "Would you
vote for Bush or a Democrat," nationwide, and that's the first time
he's fallen under 50 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So far, so good.

But look, the war -- everything depends on the war. If Bush comes out
of the war a big winner, he's going to be very, very difficult to beat,
unless the economy really hits the dumpster.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How's he doing with the independents? Can you handle
that? The independents?

MR. BUCHANAN: The independents -- not doing as well as he was.
(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They -- (laughs) -- you mean after 9/11, when he had
90 percent of them?

MR. BLANKLEY: About halfway --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But now he's got about 50 percent of them.

All right, quickly --

MS. CLIFT: Look, it'll take a calamity to defeat George W. Bush, but
the potential for calamity is out there on both the foreign scene and
especially on the domestic-economic scene.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. Two names, the dream ticket, from only this
list.

MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Edwards and Gephardt.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In that order?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yep.

MS. CLIFT: Kerry or Dean in the first slot, Edwards or Wesley Clark
in the second slot. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

MR. BLANKLEY: There's no dream ticket, but somebody like a Gephardt,
who's at least solid, could be a vote receptor if Bush falls.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

MR. O'DONNELL: Kerry in the lead for president, and it's a toss- up
for vice president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can help you out. It's Kerry and Graham -- the
dream ticket.

MR. O'DONNELL: That's right. Okay, Graham. I'll go along with that.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's Edwards and Clinton. ####

END