MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Shock and awe. Rapid dominance -- that's what the U.S. is seeking. The fearsome firepower will presumably so destabilize Iraq's leadership as to lead to an early surrender, which now seems to be taking place. Also, the theory is you don't need as many ground troops; "shock and awe" compensates for the smaller contingent of troops.

Question: What effect will images of Baghdad under "shock and awe" bombardment have on the world, like Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Moscow, London, Rome, and across the Arab world?

I ask you, Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the anti-war countries are not going to like it. But, John, what we are doing here is far more precision bombing and special bombing than it is what we did in 1991. It is certainly not Cologne or Hamburg or Dresdan or Tokyo, which we did in World War II. Shock and awe basically is to go after command and control, precision bombing; hit the leadership, hit their communications. In other words, decapitate the regime, if you will, so we don't have to do what we did during World War II.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do you agree with that?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. We're in the spotlight now, and if we're dropping bombs, it behooves us to make sure the payoff is worth the imagery. And I think so far the bombing has been confined to Saddam's palaces and to the military installations. And, you know, if you don't like the war, you're not going to like it at all. But it seems to me that it's well within the bounds of an honorable fight, so far.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, are you experiencing revulsion at shock and awe? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Not at shock and awe, no. I was slightly amused, I have to say, at some of the correspondents and reporters. You know, shock and awe started a day later than they were expecting, and they were sort of complaining, you know, to the Pentagon, "Where's our shock and awe?", you know, even though a week before they'd been complaining about the possibility of harm during the war.

So look, this is the most humane effort at winning a war that's ever been seen. And by the way, just on your preamble statement, the number of troops we have is half of what we sent in last time. But the number of troops that Saddam is believed to have is a third. So proportional, we're sending in just as many troops proportional to Saddam's troops.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought Saddam had a million troops.

MR. BLANKLEY: Not anymore he doesn't. That's the last war. That was 12 years ago.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs) That was last time, John! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he has not sustained that level?

MR. BLANKLEY: He has not. It's been shrunk by two-thirds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you heard "General Blankley." What do you think about this?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, you know, we're going to have to wait a while for the dust to settle for world reaction to gell on this. I don't think we'll -- I don't think the world and foreign countries will be making up their minds based on the immediate images.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about the Arab world?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think so also with the Arab world. They're going to have to see exactly what the impact is on the Iraqi people and exactly how the Americans and British behave after a victory --

MS. CLIFT: It's an incredible mismatch, when you think that the defense budget in this country is $400 billion and Iraq's is $1.4 billion. So that fact that the U.S. --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: -- that the U.S.-led coalition is going to win this and win this decisively is not the question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the question is --

MS. CLIFT: It's what happens with peace and the day after.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, the question is -- she puts it very well -- is this going to look like an unjustified bombardment against a relatively defenseless city?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, look, look -- I think what --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Relatively defenseless.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- what was fascinating was that our Air Force did not take out the water system, did not take out the electricity, they did not hit the other side of the river where the residences are, so anybody who's observing with any objectivity --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're only in the first stage of -- (inaudible) --

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, they're not going to do it! You were wrong a couple of weeks ago when you said they're going to go in and smash power. They deliberately are not going to do what they did in 1991 because frankly, they want A, an intact city when they take over, and B, they want to avoid these horror photos of civilians running, and crying and weeping --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, we're not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you're talking about the intentional level. But the president was talking about results. And he said there will be no half-measures; we want total victory.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he's going after --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So -- but you may be --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's targeting --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You may share the belief that their intentionality is going to be -- result in performance. But I say they will use whatever is necessary. That's what the president said.

MR. BUCHANAN: Purely -- they will not. They're going after purely military targets, and that's perfectly legitimate and moral. They're fighting a moral war as of 48 hours into it.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the point is that they intend to take over this country. And the minute the fighting stops, they're responsible for the every day human needs of 23 million people.


MS. CLIFT: And if you take out the infrastructure and the power plants and poison the water, then you have a huge rebuilding effort. And that's where the cost and the problems are going to begin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- exit question: Do you think that this bombardment, and for that matter, the defections of the Iraqi soldiers portrayed on television, where they cower with their white flags before the American forces, and the impact of that on the Arab world, particularly the al Qaeda, watching the humiliation, do you think that we are heading in this country to experience increased terrorism?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think in the short run, there's no doubt this is going to recruit kids for terrorist activity. The question is how quickly we get this over, how we treat these people. If we can do it in 10 days or something like that, a lot of this and a lot of what happens in the Arab street might dissipate. If it's a long war, we've got a real problem.


MS. CLIFT: Regardless of how successful the war is, and even if Iraqis are dancing in the street, anti-Americanism is going to rise in that part of the world. It's a great recruiting tool for the al Qaeda movement and other terrorist groups. More terrorism in this country, the kind of low-level terrorism that Europe has been living with for decades.


MR. BLANKLEY: Well, they didn't need any recruiting tools to hit us on September 11th. So obviously, there's a predisposition in part of the world to be hitting us; they're going to continue to do it. But probably strength and justice is more likely to suppress is it in the long run than passivity on our part.


MR. O'DONNELL: Well, this is the big question. And my answer to it is I don't know. Everyone is pretending to be Arab scholars, all of us here in America, and we can predict exactly what the Arab reaction will be and what the terrorist reaction will be -- we don't know these people. We have no idea how they will react to this. And it is the fundamental question of the war: Does this war make us safer or does this war --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Make things worse?

MR. O'DONNELL: -- increase our risk level? To which the answer is I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think there will be more terrorism.

When we come back, are U.S. protesters aiding and abetting the enemy if they continue to criticize the Iraq war policy of their commander in chief?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Congress backs the troops.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted this week overwhelmingly in support of American troops now in battle -- the Senate 99 to 0, one abstention -- family emergency, Zell Miller -- for a resolution stating, "The military action now under way against is lawful and fully authorized by the Congress," unquote. The 99 senators also expressed sincere gratitude to the British. As for Bush's Iraq policy, the Senate did not fully endorse it.

In the House, the vote was more rancorous, with members debating into early Friday morning, 3 a.m., over the language. The resolution supported the troops -- 392, yea; 11, nay; 21 Democrats and one Republican voting, quote, unquote, "present"; and 10 did not vote at all. As in the Senate, no endorsement of the president's Iraq policy as such.

This show of unity in Congress was a contrast to the Senate floor on Wednesday, hours before the first U.S. missiles were launched.

SENATOR ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): (From videotape.) We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason: this is not a war of necessity but a war of choice.

What is happening to this country, my country, your country, our country? When did we become a nation that ignores and berates our friends?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (From videotape.) To allege that somehow the United States of America has demeaned itself or tarnished our reputation by being involved in liberating the people of Iraq, to me, simply is neither factual nor fair.

I am proud of the United States of America. I am proud of the leadership of the president of the United States. It's not an easy decision to send America's young men and women into harm's way.

So perhaps the senator from West Virginia is right. I don't think so. Events will prove one of us correct.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Earlier this week, Speaker Hastert -- a Republican, of course -- accused Minority Leader Daschle and the Democrats of, quote, unquote, "coming close to aiding and abetting the enemy" by calling the war into question. The GOP strategy is to equate any criticism of Bush and the war at this time with treason, it seems.

Question: Did Bobby Byrd commit treason in criticizing the president, Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Bobby Bird and Senator McCain -- Senator Byrd and Senator McCain, I think, represented the two viewpoints in this country very ably, and I think that the White House respects the way Senator Byrd put it.

What troubled the White House -- what inflamed the White House was when Senator Daschle said that he was saddened to think that anybody would lose their life because this president couldn't muster the diplomatic will to resolve the impasse in the Security Council. And the White House interpreted that as saying people are going to die because President Bush can't get his act together, and that infuriated them, and they slapped back very quickly.

I think it is a dangerous time to speak out, not necessarily because you're a coward, but because once the hostilities commence, we're all Americans and we have to line up behind the commander in chief. There will be plenty of time for second-guessing when people are out of harm's way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence O'Donnell, do you think it's surprising that 21 Democrats out of 22 voted "present," which is kind of a weasel-like way of avoiding a "no" vote?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, yeah, there are some districts where you just can't vote for that kind of thing. And so they -- (laughter) -- and by the way --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's an honest vote? Do you think voting "present" is --

MR. O'DONNELL: And "present" is the most honest vote they've ever cast. (Laughter.)

But look, the -- I think Eleanor's absolutely right that Senator McCain and Senator Byrd represented the reasonable version of this argument. And what Senator McCain said at the end was the most important thing, which is that at some point in the future one of these two arguments will be proven right and that everything that's being said now is simply a bold assertion as to what will be proven right in the future. And that is -- that's the proper and respectful way to argue.

And Senator Byrd's dissent is the most eloquent and intellectually well-shaped that I have heard in this country. Some of the dissent and some of the peace movement has been just hugely embarrassing to the history of the American peace movement.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, that -- I think that Senator Byrd's dissent was Ciceronian. And I agree 100 percent with Eleanor. I thought McCain made an eloquent case for what he believes. And frankly, they both might be right. This could both be a just war and have consequences none of us want. And it was on very high level.

The problem is this Daschle thing really moves into the territory of the Dixie Chicks, frankly. When you're -- I mean, you don't trash the president of the United States in some little partisan attack on the very eve of war, and I think that's what, as Eleanor said, has antagonized the White --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is anyone following the story of the September 11th family who lost terribly on that day and whether they are -- how they are reacting to criticism of the war? I have a note here that says an organized anti-war group made up exclusively of those who lost family members in the 9/11 terrorist attacks has coalesced --

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: What is the relevance of that to the question at hand?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the question is this: whether or not, if you take a position now, with the war going on, against the policy of the war, you are being unpatriotic.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You certainly cannot accuse this group of being unpatriotic, can you?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see the relevance now?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It doesn't penetrate that rind? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I can understand that they could be mentally distraught for their loss. That doesn't have any reflection on the effect -- on judging whether somebody's patriotic.

Look, Tom Daschle had every right under the Constitution 24 hours a day, every day of the year, to say anything he wants. I don't think that's very patriotic. He has the right to do it.

MS. CLIFT: The substance --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Can we say here -- can we agree that you should not hesitate to criticize the war policy at this time? Would you go along with that?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. Look -- now look, we argued against --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want to -- you wrote a column about ending the debate, didn't you, and then you proceeded in the same column to blast the neoconservatives.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, I did not. Look. The point is, John, is when the guns start firing, this war's going to last two or three weeks. Get behind the troops, the president of the United States. Argue what to do after we get there. Argue the wisdom after it.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, what I say is this: Don't hesitate to criticize.

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but it is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else, but it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else." Former president Theodore Roosevelt, May 7, 1918, said this when President Woodrow Wilson was trying to stifle dissent as America was waging World War I.

Do you agree or disagree with Teddy Roosevelt? And do you believe that, like Woodrow Wilson, George Bush is trying to stifle debate?

MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think George Bush is trying to stifle it, but a lot of people want to stifle it. And I don't care if the bullets are flying or not; if you believe the war is wrong, you should be out there fighting it every day. Every single minute of America's involvement in the Vietnam War was wrong. Every minute of it should have been protested, no matter who was shooting at who, during that time.

MS. CLIFT: What Daschle --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point. Tom Daschle, for instance, had plenty of time, when the war resolution was before the Senate, to oppose it, but he didn't because he didn't have the guts to do it then.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. BLANKLEY: But now -- wait, let me finish. And now, when the president was actually preparing the war and he was -- and unlike 1918, presidents today do micromanage; Bush personally decided whether to send in that first attack on Wednesday evening, and he was dealing with the carping from Tom Daschle.

MS. CLIFT: No, the substance of what Tom Daschle said happened well before the president personally ordered the bombing.

MR. BLANKLEY: Tuesday.

MS. CLIFT: What he criticized --

MR. BLANKLEY: Tuesday.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. What he criticized was the colossal failure of diplomacy that the president dragged this country through, and that is an appropriate criticism. The timing is not great, because once the decision is made to go to war, there's no point --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: -- there's no point in fighting about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get in here. Is this kind of dissent totally in keeping with American history? And can you speak about John Quincy Adams and the Mexican War? Can you speak to that? He became a representative after he was president. What did he do?

MR. BUCHANAN: He was violently against the war. As a matter of fact, when they brought up the peace agreement, he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He denounced the war in the halls of Congress. Yes, he did.

MR. BUCHANAN: So did Abraham Lincoln.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he not have a stroke two days later and die?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, he -- well, that was when the peace treaty came up. He collapsed. (Laughter.) He had a stroke and he never recovered from it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. When the war is at issue, there is inflamed dissent, is there not?

MR. BUCHANAN: But look, when we're talking about -- Look. I think it was right to argue whether FDR should have gone to Asia or Europe first, but when the bomb -- you don't attack him on December 8th.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute Are you saying that you favor Hastert using treason as a way of effecting Republican strategy against dissenting Democrats?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. What they did -- Daschle made a terrible mistake, and Hastert jumped on him and piled on. Politically, he's got a right to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean you think using "aiding and abetting the enemy" is an appropriate way to respond to Tom Daschle?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look. Both of them are partisan. He put a knife in the guy; Daschle shouldn't have done it.

MS. CLIFT: This president is trying to ram through a budget on Capitol Hill that includes a huge tax cut, includes -- it cuts veterans' benefits, all wrapped up in the flag. So it's really --

MR. BUCHANAN: But Tony's right, they should have asked how much it's going to cost before they have him a blank check.

MS. CLIFT: It's pretty nervy of this White House to accuse Democrats of being unpatriotic in raising criticism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will these Senate and House resolutions silence Democratic criticism and some Republican criticism -- Ron Paul, for example, of Texas; he voted against this resolution -- Democratic criticism of Bush's war policy? Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look. The Democrats will go dark on this thing until it is over, if it lasts a couple weeks. And they're politically smart to do it. They don't have to; they've got a First Amendment right. I would counsel they do it. They will.


MS. CLIFT: I agree with Pat. I mean, the argument about whether to go into Iraq or not is lost. That's yesterday's news. There will be plenty of time for criticism when the enormity of the commitment this president has just made becomes apparent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about the non-diplomacy argument, which Kerry is using?

MS. CLIFT: That will be back. That will all be back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But not -- stay away from it now? That's your earnest advice to the Democrats?

MS. CLIFT: Not while there's a shooting war and our troops are in harm's way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, quickly. What are you going to tell the Democrats to do?

MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.) I might not give them good advice. But, look, I think most of them are obviously going to be silent, and correctly so, for the next couple of weeks. There will be a few, I think, that may continue to talk, which they have a right to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we think we know how you feel. You're not at all not supporting the troops, if there is ongoing criticism of the policy. Support the -- the military, yes; the mission, no. Is that what you're saying?

MR. O'DONNELL: No, I'm not saying anything of the kind. What I was saying before was, if you're opposed to a war, you should voice that opposition no matter what minute of the war we're in, if it's minute one or if it's day one hundred.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, are you betraying the troops? Are you betraying the troops by doing that?

MR. O'DONNELL: No, you're not betraying the troops, because you're saying, "I don't think these troops should be risked this way." So you are supporting the troops in a way that is different from other people's support of the troops. So it's the same thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I agree with you. I don't see any impossibility in doing both: wholehearted support of the troops, they're doing a fantastic job, but at the same time continuing to represent your point of view with regard to this basic policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: The world speaks.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: (From videotape.) The only persuasive power to which he responds is 250,000 allied troops on his doorstep.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Item: U.K. Prime Minister Blair won a decisive vote in Parliament this week: 139 against the war; 412 backing Blair, who has sent 26,000 troops to theater.

Item: Germany. Chancellor Schroeder says that Iraq poses no imminent threat that would justify war, and that U.N. Resolution 1441, plus its antecedents, do not justify war. Yet Schroeder is allowing the use of Germany's airspace and U.S. bases on German territory.

Item: Spain. Prime Minister Aznar backs Blair and Bush to the hilt, but no Spanish combat troops to the Gulf.

Item: Russia. President Putin says, quote "The military action is unjustified. Russia insists on a quick end to the military operation," unquote.

Item: China. Quote, "The military strike has violated the charter of the United Nations and the basic principles of international law," unquote.

Item: France. President Chirac says, quote, "The U.S. violates international law and favors force over law."

Item: Egypt. President Mubarak blames Saddam Hussein for the war, but he also appeals to the U.S. to recognize, quote, "the dangerous repercussions," unquote, of the war on the stability of the entire Middle East. The Suez Canal remains open to military vessels.

Item: Saudi Arabia. Quote, "rejects outright any infringement on Iraq's unity, its independence, its resources, and its internal security, as well as military occupation," unquote. But the Kingdom is permitting the de-facto use of its air bases and airspace.

Item: Czech Republic. No troops except clean-up brigades after a chemical attack if there is one.

Item: Hungary. No troops, but permission granted to the U.S. to use a base on its territory.

Item: Poland. Two hundred troops.

Item: Slovakia. Only clean-up troops after a chemical or biological attack, if any.

Item: Australia. Two thousand troops.

Question: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld this week cited some 45 nations, including Eritrea, as part of our, quote, "international coalition of the willing," unquote. Do we have a broad and sturdy coalition, or do we, in fact, have a broad fig leaf? I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: It turns out we have a big enough and broad enough coalition. This coalition, which is actually quite thin, says to the world, "We don't need you. The next time we come to you inviting you into your coalition, you might want to consider that."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is in the coalition? We have the Brits with 25,000.

MR. BUCHANAN: You've got -- (inaudible). You've got Italy, the Brits, the Americans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Italy's not sending any troops.

MS. CLIFT: And former East Bloc countries.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there's only three sending troops -- the Aussies -- it's the Anglosphere is sending troops.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, Poland is sending 200 troops. Purely symbolic, I guess.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well that's -- yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what about this broad coalition, 45 nations. Is this propaganda?

MS. CLIFT: Yes --

MR. BUCHANAN: No. He does have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why doesn't he just tell the truth?

MR. BUCHANAN: He doesn't have the Chinese, the Russians, the old Europe, and the Arab and Islamic world --

MS. CLIFT: They want to get some --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they can see that without us, it's a paper tiger. It's nothing.

MS. CLIFT: And they want to get some non-English speaking countries in the coalition so it doesn't look like this is a colonial power --

MR. BLANKLEY: That's why we included the Australians. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: -- going over there to plant our flag. And I commend the commanders who got the -- the Marines who hoisted the American flag over that port city in Iraq, to get it to come down because hoisting flags over Iraqi oil wells is not a smart idea.


MR. BLANKLEY: Of the 30 countries that were in the last coalition, most of them didn't send troops over, either.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The last coalition, I thought there were 91 countries.

MR. BLANKLEY: Thirty. Thirty.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they had Syrians. The Egyptians were there --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we talking about 1991?

MR. BLANKLEY: We are. Thirty. That's the official State Department number given out by the spokesman this week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think you should call the Pentagon. I think they've got that up to 91. We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.


MR. BUCHANAN: John, Blair is depending heavily on the road map he thinks Bush is going to deliver. Bush cannot deliver; he's going to go with Sharon and he's going to have to pull the rug out from under Blair on the road map.


MS. CLIFT: More awe and shock for American taxpayers when they get the bill for this war, combined with Bush's tax cut, which goes to the wealthy.


MR. BLANKLEY: There will be less opposition to the Iraqi war, both domestically and abroad, after the war than there was before it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? They'll find --

MR. BLANKLEY: Because it's going to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They'll find masses of bio-chemical weapons?

MR. BLANKLEY: Because it's going to be judged to be acceptable by a vast majority of Americans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That could ease things, and the polls show that.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and a good part of the rest of the world eventually.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the CIA better get at it and make sure that those weapons are found, one way or the other, right?


MS. CLIFT: Exactly! (Laughs.)


MR. O'DONNELL: The American governance of Iraq, in whatever shape it takes after the war, will be more popular than whatever Iraqi regime follows it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a little incunabular, isn't it? (Laughter.) Did you make that up on the flight here?

I predict that the U.N. of the future will be less an international security organization and more an international aid organization.

Our hopes and prayers are with the American troops and their families.




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Whistling Dixie. Disgusted fans are shunning the popular vocal trio the Dixie Chicks. The down-home harmonizers from Texas have topped the country music charts, sold millions of CDs, and recently won four Grammy awards.

Now devotees crush their albums. Radio stations boycott their music. Their popularity is going south because earlier this month the lead singer of the band, Natalie Maines, at a London concert, stated to the audience flat-out, quote: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Unquote. That set off a Texas-sized backlash.

At first, Ms. Maines held her ground. "I feel the president is ignoring the opinion of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world. My comments were made in frustration, and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view."

Well, outraged fans are also free to voice their point of view -- by trashing Dixie Chicks CDs.

Ms. Maines was forced to retreat and is now singing a different tune. Quote: "I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect. As a mother, I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American lives are lost. I love my country. I am a proud American." Unquote.

Flap or no flap, sales of the Dixie Chicks latest album are now again up.

Question: What happened here? Did Natalie Maines get confused and think that she was Joan Baez, or what? (Laughter.)

I ask you, Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: What happened here is what always happens, which is we wildly overreact to entertainers' comments about politics. She says it was a comment made out of frustration, and that's an understandable frustration. Look, the reason we know her, the reason many people love her is that she has a beautiful voice, she's a great musician; that's what to pay attention to in anything she has to say.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think both Hans Blix and the Dixie Chicks are in a fix. (Laughter.)

MR. O'DONNELL: When did you write that? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Just now!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's real talent here.

MS. CLIFT: Well, my sentiments are with Hans Blix and the Dixie Chicks.


MS. CLIFT: If you're going to mess with Texas, you pay a price. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: The problem was she did it overseas and she should not have done it. She rightly apologized.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly. But she may have thought that she was playing to a supportive British audience for that point of view.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there is a supportive British audience for that point of view, regrettably.

MS. CLIFT: Right. But her --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you pander to your audience, or do you say what you feel?

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't trash -- you don't trash the president.

MS. CLIFT: Well -- (laughs).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would Joan Baez have retracted her comment? ####