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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

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

TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 29-30, 2003

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: As Long As It Takes.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) However long it takes. That's the answer to your question, and that's what you've got to know. This isn't a matter of timetables; it's a matter of victory. And the Iraqi people have got to know that, see? They got to know that they will be liberated, and Saddam Hussein will be removed, no matter how long it takes.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: (From videotape.) Now, we will carry on until the job is done. But there is absolutely no point, in my view, of trying to set a time limit or speculate on it, because it's not set by time, it's set by the nature of the job.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As Operation Iraqi Freedom enters its second week, it is apparent that the war will take longer than foreseen, for two chief reasons: One, American troops have met with fiercer resistance from Iraqi forces than expected. And two, the widespread civilian uprisings predicted by the Bush administration have yet to materialize.

Question: Why are Bush and Blair emphasizing that a quick collapse of Saddam's regime is not in the cards?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: To lower expectations that were raised by those armor moving through the desert like the 7th Cavalry of old, John.

But the truth is, John, this is no quagmire. It's a quagmire only to those who were going to call it a cakewalk. The United States is doing extraordinarily well. We are losing three men a day, when during World War II we lost 200 guys a day for four straight years.

I think we've got two problems. One, we didn't have our Turkish northern front. And secondly, I don't think they have enough troops in the south. Tommy Franks is trying to win this with half the army that Schwarzkopf had simply to drive them out of Kuwait. But the United States is going to win this, John, it's going to take a little longer and it's going to be decisive and overwhelming. There is no doubt about this outcome.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the military planners warn against having a plan that requires the cooperation of the enemy. And the enemy is not cooperating. And of course, I think, the overwhelming military power of this country will, in the end, bring about a military victory. But what price is that victory? Because this is a political war and we're losing the politics. We've lost the good will of much of the world, the casualties that are in the dozens now are likely to go into the hundreds, maybe even the thousands, and we are looking at the prospect of a peace that could be dotted with guerrilla fighting and sniping and a huge bill that comes along with that. Is that worth it? It's a good thing to depose Saddam Hussein, but at what cost?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iraqi resistance is punishing, but is it strategically significant?

Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it's not strategically significant. And by the way, my understanding was that when the Pentagon was planning for this war, they had five different scenarios of Iraqi reaction, from giving up immediately. And their -- apparently, the reaction is in the middle of the fifth zone. So, while they did anticipate it, it was the least likely scenario that they anticipated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, did you convey that or has it been conveyed to Mr. Feith and to Mr. Perle and Mr. Wolfowitz, who jacked up the public expectations with their talk about cake walks and their talk about the Iraqi army being brittle and readily collapsible?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, yeah. Perle has never been on the government payroll in this administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was probably the principal theoretician, however, on this whole undertaking, was he not?

MR. BLANKLEY: He was -- (inaudible) -- but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was on it for longer.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- but the president and Secretary Rumsfeld have from the beginning been saying -- Rumsfeld said for six months, "I don't know whether this will be six days, six weeks or six months." Some people got a little overexcited. My newspaper warned the public the day before the war started in our editorial that war's likely to be more prolonged with higher casualties.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You prepared the public? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: We have consistently alerted our readers that it wasn't going to be a cakewalk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A newspaper icon on my left here.

Do you have anything to say on this, or should we go right to Mr. Rumsfeld?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, the administration spinning that this could be a very easy war before the war started was an absolutely necessary way of collecting the support domestically that it did collect; roughly 50 percent support for going in there without the U.N. If they had been saying this could be six weeks or six months at the outset, they would have had less support.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think --

MR. O'DONNELL: That six days idea was the most important thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you're saying that public deception is entirely in order?

MR. O'DONNELL: I'm not saying it was deception. I'm saying they could well -- and I suspect they did -- deceive themselves into thinking this could be very easy. Stressing to the public that it could be very easy was absolutely necessary to get the amount of support they got to go in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Timetable and cost of the war. Rumsfeld's no help.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) Since we can't know how long the effort in Iraq is going to last, we certainly can't tell what it's going to cost.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Rumsfeld leveling with the public, Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Of course not, because if he had leveled with the public before the war, as Lawrence just said, he wouldn't have been able to muster the support if people knew the price tag that's going to come along, not only with the military part of this war, but the aftermath. And the Council of Foreign Relations, in a report that was cosponsored by Jeane Kirkpatrick and James Schlesinger, a Republican and a -- two Republicans, actually; one a former Democrat -- hawkish people -- put out the number of $20 billion a year and 75,000 troops for a minimum of five years. And that is a conservative estimate. The administration, by refusing to put any number on this, really played a game with the Congress and with the American public that is deceitful and cynical.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Assuming that there's going to be nationalistic guerrilla activity -- after the war, quote-unquote, "ends" -- continuing, do you think that the course of the war, casualties aside on the U.S. side, could be greater than Vietnam?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, no.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's ridiculous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, you've got to project this to the post -- the aftermath, guerrilla warfare.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what's going to happen in the aftermath. I believe, given the Fedayeen and what they are doing now, that it's going to be not Vietnam, it's going to be the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. And when that happens, when American troops are shot in the back, the American people will say, "Get 'em outta there." And Bush, going into that election, will say, " I think that's a good idea; get the Americans out and get other troops in."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Forget theory. Let's try feedback from the field.

The U.S. Army has many ground commanders in Iraq. The senior commander of them all is Lieutenant General William Wallace. Here's what he said this week. Quote: "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against." Wallace also voiced criticism about overextended supply lines and their vulnerability, another example of deficient Pentagon preplanning tactical analysis.

Question: How could the Pentagon have mis-estimated the determination of the Iraqis to defend their homes against a foreign invasion? Lawrence O'Donnell?

MR. O'DONNELL: This is a Pentagon tradition that began in Korea, extended through Vietnam, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean to misestimate?

MR. O'DONNELL: Absolutely. That's the most likely thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Robert McNamara do it?

MR. O'DONNELL: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he wrongheaded?

MR. O'DONNELL: Absolutely. (Every day ?). Henry Kissinger --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he believe in the -- (cross-talk)? Did he remind you of Rumsfeld today?

MR. O'DONNELL: No.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just jump in here for a second because you didn't give all his quote, because General Wallace also said, and was quoted in the paper as saying, basically, "but having said all that, we're about where we expected to be right now." So, after all those quibblings, he said we're about where we expected we'd be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't read that. And I don't think he said that.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was in The Washington Post. Washington Post, Friday.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think this was an indictment of the Pentagon planning by General Wallace.

MR. BLANKLEY: You should have jumped over --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What he said immediately after that was we failed to estimate properly the paramilitary strength, meaning those young kids with weapons, Iraqi kids.

MS. CLIFT: But the Joint -- excuse me.

MR. BLANKLEY: If you had gone to the jump page in The Washington Post on Friday, you would have seen that quote.

MS. CLIFT: The Joint --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat? Hold on, Eleanor.

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what they did. Look. The United States Army went up there 200 miles in almost hours up there, and they've got a small force, and you've got a long, extended supply line.

MS. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. (Dumb ?).

MR. BUCHANAN: But look. It is not, it's Clausewitz. You go right for the center of gravity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh!

MR. BUCHANAN: You go for Baghdad --

MS. CLIFT: Before we --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A 250-mile supply line?

MS. CLIFT: Before we -- before we -- excuse me.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- (inaudible) -- not going intercept those supply lines because we've got air power and they can't come out --

MS. CLIFT: Before we blame the military, let's remember the Joint Chiefs recommended twice as many troops than Rumsfeld wanted. Rumsfeld wanted to go in there with the spare or leaner force.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: And there is now widespread agreement that these are not enough troops.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish! Let her finish!

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Excuse me.

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- wrong. She is fundamentally wrong. They want -- let me tell you --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on, Tony. I want to finish my point.

MR. BLANKLEY: No --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish her point.

MS. CLIFT: I intend to finish my point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

MR. BLANKLEY: Rumsfeld --

MS. CLIFT: Hold on, Tony. Hold on, Tony.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. We'll get the needle for you. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Hold on, Tony!

MR. BLANKLEY: Rumsfeld asked for 80,000 --

MS. CLIFT: I have the floor. Go ahead. Go right ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: Thank you. We continue stating the record. Rumsfeld asked for 80,000 originally. That's what they rejected. We sent over a quarter of a million. So what we have over here now is not half of what the military wanted; they got all of what they wanted.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. BLANKLEY: You're going to an early argument back last summer. So get the facts right.

MS. CLIFT: I think my facts are substantially correct -- (off mike).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Kofi Annan versus Secretary Rumsfeld.

KOFI ANNAN (secretary-general of the United Nations): (From videotape.) And I would want to remind all belligerents that they should respect international humanitarian law and take all necessary steps to protect civilians.

DONALD RUMSFELD (U.S. secretary of Defense): (From videotape.) To suggest that there's a humanitarian crisis at the present time, I think, is not something we've been able to find any intelligence to support.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The urban fighting in Basra was originally war-gamed to last six hours. Instead, it has lasted more than six days. Right?

MR. O'DONNELL: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Civilian inhabitants are without food. They're without power. They're without water. How much more of a crisis does Rumsfeld need to believe that we have a humanitarian crisis, Lawrence O'Donnell?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, you know, they finally got a relief ship in there by Friday, and -- but look, the South turned out to be much more trouble than anybody expected, and much more trouble than Rumsfeld expected. That's the real story there, in terms of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They thought the Shi'ites would come over.

MR. O'DONNELL: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are 14 million Shi'ites, and they haven't come over. Even if the Shi'ites in Baghdad -- if only one came over out of 20, it would still be 250,000. They haven't come over.

MR. O'DONNELL: No, and it doesn't look like --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So did they misgauge the hatred that the -- or the dislike that the Shi'as have for --

MR. BUCHANAN: The reason they don't --

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, it's distrust, certainly, because in the previous Gulf War, you know, the first President Bush did not stay around to help them out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this was the Polish Home Army, rose up in '91, and we stayed outside, and they were massacred. They don't trust us.

Secondly, the sanctions have cost an awful lot of lives.

Third, they're not going to rise up until they know this guy is gone. And when he's completely gone, then they'll come over to our side. I don't blame them, either.

MS. CLIFT: And I'd like to point out that if they went in with that 80,000 troops that Mr. Blankley says that Mr. Rumsfeld originally requested, we would have been watching a military disaster that was the biggest in a generation since Vietnam. We can barely make it with a 250,000 force.

MR. BLANKLEY: But my point was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BLANKLEY: My point was that what we have -- the point --

MS. CLIFT: Why don't you send me an e-mail, Tony? This is valuable air time. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Not that valuable. Look, my point was that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll be the judge of that!

MS. CLIFT: That's right. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: -- that the number of troops we have here are the number of troops that the military asked for. So when you suggest that's not the case, you misrepresent the record.

MS. CLIFT: They originally wanted more.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You haven't made the point that Saddam Hussein could be fomenting this humanitarian crisis.

MR. BLANKLEY: I haven't had a chance to get a word in.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the ITN reporting?

MR. BUCHANAN: He wants that. Look, that is the goal. Eleanor is right about this. Politically -- militarily, Saddam is finished, it's a matter of time. Politically, every day that goes by, the more we crush Baghdad, the more we kill civilians, the more he wins politically worldwide. That's the game -- only game he can win, though.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think -- I think that the paramilitary action against those Abrams tanks, et cetera, is punishing, but it is not strategically significant.

Exit: When will Baghdad be taken?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: I believe it could fall by May 1st, and the latest, May 15th.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five weeks?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, five --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four weeks? Six weeks max?

MR. BUCHANAN: Six weeks max! (Laughs.) Right?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dream on.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the reinforcements are not going to get there for another three weeks. I would say it's going to be a couple of months.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: July 4th? April? May? June?

MS. CLIFT: John, the generals don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A couple of months -- 60 days.

MS. CLIFT: I bet even Tony doesn't know! (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I certainly don't know. The first --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't know?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't. I know what happened in the past. I can't predict the future every time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, base it on the past, maybe.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions are in transit now. They'll be getting in somewhere in the middle of April. I would assume about a month after that, things should be well buckled down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we talking about 100,000 more American service men and women?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, these are the same 100,000 that were authorized under the president's original order.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there are only 90,000 combat troops now.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's one big city --

MR. BLANKLEY: This is the rolling part of the rolling start that was two weeks ago being debated about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?

MR. BUCHANAN: All you got left is a big city. They're going to start pounding them and it's going to be awful. But I don't know how the Iraqis, with all that air power every day --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- 500 or a thousand bombs in there --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, they do not want -- we do not want house to house --

MR. BUCHANAN: I know we don't want it!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and block to block.

MR. BUCHANAN: We don't want it at all!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The only way out of that is punishing bombardment to an incredible, cataclysmic degree.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's what Saddam wants.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay -- okay, you've got 5 million people. Now what do they have to do? They ultimately have to take out the water. That means 74 hours for everybody. But people are going to start --

MR. BUCHANAN: Saddam's hold card -- do you know what his hold card is?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When you get 10,000 Baghdadis crying -- dying, that is, and crying, what are you going to conclude, what is the world going to conclude from that?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is Beirut. That is his strategy -- Beirut '82 where Yasser Arafat stayed in there, the Israelis shelled him for eight weeks. Finally, the world said we cannot take it, and you got to have a compromise. And so Yasser Arafat goes off in a boat escorted by U.S. Marines.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, it is a horrible -- it is an incredible dilemma --

MR. BUCHANAN: It is a horrible one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that the Pentagon, the president has to face.

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because he does not -- we cannot win possibly if it's house to house, except over a very prolonged period.

MR. BUCHANAN: We will win. We will win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we will win eventually, but how many American lives do you want to lose? Do you want to lose a thousand, 2,000?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't want to lose them. But the president's going to win this war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In that case, the punishment he will inflict upon Baghdad will internationally fill people with revulsion.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's no question about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: They're already filled with revulsion.

MR. O'DONNELL: I think it will take the Americans as long to take Baghdad as it did for the English to take Belfast. American soldiers will be being shot at as long as they are in Baghdad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So there's no real taking of Baghdad?

MR. O'DONNELL: Not really.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And all of these other -- we're not saying anything about these other cities. That's what they have to look at too.

MR. O'DONNELL: There will be IRA-like guerrilla groups firing at them.

MR. BUCHANAN: You get the big one, the others fall.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, do they? Do they?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The guerrillas -- do you think that these -- this fierce fighting of the Republican Special Guard is going to --

MR. BUCHANAN: It will be forever -- it's forever going to be like the Gaza Strip --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- even when we win all the cities. That's why we're going to be getting out of there.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's impossible to tell. (Laughter.)

When we come back: If Saddam Hussein is so hated by the Iraqi people, why have they not risen up against him?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Why no uprising?

The 14 million Shi'as and the 4 million Kurds in Iraq don't like Saddam Hussein, so why aren't the Shi'as in the south and the Kurds in the north taking up arms against him? Here's one possible answer: President Bush Senior's call to arms to Iraq's Shi'a and Kurdish populations in the year 1991 during the first Gulf War.

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: (From videotape.) But there's another way for the bloodshed to stop. And that is for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands to force Saddam Hussein the dictator to step aside.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush Senior's appeal was heeded. Both the Shi'a and Kurds mustered arms against Hussein and caused Saddam significant losses. After the U.S.-led coalition routed the Iraqis from Kuwait, the Shi'a believed the U.S. would join them in finishing off Hussein. Instead, there was this:

FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Kuwait is liberated. Iraq's army is defeated. Our military objectives are met. This war is now behind us. Ahead of us is the difficult task of securing a potentially historic peace.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. action then simply stopped. U.S. forces left the scene. Saddam then launched a furious reprisal against the Shi'a and the Kurds, stamping out the rebellions and killing an estimated 50,000 Shi'as.

Question: What will it take before Iraqis feel safe to rise up? And do you have any thoughts on the way we handled the Shi'as and the Kurds after the first Persian Gulf War?

MS. CLIFT: Well, that was criminal the way we encouraged them to rise up and then offered them no help and they were slaughtered in return. So, they're not going to take a chance here unless they see the body of Saddam Hussein paraded on television. And also, I think the Bush administration doesn't really understand the culture of this country. The notion that we would be welcomed as conquering heroes, I mean, these people -- if they want to take back their country, maybe they think they should do it themselves. I think it's a complete misreading of how these people operate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have thoughts on what you just heard?

MR. O'DONNELL: It's a very sad tape to watch, where he declares that this war is now over. Here we are fighting this war in the way that apparently, if you believed in that first one, it should have been fought then.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: All wars bring big surprises. On a scale of zero to 10, zero meaning zero surprise, 10 meaning metaphysical surprise, Pat, how big a surprise is Iraqi resistance to the Pentagon warplanners?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much were they surprised?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, to the Pentagon warplanners? John, I don't think it -- well, it certainly wasn't a big surprise to a lot of people, the fact that guys would fight for their country and resist an invasion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Notwithstanding their hatred of Saddam?

MR. BUCHANAN: The cakewalk crowd is surprised, but I don't think anybody else is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, apparently they hate Saddam, but they don't want Americans in there -- this is the Iraqis.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think they would like to have us in there and get rid of Saddam, be sure we get the job done --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's not what they --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- but they don't want us running their country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not what they're telling the resident press in there from all countries; that that just don't want the Americans in there, but they hate Saddam.

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Right. And the aftermath is going to require a security force. And if the U.S. doesn't want to look like a colonial occupying power, they better get the U.N. or some other countries in there to help.

In terms of surprise, 8.5.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Point-five?

MS. CLIFT: Eight-point-five.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eight-point-five.

MR. BUCHANAN: The answer to the question, it's about 3.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's about 3? They were not surprised?

MR. BLANKLEY: They were somewhat surprised, but not shocked.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: I agree with Tony, it's right around a 3.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a huge surprise. Eleanor is right, it was over an 8.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, come on! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: The Reckoning.

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: (From videotape.) This is perhaps a slightly undiplomatic thing to say at this stage, but let me say it nonetheless -- there is at the end of this going to have to be a discussion and, indeed, a reckoning about the relations between America and Europe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: A reckoning means a settling of accounts. That presumes a willingness to settle accounts. Does Bush want to settle accounts with France and Germany and Russia and other estranged people -- people or nations?

MR. O'DONNELL: The force of gravity will bring him there. You know, did Nixon grow up wanting to go to China? There is a momentum to certain periods in history. The post-Iraq period will be one of -- where the most important thing to do is reunite the United States with -- in its relationship with Europe. Blair can help.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A reckoning suggests that both sides need to pay a price. That's what a reckoning suggests. A settlement of accounts.

MR. O'DONNELL: I wouldn't take that word so specifically.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Bush wants to pay a price for the estrangement of the peoples of the planet?

MR. O'DONNELL: They don't have to pay a price. That's overreading what that word is.

MR. BLANKLEY: John, let me say this. I think that our policy is likely to be to try to bring Germany in as quickly as possible, and in the short term isolate France and penalize France -- have a reckoning with France, if you will, depending on how you're using the word reckoning. Not be too hostile to the Russians and the Germans, and eventually, in the middle term, try to bring back the Atlantic alliance.

MR. BUCHANAN: Do you know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: France and Germany want us to admit that there should have been more diplomacy, and we want from France and Germany cash.

MR. BUCHANAN: Chirac and Bush are finished. The United States, after they've seen the U.N. and NATO what it's done, Bush is going to, I believe, move toward a unilateralist approach, basically an "America firs"t interventionist approach.

MS. CLIFT: Well -- (laughs) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, your nationalism is really suffocating.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, but it will be interventionist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's suffocating, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: But I mean it will --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You have become a nativist again. What's happened to you?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, Bush is going to pay a price if he tries to go it alone in the rebuilding of Iraq. And he's going to want to make friends to at least pony up some money.

MR. BUCHANAN: Do you think he's going to want those guys in there? (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think the French have enough money!

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: This president personalizes everything as a grudge match.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, he does.

MS. CLIFT: And so I agree with you that the French can forget it for --

(Cross talk, laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's nail this down a little bit more. Maybe this is the same question differently put. Do Bush and Blair see eye to eye on the need to restore reciprocal relations between the U.S. and Europe, Pat Buchanan? Exit question.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush and Blair don't see eye to eye on the Middle East, on that or on the U.N. in Baghdad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Pat's right, and Blair's the one who's got the world perspective and picture correct. I hope Bush learns.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do they see eye to eye?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, and the Manchester Guardian did a tough editorial this week saying that Bush -- that Blair's going to be in trouble because he's not going to be able to deliver Bush to that position.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do they see eye to eye?

MR. O'DONNELL: Blair and Colin Powell see eye to eye on this, and we'll see how much influence Colin Powell has in dragging this president to see eye to eye with Blair.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think President Bush's philosophy is that the United States is the dominant power, and everybody else should recognize that and get in line.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But that means we're not seeing eye to eye.

We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Richard Perle resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Review Board, but he stayed on the board. He will have to resign from there. And because of his conflicts of interest, there will be a congressional investigation of the entire 24-member board, of all of their foreign connections. There's going to be a -- it's going to look like Omaha Beach, those guys getting out of there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This story has legs.

MR. BUCHANAN: It has legs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Big legs.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Exile is still possible for Saddam Hussein. If the U.S. gets hard intelligence that he is prepared to offer a doomsday scenario and take 30,000 people with him in a chemical attack, it might be worth it to let him flee the country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Tony? Got a prediction?

MR. BLANKLEY: Notwithstanding the reversal that Bush has had in the Senate this week on taxes, he is going to have 51 votes for at least a half a trillion-dollar tax cut, which will pass by Memorial Day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence?

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, I have exactly the opposite prediction. (Soft laughter.) He won't get anything more than the Senate was giving him this week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that military conscription -- i.e., the draft -- will not happen.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan passed away this week. He was a legislator, a diplomat, a scholar, a 40-year career. He was an exceptional man for his knowledge and his character. Is that your feeling, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, it sure is. He was a bon vivant. He was a wit. He was an intellectual. He wrote books that are really worth reading. He was a terrific guy, all-around terrific guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: He was as much social scientist as politician, and he brought an intellect and a clarity of expression that we rarely see in politics today. He had ideas. Whether you agreed with them or not, at least he had them.

MR. BLANKLEY: Vastly admirable. By the way, he was instrumental in defeating "Hillary care," because he was -- it was a principle opposition. Admirable man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (To Mr. O'Donnell.) You knew him the best of us all. You worked for him.

MR. O'DONNELL: I worked with him for seven years. He was the dearest teacher and friend I've ever had, a great father, grandfather and friend.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I agree, of course, with all of this. And what I admired most about Senator Moynihan was his intellectual honesty, no matter where it brought him.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was unmatched.

Bye-bye!

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: The French kiss-off.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) An old Texas expression: Show your cards when you're playing poker. France showed their cards. ... They said they are going to veto anything that held Saddam to account. So cards have been played.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: French opposition to the war with Iraq has not played well with some elements in America. The backlash against the French has gone from the poignant to the ridiculous. First, the poignant: 80-year-old World War II veteran George Wilson returned his France-awarded Normandy invasion medal to the French embassy in Washington. And the ridiculous: French toast no more on Air Force One. Get this. The in-flight menu for Air Force One handed out to the press, en route with the president last Wednesday to Tampa, read "Freedom Toast." The same holds true in the U.S. House of Representatives dining room.

The French ambassador to the United States, however, Jean Levitte, has not given up on America.

AMB. JEAN LEVITTE (French ambassador to the U.S.): (From videotape.) We'll do whatever possible to transform our relation for the better, to improve our ties. Goodwill is there in France.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is this French-bashing, both de droite and gauche? (Laughter.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, the French have always been embarrassed by what we call French toast, which is really, you know, not something that they eat at all. But yeah, we're childish. We've always been very childish about our reaction to the French reaction to whatever it is we're doing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and of course, there are no French fries, either. The French don't know what that means. They call them pomme frites.

MR. O'DONNELL: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that, Tony, right?

MR. BLANKLEY: I do, and I've eaten several of them. They're wonderful.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I suppose you're sympathetic to this sophomoric French-bashing, right?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I love French food. (Laughs.) Of course, they fry their fries usually in animal grease, which is better than vegetable grease.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean duck grease?

MR. BLANKLEY: Duck, ideally, yes; it's very good.

Look, I think beyond the bashing and the short-term animosity, there's a larger diplomatic issue. France has chosen, apparently, to try to lead an alternative to the United States. Germany doesn't want to be there. Fischer, the German foreign minister, said for the 21st century, there must be a unity of interests between -- in the Atlantic community. I think the problem is that France has got out there, I think Germany is going to get isolated -- I mean, France is getting isolated, and eventually they're going to have to come to us.

MS. CLIFT: I think President Bush should look out the window of the White House, across at Lafayette Park at the statue of the brave French General Lafayette who helped us gain our independence from the British.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could we have won independence without him?

MS. CLIFT: No. And we have a long history here and we will get past this. But you know, making fun of the French helps us to avoid the larger truth that it's not just the French; most of the world --

MR. BUCHANAN: We would have won, John --

MS. CLIFT: -- opposes this war.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, we would have won without him, but it's going to be "freedom poodles" from here on out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you and one of your -- one of your right-wing nativist historians would say that.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Air Force One was cute, but it was infantile; would you not agree?

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree that's infantile, but this George Wilson --this --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When are we going to get on to some serious statesmanship and do what Blair wants us to do --

MR. BUCHANAN: We can't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and repair ourselves with the rest of the world?

MR. BUCHANAN: We should not repair the relationship with Chirac; I agree with Tony. We should work with the Germans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course you can. Chirac could be acting on principle. Did that ever occur to you?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.


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