MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Sir, what about Mexico?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) They're friends of ours, period.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That concise, if not curt, statement from President Bush about Mexico shows how chilly our relationship has become. Earlier President Bush put pressure on Mexican President Vicente Fox to support a U.N. resolution favoring military force against Iraq. Fox said no, echoing the Mexican electorate's overwhelming opposition to the U.S.-led invasion

Now Mexico fears retaliation -- through trade, through water, through immigration. On Monday Mr. Bush cancelled a traditional Cinco de Mayo party at the White House. Instead, he praised, quote, "the many Mexican-Americans serving in our armed forces who are working to bring to freedom and justice to oppressed people," unquote. Nowhere in the statement was Vicente Fox mentioned -- Bush's "amigo."

Five Latin American heads of state have visited the White House in the last four weeks, but Bush and Fox have not even had a conversation in months.

Question: Is Bush overdoing the punishment side of the
rewards/punishment in his dealing internationally -- too little carrot, too much stick? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, not with Vicente Fox. You got to realize this war in Iraq -- the president put his own prestige, his country's prestige on the line. He went to his friend and asked for his support, and he got stiffed. The Bush folks remember those who wounded them in times of trouble.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Mexico's support was not critical for the
intervention in Iraq, and it is petty to be cancelling a Cinco de Mayo celebration and to avoid any mention of the president of Mexico. This is governing by temper tantrum, and it's utterly self-defeating at a time when we need the rest of the world to help us shoulder the burden of reconstruction in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Doesn't PAN, which is Fox's party, deplore international intervention, dating back to the 1920s and the Mexican War?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. But look, I think people in this -- in Washington, in the United States, undervalue what the rest of the world values in being able to meet with the president of the United States. This is a very effective stick.

Now if it's being done out of pique, which I don't think it is, then I would agree with you that it's ill-headed policy. But if it's being done with calculation, to punish people, so that they will function better in the future with us, because there are going to be future events, then this is a very effective means of enforcement. I was talking with a diplomat this week who was talking about the value of being able to be seen meeting with the president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's the answer? Is it grudge-holding overtaking statecraft?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. I mean, I can't know, because I don't know what's in his heart. But if it's a strategy behind it -- and ought to be -- then I think it's a wise strategy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did George Bush Senior complain or state that his son has some difficulty in handling grudges?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not to me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was not a matter of public record?

MR. O'DONNELL: John, the word is "childish" for this reaction to Mexico, and to Chile. Mexico only buys 14 percent of our exports. This is a country we have no business trying to be high-handed with.

Look at Chile. Now here we're getting to serious policy conflict -- the Bush administration with itself.

Eighty-five percent of the population of Chile was against this war in Iraq. Their democratically-expressed opinion was voiced by their government, and this -- and now Bush wants to go Iraq and bring democracy to Iraq, but they better not have an opinion in Iraq that differs from the American view of anything.

MR. BUCHANAN: They have crossed --

MR. O'DONNELL: Chile had a trade agreement with -- that's already been signed; it needs to be legislated and approved in the Senate, and Bush is not doing it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Here's the secretary of State trying to smooth the waters this week.

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: (From videotape.) We are working with all of our friends, and to include Germany, and France, and Russia, and China and the elected 10 members, as well. Whatever happened in the past is in the past. And we have a good partnership with Turkey, and I'm sure it will continue to grow in the years ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president clearly believes in the salutary?? impact of punishment. And he has Vicente Fox in purgatory, expecting, I guess, that the rest of Latin America will go along if it turns out that Mexican (sic) gets back into line. Powell, on the other hand, believes now is the time to heal the wounds and reintegrated ourselves into the international community.

Can't you see the wisdom of that, Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, I -- look, I agree with this. Quite frankly, we're going to need the help of these people in the war on terror; we'd like some of them to pony up money for Iraq; we want -- might want some of them to have troops in Iraq. So, the president's doing the right thing. Powell plays the good cop, Rumsfeld the tough
cop. But I agree, John. Look, in the case of Vicente Fox and in the case of France, for example, you have got to make people pay a price when they stiff you and they're supposed to be friends.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor.

Instead of making our allies eat crow, why doesn't the president follow his very own formula?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) (Audio break) -- to help manage crises when time are bad. America needs partners to preserve the peace, and we will work with every nation that shares this noble goal. (Applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think it's time for the president to heed his own words about the importance of our international relationships, which he said at West Point?

MR. BLANKLEY: You gain support not only by niceness; Machiavelli advised the prince that he gains more -- that fear is a more reliable gainer of support than love.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Up to a point.

MR. BLANKLEY: And so, it's not a question of whether it's fear or love. The question is you get partnership anywhere you can.

MS. CLIFT: Bush has --

MR. O'DONNELL: Which is fine in the United States. He's putting off the Chilean Free Trade Agreement, which --

MR. BLANKLEY: He's delaying it, but he's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- (inaudible) -- not going to get it, because you're not going to do it in an election year. So he's saying that's good for the United States. But we won't do it because we're childishly mad at -- (inaudible).

MR. BLANKLEY: Not childish. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, Bush has needlessly squandered the good will of the world that was there after 9/11. And so now, he's sending Colin Powell back out to the U.N. with this resolution, which is essentially a brazen takeover of Iraq's oil industry.

MR. BLANKLEY: There was obviously no good will from France before the war.

MS. CLIFT: I disagree with that. France has been a good ally for half a century.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, now you've got this week --

MR. BUCHANAN: The president's -- John, the president's doing what he can to advance American policy interests. If he's got to be friendly, he'll do it. If he doesn't, then he tells people who have crossed us exactly what they ought to be told.

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

MR. BUCHANAN: As for the free trade agreement with Chile, it's more in Chile's interest than it is ours.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He could advance those interests that you speak of if he followed the -- if he followed the suggestion of the --

MR. BUCHANAN: Different strokes for different folks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of the secretary of the State. Let the past be the past.

Okay. The ancient motto of our revolutionary republic is "United we stand, divided we fall." Does that dictum apply to America and its traditional alliances; united we stand, divided we fall, yes or no?
Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Our motto is "Don't tread on me."

With regard to our alliances, some of the postwar alliances need to be reviewed, in particular NATO, which is outdated. It's a Cold War alliance. The Cold War is over.


MS. CLIFT: Alliances shift with time, yes, but this president has thrown away America's friends, and that's going to come back to haunt him because we import a lot of money in order to underwrite our debt. And the other countries can play hard ball with interest rates and --

MR. BUCHANAN: They don't do that as --

MS. CLIFT: Well, we'll see about that.


MR. BLANKLEY: As Lord Salisbury, I think, said of England, they have no permanent friends, only permanent interests. The revolutionary quote was about us, Americans, it wasn't about our relationship with the world.

MR. O'DONNELL: Colin Powell's right, that stuff is in the past. And to be harming the United States by making governing decisions that are harmful to the United States because we're angry at another country is stupid.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence is right.

When we come back: Is there more to the Bill Bennett Brouhaha than we've heard?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: When to fold 'em.

William Bennett, former secretary of Education, former drug czar, and editor of "The Book of Virtues" disclosed last week that he has also been a high-stakes gambler. Reportedly, Bennett lost $8 million to casinos over the last 10 years.

What follows are his quoted words: Over 10 years, I'd say I've come out pretty close to even. You can roll up and down a lot in one day, as we have on many occasions. You may cycle several hundred thousand dollars in an evening and net out only a few thousand. I play fairly high stakes. I adhere to the law. I don't play the milk money. I don't put my family at risk. And I don't owe anything. I've made a lot of money and I've won a lot of money. When I win, I usually give at least a chunk of it away to charity. I report everything to the IRS. You don't see what I walk away with. They, the casinos, don't want you to see it. I've been a machine person. When I go to the tables, people talk, and they want to talk about politics. I don't want that. I do this for three hours to relax. I've gambled all my life, and it's never been a moral issue with me. I liked church bingo when I was growing up. I've been a poker player. I view it as drinking. If you can't handle it, don't do it.

Those are culled remarks from a Bennett interview with Newsweek and the Washington Monthly magazine.

On Monday of this week, Bennett released this statement: "A number of stories in the media have reported that I have engaged in high-stakes gambling over the past decade. It is true that I have gambled large sums of money. I have also complied with all laws on reporting wins and losses. Nevertheless, I have done too much
gambling, and this is not an example I wish to set. Therefore, my gambling days are over."

Question: Is Bennett now in a trap of his own making; meaning that by swearing off gambling, he plays into the perception that there was something wrong, something vice-ridden, immoral, evil, hypocritical in his prior conduct?

By capitulating, did he ratify that perception?

I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell.?

MR. O'DONNELL: To some extent. And I agree with his comparison to drinking. And when you do that, in his case, it starts to get very troubling because if you're at home alone drinking, you've got a problem. Bill Bennett, the way he gambled was alone in his hotel room, which is the high-roller hotel room, on the slot machine that they placed in his hotel room. That is -- those are evil people exploiting addictions; the people who put slot machines in the hotel room of a gambler like Bill Bennett.

This is a sad thing. I mean, I know the guy, I like the guy. Everything that I know about this, and the more I know about this, it looks like sickness, it look likes addiction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he denies that.

MR. O'DONNELL: I know he denies that. Every addict does.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And his wife denies that.

Can we settle one thing; that gambling in itself is not a vice per se.

You agree with that, don't you, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think it's a vice. I don't think it's --


MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, of course. It's a lower -- one of the lower --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're a Catholic. You know that in itself, it is not a vice nor a virtue.

MR. BUCHANAN: Drinking is a vice, smoking is a vice, gambling is a vice. It is not immoral, it is not illegal -- Bennett is exactly right on that. But when he says, "I am a machine person," I've got to agree, the machines are fixed to make sure you lose, John. A poker game you can win, somebody else can lose.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's move beyond Bennett, let's move beyond Bennett --

MR. O'DONNELL: There's no mental activity in Bennett's gambling

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- it's pulling a thing. That's addiction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he is correct in saying that it is neither illegal nor immoral, and he denies it is an addiction. Let's take his word for it for the sake of this conversation.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but -- yeah, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to move to the public policy question, and that is this. Four thousand pieces, I think it was, of documentation were released to the authors of this report in the Washington Monthly and the Newsweek Magazine. Now, the question is whether the Nevada Gaming Commission or the American Gaming Commission has imposed any rules and regulation, and the answer is no. This is left up to the casinos. But the casinos punish, very severely, anyone who violates the privacy of gamblers. So we must conclude, therefore, that there is a force at work where there are probably very big stakes involved, because someone got hurt by this, but what got hurt perhaps more than Bennett was Las Vegas. The whales who come in to gamble with Asian money are going to be far less inclined to do so, realizing that what they do may become a matter of public record and derision in their home countries.

Now, who -- if you follow the money trail, and this means death to Vegas, who would want to kill Vegas? Forget Bennett for the time being. Who would want to kill Vegas?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, you know, within big institutions like casinos, there's plenty of workers who have access to that information

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is true.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- and who can leak it very easily.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That could conceivably happen. But why would a worker want to damage his own future by killing or bringing death to some part of Vegas, so to speak?

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you're exactly right in this sense; the guy that leaked that on Bennett has damaged the interests of the casino, because this is a guy coming in, he dumped $500,000 in two days -- (laughing) -- you don't want to lose a customer like that.

Why would you leak anything on him?

MS. CLIFT: You know, Las Vegas is probably one of the few tourist attractions in this country that hasn't suffered any since 9/11. And I think there are plenty (sic) people who are going to keep on gambling, and I don't see that this is going to affect it one bit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know --

MS. CLIFT: And as far as Bill Bennett is concerned, if you set yourself up as the moral police, if you jaywalk, you're going to get some flak.

But he has taken on the whole culture of permissiveness. His whole thesis is, there are no small sins, because everything accumulates into large ones. So in that sense, I think he's the victim of his own theory.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to move back to the higher concept here, and that is, what are the big money sources at stake? And they are offshore Internet gambling versus Vegas.

MR. BUCHANAN: So what you're saying is, this was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now you know that offshore gambling is about to be hemmed in by a Leach bill in the House.

MR. BUCHANAN: But look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that there's nothing that Vegas would like better than to see that happen, so that money would pour into Vegas. Is it possible -- is it possible -- that there is -- there are forces at work here about which we know nothing -- namely, hurt Vegas with Bennett, who is the best exponent to do so, especially since Vegas is now presenting itself and marketing self (sic) as a family recreational culture? Right?

MR. O'DONNELL: That could all be, but I don't see how it matters. It's like the Clinton arguments about where this bad information comes from.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Chuckles.)

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, well --

MR. O'DONNELL: So the matter with Bennett doesn't matter.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How it matters is that these forces are at work and that Bennett is the fall guy for that. Is that possible?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is -- John, you're right on one thing. This is a contract hit. If there's a 4,000-page dump on Bennett --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- somebody wants to take Bennett down. I think you're going too far. I think the explanation very simple. Somebody wanted to wound and injure Bennett, and they succeeded in doing it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, there are billions of dollars at stake here, billions of dollars, if Vegas is hurt by the -- this is deadly publicity for Vegas.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And somebody is benefitting by it, and it's not Bennett, obviously.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I don't think this killed Vegas in any way. But there is a huge battle going on in how to shut down the Internet gambling, because you can't tax that money. And Congress is moving on that front.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, bear in mind the Internet gambling is in competition with the Vegas gambling.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Should Bennett have rolled the dice, taken the gamble and tried to ride out the media frenzy, or did he do the right thing by capitulating and swearing to stop gambling? Did he fold too early, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: He folded at the right time. I think this was killing him with the evangelical Christians and the Protestants, not the Catholics, John. With those folks, gambling is a very serious, deadly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you want him to do? Capitulate to puritanical zealots?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I ran -- when I ran in Louisiana, one of the reasons we beat Phil Gramm was on casino gambling.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eighty-five percent of the people in the United States say that there's nothing wrong with gambling in itself. Fifteen percent are the people you talk about.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, no, you -- the evangelicals, who are his constituency, think it's immoral.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is he going to be able to write books for 15 percent of the population after this? Why cater to them?

MS. CLIFT: He can write a confessional on how he went down the wrong path and how he resolved his addiction.

Look, I think this is between he and his wife, and I suspect they have decided that this is over with. And it's probably a good decision.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I don't know.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, he folded at the right time, as soon as possible. There was nothing for it -- for him to stay in and argue this one.

MR. O'DONNELL: I think he folded at the right time. It was a good first step.

I also believe everything that Bill Bennett says about it. I think there's more that he knows than he's saying. And I think he believes what he's saying. So I don't think he realized, until this became public information, how much this was in conflict with his image, and the size of the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he folded prematurely. I think he should have ridden this out. I think he should have stuck by his -- stuck by his guns.

MR. BUCHANAN: Do you think he should have gone to Vegas again?


MR. BUCHANAN: Do you think he should have gone to Vegas?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well I think that he could have tapered off his habit. (Laughter.) But if he's under no -- he was under no --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughing.) What did he say, "I'm going to taper my habit off"?

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey! The American people -- 90 percent believe you can spend your money as --

MR. BUCHANAN: Who's your communications director, Baghdad Bob?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you can spend your money as you wish.

And you're a disgrace to your fundamental Libertarian principles!

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughing.) I'm not Libertarian!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are a disgrace! (Laughter.)

He folded too early, and he has set up -- he has set up
puritanical zealots who think that gambling is intrinsically evil or even that it's a vice. But -- (inaudible).

MS. CLIFT: He could -- instead of skulking around --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not a sin, but it is a minor vice.

MS. CLIFT: Instead of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is not a minor vice!


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is useful. It's like drinking. Drinking is not a vice.

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

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Drinking reasonable amounts of alcohol is not a vice!

MS. CLIFT: Instead of --

MR. O'DONNELL: Was 6 million a reasonable amount? That's the question of the day. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you mean -- by who's standards? By Bennett's standards, it could well be.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Off to the races.

MS. CLIFT: Hey, instead of Disneyland ads, he can do "go to Las Vegas" ads, right? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Off to the races.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) I'm the only person running for this job who's actually fought in a war.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO): (From videotape.) Let's get everybody in this country covered with good health insurance. My plan will do it.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT): (From videotape.) We're not going to solve these problems with the kind of big-spending Democratic ideas of the past.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): (From videotape.) We have a chance to show the world that we were, in fact, in Iraq for the right reason; that we were there for the purpose of liberating the Iraqi people.

HOWARD DEAN (Democratic presidential candidate): (From
videotape.) I think this was the wrong war at the wrong time, because we have set a new policy of preventive war in this country.

(Begin video segment.)

SEN. ROBERT GRAHAM (D-FL): We can compete with anybody in the world if we have a level playing field in trade.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (Democratic debate moderator): Congressman Kucinich?

CONGRESSMAN DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH): Well, you know, it's easy to talk about having a level playing field in trade. The problem is that we've lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

(End video segment.)

AL SHARPTON (Democratic presidential candidate): (From
videotape.) First of all, I call George Bush's tax breaks -- even the small amounts that he gave working-class people, it was like Jim Jones giving Kool-Aid. It tastes good, but it'll kill you.

CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) If we can have job fairs in Iraq, we ought to be able to have job fairs in South Carolina.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Which is more important, ideology or electability?

I ask you, Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Electability is everything when you're the opposition party, and that's why that debate didn't change anything in terms of the electability.


MR. O'DONNELL: No. John Kerry's the electable one, as they stand today.

MR. BUCHANAN: But what a minute. You know, Gephardt is right in this sense with his crazy plan he's got. (Laughter.) It's like Nixon said, you run to the right in the Republican Party for the nomination, run to the center for the general. Gephardt's running to the left to freeze out the other fellow, and then he's going to run to the center. It is a Gephardt-Kerry race. Gephardt wins Iowa; Kerry, probably, New Hampshire and the Belmont Stakes in South Carolina.

MS. CLIFT: And Howard Dean is the biggest threat to each of them in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and that's --

MR. BUCHANAN: But if he loses early -- if he loses early, he'll fade.

MS. CLIFT: Well, and that's why you had all the -- yeah, but that's why you had all the sniping between Kerry and Dean, because Kerry would like to get Dean out of the race before he gets to New Hampshire.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Unless the Democratic Party voters are in the mood, like Republicans were in '64, to vote their principles rather than electability, in which case Dean or somebody -- perhaps Dean himself -- could surge, win the nomination and then lose a bigger general.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A quick answer -- who won the Democratic debate, and does that person or others in that grouping have the stature to be president of the United States?


MR. BUCHANAN: The answer is no. And Bush won the debate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush won the debate?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's cute.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I give it to George Stephanopoulos. I think he did an excellent job moderating.

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I think he's going to have more staying power over the next year than most of the candidates!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean all nine --

MS. CLIFT: There was no clear winner.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- all nine others -- you think -- you think --

MS. CLIFT: Lieberman -- Senator Lieberman was the grownup, the congenial grownup. But I don't know that that translates into votes. I don't think there was a clear winner.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Gephardt was also a congenial grownup.

What do you say?

MR. BLANKLEY: In this event, the trick was, if you're a front-runner, not to lose. And so, since Kerry didn't lose, he won in that sense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he have the stature to be president of the United States? Did he exhibit it?

MR. BLANKLEY: He's tall enough.

MR. O'DONNELL: He does have the stature to be president. He was, in effect, declared the front-runner by the other candidates because when they were allowed to ask questions, none of them dared ask a question of John Kerry because they don't want him getting any more air time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think Gephardt won, and I think he's got the health program that not only separates him from the others, but it might be a lever to winning the nomination, especially if he wins Iowa, comes in third in New Hampshire, and he takes South Carolina, all of which seem reasonable premises. (Laughter.)

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.


MR. BUCHANAN: Ron Paul's resolution to get the U.S. out of the U.N. will get more signatures than it's ever gotten before, John, and it may come to a vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it won't carry.

MS. CLIFT: The administration will agree to go back to the U.N. each year to renew its control over Iraqi oil, in exchange for having control over Iraqi oil.


MR. BLANKLEY: Belgium is going to be scandalized when the story comes out that they've been raising cats and dogs for their fur.

MR. O'DONNELL: The House of Representatives will not accept the Republican tax increases that were passed in the Senate Finance Committee this week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Labor Party in Israel will fly apart with some elements reconstituting the Social Democratic Party. This means that Ariel Sharon will be left with the responsibility of advancing the road map, which he will do.




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: For whom the lane tolls.

Traffic congestion in urban areas around the country is bad, and getting worse. America's cities and highways are choked with cars, trucks, vans, SUVs. The average commuter time spent on crowded roadways has nearly quadrupled in the last 20 years.

But the Government Accounting Office, the GAO, issued a report this week that might offer a solution -- pay-as-you-go freeways. The idea is to let commuters drive in traffic-reduced designated lanes at designated times, for a fee, and the fee requirement will, of itself, reduce traffic on the designated lane. Norway, England, and Singapore and some states, notably California and Texas, have adopted freeway pay lanes with some success.

But there are negatives. Item: Traffic congestion shifted not lifted because toll payer drivers get an open road but non-payers get gridlock due to the traffic shifted to other lanes and byways. Item: Discrimination is inflicted on commuters who cannot afford the express lane fee. So it is elitist.
Item: Freeway pay lanes are illegal on nearly every U.S. federal interstate highway. So the congestion solution is not without its problems.

Question: Why are toll roads and toll lanes inherently wrong? I ask you, Tony Blankley.

Do you drive, by the way?

MR. BLANKLEY: I do drive, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What kind of vehicle do you drive? Are you, like Buchanan, driving an SUV, a huge SUV?

MR. BLANKLEY: I have a Suburban, I have a couple of Jeeps, and I have a Honda S-2000, the little sports car.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you put the peacocks in there to bring them to the vet?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. They stay in the aviary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. What's the answer to the question?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think there's nothing wrong with toll lanes. I don't think it solves the problem. I think the solution is to build more roads, but that's not going to happen any time soon in major cities, so this is one solution. It will get some resentment from people who can't afford it, but using the marketplace is one way of rationing products.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: See, Tony is speaking exactly like a Republican elitist; you know that.

MR. BUCHANAN (?): Mm-hmm.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he figures, if you got the bucks, hey, here, take two bucks, you know.

MR. O'DONNELL: No, this started as a liberal Democratic idea more than a decade ago when I was chief of staff of the Public Works Committee in the Senate, and we liberals all liked it a great deal. It's politically next to impossible to achieve, but the only thing that can make it work is if you have transportation alternatives, as they do in metropolitan New York. You can force people, in effect -- which us, you know, Socialists like to do -- we can force them onto rail systems, off the roads. Without those alternative, it's very hard to make it work.

MS. CLIFT: Well, having grown up in the Northeast, there are toll roads everywhere and there usually are alternatives. And if more people pay, then the main road is less congested. I don't have a philosophical problem with it at all. I just think we ought to tax gasoline more and subsidize mass transit.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, let me speak as a populist. I got a problem with a toll lane where the big rich go rolling down it for money, and everybody else is in line. What you need to do is put tolls on at rush hours and then encourage everybody to come in before or after rush hour. And the HOV --

MS. CLIFT: Make 'em pay. Make 'em pay --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we talk about the road system being a larger grid into those lanes. The lanes that feed into those -- the feed lanes, the f-e-e, the ones where you pay the fee, those lanes are all part of the public domain, and the taxpayers pay for that. They're paying. so why should I have to be directed into a lane that I cannot have access to unless I pay?

MR. O'DONNELL: John, everyone is paying to be on a road. Everyone is always paying to be on a road in America. They're always paying. And it's a question of how indirect that payment system is.


MS. CLIFT: Well, what about the HOV lanes? They force you to have more than one person in a car, and that's legitimate.