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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PAT BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT, AND MORT ZUCKERMAN

TAPED: FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JUNE 7-8, 2003



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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Detente at last.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape) No leader of conscience can accept more months and years of humiliation, killing and mourning. And these leaders of conscience have made their declarations today in the cause of peace.

PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER MAHMOUD ABBAS: (From videotape; through interpreter) The armed intifada must end. We emphasize our determination to implement our pledges, which we have made for our people and the international community, and that is the rule of law, weapons only in the hands of those who are in charge of upholding the law.

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER ARIEL SHARON: (From videotape) We will immediately begin to remove unauthorized outposts. We can also reassure our Palestinian partners that we understand the importance of territorial contiguity in the West Bank for a viable Palestinian state.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: History was made this week as the leaders of Israel and Palestine, cautiously hopeful after more than 30 months of violence, publicly pledged their commitment to the first phase of President Bush's road map for peace.

Question: When he took office two and a half years ago, President Bush showed no propensity to follow in Clinton's footsteps and play Middle East peacemaker. What has changed? Why is Mr. Bush playing Middle East peacekeeper now?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: What has changed, of course, is 9/11. But why he is playing peacekeeper is because the president is being pressured and counseled to do so by Colin Powell, by Tony Blair; by his father, I would guess; by Prince Abdullah, by the King of Jordan. All the Arab countries are telling him that you've got to deal with this, Mr. President. And I think the president of the United States gave his word that he would make an effort before he went into Iraq, and he is keeping his word.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the president now believes that terrorism in the world, and in the United States, is tied to a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and he's now bent on that. He's convinced of it, been convinced, probably, by Mubarak and the Crown Prince.

Don't you agree with me?

MS. CLIFT: I think these are great pictures, great imagery and great symbolism. But I'm really dubious about the substance.

You had -- Mr. Sharon talked about the unauthorized outposts. These are a bunch of trailers with a handful of people that his own government doesn't recognize. He said nothing about the settlements.

And there's a real question whether the Palestinian prime minister, Abu Mazen, has the clout to shut down Hamas -- Hamas is already saying they're not going to cooperate -- and whether he has the loyalty of the Palestinian people. The only way he will get that power is if the United States and Israel give him something that he can deliver to the Palestinians to make their life better. So far, he's gotten nothing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, I'm trying to make the point that the playing field has changed. The cobelligerents are different. Arafat is gone; Abbas is in now. You have Sharon and Abbas. That makes a difference to the president, too, does it not?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, of course. And -- but, I mean, everyone says, "Who's been influencing this man?" In fact, he judged early on that terrorism had to be defeated. Then, he started looking at the Middle East. And he understood that Iraq had to be taken out. That takes a big piece, as you said, out of the equation. He understands that the peace between the Middle East -- between the Palestinians and the Israelis is a key but not the only piece of it. Now, he's got leverage -- by the virtue of the war and by the virtue of the Saudis and the Moroccans being hit by terrorism, he's now got some leverage to motivate the -- what's called moderate Arab states to start putting pressure, taking the money off of the -- from the terrorists. Because it doesn't matter about Abbas. He can't persuade Hamas. These are mad dog killers. They have to be stopped, and they're going to have to be stopped by the moderate Arabs. And that's the train of events that Bush has put in play, and makes us, I think, at least slightly, cautiously hopeful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that the board has changed, too, because Blair and Aznar need to be rewarded for being his supporters? And the best way to reward them is to take part in the peace process. So, the president's attitude towards Europe has changed.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I think that's a part of it. But I think Bush is genuinely committed to trying his hand in the Middle East peace process. (Clears throat.) Excuse me. I think he has extraordinary prestige, not because he was a wimp about all this, but because he was as tough-minded as he was about Iraq. And one of the consequences of that is he has credibility in the region, A, against terrorism, B, with Sharon, and C, with -- he was the guy, after all, who forced out Arafat as a practical matter, and brought in Mahmoud Abbas --

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) I guess --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, no -- hold on, Eleanor.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- so he has somebody to talk to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's another reason why the peace process will succeed: money. Egypt is broke, Jordan is broke, Syria is broke. Oman has no oil to speak of. Qatar is too busy making money with its natural gas. And Israel is broke. Here we see President Bush -- take a look at the screen -- and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia in Aqaba this week. Now, the gesture you see there speaks for itself: the hand clasp. The friendship that exists between the crown prince will be helpful in making the road map come true. Is that not true? I ask you. We're talking about money here.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, look. There are three key elements, and, look, money will be there. But the key elements are Abu Mazen trying to do his best to put down the killers of Hamas, even though he won't be able to, first. Second, Sharon has got to -- Eleanor's right -- not only outposts; he's got to go after settlements. Third, the president of the United States has got to be willing, if Sharon balks, to leverage him, pressure him. He's going to have to show perseverance, courage and toughness. Without those three elements, the road map fails.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. If we're talking about money --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking money.

MS. CLIFT: -- the reason that the Israeli-Egyptian peace was able to be made is the United States put a ton of money into Egypt. I don't think that kind of money --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: -- I know that money -- (inaudible) --

(Cross talk.)

Hey, wait a second! Since I appear to be one of the -- perhaps the only cynic in this bunch, maybe along with Pat, about the process here --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The -- (inaudible) -- cynic. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: -- you talk about Arafat like he's gone. He is not gone. He's there. And he's very likely to sabotage this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this is what I'm getting at with the money and the crown prince. The crown prince holds the purse strings of Arafat. Also, the crown prince can help with reparations for the Palestinian refugees.

Exit question -- do you want to make a quick point?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. I --

MR. BLANKLEY: Go ahead, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The quick point is, the Palestinians are exhausted, in part because 50 to 60 percent of them are unemployed. Whatever economy they had they ruined during the intifada. The Israeli economy's -- both sides are exhausted. So it does help, in a sense, to have a way out for both sides. So I'm not sure that's what you meant, but I think if you translate it properly, you had a point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. BUCHANAN: Unfortunately, Hamas is not exhausted.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is it your felt intuition that Bush and the road map will succeed where Clinton and the Oslo accords failed? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Rogers plan, Mitchell plan. We've been through them all, John. I'm a pessimist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't see the colossal changes on the playing field!

MR. BUCHANAN: I look at the -- I see the changes. I am a pessimist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I see the exhausted, and maybe that will propel the peace. But I'm a pessimist, too. I would --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're pessimistic?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two against.

What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: We all -- all reasonable people are pessimists regarding the Middle East. But as Kissinger pointed out, one of the advantages that we have now is, we've learned from 30 years of failures of negotiations. I'm extremely cautious --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Believer.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- optimist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Optimist.

MR. BLANKLEY: Extremely cautious.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I am an optimist of the spirit and a pessimist of the intellect.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I mean, if you look at it in historical terms, you've got to be a pessimist. But there is a better chance now than I've seen in 15 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know what Schopenhauer said? Pessimism is the chastity of the mind. You want to work with that? (Laughter.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you know the difference between an optimist and a pessimist?

MR. BLANKLEY: Didn't he commit suicide? (Laughter continues.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: An optimist thinks this is the best of all possible world, and a pessimist fears he may be right. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, whether or not the road map will succeed -- the answer is yes.

When we come back: Martha's martyrdom. Is justice being served, or is justice going awry?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Bush at the G-8. President Bush attended the Group of Eight summit this week. The president was clearly bent on rapprochement and reconciliation. The most astonishing evidence of this was his meeting with Jacques Chirac.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) We can have disagreements, but that doesn't mean we have to be disagreeable to each other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then Mr. Bush asked Mr. Chirac -- get this -- whether he would be coming to Washington, or to the United States. Chirac said he would be going to a U.N. meeting. Mr. Bush then invited Mr. Chirac to come to the White House for a visit, to which Chirac replied, "Gladly."

Question: How should one describe Bush on the European stage this week, Tony Blankley? And don't hold back, Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, first of all, I disagree that he was going there to -- for reconciliation. While he was being genial, he in fact came with his own mission. And interestingly, for an economic summit, this turned into a geopolitical summit. And Bush came in -- he basically -- he laid down his view of what needed to be done and asked the Europeans to join him. And he -- (inaudible) -- proliferation of nuclear weapons. And France was talking about aid to the developed (sic) world. So this was not an economic summit. I think Bush was triumphant there. He in fact won the ascension (sic) of them on that, on his agenda item.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He also stole that -- the Africa point from Chirac by saying, "Here's my $15 billion for AIDS."

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, yeah. France was offering 180 million.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That trumped Chirac.

MR. BLANKLEY: And Chirac had gone in backgrounding people saying that he thought that development in the Third World was the primary issue, and terrorism was second. And that did not win. So it's a tremendous victory for Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't forget his visit in St. Petersburg with Putin.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Putin.

Look. I think he had a terrific week. He handled himself very well. All the images were great. The language was good. The rhetoric was good. You know, some of it will not be exactly translated into great substance, but he got over a lot of the difficulties that people thought would be attached to that trip, and I think he did it very well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was all show, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: He had a lot of great pictures. And I think he was civil, but he was unrepentant. I think he's still going to try to steer around the allies, use the U.N. as little as possible. And I think the French and the Germans are still going to try to act as a team to sort of block U.S. hegemony.

(Cross-talk.)

MS. CLIFT: I don't think anything's changed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Tony's right. I think the president went over there and he was correctly cordial but he said, "This was my agenda. I did it. It worked. By the way, I've got the 15 billion for AIDS in Africa." And I think it was his agenda. And there was some grudging cordiality and agreement with him. So I think he won the whole week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no, no. The news this week was not all good. There was bad news.

Item: U.K.'s Parliament launches an inquiry of Blair over WMD.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH (U.K. Conservative Party leader in Parliament): (From videotape.) Nobody believes a word now that the prime minister is saying.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's talking about weapons of mass destruction and where are they.

Item: Jessica Lynch rescue was ridiculed as Hollywood hype by the BBC and elsewhere.

Item: Eight U.S. soldiers killed during one week. The U.S. military death toll now is at 188.

Item: Regime change in Iran. Rumsfeld says he wants it.

Item: The world rates America. The Pew Research Center polled 16,000 people in 20 nations, an exceptional poll. Terrible news for the U.S.: The image overseas has plummeted. As you can see there on the screen, reading from the bottom up, it's gone from 25 percent favorable in 2002 to 1 percent today. Indonesia has also dropped markedly, from 61 percent to what looks from here like 18 percent. Or is that 16 percent? Mort, you have 20-20 vision with your corrective lenses?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Fifteen, 15.8, 15.83 percent. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How bad is all this bad news taken together? Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: The really bad -- well, we were bad off, we were very bad off in Arab opinion. The really bad news is this: the steady killing of Americans in Iraq if this goes on at the same time it is quite clear that they really cooked the books or there was flawed intelligence was the reason we went to war about these weapons of mass destruction. If there's no weapons of mass destruction found and Americans are dying, a year from now people are not only going to say, "What are we doing there?"; they're going to say, "Why did we go there?" Then they've got a real problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, you must be seasoned enough to know what's really going on. What's really going on is we know where the weapons of mass destruction are but they're being held at bay in order to build the climax when the rug is pulled out from under people like you.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I don't believe they're -- I don't believe they're doing that. I think they would have been found by now. I think Blair has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They gain more from holding them until the dramatic movement comes.

MS. CLIFT: They're saving --

MR. BUCHANAN: Blair has a terrible problem, and Bush has a growing problem. And I'll tell you who's leaking, Defense Department guys themselves are leaking on their bosses. CIA guys are leaking and saying, basically, the intelligence was flawed; these guys were going to go to war, and they asked us, give us a reason.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, they're saving the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The intelligence was extremely defective, was it not?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, they're saving the discovery of the WMD for July 4th so they can get a double wallop when they expose it.

Come on, John, this is -- you know, it looks pretty clear that this administration exaggerated the claims about -- certainly about a nuclear program, because if they knew the Iraqis had an ongoing nuclear program -- and I believe President Bush talked about a mushroom cloud -- they did not guard the site in Iraq. And you have children playing in the barrels that stored the radioactive waste who are now getting radioactive illness. It's really --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, the -- Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: -- it borders on a war crime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he has 15 months to find the weapons before the election, right?

MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, the same people who opposed the war before are now gleefully attaching themselves to the fact that we haven't found enough weapons yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Assign a letter grade, from A to F, for Bush's diplomacy for the week in Europe and the Middle East.

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: I give him a strong A.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Strong A.

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: He gets an A in how it plays in this country, and a C-minus in how it plays around the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, obviously an A.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obviously an A.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree, an A.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obviously an A. And he projected himself as an international statesman. Bush has matured as president.

Issue three: Martha's martyrdom.

U.S. ATTORNEY JAMES B. COMEY (Southern District): (From videotape) This criminal case is about lying -- lying to the FBI, lying to the SEC, and lying to investors.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Omnimedia maven has been indicted by a federal grand jury on nine counts. After pleading not guilty to all nine, including making false statements and obstruction of justice, Martha Stewart resigned as chairman and CEO of her company.

But Stewart has her defenders.

LAURA RIES (national branding expert): (From videotape) It's the price you pay for being a celebrity. When you are a celebrity, you're always more scrutinized. And if you make a mistake, boy, they're going to come after you. And they want to make an example to everyone that you shouldn't be doing -- you shouldn't lie to the government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maximum penalty: 30 years in prison and a $2 million fine.

Stewart is taking her case straight to the public. She took out a full-page newspaper ad in USA Today, writing to her supporters, "I am confident I will be exonerated of these baseless charges, but a trial, unfortunately, won't take place for months. I want you to know that I am innocent and that I will fight to clear my name."

Question: Is prosecution justified?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, there was no insider trader. If her name were Mark Stewart instead of Martha Stewart, this prosecution would never have gone forward. I think it's an outrage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: She's a minnow compared to the guys at Enron. Where is Kenny Lay these days?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Jeff Skilling.

MS. CLIFT: Right, and Tyco. And the administration --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what about WorldCom?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, listen --

MS. CLIFT: Right. They're giving contracts to WorldCom.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: She is a minnow compared to President Clinton, who perjured himself and didn't get charged. But having said that, she did lie -- assuming the evidence is there -- she did lie -- I think nine counts is ridiculously excessive in overfiring. One count of lying, you know, might have been appropriate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was she a stock broker?

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm. She was.

MR. BLANKLEY: Was she a stock broker? No. She's not a --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, she was.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: She was a stock broker.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was she a stock broker?

MS. CLIFT: Independent. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Was she a member of the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: She was a stock broker many years ago. She was a member of the board of the New York Stock Exchange for a very short period of time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was she also the CEO of her own company?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think -- yes, she was.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should she not have known better? Has this thing reached such stature as a public event that the prosecuting attorney had no choice?

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The question is -- you know, they are trying to say that she had insider information on an unbelievably new theory of it. And frankly, I think this is ridiculous and not justified when you compare it to the people like Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, who have yet to be indicted, when a $100 billion-plus -- this amounted to $45,000 or whatever.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm. Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's a -- is it a bum rap? Is it a bum rap?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not a bum -- I'm not saying it's -- I don't know all the evidence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the prosecution justified?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I do not think it was justified.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you don't think it was justified?

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you don't?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you don't?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. I think one count of lying --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he had no choice.

Exit: Will Martha Stewart serve jail time? Yes or no -- one word.

MR. BUCHANAN: Never.

MS. CLIFT: No. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No.

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No. The answer is no.

Issue four: Hillary on the stump.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) My overriding concern and critique of this administration is that they have brought to Washington a vision of a future that I find troubling and very seriously lacking when it comes to putting us on the right track; when it comes to understanding what it takes to keep a great country great; when it comes to ensuring that we maintain a social safety net; that we provide a level playing field so that all children will have a chance to live up to their God-given potential. This administration is turning its back on the future."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Hillary on the stump? She says no. After all, she was only speaking to New York's farmers in Lake Placid. But after that, this: the release of her 562-page memoir this Monday and a lackluster Democratic presidential lineup. Collectively, this is fueling speculation about whether she is testing the waters for a presidential run -- get this -- next year.

In her book, Senator Clinton writes that her husband lied to her about his liaison with Monica Lewinsky until the weekend before his grand jury testimony, when he finally confessed. Her reaction: "I could hardly breathe. Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him, 'What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me?' I was furious and getting more so by the second."

This episode was discussed by the author with Barbara Walters on ABC's 20/20.

(Begin video segment.)

SEN. CLINTON: And he told me it wasn't true.

BARBARA WALTERS: Did you believe him?

SEN. CLINTON: I did believe him.

MS. WALTERS: One more false rumor?

SEN. CLINTON: That is what I believed, yes.

(End video segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clinton said she wanted to, quote, "wring" her husband's neck. His infidelity affected her at the deepest levels.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) The jury was really out about whether the marriage would survive, whether I wanted it to survive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does this version of the Lewinsky liaison have the ring of authenticity, or does it sound like spin? I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, it's high farce. (Laughter.) Even Sidney Blumenthal, her high chamberlain, you know, in his book, which only came out a couple of weeks ago, contradicts her description of being told for the first time by her husband. He says that her lawyer told her two days earlier. Obviously this is not true.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does anyone think it had the -- you heard the ring of truth?

MS. CLIFT: Yes, it bears out what we knew at the time, and what her lawyer told her two days earlier was very sketchy and not what --

MR. BUCHANAN: He was just --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Did you think it has the ring of truth?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I do think it does. But there's one --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do. But you know, you talk about her electoral interests. She's got trouble in New York state. If she -- if Giuliani runs again -- I've seen a poll that just came out. He was 15, 16 points ahead of her in New York state.

MR. BUCHANAN: If she thinks he was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I wouldn't bank on his winning over her in New York.

MR. BUCHANAN: If he (sic) thinks Bill was just mentoring that lady -- (laughs) -- she is too gullible to president or senator.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've got a quick yes-or-no answer.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I want it from everybody, and only yes or no. If Hillary were to run for president, is she electable? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Never, unless she runs against me. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: Electable in 2008, not 2004.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not 2004.

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In 2004 electable?

MR. BLANKLEY: She is electable on the Democratic primary in 2004. She -- I don't think she's electable as president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Electable in 2004.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about the general election.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, absolutely not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's about a United States senator. John Edwards is running fifth in the Iowa caucuses and about fifth -- at 4 percent, and about fifth in New Hampshire, John. That would be fatal to him. I will predict that John Edwards, if he wants to save his Senate seat, will be the first major Democratic candidate to drop out of this race before the first caucus or first primary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: There will be a "draft Hillary" movement for 2004, but she will do the stateswomanly thing and decline and say there are plenty of good candidates out there. But her book will break the right-wing dominance of the best-seller list. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see the political value of the book as estimable?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. It -- first all, it answers a lot of the questions about the marriage, and she can -- when she's asked about them next year, she can say, "I addressed that fully in the book."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct. And she also looks sympathetic in the book? She is being very candid.

MS. CLIFT: Well, she's creating herself as a three-dimensional figure now for the country, as opposed to the right-wing caricature -- the caricature the right wing made of her when she was in the White House, which Tony contributed to. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: People love candor. And she appears to be quite candid about some things in the book, wouldn't you say?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I haven't noticed any candidness --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You just see spin all over the place, don't you?

MR. BLANKLEY: -- but I've only seen the excerpts. So we'll have to wait and see whether there's any candidness in the book.

But my prediction, on a more serious note, is that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have it?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. In about a week and a half, the Iranian nuclear crisis is going to really heat up, and it will probably supplant weapons of mass destruction as the primary concern in the capitals of the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that why it will be imputed to heat up?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it's going to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because it will displace WMD, which is embarrassing to George Bush? Is that what you're saying?

MR. BLANKLEY: It has nothing to do with George Bush trying to do that. The events are in train and there's a consensus that there's going to be danger.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Senate will vote -- the Senate will vote to repeal the recent decisions of the FCC liberalizing the ability of large companies to expand their media interests.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict General Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, who will retire next week, will run for the U.S. Senate from Hawaii in 2004.

Bye-bye.

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue five: Sammy Strikes Out.

"Say It Ain't So-Sa" groans the headline in Chicago this week. Baseball fans there are dismayed at what was discovered after Cubs home-run record-breaker Sammy Sosa slammed the pitch, the bat broke, and Sosa was caught red-handed with a bat with a corked center.

SAMMY SOSA (Cubs baseball player): (From videotape.) I guarantee you, you know, I never use anything illegal. I just picked the wrong bat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sosa says that he does use a corked bat during batting practice to give fans a better show. He insists, however, that during the real game, he simply picked up the wrong bat. Corked bats are alleged to make balls go farther; that's why they've been banned. Baseball officials have now checked 76 bats confiscated from Sosa's locker, all clean.

For deliberately using corked bats in official play, players have been suspended for up to 10 games.

On Friday, Sosa received an eight-game suspension for using a corked bat. The Cubs are appealing the penalty.

Question: Is Sosa telling the truth? I ask you, Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know. You know, it's hard for me to believe that he -- somehow or other, he filled that bat with cork. Now, the rationale that it's for batting practice doesn't make sense to me because if you're going to do batting practice, you might as well get the right kind of bat in order to prepare you for the game. So it doesn't hang together.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know that a pitch coming at a hundred miles an hour crossing a plate leaves the batter with four-fifths of a second, one second, to react.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, a cork bat, physicists say, but this is still unproven, gives an extra second -- second, full second -- to the batter to prepare himself. In other words, it's like the ball being three feet away instead of right in front of him.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I understand, but let me tell you, in batting practice they don't throw it 100 miles an hour, they throw it 50 miles an hour, just to get him into a good rhythm. So I don't know what the heck this is all about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there is the illusion that it goes further, but it's unscientific to think that the ball goes further.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is lighter so you can swing it faster.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Perhaps. But he can --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that helps you with the four-fifths of a second.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He can always get a lighter bat. That's not his problem.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the fact that it was only -- I thought this was a disaster. I thought they were going to find other bats. I thought his records were going to be destroyed. They went to the Hall of Fame; they checked the bats in there. None of them have cork in it. Because it's only one out of 76, I'm inclined, frankly, to believe the guy now. And I think, you know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you know the --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- but you know what they're doing in baseball, though, John. Look, they've taken the strike zone and they made it narrower. They put down the mound a little bit. They bring the fences in. Guys are using steroids. Baseball has been a corrupted game, and this would have been utterly devastating if they found three or four bats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What they're saying is that several innings went by before they inspected the 76 bats, which was time enough to remove any offending bats.

Now, the question getting out is do you think Sosa is telling the truth? Yes or no.

Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: If they caught him -- if they caught him moving, shifting his bats around, I think he ought to be out for the year; maybe for good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't forget he's had a bad month since May 1st --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: I think the investigation tends to exonerate him. And this is a man of good character. I think this should be weighed against his entire record and his (performance ?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think the bat boy set him up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he telling the truth? (Laughs, laughter.) The bat boy set him up! Telling the truth?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm with Tony, actually.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he telling the truth?

MS. CLIFT: He's telling the truth, yes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I can't go with it. I can't go with it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can't?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I cannot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he's telling --

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