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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

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

TAPED: FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 12-13, 2003



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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: WMD-gate.

History may have been made in the U.S. Senate this week. The Armed Services Committee held a hearing on quote, unquote, "Lessons Learned in Iraq" -- i.e., why we went to war and what's the state of affairs in Iraq now.

As to the former, recall that in the lead-up to war, the administration justified military action unequivocally on the imminent threat of Saddam Hussein to U.S. national security, owing to his weapons of mass destruction. WMD, it was said, were what Saddam Hussein has and what he will use.

This week, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had this to say in the Senate.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass murder.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's what Rumsfeld said in January, a month and a half before the war started.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) His regime has the design for a nuclear weapon, was working on several different methods of enriching uranium and recently was discovered seeking significant quantifies of uranium from Africa.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The credibility gap facing the Department of Defense is now sideswiping the White House. Here's the president delivering his State of the Union address six months ago.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "This information should not have risen to the level of a presidential speech." So said spokesman Ari Fleischer this week. He further described that information -- namely, that the African nation of Niger had sold large quantities of uranium to Iraq -- as quote, unquote, "bogus."

Adding to the credibility deficit is this man: former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, the former top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad during the first Gulf War. That was 12 years ago. A year and a half ago, in February 2002, Wilson was tapped by the CIA and sent to Niger to check out whether Iraq in fact did try to buy uranium. He returned and warned the CIA the Niger sale was phony. The CIA then moved Wilson's report to Vice President Cheney's office. That was nearly a year before the State of the Union.

JOSEPH C. WILSON (former ambassador): (From videotape.) That information was erroneous and that they knew about it well ahead of both the publication of the British white paper and the president's State of the Union address.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wilson on Tuesday said that other officials had come to the same conclusions he had.

MR. WILSON: (From videotape.) It was not just me, but it was also others who had looked at this situation who had provided the same assessment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, hand- picked by the President himself, and the Inspector General of the CIA are looking further into this matter.

Question, Pat: Is this issue now gathering political traction?

MR. BUCHANAN: It really is, John. It's very serious. It bollixed up the president's entire trip to Africa.

Let me say this: I think the president spoke honestly what he thought was the truth. But the truth now, we know, is that a forgery was put together to get this country into a war with Iraq, that forgery found its way into our intelligence agencies, it found its way into the State of the Union, and the president of the United States should show more indignation and outrage that this was done. He should run down who did the forgery and he should run down the individuals who suspected or knew it was a forgery, and he should get them out of his government. Because otherwise, John, with these casualties coming in Iraq, this thing is, indeed, getting great political traction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's got Brent Scowcroft, the head of the foreign policy review board.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he knows right now exactly -- or, his staff knows right now who put that sentence in there, who dismissed the CIA objection and added the British government line to it. That's all known. You can run down a State of the Union and who put what into it in half a day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, does it have political traction?

MS. CLIFT: It hasn't begun to draw blood around the country yet, although the number of people who say that the liberation of Iraq is going well has dropped precipitously; it's in the low 20s now. So, I think people are beginning to pick up on the fact that we're now entrenched in this country with very little indication of how long we're going to be there, how much it's going to cost, and with the president, in effect, in hiding when it come to leveling with the American people about the war in Iraq. Instead of standing on that aircraft carrier and declaring that the major combat was over, and the big banner "Mission Accomplished," he should have gone to the Oval Office and given a sober speech about what we were getting into; that this was the first phase of a war that's likely to drag on for a very long time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, that was a Pew poll, by the way. And the number that it tumbled from was about 63. It dropped to 20 -- low 20s -- 22 or 23.

MS. CLIFT: Twenty-three, I think, yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, let me try to unscramble the facts that you and the media have been only partially presenting, because the -- if you want to try to understand what happened. In fact, neither the British nor the American intelligence services got the information. They both got it from a third country, probably Italy, and maybe a fourth unnamed country, which sent up reports to both the British and the American intelligence separately that there were three separate alleged evidences of Iraq trying to get uranium, one of which was the Niger event, which both the British and the Americans agree was a forgery. The British to this day, to this week, stand by their other information.

When Bush made his speech, he was -- he removed the Niger example, and he specifically referred to the British, because the British and the balance of American intelligence judgments still believed that there was an event regarding that. So, there was no misrepresentation nor intention to misrepresent. Unfortunately, when this all gets into the big media, they just take quotes.

By the way, just to complete my thought, you only took half of the sentence that Rumsfeld gave in his testimony, when he said we didn't do it on the basis of new information. What he said was after September 11th, we assessed the information and believed that they continued to have the capacity and the programs to do it. So, the sentence -- the half-sentence standing alone didn't quite catch Rumsfeld's full point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. Well, I think that's a distinction without a difference, Tony.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughing.) Right!

MR. BLANKLEY: No, a huge difference!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what do you think, young man?

MR. O'DONNELL: This is a very old story. Seymour Hersh published this story before we went to war in Iraq. That's how easy it was to dismantle the forged evidence that was used. And the notion that the president was standing up there in the State of the Union address using British intelligence, not American intelligence, and using British intelligence which, by the way, according to public accounts, the British have not shared with us --

MR. BLANKLEY: They expressly have not shared it with us because we were --

MR. O'DONNELL: So how can we have a president of the United States taking the podium in a State of the Union address and using something that did not come from his intelligence --

MS. CLIFT: Because he knew it wasn't credible, and that's why he was laying it off on the Brits.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, that's not -- Eleanor, you're exactly wrong.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think so. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: The reason the British weren't sharing their intelligence with us is because we were releasing our sources for our -- planning for our testimony to the U.N. So they gave us a summary, but not the actual evidence.

MS. CLIFT: Ambassador Wilson is not some --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, how did --

MS. CLIFT: Ambassador Wilson is not some wild-eyed lefty. He's a former --

MR. BLANKLEY: Ambassador Wilson is about -- it's only about the Niger event --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, Tony. Excuse me, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Everybody agrees on the Niger event.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, Tony.

No, everybody doesn't agree on the Niger event.

MR. BUCHANAN: But how did their guys know it was a forgery before the war on Iraq, and the Central Intelligence Agency did not know, or we did not agree that it was a forgery? Somebody in our own government knew very well that was a forgery, and they advanced it on up the line.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Again, who did the forging, John? Because whoever it was, what intelligence agency, wanted to get the United States in a war with Iraq --

MS. CLIFT: The speculation --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the thought is that it's a third country, that it is either Italy --

MR. BUCHANAN: Why would Italy do it?

MS. CLIFT: No. The speculation is that it's one of the Iraqi exiles.

MR. BLANKLEY: This was brought into the Oval Office. The Italians do not walk into the Oval Office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, there's other news this week. General Tommy Franks had this to say:

GENERAL TOMMY FRANKS (former commander, Central Command): (From videotape.) I anticipate that we will be involved in Iraq in the future. And, sir, I don't know whether that means two years or four years. I just don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you what I think, is that General Tommy Franks says we're going to be there four years; he is mistaken. The United States will go to war if we feel you've got a tyrant who's getting nuclear weapons are going to attack us. But we're not going to lose two or three guys a day in a guerrilla war for two or three years to build, quote, "democracy" in Iraq. The American people don't think it's that important.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He also said -- I believe he used the number 150,000 troops.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yep. He said --

MS. CLIFT: And that's not enough!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that has caused some consternation among notables like John Warner, who knows the military backwards and forwards, and he clearly thinks we're getting stretched too thin. As well as the fact this is not enough -- there's not any rotation to speak of over there, and some have been there for eight months, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, practically. And how would you feel if you were a 19-year-older, or any age, standing on a street corner to try to keep peace in downtown Baghdad?


MS. CLIFT: This is the price we're paying for the way that the president went into Iraq. He went in arrogant and alone. And because he did not involve the allies, they don't want to step up now. He doesn't want to surrender any control; he wants their money and he wants their troops. You got to eat some humble pie if you want to get help with Iraq.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me correct another --

MS. CLIFT: This administration can't admit a single mistake.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me correct a couple of other mistakes. The entire 3rd Infantry Division is going to be completely rotated out of Iraq by September and back stateside.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they've been there for eight months.

MR. BLANKLEY: They've been there depending -- in Kuwait or in the vicinity for eight or nine months now. They're going to be entirely brought home. The 4th Infantry Division is going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they demoralized?

MR. O'DONNELL: They've already changed orders for some troops who were scheduled to come back already who were told, "No, no, we've changed our mind." This week they said you're not --

MS. CLIFT: You have military --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I understand there is a morale gap.

MS. CLIFT: You have military people going on the record.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to go on to one other point, and that is the announcement by Donald Rumsfeld to the Senate that the cost of the war is going up from $2 billion a month to $4 billion a month. And the Democrats are outraged at getting the news.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they gave, the Democrats -- those phonies, the Democrats, they gave the president of the United States a blank check to go to war. I mean, they got no reason to complain now. They should have asked him beforehand a lot of these questions, Eleanor, how much is it going to cost, how long would we be there. They gave him a blank check to get it by them for the election of 2002.

MS. CLIFT: I'm not excusing the blank check, but the White House shut down any debate in this country leading up to that war, under a blanket --

MR. BUCHANAN: We had it here.

MS. CLIFT: -- under a blanket of national security.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have a question for O'Donnell. The question for O'Donnell is as follows. Is it possible, even likely, that the president could have said what he said in the State of the Union message innocently, meaning that he had been advised that the CIA had thoroughly vetted all the contents of his speech?

MR. O'DONNELL: My bet is that he said it innocently. And that is part of the problem of both the system and this president's inability to analyze the information being brought to him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the CIA, which may have been somewhat eviscerated by the previous administration?

MR. O'DONNELL: That information had to pass through several hands on its way up, I think through a certain gravitational force that kept pulling -- anything that could contribute to our arguments in the administration, pull that stuff forward and use it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it possible -- since the president prefaced his remark by those key words, "the British intelligence tells us," et cetera, that Niger is trying to do a sale or --

MR. BLANKLEY: Not Niger. He said an African country, not Niger.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the president mentioned Niger.

MR. BLANKLEY: It mentioned Africa.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president mentioned Niger, did he not? No, he said Africa, you're right. He did say Africa.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, he did not say Niger.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, so it could be one of those three countries.

MR. BLANKLEY: Exactly, which is why the whole Niger critique we're hearing in the media now is a red herring, because he never talked about Niger.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the president's spokesman said it was bogus information, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Niger --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're arguing with the president's spokesman.

MS. CLIFT: The White House is saying it's bogus.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, they're only saying the Niger component is bogus.

MR. O'DONNELL: Since when do we go to war on the basis of British intelligence? What's happened?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the CBS interprets it this way. That the CIA said, "You can't say this, because in our judgment, it's phony." And then they said Wilson saying what he was saying. So they therefore said, "Well, the Brits are saying it." And then it was said by some part of the U.S. government, probably not the CIA, probably not the National Security Council, probably not the Oval Office, but the Pentagon, where there is a small group of gathered -- the special intelligence group at the Pentagon.

MR. BUCHANAN: The NSC. The National Security Council, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They said, "Well, it is true to say, it's absolutely true, that the British say that" -- et cetera, et cetera.

MR. O'DONNELL: You're right. That was the key group that was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, that's called a dodge.

MR. O'DONNELL: That's the key group that was shaping the final language on all of these kinds of statements at the time.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. But the final language goes through the National Security Council. Condi Rice has got to sign off on that NSC -- I mean, that State of the Union before it goes to the president. So if it came from the Pentagon, from that shop over there, it went to Condi Rice. There was collusion that this --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: It's a failure of intelligence or it's a failure of integrity; and it's probably a failure of both.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: In their eagerness to make the case, they didn't let facts --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. All right. All right.

MS. CLIFT: In their eagerness to make the case to go to war, they didn't let facts get in the way of their beliefs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're getting very retail here. Can we get back to wholesale?

Do you think that the president said it innocently, as I defined it?

MR. BUCHANAN: The president said it completely innocently. He relies on his staff to give him those statements and that they are true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think so?

MS. CLIFT: No, I think he's not innocent, or he'd be more outraged that he was misled.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do not.

(To Mr. Blankley.) Do you think so? Of course.

(To Mr. O'Donnell.) Do you think so?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think one of this president's big weaknesses is that he is all too innocent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he said it innocently.

Exit: On a credibility gap scale from zero to 10, zero meaning zero gap, 10 meaning metaphysical gap, a yawning chasm 100 times bigger than the Grand Canyon, how big is the White House credibility gap at this time on weapons of mass destruction, et cetera?

MR. BUCHANAN: Weapons of mass destruction, uranium, cost, all the rest of it, it's getting up between a three and a four.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three and a four.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, with all of that and also throw in the fact that they're stonewalling the 9/11 commission, making it hard for them to do their work --

MR. BUCHANAN: Is it 10, Eleanor? (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- it's up to an eight or a nine. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about politicization of intelligence.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How bad is the rap, on a 10 scale?

MR. BLANKLEY: In the mind of 60 to 70 -- 60 to 65 percent of the American public, it's about a one. In the mind of people who are opposed to Bush, it's about an eight and a half now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about in thy mind?

MR. BLANKLEY: In whose?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In thy mind? T-H-Y.

MR. BLANKLEY: In my mind, it's -- the credibility gap is about a .01.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The --

MR. BLANKLEY: I trust this White House, and I trust this president, if that's your question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Politicization of intelligence.

MR. O'DONNELL: I think Tony's analysis of the voting population on the credibility gap is exactly right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think it's about a five. I think it's right there in the middle.

And I think -- look, it's -- it goes essentially to the capacities of this president to analyze what's being brought to him. If this was his father, if this was someone who had run the CIA, my belief would be that he'd realize this was bad intelligence. But this guy doesn't know enough to know what bad intelligence is.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Dick Cheney does.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does he have to do to get it down to a one or a two?

MR. BUCHANAN: Clean out the guy that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clean out the guys that did it.

MR. O'DONNELL: Right. Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. I think that there is a definite growth in the political traction of this issue. (To Mr. O'Donnell.) And I think I'm with you. I'll give it a five. And it's dangerous for this administration.

When we come back: When nation-states are failing all over Africa, should the United States intervene now, militarily, in Liberia?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Liberate Liberia?

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) We'll participate in the process. We're now in the process of determining what that means.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The process in Liberia includes a U.S. military assessment team that helicoptered into Monrovia this week to see whether American troops should be sent in.

U.N. and European leaders want U.S. troops sent in, to separate the two forces in this chaotic zone: those loyal to President Charles Taylor -- who, by the way, is under indictment for crimes against humanity -- and rebels fighting to depose Taylor.

The battle is bloody and the people are desperate. The U.S. assessment team was welcomed by the Liberians with cheers.

While the President awaits word from this team, 2,000 Marines on the USS Iwo Jima are standing ready off the coast of Africa. Before any final decision, however, the president has laid down one sine qua non: Taylor must be out before U.S. troops go in.


Question: What are the reasons for going in, Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Well, we have historic ties to Liberia. It was founded by this country as a home for freed slaves.

Secondly, it's a humanitarian crisis. Cholera is developing. There's, I think, you know, 15 percent of the population is huddled in the capital. They are desperate for us to come in. They're shouting Bush's name and pleading for American assistance. And anybody who remembers the horror of Rwanda, and the way the U.N. and NATO and President Clinton stood by and did nothing, I think, sees a similar situation developing here.

And thirdly, these failed states do harbor terrorists and become a nice little haven for al Qaeda types.

So, I think there are three good reasons for helping out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's run through a few other pluses besides Eleanor's and including Eleanor's. One is the al Qaeda connection, and that relates to diamonds that were sold by Taylor to the al Qaeda in 2000 and 2001, geostrategy -- you can speak to that in a moment -- regional stability, oil, historic ties, and as Eleanor noted, that and also humanitarian concerns.

What else -- what about geostrategy, Pat? Do you want to speak to that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John, I think the only realistic one is the historic ties, quite frankly. Geostrategically, Liberia doesn't mean a thing to us. It's a small country of 3 million. It used to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. We get the oil out of Nigeria; that's where it comes from. John, the only reason for going in is because of these traditional ties. Look, humanitarian -- what's going on in the Congo -- millions are dying there. And look, and you cannot go into all these places. Al Qaeda's in 60 countries!

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but the president -- he's citing humanitarian concerns as the reason of having gone into Iraq, and the juxtaposition is too uncomfortable for him at this point.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, let me add to the geostrategic calculation, because on the Horn of Africa, the other side of the continent, on the east side, there's a rift with terrorism. We need the cooperation of African leaders and governments in order to fight that. The African governments and leaders want us desperately to go into Liberia, where I don't think there is innately any national security concerns. We're trying -- I think a large part of this trip to Africa is we're trying to buy sufficient good will with the African governments to get them to more actively cooperate in fighting terrorism on the Horn of Africa. Whether that's enough to justify it as a close call -- I'd editorialize, saying, conditionally, maybe. But the danger, obviously, is that we get stuck in another place and we get spread thin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One geostrategic angle is that going into Liberia would certainly heal the rift between us and the United Nations, since Kofi Annan wants us to go in and he wants us to lead the military force, by the way. And Colin Powell indicated that will not be the case.

Do you have other thoughts on the pros?

Mr. O'DONNELL: That is a supporting reason, but not a central reason. The only central reason for going in will be in that military task force assessment, which will have to say there is a real, practical way in which we can help. The phrase "historical ties" will not appear in the military assessment of this situation; should not. All that stuff's meaningless. Can we go in there with 2,000 or less, be effective in some way that would help move this country forward in a humanitarian way? It is a humanitarian exercise, and nothing else.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is just sort of our little piece of Africa. It's like, if you will, the Caribbean. If there's a terrible problem down there, the United States is responsible for almost all of Africa. The Europeans should deal with it. If we do go in, we should go in there briefly and turn it over to the West Africans and let them run it and get out. The worst thing that could happen is to get bogged down in there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly. And mission creep seems it would almost be inevitable. And the notion of regional stability being imposed by our going into Liberia is almost absurd on its face when you consider what's going on elsewhere in Africa, notably Rwanda and the Congo.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not what it was -- you know, 25 years ago it was a U.S. base in the Cold War. It's not anymore, it's just another failed country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the negatives are: Blackhawk Down II; no vital interest; no long-term plan; troops, troops everywhere; and how would you feel if you were in Iraq and you knew that fresh soldiers were being sent to Liberia and you know that you're short maybe 50,000 to 100,000 men?

MR. O'DONNELL: It depends entirely on the number. If we're talking about 2,000 to Liberia, we can easily afford that; it has no effect on the 150,000 in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the United States go into Liberia -- intervene in Liberia, yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think yes, with a small force.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, small force.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, but they probably won't send in a robust 2,000, they'll keep it very small and a command and control.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. Yes. Eleanor's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor's right? (Laughter.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, I think we all agree on this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We all agree on that. Small force and exit strategy.

We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.

Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: A dramatic 500,000-person demonstration in Hong Kong, which may dump over the Chinese-imposed leader is going to metastasize, and I think in Southern China they are watching that to see what happens to China itself, a real example for the people of China, big problems --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking rebellion?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm talking about something like Eastern Europe could be brewing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whoo!

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Democrats will use the Republicans' resistance to having any kind of hearings about all the credibility gaps as a hammer in next year's election to elect more Democrats and get some checks and balances in Washington.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Dick Durbin's amendment, Thursday night, passed by unanimous consent, authorizing a thorough and expeditious joint investigation into the claims Iraq attempted to buy uranium from Africa. What do you think of that?

MS. CLIFT: Too little too late. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

MR. BLANKLEY: The United States will persuade Saudi Arabia to convey $100 million or more directly to Abbas, help him in the struggle in the Palestinians.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he'll do it.

MR. O'DONNELL: Wesley Clark will not run for president, but he will be every Democrat's first choice for vice president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The epicenter of the politicization of U.S. intelligence will be found not in the CIA, not in the White House, but in the Pentagon.

Next week: Why is it that airport passenger screening technology is still so primitive?

Bye-bye.

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Feds attack fat. America is fat big-time. Nearly two out of three are overweight, and obesity helps kill 300,000 people every year.

So, this week the FDA, Food and Drug Administration, announced that all food makers must list the amount of trans fatty acids on their nutrition labels. Trans fat clogs arteries and is formed when vegetable oils are chemically changed to prolong the shelf life of various foods.

MARION NESTLE (professor of nutrition, New York University) (?): (From videotape.) This is a no-brainer. Trans fats are bad. We've known they're bad for at least 30 years. They need to be taken out of the food supply.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stimulating the government to do more on obesity are public health activists teamed up with legal scholars. They want to coerce food manufacturers, through regulation and legislation and litigation. To date, lawsuits have gotten nowhere and in fact have backfired on trial lawyers by reinforcing their stereotypes as avaricious ambulance chasers.

But some companies are ahead of the game. Kraft Foods announced weeks ago that it will make many of its snack products with less trans fat and less sugar. Frito-Lay will do the same, and McDonald's now has fruit on the menu.

By the way, the rate of adolescent obesity has tripled over the course of the last 18 years -- tripled.

Question: Is this issue tailor-made for Mayor Bloomberg in New York? Mike, save us from these killers -- (laughter) -- these killer fats!

MR. O'DONNELL: Mike the Regulator. The Regulator.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: Ah, this bring out the regulator in me. I want -- right up there on the McDonald's menu board, I want the calories and the calories from fat, right up -- just like at a gas station where you have the price and you have the octane level, I want to see that up there beside every one of those things.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The FDA is requiring that those statistics be given -- particularly on the matter we're talking about, namely, trans fats -- on labels. That's a great idea.

But what is happening is that you've got the public policy activists teamed up with the legal profession, and what they are trying to do is to enact legislation and regulation and litigation to force the industry -- to force the industry -- to reduce the fat content, change the taste of the foods, et cetera, et cetera.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John, I was down at Bethany Beach, and I was walking down the beach. (Chuckling.) You know, everybody wears shorts and things. I'm not -- I've never seen so many people out of shape and fat and huge. I thought I was in the Ukraine with Nixon, down -- when he was at Yalta and we saw the beach there. (Chuckles from group members.)

But John, I agree with Larry. I think: put the information out there. But for heaven sakes, let people decide for themselves what they want to drink or smoke or eat, you know, at Burger King.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Well, you ought to remember, Pat, there's a public policy angle to this. An obese person costs 37 percent more on total health-care spending than a person of normal weight.

MR. BUCHANAN: They die sooner, they cost less. (Chuckles from group members.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As a result, the CDC says, the average medical bill is increased by $732 a year. Fat people are costing the taxpayer $732 each and every year that you wouldn't otherwise have to spend.

MR. BUCHANAN: Nope, they die sooner.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the insurance rates change, and we all bear the burden.

MR. BUCHANAN: They -- John, that's false. They die sooner. They cost less.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say about that, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: They made -- yeah, Pat's right. They made the same argument about smokers, and it turns out that that argument was false. In fact, smokers die quicker and they die -- they die quicker and they die sooner, so they save money for people. But at some point, when we --

MS. CLIFT: Without heavy legislation --

(Laughter.)

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