THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED: FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 19-20, 2003
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Iraq rundown.
Front and center this week: The ongoing military operation in Iraq, and at home, questions about Iraq's rationale.
Item: CENTCOM uses the "G" word.
GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID (commander, Central Command): (From videotape.) What I would describe as a classical guerrilla-type campaign against us.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Item: Over 220 U.S. military dead in Iraq since the start of the war. Combat deaths exceed the first Gulf War, and over 1,100 are wounded and injured. Washington's Walter Reed Hospital today is a chamber of terrible pain.
Item: Troop morale hits new low.
U.S. SERVICEAN STATIONED IN IRAQ: (From videotape.) Morale sucks. It really does. There's -- you know, you still got to get up and do your job, but I just tell you it's tougher every day.
U.S. SERVICEAN STATIONED IN IRAQ: (From videotape.) If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I'd ask him for his resignation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Item: Senate pressure on CIA chief George Tenet, who named a culprit in a closed-door Senate session.
Late in the week, Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News reported that a senior CIA director, not Tenet, testified at that same closed-door session that a top deputy in the National Security Council -- located in the West Wing of the White House, by the way -- Robert Joseph, insisted that the Niger uranium story be included in the president's State of the Union speech. The new White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, denied the charge.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN (White House press secretary): (From videotape.) It's nonsense to suggest that someone was pressuring to put this in there or anything of that nature. That's nonsense.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sources also say Joseph was responsible for the aluminum tube story -- i.e., Saddam Hussein was to use such tubes in his nuclear program -- a story now discredited by the administration's own U.S. Energy Department.
Bogus intelligence, critics continue to say, calls into question the president's own credibility.
SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D-MI): (From videotape.) There is a significant amount of troubling evidence that it was part of a pattern of exaggeration and misleading statements. And that is what a thorough and open and bipartisan investigation should examine.
SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): (From videotape.) The responsibility is not the CIA's. It's not anyone else's. It is the president's responsibility.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is President Bush's case crumbling, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, if you're talking about the case for war, I believe it is. There is no connection to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
Secondly, the weapons of mass destruction, if they existed, were minimal. They weren't threatening this country. Iraq was not reconstituting its nuclear program. The president has been terribly served.
At the same time, he could win this argument by saying, "Look, maybe we were wrong, but we did the right thing. We cleaned out a menace. It's done. I take responsibility."
The problems are two things. One, the Democrats and the media are ripping him up, and his popularity and credibility are being diminished. Secondly, far more important, we are in a guerrilla war, for which the American people are unprepared. We're losing people every day, and I don't think he can maintain those forces in Iraq for a full year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you implying that the ripping up, the criticism of the president, is not justified?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, from the Democrats who gave the president a blank check to go to war when he wanted for whatever reason, it is hypocritical. Frankly, the guy who's on solid ground here, the only guy, is probably Howard Dean, who opposed the war, and Dennis Kucinich.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, it seems to me that the president should take responsibility. It's irrelevant who put the 16 words in the speech, because this really isn't about yellow cake in Niger. It's about the deceptive salesmanship that led us into a war of choice, which was presented as a war of necessity.
And it continues this week. With Kofi Annan seated right next to him, President Bush said, "We gave the Iraqis, we gave Saddam Hussein one last chance to let the inspectors in, and he refused." The inspectors were in Iraq when the president cut short their mission and chose the scenario of invasion, conquest and liberation.
And a lot of neocons said it was immoral to leave American troops said it was immoral to leave American troops languishing in Kuwait, waiting for the moment to go in. Is it more moral to have them seated in Baghdad, getting their heads blown off?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, is the president's case crumbling?
MR. BLANKLEY: As we go down the rabbit hole into Wonderland -- (laughter) -- it might sound that way. In fact, obviously --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Speaking about a rabbit hole, what's that raiment you're wearing? (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's left over from Easter! (Laughter.)
The fact is that his case remains as strong today -- and it is strong and it is persuasive and overwhelming -- as it was when he made it for a year before the war, starting before the State of the Union, going up to this very moment. And whether or not he got uranium from Niger or whether he got it from Sudan or some other country or didn't get it at all, the overwhelming case -- the whole world, including the U.N., when they voted on the resolution, believed, credibly, that there were weapons of mass destruction. The president never said it was imminent. He always -- in fact, made a particular case that it's not -- when it's imminent, it's too late; but we need to go in there and protect ourselves.
Tony Blair, giving a historic and masterful speech to the House chamber this week, laid out the case: We needed to do it, we've done it. The world is better off for it. And history will judge Bush, Blair and those of us who supported him well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if North Korea proves to be an outgrowth of our involvement militarily in Iraq, it remains to be seen whether history will put its blessing --
MR. BLANKLEY: North Korea is another issue, which --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it could be an outgrowth -- I use the word "outgrowth" -- of Iraq.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's an outgrowth since --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Plus that in combination with the triple- membership of the "Axis of Evil." Do you want to speak to the --
MR. BLANKLEY: Korea has been a problem since 1994, when they violated the agreement.
MR. O'DONNELL: The case isn't crumbling, but it's being reduced to the bare minimum. And Blair's speech was interesting, because it was a nice kind of content-free speech about the situation, using the absolute minimum case for doing this, which was, you know, if we were wrong about all that other stuff, which we currently appear to be wrong about, at least we got rid of a dictator. Now, that is the lowest bar possible to get over to have this invasion of Iraq that we had. The administration clearly oversold, they clearly got way too overinvolved and manipulating the case that they were presenting to the public. And now, you see Blair, in an address to this nation, reducing the case all the way down to, well, at least we got rid of a bad person.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So, it has unraveled to that point?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, it hasn't unraveled to that point. And Blair specifically --
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I'm just quoting him!
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Blair specifically said, when a reporter asked him that after the speech: No, I haven't eliminated the argument. I do believe there were weapons of mass destruction.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as noted here, addressed a joint session of Congress on Thursday. Blair strenuously defended the justifications for going to war. He also sounded a warning against U.S. unilateralism.
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: (From videotape.) But let us start preferring a coalition and acting alone if we have to, not the other way around. True, winning wars is not easier that way, but winning the peace is. (Applause.) And I believe any alliance must start with America and Europe. If Europe and America are together, the others will work with us. If we split, the rest will play around, play us off, and nothing but mischief will be the result of it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Blair makes no mention of NATO or the U.N. in a military context. Does that mean that the Blair-Bush team want command-and-control forces by both organizations excluded, as you heard him yesterday? Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: No. I mean, he didn't address the issue, so that's -- the U.N., yes. I don't think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When he spoke about Europe, was he talking about NATO?
MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't expressly say NATO. There are a lot of different forces in Europe. There's the proposed NATO -- European force, there's the NATO force, there's a number of NATO countries working together but not as NATO.
MR. O'DONNELL: He didn't say it because there were no facts in the speech.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, wait just a second. The U.N. is not going to -- we're not going to use command and control of the U.N. We would never do that. We would never put American soldiers under a U.N. general. As far as NATO is concerned --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we've done it before.
MR. BLANKLEY: As far as NATO is concerned --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We did it in Somalia.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- Blair spoke very strongly about the need for America to be connected and respectful of Europe.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- John.
MS. CLIFT: Right. For all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: For all of Blair's ringing oratory, the British have 14,000 troops left in Iraq. I mean, they're getting the hell out of there as fast as they can.
MR. BLANKLEY: They are not getting the heck out of there.
MS. CLIFT: The verbal commitment is there, but he cannot afford politically to keep troops there.
Secondly, the big, important development of this last week was India's refusal to send a division to Iraq, which the administration was counting on.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's a big issue.
MR. BUCHANAN: All right. John --
MS. CLIFT: The administration -- they've gone to 70 countries and they've only gotten modest commitments from 10. So it is a big issue.
MR. BLANKLEY: Twenty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat? Pat? Quickly.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. I want to just talk briefly. That something dishonorable was done this week. When Condi Rice leveled George Tenet, the CIA director, and accused him basically of failing to get that thing out of the State of the Union when her own deputy was sitting there jamming it in repeatedly, that was a dishonorable thing she did.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: She had to know that she was accusing an innocent guy and her guy did it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: That's one of the problems, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know her -- her saying is that it was technically accurate because it was laid off onto the Brits.
MS. CLIFT: They thought they could contain it --
MR. BUCHANAN: Why did she attack Tenet, then?
MS. CLIFT: They thought they could contain it if Tenet, which he did, Tenet did the honorable thing; he took the "the buck stops here" responsibility.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right. He was a good soldier.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MS. CLIFT: But everybody knows that if the president really felt he was misled, he would be outraged and somebody would be fired.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --
MS. CLIFT: The president was in on the speech.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Hold on.
MR. BLANKLEY: Are you accusing Tenet of lying? You said he did the honorable thing. The implication was he wasn't telling the truth. Is that what you're accusing Tenet of?
MS. CLIFT: He took responsibility for a statement that in previous speeches he had gotten out. And so it's --
MR. BLANKLEY: So when you say he did the honorable thing, you mean the honest thing, too.
MS. CLIFT: It's a technical, pro forma admission of responsibility.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, let's just say that everything he said was honest, including his testimony to the Senate committee, in which he --
MS. CLIFT: Naming someone else.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- explained specifically, in response to their specific questions, exactly how this worked.
MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible.)
MR. O'DONNELL: And when you hear exactly how it worked, it's all NSC in the White House.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, sir?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, what's the Mukhabarat?
MR. BUCHANAN: The Iraqi intelligence agency that no longer exists.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Newsweek say or is it going to say? Is it going to be published?
MR. BUCHANAN: Newsweek.com has said that basically these folks said, "We're liable to lose this war; therefore, you should prepare to fight a guerrilla war against the Americans and Brits if they arrive and take over the country."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fade into the background, which means several months before the war started; January 23rd is when the Mukhabarat directive went out to the soldiery. Fade into the background a la Viet Cong style; and of course, Saddam was a great reader of Viet Cong tactics and of also what the Somalian tactics were against our forces. Fade into the background; which means that this whole matter, this whole guerrilla war was prepared before we went to war.
MR. O'DONNELL: Of course it was. What other strategy could possibly exist on the Saddam side?
And by the way, you know, you can have a much smaller force than the Viet Cong. Look at what the IRA did with the British army for 30 years.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me -- let me make --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think the -- don't you think the administration could have speculated that this might happen and, therefore, be more prepared for it in the aftermath of a war?
MR. O'DONNELL: I think the administration did speculate it would happen, and had never seriously cared about the aftermath of the war.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make -- let me make --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's worse, isn't it?
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make an important point. There was a poll put out this week by Channel 4 in England, by British media that polled Baghdad. It's the first legitimate poll done there. It shows that there's good support for Americans, almost no opposition for Saddam. We have an opportunity to, as the old phrase went -- win the hearts and minds.
MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah --
MR. BLANKLEY: And no -- and no guerrilla war can be won unless it has the support of the people, which they do not have.
MS. CLIFT: A conflicting report issued in this country by several very respected organizations says the window is closing for us to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we want to say anything about Dr. David Kelly in Great Britain, the adviser to the prime minister -- or the adviser to --
MR. BUCHANAN: He was the fellow that dealt with the weapons of mass destruction, so to speak.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the liaison with the BBC.
MR. BUCHANAN: He also was -- no, it wasn't liaison with the BBC! (Laughs.)
MR. O'DONNELL: Illegal liaison!
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughing) He was leaking to the BBC!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The de facto liaison.
MR. BUCHANAN: And he was hauled up before a parliamentary committee, and he felt he was being hung out to dry. And there are reports that he took his own life.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. What impact -- now, apparently, he's a dead man.
MR. O'DONNELL: No, no. We don't know how he died.
MS. CLIFT: The impact is that the conspiracy theorists will be out. This is the equivalent of the Vince Foster suicide and the way it escalated the Whitewater scandal.
MR. O'DONNELL: We don't know, he may have had a sudden heart attack. We do not know how he did.
MR. BLANKLEY: And maybe he died of blood poisoning.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's assume -- let's assume --
MS. CLIFT: -- that won't stop the conspiracy theorists! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's assume that he died by executive order. You know what that --
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, and nobody has suggested that. There have been --
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm not assuming that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's assume -- let's assume --
MR. BUCHANAN: There have been ruminations -- ruminations --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will this ever go away?
MR. O'DONNELL: If we assume that, no, it won't. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's not going to go away because Blair and Bush's careers are hanging on the line, and his enemies are going to work this and work this and work this. They've got --
MS. CLIFT: Well, and Americans are dying in Iraq, that's why it won't go away!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Kim Jong -- Kim Jong makes us ill.
Do you like that, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In another foreign policy theater, listen to this scary appraisal: "The nuclear program now under way in North Korea poses an imminent danger of nuclear weapons being detonated in American cities. Time is running out, and each month the problem gets more dangerous. It was manageable six months ago, if we did the right things. We haven't done the right things."
That's William Perry. He's a former secretary of Defense during the Clinton administration. I don't want to spend any time on this because we're going to do that next week.
I want to know whether you think -- yes or no -- this grim assessment of North Korea is as grim a the former secretary of Defense says.
MR. BUCHANAN: He overpainted it, John. There's no doubt North Korea is driving toward nuclear weapons. But the North Koreans realize, quite frankly, if they ever tried something like that, it's the end of their country. Perry is arguing that the United States should directly negotiate with the North Koreans to remove this threat before it becomes, quote, "imminent."
MS. CLIFT: William Perry --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he may be arguing, too, that if North Korea has the weaponry, it might share them with an appropriate terrorist because it doesn't like the United States treating North Korea as it perceives it to be treating it.
MS. CLIFT: William Perry is a cautious individual. He worked this crisis once before. And his thesis is that every day that goes by, we get closer to the day that that nuclear weaponry will be shared with Osama bin Laden.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you do, I want to --
MS. CLIFT: The administration needs to negotiate. They don't have a military option.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In support of what Perry says, in part, it seems, Mohamed ElBaradei -- you know, that man you hold in high esteem, Tony --
MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (chuckles) -- on Friday said North Korea poses the most immediate and most serious threat to efforts to control the world's nuclear weapons. ElBaradei, of course, is director- general of the IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency. What do you say to that?
MR. BLANKLEY: A couple of quick ones. The first time you -- most Americans heard about the danger of North Korea, it was from President Bush, when he included it in the "Axis of Evil." So, this isn't a surprise. Perry may have overstated it. There's no doubt it's an extremely dangerous situation. It also needs to remember that Perry is an adviser to Senator Kerry's presidential campaign, and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he's suspect right there, right?
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: I think that he may be right, but he is suspect.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear that? Did you hear that? Did you see him slur William Perry? (Laughter.)
MR. O'DONNELL: The biggest supplier of information about North Korea's nuclear program is North Korea! They put out press releases every day -- (chuckles) -- saying, listen, here's what we did today, here's what we did yesterday, here's how it's going, because they want to get us into a negotiation, and that will eventually --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --
MR. BUCHANAN: Don't knock ElBaradei. He at least found the forgeries, and our intelligence agencies did not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well-stated.
Exit: It's the end of week two of the faulty intelligence scandal. Has it run its course, or is there more yet to come?
MR. BUCHANAN: They're going to pull this thread until the sweater comes apart. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about during August? Will everything go to sleep?
MR. BUCHANAN: No. Bush is going to go down to Crawford and he's going to fall in the polls, as he's done every summer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: More to come. I mean, White House officials are going to have to testify on Capitol Hill. Even if it's closed-door, that will get out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More to come, and the BBC has cited nine areas where there is no conclusive proof to the claims made by their government, and some of those were made by our government. And we can go through those next week, if you'd like, Tony. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: I look forward to it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And maybe we can rubber-hose you a little bit more. (Laughter.)
MR. BUCHANAN: Give him closed testimony, John! (Laughs, laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: I think it is going to continue until some larger news story trumps it. I think it's a slow, degrading process. I don't think the sweater's going to come apart.
MR. O'DONNELL: The heat will shift to Condi Rice, and the problem -- the continuation of the story has been provoked by the president's direct refusal to accept any responsibility. When asked the question, "Do you accept responsibility for what's in your speech?," he refused to even address it. That will continue the story.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. I think there's -- they're just getting warmed up.
When we come back: Jerry Springer appears to be going to run for Senate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Jerry Springer, U.S. Senate?
JERRY SPRINGER (talk show host): (From videotape.) Let me tell you this: My show didn't shut down one school in Ohio; it didn't close one plant; it didn't force anyone to have to go without medical insurance.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The man who brings us such provocative daytime fare as "Pregnant by a transsexual," "My husband had sex with my brother," "I'm in love with a serial killer," now wants to bring himself into a real-life circus: the United States Senate. Mr. Springer, Democrat, is exploring whether to run for the Senate in Ohio, and he's refining his populace message.
MR. SPRINGER: (From videotape.) It's always middle and low- income America that is asked to foot the bill, and they don't get the breaks that the wealthy get.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Springer is no neophyte. In the '70s, he served five terms on the Cincinnati City Council. And despite having had to resign over a sex scandal involving a prostitute, Springer was later elected to a two-year term as mayor of Cincinnati at the age of 33.
If Springer wins the Democratic Primary in March '04, he'll challenge Republican Senator George Voinovich, former Ohio governor, still considered impregnable.
In the meantime, Springer is raising his profile. He says incestuous relationships exist not only on his TV show, but in Washington between two elites -- politicians and the press. Both look down on middle America. Springer points to comments like this one from one journalist who described Springer's political base as, quote, "Springer will bring all these new people to the polls. There will be slack-jawed yokels, hicks, weirdos, pervs and what not. To me, this proves that voter turnout is not this glorious thing."
Springer has set up an official campaign committee, but will make a final decision on running for the Senate later this month.
Question: If you were a Senate Democrat -- this goes to you, Lawrence -- would you want to serve alongside Jerry Springer?
MR. O'DONNELL: I would very proudly serve alongside Jerry Springer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, you're being serious?
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm serious. Look, this is a body that currently has a former Ku Klux Klan member in it. It has had people in it who have taken bribes.
Jerry Springer has every right to run. It's a citizens' government. He is great, I think, at deflecting the pre-Clintonian political morality that gets thrown at him when he puts himself forward for this. He's way too fast on his feet for most politicians to be able to handle. And he's got a very good demographic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And also, we've lost Jim Traficant.
MR. O'DONNELL: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he can fit in -- do you think --
MR. O'DONNELL: He can self-finance a campaign, which is what they want. They want rich guys who can pay for their own campaigns. I would love to see him run.
MS. CLIFT: And if he can generate some excitement in that Senate race -- I mean, George Voinovich is very well liked and respected, but boring -- we're talking super boring. And if Jerry Springer can generate some excitement among Democrats in Ohio, he's good for the party, he's good for the presidential race.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out with an exit question, Pat, so whatever you want to say, shoehorn it into this answer.
Is Jerry Springer electable? Yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: He's the classiest guy the Democrats have got. (Laughter.) He can be nominated -- can be nominated; cannot be elected.
MS. CLIFT: He probably can't beat George Voinovich. But he is electable somewhere! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He is electable. Yes or no? Quickly!
MR. BLANKLEY: No, he's not. Not against Voinovich. Voinovich will crush him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because he's ironclad.
MR. O'DONNELL: If there can be a Governor Ventura, there can be a Senator Springer. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he cannot probably make it against Voinovich, but he'd be a good -- he's a good candidate. He's worthy to run.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think that Iraq, where we're seeing happen there, the guerrilla war going on, this is the apogee, the high water tide of American empire. I think by the middle of next year, they'll be talking about withdrawing troops.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Recruitment and retention will be down in the U.S. military as a result of the Iraq experience. And the fact that all those guys who are so -- and women -- who are so unhappy, they're e- mailing home and their dissatisfaction is getting disseminated quite widely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: The spending bills are all going to pass through Congress in remarkably fast order.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: If Jerry Springer runs for the Senate, he will get the Democratic nomination.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? I predict that Ralph Nader, to the chagrin of Democrats, will seek the presidency and will so announce at year's end.
Bye-bye. END OF REGULAR SEGMENT
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Umpires: three strikes, you're out.
Baseball, America's greatest pastime, may never be the same. In the old days, a pitch was a pitch, a strike a strike, and a ball a ball. The umpire's judgment has always been hotly disputed, of course, but hitherto, his decision was final. Now umpires are under siege. The Major League Baseball Corporation oversees all play in major league games.
Now get this. Technology is being used to monitor and improve -- some might say second guess - umpires. It's called the Umpire Information System, UIS. About a half-dozen cameras are placed in the ballpark, some at the field level and some in the stands. The cameras record on digital disc every pitch and matching umpire call. The home-plate umpire is provided with a copy of the recorded disc after the game is over. Baseball administrators require that umpires and cameras agree on nine out of every 10 pitches, or 90 percent of the time; if the umpire, that is, is to be considered for plum assignments at other games.
The UIS helps standardize umpire decisions on pitches, say major league officials. Good in theory, say the umpires, except that different players are different sizes and they bat in different positions, so the strike zone -- namely, the lateral area over home plate and the vertical area between the batter's chest numbers and his knees -- changes from batter to batter. Also, umpires say, to judge the strike zone, the cameras are not accurate and the camera operators are not qualified.
Question: Will camera technology control the game, not the umpire? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) This is too much inside baseball for me. Generally, I'm opposed to anything that takes away jobs, but I suppose the umpires will still be there. It seems to me this is the equivalent of the instant replay in football, so I don't think it's that big a deal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Anthony?
MS. CLIFT: It is a big deal? Okay.
MR. O'DONNELL: It's a big deal.
MR. BLANKLEY: The difference between football and baseball is that baseball is a traditional sport and football is a modern sport. And the idea of getting rid of the umpire is just appalling to anybody who even has a passing appreciation of the game. Whether or not a machine can do it more accurately, it would take the heart out of the game, and it should never happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You understand that the camera's read is not made available to the umpire at the game.
MR. O'DONNELL: But under pressure, it will be.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's not shown to anyone except the executives until well after the game is over.
MR. O'DONNELL: If enough is at stake, there will be a demand. If it's a pennant-deciding game, there will be a demand to see what did the machine say. This has historically been a game of men, not machines. It has fallibility in it. That's part of the human beauty of it all.
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. It dehumanizes --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about my question? Will this intimidate the umpires to the point that the cameras will control the game?
MR. O'DONNELL: Of course it will intimidate the umpires.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it --
MR. O'DONNELL: How can it not?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because the evidence --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- there will be such a demand to see it immediately, that that will take place.
MR. O'DONNELL: That's the road you're on.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you got the instant replay. It dehumanizes the game.
MR. O'DONNELL: That's right.
MR. BUCHANAN: You're looking for scientific exactitude in what is a traditional art form. It will ruin the game. Ultimately, if you go in there and put these machines in there, it will diminish the game. It will cease to be a game.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this the revenge of the nerds? That is, your PalmPilots, the using -- the people who use the PalmPilots and the hand-held computers -- they're taking over. It's inevitable.
MR. O'DONNELL: It's just a bad idea.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. O'DONNELL: And the unfairness of the bad call is part of the game.
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. O'DONNELL: It's part of life. It's one of life's lessons. You start learning it in Little League. You know, "that wasn't a strike" --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nothing is sacred. Nothing is immune. It's the revenge of the nerds.
MR. BUCHANAN: The crown of modernity. (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I mean, one of the best parts of baseball is working the umpire on one call, so you try to get him to give you a better call on the next.
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. Sure.
MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, it would just --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. We must pray! (Laughter.) ####