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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PAT BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT, AND JAY CARNEY

TAPED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 20-21, 2003


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The Sea of Red.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) We will spend what is necessary to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror.

This will take time and require sacrifice.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER TOM DASCHLE (D-SD): (From videotape.) There is no sacrifice for those at the very top. They ought to be embarrassed by the fact that there is nothing asked of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grind endlessly on, the red ink rises. The price tag to date: $166 billion dollars; $79 billion we've already allocated and/or spent; $87 billion dollars of borrowed money is how much President Bush wants for the next fiscal year, October 1, '03 to September 30, '04. Twenty billion dollars of that $87 billion will go towards Iraq's reconstruction. And the total -- $166 billion -- may not be the last of it.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

NBC ANCHOR TIM RUSSERT: Will the American people be asked for any more money?

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I can't say that. It's all that we think we'll need for the foreseeable future, for this year.

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The vice president hesitates because $55 billion more dollars are needed for additional Iraq rebuilding. President Bush hopes that that $55 billion will be underwritten in October in Madrid at an international donors conference. But there are signs that the putative donors may not donate.

"I would warn that certainly these days, aid budgets are very limited. For Germany, given our severe fiscal constraints, there's not much room," so says Germany's deputy finance minister.

Question: Why is the $87 billion figure provoking such intensely unpopular, widespread and persistent sticker shock all over America?

Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Because the president of the United States told us "mission accomplished," we had won the war. All of a sudden we find we're in a brand new war, open-ended, costs of which we do not know.

John, there is a key question coming up: Can the United States afford this global empire, be policeman of the world, at the same time you do prescription drugs, massively cut taxes, huge domestic spending. George Bush, meet Gray Davis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what do you think the reason is for this prolonged and intense concern about $87 billion?

MS. CLIFT: I think people are choking on that figure because one, it's a memorable number. Secondly, it's not tied to an exit plan. He didn't say this means we'll be out in a year, this is the end of it. People do sense that this is open-ended. And you have members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, calculating what else they could do with this money. You could bail out every state deficit, you could provide health care, you could do all sorts of things, and, "What about us?" is going to become the rallying cry from the Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, the cost of health care has gone up 14 percent January, and many employees are passing on those extra expenses to workers. What do you think American workers feel when they hear that Iraq is getting subsidized health care and they are paying 14 percent more?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think that about 65 percent of the American public, which I assume include some employed people, support, generally, the president's approach to Iraq.

But look, this is a lot of money. Nobody questions it's a lot of money. In fact, it's going to pass almost unanimously in the House and the Senate. In fact, the House Republicans are going to hold hearings because they think the more the public understands about it, the more they're going to support it. But the fact is that those people who didn't believe in the Iraq venture now think -- and correct -- if they're right then, they're right that this is too much. But if we were right that it was worth fighting, then it's worth doing the job right and spending the money to succeed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jay, when Americans think of that $87 billion and what it could do here in the United States, especially with tuitions in college going up 30 to 40 percent this year alone, do you think when they see that $87 billion in terms of their own lives, their own financial status, their own needs and their own aspirations, then it's going to come home to hit, or is it hitting already?

MR. CARNEY: I think it's hitting now, especially at a time when the economy, although growing, is not producing jobs, and therefore, the economy continues to be a problem for the president, and the deficit is exploding in size. It's going to be at least $400 billion this year. It could be as high as 500 or 700 (billion dollars), depending on where the figure ends on what we're going to spend on Iraq. It's reaching the point where it not only becomes numerically the largest budget deficit we've ever had, but it will approach the percentage level of budget deficits out of GDP that we peaked at under Ronald Reagan. This becomes a huge drain on the American economy, and it means that nothing that the president wanted to get done and Democrats also wanted to get done, like prescription drug plan can be passed and paid for, and maybe pay for tax cuts --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four hundred billion (dollars) there; 400 billion (dollars) there.

MR. CARNEY: It stifles everything in Washington.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just make one factual correction. We, of course, had a much higher percentage of GDP in our deficit during World War II, and I think during World War I, but I'm not sure about that. So, yes, in modern times, in peace times, we're not there yet, but we're approaching the --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's about 5 percent compared to about 40 percent during World War II.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but there's no relief in sight. We're looking at $500 billion deficits way out into the future, and then it becomes to -- it chokes off the growth in the economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Pat, do you think that our coalition partners can pick up some of that cost, like Poland or Nicaragua? (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Chuckling.) Well, I think Nicaragua's really going to come in heavy, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's try Germany. Germany's already said it's broke.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, none of these -- the Germans and the French have got their own economic problems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about the Spaniards or the Brits? Spaniards or Brits?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Japanese -- the Japanese would be the big ones who could help. I don't know that they're going to do it, John. They're the ones who've got a little bit of money.

MS. CLIFT: The administration --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's it! That's it! So, we're going -- we're ultimately going to have to pay 87 --

MS. CLIFT: The administration passed out a so-called fact sheet. It should be called a "fiction sheet," because this number is predicated on 40 to 50 billion (dollars) coming from donor countries. They are not going to empty their pockets for Bush's bungled war.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, no --

MR. CARNEY: And the biggest problem here, too, is one of credibility and veracity. It's not just that President Bush landed on the carrier and said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he didn't level with the Congress?

MR. CARNEY: We had -- not just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He didn't level with the American people?

MR. CARNEY: The president and the administration let us believe that A, the Iraqi reconstruction would pay for itself through oil revenues --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. CARNEY: -- that American soldiers would be greeted like liberators and would face a pretty easy --

MR. BLANKLEY: And they were. And they were. And they were.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come, come. (Inaudible.)

MR. CARNEY: How many soldiers died this week, Tony? How many --

MR. BLANKLEY: You have 99 percent of the people supporting them; 1 percent terrorists, so you can -- and you can have plenty of violence. But the idea --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Tony. Tony.

MR. CARNEY: Tell that to the families.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Zogby poll just showed --

MR. CARNEY: Tell that to the families who have members over in Iraq.

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second. No, no. The Zogby -- he said -- he said they would be treated as liberators, and the Zogby poll shows that 70 percent of the Iraqis are glad that we're here and glad that we're doing it. (Inaudible.)

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we locked into the 87 billion (dollars) mostly ourselves? Who's going to pay? You know, I think you oversympathize with Japan --

MR. BUCHANAN: We are paying -- the 87 billion's only got about 20 billion for reconstruction. The rest -- most of the rest is military. We're not only locked into that -- even Mr. Cheney said this could go higher, John. The problem is it all depends on our enemy. He decides the level of violence over there, how many American are killed, when and how long. The initiative has been launched over there in Iraq.

MS. CLIFT: And there is no confidence that however many billions we pour into Iraq, that this thing is winnable. And the president, with his speech before the country --

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible.) We've only been there a few months! We've only been there a few months! How can you say that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Okay.

MS. CLIFT: -- all he did was convey his own uncertainty that he does not have a plan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, what changes this whole equation --

MR. BLANKLEY: What?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is about 300 deaths of American soldiers.

MR. BLANKLEY: That doesn't change things.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That does change it.

MR. BLANKLEY: It doesn't change the equation. It certainly is a heartbreaking event, but if you believe that this is a struggle that has to be completed, then that doesn't change the equation. It only changes the feeling.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right. But Tony -- where Tony is wrong is, Rumsfeld, in my judgment, wants to start pulling the American troops down and pulling them out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Okay. Surprise: Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Significance of this statement by President Bush, Jay Carney?

MR. CARNEY: Well, it's the -- the administration has never explicitly said that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11, but there was a great deal of impression left with the American people that there was a link between Iraq, al Qaeda and the events of 9/11. And the reason why the president had to come out and say that this week was because Vice President Dick Cheney again, on Sunday, left the impression that there might have been more of a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein than we knew before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Okay.

MR. CARNEY: He even dredged up the great meeting in Czechoslovakia with Mohamed Atta and Iraqi agents --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean --

MS. CLIFT: (Off mike.) (Chuckles.)

MR. CARNEY: -- which has been discounted by the Czech government, by the FBI and the CIA.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Woolsey's book written with Mylroie? Remember that?

MR. CARNEY: I'll stick with the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, that is all just trash, I guess, and likewise Rumsfeld.

DONALD RUMSFELD (U.S. secretary of Defense): (From videotape.) I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was that clear enough, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you understand what he said?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, I know. Look, if --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was that --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- yeah -- they're saying no al Qaeda connection; no Iraqi connection, 9/11; no weapons of mass destruction, raises this question: Why did we have to go to war?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. In a series of public utterances, the president may have created the impression, as Jay Carney pointed out, that indeed Iraq was involved in 9/11. You be the judge.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world.

Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th, but we know their true nature.

We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy: the United States of America.

Before the day of horror can come, before it is too late to act, this danger will be removed.

The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001.

We are fighting that enemy in Iraq, in Afghanistan today, so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Do you think that the impact left by these utterances, these statements, created the impression -- the continuing impression that Saddam was integral to the 9/11 atrocities?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. What it gave the impression of, which was exactly truthful, was that there's a war on terrorism, terrorism has many faces, Iraq is one part of that war. And to tie together a group of quotes without antecedents to this and that in the president's speeches doesn't convey the flavor. We all lived through that period. He never said that Iraq caused --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: He successfully -- he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, I have to represent here that those were highly condensed. But I deny that the full context would alter the total impression left by those.

MS. CLIFT: Right. He -- the president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from you.

MR. CARNEY: Well, look, the fact is that something like 75 percent of the American people believe that there was a connection.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eight out of 10.

MR. CARNEY: Eight out of 10. They didn't come up with that. Either they're -- either you're suggesting they're naive and not paying attention --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't. (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's talking about the flavor, the flavor.

MR. CARNEY: -- or they got the impression from our leaders that there was a connection between -- (inaudible) -- 9/11.

MR. BLANKLEY: The absence of evidence --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: The president successfully channeled the anger and outrage that people felt toward Osama bin Laden, and he focused it on Saddam Hussein. He --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because he couldn't find Saddam?

MS. CLIFT: Right -- because he could find Saddam and he couldn't find "Osama bin forgotten," as the Democrats are now calling him.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: He had Saddam's address, it looked like a doable military venture. He thought it would be a demonstration of U.S. force that could transform the Middle East.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think the broad impression of the American people --

MS. CLIFT: Incredibly naive, in retrospect.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the broad impression of the American people is that they were deceived?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. Yes! (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: They still --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think so? I want to hear from you.

MR. CARNEY: I think "deceived" is a little strong. I think there was an attempt to conflate as the -- I mean, the president has said, "war on terror; Iraq is part of it." And they left -- they left --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, how does that settle down in the light of the ongoing loss of life over there --

MR. CARNEY: They left unspoken the idea that there was a connection between --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will the cost of the Iraq war and the Iraq rebuilding be major issues in the presidential contest?

Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, of course it will. There's going to be blood being split, and there's going to be money being spent in Iraq over a year after Mr. Bush declared victory on a carrier. Foreign policy, for the first time since about 1988, will be the issue of 2004.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the Democrats milk this?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. But there's also an economy to be milked, and there's also deteriorating morale among the U.S. military and a hollowing out of the military, which General Wesley Clark may be able to tap into as an issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, a big issue, a small issue, a minor issue?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, it will be a big issue either way. If it's good news, Bush will push it. If it's bad news, the D's will push it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. CARNEY: Well, it will be a big issue within the context of can we afford it, can we afford to be policeman of the world, as Pat had said, because we have such a big deficit problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will be a major issue, but it will all go away if there's another terrorist attack.

Issue Two: California Smog.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D-CA): (From videotape.) People told me the election was on October 7th, and I'm still going to act like it's on October 7th. If they tell me it's on another date, then I'll adjust to that.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (candidate for California governor): (From videotape.) I am absolutely confident that the election will happen. We are going to continue campaigning the way we have, aggressively move forward.

TOM MCCLINTOCK (candidate for California governor): (From videotape.) For a federal court to block a constitutionally called election is simply an outrage to the foundations of our democracy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the middle of the California recall race for governor, a three-judge federal panel this week postponed the October 7th recall election for nearly half a year. The reason? Seven of California's most crowded counties -- about 44 percent of the state population -- use chad-punching voting machines, the same general type of machines that helped ignite the Florida presidential election fiasco in 2000.

Relying heavily on the Bush versus Gore U.S. Supreme Court decision from the 2000 presidential election, the California judges ruled that the supposedly unreliable punch-card polling machines in California would deprive voters of their constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

But California election officials quickly point out that their state is not Florida. Well-trained poll workers make all the difference, and they have been in place for years. In over 32 years, in fact, of punch-card elections in California there has never been a recount or challenged election where the results changed.

Question: The ruling of the California three-judge panel is that the U.S. Supreme Court, in Gore vs. Bush, which decided the 2000 presidential election in favor of Bush, mandates the action. Is the three-judge panel correct?

Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, because the Supreme Court expressly said that they were limiting that ruling to the facts of that case. And the most salient fact of that case was that they were resolving an election that had already taken place. This is an election that hasn't happened yet. There's a long tradition in courts of resolving election disputes after the election. There's almost no tradition of suspending elections ordered by statute or Constitution.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does this episode tell us about the position of the judiciary in contemporary politics? Is that too tough for you? (Laughter.) Is that too tough for you?

MR. CARNEY: (Laughs.) Have you got an hour, because we could -- (laughter). Look, I just -- I agree with Tony. I think that, one, it hasn't been a problem yet. Let's wait and hold the election and see what happens. Everybody knows what happened in Florida. People will be aware of the punch card problems. My guess is it could be held smoothly.

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

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The courts and the bench are an extension of politics by other means. That's what it tells us. True or false? And that's what's going on in the United States Congress today. How? How?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is. This is an outrage, John. Let me just talk about this thing. Look, they're saying that the machines used to elect Gray Davis last year can't be used to un-elect him this year, and that would be unconstitutional. It is an absurdity. The 9th Circuit is an asylum, and these are three of its worst inmates. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, this is a much more complicated election with all of those people on the ballot. And second of all --

MR. BUCHANAN: They're Buchanan machines, and they're good machines! (Laughs; laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Second of all, I thought the Supreme Court ruled on constitutional cases. Since when did they get away with limiting their decision to only one case?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a federal -- (inaudible) -- federal election!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey! Isn't it -- Pat! Isn't it true that this is a win-win situation for Davis?

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If we wins in the courts, he wins. If he loses in the courts, he says, "Aha."

MR. BUCHANAN: No!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "The GOP-dominated United States Supreme Court has done it again!"

MR. BUCHANAN: You're wrong, John!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have --

MR. BUCHANAN: You're wrong.

MR. CARNEY: I personally think -- I think it's good for Davis, but I think, actually, he would like to have this election on October 7th.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

MR. BUCHANAN: Davis was on his way to victory. He was on his way. Lost his momentum.

Go ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will the recall election in California take place in October --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yep. They're going to be overturned October.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- October or March?

MS. CLIFT: I don't think it matters. It looks like the recall is going to fail, and Davis is going to hang in there. He's emerging as this mythic hero fighting the forces of evil. (Laughs, laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In either case, Davis is going to maintain the governorship?

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?

MR. BLANKLEY: Probably October. Probably not Davis.

MR. CARNEY: Probably October. Probably Davis. And he's a lousy governor, but he'll probably win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Probably October. Narrowly Schwarzenegger.

Issue three: What is your name?

WESLEY CLARK (Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) My name is Wes Clark, I am from Little Rock, Arkansas -- (cheers, applause) -- and I am here to announce that I intend to seek the presidency of the United States of America! (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: After months of speculation, the 58-year-old former NATO supreme allied commander of Europe and four-star general launched his bid for the White House. He graduated number one in his class at West Point, received a bronze star, a silver star, a purple heart, taught economics at West Point for three years and was a Rhodes Scholar, like another Democrat from Arkansas.

BILL CLINTON (former president): (From videotape.) He's a good man. We've been friends for 38 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The grassroots campaign rhetoric to draft Wesley Clark refers to the general's, quote, "unquestionable leadership and foreign policy credentials," unquote. Despite these credentials, the general is not without his critics, some of them bitter.

According to Newsweek, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the Financial Times, among other sources, Clark almost started a war with Russia. Two days after the bombing stopped in the Kosovo war, the Russians sent soldiers to secure the airport in Pristina to prevent NATO from assuming total control of what was agreed to have been a U.N. operation. But Clark wanted NATO, British or American troops to secure the airport, so he ordered an airborne assault on the Russian troops. But the British commander, General Mike Jackson, refused to carry out the order. Clark told Jackson that he would be relieved of his command if Jackson did continue in his refusal to obey. Jackson then told Clark, "I'm not about to start the third world war for you." That's the expurgated version.

Two: Clark was not popular with the military. He was forced into retirement two months early when Secretary of Defense Cohen and the Joint Chiefs of Staff ran out of patience with him.

Question: What about Clark's negatives, will they drive him down?

Jay Carney.

MR. CARNEY: Well, look, it may be that some of the hubris and arrogance that Clark has displayed as a general could be an asset as a presidential candidate, and it may -- you know, within an institution like the military and the Army, that rubs people the wrong way.

His big problem will be proving that he has something substantive to say on domestic policy issues. He cannot simply run as someone who was against the war and happens to have four stars. It's just not enough to get nominated in the Democratic primary.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he can't get in on all the ballots. He has no pledges of delegates.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure he can.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. It's still early enough.

Look, his problem is he is out of his element. He is uncomfortable with domestic issues. Besides that, he is not terribly articulate, he is not a natural candidate.

I think the main guy that's going to be hurt by Clark's campaign is General Clark's campaign for vice president. I think he could lose the whole thing.

MS. CLIFT: Well, look, he's smart, he's articulate. He's actually comfortable --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's presidential -- he's presidential --

MS. CLIFT: He's comfortable with domestic issues. I've heard him talk about how the lessons learned in the military, civil rights, education --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I've seen him on TV --

MS. CLIFT: -- translate well into the civilian area.

But the character assassination is well underway, and I think he's going to have a hard time living up to his resume. If he comes even close to it, I think he trumps Kerry, I think he edges out all of the other top-tier candidates, except Dean. And we could be looking at a Dean-Clark race here, with Clark representing the moderates, versus Dean on the left. And they could end up being the ticket.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why are you being so silent?

MR. BLANKLEY: I was just letting Eleanor finish her thoughts.

MS. CLIFT: Thank you! I appreciate that! (Laughs.)

(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, while you're contemplating what you may wish to say --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- here's an exit question, because we're moving towards that point. If you were Dean, Howard Dean, who is now favored to be the nominee by the polls, would you pick Clark as a running mate?

I ask you.

MR. BUCHANAN: Me?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, listen, for him right now he would be ideal. But I'll tell you this, Clark is a stalking-horse for Hillary. Clark is a place-holder for Hillary. If you listened to Bill Clinton's most recent statements, John, you will see he is saying New Yorkers --

MS. CLIFT: That is a right-wing fantasy! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat. Pat, what is the one thing you want in a vice president? You want somebody who will stay at a certain level --

MR. BUCHANAN: Who complements you. Complements you.

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- do exactly what you say --

MR. BUCHANAN: Who brings something to the ticket.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and someone whom you can trust. Now, we know that the Pentagon brass did not trust this man.

MR. BUCHANAN: He brings -- he brings --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, so we do!

MR. BUCHANAN: He brings foreign policy, defense, military credentials that Dean doesn't have.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Clark --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to move around the corner here.

MS. CLIFT: We're going around the horn, you'll get your turn.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

MS. CLIFT: Clark as a stalking-horse for Hillary is a right-wing fantasy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: But let's see -- let's see how Clark behaves on -- handles himself on the campaign trail. The questions are about his temperament, not his intelligence.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's come --

MS. CLIFT: And he may well be a perfect running mate, he may self-immolate, or lightning can strike and he could be the nominee. I don't know the answer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's coming across like a librarian right now, with all due respect.

MS. CLIFT: A librarian with a lot of medals on his chest.

MR. BLANKLEY: To come around the horn --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- I wouldn't want him as vice president on my ticket because he's an amateur in politics. Amateurs make mistakes. Vice president candidates usually are drags on tickets, with rare exceptions, and therefore you want a real pro in there who's not going to make any mistakes --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and knows how to punch hard where he needs to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's not going to be Clark.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think, in the end --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you choose him if you were Dean and the nominee?

MR. CARNEY: If I were Dean, I would --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You would?

MR. CARNEY: -- because he so badly needs the kind of political balance that he creates, although you bring along all the problems that Tony's talking about, the inexperience.

He's also got supposedly, you know, a little bit of a sharp edge to his temperament, and a little bit -- he's already come out and said, "The White House is trying to get me fired from CNN, and the White House tried to get me to say this about Iraq." There's a little Ross Perot element here of, you know, "They're out to get me." And I think that's something to watch as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. I don't see where he brings that much to -- in a vice presidential capacity to any ticket at all.

MR. CARNEY: I agree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Tobacco uprising. Will New Yorkers snuff out their smoking ban? A recent poll shows that 63 percent of likely voters in the city of New York think that the ban on smoking in city bars and restaurants is too severe. The law was signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg last March and has been an active controversy ever since.

Supporters of the ban claim that secondhand smoke in bars and restaurants is unhealthy and unappetizing. Opposing the ban are people who want to smoke when they are in the bar, and they don't want the city government making choices for them. Also, many owners of bars and restaurants claim that the ban has decimated their businesses.

All of this is not just nicotine addicts whining. Sixty-two percent of the city's nonsmokers say that the smoking ban is too sweeping.

California banned smoking and there was no uprising, as is going on in New York. Can anybody -- can you tell me why that's the case?

MR. BLANKLEY: Maybe it paid no attention to them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it's because --

MR. BLANKLEY: Maybe they're smoking something else, perhaps, out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's because of the stress in New York. (Laughter.) They need nicotine --

MR. BLANKLEY: I understand that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and it's cruel and unusual punishment to deny the population of New York nicotine. True or false, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Soft liberal tyranny is what this is, John. These people want to fine us and jail us and tax us for doing things they don't like. It's going to cost Bloomberg his job, and it --

MS. CLIFT: Hey, this isn't liberals. Last I noticed, Mr. Bloomberg was a Republican.

MR. BLANKLEY: Liberal --

MR. BUCHANAN: Liberal -- there are liberal Republicans, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think this is a libertarian uprising, and a lot of liberals are libertarians.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Contrary to what Eleanor said, Bill Clinton is actively working for a Hillary-Clark ticket, a Clinton-Clark ticket. Right now he's testing the waters.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I defer to Pat on connections in the Clinton camp, surely!

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Look, the generals who are criticizing Clark anonymously won't be able to hide behind their medals much longer. Everybody knows who they are, and their identity will become public.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Some have come forward already.

Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: After a lot of huffing and puffing, congressional Democrats will overwhelmingly support President Bush's request for $87 billion.

MR. CARNEY: True.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jay?

MR. CARNEY: Tony's right.

There will be no prescription drug benefit successfully passed this year or next, and therefore nothing before 2005.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Too complicated?

MR. CARNEY: Too much money, the $87 billion, and we're getting too close to the election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the insurance agency won't show up to the party.

MR. CARNEY: It's too much.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict Wesley Clark will withdraw from the race before Super Tuesday.

Next week: Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush meet at Camp David. Bye-bye! ####

END