THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT AND MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN
TAPED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 27-28, 2003
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: $87 Billion. The Loyal Opposition
SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): (From videotape.) I'm not certain
that a lot of this is related to the war. I think it's just, you
know, almost like the kitchen sink is thrown in.
SENATOR ERNEST HOLLINGS (D-SC): (From videotape.) We got a
Lebanon on our hands. They're going be blowing up each other out
there for years on end.
(Being video segment.)
SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): (From videotape.) We want to
be good Americans. We want a bipartisan foreign policy. We know the
time is tough. We want to be with you. But it's --
DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I can tell you --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: -- there's a feeling that you know it all, the
administration knows it all, and nobody else knows anything, and
therefore we're here just to say, "Yes, sir. How high do we jump?"
And at some point we refuse to jump.
(End video segment.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) Is $87 billion a great deal of
money? Answer's yes. Can our country afford it? The answer is also
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The secretary's appearance before the Senate on
Wednesday turned into a hell hearing, where he faced six hours of
skepticism, rancor and anger. The nation is also angry, as polls
Question: Why are Congress and the nation being so tough on the
Bush administration now, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: The nation is angry because it was told it was
"Mission accomplished," on the Abraham Lincoln. And the nation is
angry because every state is in deficit, and we find out we're going
to be rebuilding Iraq at the same they're raising taxes and cutting
Congress is angry because of buyer's remorse. Many of these
Democrats behaved cowardly and timidly, voting for a war in which they
disbelieved. And now that vote not only looks cowardly but stupid,
because Dean, who opposed the war, is looking good. And so they're
now turning on the president, basically to get back at him for what
they think he did --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Congress can get out of it, though, Pat.
They'll say they were deceived.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John, that will not work. The brainwash
thing didn't work for Romney. And when you say you're deceived, what
you mean is, "I'm able to be fooled." And I don't think many guys
will consider that a real winning hand.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I agree if that vote were a secret vote, I
don't think that war resolution would have passed.
But the country is angry because they don't think the president
has a plan to either extricate us from Iraq or to revive the economy.
And the Congress is angry because they know that experts both inside
and outside the administration warned this president that going into
Iraq could be accomplished, the regime could be toppled, but the
aftermath would cost billions of dollars, would keep us there for
years, and would be hard and possibly bloody. And the administration
ignored that advice, refused to even put a price tag on what they were
doing, and the Congress now feels, correctly, that they were played
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I notice you've got a piece of paper in your
hands. Is that a -- are those gyp notes?
MR. BLANKLEY: These are actually notes. I rarely bring these to
the set, but I wanted --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this about some member of the set?
MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: The -- I don't want to be Pollyannish, but the
primary reason the public -- and Congress -- is so angry is because
they have such a limited and misleading picture of what's happening in
Iraq. And that's why I brought this note. Comparing Iraq rebuilding
with German, municipal governments were reestablished in Iraq within
two months. It took eight months before it happened in Germany after
World War II. As far having a cabinet in -- took four months in Iraq,
14 months in Germany after World War II. Having police forces begin
to be doing their services: two months in Iraq, 14 months in Germany.
The fact is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think you have a disparity in orders of
MR. BLANKLEY: Not given how many troops we have --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about Germany vis-a-vis Iraq.
MR. BLANKLEY: Germany was 50 million. This is 25 million. We
had a lot more resources in Germany at the end of World War II than we
No, in fact, by any fair measure, there's an extraordinary amount
of accomplishment (sic) that have occurred.
Now, yes, there's still violence, and it's still questionable how it's
going to work out, but no one gets the picture of anything being done.
All they get are the stories of these unfortunate terrorist attacks.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secretary of State Powell has proposed -- made
clear, in fact, in the form of at least a trial balloon, that there
ought to be a timetable. And the timetable for the writing of the
constitution, which would precede elections, which would precede the
formation of a government, which would precede the handing over
authority, should take place about six months hence, which brings it
up to about March or April.
Is that what you understand, or do you think that that should be
the case; the Iraqis ought to have something in front of them that's
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, look, I think that the idea of having the
Iraqis write a constitution is a wise idea. How long it should take
is another question. And how long after that constitution is in place
is an even more important question. The last thing in the world, it
seems to me, that we ought to do is to leave prematurely. If we leave
prematurely and we get a hostile government in place, that will be a
disaster. We'll end up with the worst of all possible worlds. It
took seven years to get out of Bosnia. We're in Kosovo four years;
we're still not out of Kosovo. Even East Timor took two years, never
mind Japan -- it took seven years. This is a really critical issue
for the United States. If the war in Iraq was a war of choice, the
postwar is a war of necessity. We must follow it out, or else we will
not only lose a great deal of our own prestige, but we will create so
much enthusiasm and momentum for the terrorists that it will be a
disaster for this country.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Mort --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it not true that the test, the final norm for
withdrawal on our part, ought to be whether or not Iraq can maintain
its national territorial borders, its integrity?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meaning that if there is a power vacuum there,
you run a threat from Iran, perhaps, renewing what it tried to do
earlier: move in there, or some other phenomenon, like the influx of
terrorists, who are already flowing in there, or some movement on
someone else's part.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, there's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't want a power vacuum. It's in our
interest to prevent that. Is that the ultimate criteria?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, that is not the ultimate criteria. You want
to make sure that the government of Iraq is not taken over by the
strong and the corrupt and the ruthless, who will then turn and
finance God knows what with the oil wealth that that country has.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Now, you know that --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We do not want that to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to maintain --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We do not want to have a hostile government in
Iraq after what we've just done.
MS. CLIFT: But you also --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. To maintain security is essential to
prevent a strongman from moving in or to prevent a power vacuum, which
would lead to all manners of evil, which would create a massive
increase in terrorism, correct?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. You also -- you --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It takes time to build from the bottom up.
MR. BUCHANAN: You know, all this is moot!
MS. CLIFT: You also -- you also --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I understand -- (inaudible) -- you have to
maintain the security, and we're the only ones doing that.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Correct.
MS. CLIFT: You also --
MR. BUCHANAN: It is all moot. I'll tell you why. Look, if what
you say is true, the president of the United States should get up
there and say it. If this takes five years or 10 years or 300,000 or
500,000 guys, we're going to do it. He's not saying that. Rumsfeld
is on the way out. The president clearly has an exit strategy here.
He's gone to the U.N. We need international troops. Nobody wants
more American troops, Mort. The thing is, he is going to take that
risk. And if he doesn't take it, he's taking a risk with his
MS. CLIFT: You also don't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he's added to that a timetable. The
timetable is --
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- spring, we'll have the constitution; June
will be the elections; July, there will be a government; and August,
they will transfer the power --
MS. CLIFT: All right, that's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and September, we begin the withdrawal of
MR. BUCHANAN: They're coming out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So, he's all set up for what? November. Now
the troops are coming out.
MR. BUCHANAN: Not only that, John; he's -- look, he can't
sustain -- Tony's right. We're losing five guys a week there. We
lost 150 Vietnam. America won't sustain casualties that way now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. You talked about you don't want a strongman
coming in to Iraq. You don't want one coming in Washington, either,
because a Democrat might win if this course continues as it is
currently proceeding. And there's the timetable they tell you about
for the constitution. There's a timetable they don't tell you about;
and informally, what you're hearing from military sources now is that
the White House has let the Pentagon know: No more American deaths
after March. How do they do that? They garrison the troops so they
don't get out anywhere, and you begin to bring them home. And I think
that's what's going to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I was surprised that you didn't point out in
that previous sound bite that those are all Democrats, and therefore,
they didn't speak for Congress. Is that your feeling?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. There are Republicans who --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are Republicans. I'm glad you brought it
Okay, it's not just Democrats. (Laughter.)
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R-CT): (From videotape.) We gave the
president the authority to go into Iraq ... we've given Donald
Rumsfeld almost a blank check. And I think, frankly, he's shown too
much hubris. He hasn't wanted to cooperate with Congress to the
extent I think he should; I don't even think he's cooperated with OMB.
That's where you have the control of the executive branch, and
they yet don't have numbers yet on what he spent money on, what he
intends to spend it on; what's the one-year plan, the five-year plan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Shays right? Has Rumsfeld been
vague about money?
MS. CLIFT: Of course he has, and so has the president, because
they didn't want to put a price tag on the war and the aftermath
because it would interfere with the tax cuts. This is the first
president who has taken us to war and also cut taxes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Eleanor, they did put a price tag on it.
It was $50 (billion) to $60 billion; do you remember that? Now, it's
$166 billion. So, Larry Lindsey looks like he was --
MS. CLIFT: That was -- (word inaudible). And they fired --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Larry Lindsey looks like he was right; between
$100 (billion) and $200 billion.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- on the mark.
MS. CLIFT: They fired the guy who put the higher price tag on
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Look --
MS. CLIFT: But listen. For all this kvetching, the Democrats
are going to support this. Congress is going to vote this, because
there is no exit at the moment.
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Time will tell.
(Begin video segment.)
SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R-UT): And in the early days of Vietnam,
everything was going well. Your predecessor, Secretary McNamara, had
the Congress absolutely convinced that everything was wonderful.
So, Mr. Secretary, I hope you do not become McNamara. I hope you
do not give us rosy scenarios that can't possibly play out. I hope
you remain as candid and blunt as you possibly can be.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I have bent over backwards trying to be as
forthright and candid and accurate and balanced in how I've
characterized what's taking place.
SEN. BENNETT: Thank you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I guess time will tell.
(End video segment.)
MS. CLIFT: Whoa.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What does Rumsfeld have in common
with McNamara, besides a bad haircut, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Almost nothing, other than they were both
secretaries of Defense. We all here remember Rumsfeld's mechanical,
inhuman, mathematical calculations --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean McNamara's.
MR. BLANKLEY: McNamara's. Rumsfeld has, from the beginning --
just take his public statements -- has shown his humanity. He's
identified all the things he was worried about before the war.
Remember his list? He told us he had a long list of all the things
that could go wrong. McNamara never had a list of things that could
go wrong. He said it was all going to go right. They're opposite, as
far as secretaries of Defense.
MS. CLIFT: I don't think he shared any of those --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I don't think he shared any of those concerns.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He did share them.
MS. CLIFT: No, that was the first moment of ambivalence I have
seen in the secretary of Defense.
MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know --
MS. CLIFT: And I must say the administration no longer exudes
the certainty it did, even just a few months ago.
MR. BUCHANAN: But, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.
Go ahead. Do you want to make a point?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, Rumsfeld is already under attack by the
neoconservatives because Rumsfeld has said he wants these troops
Look, people that think that Rumsfeld is an ideologue or working
the computers and he thinks that's going to win, this man is a very
capable politician; three times elected to Congress; maneuvered around
the bureaucracy. He's much more flexible and able than McNamara was.
Tony's dead right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he knows where things are moving in the
country and everywhere?
MR. BUCHANAN: McNamara was an automaton.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but he's exactly like McNamara in one
sense -- his unshakable faith in his own judgment, and his unshakable,
almost reprehensible self-assuredness.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But let me just say one other thing. In Vietnam,
we had 500,000 troops. We Americanized the war. We undercut the
Here we are trying to get fewer American boots on the ground, so
to speak. The general in command said we want fewer American boots,
we want more Iraqi boots. They understand they're going to turn as
much of the security as they can over to the Iraqis. What he said is
we don't need more troops, we need better intelligence. They're going
at it a completely different way from Vietnam. This is not Vietnam.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It took McNamara 30 years to accept the fact
that he had made a mistake, and he wrote a mea culpa book. How long
will it take Rumsfeld to realize he made a mistake?
MR. BLANKLEY: As soon as we find out it is a mistake. And as he
said, time will tell.
MR. BUCHANAN: Never. Never.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Never?
MR. BUCHANAN: He's not going to -- neither will the president.
The president believes he was right.
MR. : Absolutely, the president's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, well, maybe this will change his mind --
the Bush ratings drop. He's now at his lowest of his presidency -- 49
percent. A year ago, Mr. Bush's job approval was 64 percent.
Do you want to exegete that away also, Tony?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, I was in the Reagan White House in
'83. I think Pat may have been there about the same time. At that
point, Reagan was running behind Mondale in the poll. And the great
fear -- and I had a little piece in expressing this fear in a memo --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the name of that paper?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, this is the Reagan White House, 1983.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I see.
MR. BLANKLEY: We were afraid that "The Right Stuff" movie with
John Glenn was going to vault him up into a formidable candidacy.
So, the year before an election is very often a nervous period
for a White House, and it should be for this one, and they are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the third year of the first term for any
president is a horrible year.
MR. BUCHANAN: Bush is stronger now than Reagan was and than
Nixon was, and Reagan and Nixon each won 49 states.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Can Congress unload blame for giving Bush
an Iraq blank check by saying that they were misled, even deceived?
Eleanor has already touched on this.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, they cannot, for the simple reason that Teddy
Kennedy and Bobby Byrd and Kucinich and Howard Dean and some members
of this panel opposed giving the president a blank check. The
Democrats that did, behaved out of cowardice. And Eleanor is right,
if it had been a secret vote, they probably would have voted against
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: And they're going to vote for the $87 billion, and
they're going to get heat for that because they are now in this with
Bush; they're going to share the blame in the eyes of the American
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that right?
What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: Or they may share the credit at the end of the
process. I mean, you are just completely defeatist. If this works
out well, you're going to see Democratic and Republican congressmen
next year campaigning saying, "I voted the president the money to
rebuild Iraq." So, it could go either way. I'm not predicting one
or the other.
MS. CLIFT: Oh! I'm sure you're not! (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: But it could as easily go that way, and probably
MS. CLIFT: I don't think as easily.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do think that the sticker shock of the $87
billion is really having a big impact at the moment. And the question
-- whether or not I think the Democrats will vote in favor of it, I
don't see how they can get out of it.
On the other hand, as you say, a lot's going to depend over what
happens in the next year and how things go in Iraq. I'm more
optimistic about Iraq, for example, than I am about the economy.
So I think Bush is going to be in trouble because he's got two thing
going against him. Not just Iraq, but more than anything else, the
economy is going against him at this point, and has been for three
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is that Bush will take the bigger
When we come back: Arnold debuts in a California debate. With
the election barely 10 days away, who's got the "mo"?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Hit Me With Your Best Shot.
(Music: Pat Benatar's performance of "Hit Me with Your Best
Shot," played over footage of candidates in the California
(Begin video segment.)
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON (gubernatorial candidate, I-CA): And who is
going to fight the administration when they are basically costing us
jobs? And it's completely hypocritical of Arnold to come here --
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (gubernatorial candidate, R-CA): Arianna,
we're talking about the car tax right now and not about education.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Let me finish. Let me finish.
MR. SCHWARZENEGGER: And whenever we get to the -- we get to --
MS. HUFFINGTON: You know, this is completely impolite. This is
the way you treat women; we know that. But not now.
MS. SCHWARZENEGGER: I just realized that I have a perfect part
for you in "Terminator 4." (Laughter, applause.)
MODERATOR: Lady, gentlemen! You know, I am a traffic cop.
(End video segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The "Terminator" star took part in his first --
and last, he says -- debate this week. It's all systems go, now that
the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the earlier three-judge
panel ruling that the recall should be postponed until March. The
recall election is now definitely slated to take place on October the
7th, one week from Tuesday.
State Senator Tom McClintock stayed above the fray and stressed
SENATOR TOM MCCLINTOCK (gubernatorial candidate, R-CA): (From
videotape.) I am the only candidate at this table who has signed a
no-tax pledge. I'm the only candidate who supports the entire Bill of
Rights, including our Second Amendment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante stressed
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR CRUZ BUSTAMANTE (gubernatorial candidate, D-
CA): (From videotape.) In that plan, I raise tobacco taxes, I raise
alcohol taxes, I raise the upper income tax bracket on the largest and
the highest 4 percent of all Californians.
I actually agree with Peter about universal health care.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Mr. Schwarzenegger was having none of it.
MR. SCHWARZENEGGER: (From videotape.) What Cruz is suggesting,
that they gain -- they do have health care and have the companies pay
for it, they cannot do it right now.
I am the only one here that has run businesses.
It's easy for you to sit there, because you are only used to
signing the check in the back, but not on the front. You've never
signed a check --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did Arnold hurt his standing with
female voters, Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I thought he was incredibly patronizing towards
Arianna. But she knows how to handle herself, so it's hard -- I don't
really feel sorry for her either.
I thought he hurt himself with all voters, because he really
missed an opportunity. What does Arnold Schwarzenegger stand for
except tired old lines from his movies? He really had an opportunity
to put forth his big, bold plan for California, and he didn't do it.
I think if the trend line holds, Gray Davis may well pull on out --
MR. BLANKLEY: There you go again, Eleanor! There you go again!
(Laughter, cross talk.)
MS. CLIFT: You all loved him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want --
MR. BUCHANAN: He wiped up the floor with everybody!
MS. CLIFT: Oh, please.
MR. BUCHANAN: He showed humor! The polls show he won the debate
and McClintock came in second. Arianna was -- 57 percent thought she
was terrible! He used her as a foil! I mean, frankly, he has the
momentum now to win this thing, as a consequence of that debate, and
there's tremendous pressure, because of that debate, on McClintock to
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or pull out.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he can't pull out now. His word is too
solid out there.
MS. CLIFT: Well, how does --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No politician's word is that -- too solid, under
any circumstances. It's a metaphysical impossibility.
MR. BUCHANAN: Some guys will go over the cliff with flags
flying, John. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that Arnold is too much "Conan
the Barbarian" and not enough "Kindergarten Cops" (sic)?
MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)
MR. BUCHANAN: Male guys watching TV love feminists being
pounded, especially Arianna --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is no -- there's no question about it;
this guy is a --
MS. CLIFT: That's the secret to your success, right, Pat?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The one clear winner in this thing, too, it seems
to me, is Davis. I mean, this is a circus beyond belief.
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, I disagree.
MR. BUCHANAN: And you are -- Davis is sinking like a stone. He
challenged Arnold to a debate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: If you're the governor and you challenge Arnold to
a debate, you're losing.
MS. CLIFT: No --
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Bustamante still leading, as the Los Angeles
Times poll says?
MR. BUCHANAN: We'll find out Monday. My guess is, Arnold will
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it oversample Latinos and blacks?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I mean, if it's a Field Poll, probably does.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, the Field Poll does not. The L.A. Times
poll does. That's my understanding. You figure that out, Pat, and
report next week. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I was just going to make a point about -- I
think that the reason the debate helped -- hurt Davis is because it
reenergized the electorate that had been kind of depressed after the
9th Circuit decision. So I disagree with you. I think this hurt
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. We all agree that going into the next
week of campaigning, the final week before -- a week from Tuesday's
election, the man who -- the candidate who has the big "mo" is Arnold
Schwarzenegger, do we not? Okay, let's move on.
MS. CLIFT: No, I don't agree. (Laughter.) I'm the gender gap!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One exception. You're out there by yourself.
MS. CLIFT: Okay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're out there by yourself.
MS. CLIFT: All right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's move on.
Issue three: And then there were 10.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (U.S. Army, retired): (From videotape.) We
elected a president we thought was a compassionate conservative.
Instead we got neither conservatism nor compassion. We got a man who
recklessly cut taxes. We got a man who recklessly took us into war
I've got a better job plan in eight days than George Bush had in
three years in this country.
I am pro-choice. I am pro-affirmative action. I'm pro-
environment, pro-health. I believe the United States should engage
with allies. We should be a good player in the international
community, and we should use force only as a last resort. That's why
I'm proud to be a Democrat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In New York this week at Pace University,
General Wesley Clark joined the nine other Democrats in his debut
Question: Did Wesley Clark score a touchdown? I ask you, Tony
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think he barely moved down the field at all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you heard what he said. He said he's pro-
MR. BLANKLEY: (Chuckling.) I know. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's also pro-environment.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I mean, it was the minimum necessary to be
plausible as a presidential contender. The fact that -- to have to
make the excuse that I haven't had a chance to think about what my
position is on one issue after the other strikes me as not helpful.
But I'll tell you the most interesting evidence of, I think,
supporting my view. The -- is the other candidates didn't go after
him. They went after Dean, because they know that Dean's the front-
runner, notwithstanding this bubble --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, that's one reason why they didn't go after
Dean (sic). What's another reason why?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, I do think that why they went --
they went after Dean. Dean was the pinata. Dean was the pinata at
this whole thing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, excuse me. Why they did not go after Wesley
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, because I think Wesley Clark, frankly, is
one of the few people in that party who speaks to the issue that is
really critical, which is how do they pose a security strength, as a
political issue, against Bush? And Wes Clark is the only one who
gives them that credibility.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: They didn't go after him because they're waiting to
see if he self-destructs or he fades.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: I mean, he's still a question mark. Can he live up
to his resume?
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The reason why is they don't know what to do
with him yet.
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh! Everybody knows what to do with him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, they don't want to build him, because they
feel, as we all feel, that he got excessive publicity last week. Is
that true or false? The press helped to build Wesley Clark.
MS. CLIFT: Well, he answers a yearning in the country and in the
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, this --
MS. CLIFT: And his resume is brilliant. Can he live up to his
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He did not engage them, and they did not engage
him. He was AWOL. He was on duty by reason of his being present --
that's all -- in that debate.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. They did not engage him --
MR. BLANKLEY: You're absolutely right.
MR. BUCHANAN: They did not engage him because they don't see him
as a threat.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. BUCHANAN: And he succeeded in the debate simply because he
did not throw an interception.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The focus --
MR. BUCHANAN: They were looking for a turnover.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The focus of the attacks.
The debates show that the insiders still fear Howard Dean, not
Wesley Clark. It is Dean who is the front-runner. So, Dick Gephardt,
of "George Bush is a miserable failure!" fame, took out the box cutter
(Begin video segment.)
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO): At our darkest hour, when I was
leading the fight against Newt Gingrich and the Contract With America,
he was shutting the government down -- Howard, you were agreeing with
the very plan that Newt Gingrich wanted to pass, which was a $270
billion cut in Medicare. Now, you've been saying for many months that
you're the head of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. I
think you're just winging it.
HOWARD DEAN: That is flat-out false, and I'm ashamed that you
would compare me with Newt Gingrich. Nobody up here deserves to be
compared to Newt Gingrich. (Applause.)
(End video segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Okay, Tony, do you think Howard Dean
should be compared to newt Gingrich?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, I know Newt Gingrich; Newt Gingrich is
a friend of mine. (Laughter.) And Howard Dean is no Newt Gingrich.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long did you work for Newt Gingrich?
MR. BLANKLEY: Seven years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Seven years?
MR. BLANKLEY: Seven wonderful years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you do for him?
MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughing.) Not enough, apparently. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what did you do?
MR. BLANKLEY: I was his press secretary.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You were his press secretary. Were you his
MR. BLANKLEY: I was his friend. We still are, yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you hold him in high regard?
MR. BLANKLEY: I do. Look, the fact is that all these attacks on
Dean aren't working. He's slipping and sliding right off them. And I
think he walked out of that debate completely unbloodied.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we all agree on that?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yep.
MS. CLIFT: I agree with that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we all agree on that.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Tom McClintock will not get out of the California
race, but if the polls show Arnold surging up to where Bustamante is,
he will give indications that it's acceptable for his people to go to
defeat the Democratic Party, Bustamante and Davis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's hope that they go to Arnold and don't sit
MS. CLIFT: The effort to split off the money for Iraq
reconstruction from the money to support the troops will fail. It's a
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Major asbestos reform legislation will pass, and
it's going to create tens of thousands of jobs.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're repeating an older prediction; you know
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Interest rates will remain low well into next
year. But alas, it means that the economy is going to be weaker next
year than most people expect.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Geoffrey Hoon, the Rumsfeld of Great Britain,
will be sacked by Tony Blair shortly.
Happy Rosh Hashanah. Gut Yomtov. Bye-bye.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Don't be afraid to just call me.
REP. JOHN DINGELL (D-MI): (From videotape.) The American people
do not want these miserable calls. They regard them as a particular
annoyance when they're eating dinner. And as I have observed earlier,
they are as popular as a skunk at a church picnic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Telemarketers are the skunks. Over the past
several months, 50 million Americans signed up for the Federal Trade
Commission's "do-not-call" registry. People on that list chose not to
have their homes invaded by infuriating telemarketer phone calls.
But a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled this week that Congress and
the FCC do not have the authority to implement such a list. So, on
Thursday the House and the Senate sprang into life and immediately
voted to override the judge's ruling. The Senate vote reinstituting
the "do-not-call-me" list was 95 to zero. The House was 412 to eight.
(Laughter.) Also, a second federal judge, by the way, stayed the
list, upholding the telemarket. The FTC is going to appeal.
Question: What happens now?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the president will sign the congressional
bill. That solves the problem from the first court. The second court
opinion was based on constitutional grounds and cannot be fixed by
statute, and so that's going to have to be appealed up to the higher
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, it can be fixed by statute; i.e., change
the statute. What the Congress can do to avert this judicial invasion
or insertion of itself is rule-in charitable institutions and rule-in
political calls so that there are no exceptions. Right now the
problem emanates from trying to split off commercial calls from
charitable and political calls.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but they're not going to do that. They have
to allow churches to be able to call their parishioners.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They don't have to do that. There's such a
thing as direct mail.