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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: PAT BUCHANAN, TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT, AND PAMELA HESS

TAPED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 25-26, 2003



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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Memo from hell.

The public got a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the Bush administration this week. A sensitive memorandum from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to his Pentagon brain trust was leaked. Rumsfeld's first question in the memo: Are we winning or losing the global war on terror?

Item: No decisive blow against terrorists has been struck.

Despite two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the expenditure of scores of billions of dollars in the global war on terrorism, Rumsfeld says, quote, "a great many al Qaeda remain at large." And with the Taliban, we've made, quote, "slower progress."

Hitherto, the administration has portrayed the war in Iraq as the central front in the global war on terrorism. This memorandum suggests that Iraq is not the central front in the global war on terrorism. The war must be waged elsewhere, where the al Qaeda actually are. In this sense, Rumsfeld contradicts the White House's and the Pentagon's public posture earlier.

Item: No long-range plan.

Rumsfeld worries that the Bush administration has no strategy for stopping the next generation of terrorists. Quote: "The U.S. is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' cost of millions."

Item: The counterproductive war.

Rumsfeld asked the brass whether the current situation is this: quote, "the harder we work, the behinder we get," unquote. Rumsfeld is here questioning whether our effort in Iraq is counterproductive, whether we're turning the country against us -- hence the news of escalating attacks against U.S. forces this week -- and in a larger sense, whether we are creating more enemies worldwide than we are defeating.

Since the publication of the memo, Rumsfeld has insisted that there is nothing in it that contradicts his earlier public statements. But both the language and the tone of this document is more doubt- ridden than any of Rumsfeld's public positions earlier, with the overall thrust of the memo showing that we went into Iraq half-cocked and didn't think through our strategy, many believe. And now that the rosy scenario has been proven wrong, we're grasping for what to do next.

Rumsfeld says the U.S. can win in Iraq and in Afghanistan, quote, "one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog," unquote. This trenchant remark by Rumsfeld stands in contradiction to President Bush's bold assertion last spring, six months ago, that the major fighting in Iraq is over.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat Buchanan, what's behind this memorandum?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is not sensitive at all. This memorandum was written to be leaked. This memorandum is Donald Rumsfeld's application to be deputy president for national security and the conduct of war in the second term. He's talking about intelligence, all these new agencies, institutions having all to be drawn together, drawn together behind the top guy. The reason I'm telling you it was meant to be leaked, he sent it to Wolfowitz, who has heard this a thousand times, as has Feith.

Now, what does it do? It advances the Pentagon's case that we are tough-minded realists; we understand what this war is all about. It completely undercuts the "happy talk" coming from places like the White House. His problem, Rumsfeld, is he is asking questions now that should have been asked before they went into Iraq and before they went to war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, Rumsfeld committed truth. I mean, he is basically laying out the reality of the situation in Iraq. Whether he deliberately leaked it or not, this is a mini-"Pentagon Papers," because what it does is it strips away the "happy talk" and, just like that Nixon-era document revealed the true nature of what was going on in Vietnam, this lets us know what's going on inside the administration and how they actually view this.

And it really goes to the core of a growing credibility gap for this president, because he's running around saying things are much better than they seem, and this memo says, no, things are worse than they see . And I think Donald Rumsfeld -- a lot of people have trouble with his style and his manner, he's imperious, but I think he spoke the truth in this memo. It's about time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any CYA in the memorandum, in the sense that he says that the institution is unfit for what it's being asked to do, a new institution may be needed? He raises that question. Is he, therefore, saying the fault is not the personnel who run the institution, the fault is the deficiency of the institution, the Pentagon?

MS. CLIFT: He was for the minimalist strategy and the small number of troops. And frankly, the troops there are not trained for police work. but if there were more of them from the beginning, we would be in a better situation today.

He may be attempting to do some CYA, but it won't work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It won't work. The wrapper's stuck to him.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, I don't know where to start. Look. First of all, Pat says he should have been thinking about this before. He was. He gave me personally a list of quotes from him going from before September 11th regarding some of these issues. He announced in the press before the war his long list of worries about what could go wrong, and checking it and double-checking it. The reason he issued the memo, as he said, was to create a sense of urgency within the Pentagon.

Now, he understands, we all understand you cannot create a sense of urgency inside a building as large as the Pentagon where the information eventually isn't going to come out. So that doesn't matter.

I think this is a wonderful memo. It's one, doubtlessly, of many. This is his habit -- by the way, the same habit that Winston Churchill had -- of constantly crafting very tough questions, worrying about what could go wrong. Churchill's comments about the North Atlantic campaign, I was reading this a couple of nights ago. Just as concerned sometimes as that.

This is the kind of critical thinking that we need from our leaders and we've been getting from Rumsfeld and from others in this administration from the beginning.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Rumsfeld is another Churchill?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, he -- I'll tell you, he is as close as we've got, as far as a war manager as a civilian.

MS. CLIFT: That's pretty scary! (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: That's scary?

MS. CLIFT: That's scary that he's --

MR. BLANKLEY: We won the last war --

(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- do you think on the basis --

MS. CLIFT: We haven't won anything yet, Tony! We haven't won anything yet!

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm talking about World War II. Churchill won that one.

MS. CLIFT: It's scary that he's close to Churchill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you talked to Mr. Rumsfeld recently?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. We met with him yesterday afternoon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is "we"?

MR. BLANKLEY: A couple of senior editors of the Washington Times and a couple of reporters.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think you were brainwashed? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think my brain is unwashed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a very compelling personality. You allow for that?

MR. BLANKLEY: I've -- we've met with him --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BLANKLEY: We've met with him a number of times. He's always a remarkably --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Rumsfeld cautioned against going into Iraq and doing what we did there, or do you think he was behind it, total bore, especially in the light of what we've read in the book, "Bush At War," and in other sources?

MR. BLANKLEY: I can't speculate. But if I were guessing, I would guess that he recognizes the need to confront terrorism on several fronts, Afghanistan and Iraq amongst them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you don't think when he was at the hearings and he and his aides were asked to talk about what they thought the aftermath of the war was like, you don't think that he had any second thoughts about what would happen after the war was over?

MR. BLANKLEY: Everybody has second thoughts about any topic, if you have a high intelligence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he didn't have it before we went in?

MS. CLIFT: He didn't voice them.

MR. BLANKLEY: You don't express every single negative thought in your mind.

MS. CLIFT: No, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is a rather negative thought.

(Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Unless you're on this show!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You got two parts, before and after!

You were at the -- you attended the briefing?

MS. HESS: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he used the word "slog." Does that have overtones of Vietnam?

MS. HESS: Insofar as to an American mind, I think most people hear "slog" and think of walking through a muddy bog, which is the American Heritage Dictionary's definition of it. And the muddy bog, obviously, brings up "quagmire," which is a word they've been trying to avoid using.

But Rumsfeld, very cleverly, used the Oxford English Dictionary definition of "slog" and it was a noun: a long hard fight with many blows. But I think, you know the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are your impressions of what's transpired?

MS. HESS: To people inside the Pentagon and to people who know Rumsfeld and the way he thinks and the way he talks, and especially the Pentagon reporters who get an awful lot of access with him off the record, there was nothing surprising that was in the memo.

Because we -- he's very -- he's incredibly disciplined verbally and he doesn't say things -- if you go back and look through the record and read through the transcripts, you won't find the "happy gladness" from Rumsfeld. I think you might find it from other quarters in the administration.

And interestingly, one of the questions that came up during the briefing was, "Mr. Rumsfeld, is there a difference between what you and what the rest of the administration is saying?" And his answer didn't respond to that. His answer said, "What we are saying here from this podium is what we have always said." And that was true. But there is a difference --

MR. BUCHANAN: John? John?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.

MS. HESS: There is a difference between the two. And the problem that I think Rumsfeld is now facing is that for the last month, the Pentagon and the White House has been on a charm initiative with regard to how things are going in Iraq. And so while Rumsfeld I don't think is contradicting himself ever, what he is contradicting is a tone that they've been trying to reach.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, isn't he making an enemy in this out of Cheney? Cheney has been grandstanding in favor of the war, so many think. Is not Rumsfeld here pulling the rug out from underneath him and Condi Rice and the president himself?

MS. HESS: I don't think so, actually, and I don't believe that this was intentionally leaked.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How can you possibly say that? These were very grim statements --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it completely undercuts the president's -- look --

MS. HESS: I think that ultimately -- I think ultimately, Rumsfeld ends up being the hero in this piece, because he's got a long-term view of things, and I think ultimately -- (inaudible) --

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, he's a hero for the memo, all right.

MS. HESS: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of Pat's theory that Rumsfeld wants to be deputy president to control terrorism using -- (laughter) --

MS. HESS: (Laughs.) I profoundly disagree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- bringing in, as he says, seamlessly --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- all of these different strands.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he has completely undercut this whole PR campaign we've had for a month; all these codels going over.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he hasn't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- going over; they're all coming back positive: We're doing this, we're doing that. And he's saying, in effect, this is a long slog; we don't even have the metrics, which sounds like Robert McNamara.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did he --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: He's undercutting the president.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he's not!

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me! Let me finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just let her finish!

MS. CLIFT: He's undercutting the president, who says that the news media has imposed a filter.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MS. CLIFT: And here he comes, he's Mr. Filter himself, with a very sour --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me -- let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish!

MS. CLIFT: -- with a very sour assessment of the way this war is going and of the way we have diverted our resources --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did he do it? Why did he do it, Eleanor?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me -- let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did he do it?

MS. CLIFT: One, it could be a savvy bureaucratic play, but I don't think even Donald Rumsfeld is that petty. I think maybe he's trying to get everybody --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we -- just a moment!

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I want to get --

MS. CLIFT: Maybe he's really scared about where we're headed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we take it -- well, let me finish, and then you can take it on.

MS. CLIFT: It's like a peanut gallery over here! (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Always a back row challenge!

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: Macadamia nut, please. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get back on my train of thought here.

Is it possible we can take the memorandum at its face value; that he's raising a red flag, and the red flag is that this Pentagon and our military is unsuited for this action?

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We are not going to be able to get renewals from the National Guards that are over there, from the reservists. We are losing too many men. We've got about 2,000 wounded.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait. Wait, wait, wait.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got over 300 dead. We've got to get out of this situation. And what you really need --

MS. CLIFT: The next memo --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is that you really need a new department.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: A new department and a new leader. John, look at it! There is no sensitive on that thing. It's not secret. There is no automatic FBI investigation when it's leaked. It was meant to be leaked as Donald Rumsfeld's manifesto: how to win this war.

MR. BLANKLEY: Okay, let me make one response.

MS. CLIFT: It doesn't say how to win it, though. It says --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make -- (laughter) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Tony in here!

MR. BLANKLEY: My one response: You say it's inconsistent with the president's charm offensive. It's not true at all. The president has been saying, incorrectly, that the media has been reporting Iraq as worse than it is. This doesn't say that the media has been right in reporting it that way. And the fact is that the media had been underreporting the good news. Now, they're doing a somewhat better job as a result of that offensive. Notwithstanding the fact that the media had underreported it, there were still an awful lot of big challenges, and this is what this memo reflects.

MS. HESS: If I can jump in on the media underreporting the negativity --

MR. BLANKLEY: And there's no inconsistency between the two.

MS. HESS: I was there for two months, and I was one of those that reported both positive and negative, and the change that I saw in the media -- it was coincidental with the White House push to get better coverage.

MR. BLANKLEY: Right.

MS. HESS: But at the same time, it was when Paul Bremer came out and actually gave some very compelling, honest testimony to Congress, recognizing what the problems were.

MR. BLANKLEY: And maybe there was a coordination between the White House and Bremer on that.

MS. HESS: And I think when the administration finally changed its tune, which is that not everything is happy and wonderful in Iraq, but there are good things, then the media felt like they could get on board. Okay, that seems realistic.

MR. BUCHANAN: What do you think Rumsfeld('s) motives was?

MS. HESS: On writing this memo?

MR. BUCHANAN: On writing it and seeing it get out and laughing about the fact it's out?

MS. HESS: I still have a problem with your assertion that he saw that it get out -- if there's anyone in Washington --

MR. BUCHANAN: It was meant to be leaked.

MS. HESS: If there's anyone in Washington who loathes leaks, it's this man. So I don't think that he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was accidentally leaked?

MR. BUCHANAN: Why would you -- (inaudible) -- leak?

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or it was deliberately leaked, but without his authority?

MS. HESS: I believe it was of -- every leak is deliberate -- (laughter) -- without their authority. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it was not -- the leak was not promoted by Rumsfeld or his staff.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it was --

MS. HESS: I don't think that -- really, the thing that I have discovered about Rumsfeld in watching him very closely is that his loyalty lies with the president, not with Congress, not with the American people.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MS. HESS: He feels like he has a job to do, and --

MS. CLIFT: He --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When he used the word "metrics," did anyone in the audience refer back mentally to Robert McNamara and his preoccupation with metrics, which was war dead --

MS. CLIFT: Body --

MR. BUCHANAN: Body --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and how many body counts of the Viet Cong we could --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and the various models -- computer models he could establish?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look --

MR. BUCHANAN: You should know the metrics of victory before you go to war, John. He doesn't even know them yet. He doesn't know what --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what -- he says he doesn't know how to calculate whether we're winning or losing.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he can calculate by intelligence if he had spies on the ground.

MS. HESS: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then he says maybe the CIA needs a new finding. What is a new --

MS. HESS: Okay. You understand that I didn't actually create the war on terror.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the new finding?

MS. HESS: The new finding with the CIA?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is a finding?

MS. HESS: A finding with the CIA is a direction telling the CIA what it is, what the target seems to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From whom? From who?

MS. HESS: It would come from the president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Explicit.

MS. HESS: Explicit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it permits the CIA to engage in highly covert activity.

MS. HESS: Correct. Against a specific target.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you give me an example what he may have in mind?

MS. HESS: I can't. I actually asked around about that today and was unable to come up with anything. It's highly classified.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think they're concerned that they now know, apparently, the locations of Osama bin Laden.

MS. HESS: I'm not sure that they would need a new finding.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they need a new finding, because Musharraf will not go in and get him. Therefore, they will have to send the CIA in, Special Ops --

MS. HESS: (That's a great story ?).

MR. BUCHANAN: Maybe they have to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Special Ops. Look it up.

MR. BUCHANAN: Maybe they want to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you don't have to -- you don't even have to credit me.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Maybe they want to something about Syria, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: Maybe they want to do something about Syria, and they need a new finding for that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think so. (Cross talk.) I think they're more concerned about the fact that they're in possession of this knowledge, they want to get him, the CIA goes in with Special -- its Special Ops, and then they get Special Ops from the military in there, but without the authorization from the government of Pakistan. That requires a covert permission from the president. You haven't heard anything about that?

MS. HESS: I haven't, but I like it.

MS. CLIFT: You know, Rumsfeld may be a larger than life figure in his own mind and in the mind of a lot of people in Washington, but he doesn't have any allies on Capitol Hill.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. We --

MS. CLIFT: And the way he handled General Boykin and those incredibly stupid and insensitive remarks about religion --

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh! You don't want to bring that one up. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. We don't want to get off on Boykin.

MS. CLIFT: -- about religion and -- (inaudible) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to talk about Tenet.

MR. BLANKLEY: They've been tolerant on --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is a new Senate report on the subject of the intelligence community. Is Tenet being set up to take the fall also for what Rumsfeld is talking about?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no. Here's what's surprising about that report, is that Rockefeller has signed on to it. And it goes right after the CIA, however, not the neocons, not the crowd over -- that little crowd at Defense, not Rumsfeld, but it goes after the CIA, and you've got a Democrat and Republican signing on. I think what's going to happen is the CIA is going to get its side of the story out, and it's not going to be "we did it," it's going to be "they did it."

MS. CLIFT: But the Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, Rockefeller is -- what did you say?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he's a Democrat, and it's surprising that he has stood up and supported the idea that it was not --

MS. CLIFT: The Republicans have blocked it, and the White House --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, Rockefeller stood up and said: I think this is very clear that the White House is trying to move this over to the CIA, moving the blame for the Iraq fiasco over to them.

MR. BLANKLEY: That was rhetoric.

MR. BUCHANAN: That was later.

MR. BLANKLEY: But that committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, traditionally works on a bipartisan basis, and this is another example. And they are focusing on the CIA, according to all reports. The report has not been released yet, but according to all -- people who have seen it. And that's certainly the major place to look for intelligence. I'm confident, as Pat says, that other analyses will come after.

(Cross talk, laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'd like to know what impact this has on the Republican zeitgeist.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's a realistic memo about what the situation is, but I do believe it undercuts the idea that we're really winning in Iraq. What has been opened --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're not going to my question. My question is, what does it do to the Republicans' outlook on the upcoming election?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, this is exactly what I'm saying, that Iraq moves away from being a great victory and now becomes a real problem with a possibility of failure.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. What happens then? Rove, Karl Rove for two years has been saying that if the Republicans want to get on a wagon and cross the winning line, the best way to do it is to recognize that George Bush stands for security, not --

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, here's Rove's strategy. Rove wants the -- it's four words: No war in 2004. He wants to start bringing them out of there and not go after Syria and not go after Iran in an election year.

MS. CLIFT: What it does to the Republican zeitgeist, they're all looking for the exit signs, and they're --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're crushed.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they in panic? Are they in panic?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the possibility that this war could turn out to be a failure is certainly out there, and they figure they got six months to turn this around.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's our happy warrior right here on the left.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He thinks everything is as smooth as ice -- as glass. Right?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, Hubert Humphrey, "the Happy Warrior." Look.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was Al Smith.

MR. BLANKLEY: Hubert Humphrey was also.

MR. BUCHANAN: Al Smith was the first one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Well, that gives me a little bit of history (he's ?) unaware of.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look. I know Karl Rove a little bit. I'm sure you folks do, too. If there's one thing I know about him, it's he hasn't told anyone on this panel what his strategy is for the next election cycle, because he's much too shrewd a guy to give that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, his strategy's been pulled out from underneath him.

MR. BLANKLEY; You can guess what it is. When he talked about security and terrorism, he wasn't saying, as I understand it, he wasn't saying we're going to win a war by a particular point. He was saying the country was concerned about terrorism and they have confidence in this president to deal with it, not that we're going to win the war on terrorism by 2004. President Bush said the war was going to go on for decades. And obviously, it's going to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look. The war strategy of the president and his conduct of the war was the main plank of the Rove platform to the Republicans. Now that strategy has been pulled out from underneath him and it's panicked -- it has panicked him. The strategy is not working, Rumsfeld said so.

MR. BUCHANAN: Rove said, in 2002, we're going to talk up the idea of the victories we've had here, the president's leadership; it's our big talking point in 2002. And it may be problematic in 2004.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is this memo politically damaging to Bush? Yes or no.

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it swept aside the good news, happy news stuff coming out of Iraq, totally undermined it; gives a pessimistic note. And people are much more realistic now all over the country and in the party as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that mean good news or bad news?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not -- well, it's the truth, and the truth is probably a little bit of bad news.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's happy or sad that this memorandum was released?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he wonders what Rumsfeld is up to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: It's bad news for the White House because it indicates that they're thinking differently internally than the public face they're putting on, so there's a credibility gap. And that goes to the trust issue, and it undercuts the president as he goes back to the American people and asks for four more years. I think the confidence in his leadership on this particular issue is eroding.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think that it -- by being truthful and realistic, it sets a more realistic assessment of what the public should expect. Whether that's good news or bad news remains to be seen. I, personally, feel comfortable that some of the giddy talk that we've heard from some quarters is no longer going to be out there, and now a mature assessment of our policy and our challenges is ahead. I think that's good for the country. Whether it's good for a particular party or not, we'll see.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pamela Hess?

MS. HESS: I think it's bad for the White House, but ultimately good for Rumsfeld. I think it cements his reputation as a straight talker, which is something that's pretty close to his heart.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The pollsters are detecting that the public feels and is perceiving that this administration is in over its head in Iraq and is now in a state of drift as to what to do. I think this memorandum supports that perception, and I think it's very bad for George Bush.

When we come back: Is Bush the warrior out and Bush the diplomat in?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president is transforming himself, it seems, from the warrior to the diplomat. Is it a good move, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's good politically, but he better watch himself. The Bush doctrine is being challenged in Iran and North Korea, and if he lets it go down the drain, he's going to have a problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, good move or bad move?

MS. CLIFT: It's a good move. It's a recognition of reality. There are no credible military options in any of those places.

MR. BLANKLEY: The war on terrorism is going to have both diplomacy and military in different proportions. We may be into a brief diplomatic period of focus. We're going to have more wars. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: War in the second term? More war?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Militarism will ultimately rule.

What do you say?

MS. HESS: It's interesting that the gang that brought us preemption is now offering a security guarantee to North Korea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a great move and he should be congratulated.

We'll be right back.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Advertisers will bail on CBS's anti-Reagan show, "The Reagans."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Michigan will allow Internet voting in the Democratic caucus next year for the first time, giving Howard Dean an edge in a labor state that Richard Gephardt ought to win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: General Clark will be down to single digits in national polling within 60 days.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pamela?

MS. HESS: Roger Clemens hasn't thrown his last pitch. He'll be on the U.S. 2004 baseball team in the Olympics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye.

END OF REGULAR SEGMENT PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS

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PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Terri's Story.

The long story of Terri Schiavo is the most bitter right-to-die case in memory. Nineteen-ninety: Twenty-six-year-old Terri went into cardiac arrest. She suffered massive brain damage from it and has been kept alive by feeding tubes ever since. Nineteen-ninety-eight: Her husband, Michael, her legal guardian, tried to have the tubes removed. That effort pitted husband Michael against Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and brother Bob Jr., who want to keep Terri alive. Husband Michael says Terri told him she would not want to be kept alive.

Terri has no living will. Absent such a living will, Florida's right-to-die law stipulates that testimony about the desires of people on life support can be considered by the court.

So a six-year battle between husband Michael and the parents, before 19 judges in six different courts, ended this October, when on the 15th, some 10 days ago, by court order, Terri's feeding tube was removed. All water and nourishment was halted.

Then, six days later, in an unprecedented move, the state legislature of Florida intervened and granted Governor Jeb Bush the authority to circumvent the court and reinsert the tube. Bush did so.

GOVERNOR JEB BUSH (R-FL): (From videotape.) No, I'm not playing God. I -- at all. I have been troubled that -- of this whole tragic case for the family, for Terri Schiavo, for her husband as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did Jeb Bush push for this legislation for reasons that are primarily political or primarily humanitarian, Pamela Hess?

MS. HESS: I can't speak to what was in his heart when he made the decision, but I do think it's interesting that the Florida legislature and Jeb Bush decided to get involved in a case where they saw that the courts were fallible, and life and death was on the line, when in the case of capital punishment you have -- they say that the courts are infallible, that guilt is definite, and life and death is also on the line, but they don't intervene. So I think there's an irony there.

MS. CLIFT: I think it's more than coincidental that the speaker of the Florida House, who really pressed for this legislation, is running for the U.S. Senate. And the state of Florida is in play in the presidential campaign, and I think Jeb Bush wants to make sure he delivers for his brother.

And this is an emotional issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: And the fact that government would intervene over the wishes of a family, I think, is unconscionable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think should be done?

MS. CLIFT: I think her life should be ended in a humane way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think should be done?

MR. BUCHANAN: I -- the -- I do not believe she should be killed, and denying a woman food and water is killing her. It's not letting her die.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's an extraordinary means, even under your Catholic Church doctrine.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not extraordinary. It is not extraordinary!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't have to maintain --

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not heroic, it is not extraordinary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, it is. She's living under extraordinary means, of course she is.

Yes, what do you think?

MS. HESS: Well, there's actually -- the Florida legislature has already acted on this, and there is a statute that governs non- sustainment of life in regards to -- (inaudible) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think that she should -- she should be allowed --

MS. HESS: So they've already made this allowance --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should she be allowed to die?

MS. HESS: I can't make that decision.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think the show's over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The show is over? ####

END