THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: ELEANOR CLIFT, PAT BUCHANAN, TONY BLANKLEY, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 15-16, 2003
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Iraq bulletin.
Item: Italian paramilitary police headquarters hit by a suicide truck bomber in Nasiriyah, 180 miles southesat of Baghdad, a Shi'ite city. Eighteen Italians killed with 13 others. Over 100 wounded. Italy's worst military death toll since World War II.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says Italy's 2,300 troops will stay. His opponents want a full review of the Italian mission.
Item: U.S. launches ferocious airstrikes in a major offensive shift. U.S. helicopter gunships hit presumptive guerrilla targets in Baghdad. Fighter jets drop 500-pound laser-guided bombs in Tikrit and Fallujah, 2,000-pound bunker busters outside Baghdad.
Item: Nations recoil. Japan postpones sending troops to Iraq; a major blow. Denmark and South Korea say they won't send more.
Item: CIA report warns that Iraq situation is worsening, that the insurgency is getting stronger and Iraqis are losing faith in the U.S.-led coalition.
Item: Paul Bremer is abruptly summoned to Washington, and Commander-in-chief Bush orders him to speed up the process of handing power over to the Iraqis. Bremer had wanted an Iraqi constitution first, then Iraqi elections, then a hand-over. Now the White House wants a sovereign Iraqi governing body in place by June, and an exit possibly before the November general election.
Question: Is Bush's Iraq policy now being driven by presidential politics? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the presidential election is clearly one consideration. But John, I think you're mistaken if you think they're going to be out by next November. What is clearly emerging as the administration policy is quick turnover of political authority to the Iraqis, rapid enlistment of Iraqi military and police; bring home American soft targets, but keep in Iraq, real fire power, air power, helicopters, Americans who can come out of their bases and help the Iraqis win their own war. That looks to me like the strategy right now, from what the president is doing, not saying.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I think the political needs are pretty transparent. Public sentiment in this country is shifting rapidly against the war. And the administration's rhetoric is all about how we're not going to cut and run; but watch what they do, not what they say. And the message that we're drawing down the troops at a time when the violence is escalating, what kind of message does that send to the Iraqis? Saddam Hussein hasn't been found and we're on our way out. We may not be out totally by November of 2004, but this is a strategy to get the president through the election. It'll probably leave Iraq vulnerable to civil war and to an Islamic theocracy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think the strategy is driven by the demands within Iraq. I think, therefore, that the advancing of the attempt to transfer sovereignty is responsive to a need within Iraq. I do not believe it is driven by presidential political calculations. And we'll probably debate this for the next year on this show, on that.
But I don't have any -- I've talked to a number -- a couple of senior officials in the last 48 hours, and I'm satisfied that we're going to have a lot of troops, probably over 100,000 there, still on Election Day.
I think Pat has got it very largely right. I think there is going to be those transfers, but we're going to maintain very substantial power there, and we ain't cutting and running.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Rumsfeld memo -- you remember that, Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: Mm-hmm. (Affirmative.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That revealed that the military strategy had gone wrong. It was thought that we would be welcomed as liberators, and we were not. And it -- and he then described it as a "long, hard slog."
Now what does the Bremer summons back to Washington tell us about the war?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, the Bremer summons comes at the most urgent point in the post-so-called victory period. This thing is collapsing. Now we do have major combat resuming in Iraq.
But you know, what Tony said about the internals in Iraq driving the Bush policy -- the trouble is that what Bush will do will be -- as a result of that, will be identical to what he would do as a result of domestic American political pressure. They are identical. The pressures from Iraq are, "Get out of here. We don't want you here." The domestic American pressure is, "Let's get out of there. They don't want us here. So the presidential behavior will end up being the same, whether it's driven from inside Iraq or domestically.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does the Bremer summons tell you not only has the military strategy gone wrong -- Rumsfeld said that -- but the political strategy has gone wrong? Does it tell you that, Eleanor?
MR. O'DONNELL: There was no political strategy.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Well, the political strategy was that this Governing Council would take over an interim period, and we would pave the way towards elections. Now the administration's moving towards what the French wanted, and that is a quick hand-over to Iraq and, you know -- and get out.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, they are moving the political -- you're right about the Governing Council, and they are going to move the politics over very quickly. And you're also right that the perception looks consistent with an exit strategy all the way out.
But I agree with Tony. I just do not believe that they are going to do that. I think they are going hold that firepower in there --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- unlike Vietnam, where we pulled all the way out, and they're going to stay there and help.
MS. CLIFT: If I --
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --
MR. BUCHANAN: The key thing, John, is, can the -- will the Iraqis fight and die in great numbers against Saddamites, jihadists and all the rest, for their own democracy? That's the key question.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point, looking forward a little bit, about how we transfer sovereignty over, because I think it's a very hot debate right now within the administration and elsewhere. I think it's important that the national assembly be represented by fully elected individuals of Iraqis, and not have appointees in there from us. We need to have -- and there's a big fight over they should be partially appointed and all the rest. I think you need -- on the theory that you've got to have a sovereignty to pass to promptly, it's got to be a fully elected one. I think the Shi'ites will be much more supportive of a fully-elected national assembly. But let me just reemphasize, if you think that the transfer of sovereignty means an exit for us, I think you're wrong. I think we're going to be there in a major way for a long time.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but if --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Iraqi Governing Council wants to take over security. Is that a recipe for solving the insurrection problem?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you've got to have the Iraqi forces brought on after they've been trained and after they've been cleared. Just bringing them in raw --
MS. CLIFT: Look at --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have a condition --
MR. BLANKLEY: -- is a formula for a lot of disasters.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they have a condition for doing that, and that is that they have armed -- the ability and the competence and the okay to have armed militias. What would that remind you of if that were to come into effect? Armed militias.
MR. BUCHANAN: You mean tribal militias and all the rest of it? John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would that remind you of? What situation in the past that you are very familiar with? Would it remind you of Lebanon, where you had the Druze and you had the Christians, you had the Muslims --
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that was -- now, you're getting -- what you're getting to, John, is this: The real problem for the administration as they try this strategy is how reliable are these soldiers and police they are rushing into uniform, giving weapons? Are these Saddamites who are coming in? There's a real potential in this strategy for collapse while the Americans are still there.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. And look at the numbers. It's like Enron and counting --
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MS. CLIFT: -- 80,000 this week, 100,000 this week. Either they are not there or they are rushing them out to the frontlines.
And we're going to leave a factionalized government -- if we take the risk with elections, we're going to leave a factionalized government with three rival tribes fighting each other. And the Sunni minority is not going to give up. So, we're going to leave this county vulnerable -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the option for elections to elect a constituent assembly? What do you think would happen if there were such elections?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, I don't think anybody knows.
MR. O'DONNELL: I think what you --
MR. BLANKLEY: It's obviously going to be efforts by terrorists to -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What you would wind up with is a fundamentalist, extremist state --
MS. CLIFT: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a la Iran, because the Shi'ites would control the election.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, the leading Shi'ite cleric is arguing for some separation of church and state in a surprising way -- Sistani, or something like that. And so, no, I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that would control it; that that would prevent it from becoming a theocracy?
MR. BLANKLEY: He is the leading cleric voice in the country.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you'd have Shi'ites split between Sadr and the moderates, who are with us. You'd have the Sunnis split between the Saddamites and those who agree with us. And the Kurds would have their two groups, and they'd be basically pro-America.
MR. BLANKLEY: Keep in mind that Iraq has been a somewhat secular country under the Ba'athist rule for a long time. And although there's strong fundamentalist instincts, there are also countervailing ones. And I think there's a reasonable chance that you could have something other than a truly fundamentalist state.
MS. CLIFT: The point is, we can't stay and baby-sit their new government, and this administration isn't getting out.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, that's exactly what we're going to do. That's exactly what we're going to do.
MS. CLIFT: But the big question is, are we any safer because of that intervention in Iraq?
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: I don't think so.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, do you know what they need? One strong leader.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, Saddam, where are you when we really need you? (Laughter.)
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I mean they've got to -- look, you -- to run a war, which they're going to be in, I think they need a strong leader backed by the United States. I don't think any constituent assembly is going to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, there is no one -- there's no one that can control that kind of action.
MS. CLIFT: That's why the United States is destined for failure. Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You permit elections over there, you're going to have the Shi'ites voting en masse, and then you have an Islamic republic, a la Iran.
MR. BUCHANAN: An assembly can't run a war. You need a leader.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human toll: U.S. military dead to date, 399; wounded, injured and sick, 8,828.
Exit question: Is Bush's Iraq policy adrift, or are this week's adjustments through Bremer to the military and political strategy only corrections to the original course?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, he has a brand new strategy, but it's based on reaction to the new war he found we are in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the strategy?
MR. BUCHANAN: The strategy is just what I described it. They're going to transfer power quickly, transfer military over to the Iraqis --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Accelerate the Iraqization, is that the policy?
MR. BUCHANAN: They're going to bring our soft targets out and they're going to fight the war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, the situation is far worse than they publicly acknowledge. And to have the same crowd that created the mess immediately after the war to now redesign the strategy I think is not going to fix it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's a -- it does show that his policy is adrift, and what he is doing is he is shifting to a new policy, hoping it will work --
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- which is rapid, accelerated Iraqization.
MS. CLIFT: It might have worked two months ago.
MR. BLANKLEY: I think we're in a period of some experimentation. I'm not convinced that the -- what we're calling the "new" policy today will be the new policy a week or a month from now. I think it's something like how FDR dealt with the Depression. He experimented; he dealt with problems that wouldn't go away. He eventually worked through it. I think that we're going to see a period of evolving efforts.
MS. CLIFT: There's no glimmer of FDR in this anywhere! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want you to answer the question, but I want to ask you another question before you leave, and that is, with this Operation Iron Hammer, which Rumsfeld has introduced, where you've got the heavy bombs flying again, extremely heavy bombardment, do you think that that could create an impact over there that would be far more destructive than whatever hope he hopes to get out of it? Namely, would it inflame the population? If one of those bombs goes -- when they see all of this happening, does it -- and somebody is wounded by it, don't you think that creates an opposite reaction?
MR. O'DONNELL: Sure, it's a problem. They're going to be a lot less understanding than they would have been back during the so-called open war period.
But look, the Bush policy is not being altered, it is being abandoned. There is now no Iraq policy for Bush other than get out, get out by November. We will have fewer than 50,000 troops there in November.
MR. BUCHANAN: If he cuts and runs, he's LBJ.
MR. O'DONNELL: He will cut and run. There's nothing else to do.
MR. BUCHANAN: If he cuts and runs, it's the end of George Bush.
MS. CLIFT: He's already cutting and running! (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: He's not going to cut and run.
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't believe he's -- I don't believe he can.
MR. O'DONNELL: He's doing it already.
MR. BLANKLEY: Among other things, he said he's not.
MR. O'DONNELL: They've given up on a constitution, they've given up on elections, they've given up on everything in the plan. There's no plan.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, they haven't given up everything in the plan.
MR. O'DONNELL: (Inaudible.)
MR. BLANKLEY: The essence of the plan was invade and keep our troops there until we have it. That's still there. We're working on --
MS. CLIFT: The essence of the plan was to disarm -- was to disarm -- the essence of the plan --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: The essence of the plan was to disarm Iraq. The absence of weapons of mass destruction makes this war very hard to stop.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have to move on. My response is, you are all correct. (Laughter.)
When we come back: Who are the people in Washington Howard Dean is calling cockroaches?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Party Pooper.
HOWARD DEAN (Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) You know, I think for too long, Democrats in this country have been running away from Democrats. When I go around the country, I hear that -- sometimes that Democrats around the county are madder at the Democratic Party in Washington than they are at the Republicans. We need to start with our base.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was Howard Dean on Wednesday, delivering a solar plexus blow to the Democratic Washington establishment, as he was accepting the endorsements of two powerful unions with over 3 million members: AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes, and SEIU, the Service Employees International Union.
Dean maintains that his credentials as a Democrat are second to none, and the union endorsements back him up. But the party establishment still doesn't buy into the Dean movement. Some say that he's another McGovern, others that he's a hothead, others that he shoots too loosely from the hip and needs a constant minder.
Dean doesn't give a rap what they think. He's his own piper, and he calls his own tune. And the piper's got his own pipeline of independent Internet cash and an army of grass-roots supporters. And Wednesday's attack on the Democratic establishment was not the first time he's stiffed them. "I'm tired of that Washington hot air. I'm not going to take a lot of sass from people from Washington who haven't done anything."
Also, last month Dean taunted members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, saying that his presidential win would send them, quote, "scurrying for shelter, just like a giant flashlight on a bunch of cockroaches."
Question: Does this outsider image behoove Dr. Dean, Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: It's what's gotten him where he is. And the reason the establishment doesn't like him is because they don't own him. He's developed an independent funding base, and he's got all this grass-roots energy, as you point out.
But it is hard to overestimate the panic among the establishment Democratic Party about Howard Dean. They do worry that he's a walking disaster in the fall of November '04.
But I got to Washington covering Jimmy Carter's campaign, and I think he's more like Carter, in the sense that he does speak to a populist undercurrent in the country.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, look --
MS. CLIFT: And I think he's going to bring a lot of new voters into the process.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Now the Democrats have shopped all around to get somebody to go up against Dean. They tried Hillary, and there was some talk --
MR. O'DONNELL: No, they didn't!
MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)
MR. O'DONNELL: That's just press mythology. (Laughter.) There is no big Democrat sitting in a room who goes out and "tries" Hillary, you know, "tries" somebody else.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Didn't the Clintons lean on Wesley Clark to stop Dean?
MR. O'DONNELL: No, Wesley Clark is running his own campaign to nowhere.
John Kerry was the front-runner. He was a very solid front- runner. Dean has taken the lead away from him.
Dean is a very serious front-runner. There's no one in the Democratic Party who would dare try to challenge him now, especially after these union endorsements, especially after picking up more money than anybody else ever has in Democratic primaries.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. O'DONNELL: The guy is on an incredible run here, and there is -- he's a very strong front-runner.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. O'DONNELL: Now his talk about cockroaches, that's just stealing a page from the Schwarzenegger book of "I'm going to go up there and clean house," all that stuff.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right. Well, that was a beautiful metaphor about the cockroaches, John. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you say that, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) That was eloquent, eloquent, exquisite.
But look, here's what -- there's only way Dean can be stopped now. He has got to be unhorsed in Iowa by Gephardt. He's got to be tumbled over and then drop a bit in New Hampshire.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He comes in second, so he's okay.
MS. CLIFT: Big deal. (Chuckles.)
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, no, no, no. Look, you -- no. Then you go to South Carolina. You've got Missouri out there on February 3rd. Gephardt is the only guy that could beat him. What Dean's got to do is transition from this outsider image, which is excellent for the nomination, if he wants the general, and move into the center and meld with the establishment after he's nominated.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dean is leading in South Carolina now?
MR. BUCHANAN: If Gephardt can knock him off in Iowa and go straight, basically, to South Carolina --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dean has got New Hampshire all sewed up.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, McCain got New Hampshire
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He what?
MR. BUCHANAN: McCain got New Hampshire.
MR. BLANKLEY: To answer your question --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That sets up South Carolina for him, too. He's popular in South Carolina anyway.
MR. BUCHANAN: Gephardt's the only guy.
Go ahead, Tony. (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: To answer your question, it's good for him to be running as an outsider. Most successful candidates run as outsiders. Clinton ran, didn't want to have a Democratic congressman in the same picture with him. Reagan ran as an outsider. Jimmy Carter ran as an outsider. And he can keep doing that right through the general election. Now, he's got to come back to the center, but center as an outsider.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right now Dean doesn't have one single vote nor does he have one single delegate. If he appears over-confident, he's going to blow the whole thing.
MR. BLANKLEY: He's not over-confident.
MR. O'DONNELL: His over-confidence is part of what sells him to his faithful.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he starts taking votes for granted, he's through.
MR. BLANKLEY: He's not taking anything for granted.
MS. CLIFT: The key line in his stump speech is that you have the power; this is about you as voters. And he really has created a movement or crusade, whatever you want to call it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's his Achilles heel?
MR. O'DONNELL: His temper is his Achilles heel.
MS. CLIFT: Achilles heel is -- right.
MR. O'DONNELL: And the interesting thing about it is that he knows it. He's said --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's had his temper all through life. He won six reelections in Vermont. He was in the state legislature. Don't worry about his temper, (you've ?) got to worry about security and the country. Because if you ask a lot of people and they put him up against George Bush, they say, "Oh, God, no, I think I'd go with Bush." "Well, even though Bush has got us in a mess, you would still go with Bush?"
MS. CLIFT: I don't think so, because Dean --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Oh, yes. We would. We would." Particularly females. Have noticed it?
MS. CLIFT: What?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because I know that you have a special pipeline into that community.
MS. CLIFT: No. No, because Dean had the courage to stand up against Bush when the war was popular, and his predictions have all been borne out and been proven right. That gives him a credibility on that issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know. I don't know.
MR. BUCHANAN: He will move to the center. He's got to move -- his radicalism is fine for the nomination. He'll move to the center. My guess is he picks and establishment figure as his VP candidate if he gets the nomination. And he'll have that same movement --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. We've got to get out. Is Dean a Democratic Ronald Reagan; namely, an insurgent who is likely to be successful despite opposition from the party establishment? Yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: He's a Democratic Goldwater.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Goldwater? Well -- but -- what --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: He's suggesting that he's going to lose. And I kind of think --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- but he's got to get to the center.
MS. CLIFT: He can move to the center. There's plenty of time. What you call radical, Pat, the rest of us call mainstream.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly! Quickly!
MR. BLANKLEY: He is a Goldwater in the sense he's going to get the nomination. It's earlier in the cycle of liberals retaking over the Democrats, and the conservatives retaking over Republicans. But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He is a Democratic Ronald Reagan?
MR. BLANKLEY: But what's most interesting is whether he's going to be able to use his new Internet methods to find unlikely voters as he's found unlikely contributors. And that's the big X question, because I don't know anybody who knows exactly how he has used it here. We know that he has, but how he's using it may be a breakthrough.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. Quickly!
MR. O'DONNELL: As I desperately cling to what I believed was the strength of the Kerry campaign -- (laughter) -- I think Dean may turn out to be a Democratic John McCain and only win New Hampshire.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's see. I think you're closest to it.
Issue three: Jessica Unspun.
JESSICA LYNCH (private first class, U.S. Army): (From videotape.) It hurt. It hurt, in a way, that people would make up stories.
They used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff.
I mean, yeah, it's wrong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: America's most famous Iraq war POW, Jessica Lynch, set the record straight this week, debunking fictions about her capture and her rescue. Fiction: "Lynch fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition."
PFC. LYNCH: (From videotape.) No. No. My weapon did jam, and I did not shoot, not a round, nothing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fiction: "She was fighting to the death. She did not want to be taken alive."
PFC. LYNCH: (From videotape.) No. No. I went down, praying, to my knees.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fiction: Lynch was slapped by Iraqi soldiers while being interrogated.
PFC. LYNCH: (From videotape.) From the time I woke up in the hospital, no one beat me, no one slapped me, no one -- nothing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As for the Iraqi hospital staff, Lynch said this:
PFC. LYNCH: (From videotape.) I'm so thankful for those people because that's why I'm alive today.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is the Jessica Lynch myth a classic example of war propaganda, Pat? Exit question.
MR. BUCHANAN: No. In my judgment, it is the media much more responsible than the Pentagon here. They were desperate for Sigourney Weaver and Meg Ryan, and they just ran with this thing, and they ran out of control.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: The media didn't make up the story. There were Pentagon people there with cameras --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer, Eleanor? Quickly!
MS. CLIFT: -- and that information came -- no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not a classic example?
MS. CLIFT: No, it's overstated. It goes beyond classic war propaganda.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's a classic example of feminist propaganda, encouraged initially by the military, who did give out some information, and then run with by feminists, who wanted to put the idea of some Amazon-like warrior --
MS. CLIFT: Feminists -- (off mike). Remember them? (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, Lawrence.
MR. O'DONNELL: The British news media debunked all these lies within a week of her rescue. The American media ought to be ashamed for buying the Pentagon's nonsense.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It appears to be a deliberate Pentagon maneuver to boost American morale. Classic propaganda. (Laughter.)
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Bush will back down partially on the steel tariffs, not totally. But we're facing a major collision with the WTO and a possible trade war next year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he get back within the good graces of the WTO? Yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think he wants to.
MS. CLIFT: The White House deal where they get to edit the intelligence that they turn over to the 9/11 commission will be roundly rejected by the families of the 9/11 survivors.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: There will be another failed trade summit in Miami next week.
MR. BUCHANAN: Excellent. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: Senate Democrats will kill the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict Saddam Hussein will found dead within eight weeks, no later than February 1. You can use that in your columns, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next week: President Bush visits the U.K. Bye- bye!
END OF REGULAR SEGMENT PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Senate sleep-in.
SEN. : (From videotape.) This isn't for real. Those cots were props on a stage. I walked around the Senate here. Most of those cots are still cold as ice; they've never been warmed by a senator's body. They were brought in here so Fox TV News and all the right wing could say, "My goodness, we're staying up all night."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was high drama or low farce in the Senate this week. Cots, coffee machines, No Doze pills, mattresses were brought in to prepare senators for a 30-hour, all night marathon debate on judicial nominees. Republicans called the session to draw attention to what they say is Democrats' obstruction to four of President Bush's judicial nominees.
Democrats responded that the session was pure politics, and accused Republicans of ignoring stalled legislation that may fail to pass this year: energy, Medicare prescription drugs and Veterans Affairs.
Question: Did this entire filibuster come across as irrelevant political gridlock, a gladiatorial contest of great consequence to the senators but irrelevant to the nation?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think none of the above. It was an attempt by the Republicans to communicate to a broader percentage of the public than currently knows it, that the Democrats have been blocking on some Court of Appeal nominations. Both parties have done this in the past, but this time the Democrats have been doing it on the basis that they disagree, as opposed to when Republicans went against Abe Fortis because they thought that he might have had corruption problems.
It's been getting worse under both regimes for a long time, and it's not quite come to a head yet. I think the Republicans managed to communicate to their base. That was useful. The Democrats were scornful, which is predictable.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did this make much of a ripple out in Hollywood?
MR. O'DONNELL: It's noticed, it's noticed primarily -- there's a lot of money at stake. You can raise a lot of money in liberal circles for the Democratic side of this argument; you can raise a lot of money in the Republican circles in their side of it.
Jon Corzine, the head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, send out a fund-raising notice about we're out there trying to stop these judges.
It's sad. Having worked in the Senate, I believe that every nominee deserves a vote, a vote. And there's nothing wrong with the Democrats choosing to vote against someone. But stopping these things -- (inaudible) -- is wrong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got 10 seconds left. I got a quick question for you.
Why does the Hollywood establishment endorse so radically and completely Wesley Clark?
MR. O'DONNELL: He's got a lot of glamor appeal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why? Why?
MR. O'DONNELL: The former, you know, soldier running things --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do they do, do they think they're making a movie out there? (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: Like Audie Murphy! (Laughs.)
MR. O'DONNELL: The left believes it needs protection on the military issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They've rejected Dean and they've gone for Wesley Clark?
MR. O'DONNELL: No, no. Dean's the frontrunner in Hollywood.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He is? With the establishment?
MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, way in front, way in front.