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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT AND CLARENCE PAGE

TAPED: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 29-30, 2003

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Thanksgiving Spread.

On this Thanksgiving, did you notice that the talk around the dinner table over turkey was a bit more heated than usual? It may be due to the fact that America is as partisan and polarized as it has ever been on political and social issues.

How far apart are we? Item: Is military strength the best way to ensure peace? Republicans: yes, 69 percent. Democrats: yes, 44 percent. That gap, 25 points, is the widest gap since the question was asked by Pew 16 years ago.

Item: Was the Iraq war worth it? Yes: Republicans, 71 percent; Democrats, 21 percent -- a 50 percent spread. No, not worth it: Republicans, 20 percent; Democrats, 70 percent -- a 50-point gulf between Republicans and Democrats over Iraq.

Item: Should we all be willing to fight for our country, right or wrong? Republicans: yes, 62 percent. Democrats: yes, 46 percent. A 16-point spread -- again, the largest since the question was first asked in the 1980s.

Item: Should government guarantee every citizen food and shelter? Yes: Democrats, 81 percent; Republicans: 46 percent yes -- a whopping 35 percent difference.

Item: By the way, poll figures also show that there is an even three-way split in this country politically. Of registered voters, 33 percent say they're Republicans, 34 percent say they're Democrats, 33 percent say they're independent or other.

Question: What does it tell us about American politics today when the disaffiliated are equal in size, one-third, to the political partisans in -- on either end of the two main parties, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: The real loser here, John, is the Democratic Party -- this used to be a Democratic nation, overwhelmingly, two to one or three to two -- when they're down to 33 (sic) percent.

The country's becoming increasingly populist, conservative, independent. Radio talk shows shows (sic) it.

But John, the key thing now is not simply divisions on war or peace. Morally, culturally, socially, about right and wrong, whether it's abortion or gay marriage, this country is as polarized and divided and deeply divided as it's been since the Civil War.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not sure that gives me the answer I'm looking for, but it's a good start.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what's the principal impression you get from this?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the principal impression I get from this is that the public has been invited out of the political process. It's why they don't vote. I mean, our voting rates in this country are abysmal.

The television age ushered in a period where all the politicians were looking for were big checks, so they could buy television time. And we're now entering, I think, a new age, the age of the Internet. and the fact that Howard Dean has created some momentum in this country -- he's invited people back into the political process. And if there's any hope in overcoming the dynamics that Pat spells out -- and frankly, it's -- the Republicans have exploited race issues and social issues since the late '60s, and they're getting ready to do it again with gay marriage in the 2004 election -- meanwhile, we've got Iraq to worry about and the economy to worry about. And the Democratic challenge is to pull the country back into the issues that really matter in their lives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, it's one-third Democrat, one-third Republican and one-third independent. I still want to know what that tells you.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, first of all, I would modify the numbers. Those are correct numbers as far as self-identified. Functionally, it's closer to 40-40-20, or 38-38-24. In other words, about a third of the independents reliably vote with either the Republicans or the Democrats. Nonetheless, it's still a bigger number than it has been.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that tell you? What does it tell you when the disaffiliated, i.e., the independents, are of equal size as the Democrats and the Republicans?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I don't -- as I just said, I don't believe functionally they are the same size. But it is a growing size. I think it suggests that with the right candidate, which I don't see on the horizon, and with the right issues, it's just barely plausible you can elect a non-Republican or Democrat to the presidency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Aha! The emergence of a third party.

MR. BLANKLEY: Theoretically. Although --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A third party candidate. Now, that went right over your head, Buchanan, despite your experience. (Laughter.) What is the story?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the reason is the two political parties are so locked up with the money, frozen other parties out of the debate. Unless you're a Ross Perot and got $3 billion, you can't do it, John.

And Tony's right. Once you get down to voting, about 38 or 40 percent will vote Democratic automatically and Republican automatically. Even in the greatest landslides -- Nixon and Reagan -- 38 to 40 percent went with the Democrat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Howard Dean, while he is a registered Democrat, at the same time he has his own money stream, he certainly is an independent thinker, he's a piper who calls his own tune, doesn't he have the look, the feel of almost a third-party candidate?

MR. PAGE: Not quite, John, because I think Pat's right with independent money, and with enough charisma on the stage, say an Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a citizen, that didn't have constitutional block, or someone else with that kind of popular attraction and audience appeal, could conceivably win against a couple of bland Democrats and Republicans. This is the problem -- I think there is a split statistically, but it's not one based on deep commitment. Younger voters especially are the ones who are most disaffiliated.

MS. CLIFT: It's been the Democratic dream for a long time they're going to bring in new voters. And, frankly, that's what Dean is saying. The only way that he or any Democrat can win is if they expand the voter base and bring in some of the folks who are not voting. And what's fascinating is that 25 percent of the people who have given him money, of 200,000 people, average of $77 each, 25 percent of them are under 30. So there is a future out there, and he's the best so far in tapping into it. It may not be enough, but it certainly is a beginning.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me talk about the numbers just a little bit, because although I think the numbers are largely correct, they're also exaggerated by two facts; one, that we're in an election cycle, so both parties are pounding at each other; and two, that there's a huge issue -- war and peace -- and so people care more; you know, they're paying more attention because they're worried. And so you combine a big galvanizing issue with the natural partisanship that comes with an election cycle, and those numbers are probably a little exaggerated --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, wait a minute. Let me nail this down a little bit more. Where is the political battleground in the year 2004?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's the independents, no doubt about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's right. That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, but look, Bush has got -- I mean, Bush has got 40 percent going in. I think Dean's going to have 35 percent going in. The battle is always in this middle that moves, John. And I think the middle used to be populist right wing. There is part of the middle, Republican women, for example, who will move to the Democratic Party. But I think an actual majority is still slightly with the Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think there's an anti-executive mood in the United States today?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that there's a populist mood in the United States today?

MR. BUCHANAN: There is clearly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, if you pull that into the independents, who are going to control the action, where is it going to go?

MS. CLIFT: The populist --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

MR. BUCHANAN: Populism, you see it in small "d" media. It's not only the Internet. It's talk radio and cable TV. What are people watching? They're watching Fox, they're listening to Rush or Hannity or these other folks, or Liddy. And so populism very much aids the Republicans.

MS. CLIFT: I think there is a populist undercurrent, but I'm not going to say it's all defined as it is by you, because your crowd would respond to the gay marriage controversy, and that's what you're getting ready to do.

MR. BUCHANAN: Respond --

(Cross-talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Every court in this country is going to eventually legalize civil unions. Get ready.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Howard Dean is a stealth populist and he is a stealth independent. Do you follow me on that?

MR. PAGE: No, John.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he's got some potential reach, just what you're talking. I think anti-war. I think he's got it out there with some of the young. He has potential, but it's not (the election ?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has he got it with the independents?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the research on that? Do you know?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point. You're ignoring, I think -- or maybe not, but talking past the question of values motivating base voters. I think that, particularly with the question of gay marriage now being raised by the Massachusetts Supreme Court's decision, that you're going to see a competition to get base voters based on values. And I think this is bad news for Democrats because the 70 million evangelical voters are going to be more motivated to vote, and in a close election, base vote matters more than swing vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Exit.

MS. CLIFT: Republicans always overreach, and I'll wait for that. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Is today's political polarization something we should fret about or is it something we should treat philosophically, like: the spread has always been this extreme, or worse before; don't worry, be happy?

MR. BUCHANAN: The political polarization isn't the problem. It is the moral, cultural, social divisions in this country. We don't agree on right and wrong, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think you were a little bit ahead of your time, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Far, far ahead of my time. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This must be a great --

MR. BUCHANAN: And I'm still a little bit ahead, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- burden for you to carry. Right?

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Pat epitomizes the southern strategy, and it has worked very well. And Democrats have only broken through twice, Bill Clinton when economics really did trump the cultural war, and Jimmy Carter when Watergate dwarfed the cultural war. I'm hoping Iraq and the economy and the seriousness of this country's situation will once again make the wedge issues irrelevant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Let's get back in sequence here. Is the polarization something we should worry about or is it something we've seen before, and worse before?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think we tend to see things as better or worse than they really are, though we've had very harsh partisan times in the past and we're into another --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So "don't worry, be happy."

MR. BLANKLEY: No. No. But on the other hand, I agree with Pat that we are developing this more fixed value differences on moral issues, and it's going to be harder to come back to consensus given the fundamental differences between secular and religiously oriented people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that little explanation?

MR. PAGE: Don't worry, be happy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't worry, be happy?

MR. PAGE: Yeah. At the end of the day, it's going to be 48 versus 48, and the battle's going to be there in the middle of the field. That's what it comes down to. We've always had these divisions; just right now they're more apparent because the media and this new industry called the political consultant has become expert at being able to highlight these differences.

But I've seen much more polarized times, in the '60s --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Name one. Name one.

MR. PAGE: The '60s, over Vietnam, the '70s and '80s over race and over our cities, our white flight, et cetera.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about earlier than that? How about the last century?

MR. BUCHANAN: How about 1861?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: 1861, the Civil War. There you are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back --

MR. PAGE: I don't go back that far, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, "don't worry, be happy."

When we come back: The Department of Homeland Security has a new target, American tourists.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Cuba libre.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) U.S law forbids Americans to travel to Cuba for pleasure. That law is on the books, and it must be enforced.

Illegal tourism perpetuates the misery of the Cuban people, and that is why I've charged the Department of Homeland Security to stop that kind of illegal trafficking of money.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush is cracking down on Americans who travel to Cuba, and he's doing so over the will of the U.S. Congress. The House and the Senate both voted to kill the 40-year old law that stops Americans from traveling to Cuba, whereupon the president brandished a veto threat, and the brandishing worked. Republican congressional leaders killed the amendment that would have lifted the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba. Now the President is planning on enforcing the law with sharper teeth: the Department of Homeland Security, who he wants to curb the 200,000 Americans who travel to Cuba each year.

Bad move, says Senator Dorgan.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): (From videotape.) And now the president says says that we want to use the Office of Homeland Security to investigate and use intelligence resources to identify travelers (or (visitors ?). It is the most preposterous thing in the world. Have they just lost all common sense there?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Bush says the crackdown is part of a larger plan to oust Castro.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Clearly, the Castro regime will not change by its own choice. But Cuba must change.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Mr. Bush shamelessly pandering for the votes of Cuban Americans in Dade County, Florida? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: That was an example of talk tough and carry a very small stick. This is transparent appeal to the Miami Cubans and whipping up the base for the upcoming election and trying to nail down Florida. If you really wanted to transform Cuba, you would open the place up, you would have Americans go in there, you would have American investment, and Castro's dictatorial regime could not survive long under those situations.

MR. PAGE: That's very true. And the thing that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, is this an appropriate use of homeland security?

MR. BLANKLEY: Minimally, perhaps. Look.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see it within the charter?

MR. BUCHANAN: Even Tony's having problems. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You ought to be able to figure out how to get it in there somehow.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just put a thought in. In fact the Cuban community in Miami is split, somewhat generationally, between wanting to reach out and invest and travel to Cuba and not. The older generation is tending to want to say no, and the younger generation -- this is an over-broad statement -- say yes. I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the percentage split of lifting the embargo versus not?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I hear it's 35 to 40 to lift.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. I think the reality is that neither policy is going to be decisive regarding Cuba. Whether we keep tourists out or let them in, I don't think that's going to make a big difference.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it won't make any --

MR. PAGE: It will make a difference for people in the Midwest, corn farmers, for example, and various other American businesses that want to do business with Cuba. Why is everybody on the planet doing business with Cuba but us? That's why so many Republicans up on Capitol Hill --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many votes did George Bush win by -- Florida in 2000?

MR. PAGE: Well, that's a big question for history, isn't it, John? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five hundred and thirty-seven votes. Do you know how many electoral votes he got from that? Twenty-seven.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, but the point being --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And 27 is one-tenth of the electoral --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: It also helps you in New Jersey. There's a big Cuban community there.

Look, Tony is right to this extent; Fidel Castro is going to leave power when he leaves in a box. So that's not going to make any difference. But we are concerned about the transition. We don't want a revolution down there. So I agree with Eleanor. I think -- I wouldn't give them any loans, but I would let tourists go down there. If Castro robs them, they'll blame him. Get more money, get it moving toward like Eastern Europe.

MS. CLIFT: And the tourists are going to keep going in. They're going to go in through Canada, they're going to go in through Jamaica. And let's see if the Bush administration really wants to crack down on ma and pa tourist from Ohio who are visiting Cuba.

MR. BLANKLEY: Maybe we can get the mafia to go back down there like they did before, and build some nice casinos. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's a Cuba Libre?

MR. PAGE: That won't take much persuasion!

MR. BLANKLEY: It's a rum and Coke.

MR. BUCHANAN: Drink.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A rum and Coke with a twist of lemon, some ice.

MR. BLANKLEY: Lemon, sometimes lime. Yeah, a very good drink.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In a tall glass with a rounded edge.

MR. BLANKLEY: Ice does help a little bit.

MS. CLIFT: You know, Tony -- (inaudible) --

(Cross talk.)

MR. PAGE: John, try Hemingway's favorite -- (inaudible) -- Old Havana.

(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute now. There are some Cubans who are annoyed at Mr. Bush for invading Iraq. Guess where they think he should have invaded?

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

MS. CLIFT: Cuba!

MR. PAGE: Yeah, that's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's inconceivable that President Bush is thinking about invading Cuba?

MS. CLIFT: Inconceivable.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: It is inconceivable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment!

MR. BUCHANAN: It would be consistent with this idea that we invaded Iraq to make it democratic. If that's your purpose, why didn't you invade Cuba? It's right next door, and we've got obligations there and a history there. But no, he ain't going to do it.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, first Syria, then Iran, then North Korea and next Cuba.

(Laughter.)

MR. PAGE: Well, one thing we have to remember, under the existing policy, there are Miami Cubans going back and forth all the time, many of them in excess of the amount of visits they're supposed to take. And that's a big reason why younger Cubans, in particular, see this current policy as counterproductive.

Pat's right. We need to work on who can be the next leader of Cuba, what's going to be the next government. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Raul is going to take over.

MR. PAGE: Well, that's not so sure, John. Raul is old too. He's only a couple years younger than Fidel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five years younger. He's 71.

MR. PAGE: Yeah, well --

(Cross talk.)

MR. PAGE: Well, 71 looks younger to me all the time, John, it's true! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's all relative, we know that!

Exit: How will Cuba be libre? Sooner, with a continuation of the Kennedy era sanctions policy, or sooner through the engagement in the form of lifting travel and trade restrictions?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not going to be liberated from Castro until Castro is dead. I do believe that interchange and commerce would weaken his hold on the country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you disapprove of the action the president took?

MR. BUCHANAN: I disagree with it, yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He brandished the veto. All he had to do was brandish it, and the limp crowd on Capitol Hill in the House and the Senate, they folded. It was like a knife through soft butter.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was the right policy during the Cold War, though, John. It worked; it forced the Soviets to carry Cuba.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but the Cold War has been over for a while.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

MS. CLIFT: Castro is going to live out his years as president of Cuba.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You favor, actually, travel to Cuba, don't you?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not for myself. But I don't think it's going to make much difference.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the president was ill-advised?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think he was perfectly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On what? On political grounds or on merits?

MR. BLANKLEY: On political grounds, of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not merits? I mean, merits take the merits take --

MR. BLANKLEY: The merits either way.

MR. PAGE: I've been to Cuba as a journalist. I'd love to go back as a tourist with my family. I think that is the future. And it's something that -- this policy is so transparent right now because almost everybody else in the country now is moving in favor of lifting the embargo.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lifting travel and trade restrictions --

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- will make Cuba "libre" sooner.

Issue three: Vetoing Vetoes.

Mr. President, why haven't you vetoed a single bill?.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Oh, I would say that we've done a very good job of exacting some fiscal discipline here in Washington by getting budget agreements. And if you've noticed, the last two budget cycles, because of the agreements we put in place -- and Congress has worked with us to hold the line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Holding the line" is an understatement. After almost three years in office, President Bush boasts an astounding record: not one single veto. That's right. This president has never vetoed a bill, in sharp contrast to two generations of his predecessors after their first three years in office: Lyndon Johnson, 20 vetoes; Richard Nixon, 14 vetoes; Gerald Ford, 49 vetoes; Jimmy Carter, 19; Ronald Reagan, 22; George H.W. Bush, 25; Bill Clinton, 11; George W. Bush, zero vetoes.

What's more, the president has been successful in brandishing veto threats to push Congress around. The brandishing does it. Exempli Gracia:

SENATE CLERK: (From videotape.) Mrs. Clinton, aye.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He brandished a veto threat after the Senate voted to make part of the Iraq aid a loan. The Senate backed down. He did the same, as we saw earlier, over travel to Cuba and again pulled off a veto-free victory.

Question: This is the exit question. Has Bush missed any bets, any obvious cases, in which he should have used the veto? You've got five seconds.

Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. Certainly on the agriculture bill, $10 billion wasted. I would say on campaign finance reform -- a disaster for the political process. Those were, on a policy basis, vetoes he should have made.

Procedurally, he's done pretty well with Congress, so it's sort of hard to argue with success. He's got a fair amount out of this Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he should have vetoed something.

MR. BLANKLEY: From my point of view, yeah.

MR. PAGE: (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with him?

MR. PAGE: Not off hand, but -- (chuckles) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

MR. PAGE: But he doesn't need to have a veto when he has a Congress that's on his side. He doesn't have a strong opposition. That's when Republicans use the veto a lot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should he have used the veto? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Campaign finance reform should have gone down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should he have used the veto?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. This is a president who never says no. He might as well say, "The era of big government is back!" Spending is out of control. He never says no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he should have used the veto -- (laughter) -- once or twice, anyway. I'm with you, Tony. (Laughter.)

We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Castro's survived any number of presidents. He will not survive this one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He will not?

MR. BUCHANAN: He will not be alive when George Bush --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean biological death? Biological death?

MR. BUCHANAN: He won't be in office when George Bush leaves office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we talking CIA?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: This may be wishful thinking, but the youth vote will turn out in 2004 in numbers that it hasn't in our recent memory. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

MR. BLANKLEY: Governor Schwarzenegger will be successful in getting support for his bond measure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence?

MR. PAGE: Okay. Carol Moseley Braun will drop out of the race after South Carolina, if she stays in that long.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that on January 2, 2004, Congressman Billy Tauzin, Republican of Louisiana, will succeed Jack Valenti as head of the Motion Picture Association of America.

How does that sound to you, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's excellent. He's a good man, but he's a good congressman, too.

MS. CLIFT: And he's a good party guy. (Chuckles.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: But Valenti will stay as --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now do you want to go beyond your prediction with Schwarzenegger?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. Well, Valenti will in fact stay on as chairman, though.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, I know.

MR. BLANKLEY: So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's well deserved.

MR. BLANKLEY: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're out of time. Happy Thanksgiving weekend! Gobble, gobble!

END OF REGULAR SEGMENT PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Thanks, but no thanks.

It's an age of doubt and anxiety, of war, terrorism, threats, faltering global alliances, deadly heat waves, raging wildfires, ferocious hurricanes, electricity blackouts, yellow alerts, surging deficits, fragile markets, crooked CEOs, pilfered pensions. Forty- three million Americans have no health insurance. Nine million Americans have no jobs. On the world stage, the U.S. is isolated.

With all of this, do Americans have anything to be thankful for on this 2003 Thanksgiving?

Question: So what should we be thankful for, Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Well, on a personal level, I'm sure we all have things to be thankful for about the people who are close to us. But on a macro level, I think we should be grateful that we have not been hit with another terrorist attack, especially as we watch the continuing attacks on American soldiers in Iraq and the horrific attacks in Turkey.

And I'm also grateful that the media has, at long last, awakened from its long slumber and is grilling the administration and is asking the kinds of questions that we should have asked in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think the press was rolled?

MS. CLIFT: I think the press reacted after 9/11 as though we were all on the same team, and they took everything at face value, and they didn't ask the hard questions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the Congress was also rolled?

MS. CLIFT: If that had been a secret vote on the resolution to go to war with Iraq, I don't think it would have passed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have they wised up the way the press has?

MS. CLIFT: They wised up, but probably too little, too late.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, John, look, what do we have to be -- you mentioned the unemployment. When I was born, during the Depression, 1938, there were still 17 million unemployed. There had been 25 percent of the labor market. Nineteen-fifties, you were going to school -- nobody's got health insurance in the USA, or very, very few people have it. You got hurricanes, tornadoes, all these things. They kill fewer people than they've ever killed before. You got faith. You have family. You got friends. You got freedom. And John, what you got is you've had 22 years or 21 years of "The McLaughlin Group." (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think we have to continue this segment. I mean, this is the summit. Where do we go from here?

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- more thankful than that. That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you thankful for?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, as Eleanor said, I mean, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, because I think I'm so lucky, with my --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you have your turkeys. (Laughter.) Don't you have turkeys now?

MR. BLANKLEY: They're peacocks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Peacocks.

MR. BUCHANAN: They eat the peacock. (Inaudible) -- peacock -- (inaudible). (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: We don't eat them. We don't eat the peacocks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why not? Are they any better than the turkey?

MR. BLANKLEY: I've never eaten a peacock. I don't know what they taste like.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is peacock eaten?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, it was eaten, I believe, in medieval times, as a delicacy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there you are.

MR. BLANKLEY: But I'm not a medievalist -- (laughter) -- although I am a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you are a gastronome?

MR. BLANKLEY: I am a gastronome and a meat-eater, but I will not eat my peacocks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many peacocks do you have?

MR. BLANKLEY: We still have five, yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, have you finished your contribution to this -- your intervention?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not quite.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because we've got to get Clarence in here. He's got something to be thankful for.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'll tell you, I mean, I've always been lucky and I appreciate my family. But what I'm grateful for at this moment, when the world is going to hell the way it is, is the tradition of freedom-loving and the guts of the American people, which I think is going to see us through.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you grateful for?

MR. PAGE: John, I am grateful that we -- that as bad as things can get, as bad as things are, they could still be worse. (Laughing) You know, that's my great optimistic outlook!

But quite seriously, I think that even in our current state, we still have civil liberties, we still have free speech, we still have a real probing discussion, despite efforts by the Patriot Act.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What I am grateful for is the love in my life.

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