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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL

TAPED: FRIDAY, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 20-21, 2003

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Saddam Fallout.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Good riddance. The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not only is the world better of without Mr. Saddam Hussein; so is President Bush. The capture of the Iraqi tyrant has given the president a major political boost. Fifty-eight percent approve of Mr. Bush -- a six-point jump from the 52 percent a week ago, before Hussein's capture. Fifty-three percent now believe the war is going well in Iraq, up from 41 percent before capture -- a remarkable 12-point climb. On the president's handling of foreign policy, fifty-two percent now approve, up from 45 percent.

How much does the capture matter, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is immense, John. It is enormous. It's the best day for the country and the president and the military since the statue of Saddam fell. It undercuts the Democratic argument "They don't have Saddam." It puts closure on the war. It buys the president weeks and weeks of time to continue to pursue his policy.

But it does not solve the fundamental problem the president has, which is the American people are now going to be more urgent in demanding, "Well, now that it's over, isn't it time to bring the troops home?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting.

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I agree with that. I think this provides an opening for the administration to say, "Now we've gotten the evil despot. Okay, guys, now it's up to you to defend your country." And I think that the exit from Iraq is probably going to be speeded up, and I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. If they had not gotten Saddam, it would have been an ongoing political problem for this president. It does create a rallying-around effect.

But ultimately President Bush is hostage to events on the ground in Iraq, events that he cannot fully control. And things could look very different in a few months from now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's not -- he's not hostage entirely. I mean, he is an actor and, through our military, the primary actor there. So he is making his own luck, if you will, to some extent.

Look, I don't buy the argument that the American public now think it's a quick end to the war. Every poll I've seen indicates the public understands it's a long, hard slog.

But this has advantages beyond the political ones, which you've correctly analyzed. This has advantages functionally on the ground. I -- you know, while we have to wait and see, the data we -- they got just the papers with him. Apparently they're now rolling up some of the cells that have been working against our troops. So it has actual functional use. And we'll see how far that goes, but I wouldn't be surprised if we'd see the period leading up to Saddam's arrest would have been the high point of the resistance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president has gotten quite a bit of good news. He took a position on Taiwan, and the conservatives did not go crazy. He phrased it just right. He didn't say, "You can't have the referendum, Taiwan." He just said it's really not a good idea.

He got away with the steel embargo, dislodging that --

MR. O'DONNELL: In what sense?

MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's no -- been no great uprising.

MR. O'DONNELL: He completely violated his principles on trade and destroyed more jobs in the auto industry than he tried to save in the steel industry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the net result was, of the embargo, that it would cost --

MR. O'DONNELL: The net result was a loss of jobs in the auto industry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'm talking politics now.

MR. O'DONNELL: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not talking merits.

MR. O'DONNELL: All right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got away with it.

MR. O'DONNELL: You're not talking merits. That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got away with it. Now we have this. And then we have the big gain in the economy itself. George Bush is invincible in 2004, isn't he, by your calculation?

MR. O'DONNELL: George Bush just went up six points. I don't know what all the excitement is all about.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. O'DONNELL: This was the biggest score he could possibly pull off, and he went up less than 10 points from it. This thing might have no political meaning in a month. By Valentine's Day, if the resistance stays as energetic in Iraq as it has been, if it's clear that Saddam's capture did not in any way diminish the resistance, then Saddam's capture becomes in the longer run of no real political value, because the perception of how well we're doing in Iraq has entirely to do with the resistance level.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

Slowing the Dean machine. Saddam Hussein's capture has not only affected the standing of President Bush but also the standing of his Democratic rivals. A new poll shows Howard Dean's numbers have gone down in a match-up with Bush: 52 percent would now vote for Bush, 31 percent Dean, compared to the 51 percent Bush, 39 percent Dean before Saddam's capture; an eight-point drop for Dean.

The Saddam capture has also sharpened the attacks on Dean from his Democratic rivals, like this acid swipe from Senator Joseph Lieberman.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT): (From videotape.) If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today, not in prison, and the world would be a much more dangerous place. The American people would have a lot more to fear.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about whether it was wise to invade a country. This was the most costly manhunt in history, and this was not the case that was presented to the American people, that we had to get this one man because of humanitarian issues. And the fact that he was found in the bottom of a hole, now it seems as though the humanitarian case has taken over. But I think Lieberman sounds really desperate, and I don't think this is going to hurt Howard Dean's standing within the Democratic primary community, and none of these other guys is yet strong enough to take him, especially since their support is splintered.

MR. BLANKLEY: You know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you comment, let's see what Howard Dean says about the Saddam capture, and then we'll carry the conversation forward.

HOWARD DEAN: (From videotape.) The capture of Saddam us a good thing, which I hope very much will keep our soldiers in Iraq and around the world safer, but the capture of Saddam has not made America safer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There it is: "The capture of Saddam has not made America safer."

MS. CLIFT: He is right on the merits, but politically, he provided an opening for the other Democrats to get in, and potentially for the Republicans. He's right on the merits because going into Iraq was a diversion from the real war against terrorism, and the continuing chaos in Iraq is fertile ground of recruitment for terrorists.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let's talk about Dean, though. Let's talk about Dean rather than the war. Dean is being bled by Lieberman and the others very badly, and the impression is being created out there in middle America, by Democrats, that this guy is a chowderhead on foreign policy who cannot be trusted with the national security of the United States, at the very time, Eleanor, this election is very much going to be about the national security of the United States. I think Dean is suffering permanent damage at the --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. All right.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's stay on that point, though.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has he suffered permanent damage by -- especially by the last statement?

MR. BLANKLEY: I was going to say this for about a minute and a half: No, not yet. And interestingly, the polling data immediately after this -- while Dean has taken a minor blip downward in the Democratic contest, none of the other candidates are picking up. They're going to "undecided."

MR. BUCHANAN: You know --

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't see -- and I agree with Eleanor -- I don't see anybody else in the Democratic field who can exploit this --

MR. BUCHANAN: Tony --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, I want to hear --

MS. CLIFT: The voters like the clarity of expression that Dean has on this issue. When the other Democrats -- they said they were for the war, then they were against the war, now suddenly they're cheering for the war, and politics demands simplicity.

MR. O'DONNELL: So did Dean. So did Dean. So did Dean. That's the great -- the great mystery about Howard Dean is what he really thought at the initiation of all of this stuff. He did flip around several times when people weren't listening all that clearly.

But look, what he -- he said something that was impolitic. It's just -- he's -- it's clear that he doesn't get what is in the dead center strike zone of American politics on this subject. And whether it's true -- it's not provable in any way whether capturing Saddam makes us safer or not.

MR. BUCHANAN: He fortified -- he is fortifying his base, but he's got his base, John. He has got to start getting into the center.

MR. O'DONNELL: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: He went out there and gave a speech that his base loved. "Good old Howard. He's not moving an inch."

MR. O'DONNELL: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: And he's got to get to the center, and he's killing himself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, you're behind the times, and you're misinterpreting the Saddam calculus of the American people.

MR. BUCHANAN: Can you do an exegesis on this for me?

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The American people don't see how much safer we are by us locating an evil man who has been jumping from one rat hole to another rat hole to another rat hole. So now we've got him. So Dean says it doesn't make America any -- in addition to that --

MR. BUCHANAN: Technically, you're correct, John. But as a political statement at that time, it is foolish. (Nobody's buying ?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In addition to that, the news story that has not traveled to you yet is that the al Qaeda now have, they feel, a surer base in Iraq, because there had been competition between the Iraqi Saddam holdovers and the al Qaeda.

MR. BUCHANAN: Now that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the al Qaeda has about $3 million to spend per week on this adventure.

MR. BUCHANAN: That is the terrain on which Dean should fight the battle, not on Saddam. He should say, "Look, we went in there, and we got ourselves -- we hit the tar baby. We got ourselves into a quagmire." This is an argument that the American people will listen to next October.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he doesn't help himself with this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Blasts from the past.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA, presidential candidate): (From videotape.) George Bush has run the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of our country.

REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO, presidential candidate): (From videotape.) This president is a miserable failure. (Applause, cheers.) He is a miserable failure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will we hear the likes of the Kerry and the Gephardt rhetoric about Bush again, or has Saddam's capture permanently silenced them? I ask you.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, the "miserable failure" thing isn't going to work for a while, unless he has a lot more failures that we don't yet know about.

Kerry's line still holds. He's got to modulate it a little bit. But, you know, the Kerry objection is the way they ramped up to this war, which is a lot of people's objection. And so the capture of Saddam, you know, means that you just have to mute that stuff for maybe a fortnight, and as long as that resistance hangs in there in Iraq, the statements that Kerry and the others have been making will hold.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look. I think that Kerry -- these arguments, if I were them, I would continue to make them because their best bet is that things go to hell in Iraq. If they don't, they're going to lose, probably, so they might as well stay consistent through this period, keep the drumbeat up. And if they get lucky and we get unlucky, they'll hit the jackpot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Small correction here: the grammar is "if I were they," not "if I were them."

MR. BLANKLEY: If you were they.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now let's go on to the exit question. How long will this bounce for Bush endure?

MR. BUCHANAN: Lawrence O'Donnell hit it. Valentine's Day, it will be gone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even before spring?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, sure. No more than two months.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I agree with that. I mean, the attention span of the American people is quite brief. And (if ?) one American soldier has died since Saddam was captured, and the resistance does not look like it's diminishing, and women can't go out for fear of -- ordinary street crime has also increased in the country. It's chaos.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's something else that -- I want your answer in a minute, but Thomas Kean, the former New Jersey governor, chair of the 9/11 independent commission, says that the attack on 9/11 could and should have been prevented. "There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time, because they failed, they simply failed." And Kean says these same people are still in these critical positions. And in public testimony, the press says, we should not be surprised if he has top officials from the FBI, CIA, Defense, NSA and maybe President Bush and President Clinton. Now, are you going to factor that into telling me how long this is going to endure, this bounce?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, regarding Kean's statement, regarding the CIA director George Tenet, I agree with him. I have called, long called, as have a lot of people, for his retirement. So obviously, there are people in the government who I think shouldn't be there. I don't think that has anything to do with the question at hand, though.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, it does. This may affect Bush.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. A Kean commission will get -- won't get 15 minutes, it will get five seconds of attention. But on the larger question of when the bounce, if you will, off of Saddam's arrest ends, I don't think it's knowable now, but I think there's a reasonable chance that if it in fact leads to some success on the aground, this may not be a bounce, it may be a new plateau. On the other hand, if all hell breaks loose there again, then the bounce is going to be very s short. We just can't tell. We have to wait and see. You can't spin this. Ultimately, the facts are going to tell the story.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long? As you indicated, Valentine's Day?

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, yeah, at the longest, unless we sleep-deprive Saddam as much as I've been sleep-deprived this week, to the point where he actually starts giving up some stuff. If you can get new chapters in the "capture of Saddam" story, and, you know, three weeks from now there's the revelation that Saddam has told us the following very helpful things, then you'll get a bounce from that stuff too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a good team. You're all correct. (Laughter.)

When we come back, we will get into another interesting topic.

(Announcements.)

Issue two: trying the tyrant.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) I think what needs to happen is he needs to be brought to justice. And Iraqi citizens need to be very much involved in the development of a system that brings him to justice. And there needs to be a public trial. And all the atrocities need to come out, and justice needs to be delivered.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Those are the basics, but there's much more. Saddam's will likely be the most significant and complicated trial of a dictator since Nazi leaders were sentenced to death at Nuremberg.

Item: The Hague. That's the major international war crimes tribunal today, like Nuremberg, where Slobodan Milosevic now faces charges for war crimes committed in Yugoslavia.

Item: Victims' justice. Other war criminals have been tried directly by their victims. Adolf Eichmann, a principal organizer of the Holocaust, was apprehended in Argentina in 1961, brought to Jerusalem, tried there before three Israeli judges, with the verdict rendered eight months after the trial began. He was convicted and hanged 16 months after his capture.

Item: The death penalty.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Let's just see what penalty he gets. But I think he ought to receive the ultimate penalty for what he's done to his people. I mean, he is a torturer, a murderer, he had rape rooms. That this is a -- this is a disgusting tyrant who deserves justice, the ultimate justice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But international war crimes tribunals run by the U.N. forbid the death penalty.

U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: (From videotape.) The U.N. does not support death penalty, and all the courts we've set up have not included death penalty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A related problem is that the president's statements appear to prejudge the outcome of the trial, despite repeated statements by U.S. officials, including the president, that the Iraqis should be free to set the terms and punishment of Mr. Hussein's trial.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) But that will be decided not by the president of the United States but by the citizens of Iraq in one form or another.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Item: Past U.S.-Iraq alliance. The U.S. relationship in the public and private sectors with Saddam in the 1980s included economic aid, weapons, satellites, tanks, helicopters, intelligence used in the Iraq-Iran war. Donald Rumsfeld could be called to testify about his 1983 meeting with Saddam in Baghdad where they greeted each other as allies. And immediately after Gulf War one, George Bush, Sr., called on the Shi'ites to rise up against Saddam, which they did; then Mr. Bush walked away, leaving a fanatical insurgency inside Iraq that Saddam finally succeeded in crushing.

Question: Before this is over, will we wish Saddam had gone out guns blazing, like his sons Uday and Qusay?

Lawrence O'Donnell?

MR. O'DONNELL: I will not wish that. I want to learn as much as I can possibly learn from Saddam Hussein's trial, from his own testimony, from whatever documents might be introduced. I want all the information I can get from him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know that when they open up Saddam Hussein, they're going to find ties, ties with leaders from all over the world, ties with corporate CEOs from all over the world? It's going to be like Chernobyl.

MR. O'DONNELL: Great! I want to know all about it. I want to know all the mistakes that were made in the past. I want to know everything we did to help shore him up and create him. I want to know the evolution of that entire regime, down to its collapse.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We want to build a mitigating case for Saddam Hussein?

MR. O'DONNELL: That's not a mitigating case. There's no mitigating case for mass murder.

MS. CLIFT: The only way we would learn that is if there is an international component here. And right now the Bush administration is running the political show in Iraq. This looks like it's going to be a --

MR. BUCHANAN: Wait. That would be exactly right --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I want to finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: This looks like it's going to be a political trial run by the Iraqis, and it will bring out all of the crimes against humanity -- (cross talk) -- and it will bolster the Bush administration case that this was a war that needed to be waged for humanitarian reasons.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: This is a positive for the Bush administration.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. BLANKLEY: Look --

MS. CLIFT: And it's going to be in Arabic, too. We're not going to be glued to the television screen.

MR. BLANKLEY: There will be translations. But look, first of all, there's no secret about American support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, as it was the headlines at the time. You've got the news clippings here right -- the film clip right now.

What is going to be news and will be fun to find out is his more recent relationships with certain European leaders, which is not in the news and is not yet known. So I understand that there may be some people -- near the Seine River, perhaps -- who will be a little bit more nervous about this.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, look, look, they -- look, they have got to keep the international people out of this, if the Bush -- have any sense. Secondly, this is going to be a trial of Saddam Hussein for his atrocities, his murders, his crimes. It's not going to be Johnnie Cochran trying the United States for giving him weaponry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well!

MR. BUCHANAN: There are going to be charges against Saddam.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's -- they're going to be -- lay out the evidence, the bodies, the testimony, all of that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to be allowed to defend himself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's going to be fair trial, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to be allowed to defend himself against these charges. It'll be a fair trial --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We are advertising our democratic virtue all over the world. It's going to be a fair trial.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not going to be an American-type O.J. trial, I can ensure (sic) you that. And Mr. Bush would be foolish if he lets this go to The Hague. You've got to put --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, Saddam has a soapbox in this trial. You know that.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, they're not going to have some Arab Johnnie Cochran over there, saying Rumsfeld came here and did this or that.

MR. O'DONNELL: He doesn't need one. He's going to be allowed to testify himself. He will get up --

MR. BUCHANAN: What is he going to say?

MR. O'DONNELL: He'll stand there for hours and arrogantly tell you the stories, starting from his first day on the job.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right. All right. Fine.

MR. O'DONNELL: He will get to say whatever he wants.

MS. CLIFT: He did the same thing with Dan Rather in the interview, and it didn't have much PR positive effect -- (inaudible) -- country.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it --

MS. CLIFT: I don't think he's going to win over hearts and minds.

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a mistake for the president to say that he wants him dead?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Chuckling.) You mean prejudicial pretrial publicity?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: So what? There's nothing -- John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did President Nixon go through? Do you have a recollection of that?

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, he did. He said -- (chuckling) -- he went out to California, and he said that guy Manson is guilty of murders --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what happened? Wait a minute.

MR. BUCHANAN: So Manson grabbed the L.A. Times headline, "Manson guilty, says Nixon," and showed it to the jury. (Chuckles among group members.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point. There's a difference. In the Manson case, Nixon hadn't spent the last two years explaining every crime that Manson had been -- created.

Obviously, the president's -- the whole case for going to war is based on his intimate understanding of Saddam's behavior. He's given public speeches on it. What else could you say after you've described this behavior, other than you deserve the ultimate penalty?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if, as was pointed out in the set-up --

MR. BLANKLEY: There's no comparison at all between the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If the president and the public officials of his government are saying that this is all going to be in the hands of the Iraqis, and here we have the president equivalently telling the Iraqis how to do it --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- including capital punishment --

MS. CLIFT: Well, they don't currently have a death penalty, but they will.

MR. O'DONNELL: We're talking about a president who has personally administered the death penalty for an awful lot less more times than he can remember.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is your point?

MR. BLANKLEY: He hasn't personally administered it.

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.) (Chuckles.)

MR. O'DONNELL: It's a joke. The question's a joke. The entire world knows that Bush wants to kill this guy and that he will kill people for a lot less.

MR. BLANKLEY: As do -- as the Iraqis --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where will the trial take place?

MR. BUCHANAN: Baghdad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Hague?

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Any possibilities?

MR. BLANKLEY: Inside Iraq.

MS. CLIFT: It should go to The Hague, but I don't think it will. It won't.

MR. BLANKLEY: Inside Iraq.

MS. CLIFT: Inside Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What role is the United States going to play at the trial by way of informed testimony and informed scholarship on how to go about doing it?

MR. BLANKLEY: We're certainly going to --

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think that we've got some evidence on his mass crimes, but I don't think we're going to be producing the paper trail on how we helped him acquire biological and chemical weapons.

MR. BLANKLEY: The biggest --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me answer the question. The biggest challenge the Iraqi legal system is going to have is managing the evidence. There's going to be a lot of witnesses, and --

MR. O'DONNELL: The biggest challenge they're going to have is preventing everyone involved from being assassinated on the way home from the trial.

MS. CLIFT: Right. That's right. I agree with that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Managing the evidence and presenting it in an orderly way, which would take months and months in America, will be provided, I think, by American legal --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this trial going to be a nest of vipers? Yes or no.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, not --

MR. O'DONNELL: There will be assassination attempts on everyone involved.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't believe --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: Lawrence is right. Assassination threats and attempts --

MR. O'DONNELL: On everyone involved.

MS. CLIFT: -- and actual acts are the biggest threat.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: I agree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is a Pandora's box?

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, the danger of having it in Iraq is that it becomes -- that building becomes THE bombing target for everything those resistance fighters are doing -- everything.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When will the trial be over?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's a good question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a year. Two thousand-five?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the president would be wise to kick it over until after the election, even though we're not going to be running the trial. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will NATO take over the responsibility for the stabilization of Iraq? A forced prediction. Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Right after they get the contracts. Yes.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. Maybe a subcontracted entity within NATO.

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. O'DONNELL: No, they won't take it over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes. Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Bye-bye!

END OF REGULAR SEGMENT PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Gay Bombshell.

One hundred years ago this week, the Wright brothers flew their plane. The anniversary coincides with the grand opening of a new wing of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, the Udvar-Hazy Center, next to Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

One exhibit there has ignited controversy: the fully restored Enola Gay, the B-29 that 58 years ago dropped the first atomic bomb used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan.

Japanese survivors of that atomic bombing and anti-nuclear-bomb activists were on hand at the exhibit's opening. Two were arrested for throwing red paint at the plane to symbolize blood. They were outraged over what they say is the failure on the part of the museum to mention the casualties and the devastation wrought by the bomb: 364,000 thousand dead in the atomic bombings of both cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But museum director John Dailey, a retired general, is defiant. "We don't do it for other airplanes. From a consistency standpoint, we focus on the technical aspects."

The 364,000 includes the radiation deaths. Can the Enola Gay be regarded simply as a piece of technology, do you think, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: No. And I think it's really disgraceful that we adopt this Soviet-style airbrushing of history. A simple plaque acknowledging the deaths, just straightforwardly saying what happened, why this government reasoned that we needed to take this action, and the consequences of it. You don't have to go beyond that, making value judgments, but you can't pretend that this is just a piece of machinery to be admired.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Under what conditions should the Smithsonian accede to the peace activists' and the anti-nuclear war activists' requests? I ask you, Patrick Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Absolutely zero.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero?

MR. BUCHANAN: Zero in this sense. Look. The morality and the wisdom of dropping the first and second bomb are legitimately subject to real question. I think it was an act, clearly, of air terror. The massacre of innocent civilians to break the will of a government is terrorism. But these issues should be taken up in magazines and books and television shows. In a museum which is dedicated to aircraft, like the B-29s that burned Tokyo and killed as many people as Nagasaki, they put those in there. And so I think that there is a place for this debate to be taken up, but it does not belong in the museum.

MR. O'DONNELL: If the museum is about baseball and they have Babe Ruth's bat, they tell you what he did with that bat. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you could say why it's in here, that this isn't your average B-29.

MR. O'DONNELL: And this is absurd that you would have the single most famous aircraft in the history of military aviation and not identify what it did.

MR. BUCHANAN: You identify it, but you don't go into debate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about putting up an account of the 1 million projected Americans that would have been lost because an invasion of Japan would have been required? Plus that 1 million Americans -- the baby boomers that resulted from that is probably 2 or 3 million.

MR. O'DONNELL: But In modern museums, you can give people a lot of information.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you multiply that -- those baby boomers would not be in existence, plus that 1 million. What about putting that up there?

MR. BUCHANAN: But again, those are subjects -- elsewhere. You do say this is the plane that dropped the atomic bomb, but you don't debate the wisdom and morality of the bomb in an air museum.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want just the technology of flight in the Air and Space Museum. Is that your position?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is there because it dropped the bomb.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's defensible.

MR. BUCHANAN: Thank you.

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