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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

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

TAPED: FRIDAY, JANUARY 23, 2004
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 24-25, 2004

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: The passion of Howard Dean.

(Begin videotape.)

DEAN SUPPORTER: Howard! (Cheers, applause.)

HOWARD DEAN (Democratic presidential candidate): You guys. (Cheers, applause.) You have already got the picture here.

Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin; we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma -- (cheers, applause) -- and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico. We're going to California and Texas and New York, and we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and
Michigan. (Cheers, applause continue.) And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! (Screaming.) Yeah!

(End videotape.)

(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dean's stemwinder to his supporters to fight on blew the lid of his campaign. Dean had sinned by an excess of passion.
Media gurus screamed back at Dean as loudly as he screamed at them.

So Dean spent the rest of the week seeking forgiveness. The passion play began with confession.

DR. DEAN: (From videotape.) I thought I owed it to the 3,500 kids that came out and worked for us. And sure, I would have liked to have been a little bit -- done a little better.

You know, I'm not a perfect person. I think a lot of people have had a lot of fun at my expense over the Iowa hooting and hollering, and that's justified.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One of Dean's rivals, Al Sharpton, had immediate fun over the hooting and hollering. And in its own way, Sharpton' wit threw Dean a kind of cryptic lifeline.

REV. AL SHARPTON (Democratic presidential candidate): (From
videotape.) If I had spent the money you did and got 18 percent, I'd still be in Iowa hooting and hollering. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two nights later, Dean's pilgrimage brought him to the shrine of Diane Sawyer, who asked wife Judy what she thought of her husband's exuberance.

DR. JUDITH STEINBERG DEAN: (From videotape.) I thought it looked kind of silly. (Chuckles.) But I thought it looked okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mrs. Dean then addressed the question of why her campaign appearances were so few and why she was acting so differently from the stereotypical political wife.

DR. J.S. DEAN: (From videotape.) I'm kind of private, and I have a son in Burlington I like to stay with, and I have a medical practice which I love. But I also love Howard, and I think he'd made a terrific president. You know, he's really an honest, straightforward, smart person.

I think if I can help him, I will. And that doesn't mean he's going to disrupt my life, disrupt my patients, my son. But if he calls on a Saturday and I'm not on call that weekend, I'll be out there on Sunday. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Judy then addressed the question of whether her
husband had a temper and, if so, how often he lost it.

DR. J.S. DEAN: (From videotape.) I can't remember the last time. He just doesn't get that angry. And he doesn't -- you know, he just -- he's very kind, very considerate, and it just doesn't happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then on to the temple of David Letterman for the legendary liturgy of the "Top 10."

(Begin videotape.)

DAVID LETTERMAN (talk show host): Number 10.

DR. DEAN: Switch to decaf. (Laughter.)

MR. LETTERMAN: Okay.

Number four.

DR. DEAN: (Putting on an Austrian accent.) Start working out and speaking with an Austrian accent. (Laughter, applause.)

MR. LETTERMAN: And the number-one way Howard Dean can turn things around?

DR. DEAN: Oh, I don't know. Maybe fewer crazy, red-faced rants.
(Laughter.)

(End videotape.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The passion of Howard Dean, the "via
dolorosa." So what do we have now? A Dean crucifixion or a Dean
resurrection, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think Howard Dean is not going to be the
Democratic nominee -- never. And I think he's never going to be president of the United States. What I would do if I were him -- this storm is going to go all weekend and up until Tuesday and then New Hampshire. People will be looking at the winner of New Hampshire. What Howard Dean ought to do -- find a state on February 3rd where he's got a fighting chance, put all of his money in there, go there, get back on the offensive, try to win a state, get back in the headlines, get this behind him. It will be an enormously difficult thing to get any momentum going for him, but that's what I would do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think you're overreacting to his
exuberance?

MR. BUCHANAN: That is the most destructive performance by a primary candidate since Gary Hart got off the Monkey Business.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He had 3,500 young people there. They were grossly dispirited at the fact he came in third. He was pumped up by his staff --

MR. BUCHANAN: John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. -- to go out there and rescue these kids from their desperation. And he did it. So what?

MR. BUCHANAN: The whole country was waiting for Howard Dean to give a gracious concession statement to Edwards and to Kerry and they were all listening in and this explosive rant. And you know what everybody was saying when they saw it? Is this the guy who ought to be in control of our nuclear arsenal?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, would you stop it? You know that presidents have raged. I think even President James Buchanan was a rager, wasn't he?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he -- (laughs).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, will you speak to this?

MS. CLIFT: It's one thing to lose an election, it's another to become a national joke. And that is what happened to Howard Dean.

I was there in that hall and his speech sounded perfectly appropriate. There were a thousand very dejected people there and he was trying to tell them it was okay, he was going to fight on, he wasn't going to desert them. His whole campaign has been about the voters; "you have the power." And they felt like they'd let him down.

But it was way too hot for television. And it crystallized the doubts that people have had about him. And frankly, I mean, he's been the front-runner for so long. The Democratic establishment has gone after him, the media has been pretty eager to throw everything at him, and he didn't handle it well. And so he fell short and the campaign was never able to move from "Gee, look at all the energy and the money we've raised" to getting a message that would stick. So I think it's recoverable for him, but he's done a pretty good job here of damage control.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he collected $600,000, which is twice what Kerry collected, right after this whole event.

MS. CLIFT: It's premature to write him off, because he has energized supporters, he has money, he can stay in the game.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard Buchanan. He's mad at Dean because Dean let him down on Buchanan's prediction last week.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's why. Can you speak to this?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Look, both of them are basically right, although I think he is dead. I think it's unfair. I've been in rooms like that, both as a speaker and as a listener.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear what she said? In the context of the room it was perfectly all right.

MR. BUCHANAN: I completely understand that. I agree with that. I think it's unfair that it's happened to Dean this way. Nonetheless, it has. It's become an urban myth in a matter of a few days. And I don't think he can recover.

But the more interesting question is, where is his floor? If he has a base of 10, 15, 18 percent and he's got the money and he's got the people around the country, he can keep campaigning at least to California and be a real factor in whether Kerry or whoever's going to be the likely leader can close this thing down or has to keep campaigning for months.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Dean has to place first in New
Hampshire? Must he place first?

MR. O'DONNELL: He will not. The Dean campaign died in Iowa. But what the scream did was misdirect what actually happened. The campaign was dead before he ever took a microphone into his hand that night. He wasn't just beaten in Iowa. John Kerry got more than double what Howard Dean got. Howard Dean came in third in a place that he was supposed to win, and the reason he lost is his policies, primarily the tax policy.

You cannot run for the Democratic nomination saying you want to raise income taxes on the working poor and the middle class. This has gotten through. That was a doomed candidacy from the day he said he wanted to repeal 100 percent of the Bush tax cuts. It is hopeless. He cannot win a single state. He will not win a single primary anywhere.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did the Diane Sawyer interview help Dean, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I think it did. I mean, the Deans came across as very decent, down-to-earth people, and they seem like they are a little out of their element in this kind of weird game that we play of "gotcha" politics at the national level. But yeah, I agree that his message got stuck in the anti-war mode, and he is the prototype candidate this year. He discovered the anger that Democrats feel. He was the first one out there with --

MR. O'DONNELL: The Democrats don't feel it.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, let me finish.

MR. O'DONNELL: Twenty-five percent --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. He was the first --

MR. O'DONNELL: -- of Democrats feel it, 25 percent maximum.

MS. CLIFT: Seventy-five. Seventy-five percent of the Iowa voters opposed the war. He tapped into that, and he also pioneered the message of going after Bush where he's most vulnerable; that is, that people think he identifies with the corporate interests.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right. John --

MS. CLIFT: But the other candidates improved on Dean's methods. They -- and that's how politics work.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, but look, this is a tragedy. I think you're right. I think this is a tragedy. I will tell you why. I think these are good people. I don't agree with them all. They were against the war. Dean had the guts to go out and be against it. He put himself on the line. He was getting a great movement going. And this is not some moral flaw or character flaw. It was just a stupid event where he let himself get out of control, and it's terrible -- Tony's right -- that the guy is destroyed over that. And I think it's tragic because these people no longer have a voice or a candidate in the race who really stands up for them, and they're unrepresented.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I don't know about that.

MR. O'DONNELL: He was destroyed before he opened his mouth. That's what prompted it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they didn't get a -- they didn't get a -- they didn't get a --

MR. O'DONNELL: You can't run in America as the guy who wants to raise taxes more than anyone else and win. It has never happened.

MR. BUCHANAN: I know, I know. But --

MR. O'DONNELL: It never will.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can't believe this collective obituary is being written here. Buchanan, you are really so irrationally exuberant yourself on this issue.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm not -- (laughter) -- I mean, I have never cut loose like that, John. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: More in sorrow --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First of all --

MS. CLIFT: -- than anger, though.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, he's not finished yet. At the debate on Thursday night, he appeared sensible. He appeared solid.

MR. BUCHANAN: How -- John, the debate was on one --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He appeared a little bit subdued. He appeared a little bit chastened.

MR. BUCHANAN: The debate was on one tiny channel. It wasn't on
MSNBC. It wasn't on CNN. It wasn't on all the networks. It was a little debate in one state. And I will tell you this, the whole country over the weekend are going to watch this on every national show, including McLaughlin. They are going to see that same rant. It's going all over America again and again and again. It is not survivable.

MR. O'DONNELL: And Kerry was great in the debate. The front- runner was great.

MR. BLANKLEY: All right, let's not get -- (laughter) -- I mean, let's not get carried away. He was taller and he was quieter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I should point out that on Friday, Howard Dean called upon -- I believe this -- I know he criticized Greenspan -- the
chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Alan Greenspan -- for working
hand-in-glove with Paul O'Neill, based upon Paul O'Neill's recollections as found in the book called "The Price of Loyalty" by Ron Suskind. And we shall see whether that shift away from the war and on to Greenspan does anything to move some of this also out of his way.

Now, Dean has been filled with surprises all through this campaign, and I think there's a possibility of a surprise again, which leads to the exit question.

Which one is the better candidate, the Howard Dean in the final week going into Iowa, or the Howard Dean of the final week going into New Hampshire, which is Tuesday?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John, if you describe the candidate, I think the better Dean candidate was the Dean candidate before Iowa by a couple of weeks, and before New Hampshire, who was on message and going strong even if he was going to lose.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wrong again, Buchanan.

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: The final week going into Iowa, Dean himself told his aides that he felt he had lost his footing. So the Dean of New Hampshire has got to be the better candidate.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, the Dean of a month before the Iowa election was the better candidate. He was on his message. I do, by the way, agree with Lawrence that the tax issue -- the two candidates, Edwards and Kerry, who did not roll back the middle-class Bush tax cut, got 70 percent of the vote. And the two who went for 100 percent of it did badly. So that's also a real element.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which one's the better candidate, Howard on the edge of Iowa or Howard on the edge of New Hampshire?

MR. O'DONNELL: The Dean candidacy will never finish higher than third in any counting of any votes in any Democratic primary or caucus. It's a hopeless candidacy. Evaluating which one of those is better, last week's or this week's, is meaningless.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's better now this weekend than he was last
weekend, because he has a broader message, he has a more humanized appearance, he's had his trial by fire.

MR. O'DONNELL: How's it going to look when he flip-flops on the
taxes, which he's going to have to do any minute now?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Howard Dean improves under pressure. (Laughter.)

When we come back: New Hampshire likes the underdog.

MR. BUCHANAN: If he improves any more, he's going to blow up!
(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But that underdog now is Howard Dean. So where does that leave John Kerry?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two. "Kerry on."

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA) (Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) There are just two Americas: the America of the special interests and lobbyists, that the president defends, and the America that the Chasens (sp) and a lot of other people in New Hampshire and elsewhere are living. And that's the one I want to fight for. I think this president is out of touch with the real problems of the average American who's struggling to make ends meet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Kerry is parlaying his stunning Iowa comeback in New Hampshire. If his momentum holds, the Massachusetts senator by Tuesday will have two critical contests under his belt, Iowa and New Hampshire. And moving into South Carolina, his combat blueprint is already drawn.

(Begin videotape segment.)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA) (Democratic presidential candidate): Now, Karl Rove and George Bush have already announced that they intend to run this election on national security.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Bring it on!

SEN. JOHN KERRY: And you can understand why. You can understand why. They can't exactly run on jobs.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No!

SEN. KERRY: They can't exactly run on health care for all Americans.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No!

SEN. KERRY: They can't exactly run on having left no child behind.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No!

SEN. KERRY: They can't run on the environment and advancing the cause of humankind.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No!

SEN. KERRY: So they will run on national security.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No!

SEN. KERRY: And I look forward to reminding them that I know
something about aircraft carriers for real, ladies and gentlemen. (Cheers, applause.) I -- if George Bush wants to make national security the central issue of this campaign, I have three words for him we know he understands.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Bring it on!

SEN. KERRY: (Chanting.) Bring it on!

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Chanting.) Bring it on!

SEN. KERRY: (Chanting.) Bring it on! Bring it on!

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Chanting.) Bring it on! Bring it on! Bring it on! Bring it on! Bring it on!

(End of videotape.)

SEN. KERRY: (From videotape.) He's run the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of our country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the Kerry playbook for defeating Bush: jobs, universal health care, education, the ordinary man's fight against special interests, no more two Americas, plus true national security.

Question: How much of a lift will the Iowa first place give Kerry in New Hampshire, Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's now in first place, and he's got a fairly
substantial lead. Kerry has always been the rational choice for the
Democrats. He's got the resume. He's got the Lincolnesque looks of a
president. He's a fighter, which is what he showed when he came back from the dead.

And key decision: They pulled stakes up in New Hampshire when they were -- fell into third place, and they went to Iowa. That was a huge risk. He took out a personal loan. Let's not forget he's the first self-financed candidate since Ross Perot.

Wonderful television ads showing him the jungles of Vietnam.

And then the defining moment: when the former Green Beret buddy,
who's now a retired policeman in Oregon, calls the campaign and says, "Can I do anything to help?" And it turns out Kerry saved his life in
Vietnam. And the guy's a registered Republican, on top of it. I mean, this was the moment that made the Kennedy -- the Kerry campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence, do you think that John Kerry, who's quite an able politician, could benefit a little bit if he had some of Arnold Schwarzenegger's charisma?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, Arnold Schwarzenegger's charisma is what has the bond issue at California polling at one-third of the vote. (Laughter.)

Listen, everyone is now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now wait a minute. You're trying to tell me that Schwarzenegger has no charisma?

MR. O'DONNELL: That's a whole other show.

Everyone is seeing that -- the John Kerry that I know, the John Kerry that made me predict, from this chair, two and a half years ago, that he would be the front-runner. This guy is running the best campaign I have seen him run, in the last two weeks. Prior to that, he was running the kind of campaign everyone said he was running.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What changed it?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, he realized this is it, this is life or death. And you saw him when you got into that "everything is at stake"
situation. He focused everything exactly the way he had to.

And Eleanor's right about how he is the rational choice. There's something wrong with every other candidacy. There's nothing wrong with Kerry.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

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

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's something wrong with your explanation,
because you haven't told me why Kerry himself changed. He was -- he became almost physically different.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know he had his hair cut differently.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you why --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he suddenly assumed --

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you why --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was suddenly a confidence and an expansiveness about him.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's like Teddy Kennedy, John. Teddy Kennedy and Kerry -- when you are not going to win, and when it looks like you've lost it, and the tension goes off, people sometimes become relaxed; they're at their best. And Kerry was much more relaxed. He was like a guy not under all the pressure he'd been under. He was lucky.

And I'll tell you this: he is 12 days or 10 days away from sweeping this whole thing. I think he's going to win New Hampshire. If he takes South Carolina, John, I don't know anybody that catches him. He's through the secondary --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You sound like you -- wait one minute. You sound like you think he could actually defeat the president.

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, absolutely.

MR. BUCHANAN: I tell you, if he'd use this strategy, if he writes off the red states and all the South, except for Florida --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- comes across the top of the country, it's possible.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Pat, John Kerry is extremely liberal.

MR. BUCHANAN: I know he is. He'd have to run a Northern strategy. (Cross talk.)

MR. O'DONNELL: He is not extremely liberal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come on, will you?

MR. O'DONNELL: He --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me -- wait, wait --

MR. O'DONNELL: He is not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Shall I give you the ADA rating?

MR. BLANKLEY: Ninety-three!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's too liberal for the country?

MR. BUCHANAN: He is too liberal. He'll get no -- none of the
Southern red states, except possibly Florida. If he comes across the entire Northern tier and picks them all up and picks Gephardt vice president to get Missouri, there's a chance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he can trim? Trim some of that
liberalism away in the presentation of self?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act.
(Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: He's got two strong -- let me say, as the first
national television pundit to predict that Kerry's political demise back in July -- (laughter) -- let me now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. O'DONNELL: We have the tape. Can we roll that tape? (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How can you be so bold as to make that admission? How can you flagellate yourself that way? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm not -- look, it would have gone fine if Dean had just lasted another week before he'd exploded. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. BLANKLEY: But Kerry is, I think, not the strongest Democratic candidate. I think that Edwards is potentially a stronger candidate, because he could be competitive --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see the debate?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, I watched it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he opened himself up to the charge of being a lightweight?

MR. BLANKLEY: Edwards has that problem. He also has the capacity --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whoa.

MR. BLANKLEY: He also has the capacity to --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you rather have someone who's a lightweight or with irrational exuberance?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: He also has the capacity to be competitive throughout the South and the border states.

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think Kerry's liberal record, as commendable looking a man as he is and as dignified a man as he is, when they start going through that voting record -- he's got a more liberal voting record than Ted Kennedy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. (Cross talk.)

MR. O'DONNELL: No, he doesn't --

MS. CLIFT: They're going to make John Kerry look like Michael
Dukakis's clone.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: A tall Michael --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: And I agree with you that John Edwards has the capability here. I'd keep my eye on him. He could take off.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. We've got to move on.

MS. CLIFT: And characterizing him is a lightweight --

MR. BLANKLEY: Edwards had a bad night, but he's a very impressive politician.

MS. CLIFT: -- characterize him as a lightweight -- when he shows up in a debate, you won't say that anymore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Excuse me.

MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor and I are agreeing! (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Clark's land mine. In New Hampshire last
Saturday, filmmaker Michael Moore endorsed Wesley Clark. At the endorsement rally, the four-star general stood side by side with Moore as Moore called President Bush a quote, unquote, "deserter." "It's the general versus the deserter. That's the debate we want to see," declared Moore.

Last Thursday night, four-star general Clark was asked why he failed to repudiate Moore for having called Commander in Chief Bush a deserter. Here's what Clark said:

Quote, "To be honest with you, I did not look at the facts. That's Michael Moore's opinion. He's entitled to say that. I've seen he's not the only person who's said that. I've not followed up on those facts. I think Michael Moore has the right to say whatever he feels about this. I don't know whether this is supported by the facts or not. I've never looked at it. I've seen this charge bandied around a lot," unquote. (Laughter.)

Question: Did this hurt Clark? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look. I mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this the real land mine?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is stunning. This would be the equivalent of one of the other candidates saying all those things about Clark. I
understand he's a clinical paranoiac. I don't know for sure; he might or might not be. Repeating it would be shocking and appalling and
irresponsible. And his calling the president a deserter in the terms he did, acquiescing in that charge, I think puts him beyond the pale.

MS. CLIFT: Now wait a second.

MR. BUCHANAN: He gave credence to a --

MS. CLIFT: A more nimble politician would have said, well, I --

MR. BLANKLEY: Not a more nimble, a more sane politician.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. A more nimble --

MR. O'DONNELL: Just a decent person wouldn't have --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MS. CLIFT: A more nimble politician would have said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: -- I wouldn't necessarily use that word, but there are questions --

MR. BLANKLEY: He --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're almost out of time.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. There are questions about whether --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: There are questions about where George W. Bush was for a year of his military service.

MR. BUCHANAN: He gave --

MR. BLANKLEY: He wasn't a deserter! Peter Jennings gave him two chances.

MR. O'DONNELL: You don't have to be a nimble politician to handle that question. You have to be a decent human being. He wasn't a deserter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: He gave credence to a vicious slander.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First and second in New Hampshire, in that sequence. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Kerry, Dean.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry, Dean.

MS. CLIFT: Kerry, hometown advantage, and Dean or Clark. And I'm hedging -- (laughter) -- that all four candidates go to South Carolina. New Hampshire won't settle it. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Eleanor and I are as one today. I think it's Kerry, probably Dean, maybe Clark, and they all go on to South Carolina.

MR. O'DONNELL: Kerry will win big. Dean will be a distant second. Clark will be awful close to him.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay. Go ahead, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fasten your safety belts. (Laughter.) Dean
narrowly, Kerry. Next week --

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Congress starts its 2004 calendar year in earnest. We will see how earnest. Bye bye!

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: liberty, equality, secularity?

(Music: "Le Marseillaise")

A French ban on bandannas and beards, that's what may be up next.
President Jacques Chirac called for a law last month that would bar, in
schools, Muslims from wearing head scarves and other students from
displaying certain religious symbols.

Mr. Chirac is chiefly concerned that Muslim demonstrations of faith could threaten France's secular underpinnings. Quote: "The principle of secularism must be upheld and, in the case of teaching, one cannot accept ostentatious signs of proselytization, whatever they are and whatever the religion might be." So declared Mr. Chirac a month ago.

Ten thousand people, mostly Muslim women, marched in a Paris protest. Other groups took notice. If scarves were banned, what about other symbols? Christians, Jews -- yarmulkes are prescribed -- and Sikhs objected. Then this week, Luc Ferry, the minister who authored the proposed law, enraged opponents and even some supporters, suggesting the ban could include -- if they are deemed religious symbols -- bandannas and beards. The United States ambassador-at- large for international religious freedom takes issue.

AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE JOHN HANFORD: (From videotape.) A fundamental principle of religious freedom that we work for in many countries of the world, including on this very issue of head scarves, is that all persons should be able to practice their religion and their beliefs peacefully, without government interference, as long as they are doing so without provocation and intimidation of others in society.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Chirac justified in proposing to ban head scarves in public schools, Lawrence O'Donnell?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, you know, obviously, by American standards, he isn't at all. There's no justification for it.

But they're struggling with their version of separation of church and state. And the way they calibrate it is different from the way we do, and it's calibrated differently throughout the world, wherever it exists. We have to remembered that there are plenty of countries in the world that adamantly do not in any way separate church and state, and actually require religious participation to be part of government.

So I can understand, in today's environment, what this struggle is about. Obviously, you go off the edge pretty quickly when you get
involved with it. You start talking about beards, which is kind of nuts. But it's --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, in U.S. school, we also ban gang colors, do we not?

MR. O'DONNELL: We try to here and there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We also require photographs of --

MR. O'DONNELL: But that's not about religious freedom -- gang colors.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. BLANKLEY: But look, this is a very dangerous moment for Chirac and for France. As the Muslim population grows inexorably larger in France, and they're filled with their faith, at this point, for Chirac to be telling them now that they can't do this, I think, is a very dangerous move for him.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: I also happen to think, from American standards, people ought to be allowed to wear what they want. But --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. He makes it forbidden fruit and makes it even more powerful.

But what they're trying to do in a democratic society is to say, you know, "You're welcome in our country, but please assimilate." I mean, we do the same -- we send the same message in this country --

MR. O'DONNELL: Only in the school.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that, Pat? The argument is assimilation.

MR. O'DONNELL: Only in school.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're importing a huge population that does not
believe in the separation of church and state, and believes that religion should be the source of law -- Shari'a. They are importing a group which is not assimilable --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So Chirac is wrong?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think I -- from our standpoint, it's fine. But you bring in 100 million Islamic folks into this country and you'd have a real problem. (Pause.) We can all agree on that, right? (Laughter.)

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