THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LIZ MARLANTES
TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2004
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 7-8, 2004
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Intelligence test.
GEORGE TENET (CIA director): (From videotape.) Let me be clear, they never said there was an imminent threat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The "they" is CIA analysts. They never said there was an imminent threat from Iraq. This revelation from Dr. Tenet comes after former weapons inspector David Kay says this:
DAVID KAY (former Iraq Survey Group weapons inspector): (From videotape.) It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment, and that is most disturbing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Within hours, the Tenet disclosure drew this reaction from Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry:
"Today, the CIA Director, George Tenet, admitted that the intelligence agency never told the White House that Iraq posed an imminent threat. But that's not what the Bush White House told the American people. They said Iraq posed a `mortal threat,' an `urgent threat,' an `immediate threat,' a `serious threat,' and, yes, an `imminent threat.' Today, we found out that George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and the rest of the administration were not passing on sound facts on Iraq to the American people; they were playing politics with our national security. Americans should be able to trust that what the president tells them is true, especially when it comes to the life and death decisions of war and peace."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Kerry right; namely, that Americans should be able to trust the president?
MR. BUCHANAN: They should be, John. And what he said is true to some extent. But it raises the question why John Kerry himself did not do due diligence before voting to give the president of the United States a blank check to go to war.
However, this is a very serious matter. That we were misled, there is no doubt about it. The question is, we were deceived? Where did all this information about the Prague connection, the aluminum tubes, the aerial drones, the nuclear weapons and all of this -- was this cherry-picked? Was it falsified? Or was it just flimsy and then put out to the American people? Because we were stampeded into war, both the Congress and the country, and we ought to know why since it was an unnecessary war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, does that do duty for you, or do you want to add to that?
MS. CLIFT: Well, John Kerry did vote for the congressional resolution authorizing the war.
And maybe if Mr. Tenet had said some of the things he said in this speech, if he'd gone to the Congress and was honest with the Congress a year ago, and pointed out that while the president was asking for authority to invade Iraq, that North Korea was reconstituting its nuclear program, that Pakistan was proliferating by sending nuclear material and secrets to other countries, that information Mr. Tenet said he knew, but he withheld it. And if he had been honest with the Congress a year ago, I don't think that the Congress would have voted to support diverting precious resources, in terms of treasure and American blood, to Iraq, where the threat of weapons of mass destruction was a distant threat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, if Tenet is sincere, there's no need of this special panel. But if the special panel is sincere or valid, then Tenet must be spinning. So what's going on?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, no, I want to go back to this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, would you answer my question when you're finished making your intervention?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I want to first respond to what everybody, including Senator Kerry, said, because, anticipating this, I actually bought the president's State of the Union address 2003, where he said, "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent, but if this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions would come too late."
He expressly eliminated imminence as a ground for going to war in January of 2003. And everybody goes about -- Senator Kerry included -- saying he said "imminence." This is what the president said in the State of the Union to the Congress two months before the war.
So the argument that just --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We understand the connection here. You're saying that it's a bum rap against the president. But go on to my question. Why do we need this special commission?
MR. BLANKLEY: We need the special commission for the reason that I wrote in six editorials a year and a half ago, which is that we need to reform the intelligence service and we need to retire Mr. Tenet, because we've had terrible failures consistently in the intelligence service. They didn't know about the India-Pakistan nuclear development. They in fact had --
MS. CLIFT: He said they did.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But did you hear Tenet and his morale-boosting speech for the CIA analysts?
MR. BLANKLEY: Tenet gave, I thought, a very solid speech that gives --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if he's sincere, why do you need the commission?
MR. BLANKLEY: He's sincere, but I don't think he's able. He's shown over the years of his helmship there that he has not been able to manage the place properly, and we need to have a major reform.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Liz, what did you think of the lifeline that Tony just threw to the president of the United States: that the president had stated that we are not going to wait for imminence, because, in this era, you cannot do so?
MS. MARLANTES: Well, I do think that, you know, maybe there was that one line. But on the whole, the president was not presenting the American people with all of the caveats that obviously Tenet now is talking about, that were in the original intelligence estimates. And I think that does raise a question. I think it's going to be a campaign issue as to whether -- when the president was making the case to the public, whether he presented it in the same way that he had been presented, you know, the same sort of balance of "this is what we know, but there are certain things we don't know."
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: Liz is right. Liz is right. And to rest the president's defense on the fact that he didn't utter the word "imminent" -- he said we can't afford to wait; the wake-up call might be a mushroom cloud.
MR. BLANKLEY: He specifically said --
MS. CLIFT: That is hyping an event.
MR. BLANKLEY: He specifically rejected the imminence standard. He said that's not the standard. And you and Kerry and the rest of you go around --
MS. CLIFT: No. This is worse than Clinton and the definition of the word "is."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Okay. Okay.
MR. BLANKLEY: This is not -- (inaudible).
MS. CLIFT: Oh, yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's talk about --
MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- compare Bush -- (inaudible). He keeps his pants on.
MS. CLIFT: There was a sense of imminence that was created.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. We've got a lot to talk about here. We want to push this forward.
The scope of the intelligence failures commission.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) We also want to look at our war against proliferation and weapons of mass destruction kind of in a broader context.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The broader context means not only Iraq as the scope or the mission of the national commission that's just been appointed, but also Iran, Libya and North Korea. But the critics say that adding Libya, Iran and North Korea takes the focus off Iraq; namely, whether the administration politicized the intelligence it was getting.
Are the critics right? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. I mean, broadening this commission to this extent is an attempt to diffuse and delay. And also, naming a commission where only one person has an extensive background in intelligence guarantees that they will take at least till Election Day to even start up and get familiar.
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MS. CLIFT: This is a political commission.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the key question here --
MR. BLANKLEY: You've got --
MS. CLIFT: And the difference between those other failures and the Iraq failure is --
MR. BUCHANAN: But the key question --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat go.
MS. CLIFT: -- they found something that didn't exist, because of political pressure.
MR. BUCHANAN: All right. The key question here is who -- I mean, the intelligence, the CIA did not have hard evidence. They had all kinds of caveats and the rest of it. Who put these hard-and-fast statements in the State of the Union address and Colin Powell's address to the U.N. that they said it with such certitude? The point here, John, is we got to get at the question why this country went to war.
MR. BLANKLEY: Wait. That's --
MR. BUCHANAN: Why did we go to war?
MR. BLANKLEY: That's (not the question ?).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But let me get on with this and then we'll return to you, because Tenet is going to give you support. Tenet gives absolution -- or does he? -- to the president. Listen.
CIA DIRECTOR GEORGE TENET: (From videotape.) No one told us what to say or how to say it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does this take the Bush administration off the hook on that charge -- namely, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell, Rice -- that they manipulated intelligence? What do you think, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: No -- let me say this -- it does not. John, they're sending this red herring over there at the CIA. That the CIA was incompetent, we all know. There is the Office of Special Plans over there at the Pentagon that cherry-picked this stuff, that reached out and grabbed this. There's the vice president's office. They pulled the stuff that suggests we got to go to war now, and they stuck it in speeches. They're the ones that need to be investigated.
MS. CLIFT: Right. That's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Hold on. There's an abundance of time for all of you to get into this. But he used the term "cherry picking." Let's develop that, what you mean by cherry picking.
DAVID ALBRIGHT (former U.N. weapons inspector): (From videotape.) I think they cherry-picked and found things -- this is the administration officials -- cherry-picked and found things that supported the case they wanted to make. I think they were building the case to go to war, and I think they wanted to make the strongest case possible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Now --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me make one quick point, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment. Just a moment. Let's make sure everybody understands. It's one thing to call up the CIA director and say, I want you to do this, and I want you to come out on this side, and I want you to put pressure where you have to put pressure. There was none of that. Instead, there was cherry-picking, it is alleged. Is Albright correct? Did the administration cherry-pick, which is a standard way of politicizing intelligence? You pick those pieces that buttress your preconceived course of action and you ignore the ones that are against you.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Liz Marlantes, I want to hear from you.
MS. MARLANTES: Yes, I mean, I think that there is -- based on what Tenet said, I think that's a reasonable assumption. At the very least, the Bush administration presented, you know, their case in such a way that it didn't take into account everything that they obviously did know, or at least some of the things that now perhaps might have changed certain peoples' minds, especially in Congress, if they had access to that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: There's an extraordinary amount of rewriting of history going on here. You go back to what the president originally said after September 11th was the danger: rogue states that could be in possession or come into possession of weapons that they could turn over to terrorists. What the president has done in two years is he's eliminated Iraq by war, Pakistan and Libya by diplomacy, from this list of nations that are a danger to us. They are less dangerous to us now.
MR. BUCHANAN: John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. BLANKLEY: And you are cherry-picking little pieces of facts to try to undercut the -- (laughter, cross talk) -- let me finish what's been going on -- to try to undercut the fact that the president has made this country safer and your policies would make it -- (word inaudible) -- weaker. (Cross talk.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't know that. We don't know whether we're safer.
MR. BUCHANAN: The neoconservatives, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are some who believe that because of Iraq we are less safe.
Let me ask you --
MR. BUCHANAN: The neoconservatives decided on war long before 9/11 --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When? When?
MR. BLANKLEY: Bush (wasn't ?) the neoconservative.
MR. BUCHANAN: It has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. That is not the reason for war, it is the pretext for war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does the --
MR. BLANKLEY: That's been your theory --
MR. BUCHANAN: But it's been proven, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: It hasn't been proven.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, please.
I want to make a point about O'Neill's book written by Ronald Suskind. And in that book it is said at the first national security meeting which occurred 10 days after his taking of the oath in January, so therefore at the end of January 2001 -- there was a dismissal of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. We're not going to touch that. We don't want to get into that. And then he turned to Condoleezza Rice and he says, "What's on the agenda?" And Condoleezza Rice, as the book said, as though scripted says, "Iraq." So 10 days after they had made up their mind they were going to seek regime change in Iraq. Does that corroborate --
MS. CLIFT: There was a predisposition to finish the job that papa had started. Saddam after all -- let me finish! Saddam --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So then they cherry-picked.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, let me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what's being alleged.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I won't excuse you.
MS. CLIFT: It's my turn, Tony. And Saddam Hussein after all tried to kill Bush's daddy and they all --
MR. BLANKLEY: It wasn't papa Bush. It wasn't papa Bush.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, excuse me -- they were --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you finish your point?
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MS. CLIFT: They were looking for a provocation to go to war with Iraq. And frankly, if 9/11 hadn't happened they would have found it anyway. But 9/11 gave it a turbo charge.
MR. BLANKLEY: It wasn't papa Bush --
MS. CLIFT: And they --
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, come on.
MS. CLIFT: And they fabricated the connection to 9/11 through the cherry-picking and manipulation of intelligence --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know --
MR. BLANKLEY: It wasn't Papa Bush. There was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. I just want --
MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a sec. Let me make my one point.
MS. CLIFT: Why don't you sit on the table, Tony? You're practically out of your chair. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't get agitated here, because calmane (sp), calmane (sp) as the Italians say. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: The policy of regime change was not papa Bush's, as you rudely say --
MS. CLIFT: It was.
MR. BLANKLEY: But it was papa Clinton's. He was the one -- Congress voted --
MS. CLIFT: Not by invasion -- (laughs) --
MR. BLANKLEY: -- Congress voted, and the president -- Clinton called for regime change. To say that Bush was talking about regime change --
MS. CLIFT: Not by invasion without our allies.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we see the point.
Eleanor, stop. Let's take his word for it.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's not my word.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, I interviewed Bill Cohen, the secretary of Defense for President Clinton. And he said to me, without my bringing it up, he said on this matter of regime change, we always said that that must come from within. And he repeated that point -- from within, not from without.
Now, you can put your interpretation on that or you can believe the secretary of Defense.
MR. BLANKLEY: I remember when Bill Cohen and Madeleine Albright, when they were in government, going on Sunday television with bags of talcum powder that they said if this were -- this is the kind of anthrax that Saddam has that he's going to use.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that's a valid point, what he's saying.
MR. BLANKLEY: And I heard President -- I heard President Clinton --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That certainly sounded like they wanted regime change from outside.
MR. BLANKLEY: And I heard President Clinton say that some day he's going to use it.
Now here we were four years later, and it was time to act. Thank God the president did.
MR. BUCHANAN: All right, Tony, explain to me why Wolfowitz, on the 15th of September, goes into a war council meeting and says to the president we don't want to do Afghanistan, even though they're responsible, let's do Iraq because it's doable.
They came in with a preconceived agenda --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's right after September 11th.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- and they sold it to the president right after Afghanistan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --
MR. BLANKLEY: The same reason we invaded --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We can go big concept here, please, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: The same reason we invaded Africa before we invaded Germany in World War II.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, we don't want to get too retail here.
MR. BLANKLEY: You do what you can do.
MS. CLIFT: Take it to the White House, Tony! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A larger consequence. The invasion of Iraq seems destined to be the first and last of America's preventative wars. So says Philips Stephens associate editor of the Financial Times in London, on Friday in a well-reasoned piece.
Do you think that this is the last time that there will be a preventative war, inasmuch as human intelligence is so imperfect? I mean CIA intelligence.
MS. MARLANTES: I think preventative war has become in some ways a term that maybe they never should have used. I do think that it raises serious questions. If we're going to be going to war on the basis solely of intelligence, obviously then, this is something that needs to be looked at. But I also think that the administration itself was perhaps too quick to label this in that way, and that has become unfortunate for them.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, there is a case for preemptive strike and preventive war, but the threat has to be grave and it has to be imminent. And the problem is we can't rely on these folks because they got other agendas.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly. You cannot send American youth and American people, citizens, into harm's way in that way --
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- no matter how good your end is, if the means to the ends are not good. The end does not justify the means.
MS. CLIFT: And the level of uncertainty --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human toll. U.S. military dead in Iraq -- 529.
Exit: Six months from now, at the beginning of August, will George Tenet be director of the CIA, yes or no? That's about the beginning of September.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think they will all be in there together through November.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. BUCHANAN: Because -- why? You put one guy over the side and then he starts coming back at you. You cannot scapegoat anybody. They are all in on this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he need Tenet?
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he need Tenet?
MR. BUCHANAN: He'll make a mistake if he dumps him now because --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. BUCHANAN: -- Tenet will come back at him and make the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? How? How?
MR. BUCHANAN: He will say we are being scapegoated; we provided intelligence, we put the doubts in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the CIA holding onto anything that would be crucially embarrassing to the president between now and November 2?
MR. BUCHANAN: They know exactly what Libby and the Office of Special Plans did and all the rest of it, and that question I think at Georgetown was a setup.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do they know anything about anything reaching the White House that described the threat of 9/11 before 9/11?
MR. BLANKLEY: You know and Pat knows --
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does the CIA? Does the CIA?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) I don't know that, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Plame matter?
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Victoria (sic) Plame?
MR. BUCHANAN: There's going to be indictments in that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, apparently -- Pat just said it -- there are going to be indictments coming. Look, I don't think they're going to get rid of George Tenet --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MS. CLIFT: -- force him out because if you get rid of him, it brings it that much closer to the White House. He is a buffer, and he is so used to straddling issues. I mean, he is complicit here too --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MS. CLIFT: -- because he allowed the president to make assertive statements that he knew were not grounded in fact.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. You understand that my vocalizing is what the opposition is saying about the necessity to keep George Tenet. He is the holder of the secrets. Do you want to comment on this? The question is as stated.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I think it's likely that they won't make any changes until the report comes back. I think they should have changed beforehand, but I'm probably wrong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Tenet should have been out long ago?
MR. BLANKLEY: But I -- look, yes. I called for that back in 2002.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he have any intelligence background?
MR. BLANKLEY: Only as a congressional -- Hill staffer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that gives him bureaucratic background.
MR. BLANKLEY: He has no (spy ?) background.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to this? Will he be there?
MS. MARLANTES: They don't -- I think so. They don't want more books like the O'Neill book coming out. I mean, that's the last thing they want. They don't want Tenet to start, you know, leaking things or whatever.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The boost to morale -- the morale-booster talk that Tenet gave, it was really for the CIA. He can't afford any defections now. He has to keep everyone happy.
MR. BUCHANAN: It was for both. He got to -- took care of the president and took care of the CIA. Well done.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's got to keep the wagons in a circle.
MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody, don't break the circle! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you break the circle --
MS. CLIFT: That's right. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- then someone's going to do another O'Neill book. Am I right or wrong?
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: You can't have that before November. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back, can John W. Kerry -- can John Kerry beat George W. Bush?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Kerry all.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) For the second time in a few days, a New England patriot has won on the road. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Kerry won five out of seven on Tuesday: Missouri, Arizona, Delaware, New Mexico, North Dakota.
John Edwards won one: South Carolina. Al Sharpton placed third in South Carolina. Wesley Clark took Oklahoma. Howard Dean, who virtually skipped all the primaries in four of the states, he still placed third. Dennis Kucinich's best showing was in New Mexico where he pulled in 6 percent of the vote. And finally, Joe Lieberman bit the dust, but with grace.
Question: Howard Dean says if he does not score first place in Wisconsin a week from Tuesday, he'll quit the race. So, will he get first place?
MS. MARLANTES: It's looking doubtful. You know, Dean is, I think -- obviously has suffered a tremendous a fall. I mean he was the frontrunner. Everyone thought he was the presumptive nominee. And so I think for that reason, it's understandable that he is still going and thinks that he still has a shot. But it's looking highly unlikely at this point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two weeks before Iowa, or thereabouts, the bottom seemed to fall out of the Dean barrel. What happened?
You were there, by the way. And your writing in the Christian Science Monitor was predictive of how he might not get to the nomination and how he might get off course and you did it when he was red hot. What happened two weeks before Iowa?
MS. MARLANTES: There were a couple of things. There was a very noticeable shift on the ground in Iowa where his crowd size started to go down, his crowds started to seem less enthusiastic, and there was just a sense that the campaign had gotten off course a little bit.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it Saddam Hussein's capture and what he said about the capture or after it?
MS. MARLANTES: I think that that did have a huge impact. And I think -- it wasn't a direct impact, but I think it absolutely affected --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he did a couple of dumb things. He spoke about the hole in his resume, which is the military record --
MS. MARLANTES: Right. Exactly. And I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- when he was skiing in Aspen.
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me move on to this bite, Pat. You'll like this. Before we wipe off Dean from the slate, this is what Joe Trippi told me on Thursday of this week.
JOE TRIPPI (former Dean campaign manager): (From videotape.) I'd say watch out in Wisconsin. I mean, they've laid the marker down, the Dean campaign has laid the marker down on where they're going to stand and fight. People who want real change in the country are continuing to fund Dean.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He also added this: "Dean's on fire on the Internet today" -- which was Thursday -- "and people discount that, but they should not discount that."
The full interview with Joe Trippi airs this weekend on PBS nationwide, Pat. You're free to look at it --
MR. BUCHANAN: Okay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- under the title of "McLaughlin's One On One." Check your local listings, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does the power of the Internet persuade you to think -- I ask you -- we've neglected you, Liz. I'm sorry we got off the track here with this other commotion. (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it persuade you to think that Dean can win in Wisconsin?
MS. MARLANTES: I have to say I think it's hard. I mean, Wisconsin is a progressive state. There's a reason that they have made this their last stand, so to speak; it's probably the state that they do have the best chance in. But he's down in the polls right now to Kerry. He's going to come out of other contests that he will have lost.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the one issue in this race? The one issue? Shall I tell you?
MS. MARLANTES: Electability.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Electability. It's all funneled into electability. And it's driven by passion.
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the passion derived from?
MS. MARLANTES: Oh, Democrats want to beat Bush.
MR. BUCHANAN: They hate -- they hate --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?
MR. BUCHANAN: They can't stand Bush. He's illegitimate.
MS. MARLANTES: I think to some extent it stems from Florida. I agree. I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But why did they -- how do you account for the degree of passion, except through detestation of Bush, and why to this extent? Have you ever seen anything like this?
MS. CLIFT: Well, if he hadn't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you ever seen anything like the electability issue emerging the way it has in this election?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, 2000.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Republicans wanted to get rid of Clinton so badly, and the country didn't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it as bad as this?
MR. BUCHANAN: It -- Clinton had to -- the Clinton hatred was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about historically? Can I refresh your recollection?
MR. BUCHANAN: Nixon. Nixon.
MS. CLIFT: Richard Nixon.
MR. BUCHANAN: Richard Nixon. LBJ.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about John Quincy Adams and Jackson? Do you remember that? (Laughter.)
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you know, Quincy Adams stole it. Yeah, I remember it. He stole the election.
MS. CLIFT: Right. Right. Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Can Kerry beat Bush? Yes or no.
MR. BUCHANAN: He could beat him today. He won't be able by November.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. BUCHANAN: Because I think they're going to go to work on Kerry, and he's not that great.
MS. CLIFT: If he can beat him today, he can beat him in November.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a yes for you.
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A no and a yes.
MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, he could. I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. Come on! Abandon your allegiances! (Laughter.) Speak like an analyst.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's what I'm trying to do. (Laughter.) I'm trying to say that he could beat him. But if the Bush campaign runs a journeyman campaign, they should win, probably a 53-47 popular vote.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he? What do you think?
MS. MARLANTES: I think he can, but I think that he looks stronger right now. I think it's going to be a hard fight. The Bush campaign has a tremendous amount of money. They haven't started using it yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he have vulnerabilities in his record?
MS. MARLANTES: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is Kerry.
MS. MARLANTES: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are they, essentially?
MS. MARLANTES: He's been in the Senate for 20 years. He's got a full trail of votes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's his essential vulnerability?
MS. MARLANTES: Oh, the RNC has already started rolling out opposition research on him, votes that he made against defense spending, votes that he made --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Liberal record?
MR. BUCHANAN: Ultra-liberal.
MS. MARLANTES: Right.
MR. BLANKLEY: And also -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The answer is yes, we have a horse race. (Laughter.)
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat. Very fast.
MR. BUCHANAN: Bush and Rove will bury that amnesty proposal. It will not be pushed this year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: After the election, Bush will ask for another hundred billion for Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: What is imminent is indictments in the CIA information, the (Plame ?) case, coming out of the White House.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. BLANKLEY: Imminent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to be indicted?
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm going to wait on that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know?
MR. BLANKLEY: Heard some names.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, we do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Liz?
MS. MARLANTES: Edwards and Clark kill each other off this week in Virginia and Tennessee. The race goes to Wisconsin with Kerry and Dean, and then Kerry's the presumptive nominee.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow.
Vladimir Putin will win his election next month handily, by at least 75 percent of the vote.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Super Bowl 38D.
(Footage of the halftime entertainment from the Super Bowl.)
MICHAEL POWELL (chairman of the Federal Communications Commission): (From videotape.) We've received a great deal of anger from citizens and consumers about this. We've received thousands of complaints.
You shouldn't have to be bombarded by something like that suddenly and unexpectedly, without any warning.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: FCC outrage over the Super Bowl halftime show rages on. MTV, CBS, the NFL, as well as the stage principals, all have apologized for the incident. But FCC Chairman Powell, Colin's son, would have none of it. With him, sorry simply doesn't cut it.
MR. POWELL: (From videotape.) Well, I'm glad everybody's sorry. I'm sorry, too. It was a sorry incident. But if the standard were that you could do whatever you want to, and if you apologize the next day, that ends all further inquiry of it, we'd have a really poor enforcement program.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Powell launched an investigation into the show to determine whether it was indecent. Not everyone thinks that's the right move, notably Howard Dean.
FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR HOWARD DEAN (Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Considering what's on television these days, I think the FCC is being pretty silly about investigating this. There's a great many far worse things on television that you can inadvertently turn on when you happen to be cruising through cable at regular viewing hours.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Dean right, or is Dean out of touch? What do you think, Liz?
MS. MARLANTES: I think Dean's right, actually. I agree with him on this one. I mean, to me, what was wrong with that was that it seemed out of context more than -- it's not that kids haven't seen all of that and more on MTV. I mean, Lil' Kim, a rapper, wore an outfit to, I think, the Oscars last year that basically was just one-sided, and you know, it wasn't a big deal. I think the difference was it was in the context of a fairly lame and boring halftime show, and so it just seemed shocking because it was so unexpected.
MS. CLIFT: Uh-huh. Yeah --
MR. BLANKLEY: Dean was wrong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's hear from the ladies.
MS. CLIFT: Well, the difference is that the Super Bowl is watched by, what, 90 million people --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: -- and people flipping channels of cable even during regular viewing hours are a much smaller number of people.
MR. BLANKLEY: Dean was wrong because cable isn't regulated by the FCC.
MS. CLIFT: But look, all of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Make your point. What's your point?
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. All of the wrath has been sent at CBS when the NFL really bears --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: -- blame here, and they have been flirting with the edge of the envelope here for a long time from the cheerleaders and everything else.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. On that CBS matter, read Marvin Kalb in Friday's Financial Times for a very penetrating, trenchant and sardonic column.
Out of time. Thank you, ladies.
MS. CLIFT: Good. Okay. (Laughs.)