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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT, JAMES HARDING, AND LIZ MARLANTES

TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2004
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 14-15, 2004

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Kerry marches on.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) Once again, the message rings out loud and clear: Americans are voting for change -- (cheers, applause) -- East and West, North, and now in the South! (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Massachusetts liberal, as the Republicans know him, won the only two primaries this week in two Southern states -- Virginia and Tennessee. Kerry easily trumped two Southerners on their home turf -- John Edwards and Wesley Clark -- even driving the latter from
the race, and yet gaining Clark's endorsement by the end of the week.

WESLEY CLARK (former Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) As I learned to do in my years of service, I want to say -- as we come to the Navy, we say, "Sir, request permission to come aboard.
The Army's here." (Cheers, applause.)

SEN. KERRY: (From videotape.) I just want to say that General Clark is not going to stand behind me anywhere in the course of this effort over these next months, he's going to stand beside me, and he's going to help block point in this great battle as we go forward to take back the presidency of the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How powerful is Clark's endorsement?

James Harding?

MR. HARDING: I think in the greater scheme of things, not all that powerful. One of the more admirable things that we've seen about American voters so far this year is that they don't buy endorsements. Al Gore's hasn't done much; Martin Sheen's hasn't done much for Howard Dean.

But it's good in the sense that it gives the greater sense of a unifying Democratic Party. And it helps quash a little some of the ugly rumors that are going around town about Kerry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about the endorsement of a four-star general helping him at this particular point with the Hanoi/Jane Fonda story out there? Are you with me?

MR. HARDING: Yeah, absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did that occur to you?

MR. HARDING: Yeah, absolutely. I think that that's not so much of a problem for him. The real question is how much is coming out about -- in Clark's campaign about his private life. And Clark's endorsement is
very helpful there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, it helps boost his standing as a future commander-in-chief, does it not?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. And it also divides the anti-Kerry vote as they move into the next round of primaries. And I agree that it comes at a time when an operative in the Clark camp is being accused of spreading rumors about Kerry, rumors that he had first-hand knowledge with since he was once a Kerry operative. And so if you're really into inside Democratic politics, the timing of this endorsement is very special.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, I'm holding a book here called, "The Founding Sisters and the 19th Amendment," written by you.

MS. CLIFT: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Congratulations.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's the 72-year struggle in this country to win the vote. They had to fight harder than I do to speak on this show, John. And I want to say that it was a riveting point in American history where women picketed the White House, marched; were arrested in large
numbers; went on hunger strikes, were forced fed. And Alice Paul, the heroine of this period, was actually held in the psychiatric ward of a local hospital for having an unhealthy obsession with Woodrow Wilson. (Laughter.)

And when you read this, it's hard to believe this happened in this country not that long ago over something that's a no-brainer, that women should be allowed to vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, clear up something for me, will you? Can a man be a suffragette without the "ette" -- just suffraget?

MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.) I think a man can be a suffragist. But suffragette was a name that the suffragists themselves didn't like. It was considered too diminutive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, and congratulations, too. On HBO on Sunday night at 9:30 eastern standard time, mark your diary, or whatever you're using, to watch "Iron Jawed Angels" --

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- based on this book?

MS. CLIFT: Well no, there were two independent projects that we have come together to do publicity to bring attention to this period of time and to encourage people to vote. And the movie stars Hilary Swank and
Angelica Huston. It's a first-star cast. And the image of the suffragists is that they were these stern, forbidding creatures. And a friend of mine said, are they calling this "No Sex in the City," because it follows "Sex in the City" on Sunday night.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: But HBO has taken care of that little detail.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: There's plenty of passion in this movie. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Hilary Swank is no Iron Jawed Angel, right?

MR. BLANKLEY: And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She may be an angel, but not iron jawed.

Now, what's the answer to my question? How much is gained by Kerry from this endorsement of Clark?

MR. BLANKLEY: Slightly more than Kerry will gain when he gets the Kucinich endorsement. (Laughter.) It's virtually inconsequential other than for the internal purposes of, as you mentioned, because Clark -- his people are suspected of passing rumors about Kerry. I don't think
the fact that he's a four-star general means much. Endorsements don't mean much. He was going down in the polls and I think it's pretty inconsequential.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't agree with that, do you? Don't you think this is enhances his national security, his whole image as someone who can save the country?

MS. MARLANTES: No, I was going to say, I do think one of the things Kerry has been doing is he's been surrounding himself with Vietnam veterans, pretty much everywhere he goes. And Clark obviously is one of the
most prominent -- now; given that he's been campaigning for a while. And if he's going to go out there and stand next to Kerry, I think it adds to that sort of roster of Vietnam supporters that Kerry's got on stage with him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dean is now running in Wisconsin on Tuesday, James. Why has not Dean dropped out?

MR. HARDING: I don't know. The question is now whether he'll drop out after Tuesday? We thought it was all going to be over on Tuesday.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that there's something in the air as to why he didn't drop out? Maybe the front-runner might not make it?

MR. HARDING: No. Personally, I don't think that. I think that he is someone who is embroiled in the story of his own life and the reason he's not dropping out is because he would like to continue going all the way through Super Tuesday -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Kerry -- does Kerry have any reason to feel -- does Dean have any reason to feel that the Kerry candidacy will implode?

MS. MARLANTES: Well, I think every candidate thinks it's possible. You never know exactly what's going to happen. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What could implode the candidacy?

MS. MARLANTES: Well, I'm, you know, I'm not going to go there. But I do think that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are we talking about in general? That there's an ugly rumor out there. Well, since you won't talk about it, Don Imus interviewed John Kerry Friday morning.

(Begin tape segment.)

DON IMUS (talk show host): Is there anything -- anything -- that's going to come up. Now, for example, there's this "Drudge Report" about an intern. I'm sure you've heard about it.

SEN. KERRY: Yes.

MR. IMUS: It hasn't been reported anywhere, but people are talking about it.

SEN. KERRY: Well, there's nothing to report. So there's nothing to talk about. I'm not worried about it. No, the answer is no.

MR. IMUS: So I'm not going to have to jump off your bandwagon?

SEN. KERRY: No, sir. No sprained ankles for you along the way.

MR. IMUS: (Laughs.)

(End tape segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, is that -- it's been read as a denial. Is that a denial?

MR. HARDING: It sounds like a denial to me. It sounds like denial even --

MS. CLIFT: It sounds like a denial. But, look, this is the way this stuff works. You get a rumor out there. It may be total fiction or part fiction. And once people start talking about it, it takes on the aura of fact.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: Frankly, if --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. If the allegations of a womanizing incident are true, didn't bother Arnold Schwarzenegger --

MS. MARLANTES: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: -- Bill Clinton got through a campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: To heck with it. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get to lexicography time, can we? A close Clintonian exegesis, like "It depends on what the meaning of is is," okay?

As we see, Don Imus says it hasn't been reported anywhere, people are talking about it. At that point, Kerry breaks in and he said, "Well, there's nothing to report so there's nothing to talk about." Neither one
of those statements are a denial, are they? He could say, well, there's nothing to report. I have nothing to add.

MR. BLANKLEY: Nothing to report? Nothing to report sounds like a denial right there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it sounds like a denial, but we're looking at close sexual analysis here.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. HARDING: The point is, put it -- well, look at where we are. John Kerry's had a lovely, leisurely week. He's won a few states, he's come home to Washington, D.C., he's taking it easy. And this is the beginning of the end of his period in the sun, and he's going to get a very
hard time, and it's going to come out he's got a reputation as a womanizer. This is going to be a problem for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I just want to make sure we --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Now wait a second. I just want to interrupt. Reputation as a womanizer when he was single --

MR. HARDING: That's true.

MS. CLIFT: -- not since he's been married.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey Eleanor, he says --

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Anyway, let's go back to --

MR. BLANKLEY: A man who is a prodigious dater --

MS. CLIFT: A dater.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- may not be able to turn it off when he marries a widow.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's go back to the text here. Let's go back to the text. He says I'm not worried about it. That's not a denial. The answer is no. No what? No what? No, you don't have any reason to feel embarrassed because you're supporting me, Don? And Imus says, "So I
don't have to jump off your bandwagon?" And Kerry says no: "No sir, no sprained ankles for you all along the way." Where is the denial?

MS. MARLANTES: Well, the point is -- I mean, if -- obviously, we're all sort of tiptoeing around this also. If Imus isn't going to bring it up directly, there's nothing that's been substantiated yet. I think Kerry's handling this correctly, actually, so far --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he get away with it?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well --

MS. MARLANTES: -- which is that until there's something concrete there, he shouldn't address it. He shouldn't address it directly.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I question that. I mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it hurt Kerry if he had an affair with an adult intern?

MR. BLANKLEY: While he was married to his current wife? Yes.

MR. HARDING: (Laughs.)

MS. MARLANTES: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before that, before that. That's nine years ago.

MR. BLANKLEY: If he was single and the person didn't work for him, no. Then it's just a single guy dating an adult woman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So adultery changes the picture?

MR. BLANKLEY: That's traditional in our culture.

MS. MARLANTES: Well, not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Jane Fonda's -- Jane's Fonda Kerry.

JANE FONDA (actress): (From videotape.) We were at a rally for veterans at the same time. I spoke. Donald Sutherland spoke. John Kerry spoke at the end.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The rally that Jane Fonda and John Kerry spoke at is shown in this photo. It took place on Labor Day, 1970, in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania after Kerry had returned from Vietnam with a Bronze Star -- or Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.

The photo of Kerry and Ms. Fonda has enraged some Vietnam vets. "Seeing this picture of Kerry with her and antiwar demonstrations in the United States just makes me want to throw up." That was the reaction of Texas Republican Congressman Sam Johnson, who spent seven years in a Vietnam POW camp. Ms. Fonda, in an impassioned statement, separated Kerry from what has become an incendiary image.

MS. FONDA: (From videotape.) My reaction is that the American people have had it with the big lie. Any attempts to link Kerry to me and make him look bad with that connection is completely false. How can you
impugn -- how can you even suggest that a Vietnam veteran like Kerry or any of them were -- are not patriotic? He was a hero there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Should Congressman Johnson apologize to John Kerry, or should Johnson be saluted? Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, I think he should be saluted. He spent seven years --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. He spent seven years in a prison -- POW camp, so he should be saluted for that reason. He wrote a very good article for The Washington Times last week, so he should be saluted for that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Your newspaper.

MR. BLANKLEY: My newspaper, yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're party-free.

MR. BLANKLEY: And he's criticizing -- he's criticizing the -- I think the language that -- that Kerry has used disparaging fellow Vietnam veterans as war criminals. And it's an outrageous --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a decorated war hero. He has an --

MR. BLANKLEY: What you do on the battlefield does not exempt you for the rest of your life!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So while Johnson was in the prison camp, Kerry was slogging around with other infantrymen --

MR. HARDING: In the Navy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?

MR. HARDING: Wasn't Kerry in the Navy?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Slogging around with other infantrymen around the land in -- the underbrush in Vietnam.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Republicans have difficulty with this issue because they're such hawks and so few of them have served -- those in power. And the notion that Kerry is somehow unpatriotic because he turned against the war, he earned the right to protest this war. It was a very
unpopular war. And it is a legitimate --

MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't earn the right to disparage fellow soldiers as war criminals.

MS. CLIFT: It is a legitimate -- it is a legitimate --

MR. BLANKLEY: And that's why he's hated by a certain segment of veterans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish, Tony. She's an iron-jawed maiden.

MS. CLIFT: Ha, ha!

MR. BLANKLEY: You betcha.

MS. CLIFT: An iron-jawed satan, in his eyes.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no.

MS. CLIFT: It's a legitimate point that he was a combat veteran and he turned against the war. And if people are going to have trouble with that, better to have it now and it's good to come out --

MR. BLANKLEY: It wasn't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, Tony. We want to make it --

MS. CLIFT: And I want to point out that the retired Green Beret who heads the anti-Vietnam -- the anti-John Kerry site is the same person who called John McCain a "Manchurian candidate." So this is -- (inaudible) -- fringe.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, you were talking about Sam Johnson. And the reason that Johnson and a lot of other veterans despise Kerry is not because he was anti-war, but because of what he said about the fellow veterans, that they were all -- that a lot of them were war criminals. It was unjustified. And that's why they hate him.

MS. CLIFT: A lot f war crimes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will the Fonda-Kerry link backfire? And if so, should the GOP get a grip on itself, get some discipline in its campaign?

James Harding?

MR. HARDING: Yes. Yeah, I think it is. It's already backfiring because the president has lost his greatest asset, which is being presidential. And he is now a much more partisan -- head of a much more partisan group. Sam Johnson, I was told this week, was telling people we should brand Kerry "Hanoi John." That is not the kind of presidential, non-partisan unifier image that the president wants. So I think it is backfiring already.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the Republicans are now showing signs of desperation?

MR. HARDING: No, not desperation --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They really don't like the polls they're getting.

MR. HARDING: -- but anxiety. It's a much more anxious president who views losing as a real possibility.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Johnson should apologize to Kerry?

MR. HARDING: Personally, I think that it's a disgraceful thing, a disgraceful comment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think he should apologize?

MR. HARDING: Yeah, I think that -- I agree with Eleanor completely. I think that John Kerry is perfectly entitled to protest, particularly coming from where he came from.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I share --

MR. HARDING: I'd just like to say one thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I share your view, by the way.

MR. HARDING: Getting an endorsement from Jane Fonda is no great help. Going back to our endorsement issue. It's just like a Janet Jackson or Dixie Chicks endorsement at the moment. It's not going to help his
case. But I do think Sam Johnson's out of line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come -- oh, Eleanor, do you want to get in on this?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the election is not going to be decided on which of these two men is a better soldier -- Kerry or Bush. It's going to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should the Republicans get a grip on themselves?

MS. CLIFT: I think this is -- they should continue down this alley because they can't win! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you don't want them to get a grip on themselves, you want them to fire up more burners?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, it's a standard policy. Presidents and the candidate take the high road, and other people, partisans on both sides take the tougher shots.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You understand that --

MR. BLANKLEY: Kerry's had people taking shots at Bush. That's perfectly legitimate. That's the way the game is played.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You understand that he was in that crowd after he got back from Vietnam.

MR. BLANKLEY: I understand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he was wounded when he came back here. You know that he's got multiple awards. And you still think --

MR. BLANKLEY: He's got a Sliver Star, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? What do you think?

MS. MARLANTES: I think politically I'm not sure that it was such a bad thing. I think it may actually working for Republicans in some ways because, of course, Bush did not do it himself, he had surrogates doing
it. And I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because of Fonda?

MS. MARLANTES: Because I think that Jane Fonda is the kind of symbol that if you can even, in some people's minds, attach that to John Kerry, it's going to muddy up his image.

MS. CLIFT: It's not going to get George Bush one more vote that he wouldn't already have gotten.

MS. MARLANTES: But I do think that up until now, Kerry had very effectively portrayed himself as a war hero. And what this does is it suggests that his Vietnam experience was complicated, and in such a way that
--

MS. CLIFT: Well, yes. (Inaudible.)

MS. MARLANTES: -- you know, there are veterans out there who are not happy with what Kerry did when he came back. And I think that that will also be a factor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, the Republicans ought to get a grip on themselves.

Furthermore, unimpeachable reports are Kerry was not botoxed.

When we come back: Is Buchanan out protesting in Massachusetts?

(Announcements.)

Issue two: The good and the not-so-good. The good and the not-so-good news wasn't limited to John Kerry. The Republican presidential candidate, Mr. Bush, got his share, too. On the plus side, Alan Greenspan predicted that the economy will grow between 4.5 and 5 percent this
election year, unemployment will fall to as low as 5.25 percent. Bad news: For the first time, polls show more Americans think the Iraq war was not worth fighting. Also, polls show troublesome doubts about Bush's trustworthiness. And the flap over Bush's National Guard service is still front page.

Question: Is Bush losing the character battle? Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: He's not losing it, but he's been dented. Now I think part of it is going to come back when the find out that he, in fact, did serve in the National Guard, and that whole flap will be reversed. But the weapons of mass destruction are the area where his credibility is being dinged. It's interesting to note that The Washington Post/ABC poll this week still found that 68 percent of the respondents believe that Bush honestly believed there were weapons of mass destruction. That's pretty good, given the news of the last couple months.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Some polls show that Cheney has become a drag on the ticket. You explored that rather extensively in your full-page treatment in Thursday's Financial Times, and I commend you on that.

MR. HARDING: Thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what do you think? What are you discovering about Cheney? Is he a drag on the ticket?

MR. HARDING: Personally my impression, seeing him around the country, is no. I think he's a very impressive politician, and much more impressive on the stump.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were you surprised at the polling?

MR. HARDING: I was surprised at the polling. I'm surprised at hearing, when you talk to Republicans when they come back from the district, how much the Halliburton issue is reverberating around Cheney. And of course, you know, the other thing that's bubbling up this week is what's going to happen with the CIA leak investigation. And if that comes back to the Cheney office again, that's going to be a problem for the vice president. But overall do I think he's a liability? No, not at all. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think can bring back Bush's credibility to where it was, Liz?

MS. MARLANTES: Well, I mean, obviously he's taken a big hit. He's still got a bare majority of the American public saying that they think he's trustworthy. But it's gone down significantly from where it was after 9/11 certainly. And I think he's going to have to start building it up again.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the National Guard flap is effectively over, in view of the eyewitness who saw him at the training exercise period between '92 and -- excuse me '72 and '73?

MS. MARLANTES: I think that the flap -- I never thought the flap was going to last very long, because I think that is one of those issues where the majority of Americans have already decided what they think
about this. There is a core of mostly Democrats who have been angry about this for a while, and then Republicans tend to think, "What's the big deal? We've already talked about this, it's a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there a feeling of satiety out there, "Enough already?"

MS. MARLANTES: Well, the striking thing this week, really, was how quickly the general election campaign erupted into very personal and negative attacks on both sides, on Bush and Kerry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean we can look forward to a happy -- to a happy or an unhappy campaign? An ugly campaign?

MS. CLIFT: The National Guard issue was a surrogate issue for Bush's credibility. And it is cumulative. It's because he's suffering on a number of fronts -- the head of the CEA, the Council of Economic
Advisors, who said it's a good thing for jobs to go overseas this week; John Ashcroft now trying to get the hospital records of women who've had abortions. I mean, what this administration says and how it's performing,
from Bush personally to people around him, I think it's really reaching critical mass and --

MR. BLANKLEY: Has he lost your vote?

MS. CLIFT: -- a long way to go until November -- (laughter) -- but it's beginning to take on the aroma of 1992, including a vice president who may be a drag on the ticket, another Dan Quayle..

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see that, James?

MR. HARDING: No, as I said before, I don't think that Cheney's a liability. I think that Ashcroft is a much greater liability than Cheney. I don't think Cheney is a liability. I agree with Liz, it's gotten very nasty, it's going to be very nasty from a long time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Ashcroft in the picture is going to turn any votes against Bush?

MR. HARDING: I would have thought so. I think there's some -- clearly there are moderate Republicans and swing voters. One of the questions --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think people realize the extent to which Ashcroft and company were able to rid the country of a lot of resident al Qaeda here? And when you stack it up against the Homeland Security Department, the Homeland Security Department almost vanishes on the basis
of what Ashcroft has done.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I wasn't talking about resident al Qaeda, I was talking about trying to get the hospital records of women who've had abortions, to try to make their case on partial-birth abortions. Banning partial-birth abortion was mainstream, but going after private hospital
records makes a lot of people nervous, and a lot of women nervous. And he needs the votes of women -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were asked -- and I concur that this is not an unblemished record, but if you had to select one person in the administration who has done most to give us the security that we have experienced, would you not select Ashcroft?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs) -- No, I absolutely would not select Ashcroft.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you?

MR. BLANKLEY: Ashcroft, when he rounded up the thousand people that first week, I think did a tremendous public service and probably saved a lot of American lives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You realize how many liberals in this audience are feeling a sensation of -- (laughter) --

MS. CLIFT: Of nausea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- reflux indigestion, as they hear you?

MR. BLANKLEY: They often do, I understand that. But they have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's a lot of -- the anti- Ashcroft is a bum rap?

MR. BLANKLEY: A lot of it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the light of what the accomplishment has been?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, there are civil libertarians who legitimately worry about our civil liberties, and Ashcroft's been tough. I think he should have been tough, but I understand why it raises legitimate anxieties.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you finding out about Ashcroft? Quickly.

MS. MARLANTES: Well, he's the biggest lightning rod in this administration --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, he is.

MS. MARLANTES: He has absolutely been the number one punching bag for Democrats, from the beginning. From the very beginning, he's the applause line --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True.

MS. MARLANTES: He's the applause line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True.

MS. MARLANTES: So, you know, I don't think that's going to change. I think that's going to remain the case.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he is the perfect lightning rod, by his appearance, his manner -- perfect.

MS. MARLANTES: Yes, even sort of personal things about him, the praying in the office and that sort of thing. Liberals don't like him at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get down to brass tacks here. Can we? (Laughter.) Question: Who won the week? Kerry or Bush?

MR. HARDING: Kerry. Kerry won the week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Despite the unmentionable?

MR. HARDING: Well, once the mentionable (sic) becomes mentionable, things may change. My view is that Bush had a bad week. He had a bad week. He got less presidential. I now have a facsimile in my office of
his dental records. (Laughter.) He -- you know, he had a bad week because Greg Mankiw said that outsourcing was a good idea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is he?

MR. HARDING: The head of the Council of Economic Advisers in the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right, and he had to balance that out. I mean, he did a little dance there for us, the president did.

MR. HARDING: The president had to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No one can support outsourcing today.

Quickly, Eleanor, we got to get out.

MS. CLIFT: Well, to pile on, the White House also took a stammering interview with Tim Russert and digitally edited it to take out the ahs, uhs and yahs and to make the president look better. So the president had a terrible week. Kerry --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the network let the White House do that?

MS. CLIFT: Well, they got angry about it and the White House took it down, but the White House tried.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A true story? True story?

MS. CLIFT: True story, true story.

MR. BLANKLEY: True story.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that in your original report?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it's a true story.

MS. CLIFT: No, I read it in The New York Times. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question --

MR. BLANKLEY: Bush had a bad week. Kerry had a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who won the week?

MR. BLANKLEY: Kerry had a very good week, unless it was a disastrous week, and we don't know yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who won the week?

MS. MARLANTES: Yeah, I think Kerry won the week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Kerry won the week?

MS. MARLANTES: I do.

MR. BLANKLEY: Mm-hmm, yeah.

MS. MARLANTES: It was a bad week for Bush. It was a tough week for the White House. They were on defense for the most of the week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Despite the unmentionable?

MS. MARLANTES: We don't know where that's going yet. It may go nowhere.

MR. BLANKLEY: But if --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry won the week. We'll be right back with predictions.

MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)

MS. MARLANTES: (Chuckles.)

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Almost out of time. Forced prediction: Does the unmentionable Kerry story have legs, yes or no? James.

MR. HARDING: I wish you weren't looking at me. I would say yes, but my answer, in fact, is unmentionable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: No, unless a pair of human legs comes forward.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, and the legs will be shapely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean female legs?

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Liz.

MS. MARLANTES: I'm going to say yes, too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're going to say yes, too?

MS. MARLANTES: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it has legs, but he's very good at shunting: that's rubbish or it's preposterous, that's not even a decent journalistic question. Happy Valentine's Day. Bye bye!

BEGIN PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: no flash in the pan.

MICHAEL POWELL (FCC chairman): (From videotape.) Just the latest example on what we've noted is a growing list of deplorable incidents.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From a "wardrobe malfunction" to a "deplorable incident;" that's the two-week trajectory of Janet Jackson's Super Bowl halftime gaucherie. The U.S. Congress held hearings this week on television's deplorable incidents and invited the head of CBS and MTV parent
company, Mel Karmazin, to defend their programming.

MEL KARMAZIN (president and COO, Viacom): (From videotape.) And that it is clear that nobody at CBS, nobody at Viacom, nobody at MTV and certainly nobody at the NFL knew what was going to happen. We are outraged as to what happened at the Super Bowl.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Some in Congress, it seems, do not believe it.

REP. HEATHER WILSON (R-NM): (From videotape.) You knew what kind of entertainment you're selling. It improves your ratings, it improves your market share and it lines your pockets.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Both Republicans and Democrats are calling for new laws to keep sex, violence and profanity off broadcast TV, repeat, broadcast TV. It won't affect cable. One proposal would increase fines from $27,500 to $275,000 per incident.

Question: Does Congress have the right to legislate morality? And by the way, what did you think about Iron Jawed Angel?

MS. CLIFT: She reminded me of a latter-day Carrie Nation. I must say we have a minority of prudes in this country trying to get the government to regulate what most people don't really pay that much attention
to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Congress has the right to regulate morality --

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, they've had the right --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- legislate it.

MR. BLANKLEY: They've had the right to regulate what goes out on the airwaves since there have been airwaves. And so yes, of course, they have that right. They've exercised it with a lot of discretion. There's
not been much enforcement of the decency standard, and for pretty good reasons. The public is, in fact, kind of sleazy.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the environmental area we fine pollution. Do you think we can do the same in the area under discussion here -- fine pollution? And if so, what do you think of the correspondence between the two; namely, the legitimacy of that concept even, of it being pollution
comparable to environmental pollution -- put a fine on it, subject it to the law?

MR. HARDING: Well, the fact is that in the U.S. you've already ceded the right to regulate a large of amount of this because if it's operating on cable, if it's going out on a satellite network, none of this really could be regulated anyway.

Look, I'm a European, and you know what the Americans think about our attitudes to morality. So I'm probably not so outraged as I should have been. I thought it was a tacky moment at an inappropriate time. But
for freedom of speech reasons, I wouldn't get too upset about it.

And on freedom of speech grounds, I should just say I'm feeling a guilty about Sam Johnson. He's got as much a right to say what he likes as anyone else. It's all politics.

(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Do you want to get in on this, Liz?

MS. MARLANTES: Well, I was just going to say, again, I think I basically agree with that. I think that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you a closet Libertarian?

MS. MARLANTES: (Chuckles.) Well, I'm not going to define my views in that sense. But obviously, this week in Congress -- there's nothing Congress likes better than to get out there with the television cameras and defend family values.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.

MS. MARLANTES: It's, you know, great for your constituency --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he points out, you really need a magnifying glass to see the distinction between broadcast and cable, because even the broadcast signals come in through the cable.

MS. MARLANTES: Right.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

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END