ANNOUNCER: From the nation's capital, the McLaughlin Group, an unrehearsed program presenting inside opinions and forecasts on major issues of the day. "GE is proud to support the McLaughlin Group. From aircraft engines to appliances, GE, we bring good things to life."

Here's the host, John McLaughlin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: 2000 A.D. computer cataclysm. Congress to the rescue.

SEN. ROBERT F. BENNETT (R-UT): (From videotape.) The computer is a robot, is an idiot. He does not -- or she does not respect any boundaries. And it will hit those people that are the least prepared, the hardest. And everybody is vulnerable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So says Senator Robert Bennett, the chairman of a select Senate committee on the looming Y2K disaster. As the 20th century draws to a close, computers will be hit with a force stronger than El Nino.

Worldwide, the vast majority of computers are programmed to read only the last two digits of any given year, when coding dates. This means that when the year 2000 arrives, computers will go back 100 years, reading the double zero in the year 2000 as the double zero in 1900.

Picture this doomsday scenario: Automatic teller machines, ATMs, stop dispensing money; air traffic controllers lose control of planes; electrical power brownouts; Social Security and tax-refund checks come to a dead stop; world financial systems shut down by themselves.

If we don't act soon, experts say, we could see cataclysmic results. "The problem gets worse every day, because there is one less day to deal with it and the government falls further and further behind," so says John Westergard (sp), a Y2K Wall Street analyst.

Software will not be enough to fix the computer millennium bug, far from it. Billions of lines of computer code will have to be changed by hand because the codes are imbedded in chips.

SEN. BENNETT: (From videotape.) Worldwide, it's estimated there are 180 billion places in the code that have to be fixed.

Even if the fix were a very simple one, between now and December of 1999, you've got to look at 180 billion places. And we frankly don't have enough time or enough people to get it all done.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Y2K a global ticking time bomb, or is it global hype, meaning much ado about little, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think, John, the first is true. It is a global ticking time bomb, but forewarned is forearmed. I think as we move toward it, a lot of these things are going to be solved at local levels, by people, by individuals, by others. And when -- by the year we hit -- when we hit 2000, I don't believe planes are going to crash or things like that. You're going to have a lot of glitches, a lot of problems, but we're going to get through it.


MS. CLIFT: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself! (Laughter.) Planes are not going to --

MR. PAGE (?): (Where's our chutzpah ?)?

MS. CLIFT: Right! (Laughter.) Planes are not going to drop from the sky. The Social Security checks are going to get there.

But the problem is, if people think there's a problem with safety, or they think there's a problem with their money, they're going to put their money under mattresses, and they're not going to make reservations for plane trips. There could be a real economic slowing, and that is a danger. And that's why President Clinton needs to start talking about this and take a page from Tony Blair, who's actually made a speech to the nation and tried to educate people about what's ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, do you feel reassured by Eleanor?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think Eleanor's almost exactly wrong. I think we should be alarmed. I think it's already too late to do a lot of the work.

Take one example: The Department of Defense's own schedule to do their own computers is now scheduled to be completed two months before 2000. It takes six months to test the computer to find out whether it works or not after you've been reprogrammed. They're already doing triage on our defense computers.

And corporations all across America -- GM only looked at the problem last year. They haven't -- and they have half a billion dollars to spend on it. They only started looking at the problem last year.

I think it's a big problem. I think you should be alarmist. And things may fall out of the sky.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. By the way, as you point out, the date is not -- the effective date is not really December 31st, 1999; it's six months before that -- not only to test to see whether or not you're corrective measures have worked, but also because financial data and the processing of that in today's society really needs that kind of six months' advance.

And on that distinguished program that we saw, that clip, it was clear from --

MR. PAGE: What program was that, John?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- it was clear -- it was "John McLaughlin's One on One."

MR. PAGE: Oh, yes.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On that program, it was clear from those experts that you've really got to have the systems -- the revised systems in place by the middle of 1999.

(To Mr. Page.) By the way, you're looking very chipper there.

MR. PAGE: Thank you, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Somewhat underdressed, however, in the light of Tony's apparel, here. (Laughter.)

MR. PAGE: Except brown -- we're both wearing brown shoes, though, for what it's worth, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a great outfit, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, you've really come a long way.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, hanging around you, John -- that's what's done it for me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, what do you think?

MR. PAGE: Well, you know, when you said is this much ado about little, I thought you were going to say Chicken Little -- the question is, is the sky going to fall or not? I don't think it will; I think that -- by the way, my latest driver's license already has double zero on it. I mean, we're starting to run into this sort of thing even now.

But what I'm finding -- in the corporate world, as in government, there is a run right now on technicians who can deal with the company computers. There's a big run on this -- (Inaudible due to cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: This is an excellent point, John. You know, when you had that horrible St. Andrews hurricane down there in Florida, what happened? There was a tremendous economic explosion over building up things. All the new purchases of computers, all the people going into this. There's going to be an enormous amount of money spent on reprogramming computers, developing new ones, getting new systems in, so it's going to help the economy and partly solve the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Don't forget --

MR. PAGE: What could happen is we could all be laid off on New Year's Day in 2000. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, don't forget cost and connectivity.

MR. PAGE: Yes!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. government alone will pay $4 billion to fix the problem, and private business at least 50 billion, if they can afford it.

ARNAUD de BORCHGRAVE (Editor-at-Large, Washington Times): (From videotape.) There are 22 million small businesses, or small-to-medium businesses in this country; about 75 percent of them are computerized and a remarkable number have not done anything about Y2K compliance because when they look at the amount of money they have to spend, they say "Well, we're going to lose our competitive edge."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's more: the connectivity problem.

MR. de BORCHGRAVE: (From videotape.) When you talk to CEOs, they say, "Well, it's all fixed," but they -- "and we'll be ready in time." They've spent billions doing this, but they're still connected to people who have not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see the point, the point being that we can correct in this country, but what about in Burma, what about in Argentina --

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- what about in Africa?

MR. BLANKLEY: And Japan -- what about it?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about in Japan? What about in Hong Kong?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, America first.

(Cross talk, laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Any more cities on your list? You know, if the Singapore stock market doesn't open on time, there will be repercussions. But, you know, I think the bigger issue here is the way this is being politicized. The Republicans really want to blame Al Gore and they're starting to -- because he's Mr. Reinventing Government and Mr. Cyberspace -- you have -- John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Those three experts that were on my distinguished panel, they all said that Gore is kaput. He's dead. That the strength of this is so strong, this Y2K phenomenon, that you can kiss his candidacy good bye. Now, that's their view.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, I don't agree. Look, first off, John, take the 4 billion figure you threw up there.

That is peanuts in terms of what the federal budget of the United States is over a couple years. It runs to 3 or 4 trillion (dollars) if you take two years. And secondly, Gore's going to get a hit. They're going to work on Gore, there's no doubt about it. But it all depends on what happens in the year 2000.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor's view is corroborated by Michael Bloomberg, who has this to say. "Inconvenience won't amount to much more than a day off from school for your kids while experts fix the problem." This is Michael Bloomberg of the Bloomberg Financial Network. Do you think that he has an ulterior motive for downplaying the crisis levels of Y2K?

I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know whether he has any particular reason to do so, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, to sell his boxes where you get his information, you've got to have -- the more stable the market and the more upbeat the market, the more money there is to invest in his analysis.

MR. BLANKLEY: He's either acting out of ignorance or malice, because he's wrong. I mean, when you talk about some computers not being fixed, like Asia and perhaps Europe, the problem is that they're going to give our computers bad information and be tainting the computers that have already been worked. I think this is a viral kind of a danger.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, what are you going to do with the troglodytes, even right here on this panel, like Eleanor and Clarence? (Laughter.) What are you going to do? I mean, there is this general apathy around. There is this -- this is a wakeup clarion call. Clarion for you, Clarence. I almost called you "Clarion" Page.

MS. CLIFT: You know who the troglodytes are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Seriously, what are you are going to? Do you think -- I would ask you, I would advance this question to the point of government leadership. Do you think it's there?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it's not. Look. Clinton only appointed a czar after for two years Senator Moynihan and Senator Bennett were clamoring for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was in 1996.

MR. BLANKLEY: Right. And he appointed in 1998. The entire czar's staff is one secretary and two interns. The president hasn't said anything publicly about it. Gore has been silent, and he should be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's terrified of it.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, of course he is, but that's where leadership comes. If he took some charge, if he actually spoke out, he might actually -- (inaudible due to cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they put the czar in. His name is John --

MS. CLIFT: John Koskinen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Koskinen.

MS. CLIFT: And he's very talented.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they want him to take the rap.

MS. CLIFT: The president is going to speak out. He's been in China, remember? And second of all, if we're going to talk about real troglodytes, what about Senator Ashcroft, who says he's not going to ride in elevators? I wonder if that extends to the grain elevators in Iowa. I bet he'll show up there. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think there is a more serious option out there, and the more serious option is whether or not you're going to go liquid in advance of December the 31st, 19 --

MS. CLIFT: (Not ?) on this set, John. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let it be noted that Eleanor said that and I didn't say it; okay? Whether or not you are going to take your portfolio and convert it into liquid assets before 1999.

Now, there are a couple of members on that panel that said they were. What do you think of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. Look, I mean, if you've got --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to get your basic -- your basic records into hard copy and into a safe deposit box and out of the computer before this occurs?

MR. BUCHANAN: No! No! Look, I mean, you've got a bank statement --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you'd be well advised to do so.

MR. BUCHANAN: You've got a bank statement that says everything that they've got. And so what if it says "00" rather than "2000"?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat. Pat, you're going to get long distance telephone bills dating from the year 1900. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll do what I used to do, which is not pay them! (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question, multiple choice. What's the likeliest impact of the Year 2000 problem? Will it be: (A) catastrophic; (B) a severe as the Great Depression; (C) cause of a mild recession; (D) no recession, but dislocational; (E) we don't even feel it.


MR. BUCHANAN: You're going to get a D, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that, recession?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, no, no. It's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Disruptive.

MR. BUCHANAN: Disruptive.


MR. BUCHANAN: Now look, but you're going to have economic problems before then of a different kind, friend. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat sold out.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Well, I'm with Pat on the D.

And, Pat, I want to welcome you to the 21st century! (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: It's going to be a B, B-minus -- close to Depression-level consequence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? U.S. What about world?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think worldwide. I think that -- we are the best prepared, and we are not prepared.

MR. PAGE: I don't think it will be that serious, but I think a lot of people will think it's going to be that serious, thus you will have a lot of folks pulling money out of their bank accounts on December 1st and maybe put them back in January 2nd. At least January 1st is a holiday, so we'll have a little bit of breathing spell; people will be holding their breaths waiting for the cataclysm which will not occur. But it will be disruptive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good -- it's good to get this psychiatric reading of events, isn't it? (Laughter.)

MR. PAGE: You got it!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is: a global slowdown.

When we come back, the elections for the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are four months away. Have the Republicans already outwitted the Democrats?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Sanction-mania.

SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT (Secretary of State): (From videotape) I think that there could be better cooperation between Congress and the administration on these sanctions laws. They are, I think, not designed in order to help America carry out its national interests. We are responsible for implementing U.S. foreign policy and we need some flexibility. I can't do business, or the president can't do business with our hands tied behind our back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sanctions are under siege. The congressional practice of using economic and/or trade penalties to force other nations to conform our world view -- sanctions -- are now finally being held in disrepute. No other nation in the world employs capricious and arbitrary sanctions with such reckless abandon, so says the new Washington wisdom.

Sanctions are imposed by laws originating in Congress with little or no executive, i.e. White House, discretion. Clinton officials, notably Stuart Eizenstat, say that sanction mania creates chaos, confusion, strains in relations with allies, without achieving the goals for which the sanctions were imposed, indeed actually working against those very goals.

Currently, the U.S. has in place imposed unilateral sanctions against two-thirds of the entire world: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Colombia, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Georgia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Moldova; Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma; Mexico; and to save you the "longueurs" of my reading this catalog, please see your TV screen for the remaining 41 nations afflicted with our U.S. unilateral sanctions.

Besides paralysis and obstruction, sanction mania is costly to the U.S., the compulsive sanctioner. In 1995 alone, $20 billion was lost in U.S. exports, thanks to sanctions. And that translates to more than 200,000 jobs lost.

Question: Is the debunking of U.S. unilateral sanctions, now going on, a good idea? And should the Congress wake up to this clarion call for sanctions reform? I ask you "Clarion" Page.

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) Thank you, John.

You know, I think the administration needs more flexibility in deciding which countries to impose sanctions against. The problem is having foreign policy run from Capitol Hill and having a president who acquiesces too easily with a lot of these. But you have got to take it country by country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, Stuart Eizenstat, who works directly for the president, is very much against the crazy practice of sanctioning that the Congress does.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, sanctions are a symptom of a foreign policy that's failed, rather than a tool for a successful foreign policy. What's happened is, because the foreign policy has failed in all these countries, Congress, which only has a brake on American foreign policy -- the president always has the steering wheel and the accelerator -- is doing the only thing they can -- I think it's a bad idea -- yet they are doing the only thing they can.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. And what they are doing is really very knee-jerk, rudimentary and a really inefficient activity. Correct?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's out of frustration, it's only symbolic, but it reflects the failure of the foreign policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Off mike) -- right.


MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't think we can say our policy towards Belize is a failure.

I mean, the thing is when countries do things we don't like, the allure of sanctions is obvious. And short of getting involved militarily, we slap a sanction down.

But I think what works is a system of rewards --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the --

MS. CLIFT: -- and I think you're going to see them approach that with Pakistan and India.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. All right. Good. And will the Belize embassy please direct all letters to this program to Eleanor Clift? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: (Laughing.) Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, this is a result of a policy that succeeded. The Cold War was won. When it was won, Congress no longer defers to the president of the United States. Who puts pressure on the Congress right now? Ethnic lobbies, primarily. Religious groups, secondarily. Agents of influence working for foreign countries. Corporations. They all put this pressure on Congress. Congress, now relieved of any overriding goal in foreign policy, responds to these, and they do all this log-rolling so that foreign policy made by Congress now is exactly like some Christmas tree bill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Well, are you echoing or are adding to what Tony just said?

MR. BUCHANAN: I -- well, in a sense, it's complementary to what he said, John, in this sense: I agree with him; you've got -- you ought to stop it. But you also are not going to be able to stop it because Congress responds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you deplore the present state of affairs --

MR. BUCHANAN: I deplore --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- two-thirds of the world's population is under unilateral U.S. sanctions?

MR. BUCHANAN: I deplore the present state of affairs, but Congress is not going to defer to the president when the politics tell it to do what that guy outside in the lobby tells him to do.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look at what Helms-Burton is doing, for heaven's sake. We've got the Canadians on our back.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, why --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have the Europeans on our back. We've got the World Trade Organization on our back because of this ridiculous sanctions, particularly against Cuba.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: But why is Helms-Burton in place? The power of the Cuba lobby.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's get out. The exit question is as follows: Name the most counterproductive sanction the U.S. has on the books against a country at present. Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Pakistan and India -- make no sense.


MS. CLIFT: Cuba.


MR. BLANKLEY: India, because right now most of our corporations are contracting out their 2000 computer problems to Indian companies, who have all the programmers there.


MR. PAGE: It's a tough call, John, but I put Cuba at the topic. We could do a lot more to depose Castro by having more trade, not less.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is Iraq. And fortunately, those sanctions will be lifted in October. Put that in your column, Pat. (Laughter.)

Issue three: A Republican prescription for victory.

The battle to retake the U.S. House of Representatives is adding heat to the already hot Washington summer, with elections less than four months away. Democrats need only gain a net 11 seats to take back the House. The fact that 75 House seats are open -- no incumbents -- helps the Democrats' odds, though the odds are still against a Democratic takeover.

The Democrats see a troika of issues helping them reach their takeover goal: one, tobacco legislation; two, campaign finance reform; three, reform of health maintenance organizations, HMOs.

As for the Republicans, they discount tobacco and campaign finance reform as fulcrum issues for the election. Tobacco is dead. Campaign finance reform is likewise dead, they think, for the balance of this year, at least. HMOs is where Republicans see pay dirt, and they have seized the initiative with the Patients Bill of Rights, a list of guarantees HMOs must provide:

ER reform. Health plans will play for emergency room situations where "emergency" is defined in the way that a prudent lay person would.

Experimental treatments. HMO coverage for doctor-recommended experimental treatments will be obligatory.

Child care. Parents will be empowered to choose pediatricians rather than using general practitioners, as is the common practice in health plans.

Consumer choice. For an extra fee, all patients will be able to use doctors outside their health plans.

Question: The elections for the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, as noted, are four months away. Have the Republicans already out-strategized the Democrats?

Tony Blankley?

MR. BLANKLEY: In the interest of honest journalism, I don't think we've out-strategized the Democrats since 1994. However, I think the Republicans are sort of stumbling into a defensible position, recognizing that HMO issues have to be dealt with; that tobacco and campaign finance reform, while it will hurt us a little bit in some of the suburban precincts, largely are not going to have a big national impact. So I think while we haven't out-strategized the Democrats, we're in a pretty useful position.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you keep saying "we"? (Laughter.) Are you identifying yourself with Republicans now, that you have a new ephiany? I mean, I'm not talking about your clothing, I'm talking about the fact that you are an analytic journalist. You're like Pat Buchanan, and Pat would never identify himself as being a Republican -- a "we".

MR. BLANKLEY: I do not fly under false flags. I am a conservative.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have a whole selection of false flags right out there in the storeroom -- (laughter) -- and we'll invite -- (laughs) -- we'll invite --

MR. PAGE: May I rummage through them after the show, John! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughing) You've got an abundance! Look at that hideous neckwear you're wearing! If that is not a false flag I don't --

MR. PAGE: That's a Jerry Garcia. Let's have some respect now! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, that's not a false flag, that's a true flag.


MS. CLIFT: Who? Oh, I actually get to speak? (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: Is it my turn?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it's Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think -- I agree with Tony 100 percent. It is a defensive position the Republicans have stumbled into, but a good one basically politically, even if I don't think it's that good for the country.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, it may not work. The House will pass something, but when it gets to the Senate, you know, Democrats are going to say this bill is meaningless, it has no teeth --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've stolen the exit question. Let me get to that, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the Republican Patients Bill of Rights be passed by the Congress and signed by the president before November 3rd?


MR. BUCHANAN: Fifty-fifty -- I'll say yes.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think so.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. It will be passed out of the House, but the Senate Democrats will kill it.


MR. PAGE: I'd say yes, but it's going to be a weakened bill before it passes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I will say yes all the way.

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I had told you Russia would really be hammered hard by the Asian flu, it has been. The next country to really get hit is South Africa. It'll need to be bailed out.


MS. CLIFT: Arizona and Massachusetts will join Maine and Vermont in passing clean-money campaign finance reform.


MR. BLANKLEY: The Republicans will lose one seat net in the House, in the November elections; and, therefore, '99 and 2000 will be pretty much like '97 and '98.


MR. PAGE: I have a very similar prediction. I agree the Republicans will lose about one seat in the Senate and about two in the House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Actually, Clarence, you're way off, if you don't mind my saying so. In the November elections, four months away, Democrats will lose two seats in the Senate. And having done that, the Democrats will do what they always do, claim victory -- (laughter) -- claim victory because it's their bad year. It's an off election year.

MS. CLIFT: That's right. And they'll be (right ?). (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And secondly, they have a bruised, bloody and battered president in the White House, who also happens to be popular. (Chuckles.)

Next week, Congress returns. Will they give us what we crave; namely, tax relief, marriage penalty, capital-gains, death tax? Don't bank on it, Pat! (Laughter.)





MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Gore-Richardson 2000. Yeah, that's the ticket!

AMB. BILL RICHARDSON (U.S. ambassador to the U.N.): (From videotape.) (Let ?) me look forward to having a Cabinet position in the domestic area, Energy. It's close to my state of New Mexico, a lot of exciting new issues. So I leave a little bit with mixed feeling because I love this job here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "This job here" is U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. So why is Bill Richardson leaving his beloved U.N. to become secretary of Energy? For his stated reasons, to work more closely with his home state, New Mexico, where Los Alamos is, or for other reasons, perhaps rooted in political calculus?

Al Gore is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in 2000. How would Richardson do as a running mate for Gore? The positives:

One, ethnic appeal. Richardson is half Mexican American. That could help draw the Hispanic vote, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate, political operatives note, especially in key electoral states like California, Florida, Texas.

Two, high profile. His role at the U.N., particularly during the recent tensions with Iraq, put Richardson in the national limelight, and Richardson's earlier trips, special-duty missions to Rangoon, Baghdad and Port-au-Prince; and hence, that high profile.

Three, experience. As a congressman for 16 years with membership on the House Resources Committee -- oil, natural gas, et cetera -- Richardson is not without energy credentials.

Question: Is Bill Richardson presidential timber, ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I don't know that that's relevant. There's no doubt he will be on the list of those considered for vice president and quite especially if George Bush is the Republican nominee, because George Bush is said to have great strength among Hispanic-Americans and Richardson might be considered for that; but, you know, I would not put him at the top.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, what are the downsides of Richardson on the ticket?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, well, start off with he's never run a national race, he's never run a statewide race. You want to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean you're afraid of the Dan Quayle factor?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not particularly Dan Quayle; you want to avoid creating problems for yourself if you're the presidential nominee. That's basically what a vice president does for you, creates problems. You'd rather run without a vice president if you could. So you want to get somebody who can either bring the party together if it's divided and not make mistakes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, do you believe in the pulling power of his hispanicism?

MR. PAGE: The pulling power is there; the problem with Hispanic voters is they have low voter registration right now. You would have to have a massive voter registration drive for it to really make it work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a somewhat larger -- there's a larger question there, Eleanor, and that is, do you think that a vice presidential (running mate ?) can pull, ethnically, any group? Or anybody's vote?

MS. CLIFT: I think -- yes -- I think Hispanics would be thrilled if one of their own were on the ticket, and I think Hispanic voters are going to be the soccer moms of 2000. They're the most rapidly growing voter bloc and both parties are after them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see the pull power of a vice president on a ticket?

MR. BLANKLEY: Very minimal, very minimal.