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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

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

TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 5, 2004
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 6-7, 2004


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: It's Kerry.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) Tonight the message could not be clearer. All across our country, change is coming to America. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry swept Super Tuesday. Nine of 10 states, with Vermont going to its former governor, Howard Dean. Kerry even won Georgia over southerner Edwards.

Question: Is there any chance whatsoever that the Democratic nominee will be anyone other than John Kerry? Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, there's not, other than some celestial intervention, John. But John Kerry's seven fat weeks are over, and the seven lean weeks begin. I think every night for the last seven weeks, on Tuesday, great news on television, big headlines, big stories. I think he's really headed into very, very deep waters. And I think he's going to be defined by the president as what he is, a Massachusetts liberal, in the coming months. I believe Bush looks very strong at this point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what does Kerry do to maintain the momentum?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he has an opportunity here to perform, in effect, like a shadow president. And he needs to do two things. One, he has to convey his vision in clear, concise, sound-bite terms. And two, he has to create some sort of excitement. And the first opportunity, of course, is the selection of a running mate. The temptation will be to play it safe, but I think he really needs to select somebody that captures the country's imagination.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're now eight months removed from the election, and for a campaign to begin, it usually begins on Labor Day. We've got six months to fill. How does he maintain the momentum? Don't you think Eleanor's slightly off base here in recommending a focus on Bush? Why doesn't Kerry let reality take care of Bush, and go out into the local market and establish in a hard way, in a sure way, his own credentials and to let the people get to know him?

MR. BLANKLEY: My sense is that we're going to see a very fast- paced national media campaign in the news cycle by Kerry and his team. We've already begun to see it going right after Bush on his commercials. Before he even gets them launched, they're ready with their talking points. This is going to be a campaign that we haven't seen before. And I don't think we're going to have a six-month lull. I think it's going to be very fast-paced, sort of like the Iraqi war. The tempo of battle is going to be a lot faster than we've seen before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you not agree with me he should rather focus on the states, go out there and fundraise? It's cheap, he stays below the Beltway radar, and yet he can sneak up on Bush, what he accomplishes out there. He can't be continually criticizing Bush. That will eventually wind up on Page 18 in Section 1.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, I, of course, agree with you and John Kerry agrees with you. He's going on a 20-stop tour with fundraisers in each one of those places that are going to pick up a million each at least. They want to have 20 million (dollars) at the end of it.

But I think Tony's touched on a point that's important, which is the dimensions of this campaign are no longer just two people. It's no longer Bush says, Kerry says. Look at what happened with the TV ads. Bush's big launch of these expensive TV ads, which say nothing, and he gets attacked not by the Kerry team; he gets attacked by widows of 9/11 on The Today Show in the morning, saying he --

MR. BLANKLEY: Who had scripts from the Kerry team. (Laughter.)

MR. O'DONNELL: No, saying, you know, that this --

MR. BLANKLEY: Talking points. (Laughs.)

MR. O'DONNELL: -- that the president is exploiting my husband's death.

MR. BUCHANAN: John?

MR. O'DONNELL: This was an unpredictable negative impact of those ads.

MR. BLANKLEY: He has got --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got to get to the center. He has gone left to take care of Dean, went way out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, that can all come later.

MR. BUCHANAN: That can't come later.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That can all come later.

MR. BUCHANAN: The definition of him as a Massachusetts, Barney Frank, Teddy Kennedy liberal is about to begin on television, John. You can't go out to Des Moines and fight that.

MS. CLIFT: Pat?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, he should take the focus off the president. Reality will take care of the president. Look at the week he had --

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not the president. The president's people are going to define this guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: The focus is on Kerry --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MS. CLIFT: -- and he's got to say what he's going to do. He's now president of Democratic America. He has to reach out to independents and Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: My point is he should cultivate the powerful local markets, let people see what he is, let them get to know him.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, are you going to --

MS. CLIFT: Free media, and please do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He should harden his image to prevent himself from being hurt by Bush.

MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughs.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, he should.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he should take the focus off Bush for the next eight weeks or so.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, it's got to be about him.

MR. O'DONNELL: It's impossible --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then announce his candidate for vice president. Then the two of them together can do the road show, right?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's ridiculous.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, it's impossible for the challenger to do speeches about the campaign for the presidency where you're not, in effect, attacking the sitting president's policies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What advantage does Kerry have over the president? The president's big advantage is what?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's the president.

MR. O'DONNELL: Incumbency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Incumbency. But that has a negative side. What are the negatives?

MR. O'DONNELL: It has a lot of negatives right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the principal negative side?

MR. O'DONNELL: Iraq functions as both a positive and a negative --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- primarily a negative at this point in time --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. That's all true.

MR. O'DONNELL: The deficit is the most gigantic negative anyone's ever had.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What mechanically or physically does it disallow him to do a lot of? Travel.

MS. CLIFT: Fund raise.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, are you kidding? (Cross talk, laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He can do -- but he can't travel the way Kerry can travel.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, you're -- John, you --

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, sure he can, and much more impressively.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry can travel the entire United States.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got Air Force One! He's got --

MR. O'DONNELL: The photograph of Air Force One --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no. He can't go out every day the way Kerry can.

MR. BUCHANAN: When he goes out the whole world covers the president of the United States. Are you kidding?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I understand that. I understand that. But Kerry, meanwhile, is --

MR. BUCHANAN: You're going to -- your retail --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's working subtext. Don't you understand?

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't go retail. You don't go retail now.

MR. BLANKLEY: The White House --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, Pat. You know, you're getting Kerry off on the right foot.

MS. CLIFT: If Bush campaigns too much he risks --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The voice of experience!

MS. CLIFT: Right.

(Begin video segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did the Kerry campaign try to cut a deal with you?

RALPH NADER (candidate for president): No, they know better than that. But I've known John Kerry since he came back from Vietnam. He is going to be a better candidate if the citizens are organized and if the liberals don't give him a free ride.

You know, this "Anybody but Bush" mantra, spreading like a virus among the liberals, is another way of saying to John Kerry: "We're not going to demand any mandates. We're not going to look at your issues and your positions because it's anybody but Bush, and you're 'anybody.'" The liberals, they're not concentrating on the House and Senate. He's going to get a free ride. That's not good for him, that's not good for exciting the public or turning out new voters, or putting the Republicans on the defensive.

(End video segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is what Nader said in that Emmy-worthy interview. The "anybody but Bush" mantra, ABB, focused exclusively on Bush to the neglect of the Senate and House races -- number one. Number two, Nader says it gives Kerry a free ride and that leaves him to shrinking his issues platform and to taking voter turnout for granted.

Do you think those are two -- or three excellent points? What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think Nader has a lot of good points, and I also think Nader's actually going to help Kerry. I think he's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, he's right about keeping Kerry sharp as a campaigner. For Kerry to have to campaign on both his left and his right will make him a sharper campaigner.

The Nader voter will abandon Ralph in the states that they have to abandon him in, in order to win for Kerry. And Ralph Nader's going to be standing there, dramatically to the left of this so-called Massachusetts liberal --

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, let me --

MR. O'DONNELL: -- but proving to you that John Kerry is not the liberal he's been accused of.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. That is all there, but I haven't heard one thing that Nader's going to do, and it's going to be -- it's going to almost create a script, in many ways, and I'm talking about the rhetoric of Nader.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, wait --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nader told me in that program he's going to focus on Bush.

MR. BLANKLEY: Can I --

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah. Exactly.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that helps -- (cross talk) --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead. Go ahead. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, two things are going to happen. First of all, Nader campaigning on the left of Kerry forces Kerry, to some extent, to guard his left, in order to minimize the ultimate Nader vote. That's bad for him, because it pulls him away from the center.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. BLANKLEY: As far as worrying about the Senate races, I've never known a presidential candidate who cared about the Senate races. They all cared about getting themselves elected.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, John, Kerry --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.

MS. CLIFT: John Kerry is not to engage directly with Ralph Nader -- maybe Howard Dean will -- I mean, because the Democrats --

MR. BLANKLEY: He's going to -- this is -- he's --

MS. CLIFT: -- the Democrats are unified in a way they have never been in my memory.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Yes.

MS. CLIFT: And Ralph Nader is saying the liberals are going to give Kerry a pass. Yes, they are, but nobody else is.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me -- you know what's going to happen?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MS. CLIFT: His record is going to get skewered over the next several weeks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But there is a danger side to relying on that mantra, and that is that people get lazy.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Kerry's at his best when he's up against competition.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, here's what --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he should get out there and sell himself, and he's got -- he can do that well.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, here's what Kerry's problem is. He's got to move to the center. As he does and as he blurs the differences with the president, Nader's going to be out there, on fire against the war, on fire against these trade deals. Kerry is going to look like mush. Nader's going to look exciting. And as Tony says --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: All he needs is 5 percent!

MR. O'DONNELL: Who's going to listen to him? Kerry will not lose a single state because of Ralph Nader. Not one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry is going to dance around the issues like a Brazilian doing the samba.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, he will.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Given the duration of the coming presidential campaign, will voters simply tune out until after Labor Day? Yes or no?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think, because both Kerry and the president are going to force them to focus on this race.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but people aren't really going to pay attention till after Labor Day. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tune out?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but Kerry can't let down his guard. He does have this history of not being daring and taking risks until it's almost too late, and he's got to find the courage within him that got him through Vietnam, because this is his Vietnam again.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there again, he can keep them tuned up if he goes into their environment. The local press will give him the play he wants.

MS. CLIFT: He's going to do it.

MR. BLANKLEY: Most voters don't focus until well after Labor Day. However, because of what I anticipate to be the intensity of the national campaign, a higher percentage than normal will be tracking the election earlier.

MR. O'DONNELL: The media will not allow the so-called non- focusing voter not to focus. For example, everyone in the country knows this thing that happened where some of the widows of 9/11 have objected to Bush's ads this week. That is covered as, in effect, a nonpolitical event. That is the "event of the week" of this campaign. It cannot be stopped. That cannot be controlled.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, the national press will not be kept alive. There will be a tune-out. And the way for Kerry to keep it alive is to go local.

When we come back: Martha, Martha, a very bad thing.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Back to the future.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) Before us lie long months of effort and of challenge. And we understand that. We have no illusions about the Republican attack machine and what our opponents have done in the past and what they may try to do in the future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The future is now. The president's political advertising campaign has begun, and judging from the bitter public outcry, it's misfired and backfired. Two of the three ads use images of the World Trade Center devastation to paint the president as a strong leader in troubled times.

(Bush Campaign ad videotape shown.)

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From campaign ad videotape.) I'm George W. Bush, and I approved this message.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The 263,000-member International Association of Fire Fighters is outraged.

FIREFIGHTER: (From videotape.) Our view is that it's disgraceful, it's disgusting that the president's campaign would use images of firefighters and the horrific events of 9/11.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Firefighters Union endorsed John Kerry late last year.

Relatives of those killed are also furious at the ads. "It makes me sick. Would you ever go to someone's grave site and use that as an instrument of politics?" asks Colleen Kelly, whose brother died in the attacks. "The Bush administration will not cooperate fully with the 9/11 commission, and at the same time, they are trying to invoke and own 9/11 for his re-election." Stephen Push, whose wife died in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, speaking for the Washington office of Families of September 11.

But the Bush campaign stands by its ads.

KAREN HUGHES (Bush-Cheney Campaign adviser): (From videotape.) It's a shared experience and a defining moment for our future, and it's important that the next president recognize that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And not all relatives of the dead are offended. "I don't have a problem with his pointing to his leadership at that time. He helped us weather it. To me it was a tasteful ad." Patricia Reilly, who lost a sister in the attacks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What does the backlash tell us? Tony Blankley?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, first of all, I'm not convinced how big the backlash is. Twelve hours after the commercial started, the two widows were already up on air with talking points that were exactly the same, verbatim. So this was obviously an orchestrated -- and I admire the Kerry team and the DNC for orchestrating it --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, boy.

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, stop it.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- since it was obviously --

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, don't say that.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just finish the thought. The fact is, this ad didn't even run in New York. Where it's running around the country all the experts, when they previewed the ad, the journalists thought they were tasteful, effective ads. We'll see how effective they are, but --

MR. O'DONNELL: Not all of them. I previewed the ads and --

MS. CLIFT: This was a deeply --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor talk! Let Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: This was a deeply traumatic act, and to question the way families of the victims responded I think is really a cheap shot on your part.

MR. BLANKLEY: Do you know that a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MR. BLANKLEY: I believe --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: Secondly, what these ads show is that this White House is out of touch with the American people. It's in the tradition of the Mars trip, the talking about steroids in the State of the Union, and the gay marriage amendment.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, we're out of step with 70 percent of the country?

MS. CLIFT: This is exploiting -- this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We got to go.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you -- I want to get one point in.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, this is a -- excuse me. This is --

MR. BLANKLEY: I want to get one point --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on! Hold on!

MR. BLANKLEY: I want to get one point in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Tony. Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish my statement.

MR. BLANKLEY: I thought you had. I'm sorry.

MS. CLIFT: This is exploiting the war and exploiting 9/11 in the same way Bush did when he landed on that flight carrier in a flight suit.

MR. BLANKLEY: In 1944, FDR had a button out that says "Remember Pearl Harbor." This is in the finest tradition of American politics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat? Pat?

MS. CLIFT: A button would -- (inaudible).. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat? Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, Tony's exactly right in this sense. Look, day of -- that day -- you know, it was a day in infamy. They got all those films of those burning battleships at Pearl Harbor. However, this is a very sensitive area, but Bush has every right because it is when he became America's president. It was a defining moment. It's the cause of a lot of what's going on afterwards. But he's got to handle it with sensitivity. He probably should have shown himself up on top of that rubble.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The vehemence may surprise you. "I would vote for Saddam Hussein before I would vote for Bush" -- Ron Willett, whose 29-year-old son died in the Trade Center attacks. Does the vehemence surprise you?

MR. O'DONNELL: No, it doesn't. If you lose a family member that way, I'm not going to hold you to strictly rational responses for the rest of your life in regards to this presidency or how it's reacted. Look, I think Tony's right. A lot of idiotic punditry was out there the minute these ads came out saying how great they were before there was a reaction from people who had to go to funerals with the coffins of the 9/11 tragedy. And I think they were wrong in including a coffin, literally a coffin in the shot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Is --

MR. O'DONNELL: I think it's fair for Bush to use the concept, but not that shot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this the controlling voice?

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (former Republican mayor of New York City): (From videotape.) I think what the president has done here is just, you know, talk about the war on terror as part of his political record, not politicizing it but, in fact -- you know, then in that case, all Democrats wouldn't be able to criticize him about the war on terror, because they shouldn't be politicizing it either.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is an exit question. Is it your felt intuition that Giuliani's read on the Bush ad represents what the majority of Americans will think?

Tony -- Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: The answer is yes, John, as long as the president stays focused on 9/11, what happened there; but be very, very sensitive because there's a lot of raw emotion still attached to it.

MS. CLIFT: How the president reacted to 9/11 and the war that he has embarked on is a legitimate campaign issue. Using images from that day in ads is over the line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know how the American public is going to decide this overall. Obviously, the partisans will have their opinions quickly. My hunch is, talking about September 11th is generally good news for the president.

MR. O'DONNELL: I think Bush supporters will have no problem with those ads. I think it's perfectly legitimate for him to use 9/11. The question is really specifically exactly which images. It should not be coffins. He does not have that right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bear in mind that a sizable contingent of the families believe that the Bush government botched both the detection and the preparation and could have averted the attack.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's understandable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they believe also that the 9/11 report will be very bad for Bush and it will demonstrate this. So that's the background of their vehemence.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, well --

MR. BUCHANAN: It can't be good. It can't be -- look, the 9/11 report is going to obviously show that more information was there than the president got or that he used.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's no doubt about that. The question is how damaging it's going to be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, we've got to get out. This is the final exit question. Is 9/11 fair game this election season or should it be put off limits? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: What happened, why it happened, how the president responded is a major issue in this campaign and rightly so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that there should be political discourse on it.

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with Lawrence, keep the coffins out of it, but -- (inaudible) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? Do you agree with that?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, yeah. It's a defining issue. You just watch the picture.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You agree with that? It should not be off limits.

MR. BLANKLEY: Of course it should not be off limits, and it won't be.

MR. O'DONNELL: Nine-eleven, this government's response to it and its continued response to it should be, in effect, the only real issue in the campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it should be on the agenda for political discussion. When else can we discuss it except in a political year? It also shows that 9/11 has lost some of its sacred reverence and has now become a political football.

MS. CLIFT: Not all of it, or else Bush could have gotten away with those ads. I bet he'll have to pull them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the political football -- that is necessary that it happen, for the fullness of discussion.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't mean that in a coarse way.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean that it has to be bounced around and examined and studied, the before and the after and so forth.

MR. BLANKLEY: Right.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it also makes --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: A very bad thing. The verdict is in. The jury of eight women and four men on Friday found Martha Stewart guilty on the remaining four counts of the indictment. Ms. Stewart now faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine.

We have little time for this discussion. Pat, do you think this verdict is a good thing or a bad thing?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't like it at all, John. I think the prosecutors went after her. They had one completely phoney charge. The original charge was insider trading. She didn't do insider trading. But there's no doubt that she concocted a phoney story and worked it up and lied about it.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, she covered -- (chuckles) --

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm sorry that this is happening, because I don't think she deserved to go to prison.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. The Justice Department has acquitted itself well. I mean, she's no little innocent. She knew she was covering up. She was a former stockbroker. I think she was a member of the stock exchange. I mean, she knew what she was doing.

MR. BUCHANAN: What did she cover up?

MS. CLIFT: And white-collar -- cover-up, right --

MR. BUCHANAN: Cover up what?

MS. CLIFT: -- and white-collar crime -- she covered up a crime she --

MR. BUCHANAN: Insider trading? There was no crime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MS. CLIFT: Eleanor is exactly right.

MS. CLIFT: Thank you. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: My God.

MS. CLIFT: My man! (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could we have this notarized, this session? (Laughter.)

Continue.

MR. O'DONNELL: I think she was, in effect, guilty of insider trading, even though the case couldn't be made.

What I object to is the notion that it is a crime to lie to a federal agent. I think we have a First Amendment right to lie to anyone we want, as long as we are not under oath in a judicial proceeding, where it does become a crime called perjury.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was an execrable decision, execrable, and it was prosecutorial malice or overreach, at a minimum.

Exit question: On appeal, will Martha Stewart win or lose?

MR. BUCHANAN: She will lose.

MS. CLIFT: Right. Four counts. She'll lose.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think there is any big legal issues in contest, though. On the factual basis, the jury's made its finding. Probably she loses on appeal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: I haven't yet studied the transcript of the trial. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: You have not. (Laughter continues.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're saying she will lose on appeal?

MR. BLANKLEY: Probably, yeah. We haven't yet heard any big legal contention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Assuming -- I think it's too close to call. (Laughter.) Assuming that she does spend some time in the clink --

MR. BUCHANAN: In the Gray Bar Hotel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- will she then afterwards return to her full position of commercial eminence?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, because America loves redemption and second acts.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: She's shown great gifts to reinvent herself. She'll do it again! (Laughs.)

(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, you're unexpectedly harsh on her. In the last go around, two weeks ago --

MS. CLIFT: I said she will reinvent herself! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: The value of celebrity cannot be undermeasured. Yes, I'm sure she can --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will she come back?

MR. O'DONNELL: The empire will never be as big as it once was.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will never be?

The empire will be back. (Laughter.)

We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.

Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Terry McAuliffe will not survive as chairman of the Democratic Party, the convention in Boston.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?!

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, really.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Look for President Bush to lay on some foreign trips to look presidential, a la Richard Nixon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he better watch Kerry in his absence.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: The Democrats in the Senate will successfully kill the effort to make permanent the estate tax exemption.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How sad.

MR. O'DONNELL: Having predicted two-and-a-half years ago that John Kerry would be the front-runner at this point, I can now predict with certainty --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. O'DONNELL: -- that he will be elected president of the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Remarkable.

MS. CLIFT: I can sleep tonight! (Laughs.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, yes you can.

MS. CLIFT: Okay!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can top that --

MR. O'DONNELL: No you can't! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- self-aggrandizing prediction.

I predict that for his vice president, John Kerry will not go geographic, he will go ethnic.

Have you figured that out?

MR. O'DONNELL: No, I haven't.

MR. BUCHANAN: Richardson.

MS. CLIFT: Richardson.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will you think about that? That's one possibility, but that doesn't exhaust them all.

MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think he will.

MR. BLANKLEY: He could pick an Irishman.

(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry's got some Irish in him.

MR. BUCHANAN: Watch it, Tony! (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Does he now? I can't keep track of that! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have any comments on that vice presidency prediction?

MS. CLIFT: I think he's got to do something that is exciting and not just Richard Gephardt out of Missouri --

MR. BUCHANAN: There's only one big exciting choice, Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: -- although Gephardt can bring Missouri to the electoral chart.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's one big exciting choice, isn't there? There's one big exciting choice, isn't there?

MS. CLIFT: Hillary? Not going to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean Hillary?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, sure.

MS. CLIFT: No way. No way.

MR. BUCHANAN: That would really light the country up.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the odds of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the odds are good if he's down by 10 or 12 points when he goes to the convention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's any possibility -- Hillary is a polarizing figure. That would be very dangerous.

MS. CLIFT: Hillary will overshadow him.

MR. O'DONNELL: Hillary is a "Hail Hillary pass" -- (laughter) -- that you could only do if you were really desperate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not Edwards?

MR. O'DONNELL: It's not Edwards. It is Gephardt or Evan Bayh, the young version of Gephardt.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next week Congress debates CAPPS II. Airport screening may never be the same -- thank God!

Bye-bye!

END OF REGULAR SEGMENT PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS

MORE

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Vietnam Redivivus.

ERROL MORRIS (documentary filmmaker): (From videotape.) Forty years ago, this country went down a rabbit hole in Vietnam, and millions died. I fear we're going down a rabbit hole once again. (Cheers, applause.) And if people can stop and think and reflect on some of the ideas and issues in this movie, perhaps I've done some damn good here. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The applause at the Academy Awards that greeted Errol Morris' connecting of Iraq and Vietnam is an index, of course, to what Hollywood thinks of the Iraq War: a quagmire. That's how Morris portrayed Vietnam in his documentary "The Fog of War," which won an Oscar. He sees Iraq as a parallel war to Vietnam.

Morris' Iraq commentary wasn't the only one at the Oscars. There were these sarcastic jabs from emcee Billy Crystal, who wisecracked about retaliation for Morris' speech and then satirized the similarities between George W. Bush's presidency and that of his father.

BILLY CRYSTAL (comedian): (From videotape.) I can't wait for HIS tax audit.

I first hosted the show 13 years ago. Things were so different then. You know how different it was? Bush was president, the economy was tanking, and we had just finished a war with Iraq. Isn't that amazing? (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush senior lost his reelection bid to Hollywood favorite Bill Clinton in 1992: Clinton, 43 percent; Bush, 37; Perot 19.

Exit: Who won the culture wars this week, Bush with his assault on gay marriage, or Hollywood with its Bush attack and the Bush ad blowback?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush won on the amendment on gay marriage, but the big winner in the culture war is Mel Gibson, my friend.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Bush has not halted the slide in his ratings. And the star of that Morris drama was Robert McNamara and his comment that if your traditional allies aren't with you, you should reexamine your motive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. Who won?

MR. BLANKLEY: Pat's right, Mel Gibson won the week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mel Gibson?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think the modernists had a good week this week. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are all correct. ####

END