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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT, AND VAUGHN VERVERS

TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2004
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 13-14, 2004



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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Terror in Madrid.

A horrifying assault in the city of Madrid: nearly 200 dead, 1,200 injured on Thursday when 10 backpacks loaded with TNT exploded simulataneously in three rail stations, ripping through crowded trains during the crush of the morning commute.

Spanish authorities immediately blamed the Basque separatist group ETA. But then an Arabic newspaper received an e-mail claiming responsibility from the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri. The e-mail said the attacks were executed in the name of al Qaeda and they were, quote, "part of settling old accounts with Spain, the crusader, and America's ally in this war against Islam."

The letter also threatened the U.S.: "We announce the good news for the Muslims in the world that the stroke of the black wind of death, the expected strike against America, is now at its final stage -- 90 percent ready and it is coming soon, inshallah, by God's will."

Okay. What do we know about al Qaeda and is what we know disinformation supplied by al Qaeda?

Baghdad fell in April of last year. A month later American, European and Middle Eastern counterterrorism officials warned that al Qaeda had reconstituted itself and had established new bases in Chechnya, East Africa, and Pakistan. Two months after that, in July, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, the TSA, issued a warning that al Qaeda was planning new airline suicide hijackings. Five months later, a week before Christmas, U.S. intelligence intercepted what was thought to be al Qaeda warnings of new terrorist attacks and strict security regulations were put on Christmas air travel. Some overseas flights were canceled. Emergency teams mobilized in cities with radiation monitors to thwart a "dirty bomb" attack on New Year's Eve celebrations.

And now this week, Thursday, March 11, al Qaeda strikes in Madrid, not using exotic weapons of mass destruction -- a dirty bomb or chemical or biological weapons or new techniques for hijacking -- but old-fashioned TNT bombs on soft targets, with a terrorist version of shock and awe. By the end of the week the number of injured had risen to 1,400.

Question: Spanish intelligence and the CIA have been cooperating closely in the war on terrorism since 9/11. Both agencies are cooperating in Iraq. How did the two agencies miss the plot? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, there is no perfect security in a free society. Look, if you've got an open and free society and especially in Europe where 5 million Muslims, for example, in France and there must be 15 million Muslims in the continent, you can have a plot with five or six people using conventional weapons in a mall, on a train; soft target, conventional weapons, John. You cannot stop all of these things. What you can do is deter states from engaging in terror, and what you can do is punish the people who do it. But if there's a suicide bomber, he can do it, John. Just as the Secret Service used to tell us, if you want to kill the president of the United States, you can.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the point of that extended introduction was that the focus has been on exotic -- chemical, biological, nuclear, radiational (sic).

MR. BUCHANAN: There's only been one -- only -- there's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the point is in Bali and in Jakarta you had traditional weaponry.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's only one untraditional weapon I know of in a terrorist attack, and that's that gang in Tokyo, that religious sect which put the nerve gas on the subway. All of them are conventional.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not true. They're not conventional at all.

MS. CLIFT: Well, this is the nightmare because this was so simple. There may not even have been suicide bombers involved because these were backpacks that were left and presumably synchronized. This was very low tech. If they can do it there, they can do it anywhere. And the Spanish authorities were bracing for some sort of attack because their elections are coming up and they apparently have thwarted like three ETA attacks on railway stations in the recent past. But the only way you can really get inside these kinds of operations is with human intelligence, and I would think that the Spanish authorities, having fought ETA for so many years, would be inside that organization -- which is why the collusion of al Qaeda or some other sympathetic terrorist organization is likely in this case.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The point of this is the defects in our intelligence. Here we are looking up to the heavens for a hijacking where it's right here on the ground with traditional weaponry.

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is going on with --

MS. CLIFT: That's cause we can't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do we have 500 CIA agents in Baghdad, which is the biggest station for the CIA in the world?

MR. BLANKLEY: Why do we --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But then they're diverted to the insurgency.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you know, we have a desk in Madrid. But look, I mean, you say, well, why are we focusing on weapons of mass destruction when they can also use a regular bomb?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They use the regular, though.

MR. BLANKLEY: We have obviously to do both and we're not going to be successful all the time in any event. As Bush has said, this is a generational struggle we're in and there are going to be attacks. They've been predicting it for a long time.

I think the most interesting effect of this immediately is that I think it may be changing the psychology on the continent. Le Monde in France wrote this is the first time we've now had hyper-terrorism, as they call it, on the continent. So this may -- as we work together maybe more closely after this with out European allies because this is their September 11th. Interestingly, it came 911 days after our September 11th.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The CIA picked up a lot of chatter on the Internet and they picked it up from the satellite, and it could have been disinformation put out by the al Qaeda.

MR. VERVERS: They're picking up chatter all the time. I mean, we hear about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know. But they're focusing in the wrong direction. When you got them on a double count, they miss it and they're focusing in the wrong direction.

MR. VERVERS: Well, Pat's right, you can't watch everything. You're not going to be able to stop all of these things.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everything? Everything?

MR. VERVERS: I think the American --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't we look at the major vulnerabilities? Obviously, a subway or a train is a mass transit, and then think in terms of what they have used in the past.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, for heaven's sakes, John! John, what about Tyson's Corner, for heaven's sakes? What about these malls, you've got them all over America. Are you going to guard them all?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: You can't.

MR. BLANKLEY: You can't put a million people going on subways every day through magnetometers. The system won't sustain that level of security.

MS. CLIFT: That's why --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Commander-in-chief Bush, eight months ago:

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The good news is that we are, one, dismantling the al Qaeda organization; and two, we're learning more information about their plans as we capture more people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did this utterance of President Bush, and others like them from the government, have the unintended effect of misleading the American public into believing that al Qaeda was losing its ability to carry out terrorist operations?

You heard the bite, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I did. But at the same time, he's repeatedly warning that we're likely to experience another attack. And he's presenting himself as a wartime president and he's reminding the country that we're at war. And I think, frankly, that we have to examine how we're fighting this war. And I think this "you're with us or against us" attitude adopted by the president, and by the prime minister of Spain, serves to radicalize these groups. And with ETA in particular, they have captured or arrested many of the old guard, but there's a new generation out there and they're not playing by the same old rules.

MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor is right in one important regard; that is exactly the debate the country should have: Is the strategy right, how is it working, how should it be shifted? I hope we do have that.

Interestingly, by the way, very recently the CIA has come to the decision, the assessment that the al Qaeda has reassembled in Somalia, specifically in Somalia. This has been a big discussion within the agency, and only in the last short period of time have they concluded that they have reorganized in Somalia.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, John, don't forget --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's not a short period of time; they've known for six months.

MR. BLANKLEY: No --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you happen to have stolen by prediction -- and probably knowingly!

This is another point, Patrick -- (inaudible) -- this question. Is the central front Iraq anymore? Are we going to be aware of the sleeper cells horizontally across the world?

MR. BUCHANAN: That takes us into the argument we have had here. I never believed Iraq was the source of the war on terror against the United States of America.

I do think Tony makes an excellent point on the fact that Spain has been hit. They're waking up the French now. The Saudis got hit and they are finally woken up. What you need on this, you need a grand coalition of all states, because you know what happens, John? We're in fourth-generation warfare.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You need more than that. I'll tell you what --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's no longer states waging war. It is groups, ethnic groups --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't we go to the source of the problem? What is inflaming the Muslim fanatics? The answer is, in part, in significant part, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

MR. BUCHANAN: The --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't we devote all of our energy --

MR. BUCHANAN: That is not the key thing. The key --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- all of our diplomatic energy --

MR. BUCHANAN: The key thing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- I beg your pardon; let me finish --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- all of our diplomatic energies to resolving that conflict? I've told you before, I'll tell you again: Mubarak said to me that if you eliminate that problem, you have cut terrorism worldwide in half, because the --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: You can cut it. But the key thing of recruitment, though, is not only that; it is the American imperial presence. Intervention is the incubator of terrorism.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What gives the al Qaeda edge to recruit and sacrifice their own lives --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- some of them even lawyers, with families --

MS. CLIFT: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- just a moment -- is the fact that -- is the point that I'm making, is the Palestinian question.

MS. CLIFT: I want to agree with you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: I want to agree with you, but it runs counter to the Bush administration strategy, which is the road to peace and stability in the Middle East is through Baghdad. I think that's a big detour and that they should have taken care of Jerusalem first --

MR. BLANKLEY: If you think that the Indonesian and Filipino terrorists are motivated and are joining up in the jungles out there because of what's going on in Israel, I think you misunderstand the nature of terrorism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't try to reduce this to a silly absurdity. I'm saying it's a principal factor, and indeed it is.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is one factor.

MR. BLANKLEY: It is one factor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a principal factor.

MS. CLIFT: It's a major factor.

MR. VERVERS: More important -- it is a factor -- a lot of presidents have gone down that path and not been very successful. I'm not sure you want to stake your entire presidency on solving that problem. (Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, according to O'Neill's book, at the very first meeting of the National Security Council, 13 days after he took the oath of inauguration, he said, "We're not going to bother with Israel. It's insolvable. Let's let them find their own course for the time being."

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is not a criticism. He said that. Okay?

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it was abandoned, and it's still --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Bin Laden hid us --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he had devoted the Clinton emphasis to it, we could have reduced this volume of terrorism.

MR. VERVERS: How --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Which is more likely to happen before the November 2 election: the capture of Osama bin Laden or a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: That is a tough one, John. I think -- I mean, we haven't had one for two years. I think they're getting ready for a big one. That's why we haven't had one. They could do the Tyson's Corner easily. But I'm going to bet we're going to get bin Laden earlier. There's a lot of talk out there, and I bet we get bin Laden.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Well, don't give them Tyson's Corner too easily. (Soft laughter.) I'll get to that in a moment.

Yes?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I'm not going to predict a terrorist attack, and so -- and I do hope they find Osama. And I assume that they will before the election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think that's more probable --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or less improbable.

What do you say?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think they're about an equal level of likelihood.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? Well, you're sticking to form, aren't you? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Accurate, precise, not overstating (Laughter.)

MR. VERVERS: More probable that we get bin Laden. But it's interesting; if this is al Qaeda who did this in Spain right before the election, do we have something to be worried about in October?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's more probable we'll get Osama bin Laden. Some say we have him already. Figure that out. I don't say that. I feel that way because of the tightening up of our immigration and customs policies and programs, and also for a couple of other reasons. Therefore --

MS. CLIFT: They're staging a spring offensive in Afghanistan to try to flush him out from the area where they think he is.

MR. BLANKLEY: They've finally got the Pakistani government actually committed to that strategy, which is key to it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And also because I think the al Qaeda that were resident in the United States, thanks to that esteemed leader who is now hospitalized but I think is convalescing, John Ashcroft, we have less of a problem internally than we had, by far, from al Qaeda resident in this country.

MR. BUCHANAN: The United States is in much better shape. But you got to realize, Europe has got all these Muslims, and the ones in England are far different than the ones in Libya.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Yes.

MS. CLIFT: And most of them are peace-loving.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they have more of a cliquishness over there than they have in other parts of the world.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back: President for the week; who's out in front in the Electoral College, the one that matters, Kerry or Bush?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Viewers are requested to pay close attention to the following set-up. It's a riveting tutorial.

Issue two: Electoral forecast number one.

In a U.S. presidential election the popular vote is not the controlling vote. Ask Al Gore. In 2000, four years ago, he won over half a million more popular votes than George Bush. What controls the election is the Electoral College vote, which Mr. Bush won in 2000 with five more electoral votes than Mr. Gore.

The total number of electors -- one man, one vote -- in the Electoral College is 538. That number is derived from the number of senators and congressmen from each state all added together, plus three from the District of Columbia. So that's 100 -- two senators from each state -- plus 435 -- the total number of U.S. representatives -- plus the three from D.C. Total, 538.

If a candidate wins a majority of the popular votes in a state, he gets all of the electoral votes of that state. Winner takes all. To win the presidency requires a majority of the 538 total; 269 with one added to reach a majority of 270.

Okay. Presidential election November 2nd this year, 2004. What is the number of states now locked up for the president, his base; and how many electoral votes does that base yield? There are 20 states in the Bush base where he is expected to win the popular vote: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming. Total electoral votes from these 20 states: 168. To win, Bush needs 102 more electors.

The map, please. That's the Bush base in red, the Bush lockup.

Now the Kerry base. Thirteen states are locked up for Kerry, plus the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, plus the District of Columbia. Total electoral votes from these 13 states plus D.C. for Kerry: 196. To win, Kerry needs 74 more electors.

The map, please. The Kerry base is in blue, the Bush base in red. What's left over: the battleground, 17 states in neither Bush's lockup nor Kerry's lockup.

But we do know how these states are tilting. Eight states tilt Bush: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee. Total electoral votes from these eight states: 84. If Bush wins these 84 votes and they are added to his 168, his total is 252; 18 short of the total electoral votes needed to win the election, 270. Okay, the map please. There's the Bush tilt in striped red.

Now, tilting Kerry, nine states: Florida, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin. Total, 90 electoral votes. There's the map showing the Kerry tilt in striped blue. If Kerry wins these nine states with their 90 electoral votes added to his 196, he totals 286; 16 more than he needs to win the presidency.

Question: What do you think of that outline, without getting too retail? Vaughn Ververs of the Hotline.

MR. VERVERS: That is actually exactly where the battle state grounds (sic) are, according to the two campaigns, with the exception of two states. Washington and Michigan are counted in the battleground states for these two campaigns. Tennessee and Indiana are not. These are the states where both the Democratic 527 groups that are running nationwide ads right now and the Bush campaign are both running advertising, so they agree that that is where we start out in these battleground states.

I'm of the opinion that you could throw about four or five more in there, including Tennessee, including Colorado. There are some other states that we could call bubble states in that mix of swing states as well. And it looks to me -- it's sort of counterintuitive to what we've been hearing from the conventional wisdom, but this almost looks like an election to me that could break one way or another big and not necessarily be the close election that everybody's predicting. We just don't know which way that's going to break yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How does that invalidate the tally?

MR. VERVERS: Well, it invalidates the tally because Bush could win a majority of those swing states or Kerry could win and win 300 electoral votes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you care to postulate -- and I'll go around the horn on this. We'll get back to this in another show. But would you care to postulate which way you think the Electoral College is -- where it is today?

MR. VERVERS: Today -- right now John Kerry has a lead in states equal to about 200 electoral votes, so he's on his way there. It's a bigger bunch than Bush has.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's factor in those troublesome ones, those -- the disputed ones.

MR. VERVERS: Well, for Bush there's Ohio --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know.

MR. VERVERS: Oh, you mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the total?

MR. VERVERS: The total? For --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You care to conjecture on the basis --

MR. VERVERS: Gore (sic) probably has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're working largely with polling. We're also working with presidential voting history in those states.

MR. VERVERS: Two sixty-nine to 269, John, right now. That's what any --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you sound like Blankley! (Laughter.) Don't get into those habits, please, Vaughn. (Laughter.)

What do you say, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, I mean, I think you're very, very close on some of these things. But I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, which way? What's the bottom line? Is it Bush or Kerry?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's Bush right now. John, if you took my votes, the tiny ones I got and gave them to Bush, Bush would have won Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and Oregon. That's how tight it is. As Vaughn says, you get -- a couple of votes could swing this thing over to where Bush has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we're talking about now.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the two states that decide it are Ohio and Florida right now. If Bush carries both, he wins. If Gore -- if Dean -- excuse me, Kerry carries both, he wins.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to make a quick point, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. No president who failed to win the popular vote has ever been reelected. Admittedly it's only a pattern of two, but -- (laughs) --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Abraham --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you calculate --

MS. CLIFT: I think Bush is quite vulnerable --

MR. BLANKLEY: Abraham Lincoln --

MS. CLIFT: -- especially if we have $3 gas.

MR. BLANKLEY: Abraham Lincoln did not get a majority of the popular vote and he got reelected in 1864, during a war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to declare --

MS. CLIFT: More of the popular vote than his opponent --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to declare where we are at this time in terms of the Electoral College vote on the basis of what you've seen and know? Is it Bush or is it Kerry, today?

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm going to revert to type. I don't think it is discernible. (Laughter.) But I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who says it is? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're not claiming clairvoyance in --

MS. CLIFT: We're guessing.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think we're very even right now.

MR. BUCHANAN: This isn't -- two weeks ago it's Kerry. Right now I think it's Bush.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, in Florida you had two polls in two weeks. One had Bush up by four.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh!

MR. BLANKLEY: One had him down by five or six. What does that mean?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You say Bush. What are you going to say, Bush or Kerry?

MS. CLIFT: I say Kerry because we're going to have $3 gas this summer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You say Kerry. You're not saying?

MR. VERVERS: This week it's Kerry, next week it's going to be Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's Kerry, that's all I want to know. Kerrys: three Kerrys, four Kerrys. What do you say?

MR. BLANKLEY: Last week it was Kerry, this week it's even.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This week it's even.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. (Laughter.)

Smile, John; you're on "Candid Camera." Here's what Kerry's microphone caught him saying to workers at a Chicago sheet metal plant this week.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) We're going to keep pounding, let me tell you. We're just beginning to fight here. These guys are -- these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group that I've ever seen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't hold back, John. Mr. Kerry's spokesman said Kerry was not referring to opponent George Bush, but to the quote, unquote, "Republican attack machine." The Bush-Cheney campaign wants an apology. Senator Kerry, do you have any intention of apologizing?

SEN. KERRY: (From videotape.) I have no intention whatsoever for apologizing for my remarks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the failure to apologize on his part good politics or bad politics?

MR. VERVERS: It's great politics. He needs to stand up and say, look, I said that's the way it is. I'm not going to back down in the face of the Republicans. It's a big -- it's not that bad of a remark that he got caught off camera. He didn't know he was on. It's a bunch of --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got a bad problem because Tim Russert is going to sit up there and hang it right up there, and he's going to say, "Now who are you calling crooks and liars?" And what's Kerry going to say?

MS. CLIFT: And he can answer --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is the comment of Kerry justified?

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: No it's not!

(Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Yes! Yes! Yes! Look at the ads --

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't call the president crooks and liars! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me! Look at the ad this week. They're saying that Kerry wants to raise taxes by $900 billion. They're counting the cost of his health care plan --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and he's very much in favor of --

MS. CLIFT: -- they don't even know how to estimate the cost of their own health care plan, let alone his.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, Kerry does favor a middle-class tax cut.

On another score, Kerry voted against Clinton on the matter of -- on an intelligence/CIA budget, and he did so because he does not want all of this technological wizardry out there; rather, he wants to be have spies. And he voted against Clinton --

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was Clinton's budget.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was John Deutch who was in the Department of Defense.

MS. CLIFT: He also voted to cut $300 million a year for five years because the CIA was putting it into an illegal slush fund. And the Republican Congress voted to cut even more! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The point is --

MR. BLANKLEY: You mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The point is --

MR. BLANKLEY: Can I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The point is, Tony, is that the Republican National Committee is saying that he's anti-intelligence because he voted the way he did on the budget, which was a vote in the Clinton administration against his own president, thereby exhibiting, you could interpret it, independence of judgment.

We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.

Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: According to the Gallup poll, "The Passion of the Christ" could be seen by two-thirds of the American people. One in nine have already seen it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We got about --

MS. CLIFT: Republican leadership will strip the pay-as-you-go provision to pay for tax cuts out of the budget, removing the only bit of sanity in the federal budget.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're practically out of time. Can you sit on that prediction on Somalia, which I was going to say anyway?

And we'll have you back soon for you to give your prediction.

Bye-bye.

END REGULAR SEGMENT PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS

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PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: The thinner blue line.

REP. BILL PASCRELL (D-NJ): (From videotape.) Now is not the time to be cutting the successful COPS program. That program put police officers on the streets. Now they're cutting that program, and at the same time looking at the American people and saying, "We are concerned about homeland security."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House is squeezing police budgets nationwide, notably, COPS, the Community Oriented Policing Services program. The Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Program is also on the federal budget chop block. In 2004 Washington paid out over $5 billion in assistance to state and local police operations. The 2005 Bush budget plan -- commencing October 1 this year -- will slash that amount by nearly one-third, from $5 billion dollars to $3.25 billion. This is the first time that federal assistance funds for police have been cut since September 11.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police says that thousands of local police will be laid off next year if these Bush cuts go through.

Question: Are these COPS budget cuts smart?

I ask you, Vaughn Ververs.

MR. VERVERS: Well, they're not a PR good move, necessarily. But I'll tell you what, if you're going to argue that the first responders and that kind of spending is the way to defend the homeland, I think that's a loser for Democrats. And Bush can argue we need this money to go into a broader homeland security --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me -- let me describe something. I used to, when I was a California deputy attorney general, I actually administered an LEAA grant, which is a federal grant of law enforcement money. This doesn't go for line work, these are boondoggles, by and large. I was making movies -- you know, police- training films with this money and trying to come up with topics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. What about those -- what about --

MR. BLANKLEY: And -- so you can't fully fund cops on the street with these one- or two-time grants.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You were assistant attorney general out there?

MR. BLANKLEY: Deputy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about those cadavers at UCLA? Were you involved in any of that?

MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.) I was out of town by then!

(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you charge an arm and a leg?

MS. CLIFT: Look, this is paying for cops on the beat in low- income neighborhoods. And they're being cut to make room for tax cuts for people who can afford their own security and who don't need municipal cops.

Actually, I think the Bush presidency has a secret plan to outsource policing. Instead of calling 911, call 1-888 and you get somebody in India.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Played against the outlays for Haiti and for Iraq, and training of cops in those areas, the American people will go crazy if they hear that their neighborhood police are going to be cut back.

MS. CLIFT: And they should.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You recognize that?

MR. BUCHANAN: I recognize that here the neighborhood police should not be paid for by the federal taxpayer, John. That is a local responsibility.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll take our dollars --

MR. BUCHANAN: If you're a Goldwater conservative, you understand that! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll take our dollars and give them to whoever can take care of our security.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's right. ####

END