Share

THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT AND CLARENCE PAGE

TAPED: THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 2004
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 20-21, 2004

(C) COPYRIGHT 2004, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1919 M STREET, N.W., SUITE 220, WASHINGTON, D.C. 20036, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.

FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.

FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
-------------------------

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Offshore war.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) As our economy moves forward and new jobs are added, some are questioning whether American companies and American workers are up to the challenge of foreign competition. There are economic isolationists in our country who believe we should separate ourselves from the rest of the world by raising up barriers and closing off markets. They're wrong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The outsourcing of U.S. jobs was defended last week by Mr. Bush, who branded its opponents, including Senator John Kerry, "economic isolationists."

The defense of offshoring is part of a coordinated response to increasing political pressures over the slow pace of U.S. job growth and the loss of half a million white-collar jobs overseas. To where? To Bratislava, Slovakia; Stavropol, Russia; Talinn, Estonia; Manila; and to Bombay, outsourcing heaven, where a skilled engineer, fluent in English, earns $27,000 a year. In the U.S., it's $90,000.

The U.S. has lost over 2.2 million jobs on President Bush's watch. Coordinated or not, President Bush's response seems to be doing little to slow the momentum of John Kerry, who scores his most favorable ratings on the issue of jobs. And outsourcing has given Kerry a favorite campaign line.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA, presidential candidate): (From videotape.) We're going to repeal every benefit, every loophole, every reward that entices any Benedict Arnold company or CEO to take the money and the jobs overseas and stick the American people with the bill. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secretary of Commerce Don Evans has his rebuttal for Kerry.

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE DON EVANS: (From videotape.) Trade has continued to expand around the world. Foreign companies have come to America and employed American workers. And the fact of the matter is, foreign companies now employ a record number, 6.4 million American workers, directly in this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How potent a political issue is this, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's extremely potent this year, John, and neither party has any answer for it. What is happening is the export of the factors of production in this country overseas -- you've lost 3 million manufacturing jobs under Bush -- the outsourcing.

The truth is, what is happening to America is what happened to New England after World War II, where everything went to the South, to the Sunbelt. The new Sunbelt is Asia, it is Eastern Europe, it is China, where wages and benefits are so low that American corporations are exporting their means of production there and selling back into the United States. Neither party has an answer for it, and quite frankly, this is the same thing that happened to Great Britain at the end of the empire.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, John Kerry does have some answers. He can take away the benefits from corporations who go overseas, and if you have a post office box in Bermuda, that shouldn't let you avoid U.S. taxes. There are some things that you can do.

But the offshoring is really a touchstone for the whole jobs issue and the lack thereof. And this administration cannot recover from the notion that they think outsourcing is good -- the famous quote from the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. And the fact that the president announced that he would name a manufacturing czar six months ago, and then when he names Mr. Czar, turns out this gentleman closed a plant in this country and opened one in China. It's another example of the fox guarding the chicken coup. The administration did cancel the press conference to announce his appointment. But the -- this is a rich political target for the Democrats because anybody could do a better job on this issue than this administration has.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, the Commerce secretary in that same brilliant interview -- (laughter) -- which is viewable in its entirety within a few days.

MR. PAGE: The secretary is always brilliant.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said on that issue that you just raised about the alleged appointee to the manufacturing czar that no decision had been made and they were continuing a vetting process and the vetting process is quite extensive. (Laughter.) So if you believe that --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. It's gotten more so. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to address yourself to this question, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, the economy of the nation and the world is always changing, always new challenges. Clearly we're going through a period where -- with automation -- and manufacturing jobs are going to go down. They're going down in China, manufacturing jobs, too. As far as outsourcing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean China is outsourcing jobs?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. China is automating their factories just the way we are, so even though our output goes up and China's output goes up, less men are needed to run the machines. That's the fundamental problem in manufacturing, similar to what happened to agriculture a century ago -- you automated --

MR. PAGE: Yeah, that's right --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point. Brother Patrick makes an example of New England, where they lost the textile industry to the South. New England today is doing very well in high technology, and that's what America is going to be doing well in.

And to go back to your question, is it a political problem? Yes. It's a big problem now. My sense is that it will moderate, and unless the election is very close it ultimately will not be decisive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: According to Forrester Consultants, who are experts in this field of outsourcing, 3.3 million jobs -- white-collar jobs -- are going to go out over the next 10 years. That averages out to about 78,000 jobs per month. Isn't that particularly worrisome?

MR. PAGE: Well, it's worrisome if those jobs aren't replaced, but they're --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me, about 30,000 a month. Go ahead, I'm sorry.

MR. PAGE: They're likely to be replaced. White-collar workers tend to be more mobile, say, than a lot of low-income workers whose jobs aren't being created at such a rapid pace right now. But politically this is a boon for the Democrats right now, because just as "it's the economy, stupid" was the slogan in '92, you can say now it's "it's the jobs, stupid," because the economy is doing well -- on paper. Overall we're having an economy that is growing, but the jobs aren't growing. We just came out of a month where there was essentially no new jobs created except in the public sector --

MR. BUCHANAN: John?

MR. PAGE: -- and that's the kind of thing that Democrats can use to their advantage this year and they're using it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Clarence, jobs are being created in the millions. When you have a trade deficit -- this last month, January, merchandise hit $600 billion a year. You are creating millions of jobs in China, literally millions overseas. They're not creating them here.

John, something is happening in the global economy. What has happened is you've thrown a billion workers suddenly in China, which was locked up, India, which was socialist, Eastern Europe, have been thrown in direct competition with American workers who make 30 (dollars) an hour in manufacturing, say $60,000 an hour (sic) doing your tax returns when you can get them done for $10,000 in India.

MS. CLIFT: One of the reasons they're going to India for labor is not only because the labor is cheaper, but it's more educated. And that's where this is an opening again politically to go after the Bush administration, because they're starving the government of revenue and we need to make investments in higher education, we need to have more research and development. That's where the jobs are going to be in the future. You have to think long term.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The unemployment rate for electrical engineers is 6.2 percent. The unemployment rate for computer scientists is about 5.2 percent. And these are the very jobs that are going overseas in outsourcing. Do you see that?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look. Yeah, look, a couple of things.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what do you do with these people? Retraining? Why should you retrain them to take a job at McDonald's?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it's not retraining at McDonald's. We are constantly retraining our workforce. That's what community college is for at the lower level of jobs. A lot of the software jobs that are going abroad are the lower-level part of the software jobs, the grunt work, where the higher-level quality work is still being done in Silicon Valley and in New England and the different areas that we have. The challenge for America -- we've always met it, and I think we're going to continue -- is to continually be ahead of the curve of the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the 10 major job categories that are going to explode in the coming years. Seven of them are menial jobs -- orderlies in hospitals, all those things. Every manufacturing job that can be done abroad, John, will be done abroad. And these other jobs, Tony, the Chinese folks and the Indian folks, they can do them all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That appears to be irreversible because of the wage differential. For a skilled computer person operating in India, it's $25,000 a year. In this country it's $90,000 a year It's very hard to defeat that.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you can take the whole IRS and Social Security Administration and take it overseas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. In one recent poll, 39 percent of the public approved of the way Bush is handling the economy. Kerry leads Bush by a 12-percent margin. If this becomes a pocketbook election, is Bush in trouble? Yes or no? Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: If it's a jobs election, he's in trouble. But Bush is going to go after him on taxes, and that's where Kerry is vulnerable.

MS. CLIFT: Of course he's in trouble. And just as the Reagan administration tried to reclassify ketchup as a vegetable, this administration was caught not long ago trying to reclassify jobs in the fast food industry as manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing French fries.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Alan Greenspan last week predicted that jobs are going to be coming on pretty soon. I think he's vulnerable right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president.

MR. BLANKLEY: The president. My sense is that by November it will be pretty much a wash on that.

I make on point, by the way. The unemployment rate in this country today is a terrible 5.6 percent. It's the same level of appalling unemployment we had in 1996 when Bill Clinton ran on a strong economy issue. So you've got to keep things a little bit in --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. It's 17 percent in Cleveland, Ohio.

MR. BLANKLEY: We've just spent three months listening to the Democrats slander the American economy. The reality is not as bad as they say and not as good as it ought to be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, one could also point out that it's dropped from 6.3 to 5.6.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, well --

MR. BLANKLEY: It's going down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: However, economists generally say that it is owing to the fact that many people who were job hunting are job hunting no longer. So what do you say to that?

MR. BLANKLEY: That's always been the case that people have dropped out. The attempt to try to change the definition --

MS. CLIFT: The battleground industrial states --

MR. BLANKLEY: To try and change --

MS. CLIFT: The battleground industrial states have unemployment in the double digits, and that's what's going to count in the election.

MR. PAGE: Well, as usual, Eleanor's taken the words out of my mouth --

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Go for it!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it troublesome that Kerry has a higher rating in being able to manage the economy than Bush? Is that a worry for Bush?

MR. PAGE: Well, it's a worry for Bush. But I think those battleground states Eleanor is talking about, like Ohio, which is why the president's spent so much time there lately, that's -- right now it looks like it's going to be the next Florida. And they have lost thousands of jobs in Ohio, and those are the swing voters that are crucial for this election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's poisonous for Bush, particularly the outsouring issue because it frightens the middle class. And if it's a pocketbook issue, that combination could be very troubling.

When we come back: Does John Kerry have the right stuff to be president? We'll test him.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: President John Forbes Kerry.

(Audio: "Hail to the Chief.")

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) So the message rings out across the land tonight: Get ready, a new day is on the way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A new day is on the way, sir, if voters decide that you would be a better president than George Bush. So would you?

A strong president, says presidential historian Robert Dallek, should have five characteristics: One, a clear and realizable vision; two, a talent for pragmatic politics; three, a keen sense of national consensus; four, a personal connection with the governed; five, trust.

Okay, one at a time. A clear and realizable vision. Does Kerry have it? Does Bush have it?

Be concise.

Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: The president certainly has it. His --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Vision.

MS. CLIFT: -- vision is simple if not simplistic. It's be tough and cut taxes.

I think Kerry does need to be more straightforward about why he wants to be president and what he would do. He is burdened by complexity, and I think he really does have -- that's his challenge, is to get across a positive vision in a few number of words so people can understand it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He has made one thing very clear: no preemptive wars. You've got to have an immediate threat, it's got to be a real threat, and it's got to affect our national security. Otherwise you don't send Americans into war. That's one thing.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's got the right policy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The other thing he brought back is the middle- class tax cut.

MR. BUCHANAN: No he's keying -- he's ad hoc. He's keying off the Bush vision. In his defense, he has not had much time.

But Bush, whether you agree with him or not, does have something of a Reaganite vision with regard to taxes. And in foreign policy, I think Bush sees himself as a Churchillian figure in the war on terror. Whether you agree with it or not, that's what he sees himself as.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, a talent for pragmatic politics. Does Kerry have it? Does Bush have it?

Tony Blankley.

By the way, if you feel so inclined, anyone that I don't get on the first attribute, you can flash back to it -- (laughter) -- as long as you do it with a far-darting mind.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with Eleanor that Kerry doesn't have a vision yet, but he's going to try to find one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I disagree with that. His clear vision is to repudiate Bush's preemptive strike foreign policy.

MS. CLIFT: He has one, he has to articulate it, though. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.) I'm sorry, I misunderstood.

As far as being pragmatic, clearly, he's a pragmatic man. But there's a difference between pragmatism and effectiveness in your pragmatism. He hasn't had a very stellar reputation as a legislator in being able to get a lot of legislation. And that's not the full measure of a president. But yes, on the general point, is he pragmatic in working around the edges and not too ideological, I think it's fair to say --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To be in the Senate as long as Kerry has, you have to be a consummate pragmatist.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no.

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a pragmatic liberal.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, but you -- not all of them are there successful --

MR. BUCHANAN: No. Jesse Helms was effective, and Teddy Kennedy is effective, from the left and from the right, and they know how to work with people, John. Bush is effective. I mean, what, No Child Left Behind, the tax cuts, even the war thing, he's brought together coalitions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush has abandoned congressional politics!

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, he has abandoned it. He has abandoned it, but he can do it.

MS. CLIFT: Those weren't coalitions --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're abandoning your conservative base now by saying that. You know what the conservatives are saying.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I'm not saying he's pragmatic -- (laughs) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He knows that conservatives are upset with him.

MR. BUCHANAN: But look, what you're saying is, is he a pragmatist --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm saying that Bush is a lone ranger. That's what I'm saying.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he is lately. But early on he was not.

MR. BLANKLEY: But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that brings up an interesting question: is Kerry a bit of a loner?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but he knows how to get things done. He chaired the POW commission and worked very well with Republicans, among them John McCain. That was a very controversial issue in the '90s.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why has he never attained a policy committee position with the approval of his peers?

MS. CLIFT: Because he has charted a different path on the Hill. He has basically been conducting investigations. It's a different --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he --

MS. CLIFT: He's written a book on terrorism. He's an intellectual --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he an -- you're saying he's an intellectual.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he an intellectual snob? He doesn't want --

MS. CLIFT: And I think we could use that now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he doesn't want to take the grief of being a leader in a particular -- let's say it's the conference committee of the Democrats?

MS. CLIFT: No. Maybe he doesn't need the spotlight on him all the time; he's doing good work behind the scenes. And I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, Clarence, straighten this out, would you? What is it? Quickly!

MR. PAGE: Yeah, he was a leader in certain areas. He was a leader in certain areas, like the Iran-Contra investigation --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. PAGE: -- and the CIA, rightly or wrongly, which Republicans are making an issue out of. But he is the kind of a fellow who is trying to get out from under the glow of Teddy Kennedy, his other Massachusetts senator, as it's not easy to do. And he's not a spotlight-grabber. That's why there isn't that much attention --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush would rather fight than switch, and Kerry is a compromiser.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Kerry --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Get it straight. Okay. (Laughter.)

The third characteristic of a strong president is a keen sense of national consensus: that is, the ability to build broad support for your initiatives. Does Kerry have it? Does Bush have it?

I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: I think that as far as building the consensus, I think he is the kind of a fellow who --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is this? Kerry.

MR. PAGE: Well, Kerry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. PAGE: Kerry is the kind of a fellow who has shown an ability to move between the extreme left of his party and the center, which enabled him to survive the Howard Dean assault, but at the same time, I think, benefit from it in that he has gotten somewhat closer to the soul of the Democratic Party. The thing that he has not had a chance to articulate yet is reaching out there to middle America to places where he has not reached before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Bush certainly doesn't have it because the country is at least as polarized --

(A phone rings.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think somebody wants to correct you on that last answer. (Laughter.) You're getting a call already, Clarence. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: He doesn't -- Kerry hasn't even gained a consensus within his own mind --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that again?

MR. BLANKLEY: Kerry hasn't even gained a consensus within his own mind about where he stands on issues.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, he's --

MR. BLANKLEY: He has no record of having --

MR. BUCHANAN: He has never built a consensus --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Let's talk about President Bush! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, let me clarify it, because there's a lot of floundering around here. Kerry has built an anti-consensus. He has yet to build a positive consensus. True or false?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you're exactly right. He has NEVER created a consensus. He moved over and ran to cover Dean; now he's running back to the Senate. When has he ever put together --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's molded this anti-consensus!

MR. BUCHANAN: -- when has he ever -- look, take McCain-Feingold. Whatever you say about it, they got together in the Senate.

MS. CLIFT: Whatever --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you account for this? On the strong leadership scale, Bush is at 63 percent, and Kerry is a 61 percent. Are you surprised at that, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: No, I'm not, and whatever Kerry did these guys would find fault. Look, you're talking about --

MR. BLANKLEY: If he does something, we'll talk about it.

MS. CLIFT: -- a president finding consensus. President Bush has made this country more polarized than it was even in 2000. And he was handed a gift with 9/11 in the sense that the country really rallied around him, and he completely squandered that. So consensus builder, he's nowhere.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four -- not issue four.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Fourth. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Characteristic four --

MS. CLIFT: Four. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a personal connection with the governed. A personal connection with the governed, does Kerry have it? Does Bush have it? Quickly, we're running out of time. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush clearly has it. He did it after 9/11. He did it very effectively.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he have it and blow it?

MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't -- no, I think there's still a bond out there, but it currently is diminished. But it's unfair to Kerry --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush's positive rating is 47 percent.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, for heaven's sakes. You know, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry's is at -- his negative rating is 46 percent.

MR. BUCHANAN: But look, John Kerry has not been defined. Come back in May, John. He will be defined. Right now over 40 percent of the people that know anything about Kerry think the guy is a trimmer and an opportunist who will change his --

MS. CLIFT: No. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-four percent of the people view Kerry favorably, 26 (percent) negative as opposed to Bush's 46 (percent).

MS. CLIFT: If Kerry is -- essentially, Pat is right, only in one part --

MR. BUCHANAN: One small part. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: -- of his little rant here, and that is that the country doesn't know much about Kerry --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, if --

MS. CLIFT: -- and he has a huge opportunity here now to define himself in a positive way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've put your finger right on it. You've put your finger right on it. You know and you know and I know --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, don't say anything.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he's on his honeymoon.

Okay. The final characteristic --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: The honeymoon's over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of a strong president: trust. Does Kerry have it? Does Bush have it? I ask you, Tony, Kerry?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think the public has come to judgment whether they trust him not -- or yet. I mean, we'll have to see. We'll know maybe in about six months. So it's incomplete at that point.

Bush I think still has a large level of trust. It's been dinged over the weapons of mass destruction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was that verb?

MR. BLANKLEY: Dinged. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, right.

MR. BLANKLEY: Dinged.

MR. PAGE: And donged!

MR. BLANKLEY: It's an old English -- (laughter).

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It sounded kind of funny. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Dinged.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know what the answer is to this. On a trust him to -- the trust business. Trust Kerry to handle the big issues facing the country? Forty-nine percent yes. What do you think of that?

MR. BLANKLEY: I -- as you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's pretty high.

MR. BLANKLEY: The polls mean nothing now. Even Eleanor agrees that the public doesn't know the guy yet, so looking at a poll which is an identification number issue doesn't mean anything. We should discuss --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Kerry is --

MR. BLANKLEY: We should discuss --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I know. You know, we should discard all polls --

MS. CLIFT: Kerry --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- but right now the poll favors Kerry cause he's five points ahead of Bush's 44 percent.

MR. PAGE: That's right. That's a high base to begin with, going into the summer. There is going to be a battle coming up, I hear, over images. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, he's not going to have this kind of strength going into the summer. They've just begun to pick him apart.

MR. PAGE: That's right. That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Based on these five factors, what do you deduce about the coming presidential campaign, quickly?

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush wins.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we don't have to go to that extent. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Do you want clarity and brevity? That's it, John. I mean, he's got --

MS. CLIFT: It's a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about the campaign.

MR. BUCHANAN: He beats him on all --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The campaign, what do you --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think looking at Kerry --

MS. CLIFT: No --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want you to characterize the campaign, not the election.

MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Looking at Kerry and what I've seen of him, what I know of his history, what I know of Bush, if I would have to -- I think Kerry's very weak on a lot of these and will prove weak. I think Bush wins.

MS. CLIFT: Kerry is competitive in every one of these areas, and Bush never thought he would be facing this close an election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. Quickly! What about the campaign? The campaign.

MS. CLIFT: Kerry is in a good position for a Democrat at this point.

MR. BLANKLEY: But based on the five categories you've given us -- I would add some other ones, like character -- I'd say that Kerry shows some strength in about two of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?

MR. PAGE: Six months ago I would have said Bush hands down. Now I would say it's a contest. It's a toss-up. A lot of things are going to change over the next --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to my question is that the campaign, judging from these characteristics of both candidates, will be a horse race. Right down to the wire.

We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Argentina has refused to pay back its private creditors. It's offering them between 10 and 25 cents on the dollar. The IMF stuck it to them and said you've got to give it or you're not going to get any money. IMF caved. Argentina is setting the example for a lot of countries down the road that have trouble. They're all going to defy the IMF, and it's's a real problem for the global economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting.

Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: The so-called "hamburger bill," which passed the House this week and exempts the restaurant industry and the fast food industry from any lawsuits relating to addictive eating and obesity, will die in the Senate. The Senate will not pass this bill. It will be cooked when it gets to the Senate. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, the trial lawyers are going to get to the Democrats in the Senate and kill it. That's what's going to happen.

Last week will be seen as the low point for the president regarding jobs issues. I think he's going to slowly -- he's going to begin to have a message on that. And based on what Alan Greenspan has said, and I think he's right, we're going to start seeing moderate job growth. It won't spectacular, but by the fall it will be basically a neutralized issue. So last week was the worst week for Bush on that issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence?

MR. PAGE: John, Jean Paul Aristide, one of your favorite people -- excuse me, John-Bertrand Aristide --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, Aristide is bad seed.

MR. PAGE: Bad seed, okay, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it should have been noted by Clinton.

Go ahead. What were you going to say?

MR. PAGE: It's not your branch of the church, I know. But he was the sixth elected Latin American leader to be deposed before the end of his term. I predict the seventh will be Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next week Congress is back. And still no energy bill, despite last year's electricity blackout.

Bye-bye.

PBS SEGMENT.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: The Running Man. Just when we're getting used to "Governor Schwarzenegger," the Austrian-born icon says he favors permitting foreign-born citizens to run for U.S. president.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-CA): (From videotape.) I mean look at the kind of contribution that people like Henry Kissinger has made; Madeleine Albright. I mean, there's many, many, many people here that have worked within the government and have done an extraordinary job and not have been born in America.

MR. MCCLELLAN: Schwarzenegger, a Republican, supports the bill sponsored by Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch that would amend the U.S. Constitution, Article V, Section 1: "No Person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President." The Hatch bill amends the Constitution so that any U.S. citizen who has been such for 20 years or more could become president.

Democrats also would benefit. Michigan's Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm is telegenic, popular and a Canada native.

Question: In California, are we seeing a star being born, a political star?

Clarence?

MR. PAGE: Well, we can certainly see him as a star as far as his personal politics go. It remains to be seen if he can get California out of its big mess.

But it's about time we started discussing this section of the Constitution. I mean, when you really think about it, why write off very talented Americans just because they weren't born here? That section was written at a time when we worried about Tories coming in from England to subvert the former colonies. I think we've gone beyond that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that with pending and discussed immigration law, especially those who are disinclined to permit the laxity that they see in immigration law, that there's any chance of this passing?

Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: There's not a snowball's chance this -- (off mike) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: -- either two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states in seven years, it's absurd. It would be special-interest legislation for one or two people. It's ridiculous to alter the Constitution for that.