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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Stay the course?

L. PAUL BREMER (U.S. presidential envoy to Iraq): (From videotape.) The acts we have seen were despicable and inexcusable. They violate the tenets of all religions, including Islam, as well as the foundations of civilized society. Their deaths will not go unpunished.

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT (deputy director for coalition operations): (From videotape.) Coalition forces will respond. They will be in that city. It will be at a time and a place of our choosing. It will be methodical, it will be precise, and it will be overwhelming.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Angry vows of retribution in Iraq this week after two vicious attacks on Americans in one day: four U.S. contractors shot Wednesday morning and their bodies set aflame after their vehicles were ambushed in Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad, a hotbed of virulent anti-Americanism. The burned corpses were filmed as bystanders cheered and hacked limbs from the bodies, then hung them from a bridge over the Euphrates.

The second attack occurred 15 miles away when five U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb that ripped through their armored vehicle.

The White House called the attacks horrific and blamed them on members of Saddam Hussein's regime. But the Bush administration vowed to stay the course.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN (White House press secretary): (From videotape.) Democracy has taken root, and there is no turning back. And the Iraqi people want us to stay and finish the job, and we will.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But that job is looking problematic. On Thursday, after newspapers worldwide carried gruesome photos of the attacks, organizers postponed Destination Baghdad Expo, a trade fair that was due to begin on Monday. Over 200 companies were scheduled to attend the expo, vying for up to $18 billion in nation-building U.S. money.

Question: What does the barbarism of the attacks tell us, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: What it tells us, John, is the anti-American sentiment and the hatred of the United States in Fallujah, Tikrit, up there in that part of the Sunni Triangle, is inordinate. It is immense. It also tells us that the -- even after we turn over authority to the Iraqi provisional government and even after the elections in January, you're going to need American forces to deal with this type of resistance.

I don't see yet that we've got the Iraqi forces on the ground to defend their own freedom and their own democracy yet. The American Army is going to be the army of the Iraqis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the gruesome pictures of the mutilated bodies hanging was an attempt to replicate Mogadishu? Those pictures did go around the world. Did they speak for themselves as to the deep pockets of hostility in Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they -- look, they despise and loathe Americans, and they think we're lording it over them. And they had an opportunity to desecrate these bodies, and this mob went ahead and did it. But my own view, John, is the reaction of the United States is -- Americans is, we probably ought to run an armored division through that place.


MS. CLIFT: Yeah, we really shouldn't be surprised. This is a direct outgrowth of the fact that the Defense secretary, Mr. Rumsfeld, did not send enough troops in originally. These areas should have been pacified and probably -- properly occupied a long time ago.

Secondly, the Marines are now vowing to avenge what has happened. That means urban warfare. That means more American blood is spilled and a lot of innocent Iraqi life is also going to be lost.

And thirdly, the June 30 deadline, which is totally driven by the election calendar in this country, means not a transition to democracy, but a transition to more chaos and quite possibly civil war in that country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that why the think tanks around Washington speaking for the first time about a phased withdrawal?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I mean, I think the administration, in one sense, is drawing down.


MS. CLIFT: But we will still have over 100,000 troops there, and they will be troops that are ill prepared for what they're facing because it will be almost half National Guard and Reserve.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, do you think that the timing of these horrible scourges by the terrorists in Iraq had anything to do with what the Financial Times puts on its front page, which is "Iraq Trade Fair Called Off Amid Fears Over Foreign Workers' Safety?" They see this -- apparently the Times does and others see it as such a big deal over there, widely publicized with a 27 (billion dollars) -- Or what was it? -- $17 billion at stake in U.S. funding of projects, businessmen from -- 200 businessmen from all over the world. Do you think that has something to do with the timing of this?

MR. BLANKLEY: It may have been a tactical timing element, but the strategic timing element is the June 30th date, and we've --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the one-year anniversary?

MR. BLANKLEY: -- the transfer of technical sovereignty. And we knew -- it had been predicted -- both sides have been predicting that there will be a crescendo of violence to try to induce a civil war at the moment of technical transfer.

By the way, the June date for the transfer was not driven by this election calendar. It was driven by the U.N. and the French demand for a quick transfer. They were the ones who were demanding last fall that we have the transfer of sovereignty earlier rather than later. The Bush administration had been arguing for a later one. So they put a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, why --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- date there as part of a conciliatory policy with the U.N.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why defend the administration? It's a good idea on its face, would you not agree?

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm just trying to be objective.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what I want to --

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't want to defend them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What I want to ask you is, what's the impact? Have we turned the psychological corner, the American people on this war because of what we've seen here in the past few days?

MR. WARREN: No. I mean, obviously this doesn't help Bush at all, but I don't think this is -- the allusions to Mogadishu, Somalia aside, I don't think this is a new Mogadishu. I think the Bush folks have more stick to it and more self-discipline and more resolve than the Clinton folks.

But at the same time, talking to folks in Baghdad, I think this underscores what they see as the basic reality there; namely, at best, they are managing chaos. In some cases, there are folks there working for Bremer who really doubt the resolve of the White House, the political resolve, in an election year. And then there are the practical questions; what happens in July as far as whether the Iraqis can actually police themselves? I really, truly doubt it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do the Iraqis think and believe that we -- do they act as though we are unwelcome liberators and, beyond that, we are hated occupiers? Is that what's coming through?

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: This shows that four people can kill some people. All of the polling that's been done in Iraq shows that the vast majority want us to stay. They'd like us to get out as soon as possible, but not until the job is done.


MR. WARREN: John, ultimately the occupying so-called coalition that we had has to be expanded. Now, once you expand it, bring in the U.N. and a lot of other countries, does that assure you that it's going to be much more effective? No. But does it assure you that it will be a lot more legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqis? Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Before we go on, the human toll. Military dead in Iraq, 601, and I believe that's climbed to 603 since this program began. U.S. military medical evacuees, 18,500. Iraqi civilian deaths, 13,100, an estimate.

Okay. Stay the course, or leave early? One of the deans of America's foreign policy establishment has just written a fresh, remarkably insightful article titled, "Does Iraq matter?" Morton Abramowitz, former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, disproves the conventional wisdom that America must stay the course in Iraq. The article appears in "National Interest," a periodical.

Here's his gist. The gist is as follows:

A great nation has the capacity to pursue ambitious objectives, but also to reconsider the course. Our ability to diminish terrorist activity is not principally dependent on what we do in Iraq, particularly with al Qaeda still loose in the world. There is no great confidence anywhere that the United States can produce a stable, desirable and durable political outcome in Iraq. Ending the Arab- Israeli conflict would have far more influence on transforming the Arab world than creating a new Iraqi government. America's preeminent power position in the world can endure an early withdrawal from Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me say, John, the Bush presidency cannot survive a withdrawal that leads to chaos and civil war in Iraq. And the government of the United States -- it will be an enormous defeat, worse than Vietnam, if that goes under.

MR. BLANKLEY: And it's not going to happen. Let me make a point. I mean, he's not the dean, he's an adjunct professor. And he was in government during a time in which that mind set gave rise to the confidence of al Qaeda. It was starting in the '80s and in the '90s when we backed away that we created the problem. So, yes, he's a fine man, he's had a lot of good jobs, but again, he's wrong, as he was -- (inaudible).

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's a very --

MR. WARREN: Key question: Can we create a stable democracy which will transform the Middle East? That's the key premise here. In raising qualms about it, he's simply underscoring the reality and also underscoring the huge --

MR. BLANKLEY: And I might point out that --

MS. CLIFT: He's a serious --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear Eleanor.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- he wrote this before the events of the last few days. I wonder whether he'd really want that advice out there now right after --

MS. CLIFT: He's a serious --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I believe his typescript was turned in about March 12.

MR. BLANKLEY: Right. So.

MS. CLIFT: He's a serious intellectual.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's the problem.

MS. CLIFT: And he is presenting the argument now that is going to respond to a lot of ordinary people who are going to watch this footage and are going to say, "What are we doing there?" And the administration is drawing down, and --

MR. BLANKLEY: The people who are going to watch the footage are going to be angry at the people who did it, not at the people who are trying to bring democracy.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. And the Iraqi people are looking at what the administration is doing, and they think we're leaving. It's very muddied message whether we're staying or going. And I think it's quite --

MR. BLANKLEY: It's not muddied. We're staying.

MS. CLIFT: -- (foolish ?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do they regard us as a colonial power doing what the French did in Vietnam and doing what we did, the Vietnamese thought, in Vietnam?

MS. CLIFT: Well, they think we want their oil. And they're right. Because I think this administration believes --

MR. BUCHANAN: John. John.

MR. BLANKLEY: Do you think we went to war for oil?

MR. BUCHANAN: We are an imperial power.

MS. CLIFT: I think it is an element of why we went to war.

MR. BLANKLEY: Okay. Just wanted to get the record straight. You believe we went for oil.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's let Pat in here.

MS. CLIFT: An element.

MR. BUCHANAN: We are an imperial power in this sense: We have gone into Iraq to alter their form of government and to reorient their foreign policy toward the United States. That is imperialism, pure and simple. It may be democratic imperialism, it may be positive, but it's imperialism. But the thing is, because we're drawing down forces, the Bush administration knows it has an option, quite frankly, we could lose this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, our military told us early on that we had a limited time to spend as occupiers or we would lose the situation.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, if we have a limited time to spend --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Time has run out.

MR. BUCHANAN: You're saying defeat is an option for the United States, and I agree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Let me finish -- Tony, hold on.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Abramowitz impugns the transformation theory, as he calls it, that a U.S-backed democracy in Iraq will change the Middle East, and he does this on multiple grounds. I will read one. "We would have to stay far too long as military occupiers. And even then, a stable democratic result is questionable given the combination of Shi'ite elections and the current Sunni surge" --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's right in this sense.

MS. CLIFT: He is saying --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- "knowing that they're losing power come July 30th." It's June 30th.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, John, here is where he is right. Here's where he's right. If we are unprepared to stay a long time, we will lose it. But I believe Bush is prepared to leave 100,000 troops in there almost indefinitely not to let this go under.

MS. CLIFT: He is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's the magazine. Hold on, Eleanor. It's the National Interest, and it appears in the brand-new spring issue. And there is on the screen, I believe -- yes, there is -- a website, national interest. org.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. The bottom line of his --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He writes this on the one hand/on the other hand. It's very carefully done. There is no polemicism. And it is, I think, an extraordinary piece of writing. And it's short.

MS. CLIFT: The bottom line of his argument is that if we do everything right, if we put in the money, if we put in the resources, there is no guarantee that we're going to get a democratic Iraq out of this; and the likelihood --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, there's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

MS. CLIFT: The likelihood of getting a regime that's far worse than Saddam Hussein is pretty high.

MR. BLANKLEY: There's no guarantee about anything in life.


MR. BLANKLEY: You don't work on guarantees, you work on probabilities.

MS. CLIFT: You are when you spend American lives and American dollars --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, there's no guarantees in this world.

MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible) -- there's got to be a pretty good guarantee.

MS. BLANKLEY: That's not a formula for making --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, gravity is a guarantee.

MS. CLIFT: You don't go to war on a gamble.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Was this a psychological turning point this week? Yes or no? Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, this is not like Tet.

It's not like the Diem assassination. It is not like Mogadishu. It is a point at which the American -- that people are going to start to take this a lot more seriously, but not a turning point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember that before the Vietnam War was rejected en masse by the American people, almost, that they went through a period where they began to think that we are not appreciated, loved over there --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Tet offensive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- but we were hated over there? When that happened, the bottom fell out of public support. And when that happens, you --

MR. BUCHANAN: The bottom never fell out. Nixon beat McGovern in 49 states in 1972. The bottom --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he did not do it on a war platform, Pat. He did it on a phased withdrawal platform, and that's where we are now. (Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: McGovern lost on an antiwar platform.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to my question? Where was I in the --

MR. WARREN: (Off mike.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: The answer is that skepticism about what we're doing in Iraq grew exponentially this week because of those images. Those are lasting images.

MR. WARREN: But having --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? Psychological turning point or not?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not -- I don't think it's even a psychological turning point on this panel, and it's certainly not in the country, because most of the panelists have opposed this war for a long time and didn't need this event. And those who oppose the war, nationally, don't need this event. Those who are supporting the war and the president are not going to get turned around by this event.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think this panel in any way mirrors the American citizenry, do you? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Fortunately, not. (Laughter.)


MR. WARREN: Thrust into the middle, as I am, of this infomercial for the National Interest, may I say, simply, the answer to your question is no. This is not a psychological turning point, even though I do think the Bush folks have to dramatically expand the coalition to increase the legitimacy of foreign intervention there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think these events, but mostly the body bags, is turning the country around.

When we come back: Has the Richard Clarke blaze been put out by the White House?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: The passion of the Clarke.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The circumstances of this case are unique because the events of September the 11th, 2001, were unique. In my direction, Judge Gonzales has informed the commission that Dr. Rice will participate in an open, public hearing.

SENATOR TOM DASCHLE (D-SD, Senate minority leader): (From videotape.) It's been 16 months of foot-dragging and an unwillingness to cooperation that we have now seen come to an end. And we are very pleased that the White House has reversed itself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House so reversed itself by allowing National Security Adviser Rice to testify on TV before the 9/11 commission. That testimony comes next Thursday. The White House hopes it will buttress the fire wall it's been erecting to contain Richard Clarke's conflagration.

Clarke started the fire with accusations that the Bush administration paid too little attention to terrorism before 9/11 and then proceeded to divert resources and attention from the war on terrorism to an unwarranted war in Iraq.

The fire started small, but it gained massive proportions, thanks to overreaction, many believe, by White House surrogates who lacerated Clarke.

The highest-ranking surrogate was the normally mild-mannered Senate majority leader, Bill Frist.

SENATOR BILL FRIST (R-TN, Senate majority leader): (From videotape.) In his appearance before the 9/11 commission, Mr. Clarke's theatrical apology on behalf of the nation was not his right. It was not his privilege. It was not his responsibility. In my view, it was not an act of humility, but it was an act of arrogance, of manipulation.

Mr. Clarke will make a lot of money -- a lot of money -- for exactly what he has done. I personally find this to be an appalling act of profiteering, of trading on insider access to highly classified information and capitalizing upon the tragedy that befell this nation on September the 11th, 2001. He is a shame to this government.

I fortunately -- I myself, fortunately, have not had the opportunity to work with such an individual.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did the Senate majority leader hurt himself more than he hurt Clarke, Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: He looked like a lackey of the White House, and the charges that he raised, threatening Richard Clarke with perjury -- I think somebody ought to send a facts letter to the majority leader and point him out, when people write books, they generally do them -- they sell them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it unbecoming what he did?

MS. CLIFT: It was very unbecoming and he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it was character assassination?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he should not be playing the role of a hatchet man. Let somebody else do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he remind you of Joe McCarthy? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.) No.

MR. WARREN: Senator --

MS. CLIFT: I don't want to go too far because I think otherwise --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you read this piece?

MS. CLIFT: -- I think otherwise Senator Frist is a good guy, but this was a very poor moment in his career.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, you worked for Richard Nixon.

MR. BUCHANAN: I did, I did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you wrote speeches for Nixon.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the language of Frist? I don't know whether you've read the whole speech, but it was really -- the rhetoric is something that stands alone as far as invective is concerned.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was -- no, it was in extraordinary rough language against an individual that challenged his character and integrity. But look, Richard Clarke walked right there and spilled all this stuff out there and is attempting to take down the president of the United States when he was the individual who was in command when 9/11 occurred and it was his failure. I think there's a lot of truth in what Frist said. I do think, for a United States senator and a leader, he went a bit far.

MR. BLANKLEY: John, let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What? A bit far?

MR. WARREN: Hold it. John?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. WARREN: John, Senator Frist is a good, honorable heart surgeon turned politician who's done wonderful missionary work as a doctor in the Sudan, other places --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what happened here?

MR. WARREN: But he was -- he's also a very, very ambitious fellow who I think was clearly over the top here. And if you're talking about appalling profiteering based on 9/11, what about looking in your own Republican ranks? I would argue with the likes of Rudy Giuliani, who has made millions of dollars in books, speeches, and consulting --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold it! Tony. Tony has got to get in here!

MR. BLANKLEY: The senator said almost exactly the same thing that the New York firemen who lost two brothers said on national television either a day or two before or after that. So it's a sentiment that obviously is shared by people. I think it was the roughest political statement I've heard the senator make. He's usually very mild mannered, and I think he made points --


MR. BLANKLEY: -- certainly with the people on his side.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, do you know what it was?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who wrote the speech?

MR. BLANKLEY: I have no idea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did the RNC write --

MS. CLIFT: Do you know what it was?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Did the RNC write the speech? Who wrote the speech?

MR. BLANKLEY: I would --

MS. CLIFT: Do you know what it was?

MR. BLANKLEY: You know, I would assume that Frist's own operatives --

MR. BUCHANAN: I believe he --

MS. CLIFT: It was Senator Frist. It was Senator Frist.

MR. BUCHANAN: I bet he did it himself because --


MR. BUCHANAN: -- this is what gave it power, is that he is a mild-mannered man and it was not in character.

MS. CLIFT: This was Senator Frist auditioning to replace Dick Cheney as the vice president on the ticket and showing he can be a hatchet man if they need to have a new number two.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you -- do you think this surprised Trent Lott?


MS. CLIFT: Trent Lott has faded into the background.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know what I'm talking about?


MS. CLIFT: Right. Well --

MR. WARREN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Trent Lott was not particularly happy about the performance of the majority leader when Trent was facing a problem because of his injudicious phrasing of -- Whom? -- Strom Thurmond. Remember all that?

MS. CLIFT: Having Trent Lott on your side really doesn't count for a whole lot. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you don't remember these things, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I do remember.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You used to remember them when, you know, an earlier --

MR. BUCHANAN: Trent Lott's a friend of mine and he was treated very, very shabbily by his colleagues.


MR. BUCHANAN: Trent Lott.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we'll see that he gets a copy of this tape. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Bill Frist is a friend of mine and I think he's been treated very, very shabbily.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Richard Clarke is a friend of mine. (Laughter.)

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a one-number answer. We are literally out of time. On a damage scale of zero to 10, zero meaning zero damage, 10 meaning extreme, totally derailing metaphysical damage, how badly has the Richard Clarke saga damaged the president's reelection bid?



MS. CLIFT: Oh. It's corrosive. It's a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it an eight or a nine? What --

MS. CLIFT: No, it's a 5.8. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five-point-eight. What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: One-point-seven.

MR. BUCHANAN: One-point -- it's right up there with me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't forget now, he's opened the box, the Pandora's Box.

MR. BLANKLEY: The box is closed. Now we're moving on to the next box.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think so?

MR. WARREN: And the answer is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you give it?

MR. WARREN: -- 3.6.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm going to interpret that as a four because you're over the point-five, okay?

MR. WARREN: Well, all right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll go with you. I think it's about a four.

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat. Five seconds.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush had a problem with one book, Clarke's. He's got three more coming. Woodward -- Bob Woodward's coming out, John Dean's coming out, and Kitty Kelley's coming out in the fall.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's Kitty Kelley focusing on?

MR. BUCHANAN: She's dangerous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's dangerous.


MS. CLIFT: Make that four books. Ambassador Joseph Wilson's book, "The Politics of Truth," will be out the end of April, subtitled what I didn't find in Africa.


MR. BLANKLEY: Next Thursday, when Condoleezza Rice testifies, she's going to go on the offensive and further undercut Clarke's credibility.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does she run the risk of committing perjury?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I wouldn't think so. She's a smart and honest lady.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does she -- who is the deputy secretary of State?

MR. BUCHANAN: Armitage.

MR. BLANKLEY: Armitage. MR. WARREN: Richard Armitage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did she say things that were conflicted by Armitage?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Check that out, will you?


MR. WARREN: Baseball starts in earnest this week. Hell will freeze over. The Tribune-owned Cubs make it to the World Series.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There will be a major shake up in the Bush reelection team before the Republican Convention in September. Karl Rove will survive, but as chief political strategist he will be out.

Next week, Bush and Kerry, who's the religion candidate? Happy Passover. Gut yontif! Bye-bye!


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: state of the union -- same sex union, that is.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA): (From videotape.) We will have created a great deal of confusion during the period that exists between for the couples involved, for the state.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two-and-a-half years of confusion for same-sex couples. That's what Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney says will begin in six weeks, when his state -- by court order -- will begin performing gay marriages. And it won't stop until November '06 at the earliest, even though the Bay State legislature last week passed a ban on same sex marriages.

RON CREWS (president, Massachusetts Family Institute): (From videotape.) At least we have the legislature on record now as preserving marriage as one man and one woman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not so fast, Mr. Crews. Here's what same-sex couples-and their opponents-face in the months ahead.

Item: First, the May weddings and beyond, for 29 months minimum; that is, unless Governor Romney succeeds in getting a legal stay of the marriages, which appears practically impossible. Item: Next, the re-approval of the Massachusetts ban, which must happen next year. Item: A state referendum on the constitutional amendment banning same- sex marriages, something that cannot happen before November '06. In the meantime, gay couples can marry in Massachusetts, whether they are state residents or residents of Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Wyoming -- all states that have not adopted as state law the Defense of Marriage Act.

Question -- added to that list is Vermont, by the way -- who won in Massachusetts, would you say? Do you think the gays won? Or do you think -- who is winning?

MR. WARREN: Gay rights advocates win. Mitt Romney attempting -- claiming -- claims he's trying to avoid chaos, in fact is simply inspiring greater confusion by going down this route after May 17 when this takes effect.

Also, you've got the state attorney general there who is now hauling out some moth-eaten, 1913 law and going to forbid citizens from other states coming in to get married -- a law that has never been enforced that doesn't allow you to get married if you marry your first cousin --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, did you listen to the brilliant setup? Those 12 states are allowed to come in; 38 no. And he bases it on whether or not the Clinton act -- what was it called? --

MR. BUCHANAN: Defense of Marriage Act.


MR. BUCHANAN: Defense of Marriage Act.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Defense of Marriage Act was adopted by states in their individual constitutions. You got that? So 12 states can -- but here's what I want to know. Are these contracts going to be judged legal after the fact?


MS. CLIFT: Well, a year ago we couldn't even imagine civil unions. The people who will get married --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will they stand up in court?

MS. CLIFT: Yes, because you're not going to have a constitutional ban that is retroactive. You can't undo these --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And no court -- no court will declare --

MR. BUCHANAN: It will go to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court will have to rule over the states or the Defense of Marriage Act.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No court will disallow a post facto contract of this nature.