MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Iraq Vortex.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) There's no question it's been a tough -- tough series of weeks for the American people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tough is right. Bloody and cruel. Not only murder and mutilation, but torture and kidnappings -- 40 civilians from 12 countries, including China, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States; so many hostages that governments have urged their citizens living in Iraq to get out.

One of the kidnapped, an Italian, was executed on videotape, and it was so gruesome that Al-Jazeera refused to televise it. A diplomat from Iran was gunned down in Baghdad and died on the spot. Four bodies of Americans, employees of Halliburton, were found mutilated in a roadside ditch. Two U.S. helicopters were downed Sunday and Tuesday by rocket-propelled grenades, killing two U.S. military, wounding three. All told, the first two weeks of April, over 90 U.S. troops dead.

April is the war's cruelest month so far, with two weeks remaining in the month. And during the same period 900 Iraqis were killed, largely noncombatants.

More bad news: 20,000 troops scheduled to come home from Iraq, many for the second time so scheduled, have been told by the Pentagon to stay in place for at least three more months.

Despite these horrors, President Bush vowed this week to soldier on.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) It's hard to advance freedom in a country that has been strangled by tyranny. And yet we must stay the course, because the end result is in our nation's interest.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Friday a videotape of a U.S. soldier being held captive was shown. Private First Class Keith Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, 20 years of age.

Question: This week President Bush wanted to outline a clear plan for Iraq. Did he do so, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he did not, John. The president sold us the war on the prospect that we were going to take down a tyrant with weapons of mass destruction. The American people bought into that. He succeeded.

Now we find ourselves in a brand-new war to build something nebulous, a democracy or freedom, in Iraq, the cost of which in blood, treasure and time we do not know and the president has not laid out.

However, for the present, Mr. Bush does have the support of the country, I think, to soldier on and stay the course, but it will not be of indefinite duration.


MS. CLIFT: Well, he mostly delivered homilies about winning the peace and winning democracy, and vowing to stay the course. And that resolve, I think, plays well in certain parts of the country. But in terms of laying out a realistic plan, to the extent that he did it, it was borrowed from John Kerry; go to the U.N., get NATO involved. And in fact, this administration now seems to have lost control of the political developments on the ground in Iraq and really is relying on the U.N. I think that's a positive step, actually.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think this conversation needs a little help here. I'm going to outline to you what the plan was. Can I do that? Is that agreeable?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. There are major elements of the new plan outlined by the president on Tuesday night. If you look at the screen, they're over there.

Number one, military escalation. More troops, as many as the Pentagon wants. Two, sideline the unreliable Iraqi Defense Force pending review and retraining, meaning the burden remains on U.S. troops. Three, look to the U.N. to come up with a civil government to succeed the Iraqi Governing Council and the CPA. Four, keep to the deadline for transferring authority, but forget the deadline for bringing more troops home. And number five, no U.S. troop drawdown.

Now, does that help you to see that there is a clear plan there?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look. I think the press conference accomplished a couple of things, it didn't accomplish a couple of others. The thing it accomplished was it communicated, at least as importantly to both our enemies and our friends and our troops in Iraq, that we're not going to back down. This is the key message that needed to be sent. And the American people -- his supporters, Bush's supporters, at least, in America -- needed to hear that, and they did.

He did not go into a lot of detail, and I don't know what level of detail has been developed regarding how to manage the next few months. So that was a shortcoming. But I think he delivered credibly and earnestly so people believed -- the Iraqis believed, the enemy believed, Americans believed -- that we're going to stay there. As far as his delivery was concerned, it really didn't matter, because people who don't like him will pick at that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, before I turn to you, I'd like to, if I could, play a bit of tape which is a little bit more subtle, and I know that's something that you're well qualified to handle.

Okay. Downgrading Iraq. To put Iraq in perspective, the president this week cited several places across the globe where terrorist atrocities have occurred: Madrid, Jerusalem, Bali, Pakistan, Afghanistan, as well as Iraq. Then he said this:

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Iraq is a part of the war on terror. It is not THE war on terror, it is a theater in the war on terror.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He didn't say that accidentally. Iraq is a theater, it's not a central front, as he used to say. What happened to the central front? And what is the hidden significance of this?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think what he is saying -- and he says it, by the way, in a way that you believe him because it's clear in the way that he speaks that this is his mission. He believes that there is a two-front war going on, one against the terrorist networks and one against rogue states. Iraq is a rogue state, and as far as he's concerned, it's the central part of the war on terror, it's a theater in the war on terror, but not the whole war on terror. That's what I think he meant by that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it also provides him with an easier exit, if that day ever comes? Namely, you can leave a theater relatively easily, as compared to a central front --

MS. CLIFT: No --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No. What he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- which means that you're there for an indeterminate amount of time?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What he said there, it seems to me, is a recognition in his mind of what we're going to have to do. There's no way he could leave Iraq. He has committed himself to that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- do you think he's also --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is impossible for him to fold on that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there was a fundamental disconnect, if you take the press conference as a whole, between what he said, where he is, as opposed to the American people?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The American people want to hear about an exit.

MR. BUCHANAN: No they don't.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is hint, by calling it a theater, that we can move on.

MS. CLIFT: Let me help you out -- (laughs) --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, some people want to have an exit. But I think the American people understand we're in a war. We don't know exactly where the exit to a war is. Nobody knows that. There's no --

MS. CLIFT: Let me help you out -- (laughs) --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say, there's no exit strategy, there's a victory strategy for him. That's what he has.

MS. CLIFT: Right. No, this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to dig in?

MS. CLIFT: This is defining success down. This is preparing the American people for the fact that this may not be a multi-ethnic democracy. In fact, you've got an Iranian government delegation in negotiating between the U.S. troops and the radical cleric in Fallujah. And the fact that we invaded Iraq, that we may be preparing for that state to turn into a mini Iran is a possibility coming out of this. And I had a Republican source say to me, what's next, North Korea helping out in Fallujah?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, look --

MS. CLIFT: Iran's part of the axis of evil, remember?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a fundamental reason why he couldn't go with central front, because the people don't believe it. They know it has metastasized. Madrid told us that. We now how them searching for -- in Pakistan for Osama.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look -- look -- look -- I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's obviously moved out.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think that you are taking that phrase dramatically out of context. He has always said the war on terror is going to last generations; Iraq is part of it. For the time being, it's going to draw a lot of terrorists in there. He's never claimed that it was the whole war.

MR. BUCHANAN: And he does have an exit strategy.

MR. BLANKLEY: And I don't believe he has an --

MR. BUCHANAN: Do you know what the exit strategy is?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't believe he has an exit strategy.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exit strategy -- look, they're going to bring in -- the U.N. is going to bring in this government, which has got the American military under control. And the people running for office in January, what are they going to run for -- what's their campaign issue? "We will get the Americans out of Iraq." Every guy up there in Fallujah will run on that issue. We are on our way out, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everybody knows, though, that there is a central front. Follow the money. What have we spent, $150 billion already? And that's where the military might is.

MR. BUCHANAN: He is not going to pour --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The central front remains Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: He is not going to pour troops in there and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: However, it was a good piece of -- (inaudible).

Okay, Bremer out, Brahimi in.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) We're working closely with the United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, and with Iraqis to determine the exact form of the government that will receive sovereignty on June 30th.

LAKHDAR BRAHAMI (U.N. special representative for Iraq): (From videotape.) What the aim should be at present is to put in place a caretaker government that will be in charge from the first of July 2004 until those elections in January 2005.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why is Bush banking on Brahimi? Do you want to speak to that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. Well, he banked -- because the United States does not have the credibility to install a government there. And he's bringing the U.N. to provide cover not only for the formation of a government, but to bring in a lot of the NATO forces under the U.N. And that is the deal that has been made and has been cooking for quite a while. The U.N. is going to take the lead to provide the cover.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. And that U.N. imprimatur -- that's an ecclesiastical phrase.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I understand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know whether it's in your lexicon. (Laughter.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it's just something --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There may be something corresponding.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There is, there is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Called God. But go ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, did you have a good yontif?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I did. Thank you very much.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Now let's move on to the point I was going to make, which is -- what were -- where were we?

MR. BLANKLEY: You're talking about the U.N. being used as an imprimatur.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, okay. He needs the imprimatur --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because the best way that Bush can curb the number of American troops going over there is to get the U.N. involved at least to this extent so that people like the new president of Spain will send troops in.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Or keep them there, right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he needs the U.N. But we know, and you know particularly that no conservative is going to permit this president to bring the U.N. in in any total way.

MR. BUCHANAN: The American people --

MS. CLIFT: That --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That would kill his conservative base, would it not?

MR. BUCHANAN: The American people in this country will not send troops indefinitely into Iraq to fight for a government which is run or led by the United Nations, John. If we can't win this --


MR. BUCHANAN: That's why I think we're coming out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. The point is he tiptoed through this U.N. business pretty well, did he not?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, he did.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, he did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He deserves credit for that, does he not?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. By the way, can we get to a smaller point? Why is it that John Kerry refers to Brahimi as Brandini? Brandini. He's continually -- over once --

MR. BUCHANAN: John? (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- twice he's used it.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You'd think he would be corrected.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's the Pius the XXIII problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John, the man's name is -- the man's name is Brahimi. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: The Pius the XXIII problem, and -- (chuckles) -- he said the same thing. He's made blunders here on this Brandini thing, which is the same --

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, Kerry -- let me --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- same thing that Bush did.

MS. CLIFT: Where Bush --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Let Tony answer.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me come to Kerry's defense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that name really Brandini?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me come to Kerry's defense. I think every --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You got a scoop here?

MR. BLANKLEY: -- every time that Kerry --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, this is the worldwide Brandini --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- manifests a lack of knowledge about foreigners, it probably enhances his domestic reputation, so --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Right. And you're criticizing Kerry --

MR. BLANKLEY: Because most of them are supposed to be his friends, as you know.

MS. CLIFT: You're criticizing Kerry for mispronouncing a name when we just watched --

MR. BLANKLEY: I wasn't. I was complimenting him.

MS. CLIFT: -- when we just watched the president in a press conference prove himself woefully inadequate to the task. He is unable to express himself, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't hold back.

MS. CLIFT: No, I won't. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) We're going to get to --

MS. CLIFT: It was an embarrassment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. They're in the exit question area.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, okay. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But before we get to that, I want to tell John that this man's first name is Lakhdar, not to be confused with Sir Walter Scott's Lochinvar. (Laughter.) So straighten it out, will you please, John?

Okay. The human toll, U.S. military in Iraq: 687. U.S. military medical evacuations: 19,750, an estimate. Iraqi civilians dead in Iraq: 14,000, also an estimate. Exit question: Assign a letter grade from A to F to Bush's news conference performance. One combined grade, please, for both style and substance, and be very brief with any additional comment.


MR. BUCHANAN: You got to separate it. For earnestness/resolve, I give him an A to an A-plus. But for explanations and depth, I'm -- I mean, the president is just not good at that.


MS. CLIFT: Resolution in defense of an unworkable idea does not get an A. The president gets a D, overall.


MR. BLANKLEY: For conveying sincerity and what the policy is, he gets an A-minus. For describing it and his artfulness, he gets a C- minus.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, for the prepared part of the speech, I'd give him an A-minus. For the Q&A, I'd say he gets a B-minus or a C- plus, at best.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There were a couple of gaucheries in there -- you know that --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, but you know, the country --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- including why the two of them are sitting before the commission, the 9/11 commission, and why one won't.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, satisfaction, they say, is competence or achievement minus expectations. Nobody has any great expectations of this man's, you know, ability to articulate. He's not Tony Blair. He's not Bill Clinton. The country doesn't mind it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These responses to the exit question were somewhat good, but they're clearly lacking. You have to distinguish between two audiences. His -- one of -- his primary audience was the Iraq audience, the Iraqis. There he gets an A-minus. This was very reassuring to them. We're going to dig in.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going nowhere.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For the American audience, who was expecting more on exit, and because of the faux pas in the -- I would give him probably a C.

When we come back, are George Bush and Condoleezza Rice setting up the FBI to take the hit over 9/11? If so, will they get away with it?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: The general bulldozes the wall.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT: (From videotape.) The single greatest structural cause for the September 11th problem was the wall that segregated or separated criminal investigators and intelligence agents. Government erected this wall, government buttressed this wall, and before September 11th government was blinded by this wall.

In 1995 the Justice Department embraced flawed legal reasoning, imposing a series of restrictions on the FBI that went beyond what the law required.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Guns blazing -- that was Attorney General John Ashcroft's approach in his testimony before the 9/11 commission this week. He ripped the Justice Department and its handling of terror throughout the 1990s, saying its own rules and laws hamstrung the fight against terror.

He placed blame specifically on the wall, a legal barrier that prevents intelligence agents and criminal investigators from sharing their information, their data and their resources in their hunt for terrorists.

Question: Do you think that Ashcroft exaggerated that legal wall that exists between these two functions and entities at the Department of Justice?

MR. BUCHANAN: He did not. That has existed ever since the time of Hoover and Allen Dulles. It has been an enormous problem for us. (Pronouncing "Gorelick" as "Gore-lick.") I think Ashcroft was not only effective, he drew in Jamie Gorelick and said, "Look, you are responsible for maintaining this wall." He brought -- I mean, quite frankly, he helped himself tremendously, he helped the president, and he helped turn this panel into what it is -- partisan.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. (Pronouncing "Gorelick" as "guh-relic.") First of all, it's Jamie Gorelick, as long as we're into pronouncing names correctly. And secondly, that wall does go back 20 years. It goes back to the Reagan administration, the first Bush administration. Jamie Gorelick did strengthen it, but the Ashcroft Justice Department signed off on that.

And if you shake the bureaucratic tree, which is the phrase that was repeated over and over in that hearing, you learn something. He totally exaggerated, that --


MS. CLIFT: -- there were not legal impediments to their sharing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, before you answer that, let me move you to an exit question, because I want to get out of this. But you can add the point which I know is of great significance and we all want to hear.

MR. BLANKLEY: I do, anyway.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Granted that General Ashcroft may have had mixed motives for raising the wall concern, because he deflected the spotlights from criticisms of him to the wall rather effectively. I'm talking about the PCOG (sp) criticism particularly. That kind of disappeared in the wall talk. The wall walled it off. By raising the wall, did that contribute greatly to the public good and so justify the hard sell that he gave it, do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a valid concern?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not only that. He has raised an issue -- because what's of concern about Mrs. Gorelick is not only that she strengthened and went beyond what the law required, but she hid that fact from the commission, just as she's hid the fact that when she was a lawyer at the Pentagon before she was a lawyer at the Clinton Justice Department, they blocked the right of special forces to go into covert wars. I believe that the credibility of this commission is being undermined by her conduct, and it's a growing cancer on their --

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's a right-wing diatribe.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think the wall, however you want to define it, separating the ability of the FBI --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's a critical issue in terms of sharing intelligence. And the FBI, frankly, which was a part of this whole thing, is really a dysfunctional agency and somebody's going to have to really change that place from beginning to end. I mean, the culture in that place and the quality of the people there are really down.

MS. CLIFT: Chairman Kean, a Republican of that commission, gave Jamie --

MR. BLANKLEY: Sort of a Republican.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: Sort of a Republican. Only your kind of Republican counts?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it's --

MS. CLIFT: I'll take his word over yours.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to the question is it was a significant contribution to the common good. But the reason for putting that law in there is quite valid, because you can go to federal courts --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if you're on a surveillance mission and you can get --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you can collect evidence which later can wind up in a criminal file -- blah, blah, blah, blah -- and that's bad.

MS. CLIFT: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, issue three: Bush backs Sharon.

AHMED QUREIA (Palestinian prime minister): (From videotape.) We reject that. We cannot accept it. We refuse it. And we are committed only to the international legitimacy, to the international resolution, to the Security Council resolution.

There are nobody in this world are allowed to give anything from the right of the Palestinian people.

This will not help peace process. And I am sure that this will not help stability in the region.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia expressed his outrage this week at what he sees as a dramatic new tilt toward Israel by the U.S. His criticism was echoed in the academic community.

RASHID KHALIDI (Columbia University): (From videotape.) The reaction is going to be one of people throwing up their hands and saying the United States has once again shown how biased it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But some keen and experienced observers say movement -- any movement -- may be a good thing.

EDWARD WALKER (president, Middle East Institute): Nothing's happening now, except people killing each other. So if this can break that cycle and open up the door to further negotiations, then I think it's a good thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here is Israel's plan -- supported broadly by President Bush: One, borders. Israel keeps sizeable chunks of the West Bank because of demographic shifts. Two, refugees. No right of return for Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel, a position Bush implicitly accepted. He also accepted, even welcomed, Sharon's move to withdraw Israeli settlers from Gaza.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I commend Prime Minister Sharon for his bold and courageous decision to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

ISRAELI PRIME MIN. ARIEL SHARON: (From videotape.) In all these years, I have never met a leader as committed as you are, Mr. President, to the struggle for freedom and the need to confront terrorism wherever it exists.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: To what extent did Bush's endorsement of Sharon's plan undercut Ahmed Qureia and the Palestinian cause?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, Ahmed Qureia, known as Abu Ala, had no power anyhow, so there was nothing to undercut there. And the Palestinian cause is paralyzed by its real leader, which is Arafat, because nobody believes that he is somebody that you can negotiate with. Both the United States and Israel believe that we don't have a partner for peace.

What Bush did, I might add, was perfectly consistent with what Clinton did on the Clinton parameters, which is basically to say look, there are Palestinians, if they're going to come back, they're going to come back to a Palestinian state. That's the essence of a two- state solution. And the modifications that we talked about go back right to William Rogers, when he was secretary of State. There were always modifications of the armistice lines of 1949 contemplated by Resolutions 242 and 338.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are aware, are you not, that Russia, the United Nations, the EU and the United States constitute a Quartet?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we have been dwelling on this for months and months.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This totally carves the Quartet out.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Quartet was going nowhere. It was doing nothing.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: There was no road map, by the way, because the conditions of the road map, which is exactly what Bush is referring to, namely, the confrontation of terror by the Palestinians, that doesn't exist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, both on the basis of the Palestinians being unable to express themselves on this, and the Quartet being carved out, that it's still a good idea?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is the first time any Israeli prime minister has been willing to withdraw from settlements. It is the first progress and it's the first step.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see a level of ferocity now being released among the Islamic crazies that's going to bring more death to maybe more of our own soldiers now trying to make their way from Kuwait on the supply line up to Baghdad, and that this is counterproductive to what the president really wants to do, not only their safety, but to diminish the probability of increased terrorist attack?


Do you want to say something about that?

MR. BUCHANAN: The president completely capitulated to Sharon. He gave up America's position. He sold out the Palestinians. Nobody in the world will accept this nonsense, except Mr. Bush and Mr. Sharon. The peace process is dead.

MS. CLIFT: Well, and --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, on the last point --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, let me get a quick thought in. What's happened is that reality has returned to the peace process. The Israelis are hunkering down. They're moving their forces. They're turning it into a Fortress Israel. And if the Palestinians want to be involved in what remains of the process, they better get serious.

MS. CLIFT: Right, and it feeds --

MR. BLANKLEY: And if not --

MS. CLIFT: It feeds the paranoia in the Arab world that we are aligned with Israel, and it --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that is true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be --

MS. CLIFT: And the president didn't get anything in return from Sharon. He gave away the diplomatic store.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we -- we'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: Will we transfer power on the 30th? Yes or no?


MS. CLIFT: Symbolically.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: DMV dissed.

ADAM RICHEY: (From videotape.) I came down this alley to park in front of my house here and double-parked for about 15, 20 minutes, ran inside, came outside, and the police department had already written a ticket for me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Contesting parking tickets is time-consuming and annoying. So pay it and move on? No, there's an Internet service that offers to fight parking tickets for you. It's called

MR. RICHEY: (From videotape.) You log on, you enter your name, you enter your e-mail address, and then up pops a template of the ticket.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You then describe your ticket in detail. The company's database then advises whether to fight the ticket or pay it. If fight, the ticket recipient gets a customized dismissal letter to send to city hall. boasts a 70 percent success rate. As for fee, it depends on whether the ticket is dismissed. If yes, the customer pays half of the parking fine to If no, the customer pays zero. Currently, you can get the service in San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C.

Nearly half of U.S. cities raised fees and parking fines in 2003, constituting a major source of municipal revenue. So said the National League of Cities this week.

Question: Is this service the answer to a scofflaw's prayer? I ask you, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it is for some, and it's going to help some people, because virtually none of these tickets are contested. It's just too much trouble.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: About 85 percent of them are not contested. And a lot of people feel that tickets are given out illegitimately.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Mort --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Five hundred and fifty million dollars of revenue for New York City alone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With your status, you have a fleet of automobiles, right? Do you get parking tickets in New York?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: On my bicycle I get parking tickets.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the cars? I hear you have NYP on it. Is that for New York Police?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it's for New York --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the -- on the --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's for New York press. And because the press serves a critical function --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- I just want you to know it's very important that the press be able to go to all these different areas of crisis in the city.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that these parking meter people who hand out the tickets are working on a commission?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Seriously.

MR. BLANKLEY: But look, the municipalities around the country have turned both parking and moving violations into fundraising for municipalities --


MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- instead of safety regulation. As a result, the people have a right to use whatever device they can to get even and make it expensive for the municipalities to collect on these sham tickets.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the parking ticket enforcement? Will that be made more honest; in other words, you can't talk your way out of or use influence to get out of a parking ticket? Will this make it more --

MS. CLIFT: I don't know if it's possible to use influence to get out of a parking ticket, not in the District of Columbia. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, can you speak to that?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No what? No on both? No, you won't speak to it, and no, you haven't tried to fix a ticket?

MS. CLIFT: You have used influence?