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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN,
MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN, AND MARY LYNN F. JONES

TAPED: THURSDAY, MAY 27, 2004
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 29-30, 2004


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: mission impossible?

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) -- when our coalition will transfer full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens who will prepare the way for national elections. On June 30th, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist and will not be replaced.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A fully sovereign Iraqi government in place one month from this Sunday and the Coalition Provisional Authority kaput. This caretaker or "interim" government, and we'll call it that, will rule Iraq for six months, with national elections to be held no later than January 2005.

So far so good, but what about, one, the U.N. role will be a big one says the president, and the U.S. and Britain introduced this week a Security Council resolution to make it big. Which raises the question: where will the interim government's authority end and the U.N.'s authority begin? Likewise, where will the interim government's authority end and the U.S.' authority begin?

Two, civil infrastructure, where is it?

SHIBLEY TELHAMI (Brooking Institution): (From videotape.) What's the police going to do when they arrest people? Where are they going to take them? Do they take them to court? What court? We have a judicial system that has been in awful shape.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three, troop duration. Key U.N. allies like France and Germany want to have a date certain for coalition troop withdrawal, believing that the longer U.S. forces stay, the more the Iraqi government looks like a puppet and the less able it is to govern because it will have no legitimacy. The U.S. and Britain do not want a certain exit date, however.

Four, military command. The president said that U.S. command will be precisely that, i.e. U.S. control. But Tony Blair says if push comes to shove the Iraqi interim government should have veto powers over coalition military operations.

TONY BLAIR (prime minister, United Kingdom): (From videotape.) If there's a political decision as to whether you go into a place like Fallujah in a particular way, that has to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government. And the final political control remains with the Iraqi government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Colin Powell disagrees.

COLIN POWELL (secretary of State): (From videotape.) Ultimately, however, if it comes down to the United States Armed Forces protecting themselves or in some way accomplishing their mission, U.S. forces remain under U.S. command and will do what is necessary to protect themselves.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: who's right about the use of U.S. and coalition troops, Powell or Blair?

Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Powell is correct, John, but you've touched on the coming collision point in Iraq. This government, this interim government, is going to attempt to contain/control/confine the Americans. General Abizaid will have a confrontation with it. And because this interim government is going to reflect some of the Shi'a and Sunni hostility to the United States, I think what's going to happen is you'll probably get resignations from this interim government.

But I'll tell you what is really coming beyond that. These elections are going to throw up a lot of people who will say: "Elect me and we will have the Americans out of this country." And when that happens, John, I think you're going to see George Bush has in a way built a bridge for an honorable American withdrawal. We are coming out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mary Lynn Jones.

MS. JONES: If we are being abandoned by our staunchest ally in this war so far, Tony Blair, we really need to listen to his opinion. His opinion has affected and reflects the opinions of other world leaders. We need to follow that, listen to it. We need to say to Iraq: if we're going to make you fully sovereign, as President Bush said the other night, you need to be in control. We want to make sure our views are heard, but if they're going to have any chance of ruling their own society, we really need to let them be in charge and not just have this facade going on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So U.S. commanders will not make the decision to attack Fallujah or Najaf or wherever; that decision will be made by the Iraqi government. Is that what you're saying?

MS. JONES: It should be made by the Iraqi government. We should say that we want our opinions to be considered, but it's their decision, after all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will we have to await for their authority to so attack, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think there's a bigger issue here. I think that the president needs to prepare for a contingency that is plausible, which is that after June 30th we could see a breakdown to civil war. I think that we should be moving two or three more divisions into the country as quickly as we can so that if the Brahimi plan breaks down, we can reassert military authority and go down another track. I don't predict that, but I think it's a plausible enough event that our government should be prepared for that contingency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, if you use the phrase "interim government," I think it's more of an interim administration. This is not an elected government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's got sovereignty.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It has nominal sovereignty. The fact is real sovereignty and real --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I haven't heard anyone say that, in authority, nominal sovereignty. They say it's sovereignty. The president was very outspoken on that issue of sovereignty.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, let me put it this way. If you have a force there that is controlled by the United States and you have an American general, an outstanding one, by the way, General Petraeus, who is the guy who is developing the security forces for the Iraqis, and they have no security forces, you do not have a government in control of that country, and everybody knows that. So this is not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is sovereignty synonymous with control, absolute control? Let us say that the Iraqi government says fine, you can stay here, and they authorize the staying of our troops.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, they can authorize the staying of our troops, which I'm sure they will do, but if they can't control the country, you know, you have to deal with that as a fact on the ground.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When are you going to give up the idea that this government is not a real government? If it's not a real government it won't stand because the Iraqi people will see this as a puppet government and that will cut the rug right from underneath it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, no, this is not the government. The government will be elected in January. That will be the real government. This is an administration that is going to last until then. The United Nations is going to organize an election --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- then it will have legitimacy. We don't even know who the government is. Nobody knows who the government is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, it will not stand because it will be regarded as a pawn of the United States. It will not have legitimacy.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with me?

MS. JONES: I completely agree. And that's -- we're talking about six months here from June 30th until January. So somebody has got to be in control in that time. President Bush said full sovereignty. That's what people are expecting.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, here's what's going to happen, is the government, which is going to be perceived as a puppet government, is going to have a lot of Shi'as in it and Sunnis in it, many of whom want to pander to the electorate. And they're going to defy the United States, and then the United States is going to tell them, "Look, we're going to run the show here." And then they're going to resign and you've got a conch.

I think Tony's got a very good point; this thing has a real possibility of collapsing because you have what you described yourself as a "stateless" country. You not only took out the regime, you took out the entire state and dissolved the army. There is nothing there but a bunch of figure heads appointed by Brahimi.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If we act without their permission, it will be an unlawful act of aggression, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: We will do it, if we have to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat! Pat, we are not winning this by boots and by bayonets! Don't you understand?

MR. BUCHANAN: If we cannot do it -- and I agree, maybe -- I think this is Bush's road out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you are condemning this -- if this government is as described by you and by Mort, if it is that weak, it will not stand, it will be regarded as a joke by the Iraqis.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: John, look, there's a real danger that the leaders of the different religious factions are going to do a power grab after June 30th. We know that they're stockpiling weapons, all three -- Sunnis, Kurds, Shi'as are all stockpiling weapons. There are huge stockpiles that were not being guarded in Mosul and other places. And I think we make a real mistake if we don't prepare for that practical contingency, whatever the legalities may be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see, what Blair was trying to do was to save a position for NATO to get in, and therefore, he was emphasizing that the power resides with the new interim government, and Powell pulled the rug out from underneath him.

Okay. The human toll. U.S. military dead in Iraq, 802; U.S. military medical evacuations, 21,850; Iraqi civilian dead, 15,800.

Okay. A nearer threat.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT: (From videotape.) Credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that al Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months. This disturbing intelligence indicates al Qaeda's specific intention to hit the United States hard.

ROBERT MUELLER (director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation): (From videotape.) These are the seven individuals whom we are seeking. Each of these individuals is known to have a desire and the ability to undertake planning, facilitation and attack against the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The terror alert level remains at yellow, so this is a non-alert alert. Also, none of the seven are known to be within the United States, so the hunt is worldwide. Is there any reason to believe that the White House is playing politics with terror warnings? It's called changing the news focus.

Mary Lynn Jones.

MS. JONES: They better not be. It's a very risky strategy for the White House if they are doing that. You heard John Ashcroft talking about these seven individuals. On the other hand, you had Tom Ridge on television telling people to just go about living their lives, enjoying themselves and having fun. So it's a very mixed message that we're getting from the administration here.

And basically Charles Ramsey, the chief of the D.C. police department, said he hasn't gotten any more specific information. So are we really under a terrorist threat here, or are we just chasing shadows?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did the New York police force -- the New York and Los Angeles police force said the same thing, did they not?

MS. JONES: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now since this is not a specific warning, it could have been said at any time. It could have been said in March. It could have been said in April. It could have been said in February.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was said -- John, it was said before Memorial Day, for a simple reason. The administration wants to get the warning out, because they do believe something is coming. In the event something happens and they hadn't gotten the warning out, people would say, "Why didn't you tell us something was coming?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't the Cabinet official who's in charge of this and has the responsibility ultimate to the president himself -- namely, Secretary Ridge, who is the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security -- why didn't he say -- give any of these details?

MR. BUCHANAN: Because Ashcroft puts out the pictures and the names and the whole bit, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what is that? Was Ashcroft on the reservation --

MR. BUCHANAN: He didn't -- he couldn't have -- the guy could not -- Ridge could not have done it without raising the DEFCON, if you will, to orange.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, you don't see this as CYA, any of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: They told us in advance. Advance CYA.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. No, it's more than that. It's too bad that this has all politicized the warning, but as a former prosecutor --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean? Who's politicizing?

MR. BLANKLEY: Everybody is. All the talking points --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where did it start? Did it start at the White House or elsewhere?

MR. BLANKLEY: All I know is that two hours after the announcements, Democrats who I was on TV with were already talking about "Oh, this is all political." So obviously it's being politicized.

But I want to make more -- much more important -- I don't care who's politicizing it. As a former prosecutor, I can tell you, most arrests are made as a result of informants, from citizens saying, "We spotted something." It's terribly important now, in this period of heightened danger, that 280 million Americans be keeping their eyes open, because that's a more likely way we're going to disrupt these terrorist attacks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but these guys could be --

MR. BLANKLEY: And politicizing it and trying to suggest to people they should ignore the danger, I think, is itself extremely dangerous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but they could be in Kowloon, they could be in Jakarta, they could be in Sydney.

MR. BLANKLEY: They could be anywhere, or they could be in our backyard.

MR. BUCHANAN: But what is wrong with at least saying, look, there is this possibility; it's 90 percent certain these guys are going to try something; here they are.

Suppose they're mistaken, what is wrong --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ninety percent certain? Why didn't they raise the yellow alert?

MR. BUCHANAN: You would denounce Ashcroft if they had not done it and something happens. Everybody would.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I must tell you, I looked at Mueller's face in this videotape, which I watched carefully, and he looked like he wasn't comfortable with making these statements at all.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is it your felt intuition that this threat is genuine, or is it your felt intuition that this threat is trumped up, dominantly speaking?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think something's coming before the election and these guys know it and they want to alert us. They want to do partly what Tony said. And they also want to get the fact out that we have told you this is coming.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mary Lynn Jones?

MS. JONES: It's putting a lot of people on edge, so there better be some solid information behind it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Obviously, people expect -- in the industry expect there to be an attack at some point. There's a lot of evidence it may be coming now, and this is a sincere warning and it should be paid attention to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I think so. I mean, I don't think they make --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where's the solid information, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, whatever their sources of information are, they're listening to the traffic of conversation and dialogue, and they have some sensibility there when that begins to spike in a certain way that something is coming down the road, even though, as they say, they don't know when and they don't know how and they don't know where.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know what I want to say on that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At Christmas time last year there was a lot of chatter --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- we heard about chatter, chatter, chatter,

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: British Airways was grounded on several occasions. Instead of looking up to the skies, we should have been looking on the ground, because the next thing that happened was the train wreck --

MR. BUCHANAN: Madrid train.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the train explosion in Madrid.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the chatter could be disinformation. Did that occur to you?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course it's possible. But even if it is --

MR. BLANKLEY: The cancellation of the flights might have actually avoided a problem.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. The planes were theoretically going to fly into Las Vegas and crash. We cannot stand by and not do anything about it and not alert the American public.

Partly it is CYA, as you said, because if something happens, it would be a political disaster for this --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I find it passing strange that Ridge surrenders his authority and jurisdiction and his -- what? -- his presence on this issue to the attorney general.

When we come back, why isn't President Bush getting more credit for the big gains in jobs?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Running on empty.

Is this 10-miles-to-the-gallon monster bound for extinction? Not if our Saudi allies can help it. With gasoline prices now over $2 a gallon, and the start of the summer driving season upon us, Saudi Arabia this week unilaterally agreed to up oil production and thus do their part --

ALI AL-NAIMI (Saudi oil minister): (From videotape.) To moderate the price to a fair and reasonable price.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House saluted al-Naimi's announcement.

SPENCER ABRAHAM (secretary of Energy: (From videotape.) Saudi Arabia is fulfilling all genuine requests for the month of June, for a total 9.1 million barrels a day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But some OPEC members are not pleased. "The price in the market has nothing to do with the level of production," said Venezuela's annoyed energy minister.

So, who's to blame for prices at the pump?

Item: worldwide demand. Most experts primarily attribute soaring oil prices to this. China alone, for example, uses twice as much oil as the worldwide average per dollar earned, not surprising since China also uses half of the world's concrete and more than a third of its steel.

Item: fewer refineries. More than half of the U.S. refineries have closed since 1981, at a loss of nearly 2 million barrels per day. That's because of, one, smaller profit margins; and, two, stricter environmental regulations.

Item: boutique blends. How many different kinds or blends of gasoline are made at U.S. refineries in order to comply with local air pollution regulations? Answer: 18 blends. The gas you buy in Washington, D.C. might not be legal in Los Angeles, believe it or not. Local suppliers cannot shop around. They have to buy whatever gas is available within their mandated, quote, unquote, "boutique blend." All these blends put a strain on the refineries, leading to delays and leading to added costs.

Question: so who's to blame for these high gas prices?

Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, everything you say is right. There's another big piece in the pricing, and that's that oil is denominated in dollar terms. With a weaker dollar, Saudi Arabia, in order to get its regular amount of money back per gallon on a purchasing power basis, has to charge 35 (dollars) to 40 (dollars) instead of 25 (dollars) to 30 (dollars). When our dollar goes up in strength, that will bring the price down a little bit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this going to have --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's another item -- (chuckles) -- which is that our great allies, the Saudis, a few months ago organized a cutback in OPEC production, the second cutback that we've had this year, which is what pushed up in part gas prices and energy prices --

MR. BLANKLEY: And they were doing it precisely in part to get back --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- their value for the dollar.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's correct.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're way out on a limb on this. You got to give the Saudis credit.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I give the Saudis credit --

MR. BUCHANAN: John?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- a lot of credit. They got the biggest bank accounts in the world. But credit for managing gas --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Speaking about big banks -- big bank accounts --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If we didn't have -- if we didn't -- excuse me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- now, what about Mort's?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: (Chuckles.) Listen, that was honestly earned, not through the monopoly. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

High gas prices are not hurting job growth. Despite the high price of gas and its effect on manufacturing, on retailing, on travel, et cetera, in April -- last month -- 288,000 new jobs were created, adding up to 1.1 million jobs created in the last eight months. That's a recovery of 41 percent of the 2.7 million jobs lost during Bush's presidency. And consumer confidence is at 93.2. And inflation, though trending upwards, remains low. Most importantly in an election year, 10 battleground states have posted job gains -- Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin -- helping Mr. Bush five months before the general election. But despite this good news for President Bush, the percentage of Americans that rate the economy as not good or poor is 65 percent; good, 33 percent; excellent, 2 percent.

Question: why isn't President Bush getting more credit for the big gains in jobs?

I ask you, Mary Lynn Jones.

MS. JONES: Because it's too little, too late. This administration, as you pointed out, has lost 2.7 million jobs. We've seen slight gains in the recent months, but not enough to make up for all of the jobs lost during this administration. And basically right now Americans are supporting John Kerry more on economic issues than they are President Bush.

MR. BUCHANAN: John?

MR. BLANKLEY: John?

MR. BUCHANAN: A million -- a million jobs --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from Tony.

MS. JONES: If he doesn't -- if he doesn't -- if he --

MR. BUCHANAN: A million --

MS. JONES: Well, hold on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.

MS. JONES: If he doesn't basically turn this around and we see more job growth very quickly, he's going to face the same fate as his father did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you got to give him credit. He's almost up to 1 million of the 2.7 million.

(Cross talk.)

MS. JONES: But he's still lost over a million.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- one million is peanuts, John. In eight -- I mean, in eight months you're talking 125,000 new jobs a month, which is unimpressive. The economy's getting better, though. There's no doubt about it. It's moving along. I think what it means for Mr. Bush, however, is that by November I think the economy is off the table as an issue and Iraq becomes the issue of the fall.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not.

MR. BLANKLEY: But I --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. This economy, in the first place, is growing at an extraordinary rate now. There is a huge blowout in terms of capital expenditure. The economy's on a tear. It takes a while for the recognition, the perception, after 3-1/2 years of slow growth, for this kind of growth to percolate --

MR. BUCHANAN: But if it's a good economy, Mort, the economy's off the table.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: By the time we get through -- by September and October, it's not going to be off the table. It's going to be the October surprise before the November election. If Iraq calms down at all, it is always the economy that is the decisive issue in an election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the surprise going to be that the economy looks good and that's the --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not just look good; it's going to look great. It's on a tear right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will that be the perception of the American people?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: By October it will be, absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By November do you think it will?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Come November, which issue will the voters care more about: the Iraq war, or the economy and their pocketbooks? Will it be guns or will it be butter?

I ask you.

MR. BUCHANAN: When the economy's in good shape, it's like your health is in good shape; you think of something else. It will be Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mary Lynn Jones.

MS. JONES: No, it will be the economy. People vote based on how they're doing, and the economic news is not where it needs to be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Certainly it will be Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, I don't think there's any doubt.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I believe it will be Iraq too, but the economy is sure going to help Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's too close to call. (Laughter.) Actually, I'll go with Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: Go with Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's very close.

Issue three: The "Mort report." Mort, you just got back from Israel on Tuesday. What was the state of affairs?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, Israel is in a political crisis because the program that Sharon advanced to the American administration, which was supported by Bush, was defeated in a primary in his own party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was the program?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The program was for the unilateral withdrawal from all of Gaza, 19 settlements, and another four settlements as a symbolic step in the northern part of the West Bank as a statement from Sharon that the Israelis are prepared to pull out of a lot of the settlements.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was the Likud vote, his party vote against?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Likud voted against his program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By a big margin.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: By 60 to 40, okay? But, you know, it was 100,000 people who voted.

Now the point now is Sharon has not given up. I interviewed him and I interviewed every major politician in Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's he going to do?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's going ahead. He's going to modify the program slightly to give political cover to those Likud ministers that -- so that they can support it. The vote is going to be held this weekend, and the question will be whether or not he gets the requisite number of votes in his own cabinet. He's very close. And the deputy prime minister has predicted he will get that vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's going to be a gradual pullout -- that is a phased pullout -- from Gaza?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There is always going to be a phased pullout. They don't pull them out all at once. What there is now going to be is a serial approval by the cabinet. They're going to approve it in four tranches so as to give the cabinet ministers the rationale that it's a different plan from the one that was voted down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he prohibited -- it would be suicide for him to try to go forward with pulling out -- with sticking to his original understanding with Bush, to pulling out all of the 7,500 settlers in Gaza.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it's not a question of -- he couldn't get the cabinet to approve that because it was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's illegal for him to do it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it's not illegal. But they all made the political statement that they would abide by this vote, so he has to look for a way to get around that statement --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he's going to get the four-phase.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think he will get the four-phase. It's the same thing. It will do it, if anything, in a more -- in a narrower dimension of time. He's absolutely committed to do it, and he recognizes he's the only Israeli politician who could pull out of the settlements (unilaterally ?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think this is good news?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is the first positive step since the Camp David talks in the year 2000. I think it has the best chance of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can Qureia move with that, the prime minister of Palestine?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's finally beginning to come out in favor of it. Right now the Egyptian minister of intelligence is trying to, in effect, back -- on a back channel organize the (rule/role ?) of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quick question: Is the West Bank now -- that's part of this impossible riddle or enigma -- is that going to be off the table?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it's not going to be off the table.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it going to be off the table? Is this an independent action, this removal from Gaza in four stages?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is an independent action in the sense that it isn't directly negotiated with the Palestinians. But it is not an independent action in the sense that it does not ultimately impact the West Bank.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What may set up an atmosphere at least of negotiations with the Palestinians.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Within five years I believe that every -- if this goes through, within five -- seven years at the most, all of the settlements on the easterly side of the security fence will be out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This Memorial Day weekend, the group joins me in saluting the men and women of our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their extraordinary bravery, their sense of mission and their tenacity of purpose is such a credit to them, to their loved ones and to all of us. Thank you so much.

(PBS SEGMENT.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four. Meet the liberal press.

The national press corps has been polled by the Pew Research Center to find out which way it leans politically. Get this: 34 percent label themselves as liberal, 54 percent moderate; only 7 percent of journalists label themselves as Pat Buchanan does, conservative.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How does that compare with the public at large?

Thirty-three percent of Americans call themselves conservative. That's more than four times the 7 percent of journalist conservatives. Twenty percent of Americans consider themselves liberal, as compared to the 34 percent of journalists who do; while 41 percent of Americans consider themselves moderate, as compared to the 54 percent of journalists who do so.

Question: What's the significance of these numbers? I ask you, Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think the 54 percent overstates the moderation of the journalist class.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) You think they're really crypto-liberals?

MR. BLANKLEY: From my experience, a lot of folks think that they're right down the middle and pretty moderate by the standards of the West Side of New York. By the standards of the rest of America, they're liberal. So I put the liberal number a lot higher.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mary Lynn Jones, what do you think of these numbers?

MS. JONES: I think the fact that most people say they're moderates reflect that journalists don't have an ideological bias so much as a bias towards reporting a good story. That's what we're seeing here. If the liberals were really controlling the press and getting their views out, we'd see Al Gore in the White House today; Fox News wouldn't be thriving.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If a journalist says semi-publicly that -- and describes himself or herself as conservative, does he take heat from the liberal journalists?

MS. JONES: I don't think so. I mean, you've seen journalists who do that and they seem to be doing pretty well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they -- they're not ostracized?

MS. JONES: They're not ostracized, no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're not looked down on?

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second.

MS. JONES: No, they're not!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you feel that you have been looked down on because you are conservative?

MR. BUCHANAN: We went to the same journalism school and I was treated horribly, John. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: I was the only conservative of 80 people in that class, only Goldwaterite.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did they treat you all right? This was at Columbia --

MR. BUCHANAN: I was a strange beast.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- my alma mater.

MR. BUCHANAN: They looked at me as a caged bird. (Laughs, laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What? They what?

MR. BUCHANAN: They looked at me as some sort of exotic bird. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, do you have anything to say on this?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'll just tell you one fact: 26 percent of the American public -- American population get 95 percent of their news from talk radio.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that says volumes, doesn't it?

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