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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

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

TAPED: FRIDAY, JULY 23, 2004
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 24-45, 2004


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Boston hurrah.

(Song being played: "Happy Days Are Here Again." Happy days are here again. The skies above are clear again. Let us sing a song of cheer again; happy days are here again.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Reciting with the singing in the background.) So this is good old Boston, the home of the bean and the cod; where the Lowells talk only to the Cabots, and the Cabots talk only to God.

Well, he may not be a Cabot, and he may not be talking to God, but he is a Boston Brahmin. John Forbes Kerry in his hometown of Boston next week for the Democratic National Convention, there to address the 4,352 Democratic delegates from 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands, thanking them for making him their Democratic presidential nominee, and climaxing the week that will start on Monday with stemwinders, "the old guard": Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, introduced by his wife, Senator Clinton.

Tuesday features "the support system": Senator Ted Kennedy and Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of the nominee.

On Wednesday, "the running mate": John Reid Edwards, introduced by his wife, Elizabeth.

Question: What's the message that John Kerry, presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, must project in and from Boston?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: That he is a strong, decisive leader; he is not a waffler; that he has got personality; that he is a centrist. He's got to knock down all the negatives against him. I think he's got to project more of a likability, personality. And I think if he elevates himself and starts to raise himself somewhat against -- above -- excuse me -- the partisan battle that's going on now, he could be helped a great deal by this convention.

The media are going to want this ticket to come out of this convention soaring.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I agree with what Pat says.

I would add that John Kerry has to say something memorable, that people who watch this will take away a line that they can remember, whether it's about Iraq, about himself, about his plan for the country. He has not made an impression upon the country. He has not entered into the public consciousness yet. And this is the beginning. I think the debates coming ahead are going to be more critical, but this is his introduction to the American people and he has to do well in that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He needs a theme, Eleanor. A theme. Does he have a theme?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the major theme is he's not Bush, but that's not enough. (Laughter.) He needs to reassure the country that he has a plan for the country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with beating up on Bush?

MS. CLIFT: It's good that he's not Bush, and I think it's not his role to be beating up Bush; let other people do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: He's got to win this on his own.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Kerry should deviate into a theme? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: No, look, you know, when you were into the introduction -- when you gave the introduction and said he's not a Cabot and he's not a Lodge, I thought you were going to say, "But he is an old piece of cod" -- (laughter) -- because he's a cold fish. And that's one of the challenges. His people are telling journalists around town that he's got to show his personality at the convention at the convention. We've got to get to know him on an informal basis. I think that's a mistake, because I don't think -- authentically, he's kind of reserved. There's nothing wrong with that. But the theme that they've defined is security. Every night is some, you know, variation of the theme of security.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's talked about education. He's talked about health --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, yeah. But that's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's talked about jobs.

MR. BLANKLEY: He's talked about a lot of things, but the theme is going to be security and that he's a nice guy. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The country is craving uplift. Do you think that Kerry can produce it? Do you think these conventioneers can produce it?

MR. PAGE: I think they can. If there's a theme that Kerry needs to push, it's one he's mentioned in passing: We can do better. The idea that things may be okay for some people now, but we can do better than what we're doing now. And that'll keep it positive.

Eleanor's right in that he's got plenty of surrogates out there with these 527s, this MoveOn.org and the rest, who are beating up on Bush with their TV ads. And a lot of folks can't distinguish them from his campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't it true that despite Bush's optimistic talk, the message that he puts out, directly or indirectly, since 9/11 is mainly dire? "Axis of evil," WMD, mushroom cloud, "evildoers," preemptive action --

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not only that, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- body bags all add up to a monumental bummer.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, no. Wait a minute now. Security --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cheney, Ashcroft and Wolfowitz -- they don't help out either.

MR. BUCHANAN: But security is the critical --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they're all black hats. Why can't they -- why -- what we need is white hats. Do you think --

MR. BUCHANAN: All right. You're right, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Am I right or wrong?

MR. BUCHANAN: Security is a critical issue. But Kerry has the golden opportunity because, with due respect, the president has come out of the Rose Garden, he is out there campaigning like some -- you know, some guy running, as Tony said, for city council at the end of the race, cutting Kerry up. Kerry should go upstairs and stand up there as president, and show some wit and humor and the themes you talked about, and be a president.

MS. CLIFT: Right. It is a gift to him, this convention. None of the Democrats are feuding. I mean, it's "Happy Days Are Here Again" for the first time in my memory.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: And people don't know who he is. So he is operating really with a blank slate --

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, let --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: Bush's job is a lot tougher, because people know him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they sense victory?

MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.) They're positioned to win this, and I actually had one Democrat say to me if they can't beat Bush and Cheney, with all the baggage they're carrying, the Democrats don't deserve to --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not a bad point.

MR. PAGE: Well, look at the numbers. Look at the numbers right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you got a theme for him, or do you have a theme for him?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, yeah, security. But let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Security? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make another point. Kerry -- his strategy has got to be to be accessible to every possible person who's turned off of Bush. And I think it's dangerous if he goes too far from the center on any issue, because he's got to catch disillusioned moderates, not just liberals. And security is the key -- you can talk about it being gloomy, but it's a gloomy world we're in right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Historically, the Democrats have had the "vision thing."

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Kerry going to have to have the vision thing?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got to. Here's a theme: He's got to be tough on security.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the theme for Kerry?

MR. BUCHANAN: America, we're going to be tough, but we're going to be respected. We're going to lead. We're not going to be bully- ragging people. And we're not going to be like George Bush; we're going to be something bigger, larger and different. And frankly, it's something Clinton could pull off and Jack Kennedy could pull off.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not bad.

Exit question. Kerry has to excite his followers. The Democrats must leave Boston enthralled with Kerry, ready to sleep only four hours a night for the next three months to get him elected. (Laughter.) They have to smell victory. The conventioneers must feel it in their gut.

On an excitement scale of zero to 10 -- zero meaning zero excitement, 10 meaning metaphysical excitement -- how much excitement will Kerry be able to produce?

MR. BUCHANAN: This convention could produce a nine or 10 like the Clinton-Gore convention did. But it's going to depend enormously on that final speech by John Kerry, because the Democratic Party, as Eleanor said, is united. The media want him to win, and everybody is up there; they are festive and they are together, and it's all up to Kerry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Boston a natural setting for this kind of excitement?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't think you can compare it to the Clinton-Gore convention, because remember, Ross Perot dropped out in the middle of that convention.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And there probably will be some sort of news next week that will create some stir. But I think Kerry is good for a -- I think he's good for a good seven.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A seven? (Laughter.)

What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I think you don't want to raise expectations too much in this case. He is not -- I don't think he's capable of delivering a Clintonian or a Reaganite kind of a thematic upbeat speech. I think as far as his personal performance is concerned, the Democrats should be happy if he can deliver a four. (Laughter.) The party itself is very happy, and there are Democrats around town figuring out which jobs they want in the Kerry administration. So there's a lot of confidence on that side, but Kerry personally is not much of a candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he could get some of Ted Kennedy's DNA -- (laughter) -- into his veins and jolt it out that way?

MR. PAGE: I don't know how to respond to that, John. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: How about some of his scotch? (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Either one. Whatever.

MR. PAGE: Let me say this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, quickly. MR. PAGE: Kerry hasn't got to worry about his base. He's already in a dead heat with Bush in the polls, even without doing much of anything. Next week he's got to introduce himself to the American public. That 10 percent that is undecided are the least informed, least excited, and they're the ones who don't know him. And so he needs to reach out to that group by showing that he in some way can offer a better alternative to what they've got now.

MR. BLANKLEY: And they may not be watching. They may not be watching either of these conventions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We better see the surf board and the banjo- strumming Kerry -- (laughter) -- rather than Kerry in his study doing his intellectual number. Right?

MR. BUCHANAN: If he comes off as a cold fish in this first introduction and he lays an egg up there, he's going to have real trouble, because this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you predicting? Yes, he will lay an egg, or no, he won't?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's hard not -- look, these things have been poll-tested, his speech; it's been scripted. He's going to rehearse it. Everybody's going to be cheering and moving him. He's going to do the best he can --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you give him, an eight? You give him an eight?

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, Tony's too low, I think. I think the guy can get to a five or six. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I said four!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he's going to be up, and I'll give him an eight. (Laughter.)

When we come back: The 9/11 commission presents its report. What was the dog that didn't bark in those pages?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: The 9/11 commission delivers.

THOMAS KEAN (chairman, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States): (From videotape.) Mr. President, we'd like to present you a copy of our report.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The 600-page report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States was presented to the president this week by its chairman, Governor Tom Kean. For the past 20 months, the commission has toiled to understand and illuminate what happened on 9/11 and how it can be prevented from happening again. It is an exercise unmatched since the Warren Commission probed the assassination of John F. Kennedy 40 years ago.

As an exercise in open government, the 9/11 commission ranks as superlative, many believe, since we now know far more about what happened -- who dropped the ball, the missed opportunities -- than we would ever have learned without it. The commission's talented and conscientious staff made demands on many government agencies for records, for testimony from officials, for e-mails, for memos.

The mandate of the commission was to investigate how the September 11th attacks occurred, whether they could have been prevented, and what reforms will prevent future terrorist attacks. It is clear that the 10 commissioners in their unanimous report intend to let readers draw their own conclusions. But by pinpointing lapses and faults, the inescapable conclusion is that our intelligence, the FBI, aviation security and military air defense all failed; every line of defense failed.

Question: On what crucial issue was the commission silent? Where is the dog that didn't bark in this 600-page opus? Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Any notion that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. And in fact, the commission is quite critical of the notion of a war on terrorism as though there's some global evil out there that you can combat. They say al Qaeda is the enemy, it's a stateless, loosely connected network, and the other enemy is the radical Islamic ideology, neither of which had taken root in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with that, that the dog that didn't bark in this report is there's no mention of Iraq, in a striking omission, there's no mention of Iraq in connection with the war on terrorism.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, no, they did. And it's interesting to note the difference between the final commission's report and the staff report of last month. Last month they said there was no -- what's the word that they used --

MS. CLIFT: Collaborative.

MR. BLANKLEY -- no collaboration. And after the co-chairman, Hamilton, the Democrat, disagreed with that, this month in the final report they said there was no evidence of operational collaboration, recognizing that in fact there had been collaboration, as identified by Hayes and a lot of other people over the several months. So I think it supported in a stronger way the Bush administration's prewar assessment of Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: John? John, I think what was missing here is they didn't tell us why. They're telling us how we could have stopped the attack, but they did not tell us why we were attacked, and they did not tell us why they hate us. Is it because of what we believe and who we are? Or is it because of what we do in that region of the world? This, to me, is the most fundamental question: Why are we at war with these people? And they didn't touch on it and they didn't volunteer a view.

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's not exactly true. They said U.S. policies have consequences, and U.S. closeness to Israel has a consequence, and our closeness to the repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt also have consequences. So I think they did address that. We have created this problem by the company we keep, which is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's what --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, people will say it's because of who we are and what we believe that we're being attacked, and others say it's because of what we do. And it's a huge debate right now in this country.

MR. PAGE: Well, President Bush says they hate us because of who we are, what we believe in.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. PAGE: And it's just not true. You're absolutely right; it's our actions that are causing this. Throughout the Arab world we have a lot of good will as a country.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, see I believe that. Tony, I bet doesn't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you trying to say that you're not saying?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: What am I saying?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you trying to say that you're not saying?

MR. PAGE: You mean the dog that didn't bark?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No. What are you trying to say that you're not saying about our foreign policy in that region?

MR. PAGE: I'm saying that the president's rhetoric has been directed the wrong way in saying that it's good and evil, and they hate us because of what we stand for. Because we are the world's superpower right now, and our behavior throughout the Arab and Islamic world is what has unintentionally generated this type of Islamist uprising, and we've got to recognize that and deal with it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What the report points out is that a stumbling block in all of this is the position of the United States and its endorsement, or its quasi-endorsement or its putative endorsement or its perceived endorsement of Israel in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It gets into that very sensitively.

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- oppressive regimes, let's remember that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make another point here, because I think they bit off a lot and they did a pretty good job. Getting into the ancient history is a whole nother zone.

But it's certainly true -- and Pat's right -- Jimmy Carter's administration, Brzezinski, worked with the Saudis to finance the Mujaheddin. We got connected into that. Reagan inherited that, carried it forward. We have been tight with the Saudis, for very good reason, because of all the oil, going back a very long time. Our presence in supporting Saudi Arabia was an early grievance of bin Laden. It was one -- his primary objective is to go after the states that are not "bin Ladenish," you know, which includes Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Syria. And so our support of the status quo in the Middle East over the last half century has been a contributing factor -- and Israel is part of that -- has been a contributing factor to bin Laden's opposition to us. But to say that we blame it -- we couldn't function in the world without being engaged in that part of the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before that -- before that moves away --

MR. BUCHANAN: We should have addressed what Tony is talking about and what we're all talking about because it is THE central unaddressed issue: Why are they trying to kill us?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Saudi-bashers will find no comfort in this text whatsoever.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's not Saudi-bashing. That's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I understand that, and I'm not saying that you're a Saudi-basher.

MR. BLANKLEY: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they're out there, and they will find no comfort here, no comfort whatsoever.

MR. BUCHANAN: But bin Laden --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In fact, it is said --

MR. BUCHANAN: Bin Laden's main complaint is not Israel. Bin Laden's main complaint is the Americans are sitting on the soil of Saudi Arabia, especially their women soldiers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, the Roberts study and the other studies that have been done after catastrophes or after severe mistakes, like Iran-Contra, those studies -- the Tower commission -- are largely technical in their nature and in their recommendations.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Roberts commission, the trouble with that is that was ferociously partisan on the FDR people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is Pearl Harbor.

MR. BUCHANAN: What did Pearl Harbor --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: What did FDR know and when did he know it? And all these studies are --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. This --

MS. CLIFT: Well, this report --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To its credit -- first of all, this is a great document. But to its credit, it does have a chapter on what to do in global strategy that goes for about 38 pages. It's chapter 12. And in that chapter we get some excellent recommendations about our global policy, particularly with regard to Pakistan and Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, John, if 10 guys agreed on it, it's lowest common denominator. Excuse me. I would have preferred to see one side say this is what we ought to do --

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- and the other say this is what we ought to do and have this debate out.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it might have been --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me, Pat. Excuse me. You do get sentences like this in it: "If, for example, Iraq becomes a failed state, it will go to the top of the list of places that are breeding grounds for attacks against Americans at home."

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, isn't that heroic?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's heroic.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, of course it will.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it will function as a breeding --

MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody knows that.

MS. CLIFT: It's stating the obvious.

MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody knows that. (Chuckles.)

MS. CLIFT: It's a statement of the obvious.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, why don't you read it before you condemn it, all right?

MS. CLIFT: That's right. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the main recommendation.

JAMES THOMPSON (9/11 commission member): (From videotape.) If I were the president of the United States, I would want sitting next to me in a Cabinet meeting a national director of intelligence so that I could fix responsibility in one person for issues of this sort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A director of national intelligence. The commission urged the creation of a Cabinet-level position based in the White House to coordinate all 15 of America's intelligence agencies: a director of national intelligence.

Exit question: what do we really need, a new director of national intelligence and an added layer of bureaucracy, or a competent national security adviser like Sandy Berger -- (laughter) -- and a CIA director with Cabinet rank like Bill Casey?

Clarence Page, what's the answer?

MR. PAGE: Well, I think the intelligence -- well, okay. I like the last idea because you just sprung it on me. (Laughter.) Cabinet- level intelligence makes sense. We need some kind of coordination so at least these various bodies will talk to each other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And a competent national security --

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, there's no perfect answer. This is a trade- off.

MORE

When you centralize at the top, you inevitably put in more layers between operations --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what do you want? What do you want? Do you want the czar, the quasi-czar idea?

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm skeptical of the czar, and I'm skeptical of making another Cabinet member, because that tends to politicize even more --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Because he's right on the president's Cabinet --

MR. BLANKLEY: Because he's in the Cabinet --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- right at his elbow.

MR. BLANKLEY: So there are dangers there, although I understand arguments that way.

MR. BUCHANAN: I would go with the Bill Casey model, I think, of a director of Central Intelligence who is very strong and who has got oversight of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the about the political threat of that situation, the architecture of it? He's sitting right there next to the president.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you've got the NSC adviser presumably in the room as well, and the secretary of State.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. What do you say?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the way you phrased it points out that this comes down, ultimately, to the human being that occupies the job. And what the commission did should have been done by the national security adviser --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.

MS. CLIFT: -- and a top person on that -- ' MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. We all want to leave things the way they are. That's the way this is coming out.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. No. No.

MS. CLIFT: No. Absent that, I think I have enough trust in this commission that I would go for whatever they ask. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. That's two. Okay.

Issue three: Bush NAACP no-show.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) I understand you've been having trouble getting some speakers. (Laughter.)

But you know what? When you're president of the United States, you can pretty much say where you want to be and when. (Applause.) And when you're president -- and when you're president, you need to talk to all of the people, and that's exactly what I intend to do. (Cheers, applause)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: An easy swipe by John Kerry at the absent George Bush.

President Bush angered NAACP leaders last week by turning down their invitation to speak at their annual convention, a decision stemming from what the NAACP chairman, Julian Bond, said about Mr. Bush and his judge nominees in a 2001 speech. "President Bush selected nominees from the Taliban wing of American politics, appeased the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing and has chosen Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection."

That kind of language estranged Mr. Bush. But cold arithmetic has also estranged him. Nine out of 10 black voters supported his opponent in the presidential election four years ago: Al Gore.

On Friday the president did address the National Urban League, another distinguished black organization, and was well received. Will that help erase his NAACP no-show and boost his black vote? I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Well, I don't know if boosting the black vote is really the achievable goal here. The NAACP is more of a grass-roots organization than the Urban League, but it does represent more of rank-and-file black opinion.

But I think, regardless of what grudge Bush may have about the NAACP, he should have gone. It would be a slam dunk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.

MR. PAGE: Even if he had gotten booed, he would have looked noble. But not to show up, he just wimps out. And he encourages more of the division --

MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. His position is positive on affirmative action. Number two, in the Missouri --

MR. PAGE (?): Halfway.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the Missouri (sic) law school case, he argued on the side --

MR. BUCHANAN: Michigan law school.

MR. BLANKLEY: Michigan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michigan law school. What side did he argue on?

MR. BUCHANAN: He came down in favor of diversity. And he said the court had a good opinion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, he did. And he has Condoleezza and he has the secretary of State. He has nothing to be ashamed of.

MR. BLANKLEY: I want to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't he go there and have the encounter?

MR. PAGE: He does indeed have things to brag about, and he should have gone and made his case.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point. Whatever it was --

MR. BUCHANAN: He shouldn't brag about (that ?).

MR. BLANKLEY: Whatever he was, he didn't wimp out. The easy thing was to go there, because he knew he was going to take heat. It was politically the smart thing to do to go there. He --

MR. PAGE: This is a no-spin zone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the NAACP?

MR. PAGE: What are you talking about? Come on, the easy thing is to say "I'm not coming."

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, ridiculous.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your point?

MR. BLANKLEY: My point is that he acted against his own political interest not going there, because he's only going to further arouse the black vote against him, but he wasn't going to go to speak to a group of people who ran ads accusing him of murder, which is what they did in the 2000 campaign.

MS. CLIFT: He acted in his own --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: He acted in his political interest of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: -- courting the right, which is what is the motivating factor of this administration. When he spoke to the Urban League, he hauled out compassionate conservatism, which is about reaching suburban voters, it's not about getting blacks (with him ?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The question is, how much of a bounce, poll bounce, will Kerry get after this convention?

MR. BUCHANAN: He'll be seven points ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Four to six.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four to six?

MR. PAGE: Five.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five.

MR. BLANKLEY: Seven points, but it won't last long.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I will say three. There's not much elasticity left in these matters in the American scene today.

Next week we'll grade Kerry and the rest of the Democratic Convention.

Bye-bye.

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Untucked.

Four years ago, the dot-com boom went bust, and with it, the tailoring phenomenon of "casual Friday." But the sartorial influence of instant millionaires remains intact. And it's not just Friday anymore, it's every day. A front-page article in the prim New York Times recently said that untucked shirttails are, quote, "the new pennants of rebellion."

Movie stars on the red carpet? They're untucked, too. Young executives at the office? Untucked. "It's a kind of non-fashion fashion look. It's one of those looks that's meant to seem like there's no effort, although we know that it's really thought-out."

Question: What is the deeper meaning of this trend? Is it Freudian, as The New York Times suggests? And if so, how do you explain it?

Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: What, revealing your tail or something. I don't know. (Laughter.) Look. I think it's as silly as the calculated three-day growth that some movie actors maintain. I don't know how you keep it constantly three days.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony --

MR. BLANKLEY: It doesn't mean anything.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The deeper meaning is obesity.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is a way to cover the love handles and the excessive -- (cross talk) -- posterior.

MR. PAGE: I don't know about that, John --

MR. BLANKLEY: The cover-up is being done by young men who are fit and trim. I don't think -- (cross talk, laughter).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, no.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is more serious than that. It is the proletarianization of the elite. Marie Antoinette at the end of the Ancien Regime; she's dressing as a shepherdess, and she's going out -- you know, this is the truth. When the elites began to proletarianize themselves, it is basically the end of a society.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's sociology.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's not sociology, it's history.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me add two cents --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about cosmetics here. That's the real answer. It was like the shaved head phenomenon of a few years back, and it's still in existence.

MR. BUCHANAN: Shaved heads are for skinheads!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, they're not for skinheads; they're for those who are bald and they want to make it look like fashion.

MR. BUCHANAN: But you know, that's when people in the elite start behaving like the poor, that's when society heading downhill.

MS. CLIFT: Actually --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a way to disguise premature baldness.

MS. CLIFT: Actually, the poor don't walk around with their shirttails out. I mean, I think this is a fine fashion statement. Doesn't cost any money, and most fashion statements, you know, cost you big bucks at Pierre Cardin. So --

MR. PAGE: Spoken like a parent whose kids are grown, Eleanor.

You know, John, let me play with the deeper meaning of this. As a 15-year-old who's into hip-hop and the half-tuck -- which is the front half of your shirt tucked in, which is also a fad now -- I think the deeper meaning is to upset parents. Simple as that. (Laughter.) That's what it's about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there a female version of this which is also dictated by cosmetics?

MR. BUCHANAN: Bare midriff!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see these women walking down the beach and they have their sweaters strung over their middle and tied in front. Is that also not an effort to hide -- (laughter) --

MS. CLIFT: I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to hide --

MS. CLIFT: The mumu has been around for a long time. (Cross talk, laughter.) That hides lot of sin.

MR. PAGE: This will go the way of the Nehru jacket. ####

END