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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL

TAPED: FRIDAY, JULY 30, 2004
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 31-AUGUST 1, 2004

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Reporting for duty.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA) (Democratic candidate for president): (From videotape.) My fellow Americans, we're here tonight united in one purpose: to make America stronger at home and respected in the world! (Cheers, applause.)

That is my first pledge to you tonight. As president, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House. (Cheers, applause.)

I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. (Cheers, applause.) I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. (Cheers, applause.)

I will have a secretary of Defense who will listen to the advice of the military leaders. And I will appoint an attorney general who will uphold the Constitution of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, I know that there are those who've criticized me for seeing complexities, and I do, because some issues just aren't all that simple. Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming "mission accomplished" certainly doesn't make it so. (Cheers, applause.)

Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say, "I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm's way, but we had no choice. We had to protect the American people, fundamental American values, against a threat that was real and imminent." (Cheers, applause.)

Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and a certain response.

I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush.

Let's respect one another, and let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)

I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did John Kerry deflect all doubts during this convention about his capacity to be an able and decisive commander in chief? Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he did the best job he has ever done in his career at that, before the largest audience before which he has ever spoken. That John Kerry standing at that podium is an individual who is a moderate, a centrist, who even has conservative instincts, for whom a conservative could vote with a good conscience. The problem Kerry has and his party has is this party is a liberal, anti-war, pro- gay rights, pro-abortion, anti-Iraq, anti-Bush party, and Kerry is himself an anti-war activist, a McGovernite in the '70s and a Teddy Kennedy Democrat in the '80s and '90s. And the question is, can he carry this off and present himself as this centrist, moderate, even conservative and win the presidency? That's the question of this election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, Kerry tackled the Bush claim of commander in chief head on and he went beyond it. He tried to make himself -- and I want you to tell me whether he was successful -- into presenting himself to the American people, John Kerry, as the war president; that he can handle the war better than Clinton.

MS. CLIFT: He -- better than Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush, rather.

MS. CLIFT: He took it to Bush and he did it very aggressively, but in the glow of this positive convention. And he took the issues of national security and values, which are the issues that the Democrats have skated over in the past, and instead he sailed right into them and I thought made a very effective presentation. Also using the Vietnam experience as a formative experience that tells you a lot about him, but then tying it to how he would perform as president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: It was a superb speech and a superb presentation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To move that forward, Tony, and then I'm going to turn to you for your wisdom, let's do that.

Okay, I'm going -- I'm up to the job and these esteemed authorities agree with me. Here's retired General John Shalikashvili, NATO supreme allied commander under President Bush 41 and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton.

GENERAL JOHN SHALIKASHVILI (USA-RET.): (From videotape.) I am here as an old soldier and a new Democrat. (Cheers, applause.) I am -- I am a new Democrat because I believe strongly that John Kerry and John Edwards are the right choice for American security and the right choice for America.

So I truly believe that no one will be more resolute in defending America nor in pursuing terrorists than John Kerry. (Cheers, applause.) And that no one will be more skilled in bringing allies back to our side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Many generals, as well as the band of brothers with Kerry in Vietnam, lavished praise on John Kerry at the convention. This question focuses on General John Shalikashvili's endorsement. How powerful is that endorsement to make the point that John Kerry is the true war president?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I don't think that the nation knows that much his name. But the value of being endorsed by senior retired generals and admirals obviously is useful, and he knows that he needs those endorsements because he has a record of 18 years in the Senate that's inconsistent with what he's presenting himself as now. And so he has filled up this wonderfully designed event. He gave a wonderful speech. I'd give him an A-minus on style. But the substance isn't there, and over the next hundred days some of the inconsistencies between the image, the shadow, and the substance of his record as senator is going to be a challenge for him. He may be able to surmount it; we'll see. But the image is not going to get by without a thorough thrashing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? Did he succeed in clearing the hurdle of commander in chief in a time of war?

MR. O'DONNELL: He cleared that hurdle higher than anybody's ever cleared it before. "I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president." There is no other nominee who can stand up there and say that, and everything that follows after that makes perfect sense.

The modern voter does not have much of a memory of where people have been on issues over time. I mean, when you look at Bill Clinton working to be the most liberal president in history in his first two years, two years later running for reelection very successfully as a very good cooperator with his Republican masters in the Congress. No one remembered what he was trying to do in those first two years.

Kerry is going to be running on his war history quite well, and then on the -- just the way he took charge of this campaign single- handedly and could not have been more effective stylistically then getting that across.

MS. CLIFT: He laid claim to the flag, which the Republicans think they own.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, we don't think we own that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And he overcame the weakness that the Republicans have projected onto the Democratic Party. This was the mommy party talking like the daddy party.

MR. BLANKLEY: There's an intellectual dishonesty behind the Kerry Iraq argument. He -- and most people in this town I think would agree -- he voted for the war in September of 2002 because the Democrats wanted to get the war vote behind them before the election. And probably his sentiment wasn't there; we can't prove that. Then, come a year later, he votes against the money because Howard Dean's popular in the antiwar movement at the time, and so he goes against that vote. And now he says you have to speak honestly to the American people about this -- about war and peace. He's cast two dishonest votes.

MR. BUCHANAN: John?

MR. O'DONNELL: He voted against the money because of the taxes.

MR. BUCHANAN: They key question --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat?

MR. BLANKLEY: Intellectually dishonest.

MR. BUCHANAN: The key question here is, does his Vietnam service -- the film of the Vietnam service, the swiftboat captain, the bravery in combat -- does that inoculate him against the 1970s, calling his comrades war criminals, the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000 vote as a leftist Democrat on defense? Can the Republicans, in effect, say that's what he did then, but this is what he really is? That should be --

MS. CLIFT: Do you really --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard O'Donnell here. O'Donnell says --

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, he did a magnificent -- if the vote were held today, John --

MS. CLIFT: Do you really think --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it, Eleanor.

If the vote were held today, I think Kerry would carry this nation. That argument would carry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MR. BUCHANAN: The question is, will he later?

MS. CLIFT: Do you really think President Bush wants to fight this election on who fought in Vietnam --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, on national security.

MS. CLIFT: -- and who protested the war afterwards? I don't think so.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, who's got the right policy and who has consistently supported a strong defense as opposed to someone who's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: We're talking about consistency.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: The president's consistency on weapons of mass destruction, on why we went to war --

MR. BLANKLEY: He's been consistent, saying they're still there.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- on a Medicare --

MR. BLANKLEY: He said those weapons are there; we just haven't found them yet.

MS. CLIFT: -- on a Medicare drug proposal that is a total sham. He's got plenty of vulnerability in truth -- under the truth --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, the war stories at this convention and the support that he's got from the military is outstanding, it's critical, and it's probably determinative. But what about the women in this country? What about their concern for security? The combat stories go over well with the men, but do you think he's reached the women, who are very concerned about personal security for themselves and their families? Do yo you think he's reaching them?

MS. CLIFT: I definitely think he's reaching them with the combat stories as well. I think women respect somebody who volunteered --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They respect bravery.

MS. CLIFT: They respect bravery and they respect somebody who volunteered for something he didn't have to do. Plus the fact he rescued his daughter's hamster. (Laughter.) And every woman is going to relate to that, as well. If he's going to care about the least among us -- (laughs) -- that's a very good thing.

MR. BLANKLEY: And gave it CPR. He gave that little rodent CPR. How do you even do that? (Laughter.) A fascinating question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Assign a letter grade from "A" to "F" to Kerry's nomination acceptance speech in Boston. One grade for substance, one grade for style, in that order. Substance and style.

Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, John Kerry basically is a "C" student. This was an "A" performance in substance for him and an "A" performance in style.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I absolutely agree. "A," "A."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: High ratings here today.

Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think substance a "B," and style an "A"-minus.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think substance is a "B," in fact, and I think the style was an "A."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think substance is a "B" because this speech and also Edwards' speech was -- less so this speech, but definitely Edwards' speech is a laundry list?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, look. Edwards, substantively, went from getting a "D" up to about a "C"-plus in substance on his speech. But, you know, I mean Kerry's speech did have some leads off the bag and did have some inconsistencies in it if you are reading it, but the way John Kerry presented it, all of that stuff flew by and it landed perfectly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there are any cheap shots in the speech?

MR. O'DONNELL: There were little backhands, about the attorney general and things like that, but they weren't specific attacks on them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that if you parsed it the way Clinton does, you could say, well, it really wasn't as bad as you think it was. It was conveniently ambivalent in meaning.

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And one of those meanings could be quite negative.

MR. O'DONNELL: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: John. Wait.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, we --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, wait.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have to --

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait. I've got to say something quickly. He says in the same breath, let's have the high road, let's respect each other, and this guy's breaking the Constitution. I mean, how --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughing, laughing, laughing.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, come on. Come on.

MR. BLANKLEY: Same breath!

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BLANKLEY: The same sentence. Literally.

MS. CLIFT: I think touting -- amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage warrants some --

MR. BUCHANAN: I didn't hear him say gay marriage --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to move on.

I'll give him an "A" and a "B," and that translates to an "A"- minus. "B" for substance.

MR. BUCHANAN: "B"-plus.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give him a "B"-plus for substance.

MR. BLANKLEY: Very close.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back: What will John Edwards' principal role be in the campaign? Cheerleader or hatchet man?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Wingman.

SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC) (Democratic candidate for vice president): (From videotape.) I have spent my life fighting for the kind of people that I grew up with. For two decades, I stood with kids and families against big HMOs and big insurance companies. When I got to the Senate, I fought those same fights against the Washington lobbyists.

We're going to get rid of tax cuts for companies who are outsourcing your jobs.

We're going to roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. We're going to close corporate loopholes. (Cheers, applause.) We're going to cut government contractors and wasteful spending.

We're going to raise the minimum wage, we're going to finish the job on welfare reform, and we're going to bring good-paying jobs to the places where we need them the most.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry's running mate is a one-term senator from North Carolina whose principal strength is his crowd appeal; John Edwards, a millionaire trial lawyer who rose to prominence in the Democratic primaries this year. Republicans and their allies in big business are giddy over Edwards' position on the ticket. They think it marks Kerry-Edwards as hostile to business and too liberal for mainstream voters.

Question: Should American business fear and loathe the Kerry- Edwards ticket? I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: No. And it's one of those things that you just look historically at how business does under Democratic administrations, and of course they thrive. You know, the real Edwards question is how is he going to wear down the line. He is inexperienced. He can appear to be lightweight. He certainly did appear that way during the primaries.

He is, though, highly educable, and quickly so, as trial lawyers must be. They have to learn complex bodies of information quickly and be able to handle it.

You know, some people were saying on the night of Edwards' speech -- some people said to me, with Edwards performing that well, will this hurt Kerry? And I was absolutely sure that what Edwards' strong performance and his speech would do would be make Kerry play better.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We isolated out in that strip of bites the liberal side, the "raw meat," liberal meat that he threw to that audience. But do you think that American business should worry about this administration? Is the Kerry-Edwards ticket good for business?

MR. BLANKLEY; Well, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, who presumably has a reasonably rational view of the interests of American business, when Edwards was chosen, said, "We're going to start raising real money now," because they are afraid of the trial lawyers and what the trial lawyers will do. Now, you can say that the chamber doesn't know where its interests lie, but that's their view and they're starting to raise some real money.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the ticket too liberal, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no. I don't think it's -- yeah, I do think it's too liberal, but they're presenting themselves as centrist.

Edwards' problem is this: You get the benefits up front from Edwards. The press loves him. He came on; it's energy; it's youth. A beautiful family. But that speech, to me, was a cross between the "music man" and a Cadillac salesman; you know, giving you every single item on an Escalade in 60 seconds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: One after the other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "You want this? I can give it to you. You want that? I can give it to you."

MR. BUCHANAN: It was too slick. He is too slick. He's a pretty boy and he looks too slick and he does not wear well. If this election's going to be won by Kerry, Kerry's going to have to win it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying --

MS. CLIFT: He's a very --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Are you saying that Edwards is a mistake?

MR. BUCHANAN: I believe he -- no. Initially it got him through a week that was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he a mistake, Pat? If he wins, he's in for four years.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, if he wins, it's not a mistake. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: He may not wear well with Pat Buchanan, but every state that he went into, the longer he stayed, he did better. And if he had had a longer period of time, he might have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, wait a minute. (Cross talk, laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: However, watching him there, it's clearly obvious that he is the junior partner. He deserves to be the junior partner.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Junior to Elizabeth? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Junior to John Kerry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What saved him was --

MS. CLIFT: And business will -- under this administration, we'll probably get tort reform, because if you look at Edwards, he's got ideas out there on curbing frivolous lawsuits.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You should know --

MS. CLIFT: Nixon goes to China; a repeat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You should know this better than I: What saved Edwards was Elizabeth. She's wonderful.

Okay, Al Sharpton makes a point.

AL SHARPTON (2004 Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Mr. President, you said would we have more leverage if both parties got our votes. But we didn't come this far playing political games. It was those that earned our vote that got our vote. We got the Civil Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the Voting Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the right to organize under a Democrat. (Cheers, applause.)

Question: Is Sharpton right? Is it the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party, that deserves the black vote? Yes or no?

Lawrence O'Donnell?

MR. O'DONNELL: On that historical basis, yes, it does, but it also deserves to be rid of the rantings of this hustler, and Barack Obama has come along to take the real place that he deserves on that podium. This guy was not in prime time, and he never will be again. (Cross talk, laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Barack Obama has a place in the pantheon, but not necessarily just because he's another African-American. And Al Sharpton had one of the best lines of the convention. He said if George W. Bush was naming Supreme Court justices in 1954, Clarence Thomas would have never gotten into law school.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's a calumny because Bush has never been a segregationist. So I mean, he just makes this stuff up. This is a guy who's been successfully sued for libel --

MS. CLIFT: I think Rehnquist --

MR. BLANKLEY: But I would point out that his rantings were extremely well received by the delegates at the Democratic convention.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. The convention loved him, and frankly, the 40 acres and the mule was terrific stuff. (Laughter.) He is an entertaining speaker. It was his convention, and he's got a right to say it. We may not agree with it, Tony -- (laughs).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, this convention, I think you will agree, for the Democrats was extraordinary. First of all, it was extremely civilized. At times, it seemed for the Democrats more like church than it did a convention.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was no rancor, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was a tremendous success because the -- Sharpton, Kennedy and the others, Dean, were in early time prime time. It was a moderate, centrist convention; good speeches, some excellent speeches. And I think it's going to help them tremendously.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: The Pantheon.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Their opponents will tell you we should be afraid of John Kerry and John Edwards because they won't stand up to terror. Don't you believe it. Strength and wisdom are not opposing values.

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: (From videotape.) With our allies disunited, the world resenting us, and the Middle East ablaze, we need John Kerry to restore life to the global war against terrorism. (Cheers, applause.)

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA): (From videotape.) The goals of the American people are every bit as high as they were more than 200 years ago. If America is failing to reach them today, it's not because our ideals need replacing; it's because our president needs replacing. (Cheers, applause.)

AL GORE (former vice president): (From videotape.) John Kerry and John Edwards in the White House in 2004 -- (cheers, applause) -- so we can have a new direction in America -- a new president, a new vice president, new policies, a new day, a brighter future, what this country and what our people deserve. (Cheers, applause continue.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A pantheon of Democratic Party luminaries -- Clinton, Carter, Kennedy, Gore -- pounded the podium at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston this week to boost their nominee, John Forbes Kerry.

I was in the hall for the Clintons, Hillary and Bill. They had a lock on that hall that I haven't seen since Ronald Reagan. It was unbelievable.

My question to you is, is that lock on the Democratic Party going to stay on it?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I'm glad you showed those clips, because I forgot about those speeches by the time we got to Thursday night.

I was in the hall, too, and I felt the lock. I was in the hall for Thursday night, for the John Kerry speech, and I've never felt anything like it in a Democratic convention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that the baton has passed from the Clintons to Kerry?

MR. O'DONNELL: We have entered the Kerry chapter of Democratic Party history, yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the biggest loser at the convention, in my judgment, was Hillary Rodham Clinton. She --

MR. O'DONNELL: She loves being a senator.

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

MS. CLIFT: By saying that, you're conceding the November election to John Kerry.

MR. BUCHANAN: No --

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We all agree. Eleanor, we all agree --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that this convention, for the Democrats, was not great; it was not good; it was excellent!

MS. CLIFT: Excellent. (Chuckles.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we all agreed on that?

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much of a bounce, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Seven points, but gone by mid-August.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Six points, endures.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long?

MR. BLANKLEY: Five or six, and a very slow fade.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence?

MR. O'DONNELL: Not a real bounce, but Kerry will consistently poll somewhat ahead of Bush right up until the Republican convention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly right, Lawrence.

Bye-bye!

PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Teresa endorses John.

TERESA HEINZ KERRY: (From videotape.) John is a fighter. He earned his medals the old-fashioned way -- (cheers, applause) -- by putting his life on the line for his country. And no one will defend this nation more vigorously than he will, and he will always, always be first in the line of fire.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How effective was Teresa's speech at the convention, Lawrence O'Donnell?

MR. O'DONNELL: She was very effective. She came in there -- a lot of people had doubts about her -- and she basically had to convey "I'm one of you." And it's not an easy thing for someone who is foreign-born and has the accent and all of that. And everyone knows she's got, you know, $500 million. And she came across very, very well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think she has authenticity?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. That's her strong suit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. O'DONNELL: And that, by the way, is her defense when she gets into trouble about what she might have said here or there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's see how authentic this sounds. Here's Teresa during an encounter with a reporter from the ueber- conservative Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

(Begin videotape segment.)

MS. HEINZ KERRY: Are you with the Tribune Review?

REPORTER: Yes, I am.

MS. HEINZ KERRY: Of course. Understandable.

REPORTER: You said -- no, ma'am --

MS. HEINZ KERRY: You said something I didn't say. Now shove it.

(End videotape segment.)

(Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Teresa's tendency to speak her mind in a fashion like this is liability, Lawrence?

MR. O'DONNELL: I live in a country where the number-one song in the Bible Belt was "Take This Job and Shove It," okay? (Laughter.) So that is the most -- that is a nothing event. It works to her benefit, shows she's human.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that she's converted this style and this condition, this temperament, into a political plus?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's too soon to tell. I think she's a fascinating person. She does say what she thinks. Billionaires say what they want to say and do what they want to do.

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: And if that's not a song title, I don't know one. (Laughs.) But that makes it much more interesting. Now whether it works or not, I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I think she's an acquired taste. She's outside the parameters of what we're accustomed to. Her handlers in the campaign were very nervous during the primaries. But she got far better press than anybody anticipated, simply because she is real --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, yes.

MS. CLIFT: -- in a profession that has gotten so overly choreographed. And she speaks to women's issues. Plus the fact she's five years older than her husband -- it's sort of liberating for a lot of women.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: So I think she has the potential to really communicate with women in particular.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember what Reagan said in New Hampshire? "I paid for this microphone, Mr. Breen." That flash of --

MR. BUCHANAN: Authenticity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- spontaneity --

MR. BUCHANAN: Spontaneity, it comes out of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- reveals -- reveals character.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- reveals character. Exactly right. I think she's a very -- I think she -- I met her years and years ago. She is very attractive. She's authentic. She speaks her mind. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she a breath of fresh air?

MR. BUCHANAN: She certainly is. But there is this problem, John. She's the coming first lady -- and millions in America love Laura Bush, and she is like a little vial of nitroglycerine. That could go off --

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should there be a debate between Laura and Teresa? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Laura Bush would not do it. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would she welcome it?

MS. CLIFT: I don't really think it's necessary, no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, we'd all welcome it, wouldn't we? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: It would be fun, but unnecessary. ####

END