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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL:
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC
ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK
TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT

DATE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 27, 2004

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: The Fog of War.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE): (From videotape.) The Bush campaign and its allies have turned to the tactics of fear and smear because they can't talk about jobs, health care, energy independence and rebuilding our alliances.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Kerry is blaming President Bush for a hard-hitting TV ad campaign that has ambushed the Kerry team. The ads are by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Kerry's Vietnam contemporaries. On Wednesday, former senator and Vietnam War veteran Max Cleland arrived at the president's Crawford ranch with a letter signed by nine senators, all veterans, urging Bush to denounce the Swift Vet ad.

FORMER SENATOR MAX CLELAND (D-GA): (From videotape.) These scurrilous attacks on John Kerry's credibility in war, his courage, his valor, are false. And George Bush is behind it. This president has gone after three Vietnam veterans in four years. That's got to stop.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cleland is referring to John McCain, himself and Kerry. The Bush campaign denies any coordination with the Swift Boat vets. But on Wednesday, Benjamin Ginsberg, a lawyer, came forward after it was revealed that besides advising the Bush campaign, he also advises the Swift Boat Veterans. Ginsberg says the revelation is true, but it's a non-story.

BENJAMIN GINSBERG (FORMER BUSH-CHENEY ATTORNEY): (From videotape.) Lawyers are permitted by the law to provide legal services for both.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush thus far has not condemned the Swift Boat ad as false, but he wants all such special-interest ads yanked.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I thought we were going to, once and for all, get rid of the system where people could just pour tons of money in and not be held to account.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Later in the week, the president said he did not believe that John Kerry was lying about his Vietnam record.

Question: What are the salient facts about John Kerry that have emerged from the fog of the Vietnam War? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the first thing is, John, that the American people are coming, because of these ads, to question whether John Kerry really was all that heroic in battle, whether he deserved these medals, whether he told the truth.

Secondly, the American people, a lot of them, are being introduced for the first time to that riveting, compelling, but excoriating testimony Kerry gave against Americans who were serving in Vietnam and what appears to be against their officers and against the troops themselves. You are getting a direct challenge to Kerry's credibility, character and integrity. And he is engaged on this now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you read that Senate testimony?

MR. BUCHANAN: I read the Senate testimony. Yes, I did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see the wicked contextual pullout of his words?

MR. BUCHANAN: I did. But I read further, John. If you read further, Kerry says there that "It is the hateful crimes, not the reds, that are the problem. We are ashamed of what we did and they told us to do." He in there endorses what he has said earlier and what the individuals at the Winter Soldier event testified to falsely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the bite that we played here was a wicked extraction of a speech -- not a speech; testimony before the Senate. If you read it in its entirety, it presents a quite different picture about John Kerry. True or false?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. First, salient facts: John Kerry served. He volunteered for a war that his opponents worked very hard to avoid. Secondly, what he said when he came back from that war -- and the war had lost a great deal of popularity -- he was quoting what other veterans had said at a rather famous winter meeting --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where?

MS. CLIFT: -- in Detroit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: And he has said that some of his rhetoric may have been over the top, but he stands by what he said. And, Pat, I can't believe America's memory is as short as yours appears to be. Fifty-eight thousand people died in Vietnam. It was a mistake, whether you were on the left or the right.

By the time John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill, 44,000 people had died. Atrocities were -- you're acting like this is the first time anybody has, you know, said anything like this; it was Kerry responsible. The Toledo Blade won a Pulitzer this year for revealing Vietnam-era atrocities. Remember Lieutenant Calley. Remember My Lai. Remember Zippo lighters burning hooches. A lot of people served over there honorably, but these things did happen.

MR. BUCHANAN: Nobody --

MS. CLIFT: And they happened because our political leadership --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we move on, please, Patrick?

MS. CLIFT: -- because our political leadership sanctioned a war and sanctioned search-and-destroy missions which led to this thing. Kerry is correct to stand by the facts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-five thousand Americans were killed in that war. Today the communist government continues to exist and thrive. And we have business as usual with that government. If that doesn't create a challenge to any kind of moral clarity, what does? Do you care to answer that question?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, not particularly. Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would you like to answer, some of this small-bore retail that you spread all over in that screamer headline like an announcement of war in your newspaper?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I'll tell you, there's a lot of misrepresentation going on from the big media. They're mischaracterizing their investigations of Kerry and saying -- of the Swift Boat operations and saying that they've lost all credibility when, in fact, Kerry himself and his people have already conceded they were misstating the Cambodia at Christmastime. They misstated being in combat for the first Purple Heart.

They haven't admitted it, but the record shows that they misstated that he tried to get into combat, because when his deferment was up, he joined the Naval Reserve. He then requested service in the Swift Boats, which at the time that he requested them were not in combat. Then Admiral Zumwalt took it over between the time he went for them and Zumwalt turned it into a dangerous operation, and he performed honorably at that point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was Kerry in close-quarter combat?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Was he decorated for valor?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, yes, he was.

MR. BUCHANAN: Twice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Twice. Bronze Star. Bronze Star, Silver Star -- tough to get.

MR. BLANKLEY: Based in part --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Confirmed by John Warner, who was former secretary of the Navy and is currently an esteemed United States senator.

MR. BLANKLEY: And based in part on his own reports.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, before I go to the distinguished Mort Zuckerman, the new Swift Boat ad.

(Excerpt of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisement.)

JOHN KERRY: (From Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony in 1971.) They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads.

JOE PONDER (VIETNAM VETERAN): The accusations that John Kerry made against the veterans who served in Vietnam was just devastating.

(End of excerpt.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is this why Kerry's fellow Vietnam vets are attacking him, to settle old scores? They have to answer to their children and their grandchildren about these barbarities.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, I think it's not just settling old scores. I mean, here you have a lot of people whom I think really felt that the broad brush with which he painted everything that happened in Vietnam also covered them, including a lot of people who served honorably and served well. And I think, in political terms, I think that's what's doing damage to Kerry, along with one other thing.

I'll tell you, I think most of the people in this country did not realize that he'd only been in Vietnam for four months, approximately. I mean, it didn't seem like -- that's not the way we --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long was he in the United States Navy?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know how long --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: About a year and a half, I believe. Is that correct? Did he volunteer to go ashore?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not diminishing what he did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sounds like it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm just talking about the political consequences of what he did. And I'll tell you another thing. If he didn't know that he was going to be attacked by these people after making it the centerpiece of the convention, then he was not prepared for this campaign. And what I'm amazed at is how poorly, in a sense, they have responded to it. It has now exploded in their faces.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Nobody thought this would happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A different kind of contradiction. John O'Neill, co-author of the book "Unfit for Command," and member of the Swift Boat Veterans group, accused Kerry of concocting a story about having been in Cambodia in 1968 when, in fact, Kerry was not there, as Kerry indeed was not.

But Mr. O'Neill himself appears to have been hoisted by his own petard. In a recently disclosed 1971 tape of a conversation with Richard Nixon, O'Neill tells the then-president, quote, "I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water." Nixon: "In a swift boat?" O'Neill: "Yes, sir." In point of fact, O'Neill had never been in Cambodia, and O'Neill said so this week.

Question: Are these Cambodia memories false memories? I ask you.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's a non sequitur, because the Kerry campaign -- and Kerry, by the way, is the one who's running for president, not O'Neill -- has already admitted --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's okay for O'Neill to lie.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, wait a minute. Let me just finish the thought.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If not because he's running for president, Kerry can't lie.

MR. BLANKLEY: Kerry has already --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When did that come --

MR. BLANKLEY: Kerry has already admitted he wasn't there, so O'Neill's charge on that point has been admitted by Kerry.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but he admitted he wasn't there on Christmas Eve, but he was there a few days later.

(Cross-talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Wait a second.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we move on? Okay, let's let --

MS. CLIFT: There was a secret war.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, the secret war, right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'll be with you in one minute. Okay, Senator Dole, a question for you, sir: Is John Kerry a hero or is he not a hero?

FORMER SENATOR BOB DOLE: (From videotape.) I said John Kerry is a hero.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, the question is, will Dole's attribution of hero status to John Kerry quell the side show that you are enamored of?

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you kidding, John? Have you seen Bob Dole's quotes? Bob Dole goes in and says, "I'm not going to question this or that." He did say he's got three Purple Hearts --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said he's a hero.

MR. BUCHANAN: He said he's got three Purple Hearts. He didn't even bleed. And when he came home, he accused people of raping. He ought to apologize.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I heard him just on that. I have the clip there. He said he was a hero.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay, you've got to put all together -- Bob Dole has ripped John Kerry up this week like no one else.

MS. CLIFT: Wait a second. Bob Dole said all of those Swift Boat veterans can't be Republican liars. And then he did go on to say that John Kerry was a hero. He has also said in his own memoir that he didn't really bleed with his first Purple Heart, and he's not questioning the validity of --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: The guy's not questioning the validity of John Kerry's medals. And it is really sort of sad that they pull out Bob Dole --

MR. BLANKLEY: They didn't -- nobody pulled --

MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible) -- himself from being a hatchet man to a war hero.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said he was a hero.

MS. CLIFT: John Kerry called him after hearing what he had to --

MR. BLANKLEY: Can we return to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know, I know. Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: John Kerry --

MR. BLANKLEY: She never does finish.

MS. CLIFT: Because you won't let me.

MR. BLANKLEY: Okay, go ahead.

MS. CLIFT: I'm going to finish, and I'm going to take every bit of time that I want.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, go ahead, quickly.

MS. CLIFT: John Kerry called Bob Dole because he had seen what he had said, and Bob Dole backed down so fast, because there is a brotherhood among --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Dole say?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he apologized, essentially, for --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he didn't.

MS. CLIFT: -- his heroism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was programmed?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me finish this.

MS. CLIFT: I think that he said some things in the service of the party that maybe he wishes he hadn't.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me return to planet earth just for a second. Bob Dole had been out of action on this story for months. Due to Kerry's activities, Dole is now weighing in. He's going all over TV saying things that are detrimental to Kerry's election prospects. To say -- to take that three syllables that you picked out --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it was a full sentence.

MR. BLANKLEY: Okay, a full sentence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Take a look at the transcript. The question was --

MR. BLANKLEY: I watched him on TV all week bad-mouthing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sure, because you didn't read the script. You didn't read the transcript. You heard what you wanted to hear.

MR. BLANKLEY: I watched him on television bad-mouthing Kerry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you read the entire --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I've read --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- interview with Wolf Blitzer?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: I read an excerpt of 30 seconds and they run half a minute on other areas. John, he has been destroying Kerry. Kerry called him twice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To refresh --

MS. CLIFT: I don't think Bob Dole --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment --

MS. CLIFT: -- is capable of destroying John Kerry, for starters.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To refresh you, he started out with Blitzer talking about "All this time spent on Kerry is a mistake." He ends up the interview by saying, "You ought to take a week off and get your other peers to go in there and spend more time on Kerry and get the facts straight." Now, you figure that out.

MS. CLIFT: Bob Dole also says John Kerry's ahead and would probably win the election if it were held today, which is what this is all about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human --

MR. BUCHANAN: Maybe last week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the human toll. U.S. military dead in Iraq, 971; U.S. military amputees, wounded, injured, or psychologically disabled, 26,400; Iraqi civilian dead, 19,700. Exit question: On a shrapnel scale of zero to 10, zero meaning minor shrapnel, a superficial wound at most, 10 meaning major shrapnel, a grenade rolling under your bunk and blowing you to kingdom come, how much damage has the Swift Boat veterans' fragging of John Kerry reached, zero to 10?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's eight, approaching nine. It is hurting Kerry horribly. Frankly, if it continues, and I believe it will, the only thing that can save Kerry is victory in the debates.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Split decision. It's a four in the short term. It helps Bush. In the long term, Bush is going to get tagged with all this smarmy stuff, which has been discredited.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Bush behind it?

MS. CLIFT: Bush is behind it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you know that?

MS. CLIFT: How do I know that? Because it's all the same players, and it's the same network that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who are the players?

MS. CLIFT: The rich Texans who fund it --

MR. BLANKLEY: Halliburton. Don't forget Halliburton.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any precedent for George Bush getting involved in this kind of thing?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. They did it to John McCain in particular. And they're like sleeper cells. They get activated when a Bush gets in trouble.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you the one that told me he did it in the Dukakis campaign --

MS. CLIFT: And they're like political --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with Lee Atwater, with the Willie Horton ad?

MS. CLIFT: Right, exactly.

MR. BLANKLEY: That was a different Bush, by the way, to be fair.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, we're talking about the same W.

MS. CLIFT: It's all the same family. And it's the same network.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Dukakis campaign, it was Bush's father who ran against Dukakis.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but it's all the same family.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, the same family.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is alleged that the one who put the Willie Horton ad -- can you speak to this? You had that --

MR. BUCHANAN: W and Lee Atwater were very close at one time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did they form a committee?

MR. BUCHANAN: They worked very close together. And anything Atwater was up to in those days, W would have been aware of.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) You mean there's a history to this. You care to get into this?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer?

MR. BLANKLEY: The answer of one to 10, right now it's about a four. I agree with Eleanor. But the infection has set in, and he can't clean up the infection if you go up to a nine or a 10.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In the Gallup poll in the last several weeks, 42 percent four weeks ago had believed that his Vietnam service was an important qualification for his presidency and leadership. It's now down to 21 percent. That, it seems to me, tells you that there is real damage. And if this goes on much longer, the gap between Bush and Kerry -- the political damage is very serious.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I mean, I'll give it a five or a six, actually. I think -- and if it continues this way, I mean, it can blow him right out of the water.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard the talk about why is it that the discussion has been silent on the military service record of George Bush and the military service record of the vice president?

MR. BUCHANAN: What service record? (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that again?

MR. BUCHANAN: What service record of the vice president? (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, if I were John Kerry, I would have said, "Look, I frankly commend the president for serving in the National Guard, the Air National Guard. A lot of people missed meetings. And frankly, you know, people may have exaggerated or not whatever I did. I was there. I volunteered. I served." And I would have tried to move on by praising the president as well as his own.

MS. CLIFT: He's trying.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's trying. It's way too late now. That's his problem.

MS. CLIFT: He's trying to say what's important is what Bush and Cheney did the last four years and what he's going to do the next four years. But that's not through the white noise yet.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He made the whole convention based on his Vietnam experience.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You can say that's what he focused on. It's just not what he did. That's what made it --

MS. CLIFT: You're disagreeing with something I didn't say, Mort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think you're underestimating the intelligence of the American people that they don't know what's going on here --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I would say --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- about who's responsible for this?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There are differences --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think they know?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, they don't care! They don't care who's responsible for it. They want to know, is this true about Kerry? They're concerned, and they're believing some of this stuff, and they're concerned.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They can understand --

MR. BUCHANAN: They believe Bush is behind it. John, they don't care.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They can understand and see an ambush and they can see an entrapment.

MR. BUCHANAN: So what if it's politics? They don't care who's behind the ads. Are they true?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know of any politician who doesn't embellish his record? We know that he was in close-quarter combat. We also know that he was decorated for valor. We know he became disillusioned about the war and the rationale for the war. We know that he came back and he spoke up against the war, according to his conscience.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know that 55,000 Americans --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait just a minute. Fifty-five thousand Americans were killed.

MR. BUCHANAN: Fifty-eight thousand -- 58.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know there is a communist government in there now. We know that we're doing business as usual.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know what the problem is?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If that is --

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me state the problem in one sentence.

MS. CLIFT: Amen, John. Amen. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: The problem, in one sentence, is that second ad where those two guys sitting up in a Hanoi prison say, "We were being tortured and refused to say the rotten things about our servicemen that John Kerry went up to the Senate and said for free." How you answer that, I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear me describe that as a wicked extraction from his full speech? Why don't you go back to his full speech and --

MR. BUCHANAN: I read the full speech, and I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if you read his full speech, you would know that was a wicked extraction.

MR. BUCHANAN: He said, "We committed crimes are the problem, not the reds."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, this is a two. It is a wound, but it is a minor wound.

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Spreading the News.

(Clip of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York.")

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The GOP is coming to NYC. For the first time in history, New York City will host the Republican National Convention. George W. Bush will accept his party's presidential nomination and address nearly 5,000 delegates and alternates from 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The primetime lineup: Monday, Michael Bloomberg, Rudy Giuliani, Senator John McCain; Tuesday, Laura Bush, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger; Wednesday, Dick Cheney, introduced by Lynne Cheney, and the Republican Convention's keynote address, Democratic sitting Senator Zell Miller; Thursday, New York Governor George Pataki introduces President and Commander-in-chief George W. Bush.

Exit question: The four-day convention raises one serious problem for Bush that he must overcome if he is to win re-election. What is that?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think what Bush has got to come out of this convention with is the American people believing that here was the president who took retribution on our enemies for 9/11 and who has kept us secure since and who is the man that will keep us secure the next four years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've heard all that.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's the key.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've heard all that from him. What does he have to do?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the theme of the convention is "Elect me and I'll save you from the terrorists." But what he has to do is bring back the compassionate conservative, because this convention can't just be about the base. And, in fact, the stage will be full of moderates who could never win a Republican primary, who do not represent the basic values expressed in the Republican platform.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct.

MS. CLIFT: It's a total fraud.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's also an abolitionist doctrine -- ban gay marriage, ban civil unions' benefits, ban abortion. It's a series of bans. It's not compassionate conservatism. What do you say?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, I think that he doesn't have to do much at this convention, frankly. I think he needs to let the public come to the conclusion that he is still the right man to lead in the dangerous times ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's got a problem with 1 million fewer jobs, a million and a half going off health care.

MR. BLANKLEY: I've heard the Kerry speech, yeah. I mean, I've heard that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's run up from a surplus of $6 trillion, now a $6 trillion debt.

MR. BLANKLEY: If you ask me politically what he needs to do, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got a jobs problem. He can't run on his -- is he going to run on his record?

MR. BLANKLEY: Those factors --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he run on his record?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- have already been internalized.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's already announced he's going to talk about what he's going to do in his second term, and that's all he's going to talk about.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think, if he's going to run on a record, it's going to be what he's done in education, what he's done with prescription drugs, and what he's done in terms of trying to stimulate the economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean prescription drugs for Medicare?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's the record that he's going to have to run on. He's also got to show he's going to do something about the 85 percent of the American people who are being squeezed in this economy. And if he doesn't do something about that -- particularly it affects women -- he's going to be in trouble in this campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor's already pointed out the prescription drug bill and the Medicare bill. That bill is unadministratable. My feeling is he has to do one thing. He has to prove that this election is not a referendum on him. If it's a referendum on him, he could lose the election. If he can establish an identity for John Kerry so that he becomes -- you're running him against me, so people will focus on Kerry; he'll win the election.

Predictions, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Two new challenges to Kerry's awards, one of them the Silver Star (that carries a V?) on it, which has never been on any of them, and Newsweek gave an admiral a real problem on that and he took his life. Secondly, Brother Novak has the story of the first Purple Heart; real problems for Kerry continuing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Old stuff. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Every one of your revelations can be matched with a discreditation on the other side, which is why the cables and people like you are going to keep this alive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, Warner's already declared the legitimacy of the Silver Star.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: Prediction: No senior military official will face ever criminal penalties for what went on in Abu Ghraib, even though they were responsible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: Bush will get about a four- or five-point bounce out of the convention next week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Four or five.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, that's just what I was going to say. I think Bush is going to come out of the convention well beyond the margin of error, which is 3 percent. He's going to be 6 or 7 percent ahead of Kerry within two weeks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that in early October Karl Rove will disappear from Washington. In mid-October there will be found in Iraq stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Next week: Grading the Republican National Convention. Bye-bye.

PBS SEGMENT

Issue three: Come Fly With Me.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D-MA): (From videotape.) I tried to get on the plane back to Washington. "You can't get on the plane." I went up to the desk. I said, "I've been getting on this plane, you know, for 42 years, and why can't I get on the plane back to Boston -- back to Washington?" They said, "You can't get on the plane back to Washington."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five times in three months, Ted Kennedy was told he could not board a plane in Boston and in Washington, his hometown airports. It turns out that a suspected terrorist had used an alias, "T. Kennedy." That name put the senator and 3,400 other T. Kennedys on the airline security watch list.

Teddy isn't the only grounded lawmaker. John Lewis, the Democratic congressman from Georgia, says he has been stopped 40 times for airport searches because another John Lewis appears on the watch list.

Frustrating? Yes. Ridiculous? Yes. Unnecessary? Yes. Primitive screening must go. Here's the 9/11 commission.

LEE HAMILTON (9/11 COMMISSION VICE CHAIR): (From videotape.) We think the government simply must accelerate its efforts to build a comprehensive biometric entry and exit screening system.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Biometric screening confirms a traveler's identity by scanning his or her iris or fingerprint. So, if implemented, the T. Kennedy and John Lewis mishaps would never have occurred.

Four weeks ago, the Transportation Security Administration started rolling out a limited pilot program at five airports -- Boston, Los Angeles, Houston, Minneapolis and Washington DC -- of 7,000 travelers. These selected travelers are electronically fingerprinted and eye-scanned. With criminal background checks, they breeze through their special quick-moving security lines.

Eleanor, do you know that the TSA screeners, if a woman is wearing a summer dress, will actually put the wand over the woman's skin under her chin and then down her arm? Now, do you think -- do you hide anything under your skin?

MS. CLIFT: They generally have women doing it. Look, the screening is ludicrous, but right now it's all we have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor the biometric card?

MS. CLIFT: I do. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you? Will you be willing to sacrifice your privacy, Pat? Do you have any skeletons?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but I'm a libertarian on this one, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you want the biometric card?

MR. BUCHANAN: I might go with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely, because something like that is going to be absolutely --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is absolutely. Liberate us.

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