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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL:
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC

DATE: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2004


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Hail to the Chief.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From convention speech.) A presidential election is a contest for the future. Tonight I will tell you where I stand, what I believe, and where I will lead this country in the next four years.

I believe the most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people. If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch.

Because the union of a man and woman deserves an honored place in our society, I support the protection of marriage against activist judges.

My opponent recently announced that he's the candidate of conservative values. This must have come as a surprise to a lot of his supporters. There are some problems with this claim. If you say the heart and soul of America is found in Hollywood, I'm afraid you are not the candidate of conservative values. If you voted against the bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act, which President Clinton signed, you are not the candidate of conservative values. If you gave a speech, as my opponent did, calling the Reagan presidency "eight years of moral darkness," then you may be a lot of things, but the candidate of conservative values is not one of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What was the theme of President Bush's convention address? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: The overall theme, John, was "I have kept this country secure these last four years. I will keep this country secure. Even if it means we are threatened, I will go on the offensive. I am a strong leader. And my opponent is basically a wimpish Massachusetts liberal."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he got in policy --

MR. BUCHANAN: He got it all in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got policy proposals in, he got his stump speech in, and he got lofty rhetoric. And you say there's a common theme there?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, listen. Well, the final peroration was superlative. It was outstanding. It was moving, gripping. This was either the best or the second-best speech of Bush's presidency, rivaled only by the 20th of September.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do you think that was the theme?

MS. CLIFT: He started out with his wish list for what he would do if elected, with no reality attached to how he would achieve any of these proposals.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was the boring part, right?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Yeah, he glossed over that. That was a nod to the domestic agenda. But basically his theme is -- Pat's right -- "Elect me and I'll keep you safe from the terrorists." He talks about the contest is about the future, but basically he's basing his whole theme for re-election on his conduct in the days immediately after 9/11. And he went straight at Iraq, which is his biggest vulnerability, and tried to once again link it to the overall war on terror. I don't think people are going to be stupid enough to buy that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He kept the focus rather directly on the future, did he not, his second term rather than his first term?

MR. BLANKLEY: He did. But he did not gloss over that. It was 42 minutes of a one-hour-and-five-minute speech.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it too long?

MR. BLANKLEY: I might have taken about five minutes out of the first 42.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Only five?

MR. BLANKLEY: But the point was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about 20?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. No, because he had to make a credible case that he's planning domestic issues that matter to Americans for the future. And I think one of the key phrases there -- "We've climbed some hard hills in these last years, and now we can see the valley" -- and in that sense, he was carrying through the Reaganite instinct to be optimistic about the future as we're struggling in the present.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the domestic scene in that rather boring catalogue in the beginning, I noticed that three did take fire. One was curbing lawsuits. Another was tax reform. And another was keep the tax cuts in place. Did you notice that, how the audience was galvanized at that? Did you check that out?

MR. O'DONNELL: I was in the audience. I was on the floor, and it played very well on the floor. And reforming and simplifying the tax code played very well, too. In an audience of tax-cut beneficiaries, that stuff plays pretty well.

I don't know what was in that section of the speech for the undecided voter. In fact, I'm not sure that there was anything in the speech for the undecided voter --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or the independents.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- the majority of whom believe the country is going in the wrong direction, the majority of whom believe we should not have gone to Iraq, the majority of whom believe the economy is in trouble. "We're going to tax-cut our way to a great economy" is not something that --

MR. BLANKLEY: It is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, wait a minute. Lawrence has struck gold here. Isn't the biggest worry --

MR. BLANKLEY: Fool's gold. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of the Republicans that they will stay at home? Isn't this whole convention -- he really gave up on the independents and the undecideds. He was trying to re-energize his base, was he not?

MR. O'DONNELL: It did seem much more like a turnout speech --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, not entirely.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- than to turn voters to him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't agree with Lawrence --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't agree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that he was not trying to turn around the --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. You were right earlier, John. The speech was composed of a number of segments. Early on, the laundry list looked like a moderate-conservative LBJ laundry list of programs and ideas. And I think that was sort of progressive. A lot of the convention was moderate-progressive. But he does come back to that theme of security and safety, because if people go into the election booth thinking of security and safety, they'll vote Bush.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BLANKLEY: And the other reachout to undecideds and moderates was near the end where he said, "You may not always agree with my position, but you know where I stand." That, combined with an optimistic view, is very much trying to do what Reagan was able to do to get people to support him --

MS. CLIFT: Well, Karl Rove --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- even if they disagree with him on a particular issue.

MS. CLIFT: Karl Rove was shopping their strategy around to the media outlets in New York, and it's basically that it's going to be a mobilization election and they're going to get out their base, which includes 4 million evangelicals who stayed home in 2000 and 2002.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, he's said that publicly for four years.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he was advancing it in a lot of places in New York. And that's why the convention was not -- Lawrence is right -- was not aimed at independent voters or women.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's not one or the other. I just want to make this point. It's not one or the other.

MS. CLIFT: It's mostly one.

MR. BLANKLEY: Obviously the base is very important, but clearly he was reaching out in tone and at the end to people beyond the base.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the only way he looked reasonable in reaching out in his tone was compared to all the other hatchet men they had.

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen, I talked to Mike Barnicle this morning, who's a very hard-core liberal Democrat. He said those last five minutes were superlative. And he's a hard-core liberal Democrat. And I think Tony is right. That stuff reached out to all Americans; also when he got up and made fun of himself. That is reaching out across the line and saying, "Look, maybe I do have a swagger. Maybe I don't talk well." And he laughs at himself. That was extraordinary. I found it very moving.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was playing off the September 11th attacks. Does it strike you as ironic, as Eleanor, I think, has indicated, that having failed to grasp the significance of the intelligence warnings that he got during the summer of 2001, and therefore by some measure of thinking sharing in the culpability of September --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's been saying --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He is now using September --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's now using it as a campaign theme?

MS. CLIFT: He's completely wrapped himself in 9/11, and he's been doing it for the last three years. We really shouldn't be surprised --

MR. BLANKLEY: As Roosevelt did about Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt campaigned on Pearl Harbor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Well, isn't it the height of chutzpah to do that?

MS. CLIFT: To put Bush in the same breath as Roosevelt --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When culpability spreads into your administration --

MR. BLANKLEY: Roosevelt was --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the president is doing a good thing and a wise thing, I think, when he says, "Look, it hadn't worked out the way we thought. We didn't find those weapons of mass destruction," because even the people that agree with him know that it didn't work out exactly as they had planned.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it brings him across the line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Thursday night, right after the president's speech, the Democratic presidential nominee fired back.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA) (from videotape): I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq. The vice president called me unfit for office last night. Well, I'm going to leave it up to the voters to decide whether five deferments makes someone more qualified than two tours of duty. We'll decide about that.

But let me tell you in no uncertain terms what makes someone unfit for office and unfit for duty. Misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead our country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How effective is this Kerry rejoinder? Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: It was very effective. And he went on within two minutes of Bush wrapping up his speech, which is new for the Kerry campaign in terms of speed of response. Look, he was taking hits all week, and he took his first shot, his first opportunity, to get back at these guys.

And for Cheney, it is a shocking moment for the vice president of the United States, who said, "I had better things to do during the Vietnam War than to ever expose myself to either doing a push-up in the Army or getting shot at" -- for that guy to be saying John Kerry is unfit for command is something that Kerry had to whack back at.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, we're going to return to that theme, I'm sure, a lot over the next two months.

The human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, 979; U.S. military amputees, wounded and injured in Iraq, 26,750; Iraqi civilians dead, an estimated 20,000.

Exit: Did Bush give the best speech of his political life at this convention? Yes or no. Pat Buchanan. Be quick.

MR. BUCHANAN: He gave the best political speech of his life. I think the best speech he gave was September 20th.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: He did a good job, but it has no relationship to reality in either his presentation of Iraq or his presentation of a Medicare prescription drug program or an education program, which are all frauds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with Pat. The September 20th was probably the best pure speech. This may have been the most useful and effective of his speeches.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you talking about the speech before the joint session of Congress?

MR. BLANKLEY: The one that was just a week after September 11th.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. I agree with that myself. Were you going to make another point?

MR. BLANKLEY: I was going to make a quick point about Kerry. I thought I saw a little bit of Nixon's 5:00 shadow on his remarks. I agreed he had to punch back, but he looked a little too growling. And a presidential candidate shouldn't go after a vice presidential candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is only act one of putting down the non- military history of --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the timing was awful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. O'DONNELL: It was the only speech that an incumbent president in a desperate tie with a challenger could give in a record that does not appeal to the undecided voter. So was it a good speech? Yes. But there was nothing else he could possibly have said.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I agree with you on which was the best speech he's given thus far in his presidency.

Issue two: Cheney unchained.

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY (from convention speech): I'm also mindful now that I have an opponent of my own. People tell me Senator Edwards got picked for his good looks, his sex appeal, his charm and his great hair. I said, "How do you think I got the job?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The kid glove. That's what Dick Cheney showed first. But within minutes, the brass knuckles were out.

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY (from convention speech): Time and again, Senator Kerry has made the wrong call on national security. During the 1980s, Senator Kerry opposed Ronald Reagan's major defense initiatives that brought victory in the Cold War. In 1991, when Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait and stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf, Senator Kerry voted against Operation Desert Storm. Although he voted to authorize force against Saddam Hussein, he then decided he was opposed to the war and voted against funding for our men and women in the field.

On Iraq, Senator Kerry has disagreed with many of his fellow Democrats. But Senator Kerry's liveliest disagreement is with himself. His back-and-forth reflects a habit of indecision and sends a message of confusion. Senator Kerry says he sees two Americans. It makes the whole thing mutual. America sees two John Kerrys.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Cheney's speech the theme of this campaign? Tony. The essence of it.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's the essence of the negative part of the campaign against Kerry.

MR. O'DONNELL: That's the whole campaign.

MR. BLANKLEY: And it takes advantage of what Kerry didn't do at his convention, which was to talk about the period after 1971.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it potent?

MR. BLANKLEY: We'll have to wait and see.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's very potent. You don't even get to the starting line if you do not exhibit the decisiveness of leadership.

MR. BLANKLEY: You know, I think his record in the Senate obviously is vulnerable, and this is beginning to lay it out --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, but he's talking about his indecision.

MS. CLIFT: If you want --

MR. BUCHANAN: Not only that, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His flip-flopping, as opposed to the steady, even-as-you-go, determined, convinced --

MS. CLIFT: If you want a president who operates on his gut and who operates on instinct and belief, as opposed to facts, and who rarely uses his brain and boasts about not reading anything, and who, once he makes the decision, never varies, then vote for George Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've got a question.

MS. CLIFT: Life is more complicated than that. So is foreign policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the down side of this strategy?

MR. BUCHANAN: There is no down side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's no down side to the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did they say about Ronald Reagan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Reagan himself is a positive and hopeful, optimistic --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, when Reagan went up into the debate, what did they say about him before he went in?

MR. BUCHANAN: He was underestimated before he went into the debates, and he succeeded because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was a scary war-monger.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay, but what they're doing to Kerry is this, John. Kerry's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was a B-grade movie actor.

MR. BUCHANAN: Kerry's entire convention was designed to say that John Kerry is not a Massachusetts liberal; he's a tough Vietnam warrior who will keep us secure. This is designed to strip him --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you're missing my point. What did Reagan do? He dispelled it in the way he handled himself in the debate. And when they had that, they had nothing, because they built everything on that.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right. Well, look, Kerry has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that true or false?

MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can Kerry do the same thing that Reagan did?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, he can, because when you get into the debate, you're going to find out that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That he's decisive.

MR. O'DONNELL: That these things that he was voting against, the Republican administration, President Bush, didn't want these weapon systems.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This strategy hangs on one pivot, and one small pivot.

Okay, Miller Time. Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, a Democrat, delivered the Republican keynote address.

SENATOR ZELL MILLER (D-GA) (from convention speech): George W. Bush understands that we need new strategies to meet new threats. Senator Kerry has made it clear that he will use military force only if approved by the United Nations. Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide.

John Kerry, who says he doesn't like outsourcing, wants to outsource our national security.

For more than 20 years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that this convention had the overtones, the undertones, the ambience, of militarism? Militarism, as you see on the screen, is the ideology that military strength is the source of all security. Did you see any of that?

MR. O'DONNELL: And the solution to all your problems in every context. Zell Miller is a political psychopath. There's just no other way to put it.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, come on.

MR. O'DONNELL: No, that was pathological lying by a --

MR. BLANKLEY: You guys are dumping on that man --

MR. O'DONNELL: John Kerry does not say that he will only go to war with permission of the United Nations. He's a liar. There isn't another word for it. They let him out of his straitjacket for half an hour at a Republican convention -- to, by the way, show Democrats that if you vote for Bush, you must be this crazy. I don't think he was very helpful for Bush.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is the guy that Clinton chose to be his keynote address. The Democrats have never said anything rude in public about him until he supported Bush, and now they're saying all sorts of calumnys about him. But I think it's an example of how desperate they are about this that they've been attacking him so viciously in the last --

MS. CLIFT: He --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor in, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: He was unhinged in his presentation and he did flat- out lie. He talked about Kerry voting against all of these weapon systems one by one. It was one single vote. And Dick Cheney at the time was urging more cutbacks. This was the transition from the end of the Cold War to the current period. And he lied. I mean, he absolutely did lie.

MR. BUCHANAN: What if the Democrats --

MS. CLIFT: He took a quote that John Kerry gave to the Harvard Crimson when he was a student that he said once and has never said since.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, look, the strategy, John -- I think it was the most --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- that he would turn decisions over to Paris.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think that this is the most unforgettable speech of this convention.

MR. O'DONNELL: It sure is.

MR. BUCHANAN: I thought it was Walter Judd. It was old-time populist Democratic --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it George Wallace?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, John. What the purpose is --

MS. CLIFT: It was Pat Buchanan, '92.

MR. BUCHANAN: The purpose of this thing and what the whole convention is about on the negative side, they are stripping John Kerry of any pretense to be a strong, decisive, pro-defense leader. They are saying you cannot trust the security to this man --


MS. CLIFT: You can't make that argument on lies.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- who voted against --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two can play that game.

MS. CLIFT: They're lies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And two can play it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let 'em play it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In 1992, we have George Bush complimenting himself and we have the secretary of Defense saying, too, talking about how they've cut $350 billion out of the Defense budget. And then they go through all this --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, that was the end of the Cold War, for heaven's sakes.

MS. CLIFT: That's what Kerry -- that's what he's talking about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They eliminated the B-2 bomber. They eliminated the value needed for our --

MR. BUCHANAN: Why doesn't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (inaudible) -- ICBM.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why doesn't Kerry make that case?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They stopped all new production of the MX missile.

MS. CLIFT: He will.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They refused to purchase the advanced cruise missile.

MR. BUCHANAN: Kerry should make the case. Kerry's not making it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They were enfeebling the republic.

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what they were doing in 1992. You can play that game.

MR. BLANKLEY: As late as --

MR. BUCHANAN: Let Kerry play it.

MR. BLANKLEY: As late as --

MR. O'DONNELL: He will.

MS. CLIFT: He will.

MR. BLANKLEY: As late as 1996, Kerry was introducing a cut to the Clinton defense budget that the senior Democrats in the Senate were condemning as irresponsible. So it's more than one vote, one time. I'm sorry.

MR. O'DONNELL: And as late as three years ago, Zell Miller was praising John Kerry's leadership ability. The guy is a nut and a liar, and the Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't hold back.

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't hold back.

MR. BLANKLEY: You've got to get off these ad hominem attacks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Arnold.

GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-CA): I remember watching the Nixon-Humphrey presidential race on TV. A friend of mine who spoke German and English translated for me. I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism, which I had just left.

But then I heard Nixon speak. Then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting the government off your back, lowering the taxes and strengthening the military. Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air. I said to my friend, I said, "What party is he?" My friend said, "He's a Republican." I said, "Then I am a Republican."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Milhous, a breath of fresh air, Pat, right?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's exactly right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you this, Pat. Now, you've seen the way that this President Bush has conducted his presidency, and you know Nixon backwards and forwards. Do you think Nixon would have done what Bush has done?

MR. BUCHANAN: On Iraq? With regard to Afghanistan, certainly. On Iraq, it is a tough call. I do not think Reagan would have invaded Iraq. He was far more prudent. Nixon --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Nixon had skills that this president does not have.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, obviously he does. Nixon had extraordinary intelligence, had skills I think very few other presidents had; knowledge in foreign policy. I don't know whether Nixon would have invaded Iraq or not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You have doubts about that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I mean, look, Nixon mined Haiphong and bombed Hanoi and he took on the Christmas bombing. He was capable of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a --

MR. BLANKLEY: And he invaded Cambodia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a -- wait a minute -- a gathering danger. Do you think Richard Nixon would have gone in without there being an imminent danger to our vital national security here and now?

MR. BLANKLEY: What about Cambodia?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would say no. I would guess no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You would guess no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm surprised you have to guess. I'm surprised you don't have metaphysical certitude.

MS. CLIFT: More people died in Vietnam --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's get out.

MS. CLIFT: -- after Nixon became president than under Lyndon Johnson, sadly.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't think that's true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A political effectiveness grade from A to F to the GOP convention. How politically effective was it? Quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: A+, magna cum laude.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. It was excellent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: B-, because they don't -- I won't give them a gentleman's C. It was too ungentlemanly.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: It was very effective. I have to give it an A. It was better than I expected -- more professional, more effective, more ruthless. It was a wonderful event. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: It was a rally for the fanatics.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. O'DONNELL: I give it a B- because it didn't make a move into the undecided voters.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it was Kafkaesque, because it was built on so much paradox, absurdity and falsification. It was the inversion of a lot of reality.

MR. BUCHANAN: Is that an A, John? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As a strategic political event, with purposefulness, I would say I'd have to give it a B, B+.

Issue four: Double trouble.

MS. JENNA BUSH (from convention speech): You know all those times when you're growing up and your parents embarrassed you? Well, this is payback time on live TV.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Payback is right.

MS. BARBARA BUSH (from convention speech): I know it's hard to believe, but our parents' favorite term of endearment for each other is actually "Bushie."

MS. JENNA BUSH (from convention speech): When we tell them we're going to see Outkast, they know it's a band and not a bunch of misfits. And if we really beg them, they'll even shake it like a Polaroid picture.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The most cringe-worthy one-liner, some say, was saved for clan matriarch Barbara Bush.

MS. JENNA BUSH (from convention speech): She thinks "Sex in the City" is something married people do but never talk about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But by the end of their appearance, the twins put in a redemptive good word for their loving mother and father.

MS. BARBARA BUSH (from convention speech): They taught us the importance of a good sense of humor, of being open-minded and treating everyone with respect. And we learned the true value of honesty and integrity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Throughout most of the Bush presidency, the daughters have stayed out of the limelight. Was this a good debut? Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: No one's going to get me to say anything bad about the kids. Come on. It's really tough being in that life. And doing stand-up comedy if you're not a professional stand-up comedian is next to impossible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it discordant, meaning that there was a lot of talk about 9/11, people felt it was out of tune. Did you feel that way, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, it didn't play well in the hall. I mean, I think that they were trying to relate to a young and hip generation, but there weren't a lot of young hipsters in the hall. And people sitting up at 11:00 or 10:00 watching the Republican Convention are probably not the kind of people who are going to relate to this, too.

MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor, you and I were in the hall.

MS. CLIFT: They were reading lines --

MR. BLANKLEY: We're not young and hip?

MS. CLIFT: -- written by Karen Hughes. So I don't blame them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best wishes to Bill Clinton for successful surgery and for a speedy recovery. Bye bye. ####

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