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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

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

DATE: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2004


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Cliffhanger.

Bulletin: Most recent numbers: Pew, Bush 46 percent, Kerry 46, Nader 1. Another survey, Tipp: Bush 46, Kerry 46, Nader 3. Another survey, Harris: Kerry 48, Bush 47, Nader 2.

With the election six weeks from Tuesday, it's a dead heat. Another survey, Gallup: Bush 55, Kerry 42.

Question: How did this happen? Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I'm not going to try to explain what the polls are doing, but this is not an even race, John. I don't think it's a 13-point race. I think the president is probably ahead by five, six, seven points right now. I think all of his red states except for West Virginia and New Hampshire are pretty much in the bag as of now. And you can tell this, John, by the aesthetics. Bush-Cheney are running; they have the look of winners. And Kerry has the look of a loser right now.

I think what is needed for Kerry is I don't think he can win it state by state now. He's got to have some event or some action that elevates the whole sea level so that all the battleground states become battleground states again. And, again, I think it has to be in the debates. I don't see anything else that can intervene to save him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: We've got the Republicans right where we want them -- overconfident. Look, I think the race has settled down roughly to where it was before the conventions, except this time I think Bush does have the edge. But the reason that there was a bigger point spread there for a while is because Kerry, according to the pollster John Zogby, is the rare candidate who managed to de-energize his own base. He actually lost Democrats. Now, they're not going to go and vote for Bush. They've drifted away, and they're beginning to come back.

And Kerry's got to address the central issue driving this election, and that's the war on Iraq. He's getting much more aggressive about it. He's going after Bush for not leveling with us, telling us the truth about what's happening. And the facts on the ground there belie the president's optimistic talk and bolster the Kerry campaign. He's got to delink Iraq from the war on terror. If he can do that, he can win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, John Edwards -- not exactly Mack the Knife.

(Video of John Edwards on the campaign trail, with "Mack the Knife" playing in the background.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Customarily, the vice presidential candidate is the hit man, the no-holds-barred political operative who moves silently, reaches from the back, seizes the jugular, does the deed, then vanishes into the night. Not John Edwards.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE): (From videotape.) So in the weeks ahead, we know what's coming, don't we? More negative attacks. Aren't you sick of it?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Senator, deal with it, and fast. Democrats are calling. They want you to be Cheneyized. "It doesn't seem that Edwards is in it all the time. They use him a little bit as a hammer, but not a lot. I don't understand it. They need it." So says Tony Coelho, who ran Al Gore's campaign in 2000.

Question: Why isn't Edwards matching Cheney attack for attack? Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: This is really a press story. Edwards is out there campaigning every day. The fact that the liberal media conspiracy has decided not to cover that is a media story, not a campaign issue. The reason -- and ultimately the reason they don't cover it is that Edwards doesn't spend his day trying to attack. He takes a different approach. He's in Ohio trying to get people convinced in a positive way to vote for this ticket.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see that --

MR. O'DONNELL: And so far it doesn't seem to be working.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You saw that quote from Tony Coelho. You know Tony, correct?

MR. O'DONNELL: Listen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony Coelho believes that the Kerry campaign is in chaos. And this is what he has to say. You have these two teams that are generally not talking to each other. The internal strife is fueled by money, because the Democratic Party, the consultants get paid for the creation and placement of advertising. Republicans only pay you for the creation. And he says that the Kerry camapign has not accomplished very much by bringing on board Carville, Begala, Lockhart, Mike McCurry. They're at odds with your friend, Mary Beth Cahill, and strategic Bob Shrum. So everything is just worse.

MR. O'DONNELL: There is always an army of Democrats out there when a Democratic campaign isn't ahead that are eager to criticize it. And one reliable rule is none of them have ever been part of actually electing a president, or in, say, Tony's case, never won anything bigger than a congressional district.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, has Shrum?

MR. O'DONNELL: Shrum has not won a presidential campaign yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, 0-7 with Shrum?

MR. O'DONNELL: He's got a big win coming on November 2nd.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you satisfied that that campaign is functioning well?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think it is functioning well. They've taken a kind of attack that we haven't seen before with this Swift Boat thing, and they reacted as well as they could.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I pressed this with him because he has special lines into the Democrats --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. And we've now heard the answer from the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- at the right hand of the United States senator from New York, who unfortunately is not with us anymore, Pat Moynihan.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But do you want to speak either to the first part or the second part?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me start on Edwards, because Pat Buchanan is exactly right regarding the polling analysis. All of the challenging states in the battlegrounds -- Illinois now is in competition. New Jersey is even. New York and California are now single digits for Kerry. So Pat's exactly right. It's, I think, six to seven or eight points.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you continue with that, can I point out that the national polls really don't count much anymore, that it's the battleground states? And the battleground states are determined by the polling in individual states. And there are those who follow the polling in individual states. The Hotline does it, which is kind of an insider newsletter. And their count right now is Bush 285, Kerry 212.

MR. BLANKLEY: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All you need is 270, so Bush is already there. And tied are 41, according to the Hotline.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Look, if --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So are you agreed that, A, the national polls do not count right now?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, Pat had it exactly right. It's certainly true there are 50 separate campaigns. But it seems to me the evidence so far is that special advertising in different battleground states is not moving it. The numbers are going up and down nationally. So if a state like California, which is naturally Democratic, when Bush does better, Kerry's lead gets smaller there proportionately.

But I want to talk about Edwards for a minute, because I think this shows the weakness of the selection of Edwards as a candidate. He has no credibility to make a comment about foreign policy and defense or they'd have him out there doing that in a bigger way.

The reason we don't see much of him is because the vice president has got to be on message, and Kerry's not on message. So they have nothing to assign him to do other than to wander around in East McKeesport and say nice things to the locals.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before we move on, do you want to say anything about the polling that we cited at the beginning of the show?

MR. O'DONNELL: Look, I think both campaigns believe that the Bush campaign is about five points ahead. That's the way each campaign is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Notwithstanding what you saw from Pew and Harris and --

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes. Look, you make a big mistake in campaigning if you pick the most optimistic poll for your side and say, "That's where we are."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you had three that were statistically even. Then you had Gallup --

MR. O'DONNELL: Look, I promise you that the Bush campaign doesn't believe they're 13 points ahead either. So you take what you think is the reasonable middle of what this polling is telling you, and that looks like a national five-point lead for Bush.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you had a -- last week you had a uniform polling situation with Kerry average 10 points to 12 points behind. So that situation --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but, look, you have to look --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you've got to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her talk, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: You also have to look at all of the components of the poll. And Kerry has taken a hit in all of the character issues. And so what he's got to do now is turn his back on Bush. Right now it's a referendum on Kerry's character.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We are all agreed --

MS. CLIFT: It's got to be a referendum on Bush's inability to level with the American people on Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're all agreed that this is a horse race, correct?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're all agreed that this is a cliffhanger, correct?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not a cliffhanger, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it is not a cliffhanger? Cliffhanger?

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MS. CLIFT: Kerry's in contention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cliffhanger?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not a cliffhanger, John.

MS. CLIFT: In contention. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: It is not a cliffhanger. It's a horse race with a stronger horse in the lead, going around the third --

MS. CLIFT: And Seabiscuit is in the back, closing fast. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to my question is, it remains a cliffhanger. Three to two, boys.

Exit question: Without casting any aspersions, please consider the following canine analogy. If Mr. Edwards were a dog and Mr. Cheney were a dog, which breed of dog would each candidate be? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Edwards would be a toy collie and Cheney would be a rottweiler with an uneven disposition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Edwards would be either a golden retriever or a labrador, the most popular breeds in most American households.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. And loyal breeds.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. And Cheney would be a German shepherd -- old Germany, old Europe. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Old Europe, straight for the throat.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think Edwards would be a silky and Cheney would be a great dane.

MR. O'DONNELL: Cheney is a bulldog. And Edwards would be a corgy -- very cute and full of energy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Edwards a chihuahua, Cheney a pit bull. Buchanan, you're confusing cliffhanger with dead heat. A cliffhanger is a cliffhanger and a dead heat is a dead heat.

Issue two: Iraq worsens.

Deterioration spreads. Attacks are increasing. Almost 80 times per day, on average, insurgents strike. Three dozen cities and towns are now in hostile hands. This week includes Baquba; 11 policemen killed when gunmen opened fire on their police van. Baghdad, 47 killed, 114 injured outside a police station, car bomb. Civilian abductions, two Americans and a Briton, boldly kidnapped from a guarded upscale neighborhood, bringing the total number of foreigners kidnapped to well over 100 since Saddam's fall, and chilling contract westerners in Iraq. The green zone, a five-hour rocket barrage at the sealed enclave housing the U.S. embassy.

But the ghastly sight now inflaming the Arab world with television replays is that of an Arab TV correspondent shot to death in Baghdad on TV air, reported by NBC correspondent Richard Engle.

The fighting was most intense on Haifa Street, one of the city's busiest districts. The battle began when a car bomb set a U.S. Bradley on fire. Six American soldiers were injured. Shots rang out. U.S. troops called in air support to destroy the smoldering Bradley to prevent insurgents from looting it for weapons.

But a crowd had gathered, including Mazin al-Tumaisi, a journalist from Al-Arabiyah Network. He was reporting from the scene. A siren interrupted his reporting, so he tried again. But a U.S. chopper started shooting, and Mazin went down, blood spattering the camera lens. "I'm going to die," he yelled. Moments later, he did. The killing is under investigation by the U.S.

Question: Have we reached the point where our military presence in Iraq causes more instability than stability? Are we stabilizing or are we destabilizing the situation? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, obviously the whole point of the strategy was to destabilize a stable but unsatisfactory Iraq under Saddam and then restabilize it in a manner that would be more in conformity with peaceful activity of that country.

We're going through a stage -- it's very ugly right now -- where the evidence that we haven't yet stabilized it is manifest. I was talking to Colin Powell this week, and he explained that if the conditions that exist today exist in December, they will not be able to have the elections. But he expects fully that the conditions will change. They got delayed by a month and a half because they had to deal with al-Sadr. And now they're going to be starting dealing with Fallujah and the other areas, this process of containing, pressuring and then solving them.

So Powell believes -- at least he says, and I believe him -- that by December we should have better stability. Right now it is very ugly.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the American presence is the cause of the insurgency. The insurgency -- it's become an organic thing. It has grown from 5,000 to 20,000, despite the fact we've killed thousands of insurgents in the last year.

However, there are two wars going on. One is the war to drive the Americans out, which has enormous support among Iraqis. And the second is the war to prepare themselves for the follow-on conflict to decide who is going to rule Iraq. But I think this war is going to go on as long as Americans are in that country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the candidates spar.

On Thursday, John Kerry addressed the National Guard Association two days after President Bush had done so, and blasted Bush's assessment of Iraq.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE): (From videotape.) He didn't tell you that with each passing day we're seeing more chaos. He didn't tell you that with each passing month, stability and security seem further and farther away.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president says that Mr. Kerry's views on Iraq are unhelpful to the U.S. cause.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Let me be clear. Mixed signals are the wrong signals to send to our troops in the field, the Iraqi people, to our allies, and most of all, to our enemies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Bush deliberately questioning Kerry's patriotism? Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Of course he is. But it's really galling to hear the president talk about sending mixed signals when his conduct of the war has allowed, as you pointed out, 36 towns and cities to be under insurgents and basically be havens for the enemy. And a national intelligence estimate that came out this week that was made -- it was revealed this week; it wasn't made public -- the president has had that since July, and it has a very dire outlook for Iraq.

And John Kerry has to go back at him every moment and John Kerry has to be the truth-teller in this race and tell the American people what's going on in Iraq and how the president has lied to us -- yes, use the word "lie."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, do you agree, Eleanor, with Buchanan that we are destabilizing the situation?

MS. CLIFT: You know, there's the Powell doctrine: If you break it, you have a moral obligation to fix it. But I don't see how we're making anything better over there --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we better fix it by leaving the scene?

MS. CLIFT: Whoever is elected in November is going to start thinking about withdrawing from --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You might want to read last Friday's -- that is, not this past week but the week before -- editorial in the Financial Times; it made a lot of sense, which sets a fixed date for getting out. This would help the various political sides like the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shi'as to create a political equilibrium and resolve their situation.

MR. BLANKLEY: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I want to move on. You've had quite a say here.

MR. BLANKLEY: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you, what do you think of these Iraq headlines? "The Iraq war is illegal," U.N. secretary general. "The Iraq war was a mistake," Robert McNamara, the first time he's spoken on it, former secretary of Defense. "Iraq civil war is possible -- civil war in Iraq." So says the CIA, based on a national intelligence report.

Do any of those three headlines interest you?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, let's also consider what Senator Chuck Hagel said, Republican Senator Hagel, a combat veteran himself, unlike anyone working in the White House. He this week has said, "We've got to be honest with ourselves." I want to quote him. "Right now we're not winning. These are getting worse."

Now, that's what honesty sounds like on the matter of Iraq. And you're not going to hear that from the president. What the president is saying is that combat veteran Chuck Hagel, Republican senator, is somehow a part of the problem by telling the truth on Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's a danger here --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think U.S. forces in Iraq are destabilizing rather than stabilizing the situation?

MR. O'DONNELL: Because of the Buchanan point that the U.S. forces are the inspiration for the uprising, it is impossible by definition for the Americans to stabilize Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Kerry has a problem --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see the insurgent factions using the U.S. forces as a cat's paw to play off against each other?

MR. O'DONNELL: It's impossible for us to stabilize Iraq. That is point one. What will happen after we leave is going to be as nutty as what's --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, that's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human toll -- excuse me, excuse me. The human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, 1027; U.S. military amputees, wounded, injured, psychologically disabled, all now out of Iraq, 27,450; Iraqi civilians dead, 12,600.

Exit: Finally, is our military presence in Iraq predominantly stabilizing that country or predominantly destabilizing the country? I want to hear from you.

MR. BUCHANAN: I believe it is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, one word.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- causing the insurgency. Wait a minute. Kerry has a terrible problem because he's being perceived, whether you like it or not, as undercutting the morale of the troops in --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, forget Kerry. Is our presence destabilizing more than it is stabilizing?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is the cause of the insurgency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, destabilizing.

MS. CLIFT: Destabilizing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Destabilizing.

MR. BLANKLEY: I question your wounded number. That's not the number the government puts out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the wounded Americans? The wounded, injured, the psychologically disabled?

MR. BLANKLEY: Your 27,000, I think, is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'd be very happy to show you that the 20,000 Iraqis is an extremely low estimate.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'm talking about the American wounded. That's not a number I've seen. But in any event --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wounded, injured and psychologically disabled.

MR. BLANKLEY: What does psychologically disabled mean?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you answer me that. What do you think it means?

MR. BLANKLEY: We may all be psychologically disabled. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Try reading some of the literature on this, particularly, again, in the Financial Times, where they describe the extent of the psychological --

MR. BLANKLEY: In any event --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: Regarding the question, I think we've destabilized and are in the process, difficult, of stabilizing. It will take five to 10 years.

MR. O'DONNELL: We've taken it from a very stable dictatorship to an endless madness.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The question -- to talk about Russia in the time that remains, what do you think of the behavior of Putin?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Putin, John, is a Russian patriot who is trying to stabilize his country, keep it together. He's trying to assert power. I think the president and Powell are making a terrible mistake publicly criticizing a guy who has basically been a friend of the United States of America.

MS. CLIFT: Putin doesn't care one whit about any of the criticism he gets from this administration. They've already given him a green light to do whatever he needs to do in Chechnya.

MR. BLANKLEY: Putin has a very difficult job, and I think more authoritarianism is likely in Russia. It's probably been likely since the end of the revolution.

MR. O'DONNELL: It's a different dynamic there. The elections he wants to suspend of governors -- suspending those elections is actually supported largely by the people whose elections would be suspended. So he seems to be doing what the country thinks he should be doing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did he inherit, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he inherited a country that had fallen apart into 15 nations and he inherited a country in economic decline. He's done a good job in some cases on the economy. He's a tough guy. But, John, the United States -- our relationship with Russia is, in my mind, the most vital one we've got. They've got nuclear weapons left and right. They've been supportive of our war on terror. You've got to cut the guy some slack. And, no, he is not like Howard Dean in Vermont. He's a tough customer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is strong local government essential to democracy?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, we'll find out. We haven't -- it's still an experiment, the democratic version of Russia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the Swiss form of democracy. Can you have a very strong federal government that is essential to democracy?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the British form of government is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The French form of government is a strong federal democracy.

MR. BLANKLEY: And the British is a unitary government with weak local government and strong central government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So where do we stand? Is Putin a Russian autocrat trying to recreate czarist empire, or is he a Russian reformer trying to rein in a corrupt society and reassert the rule of law?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's an autocrat and a patriot.

MS. CLIFT: He's an autocrat trying to rein in a corrupt society that he helped create.

MR. BLANKLEY: He's probably an autocrat and a patriot, as Pat says. I think he probably recognized there should be some democratic aspect of that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's good where he is today.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think he's a solid man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's good where he is today.

MR. O'DONNELL: He's doing his best in an impossible situation. They will fail to subdue the Chechen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm edified at the sensible outlook at Putin, instead of making him an international whipping boy. Get those 89 governors appointed and get control over those local smugglers and criminals.

Issue four: Eye on CBS.

What is the state of play on this issue? Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, there's the contest about the documents. Are they real or are they fake? There are people who --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dealing with what?

MR. O'DONNELL: These memos from Colonel Killian describing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the central issue?

MR. O'DONNELL: The central issue, if you ignore the documents for a second, is just how energetic a service did George W. Bush perform for the National Guard?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any question that George Bush dodged the draft?

MR. O'DONNELL: There's no question. Everybody --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. O'DONNELL: There's no question about --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, there's a question that he dodged the draft.

MR. O'DONNELL: He absolutely avoided --

MR. BLANKLEY: He joined the National Guard.

MR. O'DONNELL: And did everything he could to stay out of combat because he was afraid. He was part of the anti-war movement.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, come on.

MR. O'DONNELL: The National Guard --

MR. BLANKLEY: It's an unambiguous record.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- was an option for anti-war people who wanted the war to end because they were afraid --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are any of the dominant facts rendered untrue by reason of the alleged falsification of documents? Was he told by his commanding officer that he could no longer fly when he was about a year and a quarter removed from leaving the Guard?

MR. O'DONNELL: That is correct.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is correct?

MR. BLANKLEY: Almost every issue --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So I take it that that is a yes?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. Every issue is contested and has been --

MR. O'DONNELL: He didn't show up for duty in Boston.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and has been contested since Bush's career started. The significance of this story is that when CBS came up with documents to prove the accusatory side of the story, it was a national story. Now the documents are proven to be frauds and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he take his physical exam or did he miss it?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he missed it, but that's not what --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And why did he miss it, if he did?

MR. BLANKLEY: That's not what the document said. Everybody agrees he didn't take a physical exam, but a lot of people in the Guard missed their physical exams.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Well, what did the documents --

MR. BLANKLEY: The documents said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor talk.

MS. CLIFT: The documents were pretty colorful in saying that he was insubordinate and refused to take a medical exam and didn't show up for duty. And his commanding officer --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what is untruthful so far?

MS. CLIFT: -- thought they were trying to sugar-coat it. The secretary of the gentleman who allegedly wrote these documents says that they represent his true feelings. But the documents appear to be perhaps -- not proven yet -- a hoax.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I still don't know --

MS. CLIFT: And CBS has an obligation to come forward and tell us where they got the documents from.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I have not been following this as closely as some on this set, but I want to know factually what changed. What changes in George Bush's --

MR. O'DONNELL: Nothing.

MS. CLIFT: Nothing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- military service career --

MR. BLANKLEY: I'll tell you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from him.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you what changes here, John. That stuff is irrelevant. What is relevant is there are allegations that this individual criminally forged U.S. government documents. They were fenced by CBS to affect an election and bring down a president of the United States. You have got a Watergate situation on your hands.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, please.

MR. BUCHANAN: And CBS's reputation is tarnished, if not destroyed. Rather's career is going to be destroyed. This whole thing is going to explode, and that's going to be a far bigger issue than the Swift Boats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this conclusive now that the documents --

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- were forgeries?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MR. O'DONNELL: No, they're not.

MS. CLIFT: No, no, no. And you forgot what Watergate was all about if you can so blithely say this is on a level with Watergate. People went to jail in that.

MR. O'DONNELL: There are people who worked at IBM at the time who say that their typewriters were capable of doing that. We don't have --

MR. BLANKLEY: Every news outlet but CBS believes that they're frauds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a percentage figure of one to 10, the importance of the economy in this upcoming election.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, I think it's an eight, but it's been neutralized.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I agree with Pat. It's an eight.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's an eight. So it's subordinate to Iraq? You're saying it's subordinate to Iraq.

MS. CLIFT: It's about equal.

MR. BLANKLEY: If it was bad, it would be an eight. Because it's going to be okay, it's a three.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think it's dropped to a seven.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do? I think it's going to dominate Iraq.

Bye bye.


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