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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: The heart of the matter.

Ninety-six minutes of debate on many subjects between the presidential contenders, Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, last Friday night. The heart of the matter, the heart of the debate and the heart of the election is Saddam Hussein. George Bush's metaphor for terrorism is Saddam Hussein. If Saddam Hussein has no power, terrorism will lose power. If Saddam Hussein remains in power, terrorism will gain in power. Mr. Bush says Saddam Hussein would still be in power if his opponent were president. Mr. Kerry says that the method that Mr. Bush chose to take Saddam's power away has made terror worse.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) My opponent's plans lead me to conclude that Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and the world would be more dangerous.

SEN. JOHN KERRY: (From videotape.) The world is more dangerous today. The world is more dangerous today because the president didn't make the right judgments.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Bush says that Saddam posed a huge threat and explained what that threat was. Kerry also says Saddam posed a huge threat. The issue, Kerry says, is how the threat was handled.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I saw a unique threat in Saddam Hussein. And the unique threat was that he could give weapons of mass destruction to an organization like al Qaeda, and the harm they inflicted on us with airplanes would be multiplied greatly by weapons of mass destruction.

SEN. KERRY: (From videotape.) I do believe Saddam Hussein was a threat. I always believed he was a threat. Believed it in 1998 when Clinton was president. I wanted to give Clinton the power to use force if necessary. I would have used that authority wisely, not rushed to war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Do you have thoughts on these exchanges? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I do, John. Look, what Kerry is doing is basically saying that where the president is wrong is how he went to war and he brought together the alliance, or failed to do so. And that's where the basic difference is. So you come down to two questions. Given the fact that Saddam Hussein had no ties to 9/11, no weapons of mass destruction, first, should George W. Bush have taken us to war? I believe we should not have gone to war.


MR. BUCHANAN: However, there's a second point here. That does not mean you should make John Kerry president of the United States. That is a second and separate question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Mr. Bush says that war was the only way to get rid of Saddam. Sanctions were not working. Inspections were not working. The U.N. was not working. Kerry says Bush jumped the gun. The inspections were were working. The sanctions were working. The U.N. was working.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) He keeps talking about, "Let the inspectors do their job." It's naive and dangerous to say that. He was deceiving the inspectors. Sanctions were not working. The United Nations was not effective at removing Saddam Hussein.

SEN. KERRY: (From videotape.) I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted. I came away convinced that if we worked at it, if we were ready to work at letting Hans Blix do his job and thoroughly go through the inspections, that if push came to shove, they'd be there with us. But the president just arbitrarily brought the hammer down and said, "Nope, sorry, time for diplomacy is over. We're going."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did Mr. Bush make an error of judgment so grave and so catastrophic when he determined that war was the only way to neutralize Saddam Hussein that it has rendered him undeserving and unfit to remain in office? Or is Mr. Kerry the one who is misjudging and that Mr. Bush had no other recourse to neutralize Saddam and his WMD other than war?

Was war the last resort? Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the report that came out this week, the Duelfer report, confirms that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, that he was not a grave and gathering threat, that he was a diminishing threat. Frankly, I thought Republicans -- I never expected them to be good on health care and education and all those soft social issues, but I thought they knew how to wage war. The incompetency of this administration, whether you favored the war or not, the mishandling of the way they went to war and the aftermath disqualifies them from another four years.

And I think that is the question here. If you vote for the Bush administration, you get four more years of the same, and that's the point that the Kerry people are trying to get across.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James, the war was a preemptive war. It was a preemptive strike. For a preemptive strike, you have to have solid intelligence. This intelligence was not intelligence at all. Where does that leave us? Where does that leave us in the eyes of the world?

MR. HARDING: Well, I think we're -- clearly the U.S. has had its credibility diminished. The real issue is going to be on November the 2nd when, if this country reelects George Bush, an animosity towards the Bush administration will become a questioning of America's judgment. I think that will shift if Bush gets reelected.

But just to stick with the Duelfer report and the comments that Eleanor was making, I think what's really important is that the president in this debate sought to rewrite history, sought to rewrite the report and did not address the fundamental question that Saddam Hussein may have had delusional ambitions but no abilities to carry those out, and he was a diminishing threat, he was not a gathering threat.


In early March 2003, five months after John Kerry's meeting at the U.N., two events took place. One, the United States launched war on Iraq. Two, UNMOVIC, the U.N. inspections team under Hans Blix, was shut down. In this interview five months ago, the head of UNMOVIC, Hans Blix, told me that as a result of his inspection and his many interviews with Iraqi scientists and key personnel, that if the United States waited for three months -- March, April, May -- and if his inspections had gone forward, we would not have gone to war.


JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: The inspection team under your direction, U.N. team, if that had been kept alive, say to midyear 2003, do you think the results, when displayed, would have stopped the war?

HANS BLIX (head of UNMOVIC): In January and February we had been to about 700 inspections and we had been to dozens of sites given to us by intelligence, U.S., U.K. and others. And at these sites we had found nothing. If we had continued them during March and April and May, and we would have gone to all the sites that intelligence had, we would have found nothing, since there was nothing. And we would have told intelligence that, no, there is nothing in the sites you have.


Question: Mort, why didn't Bush wait for three more months when he could have had the intelligence that would have denied him or made the case for preemptive strike okay?
Blix says three more months and there would be no such cause for war.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, let's just establish what was happening at that time. In the first place, the American intelligence and virtually every other intelligence agency in the world --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- U.K., German --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you explain that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They all --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you explain that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It came from the U.N. report, the UNSCOM report in 1998, which listed -- listed -- a whole inventory of unsatisfied questions vis-a-vis chemical and biological agents. Nobody knew what happened to them, and nobody --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he was withholding data?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, no, no, no. Let's get to the data. You asked me: Where did the intelligence services come to the conclusion that he had weapons of mass destruction? It came directly from the UNSCOM report in 1998, all -- where they listed all of the -- let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did Bush not wait for three months to -- the official UNMOVIC inspection team to finish?

MS. CLIFT: Because he wanted to go to war. (Chuckles.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, that gets to the question -- wait a minute. That gets to the second point, which is that the belief was that the only way you would find out where this stuff was hidden would be if you get people from the country to disclose it. And as long as Saddam was in power, those people were not going to squeal on the issue.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, John, what the --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They were not going to reveal it. And so they didn't have confidence in what Blix was coming up with, and that's why they did it.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you're off the point --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There were two other reasons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I'm not on (sic) the point.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There were two other reasons: that we had 300- -- 200,000 troops in the Middle East, and we couldn't leave --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the president decided on regime change --


MR. BUCHANAN: Regime change was the objective. The president decided he's probably got this, he may have a connection to 9/11. The decision was: Take down Saddam Hussein. It's the only way to ensure all of our objectives are achieved; that weapons, if they've got them, are removed; that any connection with 9/11 is found out; that we have American forces in there; that the Bush doctrine --

MS. CLIFT: They also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. So as a matter of fact, the president said the U.N. was not effective at removing Saddam Hussein.

MR. BUCHANAN: Saddam Hussein, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said that. He said Kerry would not have removed -- Saddam would still be in power.

MS. CLIFT: But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought the objective was to disarm Saddam Hussein.

MR. BUCHANAN: Remove. See, this is where you're mistaken. His objective -- the president decided we're going to have regime change. We're going to remove --

MS. CLIFT: But that's not what he went to the country with.
(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: And the only way we can do that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the weapons objective -- the president's objective does is to get rid of weapons of mass destruction, which means disarm Saddam Hussein.

MS. CLIFT: He went to the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He shifted at the end.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: He decided the only way to do it was to get rid of this guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Is that the only way to do it?

MS. CLIFT: He went to the --
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The only way to achieve regime change. Is that the only way to do it, to solve the problem? You solve the problem by getting --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's what he decided, and he stands by it, and Kerry said, "I would have voted to authorize war even if I knew Saddam" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a catastrophic mistake in judgment?

MR. BUCHANAN: I believe we shouldn't have invaded.

MS. CLIFT: He didn't share --
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait one minute. Let's get James in here. He's our guest.

MR. HARDING: He's -- (chuckles). Thanks very much. Here's the issue, is that I think Pat's completely right. There was one thing that we were being sold in the country, which was defend the U.S., defend the world from a gathering threat.
Saddam Hussein was not a gathering threat. There was a decision to change the Saddam Hussein regime.
And Mort's completely right. There were 250,000 troops on the ground. I think the French came to Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, at the beginning of January 2003, and said, "What do you make of this intelligence? What do you make of the dissenting voices?" And the view was, "We're not listening to the dissenting voices. We're moving ahead." And that was the --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but if you're going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Just hold on one --
(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: If you're going to unwind this awful movie, you go back earlier and the morphing of the anger against Osama bin Laden, and you transfer it to a secular state.
It makes absolutely no sense when the enemy is an extreme Islamic --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Wait a minute.

MR. HARDING: Which was a national anger, Eleanor. It was a national anger. That was the thing that they managed to harness, and that's what's most disturbing.

MS. CLIFT: They fooled us. They fooled us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Listen to this exchange. Listen to this exchange over whether Saddam would still be in power if Kerry were president.

(Begin videotape segment.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: The truth of the matter is, if you listen carefully, Saddam would still be in power, if he were the president of the United States.

SEN. KERRY: Not necessarily be in power, but here's what I'll say about the 87 billion (dollars).

(End videotape segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that mean, what Kerry says -- not necessarily in power?

MR. HARDING: That cuts directly to Pat's point, is that what's disturbing about this is, now that you're left both clear about the president's position -- that it's a mistaken and misleading one -- and confused by Kerry's position, that it seems to be -- that it seems to want every which way --
(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: No, you're not. No, you're not. No, you're not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is he talking about?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not necessarily --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. What is Kerry talking about?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Politics is what he's talking about. He doesn't want to have the burden for having his position be synonymous with Saddam Hussein being in power, because that's a political loser.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no, he means there are other ways of Saddam disappearing.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What are the other ways? What are the other ways?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The other ways are assassination --
(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Send him on a vacation? You couldn't get close to him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Another way is a coup, organizing a coup.

MR. BUCHANAN: Cut it out, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Another way is continue the containment.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why did he say that?

MS. CLIFT: The other --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And maybe age would do it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Why did he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe an insurrection would do it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Anything is possible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The country was broke.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We had tried that for years and gotten nowhere. Why didn't he say that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you justifying this war?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Am I -- do I -- yes, I believe --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you justify this war?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I do. I believe the war was the right thing to do.

MS. CLIFT: What Kerry is saying is that if he would have waited for the weapons inspectors, three months or six months, that we would have concluded he had no weapons of mass destruction, or we would have concluded he was deceiving us, because it's very hard to prove a negative.

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: And then he would have gone to war with the company of the allies --

MR. BUCHANAN: He would have gone to war?

MS. CLIFT: -- and we would have had more troops, and they would --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, how do you know that? Why doesn't he say, "I would have" --

MS. CLIFT: That's why he's saying, "Not necessarily."

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, please.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why doesn't he say, "I would have gone to war after three more months"? He doesn't say that.


MR. BUCHANAN: He didn't talk about insurrection.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: He doesn't talk about assassination. He leaves it hanging.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said not necessarily. (Cross talk.) That means he might not be in power, not necessarily, if he were president.

MR. BUCHANAN: And he might be in power. And he might be in power.

MR. HARDING: But John, what --

MS. CLIFT: And the point is --
(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's all politics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not necessarily. What's wrong with that?

MR. BUCHANAN: All right. That's your position.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's all politics.
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He could also mean military force.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right. He's got the position, and the president's nailing him on it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry wanted to wait until the inspections were finished. If the inspections found weapons of mass destruction, he might have supported a military action when necessary.

MR. BUCHANAN: Suppose they didn't find any. Suppose they didn't find any.

MR. HARDING: John, the problem is, we don't know what he meant. That's the problem. And if we don't know -- what --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what? So what?

MR. HARDING: Because he's standing to be president of the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't know what the contingencies are.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What he meant was, he didn't want to take the political heat of having Saddam be in power under his policy. That's exactly what the country is opposed to.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is where he's vulnerable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That point of view is so --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Why do you think Bush consistently says --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is so party-free. You know that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's party -- it's --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.
Who won the debate? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: The president cleaned his clock.


MS. CLIFT: I think, in fairness, it was a draw. But the race is frozen until the next debate. And Pat, I wouldn't look quite as smug.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: The only reason the president did as well as he did is because he improved on his performance the last --


MS. CLIFT: Excuse me! It's the only president that we grade on a curve. (Laughter.) The bigotry of low expectations.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who won the debate?

MR. HARDING: I think Kerry missed a big opportunity to connect with what's happening in the outside world. He didn't really connect with the disappointing jobs numbers, the high oil prices, the (conversation ?) that had been ignited by Donald Rumsfeld about the al Qaeda intelligence, by Paul Bremer about troop levels, and most importantly, about -- by the Duelfer report. He didn't connect with the terrible bombings in Egypt or the beheading of this man Ken Bigley. All in all, what Kerry missed was an opportunity to connect his candidacy with the distressing things that are happening in the outside world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And tracing those distressing things to this war?

MR. HARDING: And making that connection more forcefully, which he did in Miami last Thursday.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. HARDING: He did it more forcefully. He made the Osama bin Laden case much more forcefully 10 days ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Remember now, Kerry's objective was to talk about abortion, health reform, stem cells, education, Supreme Court, environment, et cetera. That was his intention. He wanted to talk more about that.

MR. HARDING: Well, he did -- (cross talk) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I regard the Iraq war as THE number one lever that will move the American psyche as a collectivity. Kerry believes in -- he believes in speaking about collectivity. He believes in collective security. Collective security used to be part of Americana. And it's disappeared from the screen with this administration.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, not entirely, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He says that you cannot accomplish what he -- what President Bush wants to accomplish, particularly with the metastasis of al Qaeda into thousands of deadly tiny cells that has been caused by this war.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But to quote the Duelfer report, okay, we would not have gotten the French because of the commercial relationship between France and Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that's rubbish. I think that's rubbish.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you may think it's rubbish, but he says --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look at what the al Qaeda is doing over in France.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm only talking about why the French, who said they would veto anything before -- after that first resolution -- why did they do that? It would have made it impossible to have collective, as you say, support on that.
But to go back to the debate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Collective security --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I just want to say one thing about the debate. I do think it was essentially a tie, with the one exception that Eleanor refers to, which is that Bush improved so dramatically from his first performance that that, in a sense, became the story of the debate even though they -- I think were roughly tied. And in that sense, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The debate reminded me of a bull fight.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- in that sense Bush gained.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, the arena, with the way the spectators were collected there.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But who's the bull?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush is the bull. (Laughter.) He's snorting and he's stomping around the stage. And Kerry, looking imperially slim in his black clothing and mincing around the stage. And I believe that Kerry --clearly Kerry, if you read this debate -- if you read it, Kerry's data and his specificity and his --

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't read a debate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't read a debate to judge it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I read debates, and you ought to read debates.

MR. BUCHANAN: Fifty-five million people aren't going to read it. They saw it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you ever read a debate in your life? (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: I've been in them. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Read the debates.

MS. CLIFT: The president was belligerent the way he came across, and Kerry was calm, he was collected, he was rational.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was just a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me finish.

MS. CLIFT: The only thing that Kerry lacked was he needs to bring a little more passion to his case, and I would hope he would do that next week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think of Bush's continued Europe bashing? What did you think of that?

MS. CLIFT: It's no-nothingism carried to an extreme, basically.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said, do you think I'm going to let Europe decide for me what is good for our country? -- as though Kerry were saying that, as though any fool could think that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But look what Kerry --

MS. CLIFT: It's part of the way he brags he doesn't read anything.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just a second, if you don't mind.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I was completing a sentence first. (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look what Kerry was saying.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was he saying?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He was dumping, in effect, on the alliance
with Britain, Spain, Italy and other European --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Kerry was.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where? When?

MS. CLIFT: He was not dumping.

MR. BUCHANAN: He called it --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That coalition of the bribed and the coerced.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- the coalition of the bribed and coerced.

MS. CLIFT: He is pointing out --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, we're talking about a controlled debate situation where he's giving his definitive thoughts. We're not talking about rhetoric. Furthermore, a couple of --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Whose rhetoric?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry's rhetoric.

MS. CLIFT: He's pointing out --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, what about Bush's rhetoric. They both --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about a controlled situation. He didn't say last night.

MR. BUCHANAN: You're own behavior, John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The only country --

MS. CLIFT: He's pointing out the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The only country that Bush dumped on was France, basically in that, okay?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, your own --

MS. CLIFT: He was pointing out --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he was right to dump on France. And believe me, that evidence is in the Duelfer report, up, down and sideways.

MS. CLIFT: Kerry was pointing out --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, your own exasperation and frustration tells us that George Bush cleaned his clock. (Laughter.)

MCLAUGHLIN: Ridiculous! Read the debate.

MR. HARDING: John, the person who won the debate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In terms of the stylistic performance, I think --

MR. BUCHANAN: Now you're calming down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Bush had very high energy.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Kerry had less energy. Kerry was somewhat fatigued. But notwithstanding that, it has to be a draw even on the stagecraft.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't disagree with that. I --

MR. HARDING: John, the person who defined the debate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His point is very valid. There's a whole sweep of activity that Kerry's got to bring into this debate, this last debate. And he's talking about that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he did not. And he failed.

MR. HARDING: The person who defined the debate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This war has unleashed on the world a phenomena -- such a wide range of phenomena of evil, of evil, that he should draw upon this.

MR. HARDING: But John, the person who defined the debate was Cheryl Otis, the first questioner, who said, are you wishy-washy? And the whole conversation was about that, about Kerry's flip-flopping which --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is flip-flop gone as a result of this debate?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's still there?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Because of the way he handled the abortion issue?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. The first question -- he's right. The first question, are you wishy-washy, and Kerry's all over the lot, and the president came in with his right hand and it was a knockdown in the first round.

MCLAUGHLIN: I fail to see how you can say that.

MS. CLIFT: You know, we watched a different debate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I fail to see how you can say it. And the cheap shot of the president talking about the careful, conscious -- his conscience was clearly at work, he's a Catholic. Mario Cuomo went through it, Giuliani went through it, about abortion.

MR. BUCHANAN: He lost that! Missouri's a pro-life state.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did he say? The president comes out and he says, well, what was that all about?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he was all over the lot!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was not all over the lot.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure it was.

MS. CLIFT: He's all over the lot for Pat because Pat only wants him to say he's opposed to abortion. He's not going to say that. It's a complicated --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because Pat, when he wants to be, is an oversimplifier?

MS. CLIFT: Right. The first issue was with the "wishy-washy" question. It gave --

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't sound like a winner, John.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. It gave him a chance at the answer, but Bush was on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back. We'll be right back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: October surprise.

For 16 months, 1,500 U.S.-U.K. inspectors have scoured the cities and deserts of Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction. The team is called the Iraq Survey Group. It was put under the supervision of Charles Duelfer. Duelfer was personally appointed by President Bush. The cost of the massive search by these 1,500 hand-picked personnel was $600 million dollars.

This week a 1,000-page report was delivered to the United States Senate. The verdict: Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction since 1991, no programs to manufacture them, no stockpiles, no plans. In fact, none of these for the last 13 years, when the first Gulf War ended. Saddam made a deliberate choice then not to have any such weapons, and whatever may have then existed, he destroyed.

(Begin video segment.)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): Now, what you're telling us, in addition to that, today, is that in addition to having no WMD stocks before the war, for the reasons you gave, Saddam chose not to have those weapons. Is that correct?

CHARLES DUELFER (special advisor to the director of Central Intelligence for strategy regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction): That is correct.

(End video segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The report also found no evidence that Saddam had tried to get uranium from abroad at any time since 1991, including, and specifically, the African nation of Niger. Also, over the course of a decade, any remnants of an earlier nuclear effort had decayed and would have taken years to reconstitute. The report also makes clear that the sanctions worked, and the inspections worked. They forced Hussein to disarm and to remain disarmed. In so doing, the sanctions and the inspections were 100 percent effective in keeping weapons of mass destruction out of Saddam's hands.

Exit question: How badly has America's credibility been damaged by the findings that no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction existed when we attacked Iraq?

Describe it in your own words, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John, we already knew that with David Kay. I think the president's personal credibility as leader of the United States has been severely damaged.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Severely? Twenty-five years for recovery?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. And the country's reputation has been moderately damaged.


MS. CLIFT: I think the damage is very specific to this administration and its leadership, and with a new president, it can be turned around.


MR. HARDING: I think both Bush's credibility has been damaged but also, importantly, the U.N.'s been, because this was an epic corruption operation that was run by Saddam Hussein, and it was overseen by the U.N. So George Bush and the U.N. --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That has nothing to do with the --

MR. HARDING: But the Duelfer report is squarely about both things.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's nothing to do with the adequacy of the inspections or the adequacy of the sanctions.

MR. HARDING: No, but the oil-for-food program --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, I think the credibility of Bush has been affected, but most of all the credibility of our intelligence services and that of Tony Blair and the British intelligence services and of intelligence services around the world, all of whom shared that same conclusion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the odium and the loss of reputation attaches to Bush and not to the nation. We'll recover.

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye!