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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

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

DATE: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2004

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Hola, Alberto.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) He always gives me his frank opinion. He is a calm and steady voice in times of crisis. He has an unwavering principle of respect for the law.

ALBERTO GONZALES (ATTORNEY GENERAL-DESIGNATE): (From videotape.) The American people expect and deserve a Department of Justice guided by the rule of law. And there should be no question regarding the department's commitment to justice for every American. On this principle, there can be no compromise.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Alberto Gonzales, White House counsel, has been nominated by President Bush to be the next U.S. attorney general. If confirmed, Gonzales will succeed John Ashcroft and be the first Hispanic ever to serve in what is a duo role -- that of the more political administration member, answerable to Bush, and that of the civil servant, the chief upholder of the law, answerable to the public.

Under the attorney general's purview are 130,000 federal employees, a vast bureaucracy that includes the FBI, the DEA, the Bureau of Prisons, the office of inspector general, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives.

Gonzales is a long-time personal friend of the president's, with Texas roots: Age 49, San Antonio-born, Mexican-American, married, three children; attended U.S. Air Force Academy, 2 years; Rice University, B.A.; Harvard Law School, JD. Corporate attorney and partner, Vinson & Elkins, Houston, '82 to '95; Texas Governor George W. Bush general counsel, '95 to '97; Texas secretary of state, '97 to '99; Texas supreme court justice, '99 to 2000; White House counsel for President Bush, 2001 to 2004. Nickname: "The Judge."

In choosing Gonzales, Bush has gone for continuity, since Gonzales is likely to carry on General Ashcroft's policies.

Question: Will Gonzales get swift confirmation from the Senate? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, John, he will get swift confirmation. He'll be questioned by conservatives a bit on his views on right to life and by others on his views on torture, frankly, because of some memos he wrote.

But, John, this is a strategic move on the part of the president to remove Gonzales from the line of succession to be a Supreme Court justice, which would have caused a firestorm. Conservatives were lining up against him. And so the president has moved him to the Justice Department, where he can establish his conservative credentials, but he's moved out of the line to be the first choice for the Supreme Court. So I think it's a very smart political move on the part of the president and Mr. Rove.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it smart for other reasons?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it's a Hispanic and he's going to -- he's choosing an Hispanic, and the first Hispanic to be attorney general of the United States. And I think that sends a good signal to the country, and it certainly does to the Hispanic community.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Aren't there scandals brewing in the second term, like the outing of Valerie Plame?

MR. BUCHANAN: Patrick "Bulldog" Fitzgerald has not been contained, as far as I know. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Halliburton and its probes.

MR. BUCHANAN: There are some others out there, too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's nice to have an attorney general who's been through the trenches with you.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's good to have a good friend as attorney general, and especially in a second term, when, you're right, scandals have a tendency to arise. And Mr. Gonzales proved his loyalty to George Bush when he was counsel to him in Texas and intervened when then-Governor Bush was called for jury duty and Alberto Gonzales intervened so that the drunk-while-driving charge would not emerge if George Bush was called for voir dire. And that is an act of loyalty that has endeared these two ever since.

So loyalty is very supreme here. But he may be taken out of the line of succession for the first Supreme Court appointment, but he's in line for the second or third. And conservatives may think he's a little soft on Roe or on affirmative action, but he's going to out-Ashcroft Ashcroft at the Justice Department to prove his bona fides with Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What message does the Gonzales nomination say or give to the Democrats?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know that it gives anything particularly to the Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I help you out?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'd rather just talk about him a little bit. (Laughter.) Look, only stupid presidents don't select friends to be attorneys general. And notwithstanding the thought of some blue-state people, President Bush is very smart. He's picked a very solid lawyer and a close loyal friend. That's the right move. It's a little bit like William French Smith was chosen by Reagan to be attorney general; even though ideologically he may not be pure, but he's solid enough. He'll do the president's bidding, which is what he wants.

As far as -- it is going to be a swift confirmation, but rocky. And the rocky part will be, as I guess Pat suggested, regarding his alleged torture memos. What he really did was he did a legal memorandum saying that terrorists were not subject to the Geneva Convention. Now, I've read the Geneva Convention, and terrorists are not subject to the Geneva Convention, because to be subject to the Geneva Convention, you have to wear uniforms, fight for a country, and fight for a country that's a signatory. And terrorists don't belong.

So the fact that he did an exemplary legal job on that memorandum has no bearing on the violation of policy that occurred at Abu Ghraib a year later. But that's a phony charge, but the Democrats will kick him around with that, but then he'll get the nomination (sic) -- he'll get confirmed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The message that Bush is sending to the Democrats is that "The spoils belong to me. If you thought for a minute that a bipartisanship meant that I would discard my trusted loyalist in a key position" --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I disagree. This is not the place for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, your side's team members -- you've been whistling --

MR. BLANKLEY: This is not the place --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've been building castles in sand.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is not the place where bipartisanship might occur. You might see bipartisanship at Homeland Security or HUD or maybe Education or Transportation. You won't find it at the "A" agencies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will Ashcroft be missed?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think so. I do think that this is an excellent appointment on many levels, including the fact that this guy came from nowhere to become the attorney general of the United States. It's a wonderful American story, and it's particularly good to tell that about the first Hispanic attorney general.

And it is critical in that position, as Tony was saying, that you have to have a good friend, somebody who can talk to you and to whom you can speak. That's a critical, critical ingredient for this relationship, and it's there.

And, by the way, I think this guy is an outstanding individual, and I agree with you on that, because if you read the third Geneva Convention, he was giving a legal memo, and he was absolutely right on the law.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I hate to rain on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we get a more balanced view on -- (laughter) --

MS. CLIFT: I hate to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we get a more balanced view on whether Ashcroft will be missed from you, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I just want to say --

MR. BUCHANAN: I will.

MS. CLIFT: -- I hate to rain on this parade, but Mr. Gonzales called the Geneva Conventions "quaint." I don't know that that's exactly a mainstream view.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He said it's quaint in a world of terror.

MS. CLIFT: Will John Ashcroft be missed?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He said it's quaint in a world of terrorism, which you know --

MR. BUCHANAN: John Ashcroft has been an outstanding, John, attorney general.

MS. CLIFT: I don't agree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You will remember the words that he clung to to make that statement, and the words were that "Those who are being imprisoned must not be allowed to experience any discomfort." That's in the Geneva Conventions, apparently; slipped in there somehow.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you want to say something good about Ashcroft?

MR. BUCHANAN: I certainly do --

MR. BLANKLEY: I do.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- in this sense. Look, we were hit on 9/11. There's not anyone on this panel that didn't think we were going to be hit again a number of times in various attacks. And they have rolled up these radical and extremist groups one after another.

The FBI has done an outstanding job; Homeland Security, every guy involved in it, including the attorney general, John Ashcroft, who has been hammered unjustly, John, in my judgment, because of the fact that he's a born-again Christian. He's an evangelical Christian.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the legislative legacy that is inherited by Gonzales also have its plus features, including the Patriot Act?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the Patriot Act, I think they're going to bring it back up. Maybe they'll make some modifications to it. But basically the Patriot Act simply gives the attorney general the authority against terrorists that he's got against organized crime.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me suggest --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has it gotten a bad press that it didn't deserve?

MR. BUCHANAN: It got a terrible press it didn't deserve.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I just add to that, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want you to elaborate on it, of course, if you feel so disposed, and apparently you choose to go your own way, whatever the question. (Laughter.)

"It," meaning the Patriot Act, "has made possible legitimate coordination between intelligence and law enforcement that has long been lacking. Because of a long-standing fear of intelligence being misused for domestic political purposes, there has been little or no cooperation -- there had been little or no cooperation between agencies or even between the counterterrorism criminal investigation divisions within the FBI.

"The Patriot Act has allowed FBI investigators to make greater use of intelligence and simplified judicial controls on their use of telephone tapping." It goes on in that vein; a sterling editorial in the Financial Times for last Friday.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the Washington Times, we also ran a very good editorial.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As good as this?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think every bit as good, even though it's not on pink paper; it's on white paper.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is salmon paper.

MR. BLANKLEY: Salmon. I'm sorry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's show the proper regard.

MR. BLANKLEY: But, look, the Patriot Act -- as you mentioned, the central complaint that everybody had about the failure of FBI and CIA to be able to talk together -- it solved that problem. It also gave the same power to the attorney general, to the federal government, to do searches that we've had for years against the Mafia and organized crime. And I think when the dust settles, you'll see very few changes.

But the other things about Ashcroft's career, which I think is worth pointing out, he oversaw the reform of the FBI from a merely investigative to a preventive organization, and he's put together probably the best white-collar crime unit that department's seen in a long time.

MS. CLIFT: Okay. All right. As a footnote to his glowing resume, the nearly 5,000 people that were reeled in after 9/11 under alleged charges that they were terrorists, not a single one was convicted.

MR. BLANKLEY: They've had several prosecutions --

MS. CLIFT: Secondly, he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: Not of that 5,000; those were independent. And secondly, the excess moralism. You say he was hammered on because he was an evangelical Christian. He was hammered on because he tried to impose those views on --

MR. BUCHANAN: What did he do? What did he impose?

MS. CLIFT: He draped a naked statue.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, isn't that horrendous. I didn't know that, Eleanor. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: He subpoenaed abortion records of women. And he's going after the Oregon death-with-dignity law --

MR. BUCHANAN: He subpoenaed the records --

MS. CLIFT: -- which was passed by the voters of Oregon.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- to prove horrible things were being done to women. It was not to expose anyone's name.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute, now. Are you on the side of undraping statues or what?

MR. BUCHANAN: Ed Meese got in trouble. He had that pornography report, and behind him was a statue of a bare-breasted woman. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who nominated Ed Meese to become --

MR. BLANKLEY: Ronald Reagan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Ronald Reagan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ronald Reagan. What happened?

MR. BUCHANAN: He won. He was attorney general.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He won. How long did it take?

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen, Meese, I don't think, took too long.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was arduous. Why was it arduous?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because they didn't have a one-party government, Republicans in the House, Republicans in the Senate, Republicans in the White House, Republicans in the judiciary.

MR. BUCHANAN: So it'll go smoking right through.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Smoking right through.

MR. BUCHANAN: As it should be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A hot knife through butter.

MR. BUCHANAN: As it should be, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, exit question. Forty-four percent of Hispanics voted for President Bush's re-election -- 44 percent. That's a high-water mark for Republicans, 7 percent above Ronald Reagan's then-record of 37 percent in 1984. So is the appointment of Alberto Gonzales an ethnic payoff?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, this man's a close friend of the president's. It is a factor in his appointment. But I generally believe, John, that 44 percent -- we're going to find out those exit polls were as wrong on that 44 percent as they were on a lot of other things. If the president got 44 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?

MR. BUCHANAN: If he got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, increased his vote among Jewish folks and among African-Americans, he would have won in a gigantic landslide. I don't believe that 44 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, you've forgotten early my advice to John Kerry from this program that he should have chosen an ethnic American for the position of vice president; among other reasons --

MR. BUCHANAN: Isn't Edwards ethnic?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the warrant of the size of this group and its growing importance and the requirement and the demand that it acculturate and the government taking interest in that acculturation, which you take a big interest in --

MR. BUCHANAN: You mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is, by the way, not a complaint. It's a recognition of what people are saying.

MR. BUCHANAN: You think he should have chosen -- Bill Richardson was the only -- he would almost have had to have chosen Richardson or have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are others out there, and they are very able.

MR. BUCHANAN: Menendez?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're very able.

MR. BUCHANAN: Menendez.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The point I'm making here is it also would have relieved the white-bread Bostonian Brahmin image of the patrician John Kerry with a Latino on the ticket.

MR. BLANKLEY: Nothing could have changed that image. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're so defeatist. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: I don't think a different vice president would have made the difference.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think it would have made the difference.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where are we? Did we have the exit question?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, this was a payoff to the Hispanic vote, and it was a brilliant payoff. And it's the beginning of Karl Rove trying to establish the Republican Party as an enduring majority party. It's smart.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no? A payoff?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's not a payoff, but obviously --

MS. CLIFT: Reward. (Laughs.) Thank-you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're struggling with this, aren't you?

MR. BLANKLEY: As Hispanics become a part of the general electorate, they're going to be represented in government. They should be. They are. He's a personal friend and he's qualified. It's not a payoff.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's a close personal friend. He's worked with him for a long time. The fact that he happens to be Hispanic is undoubtedly relevant, but it's not decisive. It's the other stuff that's decisive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's an ethnic payoff, because Bush recognizes the importance of symbolic recognition. Secondly, it's a personal loyalty payoff. That's probably a more motivational one.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. I agree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back, without Arafat, will Palestine collapse into in-fighting and civil war?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: The Next Arafat.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets this week to mourn the death of their leader, Yasser Arafat. For more than 40 years Arafat both led and symbolized the cause of Palestinian self-rule.

Also dominating the week: The issue of Arafat's successor, and what new leadership would mean for peace in the Middle East. Arafat's likely replacement is Mahmud Abbas, who preceded the incumbent Ahmed Qureia as prime minister.

As Arafat's successor, Abbas would represent Palestine in peace talks. The United States has applauded him as a moderate with whom they can do business. In fact, they already have. George Bush met with Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last year for a summit in Aqaba, Jordan.

This week, President Bush sounded more positive about the future of Middle East peace than he has in years.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I believe we've got a great chance to establish a Palestinian state, and I intend to use the next four years to spend the capital of the United States on such a state. I believe it is in the interest of the world that a truly free state develop.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The Palestinians have said they intend to hold elections within 60 days to choose a new leader to replace Arafat. Can they do it? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, they can hold an election, but the real issue is, is the government they elect going to have the capability of disarming not only all the different security forces, or at least consolidating them, but all of the criminal gangs that have taken over different parts of Gaza and the West Bank? That's where the power in that country, where the Palestinian society resides, is with the people who have guns. And they're not about to give them up.

Arafat could control them to a degree. Mahmud Abbas has none of that power and none of that charisma. And we'll have to see what happens. He may have the will but not the capacity. Arafat had the capacity but not the will to advance the peace process. We're just going to have to see how it plays out. And nobody knows.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the best thing that he has going for him is his association with Ariel Sharon? They seem to get along quite well.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Abbas and Ariel Sharon?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. But, I mean, look, the whole issue is going to be whether or not the terrorism stops. If that doesn't stop, this is going nowhere. And if it does stop, it'll go somewhere, and it'll go somewhere pretty quickly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are convinced that Ariel Sharon has an abiding interest in negotiating with the Palestinians.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, what he has been willing to do is to break his own ruling coalition in the parliament, to break his own party, all in order to be able to bring about what he thinks is a first step, which is the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and a down payment on the withdrawals from the West Bank, because he's moving out four settlements there.

Now, no other Israeli prime minister has done that. He was the patriarch of the settlement movement, and yet he's doing that and putting his entire political life at risk. That seems to me to be very serious evidence of good faith and commitment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I am persuaded of this. But one continues to hear the stories that Sharon does not want a parallel state.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, look, the Israelis and Sharon have accepted the idea of a two-state solution. That is not the issue. They're way past that. What the issue is going to be is exactly where the borders of it are and whether or not they're going to establish a peaceful state next to Israel or a terrorist state next to Israel. The latter will not fly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the probability -- there is a probability more on the side of infighting taking place in the Palestinian ranks than electioneering?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I think there will be both. But I don't know which one is going to end up in power.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see civil war?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The people with the guns still control everything in that world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see civil war?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's going to be some civil -- somebody's going to have to take the guns away from these people, or at least consolidate the power.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who could that be?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right now there's nobody there. The only person that could have done it was Arafat, and he didn't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is being theorized about doing it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it all depends where. In the West Bank, for example, there are three or four major security forces. Jibril Rajoub is the guy in the West Bank who controlled security under Arafat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about external control, external surveillance, monitors.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Tony -- Tony.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: To the extent that anybody could do it, it's going to -- the Egyptians are going to try and do it in Gaza.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see NATO playing any role?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the role that Blair is taking in all of this and Blair's commitment to it? Is Blair able to move NATO at all in that direction?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It all depends what --

MR. BUCHANAN: Blair is going to wind up with egg all over his face. This thing is going nowhere. Mr. Sharon has negotiated with Mr. George Bush. Bush has given him the big five settlements on the West Bank. He's given him the wall. He's given him Jerusalem, John. Dov Weinglass (sic), Mr. Sharon's deputy, says, "After we've gotten out of Gaza, we embalm the peace process." And that's what's going to happen.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Tony Blair wants the president to name an envoy, and he wants the White House to get aggressively involved in preparing the way for elections. So we're going to know pretty soon whether Bush is going to punt on this period leading up to the election.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look --

MS. CLIFT: In the press conference on Friday, Bush seemed to suggest that he would get involved after the elections, but he didn't want to get involved before. And now's the critical time.

MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, there's only so much an envoy can do, depending on the violence on the ground. But Bush might be well advised to pick a prominent Democrat to be the envoy to prove his good faith, if that prominent Democrat wanted to take the responsibility, like a --

MS. CLIFT: A prominent Democrat to take the political fall. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: -- like a Bill Clinton.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Is the Israel-Palestine peace process Bush's chance to win a Nobel Peace Prize? Yes or no. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't think he's ever going to get Ariel Sharon to take down a single settlement on the West Bank. And absent that, no Palestinian leader and no Arab leader can sign on to a deal Sharon can give him. I would advise the president not to waste too much capital. He's not going anywhere.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: When the president was asked in the press conference whether he would support a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, he did not answer. And the White House has a rule, no follow-up questions. So there's your clue. I agree with Pat.

MR. BLANKLEY: Arafat already got the peace prize and we don't have the peace. No, I don't think he's going to get a peace prize there. I don't think there's going to be peace.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four years from now?

MR. BLANKLEY: I wouldn't bet on it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think if this president can emerge as a war president and a peace president, that would be something that his legacy would be adorned by to such a degree that it would probably not be matchable or barely matchable by anything that has happened except World War II.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Agreed.

MR. BUCHANAN: How about winning the Cold War, John?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But the president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Winning the Cold War, yes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not the president; nobody controls what's happening on the ground in that part of the world. And until that gets resolved, you can't really push that process very far. I think he's going to give it a lot more effort than people realize or expect.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before we leave, Fallujah. Do you think that the military action, the massive military action we're taking there, is the right track on the basis of what you have seen?

MR. BUCHANAN: We've talked about this before, John. I think we all agree that you take risks when you do this and you take risks if you don't do it. I believe if we want to get out of there early, the president and Allawi and the United States have to take down these rats' nests of insurgents and terrorists and at least scatter them to where the Iraqi army can begin to handle them. So it may not turn out right, but I think they did the right thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, with all due respect, Pat, I think this resembles a primitive level of reflection on your part -- (laughter) -- meaning that once again you are appealing to raw military force.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we have a chance next week in a future show, I'll read the words of Kofi Annan -- (laughter) -- about militarism, and maybe you'll see the light.

We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Specter confirmed as Judiciary chair.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Battle for Democratic chairman pits red states against blue states.

MR. BLANKLEY: A new chief justice will be confirmed by Easter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John Kerry's going to run again for the presidency in 2008.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secretary of State Colin Powell will accept the position of president of the World Bank.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bye-bye.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bye-bye.

(End regular segment.)

(Begin PBS segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: The Big Pig.

It's called the Big Dig, a seven-and-a-half-mile stretch of highways and tunnels in Boston, opened last December after 15 years of construction. The cost: 14.6 billion taxpayer dollars, more than six times the original estimate, making the Big Dig the costliest public-works project in the country's history.

Throughout its construction, the Big Dig was plagued with rising costs and deficiencies, bringing constant angst to Boston commuters. Now, less than a year after its opening, there's a new problem: Hundreds of gallons of water in the tunnel springing from leaks in the tunnel wall, which could take another 10 years to fix.

HOWIE CARR (TALK-SHOW HOST): (From videotape.) It was, it always has been, the biggest boondoggle in American transportation history. And now it's even more of a disaster because it's a lemon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most of the $14.6 billion spent on the project came from federal taxpayers.

Question: Do you think that the Big Dig has become a metaphor for Boston? Patrick.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm afraid Howie Carr is right. (Laughs.) That thing is a disaster. But it's a magnificent thing. But, it's -- I mean, we've been reading about it year in, year out. And frankly, what it does show, I'm afraid, John, is that the United States was once known around the world as people that could get things done fast, enormous projects, get them done well. And this really contradicts the old image of America, frankly.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's a bold and innovative project to handling congestion in a city, so I give it high marks. But the corruption and the cost overruns I do not defend. And Bechtel, which is the major corporation that constructed this, ought to be responsible and ought to pay for the 10 years now of fixing the leaks. That shouldn't be up to the taxpayers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to be the action person on this? Kennedy is a blue-state member and Teddy pushed it. Other Massachusetts congressmen pushed it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Everybody in Massachusetts pushed it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everybody in Massachusetts pushed it. So what's going to happen?

MR. BLANKLEY: Obviously they're going to have to fix it, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want Congress to spend federal dollars -- federal dollars on this?

MR. BLANKLEY: And whatever the federal-state ratio is probably in the end going to be honored. I mean, it's stupid that it has to be done, but you can't have $14 billion into a system and then walk away from it. So more waste and more corruption will actually have to happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But we know that the red states are supporting the blue states. We heard that from Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. BUCHANAN: The blue states are supporting --

MS. CLIFT: No, blue states supporting red states.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me, blue states supporting red states.

MR. BLANKLEY: Except for O'Donnell's Massachusetts.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's red voters in blue states, though. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to get the blues? The blue states are going to get the blues if they have to shell out money.

MR. BUCHANAN: Romney will make a phone call and it'll all be done, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why pile Ossa on Pelion? Do you get that reference, by the way?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I do. But let me say something --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is Ossa on Pelion?

MR. BUCHANAN: Ossa on Pelion is the Latin phrase for one mountain on top of another, John. It comes from --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's got a Greek root, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Ah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know what it is? Do you know what the letters mean? Omicron, sigma, sigma --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sigma, alpha.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Alpha. Very good.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pelion. Do you know what those are?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pi --

MR. BUCHANAN: Epsilon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iota.

MR. BUCHANAN: Epsilon, lambda, iota, omega --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nu.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- nu.

(Laughter.)


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