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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

TAPED FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2004
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 10-12, 2004

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Rumsfeld Grilled.

What was expected to have been an upbeat rally on Wednesday for U.S. soldiers stationed in Kuwait, destined for Iraq, turned into a sharp Q&A for the secretary of Defense.

U.S. soldiers almost daily are wounded or killed in their vehicles by roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

(Videotape.)

THOMAS WILSON (ARMY SPECIALIST): Now, why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles? And why don't we have those resources readily available to us? (Cheers; applause.)

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE RUMSFELD: I missed the first part of your question. Could you repeat it for me?

THOMAS WILSON: Our vehicles are not armored. We're digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that's already been shot up, dropped, busted -- picking the best out of this scrap to put onto our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.

(End of videotape.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The soldier asking the question is 31-year-old Army Specialist Thomas Wilson, a member of the Tennessee National Guard. Colonel John Zimmermann, a senior officer, also with the Tennessee Guard, added his views.

COL. JOHN ZIMMERMANN (TENNESSEE NATIONAL GUARD): (From videotape.) What we basically have is what we call -- (inaudible). It's real frustrating for these soldiers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ninety-five percent of Zimmermann's unit's 300 trucks are not appropriately armored, he told ABC News.

Mr. Rumsfeld traced the problem to physics.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) It's essentially a matter of physics. It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, you go to war with the Army you have.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT): (From videotape.) I don't think the response that you go to war with the Army that you've got is a very good answer at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dodd says what you go to war with is the weapons that your leaders have given to you.

Question: Rumsfeld and the Pentagon brass believed that our troops would be welcomed in Iraq as liberators, not reviled as occupiers. Is that the reason why we don't have the right kind of armor needed in Iraq? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's some truth to that, John. If you're a liberator, you don't need armor on your Humvee if you're driving around and you're being welcomed.

But what made this soldier particularly effective and poignant and powerful was the defiant reaction of the fellow troops in backing him up to the deputy commander-in-chief, if you will, Mr. Rumsfeld. And quite frankly, I think this touches the heart of all Americans.

Why, when we planned this war three years ago and we've been in a guerrilla war for over a year where these people are getting shot up in their Humvees and their trucks, why they have not been armored. It goes right to the argument that this administration was not prepared for this war and certainly did not anticipate the guerrilla war we're in. The cake-walk crowd is responsible for this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: You go to war with the Army you have when it is a war where you're being invaded and it's a necessary war. This was a war of choice that they planned for a year. They planned for the wrong war. They planned for the cake walk. And Donald Rumsfeld has yet to come to grips with the fact that he has mishandled this whole situation.

The smugness with which he handled the questions from the troops, I think, is what really gets to people. And that he is being rewarded with a four-year extended warranty on his job when he has led us into the Abu Ghraib prison thing -- you can lay that at his door step. You can lay a lot of what has gone wrong in Iraq at the door step of Mr. Rumsfeld.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of Rumsfeld's view that the reason why we don't have proper armor on the Humvees is essentially physics? Have you thought of the physics theory? Do you want to elucidate that?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, let's just review a little bit of the basic facts that haven't come out. First of all, our troops deserve to have the best protection that we can get them as fast as they can. That should go without saying.

However, it wasn't until the fall of 2003 that the field generals started saying, "We need more armor." Congress appropriated in May of 2004. At that time maximum production was about 23 units a month. They're now up to 450, and they can't quite keep up.

Now, I think it's legitimate to find out whether there are any other sources that can get this production. And you're correct to say that the reason there's a shortage is because of the insurgency that wasn't anticipated.

Keep in mind, the Marines turned down armor because these Humvees can only carry five tons of payload. Two and a half tons of that is used to armor them properly, which means they have limited function. And because the function now has shifted to urban driving under dangerous conditions, we do need to get more there than they anticipated. So they made a mistake in not anticipating the need for it, and they're now doing the best they can to get up to speed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that? And is there a larger canvas against which this can be put? Rumsfeld believed in shock and awe and he believed in fast maneuver and a relatively new theory about the function of the military away from heavy armamentarium. Do you remember all that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, absolutely. I mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that this is an outgrowth of that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, to a degree it is. They were looking for enormous speed in terms of the way they moved the military in the first 21 days, which was the sort of formal military phase of the war. Everybody there was moving fast. They didn't want to have heavily-armored Humvees or heavily-armored trucks because they were just trying to move and cut off --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was that good?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It worked in the short term. But it's because, in fact, as you pointed out, they didn't foresee what would happen afterwards that they got into all these problems. Now they realize they need this kind of armament to protect them.

Now, there are different phases of it. The Humvees are, by and large, armored. The trucks that are transporting the supplies are, by and large, not. The people from Tennessee who are in the National Guard tend to be the drivers of those trucks, and that's why -- they're right -- they don't have it. And we have not been able to supply those trucks with --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have to move on. But to add a point, the other down side of that rapid acceleration of movement across the desert was that they didn't safeguard the munitions that were found, and now those munitions they're using these roadside bombings.

Okay, the plot thickens. Thomas Wilson, the soldier who asked Rumsfeld the pointed question on inadequately armored vehicles, worked out his question in advance with Edwards Pitts of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. So wrote Pitts, the embedded reporter in Wilson's unit, in an e-mail to his co-workers.

Question: Is this what the world has come to? To get a question answered by the secretary of Defense, the press has to find a soldier to be their spokesman? Has the Pentagon declared war on the First Amendment?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's not fair, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I ask you.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. In fact, Rumsfeld's available to press. This was for the Army. But keep in mind, General Schoomaker had testified to Congress three weeks before this event. This has been an ongoing issue. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Myers -- I saw the testimony when he was testifying on this. The press and Congress have had plenty of time to review this. What made this a unique event was having that young soldier asking the question. And that's what was the news story, and that's --

MS. CLIFT: What makes it more of a travesty is that people have known about these shortages. They came up in the campaign, and nobody has done anything about it. President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld walk around posturing. It's a war Cabinet, a war president. Okay, if they're so good at conducting war, why don't they order the manufacturers to make the weapons (sic)?

MR. BLANKLEY: And that's where --

MS. CLIFT: The company -- excuse me~!

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

MS. CLIFT: The corporations with the contracts said they have offered to speed up production, and the Pentagon has turned them down.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, that's not --

MS. CLIFT: This is a scandal.

MR. BLANKLEY: You don't have the facts right. The company, Armored Holdings Inc., says that they can kick up their production 22 percent, from 450 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They said they could double it.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, 22 percent, without new investment.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, 22 percent, from 450. But there are other buyers in line, some of the technical companies that are buying them. So it's not clear that it's available to the Army at this point.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, John, journalistically, that guy didn't do anything wrong. He's a young reporter. He's with that Chattanooga paper. He is an embed. And what made it effective is the fact that he is with the troops, and the soldier got up and asked that question so poignantly. If that question, frankly, had been asked at the Pentagon briefing, we've got so many armored and things like that, it would not have been as effective.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you take note that at Fort Carson in Colorado, the Denver Post was denied access to the base because the Post sued to gain access to the trial of three soldiers accused of killing an Iraqi general in their custody? Has the Pentagon declared war on the First Amendment?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, look, we are at war, John. And I do believe there are occasions when you have to use military censorship so you don't damage the morale of the troops who are trying to win a cause.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know --

MS. CLIFT: Bush won re-election by successfully exploiting 9/11 and keeping the country on the edge of its seats about another terror attack.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: And they're going to continue to milk patriotism and fear of war and try to shut down any dissidence.

MR. BUCHANAN: I believe in wartime censorship.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the president's take.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country, I'd want to ask the secretary of Defense the same question, and that is, are we getting the best we can get us?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does the president deserve praise or kudos for his de facto praise of Army Specialist Wilson, and in so doing, for insulating Wilson from military reprisal? I ask you.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I'm sure that Wilson is not going to be subject to military reprisal. That is one thing I will guarantee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that guarantee --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, he didn't even need that. Everybody knows at this stage of the game that Wilson should not be touched. Everybody's getting behind him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He made himself an untouchable, did he not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it's a perfectly legitimate question on his part, wherever he got the question. They do deserve this. It might literally take the time to present it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Rummy --

MR. BUCHANAN: The president was dead-on. He did it exactly right. He moved behind Wilson and away from Secretary Rumsfeld.

MS. CLIFT: That was such a curiously passive thing. I mean, he just got re-elected to the most powerful position in the world. Why doesn't he say, "I want to demand the answer to that question from Secretary Rumsfeld, and if he can't give me a good answer, I'm going to fire him"?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I mean, that's the kind of answer I'm looking for.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, when you're elected president --

MR. BUCHANAN: He would not have been elected if he followed your advice. (Laughs.)

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: He feels the pain of the soldier. That's all he can do?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, he handled it very well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want George Bush to be --

MS. CLIFT: I want accountability.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you want him to be Teddy Roosevelt. He's George Bush.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I want accountability.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Rummy's realism.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What she wanted was Bush to lose.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The most hazardous duty in Iraq is riding in an unarmored or lightly armored convoy. So at his Kuwait pep talk, Rumsfeld looks at these guys in the face, and the women there, and with a shrug of his soldiers he says, "Hey, anybody can get blown up, even with armor."

Question: Is this beyond a tin ear? I ask you.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It was not his best moment. Let me put it that way. You know, we know what he was trying to say, but it just did not come out well and it was not his best moment. Call it a tin ear. Call it just a lack of response to that moment, without question.

MS. CLIFT: Tanks get blown up by TOW missiles. We're talking about trucks getting blown up by kids with hand grenades. And you can protect people against that, and it's within his power. And he'd better do something about it pretty soon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got to admit, Tony, this was really inexcusable.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, his rhetorical response was hardly touchy-feely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, even you, Tony, would --

MS. CLIFT: It's not something to laugh about, I don't think.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, it was obtuse, really. But Rumsfeld --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he does it all the time. It's the species of his sophistry, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's not, if you will, sort of a candidate type. Any candidate would have handled that a lot better than he did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's on to something with this physics idea, isn't it, and the Humvees?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he's not on to anything with the physics. Tony's onto something.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember -- do you remember Foucault's Pendulum?

MR. BUCHANAN: Tony's on to something. When you put the iron side on those Humvees, it increases the weight.

MR. BLANKLEY: Keep in mind that Humvees are basically Jeeps. They're not supposed to be armored vehicles.

MS. CLIFT: Well, why don't we make it voluntary? Only those troops who want it get it.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me finish.

MS. CLIFT: I think you did.

MR. BLANKLEY: They're being used -- they need to be used now for a purpose for which they weren't designed, which is to be a Bradley armored vehicle, and we're behind the curve trying to catch up.

MS. CLIFT: So why don't we make it voluntary?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: General Blankley is also trained in engineering. Did you know that?

Okay, Vlad strikes again. Russian President Vladimir Putin had this to say about elections in Iraq scheduled for January the 30th, six weeks from now. Quote: "I cannot imagine how elections can be organized in conditions of total occupation of the country by foreign troops."

Question: Is Putin making a preemptive strike against the legitimacy of the Iraq elections, meaning that Russia is prepping to deny recognition to the government that may win the election? Are you with me on that?

MR. BUCHANAN: I am. No, the answer is Putin is ticked off, John. The reason he's ticked off is because of what we're doing in the Ukraine, what we're doing in Georgia. So he throws out this comment, which is totally unhelpful. But Mr. Putin, I think, has no influence whatsoever over Iraq.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: And he has no clout there. And if they elect a government there, and a Shi'a government, he's going to recognize it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If there is somebody who we ought to look to for expertise on elections, it's Vladimir Putin. (Laughter.) I mean, there is a man who really could explain it to us, you know. You're right. I mean, his interference in Ukraine was absolutely deplorable, and his comments here are just totally worthless.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When are you going to answer my question?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Which is?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: My question is, is this preparatory for him to deny the legitimacy of any government that's elected there?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So what if he denies it? What is that going to do?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'll get to that now, in a few minutes.

Okay, the human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, including suicides, 1,282; U.S. military amputees, wounded, injured, mentally ill, all now out of Iraq, 31,650; Iraqi civilians dead, 100,000-plus.

Okay, exit question: Putin's strategy. Vladimir Putin calls American troops foreign occupiers. He says no way can you have elections. Earlier, Putin tried to draw a line around Ukraine and got no help from Bush; quite the opposition.

The real line of demarcation is Iran. Bush is preparing for a showdown with Iran, and Putin is readying for a showdown with Bush over Iran. The Russians have no intention of allowing us to invade and occupy Iran. Putin will definitely not stand idly by while the U.S. dominates the Middle East. Iran is the line in the sand. And Putin's voiced disapproval of the Iraqi election process was just a warning shot.

Question: Is this analysis of Putin's intent dominantly correct or dominantly incorrect? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is dominantly incorrect. The United States is not going to invade Iran. We don't have the troops to do anything like that. If we did use air strikes on their nuclear facilities, there is nothing the Russians can or would do about it.

Putin, though -- we are making a mistake in antagonizing and angering Putin, because the best thing the president did -- one of the best things early on was make of the Russians friends and allies. They are vital in the war on terror, and I think they are helpful in the war in Iraq, and you ought to bring them back into camp.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, in the current issue of The Economist Magazine, which I am holding in my hand, this is one of the toughest editorials that I've seen Putin write on anybody.

MR. BUCHANAN: Those guys --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is extremely worrisome.

MR. BUCHANAN: The international people have got to stop pushing the Russians.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're moving on.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me say one thing here.

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got to stop pushing the Russians.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. What?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Economist and the internationalists, the National Endowment for Democracy, all these guys are in the Russians' face. And it is a terrible, terrible mistake.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Read this, Pat, and see if you want to modify your views. What's the answer to my question with regard to Vladimir.

MS. CLIFT: That's the neocons' dream of bringing the troops out of Iraq and having them turn right and go to Iran. But it's totally fanciful. And I think, you know, Putin is a dictator, and he could spell trouble ahead, mostly because of his ability to manipulate the oil markets. But I don't think he's going to be marching into Iran or anyplace else either.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the -- is it dominantly correct or incorrect?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think Putin has badly misplayed his hand in the Ukraine, and I think he's responding not at as deep a level as you're suggesting strategically. He's -- you know, Ukraine is going to go into the EU. Georgia is going to go into the EU. He's losing his grip on the southern wing of what used to be the Russian empire, and he's misjudged --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's flailing out? Is that what you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: I exactly believe he's flailing, having been caught misreading the democratic instinct of the Ukraine.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bear in mind that he's also going to be modernizing -- in fact, if he hasn't begun doing it -- his nuclear fleet, as we are doing with our nuclear program here and as the Chinese are doing with a rocket, a missile that can go from the Taiwan Straits from underwater to the United States, continental United States.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say two things. One is, Putin is much more interested in modernizing his economy than he is in modernizing his nuclear fleet, and for that he needs the West. But secondly, I interviewed him about a year ago. He was much stronger about saying, "Why are you going into Iraq? The real problem is Iran." He recognizes Iran is a terrorist state. I mean, he made that very explicit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard the proposition, the proposition --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, and I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- no way will Putin allow the United States to become a dominant force in the Middle East.

MR. BUCHANAN: We are.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think we're already the dominant force in the Middle East.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not to the extent where --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You asked whether that is the correct interpretation, it's the wrong interpretation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's dominantly incorrect.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back, do we need a White House czar for drug-free athletics?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: 'Roid Rage.

FAY VINCENT (FORMER MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL COMMISSIONER): (From videotape.) I don't think people really appreciate how serious a threat this is to all of our sports if people can use performance-enhancing, physical-enhancing drugs to improve their performance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Steroids have ensnared the national pastime in one of its most serious scandals ever. Three of baseball's biggest stars admitted to a grand jury that they had used steroids and other drugs to enhance performance. Home run king Barry Bonds told the grand jury that he used steroids but did so unknowingly.

BALCO Laboratories produced the steroids, and its founder, Victor Conte, is charged with 35 counts of steroid distribution and money laundering. He says doping in baseball is rampant.

VICTOR CONTE (BALCO FOUNDER): (From videotape.) I would guesstimate that more than 50 percent of the athletes are taking some form of anabolic steroids.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How often does major league baseball test its players for steroids? Answer: Once a year. What is the punishment when a player tests positive for steroid use the first time? Answer -- get this -- counseling. What is the punishment for a second positive steroid test? Answer: A 15-game suspension. How many times must a player test positive for steroids before being benched for a full season? Answer: Five positive tests.

Senator John McCain says the league is soft on drugs, and if it doesn't crack down on steroids, he and Congress will.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (From videotape.) I will introduce legislation in January that requires some kind of regimen for testing of major league baseball players.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is McCain bluffing?

MR. BUCHANAN: McCain's proposal is absurd. The Congress of the United States ought to balance our budget and take a good look at Iraq and protect our borders and leave this ridiculous scandal -- and it's a terrible scandal; it's like the Black Sox scandal -- leave it to the commissioner of baseball and the fans and the clubs. If they want to run that into the ground, let them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I think there will be congressional hearings. This is an issue that Americans care about. McCain will get attention for it and will act as a hammer to get the players' association to push forward with periodic drug testing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what is Eleanor's view of that? Is that a good idea?

MS. CLIFT: Well, it stops short of legislation, so I think it's a good idea, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You got the liberal response. Go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: The fans like home runs. The owners like the fans. It's none of the federal government's business how the baseball owners decide to run their business.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not the baseball owners who are determining this. It's the players' association that is resisting the testing. It is a disgrace to this game. I think there's no way for the Congress to get involved. But if the league and the players' association don't do something about it, it's going to destroy a great deal of the credibility of this game.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the federal government has a role in regulating baseball? Yes or no?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I do not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort is correct. You're correct. You're correct. Eleanor, you're --

MS. CLIFT: I don't think they have a role either, but hearings can help.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- always correct.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Blocking Howard.

HOWARD DEAN (FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE): (From videotape.) We have to learn to punch our way off the ropes. We have to set the agenda. We should not hesitate to call for reform -- reform in elections, reform in health care, reform in education, reforms that promote ethical business practices. And, yes, we need to talk about internal reforms in the Democratic Party as well, and I'll be talking about that more in the days ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Howard Dean is sounding the battle cry for the Democrats once again. Two months from now, the Democratic National Committee will choose a new chairman to replace the outgoing Terry McAuliffe. Dean wants the post.

But he's not alone. Other potential candidates include former White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, former Michigan Governor James Blanchard, Texas Congressman Martin Frost, president of the New Democratic Network Simon Rosenberg, Democratic strategic Donnie Fowler, former telecommunications executive Leo Hindery, DNC vice chairman Wellington Webb. That's the field.

How does one senior Democratic strategist rate the field? "There's a dearth of good candidates. It doesn't seem like the 'A' list."

Question: On merits, is Howard Dean the right man for the DNC post? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, if Dr. Kevorkian could suggest a candidate for the Democratic Party, it would be Howard Dean. He will be a disaster for the Democratic Party, and if anything, he'll narrow their base and lose whatever credibility they have in foreign policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he have the personality for it? Does he have the energy for it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He has the personality of a loser. There's no question about that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, wait a minute.

MS. CLIFT: Howard Dean is the only Democrat who connected with the voters in this campaign season.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You wouldn't have known it from the polls.

MS. CLIFT: And he's essentially a new Democrat who happened to be against the war. He is a genuine reformer in terms of health care and education. And if he wants to renounce his own presidential ambitions, he's a good candidate for this job.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is Howard's ideology politically?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, he's not as hard left as some people think. On some issues he's moderate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's pretty left. He's not --

MR. BLANKLEY: But the Democratic Party's problem --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's not Zell Miller.

MR. BLANKLEY: But Howard Dean and MoveOn.org are anti the Washington Democrats. If he's not put in, they're going to stay out and piss at them from the outside. The question is, do you want them on the inside or the outside? That's the problem they've got.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he'd be an outstanding leader because he is a conservative fiscally. He's passionate on the war. The war is going to be the issue. He's got a tremendous following, John. I think he's the best guy out there; him and Blanchard.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is there any possibility the country might shift left?

MR. BUCHANAN: On the war --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, we have 45 million people without health insurance.

MR. BUCHANAN: On the war, there's a very good possibility.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The outsourcing of jobs will continue under Bush.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They had a chance, John. It's called the election.

MS. CLIFT: Howard Dean speaks --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The war will grind on.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Howard's time will come.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do not.

MS. CLIFT: He speaks with clarify and conviction, and that's what you need.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very fast -- predictions.

MR. BUCHANAN: "Passion of the Christ" will be nominated for an Academy Award as best picture but will not win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: It won't be long before a prominent Republican calls for Rumsfeld's resignation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Bush's Social Security proposal will include cost-of-living reductions as well as privatization.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The secular Shiite Allawi will lose the election to a theocratic Shiite in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jamie Foxx will win an Academy Award for his role as Ray. Bye bye.


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