MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Mahmoud's Mandate -- not just a win, a mandate.

Thousands of joyful Palestinians poured into the streets this week to celebrate the peaceful transition of power from the late Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas, elected president with 62 percent of the vote and 70 percent of eligible voters at the polls, a stunning turnout.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon telephoned Abbas and spoke to him for about 10 minutes -- the longest high-level exchange between Israelis and Palestinians in years. The Israeli government has offered to meet with Mr. Abbas. Also, President Bush has said that he will meet personally with Abbas, a dramatic change, given his longstanding refusal to meet even informally with Arafat.

On Thursday, six Israeli civilians were killed and five wounded by a Palestinian militant in an attack at a checkpoint on the Gaza-Israeli border. President Bush -- excuse me -- President Abbas said the attack was in response to the deaths of nine Palestinians this week, killed by the Israeli army. Hours later, Mr. Sharon suspended all contact with the Abbas government.

Question: Notwithstanding these setbacks, are we on the threshold of a new era of relations between Israelis and Palestinians? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I'd have to say yes to that, John, for the simple reason that there were no relations with Arafat and the situation was as bad as it had ever been, virtually.

But I think this. Anyone who thinks we're going to get any kind of agreement, I think, is na‹ve, because Ariel Sharon is not going to share sovereignty with Jerusalem. He's not going to remove the wall from Palestinian territory. He's not going to give up any significant part of the West Bank. And there's going to be no right of return for the Palestinians.

He cut that deal with the president of the United States last April. He's not going to give the new leader, Abu Mazen, anything in that sense. The new leader will not be able to sign an agreement. So you're kidding yourself if you think you're going to get an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Abu Mazen is the nom de guerre of whom?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's Mahmoud Abbas, the fellow you've just been talking about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. So we're using those names interchangeably. Why don't we stick with one -- Mahmoud Abbas?

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, we'll do Mahmoud Abbas.


MS. CLIFT: Well, it's a huge change, but I wouldn't be too hopeful, because look how quick Sharon pulled back at the first sign of violence. And the violence did not come from Hamas, because Mahmoud Abbas has managed to bring Hamas into the political process. But this was Fatah, which is his own political party, which is corrupt and in disarray. And so he's got to get them under control. He's got to rebuild the security forces and he's got to revive the economy.

And for all of that, he needs help. He needs money. He needs the Bush administration perhaps to put the CIA back in there, because there's no trust between the parties to act as a buffer. And so there's a huge opportunity here, but I'm not sure the Bush administration is going to be willing to take the tough steps to rein in Sharon as part of it. And this is an administration that does not have the constraint of running again. So they ought to do what's necessary, but I'm not hopeful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Palestinians deserve congratulations, do they not, in having arranged this smooth election. Barring these killings, it was an otherwise terrific turnout and it was relatively civilized.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was a wonderful election. It was the first one of any consequence that they've had. It's a good beginning. But we all know, as Pat has said, that the chances are still very, very low; the promises that he had to make during the campaign. He fell back on using language like "the Zionist entity." Frankly, it didn't sound a whole lot better than what Arafat was saying back in '91. So I remain, as anyone, I think, who looks at it, pretty pessimistic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that it is the intent of Prime Minister Sharon to empower Abbas?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, yes, I think Sharon would like to help Abbas. He'd like to help anybody who can help him particularly deal with Gaza, because the Israelis are going to withdraw from Gaza. And it's very critical, if there's going to be any hope for any progress, that there's got to be a smooth transition and that the Palestinian Authority under Abbas takes over in Gaza. That might be a template of what might come in the future. But if you have this kind of terrorist attack that goes on, then I think we're going to be in very, very difficult straits.

I would disagree with what was suggested before. In the first place, Hamas took credit for this, along with the al-Aqsa group from Abbas's party. So you have a problem in that he does not control the terrorist groups. And it is clear that one of the reasons why this election went so well was that he made a deal with these terrorist groups that he was not going to violate, in a sense, whatever their limits were in terms of whatever he's going to do with the Israelis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's got a problem with unifying the command over there.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Police, security.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He has no power of the guns.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Power grows out of the barrel of a gun there, and he does not control any guns. That's his problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to talk about Sharon's situation. Thirteen of the members of the Likud voted against him. He won narrowly, 58-56. He won because two Arab Israeli legislators absented themselves, and then he pulled in a couple of religious-party votes. Correct?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So is that government -- is that dodgy over there with him? Is that why his crackdown immediately on Abbas, saying, "No more contact with you," was required by reason of his own dodgy political condition?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, he has been willing to split his own political support in the Likud party in order to proceed with his plan of disengagement. Now, he has got two issues. He's got a budget on one side and disengagement on the other. He's got different majorities in both of them. But the fact is, on the disengagement thing, which is the critical thing, because he's going to get through the budget, he is absolutely going to be able to carry the day. That, I think, is a done deal as far as Israeli politics are concerned.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let's take a look at one thing, John. First, this incident, nobody can defend what they did, but it's in response to an Israeli tank shell fired into a strawberry patch that killed seven teenaged kids who hadn't done a thing.

Secondly, Mr. Sharon's deputy said, "Yeah, we're going to withdraw from Gaza, but the purpose of that is to embalm the peace process. We've got what we want on the West Bank." Anyone who thinks Ariel Sharon, who put up those settlements on the West Bank, given the trouble he's got in Gaza, is going to take them down, is, I repeat --

MS. CLIFT: Politically --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think that's accurate at all.

MS. CLIFT: Politically, Sharon is in a strong position. He's got a unity government. He could take steps if he wanted to.


MS. CLIFT: I don't think he wants to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm contesting. I'm not sure that his position is so strong. You've got Benjamin Netanyahu breathing down his neck. Is that correct?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. Look, he has a tenuous political position.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a hardliner.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The only reason the government is staying in power is because he says, "Okay, if you try and throw me out, we'll go to elections," in which case he will emerge even more strongly, because 70 percent of the country supports his disengagement plan. And those people who oppose it know that, so they're afraid to throw him out of office.

So he's going to be able to get through this. It doesn't mean that it's easy for him, but he's absolutely committed to it. And what he did in terms of getting whatever agreements he had with the president of the United States on this was to make --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Elliott Abrams letter.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- to make -- (laughs) -- he made huge commitments.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's exactly what it was.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He made huge commitments in terms of what he was prepared to do and not to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you predicting the government will remain in place, his government?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It will remain in place until next year, without question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he's going to continue the pullout from Gaza.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's going to pull out in Gaza. He's going to pull out in the northern West Bank. And if that goes peacefully, they'll pull out of other areas from the West Bank.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, voting across --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Voting across the Mideast -- sorry, Pat. Voting across the Mideast. We have to move on.

Besides Palestine, other elections are scheduled for this year in the region. Saudi Arabia votes on February the 10th. Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan will follow later. And reform talk is in the air, with words like transparency, pluralism, accountability and diversity now in the political lexicon, with less focus on Marxism, nationalism, and Islamism.

The U.N. has been pushing brainstorming conferences on political development as a necessary adjunct to economic development. In politics, talk matters. The political dialogue counts a lot, because that is how change begins. Ideas filter down, sometimes with revolutionary consequences, like Tom Paine's Common Sense in colonial America.

This combination of factors is now key to the Middle East trajectory, many believe, namely that the Arab League nations are on the cusp of becoming part of the international community. "The next big idea for Arabs and Muslims may well be about the best way of joining the global mainstream as an active participant, and not a real or imagined victim," says scholar Amir Taheri.

Question: Is the Middle East ripe for incipient democratic change? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, they are responding to pressures from the West and from their own populations to have elections. The Saudis are holding elections -- men only. I'm not going to applaud that too much. Yemen apparently is taking a real step.

But, look, Egypt has had elections for 100 years and Egypt is not democratic, nor is Jordan. So a lot of this is window-dressing, and the despots and the dynasties --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Mubarak going to run?

MS. CLIFT: I don't know whether Mubarak needs to run.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he be elected? He's very popular.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He handled two problems extremely well -- the Israel-Palestinian problem and the Iraq problem.

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's the kind of elections they have. It's like the kind they used to have in Iraq when Saddam was in power.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you just listing them all together? Doesn't it mean something that there is a democratic impulse at work, even as a harbinger --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- as a harbinger of things to come?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just make a point.

MS. CLIFT: Nascent.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think that something valid is happening that's new. And the talk -- you can see it on the Internet in the Middle East. The talk is clearly there at a level it's never been before. But to think that what's happening now means imminent democracy there, we could be 10, 20 -- we could be generations --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's incipient.

MR. BLANKLEY: It is. It is. You're right.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a change of direction.

MR. BLANKLEY: You're right, it is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a change of direction.

MR. BLANKLEY: It is a new light.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If you had a real election in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden would get 75 percent of the vote. I mean, and what did Mubarak say? He said, "If you had a real election in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would end up in leadership of the country."

MR. BUCHANAN: You are right, John, about this. You are right about this, John. The American intervention in Iraq and the ideas rolling through there, the winds of change -- McMillen's (sp) phrase -- are coming to the Middle East. I do think there are going to be dramatic changes. But I think the last possibility of success is going to be the world democratic revolution that Bush thinks is coming.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Before we get that, we're going to get a lot of things we don't like.

MS. CLIFT: Elections --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, are we now moving in the Bush direction throughout the Middle East?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think the whole situation has been roiled by the American invasion of Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think real change is coming.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. What about the UNDP, United Nations Development Program?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you remember the report they gave in the year 2002?

MR. BLANKLEY: All hail the UNDP.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead and laugh.

MS. CLIFT: Elections --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you remember the Arab influentials did a powerful UNDP and it spread throughout the Arab world and it pointed to the deficiency, the gross deficiencies in government?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. I think there must have been three or four hundred people out of 1,400,000,000 who read that report.

MS. CLIFT: Well, elections are almost --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Paine: "The influences are the one and ideas seep down" -- Tom Paine, Tom Paine.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: These were the intellectuals in the Arab world. Both of them.

MS. CLIFT: Elections are --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Bolsheviks? What was the word -- Spark? You remember the word Spark?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. Iskra was the name of the paper. (Ed. note: Iskra is the Russian word for spark.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iskra. There you are. What do you say?

MS. CLIFT: Elections are almost trendy --

MR. BUCHANAN: It was Lenin's newspaper. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Elections are almost trendy in the Middle East. But don't kid yourself. They're not going to come out the way the ruling families don't want them to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's in the air. It's in the air.

MS. CLIFT: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's in the air.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Lenin might have been right, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a change of direction and it's quite dramatic. Whether or not it's traceable to the Iraq war is something else.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's the tremendous ferment that's taking place.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it pre-existed the war.

MR. BUCHANAN: But that has really accelerated it. It is like World War I. I mean, all these changes came out; they were unanticipated. A lot of changes are going to come out of this area, and we're not going to like them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you doing? Are you trying to whitewash Bush now?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I'm not. I just say --

MR. BLANKLEY: Quite the contrary, I think.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think it's going to come well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you don't.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I agree with Mort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we know that --

MR. BUCHANAN: If you have a revolution in Saudi Arabia, give me a week to get to the bus.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you read, Schopenhauer, the pessimist?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a political probability scale --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's Spengler. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- from zero to 10, zero meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, how probable is it that the Israelis and the Palestinians will reach an agreement this year on a formula for Palestinian statehood? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, they could make an agreement somehow on Gaza. For statehood, it's between zero and one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oof. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Rhetorically, something like a road map is maybe a three. Anything real is minus one-half, between zero and one.


MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor is precisely correct.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We're all in agreement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know. I feel differently.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I wish you well. I'll tell you, I certainly hope you're right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm going to give it a six. We're talking about an agreement on a formula.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In the Middle East they say hope is a good breakfast but a poor supper. You're on the midnight snack, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Political pot pourri.

Item: Blankley's coup. One of the McLaughlin Group's own, Tony Blankley, made news this week in a 40-minute Oval Office interview with President Bush. In the interview with editors and reporters from the Washington Times, Mr. Bush emphasized his top priorities. "I will work hard to make it clear to the American people that we have a problem with Social Security. There is a problem with immigration. There is a problem with the tax code; it is a complicated mess, as I said. You're probably sitting there saying, 'Has the guy bit off more than he can chew?' The answer is, we will work as hard as we can to get as much as we can get done, as quickly as possible."

Question: Which will be Bush's toughest sell on Capitol Hill -- immigration amnesty, tort reform or Social Security privatization? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's a tie between immigration and Social Security. Interestingly, on immigration he said -- and it's the first time I've heard him say it, though maybe he has before -- that he always wants to tighten up the borders securely. If he's serious about that and is programmatic and willing to put money into it, he may be able to finesse immigration, although right now there's probably 150 House Republicans who would not support his current proposal.

MS. CLIFT: Right. On the eve of the inauguration, the Democrats are a lot more united than the Republicans. It's not clear the president's agenda has any traction on Capitol Hill, specifically Social Security reform and immigration, and the whole --

MR. BLANKLEY: He's going to put an extraordinary amount of resources into Social Security.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How come no one asked about the Israeli election? Excuse me, the Palestinian election.

MR. BLANKLEY: We have a limited amount of time. We had a lot of time by presidential standards. We got into issues I thought were more important. I asked him about the Army strength.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's saying that your choice of issues here today are not important, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you also asked him how the new pup Ms. Beasley was getting along with Barney.

MR. BLANKLEY: I did, because we have our own young puppy in the house, so I asked the president how his dog was doing with a new pup. We actually broke some news on that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was the news?

MR. BLANKLEY: The news was that the young puppy was kind of dominant and giving Barney a hard time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Commander-in-Chief Bush on the armed forces: "No women in combat." What about that, no women in combat?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, that's always been the rule. What's happened, this big controversy has resulted recently because the military and Army is reconfiguring its forces so that some of the combat support are going to be located with the combat units in combat zones. And this was an important answer he gave. When he said no, I took it to mean that he didn't approve where the Pentagon was moving with this.

MS. CLIFT: Tell that to the women who have died in Iraq. When you have a war without a front, you have women go over there to do something else, you get caught up in combat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The issue is co-location, and it's a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Co-location?

MR. BUCHANAN: It means -- Tony's right. Some support units had women in them. They're not to be right up there with combat units if they have women in them. The military is thinking of moving them up there. And the president seemed to indicate that he would go along.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's bi-location -- bi-location.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's called co-location.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's called co-location. But that's why my question to him about Army strength, active forces strength, I think, is important, because the solution to that is to expand the Army by more than the 30,000 they're planning to. And he indicated at this point no indication to go that far.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He made clear, however, that women could fly the jets and also fly the helicopters.

MS. CLIFT: Well, they've been doing that. That's not breaking news.

MR. BUCHANAN: But not combat duty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No ground combat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No combat duty, so no combat helicopter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, President Bush on faith. "I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not to worship as they see fit. That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit. On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president -- at least from my perspective -- how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord."

Question: What was the reaction, Tony, to the president's statement on the role of his faith to his presidency?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, my reaction, our paper's reaction, was perfectly positive. It makes perfect sense. He said he can't imagine how a person could do the job without being president. But a lot of the secular fundamentalists in the media leaped on that. They have a fetish about a president expressing his faith, and they've tried to make it into a controversy. I don't think there is one there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's one, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Look, he used the language that evangelicals use --

MR. BLANKLEY: What's wrong with that?

MS. CLIFT: -- "relationship with the Lord." And he -- most presidents speak in more broad terms. And I'm not questioning his faith. I'm not questioning the fact that he said it. But he is speaking to 20 million evangelicals who put him in office.

MR. BLANKLEY: That suggests --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have any problem with it?

MS. CLIFT: And he's extracting political mileage out of it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not only do I not have a problem with it. I think it gives him a level of personal strength that he feels he needs to conduct the presidency the way he does. I fully respect that. I don't see what -- there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

MR. BUCHANAN: The man is simply saying what he believes. He's saying what he believes. "This is my relationship with the Lord. It is imperative I feel that I have that as president." There is nothing wrong with that.

MS. CLIFT: I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it. I'm just questioning how far it goes. Faith-based military policy usually --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, when are you going to go in and --

MS. CLIFT: -- usually are disasters. And if that's what we're looking at in Iraq, where he goes in by his instinct and doesn't listen to opposing views, I think it's a very dangerous situation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Item: Billionaires Club.

MS. CLIFT: Too much certitude.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A group of billionaire philanthropists is set to donate tens of millions of dollars to U.S. left-wing intellectuals. These billionaires' mission is to develop progressive ideas, i.e. to counter the prevailing conservative ascendancy.

The group includes Hungarian-born financial magnate George Soros and Californians Herb and Marion Sandler, who own a savings-and-loan business, and Ohio businessman Peter Lewis. In the 2004 election cycle, these donors together gave $63 million to leftist 527 advocacy groups.

Last month, Mr. Soros and company held a secret meeting in San Francisco, where they insisted that aides leave the room. There, in that sequestered chamber, they pledged to give even more in the future -- as much as $100 million.

Question: Are Soros and company correct in thinking that the problem with liberalism is a lack of ideas? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, in one sense there is a lack of ideas, because what they are looking for are ideas that can command a majority in this country. And I think that's where the Democrats have fallen short for quite a while. And I think they're trying to come up with programs that might, in fact, work for a much larger portion of the American population.

MS. CLIFT: Actually, the Democratic agenda is more welcome by the American people than the agenda President Bush is going to Congress with. I don't think people voted for the privatization of Social Security and capturing the courts, necessarily.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: But the Democrats can't just live on the fumes of the New Deal and the Great Society. They've got to put together a more compelling --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that since the middle of Ronald Reagan's term that the Democrats have been drifting in a pattern following the Republicans.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the point is, John, that, look, the conservatives, whatever you say about them, the Goldwater movement, the conservatives, even Nixon and Reagan, had a panoply of ideas and dreams. They might be SDI, roll-back in the Cold War, all of these things. And we had those. The Democrats had them in the New Deal and the Fair Deal. They've run out of them. We've got to get --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is liberalism a lost cause, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Liberalism is burned out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it burned out forever?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that politics moves in cycles. We have 45 million people who don't have health insurance.

MR. BUCHANAN: Half of those are immigrants.


MR. BUCHANAN: Half of those are immigrants.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have outsourcing of jobs. We have pension plans crumbling. We have wage disparity.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, those are conservative ideas to deal with those.

MS. CLIFT: Those immigrants are called --

MR. BUCHANAN: You mean free trade is a conservative idea that's gone too far.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think liberalism is dead? Is it a lost cause?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do not think it's a lost cause. I do think they need some adjustment to their tradition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do the --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And they have to figure out a way to present it to the public.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who do they put in to head the Democratic National Committee -- Roemer, who is a moderate, or --

MR. BLANKLEY: Or Howard Dean.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or Howard Dean? Who do they put in? Howard being a liberal.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. Howard Dean has got about 40 percent --

MS. CLIFT: Howard Dean is a moderate, too. Howard Dean is a moderate, too, and he wants to rebuild the party. I think either one would do good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is liberalism dead?

MS. CLIFT: Dean -- no, it's not dead at all. And Ted Kennedy is basically calling for what Ronald Reagan did in the '70s, to stand up for what you believe and not apologize and not be intimidated by a president who's got a war that's going bad, a dollar that's falling, and a run on Social Security.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I heard the Kennedy speech at the National Press Club. But why did Kennedy hand, on a silver platter, Bush the issue of education earlier with his arms around his back and playing that cozy game with him?

MS. CLIFT: He said he used to be a good friend. No more. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: The Republicans have moved to the left, John. They're a big-government party. That's liberalism's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they two wings of the same bird?

MR. BUCHANAN: Two wings of the same bird of prey.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're going to stay that way.

Issue Three: Newt Shows Ankle.

Newt Gingrich, former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, this week refused to deny that he harbors presidential ambitions. Speaker Gingrich, will you run for President in 2008?

FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): (From videotape.) Well, first of all, I'm primarily trying to shape the debate. I think if enough candidates run on those ideas, that takes care of the problem. And we have a lot of great people who could run in 2008.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This comes as Mr. Gingrich prepares to crisscross the country promoting his new book.

Question: Tony Blankley, if it comes to backing your old boss, Newt Gingrich, for president in 2008 or Jeb Bush, whom will you choose?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think a Gingrich-Bush ticket would be very amenable, or conceivably a Bush-Gingrich ticket. They're both very fine men.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? Which sequence?

MR. BLANKLEY: I would think probably Gingrich-Bush, because he's probably the senior. And then Jeb Bush could run on his own right for president after serving as vice president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if you had to choose between one or the other, would it be loyalty to Gingrich or would it be pragmatism to Jeb Bush?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's not a question of loyalty to Gingrich. Newt -- I don't think there's a person around on the scene who understands health-care issues, who understands information-age warfare issues, who understands Social Security issues, as well as Newt does. His ideas are more powerful than any other politicians I know. Those ideas --


MS. CLIFT: He may --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. With GOPAC behind him, he could easily have a national grassroots campaign ready to spring into action.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. He --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he could certainly raise the money, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: He may understand all those issues and he is a good political strategist who engineered the Republican takeover of the House. But he has a big blind spot -- himself. I mean, he got himself basically run out of the House, and I don't think he has a prayer of getting nominated by the Republican Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he run, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he could make a strong run.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: Who will be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee?

MR. BUCHANAN: Dean, Dean, Dean.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Howard Dean?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's right.

MS. CLIFT: I second the motion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, you say the same thing?

MS. CLIFT: Mmm-hmm. (Affirmative response.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I think possibly Dean.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Martin Frost.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Timothy Roemer.

Next week: The second-term inauguration of George W. Bush. Bye bye.