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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL:
PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC;
ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK;
TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES;
JAMES HARDING, FINANCIAL TIMES

DATE: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2005

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Stop Criticizing Russia.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (From videotape.) Russia has made its choice in favor of democracy 14 years ago. Independently, without any pressure from outside, it made that decision in the interest of itself, in the interest of its people, of its citizens. This is our final choice, and we have no way back.

But I believe -- and a lot of people will agree with me -- the implementation of the principles and norms of democracy should not be accompanied by the collapse of the state and the impoverishment of the people. If we talk about where we have more or where we have less democracy is not the right thing to do. But if we talk about how the fundamental principles of democracy are implemented in this or that historic soil, in this or that country, is an option. It's possible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Pat Buchanan, what is Putin's point? And is it persuasive?

MR. BUCHANAN: Putin's point is "Get off my case and get out of my face." What he is saying is, "Look, we have our own problems in Russia. We're trying to deal with them as best we can. We've had a lot of crises. And we really do not like the idea of this public hectoring and badgering." It goes all the way back to Gladstone, where you put moral preachments above national interest.

I don't believe the United States or President Bush should be doing this, John. If we've got some problem with him that's serious about Khodorkovsky, you do it behind closed doors. You don't do it in public, because it tends to humiliate a great power.

Now, Russia has been a friend of this country ever since the end of the Cold War. It is a vital interest of ours. We maintain good relations with him. Putin has been a friend to the president. We've got disagreements. But I think the president ought to keep this type of hectoring and badgering really for when he goes behind closed doors.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Putin is saying what Pat said, but he's also saying, perhaps more exactly, that democracy must flourish and be nurtured in the environment in which it finds itself. There is no such thing as an abstraction that can be brought into being without considering the circumstances. The democracy that exists in Indonesia or Malaysia is different from the democracy that exists in the United States; so, too, with Russia. And he does not want oligarchs to take over the government just to expand their wealth.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think Russia is still recovering from the shock therapy of all the small 'd' democratic idealists of the early '90s when the old Soviet Union first collapsed. And democracy didn't deliver its gifts and fruits overnight and it delivered a lot of chaos. And I think he is a strong man. Russia is used to a strongman leadership. And I think, to that extent, he's right.

But shutting down the free press, jailing your rivals, renationalizing the big oil industry, I think is all going too far. And I thought this talk about democracy was all pretty pro forma. I don't think Bush put the screws to Putin at all. And I think in their private meetings he probably said to him, "You know, we're not really going to do anything. We're not going to push you. Let's just try to get the loose nukes under control." And frankly, I think that is the first priority.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, of course, the nature of private meetings is we don't know what happened in them. But they were characterized as frank, which is diplomatic language for they went badly. So if there's anything we know about the private meetings, it probably was that Bush and Putin got into it a fair amount.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who put out the "frank" word?

MR. BLANKLEY: The United States government, off the record.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there you go. That's exactly what they want you to believe.

MR. BLANKLEY: Now, I agree largely with Pat's analysis, following on our discussion some weeks ago about the president, I think, taking the democracy project too far in his inaugural address. I think we have a lot of areas where we need to work with -- we need help from Putin. And if we start making demands that we're not going to get from him anyway, those are chits that we could have used on Syrian missiles; we could have used on other things that were more important.

I must say that I think there's some confusion. You see the difference. Whether it's the New York Times or Financial Times or other major newspapers, they viewed it differently whether they had confronted or not the two men. I think it was ambiguous.

I felt a little awkward watching how edgy that press conference was, these two world leaders. If there is edginess, I think it should be kept in the back room.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What he said was the implementation of the principles and norms of democracy should not be accompanied by the collapse of the state and the impoverishment of the people. He's saying there that you have to rein in the oligarchs or it could lead to their taking over the government and the collapse of the government. Correct?

MR. HARDING: Yeah, that's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know whether his essential point is a valid point, that democracy takes many forms or several forms.

MR. HARDING: Well, personally I don't. And I don't agree with Pat either. I think that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you were there.

MR. HARDING: I was there, yeah. One of the great missions of the U.S. and of the West in the second half of the 20th century was, of course, advancing democracy, pressing for the institution of democracy in the Soviet Union. And this is no time to abandon that mission. And it seems to me as though the president, in an artful way, in a very delicate way, made clear that democracy should not come with any qualifications, that there are certain things that are fundamental about it.

And I thought that Mr. Putin's defense of Russian-style democracy, of Putin-style democracy, was actually very alarming, because I think that quote that you picked up on, the collapse of the state and the impoverishment of the people, essentially said, "We must have democracy, but as long as it defends the power of the Kremlin." And that's precisely the problem today.

MR. BUCHANAN: But why is that a problem of the United States of America? Khodorkovsky and these other guys stole that place, robbed it blind. So he locked him up like we locked up Martha Stewart. But why is whether the governors of Russia are appointed or elected any business of the United States of America?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we can dwell on that, but let's go to this: Journalists speak up.

The two leaders accepted questions from the press. One question came from Andrei Kolisnikov of Kommersant Daily, a respected journalist and a very respected daily newspaper.

ANDREI KOLISNIKOV (KOMMERSANT DAILY): (From videotape.) Kommersant Daily. Andrei Kolisnikov. (Translated by Mr. McLaughlin.) It seems to me that you both have nothing to disagree about. The regimes that are in place in Russia and the United States cannot be considered fully democratic, especially when compared to some other countries of Europe; for example, the Netherlands.

It seems to me that as far as Russia is concerned, by and large everything is clear, more or less. But as far as the U.S. is concerned, we could probably talk at length. I'm referring to the great horrors that have been assumed by the security services, due to which the private lives of citizens are now being monitored by the state. This could be explained away by the consequences of September 11th, but this has nothing to do with democratic values. I suggest that you can both probably agree with each other and that you can freely shake hands and continue to be friends in the future.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's talking about the Patriot Act, John. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: He sounds like a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he talking about Judith Miller and the gentleman from Time Magazine, who are going to be incarcerated for 18 months, maybe?

MR. BUCHANAN: He could be talking about the Patriot Act. He could be talking about Dan Rather. He could be talking about Judith Miller. He could be talking about Eason Jordan.

MR. BLANKLEY: But I'll tell you what he sounded like to me. He sounded like he was a Putin ringer who had been put up there to try to embarrass the president and defend Putin.

MS. CLIFT: I think the Russians --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was a ringer there, but this was not the ringer. We checked this out. This gentleman is a respected and almost a celebrity journalist, like you, Tony. (Laughter.) And in addition to that, he comes from an extremely renowned and respected newspaper.

MR. BLANKLEY: Whatever he is, the words he used sounded like he was trying to make excuses and make an excuse for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's because you hear them by the ear that has been so accustomed to nationalistic thinking, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I was relying on your translation.

MS. CLIFT: It was an editorial comment that reflected his defensiveness --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct.

MS. CLIFT: -- at being painted as though this country was somehow totally undemocratic and the U.S. sets the moral standard.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from you.

MS. CLIFT: And you can find lots wrong with this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You were there. How did this go over with the crowd?

MR. HARDING: I just want to say, there were a couple of wonderful moments in that question. The first thing we can all agree on, it was an extraordinarily badly-phrased question. And there was a wonderful moment --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His question --

MR. HARDING: He's asking this question, but Bush is standing there just sort of going like this -- "Come on, get on with it. What's the question?" And we were all wondering, "What exactly is the question?" I think Eleanor is right. What there is clearly -- and this is something that is the risk, as Pat points out, of raising these issues in public -- is a lot of hostility among the Russian press for being told that their freedom is under the -- you know, that press freedom is under the cosh.

Now, I thought that his question was pretty absurd, actually. I think that veering into --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It wasn't a question. It was an editorial statement.

MR. HARDING: But veering into the Netherlands was not helping anyone in terms of understanding the place of Russian democracy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the Netherlands is a monarchy. It's a constitutional monarchy.

MR. HARDING: As Putin was very delighted to point out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and Putin said that. Putin was very fast on his feet.

MR. HARDING: I thought Putin actually had a very good press conference. He came out looking rather drawn and anxious, and then he actually rejected -- it was a very deft defense by Putin of all the points the president was making, but picking up on the points that both Russia and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a draw?

MR. HARDING: I thought that actually it was one of those things where both sides got badly bruised but no one drew blood.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think either side got that badly bruised.

MR. HARDING: Oh, I thought it was awkward for -- I thought it was awkward for Bush and it was clearly uncomfortable for Putin. But he made a strong defense --

MS. CLIFT: I totally disagree. These two guys to me look like they are buddies on some level. There were winks. There were chuckles. And I think they were both performing in sort of their Cold War respective corners. But they had a meeting of the minds. And this relationship is going to endure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We got the answer from Tony. They had a frank discussion the night before. You know, at this point --

MR. BUCHANAN: Maybe James can -- but what you hear is that Putin shook hands with Bush and moved right on out of there. Now, look, when you've got the head of Russia, with its nuclear weapons, as valuable as he is to us, and you've got the president of the United States, we're in this face-off, this is not good for the national interest of either country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MS. CLIFT: But substantively, Bush got nothing. I mean, they went over there expecting to get a better agreement on the loose nukes and they backed off of that. So substantively --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's move on, because Bush responded; President Bush responded to this, quote/unquote, "question." Quote: "I live in a transparent country. I live in a country where decisions made by government are wide open. Every decision we have made is within the Constitution of the United States. So I'm perfectly comfortable in telling you our country is one that safeguards human rights and human dignity, and we resolve our disputes in a peaceful way."

It's wide open. This government is wide open. The press believes it's wide open, right?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's very comforting to hear this, right?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: It's obviously the case -- I think Bush should have just given the back of the hand to that. Everybody who matters knows that we've got a free press in America, for goodness' sake. He doesn't have to do a point-by-point defense of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and the press has no difficulty getting information out of Don Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, it was a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or George Bush. They're all very forthcoming, aren't they?

MR. HARDING: I have to say one thing. At some point you stop and you think, this was an extraordinarily adroit performance by two great politicians. But at some level it's disappointing on both sides, that actually Bush is not making a real defense of the U.S., and more importantly, he's not really drawing attention to the issues in Russia. If you are going to draw attention to them, then you've got to talk about Yukos. You've got to talk about Chechnya. I think you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean by name.

MR. HARDING: By name. I think in that sense it was disappointing.

MR. BUCHANAN: In a public setting, would that not have been an act of folly? It would be rubbing Putin's face in this stuff. I think it would be a dreadful mistake for the president to do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he got a little close to the bone at one point, where he talked about various -- succession of three freedoms. I think one was assembly. He didn't mention freedom of the press.

MR. BUCHANAN: But what is it the interest of the United States that they nationalize their oil, for heaven's sakes?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

MS. CLIFT: They're interested in oil. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me, excuse me. Exit question: Who won this showdown, Bush or Putin? Or was it a draw? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think they both lost a measure from it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think it was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that means it was a draw.

MS. CLIFT: I think it was a draw. It was "Don't mess with Texas" and "Don't mess with Moscow." (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Pat's right. I was uncomfortable with the event. I think both sides did not benefit by the appearance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. HARDING: I thought Bush kicked the ball nicely, but Putin kept it out of the goal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the buzz over there?

MR. HARDING: Where, over in Moscow or over in the White House?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you were on the whole tour, weren't you?

MR. HARDING: Yeah, I was. I think they --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the -- (inaudible) -- particularly at the Putin location in Bratislava?

MR. HARDING: I think afterwards there was a lot of discussion much like this that would come out of a piece of political theater but wasn't quite clear who had won. It was one of those stories where you couldn't quite get a handle on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, isn't that exactly what the protagonists wanted?

MR. HARDING: I think so. And I'll tell you what was interesting about this. This was really carefully worked out in the sense that Cheney had spoken to Putin beforehand. Condi had spoken to Putin beforehand. And the fact that they had this meeting one on one with just their translators in a room in Bratislava Castle, this, I think, is going to be something that is pored over for years to come. What was actually discussed? How clear was Bush in making the issue of Russian democracy something that Vladimir Putin really has to improve upon?

MR. BLANKLEY: And we may not know ever perhaps.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think Bush said to him at one point, "Vladimir, at this point I'm going to get a little close to you and a little close to the bone, but don't worry about it. I'm not going to draw any serious blood from you, because you and I are friends. I understand what you're trying to do. I understand that's the purpose behind your centralization, that you've got to get control of this massive" --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, everyone's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we're spending too much time on this. The human toll -- did I shut you off?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I was finished. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because there have been some e-mails saying that I cut you off, Tony. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I've been busy typing to you. (Laughs.)

MR. HARDING: He's another one of these journalists --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, including suicides, 1,480; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, injured, mentally ill, all now out of Iraq, 35,500; Iraqi civilians dead, 106,900.

Issue Two: Transatlantic Unity.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) When Europe and America stand together, no problem can stand against us. As past debates fade, as great duties become clear, let us begin a new era of transatlantic unity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: U.S. President George W. Bush challenged and flattered Europe this week during his five-day tour of Belgium, Germany and Slovakia -- his first trip abroad of his second term.

Mr. Bush laid out his vision of a strong transatlantic relationship. But his loudest applause came when he promised to support a strong and united Europe.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) And the enlargement of NATO and the European Union have made partners out of former rivals. America supports Europe's democratic unity. America supports a strong Europe because we need a strong partner in the hard work of advancing freedom and peace in the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The neoconservatives in the Bush administration, notably in the Pentagon, don't want a strong European Union. They want fragmentation -- old Europe, new Europe -- divide and conquer.

Is Bush's endorsement of a strong EU a repudiation of the neocons? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: On its face it is. I happen to think that the president is wrong, that it's not in America's interest to have a united Europe, which is going to be united not in alliance with this but at least askance, if not sometimes in opposition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's a bad idea.

MR. BLANKLEY: But it's altogether possible that the president has made a shrewd judgment that he's got to say that even if our diplomacy is going to, in fact, be more divided. You can't come out and say you're against it. So I don't take that at quite face value. Sometimes diplomacy has to be artful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, so you think it's a fa‡ade that he's presenting; he doesn't mean it.

MR. BLANKLEY: We're going to continue to work with Poland --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't see the advantage of having a unified Europe from our point of view.

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you?

MR. HARDING: I'll you what I think has happened here is I think the president has made a judgment. The question was, would the U.S. want a Europe that is divided and weak or a Europe that is united and strong? And I think the president decided he wants a Europe that is united and weak, because he knows that 25 countries working together are going to be such a cacophony. Europe is going to have no appetite for spending heavily on the military. So unity and weakness --

MS. CLIFT: I don't think he can count on that.

MR. HARDING: Unity and weakness is, I think, the president's policy.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think you can count on that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rumsfeld, in Berlin last week, the week before the president got there, made it clear that he was not in favor of a unified Europe.

MR. HARDING: I think they've come out of the Iraq war saying allies and legitimacy are good things to have. And if it requires a little bit of positive rhetoric, that's a price worth paying.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the other hand, you have a possibility of straying out of that union and having to deal -- we would have to deal with a stray, a maverick, as sometimes happens, is reduced if there is a union and there is one foreign policy voice, as would probably take place.

MS. CLIFT: Bush's rhetoric --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So there's an advantage to the union --

MS. CLIFT: Bush's rhetoric rarely has anything to do with reality. He said all the things that he thought people expected him to say. But I wouldn't count on a weak Europe. First of all, he is uniting them. Second of all, our finances are so compromised in this country and the Euro is doing real well. And we don't have the military might to go plundering over there, and the Europeans know that.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat.

MS. CLIFT: So I think Bush has his preemptive war, and that's it.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the president made a terrible mistake here. Europe is being created by old Europe, not as a friend and ally of the United States to walk arm in arm, but as a rival and a competitor. It's going to deal with China in its own way, the Middle East in its own way. You have undercut the British conservatives, who don't want to go into Europe. We deal with -- Poland has been with us. The Brits have been with us. We are now forcing them in under this same umbrella. It is a terrible mistake. This is a global --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Let him finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is a socialist super-state that is going to be a rival and competitor of this country, and the United States made a big mistake.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, I mean, this is your paleo-conservative hysteria once again.

MR. BUCHANAN: Even the neocons agree on this one, John. (Laughter.) There was --

MR. BLANKLEY: Strange bedfellows.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got to think in terms of the advantages of this, Pat. You haven't thought it through. We've got to get back to this next week. Do you want to say something here?

MS. CLIFT: Look, the friction point is about lifting the ban on arms sales to China. And that's not about modernizing the Chinese military and making them a threat. It's about who gets the contract and whose companies get rich, whether it's Boeing or whether it's European Airbus.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see what's happened to the Euro. It's been growing.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, sure. But Germany and Italy in the last quarter had negative growth.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: We had almost 4 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clearly the benefits of the union far outweigh --

MR. BUCHANAN: They do not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the kind of disparate world that you envision as best for Europe.

MR. BUCHANAN: I believe in nation-states and not super-states.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the charm offensive. At the end of an interview with a Belgian reporter --

(Begin videotape.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I'm just confident the trip will be equally as good this time.

REPORTER: Thank you so much, Mr. President, for these kind words. Thank you.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you very much. My honor. You've got great eyes.

(End of videotape.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was this a charm plus or a charm minus? Well, wait a minute. Maybe we'd better see that again.

(Repeat of videotape.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was this a charm plus or a charm minus? James Harding, you were there. (Laughter.) Or were you there for that? Was this in a private room?

MR. HARDING: It was in a private room. It was one on one. It was very much the same Bush-Putin rules. We'll never know what really happened in there. People will pore over this for generations.

Look, you know, we're supposedly no better friend in the world and we don't get that kind of treatment. So I think it was a minus.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's understandable, particularly in Europe, that this would take place?

MR. HARDING: What do you mean, the continent of the old charmers?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sure -- Jacques Chirac and that crowd.

MS. CLIFT: I'll tell you, the Europeans probably won't mind. But I think it would have been okay except for that "hee hee" that preceded it. That put it over the top for me. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: It's Bill Clinton, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clinton is back.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bill Clinton is back. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, I noticed you were silent on this.

MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.) I don't have any comment on that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You have no comment? You take a dim view?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't care about all the other.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a fair comment, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's beneath conversation. Okay. On a rift repair scale, zero to 10 -- zero meaning no repair whatsoever, 10 meaning absolute repair, metaphysical repair, Pat; the original rupture is no longer visible -- how far did Bush's European trip go towards closing the rift in the Atlantic alliance, zero to 10?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'd give it a one or a two, because this is a dead marriage, John. What we're doing is putting on airs because we're all at the family reunion. But this is dead. We're both going our separate ways.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think all he got was a -- all I give him is a two in terms of substance. All he got on Iraq was a commitment for these countries to train a few Iraqi troops on their own soil. He didn't get much on Iraq at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. HARDING: I'd say a seven, because I thought it was positive. I think symbolism matters. I think it's important to improve the tone of the conversation. But it's a seven and falling rapidly, because Iran and China are problems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He didn't get what he wanted on Iran, did he? Or we don't know yet?

MR. HARDING: No, no, I thought Iran was important.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He did get what he wanted on Iran. What did he want from the Europeans on Iran?

MR. HARDING: The understanding we had is that what he wanted was an agreement that they share the commitment of a nuclear-free Iran and that there were going to be consequences if Iran pursues its nuclear ambitions. I think he thought he got that, and he said he would consider the European approach. I think what that means is he's going to not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What he said was -- what he says is the idea that we are planning -- we are ready to attack Iran is ridiculous; ready to attack. But then he said all options are open.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he was also watching the United States -- the Wall Street market, of course, when he was making that statement.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me suggest that he got -- substantively it was about a one or a zero. But he got some concessions atmospherically, Der Spiegel saying that Europe may have been wrong and he may have been right. So I think you've got to give him, given the atmospherics, about a three or four.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that considering the gulf that he had to cross, I think it's a seven. I think it's a seven. I think he performed ably under these circumstances. And some of these other issues may swing back. It remains to be seen whether they're going to retain the embargo of arms against China.

MR. BUCHANAN: Substantively you can't say a seven, John. The disagreements exist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I say it's one ball of wax. And your distinction, your dichotomizing between style and substance, is excessive.

Issue Three: American KGB.

ChoicePoint is a company that compiles and sells personal data -- dossiers -- on just about every adult person in the United States. That's everybody -- your spouse, your brother, your neighbor, Eleanor, Pat, Tony, James.

ChoicePoint sells its dossiers to outfits like check-cashing companies and debt collectors, as well as top U.S. firms. And get this: It also sells to the U.S. government. Thirty-five agencies, including the Department of Justice, have unlimited usage of ChoicePoint. In fact, since the U.S. government is prohibited legally from doing what ChoicePoint does, the government buys that information from ChoicePoint.

Last year, 145,000 of these personal dossiers were obtained illegally. Those persons on those dossiers are now vulnerable to nightmarish identity theft. Also, trades made after the discovery of identity theft fraud at ChoicePoint earned two top ChoicePoint executives $17 million.

Pat, do you think that the United States government should be dealing with ChoicePoint and companies like it?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think individuals whose rights have been violated, privacy rights, if they have been, should sue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would this be allowed in Europe, the collection of dossiers on people?

MR. HARDING: It is happening in Europe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A forced prediction; out of time. Pat Buchanan, will the dollar continue to sink?

MR. BUCHANAN: There's nothing to stop it, John. Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Not a good time for tourists in Europe, American tourists.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: The floor hasn't been established, but not too far further.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. HARDING: I think the floor is still 30 percent below. It'll sink a good way yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are all correct. Bye-bye.


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