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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL:
PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC;
ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK;
TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES;
JAMES WARREN, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

DATE: FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2005


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The Public Pulse.

For four years and two months, George W. Bush has been president. This week his approval rating sank to its lowest level in those 50 months -- 45 percent. Last week it was 52 percent. The plunge was steep -- seven points. Conversely, his disapproval rating jumped five points, 44 to 49 percent. This is a Gallup poll conducted with CNN and USA Today, 1001 telephone interviews with adults 18 years of age and older, taken Monday through Wednesday, with an error margin of 3 percent.

Question: What accounts for this steep plunge in the approval and the steep climb in disapproval? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John, you have to say, if it occurred coterminous, and it did, with this Terri Schiavo case, that that is probably a contributing factor. But even if it did, it is -- I believe the president of the United States did the right thing.

This is an important milestone this country is crossing. An innocent woman, guilty of nothing more than severe brain damage, has been sentenced to death by starvation and dehydration. John, after World War II, the German doctors from the 1930s who did the same thing to severely retarded and senile people were charged with crimes against humanity. This country is changing in a way a lot of folks who grew up in it would not recognize.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, there's a big difference between severely retarded and disabled and somebody who has no cognition, who is not capable of feeling pain or expressing oneself. We use the term commonly "brain-dead," and that is acknowledged as a form of death.

And I think the president, by interfering in this very personal of family decisions, flying back to the White House, grandstanding in the middle of the night in his pajamas, I think, has meddled in individual lives in a way that most Americans find repulsive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about -- what's the political result of this? By the way, what about the pajamas? You mean when he signed the bill at 1:00 in the morning?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he was woken up. I'm assuming he sleeps in pajamas. So that's literary license on my part.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that was a stunt.

MS. CLIFT: I think that it was a stunt to capitalize on this. And I'm playing off of the memo that was circulated among the Republicans last weekend --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. You know that Pat --

MS. CLIFT: -- that this was a great political issue that would energize their political base. And what it has done is it's revealed the Republican Party to be driven by the social conservatives, who want to impose their beliefs, their religious beliefs, on the government. And they're claiming that the justices are runaway justices when 23 federal judges have looked at this and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Okay, we don't want to really evaluate anything except through the lens of politics, which Buchanan sedulously avoided doing --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- giving his personal view about whether or not this woman is required to have extraordinary means to keep her alive. Okay? We don't want to get into that. We want to know what the political impact is of a plunge of seven percentage points.

MS. CLIFT: It looks like --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It looks like a backlash against the Republicans, correct?

MS. CLIFT: Yes, exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the way it looks to you?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know how to interpret it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you saw the numbers.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I was going to complete a sentence and say I usually like to see a few weeks of polling. Any one poll any one moment doesn't mean much. Professional pollsters understand that. They're out writing polls.

By the way, as far as the analysis that Eleanor gave, all that is shockingly revealed is that the Bush brothers, Jeb and George, are practicing Christians who believe in the right to life. And there's nothing cynical about it. They've held that position for many years. And the Democrats can claim that it's cynical, but I think the political inference is that most Americans know, whether they agree or disagree with them, that this is a sincere position held by these men.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jimmy, before I go to you, I'd like to say, this isn't the only poll. CBS News also polled this week, 737 adults with a margin of error of 4 percent. The poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday; Bush approval rating 43 percent, down from 49 percent last month; Bush's disapproval rating, 48 percent, up from 44 percent last month.

Now, that's almost identical -- it is practically identical with the other poll, the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. What do you think about that plunge?

MR. WARREN: Well, don't jump to any grand conclusions, but the fact is you've got a little second-term malaise. You've got a president who did not get the boost that he might have well assumed from elections in Iraq. There's persistent and deep unease over the war in Iraq. You've now got the Schiavo case. And you've got the main priority domestically, Social Security reform, not going anywhere. You've got allegations of fiddling with news releases, engaging in outright propaganda. And a group that has been hallowed for being very, very nimble when it comes to managing things looks rather awkward right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat says that this poll, the first poll, was coterminous with the Schiavo case and the determination to remove -- but that's not quite true, because one of those polls goes back to January, the CBS poll.

MR. WARREN: But more significant --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we don't know what he's picking up. But I want to --

MR. WARREN: But more significant than what Pat says about the case and the ethics of it and whether she's in this state or that state is the fact that, across the board, even among conservatives, healthy majorities say the Congress and Bush should not have gotten involved in this, period.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know why people are getting jittery. These are not consensus jitters, but they are out there and they're held by many people. And the president's worry is that these jitters could be reaching critical mass.

You have gas prices that are up. You have the U.S. debt, which you've been noting and complaining about, now at $7.7 trillion. The U.S. deficit is $427 billion. Unemployment rate upticked to 5.4 percent.

MR. BUCHANAN: The trade --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-nine percent -- let me finish this last -- believe economic conditions are getting worse. Mounting Iraq deaths and wounded, 1,520 dead, 36,900 wounded; the exaggeration of Social Security's so-called crisis; Iran and the bomb -- do we have a plan? U.S.-Syrian face-off, too confrontational; Alaskan Wildlife Refuge oil, drilling it, ruinous to the environment; nominations of John Bolton to the U.N. and Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank, both hawk extremists, many believe; government-produced video news reports, called by the GAO "covert propaganda"; journalists on the federal payroll -- your friends, Pat; gay marriage amendment to the Constitution, a Karl Rove political manipulation; Medicare prescription drug --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Gay marriage is a winner in there, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- falsified; finally, the Republican Congress and the president playing politics with the Schiavo case.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. Those are not my views, but they're out there. You know they're real. Are they coalescing into critical mass?

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen, John, you are correct and Jim is correct. Look, the State of the Union, the inaugural, which I disagreed with, and the Iraq election were tremendous winners. The president got a boost, not a giant boost. But there are very serious problems out there in the economy, in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they coalescing and reaching critical mass so that the president has a real worry of becoming a premature lame duck?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he's in no danger of being a lame duck. Whatever you say about it, the president in all of these cases is a leader. He takes a stand. You might disagree on the Schiavo case. He came back and took a stand. So did his brother. They believe in things. And ultimately, frankly, John, the presidents who become famous, like Reagan, are people who stand up against the tide and don't go with the polls.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The problem is that leaders can be wrong.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. They can be right, too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They can be wrong. And if they're wrong leaders, it's not as good as right leaders.

MR. BUCHANAN: Do you think the Democrats who came back and did nothing --

MS. CLIFT: The common thread with all of that list of ills that you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of worries.

MS. CLIFT: Right -- that you recited is that this administration thinks they can spin their way out of anything. They can just put a gloss on it and tell a story and people won't notice the facts. But the credibility gap is catching up with them. On Social Security, people know a lot about Social Security because it affects their lives, and they understand that what he's putting out there --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, they think the rhetoric is exaggerated.

MS. CLIFT: Exactly. And on the Schiavo case, I grant them that they feel sincerely. But there was never any realistic hope that the federal government was going to be able to make Terry Schiavo whole again. And the more they say it's not about politics --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right --

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait, wait --

MS. CLIFT: The more they say it's not about politics --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let somebody else get into this.

MS. CLIFT: The more they say it's not about politics, the more people think it is political. And the polls reveal that. The American people are smart.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eighty-two percent of the people feel that there was no reason to do what was done.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let's try to stick on one topic for a moment. You said, is the jitters, which you've invented --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that's an invented list?

MR. BLANKLEY: Of course it's an invented list.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come, come.

MR. BLANKLEY: It sounds like Kerry's critique of Bush, and he lost the election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think those jitters are out there?

MR. BLANKLEY: I could write you another list --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think that the gasoline problem is giving people the jitters? How far is it going to go?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get a couple of thoughts in. I could write a list that says the economy is growing at 4 percent, housing boom going up, inflation still under control, interest rates low.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Check the inflation. It has --

MR. BLANKLEY: Two-point-seven percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you saw the headline in the --

MR. BLANKLEY: Two-percent-seven percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- famous front-page big headline like ("War Declared"?) in the Financial Times.

MR. BLANKLEY: You can write a list of issues -- Iraq going better, democracy breaking out in the Middle East. You could write that list up, too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, she raised a point. Will you answer her point? Her point is --

MR. BLANKLEY: What was her point?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that people are going to be -- they feel perhaps that they have been manipulated by Karl Rove and the president and the Republicans, Tom DeLay, who have seized on this. You saw the memorandum that went out to the Republicans. This is something the Democrats --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, wait --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You saw that too.

MR. BLANKLEY: It wasn't a Republican memo.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. Now she's saying they're going to revisit this list of jitters that they dismissed --

MR. BLANKLEY: The only people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and say --

MR. BLANKLEY: The only people who got manipulated by Rove were the Democratic Party, who were too foolish to beat him in a campaign. The public doesn't feel manipulated by Bush. There's no evidence and there's no poll to show that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's a perception of deceit that underlies the Schiavo Republican behavior and that it might lead back to a revisiting of some of these other worries that they have?

MR. WARREN: No, I think there's a perception of government overreaching and increased cynicism toward George Bush and the entire Congress. Throw that into the largest context of an economy that's a little bit jittery and a war that many, many people don't like and you have the situation you have now.

But could he turn it around in 12 months? Yes, he could turn things around, particularly if he can get a victory on Social Security and then maybe some tax reform.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And, of course, once Terri Schiavo --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it is the media -- it is the media -- look, I've been seeing shows; I've been on shows. It is the media who are screaming, "It's politics, it's politics." Look, some character -- nobody knows who he is -- wrote a memo saying, "This might help us." Do you think that is why hundreds of congressmen flew back here? John, there are people here who believe in this life issue deeply. The president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't say they were not.

MR. BUCHANAN: Then what is all this talk about politics?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't say they were not. There are also people out there who feel --

MR. BUCHANAN: You think Jeb Bush is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- there was manipulation.

MR. BUCHANAN: Jeb Bush has been fighting this for years. And it is unfair and unjust to suggest --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jeb Bush can be wrong.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- this is all politics. Yeah, I know he can be, but he's not political on this.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but every Republican adviser thinks there's political benefit in this. You energize the base.

MR. BLANKLEY: How many Republican advisers have you talked to?

MS. CLIFT: And don't act like you don't -- I'm a reporter, Tony. I talk to --

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, and the top Republican advisers confide in you?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony --

MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, you just --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second. You just say this stuff.

MS. CLIFT: I would appreciate your not getting so personal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her say it. You said yourself --

MR. BLANKLEY: You're saying top --

MS. CLIFT: I would appreciate your not getting so personal, okay?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, when you say, "Top Republican advisers say," I'd like to know who they are.

MS. CLIFT: I'm not going to be naming names.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, you're not going to give away your sources?

MS. CLIFT: No, absolutely not.

MR. BLANKLEY: Your top Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, Tony, let Eleanor continue.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you know, it's just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't want mob rule here.

MS. CLIFT: It is not foolish, because the Republicans believe that they have to energize their base so they'll turn out in 2006. Rick Santorum is the symbol of this movement. They want him re-elected in Pennsylvania. That's going to be a really hot race. To pretend this isn't about politics is to pretend you're not living in --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is this low approval rating of the president going to get worse, stabilize, or get better? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's in a very rough patch, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would think he's going to stay where he is or it could pull back a little bit even more. And, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean? Your hand is going down. What do you mean, pull back more?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it -- look, he could --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You could drop more?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he could drop to 40 percent, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could he drop into the 30s?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, I don't think that situation --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What side of this issue are you on?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm on the -- I think 44 is about where he'll be. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, don't forget what I said about the Catholic Church and extraordinary means.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Catholic Church is right on this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can't believe that they have taken some of these --

MR. BUCHANAN: Its former noble son is wrong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Some of these Catholics have taken that. That's not what the church has taught. The church has taught that extraordinary means may not be required by anyone who wishes to die.

MR. BUCHANAN: Explain it to the pope.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: Explain it to the pope.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Explain it to the pope. He hasn't said anything about this.

MR. BUCHANAN: He certainly has.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Vatican is not speaking for the pope.

MR. BUCHANAN: He said it would be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Vatican press.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the pope has spoken about the culture of death, and that is what this is right here in America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is your extrapolation of that to this case. Come on, Pat, get off it.

MS. CLIFT: You know, there's something odd about a party that worries about people before they're born and then really after they're dead. What about the time in between? That's when we need government involved.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: What this party has done is they have lost the libertarian wing of the Republican Party with this overreaching of government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Okay, the answer is what I've been saying for about a year and a half. Bush moves between 45 and about 55 percent in the polls. I believe he'll stay within that range for the next three years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's his lowest point that he'll drop to?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think the Republican base number is in the mid 40s, so maybe --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, now we have more Republicans as of this past week than Democrats.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, absolutely. It's been moving steadily.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: About a five-point differential between the two, favoring Republicans. Did you see that?

MR. BLANKLEY: It was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is self-identification, Pat, political self-identification.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Schiavo case.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was nine points down as recently as 1980. It's been steadily moving up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, you say the Schiavo case. I say take your pick.

MR. WARREN: I apologize for being so brief and non-combative. It's going to go down a little bit more -- just a little bit more.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I congratulate you on the moderation of your tone, but give me a little bit more information about this. It's going to go down to what, 40?

MR. WARREN: It's going down to about 40, and then it'll pick up again, because remember, still there are a lot of folks out there who are diehard Bush supporters --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where is he going to pick it up from? Is he going to pick it up from Social Security?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got a base. He's got a bottom. He's got a floor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what issue is he going to pick it up on?

MR. BUCHANAN: People have bonded with this president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's he going to pick it up on?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's like Reagan. He's got a base beneath which he will not go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's too close to call.

Issue Two: You Go Your Way.

Donald Rumsfeld toured Latin America this week with stops in Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala. Absent: Venezuela. The president of Venezuela is Hugo Chavez, who has been a loud critic of the Iraq war. He accuses the U.S. of backing a coup against him in 2002, which Chavez survived. And on a recall vote eight months ago, Chavez won big, with Jimmy Carter and company okaying the vote.

So the Bush policy is to contain Chavez, and in so doing, thwart his arms buildup, oil poker and Latin instability.

Item: Arms buildup. Chavez is buying weapons from Brazil and Russia, among others. Fifty MiG-29 warplanes, dozens of helicopter gunships, a fleet of new naval vessels, and 100,000 AK-47s are all on order. Our secretary of Defense spoke out.

DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) What's going to happen to 100,000 AK-47s?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oil poker. Venezuela is the fifth-largest oil producer in the world. Sixty percent of its oil is exported to the United States. That's 7 percent of our total usage. Chavez wants to cut that way down by getting new buyers. Last December he visited Beijing and agreed to open up 15 oil fields to Chinese companies. Cuba also gets Venezuelan oil, 80,000 barrels a day, strengthening Castro's hand.

And get this: Iran. Chavez has signed memoranda of understanding on oil and other issues with Mohammed Khatami, the president of Iran, who visited Caracas last week, his third visit to Venezuela. On the Caracas-to-Teheran shuttle, Chavez has made four trips in six years.

Item: Latin instability. The U.S. frets about whether Chavez will destabilize Latin America. But Chavez has good relations with his neighbors. Chile offers its advice to Mr. Bush, in fact: "We have decided to engage, and engage constructively, with Chavez. We tell our friends from the United States that we have to avoid simplistic views."

Question: Does the Iran-Venezuela connection and the China-Venezuela connection concern you? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, it does. I think our administration has not got a handle on Venezuela. It's a measurable problem. He's got a lot of oil. And he's sort of a continental Castro in birth. We don't know which way he's -- how dramatic he's going to go. But those 100,000 AK-47s could very well be supporting revolutionary activity in neighboring countries. And it is a matter of some substantial concern.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that 7 percent of the oil that we get from Venezuela ought to be controlling in our foreign policy?

MR. WARREN: No, absolutely not. I mean, I think, you know, remember here, the U.S. was conspicuous in declining to condemn a coup attempt against this man --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It failed. Our attempt failed.

MR. WARREN: -- a democratically-elected leader. Now, we've got to remember, there are some democratically-elected leaders who are not particularly nice guys. He's not a particularly nice guy. But the notion of Mr. Rumsfeld being in a huff over all these AK-47s is an absurdity too gross to be insisted upon when he oversees a military -- he, Rumsfeld -- larger than the next eight or nine combined. And given the amount of gun violence here on any given night, we're worrying about this guy getting some AK-47s is absurd.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, we left a million AK-47s in Vietnam. And also the ordnance for AK-47s is hard to find in this hemisphere. Did you know that?

MR. BUCHANAN: We tended to use M-16s in Vietnam, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? You don't think there are any AK-47s there?

MR. BUCHANAN: We don't use -- we didn't leave them there. If they're there, the Viet Cong dropped them, or the North Vietnamese.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I may be talking about M-16s. I've forgotten the data. But the M-16s, that didn't do any -- I mean, that was something to worry about, 100,000 AK-47s. How do you get the ordnance for those?

MS. CLIFT: Hugo Chavez --

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's the problem with 100,000 AK-47s. There's a possibility that Chavez, who builds himself up by being anti-American -- and I would tend to agree with you, we ought not to rise to his bait -- the danger is these AK-47s could find their way into the Andean countries, which are very destabilized already, or next door into Colombia on behalf of FARC, which is the group running that revolution.

MS. CLIFT: The U.S. is the biggest arms supplier in the world. And I think what Rumsfeld is ticked about is that they're not buying those AK-47s from us. They're buying them from somewhere else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that's what has ticked him off?

MS. CLIFT: I do. I think Hugo Chavez is refreshingly blunt about the fact he doesn't like this administration --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's a threat to --

MS. CLIFT: -- and vice-versa. And we have much bigger threats to worry about than Venezuela.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's a threat to stability in Latin America?

MS. CLIFT: No, I don't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you?

MR. WARREN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is no.

Issue Three: News or Propaganda?

Video news releases, VNRs, are pre-packaged news reports. VNRs are paid for and produced by and for the federal government. Twenty federal agencies have produced VNRs, some reportedly with editorial input directly from the White House. VNRs look like real news packages and a real TV news program, seen here on a government web site for TV station transfer.

ANNOUNCER: (From VNR.) (A ladder?) made the collection and transportation of drinking water awkward and difficult. That changed with the liberation of Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: VNRs reflect an upbeat White House policy.

IRAQI VOTER: (From VNR.) I voted half an hour ago. I'm happy as hell.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hundreds of VNRs have been distributed to local television news stations. Government contractors act out the roles of real TV reporters.

(Begin videotaped excerpts of VNRs.)

ANNOUNCER: Bob Ellison has that story.

BOB ELLISON: President Bush's choice to be the next Agriculture secretary --

KAREN RYAN: In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting.

(End of excerpts.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Within the past year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the GAO, labeled some of these VNRs, quote/unquote, "covert propaganda." The GAO labeled such covert propaganda illegal because taxpayers finance them.

DAVID WALKER (U.S. COMPTROLLER GENERAL): (From videotape.) Some of the materials that we've seen clearly are advocacy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Justice Department stepped in and overruled the GAO, and the president supports the Justice Department.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) There is a Justice Department opinion that says these pieces are within the law so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does propaganda have to be a lie in order to be propaganda? Propaganda can be quite truthful. The idea is it's information propagated.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right?

MR. WARREN: Of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's understand that. So is this propaganda, what we're talking about?

MR. WARREN: There's a mix here. There are a lot of examples of pure, outright deception. Other administrations -- the Clinton folks did it. Bush has been far more aggressive. And somewhere in the mix is our, the media's, complicity in being so passive and essentially lap dogs, particularly local news stations --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: TV.

MR. WARREN: -- in putting some of this stuff on and not wondering, "Oh, who is Karen Ryan? Where does this come from?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think it should be stopped? Do you think that it's not in the public interest? Do you think they should just get out of it? What about simply explicative or explanatory programs put out by the Agriculture Department? Those are okay.

MR. WARREN: Fine. But explain where this came from, who pays for it, and who Karen Ryan works for.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But to have a point of view in there is propaganda when it represents the White House's point of view. Correct?

MR. WARREN: Sure. But simply label it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that should --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president says it's legal. Is that enough?

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or is it bad practice?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, all the PR that comes out of government has a point of view. Even the whole press office of the White House has a point of view.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You worked in the press office of the White House.

MR. BUCHANAN: I was communications director.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You worked for the White House for a couple of presidents. Did you see these kinds of VNRs?

MR. BUCHANAN: We didn't make them in the White House, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't know where these are made, do we?

MR. BUCHANAN: These are from the departments.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where did the $100 million go that was spent for these VNRs? Who got that?

MR. BUCHANAN: The PR firms got it.

MR. WARREN: PR firms.

MR. BLANKLEY: The contractors.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Armstrong.

MR. BLANKLEY: A lot of them defense subcontractors, who --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you approve of taxpayers' money being spent that way?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think this is sneaky communications.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't like it.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think it ought to say that this is from government and not to be sneaky and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why does that justify it, if it's propaganda?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think it's propaganda.

MS. CLIFT: It reveals this administration's contempt for the press.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Queen Camilla.

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles are scheduled to be married in early April. Once joined in royal wedlock, Camilla Bowles says she will keep her title of princess consort and never become Queen Camilla, even if her husband, Prince Charles, becomes King Charles.

A battle fit for a king, or a queen, has broken out among England's legal and historical scholars. Some say that Camilla has no choice. Should Charles become king, she automatically becomes queen. Only an act of Parliament could prevent the title of queen from being transferred to Camilla. Other scholars say that she can refuse the queen title and remain princess without any act of Parliament.

Question: James, if you were Camilla, would you renounce the title?

MR. WARREN: First of all, I don't think she can if Parliament wants her to have it. And if I were her --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you saying?

MR. WARREN: I don't think she's going to be able to if Parliament says she's got to have it. But, no, I would not renounce the title. Just think of all those perks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you renounced --

MR. WARREN: Getting into restaurants before anybody else. Come on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She looks good before the people, then he takes over as king and then the people say, "Oh, she ought to be queen now."

MR. BUCHANAN: She takes the title of duchess of Windsor. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I think she'd be wise not to take the title.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?

MR. BLANKLEY: She's already not very liked, and she'll be liked even less.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Despite the political travesty imposed on Terri Schiavo, will the good exceed the bad?

MR. BUCHANAN: The major thing to come out of it, John, will be a lot more people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Living will?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- with living wills.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Living will?

MS. CLIFT: Right. People are coming to grips with this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More good than bad?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't think so. I think this is an ugly event that is going to continue to be ugly.

MR. WARREN: No -- increased cynicism toward government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Living wills -- more good than bad. Happy Easter. Bye bye.


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