THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC;
ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK;
TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES;
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC
DATE: FRIDAY, APRIL 1, 2005
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Papal Legacy.
His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in
1920 near Krakow, Poland, and served 26 years as the Holy Roman
Question: Has the power and the authority of the Vatican
increased or decreased during John Paul II's papacy? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, it has increased dramatically back to where it almost was under Pius XII, who was the second-strongest in the second half of the 20th century. But the pope is not only a great man. He is a good man. He was an inspiration for Solidarity.
And I think if you took the Holy Father and Ronald Reagan together, you would have two candidates for the person of the last quarter of the 20th century, given what he did in the secular sphere in Poland against communism and especially his stance for morality and life in the Vatican against the spirit of the age.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about the Solidarity movement under Lech Walesa.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. And the Holy Father was elected around 1979. He was very much an inspiration and a guiding force for that and a tremendous inspiration for Poland, which I think ignited the whole movement that brought down the Soviet empire peacefully.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It also set the stage for the velvet revolutions throughout Eastern Europe, which meant freedom for millions and millions of people. Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I think this pope's record is mixed. I mean, as a human being, he's a wonderfully heroic figure and he deserves a lot of credit for the downfall of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Communism.
MS. CLIFT: -- the Soviet Union and communism. And that is the high point. But the church has lost a lot of credibility in the United States because of the pedophile scandals, and he has done nothing to modernize the Catholic Church. I mean, it's still official doctrine that birth control is a sin. So I think he fails on that
point. But overall, I mean, on the international front he scores big. But on, I think, family life, he's in the medieval ages.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Tony, what do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, his job wasn't to modernize the teachings but to perpetuate them, and I think he's done it wonderfully. He's also reached dramatically beyond the Catholic audience, probably more than any pope, to speak to particularly the youth. He held these youth rallies around the world with a tremendous sense of spirituality
for people who aren't necessarily practicing Catholics. I think that's going to be one of his legacies.
On the other hand, when you get into the actual structure of the Vatican and the politics of it, his appointments, the cardinals and bishops and archbishops who he selected or overseen the selection of over the years, are really quite liberal, even though he is a moderate to conservative. So the internal political legacy may be surprisingly liberal even as his theological teachings have been traditional.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You anticipate a liberal pope as his successor?
MR. BLANKLEY: Not necessarily. There are a number of
candidates. The patriarch of Venice is probably the top candidate, I think, from the Italians. I think a lot of the Italian cardinals don't want to see a Latin American cardinal because of the liberation theology. And an interesting sort of dark horse would be the archbishop of Hong Kong, Zen, who might play to China the way this
pope has played to Soviet Russia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, the real politicians like to point to the question of how many divisions the pope has, with a certain amount of burlesque. But the soft power of this pope has really yielded tremendous results, has it not?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, certainly, as Pat mentioned about
Solidarity, the pope provided, in effect, protection, more effective than military protection, to the uprising in Poland. And the Soviets did not dream of trying to crush it because they knew they would have the pope to contend with. And he was a very dramatic and powerful
force in that; in fact, the most important political force in the papacy certainly in my lifetime.
On the other hand, at the same time, since then the papacy has become utterly irrelevant. And certainly within American Catholicism, it is completely irrelevant, because American Catholics, as polled, do not observe any of the teachings of the Vatican in any way differently
from the rest of the country.
For example, American Catholics are slightly more in favor of abortion than the population at large. American Catholics favor the death penalty in exactly the same profile as the rest of the country. The pope is opposed to that. In other words, they ignore everything he has to say and they simply choose the pieces of Catholicism that
they feel good about and ignore everything he has to say that feels too restrictive to them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did this pope change --
MR. BUCHANAN: What Larry is saying is true in this sense. The pope's personality and character and charisma have covered up the fact that a significant slice of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States is in open heresy on orthodox doctrine. And this is going to come to the fore when this great charismatic figure passes on and
someone replaces him who does not have that. I think we're going to come to see that the Catholic Church in the United States is profoundly and deeply split.
I only disagree with Lawrence on this. I think there is a huge slice of American Catholicism that looks to the pope's orthodoxy as what is true and right still.
MR. O'DONNELL: But that, of course, ignores the fact that Catholics poll identically to the larger American popul ation. And if Catholics are going to form their own opinion on abortion and on the death penalty, which are central principles to this pope and to the future of the papacy, then the papacy is irrelevant as a life guide.
This papacy also has the most negative legacy of any papacy in my lifetime.
The American Catholic Church got submerged in a mad scandal of sexual predatory behavior --
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- by the clergy, a tiny percentage of the American clergy. I, as a product of Catholic education and as an altar boy, stun people when I tell them, "No, no, no, I never knew a priest who in any way made any sexual advances. No, that neverhappened to me. Every priest I knew was a good and honest and decent person."
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think the reason --
MR. O'DONNELL: The imagery of that priesthood now has been destroyed --
MR. BUCHANAN: Right. But the reason you have that --
MR. O'DONNELL: -- in this country. And this pope has had not a word to say about it.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the point is, you're exactly right in the Catholic Church in the United States. But the reason you had this scandal is because what are known as the Jadot bishops, who are all appointed, and frankly, the Holy Father himself, like Cardinal Law, but some of these people in there -- the Roman Catholic Church in the
United States moved away from Vatican orthodoxy and they brought into the priesthood people who were pedophiles and active homosexuals. They should never have been allowed in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, what's --
MR. BUCHANAN: Authority was not administered as it should have been. But there's a significant slice of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the Jadot bishop?
MR. BUCHANAN: The Jadot. He was the apostolic delegate who was here, who was picking and choosing the bishops and giving them to Pope Paul VI.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's talk about the pontiff as a peacemaker. Now, he was very much against war and only used it as an extreme last resort. He condemned the Iraq war. He sent an emissary to Saddam Hussein. Do you remember that?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, I do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that say about him, that he was a peacemaker?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he was a peacemaker and he spoke out against the Iraq war, and he probably had some private words with President Bush. But he could have done more. He really did almost line up behind the Republicans in the last election.
But, look, I can't let what Pat said go by. I mean, basically Pat is blaming any kind of progressive thought that came into the Catholic Church for all of the ills. And what's gone wrong --
MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor, doctrine --
MS. CLIFT: -- with the church is they have not adapted to modern life. And you can't call a whole population in heresy.
MR. BUCHANAN: You do not adapt your dogma and doctrine to society as it moves in a pagan direction. You stand up aga inst it, the way the pope did.
MS. CLIFT: Nobody should use birth control? It makes no sense in the modern world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You have to distinguish between doctrine and regimental regulation; for example, fish on Friday. Do you still observe that?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you do go to the Latin mass all the time.
MR. BUCHANAN: I do. But here's the thing, John. Fish on Friday
MR. O'DONNELL: In violation of the pope's teachings.
MR. BUCHANAN: Fish on Friday is not doctrine or dogma. That dates to Lepanto, back -- the battle of Lepanto --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you're burlesquing it now, but 20 years ago you were defending it.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's still a good thing, and I still think it ought to be a rule.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you don't observe it.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't, because it's been lifted.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On liberation theology, the pope was very tough, especially among the Latin American ecclesiastics. What else do we want to say about this man?
MR. BUCHANAN: He came down -- theologically, I think the pope is -- although there are some on the right that think not -- theologically the pope is considered orthodox/conservative. But it is not liberal to be against the war in Iraq. I was against it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From the perspective of --
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me say this. The Holy Father was not against the Polish home army standing up against the Nazis in Warsaw, I can tell you. He was against the Iraq war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was, however, frozen in time as far as moral theology is concerned in many respects. For example --
MR. BUCHANAN: As he's supposed to be. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For example, Catholics all over the world practice birth control.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they lie --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And yet the pope --
MR. BUCHANAN: Catholics lie and cheat and steal, too. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The pope has done nothing to change the doctrine that it's intrinsically immoral to use a condom --
MR. BUCHANAN: You can't change it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- even in marriage. Secondly, it is a moral sin.
MR. O'DONNELL: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, that is an heirloom of an earlier era.
Exit question: How do you characterize the pope's place in history in terms of his political and diplomatic achievements? Pat Buchanan. Just give me a grade -- diplomatic and political.
MR. BUCHANAN: The pope is a --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A+?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he's an A+ figure for better, as I think, or for worse, as you may.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On that scale, A+?
MS. CLIFT: He's a memorable figure, which automatically puts him in the A grade.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, he's historically stunningly important for the fall of communism that would not have happened in his ti me had he not lived in his time. And so you have to give him whatever the highest mark is for that accomplishment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He visited almost 150 nations.
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, all that stuff is completely irrelevant. He gets an A+ for this crowning achievement of providing protection to the Solidarity movement in Poland. And every day of his pap acy after that success has been irrelevant on every level, both religiously, in
terms of the non-observance of Catholics of his teachings, and the
worldwide politics that has completely ignored him since, including --
MR. BLANKLEY: I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- including this president's war-making choice,
over the objections of this pope.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Italians have also now adopted divorce. So
he lost that crown too. So it's kind of a mixed picture. But I
think, on the diplomatic-political scale, you've got to give this
leader an A+.
Issue Two: Terri's Saga.
Terri Schiavo died on Thursday. She was 41 years old. Perhaps
everything that can be said about Terri Schiavo's pilgrimage to death
has been said. But more can be said about the impact of the Schiavo
saga on public policy and politics.
Question: What will be the impact on public policy and politics?
MR. O'DONNELL: There will be none. The story will disappear in
the coverage of the pope and we won't get anything out of it. But the
legal adjustment that should be made is the ridiculous way that
marriage law in the United States confers rights to people. The
notion that Michael Schiavo alone, who is in effect married to someone
else and having children with someone else, gets to still, through the
thread of marriage law, decide whether she lives or dies is utterly
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who should do it?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I promise you that my daughter's pre-nup
will specify that the husband not only does not get to decide about
her feeding tube; he doesn't even get a vote. If you have a division
between parents and spouses over what's to go forward, I am with the
MR. BLANKLEY: In the Schiavo case, obviously I'm going to be
with the parents. And the law, I think -- again, I think we have a
lot of debate over whether what she said is going to be the new
modification or not. For some of us who trust our wives more than
anyone else on the planet, I would want to have it there.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, specify it.
MR. BLANKLEY: But what I'm saying is --
MR. O'DONNELL: But you should be able to put someone else in
MR. BLANKLEY: What I think is that there is going to be a
governmental policy debate that's going to flow. I think that we're
going to see it's going to be primarily in the state capitols, and
this debate is going to go on, and I think a lot of state laws will be
MR. O'DONNELL: Marriage law is --
MS. CLIFT: It's already begun in the state capitols, because
then-Governor Bush signed a law which allowed hospital officials to
remove a feeding tube over the wishes of a family. So I imagine this
does open up the debate. But technology ensures that about 85 percent
of us will face a decision something like this. And I think there is
a continuum between life, when you want to prolong life, and when you
want to begin to end it. And it's a very personal individual
MR. BUCHANAN: One of the things I think is going to come out of
it is a real war on the judges. I think there's a real feeling, John,
on the part of an awful lot of people --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tom DeLay.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- that this judge sentenced this woman to death.
And she didn't die a natural death of the brain damage. She died of
starvation and a lack of water when her parents and her --
MR. O'DONNELL: The laws were very well applied. It's the crazy
connecting thread of marriage law that killed her.
MR. BUCHANAN: But the parents and the others could not bring
water to a dying daughter. And the American people do not want that
type of thing to happen again, as you said earlier. But there's going
to be a war over these judges, Supreme Court judges and appellate
court judges, and it's going to be a bloodbath.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Looked at through a political lens, who was the
political winner, the Democrats or the Republicans?
MR. O'DONNELL: There's no political winner here at all. And the
judges did a perfectly good job of interpreting, first of all,
marriage law, which exclusively granted Michael Schiavo the decision-
making power here, and then evaluating all the other things that were
legitimately able to be brought in front of them. I don't think
enough was brought in front of them. I think there were some very
strange questions left open here. But that's the way the law --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republicans were the --
MS. CLIFT: It was litigated for eight years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Republicans were the political
losers, no question about it. The Democrats were the political
MR. BUCHANAN: The Democrats didn't even stand up. They're all
hiding in the weeds. They're hiding in the weeds.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Neurological science was a political loser.
MR. BUCHANAN: The intensity issue factor benefits the
Republicans. The majority are clearly with the Democrats. I'll tell
you who benefits -- people who believe in polarization.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: White House and Congress were the political
losers. Right, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Right. And the congressional popularity levels are
really going to go down. The Democrats win by default. And Tom DeLay
is a big loser, because a lot of his Republican caucus blamed him for
leading them into this fight. And he's got a lot of other ethics
issues, and this could -- he's one indictment or ethics charge away
from getting out of there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to do that next week. How would you
describe Jeb Bush? Was he a political winner or loser? Does he look
like a rigorist in this or does he look like he's got a tender
MR. BLANKLEY: I think he's a winner, but I say that tentatively,
because there's a hard-core base that wanted him to break the law and
be in contempt of court and send the highway patrol in to grab her
out. On the other hand, he has been on this issue for years, and I
think the majority of conservatives know that he acted as vigorously
as the law permitted him to. And I think he probably nets out a
winner, although he's not running for anything imminently.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michael Schiavo -- is he a winner? We've heard
what O'Donnell said.
MR. O'DONNELL: He's not a winner to me.
MS. CLIFT: We're not going to change -- he's been demonized, but
we're not going to change the marriage laws in this country. We still
believe in the --
MR. O'DONNELL: He's been questioned based on very legitimate evidentiary questions in the background of this case. And I think what we have here is a situation where we have to decide as a population, when there's a disagreement among seemingly rational family members, parents versus spouses, how is that resolved? And why should there be a legal prejudice in favor of a spouse, which in this country is a frequently temporary relationship, and certainly was in that case?
MR. BUCHANAN: Another loser: The ACLU came out on the side of Michael Schiavo and basically in favor of death. Here are people who will go to the penitentiary gates to defend a serial killer against execution if there's one small factor in there, and they're fighting to put this woman to death.
MS. CLIFT: A winner will be science when the results of her autopsy come back and reveal that she had no brain activity. And I don't think we count that as a meaningful life that should be sustained.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Terri Schiavo -- winner or loser?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think she's a heroine of a movement and of a cause, and I think Terri Schiavo to a lot of Americans is a saint who was put to death. And even the folks on the other side believed she's got nothing -- nobody's against Terri Schiavo, so she's a complete
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think we can improve on that.
Exit: On a political repercussion scale from zero to 10, zero meaning zero political repercussion, 10 meaning nuclear bomb-scale repercussion politically, what's the political repercussion level of the Terri Schiavo saga?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's an eight or nine in terms of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. BUCHANAN: -- in terms of poisoning and polarizing American politics --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- between one side and the other.
MS. CLIFT: A six; advantage, Dems.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. BLANKLEY: Three.
MR. O'DONNELL: I agree with Eleanor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Six?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll go with a six.
Issue Three: One If By Land.
"Recent information strongly suggests that al Qaeda has
considered using the southwest border to infiltrate the United States. Several al Qaeda leaders believe operatives can pay their way into the country through Mexico and also believe that illegal entry is more advantageous than legal entry for operational-security reasons."
That's the frightening assessment from Admiral James Loy, former acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, who six weeks ago informed Congress in written testimony on the al Qaeda threat from Mexico, one that has electrified U.S. debate.
MR. ROGER CRESSEY: (From videotape.) That threat is by al Qaeda operatives, who are not going to use the traditional means of crossing borders.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This weekend in Arizona, more than 1,000 citizen volunteers who call themselves Minutemen will begin a month-long patrol of a 23-mile stretch of the border between Arizona and Mexico, known for its high illegal-alien crossing. Every day over the whole Arizona-Mexico border, nearly 3,000 illegals cross.
The Minutemen say they are not there to apprehend these illegals; only to report them. No matter, President Bush wants the Minutemen to cease and desist, calling them irrational vigilantes, which means someone who takes the law into his or her own hands, by putting on trial and/or punishing another person without any legal authority.
In the 1800s, vigilantes dispensed frontier justice to rustlers and shooters, promptly hanging the accused if, quote/unquote, "convicted."
PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I'm against vigilantes in the United States of America. I'm for enforcing law in a rational way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Department of Homeland Security is expected to deploy 534 more Arizona Border Patrol agents.
Question: What about the al Qaeda terrorist threat that Admiral Loy raised? Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: What about it? Well, obviously it goes to not only the tremendous danger that we are in as a country, but it undercuts President Bush's lackadaisical management of the border. He --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Al Qaeda is changing its tactics, right? They're no longer using the integration into sleeper cells in the United States and using visas. Now they're thinking of the Mexican border, and they may be using it.
MR. BLANKLEY: The current theory about al Qaeda tactics -- remember, we have nobody inside al Qaeda, to the best of my knowledge, at least that we've heard about. But our best new theory is that instead of using phony real driver's licenses, they're going to sneak into the country and be illegal.
But this is an issue that, at a political level, is going to be very damaging to the president. The Senate report on 9/11 said we needed 2,000 border guards. He only sent down --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)
MR. BLANKLEY: -- 150. And now you've got Minutemen, who are not vigilantes. They've expressly said they're going to obey the law and report it to the Border Patrol, and the president is calling them vigilantes. He's making real mistakes. He's getting very poor advice.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We get more electronic mail on this issue than on anything.
MR. BUCHANAN: The president is committing political suicide on this. He has got to enforce the law and defend the borders of this country. Attacking these people -- my sister is out there with them. You know what they're doing? They're spotting people coming across the border, breaking our laws, and calling the Border Patrol and
saying, "Will you folks come over, because they're breaking in right here and right here." They are exposing a problem the president has refused for five years to deal with.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And in calling them irrational vigilantes, do you think that was a serious political mistake, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, they're there because of a failure of
government. But the same people who are championing the vigilantes don't want any kind of rational immigration program that would give the Mexicans a fair shake.
MR. O'DONNELL: I completely --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what does that mean, that they --
MS. CLIFT: Well, you should have some kind of a guest worker program or some kind of pass to citizenship instead of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you approve of the Mexican government giving out brochures on how to cross rivers? I mean, do they want water taxis? Do they want moving sidewalks for them?
MS. CLIFT: They don't want people drowning.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Correction. Last week I misstated that more Americans are identifying themselves as Republicans than Democrats by a five-point margin. This was a slip of the tongue. What I had meant to say was the exact opposite. As of today, more Americans are identifying themselves as Democrats, 37 percent; Republicans, 32 percent; independents, 29 percent. So the Democrats have a five-point margin over Republicans.
What do you make of that, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: What do I make of that? I make of that that it seems like a lot of wishful thinking that maybe things are turning around, because Democrats used to be ahead like two to one. So they're just gaining a little bit of ground, probably in the midst of the malaise that has struck the Bush administration at this particular moment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should GOP strategists be concerned about this desertion?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I'm not sure it's desertion. I used to -- when I was working for Newt Gingrich, we sat around and looked at these numbers every month. And they moved around a little bit and up and down with the news cycle.
Generally, the trend has been for many years away from Democrats and towards parity, which they just about got to at the end of last year. These numbers seem to be just outside the range of error, so it may be worth a little concern. But I don't think that any one month's
numbers are terribly critical. Basically the two parties are at parity now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a leading political indicator, is it not?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, what's really nice about it is that it shows that they're both minority parties. They claim the affection of about a third of the population, which is really pathetic, and well-deserved in both cases.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: I believe that Kay Bailey Hutchison will stand down from the Senate and run against Republican Rick Perry in the primary in Texas. And if she does, Henry Bonilla will run for the Republican nomination for the Senate and win the nomination and maybe get the seat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: The situation in Darfur will become another Rwanda.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: The liberal attacks on Tom DeLay will peter out because there's no "there" there. He's going to be majority leader a year and a half from now.
MR. O'DONNELL: President Bush will not be politically harmed by his Mexican border policy, which is full of Texas realism and which most of the country realizes is, word for word, correct, including me, by the way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you support the president.
MR. O'DONNELL: One hundred percent of the president on this issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Put this in writing and have it notarized. Rudy Giuliani will not run for president in 2008. He will run for governor of New York in 2006.
Now, in memoriam, another death occurred this week, much closer to home: Tom Brazaitis, a member of this TV family, Eleanor's husband. Tom was a gifted journalist, a generous man, a loving father and husband, a witty, talented athlete, singer and dancer, without a mean bone in his body. He was sick for a long time and died at home
with his beloved Eleanor, whom I asked to be with us today, which is what Tom would have wanted.