THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC;
ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK;
TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES;
MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT
DATE: FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2005
(C) COPYRIGHT 2005, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE. NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT
AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.
FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Mixed Legacy. Millions of mourners traveled to Vatican City this week for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Some 200 past and present heads of state were in attendance. President Bush led the U.S. delegation, which included his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and President Bill Clinton. When asked about the pope's legacy, Mr. Clinton said, quote, "He's like all of us. He may have a mixed legacy."
Indeed, the pope's record is mixed, seen by many as one of paradox. He was a towering, charismatic figure on the world scene who brought the papacy to the people. But he was also widely seen as controversial, an absolutist, with a doctrinal rigidity that tolerated no dissent on complex moral dilemmas.
Question: How do you best characterize Pope John Paul II? Was he innovative or doctrinaire? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Doctrinally he was pure, John, and he maintained the church teaching on faith and morals. But on the other hand, he was tremendously innovative in the sense that he was a political pope who stood up to the Soviet empire, went down to Nicaragua and denounced the priests there who were part of the liberation theology.
He was the most traveled pope in all of history. He was an ecumenical pope in terms that he reached out to the Jewish community, the Islamic community, Eastern Orthodox. So it would be impossible to pigeonhole him. He did what Cardinal Rozinski (ph) asked of him, which is bring the church into the 21st century.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let me pigeonhole you, okay? My question to you is, what was the political impact of the pope's visit to Nicaragua -- political?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think he rallied the faithful to denounce the Sandinistas and he basically --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excellent. You've answered the question. Perfect. You're absolutely right. Eleanor. He undermined the Sandinistas. Go ahead.
MS. CLIFT: The pope's heyday was during the Reagan era, when he did have a role in the collapse of communism. But I think President Clinton is right that it's a mixed legacy. And Clinton may have used that phrase because he's very much involved in the worldwide effort to combat AIDS, which is a pandemic in Africa and Latin America, where
the Catholic Church is strongest. And the fact that this pope continues to hold the absolutist position on use of condoms to even prevent HIV infections, I think, is unconscionable.
And he presided over the pedophilia scandal that engulfed the church in this country and he gave Cardinal Bernard Law a sinecure in Rome and he says one of the nine masses a day, which I think a lot of the people who were abused by the priests that Cardinal Law covered up for probably would not approve of. So mixed legacy, very much.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, doctrinaire or innovative?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I agree with Pat that on doctrinal matters he did not break new ground. He sustained the position they had. I have to say, regarding Clinton's statement about all of us have mixed legacies, it's a little bit like saying all of us -- Babe Ruth and the
rest of us didn't hit home runs every time. I mean, it's sort of silly to put us in the category of Babe Ruth as a home run hitter. And I think that the pope had less of a mixed record than most of us, as Clinton would say.
But, look, yes, of course, every human record is a mixed record. And we don't know the full implications of his policies on condoms for Africa. We know the initial numbers, which are bad. But keep in mind that while he was advocating that, the Catholic Church gained its greatest increase in membership in Africa. So apparently Africans are coming to the flock in record numbers based on, in part, the pope's leadership. So --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was a giant migration in Latin America also. My question to you is, this pope is a model of papal activism, is he not?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely, and with --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He set the new standard for incoming popes --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: With stunning effect.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and access to people.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. But he understood the role of the media, and particularly television. His understanding of how to use images to convey his message rather than working through the Vatican --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he suited for it?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He was phenomenally suited for it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Vigorous?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Vigorous, very appealing and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Histrionic? Histrionic?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, and a man who spoke so many different languages and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was an actor, like Ronald Reagan.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. And, in fact, he had a great rapport with him. But what he did, clearly -- what he did to contribute to the unraveling of the communist empire in Eastern Europe was unprecedented for a pope. And it was his -- when he said, "Be not afraid" to those people, he really gave them the moral courage the next year to form the Solidarity Union under Lech Walesa and really
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are so right in that media point. The media gave him power.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His travels in the media. And he knew exactly that.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he understood symbolism. I mean, even his rapprochement that he, in a sense, contributed to between Christians and Jews was remarkable. He was the first person to go to a synagogue, and he went to the synagogue in the Jewish ghetto in Rome and embraced the rabbi there, which is unprecedented.
MS. CLIFT: He subscribed to the theory that if it didn't happen on television, it didn't happen.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: But, you know, when Clinton says he has a mixed legacy like all of us, I don't think he's making the point that Tony said he was making. He was suggesting that this pope came across as a very real human being, a man. And I think, again, his final days, when we all watched him suffer and he made a decision not to go to the hospital, I think we could relate to him as a human being and not just
a religious figure who --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's close, Eleanor, but Clinton was referring to the fact that the pope was a moral absolutist, and a somewhat rigid one. He shut down debate on homosexuality. He shut down debate on contraception. He shut down debate on priests getting married.
MR. BUCHANAN: It should be shut down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He shut down debate on ordaining married people.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the church --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment. He shut down debate on whether or not women should be ordained. Okay.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the church has -- the Catholic Church has shut it down. The pope simply preaches and teaches doctrine and dogma. He didn't make it up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've told you before and I'm going to tell you again, you ought to learn to distinguish between that which is de fide definita, which is not the subject we're talking about. We're talking about regimen. That regimen can be changed, and you know it can be changed.
MR. BUCHANAN: We need to shut down the dialogue. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no reason why women can't be ordained as far as the --
MR. BUCHANAN: There is one good reason. Christ never ordained one, and there hasn't been one in 2,000 years, and there's a reason for it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, to show that the pope was in touch with reality, for 43 years the U.S. has maintained a trade and travel embargo on Cuba. President Bush has tightened those restrictions. The pope has gone the other way. He condemned the embargo. "Restrictive economic measures are unjust and unethical. The Cuban people should not be denied contacts with other people, especially when the imposed isolation strikes the population indiscriminately."
He knew what it was like. He lived in Poland when those people were shut out and shut off and denied their freedom and how miserable that state of affairs was. Correct?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Correct.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of this condemnation of the embargo?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I not only think the embargo is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's immoral. You're saying it's immoral.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Forget immoral. It's contrary to our political interests, in my judgment. We don't have a policy towards Cuba. We have a Miami policy and we have a Cuban immigrant policy and a Florida policy. We don't have a Cuban policy. It's all based on the domestic politics of that community. It is contrary to our interest to so
alienate the Cuban people --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, it is --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- that in the post-Castro generation, we will have nobody there who thinks that America is a country that they ought to work with.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the pope saw that, and I think he saw another reason to lift the embargo, the political reason, and that is the embargo is keeping Castro in power. True or false?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't agree with that. I don't think that's what's keeping him in power.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, it is the moral reason.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is not what's keeping Castro --
MR. BUCHANAN: I think the pope believed that.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, he may have believed it. I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the pope believed that if we lifted the embargo, it would accelerate the removal of -- the early exit of Castro.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the pope is a moral man, and sanctions against people are immoral. They're immoral when imposed on Iraq, on the people of Iraq, because they suffer. I mean, Woodrow Wilson called them the silent, deadly remedy. We should have used smart sanctions on Iraq, smart sanctions on Castro, you know, arms and
things like that for their leaders, and stop sanctioning human beings.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just raise -- I'm generally against the use of economic sanctions because they usually don't work. But the moral issue is ambiguous. South Africa was -- the apartheid regime was overturned effectively by the powerful sanction --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: An exception to an otherwise rule.
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's a pretty big exception. Where does morality lie, in overturning apartheid and giving the people freedom there while making them suffer for a while or not? I don't know what the answer is.
MR. BUCHANAN: But they hurt the black people of South Africa. Talk to Chief Buthelezi. His people were hurt by it.
MR. BLANKLEY: I understand. All I'm saying is it's not a moral absolute. You can see it both ways. And it's also not a tactical absolute. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, is it going to be Tony or the pope? Is that what we have to choose between?
MR. BLANKLEY: No. I'm like this with the pope.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was a practitioner of the art of public diplomacy and private statecraft. And we can see the value of soft power. Do you think that Karen Hughes will observe, by the pope's performance, the value of soft power? Or do you think Condi Rice will? Do you think the president will?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Condi Rice has already been doing it, I might say, if you see the way she's been traveling throughout the world and how effective she has been, particularly in terms of using the media there. You have to give her credit for that. Now, the problem that
you're going to have in terms of the use of soft power is that if it gets personified and personalized, we have a problem, because our president is so personally unpopular in the rest of the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Chile change because of soft power? Yes. Did Poland change because of soft power, relatively soft power? Yes. Any other states? Nicaragua, because of soft power, to a considerable extent. Exit question --
MS. CLIFT: The pope had no success pleading with President Bush to get rid of the death penalty.
He spoke out against the war. And the cafeteria Catholics in this country extend into the administration, because they embrace the pope only on the issues that they agree with.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: What one word best describes how John Paul II will be remembered? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Holy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Holy. Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Charismatic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he could be called "his extreme holiness," Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not bad, though, is it?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, that's not good.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's from a Wall Street Journal column. Go ahead.
MR. BLANKLEY: Two words: "The Great."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he's going to be there with Gregory and who else?
MR. BUCHANAN: Gregory.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who else? Hildebrand. You're talking about Hildebrand.
MR. BUCHANAN: I'm talking about Gregory. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think he was a transforming pope.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he will be known as "The Liberator."
Issue Two: "DeLaying" the Inevitable.
HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER TOM DELAY (R-TX): (From videotape.) Bring it on. It's nothing but a bunch of leftist organizations that have a public strategy to demonize me. And usually they overreach.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Tom, here come the leftists.
ANNOUNCER: (From advertisement.) Tom DeLay. He'd like to wash his hands of corruption. Tom DeLay can't wash his hands of corruption by involving Congress in one family's personal tragedy, but Congress can certainly wash its hands of Tom DeLay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The hum over House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's ethical troubles this week became a roar. The New York Times reported that Congressman DeLay's wife and daughter have received over $500,000 since 2001 from his political action and campaign committee. "Just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me," said
But the biggest blow came when the Wall Street Journal shocked its conservative leaders with a blistering editorial, saying DeLay has, quote, "the odor of the Beltway," and then listed off his rap sheet.
One: Indictable? "Ronnie Earle, the district attorney for Travis County, last year indicted three of DeLay's associates involved in his Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee for money laundering and illegal campaign contributions. Mr. Earle will
not rule out a possible indictment of Mr. DeLay himself."
Two: Junketry? "Mr. DeLay made three pricey overseas trips that were later reported to be arranged and secretly paid for by lobbyists."
Three: Influence-peddling? He offered to endorse outgoing Representative Nick Smith's son in a GOP primary if Mr. Smith would say yes on the Medicare prescription drug bill.
Tony Blankley, you worked and were indispensable to Newt Gingrich, and we saw what the Democrats were able to do with Newt Gingrich, partially brought on, perhaps you might be unwilling to say, by Newt himself. My question to you: Is there a larger strategic vision that the Democrats see and are trying to implement with regard to Tom DeLay being the wedge of a bigger interest?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Well, clearly they're trying to destroy him. They're trying to scandalize him. And I must say, having gone through the same kind of nonsense that they threw up against Newt, all those things that you cited there were all legal. The $500,000 -- PACs are allowed to pay their family members to run their campaigns. There are lots of congressmen and senators who do it. There's nothing
unethical, illegal or uncommon about it. But the way it's recited, the way they reported it and the way people get snippets of it, it sounds like it's scandalous. Nonetheless --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know the rule about perception in politics.
MR. BLANKLEY: I understand.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not the reality that counts. It's the perception that counts.
MR. BLANKLEY: I understand. Nonetheless, they're having a pretty effective job of putting up the appearance of unethical behavior. They're throwing mud. They don't yet have rocks to throw at him because they can't get him. So far there's no significant charge --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this in front of the Justice Department, though -- the lobbying?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The lobbying payoffs.
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know who that is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His associate.
MR. BLANKLEY: That doesn't relate to him. That's a former associate of his. But here's the problem. Here's the problem. It's a question of whether he is -- I don't think he's going to be found to be criminally or ethically in serious violation. But the more mud you throw at a guy, then the members start thinking, is he more benefit
than he's detriment? Now, he's a very effective leader. He was the most effective majority whip in history. He never lost a vote. I think he can sustain himself for some considerable period of time, but it's dangerous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, critical mass.
Tom DeLay was the chief engineer of the intervention by the U.S. Congress in the Terri Schiavo case. Because of that unpopular intervention, DeLay's political woes appear to have reached critical mass.
REP. DELAY: (From videotape.) We will look at an arrogant, out of control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president when given the jurisdiction to he ar this case anew and look at all the facts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That declaration that Tom DeLay made was re-uttered later in the week. This week Republican Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, and Vice President Dick Cheney both separated themselves from DeLay's strong language against judges. Is DeLay out on a limb alone, do you think? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Well, he's one indictment or ethics charge away, I think, from being forced out. And the notion that this is all appearance is nonsense. He's been chastised three times by the Ethics Committee, and that's divided between Republicans and Democrats. They usually don't do anything. And then he changed the rules of the committee so they can't chastise him again.
So he is easily --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he effectively --
MS. CLIFT: -- the sleaziest member of Congress. And that's a hard honor to have, because you have to beat off a lot of people. He pushes the envelope everywhere he can. And I think if the liberal interest groups had not gotten involved, trying to demonize him, the Republicans would have cashiered him. Now I think the liberals probably would like to keep him in place. He's the embodiment of
what's wrong with this Congress and the arrogance of power.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, DeLay's got a tremendous issue in judicial dictatorship and judicial overreach, and Republicans can't give it up. I do agree that, look, there's a lot of venial sins, if you will, around and not yet a mortal sin. But I do think this. All these
negative attacks have probably killed any chance Tom DeLay had to be speaker of the House, which is what I think he wanted to be. But absent an indictment, he's going to stay right where he is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, survey says trouble for Tom.
A poll taken this week in Mr. DeLay's own district: 58 percent, DeLay was wrong to intervene in the Schiavo case; 40 percent think less of DeLay than one year ago; 45 percent would vote for someone else, not DeLay.
Mort Zuckerman, what do you think of that poll?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, I think on the Schiavo case the Republicans really stepped into it, because 82 percent felt that it was inappropriate for the government to get involved in that. His district is just reflecting that to an even lesser degree.
Do I think he's vulnerable in his own district? No, I do not. I think there may be a temporary blip. I do not think he's vulnerable in his own district, and I don't think he's going to be vulnerable in his present role.
I do agree with what Pat said. I think the accumulation of all of this, even if it's only a matter of perception -- I do agree with Tony that a lot of this stuff is not illegal or indeed even unethical, including those trips that he took, because there were people who were
giving money to this public interest group that, in fact, funded those trips.
Nevertheless, you know, you get a lot of attention given to it, and it's going to be a real liability to him. And I think his opportunity to be speaker --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: His opportunity to be speaker, I think, is over. I don't think he will lose his --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So people see the Schiavo involvement as a piece of political trickery --
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that is especially obnoxious because it is so close to that which they should not have entered, an area they should not have entered.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: On some level, I think there is also a feeling -- you know, and they're saying it about Bush too --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, flying home from Crawford.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. I mean, I think if this is your religious view of the issue, that is too much of an interference in our political process. And I think there is the very strong belief that the government should stay out of that area.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On this same issue --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He was on the point on that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On this same point, you saw the three presidents kneeling at the bier of the pope. Do you think there was any inappropriateness in that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I do not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's been questioned.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there too much religion, do you think, in the government right now?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's a religious figure in a very unique setting. I don't think --
MR. BUCHANAN: DeLay would have been hurt very badly if he had not spoken out for Terri Schiavo, because, look, the pro-life community -- this thing -- I know majorities and things like that, but as a voting issue, the great majority on that are with saving Terri Schiavo --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's doing the right thing in taking on the judiciary still, for his own self-interest?
MR. BUCHANAN: The judiciary is one of the best issues the Republicans have.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's also using it as a personal political shield, is he not?
MS. CLIFT: Hurt badly with whom? You're talking about a narrow band of religious right that want to impose their theology on the rest of the country.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- gun control friends. That may be only 20 percent.
MS. CLIFT: Here's the problem. He talks about runaway judges.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out.
MS. CLIFT: Who is he talking about? They were appointed by Republican presidents. William Pryor of Alabama supported the decision not to intervene. It's his people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. On a scale --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sorry to interrupt. On a scandal-creep scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero scandal-creep, scandal containment -- you got that, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ten meaning absolute, metaphysical scandal-creep, more scandal th an there is DeLay -- you got it?
MR. BUCHANAN: Mmm-hmm.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. How far will the DeLay scandals creep, zero to 10?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think he's at four or five. I think it's already cost him the speakership.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What will it go to?
MR. BUCHANAN: It depends. You don't get --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What will it go to, Pat? Will it go to seven?
MR. BUCHANAN: If he's not indicted, it ain't getting any higher.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No higher.
MS. CLIFT: He's at 6.5 and he's the gift that keeps on giving.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he be indicted, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he be indicted?
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. It's up to a Democrat --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Pat knows?
MR. BLANKLEY: It's up to a very partisan Democratic prosecutor down in Texas.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, what's it going to creep to?
MR. BLANKLEY: He's at about a 4.5 now. I think it could slowly creep to about a six or seven. But I don't think it's going to go up into the danger zone of nine.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's cooked?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think he's cooked. But I think it's at five, and everything depends on whether or not there's another charge that somehow or other gets some traction with the people. I don't see it, but who knows?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: My intuition is that it's going to mount and probably graze an eight, which may be bailout time with no parachute. Maybe?
Issue Three: Taxing Situation.
PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I have appointed a bipartisan commission, led by former Senators John Breaux, Democrat, and Connie Mack, Republican, to examine the tax code top to bottom. I will receive their recommendations.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They can't come too soon. Americans now are in the throes of Sturm und Drang, filing their income taxes, due this Friday, April the 15th, by 11:59 p.m. Is there a better way? Mr. Bush's blue-ribbon committee on tax-code reform will tell us in about
four months, by the end of July. The current tax code is huge, 1.4 million words long, longer, as the president says, than the entire works of William Shakespeare.
Tax-code-reform blue-ribbon panels come and go regularly. And the code only gets bigger. But this panel could recommend drastic action; namely, abolition of the code as we know it.
What's the likelihood of that, replacing it with a flat tax or a sales tax or a VAT tax?
MR. BUCHANAN: Unfortunately, zero.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero chance. We're back where we were about three months ago.
MS. CLIFT: Zero. Pat's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero.
MR. BLANKLEY: I think there's a reasonable chance you're going to get some substantial change, but I don't think we're going to switch to a VAT, although it would make a lot of economic sense if we could get there.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I say fortunately zero.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fortunately zero?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think that would be another way of reimposing additional taxes on the middle class to the benefit of the wealthy, and I'm opposed to that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The chairman favors a consumption tax, which --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The chairman of the Fed has some very interesting ideas about taxes, which I have to say has not enhanced his reputation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is zero, as usual.
Issue Four: Fonda's Regret.
JANE FONDA: (From videotape.) I'm sorry that I was photographed sitting on an anti-aircraft gun -- me. That image made soldiers think that I was against American soldiers. When I was walking away, it hit me what that would look like. And I asked them to destroy the
pictures, but there must have been 50 photographers. It should have been a red flag to me, because I've never seen that many photographers.
I think it hurt a lot of people, and I'm very, very sorry. And I will go to my grave regretting that lapse of judgment. It was terrible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is it time to let bygones be bygones on the Jane Fonda Vietnam issue? Who wants this?
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me start off and say that for me -- I don't think it's up to me or you. I think it's up to the Vietnam vets. They're the ones who have standing to give her -- to accept her apology. I'm sure that she is sincere. She got converted. She came to Jesus religiously. And I don't doubt that she is completely
sincere in her expressions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you know, the particular theme that she's talked about really means in some way she was sanctioning firing at American troops. The other thing that she did was to ask American troops not to bomb. That's a wholly different thing. And I think that's a very tough thing for her to deal with. But she's doing her
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She says she was so overcome by the animation of these soldiers talking to her one time that she didn't think when they said, "Sit up there and have your picture taken."
Predictions, Pat. Very tight.
MR. BUCHANAN: The French people, God bless them, take down the European constitution this spring. They're going to vote it down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow. Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: President Bush will regret the fact that he
undermined the credibility of U.S. bonds in his effort to sell his worthless privatization plan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean up there in Morgantown?
MS. CLIFT: Yes. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By pointing out (his?) bonds are just -- (inaudible).
MS. CLIFT: Right. I hope the Japanese and the Chinese weren't listening.
MR. BLANKLEY: The historic formation of the Iraqi government will put an end to all rational predictions of civil war in Iraq.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: In the election in the Palestinian territories, Hamas is going to get 40 to 50 percent of the vote and paralyze anything Abbas would like to do. And he is getting weaker all the time as we speak.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Tony's point, the likely conflict between Sunnis and Shi'ites on the one hand and Kurds on the other over who controls the northern city of Kirkuk will spell the end of the sectarian tolerance that he is praising now in Iraq.
Don't forget you can watch the McLaughlin Group on streaming video worldwide at McLaughlin.com.
Next week, will President Bush tell Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at his meeting with him in Crawford that Israel must stop making West Bank enlargement of settlements? Bye bye.