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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT

FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2005

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Back to Iraq.

An American civilian was taken hostage in Iraq this week: 47- year-old Jeffrey Ake, a contractor from Indiana, held at gunpoint by his kidnappers.

JEFFREY AKE (HOSTAGE): (From videotape.) I ask my family and friends to demonstrate and speak directly to the American government to open discussions with the Iraqi national resistance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Ake's statement called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Ake is married with four children. He is the president and CEO of Equipment Express, a small bottling business he founded in Rolling Prairie, Indiana.

His kidnapping was part of another bloody week. On Saturday, anti-American demonstrators demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops -- 300,000 demonstrators, according to an estimate quoted by the LA Times, possibly the largest demonstration since the start of the war.

Later in the week, at least 23 Iraqis were killed and four American contractors injured in separate bomb attacks. In Kirkuk, 15 Iraqi officers were killed.

So, how much longer will the nearly 150,000 U.S. troops stay? Iraq's new president gave us an estimate.

IRAQI PRESIDENT JALAL TALABANI: (From videotape.) I think we are in great need to have American and other allied forces in Iraq until we will be able to rebuild our military forces. I think within two years we can do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This question is about the U.S. Congress. Why isn't Congress demanding answers to questions like these: What is our plan to defeat the insurgency? What is our plan to prevent Iraq from slipping into civil war? What is our contingency if a civil war breaks out? What are the metrics of knowing whether we are winning or losing? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, one of the metrics, most important, is the incidence of attacks on Americans has been cut in half to about 40 a week. American casualties are as low as they were 12 months ago, so they've been ratcheted back. You have a new government in power, an elected government.

On the down side, of course, there is no light right now at the end of the tunnel and we have a new haven for terrorists in the Sunni triangle we didn't have before we invaded.

But I do believe this. I think we're coming home. I think Fallujah was the high tide of American empire. I think the neocon hour is over in American politics. And I do believe the president is not going deeper in. He's coming out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the reason the Congress isn't asking the hard questions is we have essentially one-party control in Washington, and the Republicans on Capitol Hill don't want to embarrass the administration because the answers to these questions are not there.

And I think what this week has demonstrated with this violence is that all the happy talk was premature. The insurgency still has demonstrated that they are capable of hitting us again. And history shows that to defeat an insurgency takes 10 years. And if the American troops come out, the country could well descend into civil war, or the best outcome would be a division into three separate countries. I don't think that's much of a success for this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think the reason why not even Democrats are calling for the kind of hearings you suggested is because they don't think that the outcomes that you've suggested might be in order are likely to occur.
I think the general mood is that civil war as a possibility becomes more remote each month; that as the government stands up in Iraq and they start building their troops between 150,000, now moving towards 175,000, that the expectation is that while it can be messy for a while longer, the central question of whether it's going to break down into civil war, most people I know who are commenting on it, even Democrats, are not predicting that at this point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I would agree with what Tony is saying. I think you have to understand that the vast bulk of the casualties are now Iraqis, and they're the ones who are resentful of the insurgency. The insurgency, I think, is being squeezed. American casualties are going down. Attacks on American casualties are going down.

And sort of the instinct for democracy that we saw with the election is certainly something that has affected all of Iraq, and affected it positively from our point of view. You see a government being formed, and you will see Iraqis taking over the administration of the new government increasingly. There will be a new constitution by the end of this year and another election.

And they're building up their police forces, and they understand how to operate those police forces on the ground. The reason why Rumsfeld went over there was to make sure that that progress is not interrupted. So, by and large, while there will continue to be these kinds of attacks, it seems to me that it's going in the right direction now, not the wrong direction.

MS. CLIFT: They're only asking for a six-month extension on the creation of the constitution. And when Secretary Rumsfeld went over there, he warned against large-scale corruption. And frankly, if you have this sort of fragile triumvirate, again, if you look at history, triumvirates rarely succeed. Someone emerges. And my sense is that they could well -- the Shi'ites and the Kurds could well be biding their time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the major factor that will determine when the United States forces can come out?

MR. BUCHANAN: The ability of the Iraqis themselves to deal with, to suppress and to diminish the insurgency.

The more they can do that themselves -- and we ought to push them and push them to do it -- the faster the American troops come home.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What --

MR. BLANKLEY: But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: But even after that -- and I agree with that -- I would expect that we would have garrison troops in Iraq into the misty future, not patrolling the streets even after the streets don't have to be patrolled, but as an element of our influence in that part of the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's talk about purging the Ba'athists. You know what the Ba'athists are, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Ba'athists are the folks who were allied with Saddam Hussein, predominantly Sunni. And you're right, they're talking about purging them. And Rumsfeld believes it would be a mistake, because his -- and I tend to agree with Rumsfeld -- even some of these characters, we don't admire all that much.

The more we can pull people away from Zarqawi and the haters and the al Qaeda types and isolate them, the better. So I think Rumsfeld is right and I think Bremer was wrong to throw them all out two years ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Ba'athists are also Sunnis, mostly Sunnis, and the Sunnis are recruits into the security and police forces in large number. That would be another reason why they shouldn't purge the Ba'athists.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, you want to separate them -- you want to isolate the people, frankly, that you have to kill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would think that it would be against our interest to purge the Ba'athists.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree with you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I think that's the major factor in determining how long we're going to stay there.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree with you completely. I think it would be a -- we have to move very, very slowly at this point in terms of our interfering with what they want to do internally. The president called for amnesty, in fact, for all of the Ba'athists. Now, that has not been accepted by the new prime minister. Nevertheless, that is the direction in which they're going, because they know they have to reach out to the Sunnis. And it's through these people that they're going to reach --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And if they don't, the Sunnis will feel dispossessed.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. They only had 16 seats out of 275 or 18 seats out of 275 seats because they withheld their participation in the election. They don't want to withhold their participation in the government.

MS. CLIFT: There is such suspicion of anybody with any Ba'athists connections, and you had to have them if you wanted to succeed in the government. And it's on both sides. I mean, the Sunni population distrusts anybody who tries to buy into the government. They consider them traitors. I mean, I think -- again, I think the potential for ethnic rivalry -- civil war, if you will -- is still very much there.

MR. BLANKLEY: The potential is always -- the world has an increasing level of precedence of how to deal with it; the South Africans, Russians, Ukrainians. As we have these events that overturn established authorities, we're beginning to see methods of how you reconcile, who do you execute, who do you imprison, who do you pardon. The South Africans did it pretty well. So we're not exactly in virgin territory in this process. And I think Iraq benefits from the experience of the last --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The South Africans did it best.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: An excellent example, though, John, is, frankly, the communists in Russia. We didn't demand they all be prosecuted and put on trial when the Soviet empire went down. Basically they got a blanket amnesty. The KGB did. Not a single person I know was put on trial for all the horrors of those 50 years. And they let them participate in the society.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they converted into nascent if not existing capitalists, did they not?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would say nascent. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Show Me the Money.
Congress is now debating an emergency supplemental request from the White House for $82 billion, mostly for Iraq. If approved, the total price tag for Iraq will be well over $200 billion, money that could be better spent elsewhere, many believe.

Senator Robert Byrd cites No Child Left Behind,
firefighters, first responders, veterans' medical care and the National Institutes of Health. They all take a hit. Add to that Amtrak, which isn't getting a cent, with its track beds part of our nation's deteriorating infrastructure.

To give the winch of national irritation an extra turn, U.S. Comptroller General David Walker told Congress that the Pentagon has no record of millions of dollars spent in Iraq. And a report released last week by the Rand Corporation, an independent research group created by the government, slams the Pentagon.

Question: Will the U.S. Congress give the president another blank check to fund the war in Iraq? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Actually, it's not a blank check. It's for $82 million, John -- (laughs) -- $82 billion. So it's not a blank check. But of course they're going to give it to them. I think John Kerry and Mr. Edwards's vote has sent a lesson that they have all learned over there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, this is what I mean by a blank check -- blank as to its use, not as to the amount. This is going to be for nation-building, Pat. Do you approve of nation-building in Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, listen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that's our responsibility over there?

MR. BUCHANAN: If you've gone to war -- the country declared it was going to war. If you've gone to war, then you've got to do what you have to do to at least try to win it. I was against the war, John, but I would sign on to it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, so you're saying the war is still on.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the war is on, John, yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is the insurgency getting bigger or smaller?

MR. BUCHANAN: The insurgency, I think, does not have the capacity to inflict as many strikes as it did a year ago. I think it's getting increasingly isolated. But it's still potent. It's still potent. There's more than 10,000 of them out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Qualitatively, on the tempo of the strikes, it's 400 across the country, down from that number to 300. So that's a 25 percent reduction. So I think we can all agree that the insurgency has decreased, although the attacks now are better-planned and they're bigger. They're better-organized.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it still looks as though something is transpiring.

And maybe it is that the Sunnis don't want to continue their role in the insurgency because they see themselves in the government and they want to get into the government, so they're kind of now --

MR. BUCHANAN: The train is leaving the station.

MS. CLIFT: Or --

MR. BUCHANAN: The train is leaving the station.

MS. CLIFT: Or --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe there's a little ambivalence coming --

MS. CLIFT: Or, conversely, the Sunnis will see themselves increasingly marginalized and the insurgency could gain --

MR. BLANKLEY: To answer your question --

MS. CLIFT: But to answer the question about the money --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: -- they'll tie some symbolic strings, but basically Bush will get what he wants. But they barely spent the first chunk of reconstruction money. And I must say, the indictments of those Texas oil men this week knocks a little bit of the moral ground out from under this administration when it comes to dumping all over the U.N. --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was that, Eleanor? What was that about?

MS. CLIFT: -- on oil-for-food.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tell us about that. What was that?

MS. CLIFT: Texas oil men were getting kickbacks for playing footsie with Saddam Hussein.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean in the --

MR. BLANKLEY: Guilt by coming from the same state. Is that what you're suggesting?

MS. CLIFT: Americans are involved. It's not just those darn Europeans. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Criminals are involved.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The oil-for-food program --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, but let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what she's talking about --

MR. BLANKLEY: I know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and the involvement of that Texan.

MR. BLANKLEY: And when she -- I won't characterize her thoughts.

MS. CLIFT: My name is Eleanor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please continue, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: As far as the answer to your question, of course Congress will pass it. But there's going to be some fighting over the attachment of some immigration issues in the Senate, Senator Craig's agricultural workers' program. If that gets into the conference report, I've been told by people in the Republican House leadership that they will probably try to block it. So this could be messy because the immigration issue is trying to be improperly foisted into this defense appropriation.

And from the House side, they've got another piece of immigration issue -- Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Sensenbrenner's driver's license. So it's getting a little messy, and it's going to be hard to disentangle it. But eventually the president will get his money.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, quickly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He'll get his money. They'll work through whatever they have to work through. He'll get his money without question. We're in the downward slope of getting out of that place. We're not going to stop it by holding up on the financing of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The prime minister of Israel was in Crawford and in Washington.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you talk to Ariel?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did he have to say?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, he was basically concerned with what's happening -- Iran was a major subject for the discussion with the president. But mostly it was about failures of Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority to make any progress. Not only are they not making progress against the terrorists, but they're being diminished politically. The latest poll shows for the election, the legislative council, that Hamas is at 52 percent and Fatah is at 13 percent. I mean, it's absolutely astounding.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why do you suppose Hamas is at 52 percent?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Because they're not --

MR. BUCHANAN: Perhaps it is because the Israelis will not get off their land.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's certainly a possibility.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The other thing we talked about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- wait a minute. Do you think the prime minister of Palestine is a strong leader or a weak leader?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He is demonstrating himself to not only be a weak leader but to be somebody who made a huge strategic error in his dealings with Hamas, because what he did was he not only agreed not to confront Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the major terrorist organizations -- that is, not to remove their weapons -- but he also enabled them to enter the political process when Fatah is totally disorganized, totally weak. The old guard is fighting Abbas, and so is the young guard. So he's got -- even within his own party, he's in deep, deep trouble.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me add a --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And that's what worries me.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me add a gloss.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To this?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I also had a chance to have coffee with Sharon while he was in Washington. And my sense was, along with everything that Mort said, there is a pessimism, both about Iran and about the Palestinian situation. He said, you know, there are two elements to the shortcomings of Abbas. One was he wasn't accomplishing what he's trying to accomplish, and then a whole long list of things that he isn't even trying to accomplish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we talking about Abbas's temperament?

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, what about Sharon's -- the problem with Sharon, for heaven's sakes?

MR. BLANKLEY: And his primary --

MR. BUCHANAN: They are closing off Jerusalem.

MR. BLANKLEY: And his terrible concern about Iran and the nuclears, he emphasized over again very soon the critical moment will be reached.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he also said something else. Correct me if I'm wrong. He told President Bush that President Bush should not negotiate through and with the EU 3, which are the three countries, Britain -- and what are the other two?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: France and Germany.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- France and Germany -- on Iran. Those are the three --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What he said was if they can't reach a deal with Iran, it has to go to the Security Council for sanctions. Nobody is optimistic that Iran is going to do anything other than postpone these negotiations while they work on the technology of nuclear weapons. It's got to go to the U.N. for sanctions. Otherwise there will be no --

MR. BUCHANAN: You are missing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me hear him out. I want to know more about Abbas. If Abbas is as you both say he is, quoting Sharon, assuming that there is truth to this, what is the next step?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Our own intelligence, by the way, confirms this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the next step?

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Nobody has an easy next step. The most realistic assessment is that within six months we're going to be back to an intifada.

MR. BUCHANAN: Of course you are.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The terrorist groups are building up their explosives. They're training --

MR. BUCHANAN: But there's a cause to this.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And there is nobody to restrain them.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, there is no -- you've got to talk about the Israeli end of this. They're building that wall. They're closing down their settlement right there, which is going to close off Jerusalem. The Palestinians are desperate. There are columnists in this town writing that the road map is dead, the peace process is dead, because Abbas, weak or not, has been given nothing by the Israelis. The president cannot --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Israelis have pulled back. They've pulled out of --

MR. BUCHANAN: Nothing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's also -- Sharon is uprooting the refugees in Gaza.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Let them take control of the West Bank.

MS. CLIFT: Sharon is getting a lot of static in terms of withdrawing from those settlements. And he would be just as happy not to move any further. And I believe that's what's going to happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Death and Taxes.

The estate tax is the tax levied on the assets of a person after he or she dies. Some call it the death tax. Getting rid of it has been a top priority for George Bush. In 2001, in response to Mr. Bush's call, Congress voted to phase out the estate tax over a 10-year period in a series of exemptions.

This year, 2005, $1.5 million in estate assets are exempt. By 2009, $3.5 million will be exempt. In 2010, the entire estate is exempt; but get this -- for that one year, 2010, only. The following year, 2011, the estate tax returns at a tax rate of 55 percent on the largest estate, with only $1 million exempt.

President Bush and Republicans argue that the tax punishes work, thrift and success.

REP. TOM LATHAM (R-IA): (From videotape.) Nothing is more hurtful than a tax that takes away the hope of the American dream. This country is based on farms, on small businesses. That is the life blood of this nation, and nothing destroys it more than the death tax.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ridiculous, say advocates of the estate tax. Only a few are subject to it -- a wealthy few.

REP. SANDER LEVIN (D-MI): (From videotape.) One-third of the estate tax is paid by the wealthiest one in 1,000 Americans -- I think that's one-tenth of 1 percent -- not farmers or small business people. That is the lamest argument brought to this floor in recent memory.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nineteen thousand taxpayers on this April the 15th will owe $935,000 on average each. And if we repeal the tax, $290 billion in revenue will be lost over 10 years. So Mort, you're the obvious one on this, but I'm going to -- (laughter) --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You mean the obvious one to die? Is that what you're saying? Thank you very much.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And if you do die, set the date for 2010 -- no estate tax.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I've already scheduled it for 2011. I believe in paying taxes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to this?

MS. CLIFT: The Republicans did a terrific snow job on this, because most Americans somehow think they're affected when, in fact, this should have been called the Paris Hilton tax. I mean, it only affects the very wealthy. And it actually -- small businesses get hurt, and it affects the deficit. I mean, Republicans have more votes in the Senate, but there are still some responsible Republicans left who worry about the deficit. And I don't know how they would pay for this. They probably don't intend to pay for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted 272-162 to repeal the tax permanently after the year 2010. Forty-two Democrats, by the way, sided with the Republicans. So is the estate tax -- I ask you again -- the moral equivalent of grave-robbing?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's not the moral equivalent of anything. But let me tell you what I think is going to happen. I don't think it will pass in the Senate currently. But if Social Security goes down, is not able to be passed by the president, then I think death tax, as part of the next initiative on tax cuts, is likely to be reborn, and some form of increasing the cutoff on death tax permanently is likely to come into being.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this is legalized grave robbery?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think this is one of the most immoral pieces of legislation imaginable. Of the 19,000 people that you referred to last year who paid estate taxes, only 440 of them -- count that; that's not a typo -- 440 of them were small businesses or farms.

This is mostly the wealthy people who never pay taxes on the appreciation of their assets. Their companies are assets that grew during their lifetime. They never sold it so they never paid taxes on it. Now it's going to go to their beneficiaries, and they will not pay taxes on it. So it's a wonderful program for the one-third of 1 percent at the most who really made a lot of money.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me speak for the upper middle class.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: (We have established?) a plutocracy in this country. I think it's a terrible program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The majority of the senators are millionaires.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, that's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's small change for you.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate the compliment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think they will reflect your views with regard to the repulsiveness of the estate tax?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know. I hope so, because I think this is really one of the least -- one of the --

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me talk for the middle class here, if I might.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: For the middle class -- excuse me, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Now, wait a minute. Look, we pay --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: For the middle class --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the average middle-class guy that's doing well pays 50 percent of his income right now in state and federal and payroll and property and sales taxes. Then they take what he earns and what he's got left. Then they come in and take half of what he's got for his kids.

MS. CLIFT: That's not what is at issue here.

MR. BUCHANAN: He ought to get rid of this grave-robbers' tax. You get rid of the bureaucracy. Get rid of the estate planners. Simplify, simplify. It's a great thing and it's going to pass, regardless of the skepticism of Count Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: I can't count, are you saying? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it defeats the values of thrift and the values of work and the values of success.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. It's going to --

MS. CLIFT: Progressive Democrats last week came out with an interesting tax idea, and that is, why don't we tax capital and earning at the same rate -- (ranges?) at the same rate? Right now the working man pays more on the money that he puts his blood, sweat and tears out for than people get on capital that just sits there. It's an interesting idea. We're going to hear more about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One-word answer -- one-word answer. Will the estate tax be repealed? Will it be compromised, which means setting a different exemption of assets level? Or will it stay in place?

MR. BUCHANAN: The grave robber is gone.

MS. CLIFT: Some reform so --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Some reform.

MS. CLIFT: -- those 440 farmers don't get hurt. But otherwise, no.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think ultimately compromise with probably a pretty high limit, maybe $10 million, $15 million.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That high? How about $5 (million)?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think higher.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Even the Democrats are prepared to accept a limit of three and a half million per spouse, so it's $7 million for a married couple. I think it may go as high as $10 million for a married couple. Beyond that, there's virtually nobody, other than the very, very wealthiest, who will have to pay taxes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it sounds like seven and a half million (dollars).

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you may be right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: U.N. Secretary General Bill Clinton.

(Videotaped excerpt of Q&A with former President Clinton.)

Q Would you one day consider succeeding Secretary General Kofi Annan?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I support the secretary general we have, and I like the job I have. And so I'm going to do the job I've got, which includes now a job for him. I'm his employee. It would be unseemly for me to do anything else right now.

(End of excerpt.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The former U.S. president has taken up the role of United Nations tsunami relief czar, a job that is expected to last about two years -- coincidentally, the same amount of time remaining in the second term of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Question: Would Bill Clinton be a stellar U.N. secretary general? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. I mean, he would be a uniter, not a divider. And I really do think that there's a renaissance of affection for Clinton in this country, partly because he's been sick, partly because he's been buddies with President Bush and is doing all of these philanthropic efforts. But he's beloved around the world, and that has never diminished, despite any of the scandals we get preoccupied with here in Washington.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Republicans invoke the nuclear option on Janice Rogers Brown and Patricia Owens coming next week or the week after.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Reverend Frist kowtowing to the right will backfire, because it is widely seen as insincere.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Republicans have the vote for the nuclear option. They will exercise it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Lincoln Chafee will support John Bolton, who will get his nomination through to the U.N. ambassador.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: China will revalue its currency by Christmas, making it substantially stronger against the dollar, which is what the administration wants. But be careful what you wish for. Bye bye.

END.