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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

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

TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2005

BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 23-24, 2005

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Bolton Unbolted.

SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): (From videotape.) I'm less concerned about the interest of the U.N. than the interest of the United States of America. And how we can look straight-faced in the mirror and say this guy is the face we want to put forward for the whole world?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Derailed -- that's where John Bolton's U.N. express finds itself after a superheated two-hour debate in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week.

What caused the row? A stream of complaints from former Bolton co-workers and subordinates last week painted him as a, quote/unquote, "serial abuser." The tipping point this week was a letter from Dallas PR consultant Melody Townsel, who worked with Bolton in Central Asia, notably Kyrgyzstan 11 years ago, 1994.

"Mr. Bolton chased me through the halls of a Russian hotel, throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door, and generally behaving like a madman. John Bolton put me through hell."

SEN. BIDEN: (From videotape.) In your heart, you know this guy doesn't deserve to go to the U.N. In your heart, you know that to be true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Still, critical mass had not been met. It was more than an hour into the hearing before the bombshell. Republican Senator George Voinovich, who had been expected to support Bolton, became the first Republican to break ranks and deliver what may be Bolton's coup de grace.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH): (From videotape.) I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton. I think one's interpersonal skills and their relationship with their fellowman is a very important ingredient.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two other Republicans, Lincoln Chafee and Chuck Hagel, followed Voinovich's lead.

SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE (R-RI): (From videotape.) In view of Senator Voinovich's comments, do you have any hesitation about going forward with this nomination?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): (From videotape.) If, in fact, the votes play out the way I suspect they're going to play out, if we push this vote, the Bolton nomination will not come out of this committee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Chairman Richard Lugar postponed the vote pending further hearings in early May.

Colin Powell also views Bolton as unsuitable for the U.N. post. Also he declined to sign a letter of seven former State and Defense secretaries backing Bolton.

Question: The Constitution says that the role of the Senate in the confirmation process is advise and consent, which means character and qualifications. Is the Senate moving beyond its traditional responsibility? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I certainly think it is. I think Bolton -- and I don't agree with him on everything -- he has the character for this job. He has the integrity. He has the capacity in spades. He is the president's man. The president wants him. If I were there, John, I would vote for him.

The Democrats were, to a man, against him as soon as he was nominated. And now you've got some of these Republicans who have been shaken. I think the president of the United States did the right thing. He came out strong for him. I think he's going to fight for him. And he'd better fight for him, because the target here is not just Mr. Bolton. The target here is George W. Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we can say fairly that Mr. Bolton is abrasive. So do you think that goes to qualification, Eleanor, or do you think it goes to suitability and is really outside of what the Senate ought to be considering?

MS. CLIFT: Well, there are plenty of people in Washington with hot tempers. It's what you use that hot temper to accomplish. And he used it to try to shut down dissent and to get rid of people who disagreed with him and to shape intelligence to suit his views. So I think it's very much within the bounds of what the Senate ought to be considering.

And his nomination will depend on what comes out over the next couple of weeks. More people may well come out of the wood work to voice complaints. But there's an underlying worry that at a time when the United States really needs international institutions, that he is not frankly stable enough to be trusted in that kind of position. He has sat in Pat Buchanan's chair on this set and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you did not discern that he was vindictive or that he was out of line, did you, when he was here?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he participated in the 2000 vote recount in Florida, and he stormed into the rooms down there and said who he was and demanded the votes be stopped. He is a partisan hatchet man. He is Dick Cheney's person. The only reason he's there is because Dick Cheney wants him. And that's why they're going to stick with him. They'll recess-appoint him if they have to.

MR. BLANKLEY: Do you have a couple more points you want to go into?

MS. CLIFT: I'd like to. Are you yielding your time, Tony? I'll accept it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, stop baiting Eleanor. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have a point to make? Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're waiting. Where do you want to begin?

MR. BLANKLEY: I'll take no more time than Eleanor did. This is a partisan, ideological fight. The idea that an overbearing boss is a disqualifying element -- there would be about 12 members of the Senate left, and one of the people who wouldn't be there would be the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee if being overbearing were a disqualifying element. That's nonsense.

The question of whether he has abused intelligence is a legitimate issue to look into and has not been shown --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't hear that developed. Are you talking about NSA seeking identities of those whom the NSA has detected in the bits and pieces of conversation --

MR. BLANKLEY: The question about the Cuban (biology?) and what he did when he got intelligence -- those are legitimate areas, and they were not resolved against him. They remain ambiguous. As far as ideology and policy is concerned, that's an old fight in this town. But the idea of traipsing out people saying he shouts and is overbearing is just ludicrous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, standing by his man. I'll go to you in a moment, Clarence. Standing by his man.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Sometimes politics gets in the way of doing the people's business. Take John Bolton -- the good man I nominated to represent our country at the United Nations. John's distinguished career in service to our nation demonstrates that he is the right man at the right time for this important assignment. I urge the Senate to put aside politics and confirm John Bolton to the United Nations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This goes a little beyond Bolton, but it does go to the president's motivation and incentive to not only nominate Mr. Bolton but also to wrap himself so closely around him, and that is, does President Bush feel contempt towards the United Nations, which might explain his unreserved backing of Mr. Bolton? What do you think?

MR. PAGE: I don't know if it's out-and-out contempt. I think the president is under the sway of Vice President Cheney, who has been a Bolton backer from the beginning; imposed Bolton on Colin Powell, who really didn't want him as the deputy secretary over at State, and as we've seen in recent days, has been talking about Bolton quietly with senators, who have been very curious to hear about him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Bolton holds the United Nations in contempt? And, if so, is he not a perfect candidate for the president, who is permitted, under the Constitution, to appoint whom he wishes?

MR. PAGE: I'm puzzled by the logic of his whole appointment. I mean, this is a man who's obviously undiplomatic at best. I mean, it's true that -- it's a bum rap that, okay, he's a tough boss, a mean boss, et cetera, et cetera. But if you believe that diplomacy is important in the job of being a diplomat, it's not so irrelevant.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, wait a minute, John. Wait a minute. Look, first, he does not have a good bedside manner. But, you know, we mentioned the papers. I've had papers of mine thrown by world-class statesmen all over the room. John, people in this town do things like that.

But this is the man the president wants. He is a tough customer. He's a no-nonsense character. Everybody in the town knows it. The president knows it. He says, "I want this man." He's got the qualifications. And as Tony says, in terms of the issue you raised, whether he's throwing somebody out of there because they gave him a different point of view, he didn't fire anybody --

MS. CLIFT: What is stalling this appointment is not Democratic politics.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: It's a Republican who testified, Mr. Ford, who --

MR. BLANKLEY: He was a Republican.

MS. CLIFT: He said he was a Republican --

MR. BLANKLEY: He lied.

MS. CLIFT: Well, we'll leave that for another matter.

MR. BLANKLEY: Because he --

MS. CLIFT: And Senator --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, let Eleanor finish.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can rebut in a moment.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. And it is Senator Voinovich who had a burst of conscience in a body where very rarely does anybody listen to the other side and then possibly change their mind. And Colin Powell, whose chief failing in the first Bush administration was that he never stood up really publicly and strongly enough for what he believes, is apparently speaking the truth about this man. And there are Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we move a little bit forward? How much of a setback would this be for the president if Mr. Bolton does not clear this committee?

MR. BLANKLEY: A substantial one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not a crippling one -- because this week he went out and personally strongly endorsed him out of his own voice. He didn't send a spokesman out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is his first foreign-policy nominee that will be rejected.

MR. BLANKLEY: If he will.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he is rejected.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. What will this throw into jeopardy if Bolton is rejected? What other legislative issues? For example, the private accounts; that will be rendered all the more difficult.

MR. BLANKLEY: A president's capital is all of a piece. And as you lose your stick and your influence over your own members particularly on one issue, they fear you less on the next. So it can have an unraveling effect. It doesn't have to have an unraveling effect.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Democrats want to draw blood on this, John. And they do have one -- they've got one guy we were talking earlier. Voinovich is the key guy here. I think the president can bring Hagel along. I think he can bring Chafee along. Chafee is up. Voinovich is the 'x' factor. I don't think this thing is necessarily dead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do not.

MR. BUCHANAN: I do not.

MS. CLIFT: I agree with --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know they've got three weeks in which to cultivate all other kinds of negative recollections --

MR. BUCHANAN: If it turns out to be trash --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of the behavior of Mr. Bolton.

MR. BUCHANAN: If it turns out to be nothing but trash, then I think Voinovich can be brought back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think it's going to be a death by a thousand cuts?

MR. PAGE: Three weeks is a long time.

MS. CLIFT: Not necessarily. I mean, I think he could get the votes to get out. More likely, the committee will be tied, and then there will be a second vote to see if they send him to the floor without recommendation. And then he'd probably get his 51 Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are 10 --

MS. CLIFT: But his credibility will be damaged.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are 10 Republicans on the committee and eight Democrats. Exit question: Should Mr. Bolton ask Mr. Bush to withdraw Mr. Bolton's nomination? Yes or no. Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: He should not. That would be the worst thing he could do.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he should. But this is macho politics. And again, I think if they lose on the Hill, the president would recess- appoint him and he could serve until the end of this Congress, which would be through 2006.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if Bolton were to resign after the endorsement of the president, it seems to me the president would have it both ways. He would eliminate a problem and he has stood by his man until --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Bolton, in his heart, felt, as others have felt -- and this is the tradition -- that we don't want to damage the president. "And even though I love the United Nations and think we could work together as a wonderful team with the United Nations, nevertheless I'm withdrawing my nomination."

MR. BLANKLEY: The president crossed the Rubicon when he personally re-endorsed him this week. And it would do no good for Bolton to say, I'm stepping aside." It would be seen as a defeat for the president. So they've got to hang tough and fight it out and try to get Voinovich.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it depends on the way he presents his resignation, the way I just described.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it doesn't matter. Everybody knows --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean? Do you mean that if Bolton says that, other people will think that the president --

MR. BUCHANAN: They will start laughing. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: Well, Tony's right. He crossed that Rubicon, especially because he was so tepid in his backing of Tom DeLay. He really didn't back Tom DeLay at the same time that he was strongly personally wrapping himself around Bolton. So Bolton himself --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should he withdraw his nomination?

MR. PAGE: Well, of course, I think he should, because I don't think he's the best guy for that job. But I don't think he will. This is macho politics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should he? Should he?
MR. PAGE: Unless he gets the message from Cheney or Bush that, hey, it's time to step aside.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He should be -- Bolton should be a loyal soldier. He should pull his own nomination and defer to the president, saying that he's going to spare the president any agony associated with his nomination, and the president has it both ways.

Issue Two: Grand Old Problems.

Has the Republican Party lost it? Six months ago, the GOP looked like America's party. Republicans won the White House again. They enlarged their majorities in both the House and the Senate. But now the Republicans look to many like the party of dysfunction.

Social Security foundering; DeLay sinking; Frist's filibuster nuclear option, namely getting rid of the filibuster to protect Mr. Bush's judicial nominees; Bolton's confirmation; all causing trouble.

So what is to blame for this Republican disarray? Rampant dysfunctionality from the White House, from the Senate leadership headed by Bill Frist, and from the House leadership headed by Tom DeLay. Major Republican triumphs on tort reform, bankruptcy reform, tax cuts and electoral gains in Congress -- have they been eclipsed over the last 90 days by poor leadership, mismanagement, and, as some say, hubris?

Question: How serious is the downward slide of the Republicans? Tony Blankley. You will admit, Tony, that the handling of these --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make my own admission.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the handling of these affairs was ham-handed --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me answer your question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- from the White House and on the Hill.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me answer your question. I agree that the elephants in town are kind of wandering around bumping into each other. They're not trunk to tail, as they're supposed to be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong?

MR. BLANKLEY: And part of it is Bush's Social Security campaign, which has been well-executed but ineffective; it hasn't connected yet. The DeLay problem. There's no doubt that the Senate has not been well-managed currently. And the question is whether this kind of disarray can be corrected or whether it's going to be part of a trend.

On the other hand, my prediction is the president is going to come back with a passable Social Security package in the late spring or early summer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean by tinkering with it, by tweaking it, or by personal accounts?

MR. BLANKLEY: It'll be somewhere just short of personal accounts but something that'll sort of look like personal accounts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he's going to take credit for that?

MR. BLANKLEY: You betcha.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- for personal accounts?

MR. BLANKLEY: What he needs is a turnaround.

MR. BUCHANAN: What he needs is a fight. And that's what he's going to get with this --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, here we go.

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen. Listen, I'm telling you. The so-called nuclear option -- FDR once said, when he was in trouble, when he was in malaise, "Get me something I can veto so I can go to battle." He's going to battle over these two judges that I mentioned last week, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. I think he's got a fighting chance to break the filibuster with the so-called nuclear option. If he does, that will rally the troops for a battle on the Supreme Court.

MS. CLIFT: The nuclear option is the equivalent of FDR's trying to pack the court.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, come on! (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Frankly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: -- it has taken the Republicans 10 years in power to reach the level of arrogance and ethical malfeasance that it took the Democrats 40 years in power. And the same charges leveled --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.

)

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. The same charges leveled against Tom DeLay were leveled against the Democrats in '94, when your boss, Newt Gingrich, successfully went after them as too close to corporate interests, out of touch with the American people, and enjoying the perks and the money too much.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no --

MS. CLIFT: That's what's wrong with the Republican Congress today.

MR. BLANKLEY: We correctly alleged that Rostenkowski had committed felony, that drugs were being sold out of the Capitol post office, and that former Speaker Wright had a corrupt relationship with his book sales. They were not phony charges. They were real charges.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Thank you for the trip down memory lane. But believe me, nobody outside the Beltway remembers or cares about the Rosty-Newt argument.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm just correcting the record. I don't want any revisionism.

MR. PAGE: Duly noted, counselor. However, I don't think anybody really cares about this whole procedural fight over the nuclear option, et cetera. I mean, we have a lot of fun watching it here in the Beltway, but really they're not fighting over programs that affect the American people. A couple of judges -- that's a battle between bases. Bush already has his base. His approvals are down among people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying that --

MR. BUCHANAN: This is about the Supreme Court.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat. Are you saying that the collective mismanagement that was exhibited in this sterling video set-up --

MR. PAGE: And indeed it was sterling, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think that there is a clear sign there of a weakening of the president as an effective leader?

MR. PAGE: It's a sign of the second-term blahs, I'll grant you that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is it a --

MR. PAGE: He's got to deliver something on Social Security this year or next year is a campaign year, and then --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you've got a point. You've got a point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the second-term blahs premature? Is he going to hit lame-duck status earlier than normally occurs?

MR. PAGE: I think Social Security is the test of that. These judicial appointments --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think you've got a point.

MR. PAGE: These are great fights, but, you know, it's not really going to affect people's lives.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, it's not -- the Democrats have been totally obstructionist, totally negative, but you're right, the Republicans have got the ball and they're not moving it upfield, and people want to know why. I mean, I think this looks to me right now to be temporary, but he's got a problem. He's in --

MS. CLIFT: But the public doesn't want the Republicans to move the ball upfield to where you smear the judiciary, where Tom DeLay is going after Republican appointees --

MR. BLANKLEY: I thought you liked smearing, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: (inaudible) -- impeached. And the judiciary is the most respected branch of government.

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor, let me ask you one question. Why is a simple majority vote for judges an outrage?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MS. CLIFT: Because --

MR. BUCHANAN: "We love the filibuster."

MS. CLIFT: Because the minority --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me.

MS. CLIFT: -- should be protected, and 60 votes is what you need.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Let's go to the exit question. But I want to point out that there was one issue out there that I don't think got sufficient emphasis, and that was Terri Schiavo and the involvement of the legislature, the Republican legislature, of course, and the White House with the dramatic flight back from Crawford, how much lingering damage I think that has done, and it's part of this collectivity that we've been talking about that could be so poisonous for our leader.

Exit: Is this Republican downward spiral reversible, or is President Bush permanently disfigured?

MR. BUCHANAN: Of course it's reversible, John. He's in a slew of despond.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I don't see anything on the horizon that reverses the momentum. It seems to me they're just digging their heels in further on an agenda that the American people don't support --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does DeLay get worse?

MS. CLIFT: -- and latching themselves to the Christian right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does DeLay get worse?

MS. CLIFT: DeLay is going to be gone as leader at some point here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Social Security private accounts get worse?

MS. CLIFT: It doesn't happen. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And does Bolton get worse?

MS. CLIFT: Bolton may squeak through, actually.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So is this all reversible, or what?

MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, yeah. Whether it will be reversed remains to be seen. But if you look through the history of his first term, he had periods of months where he seemed to lack focus and leadership, but then he (roared?) back. He did that two or three times.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was because of a calamity called 9/11.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, not just 9/11. There were periods in 2002 where he was not showing leadership --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. PAGE: I want to know what a slew of despond is. That makes --

MR. BUCHANAN: "Pilgrim's Progress." (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

Is he going to get out of the slew?

MR. PAGE: I think he's in trouble. I think he's really got to battle for Social Security now. He's got to battle for something that's going to get that crossover support that he's lacking at this point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The odds now favor, unfortunately, I think, irreversibility --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- unless the --

MR. BLANKLEY: Three and a half years, remember -- three and a half years left.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three -- maybe Pope Benedict XVI can help out. Here we go with Benedict XVI.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany, henceforth known as Benedict XVI, has been chosen by the Roman Catholic Church as papal successor to John Paul. The new pope vows to unify Christians and continue, quote, "an open and sincere dialogue," unquote, with all religions.

Benedict's nicknames may provide clues as to the kind of pontiff he will be -- "The Enforcer," "The Fundamentalist," "God's Rottweiler." Then there's "The Panzer Cardinal," a comparison to the German battle tank.

In the late '60s, after becoming alarmed by left-wing student uprisings in Europe, he experienced a political conversion, shifting from a moderate liberal to a conservative. Benedict XVI brooks no dissent from church teachings on contraception, women priests, married priests, homosexuality.

MARGARET HEBBLETHWAITE (VATICAN AFFAIRS WRITER): (From videotape.) He has the most appalling reputation around the world as someone who has squashed theology, persecuted theologians; the chief of the thought police, the master of the inquisition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So says Margaret Hebblethwaite, who writes on Vatican affairs. Although many liberals concur with this assessment, nonetheless they give pause because of what Cardinal Ratzinger said in May 2003 when asked whether the Anglo-American war against Iraq fits the canons of a just war.

Pope John Paul said no, it does not. Ratzinger then responded and then expanded on John Paul's thinking with this quote: "There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq, to say nothing of the fact that, given new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a just war."

Question: What's the present state of affairs in this matter, do you think, Patrick?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Benedict XVI is an outstanding choice. He's a traditionalist. He speaks 10 languages. He's right in line with John Paul II. As for that woman you got on, that dingbat that came out there, I don't know where they got her. I guess the conclave should have checked things out with CBS News. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: He's a very divisive choice. And the choice of his name for -- Benedict XV was the patron saint of Europe, and I believe this pope wants to re-Christianize Europe. He doesn't want Turkey in NATO because it's a Muslim country. He's very divisive in this country; interjected himself in the last election, saying if you're a politician who doesn't oppose abortion or if you have a pro-choice position, you shouldn't get communion. He's going to widen the schism among American Catholics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's also, of course, the Nazi association with the holy father. Here's one: "From Hitler Youth to Papa Ratzi." And that's from Bild, the hottest-selling daily newspaper in its market. Do you think that's any kind of a permanent stain, the fact that he served in the youth core of Hitler and then he was photographed sitting on an anti-aircraft Luftwaffe --

MR. BLANKLEY: It's a particularly cheap shot. His father was as a policeman who quit because he was an anti-Nazi. He was a 14-year- old boy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was older than that when he --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, I want to get back to -- the general complaint we're hearing about this is that we have a Catholic for pope. It would be expected. But I want to make a larger point. I think he is maybe the first post-second council --

MR. BUCHANAN: Vatican II.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- Vatican II pope. The selection of his name Benedict is the first one since then that hasn't been heralding that. And he wrote seriously in the late '90s that he thought that Vatican II had gone too far. So this may be a historic papacy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That (odious?) headline was from "The Sun," a British newspaper, rebutted by the Bild in Germany.

Issue Four: It's the Economy, Stupid.

The Congress is fiddling while Rome burns. Americans are bummed out over the economy. Here's the poll: The economy is getting worse -- 48 percent; the economy is getting better -- 14 percent; no change -- 34 percent.

Question: What will be the political impact of these negative economic numbers? I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Right now there's not a big impact. But as Iraq recedes into the background, as national security recedes, then the present-day economy, the price of gasoline, et cetera, becomes more and more important. So I would say by summer, if things go the way they are now, you could see definitely a negative for the Republicans.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the president has got real problems because I think the stock market is the lead indicator. These deficits are not being dealt with and Greenspan is talking about tax increases. I think he's got big problems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you feel that way, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, queasiness about the economy could help the Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you feel worried?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the public is right. The Republicans could have a problem in the next election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bye bye.



END.