THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; RAGHIDA DERGHAM, AL-HAYAT
TAPED: FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2005 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 16-17, 2005
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Enemy Within.
Londoners mourned during two minutes of silence on Thursday for the victims of suicide attacks that killed at least 53 and injured over 700. With the grieving is Britain's shock and awe over the discovery that three and possibly four of the bombers were British citizens from birth. The three suicide bombers lived in or near the city of Leeds in northern England.
The eldest of the three, Mohamed Sidique Khan, lived in a more upscale neighborhood about ten miles from the city. He was a respected schoolteacher with a wife and daughter. Apparently in no way was he or were the other bombers seen as radical or insurrectionist. The fourth bomber was a British citizen, Jamaica-born, and has been identified as such. Question: How does this home-grown terrorism in Britain affect the argument that if we fight terrorism abroad, we won't have to fight it here? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is not random terror; it's not religious terror. It is political terrorism. The objective of 95 percent of these suicide bombers is to drive Western soldiers out of countries that these people perceive to be their own. I don't know the direct motivation of this particular act, but this how they fight their war to drive the West out. They succeeded in Lebanon, with the Americans and French and Israelis; they succeeded in Algiers, of course. And I think that basically what you have here is the weapon of the Middle East -- and the Arab and Islamic world -- against the West by people who want us out of their part of the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The fact that this has become homegrown, Eleanor. Does that affect the whole terrorism equation?
MS. CLIFT: Well, the fact that they were home-schooled suggests a argument that if you take the fight to the enemy -- i.e., Iraq -- that you can prevent them from coming to you. We're growing them on the continent of Europe; we probably have cells in this country. You cannot kill or capture all the terrorists. You're fighting an idea, you're fighting people who have embraced a radical form of religion. And you have to fight it on the basis of terrorists who are being born today and being converted today and tomorrow, and it's not going to be done with military might.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you (think ?) that this creates psychological terrorism on the part of the British people? Here's what Mayor Livingstone said at Trafalgar Square on Thursday -- among the goals -- "the first goal was that we should turn on each other, like animals trapped in a cage. And they failed. They failed totally and utterly in that goal." What he's saying is that suspicion is bred and that breeds a deterioration of relationships, and on and on and on. Do you believe that to be the case -- the homegrown aspects, at least?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, look. I mean, it's partially true. But all these either-ors that we have in these discussions -- are we fighting the terrorists in Iraq or at home? These are false dichotomies. They're fighting in Iraq; we're going to be fighting them at home. The fact is that second- and third-generation Muslims and Britain and throughout Western Europe have their own set of grievances and -- you might say heresies -- and certainly their own view of Islam and the relationship to the cultures. There was a Guardian poll last year showing that 60 percent of British Muslims would prefer to live under shari'a -- Muslim law -- rather than under British law. There's a level of alienation that exists between many Muslims who live in Europe and the countries they live in -- and sometimes they're citizens of -- that is deeply disturbing. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You spent time in London, Raghida -- and by the way, welcome.
MS. DERGHAM: Thank you.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you see a lot of that cosmopolitan society. Now it is said that these four Britons, who executed this horror, this abomination, that some of them participated in college rallies against the Iraq war. What about that?
MS. DERGHAM: Well, there is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the Iraq war the catalyst that radicalizes Islam?
MS. DERGHAM: It's helped radicalizing some of these groups and some of these individuals. I think there is already 1 percent to -- I don't know the percentage, but there are those who already have been indoctrinated, regardless of Iraq.
Those were -- they were pre-Iraq war, if you will; they were from the time of the alliance between the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan in the late `80s. They have the sense of betrayal, if you will, because they thought they were useful. They were very well indoctrinated by the CIA, if you would remember. Then, when they were not used in other places they thought that they were betrayed, so they turned against everyone. They turned against Algerians in Algeria. They have been, of course, in the Arab countries, in the Arab world, and unfortunately, they came here to the United States.
I remember when I interviewed Ramzi Yousef, who was the mastermind of the first attempt at the World Trade Center -- in prison he was when I went to see him. And he's so indoctrinated. He was someone who was on the run when he had a child and -- a couple of children, actually, when he was wanted. That's why I thought of him this time, with this teacher, with a pregnant wife and a child. It didn't matter, it was indoctrination. They lose their mind. They're indoctrinated, and that's where they go with it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do I understand you to be saying that the energy behind the radicalization of these Muslims owes more to what you're describing and less to Iraq?
MS. DERGHAM: No, Iraq is an important element. It is important because it widened the feeling that the president was wrong in saying -- maybe the American public liked it when the president said this about taking the war on terrorism away from our cities. It is offensive to others. What is -- our lives are easier and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me show you how I can drive Tony Blankley right up the wall. If there were no Iraq war, would there have been what happened in London this past week?
MS. DERGHAM: I think you're right it wouldn't have been. I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It would not have been?
MS. DERGHAM: They would have been more confined to Afghanistan.
MR. BLANKLEY: You don't know that at all. MS. DERGHAM: We didn't stay the course in Afghanistan and put the last nail in that coffin. We did not do that, and that was what's wrong.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get a word in here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.
MR. BLANKLEY: Sayyid Qutb -- I'm not pronouncing it correctly; I was told by the Egyptian ambassador that it can't be pronounced in English -- but the founding theoretician of terrorism, bin Laden is a devotee of Qutb's theories. He came to America in the late 1940s and so despised his experience in America -- found us racist and sexually excessive and all the rest -- he came back hating American culture and purveying that. This is now almost 60 years ago.
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MR. BLANKLEY: So the idea that it -- now it's part of it, it's not all of it, but the idea that you can pick on one event, Iraq or Afghanistan, and say that's the reason why we have an Islamic insurgency all over the world.
MS. CLIFT: Well, the chilling --
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat in.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, intervention spawns terror. It exacerbates terror. It proliferates terrorists. Us going into Iraq has taken and metastasized this cancer so that it's now spread it and created a lot of cells that are now in the Western world. Terror is the price of empire.
MS. CLIFT: And we --
MR. BUCHANAN: Terror is the price of empire, and if you want to have the empire, you got to pay the price.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Raghida.
MS. DERGHAM: I just want to say you are so right because we are blamed for it. A lot of the Arabs and Muslims feel that this is a bilateral war between the United States and al Qaeda and its likes, because they feel that one has called on the other, "Come on, and come and fight me." And Iraq has been made the arena. Iraqis are saying the --
MR. MCCLELLAN: Eleanor? MS. CLIFT: The chilling part about the young men involved in these suicide bombings is that there was nothing in their past to indicate that they would do this sort of action. They were not -- they didn't have any kind of criminal record. They couldn't be identified. And the thing is that you now have sort of ordinary people radicalized by what's happened in Iraq. It adds to a broader sense of grievance -- the Palestinian struggle --
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: -- the sense of Afghanistan. It is now a global fight between elements in Islam and the West.
MR. BLANKLEY: Intellectual honesty requires, I would think, to say that don't dump everything on Iraq. We had events going off in Kenya in the `90s. The first bombing of the World Trade Center was 1993. We had bombings in Lebanon in 1982. The idea that none of this would have happened but for Iraq is, I think, intellectually dishonest.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? Quickly!
MR. BLANKLEY: But to concede that Iraq has exacerbated it, I agree.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think could be done differently? What should be done differently in view the fact that this is not home grown?
MS. DERGHAM: I'll tell you what we need is an absolutely new strategy, which is this: We need -- we the United States as a government and as a public -- we need to engage the Arab and the Muslim public in being an ally of us.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Mainstream.
MS. DERGHAM: Absolutely, so that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secular and religious --
MS. DERGHAM: -- so that we can isolate this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you do that?
How do you do that?
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you get them to come forward?
MS. DERGHAM: Policy, policy, policy. That's what you do, you give them -- you empower them with policy. You give them --
MR. BLANKLEY: By giving up Israel. You start -- that would be a good starting point for --.
MS. DERGHAM: No, you don't give up Israel.
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't believe in that, but that's the --
MS. DERGHAM: No, no, no. That's not --
MS. CLIFT: Nobody is calling for that.
MS. DERGHAM: That's what I said. No one has said that. No one said that.
MS. CLIFT: Nobody's calling for that.
MR. BLANKLEY: Sure, every --
MS. DERGHAM: No one is saying that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me -- let me give you the -- (laughter) -- let me give you the argument that supports --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, they are over here --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on! Hold on! Let me make this one point.
MR. BUCHANAN: They are over here because we are over there. I don't think we should --
MR. BLANKLEY: "There" being Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt --
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think we should give -- we got our troops out of Saudi Arabia. The troops in Saudi Arabia was the cause of 9/11. MS. CLIFT: You don't turn --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask Raghida a question.
MS. CLIFT: You don't turn this into an abandonment of Israel, but you do make an aggressive effort to sort out the Israeli- Palestinian element with this --
MR. BLANKLEY: But surely that's nonsense. If you're talking --
MS. DERGHAM: That is not nonsense.
MS. CLIFT: It's not nonsense. (Inaudible) --
MR. BLANKLEY: If you're talking about American policy outraging Muslims, you can't avoid the question of Israel, obviously.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right --
MS. DERGHAM: Listen to what I've written today. I'm going to tell you in my column what I've written this week. I've written in my column the following -- I said to my readers in Arabic, I said give up on the United States, give up on the American public because they really don't care, they don't allow foreign policy. Give up on the administration because it's not going to adjust its policies towards Israel as it should. And I said, you know what, think this; think this is going to kill you or kill your future and mobilize against the terrorists because it's about you to become a force. But that is not going to fly. That's not going to fly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you -- let me ask you this question. Do you think we would have a greater outpouring of the Muslim clergy in the mainstream and the secularist leaders in the mainstream in the Muslim world if there were no Israel -- Israel-Palestine conflict, because they feel if they speak out vigorously against terrorism, they are also affecting those who believe that they're not terrorists in what they're doing, but they're really freedom fighters. You know, Britain has not yet defined what terrorism is because of the confusion between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. Therefore, in view of -- in an effort not to undercut the Palestinians, they do not want to declare themselves. And if there were no Palestinian-Israeli conflict, they would come forward. Is there any truth to that?
MS. DERGHAM: Absolutely. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict should have been resolved even before one went to war in Iraq, if it was about bringing down Saddam Hussein.
But right now, right now, even if there is a great mobilization of the public, if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not solved fairly --
MR. BUCHANAN: John? MS. DERGHAM: -- we are back to square one.
MR. BUCHANAN: You know as well as I do we are not going to solve the Palestinian conflict.
MS. DERGHAM: That's right.
MR. BUCHANAN: Bush is not going to come down hard on Sharon. He is not going to do anything about this. So you've got that, and you've got to deal with that reality.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, you are so defeatist on this issue. You have always been. I think --
MR. BUCHANAN: Well why are you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- there is change over there.
MR. BUCHANAN: Why are you an optimist?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Arafat is gone, and that is --
MR. BUCHANAN: Why are you an optimist?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is very -- I'm telling you why. That is very significant.
Also, I sense --
MR. BUCHANAN: Do you believe that Ariel Sharon can get off the West Bank?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I sense this in Sharon. I sense this.
MR. BUCHANAN: He can get off the West Bank --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MS. DERGHAM: I think Pat is right.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- after what's happening in Gaza?
MS. DERGHAM: I think Pat is right on this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: You are -- John, you are misguided.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you kept up with the news --
MR. BLANKLEY: Pat is right on this. Pat is right on this. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you will notice that the refugees are reluctantly coming along.
MR. BUCHANAN: Bush doesn't want him to get off!
MS. CLIFT: Actually --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not the refugee, but the settlers in Gaza.
MS. CLIFT: Actually, it might be easier to bring about a reformation within the Islamic religion. We need a "Martin Luther Mohammed" or somebody to come --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MS. DERGHAM: (Inaudible).)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We got to move on. The human --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human toll. This is what differentiates what we're saying against a lot of other theories that have been expressed here, and that's the human toll. U.S. military dead in Iraq, including suicides: 1,761. U.S. military amputee, wounded, injured, mentally ill -- all now out of Iraq: 42,500. Iraqi civilians dead; 112,900.
Exit question: Where is the real central war -- real front in the central war in the war on terror, the real central front? Is it in Iraq or is it in London, Madrid, New York?
MR. BUCHANAN: The central fronts are Afghanistan and Iraq right now. But as I said, John, it has metastasized now. There are cells operating on their own in all of these countries because this thing has proliferated.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I would say that ideological fervor comes from Saudi Arabia and from Pakistan, both our allies.
And we need to sort that out. They need to sort that out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: It's the nature of a world war that there's no one central front. We clearly have a tremendous problem with the ideology in Europe of second and third-generation Muslims. Obviously, Iraq and Afghanistan remain a front. There will be fronts all over the world, and the idea there is only one major one is an illusion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Your commander in chief and mine said that the central front is in Iraq; you know that.
MR. BLANKLEY: As good as he is, he's not always right.
MS. DERGHAM: But I think he's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you put that in writing? We'll have it notarized.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.
MS. DERGHAM: Unfortunately, it has become so. Iraq has become the central front right now. But we are not winning that war yet there, unfortunately, because it's a mess. There are so many different fronts throughout the world, and they are staying there to (help us?) until we address that issue in its totality and really bring another strategy into our -- into our strategy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The fronts are Iraq and Afghanistan. They are both bogged down. And that means that the terrorists will bomb elsewhere.
When we come back: Is Bush's stonewalling on Rove smart politics or dumb politics?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Issue two: Zoning in.
(Begin videotape segment of excerpts from a White House daily press briefing):
DAVID GREGORY (NBC reporter): Did Karl Rove commit a crime? SCOTT MCCLELLAN (White House spokesman): Again, David, this is a question relating to an ongoing investigation, and you have my response related to the investigation.
MR. GREGORY: Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003, when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliott Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, "I've gone to each of those gentlemen and they have told me they are not involved in this"? Do you stand by that statement?
MR. MCCLELLAN: We're not going to get into commenting on it.
MR. GREGORY: Scott, I mean this is ridiculous, the notion that you're going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you decided not to talk? You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Again, David, I am well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation --
MR. GREGORY: (Why are you choosing ?) when it's appropriate, when it's inappropriate?
MR. MCCLELLAN: If you'll let me finish --
MR. GREGORY: No, you're not finishing. You're not saying anything! You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation? Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn't he?
MR. MCCLELLAN: David, there will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.
MR. GREGORY: You think that people will accept that, what you're saying today?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Again, I've responded to the question.
TERRY MORAN (ABC reporter): Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?
MR. MCCLELLAN: No, that's not a correct characterization, Terry, and I think you are well aware of that.
MR. MORAN: Wait, wait, wait. So you're now saying that after you cleared Rove and the others from that podium, then the prosecutors asked you not to speak any more, and since then, you haven't? MR. MCCLELLAN: Again, you're continuing to ask questions relating to on ongoing criminal investigation, and I'm just not going to respond to them.
(End of videotape segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As can be seen, the White House faced intensifying pressure this week over the role Karl Rove played in leaking the identity of a covert CIA officer, Valerie Plame. Under federal law, outing an undercover agent is a felony.
Question: The White House session only increased in octane from what we've seen on the screen. What does the White House session tell you about the state of affairs on this issue?
MS. CLIFT: It tells you there's enormous sensitivity. Whether Karl Rove committed a crime or not, I'll leave that up to the grand jury, but it's clear that he was in the center of the spreading of the story about Valerie Plame. And that goes against what the White House said declaratively that it was ridiculous to think he was involved. So at the very least, there's a credibility issue on that.
But what it has done, it has provoked the press corps to now go back and look at what other lies there might have been in the selling of the war. And that's where the sensitivity is, because this story was leaked at the time when questions were raised about Vice President Cheney and was he promoting the war in visiting the CIA. And the extent to which this White House apparently went to discredit the story, discredit Ambassador Wilson and his wife is at the heart of the selling of this war, a war that was a war of choice.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, credibility, that is a problem. Rove, I don't think, if he's told the truth, has a serious problem.
But this is a dynamite investigation. Judge Hogan, Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, has been turning over rocks for two years. And the federal appellate judge, who took one look at what they offered, said, I believe in the right of a journalist to protect sources, but this one, they've got to testify.
I think there's a tremendous explosive potential here, and it may not be Rove that the independent counsel is going after.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Rove testified before the grand jury that he had heard the information about Valerie Plame's identity from calling Mr. Robert Novak. So Rove did not leak to Novak; Novak leaked to Rove. Question: where does this leave Novak, and where does this leave Rove? And where does this leave the story?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I don't know what Novak said or didn't say in the grand jury, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it was Rove in the grand jury.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Novak's in there too; whether he's said anything or not, we don't know yet. But look. There are two problems for Rove. One, did he commit a crime? We will find out whether he did or not when the grand jury reports back. There's a second problem of credibility of the White House and Rove, and the statements being made. I think that part is clearly a problem until it's resolved. And the intensity we saw in the press corps -- now, this press corps doesn't need to be provoked. They're provoked enough. But the truth is that the White House has a problem on the second point. Whether they have a problem on the first one, we don't know yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Raghida, is this getting international distribution? Have you seen it in London? Have you seen it in Europe? And what's the Arab bag? Are you seeing it in the Arab press?
MS. DERGHAM: The world cares about this because Karl Rove is a very important man in the White House, and everybody knows who is Karl Rove. That's number one. Number two, it is about this element of a journalist in prison, whereas if there is a felony and a treason, the source should be in prison. And thirdly, it relates to Iraq, like Eleanor said a little earlier. It is back to what's this story all about?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because --
MS. DERGHAM: It's about -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because Wilson had gone to find whether or not Niger was producing yellowcake uranium, correct?
MS. DERGHAM: Right. You remember when the president spoke about that, and it was one of the justifications to influence the -- a republic to say let's go to war. And one of the reasons why --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because of WMD.
MS. DERGHAM: That's right, but -- (inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is -- this is --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- who is Judy Miller protecting?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So when they -- I want to conclude the point. So in the Arab press, they see all of this together, and they see the Iraqi connection. And this gives it body and it gives it dimension; it gives it scope. Is that right?
MS. DERGHAM: That's right. And then it also goes back to -- to what's this war all about.
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MS. DERGHAM: This has been the question. Why this war? Now, a lot of people have been celebrating, including Iraqis, the downfall of Saddam Hussein the tyrant. And there's a lot of people who appreciate that this happened. But then back again; why this war? I don't think this has been answered, and I think this story is part of this -- and Judy Miller --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why this -- I mean, what do they think is why this war? What is the answer to that? What do they think -- well, we know what --
MR. BUCHANAN: John -- the suspicion, John, is -- there's a suspicion, John, that the neo-cons are behind this whole thing. It's part of the whole effort to mislead --
MR. BLANKLEY: Let -- let me get the other side of this for a second.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- to take down opponents and get us into war.
MR. BLANKLEY: Just -- let me get the other side for a moment.
(Cross talk.) MR. BLANKLEY: The questions about Rove are legitimate. This is about Wilson being a whistleblower. The Washington Post on Friday did an editorial in which they dismissed credibly -- based on the reports of the 9/11 commission, he was not a whistleblower, he did mislead in his public statements --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we gotta get out.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- and so that part is a phony argument.
MS. CLIFT: Someone --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We gotta get out.
MS. CLIFT: Where is the -- (inaudible)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're almost out of time.
The question is, will Bush keep Rove?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. If Rove is not indicted, he's kept.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he keep Rove?
MS. CLIFT: Short of an indictment, yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he keep Rove?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, short of an indictment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he keep Rove?
MS. DERGHAM: I agree, short of an indictment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So if it's not indicted, he stays. It's too close to call. We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Coming soon, trade sanctions on China.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Bush will appoint John Bolton U.N. ambassador when Congress is out of town in August.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Lot of crow is going to be eaten on the Rove affair. I'm not so sure if the Republicans or Democrats will do the dining. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Raghida?
MS. DERGHAM: There will be a qualitatively different outrage by Arabs and Muslims against terrorism.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For the rest of the year, oil will remain between $50 and $60 a barrel, the GDP will grow between 3 and 3.25 percent for the rest of the year. Bye bye!
END REGULAR SEGMENT
PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Vox populi. Whom do you want to control Congress in 2006? This is the poll, a late poll in the week. Whom do you want to control Congress in '06? Democrats, that's whom we want, 45 percent; Republicans, 38 percent.
What do these numbers tell you?
I ask you, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think they're meaningless, quite frankly, John. It's just a -- I mean, we're what, a year and a half away from this thing? And so I don't think it means a thing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is it a surprise to you?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not. I mean, I think there are probably people a little bit unhappy with the Republicans, the party in right now, who say we're going to go with the Democrats.
I think -- look, the Democrats are not going to get a 45-to-38 margin in the House of Representatives.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know it. But have you ever seen that kind of a spread on party identification?
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. Sure.
MS. CLIFT: Well, those are good numbers for Democrats. It would be better if the election were this November than next November. But there are opportunities there, if they can take advantage of them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you aware that for the first time there is some susurrance around Washington, there is a -- there is a -- a bit of a -- rising talk that the Democrats could take over the Congress?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, it's nonsense. I'm around town as much as anyone on this topic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The House, I'm talking about.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I think -- I'm -- bet a thousand dollars right now that the House will be Republican after the next election. There's not a chance of that happening. There's not a serious political operative in town who believes it's going to happen. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Bush -- is Bush honest and straightforward? Yes, he is honest: now 41 percent; January it was 9 points higher. No, not honest: now 45 percent; January he was 10 point lower.
Keep that on the screen.
What do you think of that about our commander --
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that is serious. That's the most --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?
MR. BUCHANAN: That is a serious number. The president of the United States -- I mean, if his credibility and believability is at 41 percent, I think it's a very serious problem. I think it's more of a problem than if his popularity and stuff goes to about 42 or 41.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think's doing it?
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't know, John. I think it's probably somewhat general unhappiness with him. But this is why this Karl Rove thing has got real potential.
MS. CLIFT: And actually, the poll was taken before the Rove scandal, if you will, has hit its top.
But the headline on the story about this poll said that the public losing confidence in Bush, but not the war. What amazed me is the resilience of the American people when it comes to the Iraq war. They support it, even though they don't think it's going well, and a year from now they think we're going to be worse off. But nonetheless, they're backing it and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have thoughts on this, Raghida?
MS. DERGHAM: Yeah, because I think the president -- people think he's probably honest, but he's obsessed with his own mission. And I don't think people have understood from the beginning that Bush will be only focused on his own mission, and now they're seeing it happen. From his own point of view, he sees that he's on a mission, and now they've seen it, and that's why they feel it's dishonest.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well-stated.