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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Senate Ambush.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER HARRY REID (D-NV): (From videotape.) Mr. President, enough time has gone by. I demand, on behalf of the American people, that we understand why these investigations aren't being conducted. And in accordance with Rule 21, I now move the Senate go into closed session.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER BILL FRIST (R-TN): (From videotape.) The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership. Once again it shows the Democrats use scare tactics. They have no conviction. They have no principles. They have no ideas. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Democratic Leader Harry Reid forced the Senate into a rare closed session this week, infuriating Republicans. This closed session was the first time in 25 years that one party has called such a session without consulting the other party.

Democrats used the move to push the Senate Intelligence Committee into investigating further the Bush case for the Iraq war.

What inspired the Democrats to seize control of the Senate? The indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Libby was charged with perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice. The Libby indictment flowed from charges that the administration tried to crush dissenters, like former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, a strong critic of the war. Senator Reid pointed this out.

SEN. REID: (From videotape.) The Libby indictment provides a window on what this is really all about -- how this administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempt to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What do the Democrats hope to gain with these hardball tactics? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: What they hoped to gain is what they achieved. The president had a great day on Monday with the Alito nomination. He had the whole country focused on this outstanding judge, a terrific fellow. It sort of turned it around.

Secondly, the fact that only Libby was indicted, I think, was a victory of sorts for the administration. A lot expected worse. And what Reid did, and effectively, with this stunt was refocus the attention of the media in town and the media nationally on the question of were we misled into war; were we lied into war; were we deceived; were these Niger documents forged.

And I think they've done an effective job, helped out by the arraignment of Libya, to keep the focus on for this week. I don't think they can do it indefinitely, John. At the bottom there's a serious problem, which is, were the Democrats brainwashed? Why did they vote for the war?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The case for war: Democrats contend that the Bush administration falsified pre-war intelligence. Democrats argue that they voted for a war to apprehend Osama bin Laden and his cohorts, not for the transformation of the Middle East.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): (From videotape.) And had I known then what I know now, I never would have cast that vote -- not in a thousand years. We now believe that the impetus for the American use of force essentially was regime change, pure and simple, not the cause that was sold to us, which was weapons of mass destruction and their immediate threat to our country. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What explains Feinstein's shift in position, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, what the Democrats did was a welcome show of spine that Democrats needed. And the Libby indictments have opened the door to making the wider case against the Bush administration that they misled the country into war. And so Democrats now have an opportunity to rethink their vote in support of going to war, although they claim they gave the president the authority to go to war and he abused that authority. It's a little tricky argument to make.

But the point is, they interrupted the White House message that Libby is some single rogue aide and that this has nothing to do with the case for war. And the Democrats are going to push this. And frankly, if the country, according to the polls, believes, by a margin of 55 percent, that President Bush misled us into war, the next logical step is impeachment. And I think you're going to hear that word come up. And if the Democrats ever capture either house of Congress, there are going to be serious proceedings against this administration.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, that may be the case, but I have to say the idea that we were misled into war, as far as I'm concerned, is an exaggeration. They're basically saying they distorted the intelligence. We have seen all of those intelligence findings. Everybody agreed to it. The Clinton administration agreed to it. Every intelligence service in the world agreed to it. We have the Robb-Silberman commission, the special Senate Committee on Intelligence. They all agreed that nobody in the intelligence community was pressured to distort the information and the intelligence --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But there's something new with Libby. What Libby did was -- this is what the case is -- a conspiracy --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to accomplish the crushing of Ambassador Wilson and the other critics of the war through means that were illegal and felonious.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, but the prosecutor didn't exactly say that. The prosecutor --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, he didn't.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- said this does not justify anybody or vindicate anybody's views about the war. What he said is the Libby case is about lying. That's all it is, pure and simple. And the fact is that Wilson himself was debunked as a credible source by the same Senate Intelligence Committee. And there have been so many stories. The CIA people who interviewed him said that he gave more evidence in support of the fact that the Iraqis had been to Niger trying to buy the uranium, the yellow cake.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So the whole thing is just, in my judgment, a great political move without substance.


MR. PAGE: Well, it is a great political move, and it does have substance insofar as what the American public has been noticing. When you've got people like Colin Powell and his aides indicating that they were misled -- Colin Powell says that the United Nations presentation was the low point of his career. Dramatic moments like that are telling the public that they have not been totally candid as far as what they're hearing from --

MS. CLIFT: Right. And you have Colin --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: George Tenet said -- George Tenet said, as Bob Woodward reported --

MR. PAGE: It was a slam dunk?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He said the public presentation of the case for war is a slam duck. This is the head of the CIA and somebody who was appointed by Bill Clinton.

MS. CLIFT: Right. There was a lot more machinations between the CIA and the White House. And I think sliming Joe Wilson is really not where we ought to be going on this panel, because he can certainly defend himself on every one of those things.

But let's take it back to what the Democrats did. The Senate Intelligence Committee has promised an investigation of how the White House used the intelligence that they got. And they promised that a year ago. They squelched it until after the election. They've been sitting on it for a year. The Democrats got a commitment to have half a dozen senators, three from each side, explore how far that investigation has gotten. So something did come out of this. And the Democrats have to keep up the heat. So does the media.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Also, the CIA report, which took 17 months to do and was a collective committee effort, Porter Goss, the head of the CIA, has been sitting on, which will revolve around the same concentric circle here, and that is the Iraq war.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Vox populi. This is the way the American people think on this issue. "Did President Bush intentionally mislead the nation about the reasons for going to war?" Yes, intentionally misled, 55 percent; no, 44 percent. What does that tell you? Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Well, it says that people feel that they've been bamboozled; they've been took.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Intentionally. Intentionally.

MR. PAGE: That's right -- intentionally misled. As Eleanor said, that ultimately could be an impeachable offense. But the problem on Capitol Hill is, when you've got both houses of Congress run by Republicans, Democrats will not be able to get a hearing on anything that they want.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me get into this here.

MR. PAGE: And this was an opening that they saw, and they used it. It was the right kind of timing. We're going to have the second phase of hearings after months of delay, and at a time when Democrats also can help to soften the fact that they plan to have a big fight over the Supreme Court.

MR. BUCHANAN: What the president did, John, was he made a prosecutor's case for war. Things that contradicted his case, they ignored.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cherry-picking.

MR. BUCHANAN: Things that strengthened it -- they cherry-picked it. They hyped. But I personally do not believe the president of the United States deliberately lied about anything.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think if you gave him a lie detector test, he would pass it. I think he wanted to take Saddam out. And everything that would help him make that case, he made. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the other poll -- you can speak to this ABC/Washington Post poll. What about the character judgment of the president in the poll? Can you speak to that?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's very, very bad for the president of the United States when 58 percent of the people question his integrity and honesty and truthfulness.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: This --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Now, listen to this. "Does Bush understand the problems of people like you?" No, 66 percent; yes, 34 percent. Is that not particularly ominous in the light of all of this?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, absolutely. Bush is in terrible political shape, and I don't think he's going to come out of it very easily. He's absolutely lost his credibility on many levels. This is just one of them.

MS. CLIFT: And meanwhile --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And I think he's got a huge problem, and he may not recover, short of some emergency.

MS. CLIFT: But the Republicans on Capitol Hill, with the White House's blessing, are cutting Medicare, Medicaid, student loans, benefits to legal immigrants, and cutting all the programs that mean something to average people.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human toll: The U.S. military dead in Iraq, including suicides, 2,035; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, injured, mentally ill, 48,100; Iraqi civilians dead, 117,700.

Exit question: On an escape probability scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, what's the probability of the Democrats escaping from their vote in favor of the Iraq war? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is about zero. They were derelict in their duty to really force the president to make the case for war convincingly that it was necessary and had to be done now. They did a rotten job in the Congress of the United States, and they're not going to recover by attacking Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president lied to them about the causes for going to war. MR. BUCHANAN: He did not lie to them. The president emphasized, cherry-picked, hyped the causes for going, and set the others aside. That's not lying.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The vice president's chief of staff engaged in felonies in order to suppress the criticism of the war.

MR. BUCHANAN: He didn't -- what he did is he has lied about the fact he was after Joe Wilson. But they did not try deliberately to out Valerie Plame.

That's what Patrick Fitzgerald says.

MS. CLIFT: Hyped, cherry-picked, misled, whatever the words you used, to me are criminal offenses when you see the suffering that has gone into this war and the cost of this war. It was a war of choice that was sold to the American people on fear.

MR. BUCHANAN: But why didn't the Democrats stop it? Why didn't the Democrats stop it?

MS. CLIFT: Because they were intimidated and made to feel unpatriotic.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: I just want to say, the policy of the Clinton administration was regime change in Iraq based on the same intelligence --

MS. CLIFT: Not invasion.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just a minute.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Well, give me a scale number, will you?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Democrats cannot escape this. Okay, there's no way the Democrats can escape this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You gave them a one or two on an escape probability scale?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: One-point-seven-eight.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's it. Do you want to make another point there? (Laughter.)

MR. PAGE: I'd give him 50-50, because this has got to shift at some point from not only how we got in but how do we get out. And Democrats are starting to talk about phased withdrawal in a serious way that the administration is reluctant to do. And there is a way to shift this thing, because they're the only alternative. They've got to speak out. MR. ZUCKERMAN: The intelligence was faulty. It was not just made up. The intelligence was clearly faulty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But if you believe the case, it was a fraud. Libby was engaged in a fraud.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's the public opinion.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, half of the country thinks Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. That's completely false. There was never any proof for that. I don't know who lied about that, but they got that word out; there's no doubt about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. But I don't know whether -- maybe first impressions are lasting, and that will stick. But maybe this with Libby might undo it. I agree with you. I think the polls tell the story. It's about 50-50.

Tony Blankley, as you can see, has morphed into Mort. Mort makes a better Mort than he does a Tony.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Tony has never looked better. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony is in Moscow. I talked to him on Friday.

(Begin audio tape.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, what's the big story in Russia?

MR. BLANKLEY: The Russians in Moscow -- and Putin is very popular here -- are resentful of the fact that the rest of the world, including America, is not giving Russia the support in Chechnya that they expected. So there's a fair amount of consciousness of the lack of solidarity between Russia and the West regarding each nation's struggle against radical Islam.

The other big story here is the election coming up. (Inaudible) -- the Russian-friendly government of Aliyev will face the same consequence that happened to Russian-friendlies in Georgia, the Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. There's a high suspicion in Moscow that the United States is pushing democracy on the former Soviet republics in an effort to isolate Russia. So there's a fair amount of suspicion about American politics on the margins of the Russian empire, the old Soviet empire.

The third issue that's being debated -- there was a big march today in Moscow called the anti-migrant rally. This is complaining about illegal immigrants in Russia, and there was some counter- demonstrating. So that issue -- the same in Russia as it's emerging in the United States.

(End of audio tape.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you get those three points, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I certainly did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to comment very briefly? He's on the run. We're going to talk to him next week.

MR. BUCHANAN: Very briefly, yeah. I think the Russians are right to be upset with the United States of America. Our relationship with them is the most important in the world. Putin is not perfect, but the United States ought to cease getting in their face and cease supporting these so-called democratic movements --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- that undercut our best friend there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this is magnified by the peregrinations of Rice and the emphasis on this, and Hughes now?

MR. BUCHANAN: The whole -- you know, the National Endowment of Democracy project; they have a right to object to our interfering in the internal affairs of their near-abroad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Samuel Anthony Alito.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) He has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions. His record reveals a thoughtful judge who considers the legal merits carefully and applies the law in a principled fashion.

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: (From videotape.) During my 29 years as a public servant, I've had the opportunity to view the Supreme Court from a variety of perspectives. During all of that time, my appreciation of the vital role that the Supreme Court plays in our constitutional system has greatly deepened.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush's Supreme Court nominee: Born in Trenton, New Jersey 55 years ago; married; two children; a Roman Catholic; a graduate of Princeton University, with a law degree from Yale University.

For years, Mr. Alito served in the Army Reserves. He was assistant to the solicitor general and deputy assistant attorney general, both under Ronald Reagan. For three years he served as U.S. attorney for New Jersey before being appointed by George Bush Sr. to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, where he heard more than 3,500 cases.

Question: What was Bush's political imperative? And has it been satisfied with the Alito nomination? Mort Zuckerman. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, he certainly dealt with the Harriet Miers problem, to wit that he is unquestionably qualified. That's one. Number two, he certainly rebuilds his conservative base. And number three, I think he's got a candidate who can be confirmed, because his opinions are not so unambiguous that he's going to, in a sense, enrage the whole Democratic Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. But have the conservatives, like Buchanan, been hoisted on their own petard? When President Bush nominated John Roberts, conservatives like Pat Buchanan said Democratic liberals should not vote against Roberts based on their liberal ideology.

Only a nominee's judicial qualifications should be considered. But when the president nominated Miers, conservatives complained that she was not a true conservative, so now they got rid of her and they are gloating. Now they have a, quote/unquote, "true conservative," and they are gloating more. Their scheming may blow up in their faces.

HUGH HEWITT (NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO TALK SHOW HOST): (From videotape.) The conservative intellectual argument was "Go back to pre-Bork, de-politicize." Well, they didn't de-politicize. We abandoned some arguments in the course of the Miers three weeks which were very valid, very useful arguments that are more difficult to make use of because now there are contradictory arguments made by Republicans and conservatives. That is a very slippery slope, and we're on it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What is Hewitt driving at? Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Well, what he's saying is that conservatives can't hold liberal nominees to a standard that they are not going to hold their own nominees to. In this case --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Especially when they keep saying what, what, what? That only judicial qualifications count.

MR. PAGE: Right. Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not ideology. That's him. That's him. He wants it both ways.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, that is complete nonsense. We demanded excellence and outstanding credentials, qualifications, judicial philosophy. Miers didn't have it. This man has it in spades. Bush has united his base.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, you know, enough --

MR. BUCHANAN: More importantly, he's got an outstanding --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Enough of the baccalaureate prose from you. You know, we don't need that.

MS. CLIFT: The question is -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know that the reason why you rejected Miers is because you thought she was insufficiently conservative.

MR. BUCHANAN: Insufficiently qualified. We won, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Qualified. That was a front case.

MS. CLIFT: The question of ideology is legitimate.


MS. CLIFT: The question of ideology is legitimate, and it's judicial ideology. And whether he is an originalist who channels the founding fathers or whether he can live in modern-day America -- and his opinions will give us some idea, as will his performance in the hearings.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One-word answer: Will he be confirmed? Yes or no.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sixty-five votes.

MS. CLIFT: I think yes, likely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's confirmation, right?


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MR. PAGE: Yes, he will.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

Issue Three: Royal Flush.

PRINCE CHARLES: (From videotape.) I found myself born into this particular position. I'm determined to make the most of it and to do whatever I can to help. It's difficult, but what I've tried to do is to put my money where my mouth is. The most important thing is to be relevant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The most important thing on many social and diplomatic lists this week is the royal visit of Charles, prince of Wales, and his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, duchess of Cornwall. The royal pair and their royal entourage stopped first in New York, where they paid tribute to victims of September 11th; later, a celebrity- stacked party, then off to the nation's capital for a small lunch and a big black-tie dinner with George and Laura at the White House.

Over the years, family struggles and unwelcome media coverage have left many of Britain's blue-bloods with red faces. This short trip by Charles and Camilla is seen by some observers as an effort to reshape the public persona of the House of Windsor.

Charles wants to be recognized as relevant and useful to his own country. Camilla hopes to overcome the indelible legacy of Charles' first wife, Diana.

A recent poll shows that Americans are particularly underwhelmed by this flush of royal activity. Eighty-one percent of respondents have little or no interest, they say, in the visit. In addition to New York and Washington, other stops include San Francisco and New Orleans.

Question: Will Charles and Camilla overcome the ghostly presence of Princess Diana? I ask you, Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: I think we have moved beyond Princess Diana. I think what they're seeking is legitimacy as a couple and individually, and Prince Charles is talking about global warming and improving relations with the Muslim world. But hanging around President Bush, who's probably the only political figure who is less popular than Prince Charles, I think is not going to transform his image.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who thinks that there is an indelible mark to Diana and that she will --

MR. PAGE: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh? And that she will remain forever? She's mythical. She's mythical.

MR. PAGE: Well, she will, because every news story of Charles and Camilla's visit did what you just did. They put in a picture of Diana somewhere in the report. And every time you see Diana on the screen, it just lights up. And all of us who are old enough to remember can remember the excitement that she generated wherever she went. You don't have that excitement with Charles and Camilla. I feel sorry for them trying to follow that act.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the House of Windsor marks the end of the fascination with the British monarchy?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I do not. It all depends. Diana was a celebrity. His current wife is actually a really lovely lady. He's happy. She's wearing very well with the British public.

So in British terms, I think they're doing very well; in fact, the best he's done in a long time. We will always be interested in them. Every time they invite you to a party, John, I know you're going to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that she's getting a bum rap -- that is, Camilla --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that the press is very snippy and sexist and superficial in the way they treat her?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Maybe here, but they're getting a lot better towards her in England, which is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she selling herself?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How is she doing that, Patrick? Are you following this closely?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, I am. And I will say about your point, I don't know that it's justified, but the people's princess is going to live forever, like Eva Peron, frankly, and Jackie Kennedy, justified or not. But I'm one that favors the British monarchy. And frankly, I hope they make a bit of a comeback, and maybe this will help him when he becomes king, because I'd like to see it preserved.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you like to see anything -- do we have anything resembling a monarchy? If not, why not?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, we're going to have Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. So we may have that. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it would be --

MR. BUCHANAN: Two royal families.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- just an outrage to think of any kind of monarchical system here, whether purely ceremonial or any. MR. BUCHANAN: If you had George Washington, I'll take it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You would?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean as an enduring king?

MR. BUCHANAN: He was a virtual monarch. That's what -- the presidency was originally that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Buchanan is baronial, by the way?

MR. PAGE: I'm just happy that Pat is so forgiving, as a good Irish-American.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He may be a latent monarchist. His politics are somewhat resembling that of a monarchy, are they not? He's fundamentally and intrinsically an autocrat, isn't he?

MR. BUCHANAN: Old Tory. Old Tory.

MR. PAGE: Pat? Our good friend Pat? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: While we have a few minutes here, are we going to get a 3.8 percent growth next year?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In that range, for sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you pleased with Secretary Snow's new and unforeseen and surprising emphasis on reducing the deficit, which this administration has managed to elude like leprosy?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think it is total bull. I don't think he speaks to the president. I don't think he has any authority in this government. I think it's all rhetoric. And I think what they have done on the fiscal policy is the worst fiscal policy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's they?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Bush administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: Will Karl Rove quit or be dumped before Patrick Fitzgerald gives a judgment on indictment of him?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he will not. If he's indicted, he goes. If he's not indicted, he will stay and leave after 2006.

MS. CLIFT: No. The weaker this president is, the more embattled he is, the more likely he is to cling to Karl Rove. He can't tie his shoelaces without Karl Rove. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he will not clean house.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. He will not resign or be dumped unless the special prosecutor comes down and indicts him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he's been bloodied up.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, he has been bloodied up. That's a separate issue.

MR. PAGE: Oh, yeah. When you've got other Republicans urging Bush to drop him, he's been bloodied. But, no, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, President Bush will hang on to Karl Rove till the last dog dies -- or indictment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the polls will be adjudicative of this? Namely, if the polls continue to drop, he will start cleaning house, and Rove will be the first to go?

MR. BUCHANAN: If he dumps Rove, he'll feed the sharks.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it'll be -- he'll change his chief of staff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, Rove stays.

Rosa Parks, who passed away at the age of 92, was eulogized this week. Parks' refusal to surrender a bus seat to a white man launched the modern civil-rights movement and inspired generations of Americans. The Group salutes Rosa Parks. May she rest in peace.