THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
FRED BERGSTEN, PATRICK BUCHANAN,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND CLARENCE PAGE
TAPED FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1998
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 19-20, 1998
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Washington -- a city or a cesspool?
BBC NEWS ANNOUNCER: (From videotape.) Good evening. The president of the United States tonight stands accused of being a liar and a criminal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When the BBC announced, in its orotund tones, the electric news of Kenneth Starr's account of the Clinton scandal, Britons flooded the Internet to read the charges.
The appetite for more details has grown since then by what it's fed on. Now the appetite appears insatiable.
And editorials have been unrelenting in their condemnation of Clinton. "The lying fornicator must go," declared the Sun. "Clinton is a cheap and nasty guttersnipe." With its 10 million readers, the Sun has called for Clinton to resign. So have most of Britain's papers. Mr. Clinton no longer commands international respect, editorials say, and on the global stage is now politically impotent, with no promise of resurrecting himself. Ridicule of him has been poisonous, maybe lethal.
Throughout the rest of Europe the reaction has been just as biting and unforgiving. Paris Match: "He lies too much." Italy: "His presidency is already dead." Spain: "Clinton brings into question his capacity for self-control to carry out his post." Finland: "Clinton is a born liar." Belgium: "There must be a new Freud to talk about the malaise of civilization that strikes the United States. Pitiful." Germany: "Clinton is a president who has been caught with his pants down. A skirt-chaser is not a good occupant for the White House." France: "The White House is now an empty shell."
Not only the U.S. and Europe are transfixed with the Clinton scandal; so is the planet. South Africa: "Clinton Scandal Fallout Could Hit South African Economy." Mexico, "Hasta la vista, amigo." Argentina, "Clinton is a liar like Nixon." Hong Kong, "The time has come for Bill Clinton to stop apologizing and resign himself that his fight for survival has reached its end." Korea, "Clinton and the Cigar Tragedy." Thailand, "A sorry mess with only one way out: resignation."
Singapore: "A prolonged impeachment inquiry is a recipe for global disaster. If resignation were to occur sooner rather than later, this newspaper will not regret it."
U.K.: "Clinton; stupid, infantile, pathetic, caddish, 'laddish'"; "Time to go: Global economic prospects are gloomy. If ever the world needed a strong man in the White House, it is now. For the sake of America's role in the world, not to mention his own party, it would be best if he were to go."
Hugo Young (sp) of the Guardian sums up the greatest peril of all:
HUGO YOUNG (sp) (The Guardian): (From videotape.) If some sort of impeachment process goes forward, there is a very strong sense that we are in for a time of a power vacuum, which could be very dangerous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, here is the latest entrant in the condemnation-of-Bill Clinton inventory, the world's most renounced issues magazine: "Just Go" says the London Economist in the current issue.
Question: Are there steps Clinton can take to restore his international standing, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, with due respect for all these folks, this is really a decision for the United States and the American people and the Congress of the United States, not our foreign friends. This is our internal affair.
Can Clinton redeem his soiled presidency? No, he cannot. He is still the president, though. The United States is still the greatest country in the world. But the global crisis, the Russian situation, the Afghan border crisis cry out for cloture now or as soon as possible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I imagine in the interest of fairness, you will be compiling a lot of newspapers, editorials that have the opposite view. And I don't think we take orders from the Brits, at least for the last 200 years.
Look, a lot of this is self-flagellation. I think the world is looking upon us, wondering why this superpower is twisting itself into a pretzel over this issue.
And after a while, it begins to have a self-fulfilling effect. And when this country sits in the Security Council at the U.N. and tries to get its way, maybe there's a little bit less authority.
But bigger problems come when a Republican Congress, eager to exploit this, holds up the nomination of a Richard Holbrooke. We need a U.N. ambassador. We need the country's business to go forward.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence Page, nice threads there today you're wearing.
MR. PAGE: Thank you, John. You're my role model. (Laughs.) (Laughter.) I appreciate --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can't go wrong, Clarence.
MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) That's right.
No, but there is some diversion here of international opinion. Le Monde, for example in Paris, talked about the "new McCarthyism" going on in Washington. They were as upset by the atmosphere of attacks on Clinton as they were by Clinton's behavior himself.
But that is right. This is something for Americans to hash out --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --
MR. PAGE: -- not for the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- well, I think --
MR. PAGE: The very fact that the president is so important; that's why the world cares.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The point of this is that there is an elephant in the living room --
MR. BERGSTEN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and the elephant is the damage that has already been done.
MR. PAGE: I thought you meant the Republican elephant there, John. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: (Laughing.) Yeah, right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We are concentrating now punctiliously on a very narrow perimeter -- but sturdy -- subject, and that's the legalities, that speaks to possible felonies. It's like a giant pyramid standing on its apex, but above that apex is an enormous amount of damage that's already been done. That is part of the assessment of whether he stays and goes, because this damage has been inflicted by his abuse of trust. What do you think of that?
MR. BERGSTEN: John, I'm not sure how much damage has been done to date. I don't see any direct impact yet on economic factors around the world. Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Fed, has a bigger impact on markets -- they went up and down in the last week or so because of Alan Greenspan, not President Clinton.
The president made a speech on Monday in which he addressed these issues. He tried to come into the leadership gap, which there clearly is. The question to me is whether he can come out of the upcoming November election without another weakening in his position. He's already into his last two years, he's already facing a majority of the opposite party controlling the Congress, he already had a weak hand. If the Republicans get big further gains and he's weakened much further, then his potential for leadership is even worse.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. BERGSTEN: But I don't think the damage so far is really very significant.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, how about looking at it in this fashion: if Clinton were not so enfeebled, some would say impotent, could he change things on the international level? For example, if he brought to bear a strong and vigorous presidency with him and he himself were regarded as a man of integrity, sense of mission, and sense of purpose, what could he do with Japan, for example?
MR. BERGSTEN: He's been trying with Japan for over a year, before this broke --
MS. CLIFT: That's right.
MR. BERGSTEN: -- without much result. He's been trying with the Congress to get IMF legislation, to get trade legislation, without much result before this scandal broke.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. BERGSTEN: He's weaker yet --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying that the president factors out on the world stage as far as international economy is concerned?
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. BERGSTEN: I'm saying he's already had a weak hand; this will weaken him further, a prolonged leadership vacuum, and it's cost --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did he have a weak hand going in to this?
MR. BERGSTEN: He didn't have very good ideas; he was late to come in and he faced a majority of the other party in the Congress, which he really couldn't deal with effectively.
MS. CLIFT: And the fact --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it not true that the sell-off in the U.S. market began when Monica Lewinsky got her immunity deal?
MR. BERGSTEN: No, I think it began when the market got -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- and the yen began --
MS. CLIFT: That's ridiculous!
MR. BUCHANAN: It's ridiculous, John --
MR. BERGSTEN: And the yen began to drop and the international economic situation began to feed back on our society.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying that this is conceivably a plus for the economy and for the international market? Is that what you're saying?
MR. BERGSTEN: Not a plus, but don't overstate how much its effect is so far.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, how much -- why don't you quantify how much damage has been done by what's going on in the United States today?
MR. BERGSTEN: I'd say so far it's very modest. It could --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ten percent? Five percent?
MR. BERGSTEN: On the economy? Almost zero. On the markets, a little bit. It'll get worse if this drags out for two years. That is my fear.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's interesting for me to hear this, because the editorials that I've seen, both in the Economist magazine and in other parts of the world, as you saw on the screen -- if this is protracted, they're terribly worried, because it means more uncertainty introduced into the mix. You now better than I that the market can't sustain uncertainty --
MR. BUCHANAN: John -- so what? (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know better than I that protracted uncertainty it detests, in general.
MR. BUCHANAN: So what? (Laughter, cross talk.)
MR. BERGSTEN: It's true, and it will get worse, but so far it's not -- (inaudible due to cross talk).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I wish I could be so -- as blase --
MR. BUCHANAN: You cannot --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you, Pat. Go ahead.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, there is no doubt that the president is weakened. He is distracted. He is not as strong as he would be. He can't leverage Japan as he could. But the idea that because he's simply weakened, or because some foreigners don't like the situation and want stability, we should get rid of our own president, is preposterous.
MS. CLIFT: Right. Hear, hear!
MR. BUCHANAN: We should judge him based on what he did and our own Constitution.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Let me ask --
(Cross talk, laughter.)
MR. BUCHANAN: America first! America first!
MR. PAGE: (Laughing.) (Inaudible due to cross talk) -- get Pat Buchanan on Bill Clinton's side?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What step could Clinton take that would stabilize the situation in this country, as far as the market is concerned, or -- and the world?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think what Clinton -- I believe what he should really -- if he's going to be impeached by the House, I believe he ought to move it to the Senate, get himself a Clarence Darrow to defend him. If he gets a third of the vote plus one, it is over. Get it over with.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about a policy step. What policy step could he take?
MS. CLIFT: Okay, right here. (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: He could take a step with regard to the G-7 and Brazil. They could move into Russia --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, internally, in the United States Congress, he could call for a tax cut --
MR. BUCHANAN: And tell Greenspan --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and that tax cut would help stabilize the international economy. True or false?
MS. CLIFT: You know --
MR. BUCHANAN: Tell Greenspan to cut interest rates slightly and cut taxes here --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget cutting its rates. It's a bad idea. Cut the taxes -- good idea.
MS. CLIFT: No --
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the point is, he is paralyzed. He can accomplish nothing on the Hill. (Cross talk.)
MS. CLIFT: That's not true.
MR. BERGSTEN: John, a tax cut is easy. The Republicans are about to push one through. All he has to do is sign it instead of veto it. He could just back away from --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that a good idea?
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. BERGSTEN: Probably, as a preventive medicine. The U.S. economy is still pretty strong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --
MR. BERGSTEN: It is slowing down. I'd prefer to see lower interest rates, because it reduces debt burdens around the world, and that's the problem of the crisis countries.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you give him a call -- (laughter) -- and tell him not to veto the tax cut?
Eleanor, I'm sorry for not getting to you.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I just wanted to say you have a master of the universe theory. I only wish we can elect a U.S. president who could solve all these problems around the world. I mean Fred's right, Pat's right; these problems existed beforehand.
But the president did speak about the economy this week and he said -- Pat, listen closely -- the biggest threat in half a century. This is music to your ears. And he did lay out a series of steps that we need to take. And if he can begin to show leadership in that area, he's doing us all a good favor. And Alan Greenspan, stay where you are. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's very well stated, not that I necessarily agree with it. (Laughter.)
America's superpower status, I think, is felt more keenly in other parts of the world.
MR. BERGSTEN: John, America means more to the world than the world means to America. That's why you're getting these profound expressions of concern all over the world. They desperately cry out for our leadership. That's the cost.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. BERGSTEN: Now, we've got to get this resolved one way or the other --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it sounds to me now like you're talking more like I'm talking. We're paying a bigger cost for this crisis than we think. I'm telling you, the elephant is in the living room, the damage is there, and we are concentrating on Clinton -- how he can rehabilitate himself, whether he stays or goes -- instead of concentrating on what has happened to the Republic.
MR. PAGE: But, John -- but, John --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the elephant --
MR. BERGSTEN: All I was saying is -- that's correct. All I was saying is no big damage yet, but it could get a lot worse.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let me try this on you: It only gets worse.
MR. : (From videotape.) I mean, it's the ultimate sex scandal. It involves the most powerful man in the world. I mean, you can't get a better sex scandal than that. And the sex scandal has sold newspapers for hundreds of years and will continue to do so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Instead of dissipating, this sorry story will proliferate exponentially. The Starr report offers a bottomless cornucopia of material for every country worldwide: for sitcoms, films, documentaries, lampoons, novels, sonnets, cabaret acts, limericks, songs, Broadway, off-Broadway, and off-off-Broadway theater, opera, late-night monologues, science fiction, marital aids, works of art; and advertising big time -- Gap, Altoids, T-shirts, edible underwear, battery-operated products and, of course, cigars, all laced with comedy; but also, beneath the surface, toxic ridicule, calling to mind what Frederick the Great wrote to Voltaire, "Ridicule is more deadly than all the arguments in the world."
What year was that letter written, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: That would be around -- I'll tell you, 1760s or '50s.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was 1760! (Laughter.)
MR. BUCHANAN: Well listen, let me tell you, if you look in Frederick the Great's closet, you'll find some real problems there, John! (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he kept them private! The point is, this is --
MR. PAGE: He didn't have the Drudge Report! (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This -- Pat, this book is now worldwide!
MR. BUCHANAN: John. John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Worldwide!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see what's in that book?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you are off your medicine today, John. (Laughter.) Listen -- look --
MS. CLIFT: Or maybe he's on it. We don't know which medicine. (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: Fred is right. Fred is right. Look, we've got a --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're telling me that this is not going to be with us for decades to come?
MR. BUCHANAN: It is a dreadful that soiled Clinton's name and presidency forever, but we should follow our constitutional process. The only thing we ought to do is the House should move expeditiously and get this done.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there are provisions in the 25th Amendment that could be invoked --
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, you cannot let --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that would bring things to an end.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- you cannot let America's destiny be decided by a bunch of foreign journalists.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You miss the point. I am talking about the damage done, Pat, to us; that's what I am talking about. That's very much our concern as we're the leader of the world.
MS. CLIFT: So we can inflict further damage because of that damage and further damage --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Further damage.
MS. CLIFT: -- which would be to go pell mell into trying to hound some --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to make a point?
MR. BERGSTEN (?): Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: -- let me finish first --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I am sorry. Okay.
MS. CLIFT: -- to hound somebody out of office for committing something that a lot of people think has nothing to do with his presidential duties? That would be the real tragedy.
MR. PAGE: By the way, John -- let me jump in here for a moment. You know, this is something -- while it may seem like a crisis at the moment -- and it is -- this country can heal. We have remarkably good recuperative ability.
And on the international scale, remember, Richard Nixon, a president whom I think you will recall, during his time of crisis, moved out into the international arena and actually had more success there than at home.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I am not sure there was much in the pipeline for Nixon as there is for Clinton.
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got Starr --
MS. CLIFT: Oh, please! (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- two, three and maybe four --
MS. CLIFT: That's nonsense.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- where he may be connecting some dots.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got --
MR. PAGE: I have heard this before, John, and the dots aren't there. Remember Filegate?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well.
MR. PAGE: Remember Whitewater, et cetera, et cetera?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think it's going to be a Valentine?
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- think that it's going to all -- John, it has boiled down to sex.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that it's going to be a Valentine that he is going to send to Capitol Hill?
MR. PAGE: John, if it were not for Lewinsky --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me finish the inventory.
MR. PAGE: -- what does Starr have?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me finish the inventory. Then you've got Paula Jones bringing that case back and perhaps bringing Clinton back in April of next year. What else have you got?
MR. BUCHANAN: You've got the elections, which are going to get his people wiped out. You've got that Starr report, as you mentioned. You've got indictment of a White House aide.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you've got the videotape coming out on Monday.
MS. CLIFT: And if you overturn --
MR. BUCHANAN: And a videotape from the Paula Jones case is coming out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The videotape from the Paula -- two videotapes. That's in the pipeline.
MS. CLIFT: If you try to overturn an election solely with partisan Republican votes, which is what it is so far in the Judiciary Committee and with 60 percent of the public approving of this president, you're going to have a real backlash.
MR. PAGE (?): Right.
MS. CLIFT: You can't move ahead that way. Until it's become --
MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor's got a point.
MS. CLIFT: -- until it becomes bipartisan, this is not real.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know, Eleanor, that -- and this is hardly the best-kept secret in town -- that an increasingly large number of Democrats would be tickled pink if he were out of office and Al Gore were in office. True or false?
MS. CLIFT: (If ?) -- they could wave a magic wand and have that happen, fine, but that's not what is going to unfold.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A magic wand. Do we need magic to get him out?
MS. CLIFT: Clinton is not going to resign.
MR. PAGE: John? John, I wouldn't worry about it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to talk --
MR. PAGE: -- because the first thing, the Republicans would love to leave him in and twist in the wind for the next couple years, too.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who?
MR. PAGE: Let's not kid ourselves. While Democrats are on the one hand saying they want him to stay, they really want him to go. Republicans really want him to go, but they really want him to stay. So they're not being quite responsible either.
MR. BERGSTEN (?): The other thing -- hey -- hey --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's nonsense!
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's exactly the other side of that. They are being principled in wanting him to go.
MS. CLIFT: Oh --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If in truly political terms --
MR. PAGE: Come on, John. You know better than that. The Republicans love to see Clinton twist in the wind.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But in a principled way, they are calling for his resignation --
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MR. PAGE: Verbally.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and his exit.
MR. PAGE: Verbally.
MR. BUCHANAN: But, John --
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.) (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: -- look -- look -- (inaudible). All the evidence is there that Republicans believe it's impeachment; the Democrats don't. Vote on it, move it to the floor, vote on it and send it to the Senate. Get it over with.
MR. BERGSTEN: I want to come back to the international side. It depends a lot on the issue. Suppose a war were to break out -- North Korea, Iraq again -- the president would be in control, the rest of the world would rally and support U.S. leadership. The economic stuff is different because there the president has to deliver the Congress and domestically. He can't get IMF legislation through. He can't get trade legislation through. But when you generalize about the foreign reaction, remember, if there was another security crisis --
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. BERGSTEN: -- the U.S. would be in the lead. All those headlines, important as they are, would be forgotten. The world would rally around U.S. leadership.
MS. CLIFT: That's right.
MR. BERGSTEN: There is no alternative.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, the problem -- if the president were ever faced with that kind of a situation -- that his motives are so suspect and especially since Khartoum appears to be totally decoupled from Osama bin Laden and the pharmaceutical plant was making pharmaceuticals, and the so-called testing has proven to be really unanalyzable, that is, that --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Yeah, we would have some resignations if those allegations you just made were true. Secretary Cohen would resign, the joint chiefs would be up in arms, there would be leaks in the newspapers every day. Well, why would the defense establishment protect a liar and a cheat, John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we -- I'll tell you what we'll do, Eleanor. We'll discuss this more analytically, Khartoum, in a future show at an early date --
MS. CLIFT: Okay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and we'll see whether or not that bombing was warranted. Okay. We'll be right back with predictions.
Issue two: Risky business. In addition to sexual misconduct and coverups, the Starr report chronicles many instances of phone sex between Mr. Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky. Alarmingly, these calls took place over non-secure telephone lines. These lines could be tapped by a hostile foreign power or anyone with a motive to compromise the president through his vulnerability, then, to blackmail.
The president himself pointed this out in an unusual exchange with Ms. Lewinsky on March 29th, 1997. Let's assume that what the president says is candid, and that he is not manipulating her for an ulterior purpose. Quote, "According to Ms. Lewinsky, she and the president had a lengthy conversation that day. He told her that he suspected that a foreign embassy -- he did not specify which one -- was tapping his telephones and he proposed cover stories. If ever questioned, she should say that the two of them were just friends. If anyone ever asked about their phone sex, she should say that they knew their calls were being monitored all along, and the phone sex was just a put-on."
Let me repeat. The assumption is that the president in this exchange has somehow lapsed into truthfulness with Monica and is not manipulating her. Question: Who warned the president that his phone line was being tapped? I ask you, Clarence Page?
MR. PAGE: Probably the FBI, I would say. But that's only routine for this sort of matter. You know, we're talking about a non-secure line, there -- your security folks are going to tell you that there's some jeopardy here of a line being tapped. Whether or not there was a connection here with the investigations of Chinagate, et cetera, though, I think is beyond speculation. Whether or not there was a connection here with the investigations of "Chinagate" et cetera, though, I think is beyond speculation.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, it could also be -- look -- somebody said, "Look, Monica is blabbing this to everybody on the West Coast and it could be on the Internet soon. And it could be a couple of people talking, I think, talking about you're talking on that phone and these aren't secure lines." It could be his own intuition, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat, if he's talking phone sex with Monica Lewinsky --
MR. BUCHANAN: On an unsecure line?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- on a public line that can be tapped, what is his degree of recklessness, from the point of view of compromisability and blackmail?
MR. BUCHANAN: He is reckless to the point of being almost insane to do something like that. He spent an hour-and-a-half with this woman one night talking to her -- the president of the United States -- on this line apparently discussing all this stuff. It is -- it is just beyond belief.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I agree, it's extraordinary reckless behavior, but it's personal behavior. And again, it did not go to the conduct of his duties as president.
And second of all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear that, Pat?
MS. CLIFT: -- it sounds to me -- I have a hard time buying your assumption. I mean, I think -- you know, this is sort of like one of the presidential pick-up lines. I think he was trying to begin to explore what would happen if this became public. And, you know, this was the start of covering up the affair.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you think Starr dangled this out there, this fascinating piece of information? Why did he dangle it out there unresolved?
MR. BUCHANAN: But the interesting -- John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't seem to pursue it. It was from an interrogatory that she gave, and presumably the lawyers were there present, and presumably they said, "Did we hear you correctly, that he told you that he felt the telephone was being tapped by a foreign" --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, why didn't he ask the FBI this? I mean, Clarence's point is, call in Freeh and say, "Did you tap that phone? Have you got these phone tapes, sir?" Or NSA, call NSA.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the NSA gave the intercepts -- you will recall that three weeks before this March 29th -- on March 9th there was a Washington Post major story about NSA intercepts which were transmitted to the FBI relating to the Chinese embassy. Do you recall that?
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, it is not inconceivable that in those intercepts there may have been indications that the Chinese, through their intelligence, knew about what was happening in the case of Monica.
MR. BUCHANAN: They could have picked it up from the washings, they could have picked it up from anybody reporting back: The president's having an affair with an intern; it's known and we picked it up. NSA would pick that up.
MS. CLIFT: Well, listen, if Ken Starr has any hints of blackmail -- Mr. Starr come forward with it -- because it seems to me he just injected this into the report to sort of raise the specter that the president was really trifling with his duties as president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he may have felt that it was outside his Aufgabe. Do you think that's the case? (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: I don't think anything was outside his Aufgabe! (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now I'm not talking -- I'm not using any words from this book that he put out. That's -- Aufgabe is a legitimate word, is it not?
MS. CLIFT: (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't know? (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: (Laughing.) Legitimate for what?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not quite satisfied with that Issue One, and I want to frame this in the form of a question, to make sure that I understood all of you, especially you, Fred, and also you, Pat -- I mean, that was an act of cold-blooded betrayal of you to me there --
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, Father! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's try this: On a national image tarnish scale of zero to 10, zero meaning zero tarnish to America's image overseas, Pat -- you got it?
MR. BUCHANAN: Mmm-hmm. (Affirmative.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- 10 meaning metaphysical tarnish, as overseas -- the impact on the people viewing us, Clinton has tarnished the image of the United States more than Saddam Hussein has tarnished the image of Iraq -- that's a 10 -- how badly has President Clinton tarnished the image of the United States overseas, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a different kind, but it's an eight or nine, because --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow!
MR. BUCHANAN: -- the United States is a great republic. It's considered the moral leader, a beacon to mankind. This is as squalid a sex scandal as has existed. It plays right into the propaganda of the Islamic world that the -- America is a decadent society, unfit to lead.
MS. CLIFT: Well, the Islamic world thought we were decadent before this. They didn't need much to reach that conclusion.
MR. BUCHANAN: Now they got proof!
MS. CLIFT: Now Europe and the countries that matter mostly think this is ridiculous, that we're so obsessed about this, about a middle-aged man having an extramarital affair. I think it's a four or a five, mostly because they're laughing at us.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How permanent or impermanent?
MS. CLIFT: Very impermanent. I mean, it's fleetingly -- it leaves with Clinton. And he's a great soap opera. You know, they're loving it, following it as a story --
MR. BUCHANAN: I think that it will take a while, and it will take a -- (off mike) -- it will take a Reagan, and it will take some time to cleanse this, I think, from American society, and to make us what we used to be again --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Speaking about --
MS. CLIFT: Al Gore can do it till then --
MR. PAGE: John, I don't want a new Reagan --
(Cross talk, laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Let's hear Fred.
MR. BERGSTEN: I want to make an important distinction. The tarnish, I think, is very high, but the real impact is very low. The real impact so far I'd give a one or a two. It could get higher, but the real impact, as opposed to the rhetoric, opposed to the intangible image, which is going to be impermanent and could in fact turn quickly if we get through this quickly, I would rank very differently.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MR. PAGE: Well, first -- (off mike).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that's a very sage distinction. I want to get inside one horn of that distinction, okay? And that is this: As they perceive -- foreigners, the rest of the world -- as they perceive the degree of impact -- we're talking impact now -- do you think that they perceive, and that's the cause of their worry -- they perceive more uncertainty? And this goes back to my point about a superpower status is more felt elsewhere than it is here.
MR. BERGSTEN: Absolutely. And they want us to get through it quickly. They don't really care about how we get through it or what the outcome is; they want to get through it quickly, so U.S. can lead.
MR. PAGE: That's right. And in the long run, we gain respect when people see how smoothly we handle a change of power, if it comes to that, or even just the judgment of a national leader.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh! You think this is a blessing in disguise.
MR. PAGE: In the long run. In the long run.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You sound like Clinton~! He sounds like Clinton, doesn't he?
MR. PAGE: John, John, look back on Watergate --
MR. BUCHANAN: Clinton will never recover. Clinton will never recover himself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Himself? Do you think he's a pariah?
MR. BERGSTEN: But the United States --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the best thing he can do to cut his losses?
MR. BUCHANAN: He should leave.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Resign. You're absolutely right.
MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all --
MR. BUCHANAN: That's off-camera.