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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC

TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2005

BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 17-18, 2005

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Rice In, Rumsfeld Out.

President Bush announced on Wednesday that all Iraq reconstruction would be handled by the Department of State. This move buoys the controversial decision, almost three years ago, to give that authority exclusively to the Pentagon.

The announcement came as Mr. Bush delivered the last of four speeches intended to rebuild public support for the war. And the disclosure also came on the eve of Thursday's election for Iraq's first official parliament. The timing was no accident.

In these addresses, the president has tried to address growing criticism at home that he was out of touch. He was also trying to encourage the Iraqis themselves with the prospect of new leadership in their reconstruction, thus promoting a large voter turnout, which did, in fact, occur.

In these talks, the president addressed in frank terms some of the errors made in the post-war period.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) And it is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the president insists that the U.S. has learned from those mistakes.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) We have fixed what was not working.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The 2003 decision to hand control of the Iraq reconstruction to the Pentagon has been widely criticized. State Department experts who had planned for the post-war reconstruction period were pushed aside by Pentagon officials, notably Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of Defense. Rumsfeld strongly resisted the very notion of nation-building.

Senior officials involved have described the post-war reconstruction in Iraq as, quote/unquote, "chaos."

Question: Why is Bush shifting control of Iraq reconstruction to the State Department, with Rice in and Rummy out? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: One of the reasons, John, is what you mentioned. The Pentagon fouled it up. They didn't send in enough troops. They disbanded the army. They made a lot of mistakes.

Secondly, Bremer, who was in there, a Pentagon man, did not do the job well. The new man, Khalilzad, is an ambassador from Afghanistan. He's a State Department man. He's in Iraq now.

But third, and most importantly, John, the war -- we have now moved on to the political front from the military front. And working with these various factions and things, putting together a coalition that could let us get out, that has become priority number one. And the ambassador is going to run the show, so it ought to be under State.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, did you take up the fact that there was practically no insurgent violence during this election in Iraq?

MS. CLIFT: Well, some of the Sunni insurgent groups, the former Ba'athist insurgent groups, basically said that they were going to hold off the violence. And I think a decision has apparently been made in the Sunni community --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it -- MS. CLIFT: -- that they got left out the last time, and they want a bargain to have some leverage as this new government is formed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it tell you that the insurgency is disciplined?

MS. CLIFT: No. No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it tell you that they can work in unison?

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It seems to me it tells us both, doesn't it?

MS. CLIFT: No, it doesn't, because they've got to work now to put together a government. They've got to get a constitution together that gives minority rights. This could still collapse into civil war. But, look, I'm in favor of Condi Rice getting a greater role here. Whatever moderation this administration takes, I mean, she is generally behind it and the president has confidence in her. But I don't want to get all that excited about it, because she was in charge of Iraq reconstruction once before when she was the national security adviser, and she didn't do very well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, tell us either about the election in Iraq or tell us about why the responsibility for reconstruction and the jurisdiction for it has moved from the Pentagon to State.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think part of it is definitely what Pat said. There's no doubt that the performance has been below par.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a big move, by the way, the shift?

MR. BLANKLEY: But the other part of it is it's symbolic, and it's supportive of the general political message that the White House wants to send out that we're sort of moving into a post-military period. So turning it over to the State Department supports, I think, a useful political image.

But it's also true that, you know, on the one hand, the Pentagon is providing most of the personnel, whoever's in charge, to be executing stuff.

So in one sense, it made sense for the Pentagon to do it. But they didn't do a good job in the early months, and I don't think this is an unreasonable move.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard of another bureaucratic reshuffling that's shortly going to happen? And does it tie in with this?

MR. BLANKLEY: Which one did you have in mind?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or would you like me to tell you?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you can tell me what you think it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is AID, the Agency for International Development, going to be moved to the State Department? And is that really the reason why all of this is taking place, as much as it is, the chaos that apparently has been left unchecked by the Pentagon? Shall I tell you?

MR. O'DONNELL: Tell us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The AID has a budget of $9 billion. And if that moves to the State Department, and the State Department then is under Condoleezza Rice, the State Department then has the ability to use those funds for strategic allocation. Now, that also means that they would elude, I think, Congress's control --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, no. That's earmarked funds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: Those are earmarked funds. You can't take one -- you can't take the Israeli funds, for example, and give it to the Palestinians, or something like that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, wait a minute. Does Congress have some -- they also want to remove it from the entanglement of Congress, Congress's reach, under AID in the State Department so that she can use those funds. In other words, is she raiding the foreign aid treasury? MR. O'DONNELL: No. It's too small a treasury to raid.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nine billion?

MR. O'DONNELL: For this project, yes, it's too small to raid.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It means he doesn't have to get new money.

MR. O'DONNELL: It's all about Pat's third reason. This is a purely political exercise. This is the clearest beginning of the cut- and-run strategy of the Bush administration militarily in Iraq. The single stupidest mistake, post-invasion mistake, made was giving this job to the Defense Department.

Putting it in the State Department, where it always belonged, they're only doing under duress, not even so much because it's a failure, but simply because they are going to get the Defense Department out of Iraq. They're going to cut and run, just like Nixon did in Vietnam. They're going to quit.

MR. BUCHANAN: We did not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear anything --

MR. O'DONNELL: They're going to be beaten out of there by --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did anyone take note of what Casey said this week?

MR. BUCHANAN: First, you're mistaken, John. The discretionary funds are very small. Most of those AID $9 billion are earmarked for this country, that country, this challenge grant, that thing. She can't take this and use it as her own little pot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If she can untangle the money from congressional mandate, I believe she can do it.

MS. CLIFT: Well, there is so much money --

MR. BUCHANAN: Come on, John. That's all the foreign aid money.

MS. CLIFT: -- floating around.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, she could fabricate a reason, but it could be -- (inaudible) -- right into the military.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it could not.

MS. CLIFT: There is so much money floating around in reconstruction money that hasn't even been spent, and we're going to be seeing vast scandals emerging from that. But there is no shortage of money for reconstruction -- MR. BLANKLEY: Let me talk about AID --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- spend it because of the security situation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did Andy Natsios resign on December the 2nd, the head of AID?

MR. BLANKLEY: AID has been the most incompetent bureaucracy in all the bureaucracies engaged in Iraq. Their inability to spend money at all to lay any road in Afghanistan has just been appalling. And virtually anybody overseeing the management of it has got to be an improvement over the existing management.

MR. O'DONNELL: You can't build a road when you're getting shot at.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, that's --

MR. O'DONNELL: And we are going to continue to get shot at. The insurgency took the day off for the election, which was politically smart --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, you can't --

MR. O'DONNELL: -- because if they were out there on election day, it would have been perceived as a war against the people --

MR. BLANKLEY: I was talking about Afghanistan relief.

MR. O'DONNELL: -- which they don't want to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you a question. Did you hear what Casey said this week? He said they should be able to draw down soon to 138,000.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, that's not what he said.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And by the end of -- by the fall, the Iraqis, in all probability, would be ready to "lead," quote/unquote.

MR. BLANKLEY: Give him the full quote, because he and all the other people in the administration always say conditional on events developing as they hope they will develop; that is, the Iraqis capable of doing it themselves.

MR. BUCHANAN: But the 20,000 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll tell you what I told you before.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Radar?) is going in the back of their heads trying to figure out where and how they can maneuver out. MR. BLANKLEY: I've heard you say that before. I'm telling you --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the 138,000 -- everybody knows we went up to 160,000 for the election. The extra 25,000 are coming out. But the other folks coming out there, the 40,000 to take it down to 100,000, is conditional. And Bush and the generals decide.

MS. CLIFT: The Iraqis are asking for a timetable for when the American troops are going to leave.

The Iraqis want the American troops out. Nobody wants to cut and run. They want a reasonable draw-down. But there is a recognition that the troops are not only part of the solution; they're part of the problem. They are magnets for violence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: Quickly. The politicians who were running for election until this week in Iraq were making those kind of statements. They don't, in fact, want the Americans to leave, but they understood it was good politics for the election. And I think you will see less of those statements coming out after the election than before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did anybody take note that the three top front- runners in Iraq to take over are all trained by the Jesuits?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) I know.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not all the front-runners. I don't think Hakim was trained by the Jesuits, John. (Laughs.) I think he might have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you put Hakim in that category?

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen, I think -- yeah, he's one of the prominent -- I don't think he's going to get it because he's too extreme, because he's in the category of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, well, let's get into this. Exit question: Did Bush succeed this week in striking a Churchillian pose in his fourth lecture on Iraq -- in Iraq, a Churchillian pose in Iraq, as the new mantra of the speech seen largely as yet another piece of rhetoric?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't think it's Churchillian. Churchillian is "We will fight" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He talked about victory. MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, Churchillian is "We will fight on the beaches. We will fight. We will never surrender."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Victory.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he said victory. But as you say, John, yourself, we know that 20,000 are coming out. And we are looking toward an exit. We're not cutting and running.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's --

MS. CLIFT: He said victory repeatedly, but he doesn't define it in any specifics.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's not Churchill.

MS. CLIFT: Basically what these speeches were about is he showed some ankle of candor, acknowledging 30,000 Iraqi deaths, acknowledging that he was responsible for going to war with false intelligence.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're an authority on Churchill.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I would say --

MS. CLIFT: He didn't acknowledge he was responsible for making that intelligence false by hyping it.

MR. BLANKLEY: I would say not Churchillian but Trumanesque. I think it would be about that tone of sort of more straightforward style. But I wouldn't laud him with Churchillian. Very few people --

MR. BUCHANAN: Nixonian, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Victory was the word that set me off.

MR. BLANKLEY: No victory, but --

MR. O'DONNELL: Nixonian, indeed.

MR. BUCHANAN: Nixonian.

MR. O'DONNELL: The president is in a purely Nixonian position. We know this about Republican presidents when they get into foreign violent entanglements that they cannot control. This president is accusing Democrats of wanting to cut and run from Iraq. That is exactly what Republican presidents do when they are planning to cut and run themselves. That's what Nixon did. That's what Bush is going to do.

MR. BUCHANAN: Nixon had four years of exit, cutting and running. MR. O'DONNELL: Yes. He lied every single day. Nixon lied every day of the Vietnam war, including the last day with the last helicopter --

MR. BUCHANAN: There's a two-syllable word --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat back in.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's a two-syllable word --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to defend Milhous?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I certainly am. Richard Nixon bombed and mined. We had --

MR. O'DONNELL: And lost the war.

MR. BUCHANAN: We had every --

MR. O'DONNELL: And lost the war.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know who lost the war?

MR. BLANKLEY: Ford lost it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Do you know who lost the war?

MR. BLANKLEY: Ford and the Congress.

MR. BUCHANAN: Do you know who lost the war?

MR. BLANKLEY: The Watergate babies.

MR. BUCHANAN: Your party lost the war by cutting off the president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- without a dime, two years after Nixon was gone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The human toll in Iraq.

MS. CLIFT: You're not going to lay Vietnam on the Democrats any more than you're going to lay Iraq on the Democrats.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was the Democratic Congress --

MS. CLIFT: It was George W. Bush and hawks like yourself.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was the Democratic Congress in March of 1975, the Watergate babies, who cut $800 million of appropriations so that the Vietnam army, our ally, didn't have the bullets to continue fighting the war. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?

MS. CLIFT: They could not --

MR. BLANKLEY: It wasn't Republicans.

It was Democrats who lost the war.

MS. CLIFT: They could not have continued the war --

MR. BUCHANAN: The war was lost in Washington on Capitol Hill.

MS. CLIFT: They could not have continued the war without massive U.S. support.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's not true.

MS. CLIFT: And we already had 58,000 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we get out, please? We're not going to re- fight --

MR. BLANKLEY: That's absolutely not true. That's a rewriting of history.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: O'Donnell --

MR. BLANKLEY: The South Vietnamese army was --

MR. O'DONNELL: Every American killed under Richard Nixon in Vietnam was a life wasted for no reason by a president who was determined to cut and run, and lost the war.

MR. BUCHANAN: This was a new deal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: O'Donnell, you're a troublemaker. Now, will you let him alone?

Okay, the human toll: U.S. military dead, including suicides, 2,156; U.S. amputeed, wounded, injured, mentally ill, all now out of Iraq, 50,200; Iraqi civilians dead, 119,500.

MR. BLANKLEY: The president said 30,000.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's the composite tally. We'll show it on the screen right now. There you are -- 2,156; 50200; 119,500. I'd be happy to recommend to you the Lancet study -- MR. BLANKLEY: Johns Hopkins study. It's fraudulent. That's why --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it was (printed in?) Lancet Magazine.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's why the president didn't use it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Take a look at that, and we can build on that. Their figure is 100,000.

Issue Two: U.S. Spies on Americans.

The National Security Agency has been spying on Americans since 2002, with none of the required judicial warrants. What enabled this espionage was an order signed by President Bush. The espionage consists of eavesdropping on phone calls, reading e-mails and faxes of thousands of U.S. citizens.

That New York Times report comes on top of Lisa Myers' scoops this week that the Pentagon has compiled a data base that includes -- get this -- anti-war protesters, anti-Iraq war, and anti-recruitment protesters. Myers also revealed that the military intelligence agents have monitored the activities of peace groups -- peace groups.

Question: Has the commander-in-chief broken the law against spying on U.S. citizens without prior court approval, as is the law? I ask you.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, he has. He's violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Now, the people who are doing this under the president's order would have a solid legal defense that they were ordered to do it by the president. But, yeah, this is a very direct presidential violation of this law. Executive order does not have the capacity to do this --

MR. BLANKLEY: This is not the case. And actually, even in the New York Times story Friday, which broke this story in anticipation of the book that the reporter is going to have coming out in two weeks, by the way, reported in the second-from-last paragraph that the federal court of appeals decision in 2002 said that the president had inherent constitutional powers to do warrantless searches of foreign surveillance. So the question is --

MR. O'DONNELL: This is not foreign surveillance.

MR. BLANKLEY: And the president has, under the authorizations against al Qaeda that he got in 2001 and 2002, that he has the power to go after al Qaeda. You combine those two authorizations together and he did have the authority to do it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Good point. They're foreign telephone calls, and the Congress of the United States was informed in the person of Senator Rockefeller and others up on the Hill, who at least maintained silence about it. MS. CLIFT: Well, to continue the Vietnam era analogy, this is the same sort of trampling of civil liberties that occurred during the Vietnam era. And this president has used 9/11 as a license to redefine the rules of torture, to say that the Geneva conventions don't apply. And he acts like none of the rules affect him.

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor --

MR. BLANKLEY: Some of us --

MS. CLIFT: The New York Times is --

MR. BUCHANAN: Why --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat in. Let Pat in.

MS. CLIFT: Let me finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: The New York Times was able to write that story because people at every level in government, including the judge at the secret court, felt uneasy about this, that it overdoes --

MR. BUCHANAN: Why doesn't your party --

MS. CLIFT: They're not all Democrats.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- impeach him? Why doesn't your party impeach him if he's breaking laws?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat --

MS. CLIFT: They don't run the Congress, Pat. Your party squelches everything.

MR. BUCHANAN: Put in a bill of impeachment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will these disclosures, along with the existence of the CIA secret prisons, prompt a thorough review of the powers the government has arrogated to itself, especially since Arlen Specter has called hearings on this very issue?

MR. BUCHANAN: There won't be hearings unless the Democrats get control of Congress. But what this tells me is the CIA and all these agencies have decided on a general dump on George Bush and the administration.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's a close call as to whether or not this is legit or not. But if pushed to the wall, I would say Bush, if he got some names, it's probably okay. Issue Three: Santa Out, Kong In.

Forget Santa Claus. It's King Kong, the big ape, this Christmas.

He's trumped the bearded fat man. The hype over Kong, a remake of the 72-year-old classic film, is running as big as the movie's budget. That's over $200 million. New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been infected with Kong fever. Mayor Bloomberg declared Kong's New York premier "King Kong Day."

As in the original, gorilla Kong is more the hunted than the hunter, more victim than rogue. Kong is Jean-Jacques Rousseau's mythic noble savage -- wild, simple, good, naturally pure; deep down, gentle; a caring, at least selectively, giant.

The villain of King Kong is civilized man. His box-office greed ultimately destroys Kong. Beauty kills the beast.

What about Freud? Is Freud involved in this, Lawrence?

MR. O'DONNELL: I'll have to see the movie. I haven't seen the movie.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Empire State Building?

MR. O'DONNELL: But I can tell you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that suggest to you? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Something longer than it's wide. (Laughs.)

MR. O'DONNELL: My 11-year-old daughter is still much more looking forward to the arrival of Santa than the arrival of Kong, even though Jack Black is in it, one of her favorite stars.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is really -- it's the environmental religion, if you will. The whole idea is man corrupts paradise in this environmental take on things, and Kong is the innocent -- as you say, the Rousseauian noble savage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's emotional exploitation, meaning that the subject is inherently silly, if not --

MS. CLIFT: Well, in a world where we have so many real threats facing us, from dirty bombs to bird flu, it's nice to get frightened about a gentle ape, I suppose. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BLANKLEY: This is --

MS. CLIFT: It gets your adrenaline going --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, Eleanor, that it's okay to imprison animals in cages for our amusement? Is that what you're saying?

MS. CLIFT: That is not a real animal, John. I hate to break it to you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what they were trying to do.

MR. BLANKLEY: John, this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, this is --

MR. BLANKLEY: John, this is a story --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's diversionary, and therefore it's --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is a story in the line of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" or "Beauty and the Beast." It's a classic metaphor, and I see nothing improper about it. And I think it's going to be a wonderful story. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The beast was a vicious beast.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he wasn't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was killing randomly except for that lovely lady.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he wasn't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, he was.

MR. BUCHANAN: But it's got an underlying message.

MR. BLANKLEY: He was being attacked by --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, I think you're letting your peacocks and the other animals make you, A --

MR. BLANKLEY: I love animals. What can I say?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- minimally a sentimentalist -- MR. BLANKLEY: I'm pro-Kong. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and, B, an animalist, what, to be carried to the excess.

MS. CLIFT: I actually was sympathetic to the lion who attacked Roy, and they did eventually put him to sleep. And it was not his fault.

MR. BUCHANAN: They put Roy to sleep?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gorillas are vicious. They're vicious.

MS. CLIFT: Roy of the lion tamer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And elephants are worse, believe it or not. Elephants are very savage in the wild.

MR. BUCHANAN: Gorillas are worse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issues Four: Where There's Smoke, There's Ire.

MAN ON THE STREET: (From videotape.) Smoking is terrible. It has effects on everybody's health. So, with that said, no, there shouldn't be any smoking in any restaurants whatsoever.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Smokers beware. America is out to get you. Stop-smoking bans are spreading across the country. Smokers are fuming at these recent prohibitions, all designed to snuff out public puffing.

Item: Capital City Smokeout. The Washington D.C. City Council last week overwhelmingly banned smoking in bars and restaurants. The ordinance is scheduled to take effect in January 2007. Some anti- smoking D.C. causistes are now working towards an overall ban for D.C.'s remaining indoor public areas.

Item: Windy City Breathes Easy. Earlier, Chicago passed a ban prohibiting smoking in bars and eateries, as D.C. did this past week. Last week, it extended the ban to most public areas. Also, smokers are not allowed to light up within 15 feet from the entrance of a non- smoking building.

Item: Washington State Ban; no smoking within 25 feet from the entrance of a smokeless building.

Item: Smokers Need Not Apply. New applicants to the U.N.'s World Health Organization who are smokers won't be hired unless they quit.

Item: "Urine" Trouble Now. An employer in Michigan is urine- testing employees for smoking. Employees get a re-education grace period but are fired if they test positive after that. Item: The Big Apple, Smokeless to the Core. Get this: Michael Bloomberg urges New Yorkers not to smoke at home because dogs, cats and other pets suffer from the alleged toxins of second-hand smoke.

What do you think of these anti-(tobacconists?)? Do you think that the nanny state in the United States is now out of control? What's next? What is better than a brandy and a cigar after a Christmas meal? And the answer is, no brandy and no cigar.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with you. Although I quit smoking 10 years ago, I think these nanny-state obstructions of people's right to live their lives the way they want to is appalling. It's turning from nanny state to big brother to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what's next? Is it going to be alcohol again?

MS. CLIFT: There's very little --

MR. BLANKLEY: People ought to be free.

MR. O'DONNELL: We're not going to pay for your health care and let you smoke. It's as simple as that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The most reliable opinion that tangential smoke -- what do they call it?

MR. BLANKLEY: Second-hand smoke.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Second-hand smoke --

MR. BLANKLEY: And that has almost no consequence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- has practically no consequence.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The principal researcher on this --

MR. O'DONNELL: It's a foul thing to experience. It's a horrible smell.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is Puritanism coming back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you're on the side of the nanny state?

MR. O'DONNELL: I want to ban all the cigarettes everywhere.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to ban it through the government, or do you want a voluntary ban on cigarettes? MR. O'DONNELL: No, I want government banning it.

MS. CLIFT: There's actually very little outcry to these bans because smoking is increasingly --

MR. O'DONNELL: Right. It helps the smoker.

MS. CLIFT: -- becoming a socially unacceptable habit.

MR. BLANKLEY: You have to protect the rights of minorities.

MS. CLIFT: And the more we know about the problems of second- hand smoke --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: What you're hearing from Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: Even libertarians get lung cancer.

MR. BUCHANAN: What you're hearing from Eleanor and Lawrence is liberal hypocrisy, liberal intolerance, a pair of liberals who want to impose their values --

MR. O'DONNELL: That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- on people that disagree.

MR. O'DONNELL: Smoking addicts.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, put up a --

MR. O'DONNELL: Smoking addicts need my help. They can't stop themselves. They need me to help.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat finish. Let Pat finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: Put a nativity scene in a public square and they'll knock it over --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- as violating their values, but they impose their values on others.

MR. O'DONNELL: Smoking addicts do not oppose these laws because they know they need the help.

MR. BUCHANAN: Who were the founding fathers? The founding fathers were tobacco farmers.

MR. O'DONNELL: Smoking addicts are killing themselves, and they need the help to stop. MS. CLIFT: I say give baby Jesus a carton of cigarettes for Christmas, Pat, if that makes you happy. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about obesity? Is obesity going to be next? Are they going to tell us that if you eat trans-fat, which is so bad -- that's the current phobia; maybe it's not a phobia -- well, it's a phobia, but maybe it's legit -- "We're going to prevent you from doing it because no one can put trans-fat in their food." Would you favor that? How far do you want the nanny state to go?

MR. BUCHANAN: They will eventually, don't worry.

MS. CLIFT: I would favor getting the information that this is bad for you, and then it's up to you. And maybe you're going to get a break on your insurance if you're not 200 pounds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think obesity is probably a bigger killer than smoking.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think so.

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor, why don't you (leave?) smokers that way? If they want to do it outside the building --

MR. O'DONNELL: Because they're addicts begging for help. Smokers are out there begging for help.

MR. BUCHANAN: Then why do they need Larry's help? Why do they need your help?

MR. O'DONNELL: They do not oppose these laws.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, cheers to John Dingell, a towering presence in the Congress. The distinguished Democrat from Michigan has just crossed an amazing milestone -- 50 years in the House. Dingell's energy and passion was brought to bear on a catalogue of watershed enactments, including the '64 Civil Rights Act. To this great public servant we say cheers, John Dingell. Stay in the arena.

Tony, do you remember John Dingell?

MR. BLANKLEY: Of course, very well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you hold him in that high regard, do you not?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, he's one of the best Democrats out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember him?

MR. O'DONNELL: When I was working in the Senate, he was still chairman in the House and a very, very powerful figure. Everybody got out of his way when he was coming. MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. Very, very tough, John. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: He's very visible in the House, and --

MR. BLANKLEY: And good on the Second Amendment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bye bye.

END.