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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

SUBJECT: 24TH ANNUAL YEAR-END MCLAUGHLIN GROUP AWARDS

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

TAPED: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2005
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 24-25, 2005

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ANNOUNCER: It's the 24th annual McLaughlin Group year-end awards, 2005. Here's the master of ceremonies, John McLaughlin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Biggest winner of 2005, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: John Roberts goes from the Buchanan jogging team in the White House to chief justice of the United States, John.

MS. CLIFT: I had the same choice, but I had a backup ready -- the oil companies. They had a great year. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: The biggest winner this year, I hope, will be the biggest loser next year: Al-Zarqawi, the terrorist, who has managed to hold at bay the great superpower against the opposition of 90 percent-plus of the Iraqi people and has stymied. Regretfully, he's the most successful this year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's leading the insurgency --

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in Iraq. And he's also the deputy to Osama bin Laden.

MR. BLANKLEY: And bin Laden's people have to keep reminding him probably who the deputy is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Biggest winner: Mike Bloomberg, who got a record-breaking re-election in New York this year, proving what I predicted on this show after he was first elected mayor, that he would be more popular than Rudy Giuliani was as mayor of New York.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The envelope please, Tony. Thank you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: You're welcome, sir.

MR. BUCHANAN: Carnac.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Carnac the Magnificent?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Okay.

MR. BLANKLEY: Keeping it alive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.) How's that, pretty good? Tony, I notice you're looking at my jacket. You covet it, don't you?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but there's a horse that's cold somewhere. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The biggest winner of 2005: Ben Bernanke, incoming chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board. He replaces the revered and retiring Alan Greenspan in February. Bernanke takes over the most powerful economic policymaking post in the world.

Okay. Biggest loser, Pat. MR. BUCHANAN: Chirac and Schroeder of the European Union. The constitution goes down; riots in Paris. Schroeder is out. Chirac's at about 20 percent. Lesson, John: Don't mess with Texas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: President Bush qualifies, having slid in the polls from 80 percent to 40 percent. But I'm going to give the award to Harriet Miers -- loyal staffer who was humiliated when the president wrongly put her forward as a Supreme Court nominee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Regretfully, Tom DeLay. At the beginning of the year, he was the number two Republican in the country -- now under indictment, lost his leadership, behind in the polls to get re-elected next time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Biggest loser is my governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has had a Bush-like collapse in the polls because he is now the most corrupt governor in the country, having signed on to an $8 million deal that he got exposed as being involved in, that he was trying to make money as governor. And his poll numbers have collapsed accordingly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The biggest loser of 2005: Tookie Williams, executed after 24 years on death row.

Okay. Best politician, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger leads the conclave to pick a new pope and comes out as the new pope, Benedict XVI, just like Dick Cheney, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I'm going to give it to Virginia Governor Mark Warner, who has shown Democrats how you can win in a red state and is going to be succeeded by another Democrat, and a possible presidential nominee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: David Cameron, 39-year-old new leader of the Tory party in Britain, only four years into elective politics, was considered to be nowhere to be seen at the beginning of the year, even by mid-year. Now he has an odds-on chance of being the next prime minister of Britain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence. MR. O'DONNELL: Warren Beatty, who ran his own campaign to defeat all of the Schwarzenegger ballot initiatives -- (laughter) -- in California this year, and Warren won them all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Warren is still following him around, huh?

MR. O'DONNELL: Chased him around and beat him on every one of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The best politician of 2005 is Michael Bloomberg, trading off Lawrence on my right, Republican mayor of overwhelming Democratic New York City. Bloomberg has just been re- elected by a 20 percent margin -- a gifted and conscientious politician with immense responsibility.

Okay. Worst politician, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Dr. Dean, the gift that keeps on giving, John. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, because he's saying the war in Iraq cannot be won.

MR. BUCHANAN: Not only that; the Republicans are refusing to call for his resignation because they need him there. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Dr. Frist, who horrified the nation when he diagnosed a brain-damaged woman from thousands of miles away and got the Congress, the Republican Congress, to intervene wrongly in the Terri Schiavo case.

MR. BLANKLEY: Pat's right. It's Howard Dean, who is keeping Republican hopes alive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Arnold Schwarzenegger, who lied his way into office saying he didn't need special-interest money. He has now raised more money than any other governor in California history, including Gray Davis, who he condemned for the same thing. It's just been the most ridiculous term of a governor we've ever seen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence is back with his fixations, huh, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Mmm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Worst politician: Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who served 15 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. During that time, Cunningham took $2.4 million in bribes. He lost his House seat. He lost his reputation. He lost his freedom.

Okay. Most defining political moment, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Paris riots, London bombings. War of civilizations comes to Europe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: President Bush returning from his customary six-week vacation ordering Air Force One to fly over New Orleans so he can peer down from 30,000 feet at the damage that Hurricane Katrina caused. His indifference and his slowness in responding has cost him enormously in his ratings in this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That says it all, doesn't it, that image?

MS. CLIFT: Does for me. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, internationally, I agree with Pat. But I'll give a domestic political most defining moment. It would be Jack Abramoff being led off in handcuffs by the FBI. That defines the political atmosphere for the upcoming election cycle.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. (Acknowledging.) That's kind of bloated, isn't it?

MR. BLANKLEY: It is bloated, and it's going to get even more bloated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a whole different dimension that they haven't gotten into. Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Eleanor's right. It was the non-response by President Bush and the federal government to the Katrina disaster in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The third day -- it was the third day of non-response when the president lost his presidency. He could have -- if they had gotten in there by the third day, he could have survived it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, that situation continues to go unabated, and it is horrible. And there is no plan. There is no federal plan for the recovery of the southern coast.

The most defining political moment was the Murtha moment -- Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha, 32 years in the House, decorated Marine war hero, top Democrat on defense. Murtha forced the Iraq issue into high-profile debate which is still raging. Murtha says, "Enough is enough." The Murtha moment.

Okay. Best spin of the year, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I give it to the White House. They have turned this around to say, "This war wasn't about WMD. It's not about taking down Saddam Hussein. It is about building democracy in Iraq and the Middle East. And if you're against it, you're against democracy." Very effective.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good spin, bad policy?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is extraordinary. It's what Woodrow Wilson did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I also give it to the White House. Best spin, shameless spin, was allowing the terrorists to kill thousands of Americans in Iraq so that they won't kill thousands of Americans here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Bob Woodward spinning his way on the performance that he was a neutral commentator on the Plame case when, in fact, he was deeply involved. But he carried it off with great aplomb for many months.

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, he knew a month before --

MR. BLANKLEY: Two years before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Years before?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: The new champion spinner in Washington is Bob Luskin, Karl Rove's attorney. He did a brilliant job of tricking the press into thinking Karl Rove was not in jeopardy in this case, was not a target in the case, which technically he wasn't, but that was meaningless at the time. Luskin knew it. He tricked the press into misdirection through the whole year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there a veiled prediction in there about Rove?

MR. O'DONNELL: Everyone knows how much trouble Rove is in. But Luskin has done a brilliant job. He's the first guy I'm calling the next time I'm arrested.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, we got that point.

Are you talking indictment here?

MR. BLANKLEY: Was there a first time?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best spin of the year: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld telling the press that the press should not be reporting such an unduly dark portrait of the war in Iraq, then submits his other gung-ho Iraq rhetoric. Good spin, bad policy.

Okay. Most boring, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is the Lieberman trophy, John. It usually goes to Joe Lieberman. (Laughs.) But he wasn't this year. He was a little more exciting. I'm going to give it to Joe Biden for his questioning of John Roberts, and, frankly, the whole Judiciary Committee on the Democratic side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most boring, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I'm going to give it to Treasury Secretary John Snow. At a time when Americans feel great uncertainty about the economy, we have like a non-voice, a boring voice, from the Treasury Department, sadly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's an interesting one. Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Angela Merkel, whose great boredom turned a likely landslide victory in Germany into a razor-thin plurality.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Boredom works. Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. I won't bore you with an explanation of that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The most boring person of 2005: Pope Benedict XVI, in sharp contrast to his predecessor, John Paul II.

Okay. Most charismatic, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's only one guy internationally, John. You know who it is. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Benedict XVI.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hugo Chavez. (Laughs.) Whether we like it or not, Chavez is tearing up the southern cone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I like that. I wish I had thought of that. I couldn't find any new contenders, so I'm giving it to Condi Rice, who has emerged from being a relatively passive staffer to being a rock star on the international stage, with possible presidential ambitions or vice presidential ambitions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Charismatic secretary of State. What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Mitt Romney, media-attractive, very bright, just announced he's not going to run for re-election for governor. He's obviously going for the presidency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: In just one public appearance all year, Patrick Fitzgerald became the most charismatic guy in town. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most charismatic -- Pat is right: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a populist demagogue, no friend of the Bush administration, but Hugo has got the beat.

We'll be right back with more enthralling Group 2005 year-end awards.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bummest rap, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Ronnie Earle indicts Tom DeLay for a crime, breaking a law that did not even exist when Tom DeLay allegedly broke it -- cheap political prosecution from Texas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: From Mean Jean Schmidt to decorated Marine veteran John Murtha: "Cowards cut and run. Marines never do." Bummest rap.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: The bummest rap is that Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction. He did not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence. MR. O'DONNELL: I think I agree with Tony if what you mean -- the bummest rap is that Bush knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the war. That is the bummest rap.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a bum rap?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're with Tony on that.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah. He definitely thought there were weapons there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very edifying. The bummest rap: President Bush calling the Minutemen who patrol the southern border vigilantes. A bum rap, right, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: You're coming around, John. That's outstanding.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fairest rap.

MR. BUCHANAN: You've been looking at the polls. (Laughter.)

Fairest rap: Brownie and FEMA. "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie" -- the fact they were responsible for that and they did a terrible job.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Fairest rap: The Bush administration misled us into war. They exaggerated the evidence they believed was true and left out all the caveats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Fairest rap is the Alaskan bridge to nowhere was not supported by a cost-benefit analysis -- $235 million to service 50 commuters who lived on the island. That's $5 million per commuter -- a fair rap.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: The fairest rap is that since finding no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the president has changed his story about why we went there so many times that he could not now pass a lie- detector test.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fairest rap: Labeling the Bush guest-worker program for illegal aliens an amnesty. That's a fair rap.

Okay. Best comebacks.

MR. BUCHANAN: Excellent. Excellent, John. You're moving here. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: Best comeback: Ahmad Chalabi. He went from being an Iranian spy and a traitor to "Welcome to the White House, Ahmad."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Michael Brown responding to his failure as the FEMA chief, opening up a consulting firm to do, what else, disaster relief. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Great choice. Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: A late entry: George Bush; in the last month, turned around the polling numbers, got the Democrats on the run. His numbers are up about five to seven points and going further up. That's the comeback of the year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Bush doesn't have the initiative. Don't kid yourself.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he started the initiative.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll see. The polls are not quite there. Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Pat's right. I'm with Chalabi. No one's had a comeback like that. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The best comeback: King Kong, the giant repulsive simian who made his debut 72 years ago. Kong has roared back with a vengeance. He is once again bewitched by female beauty -- not animal female beauty but human female beauty. Then this (poor?) brute makes the fateful Empire State shimmy.

Tony, did you try out for that role?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'm afraid of heights. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, most original thinker.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm going to give it to a friend of mine, Tom Bethell, author of "The Politically Correct Guide to Science." They're going after Darwinism, and I think Darwinism is in deep trouble. And don't knock it, but intelligent design is on the rise. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I'm going to give it to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for his all-kids program, first-in-the-nation effort to give affordable health care to children of middle-class families, the families that are not poor enough to qualify for public assistance but not able to pay for private insurance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's not going to save his political future. The original thinker.

MR. BLANKLEY: Most original political thinker: Ariel Sharon. He quits the Likud Party he created, creates a new party in the center, redominates Israeli politics in order to continue the peace process.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good selection, wrong category. Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Most original thinker: Stephen Colbert, host of "The Colbert Report." He dazzles nightly with angles on the news that no one else can come up with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I understand he satirized the McLaughlin recently -- McLaughlin Group, that is.

The original thinker, the most original thinker: General William Odom, for drawing our attention to something obvious but overlooked. Namely, our military presence in Iraq is creating the very chaos we seek to prevent.

Okay. Most stagnant thinker, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Ralph Neas and Chuck Schumer. Every time Bush nominates a judge, he is an extremist, John, or he's outside the mainstream. He's an extremist. It's getting boring.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Stagnant thinker: The author of the talking-points memo advising the Republicans that intervening in the Terri Schiavo case would be great politics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Great choice, Eleanor. What do you say, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Mike Brown, formerly of FEMA. He didn't have an original thought about how to deal with the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: It's a dead tie between Dick Cheney and George Bush. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The most stagnant thinker -- this is a collective award -- the Democratic Party for its abject failure to develop a coherent set of policy alternatives. You're with me on that, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Excellent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I see you nodding your head.

MR. BUCHANAN: Excellent, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best photo op, quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: New Orleans Convention Center, day in, day out -- those TV footage of all those cable reporters. It drove Bush down 10 points.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: President Bush trying to get out of a locked door -- wonderful metaphor for the trap he's in in Iraq. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I just liked the panda cubs at the National Zoo. They were wonderful pictures. They made it on the front page of papers across the country. Beautiful little cubs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that's the "Enough, already" award?

MR. BLANKLEY: I can look at little panda cubs --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence, quickly.

MR. O'DONNELL: The Patrick Fitzgerald press conference -- the new sheriff in town bringing the law to the White House. Nothing like it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The best photo op: Cindy Sheehan camped at the Crawford ranch -- vintage street theater, straight out of the '60s. And it worked. Anti-war protesters rallied across the country.

Okay. The "Enough, already" award, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think you had a good one right there, John. I was going to put her in the same category, but she belongs in this category now. You know, Cindy Sheehan -- enough, lady, we got the point. It's now all about you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Enough, already, Paris Hilton. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Tookie Williams being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize before he was executed for killing four people on a racially-motivated basis. Enough, already.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: The "Enough, already" award goes to Dick Cheney for anything that man says about Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Enough, already -- "Desperate Housewives." Enough, already.

Okay. The worst lie, Pat -- the worst lie.

MR. BUCHANAN: Worst lie is that George Bush delayed coming to the aid of the folks in New Orleans because they were black and because they were poor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was an outrageous, vicious, racist lie.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Worst lie: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had nothing to do with leaking the identity of a CIA agent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: John Murtha's statement that our troops are not properly provisioned in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Eleanor's right. The worst lie was actually told two years ago that Karl Rove had nothing to do with leaking the name. That lie was first exposed on this show in July of this year by the person in this chair. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Best reporting. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The worst lie: The Chinese government telling their people that the water supply for 4 million people was shut down for routine maintenance, when actually a chemical plant had exploded and spilled 100 tons of benzene into the water supply. You like that one, too, don't you, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's been good, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Capitalist of the year, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Jack Abramoff makes $82 million lobbying for Indians. (Laughs.) Can you beat that, John? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I'm going to give it to Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, because in addition to the $2.4 million in kickbacks he got from defense contractors, he's walking away with a fat congressional pension. He served eight terms. That's good for $40,000 a year. Do the math.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Xin Kwang (ph), a Chinese venture capitalist, tremendously stimulating the Chinese economy through good banking practices.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hong Kong?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, in mainland. He is the grandson of an old (chaikom?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Friend of yours?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, never met the gent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought you might be getting -- (inaudible). What do you say here, Lawrence?

MR. O'DONNELL: The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the creators of the best tool I've ever used.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right on. But the capitalist of the year is Howard Stern, with a $500 million five-year contract on satellite radio.

We'll be right back with the person of the year.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, here it is: Person of the year. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I hate to say it, John, but it is the suicide bomber, from Moscow to Iraq to London to the United States. He bedevils us. He distracts us. He's changed our way of living. He's dominated the news the whole year. He's put the United States in deep trouble in Iraq. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I give it to Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother who gave the president a vacation from hell and brought the war home in a way that it hadn't been before, and set the stage for the deceleration in the president's poll ratings.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Iraqi voters, who stood up to Pat's suicide bombers. Three times they went out in the face of suicide bombers and threats and kept the hope of democracy alive for the country that's trying to be born there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Patrick Fitzgerald, who came to this town with the toughest assignment you can have as a special prosecutor and has exposed more about the workings of the Washington press corps than we've ever seen before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Great, Lawrence. The person of the year, a joint award: Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei for their efforts to contain nuclear proliferation and their refusal to be pressured into declaring falsely that Iraq had a nuclear program, when, in fact, Saddam was bluffing. Baradei won this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Blix outshone Baradei by gaining a coveted interview on John McLaughlin's "One on One," a television program.

Next week, the McLaughlin Group's 2005 awards, part two. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Bye bye.

BEGIN PBS SEGMENT

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Honorable mention, Patrick.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think I'm going to give it to Condoleezza Rice. She is really the star of the administration, probably the most popular figure in the administration. She's been talked about -- I don't think it's serious -- for president of the United States. She has done far better in terms of creating an image for herself and making an image for the country than I anticipated, so I give her honorable mention as person of the year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's had a softening impact, hasn't she?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think she's changed -- yes, she has. And I think she's done some good for the administration. You know, I don't agree with that whole, quote, "democracy project." I think she's too hard on previous administrations. But she's articulate in terms of what Bush wants to do. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, I heard when you pronounced her name. You said "Rife," R, I, F as in Frank, E. Have you been doing that a lot?

MR. BUCHANAN: I've been following you a little bit, the slurring of the words, John. (Laughter.

)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Anything else?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would give it to her, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I agree that she's made a transformation. She's a far better secretary of State than she ever was as the national security adviser. She was rolled by the big guys when she was at the White House.

I give it to Rosa Parks, the Montgomery, Alabama seamstress who, a half-century ago, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man and basically became the catalyst for the civil-rights movement. She passed away this year, and we honored her in this country by having her body lie in state in the U.S. Capitol.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Honorable mention, the Lebanese people, who stood up after 30 years of being intimidated by Syria, drove them out, undermined, thereby, the Syrian regime, and advanced substantially the cause of democracy in the Middle East.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rafik Hariri gave me the opportunity to interview him maybe four years ago. I spent two hours with him and I asked him three different ways, did he want the Syrian troops in? He said, "Yes, we have a severe problem with factionalism." I said - again I asked him the same question twice more. He said yes repeatedly. I then said to him, "How does President Lahoud feel?" He said, "He feels the same way. If you don't believe me, go over and ask him." I went over and asked him, got an interview with him, and I asked him three times, and he said yes also. This is the same Lahoud who was also there.

Now, Hariri changed his mind after a couple of years. But for you to go back that far and saying the Syrians were unwanted and were a deleterious influence, I think, is a misreading of history.

MR. BLANKLEY: The U.N. has found that it's the Syrians who killed Hariri, and -- Hariri, as soon as he turned against them. They've been a mal-influence in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. And now that they've been driven out, there's a hope -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I'm attacking the proposition that the Lebanese wanted the Syrians out for that stretch of time.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with you. They were sufficiently afraid of conditions that they weren't willing to grasp the responsibility for themselves. Now they have, and now they and the world can live in hope.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: Honorable mention to Bono for keeping the world's attention on African poverty and the need for economic development there. I don't think there's anyone else that the president of the United States would even discuss the African situation, and Bono has kept heads of state - their attention on it. And it's been a great contribution.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the reduction of African countries' foreign debt is too arcane to animate people? And has he brought it to light?

MR. O'DONNELL: He's brought it to light, but it is not a solution. And it's now time to talk about economic development, not just charity, not just forgiving debt, but what is the future? How do those countries become self-sustaining? That's the next chapter of the discussion.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, who do you think is going to pay their debts off?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who do I think?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's you and me.

MR. BLANKLEY: (Maybe?) Bono. He's going to pay for it out of his own -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You ought to talk to him. He's the one that proposed the name. I didn't propose the name. I didn't propose that name. I'm not saying it's a bad idea.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you seem like you're going along with it.

MS. CLIFT: It's a good choice. It's a very good choice. He's a voice of conscience that a lot of conservative politicians listen to, including Senator Jesse Helms.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor is the voice of conscience, and also the voice of lucidity. (Laughter.) Thank you, Eleanor. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And honorable mention goes to the people of the Gulf Coast, who have faced extraordinary hardships and continue to do so.

The McLaughlin Group year-end award goes to the men and women of the U.S. military now in Iraq and Afghanistan, brave and dedicated, putting their lives on the line, fulfilling their roles with perseverance, with loyalty, away from their loved ones at Christmas, who are making their own painful sacrifice also. We salute you all.

END.