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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT

TAPED: FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 7-8, 2005

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Post Sharon.

Ariel Sharon, prime minister of Israel, suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage this week, incapacitating this dominant player on the world stage and throwing Israeli politics into upheaval.

The deputy prime minister for the past two years, Ehud Olmert, has become acting prime minister. Olmert assembled the cabinet for an emergency session. Sharon's chair at the middle of the long oval table remained empty.

Olmert left the Likud Party to join Ariel Sharon's new Kadima Party as one of Sharon's most loyal allies, becoming, in fact, his right-hand man. He is a vocal supporter of Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza.

Politics and public office have been Olmert's way of life. At age 28 he entered the Knesset and won seven consecutive elections. He has headed five Israeli ministries: Minority Affairs, Health, Communications, and Industry/Trade, a position he still holds. And when Benjamin Netanyahu last year stood up, some say theatrically, at a Sharon cabinet meeting and quit as minister of finance, Olmert succeeded him.

Now acting prime minister, he leads Israel for the next 100 days, a period that carries him through the Israeli elections scheduled for March 28th. The Israeli attorney general has declared that these elections at the end of March will go forward as planned.

Question: Does Ehud Olmert have the right stuff to fill the Sharon political vacuum? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: No way, John. He might be an effective man, but Sharon was Israel. Sharon was Kadima, the party. Sharon had 42 votes pretty much locked up. I think Sharon's estate goes to probate. I think a lot of it is going to move to Netanyahu because he's going to be helped by Hamas, who want a hard-line Israeli leader.

And I think the most interesting thing is not the Palestinian issue, which is not going to be resolved, but what happens between Israel and Iran, because Netanyahu says at the end of March this thing better be resolved or Israel reserves the right to take military action itself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the new party, Kadima, is a powerful idea, but it was tied to Sharon and his oversized personality. And while Olmert is certainly credentialed and has won elections, he doesn't have the personality, the charisma, the popularity, the military record, any of the attributes that Sharon brought into the race. And so I suspect he's going to try to carry forth the idea of a centrist party, but I think Kadima loses some altitude going into this election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, like Sadat after Nasser, Truman after Roosevelt, if he's going to succeed, he's not going to succeed by being like Sharon. He's going to have to figure out a different way. He's not going to have Sharon's credibility on military matters. His background is forming the Likud Party of the right.

So it's too soon to tell. He's not going to fill the shoes. He's going to have his own shoes, and we'll see what happens. But he's more than a mere supporter of Sharon on these policies. He was articulating these ideas, I think -- correct me if I'm wrong, Mort -- either at the same time or before Sharon. So as a designer of the Sharon policy, he has a lot of standing on that issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I spent an hour 10 days ago, last Thursday, with Mr. Olmert. And he's been in the Knesset, as you know, for 25 years. Seven and a half of those years he was on the Defense and Foreign Policy Committee. In addition to that, he incubated with Sharon the disengagement from Gaza. He's been at his side for years.

And clearly, as I could discern, because when I was talking to him, Sharon called in on the phone and he put the phone down after about 10 minutes of conversation and he said it was Sharon. And the way they talked to each other was the way I talk to you, as a friend. And it was extremely edifying to see the exchange. I don't speak Hebrew, but I know the geniality with which he spoke. So clearly he is close to Sharon. And this upcoming election on the 28th may turn on that precise point. Do you think that's true?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think that's possible. I mean, it'll be interesting. If Sharon recovers enough to be able to speak and he blesses somebody, that will carry a lot of weight. And I suspect, if he blesses anybody, it will be Ehud Olmert, because they have been really partners and colleagues, as Tony was alluding to before, in this whole redevelopment of the third way in terms of dealing with the Palestinian crisis that Israel faces. And he is an outstanding politician. Eleanor is right; he doesn't have the kind of public standing at this point. But if he becomes the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he was mayor of Jerusalem for many years.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But that's a different thing. I mean, you're talking about the country at large. And you look at all the polling. He doesn't have that kind of standing at this stage of the game. It doesn't mean he can't earn it. And if he becomes prime minister, he'll have to win the leadership battle within Kadima.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kadima now is scoring the highest of the parties at 39 seats.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's down two from where it was under Sharon.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Kadima? What's going to happen to this party? Is this a phantom party that -- (inaudible) -- existence?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think it is a phantom party, in part because the people whom they attracted, both from Likud and from Labor, that's a fundamental decision. They can't go back, really, as a practical matter, with the exception of Shimon Peres, who was very closely allied with Sharon, and they've worked together for, you know, 50 years. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Peres will throw his weight behind Olmert, or will Sharon revert to the Labor Party? Now they're wooing him.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Will Peres revert to Labor? I don't know whether Peres will revert to the Labor Party. They are certainly trying to get him back, but he feels --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If they get him back --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- he was very badly treated by Amir Peretz when he lost the leadership --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Amir Peretz.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Amir Peretz is the leader now of the Labor Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right -- P-E-R-E-T-Z.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Different from Shimon Peres.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. He wants --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he's trying to get Shimon Peres back in, for reasons of prestige and power, right?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And getting public support. Now, as I say, there's no great relationship between Peres and Peretz, so he may stay with the Kadima Party. And if he does, I think the Kadima Party will remain by far and away the largest party in the new parliament.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the key players have to decide whether they want to champion a party that really doesn't yet exist or whether they want to go back and try to reinvigorate the party they came from. And I think, in the short term, if there's a beneficiary here, it is Netanyahu, who may well gain the standing --

MR. BUCHANAN: You're going to have a coalition government, John, and Netanyahu is going to be a big, big player in it. I mean, Kadima is going to reduce itself in size. We don't know how much. Netanyahu is going to grow in size. We don't know how much. But I have to think, when the new party's government is formed, it's going to be a right-center party and not a center-left party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you've got a woman over there who is an Israeli Hillary in the making. Her name is Tzipi Livni, whom I also met with for over an hour. And I think we have, as a matter of fact -- this is her picture that she gave me, and it doesn't do her justice. She's an extremely engaging woman, and she's very personable and very intense, but at the same time convivial.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's got a lot of qualities, and she's been there a long time.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: She's very popular.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, isn't she in line also perhaps to take over the prime ministership?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. She is certainly going to go for it. She's very popular in the country. But I personally do not believe that she can really be an effective politician or a winning politician without much more of a national security background than she has.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, Buchanan is laughing at this. He doesn't realize that in the personal ratings over there in the individual ratings, she's coming in right after Olmert.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, look, the Kadima is going to diminish in size.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Maybe.

MR. BUCHANAN: Because it's not going to hold 42 seats for 100 days.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why not?

MR. BUCHANAN: Because Olmert --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you realize the drawing power --

MS. CLIFT: There's the sympathy vote. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to last 100 days, for heaven's sakes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sharon will reach forth from the grave. He's got enormous power over there. MR. BUCHANAN: I tell you, Netanyahu and Hamas will start bombing, and that's the way Netanyahu got in the first time.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right. That is the one risk. I agree with Pat completely. In 1996, after the assassination of Rabin, Shimon Peres was the prime minister and he was 22 points ahead of Bibi. And there were four bombings of four buses.

MR. BUCHANAN: The four bombing attacks; Netanyahu's sword.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I was there at the time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happened?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And Bibi won.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bibi won.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because they feel that now --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's very easy, when you're on the outside, to attack the government for not being strong enough against terrorism.

MR. BUCHANAN: And Hamas wants Bibi.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And that's exactly what Bibi will do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, do you think that this might provide some kind of motivation -- if that's not the right word, some kind of psychic determination on the part of Abu Mazen, who is on both sides declared to be so weak?

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he get control of Hamas?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he cannot get control of Hamas. I don't even know if the Palestinians are going to be allowed to vote in Jerusalem.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He can't even get control of Fatah.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, stop thinking about this Palestinian solution. There's not going to be one while Bush is in the White House. The big issue coming, I'll tell you, is Iran and Israel. It is not the Palestinians.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me speak to that. Universally I've found -- and I've dealt with about four or five important people over there -- they all say the biggest problem is not the Palestinians. It is Iran. Is that your impression too? MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it all depends how you define problem. The existential problem is from Iran because they're going to have nuclear weapons with the ability to deliver them against a small country. The Israelis do not feel that their country is at risk from the Palestinians. Their way of life is at risk. That's the difference.

MS. CLIFT: The assumption, I think, in this country is that there is no military solution for Iran and its nuclear program.

But I'm not so sure the Israelis buy into that, and they may have better intelligence than this country has.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Last week the chief of staff of Israel said, "We are in a position at this point to destroy the main nuclear reactors of Iran, if we were to do that."

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me point out --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: "We have great second-strike capability and a first-strike capability, if that is what is needed."

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, the U.S. State Department knows that Israel has that capacity and that concern. That's why I think, at the end of this week, Secretary of State Rice spoke out very aggressively on Iran. She is suggesting there's a coalition to take it to the United Nations; that maybe there might not be -- she hasn't said this, but there may not be a Russian veto anymore on that. And therefore, America takes seriously Israel's concern about Iran, measured by the secretary of State's comments this week.

MR. BUCHANAN: If the Americans don't do anything about Iran, Israel and the United States, Bush and Netanyahu or anybody else in Israel are going to be at sword's point. Already Bush is being criticized by the Jewish community in this country, AIPAC and some folks inside Israel, for his lassitude and for sticking with this European program, which is going nowhere, to denuclearize Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is Bush's candidate in the Israeli election?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would guess it would be Olmert.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Olmert, right?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I mean, without question, I think they feel very comfortable with the policies that Sharon had. And those policies are not those of Bibi Netanyahu, so they would feel much more comfortable either with Ehud Olmert or somebody from Kadima who espouses the same policies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Hamas goes really bellicose and starts doing more than -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: They are really bellicose.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- triggering another group to shoot off the Qassam rockets across the border from northern Gaza into southern Israel, if they go further than that, is that going to help Hamas increase its current 30 percent in the election coming up in the West Bank?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If it takes place.

MR. BUCHANAN: It will help Netanyahu. I don't know if there's going to be elections. The Israelis won't let the Palestinians in Arab East Jerusalem vote.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's not the reason.

MR. BUCHANAN: They won't do it because Hamas is in it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. We're getting very arcane now.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- because Hamas is in the election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: See, Israel claims control of all of Jerusalem.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And therefore, they can control who votes in Jerusalem. And if you are a party that has any terror in it, any appreciable terror, you are a terrorist organization, even though Hamas runs hospitals and it runs schools.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But they are a terrorist organization.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are a terrorist organization. This point was made --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And they don't care --

MR. BUCHANAN: Voting on the West Bank and Gaza.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They don't care if the Palestinian voters in Jerusalem vote. They said, "We don't care. We still want the elections to be held." Hamas wants the elections because it's going to give them a legitimacy that they presently do not have, and they're going to blow away Fatah in so many different ways.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will they -- are they induced, therefore, in the upcoming -- what, the 25th of this month -- elections?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think the 27th. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Twenty-seventh of this month. Are they led more to become bellicose or to become more irenical, peace-loving, for the time being and suppress this with a view to getting a bigger vote?

MS. CLIFT: Rationality would suggest that they would become more restrained. But you can never apply the word "rational" to the Middle East.

MR. BLANKLEY: Keep in mind that Iran-controlled Hezbollah on the northern border can also start activities. And at this point, whoever is premier is going to be on a hair trigger because they're going to have to prove their toughness in the way that Sharon did not have to do.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And there's an organization called Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or PIJ. They are a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran, and Iran has gotten Katusha rockets with much longer range, 30 to 35 miles, into Gaza, into the hands of PIJ, and they might start it.

MR. BUCHANAN: What is astonishing, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, they're not retaliating in any way against Syria, which is --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, listen, they don't want us to dump over Assad; the Israelis don't. But I'll tell you, what is most interesting is Ahmadinejad, this Iranian, is the most provocative guy day in and day out. He is provoking the Israelis. The Iranians are saying, "We don't think you've got it to take us out. We think you're bluffing." And so this thing is really getting deadly serious.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's Ahmadinejad's rationale?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't know why he's doing this every single day. I'll tell you, one thing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he trying to please the mullahs? Because he's not.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not the mullahs. What he's doing is he's making himself a tremendous hero to the Arab Islamic street by this kind of rhetoric. I think he's making the Iranians --

MR. BLANKLEY: Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. We have to move on.

MR. BLANKLEY: The --

MS. CLIFT: He's embarrassing his government. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Tony speak. MR. BLANKLEY: Well, to the Persian Muslim street, because he's a Persian.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's Iran. That's Iran.

MR. BLANKLEY: Right. He was talking about Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. I understand.

MR. BLANKLEY: So it's the Persian street he's speaking to. And I agree with Pat that I think he is gaining favor and strength, and that gives him more strength internally within a government that has no moderates.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I realize that this subject that we've been discussing here must be arcane in parts to some of the viewers. However, as Mubarak has said -- and it was echoed to me again on this past trip -- if there is a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli problem, it will reduce terrorism worldwide by at least 50 percent.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't believe that.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't believe there's a solution.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't believe that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I believe the recruiting power of al Qaeda is directly affected by the resolution of this situation in Israel. But to move on, what is the answer to this question? Handicappers predicted -- this is before Sharon's tragic fall -- that he would win the March 28th Israeli election by a landslide. Who's going to win the Kadima's election?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would think it would come out with Labor about 20 seats, maybe Netanyahu 25 to 30, and Kadima in the same neighborhood, and a coalition government.

MS. CLIFT: Right. If Kadima doesn't win enough to take control, neither does Netanyahu and Likud, and so Labor becomes the balance of power.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: There are two polls out, one showing Kadima holding its own and another showing them slipping some. It's too soon to tell. Polls now immediately after such a big event are unreliable. My hunch is that Kadima may show surprising strength and be able to hold 35 to 45 seats. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Kadima is seen as a centrist party, the only real centrist party in Israel, which is where the bulk of the voters are. And Kadima will get, in my judgment, 40 seats, give or take one or two seats, in the next Knesset, regardless of who is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm with you. I think it's a Kadima win.

Issue Two: Jack in the Box.

Criminal charges from a Florida business deal is what finally brought the Republican mega-lobbyist Jack Abramoff to his knees. A trial was due to begin this coming Monday in Miami. Abramoff plea- bargained with federal investigators. He agreed to tell all about his Florida dealings and his vast influence-peddling on Capitol Hill.

First, Florida. On Wednesday, Abramoff pled guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy in the purchase of a fleet of gambling boats called SunCruz. After the purchase in 2000, friction developed between Abramoff, his business partner, Adam Kidan, and the fleet's original owner, Gus Boulis.

Shortly after that, in 2001, Boulis was murdered in Fort Lauderdale in a professional gangland-type hit, shot three times in his blockaded car, then dying in the hospital.

STAN BRAND (CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER): (From videotape.) It gives a different tinge to the typical Washington scandal because it involves murder and intrigue in Florida.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Neither Abramoff nor Kidan have been charged with murder, but the plea agreement does not shield them from any possible future charge of conspiring to do so. SunCruz is only part of the story, and it's the underreported part. The overreported part is that Abramoff lobbied for Indian tribes and then defrauded them, billing his mainly Indian clients $82 million over four years. He also concealed income from the IRS through bogus non-profit organizations.

Finally, and most importantly, he provided, quote, "things of value," unquote, to lawmakers and staff in exchange for, quote, "official acts," unquote. In other words, he bribed Congress. Abramoff pled guilty to the charge. Now he says he won't go quietly.

MR. BRAND: (From videotape.) Jack Abramoff has reportedly said that he has information with respect to 60 members of Congress and staff. Not all of them will be charged. Not all of them will become cases. But this is going to go on for a long time, and it's going to be very broad and very deep. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Will any members of Congress be drawn into the SunCruz scandal that resulted or appears to be tied to the Gus Boulis murder? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: The Florida part of this, I don't know. But one member of Congress has been identified in the indictment, and that's Bob Ney, Republican from Ohio.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Putting pressure on Boulis to sell.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. But the Justice Department career attorneys are targeting several members of Congress and also lots of Republican staffers, primarily, because, despite the efforts on the Republican side to cast this as a bipartisan scandal, this is a Republican lobbyist and lots of Republican sleaze taken to a level that the Democrats could not accomplish in their 40 years in power.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, taking the -- (inaudible) -- out, I have to agree with Eleanor. Republicans shouldn't fool themselves. This is going to be a Republican probably only prosecutorial scandal. Now, there are a lot of members on both sides of the aisle in both houses who have taken money, but it may be legal and ethical. They may have political problems. The legal problem -- this is early to tell, but my hunch is there may be approximately six Republican congressmen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the other active scandals that have not been fully disclosed? You've got DeLay. You've got Frist. Who else is up there?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. Frist has nothing to do with this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I understand that. I am just saying that it falls against the background of the Republicans and dirty politics.

MR. BLANKLEY: It has not yet been revealed the kinds of dealings that Abramoff has had with some members that I think will be coming out at some point. But the point --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Your best judgment is that six members could take a hit.

MR. BLANKLEY: It could be six Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who will go down?

MR. BLANKLEY: -- who may be liable to federal prosecution --

MR. BUCHANAN: Prosecution --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and a higher number of staffers. MR. BUCHANAN: Prosecution is not the key, though. Prosecution -- they might get a number of them prosecuted.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's a big deal, six.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a big deal. But I'll tell you what's bigger is the stink. This guy Abramoff is going to dynamite the outhouse.

Everybody that's got a connection with him or got campaign contributions, that have been in sky boxes, that have got e-mails, they're going to be dumping this stuff out for a year. And Republicans are going to be trying to explain it all year long, and it puts the entire Congress in peril.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He symbolizes the K Street project of getting the lobbyists involved in Republican politics and fund-raising, et cetera, et cetera. That is going to be a Republican issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Where is this going to lead? Any kind of reform?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I doubt if it'll lead to reform. It might lead to different election results in the year 2006.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to lead to a lot of guys losing their seat, John.

MR. BLANKLEY: There will be -- look, there's going to be some lobbyist gift reform. I think lobbyist gifts will be pretty much eliminated. Some disclosure will probably happen. I think this legislation will be pushed by Republicans within the next six weeks. But as far as the bigger things of getting money out of politics, no one's ever figured out how to do it.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to do it.

MR. BLANKLEY: And they're not going to figure it out in the next two years.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There may be a new legal definition of bribery.

MS. CLIFT: They may not let --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard the impressions of a very informed person on that program, "One on One." Do you think he's right? As an exit question, on a congressional scandal, zero to 10, let's say, zero being Barney Frank's ticket-fixing for a parking violation and 10 being the 1978 Abscam stings or the S&L crisis that brought down Speaker Wright and paved the way for the '94 Republican takeover of the House, rate the Abramoff affair, zero to 10. I ask you.

MR. BUCHANAN: In terms of size and scope and people who lose their careers, it is a 10. It's the biggest congressional scandal of my lifetime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Huge scandal. It's a 10. But Democrats' ability to capitalize on it, four.

MR. BLANKLEY: Ten to 12.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ten to 12. You mean over 10.

MR. BLANKLEY: A bit more than Abscam.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's going to be -- we don't really know exactly, but it's going to be a huge scandal. I think it's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it could overtake Watergate?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, absolutely not.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not a president and vice president, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The person you just heard on my other program thinks it could overtake Watergate. I give it a 10.

Issue Three: Not So Jolly.

Happy New Year, British-style: Stabbings, attempted murder, assault, disorderly conduct, roaming gangs of drunken teenagers. On New Year's Eve across England, police and medical responders were overwhelmed by emergency calls. Officials point the finger at one main cause: The nationwide extension of pub operating hours at night. A new law allows pub owners to apply for extended alcohol service beyond 11:00 p.m., even 24 hours a day.

Question: What explains this boisterous, borderline anarchic behavior? I ask you, Tony. You've got a lot to explain for yourself, being Brit.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, the British have always enjoyed lifting the glass. And if you give them more hours, they'll lift it more often. I think this is much ado about nothing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does it stem from? Do you remember? World War I? MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, the -- yeah, they wanted the workers not to get drunk before they went back to the munitions factories.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The munitions workers, right. They were getting back drunk and they couldn't turn out the arms.

Do you have thoughts on this?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. No, I do have thoughts, but I have to go drinking and I just don't have time to stay here and give this conversation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: The statute of limitations hasn't run out on my performances in college, John, so I'm not going to comment on it. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tom DeLay will not return as majority leader. And in addition to that, I believe Tom DeLay's political career will be ended this coming November in the election if he doesn't stand down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As an addendum to that, there will be an election within the House for a new majority leader before mid- February.

MS. CLIFT: The 12 miners who died in West Virginia this week will put new focus on the industry cronies that President Bush has put in critical posts in government, overseeing government regulation, but in effect deregulating and not paying attention to safety violations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More trouble for Bush.

MR. BLANKLEY: Republican Party elders have decided, and roughly as we are talking, are communicating face to face with Tom DeLay. The time for him to announce his retirement from Congress at the end of the session has come. I believe that will probably happen next week. If not, all sorts of major figures will be speaking out publicly and driving him off the scene. And that means --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he'll have the grace to say he doesn't want to run.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think he'll have both the grace and the sensibility to do it. And that means --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He does or doesn't?

MR. BLANKLEY: He does. And that means, by the way, that if he doesn't run for re-election, Republicans can hold his district in Sugar Land, Texas. MR. ZUCKERMAN: The leadership fight in the Kadima Party will be Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Avi Dichter, and it will be resolved with Ehud Olmert as the prime minister and Avi Dichter as the next defense minister.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Within 30 days, the U.S. government will issue a 2006 national strategic doctrine directive. It will retreat from the provocative and, many believe, irresponsible concepts and language of the preemptive strike doctrine of 2002.

Bye bye.

END.