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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 13, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 14-15, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The Unsinkable Sam Alito.

Dispassionate, scholarly, unflappable. Judge Samuel Alito, at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings this week, never took the bait of the senators arrayed against him. He ignored insults, slurs, and every political trap or provocation.

(Videotaped excerpt of confirmation hearing.)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): Does the Constitution protect the right to free speech?

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: Certainly it does. That's in the First Amendment. SEN. SCHUMER: But why can't you answer the question of does the Constitution protect the right to an abortion the same way, without talking about stare decisis, without talking about cases, et cetera?

JUDGE ALITO: Because answering the question of whether the Constitution provides a right to free speech is simply responding to whether there is language in the First Amendment that says that the freedom of speech and freedom of the press can't be abridged. Asking about the issue of abortion has to do with the interpretation of certain provisions of the Constitution.

(End of excerpt.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The tedium was so frustrating to the Democrats that when the hearings resumed on Wednesday after lunch, only six of 18 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were present, and one immediately left. And the huge press corps shrank in number.

The hearings only produced two breathing issues, neither of which is believed to sink the nomination: First, 1970s Princeton Alumni Group and Judge Alito's fleeting membership in it. The group opposed the admission of women and minorities to the university.

Second, Vanguard mutual funds and Alito's participation in a legal case tangentially involving it at a time when he had been holding such funds in his investment portfolio for over a dozen years.

Question: Alito's membership in the Princeton group was stated in a job application 20 years ago. Senator Kennedy's staffers spent all night studying the Princeton group's files and found not a trace of evidence of Alito's name. How do you reconcile this, Patrick Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they looked at Bill Rusher's files, who ran the organization. Alito probably joined very briefly earlier before Rusher's era. And secondly, my guess is Alito stuck that on his resume because Ed Meese would like it, and that's who he was applying to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean it was puffery?

MR. BUCHANAN: It could have -- he just dropped it in there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it deception?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not deception.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me say this. Let me say this, John. Alito is a fine judge, a distinguished man. And the Democratic Party, the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, treated him as though he belonged in the dock at Nuremberg. Mr. Biden virtually cut his own throat with his own tongue. And I think the rest of the Democrats have disgraced themselves and hurt themselves badly. This guy is going to the Supreme Court -- a victory for Bush, a big victory for Mr. Alito.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the hearings couldn't have gone better for Sam Alito if he had chaired them himself. I don't think the Democrats bullied, although the Republicans like to make it out as though the Democrats really went over the line. But the Democrats fell into the stereotype of the bloviating senators. And we learned a lot more about what they were thinking at any particular moment than what Sam Alito was thinking.

He will join Clarence Thomas and Justice Scalia as one of the most conservative voices on the Supreme Court. And what he was doing, Pat, was sending out signals with his eyes, because you were picking up on it, and you're very happy.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And the rest of America may wake up a little shocked when he adds his voice to this court.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Tony, hold on. The American Bar Association, perfect seal of approval.

STEPHEN L. TOBER (ABA STANDING COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN): (From videotape.) Judge Alito has created a substantial written record over his years of public service. Our three reading groups worked collaboratively to read and evaluate nearly 350 of his published opinions, several dozen of his unpublished opinions, a number of his Supreme Court oral-argument transcripts and corresponding briefs, and other articles and legal memos.

The standing committee unanimously concluded that Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. is well-qualified to serve as associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. His integrity, his professional competence and his judicial temperament are indeed found to be of the highest standard.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Should this overwhelmingly positive endorsement by the ABA, the revered ABA, transform any Democrat who votes against Sam Alito automatically into a Yellow Dog?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. I mean, if you mean Yellow Dog, someone who just votes the Democratic ticket --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, Yellow Dog Democrat.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, although, I mean, I think they can argue they're liberals; they don't want to vote for a conservative. That's a plausible argument if you've got a liberal base.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what kind of a judgment is that to have on the record?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think it's wrong, but I'm saying -- let me go back to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't they blast Republicans for voting that way?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think many Democrats are going to hurt themselves voting no unless they're in a fairly conservative district. So I don't think that's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about virtue? Does that come into play -- virtue?

MR. BLANKLEY: This is Washington DC, sir. (Laughter.)

To answer your first question -- because I thought about it when the issue was raised, and I thought about my own time in college, and what happens is you go to all kinds of political rallies and organizations and meetings, and you can't remember which ones you joined, which ones you just attended a little bit. So I assume that he attended something there, and sadly he was with them, but there was no particular record of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's misremembering? Do you think he's misremembering his life?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. I just explained it. Let me tell you what I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, some people do that; for example, James Frey, who's just written a book which Oprah recommended.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, yeah. Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he has misremembered --

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. I gave you my -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there kind of a justification for that, as Oprah says?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. Look, I gave you my explanation. Let me just briefly say what I think the Democrats did wrong on this hearing, as opposed -- beyond style. They went after him for the first couple of days trying to prove that he was a racist, a bigot, a sexist. That was stupid, because there was no "there" there. So they wasted their time. They should have spent all their time focusing in on the substantive issues where they think the public might be with them and force him to be dancing more than he had to dance. That was, I think, their tactical mistake in their questioning.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm intrigued by this Princeton Group reference. Do you think that the files were vacuumed? Do you think that he's lying on the stand? Do you think that he was lying on his resume when he put it in on his resume? What do you think happened? How do you explain it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I mean, it's one of those mysteries, you know, of distant memory. And God knows to what extent he was really involved with that organization. I can't imagine that it was entirely accidental. So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You say if he did join, it was only because it favored ROTC on campus.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's entirely possible. But if I may say so, it sounds disingenuous to me that that's his rationale today. But, be that as it may, I mean, to go back, there was no way, once they had no record on this thing, that the Democrats could use this in any effective way. It was a desperate ploy, and frankly, not one that had any gravitas or authority on the part of the Democrats, as far as I (could see?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you called Bill Rusher, R-U-S-H-E-R, by the way -- Bill Rusher, publisher of the National Review --

MR. BUCHANAN: I go out to dinner with him when I'm in San Francisco.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he give you anything on this, since he was head of the organization?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I did not call him, but I did read his stuff in National Review online. But look, John, this is the point. This is Bill Rusher's personal files. It's not the whole files of this organization, going back from beginning to end. There's only about four boxes, I understand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think -- MR. BUCHANAN: He wasn't in there. He was not active, John. And the organization, there's nothing wrong with it. Some guys in it believed it should not have gone coed and they're against affirmative action. So am I.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we know what he is -- do you think he's a con man? You know, in other words, he could be a closet liberal.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's one of the most decent, straight guys. Eleanor is right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of all --

MS. CLIFT: He has --

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor is right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of all the things to worry about, I would not worry that he's a closet liberal.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That one is off the table.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he has a psychological affinity to this Princeton group, and that created the impression in his head that he had joined them?

MS. CLIFT: It was a calculated --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think he demonstrated --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: There was a calculated edge to this. He didn't join the group in the burst of youth while he was on the campus. And he remembered it 15 years later, when he's filling out a job application, because it was going to be useful for him, because the Reagan administration didn't like promoting the interests of women and minorities at the expense --

MR. BLANKLEY: That's not true.

MS. CLIFT: -- at the expense of white men, i.e., the legacies, the children of the alumni.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he did it to get the job.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he cited it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is that deception?

MS. CLIFT: He cited it to get the job. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the face of what could be an act of untruthfulness, do you want that man on the Supreme Court?

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: It shows an ability to exploit the situation around him, and that's exactly what he did.

MR. BUCHANAN: He --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. That's exactly what he did in the hearing.

He refused to say Roe was settled law.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he did say --

MS. CLIFT: He said affirmative action is important, but he didn't say it was important enough to have any kind of goals and timetables.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he --

MS. CLIFT: So he is really leaving the mainstream of the court.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she correct on that? Did he not say that it was settled law?

MR. BUCHANAN: Beyond that, he said --

MS. CLIFT: He did not say it was well-settled.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well-settled.

MR. BUCHANAN: He said Roe --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with that?

MS. CLIFT: He said it was not well-settled. He said it depends on the definition of well-settled.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he said it is not -- Roe is not an inexorable command. It is not a super-duper precedent. He opened the door to overturning it in a way that Roberts did not.

MS. CLIFT: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, equal justice under law.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA): (From videotape.) As we have seen from Justice O'Connor's example, even one justice can profoundly alter the meaning of those words for our citizens. Even one justice can deeply affect the rights and liberties of the American people. Even one justice can advance or reverse the progress of our journey. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That one justice is not Sam Alito. Alito is not O'Connor. Shall we find out who he is? Let us assume Alito is confirmed, which is the Washington street opinion. What happens next? Enter Anthony McLeod Kennedy, arguably now the court's most important justice, more important even than the chief justice.

With Alito, the court's political lineup is 4-4-1 -- four liberals, four conservatives, one moderate.

The liberals: Stevens, Souter, Breyer, Ginsburg.

The conservatives: Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito.

The moderate: Anthony Kennedy, the pivot, the swinger. Kennedy swings left: Prayer at high school graduations, no; Roe v. Wade, yes, keep it; flag-burning, okay; sodomy, no ban.

Kennedy swings right: 2000 Florida vote, Bush v. Gore, stop the recount; partial-birth abortion ban, keep it; affirmative-action quotas, no; Boy Scouts banning gays, okay.

Question: Is Kennedy the perfect swing vote? Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, he has been and will be, now that Sandra O'Connor is no longer going to be on the court.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, does that do duty?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, before we get there, let me just say one thing. I think it is too early to predict where John Roberts is going to come out. He is a brilliant lawyer. You can talk to him about legal issues in a very serious way. And it'll be interesting to see if, in the dialogue of the court, that they can move him.

Now, I think it is clear that Kennedy is going to be the most likely to be the swing vote. But I just think it's too early to tell --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- O'Connor, so to speak, as a moderate?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think he is, to be candid with you.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's as bad as O'Connor. But I'll tell you this. You've got four people there -- I think Roberts is going to be more conservative than Mort does -- but I'll tell you this, John. Kennedy may very well be able to be moved over by these four very powerful fellow Catholic intellects beside him on some of these issues. And on a lot of issues, O'Connor was herself the key swing vote. On those, Alito brings it home.

MS. CLIFT: Right. O'Connor's genius was that she really sensed where the country was, and she nibbled away on some of the social issues, which she would never overturn Roe v. Wade. And she created the undue-burden formula that the court uses.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You could read that --

MS. CLIFT: And Kennedy was appointed by Reagan, and the Reagan White House thought that he was a reliable conservative.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MS. CLIFT: He has evolved on abortion rights enough to the left that the social conservatives were trying to impeach him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You could read that very same premise of Eleanor's -- namely that she had a sense of where the country was -- as to making Sandra Day O'Connor a political opportunist.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, let me --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't agree with that. I don't agree with that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point about your question about Kennedy, because obviously basically he's the last swing vote. But what may be important is how Roberts designs and frames and tries to work towards five votes. He has a very subtle mind. And it may be that as the chief justice, as he tries to find five, he can figure out ways to bring Kennedy in by the subtlety of his argument that we haven't had in the past in the chief justice. So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You make it sound like magic.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, no, no.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it is not.

MR. BLANKLEY: You know, it's a very complex process by which the court tries to move to five.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think he's still number one.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, clearly Kennedy is the number one swing vote. But I think Roberts' subtlety of mind may be able to design majorities --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, your subtlety of mind is too much for me.

MS. CLIFT: Overturning --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think --

MS. CLIFT: Overturning Roe is not subtle. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear you.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, there is a serious dialogue among the justices in the court. It is not opportunism. It is really an intellectual dialogue.

And, in fact, as you can see, Sandra Day O'Connor moved in certain ways. I don't know what the -- nobody really knows what the outcome is. Alito is the one guy who is much more predictable to be a conservative, in my judgment, than John Roberts --

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, here's the thing --

MS. CLIFT: Overturning Roe --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- because Roberts has that kind of sophisticated legal mind. You can have that kind of a dialogue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that Kennedy --

MS. CLIFT: Overturning Roe is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kennedy is a practicing Catholic and he voted in favor of retaining Roe v. Wade.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know who misjudged that completely? Jesse Helms. Do you remember that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you. To pick up on what Tony said, Roberts wants this to be a Roberts court. That supports Tony's position, which is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you know that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, because he's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's not an ounce of pride in that guy.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, look -- listen, the guy -- look, he knows Rehnquist led the minority. He wants it to be a Roberts court as it was a Warren court. That means you've got to work as a politician with Tony Kennedy and bring him over on some of these issues. I think he's going to succeed.

MS. CLIFT: Roberts is a laid-back overachiever. MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: But overturning Roe is not subtle, for all his subtlety of mind.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not.

MS. CLIFT: And they are not immune to the fact of what a social revolution it would create in this country --

MR. BUCHANAN: The next justice will do it.

MS. CLIFT: -- especially the political --

MR. BUCHANAN: The next one will do it.

MS. CLIFT: -- appointees of Republican presidents.

MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor, let me --

MS. CLIFT: The Republican Party is full of secret pro-choicers who don't want this to happen, and they have simply used the issue --

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

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point. It's more likely that Roberts is going to do on Roe and a lot of issues what Rehnquist did on Miranda, which is to constantly narrow its application. And I think it's unlikely he's going to overturn, but he may be able to get 5-4 votes for constant narrowing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. BUCHANAN: Kennedy will go with him on that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We are all agreeing on one thing, that as far as political theater is concerned, this confirmation hearing rates a zero. On a political fireworks scale, this was entirely a collection of duds. Am I right or wrong?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It was a borderline disgrace, as far as I'm concerned --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- in terms of the way it was handled, because I think the Democrats, you know, were so in love with the sound of their own voice, they basically didn't make a serious case against Alito. And there was a serious -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Schumer? What about Schumer?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, he did better.

MR. BUCHANAN: Don't hurt yourself, John.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There was a serious case to be made against Alito.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will he be confirmed, yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to be confirmed, and the Democrats have hurt themselves badly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many votes?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would say he will get 55. (Laughs.) Maybe 56 or 57.

MS. CLIFT: He'll be confirmed, and Democrats won't hurt themselves with a no vote. And a lot of them are going to vote no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to give a vote number?

MS. CLIFT: Democrats will vote against him in the high 30s.

MR. BLANKLEY: His vote will be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That sounds like a 70.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- 65, plus or minus three or four.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Any Republican defections?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think so.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think he'll get between 55 and 60 votes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll go with you, Tony. I think there'll be about 65.

Issue Two: Media Brownout?

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) We will see more tough fighting and we will see more sacrifice in 2006, because the enemies of freedom in Iraq continue to sow violence and destruction. We'll also see more progress toward victory.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More sacrifice and more progress in 2006? Americans may well see less sacrifice and less progress in Iraq in 2006 if American television continues, as it has of late, many believe. Two weeks into 2006, with 30 dead U.S. troops in Iraq, January is shaping up to be the deadliest month since the war began almost three years ago. And this week another American journalist was kidnapped, freelance reporter Jill Carroll, 29 years old. On assignment for the Christian Science Monitor, Carroll and her interpreter were seized by gunmen in Baghdad en route to an interview with a prominent Iraqi politician.

Ms. Carroll was fully aware of the risks of her job. She had covered kidnappings for the Monitor, and last year spoke at the memorial service of a friend killed by a car bomb in Iraq.

JILL CARROLL: (From videotape.) She said "I love you" more often than anyone, and meant it every single time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why has news coverage of Iraq and priority placement of the issue declined, despite the increased carnage? Has battle fatigue set in? The Tyndall Report says yes. It monitors network news. The study found that time devoted to Iraq coverage has dropped precipitously since the Iraq war began in 2003. That year NBC, ABC and CBS devoted over 4,100 network minutes to covering the war. Last year, fewer than 2,000 network minutes were devoted to Iraq.

What's happening? Here's an admission from a network news online blog. "We say, with all the genuine apolitical and nonpartisan human concern that we can muster, that the death and carnage in Iraq is truly staggering. But we are resigned to the notion that it simply isn't going to break through to American news organizations, or, for the most part, to Americans."

Question: So the insurgency is expanding, the body count is rising, now 2,214 Americans, and no exit is in sight. Is this a media blackout or a media brownout or a media burnout? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I'm not convinced of your statement that the insurgency is rising as a long-term trend. The track has been for the last year it goes up a little bit and it goes down a little bit. It's been, overall, about flat. But the larger point is that it is -- although the Iraq war, both the deaths to Americans and the strategic importance of it, remains immensely important, it has, at a technical level, become more of a background issue in the public mind because we've been living with it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what do we do? Is it a ratings issue? If you don't get the ratings -- and actually people now turn off the set if they hear Iraq news because they're tired of it.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I'm -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's viewer fatigue.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm just trying to say that it is not as newsworthy. Each new event isn't as newsworthy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what is the obligation of the press in this regard?

MR. BLANKLEY: The obligation of the press is twofold: One, to make its own independent news judgment; and two, simultaneously, to pay some attention to what the viewers and readers are going to listen to and tune into.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, there are some political reasons, too, and one of them is this. The president successfully, in the last six weeks of last year, defeated the Democrats on this issue. Secondly, Murtha and Cindy Sheehan can't do it. You need a Gene McCarthy or a Bobby Kennedy, a major prominent leading establishment Democrat, to take the president on on the war. And none of them will come forward and do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why are the Democrats so pusillanimous?

MS. CLIFT: Because the White House has the biggest bully pulpit, and they basically say that you're aiding and comforting the enemy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they cow the Democrats on this issue?

MS. CLIFT: The Democrats are cowed. And also there are no good answers for Iraq. Nobody really knows what to do. But the American public has the luxury of turning off Iraq because it's being fought by a small group of people, and many people are not involved in the war. We're not asked to sacrifice. And the media has a problem because the media wants to find something new. It's like Groundhog Day. It's the same story day in and day out over there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you not think that this is a commercial subject and it is not a psychological subject, that it's not viewer apathy -- it is viewer apathy; the networks sense that. They're going for ratings. Ratings brings in the advertising, and that's the answer?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, let me just put it this way. The overall context of this is I think most of the country realizes you just cannot leave now. It would be a catastrophe for the United States if we left. So what becomes news, which is something new, is whether or not there's a political upheaval, as there was when Murtha made his statement. The actual conduct of the war, going on over and over again, is just repetitious. It's not something that's going to command --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, it's same old, same old? MR. ZUCKERMAN: To a degree, that is true. Like it or not, that's the way the -- in our society, we get tired of these stories. And it's not as if the media ignores it, but there has to be some catalytic --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there was a catalytic impact last week with the death of that young woman.

MR. BUCHANAN: The catalyst, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That could have been spun out into a larger picture of the danger that journalists face of having to stay in the green zone, of taking only government briefings on which to work, whatever it is. But keep the Iraq issue alive.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he has a good point. Where is the leadership among the Democrats?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, your catalyst --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There isn't one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?

MR. BUCHANAN: Your catalyst, John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, who is the leader of the Democrats today? Is it John Kerry? He doesn't have that kind of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it Kennedy? Is Kennedy same old, same old?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, to a degree he is. But Hillary Clinton is not same old, same old, and she's just parsing everything very carefully because she doesn't want to be --

MS. CLIFT: Blaming the Democrats -- they don't control the White House. They don't control either house of Congress. They don't control the courts. This is Bush's war, and it's up to him to find us a way out of it.

MR. BUCHANAN: The issue, John, is Iran -- is Iran. That's the lead issue in the newspapers day in and day out. That's the crisis that's coming.

MS. CLIFT: And they don't know what to do about that either.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the crisis that is generated by the press in order to get a readership that is away from Iraq. Iraq is a far bigger issue than Iran.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's nonsense. MR. BUCHANAN: This is big stuff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, including suicides, 2,214; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, injured, mentally ill, all now out of Iraq, 51,600; Iraqi civilians dead, 120,690.

Issue Three: Can You Hear Me Now?

If you want a happier family, don't answer the phone.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have found that intrusive cell phones and pagers are taking a toll on American family life. The university spent two years studying 1,300 adults who regularly made or received calls or used a pager. The data show that these people were more likely to report a, quote/unquote, "negative spillover" from their work into their family lives.

Question: The old etiquette had a 9:00 p.m. cutoff for socially acceptable calls; business calls only during business hours, except in emergency. Can we return to the old etiquette? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: You can return to that etiquette by not answering your cell phone or putting it on mute. There is some control over this. Now, I actually think cell phones keep families together. Kids who go off to college, adult children, families really do stay in touch. I'd be much more concerned about the fact you can go online and for $89 you can buy anybody's cell-phone records. General Wesley Clark's cell-phone records were all over the Internet this week. So there are much bigger --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did they show, by the way? Do you happen to know?

MS. CLIFT: I didn't scan them. It showed lots of calls to political consultants preparing a presidential race. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor is half-right. The cell phone does connect people who are apart, but it divides people who are together and it intrudes in otherwise normal conversation. But getting back to the old etiquette, it's gone, gone, gone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we've got to get away from that mantra of 24/7 -- too much of that formula.

Forced answer -- what's the question?

MR. BUCHANAN: Who won the week? Bush/Alito. Democrats lost it.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Alito/Pat Buchanan court.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A Republican win. MR. BLANKLEY: Bush/Alito and conservative principles.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who won?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely, Bush/Alito. And the Democrats lost.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everybody's right. It's definitely a Republican win.

Bye bye.

END.