Share

THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; STEVE THOMMA, KNIGHT RIDDER

TAPED: FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 21-22, 2006

------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2006 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500 1000 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please visit http://www.fednews.com or call(202)347-1400
------------------------------------------------------------


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Osama's Deal.

(Translation of Osama bin Laden.) We do not object to offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to. We are a nation that Allah banned from lying and stabbing others in the back. Both parties of the truce will enjoy stability and security to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. They were destroyed by war. This will prevent hundreds of billions of dollars from going to influential people and merchants of war in America, those who supported Bush's election. (End of translation.)

This new audio tape from Osama bin Laden and second truce offer aired on Al-Jazeera Thursday. The full tape runs 10 minutes and is thought to be about two months old. It also contains a blood-curdling threat.

(Translation of bin Laden.) The war against America and its allies will not be confined to Iraq. Iraq has become a magnet for attracting and training talented fighters. Our mujaheddin were able to overcome all security measures in European countries. You saw their operations in major European capitals. As for similar operations happening in America, it's only a matter of time. (End of translation.)

Question: Is bin Laden bluffing? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I take him seriously for this reason. What bin Laden is doing -- he's been eclipsed by Zarqawi and Zawahiri. And what he is doing, he is saying with this what Clinton said: "I am relevant. I am here. I am alive. I take credit for what happened in Europe. I take credit for the fact that you're being driven out of Afghanistan and Iraq. And I also am telling you now, you're going to be hit again."

I think this time, if something doesn't happen, his credibility is on the line. I think he's put it there because he may know something is going to happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do you think that bin Laden wants President Bush to stay in power or to go?

MS. CLIFT: I doubt that he thinks that he has the power to dislodge President Bush. And he probably knows enough about our policies in this country that Bush is going to be gone at some point. This is not a personal thing between bin Laden and President Bush. It's a much bigger issue than that. And while I think he's reminding everybody he's still in power and he's still around and he's still alive, I do take him seriously as well. He was dangerous on 9/11. He's been dangerous. He will continue to be dangerous until we get him -- not so much in the operational sense; I don't think he's, you know, plotting the specific plans. But he is the engine of the fanaticism. He is an inspiration. He's no longer just a man. He's a movement. He's created a movement, and therefore he is quite dangerous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to develop my line of thought for a minute on whether bin Laden wants President Bush in power this year, 2006. And the answer is up to you. But President Bush is responsible for Iraq, the invasion of Iraq. He's responsible for the occupational forces in Iraq. And by his own expressed wish, Osama wants those troops out because he doesn't want non-Muslims occupying Muslim land.

Now, he also knows that there's no way he can get Bush out through an impeachment with a Democratic -- excuse me -- with a Republican Congress. And he knows that the only way he can uproot that is by not bombing the United States, because if he were to bomb the United States, President Bush's ratings would soar and an impeachment action undertaken by the Democrats would fizzle overnight. Do you understand the logic? And what do you think of it?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, if what you said is true, then bin Laden would have been lying on the tape, because he said there is an operation. So that would make him a liar. But on the tape --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he didn't --

MR. BLANKLEY: But on the tape he said he doesn't lie. He's not allowed to lie. So we have some internal inconsistencies in the tape.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he didn't say when.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, let me make a point --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, is it in bin Laden's interest for President Bush to stay in power this year in order to help the Democrats mobilize the anti-war effort and then be elected to control the Congress in the fall, to control the House in the fall, and then to bring an impeachment action after that?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me suggest that I think it's a sucker's bet for anybody to try to guess what bin Laden is doing. And frankly, listening to the comments of various aspects over the last couple of days, some think he's doing this out of weakness, some out of strength. Some think he's speaking to the Muslim population. Some think he's speaking to America. I don't think anybody knows. I think people are projecting their own assessment of issues in interpreting bin Laden. But I think the normal mistake that people make is to underestimate an enemy. And so I take him -- I agree with Eleanor and Pat; I take him seriously until we have convincing evidence to the contrary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Steve, welcome. But I'm not getting the response to my questions from these deadbeats that I thought I'd get. (Laughter.) The question is whether or not Osama's strategic and tactical behavior is governed by American politics. Do you think it is? Do you think that American politics plays a dominant role, a small role or no role?

MR. THOMMA: It plays a role. He is a politician and he's reading polls. He's reading our polls, and he shows there's division in this country. He'd like to exploit that. But he's reading the polls in the Middle East, too, where he knows he's unpopular. The only person who's lost more popularity in the Middle East than George Bush is bin Laden.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is that?

MR. THOMMA: Because he's killing Arabs and Muslims, innocent Arabs and Muslims. MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he has the astuteness to realize that any impeachment action can only be brought if there is no bombing on the United States by him, because Bush's popularity would soar? Or do you believe that proposition that Bush's popularity would return overnight if there were a terrorist attack here?

MR. THOMMA: I don't agree with that premise at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do not.

MR. THOMMA: No. I don't know what public opinion will do the second time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, public opinion, I believe, has gone up since we have seen bin Laden on the screen again.

MR. THOMMA: I haven't seen a poll since that happened yesterday.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you be surprised to hear that? This has happened in the past.

MR. THOMMA: I wouldn't be surprised to see it go up. But a second attack would call into question whether George Bush has done a good job protecting the country.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he --

MS. CLIFT: You know, John, if your theory is right, then bin Laden is totally misreading the American public, because my first reaction when I saw that tape is that Bush should put this guy on the payroll, because Americans react with revulsion when they hear this and they rally around. And it's just like the weekend before the '04 election when that tape appeared, and that rallied some votes, I believe, for President Bush. And this tape occurs, and I don't think Americans are running out thinking, "Gee, we want to change presidents or change parties. Now is not the time."

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly, John. You know, when you get Bush standing up and his adversary is bin Laden, Bush naturally goes up. But bin Laden is stepping into the American political situation. He's dealing little cards, frankly, to the anti-war movement when he says, in effect, "Look, we won't attack you. We're only attacking you because you're over here. If you go home, we won't attack you." Now, frankly, a lot of anti-war on the right and on the left believe that thesis, and bin Laden is playing to that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do the Democrats hope that bin Laden will not strike the United States in a terrorist attack, besides the obvious reason?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, if bin Laden strikes the United States --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- we rally to the president of the United States --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And then what happens?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- who leads the counterstrike.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happens to their impeachment plan then?

MR. BUCHANAN: There isn't any impeachment plan. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, wait a second. Okay --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if they were leading the House of Representatives, would there be a viable impeachment plan in 2007 --

MR. BUCHANAN: They would never do --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with the advance of the continued deaths?

MR. BUCHANAN: They will never impeach the president for doing something for national security, like wiretapping.

MS. CLIFT: Okay, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Therefore, it's in their interest, on a dual basis, for the obvious humanitarian and patriotic --

MR. BUCHANAN: They don't want --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- but also for raw political, because they want a successful impeachment action so that they can take over the Congress.

MR. BUCHANAN: You strike Bush and you help Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: After they take over the Congress. MS. CLIFT: You've got the sequence wrong. You can't have a successful impeachment and then take over the Congress. It's got to be the other way around if it's going to happen at all. But, look, if there's any rallying, it will be very short-lived, because people are going to want to know, "Why didn't you keep us safe after all this money and expenditure of lives?" And when Scott McClellan says, "We don't negotiate with terrorists; we put them out of business" -- well, I don't think bin Laden is out of business.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No one seems to be traveling down my strategic thinking except possibly Steve here. My question is, if the Democrats take over the House, is an impeachment action then a viability, bearing in mind that we are 11 months away from 2007 and the situation in Iraq is not good for the Americans? The insurgency appears to be growing and the deaths increase, and, of course, the wounded, the maimed, the psychologically impaired. I mean, the American public is not going to take this much longer. Won't they be ripe for an impeachment action if the Democrats win the House? And can they drive it through on the strength of their numbers then?

MR. THOMMA: I think the notion that the Democrats would suspend impeachment because of a time of war is an -- I can't answer that. We saw in December of '98 the Republicans wouldn't suspend impeachment because we were bombing Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I don't think they have the internal mobilization there to do it.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, impeachment right now, from what we know, especially about the NSA, would be suicidal for the Democrats, because by and large the American people want the war on terror fought by Jack Bauer rules.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Osama wants an impeachment action?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Osama likes the fact that the United States is in Iran (sic/means Iraq) and Afghanistan. He doesn't care about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Osama wants impeachment because he sees it as a form of disgrace and a rejection of democracy by the American people. True or false?

MS. CLIFT: The only way --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he would like to see an impeachment, yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because of the disgrace that he sees associated with it.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's as out of touch as you are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) MR. BLANKLEY: You are projecting so much onto bin Laden --

MS. CLIFT: Impeachment --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, yes. I think we have failed to reckon with the role that the United States political situation takes in his thinking.

MS. CLIFT: Impeachment is a political act. It can only be done by the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Republicans. It is not going to happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's true. But that's all going to change, presumably -- I presume your point of view is in November.

Exit question: Who's winning the war on terror, Bush or bin Laden? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Bush is winning the war on terror.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The terrorists have been energized. It's hard to say that Bush is winning. The terrorist threat, I think, today is greater than it was before 9/11.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's probably about 10 or 20 years premature to make an assessment. The idea that we're winning the war is nonsense. The threat remains. It's probably growing around the world with the spread of radical Islam and the weapons of mass destruction that will become available. And so it's premature.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that long-winded non- answer?

MR. THOMMA: Two things. I don't think the war on terror is between Bush and bin Laden. I think it's between civilization and barbarians.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not denying that. I mean, you know -- and I take some offense at your saying that. I recognize that. But I also recognize the importance of the occupying force in Iraq affecting the thinking and the political strategizing of Osama. Please continue.

MR. THOMMA: I agree with Tony. I don't think you can keep score at this stage of an asymmetrical war, where two sides define victory completely differently. MR. BUCHANAN: But we haven't been attacked in four years. I mean, you've got to give the president and the United States some credit. I agree with you that Iraq is a mistake in the war on terror. But the war on terror, narrowly speaking --

MS. CLIFT: We haven't been attacked, but we're spending billions and we've lost a lot of lives in Iraq in a war that's not containing terrorism.

MR. THOMMA: Spain has been attacked. There have been attacks in Malaysia.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The terrorist number in Iraq, the insurgency, is multiplying faster than we can neutralize it. Iraq has become, as bin Laden says, a training ground and a mecca, a magnet, for drawing insurgents there. True?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, that's true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And finally, Osama is still free. And we in this country are seeing our civil rights dwindle in the eyes of many. So, therefore, I think it's pretty clear who's winning this war.

Issue Two: The 'I' Word - impeachment, the impeachment of President George W. Bush. It used to be a Washington whisper. Now the talk is open -- newspapers, the net, in conversations, in one magazine cover story, The Nation, and in Congress. Why? Government spying on U.S. citizens with no independent oversight.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: After Al Gore's searing speech this week, Gore was asked whether warrantless domestic eavesdropping is an impeachable offense. Gore's answer: "It can be. Article 2 of the impeachment charges against President Nixon was warrantless wiretapping, which the president said was necessary for national security," unquote.

Question: Did Gore land a punch, or was he swinging in the air? I ask you, Steve.

MR. THOMMA: He didn't land a punch, but he jumped aboard a growing movement on the left that's trying to get some attention to this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he positioning himself to become leader of the Democratic Party?

MR. THOMMA: No. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's not?

MR. THOMMA: No. He's not running.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's running?

MR. THOMMA: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you say that with such assurance?

MR. THOMMA: Because I've talked to a lot of Gore people who tell me he's doing none of the other things necessary to run. He's not calling any of the money people. He's not getting anything lined up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's he doing? Is this for broad-gauge Democratic reasons?

MR. THOMMA: I think he's interested in public policy, and I think he might have a personal grudge against George Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think he thinks his role in public life is to say the tough things that the Democratic Party should be saying and isn't. And I think he should preface it by saying, "I'm not running for president." But he can't bring himself to do that, because I think he hopes in his heart of hearts that there will be a groundswell and the party will draft him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Also --

MS. CLIFT: And he is the only candidate who could jump-start a campaign instantaneously.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're seeing hearings develop on this question of warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Correct? He wants to put pressure on that committee. "Either you do your work properly or I'm out here, and I will come back and say, 'Get an independent counsel,' because the Republicans who are running the committee, especially if it's Roberts -- because he wants it over there at Intelligence, as opposed to Specter at Justice -- if Roberts gets it and it's a phony stage committee -- Pat Roberts -- then I will be back to call for an independent counsel." So he's pressuring the committee. Is that true or false?

MR. BLANKLEY: He's not pressuring the committee. But I disagree with Eleanor. Gore got half the votes and a few more in 2000.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's back?

MR. BLANKLEY: If the Iraq war remains unpopular in the Democratic Party in 2007, Gore is much better positioned than Hillary, because they're going to want a champion, and he's -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He certainly showed a lot (more?) on this speech than we've ever seen Gore before.

Item: "Specter" of Impeachment. It's not just Democrats talking about impeachment.

Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the astute chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that held hearings on President Bush's Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito, and will hold a committee vote on him next week, brought up the subject of impeachment himself when asked about presidential circumvention of the law.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): (From videotape.) You're asking really theory. What's the remedy? Impeachment is the remedy. After impeachment you could have a criminal prosecution.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Specter was quick to add this.

SEN. SPECTER: (From videotape.) But I don't see any talk about impeachment here. I don't think anybody doubts that the president is making a good-faith effort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it was Specter himself who first raised the word and the issue of impeachment, not others on the panel.

Question: Has Arlen Specter given the impeachment issue legitimacy, Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he has not, John. Arlen does that all the time. He throws something up and then backs away from it. But Tony's got a real point here. The anti-war movement is enormous in the Democratic Party; probably 70 percent. It is wide open. No one's leading it. I see Gore waiting until after 2006. And if nobody steps out, I would not be surprised to see him step out.

MS. CLIFT: Tony said he disagreed with me, but what I said was that Gore is one of the few people who could instantaneously start a presidential campaign. He has 100 percent name recognition and he has the MoveOn.org machinery to do it.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Specter is also talking in code there. He's saying, "If I don't land with the committee that's going to govern these hearings on warrantless wiretapping, then I'm out here and I'm free to mention the word impeachment every now and then." And I'm sure that Frist knows that, so he's going to lay off giving his support to Roberts. You got that all? File it away, Tony. You can use it in your column. MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Item: Murtha-Moran meeting.

A town-hall meeting two weeks ago in a Virginia suburb of Washington featured Congressmen John Murtha and James Moran, both Democrats. The hall was jam-packed. Five hundred people had to be turned away. In the Q&A, an audience member asked why his son, now serving in Iraq, was sent there unprepared for combat. He then asked this.

FATHER OF SOLDIER: (From videotape.) My question is very simple. With this criminal negligence going on, why shouldn't you impeach Bush-Cheney?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before either congressman could answer, the audience burst into applause for the question and the questioner that was sustained for over half a minute. Some calculated at two minutes, but it indicates to us that it was about half a minute. How big is the impeachment talk when you see demonstrations like this? And should it be taken seriously? I'm asking you.

MR. THOMMA: It's a very big, red-hot issue on the left. That meeting was organized -- not organized, but promoted by MoveOn.org, a very left group. It was packed. It was a very liberal group in a very liberal district. What's really interesting is Jim Moran, the congressman -- what's not on the tape is him saying afterward, "Impeachment is not going to happen."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let me ask you this. Do you get anything in your mail on the subject of impeachment?

MR. THOMMA: I must get 20 to 50 e-mails a day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty e-mails a day calling for it?

MR. THOMMA: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it -- it's not coerced. Is it organized mail?

MR. THOMMA: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is organized.

Exit question: Would Bush be wise to back down from this escalating constitutional conflict of warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens because that is the engine driving the impeachment talk? Or should he stand his ground? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: The dumbest thing he could do would be to back down, because he's got the Constitution and the lawyers on his side. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: No way he backs down. They're going to try to politicize the '06 elections with this issue, the same way they did the '02 elections, with homeland security.

MR. BLANKLEY: It would be both unwise and unpatriotic.

MR. THOMMA: I don't think it matters. I think he's made it such a constitutional confrontation, it's going to take the other branches of government to settle.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he should stay with his -- stand his ground, by all means.

Issue Three: Political Potpourri.

Item: Hillary's race card.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation. And you know what I'm talking about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does Hillary's use of the word "plantation" mean, Eleanor Clift?

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's run -- the House is run like a dictatorship. The Democrats are excluded from governing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: She might have used the phrase "banana republic" and she would have offended fewer people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: But Newt Gingrich used the same phrase and said he was leading the slave rebellion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, a plantation has slaves. So if the masters are the Republicans, then the Democrats are slaves. That means there's a condition of enslavement operating in the United States Congress. Right? What kind of a way is that to describe the citadel of democracy? Our democracy is a state of enslavement. Do you think that airs well around the world?

MS. CLIFT: Political hyperbole, John. Have you ever heard of it? (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get a quick point in here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's one of the slaves. You're one of the masters. MR. BLANKLEY: Look, it is not a coincidence, comrades, that she used that phrase on Martin Luther King Day. But having said that, I have to tell you that the metaphor of Congress as a plantation has been around for years. People use it casually. When I worked up there --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, right now the party that is the slaves -- the Democrats are slaves.

Item: Hear me roar.

First Lady Laura Bush said this week she believes America is ready to elect a woman president. The first lady added her voice to those who want Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to make the presidential run.

FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: (From videotape.) Sure. I'd love to see her run. She's terrific.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rice's response? "The first lady is a wonderful person. But, you know, I've spoken on this. I know what I'm good at. I know what I want to do, and that's not it."

Is Rice a possible contender, a plausible contender, for the Republican nomination?

MR. THOMMA: Not by herself. We haven't elected a secretary of State in 150 years. But if the president helps her, and he might, she could have a real shot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that she is a closet liberal.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's ridiculous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that she supported Gary Hart in 1984.

MR. THOMMA: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that her domestic policy is quite liberal. She could never sustain a presidential Republican primary. True or false, Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: She couldn't go through Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and survive.

MS. CLIFT: She'd be a great running mate for whoever the Republicans choose. MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Life in the Fast Lane.

A 23-year-old pregnant woman was given a citation two and a half months ago for driving in an HOV lane without a second passenger. When troopers pulled over the driver, Candice Dickinson, for improper use of a high-occupancy-vehicle lane, Dickinson protested the ticket. She said that she did have a second passenger -- her unborn child.

Ms. Dickinson was nine months pregnant. Her viable fetus justified her use of the lane, she said. An Arizona judge, however, upheld the $367 fine.

Question: What does this ruling say about fetal rights? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I wonder if she buys two tickets when she goes to the movies or takes a train. I think this is sort of a back-door effort to try to get a fetus recognized as a human being, and I don't think that's the road we want to go down --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- to put an additional burden on a woman --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you favor a traffic-court judge declaring her viable nine-month-old baby to be a non-person? Is that what you're telling me?

MS. CLIFT: If it was a nine-month-old baby and it was born --

MR. BLANKLEY: John, let me --

MS. CLIFT: Let me finish. If it was a nine-month-old baby born, that would be another thing -- or if she was driving herself to the hospital --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that the child is viable at 21 months (sic/means weeks).

MS. CLIFT: No, I don't buy that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point. This is not about fetal rights. It's about legislative intent. The legislative intent of HOV lanes is to get people who have the option of driving separately to drive together. The fetus, whether it was alive or anything else, did not have an option. And therefore, legislative intent was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Typical legalistic, near-sighted answer from Tony. MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: "King Kong" and "Walk the Line" don't get best picture. "Brokeback Mountain" does, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Seeing Justice Roberts line up with Scalia and Thomas has stiffened Democratic spines. Alito will get very few; maybe only two Democratic votes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's trending towards, I think, a John Boehner win in the Republican leadership.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Boehner?

MR. BLANKLEY: Boehner.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, no. You're missing the boat there. They want scorched-earth expulsions at the top of the Republican Party. You know that's what they need to recover.

MR. THOMMA: Tom DeLay, if he doesn't turn his campaign around, will face pressure from Republicans to get out before he loses his seat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Get out -- you mean, get out of Congress.

MR. THOMMA: Drop his re-election bid --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. THOMMA: -- where he's losing now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The troubled Medicare prescription drug bill will be withdrawn to undergo major surgery. And it will get it, and it will survive.

Cheers to Lionel Barber, our popular Financial Times pinch- hitter. Lionel has relocated to London to take over the reins as editor of the FT Worldwide. Did you know that, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I did. Congrats. Good man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Congratulations. We all congratulate him. But we'll make sure that Lionel comes back to give us the time to give us a Barber fix. Bye bye.

END.