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"THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP"

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; EDWARD LUCE, THE FINANCIAL TIMES

TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 25-26, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Rope-a-Dope?

SENATE MINORITY LEADER HARRY REID (D-NV): (From videotape.) The president is bankrupting, if he hasn't already, our country. I am very concerned about our country -- a war in Iraq, intractable, $2 billion a week, no energy independence, no health care. Education is in trouble. That's what we've gotten with Republican leadership.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush is on the ropes. There is hardly an issue that critics are not attacking him on. The president's approval rating is down to 36 percent. And right track/wrong track telling polling data reveals what track Americans say the country is on: Today, 62 percent wrong track. But the president is standing his ground and returning fire; for example, domestic wiretapping without a judge's warrant. The president claims he can do such eavesdropping as long as it's undertaken to protect the security of the American people. Bush further says that if Democrats think he is wrong, they should have the guts to come forward and to say so.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) They ought to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, "Vote for me. I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they aren't speaking up, except for Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russell Feingold. When he urged his colleagues in Congress to vote for his resolution censuring the president for wiretapping without a judge's okay, they scattered, practically trampling each other in flight.

Question: Is President Bush reinvigorating his presidency, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he's solidifying his base. Certainly he had a good week, John. But the president's advantage is this. Look, if this is a referendum on Bush in the fall, the Republicans are wiped out.

What the president is going to do is pick a fight with the Democrats, with the people like Reid and Pelosi and the others. He's going to pick his issues on securing the country with wiretaps. "I'm not going to walk away from Iraq. I'm going to appoint good judges. I'm going to have tax cuts and we're going to keep them." He's going to find issues after issues where he is strongest and do battle with them.

And if these Democrats think they can sit there and hide and win this election, they're mistaken. The president's advantage is he's got conviction and beliefs and he's a fighter, and he'll put everything on the line and he's got nothing to lose.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: His only card is that he won't back down. And the rhetoric that he put out this week is all something that the American people have heard before. I agree that maybe his base will respond, but I think everybody else has pretty much tuned him out.

There's a frantic quality to it. It reminds me of the first President Bush when he was accused of being out of touch with the country, went to New Hampshire and read his talking-points message, "I care." This president is reading his talking-points message, "I have a plan." I just don't think that saying we're going to win, we're going to have victory, without giving credible evidence, is going to work anymore with the American people. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is she overlooking?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the frantic quality --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Democrats?

MR. BLANKLEY: The frantic quality was the media this week frantically defending themselves from the charge that they weren't reporting fairly on Iraq. And the best thing going for Bush are people like Minority Leader Reid in the Senate, who made a threat that he was going to filibuster reform of the borders legislation. And so the best thing going for Bush is the Democrats. But the best thing going for the Democrats is, of course, Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, Reid and the Democrats are on the wrong side of the immigration issue. Is that what you're saying?

MR. BLANKLEY: If they kill -- if nothing gets out of the Senate and signed to the president on immigration reform, they're going to be able to point, from this week's statement by Senator Reid, that he's going to do everything he can to block it. They'll be able to try to pass off the blame on the inept Senator Reid.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the president was asked at a press conference this week whether he is planning to bring new blood into his administration. He hinted yes. The military death toll in Iraq approaches 2,500, and the outlay for the war is approaching $300 billion.

There is speculation that Donald Rumsfeld may be on the way out. Furthermore, Rummy does not hold the same sway in meetings anymore. "He's treated as an eccentric old uncle who is ignored," writes columnist Maureen Dowd.

MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When asked about Dowd, Rumsfeld dismissed her with a sneer.

DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) If you believe everything you read in Maureen Dowd, you'd better get a life.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Rumsfeld has new teeth? Did you see that? That was not a smile. It was a rictus.

MR. LUCE: I don't know him well enough to make that judgment. And as a British person, I'm told I'm not allowed to comment on American teeth. (Laughter.) But I do feel that if he's going to stand down, he should stand down now, because who'd want to take over a job like that when there's only one or two years left of it? You've got to give three years to whoever's going to succeed him. And if he's going to stand down, it should be sooner. MS. CLIFT: Rumsfeld is the embodiment of what the majority of the American people consider as a failed policy in Iraq. He is responsible for us not having enough soldiers in there, for the soldiers not having body armor, for punishing General Shinseki for saying we needed more troops.

And in fairness, Rumsfeld was never one of the big neocon hawkish warriors. His ideology was we need a smaller army. And in the service of that ideology, he has helped create the disastrous situation we now have in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the criticism against Mr. Rumsfeld that gives it gale force is the critique of retired Army General Paul Eaton. Rumsfeld put Eaton in charge of training the Iraqi military three years ago. Here's his criticism. Quote: "Secretary Rumsfeld has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is, far more than anyone else, responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down."

Question: Would a Rumsfeld resignation reinvigorate the Bush presidency? Edward.

MR. LUCE: I guess it depends who he is replaced with and what that person does with it. Is it a mandate to change direction, or is it just more of the same? I think if you had somebody like Senator Lieberman or Richard Armitage, who would have credibility with the military, who I think has got a much more realistic track record of looking at the Iraq situation --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is -- you're asking, is it a Clark Clifford moment where McNamara is identified with a policy to bring in Clark Clifford and he's moving it in a different direction. That's one thing. But if the president plans, as I believe he does, a slow draw-down of American troops, transfer of fighting power and responsibility to the Iraqis, I think he's better off leaving Rumsfeld in there, because Rumsfeld gets all the lightning bolts and the shots. And you remove him out there and that leaves Cheney and Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a very discerning comment. However, it misses one fundamental point that kind of eviscerates it. How can they get another appointee to the secretary of Defense through this United States Senate unless it is your remarkable suggestion of Joe Lieberman?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, no. The Republicans control it now. They could get him through now before November. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But without there being blood all over the floor.

MR. BUCHANAN: Not for a new one.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, a couple of things. First of all, the president doesn't want somebody to close down the war in Iraq. So he's satisfied -- you know, so he's not looking for a Clark Clifford.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what does that mean? What are you saying, that he's doing that on political grounds?

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm saying the same thing I said last week. The president is not looking for an exit strategy. If he's looking for a chauffeur for an exit strategy, he might find another secretary of Defense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can't believe you think that. His radar is going all the time in the back of his head on how to get out.

MR. BLANKLEY: I know. That's why the president said this week that it would be future presidents who would decide when we're going to leave. So he's clearly not looking for an exit strategy.

MS. CLIFT: That was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's even gone along quietly with this new committee that consists of Republicans and Democrats, headed up by James Baker among Republicans and Lee Hamilton the Democrats.

MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't go along with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait, I want to read these names.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was foisted on him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's Robert Gates on the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani, Alan Simpson; on the Democratic side -- and, by the way, Sandra Day O'Connor.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the other side it's William Perry, Vernon Jordan, Charles Robb and Leon Panetta.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Republican Congress --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quite a crew. And don't think that that is going to go into the top drawer when that comes back.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Republican Congress insisted on it, and he had to acquiesce. It's a congressional committee foisted on him. By the way, regarding the retired general, the courage of these retired generals speaking out -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to pick him apart?

MR. BLANKLEY: -- would be more impressive if they showed that same courage when they were on the job.

MS. CLIFT: The fire --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meaning when? When? When?

MR. BUCHANAN: They aren't MacArthurs. They don't speak out --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's kind of below the belt, isn't it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Tony's got a point. Where are the generals who stand up when these decisions are being made and saying, "No, we don't have enough troops, sir"?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not in our military history in this country. You know that.

MR. BUCHANAN: MacArthur. What about him? He spoke --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's one exception -- one exception.

MR. BLANKLEY: General Singlaub, who resigned (from?) Jimmy Carter over Korean troops.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's two -- two.

MS. CLIFT: General Shinseki did say we need more troops, and they moved him aside.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's an urban myth.

MS. CLIFT: And to sit here and blame the generals is --

MR. BLANKLEY: You're repeating --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me -- is typically --

MR. BLANKLEY: You're repeating an urban myth.

MS. CLIFT: -- is typically passing the buck, which is what this administration does.

MR. BLANKLEY: He was already --

MS. CLIFT: The biggest -- excuse me, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, finish.

MS. CLIFT: The biggest -- give me a chance. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, please.

MS. CLIFT: The biggest mistake this president made was to suggest that the decision about withdrawing troops will be made by future presidents and Iraqi governments.

MR. BLANKLEY: Now let me get my point in.

MS. CLIFT: It looks like he is passing the buck.

MR. BLANKLEY: Now let me get my point in, because General Shinseki was already slated to retire before he made the statement. This is an urban myth, perpetuated by anti-Bush people.

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor, let me tell you where you're wrong. Politically the president may have been mistaken by saying, "Somebody else will do it." But the message, frankly, it sends to the enemy is, "You're going to have to deal with me for three more years." So that is not a bad message to send to the enemy.

MS. CLIFT: The message it sends --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Edward, I want to --

MS. CLIFT: The message it sends to the --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, wait a second --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. The message it sends to the Iraqis is "Big Daddy is going to be here to help back you up. You don't have to take command of your government and your country."

MR. BLANKLEY: Paul Begala --

MS. CLIFT: That's the error there.

MR. BLANKLEY: Paul Begala made the same charge on CNN, and CNN fact-checked and Wolf Blitzer found that Paul Begala, just like you, is wrong on that allegation.

MS. CLIFT: (Do you want us?) to get a life, Tony? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think George Bush, Edward, has lost touch with reality?

MR. LUCE: I'm told that he likes to create his own reality, and that was one of the very striking things that one of his aides said, and it was quoted again and again. I think maybe that's an urban myth, but that did seem to fit with how he's pursued a lot of his policies -- the whole flowers, being greeted with flowers; the whole democracy in Iran thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What percentage of the electorate -- by the way, you notice that I quoted the Times here a couple of times.

MR. LUCE: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unfortunately that's not the Financial Times; that's the New York Times.

MR. LUCE: Next time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next time. All right, what percentage of Americans are listening to George Bush, out of 100 percent?

MR. LUCE: Listening to him?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes -- this week.

MR. LUCE: Well, I mean, these --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And particularly the Iraq lectures.

MR. LUCE: I don't know the proportion listening to him, but what we want to see is the polls next week, if these three speeches have had any effect.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is said that one-third of the nation is listening to him.

MR. BUCHANAN: One-third of the nation is with him, John. It is with him solidly. Take a look at those folks in West Virginia. When that lady got up and said, "The press isn't reporting the good news," the whole place exploded in cheers and came to its feet.

There's a tremendous part of this country -- (inaudible) -- to get out; we made a mistake. But there's a lot of people that have got faith in this man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want --

MS. CLIFT: When you (try running?) against the media, you really are at the bottom of the barrel, like the first President Bush, like former President Nixon.

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen, we were -- when Nixon was running against the media, he was at 70 percent.

MS. CLIFT: You can't change reality by blaming the media for reporting the news. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to reinforce that one of the president's strong issues, besides security, and therefore evading the problems with wireless eavesdropping -- in fact, that works in favor of him, even though it's illegal. There is a Hillary emphasis recently, this week, on immigration. Let's hear what she has to say.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the scriptures, because this bill would literally criminalize the good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So there we are, Jesus under arrest crossing the Mexican border. What do you think of Hillary's position and the Democratic position? Although it is somewhat split, nevertheless the rigor of the Republicans on the immigration issue has a corresponding opposite mirror image with the Democrats, for the most part; almost a permissiveness. If one is rigor, the other is semi-permissiveness or liberality. Who's on the right side of that issue?

MR. LUCE: I think that was a very clever way of expressing it, because she sounds traditional, she sounds conservative, but she's criticizing a conservative measure. This is clever sort of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, for her political point of view?

MR. LUCE: -- rhetorical triangulation in terms of her positioning.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's -- where is the public on this issue? And is it not a Bush issue?

MR. LUCE: I think the public -- well, no, because Bush is on the liberal wing on this debate. That's what's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he is vis-a-vis Frist, but he generally wants to see the whole program regularized and he doesn't want what the extreme Republicans want --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Bush is to the left of Hillary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- which is send them all back, 11 million; send them back.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's to the left of Hillary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush is to the left of Hillary when it comes -- at least Hillary was standing up and saying, "For heaven's sakes, I'm against illegal immigration."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, forget Bush. Let's talk about Republican stereotypic position. MR. BUCHANAN: It is not stereotypic.

The main heart and soul of populism in the whole country, the grassroots, is secure the borders and send the illegals back. Where Bush and the -- where the corporate power are is amnesty, pardons for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. I want to save Pat from himself. You're not saying send the -- the 11 million illegal aliens in this country should be sent back. You're saying that there should be a prescribed, a regularized and institutionalized --

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- path to --

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what I'm saying --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me finish -- path to --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I'm not saying --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- citizenship.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's the death of the nation. What you've got to do -- attrition will solve the problem. You don't have to deal with the illegals. Secure the borders. Enforce the law. Send back --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, send those crossing --

MR. BUCHANAN: Send criminals back. Cut off --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the current crossers of the frontier.

MR. BUCHANAN: Cut off all social welfare benefits and they'll go home.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Bush still standing? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, Bush is still in the fight. He's been knocked down a couple of times, but he's still in the battle.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he a good scrapper? MR. BUCHANAN: He's a fighter.

MS. CLIFT: Barely. But, look, Hillary Clinton was making the same point as Cardinal Mahoney. That legislation would make it a felony for church workers to assist illegals with health care or education. And second of all, the immigration policy Pat was just touting, call it Pete Wilson redux. It cost California -- it cost the Republicans California.

MR. BUCHANAN: Pete Wilson was a --

MS. CLIFT: It would lose the Southwest for generations.

MR. BUCHANAN: Pete Wilson was the last guy to bring the Republicans into power in California.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Hillary shouldn't have got -- I think she misplayed the hand regarding Jesus as an immigrant. Other than moving vertically, he never migrated in his life.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about his point on triangulation and Hillary, for her own sake, playing it right?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think she's too obvious. But Pat's right that she is to the right of Bush. And the country, on all the polls we see, are, if anything, to the right of Pat when it comes to immigration. You need to look at those polling numbers. They're stunning.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they in favor of a temporary work permit?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. No, they're in favor of secure borders and arresting people who are here illegally.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On every register, immigrant register, the country shows itself to be quite conservative. Correct?

MR. LUCE: Yes, correct.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is your answer to the question?

MR. LUCE: The question about Bush or the question about immigration?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The question about Bush.

MR. LUCE: Is he still standing? Well, I mean, if you judge a president's effectiveness by whether he can get legislation on the Hill, through the Hill, not at the moment. He needs a Berlin wall to fall. He needs some external event to restore his presidency. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Rumsfeld is going to go?

MR. LUCE: I would have thought the chances are now that he would, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it would help Bush if Rumsfeld went?

MR. LUCE: It might do, but it would be unjust if it did, frankly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard what Pat had to say, that Rumsfeld is needed because he's a lightning rod. You don't agree with that.

MR. LUCE: No, I think the whole administration is a lightning rod now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?

MR. LUCE: I think it's in such deep trouble that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the retention of the original staff at the White House is a grave mistake, and they are now all living in their own bubble?

MR. LUCE: That's probably not something -- I wouldn't put it that way. But I think it would look odd now to get rid of them. I mean, who is he going to replace them with?

MR. BUCHANAN: It would be scapegoating. It would be a sign of panic.

MS. CLIFT: Unless he's willing to change the policy, you don't change the people.

MR. LUCE: And weakness.

MR. BUCHANAN: Scapegoating and a sign of panic, John, if it starts a purge, the kind of purge Fred Barnes recommended in the Wall Street Journal, where he said get rid of Cheney too, and puts Condi Rice in there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with getting rid of Rummy?

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, if you do, you're scapegoating the guy. He has followed your policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He resigned twice, Pat. So he picks up the resignation, the president does.

MR. BUCHANAN: If he does it now, it's scapegoating. MR. BLANKLEY: The president this week, in his press conference, said he likes Rummy. He's sticking with him, both for the way he's fighting the wars and for the transformation policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who do you want to replace Rumsfeld, if he goes?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would go with Armitage.

MR. LUCE: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Armitage.

MS. CLIFT: Bush's endorsement of Rumsfeld this week was the national-equivalent endorsement of endorsing Michael Brown at FEMA. "You're doing a good job, Secretary Rumsfeld."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The exit-question answer is that Bush is definitely standing. He's a strong scrapper, and don't count him out.

Issue Two: Jesus Under Arrest.

In Afghanistan this week, controversy grew louder over the case of Abdul Rahman. He is a Muslim who converted to Christianity. By doing so, Mr. Rahman violated Afghan civil law. He has thereby become subject to trial and the death penalty for the crime of rejecting Islam. The Karzai government has gone to great lengths to try to avoid putting Rahman on trial. This is in response to protests from western donor governments, including the U.S.

The Rahman case illustrates the fact that Afghanistan, even under Karzai, still has a religious government that is far from a liberal democracy. Karzai almost certainly has lost his window of opportunity to modernize his country and separate Islamic rule from the rule of law and government. Now he is trying to dodge the issue. He is saying that Rahman is too mentally unfit to stand trial. In this way, the Karzai government hopes to avoid a dangerous reform of its civil law, to conform to basic human rights that include the freedom of worship.

LARRY SABATO (Director, University of Virginia Center for Politics): (From videotape.) This is really President Bush's worst nightmare, because it takes his base and divides it at a time when he can least afford it because he's already so low in the polls.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Which is more offensive, publishing sacrilegious cartoons defaming Islam or executing a person for converting from Islam to Christianity? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Look, this is a huge issue because it undercuts the whole notion of the president spreading democracy at the end of a gun and asserting that he can create pluralistic democracies. And here we are supporting this kind of thinking with our billions and with our blood. And I wouldn't be surprised to see a commando raid to rescue him if, in fact, they don't figure out a way to get him off. And if you think the riots after the cartoons were something, what that would spark I shudder to contemplate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that this is an extraordinary reality check on Afghanistan?

MR. LUCE: No. I imagine under the Taliban this happened again and again and again and again. And this is the first time --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But for us is it a reality check?

MR. LUCE: It may be for you, but I don't think people in America think liberal democracy is flourishing in Afghanistan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that they feel in this country that the Taliban has been defeated and Afghanistan is almost a done deal and we're cleaning up? Instead of that, what have we got?

MR. BUCHANAN: These guys are channeling Torquemada over there. Look, these guys are these pre-Reformation, pre-Renaissance, pre- Enlightenment over there. And what's going to happen in this whole area is when you give the vote, one man/one vote, to the masses over there, most of them are into Shari'a. They are into this. They believe what is being done to a heretic or an apostate who converts to Christianity is the right thing to do. They are not into universal values.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, who's Torquemada? Is he a despot somewhere in the world today?

MR. BUCHANAN: It was a Dominican, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a Dominican. Well, he was a man of God. He was a priest. What do you make of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Tomas De Torquemada. He was the grand inquisitor. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, this isn't just a fundamentalist position in Islam. As I understand it, even moderate Islam takes this interpretation of the Koran. So the reality is, the Muslims are always going to dominate in their part of the world. Christianity and Judaism will never thrive there. Our challenge is to have a benign, Muslim-oriented society in those parts of the world.

MR. LUCE: Like you have in many places -- Indonesia, Malaysia. And you don't get these kinds of --

MS. CLIFT: And can we accomplish that with military prowess? I don't think so. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Insanity is no excuse. Afghan clerics say that Rahman is perfectly sane. They want the Karzai government to, quote/unquote, "cut off his head." If Rahman is not executed, the clerics say, quote, "We will call on the people to pull him to pieces so there's nothing left."

MR. BUCHANAN: You've got to get him out of there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Your headline, as a matter of fact, in the Washington Times.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. And we --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- quickly, now -- can Bush afford to let Rahman stand trial? Yes or no.

MR. BUCHANAN: Can't let him be beheaded. He's got to get him out of there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. BLANKLEY: He can't be beheaded.

MR. LUCE: No, he can't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He can't let him stand trial.

Issue Three: Creationism Triumph?

DAVID SPERGEL (Princeton University): (From videotape.) During this rapid period of expansion, the universe grew from being the size of a marble to being the visible universe we see today.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From the size of a child's marble to the visible universe -- not the earth, not the solar system, but the universe. And get this -- how long did that expansion last? Not billions of years or millions of years or thousands or hundreds or decades or a year or a month or a week or even a day -- not an hour nor a minute. The expansion from a marble to the universe lasted for a trillion of a trillionth of one second. That's what new data from the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, NASA, says. The NASA probe has been in space measuring the universe for over the past five years.

Question: A trillion of a trillionth of a second. Do you want to go right down on your knees now, Tony, to adore the creator?

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm sticking with Einstein, the cosmological constant, an ever-expanding-at-an-accelerating-rate universe until I know better.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This kind of collapses space and time. MR. BLANKLEY: Well, then it contradicts Einstein. I'm sticking with Einstein.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Einstein over what, creationism?

What do you make of this phenomenon? Does it not give new impetus to the creationist theology, which, of course, is Pat's thinking and biblical interpretation literally?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, this isn't six days. You said it was a trillionth of a second. But this is perfectly consistent with the big bang or -- well, this is creationism if it's true. But I don't believe they can prove this. I don't believe they can prove this at all.

Pat, predictions.

MR. BUCHANAN: Radical Ollanta Humala, next president of Peru.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Pressure to bring Karen Hughes back from the State Department to the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Senate will not be able to come up with a satisfactory immigration bill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Edward Luce.

MR. LUCE: America will have direct negotiations with Iran over the nuclear question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you related to Henry Luce?

MR. LUCE: Sadly not. I would have pulled those strings if I had them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, Time Magazine.

MR. LUCE: Indeed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The prediction is that Ehud Olmert will win the election handily, gaining 42 seats for the Kadima and himself, and will continue as prime minister of Israel.

Bye bye.

END.