THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
AND ELEANOR CLIFT
TAPED FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2, 1998
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 3-4, 1998
TRANSCRIPT BY: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE
620 NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING
WASHINGTON, DC 20045
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
COPYRIGHT* 1998 BY FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE GROUP, INC., WASHINGTON, DC 20045, USA. NO PORTION OF THIS TRANSCRIPT MAY BE COPIED, SOLD, OR RETRANSMITTED WITHOUT THE WRITTEN AUTHORITY OF FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE GROUP, 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.
ANNOUNCER: GE is proud to support the McLaughlin Group. From lighting to financial services, GE: We bring good things to life.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Reflections on the crisis.
The final dump of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal documents was made public this week by the House Judiciary Committee. Audio tapes and thousands of pages of testimony and evidence from Kenneth Starr's probe contain new, shocking revelations. Back in August, Dick Morris, political consultant and confidant to the president, testified to the Starr grand jury that the White House maintained a secret police operation to go around and intimidate women who had relations with the president.
On television this week Morris amplified his shocking allegations.
DICK MORRIS (political consultant): (From videotape.) So I did use the phrase "secret police" to the grand jury, and that's just what I think it is.
When you have six or seven different people coming up and saying, "I've been intimidated, I've gotten threatening phone calls, I've had my past dug up," and the thing they all have in common is that they had sex with Clinton, you're talking about something that might well be a pattern.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica Lewinsky echoed Morris's "secret police" disclosure. She told Linda Tripp in a taped conversation, "I wouldn't cross these people for fear of my life."
Monica's "secret police" fears had earlier been expressed by other women with whom President Clinton had improper relations: Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Kathleen Willey, Dolly Kyle Browning, and Gennifer Flowers.
Question: What inferences do you draw from this grand jury testimony? And here are the volumes right here, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we want you to reprise them for us before the show is over.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would say how many pages are there? Do you know, Michael?
MR. BARONE: I think that's about 4,000 pages.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four thousand pages.
The grand jury testimony of Dick Morris, which is in one of these volumes, and the Tripp-taped conversation of Monica Lewinsky, both dealing with the Clinton secret police, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, we've got to take this with a little grain of salt here. It is true that Sally Perdue (sp), whom you missed, in 1992, a former Miss Arkansas, was told her pretty little legs would get broken if she didn't shut up.
But if there is some intimidation or threat to people who are about to testify to the grand jury, Ken Starr should have that down cold as an impeachable offense, if it's tied to Clinton. Henry Hyde should investigate it in camera as well, to see if there's real truth to this or if this is Dick Morris trying to get a little bit more into the press.
But let me tell you something. It sure does raise a question why the feminists are -- say that Bill Clinton has been so good to women.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they're shielding Bill Clinton. Isn't that obvious?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think that might be true, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Are there other thoughts on what Morris had to say?
MS. CLIFT: Yes. (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have any thoughts there, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. First of all, if Ken Starr had anything on this, it would have been in his report.
MR. BUCHANAN: Mmm-hmm.
MS. CLIFT: Second of all, you conveniently left out the fact that Dick Morris in his grand jury testimony said that he had no firsthand knowledge of this; he was merely speculating.
And Monica Lewinsky, in her testimony -- I'm sure you'll get to it, John -- points out that she was trying to intimidate Linda Tripp into not going public with her knowledge of this affair.
So this adds up to not very much of anything.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what do you think, Tony? Does it add up to something?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I take the point that you have to take it with a grain of salt. And yet it seems to me that it's suggestive of so much that we've heard that I think that Hyde ought to look at it very closely to make a political judgment of whether it's supportive of other things that may be more provable.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We had a Deep Throat in Watergate. Are we going to have a comparable Deep Throat -- say, a Deep Pockets? Who is funding the secret police of the Clinton administration? Do you think that person will eventually come forward and admit to what he's been doing or she's been doing?
MR. BARONE: Well, I don't know who's been funding all these things, John. I noticed that Terry Lenzner, the head of IGI, the detective agency that's often used by Democratic candidates and stuff, denied that he had investigated people in Congress or other people on behalf of the president's lawyers. Now there's a little Clinton-speak there. He didn't deny that all -- the whole other universe of people that might have hired him have paid for him or that he's done work investigating these people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He gets another -- and he --
MR. BARONE: So I think there's a lot of unanswered questions that suggest --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but he gets another benefit from working this through the law firm, does he not? It means that he is not subject to a subpoena, because it would be violating lawyer-client privilege. True or false?
MR. BARONE: Well, he's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about subpoenaing --
MR. BARONE: Well, if he's working, he's denying that he's working through the lawyers. So I --
MR. BUCHANAN: Lenzner has already been called.
MR. BARONE: But that leaves the question of are there third parties paying for this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Ministering to "that woman."
White House communications director Sidney Blumenthal, in his grand jury testimony released by Congress this week, said that the president described Monica Lewinsky to him as Clinton's pursuer, who made sexual demands on the president. Monica apparently was worried about her reputation and told Clinton, says Clinton, that they needed to have sex so that she would not be seen by her peers as a stalker.
Blumenthal said that he was troubled with the Lewinsky matter, so he asked the first lady about the interaction of her husband with Monica. Hillary told Sidney that the president was, quote, "Just ministering to a troubled young person," unquote.
Question: what inferences do you draw from Sidney Blumenthal's and Hillary Clinton's remarks, Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: That the president misled everybody, including his own wife and Ken Starr is going to try to trump this up into obstruction of justice that Clinton sent people out to lie. The point is that Clinton covered up an embarrassing relationship and he came up with some very creative language.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think Clinton's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying that Hillary didn't know -- we're talking here -- I estimate this to be early '97 when she, Hillary, talked to Sidney, okay?
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you think in early '97 she had no knowledge of what Monica Lewinsky's relationship truly was?
MS. CLIFT: She wanted to believe her husband --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm! Mmm-hmm! (In mock agreement.)
MS. CLIFT: -- and he was telling her lies, and I -- there's no evidence to dispute that, not even your "Mmm-hmm." (Laughter.)
MR. BUCHANAN: He's telling the truth. I'm sure he's telling the truth. It all depends on what "ministering" means. You got to get the definitions of these terms, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have any thoughts on this?
MR. BLANKLEY: -- and this fortifies that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Sidney Blumenthal himself believe this?
MR. BARONE: No, this fortifies what the public opinion seems already to believe, which is that Mrs. Clinton knew about this all along. We don't know whether she did or not. Most people believe that she did and that this show of indignation on the "Today Show" when she accused a vast right-wing conspiracy of conspiring was just a show. She's been play acting.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From one of these volumes, in fairness to Mrs. Clinton, I want to read what she said, according to Sidney Blumenthal. "The first lady said that she was distressed that the president was being attacked, in her view, for political motives, for his ministry of a troubled person. She said that the president ministers to troubled people all the time." (Laughter.) "That he has ministered to and he does so out of religious conviction and personal temperament. She said to me," -- that's -- the 'me' is Sidney -- she said to Sidney on that occasion, "If you knew his mother, you would understand it."
MR. BUCHANAN: John, according to Monica, he's ministered to hundreds of people -- (laughs).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "And the first lady said he had done this dozens if not hundreds of times" -- there you go, Pat -- "with people. The president came from a broken home and this was very hard, to prevent him from trying to minister to these troubled people." Hillary Clinton.
MR. BLANKLEY: I would like to have seen Hillary's facial expressions when she was saying this. I mean, was this tongue in cheek, perhaps?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, it seems to me it's really the height of superciliousness for you guys to sit around here and claim to understand the Clintons' marriage. I am sure they don't understand it themselves -- and to ascribe all of this cynicism and so forth --
MR. BARONE (?): No, I think --(inaudible due to cross talk) --
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, she is one of the smartest women in America.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. BLANKLEY: (And if ?) -- she can't figure out after all, 150 --
MR. BUCHANAN: What did she have Blumenthal doing putting out this stuff, though?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think the president, though -- I don't know whether you caught this in that brilliant set-up piece -- but the president's own explanation of what was going on with Monica was extremely inventive. He said that Monica was pursuing him from sex in order to defeat the notion of her peers that she was a stalker.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you got that? Have you figured that out?
MS. CLIFT: Well, what's interesting there --
MR. BARONE: It gets almost "Jesuitical," John. I --
MS. CLIFT: -- is that he was aware that she was talking to her friends, apparently -
MR. BARONE: Well, and that Monica --
MS. CLIFT: -- which should have given him some pause. (Laughs.)
MR. BARONE: Again, John, it also confirms --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you mean there's some truth to it?
MR. BARONE: Monica Lewinsky was an open secret around there. Why did Evelyn Lieberman take her out of the White House and so forth?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MR. BARONE: The fact is that they knew they were -- could be a lot of people like this around there. They were all on the lookout for it. They were trying to prevent it, and the president outfoxed them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. And she was -- was Lieberman under orders from -- or -- from Hillary?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Lieberman was the --
MS. CLIFT: By the Secret Police no doubt. (Laughs.)
MR. BARONE: Lieberman was the deputy chief of staff. She held a highly responsible position. And evidently she decided that young women hanging around the Oval Office was not a good idea.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What that Hillary --
MR. BARONE: I think that that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but was Lieberman Hillary-inspired?
MR. BARONE: Oh, I think she was probably inspired by political good sense.
MS. CLIFT: She knew enough to act on her own. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Rules of engagement.
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D-MI): (From videotape.) I am pleased to report that we have been given a Watergate-like set of rules, which is what we've been asking for. The notion that this review should be open-ended like Watergate, as the speaker continues to insist, is preposterous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Now here is the response to ranking Democratic House Judiciary Committee member John Conyers from Republican Steve Buyer.
REP. STEVE BUYER (R-IN): (From videotape.) There is a tremendous amount of double-speak that's going on:
"Oh, there's a rush to judgment." "Oh, let's no -- don't rush to judgment."
"Oh, should the tapes be released?" Dick Gephardt says, "Yes, release everything." "Oh, no, I never said release everything."
"The public has seen too much." "Oh, the public hasn't seen enough."
"Starr sent too much information." "Star has withheld information." "Oh, now let's go down and see what other boxes there are down there. Maybe there is exculpatory evidence or evidence that's in the president's favor."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What inferences do you draw from these statements by John Conyers and Steve Buyer, Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, John Conyers was on the Watergate committee back in '74, and he was one of the most aggressive partisan members. He was moving for impeachment before they had even finished their hearings. So it's obviously insincere on his part now, and I don't think anyone can take his word seriously.
MS. CLIFT: Okay, there's partisanship and hypocrisy on both sides. What about Trent Lott, who 24 years ago didn't -- thought that impeachment required grave --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Trent Lott is not on the Judiciary Committee. He's not on the Judiciary Committee.
MS. CLIFT: He has spoken out --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on a sec --
MS. CLIFT: Let me finish! He has spoken out and said the standard for impeachment should be bad conduct. Twenty-four years ago he didn't see anything wrong with what Nixon did. So --
MR. BARONE: I think -- I've known John Conyers off and on for 31 years, and I think he's nervous right now about the situation. I think this debate about whether the thing should be open-ended is really academic, John. The fact is, this Judiciary Committee doesn't have the staff to develop an investigation, and so forth. They depend on Ken Starr.
Ken Starr, in my judgment, is not going to deliver anything to the committee between October 1st and November 3rd. He is not going to do what Lawrence Walsh did in the issue of -- take a big official action just before the beginning of the election because Justice Department guidelines stop that. And if he does bring something to the committee -- the other shoe that a lot of politicians in both parties have been fearing or hoping for -- it's going to happen after November 3rd, and the committee is going to consider it if they think it has some merit, regardless of what rules they come out with now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, you've answered my question. If it comes in after November the 3rd, they can still take up Whitewater --
MR. BARONE: Of course they can.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or Filegate, which I think is loaded --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- maybe not an indictment, but loaded --
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- maybe an indictment or two. Misuse of the FBI --
MS. CLIFT: I will --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- "victimizing" the FBI, as Director Freeh said. I want to ask you a question --
MS. CLIFT: I will predict --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well let me ask Pat something. The question to Pat is: Was the Watergate corruption of government Conyers refers to significantly different than Clinton's conduct?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the charges against Nixon were somewhat different. I happen to believe that what Clinton did -- lying, the obstruction of justice, lying before a grand jury, open counts of perjury, never charged against Richard Nixon, are far, far more grievous. And Nixon's misuse of the FBI was nothing compared to what LBJ did to Martin Luther King --
MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, forget LBJ.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- or what FDR did to the America First Committee.
MS. CLIFT: LBJ isn't on trial, Pat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the president's misuse -- abuse of power, one might say, regarding the Secret Service, regarding the FBI, and regarding the IRS, and the police state, if what Morris says is true?
MR. BUCHANAN: Also in Filegate, they used the FBI to go after these guys.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MS. CLIFT: What is this, the Watergate Revisionist Society here?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, this is -- this is --
MS. CLIFT: Yes, that's what it is!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is holding up to the mirror, holding up to a lens --
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- whether or not what Conyers says is true.
MS. CLIFT: Right. Twenty people of the Nixon administration were indicted by the time --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, 14 -- he's already indicted 14 --
MS. CLIFT: Nobody in the Clinton administration.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's indicted 14.
MR. BARONE: Hubbell -- how about Hubbell? Hubbell already went to prison.
MS. CLIFT: That has nothing to do with --
MR. BUCHANAN: You got his Cabinet officers all walking around with their own special prosecutor!
MS. CLIFT: There is not equivalency between a man lying about a sexual affair and the subverting of the entire government that Richard Nixon did, and this is a transparent attempt --
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, for heaven's sake! The entire government --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Next Friday -- we've got to get out, we've got to get out. We've got to get out. Did you want to finally add something?
Good. You're the only patient man on this set.
Next Friday, October the 9th, the U.S. House of Representatives as a body, all 435 members, will vote on whether to proceed with formal impeachment hearings. Next Friday. How many of the 206 Democrats will vote aye, yes, go forward with the hearings?
MR. BUCHANAN: Five zero. Fifty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty.
MS. CLIFT: I think that's probably right, 40 to 50.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty's about 25 percent.
MS. CLIFT: Right, which is what we said last week, Pat.
MR. BLANKLEY: Somewhere between 35 and 70. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thirty-five and 70?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Seventy is one-third, 33 percent.
MR. BARONE: What's your margin of error, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: A typical poll. A typical poll.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you shrunk that from few weeks ago, when you said 100.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, because the numbers have been shrinking.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. BLANKLEY: Because the White House is trying to persuade Democrats to vote with them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, maybe they see mistakes being made by the Republicans.
MR. BARONE: Thirty-six.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thirty-six.
I'll go to 42.
When we come back, Ross Perot denounces Bill Clinton and calls for a grassroots petition drive to oust him. Where will this lead?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two. He's back.
ROSS PEROT (Former presidential nominee): (From videotape.) Any man who would conduct himself in such an emotional, unstable manner and bring worldwide shame, first to his family and then to a vulnerable young woman, and finally, to the United States of America is unfit to be the president of this great country. (Cheers, applause.) Anybody that's that fouled up shouldn't be able to get within a mile of the nuclear button. Can we agree with that? (Cheers, applause.) This guy cannot be an effective leader in dealing with the international economic crisis. If he cares about this country, he will go. If he loves this country, he will go. (Cheers, applause.) If he will put this country in front of his ego, he will go! (Cheers, applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So says H. Ross Perot, the computer visionary and billionaire founder of EDS, Electric Data Systems. Ross Perot, the political populist who has made electronic democracy a reality. The two-time presidential nominee who gained 19 percent of the voters in 1992 and 8 percent in '96, a combined 30 million votes, this week reappeared on America's political radar screen. It was vintage Perot, the kind of straight talk that had propelled him to the top of the presidential preference polls in July of '92, well ahead of George Bush and Bill Clinton. Last week, in a speech so blunt in its rhetoric as to be virtually unthinkable in Washington's calculating corridors, the leader of the anti-establishment Reform Party attacked Clinton's character in terms that, in a different century, would have been settled in a duel.
In a duel, Pat! (Laughter.) On Wednesday night of this week, Ross Perot proposed a plan of action to facilitate Clinton's ouster, namely, a nationwide grassroots petition drive. Question: what's the political impact of Ross Perot's straight talk, I ask you, Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: Well, back in 1992, John, Paul Tilley (sp), the late Paul Tilley (sp), who was deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told me that Perot, in the spring of '92, "departisanized" the critique of Bush -- of George Bush. He attacked George Bush in a way that Democrats couldn't credibly do. I think this year, Perot's stature, obviously much diminished from what it was in 1992, but he's doing something about departisanizing the critique against Bill Clinton. This is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The word is "departisanizing," meaning almost de-politicizing?
MR. BARONE: Well, he's not doing it from the point of view that he has something to politically gain --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's not a Republican?
MR. BARONE: -- as a Republican, and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he's not a Democrat?
MR. BARONE: He's promised us, and we can all hope that he succeeds in this, that he would not run -- (inaudible due to cross talk).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because of that, he's going to play a role in this drama. What's the role he's going to play?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is a very big event. In the short term between now and November, he will force Democrats to move away from Clinton and force Republicans to get further out on the cutting edge because he's grabbed the lead. In the longer term, he's going to use this to reorganize a reform party and in 2000 -- that is bad news for establishment Republicans. George W., call home.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean -- you mean that he may run for office?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, he's going to us this to reestablish and reenergize -- this is the hottest issue in America!
MS. CLIFT: Pat -- Pat -- Pat must have had a phone conversation with him this morning, and if you can count cumulative votes in successive elections, maybe he has some credibility. Ross Perot doesn't have any credibility any more.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Inside the Beltway, yes. Inside the Beltway he has no credibility.
MS. CLIFT: No -- he's good television, but that's about it. He doesn't command any voters.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, you go to the demolition derby or you go --
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think we have those anymore --
MS. CLIFT: (Laughing.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You go to the --
MR. BUCHANAN: Tractor pull!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The tractor pull, and you see the size of these stadiums, you know that that's his country. And -- don't underestimate Ross Perot, even though he apparently only parachutes in every now and then.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This thing does three things, it seems to me. First of all, it prevents what he regards as weak sisters, notably Bob Dole, perhaps, and maybe Howard Baker, from cutting a deal. They can't cut the deal any more. Secondly, it prevents a drift-away. I think that during these next four weeks this whole thing could die of inertia. And he's in there doing it.
Thirdly, he's going to force the media to take seriously him, even though he's a judgmentalist, which they hate. And even though he is marginalized by some opinion of certain commentators.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, even though his grassroots following is lesser than it used to be, his organizational capabilities are immense, and he's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Through the Internet!
MR. BLANKLEY: Through the Internet, and also through his ability to organize the trucks and get publicity on these events.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sure.
MR. BLANKLEY: What it's going to be is a catalyst event that will bring together all of the opposition to Clinton. So it's a substantial event.
MS. CLIFT: Boy, Republicans must really be desperate if you're looking at Ross Perot as your spokesman to bring Clinton -- he doesn't bring credibility or legitimacy to anything.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's not what I said --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, you and a lot of journalists like you have never learned how to handle a populist leader.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on! I'm more populist than you are, John, by a big stretch! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get out. Exit: On an impact scale of zero to 10, Pat, zero meaning zero impact, 10 meaning metaphysical impact, an asteroid twice the size of the United States striking the District of Columbia -- (laughter) -- what impact will Ross Perot's condemnation of Bill Clinton have on the November elections?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's about seven on the November elections and an eight on 2000.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?!
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, I think it's a very important event.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: He has to get in line in terms of people saying Bill Clinton has bad character. He's a point-seven. (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, how many hits -- (to Mr. Buchanan) -- you did contact the Perot people. How many hits did they get since that speech, on the Internet?
MR. BUCHANAN: They contacted me. They got 800,000 hits in 24 hours --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eight hundred.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- and, I think, 200,000 discussions, whatever you call it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, those 18-wheelers that are going to carry those ballots from -- calling for the ouster -- they're moving.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (To Mr. Blankley.) What do you have to say?
MR. BLANKLEY: It's going to be an autumnal breeze -- brisk, though -- of about 3.5, followed, potentially, by a howling winter wind.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Up to a seven or an eight?
MR. BLANKLEY: I would put it around seven.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm. With the winds out there.
What do you think?
MR. BARONE: Oh, I think this de-partisanization -- (laughter) -- is going to result in about a four. It has the potential to do somewhat more, but we'll see about that. But I think it provides somebody who's not a partisan Republican, who's out there, saying that this conduct is morally unacceptable.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's too close to call. However, I will give it a five, as a start-up position.
Issue three: Oval spread.
Clothing designer Thomas Hilfiger bowed to pressure this week from the Office of the White House General Counsel. "Cease and desist your undignified portrayal of the esteemed, respected, and hallowed office of the president," Hilfiger was advised. "Your company will no longer use White House imagery in its advertising campaigns. Be reminded, sir, that the Oval Office is America's secular shrine, a place of honor not to be defiled."
In a recent ad campaign, Thomas Hilfiger U.S.A., Inc., included among other images a photo of a nubile blonde woman of intern age perched and seductively sprawled on what looks to be the president's desk in the Oval Office. When asked, a White House spokeswoman denied any connection between the General Counsel's demand and the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.
Question: Could the White House have forced Hilfiger to pull this ad -- who hasn't spoken yet? -- Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, you're not supposed to use any aspects of the White House in commercial advertising. So it's a matter of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a second! A replica of the seal is the only thing that is prohibited by law. (Cross talk.)
MS. CLIFT: Well, wait. I want to say one other thing, however: that the president's conduct is obviously humorous enough and topical enough that advertisers want to be associated with it.
And that is one of the reasons why it's so hard to take all the harumphing about impeachment seriously.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to -- quickly! I want to know what in the ad is offensive, if anything. Shall I tell you? Shall I tell you? The suggestion that a nubile model or young woman can seduce a power male. That's what's offensive about it, and that's where the feminists --
MS. CLIFT: That's offensive? I don't find --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that's what their members ought to be speaking up about. You feminists should be announcing that.
MS. CLIFT: I don't find that offensive. That's what goes on between men and women!
MR. BARONE: Seduce or have sexual relations? Have sexual relations -- Eleanor --
MR. BLANKLEY: Inappropriate relations. (Laughter.)
MR. BARONE: Inappropriate no -- well, sexual -- he admitted by definition one that she had sexual relations with him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Blowing in the wind.
SENATOR TRENT LOTT (R-MS): (From videotape.) We didn't get elected to, you know, get Dick Morris to take another poll about whether or not we should tell the truth or whether or not we should go forward with what the Constitution requires or not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Lewinsky scandal broke in January. Since then, pundits and pollsters have marveled at how Bill Clinton has defied the laws of political gravity. Instead of falling in the polls, Clinton's job ratings have gone up. Even after the release of his videotaped grand jury testimony, Mr. Clinton's job rating rose from 61 to 67 percent.
Is this a backlash from citizens who don't want him to be impeached? Analysts say no. Here's why.
Pollsters test a variety of groups, chiefly random adults -- registered voters and likely voters. These groups often give different answers to the same question. Take registered voters. In the CBS-Times generic ballot question, which is: Would you vote in your congressional district for a Democratic candidate or a Republican candidate? -- 44 percent of registered voters say they favor Democrats; 39 percent Republican. But in the "very likely voters" category the picture is turned upside down; Republicans have an eight-point advantage over Democrats -- 53 to 41 percent.
On the impeachment issue, these disparate categories are ominous for Mr. Clinton. Among random adults, more than half say Congress should drop impeachment -- 55 to 42 percent. But among "likely voters" the numbers are reversed -- 53 percent say hearings should be held; 45 percent say no.
Question: What really matters here, what the general public thinks or what likely voters think? I ask you, Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Well, 45 million people voted for Clinton in '96, and I think that they have a voice in this. But you're telling the story of the November elections. In Barbara Boxer's race in California, she is eight points ahead with the general public. She is five points ahead among the likely voters.
But if Republicans keep behaving the way they are, they may create a whole new class of likely voters, and they're going to be Democrats.
MR. BARONE: John, in 25 years of professionally watching polls, I have never seen such a big difference between "all voters" or "registered voters," "all adults" and between "likely voters." I mean, this is a big difference. If this continues -- there is no guarantee this will continue to November 3rd -- but if this continues, we could see Republicans winning seats that nobody had thought they were going to win.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The call among "likely voters" for impeachment is 53 percent.
MR. BARONE: Well, what that tells you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, what will that go to -- will it go up or go down?
MR. BARONE: It will tell us, I think, that if and when impeachment hearings are voted, the public will approve of them. I think that that 53-44 "likely voter" thing tells members of Congress that in the large majority of districts, there is no harm in voting for hearings.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you got a quick thought?
MR. BLANKLEY: If the numbers stay the same, it will have more of an impact in the Senate, which is why the Senate is tougher on Clinton right now than the House on the Democratic side.