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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC

TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 15-16, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Don't Hold Back.

(Begin videotaped segment of a town hall meeting with President Bush.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: In my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate.

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Poor Bush. The president has no shortage of critics these days. His approval rating has dipped to 36 percent, the lowest of his five years and three months in office. And 69 percent of Americans say the country is on the wrong track. That's an historical high. But is the criticism fair? Because there is good news.

Item: More jobs for Americans. Two hundred and eleven thousand jobs were created in March. And in the past 12 months, new U.S. jobs have totaled over 2 million. Also, the nation's unemployment rate is down to 4.7 percent. And remember this about that percentage --

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) It's below the average rate of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why isn't the state of the economy giving Bush more political traction?

Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, when the economy is bad, the economy is the issue. That's a rule of politics. But when the economy is good, something else is the main issue. And the problem for the president is Iraq is the overriding issue, problems in foreign policy, the divisions in the party over immigration, the perception of incompetence created by Katrina and Miers and Dubai. All of these things are weighing down what is good news in the economy.

A second point is this: The top 20 percent in this country are doing extraordinarily well. But working-class, middle-class folks are not getting the kinds of jobs they used to get. You're getting full employment, but it's not the quality employment we used to get.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think this is working. There's more good news, though.

Item: The Medicare prescription drug program. You've heard the complaints. Democrats have called it, quote, "misguided" and "a disaster," unquote. Well, the polls say take another look. Twenty- nine million Americans, seniors and the disabled, have signed up for a Medicare prescription drug package.

Is the plan saving them money? Sixty-three percent -- yes. Do subscribers like it? Two out of three -- yes, they like it. The president tells us about meeting two of the people who like it this week.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Today, for example, I met with Helen and Debbie. Helen saved $200 a month in her prescription drug coverage, and she convinced her friend Debbie to take a look at the Medicare prescription drug plan. Debbie now saves $1,200 a month -- saves $1,200 a month.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this working now? Namely, is the good news coming through, Eleanor? Was the early bad news about Medicare overhyped by the press? MS. CLIFT: I feel like I'm watching the Home Shopping Channel at the White House -- the only other place where they're going to be sitting around talking about the good news in this administration.

Look, this presidency is engulfed by the Iraq war. Just this last week, more revelations that the president knew or should have known that pieces of evidence he advanced as rationale to go to war were bogus. He has no credibility. And the public is not going to look to him to solve their problems.

And on the Medicare plan in particular, only a third of the seniors have enrolled. And there's still no evidence that it's going to turn him into the patron saint of the senior population.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's no question that the Iraq news is dragging the president down. But there's still more good news.

Item: Is the Bush immigration proposal also turning into a plus?

President Bush has long been a champion of allowing illegal immigrants to stay as guest workers. Republicans in Congress are divided over the issue, but a growing number of Americans agree with the president.

A recent poll showed 74 percent of Americans say that they would support allowing illegal immigrants already here to stay in the United States if they play by the rules and get on a citizenship track, which is reductively what George Bush wants and has proposed.

Tony, has the public turned around on immigration?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, not at all. I think the public is where it's been for the last 15 years that I've been looking at polling data.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about a path to citizenship for the 12 million illegals.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's exactly what I said. No, they haven't. But let me go to your basic theme, because I think you make some interesting points. While I disagree with you on the immigration turnaround, the Medicare one -- and I endorsed the Medicare prescription --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In your column?

MR. BLANKLEY: We editorialized at The Washington Times; we supported it and fought for it back at the time it was being passed. And I've been arguing for years now Republicans should get behind it, because in fact it's great policy. And now, at this Easter break, there are going to be over 200 Republican congressional local events telling their people about how well it works. Your data is supportive. I've seen other data that also shows that as more and more people, elderly, are seeing this proposal, they like it. After all, we're going to spend over half a trillion dollars and there are going to be beneficiaries for the half a trillion dollars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, yes.

MR. BLANKLEY: As that message comes through, that's going to be helpful. Now, obviously I agree that the Iraq war overwhelms a lot of other issues, and it may sink the president in any event. The economy I don't think is directly related to Iraq, because it's been unpopular, underperforming in public approval, even though it's been performing well since before the Iraq war aftermath went bad.

I think there are larger factors -- possibly the wage disparity, possibly the increased anxiety about the world economy and globalization. There are other elements that may be explaining why the public is no longer responding. But technically, the president's numbers now are better than Ronald Reagan's were when he got re- elected with 60 percent on virtually every category -- I mean, unemployment, 4.7 as opposed to 7.4; higher growth, lower inflation, lower interest rates. So the economy is great.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence, from your crow's nest out there in Beverly Hills, do you discern anything developing that's positive for the president and that redeems the situation coming out of Iraq?

MR. O'DONNELL: Not overall. I agree with Pat's assessment of the situation. But I do think his position on immigration is the one that lets Bush be Bush, meaning he is approaching that subject with his convictions. He believes in what he's advocating, and his disputes with his party are honest. They come from his own real firm belief in how to deal with this, being a practical Texan.

And that's when Bush is at his best is when he is pushing forward with something, even when it's against -- you know, even people who disagree with him can respect him when he is pushing forward with something that he firmly believes in.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is the heart of the problem. Bush is sincere on immigration. He is sincere on free trade, which has an $800 billion deficit. He is sincere on the war. He believes in it, as some others who voted for it do not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's also rational, Pat, and your position is irrational. MR. BUCHANAN: No, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want to deport 12 million illegals in the United States?

MR. BUCHANAN: You used a word, John, a couple of weeks ago which was exactly right -- attrition. You know who you deport? MS-13 gang members, people convicted of felonies. You secure the border. You punish businesses. Attrition will solve the problem. We don't need a Gestapo.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you do want a path to citizenship for the 12 million.

MR. BUCHANAN: I do not. I do not want an amnesty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't want to make them citizens?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you will have 40 million here. There is a land bridge to this country that is wide open that's 2,000 miles.

MS. CLIFT: The president is sincere on immigration reform, but it puts him at odds with his grassroots base. And Pat Buchanan is basically voicing their opinion. And if the base is at odds with this president on that, plus a number of other issues, including the Medicare plan, which they think spent too much money, it bodes ill for the Republicans' chances in November.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have thoughts on those other two issues that I posed that are also working, in my mind, for the president?

MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think Medicare's going to work in his favor. It's something that people trust the Democrats to do better than Republicans in every poll, and so there's no way they're going to be able to use that in November.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the public's very uncomfortable with the idea of having 12 million illegal aliens just wait to see whether attrition will solve the problem.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think they want them on some kind of a track, but they don't want a lot of investigation tying up our law enforcement people. They don't want litigation in the courts, which would just choke the courts.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, there is no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the idea --

MR. BUCHANAN: There is no problem -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of whether your general outlook is if they're here, if the illegals are here and they're living by the rules, let them continue to do so; that seems to be what's emerging from the public.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. There was never a problem -- the American people didn't yell, we've got to have amnesty and deal with this. What raised the issue is the border security issue, Minutemen on the border, conservatives yelling; they raised the issue. So Bush runs out and says, ah, what we need is amnesty and a guest-worker program.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but the issue --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What raised the issue was the testimony of Vice Admiral Lowe (sic), who said --

MR. BUCHANAN: Loy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Loy -- who said before the Congress -- at least he put it in his written statements to the Congress -- that the al Qaeda are crossing the Southern border.

MR. BUCHANAN: We've tripled the number of other than Mexicans coming across the border in two years -- 150,000 caught.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is a national security matter.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is a national survival issue.

MS. CLIFT: Look, the issue has been raised as a result of the mass demonstrations, half a million people in the streets in California, equal numbers in New York and Washington. They are our neighbors. They work for us. And I think the polls now show that the American public, by a wide margin, feels they should be given a path to citizenship, an earned path to citizenship.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Wall Street Journal today says 53 percent say send them back.

MS. CLIFT: And Congress is responding to that.

MR. O'DONNELL: Bush was on this issue long before the Minutemen found it, and Bush was right to call them vigilantes.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he was not pushing it.

MR. O'DONNELL: He's been working on it on a practical level long before then.

MR. BUCHANAN: What triggered it was the Republicans in the House. They're the ones that triggered the demonstrations, too. The House bill in December brought this issue to national attention. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Bush suffering from --

MS. CLIFT: And the House bill is a disaster for the Republicans and for the country, and it will not pass.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.

)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Bush suffering from the Dan Quayle problem, meaning that the public has reached a conclusion, a judgment about him, that cannot be reversed?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. I mean, Dan Quayle never got launched, unfortunately for him. Their first view of him was ineffective. The president established an extraordinarily strong record, starting on September 11th, and for most of his first term was above 60 percent. And it's degraded measurably in the last year and a half. But he's got a base to go back to Dan Quayle never had.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think O'Donnell is on to something with his (dramatist ?) mentality that inside Bush there is a Bush screaming to get out, and when that Bush does get out, it's magic? Is that what you're saying? (Laughter.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Not exactly, but I do think his position is irreversible. I think he's going to at best get up into the mid-40s in approval. He'll never get back up where he was.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's clearly discovered his forum, and that's the forum we just saw, when he's engaging the people.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, you may find that --

MS. CLIFT: But he doesn't do anything about it on Capitol Hill. He has been a bystander on Capitol Hill, which suggests that he just likes the rhetorical position but is not willing to spend what little political capital he may have left to make it happen.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a quick point. I agree with Lawrence. But getting back to 45 percent makes him a solid president. Being down at 36 percent --

MR. O'DONNELL: A solid president of what?

MR. BLANKLEY: He got re-elected -- the last job approval poll before he won the election, he was at 48 percent. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a rebound scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero bounce, flat as a pancake, 10 meaning absolute metaphysical rebound, a virtual resurrection, how much bounce will Bush get from Medicare prescription drugs, immigration and the economy?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the economy, maybe a two or three; immigration, it's minus; Medicare, a one. He needs --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what is it? Just give me the result. You come from an auditing family, an accounting family.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's a one and he needs a deus ex machina.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got a one?

MR. BUCHANAN: A deus ex machina is what he needs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: I'll go with Pat -- a one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A one.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. He's not going anywhere, but maybe further down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: If he engineers the passage of a real secure border legislative bill, and then I think it could be a three.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're drifting his way now. They're going to drift his way. They'll hem it in with some --

MR. BUCHANAN: Thirty-eight is about as good as he can get --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Some fines and some taxes have to be paid --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- unless something happens.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and learn English and so forth.

MR. O'DONNELL: All of that good news adds up to a net zero bounce. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is two.

Issue Two: Iran Asserts Itself, or Iran On Steroids.

INTERPRETER: (From videotape.) (Video segment in progress) -- when the desired enrichment was achieved, said President Ahmadinejad, Iran has joined the nuclear countries of the world. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For the first time, Iran has enriched uranium. That was the triumphant announcement on Tuesday from Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His speech was delivered live on television before a cheering assemblage of Iranian dignitaries. Dancers chanted and performed. And a sign behind Iran's president, in English, read "Atomic energy is our certain right."

Well, not everyone thinks that right should be exercised. The U.N. Security Council demanded two and a half weeks ago that Iran halt all enrichment activity by April 28th. The United States thinks Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says it's not seeking nuclear weapons. It's seeking nuclear fuel for electricity.

But just enough processed within Iran's 164 centrifuges can make fuel-grade uranium only. To make weapons-grade uranium, at least 1,500 centrifuges are necessary.

Question: Is Iran's uranium enrichment breakthrough alarming? Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: Not to me. This is -- it took them 21 years to get to this point. This is -- experts have compared it to they now have figured out how to make one musical instrument, and in order to get this thing to be a real program, they then have to invent all the other instruments to create an orchestra that will then play perfectly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you --

MR. O'DONNELL: They are years and years away. There's no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From making the bomb.

MR. O'DONNELL: There's no threat at all in the current situation.

MR. BLANKLEY: Henry Kissinger once observed that historians have an advantage over statesmen because historians know all the facts and have all the time to study it, and statesmen have to make decisions without enough time and without enough facts.

That is what is facing the world today. It's not just George Bush. It's not just Israel. It's France and Britain and Germany, who also agree -- and I've talked with Israeli senior officials for years. They are genuinely alarmed and have been monitoring this as closely as anybody. And the question is, when does it become too late? When does it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no immediate danger. I think that's pretty clear. But why is Iran crowing about this, Eleanor? MS. CLIFT: Because they want to be big boys on the national stage. They want to show that they're an educated country, that they understand technology, have technology. This was a day of rejoicing for them, plus they have U.S. troops on their border in Afghanistan and Iraq and they want to let the West know that they have the guts to stand up. And Bush and the Bush administration are playing right into their hands. They're elevating this guy into another Saddam Hussein, probably for political reasons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. What would Iran do if the U.S. used air strikes to destroy Iran's nuclear installations?

GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI (U.S. Army, retired): (From videotape.) There could be reactions from Iran that could interrupt flow of oil, threaten our troops, threaten Israel, threaten an expansion of terrorism through their intelligence services and could provoke reactions in the region.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is General Zinni right, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: General Zinni's exactly right, John. First, this big media hype -- Ahmadinejad -- let me tell you, putting on a show like this, I think it's phony. I don't think he's got anything over there. This 164 centrifuges -- I understand a number of them were broken. They haven't been able to gasify yellow cake. And all of a sudden, in a couple of weeks, hey, we discovered and did it.

But Zinni is exactly right. This guy -- you know, Ahmadi (sic) -- whatever his last name is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ahmadinejad.

MR. BUCHANAN: Ahmadinejad -- he wants to, as Eleanor said, put himself on a par. He's standing up to the Israelis. He's standing up to Bush. He's making himself a world figure. That's what this is all about. And we're playing right into his hands. They are years away from the ability to construct one bomb, and the Israelis have got hundreds of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me try this out on you, Buchanan. Forget daisy-cutters. Go nuclear.

Some reports last weekend stated that the Pentagon was reviewing a nuclear liquidation plan for any Iranian nuclear production facility. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the British reaction to this idea.

JACK STRAW (British foreign secretary): (From videotape.) Completely nuts. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Monday, President George Bush described the anti-Iran hawkish report as typical Washington wild talk.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Which is wild speculation, by the way. What you're reading is wild speculation, which is -- it's kind of -- you know, it happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is British Secretary Straw right? And is Bush right?

MR. O'DONNELL: I agree with the president. It is wild speculation. Of course the Defense Department has a plan to do everything it can think of anywhere in the world. They're supposed to do plans. That doesn't mean they're going to.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MR. O'DONNELL: There is a zero, zero possibility of this administration attacking Iran in any way.

MS. CLIFT: But Seymour Hersh is a respected journalist with lots of good sources, and I think these are people coming out of the administration who are seeing this planning going on, and according to the article in The New Yorker, stepped up planning. And they want to get it out there so everybody can say it's completely nuts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think it was a doped story?

MS. CLIFT: No, I don't think so at all. If you read it, he's got too many people quoted.

MR. BLANKLEY: Seymour Hersh is respected by some people and not by a lot of others.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why would he not be respected?

MR. O'DONNELL: He's respected by at least half of this panel.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I'll give you one example -- because he reported before the Iraqi war that there was the judgment of military experts that we were going to get bogged down in the actual fighting against Saddam's magnificent armed forces. That didn't happen. He has a long history of going to sources who tell him what he wants to report in any event.

But putting the nuclear issue aside, which is intended to create alarmism, the fact is that it's not a question of Bush simply by himself, but rather, as I was suggesting, much of the world -- and Israel could act on its own. And the idea this could be a zero percent, I think, is woefully wrong. MR. BUCHANAN: John, here's the problem for Bush. Bush wants to have the threat out there because it assists him in diplomacy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A bluff? A bluff?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it assists him in diplomacy. And all of this stuff is good news, but he doesn't want the American people to be thinking, good heavens, Bush is going to use nuclear weapons. So he's in a box here. He wants to keep the threat out there, the stick, in order so they can get to diplomacy.

I'll tell you what he ought to do. As someone suggested yesterday, it is time -- and I'll tell you, it was the number two guy at State under Powell -- it is time we talk to Iran directly before we do anything militarily.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, don't forget, we have that other track going. Zalmay -- what's his name?

MR. BUCHANAN: Khalilzad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Khalilzad, our ambassador to Iraq, is going to talk -- it's true, it's been postponed --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with the Iranians about Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, but the guy we ought to send is --

MS. CLIFT: The thing is, this administration is used to using fear and threats to manipulate the American public and to use it to their political advantage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you --

MS. CLIFT: But the public has now concluded that Bush may be the madman here --

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, Eleanor --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you this, Eleanor. Let me ask you this.

MR. BLANKLEY: You think the president is a madman. Is that what you said? Do you want to stand by that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: The president is a madman?

MS. CLIFT: They are worried -- MR. BLANKLEY: Is that your view?

MS. CLIFT: Let me finish.

They are worried about --

MR. BLANKLEY: Or are you putting words in their mouths?

MS. CLIFT: Would you let me finish? They are worried about what he might do. And when you get reports about the fact that we may use nuclear weapons --

MR. BLANKLEY: So you're backing off that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I get in here?

MS. CLIFT: I said the public has concluded that Bush may do something very rash --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was a negative story on Bush out there last week.

MS. CLIFT: -- to save his political skin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It had to do with deceit and whether it was calculated deceit for him in '03 to have said that "We'll cleanse the White House -- if there are any leakers here, we'll cleanse them." And, of course, what he had done was he had declassified information a couple of days before, and then he leaked the information.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, no, the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's what I'm getting at. What I'm getting at -- that was a bad story, okay? Then, all of a sudden, there was this Iran sudden news item that was all over the press. The deceit story evaporated. Is that correct?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. Here's who's pushing the Iran story. It's people who don't want a strike on Iran, are talking to Seymour Hersh and saying, "You won't believe, Sy, what they're planning." So Sy booms it up and the president denies we're going to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this press manipulation at work, do you think?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what I'm getting at.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. The press has manipulated information.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's --

MR. BLANKLEY: The reason the leak story disappeared is because the press had to back down, as did prosecutor Fitzgerald, because they gave false information about the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get one thing straight. Iran has signed --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- as we said on the show last week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iran has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Here are two codiciles of that treaty. Article 4 of the NPT reads: "One, nothing in this treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the parties to the treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.

"Two, all the parties to the treaty undertake to facilitate and have the right to participate in the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy."

Their argument is that they're broke; their economy is bad. And I was there and I can testify to that.

MR. O'DONNELL: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what they want to do is sell the oil. To sell they oil, they want to therefore have nuclear electricity. They've already got 8 percent of their electricity from hydroelectric. They also want to build these factories where you can convert oil to clothing. You know what I'm talking about, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a name for that. I forget what it is. Do you know what it is? Hydrocarbons. They want hydrocarbons. So that's their argument. And furthermore, the treaty allows them to use nuclear fuel for electricity. So, you know, should we get into further discussion before we start talking about knocking out their installation through air power?

MR. O'DONNELL: Of course we should not -- we don't want them to have nuclear weapons. But we are advocates. This government is advocates of nuclear power. They have nuclear power. That makes perfect sense. And they're going to be developing it further. And they have a very good case for developing it, and we've got to talk to them about it. We should engage them. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're selling nuclear equipment to India. And we ourselves in the United States are going bananas by our nuclear program, meaning getting more nuclear to substitute for our --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the best thing we could do is go in there ourselves, frankly, build these things ourselves, control it, monitor --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Co-engineer it.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- monitor every single step of it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They said they would give up --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- engage with these guys, or we're going to go to war with them -- one or the other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a one-word answer. We're out of time. Will a nuclear strike against Iran be Bush's October surprise? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: No nuclear strike.

MS. CLIFT: No nuclear strike and no other strike. The president is too weakened.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MR. BLANKLEY: No nuclear strike, but very possible another -- a conventional.

MR. O'DONNELL: No chance of the president making such a bad mistake.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Any strike at all?

MR. O'DONNELL: None -- no kind of strike.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's possible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No strike.

Issue Three: United 93.

The motion picture is "United 93," about the ill-fated flight that was hijacked on 9/11 and ultimately crashed outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It debuts later this month. The trailer is currently playing in theaters. It is a dramatic recreation, with real news footage of a plane about to hit the World Trade Center.

Some audience members are upset, even though the plane striking the structure is not shown. It's the scenes of the passengers, their phone calls, their anxiety and their horror that are altogether too raw, too real, too soon. One Manhattan theater pulled the trailer after complaints. But Universal Studios says it will not. "The trailer is a responsible and fair way to show what's coming," says Universal.

Question: Why has this movie trailer resonated with audiences in such a raw fashion? And do you want to point out any error in that --

MR. O'DONNELL: Ninety-three is the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. And it's very strong stuff. I'm not sure that I want to see it. But it may explode at the box office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it will be -- it'll tank at the box office?

MR. O'DONNELL: It could be "The Passion of the Christ." We don't know it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Happy Easter and blessed Passover weekend. Bye- bye.

END.