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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT

TAPED: FRIDAY, MAY 5, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 6-7, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The Silent War.

Some call them patriots, and these patriots were at the ready this week on the Senate floor. Under consideration was a $70 billion spending bill for U.S. operations in Iraq, bringing the total cost of the war to $320 billion.

Congress calls it a, quote-unquote, "must-pass bill." Voting for it is like wearing an American flag on one's lapel. It's patriotic, a show of support for U.S. troops. It's not an occasion to debate the merits of an unpopular war. At least that's what Republicans say.

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions calls it an issue of propriety. Quote: "I don't know that it's proper to debate Iraq policy and everybody bring out their list of criticisms." Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee was the only Senate Republican to vote against the 2002 Iraq war resolution. On the spending bill, however, Chafee says, "The choices aren't good. If we don't fund our troops and pull out, what occurs then?"

Well, what do U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq say? They say put the patriotic rhetoric aside and look at the merits of U.S. occupation. When polled, 72 percent of American troops in Iraq say the U.S. should exit this year. One in four recommends the withdrawal immediately.

Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russell Feingold thinks, at a minimum, the Iraq issue should be debated.

SEN. RUSSELL FEINGOLD (D-WI): (From videotape.) We simply cannot continue to avoid asking the tough questions about Iraq. We should not be appropriating billions of dollars for Iraq without debating and demanding a strategy to complete our military mission there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. Congress has appropriated $100 billion a year to fund the Iraq war, and there never has been a serious review of U.S. goals and strategy in Iraq. This includes the war's authorization in 2002.

Question: If Congress cannot act as a check on the power of the president to wage an unpopular war, who can? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this was the duty of the Congress of the United States. It abdicated that duty in October of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Abdicated?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- in October of 2002 when they gave this president a blank check to go to war when he wanted to go to war. The Democrats did it politically to get the issue off the table. They are now in a box.

One hundred billion dollars is less than 1 percent of GDP. And Democrats were blamed after Vietnam for cutting off the South Vietnamese, and so they're not going to cut off funding here for that reason and for the reason that they believe, and not without justification, that if you cut off funding and pull the Americans out, this disaster could become a debacle all across the Middle East. They don't want to do that for reasons of responsibility and they're concerned what would happen.

The president is committed to this war. He is going to see it through. And so I think we're having our debate. We're having it here. We're having it all over the country. The country has concluded it may not have been a good idea, but we cannot walk away from this war. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that General Odom has repudiated and refuted that kind of objection that you raised about leaving at a certain date, and soon.

MR. BUCHANAN: I know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the -- and others have too --

MR. BUCHANAN: I know General --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with great force and great persuasion. So what do you think? What is the Buchanan view?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think there may be -- it's the Brzezinski-Odom view, which is it can't get any worse. Get out; cut your losses. And I take that argument seriously, but I am not at the point where I think you can just say walk away from it. I do believe it could collapse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They also say, and the fact is, I believe, that the occupation is feeding the insurgency.

MR. BUCHANAN: The occupation is feeding the insurgency, and the occupation is preventing the insurgency from winning the war -- both.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, to get back to this week -- and it is shameful that the Democrats all supported -- every single Democrat supported this spending bill. One, they're afraid of being called unpatriotic if they challenge it. But every Democrat except Rockefeller, who didn't vote at all, supported it. But 21 Republicans voted against this bill because it is larded with pork. The president is saying -- he's threatening a veto because it's larded with pork.

It is such an example of spinelessness on the part of the Democrats. They even had political coverage with almost half the Republicans objecting to this bill, and yet they still stood up and saluted. And I think there is an abiding hope, if not faith, on the part of members of Congress that this administration is looking for a way out of Iraq, and by November we will be under 100,000 troops.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't they want to talk about the war?

MR. BLANKLEY: First let me say, regarding General Odom, he may have rebutted the argument. He has not refuted the argument for the war. But as far as why the Democrats don't want to talk about it, I think there are two reasons. One, a lot of them understand that cutting and running now is a worse policy than staying and trying to manage the situation. And then many of them are simply afraid politically of taking the heat, which is not an admirable instinct but a typical one for any elected official. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't it because they're coming up to an election six months from now? They don't want to raise the Iraq war in any way, shape or form, either party?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't think most of the members are worried about six months from now. I think they're worried about two and three and four years from now, when the consequences of pulling out would become manifest, and then they get could get tarred with the responsibility for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the Republicans are terrified that the Democrats will take over the House of Representatives at least and then hold hearings, and then everything will come forward. True or false?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, I think that's absolutely the case. I think that is the big risk for the Republicans, which is that in the House there's a good chance -- they only need 15 seats in order to switch to the majority, and I think there's a very good chance that they will gain those 15 seats.

But I don't see that this necessarily -- I mean, if the war is as unpopular as we all know it is, the fact that the Democrats are willing to fund it does not suggest that they expect that voting against the funding would help them in this campaign -- quite the opposite. I think Pat's absolutely right.

And so the Democrats cannot be seen to be walking away from the American commitment at this stage of the game. And the overwhelming -- I have to say, the overwhelming view of the military and a lot of the people who study it politically do not believe the United States can leave at this point without tremendously negative consequences.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When will there be a point -- I mean, it's been going on; there's always an election around the corner.

MS. CLIFT: It's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: It's not voting against funding the war. The Democrats are not going to pull the plug on the troops. It's voting against a bill where members of Congress, eager for re-election, have loaded up with pork projects.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MS. CLIFT: They could have voted against it and forced it back to the drawing board and gotten a more reasonable bill that did what it's supposed to do, which is fund --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The earmarking --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think the House is going to blink on this?

MS. CLIFT: It was an act of greed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think the House is going to blink?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Maybe. But I don't think the House will and I don't think the president will.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: The president has threatened to veto this bill, and he would be right on this, because the earmarking and the political pork is ridiculous in this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Karl Rove will effectively say that this is a vote against the troops.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he won't effectively --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what he'll say.

MR. BLANKLEY: He won't effectively say it.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. BLANKLEY: The House Republicans will not pass that larded bill that the Senate passed.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the Democrats -- what you have to understand is the Democrats are getting the benefit of the hemorrhaging of Bush on the war. It's dragging the Republicans down. And the Democrats -- why take a risk and start fooling with the thing when they're getting the benefit?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they're all lily-livered, Patrick.

Okay. Goss goes.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) He's led ably. He has got a five-year plan to increase the number of analysts and operatives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He may have a five-year plan, but former Congressman Porter Goss won't be there to see it. Goss resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency Friday.

Question: Did Goss leave or was Goss shoved? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: The director of Central Intelligence does not tender his resignation when he's only part way -- after one year when he's only part way into his five-year plan unless there's damn good reason.

The story is evolving, but what is buzzing around Washington is that there are links to the investigation into Duke Cunningham. Now, whether that will be borne out, I don't know. Maybe he just had it; didn't get enough face time with the president. But I can't believe he would be that disloyal to resign if there wasn't excellent reason.

MR. BLANKLEY: Don't you want to elaborate further on your innuendoes and say precisely what you're suggesting, that you don't have any evidence of? MS. CLIFT: I have said what I know and what all of Washington is talking about, Tony. And you can criticize me if you would like, but let's see how this story unfolds.

MR. BLANKLEY: The fact is that right now nobody --

MS. CLIFT: For a CIA director to suddenly pull the rug out on a president as weakened as this one, there's got to be a back story.

MR. BLANKLEY: There's a lot of back-story theories, and I'm sure there's a real back story. We don't know which of the five or six.

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Has he been pushed by the president because of turmoil in the agency? Maybe. Has he left for personal reasons? Maybe. We don't know. But to suggest that it was connected --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who did the shoving?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, so the theory goes is that Josh Bolten's father advised the CIA -- who was a CIA guy, traditionally -- that there was problems there and that they needed to get him out. Now, I don't know whether that's true or not, but that's another of the back stories floating around.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Josh Bolten come to the conclusion, as others have, that the CIA is in free fall?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, this is one of -- the thing is that Porter Goss was sent over there by the president to clean it out. Whether that was right or wrong, that was his assignment, to fire the people who were leaking too much. And he was doing that. So it is curious. They would have to have expected that there would be a little free fall when that happens.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course, he's --

MS. CLIFT: The number three person at the CIA has been openly implicated in the so-called poker games that are connected to Cunningham. And Porter Goss promoted him. It's his guy. And so there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that the expanding Cunningham inquiry could be reaching further into the CIA.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to talk about the restructuring of the intelligence capability of the United States with John Negroponte as Director of Intelligence, thus subordinating the FBI and the CIA, Patrick?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that play a role here? And is John Negroponte going to tender his resignation next? MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you've got the statements that Porter Goss had felt the CIA and his own position --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was in limbo.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- was really downgraded when you put somebody between the president and him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that was justified?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you and I talked about this, and basically we all argued, I think, on this program that it was probably not a great idea to put an intelligence czar between the Director of Central Intelligence and the president of the United States. I still hold to that view.

And you also hear what Tony says is that there's a real battle between Goss and his people and the agency itself, the permanent employees. And you also hear a lot of what Eleanor's talking about, which is the metastasizing of the Cunningham thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Pentagon's intelligence budget bleeding it away from the CIA? Did that play a role here?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think -- yes, I think there certainly is a shift in terms of some of the activities of normal intelligence- gathering.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Covert activity.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Covert -- especially -- covert activity. Even the ambassadors in the country --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wasn't that what Porter Goss said he was going to be dedicated to do to return the HUMINT, the human intelligence component, namely the spying intelligence, and then he's got Rumsfeld eating away at his budget in that very area?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think, actually, the intelligence capability of the CIA was dramatically altered for the worse when Porter Goss came in, because he had the mandate to clean out the CIA. Some of their best people were forced out or left and resigned in protest over what was going on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Including the head of covert operations.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, two of them, who were two of the best people in the CIA.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is your further point?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, the other part of it is there's no doubt but that when you take the director of National Intelligence with the idea that he's going to unify the 15 intelligence agencies and put him in between Porter, you have downgraded the CIA. And that is a basic fact that was not something that Porter Goss anticipated when he became head of the CIA.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has he been somewhat burlesque, Negroponte? He spends every day getting rub-downs over at a spa.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think that's ridiculous. He's a very, very talented, very hard-working guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Therapeutic. MR. ZUCKERMAN: He needs a rub-down, believe me, after the day that he puts in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a nice guy. He's a high-class guy. But do you think he --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's a very competent fellow.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he had a clear aufgabe? Do you know the meaning of that word?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I've never had two of them.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, at one meal.

Exit question: So far the Iraq war has cost $100 billion a year. How much will it have cost by the end of Mr. Bush's presidency, two and a half years from now?

MR. BUCHANAN: Afghanistan and Iraq will be costing $700 (billion) to $800 billion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I agree with that, making it one of the most expensive wars in our history.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: It'll continue to cost about the same per year as occurring. I don't think you're going to see a dramatic reduction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that's about $500 to $600 (billion).

MR. BUCHANAN: But that's only 1 percent of GDP. We spent 35 percent in World War II.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And that doesn't take into account the long-term costs of the 16,000 or so soldiers who are going to be on some kind of disability. So you're talking about well over a trillion dollars before you include all of the costs that are long term.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say -- a trillion?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Over a trillion. It's $800 billion out of pocket over the next couple of years if you add it to what we've already spent. And then you have the long-term costs, particularly of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about at the end of his term? What's it going to be? MR. ZUCKERMAN: Eight hundred billion dollars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Bear in mind, Larry Lindsey was fired when he said that it was going to cost $200 billion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll say $600 billion.

Issue Two: Bodies for Barrels.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (attorney general, state of Connecticut): (From videotape.) These regulations are really a gift to the automobile industry. They're a sham.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ten states filed suit in federal court this week to try to force the White House to raise gas mileage requirements more for minivans, for pickup trucks, for sport utility vehicles, better known as SUVs.

Actual fuel economy standards have not changed since 1990. For the past 16 years, the fuel standard set by federal regulation has been 27.5 miles per gallon. That means that all the combined models of passenger vehicles produced by any given carmaker, like GM or Ford, must collectively average at least 27.5 miles per gallon.

In March, the administration finalized new regulations for SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks, calling for modest improvements in fuel efficiency in SUVs, pickups and minivans. But fuel economy is not the only way to measure the efficiency of a carmaker's fleet of passenger vehicles. There is also the safety factor -- safety efficiency, if you will.

Now the larger, heavier vehicles, like SUVs, are more efficient at protecting passengers from death or maiming in automobile wrecks. That means they are more safety-efficient, saving lives and preventing injuries in a car collision. Conversely, passengers in small, light cars are far more likely to suffer serious injuries or fatalities.

Question: Suppose the traffic accident mortality rate goes up because cars are made smaller to preserve fuel. Is that a good trade- off -- bodies for barrels? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, obviously I don't think so. I'm in favor of free markets. The people will go to smaller cars if they want them. And trying to force people to buy cars they don't want is foolish. And anybody who wants to protect their family, particularly if you have children, you want them in a lot of steel around them. And that to me is the better call to protect your children driving around in Suburbans and large vehicles.

MR. BUCHANAN: John -- MS. CLIFT: It's the phoniest trade-off I've heard. Maybe in a head-on collision with Pat's Navigator, my little Prizm would suffer. But the big SUVs are prone to tipping over. And secondly, you don't need these massive cars to go to the Safeway that is two miles away in narrow streets. And people have to use some common sense here, and the government should encourage that. And Detroit can build small, safe cars.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, since I've --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are a number of statistics involved here: One, 43,000 deaths a year and a lot of maiming and a lot of bones crushed.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, point of personal privilege.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Second --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, they're hitting my Navigator here. Look, I don't drive it very, very far. It is an extraordinarily safe vehicle. It doesn't turn over if you don't corner at 55 miles an hour. It's a successor, John, to what you and I recall, the station wagon. As Tony says, these are family vehicles. Those Suburbans, for example -- you've got big families, moms and dads driving their kids to games. They are paying for safety.

Let the free market decide whether they want it or not.

MS. CLIFT: Pat, how many people --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say --

MS. CLIFT: How many people are typically in your Navigator?

MR. BUCHANAN: In my Navigator?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, how many people generally?

MR. BUCHANAN: There's not anybody besides me.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The greens want to reduce emissions even if it means more deaths on our highways.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, John, that is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They want to subordinate mortality rates to the -- they want to subordinate mortality rates to the environment.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You are not framing the issue properly. You can --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Because this --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think safety is a consideration for car manufacturers?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Give me a chance and I will answer. Of course, safety is a factor. But the issue is the fuel efficiency of these engines. And they can still keep the large cars if they are forced to improve the fuel efficiency of the engine. We need to do something about the energy problem. With all due respect -- MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Mort, why don't you --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just a minute --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- do something about your corporate jet?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm glad you brought that up, because every one of these things is a part of a national problem. And everybody -- your car, his jet and her private plane --

MR. BLANKLEY: My jet?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, whatever it is --

MR. BLANKLEY: It's your jet, Mort. I only have a car.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: All I'm saying is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no. You're valuing the environment more than you are people.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We need to improve production in this country and we need to improve conservation in this country. We've got to do something about reducing the amount of oil imports.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mass transit, bicycles, Segways?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Whatever.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that what you want?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Improving the fuel efficiency -- the technology exists.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come. There are other values. There's the value of life and safety --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course. But they're not -- that's not the issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- particularly if you're a mother with children in the car.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I couldn't -- I support all mothers and children.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mort, what is wrong with --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think this has become hysteria generated by the greens -- and you.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They can improve the -- MR. BUCHANAN: What is wrong, Mort -- what is wrong with the Acela? Why don't you come down on the Acela?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have no idea what you're talking about.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Acela is a train.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I understand --

MR. BUCHANAN: Why do you need the corporate jet?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do come down on the train just to see you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why not let the market --

MS. CLIFT: I have a suggestion. You can go to Al Gore's web site and everybody can figure out how to be carbon-neutral. If you fly your plane, you can make it up in other ways.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why not let the market solve this?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Because the market hasn't solved it. That's exactly the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, rubbish. Rubbish.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We are now importing 11 million barrels a day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the Asian cars --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The market has not solved that problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Asian cars are selling ahead of the American cars.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, they --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a sign that the market is doing its work.

Exit question: Are high gas prices here to stay? We're almost out of time.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, high and higher.

MS. CLIFT: High and higher. I agree. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: High and higher.

Issue Three: Flu Remedy.

Fifty million Americans infected; 40 percent of the work force out; hospitals overflowing; 2 million dead. That's the worst-case scenario if a deadly influenza pandemic hits. Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend this week described the government's $7.1 billion plan to handle an avian flu pandemic in the U.S.

FRAN TOWNSEND (White House Homeland Security adviser): (From videotape.) We will take immediate action to prevent or to slow the spread of the infection, including entry and exit screening, restrictions on movement across borders, and consider the rapid deployment of international stocks of antiviral medication.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Antivirals Tamiflu and Relenza are now on hand, 20 million doses of the drugs. The 2008 goal is 75 million doses. The government also hopes to enlarge the stockpile of, quote-unquote, "pre-pandemic vaccines." Currently the stockpile is inadequate. So that means --

MS. TOWNSEND: (From videotape.) Vaccine and the antiviral medication prioritization.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Washington is doing enough in the event that we are in a pandemic due to Asian flu?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't know for certain, but my guess would be yes, they are, because of Katrina.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She put very sharp limits on what Washington would do, and she moved it into the communities, local and state.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, she said state, local and the World Health Organization. This is absolutely terrifying. They're supposed to be the lead agency. They're predicting 2 million Americans could die, and they're doing very little.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the White House is pushing it too much in the direction of the locals?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, actually, that's the strategy that is advised by experts, not only on flu but other, is to marshal the resources locally more.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I do not. I do not think the federal government is doing enough, and they have to work a lot more closely with the state and local issues and the hospital system in order to improve our capacity to respond to this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More, in this instance, is right.

Issue Four: Star-Spangled Spanish.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I think the National Anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the National Anthem in English.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's called "Nuestro Hymno," the Spanish- language version of the Star-Spangled Banner. The tune is the same, but the lyrics are not those penned by Francis Scott Key in 1814.

One administration official is more open-minded than her commander-in-chief to the Star-Spangled Spanish. CONDOLEEZZA RICE (secretary of State): (From videotape.) I've heard the National Anthem done in rap versions, country versions, classical versions. The individualization of the American National Anthem is quite underway.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What is Secretary Rice advocating, a cafeteria plan for the National Anthem -- pick your own? What do you think, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think what she is saying is it doesn't diminish the National Anthem to have it sung in different languages by different ethnic groups. And I agree with her on that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know where the music came from for the National Anthem?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm going to only tell you this. The polls indicate that over 60 percent do not today know the lyrics to the National Anthem. It's a very complicated song to sing, I have to tell you, as somebody who came in from another country and tried to memorize it. It ain't easy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about the range, the registers that are required to sing it? You know, it started -- the music came from a 1771 song that used to be sung in gents' clubs.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was written by a fellow by the name of Smith, John Stafford Smith. And it wasn't until 1814 -- this is some free erudition for you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was to celebrate a Greek figure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. So are we wed to this? How long has it been the National Anthem?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: 1931.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: 1916, wasn't it?

MR. BLANKLEY: The only person who sings it right is Kate Smith. And every deviation from the Kate Smith version --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we need a new national anthem? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, what we've got is fine. And the problem with this one is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you opposed because conservatives don't like change? MR. BUCHANAN: Look, look. "Feliz Navidad," that Christmas song, is perfect because the words are perfect. These are rewritten words. They're an insult. They're provocative. They're in your face. That's why Condi Rice is wrong on this and the president is right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: Will there be an avian flu pandemic? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MS. CLIFT: Yes; a matter of when, not if.

MR. BLANKLEY: Unknown.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unknown.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: From your lips to God's ears. That's all I can say. Yes, I think there will be a pandemic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is no. The virus will not be able to jump from person to person and mutate from person to person. Therefore, it will not be able to spread.

Happy Cinco de Mayo. Bye-bye.

END.