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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT, RICH LOWRY AND MARTIN WALKER

TAPED: FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 27-28, 2006

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ANNOUNCER: From Washington, "The McLaughlin Group," the American original. For over two decades, the sharpest minds, best sources, hardest talk.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Capitol under siege. The U.S. Constitution is under attack, and Congress is manning the battlements. Not since the days of Thomas Jefferson have the words "separation of powers" been intoned with such reverence and alarm. The legislative, executive and judiciary offices of government must, quote, "be kept forever separate," unquote, insisted Jefferson.

That separation is breached when the executive branch lays siege to an office in the legislature. REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D-CA, House minority leader): (From videotape.) That the attorney general, the Justice Department can come in and raid a legislative branch office -- whatever the justification, there has to be some rules of the game.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That raided legislative office belongs to another Jefferson, Congressman William Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana. Armed with a duly issued warrant, the FBI spent 18 hours last weekend riffling through Jefferson's Capitol Hill Office.

Constitutional scholars find fault with that decision.

JONATHAN TURLEY (professor of public interest law, George Washington University): (From videotape.) But when one branch is being searched at the behest of another with the approval of yet a third, it gets pretty serious on the constitutional level.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does the executive power, President Bush, have the authority to use the judicial power, the attorney general and the FBI, against the nation's legislative power, the Congress, Rich Lowry?

MR. LOWRY: This search, John, was totally within legal and constitutional bounds. There is constitutional protection -- you know, the search (sic) and debate clause that's supposed to keep the executive from interfering with legislative business. But it no way is supposed to prevent this kind of search of a very serious bribery charge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First time it's happened.

MR. LOWRY: Yes. Now, it should have been more delicately handled. There should have been some sort of heads-up to Denny Hastert. But if you just get down to the legal and constitutional nuts and bolts, this thing is aboveboard.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why not the Capitol Police, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the Capitol Police have shown that they're really not capable of cracking down hard on members of Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you support this? Do you support it?

MS. CLIFT: I think there is a constitutional point here that is being made, and I think the fact that this hasn't happened in over 200 years of our history, that it is an abuse of power and it's intrusive. However, if this were litigated in the courts, I think that the Justice Department would prevail. And the fact that they went after a member of Congress who has $90,000 stacked in his freezer in tupperware containers is going to look like to the average Americans like Congress is just trying to protect one of their own and that they think they're above the rules.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MS. CLIFT: So the constitutional point gets lost.

MR. BLANKLEY: But I think there's a little bit of ambiguity left in the speech and debate clause that talks about arrests. It doesn't specifically talk about searches. So the sum -- combined with the precedent of not having been done for 200 years, the sum argument to the House -- to the congressional side, I think is -- all the lawyers I've talked with think that the better argument lies with the executive branch on this -- (inaudible).

But the clumsiness of -- at least as I understand it; I haven't heard the -- the best I can figure out, the attorney general never consulted with the speaker or anybody. The FBI just went in and did this. He also never told the president before he was going to do it. Since it was the first time in 219 years, you would think he'd mention it to the president. And obviously, if he called the speaker, they probably would have done something with the Sergeant of Arms and expedited it.

So it's been -- it's not an abuse of power, but it's a very clumsy wielding of power.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have any doubt that the president signed off on this action by the attorney general, Martin?

MR. WALKER: I have a great deal of doubt about it, but I think I'd agree with what Tony was saying. I think is worse than a crime; it's a blunder. It's the most appalling bad manners. It really muddies the waters on the whole constitutional issue. It's probably got more Americans talking about the constitutional separation of powers than at any time since they were last in civics class in high school, and it just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And even -- (off mike) -- there's the speaker of the House. Why didn't the president talk to the speaker of the House about this?

MR. WALKER: Why didn't the current attorney general who was the White House counsel, why didn't he have the political savvy, A, to make sure the president was onboard, and B, to talk to Hastert and to make sure this kind of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that because the Justice Department thinks that Hastert is really dirty?

MR. WALKER: Well, Mr. Hastert would seem to have indicated that when he suggested that the reason why we had this ABC story suggesting he was under investigation was to intimidate him on this very matter.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you a question. Hold on for one moment. I want to ask you -- clarify that question. You are certain that Gonzales would not have gone forward with this without the okay of the president, correct?

MR. BLANKLEY: I am.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, go ahead, Rich.

MR. LOWRY: That leak about Hastert likely came from some rogue element within the FBI. It seems clearly to have been payback for Hastert's harsh reaction against the raid, and then it was scandalously picked up by ABC News, which did not adequately check it, gave Hastert's office an hour to respond, did not give the Justice Department adequate chance to wave them off to begin with, and then led their broadcast with this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Let's say that it was retaliatory on the part of the FBI, okay? Does that mean that the FBI was fabricating it?

MR. LOWRY: It -- John, if this were true, all of the other news organizations that immediately tried to get the story after ABC broke it would have -- would be reporting it.

They didn't because it's not there. And ABC --

MS. CLIFT: I don't think we know with certainty all the assertions that you have made. But what we do know is while there is a constitutional principle here at stake, there is also some political self-interest.

Now, Denny Hastert may not be the target of an FBI probe, but his name has probably come up in connection with the Abramoff scandal, the Cunningham scandal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the letter he wrote?

MS. CLIFT: -- and a letter that he wrote, which he wrote after being the beneficiary of --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Constitutional --

MS. CLIFT: -- held by Mr. Abramoff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- constitutional confrontation aside, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi wants Congressman Jefferson to resign his seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): (From videotape.) I've asked him to resign immediately in order to uphold a high ethical standard that we have in our House Democratic Caucus.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there more to this story?

MS. CLIFT: Well, the Congress is not a court of law, but it is a court of public opinion, and they ought to be sensitive to the fact that Mr. Jefferson is apparently a recipient of some pretty fat bribes, and he should not keep his seat, and (he should be forced off ?) his seat on the Ways and Means Committee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jefferson said he's not going anywhere.

MS. CLIFT: Well, they can't force him out. It's up to the people in November.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, Pelosi's obviously trying to get him off the camera, so she can plug away at a culture of corruption, and it's awkward with a senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee having $90,000 of dollars in his freezer. So this is -- that's not exactly a high-minded exercise on her part.

MR. WALKER: My guess is that's why the attorney general decided this is the perfect time to launch a raid and make it clear that Democrats are in the same frame --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Jefferson matter is one species of the besmirchment and the degradation of the separation of powers clause.

And the second illustration is Hastert. We've touched upon that briefly. Who can explain the letter of 2003 that Hastert -- co-signed by DeLay and co-signed by Blunt, and who was the fourth man who co- signed it? The deputy whip?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, congressmen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There were -- the four leadership signed this letter. Can you describe what that letter -- the intent of it was or the purport of it was?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look. Look, congressmen and senators routinely sign letters on behalf of clients of lobbyists for agencies to do things or not do things.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The top echelon did it, though.

MR. BLANKLEY: It may be a grubby business --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just finish. But if Hastert is being charged with something improper on that, then a majority of members in Congress, Republican and Democrat, are constantly doing the same (hunda ?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that using a baseball bat to kill a gnat? And isn't it an inordinate use of power when the four members of the ruling party in Congress go forward and sign a letter asking the secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, to exercise control over an Indian group who allege to be on their own reservation but really have other land, but that it isn't even established in that letter to her that there is a distinct provision in the act prohibiting this? It says it's punitive.

MR. WALKER: Well, and this, I think, is the very reason why the ABC story upon Speaker Hastert really is quite interesting, because it would be bizarre if the FBI were not looking at every congressman who has taken money from Hastert, who has written letters from Hastert -- taken money from Abramoff, written letters for Abramoff's clients. As a result, they have to -- (Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Does the time --

MR. WALKER: Common sense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Does the time sequence make any difference here? It was on June the 1st that the letter was -- the letter was written on the 7th. And the money that he got from Abramoff -- from the fundraising at the Signatures, owned-by-Abramoff restaurant, was held then within seven days. The letter goes forward. That advantages the clients of Abramoff.

MR. WALKER: This is the way business is done in Washington and always has been.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think no big deal. Is that correct? No big --

(Cross talk.)

MR. WALKER: No, I think the culture -- I think we're at one of those interesting points where the culture is beginning to change.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me say -- I'll tell you what's not coincidental is the timing of Hastert Tuesday morning criticizing the FBI, and Tuesday afternoon the FBI leaking against him -- that is the abuse of power.

MR. LOWRY: John, if you look at what ABC itself has said about the story, it's technically standing by it, but it's reinterpreted the story to near meaninglessness. It's now he is in the preliminary stages of being in the mix. What does that mean? It means nothing.

MS. CLIFT: It means that the Justice -- it means that the Justice --

MR. LOWRY: It's totally vaporous.

MS. CLIFT: It means that the Justice Department is carefully building a case, and they are looking at the web of contacts that Mr. Abramoff had on Capitol Hill --

MR. BLANKLEY: Dream on, Eleanor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What else do they have? What else do they have?

MS. CLIFT: -- and there is a possibility that a dozen Republican members of Congress could be implicated in the final --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What else -- what else do they have?

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- not Hastert.

MS. CLIFT: And Speaker Hastert doesn't want the FBI rummaging through their offices.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much money has Hastert received? How much money did Hastert receive from Abramoff or his clients?

MS. CLIFT: I don't know the dollar figure, but it's substantial.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More money than any other individual -- more money than any other individual in the Congress. Does that surprise you?

MR. WALKER: No, it doesn't surprise me. But --

MR. BLANKLEY: Speakers always rate more money than back- benchers.

MR. LOWRY: Let's not forget, John, the Justice Department said he's not under investigation, and he's not even in the mix -- whatever that means. So, I mean, it's a stark denial of the story, and no one else has reported it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, maybe -- maybe what they want to do is not to chill anyone else's coming forward, which would happen if they named Hastert as being a target.

Exit question. What is your felt intuition: Was the FBI office raid on Jefferson a blunder by the White House or was it a Machiavellian stratagem to shift attention away from GOP embarrassment onto the Democrats?

Rich Lowry.

MR. LOWRY: I wish they were capable of such a Machiavellian strategy. It was more a blunder. It should have been handled more deftly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think Karl Rove is capable of deep Machiavellia?

MR. LOWRY: I don't know. The way they're operating now, John, it's -- they could use a lot more Machiavellian strategy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think it starts as a partisan Machiavellian exercise that turned into a blunder.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it's neither. It's a perfectly lawful act that was clumsily handled --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it is a blunder?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it's not a blunder, it's clumsy.

MS. CLIFT: You said it was a blunder!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You said it was clumsy -- what's --

MR. BLANKLEY: I said it's clumsy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's clumsy, but not blunder?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, he said blunder, I said clumsy.

MR. WALKER: I said it was worse than a crime, it's a blunder, and that's what it is.

MR. BLANKLEY: The other guy with an accent.

MS. CLIFT: All right. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin is correct: wicked blunder.

When we come back: He's back! Is Gore golden?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Gore was right.

The hurricane season starts in less than a week. The hurricane number will be "above average," predicts NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Furthermore, bad hurricanes may be the norm for the next 10 to 20 years.

This bad news may come as a surprise to many, but not to one man: Al Gore. He believes man-made pollutants have been fouling the upper atmosphere for years and making the weather more extreme.

AL GORE (former vice president and senator): (From videotape.) It causes more droughts; ironically, more flooding at the same time; and more powerful hurricanes.

I've been trying to tell this story for 30 years, and I have a new ally in telling this story. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is weighing in very powerfully and very loudly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gore has a new book and a new movie dedicated to the subject, titled "An Inconvenient Truth."

MR. GORE: (From videotape, in voice-over for the film "An Inconvenient Truth.") If you look at the 10 hottest years ever measured, they've all occurred in the last 14 years, and the hottest of all was 2005.

This is Patagonia 75 years ago and the same glacier today. This is Mount Kilimanjaro 30 years ago and last year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suddenly, Al Gore is the man of the hour -- hobnobbing with Beverly Hills celebrities and Cannes film festival cineastes, cover stories on major magazines.

On "Saturday Night Live," he acted out what the country would be like today if he had been president.

MR. GORE: (From videotape, in performance on "Saturday Night Live.") In the last six years, we have been able to stop global warming. (Laughter.) No one could have predicted the negative results of this. (Laughter.) Glaciers that once were melting are now on the attack. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does Gore have a new lease on political life, Rich Lowry?

MR. LOWRY: Yes, he does. Yeah, and I -- there's definitely a niche in the Democratic Party for an antiwar candidate. There's some potential it could be Al Gore. He has better credentials and is better positioned than Feingold or Edwards, the other guys positioning for that slot in the Democratic Party. And look, he got the two Gulf Wars right, from a Democratic perspective. He voted for the good one, in '91. He was against this one, which the Democrats think was the wrong war. And he's somewhat vindicated on global warming.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: He's actually in the middle of a campaign. He's campaigning to awaken the political leadership to the threat of global warming. But it's a campaign that can easily turn into a campaign for himself if he sees an opening.

And he's following the Nixonian playbook, the Nixonian in a very good way, just as Richard Nixon was edged out of the presidency very narrowly in 1960 and then came back after eight years to win --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Will Gore throw his hat into the ring again?

MR. GORE: (From videotape.) I have no plans to be a candidate and no intention of being a candidate.

Look, I'm enjoying serving in other ways.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that a Shermanesque denial? Is it both true and false at the same time? I ask you, Martin Walker.

MR. WALKER: Yes, it's a very Shermanesque denial. He's keeping his options open, which is very smart of him. He's -- I think he's caught a mood inside the Democratic Party. I don't think he can actually get the nomination, but he's certainly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he --

MR. WALKER: He's certainly playing one thing, which is, as far as the Democrats are concerned, he's a winner. He's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he's secretly --

MR. WALKER: They still think he won in 2000.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he secretly languishes for it, is he telling the truth at the same time -- he has no intentions and he has no plans? That's valid.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, look --

MR. WALKER: But he has dreams.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he has dreams. (Chuckles.)

MR. WALKER: Dream dreams -- MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look. There's nothing wrong with the statement. But the new Al Gore, I think, is the Democratic Party's worst nightmare, because he is a now turned into a conviction (sic) and principled politician.

MR. WALKER: My God, what a shock! (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: And unfortunately, his principles and convictions are to the left of the center of the American political --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I don't know about that.

MR. WALKER: I don't know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also on global warming and Katrina that was --

MR. BLANKLEY: And getting rid of the internal combustion engine.

MS. CLIFT: (Off mike) -- our way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Preemptive strike?

New York Senator Hillary Clinton on Tuesday delivered a long address at the National Press Club on alternative fuels.

SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) And finally, our values demand that we be good stewards of the planet for our children and our children's children.

And now, thanks to former Vice President Al Gore, who has been a committed visionary on global warming for more than two decades, everyone can see those consequences for themselves at a local movie theater.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Notice the designation, "Vice President."

Question: Is Hillary trying to out-green Gore? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think she sees that global warming is emerging as an issue for `08, and she sees that Al Gore has some credibility as a potential rival.

And yeah, she's getting in there, and she's demonstrating that she knows as much about this issue as he does. She went on to speak for 45 minutes with a command of detail that would rival Al Gore's, and that's saying a lot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can she outdistance Gore also in -- she can't out-green Gore, but she can outdistance him in fundraising, can she not?

MR. BLANKLEY: She can raise more money than other Democrat or perhaps any other Republican in this election cycle. But look, there's nothing wrong with being a cynical politician, and a lot of successful presidents have been. But the problem with Hillary is she's so obviously cynical, and if you look at -- you know, Arianna Huffington's website or all across the left-wing blogs, they're going nuts hating Hillary because she's so obviously playing the cynical game. Now she's going after their heart throb, Al Gore, and she's just building up more and more animosity on her left.

MR. LOWRY: John, this is the important point on fundraising when it comes to Al Gore. He does not have a large cadre of fundraisers who can go out there and get the big dollars for him. If he does this run, he has to do a Dean-style Internet campaign, which is why it's so important to him to play to the left, to play to the anti-war left, to play with the left on his conviction issue, on the environment to get the Arianna Huffingtons out there excited about him, which they are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Gore was right on the Internet too. He was talking that very early.

MR. BLANKLEY: He invented it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's been right on three things.

MR. BLANKLEY: He invented it.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's been right on global warming. He's been right on the Iraq war, and he's been right in dealing about the Internet.

Exit question: In the presidential election of 2008, will there be a clash of democratic titans, Gore versus Hillary? Yes or no? MR. LOWRY: Probably not. There has to be a real clear path and a real draft Gore movement for Gore to do it, I think.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I agree with that, but there's some regret even among the media that Al Gore was mocked and ridiculed in 2000 and he didn't deserve it, and we're ready for a serious politician.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't it Gore for the taking if he wants the nomination? There's no way anybody can stop Gore. Yes or no?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Think about it.

MR. BLANKLEY: I've thought about it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did I say four months ago? Gore is back.

MR. BLANKLEY: I said years ago that Gore is an underestimated factor in the Democratic Party, and I think he is. But it's not his for the taking.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin.

MR. WALKER: The problem is Gore is still a lousy campaigner. We saw it in 2000; we'll see it again. I think he'll run, but I don't think he can do well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see his recent speeches? Have you seen them? He's gained weight, but he's also acquired a maturity with that weight, a maturity of manner, a maturity of look, a maturity -- what shall I say -- thinking and wisdom.

MR. WALKER: What he needs is the kind of script writer he's had in this movie, because when you ask him a question, he still takes 20 minutes to reply.

MR. : In the movie --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's Gore's for the asking.

MS. CLIFT: (Off mike.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue 3: Kenny Boy collared!

PAUL MCNULTY (Deputy attorney general of the United States): (From videotape.) Our criminal laws will be enforced just as vigorously against corporate executives as they will street criminals. No one, including the heads of Fortune 500 companies, is above the law.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The book was thrown this week at Enron former executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Lay was found guilty on six out of six counts of fraud and conspiracy, plus four counts of bank fraud and false statements. On paper, Lay faces a maximum 165 years in jail.

KENNETH LAY (former CEO of Enron): (From videotape.) Certainly this is not the outcome we expected. I firmly believe I'm innocent of the charges against me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Skilling was found guilty on 19 of 28 counts -- including conspiracy, fraud, insider trading. On paper, Skilling faces a maximum 185 years in jail.

JEFFREY SKILLING (former Enron CEO): (From videotape.) We fought the good fight, and some things work, some things don't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Do these convictions put to bed the 1990s Wall Street greed era?

Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, I mean, it's always a greed era. In the '80s there was a greed era. There's always greed and there's nothing wrong with greed. This is unlawful greed, and these guys are going to prison, and they should.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But has it -- are we now moving out of that? We have a lot of IPOs, don't forget, taking place. What does that tell you? There's more confidence around, isn't there?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, one of the things that we haven't got over are the excesses of the regulations that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Aren't you flocking back to buy more stocks?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. I'm in real estate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Internet is flourishing again.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm waiting for the top of the bubble before I get out.

MS. CLIFT: I still think there are loopholes that various CEOs and creative accountants can work their way through. And you're now going to see Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling appeal, and those appeals can go on for quite a while, and then they can count on President Bush to try to commute their sentences.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point about those --

MS. CLIFT: I wonder if they'll ever serve hard time.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point about those appeals, as a former prosecutor. I don't see any reason why they should be allowed to appeal while out free. When you put a criminal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that again? MR. BLANKLEY: When you convict a criminal and the sentencing, they go to prison and they appeal from prison, they don't get to appeal from their penthouse. And I don't see why white collar criminals should be allowed to spend years appealing in the penthouse. They should go to prison after they've been sentenced.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the way you did things out in California when you were, what, attorney general?

MR. BLANKLEY: Deputy attorney general. You're darn right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Darn right?

Do you have thoughts on this?

MR. WALKER: I do. It seems to me that we're never going to stop greed. I mean, here we are, we've got the Enron convictions at the same time when the Fannie Mae scandal is starting to unfold across Washington. And believe you me, if you thought Enron was bad, wait till the derivatives and hedge funds industry start to go through their own crisis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think these names will live in infamy -- Lay and Skilling -- like Fisk and Gould from the robber baron era?

MR. LOWRY: Yeah, they'll stand for a certain era of American capitalism. And the fact is, capitalism has to go through these periods of purging of miscreants and criminals, and always does. And, you know, going back to Adam Smith, Adam Smith said capitalism needs a moral center and the rule of law to thrive.

So everyone should applaud these guys being held to that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. On a political probability scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, how probable is it that George W. Bush will pardon Lay and Skilling?

MR. WALKER: Zero.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rich?

MR. LOWRY: Negative-five. No chance whatsoever.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I think it would be hard for him to pardon. But I'm thinking there's some way to commute their sentence to time served or to lessen it. I don't see them spending decades or a decade behind bars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's beneath Bush to pardon them? MS. CLIFT: No, I don't think it's beneath him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I'll say yes, he's going to do it, okay. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: The answer is zero. But if Hillary wins, Bill may try to persuade them to be pardoned because he was a great pardoner at the end of his presidency. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: No, that was a lame joke! (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin?

MR. WALKER: There's zero chance at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who will Bush pardon?

MR. WALKER: Well, if he's not going to pardon "Kenny Boy," I don't think anybody can count upon the mercy of Bush dropping like the gentle rain from heaven.

MR. LOWRY: He doesn't even --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Without prejudging anything, if it were necessary -- huh?

MR. LOWRY: He doesn't even acknowledge Ken Lay's existence anymore. He's not going to go out and pardon him.

MS. CLIFT: Well, but he has a long friendship with the Bush family, so -- you know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Without prejudging anything, if there were a need, a requirement, that is a status, would he pardon Scooter Libby?

MR. LOWRY: Yes, that's much more of a possibility.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: It depends what Scooter Libby says in his trial, whether he wins any friends in the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you don't think the wiring has already been done?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think, you know, I'd certainly put him on high on the pardon list.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he would pardon Scooter Libby.

We'll be right back with predictions. (Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.

Rich.

MR. LOWRY: There is no path to citizenship from Congress this year. If a bill passes and gets out of conference, it will not have amnesty or path to citizenship to it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor? Quickly!

MS. CLIFT: A year from now, they will be an Al Gore presidential exploratory committee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

MR. BLANKLEY: If an immigration bill passes, it won't be before the third week of July.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin?

MR. WALKER: The Middle East is going to be made fascinating by Mahmoud Abbas, who is going to run a referendum against Hamas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jimmy Hoffa's body won't be found in 2006.

Bye-bye!

Happy Memorial Day!

(Begin PBS segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Barbaro's Big Break. At the Preakness a week ago, Barbaro was the favored win. Fifteen seconds into the race, calamity.

ANNOUNCER: He is out of the race and out of the Triple Crown!

WOMAN IN CROWD: No!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Barbaro's right hind foot shattered on live TV.

MR. RICHARDSON: Most horses that suffer this severe an injury are typically put down on the race track.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Surgery spared Barbaro. PETA -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- says his breakdown came as no surprise. Quote, "Thoroughbreds are bred to have unnaturally delicate legs, are forced to run at ever-younger ages, and are drugged to mask injuries, which leads to horrifying and life-threatening injuries. The horse-racing industry is fraught with cruelty."

Question: Is PETA on target? I ask you, Rich.

MR. LOWRY: Horses at this level, John, have a pretty good life. They're very valuable, and a horse like this wants to run, it loves to run, it was built to run.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I'm with PETA, and I hope that this leads to some examination of the industry and some regulation of how these horses are treated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I feel for the horses, but they love to run. I have a couple, and we should let them run.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin.

MR. WALKER: Well, I can't agree with PETA since they said that they wouldn't support animal testing even if it led to a -- to a cure for AIDS.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In fact, PETA is wrong: few people love horses as much as horse people. Right?

END.