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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, JUNE 23, 2006 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JUNE 24-25, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Barbaric Iraq.

The al-Zarqawi morale boost was short-lived. The killing of al Qaeda's top terrorist was overtaken this week by the recovery of the bodies of two missing U.S. troops. Private Kristian Menchaca and Private Thomas Tucker were found on Monday, 20 miles south of Baghdad, in an isolated area. Eight thousand U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, in a massive manhunt, had combed the vast region for three days.

An Iraqi general described the torture that the soldiers underwent, calling it, quote-unquote, "barbaric." Another source claimed the two soldiers were, quote-unquote, "slaughtered,” dragged behind pickup trucks, dismembered, beheaded. The bodies of the dead soldiers were then booby-trapped. To give the winch of agony an extra turn, one U.S. soldier participating in the three-day search mission for Menchaca and Tucker was killed, and 12 on the mission were wounded.

This news was the most horrific of the horrific news out of Iraq this week.

Question: What kind of torture has become commonplace in Iraq, and against whom? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The initial torture and that kind of murderous activity is the main responsibility of al Qaeda and Zarqawi and his people, but they successfully ignited a Sunni-Shi'a conflict. They've been using a lot of this horrific violence on the Sunnis. And the Shi'a and the militias and some of the Shi'a who have ensconced themselves in the interior ministry have been out retaliating with reprisals every bit as awful and ugly as the stuff al Qaeda did. And this is one of the main problems that the Iraqi government and the Americans have got to get under control if they're going to ever tamp down this insurgency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cutting off digital members like fingers, electric drills of the bodies and the craniums and the organs -- pretty fierce, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Zarqawi initially targeted his violence against Shi'ite civilians. And the question now is whether this very barbaric murdering of these two soldiers is sending a message that the branch of al Qaeda in Iraq is now going to go after U.S. soldiers.

But actually, the bulk of the violence is Shi'a against Sunni and vice-versa. And the bodies stack up every morning in the Baghdad morgue, and many of these people are killed sort of execution-style.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is the way the death squads work in that part of the world.

MS. CLIFT: And it looks like a civil war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the day will come when this will be videotaped, this type of torture and death? And, if so, what happens then?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I don't know about the future. But Winston Churchill a long time ago observed that when a civilized society goes to war with a barbaric one, that the civilized conduct gets pulled toward the barbarism of their enemy. And that's an inevitable process.

And we're looking at that kind of a situation now where the enemy fights behind women and children. They keep their guns and ammunition in the mosques. And we'd better be awfully careful about the kind of rules of engagement that we impose on our soldiers who are going into that kind of a situation before we start prosecuting them, because they cannot maintain the Geneva Accords standards when they're fighting this kind of barbarism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The administration, the Bush administration, is planning to defang the insurgency over there by going to one sector of it, the Sunnis, and providing them possibly with amnesty if they will lay down their arms. Do you approve of that, dealing with terrorists?

MR. O'DONNELL: I approve of the Bush administration trying to think about how to change course, which is what that is. That's them struggling around thinking, "This isn't working. What can work?"

But the fact is, we now have Baghdad in a state of emergency outside of the green zone, completely out of control, since killing Zarqawi. Let's be clear about what the deaths of these two soldiers was. This was the insurgency's response to Zarqawi. And last week, in pundit America, including on this set --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zarqawi meaning the top insurgent leader.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes. There was a lot of nonsense about what a good week it was for the president and a lot of nonsense about the import of killing this one terrorist, Zarqawi. These people have shown you what that import is. It is nothing other than a further ramping up of what the insurgency is willing to do. This is what they must do. If you take out Zarqawi, they must show you within the next week that it does not matter, and they've proven it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Therefore, we should not have taken out Zarqawi.

MR. O'DONNELL: No, this is not a case --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's preposterous.

MR. O'DONNELL: What I'm talking about is the inane response that occurred among many people in makeup in this town on television, pretending that the taking out of Zarqawi was of some serious import that it was not. Of course you should have taken him out, but let's have a muted reaction to what it means, which is virtually nothing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you know, I disagree with that because I think Zarqawi was not only a symbol of this terrorist activity; he was an operational leader of this terrorist activity.

MR. O'DONNELL: Which still have an operational leader.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. You've got enormous amounts of material from there. There were raids, dozens, scores of raids, which took down people. The idea that it wasn't a victory is a mistake. MS. CLIFT: It was good news to get him, but it doesn't change the dynamic on the ground there.

And the horror goes on. And when we show the picture of Zarqawi having had a 500-pound bomb dropped on him, the other side looks at that and says we're the ones who are the barbarians. And we have to acknowledge that the war is not viewed through the same prism that we view it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's give the human toll and then move on: U.S. military dead in Iraq, including suicides, 2,511; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, injured, mentally ill, all now out of Iraq, 59,650; Iraqi civilians dead, 127,590.

Okay, now, no time for the timetable.

The Senate this week engaged in a passionate debate on the cause of the Iraq war. The focus was on two Democratic resolutions that called for a timetable for the disengagement of U.S. troops. Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry's was a precise deadline.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) General Casey himself has said that the large presence of American troops is lending to the occupation the sense of occupation and it is delaying the willingness of Iraqis to stand up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry's resolution was defeated, 86-13. Besides Kerry, a second timetable was proposed; Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin. He wants to begin a, quote-unquote, "phased redeployment" of U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of this year. But Levin did not set a deadline for a complete disengagement.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): (From videotape.) And to maintain this open-ended commitment which we now have is contributing to a dependency of the Iraqis on us rather than forcing them, prodding them, to do what only they can do to build the nation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Levin's resolution was defeated, 60-39. So much for the U.S. Congress.

Americans at large, a majority, want the troops home; a timetable, 53 percent; no timetable, 41 percent.

Question: Would a timetable, whether fixed or phased, undermine President Bush's strategy of negotiating with the Sunni insurgents? I ask you, Tony. MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you follow the question?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I follow the question. I think a timetable undercuts generally, but I don't think it necessarily gets in the way of negotiating with the Sunnis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why does it undercut?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, for all the reasons that people who agree with me have been stating --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's review --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- that it tells the enemy how long they have to wait before they can take over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If the Sunnis feel there's a timetable, it would be less willing to accept the terms of the amnesty.

MR. BLANKLEY: You know, in these kind of situations, sometimes the opposition goes in and out of agreement with the government. So I don't think those two are related.

Let me just say one thing. The Democrats' approach to Iraq reminds me of the bladder control ad -- "Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go." And that's based on an urge, not on a policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have --

MS. CLIFT: Well, just staying and an open-ended policy simply because if we leave, somehow the people who've died so far will have died in vain, that's not a plan either.

MR. BLANKLEY: And that's not what the president has said.

MS. CLIFT: The Republicans are lambasting the Democrats for wanting a timetable, a withdrawal plan, when, in fact, that's what the administration is trying to develop. And they may well have one that they're --

MR. BLANKLEY: You don't know that at all.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Democrats --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Democrats got slaughtered.

(Cross-talk.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Democrats got slaughtered this week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Democrats got slaughtered this week. They foolishly stepped up, and they used to have a position where Bush is responsible and they can criticize his blunders and mistakes. So they took two fixed positions -- one of them, start getting out in six months; another one starting a timetable to get out. And they got in a fixed position, and they were crushed on both of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If there's no timetable, the tendency will be for the insurgency to build because the Americans and the international forces are causing that. On the other hand, there is reason for thinking that there are non-really radical jihadists within the Sunnis who would be willing to deal and would lay down their arms for the sake of the amnesty. Do you follow me?

MR. O'DONNELL: Mmm-hmm. (Affirmative response.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what do you think we ought to do? Because a timetable clearly defeats the latter because it says to the Sunnis, "Well, if we wait this out, we may be able to take control of the government again, as we did under Saddam Hussein."

MR. O'DONNELL: We have a timetable. It's not six months, which was Kerry's original timetable; he changed it to a year. We have a timetable and the world knows it. They watched us do it in Vietnam. They watched a Republican president cut and run out of Vietnam.

MR. BLANKLEY: A Democratic Congress cut off the money in 1975.

MR. O'DONNELL: Richard Nixon cut and ran.

MR. BLANKLEY: In 1975, the Democratic Congress --

MR. BUCHANAN: That is flat-out false. Nixon was out of office.

MR. O'DONNELL: This country will cut and run.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was the Democratic Congress --

MR. O'DONNELL: Nixon cut and ran out of Vietnam. We will have --

MS. CLIFT: We didn't cut and run soon enough in Vietnam.

MR. O'DONNELL: We will have --

MR. BLANKLEY: We -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Tony. Let him finish.

MR. O'DONNELL: We will absolutely cut and run on Iraq. It is simply a question of time. There will never be a negotiation. They won't go to Paris and have a negotiation over Iraq. These insurgents will not negotiate. They will kill, and America will leave.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What could force the issue, Pat? This is your particular concern. What may force the issue is NATO taking over where we have 23,000 troops in Afghanistan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: NATO is doing a wicked job so far. Do you understand?

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, therefore, we may have to send troops into Afghanistan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Afghanistan -- you are right; it is a deteriorating situation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that means -- (inaudible) -- troops in Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, I do agree, we're bringing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're coming up to an election.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, forget the election. Bush isn't going to be affected by the election. Look, we've got --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, but his representatives -- he doesn't want to lose the Congress.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me talk to the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he loses the Congress, then the Congress will put everything on the table.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he's going to bring home some troops.

MR. BLANKLEY: He did that before the last election. MR. BUCHANAN: Let me talk to this. He's going to bring home some troops; there's no doubt about it. Your fundamental point is right. At the end of this, there is going to have to be some kind of general amnesty to tell the Sunnis, "If you lay down your arms and get into the political process, that's going to be okay." That's the only way to end this thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the current strategy.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's the only way to end this thing, in my judgment. Zarqawi's guys have got to be taken out. And I think you're going to need to bring the Sunnis into the process.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: In terms of political gain, how do you characterize this apparent setback for the Democratic timetable? Was it primarily a political defeat for the Democrats, or was it primarily a political win for the Democrats?

MR. BUCHANAN: It was so bad a defeat that I think if the election were held today, I now believe the Republicans would hold both houses.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: We'll know in November. And unless events change on the ground, the Democrats are going to hold the good cards going into the election, because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you say that?

MS. CLIFT: -- the country does not like this war. And the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. That's all --

MS. CLIFT: That's right; the stay-the-course plan won't sustain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you have to say?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, this week it didn't look good for Democrats. But it's not clear to me yet that by November, getting Republicans in the House and Senate to commit on the record for where they are on the war is necessarily beneficial to them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're saying the Democrats won the week.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I say Republicans won the week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Republicans won the week?

MR. BLANKLEY: The Democrats looked bad. But winning the week doesn't mean you're getting closer to winning the election. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who won the week?

MR. O'DONNELL: History is with the Democrats. But Tony's right; these votes, politically speaking, are bets. The Republican bet is that by November, things in Iraq will either be the same as they are now or slightly better. The Democratic bet is that things will be worse.

Anyone who's betting for things to be better in Iraq is going to lose.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Who won the week? The week.

MR. BLANKLEY: Republicans won the week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who won the week?

MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think you can --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard what Eleanor said.

MR. O'DONNELL: Politically, this week --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Politically, they got wiped out.

MR. O'DONNELL: Politically, this week is going to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard what Eleanor said. The American people are on the side of getting the troops home. The Democrats won the week.

Issue Two: Creepy North Korea.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) The North Koreans have made agreements with us in the past, and we expect them to keep their agreements; for example, agreements on test launches. We think it would be in the world's interest to know what they're testing, what they intend to do on their test.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What the North Koreans seem intent on doing is to test-launch a long-range ballistic missile. Preparations at a Korean launch pad, says the U.S., were, quote, "very far along."

Military analysts believe it's the Taepo Dong II, or TD-II, thought to have a longer range than the one North Korea fired eight years ago, the TD-I, that flew over Japan and crashed into the Pacific. The new missile is believed to have a range of 2,600 miles at least, close enough to hit Alaska.

Some fear the TD-II's range is much longer than 2,600 miles and could possibly hit the U.S. West Coast or further inland. An attack on U.S. soil is doubtful, but the U.S. would likely use its $11 billion limited missile defense program, should that be attempted. In Alaska and California, U.S. interceptor missiles are in place. But whether the U.S. system would actually work is not known. The North Koreans agreed to a moratorium on missile tests seven years ago, in 1999. So why would they decide to end it now?

North Korea's United Nations envoy puts it this way: "The United States says it is concerned about our missile test launch.

Our position is, 'Okay, then let's talk about it.'"

New Mexico's Democratic governor, Bill Richardson, who knows the North Koreans first-hand, agrees.

NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON (D): (From videotape.) So what they're saying is, "U.S., negotiate with us. Stop treating us as a country that is not powerful and deal with us directly."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is this North Korea's way of getting attention? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, obviously. (Laughs.) When you prepare to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile, it does --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I mean in dealing with the United States, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, they've been wanting to have one-on- one talks with us. We insist on talking with them through China and Russia and Japan. And I don't think you should succumb to this kind of coercive diplomacy on North Korea's part, but we should continue to talk, but in the larger group.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's the situation. The situation is that the North Koreans look around and they see Iran and they see that the brinksmanship of Iran, Ahmadinejad's behavior, vile as it may be, is nevertheless getting our attention, and now we want to talk to Iran. And the only way they can get our attention is the same kind of brinksmanship. Does that make sense to you?

MR. O'DONNELL: It makes a certain sense. Yes, obviously they're trying to get our attention. And I'm with Bill Richardson. Of course we should be talking to them. That's what we did with the Soviet Union and that's what ended the Cold War was talking to them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think we should have a grand bargain with North Korea?

MR. O'DONNELL: We don't know what the terms would be to get this thing contained. But North Korea clearly wants to be contained on this subject. They want to talk to us about it. There's no reason not to. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The hard line of this administration has resulted in North Korea having numerous numbers of bombs. The first Bush administration, they developed between one and two. The eight years of Clinton, when they dealt with them and bought them off --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, the lightwater reactors, that sort of business?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. They, in effect, froze the program --

MR. BLANKLEY: They cheated.

MS. CLIFT: They froze the program.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, they didn't. They cheated.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. There were no bombs. They froze the program for eight years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's right as far as --

(Cross-talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could you let her get in?

MR. BLANKLEY: She's just wrong.

MS. CLIFT: I am not. The diplomacy is about buying time. And the North Koreans have improved their nuclear ability under George W. Bush to a runaway status. And this notion that you don't talk to your enemy because you reward them is cockamamie.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let me talk to this, John. First, we didn't win the Cold War by talking to the Russians.

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, yes, we did. It wasn't until --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Berlin Wall came down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about Reykjavik?

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let's -- Reykjavik? I was there at Reykjavik. It worked. It worked. But let me say this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was discussion. That was discussion.

MR. BUCHANAN: The North Koreans -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't we eventually need diplomacy even in connection with the Sunnis?

MR. BUCHANAN: Reagan walked out of Reykjavik. Here's what; the North Koreans are trying to get attention. They've got attention, but they're making a mistake, because by this threat, the Japanese are looking at this very closely. And you fire this rocket, quite frankly, and you've got a real chance the Japanese go nuclear; the South Koreans cut off all aid. They consider their own rockets.

The North Koreans have made a blunder. I do agree with Lawrence; I have no problems at all with the United States talking back channel directly with anybody.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that if the North Koreans go through and they do send off this rocket, that the United States should send out a counter-rocket to shoot it down --

MR. O'DONNELL: No, because we will then show ours don't work.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. O'DONNELL: That would be a very big mistake.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it would also --

MR. O'DONNELL: We've never had one of those things work in a test that wasn't rigged.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It could also work, and that would be a bad --

MR. O'DONNELL: There's no chance of it working.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (bet?) for North Korea.

MR. O'DONNELL: No chance of it working. Our anti-missile defense thing does not work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you know that?

MR. BLANKLEY: This is if --

MR. O'DONNELL: Because every single test has failed except the ones that were rigged, and then we find out later that they were more rigged than we thought they were.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is the judgment of our rocket scientist on this panel.

MS. CLIFT: Well, aside from the risk that we might look weak if we fail to shoot it down, if we did attempt it, I think Kim Jong Il would regard that as an act of war and he might well share his nuclear material with al Qaeda, which I think is the big fear here that's going on. MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that would be a mistake, because that would be the end of North Korea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember --

MS. CLIFT: And the end of a lot of other things.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- A.Q. Khan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, the Pakistani who spread some of this nuclear technology to Libya and all around.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He had first-hand dealings with the North Koreans, did he not? He's a nuclear scientist.

MR. BUCHANAN: The North Koreans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he was hemmed in by --

MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody believes that the North Koreans very probably may have half a dozen nuclear devices. We do not know that they've weaponized it. We do not know if they can put it on a missile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what are the North Koreans, do you think, going to do, Eleanor? Do you think they're going to fire the rocket?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's been sitting there ready and they haven't done it. Now, it may be because they're bluffing. It may be because the weather hasn't been appropriate; maybe because they're waiting to see if they can get a better deal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long have the rockets --

MS. CLIFT: I can't get into their minds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long have the rockets been in the public press, worldwide press?

MR. O'DONNELL: Theoretically, they can do it at any moment now. I'm kind of hoping they do. I want to see what they're capable of at this point. It would relieve us of a certain amount of -- MS. CLIFT: It would be hard for them to back down at this point.

MR. BUCHANAN: It'd be a good thing if they did it, John. If they did it, it would be a good thing, because people would wake up to what's going on and the Japanese would wake up and the South Koreans would wake up, and the Chinese would be in a box.

MS. CLIFT: I think they're all wide awake, Tony. It's our administration that's been asleep.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get to the final question. Are the North Koreans bluffing, or will they test their new missile, which could, by the way, be wired, theoretically, with a nuclear warhead?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it probably is not. But if it were, that would be the end of North Korea. But I do not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the nearest point beyond the Aleutian Islands, which is part of Alaska, that they could reach?

MR. BUCHANAN: They could hit Japan. They could probably hit Guam. They could hit Guam.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I'm talking about continental United States. I'm talking San Francisco.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is an intermediate-range ballistic missile. I don't think it's a long-range missile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: San Francisco is 5,600 miles from Pyongyang. Did you know that?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Did I know that?

MR. O'DONNELL: San Francisco can sleep easily tonight. North Korea is never going to launch a missile against another country -- ever.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to launch.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And North Korea has nowhere near a 6,500-mile --

MR. BUCHANAN: They haven't shown it yet. They have never fired one of that range.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The most we know of --

MR. BUCHANAN: Is about 2,500 miles.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Twenty-five hundred miles. They might climb that, because it could go somewhat beyond that. Tony, are they bluffing or not? Quickly. MR. BLANKLEY: I have no idea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You have no idea.

MR. BLANKLEY: I have no idea.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony stands for --

MR. O'DONNELL: Like every other country that has nuclear missiles, they will never fire one at another country.

MS. CLIFT: I agree with Lawrence. They'd invite their own destruction. But it's a great bargaining chip, as the Iranians have demonstrated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're not talking about firing at us. We're talking about firing to demonstrate their usefulness to them if they had to fire them. My feeling is they will fire it unless we come to terms with them and start negotiating with them and use diplomacy to deal with this.

Issue Three: Pennies From Hell.

The copper coin nobody wants - the U.S. penny. With 80 percent of its purchasing power gone, has the penny become the disposable coin of American currency?

Arizona Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe introduced legislation to rid Americans of the one-cent piece. Why? The value of a penny is one cent, but the cost of producing a penny is 1.23 cents. And 2.5 seconds are added to a typical retail transaction each time pennies are used. This costs an accumulated $15 billion annually in American time.

A penny for your thoughts on the penny, Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think it's time to get rid of it. We don't use mills, a tenth of a penny anymore. The British got rid of ha’pennies many years ago. The penny is too small a denomination to be worth keeping, and people just throw them in jars if they even do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The EU has a penny, the one-hundredth of a cent coin -- one-hundredth of a totality coin, the way we do.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't take a lot of guidance from them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secondly, a penny saved is a penny earned. You're going to be attacking our aphorisms. MR. BUCHANAN: You have to keep the pennies, John, because of the sales taxes. You go and you buy something for a dollar and you've got a three-cent sales tax.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, that could all be recalibrated on the instance of a nickel -- like a nickel saved is a nickel earned.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know something? That forces --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that mean, by the way -- a penny saved --

MR. BUCHANAN: You're forcing prices up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that mean, a penny saved is a penny earned? Do you understand that?

MR. O'DONNELL: Currency experts have been telling us for a decade to get rid of the penny. The reason we won't is we especially need it in taxation and in the gas tax. The last time we raised the gas tax, it was not a nickel. It was 4.3 cents. That's how much you raised it. If you raise it in increments of a nickel, it'll become impossible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is embedded in our culture.

MR. O'DONNELL: We do need to raise --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's embedded in our songs. It's embedded in our aphorisms. It's all through the United States history. You know that. You can't get rid of the penny.

MS. CLIFT: It's good luck if you find a penny. And if you got rid of the penny, the nickel might become the new penny.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: An immigration bill before the election -- yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Nope.

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. O'DONNELL: No, I don't think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Answer: No. Bye-bye.

END.