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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; CAROLINE DANIEL, FINANCIAL TIMES

TAPED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 16-17, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: "Abu Ghraibing" Geneva.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): (From videotape.) If we are seen as withdrawing from the Geneva Convention for whatever reason, it will create a ripple effect that will come back to haunt us for decades.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA): (From videotape.) It would be a very serious blow to the credibility of the United States.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (From videotape.) It could put American lives at risk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk."

Senate revolt -- that's what President George Bush has on his hands. The revolt is over Bush's plan on the permissible way to interrogate presumed enemy combatants. President Bush says the Geneva Conventions are too vague. Critics say the president wants to let the CIA continue to use brutal interrogation techniques.

Those rebels who want Geneva intact are GOP titans John McCain, retired Navy captain, tortured for nearly six years in Vietnam; John Warner, retired Marine Corps Reserves captain, veteran of World War II and Korea and a former secretary of the Navy; Lindsey Graham, an Air Force JAG judge and a current colonel in the U.S. Air Force's Reserve; Colin Powell, retired four-star general and the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs and former secretary of State.

On Friday, Commander in chief Bush threw down the gauntlet: No change, no program.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The bottom line is simple. If Congress passes a law that does not clarify the rules, if they do not do that, the program's not going forward.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Forget about a civil war in Iraq. What explains the civil war in the Republican ranks? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is a real struggle of principle, John. I can understand McCain and Powell and the others on the Geneva Convention. That is sacrosanct. But we are in a new kind of war, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed does not deserve the rights of Timothy McVeigh, who was an American citizen, evil as he was. And I do not believe you can go with name, rank and serial number of people like that, whose method of war is the mass murder of innocent human beings in the thousands.

So there's no doubt, on the public relations of it, McCain and Powell are on the high ground. But quite frankly, I think the CIA, when you're dealing with people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, you've got a right to interrogate those guys very roughly to find out who they're going to murder next.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you want to change Section 3?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I just agree with the president's approach. And I do think the CIA -- you need to give those fellows some rules of the road so that somebody doesn't come in later and declare them war criminals for doing what they think best to ensure the security of this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is no such thing as extremism in the defense of security. That's what Buchanan is saying, and that's what the president is saying. MS. CLIFT: I'll take John McCain over the president and Pat Buchanan. John McCain was tortured himself. He understands what's at stake here, that if we endorse torture, that we are sending a message to the rest of the world that will endanger the lives of our servicemen. Colin Powell is also pointing it out.

The people who know war and understand war are on the right side on this. And frankly, if we're going to go mano a mano between President Bush and John McCain, this is John McCain's to win, just as he did on the torture amendment earlier this year.

I can't believe a vice president and a president, that rarely go to Capitol Hill, they go up there to lobby on behalf of torture. We live in a democracy. They need some reminding.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is brinksmanship of the highest order. What is the nature of the brinksmanship? What happens if the president does proceed with abandoning the program of interrogation, coercive interrogation? What happens then? Then if there's a terrorist act, he can blame it on the mutineers, correct?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not only can he blame it, but it would be appropriate to blame it on people who've withdrawn from our kit bag of defensive mechanisms, coercive interrogation.

Let me say a couple of things. I completely agree, obviously, with Pat's analysis. There's a lot of confusion about what we're talking about. If you are a normal soldier fighting in uniform, whether you're an enemy of ours or not, this doesn't affect it.

The question is whether, under Rule 3, which traditionally meant rebels in a domestic dispute and which our Supreme Court a few months ago said should include al Qaeda because al Qaeda is not an international war; it rather falls under this domestic category -- in that circumstance, you're entitled to certain bear minimums of human rights.

What Bush is saying is -- he's not contesting that; he's saying that we can't ask our interrogators at CIA and elsewhere to not have specific guidelines about what they can and can't do it. And they won't do it, and therefore he won't ask them to do that, and therefore we won't have the ability to coercively interrogate people, just as every intelligence service around the world has traditionally interrogated spies differently than you do normal uniformed prisoners of war.

And torture is not involved in this. People keep throwing the word torture around, and that's not involved. And no one's calling for torture.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? Do you want to clear this up? You heard what Tony said; torture's not involved here. MS. DANIEL: Well, I think what started this was the Supreme Court decision a few months ago. And Bush has been -- he's basically been given a very bad set of cards to play. He's playing them actually very effectively now politically. He's raised the specter again of Osama bin Laden, who hadn't been an anecdote in Bush's speeches Bush's speeches for the last few years or hardly around. In the speech last week, he referred to him 17 times. The day after, when he talked about military tribunals on the CIA case and how they can interrogate in secret prisons, he raises the figure -- Pat referred to him twice -- of KSM, which is now they're trying to sort of create this sort of scary figure of KSM, who's the mastermind of 9/11. And this is the kind of guy we're talking about when we're talking about torture. So they --

MR. BLANKLEY: They didn't create --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's not torture.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the risk for the president?

MS. DANIEL: The risk for the president is an issue of moral authority, I think. I think he's putting his presidential authority right now against the moral authority of Colin Powell and Senator McCain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If the Senate doesn't give it to him, he's going to look very bad, is he not?

MS. DANIEL: I think for the -- that's the danger for the Republicans. If they damage the president, they damage themselves in the midterms.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the other hand, they run the risk, too, that over the next couple of months there could be a terrorist act, and then he can blame it on the mutineers.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, point of personal privilege here. I mean, look, nobody is in favor of the torture of human beings. The question is -- take Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They waterboarded this guy, apparently, and he gives up all these names. Now, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want a sliding scale? Is that what you want?

MR. BUCHANAN: You want to define what people can do. And secondly, you've got people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, how are you going to define all the acts of terrorism? Are you going to begin with gouging eyes out?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me ask you -- John, you've got guys who've got a number of planes they're going to blow up over the Pacific, and you're telling me you're going to ask them their name, rank and serial number?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give you a worst-case scenario. You have a suspect which intelligence says, "This is the real article," and he knows where there is an atom bomb buried in Manhattan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we've got to find out who it is. That's what they're worried about. MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. You've got to do something. You do not systematically torture people for no reason, but if somebody knows of an imminent attack with a number of deaths and it's mass murder, you've got a right to do things --

MS. CLIFT: Why is it that the people in the military and the people who have been subjected to torture are on the other side of this? Because they know the kind of techniques you're talking about are not designed to get real information. They're designed to get confessions. And the real information is --

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: We happen to live in a democracy. What are we fighting for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on --

MS. CLIFT: -- to preserve?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Senate revolt over torture is not occurring in a vacuum. Muslims have suffered abuses at the hands of the U.S. As an example, the Abu Ghraib humiliations and cruelties -- I'm sure I don't have to run through that parade of horrors. Then we've got Guantanamo tortures. Then we've got secret CIA --

MR. BLANKLEY: Tortures?

MR. BUCHANAN: Tortures --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- prisons overseas. And then you've got U.S. rapes and murders, notably in Haditha. What kind of an image have we propelled? Against that backdrop, does the attempt to change the prisoner abuse 50-year-old Geneva Conventions --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute -- worldwide respect for the United States has never been lower. Worldwide respect -- and you want to come in here and change the Geneva Conventions?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, what happened at Abu Ghraib was disgraceful. What happened at Haditha, if true, is a war crime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It presents an image of us to the world.

MR. BUCHANAN: If there's a legitimate case when you get hold of terrorists who've got information that's about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, you don't have to change Article 3 to do that. MS. CLIFT: What happened in Abu Ghraib happened because of signals that came from the very top. It wasn't just a few bad apples. And if I recall correctly, what was so awful about Saddam Hussein was he tortured people. He ran rape centers. You know, we are opposed to torture.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Detainees in U.S. custody, the number of deaths is 44; homicides, 21; coercive interrogations, eight. Now, that's not a very nice --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero at Guantanamo.

MR. BLANKLEY: When you say tortures at Gitmo, I don't believe there's been a single allegation of that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no deaths at Gitmo.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's simply a fabrication --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what do you understand as torture -- waterboarding?

MS. CLIFT: There are allegations. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm technically not an expert on it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there you are. You can't even define the term, and you're accusing me of using it --

MR. BLANKLEY: I know it when I see it. But there's not even been an accusation from Bush's opponents of torture at Gitmo.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got a sliding scale. What floor do you get off at?

MR. BLANKLEY: I get off at --

MS. CLIFT: I think the Red Cross is a better authority on what's going on.

MR. BLANKLEY: And they said --

MS. CLIFT: There have been allegations.

MR. BLANKLEY: Of torture at Gitmo?

MS. CLIFT: There's actually a book out by somebody who was interrogated there --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask -- MS. CLIFT: This is about more than torture. It's about convicting people without letting them see the evidence against them. That's another issue here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct. Let me put a constructive question to Caroline here, and that is this. This is going to be worked out in a deal, correct? And everybody has to come out okay -- the president, the Republicans and the Democrats. Who's going to cut the deal, and what's going to be in it? Do you know?

MS. DANIEL: I don't know, but I think the president -- I agree with you; I think they will cut a deal, because both sides need a deal. The president needs a deal, and politically the Republicans need a deal. I thought that you saw at Bush's press conference already some intimation of him saying, "The only question I want to ask of the legislation is whether it allows the CIA program to go ahead," which does, I think, leave some room for him to claim victory, whatever comes out of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that they want immunity, and that's why they want to change Section 3? The president wants immunity. He doesn't want to be prosecuted for war crimes. The secretary of Defense doesn't want to be prosecuted for war crimes.

Is that part of this, why the White House is so energetic on this?

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was talk about that in connection with Clinton and the bombing of --

MR. BLANKLEY: No sitting president can be prosecuted from war crimes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Serbia.

MR. BLANKLEY: But let me go back to the more interesting question of whether there's going to be a compromise, because that's a matter of, I think, reasonable interpretation.

My sense is that the president is not in a mood to compromise, and McCain -- both on matters of principle. McCain is not in a mood. I think McCain and the other three senators -- there will probably be one or two more -- can block it. So I don't think the president can get legislation --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain and Kennedy are going to be the principals in a deal.

MR. BLANKLEY: Kennedy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. He'll bring 25 Democrats with him right over to McCain. I haven't heard the terms of the deal.

MR. BLANKLEY: McCain can block it. But I think, as the president spoke on Friday at the press conference, he was adamant. He said, "This program will not go through unless we have specific" --

MS. CLIFT: It's ridiculous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: General Blankley --

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm quoting the president -- "specific definitions of what our interrogators may do or not do." And McCain says he doesn't want to change it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear Warner? Did you hear Graham? Did you hear McCain? Did you hear Powell? You see the strength of those military figures, and you are second-guessing them?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, of course. McCain also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's talk about the other three, if you think McCain is a sissy.

MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't say that. I think he's a hero.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what you're equivalently saying.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I said he's a hero. Powell, on the other hand, has not exactly been loyal to the president, if you look at the Armitage matter and how he let his own president twist in the wind.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't you look at the way he suffered an unfortunate fabrication by appearing in the United States Senate --

MS. CLIFT: Actually, John, Powell was too loyal to this president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me; I want to finish. Colin Powell, if anything, was too loyal to this president. He could have stopped this war and he didn't speak up.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, so could your Democratic friends, and they didn't speak up.

MS. CLIFT: The Democrats don't have any power, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: They gave him the power to go to war. There are honorable men on both sides --

MS. CLIFT: If every Democrat had voted against it, the Republicans still would have won.

MR. BUCHANAN: There are honorable men on both sides. That includes Powell and McCain and the others who are adamant, and it includes the president of the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of all people, Buchanan, you should be concerned about the Muslim and Arab opinion around the world. The United States has never been held lower in the collective opinion --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- due to that array of unfortunate -- MR. BUCHANAN: The war crimes, you're right, John. But Gitmo is not a war crime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Powell says that the U.S. is losing the moral high ground in the war on terrorism. Is he right? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there's no doubt that in world and public perception --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That sounds like a yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- we are. And some war crimes have been committed by Americans. But we're fighting war criminals.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Powell is right. And the president is trying to turn this into an apocalyptic struggle for civilization himself in order to rev up his Republican troops for November. It is a despicable campaign strategy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he's trying to portray Democrats like you as weenies. That's what he's trying to do --

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the war on terrorism.

MS. CLIFT: I'm no weenie. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, there is no moral reduction in our right to defend ourselves from terrorism. Have there been events that have been embarrassing? Of course. I point out, it's not just George Bush who's talking about a war against civilization. Henry Kissinger, of all people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have we lost --

MR. BLANKLEY: Henry Kissinger, of all people, in this Wednesday's Washington Post, said he's concerned that we're drifting into a war of civilizations. So this is not a fabrication of the neocons. This is a real --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that mean?

MS. CLIFT: But how do we fight it? How do we fight it? The president has made it worse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that mean genuine World War III? Is that what he's talking about? MR. BLANKLEY: Read Henry Kissinger's article. He is expressing genuine concern in a long 2,000-word article in The Washington Post this week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has the Financial Times argued that way in its editorial?

MS. DANIEL: Not yet in terms of -- we haven't seen where this is going to play out. It's up to Congress to decide what it does with this, and the president is proposing -- the president's reputation internationally is already damaged by what he's done in Iraq and with Guantanamo Bay already. I don't think this is going to change international opinion fundamentally, but it might change it towards how people see America if they endorse it in Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Powell is right that we've lost the moral high ground?

MS. DANIEL: I think that's too -- I mean, Bush was asked that question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said we're in danger of it.

MS. DANIEL: I think you've seen -- over the last five years you've seen change in the perception of America on many of these issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we've lost the moral high ground already.

Issue Two: Taliban Is back.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) The days of the Taliban are over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not so, it appears, Mr. President.

Item: Fierce fighting. NATO's top military commander is General James Jones. He visited Afghanistan last week. The trip was an eye- opener. Jones was briefed by the commander of the Canadian forces in Afghanistan, General Davis Fraser, who described the intensity of the Taliban's offensive and their new tactic.

Taliban ambushes are now large-scale assaults. Militants stand in the open and fight, not evaporate into the countryside. Suicide bomb attacks and improvised explosive devices, IEDs, are up 400 percent. Taliban attacks have left more than 1,000 people dead in the last four months. Reconstruction efforts are sidetracked.

Item: Opium production soaring. Afghanistan now supplies 92 percent of the world's heroin ingredients. Drug lords rule over a $3 billion drug economy. That money goes into Taliban training, weaponry, execution.

Since 2001, the U.S. has spent $60 billion on the conflict in Afghanistan, and currently 20,000 American troops serve there; 272 Americans have been killed since the war began.

Item: Leadership lacking. Afghanistan is governed by President Hamid Karzai and his administration. Karzai is unpopular, particularly in rural sectors.

Question: Are Bush's critics right? Did he shortchange the mission in Afghanistan in his haste to attack Iraq? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he declared mission accomplished, basically, in Afghanistan and rushed off to Iraq. And he's been calling Afghanistan a success for some period of time when, in fact, it is collapsing. But it is not past the point of no return. They need more troops. NATO is begging for 2,500 more troops. Poland has promised a thousand. But, you know, again, if we're in this existential fight for civilization, we need to step up and send some troops to Iraq. And John Kerry and Joe Biden, Democratic senators, have been asking for more troops for a long time for Afghanistan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you this. Has the command been turned over to NATO yet, because NATO so far is appalling in its inability to pick up the baton and move with it?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, Eleanor is mostly right, although she's wrong on the question that we took troops out of Afghanistan right at the beginning. But it's undertrooped now. The British are carrying too much of the load.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: NATO's supposed to be taking over.

MR. BLANKLEY: NATO. And the British contribution -- the British general said they're barely able to maintain their military responsibilities. NATO is falling flat. Everyone has been begging for troops. Other than 900 brave Poles, you can't find a single NATO country.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. BLANKLEY: And this goes to a bigger issue in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is that for the magnitude of the project, we are vastly underfunding and underarming the struggle, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me pick up on that. We are in danger of losing both wars. The American Army is not going to be driven out of Afghanistan or Iraq, but we are in danger of losing both wars. Pakistan has pulled its troops out. The Taliban have a privileged sanctuary. Four NATO nations are giving us nothing; the Poles a few troops.

And we're getting to the point -- Anbar province, according to that Marine officer, is gone politically. The president says Baghdad is terrible. We are either going to invest far more ground forces in Iraq and in Afghanistan or we're going to stay the course, which is now a course that is leading directly to an American defeat in both wars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And there's a third war, the war on terrorism. This president is faced with three wars. What about -- is NATO a fig leaf?

MR. BUCHANAN: NATO is going to be tested and it's going to fail or succeed in Afghanistan. And right now it is failing the test.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The only people -- MS. CLIFT: NATO is only as good as its member countries. The U.S. is the strongest NATO country. So if NATO fails, that means the U.S. is failing. We have to bear responsibility for that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will you let Caroline in? She hasn't said anything. Go ahead, Caroline.

MS. DANIEL: I don't think NATO is failing the test yet. I think it's too soon to say that. It's its hardest conflict in 57 years. I think where it's failing is it's got a problem where you have the French who've committed troops elsewhere. The Italians have committed troops elsewhere. So it's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've committed troops elsewhere; the United States.

MS. DANIEL: Yeah, obviously the United States has. So it's very hard to find out where the troops are going to come from, and certainly they're not going to come from the U.K.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The only troops that have been brought in by a nation that I'm aware of is Poland, and they just committed 900 troops.

MS. DANIEL: And they're not going until next February.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're not going in until February.

MS. DANIEL: But I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what about the Taliban and the resurgence of the Taliban? The Taliban can win this war and be back in place.

MS. DANIEL: I don't think that's true. I think what you're saying is it's not a popular movement in Afghanistan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What should the president do?

MS. DANIEL: You've seen that most of these people who are dying in Afghanistan, the 2,000 dead are civilians. So I don't see, yeah, any sort of resurgence of political support for the Taliban, other than from Pakistan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the government is so weak over there, it can't resist under Karzai.

MR. BUCHANAN: One bullet through Karzai, what happens? Look, this is a weak government. He's mayor of Kabul. I think he tries hard. But you've got this gigantic opium crop coming out. They're funding the Taliban. The point is, the Taliban have a privileged sanctuary in Pakistan. I don't know how you beat a guerrilla army that's got a privileged sanctuary. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Afghan warlords are learning their lessons from the Iraqis. They're using IEDs.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're funding the Taliban.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're now standing up and having face-to-face conflict. They're not disappearing into the countryside.

MR. BUCHANAN: The warlords are now funding the Taliban, who formerly eliminated them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What a mess we're in over there.

MS. CLIFT: This year's opium crop was 50 percent larger than last year's bumper crop. They are supplying more opium and heroin than the world can even digest. The answer is you start getting out of the way of the civil war in Iraq and you move some troops into Afghanistan, where you really can win. And you accept that if you really want to be winning in Iraq, it will take half a million troops in 10 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The new worry is losing one-third of Iraq --

MS. CLIFT: The government is not going to do that, not even Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The new worry is losing one-third of Iraq, which is the Anbar province.

The president was careful to say it has not been lost, hoping that there will be enough troops built up on the Iraqi side to man it. That is --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make --

MS. CLIFT: Congressman --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: Congressman Chris Shays had hearings this week. He is pressing the administration to give a number of how many Iraqi troops they need, because the strategy is the Iraqi troops stand up; American troops stand down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got --

MS. CLIFT: There are 294,000 Iraqi troops, and not an American has left. So what does that say about that strategy?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a one-word answer. Will the United States be forced to resume responsibility for the military operations in Afghanistan, or will NATO step up to the challenge? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Americans will have to do it.

MS. CLIFT: NATO and the U.S. are synonymous. If anybody steps up, it will have to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We only have 2,000 troops in NATO and we've got 20,000 troops there. So it's obvious we're only making a contribution to the NATO force.

MS. CLIFT: We ought to be able to find 2,000 more.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think that probably NATO will eventually step up, at least minimally, to avoid catastrophe.

Two quick points: We currently have more cops in New York City than we have troops in Baghdad. That's nuts. We've got to upgrade our troop strength. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the United States effort support that situation?

MS. DANIEL: They may have to support it, but this will be NATO's job. And NATO has -- it's almost an existential moment for NATO to defend its reputation and its ability to carry out this kind of operation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: NATO has no inclination to get involved there. It's a mess. We'll have to do it.

Issue Three: Obese America.

America loves to eat. According to a new state-by-state number of fat people report, the fattest state is Mississippi, with Alabama second, West Virginia third, Louisiana fourth, Kentucky fifth, rolling in from behind.

Pat, those are your people. How do you account for this?

MR. BUCHANAN: Our family is from Mississippi. You will find, John, that the poorest states have the greatest obesity because the poor in America, like the poor all over the world, are one group that has a real problem with obesity and overweightness.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So obesity tracks diet? Is that it?

MS. CLIFT: Actually, protein is expensive. The heavy carbo foods are a lot cheaper. And if you don't have money, you can't go out and buy, you know, lean steaks and lean chicken.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me argue with this. I've been putting on weight as I've been getting richer. So there you are. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, there are exceptions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you get food stamps too?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not under food stamps.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tony can speak from experience on this stuff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have this problem over in Great Britain?

MS. DANIEL: I have to say that people are much larger in America than they are in Great Britain, even though we have Yorkshire puddings and gravy and terrible breakfast which defines the British public. American food is just -- I mean, I'm amazed by what you can buy in American supermarkets and what most people have; the size of portions here, all that sort of stuff.

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In China, fat people are looked to as having made it successfully in life. Do you think that's a bad canon?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it explains why you're thinner, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat. Five seconds.

MR. BUCHANAN: The South Korean foreign minister will replace Kofi Annan as secretary general of the United Nations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: McCain wins on Capitol Hill, but then the president just issues a signing statement so he can do whatever he wants in terms of torture and interrogation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Polls will show, I predict, that the public, by about 55 or 60 percent, will support the president's position on his duel with McCain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Caroline.

MS. DANIEL: McCain will stand at Bush's side as they sign the detainee legislation in early October.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The world center of gravity will continue its shift to Asia. You can write a column on it, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Gee, thanks, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pod alert: Visit McLaughlin.com and download the "Group" to your iPod or cell phone.

Bye-bye.

END.