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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, JULY 28, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 29-30, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Week Three.

The conflict in southern Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shi'ite Islamist group, is now in its third grisly week. Israel is focusing more on ground military operations, called incursions.

This strategy has brought with it Israel's highest number of casualties in years. In one day this week, nine Israeli soldiers were killed and 27 wounded. On that same day, Hezbollah fired 125 rockets into Israel. Major General Udi Adam, Israel's head of the Northern Command, predicts that Israel's offensive will, quote, "continue for several more weeks." Meanwhile, in Italy, participants in the Rome international conference on the Hezbollah-Lebanon-Israel hostilities voted for a cease-fire almost unanimously. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, speaking for the president, says the U.S. does not want a cease-fire now. She stresses that while there is an urgent need to end the fighting, a cease-fire must result in an enduring peace.

SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: (From videotape.) If we've learned anything, it is that any peace is going to have to be based on enduring principles and not on temporary solutions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The secretary of State, speaking for the president, says, in effect, "We urgently want a cease-fire, but not now." Is this the reason why the public, when asked, "Does the Bush administration have a clear policy on the Middle East?" 67 percent say no? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it may be part of it. But let me tell you, this ball has moved. When Tony Blair flew to the United States, I'm sure he brought to the president the alarm of the Europeans and the Arab world that Hezbollah is rising up as a tremendous force in prestige in the Arab world, that we've got to shut this thing down.

And when the Israeli cabinet said, "We're not going in with ground troops to clean them out; we're just going to do incursions," I think Blair is talking the president into a very early cease-fire. It would not surprise me in the least if we didn't see action. Condi Rice on Saturday is going to be back in the Middle East. I would not be surprised to see the United States sign on to some kind of cease- fire very early in the coming week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that, however, offset by the same Security Council saying, "We are, however, going to continue our air operations"?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the Israelis are going to continue the bombardment and the air operations. But the truth is, the humanitarian disaster in Lebanon has caught the imagination and the grip of the country. Al Jazeera is playing it 24/7. It's all over American TV. I think the public pressure is going to bring this thing to a close this coming week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what's the best thing Israel should do right now?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think that all the brave-new-world talk about clarity and opportunity in the Middle East because of this conflict has faded. I think Hezbollah is proving to be a tougher opponent than Israel seemed to understand, and the prospect of getting bogged down in a ground war in Lebanon and repeating their experience. The last time they were in Lebanon, it was called Israel's Vietnam. And the attitude shift in the Middle East, watching two superpowers -- because Israel is a superpower in the Middle East, and we are certainly a first-line military power -- watching both of these countries struggle against these insurgencies has emboldened groups throughout that region and I think really changed the balance of power in a very dangerous way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me give a little history. In 1993, Hezbollah started shelling Israel. Then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher came in and negotiated a cease-fire. Hezbollah rearmed in '96. They did the same thing, and Christopher went back in again. They rearmed. Now they're doing it with even more arms.

This underlines Israel and President Bush's wise policy of saying, "We can't just let this cycle keep going." This time it's even worse, because Israel has made a stronger commitment. She cannot be seen to lose, because her great strength in the Middle East is the tradition of her invincibility on the battlefield. And she's got to ignore public opinion and world opinion, which always goes against Israel, always goes against the United States and will always rally around the terrorists, and ignore all that noise and do the job they have to get done.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Leslie Gelb wrote an excellent piece in the eyes of many in Friday's Wall Street Journal; Leslie Gelb, a former panelist on this program, a person whom I think you know quite well.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He says the first step has to be an act of diplomatic jujitsu. "Mr. Bush needs to use the present crisis to justify new and wide-ranging talks with Syria and Iran, and, if necessary, indirectly with Hamas and Hezbollah. The White House believes that such negotiations would legitimize the bad guys who run Iran and strengthen them internally. But, in fact, negotiations are the most effective way to exercise American power by arraying and making concrete the good things we could offer, as well as deny them."

Do you think that's a good idea? And is that a step the United States can and should take now?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I would say that since he is no longer on this show, his wisdom has diminished. I think he's partly right. The part where I think he's absolutely right on the money with is we have to find some way to separate Syria from Iran and join Syria once again with the Sunni bloc of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Kuwait. That is the tough issue. But if we do that, that is, in my judgment, a doable deal with Syria. And that will block Hezbollah on one side, block the introduction of additional armaments into Hezbollah. Now, the price of that is going to be something we're going to have to deal with. One is, we're going to have to be willing, in my judgment, to drop the U.N. investigation of Syria's role in the assassination of Hariri.

Two is we're going to have to promise Syria that we will not pursue regime change as long as they keep to the rules of the game. Three is we're going to have to find somebody like Saudi Arabia to become the bankroller of Syria as we go forward, which I think Saudi Arabia would be very happy to do.

So we have to find a way to separate Syria from Iran and join them to those groups, at least, who are more moderate and more supportive of the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, Tony Blair said we have to get Hezbollah's approval in order to move the multilateral force in between Hezbollah and Israel. On Syria, look, you can get Syria, but you know the price of that, Mort. It is negotiations on the Golan Heights.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. That'll be a part of it.

MR. BUCHANAN: That is what they want, that they have to have. I think that Gelb is right in this sense. The United States is a great power. We've stood 100 percent behind Israel. She's been right in the aggressions that have been made against her. At the same time, as the great power, we've got to be able to talk to everyone over there, directly or indirectly. And I don't think we can lose.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've got a question for you, Pat. We know that Bush is tanking as far as his political standing is concerned. We know he's got an election coming up. And if he loses the House, the Democrats will be all over him and bringing everything out from under cover. I don't mean that in any mystery sense, but, you know, they can really do damage for the latter two years of his term.

My question to you is, do you think that his support, de facto support, for Israel by the position that's being taken -- "We urgently see the need of a cease-fire, but we don't want one now" -- what does that mean? Do you think that that is a cave to the fundamentalists, which is his central vote coming up, and he wants those fundamentalists so badly that he's willing to put Israel in the second position? MR. BUCHANAN: No, look, the president -- it's not only that. It's the fundamentalists' position. It's AIPAC's position. It's Congress's position. Four hundred and ten voted in favor of Bush not even saying a word about Lebanon.

MS. CLIFT: The elections --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they're moving away from that position in light of what you said earlier?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is also --

MR. BUCHANAN: Blair is moving Bush away from that position. There's going to be a political --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget Blair. Is the Congress, when they go home, going to sense what's going on among the people?

MR. BLANKLEY: Not on --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You're wrong on the polls. The CNN poll of this week, 57 percent supported Israel; 4 percent supported Hezbollah. And in the New York Times poll with CBS, Bush had 47 percent approval on the Middle East. It was the highest approval he had on any issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I just read you --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a second. I'm not finished.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I'm ready to interrupt.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just let me finish. And only 27 percent were opposed.

MS. CLIFT: The rest of that --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So, in fact, it is popular.

MS. CLIFT: The rest of that poll says that we do not want to inject ourselves militarily in the Middle East.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: And this president is acting in a very sharp departure from previous presidents, who get cease-fires to get the room to negotiate the kind of grand bargain you're talking about. You can't keep up this kind of military bombardment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's see whether Mort's position on this is attacked by Israel's own self-criticism. This week's ground incursions into Lebanon are not going unquestioned in Israel by both the public and the press. "More force is needed" is the call from some newspapers. Military analysts are accusing the Israeli army of lacking vital intelligence, not knowing enough about Hezbollah forces and of, quote, "invading with not enough troops."

"Proposed multinational force won't disarm Hezbollah of its rockets," worries one paper. "Was there a proper decision?" says another. "No goals attained," another. "Has the army failed?" "Somebody fell asleep on his watch." Military professionals report on the public anxiety.

ALON BEN DAVID (Israeli military analyst): (From videotape.) They have more and more questions whether this is managed the right way, whether this was carefully planned, and whether we are not going for another quagmire like we had for 18 years in Lebanon before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Will the Israeli public opinion make the Israeli government scale back its ambitions in Lebanon? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me take that, because all the quotes you cited showed that opinion goes the other way. They want more troops. They want the heavy divisions in. The pressure on the government -- and there's been a big debate going on in the Israeli cabinet -- is to put more. The army wants to -- at least elements of the army want to put more in. So there's no pressure to withdraw. There's pressure to --

MS. CLIFT: But --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say this. The polls indicated in Israel 90 percent supported it. The support now is 80-odd percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What, of disarming Hezbollah?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, of what the government is doing vis-a-vis Hezbollah in Lebanon. It's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just a minute. Ehud Olmert's own ratings went from 38 percent to 78 percent. He's never had that kind of public support. And the Israelis have not supported a military action to this degree of unanimity in 25 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why are they changing their military direction?

MR. BUCHANAN: They're afraid. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is not -- let me just -- the only thing that they are doing -- as I said, they're not going to widen the ground war. And if I may explain why, it is because they were sending a signal to Syria, which was beginning to mobilize its forces, that they're not going to go so far as to attack Syria. That was what, in fact, was driving the issue.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mort, you know as well as I do, they are afraid of casualties, understandably.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course they are afraid of casualties.

MR. BUCHANAN: They don't want to get Jewish kids killed up there when they're in there for a short while, lose a couple of hundred and pull out. Olmert -- when that cabinet meeting, John, said, "We are not going to invade," that means, "We are not going to defeat Hezbollah." You can't clean them out in one week or two weeks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Friendly fire or war crime?

Four U.N. observers at a U.N. outpost in southern Lebanon were killed last Tuesday, three miles from the Israeli border. The U.N. personnel became increasingly alarmed as bombs from Israeli aircraft fell closer and closer to their station.

The U.N. commander phoned Israeli military officers with the exact coordinates of the outpost. The bombs kept dropping. Then the U.N. commander phoned again and again, 10 calls altogether, according to ABC News, over six hours after the first bombs fell.

The bombing continued. Then four laser-guided bombs directly hit the outpost. So says the U.N. The secretary general of the U.N. himself called the event, quote, "the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli defense forces," unquote.

U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: (From videotape.) People on the ground were in touch with the Israeli army, warning them, "Please be careful; we have positions here. Don't harm our people." And many calls went out until this happened.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Annan says Israel has apologized. Israel describes the strike as a mistake, and Israel says it will investigate. Annan says he wants a joint U.N.-Israel investigation.

In the past two weeks, 10 other U.N. outposts have been hit. U.N. observers have been posted in Lebanon for nearly 30 years.

Question: Were these four observers killed by Israeli friendly fire, or were they deliberately targeted by the Israeli government, as Kofi Annan seems to believe? Eleanor Clift. MS. CLIFT: Well, I think Kofi Annan backtracked somewhat from his original statement. However, it does not make sense for Israel to bomb the very organization that they want to call in to patrol a buffer zone and they want international troops under the U.N.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, they don't want the U.N. there. They don't want the U.N. there.

MS. CLIFT: All right. Well, then I will revise and extend my remarks. I was just in Israel, and --

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I don't need that kind of patronizing, Tony. And I was just -- ooh. And I was just in Israel, and the contempt that was expressed for the U.N. makes one wonder whether there was some deliberate action behind this. For whatever reason, they did ignore all of these warnings. But again, it makes no sense to go after an international organization when you do need the support of the world for a buffer zone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of this argument? We have an ambassador from Israel to the U.N. His name is Dan Gillerman. He says this: "We don't feel that we need anybody to carry out an investigation with us. I doubt whether many countries we know would agree to a joint investigation."

I think that's largely true, although in the Hariri investigation, Syria was involved in collaboration with the United Nations. Correct?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Let me go back to the issue, because one of the four people who were killed, a Canadian, sent an e-mail to his commanding general, who had formerly been in Syria, in which he stated that the terrorists were coming within three to five yards of the U.N. post because they use it typically as a way to protect themselves. And the major general, Canadian major general, whose name I don't remember, said this is typical of what they were doing. They were trying to hide behind the U.N. And that's why the Israelis were talking. And he said specifically -- the Canadian soldier said it was not deliberate.

Kofi Annan was absolutely wrong on that, and that's why he backed down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, why does the Israeli government admit to a mistake?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Because it was a mistake. They weren't deliberately trying to do that. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I understand that. You mean they were protecting themselves --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. And they're going to have an investigation. But the fact is it was the Hezbollah who were trying to use the U.N. outpost there as a shield for what they were doing.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what was deliberate. You mentioned they wouldn't go after someone they want to come down and help them out. They made a direct attack on the barracks --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's they?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Israelis -- of the Lebanese army, about 11 guys sitting in there smoking and about 20 others; slaughtered them all right there, and they had nothing to do with it, for no reason whatsoever, Mort. This is one of the problems Israel has got is the unlimited nature of these attacks, 30,000 artillery shells --

MR. BLANKLEY: Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- 30,000 artillery shells in the south of Lebanon --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- on villages and towns.

MR. BLANKLEY: When a combatant hides in civilian conditions and fires from there, that's a violation of the international rules of law. They are the ones who are responsible for the civilians who are killed when they've chosen to fight from those spots.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Tony --

MR. BLANKLEY: It is Hezbollah using, whether it's a U.N. site, whether it's an apartment house or some other location, to fight --

MR. BUCHANAN: Tony, who was in those barracks? Those were Lebanese army barracks.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm talking about all of the charges of civilian killing that's going on. It's precisely -- it's technically a violation of the rules of law for Hezbollah to be fighting from those locations.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Israelis literally have given notice in the form of leaflets into the areas that were attacked. MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Ninety-nine percent -- 99 percent of the Israeli artillery, and bombs, I might add, have not had any fatal consequences --

MS. CLIFT: But people --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- because they are trying very hard to avoid it, because they know exactly what's going to be said by the people who were opposed --

MS. CLIFT: People are not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with a joint investigation?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know, because a joint investigation with the U.N. -- frankly, the U.N. is so tilted against Israel, and has been for so long, it's not even close.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why couldn't Israel, by the manifestation of things like what you're saying here, prove to the U.N., establish with the U.N. -- you know that Gillerman also makes fun of the U.N. He laughs over the fact that they've been over there for 28 years and they call it an interim presence --

MR. BLANKLEY: John --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. BLANKLEY: The U.N. is a corrupt organization --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear this.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- that is obviously anti-Semitic. It has been for years. They try to pass resolutions. You couldn't possibly trust them to be objective.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. MR. BLANKLEY: They would go in there in order to distort the findings.

MS. CLIFT: Every --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely I agree with that. What Israel will do will have a full investigation, which will be made public. And then everybody can look at what the evidence is.

MS. CLIFT: I love --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has Israel ever employed the U.N. in any diplomatic capacity that worked to resolve anything that Israel was pleased with?

MS. CLIFT: Actually --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not since Resolution 242 at the end of the 1967 war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Israel also feel that it falls upon them to enforce 1599? You know what that resolution is?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I know it very well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is the resolution that requires Hezbollah to withdraw, to be disarmed -- to withdraw from the border, for the Lebanese army to take over that country --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- in order to give the Lebanese government and the Lebanese army the chance to run their country --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Hezbollah --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- which is what Hezbollah has been denying ever since.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It has reneged on that, which is what it agreed to.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: However, there was an intervening southern border penetration by Hamas. And the retaliation for that, it is said, were about 30 deaths. And Nasrallah regards himself as a regional leader. So, therefore, his penetration of the northern border of Israel was in retaliation for the retaliation of the Israelis at the southern border.

MS. CLIFT: We are in a parallel universe from the rest of the world here.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me say two things. What happened in Gaza is something totally different from what's happening on the northern border. Hold on a second --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're not saying Hamas and Hezbollah are not linked, are you?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They are. What has been going on ever since Israel withdrew to an internationally recognized border between Israel and Lebanon, Hezbollah has been flying in rockets. They've had any number of attacks into Israeli territory. In the year 2002 they put on Israeli uniforms and gunned down a bus and killed six people. This is one of any number of incidents that have been going on in their northern border.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why doesn't Israel see that there is a gorilla -- an elephant in the living room, and that is the Israeli-Palestinian problem, which has been relatively --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Agreed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Agreed. Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why can't they solve that? That would eliminate 50 percent of all of this.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Without question. Here you have -- they withdrew totally from Gaza. You have a prime minister who was elected on the platform of unilaterally withdrawing from another 90 percent of the West Bank. And what do they get? They get attacks from the south and attacks from the north.

You think this is about the peace process?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is about terrorism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is about the attempt to destroy Israel as a state. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know. Israel rises to the bait all the time, and military force always is counterproductive to Israel and everybody else.

MS. CLIFT: I would like to just get a word in here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I'd like to get a word in here for the corrupt, anti- Semitic U.N., which is going to play a role here in the world, no matter what. There is no perfect world anywhere.

And it was their weapons inspectors that told us there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They're worth listening to.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me tell you what Israel's problem is. Israel has precision-guided munitions. Hezbollah fires these rockets up in the air. They don't know where they come down except they're designed to kill civilians. Yet the Israelis have killed 20 times as many civilians as Hezbollah has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- with 1,500 rockets.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair on Friday called for a multinational force to police the border -- multinational -- between Lebanon and Israel. Will the American people support putting any U.S. troops in that multinational force? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: No. We remember the Marine barracks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I agree. And President Reagan pulled American troops out of Lebanon, and he did the right thing. And we may well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony -- I should add that there's a deliberate obscurity to Condoleezza Rice's answer on this very question. What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think no, the American public doesn't want it. And if we have extra troops, we should send them to Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the American public --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think either the United States or Israel wants American troops on the border between Lebanon and Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A quick inside question, which I'm -- this is right off the top of the head with regard to Iraq. Do you think that anything that's happening in Lebanon is precipitating a rethinking of taking the troops out of Iraq faster or leaving the -- or adding more troops to Iraq to try to pacify that situation? MR. BLANKLEY: We're adding more even as we speak.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know we're moving them around, but we're not really adding.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, we're going to add more.

MR. BUCHANAN: I've got to think the president of the United States is looking at whether or not this massive investment of American troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Americans sitting in Lebanon is a good idea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's going to become one ball of wax in the thinking of the American people and that we're going to just come out with the idea of "Get out of there"?

MS. CLIFT: Pressure.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is the pressure to stop it now. The fear is that one forest fire and another forest fire and another, they will all get together.

MS. CLIFT: President Reagan got out of Lebanon, and I think this will increase pressure to get out of Iraq and to get a timetable to get out of Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Joe Lieberman is in an extremely tight race in Connecticut. What's going to happen there, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Joe's going to lose the primary, and only because of his position on the war and his closeness to Bush, John, because otherwise he'd be home free.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happens if he runs as an independent?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he could --

MR. BLANKLEY: He wins.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he could win.

MR. BLANKLEY: He wins handily. And he will.

MS. CLIFT: And he'll caucus with the Democrats. So in a way it'll be a Democrat seat regardless.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Democrats are going to vote for him --

MR. BLANKLEY: The polls show 57 to 30-something. He wins in a walk in the general election. MR. BUCHANAN: He'll be a dynamic change. I believe he'll be a change.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I believe he's going to win the primary, because a lot of independents and Republicans are now joining the Democratic Party in order to vote precisely for Joe Lieberman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the Republicans like him.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why doesn't Joe become -- he could win as a Republican. That's what we're saying. Could he win as an independent?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Either way he's going to win.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, he's going to win.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm not sure, because I think there's going to be a change if he loses the primary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who thinks he will not be in his Senate seat for another six years?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'd say there's a one out of three chance he won't be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One out of three he won't? Otherwise everybody here thinks he will win?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He'll win, one way or another.

MS. CLIFT: I think he's created himself a pretty golden parachute.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm on board on that.

Issue Three: Vox Populi.

In the 50 most contested districts of the United States, a majority of voters favor Democrats over Republicans on every votable issue, with immigration alone being a tie. Otherwise it's straight Democratic. Does that mean the Republicans are doomed? I ask you, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I wouldn't call them doomed, but I think it's as good a bet as you can make in politics that they're going to lose control of the House in November. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Every issue, even the economy, civil rights, stem cell research, flag burning, gay marriage, the policy positions of the Democrats are favored by the majority of people in those districts.

MR. BLANKLEY: There's no question; you're absolutely correct on that. And the Iraq issue overwashes everything else and brings the Republicans down on those. On the other hand, there are advantages both of incumbency and very specifically of Karl Rove's micro- targeting methods, which gained an extra three and a half million votes in the last presidential.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush will make a final run at the immigration bill in September and it will fail.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: John Bolton wins easy confirmation as U.N. ambassador -- reconfirmation, I suppose.

MR. BLANKLEY: House Republicans vote for an increase in the minimum wage of $2.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I was just going to say that. Not only will it pass the House, but it's also going to pass the Senate, and we will have a new minimum wage in the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll predict that the immigration bill will not be raised this September. It will not be voted on.

What makes you think it's going to be voted on?

MR. BUCHANAN: Tony told me. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. You know, that's --

MS. CLIFT: And passing the minimum wage is an attempt to take it away as an issue from the Democrats in November. But hey, it's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House won't let that reappear in Congress.

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hot alert: To watch the McLaughlin Group in off-hours, visit McLaughlin.com and download the podcast to your iPod or cell phone.

Bye-bye. END.