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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, OCTOBER 6, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 7-8, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Et Tu, Brute?

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): (From videotape.) It's in his corner. It's his responsibility. The clerk of the House, who runs the page program, the Page Board, all report to the speaker.

REP. TOM REYNOLDS (R-NY): (From videotape.) I took that information to the speaker, much like any of us in the workplace.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: House Majority Leader John Boehner and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds thrust the shiv between the ribs of Dennis Hastert, the Republican speaker, this week, as coldly as Brutus did to Julius Caesar. On Thursday, Hastert was resigned to the inevitable.

HOUSE SPEAKER DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL): (From videotape.) I'm deeply sorry that this has happened. The bottom line is that we're taking responsibility, because ultimately, as someone has said in Washington before, the buck stops here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Hastert broadened the rap to Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic minority leader, saying, in effect, "We're bipartisans in this."

SPEAKER HASTERT: (From videotape.) I reached out to the Democrat leader and shared with her some of the ideas, and we hope to resolve this soon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Will Hastert's attempt to bipartisanize this scandal work? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it won't, John. This is a Republican scandal, pure and simple, and from many standpoints. Hastert has been stabbed repeatedly by his co-leaders in the Republican House. But I do believe he's done the right thing in saying, "Look, I'm not going to resign; I'm going to see this through," for a couple of reasons. Politically, I think it would be a disaster if the speaker of the House resigns and blows a hole in the entire leadership and puts this thing back in the giant headlines again.

But secondly, I do not know that Denny Hastert has done anything wrong. He should have had sharper oversight on this thing. But the early e-mails are not such that you should out this guy. And so I think the guy is doing the right thing. And frankly, I think the party ought to stand by him, and the president is doing the right thing in standing by him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, there are fundamentally two ways to handle it. You can either try to polarize or you can bipolarize it, meaning that you can pull the Democrats in and make it a joint effort.

MS. CLIFT: The Republicans are in a circular firing squad, aiming at each other. They're full of recriminations against each other. The Democrats just have to stand aside and let the spectacle go on.

The notion that Denny Hastert is some innocent bystander who stood aside and didn't out somebody -- it isn't about outing somebody. It was about seeing a potential problem in their midst, and basically his inclination was to protect the club, protect the majority.

And bringing in Nancy Pelosi -- he called her to notify her he wanted to bring Louis Freeh in to look at the page program. She said, "The page program isn't a problem. The page program is fine. It's the members of Congress, the leadership, who overlooked the misbehavior, the predatory behavior, of a single congressman." MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think when we talk about the two choices, really what the Republicans have -- you can't bipartisanize this, obviously.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, you can't bipartisanize it?

MR. BLANKLEY: Because the Democrats are going to understandably play this for all they want. What the Republican choice is is that they can either distance themselves from Speaker Hastert or they can group around him and support him and try to attack outwards.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who do they attack? Where does it go? What's the strategy? What's the battle plan?

MR. BLANKLEY: I'll tell you. I mean, you heard it from Speaker Hastert late in the week. They're going to accuse the Democrats of leaking the information, which may or may not be true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What kind of an argument is that?

MR. BLANKLEY: You asked me what the plan is. I'm not telling you whether it's a good one or not. (Laughter.) They're going to try to -- the Democrats made -- Gerry Studds and all the other violations have happened in the past. And then they're going to try to change the topic. That's what they've chosen as of the end of this week.

Whether they will like that choice or whether they would prefer to have made a clean break and not defend the process that is so easily criticized -- and Eleanor made a perfectly effective criticism of it -- I don't know whether that's a good strategy for them. But you asked me what their strategy is, and that's what it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got one piece of the battle plan in there, and that's Gerry Studds of Massachusetts, 1983, admitted that he had had sex with a 17-year-old male congressional page on a trip abroad. The House, controlled by the Democrats, voted to censure. Studds did not apologize. Also, Studds went on to be re-elected in the very following election and the next consecutive five elections.

Question: Studds is the perfect way to bipartisanize the scandal. True or false?

MR. O'DONNELL: A scandal that's in its third decade of age, a 26-year-old scandal? You know, when that story broke, the Studds story, I called my mother. She's a constituent of his. I said, "Here's what he did. Here's what he's accused of." She said, "Great congressman; I'm going to vote for him." That's the Studds story. He got re-elected. The voters spoke. Foley made his own decision that I think is accurate about his chances of getting re-elected. Look, the Hastert press conference was a complete disaster -- complete disaster. He gave out a telephone number for pages to call if they have something to report. He was asked very specifically about Scott Palmer, his chief of staff, who denies that Kirk Fordham had told him --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's Kirk Fordham?

MR. O'DONNELL: Kirk Fordham was Foley's chief of staff, became Tom Reynolds' chief of staff, who --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's Tom Reynolds?

MR. O'DONNELL: He is the head of the DCCC, the guy who's running --

MR. BLANKLEY: The NRCC -- Republican version.

MR. O'DONNELL: Republican version.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Republican version of the Congressional Campaign Committee.

MR. O'DONNELL: That's right. And he's the guy -- and Kirk Fordham was the guy who had to resign this past week because he had become too hot. But on the way out, he said that he told Scott Palmer, the speaker's chief of staff, that Foley had a problem with the pages. Palmer says that absolutely didn't happen. But Hastert refuses to take any questions about Scott Palmer and what he knew.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, but if Hastert's not telling the truth, he ought to go. But he got out there and he said, "Look, I heard about the early, relatively innocuous e-mail. I didn't do anything. I'm at fault there. I didn't see the later stuff. When it came out, the guy went." If he's telling the truth, in justice he ought not to be thrown out.

MR. O'DONNELL: Hastert couldn't take one follow-up. Hastert could not address a single question about this.

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you saying he's lying? Do you know he's lying?

MR. O'DONNELL: I'm not saying Hastert's lying. What I'm saying is when he was asked about Scott Palmer, you know what he did? He refused to answer any question about Scott Palmer. Why?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, I don't know why. But as I say, if he's not telling the truth, he ought to be thrown out. If he's telling the truth, then people should stand by him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We clearly don't know what --

MS. CLIFT: If he's that ignorant and that oblivious to what's going on, he doesn't belong in the job anyway.

MR. BUCHANAN: But you don't throw him out for that.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I wouldn't put --

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't re-elect him. MS. CLIFT: I wouldn't put a lot of money on him lasting until the election. There's a lot of opportunity for more stuff to come out here. In any event --

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm sure you're praying for it, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I would like that he would stay for political reasons. This is not helping the Republicans.

MR. BUCHANAN: But you're praying for more stuff, aren't you? (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I'm not praying for more stuff.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me put in one quick word --

MS. CLIFT: I just want to say that Hastert will not be leading the party as of next year.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, of course. One second about Denny. I've written, obviously, that I think he was negligent at least in handling this, and I believe that. I think the facts show that. I think they will continue to show that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to get to your prose.

MR. BLANKLEY: What I want to say, though, is that Denny Hastert has a strong reputation for honesty. And I don't believe and I don't know anyone who knows him who believes that he's lying. I think he was negligent. I don't think and I don't know anybody who knows him who thinks he was lying.

MS. CLIFT: He also has a strong reputation for obliviousness. And if he was --

MR. BLANKLEY: Okay, but that's not lying. I mean, I want to make that clear.

MS. CLIFT: No, but it's not a good --

MR. BUCHANAN: But you don't throw somebody to the wolves for a mistake.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. It's not a good quality in a leader.

MR. BUCHANAN: I know it's not.

MS. CLIFT: He's an accidental speaker anyway.

MR. BUCHANAN: But you don't throw somebody to the wolves simply because he --

MS. CLIFT: I mean, he only got there because -- (inaudible) -- two previous speakers. MR. BUCHANAN: Look, you don't throw someone to the wolves, destroy his reputation in disgrace in a scandal, simply because he was not alert, asleep at the switch, which he was.

MS. CLIFT: This is politics, Pat. If you're asleep at the switch, you pay the price. And accountability is the problem that this Republican Party has in the White House and on Capitol Hill. And if Denny Hastert is the symbol of a party that can't take responsibility for a page program, how does the country vote for them to take responsibility for anything else?

MR. BUCHANAN: He took responsibility.

MS. CLIFT: A little late -- a lot late.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there another shoe going to drop?

MR. O'DONNELL: There are many, many shoes that are hanging right here that the press might or might not get to, including other closeted gay Republican men who were involved in the processing of this information within the House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What information?

MR. O'DONNELL: Long before --

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you saying there's a cover-up?

MR. O'DONNELL: Long before this story broke -- I'm not saying there's a cover-up. I'm saying that there is a legitimate question in whether the tortured lifestyle of the closeted gay Republican official in the House of Representatives is something that had an effect on the way this matter was handled. Foley was not the only one.

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you saying that gays are covering up this whole thing inside the Republican Party?

MR. O'DONNELL: No. What I'm saying is that Kirk Fordham, who is gay, who has lived basically a closeted gay lifestyle, and others at the staff level, living closeted gay lifestyles at the leadership level of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, were involved in processing this information. And the pressure that Republican Party politics has put on the closeted gay male may have affected their judgment in the way they handled this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's a quote from Hastert: "The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros," says Hastert about the liberal Democrat billionaire.

Soros shot back. GEORGE SOROS: (From videotape.) The implication that I had something to do with this scandal is so far off the mark that it is really laughable. It's a feeble attempt to divert attention from him and his responsibility. He has done it before to me. But this time I don't think he can get away with it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How would you describe that Hastert strategy, which was so dismissed by Soros and so effectively dismissed by him?

MS. CLIFT: A hopeless strategy.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Tony's right. Look, there's no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is he right about?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he's right about the fact --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can't fight back?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, look, Hastert -- they put up a defense perimeter and they're starting to fire at every target outside they can. They have a good point on ABC News. ABC cannot say, "We're really concerned about the pages" when they held this up and waited and they had this information and dropped it right in the campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, they waited?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, apparently they had this information --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Brian Ross says that he was pre-involved in Katrina.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's a year ago, for heaven's sakes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, this is --

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, they were saying, "Let's drop the dime on them in October."

MS. CLIFT: Whatever you want to say about the timing, would you rather the news not come out? This is something that we should not be aware of, should be covered up?

MR. BUCHANAN: What I'm saying is they are hypocrites in saying they're worried about these children. What they're saying is, "Let's hold this and drop it on the Republicans in October." They're playing politics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, O'Donnell --

MS. CLIFT: Don't be such an innocent, Pat. Republicans use lots of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, hold on here.

MS. CLIFT: There's a legitimate worry here about the children.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get above some of the retail here. Do you think that that was a clumsy maneuver in terms of strategy by Hastert in attacking Soros?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think everything Hastert has done has been unbelievably clumsy. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, up until he appealed -- he didn't appeal; he kind of reached out to Nancy Pelosi, and they're going to work on this together. Did you hear that?

MR. O'DONNELL: They're not going to work on this together; not at all. Listen, let me -- I agree with Pat. I don't think the Republicans or the Democrats care about the children; the professional Republicans or Democrats care about the children in this story at all. The Republican leadership proved that they don't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What if the next shoe falls on a Democrat?

MR. O'DONNELL: There's too many shoes on the other side right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) You think so?

MR. O'DONNELL: You know --

MS. CLIFT: The Republicans are in charge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hastert uses the word "explicit." When they saw the explicit language, then they moved on it.

MR. O'DONNELL: Pat Buchanan is disturbed by that initial innocent e-mail just as much as I am; the so-called innocent e-mail where he's asking the kid to send him a picture.

MR. BUCHANAN: But the kid's a thousand miles away.

MR. O'DONNELL: Why didn't Hastert say to Foley, "Come in here; sit down"?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they did tell him, "Knock it off, Foley."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back, will Bush be forced to bomb Iran to shift the focus off of Babylon and Congress?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Standing His Ground.

SPEAKER HASTERT: (From videotape.) I'm going to run and presumably win in this election. And when we do, I expect to run for leader, for speaker. And, you know, I think everybody else will, too. But our members will ultimately make that decision.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to go back to this. Is it possible for Hastert to get off the hook? And I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: It depends what you mean by "hook." I mean, I think he's very likely to get re-elected in his district. I think he's unlikely to get elected -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How's he doing in the polls in his district?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, he's been winning over 65 percent, I think, for years. They know him. They know he's a good man, and they're going to vote for him to re-elect. That's not in question.

I don't think he's going to get re-elected speaker if the Republicans hold the House, and I don't think he'd be elected minority leader if they don't win the House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, will this do it? Bush encircles Hastert.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) I know Denny Hastert. I meet with him a lot. He is a father, teacher, coach, who cares about the children of this country. I know that he wants all the facts to come out and he wants to ensure that these children up there on Capitol Hill are protected. I'm confident he will provide whatever leadership he can to law enforcement in this investigation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Will alpha male George Bush's embrace keep the carnivores at bay? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: That was the most insincere little speech, I thought.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you say that?

MS. CLIFT: You know, he was told what he should say, and he's doing it by rote. I don't think that he has much of a personal relationship with Denny Hastert and I don't think he much cares one way or the other. He cares --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MS. CLIFT: He cares what's best for the party, and he figures that a toppled speaker will spell more trouble in November. But the president is running around the country making arguments about the war on terror that are falling on deaf ears.

Bob Woodward's book, which has gotten wiped away by the Foley scandal, nevertheless had a huge impact. People understand that Iraq is in terrible shape; the president hasn't been truthful. And 21 American soldiers died in the first four days of October. You cannot say we're making progress over there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush was sending a signal to the Republicans on the Hill that you stand by your man. Is that going to do any good?

MS. CLIFT: Not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does the president have any efficacy here? MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I think all the Republicans -- first they started off stabbing him, every one of the leaders. And then they've come around and realized, I think, look, you throw Denny Hastert over the side, you're not going to save anybody. They're all going down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you deplore that?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were up there, would you be for Buchanan before you'd be for Hastert?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would stay -- if I were a Republican, I would stay with Hastert because I think it's the right thing to do and I think it's the political thing to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush is doing the right thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were in political peril because of your proximity to Hastert and Bush, what would you do? You'd bail out.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, I would not.

MR. O'DONNELL: The only reason to stand with Hastert now is a very simple fact about the Republican Party in the House of Representatives.

There's not one, not one squeaky clean member who they can now elevate to speaker. They have no one to go to. That's the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Boehner?

MS. CLIFT: Boehner's tainted as well.

MR. O'DONNELL: They don't have anyone who's clean enough for this moment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come.

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got 230 dirty people?

MR. O'DONNELL: Not one.

MR. BLANKLEY: If that's the case, then the Democrats don't have anybody who's clean enough. Look, I mean --

MS. CLIFT: Nancy Pelosi's doing fine, thank you. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: If Boehner's not clean enough, then Pelosi's not clean enough.

MS. CLIFT: Boehner has been implicated in this.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he hasn't been implicated of anything. He hasn't been implicated in a god-darn thing. You throw these implications out there. There's never been an allegation.

MR. O'DONNELL: Boehner's in the story. He was given the information and he did nothing about it.

MS. CLIFT: Exactly. Boehner's in the leadership --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.

MS. CLIFT: -- and didn't do anything about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know what the calculation is of Dick Cheney, who has expressed very sincere words of support, and he also said it would be politically dumb for Hastert to resign -- MR. BUCHANAN: He's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for all parties. Is that true?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's dead right. He's dead right.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't agree.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, if he goes over the side -- if Hastert quits, it is World War III headlines in The New York Times. Do you think the people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what it does is --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What it does is it brands this as irretrievably a Republican disaster.

MS. CLIFT: It is a Republican disaster.

MR. BUCHANAN: What do you think it is?

MS. CLIFT: That's what it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First of all, you do have Studds. Secondly --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, that's 30 years ago, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- another shoe may drop.

MR. O'DONNELL: I want to hear why Tony thinks Hastert should resign, or why the Republican leadership should resign.

MR. BUCHANAN: Go ahead, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, obviously The Washington Times this week -- I'm editorial page editor there; we ran an editorial. I endorse every word of it. We called for him to resign, not necessarily because he knew something, either through negligence or knowledge.

But let me get to this matter of whether it makes good political sense, which we did not discuss in the paper. I think that we're trending towards a very bad night for Republicans. And it's a little bit like when you're on a ship that is sinking. It may be a hard effort. It may not be possible to stop the water from going in, but it's worth making the try.

And my sense is -- we'll see more in a week or two when the polls come out -- my sense is that keeping with a team that is tainted in the public mind -- and in Hastert's case, he was clearly negligent in protecting the pages, obviously. And sticking with that is sticking with a path to defeat. So on that basis, a Hail Mary -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean by -- what's the bad night we're going to --

MR. BLANKLEY: A Hail Mary pass is the best strategy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, what's the bad night? Are you talking about a takeover of the House by --

MR. BUCHANAN: In both houses.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a takeover of the House and even the Senate by the Democrats? Is that where we are?

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm not predicting it, but the trend now is towards losing the House, the Senate, and losing marginal races in governors --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, here's Tony Blankley on Tuesday in The Washington Times. Quote: "Resign, Mr. Speaker. When predators are found, they must be dealt with, forcefully and swiftly. Either Hastert was grossly negligent or he deliberately looked the other way."

Did Newt Gingrich tell you to say that? (Laughter.) Or, better still, did Newt -- for whom you worked, who was himself, what, speaker --

MR. BLANKLEY: I think he was speaker.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And you served him well as his speech writer. Now, the question is --

MR. BLANKLEY: Press secretary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- does Gingrich favor Hastert's resignation?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. He disagreed publicly with my opinion. I didn't talk to Newt before it. I haven't talked to him afterwards. He was asked whether he agreed with me, and then Newt said, "No, Tony's wrong." And Newt said he was right, which may or may not be the case in this instance.

MS. CLIFT: The only way for the party to stop the bleeding, I think, is to have a whole new turnover of leadership. Go to a new generation. Go to a fresh --

MR. BLANKLEY: But right now --

MS. CLIFT: And that's the Hail Mary. MR. BUCHANAN: You can't do that --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just finish this. You can't have a whole turnover between now and December. You can replace just the speaker, so you don't have a fight with all the different seats, just a place holder, respect their older person --

MS. CLIFT: Henry Hyde.

MR. BLANKLEY: Henry Hyde, somebody like that.

MR. O'DONNELL: But Henry's got a problem. Everybody's got a problem.

MR. BLANKLEY: Somebody respectable to manage the investigation. In January we're going to have a new Congress. A new speaker will be elected in due course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, what's the Foley scandal impact on the election?

A new poll shows that the Foley scandal, as of yet, has had absolutely no statistical impact on how people will cast their votes four weeks from Tuesday.

The Pew Research Center polled 1,503 registered U.S. voters, concluding on Wednesday, October 4. Apparently refuting the Pew poll is this AP-Ipsos poll.

Poll question: How important will recent disclosures of corruption and scandal in Congress be to your vote in November? Not at all or slightly important, 33 percent; moderately, very, extremely important, 66 percent, two out of three.

Lawrence O'Donnell, how do you reconcile these polls?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, there's a Gallup-USA Today poll that shows in the Senate races the Democrats surging ahead in most of the contested Senate races.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's old news, Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: We're really going to need another week at least to read what the effect of this is. But at the moment, it looks very bad.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's bad. The question is, how bad. Let me say, if the election were held this coming Tuesday, the Republicans would lose the Senate and they would lose the House. The only question is by how much.

MS. CLIFT: The primary voting issue is still Iraq. It's a national referendum on the war. And the country is really upset about the war. And then the second issue is the infighting and the corruption on Capitol Hill. And Foley just reinforces that negative feeling about Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Does this scandal have the juice to shift the balance of power in the Congress? Yes or no. That means both houses.

MR. BUCHANAN: It could tip both houses, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It does have the juice?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, it does. As of now it certainly does. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's unlikely to diminish?

MR. BUCHANAN: If what Lawrence says is true, it's unlikely to diminish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Lawrence say that's true?

MS. CLIFT: Shoes.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, some more shoes that might fall.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. O'DONNELL: There's a big shoe story here in Washington. (Laughter.) And the (shelves ?) just might come down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean at Babylon on Capitol Hill.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: I forgot what the question was. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it have the juice?

MS. CLIFT: Oh, yeah. I think the Republicans are on track to lose their majority anyway. I think this --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In both houses?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think the Senate is still --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He just told you correctly that the Democrats are at least even in the eight key races, if not ahead.

MS. CLIFT: This does it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This does it.

MS. CLIFT: I'll go for it. Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Both houses.

MR. BLANKLEY: Obviously I do think it has the juice. We don't know what's going to happen in the next four weeks, but right now it looks like it's got the juice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's why you jumped ship early. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't jump ship. MR. BUCHANAN: First man off. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: In our editorial --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're gagging in water.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: In our editorial, which is the voice of The Washington Times -- and I'm the editor of the editorial page of that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Tuesday, early, you went with this editorial.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- we made the argument that on an ethical basis we should do that. In my column the next day, I also began to discuss the political. On both bases, I think this makes sense.

MR. O'DONNELL: I thought --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have we got the juice?

MR. O'DONNELL: I thought the Democrats were going to win anyway. Now I have a little more confidence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that the juice is there for both houses?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you think it's going to hold up --

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- even though nothing illegal may have occurred?

MR. O'DONNELL: No. Listen, I don't think there's any evidence of anything illegal having occurred.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a 16 age in Washington, D.C.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah. No, I think Mark Foley would have observed that. I know the guy. I'd be very surprised if he violated laws in this thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, does that mean it's much ado about less than something?

MR. O'DONNELL: No, it's about Republican politics and it's about basically Republican gay politics and the way the Republican Party has manipulated the gay issue over the years. That's coming back to destroy them this year. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's too close to call. (Laughter.) But the juice is there.

We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The House of Representatives passed a bill forbidding gambling. How long will it last? On the Internet.

MR. BUCHANAN: A long time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Long time?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Short time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Short time?

MR. BLANKLEY: I was against it. I think it may not last long.

MR. O'DONNELL: You can get around anything on a computer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Under four years.

Bye-bye.

(PBS segment.

)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Fat Attack.

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN (New York City health commissioner): (From videotape.) It's only in recent years that it's been really clear how dangerous artificial trans fat is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: New York City is attacking fat -- trans fat, that is, the vegetable oil fats that clog arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, wants to cut trans fat consumption by banning it from foods in restaurants. Boston and Chicago are also looking at a trans fat ban.

If trans fat is so harmful to us, why didn't the federal government move more aggressively? I ask you, Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think research has only recently discovered how bad it is. But we don't exactly have a government in place that likes to put out these kinds of regulations. And the special interests and the restaurant industry and everything else prevent it. You know, we --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want it to be prohibited?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. There are serious health problems --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think we're getting into a nanny state here?

MS. CLIFT: No. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First it's foie gras. Now it's trans fat.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, we don't need foie gras and we don't need trans fats either.

MR. BLANKLEY: Could I point one thing out?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you defend trans fat?

MR. BLANKLEY: Absolutely. Let me point out, legally we don't outlaw tobacco. We simply say a warning. If you want to have government warnings on things that are bad or you think are bad or the current phase in science says is bad, fine; put a warning on it. This is a free country. People are allowed to make some decisions for themselves.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about trans fat being as harmful as E. coli in spinach? Do you share that view?

MR. BLANKLEY: Obviously it's not, because E. coli kills you in five minutes, and this might take 30 or 50 years.

END.