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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; PETER BEINART, THE NEW REPUBLIC

TAPED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 21-22, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Happy Days Are Here Again.

Democrats are in good spirits. And if you believe the current polls, they have good reason.

Poll question number one: Which party are you going to vote for for Congress? Republican, 37 percent; Democrat, 52 percent, a 15- point margin favoring the Democrats, a record for the last 12 years.

Poll question number two: Do you want to keep Republicans in control of the Congress? Fourteen percent, yes; 47 percent, no. Poll question number three: Do you approve the job Congress is doing? Yes, 16 percent; no, 75 percent.

Question: Gas prices are down; consumer confidence is up. Why are the poll numbers for Republicans so dismal?

Answer number one: It's Iraq, stupid.

Okay, now, what's number two in this series? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: President Bush, unfortunately, who's down in the 30s, and he's been down lower. It's because of Katrina, the perception of incompetence, the perception of corruption in the Congress of the United States, the Foley mess, economics in Michigan and Ohio. Immigration is one issue, although the Republicans have tried to get well.

It's a whole panoply of issues. The people have simply got a six-year. They're fed up with the Republican Party and they want a change.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you mean this election has been nationalized? It's a referendum on George Bush? Is that what you're saying?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's just like 1994 was basically a referendum on Clinton and not a single Republican was ousted in that year. This is a referendum on Bush and Bush Republicanism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the voters will want to send a message, and they will use the congressmen and women as messengers, the Republicans. Is that correct?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. And it's not only just a perception of incompetence and corruption. It's a reality of incompetence and corruption.

I think the number two reason for the Republican collapse is the fact that the coalition has fallen apart. The evangelicals are blaming the libertarians and the corporate types are blaming the religious right, and they're all just feuding among themselves. There are not enough loyalists left. I know there are one or two, but not enough. And the third --

MR. BUCHANAN: Me and Tony.

MS. CLIFT: Okay, two. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And third is the scandal; not only monetary greed, but in the week that the president declares "Character Counts Week," he goes up and supports a member of Congress, a Republican, who just settled a $5.5 million lawsuit for allegedly having beaten his mistress. (Laughter.) So, I mean, it does not get any better for the Democrats or worse for the Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, I know this is a difficult time for you. (Laughter.) But can you struggle through this?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, first of all, we have buried the party before the death. So let's just wait and see. I agree, obviously --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we --

MR. BLANKLEY: We're all looking at the same numbers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're dancing on the graves, Tony. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: We're all looking at the same numbers and we're expecting this, but let's see what happens on the election night before the glee.

But, yes, all those issues -- I wouldn't characterize them the way Eleanor does, but those are all problems, obviously. But the problem, primarily, that the Republicans have is that they haven't had leadership to hold the coalition together.

I've been in Republican politics for 40 years, and when we've had a successful coalition under Reagan and under Newt, we had all this bickering between the social conservatives and the go-go Wall Streeters and the country clubbers and all the rest.

The question is, how do you manage your coalition? And it hasn't been managed. It's been allowed to slide. And as a result, all of what has always been internal bickering, just like Roosevelt's coalition, is now out public, and people are clawing each other instead of managing that. And because of a lack of leadership, the party is where it is today.

But I would point out that for the congressional Republicans, they have a special problem. And it's not just President Bush. President Bush is about 25 points more popular than Congress right now. So he's not pulling them down. He's not helping, but he's not pulling them down.

The problem is they've been seen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you get that logic, Pat?

MR. BLANKLEY: They've been seen to be spending money that they shouldn't have been spending in all of these earmarks and the bridge to nowhere and all the rest. And that's one of the core issues that conservatives look for in voting for a Republican is to watch the dollars. And they're perceived to have not watched the dollars. So it's very hard at this point, in late October, to say anything to rebut the fact that there's been spending that the conservatives have not wanted to see.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One of the leading political indicators, of course, is resumes on the street; in this instance, of Republican staffers. Have you seen a higher incidence? You're the editor of a magazine. Have you seen the influx of Republican staffers' resumes on your desk?

MR. BEINART: The Republican staffers wouldn't usually apply to The New Republic as their natural choice. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you never know, with what we have now.

MR. BEINART: But I think there's no question that, look, the glue holding the Republican coalition together, the conservative coalition, was national security. All these things that people are upset about George W. Bush, they were all true in 2004 -- overspending, immigration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?

MR. BEINART: The point is, when Iraq was still relatively popular amongst conservatives, that held it all together. Now, as the Iraq war has become an acknowledged fiasco by everybody, the whole thing is collapsing. It's like what happened at the end of the Cold War, when the Reagan coalition fell apart because national security was not holding it together.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you following the Christian conservatives at all? That's not your usual milieu, but reports show that Iraq, Katrina and Foley have pushed away Christian conservatives. Get this: Exit polls show 78 percent of white evangelicals voted for Republicans in 2004. Now an AP poll says 42 percent of white evangelicals disapprove of the job Bush has done as president.

On the assumption -- notwithstanding Tony that this is a referendum on George Bush and he's losing this kind of a base, is the jig up?

MR. BEINART: I think the jig is up. Look, the irony is, Bush has been terrific for Christian conservatives, much better than Reagan -- two Supreme Court justices that they're very happy with; on stem cells, he's been right there with them, even though it's a very unpopular issue. I think we make too much of these distinctions. I'll bet a lot of those evangelical Christians are upset about the war in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And also the gay marriage, amending the Constitution.

MR. BEINART: He's been very good on their issues.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's the character issue, for the reasons you mentioned, the reasons Tony mentioned.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is Foley?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. Evangelicals and conservatives think their leaders in Congress lack the character to balance the budget, lack the character to run the Congress, lack the character to stay out of these Abramoff scandals and all the rest of it. They're unworthy people, they feel. That's why they're 25 points below Bush.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make one point on this. I think there's a lot of caricaturing and stereotyping of Christian conservatives that they're going to be shocked to find sin. Well, anybody who goes to church knows the inherent nature of sinful man. And I think -- and they also have, particularly in the Pentecostals, a very strong commitment to vote as a responsibility of citizenship. So I'm not convinced that we're going to see a lot of people taking their (vapors ?) and not voting on Election Day, because they understand sin and they look for redemption. And they also have a strong commitment. So there's a --

MR. BUCHANAN: A lot of them believe in punishment, Tony. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm just saying, a lot of people who haven't been inside an evangelical congregation in their lives are telling the country what they think evangelicals are going to do.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the Republican strategy --

MR. BEINART: Well, it's polling, Tony. It's polling.

MS. CLIFT: The Republican strategy is to tell all those evangelicals that, "Okay, we Republicans have sinned; but you elect that San Francisco Nancy and all those scary types from the Democratic Party" -- that's what they're running the fear factor. And they're going to put up ads now with Osama bin Laden saying --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we've got to get out.

MS. CLIFT: -- the stakes are high. Yeah, the stakes are high. Where is Osama bin Laden, by the way?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the handwriting on the wall? Will the Republicans lose the House and the Senate? Yes or no, Patrick Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I would have to predict they're going to lose the House. But I do think that this is not over yet. There are 16, 17 days. And the Senate is not yet lost. The Democrats have to run the table. And I don't think they've got it locked up yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see the Republican National Committee is going to cease and desist doing any funding for DeWine in Ohio. What does that tell you?

MR. BLANKLEY: That's not true.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm not sure that's true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not true?

MR. BLANKLEY: That was --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Democrats --

MR. BLANKLEY: That was asserted, but they're in there with -- MR. BUCHANAN: Democrats have got to win, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, they've been backing and filling on that story.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, they're --

MR. BEINART: The damage has been done, though.

MR. BLANKLEY: They're making -- look, DeWine's in a tough strait. And both parties make their decisions in the last few weeks where they spend. But they are not out of Ohio.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got moderates like Chafee and you've got Santorum --

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me list them for you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- who is a conservative.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me list them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're all getting -- feeling the lash.

MR. BUCHANAN: Democrats have got to take Pennsylvania, Ohio, Montana and Rhode Island and two out of three of Tennessee, Missouri and Virginia, and hold New Jersey.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you want to recast your ballot of a moment ago?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I said the Senate is not yet lost.

MS. CLIFT: We're talking --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not locked?

MR. BUCHANAN: Not lost.

MS. CLIFT: We're headed for a blowout in the House, probably better than 30 seats for the Democrats. I agree, it's still a bit of a stretch for the Senate. But if the wave continues to build like it's been building, these Senate seats tend to fall in clumps.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony feels --

MS. CLIFT: So I think the Democrats have a better than 50 percent chance of taking the Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony feels that only the House is going to be lost. What do you think? MR. BLANKLEY: Wait. I didn't say that!

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't say that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'm just trying to sum up --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you summed up wrong. (Laughter.) Right now, if the election were held, the Democrats would probably pick up 22 to 28 in the House. But, according to tracking polls, the Republicans bottomed out last week and they've been inching up marginally.

I don't know that they're going to get far enough. But if they have a good closing two weeks, it could be in the 12-to-18 zone, 15 being the key number. So I'm not yet -- and nobody can know. If you talk to the pollsters, you know that nobody knows what the turnout is going to be.

MS. CLIFT: We can all qualify everything we say repeatedly and look good whatever happens, Tony.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two weeks --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, we can try to be accurate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two weeks in politics is an eternity. And the only poll that counts is the poll on November the 7th. So what do you about the House and the Senate? Will they both go Republican?

MR. BEINART: I think they'll both go Democratic. I think we're in one of these elections where there is just a massive gale force blowing nationally. And in those elections, what you tend to find -- remember '94 -- is that there are races that are not even on our radar screen, that we are not even talking about, where someone is going to wake up and they are going to have lost their seat. I think there are going to be some Senate seats like that, like Arizona, and there will be a number of House seats like that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask a horrid question. If there were a terrorist attack between now and the election, a big attack --

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush would go up.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think so.

MR. BUCHANAN: The country would rally behind him.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think so.

MR. BEINART: I think you're right; not as much as on 9/11, but it would still put him in a better place than it is now.

MR. BUCHANAN: He'd go up 15 points like that.

MS. CLIFT: I disagree. I disagree. His only claim to saying that he's a successful president --

MR. BUCHANAN: What are people going to say, "We want Howard Dean"?

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. No, Howard Dean isn't running for anything, as far as I know.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hillary? MS. CLIFT: Hillary won't be running until '08. If there is a massive attack between now and Election Day -- Bush's only rationale for being a successful president is he's kept us safe from an attack.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to go --

MS. CLIFT: If the attack happens, he's a failed president.

MR. BEINART: He's already a failed president.

MS. CLIFT: He's already a failed president.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm glad to see that partisanship will be kept out of a terrorist attack.

MS. CLIFT: I was responding to the question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, calma. You know the Italian word, calma. So we can get out? The answer is two chambers Democratic.

When we come back, does the U.S. military know how to win the war in Iraq?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: The End of Iraq?

Revenge killings, death squads, gruesome bombings -- the Iraq reality every day. Iraqi civilians killed since the start of the war: 655,000. So says a new Johns Hopkins study, and that's their median estimate.

For U.S. soldiers, October is becoming the bloodiest month in at least two years; over 70 soldiers killed in the first 20 days of October, 10 in one day this week -- bloody Tuesday.

The AP says that Baghdad feels like, quote, "a stick of dynamite with a lighted fuse."

U.S. Major General William Caldwell in Baghdad says this.

GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL (Spokesman, Multinational Force Iraq): (From videotape.) The violence is indeed disheartening.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On a U.S.-Iraq joint operation that was supposed to quell the violence in Baghdad, Caldwell also gave this stark assessment.

GEN. CALDWELL: (From videotape.) In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations since sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iraq's populace is fleeing: 1.5 million have gotten out of the country; another 300,000 have no home.

Question: Does the U.S. military know how to win the war in Iraq? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: This war cannot be won militarily. They've tried everything. They've put more troops into Baghdad recently. That isn't working. They are in the middle of a civil war. This level of sectarian violence is the definition of a civil war. And right now the troops are serving some purpose, as they're keeping somewhat of a lid on the level of violence. But is that really what is in the U.S. interest, to continue doing that indefinitely?

After the election, there will be, I believe, I hope, wise men on Capitol Hill, men and women, both parties, and they're going to come to the realization, and the president will have to listen to the American people and will have to change course. He's beginning to lay the groundwork for that, using the word "flexibility."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that's largely disinformation, what you just described, is that which will occur after the election, put out by the Republican Party, in order for people to think that you really don't need to take it out on the Republicans in the election, because then the election -- because everything is going to change after the election, no matter who is elected?

MS. CLIFT: If it is, I think it's nonsensical. I think the people seem to be lashing out. This is a repudiation of Republican governance, mostly on the war, but lots of other areas as well.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. I want to get this bad news out here. At latest count, there are some 23 separate militia units in Baghdad alone. There are more than 100 around the country. Seventy percent of the population supports the insurgents. And there may be 150,000 active fighters in the insurgency when combined with the militias.

What do you think of that, Tony?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, let me -- there's so much to talk about here. First of all, that 654,000 study, the Johns Hopkins study -- they put out a similar phony number before the last election. Let me tell you just one thing that they do that makes that study phony. They take Saddam Hussein's claimed morbidity rate, which was better than Switzerland's, according to him, as the base from which to calculate the deaths. The number is phony.

But let me get to the central question. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, Roberts has confuted Steve Moore pretty effectively. I don't know whether you're tracking that news.

MR. BLANKLEY: The head of the United Nations unit that does the number-counting disagrees with him. The British organization, which is not pro-war, says it's around 40,000.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We really don't want to debate that. I want to know --

MS. CLIFT: I want to say one thing, that that number will be proved closer to the truth than the 30,000 that the president has put out. And the number of Iraqis who have suffered because of our intervention is --

MR. BLANKLEY: That's war propaganda.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute --

MR. BLANKLEY: That is war propaganda.

MS. CLIFT: -- high, whether you believe the old number or the higher number.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarify --

MS. CLIFT: It's not propaganda.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Excuse me. To clarify, we're talking about a 655,000 figure put out by Johns Hopkins University --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- as the number of casualties --

MR. BUCHANAN: Dead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- dead in Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let's get to the big point.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a clarification.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I haven't answered the central question, first.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Well, go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: You asked the question, is the Pentagon capable of winning the war? In fairness to the Pentagon, they never got the troop levels that some of them thought publicly and many thought privately they needed from the beginning. And so you can't judge the Pentagon, because they were forced to fight with inadequate forces.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's going on in Iraq --

MR. BUCHANAN: We could win the war --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is a military setback. Is it also a political setback? I'm asking you.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, we could win the war if you put in 750,000 American troops. We're not going to do it. What's happening is we are slowly losing the war. The political front in the United States is disintegrating. The political front in Iraq is disintegrating. A couple of ideas Jim Baker puts on the table; everybody's looking for change. Nobody knows exactly what to do, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. BUCHANAN: We are headed for a defeat in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Rummy's got some ideas, and here's his remedy.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld drew a news line this week when he said this about Iraq.

DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) There's going to end up being an amnesty program of some kind.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That amnesty process will be broad and it will be painful, reports The Financial Times on Tuesday.

How does this sound to family members of the troops to hear that the U.S. secretary of Defense wants U.S. troops to risk their lives today, but their killers will be amnestied tomorrow? Peter Beinart.

MR. BEINART: I don't think I -- I can't believe I'm saying this, but Donald Rumsfeld is absolutely right. The only shred of an opportunity -- if you look historically, civil wars end with amnesties. The only way in which American troops are less likely to die in the future is if we have some chance, some slim chance, of stopping the civil war. And amnesty is going to be the only way to do it.

MR. BUCHANAN: That is an argument for ending the war right now, if our guys are fighting and getting killed by people who are going to be amnestied.

MR. BEINART: The point is, the only way we can stop our troops from getting killed is if we stop the Sunni insurgency and bring the Sunnis into the government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The idea behind the amnesty is that the insurgents have to be assimilated into the texture of society or there will be no civil order.

MR. BUCHANAN: Or civil war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To have civil order, they've got to be amnestied.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, after World War II, we didn't drive every Nazi into a camp. We integrated most of the members -- millions of members of the Nazi party back into Germany society after we'd lost hundreds of thousands of men in World War II. You always end wars with an amnesty. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Kim's volte-face.

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, has done a baffling 180-degree about-face. This is what he said: One, no more testing. Quote: "There will be no additional nuclear tests." Two, more talks. Quote: "If the U.S. makes concessions to some degree, so will we, be it either at the bilateral level or the six-party talks." Three, "I'm sorry." Quote: "Chairman Kim conveyed his sorry feelings about the nuclear test." These messages were delivered by Kim Jong Il himself to the state counselor of China and his delegation, who visited Pyongyang on Thursday.

Question: Is that enough to satisfy us on the verification of this message, namely, that it came through the South Koreans who were there with him, a delegation, on Thursday?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sounds like the Chinese have pulled the string on Kim and said, "You've humiliated us. One more test and the oil will be cut off and the food will be cut off. We want talks on this." The Chinese are concerned about Japan going nuclear. I think this may be an opening and an opportunity. And any opening and opportunity, we ought to take.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think what really went on was that sweeteners were introduced into this more than threats and that the South Koreans and the Chinese bought out Kim?

MR. BEINART: I have no idea. But if I had to guess, I would guess not. I would guess that Pat is right, that basically China has the ability to make the regime collapse. And maybe they said, "We're not going to do it now, but another test and we really will." And that got his attention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear what I just said in that question, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. First of all --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's possible that they are now going to give more to South Korea -- North Korea?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, I mean, obviously none of us know what the conversation between the Chinese and the North Korean leaders were. But I should point out, by the way, that the North Koreans are denying the South Korean story that he apologized. So we don't know what went on precisely in there.

I'm inclined to suspect that China was reasonably tough with them. But ultimately there will be sweeteners in any negotiation, combined with, one hopes, verification. But one should not take anything at face value that anybody is saying on this matter. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we are saying that China has exercised its clout, if two or three, at least, of these messages are correct?

MS. CLIFT: Right. But I think the North Korean leader is very mercurial, and I wouldn't necessarily take every word of this as the gospel truth. And I think saving face is important in diplomacy, and it's very important, extremely important, in Asia. And Kim made the mistake of embarrassing the Chinese on the world stage. That was his critical error.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, ironically, that this development has strengthened the prospects for denuclearization of Korea, North Korea?

MR. BUCHANAN: I do think this, John. North Korea has no interest in an all-out war with the United States, and neither do we. If we don't go to war, then ultimately we're going to have to communicate and make some kind of deal. So I think it's good news.

I do not think North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons. I think we can stop them from testing more.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: China's presumably expressed wish --

MS. CLIFT: But Pat is right. It's time to talk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that North Korea -- and action -- that North Korea be contained is what I'm driving at. And that's a new dimension to this situation.

Exit question: Will North Korea carry out a second nuclear test, yes or no? That's all I want to hear, yes or no. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Not in the near future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Before Bush leaves office, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think so?

MS. CLIFT: That's what I predicted a week ago, and I'm going to stick by it.

MR. BLANKLEY: At some point in the future, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that mean?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think they want nuclear weapons and need to test, because you can't have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Within two years?

MR. BLANKLEY: Nuclear weapons aren't useful unless they're tested, so they've got to test.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BEINART: After this evidence, one would have to say no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I would say no, too.

We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia dead, and Mr. Putin may just take down the Georgia government of Mikhail Saakashvili. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Senators John Warner of Virginia and Richard Lugar of Indiana will go to the White House after the election and tell the president, "Time is up on Iraq" and will force him to change course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Moderate Bangladesh will be seen as the new site, regretfully, of rising radicalism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Peter.

MR. BEINART: The talk about a coup in Baghdad is going to only increase in the coming weeks, both in Washington and in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, al-Maliki will be out?

MR. BEINART: I'm not saying that he will be out, but it's going to be more and more talked about in Washington. And while people in Washington may think it's a parlor game, that's going to reverberate in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Richard Haass argues this week in The Financial Times that, quote, "The American era in the Middle East has ended." Haass is right.

Next week, countdown. Don't forget, you can iPod the Group.

Bye-bye.

(PBS segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Commuting hell, the daily road agony.

Commuters are driving longer periods, 60 minutes or longer, an increase of 50 percent over 10 years. More workers are leaving on their commutes before the traditional peak hours, 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. And get this: More commuters drive solo; 78 percent, roughly four out of five, solo.

Question: Why get into a lather over this? If you carpool and if you get into telecommuting and a transit tax on cars that come into the central city, the problem will disappear. Yes or no? Peter.

MR. BEINART: And some public transportation might help as well. Not very many cities have a good public transportation system out from the suburbs into the city. That's another answer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What else would relieve the situation? This gets a little arcane now. MR. BLANKLEY: Nothing will relieve it because --

MS. CLIFT: Affordable housing.

MR. BUCHANAN: I commute to my basement, John. That's what will do it -- the computer.

MS. CLIFT: No, affordable --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's what I'm talking about, telecommuting.

MS. CLIFT: Affordable housing closer in. A lot of people are driving long distances because they can't afford to pay the prices --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or the deflation of the housing bubble.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sink the housing market.

MS. CLIFT: That's already happening.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that will also relieve the problem.

MR. BEINART: It's not really going down. It's just pretty much steadying off.

END.