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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, NOVEMBER 10, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 11-12, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: A Thorough Thumping.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumping.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A thorough thumping, a Republican rout on all levels. The long shot was the U.S. Senate. The Democrats pulled it off. They are now the majority in the Senate with 51 seats. As for the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats took over twice the 15 seats they needed for majority status. As for the governors, Democrats won a net six seats and now hold the majority of the statehouses.

Question: Was this a referendum on George Bush? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was a referendum on George Bush, John. It was a referendum on the Republican Party. It was a referendum on the war in Iraq. And all three were repudiated soundly. The Democrats got 53 percent of the votes; Republicans, 47 percent. And while the numbers in the House and Senate are not huge for a second-term off-year election, the historical significance is huge because the Republicans lost both houses of the Congress.

The president has clearly been knocked off his game. He is now in a posture almost of appeasement of the Pelosi Democrats, which is a mistake, because while this is a repudiation of Republicanism, there is no mandate for Pelosi's liberalism. And the president, if he gets into compromises in working with her, especially on a major issue like immigration, which he says he's going to, he's headed for some more thumpings.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to let Pat get away with Pelosi Democrats? He means by that liberal Democrats. She's already said she's going to draw from the seniority as committee chairmen. That would seem to indicate that they're not all going to be liberals. Is that true?

MS. CLIFT: Actually, drawing from seniority would suggest that they are going to be liberals.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah.

MS. CLIFT: She's going to go back to the old diehards.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but she's committed to governing in the middle. And if she and the president can come together on immigration, the president will have to choose between the corporate wing of the Republican Party and the Pat Buchanan wing, and he's going to have his own legacy in mind. And immigration reform could be his legacy.

But this was a slap-down of the Karl Rove politics of polarization. And Democrats did well across the country. They did well with rural voters, with married men. They got a third of the evangelical vote. So this was a top-to-bottom repudiation of Republican governance and the direction they've taken this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's clear that national issues dominated local issues in this election. True or false?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Go ahead. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's true, correct?

MR. BLANKLEY: In many cases; not in all cases.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In other words, it was a referendum.

MR. BLANKLEY: In many cases. In most cases -- it was a nationalized election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A nationalized election.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the Democrats were very successful on that, were they not?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the Republicans were successful at nationalizing it negatively, yeah. (Laughter.)

But let me make a point here. Everything everyone says is right. It was about Bush. It was about Republicans. It was about corruption. It was about Iraq. But the interesting struggle that's going on in each party -- and it always happens after a big election -- the winners try to figure out why they won and want it to be replicated. The losers try to figure out why they lost and how to stop it.

This is a struggle where the factions within each party are trying to advance their particular pieces. So you've got the Wall Street Republicans, Chamber of Commerce people, who are saying this is about being too conservative on the social issues. You know, you have the free-trade Republicans saying, you know, that it wasn't vindicated because protectionism didn't work again.

And on the Democratic side, more importantly, because they're the majority -- they're the ones who are going to be shaping the politics of Washington for the next two years at least -- you have the argument of the centrists that they ran people who were more like their voters -- pro-guns, anti-abortion in Montana and that sort of thing. That's why they won, picked up all these seats.

Then you've got the Pelosi -- the more liberal ones saying, "We won because the public was angry at Bush, angry about the war, and therefore we need to do more of that."

The lessons you learn or mislearn are terribly important, because the Democrats, until this election, they thought they hadn't been liberal enough in '96 and '98 and 2000. If they were only more liberal, they'd get more voters. They were wrong. What they had to do was what they did finally in this year.

So the danger of either party mislearning the lessons of this election will be the interesting point. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that that's all pedantry? What we have here is the independents controlling the action, and 20 percent more independents went in favor of the Democrats this year. It wasn't really the parties that turned this deal, was it?

MR. O'DONNELL: I am just here to gloat. No viewer of The McLaughlin Group was surprised to see the Democrats win the Senate. This side of the panel predicted seat for seat exactly who would win and who would lose. This was very --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but Buchanan misled me on Allen in Virginia.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, you should have stayed strong on Webb.

MR. BUCHANAN: Never follow me, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I should have stayed strong.

MR. O'DONNELL: But Pat's right. This was a repudiation of the president.

But I want to emphasize a point Eleanor raised, which is it's a repudiation of the politics of Karl Rove. The politics that said -- the sloganeering that said a vote for the Democrat is a vote for terrorists was repudiated as the awful, evil stuff that it was.

Rove the genius has driven his party into oblivion and made his president irrelevant after inviting a federal prosecutor into an investigation of the White House for a few years out of his own stupidity. We can stop talking about him as a genius from this point forward, can't we?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president, in his press conference, he allowed that he had thought right along that the Republicans would do well. He tended to minimize Iraq, I thought. And also he never conceded that this would be an anti-GOP blowout.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he was out of touch? And if he was out of touch, where is Rove in all of this?

MR. O'DONNELL: Rove was out of touch too. These guys thought that they could do this demonization of dissent on Iraq as something that was un-American. They thought they could still get away with that.

MS. CLIFT: I think they saw what was coming, because they wired the resignation -- the firing of Karl Rove before the election and had a replacement in place.

MR. BUCHANAN: You mean Rumsfeld.

MS. CLIFT: And they just didn't want to give any indication of weakness before the election --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean Rumsfeld.

MS. CLIFT: -- because they thought that would hurt them at the polls.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's nothing new on Rove yet, is there? MS. CLIFT: Rumsfeld.

MR. O'DONNELL: That's next week. Rove is next week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Rove?

MS. CLIFT: No, Rumsfeld.

MR. O'DONNELL: How can Rove stay in the job?

MR. BUCHANAN: The thing here is -- the really important thing here is the great conservative movement that began in '64 and rose up in '80 and took over the White House in '94, took over the House, is receding. The Democratic Party now is controlling the northeastern quadrant of the country like Republicans do the South. The Democratic Party is moving across the Potomac into Virginia. The Republican Party and conservatism is being reduced back towards its base.

The national trend is clearly in all the big states, except Florida and Texas, and both of those are trending toward the national Democratic Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make one point on that. There's a tendency, after big elections, to say we're seeing a realignment. And Republicans have seen realignments many times that weren't there. And one election does not make a realignment.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Tony --

MR. BLANKLEY: And the fact that --

MR. BUCHANAN: But 31 states in 2004 is all they won. I mean, Reagan and Nixon won 49. Now we're down to 31.

MR. BLANKLEY: I understand that. But Reagan won that in '84. So we've done very well for many years. We thought we were realigning in '94, in '84. You thought you were doing it in '72. All I'm saying is that one election isn't an alignment. When you go --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: When you go from Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich and you progress to Bush, Frist and Hastert --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's all going over and down the hill.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- that is not evolution. That is devolution. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) Okay, Carnac the McLaughlin. Here's the host of this program, February 2005, 20 months ago -- that's one year and nine months ago.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republicans now hold the House of Representatives. In the 2006 elections next year, the House will be seized by the Democrats.

(End of videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard that. Republicans now hold the House of Representatives. In 2006 --

MR. BUCHANAN: You have to go back two years to get a correct prediction. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs) -- elections next year, the House will be seized by the Democrats.

Now, I was practically laughed off the stage when I said that.

MR. O'DONNELL: Not by me. Not by me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not by you?

MR. O'DONNELL: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you're an exception to the rule. You too are prescient. But I've got to be careful the way I use this power -- (laughter) -- because I know that it can be discouraging to people like you, Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: You could have tilted the country with that prediction, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. In 1994, the Democrats were expelled into political wilderness, as Tony has pointed out, in a watershed sweep election. The Republicans kept them in the wilderness for 12 years. This week the Republicans went into the wilderness. How long will the Republicans be kept there?

MR. BUCHANAN: They will be there at least four years, John. I don't think in a presidential year they will get it back. If the Democrats get the presidency, I think the Republicans will get back the House in 2010.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Look, I mean, I think the Democrats have a chance of at least a dozen years, like the Republicans did. But they're on probation. I mean, they've got to deliver and they've got to get some things done, and they've got to show that we're not just trading one set of beliefs for another.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you get the impression the Democrats are dazed?

MS. CLIFT: No, they've been seeing this coming for months. They are ready.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I still think they're dazed.

MS. CLIFT: They've got a 100-hour plan -- minimum wage, lower college tuition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One prominent Democrat --

MS. CLIFT: There are some good things coming for middle-class people in this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One prominent Democrat admitted to me that he was dazed.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said, "I don't think we feel that we deserve it."

MR. BLANKLEY: As a psychological factor, nobody who wins a big election is prepared emotionally for it, whether it was Reagan in '80, us in '95 or the Democrats now. The feeling that comes to you when suddenly the reality of your hopes become real is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long are they going to be there?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the Senate, of course, will be in play in any given election cycle. The House -- the Republicans only lost a net nine seats until this week, until this election, from 1994 until now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long in the wilderness?

MR. BLANKLEY: So the Democrats have enough to hold on for quite a long time, depending how it's played out. It could be five, 10, 15 years. Or it could be quicker if they --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your intuition?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: My intuition is four years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four years. What do you think?

MR. O'DONNELL: It all depends on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four years will be -- let's see, we're in 2006. That's 2010.

MR. BLANKLEY: If the Democrats become president.

MR. O'DONNELL: It depends on how good a speaker Pelosi is. And this is not a hard thing to do, to recognize that what has to be served in that caucus are the conservative Democrats who've been elected in this cycle. That's what gives them a majority.

Now, Tip O'Neill knew how to do this. He was from Cambridge, Massachusetts, at least as liberal a place as this speaker is from in San Francisco. There's a way to do it. If she does it right, they have it for at least 20 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you got it in for Pelosi?

MR. O'DONNELL: No, I don't have it in for Pelosi. I don't know how she's going to --

MR. BLANKLEY: Don't start that rumor for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you're somewhat close to Hillary, are you not?

MR. O'DONNELL: We'll know how good a speaker she is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How does Hillary get along with Pelosi?

MR. O'DONNELL: I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do know.

MR. O'DONNELL: I don't know. I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know.

MS. CLIFT: They get along just fine. Let's not manufacture some sort of conflict.

MR. BLANKLEY: But Pelosi dresses a lot better.

MS. CLIFT: Pelosi has been in the Congress for 19 years. She's no overnight success. And for her to have navigated her path to become speaker --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: -- suggests how disciplined she is, how smart she is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And this week she navigated her path beautifully.

The answer to my question is it's too close to call with regard to the Republicans.

Issue Two: So Long, New Europe.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I have been talking with Don Rumsfeld over a period of time about fresh perspective. He himself understands that Iraq is not working well enough, fast enough. And he and I are constantly assessing. And so he and I both agreed in our meeting yesterday that it was appropriate that I accept his resignation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secretary Rumsfeld's six-year tenure as head of the Defense Department reminds him of Winston Churchill.

DONALD RUMSFELD (Secretary of Defense): (From videotape.) It's been quite a time. It recalls to mind the statement by Winston Churchill, something to the effect that I have benefited greatly from criticism, and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does the dismissal of Donald Rumsfeld give Bush a honeymoon with the new Democratic Senate and House? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Look, it's the price of admission to at least deal with the Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill. And I also think it was engineered by his father and through the Baker-Hamilton commission. Rumsfeld's successor is on that commission.

It looks like they're getting ready to prepare the golden parachute, if you will, for the president to figure out how to draw down troops in Iraq. It's not going to happen quickly, and I think Democrats are going to have a hard time controlling expectations when their supporters think this is going to end within a year. It's going to take a while. But this is the beginning of the end of our involvement in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has the dismissal of Rumsfeld bought Bush time in Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, it's bought him some time. And Rumsfeld had to go after the election, although it was brutal how it was done.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Brutal? The president explained it all over the lot. He said, "We've been talking about it for some time."

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you put a bullet in the day the day after the election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?

MR. BUCHANAN: He was thrown to the wolves. But here's the thing. Cheney-Rumsfeld, the core of the duumvirate which has been the power force in the neoconservatives behind Bush in his first term and into his second, is broken. Cheney is now an isolated figure, and 41's team of Baker and Gates and Condi, quite frankly, and Scowcroft are now moving in to encompass Bush. And Bush seems to have surrendered -- basically to be surrendering policy or decision or taking up the point of view of that realist crowd against the neoconservatives. I think it portends a clear change in policy. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get in here.

MR. BLANKLEY: Quickly, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: No one's going to disagree with any of this. I don't think he buys himself a honeymoon. There is no honeymoon to be had if the president is true to his word, which I believe he is, which he still wants to succeed in Iraq.

I got a call minutes after the Rumsfeld announcement from a very senior White House person -- not elected, but below that, very high.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who was it? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm not going to tell you -- who wanted to assure me that the choice of Gates and the dismissal of Rumsfeld did not mean that they were now going to go for the exit strategy, that they were committed. I believe that the president is going to stay trying to succeed in Iraq to the end --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- notwithstanding that all the senior staff around him may be of the other opinion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get into that through this. Hello, Robert Michael Gates.

ROBERT GATES (Secretary of Defense-designate): (From videotape.) President Bush will be the seventh president I have served. I had not anticipated returning to government service and have never enjoyed any position more than being president of Texas A&M University. I did not hesitate when the president asked me to return to duty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question for O'Donnell. Robert Gates has been sharply critical of President Bush's policy in Iraq, and he wants to cleanse the Pentagon of the neocons who are responsible for the war and its ruinous aftermath. The question is, in addition to Rumsfeld's exit, is the nomination of Robert Gates as Rumsfeld's successor further proof that President Bush has embarked on a new direction in Iraq?

MR. O'DONNELL: Of course it is. And we will see more of that new direction revealed in his confirmation hearing, where Hillary Clinton will be playing a starring role. This is going to be her first big engagement on the presidential campaign stage, the confirmation hearing of a new Defense secretary. And he's going to have to, before a Democratic Armed Services Committee, indicate ways in which things are going to be different. He won't be able to get through the hearing without saying that.

MR. BUCHANAN: To encourage, John, the purge of the neocons, the ones that are left in the Pentagon, and of Rumsfeld, also means that the group behind an attack on Iran before this administration is over have been very, very much weakened. I don't think Baker or Gates or Condi or Hadley are behind any attack on Iran. But the ones who may still be are Cheney and the president.

MR. O'DONNELL: Gates wants to talk to Iran. He wants to open up direct negotiations with them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are two, quote-unquote, "Iraq ideologues" left, meaning that they favor the war and they favor the regionalization that they say would develop from it, the constructive one. And one of them is Dick Cheney, and a lesser one is Condoleezza Rice.

The question is, will Dick Cheney also walk the plank? (Begin videotaped segment.)

Q Vice President Cheney, of course, takes many of the same positions that Secretary Rumsfeld did on the war. Does he still have your complete confidence?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, he does.

Q Do you expect him to stay to the end of your term?

PRESIDENT BUSH: The campaign is over. Yes, he does.

Q And he'll be here for the remainder of your term?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, he will. Thank you.

(End of videotape.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is the president being so abrupt on this Cheney matter? Do you want to add to anything you said earlier?

MR. O'DONNELL: He's an elected constitutional official. He can't fire him. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cheney can resign.

MR. O'DONNELL: He can resign, but here's why --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or suddenly Cheney could decide to spend a few days in the hospital.

MR. O'DONNELL: There are many reasons he won't resign, including it's the only office that requires confirmation from both the House and the Senate. Who do you think they could possibly get confirmed as vice president of the United States?

MS. CLIFT: And Cheney --

MR. BLANKLEY: And who would want it?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you say that?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, because that's what the rules are.

MS. CLIFT: It's the reality. And Cheney is also the last link this president has left with his conservative diehards. If he is seen to be yanking Cheney --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, why did he choose --

MS. CLIFT: -- away, he really rips it with the last friendlies he has in Washington. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't he choose, in that context, to puff him up earlier?

MR. O'DONNELL: That's right. What he didn't do was make a big statement of support --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?

MR. O'DONNELL: Because Cheney is off the stage now --

MR. BUCHANAN: Because he is --

MR. O'DONNELL: -- and he is out of power.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wanted to get off that subject, the president did.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he did, because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He ran from it like the plague.

MR. BUCHANAN: Do you know why, John? John, he said Rumsfeld did a fantastic job and then he put a bullet in him about four days later, so he wanted to knock down the idea we're about to do the same to Cheney.

MS. CLIFT: He didn't knock it down, though, because he was so peremptory and dismissive --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's gone for good?

MR. BUCHANAN: What's gone for good?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cheney as taking the plank?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, Cheney is not going to resign from vice president. Why would he? It's a constitutional office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard what I said. If the president said to him, "Dick, I think, you know, we could do better" --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, well, he would say, "I don't think I'm going to go, Mr. President."

MR. BLANKLEY: And let me make another point. No Republican leader aspiring to be president would want to join the administration at this point because they'd get their fingerprints on a problem. They're going to run, as every successful candidate does, as an outsider, even if they're a Washington insider.

MR. BUCHANAN: Frist would love it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Has the president gotten the message of this election, and does it make any difference, meaning that his credibility is so tainted, so undercut, that a rebound similar to Reagan in, what, '86 and '87 and '88 will not occur?

MR. BUCHANAN: The president has gotten the message, but Tony may not be wrong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: This president knows his legacy is tied up in Iraq. He knows a calamity will occur, he believes it, if we pull out. So he may stay the course despite the fact he got the message.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, he could do what he did in Texas and he could work with the opposition.

MS. CLIFT: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He could abandon the aggressiveness.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he couldn't.

MS. CLIFT: I think he's getting ready to revert to the Texas model, trading in six years of hard right governance for two years of compassionate conservatism.

Remember that? But on Iraq --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he has it in him?

MS. CLIFT: It's the only way he gets anything left to put in his legacy besides a failed war in Iraq.

MR. BLANKLEY: But, look, I forget the guy's name, Bullock or Burrock, the Democrat.

MS. CLIFT: Bullock.

MR. BLANKLEY: Down in Texas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who are we talking about?

MR. BLANKLEY: In Texas, in Austin, Texas, when Bush was governor.

MS. CLIFT: Texas Democrat.

MR. BLANKLEY: You can't compare a southern Democrat from Texas with Pelosi and Waxman and Rangel, for goodness' sakes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the Bush dynasty is dead forever?

MR. O'DONNELL: I think the Bush dynasty is going to certainly have to sit out one round of presidential elections.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One round?

MR. O'DONNELL: At least. But, look, he got the message. He doesn't know what to do with it. He's just going to hold Jim Baker's hand when Jim Baker's report comes out about what to do in Iraq, and he's just going to do whatever --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, it's going to be tough on Jeb. Jeb is a very talented and successful governor.

MR. O'DONNELL: He is. But it's a very bad time to be running as a Bush. MR. BLANKLEY: Don't be so contemptuous of the president. He's not going to hold Jim Baker's hand.

MR. O'DONNELL: You have no idea. He's a lost soul.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please watch the videotape very carefully for this. Issue Three: Rove Rules.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

Q Mr. President, may I ask you if you have any metrics you'd be willing to share about your reading contest with Mr. Rove?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm losing. I obviously was working harder in the campaign than he was. (Laughter.)

(End of videotape.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was the end of that little joke? Do you think he was angry?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, I don't know the president. But people close to the president tell me that he does not make jokes like this in an offhanded kind of way. They insist that there's always real content in those kinds of references. He cannot be happy with his senior political adviser, who has driven him to this point, to this disaster.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Rove in jeopardy?

MR. O'DONNELL: He should be in jeopardy. Why would you keep him in there? He used to be the guy who was supposed to help you round up votes in the Senate and the House and get your agenda through. He failed completely on Social Security, he failed completely on tax reform, the two biggest things Bush talked about in his re-election campaign.

And now what is he going to do? He's going to call up Harry Reid and say, "How are we doing today in the Senate, Harry?"

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get into this. The very fact that Lawrence and others, who are obviously tremendous opponents of the president, are so attacking Rove now suggests to me that Rove must still be of value or they wouldn't be attacking him.

Rove -- I never called him genius. The other guys called him genius. I knew him to be a very shrewd man. He is still a very shrewd man. And while I've had my differences with him on tactics, as other people have, he's still probably the best tactician and strategist Bush has.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's switch the question. You don't think the president should fire Rove. MR. BLANKLEY: Absolutely not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think the president should fire Rove.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, I think --

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think Rove is essentially finished in his service to this presidency. And Bush was elected, to the extent he was elected, as a compassionate conservative. He presented a very different persona to the country. And his transformation, if you will, was based on Rove's advice, which was based on a strategy memo from pollster Matt Dowd that said the 2000 recount so polarized the nation, there weren't enough swing voters left to fashion a governing strategy around them. That's what gave birth to the hard politics we've seen.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me get into this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Rove should be fired.

MS. CLIFT: I think he's done.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Rove should be fired?

MR. BUCHANAN: You do not do that. Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, you do not do that?

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, for heaven's sakes, Rove has served this man for his entire career and they had a bad election. You don't throw him to the wolves.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bad election? Ruinous election.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me just say -- let me talk about -- the president did that, and you could see what the president did. And he suddenly realized, "This is going to be taken as an insult and cutting of Rove," and he stepped back and kidded, after this little thing you put on there, in order to indicate that he was not doing that.

But I do believe there was something of a Freudian slip there, that he probably --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did he kid further beyond what I played on the video?

MR. BUCHANAN: He talked seriously. He said, "Well, Rove is winning the contest. He's reading more books than I have." He went into that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, he developed that thematic. MR. BUCHANAN: He developed that thematic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you --

MS. CLIFT: That wasn't much of a thematic. (Laughs.) That was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to talk about one other thing, quickly. Is there common ground between Pelosi and the president --

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- on issues?

MS. CLIFT: Immigration reform, principally.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Free trade is dead. The Doha trade agreement is dead. The president will be denied fast track in mid-2007.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will emerge as a key conduit between the administration and congressional Democrats. He didn't campaign for any Republican candidates. He's seen as an honest broker.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a perfect Cabinet member.

MR. BLANKLEY: I hope that the House Republicans will delay their leadership vote till after Thanksgiving so that the new faces have a chance to present themselves and be considered by the members.

MR. O'DONNELL: If Nancy Pelosi allows Alcee Hastings to be the chairman of the Intelligence Committee -- Hastings being a former bribe-taking federal judge -- the Democrats will probably lose control of the House in two years. They will become the new party of corruption.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there goes seniority, right?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, this one's not based on seniority.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, McLaughlin says -- take this down, Pat -- Putin will not annex Belarus.

Happy Veterans Day. Bye-bye.

END.