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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; JAY CARNEY, TIME

TAPED: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 18-19, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Is Iraq Now Vietnam?

The Senate this week brought top U.S. military chieftains to testify on the war: General John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command and the top U.S. commander in the Middle East; Michael Maples, director of Defense Intelligence; Michael Hayden, director of the CIA.

Senator John Warner was the chairman.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA): (From videotape.) On August 3rd, you appeared before the committee and you stated as follows, and I quote, "I believe the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it in Baghdad in particular. And if it's not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move to a civil war," end quote.

Using that as a base line, would you restate that or add to it or amend it?

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID (Commander, U.S. Central Command): A lot of the sectarian violence is down. It's still at unacceptably high levels. I wouldn't say that we have turned the corner in this regard, but it's not nearly as bad as it was back in August. And I am encouraged by that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Abizaid says the violence in Iraq is not as high as it was three and a half months ago. Do you think Abizaid is justified in that? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it might be three and a half months ago. But this is a horrible, horrible year, John. The key thing Abizaid said was we will know in four to six months, and don't take any troops out before then and don't add them. He shot down McCain's idea. He's given the president cover for about half a year. And he's also laid out a case that the Democrats are going to hide behind and when they refuse to do any defunding for the next four to six months.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the question is whether the violence is going up or going down. Here's another top government official responsible for what goes on in Iraq, the director of Defense Intelligence, the agency so relied on by Donald Rumsfeld.

GEN. MICHAEL MAPLES (Director, Defense Intelligence Agency): (From videotape.) Violence in Iraq continues to increase in scope, complexity and lethality.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Maples contradicting Abizaid, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: I think Maples is closer to telling the truth. When you have Iraqis dressed up as military and as police, storming the education ministry and taking people hostage, and you have safe houses set up for college professors and students, and when you have American contractors and other foreign contractors taken hostage, I don't see how anybody can say the sectarian violence is getting better. The death squads wait at the morgue to see what bodies show up. And when the relatives come to claim them, they capture them as well. I mean, this is anarchy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eight hundred attacks on U.S. forces and foreign forces per day. A third top official responsible for Iraq, Michael Hayden, director of the CIA; here's what he says about violence in Iraq. GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (Director of Central Intelligence): (From videotape.) Security forces are plagued by sectarianism. They've got maintenance and logistics problems. The civilian bureaucracy is buffeted by inefficiency and partisan control.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does this description of the violence conflict with the Abizaid assessment? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it sounds to. But let me make a slightly different point. The problem today is the Iraqi government can't solve the political problem, and the Iraqi military and the current level of American military can't stop the violence problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we know all that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, no, we don't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying that a political resolution is needed --

MR. BLANKLEY: No --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or a military one?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. Listen for a second and learn. Since the Iraqi government, which we've been so proud of, can't solve the problem, we have to either get out or we've got to try to solve the political problems ourselves and increase troop strength.

If we don't do those two things, then we might as well decide that we're going to get out. But this idea of counting whether it's up or down each week or month and waiting for a dysfunctional Iraqi government to solve problems it's incapable of solving is a formula for failure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not up or down. It's whether the continuation continues to degenerate. You can address yourself to that. But I want to first of all point out that Michael Hayden also sees another force at work raising the violence in Iraq.

GEN. HAYDEN: (From videotape.) There are historical forces that have been unleashed by what I referred to earlier, Senator, as the satanic level of violence al Qaeda has inflicted on particularly the Shi'a population.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This point was developed in Hayden's prepared remarks also.

GEN. HAYDEN: (From videotape.) Since the bombing of the al- Askari mosque in Samarra last February, violence between Arab Shi'a and Sunnis has grown, and grown to such an extent that sectarian violence now presents the greatest immediate threat to Iraq's stability and future. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Note the word "satanic." Is that a code word, as in "Satanic Verses" by Salman Rushdie? Does that inflame?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't know about that. But John, let me tell you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just think of that. Then he gets into the mosque.

MR. CARNEY: We were talking about the contradiction between what General Abizaid said and some of these other people said. The reason why General Abizaid wants to believe or to promote the idea that violence is somehow diminished compared to where it was two and a half months ago is because not just Donald Rumsfeld, but John Abizaid has a lot to answer for.

The military leaders are as responsible for the failures in Iraq as the civilian leadership in Washington. When President Bush has told us for three years now that he has been willing to send as many troops as his military commanders have asked for, and the military commanders have not asked for more, whose responsibility is that?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but that's not his fault.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

Are you faulting the military?

MR. CARNEY: This is the same kind of dereliction of duty that has been written about with such passion about the Vietnam War. And I think that careerism and a decision to try to please Donald Rumsfeld and the civilian leadership in Washington is what drove --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute --

MR. CARNEY: -- is what drove some of these military leaders not to demand more troops.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most of the time what's being attacked is the reconstruction. But you're attacking the actual military effort and its prosecution.

MR. CARNEY: I think the senior leadership in the military failed to address the problem --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. CARNEY: -- of the need for more troops.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me answer that, because this is an important point. I do agree with you that Abizaid and Casey have not asked for more. I would make another point. I have heard on pretty good authority that they have gone directly to the president to reinforce that message. It wasn't simply they were afraid to tell Rumsfeld. It was that they actually believed that policy.

MS. CLIFT: That's not really a fair --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, hold on for one minute. I'm going to let you in next. But what I want to say is that on this very point of troop strength, it was asked at the hearing, "Are more troops in Iraq -- is that the answer?"

GEN. ABIZAID: (From videotape.) I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The general has spoken. So should the hawks now retreat? What do you say to that? MR. CARNEY: It may be too late to send more troops, John. It may be too late. But it is certainly true that more troops in the beginning would have made a very big difference.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: We learned nothing from General Abizaid. He says it's a disaster to send in more troops; it's a disaster to take troops out. So what do we have here, perfection? But I still don't think it's fair to blame the generals, because they knew that they had to please a political agenda.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat --

MS. CLIFT: And the political failure here is on the part of the leadership. Tony is right. They need a political settlement, and they do not have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat. Let Abizaid say this. "Okay, give us another reason, General Abizaid, why more U.S. troops is not the answer?"

GEN. ABIZAID: (From videotape.) We can put in 20,000 more Americans tomorrow and achieve a temporary effect. But when you look at the overall American force pool that's available out there, the ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something that we have right now with the size of the Army and the Marine Corps.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's get this straight. Abizaid says more troops would be better, but we don't have enough. And anyway, more troops make the Iraqis rely too much on us. And anyway, things are better now than in August. But even though things are better, we would not advocate bringing home any troops. Is that a fair summary? I ask you.

MR. CARNEY: It's certainly a fair summary of what General Abizaid said, which seems to me like -- I think he thinks that everything is perfect, given the Army we have. But what he's really calling for is an increase in the size of the standing Army and the standing Marine Corps so that we can fight with more forces in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said 20,000 would be just a temporary --

MR. CARNEY: Because he can't hold 20,000, because the Army --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat; new subject. Tipping point.

(Begin videotaped segment.) SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): General Abizaid, how much time do you think we have to bring down the level of violence in Baghdad before we reach some type of tipping point where it accelerates beyond the control of even the Iraqi government?

GEN. ABIZAID: I think it needs to be brought down within the next several months.

SEN. REED: Ninety days? Sixty days?

GEN. ABIZAID: Four to six months.

SEN. REED: Four to six months.

(End of videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Four to six months has a familiar ring. Senator Levin, when should the phased withdrawal of American troops begin?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): (From videotape.) We should pressure the White House to commence the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in four to six months to begin that phased redeployment, and thereby to make it clear to the Iraqis that our presence is not open- ended and that they must take and make the necessary political compromises to preserve Iraq as a nation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what do we think of four to six months?

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, it's almost a laughable refrain, because we've heard it from Senator Warner. We've heard it from various generals. We've heard it, that in the next six months we're going to turn a corner. There are an infinite number of corners in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you have your Democrats in the House and the Senate.

MS. CLIFT: But there may be a bipartisan consensus emerging here; give them the four to six months.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MS. CLIFT: The phased withdrawal begins in four to six months.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly, John.

MS. CLIFT: And there's some common ground --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Levin also heads up the Armed Services Committee.

MS. CLIFT: Right. MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make a point here. Giving our government four to six months and then getting out, we might as well save the men and women who are going to be killed in those four to six months --

MS. CLIFT: Phased withdrawal, not getting out.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and start it now, because if we don't change our policy, if you don't get more troops in, to get more aggressive politically in Baghdad, then the four to six months aren't going to buy anything.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Tony, they're not going to put in 20,000 troops. Abizaid doesn't want them. The generals don't want them. He says they'll be shot at. He says we can't --

MR. BLANKLEY: There are plenty of generals who want it. They're just not at that level.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, well, look, where are they?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is temporary if you put in 20,000. They're not enough. And if you go to the enough level, you don't have the standing army to do it.

MR. CARNEY: I bet a lot of generals, as Tony says, below the level of General Abizaid would take 20,000 or 40,000 for four to six months and make a difference.

MR. BLANKLEY: We could do a lot of good in those four to six months.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: We're past the point of putting in more troops. Abizaid may shuffle some troops around to increase the training.

MR. BLANKLEY: You don't know that. You don't know that at all.

MS. CLIFT: We're at the point we were in Vietnam --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, we're not.

MS. CLIFT: -- where McNamara was calling for -- Westmoreland was calling for more troops.

MR. BLANKLEY: There are plenty of problems here, but it's got nothing to do with Vietnam.

MS. CLIFT: It's got plenty to do with Vietnam.

MR. BUCHANAN: Nobody is calling for more troops except for John McCain right now. And the general told McCain to his face, "We don't need them, and it wouldn't be a good idea."

MS. CLIFT: And it's political positioning on the part of John McCain, who stopped being the straight-talking guy a long time ago.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I'm no great fan of McCain, but McCain has been making this argument for years, as have I.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, back to "stay the course."

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (From videotape.) I'm, of course, disappointed that basically you're advocating the status quo here today, which I think the American people in the last election said that is not an acceptable condition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain sees the situation in Iraq as more "stay the course," at least at this point in the hearing. And I think that's his prevailing opinion after the hearing. Is it your feeling that McCain is right?

MR. CARNEY: Well, certainly he's right about what he heard from General Abizaid. I would say that McCain's call for more troops has been something he's said for a long time. And he's in a politically advantageous situation, because he can call for more troops and say, "This is how I would do it if I were in charge." But since no one's going to send more troops, he can say in a year, when he's in the primaries, or further down the road if he's in the general election, that "I could have done it better."

MR. BLANKLEY: That's not fair to McCain, because he has -- I've criticized him a lot on a lot of issues, but he is utterly sincere --

MR. CARNEY: I believe he is sincere.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- and has been. So it's not that he's in a good political position. He's where his judgment says he has to be.

MR. CARNEY: I'm simply saying he's not harmed by calling for more troops.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If the testimony here today from General Abizaid is that 20,000 is not going to make a difference -- in fact, it's bad because it's going to inhibit putting the responsibility on the Iraqis -- do you understand? That's what he wants to do.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I understand. The problem with that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said it would slow that down.

MR. BLANKLEY: I understand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The second thing is, we don't have the standing army to -- I guess he's talking a couple of hundred thousand troops in order to do it.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me answer --

MR. CARNEY: Well, he didn't say it, but --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me answer your question. It is no answer to say that we do have enough troops temporarily. And the argument that four to six months can't make a difference -- the current government in Iraq is incapable of doing the political things that are necessary.

MS. CLIFT: But the reason --

MR. BLANKLEY: So we need to get engaged in --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, 20,000 -- MS. CLIFT: The reason John McCain --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Hold on. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The reason John McCain benefits politically is because it is considered, after the results of the election and how the American people view this war, that it would be political suicide to call for more troops. It won't happen, but he will be able to say, when things really fall apart, that if we had done it his way --

MR. BUCHANAN: If this goes --

MR. BLANKLEY: He doesn't want --

MS. CLIFT: I'm not questioning his motivation. I'm just saying he's politically positioned well.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, if this war is lost, McCain's going to be able to say, "I recommended 100,000 more troops. I recommended 20,000 more troops. They wouldn't go my route. They eventually went the Baker-Democrat route. They pulled out. That's why it went down. If I had been in there, we would have won the war."

And I'll tell you, the battle right now is how we get it. But I'll tell you, the battle coming is who lost Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did anyone here who heard these hearings hear anything -- hear one word about an exit strategy? Did you?

MR. CARNEY: I did not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did anyone?

MR. BUCHANAN: Four to six months.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, Levin said four to six months.

MR. BUCHANAN: Four to six months they start pulling out.

MR. BLANKLEY: That is where Democrats are, four to six months and out.

MS. CLIFT: The exit strategy is the Baker commission, whatever they come up with, that --

MR. BLANKLEY: We don't know what the Baker commission -- we don't know what's in it yet.

MS. CLIFT: -- the administration, that has no idea what to do, will cling to like a life raft.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that four to six months is in any way dependent on Saddam's trial being over, because the prospects are just about right that four to six months from now he'll be being hanged?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MS. CLIFT: Saddam is irrelevant to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that, therefore, we could claim victory almost in advance because we did so when Zawahiri (sic/means Zarqawi) was killed and we did so when Saddam was apprehended --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's completely --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and now we have Saddam hanged, and this is the perfect time; we're victorious?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's completely noncredible, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that's what?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's noncredible.

Come on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, it's a point in time.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, sure. Because Zarqawi's dead and he's hanged, we won? Come on, the American people are not fools.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a cynical comic question that I raised. Didn't you see that? Saddam being hanged -- are they going to say that that is a crux point?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, they're not going to say that, because they know it's not true.

MS. CLIFT: They'll put the best face on whatever --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would you do, Eleanor, if you were in charge of this situation?

MS. CLIFT: -- decent, honorable exit I hope we find.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would you do?

MS. CLIFT: What would I do? I'd let Jim Baker come up with the answer and I'd hope that he can find some consensus between the parties so that the two parties can share the responsibility and/or blame for what is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is Jim Baker in this connection?

MS. CLIFT: -- the worst strategic blunder in American history.

MR. BUCHANAN: Jim Baker is the deus ex machina who's going to come with the great solution around which we can all unite.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Iraq Policy Group.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are they going to come up with?

MR. CARNEY: The Iraq Study Group. The problem, of course, is that there are no new mystery ideas. And a lot of expectations are being shoved over to the Iraq Study Group, led by Baker. And I think it's going to be something of a disappointment when he comes out with his recommendations, because they're not going to be that different from some of the things we've been talking about today.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quick answer: Will there be a phased withdrawal in four to six months from Iraq, beginning then?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think within six months we're going to start to pull out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: We'll have far fewer troops in time for the '08 election than we did for the '06 election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. CARNEY: I think we'll begin withdrawing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we'll begin withdrawing.

Issue Two: Political Potpourri.

Item: Nancy the Healer.

SPEAKER-ELECT NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): (From videotape.) As I said to my colleagues, as we say in church, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us. Let the healing begin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The required healing to which the new Democratic speaker of the House refers is due to the bruising battle for the position of House majority leader. Pelosi publicly backed John Murtha to be the leader, the outspoken critic of the war in Iraq. Murtha lost.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D-PA): (From videotape.) I congratulate Steny on his campaign. He ran a hell of a campaign, and I can't fault anything that he did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Democrats voted for Representative Steny Hoyer by a 63-point margin of victory over Murtha.

Question: How big a setback was this, not for Murtha, but for Pelosi in her debut as speaker, backing the wrong horse? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Nancy Pelosi made the best of a bad situation. Murtha came to her and said, "I want this. You owe me." And instead of turning her back on him, she said, "Okay, I will support you." She came out and did. To her benefit, he lost the race to Steny Hoyer, so she embraced Hoyer. She made the best of a bad situation. I think she earns marks for loyalty and I think it's exaggerated when people say she's in deep trouble because of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, was it not enlightened loyalty, because Murtha was the one who gave the Democrats the issue that was the big fulcrum in the election?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, she credits --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He brought out the Iraq scene and he made it just --

MS. CLIFT: She credits him with transforming the debate on Iraq and essentially making the Democratic majority possible. But you can't then say you're going to have the most ethical Congress ever and then have as your deputy the guy who just called the lobbying reform bill "total crap."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was 26 years ago, and his words --

MS. CLIFT: No, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- are disputable.

MR. BLANKLEY: And currently.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, "and currently"? Murtha wants to keep the lens on Iraq, and therefore he doesn't want these side issues brought up, occupying time.

MR. BLANKLEY: His current unethical conduct relates to his brother's lobbying firm that Murtha has been channeling millions of defense dollars to.

But getting back to your central question, I don't think Pelosi has been a healer. I think she's been a Gila monster in this. I think she made a mistake, not necessarily -- although I think it was a mistake to endorse him at all, but then to double down and to start pressuring people and threatening committee assignments, that's where she went overboard and where she's going to pay a moderate price.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think this is a slap on the wrist to Nancy Pelosi at most?

MR. CARNEY: I think it shows her that she cannot order her caucus around, that she is no Tom DeLay in the way she's going to be able to run the Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think she thought for a moment that she could? And didn't she also think that she wanted to make good to Murtha for what he had done for the Democrats? MR. CARNEY: I think it was fine, as Pat pointed out, to show loyalty, to maybe even release that letter. But to start trying to strong-arm members, I think, went too far, and she was rebuked for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you --

MR. CARNEY: The damage is not lasting, but it is not a good start.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not a good start.

MR. CARNEY: It's not a good start.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's impermanent. What else is it? Is it a slap on the wrist?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. CARNEY: Yes, I think she was rebuked by the caucus.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Slap on the wrist.

Item: Lott revived.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS): (From videotape.

) I'm honored to be a part of this leadership team to support Mitch McConnell and all of my colleagues to do a job that I've always really loved the most -- count the votes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Trent Lott a good choice for the Republicans? I ask you, as if I don't know, Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he's a good choice. Trent Lott is a good man. I think he was bruised and beaten horribly for something that was just a simple gaffe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a bum rap?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it was a complete bum rap, in my judgment. And the president of the United States undercut him, and a lot of people did, who should have stood by him in that battle.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't Bush stand by his man?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, because he was -- frankly, they were pandering to this city.

MS. CLIFT: I would hope that Trent Lott learned something and has done some soul-searching since he made those remarks. I mean, he, after all, voted against the Voting Rights Act, voted against Martin Luther King's birthday. I mean, he does have a history.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Reagan was against that.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think he's broadened his perspective as a result of that humiliation. But this is payback time, and he's going to get back at a White House that humiliated him and engineered his dumping. And so I see Trent Lott as a savvy inside player, and he's good for the Democrats. He's independent of the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got about 40 seconds. Give me 20.

MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, it's not great for the party's image, but he's a good mechanic and he has decided to enjoy his revenge cold. He's waited for years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's dealt with the minority status for years. MR. BLANKLEY: But he's going to be a shrewd player in the next season of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a smart move on the part of the Republicans?

MR. BLANKLEY: They didn't have a lot of choice. I mean --

MR. BUCHANAN: He won.

MR. BLANKLEY: I mean, there was no spectacular new face to put forward.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a smart choice?

MR. CARNEY: It was a fine choice. You know, it's bad for the Democrats because he is very good, and he and Mitch McConnell will play the roles of blocking everything the Democrats want to do. Also it's good for John McCain, because, unlike President Bush, John McCain did not pile on when Trent Lott made his gaffe, and Lott is now a key McCain ally.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a very smart move on the part of Republicans, and Trent Lott is a good man.

Issue Three: It's Getting Old.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): Hope is not a strategy. Hortatory talk about what the Iraqi government must do is getting old. I mean, I have heard over and over again, "The government must do this; the Iraqi army must do that." Nobody disagrees with that. The brutal fact is, it is not happening.

GEN. ABIZAID: With regard to hope not being a method, Senator, I agree with you. And I would also say that despair is not a method. And when I come to Washington, I feel despair.

(End of videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why are Hillary and Abizaid talking like Delphic oracles?

MR. CARNEY: They prepared some sound bites for the show. You know, Abizaid's retort there, I think, was his only good moment of those hearings. But when he says he comes to Washington and feels despair, he's suggesting that really old saw that somehow things are better in Iraq than we realize here in Washington. Well, very few people are promoting that idea anymore. MS. CLIFT: Well, Hillary Clinton is in search of an Iraq policy. She is not going to abandon her original vote in support of the war, and she's had the luxury so far of just being able to sort of lecture the administration. But now the pressure is going to be on her as Madame President in waiting to actually come up with a plan; not all the details, but she's got to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How does she calculate voting in New York if she does not stay the course as she had been hitherto? What happens?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think she's going to have to move. But what Abizaid is saying is the war is being lost in the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think about Hillary and her standing as U.S. senator if she does shift her position?

MR. BLANKLEY: You know, I always thought for a few years that she was going to have trouble switching from pro-war to antiwar. But I think the center of gravity of the debate has so moved, certainly in the Democratic Party and in elements of the Republican Party --

MS. CLIFT: And in the country.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think she can just go with the flow and be in a useful place for her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, why hasn't it moved you?

MR. BLANKLEY: Because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, why are you resisting -- why are you sandbagging against the tide?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, swimming against a tide that's going in the wrong direction seems like a good idea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you moved at all?

MR. CARNEY: You tend to drown.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you moved at all?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, not a lot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't want any kind of a withdrawal?

MR. BLANKLEY: I believe that the consequences of failure are so great that it requires more exertion than we currently have made.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The immigration bill will not come back up, John. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Howard Dean will survive James Carville's attempts to oust him as chairman of the Democratic National committee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Russian-U.S. bilateral trade deal is a good one. It'll have bipartisan support, but it won't get a vote in the Senate because there's a lot of details to work out until 2008.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jay.

MR. CARNEY: Jim Baker's Iraq Study Group will recommend negotiating with Iran and Syria, but the Bush administration will refuse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nancy Pelosi will complicate Hillary Clinton's chances in '08. Do you share that view?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. Explain that.

MS. CLIFT: Why?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think Nancy Pelosi's going to get, A, a degree of the limelight, and B, I think she presents a different type of image. As we just said on this program, she's a hard seasoned political leader --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's not a bad thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and some of that edge may rub off onto Hillary, to her disadvantage.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not a bad thing to have her out front and Hillary moving nationally.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you think about it. I think you'll come around to my way of thinking.

MS. CLIFT: There's two women on the national scene, at least. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble.

END.