THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; CHRYSTIA FREELAND, FINANCIAL TIMES; LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC
TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 2-3, 2006
Copyright (c) 2006 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500 1000 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please visit http://www.fednews.com or call(202)347-1400
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Amman Summit.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The prime minister's dealing with sectarian violence. The prime minister's having to deal with al Qaeda. The prime minister's having to deal with criminal elements. Part of the prime minister's frustration is that he doesn't have the tools necessary to take care of those who break the law.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So more U.S. troops and Iraqi troops have now been added to save Baghdad. This announcement came as Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is beset with major disaffection in and from Washington. Maliki's government continues to fragment. With President Bush at his side, the prime minister pointed to the scale of his challenge.
PRIME MINISTER NOURI AL-MALIKI (Iraqi prime minister): (From videotape, through interpreter.) We're dealing with building a whole state and all its aspects -- political, economic, security, militarily.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush says he wants Iraq to pull through, and he's on a listening tour to gather data to help Maliki and Iraq.
PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I want to hear all advice before I make my decisions about adjustments to our strategy and tactics in Iraq to help this government succeed. And that's why this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Next Wednesday the Iraq Study Group delivers its report. Members of the group: Republican -- Baker, Eagleburger, Meese, O'Connor, Simpson; Democrats -- Hamilton, Jordan, Panetta, Robb, Perry. Moderates dominate the group and want withdrawal.
Question: Was the Amman summit timed to upstage the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group? Was Amman Bush's preemptive strike? I ask you, Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: It was not programmed that way, but he used it that way, John. I think what he told Maliki, if you look at what's going on, the American fighting brigades are coming into Baghdad. The president is going to see Hakim, the other Shi'a leader, very powerful, close to Iran, right at the White House on Monday.
Sistani, of course, has been eclipsed by al-Sadr, and he's the problem of Maliki. I think what is happening is the president told the premier of Iraq, "Take down al-Sadr and discipline him." And the guy told him, "I don't have the force." He said, "Don't worry, we will provide the muscle."
I think we're at the preliminaries of an American strike on al- Sadr and his organization.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Look, this week was a soap opera. Looking at these two leaders, it's hard to decide which one of the two is the weakest. The government in Iraq is on the verge of collapse. The notion that this is a unity government is a fiction. And the de facto government in Iraq are these militias. And the biggest militia thug of all is Muqtada al-Sadr, and the notion of taking him out at this stage, when he's the most popular figure in Iraq, would only invite more problems than we already have. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Chrystia?
MS. FREELAND: Well, I do think that the president has used it to be sure that he has the initiative ahead of the Iraq Study Group. And what I think is really interesting is the play that we're going to see played out next week within the Republican Party between the fathers, if you will, as embodied by Jim Baker, and the sons, between the realists and the idealists. And that's going to be a fascinating week.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that they're oppositional, the study group is that oppositional to Bush?
MS. FREELAND: I think that there are oppositional tendencies within the Republican Party, and maybe even now within the White House.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So there's a civil war brewing between these two groups, the pragmatists and the true believers in the Republican Party; former true believers, I guess, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think -- let me say, I think that's very true. But I'll tell you what's going to happen. The Iraq Study Group is going to smash on the reef of George Bush's defiance when he says, "Thanks for the ideas." It'll break apart. People like Meese will go one way. Panetta goes another. I don't know where Baker goes. Bush is going after the Iraq Study Group. He's going to say, "Thanks." He's subordinating it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the Iraq Study Group is said to be calling for all troops out of Iraq by 2008. Assuming that another thousand lives of American soldiers will be lost over the upcoming year and would be up to 4,000, do we then back into John Kerry's haunting question put to Congress in April 1971 during the Vietnam War?
JOHN KERRY: (From videotape.) How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? I ask you, Lawrence.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, that's where we are. And the president is right about only one thing, and that is that it is not realistic to think about a graceful exit from Iraq. The exit is going to be disastrous. It is going to be messy. It is going to be as hectic and destructive as the American exit from Vietnam. We're going to see that whole thing play out again.
But the president -- no one should fear Pat's plan taking place in Iraq, because the president clearly has absolutely no plan. He doesn't give the slightest hint to even thinking about a plan, and the Baker commission is indeed going to overwhelm this presidency, completely change the Washington debate.
There'll be one person left in Washington who's not talking about when we leave, and that's the president of the United States. Everyone else will be talking about is at 2008 -- is at the end of 2007, what's the timetable. And the president will become irrelevant.
MS. CLIFT: And the fact that the president is saying he's not going to withdraw the troops from the battlefield until the mission is completed -- he also said he was going to keep Donald Rumsfeld until the last day of his presidency.
MR. O'DONNELL: Exactly.
MS. CLIFT: His words and his actions have no relationship. He has no credibility. And what --
MR. BUCHANAN: It is --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. And what we are facing now is a choice between a Vietnam-style exit where people are hanging on to helicopter skids on the roof of -- in the green zone, or a more planned and orderly withdrawal. This is about damage control. It is no longer about winning.
MR. BUCHANAN: It is a terrible mistake to say this president is irrelevant. I'm telling you, this is a guy who's determined. He's got his heels dug in. He's not going to run for election. He believes it'll be a debacle if we pull out. He believes he'll be a disgrace in history. And he's not going to do it. He is not irrelevant. He may be in the minority, but he's not irrelevant.
MR. O'DONNELL: He'll be irrelevant to the debate. He won't have a position in the debate. But, yes, he will leave American soldiers to be shot at for the rest of his term and killed for the rest of his term for no reason.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the larger strategy of the administration is to show that the buck should stop elsewhere? If you take a look at the screen, you'll see the elements of the buck stops elsewhere; in other words, the blame game. Who lost Iraq? Is the buck now assumed to stop with al Qaeda? Are they the problem? Is Maliki the problem? Are the generals the problem, U.S. and Iraqi? Are the Iraqis themselves the problem? What's the meaning of that graphic on the screen, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, everybody is looking for scapegoats. You forgot the neoconservatives in there. But let me tell you, get right down to the end of it, and, frankly, while the Democrats went along with it, this is George Bush's war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is -- MR. BUCHANAN: It's Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld's war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this George Bush's graceful exit from blame, any one of those categories and the neoconservatives?
MR. BUCHANAN: You cannot escape -- this is why I think he's going to go down swinging. He cannot escape responsibility for it.
MS. CLIFT: Well, when he said this week that it's al Qaeda fomenting all of this violence, I mean, that was an unbelievable statement. Nobody really took it seriously. But you're right; he has a vested interest in keeping a high number of troops in Iraq until the next guy takes over, and then the next guy theoretically loses Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MS. CLIFT: He won't get away with it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stiffing Bush, Act I.
PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) He's a strong leader who wants a free and democratic Iraq to succeed. He's the right guy for Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush may believe Prime Minister Maliki is the right guy for Iraq, but Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, thinks otherwise. About two weeks ago, a November 8th memo from Hadley to the president was leaked to The New York Times this week.
"The reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action," unquote.
Delegates from Iraq at the Amman summit were furious at the insult. Maliki was then a no-show for the trilateral meeting with Mr. Bush and King Abdullah, nor did he attend the dinner with Bush and Abdullah.
Question: Why was the secret memo by the national security chief, Stephen Hadley, leaked to The New York Times, which the Times put on the Web for the world to see? I ask you, Chrystia.
MS. FREELAND: Well, we have to remember, this was a White House that was absolutely famous for its no-leaks policy and for being really, really disciplined at the beginning. So I think this comes back to what we were talking about earlier, which is this is the return of really vigorous political fighting within the Republican Party, within the administration. People have opposing views. What I think is interesting about that memo itself, though, is it reminds us that politics exists in Iraq too. And I think when we think about Maliki, there's a tendency to use democracy as a magic word and to say, "Well, if it's a democratic government, it can do anything." But he has internal constituencies too. And Muqtada al- Sadr is a constituency as well.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that memo was scripted to be leaked. It was an insult and a humiliation to Maliki. Even if the guy is not doing a great job, you don't do something like that. And frankly, I was glad to see Maliki come in there and give it right back to them with a counterinsult to the president, because you don't do that. That was horrible, ham-handed diplomacy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think it was wired from the start, then, do you?
MR. BUCHANAN: It certainly was wired from the start. They wrote that to be leaked.
MS. CLIFT: Right. It --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think it was wired in with Maliki himself?
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you understand?
MR. BUCHANAN: Why do you think there was no protest of the leak? Why didn't somebody say, "The New York Times did an outrageous thing on the eve of the summit?"
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maliki could have said, "I need some cover with Muqtada; therefore" --
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he got --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- "leak me something that I can show what a macho man I am."
MR. BUCHANAN: He got his cover by snubbing the president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it could be interpreted as a snub if you don't accept the wiring business.
MS. CLIFT: I don't see how you can look at that as a win for either leader. It underscores the weakness of Maliki and it makes the president look silly as well. But it got across the message that this administration is losing patience with Maliki, and the American people got that message.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In your research for this show that you did out in Beverly Hills, where you live, O'Donnell, did you manage to take -- MR. O'DONNELL: Santa Monica.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- did you manage to take time out from the Hollywood crowd to read the memorandum? Because therein you will see that the resolution of the memorandum or the central point is to support Maliki. And what's implied is that we're going to do it the CIA way; we're going to give him some money, that he's going to have walking-around money, maybe up to $10 million, by my calculations.
MR. O'DONNELL: But if you look at that memo, as Pat has, it has -- all the earmarks of this thing is written for the public. It isn't even written in normal White House memo style. And they knew exactly what the headline --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, he wanted to show -- Bush wanted to show, "These are the steps that I am taking," again, to show resistance to the conclusions of the Iraq Study Group.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, and also a horrible attempt to show that, you know, "We're on top of this in our way. We're actually critical of some of the elements that we've put together."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's going to --
MS. FREELAND: It was to show that the president is well-informed --
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.
MS. FREELAND: -- to show that the president has people who are showing him other sides of the picture.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, that was designed to say --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that he is expected -- Maliki is expected to buy off Muqtada, to shut him down?
MR. BUCHANAN: Uh-uh. (Negative response.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much would that take?
MR. BUCHANAN: How much will it take? It'll take about a couple of divisions to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I'm not talking divisions. I'm talking cold cash.
MR. BUCHANAN: You don't buy -- he's a true believer. He wants ultimate power in Iraq. He's getting stronger and stronger and stronger. If he's not taken down now, he might wind up running the place.
MS. CLIFT: Newsweek has him on the cover this week. And there's an anecdote that, you know, Saddam killed his father and his brother.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: At his father's funeral, somebody arrives from the Saddam government with a pack of bills and offers it to him. He turns it down. Somebody in his entourage then accepts it quietly outside, because if he hadn't taken it, it would have been a death sentence. But his inclination is not to take it. He's got too much power to be bought off by the American government.
MR. BUCHANAN: He wants it all, John. He wants it all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Stiffing Bush, Act II.
At the White House last month, victorious congressional freshmen, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate members, stood in a receiving line to meet and shake hands with President George Bush.
But the incoming Democratic senator from Virginia, James Webb, who defeated Republican Senator George Allen last month, refused to stand in line. In fact, The Washington Post coverage says Webb deliberately evaded Mr. Bush. But the president went over to Webb and said, "How's your boy?" referring to Webb's son, who is now a Marine serving in Iraq.
Webb responded, "I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President." President Bush then said, "That's not what I asked you. How's your boy?" Webb looked squarely at Mr. Bush and said, quote, "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," then walked away.
Question: Was President Bush trying to intimidate Webb? Lawrence O'Donnell.
MR. O'DONNELL: Nice try. Nice try, trying to intimidate Jim Webb.
MS. CLIFT: Wrong guy to intimidate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he?
MR. O'DONNELL: This president more than deserves this kind of encounter. He's had American soldiers in harm's way for years now. To have one parent, just one parent, of someone in the American military who's over there, who -- by the way, this is a parent who has a kid who's roughly the same age as Bush's kids, who were busy in Argentina doing their little tourist thing while his kid is in Iraq. That parent has every right in the world to remind this president very bluntly that he had an empty seat at his Thanksgiving table this year, and the Bush family doesn't have any empty seats. And there's a very different feeling in those families.
MS. CLIFT: And the president could have left it alone after the initial response, but instead he jabs. This is his sort of frat-boy style. "That's not what I asked you. How's your boy?"
Well, Mr. Webb could have told him that the vehicle next to where his son was a couple of weeks ago was blown up and killed three Marines, so his son is in imminent danger. I thought that the senator-elect was very restrained, again, given the contrast between their respective offspring and what they're doing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the president is commander in chief, of course, and he could -- or a president could put a soldier in harm's way. You're not suggesting that, are you?
MS. CLIFT: No. I'm saying that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you suggesting that he's also in a position to reward his son?
MS. CLIFT: No. This is not anything personal, and Senator Webb broadened the discussion to all of the troops.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was interpreted either way by Webb, who said, "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President"? In other words, "I'm keeping my child out of this with you."
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the way --
MS. CLIFT: That's appropriate. And I think the president should have respected that boundary.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it appropriate because the president has such enormous power?
MS. CLIFT: Look, the senator-elect just came off of a very nasty campaign which revolved around his opposition to the war in Iraq. He wouldn't be a politician if it weren't for that opposition. He's then going to come up and make small talk with the man who instigated a needless war? I think he was appropriate in avoiding the receiving line, not wanting his picture taken. That's fine.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he may be -- Webb may be afraid of the president in this regard.
MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Afraid of what the president's power is in this regard.
MS. CLIFT: He understands real toughness. The president is fake toughness.
MS. FREELAND: No, but I think you made the right point, John. I think that what the senator was doing was saying, "My son is not going to be part of political glad-handing and political back-slapping. The fact that my son is fighting there is part of my family tradition.
It is part of our belief in service. But I am not going to allow his service to be the basis of a photo opportunity between us." And I thought that was quite noble.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Webb owe the president an apology?
MS. FREELAND: No, I don't think that the senator-elect was rude. He was blunt, but he wasn't -- he didn't use inappropriate language.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Presidents are not accustomed to that. They live in a bubble. They live with a group of sycophants, for the most part.
MS. CLIFT: Exactly.
MS. FREELAND: That's not very good. And in a parliamentary system, the leader of the country is accustomed to much more vigorous language deployed against him or her.
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me get into this.
MS. FREELAND: And that can be --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he was speaking truth to power? Is that what you're saying?
MS. FREELAND: I think that he was being frank and blunt in the way that the parent of someone serving in Iraq has a right to be.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, I've known Jim Webb for 25 years. He's Scotch-Irish. He's very tough. He's a committed guy. He's a serious man. And he went there -- I have no problem with what he said to the president directly as long as he was respectful and he used the term "Mr. President."
But I will say this. If you're not going to shake hands with the man, the president of the United States, you should not go to his house. You should not go to his home. I think what Jim Webb should have done was "Thank you very much for the invitation. I'm afraid I can't make that. We've got a conflict here."
MS. CLIFT: That would have been a bigger problem. MR. BUCHANAN: He did not go through the receiving line.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, that's fine.
MR. BUCHANAN: And I think you do that when you go to a man's home.
MS. CLIFT: It's not obligatory to go through the receiving line. I've gone to lots of events where the receiving line is too long and you just don't bother. That is not --
MR. BUCHANAN: With the president?
MS. CLIFT: Yes. Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.
MS. CLIFT: With this one, yes. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the Bush showdown with the Iraq Study Group the opening skirmish of a larger civil war between Republican pragmatists and Bush's foreign policy team? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but I think Bush is going to break the Iraq Study Group apart because I think he's going to be respectful, take what they have, and he's going to set it aside and go his own way. And they're not going to know what to do because they are, at heart, divided.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, a little shorter answer, please.
MS. CLIFT: The Bush team is shrinking. (Laughs.) They're going to be overwhelmed by the Iraq Study Group.
MS. FREELAND: Let's not forget Bob Gates, nominated to be the new secretary of Defense, and former member of that group. So, you know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, he knows all about what the group is thinking, what their positions are, and now he's gone over --
MS. FREELAND: Well, he was part of their deliberation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and now he's opened it all up to George Bush and the Bush team?
MS. FREELAND: He was chosen by the president --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that put a different look on Bill Gates?
MS. CLIFT: Bob Gates. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bob Gates.
MS. FREELAND: Well, I think it suggests that you could see some very -- there is a whole series of possible responses to the recommendations, and they might include trying to appropriate some of them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But now he's in possession of a lot of inside information on that group, isn't he, Pat? Gates.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, listen, Gates's testimony up on the Hill showed a little bit of distance between Bush and the war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, a larger civil war?
MR. O'DONNELL: Very important point; he's already internalized, in a sense, in the Defense Department the Iraq Study Group through Gates.
If the president in any way openly defies the Iraq Study Group, we're going to find that his approval rating can actually get into the 20s. He will actually go below 30 if he does that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait till the Iraq Study Group members get on television --
MR. O'DONNELL: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the way the 9/11 commission did.
MR. O'DONNELL: They're a lot better on TV than the president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to see a lot of activity, aren't we?
Issue Two: Another Democrat Big Dig?
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): (From videotape.) There will be times, rare occasions, when these committees will have to offer subpoenas. But that will happen very infrequently.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, those subpoenas could become a torrent if the incoming Democratic majority revs up their congressional oversight engine.
Note the incoming chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and his list.
REP. JOHN DINGELL (D-MI): (From videotape.) Investigation of the situations over in Iraq and wastage of public monies, Halliburton and things of that kind; the Cheney task force on energy, which was carefully cooked. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Later, John Dingell continued his investigation litany: Food and drug safety, generic drugs and their licensing, air pollution standards, the Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition to Dingell, David Walker, the head of the GAO, the General Accountability Office, had his own investigation-worthy suggested list: 36 targets, including tax gap, tax code, presidential appointments, budget controls, homeland security alleged boondoggle, government procurement, $388 billion last year. How much went to Iraq war and reconstruction profiteering? Medicare, $330 billion, 2005; Social Security solvency.
Question: Could this investigative focus backfire on the Democrats? Pat Buchanan, quickly.
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think so. The sky is going to be black with subpoenas. And I don't think it's going to backfire at all. It's going to be very interesting.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's going to look like Bosnia when they were looking for bodies over there?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The question will be how do we count them, not how do we find them.
MS. CLIFT: Look, when the Republicans were in charge, the fellow that headed up the Reform Committee -- I've forgotten his name, but he used to boast about issuing a thousand subpoenas in one morning. The Democrats are not going to fall into that trap. But the mood of the country right now, given the vote, given the reluctance of this president to acknowledge the election happened, I think, "Bring it on." (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Chrystia.
MS. FREELAND: Well, as one of the Democrats said, they are saying they're not going to go crazy. And I think they do have to be careful not to sound strident. They've just come off a really big victory, and what I think they want to do now is show they can be adults, that they can be credible in government.
MR. O'DONNELL: You know, Henry Waxman, who's known as the best prosecutor in the House of Representatives, his staff told me recently that he never has issued a subpoena in all of his investigating. So there's a lot you can do without subpoena power. Some of the stuff John Dingell was talking about is nuts, is ancient history; they shouldn't do it.
But the reason to be doing investigations, the most important reason politically, is that they can't really legislate. They've got a Republican president who is going to veto --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. MR. O'DONNELL: -- what the Democratic House and what the Democratic Senate gets through. And so they're going to use the time somehow, and one of the effective ways to do it will be an investigation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is the Democrats will be prudent.
Issue Three: Life and Breath.
MADD, M-A-D-D, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, have a new way of combating drunk drivers. MADD is lobbying for all states to have laws that require that the automobiles of convicted drunk drivers, DUIs, be equipped with interlocking ignition breathalyzers and linked to car engines. If a convicted drunk driver registers above the blood alcohol limit, the car's engine will not start. Eventually MADD wants all cars, not just those of convicted drunk drivers, to have the technology.
Question: What's the flaw in this proposed remedy? I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell.
MR. O'DONNELL: Listen, I'm all for it. I would like to have it as an option so that if I have it in my car, my insurance goes down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the flaw?
MR. O'DONNELL: I don't know. What's the flaw?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The flaw is that you call somebody through the window and say, "Would you mind inhaling on this breathalyzer?" and that person is sober and you don't take the test, and there you are.
MR. BUCHANAN: If you get in an accident, then you've really got a problem. (Laughs.)
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, but the driver who's alone, the drunk driver who's alone, it will at least inhibit that. That's something.
MR. BUCHANAN: Lawrence is exactly right. It's an optional thing. I'd like to have it in mine.
MS. FREELAND: I think the deeper flaw is this illusion that you can have a world of perfect safety. And, you know, you have to think about the cost benefit. You have to think that this is expensive. And you have to think at some point people have to --
MS. CLIFT: I don't think it is.
MS. FREELAND: -- take personal responsibility.
MS. CLIFT: It's not that expensive, and people who are drunk don't take personal responsibility. This would be an easy way. We kill -- MS. FREELAND: You can take personal responsibility before getting drunk.
MS. CLIFT: We kill -- that doesn't happen, given human frailty. So this takes into account human frailty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't want to give a little more slack to the drunk drivers?
MS. CLIFT: No. No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the most important and deadly phenomenon in driving today?
MR. O'DONNELL: Alcohol.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it's not.
MR. O'DONNELL: Really?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excessive speed; also cell phone use is right up there too. Are those forbidden where you come from?
MR. O'DONNELL: No, in California you can still use a cell phone anywhere you want. But we're moving, I think, through 50 states. Pretty soon it'll have to be hands-free.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the Social Security solvency issue be resolved in a bipartisan way in the upcoming Congress? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: No way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Only if Bush takes private accounts off the table; sadly, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.