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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; MARTIN WALKER, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL

TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 16-17, 2006

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Listen Up.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) When I do speak to the American people, they will know that I've listened to all aspects of government and that the way forward is the way forward to achieve our objectives, to succeed in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The November midterm elections, barely 40 days ago, made clear to President Bush that the American people want a new game plan for Iraq. That plan has yet to be delivered. The president has embarked on what he called a listening tour. He's talked with Prime Ministers Blair and Maliki, the Iraq Study Group membership, State and Defense officials, his Cabinet, Capitol Hill legislators of both parties, think-tank gurus, academics far and wide, and, importantly, military commanders, both current and retired, in Iraq and elsewhere.

This listening is tactics-oriented. What tactics should be initiated now in view of the chaos? The president still wants victory, but he's renamed it success. So do tactics matter for success? Here's former National Security Agency director Lieutenant General William Odom.

LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM (U.S. Army, retired): (From videotape.) To me the real issue that doesn't get emphasized enough in the debate today is that we've got to raise this above the tactical level of how we're doing it, whether we're doing it right. The very strategic reasons we went in were wrong and therefore will generate a wrong outcome. And when we see that, then all these arguments that you're listing here will vanish for us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: General Odom says that how we're doing it tactically is now irrelevant, pointless, because the reasons why the U.S. went into Iraq in the first place were wrong. Therefore, the outcome of that wrong strategy will necessarily be wrong.

Question: What do you think of that logic? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with General Odom. I think it was a mistake to begin with to go in there and try to create an American ally, a democratic government and a strategic outpost and to think we would survive doing that and to think we would not be assaulted and we wouldn't inflame the whole region. And we said so before the war began.

I disagree with him here. I do not believe you can turn around and walk out now. I think what Bush is going to do, there's going to be a surge of troops and there's going to be a real battle of Baghdad between the Americans and the Mahdi Army before he begins the turnaround and starts out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Odom says that if there is a prompt exit, this will inspire Europe to do more and other potential allies. Secondly, the al Qaeda will evaporate, because both sides, the Sunnis and the Shi'as, hate the al Qaeda.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think that might have been true earlier in this war. I think it's wishful thinking now to think that the allies will come in and save us from Bush's war. And the president is basically on this looking tour, in addition to listening, trying to find a strategy that is not defeat. And nobody has come up with a plan for success.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But these are tactics. The strategy is going into Iraq. MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah. The strategy -- it was a mistake to have gone in, but we are there. And I think right now he's enamored of this so-called surge, because it's face-saving. We'd have a surge. It's unlikely that the surge would work. We've tried surges before. And I think what we're looking at is a surge followed by a slow skedaddle.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, I see what's coming here from Tony on my left, so let's stay ahead of him and see whether Odom can turn him around with this.

GEN. ODOM: (From videotape.) Very often, commanders commit forces in ways that turn out to be erroneous; if you want a brutal case of it, Hitler's pursuit of the campaign in Stalingrad. He set himself up for a major disaster. History is filled with the case of commanders who did not have the wisdom to change strategic direction when it made sense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that do anything for you to bring you around to Odom's thinking?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, look, his proposition, as a generality, which he says if the strategy going into the war is wrong, tactics don't make any difference --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, outcomes are wrong.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah -- you can rebut it with definite examples. The Spartans went into the Peloponnesian wars with the wrong strategy for victory, thinking they could pull the Athenians out behind the walls by burning the bushes and stuff. Nonetheless, many years later the Spartans won with changed strategy. So his general proposition is historically wrong.

Now, as far as specifically this war, the fact that Bush went in with certain motives doesn't mean that we cannot, by changing strategies and tactics, come up with a result that's going to be satisfactory to American national interests.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you help us with the Spartans here, Martin? What do you think of Odom's basic strategy? If you go in with the wrong strategy, the outcomes are necessarily wrong and they're unchangeable unless you change the strategy and get out, reverse course.

MR. WALKER: I think historically there's no question Tony is right. The strategy can be wrong when you go in, but things can change, which is what's happened here. When we went in, the strategy was about getting rid of Saddam Hussein, changing the regime.

What's now happened is we're facing a civil war between Sunni and Shi'a across the entire Middle East. We've destabilized the entire region. We went in to take over one particular part of the Middle Eastern ant hill. We've kicked over the lot. We could be in for something absolutely devastating, something on the scale of the Iran-Iraq war, but spreading across the entire Middle East.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get this straight now. You agree with Odom. You think the outcomes are wrong if the strategy --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he's in agreement with me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- was wrong.

MR. WALKER: I think the original strategy can be wrong, but then it can be changed. What I think now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But that has not happened here.

MR. WALKER: Listen, in the week when the Saudi Arabians have told the other Gulf states that it's time for them to start developing their own nuclear technology to match Iran, we're into a new strategic situation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the Saudis went beyond that. The Saudis said that if our withdrawal from Iraq causes the Sunnis to be --

MR. WALKER: In trouble.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in very serious trouble with the Shi'as, if there's a blood-letting on the part of the Sunnis getting their blood let, owing to the Shi'as, then the Saudis will go in and --

MR. WALKER: Against -- they're going against the Iranians, which is why they want a nuclear weapon.

MR. BLANKLEY: If I understand Martin correctly, he's wrong, if you said that we have precipitated a Sunni-Shi'a struggle in the Middle East. That started in modern times with the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini in '79 in Persia, and now it's getting worse and worse and has been getting worse and worse.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but it's -- MR. WALKER: Tony --

MR. BLANKLEY: This is another --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. BLANKLEY: We didn't create the modern struggle between Shi'a and Sunni.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but we didn't light a fire and explode it through the -- we did light a fire and potentially explode it through the Middle East. That's the only rationale for us staying now in Iraq is to keep it safe for a low-level civil war.

MR. BLANKLEY: The reason why --

MS. CLIFT: And as far as Odom's theory is, I would agree with him; this has been a disaster from the beginning. But a lot of people think it might have been retrievable if we did some things that were right. It is too late to do those things. And what Bush is looking for is a do-over.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this thing is like --

MS. CLIFT: He's gotten that in his life so many times. He's not going to get it this time.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is like a nuclear chain reaction. This is like one of these nuclear -- you've started the thing going, and now it has its own momentum and it cannot be stopped. And I disagree with Tony; I think knocking over Saddam Hussein, eliminating the army, the regime and the state, what did they think would rise up but the 60 percent Shi'a population? And I do think this is what has ignited --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you want the United States to do now?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think basically what Bush is going to do is the last best shot, but I don't know that it's going to work.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think a surge and then you're going to have to start moving out, because the base of the United Stats has collapsed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to put in more troops?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think you're going to have to get Baghdad under control and you can get out now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me refresh you what the principal general said about this, John Abizaid. 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 Marine Corps.

MR. BUCHANAN: That says if we're going to turn around and get out now, we are going to lose the war sooner than later.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He advances a second reason, and the second reason is if you put a lot of Americans in there, you're going to lull the Iraqis to stay put and hang back.

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what Bush is going to do. He's going to go in and he's going to try to knock down the Mahdi Army to get the Shi'a leadership to focus on the other Shi'as, and then he's going to try to get out.

MS. CLIFT: The surge is not going to work. You do not defeat an insurgency by flooding the zone. We should have learned that 30 years ago in Vietnam. This is about political face-saving, giving it the old college try, and then we get out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think the duration will be for us to be in Iraq, I mean, in the force numbers we have now, about 150,000?

MR. WALKER: Oh, not for long at all. I mean, I think by the end of this year we'll be down below 100,000. But we'll keep a big base in Kurdistan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If we stay one more year, 12 months, we'll lose over 1,000 Americans who will die, military who will die. The ratio is about eight to 10 per one for wounded, right? Now, do you think that a thousand American lives to stay in through December is worth it?

MR. WALKER: Absolutely not, except that it's not worth it for Iraq. It could be worth it from what this is now about, which is about Iran. Do we want to live with an Iranian great power, nuclear- armed, spreading the Shi'ite --

MR. BUCHANAN: How do you stop it?

MR. WALKER: -- trying to spread Shi'ite --

MR. BUCHANAN: How do you stop --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Let Eleanor in.

MS. CLIFT: And we're preventing that by bleeding every day in Iraq? We're handing the region to Iran by demonstrating every day how weak we are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. For more from General Odom, go to NiemanWatchdog.org. That's NiemanWatchdog.org. Exit question: Is President Bush timing his Iraq policy speech for next year in order to get added momentum behind the Iraq war funding, thus railroading Congress? He's going to time it to just before we --

MR. BUCHANAN: The answer to that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- need it for the protection of our troops. Then he will seek it from Congress.

MR. BUCHANAN: One hundred billion dollars, no. He has moved it away from before Christmas to the new year, when everybody is going to be looking at this, because it is fresh. It is his last shot, and he wants it to be his best shot. He's going to get the money now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, he doesn't want it to be lost in the Christmas rush. He wants to bill for this.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Democrats are not going to deny him any money.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I agree, the Democrats are going to vote for the war. The delay is about the indecision within the administration, the reluctance to come to grips with the fact that this war is lost. And this is about managing defeat, not finding victory or success or whatever they call it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the world view of Condi Rice and the world view of Jim Baker, the dueling world views? Is that slowing it down any? Is anybody thinking that it's --

MS. CLIFT: Condoleezza Rice --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it dump Condi time?

MS. CLIFT: This president, I don't believe, is going to dump Condi. But she is an irrelevance in terms of --

MR. WALKER: She's certainly --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, she's invisible.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, Eleanor is partially right. This is not a PR-oriented delay. This is because I don't believe that they've made their decision, the president has made his decision. He announced he was going to say it before Christmas and then had to change that date, which is a big embarrassing thing to have to do. So it's because I think he needs more time to make the decision. But it's not about looking for a path to defeat. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, collecting data still?

MR. WALKER: No, it's about --

MR. BLANKLEY: I think --

MR. WALKER: -- a really critical choice, and it's the one that Pat identified. It's which of the two Shi'ite factions do you go with? If you try and crush the Mahdi Army, you're supporting the pro- Iranian group of SCIRI. If you support the pro-Iranian group of SCIRI, then you're going to give the entire game to Iran. That's the question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In either case, if you support one side in a civil war --

MR. WALKER: You're in trouble.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you are inflaming the other side because you're helping their opponent.

MR. WALKER: The whole reason why the Sunni insurgency has been as strong as it has is because you've got the Shi'a divided. They're divided between the pro-Iranian SCIRI and the Iraqi nationalist Mahdi Army. Which one does the U.S. pick?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he's going --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- one of those.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's picked Hakim. He's picked Hakim already. I think the Mahdi Army is in for a fight with the Americans.

MS. CLIFT: The Sunnis are the majority in that region. We'll have 80 percent of the Muslim community hating us even more than they do today.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're going to pick one of the Shi'a factions.

MS. CLIFT: That is nuts -- including the Saudi government, the Egyptian government --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look what Bush is doing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. My view is that he's timing this for the return of Congress. And when the American forces have weakened and they need a fresh budget from Congress, then he will hit them with the request for more money, because they can't say no.

Issue Two: And Now, Barackstar. SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): (From videotape.) This is a contest about the future, a contest between two very different philosophies, a contest that will ultimately be decided in America's heartland.

In Chicago, they're asking, "Does the new guy have enough experience to lead us to victory?" In St. Louis, they're wondering, "Are we facing a record that's really so formidable, or is it all just a bunch of hype?"

Let me tell you, I'm all too familiar with these questions. So tonight I'd like to put all the doubts to rest. I would like to announce to my hometown of Chicago and all of America that I am ready for the Bears to go all the way, baby. Da, da, da, da.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Barack Obama has good reason to smile. Not only are the Bears on a roll, but so is he. In New Hampshire last weekend, Barack was a huge hit. He drew rare, for New Hampshire, standing-room-only crowds -- Democrats, Republicans, independents. And enthralled national media swarmed the event.

Question: What explains Obama's appeal? Martin Walker.

MR. WALKER: He's a very fresh face. But the question is, will it last? I remember Bill Clinton in '91 saying that the first primary is money; not anymore. These days the first primary is the media infatuation. The problem with media infatuation, it comes quickly; it can go just as fast. And I don't think that Barama's (sic) love affair with the media is going to survive this latest "big ears" argument he's having with The New York Times.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama's success relates to causes outside him? For example, the anti-incumbency mood in the United States today.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what it relates to. It's the anybody-but-Hillary mood. And he's charismatic, Obama is. He's got the media primary that he is winning right now. But Martin is exactly right. Charisma --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Hillary's unpopular?

MR. BUCHANAN: Charisma is a wasting asset. The media support is a wasting asset. There's an enormous segment in the Democratic Party that is frightened to death that Hillary can't win the election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?

MR. BUCHANAN: Because they believe she is too programmed; she's been cut up too badly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What sector of the electorate do they think that she's going to have a problem with? What sector? MR. BUCHANAN: Forty-seven percent of the people in one poll say they will not vote for Hillary Clinton. That's why Obama, whose negatives are down to zero, is so attractive. But I think it's going to fade away.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about women?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, she's very strong with women.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Throughout the country?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there's a lot of women that don't like her, but a majority do.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you sure of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm pretty sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought her problem was a gender question, and women don't like her.

MS. CLIFT: That goes back a number of years. She's overcome that. She's leading in the polls and certainly beating Barack Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She overcame it in New York because she had these personal visits with people, and she sells herself and they like her.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, let me --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Let me finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But she can't do that all over the country.

MS. CLIFT: And all her numbers are very positive. But, you know, Pat is right; there's nervousness that she can't win and all that.

But the reason -- Barack Obama is the real thing in terms of his talents, his intellect and his appeal. And I think part of it is that Hillary's candidacy has been so long anticipated that it's almost a generational thing. He's talking about turning the page --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get a word in here.

MS. CLIFT: -- as though the Clintons were yesterday -- I get to finish my thought -- as though the Clintons were yesterday. But it's not all bad that he's on the scene, because we're talking about Hillary and Obama as opposed to Hillary and Bill. And we've been there, done that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Is that the end of your thoughts?

MS. CLIFT: I'll continue further if you'd like, Tony.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't get sarcastic --

MS. CLIFT: Thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with Eleanor. You've been cautioned on that before.

MS. CLIFT: That's right. I've got John in my corner.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you want to say?

MR. BLANKLEY: I was going to disagree with Pat a little bit. Yes, Hillary is an element in the fear of Hillary not being a winner. But Obama is appearing to be an admirable person with a good personality who's promising and offering hope and a fresh start from the politics we've seen. Reagan offered the same things.

This is a very appealing package that he's presenting. Now, whether he can sustain it for a year and a half, I don't know. Obviously Hillary's people in the media will be trying to take him down a peg. But I don't want to discount the value of the message as well as his adversary.

MR. WALKER: The message is important, because it's talking about bipartisanship, getting away from these bickerings in the past. What is also important is money. I don't know if you've noticed this, but George Soros threw a big fund-raiser for Barack Obama. Quite a lot of people who signed up for it tended to be Hillary's big backers. There's real nervousness in the Hillary camp that some of their money could be siphoned away.

MS. CLIFT: Well, neither of them are going to have trouble raising money. And you are even beginning to hear talk of maybe it's a Hillary and Obama ticket. And, you know, I would have thought that was preposterous, too much history-making in one ticket, but I'm coming around. I mean, I think the country is ready for something very different than --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- the typical people we've been electing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think his popularity is going to be the same six months from now as it is today? MR. BUCHANAN: No, John. Besides that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think he's going to start wearing thin? You don't think we're going to start reading some of those segments of the first --

MS. CLIFT: He is somebody who can talk across the divide. And you get in those primaries; he will get better than 90 percent of the black vote, probably. And he appeals to moderates and liberals.

MR. BUCHANAN: But the point is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What has he got, two years in the Senate? You think the country, upon reflection, will want him to be commander in chief in this era of terrorism?

MS. CLIFT: I'm talking about the number two -- I'm talking about vice president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh.

MS. CLIFT: I said a Hillary-Barack Obama --

MR. BUCHANAN: Why would you pick him as vice president? By then he's going to be coming up --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's an African-American. He's from Illinois, which you get. You get the African-Americans. You get the liberals. Hillary has got to get somebody that picks a red state, out of the Republican bag. You don't go to Illinois.

MR. BLANKLEY: Or go with a Hispanic, like Bill Richardson.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that this --

MS. CLIFT: I'm talking about the theatrics of this, and the theatrics of this are knocking America off her feet for the moment. And it's fun to talk about --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, they're knocking some liberal journalists off their feet for the moment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the timing of this --

MS. CLIFT: The polls show that his appeal goes beyond liberal journalists.

MR. BUCHANAN: Go ahead, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the timing of this move into New Hampshire, testing the waters there, is more of an effort to sell his book, which he's doing handsomely? It's at the top of the -- MR. BUCHANAN: His book has sold --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- sales, primarily to do that and advantage himself? Do you think he's been talked into this by the public? You saw what happened to the prime minister --

MS. CLIFT: Colin Powell.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to the president of Pakistan and what the publisher accomplished with him.

MS. CLIFT: Colin Powell is the model here. I mean, he toyed with us for quite a long while, and I think he would have made an excellent presidential candidate. But that was time to sell his book. You know, Barack Obama, in the end, might not do this. But we've certainly seen a lot of potential here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a presidential contender probability scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, what's the probability of a Hillary Clinton president/Barack Obama vice president ticket in '08?

MR. BUCHANAN: Two to three.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Two to three. Is that high or is that low?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's low.

MR. BUCHANAN: Ten is pretty high.

MS. CLIFT: Two to three, okay. All right, I'll go six. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me go three -- two and a half.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with Pat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why are you keeping it so low?

MR. BUCHANAN: Because it's not likely. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, it's not likely? Why? Why is it not likely? MR. BLANKLEY: I'll tell you why. She should go with a Hispanic on the ticket.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. BLANKLEY: He can bring something.

MR. BUCHANAN: They should go with some big-state governor.

MR. BLANKLEY: They already get nine out of 10 black votes. They don't need that.

MR. WALKER: I'll go with five, because they're absolutely right. If Hillary is going to run, she's going to need somebody from the South or the West.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will Barack accept the second position?

MR. BUCHANAN: In a second. (Laughs.)

MR. WALKER: There are other jobs they can get. There are --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you want the first woman ever to run for president and the first black American ever to run for president.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. It's time to celebrate. I mean, it's --

MR. BLANKLEY: I'll tell you who can celebrate. The Republicans will celebrate.

MR. WALKER: Let's put white males in their place, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give it a 2.5.

Issue Three: War on Christmas.

Christmas is under siege, from the top of the Tanenbaum to the manger. Traditional American Christmas celebrations are under attack. Christian-oriented Christmas activities and displays bespeak exclusion of non-Christian groups, critics say. So those displays and activities should not be in public places -- schools, community parks, street markets.

But the backlash has already set in. Some retailers had told employees to say "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Now many major retailers have switched back to "Merry Christmas." And at Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport, the Christmas trees had been taken down because of complaints, only to face a chorus of demands for the evicted trees to be put back up, and they were.

Do you think that putting Christmas trees back in the Seattle airport is a blow in favor of Christianity, Martin? MR. WALKER: Absolutely. But you can also call them whatever you want. Call them Kwanzaa trees. You can call them Hanukkah trees. I don't mind, as long as I'm allowed to keep on saying, "Merry Christmas."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think that guy out there at Sea-Tac, that airport, the fellow that did it was just a complete pest. He made a mistake. He threatened them with a lawsuit. And he got a tremendous backlash, because while this is not a Christian nation under the Constitution, it is a predominantly Christian country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: I'm sorry, this is a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the Christmas feast today is a secular feast or do you think it's a spiritual feast, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: This is a totally manufactured issue. Christians are not being driven out of the public square.

MR. BUCHANAN: Not at the airport. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: The fellow that you related to at the airport happens to be a rabbi who is known, I guess, for putting up large menorahs wherever he can. Fine; doesn't bother me. The point is, we have essentially two state-sponsored or sanctioned religions in this country, Christianity and Judaism. There are a lot of Muslims around, and they may want some of their symbols. I say the more, the merrier. Merry Christmas to everybody.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the European roots of Christmas?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Christmas actually goes back -- it was celebrated first by the Christians, and then the Romans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a pagan salute to the winter solstice.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no. The pagans invented it; the Romans invented it after the Christians, as they were losing ground against the Christians. You should look it up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a pagan festival, a salute to the winter solstice.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it was not.

MR. WALKER: This is why we built Stonehenge. It was part of the whole solstice measurement.

MR. BLANKLEY: Check your record. You're wrong on this. I just read up on it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what is it? It's a hybrid; it was started as a hybrid.

MR. WALKER: It was a hostile takeover, like so much of Christianity --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Christianity took it over?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. WALKER: The Christian church was brilliant in building its churches on pagan sites --

MR. BLANKLEY: You're behind the curve. That was the 19th century German scholars' mistake.

MR. WALKER: -- stealing pagan festivities; brilliant piece of hostile takeover, nothing friendly about it.

MR. BLANKLEY: December 25th was chosen as Christ's birth before the Romans then created a holiday at that point in the early centuries.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the Chinese revalue their currency against the dollar? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Not now, but ultimately they will have to.

MS. CLIFT: I agree; a little bit, modestly.

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. WALKER: They've already started. Then Paulson will, I think, get a little bit more. They will certainly do it by at least about five basic points, I think, over the coming two weeks; next year I would have thought maybe even something like 50 basic points, which is probably going to be enough to help the dollar.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin, that's astonishing, and I'm with you.

Happy Hanukkah. Bye-bye.

END.