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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Support My Surge.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): (From videotape.) There is no strategy. This is a ping-pong game with American lives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It didn't take long for Capitol Hill to explode over President Bush's plea in his State of the Union address; namely, to approve his sending 21,500 additional troops to Iraq. SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): (From videotape.) Mr. President, you're making a mistake. You're making a mistake.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): (From videotape.) It is irresponsible. It is nonsensical. It doesn't make us stronger.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI): (From videotape.) What we need to add now is the enforcement, the teeth. We have the constitutional power to use the power of the purse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republicans.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): (From videotape.) I am not confident that President Bush's plan will succeed.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH): (From videotape.) We have serious concern about the policy of this administration, and that many of us feel you are not listening.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Will the debate in the Senate further erode Mr. Bush's already weak public support for the Iraq war? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: It already is, John. And there's going to be a resolution, probably the Warner resolution, which could get maybe more than 70 votes in the United States Senate. And so there's no doubt the president's authority has been eroded. We've got a very weak commander in chief in a time of war in two different countries.

But the problem is not simply the president of the United States. The problem is America is in trouble, John, because those are our guys over there and we are headed toward defeat in one war and with the possibility of defeat in the second war and a lame-duck commander in chief for the next two years.

We could have a real disaster on our hands because, while the Congress of the United States could indicate its opposition and undercut the president, it can't run the war and it can't win the war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about Afghanistan when you say second war?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. When the Taliban have gotten a privileged sanctuary in Pakistan, I don't know of a single occasion where, in that part of the world, a guerrilla-terrorist force combined that's had a privileged sanctuary indefinitely has not succeeded in ousting western powers.


MS. CLIFT: Well, if the president had finished the job in Afghanistan instead of diverting us into Iraq, we'd be in a very different position today. You know, watching him on that dais, it's not so long ago he was at 83 percent in the polls. He's now at 28 percent. And he's done that with a Congress of his own party and an economy that is relatively prosperous.

This is all a self-inflicted wound because he took us into a reckless war. And the Congress is now about to stand up with substantial numbers condemning the current policy. But it is a nonbinding resolution.

You talk about a lame-duck commander in chief. He can ignore it, and he probably will ignore it. And so the Congress will then have to think about how they're they're going ratchet up the pressure on him. In a democratic society, it's very difficult to continue a war if you do not have public support.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Why so negative?

Behind the Senate's passionate negative reaction to the president's latest strategic scenario is that this one is seen as at least the eighth version.

Senators' discontent also stems from Iraq's terrible toll, notably the war's duration. Some comparative figures: World War I, U.S. participation, 584 days; the Korean War, 1,129 days; World War II, 1,345 days; the Iraq war, 1,410 days, already 65 days longer than World War II, a war that took us to, quote, "faraway Okinawa, across North Africa and throughout the entire continent of Europe in the time it took FDR and Truman to defeat Hitler and Tojo. This president has been unable to find a plan that protects our strategic interests and accomplishes the mission." So says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Then there's the dollar cost. Five hundred billion dollars is seen as the high reasonable estimate; the low, $350 billion. Then there is the human cost: Americans killed, over 3,000; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, severely wounded, injured, mentally ill, 70,500. And Harry Reid observes, quote, "The Iraq war has made America less safe," unquote.

Question: With the Iraq war's negative history and the growing pessimism over whether there will be a positive outcome to the troop escalation, will the Republican base be able to hold? I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, first of all, I think every war should be judged on its own merits. World War II took six years, from '39 to '45. If it had taken 20 years to beat Hitler, it would still have been worthwhile.

The question now is whether this war is worth trying to win or not, and making comparisons to other wars I don't see as particularly relevant. I do find it interesting that the same Senate that is condemning so ferociously the president's proposal for the surge was absolutely fulsome in its compliments in giving General Petraeus "Godspeed to carry out your mission," the mission that they're now undercutting by the resolution that they're trying to pass to undercut him.

They ought to decide whether they want to stop this. If they do, they can cut the money off. Or they should, for a while, keep a little quieter and let this process see if it'll work. There's some chance that it might work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's General Petraeus?

MR. BLANKLEY: He is the new commander in Iraq that the Senate this week confirmed unanimously to take the job. He's the man who wrote the new manual on counterinsurgency, one of the most admired generals on both sides of the aisle that we have. And he's taken on the job. He thinks it can be done. And Barbara Boxer, in her wisdom, is convinced that General Petraeus is wrong in his judgment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin, do you want to comment on what you've seen so far?

MR. WALKER: I think the real tragedy here is that America has got the worst of both worlds. It's clear that the president is discredited. His policies are discredited. They're clearly failing. But it's also clear that there is no sensible alternative emerging either from the Democratic Party or from his own Republican Party.

In other words, the U.S. seems stuck in a war with its president and its fate twisting in the wind. This is the worst of both worlds. It's really difficult.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the point is, there are no good options. We really are at the point of managing failure. And nobody wants to say that, but there is no military victory attainable. I think General Petraeus is --

MR. WALKER: That's not entirely fair, though. That's not entirely --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Let me finish please, Martin. I think General Petraeus is a terrific human being and knows what he's doing. And everybody, contrary to what Tony thinks, everybody wishes that he can succeed.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, but they undercut him by the resolution saying that his --

MS. CLIFT: That is not undercutting. It is demanding accountability from --

MR. BLANKLEY: He said it was undercutting.

MS. CLIFT: It is demanding accountability from an administration that has refused to give straight answers from the beginning of this unnecessary war.

MR. BLANKLEY: They're not demanding -- they're saying --


MR. BLANKLEY: This is wrong. They're saying --

MS. CLIFT: Co-equal branch of government.

MR. BLANKLEY: They're saying -- the resolution says that they are against it -- don't believe that this policy that General Petraeus is going to carry out is in the national interest. That's the language -- MR. BUCHANAN: Look, this is bigger than this. Look, you've got -- the casualties you mentioned are fewer than the number of men we lost in the Philippine insurrection, which lasted three and a half years, which is not even considered a war. You've got a divided country. You've got a president discredited, as Martin said. Our position is undercut. We're in the middle of two wars.

This is the end of America as a superpower, John, when you cannot fight and win this war and keep your country with you behind it.

MS. CLIFT: And staying over there bleeding and hemorrhaging money --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I'm not -- I'm saying --

MS. CLIFT: -- and people is the way to prove you're a superpower?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- what is reality.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your point again, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: My point --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we living -- is this the after-America era?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- this is the end of the American century. It is the end of the Pax Americana if you have committed yourself, rightly or wrongly, to a war in Iraq to accomplish certain ends and you are being defeated by guerrillas and terrorists.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, excuse me. What are those ends? We talk so gamely about winning. Nobody knows what winning is anymore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to say anything about the Brits pulling out?

MR. WALKER: Well, the Brits are going to be pulling out this spring when Operation Sinbad is finished in Basra. Already it's destroyed Tony Blair's legacy and ended his political career. It's probably meant that no future American president will be able to count upon unqualified British support, certainly not without a vote in the House of Commons.

Pat is partly right. This is now putting the whole American position in the world at desperate risk. It's already put all of your alliances at risk.

MS. CLIFT: All it will take to regain America's position in the world is a change of attitude, a change of policy and a new administration. MR. WALKER: You've got China shooting down satellites.

MS. CLIFT: China would be our --

MR. WALKER: There is another superpower here.

MS. CLIFT: China would be our competitor whether we were in Iraq or not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think we should have made the best of a bad situation, claimed that we had success over there, multiple successes -- no weapons of mass destruction; that's been proven -- Saddam is gone, a government has been elected democratically; it's in place. There is a parliament functioning. There is an army functioning. It's not perfect, but countries are not perfect at the start.

MR. WALKER: That was the time to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was the time to come out. And it can be argued that the longer we stay there, the more miserable we're going to look when we do pull out, and we will eventually have to pull out. The government will probably -- well, as we stay on, the insurgency grows. Rumsfeld even admitted that. So maybe we should have counted our blessings and --

MR. WALKER: Well, it's no longer an insurgency, John. It's no longer just that. What we're now seeing is the jostling for the power after the Americans go.


MR. WALKER: The insurgents know perfectly well -- they can read the newspapers. They know this country is out within two years.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, we're --


MR. WALKER: They're jostling for the power after --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, more Chuck Hagel.

SEN. HAGEL: (From videotape.) This is not a defeatist resolution. This is not a cut-and-run resolution. This is a very real, responsible addressing of the most divisive issue in this country since Vietnam. Sure, it's tough. Why are you elected? If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes. This is a tough business.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Chuck Hagel's political star in ascendancy? Eleanor Clift. MS. CLIFT: What we're seeing is an anti-war candidate for president emerging on the Republican side. He is very well-qualified in a variety of areas. He is a decorated Vietnam vet. He knows his policy. He is a genuine moderate. I don't know that he could win Republican nomination. But the way we've seen this war going, I would not discount him. He's very appealing. He wears the maverick mantle that John McCain has squandered.

MR. BLANKLEY: He's not really a moderate other than on the war, and that's not -- the war is no longer a conservative-liberal issue. He's a pretty conservative senator.

MS. CLIFT: Well, but --

MR. BLANKLEY: But he is obviously the leading -- he is the non- McCain, the un-McCain of the Republicans, taking the strongest --

MS. CLIFT: He's at least as moderate as McCain. McCain is no moderate either on a lot of these issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, my point is, while I don't think he's ever had a place in the party to get elected president, I think he does now have a potential. If the war continues to go badly, he is the most vociferous and outspoken anti-war Republican.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about the presidential primary, Republican primary.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that with the degeneration of the war, constant and unchecked, he, Hagel --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I'm not predicting --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- could win the Republican nomination.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm not predicting it. All I'm saying is that if the war -- and I'm not convinced the war will continue to go bad -- if it continues to go badly, you may have two anti-war candidates, one for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a probability scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, what's the probability that Chuck Hagel could win the Republican primary, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, I'd say it's only a one or a two, because there's already another anti-war conservative out there in Sam Brownback, who's much stronger on the social issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'd say it's higher than that.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I'd say it's higher than that too. I think Hagel really is appealing, and I'll bet he has appealed to independents too. If Republicans want to win, they're going to be looking at him seriously. I'd give him a four.

MR. WALKER: I'd put him at a four as well. And I think that the real fact here is he can ensure the Republican Party tears itself apart over Iraq during the primaries.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we'll see a serious -- do you think we'll see a serious anti-war movement spring up in the springtime? You know, the return of flower power in numbers?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, because all of the anti-war energy is expressed through the Internet, unlike in the '70s. So that energy isn't going into the streets, as it used to. By the way, I would give Hagel about a three.

MR. WALKER: And there's no draft. That's the real difference.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think a three is high. I would --

MR. BUCHANAN: You mean, he's got 30 percent chance? That's preposterous -- of being the Republican nominee?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it is preposterous. However --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think McCain's at about a seven and Romney's a four. That's 11 out of 10 already, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Pat, I'm going to be preposterous; I'm sorry. I'm giving him a three.

Issue Two: Thinning the ranks.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From videotape.) I have concluded this isn't the time for me to mount a presidential campaign. It is the time to put my energy to work as part of the majority in the Senate to do all I can to end this war and strengthen our security and our ability to fight the real war on terror.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator John Kerry took himself out of the 2008 White House race. With Kerry gone, nine competitors remain: Joe Biden, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Tom Vilsack and Hillary Clinton.

Of these nine, two have captured the imagination of Democrats and the attention of the media, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) I'm in. I'm in to win, and that's what I intend to do.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): (From videotape.) We're going to have a vigorous debate, and the American people will make a judgment in terms of who they think is best prepared to lead them in the future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But there is a third candidate who could upset the apple cart: Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico. Richardson announced his White House bid this week.

NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON (D): (From videotape.) I will outwork anybody. I'm a governor. Governors have good records in being elected presidents because we balance budgets, we deal with health care, with education.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Let's talk presidential primaries. Obama has the star power. What other kind of power is crucial in a presidential primary? And does Richardson have it? Tony Blankley. MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think he's a very appealing candidate. He's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Shall I answer the question for you?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. He has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Staying power. He has staying power. Why does he have staying power?

MR. BLANKLEY: He's a sitting governor. But look, he's got foreign policy experience. He was ambassador to the U.N. He was secretary of Energy, so he knows nuclear issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he travel abroad?

MR. BLANKLEY: A lot. He did lots of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he meet Saddam?

MR. BLANKLEY: -- diplomatic missions. The point is, he is a very strong and appealing personality. He's probably more likely to get a vice presidential nod. If I were voting amongst the crowd you mentioned, I'd go for Richardson. But I'm not sure he's going to be able to pull it off on the liberal side because he's too sensible a man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's got a fund-raising base that's presentable.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what his problem is, John. His problem is you've got Obama and Hillary who can raise $75 (million), $100 million. You've got John Edwards, who is way out front. And if you're going to have a fourth candidate who could get in and win, his name is Al Gore, who will win the Oscar, after which he will be on television all over the country talking about the war and the environment. But Richardson -- I don't believe he can win the nomination. There's no oxygen, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Richardson have charisma?

MR. WALKER: He has a certain amount, but not nearly enough, not nearly enough to raise the kind of money he will need for the whole new ballgame of all of these packed early primaries. We're going to have Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa, Carolina. We might even get some bigger states coming in very early. You'll need lots of money for all of those media markets. That means really there's only room for three -- Hillary, Obama and John Edwards, with his populist message.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Elizabeth Taylor gave $100,000 to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

MR. BUCHANAN: She can. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that tell you?

MS. CLIFT: Look, Hillary Clinton is -- I mean, in an odd way, she's running an insurgent campaign as the first woman. But she's been transformed into the establishment candidate because somebody even newer came in with Barack Obama. But all these other candidates are there because front-runners sometimes do stumble. And Richardson, with his credentials, could easily be a very credible candidate.

But John Edwards is sitting the prettiest in the early primaries.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Elizabeth Taylor tells us that not every star thinks that Obama is the star to back. She's backing Hillary -- $100,000.

MS. CLIFT: All of the polls --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So Obama is not by any means automatic.

MS. CLIFT: No. Nobody's saying he's automatic. He's not even automatic in the black community.

MR. WALKER: He's going to suffer --

MS. CLIFT: They haven't -- a lot of them haven't heard of him.

MR. WALKER: He's going to suffer from the curse of George Soros.

MS. CLIFT: But he's the real deal.

MR. WALKER: Anybody backed by George Soros is --

MS. CLIFT: Barack Obama is the real deal, whether he wins this time or not. He's somebody who's going to be around.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, a person of interest.

SEN. JAMES WEBB (D-VA): (From videotape.) We need a new direction -- not one step back from the war against international terrorism, not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos, but an immediate shift toward strong, regionally based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will, in short order, allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James Webb, 60 years of age, hails from Missouri; graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, served in Vietnam as a Marine lieutenant; holds a law degree from Georgetown; assistant secretary of Defense for three years in the Reagan administration, one year as secretary of the Navy, also under Reagan; defeated Virginia incumbent Senator George Allen last November; book author, screen writer, journalist.

Senator -- first of all, let me point out, Senator Webb was chosen by the Democrats to respond to President Bush's State of the Union address. The senator is a renaissance man. He served in Vietnam combat, where he won the prized Navy Cross, plus two Purple Hearts among other awards.

When he was studying law at Georgetown, he worked pro bono to clear a Marine convicted of war crimes in Vietnam after the man, the Marine, had committed suicide; seven best-selling novels; wrote and produced a film, "Rules of Engagement," with Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones; also a journalist. Webb won an award for his coverage of the U.S. Marines in Beirut.

Question: What's the more likely scenario, that Webb is headed towards national stardom or Webb is headed towards national oblivion? Martin Walker. MR. WALKER: I think he's heading towards national status as a kind of an elder statesman with a unique ability to speak on issues of national security. His own military record gives him that. He was also -- I thought he was superb in his rebuttal speech against the president. When he said, slowly and solemnly, that the president's policy has lost the support of the U.S. people, of the U.S. military, and also of the U.S. Congress, he was absolutely right.

And he did one more thing, which was terrific. He was brilliantly bipartisan. He hailed two Republican presidents. He hailed Teddy Roosevelt and he hailed Eisenhower -- Eisenhower for bringing an end to the war in Korea. I thought he did a terrific job. This guy is going to be a sage of this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Hagel and Webb are both Vietnam combat veterans. Both are heroes. Does that give them special authority on the surge issue and the length of our stay in Iraq, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: It gives them both great authenticity. I agree with Martin about Webb's speech and Hagel as well. I don't think Hagel is a presidential candidate so much as he is going to be a major voice of anti-intervention and anti-war in the Republican Party, if he stays there, for a long time to come.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know James Webb?

MR. BUCHANAN: I sure do. I've known James Webb -- I'm not close to him, but I've known him for more than 25 years. He was on my radio show a number of times. I used to speak with him when he was Navy secretary and I was in the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a good writer. He's a good thinker. He's a lawyer.

MR. BUCHANAN: And he's a tough -- he wrote a great book on the Scotch Irish, of which I am a part. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he has the credentials to be a president?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he's got the capacity to be a president. But in that party, I think it would be very tough for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he -- he's a serious man.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's exactly the right word. This is a very serious man who's among -- living there among a bunch of folks who were probably in the student council during Vietnam.

MS. CLIFT: They're both clear and credible voices on the war, and especially in contrast to an administration peopled with chickenhawks, people who didn't fight and -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was that word?

MS. CLIFT: Chickenhawks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh. Are they around?

MS. CLIFT: They are around in the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're flocking.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, they're flocking.

MR. BLANKLEY: You know, these ad hominem either defenses or attacks seem to me silly. I mean, the question -- he doesn't have any more authority. He's obviously an impressive guy, you know, and he's the most virile man in a party led by two women currently, between Pelosi and Hillary, and he sort of stands out.

MS. CLIFT: Talk about ad hominem. (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: And the Democrats are going nuts that they finally got a real man around the house.

MS. CLIFT: I'd put Hillary and Nancy's toughness credentials up any day. (Laughs.)

MR. WALKER: The answer to your question -- and I think Eleanor is entirely right about this -- it's more and more an issue, that people are being sent into what looks like a less and less hopeful fight with fewer and fewer strategic credentials from the commander in chief sending them there. And now we've got a decorated war hero saying so.

And he put it right on the line in that rebuttal speech when he said, "We Americans are prepared to fight for our country and to die for it, but the other part of that coin is the president has got to be deeply thoughtful about the battles in which he risks our lives."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think Webb is extremely well-credentialed. I interviewed him once and was impressed, and I'm impressed by producing seven books. And this is an interesting scene.

Issue Three: Butt Out.

Bangor, Maine, a city of 33,000 people, enacted this law last week: No smoking inside a motor vehicle with a child under the age of 18 present. Offenders will be pulled over and slapped with a $50 fine.

Is that legal? Well, listen to the 4th Amendment to the Constitution: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated." Do you think the Constitution prohibits Bangor from enacting such a statute? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't think the Constitution does, but I think it's an absurd statute that a woman in a car with her teenage son is not allowed to smoke a cigarette without having some cop pull her over. I think it's another example of the nanny state, John. And I think the woman is more concerned about her children than Bangor, Maine.

MS. CLIFT: How about somebody who's in a car with their three- year-old or their six-month-old? I mean, in an enclosed space, we know the dangers of second-hand smoke. And the state has an interest in protecting the health and safety of individuals. The legality of banning smoking in bars and restaurants is to protect the workers. And so it seems to me if you're going to protect the waitresses and the bartenders, you can protect children as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Doesn't this invite, however, dangerous conduct like trying to put out a cigarette when you see a cop or trying to flick it out the window? You take your mind off your driving and you wind up hitting a lamp post. What about that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Give it to the kid, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you multiply the number of dangers that could develop --

MR. BUCHANAN: Give it to the kid. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in getting rid of that butt --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. WALKER: Fair enough. But Pat's absolutely right. On the whole, parents are probably better judges of what to do around their kids than the state is going to be.

MS. CLIFT: How about Britney Spears? Would you trust her? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that next Friday, Groundhog Dog, the hog will not see his or her shadow.

Thanks for being with us. Bye-bye.