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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT

TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2007
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 10-11, 2007

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Starting Gate.

The Democratic Party held its winter meeting in Washington this week with Chairman Howard Dean presiding. The session featured the likely 2008 Democratic nomination contenders, all 10 of them. Of the 10, five are realistic candidates, say Democratic activists and media who attended, led by Senator Hillary Clinton, front-runner.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) I have to tell you, I am not running for president to put band-aids on our problems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Barack Obama, front-runner.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): (From videotape.) This is not a game. It's not a contest for the TV cameras. This is a serious moment for America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Edwards, former senator and former vice presidential nominee.

FORMER SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): (From videotape.) We're here because today, somewhere in America, an eight-year-old little girl will go to bed hungry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico.

NEW MEXICO GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D): (From videotape.) And we're a party built on a platform of ideas and ideals. We share a fundamental belief in the notion that equality is not achieved by knocking someone else out of the way and kicking them when they're down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tom Vilsack, former governor, Iowa.

FORMER IOWA GOV. TOM VILSACK (D): (From videotape.) We are at our best as Democrats when we stand up and are inspired by those values that move us and never stand down to those who wish to scare us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The starting gate is open. The race is on. And the first finish line is 11 months away, with the onset of the primaries and caucuses of presidential election '08.

Other candidates who appeared at that winter meeting are Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Wes Clark, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.

Question: Who were the show-stoppers at the DNC winter meeting? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the show-stoppers were Richardson and Edwards, who gave the best speeches. However, John, this is a three- way race. Hillary Rodham Clinton had a very good January. She's got a double-digit lead now in both Iowa and New Hampshire. She's going to have more money than anyone. She's going to have deeper and stronger support. And then she's going to have an opponent, a non- Hillary candidate.

Right now Obama is the hot ticket. But I think Obama's going to fade. I think he gave sort of a lecture there to the RNC. I think the guy to look at is Edwards for this reason. He's come out of the gate very strongly. He was leading at one point in Iowa. He's very well-positioned to take over as the non-Hillary candidate and to go the distance against her.

I think it's now a three-way race. If you had to put your money anywhere, I'd put it on Hillary. But this is not going to be a cake walk or a promenade to the nomination.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Neither Hillary nor Obama scored high. Why is that, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, they are burdened by the offices they hold and by the Senate's sort of indecision about what to do about the war. And a lot of anti-war activists were at that meeting, and they like the candidates who basically are clear in their opposition, who are calling for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Obama is.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but they like the candidates who are calling for the cutoff of funding. And Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have stopped short of that.

I agree that Edwards is right now positioned to sort of sneak in there and possibly be the one who gains some momentum, because he is positioned well in the early contests. He's also courting labor very aggressively. But Hillary Clinton has such a political machine that people are going to think long and hard before they cross her, because right now it looks like she could possibly run away with this thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Obama is the hare, Richardson may be the tortoise, because his credentials are great, greater than Obama's, and he keeps plodding along. Do you agree with that?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, his foreign policy credentials are better than any, other than Biden, anyone else in the Democratic field. He was ambassador to the U.N. He was secretary of Energy. He knows nuclear weapon technology. He's been involved in a lot of international relations and transactions. I think he's more likely to be a vice presidential.

But let me go back to what I think is the big story coming out of the first month of the primary for the Democrats, and that is that Hillary -- who I completely agree, it's hers to lose, this nomination -- seems to be abandoning her centrist position on the war --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here we go.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- because she's being pulled to the left by the cheering anti-war activist base at events like this winter meeting. She ought to slam on the brakes, stick with her position, and sustain her viability for the general election. I think she's lost confidence in her own candidacy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary is no shoo-in, right?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think if there is the phrase "shoo-in" for a nomination, I'd apply it to Hillary. I think she's by far and away the strongest candidate and she is supported by the best political strategist in the Democratic Party, called Bill Clinton. And they have a nationwide group of supporters and activists and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She was on the wrong side of the war.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think she was on the wrong side of the war for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She didn't score very well.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, that's a different thing. I don't think she's a natural speaker at this point, okay. There's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, what is that about her?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you know, she's very careful about the way she speaks. I mean, I remember in New York State before the election, she was like an automaton. She didn't really have the kind of spontaneous or authentic voice.

But she's, I think, gained it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And I think she's much better at it now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does she suffer from the dynasty, the anti- dynasty syndrome? We have now, with Bush, we have 12 years of the Bushes. We've already had eight years of the Clintons. Now we have another Clinton. Isn't the country turning anti-dynasty?

MR. BLANKLEY: There's no evidence of that.

MS. CLIFT: It's not showing up --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?

MS. CLIFT: It's not showing up --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not in the polls.

MS. CLIFT: It's not showing up in the polls. In fact, you have Clinton nostalgia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, we've got a much larger question here. Who's the Democrat king-maker?

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D-IL): (From videotape.) Six years, $3 trillion in new debt, and the one thing you could say about George Bush and this economy is "We'll be forever in your debt."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Democrats' victory in the midterm elections is largely due to a representative from Illinois, Rahm Emanuel. He engineered the strategy for the takeover, and then he implemented the strategy. He hand-picked the candidates, invoking the Bill Clinton strategy, not Howard Dean's, namely, cling to the center; eschew extremes.

Emanuel is now the new chairman of the powerful House Democratic Caucus, and he appears to be the party king-maker.

Question: So who is calling the shots in the Democratic Party right now? Is it Rahm Emanuel or is it Howard Dean? I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Rahm Emanuel did design the campaign. He did a splendid job of last year's congressional campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Doesn't that give him status?

MR. BLANKLEY: But there is no king-maker in the Democratic Party, as there isn't in the Republican Party right now. If there is a king-maker, it's the activist base collectively that might be the king-maker.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: It's basically --

MR. BLANKLEY: And his position on Iraq, which is to keep the Democratic Party's fingerprints off, is not sustainable.

MS. CLIFT: It's basically a free-for-all. You've got all these campaigns out there. And Rahm Emanuel himself is torn between supporting Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who's from his home state. He's been telling reporters he's hiding under the desk because he can't bear to make the decision.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Democrat troika.

The Democrats are split in at least three ways: First, the veteran liberals like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Rangel, chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee; second, the pro- technology and free trade moderates of the New Democratic Coalition, aka the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Council. The NDC has some 65 members like Jim Moran of Virginia and John Spratt of South Carolina; third, the Blue Dogs, a fiscally conservative bloc now boasting 44 members in the House like Dennis Cardoza of California and John Tanner of Tennessee.

Question: Which path is most likely to carry the Democrats across the White House threshold, the moderate path of Democratic centrism or the radical path of traditional liberalism? I ask you, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think it's the moderate path that gives them the best chance to win the White House. If they get too far to the left, there's no way, in my judgment, that they're going to have an easy shot at the White House. If they stay in the center and the war in Iraq is still the main issue, I think they'll have a very good chance -- a very good chance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe that more moderates --

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's the thing, John. Getting across the finish line in the general election, the moderate center is exactly the place to be. That's why Hillary is trying to resist this tug to the left. But you are mistaken, John. The heart of the Democratic Party, the heart and soul of that party, is now militantly anti-war. It's probably pro cutting off funds, or getting there. And it is not pro- free trade. It is economic nationalism. Webb represents that; the guys in Ohio. Something like 39 of 43 of the new guys coming in are anti-free trade. Bush is going to lose fast track. Economic nationalism is the coming thing in the Democratic Party.

MS. CLIFT: Even the so-called centrists, the DLC, have recognized the shortcomings of globalization and the fact that people have been hurt. And John Edwards does have the clearest populist message, and it does resonate with the voters.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What has --

MS. CLIFT: And if you want to call that liberal, you can call it liberal. They've got to excite the Democratic base. That's why it's great to have Barack Obama in the race. For whatever happens to him, he's got a lot of people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What has --

MS. CLIFT: -- thrilled about his candidacy, especially young people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What has moderation delivered in the last several years except --

MR. BUCHANAN: Clinton.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a series of horrors?

MR. BUCHANAN: Clinton delivered the presidency. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the Clinton presidency was a centrist path. Look, the problem with your analysis -- and I don't completely disagree with it -- is that Republicans lost the independent moderates in this last election by a very dramatic margin. Normally they break even with it. So if the Democratic Party goes to the left, yes, their base will be agitated, but it will give the Republicans a chance to get the moderate independents back.

MS. CLIFT: Well, even the president --

MR. BLANKLEY: So I agree with Mort --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's going to be another major issue which I don't think is globalization. It is the income disparity between the people who have really done very well and the middle class, which feels squeezed by a lot of things, including health care costs.

MS. CLIFT: That's right. Even the president --

MR. BUCHANAN: The only way you can go at them is tax hikes.

MS. CLIFT: Even the president --

MR. BUCHANAN: But tax hikes are still poison.

MS. CLIFT: The president, the Treasury secretary, Alan Greenspan, they're all talking about the income inequality. And that's an issue that's made for the Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to correct the impression that's gone on here, because we have a totally new zeitgeist in America, whether you knew it or not. Twelve years of virtual Republican control of the House and Senate is a massive -- what we need is a massive shift to the left, from Enron to crony capitalism, the health care mess, the offshoring of jobs, the immigration problem and the amnesty call, fiscal control, the lack of that in Iraq, particularly in Iraq. Uni- government by conservative Republicans has yielded policy failure upon policy failure for average working Americans.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think there's a call for radical liberalism.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John --

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's why '08 is the Democrats' election year to win because of all of that that you just said.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, this is nonsense.

MS. CLIFT: But coming up with policies to address that doesn't automatically mean you're so far left --

MR. BLANKLEY: I just looked at some polling showing the country is still, despite the fact they didn't vote for Republicans, are still about where they were ideologically before this election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, that's rubbish. It's a new zeitgeist.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the 2008 race for the White House the Democrats' to lose? Yes or no.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is, John. But liberalism is not the answer. Economic nationalism and, frankly, anti-interventionism -- these aren't necessarily left wing. They are center issues today.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Democrats are with you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I know they are, on two out of the three issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, quickly.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Well, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

MS. CLIFT: It's the Democratic year to lose, definitely.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, look, obviously right now most people think the Democrats have a better chance. But there's a lot of play out before you can say it's theirs to lose.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think it's clearly the best shot with the Democratic Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's the Democrats' to lose.

Issue Two: Culpable Paralysis in the Senate.

The United States Senate this week came to a standstill when Republican senators used esoteric parliamentary tactics to anesthetize debate on a resolution condemning the president's strategy to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

Democrats were outraged.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) We cannot get the Republicans to allow us to take a symbolic vote to condemn the escalation, much less a real vote to stop it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even Republicans were appalled at the appearance of Senate incompetence and skullduggery. Republican Senator Pat Roberts went as far as to say --

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS): (From videotape.) We appear like lemmings, splashing in a sea of public concern, frustration and anger over the war in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Wednesday at midday, Republican Senator John Warner read a letter aloud on the Senate floor signed by six fellow Republican senators.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA): (From videotape.) We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate on the Senate floor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Let's start here. Will a congressional debate over the war be bad for troop morale? That question was put to General Peter Pace to answer in his testimony before Congress this week.

GEN. PETER PACE (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff): (From videotape.) There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy -- period.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we now put to rest the falsehood that troop morale is hurt by debate in the U.S. Congress over the wisdom and management of the Iraq war? I ask you.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. Look, he didn't even deny it. He simply said debate is good for democracy, which we all agree. He didn't address the question. But Senator McCain did, and he did so brilliantly on the floor when he said it's undeniable that when you're condemning the mission that you're sending the troops on for and the general who's going over there to do it, that it is going to reduce morale. He knows more about it certainly than me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You clearly have not read Pace's testimony, because --

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm more impressed with Senator McCain's.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for four paragraphs he made the same point again and again, with some nuance.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. But John, look, there's no doubt about it. I think if the troops over there see the country here divided, which it is, and the Congress divided like it is, they've got to say, "Is the country really behind us?" But that's the way democracy works.

MS. CLIFT: I'm sorry, but --

MR. BUCHANAN: Pace did say he doesn't think that troop morale is going to be hurt by this debate. But if they start cutting off funds, he said that would affect morale. But that does not necessarily mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not debate. That's resources.

MR. BUCHANAN: That does not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said if you maintain the resources and you welcome the troops and you show your affection for the troops, they're okay.

MR. BUCHANAN: Even then, John, it may be the right thing to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Who won the week, the pro-war forces or the ant-war forces, the hawks or the doves? I ask you, Pat, quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think that -- look, Reid and those guys won, but Reid and those guys are responsible for the fact that we didn't have a vote. Republicans would have given them two votes. They asked for two votes. He said, "No, you're not going to get any."

MS. CLIFT: Republicans always come out the winners in Pat's world.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Look, the Republicans suffered a public relations embarrassment. So did the Democrats. It's worse for the Republicans. But, look, blaming the anti-war people for undercutting the troops -- what's undercutting the troops is the fact that there isn't a mission that is achievable and the fact that this administration still doesn't have a plan, doesn't know what they're doing in Iraq. That's what's undercutting the morale --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony --

MR. BLANKLEY: It was neither --

MS. CLIFT: -- not the debate at home.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was neither the Republicans nor the Democrats. They both did a poor job. The winners were, of course, the enemy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's salute that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, we've once again see the impotence of our congressional system. I mean, I think it was a terrible week for our congressional system that we couldn't get an honest discussion on this thing. Both parties looked terrible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Particularly in the wake of the 2006 mandate.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: Accusing people who criticize the administration's execution of this war, accusing them of aiding and abetting the enemy is really the last refuge of scoundrels.

MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't say aiding and abetting. He asked who was the winner this week, and --

MS. CLIFT: That's the implication of --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it wasn't. Don't put your liberals words into my conservative mouth, please.

MS. CLIFT: You said aiding the enemy. You just left out "and abetting."

MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't say that. I said the enemy won the week. That was the question.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Harry Reid -- look, the Republicans said, "We will give you your vote on the Warner amendment. We know that will hurt us, but give us a vote on the amendment of Judd Gregg." And Harry Reid said no, because that would show the division in the Democratic Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Harry Reid --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Republicans did lose the week, but Reid is actually responsible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Harry Reid was grinning like a cheshire cat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, he was.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know why? Because he sees more Senate seats for the Democrats lining up now. If they beat up on Bush because of the Iraq war, he wins. If they go over the cliff with Bush, he wins.

MR. BUCHANAN: But the Senate lost this week. Mort was right. The Congress looks pathetic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Scooter Agonistes.

The prosecution at the CIA leak trial rested on Thursday. Lewis Libby is charged with lying under oath about how he learned of the CIA identity of the wife of Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration Iraq war policy. The prosecution also contends that Mr. Libby lied to the grand jury.

Question: Is the ghost in the room at this trial Dick Cheney?

MS. CLIFT: Hovering over everything is Dick Cheney --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- because the prosecution is clearly trying to show that the vice president was behind this, that Scooter Libby was acting at his request to besmirch an enemy of the administration. And this all occurred right around the time that the case for war was beginning to unravel.

Remember the argument over the 17 words. We now know that the administration knew the 17 words about Iraq trying to procure nuclear weapons, uranium, from Africa, they knew that was false. And that's what they're trying to cover up, and that's what Libby was trying to cover up.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know, I think, John, that the winner of the week, though, was Fitzgerald, because, I mean, he's got not simply Tim Russert; he's got six or seven other people who are saying that Scooter Libby knew about and spoke about the Valerie Plame, her role, before the column came out. And I think it's going to be a hellish case for the defense to make to undercut the credibility of all of those witnesses. So I think Fitzgerald won.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Russert's unequivocal denial of Libby meant that Libby's alibi fell. And he demolished the alibi, did he not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think he clearly demolished that particular piece of the alibi. But the issue is not just an alibi. What Libby is basically saying, you know, "I really didn't remember it all very well. You know, it was a long time ago. We were talking to lots of people." And that is the issue; was he deliberately lying or not? I do think he did not have a good week, but his defense is now going to be put in place and we'll see what happens.

MS. CLIFT: Well, not remembering something is one thing, but remembering something that clearly didn't happen, I think, is a much higher hurdle for him to get over.

MR. BLANKLEY: The prosecution has made a strong case in their round. I think this is a story that is of more interest to those of us in Washington than it is to the general public. And therefore I don't think there is any ghost hanging over the nation on this matter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At the present level of discussion, it may be more of a Washington story. But is it possible that Libby will implicate Cheney?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think it's very unlikely.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. BLANKLEY: I can't imagine he would have anything to implicate him for --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is a Martha Stewart case.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- because the underlying charge is only perjury. And so if he can say something embarrassing about the vice president, he can't trade that for --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's a Martha Stewart case.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If things go against -- what?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a Martha Stewart case. Scooter Libby is accused of lying about a crime he didn't commit, which was the deliberate outing of a CIA agent. Now, they're doing the Cheney stuff in order to put a motive for Libby having lied to protect the boss.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's the boss?

MR. BUCHANAN: The boss is Cheney. But I don't think -- this isn't going to implicate Cheney.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's already said that Cheney --

MR. BUCHANAN: This isn't going to implicate Cheney in any crime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Cheney fingered Valerie Plame.

MS. CLIFT: But the larger story --

MR. BUCHANAN: But Cheney never denied that.

MS. CLIFT: The larger story is the falsification of evidence around going to war.

MR. BUCHANAN: But that's what Congress ought to investigate.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, this gives them good ammunition to go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: But that has nothing to do with this trial. That has nothing to do with this trial.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cheney is facing --

MS. CLIFT: It has everything to do with this trial.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is a trial for perjury. It has nothing to do with intelligence information. You guys are trying to make it sound like the trial's about that, but the trial is about perjury and obstruction of justice and nothing else. And so, therefore, it's a small issue that makes a personal tragedy for Libby --

MS. CLIFT: A small issue that --

MR. BLANKLEY: If he goes to prison, it's a tragedy for him.

MS. CLIFT: It's a small issue that shines a light on the lies that the administration concocted in order to take the country to an unnecessary war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Libby is facing conviction, that focuses the mind. And he may -- he has the option, perhaps, of cutting a deal with Fitzgerald. Do you think he'd rat out Cheney?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think it affects, as you say, the perjury charge. There's no way, in my judgment, that at this stage of the game he can opt out of this trial by talking about Cheney.

MR. BUCHANAN: The only way he can rat out Cheney is to admit he's been lying his head off now.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is Fitzgerald's quarry? Do you think his quarry is Libby?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I think absolutely his quarry is Libby.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think he's more ambitious than that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Whatever his ambitions may be, the man in the dock is called Libby.

MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't indict anybody else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, he did not.

MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't even indicate an unindicted co- conspirator. Thus Libby is the final quarry for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He narrowed it, John. He narrowed it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, if he's facing (prison ?), he will be a G. Gordon Liddy? Or will he crumble?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, he's not going to betray -- to betray Cheney, he would have to admit he's been lying on everything up to date. He wouldn't be a credible witness against Cheney.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Model Behavior.

"Models flock to Manhattan. New York City is one of the world's leaders in fashion and entertainment. We don't want to do anything to harm those industries." So says Jose Rivera, a New York State assemblyman. Jose has proposed a law that would create a state regulatory board to police the minimum healthy weight of any person who, on a runway, models clothing, jewelry, handbags, hats, sunglasses, makeup, body paint and tattoos.

Models tend to undernourish themselves, Rivera says. Furthermore, he says, abnormally thin models tend to an increase of anorexia and bulimia.

Question: Does government have any business regulating weight in any industry? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is utter, ridiculous meddling. People are free to do whatever they want. And it might even be unconstitutional as a freedom-of-expression issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about -- that isn't necessarily true with regard to regulating weight. I mean, if you had a 500-pound fireman, how is he going to climb the ladder? Or if you had a 400- pound policeman --

MR. BLANKLEY: What does that have to do with a 90-pound model?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- how is he going to be able to get in hot pursuit?

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't hire him. This is ridiculous.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's up to the employer to hire or not hire.

MR. BUCHANAN: The industry can police itself, John. These are mature women. But frankly, I will say this. Parents of some 18- or 19-year-old girl who's been forced to diet to the point where she dies ought to have a right to sue the people who did that. But let the private sector deal with it.

MS. CLIFT: I don't know if the 18-year-old is forced to do it. I mean, people are trying to meet what they think are the society's images of beauty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't forget you can iPod the Group.

Out of time. Bye-bye.

END.NAN: I know they are, on two out of the three issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, quickly.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Well, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

MS. CLIFT: It's the Democratic year to lose, definitely.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, look, obviously right now most people think the Democrats have a better chance. But there's a lot of play out before you can say it's theirs to lose.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think it's clearly the best shot with the Democratic Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's the Democrats' to lose.

Issue Two: Culpable Paralysis in the Senate.

The United States Senate this week came to a standstill when Republican senators used esoteric parliamentary tactics to anesthetize debate on a resolution condemning the president's strategy to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

Democrats were outraged.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) We cannot get the Republicans to allow us to take a symbolic vote to condemn the escalation, much less a real vote to stop it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even Republicans were appalled at the appearance of Senate incompetence and skullduggery. Republican Senator Pat Roberts went as far as to say --

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS): (From videotape.) We appear like lemmings, splashing in a sea of public concern, frustration and anger over the war in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Wednesday at midday, Republican Senator John Warner read a letter aloud on the Senate floor signed by six fellow Republican senators.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA): (From videotape.) We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate on the Senate floor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Let's start here. Will a congressional debate over the war be bad for troop morale? That question was put to General Peter Pace to answer in his testimony before Congress this week.

GEN. PETER PACE (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff): (From videotape.) There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy -- period.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we now put to rest the falsehood that troop morale is hurt by debate in the U.S. Congress over the wisdom and management of the Iraq war? I ask you.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. Look, he didn't even deny it. He simply said debate is good for democracy, which we all agree. He didn't address the question. But Senator McCain did, and he did so brilliantly on the floor when he said it's undeniable that when you're condemning the mission that you're sending the troops on for and the general who's going over there to do it, that it is going to reduce morale. He knows more about it certainly than me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You clearly have not read Pace's testimony, because --

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm more impressed with Senator McCain's.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for four paragraphs he made the same point again and again, with some nuance.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. But John, look, there's no doubt about it. I think if the troops over there see the country here divided, which it is, and the Congress divided like it is, they've got to say, "Is the country really behind us?" But that's the way democracy works.

MS. CLIFT: I'm sorry, but --

MR. BUCHANAN: Pace did say he doesn't think that troop morale is going to be hurt by this debate. But if they start cutting off funds, he said that would affect morale. But that does not necessarily mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not debate. That's resources.

MR. BUCHANAN: That does not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said if you maintain the resources and you welcome the troops and you show your affection for the troops, they're okay.

MR. BUCHANAN: Even then, John, it may be the right thing to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Who won the week, the pro-war forces or the ant-war forces, the hawks or the doves? I ask you, Pat, quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think that -- look, Reid and those guys won, but Reid and those guys are responsible for the fact that we didn't have a vote. Republicans would have given them two votes. They asked for two votes. He said, "No, you're not going to get any."

MS. CLIFT: Republicans always come out the winners in Pat's world.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Look, the Republicans suffered a public relations embarrassment. So did the Democrats. It's worse for the Republicans. But, look, blaming the anti-war people for undercutting the troops -- what's undercutting the troops is the fact that there isn't a mission that is achievable and the fact that this administration still doesn't have a plan, doesn't know what they're doing in Iraq. That's what's undercutting the morale --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony --

MR. BLANKLEY: It was neither --

MS. CLIFT: -- not the debate at home.

MR. BLANKLEY: It was neither the Republicans nor the Democrats. They both did a poor job. The winners were, of course, the enemy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's salute that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, we've once again see the impotence of our congressional system. I mean, I think it was a terrible week for our congressional system that we couldn't get an honest discussion on this thing. Both parties looked terrible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Particularly in the wake of the 2006 mandate.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: Accusing people who criticize the administration's execution of this war, accusing them of aiding and abetting the enemy is really the last refuge of scoundrels.

MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't say aiding and abetting. He asked who was the winner this week, and --

MS. CLIFT: That's the implication of --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it wasn't. Don't put your liberals words into my conservative mouth, please.

MS. CLIFT: You said aiding the enemy. You just left out "and abetting."

MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't say that. I said the enemy won the week. That was the question.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Harry Reid -- look, the Republicans said, "We will give you your vote on the Warner amendment. We know that will hurt us, but give us a vote on the amendment of Judd Gregg." And Harry Reid said no, because that would show the division in the Democratic Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Harry Reid --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Republicans did lose the week, but Reid is actually responsible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Harry Reid was grinning like a cheshire cat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, he was.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know why? Because he sees more Senate seats for the Democrats lining up now. If they beat up on Bush because of the Iraq war, he wins. If they go over the cliff with Bush, he wins.

MR. BUCHANAN: But the Senate lost this week. Mort was right. The Congress looks pathetic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Scooter Agonistes.

The prosecution at the CIA leak trial rested on Thursday. Lewis Libby is charged with lying under oath about how he learned of the CIA identity of the wife of Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration Iraq war policy. The prosecution also contends that Mr. Libby lied to the grand jury.

Question: Is the ghost in the room at this trial Dick Cheney?

MS. CLIFT: Hovering over everything is Dick Cheney --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- because the prosecution is clearly trying to show that the vice president was behind this, that Scooter Libby was acting at his request to besmirch an enemy of the administration. And this all occurred right around the time that the case for war was beginning to unravel.

Remember the argument over the 17 words. We now know that the administration knew the 17 words about Iraq trying to procure nuclear weapons, uranium, from Africa, they knew that was false. And that's what they're trying to cover up, and that's what Libby was trying to cover up.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know, I think, John, that the winner of the week, though, was Fitzgerald, because, I mean, he's got not simply Tim Russert; he's got six or seven other people who are saying that Scooter Libby knew about and spoke about the Valerie Plame, her role, before the column came out. And I think it's going to be a hellish case for the defense to make to undercut the credibility of all of those witnesses. So I think Fitzgerald won.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Russert's unequivocal denial of Libby meant that Libby's alibi fell. And he demolished the alibi, did he not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think he clearly demolished that particular piece of the alibi. But the issue is not just an alibi. What Libby is basically saying, you know, "I really didn't remember it all very well. You know, it was a long time ago. We were talking to lots of people." And that is the issue; was he deliberately lying or not? I do think he did not have a good week, but his defense is now going to be put in place and we'll see what happens.

MS. CLIFT: Well, not remembering something is one thing, but remembering something that clearly didn't happen, I think, is a much higher hurdle for him to get over.

MR. BLANKLEY: The prosecution has made a strong case in their round. I think this is a story that is of more interest to those of us in Washington than it is to the general public. And therefore I don't think there is any ghost hanging over the nation on this matter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At the present level of discussion, it may be more of a Washington story. But is it possible that Libby will implicate Cheney?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think it's very unlikely.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. BLANKLEY: I can't imagine he would have anything to implicate him for --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is a Martha Stewart case.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- because the underlying charge is only perjury. And so if he can say something embarrassing about the vice president, he can't trade that for --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's a Martha Stewart case.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If things go against -- what?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a Martha Stewart case. Scooter Libby is accused of lying about a crime he didn't commit, which was the deliberate outing of a CIA agent. Now, they're doing the Cheney stuff in order to put a motive for Libby having lied to protect the boss.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's the boss?

MR. BUCHANAN: The boss is Cheney. But I don't think -- this isn't going to implicate Cheney.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's already said that Cheney --

MR. BUCHANAN: This isn't going to implicate Cheney in any crime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Cheney fingered Valerie Plame.

MS. CLIFT: But the larger story --

MR. BUCHANAN: But Cheney never denied that.

MS. CLIFT: The larger story is the falsification of evidence around going to war.

MR. BUCHANAN: But that's what Congress ought to investigate.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, this gives them good ammunition to go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: But that has nothing to do with this trial. That has nothing to do with this trial.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cheney is facing --

MS. CLIFT: It has everything to do with this trial.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is a trial for perjury. It has nothing to do with intelligence information. You guys are trying to make it sound like the trial's about that, but the trial is about perjury and obstruction of justice and nothing else. And so, therefore, it's a small issue that makes a personal tragedy for Libby --

MS. CLIFT: A small issue that --

MR. BLANKLEY: If he goes to prison, it's a tragedy for him.

MS. CLIFT: It's a small issue that shines a light on the lies that the administration concocted in order to take the country to an unnecessary war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Libby is facing conviction, that focuses the mind. And he may -- he has the option, perhaps, of cutting a deal with Fitzgerald. Do you think he'd rat out Cheney?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think it affects, as you say, the perjury charge. There's no way, in my judgment, that at this stage of the game he can opt out of this trial by talking about Cheney.

MR. BUCHANAN: The only way he can rat out Cheney is to admit he's been lying his head off now.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is Fitzgerald's quarry? Do you think his quarry is Libby?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I think absolutely his quarry is Libby.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think he's more ambitious than that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Whatever his ambitions may be, the man in the dock is called Libby.

MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't indict anybody else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, he did not.

MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't even indicate an unindicted co- conspirator. Thus Libby is the final quarry for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He narrowed it, John. He narrowed it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, if he's facing (prison ?), he will be a G. Gordon Liddy? Or will he crumble?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, he's not going to betray -- to betray Cheney, he would have to admit he's been lying on everything up to date. He wouldn't be a credible witness against Cheney.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Model Behavior.

"Models flock to Manhattan. New York City is one of the world's leaders in fashion and entertainment. We don't want to do anything to harm those industries." So says Jose Rivera, a New York State assemblyman. Jose has proposed a law that would create a state regulatory board to police the minimum healthy weight of any person who, on a runway, models clothing, jewelry, handbags, hats, sunglasses, makeup, body paint and tattoos.

Models tend to undernourish themselves, Rivera says. Furthermore, he says, abnormally thin models tend to an increase of anorexia and bulimia.

Question: Does government have any business regulating weight in any industry? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is utter, ridiculous meddling. People are free to do whatever they want. And it might even be unconstitutional as a freedom-of-expression issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about -- that isn't necessarily true with regard to regulating weight. I mean, if you had a 500-pound fireman, how is he going to climb the ladder? Or if you had a 400- pound policeman --

MR. BLANKLEY: What does that have to do with a 90-pound model?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- how is he going to be able to get in hot pursuit?

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't hire him. This is ridiculous.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's up to the employer to hire or not hire.

MR. BUCHANAN: The industry can police itself, John. These are mature women. But frankly, I will say this. Parents of some 18- or 19-year-old girl who's been forced to diet to the point where she dies ought to have a right to sue the people who did that. But let the private sector deal with it.

MS. CLIFT: I don't know if the 18-year-old is forced to do it. I mean, people are trying to meet what they think are the society's images of beauty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't forget you can iPod the Group.

Out of time. Bye-bye.

END.