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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; CAROLINE DANIEL, FINANCIAL TIMES

TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2007
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 24-25, 2007

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Hollywood Rumble.

Hollywood's elite gathered at a star-studded fund-raiser Tuesday night for Democrat Barack Obama, with stars like Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller, partiers who paid $2,300 per person to attend the opulent Beverly Hills event, and $1.3 million was raised for the Illinois senator's run for president.

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd published an explosive interview this week with the party's host, David Geffen, the Hollywood uber-producer. Mr. Geffen's comments triggered an all-out political brawl between the two Democratic presidential front-runners.

"Not since the Vietnam War has there been this level of disappointment in the behavior of America throughout the world. And I don't think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is, and no matter how ambitious she is -- and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? -- can bring the country together."

Who can unite the nation? Geffen tells us. "Obama is inspirational, and he's not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family." Geffen then describes Hillary's reluctance to say flat out that her 2002 Iraq war enabling vote was wrong. "It's not a very big thing to say, 'I made a mistake on the war,' and, typical of Hillary Clinton, that she can't."

Mr. Geffen goes on to attack both Clintons for an alleged lack of courage and honesty. "The Clintons were unwilling to stand for the things that they genuinely believe in. Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it's troubling."

Question: Geffen's comment about the ease with which the Clintons are alleged to lie seems particularly ad hominem. What accounts for the sudden sharp tone to the Democratic campaign? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Geffen -- apparently, John, you get reports that when Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, Geffen thought he had an agreement to pardon Leonard Peltier, who I believe is the Pine Ridge killer of those two FBI agents and is a big cause celebre in Hollywood.

But clearly he's very bitter. But he slept in the Oval -- excuse me, the Lincoln Bedroom. Excuse me. (Laughs.) We're going downhill here. But, you know, he was in the Lincoln Bedroom and Clinton slept over at his home. So he's a friend of the Clintons. And it's very, very damaging to Hillary. It's a stink bomb that hit her very badly. Obama was drawn into it. Hollywood's got sort of a reputation in America these days of sleaze. So all around it has hurt the Democratic Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think the Clintons and Mr. Geffen had a falling out in 2001, so that's an old feud. I think what he was doing in this interview was giving voice to the fear among Democrats that Hillary Clinton is a risky nominee for the party because she may not be able to get elected, that somehow the Republicans are going to find some sort of bombshell that they're going to explode before the election and ruin the Democratic chances. And I think that's what he wants to put out there.

And the fascination with the Clintons' marriage continues among the media. And it's about authenticity. That's the buzz word of this campaign season. And Hillary is bringing her husband in. He's raising money for her. And she's talking about him on the campaign trail. And I think it's just, again, revived all the interest about the Clintons, which never seems to fade. I say better get it over now. And she's slapping down any suggestion of character assassination, and I think that's what we're going to see more of from her campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Hillary returns fire, but not at Geffen, but at Obama, who says he abhors back-alley politics.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): (From videotape.) The time for that kind of politics is over. It is through. It's time to turn the page right here and right now.

HOWARD WOLFSON (spokesman for Sen. Clinton): (From videotape.) Senator Obama is running on the politics of hope, and yet his supporters are engaging in the politics of trash talk.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) I want to run a very positive campaign, and I sure don't want Democrats or the supporters of Democrats to be engaging in the politics of personal destruction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Barack then fires back at Hillary. "It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when he was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln Bedroom."

Question: Was Hillary smart to return Obama's fire through Wolfson and herself directly? And was Obama smart to counterattack the Clintons?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes and no. Clearly Obama is running above politics, above the mud bowl of politics we've known for so long in Washington and America. And Hillary obviously wanted to bait him into coming down into the mud with the rest of us. And he bit on the bait, and he did it personally, not only through his spokesman but personally in the quote you just gave.

So now he is like -- it's an old story in Hollywood of the wide- eyed ingenue who comes to a Hollywood party and wakes up the next morning with the virginity a little compromised. He's now a politician, and he's going to try to wiggle back up into the sky, but I think he's done himself more damage. With Hillary, everything that Geffen said about Hillary is either true or people who want to believe it is true already believe it. I don't think that hurts her anymore. I believe it's true, of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Caroline.

MS. DANIEL: I think what's surprising about this is you would have expected an attack like this to come from the great vast right- wing conspiracy; you know, calling Hillary a liar, raising questions about Clinton. Instead it's almost the great left-wing Hollywood conspiracy now are attacking Hillary Clinton.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's behind it? Why is he dissing Hillary?

MS. DANIEL: I think it's definite questions about her, whether she can actually win a general election, and also genuine excitement about Barack Obama. He's the new, new thing in Hollywood. Hollywood loves a new thing. He has a great demographic audience for Hollywood because people go to the movies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think there's a larger issue here, that Geffen is a liberal and he sees Hillary as a centrist, and the enemy is the centrist? And when he talks about the dynasty and royalty and so forth, that's not an opinion that's just shared by him. That's around the country. People are -- they want a change. And there is a drift, a resurgence of liberalism in the country. Do you believe that?

MS. DANIEL: I think there certainly is a resurgence of liberalism which has been articulated by Barack Obama, by John Edwards. If you look at where the campaign has gone, it's increasingly moved to the left. Hillary's moved to the left with the rest of the candidates.

MR. BUCHANAN: But it's 100 percent anti-war --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Geffen is also quite dissatisfied at the House of Representatives, that's Democratic, that they have done nothing really to stop the war.

MS. DANIEL: Well, except this account was very personal. This wasn't Geffen attacking her on issues. It was attacking her on her personality.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know, the anti-war thing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's sending a message, however, to the party, is he not?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's anti-war, John. You're right to this extent. The left is very, very bitter that the Democratic Party has not gone harder right at this war and stopping this war. That is the driving issue. But you are right. This is also very deeply personal for a personal friend of the past --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Geffen --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- to do something like that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Geffen's quarry is the party.

Okay, Bill -- why Bill? Geffen, again, was once a major Clinton backer, but in his interview referred to the former president as "a reckless guy" and adds, "I don't think anybody believes that in the last six years all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person."

Question: Is Geffen warning the Democrats that Hillary is unelectable because Bill is capable of committing new indiscretions which will dog her campaign and doom her candidacy?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I think you're overinterpreting Geffen. He's not a politician. People in politics wouldn't say these things without a real calculation. He's a guy out there who follows politics, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, will you go to my question?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I will. But the point is that this is the kind of way most people talk all the time, and Hollywood liberals --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That interview, as written by Dowd, was extremely studied.

MR. BLANKLEY: I understand, but he's been saying this stuff for a long time. It never got any attention before.

MR. BUCHANAN: But that's too specific. That's too specific. And you say in the last six years. What that suggests is Bill Clinton's been up to his old tricks in the Oval Office in the last six years, and this is going to go boom.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that make Hillary unelectable?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't know whether there's any truth to it, but that's what Geffen is suggesting.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If it is true, if it were true --

MR. BUCHANAN: If it's true and all this stuff comes out, it'll really hurt.

MS. CLIFT: It's lots of rumor-mongering once again. But, look, you know, Hollywood doesn't want to have to settle on a candidate right now, and they like to give money to Obama. It doesn't necessarily mean they're not going to support Hillary. I mean, the process has now gotten to the point where the Clinton campaign is trying to shut down everybody else. And the question now, is Hillary stoppable?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary didn't see this side pocket shot come along. She didn't realize Obama would have this kind of power.

MS. CLIFT: They have been geared --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to add to this before we go to the exit question?

MS. CLIFT: They've been geared for this kind of stuff for a long time.

MS. DANIEL: I did think it was surprising that Hillary reacted so strongly. She's 18 percent ahead in the polls from Obama at the moment. It looks like weakness to come out attacking Obama this early on in the campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who got hurt the most by this episode, Obama or Hillary?

MS. DANIEL: I think Obama looked naive the way that he handled it.

MS. CLIFT: It's godfather politics. You send a message to people; if they get out of line, we're going to land on you. And that's what Hillary did. She sent a message.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it sends a message --

MR. BUCHANAN: The kid got hurt. The kid got hurt more.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a political damage scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero damage -- Hillary unscathed -- 10 meaning cataclysmic damage -- she might as well withdraw now -- how much damage has this flap done to Hillary's presidential prospects?

MR. BUCHANAN: A two to Hillary, but maybe a three to Obama.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think it hurts Hillary, but I do think Obama has lost some of the luster. I mean, he wants to run a campaign on hope and have a nice debate. She wants to play hardball. Hardball is generally what wins.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much does it hurt Hillary?

MS. CLIFT: One-tenth of 1 percent for Hillary and about 2.3 percent for Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much for Hillary?

MS. DANIEL: I would say zero for Hillary. I don't think this really has any big impact at all. I think it helps in some ways in terms of making Barack Obama look more like a hypocrite in terms of his campaign that he's running and knocks him off the whole sort of Abe Lincoln pedestal that he's been on for the last few weeks in the media.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A three in damage to Hillary.

Issue Two: Brit Pullout.

TONY BLAIR (British prime minister): (From videotape.) It is important to show, and show particularly the Iraqi people, that we do not desire our forces to remain any longer than they are needed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With that, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced this week that 1,600 British troops will begin leaving Iraq, with more to follow. So as American troops are being surged into Iraq, British troops are quitting Iraq.

This British pullout was called for in October, four months ago. General Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the British Army, said then that "The West will have to give up the idea that a pro-western liberal democracy is possible in Iraq and that it could convert the region. That was the hope. Whether that was a sensible or naive hope, history will judge. We should aim for a lower ambition."

Question: The military coalition in Iraq -- ours, that is, included -- needs more troops for the surge. The British are our allies in the coalition. Instead of redeploying their troops from the south to the north, where we are straining to send in 21,500 more troops, they're folding up and going home. Does this mean that the coalition is a joke, a fiction, there is no coalition?

Caroline Daniel.

MS. DANIEL: No, I don't think it means it's a fiction. You still have the same number of countries there. But the fact that the Brits are doing this, the biggest ally, is really bad optics for the Bush administration at a time when they're trying to sell a troop surge in Iraq.

What's been interesting in the UK debate is that you have -- the British generals for a long time have been arguing for a more rapid troop pullout. This isn't actually as rapid as they wanted it to be. So you've got, again, a civilian political leadership going against the will of their own generals, as you've seen in the U.S. with Bush and his own generals here going against the advice of the generals for political reasons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is not a coalition, though, the way they're behaving. This is some kind of a scrambled aggregation; come and go as you wish. It's a fiction.

MS. CLIFT: The U.S. --

MS. DANIEL: It always was a fiction in some ways in terms of how extensive the coalition really was. It always was the U.S. and only a few European countries and Australia.

MS. CLIFT: The U.S. has 140,000 troops. Britain has 7,100 troops. And the other 15 or 16 countries only have a handful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That further makes it a fiction?

MS. CLIFT: It's a U.S. presence.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look --

MS. CLIFT: And it's a U.S. presence that the rest of the world really doesn't want to help us with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me push into a little bit more of Sir Richard. Sir Richard also says that the coalition in Iraq is, in fact, making matters worse.

GEN. SIR RICHARD DANNATT (British Army chief): (From videotape.) We're exacerbating it in the sense that because we are there, we provide a target and we are attacked. Ergo, if we were not there, we wouldn't be attacked and the situation would be calmer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: General Sir Richard Dannatt says not only does our presence in Iraq make terrorism worse there, but it makes terrorism worse worldwide. "I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing around the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them." Sir Richard adds that "The Iraqis don't want us anymore. The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in. Whatever consent we may have had in the first place has largely turned into intolerance."

Is Dannatt right? Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, a World War I general said that the British were an army of lions led by jackasses. I think that probably still has some validity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dannatt's a jackass? Is that what you're saying?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'm saying the fact that a general misreads history is nothing new for the British army, and other armies as well. But the fact is that politically this is very damaging to Bush and to the Americans. There's no doubt that the coalition has always been largely an American effort when you measure the amount of activity. But the British have contributed very substantially. And I would have wished that they had moved, as you suggested, their regiment up to the area where more fighting is needed.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me get into this, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know Dannatt?

MS. DANIEL: I don't know Dannatt, but I know that he comes in a tradition at the moment of -- I mean, it's unprecedented for a serving military officer of that status to come out so publicly in the way that he did last year.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he reflects the mass opinion --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me get into this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in Great Britain?

MS. DANIEL: Well, public opinion has always been consistently more against the war than for it in the UK. But I think it is -- that his criticism comes on the back of a lot of other British generals in the UK who have been publicly very critical of Tony Blair on this. Also what's behind this is real concern about the lack of funding for the troops. And that's become noisier and noisier, because they are stretched --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me get into this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, let me just say -- look, the general is exactly right in this sense. It is America's huge presence in the Middle East which is the primary cause of why people commit terrorism, to throw us out of the Middle East.

This really hurts badly. We have a coalition of the willing that is no longer willing. It's not only the Brits that are going. The Danes are going. The South Koreans are going. The Lithuanians are going. The Spanish have gone. The Italians have gone. This is about NATO pulling out of the region --

MS. CLIFT: It's also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait. I want to --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- and leaving this up to the Americans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the pullout of the Brits, is that increasing the hazard to American troops?

MS. CLIFT: No, I don't think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we have a supply line that goes from the south into the north. Do you think it's --

MR. BUCHANAN: They don't want to be there in case we go to war with Iran, because the Iranian Guard will come right through that region. They want out.

MS. CLIFT: It's not a war anymore. It's an occupation. And a western country occupying an oil-rich Muslim country is incendiary. And the president could find the same way out that Tony Blair just found. Prime Minister Maliki wanted to undertake the security of his country. Bush said no.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look --

MS. CLIFT: The Iraq Study Group gave him a road map. Bush said no. So I think the president is decider, and he's going to drag this out for two more years at great expense.

MR. BLANKLEY: We all know that Bush is not going to quit on this. To answer your question, there's still going to be 5,000 British troops in Basra. And if their training of the Iraqis down there is sufficient, it won't be a problem. But I agree with you. I agree with you that if things begin to go bad in the south of Iraq, that this will undermine America's war effort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Are Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney correct -- particularly Cheney this week where he pronounced this progress, the evacuation of the British troops -- in their view that Iraq is showing progress? Or are they living in a psychological fantasy world?

MR. BUCHANAN: How can Cheney make the statement that it's progress for the British to pull out when Pelosi's plan to pull out, he says, validates al Qaeda? That's a total contradiction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is he the king of spin?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I mean, they're spinning it. There's no doubt about it. It's not good news.

MS. CLIFT: Whatever stability there is in southern Iraq is due to the growing influence of Iran. NBC correspondent Richard Engel says if you want to make a hotel reservation in southern Iraq, you speak Farsi. That's the language of Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, I think there's a third choice between whether he's -- is he delusional and is he correct. I think he's incorrect, and he's putting the best light on something. But he's a very rational man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Caroline.

MS. DANIEL: Well, Dick Cheney has always been the optimist in chief for this administration, coming out saying, you know, "We're in the last throes of the insurgency" just when the insurgency was about to take off. This is another example of Dick Cheney being in the wrong place in terms of the political mainstream on this.

But the fact is, there is some progress in terms of -- it isn't Britain pulling out of the coalition entirely. They're moving some of these troops to Afghanistan to help in the war on terror there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Cheney has outlived his usefulness in the eyes of George Bush?

MS. DANIEL: Not in the eyes of George Bush, but in the eyes of many Republicans and certainly many Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe in the eyes of George Bush.

What's the answer to my question?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MS. CLIFT: Cheney's delusional.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to my question is they're in their own bubble.

Issue Three: All We Can Give Them.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) We owe them all we can give them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what President Bush promised wounded veterans returning from Iraq.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington is the nation's top treatment facility for soldiers wounded in combat. For inpatient care, the center is universally praised. For outpatient care, it's a different story, and a sad one.

Across the street from the Walter Reed Center, in Building 18, a so-called refurbished hotel, and home to 80 of the center's 700 outpatients, Washington Post investigative reporters found broken elevators, mold, rotting walls, falling ceilings, refuse, infestations of cockroaches and rodents.

These outpatient soldiers must deal with painful infirmities, missing limbs, facial disfigurements, brain damage, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other mental disorders. These wounded at Walter Reed endure neglect, stress and, quote-unquote, "bureaucratic indifference."

The Pentagon accepts culpability for the appalling conditions.

RICHARD CODY (Army vice chief of staff): (From videotape.) I'm the vice chief of staff of the Army. I'll take responsibility for this and I'll make sure that it's fixed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Likewise, the Walter Reed Center itself.

GEORGE WEIGHTMAN (Walter Reed Army Medical Center commander): (From videotape.) It's a leadership problem. But I would say it's my issue, as the commander of this organization, to take responsibility for that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House and the Congress are now investigating the center.

Question: Is the neglect of these disabled veterans tantamount to dereliction of duty? And should we be looking at court-martial proceedings against senior responsible officers, heads rolling, brass demoted, stripped of command, stripped of pensions, and drummed out? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: That is an outrageous statement, John. That building is rightly exposed as a bit of a mess, but Walter Reed is a magnificent place overall and we ought not to let Building 18 stand for Walter Reed.

MS. CLIFT: Walter Reed gives fine medical care. But the way that these troops have been forced to live for sometimes a year or two recovering is a disgrace. And the mice and the mold and the holes in the wall are a metaphor for how we support our troops and how we care for our wounded. And the hypocrisy in sending these young men and women over there with Humvees that still are not properly armored is a crime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, this is a legitimate scandal and some heads should roll. But as we wrote in The Washington Times last summer in a series of editorials, it's in this post-operative stage that there are real shortfalls in the quality of service, particularly for brain-injured soldiers coming back. It's a systemic problem that's going to take years to fully address.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Caroline.

MS. DANIEL: I think this is actually an overdone story. I mean, it's been a helpful story. They're addressing it very quickly. I think more of the concerns were about how long it takes them to move out of the outpatient care and back home. And so there's bureaucratic issues which more of the soldiers have problems with.

But I think if you want to talk about heads rolling, you haven't seen heads roll in Guantanamo Bay. You haven't seen heads roll in the military for things which were happening in Iraq. So for something like this, I think that's an excessive reaction.

MS. CLIFT: That doesn't mean you shouldn't be seeing some heads roll.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the larger issue is the Pentagon tends to hide the human cost of the war. They won't let any journalists go out to where the cadavers come back from our deceased in Iraq. They will take other measures too to conceal the human damage that's inflicted by war.

Issue Four: Bronze Will Do.

Margaret Thatcher made a rare public appearance this week at the unveiling of her statue in London's House of Commons. The 7'4" bronze statue weighs half a ton. The baroness is the first living ex-prime minister so honored. Now 81 years old, Lady Thatcher has kept a low profile since she suffered a minor stroke five years ago.

MARGARET THATCHER (former British prime minister): (From videotape.) The House has done me a great honor by commissioning this fine and imposing statue. I might have preferred iron, but bronze will do. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What is Thatcher's political legacy that earned her the sobriquet "Iron Lady"? Caroline Daniel.

MS. DANIEL: Well, I just want to say, first of all, that she's obviously hoping that -- she's glad it's not made out of marble, because in 2002 someone with a cricket bat decapitated a sculpture of Margaret Thatcher when it was at a museum. So she's obviously slightly more pleased this one is made out of bronze.

She was famous for standing up to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Falklands?

MS. DANIEL: -- the Cold War, the Falklands, the unions. She destroyed the unions in the UK.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And she helped liberate the Eastern bloc.

MS. DANIEL: Well, she helped.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what else, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: She ended socialism. And she's one of the three great figures who won the Cold War, Reagan and the pope being the other one. She's one of the three great prime ministers of the 20th century.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, she had to clean up the debris left by the liberals over there?

MR. BUCHANAN: She did socialists.

MR. BLANKLEY: At a personal level, she was very tough. I saw her at the cathedral at Reagan's funeral. She had been very ill, and she still made the point of coming.

MS. CLIFT: She's a great role model for women, even though she didn't do anything for traditional women's issues. She's no bleeding heart and she didn't put women in positions of power. But if anybody questions whether a woman can be tough enough to lead a country, you just say Margaret Thatcher.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she one of Britain's great prime ministers --

MR. BUCHANAN: One of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that she deserves a statue next to Disraeli and Churchill?

MR. BUCHANAN: She's right up there with Lloyd George.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lloyd George?

MR. BLANKLEY: Pitt II, Pitt the Younger. You've got to include him in there.

MS. DANIEL: She was also the longest-serving British prime minister --

MR. BUCHANAN: Pitt the Elder.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MS. DANIEL: She was the longest-serving British prime minister in the last 150 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat; five seconds.

MR. BUCHANAN: Al Gore wins two Academy Awards and is pushed into the race.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Jeb Bush will gain currency as a likely vice presidential candidate for the Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Hillary will raise more money than Obama in her current trip to Hollywood.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Caroline.

MS. DANIEL: There will be a wave of Republican retirements in the House and Senate this year, giving at least another dozen seats to Democrats in 2008.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to predict anything about Libby? Not himself, but will it spread?

MS. DANIEL: It's going to be very embarrassing for the vice president, who said, "This is one of the most moral men I know." And if he's indicted on perjury, that will make a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's your piece here in the Financial Times on Thursday: "Trial casts cloud over Cheney's reputation." Are you sticking by that?

MS. DANIEL: That's what Patrick Fitzgerald says.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then I'll make it a prediction.

Bye-bye.

END.a fiction in some ways in terms of how extensive the coalition really was. It always was the U.S. and only a few European countries and Australia.

MS. CLIFT: The U.S. has 140,000 troops. Britain has 7,100 troops. And the other 15 or 16 countries only have a handful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That further makes it a fiction?

MS. CLIFT: It's a U.S. presence.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look --

MS. CLIFT: And it's a U.S. presence that the rest of the world really doesn't want to help us with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me push into a little bit more of Sir Richard. Sir Richard also says that the coalition in Iraq is, in fact, making matters worse.

GEN. SIR RICHARD DANNATT (British Army chief): (From videotape.) We're exacerbating it in the sense that because we are there, we provide a target and we are attacked. Ergo, if we were not there, we wouldn't be attacked and the situation would be calmer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: General Sir Richard Dannatt says not only does our presence in Iraq make terrorism worse there, but it makes terrorism worse worldwide. "I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing around the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them." Sir Richard adds that "The Iraqis don't want us anymore. The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in. Whatever consent we may have had in the first place has largely turned into intolerance."

Is Dannatt right? Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, a World War I general said that the British were an army of lions led by jackasses. I think that probably still has some validity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dannatt's a jackass? Is that what you're saying?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'm saying the fact that a general misreads history is nothing new for the British army, and other armies as well. But the fact is that politically this is very damaging to Bush and to the Americans. There's no doubt that the coalition has always been largely an American effort when you measure the amount of activity. But the British have contributed very substantially. And I would have wished that they had moved, as you suggested, their regiment up to the area where more fighting is needed.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me get into this, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know Dannatt?

MS. DANIEL: I don't know Dannatt, but I know that he comes in a tradition at the moment of -- I mean, it's unprecedented for a serving military officer of that status to come out so publicly in the way that he did last year.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he reflects the mass opinion --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me get into this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in Great Britain?

MS. DANIEL: Well, public opinion has always been consistently more against the war than for it in the UK. But I think it is -- that his criticism comes on the back of a lot of other British generals in the UK who have been publicly very critical of Tony Blair on this. Also what's behind this is real concern about the lack of funding for the troops. And that's become noisier and noisier, because they are stretched --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me get into this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, let me just say -- look, the general is exactly right in this sense. It is America's huge presence in the Middle East which is the primary cause of why people commit terrorism, to throw us out of the Middle East.

This really hurts badly. We have a coalition of the willing that is no longer willing. It's not only the Brits that are going. The Danes are going. The South Koreans are going. The Lithuanians are going. The Spanish have gone. The Italians have gone. This is about NATO pulling out of the region --

MS. CLIFT: It's also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait. I want to --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- and leaving this up to the Americans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the pullout of the Brits, is that increasing the hazard to American troops?

MS. CLIFT: No, I don't think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we have a supply line that goes from the south into the north. Do you think it's --

MR. BUCHANAN: They don't want to be there in case we go to war with Iran, because the Iranian Guard will come right through that region. They want out.

MS. CLIFT: It's not a war anymore. It's an occupation. And a western country occupying an oil-rich Muslim country is incendiary. And the president could find the same way out that Tony Blair just found. Prime Minister Maliki wanted to undertake the security of his country. Bush said no.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look --

MS. CLIFT: The Iraq Study Group gave him a road map. Bush said no. So I think the president is decider, and he's going to drag this out for two more years at great expense.

MR. BLANKLEY: We all know that Bush is not going to quit on this. To answer your question, there's still going to be 5,000 British troops in Basra. And if their training of the Iraqis down there is sufficient, it won't be a problem. But I agree with you. I agree with you that if things begin to go bad in the south of Iraq, that this will undermine America's war effort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Are Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney correct -- particularly Cheney this week where he pronounced this progress, the evacuation of the British troops -- in their view that Iraq is showing progress? Or are they living in a psychological fantasy world?

MR. BUCHANAN: How can Cheney make the statement that it's progress for the British to pull out when Pelosi's plan to pull out, he says, validates al Qaeda? That's a total contradiction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is he the king of spin?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I mean, they're spinning it. There's no doubt about it. It's not good news.

MS. CLIFT: Whatever stability there is in southern Iraq is due to the growing influence of Iran. NBC correspondent Richard Engel says if you want to make a hotel reservation in southern Iraq, you speak Farsi. That's the language of Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, I think there's a third choice between whether he's -- is he delusional and is he correct. I think he's incorrect, and he's putting the best light on something. But he's a very rational man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Caroline.

MS. DANIEL: Well, Dick Cheney has always been the optimist in chief for this administration, coming out saying, you know, "We're in the last throes of the insurgency" just when the insurgency was about to take off. This is another example of Dick Cheney being in the wrong place in terms of the political mainstream on this.

But the fact is, there is some progress in terms of -- it isn't Britain pulling out of the coalition entirely. They're moving some of these troops to Afghanistan to help in the war on terror there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Cheney has outlived his usefulness in the eyes of George Bush?

MS. DANIEL: Not in the eyes of George Bush, but in the eyes of many Republicans and certainly many Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe in the eyes of George Bush.

What's the answer to my question?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MS. CLIFT: Cheney's delusional.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to my question is they're in their own bubble.

Issue Three: All We Can Give Them.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) We owe them all we can give them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what President Bush promised wounded veterans returning from Iraq.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington is the nation's top treatment facility for soldiers wounded in combat. For inpatient care, the center is universally praised. For outpatient care, it's a different story, and a sad one.

Across the street from the Walter Reed Center, in Building 18, a so-called refurbished hotel, and home to 80 of the center's 700 outpatients, Washington Post investigative reporters found broken elevators, mold, rotting walls, falling ceilings, refuse, infestations of cockroaches and rodents.

These outpatient soldiers must deal with painful infirmities, missing limbs, facial disfigurements, brain damage, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other mental disorders. These wounded at Walter Reed endure neglect, stress and, quote-unquote, "bureaucratic indifference."

The Pentagon accepts culpability for the appalling conditions.

RICHARD CODY (Army vice chief of staff): (From videotape.) I'm the vice chief of staff of the Army. I'll take responsibility for this and I'll make sure that it's fixed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Likewise, the Walter Reed Center itself.

GEORGE WEIGHTMAN (Walter Reed Army Medical Center commander): (From videotape.) It's a leadership problem. But I would say it's my issue, as the commander of this organization, to take responsibility for that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House and the Congress are now investigating the center.

Question: Is the neglect of these disabled veterans tantamount to dereliction of duty? And should we be looking at court-martial proceedings against senior responsible officers, heads rolling, brass demoted, stripped of command, stripped of pensions, and drummed out? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: That is an outrageous statement, John. That building is rightly exposed as a bit of a mess, but Walter Reed is a magnificent place overall and we ought not to let Building 18 stand for Walter Reed.

MS. CLIFT: Walter Reed gives fine medical care. But the way that these troops have been forced to live for sometimes a year or two recovering is a disgrace. And the mice and the mold and the holes in the wall are a metaphor for how we support our troops and how we care for our wounded. And the hypocrisy in sending these young men and women over there with Humvees that still are not properly armored is a crime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, this is a legitimate scandal and some heads should roll. But as we wrote in The Washington Times last summer in a series of editorials, it's in this post-operative stage that there are real shortfalls in the quality of service, particularly for brain-injured soldiers coming back. It's a systemic problem that's going to take years to fully address.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Caroline.

MS. DANIEL: I think this is actually an overdone story. I mean, it's been a helpful story. They're addressing it very quickly. I think more of the concerns were about how long it takes them to move out of the outpatient care and back home. And so there's bureaucratic issues which more of the soldiers have problems with.

But I think if you want to talk about heads rolling, you haven't seen heads roll in Guantanamo Bay. You haven't seen heads roll in the military for things which were happening in Iraq. So for something like this, I think that's an excessive reaction.

MS. CLIFT: That doesn't mean you shouldn't be seeing some heads roll.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the larger issue is the Pentagon tends to hide the human cost of the war. They won't let any journalists go out to where the cadavers come back from our deceased in Iraq. They will take other measures too to conceal the human damage that's inflicted by war.

Issue Four: Bronze Will Do.

Margaret Thatcher made a rare public appearance this week at the unveiling of her statue in London's House of Commons. The 7'4" bronze statue weighs half a ton. The baroness is the first living ex-prime minister so honored. Now 81 years old, Lady Thatcher has kept a low profile since she suffered a minor stroke five years ago.

MARGARET THATCHER (former British prime minister): (From videotape.) The House has done me a great honor by commissioning this fine and imposing statue. I might have preferred iron, but bronze will do. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What is Thatcher's political legacy that earned her the sobriquet "Iron Lady"? Caroline Daniel.

MS. DANIEL: Well, I just want to say, first of all, that she's obviously hoping that -- she's glad it's not made out of marble, because in 2002 someone with a cricket bat decapitated a sculpture of Margaret Thatcher when it was at a museum. So she's obviously slightly more pleased this one is made out of bronze.

She was famous for standing up to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Falklands?

MS. DANIEL: -- the Cold War, the Falklands, the unions. She destroyed the unions in the UK.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And she helped liberate the Eastern bloc.

MS. DANIEL: Well, she helped.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what else, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: She ended socialism. And she's one of the three great figures who won the Cold War, Reagan and the pope being the other one. She's one of the three great prime ministers of the 20th century.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, she had to clean up the debris left by the liberals over there?

MR. BUCHANAN: She did socialists.

MR. BLANKLEY: At a personal level, she was very tough. I saw her at the cathedral at Reagan's funeral. She had been very ill, and she still made the point of coming.

MS. CLIFT: She's a great role model for women, even though she didn't do anything for traditional women's issues. She's no bleeding heart and she didn't put women in positions of power. But if anybody questions whether a woman can be tough enough to lead a country, you just say Margaret Thatcher.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she one of Britain's great prime ministers --

MR. BUCHANAN: One of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that she deserves a statue next to Disraeli and Churchill?

MR. BUCHANAN: She's right up there with Lloyd George.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lloyd George?

MR. BLANKLEY: Pitt II, Pitt the Younger. You've got to include him in there.

MS. DANIEL: She was also the longest-serving British prime minister --

MR. BUCHANAN: Pitt the Elder.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MS. DANIEL: She was the longest-serving British prime minister in the last 150 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat; five seconds.

MR. BUCHANAN: Al Gore wins two Academy Awards and is pushed into the race.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Jeb Bush will gain currency as a likely vice presidential candidate for the Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Hillary will raise more money than Obama in her current trip to Hollywood.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Caroline.

MS. DANIEL: There will be a wave of Republican retirements in the House and Senate this year, giving at least another dozen seats to Democrats in 2008.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to predict anything about Libby? Not himself, but will it spread?

MS. DANIEL: It's going to be very embarrassing for the vice president, who said, "This is one of the most moral men I know." And if he's indicted on perjury, that will make a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's your piece here in the Financial Times on Thursday: "Trial casts cloud over Cheney's reputation." Are you sticking by that?

MS. DANIEL: That's what Patrick Fitzgerald says.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then I'll make it a prediction.

Bye-bye.

END.