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Federal News Service

March 26, 2007 Monday

THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC;
TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2007;
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 24-25, 2007

SECTION: PRESS CONFERENCE OR SPEECH

LENGTH: 4999 words


THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 24-25, 2007

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Collision Course.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): (From videotape.) We have high- ranking Bush administration officials who have misled Congress and the American people about the details and the design of a secret plan to fire these prosecutors.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) There is no indication that anybody did anything improper.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House and the Democrats dug in their heels this week in the battle over the congressional investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys late last year.

The president says this action was totally proper.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I have broad discretion to replace political appointees throughout the government, including U.S. attorneys. And in this case, I appointed these U.S. attorneys and they served four-year terms.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The attorneys were fired by President Bush's Justice Department, headed by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a loyal Republican who served as the president's counsel when he was governor of Texas.

Democrats say the federal prosecutors were ousted for being too tough on Republicans and too soft on Democrats.

SEN. LEAHY: (From videotape.) It was an abuse of power committed in secret to steer certain outcomes in our justice system and then to try to cover up the tracks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Should the Senate Judiciary Committee have taken up President Bush on his compromise offer, namely, to make Karl Rove and Harriet Miers available but not under oath and no transcript? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's not what this is all about. Fielding for the White House should not have made that offer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fred Fielding.

MR. BUCHANAN: Fred Fielding, our old colleague, should not have made that offer. This is totally political now. There is no evidence of what Leahy charged that they interfered specifically to abort an investigation, which would be a crime.

The president of the United States and the White House have got to just start defending their prerogatives, which is the right of the president to have his counselors give him private counsel and not to have them hauled up before members of Congress on fishing expeditions, which is exactly what this has become.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that the offer actually undermined executive privilege, Pat, the offer itself as Fielding made it?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Fred Fielding, who's a good man, made a mistake. He gave up the principle and offered them something, and now they're batting it aside, saying the transcripts aren't worth it. They got a point in public affairs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, did it, in fact, undermine the executive privilege claim?

MR. BUCHANAN: I believe he -- yes, I do believe he undermined the executive privilege of the president of the United States in this case when they should have given nothing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the principle of executive privilege is generally reserved for matters of national security, not to protect a White House from political embarrassment. Fielding is an experienced lawyer on these matters, having done his time in the Nixon White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Careful.

MS. CLIFT: So I think he's -- (laughter) -- well, I think he still may negotiate a way out of a confrontation here. But to offer them up for an interview is what they call it, without any transcript and with no ability for the members of Congress to call them back and requestion them, is like spitting in the ocean. There's no accountability. And this White House, with its record of lying, cannot be trusted.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get this in: Okay, evidence tainted?

Early in the week, the president provided documents to bolster his case.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) The Justice Department has provided the Congress more than 3,000 pages of internal Justice Department documents.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suspicious Democrats were not assuaged.

SEN. LEAHY: (From videotape.) This is one of the documents. You may notice a lot of white space in here. One of the things I want to look at in appropriations is how much money they're spending on Wite-Out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Are the Democrats determined to stage a public political showdown, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I don't know they're determined to do a showdown, but they want to have something. But let me go back to executive privilege, because it's important. Eleanor's wrong. It's not just to defend national security. Executive privilege is not an absolute privilege. It's a sliding calculation. And there's an interest in executive privilege even for mere confidentiality on domestic and non-national security. It is at its strongest -- it is made at its strongest case on national security. So this is not its strongest case, but it's still a valid one.

I disagree, though, with Pat. I agree with him tactically. I don't think they should have given anything. Having given anything, I don't think they're compromising the principle of executive privilege.

At this point, what the two sides need to do is reach an agreement short of going to the Supreme Court. This doesn't rise to that occasion.

There's no underlying event that requires it. And the obvious, to me, compromise position is they agree to give his testimony and Harriet Miers' testimony on oath and with a transcript, but in private, which will leak anyway, so the Democrats will get most of what they want, but not to formally demand the executive privilege denial.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dr. Blankley, give me a quick answer to this. Is it the level of the employee, the staff member, as opposed to this being a Cabinet officer, does that figure at all in the reach of executive privilege?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, executive --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For example, Karl Rove is an adviser to the president. He's in the White House. Should executive privilege reach to him when he's at a lower level, at least as far as basic hierarchy is concerned, than a Cabinet member?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. Executive privilege relates to White House staff giving the president confidential advice. Cabinet members routinely, of course, are called up to testify, and they have to testify. But White House staff -- and Eisenhower was the one who most clearly made the case in the 1950s -- the president has a right to get confidential advice from his staff, confident that they won't later share anything that was said between the two of them. So it's the president receiving the advice from White House staff that is the essence of the privilege.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's kind of laughable that they put those conditions on, and that it's almost an embarrassment? It's almost like a joke, namely that, "Yes, you can come in and have a conversation." As Leahy said, "We could have a conversation in a bar; we don't have to do that under any aroma of executive privilege."

And secondly, the other condition also was no transcript. How are you going to be able to work with this?

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, I think the conditions don't make sense, and they do undermine the argument that the White House is trying to make on executive privilege here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they're burlesking it almost.

MR. O'DONNELL: But, I mean, imagine that you're the Democrats in the Senate and the offer is made to you that Karl Rove will testify to you, but he can't testify under oath. I wonder why? This is someone who struggled mightily with the truth for years in talking to the FBI. He didn't tell them the truth about the Valerie Plame leak.

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait. He was never charged with perjury. That's not fair.

MR. O'DONNELL: He did not -- we know he didn't tell the truth.

MR. BLANKLEY: I know you predicted he would --

MR. O'DONNELL: I never predicted that he would be charged with perjury. Let's get it straight. I never predicted he would be charged with perjury and I never predicted he would be indicted. I know a lot of people think that I did.

But Karl Rove did not get indicted because Patrick Fitzgerald allowed him to come to the grand jury and change his testimony after five other ventures --

MR. BLANKLEY: He said he --

MR. O'DONNELL: -- where he got it wrong.

MR. BLANKLEY: Karl said he found an e-mail and he reported it to them when he got it. To accuse him of perjury or lying is unsupported by the evidence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Rove cut a deal with --

MR. O'DONNELL: Why don't you ever interview Rove and not put him on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Rove cut a deal with Fitzgerald?

MR. O'DONNELL: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he give him something for the ability to come back in?

MR. O'DONNELL: Fitzgerald gave Libby the chance to change his testimony, and he wouldn't do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Bush gives no ground.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials. The president relies upon his staff to provide him candid advice. The framers of the Constitution understood this vital role when developing the separate branches of government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Are members of the president's staff protected by executive privilege from making public the content of their conversations with the president? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they certainly are, John. And the problem here is not whether Karl Rove goes on the McLaughlin Group or some show. It is the other branch of government, the Congress of the United States, is invading the second branch of government, the White House, and demanding confidential assistance; tell them what they may have told the president of the United States.

And journalists are just hypocrites in this, because you know what journalists say? "If I have a conversation with Karl Rove, even if a crime has been committed, I don't have to testify openly, but he's got to tell what he told the president to Congress." That is as hypocritical as it can be.

MS. CLIFT: Cloaking all this in the constitutional arguments -- let's get down to what this is about. This is --

MR. BLANKLEY: This is about nothing but straight politics, yeah.

MS. CLIFT: This is about plenty. It's about the executive branch that fired eight attorneys, three of them --

MR. BLANKLEY: Per their -- (inaudible) -- to do so.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me -- allegedly for poor performance when three of them were rated high performance. They gave a high recommendation to one of the fired. So clearly they fired them for --

MR. BUCHANAN: So what?

MS. CLIFT: Then they lied --

MR. BLANKLEY: They can fire them for any reason or no reason.

MS. CLIFT: Then they lied about it on Capitol Hill to members of Congress, blamed it on Harriet Miers --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Eleanor, call them up and appoint a special prosecutor for lying.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Then they said the president was not in the loop on this; he didn't even know about it. So what are we protecting?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is the --

MS. CLIFT: What are the conversations we're protecting?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm sorry. Why is the White House so sensitive about letting Rove and Miers appear?

MR. BUCHANAN: There is -- first of all, there's a matter of principle; secondly, because this is a show trial. They want to get them up there. You get Schumer and Leahy, the same guys that made Mrs. Alito break down in tears, calling the judge a bigot. This is all this is about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's any Libby precedent in assisting the White House to reach that judgment with regard to how to handle this?

MR. O'DONNELL: They know Rove's likelihood of telling the truth if you put him under oath. It's a very risky game.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is so unfair for you to keep making these assertions that you can't support. There's no evidence Rove has ever --

MR. O'DONNELL: He changed his story under oath, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- intentionally misstated a fact under oath.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: White House versus Congress --

MR. O'DONNELL: He did. He said under oath that he did not talk to --

MR. BLANKLEY: He was mistaken, as all of us can be.

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh --

MR. BLANKLEY: He's never been charged with perjury. He's never been --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is getting to be mob rule --

MS. CLIFT: Rove is the political face of a White House that has misled us into war and has lied about a number of things.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. White House versus Congress, match two: Iraq. The spending bill passed by the House on Friday requires that troops be withdrawn in 2008. Besides President Bush's executive privilege powers, are Democrats determined to trim his war powers?

Here's the Constitution on the White House's war powers. Quote: "The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States," unquote. That's it. And here's the Constitution on Congress's war powers -- the Congress's war powers. Quote: "To declare war, grant letters of market reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy, to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces," unquote.

Question: Is it clear that the framers of the Constitution intended to divide war power between the executive and the legislative branches? Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, John, it's quite clear. The framers knew what had happened in Europe with kings who decided they wanted to go to war and then went to war, so they divided the powers dramatically. Congress was given the absolute power to take us to war, but once we went to war, the president of the United States fought the war and led the armed forces because, as Tony said earlier today, our first president and commander in chief commanded --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear the Constitution? The Constitution, as I see it, can determine whether or not these forces can go here or there.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. What they can say is they can defund the war. But look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, there's more than that there.

MR. BUCHANAN: General Washington did not ask permission to go to Yorktown from New England.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not true.

MS. CLIFT: The provision alone that says to raise and support armies, I think, gives the Congress the right to say you cannot --

MR. BUCHANAN: Defund them.

MS. CLIFT: -- send men and women into war without proper body armor. You cannot extend --

MR. BLANKLEY: This is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: You can extend tours beyond where it is humanly possible to conduct war.

MR. BLANKLEY: You're making this stuff up.

MS. CLIFT: I'm not making it up. The Constitution is an elastic document.

MR. BLANKLEY: Elastic? You just stretched it around --

MS. CLIFT: Yes. It's an elastic document.

MR. BLANKLEY: There is no good legal argument for the proposition that the Congress can micromanage the war. There's plenty of court cases saying they can. Moreover, as Pat was trying to say, the Constitution, when they created commander in chief, had in mind George Washington, who had, in fact, led troops in battle. They fully intended any understanding of the original intent -- they fully intended the president to be able to make all of the field decisions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, take this question.

MR. BLANKLEY: All Congress can do is cut off the money.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is a plan to prohibit the president from entering Iran militarily. Is that okay? Does Congress have that power?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, they can't withdraw the authority once they've granted it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me disagree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget that. I want to know whether, under the split of the war powers between the Congress and the White House, the Congress will say, "No, you may not militarily enter" --

MR. BLANKLEY: As a matter of fact, the power to declare war is not an exclusive power, as every president from Jefferson onward have asserted --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's the answer to my question?

MR. BLANKLEY: -- an independent -- have an independent executive authority to use military force when they need to.

MS. CLIFT: I just want to say, "micromanage" and "fishing expedition" are Republican buzz words.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: And the fact of an administration looking like they might be trying to provoke an incident with Iran and to go into military action with Iran, you do have -- Senator Webb has a bill that would require going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do you come down on this --

MS. CLIFT: It is not part of the current bill that just passed Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Congress okay in prohibiting the president from entering Iran militarily?

MR. O'DONNELL: Look, it's an academic discussion. We're not going to do anything with Iran militarily.

We don't have a military that's capable of doing it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come.

MR. O'DONNELL: The military is bogged down in Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me tell you --

MR. O'DONNELL: They don't have the power to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's nevertheless very important. How far is the split of the war powers?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what happened, John. Look, let me say this. Look, we did have the Webb proposal. It was on the House bill, the $100 billion bill. It said the president of the United States has no authority to take American forces into Iran unless we are attacked or in hot pursuit. Nancy Pelosi went to the AIPAC meeting, went up to Capitol Hill and pulled it off, leaving the president with authority to attack Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, but for a different reason, because the Democrats have mistakenly taken the view that they don't want their fingerprints on any mistake that the president's making, including Iraq. So they haven't really advanced decent proposals to extract ourselves from Iraq for purely political reasons, and the same holds true with Iran.

Issue Two: Gore's Global Warning.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) Twenty of the 21 hottest years ever measured in the human record have been in the last 25 years. If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame-retardant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Al Gore is not new to climate change. Some 30 years ago, Democratic Representative Gore from Tennessee organized the first House hearings on global warming. On Wednesday, Gore returned to the Hill, taking his message to both the Senate and the House on the same day. Gore urged his former colleagues to rise above their Democratic and Republican differences and to confront what he calls --

MR. GORE: (From videotape.) The most dangerous crisis we've ever faced.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Gore stressed that the U.S. is far behind other democracies in the debate on global warming. Gore pointed to the U.K. and how the Conservative and Labour Parties are revising their public policy on climate change.

MR. GORE: (From videotape.) Both of their major parties are unified in their determination to solve this climate crisis. They're competing vigorously with one another, but they're competing on the basis of which party can offer the most creative and meaningful solutions to this crisis. They're not arguing about the science.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Gore right? Is there a scientific consensus and that the only people, like Buchanan, who can question it are the same people who think evolution is only a theory? I ask you.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, that's so tempting. There's certainly a majority view in the publicly advanced scientific notions about this. But there was a great moment in the Environment Committee hearing, Senate hearing, that was missed by the press, which was Senator Clinton is a member of the Environment Committee, and she really had just one question, which she just wanted to clarify exactly what the former vice president's position is on the carbon tax, which he then had to say he's very much in favor of. So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, he's favoring taxes.

MR. O'DONNELL: So if that was a moment in the Clinton-versus- Gore presidential campaign, you just saw that she pushed him into the corner of being in favor of a tax.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he had to admit it.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is hyperbole. Look, the greatest crisis we've ever faced? We're spending $500 billion on the military. Anybody here think we ought to take the $500 billion for the military and put it on the greatest crisis?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: This is hype.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MS. CLIFT: It's not hype. There's real scientific concern about when we reach the tipping point beyond which you --

MR. BLANKLEY: Gibberish.

MS. CLIFT: Gore deserves enormous credit, whether he runs for president or not, for making this an urgent issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Concert master.

Al Gore occupations: House of Representatives, member; U.S. Senate, member; vice president, eight years; presidential election 2000 winner of more popular votes than George Bush; Oscar winner; Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

And there's more: Concert master organizing a 24-hour worldwide concert to take place this summer to raise awareness and money for global warming, featuring Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, the Police, Genesis, Bon Jovi and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, expected to reach a global audience of -- get this -- 2 billion people via radio, TV and the Net.

Question: Will Gore be positioned for launching in '08 by reason of this and his career?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, yes. First of all, concert master is the first violinist in a symphony. What you're describing is an impresario or a producer, a sleazier person than a fine artist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: But look -- yeah, of course, I think he's in an excellent position to launch a campaign. To go very quickly back to your first question, there is genuine dispute among scientists. And even one of Gore's top scientific advisers from a few years ago has now withdrawn and believes -- (inaudible). And BBC -- he talked about Britain. The BBC is running a program filled with scientists who are dissenting from the current consensus.

MS. CLIFT: Only on this set are people going to still argue about the science. You've got John McCain --

MR. BLANKLEY: No. All over the world people are doing that.

MS. CLIFT: No. Europe and the other countries of the world are way ahead of us on this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will his documentary, called "Inconvenient Truth," be the best of all time? The most impactful? The most impactful.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm afraid -- I regret to say Lenny Riefenstahl's documentaries, "The Triumph of the Will" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's come and gone. Global warming lives on.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Which I'm sure Pat has seen, but has not seen "An Inconvenient Truth." Am I right about that?

MR. BUCHANAN: You may be correct. (Laughs.

)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: YouTubing Hillary.

The sardonic Web portrait of Hillary Clinton has already been seen by 7 million Internet viewers on the YouTube Web site. That Web site boasts 20 million viewers a month. We just went through a round of tightening of federal election laws. The reforms affected campaign finance and advertising. The purpose was to promote transparency in election campaigns. As a result of the new laws, candidates now must disclose their authorship of political ads. A typical TV ad now ends, quote, "I am candidate John Doe and I approve of this ad," unquote.

But the same rules don't apply to the Internet, even though YouTube uses snippets of TV content, and a clever post can garner millions of viewers. The result: There is no check on whether expressions of opinion are posted by campaign insiders operating at the behest of candidates; another YouTube loophole -- virtual anonymity. Negative attacks can be launched against opponents, and they are unattributed.

Exit question: Given the powerful reach of the Internet, should political campaigns be required to disclose all of their advertising on the Internet? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they've got to -- the campaign's got to disclose it if they were principally behind it. But some of these freelancers -- this goes out -- this is a wonderful, clever, clever ad about "1984." But it's picked up by my network, MSNBC. We've run it 100 times. Eleanor and I just saw Wolf Blitzer talking about it. It's all over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want federal regulation in here?

MS. CLIFT: No, this is part of the new Internet world. Let it rip. And I think Hillary reacted with charm and grace and she said at least now people aren't watching her sing the Star-Spangled Banner off-key.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Internet is being transformed into a toilet. You know that.

MS. CLIFT: Well -- (laughs) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is. It is.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's sleazy stuff on there. There's snake- oil stuff on there.

MS. CLIFT: You don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's total anonymity.

MS. CLIFT: But I'm not for censorship.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm completely against regulation and censorship, but it's certainly true that the Internet has made this the golden age for political press offense rather than defense. I'm sure the campaigns have rogue people working the Internet, and you can put out anything you want and you can't defend against it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think -- any government regulation?

MR. O'DONNELL: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In this area, advertising?

MR. O'DONNELL: No. And we'll see a lot more freelancing like this. And the key is, how do you respond to it? And Hillary responded very smartly by basically just throwing the thing away, not overreacting.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The day will come in the early term when the government will get in this act with a full endorsement of the American people.

Issue Four: Universal Health Care.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) I want to have universal health care coverage by the end of my second term.

FORMER SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I don't want to wait six or eight years to have universal health care. I want to start putting universal health care in place as soon as I am sworn into office in January of 2009.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Universal health care -- a catch phrase in politics since Hillary Care '93. That's the number one domestic issue as Americans head into presidential primaries and caucuses 10 short months from now.

How do the Democratic and Republican candidates show on this vital but thorny issue? So thorny, in fact, that even Republican presidential wannabe Mitt Romney no longer associates himself with his own mandatory and universal health care policy that he introduced when governor of Massachusetts.

But it is the Democratic majorities who stand to lose most if they sideline their Democratic mainstay issue, health care, which is now eclipsed by the Iraq war debacle.

The public is loud and clear on the issue. Seventy-one percent say health care in America is either in a state of crisis or has major problems. Only 28 percent say minor problems or no problems.

State governors know how sensitive this issue is. Massachusetts leads the pack of 26 state plans, with health care and prescription drug coverage provisions. And Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed a bold plan to cover California's 6.5 million currently uninsured residents.

Question: Will health care be the most important issue in the 2008 election? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not going to be the most important issue. Iraq is going to be the most --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a pocketbook issue.

MR. BUCHANAN: Iraq is going to be the most important issue in 2008, and foreign policy is going to be an issue. John, you know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you don't see any withdrawal from Iraq defusing the issue of Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think if the president is withdrawing troops, the Republicans have a chance to win. But that is not going to defuse this issue. The war in Afghanistan is going to be big. The reason we've got a real universal health problem, John, is you know a million and a half illegal and legal immigrants come in every year.

MR. O'DONNELL: No one cares about it more than Hillary Clinton, and she's saying she's not going to do it until her second term. So how important does that sound for this election? It's not important.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's an excellent point. What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I mean, the reality is that 10 million of them are illegal. Then you've got near-poor and children.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor --

MR. BLANKLEY: This is not going to get fixed any time soon.

MS. CLIFT: The growing distance between the rich and everybody else, and the economic insecurity with health care anxiety at the top of the list, is going to be a huge issue in '08.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Group joins me in hope and prayer that Elizabeth Edwards will recover speedily and fully.

Predictions, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: We've talked about Segolene and Sarkozy in France as the two finalists. A third fellow is moving up and may be in the finals and may be the next president of France.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this a prediction or not?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is. His first name is Francois.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Francois. Okay, we'll keep our eye on him.

MS. CLIFT: The little confrontation between the Iranians and the British navy are a harbinger of a worrisome signal of what's to come in the Gulf.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: President Musharraf of Pakistan's firing of the chief justice of the supreme court has created unrest and risks, to some extent, the stability of the Paki government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. It's a wicked story.

Go ahead.

MR. O'DONNELL: You heard it here first: Al Franken will be the next senator from Minnesota.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The next man or woman to walk on the moon will be Chinese.

Bye-bye.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. It's an elastic document.

MR. BLANKLEY: There is no good legal argument for the proposition that the Congress can micromanage the war. There's plenty of court cases saying they can. Moreover, as Pat was trying to say, the Constitution, when they created commander in chief, had in mind George Washington, who had, in fact, led troops in battle. They fully intended any understanding of the original intent -- they fully intended the president to be able to make all of the field decisions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, take this question.

MR. BLANKLEY: All Congress can do is cut off the money.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is a plan to prohibit the president from entering Iran militarily. Is that okay? Does Congress have that power?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, they can't withdraw the authority once they've granted it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me disagree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget that. I want to know whether, under the split of the war powers between the Congress and the White House, the Congress will say, "No, you may not militarily enter" --

MR. BLANKLEY: As a matter of fact, the power to declare war is not an exclusive power, as every president from Jefferson onward have asserted --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's the answer to my question?

MR. BLANKLEY: -- an independent -- have an independent executive authority to use military force when they need to.

MS. CLIFT: I just want to say, "micromanage" and "fishing expedition" are Republican buzz words.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: And the fact of an administration looking like they might be trying to provoke an incident with Iran and to go into military action with Iran, you do have -- Senator Webb has a bill that would require going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do you come down on this --

MS. CLIFT: It is not part of the current bill that just passed Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Congress okay in prohibiting the president from entering Iran militarily?

MR. O'DONNELL: Look, it's an academic discussion. We're not going to do anything with Iran militarily.

We don't have a military that's capable of doing it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come.

MR. O'DONNELL: The military is bogged down in Iraq.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me tell you --

MR. O'DONNELL: They don't have the power to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's nevertheless very important. How far is the split of the war powers?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what happened, John. Look, let me say this. Look, we did have the Webb proposal. It was on the House bill, the $100 billion bill. It said the president of the United States has no authority to take American forces into Iran unless we are attacked or in hot pursuit. Nancy Pelosi went to the AIPAC meeting, went up to Capitol Hill and pulled it off, leaving the president with authority to attack Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, but for a different reason, because the Democrats have mistakenly taken the view that they don't want their fingerprints on any mistake that the president's making, including Iraq. So they haven't really advanced decent proposals to extract ourselves from Iraq for purely political reasons, and the same holds true with Iran.

Issue Two: Gore's Global Warning.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) Twenty of the 21 hottest years ever measured in the human record have been in the last 25 years. If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame-retardant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Al Gore is not new to climate change. Some 30 years ago, Democratic Representative Gore from Tennessee organized the first House hearings on global warming. On Wednesday, Gore returned to the Hill, taking his message to both the Senate and the House on the same day. Gore urged his former colleagues to rise above their Democratic and Republican differences and to confront what he calls --

MR. GORE: (From videotape.) The most dangerous crisis we've ever faced.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Gore stressed that the U.S. is far behind other democracies in the debate on global warming. Gore pointed to the U.K. and how the Conservative and Labour Parties are revising their public policy on climate change.

MR. GORE: (From videotape.) Both of their major parties are unified in their determination to solve this climate crisis. They're competing vigorously with one another, but they're competing on the basis of which party can offer the most creative and meaningful solutions to this crisis. They're not arguing about the science.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Gore right? Is there a scientific consensus and that the only people, like Buchanan, who can question it are the same people who think evolution is only a theory? I ask you.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, that's so tempting. There's certainly a majority view in the publicly advanced scientific notions about this. But there was a great moment in the Environment Committee hearing, Senate hearing, that was missed by the press, which was Senator Clinton is a member of the Environment Committee, and she really had just one question, which she just wanted to clarify exactly what the former vice president's position is on the carbon tax, which he then had to say he's very much in favor of. So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, he's favoring taxes.

MR. O'DONNELL: So if that was a moment in the Clinton-versus- Gore presidential campaign, you just saw that she pushed him into the corner of being in favor of a tax.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he had to admit it.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is hyperbole. Look, the greatest crisis we've ever faced? We're spending $500 billion on the military. Anybody here think we ought to take the $500 billion for the military and put it on the greatest crisis?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: This is hype.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MS. CLIFT: It's not hype. There's real scientific concern about when we reach the tipping point beyond which you --

MR. BLANKLEY: Gibberish.

MS. CLIFT: Gore deserves enormous credit, whether he runs for president or not, for making this an urgent issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Concert master.

Al Gore occupations: House of Representatives, member; U.S. Senate, member; vice president, eight years; presidential election 2000 winner of more popular votes than George Bush; Oscar winner; Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

And there's more: Concert master organizing a 24-hour worldwide concert to take place this summer to raise awareness and money for global warming, featuring Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, the Police, Genesis, Bon Jovi and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, expected to reach a global audience of -- get this -- 2 billion people via radio, TV and the Net.

Question: Will Gore be positioned for launching in '08 by reason of this and his career?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, yes. First of all, concert master is the first violinist in a symphony. What you're describing is an impresario or a producer, a sleazier person than a fine artist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: But look -- yeah, of course, I think he's in an excellent position to launch a campaign. To go very quickly back to your first question, there is genuine dispute among scientists. And even one of Gore's top scientific advisers from a few years ago has now withdrawn and believes -- (inaudible). And BBC -- he talked about Britain. The BBC is running a program filled with scientists who are dissenting from the current consensus.

MS. CLIFT: Only on this set are people going to still argue about the science. You've got John McCain --

MR. BLANKLEY: No. All over the world people are doing that.

MS. CLIFT: No. Europe and the other countries of the world are way ahead of us on this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will his documentary, called "Inconvenient Truth," be the best of all time? The most impactful? The most impactful.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm afraid -- I regret to say Lenny Riefenstahl's documentaries, "The Triumph of the Will" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's come and gone. Global warming lives on.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Which I'm sure Pat has seen, but has not seen "An Inconvenient Truth." Am I right about that?

MR. BUCHANAN: You may be correct. (Laughs.

)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: YouTubing Hillary.

The sardonic Web portrait of Hillary Clinton has already been seen by 7 million Internet viewers on the YouTube Web site. That Web site boasts 20 million viewers a month. We just went through a round of tightening of federal election laws. The reforms affected campaign finance and advertising. The purpose was to promote transparency in election campaigns. As a result of the new laws, candidates now must disclose their authorship of political ads. A typical TV ad now ends, quote, "I am candidate John Doe and I approve of this ad," unquote.

But the same rules don't apply to the Internet, even though YouTube uses snippets of TV content, and a clever post can garner millions of viewers. The result: There is no check on whether expressions of opinion are posted by campaign insiders operating at the behest of candidates; another YouTube loophole -- virtual anonymity. Negative attacks can be launched against opponents, and they are unattributed.

Exit question: Given the powerful reach of the Internet, should political campaigns be required to disclose all of their advertising on the Internet? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they've got to -- the campaign's got to disclose it if they were principally behind it. But some of these freelancers -- this goes out -- this is a wonderful, clever, clever ad about "1984." But it's picked up by my network, MSNBC. We've run it 100 times. Eleanor and I just saw Wolf Blitzer talking about it. It's all over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want federal regulation in here?

MS. CLIFT: No, this is part of the new Internet world. Let it rip. And I think Hillary reacted with charm and grace and she said at least now people aren't watching her sing the Star-Spangled Banner off-key.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Internet is being transformed into a toilet. You know that.

MS. CLIFT: Well -- (laughs) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is. It is.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's sleazy stuff on there. There's snake- oil stuff on there.

MS. CLIFT: You don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's total anonymity.

MS. CLIFT: But I'm not for censorship.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm completely against regulation and censorship, but it's certainly true that the Internet has made this the golden age for political press offense rather than defense. I'm sure the campaigns have rogue people working the Internet, and you can put out anything you want and you can't defend against it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think -- any government regulation?

MR. O'DONNELL: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In this area, advertising?

MR. O'DONNELL: No. And we'll see a lot more freelancing like this. And the key is, how do you respond to it? And Hillary responded very smartly by basically just throwing the thing away, not overreacting.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The day will come in the early term when the government will get in this act with a full endorsement of the American people.

Issue Four: Universal Health Care.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) I want to have universal health care coverage by the end of my second term.

FORMER SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I don't want to wait six or eight years to have universal health care. I want to start putting universal health care in place as soon as I am sworn into office in January of 2009.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Universal health care -- a catch phrase in politics since Hillary Care '93. That's the number one domestic issue as Americans head into presidential primaries and caucuses 10 short months from now.

How do the Democratic and Republican candidates show on this vital but thorny issue? So thorny, in fact, that even Republican presidential wannabe Mitt Romney no longer associates himself with his own mandatory and universal health care policy that he introduced when governor of Massachusetts.

But it is the Democratic majorities who stand to lose most if they sideline their Democratic mainstay issue, health care, which is now eclipsed by the Iraq war debacle.

The public is loud and clear on the issue. Seventy-one percent say health care in America is either in a state of crisis or has major problems. Only 28 percent say minor problems or no problems.

State governors know how sensitive this issue is. Massachusetts leads the pack of 26 state plans, with health care and prescription drug coverage provisions. And Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed a bold plan to cover California's 6.5 million currently uninsured residents.

Question: Will health care be the most important issue in the 2008 election? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not going to be the most important issue. Iraq is going to be the most --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a pocketbook issue.

MR. BUCHANAN: Iraq is going to be the most important issue in 2008, and foreign policy is going to be an issue. John, you know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you don't see any withdrawal from Iraq defusing the issue of Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think if the president is withdrawing troops, the Republicans have a chance to win. But that is not going to defuse this issue. The war in Afghanistan is going to be big. The reason we've got a real universal health problem, John, is you know a million and a half illegal and legal immigrants come in every year.

MR. O'DONNELL: No one cares about it more than Hillary Clinton, and she's saying she's not going to do it until her second term. So how important does that sound for this election? It's not important.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's an excellent point. What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I mean, the reality is that 10 million of them are illegal. Then you've got near-poor and children.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor --

MR. BLANKLEY: This is not going to get fixed any time soon.

MS. CLIFT: The growing distance between the rich and everybody else, and the economic insecurity with health care anxiety at the top of the list, is going to be a huge issue in '08.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Group joins me in hope and prayer that Elizabeth Edwards will recover speedily and fully.

Predictions, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: We've talked about Segolene and Sarkozy in France as the two finalists. A third fellow is moving up and may be in the finals and may be the next president of France.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this a prediction or not?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is. His first name is Francois.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Francois. Okay, we'll keep our eye on him.

MS. CLIFT: The little confrontation between the Iranians and the British navy are a harbinger of a worrisome signal of what's to come in the Gulf.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: President Musharraf of Pakistan's firing of the chief justice of the supreme court has created unrest and risks, to some extent, the stability of the Paki government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. It's a wicked story.

Go ahead.

MR. O'DONNELL: You heard it here first: Al Franken will be the next senator from Minnesota.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The next man or woman to walk on the moon will be Chinese.

Bye-bye.