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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; JAMES WARREN, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 31-APRIL 1, 2007

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: White House Versus Hill.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) I have made it clear for weeks, if either version comes to my desk, I'm going to veto it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Commander-in-Chief Bush feels strongly about getting funding for the Iraq war, even if he has to use his veto pen to protect it.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Here's the bottom line. The House and Senate bills have too much pork, too many conditions on our commanders and an artificial timetable for withdrawal. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The speaker of the House of Representatives also has strong feelings on the subject.

HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): (From videotape.) Calm down with the threats. There's a new Congress in town. We respect your constitutional role. We want you to respect ours. This war must end. The American people have lost faith in the president's conduct of the war. Let's see how we can work together.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the House and the Senate are certainly working together. Now both chambers are firmly on record in support of a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. The Senate passed its war funding bill this week. It specifies the complete evacuation of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by end of March 2008, one year from now, a nonbinding timetable.

The House of Representatives passed its own bill a week ago. That bill sets a deadline for combat troop evacuation five months after the Senate deadline -- August 31, 2008 -- a mandatory timetable. Congress will now reconcile the bills in conference.

Question: Is the passage of this legislation a watershed in the Iraq war? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it is historic, John, when the Congress of the United States, both houses, say, "We want the troops out of Iraq; we want them coming home by a deadline."

At the same time, the Congress has had its day. The Congress is going to be defeated on this very, very badly. Whatever comes out of both houses is going to be vetoed by the president of the United States hard. He's going to mention all the pork in there, the spinach subsidies and all the rest.

It's going to go back up to the Hill and he's going to demand and he will get from both houses of Congress a clean bill for $100 million for the troops in Iraq with no deadline. He is going to win this battle because Congress has no other place to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe that, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: And then he will own the war even more than he does now. I think this is an important moment. And the fact that the House and the Senate agree on a deadline -- militarily it doesn't make sense; you want to keep the enemy off-balance. But the problem in Iraq is not military. It's political. And it's an important piece of leverage to be used. And so I think this confrontation sets up the possibility of the president actually being forced into a compromise. And I don't see how the White House wins in this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You agree, Tony, that this is reverberating throughout Washington, particularly the Pentagon. The military fear there's a replay of Vietnam right at work now and they're not going to be spared the way the Vietnam military wasn't spared.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. And it's reverberating beyond just Washington into the Middle East governments. It's a big deal, and I generally agree with what everybody said. I'm a little doubtful -- I wonder exactly how they make the compromise. The House bill passed with 218 votes, a bare majority. The Senate bill passed with 50, barely a vote or two to win. They can't afford to give up anything.

There are some Democratic congressmen, like Nadler, who are part of the Out Now caucus, 70 caucus, who say they wouldn't vote for the Senate version. There are senators like Nelson, the Democrat from Nebraska, who voted with the Democrats in the Senate who wouldn't vote for the mandatory.

So it's going to be a tricky business. I think she'll get it -- I think they'll get it done, Reid and Pelosi, but it's going to be tricky business finding a way to 218 and 50 in a compromise regarding mandatory versus discretionary. But at the end of the day, I suspect that the impetus is enough they'll find a path.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, James.

Okay, Bush war centerpiece.

As proof of our progress in Iraq, the president has pointed repeatedly to the city of Tall Afar.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) They freed Fallujah and Tall Afar. The success of Tall Afar also shows -- the story of Tall Afar gives me confidence in our strategy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, sir, suicide bombers this week killed more than 85 people in Tall Afar, mostly Shi'ites. The following day, a revenge attack was staged. Shi'ites murdered some 60 Sunnis, some dragged from their homes in the middle of the night. The city was razed.

Question: Is the fate of Tall Afar proof that it is hubris for the United States to think that it knows how to stop the 900-year-long Sunni-Shi'ite fighting and religious war? I ask you.

MR. WARREN: It is a reminder of same, yes. And we have to note here that the Senate vote unexpectedly overshadowed your birthday, so we're sorry that that happened last week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I hope that you are nevertheless going to salute me in proper fashion.

MR. WARREN: Well, perhaps later, and in private. That said, I think Tony's absolutely correct in some of the problems the Democrats are going to have, particularly their left and their more conservative wing. But they will probably put something together. But I don't see any way in which this ultimately is a victory in any fashion for Bush, because the die is cast; six months of approval ratings in the 30s. No president other than Truman, Carter and Nixon went that long with such approval ratings.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's --

MR. WARREN: And the overall political reality is that Americans aren't really -- have tuned out to most of this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MR. WARREN: And Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is --

MR. WARREN: John, all of these Republicans, including 21 or so incumbent Republican senators up for re-election, they want to get this war so far behind them --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

Let's get beyond precisely where we are now.

Great Dana Wields the Veto Sword.

DANA PERINO (deputy White House Press Secretary): (From videotape.) The president sent his urgent request for funds to support the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan 52 days ago. Our troops are in harm's way and engaged with the enemy and they need the funds. And so this, again, underscores the need to get the show on the road, get the bill to the president. He will veto it and then we'll take it from there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: It's a given that if Bush vetoes this legislation, there won't be enough votes to override his veto.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush and the GOP, the Republicans, will then have 100 percent clear title to the Iraq debacle. Is that really what the White House wants?

MR. BUCHANAN: That is wrong. That is wrong, John. Let me tell you, the Republican Congress cannot have clear title because they cannot get the funding without the Democratic Senate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republicans will have the clear title. Don't you understand?

MR. BUCHANAN: They will not, because Reid and Pelosi will have to get together a coalition and vote the funds because they're not going to cut off funds for the war. Bush --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They can cut them off to the 2008 cycle.

MR. BUCHANAN: They will not. Bush has the whip hand, John. You don't see it. Why is he so cocky?

MS. CLIFT: No, he's using --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't agree with that at all.

MS. CLIFT: He's using a combination of Clinton era tactics. He called the entire House caucus to the White House and posed with them, which is what Clinton did after he was impeached to show that he wasn't alone. And now Bush seems to think he can do to Nancy Pelosi what Bill Clinton did to Newt Gingrich.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get in.

MS. CLIFT: The problem is, Bush is not as strong as Clinton was at the equal time, and Clinton was fighting for programs the country wanted. Bush has got 70 percent of the country against him.

MR. BLANKLEY: I want to go back to your hubris question, because is it hubris to think we could put down a very powerful insurgency leading towards a civil war? No, it's not hubris. The problem is, there are two timetables. There's the Washington political timetable that says we have to succeed in the next six months or year, and then there's the ground timetable.

A counterinsurgency is a five- to 10-year project. And Bush's problem is a political one, and he can't get the politics to give him enough time for a five- to 10-year counterinsurgency to work. It's not hubris, but it's political failure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a 900-year --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, you're wrong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- religious war between the Sunnis and the Shi'a.

MR. BLANKLEY: You're completely wrong. It's 1,400 years. It started at the beginning of the fourth caliphate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. King Abdullah, a good friend of President Bush and of many former presidents, does not share the White House view. At the Arab League summit this week, the Saudi monarch used these words to describe American troops in Iraq -- "foreign, illegitimate occupiers."

"In beloved Iraq, blood is flowing between brothers in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation."

Question: Are we at a risk of serious breach in the long- standing U.S.-Saudi relationship spanning many decades? James Warren.

MR. WARREN: No, I don't think there's going to be any dramatic change. There is deep mutual suspicion. It's a marriage of a certain convenience. And I think less significant than seeing this in terms of the Saudis and of the U.S. is seeing this in terms of Abdullah versus a very fractious Arab League with 22 members. He was playing to them by bashing the U.S. He also, if you saw last week, embraced and for the first time in eight months talked to Syria's Assad for the first time. And he also bad-mouthed other Arab League members for their squabbling ways. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have two things to tell you.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number one, all of the Arab states got on board on this. The Saudi monarch was speaking on behalf of the Arab League member countries, effectively the whole Arab world, when he said that the U.S. was an illegitimate foreign occupier of Iraq.

MR. BLANKLEY: This --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. Before we do that, just give me a quick rundown of what we're talking about -- Algeria, Bahrain --

MR. BLANKLEY: You're going to like what I'm going to say.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and the --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (inaudible) -- for all those states.

MR. BLANKLEY: You're going to like what I'm going to say, so listen for a second. What you say is right. He was playing there. But there is a deeper problem, and that is that every regime in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, has lost confidence in President Bush's political ability to deliver a policy.

I think we're going to have very big trouble until 2009 and we have another president, Republican or Democrat. You saw it this week with the Saudi decision that they're going to keep their hands off of being affiliated with George Bush. I hate to say it, but I believe that's happening.

MS. CLIFT: Well, what these regimes have noticed is that the American military has essentially taken sides with the Shi'as in Iraq.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, that's not what it's about.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, that's what it has inadvertently --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is the problem of getting involved in a civil war.

MS. CLIFT: -- deteriorated into, exactly.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, that's -- MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, let me just say, John, look, the United States and Israel and Iran are the three most hated countries in the world. We have never been so disliked by the peoples of the Middle East. The Saudis have a big investment in their Palestinian peace. We have stiffed that. I think Tony's exactly right. They're saying goodbye to the Americans until 2009. They're calling us illegitimate and they're calling the Iraqis "our brothers."

MS. CLIFT: Well, the good news is they're saying goodbye until 2009. There will be another president.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is personal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. From whichever party, there will be a dramatic change in foreign policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, this is personal to President Bush. Saudi interests are going to coincide for a long time with American broad interest. But it is a serious matter for the next 18 months.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that we provide a nuclear shield for Saudi Arabia.

MR. BLANKLEY: I know. I'm saying --

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not under threat of nuclear attack, John.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- we have strong -- Saudi has strong interests --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they're concerned about the Iran development of the bomb, not because they think Iran will use the bomb; they don't believe that. But they're afraid a Chernobyl will take place, and they're right there sitting next to it for that radiation --

MR. BUCHANAN: If Iran moves --

MR. WARREN: If you see this in an Arab context, Abdullah was playing to an audience whose hardliners have been deriding him for being too soft --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The hardliners --

MR. WARREN: -- toward Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The hardliners were all on board because he represented -- and this should be known in fulfillment of a fairness doctrine towards the king, and that --

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me -- the three-point peace plan that he announced before in 2002 in Beirut was re-emphasized at this conference, and all of those Arab states are on board on it. They're all on board, even your hardliners.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the king of Saudi Arabia pulled together, to a degree, Hamas and Fatah. He thought he had a deal and that the Israelis would talk to him. Olmert said no and the Americans said no, and he is ticked off because they back-handed his --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human -- MR. BLANKLEY: The Saudi --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Saudi peace plan is a nonstarter because it would let 4 million Palestinians get back into Israel.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tony, that is up for negotiation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Olmert says, number one, no reparations for the refugees.

MR. BLANKLEY: Right, and that's the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number two, the refugees don't get any of our property. They have their separate state. But he has a guarded -- he has expressed a guarded welcome towards the monarch's peace plan.

Okay, human toll --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- Condi Rice something to do. She's flying around the area and trying to get engaged.

MR. BLANKLEY: Good point.

MS. CLIFT: Good for her. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Good point, Eleanor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, 3,244; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, injured, severely injured, mentally ill, all now out of Iraq, 73,570; Iraq civilians dead, 139,500.

Exit question: Is Iraq now Vietnam? We have to burn the village in order to save it. Is that where we are?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it isn't. Iraq is not Vietnam, John. But for the United States, we are at the same position we were in Vietnam in the latter part of it, except when this one goes down, it'll be a lot faster than Vietnam.

MS. CLIFT: The Iraq war was lost long ago, probably at Abu Ghraib. And I don't think it's up to us to burn it to save it. But they may do that themselves.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Iraq war is much more important than Vietnam. Losing Vietnam did not create the kind of world danger that losing Iraq would. So we can't afford to lose Iraq, even though we could eventually, as it proved out, afford to lose Vietnam.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're feeding the defeat by our presence there. MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're feeding the defeat.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I understand --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're not helping. We're hurting.

MS. CLIFT: And drawn out --

MR. WARREN: There are distinct similarities when it comes to our hubris and absolutely botched strategy and a set of assumptions. The numbers still -- I mean, it was 50,000 American dead in Iraq (sic/means Vietnam). And when it comes to the military portion of this, it is fairly simple. There's no way for any possible military victory before you've got a peace treaty among those warring factions, and that's a real long shot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Read Barbara -- (inaudible). This isn't exactly a replay of Vietnam.

Issue Two: Fifteen Sailors, Sixteen Words.

TONY BLAIR (British Prime Minister): (From videotape.) It is now time to ratchet up the diplomatic and international pressure in order to make sure the Iranian government understands their total isolation on this issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The capture of 15 British sailors and Marines by Iran's Revolutionary Guard 10 days ago has inflamed the already heightened tensions between Tehran and the West. The British sailors and Marines appeared unharmed in the video released by Iran's government.

Question: Could the British have provoked the Iranians by intruding on Iranian territorial waters? I know that you're leaning out of the chair, but I'm going to Eleanor.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, yes.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I think there has been that suspicion, and the notion that the Brits may be acting as our proxy, because this administration would like to provoke something. But I think the Brits are --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Provoke our presence in --

MS. CLIFT: Provoke an incident so that we can --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we could take out Iran's nuclear --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I think it's nuts, but I don't put it past this administration. MR. BLANKLEY: Let me point out -- and this is just Tehran nonsense -- the British have already demonstrated to the United Nations --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: History lesson.

MR. BLANKLEY: The British have already demonstrated through their monitoring, technical means that they were a mile and a half from the division where the buoys are down the middle of the water passage there. There's no doubt -- they've been doing these things every day under the U.N. auspices. The U.N. has agreed that it's under U.N. auspices and has told Iran to stop it.

Now, let me say this. The British are going to lose this exchange. The Iranians did it to make a point. They've made a point. They can act without any consequence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony --

MR. BLANKLEY: And so they've won and the Brits have lost.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's not forget this, Anthony. Four years ago, when we went to war with Iraq, the British supplied the United States with a cause to go to war. President Bush cited this cause in his State of the Union address at the time, and it came from the Brits.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has Tony Blair now also ginned up a cause to go to war, namely with the 15 sailors that have been taken captive by Iran? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: That is preposterous, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Tony Blair is leaving office. He's pulling his troops out of Iraq. Gordon Brown is set up to be the top man. As Tony says, he's going to lose this battle because the Brits don't have the capability to force the Iranians to give these guys up.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you satisfied --

MS. CLIFT: I don't think we know the full story, but I commend --

MR. WARREN: Your --

MS. CLIFT: -- Prime Minister Blair for not blowing this up any bigger than it is and for keeping President Bush's mouth shut so that we don't have any of the threats coming from this side of the pond.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the EU should have held its fire, not declared itself, not said that anybody must be released, just stayed out of it until we hear more, particularly in the light of those 16 words that led us into a war with Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: They should back up the Brits.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think this is also Iran's MO. I mean, I remember the hostage crisis in '79 and all they got out of that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Jimmy Carter instigated that, didn't he?

MS. CLIFT: And I just hope -- MR. BLANKLEY: Did Jimmy Carter instigate it?

MS. CLIFT: -- this does not -- no, I didn't say that.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'm agreeing with you.

MS. CLIFT: I don't --

MR. BLANKLEY: And the British didn't instigate this.

MS. CLIFT: I hope this doesn't escalate.

MR. WARREN: I'm sorry to rain on your --

MS. CLIFT: That was a different era.

MR. WARREN: Sorry to rain on your birthday parade, but this conspiracy theory, I think, has run slightly amok here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what I want to see is those coordinates, the real coordinates.

MR. BUCHANAN: One-point-seven miles from the Iraqi --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, taken from a helicopter --

MR. BLANKLEY: They've already shown that to the U.N. --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't we see the authentic coordinates.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right on top of the ship that these guys got on -- 1.7 miles.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They used the Indian ship as a point of reference, but we haven't seen the real material, which goes to my exit question. Is it your felt intuition that the British are not entirely leveling with the world? Yes or no.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the British are leveling. There are some Brits who say they may not be right. I think the Brits are leveling. Why don't the Iranians come forward and say exactly where it was with their GPS system?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a data gap, isn't there?

MS. CLIFT: I still think we don't know the full story. But we do have the Nimitz now steaming over there, and the U.S. is putting up its show of strength.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, the British are --

MS. CLIFT: This is a dangerous confrontation. MR. BLANKLEY: I agree it's dangerous, and miscalculation can create a real mess down there. I completely agree with you. The British are being completely straightforward. This is the typical MO for this regime. They've been doing it since they did it to Jimmy Carter's administration, the hostage-taking in 1979. And that wasn't Jimmy Carter's instigation. It was Khomeini's.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have a UK passport?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought you had dual citizenship.

MR. BLANKLEY: I do not have dual citizenship. I have only American citizenship. I gave it up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'm not sure that entirely clears your --

MR. BLANKLEY: I gave up my English citizenship.

MR. WARREN: With the Chicago Tribune's reconnaissance satellite probably down for repairs and without access to photos of what really happened, I'll go with Blair as the honest one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think we've heard -- I don't think we can say that they've been entirely level with the world.

Issue Three: Sampson Brings Down the Temple.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): In his press conference on March the 13th, Attorney General Gonzales said that he was not involved in any discussions relating to the issue.

KYLE SAMPSON (former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales): I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): So there were repeated discussions.

MR. SAMPSON: Yes.

SEN. SCHUMER: So were there at least five?

MR. SAMPSON: I spoke with him every day, so I think at least five.

(End of videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Time may be ebbing for Attorney General Gonzales. Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson, who resigned two weeks ago, faced a brutal barrage of questions from both Democrats and Republicans, forcing him to repeatedly contradict the attorney general.

Question: How much has Sampson hurt Gonzales?

MR. BUCHANAN: Very badly, John. And I don't think Gonzales is going to survive. I think he's a nice man. I think he's over his head. I hope he gets a chance to testify and clarify this to the degree he can so that it is not a perjury count or something like that. But I think Gonzales is really gone. I don't see him surviving the month.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that that testimony was absolutely devastating?

MS. CLIFT: Oh, absolutely. And getting to be attorney general doesn't hinge on how nice you are. The man hasn't done his job and he hasn't been truthful. He'll probably be gone at 4:00 on Good Friday when the Congress is out of town and the press is wanting to go home.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gonzales gave a press conference after he appeared before the Senate when he was under oath. At the press conference he clearly said things that were directly contradicted by Sampson.

Do you think that Gonzales may have said some of those things while he was under oath that he said at the press conference, which were demonstrably untrue, false? And do you think that what they're looking for in the Senate goes beyond credibility of Gonzales and a resignation, but they're looking for criminal guilt on a perjury rap?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I don't know. I think the ultimate political target somehow is Rove, and I don't think they can get there from here. On the other hand, Gonzales -- I haven't looked to see what he said under oath, so I don't know. I think Gonzales is on very thin ice right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he might have said something that could get him on a --

MR. WARREN: Well, I think it's pretty notable that the woman who is his counsel and the White House liaison for Gonzales announced this week that she would not be testifying before Congress, would be taking the Fifth, with a criminal defense lawyer at her side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. My view is it's curtains for Gonzales.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Quickly, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush will not only win this battle and get his money, but the Democratic Congress is going to be hurt very badly. Both houses will be divided over the $100 billion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The Republicans will rise again, Pat says. (Laughs.) Don't count on it.

Barack Obama will show stronger than his campaign is spinning in the fund-raising reports when they're filed -- not as big a number as Hillary, but big.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony. MR. BLANKLEY: Kyle Sampson's dignified and honest testimony in a very difficult situation, I think, has salvaged what was and will be a very promising career.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. WARREN: Baseball starts this week. Shortly after, Fred Thompson will announce he will run for president on the Republican side. A big blue-state October boost for the Clinton campaign: The Yankees and the Mets in the World Series.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, currently president of the European Union, will gain a constitution for the EU before the end of the year, saluting its 50th anniversary.

MR. BUCHANAN: No way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bye-bye.

(PBS segment.)

Issue Four: Bunny Blues.

DAPHNA NACHMINOVITCH (PETA): (From videotape.) Scores of people make the terrible mistake of purchasing bunnies on a whim for their child for Easter, and scores of bunnies suffer from very serious consequences.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Animal rights activists are hopping mad about Easter. Every year well-meaning parents buy live Easter bunnies for their children. The children are delighted with the cuddly new pets. Unfortunately, that delight lasts for about two weeks.

The Easter gift bunny is often neglected and abandoned to live a life in squalor, or set free in a field to be eaten by predators. Also rabbits defecate to mark their territory. They chew furniture. They chew indoor plants. And rabbits are fragile. Bones often break. Startled rabbits can bite and scratch children. And People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, says there are lots of other ideas for exciting Easter treats besides bunnies.

MS. NACHMINOVITCH: (From videotape.) For children, there's always a stuffed bunny. This is really the only kind of bunny that parents should consider getting their children for Easter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Where's the harm in giving a pet as a gift? I ask you, James.

MR. WARREN: That was really quite touching, John. (Laughter.) Gosh. I looked at the PETA website, and they basically suggest that most Americans just willy-nilly go into pet stores and are, quote, "woefully unprepared for these rambunctious, quirky animals," end of quote. I think that's a little bit overstated, even though there probably are a lot of folks who go in and --

MS. CLIFT: PETA --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, would you eat rabbit meat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I might. But they have a very good point. We've gotten a rabbit for Easter, and it's exactly what happens. Everybody has a good time for a day or two, and the thing is neglected.

END.

d off because they back-handed his --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human -- MR. BLANKLEY: The Saudi --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Saudi peace plan is a nonstarter because it would let 4 million Palestinians get back into Israel.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tony, that is up for negotiation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Olmert says, number one, no reparations for the refugees.

MR. BLANKLEY: Right, and that's the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number two, the refugees don't get any of our property. They have their separate state. But he has a guarded -- he has expressed a guarded welcome towards the monarch's peace plan.

Okay, human toll --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- Condi Rice something to do. She's flying around the area and trying to get engaged.

MR. BLANKLEY: Good point.

MS. CLIFT: Good for her. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Good point, Eleanor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, 3,244; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, injured, severely injured, mentally ill, all now out of Iraq, 73,570; Iraq civilians dead, 139,500.

Exit question: Is Iraq now Vietnam? We have to burn the village in order to save it. Is that where we are?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it isn't. Iraq is not Vietnam, John. But for the United States, we are at the same position we were in Vietnam in the latter part of it, except when this one goes down, it'll be a lot faster than Vietnam.

MS. CLIFT: The Iraq war was lost long ago, probably at Abu Ghraib. And I don't think it's up to us to burn it to save it. But they may do that themselves.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Iraq war is much more important than Vietnam. Losing Vietnam did not create the kind of world danger that losing Iraq would. So we can't afford to lose Iraq, even though we could eventually, as it proved out, afford to lose Vietnam.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're feeding the defeat by our presence there. MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're feeding the defeat.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I understand --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're not helping. We're hurting.

MS. CLIFT: And drawn out --

MR. WARREN: There are distinct similarities when it comes to our hubris and absolutely botched strategy and a set of assumptions. The numbers still -- I mean, it was 50,000 American dead in Iraq (sic/means Vietnam). And when it comes to the military portion of this, it is fairly simple. There's no way for any possible military victory before you've got a peace treaty among those warring factions, and that's a real long shot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Read Barbara -- (inaudible). This isn't exactly a replay of Vietnam.

Issue Two: Fifteen Sailors, Sixteen Words.

TONY BLAIR (British Prime Minister): (From videotape.) It is now time to ratchet up the diplomatic and international pressure in order to make sure the Iranian government understands their total isolation on this issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The capture of 15 British sailors and Marines by Iran's Revolutionary Guard 10 days ago has inflamed the already heightened tensions between Tehran and the West. The British sailors and Marines appeared unharmed in the video released by Iran's government.

Question: Could the British have provoked the Iranians by intruding on Iranian territorial waters? I know that you're leaning out of the chair, but I'm going to Eleanor.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, yes.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I think there has been that suspicion, and the notion that the Brits may be acting as our proxy, because this administration would like to provoke something. But I think the Brits are --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Provoke our presence in --

MS. CLIFT: Provoke an incident so that we can --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we could take out Iran's nuclear --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I think it's nuts, but I don't put it past this administration. MR. BLANKLEY: Let me point out -- and this is just Tehran nonsense -- the British have already demonstrated to the United Nations --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: History lesson.

MR. BLANKLEY: The British have already demonstrated through their monitoring, technical means that they were a mile and a half from the division where the buoys are down the middle of the water passage there. There's no doubt -- they've been doing these things every day under the U.N. auspices. The U.N. has agreed that it's under U.N. auspices and has told Iran to stop it.

Now, let me say this. The British are going to lose this exchange. The Iranians did it to make a point. They've made a point. They can act without any consequence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony --

MR. BLANKLEY: And so they've won and the Brits have lost.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's not forget this, Anthony. Four years ago, when we went to war with Iraq, the British supplied the United States with a cause to go to war. President Bush cited this cause in his State of the Union address at the time, and it came from the Brits.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has Tony Blair now also ginned up a cause to go to war, namely with the 15 sailors that have been taken captive by Iran? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: That is preposterous, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Tony Blair is leaving office. He's pulling his troops out of Iraq. Gordon Brown is set up to be the top man. As Tony says, he's going to lose this battle because the Brits don't have the capability to force the Iranians to give these guys up.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you satisfied --

MS. CLIFT: I don't think we know the full story, but I commend --

MR. WARREN: Your --

MS. CLIFT: -- Prime Minister Blair for not blowing this up any bigger than it is and for keeping President Bush's mouth shut so that we don't have any of the threats coming from this side of the pond.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the EU should have held its fire, not declared itself, not said that anybody must be released, just stayed out of it until we hear more, particularly in the light of those 16 words that led us into a war with Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: They should back up the Brits.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think this is also Iran's MO. I mean, I remember the hostage crisis in '79 and all they got out of that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Jimmy Carter instigated that, didn't he?

MS. CLIFT: And I just hope -- MR. BLANKLEY: Did Jimmy Carter instigate it?

MS. CLIFT: -- this does not -- no, I didn't say that.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'm agreeing with you.

MS. CLIFT: I don't --

MR. BLANKLEY: And the British didn't instigate this.

MS. CLIFT: I hope this doesn't escalate.

MR. WARREN: I'm sorry to rain on your --

MS. CLIFT: That was a different era.

MR. WARREN: Sorry to rain on your birthday parade, but this conspiracy theory, I think, has run slightly amok here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what I want to see is those coordinates, the real coordinates.

MR. BUCHANAN: One-point-seven miles from the Iraqi --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, taken from a helicopter --

MR. BLANKLEY: They've already shown that to the U.N. --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't we see the authentic coordinates.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right on top of the ship that these guys got on -- 1.7 miles.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They used the Indian ship as a point of reference, but we haven't seen the real material, which goes to my exit question. Is it your felt intuition that the British are not entirely leveling with the world? Yes or no.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the British are leveling. There are some Brits who say they may not be right. I think the Brits are leveling. Why don't the Iranians come forward and say exactly where it was with their GPS system?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a data gap, isn't there?

MS. CLIFT: I still think we don't know the full story. But we do have the Nimitz now steaming over there, and the U.S. is putting up its show of strength.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, the British are --

MS. CLIFT: This is a dangerous confrontation. MR. BLANKLEY: I agree it's dangerous, and miscalculation can create a real mess down there. I completely agree with you. The British are being completely straightforward. This is the typical MO for this regime. They've been doing it since they did it to Jimmy Carter's administration, the hostage-taking in 1979. And that wasn't Jimmy Carter's instigation. It was Khomeini's.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have a UK passport?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought you had dual citizenship.

MR. BLANKLEY: I do not have dual citizenship. I have only American citizenship. I gave it up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'm not sure that entirely clears your --

MR. BLANKLEY: I gave up my English citizenship.

MR. WARREN: With the Chicago Tribune's reconnaissance satellite probably down for repairs and without access to photos of what really happened, I'll go with Blair as the honest one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think we've heard -- I don't think we can say that they've been entirely level with the world.

Issue Three: Sampson Brings Down the Temple.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): In his press conference on March the 13th, Attorney General Gonzales said that he was not involved in any discussions relating to the issue.

KYLE SAMPSON (former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales): I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): So there were repeated discussions.

MR. SAMPSON: Yes.

SEN. SCHUMER: So were there at least five?

MR. SAMPSON: I spoke with him every day, so I think at least five.

(End of videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Time may be ebbing for Attorney General Gonzales. Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson, who resigned two weeks ago, faced a brutal barrage of questions from both Democrats and Republicans, forcing him to repeatedly contradict the attorney general.

Question: How much has Sampson hurt Gonzales?

MR. BUCHANAN: Very badly, John. And I don't think Gonzales is going to survive. I think he's a nice man. I think he's over his head. I hope he gets a chance to testify and clarify this to the degree he can so that it is not a perjury count or something like that. But I think Gonzales is really gone. I don't see him surviving the month.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that that testimony was absolutely devastating?

MS. CLIFT: Oh, absolutely. And getting to be attorney general doesn't hinge on how nice you are. The man hasn't done his job and he hasn't been truthful. He'll probably be gone at 4:00 on Good Friday when the Congress is out of town and the press is wanting to go home.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gonzales gave a press conference after he appeared before the Senate when he was under oath. At the press conference he clearly said things that were directly contradicted by Sampson.

Do you think that Gonzales may have said some of those things while he was under oath that he said at the press conference, which were demonstrably untrue, false? And do you think that what they're looking for in the Senate goes beyond credibility of Gonzales and a resignation, but they're looking for criminal guilt on a perjury rap?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I don't know. I think the ultimate political target somehow is Rove, and I don't think they can get there from here. On the other hand, Gonzales -- I haven't looked to see what he said under oath, so I don't know. I think Gonzales is on very thin ice right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he might have said something that could get him on a --

MR. WARREN: Well, I think it's pretty notable that the woman who is his counsel and the White House liaison for Gonzales announced this week that she would not be testifying before Congress, would be taking the Fifth, with a criminal defense lawyer at her side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. My view is it's curtains for Gonzales.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Quickly, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bush will not only win this battle and get his money, but the Democratic Congress is going to be hurt very badly. Both houses will be divided over the $100 billion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The Republicans will rise again, Pat says. (Laughs.) Don't count on it.

Barack Obama will show stronger than his campaign is spinning in the fund-raising reports when they're filed -- not as big a number as Hillary, but big.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony. MR. BLANKLEY: Kyle Sampson's dignified and honest testimony in a very difficult situation, I think, has salvaged what was and will be a very promising career.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.

MR. WARREN: Baseball starts this week. Shortly after, Fred Thompson will announce he will run for president on the Republican side. A big blue-state October boost for the Clinton campaign: The Yankees and the Mets in the World Series.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, currently president of the European Union, will gain a constitution for the EU before the end of the year, saluting its 50th anniversary.

MR. BUCHANAN: No way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bye-bye.

(PBS segment.)

Issue Four: Bunny Blues.

DAPHNA NACHMINOVITCH (PETA): (From videotape.) Scores of people make the terrible mistake of purchasing bunnies on a whim for their child for Easter, and scores of bunnies suffer from very serious consequences.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Animal rights activists are hopping mad about Easter. Every year well-meaning parents buy live Easter bunnies for their children. The children are delighted with the cuddly new pets. Unfortunately, that delight lasts for about two weeks.

The Easter gift bunny is often neglected and abandoned to live a life in squalor, or set free in a field to be eaten by predators. Also rabbits defecate to mark their territory. They chew furniture. They chew indoor plants. And rabbits are fragile. Bones often break. Startled rabbits can bite and scratch children. And People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, says there are lots of other ideas for exciting Easter treats besides bunnies.

MS. NACHMINOVITCH: (From videotape.) For children, there's always a stuffed bunny. This is really the only kind of bunny that parents should consider getting their children for Easter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Where's the harm in giving a pet as a gift? I ask you, James.

MR. WARREN: That was really quite touching, John. (Laughter.) Gosh. I looked at the PETA website, and they basically suggest that most Americans just willy-nilly go into pet stores and are, quote, "woefully unprepared for these rambunctious, quirky animals," end of quote. I think that's a little bit overstated, even though there probably are a lot of folks who go in and --

MS. CLIFT: PETA --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, would you eat rabbit meat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I might. But they have a very good point. We've gotten a rabbit for Easter, and it's exactly what happens. Everybody has a good time for a day or two, and the thing is neglected.

END.