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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; SUSAN DENTZER, THE NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 6, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 7-8, 2007

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Resurrecting Health.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) This country can no longer stand alone among its major competitors of industrialized countries in the world and not provide health security for every single American.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Universal health care -- it's been the sleeping dragon in American politics for 14 years, since 1993 and the Clinton plan, often called Hillary Care. But this year, universal health coverage is enjoying a resurrection. In fact, it is the number one domestic issue on people's minds as we head into 2008. Back in January, President Bush saw the importance of health reform.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's not Republicans like Mr. Bush who are making health care the centerpiece of their politics. It's the Democrats.

FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) And what we need is big, bold, dramatic change.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's exactly what presidential hopeful John Edwards has offered.

MR. EDWARDS: (From videotape.) Everyone in America will be required by law to be covered by this health care plan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Democratic front-runner Barack Obama also proposes to revamp health care.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): (From videotape.) We're going to have to put more money into prevention, more money into chronic care management, more money into medical technology, because that's how we're going to accrue the savings that help us provide subsidies to those who don't already have it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Another Democratic contender, Bill Richardson, has his health plan and wants the Iraq war underwriting to pay for it.

NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON (D): (From videotape.) We get out of Iraq and put the $400 billion that we have in Iraq and shift it to human needs. This is a plan that could be paid for without any new taxes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is universal health care an idea whose time has come? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it has come in the Democratic primaries, John, and everybody is moving to the left. And it's a great-sounding phrase, and they're all going to battle over that. But by the time you get the nominations done and you get into the general election and you get into the details and the cost and the taxes, Democrats will not be running on that. And the whole country, by the election of next year, is going to be talking about something else, not universal health care.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Susan? Is the political firmament aligned for universal and mandatory health care? MS. DENTZER: Well, I agree with Pat. It is on the Democratic side. All of the candidates now have said they're for universal health care -- anyway, insurance, not, by the way, for national health insurance. It's not a system of having government provide the money and provide the care. It's really a question of taking the existing mechanisms -- public, private, what have you -- and stretching them to plug these gaps so that you pick up 47 million Americans without health insurance.

There's certainly consensus on that. And, in fact, there's evolving consensus even between Edwards and Hillary Clinton now on how you do that, basically that you tell employers they've got to provide coverage or pay into a fund, that you create some kind of a mechanism to make health insurance more broadly available.

This is stealing an idea from the Massachusetts plan, Mitt Romney's brain child of having a new insurance market connector they called it in Massachusetts. So those ideas are coalescing. And, at least on the Democratic side, as Pat says, you're going to see a pretty serious set of health reform plans, not a lot of details probably for some months to come, but at least conceptually a clear idea of where they want to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you haven't said anything about employers. Don't they want to shed their health insurance responsibilities? And employees likewise, don't they also not want to run the risk of losing their job and losing insurance? Isn't it a more massive phenomenon than just the politicians approaching the primaries and the caucuses?

MS. DENTZER: Well, big corporations are split. Some big companies, like the automakers, would just as soon have the government take over health care provision. Many other large companies are saying, "Wait a minute. We do a really good job of providing health coverage for our workers. It's a competitive advantage to offer it. We want to stay in the game. And, by the way, we can do a better job in the private market than a lot of government-provided health coverage can do."

And then you have small businesses, it's true, bailing out of coverage right and left. But a lot of them would just as soon be able to stay in the game as well. People do value health coverage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Tony? How big a phenomenon is it?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, as a substantive issue and as a problem facing America, along with the deficit, the debt, it's the largest domestic issue. As one resolvable in the next election cycle on a policy basis, it's not.

And all you have to do to see how seriously the candidates take it is go to their websites and look on their home page and see how much they highlight or don't highlight the issue. And only former Senator Edwards, who actually is proposing a huge tax increase, the roll-back of the Bush tax cut to pay for his, is highlighting it at all.

All the rest of them -- Hillary for good reasons, with her problems with the issue last time -- you've got to look all over their website to find any reference to health care. So I don't think the candidates take it seriously as an issue to be played out in this election cycle.

MR. PAGE: And yet the numbers show that it plays very well for Democrats, always has. And it's playing better all the time as we're finding that the conditions that were in place at the time of Hillary Care, what we were warned against by the insurance industry's ads, like losing the ability to choose your own doctor and all, those things are happening under the current system right now.

And more and more big employers, my own included -- and I have the finest employer on the planet, no question about it -- but our coverage is constantly -- (laughs) -- and we even have a new owner of the company now who I understand is not only brilliant but also very good-looking. But nevertheless, our coverage is not as good now as it was when I came to the company years ago. And so this is why the debate is moving now in the direction of the Democrats. It's becoming more salient. If its time has not come, it has certainly come --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, health care costs are increasing in the double-digit range. I've heard 18 percent for the last several years, per year, compounded.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, you've got --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is a crushing natural economic phenomenon.

MR. BUCHANAN: But 45 million, John -- of the 45 million unemployed -- I mean, who don't have insurance -- an enormous number of them are immigrants. A huge number of them are illegal immigrants. A lot of them are kids who don't want any kind of insurance, who don't want to pay for anything.

One of the big problems, though, has been mentioned here, and that is, because of the outsourcing of jobs, the competition with American companies like Ford, GM, a lot of them are saying, "Look, because we take care of our employees, we can't compete with Toyota." So they are now -- globalization is killing the corporate welfare state, creating a huge demand for a government welfare state.

MS. DENTZER: The interesting question is going to be when the Republican candidates start to address this or feel that they have to at all, because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they inclining in that direction?

MS. DENTZER: Well, again, you go to Mitt Romney's website, you have to have a microscope to find health care on it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he move away from his own plan?

MS. DENTZER: It certainly looks that way. In his opening announcement, he only made one brief reference to the thing and never said anything about the Massachusetts plan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you take the Republicans as a whole, they are edging in the direction of universal and mandatory health care, are they not?

MS. DENTZER: Not the Republicans, no.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, not at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not at all?

MR. BLANKLEY: They're talking about it as an ideal. When you talk about the problems, though, Safeway Corporation has got -- you say the costs are going up, and they are for most corporations. Safeway is crashing costs with the full support of their union, getting deeply into a preventive care system, virtually mandatory, I think, preventive care for their workers that their unions are buying off on.

So for those companies that are going to stick with it, they're going to try to get their workers to be healthier through preventive care rather than fund the other side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Final question: Does the entitlement Medicare depend upon the increase that's occurring year by year in health care costs? Is it caused -- does Medicare need these additional costs to survive?

MR. BUCHANAN: Is that an exit question?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it isn't.

MS. DENTZER: Medicare is going to be one stream of additional costs for the rest of our lifetimes. I mean, that's part of the issue. There are two issues here. One is providing coverage --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is fighting universal health care? Are doctors fighting it?

MS. DENTZER: No, but --

MR. PAGE: Insurance companies.

MS. DENTZER: Well, look at --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are insurance companies fighting it?

MS. DENTZER: Look at the debate that's playing out now with the reauthorization of the state children's health insurance program, where on one side you have the Bush administration saying, "Hey, this is a program for low-income kids; don't make it any bigger." You have Democrats saying, "Wait a minute; make it bigger. Cover some more low-income adults and even more low-income kids." There's a debate over whether this should be a stepping stone to universal coverage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where is the common Joe on this? Does he want universal health care, particularly with a big piece of it provided by the government?

MR. BUCHANAN: The common Joe wants to keep -- if he's got a good program, he wants to keep it. He doesn't want the government to interfere with it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If we put this program and we may tell the common Joe, "You've got to shift your policy from an independent, private policy to this new policy." MR. BUCHANAN: John, as soon as you get into the details and you tell somebody who likes what he's got, "Look, you're going to lose that, but it's going to be better," he's going to say, "No, you don't."

MR. PAGE: That doesn't mean it's a dead issue. You know, the fact is that it's not been sold properly. This issue is still under debate. And, you know --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's Hillary trying to sell it --

MR. PAGE: A decade ago you were laughing about it, Pat, but the issue is moving in the direction of people wanting better coverage.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. PAGE: Let me point out about the kids. You know, we think -- most Americans think all of our kids are covered. They're not. We had a 12-year-old kid out here in the suburbs of Washington who died for lack of dental care. I was shocked by that story, and so are most Americans when they hear about that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BUCHANAN: But that's an emergency case.

MR. PAGE: When more stories like that happen --

MR. BUCHANAN: It was an emergency. He ought to be taken in -- take him into a clinic, for heaven's sakes.

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- news conference last week talking about other cases like this.

MR. BLANKLEY: Pat has made, I think, the essential political point. Most middle-class Americans, in fact, like what they've got and don't want to change it at all, even if a preventive care system --

MR. PAGE: Fewer numbers.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm just saying --

MS. DENTZER: And the -- (inaudible) -- of these plans is going to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan, I have a question. I have a question for Susan, and that is, don't you think that after the primaries and the caucuses are over that the politicians are going to dance away from this as fast as they can? No one really wants to touch it because it is so thorny an issue, it is so complicated an issue and it is so insoluble, in a way, an issue. MR. BUCHANAN: It is complicated, John.

MS. DENTZER: Well, look at what they're already saying. Mrs. Clinton is already saying it will take her two terms as president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two terms -- at the end of her second term.

MS. DENTZER: At the end of it, right --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you don't --

MS. DENTZER: -- which is an admission that --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, a presidential campaign --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. Question: Is America headed towards a bipartisan consensus on universal health care coverage in 2008, yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, because of your point. It is too complicated to be running around a presidential campaign explaining all the details of some system, monstrous system like that. You've got to be simple. And Hillary won't be campaigning on it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can campaign on it and be totally simple.

MR. BUCHANAN: She won't do it.

MR. PAGE: Very simple.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You just tell them, "I'm for universal" -- the way Edwards did it.

MR. BUCHANAN: They will rip her to bits.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Although Edwards, in the fine print of his position papers, does get into some detail.

What do you think? Do we have a consensus out there?

MS. DENTZER: No. And we won't coming out of 2008 except to the degree that whoever emerges victorious, if that person is a person who said universal coverage, then you can bet there will be a plan. It won't be a 100-day plan, as it was under Clinton. And maybe it's a two-term plan, but it will probably roll forward.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, there's not going to be a consensus. The only really honest person talking about it is Edwards, and he admits it'll be a $1.6 trillion tax increase, rolling back the Bush tax cut. And I don't think that's a winning position for either a Democrat or a Republican trying to get elected president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. PAGE: You have to show that it's going to pay for itself in some way, compared to the kind of money --

MR. BLANKLEY: It can't pay for itself.

MR. PAGE: -- people are paying now.

MR. BLANKLEY: You can't give away something -- MR. PAGE: We're not going to have a debate here. The fact is it is complicated. And the simpler you make it, the better. But the fact is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you get something for free, Clarence? How do you get something for free?

MR. PAGE: It's not going to be free. That's the thing. We don't have an honest debate now, Pat, because the insurance industry --

MR. BUCHANAN: Who's going to pay for it? Who's going to pay for it?

MR. PAGE: -- has been killing the honest debate. There's a lot of different ways to pay for it. There is pain involved. And that means candidates are reluctant to talk about it. The fact is, there's bigger pain in not having coverage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to the question is that we, in fact, are headed towards a universal health care consensus, but it won't occur until after the 2008 election. And 2009 is the year to watch.

Issue Two: Sinking, Sailing or Status Quo.

The first votes in the presidential primaries and caucuses won't be cast until January 2008, nine months from now. But the jockeying for position has already begun. Two USA Today/Gallup polls last month, three weeks apart each, conducted over a three-day period each, break down the races, one poll ending March 4, one ending March 25.

The first ended on March 4 and is in the left column, designated "Then." The second is March 25th and is in the right column, designated "Now" -- Democrats, March 4, "Then," March 25, "Now."

Clinton, 36 then, 35 now; Obama, 22 then, 22 now; Gore, 18, 17; Edwards, 9, 14; Richardson, 1, 3; Biden, 3, 1; Clark, 2, 1.

Question: Where is the surprise in this poll? Susan Dentzer.

MS. DENTZER: I fail to see any, frankly, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Edwards increased 50 percent.

MS. DENTZER: Well, that's the only one. And I guess you could ask, did he have any bounce because of his wife's announcement that her cancer had returned? Did he have any bounce from the Las Vegas forum on health care? That's possibly an explanation for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: People took a second look at him because of Elizabeth and that situation.

MS. DENTZER: Possibly. MR. BUCHANAN: This is big news, John, in this sense. Hillary remains very, very strong. Obama has come up, but he appears -- he had a month here where he did not move, and he's the principal challenger. I think, of the polls you're going to show, Democrat and Republicans, the most impressive one to come out of this is Hillary Rodham Clinton, who becomes something of a prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination, and frankly, the strongest candidate in both parties.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Gore? Gore's at 18 percent, 17 percent.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's hanging --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gore hasn't even announced.

MR. BUCHANAN: But look, he had a good month with his Academy Award.

MR. BLANKLEY: Gore can't get in unless Obama sinks, because Obama's taking the oxygen away. As I wrote in a column --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about if Hillary sinks?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think she's going to. She's solid at 35 percent. As I wrote in my column a couple of weeks ago, this is perfect. You've got Obama and Edwards nicely splitting the anti- Hillary vote, and they bounce around back and forth there and Hillary coasts above them to the nomination.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think they're seeing the big point here.

MS. DENTZER: There will probably be a -- (inaudible) -- next week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the big point?

MR. PAGE: Well, maybe they don't see your big point, John, and neither do I. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give you a hint. I'll give you a hint -- YouTube.

MR. PAGE: YouTube, okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: YouTube. Who was attacked in YouTube?

MR. PAGE: Well, Hillary, although --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary. And 6 million people saw YouTube. And what was everybody saying on this set except for me? That this was going to crush her, right, that the Internet was going to crush her. MR. PAGE: Well, I wasn't here that day, John.

MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't say that.

MR. PAGE: No, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, what happened after YouTube to Hillary? Zero.

MR. PAGE: Yeah, right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero. That shows you -- it makes his point of how strong she is. True or false?

MR. PAGE: But I think there's also a viral effect, though, to use an Internet term, as far as Hillary Clinton is concerned. People visualize what many of them had in the back of their minds, that she was not going to be, for the long haul, that attractive of a candidate compared to Barack Obama.

You'll also notice that the Hillary supporters, somebody out there in cyberspace, came back with response ads, which is the way YouTube --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's overly complicating it.

Okay, Republicans --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just get this point --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.

Republicans: Then, Giuliani 44, now 31; McCain, 20 then, now 22; Thompson, not available, now 12 percent; Gingrich, 9 then, 8 now; Brownback, 1 then, 3 now; Romney, 8, 3.

Question: Where is the surprise in this poll? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Once again, no surprises; no natural leader on the Republican side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you talking about? Giuliani slipped from 44 to 31.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, these early numbers, they pop up and then they drift down as the negatives come out. There's no obvious -- there's an obvious likely --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Bernie Kerik and Giuliani and the fact that there's no indictment yet come down on Kerik, right?

MR. BLANKLEY: This shows you -- as I was going to say a moment ago, this shows you the strength of Hillary. All of her negatives are known by the public. The negatives for Obama or Giuliani, all the others, are not known. They have a lot more down-side potential. Hillary's -- we know what --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the key thing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The other surprise is that a non-announced candidate, Fred Thompson -- MR. BUCHANAN: Giuliani has lost probably a third of his support in a month. Fred Thompson's gone from zero to 12 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unannounced. Unannounced.

MR. BUCHANAN: Romney has gone back. What that tells you is this. Republicans are continually looking for a fresh face. We thought it was Rudy. Hey, maybe it's Thompson. But I think, John, when you get into the money, you realize that Romney, despite the fact he might have gone down to 3 percent, he's got enough to stay in the game -- $23 million.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it make a difference?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, yes, it does, John. It really does.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it does?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, sure, it does. He can stay in. Look, if he didn't have the $23 million, he'd be gone right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, the man has $500 million of his own.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, okay. Well, that's --

MR. PAGE: Right, and a lot of deep-pocket friends.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know. I think that -- I think Romney's got a problem.

Exit question: What is the meta-message of these head-to-head polls? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hillary Rodham Clinton is the toughest candidate in the field.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about Obama? He stayed steady at 22 -- 22.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Twenty-two. He's not moving. (Laughs.)

MS. DENTZER: The meta-message is we're nine months away from anybody having to be really serious about any of this. And polls like this matter less at this point than votes on "American Idol." (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think the mega-message is Hillary is in a very solid place to get the nomination, and nobody has a clue about who's going to get the Republican. The person might not even be in the race yet. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the meta-message?

MR. PAGE: The meta-message is that the known stars are still stars and that people are still shopping around and that we're still in that getting-to-know-you phase before we get into real serious issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The meta-message is that the primary is still wide open.

Issue Three: Resurrecting Slavery.

The first African slaves arrived on this continent in 1619, and the institution of slavery lasted until abolition, 1865, 246 years.

Now two states have formally apologized for their roles in black enslavement. The Maryland Assembly passed a resolution last week which says, quote, "Whereas slavery and discrimination are utterly contrary to the principles that this nation and this state profess, the state of Maryland expresses profound regret for the role that Maryland played in instituting and maintaining slavery and for the discrimination that was slavery's legacy," unquote.

"Regret" was the operative word in Maryland, the same word used in Virginia last month. There was one word that was not used by either state in their declarations. That word was, quote-unquote, "apology."

Other states and cities -- Missouri, Georgia, Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Annapolis -- are currently considering the Virginia and Maryland precedent. And last month on Capitol Hill, Steven Cohen, Democratic congressman from Tennessee, introduced a bill in the House of Representatives entitled Resolution Apologizing for the Enslavement and Racial Segregation of African-Americans. The bill has 35 co-signers.

Question: Some 640,000 mainly white men died in the Civil War. Does the nation owe regrets to those whites of that number who gave their lives fighting to emancipate slaves, or only to the slaves for their victimization? I ask you.

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) Why are you looking at me, John? (Laughter.) I was so busy arguing with Pat over who's going to answer this question, I almost didn't hear the question. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear the question?

MR. PAGE: Mind if I answer the question? Well, thank you, John. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer. MR. PAGE: No, I think -- well, you know, everybody in this generation regrets slavery. It's hard to find anybody who's in favor of it, because it's very easy to do because it happened so long ago. Frankly, I think this is the kind of symbolism, really, that plays well politically for some folks. It doesn't have that much substance, like Larry Wilmore, the senior black correspondent on "The Daily Show," said, "I'd rather have the gambling casinos" that a lot of Native American tribes have. (Laughter.)

But there is a question as to whether this lays a legal foundation for reparations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. PAGE: And that is stirring a lot of backlash.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, my --

MS. DENTZER: (Inaudible) -- getting off the reparations debate, which is more likely.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, my great-grandfather was one of those 640,000. And I don't think he was fighting for emancipation. He was in the Mississippi volunteers at the time. So not all of those guys who died died fighting for emancipation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that an expression of regret should go out to those men who lost their lives who were non-black in the Civil War and who were fighting for the abolition of slavery?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, we honor all the veterans. Frankly, it's a good thing we honor today all the veterans on both sides.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor the apology/expression of regret --

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to black America, yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't. Slavery was something that existed from time immemorial, and the Christian countries were the first to abolish it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor it? Yes or no? We've got to get out.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. Look, we have enough real problems we should be dealing with now than to visit history and try to take advantage of the politics of reviewing history. Everybody --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor it, yes or no, Clarence?

MR. PAGE: I'm in favor of history. (Laughs.) (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want an apology?

MR. PAGE: You know, it's a wonderful thing to have. But on a scale of zero to 10, it'd put it at a two at best as far as --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Nelson do in South Africa?

MR. PAGE: Nelson Mandela?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. MR. PAGE: Well, they had a very aggressive reparations and affirmative action program there.

MR. BUCHANAN: But they had a reconciliation program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The reconciliation, did that involve reparations?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. PAGE: It involved people who were --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did it involve an expression of regret?

MR. BUCHANAN: It involved people coming up and saying, "What you did on both sides" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor an apology or an expression of regret for slavery, which happened, what, 230 years ago?

MS. DENTZER: I'm watching Georgia, where the resolution of apology may be twinned with a resolution to declare April as Confederate History Month. So we're now in an era of consumer- directed history. You get to pick which branch of history you want to celebrate.

(PBS segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Resurrecting Wit.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Well, where should I start? A year ago my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my vice president had shot someone. (Laughter.) Ah, those were the good old days. (Laughter.)

I have to admit, we really blew the way we let those attorneys go. You know you've botched it when people sympathize with lawyers. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan, are these remarks as funny as they seem? You were there.

MS. DENTZER: I was there. And that night the president was, in fact, very funny. He also noted that security for the evening had been provided by Senator Webb, whose aide, of course, had just managed to carry a gun into the Capitol. And then he went on to say that Senator Obama was absent because, with only 10,000 radio and TV correspondents, there clearly wasn't enough press. So he got off some good lines.

What came after that, I have to say, was over the top. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was that?

MS. DENTZER: Well, this was, for one thing, people imitating burping. And frankly, it brought out my inner Girl Scout. I just don't think you do that in front of the president of the United States. And then there was the famous scene of Karl Rove pretending to be a rap star, which reminded me -- I thought we basically moved from Karl Rove to Karl Marx. You remember Marx said, "History begins as history, repeats as tragedy, ends as farce." Now we fast-forward; we just do it all at once. We have history, tragedy and farce. And that seemed to be the way the evening ended.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I saw the video of Rove. He seems totally unrhythmic. And certainly also rap has gone, hasn't it?

MR. BLANKLEY: I wouldn't know.

MR. PAGE: I think he's trying to get our sympathy. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is rap gone?

MR. PAGE: Is rap out? No. Just ask my son and his no-account friends. They'll tell you.

MR. BUCHANAN: I must say, John, I was --

MR. PAGE: But I think one thing, you know, I'm in the Gridiron Club, a proud member, the oldest satirical organization here in Washington, for whatever it's worth.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who did you play?

MR. PAGE: Well, this year I got to play Barack Obama as a Blues Brother, which was fabulous. (Laughter.) The band was right with me. "I'm a soul man." But let me say this. No, the Gridiron Club has one slogan: "The Gridiron singes but does not burn." Also it has a slogan, "The president always gets the last word."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Happy Easter. Good Passover. Bye-bye.

END.

is it is complicated. And the simpler you make it, the better. But the fact is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you get something for free, Clarence? How do you get something for free?

MR. PAGE: It's not going to be free. That's the thing. We don't have an honest debate now, Pat, because the insurance industry --

MR. BUCHANAN: Who's going to pay for it? Who's going to pay for it?

MR. PAGE: -- has been killing the honest debate. There's a lot of different ways to pay for it. There is pain involved. And that means candidates are reluctant to talk about it. The fact is, there's bigger pain in not having coverage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to the question is that we, in fact, are headed towards a universal health care consensus, but it won't occur until after the 2008 election. And 2009 is the year to watch.

Issue Two: Sinking, Sailing or Status Quo.

The first votes in the presidential primaries and caucuses won't be cast until January 2008, nine months from now. But the jockeying for position has already begun. Two USA Today/Gallup polls last month, three weeks apart each, conducted over a three-day period each, break down the races, one poll ending March 4, one ending March 25.

The first ended on March 4 and is in the left column, designated "Then." The second is March 25th and is in the right column, designated "Now" -- Democrats, March 4, "Then," March 25, "Now."

Clinton, 36 then, 35 now; Obama, 22 then, 22 now; Gore, 18, 17; Edwards, 9, 14; Richardson, 1, 3; Biden, 3, 1; Clark, 2, 1.

Question: Where is the surprise in this poll? Susan Dentzer.

MS. DENTZER: I fail to see any, frankly, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Edwards increased 50 percent.

MS. DENTZER: Well, that's the only one. And I guess you could ask, did he have any bounce because of his wife's announcement that her cancer had returned? Did he have any bounce from the Las Vegas forum on health care? That's possibly an explanation for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: People took a second look at him because of Elizabeth and that situation.

MS. DENTZER: Possibly. MR. BUCHANAN: This is big news, John, in this sense. Hillary remains very, very strong. Obama has come up, but he appears -- he had a month here where he did not move, and he's the principal challenger. I think, of the polls you're going to show, Democrat and Republicans, the most impressive one to come out of this is Hillary Rodham Clinton, who becomes something of a prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination, and frankly, the strongest candidate in both parties.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Gore? Gore's at 18 percent, 17 percent.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's hanging --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gore hasn't even announced.

MR. BUCHANAN: But look, he had a good month with his Academy Award.

MR. BLANKLEY: Gore can't get in unless Obama sinks, because Obama's taking the oxygen away. As I wrote in a column --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about if Hillary sinks?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think she's going to. She's solid at 35 percent. As I wrote in my column a couple of weeks ago, this is perfect. You've got Obama and Edwards nicely splitting the anti- Hillary vote, and they bounce around back and forth there and Hillary coasts above them to the nomination.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think they're seeing the big point here.

MS. DENTZER: There will probably be a -- (inaudible) -- next week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the big point?

MR. PAGE: Well, maybe they don't see your big point, John, and neither do I. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give you a hint. I'll give you a hint -- YouTube.

MR. PAGE: YouTube, okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: YouTube. Who was attacked in YouTube?

MR. PAGE: Well, Hillary, although --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary. And 6 million people saw YouTube. And what was everybody saying on this set except for me? That this was going to crush her, right, that the Internet was going to crush her. MR. PAGE: Well, I wasn't here that day, John.

MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't say that.

MR. PAGE: No, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, what happened after YouTube to Hillary? Zero.

MR. PAGE: Yeah, right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero. That shows you -- it makes his point of how strong she is. True or false?

MR. PAGE: But I think there's also a viral effect, though, to use an Internet term, as far as Hillary Clinton is concerned. People visualize what many of them had in the back of their minds, that she was not going to be, for the long haul, that attractive of a candidate compared to Barack Obama.

You'll also notice that the Hillary supporters, somebody out there in cyberspace, came back with response ads, which is the way YouTube --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's overly complicating it.

Okay, Republicans --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just get this point --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.

Republicans: Then, Giuliani 44, now 31; McCain, 20 then, now 22; Thompson, not available, now 12 percent; Gingrich, 9 then, 8 now; Brownback, 1 then, 3 now; Romney, 8, 3.

Question: Where is the surprise in this poll? Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Once again, no surprises; no natural leader on the Republican side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you talking about? Giuliani slipped from 44 to 31.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, these early numbers, they pop up and then they drift down as the negatives come out. There's no obvious -- there's an obvious likely --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Bernie Kerik and Giuliani and the fact that there's no indictment yet come down on Kerik, right?

MR. BLANKLEY: This shows you -- as I was going to say a moment ago, this shows you the strength of Hillary. All of her negatives are known by the public. The negatives for Obama or Giuliani, all the others, are not known. They have a lot more down-side potential. Hillary's -- we know what --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the key thing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The other surprise is that a non-announced candidate, Fred Thompson -- MR. BUCHANAN: Giuliani has lost probably a third of his support in a month. Fred Thompson's gone from zero to 12 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unannounced. Unannounced.

MR. BUCHANAN: Romney has gone back. What that tells you is this. Republicans are continually looking for a fresh face. We thought it was Rudy. Hey, maybe it's Thompson. But I think, John, when you get into the money, you realize that Romney, despite the fact he might have gone down to 3 percent, he's got enough to stay in the game -- $23 million.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it make a difference?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, yes, it does, John. It really does.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it does?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, sure, it does. He can stay in. Look, if he didn't have the $23 million, he'd be gone right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, the man has $500 million of his own.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, okay. Well, that's --

MR. PAGE: Right, and a lot of deep-pocket friends.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know. I think that -- I think Romney's got a problem.

Exit question: What is the meta-message of these head-to-head polls? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hillary Rodham Clinton is the toughest candidate in the field.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about Obama? He stayed steady at 22 -- 22.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Twenty-two. He's not moving. (Laughs.)

MS. DENTZER: The meta-message is we're nine months away from anybody having to be really serious about any of this. And polls like this matter less at this point than votes on "American Idol." (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think the mega-message is Hillary is in a very solid place to get the nomination, and nobody has a clue about who's going to get the Republican. The person might not even be in the race yet. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the meta-message?

MR. PAGE: The meta-message is that the known stars are still stars and that people are still shopping around and that we're still in that getting-to-know-you phase before we get into real serious issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The meta-message is that the primary is still wide open.

Issue Three: Resurrecting Slavery.

The first African slaves arrived on this continent in 1619, and the institution of slavery lasted until abolition, 1865, 246 years.

Now two states have formally apologized for their roles in black enslavement. The Maryland Assembly passed a resolution last week which says, quote, "Whereas slavery and discrimination are utterly contrary to the principles that this nation and this state profess, the state of Maryland expresses profound regret for the role that Maryland played in instituting and maintaining slavery and for the discrimination that was slavery's legacy," unquote.

"Regret" was the operative word in Maryland, the same word used in Virginia last month. There was one word that was not used by either state in their declarations. That word was, quote-unquote, "apology."

Other states and cities -- Missouri, Georgia, Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Annapolis -- are currently considering the Virginia and Maryland precedent. And last month on Capitol Hill, Steven Cohen, Democratic congressman from Tennessee, introduced a bill in the House of Representatives entitled Resolution Apologizing for the Enslavement and Racial Segregation of African-Americans. The bill has 35 co-signers.

Question: Some 640,000 mainly white men died in the Civil War. Does the nation owe regrets to those whites of that number who gave their lives fighting to emancipate slaves, or only to the slaves for their victimization? I ask you.

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) Why are you looking at me, John? (Laughter.) I was so busy arguing with Pat over who's going to answer this question, I almost didn't hear the question. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear the question?

MR. PAGE: Mind if I answer the question? Well, thank you, John. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer. MR. PAGE: No, I think -- well, you know, everybody in this generation regrets slavery. It's hard to find anybody who's in favor of it, because it's very easy to do because it happened so long ago. Frankly, I think this is the kind of symbolism, really, that plays well politically for some folks. It doesn't have that much substance, like Larry Wilmore, the senior black correspondent on "The Daily Show," said, "I'd rather have the gambling casinos" that a lot of Native American tribes have. (Laughter.)

But there is a question as to whether this lays a legal foundation for reparations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. PAGE: And that is stirring a lot of backlash.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, my --

MS. DENTZER: (Inaudible) -- getting off the reparations debate, which is more likely.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, my great-grandfather was one of those 640,000. And I don't think he was fighting for emancipation. He was in the Mississippi volunteers at the time. So not all of those guys who died died fighting for emancipation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that an expression of regret should go out to those men who lost their lives who were non-black in the Civil War and who were fighting for the abolition of slavery?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, we honor all the veterans. Frankly, it's a good thing we honor today all the veterans on both sides.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor the apology/expression of regret --

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to black America, yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't. Slavery was something that existed from time immemorial, and the Christian countries were the first to abolish it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor it? Yes or no? We've got to get out.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. Look, we have enough real problems we should be dealing with now than to visit history and try to take advantage of the politics of reviewing history. Everybody --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor it, yes or no, Clarence?

MR. PAGE: I'm in favor of history. (Laughs.) (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want an apology?

MR. PAGE: You know, it's a wonderful thing to have. But on a scale of zero to 10, it'd put it at a two at best as far as --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Nelson do in South Africa?

MR. PAGE: Nelson Mandela?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. MR. PAGE: Well, they had a very aggressive reparations and affirmative action program there.

MR. BUCHANAN: But they had a reconciliation program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The reconciliation, did that involve reparations?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. PAGE: It involved people who were --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did it involve an expression of regret?

MR. BUCHANAN: It involved people coming up and saying, "What you did on both sides" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor an apology or an expression of regret for slavery, which happened, what, 230 years ago?

MS. DENTZER: I'm watching Georgia, where the resolution of apology may be twinned with a resolution to declare April as Confederate History Month. So we're now in an era of consumer- directed history. You get to pick which branch of history you want to celebrate.

(PBS segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Resurrecting Wit.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Well, where should I start? A year ago my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my vice president had shot someone. (Laughter.) Ah, those were the good old days. (Laughter.)

I have to admit, we really blew the way we let those attorneys go. You know you've botched it when people sympathize with lawyers. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan, are these remarks as funny as they seem? You were there.

MS. DENTZER: I was there. And that night the president was, in fact, very funny. He also noted that security for the evening had been provided by Senator Webb, whose aide, of course, had just managed to carry a gun into the Capitol. And then he went on to say that Senator Obama was absent because, with only 10,000 radio and TV correspondents, there clearly wasn't enough press. So he got off some good lines.

What came after that, I have to say, was over the top. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was that?

MS. DENTZER: Well, this was, for one thing, people imitating burping. And frankly, it brought out my inner Girl Scout. I just don't think you do that in front of the president of the United States. And then there was the famous scene of Karl Rove pretending to be a rap star, which reminded me -- I thought we basically moved from Karl Rove to Karl Marx. You remember Marx said, "History begins as history, repeats as tragedy, ends as farce." Now we fast-forward; we just do it all at once. We have history, tragedy and farce. And that seemed to be the way the evening ended.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I saw the video of Rove. He seems totally unrhythmic. And certainly also rap has gone, hasn't it?

MR. BLANKLEY: I wouldn't know.

MR. PAGE: I think he's trying to get our sympathy. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is rap gone?

MR. PAGE: Is rap out? No. Just ask my son and his no-account friends. They'll tell you.

MR. BUCHANAN: I must say, John, I was --

MR. PAGE: But I think one thing, you know, I'm in the Gridiron Club, a proud member, the oldest satirical organization here in Washington, for whatever it's worth.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who did you play?

MR. PAGE: Well, this year I got to play Barack Obama as a Blues Brother, which was fabulous. (Laughter.) The band was right with me. "I'm a soul man." But let me say this. No, the Gridiron Club has one slogan: "The Gridiron singes but does not burn." Also it has a slogan, "The president always gets the last word."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Happy Easter. Good Passover. Bye-bye.

END.