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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 14-15, 2007

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Nothing Wrong.

DAVID EVANS (former Duke lacrosse player): (From videotape.) If you want to know what character is, walk around your campus and see signs with your photo all over it, "Wanted" signs, and have people in the media relating you to Hitler and other terrible people from history, when you've done nothing wrong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three Duke University lacrosse players were cleared of all charges this week relating to the alleged kidnapping and alleged raping of a stripper at a 2006 party. After 13 months of withering media scrutiny, Roy Cooper, the North Carolina attorney general, not only dropped the charges but went out of his way to exonerate the players.

ROY COOPER (North Carolina attorney general): (From videotape.) We believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The young men reacted to their vindication in a press conference later in the day.

READE SELIGMANN (former Duke lacrosse player): (From videotape.) This dark cloud of injustice that's hung above our heads has finally cleared.

COLLIN FINNERTY (former Duke lacrosse player): (From videotape.) Family and friends is what matters most. I hope to use my experience to prevent this from ever happening again to anyone.

MR. EVANS: (From videotape.) It's been 395 days since this nightmare began. And finally today it's come to a closure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Who bears responsibility for the ordeal these college students went through? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: First and foremost, Mr. Nifong, the district attorney, who went after them and prosecuted them when mounting evidence showed that the charge was not only false but absurd.

But secondarily, these young men were really tried and convicted and lynched in a narrow court of public opinion down there in Raleigh, on their campus, by some professors, by some racial hustlers and others, and on cable TV, John, by a rush to judgment that they were guilty of a horrible crime when it turned out to be another Tawana Brawley situation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, your description is accurate, but your answer to my question is erroneous. The person who bears most responsibility is the accuser. Therefore, should the accuser be faced with charges?

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely not. Her story did not hold up, but lots of people who bring lawsuits don't succeed in court. And I don't think most people get countersued as a matter of punishment for bringing a lawsuit. She didn't have a strong enough case, obviously. But I think the fault with that lies with the prosecutor, an overzealous prosecutor, and a gullible media that basically bought a narrative of rich, privileged lacrosse players taking advantage of a woman who has to strip to earn a living. And that was the narrative that was played out, and it was wrong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If she knowingly filed false charges, should she not face prosecution? MR. BLANKLEY: It is a crime. And my understanding, based on what the North Carolina attorney general suggested, didn't quite say, was that she was probably a psychotic and thought that she was telling the truth even though objectively it was a complete lie. And so if you have some poor psychotic person, prosecutorial discretion might suggest that you don't go after the person; maybe get them mental help.

But on the broader issue, I'm a former prosecutor, and what Nifong did -- among the many things that he did horribly, he refused either to interview the accuser or the accused because he had a primary to get to and he wanted to get the indictment and win the election on a racial basis without even being willing to accept the presentation of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he also not want to keep the DNA evidence out?

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, yeah, that too. And he misrepresented to court. He did a lot of things. But to understand how appalling it is, he would neither interview the accuser nor the accused. Now, routinely you find out what is accused. Did they have an alibi? He wouldn't listen to it before the indictment. It's really outrageous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the press performed well?

MR. PAGE: Hardly. (Laughs.) This was a media riot from the beginning; just countless examples of it. Jon Stewart had fun with Nancy Grace the other night and clips from her, who was with the prosecution all the way. And, you know, I'm not going to say I'm not guilty as well as a lot of other people, because it seemed that it fit this narrative so well of this poor, abused -- and like Tony said, I don't know if she was psychotic, but she apparently has had emotional problems and may have been under some other influence that night. But her case began to break down, and yet Nifong just kept pressing on until the evidence, just piece by piece, just dried up. So I hope we learn a lesson here about the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Nifong should be disbarred?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MR. PAGE: Well, I don't personally have enough knowledge to say disbarment, but he certainly looks bad here.

MR. BLANKLEY: Absolutely he ought to be disbarred.

MR. BUCHANAN: He ought to be investigated, John. And if he's done this -- look, you cannot go into the grand jury -- and these kids are right; they say the grand jury, they would indict a ham sandwich. But this case was breaking down 24 hours after it was brought, and it continued to collapse. And he pursued this. He ought to be disbarred and he ought to be sent to prison if he's guilty of prosecutorial misconduct. MR. BLANKLEY: Let me add, there are some other people here who were not quite as guilty, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here -- where?

MR. BLANKLEY: In this case -- and it's the deputy DAs in that office, who must have known -- now, it was their boss, the DA, Nifong, so maybe they didn't have much -- but they could see what evidence was not being collected and what was happening, and they sure kept quiet.

MS. CLIFT: Nifong is currently under investigation on numerous ethics charges. He's going to be judged by his peers. And he is likely to be disbarred. I don't think he's going to end up spending time in jail.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's what my exit question is going to be. I also want to point out that the lawyers for these students did a fantastic job in keeping Nifong in check and (bleeding ?) in the state district attorney.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, what is incredible is how long it took. I can understand how people would say this is a horrible thing these kids did and you go after it. But when the thing starts crumbling, why you don't then back off and say, "Hold on, folks, we might have had a 48-hour rush to judgment."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will Nifong spend time in jail? I ask you, Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: My guess is no, but I think he's in real danger of disbarment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: That's what I just said -- yes. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not aware of any crime that he's committed. If he's committed a crime, I hope he goes to jail. But I think that he's protected in prosecutorial discretion, which is very broad in most states.

MR. PAGE: You have a unanimous jury here, John. I'd say disbarment, but jail time unlikely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I think we've got a criminal action here. I think we have a criminal action -- extreme prosecutorial abuse.

Issue Two: Imus Imbroglio.

DON IMUS (former radio talk show host): (From videotape.) I did a bad thing, but I'm a good person. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For the past week, talk show host Don Imus has been dealing with the aftermath of his defamatory comments about the Rutgers basketball team. Imus has repeatedly apologized for the sexist and racist phrases he used on air to refer to African-American women. After initially suspending him for two weeks, both CBS and MSNBC ultimately decided to remove Imus in the Morning from their lineup.

Question: What's the fallout from the Imus affair? I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Well, there's a couple of job openings right now, John, if you're thinking about getting into talk radio. I think the big fallout from this is probably going to be to boost the YouTube generation, because Imus has been making these kind of remarks for some 30 years, but all of a sudden now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what do they do?

MR. PAGE: Well, the clip from MSNBC got picked up --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And moved around.

MR. PAGE: -- this "nappy-headed hos" clip, so people could see it, and it just churned up. In this era, these controversies don't go away. Anger spreads farther, faster and hotter than ever before. So by Monday he was pleading for his career.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there a lesson there for all of us?

MR. PAGE: Well, watch what you say on camera, John. You know that by now.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, you make a big point about a lesson, because the lasting effect is a chilling effect on everybody who's vigorously exercising free speech. This was a lynching --

MR. PAGE: Oh, now, Tony --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, let me --

MR. PAGE: Do you feel chilled, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you, they're already listening on MSNBC on one show they're going to go after Rush; they're going to go after other people. This was an agenda-driven event. And the networks were cowards. They had made a judgment for years that this was programming worth presenting. They get a week of flash --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: Think about -- MR. PAGE: They knew what they were getting.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Tony finish. Quickly, quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: Think about Edward R. Murrow and how CBS protected him when the sponsors were threatened back in the '50s.

MS. CLIFT: Imus is no Edward R. Murrow. This was the market --

MR. BLANKLEY: And this was no CBS.

MS. CLIFT: This was the marketplace speaking, and this was America telling a man who uttered an utterly despicable comment that America --

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. America now looks more like Clarence and me than it does like the white men who ruled forever.

MR. BUCHANAN: The vindictiveness we hear right here --

MS. CLIFT: It's not vindictiveness.

MR. BUCHANAN: The vindictiveness we hear --

MS. CLIFT: I didn't say anything --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, this guy -- you hold it, Eleanor.

SEC. CHERTOFF: Let him talk.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me say this. Imus said a stupid thing; he and Bernie did -- two words for about three or four seconds in the morning. They apologized and apologized and apologized and asked for forgiveness. And two Christian ministers, Sharpton and Jackson, acted like lynch mob leaders. This was an example of real hate, John, real hate in America. But the hate was not from Imus. It was directed at him. There was no forgiveness. It was un-Christian and un-American.

MR. PAGE: If this was the first time, Pat -- Pat, if this was the first time, then this would be appropriate.

MS. CLIFT: This was a pattern.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Clarence --

MR. PAGE: Yeah, this would be appropriate if this was the first time, but it wasn't the first time. MR. BUCHANAN: Did he deserve to be lynched for that?

MR. PAGE: He was fired back in the '70s and went back to Cleveland and worked his way back up the food chain.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay, he made mistakes.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask Clarence a question.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. He was not lynched. He was a victim of modern America where, if the advertisers don't think you're selling and you're not marketable, they pull the advertising. It happens every day for lots of people.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you something.

MS. CLIFT: He lost his market value, and appropriately so.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's not only people who some people don't like who's going to get hit by this. Someone like Bill Maher, who says that Christians are mentally ill -- if evangelical Christians decided to go after the sponsors -- or any of us can say something and you get targeted. You have no protection. It was very dangerous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, hold on --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- the protection of the marketplace.

MR. PAGE: Remember 9/11? Bill Maher already lost his program for what he said on the air. This is nothing new.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm not just picking on Bill Maher.

MR. PAGE: That is a good example. It's nothing new.

MR. BUCHANAN: Clarence, they got this guy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, relinquish. Okay, okay, wait a minute. Wait a minute.

MR. PAGE: Let's let John have the floor here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Imus's pledge to Clarence; this is what he said to you in 1900-and-what -- MR. PAGE: No, 2000.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: 2000. In the year 2000, seven years ago, you were on Imus and he said this to you. "I will cease all simian references to black athletes and avoid all references to non-criminal blacks as thugs, pimps, muggers and Colt 45 drinkers." Is that correct?

MR. PAGE: That is correct.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he --

MR. PAGE: And there was more.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was more?

MR. PAGE: There was more. But, you know, he swore off of it, back-pedaling.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Clarence --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he draw up that language or did you?

MR. PAGE: No, there was a controversy going on back in 2000. And Pat -- I forgave him, Pat, you know. That's what it was all about.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me ask you --

MR. PAGE: I said I wouldn't appear on the show again --

MR. BUCHANAN: The African-American community --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him just answer the question.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Let him answer the question.

MR. BUCHANAN: I heard his answer.

MR. PAGE: I said I wouldn't appear on the show again until we cleared the air on that controversy.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay.

MR. PAGE: And we did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let me tell you something. This term, "nappy-headed hos," comes out of the ghetto. It's slang. It's ugly stuff. It's terrible to women. It is constant on African-American radio. Imus was lynched because he was a white male who said it. MR. PAGE: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's why.

MR. PAGE: Because he applied those words to the Rutgers women's basketball team.

MR. BUCHANAN: They accepted --

MR. PAGE: That was a cheap shot. It was a cheap shot.

MR. BUCHANAN: They didn't ask for his head.

MR. PAGE: That's why the country was outraged.

MS. CLIFT: I just want to say one thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. Make one quick point.

MS. CLIFT: He'd been a bully going after people for years -- women, gays, blacks, people with disabilities. He picked the wrong target this time. These young women are an extraordinary, positive example --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's done more good for people than anybody on radio.

MS. CLIFT: -- of America.

MR. BUCHANAN: More good than anybody.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, he's not a bully. He takes everybody on.

MS. CLIFT: He's a bully.

MR. BLANKLEY: He called Cheney --

MS. CLIFT: He's a bully of everybody.

MR. BLANKLEY: He called Cheney a war criminal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the first '08 --

MR. BLANKLEY: But, in fact, he's one of the best interviewers on TV and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the first '08 presidential contender to opine publicly on Imus's uproar is Barack Obama. This is what he said: "Obviously what this reveals is that we still have a host of racial stereotypes that are out there and bandying them about and thinking that there aren't going to be any consequences to it. But I also think there's a broader problem of a coarsening of the culture -- insults. Humor that degrades women, humor that is based in racism and racial stereotypes isn't fun. We all have First Amendment rights, and I am a constitutional lawyer and strongly believe in free speech.

But as a culture, we really have to do some soul-searching to think about what kind of toxic information we are feeding our kids."

MR. BUCHANAN: Why did he go on Imus's show then?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He went on once and he said he wouldn't go on again.

MR. BUCHANAN: He went on the show. He didn't know what it was? Come on. What a phony.

MR. PAGE: I didn't know what it was when I went on the show.

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait, wait, wait. More than that, Pat, it took him --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was peddling a book, Pat, like you.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you something.

MR. BUCHANAN: I like Imus.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you something. Obama spent several days being indifferent about it until Al Sharpton --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was the first to speak.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- until Al Sharpton started questioning whether he was going to lose black votes in the Democratic primary, and then Obama the hero comes out with these heroic statements.

MS. CLIFT: There is nothing that Obama said that anybody on this set, I think, would disagree with. He struck exactly the right note.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he's going to put a crimp in --

MR. BUCHANAN: But where did the term come from, Eleanor? The term is a terrible term.

MS. CLIFT: It is different --

MR. BUCHANAN: Imus didn't invent it. MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. It is --

MR. PAGE: He wasn't fired for saying "ho." He was fired --

MR. BUCHANAN: Have you attacked people? Have you attacked black --

MS. CLIFT: Pat, calm down. Down, boy. Down, boy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor finish.

MS. CLIFT: It is different when members of a particular community denigrate themselves. It is also different if they do it in markets that are not the public airwaves and are not morning drive- time radio and television. It's where Obama (sic) said it that created the uproar --

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat, what do you think --

MR. BLANKLEY: The First Amendment is based on --

MS. CLIFT: It's where Imus said it that gave it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the mugs, the T-shirts --

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- the First Amendment has been erased?

MS. CLIFT: This isn't free speech.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right -- the mugs, the T-shirts.

MS. CLIFT: This is an abuse of the public airwaves. And the marketplace dumped him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The mugs, the T-shirts, the Imus dolls --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you know what, John? What it shows is, look, let's suppose they used the "n" word. Nobody would put that on anything. But now this term was used a million times on cable TV. They got dolls and everything. As I say, it was stupid. It is slanderous. But the guys were not malicious in doing it. They were just doing their shtick.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can find a T-shirt with the face of Al Sharpton --

MS. CLIFT: Why is it not malicious when you take that sort of shot against these wonderful women? Why is that not malicious? MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Nappy-headed hos."

MS. CLIFT: It's not funny.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Al Sharpton's picture on a T-shirt. What do you make of that?

MR. PAGE: Well, you know, like I say, it's context, you see. Imus wasn't penalized for saying those words. He was penalized for where and how he said it, applying them to that women's basketball team.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think firing --

MR. PAGE: It's beyond the pale to most viewers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Firing him has caused this marketing surge; in other words, it expands the story. Imus is probably not going to go away as fast as people think.

MR. PAGE: Imus isn't going to go away. No, this is what happens in the shock jock business, like when Imus got fired in New York back in the '70s, went back to Cleveland, worked his way back up the food chain. Now he may go to satellite radio. He may go to another station.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama sounded a little bit too preachy in that?

MR. PAGE: Obama never sounds preachy, it seems. So far he hasn't lost any points by saying --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me go back --

MR. PAGE: -- what people believe, you know. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Because thou art virtuous, there shall be no" --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- "more cakes and ale."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No more what?

MR. BUCHANAN: "Cakes and ale."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Cakes and ale."

MR. BUCHANAN: Malvolio.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it sound a little bit like that? MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) He's Malvolio.

MR. PAGE: Well, maybe the way you read it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he going to make this part of his presidential appeal, the way Dole tried to do with Hollywood -- in what year, '97?

MR. BUCHANAN: '96.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: '96.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me go to the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that what he's going to do? Are we seeing now --

MR. BUCHANAN: He'll get away from this as fast as he can, because what he does not want to do is get in where he is not; do not get into the race cul-de-sac. He's much broader and bigger than that and he ought to stay out of it. I understand why he tried to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were running for president again, if you were running for president again --

MS. CLIFT: This is a very big cul-de-sac. It's gender and race.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- would you go near this issue?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would defend Imus because I went on his show.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has anyone defended Imus who's running for president?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, yes, they have. Giuliani has. John McCain has.

MS. CLIFT: Nobody has defended what he said.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I don't either.

MS. CLIFT: Nobody has defended what he said. MR. BUCHANAN: He doesn't defend what he said. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this flap dominantly good or dominantly bad for Republicans?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to turn --

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think it makes any difference. Let me go back to the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it dominantly good or dominantly bad for the Republicans?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's bad for anybody who likes to exercise free speech.

MS. CLIFT: No --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me go back --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come, come, come.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me go back to the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the Constitution guarantees you free speech?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get a thought in for a second. The rap business -- you say give them a pass because it's black on black. But the fact is, the horrible things said on rap, who are listened to both by black kids and by white suburban boys, is doing more damage to attitudes than what --

MS. CLIFT: I did not say -- I did not say --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: I did not say give them a pass. But you can't go around --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, then NBC --

MS. CLIFT: -- firing everybody unless the advertisers pull out of those shows too.

MR. BLANKLEY: Then NBC --

MS. CLIFT: And that would be a healthy development if it happened. MR. BLANKLEY: Then NBC and CBS --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If a national plebiscite were held today, would it say Imus should go or Imus should stay?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think a couple of days ago it would have said maybe he should go. But I think there's a tremendous backlash --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Backlash.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- a feeling that the guy asked for forgiveness and they hung him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he's good at what he does?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's great at what he does. He's one of the best in the business.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he can get anybody to talk. Has he contributed to the public policy knowledge of the United States?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's not only contributed to the public policy. His show is the best morning show on the air.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. The only backlash he'll get is from the angry white male. And Imus did good interviews --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- but he did not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If a plebiscite were held, which way would it go?

MR. BUCHANAN: It'd be with Imus today.

MS. CLIFT: He's gone. He's gone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He would be gone?

MS. CLIFT: But he will be back, probably, in a different venue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the American people say, by the majority, keep him off the air.

MR. BUCHANAN: Thirty percent said no punishment whatsoever.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't have a clue. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who does? Who does? What's your instinct?

MR. BUCHANAN: This is the national conversation. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- that he is a bigot, yes or no? Is he a bigot?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he's definitely not a bigot. My instinct, if you want to know, is that any time you get an issue in which one race is attacked and another race is attacked, you probably get polarization.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't he apologize the right way and ask for forgiveness? Or did he?

MR. PAGE: No, he did. And he got forgiveness from the basketball team as well. But, you know, the real issue isn't a plebiscite. It's ratings and sponsors.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. PAGE: If Howard Stern can stay in business, so can Don Imus. That's a fact. And just because there's a backlash --

MR. BUCHANAN: But not on MSNBC, Clarence; not on a big network like MSNBC.

MR. PAGE: He'll make money, even if he has to work his way back up. If he's such a nice guy, and I agree with you that he is, then he can work his way back up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The advertisers really do conduct their own mental plebiscite when they --

MR. PAGE: Of course. It's a business that we're talking about here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, which way, if you were an advertiser, would you go, or do you think it would go a week from now? Do you think it would go on the side of --

MR. PAGE: I wouldn't advertise on a show like that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?

MR. PAGE: I wouldn't advertise on a show like that. But a lot of people will.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, corporations run as a matter of course. Look, they've got vast audiences. They cut their losses immediately. That's how they do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that they run on the basis of exclusively self-interest?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I do, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's the way you like it. MR. BUCHANAN: They don't have any heart, John -- zero.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this the end of an icon, yes or no? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to have a tough time coming back. I hope he does.

MS. CLIFT: He's not going to have presidential candidates and pundits elbowing to get on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So is it yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: It's the end of him in his current configuration. But I -- he'll be back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose he becomes self-censoring, as he will? Will he lose his Imus quality?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. If he comes back -- and I hope he does with a big audience -- he's got to do basically the same show. He can't just be a lovely fellow. He's got to be the kind of guy he's been for 30 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. PAGE: Yeah. Well, he will come back. He won't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a no, he won't come back.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know; probably.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't know; probably no.

MR. PAGE: As my mama would say, if he be livin', he'll be back, because, like Pat said, there is a backlash out there among folks who like Imus. And he's going to generate that, and he'll be able to sell sponsors and he'll be able to sell books.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even on XM, he would have to be self-censoring, and that would vitiate the Imus quality that was so direct and good in legitimate questioning. Do you follow me?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MR. PAGE: He would have to be more creative.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So therefore, I think that the icon will probably walk into the sunset.

MS. CLIFT: You could be acerbic without picking on people who aren't your size. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Green Zone Red.

The green zone, Baghdad's impenetrable fortress -- well, the fortress was penetrated this week. The green zone's four square miles are the putative safe haven from the violence and blood-letting of Iraq's capital, allowing diplomats, politicians and other professionals to do their business, along with thousands of Iraqi civilians who travel in and out and live there.

But the green zone's 12-foot-high blast-proof walls, multiple checkpoints and razor wire were no match to the deadly suicide blast in the cafeteria of -- get this -- Iraq's Parliament. This horror dealt a blow to the two-month-old Bush surge, a security plan for Baghdad with some 45,000 U.S. troops in the city.

The blast occurred in the most hardened security site in Baghdad, the Parliament, inside the green zone. Our commander in chief was quick to assign (culpability ?).

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Our message to the Iraqi government is we stand with you as you take the steps necessary to not only reconcile politically but also put a security force in place that is able to deal with these kind of people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Responsibility for the attack was claimed by an al Qaeda group.

Is the aura of invincibility of Americans gone?

MR. BUCHANAN: We never had an aura of invincibility.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Iraq.

MS. CLIFT: Right. This was an inside job. And if they can't protect themselves in the heavily armed green zone, it's done.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, there was no invincibility. But it shows that they're not doing well in training the Iraqi troops.

MR. PAGE: It's a setback in public image, even while they're making progress on the ground.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well stated, Clarence.

Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, will step down. Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: History.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MR. PAGE: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five yeses.

Bye-bye.

(PBS segment.)

Issue Four: Vote Your Conviction.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST (R): (From videotape.) When people have served their time and they've paid their debt and they want to be good and they want to be productive, then we ought to, by golly, let them do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Florida, ex-convicts are not readily allowed to vote. But Republican Governor Charlie Crist wants the law changed. Florida is one of five states, alongside Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi, that put tight reins on the voting rights of convicted felons who have served their time.

But soon, 80 percent of Florida's ex-cons will have the right to vote. That means nearly 1 million of Florida's former convicted felons can cast a ballot for a Democrat or a Republican or an independent.

One million votes. You know how tight those elections can be in Florida. Where are those votes going to go? And why is Crist -- (laughter) -- why is Crist, a conservative Republican, why is he doing it? Is there more here than meets the eye?

MR. PAGE: That's a good question, because I don't imagine all these ex-convicts will be Republican voters, although I imagine they might show some gratitude toward the governor now. But I think he does want to distance himself from the past governor, Jeb Bush, and establish his own identity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To establish the political identity of this large group, you know that felonies are practically misdemeanors elsewhere. Felonies multiply by reason of the statute that exists and the low threshold for committing a felony in Florida. So if these felonious criminals are going to be set free, what do you think their political stripes would be -- MR. BLANKLEY: Well, most of them --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if the felony level is low?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's about 90-10. It's going for the other party, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican?

MR. BLANKLEY: Mostly Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think so? Why? Why?

MR. BLANKLEY: There aren't enough white-collar -- the white- collar criminals would vote Republican --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The felony law is designed to catch the white- collar criminal. And who are they, dominantly?

MR. PAGE: White-collar criminals are mostly white -- (laughter) -- but that's changing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're excused.

END.

believe in free speech.

But as a culture, we really have to do some soul-searching to think about what kind of toxic information we are feeding our kids."

MR. BUCHANAN: Why did he go on Imus's show then?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He went on once and he said he wouldn't go on again.

MR. BUCHANAN: He went on the show. He didn't know what it was? Come on. What a phony.

MR. PAGE: I didn't know what it was when I went on the show.

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait, wait, wait. More than that, Pat, it took him --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was peddling a book, Pat, like you.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you something.

MR. BUCHANAN: I like Imus.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you something. Obama spent several days being indifferent about it until Al Sharpton --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was the first to speak.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- until Al Sharpton started questioning whether he was going to lose black votes in the Democratic primary, and then Obama the hero comes out with these heroic statements.

MS. CLIFT: There is nothing that Obama said that anybody on this set, I think, would disagree with. He struck exactly the right note.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he's going to put a crimp in --

MR. BUCHANAN: But where did the term come from, Eleanor? The term is a terrible term.

MS. CLIFT: It is different --

MR. BUCHANAN: Imus didn't invent it. MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. It is --

MR. PAGE: He wasn't fired for saying "ho." He was fired --

MR. BUCHANAN: Have you attacked people? Have you attacked black --

MS. CLIFT: Pat, calm down. Down, boy. Down, boy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor finish.

MS. CLIFT: It is different when members of a particular community denigrate themselves. It is also different if they do it in markets that are not the public airwaves and are not morning drive- time radio and television. It's where Obama (sic) said it that created the uproar --

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat, what do you think --

MR. BLANKLEY: The First Amendment is based on --

MS. CLIFT: It's where Imus said it that gave it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the mugs, the T-shirts --

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- the First Amendment has been erased?

MS. CLIFT: This isn't free speech.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right -- the mugs, the T-shirts.

MS. CLIFT: This is an abuse of the public airwaves. And the marketplace dumped him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The mugs, the T-shirts, the Imus dolls --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you know what, John? What it shows is, look, let's suppose they used the "n" word. Nobody would put that on anything. But now this term was used a million times on cable TV. They got dolls and everything. As I say, it was stupid. It is slanderous. But the guys were not malicious in doing it. They were just doing their shtick.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can find a T-shirt with the face of Al Sharpton --

MS. CLIFT: Why is it not malicious when you take that sort of shot against these wonderful women? Why is that not malicious? MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Nappy-headed hos."

MS. CLIFT: It's not funny.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Al Sharpton's picture on a T-shirt. What do you make of that?

MR. PAGE: Well, you know, like I say, it's context, you see. Imus wasn't penalized for saying those words. He was penalized for where and how he said it, applying them to that women's basketball team.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think firing --

MR. PAGE: It's beyond the pale to most viewers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Firing him has caused this marketing surge; in other words, it expands the story. Imus is probably not going to go away as fast as people think.

MR. PAGE: Imus isn't going to go away. No, this is what happens in the shock jock business, like when Imus got fired in New York back in the '70s, went back to Cleveland, worked his way back up the food chain. Now he may go to satellite radio. He may go to another station.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama sounded a little bit too preachy in that?

MR. PAGE: Obama never sounds preachy, it seems. So far he hasn't lost any points by saying --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me go back --

MR. PAGE: -- what people believe, you know. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Because thou art virtuous, there shall be no" --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- "more cakes and ale."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No more what?

MR. BUCHANAN: "Cakes and ale."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Cakes and ale."

MR. BUCHANAN: Malvolio.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it sound a little bit like that? MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) He's Malvolio.

MR. PAGE: Well, maybe the way you read it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he going to make this part of his presidential appeal, the way Dole tried to do with Hollywood -- in what year, '97?

MR. BUCHANAN: '96.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: '96.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me go to the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that what he's going to do? Are we seeing now --

MR. BUCHANAN: He'll get away from this as fast as he can, because what he does not want to do is get in where he is not; do not get into the race cul-de-sac. He's much broader and bigger than that and he ought to stay out of it. I understand why he tried to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were running for president again, if you were running for president again --

MS. CLIFT: This is a very big cul-de-sac. It's gender and race.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- would you go near this issue?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would defend Imus because I went on his show.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has anyone defended Imus who's running for president?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, yes, they have. Giuliani has. John McCain has.

MS. CLIFT: Nobody has defended what he said.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I don't either.

MS. CLIFT: Nobody has defended what he said. MR. BUCHANAN: He doesn't defend what he said. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this flap dominantly good or dominantly bad for Republicans?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to turn --

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think it makes any difference. Let me go back to the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it dominantly good or dominantly bad for the Republicans?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's bad for anybody who likes to exercise free speech.

MS. CLIFT: No --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me go back --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come, come, come.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me go back to the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the Constitution guarantees you free speech?

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get a thought in for a second. The rap business -- you say give them a pass because it's black on black. But the fact is, the horrible things said on rap, who are listened to both by black kids and by white suburban boys, is doing more damage to attitudes than what --

MS. CLIFT: I did not say -- I did not say --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: I did not say give them a pass. But you can't go around --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, then NBC --

MS. CLIFT: -- firing everybody unless the advertisers pull out of those shows too.

MR. BLANKLEY: Then NBC --

MS. CLIFT: And that would be a healthy development if it happened. MR. BLANKLEY: Then NBC and CBS --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If a national plebiscite were held today, would it say Imus should go or Imus should stay?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think a couple of days ago it would have said maybe he should go. But I think there's a tremendous backlash --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Backlash.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- a feeling that the guy asked for forgiveness and they hung him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he's good at what he does?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's great at what he does. He's one of the best in the business.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he can get anybody to talk. Has he contributed to the public policy knowledge of the United States?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's not only contributed to the public policy. His show is the best morning show on the air.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. The only backlash he'll get is from the angry white male. And Imus did good interviews --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- but he did not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If a plebiscite were held, which way would it go?

MR. BUCHANAN: It'd be with Imus today.

MS. CLIFT: He's gone. He's gone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He would be gone?

MS. CLIFT: But he will be back, probably, in a different venue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the American people say, by the majority, keep him off the air.

MR. BUCHANAN: Thirty percent said no punishment whatsoever.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't have a clue. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who does? Who does? What's your instinct?

MR. BUCHANAN: This is the national conversation. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- that he is a bigot, yes or no? Is he a bigot?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, he's definitely not a bigot. My instinct, if you want to know, is that any time you get an issue in which one race is attacked and another race is attacked, you probably get polarization.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't he apologize the right way and ask for forgiveness? Or did he?

MR. PAGE: No, he did. And he got forgiveness from the basketball team as well. But, you know, the real issue isn't a plebiscite. It's ratings and sponsors.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. PAGE: If Howard Stern can stay in business, so can Don Imus. That's a fact. And just because there's a backlash --

MR. BUCHANAN: But not on MSNBC, Clarence; not on a big network like MSNBC.

MR. PAGE: He'll make money, even if he has to work his way back up. If he's such a nice guy, and I agree with you that he is, then he can work his way back up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The advertisers really do conduct their own mental plebiscite when they --

MR. PAGE: Of course. It's a business that we're talking about here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, which way, if you were an advertiser, would you go, or do you think it would go a week from now? Do you think it would go on the side of --

MR. PAGE: I wouldn't advertise on a show like that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?

MR. PAGE: I wouldn't advertise on a show like that. But a lot of people will.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, corporations run as a matter of course. Look, they've got vast audiences. They cut their losses immediately. That's how they do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that they run on the basis of exclusively self-interest?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I do, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's the way you like it. MR. BUCHANAN: They don't have any heart, John -- zero.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this the end of an icon, yes or no? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to have a tough time coming back. I hope he does.

MS. CLIFT: He's not going to have presidential candidates and pundits elbowing to get on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So is it yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: It's the end of him in his current configuration. But I -- he'll be back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose he becomes self-censoring, as he will? Will he lose his Imus quality?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. If he comes back -- and I hope he does with a big audience -- he's got to do basically the same show. He can't just be a lovely fellow. He's got to be the kind of guy he's been for 30 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. PAGE: Yeah. Well, he will come back. He won't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a no, he won't come back.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know; probably.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't know; probably no.

MR. PAGE: As my mama would say, if he be livin', he'll be back, because, like Pat said, there is a backlash out there among folks who like Imus. And he's going to generate that, and he'll be able to sell sponsors and he'll be able to sell books.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even on XM, he would have to be self-censoring, and that would vitiate the Imus quality that was so direct and good in legitimate questioning. Do you follow me?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MR. PAGE: He would have to be more creative.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So therefore, I think that the icon will probably walk into the sunset.

MS. CLIFT: You could be acerbic without picking on people who aren't your size. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Green Zone Red.

The green zone, Baghdad's impenetrable fortress -- well, the fortress was penetrated this week. The green zone's four square miles are the putative safe haven from the violence and blood-letting of Iraq's capital, allowing diplomats, politicians and other professionals to do their business, along with thousands of Iraqi civilians who travel in and out and live there.

But the green zone's 12-foot-high blast-proof walls, multiple checkpoints and razor wire were no match to the deadly suicide blast in the cafeteria of -- get this -- Iraq's Parliament. This horror dealt a blow to the two-month-old Bush surge, a security plan for Baghdad with some 45,000 U.S. troops in the city.

The blast occurred in the most hardened security site in Baghdad, the Parliament, inside the green zone. Our commander in chief was quick to assign (culpability ?).

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Our message to the Iraqi government is we stand with you as you take the steps necessary to not only reconcile politically but also put a security force in place that is able to deal with these kind of people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Responsibility for the attack was claimed by an al Qaeda group.

Is the aura of invincibility of Americans gone?

MR. BUCHANAN: We never had an aura of invincibility.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Iraq.

MS. CLIFT: Right. This was an inside job. And if they can't protect themselves in the heavily armed green zone, it's done.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, there was no invincibility. But it shows that they're not doing well in training the Iraqi troops.

MR. PAGE: It's a setback in public image, even while they're making progress on the ground.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well stated, Clarence.

Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, will step down. Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: History.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MR. PAGE: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five yeses.

Bye-bye.

(PBS segment.)

Issue Four: Vote Your Conviction.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST (R): (From videotape.) When people have served their time and they've paid their debt and they want to be good and they want to be productive, then we ought to, by golly, let them do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Florida, ex-convicts are not readily allowed to vote. But Republican Governor Charlie Crist wants the law changed. Florida is one of five states, alongside Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi, that put tight reins on the voting rights of convicted felons who have served their time.

But soon, 80 percent of Florida's ex-cons will have the right to vote. That means nearly 1 million of Florida's former convicted felons can cast a ballot for a Democrat or a Republican or an independent.

One million votes. You know how tight those elections can be in Florida. Where are those votes going to go? And why is Crist -- (laughter) -- why is Crist, a conservative Republican, why is he doing it? Is there more here than meets the eye?

MR. PAGE: That's a good question, because I don't imagine all these ex-convicts will be Republican voters, although I imagine they might show some gratitude toward the governor now. But I think he does want to distance himself from the past governor, Jeb Bush, and establish his own identity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To establish the political identity of this large group, you know that felonies are practically misdemeanors elsewhere. Felonies multiply by reason of the statute that exists and the low threshold for committing a felony in Florida. So if these felonious criminals are going to be set free, what do you think their political stripes would be -- MR. BLANKLEY: Well, most of them --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if the felony level is low?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's about 90-10. It's going for the other party, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican?

MR. BLANKLEY: Mostly Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think so? Why? Why?

MR. BLANKLEY: There aren't enough white-collar -- the white- collar criminals would vote Republican --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The felony law is designed to catch the white- collar criminal. And who are they, dominantly?

MR. PAGE: White-collar criminals are mostly white -- (laughter) -- but that's changing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're excused.

END.