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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MARTIN WALKER, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 26-27, 2007

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Farewell, Falwell.

The Reverend Jerry Falwell was laid to rest this week. Over 10,000 mourners attended the funeral service, many arriving as early as 3:30 a.m. The service returned Falwell to his roots, the Baptist church in Lynchburg, Virginia, which he founded 51 years ago.

Over the years, Reverend Falwell's evangelical convictions and his organizational brilliance impelled his fellow religious conservatives to involve themselves and to influence U.S. politics.

In 1979, Falwell founded the Moral Majority, an evangelical organization focused on social and political change. For over 40 years, Falwell was a figure of immense controversy. To him, the three great scourges afflicting his country were, quote, "atheism, secularism and humanism."

Reverend Falwell placed the blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the feet of his domestic opponents.

REV. JERRY FALWELL: (From videotape.) I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, "You helped this happen."

Subsequently, Falwell recanted this statement, but the recantation got far less attention than the utterance itself. Reverend Falwell was also an ardent backer of Israel, and he believed that the turmoil in the Middle East was the precursor of the second coming of Jesus Christ. Also, he stipulated that, quote, "the Antichrist must be, of necessity, a Jewish male," unquote.

Question: Jerry Falwell linked the religious right to the Republican Party. Who got the better of the bargain in that alliance, Falwell or the GOP? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, unquestionably, John, as you pointed out, Falwell formed the Moral Majority in 1979 and the Republican Party subsequently ran (sic/won) three straight massive landslides, with Ronald Reagan leading us to two of them.

What Jerry Falwell did, he became the voice and face of a Christian conservative movement which was not aggressive in the culture war. It was not the aggressor, John. It was defending its own values, convictions and beliefs, which it saw under sudden and massive assault. And he organized this movement that already existed and pointed it in a political direction, and he was a striking success. And I knew him. He was a good man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Falwell did not deliver a victory to Ronald Reagan. It was the blue collars that delivered the victory. He had the support of the Moral Majority, but they were not critical to the Reagan victory.

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's the thing -- no, no, here's the thing. He helped give many Reagan Democrats -- what you've got to realize is President Reagan ran against an evangelical Jimmy Carter and carried 10 out of 11 southern states against Carter, leaving Carter only Georgia.

The Christian conservatives did a tremendous job in helping the Republican Party win those states.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor. MS. CLIFT: The Republican Party would not be a majority party without the social conservatives. And Jerry Falwell did politicize the religious right and brought them into the Republican Party.

But Ronald Reagan at least had the formula right. He gave the religious right a seat at the table, but he didn't give them veto power. And he didn't take their ideas and let them sublimate other aspects of the party. And the religious right tried to take over, and I think the overreaching in the Terri Schiavo case was the beginning of the end of the Republican majority.

And so now the candidates running for the nomination on the Republican side, there's a mixed bag. Some of them are pandering and bowing to the religious right, and others are trying to break free of the stranglehold. And Rudy Giuliani is an experiment in progress to see if they can get away from the stranglehold of the religious right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin, did you -- do you think that George Bush owes his presidency to the religious fundamentalists by reason of the 2004 election and what they did for him in Ohio?

MR. WALKER: I think it certainly helped. But I think that the both religious right and the Republican Party are going to pay, or are already paying, a pretty stiff price for this very bizarre alliance. I think the Republican Party has been in a kind of a state of incipient civil war between the traditional country club Republicans and these new very different social class, very different cultural origins, the Republicans from the religious right.

And I think that equally the religious right is paying a price now. We're seeing religious conservatives, the evangelicals, falling apart. We're seeing new movements of environmentalists from the evangelicals. We're seeing a lot of evangelicals who are openly criticizing this alliance that was formed with the Republicans.

I think it's run its course. Pat is right. I think it helped for a dozen years. I think it perhaps helped again in the one state of Iowa. But I think both parties, Republicans and religious right, will pay a long, stiff price for this going forward.

And I think Falwell was part of the problem. Let's not forget all the mistakes, all the other things that Falwell recanted. He recanted his support for segregationism in the 1950s. He recanted his support for -- he was totally against even the mixing of blacks and whites -- of married couples. He apologized for that. If divine inspiration ever reached anybody on earth, it was not Jerry Falwell. He got it wrong time after time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Clarence? Has it run its course? MR. PAGE: Well, I think -- I love your question there, John, insofar as, you know, who got the better part of the deal here, the Republicans or Christian conservatives. I think there's no question the Republican Party got the big benefit out of this as far as the unity, the power that they had all those years. And what did they give in return? Well, the Christian conservatives did get some Supreme Court appointments that lead in their direction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the conservatives got the gay -- the amendment. You remember, they voted on that.

MR. PAGE: Gay marriage?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gay marriage.

MR. PAGE: Oh, that's a big deal, isn't it, John? I mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then they got --

MR. PAGE: I mean, really, how many people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- fetal tissue.

What else did they get?

MR. BUCHANAN: They didn't get very much, John. But I will say this. In 2004, 13 states had on the ballot the gay marriage thing. That was caused by the guy in San Francisco and the lady judge in Massachusetts. And that went down to defeat by 55, 57 percent in Ohio, 85 percent in Mississippi. Those votes carried a number of states.

MR. PAGE: It would have passed if the Republican Party hadn't had --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, I'm saying all those votes came out --

MR. PAGE: I mean, really, what --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- and then they pulled the Republican plank. They pulled the Republican switch at the same time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, okay. Religion, beware.

"There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious belief. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ or God or Allah or whatever one calls the supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain. They threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

"I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C and D. Just who do they think they are, and from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today, I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism." That was Barry Goldwater.

MR. PAGE: I never thought Barry Goldwater would sound so great. (Laughs.) No, seriously --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he still the conscience of conservatives?

MR. PAGE: Of some conservatives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or is he a heretic?

MR. PAGE: No, what that quote tells you is there are different kinds of conservatives. He was a Libertarian. Everybody who knows Barry Goldwater knows that. His objection to the Civil Rights Act vote was it was an encroachment on states' rights. It was a principled view. He was against the draft. He was in favor of legalizing marijuana. He was a Libertarian. And that did not jibe with the Christian right, as we have known it post-Falwell.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he a heretic today, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he's still considered a great hero.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he more in line with what you were saying earlier than are the fundamentalists today?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, look, they are both parts of the conservative movement. Barry Goldwater at one point was Mr. Conservative. But John, Martin Luther King invoked God in the battle for civil rights. The whole battle to overthrow slavery came out of a lot of the churches.

MR. PAGE: That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Religion has always played a role in social reform in this country, and it's got every right to state its case and make its voice heard.

MS. CLIFT: Right. But it doesn't have a right to force a particular view of religion down the throats of everybody else. And Barry Goldwater's heir in the current Republican field is Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who is a Libertarian, and who is really striking a chord. He's not going to win the nomination or the presidency, but he is speaking to a lot of people who think the Republican Party has gone way too far into the bedrooms of American people and too far --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's pro-life. He's pro-life. MR. WALKER: Let's not forget --

MS. CLIFT: He doesn't want government making those decisions.

MR. WALKER: -- the devil quotes Scripture for his own purposes. (Laughter.) And the devil has the best pew.

MR. PAGE: Thank you for that reminder.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you, Falwell was right about the Teletubby. He was subversive. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Religion beware, part two.

The United States was not, repeat not, founded as a Christian nation. This was stated early and unmistakably in a treaty drafted under George Washington in 1796 and signed by John Adams in 1797.

"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

The Founding Fathers were insistent that the state remain neutral towards organized religion. "Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man" -- Thomas Jefferson.

"During almost 15 centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruit? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

Question: James Madison is considered the author of the Constitution. Why was he so skeptical, even cynical, about Christianity? Clarence Page.

MR. PAGE: Well, because he was a man who knew from the European experience of what religion could do when it had state power behind it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the Inquisition.

MR. PAGE: I mean the Inquisition. I mean, the kind of religious conflicts we've seen in the United Kingdom, even today between --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about witch-burning right in our own country?

MR. PAGE: Right. You could go on and on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They were closer to that in time than we are. MR. BUCHANAN: John, Jefferson and Adams were anti-Catholic, anti-papist. One of the causes of the Revolutionary War is the Brits turned the Ohio Valley over to the French Canadians and all these Catholics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point? What's the point? Catholics are Christians.

MR. BUCHANAN: What I'm talking about, you're talking 15 centuries, Madison said. He's talking about the Catholic Church. He's not talking about Protestant Christianity. We are a Christian country, or were. We are a secular nation under the Constitution. The two are not in conflict.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you care to comment on this?

MR. WALKER: Well, yes. I mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you a U.S. citizen, by the way?

MR. WALKER: No, but I'm a legal alien. (Laughter.) I hasten to say that.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think we ought to have a look at that. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: You'd better show that green card to Pat here.

MR. WALKER: American presidential elections have been fought and won on the slogan of warning against the perils of rum, Romanism and --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: That was a losing election. (Laughs.

)

MR. WALKER: Well, nonetheless, this is the most religious country, outside of the Middle East --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Religiose ?).

MR. WALKER: -- (religiose ?) country outside -- the most church- attending country, outside the Islamic world. In Britain, in Europe, we're almost post-Christian societies; 3, 4, 5 percent go to church. In this country, it's 40-odd percent. Seventy percent of Americans say they believe in angels.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would the framers have thought of the religious right today, were the framers alive?

MR. WALKER: They would have thought they were a complete menace and a threat to the good order and dignity of the U.S. Constitution and the American well-being. And I think they would have been right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- they are, I mean, militant evangelicals.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the revolution as much about overthrowing an official religion as it was overthrowing the king?

MR. PAGE: Was there any separation between king -- between God and country there?

MR. WALKER: The king was the head of the established church --

MR. PAGE: That's right.

MR. WALKER: -- as indeed Prince Charles will be.

MS. CLIFT: You don't want to be told what to believe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were the Founding Fathers afraid that an official religion might take root? Were they worried more about religion affecting statecraft or statecraft offending religion? MS. CLIFT: If an official religion takes root, what else official can take root? I just think there is an independence of spirit and thought that belonged to the founders of this country that we want to continue. We don't want religious dogma exercising power over our laws.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Eleanor, the purpose of the Constitution was to separate the national government from church. However, nine state governments had church religions, John, when the Constitution was established. It was at the federal government they were not to have any established church. But nine states had established churches.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but they wilted on their own. (Laughs.)

MR. WALKER: But they were good Bible-reading people, because what they understood was to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto God that which is God's.

MS. CLIFT: They didn't have Amazon.com. They didn't get enough variety in their reading.

MR. PAGE: The irony of this is, when you've got a country that's got religious freedom, then religion is stronger than in those countries where they try to dictate it through the state.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can Buchanan bring himself to say that it's better for the United States to remain secularist, as was intended by the Founding Fathers, and by the documents, since there is nothing in the "under God" phrase that requires a religion -- you understand? You can have God-given rights through the natural law.

MR. BUCHANAN: But what we want --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What I'm saying is, can you bring yourself to say that this society should be a secular society?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I do agree the government should be neutral as between religions, no doubt about it -- Catholic, Protestant --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that secularism?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, here's the thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that secularism?

MR. BUCHANAN: It should be supportive of religion. And if the country is predominantly Christian, it should not be at war with the country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secularism does not mean anti-religious, Patrick. MR. BUCHANAN: Well, militant secularism that came out of the '60s has de-Christianized the country. That's what --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin, you study with the Oxford English Dictionary. Define secular as what, religion-free?

MR. WALKER: Absolutely. Religion-neutral, in effect.

MS. CLIFT: The militancy you're talking about is about opening up society, having women have more rights, having gay people have more rights, having minorities take their place in the society.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is about throwing the Bible and the Ten Commandments out of the schools and out of the public square.

MS. CLIFT: You can be a good person without --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We need the Ten Commandments in order to have a religious group.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let the people vote and decide. Don't have the courts decide. That's all conservatives ask.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you don't see the danger that the Constitution --

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't see a bit of danger from us having an established religion. It's way down the list, John. (Laughs.)

MR. WALKER: Ah, now we have it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MR. WALKER: Bring back King George III, says Pat Buchanan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can understand how they have the power to insert something into public policy which may not be good in public policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: It may be good. They've got a right to act on their beliefs, just as you do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The alliance between the religious right and the GOP is a holy alliance, or is the alliance between religion and the GOP an unholy alliance?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a natural alliance. Conservative Christians and conservative Republicans is a natural alliance.

MS. CLIFT: They overdid it. The country is rebelling. And I must say, this show can count as going to church this Sunday. (Laughter.) MR. WALKER: It's become a dance of death between the two of them. It's really damaging both.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Damaging both. An unholy alliance?

MR. PAGE: It's not a holy alliance. It's a political alliance, just as all the other factions of the Republican Party or any other party. For mutual benefit they come together. And that's why we're seeing such a withdrawal now of so many Christian conservatives, because they're seeing so little payoff and they see how much decadence there was in other sectors of the party. And now I think they're regrouping.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think what you're saying is that it's a dying, unholy alliance. Welcome that.

Issue Two: Tehran Tussle.

On Monday, the U.S. will meet bilaterally with Iran to officially discuss the Iraq war, but the Iran nuclear issue could easily be broached. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, this week appeared to have gone out of his way to stress that Iran was living by the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; namely, civil use of nuclear power.

Quote: "The enemies aim to prevent us from using peaceful nuclear technology," unquote.

That's peaceful technology, he said.

Also on Thursday, probably referring to our two aircraft carriers maneuvering on the Persian Gulf, Ahmadinejad gave the United States a piece of advice. Quote: "Our recommendation to you is this. Stop your mischievous deeds. The Iranian nation has nuclear technology for industrial purposes," unquote.

Another piece of arguably encouraging news on the threshold of Monday's meeting, our new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, said this about Iran and nuclear energy. Quote: "In their interest -- if their interest," rather, "is in civilian nuclear power only and their right to have access to and make use of civilian nuclear electricity, with due regard to the security of fuel supplies, there is a possibility of reaching an agreement," unquote.

Multiple-choice question: In comparison to one year ago, are the odds of a U.S. preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, A, lower now; B, the same; or C, greater than a year ago?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I'm afraid -- I think they're greater, because I think a lot of things are happening now with the Iranians taking some Americans de facto hostage almost, with the fleet going in there, with the generals saying the Iranians are helping the terrorists in Iraq, and with us apparently supporting some of these anti-Iranian terrorists, if you will, in Baluchistan, I think there's an awful lot of ways we could really have a collision with these folks. And so I'd say it's slightly higher. And I regret, because what you said -- what you laid out there, frankly, are the elements of a real deal that could be made.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think the chances are about the same for some sort of military engagement. A rational mind would tell you this administration is in no position to launch any kind of military effort against Iran being timed out in Iraq. But they've got that armada off the coast of Iran, and I think they're looking at possible bombing before this president leaves office. I don't feel at all comfortable that this is off the table.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about you, Martin? MR. WALKER: I'm afraid that logically there ought to be less of a chance of military action, but I think, given this particular administration, it's probably higher. We know that there's a huge argument between the Cheney faction and the Condoleezza Rice faction inside the administration over this.

We know that there's various forces trying to persuade the Israelis, if nobody else, to give the provocation to moving ahead. We know that parts of the Iranian government are clearly out of control -- the intelligence ministry, who's arrested Haleh Esfandiari and other Iranian-American scholars. The prospect of a provocation is huge.

The one thing that could stop it is that I was talking to Air Force people who said that it would take at least three days of preliminary bombardment to take out the anti-aircraft protections before you could start hitting the (towns ?). If that's true, then it's three days for Congress to act.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's look at who's around. Wolfowitz is gone.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Big neocon.

MR. PAGE: Yes, he is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The principal theoretician of our involvement in Iraq.

MR. PAGE: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cheney's been besmirched by Libby -- Scooter Libby.

MR. PAGE: Scooter Libby, right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then you have Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld is gone.

MR. PAGE: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you have Rice, who is on the side, I think, of an accommodation.

MR. PAGE: She's a diplomat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So don't you think that, contrary to what we've heard so far, this pessimism on this group, that it is lower now than it was then, the probability of a strike?

MR. PAGE: John, as wont as I am to go up against the view of both Pat and Martin when they're in agreement with this doomsday scenario -- (laughter) -- I hate to sound a note of hope, but, yes, I see the groundwork being laid for some serious talks. There's a lot of saber-rattling. And certainly it's all true that Cheney and a number of others are ready to bomb Iran. But it's hard to believe, in this current political atmosphere, that this administration is about ready to make another extension of our military might in that direction.

MS. CLIFT: No, but the president has 600 days left in office, and I think --

MR. PAGE: That's a lot of time for mischief, yeah.

MS. CLIFT: -- I think he feels that whoever succeeds him won't have the nerve to do this. And this is the cowboy president.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sanctions aren't working.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, Pat, the odds are much lower. And your acumen is once again shorn through.

MR. PAGE: Thank you, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Commander Slander?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) I get criticized a lot from different quarters, and that's just part of what happens when you're president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That may be, Mr. Bush, but how often is a sitting president lambasted by a former president? Last weekend, Jimmy Carter slammed the Bush administration, calling it "the worst in American history."

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: (From videotape.) I think, as far as the adverse impact on our nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A livid White House returned fire at Carter. Quote: "He is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments," unquote.

On Monday, Mr. Carter said this.

FORMER PRESIDENT CARTER: (From videotape.) My remarks were maybe careless or misinterpreted, but I wasn't comparing the overall administration and I was certainly not talking personally about any president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What aspects of the Bush presidency was Carter referring to, Martin? MR. WALKER: Well, to the way the U.S. is perceived around the world. And many people would agree with Carter's initial criticism about that. What I think is really happening here is that Carter has probably finally got tired of being called the best ex-president America has ever had. I mean, he's got his Nobel Prize now. Maybe it's time to get feisty again. Certainly I think he made much more news with his initial attack than he did with his later retraction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was disrespectful and politically unwise for the White House to refer to Carter as "irrelevant"?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think the White House should have responded that way. But this was beneath the dignity of a former president.

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

MR. BUCHANAN: It is a cutting comment. You wouldn't see Eisenhower do something like this, or even Nixon or --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Teddy Roosevelt blasting McKinley.

MR. BUCHANAN: Blasting McKinley? McKinley was dead. What are you talking about?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he blasted him, nevertheless. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he blasted Wilson.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Taft criticized FDR. This is mild-mannered stuff. It's a tap on the wrist.

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't do this. There's --

MS. CLIFT: President Carter spoke for a lot of people. This -- President only has 30 percent approval.

MR. WALKER: Twenty-eight.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think Jimmy Carter should have retracted one word of it. You can measurably document how bad this administration is. But there is sort of this code among ex presidents that I guess --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, is there now?

Blessed Memorial Day. Bye-bye.

END.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: That was a losing election. (Laughs.

)

MR. WALKER: Well, nonetheless, this is the most religious country, outside of the Middle East --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Religiose ?).

MR. WALKER: -- (religiose ?) country outside -- the most church- attending country, outside the Islamic world. In Britain, in Europe, we're almost post-Christian societies; 3, 4, 5 percent go to church. In this country, it's 40-odd percent. Seventy percent of Americans say they believe in angels.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would the framers have thought of the religious right today, were the framers alive?

MR. WALKER: They would have thought they were a complete menace and a threat to the good order and dignity of the U.S. Constitution and the American well-being. And I think they would have been right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible) -- they are, I mean, militant evangelicals.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the revolution as much about overthrowing an official religion as it was overthrowing the king?

MR. PAGE: Was there any separation between king -- between God and country there?

MR. WALKER: The king was the head of the established church --

MR. PAGE: That's right.

MR. WALKER: -- as indeed Prince Charles will be.

MS. CLIFT: You don't want to be told what to believe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were the Founding Fathers afraid that an official religion might take root? Were they worried more about religion affecting statecraft or statecraft offending religion? MS. CLIFT: If an official religion takes root, what else official can take root? I just think there is an independence of spirit and thought that belonged to the founders of this country that we want to continue. We don't want religious dogma exercising power over our laws.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Eleanor, the purpose of the Constitution was to separate the national government from church. However, nine state governments had church religions, John, when the Constitution was established. It was at the federal government they were not to have any established church. But nine states had established churches.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but they wilted on their own. (Laughs.)

MR. WALKER: But they were good Bible-reading people, because what they understood was to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto God that which is God's.

MS. CLIFT: They didn't have Amazon.com. They didn't get enough variety in their reading.

MR. PAGE: The irony of this is, when you've got a country that's got religious freedom, then religion is stronger than in those countries where they try to dictate it through the state.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can Buchanan bring himself to say that it's better for the United States to remain secularist, as was intended by the Founding Fathers, and by the documents, since there is nothing in the "under God" phrase that requires a religion -- you understand? You can have God-given rights through the natural law.

MR. BUCHANAN: But what we want --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What I'm saying is, can you bring yourself to say that this society should be a secular society?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I do agree the government should be neutral as between religions, no doubt about it -- Catholic, Protestant --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that secularism?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, here's the thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that secularism?

MR. BUCHANAN: It should be supportive of religion. And if the country is predominantly Christian, it should not be at war with the country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secularism does not mean anti-religious, Patrick. MR. BUCHANAN: Well, militant secularism that came out of the '60s has de-Christianized the country. That's what --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin, you study with the Oxford English Dictionary. Define secular as what, religion-free?

MR. WALKER: Absolutely. Religion-neutral, in effect.

MS. CLIFT: The militancy you're talking about is about opening up society, having women have more rights, having gay people have more rights, having minorities take their place in the society.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is about throwing the Bible and the Ten Commandments out of the schools and out of the public square.

MS. CLIFT: You can be a good person without --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We need the Ten Commandments in order to have a religious group.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let the people vote and decide. Don't have the courts decide. That's all conservatives ask.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you don't see the danger that the Constitution --

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't see a bit of danger from us having an established religion. It's way down the list, John. (Laughs.)

MR. WALKER: Ah, now we have it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MR. WALKER: Bring back King George III, says Pat Buchanan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can understand how they have the power to insert something into public policy which may not be good in public policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: It may be good. They've got a right to act on their beliefs, just as you do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The alliance between the religious right and the GOP is a holy alliance, or is the alliance between religion and the GOP an unholy alliance?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a natural alliance. Conservative Christians and conservative Republicans is a natural alliance.

MS. CLIFT: They overdid it. The country is rebelling. And I must say, this show can count as going to church this Sunday. (Laughter.) MR. WALKER: It's become a dance of death between the two of them. It's really damaging both.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Damaging both. An unholy alliance?

MR. PAGE: It's not a holy alliance. It's a political alliance, just as all the other factions of the Republican Party or any other party. For mutual benefit they come together. And that's why we're seeing such a withdrawal now of so many Christian conservatives, because they're seeing so little payoff and they see how much decadence there was in other sectors of the party. And now I think they're regrouping.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think what you're saying is that it's a dying, unholy alliance. Welcome that.

Issue Two: Tehran Tussle.

On Monday, the U.S. will meet bilaterally with Iran to officially discuss the Iraq war, but the Iran nuclear issue could easily be broached. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, this week appeared to have gone out of his way to stress that Iran was living by the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; namely, civil use of nuclear power.

Quote: "The enemies aim to prevent us from using peaceful nuclear technology," unquote.

That's peaceful technology, he said.

Also on Thursday, probably referring to our two aircraft carriers maneuvering on the Persian Gulf, Ahmadinejad gave the United States a piece of advice. Quote: "Our recommendation to you is this. Stop your mischievous deeds. The Iranian nation has nuclear technology for industrial purposes," unquote.

Another piece of arguably encouraging news on the threshold of Monday's meeting, our new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, said this about Iran and nuclear energy. Quote: "In their interest -- if their interest," rather, "is in civilian nuclear power only and their right to have access to and make use of civilian nuclear electricity, with due regard to the security of fuel supplies, there is a possibility of reaching an agreement," unquote.

Multiple-choice question: In comparison to one year ago, are the odds of a U.S. preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, A, lower now; B, the same; or C, greater than a year ago?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I'm afraid -- I think they're greater, because I think a lot of things are happening now with the Iranians taking some Americans de facto hostage almost, with the fleet going in there, with the generals saying the Iranians are helping the terrorists in Iraq, and with us apparently supporting some of these anti-Iranian terrorists, if you will, in Baluchistan, I think there's an awful lot of ways we could really have a collision with these folks. And so I'd say it's slightly higher. And I regret, because what you said -- what you laid out there, frankly, are the elements of a real deal that could be made.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think the chances are about the same for some sort of military engagement. A rational mind would tell you this administration is in no position to launch any kind of military effort against Iran being timed out in Iraq. But they've got that armada off the coast of Iran, and I think they're looking at possible bombing before this president leaves office. I don't feel at all comfortable that this is off the table.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about you, Martin? MR. WALKER: I'm afraid that logically there ought to be less of a chance of military action, but I think, given this particular administration, it's probably higher. We know that there's a huge argument between the Cheney faction and the Condoleezza Rice faction inside the administration over this.

We know that there's various forces trying to persuade the Israelis, if nobody else, to give the provocation to moving ahead. We know that parts of the Iranian government are clearly out of control -- the intelligence ministry, who's arrested Haleh Esfandiari and other Iranian-American scholars. The prospect of a provocation is huge.

The one thing that could stop it is that I was talking to Air Force people who said that it would take at least three days of preliminary bombardment to take out the anti-aircraft protections before you could start hitting the (towns ?). If that's true, then it's three days for Congress to act.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's look at who's around. Wolfowitz is gone.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Big neocon.

MR. PAGE: Yes, he is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The principal theoretician of our involvement in Iraq.

MR. PAGE: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Cheney's been besmirched by Libby -- Scooter Libby.

MR. PAGE: Scooter Libby, right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then you have Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld is gone.

MR. PAGE: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you have Rice, who is on the side, I think, of an accommodation.

MR. PAGE: She's a diplomat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So don't you think that, contrary to what we've heard so far, this pessimism on this group, that it is lower now than it was then, the probability of a strike?

MR. PAGE: John, as wont as I am to go up against the view of both Pat and Martin when they're in agreement with this doomsday scenario -- (laughter) -- I hate to sound a note of hope, but, yes, I see the groundwork being laid for some serious talks. There's a lot of saber-rattling. And certainly it's all true that Cheney and a number of others are ready to bomb Iran. But it's hard to believe, in this current political atmosphere, that this administration is about ready to make another extension of our military might in that direction.

MS. CLIFT: No, but the president has 600 days left in office, and I think --

MR. PAGE: That's a lot of time for mischief, yeah.

MS. CLIFT: -- I think he feels that whoever succeeds him won't have the nerve to do this. And this is the cowboy president.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sanctions aren't working.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, Pat, the odds are much lower. And your acumen is once again shorn through.

MR. PAGE: Thank you, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Commander Slander?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) I get criticized a lot from different quarters, and that's just part of what happens when you're president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That may be, Mr. Bush, but how often is a sitting president lambasted by a former president? Last weekend, Jimmy Carter slammed the Bush administration, calling it "the worst in American history."

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: (From videotape.) I think, as far as the adverse impact on our nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A livid White House returned fire at Carter. Quote: "He is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments," unquote.

On Monday, Mr. Carter said this.

FORMER PRESIDENT CARTER: (From videotape.) My remarks were maybe careless or misinterpreted, but I wasn't comparing the overall administration and I was certainly not talking personally about any president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What aspects of the Bush presidency was Carter referring to, Martin? MR. WALKER: Well, to the way the U.S. is perceived around the world. And many people would agree with Carter's initial criticism about that. What I think is really happening here is that Carter has probably finally got tired of being called the best ex-president America has ever had. I mean, he's got his Nobel Prize now. Maybe it's time to get feisty again. Certainly I think he made much more news with his initial attack than he did with his later retraction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was disrespectful and politically unwise for the White House to refer to Carter as "irrelevant"?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think the White House should have responded that way. But this was beneath the dignity of a former president.

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

MR. BUCHANAN: It is a cutting comment. You wouldn't see Eisenhower do something like this, or even Nixon or --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Teddy Roosevelt blasting McKinley.

MR. BUCHANAN: Blasting McKinley? McKinley was dead. What are you talking about?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he blasted him, nevertheless. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he blasted Wilson.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Taft criticized FDR. This is mild-mannered stuff. It's a tap on the wrist.

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't do this. There's --

MS. CLIFT: President Carter spoke for a lot of people. This -- President only has 30 percent approval.

MR. WALKER: Twenty-eight.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think Jimmy Carter should have retracted one word of it. You can measurably document how bad this administration is. But there is sort of this code among ex presidents that I guess --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, is there now?

Blessed Memorial Day. Bye-bye.

END.