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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; CHRYSTIA FREELAND, FINANCIAL TIMES TAPED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 6-7, 2007

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Giuliani Out Front.

RUDY GIULIANI (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I believe that we're reaching out very, very well to Republicans of all different kinds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rudy -- he's now the number one presidential candidate among Republicans: Giuliani, 30 percent; Thompson, 23 percent; McCain, 15 percent; Romney, 10 percent; lower down the scale, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, in that order.

But Giuliani does not have the nomination all wrapped up. Pro- life Christian conservatives, a big slice of the Republican pie, do not like Giuliani's liberal social views, especially on abortion. One conservative Roman Catholic archbishop is even threatening to deny Giuliani holy communion.

Giuliani's defection on the abortion issue is a grave matter politically. Richard Viguerie, the conservative -- (inaudible) -- makes that very clear.

RICHARD VIGUERIE (ConservativeHQ.com): (From videotape.) If the Republicans do nominate a pro-abortion presidential candidate, that it is time to seriously consider a third party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Viguerie says that pro-abortion Republicans are power-mad.

MR. VIGUERIE: (From videotape.) They have said to the American people, "We have one guiding principle above everything else, and that is power. We're nominating somebody who can help us hold on to power."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then Viguerie plunges in the knife. MR. VIGUERIE: (From videotape.) At that point in time, perhaps it would be appropriate to begin the process of putting the Republican Party out of its misery.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Can Viguerie deliver the anti- abortion evangelicals? And, if so, will it abort Giuliani's presidential bid? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, Giuliani's problem is he's pro-choice on abortion. He is pro-gay rights. He marches in gay pride parades. He's pro-gun control. He runs a sanctuary city. All of these things are enormous social, cultural, moral issue problems for Republicans. But what it's going to come down to, if Rudy wins this nomination, is the one thing that can unite the Republican Party behind Rudy is Hillary Rodham Clinton. She is as good at that as anybody since Ronald Reagan at uniting Republicans and conservatives.

I don't know that the conservatives, the Christian conservatives, will take a walk, but there will be very little, if any, enthusiasm if Rudy Giuliani is the nominee of the Republican Party. But I don't expect a third party, because to do that, you've got to get organized. They've got no candidate. And if they did that, the third party would simply siphon off 1 or 2 percent and hurt Republicans and maybe elect Hillary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was a learned political disposition, but it didn't answer my question. I want to know whether Viguerie can deliver the evangelicals. Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think this is saber-rattling right now. And I don't think they need a third party. I think right-to-life voters are purists, and if they don't like the nominee, they'll stay home. It could cost the Republicans a percentage point or two, and that could make a difference in a tight election.

But Giuliani is counting on the fact that social conservatives hate Hillary more than they hate his positions on social issues. And we'll see if they have matured enough as a political movement to put electability over their principles. I don't think they're there yet, and I actually commend them for that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, how big are the evangelicals as a bloc? And can Viguerie splinter them?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, they're 20, 22 percent of the entire --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they're indispensable in '08.

MR. BLANKLEY: They're huge. Of course they are. If they have a low turnout, Republicans lose. They've got to have a good turnout. Viguerie can't, by himself, remotely -- I remember Viguerie was a -- he's done a wonderful service for conservatism over the decades. He accused the Reagan revolution of selling -- Reagan of selling out the Reagan revolution in 1981.

But it's not just Viguerie. Tony Perkins, a lot of the other Christian conservatives, held a conference a week ago and they were talking about third parties. Now, right now the rank-and-file evangelicals and other Christian conservatives are supporting Giuliani as much as others, as non-evangelicals are. But the leadership of them is restless.

And even Gary Bauer, who's probably sort of the most political of them, is saying, "Let's put off third-party talk for a while, but try to beat Giuliani." So there's definitely going to be a concerted effort to try to beat Giuliani with a pro-life candidate. Whether they can succeed, I rather doubt.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you not --

MS. FREELAND: Would (they want ?) instead a Mormon?

MR. BLANKLEY: That's another problem. We don't have any --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to get into that.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- (inaudible) -- candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But would you not agree that the independents are going Democratic big-time, and therefore the evangelicals are needed by the Republicans if they have any hope of winning with anybody? Therefore, the evangelicals are a necessary commodity in play for the Republicans. They must be in '08.

MS. FREELAND: Well, I think, as Eleanor said, you know, Giuliani -- first of all, what he cares about right now is to win the nomination, and then you worry about the election. And he's betting that that anti-Hillary factor will be so powerful and that maybe some of those independents who would generally be Democratic-leaning right now might actually like Rudy for all of those reasons that evangelicals think he's terrible.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. FREELAND: The other point, he is also running as a security conservative, which I think is really interesting. And he's very powerful on that point.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's very much -- he's law and order. But let me say this. I think the prospects of Mike Huckabee, John, of being a vice presidential nominee have probably risen dramatically if the evangelicals are really so off the reservation that they say, "We're not going to support Rudy."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. MR. BUCHANAN: He may have to move in that direction to energize his southern base --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- and hold it, and then take on Hillary in the northern states, if he's nominated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's also --

MR. BUCHANAN: But he's not nominated by any means, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a purist on matters of abortion. He's strongly anti-abortion.

MR. BUCHANAN: Who is?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huckabee. Is he not?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, of course. Huckabee's a social conservative.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know.

MR. BLANKLEY: He's a former Baptist preacher.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's a Baptist minister.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He would add.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, he would add. But at the same time, he doesn't help you that much, I think, in New York and places like that.

MS. CLIFT: He'll bring them Arkansas, which they already have. I don't think Rudy Giuliani is going to do all that well in the South. But we're talking about these candidates in isolation. Rudy Giuliani against Hillary Clinton, you know, could very well do well in the South because Hillary's not going to do well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: There's -- a fair number of the Christian conservative voters are not going to vote for somebody who they think is wrong. They'd rather let things go as they may; let Hillary get elected. They're not going to vote for an abortionist.

MS. CLIFT: I think --

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know how many there are, but some of them --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, hold on.

MR. BUCHANAN: The key issue -- he's got, though, one thing, the Supreme Court nominee. We're one justice away from control of the Supreme Court, and Rudy has promised to nominate a Scalia type who would overturn Roe v. Wade. That's the one card he hasn't played.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You point out that he's got to really pass the litmus test for these evangelicals. And to do that, Pat's idea is a good idea. It's an excellent idea. He brings in the right with Huckabee as a vice president. What do you think of that? MS. CLIFT: The Republicans' dream ticket right now is Giuliani and Huckabee.

MR. BLANKLEY: We don't have a dream ticket.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BLANKLEY: We don't have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her in. Let her in.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's a non-nightmare ticket, okay? But, look, if Giuliani does get the nomination, I think it would be healthy for the Republican Party. I think there is social-issue fatigue in this country. I think there's social-issue fatigue among Republicans. He would put the Northeast into play. He could transform the party away from this overreliance on social issues.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, if he does, the party will come apart. The party will come apart.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, they would lose the evangelicals.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, listen, if they win the election and Rudy runs as a liberal Republican, you will split the Republican Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The evangelicals are critical to this election. Let that point come through.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make an important point here, because absent the abortion issue with the presidential candidates, evangelicals could go with Democrats on environmental issues, on social-justice issues.

MR. BUCHANAN: Foreign policy. Foreign policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MR. BLANKLEY: So abortion is a very important issue for keeping the evangelicals Republican.

MR. BUCHANAN: Rudy -- John, Rudy is a neocon candidate right now. He's liberal on the social issues and he's the bomb Iran candidate right now. So he's very strong with this group. But I'll tell you, if he's elected and he continues down that course, that's the end of the Republican Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. FREELAND: Doesn't he get any credit for not flip-flopping? Compare him to Romney, for example, who has moved his positions to appease those social conservatives. MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MS. FREELAND: Does Rudy get any credit --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm glad you brought that up.

MS. FREELAND: -- for saying, "You know what, this is what I think and I'm not changing my mind"?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm glad you brought that up.

Okay, Mitt Romney scores low. This week's poll of Republicans supports Rudy: 47 percent, Giuliani can beat Clinton in the general election; Thompson, 16 percent; McCain, 14; Romney, 8.

The big surprise here is Romney in fourth place in the Republican lineup with a meager 8 percent supporting him. Does the following exchange tell us why Romney is so weak?

(Begin audiotaped segment.)

Q If you were elected president, how many first ladies could we expect?

MITT ROMNEY (Republican presidential candidate): (Laughs.) Just the best one in this country -- this one year.

Q Just kidding.

(End audiotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The question then posed to Romney asking him how much of his religion he really believes in. Romney declines to answer and grows brusque.

(Begin audiotaped segment.)

Q I do have a real question. I was wondering if you could enlighten me exactly what your religion is about and what your beliefs are and how those beliefs might affect your decision-making as president of the United States.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, for the first part of your question, I can tell you, just go on whatever it is -- MormonChurch or LDSChurch, or whatever, dot-com and they can tell you all you'd like to know.

(End audiotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The questioner presses further on Romney's Mormonism, with the governor refusing to make any distinction between his religious convictions and his constitutional duties. (Begin audiotaped segment.)

MR. ROMNEY: The second question, which is how --

Q I don't know exactly what you believe in, though. Do you believe in it all or are you --

MR. ROMNEY: I am true blue, through and through, and I'm not going to distance myself in any way, shape or form from my faith. I'm proud of the faith of my fathers.

(End audiotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was Romney's answer smart, or was it ruinous? I ask you, Chrystia.

MS. FREELAND: Well, I think it's impossible for Romney to give a different answer. If he flip-flops on his Mormonism and he says, "Actually, I've just decided that I'm a Baptist," then he has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give you the answer.

MS. FREELAND: -- absolutely no credibility as a politician.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give you the answer right now on the television screen. John Kennedy had the same problem, religion -- the first Catholic to run for president. He went to Houston and he delivered a major address on his Catholicism to members of the clergy.

FORMER PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: (From videotape.) If I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decisions in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a copy of the speech he gave. It's single space and it's three pages. It lasted about 12 minutes. The entire speech was devoted to this particular question. Now, what Romney did was, instead of leading with his constitutional duties, he led with his religion, saying he would not backtrack, in effect, on his religion.

MS. CLIFT: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very bad.

MS. CLIFT: John, this is different.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very bad -- ruinous.

MS. CLIFT: This is different than --

MR. BUCHANAN: His answer was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

MS. CLIFT: -- taking orders from the pope. This is a religion that people really are not familiar with. Newsweek has Romney on the cover this week, and the lead anecdote -- the reporter went and visited the church that he attended as a child in Pontiac, Michigan and mentioned it to him, which any other candidate would have used as an opportunity to reminisce about their childhood or their faith, and he skittered away as fast as he could. MR. BUCHANAN: Let me --

MS. CLIFT: And the line in the Newsweek article is "Never has someone so polished looked so uncomfortable."

MR. BUCHANAN: That's the point, John.

MS. CLIFT: He is running away from his religion.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the point is --

MS. CLIFT: He needs to explain it and embrace it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he have to hit it head on?

MS. CLIFT: Yes, absolutely.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is the point. The point is, his answer is not mistaken. His answer is incomplete. He is going to have to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he should begin with his constitutional duty.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't know. Look, he's going to have to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The way Kennedy did.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to have to say -- well, what Kennedy said, in effect, was "The Catholic church ain't going to tell me what to do, guys."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That speech did magic for Kennedy, and you know that.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I know it did, because he basically sold out his faith.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, he did not at all.

MS. FREELAND: But he didn't renounce the church.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not at all.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to have to answer what he believes. I don't doubt that.

MS. FREELAND: And how it will affect --

MR. BUCHANAN: And how it will affect what he decides.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What Romney should do is say that his religion will play no role in his civic responsibilities. MR. BUCHANAN: That's ridiculous.

MR. BLANKLEY: But John --

MR. BUCHANAN: Your beliefs have to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Public policy based on civic --

MR. BUCHANAN: Your basic religious and core values and beliefs affect what you decide.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, you're starting at the wrong end of the scale.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get into this for a second, because there are similarities, but there are differences between now and 1960. This is a more overtly religious country for a lot of Americans than it was, in a more secular time. And somewhere around a quarter of Americans do not believe that Mormonism is Christianity and won't vote for a non-Christian.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a real problem.

MR. BLANKLEY: And it is a real problem that I don't think a speech is going to get around.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I've got to get to the exit question. Here's the key question. If Romney does a JFK Houston speech on his Mormonism, can he win the election? Could he at least win the nomination?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got to do that. And the best thing going for him is Hillary, is the opposition.

MS. CLIFT: Well, this has nothing to do with Hillary. He has to get comfortable talking about his religion in public. The Newsweek poll showed that only 45 percent of registered Republicans in Iowa think the country is ready for a Mormon president. So he's got to get comfortable first with talking about this publicly if he expects the voters to get comfortable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kennedy did not dissect Catholic theology, and he doesn't have to dissect Mormonism.

MS. CLIFT: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he has to be as clear and as cogent and as lengthy in his discussion as did Kennedy.

(Cross-talk.) MR. BLANKLEY: Right now Romney has been bounding around in every poll, 8, 9, 10 percent. I don't know how much of that is Mormonism and bigotry and how much of that are other reasons. But frankly, the only place that he's doing well is in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he had 10,000 (hands up ?). And when Giuliani and the others start doing their ads, he hasn't yet shown an ability, religion aside, to be a competitive candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look, Americans, particularly Republicans like you, they love authoritarianism.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't love authoritarianism -- (laughter) -- even though I love you, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They don't want a president. They want an imperialist in there.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no.

MS. FREELAND: And you think Romney is insufficiently authoritarian for Republicans?

MR. BLANKLEY: We want a leader, not a ruler.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know. I think he's good-looking. He's got a great family. He's -- (inaudible) -- so wonderful. He's got a wonderful wife.

MS. FREELAND: Competent executive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very competent executive; an original thinker in many regards, I think.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's fresh.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's fresh. And he ought to be better than he is. So why is it? And I think the considered opinion is it's primarily the Mormonism. People don't know it.

MS. FREELAND: And you don't think it's his flip-flops, that he governed Massachusetts in one way and has taken a different --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think people are --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, if he were a hard-core conservative --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You talk about flip-flops. What about Giuliani's flip-flops?

MR. BUCHANAN: If he were a hard-core conservative, I think he'd be much further ahead. I think those doubts are there. But Tony's right. The Mormon thing is out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he overcome the Mormonism if he doesn't --

MR. BLANKLEY: We don't know yet.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's your thinking?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he could win the first, second, third -- Nevada. He could win Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Michigan. If he does, he's going to be tough to stop in South Carolina.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Gut the Power.

Gut the power and we'll keep it. Vladimir Putin is in his second term as president of Russia. The term expires in five months. By Russian law, he cannot run for a third successive presidential term. Putin has chosen not to violate the Russian constitution. But that doesn't mean he can no longer run Russia. Like a game of chess, Putin has been plotting his moves and advancing his players. It looks like he can and will be able to indefinitely and legally run Russia.

Item: Prime minister shuffle. Until four weeks ago, the prime minister of Russia was Mikhail Fradkov. Then, presto -- Fradkov out, Viktor Zubkov in as the new Russian prime minister. Putin sacked Fradkov and appointed Zubkov, a long-time St. Petersburg ally of Putin.

Item: A run for the Duma. Putin plans to run for parliament, the Duma, and will win the seat by a landslide. From that seat, Putin will then succeed his appointed prime minister and ally, Zubkov, who in turn will become Russia's president.

Item: Who will have the power? Putin rejected altering the Russian constitution. He did not stand for a third consecutive presidential term. With Zubkov as his pawn president, Putin will expand the hitherto sinecure prime minister role into that of a bonafide head of government and a sovereign head of state, and conceivably rule Russia through 2020.

Question: Should we admire or should we deplore Putin's power play? Chrystia.

MS. FREELAND: Well, as students of Macchiavellian political maneuvering, of course we should admire the brilliant strategy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's legal.

MS. FREELAND: It is legal. It is legal. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's crafty, extremely crafty.

MS. FREELAND: Very crafty. But if we are people who care about what happens to Russia and what happens to the world, then I think we have to deplore it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with Putin? What's wrong with him? He's got a popularity rating in the 70s.

MS. FREELAND: This is actually not just about Putin. It's about whether you have democracy in Russia or whether you have the recreation of a one-party state. This time it won't be the communist party of the Soviet Union. It will be a Mexican-style PRI.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's about whether he --

MS. FREELAND: And what Putin is doing is not just running for office. He is actually saying, "I'm going to stand as the leader of Yuginlietahia (ph). We are going to build this into the new party of eternal government in Russia." I don't think that's great. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Russia needs to preserve its stability, and at the same time it needs to have a good administrator in whom they trust, the Russians trust. To a great extent, they trust Putin. And Putin can manage the situation. From the point of view of stability and growth, Putin is good for Russia.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. FREELAND: There's a real illusion that the Putin government is just about stability. It's also a kleptocracy.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, John --

MS. FREELAND: And it's authoritarian. There are journalists --

MR. BUCHANAN: Would somebody tell me what business of the United States it is who runs -- this is the most popular, powerful man in Russia. He's working the constitutional way, in a legal way, to retain power. What business is that of the United States of America interfering in his political authority? He's not griping about Hillary Clinton succeeding Bill.

MS. CLIFT: And the Russians love Putin. And we're in a country that has vested power in the hands of two families --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MS. CLIFT: -- for two decades --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: -- maybe going on three. But, look, I mean, I think, you know, there are some concerns about the way he's shut down civil liberties. But the Russian people like -- they like the job he's doing. He's given them --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get a point in here.

MS. CLIFT: He's given them respect on the national scale.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to support Putin or do you want to jab him?

MR. BLANKLEY: I largely agree with Pat. It's up to the Russians. They like him. They want him there. American policy should spend less time antagonizing the Russians while we jab them about democracy and more time trying to figure out a working relationship so we can do things together in common interests, like fighting radical Islam.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wants to get rid of the -- MS. FREELAND: We could have said things like this about Soviet leaders. You can be loved by your people as you shut down civil society.

MR. BUCHANAN: Do you say this about Chinese leaders? Look, the Chinese communists, they make Moscow look like Montpelier, Vermont over there. And we've got all this -- we give them $200 million in trade surpluses.

MS. FREELAND: I'm not defending the communist party of China.

MR. BLANKLEY: The Soviets were our declared enemies. Putin's Russia is not our declared enemy.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're a natural friend.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's an independent nation we can work with.

MS. FREELAND: It's not a natural friend.

MR. BUCHANAN: Russia is a natural friend of the United States.

MS. FREELAND: Talk to the Eastern Europeans and talk to the Western Europeans.

MR. BUCHANAN: Russia is a natural friend of the United States.

MS. FREELAND: And Russia's people have as much right to dignity and liberty as anybody else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You had real kleptocracy and you had real oligarchy in the 1990s. Putin wants to limit that and clean it up.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, no, he's very corrupt. He's very corrupt, John, very corrupt. As well as being an effective leader, he's very corrupt and he's surrounded by corrupt people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How can we beat up -- (inaudible) --

MR. BLANKLEY: It's not our business.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- when we have a son of a president who's now president --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Talk about a dynasty. Secondly, we have the wife of a president who's about to become president.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's an --

MS. FREELAND: (Inaudible) -- journalists in the street. I mean, America is a free and open society.

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't know that he did that. You don't know that he did that at all, that he gunned them down. That's a terrible thing to say.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is Putin's plan too clever by half, or is it a great recipe for continued stability in Russia and a smooth power transition? Pat Buchanan, quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's stability.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? MS. CLIFT: I think it's stability and smooth transition, and I think he understands that's his next step towards greatness is to establish -- create a middle class in Russia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, I can't believe you today.

Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, it's the latter.

MS. FREELAND: I think that he will remain in power, but I really disagree with Eleanor that Putin's goal is to create prosperity in Russia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm more with Putin than I am against him.

Issue Three: Hillary's Cackle.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

MIKE GRAVEL (Democratic presidential candidate): You're not going to get another shot at this because what's happened if this war ensues? We invade, and they're looking for an excuse to do it. And Obama was not even there to vote.

TIM RUSSERT (NBC News): Senator Clinton, I want to give you a chance to respond.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (Democratic presidential candidate): (Laughs.)

WOLF BLITZER (CNN): I wonder if you want to respond to the former mayor.

SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs.)

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's now about the cackle. Hillary Clinton's laugh is now being analyzed, scrutinized, and, yes, mocked, as if it were a sound barrier on her glide path to the Democratic presidential nomination. Is it real? Is it fake? Is it a diabolically clever attempt to portray her as a human being? So asks Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz. Kurtz says that we're focusing on the cackle because there's nothing else to talk about in connection with Hillary. There's no issue.

MR. BUCHANAN: Harbinger of things to come.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, the attack on her?

MR. BUCHANAN: The attack on her is going to be terrible. MS. CLIFT: I'd rather be talking about her cackle than the fact that she's off-putting or stern. This is probably good news for her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Howard Dean got into trouble with the scream.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Edwards got in trouble because of the haircut. Should she laugh this off?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, this cackle is like the Nixon smile. It's inappropriate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think the country is headed toward a serious economic crisis for the simple reason that the dollar is very close to having a run on the dollar. Commodity prices are soaring. I think it's going to continue. I think Bernanke's going to have to continue cutting interest rates. And as he does, I think there's going to be a general run on the dollar.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Benazir Bhutto's political party will win the parliamentary elections in Pakistan, and she will be prime minister by mid-January.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: My friend across the ideological divide, Al Franken, is collapsing in his campaign in Minnesota. His negatives are going up. His positives are going down. And all of his Hollywood money is not going to save him. That seat, which looked to be in danger of falling to Franken, may very well stay Republican.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about the primary.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, Norm Coleman in the general.

MR. BLANKLEY: Against Coleman in the general. His positives are collapsing. Minnesotans are not taken to a local Minnesotan, Al Franken. He spent too many years in Hollywood and New York.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Franken has the nomination?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, not yet. But he's expected to get it. And in the head to head with Coleman --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, he will get it?

MR. BLANKLEY: -- his polls are really collapsing. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's running against him, some fellow by the name of Berridos (sp)? (Sic/means Ciresi.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't -- I forget the guy's name.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For the primary.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MS. FREELAND: My prediction is on the same subject as Pat's, but I take the opposite view. I think that America is going to flirt with a recession but there'll be a slowdown, not a full recession.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what does that mean?

MR. BUCHANAN: I didn't say it was going to be a recession. I said it was going to be a run on the dollar. (Laughs.)

MS. FREELAND: No, you said there was going to be a recession at the beginning.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, whatever it is, I predict that Al Gore will win the Nobel Peace Prize this year. How does that sound to you, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's exciting. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Kissinger got the peace prize once, right?

MR. BUCHANAN: And Le Duc Tho.

MR. BLANKLEY: And Le Duc Tho. So on that tradition of people who create --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he get a single?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yasser Arafat got it, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He didn't get it alone, did he?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he got it with Begin and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got it with Begin.

MS. CLIFT: But those attempts to denigrate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or was it Begin?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, Rabin and Peres.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you go. MS. CLIFT: Those attempts to denigrate the Nobel Peace Prize won't work. It's a great honor for Al Gore. And he has elevated an issue that may help us save the planet. I think he may well get it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Words to live by, Eleanor, words to live by.

Bye-bye.

END.