THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN,
ELEANOR CLIFT AND LAWRENCE KUDLOW
TAPED FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1998
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 5-6, 1998
TRANSCRIPT BY: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE
620 NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING
WASHINGTON, DC 20045
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
COPYRIGHT* 1998 BY FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE GROUP, INC., WASHINGTON, DC 20045, USA. NO PORTION OF THIS TRANSCRIPT MAY BE COPIED, SOLD, OR RETRANSMITTED WITHOUT THE WRITTEN AUTHORITY OF FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE GROUP, INC..
*COPYRIGHT IS NOT CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS A PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.
ANNOUNCER: GE is proud to support the McLaughlin Group. From plastics to power generation, GE -- we bring good things to life.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: mother of all votes!
SPEAKER-DESIGNATE BOB LIVINGSTON (R-LA): (From videotape.) It'll be the most significant, most important vote, the most weighty vote, of a member of Congress's career.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's exactly what it will be -- the vote of a lifetime, and that vote could come within the next two weeks. The full House of Representatives, for the first time 130 years and the second time in history, will almost certainly vote on the impeachment of the president of the United States.
First, at least one article of impeachment will pass the Hyde committee. The committee's 21 Republicans and 16 Democrats will vote straight party line -- in all likelihood, 21 to 16 -- charging William J. Clinton with the crime of perjury. The matter then moves to the full House to be voted on by all 435 members. There are currently 228 Republicans, 206 Democrats and one Independent, who usually votes Democratic. Needed for House passage, 218, a simple majority.
Republicans alone could pass the impeachment article if they hold rank, but they won't. Some Republicans will be willing to vote against impeachment. Correspondingly, some Democrats will be willing to vote for impeachment.
Question: Assuming no censure vote reaches the floor, what combination of Republican and Democratic votes will yield impeachment passage, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: Bill Clinton needs 11 Republican votes to survive. For every Democratic defector, he needs added Republican support. There are three Democratic defectors that are almost sure right now, so he needs 14 Republican votes at a minimum and right now, John, I don't think he's got them. His treatment and the White House treatment of the Congress and the Judiciary Committee with contempt this last month was as stupid as one of those rain dances in the end zone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, a majority of those members present is what it takes, and you're going to have some members who are going to opt out, like Mr. Bunning and Mr. Crapo, who are going to the Senate, so the numbers get a little mixed up. But this is an unruly and unpredictable bunch, and frankly, I think it's too close to call. There are 20 to 30 Republican moderates who hold this vote in their hands, and they're not going to be eager to stand up now and say they're going to vote against impeachment. They have Rush Limbaugh hammering on them.
And frankly, I think the Republican Party has lost its mind. They put this friendly face on themselves right after the election. Who's running all this, but Mr. "Hammer" DeLay. I think it's totally irrational in terms of the interests of this country.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many breakaway Republicans will there be who will vote against impeachment? We need or they need or is needed 218 votes. They have 228 votes in the Congress -- in the House.
MR. BLANKLEY: As of now -- and things could shift -- as of now, I think there are no more than eight or nine Republicans who are likely to shift. Marge Roukema, one of the leaders of the moderate wing, has expressed this week some support for the proposition of impeachment. That was a good bellwether. So I think that given that Republicans will pick up between two and five Democratic votes, that the final vote will probably be somewhere around 222, 223, 224 -- somewhere in that zone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So there's a cushion of about 218 -- it's about three or four -- three or four seats?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it could be a cushion of -- three, four, five cushion, yeah, I think, as of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That means it goes to the Senate.
MR. BLANKLEY: As of now. Now moods can shift. But as --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're -- and the White House lawyers are going up to the Hill on Tuesday.
MR. KUDLOW: Yeah, I mean, look, given the White House's attitude towards this, and given the terrible response to the 81 questions that Hyde put out, and given the fact that none of the Democrats objected to any of Mr. Starr's evidence -- I mean, I think they made mistake after mistake -- I'm going to wonder out loud whether in fact the so-called moderate Republicans may not go en masse for -- to help impeach Mr. Clinton.
And supposing there's one solid perjury count constructed -- that's all, just one -- supposing they get the help of some ex-prosecutors, okay -- Joe diGenova and people like that -- suppose they bring in some judges or some retired judges to just help them craft one specific perjury count, there is virtually no one in this country who disagrees -- (inaudible due to cross talk).
MS. CLIFT: Wait a second. Here's one right here. There are plenty of people who --
(Cross talk, laughter.)
MR. KUDLOW: That's right. Except for Eleanor. That's right. Except for Eleanor.
You might have a bigger number.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. We want to talk about this post-election phenomenon.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happened after the election? Flash back one month to Wednesday, November the 4th, the day after the congressional election: Republicans make no gains in the Senate. They lose five seats in the House. The GOP's bloated expectations were turned upside down. The election was a Republican nightmare. Impeachment then looked good.
That was then. But not anymore. The tide has turned. The momentum has shifted. Republicans have regained the offensive. Here's why:
Item: Starr evidence unconfirmed (sic).
KENNETH STARR (Whitewater independent counsel): (From videotape.) There is no excuse for perjury -- never, never, never.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In an interview last week with Diane Sawyer, Kenneth Starr gave his view on the crime of perjury -- something he did not do when he appeared before the Hyde committee. Why? Because Democrats did not raise the issue of perjury. At no point during his marathon 13-hour testimony did a single Democratic member -- nor did Mr. Clinton's personal lawyer, David Kendall, nor did minority counsel Abbe Lowell -- dispute Starr's charge and evidence that Mr. Clinton perjured himself repeatedly.
Hill Republicans say that this decision not to argue the massive evidence of perjury brought by Starr was the most damning tactical blunder in the proceeding thus far and one that that is too late to rectify next Tuesday, when the White House puts its lawyers before the committee. Is that true, Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm not -- they've taken the strategy all along of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "They" meaning the White House?
MR. BLANKLEY: The White House, Clinton -- of not risking any criminal liability in the future. They haven't engaged the question of perjury closely, but they have basically denied it. Now they didn't do it with great conspicuousness in the hearing, but Clinton's obviously, in his 81 non-answers -- have been evading the issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's paying too much of a price to protect himself legally after he's in office? Is that too much of a price?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it depends on whether he wants to spend time behind bars. I mean, obviously that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he can always get a pardon from Al Gore.
MR. BLANKLEY: That was the decision they made in January, and they haven't shifted in one day since then.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, what's happened is -- and Larry had it right -- is the manifest contempt of the White House for the Congress, as expressed not only by these congressmen on Judiciary, who did the student council disruptive tactics, did not answer a bit of evidence, but the contemptuous response to those 81 questions, which alienated even Democrats.
MS. CLIFT: Those --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Before you speak to that, I want you to speak to this first, Eleanor, and that's the very point he makes, and that's snubbing the questions.
Some three weeks ago the Hyde committee -- I want to explain this to the audience -- asked Mr. Clinton to provide simple admit-or-deny answers to 81 questions, to speed the impeachment process. The responses that came back from the White House were seen by Republicans to be so evasive as to be insulting. Key Judiciary Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a bellwether of where moderate Republicans stand today, calls Clinton, quote, "an unrepentant perjurer" on the basis of his response to those questions.
Did Clinton's 81 answers also help produce a sea change in impeachment momentum? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: The Republicans have been looking for reasons to harden their position. They were searching for campaign finances irregularities which were impeachable; that wasn't there. They had to back off --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they retrenched from that.
MS. CLIFT: Of course they did. But on the -- because there was nothing there.
And on these questions, Clinton is a lawyer. He has lawyers advising him. The lawyers on the Judiciary Committee devised the questions. They're all --
MR. BLANKLEY: (Off mike) --
MS. CLIFT: Wait a second, Tony. I can see you trying to leap in. (Laughter.) They devised a whole set of traps for him to fall into, and he didn't fall into them.
MR. BLANKLEY: But --
MS. CLIFT: And let's keep our eye on the fact that everybody knows the outcome here. He's not going to be removed from office.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, Eleanor, you -- Eleanor, you missed one --
MS. CLIFT: What are we doing here?
MR. BLANKLEY: -- you missed one essential point; they weren't looking for ways to harden, they were looking for an escape.
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. BLANKLEY: And they couldn't find it, and Clinton didn't give it to them.
MR. KUDLOW: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, hold off for one minute. The third catalyst of this sea change, to the extent that it is a sea change: Convicted perjurers testify. Two perjurers told their story to the Hyde Judiciary Committee this week: Pam Parsons and Barbara Battalino.
Pam Parsons coached at University of South Carolina from 1977 until January 1982, when she resigned. Shortly thereafter, she filed a libel suit against Sports Illustrated for $75 million over a February 1982 article that claimed that she was a lesbian and had recruited, quote, "with sex in mind," unquote.
At the trial, she denied under oath that she and a former female player had visited the Puss 'N Boots bar in Salt Lake City, Utah. She lost the libel suit.
But the judge ordered an investigation into conflicting statements made at the trial. Parsons pled guilty to perjury charges and was sentenced to four months in a federal prison and five years probation.
PAM PARSONS (former University of South Carolina basketball coach): (From videotape.) When you are in a leadership position, no matter what it is you must tell the truth about, you have got to search your soul and recognize what it means if you don't, no matter what the price.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was Pam Parsons.
Barbara Battalino, the other convicted felon testifying before the committee, was prosecuted for lying about engaging in oral sex with her consenting-adult patient. Dr. Battalino was working as a respected government psychiatrist at the time, and the act was consummated on federal property.
Question: What's the impact of the convicted perjurers dramatic testimony would you say? I ask you, Lawrence.
MR. KUDLOW: I think inside the Beltway, inside the committee room and inside the two political parties, the influence was very substantial. I think in a way it's the smartest thing Hyde and his gang have finally done.
I actually agree with Eleanor that if they had gone down the campaign finance road, it would have been an absolute disaster. But they got a divine intervention on that.
And the other point I want to make is do not underestimate. If he is impeached in the House, you can say he will never be convicted in the Senate, but I wouldn't say that so quickly because the whole situation could turn, the whole attitude, the whole culture of Washington. So I think this is a big vote, and I think Mr. Clinton is in a lot more trouble.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you mean with the chief justice of the Supreme Court sitting as president of that body?
MR. KUDLOW: Absolutely, because at some point, at some point, the truth will prevail. At some point, the politics recede, and conscience takes over. And if the House impeaches -- you know, Andrew Johnson was acquitted in the Senate by one vote. It could be just as close with Mr. Clinton.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, I want to ask you one -- there is something we have got to cover here, and that is censure. Now, if there is a censure vote, that censure vote, I am sure you would agree, Tony -- and you are a nose-counter, as is -- (laughter) -- Tom DeLay. Right? (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Right. He is, yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A censure vote could siphon off enough votes to queer an impeachment passage, right?
MS. CLIFT: Which is why Tom DeLay won't allow a censure motion to come forward, and there now is one trying to be presented by Republican Peter King, which would --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should they expand this, Pat --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- should there be a censure vote?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, there should not be any censure vote until impeachment vote. And quite frankly, the "Hammer" has had a great week and he has emerged as a leader of the conservatives in the Republican Party.
MS. CLIFT: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you mean DeLay?
MR. BUCHANAN: Mr. DeLay. He certainly has.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you don't want any sideshows, go right to the impeachment, which the Constitution provides.
MR. BUCHANAN: Do the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, Pat, suppose he is not -- suppose that the vote does not favor the Republicans and he is acquitted, so to speak, in a full vote of the House and he walks scot-free?
MR. BUCHANAN: There should be no censure vote. Impeachment is censure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you would favor a straight crap shoot?
MR. BUCHANAN: Roll the dice.
MS. CLIFT: And let -- and let the Republicans --
MR. BLANKLEY (?): No, no. That's the key point, and the Republicans --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear Eleanor!
MS. CLIFT: And let the Republican nominee go into the 2000 election as the leader of the party that tried to impeach a popular president on a purely partisan vote.
MR. BLANKLEY: No --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's get out.
MS. CLIFT: It will be a disaster for the Republican Party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get out. We've got to get out. And we've got to get down to brass tacks here. On a probability scale of zero to 10, zero meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, what's the probability that the articles of impeachment will be voted -- that is passed -- by the full House, probably within the next two weeks, as a matter of fact, and moved to the Senate for a trial?
MR. BUCHANAN: It is slightly better than even money that one article of impeachment -- perjury -- sails over to the Senate where they can bite the bullet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a six for impeachment.
MR. BUCHANAN: Five-five.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five-five would nullify it. It's a six.
What do you think?
MS. CLIFT: I think it's slightly under even money that they will pass --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But do you think it's close to even money, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I said in my opening words on this show that it is very, very close, and that it's a handful of moderate Republicans are going to make this decision.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is it?
MR. BLANKLEY: Seven-point-three.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: I think it is substantially more likely than not, but there's still a doubt, so I put that -- that would be my 7.3 calculation.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Seven? You're up to a seven?
MR. BLANKLEY: -- point-three.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. KUDLOW: Six-point-five for one article of impeachment on perjury and perjury alone. The moderate Republicans are going to be -- it's going to be a show of character and personal responsibility.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I will raise Tony to an 8. (Laughter.)
When we come back, the president goes to Gaza. It is a "Mission Impossible"?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: On to Gaza.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape) Chairman Arafat will invite members of the Palestinian National Council and other important political entities to reaffirm his prior commitments and their support for the peace process. I have agreed to address that meeting several weeks hence, and to underscore the values of reconciliation, tolerance and respect, and my support for those commitments and this process.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So promised President Clinton a month ago. This week, the president fulfills that promise by going to the Gaza Strip in the Mid-East to rally support for the peace process. While there, the president will address the PNC -- the Palestinian National Council -- a first for a U.S. president. If everything goes as planned, that is.
Under last October's Maryland agreement, a special session of the Council will nullify certain passages in the Palestinian Covenant that are offensive to Israel, such as language that calls for the, quote, "elimination of Zionism," unquote, through armed struggle, and a description of Israel as the, quote, "geographical base for world imperialism," unquote.
Clinton arrives Saturday in the Gaza territory -- a seven-mile-wide strip of land slightly larger than twice the square miles of Washington, D.C. -- now largely under Palestinian control. Gaza borders Egypt on the south and Israel on the east and north. Much of Gaza is polluted, with squalid refugee camps and urban sprawl, but it has a 25-mile coastline along the Mediterranean Sea and a temperate climate. The Gaza population of 1 million is mostly Arab, with about 5,000 Jewish settlers.
This week, Clinton's visit to the Gaza Strip will occur against a backdrop of violent and vengeful acts in Israel. Random aggression. On Wednesday, Palestinian students stoned cars at a traffic circle in the West Bank. One Israeli soldier was pulled from his car and beaten with rocks. Earlier, in Jerusalem, a Palestinian man on his way to work was stabbed to death, allegedly by a Jewish extremist. A riot ensued later that day at the victim's funeral, causing Israeli police to shoot tear gas and rubber-coated bullets into the crowd.
Question: Will Clinton's Gaza trip be fruitful, do you think, Eleanor, or futile?
MS. CLIFT: Well, this is a guy trying to ensure the political survival of Arafat, because nobody wants to contemplate the power struggle that will come if Arafat should be overthrown. And I think the president going over there to try to demonstrate that this country is behind the peace accord and that it is financially worthwhile if they stick with it, despite the violence.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about Ariel Sharon? Is he all keyed up about the president landing Air Force One right on the new Gaza Strip airport?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, yeah, this is a side story, but the Israelis do not want, and Sharon does not want him to land in the new Palestinian airport. But the bigger issue here is what the president will say, if anything, about the Palestinian plan to announce on May 4th of next year that they are going to declare their sovereignty at that point. If he fails to say anything -- and it would undermine them if he did go and say that then. And Eleanor's right. It's the purpose of him going over there. Then --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mainly to legitimize the Palestinian Authority.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the real purpose --
MR. BLANKLEY: That's the purpose.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the signal he is sending.
MR. BLANKLEY: But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he is sending that signal to Israel, too, is he not?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but they understand that. The Palestinians need to hear it, and that's what he is go and do. But if he doesn't tell them, "You can't declare that because the final settlement has got to be negotiated between Israel and Palestinian" -- and not to be declared by Palestine -- then you have got a lot of problems with Israel and Netanyahu, whether they will continue to follow the Wye accord.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Clinton will tell Arafat to shut up and stop talking about a sovereign state for Palestine, which is really unnerving Netanyahu and the Israelis?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, if he does, I will buy a hat and take it off to the president --
MR. KUDLOW: But you see --
MR. BLANKLEY: -- because it would take some nerve, and I think he ought to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He ought to tell the -- tell Arafat to cease and desist?
MR. BLANKLEY: He ought to tell them that, and it would take --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you also concerned by $400 million being granted to Arafat, when so much money has apparently been detoured elsewhere?
MR. KUDLOW: See, I think this is the crux of the problem. It's not that he is going to be able to sort of yell at Arafat; he is going to try to buy him off. And in fact, I think he is going to try to spread even more foreign aid money throughout the whole area, including Israel where we have already given a fortune to. And frankly, I think it's a -- hopeless issue.
And after Clinton, incidentally -- after Clinton comes the IMF. The IMF has already sent representatives into these areas --
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MR. KUDLOW: -- to talk about -- let me just finish this point -- the IMF has already come in there to talk about raising taxes and budget austerity. What these guys need is a free-trade zone, a monetary cooperation zone --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, you're talking.
MR. KUDLOW: -- and they should have a no-fly zone for the IMF strictly enforced.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah, it would be absolutely terrific if that were to come about. Absolutely.
MR. KUDLOW: Trade and economic growth, John, are key to --
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: On a diplomatic credit scale of zero of 10, zero meaning zero credit, 10 meaning metaphysical credit, how much diplomatic credit does Clinton deserve for going to Gaza?
MR. BUCHANAN: Clinton deserves a lot of credit for going. He should take --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: An eight, a nine, a six, a seven or what?
MR. BUCHANAN: He should take Air Force right into Arafat International Airport and tell the world that the U.S. policy in the Middle East is not subject to a veto by Tel Aviv.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And also send a clear signal to Israel that the U.S. is committed to the Oslo peace plan?
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It would have that effect, too.
What kind of a rating do you give him?
MS. CLIFT: He has put a lot of time and credibility into this. He is going to continue to do it. He gets a 10.
MR. BLANKLEY: I give him a five for going and a 10 if he tells him what he needs to hear.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you give him?
MR. KUDLOW: Yeah, I give him no better than a five. And I am very concerned about the promises, the money, the IMF. He may do much more harm than good.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now unfortunately, Lawrence, you have lapsed once again into error. The president deserves a 10. He is taking on a lot of potential negative political reaction in this country for what he is doing, but I think it's a courageous and needed move.
Issue three: Titans bonding.
LEE R. RAYMOND (chairman and chief executive officer, Exxon Corporation): (From videotape.) We are committed to managing Exxon-Mobil to create additional shareholder value for the more than 2 million combined shareholders.
LUCIO A. NOTO (chairman and chief executive officer, Mobil Corporation): (From videotape.) I have no interest in being the largest company in the Fortune 500. Revenues mean nothing to me. What counts is profit.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The world's largest merger this week created the world's largest oil company, Exxon-Mobil. The monumental $81 billion deal will impact 150 countries. This merger follows on the recent heels of Deutsche Bank's purchase of Bankers Trust for $10 billion and AOL's purchase of Netscape for 4.2 billion, the largest deal in Internet history.
This year alone, U.S. company takeovers add up to over 10,000, totalling $1-1/2 trillion. Of that 1.5 trillion, the 20 largest are worth $874 billion, nearly 60 percent.
Sound like a great plan? But is it? The flip side of these corporate ventures: 625,000 layoffs, all in the name of restructuring.
Question: Why are these mega-mergers happening now, Lawrence Kudlow?
MR. KUDLOW: John, in the last 15-some-odd years, this U.S. economy, the strongest in the world, and not destined for recession in the next couple of years, has been completely transformed by two waves: number one, Information Age technological innovation; and number two, the complete eradication of inflation. Oil prices, for example, are collapsing once again, and they haven't seen the bottom yet.
For the American economy overall, for jobs, for capital formation, for economic growth and leadership, it is a terrific event. It's like a huge tax cut for the economy. And you're seeing this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're saying that, on balance, this is a net plus, rather than a net minus for consumers? (Laughter.)
MR. KUDLOW: It's -- for consumers, it's an enormous plus.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: Will Newt Gingrich be in the speaker's chair at the time of the impeachment vote?
MR. BUCHANAN: Newt, yes.
MS. CLIFT: No. (Chuckles.)
MR. BLANKLEY: No.
MR. KUDLOW: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes. Bye-bye! (Laughter.)