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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 29-30, 2007

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ANNOUNCER: It's the 26th annual McLaughlin Group year-end awards, 2007, part two. Here's the master of ceremonies, John McLaughlin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Destined for political stardom, 2008. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Two young Republican governors, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sarah Palin of Alaska, conservatives, represent the future of the GOP.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Hillary Clinton's had a couple of rough weeks, but she's still pretty well positioned to win the Democratic nomination to be the first female president of the United States, therefore making her a big political star next year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: This is a tricky category. Last year I would have said Eliot Spitzer -- stupid me. This year I'm going with former Virginia Governor Mark Warner, who's going to pick up that Senate seat in Virginia. And if the Republicans retain the White House, he's going to be one of the biggest stars of the Democratic Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting.

Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Thank you, John. On the international front, I think Nicolas Sarkozy is going to be a rising star over this next year; got off to a little bumpy start with his labor difficulties, but it was something that needed to be done over there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Interesting.

The envelope, please, Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Dramatic moment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you very much.

MS. CROWLEY: You're welcome.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's see what we have here now. Destined for political stardom in 2008: Cristina Elizabeth Fernandez de Kirchner.

MR. PAGE: Applause, please.

MR. BUCHANAN: She already is the president of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The newly elected president of Argentina and its first elected female president. Cristina succeeds her husband, Nestor Kirchner, who immediately preceded her. He was president from '03 to '07. Keep your eye on Cristina.

MR. PAGE: You just want to get a picture of her --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Put that in your column, Pat.

Okay. Destined for political oblivion. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor. MS. CLIFT: Destined for political oblivion: Dick Cheney. With a military engagement with Iran all but off the table, he has nothing left to plot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Heading straight away toward political oblivion: Fred Thompson. Hope he held on to that SAG card, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: John, I think Mike Gravel is on his way to political oblivion, although it may be too late. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to notice that?

MR. PAGE: I think he may already be gone.

MR. BUCHANAN: On his way? (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: On his way. (Laughs.) Hard to imagine him being any farther.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you got a scoop here? Mike Gravel is going toward political oblivion?

Destined for political oblivion: George W. Bush. He's the object of ridicule nationally and internationally, somewhat unfairly, by the way. He'll be forgotten quicker than Millard Fillmore, a president of the United States.

What number was Fillmore in the line?

MR. BUCHANAN: Fillmore came right in there after Taylor and before James Buchanan, John, and before Pierce.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a number.

MS. CLIFT: Fourteen.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I would say --

MS. CROWLEY: Thirteen.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- 15 -- 13.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thirteen is right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. What years did he govern?

MR. BUCHANAN: He governed from 1853 -- 1851-52. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: 1850 to '53.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay, there you go -- '51-'52.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, I take back all the terrible things I've said about you ever.

Okay, best political theater.

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.

)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were you tipped off on that?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. No, I was not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Butler tipped you off. Allison did.

MR. BUCHANAN: She did not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. BUCHANAN: Best political theater.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: King Juan Carlos, at a meeting down in South America, turned to Hugo Chavez and says, "Why don't you just shut up?" (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was in Chile, right?

Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Best political theater: Pat and John jousting over Millard Fillmore. (Laughter.) No, actually, the Clintons, Bill and Hillary, anywhere, everywhere, all the time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: I agree with Eleanor on this. It's how the campaign spotlight ignites the sexual chemistry between, of all people, Bill and Hillary Clinton. You've got the googly eyes. You've got the intertwined fingers. When they campaign together, love is in the air, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh. Clarence.

MR. PAGE: There's an announcing job waiting for you at the World Wrestling Federation. (Laughs.) John, I think the biggest political theater moment of the year had to be Oprah and Obama. I mean, here you have the great marriage of politics with Hollywood coming right out of Chicago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you've hit on it. The best political theater is Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Barack Obama and her campaigning with him. Unfortunately, she won't generate any votes to speak of. Celebrities are useful for fund-raising, but little else.

Patrick, worst political theater.

MR. BUCHANAN: Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia, delivers a 45-minute insulting diatribe to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which makes the Iranian president a sympathetic figure to Columbia's audience.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I can't improve on that, but I'll try. (Laughter.) Judy Nathan calling hubby Rudy on the cell phone and hubby taking it, trying to project I don't know what -- that he's a good family man, good husband. I hope he is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with Buchanan's characterization of the Columbia -- Columbia's president?

MS. CLIFT: I do. I thought he made himself look foolish and he made --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Way out of line.

MS. CLIFT: -- Ahmadinejad look better by comparison.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, I agree with both Eleanor and Pat on this. And the "I love yous" between Bill and Hillary, worst political theater, but the "I love yous" between Rudy and Judy during that phone call to the NRA, the worst political theater.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I still think that was calculated. Wasn't it? It wasn't an accidental phone call.

Clarence.

MR. PAGE: If it was calculated, it was the dumbest move of the year. (Laughs.) I've got to say the debates were the worst political theater because they weren't really debates. They were just -- they were really group press conferences once again. And there were so many of them, John. What was it, 73 at last count? (Laughter.) It seems like it, anyway. I mean, nobody watched them except for us, who get paid for it anyway. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The worst political theater was the October fake news conference staged by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

MR. PAGE: You win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was in response to the California wildfires. It was a totally fake news conference. Not a single reporter was present. The TV camera focused exclusively on a FEMA bureaucrat standing at the podium. One other staffer, off-camera, put a staged question to the FEMA bureaucrat, who them proceeded to laud FEMA. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: That's what we used to do with Mr. Nixon, John. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, really?

MR. BUCHANAN: I was in the Congo, as a matter of fact, asking him questions for a television documentary across in the car and he was describing the situation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you simulate any dialect when you were there?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Worst political scandal, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not the sex scandals. It is these subprime mortgage scandals and the guys at Citibank and Merrill Lynch losing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars and walking away with $200 million golden parachutes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It goes way beyond subprime mortgage.

Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Firing a handful of U.S. attorneys for political reasons, which led to the resignations of several top officials of the Justice Department, ultimately to the resignation of the attorney general.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, on the subprime issue, it was the banks dumping their portfolios of subprime mortgages while they were still peddling them to the public.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: And on the subprime issue -- (laughs) -- the hustlers at the bottom who were pushing mortgages to people who obviously couldn't afford them. I mean, this scandal just goes on and on. But we've got to give props to Larry Craig. That's my pick for the scandal of the year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think this is obvious. It's the worst political scandal -- billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayers' funds sent to Iraq, billions of dollars that auditors say simply cannot be accounted for, and billions of dollars when the White House and Congress are fighting over funds for insurance for American children who don't have that health insurance.

Okay. Most underreported story of 2007.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sovereign wealth funds, foreign countries taking their reserves, putting them in investment funds. They're buying up the United States of America and will continue to do so. It's going to be an explosive issue one of these days.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You disapprove of the sovereign funds.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's nothing you can do about it. There's nothing we can do about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You disapprove.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, I disapprove of the country being bought.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The ongoing genocide in Darfur, followed closely by the underreporting of the refugee crisis as a result of our occupation of Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Who pushed Mark Warner out of the Democratic race for president and how they did it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you back to Mark Warner?

MS. CROWLEY: Mark Warner had a 50-state organization ready to go to run for president. He had the money. He had a New York Times Magazine cover story. And he pulled out at the last minute to spend more time with his family?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CROWLEY: Come on -- underreported.

MS. CLIFT: Well, why don't you break the story here? (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: I wish I had the reason.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence. (Inaudible) -- the Tribune, will you?

MR. PAGE: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. PAGE: We're on it, John. I think the most underreported story was back in April, the 200th exoneration by DNA of a convicted felon. This includes death-row folks as well. This story didn't get very far, but it shows you the tip of the iceberg, I think, on a lot of false convictions out there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most underreported story of 2007: The massive Russian cyber attacks on Estonia last May. The Russians were angry at Estonia because the Estonians removed a Russian statue of a general commemorating World War II. The Russians carried out the cyber attacks by hijacking networks of Estonian computers. The story was written up in Wired Magazine. It shows how incredibly powerful and incredibly far-reaching digital warfare is, and it is totally immobilizing, crippling to the adversary, and it can be staged remotely.

Okay, the most overreported story of 2007.

MR. BUCHANAN: It would be the jailing of Paris Hilton, John. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: John Edwards' $400 haircut, which turned out to be a lot more expensive for him than what he paid for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More expensive --

MS. CLIFT: Expensive in terms of costing him politically.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it cost $400. But that includes his tip? (Laughter.)

Monica. Maybe it was mostly tip. Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Posh and Becks conquer America; David Beckham and his spicy wife, Posh Spice, coming to America. They get a network show on NBC. They get written up all over the place. It was the biggest yawn of the year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Overreported.

MS. CROWLEY: Totally.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: These are all great nominations. I think the most overreported story was the Duke lacrosse rape case for a rape that didn't happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most overreported story of 2007: The death of Princess Diana. We hope that this year marks the final inquest. Can the Brits finally let the princess rest in peace?

Okay. Biggest government waste, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I would say the trillion-dollar American embassy that is rising in Baghdad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Trillion? Trillion?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's $600 billion. It makes Saddam's biggest palace look like a cottage at Rehoboth Beach. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: That was my nomination as well. This fortress-like compound is the largest U.S. embassy in the world. It's the size of Vatican City. And who's going to live there? I suspect the next strongman of Iraq to be taking that one over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we're going to have a lot of troops living in there.

Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: The U.S. embassy is a good one, but I'm choosing lifetime Secret Service protection for former first ladies. Lady Bird Johnson died earlier this year. She had Secret Service protection for 40 years when she could certainly have afforded it herself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: I've got to say it's Guantanamo and mandatory minimum sentencing. We're now getting to a point where we're beginning to find more alternative sentencing and seeing just how costly mandatory minimums are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Biggest government waste: The war in Iraq, a total cost already of $1.3 trillion when the hidden costs are calculated. That's $1.3 trillion.

Okay. Best government dollar spent, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Buchanan fence on the Mexican border. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: PEPFAR. Listen to this -- President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; 15 countries in Africa. It's the largest health program ever undertaken by a country for a single disease. Kudos to President Bush on that -- nothing else, but on that, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: The Cassini probe to outer space. Those pictures coming back from Saturn are spectacular.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best dollar spent.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: SCHIP -- state children's health insurance program; the more, the better. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best government dollar spent: The sheikh ruler of Dubai, who put 11 billion U.S. dollars into an educational foundation in the Middle East, the largest single charitable donation in modern history.

Pat, boldest political tactic.

MR. BUCHANAN: George W. Bush defies the Congress of the United States, tells them, "You know what you can do with your deadlines. I'm not taking them. Give me every dime I want for the war in Iraq." And they said, "Yes, sir," three times.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They didn't say that. They haven't said that.

MR. BUCHANAN: Three times.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're going to graduate it out. They're going to graduate it out, aren't they?

MR. BUCHANAN: They haven't got a deadline yet. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, and Bush is paying for every penny with poll ratings. He's down to 27 or 28 percent.

MR. BUCHANAN: Thirty-seven in the latest -- 37.

MS. CLIFT: Twenty-seven or 28 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: Boldest political tactic was escalating the troops in Iraq at a time when the war was very costly and unpopular -- the surge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, no more cross-talk. We're running late.

Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Picking up on Pat's point, a Republican president managing to persuade a Democratic Congress to send more troops overseas to an unpopular war and having some of those most vociferous critics come back from Iraq, Jack Murtha, and say the surge is working.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: This is double-barreled. Jesse Jackson criticized Barack Obama for a slow response to the Jena Six controversy. And the best countertactic was Barack Obama's response was virtually composed by Jesse Jackson Jr., the congressman, who is Barack Obama's chairman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Boldest political tactic: When French President Nicolas Sarkozy took off his microphone and walked off the set during his interview with "60 Minutes'" Diane Sawyer when she asked about his marital status. Correction: The interview with Sarkozy was conducted on "60 Minutes" by Lesley Stahl.

Okay. Best idea of 2007.

MR. BUCHANAN: The surge. It saved the war. It saved the war for George Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're in a rut, Pat. You're in a rut. MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: The best idea was putting David Petraeus and making him the face of the war, which obscures the fact that no political progress has been made in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: An excellent point.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: French President Nicolas Sarkozy's decision to take his summer vacation in the United States. It sent a very powerful signal about restoring relations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True.

MR. PAGE: A very expensive vacation for him, I'm sure.

Best idea: Karl Rove leaving the White House to spend more time with his family.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The best idea of 2007: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's idea to push for Middle East peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, which did take place in Annapolis. It's a slender reed. You'd agree with that.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is slender.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it may be where Bush can score big in 2008.

Okay. Worst idea of 2007.

MR. BUCHANAN: The amnesty bill, where the Washington establishment was completely body-slammed --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean immigration amnesty.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah -- completely body-slammed by the American people. It almost killed McCain's campaign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Again, Pat, earned citizenship is not amnesty. (Laughter.) Amnesty is something for nothing. But the worst idea is ramping up talk of Iran as a nuclear threat at the same time the Director of National Intelligence is briefing you each morning telling you that Iran has suspended its nuclear program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Abizaid also should have dispelled that notion.

Monica. MS. CROWLEY: Eliot Spitzer's proposal to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants in the state of New York, which bore the biggest scar from 9/11.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you talking about? He has to discover where the 500,000 are. That's a perfect way to do it.

MS. CROWLEY: That was the scam he was running, to get them on the voting rolls so they would vote Democratic, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah -- further ulteriority to it, right?

MR. PAGE: Mitt Romney's idea to double the size of Guantanamo.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Worst idea: Prohibiting smoking inside the home. That's inside the home. Two cities in California legislated this. Here we go again -- California leading the way, the wrong way.

Okay. Sorry to see you go. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Jerry Ford, John, even though he fired you and he fired me. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He asked me to stay over, though, for a couple of --

MR. BUCHANAN: For a couple of weeks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for a few months.

MR. BUCHANAN: Couple of weeks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Longer than you.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Longer than you.

MR. BUCHANAN: You were first out the door.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is Nixon era.

MS. CLIFT: Tony Snow, who's very much alive, former White House spokesman, did a really classy job as the president's spokesman; sorry to see him leave the post. His successor, Dana Perino, is very able, but she doesn't know the difference between the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis, and that's not good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Sorry to see you go: Rosie O'Donnell, who's still very much alive, except she left "The View" in a giant huff, no-show on MSNBC. And we conservatives sort of miss her. Her insanity had a certain charm. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Newspaper readers, John. But we'll see you on the Web. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not going to happen.

MR. PAGE: It's happening already.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, a little bit of circulation, but it's not going to disappear.

Sorry to see you go: Anna Nicole Smith; her youth, her beauty, her unpredictable comic facial expressions and a quality of innocence that made her likable and memorable.

Okay. Fifteen minutes of fame. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Middle East peace plan. It's gone, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Senator Larry Craig -- 15 minutes of fame, that's all. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Howard K. Stern, who was, for about 15 minutes, before the DNA results came in, the father of Anna Nicole's baby.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence. Oh, really?

MS. CROWLEY: Yes. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: Anna Nicole keeps coming back.

Anyway, Sanjaya -- Sanjaya, John.

MS. CLIFT: Sanjay Gupta?

MR. PAGE: No, Sanjaya Malakar, who was -- who, on one song on "American Idol," made a girl cry in the audience like a Beatle fan. And for a crazy week, he was the most famous man on the planet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but that was a set-up, wasn't it, the tears?

Fifteen minutes of fame: The Atlanta lawyer, Andrew Speaker. He wanted to dodge medical quarantine in a foreign country and get home from his honeymoon, so he exposed the passengers of a full airplane to a virulent strain of tuberculosis. Well, he got home and he got his 15 minutes.

Okay. Best spin of the year, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Stephen Hadley of the White House. He claims that the National Intelligence Estimate which says Iran isn't working on nuclear weapons, and hasn't been for four years, proves Bush is right to say we're headed for World War III. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Best spin: Progress in Iraq, which is why we can't leave, which is why we have to keep funding the war, which is why we have to stay until President Bush gets out of Dodge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica. MS. CROWLEY: Best spin: John Edwards' contention that he's just Johnny from the block, just folks, just an average guy with a $400 haircut.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Well, Pat and I got a very similar prediction there, because I would say that President Bush's spin that at least now we know, you see, Iran was interested in building a nuclear weapon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Best spin of the year: MoveOn.org's full-page New York Times advertisement headlined "General Betray Us," which rhymes, of course, with the name of the distinguished U.S. general, David Petraeus. The ad was widely seen as a political gaffe and backfiring, but it was just the kind of confrontational tactic that worked for MoveOn's supporters. Its fund-raising was dramatically boosted. The rhyme may be sophomoric, but it was brilliant spin.

Okay. The most honest person of the year.

MR. BUCHANAN: General Peter Pace, United States Marines Corps general. Asked what he thought of homosexuals in the military, he said exactly what he thought, and he lost his second tour of duty as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; an honest guy, great Marine, and he's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Nobody told him it's 2007, not 1937.

MR. BUCHANAN: Things don't change.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we all disassociating ourselves -- are we all disassociating ourselves from that last characterization? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Most -- disassociate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we all disassociate ourselves from Patrick's last moral reading?

MS. CLIFT: Yes, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: Most honest --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that?

MS. CLIFT: Most honest -- most honest -- Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, who had the courage to stand up and tell the president that there is no reason to go to war with Iran, that they're not building a nuclear weapon. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Most honest: John McCain. He wakes up every morning knowing what he believes. He says what he means. And he's the tortoise in this race, but sometimes the tortoise beats the hare.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Barack Obama, at an editorial board meeting with the Chicago Tribune, was asked about this little mini-scandal in his resume of this little land deal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rezko?

MR. PAGE: Rezko, Tony Rezko.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what happened?

MR. PAGE: A little strip of land. And he said it was a bone- headed thing for him to do, which was such candor and honesty, but that was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're not finished with Rezko. Is there more to come out about Obama on this?

MR. PAGE: No. Obama -- nothing new further on Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, how much money was involved?

MR. PAGE: Oh, it's not the money, John. It's just the fact that he was involved in a deal for this little strip of land at a time when Rezko was under investigation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't bet on it.

Most honest person of the year: General John Abizaid, for his courage in standing up and saying flat-out that the U.S. can contain the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran without need to resort to war. Abizaid headed off a potentially catastrophic preemptive U.S. military strike on Iran. He helped prevent a third Middle East war -- Afghanistan and Iraq and --

MR. BUCHANAN: Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Iran.

Okay. The most overreported, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Not overreported; it's over-what?

MS. CROWLEY: Overrated. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Overrated. Excuse me.

MR. BUCHANAN: Overrated. Okay, masters of the universe, the Wall Street geniuses who turned out, many of them, to be dumb as a post about these subprime mortgages, buying and selling them. And John, they just did not live up to their great rep.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about these banking bureaucrats? How come they --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the regulators, they got it wrong, too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Overrated --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Greed.

MR. BUCHANAN: Greed -- pleonexia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Overrated: The Democratic Congress, for reasons mostly not of their own making; Republican determination to block everything they do. But their ratings are really low.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Mike Huckabee. One month before anybody goes to the polls, he's up in everybody's face. He'll be a footnote by mid- February.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting.

Clarence.

MR. PAGE: The iPhone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The iPhone.

Most overrated: Karl Rove. Next year's election will show that as a political strategist, Rove turned out to be ruinous for the Republican Party. Karl inherited a broad coalition put together by Reagan and Gingrich, with Republican control of the House, the Senate, the presidency. Karl squandered it all.

The most undderrated, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Ron Paul. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Our favorite?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's our man.

MS. CROWLEY: Here we go again.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Our leader.

MR. BUCHANAN: Our main man. Our main man.

MS. CLIFT: Mike Duncan, who's been chairman of the Republican National Committee since January. I bet you didn't even know his name. If he does anything, he will improve his standing. He's a good guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You were right. We didn't know his name.

Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. All the attention's on Hillary and Cristina de Kirchner in Argentina, but Merkel has been quietly very effective, and she's pro-American.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How are her ratings?

MS. CROWLEY: Very good in Germany -- very good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, she pulled the last --

MR. BUCHANAN: She's moving to the left.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She pulled the last -- what do they call it? The eight nations meet.

MR. BUCHANAN: The G-8.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She pulled that together, the G-8 meeting. She pulled it together. She kept it going. And she also, I think, came back to this country for a hurried visit. What kind of a deal was that?

MS. CROWLEY: And she was the only one to stand up to Mugabe and talk about the horrors in Zimbabwe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Oprah's endorsement clout. Just wait, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most underrated: Corruption in America. We've seen it on the corporate level, Enron, and on the political level, Abramoff. But this is the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, corruption in America is ingrained in almost every aspect of our lives.

Okay. Macro-predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think there's going to be a big recession in the coming year, 2008, John. I think it's going to lead to tremendous losses by Republicans in both houses of Congress. And it could -- if it really affects Ohio and states like that, it could lead to the impossibility of the Republicans electing a president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Whoever is elected president, but especially if it's a Democrat and especially if it's John McCain, this country is really going to take global warming seriously. And John McCain is promising a Manhattan Project to find alternative fuels.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: I think you're going to see a significant reduction in Middle East tensions because you're going to have a settlement brokered by Condoleezza Rice and Tony Blair, both of whom might get Nobel Peace Prizes if they can come through.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow.

Clarence.

MR. PAGE: It's hard to beat that, but I think we're going to see --

MS. CLIFT: If true.

MR. PAGE: I think we're going to see a new prominence for the public education issue and a shift more toward local control of schools.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The coming global economic bust will go far beyond the subprime mortgage crisis. This is, in fact, a deep crisis in banking and financing debt of all varieties through off-book investments. It goes far beyond mortgages of any kind and strikes at the financial instruments which lubricate the banking system of the globe.

McLaughlin Group resolution for the year: To remain America's premier source for insight, analysis and debate on the presidential race, starting with the January 3rd Iowa caucuses, right through the White House transition.

Happy New Year. Bye-bye.



END.