THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT,
TONY BLANKLEY AND DAVID CORN
TAPED FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 1999
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 6-7, 1999
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* 1999 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 aircraft engines to appliances, GE -- we bring good things to life.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Que sera, sera.
REP. JAMES ROGAN (R-CA): (From videotape.) We understood that this was sort of a David and Goliath approach, particularly in light of the public opinion polls that don't favor us. We certainly have demonstrated that there are at least a core group of people who get elected to public office who will, at the end of the day, do what they think is right. They will put their careers on the line to do what they think is right, and we are content to let history be the ultimate judges.
CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST: (From videotape.) On this vote the yeas are 30, the nays are 70. Division two of the motion is not agreed to.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to deny House managers a chance to call Monica Lewinsky to the Senate floor. Democrats stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a totally straight-line partisan vote against hearing live testimony from the former White House intern.
They were joined by 25 Republican defectors, which is 45 percent of the entire Republican 55-member caucus. The vote was the first indication of the sheer volume of Senate Republicans who are clawing their way towards the emergency exit of this so-called trial.
SEN. TED STEVENS (R-AK): (From videotape.) Well, I think we've just shortened the trial considerably.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: House managers were forced to make do with videotaped depositions of Lewinsky, Washington power broker Vernon Jordan, and White House aide Sidney Blumenthal in their final presentations.
Question: What explains the large number of Republicans who voted with the Democrats, Pat Buchanan? Welcome back, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, thank you very much, John. You know, in 1968, George Wallace said about Vietnam, "Win or get out." The Republican Senate did not do either; they didn't go all out to try to make this case all the way and take the risks attendant, and they didn't end it. And so they fought a no-win war, I believe, for week after week in circumscribing the House managers. I think they're going to pay the consequences in casualties and no victory.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quite a few conservatives in that number, too.
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. They all want out, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Trent Lott voted against the impeachment of Richard Nixon when he was in the House, and Trent Lott and many other Republicans realized from the beginning that even if everything here was true as charged, it was not a crime against the state and it was not an impeachable offense. They've been looking for a way out from the beginning, and I think they finally got a bipartisan vote when a little common sense took hold. And Miss Lewinsky, if you read her deposition, she's a better witness for the president than she is for the prosecution.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (In agreement.) She has his exact lingo down, too. She speaks about misleading but not necessarily a falsification.
Tony, do you have thoughts on this? I mean, nice threads there, Tony. You look like a grandee. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Thank you. Thank you, sir.
You know, look, we have said many times that this is always a charade, this Senate proceeding. They were waiting for the right moment to make their exit. They had to -- they had -- in their own mind give the managers a little bit of time before they cashiered them. They saw their opportunity on the witnesses, and they took it. I mean, this was totally predictable. We didn't know exactly which event it was going to be, but we knew there was going to be one. They found it, and they took it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's clear that the Republicans wanted to shut this down. And they knew that if no live witnesses were called, it would be shut down. And they voted in excessively large number because they wanted to present the impression that they were not partisan, as opposed to the Democrats.
But at the same time, they can have their cake and eat it too, because although they have shortened the trial successfully, they will be able to vote conviction, and that will preserve their status with their core constituency. What do you think of that rationale?
MR. CORN: Well, it's never too late for some rationality to hit them, which is what happened this past week. If I were a conservative, I'd be upset with the Senate from the get-go, and I'd be upset with the House Republican managers because they have really bungled the case. When they had the chance to explore and investigate on the House side, they said no. They brought the case to the Senate. And anyone with an ounce of common sense would know that the senators would not want to have a big hurrah, a big spectacle over this. So the only shot the House managers had of doing this was doing it on the House side. But you can't do that with Bob Barr and Henry Hyde leading the pack.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to move on to something else. Did you want to make an urgent and compelling point? (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: An urgent and compelling point: This is revisionism.
MR. CORN: It isn't --
MR. BLANKLEY: It's revisionism. On the House side, in November and December, there was extraordinary pressure on the Republican managers to get this job done by the end of the year. They didn't have time for hearings then. And it was a mistake to be sucked into that, but they had no choice.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, you're not -- (laughter) --
MR. CORN: Well, they chose -- that was their choice. (Cross talk.) They had voted -- (inaudible) --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. The point is the case is familiar to everybody in America. And it's going to end probably with a moral condemnation of the president, a censure, which the Republicans could have offered in the House --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I don't think there is even going to be a censure -- nor sympathy.
MS. CLIFT: -- and spared themselves --
MR. BUCHANAN: I hope there is not one of these --
MS. CLIFT: -- spared themselves the moral of this problem.
MR. BUCHANAN: I hope there is not one of these phony findings of facts or censure because those are cop-outs for people who lack the courage to do their duty, which either to convict him and remove him or to acquit him and let him go.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have to -- we are --
MS. CLIFT: I am agnostic. If they want to do it, it's fine with me. If they don't -- (inaudible) -- that's probably --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We are all stating here that it is metaphysically impossible for the House managers to gain a conviction. Agreed? Good. (Laughter.) The principal tactical mistake that the House managers made was a failure to call witnesses in the House Judiciary hearings -- impeachment hearings. True or false?
MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with David. I think that's a very good point. They should have gone all-out to make the case. Once it went to the Senate, John, they should have raised Cain and said, "We have got to have the witnesses to make our case."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's in the Senate. But they should have called them forth in the House --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but there is no --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the House hearings for impeachment, and then they should have rejected the notion of tape -- of taped and get those -- (inaudible due to cross talk).
MR. CORN: No one wanted -- no one wanted --
MS. CLIFT: There's no case here to be made. There is no case.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, look, they were under -- but they were under extraordinary pressure, not only from the media and the Democrats, but from fellow Republicans in the House, not to hold hearings and to get that job done by the end of the year.
MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what? They should have raised holy hell and stuck with this and forced the Republicans to stick with their convictions.
MR. CORN: No one wanted --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. CORN: No one wanted --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: That goes to my basic point: If you're going to strike the king, you got to kill him. You can't hit soft. You either go out and do it, or you don't do it.
MR. CORN: But no one wanted to take responsibility, either, for what had to be done. If you're going to say this is impeachable, you treat it seriously. You don't just take Ken Starr's report and the next day kick it out on the Internet. You don't say we're going to bring this to the Senate --
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I agree with you. I think you go put your --
MR. CORN: I mean, they bungled the case from day one.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- put your reputation and everything on the line --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. I want to ask --
MS. CLIFT: They could have done everything right. They could have done everything right; they were not going to get 67 votes to remove a president --
MR. BUCHANAN: Well --
MS. CLIFT: -- for lying about a sexual -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- not in America.
MR. BUCHANAN: But they could have won the case.
MS. CLIFT: Not in today's America.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you this, Eleanor, since you seem to have so much knowledge of the White House firsthand. Is there gloating going on over there? Are we going to go through a period of gloat with the president? Is he going to go get the bongo drums out and the cigar, and start singing again, as he did over in Africa?
MS. CLIFT: No, I assume you will, John, because you'll finally be able to talk about Social Security and Medicare and all those important problems. (Laughter.) I assume --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he going to a gloat --
MS. CLIFT: There is -- nobody comes out of this undamaged. The president is damaged. Miss Lewinsky is damaged. The media is damaged. You know, this has been a disastrous year for everybody who has been touched by this scandal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want to talk about historical precedent before we move on? We need a seminar touch here.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, historical precedent --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, what kind of historical precedent does this trial set?
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, oh, for the future. I thought --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's ruinous, is it not? It has nullified the impeachment clause of the Constitution --
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, by definition, this will constitute one half of the precedent that future presidencies and Congresses will have to measure their conduct by. And there's no doubt that we have now lowered the bar -- or maybe raised the bar -- for what constitutes an impeachable offense. So it's damaging, I think, in the long term.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the process itself has made impeachment unattainable --
MR. BUCHANAN: No --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got videotape --
MR. CORN: That's not true at all. No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- no live witnesses, constricted jurors --
MR. CORN: John, you know why you're wrong? You know why you're wrong?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment. The Founding Fathers clearly screwed up, did they not?
MR. CORN: No, no. Look at --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did they not? (Laughter.)
MR. CORN: Look at history --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How can you possibly --
MR. CORN: Maybe on slavery, but I'm not sure on impeachment.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. CORN: Let's look at Andrew -- look at the last impeachment we had. It was 106 years after the fact before there was another impeachment. These things happen very rarely, and I think the lesson is going to be: don't impeach the president unless you have some support from the other party and from the population.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible due to cross talk) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can draw comfort from the fact that it's never going to happen again --
MS. CLIFT: No, no --
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's never going to happen again.
MS. CLIFT: No, the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's been nullified with this trial.
MS. CLIFT: No, the danger here --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Is it all -- Eleanor, don't you think --
MS. CLIFT: I just want to say one thing.
MR. CORN: There's no danger --
MS. CLIFT: The danger here is that Republicans will spin the impeachment of the president in the House as the highest possible condemnation and that future -- in future years a party controlling one house can vote to impeach a president for wrongdoing. I think that's the danger.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you know, what the historical record is going to -- I'll tell you what. This is going to turn. The guys that are going to come off well are the House managers. The Senate will go down in history --
MR. CORN: No way, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Senate's going to go down in history as a fake, phony trial. Especially when revelations come out in the future, they'll be asked why did they -- (inaudible due to cross-talk).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. You put your finger right on it. Okay. Pat's put his finger on it. The world's greatest deliberative body, distinguished statesmen, patriots, deep thinkers, models of civility and decorum, the U.S. Senate, the world's most exclusive club.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER TRENT LOTT: (From videotape.) (In progress) -- Articles of Impeachment, and there be six hours equally divided between the House managers and the White House counsel for final arguments.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, will you take the exit question?
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. What is it?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The exit question is, bearing in mind that there are 55 Republicans in the Senate, will there be a majority voting for conviction on either article of impeachment? Note I said majority. Not a two-thirds, which is what is required.
MR. BUCHANAN: There will be a majority voting to impeach, convict the president and remove him on the grounds of obstruction of justice.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think the majority will hold there?
MR. BUCHANAN: It better hold.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A lot of talk on the Hill that they don't even have a majority on that article.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I believe they better have a majority on that article, or they'll be answering to their constituents, Republicans will.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Right. I mean, this fabled right wing of the Republican Party, the Republican base that everybody is so worried about, you're always catering to it, they will never be satisfied. The perjury article is going to fall short, I believe, of a majority. There will be a majority of Republicans --
MR. BUCHANAN: That's what I said.
MS. CLIFT: -- partisan, on obstruction, and history will view it as a partisan vote.
MR. BUCHANAN: What do you think? Will there be a majority on obstruction?
MR. BLANKLEY: I've actually called around a little bit. I don't think it is known this weekend whether there is a majority or not. It's going to be very close, if there is one, on obstruction.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No finding of fact, and no censure?
MR. BLANKLEY: Censure, I don't know yet. I mean, my sense is it's less likely than more likely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will there be a majority on either article of impeachment?
MR. CORN: I think right now probably not, but the vote will be close, within a couple votes either way. And if there is no majority for the articles, it will show that the Republican impeachment drive was pretty illegitimate. So if they don't even get over 50, they're going to look really bad in history, too.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there are other explanations as to why that --
MR. CORN: Well, no -- (inaudible) -- votes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not the legitimacy. There's plenty of legitimacy to it. But my question to you is --
MR. CORN: If you can't get a majority, you don't even get all the (Republicans ?).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the whole thing is so messed up, it's going to take years to untangle.
MR. BUCHANAN: The point is that the Democratic Party --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you this. Will there be a censure?
MR. CORN: I think most Democrats want one. It depends how hard the Republican leadership is going to fight.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It also depends on how hard the Democrats draw the language.
MR. CORN: Yeah. I've spoken to a lot of Democratic senators who would like to see a harsh censure.
MR. BUCHANAN: They are all -- excuse me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A majority?
MR. CORN: I think a majority, yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, these Democrats -- excuse me -- are a bunch of phonies. (Laughter.) If they want to vote --
MR. CORN: Is that -- (inaudible) -- who has ever said that?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him -- hold on.
MR. BUCHANAN: If they want to vote censure, go into their little caucus and censure the president. They want cover for having let this guy go for what they know he is very guilty of --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And let them live with their soft-on --
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with their soft-on-crime image that they have generated with the handling of this process.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. I'll tell you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When we come back -- (laughter) -- when the voters learn more about George Bush Jr., will they still like what they see?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Junior.
GOV. GEORGE WALKER BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) I am interested. I am thinking about it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A guarded admission from Texas Governor George Walker Bush Jr. on the ultimate question of his career. Will he or will he not run for the golden prize, the White House, in 2000?
The early book is in -- it's clear and undisputed -- Bush is not only front-runner; all other hopefuls lag far, far behind. And if the election were held today, Bush beats Al Gore 57 to 39 percent, like LBJ over Goldwater.
Bush has crossover status. Undecideds and independents prefer the 52-year-old son of the former U.S. president who shares his name. Get this; was born on the campus of Yale University in 1946.
GOV. BUSH: (From videotape.) My dad went to war after high school and fought, and then came back, married mother and went to college. And I was born in his sophomore year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Bush stresses not his Ivy League start, but his roots in the Lone Star State, where he arrived at the age of 2. Bush has twin daughters with his wife, Laura. He graduated from Yale in '68; has an MBA from Harvard. He was an F-102 pilot for the Texas Air National Guard and worked in the oil business, '75 to '86.
His first political loss was in '78, a race for the U.S. Congress. The loss taught Bush something he'll never do again.
GOV. BUSH: (From videotape.) Run a race I can't win.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In '94, 16 years later, his fortunes changed abruptly. He beat Ann Richards for the Texas governorship. Last January, he was sworn in to his second term, making Texas history, the only governor ever to win two back-to-back four-year terms. And Bush won big -- get this -- 69 percent of the vote, including a lot of Hispanics.
GOV. BUSH: (From videotape.) I told people I was going to be the governor of everybody. We should not fear diversity. Diversity brings new energy, new life and new blood.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the candidacy? Quickly, we have to go to another segment.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he's clear front-runner. He's fresh, he's Texas, he's young. Republicans want a winner. If the numbers are in his favor he'll enter the primaries as a front-runner, if he gets in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: He knows how to occupy the middle ground of politics and he's used the term "compassionate conservatism." All those hairy-chested Republicans make fun of it -- (laughter) -- but it's very appealing to people who vote.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think the compassionate conservative concept is a very useful one politically. I think he has a lot of potential, but he hasn't been around the track yet and we won't know whether he can run on the national track until he's been out a while -- whether he can turn that compassionate conservative into a real message that connects. He may be able to, but it's a little too early to tell.
MR. CORN: I think compassionate conservatism is useful, too, because it says a lot about the rest of all the other conservatives in the back -- (laughter) -- which is why they're all jumping all over him, because he seems to have the monopoly on compassion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does it mean, compassion? It means less --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible due to cross talk.)
MR. CORN: I -- I don't know what it means.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It means less laissez-faire.
MR. CORN: I think it means "I'm not Pat Buchanan," but I don't know -- I'm not sure what it means. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It approaches social problems with alternatives to bureaucracy.
MS. CLIFT: It means --
MR. CORN: No, well, if it's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what it means.
Okay, skeletons in the closet.
GOV. BUSH: (From videotape.) I have said many times that there's nothing in my background that would disqualify me from being governor of Texas, much less president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what Bush says, but it won't stop opponents from vigorously digging. Bush himself must be ready for the inevitable brush fires that will arise in a national campaign. He's already tried to put out this one.
GOV. BUSH: (From videotape.) I quit drinking. I quit drinking for a couple of reasons. One, I was drinking too much at times. Remember, when I -- during this period of life, I was a Sunday school teacher, I was a Little League coach, I was a husband, I was a dad. But alcohol began to compete with my energies.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, Governor Bush, but did you ever inhale?
GOV. BUSH: (From videotape.) It is irrelevant what I did 20 to 30 years ago. What's relevant is that I have learned from many mistakes I made. I do not want to send signals to anybody that what Governor Bush did 30 years ago is cool to try.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Has Clinton defined deviancy down so far that womanizing or alcohol or drugs won't be a problem for Junior? Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: John the public voted for Clinton twice because they decided that personal problems were not disqualifying and I suspect whatever George W. Bush has in his closet, when it comes out, if it comes out, the public will look at him and base their opinions on what he can offer them in terms of policies.
But I must say, I found his answer about whether he had used marijuana and cocaine interesting. He said, "I'm not going to talk about what I did as a child." (Laughter.) Now, Republicans have a gift for redefining the life cycle. Childhood now goes now through probably the early 30s, and Henry Hyde, of course -- "youthful indiscretion" in his 40s. It's a clever way to respond.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, what do you think of the peccadilloes?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, while Clinton has defined it downward, I'm not convinced it's always going to be exculpatory for any politician. It depends on what the other formulas are. Keep in mind in the Republican primary you're dealing with Republican voters who are more judgmental than the general electorate, and it could hurt you there more than it would in the general election.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, Pat, sometimes in elections occurring after the current cycle, which we have agonizingly gone through, voters wish an antidote. Does that mean that Junior's chances might be the less because of the peccadilloes?
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I don't know that there are any peccadilloes or what they are. I think Tony is right; Republican voters tend to be much more judgmental; the Christian conservatives, much less tolerant of what Clinton was up to. And so I think that's going to be a difficulty. But I don't know what the truth is. But I do think Republican voters will judge the whole man and Bush is a very attractive candidate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. And that will go a long way, that personality of his?
MR. BUCHANAN: He's got a very good personality.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, yes|! Far -- the people who know him say it's far superior to Al's!
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Junior's gems.
GOV. BUSH: (From videotape.) Prosperity with a purpose; one, how to make sure the economy keeps growing, but if it does, how to make sure everybody is -- feels a part of the future.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush is a self-described, "compassionate conservative" -- an echo of Bush Senior's "kinder, gentler America." The label has earned scornful barbs from opponents. "Weasel words" says Lamar Alexander. And his father's ex-veep, Dan Quayle, said this in a letter to supporters: "I have ordered my staff to never, ever utter the words `compassionate conservative.' This silly and insulting term was created by liberal Republicans and is nothing more than code for surrendering our values and our principles."
DAN QUAYLE: (From videotape.) And we believe it's wrong to measure compassion in terms of how many people depend on the federal bureaucracy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What's the best idea Junior has? The best idea? Have you thought about this?
MR. CORN: His best idea, well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you political editor over at The Nation or what?
MR. CORN: Yes -- I'm Washington editor of The Nation, yes. And his best idea to date I think has been to use a bilingual slogan during his inauguration --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking policy here. What's his best policy idea?
MR. CORN: We don't know about his policy. He's coasted to co-leadership with Liddy Dole, who we know nothing about either --
MR. BLANKLEY: No, that's not entirely true. He is setting up foundations to take care of single pregnant women.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's a tough love kind of -- half-way between ignoring the problem and bureaucratizing the program.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Religiously funded organizations, also state-funded organizations to perform social services.
MR. BUCHANAN: John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm sure that would be pleasing to you and your magazine.
MR. CORN: All right --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, do you know what it is?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MR. CORN: Good social services are always a good thing, John.
MR. BUCHANAN: Do you know what it is? It is "Thousand Points of Light" conservatism, and it's a good idea, and it's an add-on for a conservative and there's nothing wrong with him calling himself compassionate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. We've got to get out with predictions.
MS. CLIFT: I just want to commend --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me! Excuse me!!
MS. CLIFT: I just want to commend Dan Quayle for waging war on liberal Republicans! (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: The odds that Bush -- and he hasn't yet decided -- will seek to get the Republican nomination?
MR. BUCHANAN: I would put it at 75 percent, I think. I have still got some doubts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Seventy-five percent?
MS. CLIFT: Well, 20-odd governors and 110 members of Congress have already endorsed him. He is going to have an awfully hard time saying no. I think he goes ahead.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's 100 percent?
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He is doomed.
MR. BLANKLEY: An awful lot of people are relying on him. I think it's about 90 percent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ninety?
MR. CORN: A very high percentage, unless his wife knows something we don't know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give us a number.
MR. CORN: Ninety percent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ninety percent. You are absolutely right, 90 percent. We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Predictions? I think this thing is going to wrap up. And I do think they are going to get the vote, John, for obstruction of justice.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wrap up? I mean, we are into -- (laughter) -- invincibly boring reporting. And God knows how the public feels --
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and the anti-climax is smothering.
MR. BUCHANAN: War inside the GOP.
MS. CLIFT: The Medicare Commission will recommend raising the retirement age to 70, even 72. And Congress will say, "Not over our dead bodies"; maybe literally. They'll reject it.
MR. BLANKLEY: The House Republicans are planning a major legislative media campaign on tax cuts. That will be the first big initiative out of the box.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: David?
MR. CORN: Last week, Jesse Jackson watched the Super Bowl with President Clinton and his favorite "spinmeisters." It doesn't look to me like he is going to be challenging this administration in the next presidential race.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he is not running?
MR. CORN: Not today.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At NATO's 50th anniversary summit -- when will that take place, David?
MR. CORN: You tell us, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In eight weeks.
Did you know that, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I knew.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fiftieth anniversary. NATO's policy for the new millennium will be what, Patrick?
MR. BUCHANAN: Not NATO expansion into the Baltic --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) No. No.
MR. BUCHANAN: Tell me no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There will be enhanced burden-sharing among member states. That ought to please you. (Laughter.)
Next week, the acquittal-conviction vote in the Clinton Senate trial, Friday, the 12th: Can the nation and the press survive gross anti-climax and invincible boredom for the coming week?
®FC¯END OF REGULAR SEGMENT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: U.S. ground troops in Kosovo.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: (From videotape.) The time to stop this conflict in Kosovo is, now, before it spreads and when it can be contained at an acceptable cost.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Part of that cost may be thousands of American ground troops in Kosovo. NATO has threatened to strike if this weekend's peace talks between Serbs and Albanians do not produce a settlement, by February 19, two weeks from this weekend.
Such an attack would include from 12,000 to 30,000 troops on the ground. President Clinton believes that this ground force would include a significant number of American soldiers.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: (From videotape.) A NATO presence on the ground in Kosovo could prove essential in giving both sides the confidence they need to pull back from their fights. If that happens, we are seriously considering the possibility of our participation in such a force.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But any American troops deployed might be under the direct authority of a foreign NATO commander.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT): (From videotape.) If we're asking our European allies in NATO to shoulder a larger proportion of the burden of ground troops in a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, we also have -- (chuckles) -- to accept the possibility that it may be one of their nationals who will be commanding those troops.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What national interests do we have at stake here in the Balkans, David Corn?
MR. CORN: I think we have collective security concerns in the Balkans because you have problems with Greece and Turkey, you have problems with Albania and Macedonia. And I don't think anyone wants to see another Bosnia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. CORN: And the way to prevent that, to have a chance of preventing that, is getting in early, before it gets to that depth.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That sounds like a lot of iffy propositions in there.
MR. CORN: Well, the Bosnia issue --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the vital national interest of the United States in entering this conflict with our soldiers on the ground?
MR. CORN: Not having war in Europe is an interest.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you point to anything that means that what happens -- can you, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, look, there is zero vital interest. We do have an interest in not having Greece and Turkey go to war. But this is Europe's backyard. The European troops ought to be 100 percent in there, and they ought to stop getting Americans involved in these things.
MS. CLIFT: We --
MR. BUCHANAN: Kosovo one day is going to be independent. This is going to postpone that day -- (off mike) --
MR. BLANKLEY: Look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, one of the problems I have with this whole policy as it's articulated is listening to the president say, "Both sides." There are not just two sides; there are at least three sides. There are the Kosovars who want independence, those who want limited autonomy, and the Serbs. And I don't -- it's more like an Irish problem than it is like a Bosnian problem. And we're going to get our troops in between different sides of Kosovars --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there a clear mission here? And is there a clear exit strategy? The answer is no, and you know it.
MS. CLIFT: No, the clear mission is to get the parties talking and to keep the peace in the meantime. And there is a model here, and the model is Bosnia, and that's worked pretty well. And this is all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No clear mission or exit strategy there either.
MR. CORN: Bosnia's worked very well --
MS. CLIFT: This is all fodder for the right wing about not wanting to serve under a foreign commander. The truth is, we're part of a team over there, but American troops won't do anything without an American commander signing off.