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: For whom the bell tolls.


JOHN F. KENNEDY JR. (at his mother's funeral in 1994): (From audiotape.) On that day it will be said, "Behold our God, to whom we look to save us."


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette were recovered this week, along with the wreckage of JFK Jr.'s Piper Saratoga aircraft, off the shores of Martha's Vineyard.


Since his youth, Kennedy has been a national icon. He bore his assassinated father's name. Like his father and his mother, he had come to symbolize, even personify, the American Camelot, the White House as the legendary site of King Arthur's palace and court, peopled by the best and the brightest, and driven by the purest of motives.


The mythical Camelot of Arthurian legend and the quest for the Holy Grail seemed in the '60s -- and even today -- a fitting metaphor for JFK's presidency and for the bearer of his name. JFK Jr.'s death means the death, with him, of that name, and the death of a direct line of descent. That adds so immeasurably to our sense of national loss.


JFK Jr.'s demise also creates a vacuum in the family dynasty. Before his untimely death, many had hoped John Kennedy would follow in his father's steps, fulfill his inherited succession, and seek political office.


The JFK male line of descent ends with JFK Jr. The female line of descent -- i.e., his sister, Caroline -- continues, of course.


Question: Why did JFK Jr. have such a hold on the affection of the public, Michael Barone?


MR. BARONE: Well, John, no other family in American history -- no political family, no other family of any kind -- has had such a hold on the public as the Kennedys had. It was really the product, I think, of Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, John Kennedy Jr.'s grandfather. I mean, back in the 1930s, when he went to become U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James in London, he publicized his family in pictures to the point that one British reporter complained about, quote, "his nine over-photographed children." There was grumbling even then. And he courted American press barons Henry Luce and Arthur Crock (sp), the bureau chief of the Washington bureau of the New York Times. And the Kennedys got tremendous publicity well before -- the whole family -- well before John Kennedy became president. So --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And JFK Jr. personified that, he symbolized that, he was the bearer of it?


MR. BARONE: Well, he was the heir to it. He was heir to a well-established -- John Kennedy, when he was president, would wait until Jackie Kennedy was out of town, because she didn't like this kind of publicity, and have the photographers there that snapped the shot of John Kennedy Jr. with his -- you know, poking out from under the White House desk.




MS. CLIFT: Well, with all due respect to Joe Kennedy, the scion of the family, I think the outpouring of grief that we see today has more to do with the unfulfilled promise of President John F. Kennedy's administration and in the sense that the son, who those of us of a certain age remember as the small boy saluting and younger people, are eager to embrace as a symbol, that he would someday rise to take the mantle from his father and bring us a politics that could inspire.




MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You knew -- you knew John Kennedy?


MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Yeah. I worked -- he edited my writing.


My sense is that, obviously, you know, John Kennedy Jr. inherited the legacy but that he had a lot of opportunities to kick it away in public and he never did. And so I think it grew with him because he was never the kind of person in public that people didn't like. And so as the more they saw him on TV, I think the more they liked him. And he was building towards something, I suspect.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did you find dealing with him?


MR. BLANKLEY: He was very straightforward. Interestingly, a lot -- a much more modest person than all of his possessions might suggest he would be. He was straightforward, unaffected and a remarkable chap.




MR. PAGE: Well, I won't argue with any of that. But I am going to dissent a little bit in saying I think a lot of the reason why there was such an outpouring of grief was partly the Princess Di effect in the sense that here was a fellow who symbolized to us, not only these glorious ideals and the public service and all, but also this terrific promise.


You know, he never actually said he was going to run for office. Everybody wanted him to. He had ample opportunity to have taken those steps but never did. Who knows if he ever would have, but the point is that -- now, here was a fellow who had everything to live for. And with a Kennedy to boot carrying on that aura, as well -- and this got us all more excited, I think, as the week went on, I think. And as a result, we treated him with more awe now that he is dead than we did when he was alive.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He certainly bore the mantle of fame very well. He had a light touch.


I had one conversation with him. And he was clearly, at the center himself, a serious person, but he had an uncommon grace. He was, in the Arthurian legend of Camelot, he was the perfect knight; he was the Sir Gallahad.


Eleanor, do you have further thoughts on John Kennedy?


MS. CLIFT: Well, I also think what he was doing with his magazine was searching for a new kind of politics, a post-partisan politics. And he treated those of us in Washington like we were sort of exotic zoo animals to be studied, sort of like an --


MR. PAGE: I wonder where he got that idea. (Laughter.)


MS. CLIFT: -- anthropological -- well, he had a sense that politics in the next century would be different, and he was trying to find a politics that would not turn off young people.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the high cost of the search and the recovery mission justified, Tony?


MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, sure. I mean, I can't imagine -- whether it was a John Kennedy or it was another relative of another former president, I can't imagine the public would have expected any less.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we all feel that way. Why, one night's bombing of Serbia would have paid five times the cost of the recovery, wouldn't you say?


Let me turn to the subject of the press coverage. Was the press sating an unquenchable thirst, or was the press force-feeding? I ask you.


MR. BARONE: I'm not really sure, John. I mean, the fact is that just about all of us in the press have operated on the assumption that America wanted lots of news about this heart-breaking event, and we have proceeded to provide a lot of news, and a lot of filler time, as well. The fact --


MS. CLIFT: Listen. Some people --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a slow news week otherwise.

MR. BARONE: I mean, John Kennedy himself, when he was alive, he was asked to give a speech at the commencement of Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, and to get an honorary degree, and he said, "Come on, I don't deserve an honorary degree," and he declined it.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he said I'll give the speech but I won't take the degree.


MR. BARONE: Yeah. He was a suitably modest person who was trying to do some decent things in his life.


MS. CLIFT: Some people in television news lost their jobs because they underestimated the public appetite for news after Princess Di's crash and death. And I think that was partly what drove this. And I think the public has responded. You find a few cranks who call in to C-SPAN and so forth and complain that this is too much and it's a conspiracy of the liberal media, but for the most part, you know, people wanted to mourn together. And if you didn't like it, you have your little clicker; you can turn off.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think; 20 percent over-coverage?


MR. BLANKLEY: No. If the viewership wasn't there, the networks would pull the story. I mean, my sense is that they were filling a demand from the public to hear this story fully out and --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, does the extensive coverage cheapen or diminish the reality?


MR. PAGE: Well, I would rather not go there. I think that it enhances the reality, but we are in the midst of what I call BSS, the "big story syndrome." That happened after not just Princess Di, but also O.J., and Monica. You know, in the 24-hour news era, these channels look for a big story that they can carry on like a soap opera, a serial. And that's what happened here.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The question now is, will Camelot live on? If so, which Kennedy? Patrick Kennedy. Michael Barone?


MR. BARONE: Well, the fact is, I mean, Patrick Kennedy is a congressman. He's probably about the most abusive congressman in terms of his conduct, his discussions, impugning the motives of other members of Congress. The press is always decrying people for incivility.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How old is he?


MR. BARONE: How old is he? He's just 30 years old. He's one of the youngest members of Congress, 31.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When did he get into the Congress?


MR. BARONE: He got into Congress in '94. He's been --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did Gephardt appoint him to be the director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a powerful fundraising committee?


MR. BARONE: Well, the fact is, he's not the director; he's the chairman. He has gone -- because he's a draw at fundraisers. They can get $50,000 at every fundraiser more from having him there.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's a junior congressman.


MR. BARONE: Well, Gephardt also put in a lot of his own top staffers, highly qualified people.


MS. CLIFT: I just --


MR. BARONE: And Kennedy's done a good job of fundraising. He's gone around the country, and he shows up and he gets the money.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the charisma quotient of Patrick Kennedy?


MS. CLIFT: I just want to quibble. You used the word "abusive." I would say he's a partisan member of Congress.


MR. BARONE: Probably THE most partisan member of --


MS. CLIFT: And if the Democrats regain control of Congress --




MS. CLIFT: -- he gets a lot of credit.




MS. CLIFT: Charisma? I'd say he's a good seven.






MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he's a seven?


MR. BLANKLEY: No, he's a gentleman's four. (Laughter.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughing.) A gentleman's four?


MS. CLIFT: With Republicans, maybe.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Clarence Page.


MR. PAGE: Well, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is a woman to watch -- oldest child of Robert Kennedy, lieutenant governor of Maryland -- very soft-spoken, very low-key, but someone who's already being rumored as a potential running mate for Al Gore, especially if he needs more female appeal.


MR. BARONE: Well, and she's been making real policy there, as many lieutenant governors don't do.


MR. PAGE: Yeah.


MR. BARONE: I mean, she's --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she going to be governor of Maryland? Did I hear that?


MR. PAGE: Well, that's possible.


MR. BARONE: Probably --


MS. CLIFT: Yes, yes.


MR. BARONE: Well, she's very -- John, she's a very thoughtful, highly intelligent, and not very partisan person.


MS. CLIFT: Yeah.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Daughter of Robert Kennedy and Ethel Skakel. By the way, Patrick Kennedy is the son of --


MR. BARONE: Senator Edward Kennedy.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Edward Kennedy and Joan Bennett (sp).


Okay, Mark Shriver. Eleanor Clift.


MS. CLIFT: He's a member of the House of Delegates, which is the lower body, in Maryland, and he is grooming himself to run for Congress, probably in the next time around, against Connie Morella, who is a popular Republican member.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's his mother?


MS. CLIFT: His mother is --




MR. BARONE: Eunice.


MS. CLIFT: Eunice Kennedy Shriver.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And his father?


MS. CLIFT: His father created the Peace Corps -- Sargent Shriver. And Mark Shriver has a typical Kennedy profile when it comes to political issues; he's progressive.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How's the charisma quotient of Mark? Do you know him?


MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't know him well.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know him?


MS. CLIFT: He's a seven, too. (Laughs.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Another seven. (Laughter.)


MS. CLIFT: They're all sevens. (Laughs.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Kennedys are scoring strong with Eleanor -- surprise, surprise. (Laughter.)


Okay, Joe Kennedy II. Tony Blankley.


MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I mean, I note the lyrics -- you're talking about, is Camelot going to go on? The lyrics say, "For one brief, shining moment." And I think that one brief moment is past.




MR. BLANKLEY: Certainly for Joe --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- who is the son, by the way, of Robert and Ethel.


MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, Joe, I think, has his best political years behind him. He was going to run for governor. He was at 60 percent approval. His numbers dropped to 34 percent. He had to drop out because 18 Kennedys in a row had won elections in Massachusetts. He didn't want to risk -- be the first who didn't win. And I don't hear anybody in Democratic circles talking about him running for governor or senator in the election cycle.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He says he has not ruled out a return to politics. Does he have one?


MR. BARONE: Does he have -- I don't -- don't bet on it, John.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Was John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. the last prince of Camelot, Michael Barone?


MR. BARONE: Well, perhaps he is in sort of a public relations thing. I think they're going, you know, from being the great -- objects of great fascination to more workaday politicians, so you get somebody like Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is a good workaday politician.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So no more princes -- prince or princesses?


MR. BARONE: Well, we'll see.


MS. CLIFT: Large extended family, future generations to come -- (laughs) --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unpredictable?


MS. CLIFT: I think there are more princes and princesses waiting in the wings.


MR. BLANKLEY: For the time being, at least, the last prince, yes.


MR. PAGE: Yeah, I think the next generation of voters is going to regard the public service these Kennedys are producing very highly, because kids now appreciate volunteerism and they kind of --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is there will be other political princes in the Kennedy family, doubtless, but Camelot was buried at sea last Thursday. So were Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and her sister, Lauren Bessette, who perished with John Kennedy, Jr. Both were exceptional and accomplished young women, as the Kennedy family statement put it. In the Bessette-Freeman public statement, the mother, the father and the step-father said this, quote, "Nothing in life is preparation for the death of a child." Unquote. That is certainly true. And the death of two children, precious daughters, at one time, must make the grief almost insupportable. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bessette-Freemans at this time of very painful bereavement.


We'll be right back.




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Relaxing the taxing.


HOUSE SPEAKER DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL): (From videotape.) On this vote, the yeas are 223, the nays are 208. The bill is passed.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The bill Speaker Hastert refers to is the most sweeping tax cut since the Reagan tax cut of '81. The bill passed with four Republican defectors voting against: Castle, Ganske, Morella, Quinn. Six Democrats breaking ranks voting for: Bishop, Condit, Danner, Goode, Hall of Texas, Lucas of Kentucky.


The bill will cut taxes by $792 billion over the next 10 years. Key provisions:


Income-tax rate cuts; 10 percent across-the-board reduction in each of the marginal income-tax rates, in effect only if interest payments on the national debt continue down.


Marriage-tax penalty cut. Speaker Dennis Hastert promises to kill outright the confiscatory marriage-tax penalty in conference.


Estate taxes. The confiscatory death tax killed.


Capital gains: rate cut by one-fourth, down to 15 percent from a confiscatory 20 percent.


In comparison to the Reagan tax cuts of '81, the House Republicans' tax plan is timid. The Reagan cut was $750 billion over five years, and the foundation of today's prosperity, many believe. The Hastert tax cut is $792 billion over 10 years, and the bulk of the tax relief does not kick in until 2006. Even so, President Clinton promised a veto.


Question: Is this tax bill fiscally responsible or fiscally irresponsible?


I ask you, Clarence.


MR. PAGE: Well, Alan Greenspan knows more about such matters than I do, and he says that we should be paying down the debt rather than a tax cut --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That plan calls for some of the debt to be paid down. Furthermore, if it is put into --


MR. PAGE: Oh yeah, yeah. Well, that was the deal they made. But the real question --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm telling you what you should communicate to Alan. If the tax plan is installed --


MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if it's installed, that will mean there will be more tax revenue because people will have the opportunity to spend more on their clothing, as you do, on their shoes, as you do.


MR. PAGE: The Laffer Curve lives! Remember that? (Laughs.)


MS. CLIFT: Right.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, that's called supply side economics.


MR. PAGE: That's what it's called. Politically it's wonderful, but it's fiscally irresponsible.


MR. BLANKLEY: Keep in mind -- keep in mind that what Greenspan says is we don't need a big tax cut right now. And this tax cut doesn't phase in, as you noted, for several years.




MR. BLANKLEY: The bulk of the tax cut doesn't phase in --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two thousand six.


MR. BLANKLEY: -- the back five years, not the front five. So it's not irresponsible at all.


MR. BARONE: The fact is --


MR. BLANKLEY: It's in place --


(Cross talk.)




MS. CLIFT: It's even more irresponsible if it phases in in the future because that's when the baby boomers --


MR. BLANKLEY: Well it can't phase in in the past.


MS. CLIFT: -- that's when the baby boomers --


MR. BARONE: Well, it could be retroactive.


MS. CLIFT: -- are retiring and the need for Social Security and Medicare will be higher.


MR. PAGE: Hear! Hear!


MS. CLIFT: The surplus is so -- is illusory --


MR. BLANKLEY: Don't we want to have a strong progressive economy --


MS. CLIFT: -- and all this does is give back to people at the higher end of the economy. Nobody is talking about cutting payroll taxes, which is the taxes that working people pay.


MR. BARONE: Well, in fact, some people are talking about cutting the rate at which the higher bracket tunes in, which will help an awful lot of working people.


The fact is, John, federal taxes now are the highest percentage of gross domestic product of any time in peacetime history.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Twenty point one -- 20.5 percent.


MR. BARONE: Yeah. The fact is that we have got a big surplus. To sort of say that it's fiscally irresponsible is just nonsense. (Laughter.) The question is whether or not you would think other -- you would -- whether you would think it would have other nasty macroeconomic effects.


One of the other things that's kind of nonsense about this -- and both parties here, I think, are responsible -- we've got the president assuring us that he knows just exactly how many trillion dollars of surplus we are going to have over 10 whole years.




MR. BARONE: We've got the Republican members of Congress who are saying they know just how many trillions of dollars' surplus.




MR. BARONE: The fact is, we change these estimates every three months.


MS. CLIFT: Yeah. And also --


MR. BARONE: This is unknowable and so forth.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. But they consulted their astrologers.


MS. CLIFT: But also --


MR. BARONE: Well, if they cut taxes too much, they can raise them later.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. All right, let me correct that; 20.1 percent is the percentage of GDP that goes into taxes.




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, when Reagan introduced his tax cut, it was only about 19.2 percent. So there's a lesson there too.


MS. CLIFT: Excuse me --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. I want to get something straightened out: rigged polls.


A poll taken last week by CNN-Time asked 1,017 adults how they want the budget surplus used, for tax cuts or to -- quote -- "stabilize Social Security," unquote. Unsurprisingly, 74 percent chose to stabilize Social Security. Why is it no surprise? Obviously, the verb "stabilize" injects bias, posing a false dichotomy between self-gratification through tax relief and social altruism. A rigged poll.


If the poll question were put, "Do you favor tax cuts that would mean you can keep more of what you earn to spend on your family" -- their health, their schooling, their food, their housing, their vacations -- the polling responses would be quite different from the naked self-interested language of the CNN-Time poll. In addition, it's a false dichotomy, Social Security or tax cuts.


Under the Archer tax plan, $1.9 trillion was set aside for Social Security; $600 billion, he says, more funds than needed. So the question cannot be truthfully put "stabilizing Social Security or tax cuts?" The proposed tax plan "stabilizes" Social Security -- more rigging.


Question: Is this biased, rigged poll the result of ideological fervor, or it is simple innocent incompetence? I ask you.


MR. BARONE: Well, I think it's innocent incompetence, John. I worked seven years for Peter Hart, who I think is really the premier political pollster in America. And Peter always said that if you got more than 70 percent a "yes" on one question, you've wasted a question; you've either biased the question or you've asked a question that anybody should know the answer to.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And this was a 74 percent --


MR. BARONE: Yeah, this was the 74 percent. As you point out, the real question on Social Security is, are we going to fix this Ponzi scheme by allowing individuals to get individual retirement accounts, which will allow them to ride the economic free marketplace into greater savings, or are we going to depend on the payroll tax, which is not going to finance the system --


MS. CLIFT: The only ideological -- the ideological fervor here is coming from this chair, and also the way you set up that whole polling question.




MS. CLIFT: The public is --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I had the polling question printed on the screen!


MS. CLIFT: Yeah, "stabilize" is not a loaded word. And secondly, the --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is a biased word.


MS. CLIFT: I don't agree with that. The public is -- the public is wisely --


MR. BARONE: How many people are for destabilizing Social Security, Eleanor? Please.


MS. CLIFT: It's given a choice between that and getting money -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- the public is wisely skeptical that the surplus even exists. And to compare it to the Reagan era effects -- we had this wholly different economic condition. Remember? High interest rates, high inflation.


We have an economy now that's working beautifully. You're not going to throw lots of money in it and invite Greenspan to raise interest rates.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, it was Reagan's tax cut that was the foundation for the prosperity we have today. True or false?


MR. BLANKLEY: Absolutely. I mean, with the exception of two quarters in 1991, we've had continual growth --




MR. BLANKLEY: -- from the Reagan tax cuts right through to this moment. But one point -- but one point --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it brought on mergers and acquisitions. It brought on downsizing and these other corrections.


MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but one point about -- one point about this --


MS. CLIFT: Deficits! Remember the deficits. (Laughs.)


MR. BLANKLEY: Which we grew out of, by the way. Did you notice we grew out of it, exactly as Reagan predicted?


MR. PAGE: You grew out of it after the Bush tax increase.


(Cross talk.)


MS. CLIFT: Thanks to the tax increases --


MR. PAGE: Yeah, that was the Bush tax increase, as well as the Clinton-Gingrich budget --


MS. CLIFT: Right.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you aware that under the Archer plan, in allocation of $1.3 trillion, that the expiration of Social Security has been extended, by my calculations, from 2035 to at least 2050? Are you aware of that?


MR. PAGE: And as Michael said, that will be reevaluated in three months.


MR. BARONE: John, there's a certain fiction to all these things.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because of the astrological factor --


MR. BARONE: The fact is, do you want to have Social Security depend upon the marketplace partially, which grows at 5.5 percent a year as of -- from 1926 to '94 -- that doesn't even include recent growth -- or do you want to depend on the 2 percent growth of the payroll tax?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a political probability scale of zero to 10, zero meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, what's the probability that the tax bill will pass the Senate?


MR. BARONE: Well, zero that the House tax bill will pass the Senate, but I think some tax bill is going to -- tax cut -- six -- or a tax cut of some kind by the fall --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the range of 792 billion, with more targeted tax cuts, which is what the Senate wants? Will they keep the marginal tax-rate cut across the board?


MR. BARONE: I think they'll have something of this nature. Six.


MS. CLIFT: The $792 billion is fantasy. Maybe down to $500 billion, with Clinton getting a modest prescription drug coverage and the Republicans claiming they've extended Social Security.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, I'm telling you early, Clinton will not veto this tax bill when it reaches his desk.


MS. CLIFT: He will at 792.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: THE tax bill which reaches his desk will not vetoed.


MS. CLIFT: At 792, it will be vetoed.


MR. BLANKLEY: I think that it's going to be, in the Senate, somewhere in the $600 billion zone. It will have --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's now 792.


MR. BLANKLEY: I know. It will end up -- the bill that will go to the president will be about $600 billion and will have Democratic support.


MR. PAGE: Between Eleanor and Tony. I say $500 (billion) to $550 billion is where the sausage-making process --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is -- we all agree with this -- SOMETHING will pass the Senate. (Laughter.)


We'll be right back with predictions.




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction. Will the tax measure that comes out of this Congress be vetoed by the president? Yes or no?


MR. BARONE: Yes, but he'll sign the next one.


MS. CLIFT: Not if the 10 percent tax cut is out, and if it's down around $500 billion, he'll sign.




MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He will veto?


MR. BLANKLEY: The first round, he will.


MR. PAGE: Yes, he will, the Republicans want the issue.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is no, he will sign it.








MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Forbes flips.


REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FORBES (D-NY): (From videotape.) The national Republican Party over the last four-and-a-half years has allowed itself to become defined through the actions of extremists in the House of Representatives. It's become an angry, narrow-minded, intolerant, uncaring, incapable of governing at all, much less from the center. And it's been tone deaf, truly tone deaf to the concerns of a vast majority of Americans.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's New York Congressman Michael -- repeat, Michael -- Forbes last weekend, describing his transition from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. Forbes took office as part of the GOP's class of '94, the newly elected 73 freshmen who ran on Gingrich's Contract with America. Last year, Forbes won reelection in his right-leaning, Long Island District with 64 percent of the vote. And this year, Forbes endorsed candidate George W. Bush for president. So, Forbes' GOP defection seems bizarre.


In protest, his entire staff, Washington and Long Island, resigned en masse after the congressman's announcement, saying, with disgust, Forbes was bought. Reportedly, Clinton promised to raise $3 million for Forbes 2000 reelection bid.


Is this a principled defection or is it opportunism?


I ask you, Eleanor.


MS. CLIFT: Where's the opportunity? I mean he's going into becoming a member of the minority and he's leaving behind the security of a safe district that he just won. I'm going to take him at face value, that he's decided the party's gotten too far right, just as you all took at face value all those Democrats that party-switched. And most important he is a --


MR. PAGE: It's the beginning of the avalanche.


MR. BLANKLEY: Look, you got to --


MS. CLIFT: Wait a second! Most important, he is a number, and he reduces to five the number of Democrats needed to take control.


MR. BLANKLEY: You have it entirely wrong.




MR. BLANKLEY: Look, he is for -- he's against gun control. He's in favor --


MS. CLIFT: Not all gun control!


MR. BLANKLEY: He's against abortion. The party hasn't changed positions since last November when he happily ran as a Republican. In fact, he wanted to get publicity. He's going to get opposition in the primary. If the Democrats don't knock him off, the Republicans will.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The chief of staff of Moynihan --


MR. BARONE (?): Tony Bullock.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a man by the name of Bullock, is so outraged, and for other reasons, that he, in all probability, will challenge in a Democratic primary.


MR. BARONE (?): He's a former Suffolk County legislator.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he says it's inconceivable that this man could possibly be sincere in his being a Democrat.


MR. BLANKLEY: Well, if he's going to wear his George W. Bush button to the Democratic Caucus --


(Audio break.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Following audio break) -- anti-GOP backlash if Hillary -- and when Hillary runs for the Senate, and that's why he did it. Do you think that's the case?


MR. PAGE: I think he's tired of being confused with Steve Forbes! (Laughter.)