THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE,
TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT,
AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1999
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 30-31, 1999
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Hope in the Holy Land.
PRIME MINISTER EHUD BARAK (Israel): (From videotape.) We are committed to agreements signed by Israeli governments. We are committed to Wye. We will implement it. We are committed to the permanent status negotiations, and we intend to go forward and do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is on the move. This coming week, on Tuesday, in Oslo, Norway, Barak meets with President Clinton and Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat at an Oslo summit.
And Barak's on the move in another sense: leadership. What has happened in Israel over the last four months since Barak's election is critically needed good news on the international front. Bad news has been everywhere -- assassination in Armenia; instability in Indonesia, with rampaging militias in East Timor, and a new prime minister in Jakarta; free fall in Russia; a China-Taiwan standoff; and a toppled government in nuclearized Pakistan.
But under Barak, the Middle East peace plan is back on track, notably, a revival, at least a partial one, of the timetable signed last October, one year ago, in Wye, Maryland, which, along with the '93 Middle East Oslo agreement, had stalled Barak's predecessor, Binyamin Netanyahu.
He, by the way, had his Tel Aviv house raided on Tuesday by Israeli police looking for official gifts he may have kept illegally after his term in office.
Item: Palestinians freed. Two months ago, Barak released over 350 Palestinian prisoners held on security charges.
Item: dinner with Arafat. In an environment of improved mutual confidence, Barak dined privately with Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat, also in September.
Item: new Israeli camps evacuated. Barak is evacuating 12 of 42 Jewish outposts that were hastily erected on Palestinian land after last October's Wye agreement.
Item: safe passage. Barak opened on Tuesday an overdue route between two main Palestinian strongholds, the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
Item: Israeli settlements expanded. Barak will allow up to 2,600 new housing units -- that's 10,000 settlers -- to move into the 180 full-blown existing settlements, which already house 175,000 Jewish settlers.
It's this last action that puts Barak at cross-purposes with Palestinians, who point to this as a violation of previous agreements. They want evacuation of some, if not all, of the 180 Israeli settlements, not their expansion.
But the peace process is moving, even though haltingly, and Barak has made it happen.
Question: Is there momentum now between Israelis and Arabs to achieve a permanent agreement, Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: Well, John, Barak is obviously an able man, and he's following through on the Oslo I and Oslo II agreements, though he, like Benjamin Netanyahu, opposed Oslo II in 1995.
But the real problem here is not just getting signatures to a piece of paper; the real problem is the attitude of the Palestinians. As long as in Palestine, under the Palestinian Authority, they're teaching in schools with maps that don't show the existence of the state of Israel, as long as Yasser Arafat is encouraging, when he speaks in Arabic, rather than English, terrorist activities, there is not going to be total peace or stability or an assurance of it in the Middle East. That is something that the Palestinians have to attend to.
And the setup sort of suggests that it's all Israel's responsibility to make peace. Israel has gone a long way. The question is whether we're going to see a change in the hearts and minds of the Palestinians.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see some momentum?
MR. BARONE: I see some momentum, but I also see a Palestinian Authority that's running an authoritarian state, that's got a lot of corruption. And I see Arafat still going on his two-faced politics.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, the leader of Israel has the courage and the determination to be more generous to the Palestinians than Mr. Barone is. Mr. Barak is a man of quiet determination. He has a plan. He doesn't grandstand like Mr. Netanyahu did. And he's getting the job done.
And there's a confluence of events in the Middle East: aging leaders, who want this done on their watch, including Arafat, notably, who's sick and old, and President Clinton, who's going to be there this weekend, who would like to prod the process for his final year in office. I think this is a moment of hope, but moments of hope in the Middle East are always marred by some other events. So, you know, it's dangerous to predict a final breakthrough, but it's good news.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, I think Barak is a tougher man than some people think he is.
Take the release of the 350 Palestinian prisoners. Netanyahu had agreed to 250 of them. The Palestinians wanted 400. Barak went with 348, because beyond that, he'd get into criminals who had drawn Israeli blood, which he was going to refuse to do. He forced Arafat to back off the 400 and accept, when Albright was there, the 348 figure.
He's a tough man. He may pull out of Lebanon, and he's going to stand firm on the Golan Heights. He's not going to accept the Syrian demand for the Golan Heights, so that I don't know that he is as willing to take the extra steps that people think he is. He's going to be a very tough bargainer. But he's set himself a date of next September, a year from now, to get the big deal. And right now there's not a lot of movement.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the climate's changed?
MR. BLANKLEY: The climate has changed largely between Barak and the United States. And I agree with Eleanor that Arafat is beginning to look for something before he cycles out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your impression, Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: John, we are at a very hopeful juncture in the peace process, and it is thanks to Barak.
What he has done brilliantly, and is absolutely necessary at this stage, is lower expectations on both sides. He has shown each side that they are not going to get what they want. He is exploiting that moment of the aging leaders who want to have this peace on their watch.
And the third thing that is a very big factor that is at play here, is the weariness of both populations; they simply don't want anymore. That's what happened in Northern Ireland. That's what brought those populations to the table, and that's what's happening in the Middle East.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think Barak is trying to move quickly through the interim agreements to get to the final-status talks and to keep that momentum to drive through those talks.
MR. BARONE: That was Netanyahu's strategy, as well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (In agreement.) But it's being executed properly, I think more properly, by Barak.
MR. BARONE: Well, more compressed, more successfully, partly because the U.S. did not trust Netanyahu.
MR. O'DONNELL: But also because this is the most stable coalition the Israeli government has had since the '67 war. Everyone expected him to be a left-of-center governor of Israel; he has not. He has taken from all sides, and he has assembled the most stable coalition.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From the Moslem point of view, the danger is of course terrorism. From Barak's point of view, the danger is assassination.
MR. BARONE: Well, that's a danger that every world leader faces, as we were reminded in Armenia this week.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I am thinking of one of his predecessors.
Exit -- do you want to make a point?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I was just going to say that Barak has again, the determination, the courage to stand up to the settlers on the right and to the peaceniks on the left; I mean, he's tough. He is the toughest leader we have seen since Golda Meir.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit -- it's interesting you should raise that because it follows the exit question: Is Barak in line to become one of Israel's great leaders, equivalent in stature to say, Golda Meir? Yes or no, Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: I think it still depends on whether the Palestinians really want peace or whether they want to keep going with this Jihad against Israel.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I think that Barak has set aside a lot of the angry rhetoric. And it's the quietness and the firmness that's going to make him a great leader. It maybe already has.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the heroic period of Israeli history has sort of passed; the founding generation is past. They are the ones who have got the great reputation. Now comes the more difficult part, sort of a Sadat role.
He certainly is acting in ways consistent with that, but it's much too early to tell. And of course, this is a place that's broken the heart of diplomats for 2,000 years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: He's made every right move to become one of the great leaders of Israeli history, and you can only hope.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he continues on this path, I think he will.
Okay. McLaughlin.com: The Gore-Bradley town meeting was held in New Hampshire, Wednesday night. Before the meeting, we asked, "Who will win, Gore or Bradley?"
Get this: Gore, 21 percent; Bradley, 57 percent; draw, 22 percent. After the appearance, Gore 11 percent, Bradley 67 percent, draw 22 percent. Bradley rules big.
When we come back, is Donald Trump in it to win, or is he just a spoiler to savage Buchanan?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two -- the end of the affair.
PATRICK BUCHANAN (Presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Today I am ending my lifelong membership in the Republican Party. Our two parties have become nothing but two wings on the same bird of prey.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Presidential contender Pat Buchanan has jumped the Republican Party ship and wants to ride the Reform Party all the way to the White House.
Buchanan on foreign policy:
MR. BUCHANAN: (From videotape.) They call us isolationists. Well, if they mean I intend to isolate America from all the bloody, territorial tribal and ethnic wars of the 21st century, I plead guilty. I pledge to you I will never send an American army to fight in a foreign war unless our country is attacked or our vital interests are imperiled. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Buchanan on labor and trade:
MR. BUCHANAN: (From videotape.) Because of NAFTA and GATT, America's industrial base has been hollowed out. Our manufacturing workers, left to support families on a single wage, have been forced to compete with sweatshop labor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Buchanan on taxes:
MR. BUCHANAN: (From videotape.) As for our IRS tax code, it is an insult to a free people, the product -- (scattered applause) -- the product of an endless series of corrupt bargains between legislators and lobbyists. Let us tear this weed out by its roots, cut taxes to the lowest level in history, eliminate taxes on savers and small business, and ship the burden where it belongs -- on the backs of a global transnational elite that has no loyalty to any country. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is this the kind of rhetoric to warm Reform Party hearts? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Well, Pat's in this for the money. He wants the money that the Reform Party is going to get so he can have the platform for his views. If he could stick to these issues, he's going to win, you know, some people. But he can't just easily set aside his extreme positions on whether we should have entered the war against Germany, on abortion. And he's a two-time loser and I think he's about to be a three-time loser.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's in Buchanan's favor and how can he win?
MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think there's any possible way he can win, and I think Pat, who's a very smart man, has to know that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he can't win the Reform Party nomination?
MR. O'DONNELL: He could win the nomination. I think he is right -- but -- he is the front-runner for that nomination.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is the way Pat Buchanan thinks he can win the general election: He will gain -- through his debate performances, he will gain a large percentage of the 30 percent-plus of the American people who now say they could vote for him; they don't rule it out. And he could climb, perhaps, to 34 percent by reason of his success in those debates and if he gets 34 percent in a three-way race, with the other two being close, he could win the election. Now, is that absurd?
MR. BARONE: John, the answer is yes.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughing.) Yes.
MR. BARONE: John, I've worked for a lot of candidates and I've noticed that in October in the run-up to the election, all sorts of fantasies start spinning through their head. You know, they're running -- you know, a Democrat's running in a heavy Republican district, they see themselves elected, then they're going to get the vice presidential nomination, they're going to go to the White House.
The fact is, Pat is trying to do a very ambitious thing here, and a very brave thing, in a way. He is trying to change the minds of the American people on basic trade and foreign policy from the consensus that was arrived at in the wake of World War II 50 years ago. One man with one mouth and one pen, a guy that's really gifted with words and is fun to watch, in any case. But it's something that's just not going to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's in his favor? What about Y2K?
MR. O'DONNELL: No. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose there are massive computer interruptions during the month of January? Suppose there's a market breakdown in Japan?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I mean, you mention the right kinds of elements. I don't think it's possible, but in very bad economic times --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Assume a recession.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. In very bad economic times, his issues of protectionism are likely to play better than they do in these gloriously good times we have now. In an odd way, he may be ahead of his times as far as his candidacy, because he has to wait for a bad recession.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence, the stock market's declined 30 percent almost overnight because of this Y2K phenomenon, and there is a recession. It's not inconceivable, is it?
MR. O'DONNELL: It remains inconceivable to me, John, I'm sorry to say.
MS. CLIFT: Sure. No, that's --
MR. BARONE: It's safer to bet on earthquake in which California all falls into the Pacific Ocean and a few other things.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Pat -- Pat Buchanan is no FDR, and he's got to get 15 percent in the polls --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Okay --
MS. CLIFT: -- so he can get in the debates for this year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Buchanan hardball. Here's Buchanan taking on New York Times columnist William Safire, a former colleague of Buchanan's at the Nixon speech-writing shop. Safire has criticized Buchanan severely -- some would say viciously -- of late, including the charge of antisemitism.
MR. BUCHANAN: (From videotape of "Good Morning America" appearance.) Well, look. William Safire is not a friend of mine and I do not think he is an honorable man personally. With regard to Mr. Safire, I've got to say I represent America first. I represent America only. Mr. Safire --
INTERVIEWER: (From videotape.) Does it matter --
MR. BUCHANAN: (From videotape.) Hold it. Mr. Safire, in my judgment, has always put Israel a little bit ahead of his own country, in my judgment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: On this subject of divided loyalties, is Buchanan playing with fire? Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. It's volcanic. Look, these are two men of sincerely held ideas and this clash of ideas has got personal, as it sometimes does in academe, and we're seeing now name-calling, derivative of their strong convictions. But it's a dangerous moment for him.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Pat Buchanan is yesterday's phenomenon. He's not going to get a lot of press coverage, but he may get it from William Safire, and if anybody has a sword -- a pen mightier than a sword, it's Safire.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Buchanan's attack on Safire politically smart? Lawrence.
MR. O'DONNELL: It's politically insane. What possible benefit comes from this idea that Bill Safire is somehow more loyal to Israel? I mean, it's like saying Teddy Kennedy is more loyal to Ireland. No one believes that.
MR. BARONE: John? John, this is political poison, this accusation of duel loyalties, of something verging on treason. It has been used against Jews in particular and against other ethnic and religious groups with terrible and tragic consequences, and this is something that Pat Buchanan should --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Pat might say that --
MR. BARONE: It is moral -- John, it's morally wrong to bring up that kind of argument.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat might say it's poisonous for Safire to accuse Buchanan of antisemitism.
MR. BARONE: Let them disagree on the issues, and let them --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe they should sit down and talk it over. (Laughter.)
MR. BARONE: No, let them disagree on the merits of issues, but don't accuse somebody of disloyalty to the United States.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think it would just get worse then. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it would get worse if they talked it over?
MR. BLANKLEY: If they sat down, I think it would get worse.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Has Buchanan been "Trumped"? Pat Buchanan isn't t he only Republican to break away. New York developer Donald Trump this week changed his Republican registration to the Reform Party. But the Reform Party may not be big enough for both The Donald and The Buchanan.
DONALD TRUMP (Businessman): (From videotape) Look. He's a Hitler lover. I guess he's an anti-Semite. He doesn't like the blacks. He doesn't like the gays.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that sums it up pretty well, from Trump's point of view?
MR. BARONE: Well, I think Trump is way over the line on this one. To call Pat Buchanan a "Hitler lover" is unfair and wrong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Pat has grounds for suing him?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, Trump is over the line, period. You're not going to get a single sensible statement out of him in the whole campaign. There's no reason to take that any more seriously than any of the others.
MR. BLANKLEY: His candidacy is risible. It's absurd that a real estate developer is going to become president of the United States. And his discussion of it is self-fantasy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Trump in it to win, or is Trump in it to savage Buchanan? Bear in mind that the arch-strategist of the Trump campaign is Roger Stone. Do you think that Roger is up something here that deserves closer inspection?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Roger's always been a little arch; I don't know that he's an arch-strategist.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Trump is just a stalking horse for, say, George Bush, G.W. Bush?
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't have a clue about --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the GPO juggernaut?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think -- I suspect that Trump is just indulging himself in a little bit of publicity, as he has enjoyed. He's a figure of the tabloids and he's playing this moment out to enjoy that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's just pretending to woo Reform Party voters in order to get Buchanan out of the race?
MR. O'DONNELL: John, he gets a big front-page story out of doing what? Changing his party registration. He hasn't done a thing. He hasn't taken out candidacy papers.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. O'DONNELL: He's not going to run for this. He said, "I will only run if I can win." He can't win; he won't run.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And after he's done his duty here, he will then endorse George W. Bush.
Exit. On a probability scale of zero to 10, "zero" meaning zero probability, "10" meaning metaphysical certitude, what's the probability of anyone reaching the Oval Office via the Reform Party; either Trump, Buchanan, Ventura or whomever?
MR. BARONE: Unless it's Colin Powell, zero.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero.
MS. CLIFT: It's in the negative range this time. But the Reform Party is a work in progress. Talk to me in 2050.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: .00001. I never want to say never. (Laughter.)
MR. O'DONNELL: Michael's right. Colin Powell, that kind of character, is the only person who could do it for the Reform Party. That will never happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero for Trump, .01 for Buchanan.
Issue three: Gore-Bradley love-in.
BILL BRADLEY (Democratic presidential nomination candidate): (From videotape.) There are 45 million people without health insurance this year, 1 million more this year than last year. It is a big problem and it needs a big solution to that problem.
ALBERT GORE (Vice president, Democratic presidential nomination candidate): (From videotape.) (Inaudible) -- that his plan cost $1.2 trillion. That is more than the entire surplus over the next 10 years. We have to look ahead and save some of that surplus for Medicare.
BILL BRADLEY: (From videotape) On the cost of the health care plan, we each have our own experts. I dispute the cost figure that Al has used.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is the only defining issue that separated the candidates in their joint appearance at Dartmouth in New Hampshire this week.
Question: Was this a debate without a difference, do you think, Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: No. I mean, look, I think Gore was trying at this point to hold the line on not quite being seen as a big-spending liberal. Bradley is clearly going in that direction. I think Gore is going to be dragged towards the Bradley position. And by the end of this primary season, you are going to see two big liberals and sort of the end of Clintonian democracy and the return of Mondale democracy.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. I think calling Democrats "big liberals" is a really tired old charge, and I don't think either of these men qualifies as a traditional liberal; that --
MR. BLANKLEY: A billion dollars --
MS. CLIFT: -- second of all, Bradley advertises himself as a candidate of big bold ideas. And what you are going to see now is Al Gore unmasking him as somebody whose Senate career didn't live up to that and somebody who probably can't back up the numbers on this plan that he has proposed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's listen --
MS. CLIFT: That's Bradley's -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One of Gore's -- perhaps his "chiefest" hurdle is the association with Clinton. Let's listen to the way that he handled that in this exchange.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) I understand the disappointment and anger that you feel toward President Clinton, and I felt it myself. I also feel that the American people want to move on and turn the page and focus on the future, and not the past.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Gore help himself, do you think, to separate himself from Clinton in mentioning his anger in this way?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, he thinks he did; it was his most robotic moment. And the questioner -- it was his first question -- the questioner did not mention President Clinton at all. (Laughter, cross talk.) Gore couldn't wait to say --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you mean he --
MR. O'DONNELL: -- "I am angry at this president, too."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that enough to separate himself from Clinton?
MR. BARONE): Well, the fact is --
MR. O'DONNELL: No, he has got a 37 percent negative rating because of the Clinton --
MR. BARONE: John?
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How does he do it?
MR. BARONE: John?
MR. O'DONNELL: He cannot do it. He has to resign the vice presidency -- (laughs) --
MS. CLIFT: Well -- no --
MR. BARONE: (Inaudible) -- a Clinton-Gore administration.
MS. CLIFT: -- he said the right thing, and he should say it. But what is puzzling is why doesn't he take credit for being an involved vice president for the last seven years of prosperity, in this country? That is a total mystery to me.
MR. BARONE: Well, Eleanor -- Eleanor is making --
MS. CLIFT: That's his advantage --
MR. BARONE: -- you know, you're --
MS. CLIFT: -- going into this race.
MR. BARONE: -- Eleanor, you're making an interesting point because this word "Clinton," aside from that interchange, was scarcely heard up there in New Hampshire. Certainly, not Hillary Rodham Clinton was not mentioned at all -- (laughs) -- believe me.
What they were watching here really was Al Gore is trying to become the kind of candidate Bill Bradley has been, in terms of his zen-like appearance, the lack of confrontation. Voters this year want sogginess, not crunchiness; they want consensus, not confrontation. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who won the presentation, Bradley or Gore; Michael Barone, quickly?
MR. BARONE: Bradley because he is consensus-minded.
MS. CLIFT: I think they both did well. But I think Gore did marginally better considering the doldrums he's been in.
MR. BLANKLEY: Bradley obviously did better.
MR. O'DONNELL: Bill Bradley won the debate; Gore won the sound bites.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The winner was McCain because they both pushed at length McCain's issue, which is campaign finance reform.
MS. CLIFT: Clever.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Michael?
MR. BARONE: This Halloween Tipper Gore will not dress up as a Buddhist nun.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Elizabeth Dole will -- surprise! -- endorse George W. Bush.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: George W. Bush's campaign will decide to engage a bit more intensely earlier than planned.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: Donald Trump will decide next year not to run for president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In this coming Tuesday's elections, the State House of Virginia will turn Republican. With a Republican Senate, this victory will add yet another state legislature, bringing the total of 10 state legislatures to go Republican since President Clinton took office.
Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island passed away this week. We offer our heartfelt sympathy to his wife, Jenny, and to the Chafee family. John Chafee was one of nature's noblemen.
Next week: Another McLaughlin prediction on the mark. The revolutionary banking reform bill becomes law. One-stop shopping may well save us dollars. We'll have to wait and see.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Republicans to the rescue.
STEVE FORBES (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) And like you, I share the frustration that Governor Bush is not here tonight. So perhaps in the future at a forum like this, if we call it a fund-raiser he might show up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was Republican candidate Steve Forbes speaking for all five contenders vying for the Republican presidential nomination against front-runner George W. Bush. Thursday they presented their opening bids at Dartmouth to New Hampshire voters.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ; Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) People say that perhaps John McCain gets angry. My friends, I get angry when we spend $350 million on a carrier the Navy doesn't want or need.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT; Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Parents are afraid to have their kids go to school because they don't know whether those kids are going to be safe in school. They're worried to death about it.
ALAN KEYES (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) We don't have a drug problem, an economic problem, or any of these other problems, only that we say we have. We have a moral crisis.
GARY BAUER (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) But in the inner cities, we've got schools that just aren't working. I believe one of the things we can do to solve that is to provide educational choice for those parents.
MR. FORBES: (From videotape.) When I ran four years ago, virtually every Republican denounced the idea of a flat tax. So education works. (Laughter.) Some are slower than others, but they're coming along! And my plan is very simple: No tax on pensions, no tax on capital gains, and no death taxes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll look at which candidate scored points in a moment. But first, why did George W. fail to show up?
MS. CLIFT: Well, he claims that he couldn't; that he had a previous engagement to be at a ceremony honoring his wife, but that had --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, he did; he did show up to it.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. That had been scheduled for months. And I'm sure the television station in Manchester would have been happy to change the evening to another evening to accommodate the frontrunner.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I mean --
MS. CLIFT: He didn't want to be there, but he's run the string out on that particular strategy, and he'll be there in the future.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't it because George feels he doesn't have to descend to the level of an ordinary candidate?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, sure. I mean, front-runners try to avoid debates as long as possible. He's doing what every front-runner normally does --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because they would all turn on him? He's the front-runner, right?
MR. BLANKLEY: There's -- yeah. There's no advantage to get into a forum where you don't have full control when you can stay in forums where you do have full control.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the other hand, in 1976, Ronald Reagan, under the advice of his strategists, took three days off before the New Hampshire primary, and he campaigned in Illinois. Lyn Nofziger says to this day that that was such a mistake that it lost the election for him. He should have gone to New Hampshire. Do you think that it was a serious mistake for George not to go to New Hampshire?
MR. O'DONNELL: Absolutely not, at this stage. It's a calculation every front-runner makes -- when do I engage with these people? He's right not to engage just yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have thoughts?
MR. BARONE: Well, in fact, you know, John, he's going up there next week. He's spending three days in the north country. He is going to be at the debate that they're having December 2nd in New Hampshire. So it is a question of timing --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Of the five, which one looks the best? Was it Forbes, Keyes, McCain, Hatch or Bauer?
MR. BLANKLEY: Actually, just technically, I thought Bauer did the best job.
MR. O'DONNELL: McCain, absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain?
MR. BARONE: McCain is really profiting of the absence of control --
MS. CLIFT: There's only one plausible president on that stage. It was John McCain.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the one who did the best was Keyes!
MS. CLIFT: No, I think Gary Bauer actually did quite well.