THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT,
LAWRENCE KUDLOW AND CLARENCE PAGE
TAPED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2000
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 21-22, 2000
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Bush three, Gore zero.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) I believe very deeply that you have to be willing to stand up and fight, no matter what powerful forces might be on the other side.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) There's too much bitterness in Washington. There's too much wrangling. It's time to have a fresh start.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The final bell sounded on the third and final presidential debate Tuesday night, and Governor George Bush emerged not only unbowed and unbloodied, but the series champion. He defied all expectations. Three weeks ago, going in, the odds were stacked against Bush. Gore was the master debater, Bush the rookie. The media relentlessly beat this drum; Gore would chew Bush up and spit him out.
Well, it didn't happen. Quite the reverse. Bush came out on top. Question: What data proves conclusively that Bush came out ahead in these debates? I ask you, Lawrence Kudlow.
MR. KUDLOW: Well, I think the -- you know, I think the polls show at the very least a toss-up; quite probably, Bush has something of a lead, and that proves that Gore walking all over him didn't work. You know, George Bush has been an underrated candidate from day one in this race. He has proven his mettle and also, John, it's not just personality. I believe Bush's message of free enterprise, limited government, tax cutting and personal empowerment is playing a lot better than all the brilliant media pundits predicted.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But would you not say that these engagements were about the men themselves -- about their character, about their judgment -- and people were looking for little cues as to what their character really was; and it's on that basis, among others, that the data shows that Bush was the winner? Plus the fact, of course, that his polls went up and Gore's did not, after each debate.
MR. KUDLOW: Well -- yeah. I mean, I think Al Gore's problem on this has been it seems like he's going through an identity crisis during this. People do not respect that. He is frequently sanctimonious, he has really alienated a lot of people who might even be potential supporters, and George Bush is comfortable in his own skin as an executive, and that came through.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, sure you admit that the credibility of Al Gore went down and the credibility of George Bush went up and it's on the basis of that datum, too, that he won the series.
MS. CLIFT: Well, now that you guys have told us everything that's wrong with Al Gore, shall I tell you everything that's wrong with George W. Bush? (Laughter.) Look, Bush won the debates two to one on likability. Al Gore won two to one on knowledgeability. The voters are still very confused. The issues are clouded between the two of them. They both seem to want the same goals, and they differ in how to get there. I think this is very much an undecided race. Now --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why -- why --
MS. CLIFT: Bush beat the expectations game, yes, but is that enough to elect him president? I don't know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, you're --
MR. BLANKLEY: I've got the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute.
MR. BLANKLEY: I've got the answer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me put a question to you. Cuing off Eleanor, why does Eleanor and other members of the pack journalism of Washington D.C., equate knowledge with an assimilation of factoids which is on the level of cognition similar to doing a crossword puzzle?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What they're looking for -- what we're looking for in a president is judgment. And surely you must admit that Bush showed judgment throughout, did he not --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, well -- yeah, well, knowledge --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- certainly reinforced by his demeanor?
MR. BLANKLEY: -- knowledge isn't wisdom.
Look, there aren't -- if you're looking for the actual polling data that proves the point, it's not quite what Eleanor said. The polls show that 70 percent of the public thought, after seeing the debate, that Bush was smart enough to be president, but only 54 to 40 percent today think that Clinton -- Gore was honest enough. It's not his factual asset; it's his dishonesty that is pulling him down. He lost that debate or the debate process over the little white lies, as they got reported. And the polls before and after --
MR. PAGE: Oh, Tony --
MS. CLIFT: (Off mike.) (Laughs.)
MR. PAGE: Tony, you disappoint me. I thought you had the answer, but you don't quite have it.
You know, the thing is, John, what the polls also show is very few minds were actually changed by this debate. People went into it -- those who had already decided for Bush or for Gore didn't change their minds. We're talking about those undecided voters.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. PAGE: Who is undecided at this point, less than a month before the election? People who don't care that much about the issues, people who haven't been following the election that closely, those who have never seen Bush or Gore give a speech before. They are going by impressions, like "who am I most comfortable with?"
Now we all know that initial impressions of Al Gore do not generate comfort.
MR. KUDLOW: But John --
MR. PAGE: He's stiff. He's wooden. He made those mistakes in the first two debates. He was much better --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, one thing --
MR. PAGE: Just let me finish the point real quick. The thing about W. is that he -- his answers are very glib and very slogan-oriented, but he doesn't really want to confront or make judgments. That's why he and his crew negotiated out any direct confrontations between the two candidates, so he wouldn't have to think on his feet.
MS. CLIFT: That was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, one thing I like about you, Clarence --
MR. PAGE: Well, thank you.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is that you're always same. (Laughter.) Clarence is Clarence, whether he's on "Oprah Winfrey," whether he's on "The McLaughlin Group," whether he's in a saloon --
MR. PAGE: I'm a seamless garment~! (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- whether he's on the tennis court. He's always you.
You get an Al Gore -- he's on "Oprah," he's one person.
MR. KUDLOW: Right.
MR. PAGE: That's right.
MR. KUDLOW: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He goes before the investment bankers, as he did on Thursday, he's another person.
MR. KUDLOW: He's had an identity --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's goes to Des Moines, he's another person.
MR. PAGE: That's the same Al --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In three debates, he's been three different people.
MR. PAGE: And that's the same Al --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't have an identity.
MR. PAGE: No, Al Gore's problem --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In other words, you can get to know you --
MR. PAGE: No, Gore --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you can get to know me --
MR. KUDLOW: In front of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you can't get to know Gore, because you don't know what you got.
MR. PAGE: Well, Gore's real problem is, he tends to overdo or underdo. He either is too formal or he's too loose, bouncing around, like he's got jumper cables.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Wait a minute. Let's get physical.
Fewer than 10 minutes into the debate, an aggressive Gore left his chair and approached Bush while the governor was explaining how it's not only one's philosophy on an issue that counts, but one's ability to get things done in bipartisan fashion.
At that point, without notice, Gore walked over -- strutted, really -- to where Bush stood, and took a position within three feet of the governor. Bush paused, stared at Gore for an instant, nodded his head with a quizzical look, as the audience laughed. Gore remained unmoving, with a fixed stare on the governor.
When Bush finished speaking, Gore, violating the debate's rules, which he had helped set, demanded to know Bush's position on a patients' protection bill, Norwood-Dingell, pending in the Congress.
(Begin videotape sequence.)
GOV. BUSH: It's not only what's your philosophy and what's your position on issues, but can you get things done? (Nods at Gore.) (Laughter.)
And I believe I can.
JIM LEHRER (debate moderator): All right.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: What about the Dingell-Norwood bill?
MR. LEHRER: All right. We're going to go now to --
GOV. BUSH: I'm not quite -- let me --
MR. LEHRER: All right. Yes, go --
(End of videotape sequence.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What explains Gore's territorial intrusion?
Eleanor Clift, why did he do that?
MS. CLIFT: I think he was trying to make Governor Bush uncomfortable and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Intimidate him.
MS. CLIFT: -- unnerve him, and intimidate him, yes. And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did it work? Did it work?
MS. CLIFT: Well, he made the audience uncomfortable.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The audience laughed, because it was such a joke.
MS. CLIFT: Well, Al Gore, he seems to lack any kind of regulator. He either overdoes or underdoes. And, you know, he won that debate on points over and over and over. I mean, you talk about white --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On factoids?
MS. CLIFT: No, they're not factoids. Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Dingell-Norwood? Who gives a damn? Who cares?
MS. CLIFT: I'm not talking about --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who cares? Do you think the public cares --
MR. PAGE: Because that's the leading HMO bill of rights bill. That's what they were talking about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but you don't have to know the name. You don't have to know the name.
MR. PAGE: Well, it does help. It does help.
MS. CLIFT: In the meantime --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush spelled out what he felt about patients' bill of rights.
MS. CLIFT: Well, you talk about Gore's --
MR. KUDLOW: Can I get a word in on this?
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. You talked about Gore's little white lies, while Governor Bush gets away with the big lies.
MR. KUDLOW: No.
MS. CLIFT: The missing trillion in Social Security.
MR. KUDLOW: There is no missing trillion.
MS. CLIFT: The notion that --
MR. KUDLOW: There is no missing trillion.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.
MS. CLIFT: The notion that he takes credit for a patients' health care bill in Texas, when he vetoed it and then let it pass without his signature because he was going to be overridden; I mean, he's the one who is telling the lies. And cliche city. One vacuous cliche after another. The notion that he will come to Washington and bring people together. The Texas legislature meets every other year for four months. And --
MR. KUDLOW: And he did an excellent job with that.
MS. CLIFT: Right, he did an excellent job with that --
MR. KUDLOW: Can I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. We've got to move on.
MR. KUDLOW: Can I make a point? Can I --
MS. CLIFT: No! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. Quickly.
MR. KUDLOW: There's a temperamental difference here which is absolutely vital. Al Gore has the temperament of an unctuous Senate staff member. George Bush has the temperament of a mature executive, which is how he handled Gore's affrontal assault in that debate.
Second point is, Bush has a vision and a philosophy of free enterprise and limited government that he has stayed with consistently during this campaign. Al Gore has a new philosophy every 72 hours. He has stopped bashing businesses now. He says, "I'm a friend of business." Even though --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you --
MR. KUDLOW: Hang on. Let me finish this point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!
MR. KUDLOW: Even though he has a $2.5 trillion spending program, he tries to tell people he's in favor of limited government. Even though he's never a met an energy or btu tax he didn't like, he tries to tell people that he's not a taxer. So there's no consistency in the Gore position. And that turns people off.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Gore was playing for the male vote? First of all, he is taller. He's taller than is Bush. And he walks over to him. Do you think he's trying to convey by his physical presence --
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you exactly what he did. He was copying what his boss, Bill Clinton, did against Dole four years before. But the trouble is that Gore is a klutz and he couldn't carry it off. So he just --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, not only that --
MR. BLANKLEY: -- (inaudible word) -- over there, and Bush -- (inaudible) -- him the back of his hand.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the truth of the matter is that Bush is not afraid of anybody. It didn't throw him off stride at all.
MR. BLANKLEY: Right, that's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It didn't throw him off-stride -- not one bit.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, exit question: Score the debates. Give a total to Bush and a total to Gore, based on criteria that you may wish. If it's factoids, that's one thing. If it's credibility gain or loss, that's another -- or whatever.
MR. KUDLOW: Are we doing one to 10? How are we scoring this?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, zero to three.
MR. KUDLOW: Zero to three? Oh, I'd --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You give three, or two, or one to Bush -- or how do you distribute it?
MR. KUDLOW: Three-zero for Mr. Bush.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Competency, two-to-one for Gore; likability two-to-one for Bush. And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, all I want is an aggregate -- I don't want to get too complicated. All I want is an aggregate figure.
How many debates do you give to Bush? One? Two?
MS. CLIFT: Well, Gore won the first debate, but he then lost it several days later because his body language --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what do you say -- are you going to give me a bottom line?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I'll give it two-to-one to Bush.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two-to-one Bush; favoring Bush.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, clearly, on the political level of value to the candidate, it's three-zip for Bush.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's all we need.
What do you say?
MR. PAGE: Well, Gore won the first and the third on points.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MR. PAGE: He won the first and third debate on points, as far as expressing --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what do you think -- what do you think in your heart? You know, that cold slab of steel? What do you think there?
MR. PAGE: Well, as far -- oh, okay, the big picture. He lost the first two, he recovered in the third, although not completely.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So how do you scale it?
MR. PAGE: Oh, two to one; two one for Bush.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two-to-one for Bush.
MR. PAGE: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is three-zero, Bush. Okay.
McLaughlin.com: Last week we asked, "How will recent turbulent events in the Middle East affect the presidential race?" Get this: 53 percent think it will weaken Gore, 36 percent think it will strengthen Gore, while 11 percent think that it will have no effect on domestic policy.
When we come back: The economic boom may be running out of gas, despite the weekend's activity on the market. How will that affect voters in the upcoming election?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Three mighty engines.
In a presidential race, debates are important, rallies are important, public appearances are important. But in this year's presidential drama, there are three mighty engines driving this race that are independent of the candidates, the debates, the rallies, and the spin: One, the economy; two, oil; three, the Middle East.
First, the economy.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) We have seen the strongest economy in the history of the United States, but I'll make you one promise here: You ain't seen nothin' yet. (Applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Keep the good times rolling, and then some. That is Gore's mantra. But the question, Mr. Gore, is not which candidate can keep the good times rolling, the question is, who can get the good times rolling again in the face of a clear economic slowdown?
Fifty percent of Americans have money in the stock market. The Dow has fallen 14 percent from its high for the year, and last week even dipped under 10,000. In the NASDAQ, the news is worse: a 33 percent plummet. High-flying technology stocks have crashed, and that has dragged the NASDAQ down, wiping out billions in shareholders' capital. No one knows whether the market has hit bottom. Soft landing? Forget about it.
Then there's the macroeconomy. More bad news: corporate earnings soft, Euro weak and dragging down U.S exports because the dollar is strong.
Oil prices at a 10-year high, and farmers hurting.
Both candidates offer a better future. Gore says: If you like things the way they've been for the last eight years, then I'm your man, and you ain't seen nothin' yet.
Bush says: I'm your man. Why? Because a broad-based tax cut is stimulative, as history tell us. My broad-based stimulative tax cut can stave off what would otherwise be a Gore-Lieberman recession.
Question: How will the deteriorating economy affect voters?
MR. KUDLOW: Well, I think, John, the first point is the stock market has had a terrible, nasty six-week correction, until Thursday, Friday, and I think that really hurts the Gore position. If you live by the sword of prosperity, you're going to die by the sword of a down stock market.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Those were bargain hunters this past Thursday and Friday. They're in for the long haul, you know that.
MR. KUDLOW: I do know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That doesn't prove anything about the fact that we were in a slowdown.
MR. KUDLOW: I do know that. But I think the stock market was unsettling, and I say that as someone who is an optimist, but nonetheless. And I think there's a general sense that Bush's tax cut plan, as you noted in your lead-in, may be more timely than people think because there is a slowdown occurring in the economy, and the sooner money can be turned back into the hands of the people who earned it in the first place, the better off the economy will be.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's another big change going on this year. This is the first year where people really have sunk into their computers to watch their portfolio. It comes to them like that -- (snaps fingers) -- day to day. So if anybody's thinking that it's too late for what we see, the slowdown that's occurring, to have impact on the election, they're dead wrong, because people compute that every day.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. PAGE: Well, I wouldn't be -- I wouldn't be so sure of that, John, because you know, Bush's pollsters back in '92 -- Bob Teeter and others -- were saying that it takes about four months for an economic change to have an impact on the voters, and I think that's basically true.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, well they're behind the eight ball on this. They've got their own computers now.
MR. PAGE: Those folks on the computers -- John, those folks that got their own computers are mostly voting for Bush anyway! (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: No, John -- John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And this is the first election where stock ownership has been so vast. Is that not true?
MS. CLIFT: John, do you -- John, do you every night make up a wish list of all the things that could go wrong that might torpedo the Gore election? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, I am attentive to those things that count in life, including one's portfolio.
MS. CLIFT: Basically -- basically --
MR. KUDLOW: Eleanor, you have to check your portfolio on a nightly basis; you have to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: Basically it's the high rollers --
MR. KUDLOW: Eleanor, you have to vote your portfolio nowadays!
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. It's the high rollers --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --
MS. CLIFT: Wait, I didn't finish speaking. It's the --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, let me add --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me!~ It's the high --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Eleanor never looks at her portfolio. Never. Never. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, quickly, quickly, quickly.
MS. CLIFT: The high rollers are dipping in and out. But regular people, including myself, are sticking with the stock market and there is a feeling of well-being in the country.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oooh! Eleanor --
MS. CLIFT: If people vote on the economy, that will elect Al Gore. That's his best hope.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have news for you. No, I have news for you. The euphoria has gone. It's been shattered.
MR. BLANKLEY: One -- one statistic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. BLANKLEY: In 14 of the last 16 presidential elections, when the stock market has gone down after Labor Day, the incumbent party has lost. So --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. PAGE: Where did you find that? (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. So while I don't yet perceive this economic downturn that you're talking about --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Believe me.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- the stock market downturn is there and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It has been -- it has been a poor year and very bad September, and October is also bad, with the exception of Thursday and Friday.
Okay, mighty engine number two -- oil, the lifeblood of our economy. A year ago, oil was $11 a barrel. This week, it was $34 a barrel, and may well go to $40 a barrel. Heating oil is up 50 percent this year, over 12 percent in September alone. Gasoline is up 22 percent this year, 5.4 percent in September alone. Higher oil prices are putting a damper on the economy and stock prices, and are having a painful impact on voters who must fuel their cars and heat their homes.
Vice President Gore, however, sees a bright future.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: (From videotape.) We have a chance to create and sell to the world the new technologies that will give us a healthier, stronger, more prosperous planet -- like, new technologies like cleaner cars and trucks that can go 80 miles per gallon.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Governor Bush is pointing fingers.
GOV. BUSH: (From videotape.) Even today in our new high-tech economy, America runs on oil and gas and coal gained from the Earth and water behind our dams. Today America has no energy policy, as the secretary of Energy himself reminded us recently. He admitted that the Clinton-Gore administration was "caught napping," his words, when fuel prices began to rise. This is a good description, and it's taken an election to wake him up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Oil prices may hit $40 a barrel. Are these rising energy costs having an impact on consumers that is even more adverse than the stock market plunge? I ask you, Clarence Page.
MR. PAGE: Well, that's about $15 higher than it should be, but so far, oil prices, when they took a surge around Labor Day, didn't have that big of an impact on the electorate, so it's doubtful we're going to have that big of an impact now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The mood is that the -- that the oil situation is such that we're running out of gas. Am I right or wrong?
MR. KUDLOW: There's a sense here of potential unraveling on the whole prosperity issue. I don't actually believe it's unraveling, but I think when you look at the negative sentiment in the stock market, which is a bounce off of the high energy prices, people are discounting a forecast that the economy is going to tank because oil went up. We've seen this story before and we didn't like it, and I think Bush is right to point out that the Clinton administration has never had a pro-growth energy policy. It's all anti-growth.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and spending is down, too, and that's a further indication of a diminishing of confidence, even though the confidence levels remain strong -- is still strong -- it is slipping.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --
MR. KUDLOW: Purchasing power.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we're spending -- you know that spending, more than anything else, is what has sustained our economy over the last 17 or 18 years. Is that not true?
MR. KUDLOW: Well, look, John, we've had a terrific investment boom, also. But the key --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's spending.
MR. KUDLOW: Well, it's business spending, but yes. The key point here is that higher oil prices erode consumer purchasing power. They have less left over to --
MS. CLIFT: You know, all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The illusion is that consumers are no more wildly optimistic.
Okay. Mighty engine number three, Mideast mayhem.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Today we honor our finest young people; fallen soldiers who rose to freedom's challenge.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The 17 fallen sailors of the USS Cole were honored this week at a memorial service. They lost their lives when terrorists blew a hole in the side of their warship as it was mooring at the port of Aden in Yemen. An investigation is underway in Yemen, with FBI Director Louis Freeh personally supervising.
Back in the U.S., another investigation is underway. Why was an ultra-high-tech Aegis warship that costs $1 billion -- that's B as in boy, billion dollars -- manned with 350 Americans, allowed to dock in a country known universally as a hotbed of terrorism, a country that the State Department declares to have, quote, "lax and inefficient enforcement of security," unquote. And that where, quote, "harboring terrorists has become something of a cottage industry," as the respected military journal Jane's observed. An estimated one-third of Osama bin Laden's recruits are Yemeni. Bin Laden's family is partly Yemeni. In Yemen, kidnappings of Westerners are common.
I don't know whether we all agree, but it seems to me it was absolutely foolhardy to dock that vessel, a $1 billion vessel, in that viper's nest of terrorists, including bin Laden himself.
But we've got to get out. The exit question is this: We have seen three mighty engine forces driving the election; they are the stock market, oil prices, and the Mideast blow-up. Collectively, they exert an impact on the election. How would you characterize the force of the impact? Is it (A) controlling; (B) great; (C) minor; (D) inconsequential?
I ask you. We've got to get out fast.
MR. KUDLOW: I think it's significant, and I think it's a sense of disorder and unraveling in the wanning days of this election, and people are scratching their head and wondering what is up with the Clinton-Gore White House, and maybe it is time for a change.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Macro-economy, oil and Mideast.
MS. CLIFT: As far as Yemen, you show me where the safe ports are in that part of the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oman. Oman is a safe port, and so is the UAE a safe port.
MS. CLIFT: Not -- not when that decision was made. And I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The vessel was not even out of fuel. It was not even out of fuel, it was topping off.
MS. CLIFT: I'll take -- well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to the question? How important are these three mighty engines?
MS. CLIFT: I'll take the judgment of the military over yours, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You will? (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: Inconsequential. The Clinton administration looks like it's in charge.
MR. BLANKLEY: The answer is C, minor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Minor?
MR. BLANKLEY: What's driving this election is Al Gore's personality and his little white lies.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. PAGE: I agree with Tony. Actually, foreign policy has not been important in this campaign, it's not important now. Maybe in October -- or later in the month possibly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think these three forces are strong. I think that collectively they raise the question of who's in charge.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time! Next week, Congress wraps up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: He's baaaack! There's talk about Al Gore bringing Bill Clinton into his campaign. Would the pluses outweigh the minuses, or vice versa?
I ask you, Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: I think he's got to be careful. Clinton is useful at his base, he's useful at getting the African-American vote out. But he's only at 37 or 38 percent approval in his personal level, although he's got a 60 percent job approval. I think he's going to be careful, and probably Gore doesn't want to appear in the same picture with Clinton.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The positive aspect is energizing the base of Gore and Clinton, and Clinton could possibly do it.
MR. KUDLOW: And Clinton --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about energizing the GOP? You know the GOP. If Clinton appears on the scene, what's going to happen with the GOP?
MR. BLANKLEY: If I were a Democratic adviser, I'd recognize that the Republican vote is already coiled and ready to spring and vote, so I wouldn't worry about energizing an already very energized vote. I'd worry more about the Democratic base, which clearly is a little flat right now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think if the GOP sees a continuation of Clinton, they're going to coil even tighter and spring even further and faster. (Laughter.)
MR. PAGE: John, they're wrapped so tight already --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the risk to Gore? Is it not true that he will be overshadowed by Clinton if Clinton appears on the scene?
MR. PAGE: Well, they're not going to appear on the same stage. I think Tony's right about that. Gore --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That makes no difference.
MR PAGE: Gore has said too many times that he's his own man.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The press is going to follow Clinton, aren't they?
MR. PAGE: Well, the important thing is that Clinton does need to energize the Democratic base here near the end, especially the urban base, which usually responds late. And he also needs to have a little bit more verve and fire in this campaign right now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gore moved ahead in the polls when he got out from under the overhang of Clinton.
MR. KUDLOW: Right. But now --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you say, conversely, if he goes back into the overhang of Clinton, he will go down in the polls; Gore?
MS. CLIFT: The only way Al Gore's going to win this race is if people vote on the economy. And I think Clinton personifies the good times that we've had. And I think Gore has really struggled to take advantage of the gifts that this administration has given him. When the epitaph is written for this election, if Gore does lose I think it will be because he did not appropriately use --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the premise on which that is built -- namely, the economy is flourishing -- is erroneous. Therefore, when Clinton appears, he's not going to look quite as promising.
MR. PAGE: It may be erroneous to you, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: People may begin to see there's a --
MS. CLIFT: There's an extraordinary sense of well-being in the country.
MR. KUDLOW: Clinton's having a bad month. That's the problem with this story. He's having a bad month in the stock market. He's having a bad month in the Middle East. He's having a bad month on energy prices. Clinton was a hero of prosperity; he no longer is. The thing's unraveling.
MR. PAGE: Only to Republicans.
MR. KUDLOW: It can't help Gore; it's going to hurt Gore.
MR. BLANKLEY: And never forget that Clinton --
MS. CLIFT: If people vote on the economy, Al Gore wins.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Tony speak.
MR. BLANKLEY: Clinton epitomizes his own good times. And that's the problem of putting Clinton out there too much.
MS. CLIFT: The country has gone way beyond Monica Lewinsky, Tony, and -- (inaudible word) -- too.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would people like you, the press, see this as a desperation move on Al Gore's part if he dusts off Clinton and brings him out of the mothballs?
MR. PAGE: Hey, both Clinton and Bush need -- I'm sorry, Bush and Gore both need to break this dead heat right now. And there's nothing wrong --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're in favor of it?
MR. PAGE: You know, Clinton is an asset --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As long as they are not --
MR. PAGE: Clinton's an asset except to Tony and other Republicans, but among Democrats and middle-of-the-road people --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You say there are more minuses than pluses.
MR. KUDLOW: Absolutely. This is a huge minus. Huge minus.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You say there are more pluses than minuses. You say there are more minuses --
MR. BLANKLEY: More pluses.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More pluses?
MR. PAGE: More pluses.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Answer: More minuses.
MR. KUDLOW: Helps George Bush.