THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND CLARENCE PAGE
TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2000
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 16-17, 2000
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Gore, but not forgotten.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) Let there be no doubt; while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why was this the most critical passage of the Gore speech, Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: Well, because he's actually conceding the race, and he's saying that he hasn't won. He's using the C word. There was some talk that he might not do that ahead of time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he have an alternative?
MR. BARONE: I don't think he had any good alternative, but I think, for the most part, with -- I'd change one or two phrases there -- I think it was a gracious and graceful speech that he gave. And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he could have said, "I withdraw from the race," while conceding.
MR. BARONE: And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you think it was critical?
MS. CLIFT: Well, if he had said, "I withdraw from the race," then he would be establishing himself as a shadow presidency, hoping that some future count would reveal him the true winner, and that would cast an illegitimacy over President -- future President Bush. So I think Al Gore did exactly the right thing. He found the best within himself, at what has to be one of the worst possible moments in his professional life.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But there were many roads he could have taken out at this point, but he chose the high road. Are you going to commend him on that?
MR. BLANKLEY: My -- I will --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said, in fact, "I offered my concession."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I will concede that it was a well -- gracefully delivered speech. I think it would have been a better speech if he'd delivered it five weeks ago, though, because in fact he put the country through a long process that was pointless. We're exactly where we would have been five weeks ago. And I don't know that one seven-minute speech, graceful and appropriate as it was, takes the odor away from the previous five-week --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But there were also --
MR. PAGE: Spoken like a true Republican, my friend, Tony. The fact is, USA Today shows Gore's approval ratings have gone up. Well, I think he understands that the public out there -- most of the public wasn't that impatient about this whole process. It was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, there were words --
MR. PAGE: You must admit it was lively television, wasn't it, John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There -- excellent.
MR. PAGE: (Off mike.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was excellent television, and it was a excellent speech. But there were words there for the faithful, like you. What were the words that were designed for you?
MR. PAGE: Well, I don't know -- I'm not a "faithful," I'm a swing voter, John. And he wants to reach us and --
MS. CLIFT: And he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What were the words?
MR. PAGE: -- and that means mending --
MS. CLIFT: -- that he regretted that he couldn't stay and fight, that he is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I'm talking about -- is --
MS. CLIFT: -- about the barriers to people, the voiceless --
MR. PAGE: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. We're going to get to that.
MS. CLIFT: -- he is basically addressing a constituency he thinks hasn't been heard from and won't be heard.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the -- what he said in that passage that he had to say for the faithful was that he disagreed with the Supreme Court.
MR. BARONE: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that gets into Gore's repudiation. The vice president says that the five justices who voted to halt the manual hand counts in Florida were wrong. So who is right? Is Gore right, or are the five justices right?
MR. BARONE: Well, I think the seven justices that ruled that the hand counts which were procured by the various court rulings that Gore got from the Florida Supreme Court and some other ways, and with the various boards of canvassers, were so unfair that they were unconstitutional. That's seven out of the nine justices, justices appointed by presidents of both political parties.
(Cross talk.) I think he's in the embarrassing position --
MR. PAGE: Yeah, but two of those -- two of those seven, though, Michael, as you know --
MR. BARONE: Yeah, now five of them voted --
MR. PAGE: -- said that there was enough time --
MR. BARONE: Five of them --
MR. PAGE: -- for a recount, and all you had to do was establish some standards. Five of them said no, there's not enough time, ring the bell, game over, Bush is president. And that is what really upset a lot of Americans. It was outrageous. They cut off the process, and now there's going to be cloud of doubt over George W. Bush --
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. PAGE: -- "president-select," as he takes office.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: This is a decision that will live on in political infamy in the minds of a lot of people, and it is so thinly rooted in the law. First of all, a strict constructionist, states-rights court uses federal powers to overrule a state court, thinly rooted in the equal protection clause. It was extremely cynical. If it were George Bush seeking a recount, that vote would have been nine to zero in favor of a recount.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: This opinion was an example of practical wisdom. You look at Justice Souter, who found that there was a violation of equal protection but said that the solution, the remedy, was to let the process go on and let the political forces get resolved in Congress. That was his phrase: in Congress. To put the country through another month of this business, where --
MR. PAGE: Put you through --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish!
MR. BLANKLEY: -- where the result was inevitable -- the Republicans in Congress --
MR. PAGE: Inevitable to you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- a Republican governor and a Republican state legislature, the result was inevitable. The Supreme Court did the country a favor --
MR. PAGE: That's why we have elections! That's why we have elections --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I want to ask --
MR. PAGE: -- because there is no inevitability. There's probability, but not inevitability.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MR. BARONE: Yeah, John -- John --
MR. PAGE: That's why we have elections, because us smart pundits here don't make those decisions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is why -- I want one final word from you on this subject. You're a lawyer. Do you think it was good law?
MR. BARONE: I think it would have been better law to apply the approach taken by Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, which spotlighted Article II of the Constitution, in which the Constitution delegates to the state legislature powers to determine how the electors are selected. In this case, the Florida courts made an unholy hash out of this by setting up one way of counting -- lots of dimpled chads in Broward, we're going to take those away from you. Then we're going to count them somewhere else. In the Democratic parts -- (cross talk) -- let me talk! (Laughter.)
In the Democratic parts of Miami-Dade, we're going to count lots of chads. In the Republican parts of it we're not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're not finished.
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- differences there.
MR. BARONE: They made a mess. The Florida courts, judicial activists of the Florida courts surely messed this up, and the U.S. Supreme Court asserted the federal interest in running a fair election.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay! Excuse me! Excuse me! This is not a Harvard seminar! Okay.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No tragic figure, I.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) I spoke with George W. Bush and congratulated him on becoming the 43rd president of the United States. And I promised him that I wouldn't call him back this time. I know I'll spend time in Tennessee and mend some fences, literally and figuratively.
And now, my friends, in a phrase I once addressed to others: It's time for me to go.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No tragic figure. What do these words accomplish, do you believe?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think what they're intended to accomplish, and they're pretty good. I mean, they were genuinely amusing in a difficult moment. It shows him with a humanity that he didn't display during his campaign and gives him perhaps some viability, although it's going to be very hard, I think, for him to come back again.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you find that this is not only to lighten the mood, but he conveys that he's not a sore loser.
MR. PAGE: Well, that's right. And also he conveys a spirit of civility which, outside of this program, Americans like to see, John. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: And basically, he has set a tone, or tried to set a tone, with all his people not to criticize the court decision; to be generous to President Bush because he doesn't want to look small and petty in the aftermath of this election. But it's terribly wounding to him that he lost his home state and if has any political viability in the future, he better go back and mend those fences in Tennessee.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is no doubt on this panel that while the vice president expressed geniality on the outside, he was experiencing agony on the inside, true?
MR. BARONE: Oh, of course there is, John. I mean, there's an old story about Walter Mondale meeting George McGovern shortly after Mondale had lost for president and McGovern had 12 years before. And he said --
MR. : And old short story, right? (Laughs.)
MR. BARONE: -- and he said, "George, how long does it take before you get over it?" And McGovern is supposed to have said, "I'll let you know."
Losing an election like this is obviously a crushing experience for anybody, and it would be inhumane not to feel some sympathy for anyone in this -- (word inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --
MS. CLIFT: But less agony than if he had lost outright on election night. I mean, he comes out of this with a lot of people. He won the popular vote; a lot of people think he won Florida. So he may have lost but he indeed won. And we'll see in four years if that's an enduring win.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the surreal or deal:
VICE PRESIDENT GORE (from videotape.): Neither he nor I anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly neither of us wanted it to happen, yet it came and now it has ended, resolved as it must be resolved through the honored institutions of our democracy. But in one of God's unforeseen paths, this belatedly broken impasse can point us all to a new common ground.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Gore blames God for the 36-day ordeal -- it came and it was one of God's unforeseen paths. Is he right? Is this God's fault?
MS. CLIFT: We don't know that he's blaming God. I think he's fatalistic about it. But frankly, I'd be happier if they left God out of this. I think the voting machines had something to do with it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to make sure we understand exactly what he said. And this is it on the screen. I'll read it to you. "Neither he nor I" -- that's Bush nor I -- "anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came." As though, you know, it appeared, like a meteor.
MR. BLANKLEY: This is ridiculous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It came, now it ended, resolved, as it must resolved.
MR. BARONE: John, there's an echo of Lincoln's Second Inaugural, when you go back, when he's saying God wills that this happened to us, and so forth.
MR. BLANKLEY: This is ridiculous. It came on the wings of 500 Gore lawyers. He inflicted it. Now, whether it was a good idea or a bad idea, he should at least --
MR. BARONE: He put the country the country in a position --
MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Okay.
MS. CLIFT: Republicans had an equal number of lawyers here --
MR. PAGE: Can I just interject one thing?
MR. BLANKLEY: The Republican lawyers came in second.
MS. CLIFT: They went to court first.
MR. BARONE: They put us in a situation where we were at risk of having --
MR. PAGE: Ladies and gentlemen, please.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.
MR. PAGE: Please. Please. I think we ought to say a good word for THE Voter News Service because, as much as they've been beat up for calling that Gore victory, there's ample evidence that a lot of voters came out of those voting booths thinking they had voted for Gore; it turned out those votes have not been counted. And that's what the lawyers, et cetera, was about.
MR. BARONE: People --
MR. BLANKLEY: We debated that a month ago.
MR. PAGE: No, that's what --
MR. BARONE: That's basically baloney. The problem is that Gore put this country in a position where we were at risk of having a president either elected by illegitimate votes of dimpled chad and denying of legitimate military votes --
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. BARONE: -- or a president elected by the Florida legislature.
MS. CLIFT: No. That is --
MR. PAGE: Thank you for explaining to the voters what --
MS. CLIFT: You tell that to the voters in Florida who feel disenfranchised.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Excuse me. Let us not --
MR. BARONE: Oh, that's just ginned up by the Democratic spinmeisters.
MS. CLIFT: Ooh!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let us not return to the vomit.
Okay. Don't stop thinking about tomorrow.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) I've seen America in this campaign, and I like what I see. It's worth fighting for. And that's a fight I'll never stop.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we now in for four years of campaigning by Al Gore? I ask you, Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think Al Gore is going to have a very difficult time maintaining a presence. It's not like in Britain, where you go back to the House of Commons and you just switch sides of the table. He's not going to -- he's going to have trouble keeping himself in play. Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton, Lieberman, Breaux, all these people are going to be in play every day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, moreover, what do the Democrats think of the Gore campaign?
MR. BLANKLEY: He represents no significant faction. He stood for no great issue other than the environment over the years. And they think that he blew a lay-down hand; he could have won by 15 points.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He had peace and he had prosperity and he had incumbency. And they feel he just blew a -- the Democrats feel he blew a golden opportunity.
MR. BARONE: Some Democrats. Not all of them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he's dead meat in 2004.
MS. CLIFT: Not necessarily.
MR. BARONE: I think dead meat, I wouldn't necessarily assume that.
MS. CLIFT: Not necessarily. It depends how he handles himself. And you're not going to hear from him for, you know, a good year, year and a half; you probably shouldn't. But if he uses his time wisely -- Ronald Reagan established a Citizens for Justice, after he lost in '76. He kept himself in play. And --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but Reagan led a huge faction in the party. Gore doesn't represent any particular faction.
MS. CLIFT: Well, there are --
MR. BLANKLEY: He just represents his own career.
MS. CLIFT: There are no towering figures on the Democratic side, necessarily.
MR. BLANKLEY: I agree.
MS. CLIFT: They're not going to hand it to him --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --
MS. CLIFT: -- but he's in the mix, and let's see how President Bush does, you know, and how the picking could be in four years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think there are a few bright lights there in 2004.
MR. PAGE: I detect a nominee behind those -- (inaudible) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think his problem is with the Democrats. I think the Democrats think that he ran a lousy campaign and he blew it, and he's toast in 2004. Forget it!
MS. CLIFT: Not necessarily.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But right now, this speech, if anything, can reassert his leadership. This speech -- and that gets us to the exit question, which I'm going to give you timely fashion right now.
Assign separate letter grades to Gore's speech; one for statesmanship, and a second for sincerity.
MR. BARONE: I would give him a B-plus or A-minus for statesmanship. I think still fighting the Supreme Court case was probably something slightly irritating, but otherwise.
Sincerity? John, I really don't know. I don't feel I know Al Gore well enough to say how sincere it was. I think it was certainly a sincere effort to put a good face on, for him, unhappy moment, and a moment that everyone understands must be difficult for him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he's going to treasure those words, don't you?
MS. CLIFT: Michael is the only one who delivers letter grades in essay form~! (Laughter.)
Double A-plus. He -- the highest level on both counts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: I give him an A-minus on statesmanship, and about a D-plus on sincerity. I think he probably said more or less what he thought.
MR. PAGE: Oh, so much quibbling here. The man did a stellar job. You know, I mean, we were all wondering, "What's he going to say?" His speech was more important than George W's, as far as setting the atmosphere for this election. He said just the right words in just the right way. Let's give him an A-plus and see where he goes from here. This may be his last hurrah; maybe he'll be back in four years. We'll see.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, well thank you for your grade and for giving us our grades too.
MR. PAGE: Thank you, John! (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He gets an A-plus for statesmanship, and he gets a B-minus for sincerity because of blaming God for the ordeal.
When we come back, the 43rd president of the United States steps forward.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: W debuts.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The spirit of cooperation I have seen in this hall is what is needed in Washington, D.C.; it is the challenge of our moment. I was not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is Bush chiefly targeting with his words about the Texas Legislature being a model for Washington in terms of cooperation? Is he targeting his base or is he targeting his opposition? Is it Daschle he's targeting or DeLay?
I ask you, Clarence.
MR. PAGE: Well, he's looking at the whole country. But, yes, at Daschle and Speaker (sic) Gephardt, but as well as across the country. People are seeing a president come in without the popular vote, without a mandate, and with a cloud of doubt over his presidency. He's got to reassure everybody.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the question exists of how far Bush will go to disaffect his base in order to accommodate the opposition. Now, do these Bush words from 14 months ago -- 14 months ago -- tell you how independent of the Republican Party and the Hill he can be?
PRESIDENT-ELECT BUSH: (From videotape.) Too often on social issues my party has painted an image of America slouching toward Gomorrah. Too often my party has focused on the national economy to the exclusion of all else. Too often my party has confused the need of limited government with a disdain for government itself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A prominent Republican, Rayla Hood (sp), after having heard that -- Republican from Illinois said, "I hope that he doesn't get in the mode of attacking those of us in the majority party who are working very hard to do the people's business, and then expect to come to Washington as the president and work with us. And you don't do it by knocking those of us who are working 12, 14 hours a day trying to do the people's business in Washington."
So, what's the price that Bush pays for showing his political independence by knocking his political base?
I ask you.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, he has to be independent, but he has to have the good judgment to know when to knock and how much to knock the base, because if he doesn't, he's going to be making the same mistake his daddy made in '89 and '90, and he undercut himself with the Republican base; he cut deals with the Democrats in Congress and he was a one-term president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a high wire act, though, isn't it?
MR. BLANKLEY: It absolutely is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the other hand, where do the Republicans have to go? Where can they go?
MR. BARONE: They can just vote no on a lot of these things --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come on!
MR. BARONE: No, John, I think there's a tension here. I think you're perhaps overstating it to some extent. There's an institutional tension because of the time; Bush was speaking 14 months ago. He was running for president and wanted a positive, optimistic program. The Republicans in Congress were in large part reacting to Bill Clinton and to the very different setup there. So Bush is trying to establish --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that clear to you, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I think a Bush presidency is Tom DeLay's worst nightmare because he's got to be marginalized. And I think an early test will be whether Bush pushes to have the partial -- the ban on partial-birth abortions brought up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. We are talking here of how Bush is going to be able to heal and how he's going to be able to govern, particularly with these polarities.
Here's Jesse Jackson, as of last Monday: "We will take to the streets right now. We will delegitimize Bush, discredit him, do whatever it takes but never accept him." That's from the Human Events interview. It was on Monday, and on Thursday Jackson phoned President-elect Bush and Mr. Bush accepted the call. Should Bush have accepted the call? I ask you.
MR. PAGE: Well, it's hard not to accept a call from someone like Jesse Jackson, and especially recognized --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What has Bush got to gain from it?
MR. PAGE: First of all, Bush does have to mend fences. You know, here -- the irony of Bush and his brother Jeb is that they were scoring so well with black voters up until a couple of years ago. He's made a bunch of bad moves, from the Confederate flag issue, the Bob Jones University, right up through the Hate Crime Bill, et cetera. He's got fences to mend. And the important thing --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, how do you answer this --
MR. PAGE: Well, let me make my point before you answer it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You made the point.
MR. PAGE: No, the point is that Jesse Jackson does carry a lot -- or he does speak for a lot of feminists in this country --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know why Bush did so poorly among blacks.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, nobody -- no Republican candidate for president has reached out more to the African American community. He spoke to the NAACP --
MR. PAGE: About how ungrateful we are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you account for the strong black Bush -- vote for Gore?
MR. BLANKLEY: Because the black leadership was able to get out their vote very passionately on behalf of Al Gore, independent of whether Bush had reached out to them or not. And for Jesse Jackson to be embraced --
MR. PAGE: People do have minds of their own.
MS. CLIFT: No, the showcasing --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Democrats felt that they could not afford to have the three branches of -- the three -- the House, the Senate, and the White House, and they were doubtful they could take over the House or the Senate -- (cross talk) -- and they didn't want to lose the White House.
Okay, Bush agenda; please take note of this.
PRESIDENT-ELECT BUSH: (From videotape.) Together we will work to make all our public schools excellent. Together we will save Social Security and renew its promise of a secure retirement. Together we will strengthen Medicare and offer prescription drug coverage to all of our seniors. Together, we will give Americans the broad, fair, and fiscally responsible tax relief they deserve.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What was the point of this speech within a speech, i.e., bringing back the stump speech? Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, he's laying out the agenda that he campaigned on, but he may get it, you know, in a very mimimalized form. He'll get a tax cut; he won't get that big tax cut. He'll get some education reform --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it was a shrewd move on his part?
MS. CLIFT: Well, he's got to stand for something.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's he telling --
MS. CLIFT: Otherwise he's just lots of glossy rhetoric.
MR. : Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's he telling you?
MS. CLIFT: He's telling --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's telling you he's got a mandate --
MS. CLIFT: No, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and this is my mandate.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he's telling me he's going to put out there some very minor goals to achieve, and he will likely achieve them.
MR. BARONE: Minor goals? Just a moment. Social Security reform --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he also telling you that he is going to be an activist president? He's not going to be a lame duck president. Is that what he's saying by that?
MR. BARONE: He's an activist president on domestic issues, here, John.
MS. CLIFT: He may be saying that, but I don't believe that's sincerely going to be the case.
MR. BARONE: He's an activist issue, and some of these things are rather bold, like Social Security individual investment accounts, which would be a major change --
MS. CLIFT: Which he's not going to win.
MR. BARONE: I think there exists the potential of bringing into existence bipartisan coalitions on each of these issues. It will not be easy on most of them, but I think that Bush's campaign was crafted with a view, back when he was putting these issues together 18 months ago, of bipartisan coalitions. He was not going to rely, and is not relying, on Republicans alone to pass it, which obviously is not enough.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, would you agree that it was very smart politics to lay this down the way Gingrich did in '94, with his Contract With America? In other words, he's got an agenda, and he, at the end of four years, may be able to say, "We made public schools excellent, we saved Social Security, we strengthened Medicare, we got prescription drug coverage to all seniors, and we got tax relief".
MR. BLANKLEY: I think it's always refreshing when a politician repeats his promises after he's elected; the ones that he made before he was elected. That's what Bush did. He laid out honestly what he hopes to do. Now, he's going to have trouble on some of them, but I'd like to see him fight for vouchers.
MS. CLIFT: (Off mike.) (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The domestic scene is a cream puff compared to Bush's foreign policy challenges. Take a look at some of these: Putin, first of all, is -- the Putin Russia is not the Yeltsin Russia. Putin today is in Cuba, and he is talking about reactivating nuclear civil-use reactors. Pentagon chief says that China is a growing superpower threat. He said that this week; General Shelton. The USS Cole; is the president going to take a retaliatory strike? Kosovo, ongoing instability. The EU is forming a Europe-only army with 200,000-plus and 350 aircraft and 20 naval craft. The Middle East is imploding, especially if Netanyahu gets into office, which will create, probably, a counterforce of equal or greater -- equal or greater terror.
MR. BLANKLEY: Because Barak's policies worked so well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bringing troops home from abroad. He probably is going to consider doing that, and he should. Military morale at an all-time low, and it's not just "pay, perks or parts." Increase the defense budget; are they going to give him more money? And he's got a $30 billion Osprey program that appears to be collapsing, with four crashes and a lot of problems not only with human error, but also with the aircraft itself, particularly in steep descent. You know all about that, Michael.
MR. BARONE: I do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Bush up to these enormous challenges, do you think?
MS. CLIFT: I don't know if Bush is, but Bush Senior is, Dick Cheney is, Colin Powell is. You make it sound like these are all crises. This is business as usual on the foreign policy front. They are not problems that you solve, they're problems that you manage. And frankly, I would have more confidence in the team that President Bush is assembling on international affairs than I would necessarily on domestic issues.
MR. PAGE: Also, Dick Cheney didn't like the Osprey before. He has no reason to like it any better now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think he'll kill it? On the other hand --
MR. PAGE: And also -- also, with a House, Senate and White House all being run by Republicans -- Defense? The budget? No problem! (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the other hand, the Osprey is partly made in Texas.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, fast. What will Bush's rating be on the 4th of July?
MR. BARONE: Fifty-five percent positive.
MS. CLIFT: Just under 50.
MR. BLANKLEY: Fifty-three percent.
MR. PAGE: Fifty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-two percent. Bye bye! (Laughter.)