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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,
ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL

TAPED: FRIDAY, AUGUST 3, 2001
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF AUGUST 4-5, 2001

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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ANNOUNCER: From aircraft engines that bring us together to appliances that lighten our chores to broadcasting that brings the world home, GE is working for people everywhere. That's why we're proud to support the McLaughlin Group.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Labor to the rescue.

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: (From videotape.) A tremendous vote last night on the House floor on energy. A lot of the pundits said we'll never get an energy bill out of the Congress. And we had, I thought, a surprisingly a strong vote over here last night for a good, sound, solid, comprehensive long-term energy plan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A double whammy energy win this week for President Bush and Republicans. Voting 240 to 189, the House passed a bill that permits oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR. Secondly, the bill rejects an effort to raise the corporate average fuel efficiency standard, acronym CAFE, for sport utility vehicles and small trucks.

The proposal to drill in ANWR had sparked an emotional showdown on the measure. It looked all uphill.

Enter the Teamsters. On the scene to do the heavy hauling: James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters' Union, who had met with Vice President Cheney to talk energy earlier this year, joined forces with Republicans.

JAMES HOFFA JR. (president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters): (From videotape.) We believe that the ANWR project is something that will create 25,000 jobs and will create a new source of oil that can help us become more independent of foreign oil.

We're convinced that this is something that does not hurt the environment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hoffa's 25,000 jobs number refers to jobs for Teamsters alone. For all American workers, the ANWR jobs creation is 735,000.

After the Teamsters led the way, the AF of L-CIO also urged Congress to drill ANWR for oil and gas. In the end, the vote in favor was 223 to 206. Thirty-six Democrats crossed party lines to favor the president's proposal.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where the majority leader is predicting, not surprisingly, defeat.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD, Senate majority leader): (From videotape.) I do believe that the votes are there to prevent it.

It's six months of energy, destroying in perpetuity a very pristine, a very special part of our country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How big a win is this for George Bush, Michael Barone? By the way, Michael, the Bible is finally here. (Displays a copy of "The Almanac of American Politics 2002.") Look at this beast. How much inches? Four or five inches?

MR. BARONE: Well, I don't know, John.

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)

MR. BARONE: Seventeen hundred and seventy-six pages.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Seventeen-seventy-six?

MR. BARONE: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Congratulations.

MR. BARONE: Well, thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. What's this set you back? About 50 bucks for that book?

MR. BARONE: Well, something on that order, John, but it's worth every penny.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much do you get out of that?

MR. BARONE: NationalJournal.com. (Laughter.) You can buy it there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: NationalJournal.com. Well, congratulations.

MR. BARONE: Well, thank you, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a great achievement. You've been doing it for over 30 years.

MR. BARONE: Thirty years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good. Well, I hope you have it down, finally.

Okay. What's the answer to my question? How big a win for George Bush?

MR. BARONE: The answer is, I think it's a big win. I think it's not as big as his win on the Patients' Bill of Rights, but it illustrates something important about these environmental issues. They're popular with the mainstream press, they're popular in some of the big metropolitan areas, the stands of these environmental advocacy organizations and many -- most of the Democrats and some Republicans that are with them. They're also unpopular in some places. They have their benefits, but they also have their costs.

And what we're seeing here is that some of the people who have to bear those costs are not supporting those positions. On CAFE, you saw people from the auto industry, on ANWR, you saw the Teamsters and other people, you saw black representatives from the inner cities vote against the position most Democrats took on these bills. It's the same as we saw in the 2000 election, where environmental issues helped Al Gore in the big states like California and New Jersey, cost him votes in West Virginia, without which we never would have learned much about Florida electoral law.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, pretty tough week for you, huh? Five for five.

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, it's easy for Michael to fill 1,776 pages. (Laughs.) (Laughter.) Congratulations.

MR. BARONE: Thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that a terrific book, though?

MS. CLIFT: It is. It is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's nothing like it.

MS. CLIFT: And we all use it. We all use it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: Look. This is a --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I make a small point, to just rub --

MS. CLIFT: To disrupt my train of thought? Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- rub it in for you? Patients' Bill of Rights. That's one. ANWR's two. Tax cut is three. Education is four. And faith-based initiatives is five.

MS. CLIFT: These are legislative victories. They're not necessarily political wins across the country. And they may very well be short-lived. They've got to survive a Democratic-controlled Senate. And so there are some aspects of these bills that are going to collapse.

And the other thing is that this victory, so-called victory on energy, basically underscores what the public thinks about this president, that he is captive of the business interests. It is a total giveaway to the oil, gas and coal industries, very little for conservation. Secondly, the role of labor in pushing this through, while it may support the president in this one particular piece of legislation, the growing clout of labor is not good for Bush in the long run. And they, in fact, got standards for truckers in the Senate coming across Mexico that he didn't want. And thirdly, the Republicans are still divided on the environment. ANWR is going to be a big issue, and even if he gets that, most people in this country don't like it. That's a big weakness for this president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, I see you have your royal blue ensemble on.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, in honor of the Bush victories this week, and the queen opening up Buckingham Palace now to tourists -- which is a little shocking, but.

Look. Obviously this is a big victory. You have to understand a number of different levels. First, it, happily, from the Republican point of view, split two of the key interest groups, the environmentalists and the labor unions. No party likes to see their interest groups going at each other, not only because of that event but because it creates ill will down the line, so it's possibly useful for the other party. So that's a useful device.

Given that we're now going into the August break, Congress is going home and the president's going to Crawford, Texas, it's terribly important within this town to leave with a sense of accomplishment. The members go out, home, they're seeing their constituents, everybody feels good, they come back ready to fight as a unified team. If they had left with a defeat, then they would have gone back looking for cover. So this has consequences, whatever happens eventually in the fall in the Senate, this has very positive consequences for Bush and the Republican team going into the summer break.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where is this going to go now, Lawrence O'Donnell, the bill?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, that's what we don't know. That's what makes it a really great tactical victory for Denny Hastert, the speaker of the House. There's no victory here yet for President Bush on both of these bills.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the House is a victory.

MR. O'DONNELL: They could both die in the quicksand of conference in the Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that is a victory, too, because then Bush doesn't have to veto. He had to escape a speeding bullet.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, he has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If it dies, if it dies, it's in conference committee.

MR. O'DONNELL: He has done that, and also he has gotten Charlie Norwood to come over to his position. And everybody -- the Democrats, in a certain sense, have made a mistake in sanctifying Charlie Norwood all these years, saying he's the great leader on this subject and we respect and follow him, and then when he takes his trip to the White House, the Democrats don't follow him. It makes it very difficult.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, but Charlie is the seal of approval, and they have -- Bush has his branding on it. And that's irresistible, and it may prove to wash over to some extent into the Senate.

MR. O'DONNELL: It is highly resistible, especially when you start looking at the details. Charlie Norwood himself is now saying, "Look, there's stuff in here that I really don't like and I want to change in the Senate."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he said --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. Let me --

MR. O'DONNELL: They're changing state laws in ways that they shouldn't.

MR. BLANKLEY: On the Patients' Bill of Rights, this is more important than the energy win, and the Senate will end up going along with the better part of that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. BLANKLEY: Because this is one where it's a credible bill. It actually gives all the substantive changes that both parties have been looking for, and the Democrats will easily be portrayed as obstructionists. I think less so on the energy bill. I think there's more potential for the Democrats to be able to block energy in the Senate than the Patients' Bill of Rights.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. The sensitive nerve here is limiting the power to sue and limiting -- or the caps that are set on the damages that are awarded.

MR. O'DONNELL: Federal mandates --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, it seems to me that this is now a question of technical mechanics. And in conference, they ought to be able to establish some new numbers which satisfy the Kennedys of the world.

MR. O'DONNELL: It's a very anti-Republican concept. It's a federal mandate imposing a new federal tort that did not previously exist, which supersedes all sorts of state law that already exists in this area, in many states much better, much stronger protections --

MR. BARONE: That are tougher, yes.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think in your argument you are overlooking something, and that is, these big awards are paid for by the insurance possessors.

MR. O'DONNELL: It's a tiny speck of the cost of health care in America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's passed through.

MR. O'DONNELL: It's way below 1 percent of the cost of health care in America.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If we go your direction and we raise those caps, will you want to -- you probably want to eliminate it.

MR. O'DONNELL: Unlimited.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unlimited.

MR. O'DONNELL: Unlimited. Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unlimited. Okay. One billion dollars for spilling hot coffee through your own fault.

MR. BARONE: Class action --

MS. CLIFT: It actually rolls back state law. And you're right that this is a very anti-Republican way to go. But the president has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to increase insurance rates, Eleanor?

MR. O'DONNELL: It doesn't do that.

MS. CLIFT: The president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will be passed through. You can be sure of that.

MS. CLIFT: The president has successfully blurred this issue, and it's going to be very difficult for the Democrats to point out that this is a toothless bill, which is why the American Medical Association is against it. Why should HMOs get special privilege, immunity from lawsuits, when doctors can't get it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're not getting immunity.

MS. CLIFT: -- and hospitals can't get it? Virtual immunity --

MR. BARONE: To encourage people to get health -- employers to provide health insurance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. I want to hear Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, the answer to Eleanor's question of why it was put in by a Democratic Congress in 1973 was to encourage employers to offer health insurance. And if employers are going to get stuck for higher money because of unlimited lawsuits and trial lawyers bringing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly. Exactly.

MR. BARONE: -- class actions and plundering them, they're -- that's going to pass that along. You're going to find fewer people being insured, as a result of that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!

MR. BLANKLEY: (Off mike) -- point out that everybody who's on Medicare and Medicaid has no right to sue, because it's the government who's running the program, the taxpayers. So there's a perfectly --

MR. O'DONNELL: They have a right to sue doctors.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, they have --

MR. O'DONNELL: Everyone has a right to sue their doctor.

MR. BLANKLEY: But they don't have a right to sue the people who pay --

MR. O'DONNELL: So -- that's not true.

MR. BLANKLEY: They don't have a right to pay for --

MR. O'DONNELL: Any Medicare patient can sue for --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish. Let -- I want to hear -- let him finish.

MR. BLANKLEY: They can't pay -- they can't charge the people who are providing the service, U.S. taxpayers. They cannot sue them for it. And that's millions of people who have no coverage at all.

As far as the question of the Democrats thinking that their bill is better, substantively they're identical. You have all the same advantages you have under both bills -- emergency care, choice of doctors.

MS. CLIFT: Except for the right to sue -- except for the unbridled right to sue, which is a very American right.

MR. BLANKLEY: And you have the right to sue, and you have the right to -- and you have -- and you have -- unfortunately, it's a too American right. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will the Teamsters and American labor be able to do for nuclear energy what they are doing for ANWR? You know that Jimmy Hoffa is also in favor of nuclear energy.

(To Mr. Blankley.) I ask you.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think that nuclear energy, after about 25 years being condemned by Greens and the public generally, is coming around. I think that there's a lot of support for it building. The union support will be an important addition. And it also, of course, helps in the greenhouse effect.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't the real story here American labor now teaming up with George Bush? He was supposed to be on the side of big business. Now he's on the side of big labor.

MR. O'DONNELL: No, no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And big labor's on his side.

MR. O'DONNELL: No. The real story -- and that's an important story for Republicans -- is American labor finding their point of conflict with the environmentalists, these two Democratic --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The radical environmentalists.

MR. O'DONNELL: No, even the mainstream environmentalists. This is a very serious thing that the Democrats -- that the Republicans can exploit in other areas. If you can get this activated, it has tremendous power for the Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The exit question is, can the American labor movement deliver in the United States Senate what it delivered in the House to George Bush?

MR. BARONE: On ANWR. I think it's going to be harder. I think Senator John Kerry, who's actively running for president, recruiting campaign advisers, has vowed to filibuster the Arctic National Wildlife --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many votes does it take to overcome a filibuster?

MR. BARONE: Well, how many -- it takes a two-thirds vote to -- or 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Excuse me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think that can be accomplished?

MR. BARONE: I think that might be tough, but I think they'll make an effort. I think it's going to be tough because the Senate Demos have a sort of emotional investment in the ANWR thing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's going to be tough but not undoable?

MR. BARONE: Yeah, it might --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that's the feeling of this panel, Michael. We're going to move on. (Laughter.)

When we come back: Bush on a roll. What does he need to do to keep it up?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, a poll boost for Bush. A Washington Post-ABC News poll late this week showed Bush now has a 63 percent personal favorability rating and a 59 percent job approval rating, 14 percent over President Clinton in a poll from his first term, in August 1993.

The White House is counting on another poll jump when rebate checks reach mailboxes later this month.

Question: What explains the surge in Bush's approval rating? I ask you, Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: It's not that difficult. In the first six months of Bill Clinton's presidency, the single biggest thing he did was raise taxes, and it was the biggest tax increase in history. And in the first six months of George W. Bush's presidency, the biggest thing he did was one of the biggest tax cuts in history. So your polling is going to swing that way.

But you have to remember that Clinton, who wasn't polling so well at this point in his presidency, polled awfully well on reelection day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this has anything to do with the emergence of Bill Clinton and the inauguration of his post-presidency term there in Harlem, that in -- at a curious intersection with Condit and Chandra?

MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.) Oh --

MR. BARONE: There's some speculation that the Gary Condit scandal has made George Bush, bringing honor and integrity to the Oval Office, as he promised to do -- made him more attractive. John, I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know --

MR. BARONE: I mean, I know CNN switched from President Bush to show Clinton on the streets in Harlem, as if that was the more important story, showing where their bias is.

But the fact is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let me tell you about another curious fact, and that is that during the first -- his first 60 days of Bush's administration, he did very well in the polls.

MR. BARONE: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's because, it can be argued, that Clinton was battling with the horrible pardon situation, as well as the attendant scandal. So --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BARONE: Well, they had a number of -- well, Bush's polling --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And then when Clinton disappears, Bush's polls drop.

MR. BARONE: We're exaggerating Bush's high poll ratings here. In fact he's been hovering in roughly the same area in most of the polls, from 53 to 58 percent approval. This is on the high side.

MR. O'DONNELL: John --

MR. BARONE: The New York Times made a big, big deal when he went from 58 to 53, which is scarcely statistically significant. Bush is getting the people who voted for him and the approval of some other people, but it's not overwhelming.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. One of the reasons he's doing well is that Republicans are absolutely gaga over him. He has not done that well in terms of reaching out to independents. And his numbers among women are not very good. In fact, the White House is concerned about that, which is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait, wait --

MS. CLIFT: -- wait a second --

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you're wrong. You're wrong. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: -- which is why you heard President Bush today talk about how we have to raise more moral children --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor --

MR. BLANKLEY: The very --

MS. CLIFT: -- and he wants to do more for the disadvantaged. He's worried about -- he has to moderate his image for women.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Patients' -- this bill that he just had success on, Patients' Bill of Rights, is going to turn it around with women. Do you see that?

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I don't see that, John. No. (Chuckles.)

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a second.

MR. BARONE: Oh --

MR. BLANKLEY: Wait. Just to correct the record, the Washington Post poll that you just referred to has him doing 59 percent with independents.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. BLANKLEY: He's at 90-some percent with Republicans, and 30-some percent with Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you stand corrected, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: No, I don't. (Chuckles.) No, I don't.

MR. BLANKLEY: But Michael is largely correct that; there's a convergence of a number of factors. He's been moving basically and most interestingly above the right track/wrong track test, which is where pollsters have to see how they think the country is doing. And he's been consistently running a few points ahead. That means the country has more confidence in him than they do even in the country right now, which is a solid sign for him.

MS. CLIFT: And there's a lot of nervousness about the economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And bear in mind that the economy is somewhat sour now. So apparently it's not the economy, stupid.

MR. BARONE: Yeah, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe it's OOB, O-O-B, which means "opposite of Bill."

MR. O'DONNELL: (Inaudible) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here we go. Exit question. Congress is going out. Bush is on a roll. Will Bush still have the big momentum, the "big mo," after Labor Day? I ask you, Michael.

MR. BARONE: Well, I think he will have a considerable momentum, because what he really did in this Patients' Bill of Right(s) thing, for the first time in his presidency, is made his veto threat count. That's what got Charlie Norwood to switch. That's what got the House Republicans to go from 68 voting for Dingell-Norwood in '99 to six voting for it now. That's going to have an effect on the Democrats in the Senate. Do they want to be fractious, arguing people at a time when the country wants consensus, or will they reach agreement with him? I think it's likely on Patients Bill of Rights, less likely on Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. But on the other energy bills, he's got a weapon now constitutionally that he didn't really have before this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the veto? The veto right?

MR. BARONE: Veto.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, didn't have it before? We've had --

MR. BARONE: The veto is credible now, John. It wasn't credible when he set up his conditions for campaign finance reform and then said that he might not -- he might well sign a bill that violated them. That subtracted from the credibility of the veto.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That vitiated it.

MR. BARONE: Yes. Now it's back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's an excellent point. Excellent point. It's the first time he's really used it and used it effectively and it worked.

What do you think of that?

MS. CLIFT: Well, where Democrats are fractious, it's generally because they're on the side of issues that people care about. Second, the budget numbers that come out in mid-August are going to show a vanishing surplus and that Bush doesn't have money to pay for any of the things he's promised. Trouble ahead for Bush.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think he comes -- Eleanor's right about that number is probably not going to be a good one. I think he comes out --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When? In September?

MR. BLANKLEY: In August.

MS. CLIFT: August.

MR. BLANKLEY: Late August.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking September.

MR. BLANKLEY: I know. When he comes back in September, I think he's going to come on with some momentum, but then he's going to immediately slide into the Democratic Senate, and it will require a lot of artfulness to keep the momentum going once he gets into the Daschle ditch.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think of the way he handled Norwood? Brilliant.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, yes, he did, but keep in mind -- I'd give Denny Hastert, the speaker of the House --

MR. BARONE: Yeah, right.

MR. BLANKLEY: -- some credit here. What he did was, he was able to get another bill, the Fletcher bill, to be credible enough and get close enough, within five or six votes in the count, so that the veto threat was a credible threat. So it was a combination of Hastert and Bush that made it happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He knew that Norwood was the magic figure in the act. He brought him to the White House. He talked to him once, then he brought him back again, and he cut his deal with Norwood. And with Norwood, when Norwood said, "I want to go back to the Hill and tell Ganske and my other cronies up there," he said, "No, let's have a press conference first." Right? Lock it in.

MR. BARONE: Lock it in.

MR. O'DONNELL: Rushing him out into the cameras was brilliant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Brilliant.

MR. O'DONNELL: That was very smart. But, you know, he's picked up all the momentum this week that he can pick up for the month of August. There's nothing else that can happen in the month of August that will do the president any good. There are some serious storm clouds out there. Eleanor mentioned one with the budget numbers. Israel is another. As he stands on the sidelines there doing nothing, things could get much worse, that doesn't help, whether there's any sense of responsibility or not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We can only hope that Bill Clinton will be big in the headlines. Right?

MR. O'DONNELL: Bill Clinton -- John, the notion that Bill Clinton getting the keys to his office somehow pumps up Bush's number is nuts! I mean --

MR. BARONE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Israel in flames.

Israel and Palestinians are now on the brink of actual war. Day after day, one horror piles on another without limit. Almost a year of ceaseless hostility has killed 539 Palestinians, 133 Israelis, 13 Israeli Arabs and wounded 14,000 Palestinians, 1,300 Israelis.

The final plummet into war was narrowly avoided earlier this month when two Palestinians preparing a bomb outside the Jewish Olympics stadium accidentally detonated the device, killing themselves. If that bomb had exploded and killed, say, 100 Israelis, the Israeli public would have demanded not Sharon's targeted assassinations but full-scale war.

And Israeli generals are ready. They've been making preparations for an all-out attack against Palestinians. The plan calls for the total annihilation of Palestinian armed forces, including airstrikes by U.S.-made F-15 and F-16 fighter bombers. An invasion of the West Bank and Gaza strip. A sweeping attack by 30,000 military, including paratroopers, tank brigades and infantry.

At this historical moment, the world feels helpless at the impending tragedy. Worse, the world seems willing to live with the belief that peace is beyond reach. No outside force, it appears, can alter the deadly course of events. Fatalism and defeatism are in the air everywhere. So the world turns aside in horror and silence and oddly, shame. The prospect for Israel is frightening. Quote, "Without the hope for peace, without the endeavors for peace, it will be impossible to maintain a viable Jewish state for long," so said Barak's former Justice Minister, Yossi Beilen, last April.

Question: Is the setup appraisal about the current world mood towards the Middle East, is it understated, what you just heard, overstated or accurate?

I ask you.

MR. O'DONNELL: I think it's a little more negative than where we are right now. But this is the condition that many in the left in Israel predicted with a Sharon government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think it's about right, actually. But the Saudis and other moderate Arabs are very concerned; they're expressing those thoughts to the U.S. government. I think you're going to see one more effort by the U.S. government to avoid the decline further.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. We're over.

MS. CLIFT: This is a stalemate. I think neither leader wants to give up the low-level violence; it keeps them popular with the people at home. And neither leader can see how they can give up any more without getting in trouble with the extremists. The extremists are in control.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michael?

MR. BARONE: It's unfair. Arafat and the Palestinians want to destroy Israel. We should back Israel all the way. That was the -- the person you quoted was one of the architects of the failed and foolish policy of Ehud Barak.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you urge the United States to back Israel in the instance of the kind of all-out war that was --

MR. BARONE: It was not all-out war, and I would urge the U.S. to back Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions.

Michael.

MR. BARONE: Al Gore will shave off his beard.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is the likely next Democratic whip, which is the first time a woman will be that high up in the House leadership.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And she'll do well.

Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: In September, Bush will be able to get the Democrats to finally complete the conference on education and it will be passed pretty close to what the president wants.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His fifth achievement, right? The president's.

MR. O'DONNELL: The most important Democratic fund-raiser in the next presidential election in the under 50 set in Hollywood will be producer Lawrence Bender.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Any business deal with you?

MR. O'DONNELL: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If an international criminal court is brought into existence by a vote of 60 nations and it should summon an American citizen for a trial on alleged war crimes, the U.S. government will never turn over that citizen.

Bye-bye.

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