Copyright 2002 Federal News Service, Inc.
Federal News Service
April 19, 2002 Friday
THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, PATRICK BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT, AND MORT ZUCKERMAN
TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2002 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 20-21, 2002
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Impotent.
The British and European press are running headlines like that over pictures of the U.S. secretary of State. Powell returned home from the Middle East without a cease-fire. Yasser Arafat's chief negotiator said the situation on the ground is worse than when Powell came to the region.
On his way back to the United States, Powell was snubbed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who declined to see him. The prime minister of Jordan said the collapse of the secretary's mission would have, quote, "grave consequences for the region," unquote.
Before the trip, President Bush has raised expectations for a cease-fire and a prompt withdrawal of Israeli troops. U.S. PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Enough is enough.
Withdraw without delay.
I expect there to be withdrawal without delay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How badly did Powell's failed mission diminish Bush's standing in the region and in Europe? Is the cold, blunt fact that Bush put his full weight into pressuring Sharon, and Sharon would not budge?
Near the end of his trip, the president's emissary stated the root cause of this aggression and horrific bloodletting.
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: (From videotape.) For the people and leaders of Israel, the question is whether the time has come for a strong, vibrant state of Israel to look beyond the destructive impact of settlements and occupation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How serious is the rift that Bush has opened between America and its Arab and European allies over Israel?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think the Europeans, there's going to be a growing rift because Europe is slowly Islamicizing; the immigration from the Islamic world is continuing.
It's far greater in the Arab world where the expectations were relatively high, and to see the United States completely incapable of moving Sharon in any way, and to see Sharon stiff the United States with impunity I think has damaged the president's prestige.
But more important is, this thing, this inflamed situation is going to get worse and worse and worse. It not only threatens the survival of some of these so-called "moderate" Arab regimes, the president and the neocons' game plan for an invasion of Iraq has got to be put completely on hold. You cannot start another inflammation in the Near East when you've got one going in the Middle East.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, the president put his prestige on the line, he put American prestige on the line and he got slapped down. So I think he really loses face in the Arab world. And you had the president of Egypt -- when the secretary of State was to come calling, Mubarak claimed he had a headache. Now, that headache spoke volumes in every capital from Morocco to Jakarta. And if the president wants to move in Iraq or even further the war against terrorism, he's going to see a "flu" sweeping those Arab capitals because they do not believe that he has either the clout or the willingness to bring his clout to bear to actually help solve what's happening in the Middle East.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush drew a line in the sand and Sharon made him redraw the line in the sand, and it was much further back than Bush intended to draw it.
What do you make of it?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, as I said briefly on this show a few weeks ago, and wrote in my column, I don't believe that the president intended the Powell mission to be what he literally said it to be, which was to get a cease-fire.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think it was?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think it was the concept of diplomacy where you say, "Nice doggy," while you look for a big stick.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean to pacify the Arab nations, to pacify Europe?
MR. BLANKLEY: To try to defuse --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what does that -- that means he would be deceiving his own people.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. To try to defuse the -- what I think was hysteria in Europe, and may still be, to a certain extent, in order to try to move on to what I think his primary objective clearly is, which is to go in and have a regime change in Iraq. I don't know that he succeeded entirely, but it is the case that now the Israeli Defense Force is moving back and there's been less suicide bombing. So it's not a complete failure, but obviously it's, at least temporarily, a major embarrassment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, I mean you have a rather one-sided approach in your set-up, to put it mildly. Let me just give you another example of what happened as a result of Powell's mission. They did stop what was a brewing war between Lebanon and Israel and Lebanon and Syria against Israel.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tell me more about that.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That was a -- he went to -- the secretary of State went to Beirut and went to Damascus and obviously managed to calm that down. That's a very serious accomplishment.
Secondly, for the first time he got -- in the Quartet Communiqué, he got the Europeans to condemn terrorism as immoral and illegal and morally repugnant. They had really not been commenting on that. So I think he's moved the Europeans a little bit.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the Europeans imposed sanctions on Israel.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, they have not imposed sanctions on Israel. I might say that there was talk about that, but they were not imposed.
MS. CLIFT: John?
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just say one other thing here, just for --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean they haven't been implemented, but they exist.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No. No. They do not exist. They have not passed sanctions against Israel. They talked about it.
MR. BLANKLEY: The EU did, but that was only advisory in the -- (inaudible) -- information -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what does that mean?
MR. BUCHANAN: But John --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But one other thing --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It means, as a body they did, but the individual nations are not.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: One other thing: The president asked the Arab leaders to condemn terrorism. Not one of them did it. The president asked Arafat to do a number of things, including to engage in a cease- fire. He didn't do anything. So it's not just Israel, but I do think, as Tony said, the region has been cooled down by a fair amount, and I think there'll now be a lot of progress. And with all due respect, the president doesn't agree with you.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor!
MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't agree the region's been cooled down a lot. I think Powell took some of the edge off of the vitriol, and I will point out that Arafat did put out a statement again responding in Arabic, and I don't know that he got anything in return, if we're talking all this tit for tat.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: But the real question is, what do they do next? Is this administration now going to put its muscle -- whatever muscle it has -- behind the so-called "Madrid II" -- behind some sort of a conference? I mean, is that going to happen fast? There's not much time here to be squandered. And I don't know about this administration's staying power in that region.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, Tony is right. It was gesture politics. He sent him over there in the expectation that he would, you know, do a lot of talk and not get much done. But the point of it is, the prestige of the United States was invested in this gesture politics. The president's prestige -- the president looks weak to the point, excuse me, of almost pathetic when he says, you know, "Do this, do this, do this" --
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make one quick point about "The president looks pathetic." A nation like the United States, with a president determined to fight a war on terrorism around the world, can afford to have a few little ruffles going. He doesn't have to prove his strength -- we don't have to prove our strength every hour, okay?
MS. CLIFT: A few little ruffles? This was one of the worst weeks in foreign policy this country has had for a long time. We haven't even mentioned the coup --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: -- in Venezuela which the administration may have engineered.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Thursday morning, the president said this: "I do believe Ariel Sharon is a man of peace. I think he wants -- I am confident he wants Israel to be able to exist at peace with its neighbor." So said the president this Thursday.
MS. CLIFT: But John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now is that consistent with what he said on the 6th, the 8th and the 10th?
MR. BUCHANAN: It is not, John!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The soundbites we showed earlier?
MR. BUCHANAN: We all saw it. He was very forceful. "He's got to do it. He's got to do it now. He's got to do it without delay. I mean it." And Sharon didn't do it!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (What happened ?) to him?
MR. BUCHANAN: Sharon didn't do it, and the president realized, "Maybe I shouldn't have been telling him to do it, because I don't have the clout and I don't have the will to force Israel to do something it doesn't want to do."
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The president used that phrase accurately in the sense that Winston Churchill was a man of peace. Churchill was trying to fight a war and defeat Hitler. After that, he planned to be a man of peace. Sharon plans to fight a war and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very Clintonian!
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I mean, but he's not a peace --
MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's not a peacemaker in the U.N. sense of the word.
MS. CLIFT: This is not whether --
MR. BLANKLEY: Here is the president that he emulates: He emulates Reagan. Reagan took a broadly moral viewpoint to the contact with the Soviet Union. And Bush -- this President Bush -- is taking a broadly moral viewpoint in the war against terrorism.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's what I want to -- if Sharon considers it in our interest to withdraw, and yet he does not withdraw, what kind of -- and he doesn't withdraw because he thinks it's in the national interest of Israel not to withdraw --
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is that an alliance that we need?
MR. BUCHANAN: His national interests and our national interests are in clear conflict. To credit Sharon, he stands up for Israel first. And what he did in Jenin is not the work of a man of peace.
MS. CLIFT: The survival of Israel --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Well, do allies treat allies that way?
MS. CLIFT: But the --
MR. BUCHANAN: He's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do allies treat allies that way?
MS. CLIFT: The survival --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.
MR. BUCHANAN: He puts his vital interests as he sees them first. But we've got our separate interests. The problem is not Sharon, the problem is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He knows that we consider it in our interest for him to withdraw. He does not withdraw.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He thumbs his nose at the president.
MR. : Wait a second.
MS. CLIFT: The survival of Israel is in American interest. And so the broader solidarity is there, and it's going --
MR. : Right.
MS. CLIFT: And it's going --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And the war --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And the war against terrorism is in American interest.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.
MS. CLIFT: Let me finish, please. What President Bush did was try to fudge all of the comments that he made earlier, because they are clearly not through. He is doing what Michael Kinsley, the journalist, calls creating an alternate reality.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MS. CLIFT: And there isn't anybody in this country who listened to that with a straight face.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jenin. "Horrifying beyond belief."
TERJE ROED-LARSEN (U.N. special envoy to the Middle East): (From videotape.) I think I can speak for all in the U.N. delegation here that we are shocked. This is horrifying beyond belief, just seeing this area. It looks like as if there had been an earthquake here. And the stench of death over many places where we are standing. I just saw -- an about 12-year-old kid being killed and burnt, and there are evidently lots of other corpses, and the stench is telling its own story.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: United Nations Special Envoy to the Middle East Terje Roed-Larsen waited 11 days until Israel would permit him to enter the Jenin Palestinian refugee camp last Thursday. The scene there was what The Economist magazine calls, quote, "a ghastly spectacle whose consequences will long be felt by all parties in the Middle Eastern tragedy," unquote. What the U.N. special envoy saw and what he described to the press and what he will report on raises the question, with him and with us, as to whether Israel committed war crimes.
Question: Has Israel opened itself up to the charge of war crimes in Jenin? Mort Zuckerman?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think that's nonsense. Let me just say this. That what you had there was a house-to-house urban conflict in which you had doors and windows and houses booby-trapped. If they wanted to do this without putting their soldiers at risk, they could have used artillery and air power to demolish it -- as we did, I might add, in Afghanistan. They didn't do that, even though they suffered a lot of casualties as a result.
Now, let me just say to you that there is no doubt but that there is destruction. War is not a tea party. And a lot of the people who were shooters and killers, they're not dressed in uniforms, and they're now called civilians. But that was a house-to-house battle. And the reason why they kept people out is because there were booby- traps all over the place and they didn't want to have these people being blown up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What the war crimes issue apparently turns on -- and there's a good editorial on this subject in the same Economist magazine, the brand-new one -- is the denial of medical assistance and succor to the noncombatants and to the wounded terrorists.
The Israelis kept the ambulances out. Now what do you say about that?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, there was an allegation that there was a massacre, a Srebrenica, a small Srebrenica. It is not true. What they did do --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't know that, do we?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, we do -- we know that it did not happen. They haven't found --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean in terms of numbers?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, they did not go out there and massacre people. But what happened was -- it was quite brutal -- they came in with these bulldozers and rolled over these houses, and there were children and men and women in them. I think it's a mistake to call it, you know, a traditional war crime, but there's no doubt it seriously damages Israel's reputation. And secondly, this is going to be, Mort, the Alamo of the Palestinian state, as an Israeli writer --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Which is why you have to get beyond this. You can't now let this disintegrate into a war of words over who is -- who's to blame and who's the more criminal. The president has to get heavily involved, like previous presidents have, going back to the Suez Canal crisis, and they've got to move quickly and take huge risks.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's Dwight Eisenhower. That's not George Bush!
MS. CLIFT: Well, he ought to think about being a Dwight Eisenhower.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, I agree with Pat. It's not a massacre.
I agree with Mort. It's the casualties of war.
However, one -- the arguments that they weren't letting ambulances in -- there have been credible reports that the Red Crescent ambulances were hiding terrorists as they were moving into zones. So it was a very good reason why the Israeli Defense Force was not prepared to let the terrorists be resupplied in the guise of ambulances.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, vox populi. Are Americans wavering in their support for Israel's military action? A CNN/Harris/Time magazine poll indicates yes. It shows that 60 percent of Americans favor reducing or eliminating altogether U.S. aid to Israel.
Question: The breakout is: cut off aid, 27 percent; reduce aid, 33 percent. Total: 60 percent. What does this tell you, Eleanor Clift?
MS. CLIFT: Oh, there may be some slight second-guessing about Israel, but I think for now this country is very much on Israel's side. I don't think the Palestinians have much support. And there is no way the U.S. Congress is going to reduce or cut off money. If anything, they're going to put through a sense of the Congress resolution backing Israel, because that's where the political power is in this country.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, and Gallup Poll came out with a poll showing that by 61 to 39 the American public thinks that we're supporting Israel either the right amount or not enough. So there's about a third of the country that is pretty hostile to support of Israel and about 55 to 60 percent that is pretty supportive. Those numbers haven't changed a lot, going back to like 1976 --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think your poll is better than my poll, which is the Harris, CNN, and Time magazine poll? Is that what -- this is a war of the polls?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. And they got CBS -- CBS News, 5 to 1.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, I'll tell you, we have -- if you put --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is that? Public Agenda? What is that? Yankelovich's outfit?
MR. BLANKLEY: CBS News --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, CBS News.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- this week had by 5 to 1 --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that was done by Yankelovich.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- by 5 to 1 Americans are more sympathetic with Israel.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's Dan Yankelovich. He's a respectable pollster.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He is a very good --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's a different poll.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's retired from --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: First off, if you put two words, "foreign aid," into a poll -- (laughs) - Americans say no.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's the least popular of all programs.
But there's no doubt about it; in 5 to 1, the majority of people stand by Israel. And the truth is, the Palestinians have no constituency or very little constituency inside the United States. But clearly Israel is pushing the envelope.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, but the American public sees what's happening, and they know terrorism for what it is. We finally had it here, and even though, you know, it's not affected us here in the day- to-day sense that it's affected Israel, they know what that is.
MR. BUCHANAN: You know, Mort, the trouble is --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The common sense of the American people comes through.
And as Tony says --
MR. BUCHANAN: In the Arab world, though, it's the entire reverse.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: As Tony says, that popularity has been there for years now, for decades.
MR. BUCHANAN: In the Arab world it is entirely the reverse.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: The inflammation against Israel and Sharon and the United States is pandemic because the only pictures they see at night are pictures of the Israelis and what they're doing, and the bulldozers and the tanks and the dead kids.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you reading the European press on this too? You know where they stand.
MR. BUCHANAN: I really don't think the European --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know where they stand.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Europeans aren't as important, frankly, in the war on terror right now --
MS. CLIFT: As the Arabs are.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- as the Arab states are. We need their support.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But the way to fight the war on terror in the Arab and Muslim world is to fight it alongside Israel --
MS. CLIFT: No it isn't.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- on the mountains of Afghanistan, okay?
MS. CLIFT: It takes a new reality --
MR. BUCHANAN: Not that way, Mort, not that way.
MS. CLIFT: It takes a new reality where those regimes feel threatened, and apply some of the American clout that we have financially.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Those regimes are fighting terrorism by supporting the most vitriolic, anti-American --
MS. CLIFT: Right --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- anti-Israel press and public media, and you know it and we know it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: When will the Israeli forces be out of the West Bank and Gaza?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughing) Out of Gaza?!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think they were moving into Gaza on Friday.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Sharon will stay there as long as he thinks he needs to get the job done, that's all there is to it. I think it will be weeks.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Weeks?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When will they be out?
MS. CLIFT: I'd say not in the foreseeable future because they will leave some military presence there claiming they need a bigger buffer zone.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, they're going to move back substantially, but they're going to stay in Bethlehem until they get the terrorists out of the church.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When will they be out?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And they'll stay in Ramallah, too, until they get the killers of the cabinet minister. They'll be out of everything else within the week, as Sharon promised the president. Those two areas, I think that's just going to be a question of negotiations to see if they can get the terrorists out of these areas.
MS. CLIFT: How do you get terrorists out? (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort is correct on that last point, but it's limited to that.
When we return, the FDA okays Botox. Will paralyzed muscles lead to more misunderstandings between the sexes? (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Happy poisoned face.
DR. DEBRA JALIMAN : (From videotape.) For many people who may have been cautious about getting Botox in the past, I think they'll feel more confident about getting it in the future.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, approved the use of the drug Botox for cosmetic purposes this week. Made from the poison which causes botulism, tiny amounts of Botox are injected into facial muscles underneath the skin. The poison temporarily kills, so to speak, or relaxes the muscles, reducing age- revealing lines and wrinkles where the drug is injected.
DR. RONALD FARRAN: (From videotape.) In small doses, this poison turns into a miracle drug.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Patients say they not only look younger, but feel better.
MS. JEAN MARGOLIN: (From videotape.) My face feels more relaxed and younger, and when I look in the mirror I feel like I have the energy to go out and do what I have to do that day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Energy indeed. Patients will need plenty of energy for all that work to pay their Botox bills.
The cost of treatments run as high as a few thousand dollars for a wrinkle-reduction package plan -- forehead, eyes and cheek. And remember: The poison is only temporary, lasting about four months. Another downside to this syringe of youth: Badly aimed Botox shots can result in a partially paralyzed or totally expressionless visage.
Question: Is Botox the ultimate proof that hard-core feminists -- namely the bra-burning, no-armpit-shaving, hairy-legged strain of feminism -- (chuckling) -- is that feminism now totally passe? I ask you, Tony. (Laughter.)
(Cross talk, laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Take it away, Tony!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I sense you hesitating; I'll go right over to Eleanor.
MR. BLANKLEY: Wait a minute. Stop laughing. There's a physical manifestation of feminism evanesced years ago, but this has nothing to do with feminism; it has to do with the eternal search for youth, which goes back to Egypt and cosmetic, and everyone -- people are going to try to keep young-looking as long as they can.
MS. CLIFT: Feminism is alive and well -- (laughs) -- and it doesn't have anything to do with Botox.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: She's exactly right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: White elephant!
MS. CLIFT: But he introduction of poison into the environment -- I noticed this week that the Bush administration has also relaxed the standards on salmonella in poultry. So maybe that, in small doses, also does wonders.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maureen Dowd, in an inspired column in the New York Times some weeks back -- she said that this is going to be a further impediment in the communication between men and women, because men are now being denied facial cues. You understand?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: There are other cues that will work. (Laughter.) And I'll tell you what one of them is, okay? If women are more attractive or men are more attractive to women, I guarantee you that will work better than anything I can think of.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is it no --
MR. BLANKLEY: But that will increase the understanding.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it no longer that you can believe your own eyes anymore?
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do men now have to listen harder?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me. Women will also have to listen harder, with all due respect. But all I can say is that if anybody wants to remake their face or remake their body, good luck to them. That's the story about America. You can --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- remake yourself in any way you can for another chance in life.
MR. BUCHANAN: Ponce de Leon -- the Fountain of Eternal Youth is what America's all about -- trying to stay young forever. We are an immature nation, an immature people in a lot of ways. (Laughter.) And this is exactly a sign of it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: That's deep and thoughtful! (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, you know, she could be as mad as blazes, but unfortunately, she --
MR. BUCHANAN: Have you watched some of these TV shows, John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- she's too paralytic --
MR. BUCHANAN: Women have this stuff.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- she's too paralytic to scowl, so how are you going to know?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, exactly. I'm going on TV opposite these folks!
MR. ZUCKERMAN: (Inaudible) -- wouldn't want to scowl at you. That's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit the endless search. The endless search goes on: hair plugs, breast implants, liposuction, hair dye, colored contact lenses, teeth whitening, and now Botox. It is all part of the ongoing search for self-esteem, for self-image, for self-idealization, and we all agree that it's perfectly harmless. Do we not?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We do? We do? Even you? It's harmless.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's beneficial, John!
MS. CLIFT: It's expensive.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's only expensive.
MS. CLIFT: Only expensive.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's beneficial.
MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's beneficial? Therapeutic -- I think it's therapeutic. (Laughter.)
When we come back, the 20th century -- the 20th-anniversary moment.
MS. CLIFT: Twentieth century! (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And now, the moment: the 20th-anniversary moment. The date: March 1991, 11 years ago. The event: victory in the Gulf War, Desert Storm.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE SEGMENT)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When will Saddam Hussein be out of power?
MR. BUCHANAN: I'd say by the end of the year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?
MR. : I'm not that optimistic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say? What does that mean?
MR. : It means --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here we are, thrown into obscurity.
Mr. : That means, maybe 1992.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah. What do you think, Jack?
JACK GERMOND: Well, three weeks ago, I gave him three weeks. His time's up. I think he's gone today. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor "Gee, I think you're Swell-anor"?
MS. CLIFT: I think three to six months. I don't think he can hang on --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he lasts for one more week, he will be there indefinitely.
(END VIDEOTAPE SEGMENT)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McLaughlin right again. McLaughlin right again.
Next week, Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, visits President Bush in Texas, insha'Allah.
END REGULAR SEGMENT
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Stealth cut.
Tax Day has come and gone. Despite a tax cut and a tax rebate, Americans don't feel any different. They are grumbling, as usual, over their excessive taxation. A majority of Americans, 52 percent, say that the tax cut has not made one whit of a difference. Another 44 percent say they don't know enough to decide whether the Bush tax cut was too big, too small, or just right. So says a TIPP poll in Investor's Business Daily. All of which is a reason for President Bush to accelerate the tax cut instead of its bulk being delayed through the out years of the decade-long cycle; and also, Republicans think, a reason for Congress to perpetuate the tax cut. Extend it indefinitely, beyond the 10 years. But Senate Democrats say no.
Question: Does it makes sense to make the tax cut permanent? I ask you, Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think it does, because after the 10 years, we are going to be faced with huge exposure in Social Security and Medicare, and I think we should look, at that point, to see just whether or not the fiscal health of the country can withstand both the loss of the revenues and a huge deficit that we're looking at in cash terms in Social Security especially.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You sound like Tom Daschle.
I've got another question for you. Let's see if you can do better on this one. Okay?
The question is that the head of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, is holding off on raising interest rates; do you think that's a good idea? And do you think it will continue through to the end of the year, as I predicted correctly on this program?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I know we have to look a long time to find correct predictions from your part, John. (Laughter.)
I do think, again, we have to watch these things pretty carefully. My own view is that the economy is going to grow very slowly. There's going to be no inflation, and therefore it's going to be appropriate for the feds to keep interest rates low. Whether it extends all the way through to the year, I don't know. But right now I think it's probably going to move up, if it moves up at all, very, very slightly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that the tax manual they put out is now 122 pages. It's gone up from 71 in just a few years.
MR. BLANKLEY: I hadn't counted the pages.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The secretary of the Treasury calls the tax form an "abomination." Now Vladimir Putin had the good sense to install a 13 percent flat tax. Wouldn't that be the way to go? I ask you, an impartial Republican. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, I think a flatter tax with less deductions, that doesn't require people to start taking business activity for tax purposes and only for investment and productive purposes, makes a lot o sense.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, why --
MR. BLANKLEY: But politically, it's almost impossible to get there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, another question. Why didn't those people who wrote their tax returns feel that they got any relief and everything -- it's business as usual? They got a rebate. They got some tax cut. It's true that most of the tax cut is at the -- towards the end of the 10-year cycle. Correct? Can you answer that?
MR. BUCHANAN: It's -- yeah. First off, the tax cuts, compared to Reagan's, are peanuts.
But secondly, John, you talk about making them permanent. Mort, that death tax, if you know it, it goes to zero, and then the next year it jumps to 55 percent. There are going to be suicides and murders in those -- final year galore if you don't make this thing permanent. (Laughter.) It is terrible.
MS. CLIFT: No, because -- well --
MR. BUCHANAN: You've got to project for the long term. Business does. They ought to make it permanent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. Well, Alan Greenspan testified on the Hill this week, and he said that if -- making this tax cut permanent would worsen the fiscal situation of this country. But he also went on to say that he didn't think any future Congress would dare to eliminate these tax cuts. So I think the death tax is alive and well -- (inaudible) -- the death tax is alive and well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, a question for you. What is your considered opinion about the GDP growth rate, say, in the next three quarters?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think, actually, it's going to be up, but somewhere around 1-1/2 to 2 percent. That's a very low rate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very low? Even the fourth quarter?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Even the fourth quarter.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not 4 percent in the fourth quarter?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do not see it, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're wrong on that one, but on the other three you're -- (laughs) --