THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: ELEANOR CLIFT, PAT BUCHANAN
TONY BLANKLEY, AND GERARD BAKER
TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 15-16, 2003
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Iraq inspectors' report. After 11
weeks, chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix and IAEA inspector Director
Mohamed ElBaradei delivered their much-anticipated report to the U.N.
Security Council. Both Blix and ElBaradei say they have found no
weapons of mass destruction.
HANS BLIX (Chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq): (From
videotape.) So far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons, only a
small number of empty chemical munitions, which should have been
declared and destroyed.
MOHAMED ELBARADEI (IAEA director, nuclear weapons inspector in
Iraq): (From videotape.) We have to date found no evidence of
ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: These were positive utterances
towards Iraq's behavior, but what criticism was registered by the
inspectors against Iraq?
MR. BUCHANAN: It is the fundamental one, John, that Iraq has not
come forward and shown where the gases are -- the mustard gas, the
sarin, the VX, all the other things they are alleged to have had, and
they have not shown that they have been destroyed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much of that is there?
MR. BUCHANAN: According to the records, there's thousands of
liters of these sorts of things.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was stated on the screen today was 1,000
tons. That would be what? That would be 2 million pounds.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, 200,000 pounds.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two hundred -- no, it would be more than that.
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, yeah, it would be 2 million.
MR. BUCHANAN: Two million pounds.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two million pounds.
MR. BLANKLEY: Two million pounds.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the point is, they have not produced the
material and they have not shown where the material was destroyed so
the inspectors can go look at it. But the point, John, if you -- the
president had the right word; he's been using it all along; this is
irrelevant. The decision has been made to go to war, by the
president, Powell is aboard, Rumsfeld and Cheney, and we're moving
down that road. And I think the president would be well advised, now
that that decision has been made, to try to give enough time to get as
many of these fellows aboard as possible for the post-game show.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do you want to point out that when Blix
did point to that failure that Pat talked about, he said, "However, we
cannot judge this in advance until we first find what it is." In
other words, he made no judgment. He did make a judgment, however,
about the violation in connection with the missiles, that they
exceeded their range. It was 114 miles versus the 93-mile
MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, Ambassador Blix sounds like he's
going to be doing his job for a good long while. He didn't make this
seem like any kind of a crisis. And I think the urgency for going to
war really has been removed.
And the fact that he didn't come down harder on Iraq, I think, is
a big public-relations setback for the president. It's the eve of
what will be massive peace demonstrations in Europe. The president's
poll ratings are sinking. Fewer than 50 percent of the people have
confidence in his foreign policy. And yet I agree with Pat, I think
the president continues to go forward because he has painted himself
into a corner. He has really nothing else in his quiver but to go to
war. His domestic policies --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I hope that you --
MS. CLIFT: -- are (exploding ?) on Capitol Hill.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On that last point, I hope you and Pat will keep
an open mind until we finish the second segment of this show.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, he hasn't painted himself into a corner.
That suggests inadvertence. He has obviously been planning for a year
and a half to deal with this problem, and he's dealing with it and
he's moving forward.
I thought the high point of Blix's testimony was the rapture with
which he talked about this document, the signing by Saddam of the
forswearing of the weapons of mass destruction. And it did sort of
remind me of Chamberlain coming back from Munich: "I have the
signature on this page," you know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, you burlesqued that last week. What are
you, a Johnny one-note?
MR. BLANKLEY: I didn't mention that last week.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You did. Somebody did here.
MR. BAKER: Very prescient.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the point is that he got compliance from
MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't get compliance.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They put the legislation through. Howsoever
meaningless it may be, nevertheless got compliance.
MS. CLIFT: It was a demand. It was a U.N. demand.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's a farce.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a U.N. demand.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's an absolute farce to -- here's a man whose
entire career has been built on building weapons of mass destruction,
from the '70s. He defined the nature of his regime that way. And who
is this document going --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Come, come, come. Blix didn't put that kind of
emphasis on it. He passed right over it.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, he didn't. And as -- and Powell was actually
mocking of him --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What Powell successfully mocked him about,
perhaps, is the number of minders they have.
MR. BLANKLEY: He made --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They've gone from five to one. But that is a
400 percent reduction. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: No, Powell said five to less than five -- is what
Powell actually said.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that should -- and it was clear that
they've gone down to one now, from what Blix said.
MR. BAKER: I mean, Tony's right. We're into this position, as
we always sort of knew we would be, where Saddam would make some
concessions, would do things that the inspectors would be able to say,
"Hey, look, he's moving in the right direction." Clearly that report
wasn't a clean bill of health for Saddam, but it was -- he was -- you
know, the inspectors have essentially accepted that some of the things
that he's done have been helpful.
The really -- but the important thing that happened at the
Security Council on Friday -- actually, I think, more important even
than Blix's performance -- was the performance by the French foreign
minister, Dominique de Villepin, who made it absolutely clear that
France is not going to support a second resolution, that France wants
this U.N. process to go on, and that that means that the United States
and the United Kingdom are going to have to do what they want to do
without any kind of explicit authorization from --
MR. BUCHANAN: But the secretary of State --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hmm. Villepin was excellent, but what about the
MR. BAKER: I would say --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did the Russian ambassador leave you with the
same impression: that they are wed to, at a minimum, abstention?
MR. BAKER: Yes. The --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the French are going to veto
-- is -- are either one of them going to veto?
MR. BUCHANAN: They will -- they won't veto.
MR. BAKER: No, because there won't be a second -- if it's clear
that there is going to -- that the French would wield the veto, then
the U.S. and the U.K. will not come for the second resolution.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you --
MR. BAKER: They will claim enough authority, under 1441, to do
the military action that they clearly intend to do, and there won't be
another resolution --
MR. BUCHANAN: But Powell was very -- at a press conference after
that -- exactly. The French said, "That's it. We're not going along
with a resolution." But in the press conference after all of this
went on, Powell was talking about "Dominique, my friend; the French
are friends, 225 years" --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you conclude?
MR. BUCHANAN: I conclude that the president just may give them
another month to try to find some way to bring everybody back aboard.
And in my judgment, it would be very wise, having made the decision to
go to war, to try to maximize the number of people you can have at
least not objecting to war.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two people were applauded, and applause is not
that common in the U.N. And it required the president of the council,
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, we are isolated in the Security Council.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- it required Fischer to say, "Eliminate the
applause," in so many words. They applauded the Russian ambassador,
and they applauded the French ambassador.
MR. BUCHANAN: French heavily --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's clear where the U.N feels, or at least
Okay. Blix versus Powell. Last week Secretary of State Powell
declared that Iraq was using decontamination trucks to move chemical
weapons. He called the truck a signature item, and here's what Blix
had to say about it.
MR. BLIX: (From videotape.) The presentation of intelligence
information by the U.S. secretary of State suggested that Iraq had
prepared for inspections by cleaning up sites and removing evidence of
proscribed weapons programs. I would like to comment only on one case
which we are familiar with, namely, the trucks identified by analysts
as being for chemical decontamination at a munitions depot. This was
a declared site.
We have noted that the two satellite images of the site were
taken several weeks apart. The reported movement of munitions at the
site could just as easily have been a routine activity as a movement
of proscribed munitions in anticipation of imminent inspection.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is this, in combination with the
Powell discrediting by Baradei, his effort at discrediting, a
significant blow to both the CIA and Powell, the intelligence
MR. BUCHANAN: It's clearly a U.N. defiance of the United States'
position, as presented by Powell. You've had pieces of it hit and
attacked, including that -- the group of al Qaeda up there in the
northwest corner of Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: So I think, John, what the -- the U.N. is gingerly
taking on the United States of America.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they're attacking the -- they're attacking
what was adduced by Powell, in Powell's impressive speech at U.N., as
being inaccurate, including --
MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, the president --
MR. BLANKLEY: They didn't say it was inaccurate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- just a minute -- including the visit to the
scientist who was allegedly the repository from the Iraq government of
secret documents that worked to the subject of weapons of mass
MS. CLIFT: Well, the president has been strutting around saying
the U.N. needs to show some backbone.
Well, they just did. And they scored a direct hit on Colin Powell,
who is the most credible person on the world stage for this
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look -- look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MS. CLIFT: And the fact is --
MR. BLANKLEY: Can I get a --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, Tony!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Let her finish. Then I'll go
MS. CLIFT: The fact is his overall presentation was powerful,
but if you pick apart his arguments, there were plenty of flaws.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well.
MS. CLIFT: And the fact that he jumped on this Osama tape this
week as evidence of a partnership between Iraq and Osama really
undermines his credibility.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: This is evidence of putting their head in the
ground; they're trying to come up with some plausible explanation for
anything other than the obvious reality that Saddam Hussein has these
weapons and has been developing them for years. To say that it's not
necessarily proof of -- well, I mean, at what point do you eliminate
the one in 1,000 and accept the 999 out of 1,000?
MS. CLIFT: Tony. (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: It's a disgraceful performance --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you saw what they said at the outset.
They said we have found no proof of weapons of mass destruction --
that's what they say.
MR. BLANKLEY: Nobody expected to do that.
MR. BAKER: To be fair, there is a lot of skepticism in the rest
of the world about the U.S. intelligence that was presented by Colin
Powell to the Security Council --
There is a lot of skepticism about it. There was -- clearly,
there was some stuff that was very convincing; the intercepts, for
example, which were presented. The stuff that a lot of people did
find less convincing were things like those satellite photographs, and
it's very clear that Blix has been annoyed by the fact that this
intelligence is presented and wasn't given to him. And now, I think
they've actually -- they argue -- they try to argue that a lot of this
intelligence is not very well founded.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that Blix is also annoyed that there
wasn't enough direction given to his inspectors, which the
intelligence community of the United States could have provided.
MR. BUCHANAN: They're saying, John --
MR. BAKER: That's right. That's right. He said -- he cited
just one case where they had been given some intelligence that was
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. We've got to move on. How big --
exit. You can work your answer here -- your point into this question,
Pat. But we've got to get out. How big a setback was today's session
to U.S. hopes? What are the odds that the U.S. will get a U.N.
resolution authorizing military force? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the odds are in the -- it will be vetoed by
the French if they go for that resolution.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think so?
MR. BUCHANAN: I agree that they won't go because it'd kill the
French, meaning --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Veto, not abstention?
MR. BUCHANAN: It's crystal-clear -- it's crystal-clear they will
veto this. But John, again, I say this is irrelevant because the
president's made his decision. His problem is if he's going to go to
war, how is he going to get all those inspectors to stand down before
we hit them?
MS. CLIFT: Well, the U.S. is more isolated than Iraq. I think
this is a huge public relations disaster. But I still think they may
get a wishy-washy second resolution that says Saddam has not disarmed;
he needs to be in compliance so that the French can still stay on
their high ground and say they didn't support a resolution ordering
war, but it's enough for Bush to go forward.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How big a setback? Major, minor or not at all?
MS. CLIFT: Major public relations -- (laughs).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Major.
What do you think? Quickly -- one word.
MR. BLANKLEY: It's a major setback in the U.N. It's an
inconsequential setback as to Bush's purposes of going to war and
removing Saddam Hussein.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll see.
MR. BAKER: Yeah. The person for whom it was a really
significant setback was Tony Blair, the British prime minister. He
has absolutely tied his colors to the mast of getting a second
resolution. And he needs a second resolution; British public opinion
is very hostile to war. And it's pretty clear that he's not going to
get that second resolution, partly as a result of what Dr. Blix said
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Major setback for the U.S. and a major
embarrassment for both our diplomatic and intelligence communities.
When we come back: If other presidents have stood down from war,
why can't Bush?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: If Bush pulls out, do we lose world
"If conflict in that region should spread to global proportions,
we would be entering a life-and-death struggle under very great
handicaps. We would be isolated in world opinion." Unquote. Those
are the words of former president General Dwight Eisenhower, supreme
allied commander in Europe, World War II, from a memo to his secretary
of State at the turning point of the crisis that threatened war
between the U.S. and China 47 years ago; a war which America's NATO
allies, led by Winston Churchill, opposed.
Here's the story. American policy toward Communist China under
Mao Zedong was regime change. To keep pressure on Mao's rogue regime,
the U.S. backed exiled nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek on the
island of Taiwan, then known as Formosa, with guns, money, and
political support. In late 1954, Mao's right hand, Zhou Enlai, gave a
speech signaling the intent of China to invade the Nationalist Formosa
stronghold. A few months later, Chinese Communist forces invaded the
smaller islands off the coast of Formosa, forcing President Eisenhower
to send the U.S. Seventh Fleet to rescue 40,000 Nationalist troops.
Eisenhower then went to Congress for a resolution pre-approving
the use of military force against China at a time and place of his
choosing. Within a month, he got the resolution. Next, he dispatched
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to Europe's capitals to rally
NATO support. Eisenhower told British Prime Minister Winston
Churchill that he knew Europeans considered America, quote, "reckless,
impulsive and immature." But he wanted NATO backing in the event of a
U.S. war with China. NATO said no. Churchill said no. Churchill
dismissed Zhou's inflammatory rhetoric as, quote, "just talk."
On March 16, at a news conference, Eisenhower was asked, "Sir,
would you use nuclear weapons in the war with China?" Eisenhower said
yes, and our U.S. credibility hung on his words. Quote: "Yes, of
course they would be used." "In any combat where these things can be
used on strictly military targets and for strictly military purposes,
I see no reason why they can't be used just exactly as you would use a
bullet or anything else." Unquote.
Nine days later, top Pentagon officials told reporters Eisenhower
would, quote, "destroy Red China's military potential," unquote, and
that war would begin within three weeks.
They were wrong. Eisenhower changed his mind. He called his top
advisors into the Oval Office on the 1st of April and told them he
wanted a diplomatic resolution. Secretary of State Dulles balked,
citing "psychological effects" -- U.S. credibility. Eisenhower
When Zhou Enlai gave a conciliatory speech three weeks later,
Eisenhower seized the opportunity to stand down from war and start
negotiations. He did so and he preserved credibility with our allies
in Taiwan and Japan; and he preserved NATO unity; and no war.
Eisenhower biographer Stephen Ambrose, in his classic book
"Eisenhower: The President," called this, quote, "One of the great
triumphs of his long career," adding that one of the keys to
Eisenhower's success was flexibility, keeping his options open at
every stage. "Eisenhower wanted options within options," wrote
Question: What did Eisenhower know about war that we seem to
I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, your historical analogy to Iraq is misplaced
because -- for a number of reasons. One, Taiwan was not a member of
NATO, but Turkey and the United States are. So, going to NATO to get
support for Turkey is different than going to NATO for support for
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's really a very fine but footnote
point, isn't it?
MR. BLANKLEY: In fact -- no, not footnote point. The purpose of
NATO -- the purpose of NATO is to defend the members. Taiwan wasn't a
member; the United States wasn't threatened; the United States didn't
have 200,000 troops in Quemoy and Matsu; we had none. And most
important, the crisis erupted around Christmas time. By April, Mao
Zedong was negotiating in good faith; the whole matter was resolved.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. BLANKLEY: With Saddam, it's been 12 years and we've got
nothing out of the man.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, Eisenhower didn't want to get bogged down in a
land war in Asia; neither did the Europeans. He didn't have to be
talked out of this -- I mean, he didn't have a personal commitment.
Zhou Enlai --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He went to Congress for a resolution.
MS. CLIFT: Yes, well, he did. But Zhou --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He sent Dulles to Europe.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, yeah. But we were embroiled in Korea; he
really wasn't looking forward to this. And Zhou Enlai didn't try to
kill his daddy. There was not the personal, visceral and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rather than -- okay, you can take that
interpretation. But my feeling is that he played the nuclear card --
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- which certainly really put his credibility on
MR. BUCHANAN: He did.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And secondly, he also moved the Seventh Fleet
MR. BUCHANAN: He did. But the point, John, the difference is,
when you say he was after regime change in Beijing, he was not. The
Chinese were going --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he like Mao? He wanted to keep him in
MR. BUCHANAN: The Chinese were going after Quemoy and Matsu.
Twice they did it in the 1950s. They fired on the islands, they
invaded the islands, he moved the Seventh Fleet in there, he
threatened nuclear weapons. In 1958 he put 8-inch howitzers on the
islands, which could fire nuclear artillery shells. He deterred --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he lose credibility?
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. BUCHANAN: He deterred and contained China and kept the
islands. He never intended to invade China.
MR. BAKER: John, can I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you, Professor Buchanan. Did he lose
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. BUCHANAN: He did not go to Baghdad.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: My point is that --
MR. BLANKLEY: But he didn't have the stake in it that we do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he played the nuclear card, he got Europe
involved, it was a big --
MR. BAKER: Your analogy is flawed, for the reasons, I think,
that Tony says. But I think that the Eisenhower example is
instructive, for this reason, which is that Eisenhower throughout his
presidency, actually -- there was a continuing debate within the
administration about whether or not to -- essentially to contain and
deter the enemy or the potential enemy -- first of all, the Soviet
Union, then, of course, China, increasingly China. And there was a
strong debate about whether or not they should engage in a policy of
roll-back, and this particular incident was one. And Eisenhower
decided, against the wishes of many people in his administration over
time, that the right policy was actually containment and deterrence,
and that that was an effective way of doing it. I'm not clear that
your analogy here is --
MR. BUCHANAN: The analogy is -- (inaudible).
MR. BAKER: But the interesting example is that what the
administration is actually doing, this administration is doing, is
taking a totally different tack. They don't believe that containment
and deterrence works any more, and they are siding with those in the
-- you know, the same people -- the same king of people who were
saying 50 years ago that what you need to do is a regime change,
preemptive action. Preemptive action is what Eisenhower was being
asked to do and he decided not to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was the professional background of Mr.
Eisenhower? (Laughter.) He was a general.
MR. BAKER: He was a general.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, there's a lot of talk about the
chickenhawks in this administration, and if they had really a taste of
Eisenhower's background, they would see things differently. Do you
share that view?
MR. BAKER: I think that's a bit hostile. I do think that those
people who have been to war tend to be often those who are most
reluctant to take their country into war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BAKER: That generally is the case. That's the case,
clearly, with Colin Powell at the moment. It's been the case -- seems
to be the case with other senior members of the U.S. military. But
this notion of chickenhawks -- I mean, there's also the argument that
actually the military are precisely the wrong people to make the
decision. It's a political decision.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I understand that. And that's provided for by
reason of civilian control. But let me ask you -- but let me try this
out on you, Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's Ronald Reagan. In October of 1983,
241 Marines were killed cold-bloodedly by a terrorist attack in
Beirut. In December, a couple of months later, he said we're not
going to let ourselves be intimidated by terrorists. Four months
after that, less than four months after that, in March of the
following year, 1984, he pulled out completely: We're outta here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Five months
after that, he was up for re-election. How many states did he win?
MR. BUCHANAN: He won 49 states, and he thinks he carried
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forty-nine states. So his pulling our troops
out -- bear in mind, now, these are body bags. He had to overcome
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but he --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did it hurt his credibility at all? Did the
American people go --
MR. BUCHANAN: He did the wrong thing.
MS. CLIFT: He invaded Grenada.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, I want to hear Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: He did the wrong thing putting the troops into
Lebanon. They were killed. They were sitting ducks. They were
killed. He did a courageous, correct thing in saying --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did it hurt him?
MR. BUCHANAN: -- "We made a mistake," pulled them out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did it --
MR. BUCHANAN: That same week, he invaded Grenada.
MS. CLIFT: Invaded Grenada, exactly.
MR. BUCHANAN: He got a huge boost from Grenada.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, okay. Well, forget his personal political
MR. BUCHANAN: But no, he did the right thing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget his personal political career. Did it
hurt the United States in terms --
MR. BUCHANAN: It did not hurt him at all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did it hurt the United States in terms of --
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, it did. Yes, it did.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it did not. He did the right thing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It did not hurt us in terms of world
What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: Al Haig, I believe, believes -- and I think a lot
of people do -- that we've had a lot of mistakes -- and Reagan's
pullout of Lebanon was one of them -- that has over the decades
encouraged the terrorists to believe that we are paper tigers.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. Eleanor, Eleanor --
MS. CLIFT: Well, if we're relying on George W. Bush to make up
for the shortcomings of Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower, we're on
very thin ground.
MR. BLANKLEY: Bill Clinton -- and Bill Clinton.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. Exit question: Be very
brief. Can Bush stand down from an Iraq war without losing
credibility, either for himself, as a political figure, or for the
United States? Yes or no, one word.
MR. BUCHANAN: Not now.
MS. CLIFT: Sadly, no.
MR. BLANKLEY: Absolutely not.
MR. BAKER: No, massive loss of credibility.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is absolutely yes, he can stand down.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the one thing that could really intrude on
Mr. Bush is, this crisis with North Korea is headed down the road.
There is no talks going on that are meaningful. There are no
sanctions. There is no threat --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What makes it worse?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The announcement today they can hit the western
United States, and they're not ruling out the state of Washington.
That makes it far worse. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: Bush's domestic agenda is imploding on Capitol Hill.
Forget Medicare reform. Prescription drug coverage? Maybe a very
limited entitlement, only for the poor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, they need you back there. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Republican Senate leadership is planning to pass
the tax bill by mid-April.
MR. BAKER: For the first time since the Vietnam War, the United
States is going to conduct a war, a major war, without the support of
several of its major, its most important allies. It'll be a real test
of the alliance, and it'll be a real test of the global political
system that we've had for the last 50 years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Serious.
MR. BAKER: Mm-hmm.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very serious.
In connection with Bush, he certainly has proved to the world
that he knows how to use military power. He did it in Afghanistan,
which is another reason why he can stand down now.
I predict that Gray Davis, elected governor of California last
November, will be subject to a recall referendum. And if that
happens, he will be out of a job.
Next week we'll see what happens. Happy Valentine's weekend, and
make love, not war! Bye-bye!
END OF REGULAR SEGMENT
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Can you hear me now?
(Cellphone sounds.) Annoying cellphones will at last be silenced
-- in New York, at least. The city council banned the use of
cellphones at public performances, including movies, concerts, plays
and lectures, imposing a $50 fine on violators.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was opposed to the cellphone restriction
bill, declaring it to be unenforceable. The city council thought
otherwise and voted to override his veto.
Cellphone use while driving has already been banned in New York
state, the only state to do so. Legislation is pending in 20 more
states. The rationale on no cellphones while driving is based on
public safety, but the crackdown on the cellphone at public
performances is based on etiquette.
Question: Should etiquette be legislated by government, Tony
MR. BLANKLEY: Ideally, not. And the old Chinese Confucians
believed that li, which was sort of social pressure -- if it didn't
work, you had to turn to the law to enforce it. I would hope that we
can stick to the social pressure of people not doing things, so we
don't have to have the law come in and enforce manners.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But there is precedent for enforcing etiquette.
For example, boomboxes are excluded. Loud horn-blowing can be
penalized. Spitting on the sidewalk.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. I mean, those are -- I don't think that the
carrying around of a telephone fits in the same category with a
loudspeaker being paraded through the street.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there anything legal -- is there an implicit
contract -- if I spend $300 for some kind of a show, don't I have an
implicit contract that I will be able to observe it, and that comes
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the theater can kick them out.
MS. CLIFT: Well, in most theaters, they ask politely for you to
turn it off. But you know, just as diplomacy is better when it's
backed up by troops, these polite requests are better if they're
backed up by a fine.
MR. BUCHANAN: First of all --
MS. CLIFT: I agree it's hard to enforce, but I think the fine
has some deterrence. And if you are so important you can't turn off
your cellphone for two and a half hours, you're too important to be
there in the first place.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about empowering -- you have friends who
are ushers or usherettes over at the Kennedy Center, I know, Eleanor.
Now do you think that they should be empowered to issue citations to
any phones that go off -- to the owners of those phones?
MS. CLIFT: No, they should empower the seatmates to eject the
MR. BUCHANAN: You know, you ought to deal with -- look, as Burke
said -- you know, Burke said, look, if the internal --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Burke? Who's Burke?
MS. CLIFT: Edmund Burke.
MR. BUCHANAN: Edmund Burke. If the internal --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Edmund Burke.
MR. BLANKLEY: Eddie Burke. (Laughter.)
MR. BUCHANAN: If the internal -- you have an internal belief in
manners and things like that. Then the external force comes in.
This is a terrible idea. I do believe somebody in the next seat
should eject the guy. You shouldn't have the damn police come in and
do this, John.
But it's the same thing on smoking. He should say it's a good
thing not to have smoking --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there you have a health investment. It
MR. BUCHANAN: And he's inconsistent.
MS. CLIFT: Vigilantism. (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obviously, secondhand smoke has serious toxic
MR. BAKER: It shouldn't be a criminal matter. It should be a
civil matter. It should be tortious, so that we could have a whole
new category for trial lawyers -- (laughter) -- that people could sue
because their enjoyment of the movie was completely destroyed by the
fact that somebody --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suppose you have -- suppose one of your friends
-- (cross talk) --
MR. BAKER: Tortious liability.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have a question for you. Suppose one of your
Hong Kong friends tells you, "I have a hundred-million-dollar deal for
you," and that's cooking along, and your phone rings in the theater.
Are you going to be deprived of handling the deal?
MR. BAKER: No. Even -- well, the -- even better, the trial
lawyers will have a lot of money to be able to get out of the guy
who's being sued. They'll be able to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what about you? What about you? Are you
out of hundred million dollars because you didn't take his phone call?
MR. BAKER: No. Well, that's just -- you can't -- you shouldn't
-- as Eleanor says, you shouldn't be in the theater in the first
MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughter.)