THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: PAT BUCHANAN, TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT, AND CLARENCE PAGE
TAPED: FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 2003
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF AUGUST 2-3, 2003
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Wolfowitz. Failed visionary?
(Begin videotaped segment.)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Give me a break, will you? When are you guys starting to be honest with us? Come on. I mean, this is ridiculous. You're not even --
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Senator, to suggest that this is an issue of honesty really is very misleading.
SEN. BIDEN: It is a suggestion of candor, of candor, of candor. You know there's going to be at least 100,000 American forces there for the next calendar year --
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Senator, I don't know --
SEN. BIDEN: -- and you're not asking us for any money.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I don't know what we're going to have there.
SEN. BIDEN: Let me finish please. Let me finish!
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Okay.
SEN. BIDEN: And you are not asking us for any money in next year's budget for those troops. Now, what do you call that?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Senator, there will be a supplemental request, there is no question about that. And there will be a supplemental request when we think we can make a reasonably good estimate of what will get us through the whole year.
(End videotaped segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What has Senator Biden so exasperated is Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz's refusal to answer basic questions on how much Iraq is estimated to cost the U.S. in the next fiscal year starting October 1. Biden wants the FY 2004 Pentagon budget estimates for Iraq, and the whole estimate for the budget, now. But the Pentagon will only release what is being spent for this year, January through September.
Here's what we know on that basic budget: $364 billion is the -- as noted, the basic Pentagon budget. Add to that, January through September, $59 billion for build-up, combat, occupation. Add to that Afghanistan, January through September, $9 billion -- about a billion dollars a month for Afghanistan. That brings the total of our militarization program to $431 billion.
Question: Why won't Wolfowitz divulge the cost of occupying Iraq through U.S. troops through FY 2004, when he's only being asked for an estimate, as is the regular practice?
MR. BUCHANAN: Couple of reasons, John. He doesn't know whether this war is going to go very, very well -- as Tony suggested, the guerrilla war, we may be over the top heading downhill -- or whether it's going to be a major guerrilla war. He doesn't know how many troops are going to be in there a year from now or a year and a month from now. And he can't make the estimate. And the final reason is not only that he can't, but that he doesn't want to. You've got a $455 billion deficit we're looking at this year, and he doesn't want to give him a number that takes it over $500 billion. Understandable on Wolfowitz's part.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? What's the reason, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he doesn't want to because the numbers are staggering. And before we went to war, there were predictions that it would cost $100 billion. That's actually looking like bargain basement prices now. At a billion dollars a week, we would exhaust that in two years.
There is nobody credible in this administration who will tell you there will be fewer than 100,000 troops there for at least two years. And so the fact that they refuse to put any number on it -- that would interfere with the administration's "feel good," "be happy" philosophy. But it's irritating to not only Democrats on Capitol Hill, but to Republicans as well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, what's got Biden frustrated is the fact that last month's attack on the Bush administration over the 16 words didn't bite with the American public, so they're going to try something else. (Laughter.)
Look, Pat's got it exactly right regarding the numbers. They don't know -- everybody knows there's going to be a big number. If they come in with a low-ball number, then they're going to get chastised for coming in with too low a number. If they come in with a high number, they're going to get chastised for that. So they're saying we'll put in a supplemental appropriation when we know what the number is.
But no one's hiding the fact that we've got 147,000 troops over there, and obviously it seems to be costing 2, 3, 4 billion dollars a month.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, but they are clearly stalling for time, and the reason why they're stalling for time is they want to wait for Saddam to be captured. And when that happens, the Democrats won't be able to carp. Isn't that the truth?
MR. PAGE: A good prediction, John. (Laughter.) That would be a good time to announce their supplemental budget, anyway, after Saddam is captured, because they have --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of all this money being spent?
MR. PAGE: Well, Eleanor's right. I mean, we thought -- I remember when Lawrence Lindsey got in trouble for predicting $200 billion --
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. PAGE: -- and all of a sudden now, that doesn't seem so outlandish. This administration does not like for money estimates to be given for this war, for this action. We also don't know how many of our troops will be there or if we will have any allies in there helping us in any substantial number as well.
MR. BUCHANAN: Biden's got another problem, John. And that is, Biden and these Democrats gave the president of the United States a blank check to go to war, and the president went to war, and now they're all unhappy that they don't think he had the right reasons. So they've got egg all over their faces, and so now they're turning around, playing hardball, when they should have been asking these hard questions before they gave the president the blank check.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they're hypocrites now?
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think they're hypocrites. I think they were ---
MS. CLIFT: If we're talking about egg on faces, the theme of this summer has been Bush's declining credibility.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's been your theme.
MS. CLIFT: His poll ratings are down, to 53 percent, down near the pre-9/11 ratings. I don't think that's been only my theme.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, if you asked Franklin Roosevelt in 1943 what the budget for the war was going to be next year, how in the world would he know? He didn't know whether they'd be invading Normandy or not. He didn't know what the Nazis were going to be doing. The idea that you can project --
MS. CLIFT: This administration --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Here we go.
MR. BLANKLEY: The idea you can project in advance the cost of war and occupation is ludicrous.
MS. CLIFT: We know it's not zero!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Wolfowitz describes the essence of terrorism today, as he sees it.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: (From videotape.) The battle to secure the peace in Iraq is now the central battle in the global war on terror.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear that, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I don't agree with that. I think the war on terror is the war against al Qaeda. And frankly, I think the Americans are being killed in Iraq not in the war on terror, but because we're occupying Iraq, and some of our enemies in there don't want us there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You saw the advisory put out by the administration this week about there being a possible airplane being used as bomb tactic again.
MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now is any of this tied in with that? I mean, what does Iraq have to do -- and that being our central worry about terrorism -- when they put out an alert saying, "Hey, the al Qaeda may put five people on an airplane, getting in there through the in- transit process" --
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what it is, John. The -- in my judgment, the invasion of Iraq has to do with the Bush doctrine, which says we're going to disarm rogue states of dangerous weapons; we're not going to let them get them, because that will be a future threat.
The specific war on terror, for which we took down the Taliban, has to do with al Qaeda and hijacking planes.
MR. PAGE: Right.
MS. CLIFT: There was never any connection between Iraq and 9/11 and al Qaeda.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: But the administration used 9/11 to give it the juice to go after Saddam Hussein, which is what they planned to do the minute they took office.
MR. PAGE: Yes. And the polls show a substantial amount of the public thinks there is a connection, and therefore Wolfowitz is playing to that.
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think -- (inaudible) --
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, look --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- Bush didn't plan to do that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Really, let me -- the point is, I mean -- (inaudible) -- you intentionally don't or are unable to see any relationship between systematically undercutting the sources of terrorism in the world. We're trying to get the Saudis to stop funding it. We've gone into Iraq. We're putting pressure on Iran and Syria. These -- we've got people in the Horn of Africa.
We're trying all over this part of the world to try to put more and more pressure on the places where terrorism can get succor. And you say it has nothing to do with --
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- of the war on terrorism. I didn't say it has nothing do with it. (Inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't see how vanquishing Iraq or installing peace in Iraq is going to deter the al Qaeda from trying to get five of their evil and perverse geniuses on a plane, take it over, and fly it --
MR. BLANKLEY: As the president said a year and a half ago, this is a war that's going to go on for years, decades. Yes, I don't know whether any one act is going to stop any one act of terrorism. But systematically going to suppress the sources of terrorism over the long term --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but overturning Saddam is not a central battle in that war against terrorism. In fact, al Qaeda is probably --
MR. BUCHANAN: This is the key point, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead. Quickly.
MR. BUCHANAN: Was -- all right. John.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Al Qaeda is probably finding it more hospitable in Baghdad today than they did before.
MR. BUCHANAN: The key question --
MR. BLANKLEY: In Baghdad today?
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- on which Tony and I disagree is, was the war on Iraq a necessary war? I don't believe it was necessary. There's no doubt it did a good thing in getting rid of Saddam Hussein, but I don't think it was necessary to win the war on terror.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll tell you what the vision of Wolfowitz is. If you combine Afghanistan and Iraq and you subdue those regimes, as we have done, that will scare, it will inspire fear and dread in states-sponsoring-terrorists governments and it will deter terrorism. It hasn't worked.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --
MR. BUCHANAN: All right --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN; Just a moment. Just a moment. Al Qaeda, it so happens, has sufficiently recuperative powers so it doesn't seem to have affected them at all. It was a failed vision.
MS. CLIFT: Al Qaeda's not --
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, no. It worked in part, in the sense the Syrians have been intimidated, the Iranians are intimidated and, I think, from supporting Hezbollah. Here's where the problem comes. It has also incited North Korea --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly. And incited --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- and incited Iran to get that nuclear weapon and get it as soon as you can; it's the only way to defend yourself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think you're right, but I would except -- e-x- c-e-p-t -- I would except Syria from that proposition. This administration has no reason to worry about Syrian -- they know that the Syrians have come around and they're not in the same category.
Okay. Bush vs. Wolfowitz on whether U.S. intelligence is good or not good.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) We gathered a lot of intelligence. That intelligence was good, sound intelligence on which I made a decision.
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PAUL WOLFOWITZ: (From videotape.) The nature of terrorism intelligence is intrinsically murky.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Wolfowitz a brilliant strategist in his assessment of intelligence, or is he not?
Pat, what do you think of that?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think Wolfowitz, quite frankly, is the architect of this war on Iraq. He has planned it and worked for it before 9/11. He was working for it in the '90s. He succeeded in getting it. He might have -- they might have had to hype the intelligence, but he is a big winner.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, the president says the intelligence he had was solid. Wolfowitz said at best intelligence on terrorism is murky. They started the war with murky intelligence.
MS. CLIFT: Well, that's the best kind because then you can project your vision onto it, which is what they did. They also have --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Wolfowitz is right. Maybe the president is right.
MS. CLIFT: No. They also have darned good accountants in this administration, too, if you look at the deficit they've come up with.
MR. BLANKLEY; Look. Intelligence is usually ambiguous at some degree. On the other hand, sometimes collectively you can reach a judgment. Nations have to reach judgments. As Henry Kissinger observed in his book "Diplomacy," the problem for statesmen is they have to take actions before they have all the information. Historians and journalists have the luxury of being able to judge it afterwards.
MR. BUCHANAN: But Wolfowitz reached his judgment before any intel came in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's Wolfowitz --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, it wasn't about 16 words. It was about a whole theme that led people in this country to believe -- two-thirds of them -- that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 and that we had a mushroom cloud on the horizon if we didn't act urgently.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he -- you know, he denies that he's quite said this, but it's quoted in Vanity Fair.
MS. CLIFT: Not quite --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He says that WMD was essentially just a bureaucratic placebo.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's not what he said!
MR. BUCHANAN: No, he said they all agree on --
MR. BLANKLEY: That's definitely not what he said.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- all the bureaucracy could agree on the WMD. Others said terrorism. Others said --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we know what was written in the book "Bush at War," where on the 19th --
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it was earlier than that. Fifteenth or so --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The 15th or so --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- Wolfowitz said, "Skip Afghanistan. Let's do Iraq."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, because it's doable.
When we come back: The latest polls. Is it good news for Bush in 2004?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Reading the polls.
Let's start with right track/wrong track. The wrong track in the nation is figured out -- if you look at the screen -- 44 percent. That's where the nation's going. The right track, the poll says 42 percent. How are you impressed by that? And would you say that gives some comfort to the president?
I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh. Traditionally, the right track/wrong track poll tends to indicate approval of a president's job. And usually, the difference between wrong track and job approval is not more than five to 10 points. That has not been the case since September 11th. Through much of 2002, wrong track -- right track was down in the 30s, and his approval was in the 60s and 70s. So, I think the number 44, 42 for wrong track, while the president's approval is plus or minus 60, suggests that he's floating above the public's judgment on that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The wrong track generally is a designation of voter discontent on economic matters.
MR. BLANKLEY: Exactly right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it is a leading indicator of the strength or lack thereof of the incumbent. Now, if you were George Bush, would you take some strength or some comfort out of 44 percent wrong track rating?
I ask you.
MR. BUCHANAN: I would for this reason: everything's in place for Bush -- the low interest rates, the huge deficit, the tax cut, the dollar declining, the economy is starting up. If you want to have a low track of 44 percent, it is not bad, especially if you're looking at the numbers that look like they're going to be a lot better next year.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I don't think Bush is taking comfort from that number, judging by his behavior. I mean, he's going to take a month off in Crawford for R&R and fundraising -- fundraising trips -- (laughter) -- fundraising trips and trips to talk about the economy. He's going to try and get out there and, well, pretend he's doing something to lift the economy.
MR. BLANKLEY: I would just remind you the --
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- amazing, though. We're talking about a 200 -- let me just say a couple words -- talking about a president who's amassing more than a $200 million campaign fund right now, and the public looks on and says, "Who's he campaigning against?" I mean, there's -- I would not take great --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Wait and see!
MR. PAGE: Yeah, wait and see. I mean, I would not take great comfort in these numbers, since he remembers when his father was -- (Bob Peter ?) was showing high disapproval numbers about the direction this country was going at that time, too.
MR. BLANKLEY: I would just remind you, though, that --
MR. PAGE: And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You have a good point there. This was in 1991.
MR. PAGE: In 1991, at a time when most of the public didn't know who the Democratic candidates were.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. So this is like --
MR. PAGE: Bill Clinton, they hadn't heard of yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is like --
MR. PAGE: So the contest has yet to begin.
MS. CLIFT: Like father like son!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is like father like son?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me remind you. The last year during the election cycle, when the economy was even worse than it is now, the wrong track number was worse for the Republicans and they won the election. So, I'm arguing that that number does not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More polls, more polls.
What is a greater national priority? Stimulating the economy. That's the greater national priority, which is 60 percent. Control the deficit is 35 percent.
Now, can George Bush take comfort from that?
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what Bush is doing -- Eleanor is correct, he's going to go out and speak to the economy and speak to the economy, and show empathy and show concern, because he's gone to school on his father's mistakes. He knows there's unemployment out there, 6 percent. He's out there constantly talking to it; he's saying, "I'm concerned about this."
And as I say, the economy is not in good shape. But for these kind -- for the numbers in the economy, his numbers are not bad, and I think the economy is looking good for next year.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. PAGE: The question is, how does the public feel about the economy?
MR. BUCHANAN: How WILL they feel.
MR. PAGE: How will they feel. As (Peter ?) has often said, that it takes at least four months for the public to feel whatever trend happens to be going on at the moment. So the real contest hasn't started yet.
MS. CLIFT: And whatever positive there is about the economy right now -- and there are some good numbers -- it's a jobless recovery, and I don't think any president in modern times has been reelected with the loss of jobs over 2 million. Even if the president's plan kicks in, he's not going to make up that loss.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, more polling. On the following issues: Who would you prefer to have set the country's policy, Bush and the Republicans or the Democrats in Congress?
National security: Bush, 63 percent; Democrats 28 percent.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: War on terrorism: Bush, 63 percent; Democrats crawling around the bottom of the barrel, 29 percent.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Homeland security: 61; Democrats, 30 percent. A wipeout in favor of Bush.
MR. BLANKLEY: Just --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But on these issues -- just a moment, please.
Tax policy: 46 percent, Bush -- this is bad news for Bush; 45 percent Democrats. Despite all those tax cuts.
Education: 42, 48 percent. Six-point margin favoring the Democrats. And that's important, the way college tuitions are skyrocketing.
Health care: 35 percent, Bush; 53 percent Democrats.
You see that margin, Tony. Get out your crying towel.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Prescription drugs, 33 percent, Bush; 51 percent, Democrats.
Look at that, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Can I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Economy -- get this; this is a big mother -- oh, excuse me, this is a big number.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. PAGE: The big number.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forty-three, Bush and the Republicans; 49 percent, Democrats.
Isn't that lethal for Bush?
MR. PAGE: Now, look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Like father, like son; 1991, George Bush, Sr. coming back in a triumphalist mood in the country, and what happens? He loses the election because the economy is in the tank.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. (Inaudible) -- 9/11. (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me -- let met tell you something. You have to know the history of those questions. The number on education being six points apart, usually the Democrats are ahead by 25 points. Health care, Republicans are down by what, 18 or 20 points? Usually the Democrats are ahead by 20 to 35 points on that. Those are fabulous numbers for Republicans!
MS. CLIFT: The voters -- the voters --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you really think -- do you really think an 18-point spread is fabulous?
MR. BLANKLEY: Fabulous by historical vision.
MS. CLIFT: The voters --
MR. PAGE: As we were saying all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to this?
MR. PAGE: As we were saying all along, if national security is a big issue next year, Democrats are in trouble, the way things look now. But, if it's domestic concerns -- and there are a lot of domestic concerns out there, especially health care, where Bush is showing most poorly; education is still a concern -- all these things he's still going to have battle on them.
MS. CLIFT: What --
MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know what Bush is going to do, he's going to use that $200 million and run in the spring, and he's going to stick the tax hike right around the Democrats. He's going to have taxes in favor of him, and he's going to have security and the war in favor of him.
MS. CLIFT: But he's going to ultimately be judged by his performance on the economy. And voters do prefer Democrats over Republicans on most of these issues.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: They preferred Mondale over Reagan -- (laughing) -- on most of these, too! So I don't take too much comfort from that!
MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible) -- President Mondale --
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- campaign. (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughing) Mondale was better on those issues!
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you group all of those five domestic issues that we saw on the board, those sectors, and you put them up against national security -- we'll call it economic security against national security -- what do you think -- where do you think the edge is?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, I'll tell you, if the country is concerned about the war on terror and Iraq and those things in October of 2004, President Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Powell, because they've got enormous credibility, they're in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's postulate -- hopefully, prayerfully -- that there is no terrorist assault of any magnitude in the United States between now and November of 2004.
MR. BUCHANAN: Bush gets credit for that. And, depending on what happens in Iraq -- the one vulnerability the president has, if it is a deep quagmire in the summer and fall of 2004 and the Democrats say, "Bring the troops home" and they make that the issue, then you've got a real issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Well, let's pin that down a little bit. And here's the exit question. Now, think this through.
There's only one poll that counts; that's November 2004. Will it be a shoo-in for Bush or will it be a horse race? Shoo-in or horse race? I ask you.
MR. BUCHANAN: Fifty-four to 46; 44 for the Democrats if Nader's in. Ten points.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ten points. If Nader's in.
MR. BUCHANAN: If Nader's in, 10 points.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you heard my prediction on that. He will be in.
MS. CLIFT: It's a 50-50 nation. I think it's still going to be a squeaker.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A horse race.
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? Are you going to be truthful here.
MR. BLANKLEY; Anything could happen. If Iraq goes bad, if the economy --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we know all that.
MR. BLANKLEY: But assuming --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're postulating.
MR. BLANKLEY: I'm assuming Iraq is manageable and the economy is satisfactory to the public. Then I think it's somewhere between 54 and 58 or 59 percent for Bush. A medium to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No horse race, shoo-in.
MR. BLANKLEY: Probably a shoo-in.
MR. PAGE: I'm glad you said barring any surprise, John, because -- (laughs) -- barring any surprise --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Barring any terrorist surprise.
MR. PAGE: Terrorist surprise, exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because I think then the country will swing right behind Bush.
MR. PAGE: Absolutely. But --
MS. CLIFT: Not necessarily.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So barring that.
MR. PAGE: It can still be a horse race.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're saying horse race?
MR. PAGE: After the '92 experience. I didn't think that was going to be a horse race either, but it turned to be so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Exactly. Your point is well-taken on the '92 experience.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
The answer is, it's a horse race.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Jimmy Hoffa's endorsed Gephardt, John. I think that means Gephardt is really going to focus this jobs issue by going after the 2.6 million manufacturing jobs that have disappeared since Bush became president. One in every seven in the United States has disappeared. If Gephardt's smart, he will go after the Bush trade policy as responsible, but he is going to h it the manufacturing jobs issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As you know, there are three now in the lead with 12 percent. Gephardt is there; and Dean is there, shot up from 4 percent to 12 percent; and Lieberman is at 12 percent.
MR. BUCHANAN: But they've got to get into those early primaries. That's the numbers that count.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry's at 9. He's holding at 9. He has been for some time.
MS. CLIFT: As the price tag mounts for Iraq and people begin to feel the pinch at home -- 80,000 police across the country, for example, are getting their pink slips -- the rallying cry the Democrats will have is, "What about us at home, health care at home and jobs at home?"
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You better meditate on that, Tony. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: I will. I'll cogitate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't do too much cogitating. Have you got a prediction for us?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I do. A disappointingly feeble energy bill will be passed out of conference in mid-September and signed into law. It won't produce much energy. But the Republicans didn't have enough fight in them to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By feeble, you mean no ANWR drilling, is that right?
MR. BLANKLEY: Not only that, there's not going to be subsidies for nuclear development. It's not going to produce a whole lot of energy, unfortunately. But it will be slightly better than nothing.
MR. PAGE: Ah, so many predictions. I predict John Poindexter will get a new job in Las Vegas.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. PAGE: But seriously, the campaign will get serious after Labor Day. Joe Lieberman will win the money chase and pull ahead, and it's going to be a contest between him and Graham.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that Saddam Hussein will not be taken alive.
Our prayers and sympathy to Dolores Hope and Bob Hope's children. Dolores being his wife of 70 years. Hope was a great wit and a great patriot Thanks for the memories, Bob Hope.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Reading the polls on the Democrats. These are likely Democratic voters. Which candidate would you favor?
Get a load of this.
Gephardt: in March he was at 11 percent, now he's 12 percent. Picked up a point.
Dean: He was at 4, now he's at 12.
Lieberman was 18, now he dropped to 12 -- six behind from March.
Kerry stays at 9.
Sharpton stays at 4.
Edwards goes from 4 percent in March to 3 percent now, thus moving towards the fulfillment of Pat Buchanan's prediction saying that Edwards could conceivably be the first one to drop out of the race.
Moseley-Braun: March, 1; now 2.
Kucinich: March, 1; now 2. Gaining fast.
Graham: 1 and -- he's now 1 and, you know, he's slogging around there with the -- trying to catch up.
What about it?
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what I would say. When you got three top candidates are at 12 percent, nobody has caught fire except for Dean. This thing is wide open. If Al Gore wants to step in, he would take the nomination, in my judgment. I've seen a poll, John, where you put him in there, he goes to 40 percent and the others drop further behind. If I were him, I would get in.
MS. CLIFT: Because it's name recognition, and because he isn't in the race.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's more than that.
MS. CLIFT: If Al Gore got in, trust me, the media would pick him apart. People would find him just as wanting as they did last time. And these other guys aren't going to move over and make room for Al Gore.
I think what this polls shows is that Lieberman is hemorrhaging support and that Howard Dean has vaulted to a first-tier candidate, if not the front-runner.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is Lieberman hemorrhaging?
MS. CLIFT: Because he's too much of a middle-of-the-roader; hasn't sharpened the challenge to Bush. And it's not what Democratic activists want to hear now. There's a little blood in the water, and they want someone to take advantage of it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry doesn't seem to be catching on. Should he worry?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, of course he should be. They should all be worried.
But, you know, this is a fascinating campaign so far. When you consider there seems to be not only no front-runner, but the apparent front-runner, Kerry, seems to have slipped back into the rest of the first tier, if you will; and the insurgent, Dean, emerged early before there was a really established front-runner; and then you look at the compactness of the primaries between January and March, there's a real chance that no one could get the number of votes and you could actually have one of those conventions we all remember from --
MR. PAGE: Don't we wish! Don't we wish! (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's exhibit -- Tony's exhibiting, once again, a rather primitive level of reflection -- (laughter) -- in that to bolt right out of the box, Kerry has to win in New Hampshire.
MR. PAGE: Right. Exactly.
MR. BUCHANAN: Uh-huh.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could win in New Hampshire.
MR. PAGE: He could. He could.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's not improbable.
MR. PAGE: No. Well, it's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And if he comes in third in Iowa and first in New Hampshire --
MR. PAGE: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and he could do well in South Carolina, don't you think, with his military background --
MR. PAGE: It's possible.
MR. BUCHANAN: But look, John --
MR. PAGE: I'll remind you, though, this is --
MR. BUCHANAN: Only two guys come out of -- two come out of New Hampshire, and maybe two and a half; that is it. When they get to South Carolina, only two are going to come out of that place. I think Kerry and Dean.
MS. CLIFT: Kerry's got to survive. He's got to -- Kerry's got to survive New Hampshire to stay in the race. But he --
MR. BUCHANAN: He's got to win New Hampshire.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, if he's got to win New Hampshire. But he's got enough money to build slowly after that, I think.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The earlier polls that we show with regard to Bush's popularity in national security areas; also, the supporting polls, which we didn't get into, which emphasize that point, particularly that he -- that the Democrats don't pick any -- pick up any ground by faulting him on the weapons of mass destruction not being found -- the question is, is it -- do the Democrats appear unpatriotic if they criticize the president's stance?
MR. PAGE: I think the patriot card has gotten a little wilted at this point. A lot of people are criticizing the war on principled grounds, and that's what elections are for.
I -- actually, though, it's too early right now for these numbers to really mean much, because we are talking about party activists. We're talking about the base, which is important for fundraising and for getting people out in the street.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MR. PAGE: But most rank-and-file folks in the polls don't really know the candidates yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony thinks that blind loyalty is the underpinning of patriotism.
MR. BLANKLEY: I do not. (Laughter.)
MR. PAGE: Well, that's Tony. That's Tony.