THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: PAT BUCHANAN, ELEANOR CLIFT, TONY BLANKLEY, PETER BEINART
TAPED: FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 2004
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JUNE 25-26, 2004
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: The new Iraq. U.S. occupation in Iraq comes to an end this coming Wednesday and Iraqi sovereignty begins. The mission of the new interim government is to gain enough stability for elections to take place by January 2005, despite the prospect of political violence and insurrection such as occurred on Thursday of this week, a single day in which over 100 were killed and hundreds wounded.
Besides quelling insurgency, the new prime minister, Iyad Allawi, must ensure the delivery of basic services. Contractors must work. Oil facilities need protection and repair. Electric power must be turned back on. Iraq's total infrastructure has to be shored up.
To do all this and keep the peace, Allawi must have the help of ordinary Iraqis. And they will only help if they believe Allawi and his government represent their interests. If they believe Allawi represents the occupation forces, i.e. the United States, he will get no cooperation.
True, beyond Wednesday the U.S. will have no legal status as occupier. But that distinction is without meaning to Iraqis. They see U.S. troops and Humvees and tanks every day as their nation's dominant force, and still a de facto occupier.
Still, what action has Allawi taken to cope with Iraq's broad-based insurgency? First, he warned ominously against the U.S. withdrawal, saying it would be a, quote/unquote, "major disaster." Then he suggested he might invoke martial law, and he threw down the gauntlet to the insurgents, echoing the hard line of the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz Pentagon.
"We will do all we can to strike against enemy forces aiming at harming our country, and we will not stand by with our hands tied. We are going to defeat them. We're going to crush them."
Question: Is Allawi's approach the right one? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it is, John. I think this horrendous atrocity of Thursday where 100 or so Iraqis were killed and cut down by the insurgents and the foreign fighters, hundreds more wounded, I think this is a wake-up call to the decent folks in Iraq and those who do not want another wretched Saddam dictatorship, that you're going to have to stand up and fight if you want to be free yourself.
It's like what the Tet offensive did to the South Vietnamese. It woke them up to the fact that this is their war as well as America's war. So I think Allawi being a tough guy, quite frankly, the Iraqis are used to the smack of authority. And a tough guy, I think, is what the Iraqis need as a leader in this war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do you feel that way?
MS. CLIFT: Well, there's a lot of tough talk. But what is he doing? He wants to bring back a lot of the Ba'athists into governing positions. He wants to reconstitute the Iraqi military. He wants to impose martial law.
It is a fiction to think that he's going to do any of this on his own. He is a mouthpiece for the U.S. government. His rhetoric may sound anti-U.S., but he is not in a position to do anything without the approval of the United States government. He is a puppet. And to suggest that he's a puppet who can become a real boy -- if those strings get cut, he collapses.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, here's another approach. "I think it's a little bit too easy to call everybody a terrorist. If you find genuine patriots amongst them, try to negotiate." Lakhdar Brahimi, U.N. envoy.
"If it were up to me, I would have appointed someone from Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's party as a minister. It's better to include them than exclude them. We need reconciliation in this country." Mahmoud Othman, politically independent Kurd who had served on the IGC, the Iraqi Governing Council.
Question: Why isn't the Bush administration pushing this approach? I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, I want to just talk briefly about what you folks said, because I think you got it pretty wrong. There was a big poll out Friday by the National Endowment for Democracy done by an Iraqi polling organization. It's very credible. It shows that this new government -- 70 percent think it's credible. They don't think it's a puppet regime. Seventy-three percent have heard of these people.
There's a very -- in fact, finally, there's a higher right track/wrong track. Iraqis, 50 percent think that things are going in the right direction; only 40 percent in the wrong. They've got a better right track/wrong track than we have in the United States. And I think that he has a very good chance -- he can get tough with these criminals the way --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who paid for the poll?
MR. BLANKLEY: The National Endowment for Democracy. It's a bipartisan Republican and Democratic institution funded by the U.S. government.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did they reveal who the pollster is?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, they did. I can give you the full name if you'd like it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was stated in some of the morning press --
MR. BLANKLEY: They got it wrong. The actual name is the Institute for Administrative and Civil Society Studies, an indigenous Iraqi polling firm.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll wait till Pew Poll gives me a poll.
Do you want to speak to this? Is there another approach? For example, the Saudis are granting a 30-day amnesty to certain terrorists, not the ones who are the most cruel and are responsible for throwing the bombs, but the supply chain. Those who want to come over can come over, and they've got 30 days to do it. Would that be a better way?
In other words, the primary objective of Allawi to survive is to get the Iraqi rank-and-file to come over, to cross over with him. Right now, if he appears to be supporting the United States, as this hard line that he's been exhibiting -- the Schwarzenegger approach, so to speak, the tough-guy approach -- then he's going to sound exactly like Rumsfeld, exactly like the military, exactly like the CIA, who have all failed over the past year.
MR. BEINART: Well, he distanced himself by saying he's going to disband our Iraqi civil defense corps. But the truth is, despite the hard-line rhetoric, he's basically taking the accommodationist position. It's always been the CIA's position. He's always been the CIA's man.
What is he going to do? He's going to bring the Ba'athists back into the government, re-establish the security apparatus, reach out to Iraq's neighbors, including Syria, because they have a Ba'ath party too. He said he's going to try to create a rapprochement with Syria's Ba'ath Party. That is not -- while it's a tough line in rhetoric, it's actually an accommodationist line in practice.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why does he let the rhetoric so disagree with what he's actually doing? Why doesn't he create some psychological distance in the population by either provoking or creating or feigning a substantial difference with the U.S. forces that are there?
MR. BEINART: Because he needs to appear tough, because in Iraq right now, if you don't appear tough, people will not follow you.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That goes to the point made by Brahimi and by the Kurd, namely that there is a crying feeling of reconciliation. Also, which is going to work?
MR. BEINART: Well, the truth is, it doesn't matter what he's saying. He doesn't have the means right now to crack down. He knows that. There's no security force he can --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know, but he's presenting this tough-guy front, which works against --
MR. BUCHANAN: No, John, they work together.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, I want to hear you.
MR. BLANKLEY: Because he doesn't have to prove he's independent. Because the public already believes he's independent, he's not having to falsely take a position. He is, I believe, notwithstanding, actually right about the Ba'athists connection.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me --
MR. BLANKLEY: I believe he's going to be able to be much more violent against the terrorists --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He sounds exactly like the military there, particularly Kimmitt. He sounds exactly like the Pentagon.
MR. BUCHANAN: He is not. He is separating himself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute -- so much so that it's a seamless transition, and therefore the public can confuse entity one, the new Iraq, with the United States.
MS. CLIFT: Peter is right. It is an accommodationist position. They've let the local religious clerics take over in Fallujah and one or two other places. He is a benign Saddam. He's trying to set himself up as a strong-armed figure. And the country --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.
MR. BEINART: (Inaudible) -- have never been that good. The neocons themselves --
MS. CLIFT: And the country wants that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor --
MS. CLIFT: -- a benign dictator.
MR. BEINART: The reason the civilians at the Pentagon never liked this guy, the quote/unquote "neocons," was because they knew he was always talking this kind of hard-line "We're not sure Iraq is ready for a democracy." He's never been for taking out the Ba'ath root and branch. It's possible he does have a benign dictatorship --
MR. BUCHANAN: All right, John, here's what he's got in mind. What he's got in mind is separating as much of the population, bringing across as many of the insurgents as he can, because he doesn't want the foreign fighters. He doesn't want the Islamists. He is trying to separate them, saying, "You all come in." He's going to be a hard line, I think, on this narrow group. The key question --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't do that --
MR. BUCHANAN: The key question is Fallujah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't do that by --
MR. BUCHANAN: You've got to sound tough in Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't do it by presenting himself exactly the way the Pentagon does.
MR. BUCHANAN: You can't have --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the human toll. U.S. military dead in Iraq, 850; U.S. military medical evacuations, 23,250; Iraqi civilians dead, 17,100.
Exit: Should Allawi follow the Saudi example and extend a 30-day amnesty to the insurgents? Yes or no -- no specific grade of insurgents. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, he should, John. He should separate as many of those fighters as he can from the guys he's going to have to finish off, who are few in number. That's what you want to do. You want to go after the terrorists and the foreign guys.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excellent. Excellent. You surprise me. Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: The only way he succeeds is if the hard-line Ba'athists decide he's one of them and they decide to support him. I don't know if you do that by extending amnesty --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the amnesty?
MS. CLIFT: -- or by being tough. But I think he's going to restore a lot of the Saddam regime.
MR. BLANKLEY: The reason for the Saudi amnesty offer is to placate their religious leaders before they go after the terrorists there. I don't think that's as necessary in Iraq. But the idea that he's going to become a Ba'athist in entirety when the Shi'as are never going to let the Sunni-dominated Ba'athists become the dominant force -- so, yeah, he's going to find some Ba'athists he can work with. But he's got to be beholden ultimately to the Shi'a --
MR. BEINART: Well, that's the question. The question is whether Sistani is going to lose faith in him because he's too close to the Sunni old Ba'athist regime. He can't crack down now --
MR. BLANKLEY: He won't let that happen. He's a smart man.
MR. BEINART: He can't crack down now. He has to bide his time, because he doesn't have the security force to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the amnesty?
MR. BEINART: Well, whatever he can do right now to buy himself some time while they train some Iraqis who will fight, he has to do that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that the public in Iraq would like the idea of the amnesty and the reconciliation? Then, if there is a blood --
MR. BEINART: Not the Kurds and the Shi'a.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment. Then, if there is a bloody crackdown, it will always appear that he has been tolerant and that he has tried to bring them over.
MR. BLANKLEY: They don't want tolerance.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And, in point of fact, he may bring some over. And that may mean fewer American deaths there.
When we come back, Kerry and Bush, show me the money.
Issue two: Show me the money.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Thanks to you being willing to dig into your pockets, we are one step closer to earning back the respect and the influence that has been lost in the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Since the start of his election bid, John Kerry has raised -- get this -- $148 million, the highest amount ever by a Democratic presidential candidate. Big as it is, that number still trails President Bush's current total, $218 million, the most money any candidate for president has ever raised in the nation's history, currently $70 million more than Kerry.
Mr. Bush also has the lead in cash on hand, $63 million; $28 million for Kerry. But the Kerry campaign might just close the cash gap. In May, Kerry took in $31 million; Bush, $13 million. In March, April and May combined, it was Kerry $100 million, Bush $54 million. That's cash raised.
As for cash spent, both candidates have set new records. Bush has spent already -- get this -- $152 million, the all-time record for any candidate anywhere. Kerry has spent $121 million already, only $31 million less than Bush, the all-time record for any Democrat.
And wait, there's more. The federal government gives each candidate $75 million for the general election, and that comes as soon as they accept their party's nomination. But to get the federal monies, the candidate must stop all private fund-raising.
Both Kerry and Bush have decided to accept the money. And that could be a problem for Kerry. He accepts his nomination on July 29, Bush on September 2, 35 days later, during which 35 days Bush can raise and spend private campaign money before he touches his $75 million of government money.
Question: Is the nomination gap, 35 days, when Bush can raise and spend private money and Kerry cannot, a big asset for Bush? Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Not really. Look, there's shadow organizations in both parties who are going to raise money. Kerry will get covered sufficiently. The fact is that although the two treasurers of the parties have to worry about raising money, both candidates are going to have adequate money throughout this campaign. I do not believe money is going to be the deciding factor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One other reason is there for thinking the 35 days doesn't do much for Bush at all; namely, Kerry can spend a lot during the whole month of July, heavily, and then he can come back. He's got time to spend.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you're mistaken.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then he can come back during the 35 days and spend light money.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, what Lee Atwater did was tear Michael Dukakis to pieces in the month of August. This is what the Bush people are going to do. They're going to raise and spend every dime they've got tearing up Kerry after his nomination. Kerry, from his campaign, is going to have to draw some of that $75 million to defend himself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, you said the same thing before the president spent $85 million in a 90-day blitz. And what did it do? It brought Kerry's popularity from 58 percent to 50 percent -- a nothing-burger.
MS. CLIFT: Well, it's a potential --
MR. BUCHANAN: Not true.
MR. BLANKLEY: That misreads what happened. Kerry should have had a tremendous period with all the bad news Bush was getting. The fact that Kerry's negatives went up from 25 to 40-something, I think the Bush people had money well-spent.
MR. BEINART: But they can't make it a referendum on Kerry, which was what they wanted. They're going to have to live and die with how things go, primarily in Iraq. And that is not a great bet for this president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was widely assumed at the outset of this campaign that Bush had the financial advantage.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happened? What happened?
MR. BEINART: The big story is the Democratic Party has learned how to raise money from small donors. They could never do it through direct mail. They've done it through the Internet because it's a wealthier party than it used to be and it's a party that's very, very angry. That's a big story.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry raised money two to one in that last set of figures.
MR. BUCHANAN: It is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, does that mean that Kerry has the big mo' and that Bush is stalling out?
MR. BEINART: If money is not a factor, that's a big advantage for Democrats, because they usually have a problem with raising as much as the Republicans.
MR. BUCHANAN: Kerry's done a tremendous job, tremendous job. There's no doubt about it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, on the money side?
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, I'm astonished at how well he's doing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also in the way he's running his campaign. He's the phantom candidate. No one sees him.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the way to do it.
MS. CLIFT: And let's credit Howard Dean.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You stay out of trouble.
MS. CLIFT: Let's credit Howard Dean for discovering the power of the Internet and for tapping into the anger in the Democratic Party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, jobs boom.
PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) People are going back to work. The economy's getting better.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right on both counts. The economy is getting better and people are going back to work. To date, 1.2 million jobs have been created this year. And in each of the three last months, March, April and May, the country has gained more than -- get this -- 300,000 jobs per month. If that pace holds, another one and a half million jobs will be created by November 2, Election Day, making it 2.7 million jobs for the year, working its magic on election returns.
What's more, economic rebound is trickling down to the toss-up battleground states. Of the 19 battleground states, 16 saw job growth in May: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Only three battleground states saw jobs decline last month: Iowa, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Question: Is Bush getting the credit for the jobs boom that he deserves? Peter Beinart.
MR. BEINART: No. Kerry still beats him handily on the economy, and the reasons are twofold. First of all, most of the jobs are not as good as the jobs that were lost. Second of all, people aren't getting raises. There aren't wage increases that people are feeling.
And I think that leaves Bush in a difficult position. He's not going to win it on the economy. He may not lose it on the economy, but he's going to win or lose it on terrorism and Iraq.
MS. CLIFT: The --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor. Let this gentleman in.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's not entirely true. The numbers are moving up in Gallup Poll, all of them. They're showing that where before Bush had a big deficit on the economy, now he's up 47, 48 --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean a poll deficit.
MR. BLANKLEY: Poll deficit, yeah.
MR. BEINART: But to Kerry --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.
MR. BLANKLEY: My guess is that by November it will not be -- the issue will not be an advantage for Kerry. But that's not going to decide the election. Iraq's going to decide the election.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dream on. Dream on, young man. Kerry has a five-point lead over Bush on handling the economy. Kerry has a four-point lead on the deficit. Kerry has a 13-point lead on doing a better job on taxes. In sum, Kerry trumps Bush on the economy issue.
MS. CLIFT: Right. And if you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?
MS. CLIFT: True. And if you go into the battleground states, Celinda Lake, Democratic pollster, says you confront voters in focus groups with the rosy statistics and they'll say, "The experts don't know what they're talking about. We don't feel that in our lives."
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: The Kerry campaign has very wisely framed the economic issue as the middle-class squeeze -- high health care costs.
MR. BUCHANAN: All right, Peter --
MS. CLIFT: People don't feel better in their lives.
MR. BUCHANAN: Peter is right about something. These are not New Economy jobs. These are not high-level manufacturing jobs where you make things we export. These are service jobs that are being created.
MR. BLANKLEY: Manufacturing jobs are up 13 percent.
MR. BUCHANAN: But, look, these are little, tiny -- I mean, you're not making -- these are not New Economy jobs.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit --
MS. CLIFT: Thirty-dollar-an-hour jobs are being replaced by six-dollar-an-hour jobs.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's Wal-Mart --
MR. BLANKLEY: You're mischaracterizing it. These are not flipper jobs. They're manufacturing --
MS. CLIFT: Almost half are minimum wage.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Exit question: What will be the more controlling in the election, the economy or Iraq? Pat Buchanan, very quickly.
MR. BUCHANAN: The economy will be out as an issue because it'll be in pretty good shape. It'll be Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iraq. Eleanor, quickly.
MS. CLIFT: I still think it's the economy, which is why both Bush and Kerry talk about it every chance they get.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The economy. What do you say?
MR. BLANKLEY: Terrorism and Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iraq.
MR. BEINART: It's terrorism. And Bush is losing on that, because people are viewing terrorism through the prism of Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly. Well-stated. I'll go along with the three who say Iraq.
Issue three: The sound and the fury. (Audio clip of Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York. I wanna wake up in a city that doesn't sleep.")
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The city that never sleeps may finally get some rest. That's because His Honor Bloomberg is hitting the mute button. New York's noise code is being revamped, and stiff fines are proposed on -- ice cream trucks that pipe out music after January 1, 2006 can be fined up to $350.
NEW YORK MAYOR BLOOMBERG: (From videotape.) One of the big complaints is the Mr. Softie jingle.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dogs that bark for more than five minutes at night or 10 minutes during the day, up to a $175 fine. Nightclubs and bars that can be heard more than 15 feet away, up to $3,000 in fines. Construction sites that don't present noise mitigation plans or wrap noisy tools like jackhammers in blankets to muffle sound, up to $1,400 in fines. Air conditioners that exceed 42 decibels, up to $1,400.
Question: What is the method behind Bloomberg's noise mania? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: I think he's a control freak, and he'd be much better off just issuing ear plugs to everybody.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, he ought to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should other jurisdictions adopt this, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Leave the Good Humor man alone. He's trying to turn New York into Martha's Vineyard.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Peter, should other jurisdictions adopt it?
MR. BEINART: Yeah, this is a good news story. People are focused on noise because they're not focused on crime because it's so far down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. BLANKLEY: Nobody should do this. It's ridiculous. It's nanny statism. Eleanor's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it's very sound doctrine because it's the broken pane theory that was spread out by the Manhattan Institute. In other words, you take care of the little things like the rubbish. You don't leave the impression that this is a lawless society.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Good Humor man is a problem?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, noise creates high blood pressure, so there is that concern too in the rising cost of health care.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The ticket will be Kerry-Edwards. True or false? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: False. Gephardt.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Maybe.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: False.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Peter.
MR. BEINART: True, because they think he can compete in the South with Edwards.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is false. Bye bye.
Issue four: The Plame game. President Bush was questioned for over one hour by a U.S. attorney on Thursday in the inquiry over who made public the identity of CIA spy Valerie Plame. The spy's husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, says the White House purposefully leaked his wife's name to the press because he had challenged the administration's assertions about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Question: Is it likely that the U.S. attorney will wrap up his probe before the election? Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't have a clue. There were a lot of rumors a few months ago that something was imminent. But at this point, I haven't heard anything about any decisions imminently one way or the other. It may be -- you know, obviously, when they've got to the president, they've got to presumably the end of the line. Whether that's going to lead to something or not, I'm ignorant of.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think, legally speaking, it looks that they've interviewed just about everybody. There's nobody left to interview. And if they let this go beyond the election, it will look like a deliberate effort to conceal something. So I think they are going to come up with something.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will there be an indictment in this matter, do you think, Peter?
MR. BEINART: I would guess no. From what I know, this is a very difficult thing to prove. And I think they won't get the journalist to talk. I don't think they'll be able to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did he bring a lawyer with him, Pat -- the president?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, to advise him what to say and not to say, quite frankly, or when the prosecutor was going beyond something.
I disagree with Peter in this extent. There were leaks a couple of months ago that the real problem -- this is very difficult to prove that you deliberately leaked the name of a CIA agent to damage that person and harm him. But what you hear is there might have been collusion and talk between these fellows putting their stories together or something like that.
Now, these were leaks. But it is always true -- at least it was in Watergate -- that it wasn't the original offense, but a lot of people didn't tell the FBI the truth on their first interview and things like that. There could be problems in that area.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Bush should be worried?
MR. BUCHANAN: No. Bush -- I think if something hits, I think it could be a real problem for the administration. But Bush personally -- you know, I heard Rudy Giuliani today. If Bush were any kind of target, you know, they'd be inviting him before the grand jury and he wouldn't be going.
What they're doing is they're asking the president, you know, "What did you hear when people came into your office and talked about this after this story broke? Were they saying they think somebody said it?" or something like that.
MS. CLIFT: They're basically suggesting the president was present at some strategy sessions where it was discussed how to respond to Joe Wilson. So they are suggesting that he has some knowledge. But that's a big difference between having some knowledge and actually directing somebody.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it possible that no crime was committed?
MR. BEINART: It is possible.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
MR. BEINART: It is possible. I think what they have to be worried about is the 9/11 commission report. I think that's much more likely to do real damage to this administration than the Plame investigation. These numbers in the war on terrorism are really starting to dip, surprisingly down to 50 percent in this recent Washington Post poll. That's a much bigger problem, because the war on terrorism has always been his calling card.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The vice president this week was caught in uttering an expletive. And some people think he's been listening to too much rap music. (Laughter.) Now, can you settle for that, or do you think there's a political consequence? And if it is, is it a plus or a minus?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think having put up with three years with libelous statements by jackanapes, I don't blame him a bit for mouthing off a little bit. I think for the average guy, the button-down Cheney will be much more appealing letting it rip a little bit.
MS. CLIFT: If --
MR. BLANKLEY: But I must say that if Bush were ahead 20 points in the polls, he probably wouldn't be --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, who is jackanapes?
MS. CLIFT: If President Clinton --
MR. BLANKLEY: Is what?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is Jackanapes? Is he a rap singer, or what?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, Jackanapes is --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's Senator Leahy. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Leahy is Jackanapes?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
Well, I just wanted to say if President Clinton had ever uttered those words when he had the Jackanapes after him, I wonder what the response would have been?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any hypocrisy rap here against Cheney, namely that he presents himself as a family man, fully instituted in the values of churches?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you remember George McGovern during the campaign in 1972?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did he say?
MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody was kicking him around, beating him up and he was losing by 30 points, and he was going along the fence, and some guy said, "Nixon's gonna kick your ass." And so, McGovern said, "Come here. Kiss my a--." (Laughs.) We were concerned he would go up in the polls. (Laughs.)