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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; JAY CARNEY, TIME MAGAZINE

RECORDED: FRIDAY, MAY 27, 2005 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 28-29, 2005

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Gang of Fourteen.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT): (From videotape.) We came together and did the unexpected. In a Senate that has become increasingly partisan and polarized, the bipartisan center held.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (From videotape.) The first question that most of the media are going to ask is who won and who lost. The Senate won and the country won.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A revolt of the moderates. That's what befell the U.S. Senate this week. Fourteen senators -- seven Democrats, seven Republicans -- banded together and broke ranks with their parties in a master stroke, a maverick defection, striking an historic and earth-shaking last-minute deal that defused a looming constitutional crisis over judicial nominees.

The terms: Democrats retain the right to filibuster judge nominees only under, quote/unquote, "extraordinary circumstances." For their part, Republicans gained assured confirmation of at least three previously-stalled judges. Both Senate leaders, Republican and Democrat, were uninvolved in the deal. Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist seemed less than thrilled.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER BILL FRIST (R-TN): (From videotape.) It falls short. It has some good news and it has some disappointing news, and it will require careful monitoring.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also carefully monitoring the deal: The Republican Party's right wing, steaming over the deal-makers and pledging to take aim at the seven Republican compromisers. Former GOP Senator Alan Simpson, a moderate, warned the breakaways about the Republican Party's right-wing vindictive streak.

FORMER SEN. ALAN SIMPSON (R-WY): (From audio tape.) I've been a Republican all my life; they'll never throw me out. But they have an amazing ability to eat their young. They give each other the saliva test of purity every once in a while, and then they lose and then they just sit around and bitch for four years. And it's a very fascinating party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, who were the winners?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I'd say the losers, where the Republican Senate was really hammered. Frist was a big loser. He was on the verge of getting all seven judges and disarming the Democrats. The moderates took it away from him, McCain and them. McCain and the moderates were dished when the Democrats turned around and undercut them with this filibuster against Bolton.

The winners are now, John, the conservatives who argued against the Munich Pact and who are now denouncing the spirit of Munich. And I think the one winner there of this week is George Allen, who stood up and said, "This is a lousy deal," was proven right, and then said the honeymoon is over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Red-state Allen, right?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yep -- Virginia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Virginia.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mmm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And appealing to other red states.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's a comer, and he's gotten a lot of good publicity in the last two months.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, including my other show, that other brilliant show I do. By the way, Pat, congratulations on this -- The American Conservative, "From Kennan to Wolfowitz: The Intellectual Collapse of the American Foreign Policy." Great issue. It's come a long way.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a great magazine.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When did you get out of it?

MR. BUCHANAN: When did I get out? (Laughs.) I've got a column in there. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I agree, Frist is a loser because he looks weak. He lost a head-to-head with John McCain and he lost control of the Senate. But I think the right wing is throwing a tantrum that is totally out of proportion to what happened. They didn't lose all that much. And the reason they're getting all worked up is they're trying to put Frist and the president on notice for a Supreme Court nomination that, nuclear option, no nuclear option, no excuses; they want a conservative judge. And I think that's what this is about.

I also think John McCain is a winner because I think he boosts his standing with the country. And you've got such a crowded field of right-wingers with George Allen, the new darling, that the right- wingers divide. And I think McCain has the potential to put together a winning coalition of hawks, fiscal moderates and Republicans disenchanted with the hold that the religious right wing has on the party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think this makes perfect sense that Eleanor is going to be McCain's campaign manager in the Republican primaries. But I agree with Pat on the analysis of the primary losers and winners.

But another loser potentially is President Bush, particularly when -- not only has he lost on this issue to some extent. He now has a leadership in disarray in the Senate. And if they can't get back on track, then it's going to be harder for him to get anything through the Senate (unless?) through Congress.

Further point, and this is -- I don't know what it means, but the 14 said they also wanted to expand the current interpretation of the advise provision of advise and consent, which would, if they're able to do it, further restrict the president's ability to have full discretion to nominate his people. So it tends to suggest the nominations, if these 14 stick together, which they may not, to have more moderate rather than solid conservative nominees. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jay Carney, welcome.

MR. CARNEY: Thank you very much.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are your thoughts with regard to winners and losers?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I have to agree with Tony that I think the president has lost a series of things in Congress. When Bill Frist was in control of the Senate, since Bill Frist was the White House's hand-picked successor to Trent Lott, it means that the White House has lost control of the Senate.

And when you've got something we'll talk about later, the stem- cell vote in the House and a very strong stem-cell vote in the Senate, which the president will then probably veto, you've got another instance where this Congress, that was supposed to be under the control of the White House, is thumbing its nose at the president of their party. And that's a problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has Frist been neutered by this?

MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. And the tragedy for him is that he has been perceived to be acting on an agenda that was supposed to enhance his prospects in the 2008 presidential primaries.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. CARNEY: But he has hurt himself because he's angered both the right and the middle of the party and he's looked weak. And there's nothing worse than looking weak.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat. Can Frist bring back the nuclear option?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got to.

MR. CARNEY: Yeah, I think he can, and I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he can?

MR. CARNEY: And I think this is going to be the shortest-lived treaty of all time. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it has been proved to be a hollow threat. How can he bring it back? Because he's been neutered --

MR. CARNEY: Because I think there are several Republicans on that seven-member -- of the gang of 14 who would shift back to Frist's camp if necessary.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the judges are going to be brought out, and you've got to go after the nuclear option.

Let me disagree with Eleanor to this extent. McCain was a winner as of Tuesday morning. He looked like a great hero. But as of Thursday night, it looks like the moderates were dished by Reid. They were made out to be fools.

Secondly, McCain is pushing the envelope too far. He's calling everybody who wanted to go and do battle on this thing an extremist, Eleanor. And that's not just Jerry Falwell. That's 90 percent of the Republican Party and the president and the vice president.

MS. CLIFT: This revolt against the Supreme Court and the judges is mostly in your imagination, Pat. It's a very small portion of America.

MR. CARNEY: Well, it's a huge part of the Republican Party.

MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah, but the moderates may get invigorated --

MR. CARNEY: That's who decides.

MS. CLIFT: -- because of stem-cell.

MR. CARNEY: That's who chooses the nominee.

MS. CLIFT: And we're finally arguing the abortion issue on turf that is friendlier to the choice movement. It's not partial-birth abortion and parental consent anymore. It's about research that can help save people from dreadful diseases. And so that whole debate shifts against the favor of the president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has Bush lost control of the GOP?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that's overstating it, but he is a weakened president only six months into his second term.

MS. CLIFT: He looks --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he losing control of the political agenda?

MR. CARNEY: Yes. MR. BLANKLEY: Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. If this band of 14 breaks down, and sometime in early June we have another nuclear vote where they win, that's going to put an awful lot of energy back in, because the Republicans will then be able to go straight with all of Bush's nominees. So it could happen, but it's premature to say.

MS. CLIFT: The White House did not like this deal.

MR. BLANKLEY: Of course not. They're not nuts.

MS. CLIFT: And I would bet that they are going to send up more extreme appellate nominations --

MR. BLANKLEY: You mean, more responsible?

MS. CLIFT: -- to force the Republican --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MR. BLANKLEY: Just trying to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stop baiting her.

MS. CLIFT: -- to force the Republicans to filibuster, and then they will unleash the nuclear option.

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got to do that, John.

MS. CLIFT: They want to do it before the Supreme Court. They don't want to do it in the context of the Supreme Court.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is -- the only survival for Frist now is to say, "Look, they went down the road to negotiations. It failed. They humiliated us. Okay, we're going for all four judges who were being held up, and we will use the nuclear option on them." If he does that, he can gain back his strength and the president will be a winner after a bad setback in the first quarter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it pretty clear that the White House orchestrated the nuclear option?

MS. CLIFT: I think the White House wanted the nuclear option, and they didn't want the deal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they orchestrated it?

MS. CLIFT: Sure. They were encouraging it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did McCain pull the rug out from underneath the White House?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. McCain has a gift at getting under the skin of Republicans, from Tony to President Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How is McCain, having now experienced and will in the future experience the wrath of the religious right, how is he going to get the nomination? Who's he going to appeal to?

MS. CLIFT: Because you're going to have so many contenders for the hearts and minds of the religious right that they will divide among themselves. And McCain has the opportunity to put together, I think, a coalition of Republicans who are fed up with the hold of the religious right, plus hawks -- he's hawkish on the war -- plus fiscal conservatives. That's all wide-open territory in the Republican Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they see him as John "Judas" McCain, do they not?

MR. CARNEY: They do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. CARNEY: And McCain had made some solid ground up in restoring his relations with the conservative wing of the party after the 2000 campaign, especially by helping President Bush last year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. MR. CARNEY: I think he lost a lot of that this week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is all of this, notwithstanding what we have said about Frist being neutered, going to help Frist in getting the Republican -- winning the Republican primary for president in '08?

MR. CARNEY: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, for heaven's sakes. He's got to exercise the nuclear option to get back. The guy's been depantsed on the playground twice, John. He's got to fight now, and he's got to fight and win. And he can do it if they'll exercise that nuclear option. And I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he looks like he was the victim of the perfidy of John "Judas" McCain.

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't nominate victims.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't nominate victims.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Pat has a point.

Okay, aborted honeymoon. Federal-judge nominees of President Bush and the gang of 14 is one controversy now resolved. Another controversy, still unresolved, is John Bolton, Bush's nominee to the United Nations on this unending controversy. Party lines have now solidified. Republicans failed to put together enough votes to end debate on Bolton's nomination this week. Cloture failed.

Question: Where is the Bolton controversy headed? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the Republicans are spinning it that the Democrats have somehow violated the spirit of the pact by filibustering. That's not true. The White House has refused to turn over classified documents that Bolton and his staff see. And there is no reason why the Congress, which has oversight responsibility, shouldn't see this. And so I think they're going to hold off on that vote. It's not about refusing an up-and-down vote for John Bolton. He'll get it sometime after the recess. But let's see --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's about getting the information they need?

MS. CLIFT: Let's see what's in that information that the White House --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have a right to that, because they have to advise and consent, correct? MS. CLIFT: Yeah. The suspicion is that John Bolton went after the names that had been redacted from some internal spy documents.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: National Security Administration.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Agency.

MS. CLIFT: To see -- because he had a vendetta against people who disagreed with him. And his abuse of intelligence is at the heart of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it the Republican strategy to try to spotlight the Democrats as being obstructionists, and all of this they see as working to their objective?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think the Republicans have a strategy other than flounder right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, will you put that in writing? We'll have it notarized and sent around to the administration.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And curb your sources.

MR. BLANKLEY: I've told them that publicly and privately. Look, as far as the secret information they want, Senator Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, has said, according to news accounts, that there's nothing in these documents. These are delaying tactics to try to string out the Bolton matter.

MR. CARNEY: There are two sets of documents, first of all. Jay Rockefeller, ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was able to review those documents redacted, with no names. John Bolton is allowed to see the names. He's an undersecretary of State. His staff is allowed to see the names. But the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee are not. That's one thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The names that the NSA revealed.

MR. CARNEY: That's right. The second thing is that there's another set of documents that they want to see, which is the preparatory materials for testimony that John Bolton was going to give on Syria.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let's get back to the mega-politics, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, wait a minute. Let him finish. MR. BUCHANAN: The mega-politics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?

MR. CARNEY: There's a red flag. I mean, I think John Bolton will be confirmed and that this will blow over. But there's a red flag being raised when the State Department will not provide these documents.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have a question for you, Pat. The question is this. Do you think that the White House is pleased that this delay has occurred and they will stretch out the handing over of the information that Biden has asked for, because when it is presented, it will clear Bolton and will make them even look more like obstructionists for interfering with his movement?

MR. BUCHANAN: Not only that; they ought to be delighted that Reid and those guys held Bolton up because they destroyed the whole spirit of the compromise, John. Reid did, and the Democrats. And I'll tell you, the Republicans --

MS. CLIFT: It was only about judicial nominations.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it, Eleanor. You hold it a second. Now, look, the Republicans can only now go back and do battle. They cannot accept this humiliation. And the fact that Reid did it -- if Reid were smart, they would have let Bolton through.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Why did the Republicans -- they're the only ones who are entitled to fight and avoid humiliation? The Democrats should just roll over?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no.

MS. CLIFT: The compromise was only judicial nominations. It was not about executive appointments or --

MR. BUCHANAN: You think --

MS. CLIFT: -- about legislation --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: -- although that may come next if you guys have your way.

MR. BUCHANAN: When Lindsey Graham goes down to South Carolina this weekend, they're going to say, "You were a fool, Lindsey. Did you see what they did to Bolton after you cut your deal? You're a fool." MS. CLIFT: They're going to be lining up at the K-mart to say that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, is George Allen your candidate for president?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he's my candidate for the Senate in 2006. (Laughs.) I'm in Virginia.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get one last thought in here. I agree with Eleanor that this deal was only about judicial appointments. But there was apparently -- Reid had assured Frist that there would be enough votes to cloture on Bolton. Now, either Reid was not able to deliver the votes or he didn't; he was insincere. I'm taking him at his word that he wasn't able to deliver, which suggests that there's some lack of control on the Democratic side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: That vote was as much --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.

MS. CLIFT: -- a surprise to the Democrats --

MR. BLANKLEY: That's what I'm saying.

MS. CLIFT: -- as it was to the Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this a tempest in a teapot as far as the American public is concerned? Quickly, you.

MR. CARNEY: No, I think that the public's estimation of the Congress has been nosediving. And I think that we could see a price paid by incumbents, perhaps of both parties, for this in 2006.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because they think it's a tempest in a teapot.

MR. CARNEY: Well, they think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the Senate teapot. Exit question: So is the Senate armistice over? Are we back to partisan showdown, as usual?

MR. BUCHANAN: I hope so, and I think we are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: We're back to fighting on principle on both sides, probably.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the Frist and the Allen effort to translate this as a partisan showdown, with obstructionists on the one side -- MS. CLIFT: It averted the constitutional crisis for today and tomorrow, and maybe two weeks. But after that, forget it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it was a legitimate demand for information so they could fulfill their obligation of advise and consent.

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely. It's a revolt against the most secretive White House in memory.

MR. BLANKLEY: Both parties are fighting -- liberals and conservatives are fighting over ideological principles on this. You can call it partisanship, but the fact is, they're fighting over something substantial. And as a result, you're not going to be able to paper over that struggle and we're going to go back to a fight on principles.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think when you heard Alan Simpson describe the Republicans in those nasty terms? Did you think he was right on the money --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that they have the saliva purity test, and if you flunk that --

MR. BLANKLEY: I love Alan --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- then they bitch over you forever?

MR. BLANKLEY: I love Alan Simpson. He's a wonderful man, both as a senator and as a fellow.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But -- but.

MR. BLANKLEY: But he's had in his craw for a long time the conservatives. And so he makes these very colorful statements. He's a great guy. He's not always --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's hit the conservatives, the right-wing Republicans like yourself, right in the head. Right by the throat he's got you, right?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, my throat's still here, thanks. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: He was a pro-choice Republican, and they always tried to run him out of town because of that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The armistice is over, right?

MR. CARNEY: Oh, completely. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Completely?

MR. CARNEY: It was a fake armistice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a fake armistice?

MR. CARNEY: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There will never be comity?

MR. CARNEY: Well, in our lifetime?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This wound goes deep, though, right?

MR. CARNEY: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we haven't heard the end of it.

Issue Two: Standoff in the Petri Dish.

REP. JIM RAMSTAD (R-MN): (From videotape.) It's too late for my beloved mother, who was totally debilitated by Alzheimer's Disease, which killed her. But it's not too late for the 100 million other American people counting on us to support funding.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is -- that I'm against that. And therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If so, it will be the first veto of the Bush presidency. The House voted this week to allow federally-funded researchers to take stem-cell lines from frozen embryos, embryos that would otherwise be incinerated. Scientists say this research could one day save millions of people suffering from Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, spinal-cord injuries and many other ailments.

Opponents, like President Bush, say the research would mean the destruction of thousands of living embryos. President Bush notwithstanding, most Americans, 53 percent, want to see stem-cell restrictions eased or removed altogether. Twenty-four percent would keep the restrictions as they are; 19 percent would cut all government funding. Question: If President Bush does actually veto the stem-cell research bill, what will that do to Mr. Bush's political standing? I ask you, Jay Carney.

MR. CARNEY: Well, it's complicated for President Bush, because obviously he's not running again. This is one of those cases where the majority of the public is against him. It's a very important issue to his religious conservative base, and it is a decision that I think he can say is made on moral grounds unassailably. I don't think you can read -- it both helps him with his political base and also does not reek of politics, because this is an issue that divides people morally on legitimate grounds.

However, I think that when Tom DeLay gets up and says that these embryos are living human beings that are being dismembered, that is fundamentally false and scientifically dishonest. Embryos are flushed out of women's systems every month. Okay, they're also created for -- (inaudible). If there is not conception, that is not life. And I think while there is a lot of debate about when life begins, it certainly does not begin before conception.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When does a fetus begin?

MR. CARNEY: At conception, not pre-conception. And a fertilized embryo is not a conceived human being.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the embryo is habitually thought to be about eight days' life span. Is that correct?

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. CARNEY: Well, it can be frozen.

MS. CLIFT: Maybe President Bush is blissfully unaware of the science, but in-vitro fertilization is very popular among couples who cannot conceive any other way. And in order to produce one live birth, you create and then probably discard many, many embryos. And they are five days old. They are a cluster of cells no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence. And there are 400,000 of them languishing in storage tanks and fertility clinics. You should give couples who want to donate those leftover embryos to science. And that's what this is about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this a standoff between G.W. Bush and the religious right, on one hand, and Nancy Reagan and the old-line Republicans, Goldwater and Reagan, on the other? I ask you, Patrick.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you wouldn't have -- Ronald Reagan would be with George W. Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you sure of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, sure. Ronald -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you sure of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: George W. Bush is a man of principle. He believes this is a moral issue. He wants --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know all that. We know all that.

MR. BUCHANAN: He wants to stand to thwart what is coming, which is the farming of human beings for spare parts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know that too. What's the point?

MR. BUCHANAN: Politically, the president will be helped because everybody will see him as standing up, as you said, for principle and for his beliefs. And I believe he is right. And I don't think he cares about whether people disagree with him.

MS. CLIFT: It's gonna be seen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't this a battle now between Nancy Reagan and that school over against the old-line Republicans like Goldwater and Reagan? Don't you believe that Reagan would be on the side of --

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't want to put words into a dead man's mouth. I think Pat's right, but I don't know for sure. But, look, here's a point. Look at the vote in the House. There were 48 Republicans who voted for the legislation and 160-some who voted against. So if that reflects the attitude, about two-thirds or so of the party is in opposition.

But this is a position that doesn't break down really directly on partisan lines. I think the Republicans are not in bad shape if he ends up vetoing it. It hurts Bush, I think, a little bit with the public. But the party will be solid --

MS. CLIFT: This makes --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just finish my sentence. The party will be secure in their base and the individual members have voted their conscience.

MS. CLIFT: This makes Bush --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on --

MS. CLIFT: -- look as out of touch as his father when his father vetoed fetal-tissue testing on the theory that somehow it would create a market for tissue from aborted fetuses. That was overturned, and we've moved on a long distance from that.

MR. CARNEY (?): I don't disagree with you. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happens if Bush does veto and his first veto, in favor of the religious right, is overridden?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not gonna be overridden.

MR. CARNEY: Well, it won't be, because he's short about 30, 40, 50 votes in the House. So the Senate may have a veto-proof majority, but the House will not. So it will not be overridden.

But it's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no possibility?

MR. BLANKLEY: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. CARNEY: Very slim.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would happen if it were?

MR. CARNEY: It'd be a huge political loss. It'd be an embarrassment.

MR. BLANKLEY: They need 290.

MS. CLIFT: And victory for the country. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would he then lose the House of Representatives in 2006?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. CARNEY: Not over that issue, no.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think --

MR. CARNEY: This is so speculative, because it's not going to happen.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Ronald Reagan got his veto overridden on the sanctions against South Africa.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see the way people are now polling on this issue?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I do. Look, John, I know that this is probably one of those issues -- Eleanor's correct -- on the moral front where the other side, the left, has a slight majority with the country. I agree with that. But that's why I believe the president is behaving correctly and morally, because he's not doing the popular thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, the overwhelming conclusion of this panel that this week was a Washington political tsunami.

Issue Three: Darwin Versus the Board of Education.

STEVE CASE (KANSAS SCIENCE STANDARDS COMMITTEE): (From videotape.) They're trying to do an end run by introducing essentially propaganda, philosophical propaganda, into the science classroom.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The propaganda referred to is the belief that the universe is so complex and so beautiful that it must have been created by an intelligent being. That belief is called intelligent design. It is presented as though it were opposed to the theory of evolution; namely, the process by which all species develop from earlier forms of life through adaptation and natural selection.

Last month the Kansas Board of Education held hearings to determine whether to give equal time in its statewide science curriculum to the theory of intelligent design and to the theory of evolution. Three evangelical Christian members of the Kansas state board argue that such equal time should, in fact, be afforded because intelligent design does not violate the separation of church and state. The theory of intelligent design, they say, does not explicitly endorse one god or one religion.

Question: Is America in danger of becoming a theocracy? Father Carney.

MR. CARNEY: Ha. No. The short answer is no. Now, the problem with what the evangelicals on the board is arguing is, whether or not intelligent design endorses one god over another or is a representation of a church-versus-state issue, is irrelevant, because it's not science. And they're talking about introducing it as a competitive scientific argument with the theory of evolution. It's simply not valid as science.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they also trying --

MR. CARNEY: It may be true, but it's not science.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they trying to hide the word creationism?

MR. CARNEY: Well, certainly what's troubling about it is some of its most fervent backers have conceded, including one woman on the board, that it doesn't matter to them whatever scientific backing there is but that it is about religion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's based on a false dichotomy, and that is that God can be God and still be God over evolution? MR. CARNEY: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It doesn't necessarily say --

MR. CARNEY: Well, you're talking about beliefs. You're not talking about science.

MR. BLANKLEY: Can I get in just for a second? The only fit topic for education is science. The question is, does evolution explain -- does it explain fully, does it explain completely, does it explain not at all, physical science?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think it explains it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It does? So God can be a God of that evolutionary process.

MR. BLANKLEY: But the role of God --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So why do you have to postulate intelligent design?

MR. BLANKLEY: It shouldn't be in the curriculum, the religious component. We should be studying the validity of the scientific theory.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Before next we meet, France and Holland vote no on the EU.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Republicans, with the encouragement of the White House, will detonate the nuclear option before there is a Supreme Court nomination.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: The City of San Diego will declare bankruptcy this year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jay Carney.

MR. CARNEY: Without a filibuster, Antonin Scalia will be nominated and confirmed as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh. Interesting. Pat stole my prediction. The French are going to defeat the constitution in their referendum. That will set off a seismic chain reaction. Next week: The Republican Party's civil war over immigration. Happy Memorial Day. Bye bye.

END.