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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC

TAPED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2005 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 24-25, 2005

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Rita and Katrina.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) This is a big storm. Our armed forces have pre-positioned troops. We have resources there to help the federal, state and local officials to respond swiftly and effectively.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The scale and comprehensiveness of the president's actions this week in advance of Hurricane Rita's anticipated landfall was in stark contrast to Katrina's three weeks ago, when the lack of preparedness was everywhere.

Bush was then at Crawford for the critical 48 hours before Katrina struck. After Katrina hit on Monday, for two days the president himself, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff and FEMA Director Michael Brown were all oblivious to the fact that tens of thousands of people were cut off in New Orleans at the Superdome, at the convention center, and in neighborhoods in desperate need of food and water.

Incredibly, they learned this on Wednesday or Thursday. Yet the whole nation witnessed and felt the shock and the awe through saturation television, in plain view, for the two intervening days.

Question: Is President Bush redeeming himself politically by adept handling of Rita? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the president's reputation for strong, decisive, engaged leadership suffered as bad as New Orleans did from Katrina. I don't think he's ever going to recover what he once had. And it's being used against him by his adversaries as a metaphor for incompetence in the entire administration, and I think he's been permanently damaged by it.

But I will say this. He has -- for three or four weeks now he's been working night and day to get out in front of this issue. He's got an opportunity with Rita. He's done everything he could. And I think he's probably helping himself a bit down there in Texas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he's on the redemption track, Pat says. What do you think, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's helping himself, I think, only marginally. I agree with Pat. I think the first impressions here are what count, and the public is really re-evaluating his entire five years as president through the prism of Katrina.

They're wondering now anew about the mishandling and the exaggeration of the intelligence leading up to the Iraq war. They're looking at a war that they now don't think was worth it and that has been poorly handled. This gets all wrapped up in high gas prices, you know, fairly or unfairly. And I think there's been a massive loss of confidence in his leadership.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think Pat's largely right. I think he can build back, but he's had some permanent damage. But I'll tell you a bigger problem or an equivalent problem he's got, and that is the support for his reconstruction project out of his Thursday speech. And if you look at the polls, 66 percent of liberals like it; 57 percent of African-Americans like it. Only 49 percent of whites like it and only 43 percent of conservatives.

So his major project over the next six months or a year is going to be opposed to varying degrees by his base, while the opposition, which will never support him personally, like the policy. So it's a very difficult position to be in where he's not going to be able to get reinforcement from his base on a policy they don't like.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's an excellent point of view, and it's only slightly less pessimistic than "The West's Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?" I want to commend you on this grim read, but it is also a must-read.

MR. BLANKLEY: Thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you have to have the Zoloft on hand when you read it. (Laughter.) What's going on in your life?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, listen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you get to that, at a press conference this week, President Bush compared hurricanes to terrorism.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) You know, something we -- I've been thinking a lot about how America has responded. It's clear to me that Americans value human life and value every person as important. And that stands in stark contrast, by the way, to the terrorists we have to deal with.

You see, we look at the destruction caused by Katrina and our hearts break. They're the kind of people that look at Katrina and wish they had caused it. We're in a war against these people. It's a war on terror. These are evil men who target the suffering. They killed 3,000 people on September the 11th, 2001, and they've continued to kill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that ring true?

MR. O'DONNELL: There are few presidents in our history more lost than that. (Laughter.) For him to find this desperate pathway from Katrina, from lives lost because of government mishandling of the hurricane that hit New Orleans, to get a path from there to his war on terror and somehow link the hurricane to al Qaeda is as large a possible flight of mental illness as we've seen in the president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think his objective is to show how unpredictable, unforeseeable both disasters were?

MR. O'DONNELL: There is no coherent objective to what that man says.

MS. CLIFT: Well, try --

MR. BLANKLEY: He --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me hear from Tony, Eleanor. MR. BLANKLEY: Right after the storm hit, a lot of people were saying, "Gee, if that's what happens after a storm, what will happen after a terrorist attack?"

MR. O'DONNELL: But that's not what he said.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just finish the thought.

And there's an element -- I agree with a lot of the point that it's a stretch to link them too closely. But the lack of anticipating the nature of the threat and preparing for it is the same, whether it's terrorism, which is very likely, or whether it is a storm, which is also fairly likely. So preparation, anticipation of the problem, those are similar. But connecting it a lot more, I wouldn't do.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but that isn't the point he was making. He was --

MR. BLANKLEY: That's what --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: He was like a child reaching for his security blanket.

MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, let's be more respectful.

MS. CLIFT: And putting everything in the framework of terrorism is the only thing that has sustained him, except the public is now catching on, because they feel that Katrina revealed we are less safe, that the Homeland Security Department doesn't work, and this president doesn't make us less safe. He can't reach for the terrorism security blanket anymore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's saying that if it's unforeseeable, if it's not predictable, its destructive power, then no amount of preparation would have helped?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think what he's saying is this, John, that -- look, it is a bit of a stretch, but what he is saying is, given the character of our enemies, that we are all trying to help out here, and he tries to put himself out in front of Katrina there, and our enemies do welcome our destruction.

Over there in the Middle East, they were saying it. They were calling it --

MR. O'DONNELL: That had nothing to do with the hurricane, and that's his problem. MR. BUCHANAN: Let me --

MR. O'DONNELL: His problem is, there is no enemy in this hurricane --

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me --

MR. O'DONNELL: -- except the failure of government to respond to it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Lawrence, let me tell you your problem here is that, quite seriously, the president is down. He is flat on his back, and his adversaries see an opportunity to kick him to death. And no matter what he's done the last three and a half weeks, much of which has been good and aggressive to get out in front of this, they're using this opportunistically to kill him.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he's morphing Katrina into terrorism, is this the way he morphed al Qaeda into Iraq?

MR. O'DONNELL: That's -- no, that's an unmakeable case, but it has more sense to it than that. The problem for him bringing terrorism into the Katrina discussion is -- and the war on terror into the Katrina discussion -- is it highlights the notion that is already out there that the reason we lost the war against this hurricane, once it had taken over New Orleans, is because we're off fighting this other war that has drained us of the Louisiana National Guard --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, it could backfire.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes -- and the other possible response from (the administration?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, tens of thousands of protesters are converging on Washington this weekend to demand that President Bush bring U.S. troops home. Julian Bond spoke about the parallels between the Iraq war and Vietnam: One, U.S. citizenry is enraged; two, U.S. government is tone-deaf to the pleas of the people and from Congress to bring the troops home; three, Iraq is getting more unpopular every day; four, democratic nations worldwide are hostile to the Bush government over Iraq.

Question: The protests aside, what about the chairman of the NAACP Julian Bond's central point? Is he right? Are the people now at a tipping point, meaning Iraq is on the edge of becoming, if not being seen as, Vietnam? I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't think the public is enraged. I think that's the wrong word. I do think, obviously, that the support for the war has shrunk and it's going down into the high 30s, which is a very dangerous point for it to be in. Whether it's a tipping point, I think it's already tipped on that basis. Can it be redeemed? I think we'll see the elections in October and December. If things start to get better, I think it can be redeemed, because the public understood the problem. That's why they stuck with him for so long. But they're not seeing it working, and that's why they're leaving from it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Buchanan, you were in the esteemed Nixon administration, as I was. You saw what protest is like. Do you see any of that burgeoning in the United States? Is it moving in that direction?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there's no doubt that you have the Cindy Sheehan movement, which is metastasizing. It's going to be very big this weekend and Monday and Tuesday. But it is not of the magnitude, 500 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it reach that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Five hundred thousand --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you sense that kind of revulsion --

MR. BUCHANAN: Five hundred thousand people outside the White House in November and October of 1969. The problem the president has, John, is he is in LBJ's situation. LBJ was in '68; he only had months to go. This president has got three and a half years to go, and the country is turning against the war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The reason the anti-war demonstrations are not at that level and may not reach that level is because we don't have a draft. And a lot of people in this country are still able to live their lives without being touched by the war.

But there's growing pressure on Capitol Hill, on the White House, to provide some sort of plan. What is the plan? Is there a plan for victory? Is there a plan to get out?

MR. BUCHANAN: The difference is --

MS. CLIFT: There's a plan to just keep it going so that Bush doesn't lose it on his watch and he sticks the next president with the problem.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's no national Democrat -- no senator of the Democratic Party is going to that rally, so it has not reached the levels, John, of '67-'68.

MR. O'DONNELL: By the time those people were outside your White House, we had over 30,000 dead in Vietnam. So this number, the number of dead in Iraq, the total number of American casualties in Iraq, is one month's worth from Vietnam. MS. CLIFT: They ought to add --

MR. O'DONNELL: So these are not comparable orders of magnitude.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to direct your attention to the screen. Can you tell me whose picture that is on the screen? Who is that gentleman? Patrick?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, is that Safavian?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the gentleman.

Now, what does he do?

MR. BUCHANAN: Is this the procurement man who longer has a job at the White House? I can't see the screen that far away, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you recognize David H. Safavian?

MS. CLIFT: Safavian, right. I don't recognize him, no, but I have read about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know what's going on in his life?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. He was arrested for making false statements to the FBI. He's Jack Abramoff's lobbying partner, Jack Abramoff being indicted for his excesses in --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a White House appointee.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was in charge of procurement.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, the procurement of $200 billion will go through FEMA. It will not go through, I believe, the SBA. So where does that leave things?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's innocent until proved guilty. That's where it leaves him, as not on this panel. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is Jack Abramoff?

MS. CLIFT: Jack Abramoff is a lobbyist in Washington who conned Indian tribes --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that Jack Abramoff?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, that's Jack.

MS. CLIFT: -- and so forth. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How is Abramoff connected with any of this?

MS. CLIFT: Close friend of Tom DeLay, close friend of Karl Rove. All paths lead to Karl Rove.

MR. BUCHANAN: Indicted.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this a Teapot Dome or is it a tempest in a teapot? Do you know about this?

MR. O'DONNELL: It's pretty bad for Tom DeLay. Abramoff is the guy who paid for DeLay's trips, illegally --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is Abramoff.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about back to Safavian?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, he's related to him. And now the prosecutors, once they start going into the can of worms that is the life of a lobbyist like Abramoff, a lot of people are going to start to fall.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this also feeding back to Judy Miller --

MR. O'DONNELL: No.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just get one --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and to Plame?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. O'DONNELL: No.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me just get one point in. Liberals used to be offended by the concept of guilt by association. Nothing that has been charged against Jack Abramoff, when he hasn't been found guilty of anything, relates to anything that Tom DeLay has -- any guilt on Tom DeLay's part. Yes, of course, he was a lobbyist. He worked Republicans mostly and he was close to Tom DeLay. But the fact that he may or may not have done something --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any --

MR. BLANKLEY: -- it doesn't inculpate people who happen to know him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, hold on, hold on. MS. CLIFT: The conflict of interest --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any other Bush appointee who has gotten attention from the press?

MS. CLIFT: The conflict of interest. What they appoint here -- not only cronies, but cronies of cronies. You have Julie Myers, a 36- year-old woman who may be perfectly nice, but she has no experience to be the first line of defense --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is she? Who is she?

MS. CLIFT: -- at the Immigration Service.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look --

MS. CLIFT: She is General Myers' niece and she is married to Mike Chertoff at the Homeland Security Department, his chief of staff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what have we got there, kind of a species of cronyism?

MS. CLIFT: Connections. Connections. Yes, absolutely.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John -- you are unfair, John. Teapot Dome was a scandal that went right into the Oval Office of the president of the United States. Abramoff doesn't go there. Safavian or Salafian, whatever it is, he doesn't go there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a White House appointee.

MR. BUCHANAN: Abramoff doesn't go there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was right in the OMB. He was the principal procurement officer --

MR. BUCHANAN: There's no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you imagine the reach of that procurement office?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You were in the White House.

MR. BUCHANAN: I know. It's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know the OMB. All your speeches went through the OMB for clearance.

MR. BUCHANAN: But they didn't go through the General Services Administration, where the corruption is. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: What's the best way to pay for Katrina? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Cut spending. Cut other spending in the government of the United States.

But they're not going to do it, because there's no majority for any major cut at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: They're not going to do what Pat suggests. The obvious solution is to roll back the tax cuts. It's going to cost $500 billion over 10 years to relieve couples with estates of over $5 million. Do they really need that money? I don't think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Snow said, "Why don't we back-burner the estate tax and why don't we back-burner the tax extensions?" What do you think of that idea?

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: Some tax extensions are needed. But, look, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you with DeLay on all of this tax --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I'm not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't want anything touched? Keep the tax cuts the way they are?

MR. BLANKLEY: No. If you read my --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Extend them, possibly.

MR. BLANKLEY: No. If you read my column this week, I, in fact, said that we need to deal with substantial budget cuts, some deficit, and perhaps some modest tax increase that does not affect last dollars, and therefore minimizes the negative economic impact of any taxing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about what the people want? The people want --

MR. O'DONNELL: (Inaudible) -- that phrase one more time. I thought I heard the phrase "tax increase" coming from the Republican side of the chamber. MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I'm a supply-sider and I have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: I'm a supply-sider. I've been that way forever. But I have latent deficit-hawk inclinations.

MR. O'DONNELL: Welcome. Welcome.

MR. BLANKLEY: And as the deficit goes above 5 percent of GDP, I get nervous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nurse those along. They're important. What about what the people want? They want the money to be transferred from Iraq, which is now $250 billion, or $200 (billion) plus $50 (billion) to come, easily. They want that transferred --

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, maybe half the people want that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to domestic needs. We take care of our own needs first. Charity begins at home.

MR. O'DONNELL: Maybe half the people want that, but remember, that money is in the Defense Department. And getting it out of the Defense Department --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We all believe that will not be tough.

MR. BUCHANAN: You are right, John. Charity begins at home. I'll tell you where some of it is going to come out of. They're going to drop the foreign-aid budget. The AIDS budget is going to get chopped.

MR. O'DONNELL: There is no foreign-aid budget.

MR. BUCHANAN: I know it's small, but that's the only thing they --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: It's the only thing they will cut.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where's it going to come from?

MR. O'DONNELL: The money -- the only place the government really has money that it can move is in Medicare. That's the only place you can take it from. And the only place you can raise it is taxes. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll tell you where this is going to come from.

MR. O'DONNELL: You're not going to have repeal of the estate tax, and you can raise the top rate. Tony's right about that. I welcome him into the tax-raising --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget it. Forget it.

MR. BLANKLEY: Don't put words in my mouth. I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget it. That will never pass Congress -- never, never.

MR. BLANKLEY: I (want?) a carefully calibrated tax cut.

MS. CLIFT: So it doesn't affect you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor -- let me hear from Eleanor, quickly. What were you going to say? Or you've said it?

MS. CLIFT: I don't have anything to say on that. I'm for anybody who wants to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are all --

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor's for raising taxes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are all sadly, but unsurprisingly, wrong on this. And the reason is that the money will come out of the federal reserve of Beijing and the federal reserve bank of Tokyo.

Issue Two: Pyongyang's Pirouette.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) They have said in principle that they will abandon their weapons programs. And what we have said is great, that's a wonderful step forward. But now we've got to verify whether or not that happens.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A step forward -- not only wonderful; probably historic. North Korea this week signed a six-party agreement to abandon its nuclear program and rejoin the signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the NPT, and submit to nuclear inspections. In return, North Korea was promised security guarantees, economic benefits, energy aid.

"This is a tremendous breakthrough, a victory for global security." So says the head of the Arms Control Association, a non- partisan group. (Daryl) Kimball added that he is cautiously optimistic.

Why does President George Bush deserve credit for this breakthrough? I ask you, Lawrence. MR. O'DONNELL: Well, he did make the crucial call. He made the decision to accept this offer by the North Koreans. It was all up to him and it was the right decision. And you really have to give him credit for pushing to the point where we got them into this posture. I think it is really one of the real Bush administration accomplishments.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I add to what you said? He deserves credit for doing something else in connection with the talks that was quite central to it. He permitted bilateral talks between the North Koreans and us during the five-party negotiations. The bilateral talks, I thought, were significant.

MS. CLIFT: Well, and he entrusted Condoleezza Rice, who he has great faith in, to allow diplomacy to work. And in diplomacy, everybody walks away with something. And so she had to stand up to the hard-liners in the administration who see any kind of benefit to the North Koreans -

(Cross-talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Plus the exceptional skill of Christopher Hill, who is a Foreign Service officer of long standing, former ambassador to Poland and Macedonia and, most recently, South Korea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His remarks after the negotiations were extremely encouraging. As a matter of fact, he commended China on their role in this.

MS. CLIFT: Right, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Without China, there would have been no breakthrough.

MS. CLIFT: Lowering the rhetoric on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Without our bilateral talks, there would have been no breakthrough.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let's stop this love affair with the president on this side of the aisle.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, making nice with him?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, this is a good step. But the history of negotiations with North Korea --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, here we go. We're back on the grim track. Read the book, now.

MR. BLANKLEY: Thank you, although the second chapter is called "Hope and Determination." MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But I don't think it has the same (ring?) of the pessimism.

MR. BLANKLEY: But, look -- no, it's realism. But, look, on North Korea we've been through this before. We need to go through this diplomatic path again, and I agree. And I think the president did a good job of getting us to the starting point. This is not success.

MR. BUCHANAN: But it is --

MR. BLANKLEY: This the beginning of a difficult process of verification.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is the Clinton deal.

MS. CLIFT: Right, exactly.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's the same thing Clinton did, for which he was condemned by Mr. Bush. Also, we're going to give them a light-water reactor. And also, you know, trust but verify. I mean, this is a promise by these people, John. I can't see them giving anything up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat, if you're so good, give me an answer to this question. What else led to this breakthrough? Shall I tell you?

MR. BUCHANAN: Why don't you tell me, John?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't you tell me? What do you think it is? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: China.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Chinese, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No. We've already talked about China's role. What else led to it?

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, I think the North Koreans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know what led to it, Pat? Now, you tell me why.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you why. Look, the North Koreans have got to do a deal. They've got nowhere to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no. It's not their disposition.

MR. BUCHANAN: They have nowhere to go, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, that's not true. Their economic need -- we know all about that. MS. CLIFT: The fact --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What led to it was the Iraq quagmire. Had there been no Iraq quagmire, there would have been no resort to diplomacy. The president is a second learner. He learns from disasters.

MR. BUCHANAN: That has nothing to do with it. I'll tell you what. This does create a problem for the president that he will not accept this kind of deal with Iran.

MS. CLIFT: They could have had this deal four years ago, and waiting four years ensured that North Korea now has the capability to produce eight to 10 bombs.

MR. BUCHANAN: But the Iranians are going to say --

MS. CLIFT: So better late than never.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- "We'll take the same deal."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will the deal last? Can we rule out North Korea as any kind of imminent nuclear-bomb threat? One-word answer, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm hopeful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: It buys time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Doubtful.

MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, it will last.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, it will last.

Issue Three: General Disagreement.

Lieutenant General Russel Honore, commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, held a news conference recently. Honore said progress was being made by officialdom and that the private sector was helpful, but not all of the private sector, especially the smart business guys.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE: (From videotape.) Private industry, all those smart business guys out there who say how we have or have not done this right and have some fancy computer matrix, get down here and get some damn gas here and come down here and get the phones working, because this is key. This will infect the nation. So come on down, (big-brained?) people. Bring the phones in and get the gas to the people. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The press noted that not all was going well. One congressman told one journalist that there was a problem with organization.

(Begin videotape.)

Q He said there's a lack of unified chain of command. There's a lack of a sense of urgency, where everybody keeps passing the buck.

LT. GEN. HONORE: That's BS. But you can't sit back here and say what you heard from somebody else. Go on the streets of New Orleans.

It is secure. We walk around without any issues. And the people are cooperating, those that are there. And we will get moving, along with the police department, to maintain the necessary issues around security.

Q But it is secure? The whole city is secure now? There's no safety threats?

LT. GEN. HONORE: Have you been to New Orleans?

Q I have, indeed.

LT. GEN. HONORE: Did anybody accost you?

Q No.

LT. GEN. HONORE: Okay. So, why in the hell do we keep trying to make that the issue? If you can help, get there and help.

(End of videotape.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Honore's criticism of the media welcome or not? Lawrence O'Donnell.

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, you know, he's playing kind of loose and using his own bravado --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's he really after?

MR. O'DONNELL: -- to create a sensation. I mean, he's just trying to say, "Look, it's not as bad as you think, but we could get more help from certain sectors like the private sector in terms of telecommunications and gasoline supply and that sort of stuff."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's kind of disillusioned and disaffected toward civilian authority and the fact that they don't seem to realize there's a big difference between theory and practice, and the Army out there is the one that's doing the real hauling? Isn't that the complaint?

MR. O'DONNELL: Well, look, he's trying to get the job done. He's trying to not be a complainer, but he's trying to give you a realistic picture. Not a lot of people involved are trying to do that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I think he ought to run for governor from whatever state he's from, and he'd win in a moment. He had another line that you didn't have there where he told a reporter not to stay stuck on stupid after the reporter asked a stupid question two times. And I've just got to think that people love it. I enjoyed it. He's straight-talking. And he apparently has been doing a heck of a job.

MS. CLIFT: We've had so much spin that the frank talk is refreshing. I think they ought to send him to Iraq. But challenging a reporter and saying, "You haven't been accosted on the streets of New Orleans" -- you know, they walk around with a camera crew and lights and all of that. I mean, it's really not the same thing. So, you know, he's a little theatrical, but it's kind of fun.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who does this remind you of? Does it remind you of Rumsfeld in the early days?

MR. BUCHANAN: It reminds you -- yes, it does remind you of him in the early days. This guy has got real authenticity, John. He's a can-do guy. He is on the ground. He's doing things. And what you're getting is a lot of basically Beltway badgering of him from the press, and his response is the type of thing that people love.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He came up with an idea, when asked about what he thought should be done. He was reluctant to say anything about the military taking over the job of civilian law enforcement, which would mean arrest and detention. He stayed away from that. But it seemed clear that he kind of favored that in an emergency. But what he did say publicly was we should have satellite communication fulfilling the communications needs, you know, on the phone when everything breaks down.

MR. BUCHANAN: You also heard him --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pretty obvious, but it wasn't done.

MR. BUCHANAN: You heard him also backing up the New Orleans police. He said, "The New Orleans police and we are on the streets and we got the job done together."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Walls closing in on Syria's Bashir Assad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: October will be a double whammy for the Bush administration. The Valerie Plame investigation has to come to a close, and the deaths in Iraq will creep over 2,000. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Next week Bibi Netanyahu may defeat Sharon in the Likud Party to kick him out. It'll split the Likud Party and may result in a coalition government and quick elections.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.

MR. O'DONNELL: This weekend, when "The West Wing" moves to its Sunday time slot at 8:00 p.m. on NBC, its ratings will go through the roof.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: JetBlue's stock will return to where it was at its earlier high this week before the landing-gear malfunction, and it will move up from that high upwards.

Bye bye.

END.