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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP


HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN



JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, TONY BLANKLEY,


ELEANOR CLIFT, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL



TAPED FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 1998


AIRED THE WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 12-13, 1998



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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: It hits the fan.



REP. HENRY HYDE (R-IL, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee): (From videotape.) We ask for God's help and blessing.



REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA, speaker of the House): (From videotape.) This is a very serious constitutional question.



REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO, House minority leader): (From videotape.) It is not just a political process.



REP. CONYERS (D-MI, ranking member, House Judiciary Committee): (From videotape.) Can we really come together?



CHARLES BAKALY (spokesman for Kenneth Starr): (From videotape.) We have fulfilled our duty.



DAVID E. KENDALL (president's attorney): (From videotape.) There is no basis for impeachment.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ken Starr's monumental opus hit Capitol Hill this week like an asteroid. Starr's summaries and data provide a damning catalogue of individual illegalities and wrongdoings. But it does more; it weaves together cover-ups, conspiracies, lies, contradictions, moral turpitude, and subversions of the U.S. legal system into a grim profile of Bill Clinton's character and his habitual modus operandi.



These politically lethal documents are what Democrats dreaded Starr would present them with. Besides besmirchment of the U.S. presidency and the new national security risk brought on by a publicly dishonored and ridiculed commander in chief, what worries Congress and the public at home and abroad is the negative fallout on U.S. financial markets and the Asian economic meltdown that has penetrated South America and Canada, too. Neither the collapse in Asia nor the U.S. market can withstand this assault if it is drawn out, as it will be if an impeachment process gets under way. Analysts say U.S. markets will continue to drop erratically until Clinton is gone.



The message coming from Capitol Hill is loud and clear: closure -- now, rapid, final.



The impeachment process, necessarily protracted, cannot yield this. Impeachment is much too slow. But resignation, with its immediate, definitive closure, takes time also. Its resistances are largely twofold: one, the public's fear of trauma that is seen to come from the transfer of power without a popular election.



Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and others do not believe that a shift in power will cause trauma, necessarily: "If he has a disorder, he has to go. Our system of government does not depend on one person being there until death does him in. We're not talking of Czar Alexander; we have a system of government in which persons move in and out of government. This is a crisis of the regime; it is not a constitutional crisis. The Constitution provides for this." Unquote.



Resistance two? Clinton's adamant avowal that he will not willingly surrender office:



PRESIDENT CLINTON: (From videotape.) Never.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What impact will Starr's transmittal to Congress have on a Clinton resignation? Michael Barone?



MR. BARONE: Well, John, I didn't think there's going to be a resignation. One is almost tempted to say, "She won't resign." The fact is that we're talking here about removal. I think the Starr thing -- it's -- the Starr report -- what fascinated me here is not the sexual innuendoes, but this whole catalog of lies, of suppression of evidence, manipulating the system of justice. It obviously provides a solid basis for a conscientious member to vote for impeachment. The question is whether it leaves any basis for a conscientious member to vote against.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's this "she" business? You're referring to the first lady?



MR. BARONE: Well, I'm -- you know, that's one of the things going around, that obviously neither Bill Clinton nor Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to leave the presidency.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?



MS. CLIFT: The only jury that matters is still out, and that's the American people. So far, they have consistently drawn a line between the president's personal conduct, which they deplore, and his performance as president, which they favor. If they are grossed out by the details in this report, maybe those polls will change.



But the Starr report comes down to sex. It's a story of a middle-aged man who -- married man -- who has an illicit affair and tries to cover it up. It's a one-man coverup. He didn't use elements of government, he didn't organize a coverup. It's pretty pathetic and sad and -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- to impeachment.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you feel about it, Tony?



MR. BLANKLEY: I think that resignation can't come until the impeachment process starts, and/or until the polling data convinces the Democrats that they need to close this down. I think you have to look to a generic ballot, which is turning against the Democrats now pretty badly, but I don't think --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's a generic ballot?



MR. BLANKLEY: A generic ballot says that -- you ask people, do you -- are you likely to vote for a Republican or a Democrat? If those numbers go below five or six points, which they're now moving below, then the danger is the Democrats will fear defeat and may try to pressure the president to a quick resignation.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The generic balloting for the Republicans has never been as good, has it?



MR. BLANKLEY: This is the best generic ballots I've seen.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Lawrence?



MR. O'DONNELL: Resignation has not crossed the mind of Mr. or Mrs. Clinton at this point. And I don't believe Bill Clinton would even have his first thought of resignation until we were about a day away from a final vote in the Senate on impeachment.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president on the apology campaign delivered a set of remarks at the White House Prayer Breakfast on Friday. Here's what he had to say, in part.



PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) In this case, it may be a blessing, because I still sinned. The children of this country can learn in a profound way that integrity is important and selfishness is wrong. I want to embody those lessons for the children of this country, for that little boy in Florida who came up to me and said that he wanted to grow up and be president and to be just like me. I want the parents of all the children in America to be able to say that to their children.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you parse that in its most brief state?



MR. BLANKLEY: The most revealing piece of evidence I've seen in the report today was a description of Clinton telling Sidney Blumenthal that he had once before upset his family and he would never go down that path again. That was where he was lying to Blumenthal to get Blumenthal to go into the grand jury to lie. I mean, once you read that and then you see what the president's saying, how you can believe the sincerity of what the president just said is beyond me.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see him saying that what has happened is really reductively a service to the American juvenile community and to their parents? Is that what you understand him to say?



MR. O'DONNELL: He has a very serious problem, because he used the very same performance skills in denying to America that he ever had any sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. And so, when you look at him saying things today, he's using exactly the same speaking tricks that he did then.



MR. BARONE: Well, John, you know, it took him 24 days, from April 17th to this appearance on September 11th. He talks about -- he says, "It is plain that I was not contrite enough." Well, he sounds like a media critic there, not somebody that's expressing genuine remorse. Obviously, this recalls Ronald Reagan's remark that, when asked whether it would be hard to be president after having been an actor, he said it would be hard being president without having been an actor.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what's the most --



MS. CLIFT: And all this whining about the speech -- that was a very affecting, moving presentation, and it's too bad he didn't deliver that speech on August 17th. We probably wouldn't be having all the conversations we're having today.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it was studded with sophistry.



(To Mr. Blankley.) I'd like to ask you Eleanor's point and also the point made in part by the president during that address. The president is portraying himself as a sinner. That's morality. He's saying, "I'm a sinner, I'm not a criminal. I am guilty of immorality, I'm not guilty of illegality." What do you think of that distinction in terms of an impeachment process?



MR. BLANKLEY: Well, sin and redemption is between a man and his God. Perjury and the legal sanctions are between a man and his government. And I don't think that -- we can feel for him as a man, and I hope he redeems himself, but it has no relationship to the fact that he's guilty --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about the standard of "high crimes and misdemeanors"?



MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think that is going to be where most of the debate is going to be in Congress.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you shed any light on that, in the light of Mr. Kendall's comments today with regard to high crimes and misdemeanors?



MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you quoting from? What is that book?



MR. BLANKLEY: This is "The Federalist Papers."



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We exclude books from this; however, I'll waive that. (Laughter.) The chair will waive that and let you read whatever you have to read.



MR. BLANKLEY: It's Federalist 65. It's very famous.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who wrote this?



MR. BLANKLEY: Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton. These are the commentaries on what the Constitution means.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. What did he say about this?



MR. BLANKLEY: He said that this -- that impeachment is about the misconduct of public men. It's about the abuse or violation of some public trust. And here's the interesting -- another interesting phrase: He says, "It is a method of national inquest into the conduct of public men." And that, I think, almost precisely describes the process that we're about to be embarking on.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that spreads it out a little bit beyond what one thinks of in terms of felonies, necessarily, as basis or as a ground level for impeachment. Is that right?



MR. O'DONNELL: But it was written before polling was invented -- (laughter) -- and the votes in the jury of this case and the votes in the Judiciary Committee are all going to be based on what their constituents tell them to do.



MS. CLIFT: Right.



MR. BARONE: Well, but in the 1974 -- the 1974 Judiciary Committee staff, including one Hillary Rodham, as she then was, said that, in a report based on historical precedent, impeachment is not limited to technical crimes; it is misconduct of a wide sort.



MS. CLIFT: Right.



MR. BARONE: I think members of Congress have some latitude in figuring out conscientiously what they think is a high crime and misdemeanor.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get back to the subject of resignation. The Economist magazine, which is a celebrated and renowned journal -- revered, I think one might say, internationally -- has a cover on its current issue. We can see it on the screen now: "Unwanted: Slick Willie Clinton, for lying, philandering, and not inhaling." It says at the end of the editorial, "Clinging on for dear life is not governing; as markets zigzag, Russia crumbles, and terrorism rears it head, self-pitying paralysis is not good enough. This newspaper has no wish for him to stay, and it hard to see why America should either."



MS. CLIFT: Well --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say to that, Eleanor?



MS. CLIFT: Because this president has been good for a lot of people in this country, women support him overwhelmingly, minorities support him, and they're going to feel like their president is being stolen away from them because of a trumped-up sex charge.



MR. BLANKLEY: A trumped-up --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)



MS. CLIFT: A trumped-up sex charge, yes.



MR. BLANKLEY: He didn't do it? I thought he admitted it.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)



MS. CLIFT: No, criminalizing sex is very different from a sex scandal and the way --



MR. BARONE: Well, criminalizing -- criminalized lies -- (inaudible due to cross talk).



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --



MS. CLIFT: Wait. Wait a second. Wait a second. And the commingling of the Jones case and the Starr case is something that bears examination. I mean, he was basically set up.



I'm not condoning what he did. What I'm saying is it should not be criminalized, and we shouldn't be criminalizing politics or sex scandals.



MR. BLANKLEY: Should perjury be criminalized?



MR. BARONE: Should we decriminalize perjury in civil cases, repeal that federal law?



MS. CLIFT: Perjury in a criminal case that was thrown out in -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- that was immaterial would not be prosecuted in real life.



MR. BARONE: I hope you don't get sued with somebody -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- got rid of perjury in criminal --



(Cross talk.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's move on.



Is the Doomsday scenario -- that is, the sexual Armageddon that, it is said in Salon magazine, is going to be unleashed against the Republicans and the Democrats on the Hill who endorse impeachment or resignation -- is that going to -- is that -- A, is it going to happen, by the White House? Is it going -- is the SWAT squad going to put that into effect? And will it be productive? I ask you, Lawrence.



MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think it will happen, because the mountain of evidence, sexual evidence, against the president is incomparable to anything they've come up with so far. They've come up with single incidents in the distant past of some Republican members of Congress. So there's nothing quite like it.



MS. CLIFT: What we're seeing is members of Congress, worried that the media is going to ferret out their skeletons, preemptively standing up and admitting -- Congressman Burton, Congresswoman Chenoweth admitting to some affair long ago. Maybe we'll get more of that -- lots of confessions! (Laughs.)



(Cross talk.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The central proposition of the introduction was that impeachment is too slow a process; it will be ruinous for the U.S. stock market, it will be ruinous on the implosion that's going on in Asia. And the Economist magazine says pretty close to the same thing, as well as do other magazines.



And let me digress here for a moment. In Italy there is another magazine, called Sette, which with particular unction ridicules the president. Check out his nose, Eleanor.



MS. CLIFT: Yeah -- (inaudible).



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you see that? And also, in the revered Manchester Guardian, we have a two-page spread on the tobacco question of Mr. Clinton, his interests, the cigar issue, raising the question of whether or not this puts Mr. Clinton at odds with his own anti-tobacco policy.



MS. CLIFT: (Laughing.) What!



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have anything to say about that? And that's the Manchester Guardian. With this ridicule of the commander in chief and of the president, don't you have to think that this lowering of his esteem in the international community will have very serious negative consequence, even in the area of national security, with terrorism out there alive and well?



MR. BARONE: John, in that problems -- we ought to give credit to two senior Democrats that have speeded this process along. The Republicans two weeks ago wanted to hold this report under guard --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And who came forward?



MR. BARONE: John Dingell, the ranking Democrat and senior member of the House -- he --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he -- who came forward -- who came forward today, I believe it was, the minority leader of the U.S. Senate, he said and she said, "This must be done by the end of this calendar year"? And by my count, there are only about 25 work days if they come back into special session after the election in this calendar year. To do that -- the only way to do that -- is through a resignation, is it not?



MR. O'DONNELL: Basically, the Judiciary Committee alone would come back after the election and do this work.



MR. BARONE: Which is the plan, now. Right.



MR. BLANKLEY: Well, the Judiciary Committee may virtually stay in town, and I think that the speaker will probably keep other members -- be able to reserve them to come back at the call of the chair. So I think you could see a short campaign season and a lot of work, because I think they're going to move with all due haste, and that's --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the most damaging of the sex disclosures, Michael?



MR. BARONE: Oh, I -- I -- you know, goodness --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please speak to us in very dry prose. (Laughter.)



MR. BARONE: Oh, no, I'm not going to get into that --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you can't do it -- (to Mr. O'Donnell) -- you try it.



MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think there is any single sex disclosure that is damaging. The public knew there was sex. I don't think people --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, did they know there was unconventional sex?



MR. O'DONNELL: I don't -- people -- I don't -- people -- John, it's possible that all sex is unconventional. (Laughter.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about the sex on Easter Sunday when he walks out of the church carrying the Bible and when he was mourning the death of Ron Brown, on the same afternoon, with Monica in the Oval Office?



MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible due to cross talk) -- Ron Brown.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that?



MR. O'DONNELL: I don't -- that -- but that isn't a sex story that is a problem, that's just -- he --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well doesn't it go to what he just said, when he spread out, in terms of Alexander Hamilton -- (laughter) -- the definition of what is an impeachable offense?



MS. CLIFT: No~!



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it go to that?



MR. BLANKLEY: Of course it does. George Washington spoke eloquently about the need for morality in public officials as a necessity in a republic.



MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but you know what?



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, I've got to move on. Hold on to that for minute.



Let's assume that the president may get pressure, as he almost certainly will, from members of Congress and of his own party, to submit his resignation.



One of his concerns must be his personal liability, and here is the Agnew formula. If, as some here think, Al Gore declines to pardon President Clinton, the Agnew model can be invoked. In 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew was faced with charges of tax evasion and corruption. Under an arrangement, a deal negotiated by Attorney General Eliot Richardson, U.S. Attorney Robert Bell and Mr. Agnew, this sequence occurred: One, Agnew resigned. Two, Agnew was then issued a criminal information notice for tax evasion -- i.e., an indictment without a grand jury. Three, Agnew pleaded nolo contendere. Four, Agnew was cleared of all criminal wrongdoing. In the current crisis, the principals in the arrangement would be Kenneth Starr, Norma Holloway Johnson, now presiding over the Starr grand jury, and Mr. Clinton.



My belief is that Al Gore will grant a pardon, but assuming that he doesn't -- and we can get into that in a moment -- what do you think? What do you think of the Agnew formula?



MR. O'DONNELL: For President Clinton to get a plea bargain, in effect, with Kenneth Starr --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct, and --



MR. O'DONNELL: -- (inaudible -- resign. I don't think he will do that. I think it would be much easier for him to get a pardon from Al Gore, and a pardon that the public would accept.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you feel that way?



MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. I think that the Nixon pardon was correct, and I think if Clinton goes, a Gore pardon for Clinton --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But didn't Ford pay the consequences?



MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, and that may be a price, but I think everyone said it was the right thing to do, the punishment as -- (inaudible due to cross talk).



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. On a survival probability scale of zero to 10 -- zero, Mr. Clinton leaves office, he's out, almost overnight; 10, Clinton stays, he finishes his term till January 2001 -- rate the survival probability level of Bill Clinton as president. Michael Barone.



MR. BARONE: Well, in the Italian, given the magazine you brought in, numero tre. Three.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three survival probability?



MR. BARONE: Three out of 10. That's what I say.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That means you think he's going to survive.



MR. BARONE: No, no. I'd go the other way, that he will not survive.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's a seven.



MR. BARONE: That's a -- okay.



MR. O'DONNELL: I think you've just reversed it; but we can do that. (Laughter.) We can play it that way.



MR. BARONE: That's sette. That's the name of the magazine.



MR. O'DONNELL: You can play it any way you want.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero meaning he's out overnight.



MR. BARONE: Yeah, three.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ten means he stays. Zero or 10?



MS. CLIFT: Assuming the public retains confidence in him, it's a seven or an eight that he stays.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That he stays?



MS. CLIFT: He stays.



MR. BLANKLEY: Four-point-nine-five.



(Laughter.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That he stays?



MR. BLANKLEY: No, that he goes.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That he goes?



MR. BLANKLEY: So it's a little bit more likely that he will go than that he will stay.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Larry? Larry?



MR. O'DONNELL: We are at a 6.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that we are at a zero -- that he goes.



Issue two: President Albert Gore Jr.



VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) And my counsel advises me, let me repeat, that there is no controlling legal authority that says that any of these activities violated any law.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So declared Vice President Albert Gore Jr. during an earlier Clinton-Gore administration crisis. But in the current Clinton crisis, we have an indisputable controlling legal authority: the Constitution. The 25th Amendment to the Constitution provides for resignation, which means Gore becomes president.



Let's look at the pluses and drawbacks of a transfer of presidential power, without an election, to Al Gore. Give me one plus to Al Gore, please, Michael Barone.



MR. BARONE: Well, I think he's a much more engaged guy in foreign and defense policy than Bill Clinton. We need sustained activity and strategy for really tough problems that are emerging, like North Korea and Iraq. I think Al Gore would put a lot more into that in knowledge, intensity, and sustainability than Bill Clinton.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In what area?



MR. BARONE: In a long-term strategy for dealing with these emerging countries with nasty missile systems --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.



MR. BARONE: -- the capability of nuclear and chemical/biological warfare. I think that Bill Clinton is a 24-hour sound-bite president --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He also knows Russia and Europe -- Eastern, Central, and Western Europe -- and he also knows the Balkans very well.



Eleanor, give me a plus.



MS. CLIFT: He's decisive and disciplined when it comes to governing. Bill Clinton is neither of those.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's knowledgeable --



MS. CLIFT: And he's got his eye on futuristic issues. Don't laugh. Livability, privacy -- those are his issues.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you dredge up a plus?



MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. He's a very good administrator. But I'd rather -- I'd rather --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's really -- that really sweeps us all away!



MR. BLANKLEY: I'd rather talk about the minuses on Al Gore.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. (To Mr. O'Donnell.) Can you give us a plus?



MR. O'DONNELL: He has had the best training to be president of anyone who would occupy the office this half of the century.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Let's do the checklist on -- just to make sure we've covered the bases on the pluses of the esteemed Albert: He gets a political honeymoon. That's a plus. He brings stability. He knows Capitol Hill. He knows Russia, Europe, and the Balkans. And his veep selection may help. Suppose, for example, he picks who?



MR. O'DONNELL: Dianne Feinstein.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sam Nunn, Bill Bradley -- wouldn't that be a plus? Joe Lieberman. Can you think of another veep he might pick up?



MR. BLANKLEY: Bill Richardson.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is very important for him to do this, by the way, right away. When Ford took over, he waited from the 9th until the 20th, and for a period of six working days the market went down 7 percent -- not too much. As soon as he appointed Nelson Rockefeller, the market came right back and raised itself just a little. Okay, the quick checklist. I ask you, minuses --



MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, I think the campaign finance --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll weed them out -- I'll help you out here.



MR. BLANKLEY: The campaign finance independent counsel --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got the fundraising factor, you've got the green problem, you've got the charisma deficit, you've got the credibility gap. Pick up one of those and tell me what you --



MR. BARONE: The campaign financing, obviously the Republicans are going to follow him around with a monk in saffron robes --



MS. CLIFT: Being green is not a problem, John, that's a good thing to be as we go into the next century, as people care about quality of life. He doesn't connect with voters; that's a problem, and there's no emotional connection with the voters.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the charisma deficit?



MR. O'DONNELL: I don't worry about that. I worry about him having his own special prosecutor in his first month in office.



MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think there's going to be a great wave of good feeling towards him and that will die of its own inanition. Do you want me to spell that for you, Lawrence?



(Laughter.)



MR. O'DONNELL: This feeling will overwhelm Janet Reno as she approaches the special prosecutor --



MS. CLIFT: No. She may --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that -- I also think that the -- let's see, the federal voting commission -- I think that kind of a charge, in itself, makes the eyes glaze over --



MS. CLIFT: Yeah. He may -- he only --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I think he also might get out. What do you have to say?



MR. BLANKLEY: Well, if we had a change of government like this, I think an awful lot would change and I suspect that we'd accuse Gore of a lot of things once he became president.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: standing by her man.



HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: (From videotape.) I'm proud of his leadership, I'm proud of his commitment, I'm proud of what he gives our country and all of us every day by his commitment, and I'm proud to introduce my husband and our president, Bill Clinton. (Applause, whistles, whoops.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was this smart politics on Hillary's part, for Mr. Clinton and for herself, I ask you, Eleanor Clift?



MS. CLIFT: Listen, one of Clinton's defenses has been that this is between himself and his wife, and if she can handle it, the rest of us ought to grow up and handle it. If she does not stand by him, that would be a terrible blow to his chances of staying in office, I think. This was critical. Although she's still a little chilly; notice that.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't see that.



MS. CLIFT: Oh -- I think that those arms were locked at her side -- (laughs).



MR. BLANKLEY: He has to reach to her first, I saw that.



MR. BARONE: Yeah, it's almost Ted Kennedy -- remember Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter on the stage in 1980?



MS. CLIFT: Right. Yeah. It's going to take her a little while too, I think.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that she can become an independent political player after this?



MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think she can. I think she's completely identified with this White House and there's no more political life for her.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there will be tell-all stories and books written and television programs about this whole couple and their hegira?



MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a spiritual journey, Eleanor.



MS. CLIFT: Is that a kind of a cigar? (Laughs.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Plus tell-all stories?



MR. O'DONNELL: There will be books. I don't think we'll get much beyond books.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the subsequent indictments of Mr. Starr might have off-scourings that would reach her?



MR. O'DONNELL: Apparently not, because those would have been reported in the Whitewater section of a report, if he was going to include that. But he hasn't done it.



MS. CLIFT: Right. I mean, it's a total outrage that --



MR. BARONE: The Rose Law Firm billing records themselves -- we still don't know how those mysteriously showed up, but evidently there is no evidence that --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you a very hard question very quickly, in pure, cold, political terms, if she's trying to seek survival for an independent political career, is divorce the way to do that?



MS. CLIFT: Oh, please! I'm not going to be forecasting what they're going to do in the future.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will you attack this from a purely --



MS. CLIFT: I think --



MR. O'DONNELL: It's not the way to do it, and they will never divorce. Never. That is as --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really!? Because they're deeply in love?



MR. BLANKLEY: They're two pieces of the same person.



MR. O'DONNELL: Because it is a very solid marriage.



MS. CLIFT: No first couple --



MR. BLANKLEY: They're two pieces that together make one person --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Romantic?



MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I don't know whether it's romantic, but --



MR. O'DONNELL: Romantic or dysfunctional, it stays together forever.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will Hillary be more remembered as: (A) a woman standing by her man; or (B) a vindictive force behind Bill Clinton's abuse of power?



Michael? Quickly!



MR. BARONE: (Chuckling) Vindictive force? I think she's going to be remembered as the architect of the Clinton health care plan.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor? A or B, preferably.



MS. CLIFT: She gets -- she -- A. And she gets a lot of respect for the dignity and grace with which she's handled an extremely difficult situation.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you have to say, Tony?



MR. BLANKLEY: She's going to be the vindictive force that stood by her man. (Laughter.)



MR. O'DONNELL: The audience only remembers the last act. They'll remember her as standing by her man.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that Tony Blankley got it right.



Okay, predictions. Michael?



MR. BARONE: Prediction: Yevgeni Primakov, the new Russian prime minister, is going to really eviscerate our policy in Iraq even more than it's already done.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iraq?



MR. BARONE: Iraq, the trade sanctions --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How is he going to do with regard to the deprivation of freedoms over there?



MR. BARONE: Deprivations of freedoms in Iraq, he has no problem with that.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I'm talking about in Russia.



MR. BARONE: Oh --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: After all, he's an ex-communist and he's already installed another ex-communist.



MR. BARONE: Well, and he's really -- he's the KGB connection. The only good thing there is that the KGB was the most efficient organization in the old Soviet Union.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, one plus about Primakov is that he has good ties to the Arabs, and if we enlist his support, that might be a way of getting the peace process moving.



MS. CLIFT: Right.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?



MS. CLIFT: Impeachment hearings in the next Congress end in censure, which is voted for almost overwhelmingly in the House.



MR. BLANKLEY: Al Gore picks Bill Richardson as his vice presidential candidate to carry California, because he can't take it.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excellent.



MR. O'DONNELL: The next Clinton speech on forgiveness will be given by Hillary Clinton in which she says she forgives him so you must too.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More indictments from Kenneth Starr, at least four, in order to gain indictments of other participants. Bye-bye!



ANNOUNCER: GE is proud to support the McLaughlin Group. From aircraft engines to appliances, GE: We bring good things to life.



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