Share

THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE

TAPED: FRIDAY, JANUARY 5, 2007
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 6-7, 2007

-----------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2007 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500 1000 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please visit http://www.fednews.com or call(202)347-1400
-----------------------------------------------------------------


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Gallows Mob.

"Muhammad." That was Saddam Hussein's last word before the trap door underneath him dropped. Hussein was hanged in Baghdad last week. The execution was sudden, rushed, and a public-relations catastrophe, not only for Iraq, since it occurred at the time of a major Muslim feast, but also for the United States.

The gallows on which Saddam was hanged is U.S. property. It sits on a U.S. military base, Camp Justice. Saddam was transported to the gallows from another U.S. military base in Baghdad, Camp Cropper, where he had been incarcerated by Americans for three years. And the personnel who moved Saddam from prison to gallows are U.S. troops. But the U.S. is trying to downplay its role. Question: Has the hanging damaged the image of the Maliki government, especially around the world? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, absolutely. I mean, what happened there was a travesty. It turned into an ethnic conflict, virtually, in the sense that the Sunnis are now enraged by the way the Shi'a really attacked him. One might -- how soon they forget, when they attacked Saddam at the thing, including the people from Muqtada al-Sadr's group.

So what you had there was another occasion in which the sectarian conflict within the country became exacerbated by an event that was almost deliberately staged by the government. The prime minister took responsibility for this. This is an outrage in general, but for him particularly. And for us, trying to diminish the sectarian violence, this was a very, very, very bad event.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it was a sectarian killing and not an execution. And the lasting legacy now is that Saddam Hussein is a martyr -- died as a martyr for the cause, as opposed to being seen as the butcher of the Kurds.

And the notion that this government, our government, is on the verge of sending more troops into Baghdad to give the government breathing room to get its act in order is bizarre, because Saddam was taunted by members of the Mahdi Army. They are not outsiders. They are the government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Shi'ite militia.

MS. CLIFT: Shi'ite militia. Mahdi Army is one of the Shi'ite militias. And Prime Minister Maliki is basically beholden to these militias. And, you know, we can't control them by putting more troops in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did -- I'm saying Maliki -- Maliki, Maliki. (Changes pronunciation.) I think the AP says it's Maliki.

MR. BLANKLEY: You say Maliki, I'll say --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) Did Maliki get a boost within the Shi'ites -- he being a Shi'ite -- by reason of this?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. But look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sure, he did. And that's what he --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bush told him on the phone, "You've got to shut down Muqtada's militia." MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And therefore he has to improve his own standing to do that.

MR. BLANKLEY: You're guessing that he designed the execution. I've got to say personally --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He rushed through it. He had to stay ahead of that religious holiday.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, there's always some reason. Look, there's a lot of clamor. I personally like the Italian method for getting rid of dictators. They hung Mussolini upside down from a lamp post. But my feeling is that all's well that ends well.

This is a man -- he was a butcher and a dictator. He killed 1 million people, including in the war against Iran. He got a trial and he got executed. Now, everybody who's against capital punishment or who is against the war -- you've got Chirac and the rest whining and complaining. But most of the Iraqi people are delighted that man's dead.

MS. CLIFT: You have the American government whining and complaining about the way this was carried out. This is hardly a small group that are --

MR. BLANKLEY: It's good that he died.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This was payback time for Maliki, too, because of the death of 150 members of the Dawa Party, that movement that he is part of. And that was done by Saddam, and therefore, you know, he was all for this hanging. And he wanted to get it done before anything got out of hand. Is that the reason for all this speed?

MR. ORNSTEIN: I'm just hoping somebody now goes out and finds the real killers. But with that, there's naturally deep resentment against Saddam, who was this awful butcher. And Maliki feels it himself. But, you know, they're not going to wait as long as they've got the opportunity to do this.

Let's face it, this is another example of a kind of Keystone Cops administration of what's going on in Iraq, and it's an embarrassment to us. You know, it helps them with the Shi'ites. The problem he's got is adjudicating among different groups of Shi'ites, and whether he can keep Muqtada al-Sadr at some distance while also bringing in other Shi'ites who are more reasonable.

This doesn't help him in the end. He's still a weak figure trying to fend off different forces within and between groups. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it the broad conclusion of the Arab world around the world that this is Shi'ite revenge? And therefore, since it's Shi'ite revenge, there is a state of civil war that already exists in Iraq between the Sunnis and the Shi'a?

MR. ORNSTEIN: Could there be any more resentment between them, the way things have been going? I mean, this is a small thing. The fact that he's dead, actually, is a good thing now and it'll be good over the long run too.

MS. CLIFT: Actually --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think justice is served.

MR. ORNSTEIN: Of course it was.

MS. CLIFT: Actually, it would have been better if there were a trial. All he did was get convicted of killing 148 Kurds.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's all.

MS. CLIFT: There was plenty other that he did, and that is the record that you want to lay down. That's why you had trials after the Holocaust. You can kill somebody with one bullet or a hanging.

You want to lay down a record of injustice and of truth. And Saddam Hussein goes to his grave looking better than his executors.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A very distinguished organization agrees with you -- hold on, Tony -- it's called Amnesty International. And this is what they say:

(From tape) "It was absolutely right that Saddam Hussein should be held to account for the massive violations of human rights committed by his regime. But justice requires a fair process, and this, sadly, was far from that. It will be seen by many as nothing more than victors' justice and, sadly, will do nothing to stem the unrelenting tide of political killing."

Amnesty International says flatly that justice was not served.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, that's nonsense. I think that's really nonsense. I mean, here was a man who was one of the worst dictators, I mean, in an era of really terrible dictators. This man deserved to be hanged, killed. So that justice --

MS. CLIFT: Nobody's disputing that --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- the trial itself was flawed in so many ways. This is not a country which has a sophisticated legal system.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you making excuses for it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. But I don't think that this is a miscarriage of justice. Where do you get that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even though the trial was flawed and the execution was what we just saw?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Do you have any doubt that he was guilty of what he did?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't have any doubt. I don't have any doubt.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He deserved it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No matter what the heinousness of the crime, the individual charged deserves a fair trial. We live by that. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This was not a fair trial.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They don't exactly live by the same judicial standards, nor by the same political standards.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, so this is a variant standard.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's the best they can do under the circumstances they had there -- the trial was. They won't do it the way we could do it with O.J. Simpson.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, yeah, that's right. We couldn't handle it with O.J.

Exit: On a capital punishment decency scale -- decency -- zero to 10, zero meaning the execution of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, picking up your point, 10 being the Florida execution of serial murderer Ted Bundy -- he was executed by electrocution -- rate the decency of Saddam's demise.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Four.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four.

Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I don't know which is high or low.

MR. BLANKLEY: Zero is low. Ten is high.

MS. CLIFT: But I think the aftermath of the Saddam execution has far more ramifications on U.S. foreign policy than Ted Bundy.

MR. BLANKLEY: As I said before, the Italian model is a 10. That's the way you do it. The people get outraged and they kill the bastard. And this gets a 10 for that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They killed him beforehand and they hanged him upside down. This was Mussolini and his wife.

MR. BLANKLEY: This is fine.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then they de-clothed them and then they mutilated them.

MR. BLANKLEY: The people have a right to get even with these kinds of people.

MS. CLIFT: Well, by that scale, our whole policy in Iraq should be a 10. MR. ORNSTEIN: Look, it would have served everybody's interest if they'd killed him but done it in a very dignified way, having gone through a trial, however fair or not. It's stupid to do it this way, but it's good that he's gone. But give it a two for that reason. You could have done this much better.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give it a decency of five when you compare it to what could have happened, like Mussolini.

Issue Two: Madame Speaker.

HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): (From videotape.) I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A new Congress for a new year with a new speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker in the 215-year history of the House of Representatives.

SPEAKER PELOSI: (From videotape.) For these children, our children and for all of America's children, the House will come to order.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This start-up of the 110th Congress puts both the House and the Senate now officially under Democratic control; 233 Democrats to 202 Republicans in the House, 51 to 49 in the Senate; 16 women in the Senate, 71 in the House. So ends Democrats' 12 years of wilderness.

The central and burning issue of this Congress remains Iraq, and Speaker Pelosi knows that.

SPEAKER PELOSI: (From videotape.) The American people rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Speaker then stressed that Iraq is the primary responsibility of the commander-in-chief, and these are the elements of that responsibility.

SPEAKER PELOSI: (From videotape.) Shortly, President Bush will address the nation on the subject of Iraq. It is the responsibility of the president to articulate a new plan for Iraq that makes it clear to the Iraqis that they must defend their own streets and their own security, a plan that promotes stability in the region and a plan that allows us to responsibly re-deploy our troops.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: President Bush will soon ask Congress for more money for Iraq. In 1975, President Ford asked for more money for Vietnam. Congress said no.

Will Congress say no to Bush? Eleanor. MS. CLIFT: They're not going to say no outright, but they're going to elevate the issue. They're going to generate more public outrage. They're going to hold hearings. They're going to do accountability. But in the end, it's his decision. If he wants to send more troops in, he can do it. They can hold a vote, a nonbinding resolution.

And there's a lot of dissatisfaction among Republicans. By one count, only 12 of the 49 Republicans in the Senate back a surge. If the Democrats think they can peel off enough Republicans, they may have a vote expressing displeasure against this really very cynical option on the part of the president. He's putting -- he's holding American troops hostage to his political legacy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me just finish with this and I'll turn to you.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to President Bush making two key points: One, the evacuation of the U.S. troops should begin no later than four to six months. They added, "We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq." Taken literally, this means that the Democrats will not support a troop surge.

If the Democrats in bulk do not support the troop surge, would that be smart politics, Tony Blankley?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, the Democrats are caught in a difficult position.

They do have the power soon, when the money runs out, and in February there's going to be a supplemental appropriation to pay for the -- more activities of the new troops. They do have the power and the authority to cut off the money, like the Congress did in '75. They don't want to do that because they don't want to get their fingerprints on a failed war.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me finish, Eleanor. Now, they have a base that is outraged because they voted for them to end the war. So the Democrats are going to let the killing go on because they won't assert the authority they have. And they'll do a lot of blustering and talking.

MS. CLIFT: I just want to make one caveat. There were no American troops in harm's way in 1975. That was about backing the South Vietnamese government.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we hear from our -- all right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Here we're going to back the American soldiers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will you please hold on? I want to hear from Norm.

MR. ORNSTEIN: Thank you. First, let me say it's an outrage that we do this through supplemental and emergency appropriations, so we have no real debate on whether -- how we're going to pay for this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that going to be changed with the Democrats in charge?

MR. ORNSTEIN: It's actually illegal. We actually have in the Defense appropriations bill that you're not -- you have to do this through the regular process. And it's not being done that way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it be done in this session of Congress?

MR. ORNSTEIN: They're going to struggle, but I don't think they will succeed at doing it. On Friday -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will they make public what they're spending?

MR. ORNSTEIN: Well make it public, but we're not going to consider it in terms of how we're going to pay for it in the context of the budget itself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it'll be a PR failure, nevertheless, because people will know what's going on.

MR. ORNSTEIN: Yeah. And it's just a dishonest way to handle the trade-offs that we have here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your second point?

MR. ORNSTEIN: The second point is on Friday I was at a session at my institute, AEI, with Joe Lieberman and John McCain where John McCain especially made a very eloquent case; if we're going to do a surge, it's show if you do 15,000 troops for four to six months. You've got to do it in a serious and sustained way with a significant number.

We're headed for a collision course here -- Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leaders and a growing number of Republicans -- because what we're talking about is a plan that the president will endorse that'll mean 18 months with probably 25,000 or 30,000 troops, and that's a heavy weight. They can't stop it. But the opposition to this is going to grow and it's going to come to dominate the political arena.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the Democratic Party be split on this issue of sending troops? The Democratic Party.

MR. ORNSTEIN: The Democratic Party is going to be split on the question of whether you cut off funding now, but you're going to have probably the overwhelming majority who will say, "Don't go for a surge," a tiny fringe who will say we should.

The president can do it and he will do it. Whether he can sustain it as he loses Republicans -- now you're going to get Republican support -- a Republican split. But increasingly, I think, over six months, eight months, 10 months, a year, you're going to see increasing division there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Can the Democrats afford to disappoint the voters on Iraq?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Democrats cannot fail to fund the troops that are at war. They cannot withdraw funds from our troops that are fighting. That's the big dilemma for the Democrats. They don't want to fund it, but politically they can't walk away from our troops on the ground.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that doesn't mean a surge, does it? MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it includes a surge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They support a surge? They must support a surge?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. The president can send the troops in, and we've got to fund the troops.

MS. CLIFT: The surge is so cynical; it gets Bush through the end of his term and it just passes it off to whoever follows him to finally get us out of the mess there. Senator Biden is right when he says they know this war is lost in the White House, and this is really just about saving Bush's political hide.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president's attempt --

MS. CLIFT: Postponing the inevitable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- at a democracy in the desert is going to fail, in all probability. He's got six to 18 -- what has he got? He's got six months with this, or will he have more? Will he have 18 months?

MR. BLANKLEY: He's got two years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much can he spend on it?

MR. ORNSTEIN: You can't --

MR. BLANKLEY: He's got two years until January of 2009.

MR. ORNSTEIN: It doesn't have a chance of working unless you can sustain it for a long period of time. I think, in that sense, if you're going to go for this policy, it's got to be sustained. But politically --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's got to be clear you can't get a military victory over there unless you're willing to put in a couple of hundred thousand. You think the American people are going to go for that?

MS. CLIFT: It's too late.

MR. ORNSTEIN: No, I think that we're in this terrible dilemma.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to the question?

MR. BLANKLEY: The question was, is it good for the Democrats to not do anything about this? MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To disappoint the voters on the Iraq issue.

MR. BLANKLEY: I think they're in a real quandary, because the passion, not just the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it affect 2008 if they don't go the right way?

MR. BLANKLEY: It is certainly going to affect the Cindy Sheehans, the Arianna Huffingtons. Probably at least half of the Democratic voters thought they were getting a Democratic Congress that was going to end the war. If the Democratic Congress has the power to end the war and chooses to let it go on, they're going to pay a very high price.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Democrats could blow 2008 within the next year.

MR. ORNSTEIN: Well, you know, when you move from being a minority party, where you can be an opposition party, to being in the majority, where you share some of the responsibility for governing but you can't make these decisions, as Mort said --

MR. BLANKLEY: But they can; they choose not to.

MR. ORNSTEIN: They won't make it.

MR. BLANKLEY: They won't, but they can.

MR. ORNSTEIN: No Congress will cut off troops -- funding for troops.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If they're gutsy, what will they do?

MR. ORNSTEIN: You know, they're going to hold some hearings.

I suppose they could do the show thing of redoing the vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will they do the Jerry Ford thing?

MR. ORNSTEIN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not the Jerry Ford. Will they do the congressional thing with Jerry Ford and say, "No more money"?

MS. CLIFT: You know, a year --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will they do that? Could they get away with that?

MR. ORNSTEIN: No. I mean, they could get away with it presumably saying, "We're not going to give additional funds." But he redirects the funds anyway.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, there's plenty of money at the Pentagon. He can drain the Pentagon. But look, a year-and-a-half --

MR. BLANKLEY: There are line items --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. A year-and-a-half ago, it was unthinkable to even oppose this war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, wait. Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no, no.

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. You can take it in later.

Issue Three: In From the Cold.

FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE JOHN NEGROPONTE: (From videotape.) It's been a great honor, Mr. President, to serve as your first Director of National Intelligence. The position, Mr. President, to which you are now nominating me is an opportunity of a lifetime. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three years after September 11, 2001, Congress created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. John Negroponte was confirmed as the first Director of National Intelligence, a Cabinet-level position. The 9/11 Commission concluded that the nation's 16 intelligence agencies needed an integrating body to connect them.

This week, out of the blue, after 20 months at the job, Director of National Intelligence Negroponte was named to become deputy secretary of State, number two at the department, the deputy to Condoleezza Rice.

MR. NEGROPONTE: (From videotape.) I look forward to supporting Secretary Rice in carrying out your foreign policy goals.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Negroponte is giving up his cloak and dagger for a vest and pinstripes. What's behind the Negroponte change in status? We'll try you, Norm.

MR. ORNSTEIN: You know, we've had a gap in leadership at the Department of State for quite a while. We haven't had a number two or a number three. It's been a real problem. They need a person of stature who can get through confirmation, and that's why Negroponte has been --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this is a squeeze on Condoleezza Rice?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say also, Negroponte's entire career was spent in the State Department.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thirty-seven years.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's what he really wants to be. If he had an ideal job, he would pick deputy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The point is, this is a job that he wanted. This is the job where they needed him. They needed somebody with his experience.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Somebody's got to talk to the Iranians, and she can't do it because she's been saying all of these threatening things to and about the Iranians.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What's more --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said -- somebody's got to talk to the Syrians. Somebody's got to talk to the Jordanians. Somebody's got to talk to the UAE. MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he knows the Iraq brief better than anybody in that department.

MS. CLIFT: He brings --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think he's qualified.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. He's very qualified.

MS. CLIFT: He brings a much-needed professional expertise to the State Department --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: -- but he also knows if he stayed in that intelligence job, he'd spend the next two years having to agree with Dick Cheney that we have to wage war with Iran or he'd be pushing back unsuccessfully. He's smart to get out of that spot.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the president is fortifying himself.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president and maybe Rice, depending on which way she's going.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're fortifying themselves against the Dick Cheney reaction to this?

MS. CLIFT: No. I'm saying that Dick Cheney and the president want somebody in that intelligence job who will support their desire to make war with Iran. And I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Negroponte --

MS. CLIFT: I think Negroponte is too smart for that. He wanted out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he doesn't believe in that because --

MS. CLIFT: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (cross talk) -- for the next three to five years.

MS. CLIFT: Exactly. That's why he wanted out.

MR. BLANKLEY: Negroponte is better qualified for the job at State than he was for the job in Intelligence. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, wait a minute.

MR. BLANKLEY: At your invitation, let me go back to the other issue on the last segment, because when Eleanor says that there's plenty of money sloshing around the Defense Department, that's not true. There are line-item appropriations that every agency has. You can't just move it one from the other.

The big lie the Democrats are trying to put in this town is they don't have the power to cut off the money. And they do have the power and they're not going to use it. And that's going to be the big --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question (cross talk) --

MS. CLIFT: And the big lie you're putting out is that you can blame the war on the Democrats. That's what you're trying to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a lot more to the Negroponte move than meets the eye. True or false? One word.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: False.

MS. CLIFT: I think we just expressed what was behind it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True?

MS. CLIFT: True. (Laughs.)

MR. BLANKLEY: True a little bit; largely false.

MR. ORNSTEIN: False.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is true. Issue Four: Death of a Statesman. At the age of 93, President Gerald Ford passed away the day after Christmas. President Ford is universally honored for his solid character, his balanced judgment and his buoyant temperament.

With his death, new information about President Ford was free to be disclosed, notably Bob Woodward's audiotape of the late president's convictions on the U.S. involvement in Iraq.

FORMER PRESIDENT GERALD FORD: (From audiotape.) I think Rumsfeld, Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into a war in Iraq. Then they put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Ford also underscored an indispensable condition for going to war; namely, U.S. national security.

FORMER PRESIDENT FORD: (From audiotape.) I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people unless it is directly related to our own national security.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you share Ford's view that national security should be present when the scale is something like what we're now seeing in Iraq, and it's not there now?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. I just wish he had spoken out while he was still on the world stage. Instead --

MR. BLANKLEY: (Cross talk) National security should always be, and obviously the people who started the war thought there was national security. And while he was a decent man, he thought that Poland wasn't being dominated by the Soviet Union. So I respect his decency but not his foreign policy judgment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the key word there is domination. You might be able to squeeze a way out of that for him. MR. BLANKLEY: You don't want to embrace that position.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I don't want to embrace it, but I think he takes also -- I mean, I think it's excessive for you to impugn his judgment on the basis of a slip of the tongue.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BLANKLEY: The whole nation correctly judged he was wrong.

MR. ORNSTEIN: I love Jerry Ford and he ran a competent foreign policy, and --

MS. CLIFT: Right, exactly.

MR. ORNSTEIN: -- I'm actually surprised that even for something to be released on his death that he would criticize a president. These are views, by the way, that are probably very much the same as Bush's father has and won't talk about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think Jerry Ford is literally right.

Issue Five: Hello Up There. That's right -- back to the moon. NASA's next big project is to establish a four-person outpost on the moon within 20 years. Moon colonists will harness solar power to sustain the station. Price tag: $230 billion for our national mooning.

Question: Is it in our national interest to have moonlings in a permanent base on the moon? Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, for $230 billion I would say no. You can't separate it from the cost. We've got so many other needs that are, in my judgment, ahead of that, that I wouldn't do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's peanuts compared to Iraq.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It doesn't matter. That's a lot of peanuts.

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: With the new pay-go rules that the Democrats are going to impose, they're going to have to find a way to pay for that, and I think that's going to be hard. But if you look at the degradation of this planet and you think long term, I think we are going to have to start investigating other places to live in the universe.

MR. BLANKLEY: It's money well spent, but there are a lot of people who believe we should go directly to Mars. And there are a lot of advocates that we should spend -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, my God.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, there are serious folks who believe that Mars is the place we should spend the money.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Any military value to this move -- military?

MR. ORNSTEIN: There actually may be military value in having more space exploration. But the only way we can pay for this is through tax cuts, apparently. So I don't think it's a starter. Maybe we'll send 30,000 troops there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will President Bush next week call for more or less than 20,000 troops in Iraq?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: More.

MS. CLIFT: I think probably 30 (thousand), 35 (thousand); still not -- pointless.

MR. BLANKLEY: At least -- twice as much.

MR. ORNSTEIN: More.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Answer: Much less. Bye-bye.

END.