THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; MARTIN WALKER, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
TAPED: FRIDAY, JANUARY 12, 2007
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 13-14, 2007
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Plan B: Augmentation.
(Begin videotaped segment.)
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): Putting 22,000 troops, more troops in, is not an escalation?
SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, I think, Senator, escalation is not just a matter of how many numbers you put in.
SEN. HAGEL: Would you call it a decrease and billions of dollars more that you need for it?
SEC. RICE: I would call it, Senator, an augmentation.
(End of videotaped segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush on Wednesday night unveiled what many see as his last chance to salvage the deteriorating situation in Iraq. He pledged 21,500 new U.S. troops, and he admitted the current strategy is failing.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me. It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president told Americans that previous efforts to stabilize Baghdad failed for two principal reasons.
PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents, and there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the 20-minute speech, the commander in chief also warned that withdrawal of U.S. forces would lead to killings in Iraq on a, quote-unquote, "unimaginable scale."
Question: Secretary Rice chose the word "augmentation" to describe the Iraq troop buildup. Isn't that more typically used in connection with cosmetic surgery, like lip augmentation or breast augmentation? Is this troop increase a form of cosmetic surgery, meaning significant but not decisive? Is it just enough to avoid outright defeat and to punt the problem into the next administration?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, as long as there's 150,000 or 130,000 American troops in Iraq, we are not going to lose the war in Iraq. I think the war has been lost in the United States. But the real escalation in that speech was the direct presidential threat to Iran to destroy networks of advanced training and weaponry. And the president sent in Patriot missiles.
Now, you don't need Patriot missiles to fight the insurgents or al Qaeda. You only need Patriot missiles if you have an enemy that can fire missiles at you. I think the president of the United States intends -- he's certainly preparing for direct attacks on Iranian targets that have been helping the insurgents in Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If we don't send in more troops, Mr. Bush says that the U.S. will suffer a loss of credibility and the regime will become unstable and dominoes will topple across the Middle East. What do you think, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: All those things are happening already. They don't like the word "escalation" because it's too reminiscent of Vietnam. But what the president has done is he's taken a modest troop increase that is unlikely to have any effect, he's dressed it up with a whole bunch of policy initiatives which should have been done two or three years ago, but it's long past the point where it can be effective.
There's too much dependence on a prime minister who is in the grips of a death squad. The fact that he's going to challenge his main protector, Muqtada al-Sadr, is very unlikely. And the president may be setting up something here where, if the Maliki government doesn't deliver, the president can then say, "Well, we did our best. We gave it a last gasp. Now we're out of here." And that's being called "blame and run."
And if the president chooses not to do that, he may widen the war, as Pat is suggesting, or he may simply punt and leave it to whoever follows him to take the final brunt of failure in Iraq. But the war is lost militarily.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president says that if we pull out, Iraq will become a terrorist haven. Doesn't that assume that the Iraqis will want the jihadists when they get rid of us? And is it more likely that Maliki or his successor regime will not want stability and will kill the jihadists the way the Algerians did and the way the Egyptians did?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I think it's good that we're beginning to talk about what will happen if we fail in Iraq. I'm not presuming we are. But I think the critics -- you take people like General Zinni, who has been vigorously opposed to this war from the beginning. His description of what he thinks will happen if Iraq fails is not unlike the president's description.
So it's time for the Democrats and the other critics of the president to not simply say, "Well, we're going to turn it over to the Iraqis and leave our hand," because turning it over to the Iraqis may very well result in events that will be more adverse to America than the status quo. And so the Democrats have to either not even pretend to be serious about the danger of regional conflagration or they need to start talking about how to protect them.
Now, the president's approach is to try to not let it get to that, and this is the latest effort. It's a plausible policy if everything works right, if the Iraqi troops are able to do what he hopes they'll do. They might be able to contain the violence long enough for Iraqi politics to work. Those are a lot of ifs. You know, I think it's less than 50-50 on either of those conditions. But if not that, then what?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the president is somehow setting up an extraction of our forces?
MR. WALKER: I think the president would like to ensure that if there is still going to be a war going on at the time of the next presidential election, that somehow he is able to say, "I did my very best to get out of it." It won't work.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the benchmarks are a contrivance to accomplish that end?
MR. WALKER: No, I think the benchmarks are a belated but fairly sensible way of going about this. The difficulty is that the way that the Iraqi army is at the moment, having had already a Sunni-Shi'a civil war, we're poised now to have a Shi'a-Kurd civil war, because the only reliable units of the Iraqi army are the Kurds. A lot of them don't even speak Arabic, and they're going to be putting three brigades of Kurdish troops into Baghdad.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think the public wants to do, Martin?
MR. WALKER: I think the public would like to find some way of getting out with at least a shred of honor. But the fact now is that, in political terms, what we've seen in the course of this week on Capitol Hill means that the president has got very, very few friends left. No Republican senators really came to his aid. I think it's close to a kind of political meltdown taking place.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get into that -- Hill fire storm.
Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican, as is the president, was the most blunt and the most critical.
SEN. HAGEL: (From videotape.) To ask our young men and women to sacrifice their lives to be put in the middle of a civil war is wrong. It's, first of all, in my opinion, morally wrong. It's tactically, strategically, militarily wrong. But when you set in motion the kind of policy that the president is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous.
As a matter of fact, I have to say, Madame Secretary, that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam if it's carried out. I will resist it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Do you think that the Iraq war is second only to Vietnam in its dangerousness? Or do you think the Iraq war trumps Vietnam?
MS. CLIFT: It's far more --
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it trumps Vietnam, John.
MS. CLIFT: It's far more dangerous because it's in the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More dangerous?
MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah. It's in the Middle East. The oil reserves are there. Vietnam has turned out to be a nice little trading partner 30 years later. I wish I could forecast that with Vietnam. And the confrontation is no longer between anti-war Democrats and the White House. It's now a legislative showdown between Capitol Hill and the White House, the likes of which we haven't seen since Vietnam.
MR. WALKER: The stakes are so high. I mean, if the U.S. were to pull out right now, we will then see an attempt of ethnic cleansing, slaughter of Sunni by the Shi'a. At that point the Saudis come in, the Jordanians come in to protect their fellow Sunnis, the Turks probably come in to protect the Turkomans. We can see an absolute Middle East-wide Sunni-Shi'a civil war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think you're being a little alarmist?
MR. WALKER: I am. But then everything --
MR. BLANKLEY: That isn't alarmist. That's realistic.
MR. WALKER: I am being alarmist because everything President Bush has done in his Iraq policy so far gives me cause for alarm. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Vietnam, we kept saying for almost years that if we pulled out, the dominoes would fall.
MR. BUCHANAN: The dominoes did fall.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This past week the Vietnam government joined the World Trade Organization.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, that's 30 years --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we have very friendly relations with Vietnam.
MR. WALKER: In 30 years' time you may very well have very friendly relations with Iraq.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, let me talk about Vietnam. Vietnam fell. Laos fell. Cambodia was a holocaust. Millions died. Then Ethiopia fell. Then Angola fell. Then Mozambique fell. Then Grenada fell and Nicaragua. That's why you got Ronald Reagan.
This will be -- Eleanor is right. This will be worse. But you know what the president has done? He is relying upon Maliki to declare war on the most popular Shi'a in the country with the biggest army, the Mahdi Army.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that ridiculous?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it is absurd. But he says he's got Maliki --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Maliki said he had made the phone call.
MR. BUCHANAN: All right. Well, this is why the president should at least be given a chance to see. I don't believe they're going to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That situation is so tangled over there with Shi'as and Sunnis not playing their traditional roles --
MR. BUCHANAN: I think if we attack -- if Maliki and we attack the Shi'a and the Mahdi Army, all hell is going to break loose for the Americans.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More on the, quote-unquote, "loyal opposition." Democrats were fierce in their criticism. Joe Biden called the war, quote-unquote, "a tragic mistake." Russ Feingold described it as, quote-unquote, "a true nightmare." Senator Bill Nelson of Florida says, quote, "I cannot continue to support the administration position. I have not been told the truth over and over again by administration witnesses, and the American people have not been told the truth." And then there was the Boxer rebellion.
(Begin videotaped segment.)
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): Do you have an estimate of the number of casualties we expect from this surge?
SEC. RICE: No, Senator, I don't think there's any way to give you such an estimate.
SEN. BOXER: Has the president -- because he said, "Expect more sacrifice." He must know.
SEC. RICE: Senator, I don't think that any of us have a number of expected casualties. I think that people understand that there is going to be violence for some time in Iraq. I could never and I can never do anything to replace any of those lost men and women in uniform or the diplomats, some of whom --
SEN. BOXER: Madame Secretary, please, I know you feel terrible about it. That's not the point. I was making the case as to who pays the price for your decisions.
(End of videotaped segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Senator Boxer says, quote, "I was making the case as to who pays the price for your decisions." Isn't that a legitimate point?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but the quote that you don't have there is she said, "Since you don't have a family." She made a reference to the fact that Condoleezza Rice doesn't have any children; she doesn't have any immediate interest in it. That was well over the line, giving an ad hominem attack, that because she never got -- because this is a black woman who never got married, that therefore she can't talk about war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you go any further, let's --
MS. CLIFT: No, excuse me. I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's hear the bite. Let's hear the bite. Who pays the price?
SEN. BOXER: (From videotape.) Now, the issue is, who pays the price? Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families. And I just want to bring us back to that fact.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she justified -- MS. CLIFT: That's entirely appropriate. She included herself. She is not paying a personal price. She could have asked that of any of the architects of this war. Nobody has anybody serve --
MR. BLANKLEY: She made a reference --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish, Tony. Go ahead.
MS. CLIFT: Stop it, Tony. Stop it.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, she made a reference --
MS. CLIFT: Stop it, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: You're misrepresenting what she said.
MS. CLIFT: Quit it. Cut it out. Cut it out.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, she --
MS. CLIFT: Calm down. Cut it out, now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor finish.
MS. CLIFT: Enough.
MR. BLANKLEY: Do I get to respond?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: Her point is that a very small segment of this society is bearing the burden of this war. We are now sending more men and women in. The 82nd Airborne is going to be on its third tour. We are breaking the contract with these men and women who are supposed to get time off in between combat. And our elite, the people who send these people to war and make these war plans, have no personal interest at all; no personal investment, I should say. It is entirely appropriate what she said.
MR. BLANKLEY: She could make that entire argument without reminding the public that Condoleezza Rice doesn't have any children.
MS. CLIFT: She said her children are too old.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, she has children. Look, that is such an ad hominem attack. And it's an attempt to say, "Condoleezza Rice, you can't even talk about the issue."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First of all, it's not an ad hominem attack. It's an ad feminem attack.
MR. BLANKLEY: Hominem is inclusive, right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that she went over the line or do you think that she's out of line in pressing the issue, Martin?
MR. WALKER: No, I don't think she's out of line. I think that she pushed the very envelope of polite interrogation. But for me, what this pointed to was the degree to which this entire issue has now become so incandescent in Congress. It's not just the fact that the Republicans have abandoned the president. There is a level of outrage and political energy that's surrounding this issue now that reminds me of Vietnam. MR. BUCHANAN: Let me say, John --
MS. CLIFT: If you're --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat in.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think Eleanor's point is entirely valid. We have an all-volunteer Army. We've got young men and women in there on second and third tours of duty. They're the ones that are suffering. We, none of us, even in small tax increases, have paid any sacrifice.
But I do agree with Tony to this extent. You did not need that excess point to say, "You don't have any children," in effect.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, you make a good reinforcing point, and I want to make a more profound one.
MR. BUCHANAN: All right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you ready for it?
MR. BUCHANAN: You always do, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that there's been a notable lapse, until the Democrats came to power, in recognizing that this war is taking human life. On the same Sunday that Saddam was hanged, we crossed the 3,000 dead American soldiers mark. And it was obscured by the fact that Saddam was rushed to judgment. And there have been various other covers that have occurred de facto on the factual information of deaths and the agony that it brings -- that were brought out later. Boxer didn't leave this bone. She went back to this bone and she consumed it right in front of people.
MR. BUCHANAN: You know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And she said, "When these soldiers come back and they're wearing skinny little --
MS. CLIFT: Metal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- metal, and they have burned so much of" --
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John, look, this is a deeply --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She makes the point --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's an emotional argument. Let me tell you, there's another point here. We lost 3,000 guys a week in the Civil War, which lasted for four years.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but this isn't -- MR. BUCHANAN: This country -- you're exactly right; this country is not prepared to spend lives on what is an imperial war for democracy in a country that never threatened this country.
MS. CLIFT: The point is, they're now talking about, oh, six months, nine months; let's give the surge a chance to work. Let's see what happens." How many lives is that going to take? Let's talk. Are we going to spend another thousand lives?
MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor, you've got to talk about what happens if we pull out, too.
MS. CLIFT: That's what it's coming down to.
MR. BUCHANAN: But we've got to talk about what happens if we turn around and pull out. All hell is going to break loose.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the abstractions that are used? We saw --
MS. CLIFT: Twenty-six thousand Iraqis died last year, and I don't think that our staying there is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many Cambodians died when we got out of Cambodia?
MS. CLIFT: Cambodia is 30 years ago. We're in a different world now.
MR. WALKER: We're putting them into a meat grinder. These guys who are going in in the augmentation, the surge, whatever, they're going into urban warfare. That's a meat grinder.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You notice how these terms are cleansed and they're reduced to abstractions? Even the word augmentation --
MR. WALKER: It's a terrible metaphor. It's a terrible metaphor. It's a troop increase.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're bleached of their emotional content and their reality content, are they not?
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get one --
MR. WALKER: It's a large reinforcement and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Collateral damage.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get in one point. By the way, I did a column this week in which I criticized the Republicans for misusing language, the surge. So I agree with you on the language point. But if you're going to be concerned, and you should be concerned about American casualties today and in the future, then the responsible position is to say, "What's going to happen? Are we going to have more casualties in the third Persian Gulf war? Do we get sucked back into it if we let this thing melt down in the Middle East this time?"
MS. CLIFT: I don't think that's reason enough to keep going with a policy that doesn't work.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you'd better start thinking about it.
MS. CLIFT: It doesn't work.
MR. BLANKLEY: We may still be on the air then.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Given the high disapproval rating for Bush's handling of the war, which is 29 percent positive and 68 percent negative, won't the Democrats be perceived as heroes if they force President Bush to abandon plans for a troop increase in Iraq and change course towards early withdrawal?
MR. BUCHANAN: The Democrats -- they're going to cast a symbolic vote against the surge. They're not going to de-fund the surge or de- fund the war, because if they impose a policy on the president by de- funding the war, they will be responsible and accountable for the disaster that's going to follow.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What if they pass the legislation?
MR. BUCHANAN: You mean, the symbolic -- the resolution?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, the legislation "We will deny additional troops" --
MR. BUCHANAN: They won't do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- before the president sends it. Then it falls upon the president to counter --
MR. BUCHANAN: They don't have the guts to do that.
MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should they do it?
MS. CLIFT: First --
MR. BUCHANAN: I think if they believe in it, yes, they should do it.
MS. CLIFT: First of all, the surge got underway before the president even made the speech. It's going to happen in stages. And the Congress is going to watch to see if the early indications are that it's not working, and they may pull the plug on the two remaining stages of the surge.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MS. CLIFT: Keep your eye on Senator John Warner and Senator Richard Lugar, the senior Republicans in the Senate. And they're going to be the ones who are going to stop this.
MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with Eleanor specifically on Warner and Lugar. If they say -- you could end up with barely two dozen Republican senators voting with the president on the Sense of the Senate resolution. The bigger issue that you raise, the question of actually cutting off the money, I don't think the senior Democratic leadership wants to go there. They may conceivably get sucked into that position by the unfolding angry passions against the war. And it may very well be a popular vote when they take it. The danger -- and the professional Democrats understand -- the danger is that two and three years from now, it may not be a popular vote.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm confused as to where you stand on this troop surge, so-called, the increase. Are you saying that because of the array of evils that will come into existence that you listed before that the president is justified in the surge?
MR. WALKER: No, I don't think he is. I think the surge is going to be a big mistake. I think there will be a battle of Baghdad. It might prevail for a while, but then we'll see a battle of Mosul, a battle of Kirkuk, a battle of Karbala, because the insurgents have a vote themselves. They're not stupid enough to stay fighting the Americans in the kind of pitched battle the U.S. military wants. They'll go elsewhere. They've shown this kind of sophistication in the past.
The other point to bear in mind is that the Democrats do not have to fall into the Republican trap of denying funds, because the president has given them another opportunity, which is by opening the Iranian front. What the Democrats, I think, will do will pass a resolution to say there can be no U.S. measures against Iran.
MR. BUCHANAN: They will get themselves crosswise with the Israeli lobby and the Israelis who are almost hysterical that the United States has got to hit Iran's nuclear facilities. I bet they won't do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Mr. Universal.
CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R): (From videotape.) Everyone in California must have health insurance. If you can't afford it, the state will help you buy it, but you must be insured.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is on crutches from a ski accident and is determined that all of his state's citizens will have a crutch, an insurance crutch.
This week Schwarzenegger proposed a $12 billion universal health care plan, mandatory plan. Of the 47 million Americans without health insurance, 14 percent live in California, 6.5 million. And the governor is determined to bring that uninsured number down to zero.
If he succeeds, California will be the second state to do so. Massachusetts was the first state to mandate universal coverage under then-Governor Mitt Romney. Maine and Vermont also have universal plans, but non-mandated. And 15 other states, plus the District of Columbia, want to have universal plans. The key to California's mandated universal plan is for all parties to underwrite those who cannot afford it -- employers, doctors, hospitals, individuals. The state is also banking on more dollars from the federal government.
We all agree that Schwarzenegger will get the universal health care legislation, the insurance, in some form. So why don't we go directly to this? Foreign-born need not apply. "No person except a natural-born citizen or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution shall be eligible to the office of president."
Schwarzenegger is quite impressive, and he's stimulating this consideration. Should this section of the Constitution be repealed? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it shouldn't, even though it outlaws Martin and Tony from being president of the United States. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: I don't think it's at the top of the list of the Congress today. But if he were able to run for president, he would be a front-runner today. He's got a --
MR. BUCHANAN: Which party?
MS. CLIFT: I don't care -- either one. That's the beauty part. He has --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Arnold has the goods?
MS. CLIFT: He understands politics today, that people want solutions. They're tired of the old formulas, the old partisan stuff.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he tilt -- MS. CLIFT: He's made a brilliant recovery of himself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he continue to tilt more left than right, or is he tilting still more right than left?
MR. WALKER: I think he's tilting in a new radical center direction. This is a guy who, in a sense, has got more power than just being governor of California. He's setting a new kind of agenda, not just in this health care insurance scheme, but also in his own separate California policy on Kyoto and global warming.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you like to see the Constitution altered?
MR. WALKER: Oh, anything to give a job to Tony Blair. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: No, despite the fact that -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You would not?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I think we should leave the Constitution the way it is, despite the denial of my chance to run for president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's time to change the Constitution under proper conditions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat; very tight.
MR. BUCHANAN: House Democrats will join House Republicans in a resolution denying the president the authority to attack Iran.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Except for the war, Senator Joe Lieberman will prove his bona fides that he's a good Democrat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: This is a premonition. Hillary's going to Iraq this weekend. She's going to come back anti-war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin.
MR. WALKER: The Iranians are going to retaliate for the provocation that they have had with this raid on Irbil, but they won't do it directly against Americans. They'll do it through their proxies.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's been a lot of talk lately about increasing the membership of the United Nations Security Council. Currently it has 15 members.
It will stay that way.
Issue Three: Manhattan Stink.
New York City was stricken, buildings evacuated, trains shut down, emergency telephone lines swamped. The Monday morning mystery lasted for about four hours. Was it a terrorist strike? No. Natural disaster? No. So why the big alert? Answer: A stench.
New York City and parts of New Jersey were seized Monday by a stink, as of rotten eggs. New Yorkers blame New Jerseyians. New Jerseyians said New Yorkers stink by nature. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was stumped by the stink.
NEW YORK MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R): (From videotape.) It may just be an unpleasant smell. But at this point we don't know any more than that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What's the most likely explanation for the stench? I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. I was talking to E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post. He said 30 years ago, when he was a New York Times reporter, he had exactly the same story to report. Apparently once in a while something smelly happens.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, there's more to it than that. This was a set-up from the Homeland Security Department, right?
MR. BLANKLEY: Here come the conspiracy theories.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They released a noxious smell in order to determine how it would pattern itself out in the form of a gas, if it were a gas. And they --
MS. CLIFT: I don't think they're that clever, John. I don't think they're that clever. Look, I grew up in Queens, and I remember as a child, Secaucus, New Jersey used to be pig farms, and it would emit a very strong odor. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?
MS. CLIFT: I think New York is down-wind from New Jersey. (Laughter.)
MR. BUCHANAN: MSNBC is in Secaucus. That's my network. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you smell the stink?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) The pigs aren't there anymore.
MR. WALKER: It killed 64 birds. This stink killed 64 birds. It was something more than a stink.