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"THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP" HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2008 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 12-13, 2008

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One -- Tour or Detour?

The Olympic torch is now officially enroute around the world, 23 stops -- Athens, Beijing, Almaty, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, London, Paris, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Dar es Salaam, Muscat, Islamabad, New Delhi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Canberra, Nagano, Seoul, Pyongyang, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Macau.

The torch's flame is being held constant, even through protests, and even on long airplane point-to-point trips. Beijing calls the torch routing a, quote-unquote, "harmonious journey." But that journey has become radically disharmonious. The torch is a target for demonstrators protesting against the human rights record of the Olympic host country, China. In London, a 31-mile torch procession was marred by pro-Tibetan campaigners. They jumped over barriers and tried to snatch away the Olympic symbol. In Paris, the mood was the same, with protesters even trying to snuff out the torch's flame.

After Paris, the torch -- (inaudible) -- to San Francisco, its only stop in North America. The Golden Gate Bridge had been scaled and "Free Tibet" banners hung from its girders.

The opening ceremony is almost four months away, August the 8th. Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he will not attend the opening ceremony, for the same reason as other protesters.

Question: Should President Bush boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he should not. He's the president of the United States. We have a tremendous state-to-state relationship with the Chinese. We're dealing with North Korean nuclear weapons, Iranian nuclear weapons. You're dealing with a Chinese currency, a trillion dollars in trade deficits. We've got enormous things to deal with them on.

John, I went to Beijing with Richard Milhous Nixon when Mao Tse- tung ran that place. It was during the great proletariat Cultural Revolution, which was a nationwide pogrom going on, and you had to deal with him because the United States was the first superpower on earth, and we have to have relationships.

I do think these protests, as long as they're non-violent, are good things to show the world what decent people think of what's being done in Tibet. But the president should not boycott the Chinese Olympics. He should go as he said he would.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: If this is an administration that couldn't let Bear Stearns fail, they can hardly offend China, which is holding so much of our debt, to expand on Pat's point. But, look, I don't have a lot nice to say about this administration, but I actually think they're playing this right. They're holding out the opportunity of applying more pressure on China, which they should do, and they're holding out the threat of boycotting the opening ceremonies, not the Olympics as a whole. And so there's still some time between now and August. And I think China is getting a taste of what might happen if this thing gets out of hand.

MS. CROWLEY: I heard that the real reason the protesters were trying to extinguish the torch was because it was contributing to global warming. Look, when we go back to the last big Olympic boycott, it was 1980, and the United States was a part of 60-plus nations that boycotted the Moscow Olympics in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The impact of that boycott was zero -- had zero effect on Soviet behavior, because, look, there are other levers that the United States could have pulled, and we did. The only effect that we had on Soviet behavior was stopping or banning the flow of high-tech imports into the Soviet Union. That's what affected the regime.

Eleanor and Pat are exactly right. The Chinese economy is growing 8 to 12 percent year every year.

MS. CLIFT: I didn't agree with Pat, though.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I disagreed.

MS. CROWLEY: But you were saying that the president should go, for a whole host of reasons.

MS. CLIFT: I said he should hold out the threat of not going, and he may well not go.

MS. CROWLEY: He should go.

MR. CORN: The interesting thing is, this week Bush said, "Well, you know, when I go to China, I talk about the dalai lama. I talk about religious freedom." Well, he's not getting much of a return on that talk. I mean, listen, he's already in a penny, in a pound, or in a couple of trillion dollars to the Chinese, which screwed up our Chinese relations from the get-go. We don't care about labor rights there. We don't care -- the corporations that Bush likes want to sell cell phones to a billion people there.

MR. BUCHANAN: David, we started along a course. They are an authoritarian, repressive regime. We've started along a course of engagement to try to change them. Now, maybe it might not work down the road, but you don't get off the road simply because they behave naturally in Tibet.

MR. CORN: We're too far down the road to do anything about it because of those decisions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Olympic athlete --

MS. CLIFT: And skipping an opening ceremony is hardly getting off the road.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Olympic athlete Jessica Mendoza of the USA's softball women's team opposes any kind of boycott against the Olympics and speaks for her fellow athletes. Quote -- "To take that dream away because of politics completely undermines what the Olympic Games stand for," unquote. So that's what we're all saying here. Is that right?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, no. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You disagree with that?

MR. CORN: It's not politics. I mean, China is a repressive regime. And to sort of pretend this is not happening -- you can't even report on what's going to be happening in China when you go there.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why, then, bring them into the WTO, for heaven's sakes?

MR. CORN: The Olympic Committee made a mistake in the first place.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay, they made a mistake.

MR. CORN: That's when the administration should have weighed in.

MR. BUCHANAN: They made a mistake. But why would you do this?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Four years ago, the Olympics were awarded to Greece, and Greece was slow in constructing facilities. So the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, threatened, just months before the start of the Games, to move them to another city.

This year, should the IOC tell China that unless China negotiates with the dalai lama and respects human rights in his country and for its own citizens, that the Games are off? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: The IOC should stick to its knitting. It's got nothing to do with international politics. It should carry out the Olympics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that will condone what the Chinese do.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, what did they think they were getting when they gave them the Olympics? (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If the president shows up, will that not condone what the Chinese --

MR. BUCHANAN: The president -- no, it does not. Everybody knows where the United States stands. We allow protests against that thing. But the president should go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what's the answer?

MS. CLIFT: Everybody doesn't know where the United States stands on this. We've taken both sides of the issue, just as some of us have on the show. But, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the IOC should move the --

MS. CLIFT: I think the IOC does not have the spine to do it, even if it were so inclined.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What should it do in theory -- in theory should it do?

MS. CLIFT: Look, I think the Chinese are going to have to come to grips with this, because what they're seeing now is nothing compared to what might happen when the Games themselves take place. I remember Tiananmen Square. I mean, if that happened again, what would that do to their pretenses to be part of the modern world?

MS. CROWLEY: The IOC is not going to change --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This will endow China with legitimacy and it will --

MS. CROWLEY: John, this is what you get when you award the Olympic Games to a communist dictatorship. There is no mystery here. Those people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, it was a mistake to start with.

MS. CROWLEY: Those people who oppose giving the Games to China should have made their criticisms known before the Games were awarded. China is not doing anything now that they weren't doing when the Games were awarded to them. It is unfair to try to pull the rug out from under them now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should the IOC move the Games, or threaten to move them to Sydney, let's say?

MR. CORN: Well, I mean, it's kind of like asking the Mob to set up a charitable hospital. It just ain't going to happen. I mean, they're vested in this. They made this decision.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What, in theory, should it do? MR. CORN: I think they shouldn't have given it to them in the first place.

MR. BUCHANAN: They should go ahead with the Games.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you still haven't answered the question. What does it do now? Does it --

MR. CORN: Well, listen, I'd love them to try to use the leverage to get some more freedom out of China. Maybe they could do that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I would attack the proposition that Bush's being there or not being there is not important, because he's a lame duck anyway. So, therefore, go forward with the Games and the IOC just steps aside.

Issue Two -- All The Time He Needs.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) General Petraeus says he'll need time to consolidate his forces and assess how this reduced American presence will affect conditions on the ground before making measured recommendations on further reductions. And I've told him he'll have all the time he needs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Commander-in-Chief Bush signed off this week on Army General David Petraeus's plan to keep thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely. The last of 20,000 surge troops will be out in 15 weeks; 140,000 U.S. troops will be left. Three committees of Congress failed to get a straight answer from Petraeus on how long it will take to draw down any of the 140,000.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): Are you giving us any idea as to how long that will take? You say over time.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Sir, if --

SEN. LEVIN: Could that be a month?

GEN. PETRAEUS: It's when the conditions are met that we can make a recommendation for further reductions.

SEN. LEVIN: Could it be three months?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Sir, again, at the end of the period of consolidation and evaluation, it could be right then, or it could be longer.

SEN. LEVIN: Let's assume conditions permit things to move quickly. What, in your estimate, would be the approximate number of American troops there at the end of the year? Can you give us -- just say if you can't give us an estimate. GEN. PETRAEUS: Sir, I can't give you an estimate.

SEN. LEVIN: All right. You're not going to give us an estimate on that.

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Petraeus summed up where the U.S. stands now in Iraq.

GEN. PETRAEUS: (From videotape.) I have repeatedly noted that we haven't turned any corners. We haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel. The champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two days later, President Bush, the commander in chief, gave a different reading of where the U.S. stands now in Iraq.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Fifteen months ago, Americans were worried about the prospect of failure in Iraq. Today, thanks to the surge, we've renewed and revived the prospect of success.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question -- General Petraeus delivers grim news and Mr. Bush paints a bright face on it. How do you explain this cognitive dissonance? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Remember Baghdad Bob from the old days?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who was he?

MS. CLIFT: He was the information minister in Iraq, who said everything was fine just as the bombs were falling. Well, this is Beltway George. (Laughs.) Look, he's gotten his wish, and that is he's going to get to stay the course, same number of troops. That will extend to the end of his presidency, and he just dumps everything on whoever comes in next.

The military leadership are practically in open rebellion against this president because of how this is affecting the military. The military is strained, overstretched. Fifty-two percent of the West Point graduating class of 2002 left the minute they could get out. And then you get into the money that this is -- your Republicans on the --

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me say this.

MS. CLIFT: Let me finish. Your Republicans in the Senate are beginning to break, Senator Voinovich in particular, looking at the sums of money this is costing while the Iraqis have offshore accounts and a budget surplus.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay, but let me just say this.

MS. CLIFT: It makes no sense anymore. MR. BUCHANAN: All right, but the president is right in this sense, and so is Petraeus. We were on the brink of defeat in 2006 and disaster, and we were looking into the abyss.

MS. CLIFT: We still are, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's no longer true. We have held off defeat. But Petraeus is right; we don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I'll tell you what's coming, John. Petraeus pointed right at the special groups supported by Iran as the main problem now. He said they're firing rockets into the Green Zone. They're responsible for Basra. The president said Iran better not make the wrong choice. We are looking at 140,000 troops here by the end of the year, and very possibly air strikes on Iran before this fall.

MR. CORN: This administration needs to get its story straight. Petraeus gets out there and says, "I have as long as I want to make this decision. I won't give Levin a straight answer." Bush comes up and says, "I'm going to give this guy, this commander, as much time as he wants," thereby vacating his obligations as commander in chief.

Secretary of Defense Gates comes out and says, "Oh, it's not unlimited. This is going to be a brief moment of assessment," and so do --

MR. BUCHANAN: But what is Congress going to do about it? Nothing.

MR. CORN: This is a mess. They have no idea what they're doing. They're just kicking the can.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: What is clear now is that President Bush is going to get exactly what he wants, which is a significant and continuing troop presence on the ground in Iraq through the end of his presidency.

MR. CORN: So someone else will clean up his mess.

MS. CROWLEY: That is an underrated achievement, a political achievement for President Bush. Remember, in 2006 this Democratic Congress came in on a withdrawal platform. Every time they have tried to force withdrawal, they have failed. This is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BUCHANAN: This is not about politics.

MS. CROWLEY: It's a strategic --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- wait a minute -- MR. BUCHANAN: It's not about politics.

MS. CROWLEY: -- victory for the United States and a political victory for the president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's strategic from another point of view, that Petraeus is painting this picture, which is somewhat grim in that summary, because he wants the option, come September, to withdraw? Now, we know that after that he's going to have another period of reflection, and then he will withdraw in October. And October bumps up, of course, to that particular date called the election date. So is this really a political -- at root a political contrivance to win the election? That is --

MR. CORN: Well, if it is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the withdrawal -- scaling the withdrawal down to match the public need for conviction that the Iraq war is working. Do you follow me?

MR. CORN: Yeah, I follow you. Then everybody is lying to the American public, which wouldn't be the first time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are politicians lying?

MR. CORN: Well, it wouldn't be the first time in this administration, now, would it?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait. You're saying politicians lie?

MS. CROWLEY: It doesn't help the Democrats if they keep changing the reason for their opposition to the war. First it was --

MR. CORN: No, they're not changing.

MS. CROWLEY: -- the security situation. When that came under control, then it was political progress. When that came under control, now it's the cost of the war. The Democrats cannot answer any of --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the proposition that it's a graduated withdrawal to slake the political appetite for withdrawing troops from Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: What you have pointed out is very, very possible politically. But where David is wrong -- look, these fellows honestly, genuinely believe in their hearts that too rapid a withdrawal will lead to a strategic disaster and a humanitarian catastrophe. They believe that.

MS. CLIFT: But General -- MR. BUCHANAN: It's not all politics.

MS. CLIFT: General Petraeus is properly focused only on Iraq. The rest of the military leaders are focused on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MS. CLIFT: -- the national security concerns --

MR. BUCHANAN: And rightly so.

MS. CLIFT: -- and the amount of money and blood that we're -- how do you ask the last man to die for a mistake in Iraq? Let's repeat that from the Vietnam years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on -- tough love time. The three senators vying to become the next commander in chief put their comments to General Petraeus.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (From videotape.) How are we to judge, General Petraeus, what the conditions are or should be and the actions that you and the administration would recommend pursuing based on them?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (From videotape.) The problem I have is if the definition of success is so high -- no traces of al Qaeda and no possibility of reconstitution; a highly effective Iraqi government; a democratic, multiethnic, multisectarian, functioning democracy; no Iranian influence, at least not of the kind that we don't like -- then that portends the possibility of us staying for 20 or 30 years.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN(R-AZ), REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (From videotape.) Our goal, my goal, is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I also believe that the promise of withdrawal of our forces, regardless of the consequences, would constitute a failure of political and moral leadership.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Let's assume that Iraq needs a dose of tough love, meaning bluntly told it must start standing on its own. Which of these three presidential contenders is the most likely to drive that tough-love message home? Pat Buchanan. MR. BUCHANAN: Obama's more likely than anybody to scuttle.

MS. CLIFT: Obama asked the most penetrating question. Petraeus and Crocker talk about conditions-based decisions. He tried to elicit from them what are those conditions. He said if the American troops were not there today, would Iraq, in this condition, which everybody is properly, I guess, describing as progress, is that what we would be satisfied with? He got no answer. And the fact that these people would go before the Congress that funds this venture and have no idea what the conditions would be to allow American troops to leave is a national shame.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which one of those candidates could drive the tough-love question home to the Iraqis?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, Hillary and Obama have both said that when they become commander in chief, they will listen to the generals. The generals have warned them, both privately and in public in this testimony, against the kind of precipitous withdrawal that they're advocating on the campaign trail. Therefore, I think that John McCain, given his background, would understand the dynamics far better than either one of the other two.

MR. CORN: Wait a second.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead -- quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: McCain does not want this to be in vain, and he will pursue success --

MR. CORN: John McCain has said that he's happy to be there for 100 years.

MS. CROWLEY: That's not what he said and it's not what he meant.

MR. CORN: That's hardly tough love. He will not be putting any pressure on Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who can drive the tough-love lesson home the best?

MR. CORN: Obama or Clinton, if they stick to their word.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama wants to give away the store.

MR. CORN: No, they don't.

MS. CLIFT: Nobody's talking about a precipitous withdrawal. They're talking about a long withdrawal --

MR. BUCHANAN: One hundred forty thousand guys out in 16 months? MS. CLIFT: -- getting out more carefully than we went in.

MR. CORN: They went in in three weeks, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: That's right.

MR. CORN: They went in in three weeks.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, but Obama will lose the war for the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is Hillary.

Okay, the human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, 4,032, one- half 24 years of age and under; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, severely injured, injured, mentally ill, 92,615.

Issue Three -- Benedict XVI Stop By.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: (From videotape.) Just a few days from now, I shall begin my historic visit to your beloved country. Before setting off, I would like to offer a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will be his first trip to the U.S. as pope, his sixth to the U.S. overall. His five prior visits were as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Benedict XVI arrives this Tuesday in Washington, D.C. for six days. On his visit, Benedict will remind America's Catholics -- at 69 million, the third-largest Catholic flock in the world -- that church doctrine is binding on them. That includes the Vatican's unyielding opposition to abortion, an incendiary issue in the U.S., especially, maybe, during this election year.

Benedict's trip ends just two days before the Pennsylvania primary, a state where one-third of the population is Catholic. It's not the first time the church may have blundered into U.S. politics. In 2004, several Catholic bishops warned Democrat John Kerry that they would deny him holy communion, the eucharist, one of the seven sacraments, because Kerry, a Catholic, wanted to keep abortion legal.

The pope, who was then cardinal, wrote a letter to U.S. bishops that appeared to back the anti-John Kerry bishop. Get this -- George Bush, current president and a Methodist, gained more of the Catholic vote in the 2004 presidential election than did the Catholic, John Kerry.

Question -- Is there a political angle to the pontiff's visit? If so, what is his agenda? David Corn.

MR. CORN: I'm not sure it's outright politics. I think he's here to lay down the law, so to speak. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To Catholics.

MR. CORN: To Catholics, and to promote his global --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they're cafeteria Catholics today.

They pick what they want.

MR. CORN: Well, that's right. He's going to have a hard time, I think, dealing with this. I think Americans tend to like popes in general. They like religious figures. And he'll be warmly welcomed. But listen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. That's a little bit --

MR. CORN: You don't think so?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think that's something of a put-down of the intelligence and --

MR. CORN: No, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the perception of Catholics, right?

MR. CORN: He has a 58 percent approval rating, which is twice what Bush has. Bush would kill for his ratings.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think he's lost much of his flock in Europe, so he's coming here to tend the faithful. But, look, I don't see this election turning on abortion issues and gay marriage. It's much more likely to turn on war and issues of poverty, and here's where the pope can speak out and not sound like an honorary Republican.

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, but that's why I don't think he's going to hit the American people over the head with a sledgehammer. But there is a subtle political agenda here on two points. First, he's going to Ground Zero, so it will be a reminder of the terror inflicted by radical Islam, and the pope has had some issues with the Muslim world. And secondly, it brings up the whole issue of life -- abortion, euthanasia. This week Hillary Clinton announced her admiration for the Oregon assisted-suicide law. So, you know, on the abortion issue and assisted suicide --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Here's where Benedict --

MS. CLIFT: The voters of Oregon -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's where Benedict opposes the liberals on the question of abortion, stem cell research, homosexuality, women priests and birth control. Do you have any comments on any of those issues and the papal position, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First of all, do you share the pope's position on all of those issues?

MR. BUCHANAN: I share the pope's position, because the pope's position is consistent with natural law and the laws of God on a number of those issues. Some of them --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you against women priests? Is that part of the natural law?

MR. BUCHANAN: Some of them, like the environment --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it part of the law to be --

MR. BUCHANAN: It is part of Catholic tradition, faith and morals, which is binding, as you used to know, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Birth control is against the natural law?

MR. BUCHANAN: Birth control certainly is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A condom is intrinsically evil?

MR. CORN: It's in the Bible.

MR. BUCHANAN: Birth control, exactly. Artificial birth control -- you read Aquinas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's where the pope differs with conservatives. All right, put the list up on the board. The death penalty -- he's against it and his predecessor delivered an encyclical against it. Buchanan's for it. Poverty -- he wants more funding. Climate change -- he's a big believer in climate change. The U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- he's ready to campaign for it.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the Vatican --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he is totally against preemptive war. The pope is against preemptive war.

MR. CORN: The Vatican was against the invasion of Iraq. I mean, it's not a simple thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You like the pope. MR. CORN: Well, I liked that pope.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to convert to Catholicism?

MR. CORN: Not today.

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you going to convert, John? Are you going to convert? Vatican City had the death penalty till 1969.

MR. CORN: And they said abortion was fine for a long time too, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- Will the papal visit have any effect on the Pennsylvania primary, yes or no? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: It'll increase turnout. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I would say John McLaughlin is closer to Catholic thought in America today than Pat Buchanan is. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you, Eleanor.

MS. CROWLEY: No effect on the turnout in Pennsylvania.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No effect?

MS. CROWLEY: None.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. CORN: Monica is right. Those Catholics in Pennsylvania will make their decisions on other criteria.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think so, but he might galvanize the Catholic vote, increase it. And where that goes is anyone's question, right?

Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Fifty-fifth chance of U.S. air strikes on Iran by October.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: A leadership post will be created for Hillary Clinton as a consolation prize if she does not get the nomination -- in the Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean she'd take Reid's place? MS. CLIFT: I'm not going to go that far, no. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Colin Powell will bypass both John McCain and Hillary Clinton and endorse Barack Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: David.

MR. CORN: Republicans join with Democrats in the Senate and House to oppose the strategic agreement that Bush is negotiating with Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean by that?

MR. CORN: Well, as you know, they're trying to get a security agreement. But members of the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, are very upset about that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that President Bush will attend, as he said he would, the opening of the Beijing Olympics.

Bye-bye.

(PBS segment.)

Issue Four -- Dream Ticket?

A new poll out this week -- 600 registered voters were surveyed by Marist College. The subject -- A possible Republican and Democratic ticket. Question -- Who would New Yorkers vote for if the choices boil down to this -- get this -- Hillary as president and Barack as her vice president, or Republican John McCain as president with Republican Condi Rice as his veep. The majority picked Clinton- Obama, right? Wrong. McCain-Rice ticket, 49 percent; Clinton-Obama ticket, 46 percent. Incidentally, a Republican has not won New York support since Ronald Reagan.

Question -- How reliable is this poll as a measure of voter behavior? I ask you, David Corn.

MR. CORN: Oh, not at all. I mean, we have months to go. And by the time the election rolls around, we're going to have a fierce debate between whoever the Democrat is and John McCain on the war. That's going to be much more dominant than we've seen to date. And John McCain still has to prove to Americans that he gives a damn about doing something about this economy.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, if those are the tickets, I want to find out where Alec Baldwin went in 2000, because I'm headed there. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget the joy lines and give me the answer to this. What does that tell you?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it tells you that they'd be very strong in the northern area. I think the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, what does it tell you about Obama?

MR. BUCHANAN: It would split the Democratic Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does it tell you about Obama?

MS. CLIFT: It tells you more about John McCain and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama doesn't bring victory.

MS. CROWLEY: It tells you about John McCain's strength.

MS. CLIFT: John McCain is a war hero with a personal narrative. And Condi Rice is the only popular person in the Bush administration.

END.
CROWLEY: It's a strategic --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- wait a minute -- MR. BUCHANAN: It's not about politics.

MS. CROWLEY: -- victory for the United States and a political victory for the president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's strategic from another point of view, that Petraeus is painting this picture, which is somewhat grim in that summary, because he wants the option, come September, to withdraw? Now, we know that after that he's going to have another period of reflection, and then he will withdraw in October. And October bumps up, of course, to that particular date called the election date. So is this really a political -- at root a political contrivance to win the election? That is --

MR. CORN: Well, if it is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the withdrawal -- scaling the withdrawal down to match the public need for conviction that the Iraq war is working. Do you follow me?

MR. CORN: Yeah, I follow you. Then everybody is lying to the American public, which wouldn't be the first time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are politicians lying?

MR. CORN: Well, it wouldn't be the first time in this administration, now, would it?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait. You're saying politicians lie?

MS. CROWLEY: It doesn't help the Democrats if they keep changing the reason for their opposition to the war. First it was --

MR. CORN: No, they're not changing.

MS. CROWLEY: -- the security situation. When that came under control, then it was political progress. When that came under control, now it's the cost of the war. The Democrats cannot answer any of --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the proposition that it's a graduated withdrawal to slake the political appetite for withdrawing troops from Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: What you have pointed out is very, very possible politically. But where David is wrong -- look, these fellows honestly, genuinely believe in their hearts that too rapid a withdrawal will lead to a strategic disaster and a humanitarian catastrophe. They believe that.

MS. CLIFT: But General -- MR. BUCHANAN: It's not all politics.

MS. CLIFT: General Petraeus is properly focused only on Iraq. The rest of the military leaders are focused on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MS. CLIFT: -- the national security concerns --

MR. BUCHANAN: And rightly so.

MS. CLIFT: -- and the amount of money and blood that we're -- how do you ask the last man to die for a mistake in Iraq? Let's repeat that from the Vietnam years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on -- tough love time. The three senators vying to become the next commander in chief put their comments to General Petraeus.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (From videotape.) How are we to judge, General Petraeus, what the conditions are or should be and the actions that you and the administration would recommend pursuing based on them?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (From videotape.) The problem I have is if the definition of success is so high -- no traces of al Qaeda and no possibility of reconstitution; a highly effective Iraqi government; a democratic, multiethnic, multisectarian, functioning democracy; no Iranian influence, at least not of the kind that we don't like -- then that portends the possibility of us staying for 20 or 30 years.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN(R-AZ), REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (From videotape.) Our goal, my goal, is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I also believe that the promise of withdrawal of our forces, regardless of the consequences, would constitute a failure of political and moral leadership.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Let's assume that Iraq needs a dose of tough love, meaning bluntly told it must start standing on its own. Which of these three presidential contenders is the most likely to drive that tough-love message home? Pat Buchanan. MR. BUCHANAN: Obama's more likely than anybody to scuttle.

MS. CLIFT: Obama asked the most penetrating question. Petraeus and Crocker talk about conditions-based decisions. He tried to elicit from them what are those conditions. He said if the American troops were not there today, would Iraq, in this condition, which everybody is properly, I guess, describing as progress, is that what we would be satisfied with? He got no answer. And the fact that these people would go before the Congress that funds this venture and have no idea what the conditions would be to allow American troops to leave is a national shame.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which one of those candidates could drive the tough-love question home to the Iraqis?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, Hillary and Obama have both said that when they become commander in chief, they will listen to the generals. The generals have warned them, both privately and in public in this testimony, against the kind of precipitous withdrawal that they're advocating on the campaign trail. Therefore, I think that John McCain, given his background, would understand the dynamics far better than either one of the other two.

MR. CORN: Wait a second.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead -- quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: McCain does not want this to be in vain, and he will pursue success --

MR. CORN: John McCain has said that he's happy to be there for 100 years.

MS. CROWLEY: That's not what he said and it's not what he meant.

MR. CORN: That's hardly tough love. He will not be putting any pressure on Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who can drive the tough-love lesson home the best?

MR. CORN: Obama or Clinton, if they stick to their word.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama wants to give away the store.

MR. CORN: No, they don't.

MS. CLIFT: Nobody's talking about a precipitous withdrawal. They're talking about a long withdrawal --

MR. BUCHANAN: One hundred forty thousand guys out in 16 months? MS. CLIFT: -- getting out more carefully than we went in.

MR. CORN: They went in in three weeks, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: That's right.

MR. CORN: They went in in three weeks.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, but Obama will lose the war for the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is Hillary.

Okay, the human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, 4,032, one- half 24 years of age and under; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, severely injured, injured, mentally ill, 92,615.

Issue Three -- Benedict XVI Stop By.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: (From videotape.) Just a few days from now, I shall begin my historic visit to your beloved country. Before setting off, I would like to offer a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will be his first trip to the U.S. as pope, his sixth to the U.S. overall. His five prior visits were as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Benedict XVI arrives this Tuesday in Washington, D.C. for six days. On his visit, Benedict will remind America's Catholics -- at 69 million, the third-largest Catholic flock in the world -- that church doctrine is binding on them. That includes the Vatican's unyielding opposition to abortion, an incendiary issue in the U.S., especially, maybe, during this election year.

Benedict's trip ends just two days before the Pennsylvania primary, a state where one-third of the population is Catholic. It's not the first time the church may have blundered into U.S. politics. In 2004, several Catholic bishops warned Democrat John Kerry that they would deny him holy communion, the eucharist, one of the seven sacraments, because Kerry, a Catholic, wanted to keep abortion legal.

The pope, who was then cardinal, wrote a letter to U.S. bishops that appeared to back the anti-John Kerry bishop. Get this -- George Bush, current president and a Methodist, gained more of the Catholic vote in the 2004 presidential election than did the Catholic, John Kerry.

Question -- Is there a political angle to the pontiff's visit? If so, what is his agenda? David Corn.

MR. CORN: I'm not sure it's outright politics. I think he's here to lay down the law, so to speak. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To Catholics.

MR. CORN: To Catholics, and to promote his global --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they're cafeteria Catholics today.

They pick what they want.

MR. CORN: Well, that's right. He's going to have a hard time, I think, dealing with this. I think Americans tend to like popes in general. They like religious figures. And he'll be warmly welcomed. But listen --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. That's a little bit --

MR. CORN: You don't think so?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think that's something of a put-down of the intelligence and --

MR. CORN: No, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the perception of Catholics, right?

MR. CORN: He has a 58 percent approval rating, which is twice what Bush has. Bush would kill for his ratings.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think he's lost much of his flock in Europe, so he's coming here to tend the faithful. But, look, I don't see this election turning on abortion issues and gay marriage. It's much more likely to turn on war and issues of poverty, and here's where the pope can speak out and not sound like an honorary Republican.

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, but that's why I don't think he's going to hit the American people over the head with a sledgehammer. But there is a subtle political agenda here on two points. First, he's going to Ground Zero, so it will be a reminder of the terror inflicted by radical Islam, and the pope has had some issues with the Muslim world. And secondly, it brings up the whole issue of life -- abortion, euthanasia. This week Hillary Clinton announced her admiration for the Oregon assisted-suicide law. So, you know, on the abortion issue and assisted suicide --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Here's where Benedict --

MS. CLIFT: The voters of Oregon -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's where Benedict opposes the liberals on the question of abortion, stem cell research, homosexuality, women priests and birth control. Do you have any comments on any of those issues and the papal position, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First of all, do you share the pope's position on all of those issues?

MR. BUCHANAN: I share the pope's position, because the pope's position is consistent with natural law and the laws of God on a number of those issues. Some of them --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you against women priests? Is that part of the natural law?

MR. BUCHANAN: Some of them, like the environment --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it part of the law to be --

MR. BUCHANAN: It is part of Catholic tradition, faith and morals, which is binding, as you used to know, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Birth control is against the natural law?

MR. BUCHANAN: Birth control certainly is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A condom is intrinsically evil?

MR. CORN: It's in the Bible.

MR. BUCHANAN: Birth control, exactly. Artificial birth control -- you read Aquinas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's where the pope differs with conservatives. All right, put the list up on the board. The death penalty -- he's against it and his predecessor delivered an encyclical against it. Buchanan's for it. Poverty -- he wants more funding. Climate change -- he's a big believer in climate change. The U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- he's ready to campaign for it.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the Vatican --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he is totally against preemptive war. The pope is against preemptive war.

MR. CORN: The Vatican was against the invasion of Iraq. I mean, it's not a simple thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You like the pope. MR. CORN: Well, I liked that pope.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to convert to Catholicism?

MR. CORN: Not today.

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you going to convert, John? Are you going to convert? Vatican City had the death penalty till 1969.

MR. CORN: And they said abortion was fine for a long time too, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- Will the papal visit have any effect on the Pennsylvania primary, yes or no? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: It'll increase turnout. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I would say John McLaughlin is closer to Catholic thought in America today than Pat Buchanan is. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you, Eleanor.

MS. CROWLEY: No effect on the turnout in Pennsylvania.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No effect?

MS. CROWLEY: None.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. CORN: Monica is right. Those Catholics in Pennsylvania will make their decisions on other criteria.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think so, but he might galvanize the Catholic vote, increase it. And where that goes is anyone's question, right?

Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Fifty-fifth chance of U.S. air strikes on Iran by October.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: A leadership post will be created for Hillary Clinton as a consolation prize if she does not get the nomination -- in the Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean she'd take Reid's place? MS. CLIFT: I'm not going to go that far, no. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Colin Powell will bypass both John McCain and Hillary Clinton and endorse Barack Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: David.

MR. CORN: Republicans join with Democrats in the Senate and House to oppose the strategic agreement that Bush is negotiating with Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean by that?

MR. CORN: Well, as you know, they're trying to get a security agreement. But members of the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, are very upset about that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that President Bush will attend, as he said he would, the opening of the Beijing Olympics.

Bye-bye.

(PBS segment.)

Issue Four -- Dream Ticket?

A new poll out this week -- 600 registered voters were surveyed by Marist College. The subject -- A possible Republican and Democratic ticket. Question -- Who would New Yorkers vote for if the choices boil down to this -- get this -- Hillary as president and Barack as her vice president, or Republican John McCain as president with Republican Condi Rice as his veep. The majority picked Clinton- Obama, right? Wrong. McCain-Rice ticket, 49 percent; Clinton-Obama ticket, 46 percent. Incidentally, a Republican has not won New York support since Ronald Reagan.

Question -- How reliable is this poll as a measure of voter behavior? I ask you, David Corn.

MR. CORN: Oh, not at all. I mean, we have months to go. And by the time the election rolls around, we're going to have a fierce debate between whoever the Democrat is and John McCain on the war. That's going to be much more dominant than we've seen to date. And John McCain still has to prove to Americans that he gives a damn about doing something about this economy.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, if those are the tickets, I want to find out where Alec Baldwin went in 2000, because I'm headed there. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget the joy lines and give me the answer to this. What does that tell you?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it tells you that they'd be very strong in the northern area. I think the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, what does it tell you about Obama?

MR. BUCHANAN: It would split the Democratic Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does it tell you about Obama?

MS. CLIFT: It tells you more about John McCain and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama doesn't bring victory.

MS. CROWLEY: It tells you about John McCain's strength.

MS. CLIFT: John McCain is a war hero with a personal narrative. And Condi Rice is the only popular person in the Bush administration.

END.