THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: ELEANOR CLIFT, TONY BLANKLEY,
LAWRENCE KUDLOW, AND LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
TAPED FRIDAY, JANUARY 29, 1999
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF JANUARY 30-31, 1999
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: President Albert Arnold Gore, Jr.?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) And I want to ask you now, every single one of you, to join me in supporting him and standing by his side. (Cheers.) I give to you the president of the United States of America, William Jefferson Clinton. (Applause, cheers.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's been the one impenetrable mystery throughout the Clinton ordeal: public opinion. Yes, a majority of people, 53 percent, have a negative opinion of Bill Clinton as a person. Yes, a majority, 55 percent, believe that lying before a grand jury is an impeachable offense. And yes, a majority, 63 percent, believe that the president lied before a grand jury. But despite these convictions, a bigger majority, 64 percent of Americans polled, do not want the Senate to remove Bill Clinton from office.
Pollsters have formed focus groups to try to get to the bottom of the enigma. Who's there? Try this: Big Al. He scares people. "The prospect of Gore's being elevated to the presidency in the wake of Clinton's removal is scary to voters. What does anybody really know about him? I wouldn't want Al Gore. That's a nightmare. Gore would be more like a puppet. He would probably have twice as many advisers telling him what to say, what not to say, what to do for the finishing of the term. And those two years could be very detrimental because it's going to make the presidency look completely different than what it's been over the years."
Question: Can you infer from this focus group data that if Al Gore were better liked, the public would be ready to dump Clinton? I ask you, Lawrence.
MR. KUDLOW: No, I would not infer that from the data, because I think the issue has been about Clinton and his economic management. I don't think the issue's been about Gore. I don't think Gore really shows up on the average person's radar screen. And I think Clinton derives his approval ratings from the economic prosperity. And the view is quite simple --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I was --
MR. KUDLOW: -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I was surprised that it showed up so prominently in this focus group data myself.
Eleanor, do you have a thought on this?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think the country doesn't pay as close attention to all of the goings-on here in Washington. They have assumed all along that President Clinton is not going to be removed.
And Al Gore suffers from being a vice president. It's very hard for him to leave footprints, no matter what he does, and it's in the nature of his personality not to leave much of a footprint anyway. But he's got 20 months. He is going to emerge, John. And he is not going to take over before January 2000. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were you surprised that Gore figures as a negative?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I wouldn't overinterpret focus groups. I have a fair amount of experience with them, and depending on how they are led, it can mean different things.
I think largely Lawrence is right that Gore is not -- my sense is he is not a factor, either plus or minus, on this, that he is more or less invisible. I don't think that he is so incompetently seen as to be a fear factor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you, Lawrence? By the way, before we go to Lawrence, I want to tell you that I am quite impressed by the way the focus group was set up. It was small, but it was very carefully chosen. And it was handled with scrupulous attention to detail.
MR. O'DONNELL: And not arranged by an anti-Gore group, the Washington Post.
It's very surprising because, if you will remember, in 1993, which I know -- 1992, which very few people can at this point; when Bill Clinton was running third in the polls, behind Ross Perot and George Bush, and he selected Al Gore, who was a huge charge to his candidacy and everybody in the Democratic Party thought that this was the greatest choice possible and that the vice presidential candidate was a stronger candidate than the presidential candidate --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The pluses and minuses of a Gore presidency. First, the pluses:
Plus one; Gore gets a political honeymoon, a breather we all need.
Plus two; Gore means stability. Less indecisive than Clinton, Gore can calm jittery nerves by quickly announcing he'll keep Greenspan and Rubin.
Plus three; Gore knows Capitol Hill. He is a consummate Washington insider, ex-senator, ex-congressman, son of a senator. Gore knows how the town works.
Plus four; Gore knows Russia, crucial in the months ahead, as the nuclear giant struggles through death throes. He also knows Europe --Eastern and Central and Western -- and the Balkans.
Plus five; Gore's pick for his vice president. Any of these would immediately stabilize the situation; Sam Nunn, Dianne Feinstein, Bill Bradley, Joe Lieberman or another notable of similar stature to reassure, not only the nation, but the world.
Plus six; Gore is Clinton's clone.
Gore is practically a clone of Clinton in domestic and foreign policy positions and programs.
Question: With these impressive credentials in Gore's favor, should the public be so concerned about a constitutional transfer of power without an election? I ask you, Lawrence.
MR. O'DONNELL: No, they should not. I've said so all along. He is -- all your pluses are exactly right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He knows Russia?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.
MS. CLIFT: Did somebody miss the news this week? Forty-four Democrats voted against essentially anything that would remove the president. The impeachment trial is over. Clinton is staying in office. Now, maybe you're just way ahead on the 2000 election, unless I missed something here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No. The question is, why does a focus group assign to Gore such a prominent position in their thinking against their wanting to minus-out Clinton?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I was going to say -- you mentioned that Gore charged the ticket back in 1992. Kemp charged the Dole ticket of the Republican Convention. When you bring somebody in, sometimes you can create within the innards of a party a charge. It doesn't mean it's going to reach the rest of the country.
MR. KUDLOW: Yeah, but don't forget --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. KUDLOW: Don't forget -- I mean, I think Gore's an underrated politician. I'm not for Gore, but Gore cleaned Ross Perot's clock on the trade debate on "Larry King." Gore cleaned Jack Kemp's clock during the vice presidential contest in '96. Gore went to Malaysia and cleaned Mahathir Mohamad's clock about his autocratic governing power. This guy is not the lightweight that some people think he is. He's going to be a formidable candidate.
MS. CLIFT: Whose clock will he clean in 2000, Lawrence?
MR. KUDLOW: Well, they're all bucking for it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Gore minuses. Gore minuses.
Minus one: The green problem. Gore's support for the Kyoto global warming treaty, and his rabid, as some see it, activism for the environment makes the business community nervous, as does Gore's green man paradoxical coziness with the unions.
Minus two: Charisma deficit. Gore is not particularly well-liked, especially by his political peers. He lacks expressive warmth, and he has far fewer skills than Clinton in connecting with the people.
Minus three: Credibility gap. Remember when Gore spoke about, quote, "no controlling legal authority," unquote, a fine, parsing defense? And his Buddhist temple falsifications? And his bogus anti-cigarette theatrics? All may strike the public as Clintonesque, undercutting his ability to restore trust.
Also as a minus, one could add that Mr. Gore is not widely recognized for his intellectual humility.
Question: Are any or all of these drawbacks sufficient to cripple Gore's ability to govern as president, Tony Blankley?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I disagree with them. I think most of them -- his problems have to do with him not having a clear impression with the American public, rather than having a clear but negative one. I don't think that most of the public really has a sense -- typically, a vice president -- they have to sort of trot around and try to behave like they're president --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he's --
MR. BLANKLEY: -- and they only come out of that box in the last eight, 10 months of their vice presidency. And --
MS. CLIFT: Right. Yes, that's right. But he's got to identify more with the Clinton economy, which he's beginning to do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm.
MS. CLIFT: And then he's got to define what is Clinton, as in the best of it --
MR. BLANKLEY: And there's going to be -- the Republicans are going to --
MS. CLIFT: -- and then put his own stamp on -- (inaudible due to cross talk).
MR. BLANKLEY: The Republicans are going to have fun with him, because he's been all over the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Excuse me. Is there a problem with his identifying with the Clinton economy, because the economy is being increasingly decoupled from Clinton?
MS. CLIFT: Oh, by whom? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And also the market is being increasingly decoupled from Clinton. I kid you not. If you read the opinion analyses, you will find that the people are now thinking that this market and this economy is almost on automatic pilot or, if not that, it's under the control and direction of Greenspan and Rubin.
MS. CLIFT: Now, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a minute. I want to hear from Lawrence.
MR. KUDLOW: Look, you hear most people in the market refer to Greenspan as "President Greenspan," and he's the guy running the economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they don't want him impeached.
MR. KUDLOW: No, they --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But then they're less concerned about Clinton.
MR. KUDLOW: No, they -- well, it's a status quo story. And again, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But Greenspan is the key player.
Look, if Eleanor is wrong and Clinton was forced to resign, the market would go down 200 points. If Greenspan was forced to resign, the market would go down 2,000 points.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the very day that he was impeached (sic), the market went up 45 to, what, 70 points, I believe?
MR. KUDLOW: Yeah, a nice day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nice day.
MR. KUDLOW: It had a nice day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the impeachment of Clinton.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but you're -- but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (To Mr. O'Donnell.) I want to hear from you.
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, I mean, Larry's absolutely right. I mean, it's -- the economy is more to Greenspan's credit than to Clinton's -- (inaudible due to cross talk).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's another decoupling --
MS. CLIFT: There's a larger point that it's decoupling. How many times have I heard you say that Clinton would be impeached, they'd get rid of him in a minute if the economy had tanked? That's decoupling?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, my point is that Clinton cannot claim that it is his economy anymore --
MS. CLIFT: Right. John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and he cannot claim that it is the market economy.
MS. CLIFT: Right, and if the economy collapsed --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the people are beginning to decouple.
MS. CLIFT: If the economy collapses while he's in office, would that be his fault? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But there is another decoupling that is taking place, and that the decoupling of this scandal from sex. Why?
MR. KUDLOW: Well, look, law --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because they're focusing on law. It's all law, law, law.
MS. CLIFT: And there's another decoupling --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the opinion polls are beginning to pick that up. I suspect that if this trial went another month or six weeks or two months, we would have possibly an entirely different analysis than the public opinion polls today.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, and you know what --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree?
MR. O'DONNELL: No, I do not, John, sorry to say. I think the Republicans --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think -- you think the public is frozen?
MS. CLIFT: You know what that is?
MR. O'DONNELL: The Republican Party in the Senate would get wiped out if they let it go that far.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. That's a decoupling from reality that you just provided. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe the Democratic Party would get wiped out, because there could be the intrusions of certain interventions over which there is no control.
MS. CLIFT: Fine --
MR. KUDLOW: But just a recoupling back to the economic question, Mr. Gore's Achilles' heel is his extremist environmental views. If the Kyoto Treaty to allegedly reduce greenhouse gases and save the planet from too much hot air -- if that's possible -- if that treaty goes through, the Clinton-Gore Energy Department has studied it and says it will take --
MR. O'DONNELL: But, Larry, we know the treaty's not going through.
MR. KUDLOW: Let me finish this. It will take half a percentage point off of economic growth every year and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me, Larry. He says -- Lawrence says to Larry that the Kyoto Treaty doesn't have a chance of going through. I think we know that.
I want to ask you a question.
MR. KUDLOW: Al Gore is the -- he's the biggest cheerleader for the Kyoto Treaty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Gore is an ambitious man? (Laughter.) You laugh at that, but do you really think so?
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, I think he is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he's an Alpha male the way Clinton is or an Alpha female the way Hillary is?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, no. That's a little different. No, I don't think he's an Alpha male, but I do think he's a very ambitious non-Alpha male.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he were an Alpha male, you could see him perhaps working the corridors suggesting that there might be a better way out of this problem.
MR. BLANKLEY: I think that would be a dangerous trick.
MR. KUDLOW: Oh, yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It could be done subtly and an Alpha male would do it. He would be right at Clinton's throat right now, and you know that. (Laughter.) Right at the throat.
MS. CLIFT: No, he is playing the Alpha male. He's being loyal, he's going to inherit what's good about the Clinton administration, and he's going to win the nomination --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor? Eleanor, that is not Alpha male. That is not --
MS. CLIFT: The Alpha male --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The one thing you can say about Al Gore is that he's a loyalist, he plays a team game, he's a Boy Scout in that sense, and he's still a straight arrow.
MS. CLIFT: Right. And he's going to get the nomination.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get out. Question: Which gives Gore better odds for winning the election in the year 2000, serving out his term with Clinton as president or taking over from Clinton now?
I ask you.
MR. KUDLOW: Oh, I think serving out his term -- I mean leave Clinton in place and Gore's going to stay in place, which is going to be the outcome. And look, it's sort of a mirror image --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. KUDLOW: It's the mirror image of the Bush-Reagan story. Bush was loyal, he'd come up for air occasionally and re-pledge allegiance, just like Gore.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think loyalty -- stay with him and keep Clinton in place.
What do you think?
MR. KUDLOW: I think that's the Alpha factor.
MS. CLIFT: He's the prohibitive favorite for the nomination, and the public is going to reward him for his loyalty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think it would be to his advantage to be president now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. O'DONNELL: The advantage to be president now, of course! (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, obviously, it would be an advantage going into the year 2000 as the incumbent. In fact, there's no question in my mind that he is going to be besmirched by the off-scourings of William Clinton.
When we come back, Clinton and the pope: Who's using whom?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Why is Greenspan feuding with Clinton?
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Specifically, I propose that we commit 60 percent of the budget surplus for the next 15 years to Social Security, investing a small portion in the private sector just as any private or state government pension would do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president, in his State of the Union address last week, proposed investing $2.7 trillion of the projected budget surplus over the next 15 years -- get this -- into the stock market. This brainstorm envisions this: The market yielding profits that would keep the Social Security trust fund afloat until 2055, twenty fifty-five.
The very next day, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan criticized the president's proposal, saying that the plan contains a fundamental flaw.
ALAN GREENSPAN (chair, Federal Reserve System): (From videotape.) If you do not increase the national savings, the mere investment of public funds in American equities does not change savings. And all it would do would essentially imply a swap of the U.S. Treasury issues held by the Social Security trust fund, with equities in the private sector.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That testimony was before the House Ways and Means Committee.
On Thursday of this week, before the Senate Budget Committee, Greenspan unloaded on Clinton again, saying that Social Security privatization carries economic and political peril.
MR. GREENSPAN: (From videotape.) Investing a portion of the Social Security trust fund in equities, as the administration and others have proposed, would arguably put at risk the efficiency of our capital markets and, thus, our economy. Even with Herculean efforts, I doubt if it would be feasible to insulate, over the long run, the trust funds from political pressures.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What drives Greenspan's fear worst or most, undermining Social Security or undermining Wall Street?
MR. KUDLOW: Well, I think it's a combination of both. Alan does not want the government to take over the private stock markets in some sort of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. KUDLOW: -- you know, crypto-Marxist Socialist approach.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. KUDLOW: He is a free-market devotee, to his great credit, and Wall Street is totally behind him on this issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the hyperhot stock market right now is what terrifies Greenspan, does it not?
MR. KUDLOW (?): No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pumping all that money in now?
MR. KUDLOW: He has come off that irrational exuberance stuff.
But here is a different take. Let's connect the dot between Gore and Greenspan.
Greenspan has been carpet bombing this government takeover of the stock market. But the guy in the administration who is carrying that ball most enthusiastically is Al Gore, at the bequest of the unions.
So this sets up the possibility that Clinton will defer the Greenspan renomination -- it comes up in June 2000 -- leave it till after the election; and if Al Gore is elected president, he will not renominate Alan Greenspan because of this dispute. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the unions are experiencing any chill after having heard from Greenspan?
MR. KUDLOW: Well, I think they realize they are in for a fight, but they know Greenspan's free-market philosophy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do the unions stand to gain from this type of economic maneuver?
MR. KUDLOW: I think the membership stands to lose. But I think the union leadership, as always, takes a big-government Marxist approach.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How so? How so?
MR. KUDLOW: If the union membership are given a chance to invest their Social Security contributions in personal retirement accounts with defined contributions, they would get much wealthier with respect to retirement than any -- (inaudible) -- Mr. Clinton --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Now, you are making an important distinction.
We are not talking here about the practice of individuals using their entitlement funds to install into the stock market, as happens in the case of Chile, where there are about 12 accountants who are all individually privatized and you may select one of the 12 and it is entirely under the government of -- not supervision, but monitoring -- by the government.
That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about a huge chunk of money being invested by the government into the market.
MS. CLIFT: John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, well, I don't know why everybody's so worried about the government investing in the stock market. State and local governments already do.
MR. KUDLOW: Poorly.
MS. CLIFT: They have about 10 percent of the market and --
MR. KUDLOW: Poorly.
MS. CLIFT: Well, maybe you can find horror stories, but for the most part, people have benefited. Second of all, the --
MR. KUDLOW: But the rate of return is very below average.
MS. CLIFT: -- Clinton administration is talking about 4 percent that the government would be involved in; that's hardly takeover. And you could create a separate institution like the Fed --
MR. BLANKLEY: The compounding --
MR. KUDLOW: But that'll grow. But that'll grow.
MR. BLANKLEY: The compounding --
MS. CLIFT: Let me finish --
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I know -- (inaudible due to cross talk) -- ompounding --
MS. CLIFT: Like the Federal Reserve Board just like Alan Greenspan is insulated from the government.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor, the compounding of that ongoing purchasing by the government would turn the government into one of the biggest holders of stock. They could affect the policy both of the corporations and stocks they hold. They could distort the market by investing only in big companies or growth companies and court corporate fascism.
MS. CLIFT: But that's not true, because they're talking about less than -- (inaudible due to cross talk).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me, Eleanor. Excuse me. Can you imagine the opportunities for graft and S&L-like corruption? Remember the savings and loans corruption, with this huge amount of money and the fees involved. Can you see that?
MR. BLANKLEY: There's no way -- there's no way you can sanitize appointees who derivatively are appointed by the government. When it's government, it's politics, the politics will get in and it will corrupt it and that's why Greenspan is exactly right --
MS. CLIFT: But Alan Greenspan's sanitized.
MR. BLANKLEY: This is exactly why you shouldn't be doing it.
MS. CLIFT: He's independent, he's --
MR. KUDLOW: Yeah, but Tony's -- Tony's point --
MR. BLANKLEY: He's not investing in the stock market.
MR. KUDLOW: Tony's point is crucial because the Federal Reserve is not immune from the political winds. We've known that historically. And also, I used to think the state and local approach was okay, but in the last 10 years there've been a raft of problems and the bottom, bottom line is the very retiree pensionholders get shortchanged because the rate of return is lower than it should be.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, exit question. Let's get out. Is this Clinton plan going to pass the Congress, I ask you?
MR. KUDLOW: I think it's absolutely dead in the water, dead on arrival.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Because of the control of the Banking Committee in the Republicans' hands? And Bill Archer's violently opposed to it, in the Ways and Means?
MR. KUDLOW: Well, those are all important reasons. I've canvassed a whole bunch of Republican members. Nobody wants this thing, but it does bother me --
MS. CLIFT: It's an opening -- it's an opening bid --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead. Hold on, Eleanor.
MR. KUDLOW: The Greenspan reappointment question does bother me, John, because that's the glue holding the markets and the economy together.
MS. CLIFT: It's an opening bid. There is no political will to cut benefits or raise taxes. They are going to have to do something. The stock market is the golden goose.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: While the Republicans will never pass this proposal, they probably would have some interest -- and I believe -- I have talked to some members who want to move it -- to try to use this to find a reform package that can pass.
I think that the Democrats and Clinton will never settle Social Security reform before the 2000 election because they want that stick, one more time, to beat the Republicans over the head.
MR. O'DONNELL: That's exactly right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think on this matter of passage, that you may be missing the boat here for not seeing the reality. The king has not been slain. In other words, going into the next two years, the Republicans in Congress are going to continue to be terrified of King William. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: They will never -- they will never --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you understand me?
MR. BLANKLEY: I understand.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they will be in a weakened position if some of these polls are true.
So what maybe happened is you're skewing -- we have skewed the balance of power within the Congress and perhaps to a malignant outcome, because of the Republican senators, who have lost their nerve.
MR. BLANKLEY: No. The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false? (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: -- Archer will --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: False. (Laughter.)
MR. BLANKLEY: -- will never let this pass and correctly so.
MR. O'DONNELL: John, Clinton --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Archer will be the fire wall.
Okay. What do you have?
MR. O'DONNELL: John, Clinton and Gore proposed this plan because they know it won't pass. Labor doesn't want anything to pass on Social Security during this term, and it won't.
MR. KUDLOW: I think -- you know, this -- Susan Collins tough fact-finding finding is the way to pin Mr. Clinton's ears back and prevent the scenario you mentioned, which is a threat, this scenario. But that's why the Republicans had better end this thing on a tough, truthful, honest indictment note.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I do not think this will pass the Congress. We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Larry Kudlow?
MR. KUDLOW: Alan Greenspan, who is still the Fed chairman as we meet here, is going to be lowering the official Federal Funds rate this winter to offset international problems in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At the next meeting?
MR. KUDLOW: It may not be at the next meeting, but it is coming, and it may come in between meetings, on his own.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's kind of a pusillanimous prediction, huh? (Laughter.) He won't nail it down.
MS. CLIFT: After impeachment, the next big partisan fight will be over the use of sampling in counting for the census. The Supreme Court decision settled nothing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MS. CLIFT: Really. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe that, it settled nothing?
MR. BLANKLEY: It settled something but not the Clinton mind.
Steve Forbes is going to start heavy advertising for the 2000 presidential campaign no later than Thanksgiving of this year, driving his money advantage early.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's electable?
MR. BLANKLEY: He's going to spend a lot of money early.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Early, as in March --
MR. O'DONNELL: I already did my prediction, John; no Democrat will even introduce the Clinton proposal as a bill, on the -- (off mike).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: NATO forces will strike Serbian forces in the Kosovo conflict within 10 days.
Next week: Lewinsky, Blumenthal, Jordan. Any bombshells? We'll see. Bye-bye!
®FC¯END OF REGULAR SEGMENT
PBS SEGMENT FOLLOWS
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: the pope and the penitent.
(Videotape of Pope John Paul II is shown.)
(Quoting Pope John Paul II.) "Do not lie. Do not shirk responsibility. Do not put yourselves first. Do not listen to those who say that chastity is pass‚."
In St. Louis this week, more than 100,000 worshipers turned out to listen to a homily by Pope John Paul II. Chief among them: penitent Clinton. The pope, greeted by the president upon his arrival at Lambert airport, delivered a solemn speech to the assembly that gathered to see him. It was a speech free of censure of the president. The two leaders then posed for cameras before heading into a private 20-minute meeting. The scene was a photo op extraordinaire for the president, who likes to remind us these days that he seeks to atone for his sins.
Hours later, the pope stirred 20,000 youths with a speech that reminded them to aspire to virtue:
"Do not listen to those who encourage you to lie. Do not listen to those who tell you that chastity is pass‚. Do not be taken in by false values and deceptive slogans. When freedom is separated from truth, individuals lose their moral direction, and the very fabric of society begins to unravel."
Some have interpreted these words as a rebuke to the president. The two met in a private meeting only two hours early. And Mr. Clinton does admit to guilt, to more than one of these vices.
Question: Are the pope's words an oblique criticism aimed at President Clinton? I ask you, Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.) You never know what the intent was. The effect certainly looked like a criticism, although, as Eddie Gillespie (sp) observed --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's he?
MR. BLANKLEY: He's a leading Republican strategist.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he a Catholic?
MR. BLANKLEY: He is. And he said he was surprised that Clinton didn't turn to a pile of salt after meeting the pope. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think of the pope whispering into the ear of the governor of Missouri, telling him to commute the sentence of a person who was supposed to face the electric chair for having killed, murdered, the partner of his in making drugs and the partner's wife and the stepchild, or the grandson, who was a cripple?
MS. CLIFT: Well, if there was one person who was luckier where the pope came to town than Clinton, it was that gentleman. Look, I share the pope's opposition to the death penalty, but I -- you know, think that they could have found a worthier subject and, frankly, making policy like that, I think, is disgraceful. I think that governor who's going to run for reelection is going to pay a price for that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you aware that there was a deal cut between the pope and Clinton? This is straight talk.
MR. KUDLOW: No, I'm not aware.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The pope said he'd like to have the Cuban embargo relaxed and he'd like to have the sanctions lifted off Iraq, and so it happened. It came about. You do that, I'll hold your hand and walk across the stage with you. Not quite as explicit as that, but those were the terms. What do you make of it?
MR. KUDLOW: I don't believe it, John, and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you heard what he did with the governor! He's capable of cutting deals.
MR. KUDLOW: John, you're connecting dots much too carefully. The pope speaks --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Carefully?
MR. KUDLOW: Much too tightly. Those things aren't necessarily happening. There's no evidence. The pope's message -- the pope's message is a broader message of moral and spiritual uplift. And I'll say this -- with Mr. Clinton watching, when the pope said that we do not have the freedom to do anything we want when we want it and that we must hold ourselves in truth with God and our friends and neighbors, that is a wonderful message for Americans to hear during this horrible stench of this impeachment trial and Mr. Clinton's behavior.