THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC TAPED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 20-21, 2007
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Moscow-Tehran Axis.
Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, made history this week in Iran. Putin is the first Kremlin leader to visit Iran in more than 60 years. In one fell swoop, Putin transformed the image of the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from villain to statesman.
Putin's view of the Iranian threat and the instruments to contain it is altogether different from George Bush's. Putin wants the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, playing a bigger role investing the IAEA with more confidence than the U.S. puts in it.
Putin emphasizes that he has not seen any evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons or any intention to develop nuclear weapons. "Therefore, not only should we reject the use of force, but also the mention of force as a possibility. This is very important. We must not submit to other states in the case of aggression or some other kind of military action directed against one of the Caspian countries."
Question: Is Putin saying that Russia will protect Iran, even extend the Russian nuclear umbrella over Iran? Mort Zuckerman.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think that's what he's saying. What he's saying is that Russia and Putin are going to be players in this part of the world, and nothing is going to happen, not just in Iran but all the way over to the Middle East, without Russian participation. They want to be the intermediary that these countries look to, not to the United States.
So they play games with Syria and with Egypt and with other countries in the Middle East, and especially with Iran, because, in fact, it's a neighbor. There's a lot of Azarians (sp) in Iran, and they're worried about that population. But they're going to play a major role in every one of these disputes and want to be seen as a world player.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Putin is worried about encirclement by the United States and possibly other powers. Russians are famous for this, and it feeds on xenophobia. But it's also quite real, because we are in the stands in Central Asia. And now if we bomb away Iran, we could, in effect, control Iran, and he doesn't want that.
Is that a true analysis of why he is so interested in Iran?
MS. CLIFT: I think he's interested in Iran because he has a relationship over energy. They get oil from Iran. They have a trading relationship. Putin is riding high. He's got 80 percent approval. They're awash in oil money. And the president of the United States has no credibility on the world stage.
So this is sort of two guys duking it out, and Putin is -- he's the one with the leverage right now. And it seems to me that the president's words about spreading freedom and democracy and all of that -- while I deplore the crackdown on civil liberties and civil rights in Russia, President Bush doesn't have any credibility advancing that argument in the aftermath of Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me pick up the oil business, because it's quite interesting how much Iran and Russia combined will now control. Saudi Arabia is the heavy hitter -- 265 billion barrels in the ground; then Canada, which is a surprise, but they're counting in the oil sands in Alberta. Iran has 132 billion barrels. Skipping down to Russia, which is in eighth place, we have 60 billion barrels. That adds up to 193 billion barrels. And Putin also wants to sell this to China. So he has here a gold mine in terms of the minerals that he can now sell to China. MR. BLANKLEY: All of what you say is largely true, but I think a good way to think about how Putin is approaching international relations is to think about how the French have done it in the past. They weren't strong enough to be the alternative polarity to the United States, but they could encourage multipolarities and try to take some of the edge off of American hegemony.
And so don't take Putin's words always literally. He's not in league entirely with Iran. He's still cutting off the nuclear plant they're building for him. Our government still believes Putin is largely on our side regarding the economic sanctions with Iran.
He's playing a lot of games to try to sort of -- just like de Gaulle and the French used to try to undercut us with the Third World, he's playing that kind of a game. It's a hand played largely from weakness, although on energy matters he obviously has strength.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He became very irritated with the secretary of State over the weekend, which was before what we see on the screen now. The secretary of State and the secretary of Defense visited him, and he blasted them about these missile installments by the United States in Poland and in the Czech Republic.
The encirclement keeps coming back to his thinking. So he's mad at the United States, is he not?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, look, this was a meeting in Tehran of the five nations that border the Caspian Sea. It's perfectly reasonable for them to talk about cooperative defense interests. And so the White House reaction, by the way, to Putin's first statements about this was, "That sounds like a good policy." So the White House wasn't immediately in any way trying to hype this into something more than it was.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if the United States were to attack, bomb Iran, for the reasons that the president has designated, that we think that they are producing the bomb, even though Putin says not, would Putin be under any obligation, by reason of this mutual defense treaty, which, in effect, that Caspian treaty is, would he be under any requirement to defend Iran, his ally?
MR. O'DONNELL: I think what's important about this is what Putin didn't say. Now, he could have been very explicit about that point, and there's enough being said by the United States these days to provoke him to be explicit about it. And he avoided being very specific about that. Certainly that's the impression he wants to give, as much as anything else, as you would in labor negotiating; you know, "If you do this, I'll do that."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you don't see this as really complicating the picture of the United States -- MR. O'DONNELL: Of course it complicates it -- of course.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if it wishes to use military weaponry against Iran?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, the notion of putting us in direct conflict with Russia is a very important element in evaluating what we should do in relation to Iran. Of course, it's important.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to say something, Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. I mean, look, Russia had felt humiliated, you know, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian people like to be world players. He is now a world player. And he is, by the way, going to stick his thumb in our eye as often as he can because that is something that makes the Russian people feel good. That's a part of his approval rating.
Now, he has a very legitimate interest in Iran. And I suspect that what happened privately is very different from what happened publicly.
Witness the fact that he invited the prime minister of Israel for an unscheduled meeting in order to reassure him that whatever happened in Iran is not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When was that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's still there. He just went yesterday and today. So that was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does this complicate the picture for Israel if Israel decided to drop a surgical bomb, as they did in Syria, on Iran?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know that it complicates it yet, because I don't know what took place in the conversations between the Israeli prime minister and Putin. So nobody really knows. Clearly he was trying to reassure --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it complicate Israel's picture?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It may be. It all depends what he said privately to Khamenei, in which there is supposed to have been a proposal to deal with Iran's nuclear capabilities.
MS. CLIFT: Look, the bottom line is Russia is exerting its own national interests, and they're not always in alliance with American national interests. And I think we need to get used to that, and we've got to push back in ways that we can.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Russian national interest --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think we're out of line at all in the way we are, in fact --
MS. CLIFT: I think we're way out of line in our bellicose statements towards Iran.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, not only that, but the emplacement of the missile sites.
MS. CLIFT: Yes. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Russians are saying that the missile sites that we want to put in in Poland and in the Czech Republic would destabilize the equilibrium between nuclear power, on one side, and the nuclear on the other --
MR. BLANKLEY: But John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- where there is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because we could render the Russian missiles, nuclear-tipped missiles -- we could void them. And therefore, the balance is not there --
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and it doesn't satisfy the Russians because the deterrent is weakened.
MS. CLIFT: They view that as their sphere of influence, and we're meddling. And it's natural that they should push back. And maybe --
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get a word in.
MS. CLIFT: -- you know, I don't think we need to be there, actually.
MR. BLANKLEY: That allegation by Putin is nonsense in every aspect.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which allegation?
MR. BLANKLEY: The allegation that our little kind of strategic defense capability --
MS. CLIFT: Little tiny missile. (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: It's not designed to protect --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You sound like Condi Rice defending it.
MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no. You talk to any expert. It's designed to deal with a few missiles, not 1,000 missiles. And the Russian scientists know as well as ours that we cannot possibly block a Russian attack.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are stories from the Pentagon about the generals saying we can design the weapon in one of those installations we put in in Poland or the Czech Republic, or wherever, that will neutralize -- will, in effect, void an incoming nuclear-tipped missile from Russia. That's great, except where does that leave the equilibrium necessary for the MAD theory, mutual assured destruction?
MR. BLANKLEY: Our system is incapable, and will be incapable for decades, if ever, to stop a large attack. You can only stop a few missiles.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, World War III.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) I believe that the Iranian -- if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace. We've got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Bush says Iran's nuclear program conceals an effort to develop the bomb. Iran, where gasoline is rationed, says it wants to generate domestic electricity from nuclear power, not from its oil. It wants to sell its oil on the open market and improve its economy, a purpose confirmed by independent journalism and independent scholarship.
Question: Does President Bush's warning about World War III remind you when the administration was drumming up support for the invasion of Iraq, particularly Dick Cheney and Condi Rice's warning about mushroom clouds over American cities? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Well, it's loose talk on the part of a president who does not consider his words carefully. I can't imagine he was handed this in talking points. And I think that he has no idea how those words are interpreted around the world.
And there are lots of steps between the Iranians pursuing what they call peaceful nuclear energy and having World War III. And I think that's where Putin serves a legitimate role here. He's a broker that's being taken seriously by the Iranians. And he's at least talking to them directly. We're not even talking to them directly.
MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor is half-right in that I don't think this was scripted. I think this was a poor use of words. It was unwise for the president to use that phrase. But the point that the president was trying to make is a vital one, which is if you want to avoid the possible dangers that come out of a nuclear Iran, then Germany and Italy and the rest have to really get involved in these economic sanctions, because if the economic sanctions don't work, then we face this danger. Now, he shouldn't have used the phrase World War III, but the point is an important one.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe for this development, there was cause to mention World War III. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, but one of the things that he is alert to, that Bush is alert to, is when Putin says there is no evidence of what Iran is about )with that nuclear program --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or intention to do.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. But amongst other things, there is a lot of evidence, in fact, that our intelligence services believe leads the American leadership --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, why is it --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- to believe what Iran's intentions are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is it, if that's true, the secretary of Defense says, "We don't have the data to establish that unmistakably; we don't have that data"? Why is he saying that? Why is Condi Rice saying that too? "The data is not yet there."
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not sure that it's there in the sense that it is being translated directly into a nuclear weapons program. But everything they are doing with the centrifuges -- they've gone from 32 to 3,000 in 18 months. The purpose of it is, without question, directed to nuclear weaponry.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Now, I'm not saying it always translates into nuclear --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but the reason Condi Rice is saying that is because she's fighting a battle within the administration. She wants to keep on the diplomatic track. And presumably the Dick Cheney/Darth Vader shop is advancing --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, are they --
MR. BLANKLEY: Darth Vader is not on staff.
MS. CLIFT: -- advancing -- (laughs) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they also trying to demonize Ahmadinejad the way they demonized Saddam Hussein? Now, Saddam Hussein said, "Look, I'm clean. The weapons of mass destruction that you're t
alking about are not here." We dishonored that, and we went in anyway. We invaded Iraq. And what happened? David Kay went over there with the American inspectors and he didn't find any weapons of mass destruction.
MS. CLIFT: It's hard to prove a negative.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So if Ahmadinejad or the government of Iran were to say, "We don't have any and that's not our intention" --
MS. CLIFT: And the president, in his press conference, lowered the bar, saying that we have to keep them from getting the knowledge to create a nuclear weapon, which is ridiculous --
MR. BLANKLEY: Ahmadinejad --
MS. CLIFT: -- because knowledge is almost universal.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, Ahmadinejad demonized himself when he denied the Holocaust and when he said he wants to wipe Israel off the map. He doesn't need anyone else to demonize him. He's done a pretty good job all by himself. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If we had the time, we could explore --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He begins every speech with "Death to America" and ends it with "Death to America." You don't exactly get the sense of a friendly intention on his part.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is the distinction Ahmadinejad made. He detests Zionism. He detests the government of Israel. He does not say -- he said the contrary, in fact, at Columbia University about the Israeli people.
But the demonization of Ahmadinejad reminds anyone who looks at it of the demonization attempt by the administration, and success in doing it, of Saddam Hussein.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It doesn't remind anyone of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's go to another part of the world and another watershed foreign policy event -- reunited, and it feels so good.
What is this event? I ask you, Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: This event here? This is North Korea and South Korea. The leaders are meeting there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you make of it?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: If I were South Korea, I'd want to meet with North Korea and see if you could get any sense of how nutty that guy is as a leader.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it looks like there is a deal, a real deal.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, I don't know what that means. You don't have to understand -- there are 45,000 artillery pieces locked in on Seoul, Korea, and anything could happen in terms of what North Korea could do to South Korea. And they just want to keep -- and rightly, in my judgment -- they want to keep the temperature as low as they possibly can.
MS. CLIFT: Christopher Hill, who's one of our most skilled diplomats, has really worked at this assiduously and has brought off a deal. He's at least bought time.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, we don't know that there's a deal that's in force. I agree with you that on the surface --
MS. CLIFT: He's at least bought time. MR. BLANKLEY: -- on the surface, progress has been made. But North Korea has backed out or cheated on deals before, and we're not going to know until the conclusion of it whether, in fact, this is the real deal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What we saw on the screen was the video of the leader of South Korea meeting in Pyongyang, an apparently harmonious meeting across the board, with Kim Jong Il.
Human toll in Iraq: U.S. military dead in Iraq, 3,830, one-half of these 24 years of age and under; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, severely injured, injured, mentally ill, 82,765.
Issue Two: So Hillary Is Already the Nominee, Right?
FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC) DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (From videotape.) Did I miss something? I mean, did we already have the Iowa caucus and I was asleep when it happened? Did we already have the New Hampshire primary?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget the New Hampshire primary, Senator. Forget all the primaries. We already have the Democratic nominee. The winner: Hillary Clinton. The press has anointed her.
Look at the way she arrived at the auditorium to deliver a political stemwinder, like a presidential caravan, a stream of SUVs. Hillary has the press, she has the polling, and she has the money.
Listen to this crowing about Hillary's money from the Clinton campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle: "Our fund-raising is through the roof. Hillary wanted you to be the first to know that this was our best quarter yet -- a total of $27 million raised, substantially more than any other candidate in the race."
Question: Has the press endowed Hillary with the aura of inevitability? I ask you, Lawrence.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, the press has, but more importantly, the polls have. She's been doing fabulously well in every poll taken. She keeps climbing. She's now getting up into zones that are over 50, prohibitive kinds of leads.
You know, Edwards should not be talking that way on the stump, because it just makes his candidacy look all the more hopeless, which it is. He's going to come in third at best in this whole sweepstakes. Obama is the only thing standing in Hillary's way at this point. He's still a very serious candidate because he's raised so much money. The Clinton campaign wants to pretend they're raising a lot more than he is. They're not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Edwards have a legitimate beef that the press -- well, he didn't say the press, but has the press really misbehaved in accepting the inevitability and the invincibility -- MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.) In reporting the polls?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. I mean, look what's happened. The polls have a huge effect on the way the press looks at it. Secondly --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't know what can happen when you --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: If you want to look at the way John Edwards has campaigned, he has not gained any particularly great degree of traction.
MR. O'DONNELL: Right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The most famous moment of John Edwards is combing his hair, for goodness' sakes.
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you realize how many different ways there are by which Hillary could tank between now and the primaries?
MR. BLANKLEY: Look, John, anything --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And guess what. If she does tank, the press will comment on that just as --
MR. BLANKLEY: Anything can happen, but most professional Democrats in Washington judge that she's likely to be the nominee, even those that don't like her, and there are plenty of them.
MS. CLIFT: To quote myself in the column I wrote, she's formidable but not inevitable. But I'm coming close to thinking she might be inevitable. Look, Howard Dean, at an equivalent time four years ago, was thought to be inevitable. But the party ganged up on him. He was an outsider. The establishment Democrats didn't want him. The Clintons are the party, and this is a machine that's going to be very hard to stop.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --
MS. CLIFT: Obama could do it in Iowa. But if he doesn't find a way to win Iowa, I think she's really off to the races --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's got to not behave --
MS. CLIFT: -- and deservedly so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- as though she's got it all sewed up.
Secondly, her back is turned to everybody behind her and she'll feel that too.
And now, Hillary's key challenger. Okay, is Barack flagging? Get this: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama's opponent, leads with more endorsements from the Black Caucus than does Obama himself. The Black Caucus is made up of 43 members. Of these, 14 support Hillary, 13 support Obama, including Obama himself, two support Edwards, 14 are still silent.
Here's Hillary's 14: Brown, Christensen, Clarke, Cleaver, Hastings, Jackson Lee, Lewis, Meek, Meeks, Rangel, Richardson, Towns, Tubbs Jones and Watson.
Here's Obama's 13: Bishop, Clay, Conyers, Cummings, Artur Davis, Danny Davis, Ellison, Green, Jackson Jr., Hank Johnson, Moore, Rush, and the single black senator himself, Obama.
Here's Edwards' two: Butterfield and Eddie Bernice Johnson.
Question: How do you account for the fact that the Congressional Black Caucus is split between a white woman and an African-American man for president?
MR. O'DONNELL: Because they're interested in picking a winner. And, you know, three of those black congressmen are from New York, Hillary's state. If you flip those --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they think Hillary is a bigger vote-getter than Obama is.
MR. O'DONNELL: They're betting on Hillary to win. That's a very reasonable bet to make under these circumstances.
MS. CLIFT: Well, it's also the history --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: In addition --
MS. CLIFT: -- it's also the history of Bill Clinton, the first black president. And they remember him fondly, and they know the Clintons. Barack Obama is still somewhat of an unknown quantity, and he's a little bit too cerebral. He hasn't found an edge yet. He hasn't come up with the formula to divide himself from her.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about in South Carolina, where you've got a white woman and a black man running there? I mean, how does that -- you've got a gender question.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look, let me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got a -- not a question, but you've got a race phenomenon. How is that --
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me tell you, Democratic politicians in this town are afraid of being on the wrong side of Hillary Clinton. And once they've --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which town, Washington?
MR. BLANKLEY: In Washington, yeah. Congressmen are afraid to be -- and other people in town, they don't want to be on the -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about the Black Caucus.
MR. BLANKLEY: And other people --
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, all professional Democrats.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- black, white, Oriental, Asian, any group --
MS. CLIFT: She looks like a winner.
MR. BLANKLEY: -- if you're a Democratic politician, you're afraid to be on the wrong side of Hillary if you think she's going to win. I mean, most of them think she's going to win, so they're on her side --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --
MR. BLANKLEY: -- because she'll cut them off at the knees.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On a political probability scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, how probable is it that Hillary will be the Democratic nominee? Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Eight-point-six.
MS. CLIFT: Nine-point-two.
MR. BLANKLEY: Eight-point-five.
MR. O'DONNELL: Six-and-a-half at this time. And the last cycle, John Kerry was doing much worse than Barack Obama is doing right now. So Obama's got a much healthier challenge than Kerry did.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a yes or no. Is Bloomberg in or out?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's in?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You asked me if I'm predicting it. Yes, I'm going to predict it for sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was my question?
MS. CLIFT: Is he in or out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you mean on the probability?
MS. CLIFT: On Bloomberg.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, the probability of Hillary. MR. O'DONNELL: One to 10, is Hillary going to be the nominee? That's your question.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can see -- yeah, I will say seven.
Issue Three: Gore Stays Global.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) Well, I don't have plans to be a candidate again, so I don't really see it in that context at all. I'm involved in a different kind of campaign. It's a global campaign. It's a campaign to change the way people think about the climate crisis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Despite Al Gore's plans or intentions, it's beginning to feel like 2007 is the year of Gore. The Nobel Peace Prize to former Vice President Gore has revived speculation about a possible 2008 presidential bid.
MS : (From videotape.) I think he's wonderful. He understands -- he's brilliant and he understands the science. He represented it very well in the movie.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is there any scenario under which Gore gets the Democratic nomination? Let's try this on Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Hillary Clinton would have to implode. Barack Obama would have to implode. And then I could imagine him taking on John Edwards, because I think that he thinks that he could beat in a one- on-one contest.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MS. CLIFT: But time is running out. The deadlines to get on the ballot in the primaries are mid-November, and there's no real clamor for him. People like the role he's playing. He can be a global ambassador to the planet.
MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor is largely right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're not crazy about the lineup in either party.
MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, come on. They love Hillary --
MS. CLIFT: They're crazy -- they love the Democrats.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- and Obama is a very strong second. They don't need this guy. They don't want him. And if Hillary somehow nosedived, which I don't think is going to happen, and if he tried to jump in there, then you would have the southern white man trying to stop the black man. That would not play well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wouldn't jump in. He'd be drafted. He'd be drafted.
MR. O'DONNELL: He will not be drafted. He's not going anywhere.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's not going to be drafted. And if you look at the polls, when the three of them are put there, okay, he doesn't do very well in the polls.
MR. O'DONNELL: And he reads those.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he reads those. So he's a winner now. He doesn't want to go back and be a loser. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Mort, 10 seconds.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Republicans are not going to allow George Bush to campaign for anybody in the Senate. They'll just keep him for fund-raisers.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: McCain and Giuliani will find a way to concede Iowa, and Mike Huckabee will be the surprise second-place winner, collaboratively, because of the two other front-runners defaulting.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: The Democrats in Congress will pass another SCHIP bill that the president will probably veto, and they will love the publicity they will get out of that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm not suggesting the Clinton campaign will be hit by scandal, but if it is, the campaign will easily survive it, labeling it successfully as old news.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. O'DONNELL: They're good at this. They know what they're doing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think the press will gin something up?
MR. O'DONNELL: No, something will be ginned up, but she's running much too smooth a campaign to be hurt by that stuff.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about her in the Clinton White House? Do you remember Marceca --
MR. O'DONNELL: Old news, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and do you remember Livingstone and do you remember the FBI files?
MR. O'DONNELL: Old news. Forget about it. I remember it, but no one else does. It's old news. It's over.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that the price of oil will top $100 per barrel. Bye-bye.