THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; JAMES WARREN, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 2008 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 8-9, 2008
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One -- Stayin' Alive.
Earlier in the week, Hillary was just stayin' alive. Now she's not only stayin' alive; she's breakin' and shakin' and rakin', like rakin' in $3 million in campaign donations in one day. The money windfall came after Rhode Island, Texas and Ohio were added to her victory column on Tuesday.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) For everyone here in Ohio and across America who's ever been counted out but refused to be knocked out -- (cheers, applause) -- and for everyone who has stumbled but stood right back up -- (cheers, applause) -- and for everyone who works hard and never gives up, this one is for you. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of the four contests, Barack Obama won Vermont only. Clinton's triple win killed a 12-state Obama streak. Hillary also reminded supporters that she is the big-state winner, like Texas, and the controlling-state winner, like Ohio.
SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) You know what they say -- as Ohio goes, so goes the nation. And no candidate in recent history, Democrat or Republican, has won the White House without winning the Ohio primary. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question -- Has Hillary found her voice? Does she have the big "mo"? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: She has got the big "mo," John. And congratulations. You called Texas and Ohio. She has acceleration. She has energy and enthusiasm and fire. There's buyer's remorse about Barack Obama. But the question is, does she have enough distance to catch up with him in pledged delegates? I don't think she does.
Her one hope, John, is to run up enough of a raw-vote popular victory in these coming states so that, in raw popular vote, she's ahead of Barack Obama, even if she's behind in pledged delegates. And if she is the one that is winning the big states going toward that convention, the pressure will be enormous on the super-delegates to go with Hillary and say, "Please put Barack on the ticket."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because the general election will bring her the electoral votes, right?
MR. BUCHANAN: She is winning the states --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- the Democrats have to win in the general election.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With the big electoral votes.
MR. BUCHANAN: And his vote -- African-American, young, liberal professors -- they're going to vote Democrat anyhow.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, this is her third comeback, if you count New Hampshire and Super Tuesday. And I agree with Pat that she does still have a struggle to catch up in delegates. And Barack Obama is going to keep winning these smaller states, and we've got now a war between the big important states and the smaller states that Democrats won't need in November. And that's a dangerous divide that's beginning to open up.
And I think as we go forward here, the problem for the Democrats is if these two candidates get too nasty against each other, the constituencies that they brought into this process, hundreds of thousands of new voters, that's the good news. The bad news is half of them won't show up in November if these two candidates don't resolve this peaceably.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: It is difficult for her but not impossible for her to pull this off. You know, I've said that in order for her to win, she has to club the baby seal to death. She's demonstrated over the last couple of weeks that she is willing to do that, and she seems pretty content with her role as being the hope-squasher, she who squashes hope in this campaign. She's happy to do it.
There's nothing in the Clintonian psychology to suggest quitting. You cannot imagine her yielding to Barack Obama. They're going to have to carry her out feet first on a gurney like Britney Spears. So what she is going to do is go to the super-delegates and say, "Look, I will forgive your flirtation with the hope guy, but now it's time to stop screwing around and come back to mommy." She's going to make the case to the supers that she can win the big states, as Eleanor has pointed out, states like Ohio that the Democrats are going to need to win in the fall.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know the numbers on the super-delegates?
MS. CROWLEY: Eight hundred, about 800.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's got about -- she's got more than -- she's got about 250 to his, what, 230?
MS. CROWLEY: Right. And now she --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And then there are 250 still left.
MS. CROWLEY: Right. And she has put the freeze on them.
MS. CLIFT: It's 350 still undeclared.
MS. CROWLEY: They are --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're going to remain undeclared --
MS. CLIFT: And they could divide, too. You know, there's no rule that says they're going to swing all in one direction.
MS. CROWLEY: And they could switch. Those who have come out for Obama or for Hillary could switch.
MS. CLIFT: We could have a stalemate that goes to the convention.
MS. CROWLEY: And she put the big freeze on them after this week. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can the standard delegates change their commitment?
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are bound, reportedly, quote-unquote, "bound.
" What does that binding mean? Are they unable to actually go against the way they're bound?
MS. CROWLEY: The super-delegates can go anywhere they want.
MR. BUCHANAN: The pledged delegates, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not talking about super-delegates.
MS. CROWLEY: The pledged delegates are pledged but not bound.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know what the binding power of that pledge is.
MS. CROWLEY: They're not bound.
MR. BUCHANAN: They release a lot of them after first ballots and things like that normally, John, in any election, just like Nixon's. After the first ballot they go.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before we address you -- and welcome, James -- get this -- The dream ticket, Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton.
(Begin videotaped segment.)
HARRY SMITH (CBS "Early Show"): We talked to a lot of people in Ohio who said there really isn't that significant a difference between you two, and they'd like to see you both on the ticket.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, that may, you know, be where this is headed. But, of course, we have to decide who's on the top of the ticket. (Laughs.) And I think that the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me. And, after all, no one in recent history has won the presidency who did not win their party's primary in Ohio, Harry. You know, Ohio --
MR. SMITH: "As Ohio goes," yeah.
SEN. CLINTON: -- is the key -- "As Ohio goes." And last night I think I showed that I'm the candidate best able to win in the fall if we look at Ohio. (End videotaped segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When Senator Obama was asked about a duo ticket, he gave his stock evasion.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I think it is very premature to start talking about a joint ticket.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question -- If Hillary wins, why wouldn't she pick Obama as her vice presidential running mate?
MR. WARREN: You might calculate that, you know, she gets overshadowed by this charismatic new guy. So that might be part of the calculus. But can we all just take a little deep breath here? We've got a long, long chess game that's still to play out here.
We now have the conventional wisdom about Pennsylvania is the new Iowa or the new New Hampshire. But remember, there are going to be possibly a couple of quick Obama victories coming up here, Wyoming and Mississippi. And then shortly after Pennsylvania, the all-important Pennsylvania, a couple of weeks after that you've got two states, Indiana and North Carolina, which have more delegates at play than the state of Pennsylvania does.
But, again, would there be a clamoring for Obama on the ticket? There'd be a huge clamoring. Could he possibly bring her some states, bring her some votes? Yes. Would there be a possibility of alienating an African-American base by going with somebody else? Yes, there'd be that possibility.
MS. CLIFT: But neither of them can mathematically accumulate the 2,025 delegates, so they need the super-delegates. If Hillary gets put over the top by the super-delegates, she's going to need Barack Obama.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: Otherwise she's going to alienate the most important segment in the Democratic Party and all the young people that he's brought into the process.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, he also got --
MS. CLIFT: She would need him.
MR. BUCHANAN: You also got the Michigan-Florida thing. This thing could go down and be so close that Michigan and Florida -- what have they got, over 300 delegates or something like that?
MS. CLIFT: Three (hundred) eighty-eight, I think. MR. BUCHANAN: Then you've got to decide it. And Hillary won Florida, and he was on the ballot there; she won it going away. Michigan's more complicated because he wasn't on the ballot. They're going to decide how they allocate delegates from Michigan and Florida. And do they do a do-over and do they do a caucus, which would favor Obama?
MS. CLIFT: There'll be some sort of a do-over. And I think if Hillary Clinton were smart, she would volunteer to pay from -- it's half a month's take on the Internet, the $20 million. And that would make her look very magnanimous. And Obama would be forced to contribute.
MR. BUCHANAN: Why not take the victory you already got? (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: She's not going to get the victory she already got. That's unfair.
MR. WARREN: Well, I mean, it is odd. I mean, it's odd. In Florida, you've got a Republican legislature. They don't want to spend $10 (million), $15 (million), $20 million to help the Democrats out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Obama would not pick Hillary as his running mate if Hillary consented, or would the baggage there be Bubba and that would not be too good?
MR. WARREN: Bubba being?
MS. CROWLEY: Both of them -- both Hillary and Obama are in a box with regard to who's going to choose whom for number two, for the reason that Eleanor pointed out, that they both bring huge constituencies. The number of delegates are split right down the middle. So, in essence, they need each other. However, there's a reason why you get vice presidents like Walter Mondale, Al Gore and Dick Cheney; that is, the guy at the top of the ticket, or lady, doesn't want to be eclipsed by a superstar, i.e., a Barack Obama or Bill Clinton.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get out. Exit question -- On a political comeback scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero comeback, like Giuliani in Florida, zero comeback, 10 meaning total resurrection, absolute metaphysical comeback, McCain after last fall's bottom-of-the-tank gagging for air, rate Hillary's comeback this week.
MR. BUCHANAN: Nixon is the 10, John. But Hillary -- I give Hillary on this one -- I give her a seven. I give her an eight. It was a tremendous comeback. And Barack had momentum and everything going for him. And the fact she won these two and added Rhode Island --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we all settle on eight? MS. CLIFT: Well, I think it's at least an eight, because she was being counted out. And now she's got a 50 percent shot. This is a dead heat between these two candidates.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also she seemed like a transformed woman. She seems more comfortable with herself and her destiny.
MS. CROWLEY: Because the pressure is off. She can exhale now, at least a little bit.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, she's only got California and Florida and Ohio --
MS. CROWLEY: All the big industrial states.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The only one she doesn't have is Illinois.
MS. CLIFT: It's also --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's got New York too.
MR. WARREN: Let's dispense with the psycho-political analysis of her emotional state. Ohio played to her natural strengths with her natural constituencies. That was no surprise. Texas, she did well. A seven.
MS. CLIFT: It's also the prism through which we --
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, people were --
MS. CLIFT: It's also the prism through which --
MR. BUCHANAN: People were demanding --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. It's also the prism --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.
MS. CLIFT: This is my fourth time starting this sentence. It's also the prism through which we view these candidacies. Hillary Clinton was declared an emotional weather vane. Monday she was on the attack. Tuesday she was smiling. Now she's being called nimble because of her willingness --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: -- to try all these different attacks. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Warren is a heavy -- he's a tough marker. He gave her a seven. That translates as an eight. She gets an eight.
Issue Two -- The Rezko Rap.
SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) Rezko was a friend and supporter of mine for many years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The trial of Tony Rezko started on Monday. Rezko was a political fixer, influence-peddler and real estate developer in Chicago. He gave donations and secured donations for Barack Obama, all presumably in connection with Obama's political campaigns. Rezko is charged with attempted extortion, business fraud, influence-peddling, conspiracy and money laundering.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is leading the prosecution. He's the same Fitzgerald who gained headlines and gained the conviction of Scooter Libby, one of George W. Bush's and Dick Cheney's chief aides. Mr. Libby's sentence was commuted by President Bush.
Since Rezko has come under investigation, the Obama campaign has returned $150,000 in Rezko-tied funds.
SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) We have returned any money that we know was associated to Mr. Rezko.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The trial is expected to cast some undetermined degree of political embarrassment on Obama's campaign. Three years ago, when Barack Obama was campaigning for the U.S. Senate, he and his wife bought a Chicago house for $1,650,000. The seller's condition of sale was that the adjoining vacant lot be sold at the same time. The Obamas could not afford it. So Rezko's wife bought the lot for $625,000 and then sold a strip of it back to the Obamas for $104,000 to preserve the value and privacy of the Obama home.
SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) It raised the possibility that here was somebody who was a friend of mine who was doing me a favor. And I said it was a bone-headed mistake.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question -- Will the Senate Ethics Committee hold a hearing into Rezko's real estate transaction with the Obamas and whether it violates Senate rules on gifts? James Warren.
MR. WARREN: The answer is unequivocal -- no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They did it with Geraldine Ferraro.
MR. WARREN: The answer is no. Can I clear the air about this deal? There are a couple of problems. First of all, the question is, was it a coordinated move by Rezko and Obama to purchase those particular parcels so that Obama would get a nice deal on the house that had an asking price of $1.9 (million)? He spent $1.65 (million). Secondly, what we've also forgotten is did Rezko consciously compromise Obama by spiffing up his part by doing a lot of landscaping and then selling that stuff back? And then, finally, the big question for us, who've asked Obama a whole lot of times -- this is a Chicago Tribune story -- was it mere coincidence that these purchases took place at the same time? You now have the admission by the senator that he invited Rezko to a walk-through. He still won't tell us when the walk-through was of that big house.
And finally, here's the real problem. Everybody in town in Chicago knew by 2005 that Rezko was under grand jury scrutiny for a lot of allegedly sleazy deals with the state of Illinois, none having to do with Obama, but with the state of Illinois. Anybody with really sound judgment should have stayed away.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the role of the wives, Rita and Michelle?
MS. CROWLEY: Right. Well, and the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times have done great work on this. But the transaction was actually done in their names, in Mrs. Rezko's name and in Mrs. Obama's name. A lot of it was, wasn't it, Jim?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Michelle should come forward and tell us what happened?
MS. CROWLEY: She ought to be answering some questions if a lot of this was done in her name. And let's be clear. Barack Obama is not implicated in any wrongdoing so far in this particular investigation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Senate Ethics Committee?
MR. BUCHANAN: The Ethics Committee is too long, John. Here's the problem. Fitzgerald, if he convicts Rezko, will walk him into the grand jury, immunize him, and say, "You did this for Barack Obama. Did he do any favors for you?" And Democrats have got to be sitting there waiting for something like this to happen, because Bulldog Fitzgerald moves up the food chain --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- and we know where he's headed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember Geraldine Ferraro and -- (inaudible) -- in the House when he was petitioned to hold a hearing.
MR. BUCHANAN: I remember she gave an hour-and-a-half --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember --
MR. BUCHANAN: She gave an hour-and-a-half press conference, which frankly helped her out. MS. CLIFT: That was about her husband.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And her husband pleaded guilty to a felony afterwards.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but she got out of it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did she get out of it?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, she did.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did it have an effect on her political career?
MS. CLIFT: There's been no evidence of any wrongdoing here. But the danger for Obama is it makes him look like just another politician. And the big question about him all along is whether he can take a punch and whether he can land a punch. And he hasn't handled this well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, this is another punch he may have to handle. Obama takes the stand? What if Patrick Fitzgerald called Obama to take the stand to ask Jim -- to ask him, that is -- sorry, Jim -- what his dealings were with Tony Rezko?
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think he can.
SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) Well, I don't know what my legal obligations would be. And so I would leave that up to lawyers.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question -- If Obama did take the stand and he chose not to answer a question and he pled the 5th Amendment, what impact would that have on his presidential campaign?
MS. CROWLEY: That would be absolutely devastating to his candidacy. But I really don't think it's going to happen, although that answer --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't you think it's going to happen?
MS. CROWLEY: I don't think that they're going to politicize it to that degree.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's not relevant. MS. CROWLEY: I think there's been enough to go on Tony Rezko. The problem for Obama --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that Fitzgerald, who is noted for --
MS. CLIFT: This is McCarthyesque.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a fishing expedition, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think he's going to --
MR. BUCHANAN: He can't go in and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- ask him to talk about Rezko?
MR. BUCHANAN: This isn't a congressional committee.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's known Rezko for two decades.
MR. WARREN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's had a lot of dealings with Rezko.
MS. CLIFT: This is McCarthyesque.
MR. WARREN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Let her finish. (Inaudible) -- what the potential is.
MR. WARREN: John --
MS. CROWLEY: The problem with Barack Obama is not the possibility of being called to the stand. I don't think that that's in the cards. The problem for Obama is that this trial opens up a window of a lot more deep and incriminating associations --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you referring to?
MS. CROWLEY: -- with regard to Tony Rezko. I'm talking about a guy named Nadhmi Auchi, who is an Iraqi billionaire living as a fugitive in London, who's alleged to have been a bag man for Saddam Hussein in the oil-for-food scam.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is his connection?
MS. CROWLEY: He gave Rezko $3.5 million as a loan in the fall of last year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was that related to the purchase of --
MS. CLIFT: It's guilt by association. MR. WARREN: Hold it. Hold it. Three points of information -- Michelle didn't buy the land; this was all in a land trust that the two of them had. Also Patrick --
MS. CLIFT: Fitzgerald --
MR. WARREN: Patrick -- Patrick Fitzgerald is not running this case. He heads the office.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. WARREN: Third, there is still absolutely no connection between this guy you just mentioned in Europe and the land deal on Rezko.
MS. CROWLEY: But shouldn't that be investigated --
MR. WARREN: But here's the answer to the question. It is likely not to be Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, who calls Obama to the stand, but if you're the defense attorney for Rezko, you want Obama on the stand so you can paint a benign portrait of your client as someone who is just involved in politics.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's the way it looks to an observer. It looks as though Rita is a cutout for Tony and Michelle is a cutout for Obama.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, my.
MR. WARREN: No. This is a land trust in the two of their names. The key document that you're alluding to here is not signed by Michelle, in all due respect. It was signed by the lawyer for the land trust, my friend.
MS. CLIFT: John, I would --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the execution of it was handled by the wives, the strip and the purchase of the whole lot.
MS. CLIFT: I would turn this into a novel if I were you.
MR. BUCHANAN: Put it on the financial page. (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The question is whether there were any favors by Obama --
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. That's the final question.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- furnished to Tony Rezko -- MR. BUCHANAN: But you can ask --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- who is on trial.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you ask that question after he's convicted.
You walk him into the grand jury, give him immunity for anything he says --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is this, Obama?
MR. BUCHANAN: Rezko. And then you say, "Mr. Rezko, you did this favor for Obama. Did he do any favors for you?"
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's the general question for exit. Is it your felt intuition that Barack Obama has leveled with the American voters about Tony Rezko?
MR. BUCHANAN: He has told the truth, but not the whole truth.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he has not leveled.
MR. BUCHANAN: He has not come out and explained everything, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the meaning of "leveled" except that?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, nobody goes out and explains every detail when you ask them a question. They give you a straight answer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean by that? You would, under these circumstances, shield some of your answers? Why? Why?
MR. BUCHANAN: Why would you get into --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why would you not be totally transparent? Rezko is a friend of his.
MR. BUCHANAN: Why would you discuss Tony Rezko in the middle of a presidential campaign? It's ridiculous.
MS. CLIFT: I think he gave money to a lot of other people, a lot of other Democrats, and I think some Republicans too. I think we ought to have a grand trial and put everybody on the stand. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can burlesk it as much as you want, but there are unanswered questions.
MR. WARREN: The answer -- MS. CLIFT: I know that, and they will be -- he's leveled to the extent that the Clintons have leveled about their income tax returns. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the best thing he could do would do a Geraldine Ferraro, 90-minute news conference --
MS. CLIFT: There's moral equivalency here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with the American press asking him anything they want?
MR. BUCHANAN: It would be suicidal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suicidal?
MR. WARREN: John --
MR. BUCHANAN: Why would you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why would it be suicidal?
MR. BUCHANAN: It would open up all these new questions, and everybody's running --
MR. WARREN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that? Don't you think he should do a Geraldine Ferraro?
MS. CLIFT: Nobody cares about this except us.
MS. CROWLEY: You know what? He should, to try to preempt any kind of questions that the press is on or that the trial is going to open up, because it's not just about Tony Rezko. There's a whole web of other associations here where the mud could flick back on Obama.
MR. WARREN: John, can I please bring an air of understated sobriety to this discussion by informing you that there's no --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)
MR. WARREN: -- there's no evidence of anything illegal here?
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. WARREN: But the answer is yes. He has not leveled. There are a series of questions, and they have to do with the time line here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why haven't you called for it in one of your editorials? MR. WARREN: We have called for it a thousand different ways.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, why isn't he doing it? Why isn't he --
MR. BUCHANAN: Because he's not nuts, John. He's not nuts.
MR. WARREN: Please. You ask him.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, he does that and Hillary's the nominee. Can you imagine Democrats seeing him at 90 minutes talking about this nonsense? Hillary would be the nominee.
MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, but that assumes that he has something to hide. John McCain -- when the New York Times story broke about the lobbyist and so on, he held a press conference. He answered every question. Obama should do the same.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think Patrick Buchanan's insight is the most interesting that it would be suicidal for him to level with the American people.
MR. BUCHANAN: Ninety minutes on Rezko?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three -- The Anointing.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ, Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) As you know, both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton called to congratulate me. I pledged at that time and I pledge again a respectful campaign, a respectful campaign based on the issues and based on the stark differences and vision that we have for the future of America.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republicans have nominated their candidate for president of the United States, Senator John McCain of Arizona. McCain swept Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont on Tuesday and won the warm endorsement of George W. Bush on Wednesday.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) John showed incredible courage, strength of character and perseverance in order to get to this moment. And that's exactly what we need in a president, somebody who can handle the tough decisions, somebody who won't flinch in the face of danger.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: During the campaign, McCain said that he has no intention of giving up his Senate seat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question -- Will Senator McCain unite his party despite his unconservative stances displeasing to Buchanan on stem cell research, campaign finance reform, torture and illegal immigrants' path to citizenship, i.e., what Buchanan believes is de facto amnesty? What's the answer? MR. BUCHANAN: And NAFTA. The answer is this is an utterly loveless marriage, but it's going to come off. Republicans -- most all Republicans, I think, will get behind McCain.
Most conservatives will rally to him. And if McCain is smart, he'll try to get people to tell the other conservatives that can't stand him, "At least go after Obama or go after Hillary, and please get off my case for the fall." And it may work.
MS. CLIFT: The desire to retain power will overwhelm any personal animosity. And McCain has a set of issues to go to the voters in November that are compelling. He's opposed to drilling in the Arctic. He wants to regulate greenhouse gases.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: He supported stem cell research. And your crowd is going to --
MR. BUCHANAN: I take back my endorsement. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't say that too loud, will you?
MS. CLIFT: Well, that's how he's going to win. He's going to appeal to the center of America.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Grover Norquist, who is a celebrated conservative, he buys McCain hook, line and sinker. He says he's with the -- what's the name of his organization?
MR. BUCHANAN: He's got a tax organization.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. He's the head of that. Where are you in relation to that?
MS. CROWLEY: Did you see Bush and McCain there? Both of them looked like they'd rather be having a root canal than stand next to each other. Look, conservatives have a lot of problems with President Bush, for all of the reasons that Pat's laid out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but aren't they going to come together? Where do they have to go? Where can they go?
MS. CROWLEY: Bush is still the leader of the Republican Party. It's better to have his endorsement than not. Conservatives, of course, are going to coalesce around John McCain. And McCain should be using this time to consolidate the base and raise money and refine his message.
MR. WARREN: And his --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain could beat Obama.
MR. WARREN: No, I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He could also beat Hillary.
MR. BUCHANAN: He could beat both of them.
MR. WARREN: I think he has a better chance in coalescing the right if Senator Clinton is the opponent versus Obama. But I do think, for all the reasons that were just pointed out, that he could lure a whole bunch, not just of independents, but also some Democrats in states like California, and bring them all in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to my question? Is he going to unify the party?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: It'll be --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Limbaugh is on board already, isn't he?
MR. BUCHANAN: It'll be together and unhappy, John, like a family reunion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is they have no place else to go. They've got to go there, in other words, in the direction of unity.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, we've taken walks before.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Israeli-Palestinian peace deal dead.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: John McCain will run further to the left than anybody on this panel thinks.
MS. CROWLEY: The Chinese military budget is up 18 percent. You'll see President Bush and John McCain talking a lot more about that threat.
MR. WARREN: The Air Force just awarded a humongous $35 billion tanker contract to a U.S.-European partnership. It will not fund it because it wants it to go to the loser, Boeing. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Israeli-Palestinian peace accord is not dead.
Primaries upcoming this weekend -- Wyoming on Saturday, Mississippi next Tuesday.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four -- Hucka-bye-bye.
FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE (former Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) It's now important that we turn our attention not to what could have been or what we wanted to have been, but what now must be, and that is a united party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did Huckabee withdraw now?
MS. CROWLEY: Because he was losing. (Laughs.) Because John McCain locked up the nomination.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because he was broke -- no money.
MS. CROWLEY: That's true, too. But there's a future in the Republican Party for Mike Huckabee, maybe not the vice presidency, but he certainly has great pull with the evangelicals, that conservative base, and in the South.
MR. BUCHANAN: Key thing, John, he got 38 percent in Texas, which is a repudiation. And it's a cry of the conservatives that they don't want what they've got coming.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you saying?
MR. BUCHANAN: I say Huckabee got 38 percent in Texas.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but what else are you saying? What's this about conservatives?
MS. CLIFT: Well, that McCain still has problems.
MR. BUCHANAN: It says conservatives will go with Huckabee rather than McCain in a late primary when it's all over -- amazing.
MS. CLIFT: It's a way to register their distaste for John McCain. But they'll come around. Look, watching that clip of Mr. Huckabee, I feel like I'm watching Sunday morning evangelical television. I think he'd be very good on the tube.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he's a revivalist preacher?
MS. CLIFT: He is a Baptist preacher. END.