THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2008 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 29-30, 2008
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Thank You, Alaska.
ALASKA GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R): (From videotape.) I believe that this whole run for VP has been good for our state in that it has opened people's eyes to the resources that we have. And I think there will be more acknowledgement of Alaska's position in our nation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Governor, thanks to you, Americans are more conscious of Alaska today, with its unique expanse and allure. Less than a century and a half ago, we weren't so impressed. It was in 1867 that Alaska was added to the United States of America, not as a state but as a district. It was purchased for $7 million -- $7.2 million exactly. It became a state 50 years ago. William H. Seward, then secretary of State, made the purchase. Seward was dominant in the early Republican Party. He opposed slavery. Seward ran against Abraham Lincoln for the party's nomination in 1860, and for a while was leading Lincoln.
After he took office, Lincoln appointed Seward to his wartime Cabinet. Presidential appointee or not, Seward was laughed at by many Americans because of his Alaskan purchase. They called Alaska, quote- unquote, "Seward's folly."
But Alaska is no folly. Alaska is heaven -- an energy heaven, whose glories Governor Palin has saluted. Alaska is a bottomless Thanksgiving cornucopia. It just keeps on overflowing.
GOV. PALIN: (From videotape.) We have the hydro right here. We have the geothermal right here. We have the tides, tidal power, all these alternative and renewable sources of energy that can be tapped into right here also.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also Alaska houses 20 percent of all U.S. oil reserves. That's 20 percent; also immense natural gas reserves.
Question: Is Governor Palin overstating the merits of Alaska? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: She is not, John. Alaska is a magnificent country. I've been up there many times. It has enormous beauty. It's got tourism. It's got resources. It only has about 600,000 people up there. It is twice the size of Texas. It is -- and with global warming going on and a lot of the ice moving northward, this is a real future of this country that's terrific. And people -- Americans going up there are frontier type folks. And it's just got everything going for it. And I think she really has put it on the map and in the consciousness of the American people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know Alaska well.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the square miles?
MR. BUCHANAN: I would put it at close to a million square miles.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two hundred sixty-three thousand, Pat. Try again. (Laughter.) What would that be in comparison to a European nation?
MR. BUCHANAN: That would be -- (laughs) -- equal to most of Western Europe, all of Western Europe.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most of Western Europe. MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Name the nations.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there's Spain, Portugal, France, West Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Add them all up.
MR. BUCHANAN: Six hundred sixty-three square miles. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not bad. I'll give you the list. I'll give you the list. I think we have it over there on the screen: France, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Austria. Sixty-six thousand square miles is the size of Alaska -- five of those European countries.
MS. CLIFT: Alaska is beautiful country, and we rely on their natural resources, and I hope that they will continue to use them wisely. But on this Thanksgiving weekend, we have a lot more to be thankful for than Alaska. And I would point out that Alaska suffers from a brain drain. Those long, dark days and nights also contribute to higher than average alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, which we have seen first-hand played out in the presidential campaign. So the state is not without its difficulties. And now we're going to watch Governor Palin come back down to earth and deal with her economy, which is not thriving to the point that it was when oil was over $100 a barrel.
MS. CROWLEY: One of the great services, I think, of this campaign and Sarah Palin being brought on the McCain ticket was to call Americans' attention to the importance of Alaska. And you think about when she was added to the ticket toward the end of the summer, remember, gas prices -- as Eleanor points out, gas prices during the summer were through the roof. Gas was over $100 -- or oil was over $150 a barrel. Now it's come down. It's below $50 a barrel.
But I think she really directed Americans' attention to the fact that we have these natural resources here in the United States and added a lot of impetus, I think, to the national debate about whether or not we should be drilling here, whether or not our own resources should be exploited so that we're not looking toward the Middle East and to other nations like Russia that are not friendly to the United States. And, I mean, 7.2 million bucks -- you can't even get a one- bedroom apartment in New York these days for that. (Laughter.) What a deal -- great deal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's $360 million in today's dollars.
MS. CROWLEY: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you'd probably take that much to buy some of the places -- MS. CROWLEY: Yeah. But considering -- but again, considering --
MR. BUCHANAN: You couldn't get a nice building in New York for that.
MS. CROWLEY: -- the oil and the natural gas reserves that Alaska has, it really was a great buy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Before we go to Clarence, more Governor Palin on Alaska.
GOV. PALIN: (From videotape.
) We could and should be researching more, figuring out what these new technologies need to be also to allow reliability and these sources of energy to be tapped into where they're not so subsidized that it just economically doesn't make sense to tap into them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She says -- get this, Clarence -- that these sources of energy to be tapped into in Alaska, where they're not so subsidized, that it economically doesn't make sense to tap into them. What does she mean?
MR. PAGE: Well, I think she's talking about the oil tax inching up in Alaska that they have, which helps to subsidize their budget, and the residents get a nice kickback from every year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. gives them an infrastructure subsidy. But the U.S. also, when it gives money out, says, "We want this particular bridge to be built because of the needs of our Defense Department."
MR. PAGE: A bridge? A bridge?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they call the shots. Now, what does that mean?
MR. PAGE: You mean, like a bridge to nowhere? (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: The federal government owns, as I recall, 98.5 percent of Alaska. The whole Tongass -- the rain forest up there where Ketchikan is, where the bridge to nowhere was going to be built, they shut down logging up there and virtually killed the town. They're under all kinds of federal attack by folks in the Department of the Interior and places here, who really don't understand, don't appreciate the place like the people up there do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In other words, the government --
MS. CLIFT: That's in the eye --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The government crowds out our beloved capitalism. And if our beloved capitalism could work up there, they could really develop the green energy that exists. That's what she's saying, that you pay a price -- MR. PAGE: Well, she said that, on the one hand.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for your government subsidies.
MR. PAGE: On the other hand, she taxes the oil industry up there, and they enjoy that too. So you can get that both ways. But, you know, about 65 percent of Alaska hasn't even been explored except by satellite. It's an amazing place.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. PAGE: I've been there too. It's a remarkable place.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just let me go to him. Then I'm going to go to you.
MR. BUCHANAN: Our late friend, Bob Finch, had an idea he came to me with.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was the head of --
MR. BUCHANAN: Former head of HEW.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Housing and Urban Development.
MR. BUCHANAN: HEW.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: HEW.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: HEW or HUD?
MR. BUCHANAN: HEW. But, you know, all those rivers up there in Alaska, they pour into the sea enormous amounts of fresh water. He wanted to build a gigantic pipeline and bring the water down from those rivers into California and the American Southwest, where it's desperately needed. These ideas will be coming to fruition, thanks to Governor Palin.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that Boone Pickens is now bringing water down from the north, straight down -- water.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, Boone Pickens --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Water.
MS. CLIFT: Boone Pickens has some responsible ideas and environmentally responsible ideas. But when Pat talks about attacks by the Interior Department, the resources in Alaska don't just belong to Governor Palin and the people who live there who get the tax cut -- kickbacks that Clarence talked about. They belong to the whole country. And you've got to have -- MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: Oh, I'm not wrong.
MR. BUCHANAN: They made a deal --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't interrupt Eleanor, Pat. Go ahead.
MS. CLIFT: That's right. Don't interrupt Eleanor. (Laughter.) But you've got to have a balance about these natural resources, which is what makes Alaska --
MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, you're missing the basic proposition. What Palin is saying is when you get a government subsidy, you pay a price for it, because the government tells you what to do with it, whereas if we had the private sector, the private sector knows how and where to make money. And that is what drives them to invest, for example, in one well and then feeding out feeders instead of multiple wells.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but an unfettered private sector gets us into the same trouble that Wall Street got us into. You can't let the private sector make all the decisions about resources --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you can't choke it either. You want to choke it.
MS. CLIFT: I don't want to choke it. I want to be responsible about it, like --
MR. BUCHANAN: What Governor Palin said, John, was this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quiet, Pat. Let her finish. Let the lady in.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- the contract between -- Alaska and the United States had a contract when they came in for statehood, and the Alaskans believe they've been double-crossed by the feds, that they'd made a deal.
MS. CLIFT: Well, boohoo. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.
MS. CROWLEY: The private sector has very efficiently, and in environmentally sound ways, exploited our natural gas and oil resources in the Gulf of Mexico. That's the number one crude oil production region in the country. Off the coast of California they've done it very environmentally sound ways, Texas and Alaska. So what she's saying is allow these companies to come in, do this properly. They do it with horizontal drilling, meaning going down, not disturbing the caribou and everything else that we're all concerned about here. There are ways that they can do it that will be economically efficient and also environmentally sound.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Russia next door.
GOV. PALIN: (From videotape.) They're our next-door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question. Russia is Alaska's immediate neighbor. Russian President Medvedev is now cozying up to Hugo Chavez with a state visit to Venezuela on his schedule. What message is Medvedev sending to the United States? We'll get back to Alaska in a moment. I ask you, Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think that the Russian bear is back on the march after their invasion of Georgia this summer, where Russia was able to do that, invade one of its neighbors with impunity. The Russian bear is now emboldened, and the message that Medvedev is not only going to Venezuela; he's also going to Cuba. And you know who else was in Cuba over the last couple of weeks? Hu Jintao, the president of China. What does that tell you? It tells you that they look at the United States as increasingly vulnerable and that they're looking to create a new encirclement of the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Medvedev feels quite the opposite? He feels that there's a strategic encirclement of Russia because of putting our missiles in Poland and in the Czech Republic.
And he says, "If you want to do that to me, I can do the same thing to you. And I'm going to visit Chavez, and we're going to talk about this and maybe put Cuban" --
MS. CROWLEY: How about this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- "maybe put our missiles in Cuba."
MS. CROWLEY: The United States and Western Europe are defensive powers. They're not offensive powers like Russia. The Russians have nothing to worry about about a missile shield being placed in Eastern Europe, and they know it. They're using it as a pretext to act.
MR. PAGE: I don't think Russia --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.
MR. PAGE: -- wants to revive the Cuban missile crisis.
MS. CLIFT: No. (Laughs.)
MR. PAGE: Nor do they want to revive subsidizing Cuba unless it's on the cheap by getting Chavez to do it and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is he visiting Venezuela?
MR. PAGE: Well, for one thing, Chavez --
MS. CLIFT: Oil.
MR. PAGE: -- has oil. And Chavez wants to expand --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why does Russia need oil?
MR. PAGE: I think Chavez wants to expand his influence more than Russia does, as far as that's concerned, something in this hemisphere.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's not saying to us, "You want to be in our backyard; we can play in your backyard."
MR. PAGE: Yeah, well, certainly. And he's trying to do it on the cheap. He doesn't even have to put any missiles in Cuba or subsidize Cuba's economy. MR. BUCHANAN: John, Medvedev made a foolish statement the day after Obama was victorious. But a couple of days later he came out and said, "We're not going to deploy our missiles until you deploy yours." What Medvedev is doing, he's got these gestures out there. He wants to negotiate an entente with the United States of America. I don't believe Russia wants any second Cold War.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Now, Russia --
MR. BUCHANAN: They're (home ?) with the West.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Russia is our neighbor in Alaska. I want to know what the military strength of the United States is in Alaska.
MS. CLIFT: They're not our neighbor in Alaska. I mean, that is so far down on the list of our dealings with them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MS. CLIFT: And to take Sarah Palin's words like this as some words of wisdom from on high --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, how many --
MS. CLIFT: The Russian relationship is very important, and the president-elect, and I believe the vice president-elect, have been in touch with Medvedev. He quickly walked back from his comments. They're going to settle this in a nice little tap-dancing way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Military personnel of Russia -- military personnel of the United States in Alaska.
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what they've got. We've got your anti- missile bases out in the Aleutians.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Elmendorf.
MR. BUCHANAN: Elmendorf is the place they land when --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have Fort Richardson, Fort Greeley, Fort Wainwright. The total is 22,870.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, what they've got is your air defense and your missile defense are very much in there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You remember when we did the show on the Tu-95 Russian bombers that came over without giving our guys notice?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I do remember that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And our guys were -- MR. BUCHANAN: That's when -- they make approaches there and things. But again, I think they're responding to us and they want us to be engaged. Russia has got no home other than ultimately with the West.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Alaska poised to be on the front line of a cold war? I ask you, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: There's not going to be a second Cold War if Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- (laughter) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have our first-line air defense system in Alaska.
MS. CLIFT: In Alaska.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you know that?
MR. BUCHANAN: That's from the Cold War that dates back to, John.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Still active.
MR. BUCHANAN: Of course.
MS. CLIFT: And if we're going to have to rely on Governor Palin, this is the first time in this show that I'm going to get as scared as Monica's trying to make me feel. (Laughter.)
MS. CROWLEY: There are a lot of threats out there, and you should be scared.
Look, you're right about Alaska being the front line -- 49th Missile Battalion, the air defense is stationed in Alaska. But, I mean, this idea about a new Cold War -- the old Cold War never ended. Russia is behind every major state-based threat the United States faces, from Iran to North Korea.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question, Eleanor. Exit question. Should the repair of our relationship with Russia be at the top of Obama's foreign policy priorities?
MR. BUCHANAN: It certainly should.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number one?
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number one? MR. BUCHANAN: It can be done --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before Iraq?
MR. BUCHANAN: This can be done quickly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before Iran?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, a president can do more than one thing at once. But repairing --
MR. BUCHANAN: Number one. Number one.
MS. CLIFT: Repairing the relationship with Russia is at the top.
MS. CROWLEY: Well, repairing the relationship with Russia sounds great on paper, but you need the other side to be willing to do that. And based on the aggressive moves we've seen on the part of Russia, I don't think they're ready to meet us halfway, John.
MR. PAGE: I've got to dissent. The Middle East ought to be his first priority, but Russia should be up there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Russia should be number two. Iraq should be number one.
Issue Two: History in the Making.
This Thanksgiving, Americans have something special to be thankful for. An African-American has been elected president of the United States. So how historic is this election? Answer: Very. Start with a 400-year span from the early 16th century to the late 19th century. During that span, 15 million Africans are transported to the new world as slaves.
Three hundred years later, January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln officially outlaws slavery in America, with Lincoln freeing, quote, "all slaves in areas still in rebellion," unquote.
Thirty-three years later, May 18, 1896, Plessy versus Ferguson, a ruling by the Supreme Court is handed down approving the doctrine of, quote, "separate but equal," unquote.
Sixty-seven years later, August 28, 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. leads a civil rights march on Washington with 200,000 behind him, and Reverend King addresses the multitude with these inspirational words.
REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: (From videotape.) I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One year later, July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signs the omnibus civil rights bill banning discrimination in voting, in jobs and in public accommodations.
Forty-four years later, November 4, 2008, Barack Hussein Obama, an African-American, is elected 44th president of the United States, and on the day of his election says this to a Chicago assemblage of about a quarter of a million people. PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've just been informed of an enforced gloss on the foregoing. The Voting Act of '65 is what caused voting for -- or permitted voting for -- whatever -- granted voting --
MR. PAGE: Overturned the poll tax and all that, right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Have we achieved Martin Luther King's dream of an America where people are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character? I ask you, Clarence.
MR. PAGE: Well, we've certainly come a long way, John. And to quote Larry Wilmore, the senior black correspondent on The Daily Show, we would have settled for 40 acres and a mule. (Laughter.) But you just gave us Fort Knox, all those nukes, everything.
I mean, this was a happy day, not just for black Americans but for Americans, because it showed, after a bunch of years where we've had misgivings and feeling kind of glum about our place in the world and whether the American dream really lives, it was good to see somebody who played by the rules and he won fair and square in a way that really kind of brought people together. He can worry about now of handling the job. But the fact that Americans -- you know, the Bradley effect, all that kind of thing, didn't get in his way, says a lot about the progress we've made the last 40 years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's not a flat playing field yet, is it?
MR. PAGE: No, no. No, but we're -- at least we've got a new base line now, I'd say. You know, before --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MR. PAGE: -- we weren't sure if a black person could get elected president. Now we know they can.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you know that the effect of the ongoing presidential status and first lady status is going to continue to equalize uniformly, and maybe completely, over the course of four years, don't you think?
MR. PAGE: Well, you know, like I say, this is progress, anyway. You know, the fact that we had a woman -- a viable woman presidential candidate, a viable woman vice presidential candidate, this shows the kind of direction the country can make. You know, we've never been perfect, but what was it about toward a more perfect Union? That's sort of the American goal. And we're still making progress. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Has President-elect Obama opened a wider door? Can America now look forward to its first Jewish- American president or Indian-American president or Chinese-American president or Russian-American president or Dominican-American president? (Laughter.) Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: You're pushing the envelope, John. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kiss Europe goodbye.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Deny your roots.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, America's always been the best country on earth for African folks and for Irish folks, John. It remains so and gets better.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which one of those categories do you think will --
MR. BUCHANAN: I think a woman president would probably be --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A what?
MR. BUCHANAN: A woman president, if you're talking about a breaking through, breaking the ceiling, would probably be most likely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is overdue?
MR. BUCHANAN: Women are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jewish-American president?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they've never run for except for the vice presidency, only one for the vice presidency. Yeah, I guess so. But, you know, well --
MR. PAGE: How about an Arab Muslim president? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to predict that, of that category that I just gave?
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't know anyone who is going to run immediately.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the door open?
MR. BUCHANAN: It's always been open in this country.
MR. PAGE: The door's open.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The door has been opened. You know -- MR. BUCHANAN: You've got to nominate one.
MS. CLIFT: Well, and President-elect Obama answered the question in his victory speech on election night when he said anybody who questions whether this is possible in America, you know, think again. This is an extraordinary moment. And when he was running through his remarks and he got to "44 years since," you know, he got a catch in his throat. I mean, he understands --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the door open?
MS. CROWLEY: It's open wider. And the fact that 43, 44 years have passed from the time African-Americans could vote to having an African-American president, while he's in there the color will dissipate. You won't see his color anymore, and that's a huge achievement.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MR. PAGE: Well, and the fact --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The door is open now?
MR. PAGE: I think we could say that there was an Obama effect after a certain point. He got so much momentum that a number of people were more inclined to vote for him, just to be part of the history that was happening. This kind of thing happens every so often. I think it was a transformational election.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is more historic than it is (hysteric ?).
Issue Three: The Supremes.
PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I will look for those judges who have an outstanding judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense of what real-world folks are going through.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Supreme Court is just what its name suggests -- supreme -- supreme over all the other 16,000 judicial bodies in the United States. The court's nine justices interpret law and they set precedent for years to come. The nomination of these justices is by the president, and it is arguably his or her most enduring power.
These justices commonly outlive the nominating president's terms. All nine of them serve for life, if they so wish. Thirty-two percent resign or retire. As a consequence of lengthy service, the justices' age can be quite seasoned. In the current court, one of the nine is an octogenarian, John Paul Stevens. Three of the nine are in their seventies -- Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy.
Question: Why will it be easier for President-elect Obama to assess nominees' judicial philosophy than for other presidents who have done so, or to do so? Do you understand the question?
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you understand the question, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I can guess at it. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is it going to be easier for Obama?
MS. CLIFT: Because he's thoughtful and he's a former constitutional lawyer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you go. MS. CLIFT: And he understands that he needs to keep a balance on the court, which is now evenly split between left and right, with one swing vote, and the three most likely justices to retire are on the left. And so he needs -- the best he can do, from my perspective, is to keep the court where it is and not let the right take over.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a lawyer. And in addition to that, he taught constitutional law for many years, did he not?
MR. PAGE: At the University of Chicago, one of those incubators for justices.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The University of Chicago. So he also knows what questions to ask the interviewee in order to discover what his judicial philosophy is --
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me say, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or hers, correct?
MS. CROWLEY: Well, that's right. He does have the background. But let's be honest. I mean, when the country elects a president, they elect a political philosophy. So he's not going to appoint conservative judges, and that's his prerogative not to. We're looking at between one and three vacancies, possibly, starting with John Paul Stevens, who's about 89 years old. There are others. Ruth Bader Ginsburg --
MS. CLIFT: Eighty-seven, I think.
MS. CROWLEY: -- is not in the best of health, and so she might retire as well. So there will be vacancies here for him. And he has made it clear that he wants somebody who is going to be able to reflect his political philosophy and approach the law that way as well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, more on the Supreme Court from Obama.
PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: (From videotape.) And we need somebody who's got the heart to recognize -- the empathy to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you live with that, Clarence?
MR. PAGE: Well, we've seen that with Sandra Day O'Connor, her experience as a woman being discriminated against, in spite of her stellar qualifications. She said that had an impact --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's saying --
MR. PAGE: -- on her -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you've got to have heart. That's what he's saying.
MR. PAGE: Right, right. And the candidates know this. I remember Clarence Thomas sounding very eloquent and passionate about his sympathy for the accused, and then once he became a justice, showed very little of it in his decisions. So I think, you know, there's part of some salesmanship of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's the primary -- is heart the primary --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, heart is not primary. This is an absurdity.
MS. CLIFT: No, it isn't.
MR. BUCHANAN: It is an absurdity in this sense. He is not supposed to judge what is nice and empathetic or (right to choose ?). That's for elected leaders. He's to judge whether this law they passed is consistent with the Constitution. Do they have the authority or don't they? Whether he likes it or not, a great justice will uphold the law he may despise as long as it's consistent with the Constitution of the United States.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but what he's signaling, he might not necessarily want someone out of an ivory tower or out of a corporate law firm. He wants somebody who has experienced some life, like Sandra Day O'Connor, who would be a prime role model.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the primary --
MS. CROWLEY: The primary is that it becomes --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The primary requirement of a Supreme Court justice -- what is it?
MR. BUCHANAN: Interpret the law.
MS. CROWLEY: Interpret the law.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interpret the law?
Happy Thanksgiving Weekend. Bye-bye. Gobble, gobble.