"THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP" HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT TAPED: FRIDAY, AUGUST 7, 2009 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF AUGUST 8-9, 2009
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Mission Impossible.
LAURA LING (journalist): (From videotape.) The nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end. And now we stand here, home and free.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secret diplomacy, mission impossible -- mission accomplished. Thank you, Bill Clinton.
For five months, North Korea had held two American citizens captive, journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Both were employees of Current TV, a multimedia company co-founded and co-managed by former Vice President Al Gore. Ling and Lee had illegally entered North Korea. The Obama staff in Washington dismissed the charges, calling them baseless. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton described the imprisonment, quote-unquote, "an act of state terrorism."
When former President Clinton arrived in Pyongyang, he first met with North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, then with Kim Jong Il himself, and later his top leadership. Within 24 hours, the North Koreans announced that Mr. Clinton had apologized for Laura and Euna's transgressions and that both women had been pardoned and released.
In Burbank, after the return trip, Al Gore saluted the president.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: (From videotape.) We want to thank President Bill Clinton for undertaking this mission and performing it so skillfully.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House says the trip was a, quote- unquote, "solely private mission," so described by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
But ex-President Clinton says the White House asked him to take on the mission. "I am very happy that after this long ordeal, Laura Ling and Euna Lee are now home and reunited with their loved ones. When their families, Vice President Gore and the White House asked that I undertake this humanitarian mission, I agreed," unquote.
And this makes it more official. National Security Adviser James Jones, from his office in the West Wing, asked former President Clinton to undertake the North Korean initiative.
Question: Why was Bill Clinton chosen for this mission? And did the White House authorize it in advance? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Bill Clinton was chosen for this mission because Kim Il Jong demanded Bill Clinton come to Pyongyang. And the White House authorized it because they wanted to get those folks back.
Bubba is back, John. He gets a great success from this, quite frankly. It's wonderful those women are home. But the big winner here is Kim Jong Il. He demanded -- whistled up the president of the United States to come to Pyongyang after he's exploded an atomic bomb, fired a missile at us, said the Korean armistice is all kaput, and has done all these other things.
And he gets Bubba there and what does he do? He says he apologized; he brought a message from President Obama -- completely undercut American policy. We have traded policy and prestige for hostages. Kim Jong Il is the winner of this thing in Asia. You noticed the South Korean hostages did not come out, and neither did the Japanese hostages. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: That's a pretty desperate attempt to find something negative here. I call him President Clinton, not Bubba. And the idea surfaced in the many conversations between North Korea and, circuitously, the State Department. And basically this is about saving face for the North Korean regime. We've done it before. Bill Richardson has been over there freeing an American that was held captive.
It may be an icebreaker. Maybe it will lead to a thawing in relations; maybe not. But the president spent several hours over there; got some important intelligence, I assume; picked up some sense of the health of this regime, both personally and the rest of it -- intelligence that we wouldn't have had otherwise. There's nothing lost in this.
MS. CROWLEY: I'll tell you what's lost. (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: And it's nice to see President Clinton get a boost after the beating he took last year in connection with his wife's campaign.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, in terms of stagecraft, this was pure Clintonian brilliance. But Eleanor says nothing was lost. I'll tell you what was lost. There was a message being sent from Kim Jong Il to his business partners. And by business, I mean weapons trafficking and nuclear proliferation. Those business partners are Russia, China, Iran and Syria. There's proliferation happening all over the place among all of those countries.
The message here was that, despite sanctions being brandished by the Obama administration and grudgingly approved by at least part of the U.N. Security Council, that Kim Jong Il knows how to regain control -- grab two Americans, get this legitimizing of his regime by having a former American president standing there with him. And now the signal is that all of this sanctions-busting traffic happening among all of these states will and can continue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on Mort.
Okay, President Obama salutes President Clinton.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) I want to thank President Bill Clinton -- I had a chance to talk to him -- for the extraordinary humanitarian effort that resulted in the release of the two journalists.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They both used the word "humanitarian." Clinton used it and Obama used it. Does that -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: It was a humanitarian effort.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And there was a humanitarian result.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it was, but --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It doesn't mean that's the only thing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it an attempted gloss on the fact that the White House was in on this from the beginning?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course. Clinton didn't go there without knowing what the outcome was going to be. That would have been totally insane.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did they have any reserve force in case it misfired?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I can't imagine that they imagined it was going to misfire. I mean, that is not what was going to happen. Nobody's going to kidnap Bill Clinton, for example. That would have been a cause for war. (Laughter.)
But having said that, the fact is I'm sure there were other things that were discussed, and I think there was nothing wrong with that. I do think there is a danger. And Pat rightly says, if we put ourselves into a position where we are hostage to the kidnapping of Americans every time -- but Kim Jong Il is one of the wackier people in the world. He is the largest proliferator of not only nuclear weapons, but missile technologies, to Iran, as an example. How do we get that under control?
Carter went there in 1994, if I remember correctly. He negotiated an agreement, which was a disaster. They've broken every agreement we had.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Is there any chance to change that? I doubt it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did they demand Clinton? Was it because Clinton was involved in the framework agreement?
MS. CLIFT: Well -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think there were --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The framework agreement had been what?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: There were four people who were suggested.
MR. BUCHANAN: Richardson --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Bill Clinton, Bill Richardson --
MR. BUCHANAN: Gore.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- Al Gore --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- and John Kerry. And he picked Bill Clinton. And, by the way, he was right to do that from his point of view, because he's much more of an international personality and gets all of this kind of attention.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about this letter of condolence that Clinton wrote to Kim Jong Il on the death of his father --
MS. CROWLEY: Kim Il Sung.
MR. BUCHANAN: Kim Il Sung.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Kim Il Sung?
MS. CLIFT: It was when he was president. That's a long time ago, and that's a conventional --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know, I know, but apparently it was a moving letter.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm sure it was a moving letter.
MS. CLIFT: It's the conventional thing to do.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's what Clinton is very good at, I might say.
MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John, the key thing here is what Kim Jong Il has been demanding is, "Get rid of these six-party talks" -- one-on- one negotiations with the Americans.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: Okay, Clinton comes over and he speaks for three and a half hours and the North Koreans say, "We have had exhaustive talks." What they're saying is, "We got our one on one, and we're not going back" --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat --
MS. CLIFT: Do you take everything that the North Koreans say at face value?
MR. BUCHANAN: You put yourself in a position --
MS. CLIFT: How naive.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- where they can say that.
MS. CLIFT: Of course they're going to say that.
MR. BUCHANAN: Why would you disbelieve it when you went over there?
MS. CLIFT: Why would you believe it?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, hold on, please.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Any one of the people sent over -- any one of the Americans sent over to, in a sense, escort them back would have put themselves subject to that. I don't see any problem with it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, you're getting as bad as the others on this set. You're failing to relinquish.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm sorry.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to remind you, or you remind me, did the North Koreans detonate a nuclear bomb in May?
MS. CROWLEY: They have done so twice, most recently in May. And, look, Kim Jong Il chose Bill Clinton because Bill Clinton gave away the nuclear store to him in 1994 and allowed him to acquire those nuclear weapons. That framework --
MS. CLIFT: No, I'm sorry --
MS. CROWLEY: -- was a complete disaster. And Kim was cheating on it before the ink was even dry.
MS. CLIFT: We can't let that stand unchallenged.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jimmy Carter --
MS. CROWLEY: Of course they acquired nuclear weapons --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. That can't stand unchallenged. President Clinton did negotiate a framework. When George W. Bush came in, Colin Powell wanted to continue that. The Bush administration detonated the agreement and --
MS. CROWLEY: The Bush administration --
MS. CLIFT: -- the North Koreans -- excuse me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, ladies, one at a time.
MS. CLIFT: The North Koreans --
MS. CROWLEY: Let me just make one final point.
MS. CLIFT: The North Koreans accumulated more nuclear bombs under the Bush administration than they had previously.
MS. CROWLEY: I'd like to finish my point --
MS. CLIFT: You cannot argue with that point.
MS. CROWLEY: -- if I could.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Clinton send over Jimmy Carter?
MR. BUCHANAN: He didn't send him.
MS. CROWLEY: He did not.
MR. BUCHANAN: Carter went on his own.
MS. CROWLEY: Carter went on his own.
MR. BUCHANAN: He wanted Clinton there for a reason. Clinton, John, is a former president of the United States -- not former vice president like Gore, or Bill Richardson. He's a former president of the United States. You can't get any higher as an emissary from America than that.
MS. CLIFT: Right. He carries status.
MS. CROWLEY: And also -- MR. BUCHANAN: He's got more status than the secretary of State.
MS. CLIFT: And he's a smart man. And when he's over there, he's picking up a lot of information that can be used --
MS. CROWLEY: Could I make one --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.
MS. CLIFT: Nothing was lost here.
MS. CROWLEY: I'd like to make one final point. President Obama referred to it as a humanitarian mission. Indeed. However, he should have followed it up, once those young women were back on American soil, by condemning North Korea's manipulations and human rights abuses and demanded international access to and investigation of this isolated gulag in North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of people are starving and dying.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if you're so smart --
MS. CLIFT: That's great rhetoric --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Hold on, Eleanor. If you're so smart, why are they so concerned about this not being looked upon as an official government act?
MS. CROWLEY: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?
MS. CLIFT: I can answer that.
MS. CROWLEY: Because they don't want to conflate the issue of this with the nuclear and the six-party talks.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did they get enough screen from calling it a humanitarian mission?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or is it still an official act?
MS. CROWLEY: I don't think that they get enough cover, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sure, it's an official act.
MS. CROWLEY: -- if you call it a humanitarian --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They said it's a private mission; in other words, it's not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come. MR. ZUCKERMAN: But we're all -- what we're talking about here is the language of diplomacy, okay? You want to disguise what was really going on.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The language of diplomacy --
MR. BUCHANAN: The answer to your question is this: They don't want to admit that we have dynamited our policy --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- which is exactly what we did.
MS. CLIFT: That's not true.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --
MS. CLIFT: The secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, says this changes nothing in terms of our policy.
MR. BUCHANAN: And she was insulted --
MS. CLIFT: She knows more --
MR. BUCHANAN: Who was insulted by Kim Il Jong and her husband went there.
MS. CLIFT: Right. And she's been insulted by you because you're claiming that what she said is not true.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will Obama -- excuse me -- will Obama rue the day that he dispatched high-level emissaries to bargain for the freedom of imprisoned Americans? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to regret what is coming.
MS. CLIFT: He's not going to regret it. It's been done before. It's a pattern established with this regime and at least keeps the lid on what could be a very dangerous place.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see how fast Obama got off the Bill Clinton subject when he was asked to comment on it?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes, I know. I know. Could he spare it? Listen, this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just movement right around.
MS. CROWLEY: -- this rescue mission, which was a humanitarian success, has the Clinton name on it, not the Obama name.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you disapprove of the mission?
MS. CROWLEY: No, listen, we stipulate that it's a good thing to have these women back.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bolton says we all wanted them back, but it depends --
MS. CROWLEY: However, there are --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- on the way you do it.
MS. CROWLEY: -- unintended consequences to this action as well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there are unintended consequences --
MS. CROWLEY: That's what we've been talking about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to everything.
MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughs.) Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, that's the story of man.
MS. CROWLEY: But the unintended consequences, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It was a humanitarian mission. They knew what the possible costs might be. I'm sure they're going to handle that reasonably well going forward. It was something they had to do, and they did it well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it was a humanitarian official mission. Issue Two: The End of Days.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) The status quo is unsustainable. If we don't act, and act soon, to bring down costs, it will jeopardize everybody's health care.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The cost of U.S. health care is ballooning at a compounding rate of 6.9 percent. In 2008, a 12-month period, health- care spending in the United States reached a breath-taking $2.4 trillion, 17 percent of gross domestic product.
How exactly does Mr. Obama plan to stop this outrage? By encouraging Americans to make smarter choices. To help that, Mr. Obama wants government counseling for when one is dying.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I think for a lot of families to make sure that if, heaven forbid, you contract a terminal illness, that you are somebody who's able to control this process in a dignified way that is true to your faith and true to how you think that end-of-life process should proceed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Many Americans recoil at this. Controlling this process, quote-unquote, "in a dignified way" or not, is the thin edge of the wedge, as Patrick Buchanan writes. Quote: "If government intends to bend the curve of rising health care costs, and half of those costs are incurred in the last six months of life, and physician counselors will be sent to the seriously ill to advise them of what costs will no longer be covered and what their options are, what do you think is going to be option A?"
Question for Buchanan: Is Obama proposing to save money in the terminal care of sick patients in order to bail out Tim Geithner's cronies in the banking industry?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's putting it a little directly, John. But let me say this. There's no doubt about it that cost containment is one of the primary goals of this legislation. Half of all medical costs that folks incur are the last six months of life. A lot of folks are severely ill and terminally ill there. And what is a government agent or government counselor doing coming to the house, and what exactly is he going to recommend?
And quite frankly, we all know one of the major proponents of this is out of Oregon, the Death with Dignity Act they've had for 12 years. One of the recommendations is going to be, "Would you like to end your life sooner?" It's going to be recommendations or suggestions of suicide.
MS. CLIFT: This is such a distortion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is, what Pat's saying? MS. CLIFT: What Pat has just said, that a government official is going to come and tell you how you're going to end your life. This is right-wing --
MR. BUCHANAN: Suggest.
MS. CLIFT: -- scare tactics built on one provision in the House bill, which says that under Medicare, if you want to visit your physician, your family physician, and you want to discuss end-of-life directive, you want to talk about Hospice, that Medicare will cover that visit.
You can tell your physician you want to be kept alive until you're 300 and you want to be frozen. But most people -- there's nothing required about any of this. Most people do not want to die in a hospital hooked up to tubes, and they want to have some control about what procedures are used on them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know about --
MS. CLIFT: And I've lived this experience, as have many people. And this is an effort to give people some power over the end of their lives and how it's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't they do the living will? Did you see his emphasis --
MS. CLIFT: Living will is part of that, yes. It's where you say how you would like to be treated, what procedures you would want if you're not in a position to speak for yourself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama spoke about living wills. Can you clarify this for us, Mr. Obama?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Nobody is going to be knocking on your door. Nobody's going to be telling you you've got to fill one out. And certainly nobody's going to be forcing you to make a set of decisions on end-of-life care based on some bureaucratic law in Washington.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that reassure you, Monica?
MS. CROWLEY: Just like he said he wasn't going to raise taxes on the middle class, just like he said he was never for a single-payer system. Come on. I'm not buying this. You look at the House bills. There are five competing versions of this, but when you look at the House bill, there is a provision in there for the government to come in and counsel on end-of-life issues.
I think most Americans do not want the government in any way, shape or form involved in this, the most intimate decision of anybody's life. And remember that a quarter of all Medicare funding is spent in the last year of life. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Okay, look --
MS. CROWLEY: So if there is a government takeover --
MS. CLIFT: You think insurance companies don't --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you commence, let's see some polling here, some polling on this. Thirty-nine percent of Americans believe such assisted suicide is moral. Fifty-six percent believe it is immoral. Sixty percent also believe a person has a right to end his or her life if chronic extreme pain is being experienced.
Exit question: What can individuals do in this regard?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, this is all voluntary.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: This isn't something that is mandated by the legislation.
MS. CLIFT: Exactly.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The real issue here, though, is it's another way of trying to get costs under control. And the problem I have with Obama's program, because so much money is spent in the last six months of life, and that's one of the huge --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it sound like euthanasia?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, call it whatever you want to call it. If people want to end their lives, you can call it whatever you want to call it. All I'm saying to you is that this is just another part of something which, in fact, he has not properly put forward in this health-care program --
MR. BUCHANAN: But Mort, the key problem --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- which is how you get costs under control. He says he wants it to be revenue-neutral. We can't afford revenue- neutral.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think individuals have the say over whether or not their life has continued far enough?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I think people should have that say. Yes, I think -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think that this is a matter of -- (inaudible)?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I think this is a matter for the individuals.
MR. BUCHANAN: The government, John --
MS. CLIFT: This is not --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's no law against suicide, if I may say so.
MS. CLIFT: This is not --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: If people are in chronic pain, they have the right --
MR. BUCHANAN: But Mort --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, wait a second.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just finish one sentence, okay, Eleanor? I mean, all I'm saying is that this is a matter for an individual. Whatever the faith part of this thing is, it is not something that necessarily applies to all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No law against suicide, yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I don't know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you can't put somebody in prison for trying to kill himself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any state law against suicide?
MR. BUCHANAN: The problem is moral pressure from government agencies, lonely people by themselves. "This is going to be cut off." They're sitting there; some lady's 80 years old and she says, "What are my options?" "Well, this is one option and this is another option." That's the danger here, John.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but that's not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the siblings and what they have to say about it?
MR. BUCHANAN: This should be family, priest, lawyer --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Big expense involved.
MR. BUCHANAN: Get the government out of this, because we know what the government objective is -- money. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think pressure could come from siblings too?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, it can. There's no doubt about it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bad pressure.
MS. CLIFT: There's lots of --
MR. BUCHANAN: Bad pressure.
MS. CLIFT: There's lots of pressure, but there's nothing wrong with education, telling people that Hospice is available. "If you have this treatment, it will extend your life this far, and these are the side effects." We're only talking about education, and we're not talking about voluntary suicide.
MS. CROWLEY: I find it amazing that liberals are for this when they are going after deep cuts in Medicare, deep cuts in Medicaid, which are going broke anyway.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: The Hunt for Red August.
GEOFF MORRELL (Pentagon press secretary): (From videotape.) While it is interesting and noteworthy that they are in this part of the world, it doesn't pose any threat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Russian nuclear-powered submarines this week patrol waters 200 miles off the East Coast of the United States. The Department of Defense refuses to disclose the longitude. The two Akula class submarines are reminiscent of the Cold War. But Akula class subs are not equipped with nuclear warheads.
Following the Cold War in the 1990s, Russia's military, especially its navy, was in decline. But with newly found oil money, the Russians are rebuilding their navy extensively. Russia watchers say that under Medvedev and Putin, notably Putin, Russia is determined to re-establish itself unmistakably as a world superpower. And how do you do that?
EUGENE RUMER (senior fellow, National Defense University): (From videotape.) You do that with clearly some amount of military muscle.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For their part, the Russians have rejected the notion that their sub actions were threatening. But they also expressed ill-concealed defiance towards the United States.
COL. GEN. ANATOLY NOGOVITSYN (deputy chief, Russian Armed Forces General Staff): (From videotape, through interpreter.) Our navy should not be idling its time away. And it's not only about fighting piracy or other international campaigns. So it's a normal process. And those who make statements are pretty well aware of that. We could also say a lot about their navy and where it goes. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: This is the 10th anniversary of Putin's political ascent to the Kremlin. Are the Russian subs doing a victory lap saluting him? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: This is something they've done in a sort of regular basis. We kind of play in their waters. They play in our waters.
They were in international waters. Their navy is in pretty pathetic shape. I mean, it's kind of a miracle they were able to get these subs here.
You know, I think this is all about them trying to grandstand a little on the international stage. I would not get too upset about them, but I'm sure the neocon philosophy that thinks Russia is ready to pounce and this is a new cold war will view this as very threatening. It doesn't keep me up at night.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, people like Monica? (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: I didn't mention any names.
MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to respond to that attack?
MS. CROWLEY: I'd love to respond to that. Look, the Cold War --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was a torpedo, wasn't it? (Laughter.)
MS. CROWLEY: A direct cruise missile launch. (Laughs.) Look, the Cold War never ended. The Russians are behind every state-based --
MS. CLIFT: Here we go. (Laughs.)
MS. CROWLEY: -- threat that the United States faces. Vladimir Putin this week was on vacation somewhere in Siberia and he ripped off his shirt. He was there on horseback. That was also sending a message.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but sagging mammaries. Did you notice that?
MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see that?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Putin has gone --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Even if I had seen it, I couldn't have thought of expressing it that way, John.
MS. CLIFT: Another reason not to get worried. (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's generally been in great shape.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's not the same man he was about a year ago.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, he certainly isn't. But that's true of all of us, John.
MS. CROWLEY: I'm not going to address that part of it. But do you remember a couple of months ago the Russians sent a couple of ships into the Caribbean and they docked in the Havana bay? The Russians are very interested in playing in our backyard because they're trying to counter our missile defense shield that we would still like to put in place in Eastern Europe. The difference is, the United States is a defensive power. The Russians are an offensive power.
MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it. John --
MS. CLIFT: Let's hear it from the forces of light and goodness.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, straighten this out, will you?
MR. BUCHANAN: Excuse me. This is silly. The Russians are flying the flag off the American coast because we're in their waters. We're in their backyard and all the rest of it. And Monica, I've got to tell you, look, the Bolsheviks are our enemies. The Russians are our friends. The Russians are --
MS. CROWLEY: Vladimir Putin is your friend, Pat Buchanan. Okay.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Russian nation, the Russian people, are natural allies of the United States of America. Once communism was overthrown --
MS. CROWLEY: We're talking about the Russian government.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Russian government is autocratic --
MS. CROWLEY: The Russian government --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish. Let him finish.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's been autocratic since Peter the Great. They like autocracy. It's none of our business.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh. MS. CLIFT: I agree.
MS. CROWLEY: That has nothing to do with --
MR. BUCHANAN: How they govern themselves is none of our business.
MS. CROWLEY: -- (inaudible) -- the coast of Georgia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're also concerned about what?
MR. BUCHANAN: They're concerned about Abkhazia --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're concerned about encirclement. They always have been.
MR. BUCHANAN: They're concerned about NATO going into Ukraine and Georgia, and NATO should not go into --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we are encircling them, are we not?
MR. BUCHANAN: NATO has moved all the way up to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right -- these weapons in Warsaw and the Czech Republic.
MS. CROWLEY: It's our fault that the Russians are engaging in provocative acts?
MR. BUCHANAN: We ought to take them down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's no way that Russia is going to be able to rebuild its military power to become a threat to the United States. Their economy is collapsing, number one. Number two, the fact that, for example, President Obama went and visited with Medvedev and Putin, somehow it does not seem to change their natural instinct to want to stick their finger in our eye.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Mitt Romney, John, in response to Barack Obama's apology tours, is going to come out with a book in May called "No Apologies."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Public option will survive in some modified form in the health-care legislation that eventually will pass.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, government-paid health insurance. MS. CLIFT: Government-subsidized private health insurance. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MS. CROWLEY: Okay, if the president's poll numbers continue to drop and health care continues to -- support for it continues to hemorrhage, the president will start sacrificing some top advisers.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The global economic recession in trade is going to continue affecting dramatically countries like Japan and Germany, whose economies have been declining at an annualized rate of between 10 and 15 percent. That's going to continue for two to three years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will step down and be replaced by his son, Gamal Mubarak, by next spring.
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