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, NOVEMBER 13, 2009 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 14-15, 2009
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: U.S.-Asia Bonded.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We have to understand that the future of the United States and Asia is inextricably linked.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama is in Asia through next week with stops in Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul.
Who gets the lion's share of Obama's time? China -- three days out of nine, replicating what happened recently at the U.N., where the president of China, Hu Jintao, and President Obama were closeted for 90 minutes. This time allocation speaks for itself. And if there is any doubt remaining, Obama's description of the U.S.-Chinese relationship clears it up.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) The relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What must President Obama accomplish in China this coming week? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: The most important thing, John, is he's going to have to rebalance the trade relationship between the United States and China. The last 10 years, the Chinese have had $2 trillion surplus over there with us. We've exported to them jobs, factories, money, technology. And what has to -- that's one of the reasons why we've got this financial crisis and the dollar is in such trouble.
What he's got to do is convince the Chinese that this relationship cannot continue the way it's been, with them producing everything and us consuming everything. And so I think the key thing he's going to have to do is try to convince them to let the Renminbi rise against the dollar, because it's tied to the dollar. And when the dollar goes down, the Renminbi goes down.
That makes China not only keep their competitive advantage with us, but their competitive advantage increases over Southeast Asia and Europe. I don't think he's going to be able to succeed, because the Chinese are hard-core economic nationalists who are succeeding marvelously in a free-trade world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a pretty good exposition on China. But let's take a little bit more of a look at China, Pat.
TED FISHMAN (author, "China, Inc."): (From videotape.) China just has an enormous tool set as a government. It controls all of the wealth that's in China's land. It has a state-run banking system. It controls all of the key levers in the economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Over the past 30 years, China's ruling hand has produced the world's fastest-growing economy, averaging 10 percent GDP growth during this span.
First, the basics. Area: 3,705,400 square miles, fourth-largest country in the world, slightly smaller than the U.S. with its 3,794,100 square miles. Population: 1.3 billion, most populated nation in the world, four times more populous than the U.S.'s 307 million. Military: China's buildup has been so dramatic that the Pentagon now sees China as a challenge to America's military presence in Asia.
China economy: Total GDP, China, $8 trillion; U.S., $14.3 trillion. Labor force: China, 800 million; U.S., 154 million. Billionaires: China, 79; U.S., 391. Millionaires: China, 400,000; U.S., 9 million. Automobile production: China, 9.3 million cars in 2008, second in the world; U.S., 8.7 million in 2008, third in the world. Banking: China leads -- three of the world's top four largest banks; U.S., one of the world's top four. Green energy: China leads -- wind, solar and biofuels, expecting to reducing carbon emissions by 2020 by 20 percent; U.S., 15 percent carbon reduction by 2020.
The U.S.-China equation: China is the biggest holder of U.S. debt. It holds $800 billion worth of U.S. debt. With that $800 billion wealth, China can buy Chicago twice. Shanghai World Expo starts May 1, 2010. Communism: China says forget about it.
MICHAEL YU (CEO, New Oriental): (From videotape.) People have a very bad memory of whole period in China, like about 30 years ago. So when the government encouraged people to become rich, everybody wants to become rich.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is China today more capitalist or more communist?
MS. CLIFT: Well, they're nominally communist, but they're intensely capitalistic and competitive. So sort that out how you will. And because they can make decisions at the top and just implement them, they can get ahead of us in terms of turning out the next generation of cars and solar panels or you name it.
They are our second-biggest trading partner, but they're our biggest banker. And we are inexplicably intertwined with them. It's kind of like when Pat and I agree; neither of us feel terribly comfortable about it. That's kind of like the Chinese-U.S.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why are you uncomfortable?
MS. CLIFT: Because you're supposed to be opposites, and yet these two countries have so much in common and they need each other and they're so reliant on each other.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why are we supposed to be opposite?
MS. CLIFT: We're not supposed to be. We are. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, because they're technically communist? In their title, they're communist, but they don't regard themselves -- or do they? -- as communists.
MS. CLIFT: Well, they do --
MS. CROWLEY: The political leadership does.
MS. CLIFT: -- but they practice capitalism, obviously. And they are on their way -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They don't call themselves communist.
MS. CLIFT: -- to being --
MS. CROWLEY: Yes, they do.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, they do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not anymore.
MR. BUCHANAN: Communist Party --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Only in the People's Republic of Communist China.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the Communist Party is the ruling party in China. There's no competitive party.
MS. CROWLEY: All right, look, President Obama is spending a good deal of time this week in China, and his mission is two-fold. It's strategic and it's economic.
On the strategic side, he's got to deal with Beijing in terms of Afghanistan. He'd like to urge them to do more non-military assistance in Afghanistan. And also he'd still like them to weigh in on aggressive sanctions on the Iranian government, on their nuclear program. Good luck with that, because China has huge commercial interests in Iran.
But also, economically, there is a bit of a trade war. It's not a full-blown trade war, but there is some escalating trade tensions between Beijing and the United States. President Obama stuck on massive duties on the imports of Chinese tires. The Chinese retaliated on American auto parts and chicken and nylon, and now they're retaliating again. So I think he needs to address that. And all of this happens in the backdrop of a very aggressive buildup of the Chinese military.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought that that trade rivalry or that trade dispute was settled.
MR. BUCHANAN: No. MS. CROWLEY: No. No, it is not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is not.
MS. CROWLEY: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, Mort, that politically the U.S. is moving more towards China than China is moving towards the U.S.?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think to some extent that's true. But obviously the movement is going both ways. Look, China has a lot of problems. They have a huge population. Their per capita income is about a tenth of what it is in the United States. They have pollution problems that you just wouldn't believe.
They have a one-child policy, which is going to produce tremendous tensions in their country because they're the only population where the young are much less than the old. And they're going to have to support the old. They have no social-security programs.
So they have plenty of problems to cope with. They need us and we need them. And that's going to be the core of it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you commend Hillary Clinton for going over there and laying the groundwork for the -- what shall we call it? -- the detente for making it clear to the Chinese that we want to be close to them? We almost want to be their fellow traveling around the globe.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think, you know, frankly, several presidents preceding the current president have had the same idea. There have always been issues that have come up that have caused some tension. But, by and large, we find a way to get through them.
But I do think that everything that we can do, in fact, to improve that relationship is constructive for us. We need them in various ways. The mention here was of Iran. That is a critical one. And it is right; the Chinese are essentially interested in making money. They're going to make money off energy in Iran, and that's all they really care about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see their civilization as evolving, whereas we are in decline?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't think we are in decline, I have to tell you. And I think they are in the ascendancy from where they have been. But they started from such a low --
MR. BUCHANAN: They've got a terrible problem, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is that problem? MR. BUCHANAN: The problem is that they are autocratic capitalists, and the communist ideology is dead in the hearts and minds of people. And the only argument the Communist Party has for a monopoly of power now is "We are succeeding and we produce a better life. We've made China great." What happens when they run into their depression and all Mort's problems come home?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah --
MR. BUCHANAN: The Chinese communist regime faces a crisis then.
MS. CLIFT: We need --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's something you have to understand about China.
MS. CLIFT: We need them.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: China has had an autocratic --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's let Monica in.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- top-down economy for generations, for centuries.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to make a point?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's who they are.
MS. CROWLEY: I do.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They're not democrats.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Ming dynasty and all that. (Laughs.)
MS. CROWLEY: The Chinese are in the beginning stages of a capitalist explosion, so their economy has a lot more energy than ours or Western Europe's at this moment. But there are two other things. One of the reasons why Hillary Clinton made that trip to China was to try to convince the Chinese to continue to buy our debt, which is financing this really wild spending going on in Washington. And the second element of this is human rights.
Now, you would expect that a Democratic administration, particularly one with a female secretary of State, who has made human rights a very important part of her portfolio over the years, would really emphasize human rights. And instead Hillary Clinton took a lot of flak from human-rights organizations for not raising that issue with the Chinese.
MS. CLIFT: To bring this back to your question originally, which is what does President Obama want out of this, he's got two big issues facing him at home. One is the unemployment crisis, really. And second is the emerging debate on Capitol Hill on climate change. He needs China's buy-in on both those areas. The pace of their recovery has been much better than ours. It goes back to their currency, which Pat introduced at the beginning. And he definitely needs China's cooperation on climate change.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who needs the other the more?
MS. CLIFT: I think right now we need China a little more than they need us.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think they need us.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with that?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't. I really think if the United States went economically nationalist, the Chinese economy would crash and the political situation would be a disaster for them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we hold the trump card.
MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, we would be hurt --
MS. CLIFT: They hold our debt.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who needs the other the more?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, it's hard, really -- how can you measure this thing? They both need each other a great deal. Pat's absolutely right. Their whole political system --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, you're evading the question.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They need --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who needs the other the more?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We need them to the number 51 and they need us to the number 49. I don't know how else to put it.
MS. CLIFT: Well -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we need them more than they need us.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just a little bit, because we are having a difficult time --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you agree with that?
MS. CROWLEY: I think that they do, because, again, they are on the cusp of this capitalist explosion. They're in the beginning of this evolution.
MS. CLIFT: They hold our debt. They hold our debt. And if they called in that debt, we'd be in big trouble.
MR. BUCHANAN: They have an export-driven --
MS. CLIFT: They're not going to do it, but --
MR. BUCHANAN: They have an export-driven economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, including you, are living with a stereotypic image of China, which is false and it's dated, that China today is a modern society?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, look, China --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you seen the recent documentary on China?
MR. BUCHANAN: Part of China is modernized dramatically along the coast. Part of it is 19th century. They've got problems with the Uighurs, the Tibetans, the Mongolians --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard of the red and blue segments of the United States and the economic --
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, our poorer sections, the per capita income is about three times what it is in the best sections of China.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they're moving faster than we are moving, or are we moving faster than they?
MR. BUCHANAN: They're moving faster, 12 percent a year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're moving faster. Fifty, 40, 20 years from now, who's going to be dominant in the world?
MR. BUCHANAN: The question is whether China falls apart.
MS. CLIFT: Well, but John's got --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.
MS. CLIFT: John, you have a point. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the time President Obama returns to the United States, will he have anything concrete to show in terms of boosting U.S. job creation, with 15 million Americans now jobless?
MR. BUCHANAN: Next to nothing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He promised that, though, before he went, did he not?
MR. BUCHANAN: Next to nothing.
MS. CLIFT: Laying the groundwork, it's hard to come back with anything concrete. But the thing is that China presents itself as this poor little developing country when, in fact, they are a dominant power. And I think bridging the gap between the way they're promoting their self-image and the reality is another thing that he's got to get hold of.
MS. CROWLEY: Job creation for President Obama is not to be found in Beijing or in China. It's to be found here at home with tax cuts for individuals, small businesses, and lowering the corporate tax rate, period.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, we've got to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, China is holding our debt --
MS. CLIFT: Lots of luck on that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- $800 billion.
MR. BUCHANAN: We've got a $1.7 trillion --
MS. CROWLEY: I know, because you're dealing with Obama, who won't do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that again?
MR. BUCHANAN: We've got a $1.7 trillion deficit in October alone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and they're holding --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: For the year.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no -- $174 billion. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're holding close to a trillion dollars in debt of the United States.
MR. BUCHANAN: What are they going to do with it? Are they going to sell it and knock the pins out from under it?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many Chicagos could they buy for a trillion dollars?
MR. BUCHANAN: For a trillion? They could buy two and a half.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two and a half. Not bad, Pat.
Go ahead, Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Listen -- (laughter) -- look, there's no way that either of us are going to destroy the other or get into a combat with the other, economic combat or real political combat. We both need each other too much. It's just not going to happen that way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: China is supplying gasoline to Iran, 40 percent of Iran's gasoline, because they don't do much refining over there.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's being supplied by the Chinese.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. It's from India.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's coming across from other places.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean?
MR. BUCHANAN: Forty percent of the gasoline Iran uses is imported, but it's not from China.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I will say that 40 percent of it comes from China. MS. CROWLEY: A lot of it is from China. You're right. A lot of it is from China.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --
MS. CROWLEY: And they're doing the refining.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, we have an interest in Iran. China is clearly doing deals with Iran, and that gasoline over there is rationed. The selling of things like that to China -- to Iran -- what does that mean that China is constituted in our eyes when we have an ongoing, what, strange relationship with Iran?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, China is investing in oil fields in Japan, in the big pipelines in Japan, in the refineries in Japan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're making Iran grow.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They're making this huge investment because it is a huge economic opportunity for them. Yes, they are stimulating Iran's economy and they're supporting it. So does India. India supplies a huge proportion of their refined products. We have to get China and India with us.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Fort Hood Fallout.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) This is a time of war. Yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here on American soil. This is the fact that makes the tragedy even more painful.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They died in combat. The attack killed 13 people, 12 of them soldiers, at Fort Hood, Texas during a time of war. And it was an act of war directed at soldiers that the president called, quote, "the finest fighting force that the world has ever known."
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places. They have stood watch in blinding deserts and on snowy mountains. They are men and women, white, black and brown, of all faiths and all stations, all Americans, serving together to protect our people. They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is the president framing this as a terrorist attack, and at the same time he's also framing it as part of combat in war?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, if you assume that this particular terrible deed was politically motivated, you can describe it as a terrorist act. And therefore it is something that, it seems to me, is a part of now, after all the information has emerged, is something that he's got to make some reference to. Secondly, I think he's always going to be trying very hard to nourish his relationship with the military and to celebrate them, in part because he may be having trouble with the military over places like Afghanistan. And he doesn't want the military, in a sense, walking off the reservation, which some of them very well may do if he makes a decision that they really strongly disagree with in Afghanistan, where they may be held out sort of as the people who failed, the military mission that failed. They don't want that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think the tone he struck was just right. I mean, he didn't unnecessarily tar --
MS. CLIFT: Right. The tone was right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very eloquent.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Very eloquent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was an excellent speech.
MS. CLIFT: And because the shooter is alive, we will get to hear what he has to say. And assuming his lawyer will probably try to claim insanity, but if he has any comprehension of right and wrong, I suspect he's not going to get away with insanity. And maybe he will stand up and declare that he was advancing global jihadism or something. But he doesn't even have to be acting at the instruction of anyone else. If that's his motive, it does make it an act of terrorism.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, it is an act of terrorism in the same sense that McVeigh's was an act of terrorism when he blew up all those people in Oklahoma City. The question is, is Hasan, who did this for political motives -- he's a jihadist; he detests the war; he believes we're fighting wars of aggression -- if he's sent into that war, he goes to eternal damnation. And he made the decision to murder all these folks.
The open question is, are these contacts that he's had, which have not been proven to be part of the motive, abroad with some of these real jihadists? That would make it an international act of terrorism. Right now it's an act of terrorism against American soldiers.
MS. CROWLEY: I don't know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's a cultural divide between Islam and democracy? MS. CROWLEY: Yes, of course. And, in fact, the late Harvard professor, Samuel Huntington, wrote about this many years ago, "The Clash of Civilizations." He saw this coming. But, look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that? Is that a big issue? And what could --
MS. CROWLEY: Of course.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- public policy do about it?
MS. CROWLEY: Of course, because Islam now is going through a major crisis within itself, which is, how do you take this ideological and religious philosophy and move it into the modern world? That is a conflict that was going on in Major Hasan. It's a conflict that is going on in the radical jihadis that are targeting Americans and westerners all over the world.
The bigger problem for the administration here, I think for the country, is that treating this kind of thing, which is an act of war against the United States, as a crime -- this was not a garden-variety of homicide; this was an act of war against the United States.
And what we saw at the end of this week with the administration's decision to move Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a lot of these other top al Qaeda terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay for civilian trial, in a civilian criminal court in New York City, shows that they are moving us back to pre-9/11, where they're treating this as criminal --
MS. CROWLEY: Excuse me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Treating it as what?
MS. CROWLEY: A criminal-justice problem rather than as acts of war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you sure of that?
MS. CROWLEY: That got us 3,000 dead Americans on 9/11.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, what are they entitled by law, since he's an American citizen, for him? Is that what they're thinking of?
MS. CROWLEY: His is a different case.
MR. BUCHANAN: He's gone into a military court for a trial by a military court, as I understand it -- MS. CROWLEY: But Khalid Sheikh Mohammed --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- where he should be tried.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have they taken him out of the military court?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, he's in it right now.
MS. CROWLEY: No, he will be tried there. But Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going into a civilian court, meaning he is going to be granted all of the constitutional rights and protections that you and I get, John.
MS. CLIFT: And why should we be afraid --
MS. CROWLEY: That is a recipe for a disaster.
MS. CLIFT: Why should we be afraid of trying someone for a heinous crime? And if, as you may suggest, he were acquitted because we have all these constitutional protections, the INS would swoop in there and make pretty sure he was committed --
MS. CROWLEY: Oh, come on. (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: -- to a Supermax prison.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We are --
MS. CLIFT: The perpetrators of the '93 World Trade bombing were prosecuted successfully in New York and are imprisoned in this country.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a quick answer on this. We are -- you're stating that we have suffered our first terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11. Is that correct?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that correct?
MR. BUCHANAN: No. I'll say this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it de facto a terrorist attack?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, in Little Rock, in Little Rock, another Muslim went in and shot two Army recruiters and killed one. That was terror also by these definitions that you're using.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about -- MS. CLIFT: And the anti-abortion activists who kill abortion doctors to advance their philosophy could be labeled terrorists as well.
MS. CROWLEY: Oh, come on.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got to give me a yes or no.
MS. CROWLEY: If these murders were committed in the name of Islam, it is a terrorist attack.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I think it is a terrorist attack.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer appears to be yes.
Issue Three: Renaissance GOP.
MICHAEL STEELE (Republican National Committee chairman): (From videotape.) The Republican renaissance has begun -- it's begun in earnest -- in which we put our faith in the hopes and dreams of the American people --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Republican renaissance that Chairman Steele speaks of is real, and he's got the numbers to prove it. The GOP has taken a huge step towards resurrecting itself, and it may well take a critical bite out of the Democratic majority in next year's congressional elections in both the House and the Senate. So says the latest Gallup poll.
Republicans now have the edge over Democrats for the 2010 races, 48 percent Republican, 44 percent Democrat. The kicker is the independent voters. Republicans have taken a huge lead in garnering independents, the same voters that put Barack Obama in the White House.
Get this: 52 percent of independents now prefer the Republican Party. In 2008, 49 percent of independents voted for McCain.
Question: Why has Obama lost the support of political independents? I ask you, Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: Because they're believing that this is not the change that they were voting for when they voted for Obama, who essentially ran as a moderate, and yet pretty much all of his policies, certainly the economic policies, have leaned far to the left. They're very concerned about a ballooning deficit and an exploding debt. They see monumental tax increases coming down the road, with a new $2 trillion health-care entitlement.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CROWLEY: They're rejecting all of this. They're rejecting big government, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Obama leading from the center, or is he leading from the left?
MS. CROWLEY: He's leading from the far left.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that a disappointment to the independents?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: John --
MS. CROWLEY: Absolutely, yes, because --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a political mistake on his part?
MS. CROWLEY: Because, look, he was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he start out leading his political life -- that is, as president -- from the center?
MS. CROWLEY: No, from the left --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was governing --
MS. CROWLEY: -- on a whole array of issues.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was governing from the left in the very beginning?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes, and that's not how he campaigned.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, depending what you think where Obama is depends on your ideology to begin with. A lot of liberals are disappointed with Obama. They think he hasn't governed forcefully enough in progressive policies. But one of the reasons he's losing independents is a lot of those independents were Republicans, and they were reacting negatively to Bush. And nirvana has not arrived. And he has not addressed the jobs crisis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he perceived as a centrist anymore, as he was? Or is he now perceived as a partisan liberal?
MS. CLIFT: He's perceived as a partisan Democrat who has unsuccessfully reached across the aisle to get Republicans, although the public still likes Obama --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Personally.
MS. CLIFT: -- and they blame Republicans more for not cooperating.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: And the country is mostly angry at both parties.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stay with my question -- not his popularity, but the way he has governed and what he's perceived as. And is that a problem? I ask you.
MR. BUCHANAN: It is a big problem for this reason. The country is enormously anti-incumbent, anti-big government, anti-government, and he's perceived as being a very big-government guy.
Something is being overlooked here, John. In those two races, Virginia and New Jersey, the African-American vote declined. The Republicans only got 9 percent and 6 percent that McCain got. However, the white vote --
MS. CLIFT: That's not a fair test, Pat. (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: The white vote expanded dramatically, and the Republican share of the white vote rose dramatically. The demography is changing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MS. CLIFT: No, the demography is not changing.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute. He is not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He is not governing from the center of the country. At the best, he is governing from the center of the Democratic Party, and that is not the center of the country. And I think there is a perception of him that these policies are not only not -- people are not comfortable with it, but they haven't worked. I mean, the problem is there's no sense that his policies have worked.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MS. CLIFT: I would argue that they have worked.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Obama is beginning to look like he's out of touch?
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Can I finish a sentence, please?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: You've finished a number of sentences, Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, I think there is a real sense of something about him that is just -- A, he does not come across as a leader in all the polls. He's personally liked, but he doesn't come across as a leader. There hasn't been that moment where he's really shown what he has in his backbone. And when they ask what he has in his backbone, it's not complimentary to him.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think that's right, John.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And I think that is a big part of his problem.
MR. BUCHANAN: He is indecisive.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But in addition to that --
MS. CLIFT: I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Hold on.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- he's governing very much from the left side of the political spectrum.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Again, I think he's not governing from the left side of the spectrum. He has not delivered on his promises. I think his economic policies are working. There has not been enough time. I think he has stepped up to grab hold of the policy in Afghanistan, and I think he is showing himself as a strong commander in chief.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: And that may be the turning point. MR. BUCHANAN: He is not seen as --
MS. CLIFT: And he is going to get a health-care bill, and that will also change --
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, he is not seen, John --
MS. CLIFT: I get to finish sentences just as Mort does.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, Eleanor. Finish.
MS. CLIFT: Last sentence. He's going to get a health-care bill.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Twenty seconds.
MS. CLIFT: And that's going to change the narrative of this presidency.
MR. BUCHANAN: He is not seen as governing the country as a strong leader at all. People have a sense of drift and they have a sense of disillusionment, because their hopes were raised so high.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got 15 million people out of work.
MS. CROWLEY: This country is still a center-right country, John.
MR. BUCHANAN: Seventeen percent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's talking health reform, and the health reform is so complicated --
MS. CROWLEY: And it's not a priority.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and it seems to be building on itself.
MS. CROWLEY: It's not a priority --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a huge monster.
MS. CROWLEY: -- of the American people, John. The economy -- MR. BUCHANAN: It's amorphous.
MS. CROWLEY: -- and jobs are the priority. And he's focused all of his time and energy on getting health care.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no: Hasan is convicted and gets the death penalty.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MS. CROWLEY: Yes.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.