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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT TAPED: FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 15-16, 2010

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Talent Rules.

SOLICITOR GENERAL ELENA KAGAN (Supreme Court nominee): (From videotape.) Everybody's treating me very well. That's the most I've said all day. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Elena Kagan this week made the rounds in the U.S. Senate. Solicitor General Kagan was looking to garner support for her nomination to serve as the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. Her confirmation will need a majority vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee and at least 51 votes in the U.S. Senate. General Kagan would then serve on the court for life, unless she chooses to resign. Her profile: B.A., Princeton; M.A., Oxford; J.D., Harvard. Court clerk, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Abner Mikva, one year; court clerk, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, one year; attorney, Williams & Connolly, D.C. law firm, two years; professor of law, University of Chicago, four years, contemporaneously in part with University of Chicago professor of law Barack Obama; associate counsel, White House, four years; professor, Harvard Law School, four years; dean, Harvard Law School, six years; U.S. solicitor general, Department of Justice, 15 months and currently -- President Obama's top lawyer in cases before the Supreme Court.

Despite these impressive credentials, it has been noted that General Kagan has no experience as a sitting courtroom judge. This drew some negative appraisal.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): (From videotape.) It strikes me that if a nominee does not have judicial experience, they should have substantial litigation experience. Ms. Kagan has neither.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Ideologically, how does Elena Kagan seem to incline, to the left or to the right? Patrick.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John, she wrote her Princeton thesis on the sad demise of American socialism. She worked for Elizabeth Holtzman and broke down in tears when Holtzman, who is a far leftist, lost her Senate race. And she threw the military off the campus at Harvard. That tells you where she's coming from.

But the key question is, John, I don't believe this lady is qualified to sit on the United States Supreme Court for this reason. She has never been a judge. She has never litigated anything before they basically gave her the job of solicitor general. She has never written a book. She has never written anything that shows real scholarship in constitutional law.

Barack Obama is pulling this court to the left. And quite frankly, when you put in Sonia Sotomayor, I think he is dumbing down the Supreme Court. She is, you know, an intelligent and attractive lady, but I'll tell you this. She does not command the intellect to sit there across from Scalia, Alito, Roberts and Thomas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, Pat, you borrowed the phrase about dumbing down from your sister Bay, or she borrowed it from you, because I've seen that one before.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: You've written 10 books. I don't know that that qualifies you for the Supreme Court. I don't think writing a book is a necessary qualification. This woman has superb academic credentials. She has been confirmed and has served as the solicitor general of the United States for the last year, arguing cases before the Supreme Court.

She has a history as a consensus builder, which is what Barack Obama likes. I know you think Barack Obama is far left also, but by other people's lights, he's pretty center. And so is she. And she built a lot of alliances when she worked on the Hill, in the White House, and certainly dean at the Harvard Law School.

But most importantly, we've watched her operate in the Supreme Court, and she dares to take on Justice Roberts, and she has a friendly, jousting relationship with Justice Scalia. She is every bit their intellectual equal.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, liberal presidents never make the mistake that Republican presidents often do, which is choose somebody who they're not quite sure where they're going to fall ideologically. This woman is to the left. She is a liberal, and she will be a judicial activist if she makes it through her confirmation process.

But she's also a cipher, because she has never been a judge. She has no paper trail. There's no -- nothing really to discern any kind of real judicial philosophy coming out of this woman. And that's exactly why Obama chose her, to make the confirmation process relatively easy.

Now, remember that back in 2005, President Bush went down the same road in the very misguided nomination of Harriet Miers. Harriet Miers was an attorney. She was the White House counsel, so she was no slouch. But conservatives went after her for the same reasons that a lot of people are leveling criticism at Kagan now, which is that she has no judicial experience, no litigation experience, and does not deserve to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't we have former distinguished members of the Supreme Court who have not had any --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MS. CROWLEY: -- judicial -- that is, sitting judge -- experience?

MS. CROWLEY: She is the first one in decades.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. Rehnquist.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rehnquist. Give me another.

MS. CROWLEY: William Rehnquist was the last one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who? MS. CLIFT: Earl Warren.

MS. CROWLEY: William Rehnquist was the last one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I think there are half a dozen out there.

MR. BUCHANAN: Whizzer White.

MS. CROWLEY: But there haven't been --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: Whizzer White.

MS. CLIFT: There are 100 out there.

MS. CROWLEY: There hasn't been one --

MS. CLIFT: There are 100 out there.

MS. CROWLEY: There hasn't been one in decades. And when you think about a nomination to the Supreme Court --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that over the course of time it becomes a more demanding requirement.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, but when you think about nominations to the Supreme Court, certainly presidents have every prerogative to choose whom they would like. But you do want somebody who is living and breathing the Constitution every day, unlike her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about temperament?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think she's got an absolutely --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Judicial temperament.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely, she has a judicial temperament, and the intellect to go with it. I think these arguments about what her particular background is as a sitting judge is -- I'm not saying it's irrelevant, but it's not decisive by any means. She has lived in the world in the highest levels of the law. She has performed in outstanding ways. She's absolutely deserving, it seems to me, of an appointment, and I think she will get through the nomination process with flying colors. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The real world.

Others believe General Kagan's main weakness is lack of real- world experience. Quote: "She's a surprising choice from a president who's emphasized the importance of understanding how the world works and how ordinary people live. Ms. Kagan has spent her entire professional career in Harvard Square, Hyde Park and the D.C. Beltway. These are not places where one learns how ordinary people live," unquote. So says Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.

Question: Solicitor General Kagan comes from the world of the ivory tower, the Washington Beltway and Hyde Park. Hyde Park stands for wealth, by the way. Is this combination a plus, a minus, or does it factor out?

MR. BUCHANAN: She's Upper West Side. She's from New York. She's from the University of Chicago. She's from Harvard. She's from the Washington Beltway. And frankly, a lot of those folks over there are, John. But the key question --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's her net-asset position?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't know exactly what her net assets are, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't either.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me make one point here.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I know she's able to -- I think she's able to afford a comfortable lifestyle. But I have to say, I don't think that's relevant to this issue at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, you know rich people who are good in their judgment?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: A few.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: A few. I'm not saying all of them, but there are enough --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about the billionaires?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, let's start -- you start at the very top, John. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: I believe everything she's gotten has been well deserved. She graduated from Hunter High School, which is a competitive high school in New York. Her parents were very taken with issues of social justice. She has two brothers who are school teachers. She is outside the judicial monastery. And that, I think, brings her --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Her net worth --

MS. CLIFT: She's from a different place than the other people on that court.

MS. CROWLEY: There is an interesting --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Her net worth is a little over a million dollars.

MS. CROWLEY: Okay, so --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So she's a millionaire.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's --

MS. CLIFT: Well, so what?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, Barack Obama has got $5 million, according to the reports.

MS. CROWLEY: Right. You know, there's another interesting angle to this that nobody has really talked about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is that?

MS. CROWLEY: -- which is that when we talk about diversity on the court, we usually check certain boxes -- race, gender and so on. But John Paul Stevens, the retiring justice, was the last military veteran on the court. And Barack Obama is now replacing the last military veteran with a non-veteran. All the other justices are also non-veterans. But I thought, you know, perhaps it would be interesting, in diversity's case, to put a veteran on the court --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CROWLEY: -- dealing with all of these military issues coming up at a time of war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good point.

Okay, should the Supreme Court be a representative body, mirroring the nation's makeup under categories of age, gender, race and religion?

The 50-year-old Kagan would be the current court's youngest justice. Gender: Kagan would be the fourth woman to serve in the court's entire history, over 220 years. Kagan would also be the third woman on today's high court. The court has never seen three female justices serving together.

Geography: Kagan would be the fourth justice from New York, joining Justices Scalia, Ginsburg and Sotomayor. That's almost half the court.

Race: Kagan would be the seventh white person on the court. The court currently has two minorities, Thomas and Sotomayor.

Religion: No Protestants on the court. General Kagan is Jewish. That would mean the court would have no Protestants for the first time in its history; rather, three Jews and six Catholics.

Question: Did the U.S. Constitution intend that the court mirror the makeup of the nation, or did they intend something else?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, frankly, they wanted the country to mirror the makeup of them, because they said, "This is for ourselves and our progeny."

But take a look at the Democratic Party, John. Democratic presidents -- not in 50 years have they nominated an Irish Catholic, Italian Catholic, Polish Catholic, evangelical Christian, or any white Christian, male or female, to the Supreme Court in half a century, since Whizzer White.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the Constitution --

MS. CLIFT: What are you suggesting?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Do you think --

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm suggesting --

MS. CLIFT: What are you suggesting by that, some sort of bias against white Catholics?

MR. BUCHANAN: I am suggesting there is a hostility in the Democratic Party to --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, Pat, that is total --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- 60 percent of the country.

MS. CLIFT: That is total nonsense.

MR. BUCHANAN: That is 60 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish, Eleanor. What is the complaint?

MS. CLIFT: There are six Catholics on the court already, and you're going to fault Barack Obama for not naming another one?

MR. BUCHANAN: He named a Catholic. He named Sotomayor. My point is, the old Democratic coalition, the party of Daley, Rizzo and Rostenkowski, is dead. They've gone for their new minorities that run that party.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, demographics are destiny. And Pat, if you're uncomfortable about it, keeping on writing your books --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's 60 percent of the country they're ignoring.

MS. CLIFT: -- about the death of the West.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sixty percent --

MS. CLIFT: This is a wonderfully diverse country. It is not something to lament.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, where's the diversity --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do you think that the Founding Fathers had in mind to populate the court geographically -- what are the categories -- race, gender, religion? For example, there are no Protestants on the court. There are three Jews and six Catholics.

MS. CLIFT: It used to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And there are --

MS. CLIFT: It used to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are 150 -- over 150 million Protestants.

MS. CLIFT: It used to be nine Protestants, and I'm sure there will be more Protestants in the future.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Founding --

MS. CLIFT: There are only -- excuse me. There are only nine people. You can't represent everybody.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They'll all East Coast. Aren't they all East Coast?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think -- MS. CLIFT: The Founding Fathers actually didn't think the Supreme Court would matter that much, and it didn't until Marbury versus Madison.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have to say, I think it's quite wonderful that we're going past the issue of religion and all this --

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- sort of allocations of this or that category for the people to be on the Supreme Court.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about the wise Latina?

MR. BUCHANAN: Mort, that's ridiculous. Do you think either of those appointees would be on there if they weren't women? That's ridiculous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the Founding Fathers --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- did not want a representational body.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They wanted two things. They wanted legal merits; that is --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, 99 percent --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- legal merits; you have the training and you have the intellect. And B, you have what? You have the judicial temperament. That's all they wanted.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, 99 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's all they wanted.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Ninety-nine percent of the country --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should it be kept that way?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. MS. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Let her finish, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Do you think I'd be on this panel as long as I have been if you didn't need a woman? But you get somebody --

MS. CROWLEY: I'm a woman. (Laughs.

)

MS. CLIFT: -- who knows what they're doing and have gender in the same --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Indeed. Let's hear from a woman.

MS. CROWLEY: Look, the Founding Fathers, that's exactly what they envisioned. And, yes, it is a co-equal branch of government, so they did envision the judiciary as extremely important. That's why they made it lifetime appointments, to make it a set of checks and balances on the unitary executive and the Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This court is Eastern elite and it's Ivy League -- Eastern elite, and they all went to Ivy college -- every one of them, every one.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What a shame.

MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that what you want?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. I mean, it really is a handicap, you know, to be really intelligent, to be really well educated, to be -- the Ivy League, as we all know, still, by and large, represents as highly qualified --

MR. BUCHANAN: Middle America is being --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- an intellectual experience --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Founding Fathers --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Founding Fathers, they wanted the finest minds and they wanted the judicial temperament. That's all they wanted.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me answer that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Shall we stick with that? MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Shall we stick with it?

MS. CROWLEY: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, 99 percent of the country was Protestant when you started off in 1789. They wanted the court to reflect them, and it did for 100 years. Nixon --

MS. CLIFT: And they also --

MR. BUCHANAN: Nixon appointed -- Nixon and Ford appointed seven white Protestants.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, there have been four women on the court in 230 years and 108 men.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's too many. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And the Founding --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Too many women.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And the Founding Fathers also held slaves, but, you know, we don't uphold all their traditions.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is Kagan a shoo-in for confirmation, yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is no sure thing. It is highly probably, but no sure thing, because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come on.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- she doesn't know the Constitution.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Highly probable. Is that a yes or a no?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, come on.

MR. BUCHANAN: She's likely --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That falls into the no category. You're no.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, likely to be -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want a yes or a no.

MR. BUCHANAN: She's likely to win.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's likely to win.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. That's a yes.

MS. CLIFT: I agree with that, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's not a shoo-in. Okay.

MS. CLIFT: -- but Pat and his pals are trying to foment enough support for a filibuster.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's the answer, yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: The answer is yes, she will be confirmed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no -- a shoo-in? Yes or no.

MS. CROWLEY: She's not going to be a shoo-in, but she will be confirmed. She'll get a handful of Republican votes. But they are going to pound her in this confirmation process, as they should, John.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You asked for a yes or no. You do not have a judicial temperament on this group, if I may say so. (Laughter.) The answer is yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is a shoo-in, yes.

Issue Two: The Afghan-U.S. Pact.

AFGHANISTAN PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI: (From videotape.) I thank again for the excellent meeting this morning in which President Obama and I discussed the entire stature of Afghan-American relationship. We also discussed during our meeting this morning the Afghan-American strategic partnership and the relations towards the future, beyond the successes that we will certainly gain against terrorism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited the White House this week to meet officially with President Obama. This detente between the United States and Afghanistan is, on its face, a shocker, a historic volte face, a milestone which both leaders appeared to want to downplay.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) When I came into office, I made it absolutely clear that I intended to resource an effective strategy in Afghanistan and work with the Afghan government so that we have a strong, stable, prosperous Afghanistan. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This history-making pact is not without political risk to the U.S. leader and commander in chief.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I've used whatever political capital I have to make the case to the American people that this is in our national-security interests, that it's absolutely critical that we succeed on this mission.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As for President Karzai, the U.S.-Afghan relationship is the strongest it's been in the last decade.

PRESIDENT KARZAI: (From videotape.) The relationship between Afghanistan and the United States is now into its 10th year in the form that it has since September 11, 2001. It's not an imaginary relationship. It's a real relationship. It's based on some very hard and difficult realities. We are in a campaign against terrorism together.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's probably referring there to the drone attacks, which were very painful on them, with a ratio of 25 civilians to every one terrorist, alleged terrorist.

So, question: How do you account for the mutual panegyric between Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai? And do we all agree that this is history-making, that this is a pact --

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and there's going to be a declaration by Mr. Obama at the end of the year?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is a history maker. This is not just a state visit.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think this is --

MS. CLIFT: I wouldn't go that far.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think so.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is very simple. This is practical politics on both their parts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's also -- it's also based on commitment. It is based upon a thorough examination. He said he has -- Obama said he has researched this. MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not just a meeting of heads of state.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it is necessity. I'll tell you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Am I exaggerating here?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- we've got 100,000 guys there, John. Mort is exactly right. And we've been at loggerheads with each other. And we've got to get along because we both have everything invested in this thing, and it is necessity. And they both did the right thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's going into Kandahar, the president is, with our troops.

MR. BUCHANAN: So are we in June.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So are we in June. And he's working up a preparation for that, because he wants to begin the withdrawal from Afghanistan soon.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: The beginning of -- middle of next year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By mid-year next year.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In time for those elections. The elections are the following year.

MS. CLIFT: And it's complicated, because his brother is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whose brother?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Karzai's.

MS. CLIFT: Karzai's brother is one of the top counsels in Kandahar. And the American position on him --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He worked for the CIA.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the position on him is that he's corrupt and we don't really know what side he's on. And Karzai was questioned about his brother, and he basically said his brother was elected. He can't fire his brother. The people can fire him. So there are a lot of things that are imperfect about this relationship, but each side needs the other. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Am I exaggerating the historicity of this event this week?

MS. CROWLEY: A little bit, because if it is a pact, it's a temporary pact, because, remember, when Obama announced that he was introducing more ground troops and doing a surge in Afghanistan, he simultaneously announced the timetable for the withdrawal next year, in 2011.

Look, the reason you saw what you saw at the White House, this mutual embrace this week, is because the White House realized they made a huge mistake in dissing Karzai and Afghanistan publicly earlier this year. They're trying to repair that relationship. And the only way you're going to make the military aspect of this work or try to bring in some of the low-level guys in the Taliban to get them on our side and the Afghan people is to change the security equation on the ground.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we need --

MS. CROWLEY: That's what this is about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we need Karzai more than Karzai needs the United States, or does Karzai need the United States more than --

MR. BUCHANAN: Both. We need each other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- we need him?

MR. BUCHANAN: We need each other, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from her.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, it is -- it's an equitable, it's a symbiotic relationship. We both need each other, because we don't want al Qaeda and the Taliban to regain control of Afghanistan and use it as --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, so much for these low-level people. Now the crucial endorsement: Legitimacy.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From videotape.) President Karzai has won re-election. It was a legitimate election outcome.

SCOTT PELLEY (CBS News): You just made a point of using the word "legitimate."

SEC. CLINTON: (From videotape.) And I very much mean it. And now it's up to him to demonstrate what he can do with that.

(End videotaped segment.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: She's got a very good relationship with Karzai, and we're moving her forward with her (sic). But look, John, this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't like this idea.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a pact of necessity.

I think Obama and Karzai did exactly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this the smart move, yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, it's a smart move.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a smart move, yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: Yes, of course. It's a smart move.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a smart move, yes or no?

MS. CROWLEY: Finally, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a smart move?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it's smart, but it's limited.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's smart. It's very smart. But as Mort says, it's limited.

Issue Three: Blame Game.

LAMAR MCKAY (chairman and president, BP America): (From videotape.) We will carry out our responsibilities.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To date, 5 million gallons of oil, the estimate, have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. The size of the oil slick is three times the size of Rhode Island. Oil executives from BP, Halliburton and Transocean, the companies involved in the operation of the sunken drilling rig named Deepwater Horizon, testified before Congress this week. The sessions rapidly degenerated into a blame game. Lamar McKay, the president of BP, testified first and pointed the finger at Transocean.

MR. MCKAY: (From videotape.) BP, as the lease holder and the operator of the well, hired Transocean to drill that well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then Steven Newman, CEO of Transocean, testified and raised questions about Halliburton's work in the cementing of the safeguards. STEVEN NEWMAN (CEO, Transocean): (From videotape.) These events occurred after the well-construction process was essentially complete.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then Tim Probert, chief health and safety officer of Halliburton, testified in the last position and blamed BP, the well owner.

TIM PROBERT (chief health and safety officer, Halliburton): (From videotape.) Halliburton, as a service provider to the well owner, is contractually bound to comply with the well owner's instruction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: BP has already testified that it will pay all legitimate claims related to the oil spill. So what accounts for the blame game? Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It all depends how you define "all legitimate claims." They're going to say that these claims, as far as BP is concerned, are not legitimate. They're the responsibility of the other players in this thing. So all of this basically at this point is going to be "How do I avoid as much of the legal exposure and the financial exposure and the public blame for what happened?" And that's what this is all about.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a lot of wiggle room in the word "legitimate."

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. And you don't want it to be --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MS. CLIFT: You don't want it to be a repeat of what happened with the Exxon Valdez, when it took 10 years of litigation and they got a $5 billion settlement, which was then reduced to $1 billion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Peanuts.

MS. CLIFT: Peanuts, exactly. And I think BP and the other enablers here deserve the equivalent of a corporate death penalty, because they really have committed a crime against mother nature.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, that's the question. Did they commit a crime?

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, it depends on -- was it an act of God? Was it negligence? MS. CLIFT: An act of God?

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, just the thing blew up, or was it a criminal negligence? If it's the latter, then you've got extraordinary responsibility that could virtually kill some of these companies. But it is nice to see these guys stand up and take responsibility. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that remind you of the Nixon administration, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) He did it. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: The chairman of BP testified this week, and he did say that BP should have been better prepared for this kind of catastrophic oil spill, this kind of contingency, especially when BP -- out of all of the deep-sea drillers in the world, BP is the biggest. They should have been better prepared. But now we have this in the Congress.

And after the Exxon Valdez, there was a cap put on liability of $75 million for any given company that has this kind of a spill. They wanted to raise that, especially Democrats and the White House, wanted to raise that to $10 billion. That was brought up in the Senate this week, and the senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, actually stood up and put a block on all of that. So it's still an open question as to what kind of cap will be on any kind of --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, and I don't think that's a particularly heroic action by the senator from Alaska, which stands to gain from a lot of oil drilling.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The annual report of BP is going to have as its headline, "Moi?" You know, "Me? Who, me?" I mean, what are we talking about? They're all trying to avoid what could be not only legal liability but a huge black mark in terms of the public, which will affect their ability to drill in the oceans all around the world.

MS. CLIFT: BP --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where is this going to leave Barack Obama, who is proposing that there be oil wells off the coast of the eastern United States about halfway down --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a moratorium, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the big length of Florida?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's declared a moratorium pretty much on that. But amazingly, 55 percent of the American public still wants to drill --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. MR. BUCHANAN: -- off the coast.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What percentage?

MR. BUCHANAN: Fifty-five.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that that number is going to change and go down according to the length of this investigation?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I'm surprised it hasn't gone down. And I think it will hold if it hasn't gone down in the first few --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think on merits --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The American public --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- we have no choice but to continue drilling on the seabed of our oceans?

MR. BUCHANAN: I do believe that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: But they don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do believe that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I believe that too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you believe that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Because we're going to need it at least for 20 years until these alternative energy sources come on line. You've got to have oil for gas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know that we're already overgreened in the sense that green cannot yield what it is alleged to yield. What is yielding from green?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, what percentage of electricity is realistic, no matter how -- we've been waiting for the photovoltaic cells --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree. It is -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've been doing this for about 30 years.

MR. BUCHANAN: One percent.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We are not going to replace the role of hydrocarbons like oil in our economy and in our transportation for decades.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you like to see that in the world of theory?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, in the world of theory. But I don't live in the world of theory, because I went to Harvard. (Laughter.) And I'm sorry about that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That paid off for you.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) That explains it.

MS. CLIFT: I didn't go to Harvard.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I just want to -- let me just finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- the new nominee --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Did I what?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to the Supreme Court?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. I totally support Ms. Kagan. I mean, I know what it takes --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do what you have to do to become a billionaire.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. You do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama will fail to meet his August deadline for the removal of all combat troops from Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Financial-reform bill, when it finally passes, will get upwards of 70 votes in the U.S. Senate.

MS. CROWLEY: The FBI just carried out a raid on a suspected terrorist cell outside of Boston that is allegedly linked to the Times Square bombing. Look for more raids, because they have identified more cells. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Within a year, we're going to have another crisis over the Euro, because the bailout is simply not effective in terms of dealing with the underlying problems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama will meet his deadline to extract troops from Iraq.

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END.