THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; MARTIN WALKER, UPI TAPED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 11-12, 2010
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Velvet Glove, Iron Fist.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) They're not always happy with me. They talk about me like a dog.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's how Republicans treat him, says the president in a speech at a labor-union event on Labor Day. Mr. Obama exalts organized labor. He fumes at Republican opponents and their alleged negativism.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) "Yes, we can." Remember, that was our slogan. (Cheers.) Their slogan is, "No, we can't." (Cheers.) "No, no, no, no." MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty days to go, and the name of the game is blame. Blame the opponent. Keep the focus on him. For the incumbent president, the strategy is offensive: Blast the Republicans, the party of no.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) When it comes to just about everything we've done to strengthen our middle class, to rebuild our economy, almost every Republican in Congress says no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As a putative positive yes measure, embraced by the Democrats, Mr. Obama calls for $50 billion of new spending, infrastructure on roads, bridges, runways, but spread over many years and, quote-unquote, "fully paid for." But how the $50 billion would be produced was not explained. This was not a stimulus proposal, and its chance of passing Congress is seen to be minus zero.
On Thursday, the president called for other money measures, including investment tax credits, emphasizing research and development, the cost to be met by closing so-called loopholes of -- you guessed it -- corporations.
Question -- by the way, the word "stimulus" is apparently now verboten. It was not used. The president's job approval rating is low, historically so. Did this week put President Obama back on an upward track? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it did not, John. There's no doubt he was in campaign mode, and he spoke better and more eloquently there. But he made a big mistake. He mentioned John Boehner and attacked him by name seven times, and nobody in the country knows who John Boehner is.
Secondly, the mosque issue and the issue of the burning Qurans was a tremendous distraction all week. Third, his proposals, some of which are pretty interesting -- expensing capital investment and credits like that -- they're too little. They're too late. They look ad hoc. And frankly, some of his rhetoric -- you know, "They treat me like a dog" -- is getting sort of argumentum ad misericordiam -- "Pity me." It doesn't come off very well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what's the political logic on Obama's part in hitting Boehner so hard this week by name?
MS. CLIFT: Well, because you have to put a face on the opposition. And Mr. Boehner is a pretty good face. He's been in the Congress since 1990. He was part of the Gingrich revolution. In 1995 he was videotaped on the House floor handing out checks from the tobacco industry to members while they were discussing ending tobacco subsidies. He advocated in Cleveland -- just a few days before the president made this speech, he's advocating a return to 2008 spending levels and to the Bush tax cuts. So what's different between what John Boehner, who would be the speaker if the Republicans gained power, and what George W. Bush represented? So the president is trying to draw a clear contrast. It may be too little, too late, but it's one of the, you know, few tools he has left at this point in the game.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Boehner's, what, one of 12 kids?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's an honorable guy.
MS. CLIFT: Well, nobody's saying --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His peers like him.
MS. CLIFT: -- he's not an honorable guy. But he espouses --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he's like --
MS. CLIFT: -- he espouses --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Teddy Kennedy was a big pal of Boehner.
MS. CLIFT: He espouses policies that got us into the ditch.
MS. CROWLEY: Oh, please. (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: And he doesn't have any new ideas.
MS. CROWLEY: Look, the reason --
MS. CLIFT: And he smokes like a chimney and he spends a lot of time in a tanning bed. He's not your modern man. (Laughter.)
MS. CROWLEY: Listen, the reason that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He lives on the edge of a golf course. You know that.
MS. CLIFT: Right. Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.
MS. CROWLEY: The reason that Obama is now turning his gunfire onto John Boehner is that for years he's been demonizing President Bush. That no longer is working. That doesn't have traction with the American people anymore. So now he's turned to John Boehner. Nobody knows John Boehner. Frankly, nobody cares. Even most Republicans don't care about John Boehner.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's the minority leader. MS. CROWLEY: What's interesting is -- he is, and he could be speaker of the House if the Republicans gain control.
But as of now, look, John Boehner, this is a wash. But the point is that he has been targeting -- Obama has been targeting President Bush for a long time.
And what's so ironic and interesting now is that because the economy is in shambles, because his poll numbers are historically low -- 40, 41 percent job approval -- he is now reaching out to President Bush for a life line in terms of economics -- the small-business tax credits, the R&D development tax credits. These were all Bush- endorsed policies. Horror of horrors, but they were true.
And what was really interesting this week is that President Obama's now former budget director, Peter Orszag, who just left the White House, made his very first public statement in support of extending all of the Bush tax cuts for everybody. So I find it very ironic and interesting --
MR. WALKER: Only for two years.
MS. CLIFT: Only for two years.
MR. WALKER: Only for two years.
MS. CROWLEY: It doesn't matter. I find it fascinating that, yes, once again we're getting an acknowledgement that Bush was, in fact, right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But is there any other reason why he left the White House?
MS. CROWLEY: Well, because he wanted --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did anybody leave with him? Wasn't there a lady who went with him?
MR. BUCHANAN: Romer. Romer.
MS. CROWLEY: Christina Romer.
MR. BUCHANAN: Christina Romer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who? Christine (sic) Romer? MS. CROWLEY: Christina Romer left.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that --
MS. CROWLEY: Peter Orszag left.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that tell you that they don't want to get off -- they want to get off a sinking ship?
MS. CROWLEY: The rats are leaving the sinking ship.
MR. BUCHANAN: The economic team has left.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think so?
MS. CROWLEY: The economic team has -- there have been some on the economic team who have been making specific arguments about extending the Bush tax cuts, even if it's just for two years, who are trying to rein in the deficit like Orszag, and they've been ignored.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin, will you straighten this out here?
MR. WALKER: Let's get back to the original question. Has President Obama done enough this week to change the narrative? Well, he started. He's got another 50 days to go. If Obama can get back into the kind of campaigning mode that we all remember from 2008, he can turn this thing around. His difficulty is he hasn't got much to run on. He doesn't want to talk about the health-care achievement. He doesn't want to talk about his stimulus package, although I think it did alleviate some of the worst of the downturn. And he's got not much to promise for the future except two more years like this.
So he's got to try and run against something. He's running against poor old Bermer (sic) as a straw man. The difficulty that he really has got is that he can't stand on his record yet because he hasn't turned the economy around.
MS. CROWLEY: And the record has been pretty bad --
MS. CLIFT: Well, he's not --
MS. CROWLEY: -- in terms of unemployment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You were trying to say Boehner there, right?
MR. WALKER: Yeah. I mean Boehner.
MS. CLIFT: He's trying to --
MR. BUCHANAN: See, Martin doesn't know who he is. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: He's trying to -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, Eleanor. All right, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: He's trying to draw a contrast with the Republicans. And Boehner's pretty clear about wanting to go back to George W. Bush.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.
MS. CLIFT: And the economic --
MS. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, frankly --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I want to finish my point.
MS. CROWLEY: You always do. (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: The economic proposals are proposals that Republicans would like. But is this Republican Senate going to support them? No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me in here.
MS. CLIFT: And that's the point he's got to get across.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to spend a lot of time on politics if we can get out of this.
Exit question: Are Obama's economic proposals a case of too little, too late for the midterms, in about 50 days from now? Or have they come back in the nick of time to save the Senate and the House Democrats?
MR. BUCHANAN: There's a couple of excellent proposals in there, as Monica said. Also his own Senate is not going to support him on the tax cuts, the Bush tax cuts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Too little or too late?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's -- but those are very important things. But the point is that he's not going to get it. It is too little, too late.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's too late anyway, isn't it?
MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to get them through, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: Well, it's too little, too late to transform the economy by election day, but it does expose the fact that the Republicans won't even support proposals that they're for. And it does set the stage for a lame-duck session after the election where, if the economy is still in dire straits, people may actually do something for the good of the country through legislation.
MS. CROWLEY: Eleanor, you can pile on the Republicans for resisting all of this, but Obama is actually getting most of the resistance now from his own party.
You've got a growing number of Democrats in the Senate, Blue Dog Democrats in the House, who do not want to go down a more-spending road, bigger government, more spending, the $50 billion-a-year infrastructure bill.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MS. CROWLEY: They do not want it. So the resistance now is coming from --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Her point --
MS. CROWLEY: -- his own party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Her point is well taken on the Blue Dog Democrats disappearing from the fold of Obama.
MR. WALKER: Like Senator Bennet in Colorado.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many Blue Dogs are there?
MS. CROWLEY: Fifty-four.
MR. WALKER: Fifty-four, yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-four.
MS. CROWLEY: In the House.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many Democrats are there?
MR. BUCHANAN: Add 39 to 218.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two hundred thirty-nine, 240?
MR. BUCHANAN: Two hundred fifty-seven.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two hundred fifty-seven.
MS. CROWLEY: In the House.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And 40 are Blue Dogs? MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.
MR. WALKER: Forty-plus.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to answer the question?
MR. WALKER: Yeah. I think it's too little, too late, and Obama is trapped in doing neither one thing nor the other. He's neither gone Keynesian, with a full-scale stimulus, which Democrats should do, nor has he gone orthodox. He's dithered in the middle.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's too much to be done. He can't do it. Also it appears to me like his polls are in free fall.
Issue Two: Democrat Wipeout?
Are Democrats in the House and the Senate facing a tidal wave, one that will sweep them out of control 50 days from now? Washington street talk says yes. But don't blame the congressional Democrats. Blame Obama. And he deserves it, historically speaking.
In politics, it's a given that when voters cast their ballots for the House and the Senate, it's on the basis of what the voters think of the president. That's what counts for how they vote. Without exception, presidential approval ratings lag below 50 percent, roughly the dividing line between modest congressional losses for the president's party and huge ones, lose big at the ballot box. So says independent analyst Rhodes Cook, and correctly so.
This is obviously bad news for the Democratic leader. In fact, president Obama's approval ratings are tanking. In April of 2009, the president's approval rating was 72 percent. One year and five months later, his approval rating is 45 percent, and he appears to be in free fall.
Question: Is this shaping up to be a wave election, meaning, come November, we'll be waving goodbye to familiar Democrats? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't think the president's approval ratings are in free fall. He's in the low 40s, which is better than where Ronald Reagan was and Bill Clinton was in their first term at a comparable time, and they each won re-election.
But I think it is a wave election, because this is really -- it's not about the Republicans. The best thing, maybe the only thing the Democrats have going for them, is the weakness of the Republican candidates. Candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado, are hurting the ticket on down. And the anger that's in the country and the distrust of political leaders is not only aimed at the Democratic Party. It's also aimed at the Republican leadership, because all the energy is on the tea-party side of the spectrum. MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think your fellow Democrats are going to turn out in number, or do you think you're going to be outflanked by the Republicans?
MS. CLIFT: Well, the new people that Obama brought into the process in '08 -- young people, minorities -- they're disappointed. They're not energized. And I think we've learned, I think sadly, that Obama is not leading a movement. He's pretty much a solo operator. And those groups are probably not going to show up. And the people who are going to show up are the angry right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the reason why this could be a blowout in favor of the Republicans --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. What happens --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because the Democrats won't show?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, if it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're disheartened.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. If all the people who voted for Obama in '08 showed up, they'd --
MR. BUCHANAN: All the energy, John --
MS. CLIFT: -- keep the House and the Senate.
MR. BUCHANAN: All the energy and fire in this election is on the tea party, the Republicans and the right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's not anti-incumbent in a sense. It is anti- Washington, anti-government, and that's taken out some Republicans in primaries. But come November, it is all going to be focused on the Democrats. There are 80 seats at risk. Twelve of them belong to the Republican Party and something like 68 of them belong to the Democratic.
MS. CLIFT: As of now. Keep talking.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a category three or a category four.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: A big component in this election are independents. It's not the tea party per se. It's not the Republican base that's energized. The Democratic Party and Obama have hemorrhaged the independents, 60 percent of the American vote here. And what's happened is that -- Eleanor mentioned President Reagan at a lower point in his term. The difference is that Reagan was a conservative leading a central-right country and his policies were moving in that direction.
Obama is far to the left. He's not taken the country into a ditch. He's taken it straight off a cliff. And the American voter is mad as hell, just like Howard Beale, over Obamacare, exploding deficits, out- of-control spending --
MR. WALKER: You can't beat something with nothing.
MS. CROWLEY: -- and 10 percent unemployment in an economy that's not getting better; it's getting worse.
MR. WALKER: You can't -- Monica, you can't beat something with nothing.
MR. BUCHANAN: Watch. (Laughs.)
MR. WALKER: This won't be like 1994. There isn't a Contract with America, the kind that Newt Gingrich had then, for the Republicans to be for. I mean, I think it's a -- a lot of voters are saying "a curse on all your houses."
MS. CROWLEY: But it doesn't matter this time, Martin.
MR. BUCHANAN: You know, Martin, I disagree with that.
MS. CROWLEY: It doesn't matter this time.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the people in 1994 did not vote for the Contract with America. It was an anti-Clinton vote totally.
MS. CROWLEY: Anti-health-care vote.
MR. BUCHANAN: This year it's anti-Democratic.
MS. CROWLEY: It was an anti-health-care-reform vote.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's anti-liberal. It's anti-big government.
MS. CLIFT: Well, that's why Obama has only begun to fight. I agree with you, right now it's not about the Republicans, and they're just basically standing back. They're not going to do anything --
MR. BUCHANAN: Dropped into their lap. MS. CLIFT: -- except revert to Bush. It's a totally unearned victory.
MR. WALKER: He's going to campaign --
MS. CLIFT: And my favorite slogan --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget Obama.
MS. CLIFT: My favorite slogan for the Republicans is "Government can't solve all your problems. Elect us and we'll prove it."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this going to be a referendum on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party?
MR. BUCHANAN: Pelosi-Reid.
MS. CROWLEY: Of course it is.
MR. BUCHANAN: It is Pelosi-Reid-Obama.
MR. WALKER: I wish --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not just Obama. It's the liberal wing of the party.
MS. CLIFT: It's a referendum on the economy and the fact that policies have not brought it back.
MR. WALKER: Economic policy has not been liberal. This is -- he has not really tried a Keynesian solution.
MS. CROWLEY: Oh, Martin.
MR. WALKER: That's what the left says.
MR. BUCHANAN: You've got a stimulus package of 6 percent of the entire gross national product.
MS. CLIFT: That's not enough.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three --
MR. BUCHANAN: The Fed doubled the money supply.
MR. WALKER: Compared to China -- 40 percent of GDP.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Issue Three: Viva Mexico. Mexico is celebrating its 200th year of independence, two centuries. And there's good news. It has a $1.4 trillion economy, the 12th largest in the world. Mexico has a vital business partner with the United States, to whom it trades 80 percent of its exports. Mexico has a modern, service-based economy, and it is expected to grow by 4 percent this year.
But 18 percent of Mexicans live in poverty, as compared to 12 percent of Americans. Five-point-five percent of Mexicans are unemployed, as compared to 9.5 percent of Americans. President Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party has made strengthening the economy a priority.
Another priority for Mr. Calderon should be to end the drug war that has claimed 23,000 lives since he took office four years ago. President Calderon has blamed the United States' appetite for drugs, 90 percent of which moved through Mexico en route to dealers in the U.S. He also blames the drug-war violence on the ease of buying deadly weapons on the U.S. side of the border and moving them across the border. President Calderon also says that 80 percent of the 20,000 weapons purchased annually by these deadly gangs were purchased in any of the 6,700 gun shops along the U.S.-Mexico border.
President Obama has deployed 1,200 National Guardsmen to secure our border and pledged $1.4 billion in assistance to the Calderon government. Border hawks want more. They are calling for U.S. combat troops to fight alongside Mexican border units to end the violence. If Mexican police cannot police itself, the border hawks say, the U.S. should take on the fight within Mexico itself.
Eleanor, do you think those Democrats are going to flee to Mexico instead of --
MS. CLIFT: Well, that's what I was thinking. It's a good segue. Usually people say they're going to go to Canada, but why not Mexico?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's the real question. Should the U.S. fear that Mexico might become, might become a failed state?
MR. BUCHANAN: U.S. Joint Forces Command said there's two countries in the world, large, that are dangerous and could become failed states -- Pakistan, with nuclear weapons, and Mexico.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When did they say it?
MR. BUCHANAN: They said that at the beginning of this year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Beginning of the year. Well, you see the numbers that are produced on the screen -- not too bad.
MR. BUCHANAN: There's no way to stop this narcoterrorism unless you -- frankly, unless you do something about the drug demand in the United States. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor the idea of integrating American policing forces, whether military or civil, within the community of those resisting the --
MS. CLIFT: No, I don't think we want --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Try to clean up the crime?
MS. CLIFT: I don't think we want DEA agents or American law- enforcement officers --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Crazy idea.
MS. CLIFT: -- in the middle -- no. I think it's a crazy --
MS. CLIFT: It's a crazy idea.
MR. WALKER: You've got DEA officers --
MS. CLIFT: But we need to own up to our responsibility on the demand side, and also the fact that our weapons manufacturers are shipping all their weapons to them. We are the arms supplier for Mexico.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your point? What's your point?
MR. WALKER: Can we keep a sense of proportion here? Mexico has got a lower murder rate than Brazil or than --
MS. CROWLEY: Venezuela.
MR. WALKER: -- Venezuela.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or Washington, D.C.
MR. WALKER: Or Washington, D.C. It's 11.6 per 100,000.
MR. BUCHANAN: One thousand -- MR. WALKER: Honduras is 50 per 100,000.
MR. BUCHANAN: One thousand five hundred were killed last year in Juarez alone. They are having automatic gunfire fights on the international bridge.
MR. WALKER: This is a police problem. It's not an insurgency.
MR. BUCHANAN: But look, I'll tell you, John, they will bring the American troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, and they will be on the Mexican border in 10 years.
MR. WALKER: The guy to listen to was the last president, Vicente Fox, who only last month said it's time to legalize drugs. The war has failed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were you alarmed at all, Martin, from this complacency you're now exhibiting --
MR. WALKER: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- by the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who said that Mexico is apparently facing an insurgency?
MR. WALKER: Well, she's wrong. It's not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is not an insurgency.
MR. WALKER: No. It's --
MS. CLIFT: Not politically.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That takes care of that. We don't have to worry about --
MR. WALKER: It's doing better than the U.S. economically.
MS. CROWLEY: I disagree.
MR. WALKER: What Obama said --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that?
MR. WALKER: What Obama said, as soon as Hillary had spoken, the day after he gave an interview to a Spanish-language broadcaster saying, "No, no insurgency. Whoever says that is wrong."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think that this is a serious national- security issue for the United States. In 2007, President Bush met with Felipe Calderon, and they agreed on a strategy, mostly military, military equipment-based. Barack Obama came in. He embraced this same strategy.
Calderon deserves support from this administration. And to their credit, they are supporting him. What he is doing is expanding the strategy to include law-enforcement reform, to try eliminate or at least reduce the corruption there, and also in the judiciary. But what worked --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --
MS. CROWLEY: What worked in our strategy with Colombia in the 1990s needs to be put in place.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long did it take for Colombia --
MS. CROWLEY: It took about 20 years --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to resist the cartels?
MS. CROWLEY: -- 20 years to fully eliminate the drug cartels.
MR. BUCHANAN: That was counterterrorism too. That was counterterrorism.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought it was more like six or seven before they got --
MS. CROWLEY: No, it took a long time --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about the FARC.
MS. CROWLEY: -- for that. But it required --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many years before they get control of the situation there?
MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to get control until what Martin says happens, and that ain't going to happen.
MS. CLIFT: Insurgency is generally political. This is about greed. They won't get control of it until they legalize and regulate the drugs.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is six to seven years.
Issue Four: Total Recall.
MARGARET HAMBURG (Food and Drug Administration): (From videotape.) We've recalled more than half a billion eggs so far.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Half a billion eggs -- 500 million eggs recalled. The commotion was caused by salmonella. Salmonella kills about a thousand people per year in the U.S. The bacterium is found in dairy products. If ingested, salmonella attacks the digestive tract.
Obviously salmonella is a public-health problem, but it is also a national-security problem. Food safety is, in fact, a terrorist's dream. Large-scale food poisoning could immobilize the nation, physically and psychologically. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, chair of the Food & Drug Administration -- the FDA -- House panel, underlines the point.
REP. ROSA DELAURO (D-CT): (From videotape.) Not all of the dangers that threaten the health and safety of American families can be found in airports, border checkpoints or harbor containers. We have seen very real threats posed by food contamination in recent years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is food-and-drug safety so big a problem that it's too much for a single agency to handle? President Obama says, reductively, yes.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Many of the laws and regulations governing food safety in America have not been updated since they were written in the time of Teddy Roosevelt. It's also because our system of inspection and enforcement is spread out so widely among so many people that it's difficult for different parts of our government to share information, work together and solve problems.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Obama's administration earlier called for a 23 percent increase in the FDA's total budget, and Congress gave it to them. Thirty-four percent of those FDA dollars will go to food safety.
Question: Should the FDA be split up, with one wing concentrating on drugs and pharmaceuticals and the other wing moved to the Agriculture Department? In other words, take food out of FDA. Drugs are enough for FDA to handle. Give it to Agriculture that can move it around to their separate divisions and handle it properly. Food is big.
MS. CLIFT: I think you can make an argument that food and drugs should be separated, but I don't like the idea of taking it away from an independent agency and putting it into a department which is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MS. CLIFT: Because the Department of Agriculture is almost a wholly owned subsidiary of the big meat producers and the big egg producers.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you want that to grow by keeping food out of it. MS. CLIFT: I don't want a regulatory agency in the belly of that beast. I think you need to keep it separate --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is too much work --
MS. CLIFT: -- and you have to give it more --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for a regulatory agency. Food is enormous.
MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor is exactly --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also you've got water. What about poisoning --
MS. CLIFT: He just said, "Eleanor is" --
MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor is exactly right.
MS. CLIFT: -- "Eleanor is exactly right."
MR. BUCHANAN: You don't want to take a regulatory agency and put it over to a place which is in bed with big agriculture, John. You should separate them. One of the problems you've got is we don't produce all our own food anymore. A lot of it comes in from all over the world, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This nation is really going downhill. Now, if you want to accede to an existing --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- disorder rather than try to correct it by correcting another disorder --
MR. BUCHANAN: Separate it and make it an independent agency. Don't put it over there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to this?
MR. WALKER: Start off by tackling the 41 percent of American food that gets wasted. That's official figures from --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. We've got enough on our --
MS. CROWLEY: John, this particular case, you had over 1,400 people get sick because of the salmonella here. And what happened was there was a breakdown between the Agriculture Department and the FDA. The Agriculture Department was there at this particular site, and they were only there to grade the eggs, slapping "Grade A" on all of these eggs.
The FDA was supposed to come in and monitor what was going on. And, in fact, the Agriculture Department did do its job, and they kept issuing reports to the FDA saying, "Dead bugs on the floor, standing rain water, all kinds of contaminants."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me give this --
MS. CROWLEY: And the FDA didn't do their job.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me give this to Martin. I'll give this an extra turn. Do you think that Congress would be opposed to taking food out of the FDA because Congress likes its committeeships and subcommitteeships? Do you follow me?
MR. WALKER: I do, indeed. And Congress also likes the kind of campaign donations that they can get from big agriculture.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct.
MR. WALKER: And also I think that this Congress would not give anything as long as President Obama proposes it. They'd have to propose it themselves. But I agree with Eleanor.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, does Tony Blair take this up at all in his memoirs? (Laughter.)
MR. WALKER: One of the few things he doesn't touch. But it's very bizarre memoirs indeed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It has now been nine years since the atrocity of September 11th, 2001. In the flux of events -- financial, economic, political, social -- the ongoing loss of that day can recede in memory, but not for the families, the relatives and the friends of those who died nine years ago.
For every -- for them, every day is a remembrance of their loved one's loss, and particularly so this difficult weekend. The Group stands in solidarity in their sorrow and their determination to see justice done for their loved ones.
Do you want to add to that, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, one of the sad things is the unity we had as a nation and a people then, I think, has evaporated and dissipated, and we're back to some of the old divisions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think sometimes the political leaders exploit those divisions. I think Americans do stand united on the question of 9/11. But a lot of those feelings are still raw, as we've seen in the debate around the Islamic cultural center in New York.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica. MS. CROWLEY: I think it's very important not to lose sight of the fact that this was an act of war against the United States and not to lose sight of the true nature of the enemy we still face.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin.
MR. WALKER: I'm heartbroken that the international solidarity that stood with the U.S. immediately after 9/11 has just gone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bye-bye.