THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW; MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM TAPED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 16-17, 2010
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Crisis in Chile.
SEBASTIAN PINERA (president of Chile): (From videotape.) Tonight we have experienced a night that we will never forget, full of emotion, full of joy. That's right, sure. Chile today is more respected, and I'm sure that people have known better about this small country, very far away from the rest of the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, and Chile's first lady, Cecilia Morel, waited to embrace 33 trapped miners as they emerged from a 22-inch-wide mine shaft. All 33 were clean- shaven and clean-dressed when they surfaced from 70 harrowing days underground, 2,030 feet underground, almost half a mile below the surface. The long-awaited rescue mission kicked off late Tuesday. Shaving gear and clothes had been sent down the shaft earlier, along with a remarkable telephone and a tiny video camera, among other things. The 33 men were then winched up the equivalent of 200 floors in a specially designed rescue capsule dubbed Phoenix. The rescue was completed in just under 23 hours.
The U.S. president saluted the Chilean people and their inspiration to the planet.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) This rescue is a tribute not only to the determination of the rescue workers and the Chilean government, but also the unity and resolve of the Chilean people, who have inspired the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: On a national-pride scale, zero to 100, zero being national embarrassment, like going to Europe to plead for the Olympics to come to Chicago and had your plea rejected, and 100 meaning a national coup, like putting the first man on the moon, how big a boost is the San Jose mine rescue for Chile's national pride? Zero to 100.
MR. BUCHANAN: This is pretty close to the man on the moon, John. That was a feat of enormous technology and tremendously trained individuals. But this was a human victory of bravery, endurance, courage, and it was a tremendous drama. And it came out well. And it's a tribute to those guys. And to see those families waiting there, it speaks enormously well, I think, of humanity. And it is a great thing, John.
But I am afraid what we're going to see now is the inevitable corruption of something beautiful by capitalism and commercialism and contracts and deals and all the rest of it, which is going to take away the sheer purity of the moment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about lawyers? Twenty-seven of the 33 families are suing the government.
MR. BUCHANAN: It has already begun.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, it is a beautiful moment that these men were rescued, and it is a technological feat. And I also liked the fact that these men made a pact among themselves that they will share equally in any royalties that they may get from selling their story. And they're being smart about their story, because they're keeping it to themselves until they sort out the deals. So it's kind of a combination of capitalism and idealism. You could call it egalitarian capitalism, maybe.
But the chances of that holding are probably pretty remote. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm.
MS. CLIFT: It's sort of like when the will is read after somebody dies and everybody starts fighting about what's left. As they sort out these deals, it's hard to do it fairly. And I think the government -- it's a good moment for the government. But this is also a government -- not this particular administration, but all the governments have presided over a situation in the mines that's pretty despicable. And it's going to be a lot of pressure on these men to now try to do something to better the lives of their fellow miners. They've got a lot of pressure on themselves.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we're a long way from General Pinochet, aren't we?
MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.) It's a 100. It's better than winning the World Cup. And what we saw here is what humans need to thrive. When they were down there in the mine, they needed order, discipline, companionship, hope. And when they made it up, they and the rest of the country needed pride. You saw it in the way they presented themselves. They were clean-shaven. They were clean and dignified. No one cried. The miners didn't cry in public. And then you had a nation exploding as one in joy over this event. So it was a wonderful thing.
Unfortunately, Pat and Eleanor are right about what will follow on. But we can enjoy the shining moment.
MS. BERNARD: I absolutely give it 100. And, you know, the one thing I would add to the list that you just gave us of the things that the miners needed was that, you know, they needed hope. They needed love. There was compassion; you know, just the sheer technological feat of what happened.
And also it brought so much international attention to Chile. People now know that this is not a Third World country. It is one of the most developed countries in South America. And for the entire international community to be able to watch what the world community came together and accomplished, I think, is nothing but, you know, something wonderful for this country.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It really turned the hemisphere upside down. Instead of the United States being at the top, it seems as though South America is at the top and the United States and Canada and the rest of this particular part of the hemisphere is at the bottom.
MS. BERNARD: Well, except --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: South America has emerged, really.
MS. BERNARD: They have emerged, but -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In your lifetime.
MS. BERNARD: -- it was an American drill.
It was an American drill that was used.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, that gives --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (inaudible) -- latitude, but --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the Americans were very heavily involved in it in the drilling down there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: But they did the right thing.
MR. LOWRY: They were very modest about it.
MR. BUCHANAN: Once they got all the way through, they said, "You guys now -- it's going to be a day or two. You all take the credit. We're getting out of here." The Americans handled it beautifully.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'm talking about Brazil and its role there. I'm talking about Colombia and the other aggressive -- we're talking about Peru. They're all emerging from what had been neglect by the United States.
MS. CLIFT: But they've been emerging --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are right. It's 100 percent. Eleanor, we have to move on.
Issue Two: Midterm Mania.
The 2010 midterms, two weeks away from this coming Tuesday; 108 seats in the House of Representatives' 435 seats are in play. Currently, Democrats control 255 seats in the House's 435; Republicans, 178. To become the majority, the Republicans must hold on to all of the 178 seats they now have, and they must pick up 39 new seats. If they succeed, Republicans will be in control of all committee chairmanships plus have a fellow Republican as the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Question: How many House seats would the Republicans pick up in the House if the election were held today? Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I'm thinking mid to high 40s, which would be enough for them to take over. But some of those races are beginning to narrow. And the amount of money that is being flooded into these districts on behalf of Republicans, money inspired by Karl Rove, either groups that he's inspired or actually founded, prompted the New York Times columnist, Frank Rich, to say this is a billionaires' coup masquerading as a populist uprising. (Laughter.) And the Democrats have tried to point this out.
MR. BUCHANAN: You sort of knew Frank wouldn't like this one. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: Democrats have tried to point this out to the voters, because whatever voters fear from President Obama and the Democrats pales to what they would get if a corporate agenda triumphs in this election. And I don't think people are aware of the people behind this money, because they're allowed to give unlimited amounts anonymously, thanks to the Supreme Court. It's really a degradation of the democracy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. LOWRY: Come on. Look, billionaires, secretive conservative billionaires, could have spent as much as they wanted in '06 and '08 and it wouldn't have made a difference, because there was a huge Democratic tide --
MS. CLIFT: The Supreme Court decision was not in place then.
MR. LOWRY: -- and a genuine populist revolt going on against Republicans. Now the exact opposite is taking place. And John, I wouldn't be surprised if the number in the House is north of 60. In the last couple of weeks you've had 39 House incumbents behind their Republican challengers. Usually the rule of thumb is if you're an incumbent in this, you know, a couple of weeks out and you're below 50, you're dead. So there are going to be a lot of carcasses.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle.
MS. BERNARD: I mean, I can't -- I still can't understand this disdain that we have for corporations, which are the engine and the lifeblood of the economy. And I don't think corporate money has anything to do with the hundreds of thousands of independents -- meaning former Democrats, former Republicans -- who have made a conscious decision to register as independents and make the political parties come after them and court them. And during this election, most of them, particularly women, are leaning Republican. And again, it's not because they think the Republican Party is so wonderful. They're just disgusted with politicians as usual. MS. CLIFT: Well --
MS. BERNARD: Corporate money has nothing to do with that.
MS. CLIFT: Wouldn't you like to see what that corporate money is and what the agenda of that corporate money is? Why should they be allowed to do this anonymously?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, first of all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Hold on, hold on.
MS. BERNARD: When people decide to stay home and they just say, "Both parties are so terrible, I'm not going to vote," do we say that corporate money made them stay home?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before we let go of the subject of independents, on Tuesday Gerry Seib wrote a very interesting column, an analytic one, and he concludes with "The Pew study found that more voters now identify themselves as independents, 37 percent, than as Republicans, 29 percent, or Democrats, 34 percent. So this roaming army of independent nomads is getting pretty large. And who knows? If neither party can pacify it, maybe, just maybe, the army carries the seeds of a third-party challenge in 2012."
Do you think that there could be a third party emerge from the independents in the United States?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it theoretically feasible?
MR. BUCHANAN: It is very feasible, and it also is possible. And it also, I think, would happen. But it all depends upon the Republicans, who I think closer to Eleanor, I think will probably get 46, 47 seats.
If they fail to satisfy the tea-party people, who really are looking for action, if they don't deliver and the Republican primaries produce a candidate who's perceived as an establishment Republican, that vacuum will exist, John, and somebody will fill it. The question is, will he have the billion dollars he will need? He can't win, but what he can do --
MR. LOWRY: Maybe Eleanor's secretive billionaires can come in and help fund him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, enough of the lower chamber. Let's talk about the upper chamber. A takeover of the U.S. Senate is a heavier and trickier lift for the GOP, but it is not undoable. Currently the Senate is comprised of 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans and two independents. Thirty-seven seats are up in two weeks. To win the Senate majority, the Republicans need 10 seats currently held by Democrats. Four seats in four states are toss-ups, according to a poll by Rasmussen this week. They are California, Illinois, Washington, Nevada.
The California race is between two women, Republican Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO, and Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is seeking her third term as senator. Both ladies are coming out swinging.
U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE CARLY FIORINA (R-CA): (From videotape.) Barbara Boxer has been in Washington, D.C. for 28 long years, and the results of her policies are devastating for this state.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): (From videotape.) When she was CEO of Hewlett Packard -- before she was terminated, actually -- she shipped 30,000 jobs overseas.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why is trade emerging as the most politically decisive issue of this senatorial campaign in California? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Because we have 9.7 percent unemployment and people are worried about jobs, and they don't like the fact that jobs are going overseas. And the irony in that California race is that Fiorina did oversee the shipping of jobs to China and India.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: And she's now accusing Boxer of accepting contributions from companies that have shipped jobs overseas, including contributions from Hewlett Packard. (Laughs.) So it's kind of two degrees of separation. Everybody's guilty in the global economy. But the Republicans actually advocate these policies, and the Democrats are trying to, you know, fight against them. And that is a dividing line --
MR. BUCHANAN: The Republicans are free traders, John.
MS. CLIFT: -- the voters are paying some attention to.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Republicans are very vulnerable here. And there's sort of a smear against the Chamber of Commerce that they're funneling --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- foreign money. They're not doing it. But it is a very vulnerable issue, because the Republicans are NAFTA, GATT, World Trade Organization, free traders, 6 million manufacturing jobs left. And the Democrats are moving toward economic nationalism. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's responsible for the smear?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, all the way up to the president.
MR. LOWRY: President of the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did the president say about the Chamber of Commerce?
MR. BUCHANAN: They're saying they're funneling foreign money into campaigns.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that a dirty trick?
MR. BUCHANAN: It's illegal. It's a crime.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he victimizing the Chamber of Commerce --
MR. BUCHANAN: He's hammering the Chamber.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in characteristic fashion?
MR. BUCHANAN: But the Chamber guys are vulnerable, because they do have some membership --
MS. CLIFT: That's right; poor little Chamber of Commerce.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. That was not the face they should have put on this fight, because the money is coming from lots of other places.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it below the belt?
MS. BERNARD: It's below the belt because it's not true. And it smells of desperation on the part of the Democratic Party. They're looking for anything to avoid a wipeout in the House in 18 days from now. And the issue has gone away. I don't think it's going to make a difference to voters at all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that this has already rebounded against the Democrats?
MS. BERNARD: It hasn't rebounded --
MR. BUCHANAN: It has.
MS. BERNARD: -- against the Democrats.
MR. BUCHANAN: Money's pouring in to the Republicans. (Cross talk.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that corporations and the American mentality are, properly speaking, whipping boys?
MR. LOWRY: Well, they shouldn't be. Look, when your administration has a reputation for being anti-business, the last thing you should go out and do is smear the Chamber of Commerce. This is a Main Street organization --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course.
MR. LOWRY: -- in communities throughout America.
MS. CLIFT: Glenn Beck --
MR. LOWRY: And there's no evidence whatsoever to say they're funneling Chinese money. It's McCarthyite.
MS. CLIFT: Glenn --
MR. LOWRY: It's low. It's scurrilous.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Glenn Beck asked his viewers to send money to the Chamber, and they got --
MR. BUCHANAN: Money is --
MS. CLIFT: -- so much money, the servers crashed. Next they'll be sending money to --
MR. BUCHANAN: The money is pouring in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Since when did the National Review start picking on Joe McCarthy? (Laughter.)
Okay, Nevada's Senate race.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and tea-party favorite Sharron Angle are neck and neck.
Question: A few months ago, when Sharron Angle won the GOP Senate primary for Nevada, Democrats were jubilant about prospects for holding Harry's seat. What happened since then? Michelle.
MS. BERNARD: I've got to tell you, I'm actually scratching my head. I know Pat likes Sharron Angle. I don't get it. But earlier this week, in the debate between the two, when she looked him in the face and said, "Man up" -- (laughter) -- he had a serious problem. (Laughter.
) He might have lost it that day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --
MS. BERNARD: You know, Harry Reid --
MR. BUCHANAN: She ripped him up. She then turned to him and said, "Harry, how did you make all that money when you were in the Senate?"
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was there some mention of colonoscopy in that debate?
MR. LOWRY: He got lost in the colonoscopy analogy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? Really?
MS. CLIFT: Well, because she doesn't want to put any --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we have that bite anywhere?
MS. CLIFT: She doesn't want to put any mandates on insurance companies to pay for anything. But she has been so caricatured and mocked. All she had to do was look halfway reasonable --
MR. LOWRY: Well, this is what --
MS. CLIFT: -- and she beat him in the debate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat. Hold on, Pat.
Now the Illinois race.
In Illinois, Democrat state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has a tiny lead over Republican Representative Mark Kirk.
Question: Which way is this Illinois Senate race leaning? I ask you, Pat. MR. BUCHANAN: This one is very, very close, John. Giannoulias, I think, is up a couple of points now, and Obama's out there. And, you know, and Obama, they're putting everything into it. I think it's slightly leaning toward the Democrats. And overall, John, the Democrats have come back from August when they lost the Senate, and they've come back, I think. And I think they're going to hold the United States Senate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which states lean Republican in their Senate inclinations, in their Senate races? Do you want to give that list?
MR. LOWRY: You've got about five locks. You've got North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana. Wisconsin looks like it's gone for the Democrats. Pennsylvania looks like it's gone. And then you have five that are very close. The Kirk race would be one. Nevada would be another.
MR. BUCHANAN: California.
MR. LOWRY: California, I'd say, leans Democratic. Washington State is very close.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's talk about Feingold. Is he likely to lose to Republican Johnson for the Senate seat in Wisconsin?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think so.
MR. LOWRY: Absolutely. It's gone.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's almost gone, yeah.
MR. LOWRY: Johnson has been above 50 in almost every poll. And this is a key thing in this cycle, John. You have these three liberal Democrats -- Boxer, Feingold and Murray -- who never really had to run in a Republican year or ever had really tough challengers. You see all of them struggling this year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me the --
MS. CLIFT: Well, the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Give me the exit --
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me the exit question. Will the Democrats lose the Senate? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think the Democrats will hold the Senate. MS. CLIFT: I agree. I think -- you can see the Republicans getting seven, maybe even eight seats. But I don't see 50, no. Democrats hold.
MR. LOWRY: They'll get 10. The Republicans will take the Senate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MR. LOWRY: They'll get 10. Republicans will take the Senate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. LOWRY: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've done the numbers on it?
MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)
MS. BERNARD: Wishful thinking. I think the Democrats hold the Senate.
MR. BUCHANAN: Will Ms. O'Donnell make it? Will Ms. O'Donnell make it? (Laughter.)
MS. BERNARD: She's not going to make it to the Senate. I think the Democrats are going to hold the Senate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think you're probably right.
Issue Three: Obama's Mendacity.
A new book on Barack Obama is now in the stores. It is titled "The Mendacity of Hope," written by Roger D. Hodge, with a subtitle of, quote, "Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism," unquote. On the fly leaf are five prominent liberal intellectuals lavishly endorsing the book: Ehrenreich, Chomsky, Vollmann, Wolf and Klein.
Naomi Klein's squib on the book says this. Quote: "Ready to wake up from the Obama dream yet? If so, this thrillingly scathing and relentlessly truthful crid de coeur is your strong cup of coffee. Hodge skewers the sloppy intellectual culture that willed this political chimera into being, while expertly unmasking the corporate machine that is the real Brand Obama. Drink up," unquote.
To repeat, the author of the book is former editor in chief of Harper's Magazine, 2006 to 2010, Roger D. Hodge.
What do you make of this? This is a condemnation by liberals of Barack Obama? MR. BUCHANAN: This is what Robert Gibbs said. The professional left wouldn't be happy if they put in Dennis Kucinich as president, John.
MS. BERNARD: From the day President Obama was elected, I always predicted that it would be the people on the far left that would be his undoing, from day one. If you go and look through excerpts of the book, they were upset by Clinton. And it's actually interesting that they say that every single time a Democratic president gets elected that they take on philosophies and policies of the Republican Party, that Clinton was too much of a centrist; Obama is too much of a centrist.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think --
MS. BERNARD: It's ridiculous. The far left will be this president's undoing.
MR. LOWRY: Yeah. And this is why, John --
MS. CLIFT: Well, the economy -- the economy is this president's undoing in this midterm, but I wouldn't count him out --
MS. BERNARD: Well, in 2012 --
MS. CLIFT: -- for re-election. And the thing is that liberals are disappointed. I'm glad there are people at the barricades. But this is, I think, a fanciful criticism, and maybe --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you read Noam Chomsky? Do you read Klein?
MS. CLIFT: I love Noam Chomsky. But this is not a reality-based criticism.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is the intellectual powerhouse of the Democratic Party. They are turning the wheels.
MS. CLIFT: How would they have suggested President Obama get the 60 votes he needed to get the public option?
MR. LOWRY: This is why there are limits --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the disillusionment with Obama more widespread than this --
MR. LOWRY: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the purity of this group?
MR. LOWRY: And this is why there are limits to how much he can triangulate if Republicans take Congress, and this is why he has to fear a primary challenge from his left in '12. And if Feingold loses, he should find a Cabinet slot for him. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: First Lady on the Trail.
First Lady Michelle Obama has been on a campaign swing -- three weeks, seven states. This week she opened in Wisconsin.
FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: (From videotape.) Many of us came into this expecting to see all the change we talked about happen all at once, right away, the minute Barack walked into the Oval Office door. But the truth is, it is going to take a longer time to dig ourselves out of this hole than any of us would like.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is the first lady a political asset in the midterm elections to take place two weeks from this coming Tuesday? Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: She's an asset, but she's not determinative. I mean, I think people are welcoming her and people like to see her. But what she's doing is sort of using a tea cup to scoop the water out of the Titanic. I mean, she can't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does she have to --
MS. CLIFT: -- save races.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does she have to beware of?
MS. CLIFT: Well, she doesn't want to be seen as too partisan and aggressive.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.
MS. CLIFT: And I think she's found a happy medium. She's campaigning more than Laura Bush did but less than Hillary Clinton did when she was the first lady.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First ladies are responsible for worthy causes. Her worthy cause is the fight against obesity. Correct?
MR. BUCHANAN: Right, right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And she -- first ladies stick with that. They don't -- she's exactly right. They don't get into partisan --
MR. BUCHANAN: She --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They stay out of the --
MR. BUCHANAN: They should, and she is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the infighting of partisan politics. MR. BUCHANAN: She is an asset. And I don't think she wants to be out on the campaign trail. I don't think people are going to attack her or should. John, I don't think she's a happy camper in the White House, to be honest.
MS. CLIFT: Oh --
MR. BUCHANAN: I really don't. She doesn't seem to me to be -- she really was reluctant to get out there. And you read what she allegedly said to the first lady of France that she hates the job and stuff. I would not be surprised if she were not an influence if Barack were deciding, "I'm not going to run again."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She referred to her condition at the White House as "enfer." At least that's the way it was translated by the French publication that the first lady of France had her memoirs published in. That's translated either as hell or as a severe drag, a big drag. (Laughter.)
MS. BERNARD: And does anyone doubt that that's true? What I find actually very interesting about this is how much the role of the first lady has changed. If Hillary Clinton had done this, she would have been skewered. And then, you know, just a few years later we see that President Bush's popularity went down and Laura Bush is the angel who comes in and does the campaigning. And we're seeing the same thing now with Mrs. Obama.
I don't know whether she likes it or not. Time will tell. But I think it's fascinating that the first lady's role has changed so much that they can go out on the campaign trail at a time when --
MS. CLIFT: Well, they've always gone out. Hillary was out on the campaign trail.
MS. BERNARD: But she was --
MS. CLIFT: So was Laura Bush.
MS. BERNARD: But she was skewered for it and she was looked (at) as somebody who was wearing the pants in the family.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When do you think her schedule was formulated? Do you think it was after the current drift --
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in Obama's popularity?
MR. LOWRY: I don't know about that. I mean, it's certainly true that she is a minor asset, whereas her husband is a liability. So that makes her a big net asset compared to him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How cruel. MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.
MS. BERNARD: Her popularity ratings are higher than his right now. That's just a fact.
MS. CLIFT: Well, the notion, though, that Michelle is unhappy and Obama is not going to run again, forget that.
MS. BERNARD: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: He's going to run again. And presidents who have had disastrous midterm elections often go on to re-election -- Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton being exhibit A.
MR. LOWRY: Yeah. And if he weren't to run again, he would have to spend the rest of his life justifying why he wasn't a failed president. It's much better to get that second term.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think --
MS. CLIFT: And she wouldn't want to live with that. (Laughs.)
MS. BERNARD: And also, at that level, does anyone who has the ego to run for president --
MR. BUCHANAN: The second term would be --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.
MS. BERNARD: -- and win actually just give up a second term?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?
MS. BERNARD: I said at that level, if anyone has the ego to actually run for office and then win, do you really have the ego to say, "I'm throwing in the towel" after one term?
MR. BUCHANAN: Lyndon Johnson did.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- MS. CLIFT: He was driven out. He was driven out.
MS. BERNARD: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that he's a little bored by the job?
MS. BERNARD: No.
MS. CLIFT: No. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he indicate that in his public utterances? He uses the teleprompter --
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, he does, John. He doesn't have --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- constantly.
MR. BUCHANAN: He doesn't have that great edge, frankly, that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he have the fire in the belly?
MR. BUCHANAN: No. In parts of the campaign, he was alive and on fire.
MS. BERNARD: I don't think it means he's -- no, but I don't think it doesn't mean that he doesn't have the fire in the belly.
MR. BUCHANAN: He's been pounded.
MS. BERNARD: He is a compelling public speaker when he is talking on the campaign trail. I think the fact that he speaks very differently when he's talking about economic issues or the war and he's talking from the Oval Office from a teleprompter --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Intellectual --
MS. BERNARD: -- it's a matter of delivery.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's an intellectual. They have a low boredom threshold. When he attacks an issue and he exhausts an issue, "Give me another issue to think about."
All of George Bush's tax cuts will be extended during a lame-duck session. True or false?
MR. BUCHANAN: We will roll them, right.
MS. CLIFT: They'll punt and make the decision early next year.
MR. LOWRY: True. They'll be extended. MS. BERNARD: They'll be extended.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True. They will be extended.
That was a copout on your part. (Laughter.) Bye-bye. And a brilliant one.
MS. CLIFT: But I think that's what they're going to do, actually. (Laughter.)