THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT; MONICA CROWLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 20, 2011
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Libya ceases firing.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From tape.) Speaking of the city of Benghazi, a city of roughly 700,000 people, he threatened, and I quote, "We will have no mercy and no pity." The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agree that a ceasefire must be implemented immediately.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya, meaning bombs away against Gadhafi if needed. On Friday, Libya announced that it would honor the U.N. resolution and cease firing, stopping all military operations. Question: Is Gadhafi's promise of a ceasefire credible? I ask you, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, we've going to have to wait and see, John. I think Gadhafi's handled this fairly well. There's still some firing going on. But Barack Obama issued pretty much of an ultimatum. He said that Gadhafi has got to get out of Zawiyah, which he's occupied, and Misurata, which is contested right now.
So I think what we're seeing is the beginning of an allied intervention -- British, French and maybe the Gulf States coming in. I see how we get into this war but I really don't see how it continues and what the end game is, and how do you end it just with a no-fly zone?
Secondly, the president of the United States is committed to commit acts of war against Libya, and he does not have the authorization of the Congress of the United States, either house of the Congress, as LBJ got with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that provide?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorized LBJ to make air strikes against North Vietnam, but he doesn't have the authorization of the American Congress. He's got a Security Council resolution but the president cannot act, I believe --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat sees this action on the part of Gadhafi as a declaration of war.
MS. CLIFT: Well, this is the only person, Pat, who recalls the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution as though it's some reverential thing. It was a phony resolution that LBJ used to get a very reluctant Congress to go along. I don't think, except maybe for the Pat Buchanan isolationist caucus in the House, that this Congress is going to resist.
This is not Barack Obama's war; this is a consensus that Hillary Clinton --
MR. BUCHANAN: Is it America's war?
MS. CLIFT: This is what Hillary Clinton -- a consensus that she managed to forge with allied powers to protect the civilians in Libya after Gadhafi issued a series of blood-curdling statements about how he was going to track down the rebels, you know, street by street, closet by closet. And it looked like there was an impending humanitarian disaster. And immediately after the Security Council acted, Gadhafi says, OK, ceasefire; fine. So maybe not it's a bit of a cat-and-mouse game but -- so we'll see. But I think this president acted correctly in understanding that this is a European crisis, first of all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the French and the British on board with this?
MS. CROWLEY: Let's be really clear about what this is. First of all, yes, the French and the British are actually going to take the lead role in military action. They are actually going to do the fly- overs and the bombing operations, at least initially, into Libya.
But let's be really clear about this unfolded. The United Nations, the Arab League, his secretary of defense, and then a bipartisan coalition in the Congress, including John McCain, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, were all putting enormous pressure on this president over the past month. It took Obama 31 days before he decided that, yes, more aggressive action on Libya was, in fact, needed.
I understand the arguments on both sides, the intervention side and the non-intervention side. The problem for this president has been that he put American credibility on the line early on by saying Gadhafi must go, and then he stood back and let a power vacuum be filled by Moammar Gadhafi and his forces.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So Obama is deliberative. What's wrong with that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's nothing wrong with being deliberative unless the consequences of not doing anything for several weeks might put the whole issue in Libya as a defunct issue because he's gone too far.
And, by the way, just because he says there's going to be a ceasefire, there are all kinds of things that they could do at the street level that Gadhafi can do. We're going to have to find some way to make sure that we have that under control.
But it is clear that this was an operation that was not only led by the French and the British, but pushed, really, onto the American agenda by them. There is a conference, for example, now in Paris that Sarkozy has organized around this issue. The Americans are there as observers. They're not even there as participants. So we have lost a lead role in something where we should have played a lead role.
MS. CLIFT: I don't think we need a lead --
(Cross talk.) MS. CLIFT: We don't need a lead role in invading another Muslim country. This was not America's action to take on America's own. And I think -- let this -- usually --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, usually we're dragging along the reluctant allies.
I mean, this is wonderful to have the British and the French --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that the public --
MS. CLIFT: -- in the lead.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know the public's will on this, right? You've seen the polls. Sixty-five percent of the public don't like the idea of going after --
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that is why, John -- that is why -- look, under our Constitution Obama can attack Libya if both houses of the Congress authorize this. We are a constitutional republic and he ought to go to Congress and say, here's what I want to do; give me the authority, and then he can go ahead --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The next issue has got to be Iran.
MS. CLIFT: He'll be respectful of Congress. They're not -- he's not going to go without their -- I'm sure he's met with the leaders of the relevant committees. Calm down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this issue is going to stay around.
Question: Are Gadhafi's days in power numbered, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: All our days are numbered, John. (Laughter.) But is he going to be out of power shortly? John, I don't know the answer to that because I think we have not thought through the second and third and fourth tranches of this intervention. We're going to bomb and we're going to stop him. What do we do after that?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, we haven't bombed yet. Let's see what he does now. And it's a cliche now but he's on the wrong side of history. I mean, the squeeze is being put on, and it may not -- he may not being going tomorrow or next week but I think he's over. MS. CROWLEY: First of all, to Pat's point, under the War Powers Act of 1973, the commander in chief has 90 days to commit American troops or the American military to a combat zone without congressional authorization. Then he must go and try to get it. That's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that include their plan?
MS. CROWLEY: That includes everything.
But, number two, look, the other part of this equation is that when we talk about the rebels or the opposition to Gadhafi, just as we were talking about the opposition in Egypt -- we have a tendency in the West to romanticize what that opposition is. Just because Moammar Gadhafi is loathsome doesn't mean that the opposition to him is any less loathsome.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are his days numbered?
MS. CROWLEY: We need to be very careful about --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are his days numbered?
MS. CROWLEY: -- those we are defending in this case.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are his days numbered?
MS. CROWLEY: His days are numbered, but those who replace him could be worse.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are his days numbered?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think his days are numbered. You're not going to be able to remove him unless you do have some forces on the ground. You're not going to be able to remove them. You may stop them where he is with air power but you're certainly not going to be able to remove him with air power.
So I don't think that is going to happen. He is controlling a large part of the country, the majority of the country. Nobody is going to have the military force to go against him unless they have the capacity to go on the ground.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His days are not numbered.
Issue two: Japan's agony.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From tape.) We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it's the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories in the Pacific. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fukushima Diichi, Japan's nuclear power plant, is in collapse, a collapse triggered by Mother Nature. An earthquake, 9.0 on the Richter scale -- almost unheard of -- and tsunami, some waves higher than 30 feet. The Fukushima nuclear plant is now emitting dangerous levels of radiation.
A top U.S. nuclear safety official said this week that the situation in Japan is worse than what Japanese officials there had said. Japanese officials ordered evacuations within a 12-mile radius. The White House urged Americans in Japan to stay outside of a 50-mile radius of the nuclear sites, a 38-mile larger evacuation radius than Japan's radius.
Japan's crisis is already influencing nuclear power programs around the world. China announced this week that it had suspended final approval of the construction of 50 new nuclear power plants, which account for almost 40 percent of the world's planned nuclear reactors.
The U.S., the U.K., France and China have all defended nuclear power. The U.K. has four nuclear reactors in the advanced planning phase, and France has one. China has 50 reactors in that phase. The U.S. has 104 functioning nuclear reactors in 31 states.
Question: Should President Obama follow Germany's lead and shut down civilian nuclear reactors and check them out? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think he did the right thing by calling for a review of all of the reactors. There are actually two in California that are built on faults that were discovered after they were put in place.
Allegedly they're built to withstand quakes, I think, up to 7 or 8, but this was a 9. And it wasn't actually the earthquake that did the severest damage in Japan. It was the fact that the back-up generators were located in the basement and they were flooded out by the tsunami, and that ended the ability to cool the reactor and the spent fuel yard.
And I'd like to point out that General Electric designed this plant, and it is a design flaw. And there had been questions raised about this plant in the past. What this does is it just raises the bar higher, appropriately so, for the nuclear industry.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: General Electric says that it doesn't take this thing idly, that they have corrected -- not corrected; they have updated those plants sequentially and they're safe.
MS. CLIFT: Well, something went wrong in Japan and I think it's appropriate to look at the various reactors we have in this country.
MR. BUCHANAN: You've got San Onofore -- you've got San Onofore -- (Cross talk.)
MS. CLIFT: -- such as why the president had to go on television and tell people they don't have to go buy iodine pills.
MR. BUCHANAN: You've got San Onofore and Diablo Canyon are the two plants out there in California. And, clearly, any plant that is on an earthquake-sensitive site ought to be double and triple checked. But to go the German route I think and shut it down, that shows panic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's hear our leader. OK, it's that simple.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From tape.) To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we'll need to increase our supply of nuclear power. It's that simple.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama designated, in his fiscal 2011 budget, $54 billion for nuclear development. Question -- by the way, the state that has the largest number of nuclear reactors in the United States is what?
MR. BUCHANAN: Illinois.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Illinois.
MS. CLIFT: Tennessee too.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that tell you?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it's in the middle of the country. That's where they ought to be, quite --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, who's from Illinois?
MR. BUCHANAN: Barack Obama I think is from there, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. He was the senator from Illinois.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who else is from Illinois, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Lincoln? (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's the mayor of Chicago?
MR. BUCHANAN: The mayor of Chicago is now Rahm Emanuel, but they were there before -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did he do as an investment banker? Who did he -- who was his principal client? Was it GE? Exelon. What does Exelon do?
MR. BUCHANAN: They've got 17 nuclear plants.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, nuclear. Where's his chief of -- where's Obama's current chief of staff from?
MS. CLIFT: Well, but where --
MR. BUCHANAN: Daley, from Chicago.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Daley, from Chicago.
MR. BUCHANAN: What is this, a conspiracy?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, who has the highest component of nuclear facilities?
MR. BUCHANAN: Illinois, but the problem --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Illinois. How many?
MR. BUCHANAN: The problem --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many?
MR. BUCHANAN: Seventeen.
MS. CLIFT: Eleven. Eleven.
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, 11? OK. The Exelon plant has 17.
The real problem here is going to be the insurance, John, is going to soar and you're going to need government guarantees --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- in order to get these plants going. And, frankly, we cannot walk away from nuclear power.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think I'm imputing anything to Illinois?
MS. CLIFT: Well, look, I think your bigger point is that Barack Obama and the rest of the left have made this evolution over the last 30 years, where they use to be very anti-nuclear -- remember, "You can't hug your children with nuclear arms" was about nuclear weapons, was about nuclear energy. They've now come to embrace it, in large part for environmental reasons because nuclear is safe, clean and efficient. And remember that every energy source, whether you're talking coal or oil, they all have dangers associated with it. That 104 number --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a new factor --
MS. CLIFT: -- of nuclear reactors provides 20 percent of all of our electricity, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the new factor operating in this discussion and in this reality of nuclear power? What's the reality that's being overlooked?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, there are several realities.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The reality is -- is one. What is it?
MS. CLIFT: Global warming.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me a second. No, no, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, not global warming. What?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is terrorism.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is terrorism.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me tell you what I think.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think the multiplicity of these nuclear plants -- we have more in the United States than in any other country in the world. The multiplicity of them is -- is it, in any way, creating a danger from terrorism?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Sure, but they have enormous security provisions along -- for all of these nuclear plants. So I think that's a minimal risk. But there is risk, OK, and one of the things that's going to happen now for these new plants, because they're going to want much more safety built into those things, it's going to raise the cost of these plants dramatically. That's number one.
Number two, just to go to your point about the fault. The theory about earthquakes is that it causes an earthquake on the other side of the plate, on the other side of the Pacific plate in the Northwest -- the northeast corner, and that, folks, is the West Coast of the United States. And if that happens to be in an area where there are nuclear facilities, we're going to have big troubles. They're going to have to look at all of these plants and completely reinforce the security and safety provisions.
MS. CLIFT: But people are maybe even irrationally afraid of --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: -- of radioactivity and nuclear reactors, which is why you're seeing the panic that you're seeing in this country over an event that's happening in --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On balance, has media coverage of the Fukushima nuclear plant emergency been more sober and responsible or more sensational and hysterical?
MR. BUCHANAN: First, no American has ever died from radiation or nuclear power. Secondly, I think the coverage -- and I watch it very closely -- has been very good.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I think the coverage has basically contributed to the anxiety that people already feel about nuclear power. But I do think it has to be a part of the planet's future, because we don't know how to supply. We also want all our conveniences, and so I think it's going to continue, but it's going to -- the move towards it is going to slow down. Good-bye to that nuclear renaissance that Senator Lamar Alexander was talking about back a few years ago.
MS. CROWLEY: I'm not so sure about that, but the coverage has been full of hype, and one of the problems is that members of the Obama administration bought into the hype. So you had the Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, saying, well, this is worse than Three Mile Island --
MS. CLIFT: It is worse than Three Mile Island.
MS. CROWLEY: -- but then again we don't really have all of the details. Well, if you don't have all the details, don't make an assertion like that. I mean, the surgeon general running around saying you should get iodide pills was ridiculous.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The main -- the main cause of the -- the main cause of the real danger here was not the nuclear plant; it was the tsunami.
MS. CROWLEY: Correct.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And that is something that we don't quite have to worry about. Nevertheless, the popular concern has gotten to point where we're going to have to change the security provisions on any new plant that gets built. It'll be very difficult to get support for that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The coverage -- the coverage has been more sensational than sober.
Issue three: Hola, Latino America.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) I will travel to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador to forge new alliances across the Americas.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama leaves this weekend on a five- day trip to Latin America. Friday, Brazil: He'll meet with President Dilma Rousseff. Monday, Chile: He'll meet with President Sebastian Piñera. Tuesday, El Salvador: He'll meet with President Mauricio Funes.
On the chat list. Item: influence. China and Iran are using trade and diplomacy to increase their foothold in the region. Here's the secretary of State on the subject.
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From videotape.) We are in a competition for influence all over the world right now. In Latin America we're competing with China and, increasingly, Iran.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Item: trade. Latin America is the U.S.'s fastest-growing trade partner. Between 1998 and 2009, 11 years, trade with Latin America has nearly doubled -- 82 percent growth.
Item: drugs. Cocaine, heroin and marijuana originate and move through the region. That trade now is a primary threat to U.S. interests. White House spokesman Jay Carney this week affirmed also the strategic importance of the president's trip.
WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN JAY CARNEY: (From videotape.) But the fact is the president is taking this trip because he is committed to growing the economy, to rebalancing our national security posture to take into account the world as it has changed, and he believes our relationships with Latin America are very important. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is it smart diplomacy for President Obama to head to Latin America now to strengthen hemispheric ties? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Yes, because he's got his eye on the prize, which is jobs, and he's got to strengthen those trade relationships. And also, I think Latin America is considered our sphere of influence, and China is there buying up their resources and Cuba's exporting doctors.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm hmm. Right.
MS. CLIFT: And so this is a -- this is winning the future that he talks about all the time. It's competing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is her point on China well taken?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes. Oh, absolutely. And Central and South America absolutely need more American attention; that goes without saying. However, the question is on timing.
There's a major crisis in Japan and Asia. There's a major crisis in the Middle East. There's a crisis at home, a budgetary crisis, a deficit and debt crisis. So for Obama to leave the country now on this particular mission doesn't make a lot of sense.
And I'll say one other thing. He's focused on trade, but he's not visiting the two countries that have trade deals languishing in the Congress -- Colombia and Panama.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said they were -- he indicated at the top of his administration that he's going to pay attention to Latin America. He hasn't done so.
Latin America is a strategic interest for us.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we've neglected it. Therefore, he should go with the -- go with the trip tonight, because that says something by itself.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, I'm -- I have no problem with his traveling at this point, but I do agree that there are two countries there with whom we have failed to pass trade agreements which would have a very good impact on our economy. And those have been languishing in the Congress for several years, and this administration has not been able to get it through. So I think that's the right focus on that.
MR. BUCHANAN: This trip is a distraction from the real world, quite frankly. Look, the United States trade deficit went past 500 billion (dollars) to -- annual rate of 550 billion (dollars) in January. We've got trade deficits with every country in the world. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You worked with Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon was interested in Latin America. He went to Colombia and he -- and his limousine was stoned.
MR. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm. (In acknowledgement.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But that's how interested he was, Pat. (Laughter.) You think you're betraying his tradition, his memory and his legacy.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think his legacy would be more the opening to China than that trip to Colombia, Bogota.
MS. CROWLEY: Yes, you're right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know about that.
MS. CLIFT: The president's going to be gone for three days. He's going to be going over the weekend. I think we can handle the rest of the crises on our own here on "The McLaughlin Group" set while he's gone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go to Latin America! It's a strategic location for us.
Issue four: Who will save the party?
REINCE PRIEBUS (Chairman, Republican National Committee): (From videotape.) Defeat Barack Obama in 2012, save our country and, in the process, save our party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Republican goal is clear -- make Barack Obama a one-term president. How to do that is not so clear. Which one of these presumptive candidates is the GOP's best hope to limit Mr. Obama to one term in office? Alphabetically: Barbour, Christie, Daniels, Gingrich, Huckabee, Huntsman, Palin, Paul, Pawlenty, Perry, Romney, Ryan, Santorum.
Gallup offered some insight into the answer. The poll released this week measures which candidate has the strongest support, intensity of support, among Republican voters; in other words, which candidate's supporters were the most diehard? Gallup calls the survey the Positive Intensity Poll, and deals with Republican presidential candidate images. Coming in first, former Arkansas Republican Governor Mike Huckabee. Second, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
Question: Is there political value in having positive intensity at this stage of the contest, Mort? MR. ZUCKERMAN: Sure. But the one name who was not mentioned was John Huntsman --
MS. CLIFT: No, he was -- (off mic) --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- who is only known to 20 percent of the people and has 14 percent intensity, which is really, really very good for a guy who's just come back from China.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I mentioned his name.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, I know, but I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, a name that was not mentioned --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But when I say that, mention with the kind of adulation that you would normally attribute to such a terrific performance.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: And the president has said that if Mr. Huntsman runs that he, the president, will go to Iowa and New Hampshire and campaign for him, because he served as his ambassador and he did such a fine job.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will that be the kiss of death? Will that be the kiss of death?
MS. CLIFT: Yes! (Laughs.) Yes, that's the point.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, intensity is a critical factor, but it's mainly a critical factor in the primary nomination run. Both of those folks you put up there, Huckabee and Michele Bachmann, got tremendous intensity. Who had the intensity in '64? Barry Goldwater got the nomination after winning one primary, but it doesn't help you that much in the general election. Helps you a great deal, I guess, but if you cannot get beyond your intense factor to get into the middle, then you've got a real problem in the Republican election.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Dick Wirthlin say about the value of advertising at this point in the upcoming election, 2012?
MS. CLIFT: Richard Wirthlin being Reagan's pollster.
MS. CROWLEY: Who just passed away, yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Reagan's pollster. What did he say? He said that people want toothpaste ads more than they watch political ads at this stage, this far removed from a presidential election. MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MS. CROWLEY: Right, and President -- but President Nixon -- President Nixon once said that the general public only begins focusing on a presidential campaign about three weeks before the actual Election Day.
I think both of those names, they might have the most intensity and passion on the conservative side, but I'm not sure that either one of them is actually going to run.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whose name was omitted? Possibly?
MS. CROWLEY: Sarah Palin.
MS. CLIFT: No, she --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Donald Trump.
MR. BUCHANAN: Trump. But let me tell -- let me say this. If you have no name recognition, John --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: What about Jeb Bush?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jeb Bush!
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Jeb Bush is another name.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was Jeb Bush up there?
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I didn't -- no. I didn't see his name on the list.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think Jeb Bush was up there, wasn't he?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, if you have no name recognition, now is a good time, quite frankly, to get yourself known cheaply with advertising. But somebody like Trump is universally known. He doesn't need it; neither does Gingrich, neither does Palin.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Jeb Bush outlive the negative association with his immediate predecessor?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's a drawback, but I think he's a potential candidate if he ran. That's a real problem for him, though.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: President Reagan was right when he said people don't really focus until right after Labor Day. But the Republicans are going to have to come up with a candidate long before that, and the field is really very weak. MS. CROWLEY: It is true that the president is very vulnerable. I mean, assuming that all things sort of stay true -- the economy stays weak and so on -- he is vulnerable. But the question is you can't beat someone with no one, and right now the Republican presidential field is a bit of a hot mess. So it depends on whether or not you get a dark horse like a Mitch Daniels or a Chris Christie that will come right up the center.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Huckabee? Is Huckabee going to run?
MS. CROWLEY: I don't think so.
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't know if he is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As a talk show host, he's making good money.
MR. BUCHANAN: It doesn't sound like it because he could win the Iowa caucuses if he got in now, John.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but he's -- he's liking his life too much to go through all of that again.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Haley? How does Haley show?
MS. CLIFT: I just don't see an ex-lobbyist, Mississippi governor. I mean, he -- he fits the typecasting too much. And he's said some things that are super insensitive. Super insensitive.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't forget, people can grow.
MS. CLIFT: And I think he's having a lot of fun with it. People like Haley Barbour, and I think he'll liven up the primary (race ?). I'd -- he's not going to get the nomination. (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Listen, I don't think at this stage of the game you can -- you can know who's going to really catch fire in the primaries and who will be good against a Democratic president who is looking weak because the economy is so weak.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sarah Palin scored very low. How do you explain that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Sarah Palin, yes. Well, because she -- every -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, the answer is overexposure.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. people do not think she's qualified to be president.
MS. CROWLEY: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Haley Barbour says defense spending is on the table in terms of budget cuts. Foreign policy and defense may be an issue in the Republican primaries.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow! Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: That's right. The get-out-of-Afghanistan caucus picked up eight Republican votes this week. It's led, of course, by Democrat Dennis Kucinich.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: And I'm saying it with a -- with a smile, but actually I think it's a serious -- it's a serious issue, that pressure on this president to really get out of Afghanistan is building.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica?
MS. CROWLEY: The Muslim Brotherhood will be running the show in Egypt. In fact, they already are.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Xi Jinping will succeed Hu Jintao as the president of China next year.
MR. BUCHANAN: Who? (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ted Strickland will be the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee.