THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: JAMES PETHOKOUKIS, REUTERS BREAKINGVIEWS; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; JAMES ZOGBY, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE TAPED: FRIDAY, MAY 6, 2011 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 7-8, 2011
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Enemy Killed in Action.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda's leader and symbol and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al Qaeda.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Osama bin Laden was the most wanted terrorist in human history. For a decade, he had successfully eluded arrest, despite a manhunt that spanned the entire planet -- thousands of U.S. troops, satellite technology, interrogations in secret prisons and police forces from around the world. Last Sunday, May 1, the manhunt ended. U.S. Navy SEALs executed bin Laden in his compound in Pakistan, 35 miles north of Islamabad, the town called Abbottabad.
(Begin videotaped segment.)
JOHN BRENNAN (White House counterterrorism adviser): He was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house that he was in, and it was determined that it was in the best interest of all involved that this burial take place, again, according to Islamic requirements at sea.
Q: The woman that was killed was bin Laden's wife?
MR. BRENNAN: That's, again, my understanding.
(End videotaped segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney revised the account one day later.
JAY CARNEY (White House press secretary): (From videotape.) In a room with bin Laden, a woman, bin Laden's -- a woman, rather, bin Laden's wife, rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg, but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.
Bin Laden was shot once in the chest and once above his left eye. Osama's DNA has been identified. But much of the Muslim world still believes bin Laden is alive. The White House says a record of the Sunday assault on the Osama compound, photographs of bin Laden's corpse and a video of his burial at sea do exist. But President Obama has not authorized their release.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool. You know, that's not who we are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question. We are fighting against al Qaeda. What do we gain in that fight from the execution of Osama bin Laden? And will President Obama be forced to prove that Osama is, in fact, dead? James.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: I just checked with the White House press office. They're still pretty sure he's dead. (Laughs.) I have great confidence that he is, more than likely, still dead. Listen --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a joke.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: It is a joke. It is a joke.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, what you're saying is a joke. MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Yes, I am.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's jocular.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: What's not a joke is that good riddance to him that he's gone. This is a huge moment in the fight against terror. We've had a lot of good moments. We've had this Arab spring. The popularity of bin Ladenism has been on the decline for the past few years.
Remember, what have all military and foreign-policy experts been telling us for a decade? That this is a long war. That al Qaeda is not a vertical organization; it's a horizontal organization. It's a key moment, but I think it's really more the end of the beginning than the beginning of the end.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, Al Jazeera, which is the premier Arab-language network, is reporting the death of bin Laden as fact. And apparently a spokesperson for al Qaeda in Cairo is saying yes, he's dead, and vowing retaliation against the U.S. So I think that releasing the pictures at this point would not convince anybody who's not already convinced.
And with the Middle East going through such stark transformation, the greatest since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, you don't want to produce what the president called a propaganda tool. It would be like, you know, pouring gasoline on the fire. And I think what's most interesting is that young people who have taken to the streets in the Middle East are not looking to bin Laden and al Qaeda. They want a more modern future. And he -- bin Laden has really been a sideshow. He's really an echo of a time that's past.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, let's do a little history here and see the bin Laden rap sheet.
2001 -- the 9/11 attacks, nearly 3,000 people were killed at the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the World Trade Center.
2000 -- the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. Seventeen Americans were killed.
1998 -- the bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania; 12 Americans killed.
1996 -- the bombing of the U.S. military housing complex, Khobar Towers; 19 Americans killed.
What do you think of all this? MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, Osama bin Laden was certainly the most prominent Islamic jihadi leader. He had the most success in terms of killing Americans and killing westerners.
He was able to organize this group called al Qaeda, which means the base, in order to carry out, in a systematic way, these kinds of terrorist acts against the United States and against the West.
I think it's also important to note, though, that I think that the president is mistaken and shortsighted if he limits the enemy simply to al Qaeda. Yes, of course, al Qaeda is a very violent threat, both to us and to our allies in Europe and elsewhere.
But we also need to keep in mind that this jihadi enemy is much bigger than al Qaeda. It comes in a lot of different forms. It comes in the form of the violent jihad, and it also comes in the form of the stealth jihad, in the form of the Muslim brotherhood and other infiltrating kinds of groups.
So we need to understand that while we are fighting this war geographically in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, we also need to be fighting this war ideologically.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that view that al Qaeda extends beyond the al Qaeda we just indicated in that rap sheet?
MR. ZOGBY: Al Qaeda is al Qaeda, and it's the group that bin Laden formed and it is the problem that we have had to deal with now, as you note here, for many years.
The distance between us and the Muslim world, or in particular in some cases the Arab world, continues to grow. It has not narrowed. Arab spring has not won us great friends anywhere. And it's somewhat seen in the way that this killing has been reflected in Arab thinking.
You have many counter-narratives to our narrative being developed. Some say he wasn't killed, although that's a minority view. Many say that he was assassinated, that he was executed and was ready to surrender. There are others who say that Zawahiri set him up because Zawahiri had a counter-approach to al Qaeda and wanted to assume leadership, all of it reflecting the fact that we are not trusted and we are not believed in the region.
We have a big problem in the region. It's not just al Qaeda, but it's also not the other Muslim groups. It's our credibility. And I think that, to some degree, the way this story has played out here, the multiple tellings of it haven't helped our credibility in this regard.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the non-disclosure rule imposed by Obama for the time being?
MR. ZOGBY: At the point where he said it, it was absolutely necessary to shut it down, because they were digging a hole deeper every single damn day by telling stories that were being -- then changed the day after; and not showing the pictures, absolutely the right thing to do. A mutilated face of a guy that was hated, yes, but also was a human being, would not have been taken well in the region, and probably wouldn't have been believed by those who weren't ready to believe it, just as people here weren't ready to believe the birth certificate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What kind of encouragement does this want to give the wannabe jihadists? Do you follow me?
MR. ZOGBY: Look, because a guy goes postal in a post office and shoots up fellow employees doesn't mean that the guy walking up your front steps is going to be shooting at you. But the grievances remain and have to be dealt with. There are grievances throughout this region. We have to learn what they are and deal with them. We're not doing that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jim.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Listen, Bernard Lewis once said --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He being an Israeli scholar.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: He being an Islamic scholar --
MS. CROWLEY: No, Islamic scholar.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Islamic scholar.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: He said it is impossible for those who are powerful and successful to be loved by those who are not. So I think not releasing the photos, worrying about our perception in the Middle East, where is that getting us? What's going on with the Arab spring is really happening independent of us. It's reacting to broader globalization trends. So whether we release a photo or not, that's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president -- we didn't play the bite, I don't think. I don't think it included the words "national security." But the president appealed to national security in the "60 Minutes" interview that's coming up on Sunday night. When the president of the United States, the commander in chief, uses the words "national security" and the logic behind them, then we have to really consent to that without any further questioning. Is that true? MS. CLIFT: Well, we always question in a democracy. But this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the press does.
MS. CLIFT: This is a judgment call, and the president's judgment is that this would create blow-back and that it's not essential to release these pictures. What problem would it solve? No problem. I don't think it's a decision for all time. I think in a (poorer ?) society like this, these pictures will at some point --
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Do Americans matter? If we had --
MS. CLIFT: Why do you need to see these pictures?
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: -- (inaudible) -- 10 years ago, does that matter at all that we can see --
MR. ZOGBY: Do you need to see the pictures?
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: I would like to see the photographs.
MS. CLIFT: It's voyeurism, primarily, on the part of people like Jim or James.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's let Monica in.
MS. CROWLEY: To Jim's point here about the credibility of the United States in the Middle East, the burden should not be on the United States. We were attacked on 9/11. Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States long before that. The burden should be on the Muslim world to know that this is not a violent culture, that this is not a violent religion. The burden should not be on us, number one.
Number two, because we were hit on 9/11, I understand the bin Laden picture may not be pretty, but you know what wasn't pretty? Photographs of our fellow Americans jumping from the 103rd floor.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: We're giving an opportunity for them not to react.
MS. CROWLEY: You fight war --
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: We're giving them an opportunity not to react.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, hold on. Let her finish.
Did you finish?
MS. CROWLEY: I said if you're going to fight the war, then fight the war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, James. MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Listen, whether it's cartoons, other media articles they don't like --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to --
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Why not show the photos?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to pick it up and air it? Al Jazeera will pick it up and air it. That will have an incitational -- it will stimulate --
MR. ZOGBY: Absolutely. And there's no point to it, no benefit served. Ask yourself the question, if the president says national security, I think he's on the right track. And, in fact, the way he went to Ground Zero was a model -- a lesson for the rest of us; be dignified in the way we deal with this and the families who have suffered the most, and do not operate like a drunken frat party, because that's not the message --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Hold on. That's not --
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: (Inaudible) -- the Arabian Sea. Why not return it, bury it, let it be a shrine?
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, but Saudi Arabia, which was the country of his birth, refused to take the body. And would you like a shrine to bin Laden in this country?
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: No, but listen, we're so concerned --
MS. CLIFT: Burial at sea --
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: If we're so concerned about the reaction, why not --
MS. CLIFT: Burial at sea -- excuse me. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: You know, what is the --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I get to finish my sentence. Burial at sea is an established way of --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James, will you please hold your fire?
MS. CLIFT: Would you please hold up? It's where life began. And decomposing in the ocean is not a bad way to go, especially for a murderer.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Is that part of Muslim theology, what you just described? Is that the reason --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, James, please. Hold on. You've got to preserve the civility of Pat Buchanan, all right? (Laughter.)
MR. ZOGBY: I may be the one guy here with a Ph.D. in Islamic studies. I could help you out.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: I would like to hear it.
MS. CROWLEY: Good.
MR. ZOGBY: And I would also say let's not use Bernard Lewis as an expert on anything related to the Muslim world at all.
MS. CROWLEY: He is an expert. He's a scholar at Princeton.
MR. ZOGBY: But --
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: I think he's an expert with much wisdom to be --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to make a point?
MR. ZOGBY: It's exactly the wisdom that got us into the Iraq war and used the logic of shock and awe that have provoked multiple --
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Listen, wasn't it bin Ladenism in the Iraq war that cut into his popularity, the mass slaughter?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will radical Islam, as a movement, die with bin Laden, or will it have a second life under new leaders? James Pethokoukis. MR. PETHOKOUKIS: This is a multigenerational conflict.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: There are various al Qaeda franchises, and there's some self-radicalization that goes on even among Americans. So, no, this does not die out. But I think al Qaeda was a sideshow in the Middle East in recent years, and I think good riddance to it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it die?
MS. CROWLEY: The jihadi ideology is much bigger than any one man, including Osama bin Laden. We have to understand that this fight is nowhere near over, not even close. It will reconstitute itself. And also keep your eye on the Middle East, because what you're seeing is the Muslim Brotherhood right under the radar running most of these revolutions at that point. That's another significant jihadi threat in a different form.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jim.
MR. ZOGBY: Wow.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to relate this to what's happening in the Arab spring?
MS. CLIFT: Why don't you address the Muslim Brotherhood --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Tunisia and Egypt --
MS. CLIFT: -- and the way that they have --
MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, in Egypt and Syria.
MR. ZOGBY: Conflating the Muslim Brotherhood with al Qaeda is pretty dangerous stuff, because --
MS. CROWLEY: Well, their ends are the same. Their tactics are different.
MR. ZOGBY: Their actually ends are not the same, and I think it would be wrong to do so. I'm not a fan of the Muslim Brotherhood. As a Christian Lebanese, it means I certainly don't want them running my country. But they're not a movement like al Qaeda, and I think it's important to distinguish that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it will die?
MR. ZOGBY: We're going to have to be dealing with them as a matter of governance in several countries. It doesn't make me happy about it, but the fact is that we don't deal with them the way we dealt with Osama bin Laden. If we start sending assassination squads to get elected --
MS. CROWLEY: I didn't say that. I said that --
MR. ZOGBY: But the point is that if you conflate them --
MS. CROWLEY: -- the Islamist threat comes in a lot of different forms, Jim.
MR. ZOGBY: -- and you see them as the same, then what you're doing is establish a black-and-white scenario --
MS. CROWLEY: No, that's not what I was doing.
MR. ZOGBY: -- no gray in the middle. And there's a lot of gray here.
MS. CROWLEY: That's not what I was doing. I'm saying that the enemy --
MR. ZOGBY: And we need to understand it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it going to die with the death of Osama?
MR. ZOGBY: Al Qaeda will not die, because there's a whole lot of other groups out there who are in the image of bin Laden in Yemen, in North Africa, in Iraq and elsewhere, and in Lebanon as well, who dealt a terrible blow to Lebanon a few years ago.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: And the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think Osama was the soul of the movement, and I think it's going to be pretty close to death.
Issue Two: Foreign Policy Reset?
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From videotape.) Diplomacy would be a lot easier if we only had to talk to our friends. But that is not how one makes peace.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Some see Osama bin Laden's death as a turning point that the U.S. can seize to its advantage. One, accelerated Afghanistan troop drawdown. U.S. diplomacy, coupled with U.S. dollars and other inducements, could tear apart the Taliban from the more radical al Qaeda zealots. A deal with the Karzai regime governing Afghanistan would permit the U.S. to reduce its 100,000 troops earlier than the scheduled withdrawal date in 2014, roughly three and two-thirds years from now; namely, two thirds left in 2011, all of 2012, all of 2013, and all of 2014.
Two, intensify the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The good news from Israel is that the Palestinians are recently unified. The Hamas component and the Fatah component have come together. That means that President Obama has an opening to push through a two-state long-sought Middle East peace solution.
Three, transpose U.S. policy priorities. If the U.S. can trim the $100 billion per month spent on our world military effort, the U.S. could convert a portion of that huge disbursement into helping democratic restructurings, now transforming Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain. Money, yes; troops, no.
Question: Has bin Laden's death given the United States an opening to reassess our policies in the Middle East? Is this the time to beat swords into plowshares? Monica Crowley.
MS. CROWLEY: No. This war is nowhere near over. But again, there are different geographical corners of this war. Now, I think what bin Laden's death will do is give President Obama an opening to do what he's wanted to do all along in Afghanistan, which is draw down our troop presence, lower our footprint there, and perhaps fight that war in a more effective way, with Special Operations units and that kind of thing. The other assessment --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good idea? Good idea?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes, I'm going in that direction now, that we should have a leaner, more tighter force in Afghanistan.
The other thing that needs to be reassessed, of course, is our relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan is a nuclear-armed country, and we know now that tensions, which were always running high even before last weekend and the take-down of bin Laden, are now even more strained because the Pakistani government has to answer. Either they knew bin Laden was there or they didn't, in which case, after getting $3 billion a year to combat terrorism and this kind of thing, they're going to have to answer for that as well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.
MR. ZOGBY: I think you laid out a wonderful agenda in the opening -- in the lead. And it's not that, now that we've gotten bin Laden, we now can -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can build on it?
MR. ZOGBY: -- can build on it, but it's not that we got him. It's out of the way. We ought to recognize that and now deal with these other priorities that have been ignored too long, including, at this point, with the development of some emerging democracies in the Middle East, the enormity of the aid requirements that are there on the ground.
We face the danger of Egypt and Tunisia going south if, in fact, we don't help create jobs and don't help bring the benefits of revolution to these people, who are going to say, after a period of time, "I want the old stuff back, because I didn't get anything out of this."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we get out of Afghanistan?
MR. ZOGBY: I think, of course, we can. And I think the idea that Secretary Clinton proposed is not just one for Afghanistan, but ought to be a model for our engagement throughout the entire Middle East.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know how many lives we've lost in Afghanistan?
MR. ZOGBY: American lives? About 1,500.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One thousand five hundred.
MR. ZOGBY: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know how much money we've spent over there?
MR. ZOGBY: Way more than Afghans --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More than a trillion?
MR. ZOGBY: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: It --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: About a trillion dollars?
MR. ZOGBY: No, it's not that much, actually, but it's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: About $800 billion?
MR. ZOGBY: It's too much.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Too much?
MR. ZOGBY: Whatever it is is too much.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, we have to get out of there, don't you think?
MR. ZOGBY: I think so. And I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we establish a government that would be workable under Karzai?
MR. ZOGBY: I don't think we can do that ourselves, but what we can do is do what we should have --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why can't we do it?
MR. ZOGBY: We should create a regional contact group that actually begins -- the fact -- look, the fact that from the very first day we said, under Holbrooke, that we're going to take the India- Pakistan thing off the table and not talk about it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard what she said.
MR. ZOGBY: -- was a huge mistake. They have to have a cooperative relationship in order for Afghanistan to move forward.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking with the Taliban that are not al Qaeda. What percentage of the Taliban is not al Qaeda, like 90 percent?
MR. ZOGBY: That's something we don't know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: About 90 percent?
MR. ZOGBY: All of them aren't. But the question is, which part of them would have supported al Qaeda or the relationship? It's Mullah Omar who has a personal, even familial, tie with al Qaeda.
MS. CLIFT: Look, it's getting --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She thinks they are discussable with.
MR. ZOGBY: Well, and so does Karzai.
MS. CLIFT: It's -- getting bin Laden gives the president more credibility, and therefore more running room, on foreign policy. There's very little rationale for the war in Afghanistan. There are fewer than 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit --
MS. CLIFT: And the war is really about Pakistan. And now he's got some leverage with Pakistan because bin Laden was hiding in plain sight. And if they want to keep that aid flowing, which they do, there's a little more incentive to cooperate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.
MS. CLIFT: And so it's positive.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James, you can work in your point here. What point are we at in our relations with the Muslim world? Is it a pivot point? Yes or no, James.
MR. PETHOKOUKIS: I think more important is whether it's a pivot point in all these countries, whether these, you know, fledgling democratic capitalist movements are really going to blossom. And my point is that I think what's going to help in Afghanistan is eventually the Chinese are going to come in, and that money -- that tens and hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan going after their mineral wealth is going to smooth over a lot of these differences. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: The administration ought to push the oil-rich states to set up a funding bank to help countries like Egypt, because tourism is dead, and they're going to have trouble paying their bills. And if Egypt doesn't succeed from the western point of view, and from their point of view, that sets a very negative tone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: Two points. In the Middle East we're at a critical turning-point moment here. It could fall to the Islamists. We've got to be very careful about how we manage this. I wish we were more on top of this. And the second thing we haven't discussed is Iran.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.
MR. ZOGBY: I think the president has said it correctly, and that is, if we don't solve the Arab-Israeli conflict --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a pivot point?
MR. ZOGBY: We're not at a pivot point, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we are at a pivot point. I think we can continue with this military effort or I think we can disengage and go diplomatically.
Issue Three: Perfectly Executed.
REP. PETER KING (R-NY): (From videotape.) Let me, as a Republican, give President Obama tremendous credit for what was done. He's the commander in chief. This was an amazingly successful military operation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Republican chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Peter King, tipped his hat this week to President Obama. This accolade has special import, in particular because of Chairman Peter King's congressional hearing in March on Islamic radicals living within the United States.
The president drew praise from all sectors of the political spectrum; e.g., House Speaker Republican John Boehner and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, another Republican. The successful Navy SEALs mission erased the criticism that shadowed Mr. Obama since his candidacy for president, namely that he was not up to the job of commander in chief, as some have said.
The decision to raid the bin Laden compound made the president look exactly what he is; namely, the commander in chief. The decision also led to a major jump in his approval rating. A CBS/New York Times poll has his approval rating at 57 percent. That's an 11-point jump from just two weeks ago. But not all the numbers for President Obama are good. On the economy, his numbers are not good. Fifty-five percent of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling the economy; 34 percent of Americans approve.
Question: Will the bounce in Obama's positive approval rating endure through the 2012 election? Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: Well, it may not even endure through next week, John. We'll have to see. Look, in 1992, a little-known southern governor named Bill Clinton was able to defeat George Herbert Walker Bush, who was at 92 percent job approval following the first Persian Gulf war, because he honed in on one simple slogan: "It's the economy, stupid."
And this week we got some mixed economic numbers. The unemployment rate went back up to 9 percent; gas prices still high; inflation on food and energy continue to climb. Americans essentially vote with their wallets. They vote kitchen-table issues. And so while this is a huge victory for the United States --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CROWLEY: -- and for his presidency, the economic issues will trump everything else.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: I think it's probably fleeting, because these are the times that we live in. But we got a very good jobs report, 200 and, I think, 64 (thousand) or 67 thousand jobs created in the month of April, and they revised upward previous months as well. So it looks like the economic picture is beginning to jell. And that's primarily what the president will be judged on.
But what this puts to rest is the Republican narrative that this is a president who is not decisive, who leads from behind. And I don't think they can say that anymore. It really gives him foreign- policy creds, not only with the Republican Party, as it should, but with the American people. So I think this is a decisive moment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your read on this, Jim Zogby?
MR. ZOGBY: Well, he got a bounce in particular from independents, who are taking a second look. And I think that was an important constituency he needed to move.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Controlling constituency. MR. ZOGBY: He's not going to get Republicans at all. The numbers there are going to stay bad, because there's simply not a generous soul on that side of the aisle, unfortunately. Bush failing at 9/11, right; Democrats came after his appearance at Ground Zero and overwhelmingly gave him positive ratings. Republicans can't bring themselves to give the guy positive ratings at all under any circumstances.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about the left liberals, or progressives, as they want to call themselves?
MR. ZOGBY: He's got problems there. I don't think they're going to vote against him. They may not be as enthused as they were.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have nowhere to go.
MR. ZOGBY: Nowhere to go, but he really needs to work a little harder there. And I think he knows it, and I think the party knows it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Happy Mother's Day. Bye-bye.