THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; HISHAM MELHEM, AL ARABIYA; MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT TAPED: FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2011 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 21-22, 2011
Copyright (c) 2011 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500 1000 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please visit http://www.fednews.com or call(202)347-1400
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Israel-Palestine Background.
KING ABDULLAH OF JORDAN: (From videotape.) I'm delighted to be back here again to take this opportunity to thank you and your government for the tremendous support that you're showing Jordan economically, and again, your continued interest and support on the core issue of the Middle East, which is the Israeli-Palestinian peace.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The core issue to which King Abdullah refers was laid out two days later by President Obama. On Thursday, the president described his elements of a viable Palestinian-Israeli coexistence as two fully independent states. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also in his formal address, within the U.S. Department of State on Thursday, the president emphasized that the state of Palestine should be fully sovereign and non-militarized.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non- militarized state.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama's strategy reportedly was that of a diplomatic pre-emptive strike on Thursday whereby he would outmaneuver Prime Minister Netanyahu on Friday. The two leaders met at the White House. The prime minister rejected outright President Obama's call to use the 1967 borders.
ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (From videotape.) While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible, because they don't take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is the Israeli-Palestinian problem now back to square one? I ask you, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is as dead as it can be, John. Benjamin Netanyahu, in effect, just trashed the Obama suggestion. Frankly, I think Obama's been grossly misrepresented. He said, obviously, "We started at the borders and there's going to be swaps of land." But Benjamin Netanyahu said basically, "We're not going back to those borders. We're going to keep troops in the Jordan Valley. We've got facts on the ground which are going to remain established facts," which means the settlements.
Quite frankly, John, there is no basis in what Netanyahu said and laid down as his conditions that the Palestinians or the Arabs can accept as a peace. So what we're doing is we're headed straight for the U.N. General Assembly in September, where the Hamas-Fatah combination Palestinian government, I think, will be seated as the government of the state of Palestine.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we don't want that. We don't want that. You know that.
MR. BUCHANAN: President Obama will oppose it in the General Assembly. And if it's in the Security Council, he will. But an overwhelming majority, including most of America's allies, will support it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: That's right. The U.N. will, in effect, bless the Palestinian state and the U.S. will vote against it. And I think what the president was doing to try to head off or to create a new framework about what is inevitable is going to happen at the U.N. And what he put forward is a statement of U.S. policy that has been well- known in private circles since 2000. It was the basis of the agreement that President Clinton negotiated and that many leaders feel that Arafat should have accepted and didn't.
And the reason that Netanyahu is behaving the way he is is he's a weak leader. He's an intransigent right-wing leader who has an unmanageable governing coalition. He can't deliver on this. And the president made every concession. And the land swaps would mean that there would be land for 400,000 of the 480,000 Israeli settlers that have essentially gone into the disputed land.
So, you know, I think you wonder why the president waded into this politically at this point. I think what he said is defensible, and in many ways admirable, but it's not going to move the ball forward at all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hisham Melhem, welcome. What are your observations on this?
MR. MELHEM: I think Netanyahu's vision about peace, to the extent that he has a vision of peace, will never be accepted by the Palestinians or the Arab world or the international community. Netanyahu wants to have a truncated state, Palestinian state, at best. He will always insist on settlement activities to continue. And he will always insist on deploying Israeli forces along the Jordan River. And he would like to see a truncated state that is not necessarily contiguous.
This will make a mockery of any entity that can be called Palestine. I don't think you can -- you're going to see peace reached between the Palestinians, whether they are Fatah and the Hamas in the government or not, with a government led in Israel by Netanyahu.
And I think the tragedy of Israeli politics now is that most of these governments, even those who wanted to have peace more than Netanyahu, like Olmert and others, are hostages to the right wing and religious small parties in Israel that are really dictating and pushing this kind of settlement activities.
The president was extremely correct when he said Israel cannot be a Jewish state while maintaining permanent occupation of a Palestinian community or Palestinian people who are going to resist it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are your observations on the prime minister of Israel's comments that we heard a moment ago? MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you have to put that in the context of what the prime minister said in Israel in a speech he gave there, because that's where he outlined his policy. And frankly, it's different from what was just presented.
He basically said that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean by these three participants?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right. What he said was that they would want to maintain the settlement blocs, which, I might add, was exactly what was proposed by George Bush in 2004 in a letter to Sharon, a letter that was approved by both houses of the Congress. And I might say that that's all that Bibi Netanyahu was asking when he came here. He wanted to have a reaffirmation of what had been promised by the president, the previous president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If that were promised --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's -- it was in a letter to the Israelis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who was fighting that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, what he -- what that letter is that you do not specify the 1967 boundaries or borders as the starting point, OK? Neither, I might add, did the Resolution 242 of the United Nations, which ended the `67 war, OK? It said that, without going into the technical language, that Israel would not have to go back to the 1967 boundaries. So you have a whole history.
And, I might add, these are boundaries that everybody's -- every single Israeli prime minister, including Rabin, said these are neither secure, recognized borders nor defensible borders. And that's what he is talking about. He's gone back to the center of Israeli politics on these issues.
And, I might say, what Bush did, not only -- I mean, excuse me, what President Obama did was completely inconsistent with the possibility of a good negotiation, because the one thing that the Israelis have to deal with the Palestinians, the principal card they have to play, is the issue of borders and the issue of territory, to get such things as an agreement on the Jordan River -- not on the Jordan Valley, on the Jordan River -- to protect from arms being smuggled in; to get a renunciation, finally, of the, quote-unquote, "right of return," which has always been rejected. And therefore --
MR. BUCHANAN: You know, the politics of this, I think, are terrible for Netanyahu. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And therefore, it seems to me what you have now is you take away the single most important issue that Israel has to negotiate with the Palestinians. You're going to make the negotiations much more difficult, which is my main criticism of this thing. Not only should the president not have said this; he shouldn't have said anything, which is the only way they have these negotiations take place --
MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with Mort. He shouldn't have said -- he should not have made this speech, in my judgment, John. But I think Netanyahu has made a terrible mistake. He got up there and he bowled the president of the United States. The president was trying to be accommodating. And he said, "This is it. We're not doing this. We're not doing this. We're not doing this." And he sounded like he was giving directives and orders to the president of the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, wait a minute.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute. Hold on. That's not fair.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you respond to that, don't you think, when the president laid down "This is the way it's going to be," with almost that tone of voice on Thursday, it precipitated the response --
MR. BUCHANAN: The president has been grossly --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute. John, I have to interrupt here.
MR. MELHEM: Even Bush -- even Bush --
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me talk.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have to get involved. Hold on. They sent -- the American government sent a representative to the Israeli government and said to them, "Don't worry, there's going to be nothing serious that you're going to have to worry about in the president's speech." This whole issue of the 1967 borders or boundaries was added at the very end. In effect, they trapped --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Netanyahu.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- Netanyahu. And it undermined the relationship.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's called -- you know what that's called? That's called betrayal.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. That's exactly what they feel. MR. MELHEM: Betrayal of what? Betrayal of what?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Israelis do not feel --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- that they have the Americans at their back for the first time since the founding of the state of Israel. This is, from their point of view --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what you just described goes beyond that. That's betrayal.
MR. MELHEM: Let me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to that?
MR. MELHEM: Sure, sure. Look, in February of 2010, Secretary Clinton essentially made the same statement -- `67 borders with mutually agreed-on swaps. In 2005, President Bush, who you know his pro-Israeli views, he said it should be based on the armistice lines, essentially `67 lines. OK?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MR. MELHEM: So this is nothing new, only that Obama now is articulating it at a time when you have a prime minister --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's new is the settlements.
MR. MELHEM: Yeah, but this is an Israeli prime minister who insists on continuing settlement activities. And this whole business that Mort was referring to, the letter from Bush to Sharon, does not tell -- give the Israelis the right to continue building settlements unopposed. And if you go back and read Dan Kurtzer, who was the American ambassador to Israel, he debunks this whole argument that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know.
MR. MELHEM: -- Mort was using.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know.
MS. CLIFT: As this discussion demonstrates, you practically have to be a Talmudic scholar to go back to all of the permutations of this issue. But I must say, as a reporter, when you talk to people who have worked this issue, the first thing they say to you is the president didn't say anything new, that the previous agreements have all been based on the starting points of those pre-`67 borders. But what he did different was stand up and say it out loud.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well -- MS. CLIFT: This has always been part of private negotiating sessions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There were a couple of squishy words the president used. One was non-militarized state.
What does that mean?
MR. BUCHANAN: Get off of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A non-militarized state.
MS. CLIFT: It means that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It means a state that's geared to go to war. That's one of the alternate meanings.
MR. MELHEM: We've been saying this for years.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is -- everybody agrees --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Mort in here.
MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody agrees with non-militarized --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not true.
MR. BUCHANAN: That's not true? Everybody --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everybody's a little squishy.
MR. BUCHANAN: Palestine has got to be non-militarized.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that mean that they can't have a military?
MR. BUCHANAN: They can't --
MS. CLIFT: The Palestinians disagree with that. (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, absolutely. One of the major issues here is how, since -- if I may point out, Fatah just made a deal with Hamas, which threatens every bit of the existence of the state of Israel and continues to say that. So they are now making a deal with the Hamas that now threatens whatever government is going to exist. So the Israelis have to find some way to deal with that issue. That is critical to what is going on here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Earlier, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Obama has, quote-unquote, "thrown Israel under the bus." Is Romney right?
MR. BUCHANAN: Grossly unfair, grossly exaggerated. What the president of the United States did, in my judgment, John, was restate our position, basically, and say land swaps are coming, which is what's our position been for a long time.
MS. CLIFT: Romney's scoring cheap political points, trying to reach out to the Christian evangelical community, and he should know better.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hisham.
MR. MELHEM: Very transparent. This is the expected noise. This is -- you know, it reminds me of -- you know, Israel's our main (corner ?). Let's put it bluntly. You know, it's very cheap. It's very transparent. It doesn't add anything. And the president of the United States is not throwing Israel under the bus. He's restating well-known American principles on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you share Hisham's views?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No. When the president ran for office, he gave a speech to AIPAC in which he described the borders as secure, recognized and defensible. Not one Israeli -- and nobody disagrees that this does not mean the 1967 borders, because they are neither secure, recognized nor defensible. So he changed his position after running for office and making that speech at AIPAC. So please do not tell me --
MR. BUCHANAN: Nobody said those are final borders.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he throw --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he throw --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me.
MS. CLIFT: He said --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You start from that point, OK? MS. CLIFT: -- it's a starting point.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And it's a very -- the Israelis do not start from that point. They want to start from defense of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he throw Israel under the bus?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know how to describe it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: AIPAC is having a meeting on Sunday.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'll put it this way --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Netanyahu is speaking to the United States Congress on Tuesday.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's Netanyahu going to say to the United States Congress?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He hasn't yet cleared it with me. But if you ask me on Tuesday, I'll give you an answer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is your insight? You know more than you're saying, Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I -- there's nothing I can say on this show, with all due respect. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean because it's so widely watched in Israel.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, it's obviously going to be a very important speech. And I don't know what he's going to do in terms of his final language, based on what has happened, because this was something which was a surprise to the Israelis.
MS. CLIFT: And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it was a blunder on the part of Romney.
Issue Two: IMF Angst.
JOHN LIPSKY (IMF acting managing director): (From videotape.) Obviously some shock and sadness over the events of the past few days, but a very clear recognition of the important responsibilities that have been given to the fund. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Lipsky is the new acting managing director of the International Monetary Fund, the IMF. Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned. Strauss-Kahn is indicted on seven counts of sexual assault.
The just-installed managing director, Lipsky, says the IMF 24- member executive board will move quickly to replace Strauss-Kahn. But the selection process may turn out to be long rather than short. Competition is building with notables such as former head of the U.K. Gordon Brown and French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.
But a growing lobby of developing economies wants the new managing director to come from a non-European country, particularly since Europe has filled the job since the IMF began 65 years ago in 1946. That lobby includes Brazil, India, Japan, and technically China. Another growing lobby of developed countries from Europe want the tradition of a European managing director to be continued. They say that because of difficulties with debt among Western European economies -- namely, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain -- the European tradition should remain in place.
Question: Is a non-European IMF director a wise idea at this juncture? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: It certainly is not, John. The reason is the IMF is the mechanism through which the Europeans are funneling American dollars to bail out Greece, Portugal and the other countries of Europe -- Ireland -- which are, in actuality, bailouts of those banks.
A lot of the Third World countries or developing countries, they're saying, you know, the westerners have had the IMF for a long time. They use it as their private piggy bank. They don't give us the same deals they give to Greece and Portugal." The Europeans have got to have it. And I can tell you, they're going to keep it. Christine Lagarde is very able. She's first in line. She's basically --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Gordon?
MR. BUCHANAN: Gordon Brown has been killed by Cameron. He's gone, and he ain't going to get it. But I'll tell you, she's got a little bit of a problem --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He knows the science pretty well. MR. BUCHANAN: He doesn't get along with the prime minister of Great Britain, John. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? What are your thoughts?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do agree. It's absolutely going to be a European, because many of the European countries are in trouble. It's not just Greece and Portugal. It's Italy and it's any number of -- why am I drawing a blank?
MR. BUCHANAN: Club Med. (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And they are in terrible shape. And the German banks in particular are critical and Germany and England are critical for this, and they are going to spend all of their money ,a huge amount of money, because, in fact, as Pat says, it really is bailing out the European banks. So we must have a European.
MR. MELHEM: Look, all of these post-Second World War institutions, international institutions -- IMF --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not the World Bank.
MR. MELHEM: -- World Bank --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. MELHEM: The Security Council should be reviewed because of the changing reality -- economic reality, strategic reality, political reality. Now we have Brazil. You have India. You have China and South Africa. You have all of these nations you have to accommodate.
I'm not saying that this time the IMF director is not going to be from Europe. Probably the Europeans, who created all this mess, you know --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think the tendency of these international institutions to bloat, to feed on themselves, to expand --
MR. MELHEM: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to multiply with bureaucrats --
MR. MELHEM: Yeah, but that's the world as it is today, not in 1946. This is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You look at the five divisions of the World Bank, for example. Are they duplicating each other? Are they giving out cushy jobs?
MR. MELHEM: Of course they do that. They do that at the U.N. They do it at IMF. They do it at the World Bank. We do it in American bureaucracies. That's another issue. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is the big overseer of these international institutions? Do they oversee themselves? Do they answer to themselves?
MR. MELHEM: As long as they are transparent --
MS. CLIFT: Because --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Ultimately their governments.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Ultimately it's their governments --
MS. CLIFT: Because --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- because the governments have to provide the funding.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they awarded to the candidates rather than the candidates who fill the jobs --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a deal.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. Look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- being able to fill them?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Strauss-Kahn was a brilliant manager of the IMF --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's an historic deal, John.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- and he was an extraordinarily talented --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He saved the IMF.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He saved it, and he was playing an amazing role in trying to save the European banking system, which is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he save himself?
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. I don't think -- I think he's got a few problems.
MS. CLIFT: Because of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What makes you think that? MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, since I'm involved with a tabloid newspaper, I've concluded that he definitely has a few problems, John.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't want to go into this because yours is a family show. But his, shall we say, personal life certainly is going to dominate his professional ability.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This show is more like a Mafia family, when it comes right down to it.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, no, I wouldn't call it that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. I think there are people there who are really --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a new world order.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's the -- (inaudible)?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But the question is, these are people who are --
MS. CLIFT: You are, John. You are. But because of Strauss- Kahn's really abhorrent and gross behavior, the IMF -- everybody's now taking cheap shots at the IMF. But they've been doing a very good job in Europe. And the Europeans are overrepresented on the board, and so that will -- and the Greeks are cheering at Strauss-Kahn's downfall, because he really put together a package that's making them very unhappy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Given the global economic meltdown we just experienced, can you make the case that the IMF is ineffective and unnecessary? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, our friend Bill Simon, Milton Friedman and George Shultz 10 years ago said it should be abolished, John. We closed the gold window in 1971.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: It was established to maintain the values of currency and to loan money for people who had balance-of-payments problems.
MS. CLIFT: No, it -- MR. BUCHANAN: Bretton Woods is dead.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did those individuals feel the same way that they did earlier?
MR. BUCHANAN: Two of them are dead.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The remaining three.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll go with what we've got. What are they saying? What are they saying?
MR. BUCHANAN: Talk to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does Milton say? What is Milton saying?
MR. BUCHANAN: Milton's dead. Talk to George Shultz. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: And the gold standard is dead too.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: If the IMF didn't exist --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MS. CLIFT: -- we'd have to create it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. I'll give you five seconds -- five seconds. That's all we've got. What do you think?
MR. MELHEM: I think it's still necessary, but it should be reformed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Reformed.
MR. MELHEM: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Reformed.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: This conversation is dead, John. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Reformed and kept?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No -- reformed to a degree, but absolutely essential right now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely essential. Issue Three: Hey Newt, what's Newt?
FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER AND 2012 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NEWT GINGRICH: (From videotape.) I'm Newt Gingrich, and I'm announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives, officially announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential race 15 months from now.
Four days after the announcement, on Sunday, Gingrich attacked Wisconsin Republican Congressman and the chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan. Gingrich criticized Ryan's plan to reform Medicare. Under the current Medicare system, the federal government uses tax dollars to pay for health care for the elderly. Under the Ryan plan, Medicare pays for a portion of the premium for insurance that is sold by private insurance companies. Ryan calls it, quote- unquote, "premium support." But Gingrich calls it, quote-unquote, "radical."
Gingrich also likened the Ryan plan to "Obamacare."
MR. GINGRICH: (From videotape.) I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why did Gingrich malign Paul Ryan? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't know I'd call it maligning. Gingrich actually spoke the truth. The Ryan plan is radical. It is right-wing social engineering. The public hates it. And now the Republicans have made it a test of purity. You've got to support that. It's great politics for Democrats because people do not want to end Medicare as we know it. But actually, a bigger fun story with Gingrich is his $500,000 bill at Tiffany's.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two hundred fifty (thousand dollars).
MS. CLIFT: Oh, he whittled it down to $250 (thousand)? OK.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know, but that was the range I saw.
MS. CLIFT: Well, Jon Stewart said it's because he's buying diamond wedding rings in bulk. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, is that a fair rap?
MS. CLIFT: Well, it's a story that people will remember.
We've got to have some fun in politics, John, after all.
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what happened to Newt, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the bill?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. When --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Tiffany's, or what?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, Tiffany's, I think that's been paid. But, look, here's what happened to Newt. What he did is he saw the polls showing that the Medicare proposal is unpopular, so he goes on television and he trashes the position 235 Republicans have put themselves on the line for and then knocks the individual mandate, which they are trying to get repealed. He says that's a pretty good idea. I've never seen a candidate have a worse opening week in a presidential campaign.
MR. MELHEM: His campaign imploded before it began, really. And I think he was playing to the crowds in Iowa, because he knew that the seniors in Iowa are opposed to the way Ryan's radical program is going to undermine them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about the crowds across the United States? They don't want Medicare fiddled with.
MR. MELHEM: That's right, sure. And I think Newt correctly sensed that. And I think Eleanor is right. I think the plan --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that --
MR. MELHEM: -- is radical unless the plan serves as the beginning of a serious debate about entitlements.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, let's get Ryan's reaction.
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI): (From videotape.) With allies like that, who needs the left?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That day Gingrich faced this uncomplimentary suggestion in Iowa. (Begin videotaped segment.)
IOWA REPUBLICAN: You're an embarrassment to our party.
MR. GINGRICH: I'm sorry you feel that way.
IOWA REPUBLICAN: Why don't you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself.
(End videotaped segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One day later, Tuesday, May 17, came the Gingrich walk-back.
MR. GINGRICH: (From videotape.) I made a mistake. And I called Paul Ryan today, who's a very close personal friend, and I said that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think of that criticism of that gentleman confronting --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a very, very rough thing to have on film, a real authentic voter saying that to you in a Republican gathering, John. It doesn't get worse than that.
MS. CLIFT: No, the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he's already demolished?
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think he -- I don't think he's going to win the nomination. I didn't think he had a great chance. But I think his chances are close to zero.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has this been a demolition derby for --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, he really is a man of ideas in politics, Newt is. He's a very smart guy. And I think he's just eliminated whatever moral suasion and intellectual suasion he would have on the Republican Party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: He's got thick skin, and he's going to really need it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: President Obama will give an address before the Knesset before the end of this year. Yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: No way.
MS. CLIFT: No, but he will go to Israel before November `12. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. MELHEM: No way. No way.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes. (Laughter.)