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The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Patrick Buchanan, MSNBC; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Michelle Bernard, MSNBC; Mortimer Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report Taped: Friday, August 5, 2011 Broadcast: Weekend of August 6-7, 2011

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Black Thursday.

The bad news: The U.S. stock market plunged 512 points on Thursday. The sell-off was practically worldwide.

What's happening in the economy, both in this country and worldwide? Pat.

PATRICK BUCHANAN: Several things, John. First is the perception that the United States economy may be headed into a double-dip recession, the largest on earth. Secondly, China, Japan and Europe are not growing the way they should, and they're not going to be able to pick up the slack. Third, and most important, what happened in Europe on Thursday or the day before is the perception that Italy, the third-largest Eurozone economy, and Spain, the fourth-largest, neither of them may be able to pay back their debts.

The contagion had spread from the smaller ones, Ireland, Greece and Portugal. And that was a real disaster. But on Friday, there was a move back up when the European Central Bank, as Mort will explain, indicated it may step in big-time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Spain?

MR. BUCHANAN: Spain is one of the problem areas, and Italy is a problem area as well. Italy's much further down the road in real trouble, John, because they've got the second-largest debt per capita, I think, of the major economies in Europe and the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: I think this particular contagion started in Europe, and we've just caught some of the European flu. And I think when the job numbers came out Friday morning and they were better than expected as opposed to worse than expected, I think people felt that the 500-point drop didn't necessarily signal that the U.S. economy was heading straight down.

But we've still got big problems. And the Congress averted disaster by raising the debt ceiling, but they didn't do a lot to help this economy recover. And it was a pretty sad day when you see the president bullied by a minority of a minority on Capitol Hill to come up with a deal that really doesn't help the economy as it exists today, but focuses entirely on deficit reduction at a time when we shouldn't be doing deficit reduction. And we have a Congress that refuses to do any of the stimulus spending that we need. So it looks like we're in for a real stalemate here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me pick up some of that. Some good news: The U.S. unemployment for last month, July, was down one tenth of 1 percent -- 9.1 percent in July from 9.2 percent in June. That's unemployment. Also relatively good news on U.S. jobs -- 117,000 jobs created in July.

Question: Does this good news on Friday, relatively speaking, offset Thursday's bad news? I ask you. And welcome, by the way.

MICHELLE BERNARD: Thank you very much.

It offsets it to some degree. But, I mean, if you really take a look at the numbers, I guess one can be excited because the numbers were not -- they were not any lower. But, quite frankly, we really need sustained economic growth in this country. Most people will tell you we need 120,000 jobs per month added to the economy. And so, frankly speaking, it's good news and it's not so great news also. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Default, no. Double dip, maybe.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) It shouldn't take the risk of default, the risk of economic catastrophe, to get folks in this town to work together and do their jobs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The national nightmare is over. The debt ceiling was raised from $14.3 trillion to $16.7 trillion this week. So U.S. government entitlement checks to American citizens will go out on time -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.

The president, along with the Congress and the nation, were calmed.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) It was a long and contentious debate. And I want to thank the American people for keeping up the pressure on their elected officials to put politics aside.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, sir. Politics has not gone away. The law that just passed that raises the debt ceiling also cuts the national debt by bringing into being what has become identified as a kind of supercommittee. That supercommittee is tasked with creating a bill to cut the debt over the next 10 years by $1.5 trillion. Twelve lawmakers, six Republicans and six Democrats, will serve on the panel. A simple majority, seven out of 12, must vote yes on the supercommittee bill so it can reach the full Congress for a final vote.

But even if the Congress fails to pass the bill -- get this -- it makes no difference, because an automatic trigger will go into effect. That means if Congress votes no, the national debt will still be reduced through automatic cuts worth $1.2 trillion. Half of those cuts would come from defense, half from domestic programs, including Medicare.

Here are the deadlines: August the 16th, Democratic leaders Reid and Pelosi and Republican leaders McConnell and Boehner each choose three members; December 23rd, Congress must hold a final vote on passing the bill.

Mort, can you put all that together?

MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, it all goes to the fact that we have a very weak economy. We have a huge deficit to try and get the economy out of a major recession. We did have a huge deficit. We had the most stimulative fiscal and monetary policy in our history, and yet the economy is still weak. We're still struggling with that.

These unemployment numbers that you refer to are not nearly as positive as you would think, because they do basically reflect people withdrawing from the labor force rather than a lot of increases in new jobs. Just to give you an illustration on that -- this is called the labor participation rate -- the number of people looking for a job were the same as it was when Obama passed the original stimulus program.

If you extrapolate it to today, the unemployment rate wouldn't be 9.1; it would be 12 percent. It's only because these people have left the labor force. We have got to find some way to get out of this terrible bind with unemployment continuing to grow and without the ability to do anything about it because of the level of our deficits and debts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me stay with Mort on this for a minute. The supercommittee and that automatic trigger --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- which is going to automatically -- independently of any vote that takes place, it's going to trigger $1.2 trillion in the reduction of the debt.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The national debt has not gone away.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's now at $14.4 trillion.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a huge debt.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is going to automatically trigger the reduction of that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It doesn't have to. Congress cannot be foreclosed from doing what it wants to by the year 2013. It simply can't do it, OK? So it is likely to start that program, but it's completely --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does the size of the national debt worry you? MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course. Of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should it worry everybody?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. It's going to be unsustainable. What we're going to have is a situation in which so much money is going to go to service the debt --

MS. CLIFT: We --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you this.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just finish. It's going to really be a dead weight on the economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you this. For Obama to move in this direction, as he seems to have done, he's pivoted rather remarkably, and some people say ideologically. Do you see this as a new presentation of --

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- himself?

MS. CLIFT: We need to quit talking about the deficit. The deficit is not the primary concern.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear what he just said?

MS. CLIFT: I did, and I reject it. It is not the primary --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's talking about the national debt. The deficit is the current-account deficit for this year.

MS. CLIFT: The deficit would be a problem if government borrowing were crowding out private investment. It's not. Our corporations are sitting there with a ton of money. It's a matter of confidence. There is no confidence in our ability to govern. And members of Congress -- what was emblematic of their problem is the FAA stalemate this week. They were ready to go on vacation and --

MR. BUCHANAN: They solved it.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me -- and lose $3 million a day. Finally they were shamed into acting.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about the federal aviation authority.

MS. CLIFT: That's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not affecting travel. MR. BUCHANAN: Right. John, let's get back to the --

MS. CLIFT: No. But it's --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- supercommittee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: If everybody's so worried about the deficit, why would you give up all those funds over some ideological point?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let's go back to the supercommittee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's go back to the supercommittee, a big deal.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, here's the thing. The supercommittee will be deadlocked for this reason. If they try to raise taxes, the House will kill it. If they don't put any taxes in it, the Senate will kill it. It will be deadlocked. The $1.2 trillion doomsday machine comes into effect --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- which means $600 billion out of defense plus the $400 billion already. The Pentagon is in panic, John, because this is going to put Republican fiscal hawks into a huge battle with the security hawks like McCain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's the new head of the Pentagon?

MR. BUCHANAN: The new head of the Pentagon is Panetta, Leon Panetta.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's he saying about this --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the reduction in his budget --

MR. BUCHANAN: He and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- possible reduction in his budget?

MR. BUCHANAN: He and Mullen say we can do $400 billion. Six hundred billion after that is impossible for our national security.

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's the hammer --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is -- wait a minute.

MS. CLIFT: That's the hammer that allegedly is going to force these members on the supercommittee -- we don't even know who they are yet. And I think there is a chance they could act responsibly. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle. Let Michelle in.

MS. BERNARD: I think the chance of them acting responsibly -- I would love to see them act responsibly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who? Who?

MS. BERNARD: The members of the supercommittee, the members of Congress in general, the entire administration.

One of the fundamental problems with our economic policy today is that we don't have any grownups running Washington. We don't see it in the administration. We don't see it in Congress. I find it highly unlikely that the supercommittee is going to do what they need to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- now, is Obama in the action here, or is he trying to get re-elected? Of course he's trying to be re-elected, I think, for a second term.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mitch McConnell --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that he is now going to say, "Well, the supercommittee has spoken; this is not my doing," if there's pain out there?

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. Here's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has he kind of removed himself from the economic issue?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has he removed himself from --

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, here -- yes. Look, John, I think he has, because this automatic cleaver, when it comes down --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mitch McConnell has said, "We will not -- Boehner and I will not appoint anybody to the supercommittee who will raise taxes." That almost means you're going to get -- the cleaver's going to hit. But Obama may have to back off, because $600 billion in added cuts in defense will make him look like, if they've got to do it, weak on defense.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The issue --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He can't stop it, Pat. He cannot stop it.

MR. BUCHANAN: They may have to (even ?) stop it -- all of them. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, are they going to vote for it?

MS. CLIFT: No, no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have been -- it's already built into the --

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got to come up with the cuts.

MS. CLIFT: The public wants --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, but the problem is going to be very simple, OK?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You have an unemployment rate that is close to 20 percent. You have housing prices collapsing. You do not -- that is what is going to affect the American public. That's why, when Obama had this surge in popularity after the Osama bin Laden episode, it's all disappeared now. He's got the lowest approval ratings because of the fact there's no sense of leadership. That is what is going to drive the election. And the --

MS. BERNARD: Jobs. And jobs.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I just want to say --

MS. BERNARD: Jobs will drive the election.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The stock market, OK, dropped this morning -- dropped today. The only thing that turned it around was the fact that they worked out a solution to the European debt problem.

MR. BUCHANAN: Temporary.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We haven't -- it's temporary. But we haven't worked out the problems here, and it's not going to.

MS. CLIFT: You want to lay this all at the foot of Barack Obama. And it seems to me that if you look at the polls after this, Obama does not come out of this unscathed, but, relatively speaking, he looks better compared to the tea party Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why --

MS. CLIFT: -- whose brand has --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to be on the ballot against him.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, they're going to be on the ballot in November of 2012. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle, will you explain to me why the world is going through the same problem, relatively speaking, almost the same problem that the United States is going through, with the possible exception of Latin America?

MS. BERNARD: Because people -- number one, people have lived above their means. Number two --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Universally? On the planet?

MS. BERNARD: Universally. I think universally --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On planet earth.

MS. BERNARD: -- people have been living beyond their means. We have governments all over the world that have ridiculous entitlement programs that have been unsustainable, and people have been unable to find a way to get their people to where the jobs are.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, John, she's exactly right. And I'll tell you what's going to happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, entitlements are --

MR. BUCHANAN: She's talking about government debt, personal debt. It's the government debts, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the erosion of capitalism, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, what they're saying in Europe, basically, those debts are going to be wiped out by default or devaluation or depreciation of currencies. They're going to be wiped out. They're never going to be paid.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Europe is looking to America to lead the recovery, and it's not happening. And I think that brings into question the whole question of whether our government is able to face up to these serious issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the exit question, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: The exit question is will --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the planet earth survive?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. Will the supercommittee deadline and will the slicer go into effect? And I think the supercommittee will deadlock.

Eleanor. (Laughs.

)

MS. CLIFT: And I think that if people like the Gang of Six, who were a bipartisan committee in the Senate, they agreed to cut --

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not allowed to be on it.

MS. CLIFT: Well, but people like them. And there are still some grownups on Capitol Hill. And I think it's a real hammer on the Republican side to avoid those defense cuts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the question?

MS. CLIFT: I think they're going to come up with a deal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the question?

MR. BUCHANAN: Will the supercommittee deadlock?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it deadlock?

MS. BERNARD: Deadlock.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Deadlock?

MS. BERNARD: I think it's going to deadlock.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the trigger will --

MS. BERNARD: I have no confidence. I think the trigger is going to be activated. I have no confidence in them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then they can all blame it on the trigger.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, I don't believe the supercommittee will deadlock. I think they're going to appoint people to avoid a deadlock because they know how much damage it would bring to the Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are 12 people on the committee, and the leaders of both chambers select who they are.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They get one choice each. Is that correct?

MR. BUCHANAN: Three each.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Three each.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three each. Three each?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean --

MS. CLIFT: Four leaders, 12 members.

MR. BUCHANAN: McConnell three, Boehner three, Pelosi three, Reid three.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. The Senate and the House.

MR. BUCHANAN: They get 12 on there, yeah, and they each get six for each party, and each party gets six, John. But the thing is, Mitch McConnell said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- nobody who will raise taxes is going to be appointed.

MS. CLIFT: And the country wants a balanced approach, and we'll know who the obstructionists are, and they'll pay the price.

MS. BERNARD: Absolutely. I'm with you there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's --

MS. BERNARD: I think we know who the obstructionists --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- TBD, to be determined.

Issue Two: Mubarak Trial.

(Begin videotape.)

EGYPTIAN PROSECUTOR: (Through interpreter.) You have heard the charge and accusations pressed against you by the public persecution. What's your statement?

FORMER EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK: (Through interpreter.) I deny all these charges and accusations categorically.

(End videotaped segment.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hosni Mubarak lived in the presidential palace in Cairo for 30 years. He was Egypt's longest-serving president. But this week the 83-year-old Mubarak was in prison whites on a gurney, speaking from inside a cage. The trial of the former Egyptian president began on Wednesday on the outskirts of Cairo.

The charge is murder. Mubarak is accused of ordering the killing of more than 800 protesters. They were among the thousands of protesters who successfully ousted Mubarak from power this past February, six months ago, as part of the Arab spring.

If Mubarak is convicted of murder, he could be sentenced to death. The trial is under way and it has led to street fighting between anti-Mubarak protesters and pro-Mubarak supporters, including this young Egyptian.

PRO-MUBARAK SUPPORTER: (From videotape.) I love Mubarak. I love my country. I don't take money to sell my country. This is people coming in here to sell my country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Suppose Mubarak is found guilty of murder. Suppose he is sentenced to death. Will this split Egypt's new democracy into warring factions? I ask you, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I really don't think it will. I mean, I think there is certainly a military faction, and the military is really a key part of that economy and a key part of the political structure. But frankly, they're basically now protecting themselves, and this is part of the process. This would never have happened without the acknowledgement of the military.

So I think that there is going to be, in fact, a unification. The vast majority of Egyptians now resent Mubarak, resent his sons, because they accumulated so much money. So this will help the government, in a sense, not hurt.

MR. BUCHANAN: It'd be a terrible mistake --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me digress to Syria here. It's not a digression. It's directly connected, as with most of my learned questions.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Most of them are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, the question is, what's the connection between this and Syria? Do you think when Assad, Hafez Assad's son -- what's his first name?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Bashar.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bashar Assad sees Hosni Mubarak caged as a prisoner -- I believe he's caged, not for his own protection, but because he's a prisoner -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's actually flying in; they flew him in from Sharm El-Sheikh.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, when he sees that, do you think Assad is now determined to stop this rebellion, despite the fact that he's doing -- slaying so many people, particularly in Hama?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, he was determined to do whatever he could to stop the rebellion. He represents the Alawite people. They're 14 percent of the Syrian population. They've controlled the country. They control the country's economy. He will do whatever he can. He's totally ruthless, OK?

So this is not something that is unique, I might add, with the Assad family, if you remember. The father was famous for the Hamas (sic/means Hama) rules. He killed, I don't know, 50,000 people at Hamas (sic). He has now killed thousands and thousands of people, and nobody's been able to stop him to date.

MS. CLIFT: He doesn't need --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: He doesn't need emboldening. But if he's looking at this, he doesn't want to end up this way. And I think he thinks the alternative is to put down this rebellion as savagely as possible.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, John, Henry Kissinger once said to be an enemy of the United States in this world is often dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal. And what we're seeing in Mubarak and people all over the Middle East are seeing is this is what happens to people who have been friends to America for 30 years and then America abandons them. They wind up in a cage. And I think that guy Assad is looking at that and saying, "Look, they may take me out on a stretcher, but they're not putting me in a cage."

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: It is not America's fault --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Let -- MS. CLIFT: -- what happened to Mubarak when his fate was brought upon by himself.

MS. BERNARD: Yeah, that's exactly the point that I was going to bring. I mean, whether Mubarak was friends with the United States or not, the bottom line is Egyptians looked at what was happening in Tunisia and they had the same problem. You have hundreds of thousands of young people who are highly educated, who cannot get jobs. They can't take care of their families. They can't feed or clothe their families. And they don't want this for their country any longer.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Let me finish. You -- when you were head of the Independent --

MR. BUCHANAN: Women's Forum.

MS. BERNARD: Women's Forum.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Women's Forum, you had some Muslim women, some Islamic women come over here. Correct?

MS. BERNARD: We had Islamic women from Iraq come over to the -- well, actually, from all over the Middle East -- come to the United States. We brought 200 Iraqi women --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did they talk to you at all about conditions over there? Did they give you any insight that you had not had before?

MS. BERNARD: Absolutely. You know, we took a group -- I was privileged to take a group of Iraqi women down to the Congress at one point in time. And at that time Darrell Issa, a member of Congress from California, said to this group of Iraqi women, "You know, we're getting ready to go into elections. Many Americans are completely against the Iraqi war. What would you have us tell our constituents?"

And I've never forgotten a woman who was dressed in traditional garb, all black from head to toe, and she said, "We would ask the American public why it took you so long to come back and help us." These women were very, very interested in finding about the principles and practice of democracy. Those are people who wanted women's rights, particularly in areas of the country where women did not enjoy rights. In Kurdistan, they do. I'm just telling you, this was my experience.

MS. CLIFT: Women had more rights under Saddam Hussein --

MS. BERNARD: Actually, they had rights in spite of Saddam Hussein. It depended on where you were from. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you give us any wisdom on women's rights?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, yes, of course I can. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you learned from bitter experience?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I've learned from great experience, not bitter experience, thank you very much.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. Listen, there is no doubt but those societies were discriminating against women and on many other levels. And these were authoritarian societies. And there has been a revolution about that.

MR. BUCHANAN: But you wait --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And this is certainly true in Egypt.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got five seconds.

MR. BUCHANAN: You wait until the Muslim Brotherhood is running Egypt to see how well women are treated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the bad guys.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the Muslim Brotherhood and the military are going to run this show, not those demonstrators in Tahrir Square.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: The Big 5-0.

The president celebrated his 50th birthday in his political hometown this week, Chicago. He was officially there for a fundraiser, putatively for the Obama second term political fund. At Chicago's historic Aragon Ballroom, the president addressed a crowd of 2,500 guests, paying up to a cool $35,000 per ticket. His former chief of staff and confidant, now Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, was on the scene. So was Herbie Hancock, the band OK Go, and Jennifer Hudson, who also sang "Happy Birthday" to the honoree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama is the third U.S. president in 130 years to turn 50 while in office as president. The other two: Theodore Roosevelt, 1908; Bill Clinton, 1996. This means that Bubba is now 65 and can collect Social Security. As for Mr. Obama's 50 years of age, the president joins 29 U.S. senators and 137 U.S. House members who are already enrolled in the club, the 50-something club.

Barack may well be the youngest 50-year-old in the club. He plays a full game of basketball without an oxygen tank in the corner. But turning 50 is still a sobering reminder of life's transience and a midpoint to contemplate one's limited stay on planet earth. The average life span for an American man is 76, by the way; the average woman, 81.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that President Obama is perhaps availing himself at this particular time to contemplate whether he wants to take four more years out of his life and run for president, with all of that detail, and plus living in the bubble?

I mean, there are a lot of negatives to the job of president, and you know them well. I know them well, having, you know, worked in that environment. And there's very limited freedom. And there's a desire to just walk on the street and not be identified. I mean, do you think he's thinking about a second term, or --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he's thought about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- do you think he's made up his mind?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he's thought about it. I think Michelle Obama has thought about it. My guess is she is probably more reluctant than he because she looks like she's taking the pain of this. But he has made his call, and he's going to do it. And I think that decision has been made. But I think all those things did weigh on him. It would not surprise me if it gave him some thought. "Do we really want to do this again?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, the other thing he's given up is his intellectual life. I was reading, you know, "The Audacity of Hope," re-reading it. And, you know, he's really an idea guy.

MR. BUCHANAN: In a way, he's a contemplative type.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's not an action-oriented --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- character in a way. But I think he's given that up and he's got this moment, and I think he's decided.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think it's history that he's thinking of or -- MR. BUCHANAN: It's history --

MS. CLIFT: He hasn't given up his intellectual life.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's going to be called? I mean, he's getting all the support he needs within the party.

MS. CLIFT: One of the complaints about him is that he's too contemplative and that he's too much of an intellectual. So he hasn't given that up at all. Typically, when you have one of those marker birthdays, you analyze yourself. "Have I lived up to what I expected?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: "What are my accomplishments?" I imagine he's having some thoughts about that. But I think it's -- has he accomplished what he set out to do? Clearly he's got a lot of work left. And I think he really wants a second term.

MS. BERNARD: I think he believes -- I truly think he believes in that statement we heard over and over again during the 2000 (sic) election cycle -- "Change we can believe in." I think this is a president who wants to make the country better and he wants to make the world a better place. And it's been tough. It has been a very tough road for him. But I think he is in it, and I think he's in it to win. He wants a second term.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's thinking of history?

MS. BERNARD: How could you not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MS. BERNARD: Everything that he has accomplished has been history-making. He will go down in history -- I think time will be positive in looking back at his presidency. And I think he's going to think about his dream --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, if he wanted --

MS. BERNARD: -- and all of the young children that are looking to him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if he wanted the privacy and the relative -- he's never going to be solitary now, because he's been president.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, the Secret Service are with him if he wants them. MS. BERNARD: Nobody runs for president without knowing that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the first Republican to drop out of the race, I think, after the Iowa straw poll will be Newt Gingrich.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who'll be number two?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think number two will be Huntsman, but he's going to stick around. I don't think he's going to do very well in New Hampshire.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: OK, I'm going to expand on Pat's prediction. I've got Gingrich on my list, but I'm going to add Rick Santorum, because if he doesn't show in Iowa, which is very favorable to social conservatives, I think he's going to see the handwriting on the wall.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle.

MS. BERNARD: I'm going to go with Gingrich and Pawlenty. I think he's going to be -- I think both of them will be out next week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner is going to extend his stay in the government because of the financial crisis at home and abroad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that the alleged water found on Mars is an optical illusion.

Bye-bye.

END.