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The McLaughlin Group

Participants: John McLaughlin

Panelists:
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast;
Rich Lowry, National Review;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Time: 10:26 am EDT
Date: Sunday, July 20th, 2014

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Malaysian Jetliner Downed.

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 jet crashed in eastern Ukraine in the region of Donetsk, a scant 40 miles from the Ukraine-Russia border. The black smoke rising is believed to be the jet crashing, caught on amateur video.

The jet was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Because the plane was flying over an area of Ukraine where the Ukrainian military is battling pro-Russian separatists, the crash immediately fueled speculation and finger pointing that the jet was deliberately downed by an antiaircraft missile. President Obama addressed the tragedy.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine. Moreover, we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia. This includes arms and training. It includes heavy weapons. And it includes antiaircraft weapons.

There has to be a credible international investigation into what happened. In order to facilitate that investigation, Russia, pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine must adhere to an immediate cease-fire. Evidence must not be tampered with. Investigators need to access the crash site. And the solemn task of returning those who were lost on board the plane to their loved ones needs to go forward immediately.

Question: What impact will this downed Malaysian jetliner have on Russia's relations with the U.S. and the EU? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: First, what this is, John, from what we know, is this is not an atrocity or a war crime deliberately done, but rather a military blunder by the rebels using a surface-to-air missile. We don't know where they got it from. So in that sense, it is not deliberate. But at the same time, it's like the airliner that was shot down by the United States in the Persian Gulf accidentally in 1988.

But John, this puts Vladimir Putin in a hellish box. He is the backer of the rebels, and he's going to be under tremendous pressure either to pull back on supporting the rebels and to basically abandon them and to get his people and get his forces out of eastern Ukraine and basically, you know, leave these people in the lurch, which is going to be very, very tough to do. And if he doesn't do it, I think he is going to face certain sanctions from the United States. And the real open question is what the Europeans do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, whatever reluctance the Europeans have had in following President Obama's lead with putting sanctions on Russia, I think, has been substantially reduced, if not erased.

Virtually every one of those European nations, and especially the Dutch -- they had 150 of their people on that plane; many European nationals -- a lot of pressure on them to respond. Maybe whoever did this did not intend to get a commercial airliner, but nonetheless, the result is this tragic accident. And somebody's going to have to take responsibility for it.

And I think President Obama's role here is to make Putin own this, not let him get away with saying, oh, it was really the Ukrainian government, or whatever the dodge he's going to put in. At the same time, the president has got to give him room to back down, because he can stop what's going on in Ukraine. Only he can stop what's going on in Ukraine. So he still has an important role to play.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rich.

RICH LOWRY: He's facing an enormous potential strategic setback here, because remember, not too long ago he effectively controlled the government of Ukraine, and now he's had big assumptions that have gone wrong. He thought there'd be a spontaneous uprising in the east. There wasn't. So he had to create one.

He thought the new Ukrainian government would founder. Instead it's turned out to be quite capable militarily. And then he was counting on European opinion being passive. And this event is going to galvanize it. So he doesn't have a lot of cards to play, and it looks like he might have a real losing hand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the Europeans now likely to support stronger sanctions on Russia?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Oh, without question. This is not an accident. This is something that was deliberate. You can't just fire -- it's not something that you drop a match in the forest, you know, to cause fire. This was a missile that was deliberately sent up. Nobody has any doubts about it.

The president was very clear and very forceful on it, and I thought very effective on it. And I don't think anybody's going to be able to walk away from it, including the Russians. They're going to have to figure out what to do. And if they don't do anything, I think all of Europe is going to be tilting against them in a way that hasn't occurred in a long time. And we are going to be very tough with them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the Russian public being told about this massacre?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, there's no way of the Russian public being told in such a way that they blame their own government for it. You know, that's not the way it works in that country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's Putin's -- what's Putin's line that he's putting out?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.) Let me agree with Eleanor here.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Putin does not want Luhansk and Donetsk. He doesn't want to own them. He could have sent in the Russian army to get them. But he's been playing a game, keeping this rebellious movement going. And I think now he's in a real spot.

And, frankly, diplomatically they're going to have to give him a way to walk down from where he's been, you know, diplomatically, I think, because he cannot want to continue this thing now. Otherwise it represents a total breach with the West and the United States. And I don't believe that down deep he wants that. Otherwise he would have grabbed eastern Ukraine.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do we think of this? Russian state-controlled media are reporting that the Ukrainian military accidentally hit the Malaysian jet when they tried to shoot down Putin's presidential aircraft.

MR. LOWRY: It's an outrageous lie. And this guy is a thug and a liar. There hasn't been any doubt about that for a very long time. The Ukrainian military has not been in the business of shooting down planes in that area. The rebels have. They've been shooting down cargo planes, and they've been doing it with Russian-provided military and perhaps with Russian personnel, because a lot of these so-called rebels on the ground are Russian troops or covert agents.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question, multiple choice: What will President Obama do in reaction to this atrocity? Will it be, A, push for more sanctions; B, give Ukraine military support, like U.S. air power; C, schedule more political fundraisers? He wasn't in town when this occurred.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. He will not start now with military support. I think that would be a real mistake, because we'd escalate, and Putin couldn't back down. I think he's going to wait for Putin's response to this, which is the right thing to do, quite frankly, and to see if somehow they can get Putin to back away from supporting the rebels and end this rebellion and this war.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I think that's right. The U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, was a lot tougher on Putin than the president. I think the president really is trying to say to Putin come home, prodigal son, if you will, to give him a chance to make this right. This is a horrendous, horrendous incident, and the blood is on his hands. So what will the president do? Probably all three of those things. He's not going to stop raising money for the November elections. (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: Yeah, it'll be some A, a lot of C, but it should be B as well. The Ukrainian government should crush this insurgency and then reach out to the mainstream of opinion in the east, which does not support this Russian-based insurgency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the best case for Russian separatists?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The best case, it seems to me here, from the point of view of, my judgment, Russia, he's got to back off from what he's been doing, to some extent. This just undercuts whatever moral ground, whatever political ground, he had, at least in the West. So there's going to be a much tougher response to him. He's got to know that. I agree that we have to give him some limited way to step down, but not too much. We've got to show strength under a situation like this. If we don't, we should just pack up and go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The best case for the Russian separatists is that they were trying to shoot down a Ukrainian military Antonov plane. Do you know what they look like?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, I personally have never dated one of them, OK?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't care -- I don't care what they were trying to shoot down, OK. This is what happens when you have this kind of weaponry going up in the air without the technical knowledge as to exactly which plane you're shooting down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is an aeronautic digression, but the Antonov plane is the world's monster airplane. You know what it takes to land it, its landing wheels? Forty-two landing wheels.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wow.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: An enormous plane.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is a good argument never to give any rebel movement, the Syrian rebels, surface-to-air missiles of any kind, because they wind up shooting down airliners.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's what happened here. That's the line they're going to put out.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, this was a very --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So hit the jetliner instead.

MR. BUCHANAN: This was not a surface-to-air -- I mean, a shoulder-held thing. This is a rocket that can knock down planes at 72,000 feet.

MS. CLIFT: They needed training. And where did that training come from?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to this?

MR. LOWRY: It may actually have been operated by Russian covert agents. You know, a lot of these so-called officials in the breakaway republic are former Russian defense officials. So it may have been a Russian rocket operated by a Russian -- operated by Russian personnel.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Certainly Russian observers is probably likely, just to help them make sure that they do it well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: The Kerry-Zarif Ongoing Nuclear Deal.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: (From videotape.) I am returning to Washington today to consult with President Obama and with leaders in Congress over the coming days about the prospects for a comprehensive agreement, as well as a path forward if we do not achieve one by the 20th of July. There has been tangible progress on key issues. However, there are also very real gaps on other key issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With the Sunday, July 20 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran now at hand, Secretary of State Kerry pressed on with his Iranian shuttle diplomacy. In Vienna, he tried to rescue the stalemated talks between Iran and the P5+1 -- the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The P5+1 nuclear negotiations had bogged down over Tehran's insistence on keeping the nuclear status quo without limits on research and development of nuclear centrifuges, a vital component in making weapons-grade nuclear fuel.

The U.S. wants limits on the centrifuges, an equally vital component in preventing Iran from achieving what is called a, quote-unquote, "threshold capability." Keeping Iran from being able to quickly cross the nuclear threshold and build a nuclear bomb has been the stated objective of the past six months of negotiations.

SEC. KERRY: (From videotape.) What we are trying to do is find a way for Iran to have an exclusively peaceful nuclear program while giving the world all the assurances required to know that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon. I want to underscore, these goals are not incompatible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iran's foreign minister feels the same way. Here's what Mohammad Zarif told Secretary Kerry and the press. Quote: "As we stand now, we have made enough headway to be able to tell our political bosses that this is a process worth continuing. This is my recommendation. I'm sure Secretary Kerry will make the same recommendation," unquote. President Obama signaled he is also on board.

Question: What's the reaction on Capitol Hill to extending the deadline for the talks? Rich Lowry.

MR. LOWRY: Well, Capitol Hill is more hawkish on this than the administration is, John. But I do think we'll get an extension probably past the November election. And I think it's in Iran's interest to cut some sort of deal that preserves its essential capabilities. The question is whether the ayatollah is just too hostile to the United States to cut that sort of deal.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think we're -- I think the U.S. and Iran have more in common these days. Certainly they're in agreement on Iraq, on Afghanistan and on Syria. So I think this is certainly worth pursuing.

I don't think either side has a full six months. They're really pressing on Capitol Hill to put on more sanctions. That comes from Republicans and Democrats too. And Rouhani -- I don't know how long his leash is. He's got to start showing some benefits. But these talks are worthwhile, and they should be continued.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's been a success, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think the Hill is skeptical.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, very.

MS. CLIFT: They've been skeptical all along.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: But, you know, they're not going to --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's been a success. The talks have been a success. Look what they've done. They've got -- all of the 20 percent enriched uranium has been diluted and is basically gone and can't be raised to bomb --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, wait a minute. Do we know that?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Arak nuclear reactor has been -- which was going to be heavy water, is being modified so it doesn't produce weapons-grade plutonium. They're going to limit the number of these centrifuges they've got. So you've had progress along this. I agree with Rich. I don't think the Iranians want a nuclear weapon, quite frankly.

MR. LOWRY: No, that's not (quite right ?). (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: And the American -- American intelligence agency says they don't have a nuclear weapons program, and they've never reversed that call.

MR. LOWRY: They definitely want to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort --

MR. LOWRY: They wouldn't go to this great trouble for a peaceful nuclear program.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This isn't something that you just sort of pick up and say what are we going to do this weekend? Let's sort of start off and do some weaponry. They have not only the fissionable material. They've got various plants, the nuclear plants, that are producing all of this material for --

MR. BUCHANAN: Enriched uranium?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- enriched uranium. And I'll say, too, I don't know what you're reading or what you're -- all of the stuff that I'm reading is very, very skeptical whether Iran, in fact, will do a deal and whether this administration will hang tough in terms of making sure that we control the very element that will produce the capacity for nuclear weapons.

MS. CLIFT: Anything that stalls what they're doing is worth it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The pessimistic view is that the ayatollah is calling the shots, and anybody below him, it really doesn't count.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he is calling the shots, John.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He is --

MR. BUCHANAN: But the point is, I think Iran wants a deal, because I think they've looked out there and said we get a nuclear weapon, what good is it going to do us? The Turks get it; the Egyptians; the Saudis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iraq --

MR. LOWRY: If they want a deal, they want a fig-leaf deal that preserves the essential capacity --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. LOWRY: -- that preserves their ability to do whatever they want in secret, and they can break out at any time, and at the same time get sanctions relief.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why did -- why did the intelligence community of the United States declare twice, on high confidence, that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon?

MR. LOWRY: Do you think this is about medical research, Pat? This regime is so -- (inaudible) -- medical progress --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's all 17 intelligence agencies.

MR. LOWRY: -- and peaceful nuclear energy?

MR. BUCHANAN: A lot of fellows, the neocons and others, want a collision and a war with Iran. They would like to see these talks collapse.

MS. CLIFT: OK, well --

MR. BUCHANAN: And you watch Congress call for new sanctions to try to gut the talks.

MS. CLIFT: If we stall their program for an indefinite period, I think that's still a pretty good deal.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, it is.

MS. CLIFT: If you've got all these politicians standing up and say they're going to go -- if we think they're going to go for a weapon, therefore we're going to have to go to war, that's not a very good alternative. So, you know, diplomacy is --

MR. BUCHANAN: And that's the alternative.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is not a good alternative if they develop the capacity to have nuclear weapons either. It's going to transform that whole region of the world, where we have enormous national interests.

MR. BUCHANAN: Should we go to war to stop that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think we should go to war under any circumstances, unless we feel there's a major threat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iran wants to consolidate its nuclear program and is playing for time to do it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Exactly. They've been --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that what's going on?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They've been investing --

MS. CLIFT: Stalling --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- a huge amount of time, a huge amount of resources --

MR. BUCHANAN: But they are further from a nuclear weapon now --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Do you think they're doing this just to --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- than they were six months ago to build one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's -- enough of Iran.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This will be around for a while. Let's shift the Middle East focus to Gaza, where Israel has launched a ground offensive against Hamas. What are Israel's objectives? Mort, speak to that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, Israel's objectives are fairly simple, OK. They want to make sure that they are -- their first objective is to make sure that they aren't going to be attacked by missiles that are launched against them. And they've had hundreds and hundreds of them launched against them with various kinds of weaponry capabilities. That's the first thing.

The second thing that they want to make sure is that Gaza does not remain a platform for continuous attacks on Israel. The most important thing for them is to make sure that that is not a threat to their country. And they've already had it.

MR. BUCHANAN: That is correct as to what their objective is -- degrade the missiles; I think also take care of Hamas leadership. But this is a diminishing return that the Israelis are getting, because all over the world, including in the United States, the pictures of what is happening to civilians in Gaza -- hundreds dead and over a thousand wounded -- is causing a tremendous uprising in the Arab street and much of the western world.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Rich in.

MR. LOWRY: There is a much greater understanding this time that this is what -- those are the pictures that Hamas wants. That -- Hamas bases its operation in densely populated areas, exactly so civilians will die and exactly so that --

(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The United States had a program which Israel agreed to and which Hamas did not agree to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- to basically bring this to a halt.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about --

MS. CLIFT: Gaza is about the size of Philadelphia, with almost 2 million people. The whole place is densely populated. And if Israel wants to destroy Hamas -- and I think that is their goal -- they've been doing these periodic bombings. They call it going on. They call it mowing the lawn. It's not working.

MR. LOWRY: Eleanor, it's because Hamas is launching --

MS. CLIFT: So they need to take another strategy. And giving the people who live in this densely populated area some access to the outside world, some ability to earn a living --

MR. LOWRY: They left 10 years ago unilaterally. They left the greenhouses all in place. They wanted to give them the chance to create a decent policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is --

MR. LOWRY: And instead you have another failed terrorist state that's launching hundreds of rockets at Israel.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They had 3,000 greenhouses that the Israelis left over for them, and they burned them and destroyed them.

MR. LOWRY: Thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Iraq ?) wants six months and we're willing to give them three months. That's where the talks are.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know exactly where the talks are, to be honest with you. I'm not sure that that's exactly where the talks are.

MR. BUCHANAN: Iran?

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: This is one place where I'm optimistic about what Kerry is doing, for the reason -- I think the Iranians really want a deal.

MS. CLIFT: And Kerry also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're optimistic about what Kerry is doing because Kerry is Kerry. He's good.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Kerry did a good job --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will the Iran-U.S. nuclear dialogue be extended? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: It certainly will, John.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. And kudos to Kerry for getting the agreement in Afghanistan to count the votes.

MR. LOWRY: They'll be extended because the Iranians want to string it along, and the administration is desperate for a deal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Arc of Instability.

In an enterprising piece of reporting, two Wall Street Journal correspondents, Jay Solomon and Carol Lee, interviewed U.S. and foreign officials and foreign policy experts about the, quote, "arc of instability," unquote, currently convulsing the planet and its impact on President Obama's options.

JAY SOLOMON (Wall Street Journal): (From videotape.) You've had the Arab spring. You've have the rise of these really, you know, crazy militant groups in Iraq and Syria. You've had the Syrian civil war. You've had the strengthening of China and Russia's foreign policy, and Iran. So he's had a real difficulty of managing what he ran on and what he was elected on in a world where there are many different competing powers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From the Russian-Ukraine crisis to the military coup in Thailand to the wars raging across the Middle East to the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, it doesn't take an expert to recognize growing worldwide jitters and instability.

Scan the inside of today's newspaper and check to the stories that feature conflict, as (obscure ?) as Nigeria's infighting with Boko Haram, territorial disputes over remote Asian islands, open warfare on Europe's threshold, and now renewed hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis.

President Obama campaigned on diplomatic engagement with Iran and with Russia, and, more broadly, American military retrenchment, especially pull-backs from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a disinclination to use military force, as he vividly demonstrated with his memorable Syrian red line against chemical weapons.

Some critics of President Obama say that his prudent retrenchment has morphed into something else -- dangerous disengagement. And this has bloomed into the American zeitgeist -- inadvertently, maybe -- encouraging global mischief makers and so creating an arc of instability.

Question: Has President Obama's foreign policy made the world less stable? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: I did read that article, and I did note that, with the exception of a quote from Brian Katulis, who is involved with the Democratic administration, (at the end ?) saying the world is yearning for a quarterback to call the plays, and President Obama hasn't fulfilled that role.

They quote mostly Republican critics, and most of these critics do not say what they would do instead. Nobody's advocating putting troops on the ground anywhere. Nobody's making a case for an air war. There's lots of people complaining, but nobody seems to have any great ideas about what to do.

And the notion that all of these instances are somehow connected is ludicrous. I mean, what's happening in Gaza doesn't have anything to do with what's happening in Ukraine. And so, you know, suggesting that if President Obama were tougher and was more, you know, swaggering on the world stage, somehow these events would not flare up, I think, is actually ludicrous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it can be blamed on the economy? Five years ago the world was plunged into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The social impact has had huge political impact -- anti-incumbency in democracies, revolution in autocracies, competition over resources and jobs from trade wars and currency wars, so escalating military tension.

There, I've answered my own question, haven't I?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have that feeling.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that this is a valid explanation for it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think it's part of the explanation, but I think by far the more important part is the fact that the United States has lost a great deal of credibility as the leader of the free world. And this president has particularly -- the symbol of it all was when he made this commitment on Syria and then walked away from it, OK. This would have to end, he said, and then he wouldn't act on it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So people -- he's lost an enormous amount of credibility, certainly in the Middle East --

MR. BUCHANAN: What you're seeing, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- and not just in the Middle East.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rich.

MR. LOWRY: Well, Eleanor's right. Obviously a lot of these events are sui generis. But Mort's also right. The unifying theme is U.S. weakness. And it's amazing. You look around the world and it's very hard to come up with any place where our interests have been advanced over the last six years or where our alliances are stronger. And that's just an extraordinary thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, do you want to say something?

MR. BUCHANAN: What you're seeing, quite frankly, is the end of global western empire, just like when the British empire went down, all these explosions all over the world. The United States is coming home from the world, and we're seeing the consequences of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think we're in a neo-isolationist, Switzerland-like mood?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't think you're isolationist in terms of -- I think what -- America wants to be involved in the world, but it doesn't want to go in and fight these wars that are none of our business.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Governor Rick Perry has attacked Rand Paul's isolationism. He's been echoed by John McCain. He's been echoed by Dick Cheney. He's been echoed by the neoconservatives. What this tells me, John, is that foreign policy, the so-called isolationists-neocons or the realists versus the interventionists, this is going to be a major issue in the Republican primaries in 2016, and I think it's really a healthy thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Rand Paul winning?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think when everybody's attacking him, as Nixon said, when everybody -- when you hear about everybody getting together to stop "x," put your money on "x."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: But most elections are bread-and-butter elections. And the unemployment rate is going to fall below 6 percent by this November, which may brighten the mood a little bit for voters going to the polls. That means the unemployment rate has dropped from 7.5 over the last year to 6.1 now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm.

MS. CLIFT: And while it may not take effect by this November, an improving economy could set the election up for Democrats. I know Mort is going to disagree, but actually things are looking better --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- finally for the recovery.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Obama's going to score, huh?

MS. CLIFT: I do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're going to keep the --

MS. CLIFT: He's going to be vindicated.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Democrats are going to keep the Senate too?

MS. CLIFT: He's going to be vindicated, despite the Republicans not letting him have any of his policies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. What do you think?

MR. LOWRY: Everyone's focused, John, on this impending John Boehner lawsuit over the employer-mandate delays in "Obamacare," where the real judicial earthquake that is going to happen has to do with this case that's been brought, because "Obamacare" says you only get subsidies if the state has set up the "Obamacare" exchange. And then when dozens of states didn't set up the exchanges, the administration said, oh, forget what's in the law; we're going to pronounce from on high that you get the subsidies even if the federal government sets up the exchanges. This is -- there's going to be a decision probably within days that's going to strike this down. It's going to be an enormous reaction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's a good prediction, and quite likely.

Mort, you've got 15 seconds.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: OK. I'm going to just point out the fact that the unemployment rate is going down because they're counting part-time jobs as if they were full-time jobs. We have 47 million part-time jobs, and all of the jobs that were created --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- when we had 288,000 jobs were part-time jobs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama's attendance at two political fundraisers during the crisis over the airline passenger massacre in Ukraine will draw scrutiny to the amount of time he is devoting to politics instead of governing. He should have canceled the events and returned to Washington to manage the U.S. and the allied response to the atrocity.

Bye-bye.

(c) Federal News Service 2014