Share


The McLaughlin Group

Subject: Iraq, Israel-Palestine Conflict, Former President Richard Nixon

Participants: John McLaughlin, Host;
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast;
Tom Rogan, National Review/Daily Telegraph;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Time: 11:30 am
Date: Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Federal News Service, LLC, 1120 G Street NW, Suite 990, Washington, DC 20005-3801 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, LLC. 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 Transcripts Database or any other FNS product, please email info@fednews.com or call 1-202-347-1400.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Iraq in Crisis.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: To stop the advance on Irbil, I've directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys, should they move toward the city. We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Irbil and our embassy in Baghdad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Late on Thursday, President Obama directed the U.S. military to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State. That's the radical Muslim movement that has already seized large segments of Iraq and Syria and declared itself an Islamic caliphate.

Question: Is President Obama a day late and a dollar short intervening against the Islamic State? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: No, he's not. This is not our war, John. I think he's done the right thing in using air power to stop a successful attack on Kurdistan and keep the enemy away from it. But American air power can only do so many things. It can keep these characters out of Baghdad. It can keep them out of Irbil and out of Kurdistan.

But in the long run, the Iraqis and the Turks and the folks in that region, the Kurds, they're going to have to fight this war themselves. And I will - just one point, John, is who's been fighting them? Assad's been fighting them, the Iranians are against them, and Hezbollah's been fighting them.
I think the United States could, with diplomacy, put together a coalition with the specific objective of going after the Islamic State, because that is our principal enemy, I think, in the region.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Islamic State has seized $425 million in a bank takeover. They have American Humvees, some 50 American 155-millimeter towed Howitzers, small arms, and millions of rounds of ammunition, all seized when they overran Iraq's bases and outposts.

So what do you think, in the light of that?

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, they're well-funded and they're brutal. If you don't convert to their brand of Islam, they behead you. And they've been putting heads up on spikes in the villages that they've overrun. And I think the humanitarian intervention that the president has begun is totally just and appropriate, because it is a genocide. It's the extinction, basically, of a religious group that's up on these mountains.

So the U.S. military action has to do with helping the Peshmerga, who are a very well-trained and effective fighting force in Iraq. It is their fight. It is Iraq's fight. I agree with Pat that this is not a war between the U.S. and ISIL or ISIS, whatever you want to call them.
I think the U.S. is in a position to certainly greatly assist the Iraqis, who now seem to be in a position where they're about to create a new government. It looks like Maliki might be out. And I think there is an alliance between the U.S. and whatever this new government that emerges. But this is Iraq's fight, and the president is pretty strong about not sending American troops back into Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The only way to stop ISIS is heavy U.S. air power combined with an Iraqi ground offensive, some believe. Do you believe that?

TOM ROGAN: I think it is true that the U.S. is going to have to take tougher steps. Now that we're committed, the reality on the ground is going to shape how we deploy force going forward, because ISIL are not going to give up, faced with even limited air power. They're going to continue to attack different targets they can, because it's a mission of ordained purity, as they see it.

And I think the great tragedy here is that the withdrawal in late 2011 has, to some degree, enabled that. But what we have to face up to is the fact that ISIL aren't solely concerned with Iraq. They're concerned with a regional project that involves Syria, Lebanon, and that unless the United States can provide both our military influence but our interlocutor political influence in bringing parties to the table, which we did very effectively with people like Ryan Crocker and General Petraeus, we have to have influence on the ground. That doesn't mean a reinvasion, but it does mean that we have to be there for the longer term.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think events are propelling Obama?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, if they aren't propelling it, I don't know what he's doing in his job. I mean, this is a very, very important issue for the United States, because it's not only that whole region; it frankly is going to, at some point, have an enormous effect on the entire oil-producing countries. And we are going to be hostage to all of that. We cannot allow that to happen.

It's bad enough that we have, for example, walked away from our commitment on Syria, which the president did. There is no real confidence at this stage of the game, and the United States is the backup to a lot of the forces on our side who are literally, on some levels, outgunned and outmaneuvered. We have - we cannot allow this to continue. It's directly in our national interest to find some way to stop these people from really expanding their influence.

MR. BUCHANAN: Air power can't win this war, though, John.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not saying air power is the only thing we can do.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, but what I'm saying is we're going to be drawn in. By using this air power, which can successfully hold them back from Irbil or hold them back from - (inaudible) - cannot win the war. There's a real possibility we could be drawn in and people try to push us into the war. But it is not our war to fight and win.

MS. CLIFT: Well, there's always the problem -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, but we have interests. We have interests. It may not be our war, but we have national interests that are involved. And we have to find some way to hold back these people, because otherwise we will suffer greatly as a country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tom.

MR. ROGAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.

MR. ROGAN: Absolutely. No, I just - I think we very much have to be involved, because whether it's the interlocutor relationships or putting military pressure on them, they will keep expanding and -

MR. BUCHANAN: What about -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama, Eleanor -

MR. BUCHANAN: What about ground troops?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama is approaching this through a political lens, not a national security lens. And he knows -

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He knows the promise he made, quasi-promise, to the American people that he would not get into this kind of activity.

MS. CLIFT: Morally and politically, it would have been impossible for him not to respond to the humanitarian situation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct.

MS. CLIFT: But he is responding on a national security basis, because the grounds for the airstrikes are that he's protecting -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm.

MS. CLIFT: - U.S. personnel there. But it's not a direct war against ISIL. He's -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well -

MS. CLIFT: And the Pershmerga are a good fighting force. With help, maybe they can defeat - and I agree that ISIL does have this moral religious fervor. But now the Iraqis - it's an existential issue for them now. So maybe they're going to get some of this moral fervor too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It should be pointed out that this isn't a question of relieving the starvation of some people. It's also a question of protecting our embassies and our consulates and our personnel. And if that anger was played up to the American people, they're going to accept -

MR. BUCHANAN: They will do that. But how does air power, John, save those 40,000 or 20,000 people up in that mountain? I don't know.

MR. ROGAN: It stops mobility of -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is this a tipping point for Iraq, and how Commander in Chief Obama handles this crisis will determine whether or not Iraq survives as a nation? Yes or no, Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Iraq is eventually going to split apart.

MS. CLIFT: It's how the Iraqis handle this. This is not all on President Obama.

MR. ROGAN: I think the U.S. can play a very constructive role by bringing the various parties together and cooling sectarian tensions. We did it before with Ryan Crocker. We can do it again if we're showing commitment over the longer term.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Dream on.

MR. ROGAN: No, it's not a dream. It's not a dream.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, look, I share that view. I do think that we can do a lot more than what we might seem to be doing now. I'm not disagreeing with what Pat says. We're going to have to be more involved, it seems to me, than we are right now, because we have major national interests involved, not only in this immediate war, but in terms of what it means for that whole region. And that whole region has a huge effect on our national interests.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well stated, Mort. I can't improve on that.

Don't forget, the McLaughlin Group has its own website, and you can watch this program or earlier programs on the Web at any time, from anywhere in the world, at McLaughlin.com. Could anything be simpler or more enticing than McLaughlinGroup.com?

Issue Two: Israel and Gaza - Their Future.

This issue addresses the legal, political and moral dimensions of Israel's recent bombing and land invasion of the Palestinian territory of Gaza, a conflict in which 1,886 Palestinians and 67 Israelis were killed, an area slightly more than twice the size of Washington, D.C.

The heavy lifting in this piece will be done by Rabbi Henry Siegman, whose bio is provided for us by Nermeen Shaikh of the TV program "Democracy Now!"

NERMEEN SHAIKH ("Democracy Now!" host): (From videotape.) Henry Siegman, the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress, long described as one of the nation's big three Jewish organizations, along with the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.

Henry Siegman was born in 1930 in Frankfurt, Germany. Three years later, the Nazis came to power. After fleeing Nazi troops in Belgium, his family eventually moved to the United States. His father was a leader of the European Zionist movement, pushing for the creation of a Jewish state.

In New York, Henry Siegman studied and was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi by Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. He later became head of the Synagogue Council of America.

After his time at the American Jewish Congress, Siegman became a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He now serves as president of the U.S.-Middle East Project.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rabbi Siegman on Israel's military operations in Gaza: Unjustified, he says.

RABBI HENRY SIEGMAN: (From videotape.) Couldn't Israel be doing something to - in preventing the disaster that is playing out now in terms of the destruction of human lives? Couldn't they have done something that didn't require that cost?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rabbi Siegman continues asking pointedly why the U.S. government has not identified the ideology of Israel's political right wing as being actually the same as the ideology of the, quote-unquote, "terrorist group Hamas."

RABBI SIEGMAN: (From videotape.) Why hasn't our government or anyone said, like Hamas, if you have parties like that in your government, you are not a peace partner and you are a terrorist group, if, in fact, you use violence to implement a policy, as Hamas does? So the hypocrisy in the discussion that is taking place publicly is just mind-boggling.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the U.S. government hypocritical for not negotiating with Hamas, Rabbi Siegman.

RABBI SIEGMAN: (From videotape.) We're very happy to meet with the Taliban and to negotiate with them, and they cut off hands and heads of people, and they kill girls who go to school. And that didn't prevent the United States from having negotiations with the Taliban. So that's nonsense that they don't talk to terrorist organizations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How is the Israeli-Palestinian crisis solved? And what is the role of the United States?

RABBI SIEGMAN: (From videotape.) The issue is America removing itself from being a collaborator in the - (inaudible). So if, at some point, the United States were to say this is not what we can do - you want to do it, you're on your own - that would change. That could still change the situation, because the one thing the Israelis do not want to do is have the country live in a world where America is not there to have their back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Rabbi Siegman right? Is America wrong to support Israel as we do? If so, what should we be doing differently, as you understand the rabbi? Tom Rogan.

MR. ROGAN: I think that the rabbi makes points on a number of issues that are generating a lot of concern across the world in terms of Israel's conduct in Gaza. But I would say, in contrast to what he's actually suggesting, the difficulty for Israel - and you see this at the moment, with Hamas having broken yet another ceasefire - is that how does a democracy stand and allow itself to be continually attacked without responding?
Gaza is a very dense populated area, so inevitably there are going to be high civilian casualties. Because the Israelis have been more targeted with some of their operations? Perhaps. But I think, in the ultimate end, any Israeli prime minister would have to respond with force to force from a group that is openly and absolutely committed, not just to the destruction of Israel, but to the eradication of Jews.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, was this excessive force?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I certainly think so. Let me just say to you a little bit of background here. And I'm going to read here a little bit, because Israel withdrew all of its citizens, uprooted its settlements and completely disengaged from Gaza in the year 2005. It wanted this new Palestinian state to succeed.
To help it economically, Israel left behind 3,000 working greenhouses. They also disassembled four smaller settlements in the northern West Bank, a sign that they wanted to live peacefully, side by side with Gaza.
And how did the Palestinians respond? They demolished the greenhouses, elected Hamas, a radical group. And instead of building a state, they basically spent most of the last decade turning Gaza into a massive military base, brimming with weapons, to make endless war on Israel. They built miles and miles of intricate underground tunnels to hide weapons and extended these tunnels into Israeli territory so that they could carry out surprise attacks against Israeli citizens.

Since then, Hamas has indiscriminately launched over 3,500 missiles against Israel. The rocket program is one that Hamas could have stopped at any time and ended the conflict. But they have a different measure of victory. It is in the court of public opinion.

Former President Bill Clinton captured it well. Hamas, he told on a television program in India, has a strategy designed to force Israel to kill its own Palestinian citizens so the rest of the world will condemn Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bill Clinton said that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Bill Clinton said that on television.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me. Hamas operates by creating grief and then exploiting it. It places missile batteries next to playgrounds, private homes and mosques, inviting retaliation, OK. Israel uses its arms to protect its civilians. Hamas uses its civilians to protect its weapons.
This shameful tactic to callously use women and children as human shields while Hamas military leaders hide in their deep tunnels, and their leader, Khaled Mashal, plots them - (inaudible) - in Qatar. Other senior Hamas officials deliberately shelter among civilians and in hospitals. I could go on and on. But this is a clear strategic decision on the part of Hamas to make it look as if it's just civilians who are being attacked, when it is not the case. It is Israel being attacked.

MS. CLIFT: It's not -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just to point out to the listeners, you're reading your own copy there.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You put that in your publication.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's my own editorial.

MR. BUCHANAN: John -

MS. CLIFT: It's not clear that Hamas is even in control of everything. You know, the Islamic jihad movement is now alive and well in Gaza. And, you know, we could spend a lot of time litigating who's more right, who's more wrong, on all of these various points. It's what happens now.
There's going to be a rebuilding in Gaza. Are they just going to rebuild it so that in another five years there's another one of these (war erupts ?) and Israel destroys it? I think there's a real push on the part of the administration to try to bring the parties together, to take this, to use a cliche, to another level and try to find some sort of (enduring conclusion ?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me -

MS. CLIFT: But I'm hopeful, because nobody has changed their position one whit.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me get back to Mr. Siegman. Look -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rabbi.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's - the rabbi, OK. There's no doubt the Israelis have a right to defend themselves against rockets. They've got a right to go in and destroy those tunnels. And they have a right overall to secure their people. But where I agree with him is this. The United States of America - I don't think we've been a truly good friend of Israel. We are basically a carbon copy of their policy.

Look, the United States, which has given them about $150 billion over all these years, we should have insisted, stop building these settlements in the West Bank. You are giving us trouble. And don't overdo it in Gaza, because you are hurting us. You're the custodian of our reputation. In other words, we need a pro-Israeli policy. Nobody believes we should cut ties with Israel. But we've got to defend the national interest of the United States, what Mort was talking about, in the whole Middle East.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -

MR. BUCHANAN: And they are not coterminous with the interests of the state of Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you think that they should have - the Israelis should have let the Palestinians be Palestinians. Is that what you're saying?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think we should have had two states by now, and the Americans should have forced the solution.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, the problem is that Hamas is the one that defeated the PLO, the Palestinians, in Gaza in an election, OK. So the Palestinian people did not support Abu Mazen and the PLO. And I might say to you, there were five different ceasefires that were offered, every one of which Israel agreed to, and the Palestinians did not agree to.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mort, tell me why there's -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You will have radical Islam there. It is not -

MR. BUCHANAN: But tell me why -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: - (inaudible) - the issue.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tell me why there are 600,000 Israelis in Arab East Jerusalem and on the West Bank, which was occupied in 1967 - I was over there with Richard Nixon when there were none - if they are not trying to obviate and throw out the possibility of a viable Palestinian state?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They have offered so many times to develop a state, to agree with Abu Mazen as the leader of that country. And it is absolutely unfair to say that they're not prepared. They've been prepared to do it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Abu Mazen's the best, most peaceful guy you've ever had to negotiate with.

MS. CLIFT: And he's now being invited to Gaza.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They have. It's Abu Mazen that has not been willing to do a deal. The Israelis have been willing to do a deal on so many levels. It's just - I've been a part of that, so I can tell you that. I know that for sure.

MS. CLIFT: Abu Mazen can't do a deal as long as the settlements keep going on, and the settlements -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is not the issue with him.

MS. CLIFT: Again, to bring it to the here and now, Abu Mazen is now being invited back into Gaza. And there's some effort that maybe they can put together a united -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, make clear that Abu Mazen is who.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mahmoud Abbas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinians.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He has not been invited in.

MS. CLIFT: In the West Bank, where he was basically thrown out, persona non grata, there.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: By the radicals.

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) - a house there that Hamas has not touched.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Israelis are not in opposition to the Palestinians. They're in opposition to the Muslim radicals. And it's the radicals -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: - who are involved on the other side from Abu Mazen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that -

MS. CLIFT: It's the policies that are radicalizing everybody.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: - Prime Minister Netanyahu could have accomplished what Mort describes as his aim without this 185,000 -

MR. BUCHANAN: Eighteen hundred - 1,800 dead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eighteen hundred dead. Excuse me - 1,800 dead; 1,800 dead.

MR. ROGAN: I think there's a difficulty for Netanyahu in the sense that he has a coalition government, with people on the right of him who have, quite frankly - their idea of a peace deal is quite different to what he believes it potentially could be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he a dove - (inaudible)?

MR. ROGAN: No, I think he's - let's call him a centrist hawk. But he has hard-line hawks in his administration. But again, I have to come down with Mort. You know, it's easy for us to sit outside the box. But if you're caught up in the emotion of the conflict and you think about, for example, Hamas, they still weren't in the interviews. Do you still believe - it's not just anti-Israel. It's fundamentally -

MR. BUCHANAN: Hamas has offered a 10-year truce. What I would have done, when they won the election, is recognize Hamas as the winner and say it's conditional. If you send any rockets into Israel, we're going to de-recognize you. But we will work with you economically, humanitarially (sic). But there are conditions on our recognition. We should do the same with Hezbollah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -

MR. ROGAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: - that Netanyahu has been convinced from the beginning that a two-state solution will work?

MR. BUCHANAN: Netanyahu said -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MR. BUCHANAN: John -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I know this from direct personal knowledge.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's not true, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm sorry.

MR. BUCHANAN: Netanyahu - he asked me.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm sorry. I have been working with him -

MR. BUCHANAN: Netanyahu just said -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: - directly on this issue.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So don't tell me he can't do it, because I've been a part of it.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let me tell you what he said just recently. We are never going to give up - take our security personnel off the West Bank, which means it's not going to be a Palestinian state.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When did he say that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Just a couple of weeks ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: In terms of the battle for public opinion, who has come out ahead in this latest fighting between Israel and Gaza or between Netanyahu and who?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Hamas -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Abu Mazen.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hamas has regained a measure of prestige because it stood up to the Israelis. It was flat on its back. Israel has won a military victory, but it's been hurt very much in terms of support in Europe and parts of the United States, even in the Jewish community.

The real - frankly, the people who have come out best (heroically ?) are the Palestinians civilians.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I agree with that assessment. But Hamas has been strengthened, because they managed to kill 60-odd IDF soldiers.

MR. ROGAN: And they've been strengthened because they've managed to lose so many of their own civilians -

MS. CLIFT: Right -

MR. ROGAN: - which they like.

MS. CLIFT: - and that they've stood up -

MR. ROGAN: They do have - (inaudible).

MS. CLIFT: - to that. And that has won the world's sympathy. So, I mean, I think -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: - it's kind of a PR disaster for -

MR. ROGAN: I would just say -

MS. CLIFT: - the Israelis.

MR. ROGAN: - that Hamas, in contrast to Israel, are very happy that innocent Palestinians have died -

MS. CLIFT: Well -

MR. ROGAN: - because it's a political effect for them around the world in propaganda.

MS. CLIFT: They're desperate -

MR. ROGAN: There is - in my mind, there is no - they are happy those people are dead. So let's - you know, we can debate about the politics, which is important diplomacy. But at the level of moral purity, Hamas have absolutely no authority.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's quite a charge you're making.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, just think -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear what he said?

MS. CLIFT: Happy those people are dead - I'm not going to go along with that.

MR. ROGAN: Hamas are, I think.

MS. CLIFT: Not.

MR. ROGAN: You don't think Hamas are?

MS. CLIFT: No, I don't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to say something?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. What did the Palestinians do with all the money and support they got? They didn't spend it on the welfare of their people. They spent it on arms, building arms, building these tunnels, preparing for an attack. That's what's been going on for the last decade.
How do you think any other country would respond to it when they - there were over 3,500 missiles launched against them. What do you think we would do if Canada and Mexico were flying missiles into the United States, where 75 percent of the population have 60 seconds to get into a shelter as these missiles? What do you think we would do?

MS. CLIFT: Well -

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What do you think we have done under those circumstances?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that -

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) - war every couple of years, maybe we'd try to think of something different.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Palestinians may have felt that if we want this to work, we're going to have to fight for it to work.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They've been fighting for it (over again ?). They haven't been negotiating for a settlement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Nixon Remembered.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: (From videotape.) I'm a fighter. I just didn't want to quit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nevertheless, President Richard Milhous Nixon did quit 40 years ago this weekend, leaving behind a one-line letter that read, quote, "I hereby resign the office of the president of the United States," unquote.

Question: Nixon stepped down because he didn't think it was in the national interest to cling to office. Did he get the credit he deserved for resigning to spare the country a protracted ordeal? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, I don't think he did, to be truthful. I think Nixon did resign because he realized and we realized that he was going to be impeached by the full House. He was certainly going to be convicted, and what use to go through maybe six months for a trial, through the election and everything, when the outcome was foregone?
And I also think, John - let me add something. Gerald Ford was attacked for the pardoning of Richard Nixon about a month later. And I think it was a statesmanlike act. It cost him 40 points in the polls, but he avoided the whole trial and all the rest of it - indictment, prosecution, conviction. You know, should he be imprisoned and all that. And I think he cut it and ended it.

And I think one thing that - look, this impeachment thing - you know, I have second thoughts about whether those Republicans should have attempted to. That is political capital punishment in American politics, and we've reverted to it too often and tried to revert to it too often.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was there a deal?

MR. BUCHANAN: There was no deal for the president. I think it was - I think Ford did it, and he was -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Didn't Haig -

MR. BUCHANAN: I heard -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Haig arrange it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they talked about that. But let me say this. I think there was this in mind. Ford was going to pardon the draft dodgers and the rest of them and do - Nixon - and do them both at once to get the whole Vietnam thing done as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Since the situation was unraveling, did Haig, Alexander Haig, step in? He was then chief of staff -

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, we -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: - and approach Jerry -

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: - and say you're the vice president?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. We discovered it - Haig was at Camp David. We discovered - five of us up there, we discovered the tape. And my solution was just drop the tape out there. It will explode. It will dynamite underneath our - the president's support, and by Friday he'll be gone. And Ray Price, on Monday or Tuesday, was already writing the resignation statement.

MS. CLIFT: How were you - how did you plan the tapes would be gotten rid of? Did you literally burn them, dump them? What?

MR. BUCHANAN: You can run a magnetic - a magnet across them, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, get Rose Mary Woods back in the act.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, that was the year before -

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: - the year before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you old enough or young enough to remember Richard Nixon?

MR. ROGAN: Well, only to the degree that, you know, as a formative experience, especially as an American growing up abroad, there's the celebrity factor around Nixon in terms of everyone knows about it. But what they don't know about, you know, you could read Pat's book.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he widely respected in the environment you were growing up in?

MR. ROGAN: He was not widely respected. He became synonymous with Republicans, which I, as a young Republican growing up during the Bush years in Iraq in Europe, found difficult.

(Cross talk.)

MR. ROGAN: But, you know, I agree with you absolutely on the point of Ford, that you have leadership in that sense afterwards. It helped move the country forward beyond partisan -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, to leadership - I'm trying to make the point earlier - initiated or stimulated by Alexander Haig.

MR. BUCHANAN: There was no fix in, if that's what you're talking about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There was no fix.

MR. BUCHANAN: But a lot of them in Europe, they looked at it like the French. What are they impeaching this guy for a wiretap, you know, when he's done all these things in foreign policy?

MS. CLIFT: But - (inaudible) - president across -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from Mort.

MS. CLIFT: - a wide number of areas.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's very hard for me to say that it was just wiretapping, this thing. There's a lot more to it than that, Pat, I'm afraid. And I think there was, frankly - however it came about, I think it was the right thing for him to resign and leave the office, because, as Pat says, it would have been a compounding effect if -

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. What do you think was going on that required his resignation?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What - I mean, there were a whole series -

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) - in the Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there was a break-in.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Let's just start off with what Pat said, OK. There was going to be a hearing. There would have been an impeachment. There would have been a trial. It would have been a disaster for the United States. It would have absolutely destroyed any ability to do anything other than focus on that. The country did not have to go through that. And in that sense, however it happened, whether it was a deal or it wasn't, I think it was the right thing to do, because in the end he would have been impeached.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the whole deposit of negatives surrounding Richard Nixon was enough to warrant an impeachment?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the old man may have rustled a couple of ponies, but he was hung by the biggest horse thieves in the county.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye.

(END)