The McLaughlin Group
Subject: The Battle Against ISIS, the Mid-Term Elections
John McLaughlin, Host;
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast;
Guy Taylor, Washington Times;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report
Time: 11:30 am EDT
Date: Sunday, September 28th, 2014
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Target ISIS in Syria.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) Last night, on my orders, America's armed forces began strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. We were joined in this action by our friends and partners - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America's fight alone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, escalated this week. For the first time, early Tuesday the U.S.-led coalition hit targets inside of Syria, expanding the war beyond the country of Iraq. The barrage included missiles fired from U.S. ships and U.S. and allied pilots dropping bombs on multiple targets.
The first day of bombing hit ISIS' de facto capital of Raqqah in northeast Syria, a city ISIS had controlled for more than a year, and where it has training facilities and command centers. Other ISIS areas also hit: Deir al-Zour, Abu Kamal and Hasakah.
A second wave of strikes hit Syrian oil refineries that ISIS had seized to fuel its vehicles and to sell the Syrian oil on a black market that netted ISIS more than $50 million a month.
ISIS was not the only group in the crosshairs. West of Aleppo, an al-Qaida offshoot called the Khorasan Group was hit solely by the U.S. because the U.S. Central Command had advised that an attack from Khorasan on the U.S. or western targets was imminent.
The Pentagon called the strikes, quote-unquote, "very successful," but stressed that these airstrikes are only the beginning of a long haul.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (Pentagon spokesman): (From videotape.) We know that this is going to be complicated. It's going to take a serious effort by all involved. And we do believe that we're talking about years here. I can't put an exact number on that, but this is not something that we're going to be done within days or weeks or months.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will these kinds of targeted strikes be enough to deter or defeat ISIS? Pat Buchanan.
PAT BUCHANAN: In a word, no. I think we can degrade ISIS, John, but we can't destroy it or defeat it with airstrikes. The key to ISIS is that it is in Syria right now, and it's going to take ground troops to defeat it. But the only real ground troops there are ISIS and al-Qaida in the north, and in the south the Syrian army, backed by Hezbollah and Iran. So we've got no cards on the table in terms of ground troops in Syria.
In Iraq, we've got no ground troops there. None of our allies are going to provide ground troops. What you have in the north is the Kurds, who can defend Irbil with American air power. You have the Shia-dominated government in the south, which can defend it. But you get out to Anbar, you get Ramadi, you get Tikrit, you get Mosul, there's no way we can take that back without ground troops.
John, this is a strategy to deter and contain ISIS. You cannot defeat them ever unless you send in ground troops into both Syria and Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, the strikes - the airstrikes can brush back - they are brushing back ISIL. And they're necessary, because you can't just let ISIL continue to take ground at will. They've already got, like, a third of Iraq, and they've got a safe harbor in Syria. So I think the airstrikes are appropriate, both in Iraq and Syria.
And I think the weak link, as Pat says, is ground troops and who's going to commit ground troops. And the $500 million to train Syrian fighters, the so-called moderates, that's going to take a while anyway.
But the president is doing the right thing, because this is really more - it's their fight. These countries over there are much more on the line than the U.S. is. And the coalition that he has put together with the five monarchies that stretch really from the more moderate Jordan -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm.
MS. CLIFT: - to the more radically conservative Saudi Arabia is pretty impressive. And when you have a female fighter pilot leading the battle for the United Arab Emirates, which is a forward-thinking country - I mean, this is looking at the future that's got to come together. They've got to protect their governments from extremism. And if they don't get in the fight, it's lost. And the president is right to stand aside, do what we can, but they've got to get in it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, Syria reacts, or doesn't, which speaks volumes.
Bouthaina Shaaban is a media and political adviser to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. When President Obama raised the possibility of the U.S. striking within Syria two and a half weeks ago, Shaaban had this reply.
BOUTHAINA SHAABAN (Syrian media adviser): (From videotape.) A, we are ready to be part of any coalition against terrorism. B, any strike in Syria without coordination with the Syrian government is considered an aggression against Syria.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. did not coordinate with the Assad regime, but shortly before the strikes informed Syria's envoy to the U.N. that the strikes were coming. As to whether Assad considers the strikes, quote, "an aggression against Syria," unquote, he certainly did not intercept or use antiaircraft power to stop the bombardment on his territory.
Question: Why hasn't Syria protested the violation of its sovereign airspace? I ask you, Guy.
GUY TAYLOR: John, what's happening here is that Syria - the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad is basically content now to see the United States Air Force, as well as Sunni Arab nations in the Middle East, come together to bomb the opposition that Bashar Assad has effectively been trying to fight for the last three years.
Let's roll it back a year ago. The Obama administration was calling for Bashar Assad's ouster. Now we've gone 180 degrees and the United States is bombing that opposition that Assad has tried to describe as terrorists all along.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he's doing Assad a favor?
MR. TAYLOR: I think we're absolutely doing Assad a favor.
MORT ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MR. TAYLOR: We didn't hit Syrian targets at all during these strikes. I'm not saying we should have. But we need to look at how this exposes the vacuum of our strategy. We don't really have one. What comes after this? Whose side are we trying to pick here? We're just reacting to violence in the Middle East by basically going and bombing the (sandbox ?).
The good thing - Eleanor pointed at this - that's come out of this this week is that the GCC, the Gulf Cooperation Council, has finally put jets in the air to work with us. So Sunni Muslim nations in the Middle East for the first time - and this is historic, and it's worth remembering right now, because it will affect where this goes in the next 25 years -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK -
MR. TAYLOR: - they're bombing Sunni extremists right in the Middle East right now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Lessons from the Vietnam War?
PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: (From videotape.) Air action is now in execution against gunboats and certain supporting facilities in North Vietnam, which have been used in these hostile operations. Our response for the present will be limited and fitting.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson announced the first U.S. airstrikes against North Vietnam. Operation Rolling Thunder was supposed to last eight weeks but went on for three years. President Johnson opted for bombing North Vietnam because he wanted to avoid the issue of U.S. ground troops. Ultimately, he committed more than 500,000 U.S. forces to the Vietnam War.
Lyndon Johnson's military escalation in Vietnam is the textbook study of mission creep. Is President Obama in danger of going down that same road? Mort Zuckerman.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Sure, there's always that danger. But we're in a position that I'd like to describe as the evil of two lessers. We have no good choices here, so we have to put the one that is the one most in our interest and the one with least risk and least damage to us. And going after the ISIS - the ISIL people - is, in fact, in my judgment, the right decision. It doesn't mean that Syria is the great - that Syria is going to benefit from that, because these are the opponents to Assad's government, and Assad is not exactly somebody whom you would want to send to a Christmas party.
Having said that, he's still not as bad as the ISIL people and not as threatening to our interests in the region. And that's why we're doing it. How far it goes is still to be determined.
MS. CLIFT: And he's not expansionist. He's not looking to expand his empire beyond Syria, where ISIL is looking to expand and create a caliphate.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: But I want to say the comparison with Lyndon Johnson - President Obama does not have the resources that a Lyndon Johnson had. First of all, the economy was booming then. We had guns and butter. And secondly, there was a draft, so you had an unlimited amount of manpower.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?
MR. BUCHANAN: The point -
MS. CLIFT: The point is that this president is constrained by lack of resources, plus his own inclination. He doesn't want to get involved in another ground -
MR. BUCHANAN: The policy is incoherent, John.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, Pat. I get to finish a sentence.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: He's not going to send in 500,000 or 168,000 troops into these countries.
MR. BUCHANAN: But the policy is incoherent, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well taken. Point well taken.
MR. BUCHANAN: Guy makes a very good point. Look, you have - Qatar and Saudi Arabia were bombing ISIL in Syria, which, just up until a couple of months ago, they were aiding in Syria as the Sunni allies to overthrow Assad. The policy cannot succeed without ground troops. It is incoherent. It is inconsistent. We are making it up as we go. And we are really in a no-win war.
Eleanor is right. We're not going to send in 100,000 troops into Iraq or Syria.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: But I don't know how or where this thing ends.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But let me just say one thing. We have a number of allies in the region, OK - Saudi Arabia, Egypt -
MS. CLIFT: Turkey.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: - Turkey. Well, Turkey's not exactly an ally. They are an ally, but -
MS. CLIFT: They're in NATO.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We all understand they're the largest, but they're not going to help us. That's the difference. It doesn't matter -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Finish your point.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We have to work to save those people and to prevent those people, because if ISIL really begins to explode - I mean, explode in terms of their expansion - they're going to threaten all of our allies. And that is exactly -
MR. BUCHANAN: Our allies have been aiding ISIL, Turkey included, a NATO ally, the eighth military army in the world.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not going to justify Turkey.
MR. BUCHANAN: But why do we have to -
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But Saudi Arabia and Egypt, for example -
MR. BUCHANAN: Mort, why do we have to save these -
MR. ZUCKERMAN: - and Jordan and UAE -
MR. BUCHANAN: Why do we have to save -
MR. ZUCKERMAN: - are the allies we have to keep.
MR. BUCHANAN: Why do we have to save them?
MS. CLIFT: We don't. We don't.
MR. BUCHANAN: Why can't they save themselves?
MS. CLIFT: We don't. That's why we're doing air power -
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Because they don't have the capacity to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. I want to raise this question about Khorasan - Khorasan - K-H-O-R-A-S-A-N. Before this week, nobody outside of the counterterrorism experts has ever heard of Khorasan. What does this emergence signify? And can you describe it?
MR. TAYLOR: This is an absolutely eye-opening development in all of this. The leader of this group, OK, is a guy named Muhsin al-Fadhli. We don't know yet if he was killed by Monday's strike. He was hiding out in Iran, outside of Tehran, for the last eight years, identified by the U.S. intelligence. There are reports out there of this character and his role in financing people from the original core of al-Qaida, as the narrative went, that pulled off the 9/11 attack.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Al-Qaida.
MR. TAYLOR: Al-Qaida, the original Osama bin Laden core. This guy, it turns out, was hiding out near Aleppo in Syria and was targeted by these strikes on Monday night. It's kind of amazing that this was going on separate from ISIL.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are any Americans in Khorasan?
MS. CLIFT: No. The administration -
MR. BUCHANAN: There are 12 in ISIS, 12 Americans fighting with ISIS. There are 100 Americans overall in Syria.
MR. TAYLOR: There's an important point here. This group is different from ISIL/Islamic State movement. This is a group that the Obama administration is now claiming is the very same as the original core of al-Qaida that perpetrated the 9/11 attack.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. TAYLOR: This is politically important -
MS. CLIFT: This is -
MR. TAYLOR: - politically important because the administration needs cover to have the authorization to make war in another country other than Iraq. And the 2001 authorization of military force from Congress allowed the Bush administration to go after al-Qaida, the people who perpetrated 9/11, anywhere in the world.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah -
MR. TAYLOR: The Obama administration - it's very convenient that these al-Qaida core guys showed up in Syria.
MS. CLIFT: But the administration has been tracking this group for two years. And it didn't go public because they didn't want them to know how much we knew.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking Khorasan now?
MS. CLIFT: Khorasan. They're only about 30 people. They are expert bomb makers. And they are looking to create bombs that can get on aircraft. And evidently there was some evidence that they were, quote, about to go operational. I think it was an opportunistic airstrike and was the appropriate thing to do.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Any Americans in Khorasan? I think I asked that. I'm asking it again.
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Guy's point is very important. We hit Khorasan because we had a right to hit al-Qaida. That gave us the right to hit Syria.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm.
MR. BUCHANAN: What it tells you is Congress has got to come back here in December, and they're going to have to vote for a new authorization for this war. You can't use these subterfuges for -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Khorasan is the fig leaf for Congress?
MR. BUCHANAN: Khorasan was the fig leaf to get our strikes into Syria.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And it is a fig leaf for -
MS. CLIFT: It wasn't just a fig leaf.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: - Congress to take some action -
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: - that has been requested by the president.
MR. BUCHANAN: They've got to get something new for all this bombing we're doing in Syria.
MS. CLIFT: Khorasan was not a fig leaf, because if you have evidence that your national security is at stake and there's an imminent attack, the president had every right to do that.
Look, John Boehner, the speaker, just said no vote. So, you know, let's see what Congress does. They don't -
MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to vote?
MS. CLIFT: They don't know which way the policies are going to go -
MR. BUCHANAN: Then they shouldn't be brought back at all.
MS. CLIFT: - and they're scared to vote, so -
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. They're still debating - (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we finished -
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) - not going to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we finished with sovereign airspace? Sovereignty being, according to Kissinger's latest book, where he derives so much - he attaches so much importance to sovereignty.
MS. CLIFT: Well, the sovereign line is -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think all the bases have been covered?
MS. CLIFT: The sovereign line is -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, the bases have been covered as far as -
MR. ZUCKERMAN: For the moment.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, they need a new authorization to continue bombing Syria that is not Khorasan -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have -
MR. BUCHANAN: - because we've got no right to bomb that country.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have no clearance to bomb Syria, and sovereignty dictates we should not bomb Syria. Is that what you're saying?
MR. BUCHANAN: I'm saying unless Congress basically authorizes a war inside Syria -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't Obama call them up?
MR. BUCHANAN: Call who up?
MS. CLIFT: They're on vacation. I mean, they're out campaigning.
MR. BUCHANAN: He doesn't want it.
MS. CLIFT: They're not going to come back, and he's not going to - unless he knows that he's going to get support. What kind of signal does it send to the world if they don't step up?
MR. TAYLOR: (Inaudible) - justification under the 2001 authorization of military strikes.
MS. CLIFT: So he doesn't have to go to them. And I think it's a good thing if the Congress and the executive -
MR. TAYLOR: I don't know -
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, please. It's a good thing if the Congress and the executive do it together, but it's not essential. And it's up to the Congress.
MR. BUCHANAN: You mean, he can fight a presidential -
MS. CLIFT: It's not up to the president.
MR. BUCHANAN: He can fight a presidential war, you're telling me, another presidential war?
MS. CLIFT: I don't know what your point is.
MR. BUCHANAN: My point is -
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We will live - we will live in mystery. We're going to live in mystery on that.
Issue Two: A Bush Is Back.
FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR JEB BUSH (R): (From videotape.) Republicans can show that they lead if they gain a majority status. So I am working as hard as I can to help candidates when they've asked for it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush stumped for North Carolina Senate candidate Republican Thom Tillis this week in one of the most closely watched races in the country. Mr. Tillis is in a tight contest with sitting senator Democrat Kay Hagan. So Tillis has been calling on Republican heavyweights to lend their support.
At the event, Jeb Bush expounded on issues that he is fervent about: One, immigration reform - he's a proponent of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants - and two, education standards for Common Core, disliked by GOP activists.
The New York Times noted that candidate Tillis, quote, "gently put distance between himself and his guest of honor," unquote, on these issues, and voiced far more conservative stances on immigration and education than did Mr. Bush.
Question: If Jeb Bush decides to run for president in 2016, is he too moderate for the Republican base, or is he just what the doctor ordered? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: He's too moderate for Republican voters. You take Common Core. Bobby Jindal was very much out in favor of it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's Bobby Jindal.
MR. BUCHANAN: Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana. He's had to run away from that. Marco Rubio was for immigration reform.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's Marco Rubio?
MR. BUCHANAN: Marco Rubio's the U.S. senator from Florida who was thinking about - (inaudible) -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right, right, right.
MR. BUCHANAN: - damaged deeply by his support for immigration reform. He's run away from it.
Jeb Bush, first, John, it doesn't look to me like he's got the fire in the belly. He hasn't run in a dozen years or more for anything. He's got these two -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's getting warmed up.
MR. BUCHANAN: These two issues will see him torn apart in the very rough primaries and caucuses -
MS. CLIFT: To his credit -
MR. BUCHANAN: - Iowa and New Hampshire.
MS. CLIFT: To his credit, he's not walking away from those issues like the other two people you cited.
MR. BUCHANAN: He ran away.
MS. CLIFT: He's not running away. He's doubling down on immigration reform and he's doubling down on the Common Core. And if you look at the field, other than, I suppose, Chris Christie, it's a field that's filled with, you know, conservatives and social conservatives and libertarians. So you can imagine that he could carve out a piece in that landscape.
And I think it would be refreshing if you had someone who actually is saying what they think and isn't backing away from earlier positions. He may be in the wrong party, though.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Are you against posturing?
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) I'm for posturing for a good cause.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you?
MS. CLIFT: But the Republican nomination -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we're making progress here.
MS. CLIFT: - is not necessarily that good a cause. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of Jeb?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, I met him - I've met him before, but I met him for a good period of time a number of weeks ago when he came to New York, and he had a very small luncheon. And I will tell you, he was as knowledgeable and as effective and as thoughtful as any Republican that I have talked to in a very, very long time.
I think he's absolutely first-rate. He's a real talent. And he speaks with authority. He's not overwhelming in any sense. He's going to be a very effective candidate if he comes (about ?). He also, as you know, speaks perfect Spanish. So this is going to be something that's going to be helpful with at least the Hispanic community.
I think he is going to be, in my judgment, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination. I'm not saying he's going to win it. I think he is by far the most outstanding candidate they have and the one who has the best chance to win the presidential election.
And the conservatives in the Republican Party, if they aren't careful, they do not want to be in the wilderness for another eight years after Obama's - the Obama presidency. And they know they need a leader who can be elected. And he can be elected.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he take questions from the floor?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he asked whether or not he's going to run?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, of course he was asked whether or not he's going to run.
MR. BUCHANAN: The polls have not been good.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What'd he say? What'd he say?
MR. BUCHANAN: Mort, the national polls have not been good for Jeb Bush.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. I want to hear what he said.
What'd he say?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He said he hasn't made up his mind yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He hasn't made up his mind.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No. And -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His mother said we've had enough Bushes in the White House. His mother said that.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, his mother may have said that. He doesn't - you don't travel all the way to New York, for example, to have lunch with 10 or 15 people unless you're interested, somehow or other, in your political future. So I have no idea whether he's going to run or not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's -
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I suspect he is going to run.
MR. TAYLOR: I agree with everything all three of you said. And I appreciate Mort's zeal. But frankly, I don't know who Jeb Bush thinks he is at this point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jeb.
MR. TAYLOR: He's going to be running - there's only so much room for rational, middle-of-the-road, honest Republicans in this upcoming race, OK? And the space is filled both physically -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think Jeb's cleared that hurdle, don't you?
MR. TAYLOR: - physically and ideologically by Chris Christie. OK, Jeb won't - put him on a stage with Christie. Christie will blow him away. Jeb Bush -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think so.
MR. TAYLOR: He hasn't run for anything since 2002, John.
MR. BUCHANAN: If Romney runs - Romney and Bush, I think, will have some kind of deal. I think they've got some kind of deal - if one goes, the other does - because they would split up the moderate vote in -
MR. TAYLOR: So between Romney, Christie and Jeb Bush -
MR. BUCHANAN: I would put more - I'd put more odds that Romney gets in than that Bush gets in. But I don't - I haven't talked to either of them. I'm not that important. I don't talk to them at lunch. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the GOP ready for a third Bush candidacy? Yes or no. Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: It may be, but I don't think so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Candidacy.
MR. BUCHANAN: You mean for his running? Look, he's got a perfect right to run. And I think there's a chance he will. But I think it's more likely Romney will run and more likely maybe that Christie will run.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No fire in the belly.
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think - he doesn't show me the fire in the belly.
MS. CLIFT: Americans have a short attention span, and they're forgiving. So I think if he gets in the race, he's got a chance.
MR. TAYLOR: I hope he runs. He'll get chewed apart by the crazy right wing in the primaries if he does, though.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. TAYLOR: He absolutely will.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't agree with that. As I say, I think if they do that, OK, they're going to be in the wilderness again forever. They're not that - I was going to say they're not that stupid. They're not that unwise is the better way to put it. They don't want to be in the wilderness after Obama administration. If you have an Obama administration and then a Clinton administration and you're a conservative Republican -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jeb Bush's gubernatorial career in Florida was a masterpiece.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it was excellent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he's totally beloved by the people there.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got that state through a horrible hurricane.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And his governing and the fact that he has an Hispanic wife and that whole aspect of it have a lot to bear in his - in what he brings to the picture.
Issue Three: Is the Science Settled?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) This is not fiction. It is science. Unchecked, climate change will pose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies and our planet.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Let me just set the stage by saying that the science here is settled.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These words on climate change were uttered by President Obama at the Copenhagen climate conference five years ago and at a town hall meeting four months ago. This week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, more than 120 world leaders met against the background of mass marches to call attention to the need for an international climate change treaty when delegates meet in Paris next year.
President Obama says the scientific debate on climate change is settled. But not everyone concurs. In an important dissent, the Obama administration's own former undersecretary for science in the U.S. Energy Department, Dr. Steven Koonin, called Mr. Obama's claims that the science is settled, quote-unquote, "misguided."
Dr. Koonin says the claim chills scientific inquiry and inhibits a much-needed examination of why the computer models climate scientists rely on are consistently wrong.
Item: Missing ice. Computers accurately forecast shrinkage in the Arctic sea ice, but completely missed the record growth in the Antarctic sea ice.
Item: Missing heat. The models predict a hot spot developing in the tropics, but no such hot spot exists.
Item: More missing heat. The models miss the fact that for 16 years now, temperatures have not risen, despite a 25 percent jump in global carbon emissions.
Item: Missing carbon. The models cannot explain why 70 years ago, when carbon emissions were far lower, sea levels rose by one foot per century, the same rate as today, when carbon emissions are ubiquitous.
Dr. Koonin says climate change is real, and man plays a part, but, quote, "while the past two decades have seen progress in climate science, the field is not yet mature enough to usefully answer the difficult and important questions being asked of it. Any serious discussion must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future," unquote.
Is the science truly settled? Guy Taylor.
MR. TAYLOR: John, I read the Koonin piece and I thought it made some very good arguments. But I think we have to ask ourselves - despite this guy's past relationship with the Obama administration, he's now in the private sector, and is he a shill for the oil companies -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's lovely.
MR. TAYLOR: - essentially the oil companies and essentially the fossil fuels lobby?
I want to seize on it, though, and point something out. The debate about whether or not the science is settled is going to go on for a while. What we should be looking at in any segment on this is the fact that people on both sides of the debate can agree that air pollution around the world, in American cities but especially in the Far East - in Beijing, Jakarta - these places, it's horrific. This is something that can be explained all the way down to mothers of children, regardless of where they sit on the intellectual, education, socioeconomic scale.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, climate change is real and it's happening. And now you see both sides trying to lower the rhetoric and say let's now just try to address the changes. It may be too late to reverse the warming of the planet that is already under way. But we can do something to help the Pacific island nations, which are beginning to drown. California, Florida, New York coastal cities are all taking action to prepare for what's ahead.
I don't understand why conservatives have turned this into such an ideological mission.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm.
MS. CLIFT: It's clear that the pollution that we're putting into the atmosphere is not helping. It's not helping the oceans.
MR. TAYLOR: Well, because they're -
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me talk for the conservatives. Look, there's no doubt we can measure things scientifically - how warm it is. And global warming stopped at about `97. We can measure that. You can measure the size of the Arctic icepack and the Antarctic icepack.
What they can't do, John -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: Science is predictable. This is unpredictable. We've had things -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.
MR. BUCHANAN: They haven't predicted anything right. And in all these areas, what they're trying to do is transfer wealth and power -
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: - from people and nations to global bureaucrats.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jeb Bush will run for president in 2016. Yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: One in three chances.
MS. CLIFT: It looks like a yes.
MR. TAYLOR: I would say no.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.