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The McLaughlin Group

Issues: Dealing with Syria's Assad, Republican Budget, Netanyahu's Fourth Term

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

Taped: Friday, March 20, 2015
Broadcast: Weekend of March 20-22, 2015


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ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP, the American original. For over three decades, the sharpest minds, best sources, hardest talk.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: Issue One: A Deal With the Devil?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT: They don’t talk to anyone unless he’s a puppet. And they easily trample over the international law, which is about our sovereignty now. So, they don’t talk to us. We don’t talk to them.

There’s no dialogue. There’s let’s say information. But not dialogue.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Four years since Syria entered a brutal civil war in which the U.N. estimates suggest over 220,000 have been killed, President Assad of Syria is sounding confident, facing the hyper aggressive terrorist army of ISIS, otherwise known as the Islamic State or ISIL, and the fragmentation of the so-called moderate rebels, who oppose Mr. Assad, Western leaders have decided that defeating ISIS is the priority.

This was Secretary of State John Kerry said last weekend.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are working very hard with other interested parties to see if we can reignite a diplomatic outcome. Why? Because everybody agrees there is no military solution. We have to negotiate in the end.

MCLAUGHLIN: That’s a big change from what President Obama said two years ago. Back then, he said Assad had to go.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That the only way to bring stability and peace to Syria is going to be for Assad to step down and to move forward on a political transition.

MCLAUGHLIN: Today, President Assad says President Obama has realized that supporting anti-regime rebels was a mistake.

ASSAD: He said it’s a fantasy. We all know it’s a fantasy. Even in the Western media now, they are talking about the ISIS and al Nusra and al Qaeda affiliates, organization and the groups prevailing. It doesn’t happen suddenly. It’s illogical, unrealistic to suddenly shift from moderate to extremist. Yes, they are the same grassroots.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Facing the ISIS threat, is it time to make a deal with Syria’s President Assad?

Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: John, the United States looks on ISIS and al Qaeda as enemy number one. But we’ve got allies, the Israelis, the Saudis, the Gulf Arabs, even the Turks to a degree, who think Assad is the main enemy.

I think we’re right, and in any event, we ought to act in our interest. And the party we can’t negotiate with and we can’t have any part of leadership or ownership is ISIS. So, I think the fact that the United States has failed in its effort to dump over Assad -- he has survived, he is fighting, he is killing the enemy -- I think we ought to deal with him and tell the other allies we’ve got, that look, we’re acting in our interest here and we’re going to do it. And while we appreciate your advice, we’ll take our own.

MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: I think the deal has already been made, because he remained in power, there’s no active effort on the part of the U.S. to remove him. The U.S. is trading information with the Assad regime in order to bomb ISIS and restrain the territory that they’re taking.

I don’t know if it makes sense to make that deal explicit. I think it’s implicit. And I’m not sure that empowering Assad and saying, you know, we’re behind him as the leader going forward makes any sense, because his brutal regime basically laid the seeds for the revolt that has now transformed into ISIS. And he’s saying that these elements were there from the beginning. I don’t believe that.

MCLAUGHLIN: Tom?

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/DAILY TELEGRAPH: Yes, I think Eleanor is right, that the deal has actually already being made. There is some sharing of intelligence. The problem is, and why I would disagree with Pat is, that in the long term all these issues, whether it would be Iran, ISIS, all bound up together. They’re products of two sides, on the one side, the Iranian, Khomeini ideology, presenting the expansion of Shia theological power, and the other side, ISIS, presenting the expansion of Salafi jihadist power.

And what they’re trying to do is to politicize sectarianism, which is to say that they are trying to force Sunnis, to say, you’re only mechanism for empowerment is to go to ISIS, and, Shia, your only mechanism for empowerment is to resort to Iran. And why that matters specifically in Syria is that with 220,000 massive predominantly Sunnis killed, were the United States to engage in any kind of serious formal relationship with Assad, or even a serious informal relationship, it would fundamentally delegitimize our ability to cool those sectarian tensions, to present political moderation which we can do, again, for example, Sunni major political parties in Iraq. That’s the kind of thing we have to empower. We make a deal with Assad, that dies and the two people who have benefit most, obviously, Assad, but Iran, ISIS and this continuing culture of Iran that is destabilizing the world, as we see in Tunisia and Algeria -- Tunisia and Yemen.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you pulled all that together

(LAUGHTER)

CLIFT: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Wait, may I just make a comment --

MCLAUGHLIN: I’m sorry, Mort.

ZUCKERMAN: You’re doing it alphabetically.

MCLAUGHLIN: Good to see you here.

ZUCKERMAN: Look, thank you.

Comparing Assad and ISIS remains me of that great line about it, it’s the evil of two lesser, OK? I mean, we have two terrible sides going at each other, and in the sense, a plague gone both their houses. I don’t know that we can get involved with Assad, but we sure we can’t just stand by if it gets too far, because it’s going to spread to the whole region if we aren’t careful.

So, we cannot get too close to Assad, and, of course, we can’t --

BUCHANAN: Mort, we are close to -- we are getting closer to Iran, because Iran, Assad and Hezbollah, much as we dislike them, much as we believe they’ve engaged in terror and they’ve engaged in slaughter, they are the main people now fighting ISIS and al Qaeda. Even the Houthi rebels are -- in Yemen are attached to Iran, but they’re the only ones fighting.

Our allies, the Turks, the Saudis, even the Jordanians, the Gulf Arabs, they’re not fighting. They’re just telling us who we should fight.

ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think that’s a fair comment. But at some point, okay, the Saudis and the Jordanians, et cetera, who are frankly, our more natural allies, they will be turned on by --

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: ISIS is after them!

ROGAN: Iran --

ZUCKERMAN: Well, Iran be. Iran is going to be in my judgment, the longer term, more dangerous opponent for our interest in that part of the --

BUCHANAN: But ISIS or Assad wins!

CLIFT: But this isn’t the first time that we have shared interest with countries that are considered enemies. After 9/11, Iran actually came to the aid of the U.S. So, I don’t think we should act as though this is the first time ever, and if you can’t agree on every subject, you can’t make an alliance.

ROGAN: And I think, you know, Pat is taking a kind of pragmatic approach to this. And, you know, I respect that. I think the difficulty is we have to -- and if we’re being honest about it, okay, but the problem is, we have to admit and accept that Iran is not interested in defeating ISIS. They’re interested in defeating ISIS as a precursor of taking control of Iraq and displace the Iraqi --

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: They’ve got Iraq. We gave it to them.

ROGAN: No --

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Iran will move as far as the Shia go. They are not going to move into Sunni territory. The reason I’m less concerned about Iran is the Shia are only about 10 percent of the Muslims worldwide.

ROGAN: But you see what they’re doing in Mosul and Tikrit now.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: When they go into Mosul, they’re going to be in Sunni territory. That’s why I think there’s somewhat --

ROGAN: But Tikrit is Sunni and they beat the Shia militias have been massacring people.

MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

CLIFT: The Sunni nations are happy to hold our coat while we do the fighting and there is something wrong with that picture.

MCLAUGHLIN: Would President Assad be a reliable ally in the fight to eradicate ISIS, yes or no?

Pat Buchanan?

BUCHANAN: He’s doing the fighting now, but I do agree, I think Assad’s reign is temporary. The Assad family has not got a wrong term role in Syria, but right now, they are a de facto ally of the United States, in the war against ISIS.

CLIFT: Yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?

CLIFT: They’re an ally, I don’t know how enduring any alliance is in the Middle East. But for now, they’ll work.

MCLAUGHLIN: Tom?

ROGAN: They can’t be an ally, and the way to do it unfortunately and it’s inherently messy, and I accept the criticism on this. You’ve got to throw arms and money at the Sunni tribes in Deir Ezzor and Anbar, northern Syria, and you have to roll the dice there. That’s how bad this is. But that is inherently messy as well.

So, I’m just saying that, but I accept that is not a clean cut. That carries counterterrorism ramifications.

ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I don’t see how we can get too close to Assad. Because there are still a lot of other communities in that part of the world, who will basically not trust us at that point, if we do that. I’m not saying we have to just ignore everything. But I just don’t see us getting closer to Syria.

BUCHANAN: But who wins if he falls?

ZUCKERMAN: Who wins if he falls?

BUCHANAN: If Assad falls, you get ISIS in Damascus.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: And that’s why you’ve got to get these other Sunni rebels to be in power.

ZUCKERMAN: The question is when, OK? Let them work with ISIS for a while, let’s have a level of attrition and then see.

MCLAUGHLIN: Don’t forget, THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP has its own Web site and you can watch this program, or earlier programs on the Web at anytime from anywhere in the universe, especially black holes.

CLIFT: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: At McLaughlin.com, could anything be easier, McLaughlin.com, or more groovy – how’s that, Pat?

Issue Two: A Balanced Budget?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: For 53 of the last 60 years, the federal government has spent more than it has taken in, 53 of the last 60 years. It’s unacceptable. To this day, now in the seventh year in office, the president has never proposed a budget that balances. Our budget will balance, but it’s also about growing our economy, growing jobs and building economic strength for our future.

MCLAUGHLIN: Speaker of the House John Boehner unveiled a Republicans’ 2016 budget proposal on St. Patrick’s Day. To those who are worried about runaway federal spending, it’s cause for celebration. Over 10 years, the GOP budget will cut $5.5 trillion in spending, resulting in a budget surplus of $33 billion by 2025. The proposed savings are far ranging, from consolidation of 92 anti-poverty programs, to giving states control over food stamps, and Medicaid.

The GOP budget also includes spending cuts from repealing the Affordable Care Act. If enacted, federal spending as a share of gross domestic product will fall to 18.2 percent from today’s level of 20.3 percent, and sharply below the 22.3 percent it has projected to reach by 2024 under current spending.

The budget retains the controversial 2011 spending caps known as sequestration. But to bolster defense in an uncertain world, it increases the Pentagon emergency fund by $94 billion next year. President Obama was quick to dismiss the GOP proposal, quote, "It’s not a budget that reflects the future. It’s not a budget that reflects growth," unquote. Separately, the GOP Senate introduced its own budget this week.

Were the Republican proposals to become law, they will first have to pass each chamber and then be merged into a unified bill. Under this process known as reconciliation, Senate Democrats could be bypassed on the plan’s most controversial plank, the repeal of Obamacare.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Can the Republican Congress put federal spending on a path towards a balanced budget?

Eleanor Clift?

CLIFT: The Republican budget is a joke. The Republicans can’t agree among themselves, you have the deficit hawks versus the -- fiscal hawks versus the security hawks, the defense hawks. And they couldn’t even get it out of the committee last week. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was on his cell phone after midnight and they couldn’t even hold the vote. You have Republicans themselves saying this budget is a joke.

So, they can’t agree. They’re headed for the same kind of meltdown on this issue that they’ve headed for on every other issue. And it’s unconscionable the way they cut food stamps, you know, all the programs that help people, at a time when we need to invest in this country, in education, building a workforce, climate change, interest rates are low, money is practically free, and all -- they’re obsessed with cutting the deficit, which has come down faster in the last six years than at anytime since after World War II. It’s ludicrous.

BUCHANAN: John, what this budget is, you know -- what I would this Senate budget, House budget, Obama’s budget, what I would do if I were the king. That’s what it is.

Look, what the House budget, they cut food stamps, they cut Medicaid, slash that, and they get rid of Obamacare. Ain’t going to happen. As Eleanor says, the real interesting battle here is in the Republican Party, between the security hawks, who want to break the sequester caps and spend more security because they got a lot of new wars in mind, and the fiscal hawks, the Tea Party, who want to keep the sequester on there, and squeeze this budget down to a it gets to about 15 percent of GDP or something, and this whole thing is going to be worked out later in this year and it’s going to be a big mess on October 1.

CLIFT: Right. And they’re not going to get any Democratic votes for this.

BUCHANAN: No.

CLIFT: And it’s not clear they can get enough Republican votes for whatever version they produce.

ROGAN: But, you know, one of the positive things about this, and I agree, there’s a lot, you know, convoluted -- there is a lot of discrepancy between the Senate and the House side. I mean, McConnell and Boehner, you know, they have their own interests to do deal with. But, you know, to some degree, it faces up to the fiscal reality, which Democrats have systemically refused to face up to, is that interest rates are not going to stay low in the future, that the pain when they go up, it’s going to be disproportionately on lower income people, because it’s going to make it harder for them to take out loans, it’s going to make them harder to pay back.

But at the same time, you know, entitlements. Again, the CBO budget cuts, I’ve said it before, I said it again, 2018, it goes up again. But entitlements, without reform, are going to explode and they’re going to destroy my generation, or we’re going to have nothing left. So, none of my friends, Democrat or Republican, really think we are going to have Social Security or Medicare.

We have to reform this thing and it’s going to take punishing, it is going to take painful cuts.

BUCHANAN: My generation is doing fine.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGAN: Well, exactly. You know what?

BUCHANAN: And Mort’s is doing OK.

(LAUGHTER)

MCLAUGHLIN: OK, the National Debt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): The national debt is now over $18 trillion and rising. That’s $56,645 per citizen, or $154,113 per taxpayer.

Left unchecked, the Congressional Budget Office says that by 2025, the debt will be over $25 trillion, the equivalent to 77 percent of our gross domestic product.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: OK, the exit question: are we in for another year of budget gridlock and rising red ink? Yes or no?

Pat Buchanan?

BUCHANAN: Yes, they’re going to get to the end of the year, and they’re going to work this thing all out and they’ll kick it over in the couple of continuing resolutions.

CLIFT: And it will be just more evidence that having a Republican-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate does not mean they’re going to get along and they’re going to get anything accomplished -- gridlock, worse than ever.

ZUCKERMAN: Well --

BUCHANAN: What do you think, Tom?

ROGAN: Let’s hear what Mort --

ZUCKERMAN: No, I think this is -- this is going to be a very serious matter at some point. I don’t know exactly when. But there is a lot of opportunity here for the Republicans and (INAUDIBLE) to make some tough decisions and show that they can govern.

You can never get away with something like this, without paying a price. But there will be something to gain if at some point, they can face up to this kind of a challenge and do something about it that makes reasonable sense. And this you do not see yet.

BUCHANAN: When do you get Obama to sign it?

ZUCKERMAN: Even if he doesn’t sign it, okay, it will be shame on him and it will hurt him politically in my judgment and it will help the Republicans in the election.

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERMAN: It’s not all based on that. If you’re the Republicans, you also have to think about whether or not you can establish your credibility as --

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: The big issues are Social Security and Medicare, that’s the Republican core constituency. You want to freeze both of those?

ROGAN: No --

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: And credit to them, they actually care about the future generation of the country. They’re willing to do it.

CLIFT: Their budget calls for repealing Obamacare, and they keep all the savings in Obamacare. They don’t do anything to replace it.

ROGAN: That is ludicrous. You’re right about that.

CLIFT: On defense spending, they add another $2 billion to the emergency fund, but they don’t offset it.

ROGAN: That’s a gimmick.

CLIFT: It’s full of gimmick and hypocrisy.

ROGAN: But the president’s budget is a proud gimmick. The whole State of the Union was a gimmick.

CLIFT: There is not evidence that they are going to be able to govern.

ROGAN: Again, they’re all, you know, hugely oppose in it and that’s very interesting. I wish we had Paul Ryan still going because at least his sums added up when he’d do it.

CLIFT: He was full of loopholes, too. Come on!

ROGAN: Paul Ryan in Congress has a lot of respect with Democrats who passionately disagree with him, but they at least said, you know, he’s honest about it. And there is some dishonesty here, quite a lot of it. But the problem is, and again, it comes to those sums. I do worry about the fact -- unless we’re willing to address these things.

You know, the president seems to think money grows on trees, right? And he said we need infrastructure. Yes, we do. Republicans, we need more revenue as well, that’s right. But at the same time, we have to be honest about the fact that we have no money and that we have to have major hard reforms.

CLIFT: Takes the case, the president thinks money grows on tree. Why don’t you try to back that one up?

ROGAN: Well, by his State of the Union, that he says he wants all this infrastructure spending and he doesn’t want --

CLIFT: He wants to invest in the country --

ROGAN: We don’t have any money.

CLIFT: And people and education and --

ZUCKERMAN: Fine, fine.

CLIFT: And whittle down the long range deficit gradually go down. Go to most responsible economists, they say, you -- and Republicans used to say, let’s grow our way out of this. Eisenhower’s highway system. There are ways to spend money that benefits the country.

ROGAN: And austerity has worked in the U.K., which is the big debate.

CLIFT: And austerity has not worked in Europe.

ROGAN: Why is the U.K. growing at the greatest rate in Europe?

CLIFT: Austerity has been a disaster in Europe.

MCLAUGHLIN: Mort?

ZUCKERMAN: Look, sooner or later, we’re going to have to address this issue, because frankly we are really creating and digging a deeper hole for the next generation of Americans, because they’re going to have a much larger problem to deal, if we continue to just let this kind of ride with it.

BUCHANAN: Mort, let me - you got five major items, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense and interest on the debt. What are you going to cut seriously?

Neither of these party of -- Democrats won’t do Medicaid. Republicans aren’t going to do, nobody is going to do Medicare, nobody is going to do Social Security, even cap it. Interest on the debt, you can’t do it, as you mentioned, interest rates are going to be up. National defense, you’ve got Republicans who want to spend more, more and more because they got more wars in mind.

CLIFT: So, you cut discretionary spending which includes medical --

BUCHANAN: That’s too small.

CLIFT: Which includes -- well, that’s what this budget does, the Republicans do that. I mean, they wipe out medical research, they do all kinds of things that people want.

ZUCKERMAN: Right. Eleanor, you can say people want. There is going to be a point in which all of this collapses, and if somebody is not able to lead the country to try and avert this kind of a thing, we’re in real trouble.

BUCHANAN: Mort, do you agree the European Union is already there. They’re spending 49 percent spent by government, Greece is 59 percent. That’s where we’re headed.

CLIFT: Well, you don’t collapse it on the backs of working people. They’re lot of fat cats --

ZUCKERMAN: I’m not saying you do it that way.

CLIFT: Fat cat money that can be done away with and --

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: There’s a lot of billionaires that can pay more in taxes.

CLIFT: And two parties, maybe someday, we can come together.

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERMAN: I am totally prepared to raise taxes, I’ll tell you that right now. And I’ll join you.

ROGAN: But this is the fact, though. Those matters, you know --

ZUCKERMAN: I’m always in favor, I really am.

CLIFT: I am too.

ROGAN: Facts matter, Medicare recipients now, according to -- you know, there’s a "Washington Post" reference to the study, people can Google it. Three times, they got out three times what they put in.

Now, to some degree, they probably should get out more than they put because that’s the system and I agree, we have the safety net there. But the system at the moment is fundamentally broken. That is a fact. It needs addressing.

CLIFT: I believe the Obama administration made it more closely to seniors on Medicare, and I believe Republicans ran against him on that. So, let’s look at the problem here --

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: Hey, would not just spout cliches.

FOSTER: OK. The president has proposed no entitlement reform.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Netanyahu Take Four.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Speaking Hebrew)

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel won a fourth term in office. After a hard fought election that ended with the highest voter turnout in 15 years, Mr. Netanyahu’s right wing Likud Party defeated a coalition of liberals. Mr. Netanyahu’s successful strategy had three parts.

First, he focused on national security. Second, he fostered doubt about his opponents. And third, he played up his support for religious nationalist interest, like expanded settlement construction in the West Bank.

Of course, this election will also have major international ramifications.

With Prime Minister Netanyahu, having ruled out his support for a Palestinian state in promising continuing resistance to the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran, U.S.-Israeli relations are likely to be increasingly stormy, indicating as much, President Obama took two days to offer congratulations to Mr. Netanyahu.

Moreover, reports suggest that nongovernmental groups linked to the Obama administration had actually been opposing Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign behind the scenes, and now that the election has concluded Obama administration officials are warning that the Israeli government must renew its commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Absent such a commitment, they’re hinting that the United States will drop its traditional protection of Israel from U.N. censure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCLAUGHLIN: Question: what does Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reelection mean for America?

Mort Zuckerman?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, in the first place, there’s something about this introduction that I’d like to straighten out. What he said was, he would not want today, and that word today was on his comments, to go ahead with the recognition and the dealings with the Palestinians, primarily because he said they’re very, shall we say, disorganized, to put it mildly, and they’re still very threatening. And he specifically stated within a couple of, within less than two days, that he did not mean that he will not do it. He said, today, and today is not tomorrow, he just said for today, because of the conditions that he has to deal with in terms of the radicalism in the Palestinian and in the Arab world around him. And that’s why he didn’t think it was a timely way to do it.

BUCHANAN: But --

ZUCKERMAN: He said it in the wrong way. He never should have said it in the first place, don’t get me wrong. But let’s not misunderstand what he said.

BUCHANAN: Well, what he said --

CLIFT: Well, he said what he needed to say to win, and then he walked it back. So, I guess you can kind of understand why he did it. He did what he had to, and now, he’s in the process of walking it back.

ROGAN: The difficulty is going to be here to what degree can the president, President Obama, he took a couple of days to cool Prime Minister Netanyahu and congratulate him, which is a sign of the deep mistrust between the two men. With Iran deal beckoning or not beckoning, but certainly the timeline coming to a closure, it’s going to be -- the defining point will be, how does Israel react to that? How do Republicans reflect Israeli concerns, and how does that then interrelate with President Obama’s priorities? So, I think there are stormy weather ahead is the point.

CLIFT: I think the president is obviously going ahead with the Iran talks. I mean, they’re still very tricky. It’s not just the U.S. and the ayatollah. It’s five other world powers, and I don’t think, whether Netanyahu likes or not, that he doesn’t have the veto power over that.

But the political ramifications of this, Speaker Boehner is now traveling to Israel. I think there has been something of a schism opened up among American Jews. They’re not fully comfortable with Netanyahu. They’re not going to walk away from him.

Hillary Clinton, how did she deal with this? She’s a strong Israel supporter, but she doesn’t want a headline that says, that she breaks with the president --

BUCHANAN: The short term --

CLIFT: Excuse me -- that she breaks with the president over Israel. But she doesn’t want a headline that she’s breaking with Israel. So, politically, it’s very tricky.

BUCHANAN: Short term, the Republicans are going to win, because they only usually get 20 percent of the Jewish vote, most they get is 35 percent. But I think there’s a lot of American Jewish folks who share Netanyahu’s view about the crisis they see in Israel, and Republicans will be seen as their friends.

MCLAUGHLIN: To you, Mort?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, I do think that this is probably the most forthcoming the Republicans have been to Israel, the Democrats are really sort of undermining it. But I think Bibi understands exactly what the politics are here, and he will be able to accommodate it. My concern is that this administration, it’s a personal thing to them, not just the political thing, Okay? They just don’t like Bibi. So, I think that is something they’re going to have to get over.

MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat?

BUCHANAN: First casualty of the U.S.-Israeli conflict, John, political casualty will be the Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, who set that deal up with John Boehner behind the back, while the secretary of state didn’t know anything about it, and the White House didn’t know about. I think the Israelis will recall him as ambassador and replace him.

MCLAUGHLIN: Really.

BUCHANAN: He did something right before Netanyahu but it was wrong for Obama and I think the Israelis want a better resolution.

CLIFT: Well, that would be --

MCLAUGHLIN: Did Netanyahu take care of them.

BUCHANAN: Well, sure, they’ll take care of him. He didn’t do anything wrong from their standpoint.

CLIFT: Yes, but that would a real olive branch, wouldn’t it?

BUCHANAN: Yes.

CLIFT: Yes, OK.

Loretta Lynch, the New York prosecutor, will be confirmed as attorney general in mid-April. In the meantime, Eric Holder is enjoying his extended stay as attorney general and he will keep pushing the envelop, especially on civil rights, until the last minute he serves in office.

MCLAUGHLIN: Tom?

ROGAN: Jim Webb will be increasingly talked about in the coming weeks as a perspective challenger to Hillary Clinton, a serious challenger, because of the difficulties Mrs. Clinton has had both on the email issue and sort public presentation.

ZUCKERMAN: Gasoline prices will go below $2 a gallon, given how our production of our own natural resources is continuing to go up.

MCLAUGHLIN: I predict, for the fourth year in a row, early signs of strong economic growth might make a comeback this year will peter out by spring. In the past several weeks, key indicators have started dropping, heralding another economic stall-out for 2015.

Bye-bye!

END