The McLaughlin Group

Issues: G7 and Putin; Obamacare and the Supreme Court; Turkish Election Results

John McLaughlin, Host
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast
Tom Rogan, National Review/Daily Telegraph
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report
Tim Carney, The Washington Examiner

Taped: Friday, June 12, 2015
Broadcast: Weekend of June 12-14, 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.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it to the American people. It’s not -- we don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well, about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place. And so, the details of that are not yet worked out.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): That was President Obama speaking about his developing strategy to train Iraqi forces to more effectively fight the Islamic State terrorist group, otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL.

But Mr. Obama’s statement that the Pentagon has not yet delivered a final plan angered military commanders who insist the opposite is true.

President Obama also had an embarrassing moment with the prime minister of Iraq. Watch this video.

As the president speaks to two other delegates, he fails to notice the Iraqi prime minister sitting next to him. Mr. Obama was speaking from Germany, where he met this week with leaders of the G7 nations, Canada, France, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan. The assembled leaders agreed on a number of proposals, including a plan to limit any increase in global temperatures to a ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Still, behind the summit’s consensus, one nation was notably absent -- Russia, suspended from the normal G8 summit.

As a result of his alleged military actions in Ukraine, Russian leader Vladimir Putin was left to listen in Moscow to some tough language from the American president.

OBAMA: An issue for Mr. Putin, he’s got to make a decision, does he continue to wreck his country’s economy, and continue Russia’s isolation, in pursuit of a wrongheaded desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire? Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?


MCLAUGHLIN: Question, how effective has President Obama’s economic sanctions on Russia been in deterring President Putin’s dissection of Ukraine?

Tim Carney?

TIM CARNEY, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: They haven’t been effective at all, if you look at the way the Russian people are reacting. Russian people largely support Vladimir Putin. They support expansionism by Russia and that the sanctions are hurting them. Well, that makes them blame it on America.

I mean, this is something that happens very frequently with sanctions. They’re not helping. They’re not making -- they’re not deterring Putin and they’re driving the Russian public to Putin.

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, a leader under siege blaming outside forces is often very popular at home. And I would agree that Putin is popular within Russia. But the Russian economy has taken a hit, between the falling oil prices and the sanctions.

And the fact that he was not at this meeting, I don’t know that he would have a whole lot to contribute. They’re talking about Greece and the eurozone. But they do need to converse with him about Ukraine and about Iran and about Iraq. So, he will be at future meetings.

But you just can’t reward his bad behavior and say, OK, business as usual. Come join us here where the hills are alive, in the wonderful Alps, which is where they all met. So, I think his absence from that meeting was not really -- doesn’t really matter.

MCLAUGHLIN: Isn’t it correct to say that the U.S. sanctions have been utterly ineffective?

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/DAILY TELEGRAPH: I think it is correct. Look, I would -- I think the way to get Putin is not to put these massive sanctions across the Russian people. One of the problems in the past that the United States has done is to send a message to the Russian people that we don’t respect Russia’s greatness as a tradition, coming to look at the people that Russia gave in the fight against Nazism.

It is a great country. But the problem is, what Putin is doing in terms of his invasion of Ukraine, it’s really overt now. Controlling those lines of communication, Debaltseve down to Mariupol. You have the Russian Rostov-on-Don Base just across the border. They’re stealing Ukraine.

The problem is we have to get the kleptocrats. How do you get Putin to change his mind? You put massive pressure on the oligarchs at the top and the lower ranks, lock them out of European financial centers, like London.

You got to put real pressure on the European Union -- push them, embarrass them. Because unless you do that, they won’t change.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, have they been effective in inhibiting or preventing a wider war?

ROGAN: No, look at what he’s doing with the Baltic States, threatening them. There’s a great concern there that, you know, he may invade.

MCLAUGHLIN: Is that why an aspirant for the presidency in the United States visited the Baltic States?

ROGAN: I think that’s partly why --

MCLAUGHLIN: Whom I referring to?

ROGAN: Jeb Bush.

MCLAUGHLIN: Where did he go?

ROGAN: He went to Estonia, right? First -- no, Poland. He was in Germany, did a speech in Munich then went to Poland, and I think he went off to at least one of the Baltic States.

MCLAUGHLIN: Pretty good. You feel pretty proud of yourself?


MCLAUGHLIN: Mort -- do you have a response to any of the forgoing questions?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Yes. I mean, look, there is bound to be some degree of impact that whatever sanctions we put into the menu of Russia.

But the fact is he’s not exactly running on an electoral campaign at any point. So, he finds the way to deal with it. The country likes, I think, the kind of leadership that he has. He’s a very strong leader. That country has long had very strong leaders. They like them, they don’t like weak leaders.

So, I don’t think we’re able to put that much pressure on him through this kind of a program. And that’s why we’re not getting very far.

CLIFT: Well --

ZUCKERMAN: We have to deal very directly with them.

MCLAUGHLIN: Let’s pick up the pace here. OK, Putin meets the pope.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): President Putin met privately with the pope at the Vatican on Wednesday, an hour late. In that meeting, the pope did not judge the Russian leader on the Ukraine issue, but advised him to concentrate on efforts to fight ISIS, also known as ISIL, and the Islamic State.

President Putin also met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who praised Russia, but also tacitly condemned its policy in Ukraine. And reflecting growing concerns in the West, President Putin gave an interview to an Italian newspaper in which he stated, quote, "only an insane person and only in a dream can suddenly imagine that Russia will attack NATO," unquote.


MCLAUGHLIN: At that Vatican meeting, did Pope Francis give his blessing to Russia’s seizure of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine by declining to ask Putin to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity?

Mort Zuckerman.

ZUCKERMAN: Look, we don’t know what the private conversations were. I think if he didn’t say anything publicly at this point, it’s probably a good thing because that’s not the way -- if you go after Putin publicly, he’ll get nowhere, OK? There’s got to be some buildup of a relationship so that he might be able to persuade Putin to back off a bit. And Putin -- it’s the only way you’re going to deal with Putin.

CLIFT: Well, and these meetings that Putin is having with world leaders shows that he does care somewhat about his stature on the world stage. And I think he’s actually right when he says it’s insane to think that Russia would attack a NATO country because that would trigger a U.S. military response.

He loves tweaking the West and playing up close to the line. But he’s not crazy and I think he’s not going to take it to where some people are suggesting he might.

MCLAUGHLIN: You know we have a U.S. ambassador to the Holy See?

CLIFT: Of course.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know that Ken Hackett, that’s his name, expected Pope Francis to include a call to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity?

CLIFT: Well, I haven’t consulted with him directly.

ZUCKERMAN: A public call, you mean a public call.

MCLAUGHLIN: Public call. They’re also --

CLIFT: So, I don’t know that that was in the cards. But the pope is taking a lot of positions that not everybody is going to be comfortable with. He’s coming to America in September and he’s going to take some positions that the Republican-controlled Congress apparently isn’t going to like, and he’s going to address the Congress.

So, he’s a man who speaks out and generally says what’s on his mind. I applaud.

ROGAN: The Baltic States are very concerned. So, you know, it might be hard for us to conceive of, but in terms of the Russian maneuvers, you know, just found out today that Russia nearly crashed into an American surveillance plane in the Baltic, over the Black Sea. And you know, they’re doing other things. They’re running nuclear bomber patrols very close. They’re doing this Cold War kind of antics.

And Eleanor is right, I agree, it’s playing, but you have to have a sizable detachment.

CLIFT: The Baltics are -- they’re nervous and rightfully so. When Lithuania has reinstituted a draft, because they want to be ready if the Russians come in. I mean, they have a long history that makes them very nervous.

CARNEY: You bring up NATO -- I think -- I mean, the most interesting thing I saw recently was that a Pew study of NATO countries and in most NATO countries, the people do not believe in the premise of NATO. They don’t think a Russian invasion of Lithuania or something should spur a defensive military reaction by the rest of the NATO countries.

CLIFT: That’s --

CARNEY: Only in the U.S. and Canada that people believe that.

CLIFT: Well --

CARNEY: Which just further shows what NATO is at this point. We’ve got to question what we’re doing here --


CARNEY: -- when it’s just Europe free riding on the U.S.

ROGAN: I agree with that.

CLIFT: That’s why the vice president, Vice President Biden, among other figures, traveled to the Baltics to reassure the leaders there, that, you know, the U.S. respects that part of NATO.


CARNEY: Even if the rest of NATO doesn’t respect it.

CLIFT: Well --

ROGAN: It is a joke that what the European Union is doing on defense and the British government especially on that.

MCLAUGHLIN: You’re talking about Biden.


MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Biden was -- they were advised that the aspirant to the presidency who just visited there was going to go there, and this was to take the --

CLIFT: I think -- so what? Every candidate running for president, Democrat or Republican, makes it’s now a traditional visit to Germany --


CLIFT: -- and going to the Baltics is, you know, part of that. And I think Jeb Bush did OK, but it wasn’t the best week in his run-up to the presidency, either. He will be announcing next week, and finally, the presidential race, the big candidates on each side will be in and the race will be fully engaged.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think that Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian vote by Americans whose descendancy comes from those countries is significant?

CLIFT: You know, my former husband was Lithuanian descent, but I somehow don’t think he thought that that was a major voting bloc --


MCLAUGHLIN: We’re talking numbers. We’re not talking culture, intelligence or what-have-you.

CLIFT: Yes, but it’s not like the -- you know, the Irish or the German, which I might say they were voting blocs in this country.

MCLAUGHLIN: Why did Jeb choose those nations?

CLIFT: Because it’s all part of the, you know, the issue over NATO and, you know, how far will Putin go, and basically reassuring them that if a Republican is elected, they don’t need to fear for their future.

MCLAUGHLIN: There’s a projection of Russian land that goes right up and near that territory and backs up with I think Lithuania, what is that called?

ROGAN: Kaliningrad?

MCLAUGHLIN: Kaliningrad, very good.


ROGAN: You test me.

MCLAUGHLIN: You get that Atlas out every night, don’t you?

Issue Two: Health Care in the Dock.


OBAMA: You interpret the statute based on what the intent and meaning and the overall structure of the statute provides for. And so, this should be an easy case. Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up. And, you know, since we’re going to get a ruling pretty quick, I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): President Obama is said to have attempted to pressure the Supreme Court this week, because he’s worried. After all, Mr. Obama faces a major moment of consequence for his landmark health care law which now stands in the dock.

A ruling is expected this month. It’s the case of King versus Burwell, and concerns the interpretation of the health care laws statutory language, specifically whether federal credits can be given to Americans who have bought their health care plans on the federal insurance exchange market.

Plaintiffs argue that the language of the law only provides that credits can be given only to those who bought their insurance through state-run exchanges. And if the justices find in favor of the plaintiffs, that decision may affect the very existence of Mr. Obama’s law.

Without federally-supported credits to help them pay their insurance premiums, many Americans might simply quite the insurance exchanges and thus deprive insurance companies of the so-called pool of insurance that they need to offset treatment costs for those who are injured or become ill. This would drive up insurance premiums even further for other Americans.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What does President Obama stand to gain by hectoring the Supreme Court?


ZUCKERMAN: Well, the usual. You know, you don’t hector the Supreme Court casually, even if you’re the president of the United States. He’s obviously worried about where this case will go because that is the hallmark of his administration and he just wants to make it clear that it’s not going to be without a cost to the Supreme Court. And I’m sure he’s going to -- if they come out against him, he’ll have some very sharp words to shall we say welcome them to a quieter place.

CLIFT: Well, he’s right on the merits because there is no indication that the Congress intended for people who only bought insurance through state-established exchanges would be eligible for federal subsidies. And in past times, that would be fixed by just a routine one line adjustment. But the hostility to Obamacare in Capitol Hill is so strong, that won’t happen.

But if the Supreme Court does overturn the subsidies for 6.5 million people, that’s going to create a lot of disruption. And in some states like New Hampshire, they say -- they call it the magic wand. They will simply decree the federal exchange is now a state exchange, and that can easily be done.

Other states will probably just set up a state exchange and Congress will pass -- and even Republicans want to do this, because they’re afraid of the backlash. They would pass a patch so that the federal subsidies would be good for at least a year.

But the hostility to this law and to the president in some Republican-run states is so strong that they may not fix it and I think that hurts both parties, but it mostly hurts millions of people who now have health insurance, many for the first time.

MCLAUGHLIN: If Republicans in Congress propose a plan to restores the subsidies, while also reforming the Affordable Care Act, will Democrats support that? Tim?

CARNEY: No, I don’t think -- I don’t think that they will like any significant substantive changes to the law, and that will put President Obama and Nancy Pelosi in the position of saying, do we -- would we rather sort of have this club to hit Republicans over the head with, or would we rather restore the tax credits so that people, you know, the lower middle class who were getting these to afford health care?

CLIFT: Well --

CARNEY: And in the past, when the Democrats have had situations like that, they much rather drag it out and have a big brawl that Republicans --


CLIFT: Republicans have not come up with any plausible alternatives.

ROGAN: No, but here’s the thing, there are, they have --



ROGAN: The statutory interpretation -- I mean, I genuinely, look, politics aside, for the president’s absent respect for judicial review was evidence Citizens United likely head to the Supreme Court, that is really un-American inherently.

CLIFT: Oh, please?

ROGAN: No, but it is. It is -- you know, Marbury v. Madison.

CLIFT: That’s nonsense.

ROGAN: And if you’re looking at -- no, it’s true.

CLIFT: It’s nonsense.

ROGAN: And if you’re looking at statutory interpretation, the law stands, the job of the court is not be Congress. The job of the court is to review the words, to find amendability if possible, but it cannot recruit law. And look, this is a big problem --

CARNEY: And the text of the law says created by a state.

ROGAN: And real problem here is not about the merits, sort of, the real problem here is Obamacare doesn’t work without massive subsidies. There’s massive increase in demand, and absent increase in supply, and people, again, at a younger generation, are paying -- you know, you see the premium increases each year. They’re talking about next year, 12 percent, 12 percent.

CLIFT: Congressional intent is what the Supreme Court should be weighing –

ROGAN: Yeah, but it’s explicit in the statue.

CLIFT: -- and you raised Citizens United. I think it’s pretty well-established that many people, majority of people in the country think that is the worst law, one of the worst decisions ever been handed down --



CLIFT: It’s the flow of money into our politics is really damaging our democracy.

ROGAN: But that’s for the court to decide.

CLIFT: And for a president not to speak out, that’s the part that would be wrong.

ROGAN: I -- well, he can speak out, not to the court.

CLIFT: They are not kings and queens. They can be challenged.

MCLAUGHLIN: Did you have Wheaties this morning? Wheaties?

ROGAN: No, I just keep --

MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Hold on now, would you?

OK, technology --

CLIFT: He threw that word, un-American, though. That’s pretty strong.

MCLAUGHLIN: Technology to the rescue.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): OK, get this: according to a recent report by Accenture Consulting, digital health care technology what Accenture defines as an Internet-connected device created for detection or treatment of a medical indication, will save the U.S. health care system over $100 billion in the next four years, because these digital devices help users identify their health issues early on and encourage healthy behavior that reduces a likelihood of expensive medical treatment in the future.


MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, Accenture won a $563 million contract from the Obama administration to fix, after the botched rollout.

Is there any reason to think that Accenture’s faith in the money-saving potential of technology is misplaced? I ask you Tim.

CARNEY: I think there is reason. I mean, I’m not going to predict the future, what’s going to happen. But we have seen that sometimes, early detection measures end up leading to -- there are a lots of cases where the tiniest cancer in the world that would not have grown into anything life-threatening, because it’s detected, you end up with surgery that’s both costly and can be more risky.

So, there is this idea that early detection is entirely good. No, it’s amazingly good, with some downsides, and we don’t know what the downsides will be with some of these.

ZUCKERMAN: Oh, let me tell you what the downsides are if you don’t have --

CLIFT: Right, exactly.

ZUCKERMAN: -- that early awareness of possibility of cancer.

It’s a huge difference for the people who have it. They have a much better probability of surviving. I mean, to me, that’s very important.

CLIFT: And the technology that’s out there and that’s coming online is wonderful, with some of these medicines are hugely expensive and can bankrupt the government. The fact that Medicare can’t bargain for lower drug prices is really a travesty.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let’s see what you people really know.


MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: How will the Supreme Court come down on King vs Burwell? Will it rule in favor of the subsidies or against the subsidies?

Tim Carney?

CARNEY: It will rule in favor of the illegal subsidies.



CLIFT: It will rule in favor of the congressionally-passed, mandated subsidies.


ROGAN: I think it will rule against, but I suspect something like Eleanor mentioned, about a play to maintain the subsidies will occur.

ZUCKERMAN: I think they will rule against those subsidies.

MCLAUGHLIN: You’re wrong. They’re going to rule in favor of the plaintiffs. You got it?

CLIFT: That’s against the subsidies.

MCLAUGHLIN: That’s against the subsidies.



ZUCKERMAN: Well, I knew you agreed with me.


CLIFT: I think judge -- I think Chief Justice Roberts does not want his court seen as a partisan political body and I think this case --

MCLAUGHLIN: Will be --

CLIFT: -- is brought on the thinnest of merits.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Erdogan’s Rebuke.


SELAHATTIN DEMIRTAS, LEADER, KURDISH PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC PARTY (through translator): This was a very difficult election campaign. We are after a pluralistic system and supporting freedoms and wanted to prevent a dictatorship by Tayyip Erdogan and we have been able to close that door, close that door on him and this is a very good result for Turkey and the result we achieved has made everyone concerned very happy. And we achieved a democratic victory in the face of the difficulties.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): That was Selahattin Demirtas, leader of a Kurdish liberal Alliance Party, the HDP, that won 80 seats in Turkey’s parliamentary elections last Sunday.

Although the ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, won the most seats in the election, the result was nonetheless a major defeat for Turkey’s president, Recep Erdogan. That’s because losing 53 seats, Mr. Erdogan no longer has a governing majority in parliament. He’ll have to form a coalition, by negotiating with either his main rival, the Kemalist Republican People’s Party, or Mr. Demirtas’ HD Party, or the Nationalist MH Party.

The resulting working coalition won’t be easy, whatever happens. That’s because Mr. Erdogan is mistrusted across the Turkish political spectrum. He’s regarded as a thinly-veiled authoritarian, a man so obsessed with his cult of personality that many Turks are eager to see Erdogan’s power pared back.

President Erdogan’s efforts to change Turkey’s constitution, in order to grant himself greater executive power, are seen as causing his comparative defeat in the election. Yet, if history is any judge, Erdogan is unlikely to yield power easily and that matters for America, too.

As Turkey charts its course in evolving relations with the U.S. and the European Union and is considering military action Bashar al Assad in Syria, Turkey’s next government may hold major importance for the international community.


MCLAUGHLIN: Is there a cautionary tale here, that for political chief executives who overreached their presidential powers?

CLIFT: Oh, John.


CLIFT: Are you suggesting that Barack Obama and Erdogan have something in common? Is that where you’re going with this?

MCLAUGHLIN: I am not leading the witness here.

CLIFT: That’s what it sure sounds like.

MCLAUGHLIN: I’m presenting a perfectly legit question. You can answer that, Tom.

ROGAN: I think it’s -- I do not think President Obama is President Erdogan. But President Erdogan, this is a really good step for Turkish democracy and it’s very important, and he’s going to be forced to form a coalition government. He’s been making some good statements in recent days about making concessions, but the level of antagonism between him and especially the RPP, which is the Kemalist Party, it is deep. Erdogan is seen as the sort of, I called him like Imam Ataturk. Someone -- he wants to be the sort of the Ataturk, but in terms of theological bindings to authoritarian past.



CARNEY: I think you need to be very wary about celebrating this, you know, democratic uprisings in the Muslim world. Egypt has not turned out as wonderful and smooth as we thought it might. A lot of the Arab Spring has turned into --

MCLAUGHLIN: Which other states?

CARNEY: Well, so, you’ve got Egypt. I mean, Tunisia is actually one that’s something of a success story. The attempts to rise up against Bashar al Assad led to a murderous reaction. So, just when you see these popular uprisings in these states, a lot of times what we end up getting is not something that’s as smooth and peaceful as we had hoped.

CLIFT: Yes. But just as Obama is no Erdogan, Turkey is not Tunisia or Egypt, and the Kurds, it’s the first time they have gotten seats. They’ve got a small number of seats. They’re fiercely opposed to ISIS.

And the big problem over there is that Erdogan has been leading the fighters from all over the world flow across the border into Syria. And so, now, there may be some opportunity to shut down that border crossing.

So, this is nothing but good news for the U.S. and the West.

MCLAUGHLIN: So, the question that seems to be gurgling up here again is, has Obama overreached his presidential powers as his term in office draws to a close?

CLIFT: No. First of all, the Supreme Court is likely to validate what he’s done. It looks like he’s going to get congressional authorization on a major trade deal. He’s working towards getting a deal with Iran, signing off with three or four, to get how many other world power -- this is not overreaching. This is being a president.


CARNEY: If it does overreach, but more in the -- to the proportion of what George W. Bush did, rather than what Erdogan did in Turkey.

MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Tim?

CARNEY: At the end of the month, the Export-Import Bank will lose its charter because Congress will not pass a bill reauthorizing it.


CLIFT: President Obama’s Friday trip to Capitol Hill to lobby his own Democrats to vote for his trade bills will underscore in future history books, the enormous missed opportunity that this president had in not fully using his political leadership with members of Congress.


ROGAN: Yes, I think, President Obama, if he can get this trade deal through, it will be a major success, and it might provide openings to rebuilding of the relationship between Boehner and Obama.


ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I’m afraid that, I believe this economy is going to continue to weaken and it’s going to make the dominant issue next year in all the congressional and the presidential election.

MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama’s unilateral mandate to the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, to regulate carbon emissions from airlines, will raise individual passenger ticket prices by hundreds of dollars, especially on medium to long haul flights.