The McLaughlin Group
Issues: Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling; Supreme Court Obamacare Ruling; Fast Track Authority; Confederate Flag Controversy
John McLaughlin, Host
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast
Tom Rogan, National Review/Daily Telegraph
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report
Taped: Friday, June 26, 2015
Broadcast: Weekend of June 26-28, 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 Right to Gay Marriage.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This ruling will strengthen all of our communities, by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.
MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): In a landmark 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled, under the 14th Amendment, gay marriage is a legal right of same sex couples across America. Gay couples and liberals have reacted to the news with great excitement.
Until now, gay marriage was illegal in 14 states, but now, those state legislatures will have to yield to federal authority. And that makes many conservatives furious.
Justice Scalia referred to the majorities ruling as a descent into the, quote, "mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie", unquote. And other conservatives have warned civil disobedience might follow.
Congressman Steve King, a Republican social conservative, whose donors and speaking summits make him influential with GOP presidential candidates, recently offered a grave warning.
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: You had the Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court decided they were going to end the slavery question with the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision. Well, that turned into a civil war -- 600,000 people killed to put an end to slavery -- to sort that mess out.
MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What does this mean for America?
ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I feel proud of my country. I feel proud of my court. I mean, we have moved from looking at an issue as though caricaturizing it as a perversion, to saying that LGBT people are -- have a human right and a civil right to marry whoever they want and love whoever they want.
So, this is a sweeping decision, all 50 states. And this ruling joins other landmark cases, Roe v. Wade, Brown versus Board of Education, Loving versus Virginia. And I guess my only concern is, there will be resistance. So, what form will this resistance take, and I look to the Republican presidential candidates to find their voice on this and to, I hope, set the right tone.
TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/DAILY TELEGRAPH: And I think, to the fair. You know, Republicans have actually taken a really actually, you know, across the board in terms of presidential candidates that I’ve seen so far, taking a -- look, we disagree with this, but we are a country of laws and we have to abide by that.
You know, they should have pushed against that element, which is going to come out, the Steve King element, instead of talk about Dred Scott and a new civil war and this kind of ridiculousness, because that’s what it is. We are a country of laws.
I think we have to be careful, though, in the sense that going forwards, the people of religious faith do not feel that they are going to be pressured here now to lose charity status for example, in terms of their decision. The private business owners are going to have protections.
And so, look, the debate will go forward, but again, you know, it’s good to see people happy. I’ve said before that, you know, that my generation, I think, we see kids without homes, there’s a potential for adoption there. If people want to be in a committed monogamous relationship, that is a positive public health reason, et cetera, et cetera. But -- so, it’s a big --
CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, it’s important to talk about generational differences here, because what stands me is, five to 10 years ago, I would have said, I think, I wrote, I expect to see gay marriage legalized in my lifetime.
Look what’s happened in the last decade.
MCLAUGHLIN: What did you write?
PAGE: It’s astounding.
Well, you know, just the fact that -- well, I personally favor it. I don’t expect the country to swing that way. But I think that’s very significant, though, the fact is that this court is really following the national lead. They see, or at least the majority of this court sees that the country’s attitudes have changed and are in a process of changing.
And that’s why -- well, I’m concerned as Eleanor is, about backlash like what we saw with Roe versus Wade. I think the Roe versus Wade decision back there in ’72 was a much more abrupt and shock to the system for our country nationwide. Whereas I think the country is much more ready for this.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is Congressman King trying to say that it’s sometimes better for the court to refrain from pushing too fast on social questions?
PAGE: Too fast for him.
MCLAUGHLIN: No, let me finish, so that there can be time for a political solutions to develop. He’s pointing out that as a matter of historical fact, when the court acts before there is a social consensus, the results can be disastrous.
CLIFT: Yes, but we’ve seen the consensus emerge over the last 10 years.
In 2004, there were anti-gay measures put on key -- on ballots in key states, battleground states, to bring out the antigay vote. Today, being pro-gay is a positive thing.
So, the country has flipped, and I think it’s something like 67 percent now favors same sex marriage. You still want to protect the rights of people who disagree, but they are the minority. The court, as Clarence said, is following the public opinion in this country.
PAGE: Except for the Scalia-Thomas wing, but I’ll say that.
CLIFT: Well, yes, I mean, the rulings this week may be feel like the liberal court Brown was back. I mean, where did this come from? This is supposed to be a conservative court.
CLIFT: And they’re ruling quite positively on more liberal issues.
MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think polygamy is next in life for legitimation or polyandry?
MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: On one level, I hope so, because I would like to see long enough to see that happen.
ZUCKERMAN: That would add a lot in my life, is all I can say.
PAGE: You’ve got any plans, Mort?
ZUCKERMAN: I mean, I think, that would be quite an interesting idea.
PAGE: That’s a legitimate argument. I mean, Scalia brought that up way back over a dozen years ago with the Texas gay cohabitation case. Why --
CLIFT: Judge Alito, in his questioning -- because they’ve been playing the oral arguments -- I mean, he said, what if two men and two women came, could they get together? And he also suggested, what if they were all lawmakers? Does that make them a natural grouping? I mean --
CLIFT: -- that was rather bizarre.
ROGAN: The key here is if you see the people who are actually taking that case to the core, in terms of the specifics that they had -- yes, marriage originally in a religious institution. You have to respect that, and I get, especially as a person of faith. But at the same time, where you have a couple who all in their hearts married and want to have that commitment and can’t -- you know, have the benefits if one of them is ill. There’s a real -- I mean, 14th Amendment really came into play on that.
MCLAUGHLIN: Let’s take an exit question here, are we endanger of civil disobedience, might some states defying the federal government?
PAGE: I mean, we’ve seen civil disobedience by some sources, by some ministers, and maybe, you know, bakers of wedding cakes. I mean, that sort of thing is going to go on.
The important thing here --
CLIFT: I think --
PAGE: Right. The important thing here is that the court has put the Constitution on the side of freedom. That’s the important thing here. I think that’s unshakable. Everything else is around the edges.
CLIFT: I think legislatures around the country and the states that have banned gay marriage, may try to come up with legislative maneuvers, probably more religious freedom laws. I think they will proliferate. But, you know, again, it’s that arc of history bending towards social justice, and it continues.
MCLAUGHLIN: You know what? Do you know who will love this? Family law attorneys, they’re going to tap a new whole customer base for pre-nuptial agreements, divorce cases, child custody, alimony, child support, or worse.
PAGE: On the other hand, let’s be serious though, the divorce rate has been skyrocketing for over 50 years. I mean, lawyers have got plenty of business on that end already, the irony of these days is the one group that wants to get married is gay folks. I mean --
MCLAUGHLIN: But you’re a lawyer, right?
PAGE: -- the hetero folks, their marriage rate has been declining in recent years.
MCLAUGHLIN: Are you a lawyer?
PAGE: Say again?
MCLAUGHLIN: Are you a lawyer?
PAGE: Am I a lawyer? No, I just play one on TV, or try to act like one.
MCLAUGHLIN: Is your wife a lawyer?
MCLAUGHLIN: I thought there was a lawyer there somewhere.
PAGE: No, we just sound like it, that’s all.
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Well, congratulations, I guess.
CLIFT: No lawyers on set.
MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Obamacare Wins.
MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): President Obama’s birthday isn’t until August. But this week, Mr. Obama received a matchless early gift. The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide subsidies that support Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul. In a 6-3 vote, the justices ruled that the revenues that make health insurance more affordable for 8.3 million people are not controlled by where individuals live, as opponents had asserted, but by their needs.
Here’s President Obama.
OBAMA: This morning, the court upheld a critical part of this law, the part that’s made it easier for Americans to afford health insurance, regardless of where you live.
If the partisan challenge to this law has succeeded, millions of Americans would have thousands of dollars worth of tax credits taken from them. For many, insurance would have become unaffordable again. Many would have become uninsured again.
Ultimately, everyone’s premiums could have gone up. America would have gone backwards. And that’s not what we do. That’s not what America does. We move forward.
MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What was the majority’s reasoning in finding that the subsidies are legal?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, I think it was very hard for them to maintain their previous analysis, legal analysis for this. It’s just simply so completely away from where American had come. I just don’t see how they could have done it. And I think they paid attention to that very fact.
PAGE: Justice Roberts’ opinion, he looked at the context of a law. As I was saying earlier, they reminded me of the first Mayor Daley of Chicago. His press secretary told the reporters, don’t report what the mayor says. Report what he means.
Well, you know, Scalia was looking at what the law says, and Justice Roberts was looking at the whole context of it, saying, well, congress obviously did not mean to destroy the system they were setting up.
PAGE: So, two different kinds of logic there. But that was the reason.
PAGE: I think it holds.
CLIFT: And the chief justice referred to an amicus brief that was submitted by the health insurance industry and they said, without the subsidies, people could not afford this insurance. They would drop out of the market, only the sickest people would be in and that would lead to the so-called death spiral. It would basically kill the law.
And so, he listened to that, and the health industry in this country is huge. It’s $2.9 trillion part of the sector. And if those subsidies have been taken away, it would have cost $31 billion to these insurance companies. I obviously wrote a piece about this, so I’m familiar with the figures.
PAGE: I’m impressed, Eleanor.
CLIFT: So, this was a pro-business decision. This would have been hugely unsettling to the people, to the insurance industry markets, and the chief justice wasn’t going to do that.
ROGAN: There is a difference between the statutory interpretation and the moment. I think it was statutory interpretation -- that you have to read the law. I disagree with Justice Roberts, how read it, but he was looking at that specific statutory interpretation versus the statutory effect, right? If he had ruled the other way, it would have created a death spiral. It would have impinged upon the clear intent of Congress, even if the law in terms of its statutory findings, or statutory language was not clear.
So, I mean, and it’s generating a lot of controversy. But it is what it is now.
I have to say, as a conservative, as much as I disagree with him, I’m a fan of Chief Justice Roberts. He writes eloquent opinions. He writes specifics accessible to laymen. And, you know, it is what it is.
MCLAUGHLIN: Justice Scalia suggested that instead of calling it Obamacare, the law should be called SCOTUScare, because the Supreme Court of the United States, that’s SCOTUS, has kept it alive through statutory interpretation.
Does Scalia have a point?
PAGE: Scalia has kept things lively with his opinions lately, sounding more and more like an eloquent right wing talk show host all the time.
PAGE: But, yes, he was saying that -- well, what he was saying was that – he was accusing Roberts of legislating from the bench. And yes, this is what people say we don’t like the ruling. But the fact is that Roberts wasn’t writing the law. He was trying to get down to the law’s real intent.
Now, had he gone the other way and overturned all of the Obamacare law based on those few words out of context, that would have been legislating, in my view. But I’m just an ordinary citizen.
CLIFT: And in the very cogent opinion that he wrote for the majority. He quoted Justice Scalia from past cases, saying you have to take things in context. You have to look at the intent. You don’t just pull four words out and destroy the meaning. So, he basically threw that right back at Scalia.
Now, Scalia has lost two big ones here. And he doesn’t like it. But he still remains a very strong justice.
PAGE: And entertaining.
CLIFT: And entertaining.
ZUCKERMAN: There’s one other element of this bill that really is worrisome.
If you work under 30 hours, OK? You don’t get any of the subsidies. And a lot of jobs, including a lot of jobs that people in this very building are now being reduced to under 30 hours, in order for the companies, the employers, not having to pay whatever it was to make those health care things.
PAGE: Do they have the actual figures on that, though? I heard that that was true in the beginning. But now, with the economy improving, that that’s diminishing, as far as --
ROGAN: But also younger Americans in terms of our premiums -- that’s going to be the debate. Republicans have a real opportunity there, because we are paying a helluva lot for not a good service in terms of --
CLIFT: Well, congratulations to any Republicans who can come up with a meaningful change to this law that doesn’t make things worse. It’s very difficult. It’s all --
PAGE: They don’t because they don’t have a consensus in any of single alternative. That’s the problem.
ROGAN: That is true.
MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Who benefits the more from this decision? Democrats or Republicans? And the answer is --
MCLAUGHLIN: And the answer is, Republicans benefit most. The decision deprives the Democrats of a powerful issue to energize their base. But the Republicans can keep rallying their base with promises of a legislative repeal of Obamacare.
PAGE: I see what you’re driving at, but I think you’re underestimating the benefit to Democrats. In fact, I think both sides politically, both sides win. The Obamacare issue is still alive. Now, the Democrats are going to fight --
ROGAN: The legal component – it goes to politics, right?
ROGAN: It is the political --
PAGE: Right. And Democrats have got to fight to save it and to expand it. Look at all these people in the states that don’t have Medicaid expansion.
ZUCKERMAN: When a lot of people are being employed, too keep under that 30 hour divide, OK, you’re going to feel, there’s going to be a lot of reaction to that kind of employment.
CLIFT: Republicans could fix that -- Republicans could fix that in a minute with legislation if they wanted to. So, I mean, those are tweaks. That’s not --
ZUCKERMAN: But that’s an important tweak because it’s --
PAGE: I agree. It’s an important tweak that needs to be made. But you haven’t seen that much of a fuss to make it. I wish there was more of a fuss.
MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Obama’s Fast Track.
OBAMA: We also have the best workers in the world. We also have the best businesses in the world. And when the playing field is level, nobody beats the United States of America. Nobody beats the United States of America.
Just do it, everybody. Thank you. God bless you.
MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Just do it. That has been President Obama’s rallying cry to Congress, for many months. And this week, following tough negotiations and razor-thin procedural votes, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate ultimately granted fast track trade authority to President Obama.
Fast track authority is a process that was first used by President Richard Nixon. It allows the president to negotiate trade deals without congressional amendment, and then submit those deals for final approval by Congress. And now, with his fast track authority in hand, President Obama hopes to finalize major trade deals with Asia and the European Union.
But in the case of the Asia focus free trade deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP, fast track opposition was particularly strong among liberals and anti-free trade conservatives. They fear that the TPP will mean American jobs being shipped overseas to cheaper workforce locations. In contrast TPP supporters, including many Republicans who allied with President Obama to approve this authority, believe that the TPP will strengthen the economy by allowing American businesses to sell goods and services to emerging markets overseas.
MCLAUGHLIN: Question: "The Wall Street Journal" held its annual conference of global chief financial officers this month, only 22 percent said the Trans Pacific Partnership would help their companies. The other 78 percent said it would either hurt their companies or make no difference.
Are TPP’s benefits overrated?
PAGE: First of all, John, thank you for letting me sit in Pat Buchanan’s chair --
PAGE: -- this week.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, then, you know what your answer must be.
PAGE: I have -- yes. Well, in his honor, I have to say I’m against TPP. I’m not really against it. I’m a critic, though, of the secrecy surrounding the negotiations so far, or the fact that even members of Congress can look at it, but they can’t talk about it openly, even among themselves. That just arouses more suspicion about something that a lot of Americans find to be dubious in the first place.
But I think, on balance, it’s going to benefit Americans. But there are going to be some folks on the loser side, as well. But always happens with trade deals.
MCLAUGHLIN: Three out of --
CLIFT: Yes. I mean, this is a better trade deal than most. It does have environmental protections in it, and worker protections, and they are going to pass another piece of legislation on trade assistance adjustment, and the Republicans have agreed to support that because that’s what the Democrats want.
So, trade deal has been oversold in the past. Democrats are rightfully suspicious. But I think, you know, this is the wave of the future.
PAGE: But the assistance is overrated.
CLIFT: Yes, I agree, I agree.
ROGAN: This is good news for America. We cannot race to the bottom. You see China struggling in terms of its economic growth because it’s had to compete with nations like Vietnam and the Philippines. You have to have a working force that -- you know, we talk about energy as a good example of the potential bad. But a workforce that can provide goods and services with an American comparative advantage, sell them abroad, take advantage, technology companies.
But also, there’s a great advantage in terms of the benefits that free trade can bring to American consumers across the country. Some people will lose out. I mean, I’m not going to pretend I understand that. It’s bad. But --
MCLAUGHLIN: Thank God for that.
ROGAN: But American consumers will win here because you get cheaper goods. That helps American families struggling to pay their bills.
MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, please? Please?
When you got a sweeping one trade deal, that three out of four chief financial officers see as irrelevant or harmful to their business, you know -- you know that this thing --
ROGAN: You also know when Republicans agree with President Obama --
CLIFT: I’m going to be skeptical on the other side. If we got these chief financial officers for these big firms saying it’s bad for them, hey, maybe it’s good for the workers.
MCLAUGHLIN: What’s the next big hurdle for Obama, President Obama, excuse me, now that he has fast track authority?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, he’d better, as a starter, arrange for some very good trade arrangements with various countries and bring them to the country, to this country, and be able to show that these are actually positive steps for our own economy and for employment, because employment is the big issue now, because we have so many unemployed people. And if we can get more of that here, then it would be fine.
CLIFT: Well, he’s got to negotiate with the other -- it’s like almost a dozen nations. And Japan is the heavyweight there and to get the right concessions out of Japan. He’s now strengthened because he does have the Congress behind him. But once he gets the deal, then Congress I think gets 60 days to, you know, vote up or down. So, it ain’t over yet.
ROGAN: So, I want to throw a little curveball at people like Elizabeth Warren, who talk about liberal morality. You know, there’s one undeniable part of this that will benefit poorest people around the world, in terms of giving them access to global markets and the economic growth there.
ROGAN: So, that’s a little bit of hypocrisy I think. I don’t want to hear so much about puritan --
PAGE: Well, this is benefiting poor people here. There’s little question that the disappearance -- the hollowing out of the middle class in America since the ‘50s, it’s come largely because of jobs being exported --
ROGAN: Globalization is inevitable, I think.
PAGE: Globalization, yes.
ROGAN: You can fight or you can try and use it.
PAGE: It is. And that is the issue, how do you use? How do you raise the skill level of --
MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On the leak scale from zero to 10, zero meaning no leaks whatsoever, the Dutch boy has his finger on the dike, and 10 meaning massive inundations, Snowden-like style, what’s the likelihood that the TPP deal will find its way unto the Internet via WikiLeaks, zero to 10? Do you follow that?
CLIFT: I’m thinking. Over at the WikiLeaks, they’re saying "boring".
PAGE: I think they try --
CLIFT: I’ll go with the two also, right.
MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Two Tales of One Flag.
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward as a state in harmony and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in heaven.
MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Nikki Haley, Republican governor of South Carolina, calling on her state’s House and Senate to remove the Confederate flag from their capital grounds. The governor is not wasting time. She says that if a vote on the flag’s removal isn’t held before the summer recess, she will force an emergency vote.
Governor Haley made the announcement following a week of introspection over the murder of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston. The killer, Dylann Storm Roof, was motivated by white supremacist ideology.
But while many in South Carolina continued to support the Confederate flag as a symbol of state’s rights and human courage in battle, the governor disagrees.
HALEY: But we are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer. The fact that people are choosing to use it as a sign of hate is something that we cannot stand. The fact that it causes pain to so many is enough to move it from the capitol grounds. It is, after all, a capitol that belongs to all of us.
MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Governor Haley right? Is it time for the South Carolina legislature to furl the Confederate flag?
PAGE: I thought it was long past rime to move the Confederate flag into a museum, where it belongs. But what’s interesting to me is how quickly public opinion seems to have shifted in favor of retiring the flag here in recent days, especially since this terrible tragedy there in Charleston.
It reminds me of the Church bombing in Birmingham back in ’63, where minds were just changed overnight in many ways. That bombing people in a church, or shooting people in a church is just so far beyond the pale.
And the other thing is that, just nationally, we’ve moved beyond that now, in many ways, and many South Carolinians were concerned about the economic impact among other things, of appearing to be still stuck in the past.
CLIFT: Right. The flag was erected on the South Carolina statehouse grounds in 1962 as a symbol of defiance against integration.
CLIFT: So, it really is a hateful symbol to people alive today, who are not seeing it in the context of a war that was fought, but they are seeing it how it’s been perverted in its current use.
She, Nikki Haley, only has limited powers. She’s got to get the legislature involved.
In Alabama, also Republican governor, he just -- he was able just through an edict to remove the flag.
MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. There are calls for Confederate symbols to come down across the South, and in Texas, vandals have defaced civil war era monuments to Confederate statesmen and troops who died in a war.
Do all Confederate symbols need to be destroyed? I ask you.
ROGAN: No, of course not. I think the reason why it had to come down in the capitol is the capitol is a special place in the democratic representation of the people, all the people, right? It has to represent all the people, it did not do that.
But at the same time, the Confederate flag, I think this is important, I don’t think -- we have to back away from some of this rhetoric now. These stupid bans that some computer -- you know, that Apple has put this ban on this computer game. It is part of the fabric of history, to some people.
ROGAN: You know, it’s easy for me to say as a white man.
CLIFT: They’re making market decisions, based on --
ROGAN: OK. But I think we need to be careful here in the sense --
CLIFT: So, that’s their decision.
ROGAN: Well, but we have to be careful, in the sense that, to a lot of people in the South, it is a representation of courage in battle and of state’s rights against majoritarian government, which is important in terms of political correctness.
CLIFT: In most people’s minds it’s about -- it’s about the preservation of slavery.
ROGAN: OK. But, you know --
CLIFT: And so, we need to acknowledge that.
ROGAN: OK. But in the private domain, we still have to, I think respect, people that want to fly that. Because they’re not necessarily racist.
MCLAUGHLIN: Do history books be purged of any discussion of the Confederacy for fear of committing micro aggressions?
CLIFT: No, of course not.
ZUCKERMAN: No, no. Absolutely not.
But this is a public symbol frankly that is seen by a lot of people as reinforcing segregation.
ZUCKERMAN: I mean, that’s something that it seems to me is find to put away, for the moment.
PAGE: Yes, but the second history of this flag, like Eleanor mentioned, the early 1960s, states across the South who wanted to resist desegregation laws and rulings began to make a banner out of the old battle flag. This is the Confederate battle flag we’re talking about.
So, now, it’s got a special racist meaning to it.
MCLAUGHLIN: Do Walmart and Amazon and other retailers ban any merchandise that displays the Texas Lone Star emblem?
PAGE: It’s up to them. It’s up to them, isn’t it?
CLIFT: Right. It’s up to them. They’re making their decision.
MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: Will the U.S.-Iran deal be President Obama’s fourth victory? Yes or no?
PAGE: Eventually, yes.
ZUCKERMAN: I hope not. I think it’s a terrible deal for the United States.
MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is no.