The McLaughlin Group

Issues: Saudi Arabia and Oil / Pope Francis Visit / Boehner Resignation

John McLaughlin, Host
Pat Buchanan, Author & Columnist
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast
David Rennie, The Economist
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

Taped: Friday, September 25, 2015
Broadcast: Weekend of September 25-27, 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: The King, the President, Oil and Water.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Near the end of World War II, February 14th, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt hosted the arthritic 70-year-old Saudi Arabian King Abdulaziz on the U.S. Navy ship Quincy.

And King Aziz quickly forged a personal bond with President Roosevelt by teasing him about his wheelchair. As the physically disabled Roosevelt approached King Aziz’s improvised throne onboard the USS Quincy, the king remarked, quote, "Aren’t you lucky to have something like that to move you around?" unquote.

In return, President Roosevelt gave the arthritic king his spare wheelchair. That gift became one of King Aziz’s most treasured possessions.

Thus was the born the U.S.-Saudi Arabia alliance. Later, in return for U.S. assistance in finding water in Saudi Arabia arid Arabia Peninsula and for security against foreign threats, Saudi Arabia provided the U.S. with oil.

For a time, the alliance was fortuitous, water and oil was found, and the United States received barrels of oil at prices comparable to a case of Pepsi-Cola.

But then came the Israel-Arab Yom Kippur War of 1973. In response to U.S. support for Israel, the Saudis embargoed oil exports, causing inflation and economic damage in the United States.

Enter the U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who called for a policy of U.S. energy independence. Eventually, exports resumed, but the U.S. and the Saudis, their relationship was frayed.

Still, thanks to a boom now in the domestic energy production, U.S. energy independence now seems to be on the horizon. Later this month, Congress will vote on a bill to lift a ban on oil exports. Congress imposed the ban in 1975, in the face of dwindling U.S. oil reserves.

Here’s how bill sponsor, Republican Congressman Joe Barton, explains his rationale for overturning the ban.

REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: No other nation in the world has the capability that the United States of America has to substantially increase our oil production. But in order to do that, Mr. Chairman, we simply must repeal this outdated ban on crude oil exports.

The bill before us today would do that. It is a bipartisan bill. We have almost 10 percent of the Democratic Caucus as an original co-sponsor of the bill.


MCLAUGHLIN: Should we lift the oil export ban? And you followed that history, right?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: Sure. That was -- the king met in the Great Bitter Lake after FDR was coming back from the Yalta conference and FDR was about two months from being dead, and they cut a deal between the two of them, basically to cut the Brits of the future in the Middle East, and replace it with the Americans.

I do agree, John, to an extent, with lifting the ban. I think we were trading oil now with Mexico. We get some of theirs, they get ours -- the same with the Canadians. I don’t think it’s a bad idea.

And you go up into the Alaskan oil, if some of that can go to Russia. I think that given the fact that fracking has really aided American production, and any oil put onto the world market reduces the price of oil overall in the world, and thereby reduces our own price of gasoline.

I think the modern economics -- this is one where I may agree with "The Wall Street Journal".


ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Not surprisingly, I don’t.


CLIFT: I think -- it does seem like an outdated ban, but it makes no sense with oil prices now below $40 a barrel – doesn’t make any economic sense to be exporting oil. It doesn’t make national security sense. We should be storing oil, keeping it on the ground for the future. We don’t need it now. And it doesn’t make climate change sense.

The people who are pushing for this, that congressman is from Texas. They just want to sell more oil, and they want to drill for more oil. That does not make sense.

And Democrats in the Senate -- you would need 60 votes to push this bill forward -- you’re not going to get 60 Democrats. It’s dead in the water, dead in the oil.


DAVID RENNIE, THE ECONOMIST: You can’t have it both ways, Eleanor. You can’t say that it makes no of economic sense to have, to lift this ban and then say that they just want to lift this ban because they want to sell more oil. Yes, the market is telling them there’s a market for American oil.

America is producing all this oil. They can’t sell it. It’s not as if America will run out of oil if it’s allowed to export some.

What this basically is a gigantic fight between people who drill for oil and people who refine oil. And for complicated reasons, having the export ban in place makes American oil cheap because it can’t be sold abroad. And so, the refiners are making out like bandits because they can buy American oil very cheaply. So, the refiners like the ban. The drillers, the explorers don’t like the ban.

It’s just a market fight. The government --

CLIFT: It’s political --

RENNIE: The government has no business intervening in this market.

CLIFT: It’s also a political fight. It’s a political --

RENNIE: World market has plenty of oil. America is not going to run out of oil.

CLIFT: It’s a political fight and Senator Markey is leading the fight against it in the Senate, and I respect his views way more than I do people who represent the oil industry.

MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, what’s in the best interest of American consumers?

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: You know, John, I just paid $2.50 a gallon for gasoline on my way to work here.


PAGE: Yes, $2.50.


MCLAUGHLIN: In Washington?

PAGE: In Washington, D.C., that’s right. I mean, you know, a few years ago, what we were hollering about, when will gas be under $4 again? Then you had a sense of urgency, you know, having more oil to sell.

Right now, the industry can’t sell the oil they’ve got because the prices are so low. They’re waiting, I don’t blame them.

But if you’re going to lift the embargo, why not do it now while both oil and the sense of urgency is low? I think -- I see why the Democrats oppose this, because they want to get everybody over to alternative energy.

CLIFT: That’s right.

BUCHANAN: Massachusetts, Eleanor, is not a big oil producing state, where Markey’s from.

CLIFT: There are a lot -- right. So, therefore, it’s about producers making money versus people representing the climate.


BUCHANAN: What did the companies want to do obviously, as you see -- look, if they want to sell it, obviously, it’s good economics. You can’t say there’s not an economic argument there.

CLIFT: It’s an industry that needs to be phased out. We need sustainable energy sources.

RENNIE: That’s what makes the ban – have an import ban and an export ban.


BUCHANAN: She wants to get rid of them.

RENNIE: Have an oil ban.

CLIFT: It’s unnecessary to lift it.


BUCHANAN: How can you argue, Eleanor, if you want to get rid of the oil industry?

MCLAUGHLIN: What’s the best case that can be made for lifting the ban?

CLIFT: I want to save the planet.


BUCHANAN: Lifting the ban, put it on the world market, the more oil is out there, the lower the price goes, the lower the price of gasoline goes, you know, Clarence is going to be spending a buck a gallon pretty soon.



CLIFT: Tell that to the Saudis. Tell that to the Saudis who basically control this market.

PAGE: And they’re flooding it right now.

CLIFT: Right, and they’re flooding it because they want to interfere with fracking.


MCLAUGHLIN: The best argument is that --


CLIFT: Diplomatically, adding to no economic sense, no national security sense, no climate change sense, I would add, no diplomatic sense either.


CLIFT: I’m taking --

MCLAUGHLIN: Lift the ban? Lift the ban, yes or no?

CLIFT: No, I’m taking my clue from the pope. I don’t think the pope would be for more oil on the market.



MCLAUGHLIN: No on lift the ban?

RENNIE: Yes, lift the ban, yes.

PAGE: Yes, lift the ban.


CLIFT: He has brought moral clarity to the climate change debate.

MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, you stand alone. We all want to lift the ban.

Issue Two: The Pope and Washington.


POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH: I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Pope Francis is the leader of 1.4 billion Roman Catholic. And this week, he visited Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. The pontiff offered a call to alms. That’s A-L-M-S, alms. Americans, he said, should do more to help the most vulnerable citizens of the world.

But while the pontiff’s speeches, meetings and parades were met with joy by many Americans --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pope of the Holy See.

MCLAUGHLIN: -- not everyone was pleased. In a landmark speech Thursday to 535 members of Congress, minus a few absentees, Pope Francis stepped into a cauldron of American partisan politics.

Listen to what he said to the Republicans who are skeptical about his and President Obama’s belief in manmade global warming.

POPE FRANCIS: I call for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps, and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.

MCLAUGHLIN: In another implicit riposte to conservatives, the pontiff also said the United States should ban the death penalty, and he suggested that capitalist economic management is morally flawed.

POPE FRANCIS: It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable.

MCLAUGHLIN: This controversy illustrates a broader issue, the pontiff’s relative avoidance of social issues, like abortion and gay marriage, in favor of economic issues like redistribution of wealth. The Catholic Church still opposes abortion and gay marriage, but many Catholics believe Pope Francis has unwisely relegated those concerns to a secondary role.


MCLAUGHLIN: "The New York Times’" headline about the pope’s address to Congress described it as, quote, "Tilting to the Left", unquote.

Was the speech left of center? Clarence?

PAGE: I would say, on the whole, yes. It could have been farther left, though. He was not as critical of capitalism as he has been in the past. And in fact, as "The Wall Street Journal", of all places, pointed out, he, when talking about being humane toward immigrants, including illegal immigrants, he pointed out that they are drawn to this country because of the prosperity of the most capitalistic of countries if you will. I thought the speech really tried to go down the middle, have enough there to offend both sides, if you will, but not so deeply offend that it would spoil the general positive flavor of the speech.

MCLAUGHLIN: But, Clarence, did you hear his criticism of finance and the markets?

PAGE: It wasn’t as bad as it had been, if you will, in previous speeches --


PAGE: -- where he talked about --

MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean? It was --

CLIFT: He toned that down.

PAGE: Yes, he toned it down.

MCLAUGHLIN: Less critical that previous speeches.

PAGE: Yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: That’s a lot.

What about open borders to environmental degradation, don’t you think his emphasis on that?

PAGE: As far as the borders go, I thought it was very much in keeping with the New Testament, of about being welcoming to the stranger. And as far as the environment goes, yes, he did buy in with the idea of the current global warming being produced -- well, humans having something to do with climate change, which is the view of --


MCLAUGHLIN: No, he said it was a grave danger. What’s the public view?

PAGE: Well, climate change is a grave danger. Look at the fires going on out west.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, yes, but the Pew Research says 52 percent of Americans think climate change is not a serious problem.

PAGE: But scientists, a consensus of scientists say it is a serious problem.

CLIFT: Yes, and it wasn’t just --

PAGE: The public will come around. Give them time.

MCLAUGHLIN: How many times did you find scientists to be wrong?

CLIFT: He wasn’t --

PAGE: I find more and more Americans turning that away. The more fires we have, the more blizzards we have --

CLIFT: Actually --

PAGE: -- the hurricanes, the tornadoes, yes, it is happening.

MCLAUGHLIN: You put that in your common place book and remind of yourself of it every day. Scientists are right most of the time, 100 percent of time.

PAGE: Nothing common about my book.

CLIFT: Actually, the weight of scientific opinion is that the climate is changing, and that man’s activities have a lot to do with it.

The pope brought some moral clarity to that, and he’s not just speaking to Americans. He’s speaking around the world. And people, especially poor people are already feeling the impact of climate change.

And the pope is not changing church doctrine.

MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of --

CLIFT: He is changing the one of how the church -- and look, he has brought this church past the scandals. He’s opened the minds of lapsed Catholics, non-Catholics to look at this church anew. I mean, he is the best apostle for the Catholic Church. And the way he went over and shook John Kerry’s hand, John Kerry, the senator who ran for president 2004, that the church wanted to deny communion. I thought that was a wonderful grace note.

And I think the Republican contenders could learn something from this pope. You don’t have to change your core beliefs.


CLIFT: But you can sure change the way you address people and go to the world in a much more welcoming way.

Three cities, Philadelphia is next, basically stopped and listened to this pope. And it was much welcomed message.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Well, that has little to do with what his views are.

What about the death penalty? Is that accord with the Americans’ views? He wants it universally abolished. Fifty-nine percent of Americans favor the death penalty.

What about abortion? Do the pope and the public agree?

RENNIE: But he’s not running for office in America. He’s not running for election in America, and I think --

MCLAUGHLIN: But he is still making political pronouncements.

RENNIE: No, he’s not. He’s making moral pronouncements --

CLIFT: Right.

RENNIE: -- because I think if you ask him, he would say, at each step, he’s defending the most poor and vulnerable in society. And he believes, and you may disagree, that climate change will affect poor countries before it affects rich countries, that the death penalty is tougher on people who can’t afford good lawyers, the poorest, the most vulnerable. To him, it’s all consistent.

And I think all you’re really saying is that his concern for the poor and most vulnerable across the range of issues, whether it’s the unborn child or poor people facing the death penalty, or poor countries facing climate change, doesn’t fit into America’s very distinctive left/right template. But I think from his point of view, it’s perfectly consistent.

MCLAUGHLIN: What about abortion? Do the pope and the public agree? The answer is no. Seventy-eight percent of Americans say abortion should be legal, always, quote, "always", or, quote, "some of the time".

RENNIE: But that’s the weird thing about the role of a priest in societies. They take pure positions, and society doesn’t respect their purity, without always sharing it.

MCLAUGHLIN: If he is in a political chamber, why should he not be talking like a political person?

BUCHANAN: He’s a moral leader in a political chamber.

Look, John --


MCLAUGHLIN: Is he giving -- is he re-characterizing political moves made by Congress --

BUCHANAN: What the pope has done --

MCLAUGHLIN: -- and put them through a moral lens? Is that what he’s doing?

BUCHANAN: What he’s doing is, look, on matters of faith and morals, he is not a traditionalist. He is really entertaining ideas which have caused the church itself to be in confusion and division. Politically, he is clearly a man of the left, on economics and on politics and on climate change and all the rest of it, he does not speak authoritatively, morally on those issues at all. And there’s no need to believe.

But you ought to respect what he says, but there’s no need to go along with him, and some of us have dealt with those issues a long, long time.

CLIFT: You’re still welcome in the pews if you disagree with him, but he is capable of bringing more people, almost 40 percent of American Catholics are now Hispanics. They view him as their pope, their savior.

BUCHANAN: Well, he is our pope.

CLIFT: Liberal Catholics for the first time, for the first time feel that they have a home in this church. So, it’s not --

BUCHANAN: But, look, you know, he cannot --

CLIFT: The church is not only for anti-abortion activists. It welcomes other people.

BUCHANAN: The pope cannot change matters of faith and moral on which the church has preached and taught infallibly for 2,000 years.

CLIFT: He didn’t say he is.

MCLAUGHLIN: Was he admonishing the chamber?

BUCHANAN: No, look, he has a point of view about the death penalty. But it’s not a matter of faith and morals. People can be good Catholics and oppose it, and good Catholics and support it.

CLIFT: Right, exactly.

BUCHANAN: The Vatican used to have the death penalty, up until about 1970.

CLIFT: Yes, his tune was on the mark and those lawmakers received him warmly. They applauded. They gave him a standing ovation. I don’t think they felt that they were wrongly lectured at all. And I think probably, the pope’s appearance their probably tipped Speaker Boehner over the edge in declaring his resignation from Congress.


MCLAUGHLIN: You don’t think he should have become a politician instead of a pope.

BUCHANAN: Let me agree with what Eleanor said here, in this sense. What he said up there, he said softly, on both sides of the spectrum. What he said gently, he said about life, I think a little too gently. But there’s no doubt, even on the matter of climate change, that was very gentle and economic, it wasn’t like his previous statement that capitalism delivers the dung of the devil.

RENNIE: Right, right. Well, that was about environmental damage as opposed to bankers.

BUCHANAN: Well, yes, but --

PAGE: He did consider being a politician, by the way, before he went to the priesthood, in case you’re wondering.

CLIFT: Oh, interesting.

MCLAUGHLIN: He’s what?

PAGE: He did consider politics early on, in fact. I think it was back when he was a bar bouncer in his youth. But he decided to go into the clergy instead.

MCLAUGHLIN: Is it safe to conclude that if he were to run for president, he’d be voted down. Imagine that question.

CLIFT: Well, first of all, he wasn’t born in this country.



RENNIE: He’s speaking Spanish.


MCLAUGHLIN: Is the trip too political? It was too political.


BUCHANAN: He has an agenda that goes beyond theology and goes beyond morality and goes into the realm of politics and global issues. And on those, quite frankly, he has divided people, just as people are divided on the other --


MCLAUGHLIN: He’s the pope. He’s the pope of how many Catholics in the world?

PAGE: Well, I presume --

MCLAUGHLIN: How many we say they were?

CLIFT: I think you said 80 billion --

BUCHANAN: There are 1.2 billion Catholics.

MCLAUGHLIN: One-point-two billion Catholics in the world. What do those Catholics think when they read and analyze and those theologians in those different theaters, all around the world think about the pope?

PAGE: The church was not a democracy, but I was out there with the crowd the other day and I think he would have won election if it was up to a vote. He’s a very popular guy, and he reaches out to people who are not Catholic.


MCLAUGHLIN: No one is disputing that.

PAGE: Well, you asked the question, John. I’m answering it for you. He’s a very popular guy because he knows how to appeal to those common values --


MCLAUGHLIN: OK, exit question: will the pope’s popularity in the U.S. go up, go down or stay the same after his visit concludes?

BUCHANAN: I think he had a huge crest of popularity and it will stay with him over the weekend and next week. But, gradually, people will forget that as they do forget things in these Americas.

CLIFT: He’s given the Roman Catholic Church in this country, and perhaps many other places, a new lease on life after years of scandal -- after years of scandals. It’s a breath of fresh air.

RENNIE: I think you’re making an artificial distinction between political and moral issues. I think for him, he makes the perfectly plausible case. These are all moral issues to him.

PAGE: Yes, I think --


RENNIE: Yes, climate change is a moral issue.

PAGE: I think he’ll be quoted and remembered, as all quotable popes are. He won’t necessarily change the fractiousness of our Congress, but he has left a high standard for people to follow.

MCLAUGHLIN: I think the pope has entered the fray of American politics and his popularity will drop as a result. Read George Will.

Issue Three: Boehner Bows Out.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): In a shock announcement Friday, John Boehner, Republican speaker of the House, said he will resign at the end of October. Mr. Boehner’s meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday, in which the devout Catholic speaker visibly cried, seems to have encouraged Mr. Boehner into spiritual reflection.

But this recognition is also about politics. The speaker has attracted increasing anger from hard line conservatives, like Representative Mark Meadows, for his outreach to President Obama.


MCLAUGHLIN: Rate John Boehner’s time in office, Pat?

BUCHANAN: I think, John, he’s a good man who did the best he could and he’s got a -- we’ve been talking previously about a schism. There is a schism in the Republican Party. He was facing a rebellion, which could have successfully taken 30, 35, 40 votes away from him, which would have forced him to go to the Democrats to become speaker.

And so, he decided, don’t go through this, pull out now. He had a wonderful day with the pope. And I would rate the guy who’s -- he certainly gets A for effort, but I -- difficult to say, but the Values Voter Summit, these conservatives, they heard the news of Boehner’s resignation, standing, roaring ovation. That’s the problem with which he got to deal. Republican Party, John, is deeply divided.

MCLAUGHLIN: What kind of numbers in that caucus?

BUCHANAN: Well, the Values Voters caucus is not part of the Congress of the United States.


BUCHANAN: It’s a group here in town which is powerful. You got all the presidential candidates, or a number of them, speaking to it.

CLIFT: Well, within the Republican Caucus, you have all the Tea Party types -- I think they call themselves the Freedom Caucus. They’re mostly from the South and Southwest. And they were going to object to whatever John Boehner did to try to fund the government, to keep the government open. And so, he’s going to have to get votes from Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, which is what he’s going to do, and he knew that that was going to probably create the rebellion that would topple his speakership.

So, he basically took one for the team. He’s the second Republican to do that this week, Scott Walker dropped out of the race earlier this week, saying that other Republican candidates should do that so they can get a real fight going and perhaps dislodge Donald Trump from the frontrunnership.

So, yes, you’re right about the division that goes throughout the Republican Party.

BUCHANAN: He was pushed. He jumped before he was pushed.

MCLAUGHLIN: Who’s going to replace him?

PAGE: Kevin McCarthy.


PAGE: Kevin McCarthy probably, who’s the second in command now.

CLIFT: He’s the majority leader.

PAGE: Majority leader, right. And he has enough votes and gets along with people well enough and can move legislation and all --


MCLAUGHLIN: Do you hear the same word?

PAGE: I want to say a little word about Boehner, though, because he since he -- he and I both come from the same district in Ohio, at about the same time. He always struck me as a decent guy, who was your old school country club Republican elected to get things done, and he’s not an ideologue. And he was constantly frustrated by the fact that his party have largely been taken over by people who care more about ideology than getting things done.

CLIFT: He’s a dealmaker in the best sense of the word and his caucus wouldn’t let him do that.

PAGE: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think his mind was made up and he know that after this was over, he was going to take this step, and then it all welled up as one kind of cataclysmic emotional, what, event?

RENNIE: He clearly said that this brought it forward, seeing the pope come to Congress was something he’d been working on for three popes now. It was the biggest thing he wanted still to achieve. So, it brought forward the announcement he was going to make.

But I think that this is larger than anyone vote. I think the problem is, when we saw him doing his press conference, announcing his resignation, he kept coming back to this phrase about his desire to protect the institution, that the solemn role of the House speaker is to protect the institution.

The real problem is 30 or 40 members of his Republican Caucus, that’s not how they see the institution. They have a provisional respect for the institution of the House. They respect the House of Representatives when it is delivering conservative goals, only when it is delivering conservative goals.

PAGE: Otherwise, they don’t cry if it doesn’t get anything done.

RENNIE: When it’s cutting deals, when it’s having to get Democratic votes, when it’s getting legislation through, they have no respect for it. So, you can see the problems there, they’re playing by different rules.

BUCHANAN: John, this was perfectly timed. I think it was perfectly timed.


BUCHANAN: I think it was wisely done and perfectly timed. It’s a day after one of the greatest successes John Boehner has had in there, bringing in the pope, and he knows problems are going -- why not just give those to McCarthy and go out now?

CLIFT: He goes out as something of a hero. He fell on his sword in order to avoid what seemed to be a likely government shutdown.


CLIFT: And all this over a continuing resolution to fund the government until the end of the year, bascially.


Let’s transmit this to a higher level, if you’re up to it. Do the -- does the speaker have a moment of spiritual illumination after meeting with the pope, yes or no?

BUCHANAN: I think, clearly, he was affected by the visit, and I think they affected the timing of his decision.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

CLIFT: In his press conference, he said the pope put his arm around him and asked he, John Boehner, to pray for the pope. And I think that was probably his moment of enlightenment.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

RENNIE: I think he realized that there are other things that matter more in life than the title of speaker.

MCLAUGHLIN: He’s a pretty devout Catholic, was he not?

PAGE: I think it was a very important personal, as well as public moment for Boehner.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, I think the illumination was, what, beyond the --

CLIFT: Political.

MCLAUGHLIN: -- present.


MCLAUGHLIN: And we all wish him the absolute best with the turn that his life will take.

Predictions, Pat?

BUCHANAN: This weekend, the independence moment in Catalonia will get a majority of the votes of the parties.


CLIFT: Next top tier Republican candidate to drop out, my prediction, Rand Paul.


RENNIE: We’re going to see -- we’re not going to see -- the chances of a government shutdown had gone down, thanks to resignation of the Speaker, John Boehner.


PAGE: I think we were about to have a no-fly zone over Syria, but that will not happen now because of current negotiations that are underway.

MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, interesting, Clarence. Is anyone partial to ending that way?

PAGE: Only newspapers who are announcing a sale.


MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that President Obama and Russian President Putin will reach an agreement to keep Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in power.