The McLaughlin Group

Issues: ISIS in America / Banning Muslim Immigrants / Women in Combat Units

John McLaughlin, Host
Pat Buchanan, Author & Columnist
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune
Tom Rogan, National Review/Opportunity Lives

Taped: Friday, December 11, 2015
Broadcast: Weekend of December 11-13, 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: ISIS in America.


JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I have homegrown violent extremist investigations in every single state.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): FBI Director James Comey warned last February that the bureau was tracking Islamic State sympathizers located in all 50 states.

George Washington University’s Program on Extremism this month issued the first ever detailed public report about ISIS radicals in America. The report was released two days before the San Bernardino terrorist attack at an office Christmas party. The report warns of a, quote, "sharp surge of jihadist activities in the U.S.", unquote.

So far this year, 56 ISIS supporters in the U.S. have been arrested. Their origin is in eight nations: Egypt, Somalia, Jordan, Palestine, Yemen, Bosnia, Syria, and Ghana. Eighty-six percent are male, 27 percent were planning attacks in the U.S. for sometime. Most are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Forty percent are converts to Islam. The average age is 26. Their common aim: to carry out, quote, "jihad against kefirs", unquote -- holy war against infidels.

Here’s a chilling example of what ISIS is targeting: "veterans, patriots, Memorial, et cetera, Day parades, go on drug busts, plus spill all their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them, kill them," unquote.

Contrary to the perception that the Internet and social media are the main recruiting tools for radicalization, the report found that, quote, "individuals and clusters form radical Islamic cells," unquote, to carry out attacks. One such cluster in St. Louis was composed of Bosnian Muslims who had emigrated from the town of Teslik (ph). Another cluster included a father and his two grown sons from Syria. These cells often fly below the radar of high tech surveillance.


MCLAUGHLIN: If ISIS supporters keep murdering non-Muslims in America, will there be a backlash against immigration from Muslim countries?

Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: John, if there’s one or two more of these attacks, Lord forbid, between now and the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee.

I mean, I know his proposal is very controversial, but what we’ve got in the United States and we know it now from the FBI are ISIS cells and ISIS personnel and ISIS sympathizers. We don’t know how many exactly they are. We have no way apparently of really vetting them. That woman got in this country and who was a terrorist, hell-bent on murder when she arrived with her new husband, or the husband-to-be.

So, I think the problem, and what Trump is touching in onto, is that Americans want to know basically are the folks coming into the country, are they coming here to kill us, do we have any way to know that, and if we don’t, maybe we ought to have a moratorium on immigration from the Islamic world. And to a lot of folks, I know, that’s fascism or Mussolini, to other folks, it makes common sense.


ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, in the world of ISIS, what Trump is saying and doing and the rhetoric that is now catching fire certainly within the Republican primary process is like pouring gasoline on the fire for what ISIS is trying to do.

Michael McCaul, who’s the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, had a breakfast with reporters this week. And he said ISIS is 50,000 strong -- 20,000, I guess you could say, indigenous, 30,000 from like a hundred countries around the world. And their main recruiting device is through the Internet.

And they’re young, they’re savvy, they’ve mastered all the dark portions of the Internet. We can’t -- they’ve created encrypted applications. We can’t go after them.

And their message is: one, come to Syria and join the jihad, or two, fight where you are.

So, the new battlefield is social media, and I think you’re going to see Hillary Clinton and her speech -- I think is on Tuesday, where she’s going to outline her strategy to fight ISIS, to sort of, you know, let’s get the heads of the social media companies together and figure out what kind of tools we have, so that their sites aren’t used just for, you know, open recruiting stations for ISIS.

MCLAUGHLIN: Who has the most at stake in preventing ISIS attacks inside the U.S.? Tom?

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/DAILY TELEGRAPH: Well, obviously, the FBI has the most at stake, because that’s their responsibility. Fortunately, they’re very good at that. But the challenge we face is that with the Islamic State banner continues to fly, with a sense of being able to deter American path, this is where you see the direction, the connection point between the Islamic State’s perceived success in Iraq and Syria and around the world, gaining fealty from other Salafi jihadist groups.

Where that continues, it built that up. And I think two noticeable points come out from this report. Number one, if you look at the 40 percent of converts, that shows that idea that Eleanor is talking about in the degree of people wanting a cause, wanting a gang, wanting to be able to join up. So, they are taking Islam, joining up to that, in that worse element.

And another thing that comes up, the report mentions the Bosnian immigrants coming to the United States. One thing we have to be aware of very critically in this country, is that, you know, and I will use a personal example. A very good friend of mine, Bosnian immigrants to the United States, American citizen, now with the State Department, Muslim, incredibly talented, incredibly patriotic.

And an extension to that, who do we think with these CIA operations in Pakistan and around the Middle East. They are not the CIA officers who are delivering that. They do not look like me. They look like they come from the places where they are fighting and they are putting their lives on the line, and a lot worse. People, go and Google William F. Buckley, they know what these terrorist groups would do if they caught them. So, it’s about binding together, that sense of proportions to the threat, but also realist about the many good incredibly patriotic American Muslims we have in this country.

MCLAUGHLIN: A Muslim pointed this out to me, in response to the question that I gave you and Eleanor, who has the most at stake in preventing ISIS attacks inside of the United States, and his answer was: Muslim U.S. citizens. And, of course, he’s a Muslim.


MCLAUGHLIN: To avoid becoming pariahs, they need to be seen as doing all their power to discourage extremism, express tolerance for other religions and cooperate with authorities in reporting extremist in their midst.

PAGE: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: I said, that’s what you have to do, I said, do you do? And he says, yes, I do. I can.

PAGE: You know what? They’re doing it, too. Muslim leaders are denouncing violence. Muhammad Ali came out the other day, probably the most famous Muslim in America.

And that’s part of the problem, though, publicizing the positive aspects of what’s going on in Muslim communities. We in the news pathologically go where things aren’t working the way they’re supposed to, which is why we focused on those who happened to be ISIS supporters.

But the question is, what do you about it? And I think closing the borders now is closing the barn door after the horses have gotten now already.

BUCHANAN: That’s the reality, though, Clarence.

PAGE: Well, let’s deal with the reality of social media.


BUCHANAN: OK, I know that. But ISIS knows all this stuff, too.

PAGE: Right.

BUCHANAN: And if I were an ISIS, what I would do is I would say, look at the two -- two characters commanded the entire media of the United States and still do for a week -- do one or two more of these things, they would up one of their sleeper cells, get this done and we can elect and -- nominate and elect Donald Trump, and the great war with Islam is on.

ROGAN: Until we destroy the Islamic State, though, with expediency --

PAGE: Right.

ROGAN: -- that banner, the propaganda, that stupid black flag with -- anyway, you have to destroy the flag and the brand.


PAGE: Right.

ROGAN: And that takes military power in the Middle East, and it also takes recognition --

PAGE: I agree with you that much, Pat.


BUCHANAN: How is that going to stop ISIS in Libya.

PAGE: I agree.



BUCHANAN: ISIS is all over the world.

PAGE: I agree with you, Pat, to the point that, yes, there will be an increased call up for us to go to arms against ISIS in the Middle East, which we ultimately have to do one way or the other. And right now, we’re already on the course of doing that.


BUCHANAN: You send American troops into Syria, but ISIS, please send 10,000 Americans in Iraq. They’re begging for the great war with America.

PAGE: I know we are. You’re absolutely right.


CLIFT: We do all that, but if you’re on a terror watch list, you can still go out and buy a gun. I mean, all this tough talk sounds really good.

BUCHANAN: I ‘m not just saying tough talk. I’m saying what will happen if we’re having another attack.


CLIFT: When it comes to actually doing anything, there aren’t any appropriate ideas.

BUCHANAN: You’re gonna come to my house and take all my guns away, how is that going to make it --


MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

PAGE: Don’t worry about the guns.

CLIFT: You can have your guns.

MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Should Americans now prepare themselves to live like Israelis, expecting and guarding against frequent attacks from radicalized Muslim neighbors? Yes or no?

BUCHANAN: John, let me just say this, look, we haven’t had many Americans – what, we have 14 killed or something like that. But it’s on everybody’s mind. There’s no question about it. We’re going to have more of this. More Americans will die from auto accidents and from shootouts in cities and stuff like that.

But in terms of dominating the media and affecting the politics of 19 -- or 2015 and 2016, this is it.


MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor in for the exit question.

CLIFT: It’s definitely affecting the politics, and people, what’s the line, if you see something, say something? People need to be vigilant. But you need to go about live your life, because -- you know, it’s a cliche now. Otherwise, the terrorists win.

ROGAN: Very simple. You have to take the fight over there. That’s why, you know, you have to -- we have to have a pressing element on the White House to get real about being more aggressive in the strategy, because it flows into the United States threat, the continuing power of ISIS.

PAGE: Well, we weren’t sitting on our hands. It’s a question of how many bombs do you want to drop and how many troops do you want to put on the ground, because eventually, that has to happen, and where do you they come from. That’s why the administration is moving in way that they are, that’s too slow for some people, but Americans are not that keen on putting, what, 300,000 troops --

ROGAN: We’re not talking about that. That’s what the president said. No one is saying that.


CLIFT: You got to build -- you got to build a coalition and getting Putin on board and getting Assad out of there. But all of that takes time and it’s not going to happen overnight. Meanwhile, you have to deal with all those displaced people from Syria and they deserve to be treated humanely.

BUCHANAN: Our Arab allies won’t send any troops.

MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Let’s go.

BUCHANAN: Our Arab allies won’t send troops.

MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Let’s move it along.

Issue Two: Muslims Not Welcome?


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States, until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Donald Trump sparked a firestorm of controversy this week when he called for Muslims to be banned from entering the United States. Mr. Trump says a ban is necessary to protect Americans from the threat of Islamic terrorism.

But many disagree. The White House said Mr. Trump was behaving like a, quote/unquote, carnival barker, and that his proposal, quote/unquote, disqualifies him from serving as president of the United States.

Mr. Trump’s fellow GOP presidential candidates also chimed in. Jeb Bush described Mr. Trump’s comments as, quote/unquote, unhinged. Marco Rubio said they were, quote/unquote, offensive and outlandish. Chris Christie said Mr. Trump had adopted a, quote/unquote, ridiculous position.

And from the Democratic presidential lineup, criticism was also fierce. Hillary Clinton described Trump’s call as, quote, reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive, unquote. And Martin O’Malley described Mr. Trump as a, quote/unquote, fascist demagogue.

And get this -- breaking from diplomatic protocol of staying outside of foreign elections, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Mr. Trump is, quote/unquote, divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also released a statement, saying he, quote, rejects the recent comments by Donald Trump with regard to Muslims. Israel respects all religions and diligently guards the rights of all its citizens, end quote.


MCLAUGHLIN: I have a stack of newspapers here at this seat of mine, and I want to start with "The New York Times" to illustrate the extent to which Donald Trump has gained the extraordinary attention of the American public and the American government. A poll, this is the top of the page of "The New York Times", Poll Has Trump -- on the right hand coalition. First page, Poll Has Trump Gaining Ground on Terror Fear, Attacks Raised Concern. And inside "The New York Times", there is, I believe, an opportunity to gauge what people think and with regard to this matter.

Are you surprised, Eleanor, the extent to which Trump has commanded the situation? It continues in here, new populism puts the old guard on the defensive. It then goes to a full page, practically.

CLIFT: Right. And if you go to the final paragraph or two, you’ll see Pat Buchanan is quoted, because he ran on similar populism -- 20 years ago? Fifteen years ago?

BUCHANAN: Twenty and 15.

CLIFT: Twenty and 15, OK.

PAGE: Count the days.

CLIFT: Right, right, right. And I think the American people are scared, and Mr. Trump is playing into those fears. But his own party is also scared and they think if he is the nominee, that they will lose not only the presidency, but they will lose the Senate and perhaps even the House, because polls show that, while a plurality of Republicans like what Donald Trump is saying, A strong majority of Americans recoil from the notion that you would have this blanket test not to let people into this country.

It’s too reminiscent of how we handled the Jews during the World War II or the Chinese in 1880s. And I think people find abhorrent. And Trump is now being sort of ostracized by his party and they’re -- but they don’t know how to stop him at this point because he’s unleashed something that nobody seems to know how to end.

BUCHANAN: John, John, Trump has said --


MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, before I let you in, let me also point out "The Wall Street Journal". This is another extraordinary newspaper with extraordinary power, and here we have this recognition of Trump on page one of today’s, Friday’s newspaper. Split on Trump, Muslim Ban, Polls Finds the Majority Against Candidate’s Plan, But Republican Voters Are More Supportive.

BUCHANAN: Now, John, let me talk --

MCLAUGHLIN: Now, what do you make of this --

BUCHANAN: Let me talk to this. Look, there’s no doubt about it. Trump, this is a firestorm to topple firestorms this week about Trump. He’s being compared to Mussolini and Hitler. People are going berserk. The Republican Party is virtually I guess the establishment of Republican Party has all come out and attack him.

What Trump has done here is solidified his base in the Republican Party, increased it somewhat eight weeks before the polling starts. At the same time, a majority of Americans are clearly against this, and everyone is saying it’s unconstitutional, it’s un-American, it’s not who we are. They’re attacking him.

But I’ll tell you, if something like, I mean, I think as of now, Trump is stronger as a consequence of this week, going into Iowa and New Hampshire, with a stronger possibility of winning the nomination than he did before the week started.

CLIFT: Well, and he came out with all this because he had slipped to number two in Iowa, and the man has a gift for putting himself into the news cycle and reminding everyone that he’s the best in politics.

PAGE: I wouldn’t concede that much giftedness to Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a showman. We know that. He had top-rated TV program for years, "The Apprentice", which got just about as many viewers as the first Republican debate got, which is a big deal for political news. We don’t -- no more, don’t get that kind of audience.

And I think this is big news. Everybody was surprised.


MCLAUGHLIN: You may be missing the point I’m making. The point I’m making is --

PAGE: Listen to my point first, OK?

MCLAUGHLIN: -- you have the dominant expression of opinion in newspapers in the United States, accepting --

PAGE: I’m getting to that.

MCLAUGHLIN: -- him seriously.

PAGE: I’m getting to that.

CLIFT: Oh, yes.

PAGE: The fact is, I think that this is big news because all the Washington elites, including us, and the Republican and Democratic elites, the media elites, everybody, under-estimated the power of selling fear to the American public.

MCLAUGHLIN: Is the balloon going to burst or be burst?

PAGE: I think the balloon will burst when Trump hits his ceiling.

Now, Pat is right. There’s unforeseen circumstances, such as another terror attack, say for example.

ROGAN: This is --

PAGE: But I think at some point, voters, even those people who haven’t been voting in all their lives, this kind of thing, are going to say we need to somebody sensible to deal with this terror problem and that’s where you’re going to see people turning more to Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, folks like that on the Republican ticket, or Hillary Clinton with the Democrats.

ROGAN: Pat is right that in populist terms, if there is another attack, this helps Trump. But it also requires a candidate on the conservative side to actually explain the core principle of conservatism, even going back to Lincoln and slavery where Pat and I --


PAGE: How about Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, are they doing that?

ROGAN: Well, exactly, no. And pushing up and directly challenging and I think you will see that in the debate coming up next week.

BUCHANAN: Trump support is the mirror image of the distrust and the dislike and the contempt for the American establishment on the part of the American people. He bashes the establishment, media and political, and the country agrees with that, whether they agree with his verbiage or not.

CLIFT: Well, there are Trump-like figures all over the world.

BUCHANAN: They’re doing well.

CLIFT: And in Europe -- yes, because of the failure of the political establishment.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

CLIFT: But the floor and the ceiling of Trump support are about the same, and it’s about 30 percent.

BUCHANAN: Are you sure of that?

CLIFT: That’s 30 percent of the Republican electorate. I don’t think I subscribe to the conventional wisdom, if you have him as your nominee, you’re going to lose grandly.

BUCHANAN: Why is he running almost even with Hillary in the polls?

PAGE: Because these are early polls, that’s why.

BUCHANAN: Well, Goldwater was down 55 points.

PAGE: Hillary is not running against anybody right now. When it gets serious, if you really get serious this time next year and you got Trump versus Hillary, then let’s see what the polls look like. I don’t think it’s going to look like this.

CLIFT: You’ve got the Republican Party --

BUCHANAN: You may be right, Clarence, and you may be wrong.

PAGE: I may be wrong. Yes, that’s what’s --


ROGAN: Here’s a close compromising. If we can tighten the rules at checkpoints, people coming in and we say, someone, if you’ve been associated with a certain area, for example, of Pakistan in your background, then you go and have an interview. So, I’ll give you one --


CLIFT: They’re all interviewed in person.

ROGAN: You know, British Pakistanis coming over to the United States, will be interviewed when they come in. That is a hard measure, but a necessary measure to some degree, as a proportionate approach, but let them in when you know they’re OK.


PAGE: I’ve got Yemen stamped in my passport.

ROGAN: Right, right.

PAGE: I get extra questioning because of that.

MCLAUGHLIN: Trump called Monday for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States because of terrorism perpetrated by radical Muslims, including a married couple who fatally shot 14 people and wounded 22 at a holiday workplace party in San Bernardino, California, last week. His comments have been rebuked by politicians across the U.S. spectrum and by world leaders from Muslim and non-Muslim countries alike. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, Donald Trump.

PAGE: And hatred is a worldwide phenomenon, too.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, British --


ROGAN: Debate him and defeat him through that. Do not try to shut him down, as they do in Europe.

MCLAUGHLIN: Ask him what he thinks, the British Prime Minister David Cameron who said Tuesday that Trump’s comments about Muslims were divisive, quote, divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong. What do you think of that? What do you think of that?

BUCHANAN: Cameron is politically correct.

ROGAN: I think that David Cameron -- you know, in terms of his comments -- but, look, free speech, you have got to have the debate. The reason Europe is so screwed (ph) with these issues is they don’t want to have the debate.

And Eleanor is right about that. That failure of that political establishment, the establishment needs to recognize what Pat is saying about the populist appeal, but debate him and challenge him and say why this is not the United States.

PAGE: And educate the public.

BUCHANAN: The U.K. Independence Party is very sympathetic to what Trump said, are they not?

ROGAN: Yes, they are, but they to some degree, they’re more moderate than a lot of the extremist groups.

BUCHANAN: Well, that’s -- you’re looking at the future, Tom.

PAGE: There are some that make Ted Cruz look moderate.

CLIFT: Well, I just want to know what Trump is going to do with all his properties in the Arab world now, because he’s insulted everyone over there. Maybe he just calls them up and say, "This is politics. Just kidding."

MCLAUGHLIN: No, the better story is, what’s he doing with his properties near the Hebrides in Scotland?

ROGAN: Yes, because that’s where you’re from.

PAGE: Yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there’s --

PAGE: Nice golf course --

MCLAUGHLIN: McLaughlin up there is a familiar name.

CLIFT: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: And I’m waiting to see if there is a John McLaughlin.


MCLAUGHLIN: I think there is.


MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Women Warriors.


ASHTON CARTER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: To achieve our mission of national defense, we cannot afford to cut ourselves off from half the country’s talents and skills. We have to take full advantage of every individual who can meet our standards.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): In a major announcement, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that female personnel will soon be eligible to serve in all U.S. military combat units. That is assuming they pass relevant selection courses. This means female personnel will soon be able to apply for elite special operations units, like the U.S. Army’s First Special Forces, Operational Detachment Delta, and the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Teams.

But signifying disquiet by some in the U.S. military, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joe Dunford, was absent from Secretary Carter’s announcement. The Marines had asked to retain male only combat infantry units. Secretary Carter rejected that request.


MCLAUGHLIN: Is Secretary Carter’s decision based on national security interest or is he trying to introduce an issue into the 2016 presidential campaign that he thinks will benefit Hillary?

CLIFT: I don’t think this is political. This has been in the works for a long time. Women have actually been doing these jobs. Tammy Duckworth, who’s a member of the House, is going to run for the Senate in Illinois, was a helicopter pilot in Iraq, and lost both her legs.

Women can do these jobs, and when three or four women graduated from Ranger School earlier this year, competing evenly, equally with all the men, this is not affirmative action, and it doesn’t mean a flood of women are going to go into these combat units. It’s still a minority of women who are going to be able to meet these qualifications. But it opens up a path for career advancement, and they’re going to get paid for jobs that they’ve been doing anyway.

This is the modern world and Ash Carter would not have done anything without the White House backing him, certainly.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Carter has calculated that the GOP presidential candidates will be asked about the policy at the upcoming Las Vegas, debate and many will oppose it? This will solidify female support for Hillary who, of course, supports it. It’s pure politics. You don’t agree with that?

PAGE: I would believe that, if George W. Bush had not supported women in the military, but he did. This crosses partisan lines. And, in fact, it’s a practical decision.

Women have shown themselves to be as good or better than men in the various units that called upon their intellectual or emotional abilities. It’s only in the physical area, particularly anything involving upper body strength, where we see a gap. At the same time, though, as the women that Eleanor just mentioned showed with their recent training, women can succeed in those jobs, but they aren’t that many of them.

ROGAN: The difficulty, though, is that and this is why I disagree with the judgment, is that as much as women have played an incredibly important role, especially when you talk about that in intelligence --

PAGE: Right.

ROGAN: -- being able to get information from people who perhaps would not be as willing -- women, in predominantly Muslim countries wouldn’t want to talk to men, who’ve been helicopter pilots, combat pilots, serve with distinction.

The problem in terms of the combat infantry -- and this is why General Dunford wasn’t there and why I don’t support this -- is that the statistics show that women are more predisposed to physical injury during training. If that was not true, I would absolutely support it. My concern is that we have a combat infantry unit in a fire maneuver, the Helmand Province, Afghanistan, where someone gets hit and you have to extricate that person under fire, the risk to the unit, and thus to the mission, becomes too extreme.

MCLAUGHLIN: The timing of the announcement --


CLIFT: What about Israel? Israel has the finest military --

MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute, the timing -- wait a minute, the timing of the announced change is suspect. Carter timed the announcement to come out shortly before the Las Vegas debate, and with about six weeks to go before the first voting in the 2016 presidential race.

BUCHANAN: Let me get into this, John. This is --

MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?

BUCHANAN: This is an absurdity, this whole thing. The idea of putting women, your women into combat, the Israelis tried it for a while, it didn’t work. They pulled them out.

We had women pilots. One of them crashed her plane into a carrier. They don’t have the stamina, the endurance.

It goes against human nature. It goes against history. It’s a social and ideological experiment.

If they’re equal, why don’t we draft them and register them equally, and would --


CLIFT: We don’t have a draft. We don’t have a draft.

BUCHANAN: Would half of the force going up those cliffs and beaches of Normandy, if they were women, would we have done better?

MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye!