The McLaughlin Group

Issues: 2015 Year End Awards Part Two

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

Taped: Friday, January 1, 2016
Broadcast: Weekend of January 1-3, 2016

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

It’s the 34th Annual MCLAUGHLIN GROUP Year End Awards 2015 Part II.

Here’s the master of ceremonies, John McLaughlin.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: Destined for political stardom in 2016.

Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: This one is for Eleanor: Tulsi Gabbard, Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii. I mean, Iraq war vet, very charismatic. Has been really moving up. She’s in number two or three position at the DNC. Very attractive, young, has a really future, John.

MCLAUGHLIN: How old is she?

BUCHANAN: I don’t -- you don’t ask a woman her age --


BUCHANAN: Go ahead, Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: She’s young and I agree with you. I think she’s poised for bigger things.

I’m going to go a couple of rungs higher. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the almost certain Democratic nominee, poised to be our next president. Stardom doesn’t get any better than that in the political world.



ROGAN: Speaker Paul Ryan. I think he’s going to become instrumental in forging more deals with Democrats, consolidating the conservative base in the party, but also guiding the eventual Republican nominee on fiscal matters.


CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: I’m going to say Abigail Fisher, who, if you don’t recognize her name, she’s the leading the -- she’s a plaintiff in the bigger anti-affirmative action case going to the Supreme Court this next year, and this could end affirmative action on college campuses, or it could strengthen it. But there’s going to be the biggest decision in years.

BUCHANAN: It’s up to Anthony Kennedy, isn’t it?

PAGE: Yes, it really is.


MCLAUGHLIN: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, second most powerful politician after the president. Ryan will have the privilege to be speaker when the political pendulum swings next November, Election Day, putting him in a pivotal spot.

Destined for political oblivion?

BUCHANAN: Angela Merkel. I think the chancellor of Germany has made a terrible mistake in throwing open the gates. She’s losing her party in Bavaria. And if this continues, I think she’s in real deep trouble, even though she’s Time’s Person of the Year.


MCLAUGHLIN: Well-stated, well-stated.

CLIFT: Yes, I wouldn’t underestimate Angela Merkel’s powers of recovery. So, we’ll see. We’ll check back in another year.

Oblivion: Louisiana Senator David Vitter, who lost, in a cloud of scandal, his bid for governor of Louisiana, and now is not going to run again for the Senate. So, he will be gone.


ROGAN: Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party, imploding -- imploding the party with him.


ROGAN: Because he’s socialist and very strange.


BUCHANAN: Hard left.

PAGE: It’s got to be Jeb Bush, who, for years, had led my most likely Republican nominee list. He has now fallen drastically. And if he doesn’t get the nomination, which appears likely to happen, then I don’t know what he’s going to do politically after that.

MCLAUGHLIN: Destined for political oblivion: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Her polls have dropped to under 10 percent. Brazil’s economy is shrinking, and the scandal of Petrobras corruption is ongoing.

Best political theater, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Donald Trump arrives at the Iowa State Fair and tells all the little kids to come out and take a ride on the Trump helicopter. It’s a real winner all the way around.

CLIFT: Bernie Sanders giving Hillary Clinton a pass on her emails in the first Democratic debate.

ROGAN: Donald Trump’s interactions with various people in the media.

PAGE: I’ll say John Kasich’s coming across in the early debates as a very practical leader and organizer, who makes government work, and it did him absolutely no good in this current contest.

MCLAUGHLIN: Best political theater is or are the upcoming Republican primary debates. The first four GOP debates drew a cumulative of 75 million viewers. It has to be the best political theater, or Republicans or people wouldn’t be watching.

Best political theater -- Pat?

BUCHANAN: What’s now, worst political theater?

PAGE: Worst political theater.

BUCHANAN: Worst political theater: ISIS’ beheadings, their executions, their drownings, the horror show they put on the Internet and they put on social media. It is horrendous.

CLIFT: Well, in that vein but not exactly, the media scrum going through the home of the two San Bernardino shooters. The press descended like vultures in trying to pick apart whatever findings that they could get that weren’t already absconded by the FBI.

ROGAN: Yes, I’m going to use that, the worst political theater is what the Islamic State is doing, but also shows how theater can actually in that propaganda sense led to a very cumulative destructive effect, that direction towards violence.

PAGE: Yes, I would name for worst political theater in terms of having the least impact that was desired would be Barack Obama’s ISIS speech recently on primetime, on TV, and trying his mightiest to sound like he’s saying something new, but it was really a reiteration of what we already knew basically. It didn’t have much impact.

ROGAN: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Worst political theater: the Democratic primary debates. The first two debates attracted a cumulative audience of 24 million viewers. The first GOP debate topped that number in just one debate. By the second GOP debate, the Republican cumulative total was 48 million, double the number, Eleanor, of viewers of the two Democratic debates.

CLIFT: I don’t think they’re all going to turn into votes, John.



CLIFT: It’s good entertainment.

MCLAUGHLIN: Most underreported story of 2015.

BUCHANAN: The effect, the Ferguson effect, to be exact, on police and their declining to get out of cars and really do aggressive policing, and the effect that is having on the rising murder rate and crime rate in various cities. The evidence is anecdotal, but it’s there, Clarence.

PAGE: It’s anecdotal, too.


CLIFT: Right.

I guess I would give it to the Republican ongoing war against science, whether it’s climate change or even investigating the psychology behind all the shootings. They wouldn’t allow funding for research on gun violence.

ROGAN: Chinese imperialism in the Pacific, which draws distinct parallels to the Japanese empire in the 1930s.


PAGE: I think from what we’ve seen some police officers do, it’s just as well, that they are staying in the cars.

But the most underreported story to me, though, is the shootings of young people, especially young black males in particular, that are not by police officers, just the regular homicides that have been driving up the crime rate, and are -- have -- we’ve just kind of inured to it, too much so.

MCLAUGHLIN: At "The Wall Street Journal’s" annual chief financial officer conference, only 22 percent said the TPP would have a positive impact on their corporation. The other 78 percent said it would either have no impact one way or the other, or hurt their business.

So, the answer to that is obvious.

The most over-reported story of 2015, Pat?

BUCHANAN: The election of 2016.


BUCHANAN: You can’t cut on the TV, with talking heads of all three cable channels. Everything. It is a fascinating election, John, but I have to say, it’s wall to wall. It’s wall to wall.

CLIFT: It’s Trump and polls. But, you know, I guess, it is -- you can justify it. It’s an important election. There are a lot of candidates.

So, I’m going to give the award to the furor over Starbucks coming out with a cup that was only red, and was seen as an attack on -- part of the war on Christmas.


CLIFT: Get a life.


ROGAN: I think the obsession, in terms of debate coverage, not so much the debate themselves, but the pre-debate coverage and the post-debate coverage, the minutiae on cable.

MCLAUGHLIN: You mean minutiae?

ROGAN: Minutia, yes.


MCLAUGHLIN: You want to write that, Tom? Your word of the week.

PAGE: Minutiae, right?


PAGE: I got to say -- Pat’s right. The coverage of the campaign, which, you know, I’m a political junkie, but come on. There’s been -- this has exposed just how driven by ratings we are, both TV ratings and newspaper circulation, et cetera, because Donald Trump’s presence is bringing out millions of viewers who wouldn’t be watching otherwise. That’s good for the process overall, but it is a shame that it’s driven for reasons that don’t have directly to do with public service.

MCLAUGHLIN: The most over-reported story of 2015: the mischaracterization of the influx of immigrants into Europe as, quote, "Syrian refugees", unquote. Many were from as far away as Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa and Ukraine. Asylum seekers included 34,000 Syrians and 53,000 Albanians and Kosovars.

Biggest government waste, Patrick Buchanan?

BUCHANAN: Pentagon paid $43 million for a gas station in Afghanistan that actually cost $500,000. They think they are building the Watergate Exxon in Afghanistan.


CLIFT: The Select Committee on Benghazi, which is like the eighth or ninth congressional investigation, costs $5 million. Big waste. All they found is a dry hole.

ROGAN: The failure to reform Medicare, which is a key program that would bankrupt my generation, and I think it can be reformed, even in small ways, without having a negative influence on people’s ability to access medical care.

PAGE: I think the biggest waste is all the -- what, Obamacare repeal votes that don’t go anywhere and I have now officially lost count of how many votes there have been and they’re still going on.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, you’re going to try to figure it out?

PAGE: Well, I don’t know what good it’s going to do, because Obamacare is here to stay.

CLIFT: Right, exactly.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we’ll see.

PAGE: We will see.

MCLAUGHLIN: Biggest government waste: $2.7 billion, U.S. tax dollars the Obama administration gave and Energy Department long guaranteed the Spanish solar power from Abengoa for its U.S. green energy projects. From insolvency to bankruptcy, we’ll see, but it dwarfs the $530 million wasted on Solyndra.

Best government dollar spent, Pat?

BUCHANAN: First responders. John, whether it’s in Charleston, with those domestic terrorists, these crazies or Islamist terrorism at San Bernardino, these guys are always there first, they’re cops. And they go in there and they risk their lives and they do it again and again and again, and it’s happening more often. They’re out best.


CLIFT: I’ll say amen to that. And I’ll also add, Obamacare subsidies, 17.5 million people have healthcare in this country that they didn’t have before, and the enrolment period was extended because of the surge.

BUCHANAN: Aren’t we going to repeal Obamacare?

CLIFT: No, we’re not going to repeal Obamacare.



CLIFT: Best money spent.

ROGAN: We’ll see how that plays in the election.

I would say the United States Secret Service got a lot of negative criticisms, some of it justified. But every day, the officers and the agents of that distinguished agency put their lives on the line for a very noble cause, American democracy.

PAGE: Recent replacement of No Child Left Behind with a revamped education program. I’m hoping it works now.

MCLAUGHLIN: Spent $7.7 billion on Special Operations Command. SOCOM is present in most counterterrorist operations worldwide. Carrying out the hazardous missions of hostage rescue, locating and eliminating terrorist leaders, money very well-spent.

Boldest politic tactic?

BUCHANAN: Chinese communists, taking underwater reefs and building structures on them to create islands to enable them to claim the entire South China Sea. Like it or not, it is as bold as it can be.

CLIFT: Boldest tactic: Black Lives Matter.

ROGAN: Yes, Paul Ryan, with the bid, in solidarity with me, or him being in solidarity with I (ph).

PAGE: I’d say Trump’s decision to call for a temporary halt to more Muslims coming in the country, which happened to coincide with Ted Cruz making significant gains against him in the polls. It is a reckless move that smells of desperation, but it’s certainly bold.

MCLAUGHLIN: Boldest political tactic: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s gamble, in making a direct address to the U.S. Congress, warning of the dangers of a weak nuclear agreement with Iran. Netanyahu failed to stop the agreement, and his relation with Obama is worst than ever, boldest political tactic.

Worst political scandal, Pat?

BUCHANAN: I think it’s Volkswagen, which has fixed their, you know, their converters or whatever it is to prevent the carbon dioxide emissions, they destroyed the reputation of the country. They’re going to be sued, billions and billions of dollars. They damaged the reputation of Germany because this is the car company that basically is Germany in the corporate world. A horrible mistake.

CLIFT: I had that one, too, but I’m going to add -- I’ll add the, let’s see, is it Exxon, which -- they’ve been -- ExxonMobil, their inner communications reveal that they understood the damage that their product was doing to the atmosphere many years ago, and they basically covered it up.


ROGAN: I would say the known/unknown of Hillary Clinton’s emails. If nothing comes out of those emails, I suspect something -- that will be the big one.

PAGE: I think the worst political scandal may well be in Chicago with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, apparently sitting on the video that led to the recent police scandal. He survived his mayoral election, but the state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, faces one in March, and she looks like she’s going to go down.

MCLAUGHLIN: Pretty serious, huh?

PAGE: In March, yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: Worst political scandal: China’s intelligence service hacking the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, OPM, and stealing the files and identities of more than 22 million U.S. federal employees. Bad, bad, bad.

Best idea of 2015, Pat?

BUCHANAN: I’m going to give this to Barack Obama for resisting pressure and everything else to put large numbers of American troops into Iraq and Syria.

CLIFT: Hear, hear. I would also add, which Pat won’t agree with, but Supreme Court legalizing same sex marriage.


ROGAN: Yes, I’m going to say the small reforms that came through Congress, in terms of reforming the Social Security disability fund.

PAGE: I’m going to plug a rival newspaper, "The New York Times" and their so-called cardboard viewer of virtual reality videos, with the use of the iPhone, that I think is going to in many ways revolutionize the future of media, news and otherwise.

MCLAUGHLIN: What’s the downside of the iPhone?

PAGE: The iPhone, the downside is, it’s expensive.

MCLAUGHLIN: What about kids using it all the time?

PAGE: That’s up to the parents.

ROGAN: New generation.


ROGAN: What’s yours, John?

MCLAUGHLIN: So, you’re flattering "The New York Times"?

PAGE: Yes, I am.


MCLAUGHLIN: Best idea of 2015: Russian billionaire Yuri Milner’s $100 million project to find intelligent life in the universe. Milner is a physicist and has put together a team of scientists to scan radio signals from the billions of stars and 100 galaxies closest to Earth.

Don’t you love it?

BUCHANAN: Let’s hear it for him?


MCLAUGHLIN: Worst idea of 2015, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Putting women into combat.


BUCHANAN: Putting women in combat in the American armed forces.


CLIFT: Women were already in combat. It just opens up jobs and gets them on the right pay scale.

BUCHANAN: It’s not a jobs program, Eleanor.

CLIFT: Worst idea is barring all Muslims from entering the U.S. Thank you, Donald Trump.

ROGAN: Yes, the refusal – counter-proposing Pat -- by the president to put a limited number of special forces to enable the Sunni tribes and to calling airstrikes on ISIS position ins Iraq and Syria.

PAGE: Well, all those are good suggestions for bad ideas. I’m going to pick trigger warnings, the notion that you need to warn students of anything disturbing and provocative in the literature they’re going to be reading in class, this is -- I mean, what is university for but to be provocative.

ROGAN: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Worst idea: President Obama’s decision to stop prosecuting U.S. citizens who pay ransom to terrorist groups like ISIS. Kidnapping for ransom not only helps finance ISIS’s terrorism, but it also make us people -- to make U.S. people more attractive as hostages. Worst idea

Sorry to see you go?

BUCHANAN: The Confederate battle flag, John, is departing. And I would add the great Yogi Berra, who I love and admired.

CLIFT: Senator Barbara Mikulski and Senator Barbara Boxer, two women who were trailblazers. They’ve each announced that they’re not going to run again in 2016.

ROGAN: Yes, the U.S. military personnel who died this year in combat operations, but also those who lost their lives due to mental health issues as well.

PAGE: I’m sorry to see John Boehner go the way that he did go. But it was very noble of him to try to set things up so that we wouldn’t have to worry about government shutdowns for a while, as he headed out the door. But it was really more of the result of the chaos in the house than the productivity of it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Boehner was a class act.

PAGE: He was a class act. He’s still a class act. He’s just not a class act on Capitol Hill anymore.

CLIFT: He’s a class act on the golf course.

MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Sorry to see you go: Cecil the Lion, who was killed by a trophy hunter, a U.S. dentist, Walter Palmer. He’s back hunting in Zimbabwe. His wife gave him full chance, full -- his wife gave him --

ROGAN: I’d just leave that.

MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I kind of like it.

ROGAN: Superfluous information. Let’s go to the next.


MCLAUGHLIN: You’re taking over the show now?

ROGAN: Not yet.

PAGE: He’s running out of time, that’s all.

MCLAUGHLIN: His wife gave him full clearance to go. She’s the daughter of Robert Mugabe. Excuse me, former wife of Robert Mugabe.

BUCHANAN: Comrade Bob.

MCLAUGHLIN: Comrade Bob, you remember him.

BUCHANAN: Still around, 91 years old.

MCLAUGHLIN: OK, 15 minutes of fame, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Governor Martin O’Malley, presidential candidate. It will be February 9th, the New Hampshire. Sorry to see you go.


CLIFT: I give it to Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to issue same sex marriage certificates, and briefly went to jail, and briefly was a hero on the right.

ROGAN: Yes, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore, who only really received media attention for the fact that they were so negligible in the polls.

PAGE: Well, I happened to pick up Pataki and Gilmore as well, but I’m going to switch to Kim Davis. You’re absolutely right.



MCLAUGHLIN: Fifteen minutes of fame: Major Brad Podliska, Air Force reservist, by claiming that the House Select Committee on Benghazi was doing a political hatchet job on Hillary Clinton. Podliska worked ten months as committee staffer before being fired for poor job performance. He’s now suing for wrongful termination.

Best spin of the year, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Bibi Netanyahu says, just before the election, there will be no Palestinian state on my watch. He wins the elections, and said I’m ready to go back into negotiations.



CLIFT: Donald Trump. We’re going to build a huge wall and Mexico is going to pay for it.

ROGAN: Yes, the Iran nuclear deal has verifiable inspection protocols that will actually work.


ROGAN: Rachel Dolezal, who became famous for having everyone thinks she was black and announced, no, I’m actually white.


MCLAUGHLIN: The best spin of the year: the hunky-dory with Obamacare, the health co-ops are closing down, major insurers like UnitedHealthcare may pull out of the exchanges, premiums and deductibles have risen astronomically, and enrolment is millions, millions below projections. Super spin.

The most honest person of the year, Pat?

BUCHANAN: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy -- on his way to being speaker is asked, what you accomplished with the Benghazi hearings? He said, we accomplished something. We drove down Hillary’s poll numbers -- at which point he blew up the committee and got himself eliminated from the open road to the speakership of the House.


CLIFT: I have Kevin McCarthy in that category, too. But he committed what in Washington is called a gaffe, he blurted out the truth, because that committee was created to tarnish Hillary Clinton.

ROGAN: Yes, Jim Comey, director of the FBI.

PAGE: I’ve got to go with McCarthy as well. It’s what you get – that’s your reward for truth-telling in this town.

MCLAUGHLIN: Pat’s "destined for stardom" is my most honest person.

Democratic Representative of Hawaii, military veteran Tulsi Gabbard criticized Barack Obama for refusing to say that Islamic extremists are the enemy. She warned that until you recognized who the enemy is, you cannot develop an effective strategy.

The most overrated, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Republican governors as presidential candidates. Two of them are gone. The others, if you add all their votes together, probably at 12 percent.

CLIFT: Yes, I’ve been resisting piling on Jeb Bush, but I think you have to, considering he was thought to be the giant killer when he announced in the spring. He had all the money. He scared Mitt Romney away from running again, and he was going to sweep the field. I believed it at the time. It certainly hasn’t worked. He’s underperformed.

ROGAN: I’m going to do Hillary Clinton. She is the presumptive nominee. She’s still very popular in the Democratic base, but she has really struggled to be an effective campaigner thus far.


PAGE: I got to say, Jeb. I was one of those who overrated him, apparently.


MCLAUGHLIN: Definitely.

PAGE: Well --

MCLAUGHLIN: The most overrated: the economic benefits to U.S. companies of President Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement. Twenty-two percent of CFOs said the TPP would have a positive impact. Seventy-eight percent says the TPP would either have no impact at all or hurt their corporations.

The most underrated, Pat?

BUCHANAN: It’s the American people. It’s not the National Rifle Association. Under Barack Obama, purchases of guns have gone from 9 million a year to 18 million. It’s the American people, who are unsettled, who are driving these gun sales.

CLIFT: Actually, a lot of people have multiple guns, have arsenals in their backyards.

BUCHANAN: I’m one of them.

CLIFT: You’re one of them.



CLIFT: You’re one of them, I’m not applauding that.

MCLAUGHLIN: Most underrated: President Obama. Opening with Cuba, the Iran deal, the climate accord, none of those things would have happened without him as the three major legacy items.

MCLAUGHLIN: Let’s speed it up.

ROGAN: Yes. I would say that the most underrated in this political campaign season again is going to be the American people as it relates to ISIS and next year. And when you see now that we have people on the ground, you will see the military capability of this country.

PAGE: I think most underrated is Paul Ryan for his outreach to black and Hispanic community and building a real poverty agenda, and being on one side of an important anti-poverty debate that unfortunately is not happening, amid all the other claptrap of this election campaign.

ROGAN: Yes, I think that’s true and I think, you know, he has done very well on that, in terms of leading the advantages (ph) of being able to actually dialogue on those issues and take Republicans into areas where frankly they have just ignored for far too long, and there’s a moral need. There’s also a long term --

CLIFT: So far, it’s all rhetoric.


CLIFT: Pardon me?

ROGAN: You think it’s all rhetoric, Ryan?

MCLAUGHLIN: The most underrated --

CLIFT: I said, so far it’s all rhetoric.

MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me, excuse me. This is not a poker game.

The most underrated: Donald Trump becoming the next U.S. president, underrated. Beltway insiders underrate the extent to which the public is fed up with traditional politicians, and Washington in general, and ready to embrace major change.

ROGAN: But the question is --

MCLAUGHLIN: Do I make myself clear on that?

ROGAN: The question is with Trump, whether that will continue --

BUCHANAN: It’s true. There’s question whether he’s going to go the distance.

CLIFT: Right, exactly. He’s appealing to a segment of the Republican Party. And most of his proposals, when they’re put forward in polls to the broader public, they tank.

BUCHANAN: The anti-establishment group in the Republican Party has got about 70 percent of the vote now.

MCLAUGHLIN: New Year’s resolution, or prediction. Pat Buchanan?

BUCHANAN: Macro prediction, John -- the invasion of Europe from the Middle East, the Near East, North Africa and sub-Sahara Africa is going to continue indefinitely.


CLIFT: The climate change accord reached in Paris earlier this month is a welcome wakeup call for politicians and governments to connect the dots between climate change, mass migration and terrorism, because they’re all together. And I agree with you, Europe is really struggling. And after the flood of refugees from the Middle East comes migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, because of drought.

ROGAN: Iran will continue cheating on the nuclear deal. The snap-back on sanctions will never happen because President Obama wants the deal at all costs.

MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, quickly.

PAGE: As voters get more engaged, moving toward Iowa, the current lineup in the polls is going to shift drastically, and Donald Trump will not win Iowa, and maybe not New Hampshire.

MCLAUGHLIN: Our New Year’s resolution is to bring you the most insightful and unbiased analysis of the twists and turns in the U.S. presidential election. We will focus on what matters most in deciding who gains control of Congress and the White House., you won’t anything like it anywhere else.

Happy New Year! Bye-bye!