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The McLaughlin Group

Issues: Obamacare Deadline / Trump Skips Debate / Bloomberg to Run? / Egypt and Russia

Participants:
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 29, 2016
Broadcast: Weekend of January 29-31, 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.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: Issue One: Deadline Day for ACA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): This Sunday, January 31st, is the 2016 deadline for buying personal health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also known as ACA or Obamacare.

And also note this, if you don’t qualify for an exemption, your failure to buy insurance may result in a fine of $695 or 2.5 percent tax on your income, whichever is higher. And as the clock ticks, 10.5 million Americans still don’t have health care coverage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: Why have over 10 million Americans fail to purchase Obamacare insurance, Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: Well, John, one reason is they don’t want to spend their money that way. They prefer to keep it, which is why you got fines, and which is why you’ve got money taken out of their pay and they’re being clubbed into buying healthcare that they don’t want right now, because some of them are probably 21, and they’re going to live forever.

So, John, but the real question here is what happens in this election, John. If Hillary Clinton is elected or any Democrat is elected, Obamacare is forever. But if Donald Trump or one of these Republicans is elected, there’s going to be some real reform and this subject will be mooted.

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well --

MCLAUGHLIN: Is the penalty of avoiding health insurance too small?

BUCHANAN: That went right to the Supreme Court and some of us disagreed, whether you can fine people and tax people for not buying a product they don’t want.

CLIFT: Well, John, I want to thank you for doing a public service and leading with this issue, so that some people out there who aren’t even aware of the fact that this deadline is looming. Ten million in a country of way over 300 million people is a pretty small percentage. Some of them are survivalists, as Pat said.

Some of them are young people who think that they can avoid any kind of accident. But one of them gets, you know, hit by a bus or motorcycle and ends up in the emergency room, do we really want to be paying for that? People need to carry their load in a shared pool of coverage.

So, I think the Republicans, every one of them is against the ACA, but none of them has come up with a plan that can replace it. Whether it is Republican or a Democrat elected next time, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

MCLAUGHLIN: That point is well-taken, and thank you for your compliment to me.

CLIFT: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

MCLAUGHLIN: I’m sure it wasn’t easy for you.

CLIFT: It was heartfelt.

(LAUGHTER)

MCLAUGHLIN: I’m sure it wasn’t easy for you. But it worked.

CLIFT: Right. Thank you.

MCLAUGHLIN: What’s the story, Tom?

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/OPPORTUNITY LIVES: I love your tie.

But beyond that, I think the key here is --

MCLAUGHLIN: It’s made in China.

ROGAN: Made in China? Trump would like it.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGAN: The issue here, though, is that a lot of young people -- look, I should be paying actually more than I’m paying, because I was born with a heart defect, I’ve had heart surgery. The world is tough. That’s tough. I should have to pay for that.

The problem with Obamacare, though, is a lot of my contemporaries, young people, are paying far more than they should be paying. And it’s grossly unfair. I would say it’s unfair that they are actually having to carry the load of society more than they should be.

There should be cost reductions. There should be cost increases for people who are older, I’m afraid.

But one of the issues with Obamacare, and it’s why I think it’s not going to last is that, when it gets to this point where the penalties can keep having to rise up, because people keep, you know, with healthcare inflation costs, which Obamacare does not reduce, it’s just going to perpetuate, and people eventually are going to get to the point and say, listen, this law ain’t great for me because I am paying hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars on this inflationary curve that never seems to end. Let’s go for something different.

But I don’t know, it has --

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Would you concede that healthcare costs were going up before Obamacare.

ROGAN: Right.

PAGE: And it would still be going up even, if we didn’t have Obamacare.

ROGAN: OK, but I --

PAGE: Would you concede that Obamacare has slowed the rate of increase?

ROGAN: No, I would say that that I think is much more to do with the economic factors of a slowdown and recession. I would say --

PAGE: Well, we’ll talk some more after the program.

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: I’m going to bring you around.

(LAUGHTER)

CLIFT: And also, the young people will get theirs when they get old, because they’ll be using more health care. It all works out in the end. We collectively take care of each other.

ROGAN: Right. I think --

PAGE: As I told my son again and again, for he is paying more than, like you say, but that’s the way insurance works. And the fact that it’s not a free program, despite what Pat has tried to tell us, it never was intended to be. You’ve got to pay for it one way or the other.

ROGAN: The cost equivalencies where it could be changed and I think there’s some --

BUCHANAN: Well, I think the deficit is going to continue to rise, too, because they’re not covering the cost.

MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: on its present trajectory, is Obamacare financially sustainable, Pat?

BUCHANAN: I think it’s going to run a deficit and it’s going to add to the debt continually.

CLIFT: I think it’s sustainable. All the cost investigations in the House show that it lowers the deficit. I think it’s -- and they’re changing from fee to service. More people are getting different kinds of care. The whole health system is changing with, you know, urgent care centers. I think we’re figuring this out, and it’s going to be fine.

And I’m sure Pat would like Medicare for all, which is what Bernie Sanders wants.

BUCHANAN: The single-payer thing for the whole nation.

PAGE: There you go.

CLIFT: And I think that would be terrific, but there’s no way to accomplish that politically.

BUCHANAN: Let me draw it back. I did not mean that --

(LAUGHTER)

ROGAN: The economic factors here -- look, you see a lot of big, major health insurance companies actually pulling out of the system or threatening to, because they don’t see the potential to actually do revenue equilibrium on it. And so, look, I do think there are systemic failures.

But I think one positive is that conservatives are being forced to articulate more than tort reform as a solution to the health care crisis, and I suppose to some indirect degree, Clarence, the president deserves credit for that.

PAGE: Well, you know, we have to look at -- Medicare runs deficits, too, and it’s not as efficient as it ought to be.

ROGAN: That’s the key issue.

PAGE: Yes. And you know, expanding Medicare for all is something I’ve advocated all along. It would be a lot simpler and more efficient. But again, the political will is not there, even with the president, even though he prefers that.

CLIFT: Yes, we’re in a capitalist society and the insurance companies are a major part of capitalism, unfortunately.

MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is no. If costs continue to skyrocket, ACA will need a major overhaul.

Issue Two: Seventh GOP Debate, Trump-less.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Where is Trump?

That was the question on the lips of Republican voters this week, as Donald Trump refused to attend Thursday’s GOP presidential debate, and instead held a veterans fundraising event. Some believe Mr. Trump stayed away for a two word reason: Megyn Kelly, FOX News host and debate moderator, who clashed with Trump in a previous debate. Trump’s main challenger, Ted Cruz, teased Trump, calling him, quote-unquote, "Donald Duck".

And get this -- Mr. Cruz and another GOP presidential hopeful, Carly Fiorina, pledged to donate $1.5 million to veterans’ charities if Mr. Trump agreed to debate them. Trump refused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: Did Trump blunder by skipping the debate? Eleanor?

CLIFT: No. I think he did it impulsively, but in the end, he was able to conduct his own fundraising event, helping wounded warriors, and it was covered by both MSNBC and CNN, and I imagine the ratings might have equaled what FOX got for the debate. Plus, he got to watch Ted Cruz being demolished and watch his two closest rivals, Cruz and Rubio, go at each other. So, I don’t see that Trump lost anything by skipping this debate.

And I also think his feud is not really with Megyn Kelly. It’s with Roger Ailes, who --

BUCHANAN: Trump took a risk in doing this because he was moving along very well. He’s rising in the polls in Iowa. There’s a question whether his ground game is as good as Ted Cruz.

But he took it -- and I do agree, I think there’s a natural aspect. I mean, FOX News put out this press release, which was taunting and mocking him. At the same time, they seem to have a problem with Trump. And I can’t blame him. He’s "Art of the Deal" man, he says, look, there are sometimes, like Reagan at Reykjavik, where you just pound the table and get up and say, "I’m going home", and you walk out.

And it was a risk by Trump, but it really worked. I mean, you talk about folks this morning, you read all the post-game commentary, and it’s all that Trump dodged a bullet or did very, very well.

John, this is -- let me just say one more point. This Monday thing and the Iowa caucuses, if Trump wins, I think he runs to daylight.

CLIFT: Right. Well, he even extracted an apology from the very top at FOX News. And what’s so fascinating, this is the Republican Party.

(LAUGHTER)

CLIFT: FOX News is their megaphone, and he’s going up against it. I don’t exactly see it as Trump challenging the base. It’s not that brave a thing. But he certainly is driving another wedge into the Republican coalition.

ROGAN: There are a couple of issues here, I think. Number one, we should say that -- I personally have a difficulty with, you know, in a net gain sense, yes, it’s great that we have fundraising for veterans. But at the same time, we have to all be aware that veterans is not just about putting that yellow lapel pin up, right? It’s about reading the books of what happens in the EFP hits a Humvee and with post-traumatic stress, people coming home and traumatic brain injury and ensuring that our foreign policy debates reflect an understanding of the cost of war.

But Trump I think made an error for not going to this debate in the sense that as we get closer to the general -- as we get to the end of the primaries, as the Republican establishment, as the other candidates decide whether Trump could actually be the viable option versus Cruz, that kind of absence, that unpredictability, that since of narcissism and the sense of petulance I think could push some people off.

But again, I think Trump’s character in this campaign is unique, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: I’m waiting to see what’s going to happen with the Iowa caucuses. Caucuses are funny. You know, not like a regular vote. These were dedicated people, dedicated enough to go out for two or three hours --

CLIFT: But not on the Republican side. The Republican side, you just go in and cast your vote, I believe.

PAGE: Oh, really?

BUCHANAN: No, it’s not as long. But I’ve been in the caucuses one time.

PAGE: Yes, you went out there.

BUCHANAN: But it’s a much harder thing. You really need an organization dedicated people working constantly. It’s not like, you know, New Hampshire, where they just go and pull the lever --

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: Although FOX did get much higher ratings than the Trump event.

BUCHANAN: But I think we really ought to talk, John, about this possibility. Again, if Trump wins Iowa, and I think Cruz has --

CLIFT: He could run the table.

BUCHANAN: He could roll through New Hampshire and South Carolina. By the time all these establishment guys all get together and draw straws on who’s going to take them down, he could run the table all the way to the nomination.

CLIFT: Well, he’s still beatable. But it’s not clear by who.

(LAUGHTER)

MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of Megyn Kelly? The gotcha video melange on the immigration bill was a selectively-edited, out-of-context cheap shot and invalidated Trump’s decision to take himself out of Kelly’s line of fire.

CLIFT: I’m sure that wasn’t Kelly’s only -- her sole decision to make. I thought that was an innovative way to present these two characters, both Cruz and Rubio, with their string of statements that don’t match up, while they’re going at each other. I thought that was clever and very legitimate.

BUCHANAN: Well, I think she did a good job in this debate. I think Kelly did and she was under the gun here.

CLIFT: Sure.

BUCHANAN: But I do believe this. All these moderators are too involved. They’re acting like candidates, adversary candidates, and they ought to let the guys on the stage take on the guys the stage, and drop back in their role, ask tough questions.

CLIFT: Yes, but that’s what they did, that’s what they did.

BUCHANAN: Digging up the tapes and all --

ROGAN: No, but that was policy.

CLIFT: Yes.

ROGAN: I think there was a policy --

BUCHANAN: Those are attack ads.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: And Chris Wallace challenging Ted Cruz when try to turn it into the sort of Trump part 2 caricature. I think the moderators actually did a very good job last night in the policies. I mean, there’s two liberals here. I mean, do you --

PAGE: Well, I see no reason – no, Democrat or Republican, I see no reason for the moderators to be so --

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: I’m sorry, am I missing something?

I see no reason for the moderators to be so courteous as to let their candidates just run the whole show. They’re supposed to be answering questions and being held accountable.

(CROSSTALK)

CLIFT: They were too many --

PAGE: They’re supposed to be answering questions and be held accountable.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Bring them on "Meet the Press" and go after them. Bring them on Megyn Kelly, go after them. But if it’s a candidates’ debate, let the candidates debate.

CLIFT: Well, they did. They did. Cruz and Rubio actually did do that. And they were too many canned speeches by all the candidates, especially from Rubio, and not enough follow up questions. They let them get away with all those canned speeches.

BUCHANAN: There were canned speeches. But that’s -- your and my job is to say that was canned speeches.

CLIFT: Well --

BUCHANAN: They got a right to deliver them.

In a year when people want dramatic change and thousands are coming out to Bernie, overthrow the system, and Trump’s going to overthrow the system, if we get, after Bush 41, Bush 43, Bush 45, do you really think that’s what the country wants?

CLIFT: Well --

PAGE: If that’s what the country has voted.

CLIFT: Right. If may not be what you want but, yes --

BUCHANAN: They’re making their decision, aren’t they, Clarence?

PAGE: Well, the fact is this is a test though of --

MCLAUGHLIN: So --

PAGE: -- the far right, isn’t it? Because here you’ve got Donald Trump barreling ahead, against the political correctness, against all the usual (inaudible) of campaigning.

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: How did he do it? How did he do it?

PAGE: He’s doing remarkably well. This is going to be a big decision for the voters to make.

MCLAUGHLIN: How did he do it?

PAGE: How did he do --

CLIFT: How did he do it? You read his book "Art of the Deal" and he’ll tell you --

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: How did he accomplish that?

PAGE: He was born obnoxious. That’s how he accomplished it. What do you mean?

MCLAUGHLIN: He did it by skipping -- by skipping it, and the frontrunner always has more to lose than to gain from a debate.

BUCHANAN: John, he’s a very --

MCLAUGHLIN: On stage, Rubio and Rand Paul got the most mileage out of the debate, yes or no?

BUCHANAN: No --

MCLAUGHLIN: Rubio and Rand Paul?

BUCHANAN: No.

CLIFT: No.

MCLAUGHLIN: Why, why, why?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Well, that mean, I think I agree with Eleanor. I think Rubio, he’s repetitive and he’s got these sort of canned speeches in. I’ll tell you, fortunately, and he has an element of luck, I think Trump got the most out of it.

CLIFT: Well, I agree with that. And Rubio constantly says when I’m president --

MCLAUGHLIN: By skipping it, that’s how he did it.

BUCHANAN: Yes, sure, the others are all fighting with each other, and we’re going to find out Monday, John. We’re going to find out Monday.

PAGE: This is where Trump has turned logic on its head, because here, I thought Cruz did an excellent job of describing the insult that Trump handed the people of Iowa by skipping this debate. And if they take that and say, yes, Trump was right. You know, then, you know, so be it. Then, Trump is right.

But I got a feeling he hurt -- we’ll find out, but I have a feeling that Trump may have hurt himself.

CLIFT: Well, I don’t know --

MCLAUGHLIN: How strong is the feeling?

CLIFT: But Trump was just a few miles away, holding this event for wounded warriors, and saying that he wishes he were at the debate, but they didn’t apologize soon enough.

PAGE: Do you believe that?

CLIFT: No.

PAGE: Does anybody really believe that?

CLIFT: No.

PAGE: That’s what I mean, he turned logic on its head.

CLIFT: No.

PAGE: Because this man, we know that he was manipulating the whole situation.

CLIFT: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Bloomberg Takes the Plunge?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Who says there’s only room for one billionaire in a presidential election? Not the arch capitalist, with his $36 billion, former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, for is actively considering a run for president of the U.S. Some think he will run, regardless of who gets the Democratic nomination.

Bloomberg says he will run only if it looks like Hillary might not be the Democratic nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: If Bloomberg runs, will there be a reverse Ross Perot effect? Meaning, he’ll help the Republican nominee by pulling votes away from the Democratic nominee. Do you have the picture, Buchanan?

BUCHANAN: Yes, I do and I think you’re right, John, four out of five Bloomberg votes would come out of the Democratic Party. He’s socially very, very liberal, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage. He wants to take away folks’ guns. He wants to put restrictions on what you can drink and the size of cups and stuff. He wants to end smoking in Irish bars.

What he will do, John, he will not win a single state. Secondly, what he will do, he will sink the Democratic candidate in the state of New York, because that’s his strongest precinct, New York City itself. And the last night, he spent $100 million and barely beat an African-American guy who was given no funds by the Democratic Party and, if he had been, Bloomberg wouldn’t even have benn elected mayor.

Republicans ought to pray --

CLIFT: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Why did --

BUCHANAN: Trump will finance that campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

CLIFT: This is not the first time he’s looked at a race and he always backs away because he has said repeatedly, if he doesn’t see a way to win, he’s not going to do it. And he has said, he would only get in if the nominees were Trump or Cruz on the Republican side, Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.

BUCHANAN: Run, Mike, run.

CLIFT: So, Hillary Clinton is going to get the nomination to save him the trouble.

MCLAUGHLIN: Why did Bloomberg say he might run if Hillary does not win the nomination? I ask you, Clarence.

PAGE: Well, his votes are heavily overlapping with Hillary’s votes. And so --

MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary is too formidable for him to beat.

CLIFT: He wouldn’t run against her.

PAGE: Oh, you mean run against Hillary? No, he -- the reason why he won’t run against Hillary because, yes, he thinks Hillary would be too formidable for him to beat, and that if Hillary is not there, you’re going to have Bernie Sanders. Although I suspect Joe Biden would get in, and Bloomberg would back away there, too.

ROGAN: I think the problem, though, that Bloomberg faces is that ultimately, he is in the as a candidate, in the 2016 election, he is in the perfect no man’s land, in the sense that, imagine the Sanders crowd, how they would react to him -- you know, the New York billionaire.

And then imagine how the Trump crowd would react to him. Trump would be able to say, look, this is why I need to be here for you. The establishment guy, he’s everything you hate most.

BUCHANAN: Sanders would carry Vermont, and that’d be the only --

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: Who would Trump win -- I’m sorry, who would Bloomberg win? He has no real constituency.

CLIFT: The point is that if he won handful of states, he could prevent either the other candidates from getting the 270 electoral votes -- excuse me -- which would then throw the election into the House of Representatives, which is Republican. So, he’d be handing Trump the victory. He’s not going to get in.

BUCHANAN: If he gets states, Eleanor, they come right out of the hide of the Democrats. They’d be very liberal states.

Look, take Florida. Down there, he -- Broward County, Dade County, all those Jewish, liberal folks would vote for Bloomberg, they’re Democratic votes that are needed to carry Florida.

CLIFT: You know about these votes in Florida, don’t you?

(LAUGHTER)

MCLAUGHLIN: Can we say something good about Bloomberg and the way he’s conducted himself, from New York?

BUCHANAN: He’s a very gifted businessman, a very able guy.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: We’re saying good things about Bloomberg. We’re just saying he’s not going to get elected president.

CLIFT: Not a viable presidential candidate.

MCLAUGHLIN: I think you’re trying to skewer him here.

PAGE: Why, just because he doesn’t have a chance of being elected president after banning large Coca-Cola cups. That’s probably the most damaging thing he did while he was mayor.

BUCHANAN: You can’t have a cigarette in a bar? Come on, let the bartender decide that.

ROGAN: Although, I argue --

PAGE: Well, even Dublin banned smoking in their bars and got away with it.

ROGAN: I do have to say, I have sympathy for that kind of sugar tax thing, because I don’t want to subsidize some idiot, in terms of their future health care costs, because they want to drink a gallon of sugar every day.

BUCHANAN: You are a nanny-staterite from "National Review".

ROGAN: No, just that one, just that tax. No, but you want to subsidize those health care costs?

BUCHANAN: Well, look, the guy wants to drink --

ROGAN: Personal responsibility.

BUCHANAN: Let him throw up in the stadium, you know, and suffer for it, you lnow?

ROGAN: The diabetes?

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: I think you’re both right.

BUCHANAN: You’re a liberal.

ROGAN: No, I’m not. Personal responsibility.

PAGE: People have the freedom to destroy themselves with sugar. That’s right.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

PAGE: That’s a political downfall.

MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Lower the volume, please? All right. Lower the volume.

On a political tease scale from zero to ten, zero meaning zero tease, Ross Perot, and ten meaning total tease, Joe Biden, where does Bloomberg stand? Is it a zero, meaning he’ll run, or a ten meaning he’s a tease? Is this time for real?

BUCHANAN: I think he’s serious. He’s not fantasizing. We just all agree that he ain’t going to be president of the United States, but I think he believes he may be.

CLIFT: Well, he’s going to have to decide by mid-February if they -- because he’ll have to put machinery in place by early March. I suspect he’ll back away.

ROGAN: Yes, I mean, he has as much chance as Jim Gilmore.

PAGE: Uh-huh. I think he’s testing the waters and in the end, he will be no, he’s not going to run.

MCLAUGHLIN: Every four years, he fantasizes it. Fantasizes about running as an independent.

PAGE: Many of us do.

MCLAUGHLIN: This time --

(LAUGHTER)

MCLAUGHLIN: This time, it’s for real.

PAGE: He’ll actually do it. Oh, you’re going to --

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Cairo 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHANTING)

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Five years ago this week, a political earthquake shook the Middle East -- a revolution in Egypt. Dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.

(CHANTING)

MCLAUGHLIN: Since then, Egypt has been a nation in flux. Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak’s successor, ruled. It was overthrown by the Egyptian army, a military command under former General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi took charge.

Al-Sisi brought a semblance of stability to Egypt. But his government also brought political repression and Islamist political movements. And in a disconcerting trend for the United States, Egypt’s closest ally, President al-Sisi is openly building a diplomatic and military pact with Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: What explains the Russian-Egyptian rapprochement?

CLIFT: I think because al-Sisi’s human rights violations are much greater than anything Mubarak ever did, I think he’s worried that the considerable aid that he gets from the U.S. might be in danger. He’s hedging his bets, which makes sense for him.

BUCHANAN: I think Eleanor is basically right. Look, but this fellow is a hard-line military dictator in the line of Nasser and Sadat and Mubarak and all the rest of them, and I think he does believe, John -- he sees President Obama basically appearing in the United States, appearing to withdraw gradually from the Middle East, having been burnt in all these places, and I think he wants an anchor to windward.

ROGAN: Yes.

BUCHANAN: And besides, the Russians are in Syria, the Russians are players again, and you ought to deal with them.

ROGAN: I think it’s a binding of economic interests, in terms of the Russians saying, listen, we are, Putin, I’m the reliable person. President Obama is disinterested. I think the al-Sisi government also feels they’re being burned by the administration, the Obama administration in terms of criticism on human rights, but also the sort of effort to maintain relationship.

It’s a critically difficult issue, though, because, you know, the administration has to talk up to some degree about human rights, because one of the big reasons America has long been hated in the Middle East, is that people see America preaching the values of freedom of speech, but supporting dictators who align with us.

You know what?

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: And so, in this case, we pull back from a dictator, Mubarak, and we’ve been criticized for that, too.

ROGAN: We need to show --

CLIFT: And I don’t know reliable an ally Putin is going to prove to be. I mean, I think, you know, every nation acts in their own self interest, and I would point out that the Russians and the U.S. are basically on the same page with regard to Syria and the civil war there.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: Well, they are now.

CLIFT: They are now because it’s a shotgun marriage basically.

BUCHANAN: We’re on the same page in Syria with Iran and Hezbollah and Russia and Assad and the Syrian army, if our main enemy is ISIS. And that’s what many of us believe it is.

But a lot of people don’t think it’s ISIS. They think it’s Assad.

ROGAN: What’s going to happen, right? Assad is going to keep killing Sunnis and they’re going to keep joining ISIS.

BUCHANAN: All right. You bring down Assad and you get ISIS, and then we have to go in and fight him?

ROGAN: No, I’m --

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: You could -- the clear path has to be diplomacy. It has to be.

CLIFT: Right.

ROGAN: But you have to get concessions from the Russians and the Iranians and Assad, and you could do that if were tougher. But the problem is we’re not. We’re just giving up and saying, do whatever you want.

(CROSSTALK)

CLIFT: Forget the tough talk and easy rhetoric. There actually are talks going on.

ROGAN: OK. And --

CLIFT: It’s been a rocky way to even get there. And they may not succeed.

ROGAN: But the Sunni rebels aren’t there.

CLIFT: But everyone recognizes that diplomacy is the route.

ROGAN: But the Sunni rebels have boycotted it.

CLIFT: There’s no appetite for military intervention.

BUCHANAN: Our allies in the Middle East can’t make up their minds that ISIS is the real enemy. The Turks think it’s the Kurds. The Israelis think it’s Assad. Saudi Arabia thinks it’s Assad. They want him brought down. But some of our people are telling them, you bring him down and you get al Qaeda or ISIS in Damascus.

PAGE: That’s right.

BUCHANAN: And you really got a war, then.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: And we’ve been through that before, just like with Libya and with Iraq when --

MCLAUGHLIN: Three factors -- am I crowding you?

PAGE: Only slightly, John. Go ahead.

MCLAUGHLIN: All right - live with it. Three factors make the Egyptians think the U.S. is unreliable. The speed with which Obama turned on Mubarak.

PAGE: Yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: Remember that.

BUCHANAN: Pulled the rug from under him.

CLIFT: Well --

MCLAUGHLIN: The speed of Obama’s embrace of Morsi and the Brotherhood. And the withholding of aid from Egypt’s military.

Do the Egyptians view the Russians as more reliable?

ROGAN: Yes.

BUCHANAN: But Russia can’t give them as much as we can give them.

CLIFT: Yes, but this is a selective -- this is a selective view of history.

BUCHANAN: Look, the Russians can’t take the Americans’ place.

CLIFT: This is a selective view of history. It took -- Obama acted with speed. There were hundreds of thousands of people in Tahrir Square for weeks on end, you know?

ROGAN: -- Tunis and Tunisia showed democracy and Islam are compatible.

CLIFT: Morsi was the elected, recognized government. The U.S. was not supposed to recognize him? So, I mean, I think it’s really easy to judge these steps in hindsight and say they were done with speed.

MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: name of the winners for each party in next week’s Iowa caucuses?

BUCHANAN: Tough one, John, but I’ll go with Bernie and The Donald.

CLIFT: I’ll go with Hillary Clinton and probably Trump.

ROGAN: I’m going to go with Bernie and Ted.

PAGE: Clinton and Cruz.

MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is Trump and Cruz for Republicans, and Sanders and Clinton for Democrats.

Bye-bye!

END