The McLaughlin Group

Issues: US-Saudi Relations / GOP Delegate Rules / Education and Illegal Immigrants

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

Taped: Friday, April 15, 2016
Broadcast: Weekend of April 15-17, 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: Two Islands, 28 Pages and One King.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other mission that we should work on together is to fight tyranny and terrorism. All events clearly show that the Arab world are the most affected by it.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Visiting Egypt, King Salman of Saudi Arabia promised President al-Sisi billions in new investments for Egypt’s economy -- that and a bridge across the Red Sea. In return, King Salman received the gift of two Egyptian islands at the entrance to the Strait of Tiran, the Indian Ocean gateway for Israel’s Eilat port and Jordan’s Aqaba port.

Saudi Arabia needs Egypt for its support against Iranian expansionism, and Egypt needs Saudi Arabia’s support for its oil wealth.

But King Salman faces a more complicated challenge next week, because President Obama is coming to the kingdom, while Saudi-U.S. relations are strained by the Iran nuclear deal and Syria.

Pressure is growing on Mr. Obama to declassify 28 pages of the joint congressional inquiry into the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. And those pages may implicate some Saudi individuals in supporting the 9/11 hijackers.


MCLAUGHLIN: What do you make of the president going to Saudi Arabia?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: Well, let’s take first, John, there’s a long cold war beginning in the Middle and Near East.

The Saudis look to Egypt, which is the largest Arab country, one in every four Arabs is an Egyptian. Their army is huge and the Saudis rely less and less on the United States of America. They see themselves in a long term conflict with Shia, Iran and its allies in Iraq and in Syria and in Hezbollah.

And so, they’re building their up own forces, making allies, and I think they do it, of course, because they’ve got a tremendous amount of money. They got problems down in Yemen.

But this is a real I think a semi-permanent division we’re seeing emerge in the Middle and Near East, and this conflict is going to go on and on and on. And I think the Saudis are making the best deal they can, with the best allies they can find for the long haul. And again, the adversary here is a Shia world led by Persia, which is Iran.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember 9/11?

BUCHANAN: I certainly do remember 9/11.

MCLAUGHLIN: What was 9/11?

BUCHANAN: 9/11 is the bringing of the Twin Towers, the crashing into the Pentagon, and that plane going down in Shanksville, when that hero stopped that guy from taking it, where I think it’s going to go, right into the Capitol.

MCLAUGHLIN: What was the first building hit?

BUCHANAN: The first building hit I think was the First Trade Center.

I remember, John -- I mean, the day, and I was listening to radio after watching TV, and people said there’s a fire in the Pentagon and I said, what is going on? Who cares about a fire at the Pentagon when these buildings look like they’re coming down? And the plane had hit the Pentagon, and that’s what it was about.


MCLAUGHLIN: So, the plane went right up Madison Avenue?

BUCHANAN: They came -- they came -- I think they came -- one of them we saw came south, going through the building, second one.

MCLAUGHLIN: How many were killed?

BUCHANAN: I think close to 3,000 in the whole day and most of them in the Twin Towers.

MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the president’s going over there in the light of these factors?

BUCHANAN: I think the president going to Saudi Arabia is --

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, this is the president’s fourth trip to Saudi Arabia. They are a key ally in a very convulsive region, and they didn’t like the deal that the president did with our other allies, and with Iran and the nuclear. They feel that the U.S. is starting to tilt towards Iran.

So, I think it’s a very important trip because they’re still a key ally. But the cloud over the trip having to do with the 28 pages that the president has promised to release. He’s promised the 9/11 families that he would declassify these pages.

And a former Florida senator, Bob Graham, has really been beating the drum on this issue for sometime, and he was the co-chair of the commission, you’ve got people, Republicans, Democrats. And there could be some embarrassment towards the Saudis, because 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, and Senator Graham has said they spoke little or no English. They could not have carried off what they did without significant help.

And is that Saudi government help? Is it private individuals? Is it religious organizations?

And there’s 28 pages that has been classified over the last dozen years will answer some of those questions.

MCLAUGHLIN: A Saudi official gave funds to some of the hijackers. But is it a stretch to say Saudi Arabia financed the plot?

CLIFT: Well, the official government -- may not have been official government policy, but people prominent in the society appear to have helped carry out these attacks. So, the fact that it was not official government policy does not really absolve the government.

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/OPPORTUNITY LIVES: And I think what’s going on here, look, is that, you know, Eleanor has done a couple of good pieces on this and the 28 pages. This is going to be very embarrassing. There are these Saudi officials who essentially for a long time prior to 2003, where al Qaeda tried to overthrow the Saudi government, the Saudis said, well, if it goes abroad and it doesn’t affect us, just pay them off, throw that oil money at them.

My concern is -- and that does reflect, you know, Saudi Arabia and a lot of ways still funding some unpleasant groups -- is not a good ally in a sense that, you know, the U.K. or Australia is a good ally. But I think one of the reasons you have to keep them in the American sphere of influence is, if you don’t, especially in someone like Syria, they’ll stop funding groups like al Qaeda, al Qaeda syndicate, because they’re obsessed, as Pat says with Iran. And also, in the longer term, with oil prices declining, with that young population, Saudi Arabia, I mean, Arabia is mostly just a desert. You have to get them, in terms of this restructuring of the economics and democracy, towards democracy ultimately, because if you don’t, then you’re going to have a new wellspring of terrorism.

PAGE: I’m wondering if -- why he hasn’t released them already, if they aren’t going to cause that much damage. I think that’s something that I’ve seen a lot of speculation about. It’s possible that even King Salman himself may be mentioned in those pages in an embarrassing way, and I think --

ROGAN: Perhaps the Iran deal was the reason, right, that they didn’t want --

PAGE: It’s possible, yes, yes. But --

CLIFT: I think the president just doesn’t want to rock the boat any more. It’s a difficult relationship. The Saudis feel they need the U.S. They want America to have their back, and they’re not so sure we do.

So, I think the president is going over there and he’s going to try to reassure them that, yes, this strong relationship still exists despite what’s happened.

BUCHANAN: One thing we’ve done, though, the United States has been complicit in the Saudi Arabia smashing the Houthi rebels in Yemen and we’ve really bombed -- we’ve aided the bombing and destruction of that country and the killing of an awful lot of people. And if the Houthis had taken over Yemen as they’ve almost had, that would not in the least have affected the national security of the United States. And you’ve got to begin to wonder how much longer are we going to aid and abet things which otherwise we would call aggression.

CLIFT: I’ve gathered there’s some sort of fragile settlement coming into play, perhaps, in Yemen. But the thing is, that has distracted the Saudis from what we would like them to focus on, which is the fight against ISIS.

ROGAN: You’re right. They’ve been very brutal in some of those attacks.


ROGAN: The Iranians would -- we don’t want the Iranians having control of Yemen, because of how that affects those trade routes coming in --

BUCHANAN: I don’t think the Iranians were in there when we went bombing with the Saudis.

ROGAN: Well, the Houthis --

BUCHANAN: No doubt the Houthis are -- they like the Iranians. The Houthis don’t like us. They don’t like Israel. They don’t like anybody.

ROGAN: They like the Iranians.

BUCHANAN: But they weren’t -- they do. They’ve got an affinity for their religion.

ROGAN: Yes, but --

MCLAUGHLIN: Why doesn’t Obama declassify the 28 pages?

BUCHANAN: I don’t know why --


MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, please. I’m not finished.

Former 9/11 commissioners, including Bob Kerrey, Tim Roemer and Bob Graham -- two U.S. senators and a congressman, that’s what those people are -- they want to see the 28 pages declassified. Everybody on this panel is such of age that we know of those gentlemen, and they’re high caliber.

And why doesn’t the president --

ROGAN: Well, it’s going to be declassified.


CLIFT: They’re all interviewed by "60 Minutes", I want to give "60 Minutes" credit for really focusing on this issue and the segment they did last weekend. And the White House is saying there is a review going on by the NSA and they expect there will be a report in a month or two. So, this is going to happen before the election.


MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see the program?

CLIFT: I saw the program and I wrote about it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Did it take a point of view?

CLIFT: Oh, yes, it took a point of view. They interviewed Porter Goss, who was a member of Congress and co-chaired the commission, went on to be CIA director in George W. Bush’s administration. He says they should be declassified.

One high profile, credible individual after another said they should be declassified.

BUCHANAN: What was the argument for keeping them secret? That’s what I want to know.

CLIFT: George W. Bush.


BUCHANAN: Well, too bad if you rock the boat --


MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, please? Hold on.

BUCHANAN: If they participated in this in any way, the boat ought to be rocked.

ROGAN: I agree. I agree.

CLIFT: Well, you know, during the Bush administration, the attacks were very fresh. So, I mean, I kind of understand why they classified this and also, I think the Bush family had a very close personal relationship with the Saudi family. Prince Bandar, who was the ambassador, would have Thanksgiving with the Bush family. They call him Bandar Bush.

So, take national security out of it. It could be embarrassment. But the time for embarrassment is long since past.

PAGE: There was Obama’s excuse me. I mean --


BUCHANAN: If they had a role in it, no matter what role it was, we ought to know it. We’re all grown up here.

CLIFT: Well, that question was phrase --


CLIFT: There’s the answer.

PAGE: It’s easier, yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you hear the name Fahad al Thumairy?

PAGE: Yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: Saudi diplomat, he was banned from the U.S. due to suspected terrorist ties. He aided two of the 9/11 hijackers in Los Angeles. Details are in the 28 pages. Is that another reason for let’s taking a look -- let the public take a look at those 28 pages?

ROGAN: There are bad people in Saudi Arabia, but then there are constructive partners, bin Nayef, the crown prince, Adel, the foreign minister, who want a reform and it’s about, I would say dealing with them.

And, yes, and illuminating those, you know, negative people. But, look, it’s a very poor relationship, but it’s a very complex world, and poor relationships sometimes are better than collapsing, ISIS-style.

MCLAUGHLIN: So you have a young generation in Saudi Arabia, and you have an older generation who’s trying to persevere and hold on to power.


CLIFT: There’s also a lawsuit involved here, because the 9/11 families are trying to sue Saudi Arabia. And under U.S. law, you can’t sue a sovereign government. So, if individuals are named and so forth -- so, there are real life consequences to what --


BUCHANAN: To your point about Saudi Arabia and the king, I really don’t believe monarchy has that long a future, in that particularly explosive and volatile region of the world.


MCLAUGHLIN: When do we have to wait upon monarchies to disappear, before we take actions that are appropriate and justified?

BUCHANAN: Well, I’m not sure what’s going to happen after the Saudi royal family falls is going to be better. Every time one of these -- you know, the shah of Iran went down, how did you like the results of that?

ROGAN: Right.

PAGE: This way, they don’t know it. And it’s a very large family. They have large families over there, with lots and lots of money.

Some members of the family can be giving money to al Qaeda, while others are fighting al Qaeda. And that further complicates the matters.

MCLAUGHLIN: What are you doing, rep work for Saudi Arabia?

PAGE: No, it’s a good reason to keep them classified. I was trying to figure out why we kept them classified through two administrations now, there’s been no hurry to do that.

MCLAUGHLIN: You’re not on the payroll, are you?

PAGE: Why did you ask that?

MCLAUGHLIN: Why did you asked why asked that?

PAGE: Would I dress this shabbily if I were?


BUCHANAN: You think -- does he look like he gets Saudi money?


PAGE: Thank you.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Delegate Wars.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It’s not right. We’re supposed to be a democracy. We should have won it a long time ago, but you know, we keep losing where we’re winning.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Donald Trump is disgusted by the GOP primary system. It is, he says, deeply unfair.

Speaking this week, the business magnate accuses main challenger for the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz, of engaging in dirty tricks, or what Mr. Trump’s convention manager, Paul Manafort, calls, quote/unquote, "Gestapo tactic".

Mr. Trump also remarked how delegates are attracted by saying, quote, "They offer them trips. They offer them all sorts of things, and you are allowed to do that. You can buy all those votes," unquote.

Regardless, the stakes are growing. That’s because to secure the GOP nomination before the party’s July convention, Mr. Trump, some say must, secure 1,100 delegates, not 1,237. He currently holds 743 with 854 delegates still up for the taking. Mr. Cruz, who has 545 delegates, wants to deny Mr. Trump the magic 1,237 delegate number, in the hope that he will defeat Mr. Trump on a second ballot at the convention.

After the first ballot, delegates from 31 states will have free votes.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Trump right? Pat?

BUCHANAN: Trump is fundamentally right, John. Look, if Trump does not reach 1,237 on the first ballot, I think Trump is not going to be the nominee. But I think he -- I mean, if he only gets to 1,100, as they pointed out there on the first ballot, I don’t think he would get to 1,237. If you’re a few short, I think he’d go over the top.

But what Trump has going for him is what happened in Colorado, John, where the system -- they all played by the rules, but it turned out nobody voted for anybody, but Cruz turned up with every single one of 34 delegates. And if it wasn’t rigged, it looked rigged and appears undemocratic. It plays into Trump’s issue, which is the establishment is stealing this thing.

And, frankly, you don’t got to be pro-Trump to believe something rotten is in the state.

CLIFT: Right. Under Republican Party rules, the states have a lot of independence, and state conventions tend to pick people like themselves. And there’s a lot of anti-Trump sentiment out there. And I think Trump has a very strong argument, when he says the system is rigged, because we read every day about how the party is ganging up on him.

And I think he still has a chance to get to 1,237 before they get to Cleveland. Then, it’s going to be very hard to stop him. But either way, when he says, they’re taking this away from me, he’s looking at people who voted for him and he’s saying, they’re taking it away from you. And all those millions of people who voted in good faith, now, they’re saying, oh, no. The delegates are actually chosen in a little different way. That’s not going to fly.

PAGE: And they are. You know, this is the thing. Trump wasn’t complaining when he was well ahead. But he started losing momentum, now all of a sudden, if they don’t give it to me, then I’m going to go and go and turn blue. I mean, the fact is that the party rules do give autonomy to the various states.

This reminds me a lot of the Florida debacle in 2000, when Democrats were upset to learn that each state runs its own elections, because they were falling behind. And now, we see it on the Republican side, but Trump is talking about a democracy. No, parties aren’t democratic. Parties are very autocratic.


PAGE: This is an education for everybody.

ROGAN: I think there are two differences here. The Colorado example is disgusting. It’s disgraceful. It’s outrageous and it plays absolutely into those lines that Trump puts out about conspiracy, and that frankly it was.


ROGAN: But the difference is, when you look at actually the second ballot debate, whether Cruz has the right to go and petition people to say, OK, listen, this is what I’m looking for afterwards, that’s the old smoke room deals, and that’s the system, that’s a convention, that’s fine.

And so, there’s that differential, but it does give Trump material to go on the campaign trail --


PAGE: You always got material, whether he was right or not.

BUCHANAN: If Trump sweeps New York, where he’s ahead by 34 points or something and gets all 95 delegates, all he’s got to get is one half of the remaining delegates.

CLIFT: Right.

BUCHANAN: What’s happening is what you pointed out, they are poaching delegates that he has already won. He wins states, he gets the delegates and all of a sudden, the delegates are saying, they’re slipping away to Cruz, because they’re not bound.

CLIFT: Short -- you can’t hand somebody a bag of money to court them, but short of that, you can do just about anything. I imagine golf privileges --


BUCHANAN: Trump would do OK in that convention, shouldn’t he?

CLIFT: That’s right. Trump golf privileges at Trump resorts are probably going to be --

BUCHANAN: Mar-a-Lago, they all go to Mar-a-Lago.

ROGAN: But I guess you have to feel for Bernie, don’t you? That he has to fight against the superdelegates. So, the Republicans --

CLIFT: Hillary is ahead of him in pledged delegates, and two and a half million ahead of him in raw votes. So, the only way Bernie has a case, is if he sweeps New York and sweeps California, which doesn’t look like it is the case.

BUCHANAN: He could. Hillary could lose the FBI primary, and if she does, it’s all over.



CLIFT: Dream on, Pat.

ROGAN: It’s coming soon, I think.

PAGE: Dream on.


MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard of Ted Cruz?

PAGE: Yes.

CLIFT: We paid so little attention to what Cruz actually stands for and when the attention I paid is -- I get pretty scared actually. He makes Donald Trump look like a raving liberal actually.

MCLAUGHLIN: If you had to vote for one of the two, who would you vote for?

CLIFT: If I had to choose between Trump and Cruz, I think I just made myself clear. I don’t have to repeat it.


CLIFT: I made myself clear. I don’t think I want to repeat it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, yes. You’d for -- you’d for Trump.

CLIFT: I think most Democrats would look at the two of them, and would prefer Trump over Cruz, yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: Would you feel comfortable with Trump as president?

CLIFT: Not based on -- no. I look at his foreign policy and I think it’s pretty scary.

MCLAUGHLIN: You haven’t softened on that at all?

CLIFT: No, I haven’t.

MCLAUGHLIN: You have softened up a lot on Trump though.

CLIFT: Compared to the others, but --

ROGAN: It’s going to be Trump or Cruz, though. It will be one of those two men.

CLIFT: It’s going to be probably, they’re going to be up against Hillary and I think --

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he thinks it’s going to be Trump.

PAGE: Well, I mean, GOP nominee? Yes, it’s going to be Trump.

MCLAUGHLIN: He thinks it’s going to be Trump.

PAGE: Yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: You think it’s going to be Trump.

BUCHANAN: I think the odds, I think it’s probably two-to-one Trump. But if he doesn’t win on the first ballot, it’s going to be Cruz.

ROGAN: I think it will to be Cruz. I think it will be Cruz.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I see no reason why I have to correct anybody on the panel, except, well, Eleanor has got herself so hemmed in there.

CLIFT: No, I think I just said more than I intended to, actually.


MCLAUGHLIN: She has such a defensive posture on, huh?

CLIFT: I think I said more than I intended, not less.


MCLAUGHLIN: You stumbled into the truth, maybe.

CLIFT: I did, right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Stateless and Uneducated.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Around 775,000 children live in the United States illegally. But in a new report, researchers at Georgetown University Law Center say that some of these illegal immigrants are being denied access to K-12 education. In Florida, Texas, New York, and North Carolina, this researcher say education authorities require illegal immigrants to present extensive documentation, a burden that means many children cannot achieve schooling. Yet, the burdens on educational institutions are undoubtedly serious.

And illegal immigration is one reason why. That’s because in recent years, tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America have traveled to the U.S. to escape endemic crime. Still, things are even worse for some, namely Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Today, because of punitive non-immigrant laws, thousands of Haitians in the country are unable to enter education or apply for jobs, or find legal protection.


MCLAUGHLIN: Do illegal aliens have certain unalienable rights? Tom Rogan?

ROGAN: I think they have basic unalienable rights. But at the same time, I think we have to understand that the primary responsibility of government in the United States, whether it would be state, local, federal, is to provide services to American citizens and lawful residents.

And so, as much as we should try and provide education to young children, regardless of their situation, because ultimately, that creates an obvious social benefit, we also have to be in a position where, when young children are coming across the border illegally, they are deported back in the majority of cases. It’s unpleasant thing to say, but there are limited resources, and those resources have to be predicated upon, you know, American children --


PAGE: The problem we are dealing with here are kids who are already here, in this aforementioned states, and there’s nothing in the Constitution that says education is a constitutional right, but I agree with Thomas Jefferson, who said it’s essential to democracy to have an educated populace.

ROGAN: Right.

PAGE: And that’s the philosophy by which -- I think every state says you got to go to school if you’re a kid living here. And maybe we ought to talk about, the federal government ought to be helping out some of these states, if they have too large of a burden, from these folks, siince this is the result of federal policy. But I’d rather do that than to just, the wholesale try to kick everybody out, that’s the least practical --

CLIFT: Yes, I know. U.S. law does require, if you’re a child living in this country that you go to school, and that doesn’t matter whether you’re legal or illegal. And it seems to me that various jurisdictions are looking for reasons to exclude children, by requiring that they have their original birth certificate or whatever paperwork they require.

But I want to give a shoutout to Kansas State University, which is raising money privately to educate undocumented immigrants in this country, and they’re doing it in a state where the -- from the Republican governor and the legislature, there’s a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment, because they realize that this is -- these are our citizens -- these are potential citizens and they are valuable contributors to the country.

BUCHANAN: Well, this is one -- immigration is one of the great questions of Western civilization. We not only see them coming across in Lesbos from Turkey into Greece, but now, they’re coming across the Med into Italy and Sicily.

And they’re going to be coming -- last year was just a million. They’re going to be coming in the millions. For the United States, they come up from Central America, other places. You got Cubans going to Central America, all across the Mexican border in the United States, where you’re automatically entitled to all sorts of benefits and the rest of it.

And various western countries are in the process of being bankrupted. You know, it costs -- it will cost $10,000, $15,000 to educate a child every year in the United States, in many states.

And, John, either we’re going to get control of immigration or it’s going to get control of our country.

MCLAUGHLIN: The nation states have the right to enforce their laws and --


BUCHANAN: Nation stats have a right. And not only to enforce their laws, they’ve got to right -- I mean, Japan says no immigration, and they don’t have any immigration. Every nation state has that right and that responsibility, basically, I think to protect the --

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that’s true of democratic countries. You mentioned Japan.

BUCHANAN: I’d say Japan. Korea doesn’t have much immigration. The Europeans have started to shut it down.

Let me tell you, John, it is going to get through a situation in Europe where there’s going to be far less pleasant than it already is.

PAGE: That’s the one thing -- we’re a long way from that, though.

CLIFT: Right.

PAGE: This country has been built by immigrants, and it’s still a practical policy for us, that benefits us. I think we’ve got a different situation.

MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Forced prediction: the panel must answer, even if the panel protests it does not wish to answer, the panel must answer yes or no.

Within two years, the U.S. will replicate Canada’s assisted suicide law and legalize euthanasia?


BUCHANAN: At the national level, no. But some states may move toward that position.

CLIFT: I’m in the same camp as Pat on this one.



MCLAUGHLIN: I will say -- it’s too close to call.


MCLAUGHLIN: Just joking.

ROGAN: You said we have to make a forced prediction. You have to answer, surely.

MCLAUGHLIN: Of course, I will.

ROGAN: Equivocation is not the McLaughlin way, no?


MCLAUGHLIN: -- some new kind of sin, equivocation, what does that involved?

ROGAN: It involves a Jesuit interpretation, subject to your own discretion.

MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, equivocation means what the Jesuit want to think of the equivocation.

ROGAN: Whatever the high priest wants.

MCLAUGHLIN: Second forced prediction: yes or no. Congress will reject President Obama’s $1.9 billion request for Zika virus prevention efforts?


BUCHANAN: They will reject it, but I think they’ll take a second look at it after that.

CLIFT: I think they reject it at their peril. They’ll pass it eventually.

ROGAN: Yes, I think because it’s an election year, it will be passed.

PAGE: Yes, reject now, but later, they’ll pass it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence is correct.