The McLaughlin Group

Issues: Pence as Trump VP Choice / Jeb Bush & Bernie Sanders / Veterans Health and Suicide / International Court on South China Sea

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, July 15, 2016
Broadcast: Weekend of July 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.



MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Donald Trump has picked his vice presidential running mate. Enter Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, age 57, evangelical and married to Karen Pence. The governor has been chief executive of Indiana since 2013. Prior to that, Mr. Pence spent 12 years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The governor is well-known for his conservative views on social issues, and that some analysts say, helps explain why Mr. Trump chose him.


MCLAUGHLIN: Is Pence a good pick? Pat?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: First, Pence’s name was put off, his nomination, if you will, was put off for a bit of time by Donald Trump because of this horrendous atrocity in Nice, France, John. And that is probably more important, even than the Pence appointment in the sense, with the Black Lives Matter protest that ended in an atrocity in Dallas, and this abroad, the issue of law and order and security are rising to the surface, and that will decide this election, I think, more than Mr. Pence.

But I will say this: Pence’s choice by Trump is a conservative choice. It’s a safe choice. He’s noncontroversial.

I think it says to the country that if this election is going to be won by Donald Trump, he’s going to have to carry the hod himself and he’s the main cutting edge of the ticket, the second part of which is not all that cutting edge.


ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: I think Governor Pence is a solid choice. He -- as I think Newt Gingrich said, he’s grounded and more stable, more of a normal type person, and that’s what balances Donald Trump. And he’s very conservative on social issues, which Trump needed because the conservatives in the base, the social conservatives really are wary of Trump and his sort of, what they once called "New York values".

But I agree with Pat that the ticket is going to be determined by Donald Trump, and he’s been channeling Richard Nixon, calling himself the law and order candidate.

But all of these easy declarations that we should declare war would actually play right into the hands of the ISIS fanatics. That’s exactly what they want. They want to show the world that the West has declared war on them.

So, a lot of rhetoric lies ahead, but when they declare war, let’s see what that really means. I don’t think it really means much of anything beyond words.

MCLAUGHLIN: What should we expect at next week’s GOP convention -- minor, medium or major drama?

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/OPPORTUNITY LIVES: I think we should expect quite major drama on the streets. Obviously, there’s a lot of security concerns.

But I agree with Pat that Pence is a safe pick. That he appeals to that social conservative element. I think it reflects the Trump campaign’s belief that they have to double down on what they have, in the sense that someone like Pence is not going to attract independents who might otherwise go to Trump, younger voters. They’ve sort of ruled that out by this pick.

But I do think the Nice attacks, because of Hillary Clinton’s association with President Obama’s counterterrorism strategy, and I would say that there are direct links in terms of the inspiration that actually ISIL has been able to have, Trump benefits from that.

And, you know, the tragedy is that as much as the emotion and the fear and the security issues rightly play a role in any election, from both sides, from Hillary Clinton, from Donald Trump, you know, the solutions to this problem -- it is war, but it’s a war in terms of rotten political Islam and specific counterterrorism threat. It’s more complicated than just emotion.

CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Yes, very true. I think Pence is a good choice. He represents the Republican establishment, which Trump has been at war to a great deal. This shows the world that, yes, I do know how to play ball as far as balancing out a ticket. He’s also someone who will not complete with Trump for the spotlight.

ROGAN: Right.

PAGE: Very important.

ROGAN: Right.

PAGE: And there’s -- but I think on the national security issue, I’m reminded, Trump is always done well in polling on economics and national security. But it reminds me of the old Middle East saying, that he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

ROGAN: Right.

PAGE: Even this week, maybe he would have done better to have gone ahead with his announcement on Saturday and able to make a statement tied in with Nice as well.

ROGAN: A tweet.

PAGE: Yes, he fell back on the old tweets. And Trump has a way of stepping on his own message, et cetera. So, he’s --


BUCHANAN: Clarence, he got out of the story, and I think he almost had to. It was so enormous this atrocity down there, right there on the promenade and Nice right there on the Mediterranean.

I think he did the right things in holding this off, at least just for 24 hours. It’s coming anyhow. So -- but I do think when you say "safe choice", Donald Trump is going to have to carry the ball on every play in this game.

PAGE: He doesn’t mind.


CLIFT: He has been steering within the lanes these last couple of days, which shows that he is capable of some self-discipline.

I also think the choice of Pence reveals the extraordinary power that his family has, and they’re going to be showcased, they’re going to be the main features at the political convention next week. And they were urging Pence.

So, you know, I think they are the campaign.

PAGE: But the vetters.

CLIFT: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: On next week’s GOP convention, there will be minor drama involving the GOP’s never Trump faction. But the real story will be violent protests by progressives. The protest will energize and unify, excuse me, the GOP.

Issue Two: Campaign Evolution.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Bernie Sanders this week removed a huge obstacle from Hillary Clinton’s path to the U.S. presidency. He endorsed Mrs. Clinton and ended his campaign.

But Mr. Trump didn’t receive the same treatment from former competitor Jeb Bush. Mr. Trump’s candidacy, Mr. Bush says, is a, quote-unquote, "tragedy". And that’s not all --

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There isn’t going to be a wall built. And Mexico is not going to pay for it. And there’s not going to be a ban on Muslims. I think people are going to really feel betrayed.

MCLAUGHLIN: Also this week, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg weighted into the presidential race, telling "The New York Times", quote, "I can’t imagine what the country would be with Donald Trump as our president", end quote.

Mr. Trump responded fiercely, deriding Justice Ginsburg as, quote/unquote, "a disgrace to the court" and that she should resign.


MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, what’s going on?

BUCHANAN: With Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I think Trump’s initial comment was pretty close. He said, "Her mind is shot." And that’s a pretty tough comment. But that’s what he tweeted.


BUCHANAN: Let me say this, she has made a terrible mistake for herself. She’s exposed all her beliefs. She said basically how she would vote on issues. I don’t think she hurt Trump at all. She hurt the court.

And if Trump wins, frankly, she’s going to have to resign from the court, in my judgment.

CLIFT: Oh please.

BUCHANAN: Sure, she is.

CLIFT: Those are lifetime appointments. They don’t have to resign simply because she offended him. He offended her back. There’s nothing wrong with her brain. He ought to sit on one of the oral arguments and watch this woman perform.

She shouldn’t have done what she did. She’s apologized. But you know, a lot of people, Pat, think that Donald Trump is so outside the mainstream of what we should have as a leader in this country that they feel that they have to speak out.

BUCHANAN: She’s revealed herself as a total politician, making political -- she’s got a perfect right to do that, but not as a Supreme Court justice. She ought to go.

ROGAN: Well, here’s the thing. It is -- you know, there has to be no tradition in recent years. And, unfortunately, the president has done it and it was -- for a Harvard law professor, when he went to the State of the Union address and called out the court, that attack on the coequal system of government that we apply.

Ginsburg should not have said this. It was outrageous. But I do think there is this problem that we have now with the judiciary on both sides, from right and left. There’s this increasing belief that the Supreme Court has lost some of its weight.

And I personally, I’m very grateful that we have Justice Roberts as the chief justice, because I think he has held it together. I know a lot of conservatives are very upset with some of his rulings, but the importance of the Supreme Court, the most powerful nation of earth, bound up with nine folks, well, eight at the moment, who have that absolute power to interpret the Constitution. There is something inherently positive there, and Ginsburg should have known better.

PAGE: Yes, I love Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but I winced when she said that, too, because it just obviously -- it exposed -- it’s just being a bit too obvious. Nobody doubted Justice Scalia’s politics, but he didn’t have to name candidates and say, this person is good, the person is bad, because you know where his leanings were.

BUCHANAN: She talked about decisions she wants to see overturned, as soon as they come up to her --


BUCHANAN: You’re talking about a mindset predisposed, that’s not a judicial temperament.

CLIFT: Yes. But let’s not pretend that these people are totally above politics. They’re appointed by political leaders. They have definite views and we have a very divided court. We have -- it’s 4-4.

BUCHANAN: You make a very good point. These judges --

CLIFT: And she has not told us anything we didn’t already know.

BUCHANAN: OK. Judges should not be making the decisions they’re making in a democratic republic. They ought to be made by the voters and by the people they elect. Not judges.

MCLAUGHLIN: Question --

CLIFT: When Justice Scalia went duck hunting with Mr. Cheney while a case involving Mr. Cheney was before the court, did you get all exorcised about that?

BUCHANAN: I think -- didn’t Cheney lose?


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: is the Jeb Bush attack on Trump sending voters to HRC? Pat?

BUCHANAN: You know, I think the Jeb Bush was in a way it was pathetic. It was poor Jeb. I tried my best to do this and that.

I don’t think he helped himself.

CLIFT: Jeb speaks for a lot of Republicans, and you look at the convention next week and the number of delegates who are queasy about Donald Trump as their nominee, and you can see that Jeb Bush spoke for a lot of people.

ROGAN: You know, I think it’s going to be net neutral that Republicans such as myself already agree with Jeb on those points. But Trump has his support and it’s irrelevant.

Well, what do you think, John?

MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I think definitely, the attack on Trump is going to send voters to the HRC.


PAGE: Well, Jeb wishes that those voters have come to him, but he wasn’t able to persuade them in that direction either. I mean, what is the Republican Party these days? We’re learning that the party is more conservative than Jeb Bush.

BUCHANAN: Jeb Bush sounds like sour grapes. He got clobbered.

PAGE: Yes.

BUCHANAN: And now he’s knocking Trump. He can’t do this and that --


CLIFT: John Kasich got clobbered too. He only won one state. But in polls --


CLIFT: Excuse me, but in polls, he leads Hillary Clinton in battleground states.

BUCHANAN: So what?

CLIFT: There’s a lot of buyers remorse in the Republican Party about Trump.

ROGAN: That is true.

MCLAUGHLIN: What about Sanders’ endorsement?

BUCHANAN: I think Sanders’ endorsement was -- he said, I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton. It didn’t sound to me wildly enthusiastic. Maybe I missed something.

CLIFT: He’s going to be out in the campaign trail and --

BUCHANAN: He’s fighting as hard as he can.

CLIFT: Yes, he’s going to be out there.

PAGE: He’s going to help her. But I think he’s also trying to help himself. His speech was really pitching for the Bernie Sanders party. He’s still an independent who’s under the Democratic banner right now, and he’s trying to establish a movement here and it’s very obvious.

ROGAN: What is key, and this is the interesting juxtaposition with Pence, who will, you know, alienate younger voters, although Trump, they weren’t going to Trump anyway. Bernie can absolutely gravitate them towards Hillary. That is the critical factor and that I think will be his work --

CLIFT: Well beyond the campaign trail. All the Democratic super heroes will be out there, Pat.

BUCHANAN: It’s going to be like Teddy Kennedy, walking around that stage with Carter, going around trying to shake hands.

CLIFT: I don’t think so.

PAGE: That’s the one thing they don’t want to happen again.

CLIFT: That won’t happen. That won’t happen.

MCLAUGHLIN: If Trump wins, should the Notorious RBG recuse herself from any case in which the Trump administration files a brief? Yes or no?

BUCHANAN: No, she should do the right thing, and simply resign. She’s 83 years old.

CLIFT: No, no. No resign. No recusal. As long as her brain --

BUCHANAN: Just do what she wants to do.

CLIFT: As long as her brain is functioning, she’s fine.

ROGAN: She’s not going to recuse herself.

PAGE: Now, I think she may recuse herself on the one issue here and there, but she’s not required to, and she would have to be impeached by Congress in order to leave that seat. And I think that’s a good thing, because I don’t want her to leave.

CLIFT: Right, exactly.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Trump’s Veteran Plan.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Every veteran will get timely access to top quality medical care. Every --

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Donald Trump this week released a 10-point plan for veterans. It includes proposals to allow veterans to use private medical care paid for by the federal government if so desired. Mr. Trump will also establish a commission to investigate failures at the Veterans Affairs Administration, and will establish a manned 24-hour White House hotline for veterans’ complaints.

The announcements come weeks after some veterans groups strongly condemned Mr. Trump.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Will Trump’s plan improve health care for veterans? Yes or no, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Look, I think he -- clearly, he’s going to make an effort. This is a very strong political issue he’s got. I think he’s going to give it everything he’s got. This is a tremendously big problem. It’s bureaucratic.

But what it does need is really energy in the executives. I think he’ll do that. Whether it will be a make a great difference, I don’t know, but it’s something behind which every American will get.

CLIFT: Except for the hotline that’s actually going to be manned 24 hours, I didn’t hear anything new. You know, John McCain and Bernie Sanders coauthored legislation that allows veterans, if they have to wait for an appointment, they can use private care. So, that’s already been done.

So, I think the Veterans Department is overwhelmed with the numbers and the severity of the wounds coming out of these very long wars. So, you know, I -- he’s going to appoint a commission. I think we’ve already had a commission looking into various things that are wrong.

So, I don’t think he’s got a magic wand.

ROGAN: Yes. I mean, look, I think a lot of the proposals, they’re not new. And Trump has used veterans as partisan tools. His comments about John McCain and the POW remained one of the most disgusting comments in American political history, I think, in terms of tradition of national service.

But I would say, ultimately, veterans affairs is one of the great unifying issues in this campaign, in the sense that ultimately, people are aware that it is a critical issue. Two things we could do. Number one, one of the challenges with V.A. expand, making it easier for people to get benefits more quickly and seek medical treatment. There’s increasing amount of fraud. So, we should have more resourcing there to put people in prison who are stealing that money.

But at the same time, look, post-traumatic stress, TBI, all these things are now on the radar. They are a public concern. People want to invest in it on both sides. That’s positive.

PAGE: I thought it was a good speech and it was a good speech when Obama delivered it, I think. And in fact, I wonder who wrote it for Trump, because it really gave a good diagnosis of problems at the V.A., problems we’re aware of and diagnoses we’ve heard before. Where’s the money, I want to know, because that is what this requires. It is a huge bureaucracy.

And the Defense Department’s health care is excellent, but then patients turned over to the V.A. system, that’s where they run into problems. And this varies around different parts of the country.

So, I think it’s a good issue. Can I trust Donald Trump the bill is going to deliver? I don’t know. We’re still having questions about the money he allegedly raise for veterans charities here weeks ago.

CLIFT: Right.

PAGE: So, it’s good politics.

MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will Trump’s proposals fix the V.A. health system? Yes or no?

BUCHANAN: He’s got to be elected first.

CLIFT: Right. Yes.


CLIFT: I don’t think he’s going to get reelected. No, double no, even if he does get elected, I don’t see how he fixes it.

ROGAN: It’s a huge bureaucracy. Government, you know, inherently, that a problem -- bureaucracy. But things are getting better slowly but surely.

PAGE: It’s an ongoing challenge. Everybody wants to fix the V.A., but it’s huge, it’s expensive, it’s complicated. But -- I mean, Trump is on the right track, so is Hillary.

MCLAUGHLIN: What’s the big problem now?

PAGE: Well, the big problem is patient delivery. I mean, Trump ran it down quite well, that, you know, depending on who your counselor is as a V.A. patient, you can get really good service or really terrible service. And you may sit and wait for weeks and die before you get to the hospital. There’s a very serious problem that has to be dealt with.

MCLAUGHLIN: Let’s move on. Veteran suicides.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): After four years of research, in all 50 states, the Veterans Affairs Administration has released a new report on veteran suicides.

According to the V.A., 20 veterans commit suicide every day.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Micah Xavier Johnson, the veteran responsible for the recent police shooting, the one killed by a robot, what did his parents say about him after serving in Afghanistan?

ROGAN: Well, look, that the concern that people have about returnees from Afghanistan and Iraq, and previous conflicts, where there was not enough attention given to post-traumatic stress, is that some people will come back being wounded mentally and they require that treatment.

Things are improving, but the veteran suicide, I think 20 a day. It’s a key problem.

CLIFT: They said he came back -- the parents said he came back different.


PAGE: Right.

CLIFT: I can’t imagine --

ROGAN: And everyone comes back different.

CLIFT: Exactly.

BUCHANAN: You know, the suicide -- there was a Harvard study recently among white working class folks moving toward their 40s, opioids and suicides and other things like that, alcoholism, are increasingly a cause of a growing number of suicides and deaths of these folks. So, something is wrong in the society. And certainly, well, certainly even with vets, it’s especially severe because of what they’ve been through.

PAGE: Absolutely. There are many people that their loved one didn’t come back the same. And we need to be able to have the kind of health care supports that are going to help --

CLIFT: Well, and the pharmaceuticals have finally come to some kind of agreement where they’re not going to keep pushing these opioids out there as though they are candy without any harm or after-effects.

BUCHANAN: A lot of these vets have been over there two, three, four deployments.

PAGE: That’s right.

ROGAN: Part of this I think, when the increasing things that psychologists or political psychologists writing about, is this idea of collapse or the collapsing society into, you know, absent personal connections, loss of family. That, you know, the Internet, right, this Pokemon game is a silly example but also true example of how --

BUCHANAN: Atomization and deracination.

ROGAN: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Islands in the Dock.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Philippines strongly affirms its respect for this milestone decision as an important contribution to ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the South China Sea.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): China was rebuked this week when the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled for the Philippines on issues of sovereignty in the South China Sea. The international tribunal, based in The Hague in the Netherlands, ruled that China is not entitled to territorial sovereignty claims via its artificial islands. The court also rebuked China for causing, quote, "severe harm to the coral reef environment," unquote.

Still, while the Philippines celebrated, China was less than conciliatory. President Xi Jinping stated, quote/unquote, "China’s territorial sovereignty and marine rights in the South China Sea will not be affected". And as China continues to build military capabilities on islands across the South and East China Seas, the potential for conflict seems to grow.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What happens next, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Scarborough Shoal is something you’re going to hear about, John. The Chinese claim it. It’s about 120 miles off the coast to the Philippines. It’s in Philippines territorial water, or economic zone, 200-mile zone. And the Chinese, if they start to militarize it, the way they have these other reefs and rocks and other things – they’re not islands, the reefs and rocks -- if they do that, they’re going to be in collision certainly with the Philippines and all the other states that border in the South China Sea.

Now, if they start doing that, they will throw down the gauntlet. The question then is what the Americans do. There are some hawks, American hawks say we ought to confront them militarily and the rest of it.

I don’t agree at all. I think if the Chinese do that, we ought to let them take the diplomatic onus of that, and start imposing economic sanctions of 5 percent tariff on Chinese goods coming into this country. It will be a real way to strike them without getting our guys in a war with China.

Those are not our islands. We shouldn’t have to fight over those rocks and reefs. But we should be leading, I think, in the effort to make sure that, you know, justice is done according to the traditions that the court imposed.

CLIFT: Well, what happens next, I think nothing, for a while. The Philippines, people there, they were joyous, they were celebrating, until they realize that the Chinese simply were not going to pay any attention.

But that’s what the Chinese are saying publicly. Maybe this will have a chilling effect. So, I think it’s the old wait and see. But, you know, I agree with you, we don’t want to go to war over a bunch of rocks in the sea.

ROGAN: The difficulty that they have, though, is that there’s, you know, 50 percent of global trade is passing through these routes.

And one of the positive things that is happening now is that, in terms of countering the Chinese in a way that reduces the risk to our people, in terms of putting ships there is putting missile platforms that can essentially deny Chinese access coming through.

But I think we want to be more of a show of force in terms, for example, Virginia Class submarines, with the Chinese -- our aircraft carriers are now vulnerable. But the submarines, you put them up there, and start doing photo shoots of them popping up the surface, that has some deterrent effect.

To some degree, you know, I agree with Pat in the sense that Chinese, in the sense of -- in a very similar way to the Russians post-Cold War, this sense of embarrassment about how the West treated them in the 20th century, it’s about managing that in a calculated way.

PAGE: Yes, I agree with Pat so much here, it frightens me. But --


PAGE: I’m going to reassess my position, though. I think, first of all, yes, there’s not much going to happen for a while, but economic sanctions is definitely the way to go. And China is vulnerable because their economy has been suffering some problem here easily. We know there’s a huge bubble. They know they got a big bubble. They can’t afford to poke it.

But they’re also probably one of the most paranoid countries on the planet. And as a result, they -- as strong as big as they are, they’re worried about their defenses, and they feel like these islands are a critical part of their defense.

BUCHANAN: Nobody is on their side in this dispute.

ROGAN: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we’ve established here that China is creating a crisis, whereby The Hague verdict will have to be backed up by force. Skilled diplomacy is needed to help Xi back down.

Exit question: Will Xi Jinping continue to press China’s territorial claim? Or will Xi back down?

BUCHANAN: I think there’s going to be a pause in activity in the South China Sea.

CLIFT: Yes, that’s what I think. I think this will have a chilling effect and everybody backs off for a time.

ROGAN: One of the challenges that we face is that the Chinese are being very clever in terms of buying allies like Britain and other actors, the Indians perhaps as well, into the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank. That limits our diplomatic power. Money talks.

PAGE: Quite right. And we have gotten the Chinese addicted to capitalism -- state capitalism, but nevertheless, they do like making money and not losing it. So, I think sanctions, economic pressure is going to have a good impact.

MCLAUGHLIN: Prediction, Pat?

BUCHANAN: The atrocities in Nice and Dallas would really cause security and domestic terrorism, foreign terrorism be the issue. Hillary Clinton will move to the right. She already has began. She was on Bill O’Reilly the other night.


CLIFT: There are votes that -- people watch FOX, too, Pat.

The long awaited release of the 28 pages from a congressional report after the 9/11 attacks will shed important new light on Saudi government involvement in those attacks.


ROGAN: Because of the children who were killed in the atrocity in Nice, the French response will be very vigorous and probably will involve special operations force, escalation in Syria, and the model there, to borrow the Marie Antoinette line, will be, "Qu’ils mangent de la morte" (ph), and good.


PAGE: Mike Pence’s parents grew up in Chicago. I expect to see an excursion of Republican campaigners into Illinois, but it’s going to be a tough swing to make.

MCLAUGHLIN: I predict President Obama’s approval rating, now down to an anemic 48 percent, will continue to fall throughout what’s left of his term.

Now, we at THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP send our very deepest condolences to the people of France and to all those who are suffering in the aftermath of Thursday’s attack in Nice.

Vive la France!