The McLaughlin Group

Issues: Trump Nomination / U.S.-Turkey Relations / Russian Sports Doping / Iran Nuclear Deal

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 22, 2016
Broadcast: Weekend of July 22-24, 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: Coronating Trump.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Friends, delegates, and fellow Americans, I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Donald Trump this week became the official Republican Party nominee for president. After days of speeches by members of Mr. Trump’s family and his supporters, the billionaire businessman promised a better future to the American people.

His speech at the convention arena in Cleveland, Ohio, focused on four key themes. First, strengthening U.S. borders and reducing immigration. Second, trade-based efforts to reduce imports and boost U.S. manufacturing. Third, improving law and order in U.S. communities. Fourth, seeking a more positive relationship with Russia, while taking more aggressive action against international terrorist groups.

Still, the convention also had its complication. Various delegates walked out of the hall and protested Mr. Trump.

And elements of the speech by Mr. Trump’s wife Melania were lifted from First Lady Michelle Obama’s address to the 2008 Democratic convention.


MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, give us your assessment of Trump’s acceptance speech.

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: I think the acceptance speech hit every base he wanted to hit. You mentioned four of them up there. You’ve got securing the border. You’ve got trade deals, that stop the de-industrializing of America, staying out of wars that are none of our business, and the new law and order, which goes back to 1968. I think it was a very powerful speech, John.

He’s decided, you know, throw away political correctness. He’s going to run as Donald Trump on the issues that brought him to his convention. I think the Mike Pence choice came out better frankly that I originally thought. I think Pence complements him very well.

His family -- I mean, Melania and Ivanka and those kids, I think the country was impressed with them. Look, I think he’s got a fighting chance to be the next president of the United States, and I think his speech overall helped him all across America. The question is, does American want Donald Trump?


ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: He’s quite a showman, reality TV showman. He’s also a con man.


CLIFT: I mean, he laid out all of these -- first of all, that’s an apocalyptic vision of America, like we’re all, you know, terrified, hunkered down in our cities, and the immigrants are coming to get us.

Now, he saved the speech towards the end. It did get more optimistic. But then he says he’s going to do all of these things. He doesn’t say how he’s going to do any of these things, and he expects us to just believe him when he says, "I am your voice, I will fix this."

And I must say, the daughter, Ivanka -- I mean, she’s beautiful, and she’s smart and she gets up there and says he’s going to change the labor laws. He’s going to make sure that everybody has affordable daycare, childcare.

The Republican Party just put out a platform that they, in the end, they took out a plank saying they’re opposed to preschool because it interferes with the family raising their children. So, I haven’t heard much from Donald Trump about all these women’s issues that she’s championing.

It is such a con job, but you have a lot of Americans pay maybe casual attention to politics and, you know, if you can elect one guy and he’s going to fix everything, I think there’s some appeal there. The Democrats have to come back strong next week in Philadelphia.

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/OPPORTUNITY LIVES: Here’s the thing, though, look, the speech in terms of the way it was delivered, what it focused on, spoke to people’s concerns and the distance between I think what are some of us think and what other people think about concern law and order, about concern about illegal immigration.

In the case of trade, as much as I disagree with that, how much appeal that has in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where a poll this week in Ohio during the convention showed Clinton and Trump neck and neck. And at the same time, I think Trump’s utility is that in his aggressive sort of passion, that sparks appeal in people. And I thought it was a very well-written speech.

And I also think it will be reflective on poll boost coming up and the distance between, as much as Eleanor says, yes, you know, there were some absence of specifics and policy terms, that is true.

CLIFT: You think?

ROGAN: Well, the problem with the Democrats is what I think they will see from Hillary Clinton coming up is a lot of proposals that are completely uncosted. And so, there is this divergence and, ultimately, people will make their choice.

CLIFT: She’s actually costed out all her proposals.

ROGAN: No, she hasn’t. She hasn’t. She has not costed those proposals.

PAGE: Well, she’s costing them out more than Trump has, I’m sure, which isn’t saying much.

But you make a good point, though. I think what’s important here is why is Trump so popular. Well, he’s particularly popular with that demographic of people who feel both displaced and what, ignored, unlistened-to. Folks like my Ohio home town where the steel mill is way down compared to where it used to be. All five paper mills are gone now. I mean, that de-industrialization.

Folks don’t all understand -- the one thing they do understand is they used to be able to make a middle class income without a high school diploma or anything beyond high school. They can’t do that now, and they need some, I guess, explanation for this. They need to hear from government that they’re doing something about it.

And so, trade has become really symbolic, Pat. An issue you’re very familiar with.


PAGE: This trade issue is something that is symbolic of a whole host of problems. It was ironic to me, though, while the convention was going on there in Cleveland, we were in the press center very close to some very large tanker ships there.

I mean, export/import goes both ways. And you do make money as a country off of this.

BUCHANAN: He does -- no doubt about it. Well, to me, of course, the trade thing, it works for the reason that we’ve had, you know, 25 years of these trade deals and why China has exploded and we haven’t is all our factories and jobs are going overseas.

And what Trump has -- yes, and I agree with you, the details aren’t there. He is the change candidate. I see these problems there. I’m going to do something about them.

Maybe there’s not any details, but I think, I’m not sure what Hillary offers America in terms of here’s the agenda.

Obama -- I saw it. People said, look, here’s somebody new. We’re going to try something new, but I don’t know what she has to offer that goes up against that power.

CLIFT: She has. She has -- what she has to offer reflects the America that we did not see in the convention hall in Cleveland.

If you were sitting in your living room and watching that virtually all white crowd, that is not how America looks today, and screaming "lock her up, lock her up," about Hillary Clinton. In a democracy, you do not lock up your political opponents unless you want to elect an authoritarian who’s going to do that sort of thing.

BUCHANAN: I agree, I agree.

CLIFT: That was way over the top.

BUCHANAN: I agree. Hillary had a bad convention.



CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Next week’s show today is --

CLIFT: That was a good convention for her because that was that repels -- that repelled people watching it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Was Ted Cruz’s missing endorsement politically suicidal?

BUCHANAN: For him, I believe it was. I like Ted Cruz. But to get up, the party wants to get together. We’ve got one chance of winning this -- and understand, he was wounded badly and hurt badly by that. But you don’t get up and damage the chances of everybody else who want to win this thing.

And so, I think Cruz -- Cruz will never be nominated in my judgment by the Republican Party.

CLIFT: The Donald one-upped him anyway. He appeared out of nowhere, gave him the thumbs up, and actually he reacted the same way to what Cruz did to President Obama’s putdown of him at that White House correspondents dinner long ago. He smiled and took it jovially.

But I’ll tell you, Cruz is probably dead to him from now on.

PAGE: There in the hall, it was such pandemonium. But at first, I thought the crowd was chanting for Cruz, now, Cruz, Cruz. But they were booing actually, and it was just explosive.

Meanwhile, over the other side, people are cheering for Trump, who’s just arrived with his family with that grand entrance. So you got both the same time.

BUCHANAN: He was showing up there with the top of the stairs.

CLIFT: Right.

BUCHANAN: It was very dramatic.

MCLAUGHLIN: How long it’s going to take it to figure that out?

PAGE: Well, figure out the booing, I didn’t keep a stopwatch, John. But there’ll be able -- go ahead.

ROGAN: You were there, Clarence.

It seems like, but conventions for my experience, are always, it’s about pageantry, right? It used to -- before ’68, it was the deals. It was, you know, the brokering. But now, it is pageantry.

So, what do we expect?

PAGE: Yes.

BUCHANAN: I love the raw -- it was a real convention, you know? In that sense, and rather than having the people going through and delivering these great old Republican balance the budget speech is, it was a convention. It’s a great convention.

PAGE: Yes, some actual business snuck in.

CLIFT: It’s a great convention for Republicans.

BUCHANAN: Business things happened that we didn’t anticipate.

PAGE: That’s right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: King Erdogan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We decided to recommend to the government that a state of emergency be declared.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): A week after a failed coup by elements of the Turkish military, President Obama and European leaders are pressing Turkey to maintain the democratic principles of its constitution. And President Erdogan is being warned that Turkey will not be allowed to join the E.U. if he reintroduces the death penalty.

Still, President Erdogan says he is acting to clear a, quote-unquote, "virus" from Turkish institutions. But the numbers tell another tale. Around 50,000 judges and prosecutors, civil servants, teachers and university deans have been detained, and that has some Turks worried that Mr. Erdogan, an Islamist, is trying to centralize power and destroy its domestic opponents.

And note another controversy: Turkey has accused the anti-Erdogan activists Fethullah Gulen of involvement in the coup attempt and wants him extradited from Pennsylvania. After referral from the White House, the State Department is now considering that extradition request.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What affect will the failed coup have on U.S.-Turkish relations? Clarence Page?

PAGE: Well, I think in the short term, we’re still assessing -- I mean, the U.S. is still assessing what the impact is.

Even some that’s a culture rife with rumors, even rumors that it wasn’t a real coup attempt. It’s just an Erdogan excuse to go out and be able to arrest thousands of people. He’s been arresting a lot of people all along, including journalists among others. He’s truly become more and more autocratic, and seems indifferent to the rest of the world.

We have to pay attention. There’s such a sensitive position – they’ve got nukes. They’re in NATO, but how do you get some leverage with him when he is thoroughly uncooperative as far as outside world is concerned at this point?

CLIFT: You know, when Trump was asked by "The New York Times" about his reaction to the Turkish coup and how he would respond, he said that he didn’t think the U.S. had any standing to lecture Turkey because, you know, we’re having policemen shot down dead in our streets, which is rather an odd position to take, that you can’t project small D democratic values.

And so, I think -- I mean, I would hope that the coup has little impact on the U.S.-Turkish relationship, because they are so important as a member of NATO and they’re an ally in the fight in Syria. I would imagine the State Department will sit on that extradition request and drag it out and hope that the backlash to the coup dissipates.

BUCHANAN: I think this is historic, John, and I think it’s very, very serious. Turkey has got the second largest army in NATO. It’s one of the most populous countries in NATO. We’ve got nuclear weapons at Incirlik major base we use to attack ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria. They’re an invaluable ally. We have troubles with them.

But what it looks like is that Erdogan is going to clean house of all his adversaries, especially these Gulenite characters. He’s going to be in trouble with us trying to get Gulen, because I don’t think we’re going to send him over there.

CLIFT: Right, exactly.

BUCHANAN: And so, the -- as for joining the E.U., E.U. is not going to bring 80 million, 90 million Muslims into the European Union.

I think, you know, this could be a dramatic change affecting both the outcome of some of these wars over there and really the future of NATO and the future of the E.U.

MCLAUGHLIN: Why is Erdogan purging academic teachers in the military?

ROGAN: Erdogan does not like political opposition. He is -- his policy and my piece writing about the coup attempts. The palace that he built is a metaphor for his personality. I think he wants to be a kind of Imam Ataturk to fundamentally reshape Turkey under the banner of authoritarian leadership and Islamism under his interpretation.

The problem we face is that everyone else mentions, you know, as a NATO member, our nuclear weapons there. We should withdraw them I think. And we’re not going to back down. We can’t back down with Erdogan now because it is about democracy.

And it’s also incredibly important in terms of Turkey is that for a long time when he first entered office, he’s a great leader, prospectively leading Turkey into new democratic age blended with Islamism, backing away from that, we cannot be a counterpoint to that because if we do, then we lose any -- we lose that great opportunity.

BUCHANAN: But look, when you talk about -- the question is, it could very well calm down to whether we’re going to have a democracy in Turkey, or whether we’re going to have an ally, a NATO ally in Turkey because it looks to me quite frankly like traditional democracy is on the way out right now.


BUCHANAN: This individual is bitter and angry. He’s got an authoritarian personality, and he could well be on the way to Putinism in Turkey, and then the United States is going to have to make a very serious call.

CLIFT: No, the United States is not going to say, no democracy, we don’t deal with him. We all know how the U.S. is kind of react to that.

BUCHANAN: We deal with Egypt.

CLIFT: You deal with the regime that’s there. They’re too important, but Brexit passed in part because believers were claiming, you’re going to bring in all those Muslims and they were scaring people.

Turkey has been and still is a Muslim country that has been largely secular and has been a model for the kind of governance that we’re looking for.

ROGAN: He’s changing it, though. He’s changing it.


BUCHANAN: It’s affected by the Islamic uprising all across that world. I mean, Islam has been rising for a couple of decades now and it’s rising in Turkey. And in a way, he’s responding to that, too.

CLIFT: He’s also getting a lot of opposition.

ROGAN: If he continues upon this track, Turkey will not be able to remain a NATO member, because it is too unstable and our interests will divorce. I mean, we talk about practical terms, can you rely Erdogan as a reliable NATO member based on what he’s doing? You can’t.


BUCHANAN: Look what he did. He went and shut down a Russian aircraft in Syria, and here, we’re going to guarantee him, and under Article 5, go to war if he goes to war with Russia?

ROGAN: He needs to stop this purge.

CLIFT: They’re not going to kick Turkey out of NATO. That’s my prediction.

ROGAN: We’ll see.

MCLAUGHLIN: Should the U.S. extradite Fethullah Gulen to Turkey to placate President Erdogan?

BUCHANAN: Not unless they can find hard evidence that he was directly behind the coup.

PAGE: Right.

CLIFT: I agree with that.

ROGAN: What Pat said, yes, yes.

PAGE: You’ve got to have some evidence --

ROGAN: Rule of law.

PAGE: -- for extradition. And you’re right, they can drag it out and I think we will drag it out as long as we can.

MCLAUGHLIN: I say no. Gulen should only be extradited after judicial determination of grounds to do so.

Issue Three: No Russians in Rio?


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): The World Anti-Doping Agency Commission reported this week on the systematic use of performance enhancing drugs by Russian athletes.

The Russian state-sponsored doping program was supported by Russian intelligence services. And it, quote-unquote, "planned and operated" at the London 2012 Summer Olympics and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic.

The International Olympic Committee is considering banning the Russian Olympic.

Russia is furious. President Putin says a Russian whistleblower who assisted with the report is, quote-unquote, "a Judas".

Russia, Mr. Putin believes, is suffering a conspiracy from Western powers.


MCLAUGHLIN: Would the IOC be justified in banning Russia from Rio? Eleanor?

CLIFT: Well, we’re just talking about evidence concerning the coup in Turkey. I think there’s plenty of evidence that Russian athletes were doping. I’m not sure whether the evidence continues to the present day and that the current set of athletes preparing for Rio, they would have to be tested.

So, I think there should be a penalty, but I would like to see Russia compete, and if the current crop of athletes can be clean, I think they should be allowed to go ahead. So, that’s my point of view.

MCLAUGHLIN: Let me agree with Eleanor 100 percent.

Look, it looks like that there was state sponsor behind this program to drag up and a lot of people involved in it. But I would hate to say, first, the athletes have trained for four years, and who haven’t taken these drugs and who can pass drug tests in Rio before they compete, I think they ought to be allowed to compete.

Secondly, there’s clearly, I mean, Putin clearly sees this, "They’re sticking it to me again," and I don’t think that’s going -- that would help relationships between the United States and Putin and Russia. So, I would say, do not throw the whole team out of the Olympics.

ROGAN: You know, I’m conflicted. I have a friend who’s a Russian athlete who’s supposed to be going there. And as much as she disagrees with my politics on Russia, I -- she is, I trust her implicitly. The problem we have here is that, when we have an international sporting event that there’s so much disdain for international politics now and doubt that this was one of the institutions that everyone can come together.

And for that reason, I think based on the evidence that’s been presented, which is damning, damning, in terms of Russian foreign intelligence service, 2012, the London Olympics, it - they have to be banned. They have to be banned because if they’re not, there’s no tradition of expectation in future sporting events and the Russians and others will simply think they can get away with it. It brings disrepute to a great institution.

PAGE: I do agree with you on the need to enforce the rules, the question to me is do we check out and punish people individually, or the entire team, including those who had no supplements or whatever, I like to keep it as individually-oriented as possible.

I remember when Jimmy Carter boycotted the Russian Olympics and remember all the broken hearts around that.


PAGE: Nobody was satisfied by that as a solution.

ROGAN: The IOC has – is allowed to have some Russian athletes come without the Russian team banner.

PAGE: Right.

ROGAN: So, that is a potential compromise.

PAGE: That’s right.

BUCHANAN: You can’t have Russian athletes coming along and wearing Olympic jerseys and not representing their country, for heavens sakes.

PAGE: Well, everybody will know why, though.

ROGAN: There’s essential representation, and they get to show their skills.

BUCHANAN: Well, make all of them go through some drug tests or something like that.

CLIFT: Right.

BUCHANAN: Don’t -- I just don’t see any good coming out of that.

CLIFT: Yes, if they can make a clean break with the past.

And, you know, this is a holdover from the Cold War days when they had a very strong program of athletics and it was very important, they win all these medals and they doped these people up and put them on steroids or whatever else. And that was -- nobody cared back then. The rules have changed.

BUCHANAN: They make a joke about the East Germans.


CLIFT: The rules have changed, the rules have changed. And so, they’ve got to abide by the new rules.

MCLAUGHLIN: If the Russians are allowed to compete, many more countries will start cheating on doping.

Issue Four: Buyer’s Remorse.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: On July 14th, 2015, the United States, our P5-plus-1 negotiating partners, and Iran, reached an agreement that blocks all of Iran’s potential pathways, to acquiring a nuclear weapon, and in returns lifts the nuclear related sanctions on Iran’s economy.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Secretary of State John Kerry last week celebrated the first anniversary of the Iran nuclear deal. But according to the A.P., a secret side agreement will allow Iran to install advanced centrifuges 11 years from now. Those advanced centrifuges are five times more efficient than Iran’s current machinery and would generate enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon within six months, starting in 2030.

President Obama had previously affirmed that Iran’s so-called "breakout" period would be one year. Also this week, the U.S. and Russia criticized Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for describing Iranian ballistic missile tests as, quote, "not consistent with the constructive spirit", unquote, of the nuclear deal.


MCLAUGHLIN: Why did the Obama administration keep this annex secret? Tom?

ROGAN: Because I think they felt that they if they were truly honest about the nature of the deal in terms of their dealings with Congress -- and this was best reflected by Ben Rhodes in "The New York Times" article a couple of months back -- if they thought they were truly honest, they couldn’t get it through. But here’s the problem, this deal in terms of the Iranians, again, you’ve seen the ballistic missile testing. They are building those missiles, for a reason, there’s a great line in "Crimson Tide", you don’t do x if you’re not going to do x. People can infer.

And the problem here is that they will do that ballistic missile, they will get that enrichment capacity, and then they will break out because the Chinese, the Russians and the Europeans will never come back.

And the final point here is, the problem with the region is that it makes all those paranoid actors who are not good allies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, obsessed about Iranian empowerment in the region and throw money against Salafi groups to counter them. So, you see this spiraling.

CLIFT: Well, first of all, the ballistic missiles were never part of the nuclear deal. They were separate.

ROGAN: Well, that’s the debate.

CLIFT: OK, so that’s number one.

Number two, you have a very aggressive lobby in this country working to undermine this deal, in coordination with Israel --

ROGAN: I’m not in coordination with Israel.

CLIFT: -- and trying to undermine the economic benefits that are supposed to flow to Iran for being part of this deal. Boeing would like to sell them planes. It’s a big --

ROGAN: Revolutionary guards.

CLIFT: -- a big deal. And they needed -- their commercial airlines are falling apart. And the lobby in this country, in coordination with the U.S. Congress, mostly Republicans, are trying to stop that deal. If Iran doesn’t see economic benefits, the hardliners in that country will work to kill the deal.

So, you know, the hardliners of both countries are in concert here. The deal is holding, but it’s fragile.

BUCHANAN: I agree with Eleanor. I think it is a good deal in this sense -- I think Iran decided in 2003 as our security agency said, not to build nuclear weapons and then they got the sanctions lifted for not doing what they weren’t going to do anyhow. I don’t believe Iran wants an atomic bomb or is seeking atomic bomb. All its floor plans are under inspection. They’ve done everything along with the deal.

I do believe Iran, there are two Irans. There’s part of it, that we’re hoping for and working for those guys that voted to overthrow Ahmadinejad, and there’s the Basij militia, there’s the republican guard, there’s the ayatollah, there are some of these experts.

But I agree with Eleanor, what are they going to do with these Boeing 7 wahtever it is, 787, somebody said they’re going to turn them to transport planes.

CLIFT: Right.

BUCHANAN: You can shoot those things like cows in the field.

ROGAN: The Revolutionary Guards own the companies.

BUCHANAN: What do you think they’re going to do? Who are they going to start a war --

ROGAN: They’re not going to blow something up, anyway.


PAGE: I was going to say, this is an area where Pat and I actually agree. That is not an imminent threat. I do.

ROGAN: That’s three on one.

PAGE: And, you know, before the deal was going, looking this split right down the path to development. We’ve at least been able to buy time, a lot of time, with this deal.

CLIFT: And the energy secretary responded to that so-called secret deal and said it does nothing to change the length of the breakout time. So, I mean, it’s basically --

BUCHANAN: And there’s folks in both countries, that want to end the deal because they wanted to get together and go at it again.

ROGAN: But you could -- you are right that there are those people in Iran who are young, moderate. There are political movements -- Rouhani, more realist. But at the same time, how many is still the leader, you look at what they’re doing in Beirut.

I mean, it’s not about us and it’s not about Israel. But, you know, Google "Hariri". This is what the Iranians do.

CLIFT: They should at least have commercial planes and not afraid to get on.


ROGAN: I don’t have a problem with commercial planes. I have it from the deal that empowers the revolutionary guards with the money that comes from the deal.

CLIFT: It’s their money.

MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Post-convention polls will show a significant lift for the Donald, Eleanor.


CLIFT: But Hillary will come back a week later. I just want to give kudos to the city of Cleveland and the police force in Cleveland for maintaining security and also protecting the rights of the protesters.

ROGAN: A hundred percent what both Eleanor and Clarence -- Eleanor and Pat said. But I also want to say Levi Shirley, who is a young American who just died in Syria fighting with the Kurds. Always wanted to join the Marines, couldn’t get in, but is a tribute to the exceptionalism of this country. And he’ll be remembered.

PAGE: Hear, hear

Well, I predict that the Democrats will run all speeches next week through anti-plagiarism before they are delivered.


MCLAUGHLIN: I predict, if he wins the presidency, Donald Trump will choose Chris Christie for his attorney general.