The McLaughlin Group

Issues: Trump, Clinton Economic Plans / Free Trade and 2016 Election / Pope Francis and Politics

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, August 12, 2016
Broadcast: Weekend of August 12-14, 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.


PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: This is the first time in 34 years that our distinguished leader, Dr. McLaughlin, is not in his chair and we miss him. But let’s get on with the show.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We will work with House Republicans on this plan, using the same brackets they have proposed, 12 percent, 25 percent, and 33 percent.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There is too much inequality, too little upward mobility. It is just too hard to get ahead today. But there are common sense things that your government could do that would give Americans more opportunities to succeed. Why don’t we do it? Because powerful special interests and the tendency to put ideology ahead of political progress have led to gridlock in Congress.


BUCHANAN: Eleanor, this week, I think both parties and both candidates went to their basic messages. Donald Trump, he touched on his trade message and the economic message, trying to marry basic Republicanism to the new populism. Hillary Clinton went her way, but I think the big issue is coming up this week and the real problems Trump has run into. He’s fallen pretty far behind. He’s made a number of statements that have been extraordinarily controversial.

And so, I think it’s -- we’re looking to a situation where it’s going to come down to basically -- we’re going to take a look at the polls after Labor Day, and then the first debate. But it is not looking good right now, I think, for any conservatives and for the Republicans right now.

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Right. I feel like we crossed the Rubicon last week with members of the Republican Party and many others speaking openly about whether Donald Trump is fit for office and questioning his mental stability and his temperament.

Now, his tax plan is just a flight into fantasy, like everything else he does. He wants to cut taxes drastically. He wants to eliminate the estate tax, which only applies to a couple that is making over $10.9 million. And if you believe Donald Trump is worth as much as he says he is, it would be a $4 billion giveaway to him and his family.

So, he --

BUCHANAN: How are you going to give it to him if he’s dead?


BUCHANAN: On the death tax?

CLIFT: It would be giveaway to his children, his children, right. I think Donald Trump will live on forever, at least in some people’s imagination. But Hillary Clinton offered a sort of a practical Democratic plan to revive the economy. But you make -- you wonder whether issues even matter. This is now really about temperament and fitness for office, and the media have gone from laughter at Trump to concern, to downright being frightened by what he proposes.

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/OPPORTUNITY LIVES: I think the big breaking point for Trump was the Captain Khan incident, where you had a very distinguished family, and he couldn’t let it go. That sociopathic tendency, which is quite obvious the way at random hours on Twitter, he’s ranting and raving.

And yet, if you look at the economic proposal side by side, yes, his sums do not add up.

But in terms of deregulation, in terms of trying to boost productivity, which has been declining and is a critical area where if we’re going to increase wages in the country, we need to look, I think he did offer the better plan to Hilary Clinton in that regard because the idea of more taxation, the idea of more regulation, the idea of the green energy subsidy, the idea of infrastructure spending that is a union payoff, where does the money come from? And ultimately, if you see marginal tax rates in the states like California, combined with federal, there’s a problem there.

But I think, Pat, we’ve entered the end zone now.

CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: It doesn’t surprise me that you don’t like it, Tom, because this is standard, well-played conservative agenda, that he’s putting out there. There’s not an original thought in the whole list.

And the real contest to me is the question of trust. You know, for those people on the right or the left, which of these candidates do you trust the most to actually make good on those promises. I mean, Hillary Clinton, I expected to be more centrist, but actually, she’s still appealing to the Bernie folks, I think. Her populist language and program is still to the left of where she started out in this race.


BUCHANAN: Clarence, let me say, look, I agree that Trump’s had a very rough couple of weeks. But I will say, look, enormous numbers of people are still attached to Trump and his ideas, one that economic patriotism, the populism, secure the border, stay out of these wars. They want that very badly, and I think -- I do think and there’s no doubt, as I said, he’s had some bad patches here, but if somehow he can get back on these messages and focused on this for the next 90 days and get away from these peripheral issues.

Hillary’s got her own problems with emails, and that foundation. What they’re up -- what were they all up to and Julian Assange --


CLIFT: Equating what Donald Trump has done in inciting potential violence in this country, talking casually Second Amendment people, accusing the president and Hillary Clinton of being cofounders of ISIS, what Clinton has -- what the emails, that is garden variety political influence --

ROGAN: Corruption.


ROGAN: It’s corruption.


CLIFT: You would not -- you would never corrupt, you would never be able to indict her, despite all of Rudy Giuliani’s fulminations --

BUCHANAN: But if you haven’t had Trump’s faults here on this, Hillary’s problems would have just about finished her candidacy if it weren’t for the distraction. But it’s a big if.

PAGE: You’re absolutely right. Everybody but Trump concedes that, you know? He’s been Hillary Clinton’s best friend, distracting from the controversy she’s involved with.

But, Tom, Hillary Clinton is a lawyer. Her husband is a lawyer. The thing about them is -- I mean, they may be reckless. They may stretch the limits.

But they’re very careful not to break the law. And this is what has confounded people. That’s why they’re working around free right now, Tom.


ROGAN: Why didn’t the DOJ push the FBI investigation?


PAGE: Because of the appearance of impropriety, but they haven’t nailed them. That’s why they have --


ROGAN: Very quickly, on the idea, though, if we’re talking about that idea, like trust and viability, the Clinton Foundation, the emails, the big problem Hillary Clinton faces, I think it is rendered clearly by the DNC leak, the Russians. If they do have stuff, they are interfering. They do want Trump to win, but if they do have emails, indicating political corruption from 2009 and ’10, they will release and that could destroy her.

CLIFT: Sure. Let’s see what --


CLIFT: Yes, let’s see what they are. This is a woman who has been in public life for 35 years and I think she has a record that can stand up, and yes --


BUCHANAN: She’s had more --

CLIFT: Laugh if you will.

BUCHANAN: -- FBI investigations.


CLIFT: They come up with nothing.


PAGE: She’s still ahead in the polls, Pat. That’s frustrating.

BUCHANAN: Yes. It means she is ahead in the polls and there are problems on the Republican side I agree with. But Tom is right. These guys, if they’re holding if they’ve shown two cards and they got three more, she’s in big trouble.


CLIFT: I’ve been waiting. You’ve kept talking about the FBI primary during and how she was going to be convicted.

You know, the right has been pushing this now for many months. She’s going to be the next president, get used to it.

BUCHANAN: You know what she did?

CLIFT: I think we should go on to the next issue --

BUCHANAN: She told --

CLIFT: I need John, John --


BUCHANAN: She told the FBI the truth, and she did not tell the American people the truth. That’s why there’s a conflict.

CLIFT: It’s a conflict for you, but not to a whole lot of other people.

ROGAN: But one of the key questions here, and I think -- I do bring it up a lot, because of my representation of a certain age demographic on the panel, is the idea of --


ROGAN: -- entitlement reform. You know, we haven’t seen -- we haven’t seen serious engagement on that from either candidate, and I do think that’s a tragedy.

BUCHANAN: We’re not going to see it either.

ROGAN: Yes, which is a tragedy and it’s an absence of political responsibility.

CLIFT: Excuse me, you praised the Trump budget. He pays for nothing.

ROGAN: I said his sums don’t add up.

CLIFT: He gives away additional deductions, says he might cancel some, doesn’t tell us who. Anybody who’s looked at his proposals said it would add trillions to the deficit. It is completely fanciful.

BUCHANAN: Tom, I don’t know if you’ve been on a political campaign, but if somebody got out today and say, here’s how I’m going to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, it really is bye-bye.

PAGE: This is where I agree with the Trump people that they got the right issues. Trump is not the right mouthpiece for it. But these issues, immigration, income inequality, trade deals, these are all issues that Washington machinery has been afraid to touch and so, nothing has been done.

BUCHANAN: We’re going to talk about the trade in the next segment, but I’ll tell you, Hillary -- not only Bernie is with Trump, Hilary has come around. Both parties now normally are there.

CLIFT: When we talk about --

BUCHANAN: It’s only the Chamber of Commerce that’s got a problem.

CLIFT: When we talk about trade, I’m going to give a little history lesson that goes back to 1960, Quemoy and Matsu.


ROGAN: But here’s the thing, we cannot push the entitlement issue aside because it speaks to a patriotic notion of the future. We are going bankrupt. Interest rates will skyrocket. Poor people will --


ROGAN: Let me finish, we’re talking about here is young people, my age, having to, you know, get benefits at a later date. You guys are set, all right? Because politically, yes, it can;t be done.


PAGE: Number one, all we’re going to do is to lift the caps. I mean, why do we have the income cap on our deductions, you know? That’s one way to get at least couple more decades out of social security.


BUCHANAN: When Reagan solved the problem with Congress, you do that after the election, Tom.

ROGAN: Right. But we’re not talking about it, are we?

CLIFT: No, and we shouldn’t be right now.

ROGAN: And President Obama talked about it in 2008. He didn’t do anything.

BUCHANAN: We’re talking about it. You’re making up for the deficiency.



PAGE: Every administration has talked about it, they haven’t done anything.

You know, Washington tends to respond to crisis. We get to a national security crisis and then they’re going to take action. It’s not something people --


CLIFT: Congress will deal with it, with whoever is in the Oval Office, when the crisis comes, I’m convinced of that.



TRUMP: I don’t want to stop free trade. I love free trade. But I want to make great deals. I want to take a deal that’s faulty, where we’re losing hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars a year. If I can make it good, isn’t that a positive thing, OK?

MCLAUGHLIN: Donald Trump regularly attacked Hillary Clinton for supporting free trade. And United Auto Workers president, Dennis Williams, says that Mrs. Clinton has assured him she will renegotiate NAFTA if elected president.

But Bernie Sanders is also pushing hard against the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Here’s what Senator Sanders said on the Democratic Convention.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: We have got to make sure that TPP does not get to the floor of the Congress in the lame duck session.

MCLAUGHLIN: Note this, in a January study for the National Bureau of Economic Research, "The Economist" reports that China specific trade has had a major impact on manufacturing-related unemployment.

Still, others say that when the supply chain of major U.S. corporations are considered, unemployment rates from free trade are far lower and they say free trade saves American families billions of dollars each year.


ROGAN: Well, in a minute, Pat and I are going to go to war on this issue, but in deference to Clarence’s introduction - Patrick?

BUCHANAN: Well, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve lost scores of thousands of factories and millions of manufacturing jobs since the turn of the century and there’s no doubt about it, that’s directly related, $12 trillion in trade deficits, $4 trillion with China, which means we’re buying that many more goods than we’re selling abroad.

But, politically, the key thing is that, not only Bernie Sanders who voted against those trade deals and Trump who’s winning it, and running against those trade deals, Hillary Rodham Clinton says she will not go for TPP and she’ll take another look at NAFTA.

That is a huge thing, though. I do believe this is a fact. TPP is dead for this year. I don’t believe the Republicans can take it up with Barack Obama, even though the Chamber of Commerce and others will do it. And where we’re headed on this is really contingent upon who wins the election.

I think in her heart, Hillary Rodham Clinton is a globalist, a free trader, just like her husband was when he passed NAFTA and GATT, WTO and MFN for China.

CLIFT: Well, I have an historical memory and I remember 2008 when both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said that they were going to reopen NAFTA. It was actually a bit of an issue during the campaign when Obama’s trade adviser actually talked to the Canadians and promised them that and it was leaked. Obama got in the White House, we never heard one more word about going back into NAFTA.

And then you go back further, 1960, you’re familiar with that, Pat. The two islands that Nixon and Kennedy argued over, Quemoy and Matsu, it’s a huge issue during the campaign. Two little islands I think in the Philippines. They were never heard from again.

I think they need to improve the TPP. But you’ve – maybe it’ll get a little fix in there and I can be passed, if not in the lame duck, in the next president, because it does set the rules. And there were 12 nations involved, this is not just the U.S. debating. And you hand the rule book over to China, if you just opt out. And China is not part of the deal. This is part -- this is a geopolitical strategy, our rivalry against China. This is much more than trade policy. The trade policy needs to be made better for workers.

ROGAN: I -- sorry, I do think though in terms of -- my support for free trade comes down on the notion that I genuinely believe and I respect other people disagree, that free trade saves American families thousands of dollars a year because it allows, for example, a t-shirt to be made abroad at lower cost than it would be made here. So, that saves families money.

Yet, that National Economic Bureau report that came out earlier this year, I think produced a moment of intellectual pause or challenge to people like myself, in the sense of identifying all those pro-TPP. But they identify the degree to which the destruction, relatively, of American manufacturing from China was not we didn’t pay enough. It was much worse in terms of the NAFTA impact than we though. That doesn’t mean free trade deal was wrong, but it means we need to be more cognizant of it.

And then the second point is, I think in terms of the political dynamics now, I do think it has shifted. I don’t think TPP can get through. And ultimately, what’s going to happen you see this from left and right, the idea of globalism and the idea of -- as much as Eleanor and I and perhaps Clarence, you know, would support TPP, the political dimensions both from the left and the right have shifted quite systematically, I would say even more so than immigration and Trump.

PAGE: Yes, I think the shift because people are aware of it now, I mean, globalization is not a new term, not a new issue, but most folks were not paying much attention to it before. Now, they’re starting to question, now, maybe that’s why my factory closed down. Maybe that’s why my account isn’t the way it used to be. So, there’s a lot of emotional attachment to this now.

And I think everybody needs to be better informed about it. But, you know, China is the big Kahuna in the Pacific. Our neighbors want TPP desperately because they’re worried about China to be even more powerful and everything getting even more lopsided. So, there’s still a lot of work to be done about the mechanics of this.

BUCHANAN: You mentioned the intellectual argument and you mentioned the t-shirts. I was down at Rayne, Louisiana, when they closed the t-shirt factory and there are 500 women out there in tears, their families were broke. Many of these families are broken up. They lost their jobs. They go on unemployment. Towns die, all those things that you don’t read about in Eco 101. This is what has happened to the country.

And politically, you have a country which has had, with having all those jobs and factories sent abroad based on some great ideology that you folks are preaching and the rest of it, I don’t think -- I think if the Republican and Democratic Party get together and pass another one of these trade bills and it has this kinds of consequences, you are going to tear American politics apart.

CLIFT: Yes, the trade deals are a convenient scapegoat for a lot of other reasons why those jobs don’t exist anymore. What we need is some imaginative policies to help the people who’ve been left behind.

You’re not going to revive all those towns by bringing back factories that make t-shirts. We’re into a high tech manufacturing. Again, Hillary Clinton does have some proposals --

BUCHANAN: It is so simple to do. Let me give you such a quick suggestion, put a 20 percent tariff on all manufactured goods coming into the United States, take all the money and eliminate taxes on small business in the United States. Maybe a Lexus will go from $50,000 to $60,000, they’ll buy more Cadillacs.

CLIFT: Well --

BUCHANAN: The Japanese will bring --


ROGAN: This is very important. This is very important. This is so important.

It’s not about the Lexus. It’s about the t-shirt in Walmart, to the poor family and they are going to get screwed, I would say, by that trade policy.

BUCHANAN: What do you think happen to all these --

ROGAN: You’re talking about jobs. What about the economic patriotism of families paying a lot more?

BUCHANAN: How about 93 million people drop out of the labor force?

ROGAN: How about -- so, every family in America is paying thousands of dollars more, you’d accept that cost.

BUCHANAN: How do you think -- we used to make t-shirts here, fine. 1950s, we made them all ourselves.

PAGE: Not anymore. Not anymore.

CLIFT: We could handle a little, we could handle a little increase in the cost of t-shirts. What we need is more vocational training. We need, what, Clinton suggested the other day, apprenticeships at corporations so that people have jobs they can go into. You need to have college tuition affordable.

These are all issues that can address what’s basically wrong with the American economy.

BUCHANAN: You’ve got scores of millions of people who barely got of high school. Some of them don’t get out of high school. They can work with their hands. They can do an awful lot of things, and you’ve sent all their jobs abroad.

PAGE: We’re starting to get to an area of agreement here. Let’s not pass over too quickly because Hillary Clinton raised a very good point. Who is Donald Trump’s core support group? It’s non-college whites, those who no longer have jobs like they used to, like what you’re talking about, and this is the thing.

She got a lot of applause the other day when she said we need to have some alternative to college for young people. All of them don’t belong in college.

ROGAN: Would everyone agree on this? If we had a program in American high schools with some federal grant where you were taught electrician, plumbing --

BUCHANAN: You used to have that.

CLIFT: We have those.

ROGAN: Right. But those jobs are not going to go --


ROGAN: Those jobs are not going overseas because the technology, you still need the plumbing to do, you still need an electrician let’s -- all of us can embrace that.

CLIFT: You still some basic technology. And so, yes, I do think there’s a responsibility by government to better educate our citizens for the jobs that are actually there.

BUCHANAN: You have in the ‘30s and ‘50s --

CLIFT: Instead of dreaming about bringing that factory jobs that don’t exist.


BUCHANAN: Few people went to college in those days, with all kinds of guys left high school, they married, had kids, small houses by the time they’re 30.


PAGE: It’s all computers, you know? We got the Internet. We got -- a lot of stuff is new.

BUCHANAN: People make computers too. People make computers --


PAGE: Computers are made in a number of countries at the same time. This is the other side of trade, Pat. You know, while on the one hand, yes, we’ve had losers in trade, we had a lot of winners in trade, too, and you’re going to disrupt them as well.

BUCHANAN: Put a small tariff on computers coming in, and cut taxes on computers made in the United States.


PAGE: Well, you’re going to disrupt those jobs as well if you’re going to raise tariffs.

BUCHANAN: The 19th century, nobody went to college and we had more people working, became the greatest manufacturing power on earth.

PAGE: Have fun with your Model T.

CLIFT: You’re not going to bring back the 1950s, you had to deal with the world as it is. Jobs are different today, and we had to prepare for those.

BUCHANAN: You keep sending them abroad and you’re going to deal with the brand new world in America. You’re not going to like.

PAGE: We’re making jobs here too, Pat. It’s not a one-way deal. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be engaged in trade. Nobody talks about that.


PAGE: No, we got --

ROGAN: Jet engines.

PAGE: They tend to be skill jobs. That’s thing. You see, they tend to be skill jobs.


BUCHANAN: Japanese are making the wing for the Boeing, the new Boeing aircraft.


CLIFT: Actually, there’s a lot of creative stuff going on. Obama has written a number of these manufacturing hubs around the country. The media never covers this stuff, however. We only cover the problems.

ROGAN: OK, let’s go to another issue.


MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three --


MCLAUGHLIN: Pope Francis has made big news for three different reasons. First, the pontiff suggested that the pursuit of great wealth is, quote/unquote, "basic terrorism against all of humanity".

Next, the pope defended Islam against critics who say it faces a problem with violent extremism. His comments here followed the recent murder of an 86-year-old Catholic priest in Northern France by ISIS sympathizers.

Still, all fatihs suffer from fundamentalists, said the pope, arguing, "If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence", unquote.

Finally, the bishop of Rome established a commission to consider whether women should be eligible to become deacons or ministers ranking below priests in the Catholic hierarchy.


BUCHANAN: Well, I think if you’re talking about Pope Francis and his talk about wealth and excessive greed for wealth, there’s no question about it, it’s a real problem. But I would not equate that with terrorism.

Secondly, Christian terrorism, there might have been some recently that existed in Northern Ireland. But to compare that with what’s going on in the Middle East, and all the countries around the Islamic world and ISIS and al Qaeda, it seems to me is politically preposterous.

The Holy Father is basically I think is a very liberal Catholic and who’s unenthusiastic about traditional Catholicism in a lot of ways, and I think while there’s a lot of people applauding him for his emphasis on poverty and the rest of it, I think in terms of theology, I don’t think he’s very helpful in terms with church unity.

CLIFT: Well, I look at him as a 21st century leader who is trying to move a conservative global institution into modern times, especially recognizing the downside of capitalism, just as it’s been recognized the downside in our political campaign here, because a lot of people get left behind. And his attitudes about women, I think, are really received joyfully by a lot of Catholics and non-Catholics, because I think that’s also in fitting with modern times.

He’s a very good politician and he’s in a hurry. I mean, he’s not a young man, and he may be moving the church too fast for some people, but I think he’s moving it in the right direction. And he is enormously powerful, because he has really connected with people not only in his church but far beyond his church.

ROGAN: I think the problem with the pope most certainly for me is that when he complains about the excesses of capitalism. And to some degree, he is right about that inherently.

He’s very delusional, I think, based on the lesson of history as to the horrors in a comparative sense of socialism, of communism, of the Latin American style of socialist project that he seems to subscribe to. It hasn’t done anything positive for the world. Capitalism with government spending in some way has been the cause of mobility, opportunity.

And on that point with terrorism, you know, Islam, the vast majority -- and it must to be said, and especially in the United States it must be said, the vast majority of American Muslims are good patriots. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people. But there is a specific political route in Islam which explains why you have so many more atrocities committed by people in the name of Islam than Christianity.

PAGE: I think he’s trying to say -- well, he’s trying to say that, yes, and the Christian churches had those problems in the past, other religions have had those problems. And we need to separate the politics from true religion.

And there is a problem with having violent politics taking over ones religion, and the Catholic Church is trying to fight back on that, but also deal with diversity here on the planet.

The church is also, interestingly, internationally, they’re losing members in the First World, gaining them in the Third World. And the First World is where the church gets its income, as well as the fact that that’s the future.

BUCHANAN: Exactly right. Catholicism --

PAGE: You know, you’re talking about new generations now --


BUCHANAN: Catholicism is dying in Europe, but it’s exploding in Sub-Sahara Africa enormously.

PAGE: That’s right, and Latin America.

BUCHANAN: Well, in Latin America, Protestantism or evangelical Christianity has really been rival to Catholicism and very successful in recent decades.

PAGE: That’s true.

BUCHANAN: I don’t think Pope Francis is going to rank with John Paul II, Eleanor.

CLIFT: Well, in some people’s minds, he might. You could say that he is capturing the same populist strains that we’ve seen in our political election here.

ROGAN: And at least he inspires other people to the notion of faith.


PAGE: And we’re going to see a little bit more of that.

ROGAN: OK, let’s shoot for some predictions.


BUCHANAN: There’s been a skirmish on the Ukrainian-Crimean border. Several Russians inside Crimea were killed. Putin says that Ukraine is coming in to destroy its tourist industry. These guys have sabotaged equipment. It looked like they were, you know, starting terrorist acts. There could be real problems on that border between Ukraine and Crimea and problems between Russia and Ukraine.

CLIFT: The hemorrhaging of support for Donald Trump among elected Republican officials will continue. Senator Susan Collins was the headliner this past week, but members of the Senate and the House are really looking at this as a danger zone, where they have to create enough distance from their nominee in order to ensure their own reelection.

PAGE: Everybody is waiting for Donald Trump to make a pivot toward the middle in raditional fashion. He’s not going to pivot.

ROGAN: I predict there will be a surprise for Hillary Clinton in October from the Russians.

But on the behalf on the panel, we all want to say to John, we’re thinking of you and you have our very best.