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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2005
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 30-MAY 1, 2005

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Bush Out, Putin In.

Russian President Vladimir Putin strode boldly onto the world stage this week with an historic trip to the Middle East -- Egypt, Israel, Palestine. First stop, Cairo; the first state visit to Egypt by a Russian leader in 40 years. At a press conference with President Hosni Mubarak, Putin proposed a conference of high-level experts on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process to be held in Moscow later this year.
Second stop, Jerusalem, where Putin made history as the first Kremlin leader to visit Israel ever. In a meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that lasted over three hours, Putin agreed to share more anti-terrorism intelligence.
But Putin refused to back down on sensitive issues between the two countries, although he sought to assuage Israeli fears on them: One, Russian anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. Israel opposes it. Putin says the missiles are short-range and pose, quote, "no threat whatsoever to Israeli territory," unquote. Anti-aircraft assemblages will be mounted on 18-wheeled flatbed trucks and driven to the Syrian palaces of President Bashar Assad because Israeli warplanes have been buzzing them.
Two, Russian nuclear technology to Iran. Israel opposes it. Russia, quote, "is categorically against any attempt by Iran to get nuclear weapons," unquote, Putin declared in Jerusalem on Thursday, but warned, quote, "Iran must not hinder putting all their nuclear programs under complete international control. Russian action will depend on how Iran responds," says Putin.
Putin's third stop, Ramallah, within the Palestinian territory. There he met with Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who at one time studied in Moscow. The Palestinians welcome Russian participation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, called the road map, sponsored by the quartet -- the EU, the U.N., the U.S., and Russia.

Question: Are you startled that Putin would go to Israel, the first Russian leader to do so since Israel came into existence 57 years ago? Patrick Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I'm not, John. The United States has been hectoring Putin. We've been interfering in his backyard in Ukraine and Georgia and Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. And what he is doing is he is coming back and saying, "We can play in your backyard."
He's a member of the quartet. He's got weapons to sell. He's got veto power in the U.N. over our Iran policy, our North Korea policy. We have been making a mistake in driving this man away, who was a good friend of the United States, and now he's becoming a competitor and a rival in the Middle East, as he's got every right to do because he's a member of the quartet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think the president has driven him away. I don't think he has seriously confronted Putin at all. And I think what this trip is about is trying to assert Russia on the world stage; you're right about that. But it's to divert attention from -- the life of the ordinary Russian these days is pretty much like it was under the old Soviet Union. They can hold their head high in the world, but life at home is pretty miserable.
Anything he has suggested on this trip, nothing changes the rivalry on the ground. I think he is -- you know, this is symbolic. This is not serious.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to work this in, Tony and Clarence, and we'll resume the round-robin. Mr. Putin -- it may be asked, should we be concerned about Russian arms sales to Syria? Those are the flatbed trucks with the anti-aircraft armamentarium on them. Answer -- this is what he says: "Arms supplies to the Middle East total $9 billion. You may want to correct me, but our assessment is that U.S. arms supplies to this region exceed $6.8 billion. In contrast, Russia's arms supplies to this region total less than half a billion dollars. The question then is, why is it that our Israeli partner worried about our arms supplies to Syria?" What do you think of that response to those who are concerned about his selling the anti-aircraft weaponry to Syria?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's essentially a non sequitur on his part. First --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is that? MR. BLANKLEY: Well, first of all, this isn't only our backyard. It's been Russia's backyard from Pakistan to Persia, Turkey --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Egypt. Yemen.

MR. BLANKLEY: All through the period of the Cold War, they were deeply involved in the Middle East, arming the Arabs against the Israelis. So this is a return to a traditional hunting and playing ground of the Russians. So that's, in part, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't it his sphere of influence? Isn't he saying to George Bush, "Why don't you concentrate on Mexico?"

MR. BLANKLEY: It's no longer his sphere of influence, but he'd like to get back into that game. But regarding Syria, the arms, the only two air forces that are likely to be targeted by those are the Israeli or the American air forces. And it was a consciously hostile act.
Now, he has a right to do whatever he wants. He's a sovereign country. He can play in the game. But he understands well that this is judged to be a hostile act by the United States. On the other hand, the intervention on the Iranian nuclear supplies is more ambiguous. And last night -- earlier this week the president of the United States had said he didn't have any problem with that. So he's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not quite.

MR. BLANKLEY: Putin's getting back into the game, and he's going to be playing not entirely as an ally but not necessarily as an opponent of ours.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In addition to what he's saying, the president, I thought, was quite mild on this question of the anti-aircraft apparatus that Putin is selling to Syria.

MR. PAGE: Yes, he was.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me try this out on you. This question was put to him in some form. "Sir, what happens if some of the arms falls into terrorist hands?" That is, the arms to Syria. And he said, quote, "As for the possibility that these weapons Russia is selling to Syria might find their way to the terrorists, are you sure that of the $9 billion I just mentioned, no weapons will ever fall into the hands of terrorists in the Middle East?" You see his point?

MR. PAGE: Oh, yes. Putin plays a very clever game here, you know, of tit-for-tat and moral equivalence. But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's bigger in his quantum on the game? Is Putin bigger than Bush in this particular instance when he comes up with these figures of $6.8 billion (West?) spending on arms sales over --

MR. PAGE: Well, there's no question that we have sold more arms in that area. But when you talk about selling anti-aircraft weapons to Syria, you're talking about escalating a tit-for-tat that's been going on for a long time. Israeli jets have been buzzing the palaces there in retaliation for the Kitusha rockets fired into Israel from Syria and from the Golan Heights.

This sort of thing can escalate the entire interplay between them by selling anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.

MS. CLIFT: It's such a minor escalation compared to the heavy hardware that we have in the area. And if we're worried about weapons falling into the hands of terrorists, we still go back to the old Soviet Union and all of the loose nukes and the uranium stockpiles that are there. That's the real concern.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, these aren't Stinger-type surface-to-air missiles, which would be dangerous, which can travel. These are big things on trucks which the Israelis can keep their eyes on. But the Syrians have every right, quite frankly, not to have the Israeli pilots buzzing the palace of their president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's talking about Kitusha rockets. What about those?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Kitushas are rockets you fire into Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the Syrians firing those --

MR. PAGE: Those are short-range.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- into the Golan?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, they're not. For heaven's sakes, they haven't -- the Syrians have been faithful ever since 1973 in the Golan. What you have to worry about is these manned pads, these Stinger types. I think it's the Strella missiles, not the ones that are driven by trucks that are sitting around the palace. The Israeli pilots can spot those and take them out in 10 seconds.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, a final note on Putin, his outreach. On Thursday, Putin presented Israel with a monument that commemorates the Holocaust, saying this, quote: "In the 21st century, there can be no place for xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of racial or religious intolerance. This is not only our debt to the millions who died in the gas chambers. It is our duty to future generations." That was Putin in Jerusalem this week.

How were you impressed by that? I ask you, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, obviously it's true that the 20th century was a horror of anti-Semitism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about his -- doesn't that -- don't you welcome those words? Do you get any reassurance from it?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He has an anti-Semitism problem in Russia.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, Russia, like other countries, has a long history of anti-Semitism. And it is always encouraging to hear leaders speak against that. I think that's a positive statement. I don't think it would be likely that he would have come to Israel, the first Russian leader in history to do so, and not make that kind of respectful statement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He also showed a great deal of interest in the museum and what the offenses were committed by Russians --

MS. CLIFT: During the Cold War, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the Holocaust.

MS. CLIFT: During the Cold War, I think the government of the Soviet Union encouraged anti-Semitism. I mean, now it's a complete reversal and anti-Semitism is way down. A lot of the Russian Jews are going back home. So, I mean, I think that's a positive development.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it was a positive thing. He went to Yad Vashem, as all the leaders do when they go to Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a big --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he did the right thing. Look, he's playing both sides here. And I think it's very smart of him to go to Israel. I don't see anything the Israelis can really take sharp offense with when he says he's going to pick up that nuclear material from Iran and he's just given these big truck-driven surface-to-air missiles to put around Assad's palace, for heaven's sakes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, the exit question is the following. This is really big-game geopolitics, I think. I think there's a feeling of encirclement that Russia feels. I think they now have the Baltics that are in NATO. They now have Poland which is in NATO, right on their border. They have lost Ukraine. He feels an inclination, I think, towards the West. And his (stamp?), as you well pointed out, is Egypt and it's Yemen and it's Syria.

MR. BUCHANAN: And Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Iraq, right. And he sees our troops there, right?

MR. BUCHANAN: Mmm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the exit question is, is this the beginning of a new era of competition between the U.S. and Russia? And what will it entail? I ask you.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is, but Putin can't be successful for this reason. He simply does not have the resources. When you're talking about money and real clout, the Americans have it. What he has is weaponry, but he cannot give them the kind of offensive stuff which will be provocative. So I think, in a way, he's playing a game, but it's not the great game that Khrushchev and the others played in the Middle East.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, are you underestimating the importance of the soured feelings in the Muslim world towards the United States right now and the fact that Putin is on the scene wooing those feelings? Are you underestimating that?

MS. CLIFT: Iraq could well end up being a client state of Iran. I think Putin has a better chance of getting along with Iran than this country. And Putin also is sitting on some oil. I mean, he doesn't have the infrastructure to get at it, but he's one bright spot in the --

MR. BLANKLEY: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait just a moment.

MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible) -- of the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I'm a little surprised that Tony failed to mention --

MR. BLANKLEY: I haven't had a chance. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You had your chance. I gave you a lot of time. (Laughter.) My point is that he's one of the members of the quartet. He's with the United States, the United Nations. Who's the third?

MR. BUCHANAN: EU.

MR. BLANKLEY: EU -- European Union.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: European Union, and Russia.

MR. BLANKLEY: And he's also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So, therefore, he's now trying to secure an Israeli-Palestinian peace, which more than anything else is the biggest lever that can effect positive change in that part of the world and eliminate, to a great extent, terrorism. True?

MR. BLANKLEY: And he's also part of the six-nation negotiations in North Korea. Russia has a role, but it's a role more like France than the United States. He can try to be a world player, but he's a regional player who's playing to pride, influence and irritation to the United States from time to time. But he can't be an equal player because he doesn't have the resources, as Pat correctly observed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they are underestimating the strength of Russia and Putin? He looked pretty good this week, didn't he?

MR. PAGE: Well, he looked good as a world player, somebody who's getting into the game. But Eleanor's right; this is a large distraction from his domestic woes and from the conflict that he is showing in terms of whether he's a true democrat or trying to be a pseudo-plutocrat dictator right now.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that historians will look -- I ask you this, Pat. You have some pretense at reading history. Do you think historians will look back on this spring's Putin trip to the Middle East as a watershed event?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't. Look, we give the Egyptians and Israelis about $6 billion a year. He can't play in the league with the United States. What he can do, John, is use that veto if, as I expect is coming, Iran is going to walk away from its talks with the Europeans. We're going to try to take them to the Security Council. We're going to have China and Russia with vetoes. He can also veto American policy on North Korea. He's got some weapons to play with, but he's not in the big game.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's why I say it's like France.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this a comeback for the U.S.-Russia rivalry? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is -- well, I think he's laying down a challenge, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's going right into that Middle East, isn't he? Huh?

MR. BUCHANAN: He is, indeed. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: First Semester Report Card.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I've been disappointed. I felt that people could work together in good faith. There's a lot of politics in the town. And my pledge to the American people is I'll continue to work hard with people in both parties and share credit and give people the credit when we get something done.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why did Bush choose this moment, 100 days into his second term, to hold his fourth prime press conference in his four and a half years as president -- the longest, in fact, of the four press conferences? Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: He chose this time because his second term was going down a sinkhole; lowest approval ratings of his presidency; a court nomination embattled; the country feeling like he's overreaching on judges, on Terri Schiavo; and a privatization plan that nobody is buying after he spent the last two months campaigning across the country. So he's trying to rescue his presidency, basically.

MR. BLANKLEY: Let me jump in here. He's doing it for the reason I said on this show two or three or four weeks ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you for that, Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: That's all right -- which was that around the 1st of May he was going to announce the position he was going to take on Social Security, after the 60 days he's been running around the country, which just ran out, at the time when the Senate is beginning to mark up the bill, that at that point he would start his endorsement and his initiative for the legislation. That happened this week.

MR. PAGE: That wasn't wise.

MR. BLANKLEY: And that's the primary reason -- well, he's a stubborn man and he doesn't run away at the first sign of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was that again?

MR. BLANKLEY: He's a stubborn man.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obdurate?

MR. BLANKLEY: Obdurate, bullheaded.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.

MR. PAGE: Well, that's the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we'll get to that in a minute. I want to make sure we've got all of the --

MR. BLANKLEY: And there's one other reason. It was good to change the topic right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get more of the first-semester pass- fail. First, the pass: Tort reform, bankruptcy reform, Iraq elections, new Iraq government. These are all pluses. Iraq supplemental from the U.S. Congress, $81 billion; estate tax repeal; '06 budget passed by Congress this week, $2.6 trillion in the budget. ANWR drilling is likely.
Okay, first-semester fail: Gas prices up, as Eleanor pointed out; economy slowing; private Social Security accounts unpopular and getting more unpopular the more his peripatetic activities continue; weak approval rating, about 47, 46 percent; lame duckhood looming; Schiavo backlash; Bolton unbolted; Tom DeLay sullied; Iraq insurgency force strength in 2005 the same as in 2004 -- so says Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers. And here's Myers saying it.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS (CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF): (From videotape.) I think their capacity stays about the same. And where they are right now is where they were almost a year ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he also said, "But we're winning the war," which raises the question, well, if we're winning the war and you say what you say about force strength, that means we've been treading water for a year. And that doesn't make anybody feel good, does it? But what I want to say is, what do you -- do you want to argue with any of those grades and the way they were distributed? Are they okay? Let me move out to the -- (laughter).

MR. PAGE: As long as you ask, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to argue?

MR. BUCHANAN: He failed to raise -- he's in horrible trouble on immigration, and both North Korea and Iran are defying the Bush doctrine.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, this is true. This is true. Anyway, Bush is not giving any ground at all on Social Security private accounts. Are we witnessing a self-inflicted political death by a thousand self- inflicted cuts?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or did he build an escape hatch this week?

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Watch for a minute.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I feel strongly that there needs to be voluntary personal savings accounts as part of the Social Security system. It's got to be a part of the comprehensive package.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there an escape hatch in there?

MS. CLIFT: No. I mean, what he's trying to do -- progressive indexing is a fancy word for cutting benefits for 70 percent of the population, because it would only protect 30 percent at the low end, people who make under $20,000. So he would turn Social Security from an insurance program that everybody gets into a poverty program for the low-income, an investment program for the high end.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does it do to the middle class?

MR. BUCHANAN: That is just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: It drastically cuts the benefits for the middle class.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Twenty to 40 percent?

MR. BUCHANAN: That is terribly unfair. It does not cut benefits at all.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Pat. Let him talk, Eleanor.

MR. BUCHANAN: Every single benefit anybody gets is indexed for inflation, so there's no cut. What you don't get is the pay raise everybody gets if you're retired and fairly well-to-do. This is a perfectly legitimate program. I do agree with Eleanor, it's in deep trouble. But frankly, this thing is being demagogued as I've rarely seen an issue demagogued before. And the Democrats are totally, completely irresponsible in this.

MR. PAGE: Without demagoguing, remember that the reason why FDR established it the way he did was so there would be a sense of shared value, that this would be viewed as an insurance program and not as some kind of a socialized retirement plan.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get back to the issue, Tony. I want to ask you about the issue. We're talking about the political analysis of what this is doing to him as a president by -- and I want to know whether it was an escape hatch. And I'll tell you what I think it is, to save you time. (Laughter.) Do you know what it is? You heard what he said.

MR. BLANKLEY: I heard what he said.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said a comprehensive plan -- comprehensive plan.

MR. BLANKLEY: So it could be a side piece, you're saying.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So I'm saying he is going to do this by accretion. There's going to be phase one, phase two --

MR. BLANKLEY: Voluntary --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and then hopefully the person will be --

MR. BLANKLEY: No, no, no. I disagree with you. It's going to be a voluntary phased-in personal account. But the personal account will be part of the original package. But the reason he has to say that is, one, he believes it; and, two, if he hadn't stood by that, he'd have lost his base of support of conservative Republicans in the House and Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's killing him. It's the central piece and it gets more unpopular the more he travels.

MR. BUCHANAN: His problem is, John, it's much larger. The presidency is in what John Bunyan called a slough of despond. A lot of the good news is behind him, and he's only got -- and Tony and I were talking about this earlier -- he is in trouble on issue after issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: You know what he's got? He's got the judges' war. He's got to go to war on the judges and win that war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will you allow that his performance this week was strong?

MR. BUCHANAN: I thought he was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the questions were tough.

MR. BUCHANAN: He was a fighting president this week in that press conference.

MS. CLIFT: His attitude is always the same. "I know what I'm doing, and I'm not going to let anything get in the way of accomplishing it." He does not come across as somebody --

MR. BLANKLEY: And your attitude is always the same -- that he doesn't know what he's doing. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: He does not come across as somebody who's ready to compromise.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stop picking on Eleanor. What was that, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: He does not come across as somebody who's ready to compromise. And by cutting the benefits of the middle class --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know where he went to school. He went to Harvard Business School. He's conducting himself like a CEO. But there's politics involved in the current job, aren't there, Pat?
Okay, the human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, including suicides, 1,574; U.S. military amputeed, wounded, injured, mentally ill, all now out of Iraq, 38,650; Iraqi civilians dead, 109,600.

Exit: Assign an achievement grade to President Bush's first 100 days of his second term, A to F. You got the question, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You begin.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I give him a C, and I'm a fairly easy marker. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Correct.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That wasn't easy. You could have been easier than that. Go ahead, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: He gets an F for "flop." He's inept on economic policy. There's no clear --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see --

MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible) -- in foreign policy. He's out of his depth on Social Security.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is a whole category of pluses, of passes over there.

MS. CLIFT: The business community would give him an A.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you give him? What do you give him?

MR. BLANKLEY: Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She flunked him.

MR. BLANKLEY: He's had successes in Iraq, on the election, in Lebanon. The democracy project, which he announced in his State of the Union address, is so far doing very well, better than anybody expected.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His what?

MR. BLANKLEY: The democracy project.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that?

MR. BLANKLEY: Democracy in -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh. That's doing well? Even though the force strength is the same over the past year?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but the elections, the choosing of government, the driving of the Syrians out of Lebanon. So he's had --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, so you're giving him credit for that? Hariri's death had nothing to do with it?

MR. BLANKLEY: They both had something to do with it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, why doesn't he ease up even more on Syria, in view of the fact that there's no weapons of mass destruction to be found there?

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to move on. We've got to give him a grade.

MR. PAGE: At best --

MR. BLANKLEY: And he passed a bunch of legislation. C+.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: C+?

MR. PAGE: C+, C-. At best he has been able to -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I am a critic of the president, but I think he deserves a B-. I think he's at the B level.

Issue Three: Miami Heat.

Is Florida turning into the wild west? A new self-defense law signed by Governor Jeb Bush this week has some thinking so. Under current law, Floridians can use deadly force if attacked by intruders in their homes or cars. Now they will be able to do so in public, on the street or at work or in the public square. It's called Stand Your Ground and allows Floridians the right to use deadly force in any place, quote, "he or she has a right to be," unquote, if they feel they are under threat of death or bodily harm. Stand Your Ground also voids existing Florida law that obligates all persons in a self- defense situation to first try to escape that presumed dangerous situation before using deadly force.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR JEB BUSH (R): (From videotape.) When there's a life-threatening situation, to have to retreat and put yourself in a very precarious position defies common sense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is this a license to kill?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not. Some woman who's being attacked in her home doesn't have to run away now. She can shoot the guy who attacked her. She's got a right to carry a concealed weapon. Great victory for Bush and for America, John.

MS. CLIFT: Well, you always had, if you felt genuinely threatened, you can defend yourself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, please.

MS. CLIFT: It's the reasonable-man standard. This removes the reasonable-man standard. It basically says as long as you feel like it. This is Jeb Bush trying to cement the right wing for a presidential run.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, it doesn't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BLANKLEY: It doesn't remove the reasonable-man standard. I think it's a good idea and it simply takes out into the street the rights you've always had in your home and car.

MR. PAGE: It's also called the shoot-from-the-hip law. You've even got to aim that well now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. economy is slowing. The U.S. trade deficit is huge. Will the economy get better or get worse?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's going to limp along where it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Fiscal train wreck.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Train wreck.

MR. BLANKLEY: Slightly better in the fourth quarter.

MR. PAGE: It's going to limp along where it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It'll get better and these negatives will be held in check by the Euro (zone's?) own weakness. Bye bye.

END.