THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; JAY CARNEY, TIME; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
TAPED: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2006
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 25-26, 2006
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thanksgiving means thanking God and man for blessings. Maybe the biggest is our planet earth, and maybe we're not taking enough care of our planet earth. Let's see.
Issue One: It's Too Darn Hot.
KOFI ANNAN (U.N. secretary general): (From videotape.) The question is not whether climate change is happening or not, but whether, in the face of this emergency, we ourselves can change fast enough. Instead of being economically defensive, let us start being more politically courageous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's exhortation is the latest argument over global warming. In referring to a frightening lack of leadership, clearly Annan was faulting chiefly the U.S. for rejecting the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next five years by 5 percent below 1990 levels.
The president of Kenya made the same point in language that was less diplomatic. "Tackling climate change is not a matter of choice. It is an imperative that must be addressed if we are to assure the continued survival of our planet."
Dr. James Hansen, chief of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says failure to halt the further depletion of the ozone layer will put New York City and Washington, D.C. under water. "I think we have less than a decade to avoid passing what I call point of no return."
Skeptics of global warming say that Hansen's data is far from solid. Republican Senator James Inhofe, outgoing chair of the Senate Environment Committee, takes this view. "The Arctic was actually warmer in the 1930s than it is today. The big question here is, is it man-made gases that have anything to do with global warming or with the climate change? And I say that it's not, and that's the big issue there."
Skeptics further argue global warming is cyclical, occurring at regular intervals naturally. But global warmist Al Gore says, "The debate's over. The people who dispute the international consensus on global warming are in the same category with people who think the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona."
Question: Is the debate over the science of global warming over? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it is not, John. It is not conclusive, solidly conclusive. It is happening. It is not solidly conclusive as to what causes it. It is not solidly conclusive as to whether it is injurious.
This is part science. It is part ideology. And it is part religion, as a matter of fact. And what is happening is the peoples of the West are being stampeded into an immense transfer of power and authority and money to a global international elite.
The real danger, John, I think, comes from a loss of sovereignty and independence of nations. Almost no nation has followed the Kyoto protocol. The Europeans pay it lip service. The Chinese are exempt. The Americans have ignored it. And I don't think we're any worse off than when it was signed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the science on global warming, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: The science is overwhelmingly in support of the fact that the phenomenon is happening, and a large part of it is man-made. The figures are dramatic. And what Pat has just laid out is really a theological argument that's made by a very small number of people in the political world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Neanderthals.
MS. CLIFT: The Neanderthals, okay -- not to put too fine a point on it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think Pat is actually paleo.
MS. CLIFT: And --
MR. BUCHANAN: I'm a paleo, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: And to be, you know, criticizing the Third World for not doing their part -- we have used up all of these resources; they have a natural inclination to want to get theirs. But they've actually been more responsible than we have. And I think you see governors in this country now; you see mayors. People who do business in a global environment understand this is a phenomenon. And business actually is much more progressive than the federal government.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If the science is that man is responsible for a big segment of this global warming, how can respected leaders like Jim Inhofe take a contrarian view, as does brother Buchanan?
MR. CARNEY: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know --
MR. CARNEY: -- I don't know about brother Buchanan, but I can say that I think there is a political force behind the argument that the science is hokum or we still need to debate, and it is driven largely by the very powerful lobbies for the oil and gas industries in the United States.
And, you know, it is not in their interest to see gas taxes imposed. It's not in their interest to see all sorts of measures that might have been taken -- might be taken. And it's not in their interest, frankly, for progress to be made on the search for alternative sources of energy.
What's silly about not acting now is that there are huge opportunities here, including national security opportunities. The Middle East is the most troublesome region in the world for the United States. What props up the regimes that cause us so many problems is oil and our dependence on it, and it skews the way we deal with these countries. If we could find a way to reduce our dependence on the oil of autocracies in the Middle East, we could solve a lot of problems. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to propagate a lot of wonderful farm lands with windmills? Is that what you have in mind? Do you think solar energy can do it? We've been doing programs around here for over 20 years on the photoelectric cell.
MR. CARNEY: Are you so convinced that we are so limited in our capacities to find scientific solutions to major problems that we should just give up, drain the earth of oil and then leave it to some future generation?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to put behind the alternative energy applications in industry the kind of money that would be necessary? And who gets the benefit of that financial bonanza?
MR. CARNEY: I think that the --
MR. BUCHANAN: Who pays the price, John?
MR. PAGE: It's not just windmills.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'd like to hear from you.
MR. PAGE: Well, you know, Jim Inhofe is from Oklahoma, of course. I mean, to be against oil in Oklahoma is like being against gasohol in Illinois; I mean, certainly corn farmers and sugar cane farmers, et cetera. I mean, there's a lot of different alternative fuels. Jay is absolutely right. We have got to reduce our dependency on oil, and that is transcending party lines now. And Eleanor's also right to say that we need to talk about the environmental impact of these --
MS. CLIFT: Senator Inhofe --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you get into any demonstrations of the disasters that will occur, do you remember the Y2 problem that we had at the turn of --
MR. BUCHANAN: Y2K?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember that? MS. CLIFT: That is a totally different magnitude.
MR. BUCHANAN: We're going to run out of oil.
MS. CLIFT: That was worries about whether the computers could make the transition. This is -- we're talking about a 10-year window here. And if we don't act over the next 10 years, it's going to be irreversible.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the purpose of this --
MS. CLIFT: And Senator Inhofe, by the way --
MR. BUCHANAN: Okay.
MS. CLIFT: -- has, like, a zero rating from the environmental --
MR. BUCHANAN: So what?
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me -- has, like, a zero rating from the environmentalists. And he, thankfully, will not be chairing that committee anymore in the Senate.
MR. BUCHANAN: But John, look, when you start talking about 10 years to do this, the whole idea is to panic people. We've got to transfer power, and all these people with this knowledge -- "If you give us wealth and power, we will solve this terrible problem." This is a great scam.
Now, I agree with you 100 percent about reducing America's energy dependence. But the idea that we're in some kind of global crisis is nonsense. California rejected a tax on these very energy companies. And no country in the world is complying with Kyoto.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the Y2 scare, Pat --
MR. PAGE: Why not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the Y2 scare, as I recall, you said that world civilization was going to crash at midnight on December 31st.
MR. BUCHANAN: You had Paul Ehrlich and all those doomsayers. The one thing that is happening is the population is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the man-made component of global warming an established scientific fact? Yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: It is a component. But how great a component it is is clearly not known. And a lot of people think it's almost negligible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor. MS. CLIFT: The mountain of evidence is that it is man-made. And there was just a report recently that polar bear cubs are not surviving to the extent that they used to because the polar ice cap is melting. The ozone layer is thinning. I mean, you have scientific evidence everywhere. And to deny it and saying that this is a scam seems to me totally irresponsible. And making a political point and trying to scare people to side with you --
MR. BUCHANAN: Who's scaring people?
MS. CLIFT: -- that the scientists are taking over --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's hear from the gentlemen.
MR. CARNEY: There is enough evidence -- even if there is the debate over the degree of impact, there is enough evidence to merit taking action. And action should be taken. It's in our interest at so many levels to do it.
MR. PAGE: John, I've been following this issue since you first started discussing it on this program back in the 1940s. (Laughter.) And I want tell you, Eleanor's right. The preponderance of evidence is growing on the side of human impact accelerating global warming. When you first started talking about this, conservatives were even reluctant to observe that global warming was happening. Now it's happening, but man hasn't had anything to do with it. Well, man has something to do with it, and we're discovering that more and more all the time.
MS. CLIFT: The evangelicals in this country are worried about the planet, and the Democrats got a third --
MR. BUCHANAN: You're quoting the evangelicals now?
MS. CLIFT: The Democrats got a third of the evangelical vote.
MR. BUCHANAN: And you're accusing me of invoking theology? (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: Pat, they're mine now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is that the burning of fossil fuels creates enough carbon so as to abundantly show that a critical component of global warming is man-made.
Issue Two: Price Tag.
TONY BLAIR (British prime minister): (From videotape.) We know climate change is happening. We know the consequences for our planet. We now know urgent action will prevent a catastrophe, and investment in preventing it now will pay us back many times in the future. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Prime Minister Tony Blair's excitement over global warming stems from a new 700-page report from the British government that measures its economic impact. The report was compiled by Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist at the World Bank and a current adviser to Blair.
Stern says a rise of five degrees Celsius over the next 100 years will cause major flooding and the displacement of millions of people, plus drought, famine, animal extinction, tropical disease and social unrest.
Therefore, Stern recommends that 1 percent of the world's global domestic product, or $450 billion per year, be allocated to capping greenhouse gases and using cleaner fuel. If the world does not pay now, the cost within 50 years will be 5 to 20 percent of the world's global domestic product. That's as financially ravaging as the combined cost of World War I and World War II.
Question: Is global warming an environmental issue or, in fact, a mainstream economic issue? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: It's an environmental issue that blends right into the economy, because the cost of addressing it is high. But there are also -- as Jay said earlier, there are opportunities here. There's a whole new technological frontier that can be opened up if there was the political will.
I'm somewhat hopeful. Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary in the Bush administration, is a huge environmentalist, and global warming is his particular issue. The vote that the Democrats got from the progressive community, they want the members of Congress to begin to take on some of the big issues. The '08 presidential campaign, every candidate is going to have to have a plan on global warming which says that it is now in the mainstream of political life.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Arnold Schwarzenegger won in California because he seized this issue, and it played beautifully in California because the harm that would occur to the central valley, the farming there, and the coastal regions would be enormous. So he portrayed it as an economic issue, and that's where it is today. Would you not agree?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think it is. And it's important politically to explain it to people that way, to remind people --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. CARNEY: I think he's hopeless. He's hopeless.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ali G had this problem too, didn't he, with the BLTs? (Laughter.) MR. CARNEY: Exactly. I think you have to explain it to people in terms that make it relevant to their lives. And I think Schwarzenegger did that effectively. When he pushed through that global warming measure, he effectively put the stake in the heart of the Democrats from California. And I think you'll see many more Republican converts to the cause in the next year or two.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The above average number of violent hurricanes -- Katrina and the ravaging of Katrina and the cost of that -- people are now becoming aware of the economic component, and that is giving this issue vitality and locomotion. Yes or no?
MR. PAGE: Well, I think Katrina certainly did give a wake-up call to everybody so far as how bad it can get when a disaster of that sort hits a highly populated area. This has been coming on for the last decade, and we've seen those Category 5 hurricanes increase. But I think this is partly a social-educational issue, too, John, that in the private sector, as Eleanor mentioned earlier, we're starting to see some action happening.
MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let me get back to this --
MR. PAGE: And that will lead to political action.
MR. BUCHANAN: Let's get back to some facts. We had a very good year as regards hurricanes after the year of Katrina.
Secondly, California is responsible for about 1 percent of the gases and things that are going on global warming. So nothing's going to happen as a result of that.
Third, the tax on energy in California was defeated.
Fourth, 1 percent of the U.S. GDP is between $120 (billion) and $130 billion. If the Democratic Party comes down with taxes and regulations to that effect, it will destroy his opportunity, which is for an industrial policy for this country, for jobs for working Americans and the middle class. That's where it ought to go.
MS. CLIFT: Pat, that's right out of your presidential campaign about 10 years ago.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's Webb's campaign. It's the Democratic campaign in Michigan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Here's the way Al Gore would handle it. In a well-remarked speech at New York University last month, Al Gore had a recommendation on how to meet the true cost that coal, oil and gas inflict on the environment -- a levy. Gore suggests a tax on carbon emissions in place of the existing payroll tax. That carbon tax would mean, of course, that windmills, nuclear reactors and solar panels would then multiply more rapidly.
Al Gore, of course, is the originator of the film "An Inconvenient Truth," which has been widely heralded.
Question: Is a carbon tax, replacing the payroll tax, an idea whose time has come? Clarence.
MR. PAGE: Not quite yet, but we're heading there. What's interesting here about the politics of that is that the payroll tax tends to hit the lower wage earners heavier. A carbon tax would penalize high-carbon-emission cars or factories. Just like Jack Kemp always said, if you want less of something, tax it. And so the idea here is to attach a penalty which is transferable.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got an exit question, and it's tailored for Pat Buchanan. Exit question -- because it goes back to Ben Franklin -- is global warming a case where Ben Franklin's adage is true? "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, $450 billion is not an ounce of prevention, John. And secondly, we do not know that this is as great a crisis as this panel appears to feel it is, and we ought not to do something foolish and destructive in the real world to defend ourselves against what is unreal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the rest of us all agree that Ben Franklin is right.
We want to get to issue three. Will there be Hill rising Fahrenheit?
TONY SNOW: (White House press secretary): (From videotape.) The president has, in fact, contrary to stereotype, been actively engaged in trying to fight climate change and will continue to do so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the president can expect plenty of help in the fight against global warming from the incoming Democratic majority in Congress. Various shades of liberal Democrats will be taking over key environmental standing committee chairs, once occupied by some of the most conservative members of the House and Senate.
The outgoing and incoming committee chairs are rated by the League of Conservation Voters, the LCV, a private-sector government watchdog environmental activist group. Zero means zero environmental activism, based on key Senate and House votes. An LCV grade of 100 is environmental sainthood.
Here's the Senate committees' breakout.
Environment: Outgoing Republican James Inhofe, Oklahoma, zero; incoming Democrat Barbara Boxer, California, 100. Energy: Outgoing Republican Pete Domenici, New Mexico, 14; incoming Democrat Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico, 100.
Resources: Outgoing Republican Richard Pombo, California, 17; incoming Democrat Nick Rahall, West Virginia, 92.
Energy: Outgoing Republican Joe Barton, Texas, eight; incoming Democrat John Dingell, Michigan, 100.
Do you want to give us comment on that, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, there will be dramatic change in terms of the issues discussed, the kind of people who are hauled before these committees to debate the topic of climate change. But you cannot pass anything through the Congress and get it signed by the president, first of all, without 60 votes in the Senate and without a willing president who's not going to veto something.
So unless the president embraces this, and therefore says, "Republicans, follow me," I don't expect -- I expect a lot of discussion and debate about ways to improve climate change, but not much else.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is the power equation in the Congress shifting now? Is it shifting in favor of activist measures to combat global warming, do you think?
MS. CLIFT: Yes. Yes. I mean, looking at those numbers and looking at those faces, I'm getting goose bumps -- (laughter) -- about the possibility of change. And there is legislation in the Senate. John McCain and Joe Lieberman have a global warming initiative. So, you know, it takes a long time to move a democracy, and you have to have a sense of crisis. But we are getting to that point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In researching this subject, I came upon a definition of Gaia, G-A-I-A, which means in Greek, of course, earth mother. And the Gaia refers to James Lovelock's theory about this whole planet. He says the earth is a self-regulating system made up of the totality of organisms -- the surface rocks, the ocean and the atmosphere, tightly coupled as an evolving system and striving to regulate surface conditions so as always to be as favorable as possible for contemporary life. Isn't that an interesting concept? The world is an organism. It's unitary.
MR. PAGE: That's right. It's true.
MR. BUCHANAN: You think that's true?
MR. PAGE: It does have regenerative qualities too, John.
MR. BUCHANAN: You mean, the world has a soul? Are you kidding?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I'm not --
MR. PAGE: I remember back in the 1960s, everybody was saying Lake Erie was dead. And Lake Erie came back by the 1980s because of action to halt pollution. So it can be done.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think what he's also saying is that the smallest collection -- the smallest number of cells somehow relates to the totality in order to sustain itself.
MR. BUCHANAN: You mean, the earth heals itself, if you will? In other words, if an asteroid hit it, it would heal itself as a living body tends to heal itself?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's a touch of that. And, of course, that's mysticism.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that's your area.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This goes back to paleontology.
MS. CLIFT: There is an ecological balance, and we tamper with it at great danger.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quick exit question.
MR. BUCHANAN: All right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get this in, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I just said ecological balance, okay? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: According to recent polls, Bush's approval rating has fallen to a new low, 31 percent. Can he resurrect it by embracing environmentalism in his last two years? Yes or no, strictly.
MR. BUCHANAN: If he goes for global warming, he will sink it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?
MS. CLIFT: I think he could have a legacy that would be memorable if he did --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
MS. CLIFT: -- move to the middle and embrace this, yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he can?
MR. PAGE: He'll put his own brand on it. He's going to have to work out a deal between what he wants and what the Democratic Congress wants.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Paula Dobriansky let out a few signals this week at a conference that he could very well do something with Kyoto. They want to see how it plays in California.
Issue Four: China Revs Up.
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government houses the Energy Technological Innovation Project. It has published a report on the emergence of the Chinese auto industry. Unfortunately, say environmental critics, neither the American car manufacturers nor the Bush administration did anything to influence China to steer clear of gasoline combustion engines.
Quote: "Even though cleaner alternatives existed in the United States, relatively dirty automotive technologies were transferred to China," says Energy Technology Project Director Kelly Sims Gallagher -- so more Chinese smog, more Chinese greenhouse gases, more coal- fueled utilities.
Question: What is unrealistic about this latest academic ambush of Detroit?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it sounds, John, honestly, flawed in the idea that out of good will or sort of school-marmish thinking that Detroit should have sent over its hybrid technology.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what was --
MR. CARNEY: If the Chinese want that technology, they can buy it from the Japanese.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would they do with that technology if they had it? They would take that technology and they would defeat Detroit. Why should any capitalist want to do that, to give your -- MR. PAGE: Well, if there's a profit in it. That's why. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They would have used it against our own --
MR. PAGE: China is such a growing market now that it has no place to go but up. And like Jay said, they can go to Japan and buy it if we won't sell it to them. One way or another, they're going to get it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Chinese markets have an edge on American markets.
They have no labor laws. They have no environmental laws. What else? They have their own national health system, so there's no private requirements to pay health care on the part of individuals.
MR. BUCHANAN: They have no pensions and stuff like that.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but the handwriting has been --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No pensions.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, John, China is the biggest polluter on earth. They are driving for industrial and manufacturing supremacy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And do they get a break in the Kyoto treaty?
MR. BUCHANAN: They're exempt from the Kyoto treaty, and they're not going to follow --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you a question.
MS. CLIFT: The handwriting has been on the wall for a long time. Al Gore wrote a decade ago that the combustion engine needs to be phased out. And the big three automakers were just in Washington whining about the cost of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't you tell your friend Al Gore to tell the Chinese that they ought to sign the Kyoto treaty before they start preaching to anybody else or before they start to steal --
MS. CLIFT: Before we start lecturing the Chinese, maybe we ought to sign the Kyoto treaty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Democrats will not go for amnesty on immigration.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: '08 candidates will vie for the title of who's the biggest environmentalist -- even Republicans.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jay. MR. CARNEY: No fewer than 10 Republicans will have opened exploratory committees by February.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.
MR. PAGE: Contrary to my good friend Pat, the Democratic Congress will not pass a gasoline tax the next two years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting. I predict that the fight against global warming means Americans working together. There's no other way to do it. So neighborliness, the American communitarian impulse, for a long time sidelined in the U.S., will resurrect itself.
Happy post-Thanksgiving. Bye-bye.