THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; JAMES WARREN, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 10-11, 2007
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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Crackdown to Back-Down.
PAKISTANI PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: (From videotape.) Elections in Pakistan must be held before 15 February, 2008.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Musharraf yielded, as we saw. But a question remains for President Bush and the nation. Namely, what happens if Musharraf's back-down reverts to crackdown? Will U.S. aid to Pakistan go forward?
Since the September 11th attacks, Pakistan has received $10 billion in U.S. foreign aid, some of it used to secure Pakistan's nuclear bomb arsenal; $6.2 billion of that $10 billion is military aid to reimburse Pakistan for the 100,000 troops stationed along the Afghanistan border, where Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding. Another $1.6 billion of the $10 billion is for advanced American weapons systems, including F-16 fighter jets and ship-to-ship missiles.
The question now is, how do we balance U.S. support for Musharraf, who has been an indispensable ally in the war on terror, against the growing civil unrest in Pakistan, on the one hand, and calls for democracy on the other? If Musharraf's pro-western moderate government falls and Pakistan tilts towards Islamic extremism, Osama bin Laden wins. And if Osama wins, Osama gets the bomb.
Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister, has been confronting Musharraf all week. Musharraf has acceded to her two fundamental requests -- the military uniform and elections. This was designed to deflate her threat of continued resistance.
Question: Do we need Pakistan more than Pakistan needs us? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think, John, we both need each other. If Pakistan should fall to the Taliban types, the radical militias and al Qaeda, we would have a disaster on our hands -- a country of 170 million people with the atom bomb that would make Iraq look like a tea party and Iran be of no concern.
We both need each other. There are three forces there. There's the army and Musharraf, there's Mrs. Bhutto, and there's the Taliban radicals. And what we've got to do is try to maintain an alliance of the army, with or without Musharraf, with Mrs. Bhutto and the popular elements in order to continue the battle and contain those elements in the west of the country. Otherwise we've got a disaster on our hands. And we need Pakistan. If we lose Pakistan, I think you've got a defeat in the war on terror unlike any we've experienced.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you talking about a Bhutto presidency?
MR. BUCHANAN: You've got a Bhutto military alliance between Musharraf, or whoever succeeds him in charge of the army, if she becomes prime minister.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, how likely is it the army will defect from Musharraf? He's been in the army for 43 years.
MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, I want to commend Benazir Bhutto showing extraordinary courage in standing up to the military ruler and conveying President Bush's concepts of democracy.
Secondly, the military is a stable institution in Pakistan. And they are, above all, pragmatic. But they are not going to go down with Musharraf. I think they would switch their allegiance from one general to another quite easily. And I think what's required now is some diplomatic finesse by the administration to see if a power-sharing arrangement can still be worked out, or if not, some sort of face-saving way for Musharraf to step aside. But I think the military is in control there, and they will be in control even if Benazir Bhutto is able to win the elections, which, if they're held, she will win.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Musharraf can hold on to the military, which is the key to survival?
MS. CROWLEY: I think he can. And I want to agree both with Eleanor and with Pat on specific points. After 9/11 the Bush administration threw its lot with Musharraf. But there's always been a fundamental inconsistency between Bush's support for Musharraf, a military man who came to power in a military coup, and Bush's broader push for spreading democracy.
General Musharraf is the only bulwark that exists in Pakistan against the Islamists because he's a military guy. So if he goes down -- this is where I agree with Pat -- if he goes down, the whole thing collapses. And I've got a problem with the Bush administration right now calling for -- these constant calls for democracy in Pakistan. Democracy in Pakistan is going to look a lot like democracy in Gaza. And to push it now, forcing a collapse of Musharraf -- Benazir Bhutto is a smart, tough cookie, but the Islamists in Pakistan will have her for breakfast.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, James? Do you think that our security in the United States trumps democracy in a pure state, if that can even be conceived, for Pakistan?
MR. WARREN: It's complicated. And I've got to totally disagree with Monica. I think Musharraf has tried to cultivate the notion of his indispensability. He's tried to cultivate the notion of him as last bastion against the extremists. And that is not true at all. There are a lot of other secular generals who we could throw our lot with. And I think we'll throw Musharraf overboard if, in fact, popular support in Pakistan against the military rises, or popular support, I should say, declines, and if the U.S. has the nerve finally to yank some aid. I think at that point all these guys atop the military, who are his proteges, will say goodbye to him.
But nevertheless, having said all that and admitting that this is a mess for the U.S., I think our influence is very limited, all the more so since it's neither in Musharraf or Benazir Bhutto's interest to be seen as too close to us. And finally, it was just alluded to -- Afghanistan. That's the big problem. And we've got to focus more on something that Americans have not spent a lot of time focusing on.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your intuition of Musharraf as a man? Do you think he's a despot in the classic tradition of despotism? MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think he's got a lot of the shah in him, which is some measures of indecisiveness. And he really doesn't have the real composition of a hard-line Mussolini-type dictator. But I do think this, John. If it's a choice -- if democracy is not going to deliver somebody favorable to us, forget democracy in Pakistan.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know what his father did? His father was a diplomat all through life.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know where Musharraf studied? Musharraf studied in London.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but he's doing a pretty good -
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, a lot of them have it.
MS. CLIFT: He's doing a pretty good job locking up thousands of people, putting Benazir Bhutto under house arrest.
So I don't know how timid he is.
MR. BUCHANAN: That's not Stalin.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He calls it detention, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, right. But, look, the religious parties have never gotten more than 11 percent of the vote in Pakistan. It's essentially a moderate country. If free and fair elections go forward, Benazir Bhutto will get 70 to 80 percent of the vote. She is the face of the next government in Pakistan.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well -
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would that please you?
MS. CLIFT: That would please the world.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: It obviously is disturbing -- it's disturbing Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: No -
MS. CLIFT: I think a strong military -
MR. BUCHANAN: If she doesn't have the army -
MS. CLIFT: A strong military within the context of a civilian government. She's not opposed to the army.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, I know, but -
MS. CLIFT: The army is a stable institution. They're pragmatic.
MR. BUCHANAN: You saw them. If they don't get the hard army behind her, they will blow her to kingdom come, as they tried to do.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If -
MS. CLIFT: They'll get behind her if they think she's the next leader. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If -
MS. CLIFT: And there'll be another general that replaces Musharraf. That's the best outcome.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Musharraf cracks down on the protests, will the army go along with him?
MR. WARREN: It all depends on what the degree of popular support is for the army. Once again, those guys at the top, the other guys, have done -- the military -- have done very well by Musharraf. He's taken care of them big-time.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: In addition to that, they are all moderates, are they not?
MR. WARREN: Right. But, you know, they read polls, too, so to speak. And if there's a popular uprising, they're going to say bye- bye to him.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is your intuition? Do you think the army would stay with him if he cracks down on the protesters?
MS. CROWLEY: Well, it depends. But if the Islamists see that this is their moment, that they have an opening, it doesn't matter. They are going to push, with whatever power and force they have, to seize control of this country.
MR. BUCHANAN: John -
MS. CROWLEY: We're spending all of this time trying to deny Tehran nuclear weapons. Here we have a regime in Pakistan with nuclear weapons. And if we push this whole democratization too far, the whole thing is going to come crashing down, and you're going to have a regime in there worse than the Iranians.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the army is shot through with sedition. The intelligence services is shot through with people who are allies of al Qaeda. They helped put together the Taliban and those intelligence services. You'd better watch out who, down the line, is going to be rising to the top.
MS. CLIFT: So you're going to put more American money behind Musharraf when he looks like he can't survive?
MR. BUCHANAN: I'll put it behind him until he goes down.
MS. CLIFT: Right. Well, that's what's going to happen.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Bhutto could control, direct and command the army? MR. BUCHANAN: It depends on whether -- I think if she wins, the army's got no choice but to go with her, because at the top of the army they are anti-al Qaeda.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's nail it down. Will Pakistan's army stay loyal to General Musharraf? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: For the time being.
MS. CLIFT: If they think he's going down, they'll easily switch their allegiance. There are already names being put out of a secular general to replace him.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, don't forget, her position could be weakening a little because he has consented, both on elections and on the uniform.
MS. CLIFT: Maybe power-sharing is still an option.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the army stay with him?
MS. CROWLEY: I think the army does stay with him, because, again, he is the last remaining bulwark between them and the Islamists.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he's been a member of the army for 43 years.
MS. CROWLEY: And he's walked an incredible tightrope.
MR. WARREN; I'll give you an unequivocal maybe. They may. It depends on whether there's popular support in the country for the military. But I'll tell you, if the U.S. has the nerve finally maybe to pull some aid, I think those proteges, who've done very well by him, are going to say bye-bye to Musharraf.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are so chicken.
MR. WARREN: Nuance. It's called nuance. (Laughter.)
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is the army will stay with Musharraf.
Issue Two: It's the Oil, Stupid.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH): (From videotape.) Everyone knows that the war against Iraq was about oil. This administration is trying to gain control of Iraq's oil, with the help of Congress.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't laugh. Dennis Kucinich, Democratic presidential candidate and congressman from Ohio, is not the only one connecting the U.S. and Iraq's oil. Also former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, John Abizaid, had this to say about Iraq's oil: "I'm not saying this is a war for oil, but I am saying that oil fuels an awful lot of geopolitical moves that political powers may have there." Kucinich and Abizaid were echoing what Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, has already stated. "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows -- the Iraq war is largely about oil."
The oil in Iraq's reserves is one of the largest in the world. It's estimated that 300 barrels sit beneath the Iraqi desert, more than even Saudi Arabia. Who controls it? If Iraq's Parliament passes its oil law, designed by the Bush administration, American companies would get access to 63 of Iraq's 80 known oil fields for 30 years. And that's ownership of the oil.
This, of course, means that the U.S. will have enduring military super-bases in Iraq, as both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Bush have renamed them, with South Korea as the model, where the U.S. still today has a presence more than 50 years after the end of the Korean War.
The Pentagon now has four, quote-unquote, super-bases in Iraq. The largest, an air base in Balad, is the size of a small town, Tom Ricks, author of the Iraq bestseller "Fiasco," reported in The Washington Post. The Balad air base is heavily trafficked. "We're second only to Heathrow," an Air Force general told Ricks.
These super-bases, not to mention the Pentagon-scale U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which handles a staff of over 1,000, mean that a complete pullout of U.S. forces is off the table.
In effect, the United States has acquired a protectorate, with $30 trillion in oil wealth, practically guaranteed geopolitical hegemony, and inexpensive gasoline for the U.S.
Question: In an area of $100-per-barrel oil, is access to Iraq's oil brilliant foresight on the part of Mssrs. Bush and Cheney? Was there a method to their madness after all? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: I think oil was a quarter or a fifth as expensive when Bush took office, before the invasion. So I don't think you can make a leap that this is brilliant.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but that's a hiatus. I mean, when we get the Iraq oil, it'll be a buck a gallon.
MS. CLIFT: Look, we're in that region because we're protecting a strategic reserve that we're addicted to. I remember former Secretary of State James Baker, during the first Persian Gulf war, when he had this evolving set of reasons why we were going into the region. Oil was one of them.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.) (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: And he discovered that that didn't resonate well with -- American people don't like to think that we're spending soldiers' lives for oil. But it's an element. We wouldn't be there if oil wasn't part of the equation.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting that you said that. Aside from the fact that all of those reserves are in the ground, what else makes Iraq oil so attractive? Let's see how good you are. Try to redeem yourself.
MR. WARREN: Well, it's going to be difficult competing with this novel McLaughlin-Kucinich-Greenspan strategic analytical alliance here -
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MR. WARREN: -- rife with conspiracy.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Work with it. MR. WARREN: Look, the ultimate problem is consumption in the U.S. and, coming down the pike, consumption in China and India. Our consumption has gone up from 17 (million) to 21 million barrels a day since about 15 years ago. Even though China is now consuming just a third of what we consume, they're ratcheting it up. And if they go and India goes at the same pace, it doesn't matter if we have total control of that oil; we are ultimately going to have to come to terms with the need to be a little smarter about consumption.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, we got your point.
MS. CROWLEY: A hundred bucks a barrel for oil -- yeah, we're doing a great job about controlling the world market price by going into Iraq. It's ridiculous.
I agree with Eleanor. We ought to be a lot more honest about at least one of the motivations for going into Iraq. The United States of America does not commit its resources in blood and treasure to strategically insignificant parts of the world. So, of course, oil was part of it. It wasn't the only reason. It wasn't even the biggest reason. But the fact that the Iraq government is still such a disaster area, where they can't even get their own oil out of the ground and we're doing the best we can to help them do that, the idea that somehow the United States could compete with the Russians and the Saudis in the world marketplace is crazy.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. I'm going to answer my own earlier question. The value of Iraq oil, besides the fact so much of it is in the ground, the volume of it, is the fact it can be floated. You can float it away on boats and bring it in that way. There's not a lot of the world's oil that is susceptible to doing that.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- Pat, work with this and get your other point in. Can we declare with certainty that the true cause of the Iraq war was oil? Yes or no.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, we would not have gone into Iraq if oil were not there and important. But Bush went into Iraq for three reasons: Hubris, John, ideology, and geostrategic interest. He saw an American opportunity, after the big victory in Afghanistan, to impose America's ideas and ideology and power on the vital region of the world. He was going to be Winston Churchill.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it Oedipal?
MR. BUCHANAN: Was it edible? DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oedipal.
MS. CLIFT: Oedipal.
MR. WARREN: O-E-D --
MS. CLIFT: Father-son.
MR. WARREN: Ancient Greece.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oedipal. Was it Oedipal?
MR. BUCHANAN: For his father. You mean he was going in to do what his father failed -
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Father didn't get to Baghdad.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I wouldn't say that about Barbara Bush, John. (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: Transforming the region into democratic states was an afterthought. The original reason was to topple Saddam, which looked easy and a way to outdo his father. It was Oedipal. (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: In 2002 there was a Strategic Defense Initiative paper. Do you remember that, strategic defense?
MR. BUCHANAN: National Security Strategy document.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right, National Security Strategy. Good, Pat. You're good for that small-bore stuff. (Laughter.) That said that the United States would never surrender its number one status in the world no matter what happened. Do you remember that?
MR. WARREN: Right.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We would maintain that, notwithstanding anything. We're number one, and we'll be the only one who's number one. It was that kind of bravado, okay. Now, in order to be number one, you really have to have oil. Oil is an absolute necessity for it in today's world. Therefore, arguing logically, can you say that our reason for going into this war was oil?
MS. CROWLEY: The national security report that you're talking about was also pre-9/11. So I'm not disagreeing with you, John, but I'm saying that the oil was one component of a bigger picture post- 9/11, which included --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it the dominant component? MS. CROWLEY: It was, I would say, probably about 50-50 --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MS. CROWLEY: -- the other half of which was the nature of Saddam Hussein's regime and the idea that they could possess weapons of mass destruction in a post-9/11 world.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but they knew before they went in, did they not, Pat, that there were no -- no, they didn't know. They didn't know.
MR. BUCHANAN: They were told --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I guess they thought there were.
MR. BUCHANAN: ElBaradei said there are no nuclear weapons, and the inspectors had found no WMD.
MS. CLIFT: Right. And they chose not to believe that.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.
MR. WARREN: Well, with apologies to your new ideological soul mates, Dennis Kucinich and Alan Greenspan, no, I don't even think it was 50-50. I think it was, first and foremost, Saddam; maybe 70-30.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know whether or not Kucinich is calling for the impeachment of the president? We know that he is.
MR. BUCHANAN: He's going for Cheney's too.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's got 22 co-signers. What?
MR. BUCHANAN: He went for Cheney. I think he's going for Bush too.
MS. CLIFT: He's going for Cheney first, I think.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that because he thinks we entered Iraq because of oil?
MR. BUCHANAN: He thinks we were lied into the war. That's what he claims that Cheney did.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that -- I think you're pretty close to the mark; maybe a little higher than 50-50. I'd say it was about 40 percent oil going into Iraq.
Issue Three: Christians Onward and Sideways.
Republicans running for president cannot win without Christian conservatives. But Rudy Giuliani is all set. He gained critical fundamentalist support this week from America's most prominent televangelist Christian, Pat Robertson.
PAT ROBERTSON (televangelist): (From videotape.) We do want a front-runner for the Republican Party who can win the general election.
RUDY GIULIANI (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Having him aboard gives us a great deal of confidence.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Although Reverend Robertson and pro-choice Giuliani make strained bedfellows -- Giuliani is pro-choice -- Robertson says Giuliani's leadership as mayor of New York, the scene of the 9/11 attacks, makes him the best candidate, adding that Rudy has the wherewithal to defeat the formidable Hillary.
This professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa sees the Robertson endorsement as a significant plus for Giuliani.
DONNA HUFFMAN (University of Northern Iowa professor): (From videotape.) Republican caucus-goers in Iowa do tend to be a little bit more socially conservative, and so that's good news for him.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Another prominent conservative leader, Paul Weyrich, head of the Free Congress Foundation, announced his presidential choice -- Mitt Romney. Romney immediately proceeded to knock Giuliani.
MITT ROMNEY (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I don't think the Republican Party is going to choose a pro-choice, pro-gay civil union candidate to lead our party.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Robert Jeffress, doesn't want Romney to lead the party. The reservation of Reverend Jeffress may turn out to be both widely held and lethal.
REV. ROBERT JEFFRESS (pastor, First Baptist Church of Dallas): (From videotape.) Mitt Romney is not a Christian. He's a Mormon, and Mormonism is a cult.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And yet another prominent conservative leader, Donald Wildmon, the founder of the American Family Association, endorsed Mike Huckabee.
Question: How do these Republican candidates -- Giuliani, Huckabee and Romney -- rate with Republican values voters? I ask you, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: They're all split, John. All of them get some share of it. The Christian conservatives are not united, and they're deeply divided. And Robertson moving with Giuliani, who is the least acceptable, is damaging to that movement.
MS. CLIFT: The Robertson endorsement is going to backfire big- time on Giuliani. It's going to open the door for Romney to launch a big attack exposing Giuliani's positions.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Bernie Kerik.
MS. CLIFT: And Kerik. And Robertson isn't all that popular among evangelicals.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five seconds. MS. CROWLEY: What is so important about these endorsements is they neutralize the two big outstanding issues for the evangelicals. For Rudy, it's abortion and gay rights. And for Romney, it's the Mormonism.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the evangelicals being split? How bad is it?
MR. WARREN: This is typical -- the whole premise here is that this is a monolithic group. This is not a monolithic group.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not yet.
MR. WARREN: We in the media think --
MS. CLIFT: It will be.
MR. WARREN: -- they're one homogeneous group.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it come together?
MR. BUCHANAN: Hillary will bring it together.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: What's in a Name?
Well, for Hillary, it's all in a name. Americans are already on a first-name basis with her -- no title, no surnames, no initials, just Hillary -- not President Clinton, President Hillary. "Hillary" is everywhere. Whether it's newspaper headlines, bumper stickers, lapel pins or TV commentary, it's all "Hillary," not Clinton.
Well, so what? Here's what. McGill Tribune writer Elizabeth Perle believes a name is powerful, especially in politics. "Last names are genderless. Referring to someone using his or first name is an indirect way of calling attention to his or her gender. In the case of female politicians, perhaps labeling them with their first names is an attempt, conscious or not, to make these figures appear less serious, respectable, powerful, or, more bluntly, less like a real male politician."
Question: When Margaret Thatcher was given the moniker "Iron Lady," did the gender specificity in any way single her out as less serious, less respectable or more powerful? I ask you, James.
MR. WARREN: No, it had absolutely no significance. It underscored that she was a tough politician. That was it. And remember, this is a celebrity-crazed culture. And whether it's Angelina or whether it's Oprah or whether it's Britney or Tiger, we increasingly love those monikers.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about "Ike" Eisenhower? Didn't that "Ike" have kind of an endearing impact? MS. CROWLEY: Yes, of course. And, look, going by the first name is the only thing that even vaguely humanizes Hillary Clinton.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: John McCain will gut Rudy over Kerik.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: If Giuliani is the nominee, serious third-party, pro- life party, probably headed by Ron Paul.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: No matter whom the Democrats nominate, Bill Richardson is the vice presidential pick because he's the only executive in the bunch.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: James.
MR. WARREN: Forty-two Americans put to death so far this year; nervous prosecutors, as a result of some Supreme Court rulings, will not put anybody to death maybe for another year.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The next big thing will be China goes green.