THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2007 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 8-9, 2007
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The Latter-Day Saint.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney promised this week that the Mormon Church would not run the White House if he was elected. The pledge came in a long-awaited speech designed to reassure voters who are wary of his Mormon faith.
FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church, for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did Romney clear the hurdle? Did he dispel doubts about his Mormonism? Pat. MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think that was the best moment of Mitt Romney's campaign. I thought it was a magnificent speech. He defended his faith. He refused to back down from a single precept. He put himself on the moral ground basically with the traditionalists and the conservatives in fighting the cultural war. And I think he did about as well as he can do.
Now, did he satisfy everybody? There are folks, frankly, among fundamentalists, some of them who have been e-mailing me because of a column, who really believe that there's no way that you can say that a Mormon is a Christian. But he stood up and said, "I believe Jesus Christ is my savior, lord and savior." And I think he did as well as he could do, and I thought it was an outstanding speech and he ought to be proud of it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he dispel your doubts, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, he had to reach back nearly half a century to align himself with John F. Kennedy. But unlike Kennedy, who then, after he spoke to his Catholicism, was able to set religion off to the side, Mitt Romney is now going to run full force on the fact that he is a religious man -- not necessarily fronting his Mormonism.
This was really a speech about mainstreaming Mormonism and telling social conservatives that he's one of them when it comes to values. And I think he was in the broad mainstream. I don't think he said anything that overly offends people who are more secular. And for a man with a reputation of being a flip-flopper, he finally looked like he had some convictions. I think it was a very good moment for him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Mitt was emphatic about his separation of church from state.
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Governor Romney emphasized this separation directly and indirectly throughout his address.
Let's hit the drum again.
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) If I'm fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States. (Applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was Romney strong enough in cutting his religious beliefs off from a possible role of president of the United States? I ask you. MS. CROWLEY: I think it was a very well-crafted speech. It was well-delivered. He was strong. And, look, because there are so many people in America who are still uncomfortable with Mormonism -- they don't understand it; they're uneasy about it -- he made the best of essentially a no-win situation, because, look, if he didn't give the speech, people would have said, "He doesn't have the confidence of his principles; he's not as bold as JFK."
Now that he's given the speech, people are attacking him and they're saying, "Well, you know, he's part of this Mormonism. He's defending his religion. He can't be trusted." So, look, he did the best with what he could, given the fact that there are so many people out there who are uncomfortable.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kennedy gave his speech in September of '60, mid-September, a month and a half or two months before the election. Mitt Romney's speech was mistimed. What do you say to that?
MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think because he's feeling so much pressure from the social conservatives, who are now flocking in droves to Mike Huckabee, he felt that he had to give the speech now. I think if he didn't have that kind of pressure from the conservatives, he would have waited until after he was the nominee and timed it closer to the general election.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Mitt and Jesus.
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) There is one fundamental question which I'm often asked: What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does this acceptance of the divinity of Jesus Christ hit the issue of Mormonism head-on?
MR. O'DONNELL: No. There's a big problem. Look, I'm not a Mormon, but I do play one on TV --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you a Christian?
MR. O'DONNELL: -- on "Big Love," the HBO series that has been a real headache for Romney.
Here's the problem. He dare not discuss his religion. And he fools people like Pat Buchanan, who should know better. This was the worst speech, the worst political speech, of my lifetime, because this man stood there and said to you, "This is the faith of my fathers." And you and none of these commentators who liked this speech realize that the faith of his father is a racist faith. As of 1978, it was an officially racist faith. And for political convenience, in 1978 it switched and it said, "Okay, black people can be in this church."
He believes -- if he believes the faith of his fathers that black people are black because in heaven they turned away from God in this demented Scientology-like notion of what was going on in heaven before the creation of the earth --
MR. BUCHANAN: Are you saying that his Mormonism disqualifies him from being president of the United States?
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm saying he's got to answer -- when he was 30 years old --
MR. BUCHANAN: He does not have to answer.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- and he firmly believed in the faith of his father that black people are inferior, when did he change his mind? Did the religion have to tell him to change his mind? And when he talks about the faith of his father, how about the faith of his great- grandfather, who had five wives?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, my great-grandfather had slaves, and I don't believe in slavery.
MR. O'DONNELL: And his religion is based on the work of a lying, fraudulent criminal named Joseph Smith, who was a racist, who was pro- slavery. His religion was completely pro-slavery.
MR. BUCHANAN: My point is, this guy said his beliefs. He is living by the precepts of his faith. This is a good man. He is a courageous man in what he has said.
MR. O'DONNELL: His religion believed in slavery. Did yours?
MR. BUCHANAN: I know. But, listen, Christianity condoned slavery for 1,500 years.
MR. O'DONNELL: You don't believe anything he believes, Pat. You don't believe any of it.
MR. BUCHANAN: I'm not a Mormon.
MS. CLIFT: Every religion --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat in. Let Pat in.
MS. CLIFT: Every religion has had its scandals. And I don't think we hold everybody who follows a religion responsible for all of the negative things that went on.
MR. O'DONNELL: You do when he says, "I believe every word of it." He was offered an opportunity to distance himself --
MS. CLIFT: I'm not comfortable --
MR. O'DONNELL: -- from the evils of his religion, and he didn't.
MS. CLIFT: I am not comfortable --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor in.
MS. CLIFT: I am not comfortable with dissing an entire religion. I prefer the approach that we are a pluralistic country and this religion should not disqualify him from running for president.
MR. BUCHANAN: John -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, wait a minute. Are you talking about the Inquisition in the Catholic Church? Are you making reference to that when you say, "We all have our skeletons in the closet"?
MS. CLIFT: If you want to bring that up -- you can bring up more recent scandals, for goodness' sakes.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is really --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let this young lady in. Let her in. Let her in.
MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, I agree with Pat when he starts to say, "I think it's an unfair assault on Mitt Romney." He was explaining -- he is holding the tenets of his faith very dear to him.
MR. O'DONNELL: So he was a racist until he was 30?
MS. CROWLEY: I don't think it's --
MR. O'DONNELL: We all accept that?
MS. CROWLEY: -- up to him to have to go and explain --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he accepts the divinity of Jesus Christ.
MS. CROWLEY: -- a couple of centuries' worth of this religion.
MR. O'DONNELL: There's only one person who's forced him to say anything about his religion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is --
MS. CROWLEY: But where are we in America where we're praising somebody for not chucking his faith out of the window in order to be president of the United States?
MR. O'DONNELL: A racist religion -- a pro-slavery religion.
MS. CROWLEY: Are you calling Mitt Romney a racist?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm saying he was a racist --
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Mormons didn't bring slavery to the United States of America. Christians did.
MR. O'DONNELL: Joseph Smith was a slavery champion --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, please relinquish. MR. O'DONNELL: -- the inventor of this ridiculous religion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence, please relinquish.
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) The notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgement of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they're intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: John F. Kennedy declared in 1960 in Houston, quote, "I believe in an America where separation of church and state is absolute."
Has Romney opened up a can of worms on two counts? One, 20 million atheists, who are also secularists, appear to be unwelcome in Romney's scheme of things. And two, he fails to replicate JFK's strategy. Kennedy called for church-state separation that is absolute.
I ask you, Monica Crowley.
MS. CROWLEY: No, Mitt Romney didn't come anywhere near that question. He didn't say that he was going to fuse his faith with the presidency of the United States. He was making exactly the opposite argument. And when you take a look at Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts, he didn't try to infuse his leadership there with his religion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he sacrificed --
MS. CROWLEY: And, by the way, this question about his Mormonism, it never came up when his father was running for president in 1968.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it did not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point he made?
MS. CROWLEY: And he was leading in the polls.
MR. O'DONNELL: It would have if I was on this show in 1968.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If I were on the show -- (inaudible) -- condition.
MR. O'DONNELL: (Laughs.)
MS. CROWLEY: John, the reason we're talking about this is because Romney has this extraordinary record of achievement as a leader in the private sector -- running the Olympics, running Massachusetts.
MR. O'DONNELL: No, we're talking about it because his religion is full of crazy beliefs.
MS. CROWLEY: No --
MR. O'DONNELL: Everyone on this panel --
MS. CROWLEY: The only thing you have to hit him with, Lawrence, is the Mormonism.
MR. O'DONNELL: -- thinks his religion is full of crazy beliefs. Every one of us does.
MS. CROWLEY: No, no. But that's the only thing.
MR. O'DONNELL: You won't admit it.
MS. CROWLEY: And so you've created this whole --
MR. O'DONNELL: Do you think the Garden of Eden was in Missouri?
MR. O'DONNELL: Who among us thinks the Garden of Eden was in Missouri?
MS. CLIFT: I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.
MS. CLIFT: I think every religion is full of crazy beliefs. This was a political speech, and I would have liked it if he had amended his statement about how religion and liberty and freedom are intertwined to say --
MR. BUCHANAN: But let me talk about --
MS. CLIFT: -- it's also the freedom to not worship. But I think that he --
MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let me talk about secularism.
MS. CLIFT: -- engaged a topic here --
MR. BUCHANAN: You made your point. You made your point. I used to work in Missouri, and I think --
MR. O'DONNELL: The Garden of Eden?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's there. I believe it's there. Look, he talked about secularism. What he is against is a militant secularism which is a religion --
MS. CLIFT: Oh --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- which is attempting to de-Christianize this country, driving God and driving the religion of the majority out of the public schools and the public square. And he said, "I will fight on your side to keep it there." Good for him.
MS. CLIFT: This is such a phony argument. MR. BUCHANAN: It is the truth, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Oh, this notion that "Merry Christmas" is being replaced by "Happy Holidays" --
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: -- and somehow that's an assault on --
MR. BUCHANAN: Why isn't the nativity scene on the White House lawn?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a scale from A to F, assign Romney's speech two grades -- the first for political effectiveness, the second for style.
MR. BUCHANAN: I'm going to give him an A, A on both of them, John. I think it was an extraordinarily effective speech. I think the style -- it's the best thing he's delivered. And I had not seen him as that good a speaker. The one point you made that's valid is it's not going to convince a lot of the fundamentalists and a lot of these other fellows over here. (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: Right. There's a sliver of evangelicals who will never vote for a Mormon, and there are people who do think the Mormon religion is a cult and they're not going to support that. But I think for the broad mainstream of America, this was a very successful speech politically. And for a candidate who has such a robotic style, he actually showed a little bit of emotion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the 20 million secularists and atheists? They can be mainstream.
MS. CLIFT: I don't think he's going to be cracking down on --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He waved them off. Didn't he wave them off? He had nothing to say --
MS. CLIFT: That was not his audience. He was speaking to Republicans and evangelicals --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said, "I would be the friend of anyone of any" --
MS. CLIFT: -- and Iowa voters.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said, "I would be the friend of anyone who shares my pious beliefs." In effect he said that.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think the atheists are going to have other candidates they'll be more comfortable with. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you approving of his shutting out the atheists?
MS. CROWLEY: Look, the atheists, 20 million atheists in this country, are going to vote for somebody. All of the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates claim to be people of faith.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much of the atheist vote --
MS. CROWLEY: There's not a single atheist running for president, John. They have to choose somebody.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much of the atheist vote did he lose? How much did he lose?
MS. CROWLEY: I don't --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This was all geared to Iowa and it was geared to South Carolina, was it not?
MS. CROWLEY: I don't think the atheists were going to go for Mitt Romney anyway -- (laughs) -- as a voting bloc. I give him an A- on effectiveness and A- on style.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think you're dredging up some of this liturgical stuff that's hangover from the Mormons.
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm dredging up what a candidate for the president of the United States --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's a little --
MR. O'DONNELL: Let me quote him. This is what he believes, okay? There's only one person who's going to talk about this, a radio talk show host in Iowa.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Make it quick.
MR. O'DONNELL: Romney has said publicly in Iowa that he believes in the second coming of Christ, which is going to happen. Then the world will be ruled by a world government based in Jerusalem and Missouri.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, recently he said this?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: The evangelicals believe Christ is coming back too.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe it? MR. O'DONNELL: He thinks the world is going to be ruled from Missouri.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When is he coming?
MR. BUCHANAN: End of the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When is that?
MS. CROWLEY: At the end of the show.
MR. BUCHANAN: Soon for you, John. (Laughter.)
MR. O'DONNELL: Look, Romney comes from a religion founded by a criminal who was anti-American, pro-slavery, and a rapist. And he comes from that lineage and says, "I respect this religion fully."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Huckabee's Hubris?
"Character Makes a difference." That's the title of an autobiography by Arkansas ex-governor Mike Huckabee, who wants to be the Republican nominee for U.S. president and is currently leading in the race to win the Iowa caucus three weeks from Tuesday.
So the heat is now on Huckabee, and that means character and judgment are in the spotlight. That could spell trouble for Huckabee.
In 1999, when Huckabee was governor of Arkansas, a convicted rapist named Wayne Dumond was freed from jail, 25 years before his sentence was to end.
At the time, Ashley Stevens, a woman Dumond had raped 15 years earlier, begged Huckabee to keep Dumond locked up. She described the rape scene.
ASHLEY STEVEN (rape victim): (From videotape.) I said, "This is how close I was to Wayne Dumond." I said, "I will never forget his face." And I said, "And you will never forget mine."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Upon his release from jail, Dumond raped again, two women, and he murdered both. Ashley Stevens described how these crimes made her feel at the time.
MS. STEVENS: (From videotape.) I just felt like it was my fault, because I just tried to do everything I could to keep him in jail, because I knew that was going to happen. And I felt so sorry for those families.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As for the two murder victims, the mothers of both blame Huckabee for the rapes and killings of their daughters. They say Huckabee urged the parole board to release Dumond. The mother of one of the murder victims, Lois Davidson, this week condemned Huckabee's judgment.
LOIS DAVIDSON (mother of murder victim): (From videotape.) I can't imagine anybody wanting somebody like that running our country, because he could make bigger mistakes than that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huckabee denies that he tried to influence the parole board.
FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE (Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Someone brought up his case. Frankly, it was simply a part of a broader discussion. I did not ask them to do anything.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Charles Chastain, a parole board member who judged Dumond, says Huckabee pressured the board into releasing Dumond. CHARLES CHASTAIN (former Arkansas parole board member): (From videotape.) Immediately all the other board members who voted on that case decided apparently if the governor wants it that he gets it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does the Dumond parole raise legitimate questions about Huckabee's judgment? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Well, look, now that he's moving up in the polls, he's getting lots of scrutiny. And it looks as thought he's not been completely honest about his role in the commuting of this sentence. And also it gets all involved in the feudal society of Arkansas and who hates Bill Clinton and the fact that this young woman was a distant cousin of Clinton and the right wing was pressuring Huckabee to take this action.
So, you know, it doesn't make me feel real good about his record of standing up to pressure if we're talking about people not being ruled by any particular church. He's got his own sort of conservative church that he's responding to.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, this report you have is exactly -- (inaudible) -- this is a horrendous misjudgment on the part of the governor of Arkansas which resulted in horrible, horrible acts. And I think he's got to stand up and explain it, and if he did it, probably apologize for it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you have other more serious -- well, not more serious, but you have other complaints, and they're of an economic nature. You've got trade. What else have you got?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think he's not good on taxation, as I understand it, down in Arkansas. He's not good on this issue. I think Huckabee's got problems in the fact that he left open the idea that Mormonism was a cult. He left that open.
MR. O'DONNELL: Yeah, I don't know where he'd ever get that idea.
MR. BUCHANAN: Okay. But where he's very good is he's very good on life and he's very good on social and cultural issues, and he's got the evangelical Christians. And the Christian community, now that Brownback is out, is rallying to him in Iowa.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, he wants to impose mandatory restrictions because of global warming. What do you think of that?
MS. CLIFT: That's great. That's great. (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: That does it. (Laughs.) No, I'm against that.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, it depends on the meaning of "good." I think Mr. Huckabee is good on economic issues. He actually thinks the Republican Party has gone off the rails in terms of catering -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor --
MS. CLIFT: -- to CEOs and corporations.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, if we're going to examine the nature of "good," bonum, then, you know, we're into philosophy here.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is Huckabee's halo losing its glow, yes or no? Pat, quickly -- one word.
MR. BUCHANAN: He peaked early. He's got problems, yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Yes, losing its glow.
MS. CROWLEY: Mike Huckabee is the Howard Dean of 2008 -- gone by mid-February.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Woo.
MS. CROWLEY: Yep.
MR. O'DONNELL: It's a big problem, but I think he can get through it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Political Potpourri.
Item: Clinton Dynasty. For the last 18 years, either a Bush or a Clinton has occupied the White House. Hillary was asked at this week's NPR Democratic debate whether it's appropriate for two families to control the White House for almost 20 years. Hillary denied the existence of a Clinton dynasty.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) There is no dynasty. There is no, you know, determination from on high. People get to vote for whomever they want or vote against whomever they want.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does the dynasty rap, 28 years or 26 years of Bush-Clinton if Hillary gets two terms, put the brakes in any way on Hillary's candidacy? O'Donnell.
MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think so. I think she's gotten where she's gotten because her husband was president. And now there's a little bit of a burden to that with Bill Clinton saying silly things like he was opposed to the Iraq war from the start. He's starting to cost her in old-fashioned Clinton credibility terms. But I think she's right about that. I think the public is going to make their own choice on her, which is a separate choice than they made on her husband.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Item: Dynasty In Action. Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, President William Jefferson Clinton was campaigning for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, the scene of the second critical voting event, the January 8th primary. The former president lamented that the press was ignoring substantive issues such as the records of public service created by dedicated politicians, including Hillary, his wife.
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) One percent of the press coverage was devoted to their record in public life. No wonder people think experience is irrelevant.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bill went on to quote more statistics. "Sixty- seven percent of the coverage is pure politics. That stuff has a half-life of about 15 seconds. It won't matter tomorrow. It is very vulnerable to be slanted and ruled, and it won't affect your life."
Question: Does Bill Clinton campaigning for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire help or harm Hillary Clinton? Monica Crowley.
MS. CROWLEY: He is a net negative for his wife at this point. He's out of control. Last week he was caught lying about his Iraq position. This week he's back whining that his wife isn't being covered properly in the press.
And this week, Barbara Walters' special about the 10 most fascinating people -- he was one of them. Did it dawn on anybody in the Clinton campaign that he was chosen and the candidate herself was not?
He is a drag on her. The latest poll shows that when he's not campaigning for her, she's up by eight points. When he's out there campaigning and doing all of this and stealing the spotlight, she's down by eight.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's anything in the subconscious of Bill Clinton that's at work here? (Laughter.)
MS. CROWLEY: Well, this is a deep psychological question, John, but I do -- he is sabotaging her at every turn.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does he --
MS. CROWLEY: I think he thinks --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he object to her running on the subconscious level?
MS. CROWLEY: I think -- you raised the psychological question. I think he believes that the presidency was his special thing. It was his gig. And he's doing everything he can subconsciously to cut her down.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think he's a net asset in the primaries, and a big one. I think in the general election he's going to be problematic.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a net asset, certainly, in fund-raising, is he not?
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, certainly. He got 4,000 people out there in Manchester on Labor Day. Nobody else can do that.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, Democrats love him. There is some ambivalence in the general population about whether we want a restoration of the Clinton years. And that is a balancing act that she has, because people really want something new. They want to look to the future, and -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you sensing that? You mean this dynasty thing does have legs?
MS. CLIFT: It has some legs. But I think, for the most part --
MR. BUCHANAN: They're tired of the Clintons.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the matter with people? Twenty-six years of Bush and Clinton? (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: He's an asset. He's an asset. Look, most people would take the Clinton years back in a minute.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, they're whiners -- whiners.
Issue Four: Iowa Polls.
Currently, Barack Obama leads in Iowa. His lead extends beyond the margin of error -- Obama, 32 percent; Clinton, 25 percent; Edwards, 25 percent. But here's another Iowa poll that shows Clinton leading Obama by three points, which is within the margin of error -- Clinton, 27 percent; Obama, 24 percent; Edwards, 21 percent.
Question: What do these fluctuating polls tell you, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: What they tell us is Iowa is wide open. But we also know that Barack has got to win Iowa, and then he's got to win New Hampshire. He can't let Hillary come back and win New Hampshire. But if he does, I genuinely believe he can break this thing open, because all of those -- the whole thing will be decided in the next three weeks. But he's got to win Iowa. That's it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to win?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think Hillary's going to win the nomination. I don't know why, but I just think that big machine and the fact she can come back from losses, I would say she's going to win. But it's a guess.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know how deftly Hillary is turning into being an expert on the economy and how she's been able to handle it?
MR. O'DONNELL: Hillary's run a great campaign until this past week, where her staff got into this crazy issue about Obama's kindergarten essay and third grade work. That was horrible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think that was formative?
MS. CLIFT: No. (Laughs.) MR. O'DONNELL: No. I think she's gotten away from that quick. We could not -- we might come out of Iowa without a clear winner. We could have a finish that's 26, 27 --
MR. BUCHANAN: But then New Hampshire.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who ultimately is going to win Iowa?
MR. O'DONNELL: It's, as they say, too close to call. But if you have to bet, you bet on momentum, so you bet on Obama.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to win Iowa?
MS. CROWLEY: The question is, who has the momentum right now, one month out? It's Barack Obama. It's riding the wave. He wins.
MS. CLIFT: Any one of the three could win Iowa. And actually, the best outcome would be John Edwards, because then the race would continue.
MR. BUCHANAN: That would be -- that's the end of Obama.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think anyone on this platform except Eleanor thinks Obama -- thinks that Edwards could win.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, if Edwards wins --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think any one of them could win.
MR. BUCHANAN: If Edwards wins, Hillary wins the nomination. That's it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the American dollar will be abandoned by the Gulf oil companies and the Gulf oil states and other nations around the world because it is sinking and because Bernanke is going to continue cutting interest rates.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: More negative stuff on Huckabee, like taking money from a tobacco slush fund.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm. He's got ethics problems because of that ethical commission.
MS. CLIFT: He does.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.
MS. CROWLEY: Following his victory in this week's parliamentary elections, Russian President Vladimir Putin will continue to resuscitate Cold War tensions to expand his grip on power. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How will he do that?
MS. CROWLEY: The dictatorship is back.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say, Lawrence?
MR. O'DONNELL: The mainstream media will remain united in its refusal to ask Mitt Romney any questions about the history of his racist, pro-slavery, anti-American and otherwise inexplicable religion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In this upcoming year, 2008, Scotland will declare its independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Happy Hanukkah. Bye-bye.