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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2008 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 1-2, 2008

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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Canada, O Canada.

Canada is mad at the U.S. It issued a warning this week that the U.S. will lose its privileged access to Canada's oil if a Democratic administration next year backtracks on NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1994 that removed all barriers to trade among the three nations, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Obama says NAFTA has cost the U.S. millions of jobs. Obama makes it seem that offshoring is unpatriotic. Canada is the U.S.'s biggest supplier of foreign oil. It exports 1.8 million barrels per day, more than Saudi Arabia. That's 10 percent of U.S. consumption. If that were terminated, the cost of one gallon of U.S. gasoline would be over $10. But because of NAFTA's rigor, Canada is unable to put limits on its oil shipments to the U.S., so NAFTA protects the United States. But Canada has told the U.S. that if we rip up NAFTA, the Chinese can then buy more Canadian oil because Canada will then have no further obligation to sell its oil to the U.S.

This commotion has been provoked by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with Obama being the hardest hardliner of the two.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) We should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) We will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush on Thursday criticized both Democrats.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) The idea of just unilaterally withdrawing from a trade treaty because of, you know, trying to score political points is not good policy. It's not good policy on the merits and it's not good policy as a message to send to, you know, people who have, in good faith, signed a treaty and worked with us on a treaty.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's also big U.S. constituent money involved.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) One statistic I think people need to know is I think there's roughly, like, $380 billion worth of goods that we ship to our NAFTA partners on an annual basis.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And there's jobs. Seven million jobs in the U.S. depend on U.S.-Canada free trade.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) There's a lot of farmers and businesses, large and small, who are benefiting from having a market in our neighborhood.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why did Obama and Clinton turn on NAFTA? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Because they're running in Ohio, first and foremost. And secondly, under Bush alone, 3 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the U.S., one in every six. Bush has run up trade deficits, five straight world trade deficits. Our deficit with Canada and Mexico combined runs to roughly 150 (billion), $160 billion. With China, it's 265 billion (dollars).

The workers of Ohio and Michigan have come to believe NAFTA is a code word for the betrayal of American workers for the benefit of transnational corporations that want to get rid of their American workers and move their factories to low-wage countries, China and Mexico. The workers are right. And the Republican Party, John -- John McCain, if he goes into Michigan and Ohio as the champion of NAFTA, which is what he is now, he will lose both those states and lose the election.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor? Was it the blue collars that drew them in?

MS. CLIFT: Well, in fairness, NAFTA has benefited workers in some states, particularly Texas, and you'll hear a different tone from the Democrats in Texas compared to Ohio. But, look, the Democrats are correctly responding to the economic anxiety that Americans feel.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they trading off of it?

MS. CLIFT: Trading off of it or responding to it? I call it responding. I mean, the stock market took a dip on Friday. The Federal Reserve chairman goes on Capitol Hill and sort of hints, "Oh, there's going to be a further decrease in interest rates." That doesn't work anymore.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they're trading off the fears of --

MS. CLIFT: They are responding to the fears of the American people. And part of it is exactly what Pat Buchanan said, that jobs are disappearing. And they're disappearing not only to Mexico. NAFTA is a bit of a scapegoat. But as you said in your set-up piece, I mean, China is getting American jobs. And the answer is training people for a different kind of economy and helping people who are hurt by globalization. Those are the realistic answers.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then Obama -- after this, he circles around with one of his staff and he notifies the ambassador from Canada to the United States, "Hey, don't take this rhetoric seriously. If I'm president, I'm not going to do any of this stuff that I'm talking about."

MS. CROWLEY: Right. "I'm just pandering to my constituencies, trying to win Ohio. I don't really mean it." Wink, wink, to the Canadians.

I mean, I think what Hillary and Obama are doing is totally irresponsible. They're playing with a major United States policy that, as Eleanor points out, has actually helped a lot of people in a lot of states.

Remember, now, we have in the state of Ohio, they're the fourth- biggest exporter to Canada. You've got $400 billion in exports coming from U.S. farmers and other producers, exporting stuff to Canada and Mexico. You can't just turn off that spigot. You can't just reverse globalization. That horse has already left the barn. So what they're doing -- I mean, there's a reason why they've stepped up their rhetoric against NAFTA in the last week. These people have been campaigning for a year, and only now have they decided to take on NAFTA and look like they're going to be tough and renegotiate or pull the whole thing off the table? It is impossible to do that.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that --

MS. CLIFT: It's not impossible, but --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you experiencing any disappointment in Obama because of this?

MR. PAGE: Not particularly.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not particularly?

MR. PAGE: No. I'm from Ohio.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's okay politics to trade off people's fears?

MR. PAGE: I grew up in Ohio, John. This is more than fears. I was just there last week, and this is more than fears. This is actuality. The industries that built that state, that brought my family to Ohio, they're almost all gone. And the exodus overseas has been amazing over the last 20 years, really.

Now, yeah, NAFTA is an easy issue to demagogue. NAFTA is not responsible for all of it. You could really point to decisions at General Motors, Ford, GE. These specific companies made decisions to go where the labor was cheaper.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that where the blame ought to be placed and not on NAFTA?

MR. PAGE: Democrats are the labor party. You can't go out and tell people, "You ought to think about moving," because that's really what they're facing right now.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the problem is --

MR. PAGE: So they've got to talk about something strategically that they can do for those people who are suffering right now.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is your insight into the true sentiments of Obama on this question of NAFTA, that he likes NAFTA or that he fears NAFTA and he believes everything he's saying?

MR. PAGE: I think Obama and Clinton both see the advantages of NAFTA and the disadvantages, depending on where you happen to live. But that's too nuanced for a campaign -- for the campaign trail. You can't get out there and put that on a bumper sticker. So you've got to talk about what we're going to do with fair trade, not free trade.

MS. CLIFT: And they're not saying they're going to pull out of the treaty. They're going to say they're going to use the threat of pulling out as a hammer to negotiate better conditions.

For President Bush, who pulled out of an environmental treaty, who pulled out of the ABM, the Antiballistic Missile Treaty -- for him to sound like this is some big moral issue that the Democrats are on the wrong side -- they just want to negotiate better terms for American workers. That's a responsible position that they're taking.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you really believe that?

MS. CLIFT: I do. I actually do. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that a steel manufacturer is going to try to reduce -- be able to reduce carbon to conform to the requirements of the United States or that he cannot do that, and therefore we will have to pull out of NAFTA?

MS. CLIFT: I think if America is the leader in the world that we have some responsibility to set conditions for workers in other countries and environmental conditions that involve the entire world.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look --

MS. CLIFT: We have some leverage here.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think NAFTA is enlightened public policy --

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- as it stands?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. I didn't think so then.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you didn't think so then for different reasons.

MR. BUCHANAN: For many reasons, and these are the reasons we predicted. John, since NAFTA was passed -- and it's not all NAFTA's fault --

MS. CLIFT: Right. We agree.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- we have run $5 trillion worth of trade deficits since NAFTA was passed and the trade deals with China and all the rest of it. The dollar is sinking. We are deindustrializing our country. Our dependency has grown, John. The United States of America, which became the greatest industrial power in the world, is giving it all away.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this because of NAFTA? NAFTA --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not. NAFTA is part of it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (inaudible). Trade is the answer, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Mexico sells more cars to the United States, ships us more cars than we ship to the world.

MS. CROWLEY: Pat, but a new protectionism is not the answer.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CROWLEY: The new isolationism is not the answer. The horse has left the barn. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right. You're feeding Obama.

MR. BUCHANAN: America has left the barn.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Red-meat protectionism. That's the answer for Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: What has your internationalism done? What has it done for America?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come on, Pat. Come on.

MR. BUCHANAN: You've had 15 years of it. It is a disaster for this country.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: You've got Hillary Clinton, who may be able to pull out a win in Ohio because she is campaigning, going door to door, visiting trailers, talking to people who are really hurting, getting behind the counter at a Bob Evans, taking orders. I mean, these are the people who are suffering because of American policies, and they deserve to be taken seriously.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Obama, as a result of this particularly, and also because of another policy that deals in the same area -- suggesting that offshoring is somehow unpatriotic -- has Obama really reduced himself from demigod status to an ordinary politician in his handling of this, in his bleeding of it with the Iowans?

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama has reached into the fears, concerns and justified apprehensions of the people in Ohio and middle America who have been sold out by the transnationals and both parties in Washington.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just like a typical pol.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he's -- look, Eleanor's right. They go out there. They listen. They hear and respond.

MS. CLIFT: Right. Exactly. They're responding --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the halo gone? Is the halo gone?

MS. CLIFT: No, it enhances the halo if you're a working person, John. This is what -- they want somebody who feels their pain.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They want red-meat protectionism. That's what they want.

MS. CLIFT: They want to be educated for a new economy. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, I'm surprised at you. I'm surprised at you.

MS. CROWLEY: Obama doesn't agree with it, which is why he's calling Canadian leaders and saying, "I don't really mean it." He knows he's being disingenuous on this. He knows that a new protectionism isn't the answer. And that the forces that are in play here are bigger than this. Look, every time --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think if he cheapens himself on this, he will cheapen himself on other issues too?

MS. CROWLEY: I think, actually, it has made him look more like Hillary Clinton in a totally disingenuous handling of this issue. The American economy --

(Cross talk.)

MR. PAGE: I do point, as a clarification --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me give you an insight. She looks a lot like --

MR. PAGE: Well, let me give you an insight. The Canadian station that says an Obama contact told them this message also said that an intermediary for the Hillary Clinton campaign issued a similar message.

I mean, you have this going on both ways.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but she denied that. She denied it. She denied it.

MR. PAGE: Well, you know, both of them deny it. But, you know, the fact of the matter is, you're going to have a very hard time slipping a playing card between the NAFTA policies of these two candidates.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The response of the Obama people, when confronted that he had circled around and told the Canadians, they said, "Well that seems very implausible that we would do that," as if Obama never goes back on his promises.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is very implausible to say they didn't do it.

MR. BUCHANAN: NAFTA is dead. Deal with it, John. NAFTA is dead. The free trade regime is dead.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come on.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, it is. Let me tell you, look, Monica is right to this extent. Neither the Republicans nor Democrats have thought through a trade and tax policy to deal with the post-free trade era, but that is what we are entering. Look at your Financial Times friend, John. They know it, and they're apprehensive.

MS. CLIFT: And look at the Democrats who are winning, and more are going to win in November.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: Right. There's a populist streak, and these --

MR. BUCHANAN: The whole Democratic Party has left free trade.

(Cross-talk.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. Speaking about the Financial Times, their lead editorial is Democrats' cheap shots at NAFTA. The most disturbing aspect of the U.S. primary season is the Democratic consensus that liberal trade is opposed to the national interest. They say it's cheap and they say it's -- (inaudible).

Issue Two: "Fauxbama."

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) Can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don't mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them. But I do find it curious. And anybody who saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The NSL -- the SNL -- what is it?

MS. CLIFT: SNL.

MR. BUCHANAN: SNL.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I did one of those openings one time. It is a lampoon. It satirizes the U.S. press corps and its love affair with Obama. Why is the press so biased against Hillary Rodham Clinton? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, you're just buying the Clinton campaign talking points in total. She does have a point. I think she is covered by sort of a double standard, or maybe she's covered by a standard that she can't meet.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you turning against her?

MS. CLIFT: I'm trying to explain my position. As the first woman to run for commander in chief, she started out feeling she had to do everything to project the fact that she was tough, and it was at the expense of her softer side.

And along comes Barack Obama, who is actually campaigning in the consensus style associated more with female candidates. She's running the testosterone campaign. He's running the estrogen campaign. And only a man can run the estrogen campaign. And Hillary is complaining that he hasn't gotten the scrutiny that a front-runner should get, and I think it's coming.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: The press has turned a corner with Obama, gotten a lot more critical.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. First, Ophelia.

As the campaign moves forward, Hillary's speeches have taken new shape. Here's Hillary as Hamlet's Ophelia. SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's Hillary as Lady MacBeth.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) So shame on you, Barack Obama. It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That's what I expect from you. Meet me in Ohio. Let's have a debate.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's Hillary as King Lear declaiming on the heath.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) Now, I could stand up here and say, "Let's just get everybody together. Let's get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How does this rate for Shakespearean political theater? Monica Crowley.

MS. CROWLEY: Great political theater, John. The problem is that it's not working for her, and it seems to indicate some political schizophrenia, or maybe even a little bit of political --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.) Why can't a single politician say positive things and negative things? Why is she a freak because she does that?

MS. CROWLEY: She went from conciliatory to faux outrage to real outrage to withering criticism to laughing uncontrollably, and it's a little bit of a political nervous breakdown, although I do think that she had a very good point when she was being sarcastic about Barack Obama with the celestial choirs, for this reason. She's trying to suggest that he is a self-righteous upstart who hasn't been put through the media x-ray.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CROWLEY: She is right about that.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who agrees with that position that the press is too tough on Hillary?

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with it.

MS. CROWLEY: The problem is that she can't --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with it 100 percent, John. Look, the press has -- look, I've been in the -- the national press corps was elated Hillary was going down to defeat in New Hampshire. They couldn't wait for it. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?

MR. BUCHANAN: One reason is, look, the press feels that they've been used and abused by the Clintons. They love Obama. He's new. He's an African-American who could be president of the United States. They like the rhetoric and everything. Hillary's problem here is, you know, Peter Sellers can carry off three roles in one movie in Dr. Strangelove. She can't. She can't do it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think there's a little bit more subtlety to this, and that is there's some kind of --

MR. PAGE: Okay, subtlety. Let's talk about subtlety. Okay.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- there's some kind of reparation that I think that the press has kind of -- and, of course, they can change overnight; we know that. They're like adolescents in that regard. But the press runs in a wolf pack. And right now it's, you know, give the new guy, and the black guy, give him a shot, because we haven't --

MR. PAGE: Affirmative action coverage.

That's what you're saying, right?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We want to make up for what's lacking in the national --

MR. PAGE: Okay, very good. I'll try to keep up with you, John. Okay.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay?

MR. PAGE: Okay.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And is that part of this too? There's kind of a guilt complex at work here.

MR. PAGE: I have a different theory -- and it's not even a theory, it's a fact -- that the Clintons want to have it both ways. They've been pointing out how tough they are. And, hey, we're not going to let those Republicans fool us. And to prove it, we're going to show you by beating all of our opposition now.

So the press is already geared to hear anything that the Clintons say -- we filter it through, "Oh, is this another tactic," you know, whereas Obama has not presented that. He's presented himself as the new guy, pure and clean. And Eleanor's right. You know, now that he's viewed as the front-runner, that's an attitude that was encouraged by the Clintons. Now the press is going to treat him like a front-runner, and you're seeing it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why can't the press give them a grace period and say, "We're going to take their arguments on their merits"?

MR. PAGE: Oh, this is something new. This is something new -- a grace period for people who have been bragging about --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because you know that Barack is going to get his turn, and it may be building now.

(Cross talk.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear Buchanan. MR. BUCHANAN: There is liberal guilt here. There is no doubt about it. The liberals want to see --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)

MR. BUCHANAN: -- the liberals want to see an African-American president, the first one. We've been bad, and all that other stuff. This country owes it. And there is that sense of owing it to them.

MR. PAGE: Well, how about the first woman president?

MR. BUCHANAN: They cut slack.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish. Let him finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: They cut slack. They not only cut slack; they step in and defend him when he's under attack like --

MS. CLIFT: Look, women have waited decades to see the first woman president, and it's actually something of a tragedy that a talented African-American guy comes along at the same -- this isn't liberal guilt.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why is that a tragedy?

MS. CLIFT: Because you have to choose between two people who --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's a tragedy?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: Well, maybe you -- I call it a tragedy, yes, because women in particular are having a very hard time deciding here. But this is not liberal guilt.

MR. BUCHANAN: You'd better get over it, Eleanor.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: It's not liberal guilt.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Monica in now.

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish my thought.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, quickly.

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish my thought, and that is that Barack Obama is a unique, once-in-a-generation candidate.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh. MS. CLIFT: He has met every test.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's an ordinary pol.

MS. CLIFT: He's not an ordinary pol.

MR. BUCHANAN: You're seeing, John, just what I'm talking about.

MS. CLIFT: He's not an ordinary pol any more than Hillary Clinton is an ordinary pol.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: He is not an ordinary pol any more than Hillary Clinton is. They are both class-act people. And I am proud, as a citizen, to see that both of them are in contention.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's going through every side door. The side door that he's using now is he wants to improve NAFTA because he wants to change its shortcomings.

MR. PAGE: Are you talking about NAFTA again?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that -- we're back to NAFTA.

MR. PAGE: We're going to NAFTA again? (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the Canadians are correctly saying --

MR. PAGE: He's not going to destroy NAFTA, John. Get it out of your mind.

MR. BUCHANAN: If you get back to NAFTA, John, I want --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- and renegotiate NAFTA, all the pieces, and they cannot -- (inaudible) -- NAFTA, and Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CROWLEY: I just want to refine one point that Pat made. I think there is a lot of liberal guilt at work, and even more so, something that Shelby Steele called white guilt as it applies to the white support of Barack Obama. But Eleanor is also right about women. And you could see it in Hillary's last debate performance in which she was talking about being the first woman president and Obama looking at her going, "Do you not see the color of my skin? I'm just as historic."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will you please get over --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.) DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the Hillary thing?

Okay, the human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, 3,973; one- half 24 years of age and under. Amputeed, wounded, severely injured, injured, mentally ill, 90,515.

Exit question: Does the revelation that Sorensen put the words in Obama's mouth diminish Obama's oratorical skills? Ted Sorensen; you know what I'm talking about.

MR. BUCHANAN: Ted Sorensen's a friend of mine. It no more diminishes Obama's skills than it diminished John F. Kennedy's.

MS. CLIFT: Right. It's the closest thing to an endorsement from John F. Kennedy that Barack Obama can get. Sorensen is a magician with words, but so is Barack Obama.

MS. CROWLEY: I also think, though, that Barack Obama ought to be careful in pushing the JFK analogy too far, because Obama is far more liberal than JFK ever was. JFK cut taxes and he was a cold warrior. Obama is not those things.

MR. PAGE: I wish people knew history as well as you do, Monica. But the fact of the matter is, Republicans push themselves as the new Reagan. Democrats push themselves as the new Kennedy.

Barack Obama was an excellent speechwriter before Ted Sorensen came in. And Sorensen has done some advising, but --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. PAGE: Yeah. Right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I agree with you. And anyone who has read Obama's first book must realize it. The second book you can avoid. It's mostly a collection of his speeches. The first book is an exquisite piece of writing and self-analysis.

Issue Three: McCain Versus Obama.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) If al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way which secures the American homeland and our interests abroad.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Barack Obama has long vowed to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. But now he says he will put troops back in if al Qaeda forms a base in Iraq.

Well, this handed John McCain the chance to make fun of, if not ridicule, Obama.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ, Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I have some news. Al Qaeda is in Iraq. Al Qaeda -- it's called al Qaeda in Iraq.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush, at his press conference, had some news of his own. Mr. Bush was asked what he thought of Obama's vow to act if al Qaeda were forming a base in Iraq.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) If al Qaeda is securing an al Qaeda base, yeah, well, that's exactly what they've been trying to do for the past four years. And their intentions -- it's what they said, that they would like to have a base or safe haven in Anbar Province. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Given that Obama says that he will act against an al Qaeda in Iraq to secure U.S. interests and defend the homeland, is this position indistinguishable from that of George W. Bush? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, it is. Well, Obama is right. Al Qaeda was not in Iraq before we went in.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: They are there because we are there. McCain and Bush are right, that they are there now, and if we walk away, there's a real possibility of a debacle and a permanent al Qaeda in Iraq.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see my question, though. Is Obama's position indistinguishable from Bush's?

MS. CLIFT: No, because Barack Obama answered a hypothetical question on the assumption that we had gotten out of Iraq, and assuming we wouldn't get out of Iraq if al Qaeda had a base there. And he was asked if al Qaeda then established a base, would he go back in. That's a lot of steps to explain. But he's not naive about what's happening in Iraq.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does she have it right, or is it more likely that their positions are indistinguishable?

MS. CROWLEY: I think their positions now are similar. Obama's now coming around to the reality that we are there now and that al Qaeda needs to be rooted out, which is exactly what the surge is accomplishing.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Indistinguishable or not?

MR. PAGE: Well, there's a huge difference here between somebody who's working on getting us out and somebody who's perfectly intent with keeping us there. The fact of the matter is that none of these three are planning -- I mean, McCain, Clinton, Obama -- none of them are going to pull us out of Iraq as long as there is a threat posed to the United States. But there is no threat posed to the United States, perceivable, right now. And Obama was talking about the kind of hypothetical where Iraq is like Afghanistan.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama's position on Iraq and Bush's position on Iraq are relatively indistinguishable.

Issue Four: Viva Obama.

Translation: Long Live Obama. Hispanics in the United States are growing faster than any other group. They now constitute over 16 percent of the U.S. total population. The Hispanic voting population is 9 percent. In Texas, where next Tuesday's critical primary will be held, Hispanics make up 36 percent of the total Texas population, triple the 11 percent African-American population. Question: Was this ditty fashioned to help the mariachis commercially rather than help Obama politically? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't know that that's going to do it, John. (Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that they're going to bring anything to his campaign, or do they look like they're just trading off his name?

MR. BUCHANAN: Some tacos.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look at what they're doing. We're playing them on the air.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to be a taco-style contribution. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's cynical.

MR. PAGE: Well, it's a nice gimmick, you know. But what really matters is that Hispanic voters need to know who he is.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. PAGE: And that's where he has a deficit compared to Hillary Clinton. They're much more familiar with her.

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, although he's started to chip away at Hillary's Hispanic support.

MS. CLIFT: Si puente (sic/means puede). "Yes, we can." Even I have picked up on that. He's advertising all over the place in Spanish. I think he is getting his message out.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: Name the winner of next week's Democratic primaries in Texas and Ohio, in that order. Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama and Hillary.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I'm with Pat.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Ditto.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Hillary will pull Texas out. She'll get both of them. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, you're right. Hillary takes two.

Bye-bye.



END.

LAUGHLIN: I did one of those openings one time. It is a lampoon. It satirizes the U.S. press corps and its love affair with Obama. Why is the press so biased against Hillary Rodham Clinton? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, you're just buying the Clinton campaign talking points in total. She does have a point. I think she is covered by sort of a double standard, or maybe she's covered by a standard that she can't meet.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you turning against her?

MS. CLIFT: I'm trying to explain my position. As the first woman to run for commander in chief, she started out feeling she had to do everything to project the fact that she was tough, and it was at the expense of her softer side.

And along comes Barack Obama, who is actually campaigning in the consensus style associated more with female candidates. She's running the testosterone campaign. He's running the estrogen campaign. And only a man can run the estrogen campaign. And Hillary is complaining that he hasn't gotten the scrutiny that a front-runner should get, and I think it's coming.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: The press has turned a corner with Obama, gotten a lot more critical.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. First, Ophelia.

As the campaign moves forward, Hillary's speeches have taken new shape. Here's Hillary as Hamlet's Ophelia. SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's Hillary as Lady MacBeth.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) So shame on you, Barack Obama. It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That's what I expect from you. Meet me in Ohio. Let's have a debate.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's Hillary as King Lear declaiming on the heath.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) Now, I could stand up here and say, "Let's just get everybody together. Let's get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How does this rate for Shakespearean political theater? Monica Crowley.

MS. CROWLEY: Great political theater, John. The problem is that it's not working for her, and it seems to indicate some political schizophrenia, or maybe even a little bit of political --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.) Why can't a single politician say positive things and negative things? Why is she a freak because she does that?

MS. CROWLEY: She went from conciliatory to faux outrage to real outrage to withering criticism to laughing uncontrollably, and it's a little bit of a political nervous breakdown, although I do think that she had a very good point when she was being sarcastic about Barack Obama with the celestial choirs, for this reason. She's trying to suggest that he is a self-righteous upstart who hasn't been put through the media x-ray.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CROWLEY: She is right about that.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who agrees with that position that the press is too tough on Hillary?

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with it.

MS. CROWLEY: The problem is that she can't --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with it 100 percent, John. Look, the press has -- look, I've been in the -- the national press corps was elated Hillary was going down to defeat in New Hampshire. They couldn't wait for it. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?

MR. BUCHANAN: One reason is, look, the press feels that they've been used and abused by the Clintons. They love Obama. He's new. He's an African-American who could be president of the United States. They like the rhetoric and everything. Hillary's problem here is, you know, Peter Sellers can carry off three roles in one movie in Dr. Strangelove. She can't. She can't do it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think there's a little bit more subtlety to this, and that is there's some kind of --

MR. PAGE: Okay, subtlety. Let's talk about subtlety. Okay.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- there's some kind of reparation that I think that the press has kind of -- and, of course, they can change overnight; we know that. They're like adolescents in that regard. But the press runs in a wolf pack. And right now it's, you know, give the new guy, and the black guy, give him a shot, because we haven't --

MR. PAGE: Affirmative action coverage.

That's what you're saying, right?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We want to make up for what's lacking in the national --

MR. PAGE: Okay, very good. I'll try to keep up with you, John. Okay.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay?

MR. PAGE: Okay.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And is that part of this too? There's kind of a guilt complex at work here.

MR. PAGE: I have a different theory -- and it's not even a theory, it's a fact -- that the Clintons want to have it both ways. They've been pointing out how tough they are. And, hey, we're not going to let those Republicans fool us. And to prove it, we're going to show you by beating all of our opposition now.

So the press is already geared to hear anything that the Clintons say -- we filter it through, "Oh, is this another tactic," you know, whereas Obama has not presented that. He's presented himself as the new guy, pure and clean. And Eleanor's right. You know, now that he's viewed as the front-runner, that's an attitude that was encouraged by the Clintons. Now the press is going to treat him like a front-runner, and you're seeing it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why can't the press give them a grace period and say, "We're going to take their arguments on their merits"?

MR. PAGE: Oh, this is something new. This is something new -- a grace period for people who have been bragging about --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because you know that Barack is going to get his turn, and it may be building now.

(Cross talk.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear Buchanan. MR. BUCHANAN: There is liberal guilt here. There is no doubt about it. The liberals want to see --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)

MR. BUCHANAN: -- the liberals want to see an African-American president, the first one. We've been bad, and all that other stuff. This country owes it. And there is that sense of owing it to them.

MR. PAGE: Well, how about the first woman president?

MR. BUCHANAN: They cut slack.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish. Let him finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: They cut slack. They not only cut slack; they step in and defend him when he's under attack like --

MS. CLIFT: Look, women have waited decades to see the first woman president, and it's actually something of a tragedy that a talented African-American guy comes along at the same -- this isn't liberal guilt.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why is that a tragedy?

MS. CLIFT: Because you have to choose between two people who --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's a tragedy?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: Well, maybe you -- I call it a tragedy, yes, because women in particular are having a very hard time deciding here. But this is not liberal guilt.

MR. BUCHANAN: You'd better get over it, Eleanor.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: It's not liberal guilt.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Monica in now.

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish my thought.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, quickly.

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish my thought, and that is that Barack Obama is a unique, once-in-a-generation candidate.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh. MS. CLIFT: He has met every test.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's an ordinary pol.

MS. CLIFT: He's not an ordinary pol.

MR. BUCHANAN: You're seeing, John, just what I'm talking about.

MS. CLIFT: He's not an ordinary pol any more than Hillary Clinton is an ordinary pol.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: He is not an ordinary pol any more than Hillary Clinton is. They are both class-act people. And I am proud, as a citizen, to see that both of them are in contention.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's going through every side door. The side door that he's using now is he wants to improve NAFTA because he wants to change its shortcomings.

MR. PAGE: Are you talking about NAFTA again?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that -- we're back to NAFTA.

MR. PAGE: We're going to NAFTA again? (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the Canadians are correctly saying --

MR. PAGE: He's not going to destroy NAFTA, John. Get it out of your mind.

MR. BUCHANAN: If you get back to NAFTA, John, I want --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- and renegotiate NAFTA, all the pieces, and they cannot -- (inaudible) -- NAFTA, and Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CROWLEY: I just want to refine one point that Pat made. I think there is a lot of liberal guilt at work, and even more so, something that Shelby Steele called white guilt as it applies to the white support of Barack Obama. But Eleanor is also right about women. And you could see it in Hillary's last debate performance in which she was talking about being the first woman president and Obama looking at her going, "Do you not see the color of my skin? I'm just as historic."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will you please get over --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.) DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the Hillary thing?

Okay, the human toll: U.S. military dead in Iraq, 3,973; one- half 24 years of age and under. Amputeed, wounded, severely injured, injured, mentally ill, 90,515.

Exit question: Does the revelation that Sorensen put the words in Obama's mouth diminish Obama's oratorical skills? Ted Sorensen; you know what I'm talking about.

MR. BUCHANAN: Ted Sorensen's a friend of mine. It no more diminishes Obama's skills than it diminished John F. Kennedy's.

MS. CLIFT: Right. It's the closest thing to an endorsement from John F. Kennedy that Barack Obama can get. Sorensen is a magician with words, but so is Barack Obama.

MS. CROWLEY: I also think, though, that Barack Obama ought to be careful in pushing the JFK analogy too far, because Obama is far more liberal than JFK ever was. JFK cut taxes and he was a cold warrior. Obama is not those things.

MR. PAGE: I wish people knew history as well as you do, Monica. But the fact of the matter is, Republicans push themselves as the new Reagan. Democrats push themselves as the new Kennedy.

Barack Obama was an excellent speechwriter before Ted Sorensen came in. And Sorensen has done some advising, but --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. PAGE: Yeah. Right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I agree with you. And anyone who has read Obama's first book must realize it. The second book you can avoid. It's mostly a collection of his speeches. The first book is an exquisite piece of writing and self-analysis.

Issue Three: McCain Versus Obama.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) If al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way which secures the American homeland and our interests abroad.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Barack Obama has long vowed to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. But now he says he will put troops back in if al Qaeda forms a base in Iraq.

Well, this handed John McCain the chance to make fun of, if not ridicule, Obama.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ, Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I have some news. Al Qaeda is in Iraq. Al Qaeda -- it's called al Qaeda in Iraq.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush, at his press conference, had some news of his own. Mr. Bush was asked what he thought of Obama's vow to act if al Qaeda were forming a base in Iraq.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) If al Qaeda is securing an al Qaeda base, yeah, well, that's exactly what they've been trying to do for the past four years. And their intentions -- it's what they said, that they would like to have a base or safe haven in Anbar Province. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Given that Obama says that he will act against an al Qaeda in Iraq to secure U.S. interests and defend the homeland, is this position indistinguishable from that of George W. Bush? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, it is. Well, Obama is right. Al Qaeda was not in Iraq before we went in.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: They are there because we are there. McCain and Bush are right, that they are there now, and if we walk away, there's a real possibility of a debacle and a permanent al Qaeda in Iraq.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You see my question, though. Is Obama's position indistinguishable from Bush's?

MS. CLIFT: No, because Barack Obama answered a hypothetical question on the assumption that we had gotten out of Iraq, and assuming we wouldn't get out of Iraq if al Qaeda had a base there. And he was asked if al Qaeda then established a base, would he go back in. That's a lot of steps to explain. But he's not naive about what's happening in Iraq.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does she have it right, or is it more likely that their positions are indistinguishable?

MS. CROWLEY: I think their positions now are similar. Obama's now coming around to the reality that we are there now and that al Qaeda needs to be rooted out, which is exactly what the surge is accomplishing.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Indistinguishable or not?

MR. PAGE: Well, there's a huge difference here between somebody who's working on getting us out and somebody who's perfectly intent with keeping us there. The fact of the matter is that none of these three are planning -- I mean, McCain, Clinton, Obama -- none of them are going to pull us out of Iraq as long as there is a threat posed to the United States. But there is no threat posed to the United States, perceivable, right now. And Obama was talking about the kind of hypothetical where Iraq is like Afghanistan.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama's position on Iraq and Bush's position on Iraq are relatively indistinguishable.

Issue Four: Viva Obama.

Translation: Long Live Obama. Hispanics in the United States are growing faster than any other group. They now constitute over 16 percent of the U.S. total population. The Hispanic voting population is 9 percent. In Texas, where next Tuesday's critical primary will be held, Hispanics make up 36 percent of the total Texas population, triple the 11 percent African-American population. Question: Was this ditty fashioned to help the mariachis commercially rather than help Obama politically? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't know that that's going to do it, John. (Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that they're going to bring anything to his campaign, or do they look like they're just trading off his name?

MR. BUCHANAN: Some tacos.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look at what they're doing. We're playing them on the air.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to be a taco-style contribution. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's cynical.

MR. PAGE: Well, it's a nice gimmick, you know. But what really matters is that Hispanic voters need to know who he is.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. PAGE: And that's where he has a deficit compared to Hillary Clinton. They're much more familiar with her.

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, although he's started to chip away at Hillary's Hispanic support.

MS. CLIFT: Si puente (sic/means puede). "Yes, we can." Even I have picked up on that. He's advertising all over the place in Spanish. I think he is getting his message out.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: Name the winner of next week's Democratic primaries in Texas and Ohio, in that order. Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama and Hillary.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I'm with Pat.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Ditto.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Hillary will pull Texas out. She'll get both of them. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, you're right. Hillary takes two.

Bye-bye.



END.