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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, MAY 15, 2008 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 16-17, 2008

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Now It's Appeasement.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We've heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared, "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided."

We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history. (Applause.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Barack Obama's campaign accused George W. Bush this week of launching a, quote-unquote, "unprecedented political attack on foreign soil." Mr. Bush did not, however, mention Mr. Obama by name.

Obama responded with a statement. Quote: "It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists," unquote.

Question: Does President Bush's jab help Obama or does it hurt him? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: It does both, John. First, it elevates the Obama candidacy up to a par with the president of the United States, which is very positive. Secondly, even though the president -- this was very untraditional, out of protocol, and the wrong thing for a president to do on foreign soil.

Even though it's hypocritical, because Bush is negotiating with North Korea, negotiated with Libya, still it is effective in this sense, because he and McCain are moving this over to "Is Barack Obama the right guy to defend the security of Israel, or is he somebody who will talk to Ahmadinejad and talk to Hamas?"

Obama's got a lot of connections. Hamas endorsed him, in effect. And they're trying to push this over onto the ground where Obama is weakest and most vulnerable. And the fact Obama reacted as he did is proof that it dropped it right down the chimney.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this going to unify the Democratic Party behind Obama?

MS. CLIFT: He and John McCain -- President Bush and John McCain -- you just said it all, Pat. Any time President Bush wants to inject himself in the middle of this presidential race on the side of John McCain just advances the Democratic argument that McCain would be a third term of Bush-Cheney.

Diplomacy is not appeasement. And the president practiced the cheapest sort of politics with this "Some say" and then refusing to back it up. So I think this helps Barack Obama because this president is so unpopular. He has no credibility. And he's also got his secretary of State wanting to open talks with Iran. So maybe the "some" who are guilty of suggesting diplomacy include his secretary of State.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, wait a minute. If Barack Obama is this prickly about an oblique criticism of his general approach to the world, then he's way too much of a girlie man to be president of the United States. MR. PAGE: Ooh, girlie man. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: Barack Obama made a dangerous -- he made a dangerous --

MR. PAGE: Don't sound like Ann Coulter, now, Monica, please. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: He made a very dangerous --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CROWLEY: -- flip-flop, and here it is. He was for talking to terrorists and tyrants before he was against it. For the last year, in almost every Democratic debate, Barack Obama was asked point blank, "Would you be willing to talk to the leaders of Iran, Syria and North Korea?" And he said repeatedly --

MR. PAGE: But not Hamas.

MS. CROWLEY: Not Hamas, but he said repeatedly, "I would," except, when you talk about terrorism, Iran and Syria are the top two state sponsors of terrorism. So you are, in essence, talking to terrorists.

MR. PAGE: He never said talk to terrorists.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, those two are the top terrorist states --

MR. PAGE: Don't try to -- (inaudible) -- Hamas and Iran. Now, you know better than that.

MS. CROWLEY: But you know that Iran and Syria sponsor Hamas and Hezbollah. So, you know, now, because it was pointed out to him the pure idiocy of this, now he's backed off and he has said, "Okay, well, we'll add some preconditions. We'll do some advance groundwork before we go talk to them. But, yes, I'm still willing to talk to them."

MR. BUCHANAN: Monica, we've got --

MR. PAGE: Let me respond to that point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence -- go ahead, Clarence.

MS. CLIFT: Let's follow the rules. Clarence next.

MR. PAGE: Thank you. No, I was just going to say that, first of all, does this help Obama or not? Pat's right; it helps and hurts him. But it mostly helps because of one thing. The Obama campaign certainly wants to merge McCain and Bush together, and here Bush has helped out that cause. And Bush misquoted Obama, if indeed he was quoting Obama. I will say that I think he sounded more like Bush was talking about Jimmy Carter, because Jimmy Carter's talking about getting closer to Hamas.

MS. CROWLEY: True.

MR. PAGE: Obama has not. And I want to be very clear about this, because there are enough voters out there who think they all look alike anyway, whether they're terrorists, whether they're Persians or Arabs, et cetera. That has hurt Obama already. And the earlier he gets this debate going, the better. So I think it really helps him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Enter Hamas. In April, Obama got an unwelcome endorsement.

AHMED YOUSEF (Hamas chief adviser): (From videotape.) We like Mr. Obama. We hope that he will win the election. And I do believe he is like John Kennedy -- great man with a great principle. And he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with domination and arrogance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Will this endorsement by Hamas hurt Obama with the American Jewish voters particularly, as well as others? I ask you, Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: That's the reason why Barack Obama responded so quickly and so forcefully, because he understands this was the opening salvo in what could be a very nasty political campaign that is really going to try to create a cultural package around him which will conflate his middle name; with Hamas; with maybe he's Muslim; he wants to talk to all these terrorists.

And so he's got to respond quickly and forcefully, and I think he did that. And any American who pays at all attention to this is going to understand that this is a political game that the White House is playing on behalf of trying to win the election.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is directed straight -- I mean, McCain and Bush are directing this straight at the Jewish community in the United States, which is deeply apprehensive of Ahmadinejad and Iran, and especially Hamas, which is firing into southern Israel, and Hezbollah. And they've got all these connections Eleanor mentioned. Then they've got Reverend Wright in there and they've got Louis Farrakhan.

MS. CLIFT: And any chance people can --

MR. BUCHANAN: And they're going to work this thing --

MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible).

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, they're going to work this thing, John. They're going to work this thing. And frankly, it'll make it very difficult, if not impossible, for Barack Obama to win Florida, because all along Broward County, Dade County, Palm Beach County, the Jewish vote is vitally important. Democrats, when they win, get 80 percent of it. Barack isn't even getting 70 percent now. McCain will keep working. You could see him smiling this morning when he got that -- "What did the president say? Oh, yes, I think that's a wonderful statement." (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: Those are your voters down there in Florida, Pat. You know them.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're my voters. I know it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whose approach is correct on merit? Whose approach is better on merit, the Obama approach, which is "Let's talk," or the Bush approach -- this may be an unfair simplification --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think the dichotomy you just laid out is a little stark and maybe unfair. But, you know, there has to be an understanding that when you deal with terrorists and tyrants that they use that talk time to rearm, regroup and restrategize. And they also use that talk time to lull us into this false delusion that somehow all of this talking has convinced them to change their interests and objectives. And that never works.

MR. BUCHANAN: But --

MS. CROWLEY: Wait a minute.

MR. BUCHANAN: It has worked.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

MS. CROWLEY: Hang on. It is unfair to criticize President Bush for not talking. He has talked to the Iranians at a lower level, not at the level of the president, for a couple of years now. He's had the Europeans talk to the Iranians. And you know what? It has been an abject failure.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CROWLEY: Pat, it has absolutely been a failure, because the Iranians --

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Make your point.

MS. CROWLEY: The Iranian nuclear program is going full out, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let me tell you --

MS. CROWLEY: They just installed 6,000 new centrifuges.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I know -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: That is the most naive (rant ?) I have heard --

MS. CROWLEY: Eleanor --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me make a point, please.

MS. CLIFT: Go for it, Pat. Go for it, Pat. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let me make a point here. Qadhafi --

MS. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it. Qadhafi is a murderer. He killed those kids on Pan Am 103. Bush negotiated directly with Qadhafi's guys.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: He said, "You take your nuclear stuff, give it to us. We'll bring you in from the cold." We did. We recognized his regime. He is a terrorist. Bush negotiated with that terrorist. His father brought Syria's Hafez al-Assad into his alliance against Saddam Hussein. You've got to talk to these people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Qadhafi paid his dues, didn't he? Didn't he?

(Cross-talk.)

MS. CROWLEY: We have, and the Europeans have been talking to the Iranians for years, and it has failed.

MS. CLIFT: No, you're --

MR. PAGE: And we talked to North Korea.

MS. CLIFT: So you're saying --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me --

MS. CROWLEY: It's years ahead of schedule.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Do I get this right?

MS. CROWLEY: The talking has brought them time to progress in their program.

MS. CLIFT: Do I get this right that you believe that President Bush's "You're with us or against us; we don't talk to our enemies" has not worked because he just hasn't been strict enough about it? MS. CROWLEY: You know what? The Democratic rap on Bush is that he failed to use diplomacy and he doesn't use allies. He used both with the Iranians over the last couple of years, and it has failed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let me put a little different spin on it.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's suppose that Bush knows, as the Republican strategists do, that the kind of tactic he used will cause the Democrats to rally around Obama, and that's exactly what they want. Why would they want Obama as the candidate in the fall? Why?

MR. PAGE: Is there any doubt? (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Why? Because he's winning more delegates and he's winning the confidence of the Democratic Party. I don't think they need President Bush --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But why would Bush want that? Why would he want Obama as the opponent to the Republican candidate, to McCain?

MR. PAGE: Gee, John, it beats me. I mean, he's already --

MR. BUCHANAN: John thinks he's afraid of Hillary.

MR. PAGE: I can't wait to hear --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's another guru who wants to have Obama as the candidate -- Republican nominee John McCain on Hamas. Quote: "I think it is very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. I think that the people should understand that I will be Hamas's worst nightmare," unquote.

Now, that goes in two directions, doesn't it?

MS. CLIFT: Well, that --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, John, your point is -- John's point is that they're scared to death of Hillary -- McCain and Bush -- so they're elevating Obama. That's nonsense. They expect him to be the nominee. I happen to think Hillary might be tougher, but they expect Obama, and they're carving him up now and defining him before he can define himself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Has McCain always been this tough on Hamas? Clarence Page.

MR. PAGE: Not according to his interview he gave a couple of years ago with Jamie Rubin for Sky TV. He was talking then about how, "Well, you've got to talk to Hamas sooner or later," et cetera, et cetera; I mean, a remarkably McCainsian, reasonable position, which he has now abandoned as he inches closer to George Bush.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get on record here. Do you think that Jimmy Carter and his conversation with Hamas, which just occurred, did the right thing?

MR. PAGE: That he did the right thing?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In talking to Hamas. Yes or no?

MR. PAGE: It's a back-channel sort of thing. I don't think it did any harm.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, it does grave harm, because Hamas is a terrorist organization that is not about to change its objectives.

MS. CLIFT: Hamas is the elected government of Gaza. You cannot have peace in the Middle East without eventually including them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no -- the right thing or not?

MS. CROWLEY: Forget it.

MS. CLIFT: Just as the PLO used to be off-limits and we now talk to the PLO.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Carter do the right thing?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think he should do it. But I agree with Clarence. I don't think he did any harm.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do you come down?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think presidents of the United States --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Play the game, will you, Pat? Yes or no? He did the right thing or he didn't.

MS. CLIFT: I'll give him one.

MR. BUCHANAN: No. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No? No? Dominantly no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Dominantly no.

MS. CLIFT: I'll give it an unequivocal yes. But both of the Democratic campaigns thought that he did not do the right thing.

MS. CROWLEY: Look, you can talk --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the Hamas endorsement of Senator Obama's candidacy as damaging as the Reverend Wright's condemnation of America? Is Hamas the new Reverend Wright?

MR. BUCHANAN: Hamas will hurt him even more with the Jewish community, but Reverend Wright will hurt him with middle America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: It depends how he handles it. And I think he is putting out the fires, because these are unfair attacks leveled by a president who has no credibility. MS. CROWLEY: I think the Hamas endorsement hurts him because it's going to raise questions about his national security credentials with the general voting public. And if Hamas thinks they can run circles around the guy, mainstream America is not going to vote for him to be commander in chief.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Hamas as bad as what Wright did to him?

MS. CROWLEY: I think it's quite as damaging, yeah.

MR. PAGE: I think Wright is more damaging because Wright showed Obama to be as complicated as any other African-American. He's not the iconic dream figure some people had in mind. But both of these episodes have happened early enough that Obama can deal with them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence is right.

Issue Two: Hillary's End Game.

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Thank you, West Virginia. (Cheers, applause.) Like the song says, it's almost heaven.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, for Hillary, West Virginia isn't only heaven. It could also be her salvation. Fortified with her 67 percent to 26 percent victory against Barack Obama, her campaign spirit has been lifted.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) I am ready to go head to head with John McCain. Our party is strong enough for this challenge. I am strong enough for it. You know I never give up. I'll keep coming back, and I'll stand with you as long as you stand with me. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here are the top four reasons Hillary says can deliver her a win: One, electability. For 92 years, no Democrat has won the White House in the general election without winning West Virginia, which Hillary just won. And get this: More than half of the voters in West Virginia said that they would be disappointed if Obama wins the nomination.

More ominous for Obama, many believe, are the signs of political erosion that emerged among Obama's core voters in this week's West Virginia primary in three categories. Clinton won a majority of voters under the age of 30 and she won the majority of the college- educated and she won the majority of affluent voters. Until West Virginia, these categories have been counted in Obama's coalition.

How about that? How about the fact that he shows erosion in those categories? And why is the press so dismissive of Hillary's West Virginia landslide? Do you want to speak to that, Clarence? MR. PAGE: Well, he didn't campaign in West Virginia, for one thing. I mean, he went there about three times. She went there 27 times.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much money did he spend there, and how many offices did he open?

MR. PAGE: West Virginia is not a state you win with the air war. You've got to press the flesh, shake hands with people, let them get to know you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to the question?

MR. PAGE: Half the state thinks he's a Muslim.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Twice or three times what she spent?

MR. PAGE: It's irrelevant, John. I just told you, it doesn't work. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: She's still behind mathematically in the number of delegates. And the fact that John Edwards, the day after, came out and endorsed Barack Obama, called him up and said, "I've got your back" -- Edwards is the epitome of the working-class message.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, cut it out.

MS. CLIFT: Wait. I'm not going to cut it out. I'm going to finish. (Laughter.) He is the epitome of the working-class message that appeals to the Reagan Democrats.

And so --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, stop baiting Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: It exposes a vulnerability of Obama's, the down-scale working-class vote -- Reagan Dems, NASCAR dads, whatever label you want to give them, euphemisms for white working-class Democrats.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: They like Hillary because she's scrappy. She's like Pat. She's scrappy. And Obama --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the three areas of strength? The college-educated --

MS. CLIFT: -- is a little too eloquent --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me speak to it. Look, West Virginia was a complete blowout. It was a tremendous victory. It also revealed two of the things you mentioned -- enormous resistance to the candidate of the Democratic Party, who's going to be Obama; that's number one. And Hillary Clinton wins those swing states with white middle-class voters -- Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan; a powerful argument.

MS. CLIFT: I want to make one point. John Kerry -- windsurfer, Philadelphia Swiss cheese-eating sandwich, whatever. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you making fun of Kerry?

MS. CLIFT: He won 86 percent of the so-called Reagan Democrats. We're talking about Democrats here. Obama's going to do fine enough in the fall with these voters.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, Obama looks like a black Kerry.

MR. PAGE: Oh, he does? MS. CROWLEY: I mean, he acts like --

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's elegant. He's cerebral.

MR. PAGE: On the charisma scale, is there a comparison, John?

MS. CLIFT: Those are good attributes.

MR. PAGE: Is the charisma scale really between Kerry and Obama? Are you going to sit there and say that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're both very articulate.

MR. PAGE: Oh, articulate. Thank you, John. So are you. Congratulations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're both very smart. They're both very dedicated.

MS. CROWLEY: And they're both very tall and skinny.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are points of comparison.

MS. CROWLEY: Look, I think West Virginia showed a couple of serious fault lines for Obama. Number one, that aura of invincibility is gone. I mean, the fact that the losing Democratic candidate could cream him by 40 points at this midnight hour is not a good sign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the categories of his strength.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly. Also, you know, his favorable numbers are down. His unfavorable numbers have ticked up to 42 percent. He's within striking distance of her negative numbers. He can't win the big states. He can't win the swing states. The popular vote margin is shrinking.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on for one --

MS. CLIFT: Why is he beating John McCain in all the matchups?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, please relinquish. Please relinquish. Hold on, now. I want to go back to that question of why this election in West Virginia has been dismissed, practically, by the press. And the answer is that they don't understand it. So we're going to find out now why they don't understand it, because of the bizarre arithmetic.

Number two, pledged delegates -- here we are -- pledged delegates. Two, pledged delegates. The numbers we have seen overstate Obama's strength. This is because not all pledged delegates are equal. Obama drew his pledged delegates from the small-state caucuses, so the number of these pledged delegates was far out of proportion to the pledged delegates from large-state primaries.

For example, in Idaho, Obama won the caucuses by 13,000 votes, but he picked up a net 13 delegates. In Pennsylvania, Hillary won by 200,000 more votes than Obama, but she picked up a net of only 10 delegates. For good analysis, see The Wall Street Journal Thursday this week, page A-6.

Exit question: What's the worst possible result of the bizarre math that rewards more delegates for winning a small-state caucus than for winning a big-state primary? I ask you, Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, the result is that Barack Obama still has the leading number of pledged delegates. These are the Democratic rules. They're all, as of now, playing by the rules. But I think that the bigger echo will happen in the general election if, in fact, you're right and the caucus states are inflating his strength.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the worst problem that could happen is Hillary wins the popular vote and that guy gets the nomination.

MS. CLIFT: I don't believe that's going to happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's interesting. That's interesting.

MR. BUCHANAN: Puerto Ricans are going to do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because he can't win the popular vote. Is that what you're saying?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's winning it, but he's going to lose it in the end.

MS. CLIFT: Well, that guy has won more delegates in more states, and he's got a lot of strength in the Democratic Party that it would be very difficult for them to take the nomination away.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We all admit that this is really bizarre, the way the delegates are awarded.

MR. PAGE: It's the rules.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's the rules.

MR. PAGE: You know, but those big states, it's a whole different contest for November. Those big states, you're going to have those governors, those (county ?) chairmen, behind the nominee.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, in the Republican Party, she would be the nominee. MR. PAGE: That changes all the math.

MR. BUCHANAN: She would be the nominee if this were the Republican Party, the way they run things. She wins California, New York, all those things. He'd be gone.

MS. CLIFT: And the Democrats would have Mike Huckabee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The bizarre arithmetic is skewing the view of who is ahead.

Issue Three: Edwards Backs Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I know that we didn't have a chance to campaign here during the primary, and I felt bad about it. And so, as a consequence, I decided that I would try to give you something special. And I decided that I was going to bring up one of the greatest leaders we have in the Democratic Party. Please give it up for my friend, John Edwards. (Cheers, applause.)

FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC, former Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) There is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership. There is one man that knows how to create the change, the lasting change that you have to build from the ground up. There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two. And that man is Barack Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Edwards is the former U.S. senator from North Carolina and a candidate in this year's Democratic presidential race, who withdrew in late January. Edwards is also a champion of organized labor. With this endorsement, he is seeking to rally his party behind Obama and to bring the primary race to a close.

Question: What's the fundamental problem with the Edwards endorsement of Obama? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: First, let's take the good side of it. It stepped all over Hillary's tremendous victory and changed the subject. Obama for once was energized and not listless, as he had been the night before. The problem is, I don't think that Edwards really adds that much. I don't think he's the great populist everyone says he is, and I think people know that. The guy's -- you know, he went and joined a hedge fund to study poverty; gets those $400 haircuts. I don't think it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who gets his delegates?

MS. CLIFT: Barack Obama will get his delegates.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't know that. They have to be assigned.

MR. PAGE: So far, so good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have to be assigned at the convention.

MS. CLIFT: Several of them already indicated they're going for Obama. Secondly, he's already dislodged the union endorsements -- the Steelworkers and so forth. You may not think he's a prime candidate. He certainly wouldn't do well in a Republican primary. But he gave his endorsement at a very opportune time, because he did step all over the West Virginia vote. And he does --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It would have been better earlier.

MS. CLIFT: No, I think he represents the kinds of workers, voters, that Barack Obama is having trouble getting. He gives him entree to those voters. And Obama's going to have to work harder to reach them, but I think he's got an opportunity. There's nothing bad to this endorsement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Liberals, unite.

It is not surprising that Edwards is on board the Obama train as a passenger, if not even the conductor. Extreme liberalism is what unites Edwards and Obama. For 2007, Obama was named by National Journal as the number one most liberal senator of the United States' 100 senators. His composite score was 95.5. In 2003, then-Senator John Edwards was the second-most liberal U.S. senator. His score was 95. Together, Obama and Edwards would make an ideologically flawless presidential ticket -- an Obama-Edwards bumper sticker.

Question: Will Obama need to forge party unity by bringing more ideological balance to the ticket? I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Well, he hasn't put Edwards on the ticket yet. (Laughs.) Some people would like for him to do so. I don't know if ideological balance is as important as regional balance or maybe gender balance or maybe national security, say, versus domestic policies --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, this kind of liberalism will kill him.

MR. PAGE: You know, it doesn't necessarily have to, John. I mean, Bill Clinton was a liberal and they tried to paint him all over the place, and he still won anyway.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you seen a map of the United States, a political map? You've seen all the red states?

MR. PAGE: What's important, John, is the cultural connection, just like you. That's why you're so wonderfully popular across the country, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: -- because you relate culturally with the people.

MS. CLIFT: Let's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't let the cat out of the bag.

MS. CLIFT: Let's define liberal. Let's define liberal here. The country is liberal in wanting to end the war. John McCain has now said he'll get most of the troops out by 2013.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. He solved that. He did it the Obama way.

MS. CLIFT: Secondly, the country wants health care. All the candidates are advancing that. MS. CROWLEY: The country is not liberal.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it is --

MS. CLIFT: The country wants to address global warming.

MS. CROWLEY: The country is not liberal.

MS. CLIFT: I don't care what labels you're going to attack. The progressive agenda is winning in every category.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the purity of the liberalism on that ticket, the Obama-Edwards ticket? Isn't that beautiful?

MS. CROWLEY: If Barack Obama wants to go on a suicide mission, he'll put John Edwards on the ticket.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't --

MS. CROWLEY: Because, look, you mentioned that Barack Obama is rated the most liberal senator. You know who was the last -- the most liberal senator in the last presidential election cycle --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who?

MS. CROWLEY: -- was John Kerry.

MR. BUCHANAN: Kerry.

MS. CROWLEY: Who did he have as his running mate? John Edwards. And that didn't work out too well for them. I think the real problem for Barack Obama is he is a liberal. He says he's a liberal. He's a proud liberal. He won't run away from the label, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't he receive --

MS. CROWLEY: But he's going to get creamed in the general election if he puts --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't he receive Edwards in a closet somewhere?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, no, John. Edwards is -- look, it was a good event. I wouldn't overrate it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye.



END.
erica? Is Hamas the new Reverend Wright?

MR. BUCHANAN: Hamas will hurt him even more with the Jewish community, but Reverend Wright will hurt him with middle America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: It depends how he handles it. And I think he is putting out the fires, because these are unfair attacks leveled by a president who has no credibility. MS. CROWLEY: I think the Hamas endorsement hurts him because it's going to raise questions about his national security credentials with the general voting public. And if Hamas thinks they can run circles around the guy, mainstream America is not going to vote for him to be commander in chief.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Hamas as bad as what Wright did to him?

MS. CROWLEY: I think it's quite as damaging, yeah.

MR. PAGE: I think Wright is more damaging because Wright showed Obama to be as complicated as any other African-American. He's not the iconic dream figure some people had in mind. But both of these episodes have happened early enough that Obama can deal with them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence is right.

Issue Two: Hillary's End Game.

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Thank you, West Virginia. (Cheers, applause.) Like the song says, it's almost heaven.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, for Hillary, West Virginia isn't only heaven. It could also be her salvation. Fortified with her 67 percent to 26 percent victory against Barack Obama, her campaign spirit has been lifted.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) I am ready to go head to head with John McCain. Our party is strong enough for this challenge. I am strong enough for it. You know I never give up. I'll keep coming back, and I'll stand with you as long as you stand with me. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here are the top four reasons Hillary says can deliver her a win: One, electability. For 92 years, no Democrat has won the White House in the general election without winning West Virginia, which Hillary just won. And get this: More than half of the voters in West Virginia said that they would be disappointed if Obama wins the nomination.

More ominous for Obama, many believe, are the signs of political erosion that emerged among Obama's core voters in this week's West Virginia primary in three categories. Clinton won a majority of voters under the age of 30 and she won the majority of the college- educated and she won the majority of affluent voters. Until West Virginia, these categories have been counted in Obama's coalition.

How about that? How about the fact that he shows erosion in those categories? And why is the press so dismissive of Hillary's West Virginia landslide? Do you want to speak to that, Clarence? MR. PAGE: Well, he didn't campaign in West Virginia, for one thing. I mean, he went there about three times. She went there 27 times.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much money did he spend there, and how many offices did he open?

MR. PAGE: West Virginia is not a state you win with the air war. You've got to press the flesh, shake hands with people, let them get to know you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer to the question?

MR. PAGE: Half the state thinks he's a Muslim.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Twice or three times what she spent?

MR. PAGE: It's irrelevant, John. I just told you, it doesn't work. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: She's still behind mathematically in the number of delegates. And the fact that John Edwards, the day after, came out and endorsed Barack Obama, called him up and said, "I've got your back" -- Edwards is the epitome of the working-class message.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, cut it out.

MS. CLIFT: Wait. I'm not going to cut it out. I'm going to finish. (Laughter.) He is the epitome of the working-class message that appeals to the Reagan Democrats.

And so --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, stop baiting Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: It exposes a vulnerability of Obama's, the down-scale working-class vote -- Reagan Dems, NASCAR dads, whatever label you want to give them, euphemisms for white working-class Democrats.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: They like Hillary because she's scrappy. She's like Pat. She's scrappy. And Obama --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the three areas of strength? The college-educated --

MS. CLIFT: -- is a little too eloquent --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me speak to it. Look, West Virginia was a complete blowout. It was a tremendous victory. It also revealed two of the things you mentioned -- enormous resistance to the candidate of the Democratic Party, who's going to be Obama; that's number one. And Hillary Clinton wins those swing states with white middle-class voters -- Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan; a powerful argument.

MS. CLIFT: I want to make one point. John Kerry -- windsurfer, Philadelphia Swiss cheese-eating sandwich, whatever. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you making fun of Kerry?

MS. CLIFT: He won 86 percent of the so-called Reagan Democrats. We're talking about Democrats here. Obama's going to do fine enough in the fall with these voters.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, Obama looks like a black Kerry.

MR. PAGE: Oh, he does? MS. CROWLEY: I mean, he acts like --

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's elegant. He's cerebral.

MR. PAGE: On the charisma scale, is there a comparison, John?

MS. CLIFT: Those are good attributes.

MR. PAGE: Is the charisma scale really between Kerry and Obama? Are you going to sit there and say that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're both very articulate.

MR. PAGE: Oh, articulate. Thank you, John. So are you. Congratulations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're both very smart. They're both very dedicated.

MS. CROWLEY: And they're both very tall and skinny.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are points of comparison.

MS. CROWLEY: Look, I think West Virginia showed a couple of serious fault lines for Obama. Number one, that aura of invincibility is gone. I mean, the fact that the losing Democratic candidate could cream him by 40 points at this midnight hour is not a good sign.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the categories of his strength.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly. Also, you know, his favorable numbers are down. His unfavorable numbers have ticked up to 42 percent. He's within striking distance of her negative numbers. He can't win the big states. He can't win the swing states. The popular vote margin is shrinking.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on for one --

MS. CLIFT: Why is he beating John McCain in all the matchups?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, please relinquish. Please relinquish. Hold on, now. I want to go back to that question of why this election in West Virginia has been dismissed, practically, by the press. And the answer is that they don't understand it. So we're going to find out now why they don't understand it, because of the bizarre arithmetic.

Number two, pledged delegates -- here we are -- pledged delegates. Two, pledged delegates. The numbers we have seen overstate Obama's strength. This is because not all pledged delegates are equal. Obama drew his pledged delegates from the small-state caucuses, so the number of these pledged delegates was far out of proportion to the pledged delegates from large-state primaries.

For example, in Idaho, Obama won the caucuses by 13,000 votes, but he picked up a net 13 delegates. In Pennsylvania, Hillary won by 200,000 more votes than Obama, but she picked up a net of only 10 delegates. For good analysis, see The Wall Street Journal Thursday this week, page A-6.

Exit question: What's the worst possible result of the bizarre math that rewards more delegates for winning a small-state caucus than for winning a big-state primary? I ask you, Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, the result is that Barack Obama still has the leading number of pledged delegates. These are the Democratic rules. They're all, as of now, playing by the rules. But I think that the bigger echo will happen in the general election if, in fact, you're right and the caucus states are inflating his strength.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the worst problem that could happen is Hillary wins the popular vote and that guy gets the nomination.

MS. CLIFT: I don't believe that's going to happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's interesting. That's interesting.

MR. BUCHANAN: Puerto Ricans are going to do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because he can't win the popular vote. Is that what you're saying?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's winning it, but he's going to lose it in the end.

MS. CLIFT: Well, that guy has won more delegates in more states, and he's got a lot of strength in the Democratic Party that it would be very difficult for them to take the nomination away.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We all admit that this is really bizarre, the way the delegates are awarded.

MR. PAGE: It's the rules.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's the rules.

MR. PAGE: You know, but those big states, it's a whole different contest for November. Those big states, you're going to have those governors, those (county ?) chairmen, behind the nominee.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, in the Republican Party, she would be the nominee. MR. PAGE: That changes all the math.

MR. BUCHANAN: She would be the nominee if this were the Republican Party, the way they run things. She wins California, New York, all those things. He'd be gone.

MS. CLIFT: And the Democrats would have Mike Huckabee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The bizarre arithmetic is skewing the view of who is ahead.

Issue Three: Edwards Backs Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I know that we didn't have a chance to campaign here during the primary, and I felt bad about it. And so, as a consequence, I decided that I would try to give you something special. And I decided that I was going to bring up one of the greatest leaders we have in the Democratic Party. Please give it up for my friend, John Edwards. (Cheers, applause.)

FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC, former Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) There is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership. There is one man that knows how to create the change, the lasting change that you have to build from the ground up. There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two. And that man is Barack Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John Edwards is the former U.S. senator from North Carolina and a candidate in this year's Democratic presidential race, who withdrew in late January. Edwards is also a champion of organized labor. With this endorsement, he is seeking to rally his party behind Obama and to bring the primary race to a close.

Question: What's the fundamental problem with the Edwards endorsement of Obama? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: First, let's take the good side of it. It stepped all over Hillary's tremendous victory and changed the subject. Obama for once was energized and not listless, as he had been the night before. The problem is, I don't think that Edwards really adds that much. I don't think he's the great populist everyone says he is, and I think people know that. The guy's -- you know, he went and joined a hedge fund to study poverty; gets those $400 haircuts. I don't think it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who gets his delegates?

MS. CLIFT: Barack Obama will get his delegates.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't know that. They have to be assigned.

MR. PAGE: So far, so good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have to be assigned at the convention.

MS. CLIFT: Several of them already indicated they're going for Obama. Secondly, he's already dislodged the union endorsements -- the Steelworkers and so forth. You may not think he's a prime candidate. He certainly wouldn't do well in a Republican primary. But he gave his endorsement at a very opportune time, because he did step all over the West Virginia vote. And he does --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It would have been better earlier.

MS. CLIFT: No, I think he represents the kinds of workers, voters, that Barack Obama is having trouble getting. He gives him entree to those voters. And Obama's going to have to work harder to reach them, but I think he's got an opportunity. There's nothing bad to this endorsement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Liberals, unite.

It is not surprising that Edwards is on board the Obama train as a passenger, if not even the conductor. Extreme liberalism is what unites Edwards and Obama. For 2007, Obama was named by National Journal as the number one most liberal senator of the United States' 100 senators. His composite score was 95.5. In 2003, then-Senator John Edwards was the second-most liberal U.S. senator. His score was 95. Together, Obama and Edwards would make an ideologically flawless presidential ticket -- an Obama-Edwards bumper sticker.

Question: Will Obama need to forge party unity by bringing more ideological balance to the ticket? I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Well, he hasn't put Edwards on the ticket yet. (Laughs.) Some people would like for him to do so. I don't know if ideological balance is as important as regional balance or maybe gender balance or maybe national security, say, versus domestic policies --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, this kind of liberalism will kill him.

MR. PAGE: You know, it doesn't necessarily have to, John. I mean, Bill Clinton was a liberal and they tried to paint him all over the place, and he still won anyway.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you seen a map of the United States, a political map? You've seen all the red states?

MR. PAGE: What's important, John, is the cultural connection, just like you. That's why you're so wonderfully popular across the country, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: -- because you relate culturally with the people.

MS. CLIFT: Let's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't let the cat out of the bag.

MS. CLIFT: Let's define liberal. Let's define liberal here. The country is liberal in wanting to end the war. John McCain has now said he'll get most of the troops out by 2013.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. He solved that. He did it the Obama way.

MS. CLIFT: Secondly, the country wants health care. All the candidates are advancing that. MS. CROWLEY: The country is not liberal.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it is --

MS. CLIFT: The country wants to address global warming.

MS. CROWLEY: The country is not liberal.

MS. CLIFT: I don't care what labels you're going to attack. The progressive agenda is winning in every category.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the purity of the liberalism on that ticket, the Obama-Edwards ticket? Isn't that beautiful?

MS. CROWLEY: If Barack Obama wants to go on a suicide mission, he'll put John Edwards on the ticket.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't --

MS. CROWLEY: Because, look, you mentioned that Barack Obama is rated the most liberal senator. You know who was the last -- the most liberal senator in the last presidential election cycle --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who?

MS. CROWLEY: -- was John Kerry.

MR. BUCHANAN: Kerry.

MS. CROWLEY: Who did he have as his running mate? John Edwards. And that didn't work out too well for them. I think the real problem for Barack Obama is he is a liberal. He says he's a liberal. He's a proud liberal. He won't run away from the label, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't he receive --

MS. CROWLEY: But he's going to get creamed in the general election if he puts --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't he receive Edwards in a closet somewhere?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no, no, John. Edwards is -- look, it was a good event. I wouldn't overrate it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye.



END.