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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, AUGUST 22, 2008 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF AUGUST 23-24, 2008

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The Eagle Versus the Bear.

The United States this week publicly criticized Russia's military action in the trans-Caucasian nation of Georgia.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.

SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: (From videotape.) The Russian president hasn't kept his promise to abide by the terms of the cease-fire and have Russian forces withdraw. Russia is very clearly isolating itself. It's becoming more and more the outlaw in this conflict. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. criticism has been so sharp and unremitting that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has pointed to a possible enduring impact on the relationship between the two superpowers.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: (From videotape.) I do think that the tone of the relationship certainly has been changed by the actions that the Russians have taken in Georgia, and I think that it has prompted a fairly serious re-evaluation in the United States about the breadth of the kind of strategic relationship and cooperation that we might be able to have with the Russians going forward.

Question: Assume that the cost of protecting Georgia is to alienate Russia. Is that in the United States' national interest? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you're talking about bringing Georgia into NATO as they're talking about bringing Ukraine into NATO. That would be insanity, John. First, we're not going to fight for Georgia, as is quite clear from the fact right now we're not doing anything militarily. And to commit yourself and give Georgia a war guarantee would be an act of folly which would really start a second Cold War.

The truth of the matter is the Georgians started this fight. The Russians finished it. The Georgians are not going to get back Abkhazia. They're not going to get back South Ossetia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's Abkhazia?

MR. BUCHANAN: Abkhazia is a breakaway province, much larger, on the coast of Georgia. South Ossetia --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Black Sea.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. South Ossetia is only 70,000. My guess is that's going to eventually be annexed by Russia. The United States ought to deal with the fact that they've had a setback and a humiliation, but not do something stupid and reactive and give a war guarantee to a country we're not going to defend. The greatest relationship and most important in the world, just about, is between the United States and Russia, and we ought not to imperil it because of this incident.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, for an extremely lame-duck administration, the rhetoric coming from the president and the secretary of State have been extreme. I thought Secretary of Defense Gates has the relationship in context. There will be a cost here.

But, you know, Pat is right; the provocation came from the Georgians. And the president of Georgia basically won election after a coup in which he promised to return the separatist provinces to Georgia, a promise that he's been trying to keep. And Russia was ready, perhaps overly ready, waiting, eager for the provocation, and they behaved in a brutish way. But the overreaction of the Bush administration, it seems to me, is also engineered in part to boost the Republican candidate, thinking that this may be the October surprise come a month or so early.

MS. CROWLEY: Overreaction by the United States is an absurd way of describing what is going on here. You have Russia, which is trying to reassert itself, create new spheres of influence, re-establish its old spheres of influence. They have invaded a tiny, pro-western, democratic neighbor that happens to be very friendly to the United States, and the American president is supposed to sit by and just let the Russian tanks roll right through? That is absurd.

The Russians, over the last couple of years, have been the chief provocateur of every major international incident that the United States finds itself in, with the exception of al Qaeda; that is, that the United States did nothing when the Russians began supporting the Iranian nuclear program. We did nothing when the Russians began supporting the Syrian military program. We did nothing when the Russians resumed their flights of strategic bombers right off the coast of the United States. We said and did nothing because we didn't want to alienate them.

MS. CLIFT: Thanks for the history lesson. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Let her finish.

MS. CROWLEY: Russia is the provocateur in all of this. And to say that the United States of America is supposed to sit by and allow all these provocations to go by --

MS. CLIFT: I want to say one thing. When you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Hold on.

MS. CROWLEY: -- without a (quick ?) response is absurd.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, quickly.

MS. CLIFT: When you taunt the Russian bear, you'd better make sure you have something other than --

MS. CROWLEY: They have been the chief provocateur, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, excuse me -- make sure you have something other than blanks and rhetoric to fire.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, I'm going to call you in one moment, but let's get back to this provocateur. Who was the provocateur? Was it Russia or was it Georgia? The Russian-Georgian conflict has stirred a lot of analysis, but relatively little of it has focused on what provoked the Russian action. But one senator did allude to it -- Indiana Senator Dick Lugar, 32-year Senate veteran and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The senator pointed out who attacked first, Russia or Georgia. Lugar says Georgia.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): (From videotape.) The facts are that our State Department advised Mr. Saakashvili not to attack because the Russians were armed. They were ready.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The former revered Soviet Union leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, whose perestroika and glasnost policies produced the 1991 independence of Georgia, an eastern bloc nation, said this to Larry King, pointing to Georgia as the provocateur.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV (former general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union): (From videotape, through interpreter.) Russia could not avoid addressing this assault and this devastation and the killings of people, the devastation of the city. I don't know why it so happened that it is being presented that Russia invaded Georgia. This is really disinformation.

This is all lies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is really disinformation to say that Russia was the provocateur. What do you think of all that?

MR. PAGE: Well, in fact, there is an argument that is being made, an argument can be made, that President Saakashvili overplayed his hand, that he thought the United States was going to support him more strongly than we have, and as Pat says, more strongly than we are likely to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he knows that the president of the United States has a policy of strategic encirclement of Russia.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Witness what we're doing in Poland. Witness what we are doing in the Czech Republic.

MR. PAGE: That's right. But we don't want to endanger, though, our economic relations, our commercial relations, Russian oil. Neither does Russia want to endanger their leverage with NATO, their membership in the World Trade Organization that they're trying to get. There's a lot of diplomatic leverage that we can use here and that Saakashvili could have used, but he didn't. He pushed harder, and suddenly he did provoke the big Russian bear.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the president now understands that we have a different Russia than we had immediately after the -- at the beginning of the Cold War?

MR. PAGE: You mean, is he ready to look into Putin's eyes again and read his soul?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, no, how far it has come with its development, particularly its oil development, its gas development and how it feeds Europe?

MR. PAGE: It is a different world now. And Georgia does have the only pipeline coming out of there that's not controlled by Russia, although militarily now that may have -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what is the level -- to what extent do we give Russia a benefit of the doubt inasmuch as the provocation occurred by Saakashvili of Georgia?

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what -- look, Saakashvili got what he deserved. That was stupid. And the Americans had to know it was coming and should have told him, "Stop; don't do this." We didn't do that. The Russians overdid it, smashed him good --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there were three people from the State Department who told them that.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the president of the United States should have got on the phone instead of fooling around with the volleyball players.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is true. Saakashvili thought he had the president with him because the president had gone over there --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- two years ago and said, "I'm on your side."

MR. BUCHANAN: Saakashvili -- I don't care how much they love him or how, quote, "democratic" he is, the relationship with Russia is vital to the national security of the United States, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who has more nuclear weapons, Russia or the United States?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think they're probably roughly equal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are roughly at parity. That's correct.

MR. PAGE: We've got more.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that tell you something?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, yeah, they're the second most powerful nation on earth. And, look, you don't step on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember when the president was asked to visit the Black Sea about two years ago or three years ago to visit with Putin, and Putin told him how obnoxious it was for us to put our missiles in Poland --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. Let me tell you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and how painful it was --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it, hold it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and against them --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, here's what's going to happen. We put the missiles in Poland and also anti-aircraft missiles manned by Americans. Look for the Russians to put the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you blame the Russians?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Russians will put --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you blame the Russians?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Russians will put anti-aircraft missiles in Iran and Syria. You watch.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, what do you think of all that?

MS. CROWLEY: I find this whole conversation an out-of-body experience that we are blaming the United States, the western democracies, the Eastern European democracies and the new democracy in Georgia for the fact that the Russian imperialist power is back, sending their tanks rolling across sovereign borders.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They were provoked to do so.

MS. CROWLEY: Let me tell you something. Those Eastern European leaders, who were so worried about a resurgent Russia that they wanted -- and, by the way, the missile interceptors going into Poland are now at the request of the Polish government -- don't you think those leaders, watching what's happening in Georgia, that now those fears were founded? Everybody wants to --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MS. CROWLEY: Wait a minute. Everybody wants to appease Russia, hoping that the crocodile doesn't eat them last.

MR. BUCHANAN: For heaven's sakes.

MS. CLIFT: It isn't a question of waiting. It's a question of reality.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the way out of this crisis? What should Bush do now? What's the way out of the crisis, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, what Bush is going to have to do is realize he's not going to reverse this thing. Quite frankly, the way for the United States after Bush is let's call and demand free elections in Abkhazia, free elections in South Ossetia. Do they want to remain with Georgia? Where do they want to go? MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the indications so far?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, they don't want any part of Georgia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The indications are that they want their independence. That's what they want.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Ossetia is too small for independence. It ought to go to Russia. Abkhazia can be independent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ossetia can handle independence. They've got 100,000 people.

MR. BUCHANAN: With 70,000 people?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's about the size of Rhode Island. Look at Rhode Island, for heaven's sakes.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's like Bethany Beach, for heaven's sake.

MR. PAGE: It's got more than 70,000.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: I think the president should shut up and go away. He's a lame duck. And if you're looking at these breakaway provinces, all around the Caucasus you've got individual ethnicities yearning to be countries. It is not something out of the U.S. national interest that we have either the capability or the need --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- or the need to get involved in. We should have learned in Iraq, when you start playing around with ethnicities and nationalism, there's hell to pay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of this idea?

MS. CROWLEY: Why do you think that those in South Ossetia or in Abkhazia want to become part of Russia? Because the Russians went in very cleverly and started handing out Russian citizenship and Russian passports, so of course their allegiance is going to be there. They created this situation as a pretext to go in. The American president should do what John McCain called for many months ago and everybody laughed at him, which is kick Russia out of the G8. He should --

MS. CLIFT: Isolation is not --

MS. CROWLEY: There has to be some penalty for the Russians invading a sovereign country.

MR. BUCHANAN: Monica, where do you think -- isolate Russia? Where do you think Russia will go?

MS. CROWLEY: The alienation is already there.

MR. PAGE: We've got the leverage, but Bush is too deep into his lame-duck period to really do anything effectively here now. This really kicks over to the next administration.

MS. CLIFT: And you can't isolate an oil-rich country that has basically Europe held hostage because of its dependence on oil.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, isolate Russia and Russia will go to China, Iran, Syria in a big, big way. MS. CROWLEY: They're already there. They're already there.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, why not be smart like --

MS. CROWLEY: They already have those alliances, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Why not be smart like Reagan and draw them away from the Chinese and make them a friend of the United States?

MS. CROWLEY: You can only do that if they want that, Pat. They don't want that.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Russians do want it.

MS. CROWLEY: They look at the United States as an enemy, and they're supporting all of our enemies around the world.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's nonsense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get out.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's nonsense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're trying to figure out what Bush should do now.

MR. BUCHANAN: If they did, they would have grabbed all of Georgia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As you know, I spent -- I was in Georgia last month.

MR. BUCHANAN: Did you see this coming?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I must tell you that they are lovely, marvelous, high-spirited and great workers, great psychic energy, and they're great to be with.

MR. BUCHANAN: And bad judgment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But I think Saakashvili stumbled badly when he assumed that the president, with his encirclement through NATO, would back what Georgia was doing as well. And I think they feel victimized, and I think they should feel victimized. And I think it behooves the United States to do what we can to relieve their misery, and also to keep our relationship with Russia -- to restabilize that.

In that regard, this is what I would do. I would do what we did when we got Spain into NATO, when Spain held a national referendum. I would see to it that the Polish people --

MR. BUCHANAN: Polish? MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- have a referendum --

MR. BUCHANAN: Polish?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and decide whether or not --

MR. BUCHANAN: The South Ossetians?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- whether or not they should welcome the missiles that the president wants to put in.

MS. CROWLEY: They do support it by huge margins.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they probably do right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The government did, but not the people.

MS. CROWLEY: The Polish people now do by 70 percent --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'd like to see what they --

MS. CROWLEY: -- because they've seen what's happened in Georgia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'd like to see what they feel --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I don't care what the Polish people, excuse me, think. This is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The idea is to repair the relationship with Russia.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you slow down the placement --

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't let --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and he leaves that to the next president, and he slows it down by getting a referendum in place for the Polish people.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I don't care how the Polish people vote. You don't let them decide whether we've got to get face to face with Russia. We decide that, and the answer is no.

MS. CLIFT: Right. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He needs a lever to get time, the president does, and to repair the relationship. That will slow down the emplacement of missiles in Poland, which are obnoxious to the Russians. Issue Two: Aloha, Hawaii.

Senator Barack Obama is back from his holiday, and the Democratic Convention is upon us. And Obama is combative, hurling charges at John McCain.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee): (From videotape.) The same guys who brought you George Bush are now trying to package John McCain. Don't you dare suggest that I'm less patriotic than you or that I've got political motivations in taking the positions that I've taken.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why is Obama lashing out at McCain now? I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Because he's been called too soft by his own supporters, saying, you know, "Where's the fight?" Also McCain has scored some gains in the polls during the period in which he's been sniping at Obama for being too much of a celebrity, while at the same time saying Obama's not known well enough. It's a weird argument, but it works. And so Obama now is coming out more aggressively, talking about "Well, you don't know John McCain either, and I'm going to tell you about him."

MS. CLIFT: Well, Obama basically ceded the month of August to McCain. You know, he was off in Europe and Hawaii. And McCain went negative and it drew some blood.

And it seems to me that Obama is now off the mat. He got a nice gift from Senator McCain, who couldn't remember how many houses he has. And if you live in a glass house, you should at least know how many you have. And that allowed Obama to tap into the populist economic vein and show how out of touch McCain is.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay, but --

MS. CLIFT: It's a supermarket scanner moment, Pat. You'll remember that.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, look, none of John McCain's houses was financed by Mr. Rezko, the crook. The next McCain's comeback --

MR. PAGE: Neither did Obama.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, look, Obama's problem is this. I mean, we just saw it. "Don't you dare." Did you hear that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, you're in a street fight. You don't say, "Don't you dare call me a name." Obama does not know how to do it. It is not natural or instinctive, so he's --

MS. CLIFT: What would Pat do? What would a street brawler do?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you dare say that about Obama. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Tell us. Instruct us.

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen, we do know how to do these things, Eleanor. We used to do it for Nixon and Reagan.

MS. CLIFT: Should he say, "Listen, I'll get you by the neck"?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) MS. CROWLEY: You know, the presidential campaign --

MR. BUCHANAN: I'd be Keating Five. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: Pat is exactly right. Presidential campaigns are not a game of pinochle. This is hardball politics. Barack Obama has tried to avoid it for a long time, and he's had some great success in this new kind of politics and positioning himself as the fresh face who doesn't engage in that kind of thing.

Well, by not engaging in that kind of thing, he has seen his poll numbers fall. He's seen John McCain's tick up. And now I think it's finally dawned on him that he has to join this fight or he's going to lose. The problem for him -- and this is a real danger for Obama, I think -- is that because he's packaged himself as this new kind of politician, that if he starts getting --

MR. PAGE: Not that McCain hasn't?

MS. CROWLEY: -- down into the negative ads and the mud-throwing, he looks like everybody else and he loses his --

MR. PAGE: Well, the timing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he was really a sad sack at Saddleback?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, he was terrible. McCain had his best night.

MR. PAGE: You're missing the point. You're missing the point. The point of Saddleback is that Obama showed up. John Kerry's biggest regret may be --

MR. BUCHANAN: He should have won that.

MR. PAGE: -- that he did not go for the evangelical vote.

MR. BUCHANAN: I thought he was going to --

MR. PAGE: Obama just showed up for the second time at Saddleback.

MS. CLIFT: He's not going to win --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He couldn't give a straight answer to the question.

MR. PAGE: Well, you know, he's learning. He's learning. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: He's not going to win white evangelicals. But when you have the leading white evangelical voice calling him "my friend," that is an entree to -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think what he's done is he's effectively moved beyond Saddleback with this attack on McCain.

MR. BUCHANAN: But here's what he needs, John. What Obama needs more than anything else, because he's not good at it, he needs surrogates. Remember who Nixon had? We had John Connally, Bob Dole, Spiro Agnew --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Spiro.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- doing the cutting. He needs surrogates.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, God. What a hall of evil. I don't think he needs --

MR. BUCHANAN: Forty-nine states, Eleanor -- 49 states.

MS. CLIFT: -- Spiro Agnew and John Connally.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And impeachment follows.

MR. PAGE: Well, Pat, I remind you of that great Chicago figure, Finley Peter Dunne, who said, "Politics ain't bean bag." I believe that's an old Chicago slogan. It's only summer. After Labor Day, when things start to get hot, you'll see the surrogates are better.

MR. BUCHANAN: Then he'll put his dukes up? (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: But right now -- you know, it's summertime and you've got a lot of soft moderate swing voters in the middle now. It doesn't firm up till after Labor Day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, don't you dare criticize Milhous. (Laughter.)

Okay, the Obama nation. The number of attacks on Senator Barack Obama is growing, notably a book written by Jerome Corsi titled "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality." The Obama campaign claims that the book is full of, quote-unquote, "vile smears." The campaign produced an online 40-page rebuttal.

Also, in New Mexico this week, Obama insinuated that John McCain is behind the Corsi book.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) This may not be directly affiliated with the campaign, but suddenly, magically, you've got the same guy who wrote "Unfit for Command." He comes out with a book saying that I'm a nut. And, you know, people are questioning my patriotism and saying -- and John McCain himself personally says I'd rather lose a war so I could win an election. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Obama too thin-skinned for the rough and tumble of politics? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: He says, "I'm not a nut." That's his response? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, he also came back with a 40-page rebuttal. This stuff does get into the Internet bloodstream, but this is not like the swiftboat revisited. They don't have a cast of characters visiting the cable shows. They don't have TV ads. It's over the top. Even my friends on the right grimaced when we learned we were going to talk about this on this show.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: The problem is that the Democrats keep nominating these effete, coolly academic guys who think they can fend off attacks, you know, in a classy kind of way. That's not how politics works. And Obama had better get a thicker skin going into this election.

MR. PAGE: He goes one week to the next. Some weeks he's too tough, too Chicago. The next week he's too soft. You know, I saw the same thing a year ago when Hillary Clinton was way ahead of Obama in the polls and he was at the Howard University debate and folks said, "Hey, he's too soft. Hillary won that debate." And she did. But Obama's folks told me then, "Just wait." They've got their own timetable. So let's talk about it again in September.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think he's too thin-skinned for politics, but I think he leaves the impression that he's an academician more than he is a politician.

Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: McCain's ahead one week after the election -- one week after the convention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's use that as a question. How many points will McCain be ahead in four weeks?

MS. CLIFT: I think Obama maintains his fragile lead, and nobody breaks out until the debates.

MS. CROWLEY: A few weeks after the end of the Republican Convention, McCain up by one point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By one point?

MS. CROWLEY: One point.

MR. PAGE: One week after the convention there will be a virtual tie, within the margin of error.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Too close to call.

Bye-bye.

(PBS segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Bottoms Up.

DAVID OXTOBY (Pomona College president): (From videotape.) I think if we're able to show responsible drinking and model responsible drinking and educate students about it, that would be very beneficial for everyone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Back-to-school time, and in the college world that means back-to-school parties. And that means rebel yells and, of course, alcohol. About 100 college presidents want to change the law, now fixed at 21 years of age, for legal drinking.

Get this: The college presidents want the drinking age lowered from the present 21 to 18. The presidents argue that a 21-year threshold encourages binge drinking by 19-year-olds and 18-year-olds and 17-year-olds.

Here are some statistics. Alcohol kills: One hundred fifty- seven college-age students -- that's 18 to 23 years of age -- drank themselves to death over a six-year period. Alcohol abuse: Forty percent of college students report alcohol dependency or abuse.

Question: There are now 123 college presidents who want to see the drinking age lowered to 18. Is that a sober idea? Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: One of those colleges asking for a lowering of the drinking age is my alma mater, Colgate. So I have an affinity for this. Look, I think that, no matter what, even if the drinking age is 18, whether it's 21, regardless of the age, you're going to have binge drinking on college campuses.

MS. CLIFT: I think these college presidents are on to something, and they see this first-hand. And the fact that you can vote at 18, you can go to war at 18 -- I wonder if they're enforcing the drinking laws in Iraq. I think it's ridiculous that people can't legally get a drink at age 18. What it does is it drives it underground. And kids are taking risks with driving and drinking when you could actually have it on the campus and have it in a more supervised --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's explore the rationale a little bit more and pick up one of your points.

The rationale: If you lower the age to 18, these college presidents argue, binge drinking would occur less. Furthermore, 18- year-olds are considered legal adults in the United States. Adulthood comes with new rights and new responsibilities -- joining the military, voting in elections, serving on juries, purchasing tobacco and lottery tickets. So, proponents say, if 18-year-olds can do all of these things, why can't they buy beverage alcohol?

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, does not think lowering the legal age limit is the answer.

LAURA DEAN-MOONEY (national president, Mothers Against Drunk Driving): (From videotape.) We just are concerned that this kind of initiative would pass the buck straight down to high school principals. Then they would be dealing with the problem of underage drinking, even more so than they are now. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As far as popular opinion is concerned, 77 percent of Americans do not favor lowering the drinking age to 18. That was in 2007. Three out of four Americans don't approve of it, of those surveyed --

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- don't approve of lowering the age. What's the science? What's the science?

MR. PAGE: What makes me an old fogey on this, John, is that, first of all, I've got a 19-year-old son. But outside of that, you know, we know that if you lower the drinking age, you're going to have some additional highway deaths. And just think about which kids do you want to sacrifice? I mean, that's the problem that causes a lot of people to say, "No, let's not lower it."

The presidents are right when they say you'll have less binge drinking. But it is true that, you know, if kids at 18 lie about their age in order to pass for 21, you're going to have 16-year-olds lying to pass for 18. And I know, because when I was in high school in Ohio, the age for 3.2 beer was 18, and that's what happened.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, that's an argument --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, apparently that's not the case, according to the science.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, that's an argument for prohibition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The binge drinking. What?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, we had 18-year-old -- you could drink beer in D.C. We had those Georgetown parties at Georgetown University. The guys were down there. They had the parties in the gymnasium. All the priests were in there and everybody was in there, and the guys were drinking beer. And you can watch them when they go out and make sure they don't go into a car and crash it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point? What's the point?

MR. BUCHANAN: The point is yes to beer at 18, because they will bring it in under some kind of supervision.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor dropping the age to 18? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Beer and wine; whiskey, 21.

MR. PAGE: After Prohibition, drinking did go up.

MS. CLIFT: I'm in favor of dropping it, because when you make it this forbidden fruit, it's just worse. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CROWLEY: No, I say don't drop the drinking age, because even if you have these supervised parties where, you know, authority figures are watching the flow of alcohol, they're still going to drink in private. You're still going to have binge drinking.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. PAGE: And the fact is, when you lower -- when you drop prohibition, drinking does go up for at least a period. And that's something that you have to consider, that you are going to encourage more younger kids to drink. And that does cause problems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know a couple of those college presidents, and I'm with them. I say lower it to 18.



END.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But I think Saakashvili stumbled badly when he assumed that the president, with his encirclement through NATO, would back what Georgia was doing as well. And I think they feel victimized, and I think they should feel victimized. And I think it behooves the United States to do what we can to relieve their misery, and also to keep our relationship with Russia -- to restabilize that.

In that regard, this is what I would do. I would do what we did when we got Spain into NATO, when Spain held a national referendum. I would see to it that the Polish people --

MR. BUCHANAN: Polish? MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- have a referendum --

MR. BUCHANAN: Polish?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and decide whether or not --

MR. BUCHANAN: The South Ossetians?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- whether or not they should welcome the missiles that the president wants to put in.

MS. CROWLEY: They do support it by huge margins.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they probably do right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The government did, but not the people.

MS. CROWLEY: The Polish people now do by 70 percent --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'd like to see what they --

MS. CROWLEY: -- because they've seen what's happened in Georgia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'd like to see what they feel --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I don't care what the Polish people, excuse me, think. This is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The idea is to repair the relationship with Russia.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you slow down the placement --

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't let --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and he leaves that to the next president, and he slows it down by getting a referendum in place for the Polish people.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I don't care how the Polish people vote. You don't let them decide whether we've got to get face to face with Russia. We decide that, and the answer is no.

MS. CLIFT: Right. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He needs a lever to get time, the president does, and to repair the relationship. That will slow down the emplacement of missiles in Poland, which are obnoxious to the Russians. Issue Two: Aloha, Hawaii.

Senator Barack Obama is back from his holiday, and the Democratic Convention is upon us. And Obama is combative, hurling charges at John McCain.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee): (From videotape.) The same guys who brought you George Bush are now trying to package John McCain. Don't you dare suggest that I'm less patriotic than you or that I've got political motivations in taking the positions that I've taken.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why is Obama lashing out at McCain now? I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Because he's been called too soft by his own supporters, saying, you know, "Where's the fight?" Also McCain has scored some gains in the polls during the period in which he's been sniping at Obama for being too much of a celebrity, while at the same time saying Obama's not known well enough. It's a weird argument, but it works. And so Obama now is coming out more aggressively, talking about "Well, you don't know John McCain either, and I'm going to tell you about him."

MS. CLIFT: Well, Obama basically ceded the month of August to McCain. You know, he was off in Europe and Hawaii. And McCain went negative and it drew some blood.

And it seems to me that Obama is now off the mat. He got a nice gift from Senator McCain, who couldn't remember how many houses he has. And if you live in a glass house, you should at least know how many you have. And that allowed Obama to tap into the populist economic vein and show how out of touch McCain is.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay, but --

MS. CLIFT: It's a supermarket scanner moment, Pat. You'll remember that.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, look, none of John McCain's houses was financed by Mr. Rezko, the crook. The next McCain's comeback --

MR. PAGE: Neither did Obama.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, look, Obama's problem is this. I mean, we just saw it. "Don't you dare." Did you hear that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, you're in a street fight. You don't say, "Don't you dare call me a name." Obama does not know how to do it. It is not natural or instinctive, so he's --

MS. CLIFT: What would Pat do? What would a street brawler do?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you dare say that about Obama. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Tell us. Instruct us.

MR. BUCHANAN: Listen, we do know how to do these things, Eleanor. We used to do it for Nixon and Reagan.

MS. CLIFT: Should he say, "Listen, I'll get you by the neck"?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) MS. CROWLEY: You know, the presidential campaign --

MR. BUCHANAN: I'd be Keating Five. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: Pat is exactly right. Presidential campaigns are not a game of pinochle. This is hardball politics. Barack Obama has tried to avoid it for a long time, and he's had some great success in this new kind of politics and positioning himself as the fresh face who doesn't engage in that kind of thing.

Well, by not engaging in that kind of thing, he has seen his poll numbers fall. He's seen John McCain's tick up. And now I think it's finally dawned on him that he has to join this fight or he's going to lose. The problem for him -- and this is a real danger for Obama, I think -- is that because he's packaged himself as this new kind of politician, that if he starts getting --

MR. PAGE: Not that McCain hasn't?

MS. CROWLEY: -- down into the negative ads and the mud-throwing, he looks like everybody else and he loses his --

MR. PAGE: Well, the timing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he was really a sad sack at Saddleback?

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, he was terrible. McCain had his best night.

MR. PAGE: You're missing the point. You're missing the point. The point of Saddleback is that Obama showed up. John Kerry's biggest regret may be --

MR. BUCHANAN: He should have won that.

MR. PAGE: -- that he did not go for the evangelical vote.

MR. BUCHANAN: I thought he was going to --

MR. PAGE: Obama just showed up for the second time at Saddleback.

MS. CLIFT: He's not going to win --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He couldn't give a straight answer to the question.

MR. PAGE: Well, you know, he's learning. He's learning. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: He's not going to win white evangelicals. But when you have the leading white evangelical voice calling him "my friend," that is an entree to -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think what he's done is he's effectively moved beyond Saddleback with this attack on McCain.

MR. BUCHANAN: But here's what he needs, John. What Obama needs more than anything else, because he's not good at it, he needs surrogates. Remember who Nixon had? We had John Connally, Bob Dole, Spiro Agnew --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Spiro.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- doing the cutting. He needs surrogates.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, God. What a hall of evil. I don't think he needs --

MR. BUCHANAN: Forty-nine states, Eleanor -- 49 states.

MS. CLIFT: -- Spiro Agnew and John Connally.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And impeachment follows.

MR. PAGE: Well, Pat, I remind you of that great Chicago figure, Finley Peter Dunne, who said, "Politics ain't bean bag." I believe that's an old Chicago slogan. It's only summer. After Labor Day, when things start to get hot, you'll see the surrogates are better.

MR. BUCHANAN: Then he'll put his dukes up? (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: But right now -- you know, it's summertime and you've got a lot of soft moderate swing voters in the middle now. It doesn't firm up till after Labor Day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, don't you dare criticize Milhous. (Laughter.)

Okay, the Obama nation. The number of attacks on Senator Barack Obama is growing, notably a book written by Jerome Corsi titled "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality." The Obama campaign claims that the book is full of, quote-unquote, "vile smears." The campaign produced an online 40-page rebuttal.

Also, in New Mexico this week, Obama insinuated that John McCain is behind the Corsi book.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) This may not be directly affiliated with the campaign, but suddenly, magically, you've got the same guy who wrote "Unfit for Command." He comes out with a book saying that I'm a nut. And, you know, people are questioning my patriotism and saying -- and John McCain himself personally says I'd rather lose a war so I could win an election. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Obama too thin-skinned for the rough and tumble of politics? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: He says, "I'm not a nut." That's his response? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, he also came back with a 40-page rebuttal. This stuff does get into the Internet bloodstream, but this is not like the swiftboat revisited. They don't have a cast of characters visiting the cable shows. They don't have TV ads. It's over the top. Even my friends on the right grimaced when we learned we were going to talk about this on this show.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: The problem is that the Democrats keep nominating these effete, coolly academic guys who think they can fend off attacks, you know, in a classy kind of way. That's not how politics works. And Obama had better get a thicker skin going into this election.

MR. PAGE: He goes one week to the next. Some weeks he's too tough, too Chicago. The next week he's too soft. You know, I saw the same thing a year ago when Hillary Clinton was way ahead of Obama in the polls and he was at the Howard University debate and folks said, "Hey, he's too soft. Hillary won that debate." And she did. But Obama's folks told me then, "Just wait." They've got their own timetable. So let's talk about it again in September.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think he's too thin-skinned for politics, but I think he leaves the impression that he's an academician more than he is a politician.

Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: McCain's ahead one week after the election -- one week after the convention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's use that as a question. How many points will McCain be ahead in four weeks?

MS. CLIFT: I think Obama maintains his fragile lead, and nobody breaks out until the debates.

MS. CROWLEY: A few weeks after the end of the Republican Convention, McCain up by one point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By one point?

MS. CROWLEY: One point.

MR. PAGE: One week after the convention there will be a virtual tie, within the margin of error.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Too close to call.

Bye-bye.

(PBS segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Bottoms Up.

DAVID OXTOBY (Pomona College president): (From videotape.) I think if we're able to show responsible drinking and model responsible drinking and educate students about it, that would be very beneficial for everyone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Back-to-school time, and in the college world that means back-to-school parties. And that means rebel yells and, of course, alcohol. About 100 college presidents want to change the law, now fixed at 21 years of age, for legal drinking.

Get this: The college presidents want the drinking age lowered from the present 21 to 18. The presidents argue that a 21-year threshold encourages binge drinking by 19-year-olds and 18-year-olds and 17-year-olds.

Here are some statistics. Alcohol kills: One hundred fifty- seven college-age students -- that's 18 to 23 years of age -- drank themselves to death over a six-year period. Alcohol abuse: Forty percent of college students report alcohol dependency or abuse.

Question: There are now 123 college presidents who want to see the drinking age lowered to 18. Is that a sober idea? Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: One of those colleges asking for a lowering of the drinking age is my alma mater, Colgate. So I have an affinity for this. Look, I think that, no matter what, even if the drinking age is 18, whether it's 21, regardless of the age, you're going to have binge drinking on college campuses.

MS. CLIFT: I think these college presidents are on to something, and they see this first-hand. And the fact that you can vote at 18, you can go to war at 18 -- I wonder if they're enforcing the drinking laws in Iraq. I think it's ridiculous that people can't legally get a drink at age 18. What it does is it drives it underground. And kids are taking risks with driving and drinking when you could actually have it on the campus and have it in a more supervised --

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's explore the rationale a little bit more and pick up one of your points.

The rationale: If you lower the age to 18, these college presidents argue, binge drinking would occur less. Furthermore, 18- year-olds are considered legal adults in the United States. Adulthood comes with new rights and new responsibilities -- joining the military, voting in elections, serving on juries, purchasing tobacco and lottery tickets. So, proponents say, if 18-year-olds can do all of these things, why can't they buy beverage alcohol?

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, does not think lowering the legal age limit is the answer.

LAURA DEAN-MOONEY (national president, Mothers Against Drunk Driving): (From videotape.) We just are concerned that this kind of initiative would pass the buck straight down to high school principals. Then they would be dealing with the problem of underage drinking, even more so than they are now. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As far as popular opinion is concerned, 77 percent of Americans do not favor lowering the drinking age to 18. That was in 2007. Three out of four Americans don't approve of it, of those surveyed --

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- don't approve of lowering the age. What's the science? What's the science?

MR. PAGE: What makes me an old fogey on this, John, is that, first of all, I've got a 19-year-old son. But outside of that, you know, we know that if you lower the drinking age, you're going to have some additional highway deaths. And just think about which kids do you want to sacrifice? I mean, that's the problem that causes a lot of people to say, "No, let's not lower it."

The presidents are right when they say you'll have less binge drinking. But it is true that, you know, if kids at 18 lie about their age in order to pass for 21, you're going to have 16-year-olds lying to pass for 18. And I know, because when I was in high school in Ohio, the age for 3.2 beer was 18, and that's what happened.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, that's an argument --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, apparently that's not the case, according to the science.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, that's an argument for prohibition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The binge drinking. What?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, we had 18-year-old -- you could drink beer in D.C. We had those Georgetown parties at Georgetown University. The guys were down there. They had the parties in the gymnasium. All the priests were in there and everybody was in there, and the guys were drinking beer. And you can watch them when they go out and make sure they don't go into a car and crash it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point? What's the point?

MR. BUCHANAN: The point is yes to beer at 18, because they will bring it in under some kind of supervision.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor dropping the age to 18? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Beer and wine; whiskey, 21.

MR. PAGE: After Prohibition, drinking did go up.

MS. CLIFT: I'm in favor of dropping it, because when you make it this forbidden fruit, it's just worse. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CROWLEY: No, I say don't drop the drinking age, because even if you have these supervised parties where, you know, authority figures are watching the flow of alcohol, they're still going to drink in private. You're still going to have binge drinking.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. PAGE: And the fact is, when you lower -- when you drop prohibition, drinking does go up for at least a period. And that's something that you have to consider, that you are going to encourage more younger kids to drink. And that does cause problems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know a couple of those college presidents, and I'm with them. I say lower it to 18.



END.