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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, AUGUST 29, 2008 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF AUGUST 30-31, 2008

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: It's a Girl.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ, presumptive Republican presidential nominee): (From videotape.) I am very pleased and very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States -- (cheers, applause) -- Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska. (Cheers, applause.)

ALASKA GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R, prospective Republican vice presidential nominee): (From videotape.) Senator, I am honored to be chosen as your running mate. I will be honored to serve next to the next president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.) Todd and I have shared many blessings, and four out of five of them are here with us today. Our oldest son, Track, though, he'll be following the presidential campaign from afar. On September 11th of last year, our son enlisted in the United States Army. (Cheers, applause.)

But I didn't get into government to do the safe and easy things. A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why the ship is built. Politics isn't just a game of competing interests and clashing parties. The people of America expect us to seek public office and to serve for the right reasons. (Cheers, applause.)

No leader in America has shown these qualities so clearly or presents so clear a threat to business as usual in Washington as Senator John S. McCain. (Cheers, applause.)

This is a moment that requires resolve and toughness and strength of heart in the American president. And my running mate is a man who has shown those qualities in the darkest of places and in the service of his country. (Cheers, applause.) As the mother of one of those troops and as the commander of Alaska's National Guard, that's the kind of man I want as our commander in chief. (Cheers, applause.)

Question: How do you grade Governor Sarah Palin this week in her Republican vice presidential debut? Rich.

MR. LOWRY: I give her a B+. I think the family looks great. I think she's very likable and a winsome presence; a little boosterish and light. But I think there are three key things about this pick, John. One, it's most important thematically, so it makes it hard to say McCain is more of the same and gets his message focused on reform and middle-class families, right where it has to be.

Two, tactically brilliant, the way they kept this thing close- hold and really stepped on Obama's speech in the news on Friday.

And three, it's bold, but that means it's a risk. And she's going to be under a microscope. And if she makes a big mistake, especially in the next five days, this thing could backfire.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: "Tactically brilliant." That isn't what a presidential campaign is about. She doesn't meet the initial threshold of being seen as a credible president, should the need arise for her to step into that position. She's been in the governor's office since 2006, and before that her elective experience was in the Wahilla (sic/means Wasilla) City Council, where she then became mayor, population 5,505. I guess that's where she learned about the budget. (Laughter.) It seems to me this is a blatant attempt to woo disaffected Hillary voters. And it is such a misreading of what women care about that I think this could really backfire.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think, then, this legitimizes Hillary women to vote for McCain, and you don't think that gender trumps party?

MS. CLIFT: Gender does not trump party. Ask Walter Mondale when he put Geraldine Ferraro on the ticket and lost 49 states. This is about the issues. She is clearly on the pro-life side. She supports teaching creationism in the schools. She is John McCain's last nod to the religious right.

She's a wonderful person and she's a great reformer in Alaska, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Ferraro was --

MS. CLIFT: -- she's got a lovely family. But that doesn't mean that she is a credible potential president. And McCain has just given away the best card he has against Barack Obama, and that is not ready to be president. He's chosen -- on his birthday, when he turned 72 years old, he's chosen as his backup equipment somebody who's clearly not ready to step into the job.

MS. CROWLEY: I think Democrats are skating on thin ice if they want to go down that path of questioning Sarah Palin's credentials and her ability to be president of the United States when the guy at the top of their ticket, his resume is thin gruel.

You know, when I saw this announcement, somewhere Hillary Clinton is smiling, because John McCain had the cojones to do what Barack Obama could not do, and that is put a woman on his ticket. She's a dynamite choice because she's a tax-cutting, gun-defending, pro- drilling environmentalist, pro-life mother of five --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hockey playing.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: She also plays hockey. She's a cool lady. She's a tough cookie. She's got a son about to be deployed to Iraq. She pulls every lever the Republicans need going into this election.

And there's another important point. She does play hockey. She ice fishes. She shoots. She's a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She's also a Christian and she's pro-life. A couple of months ago Barack Obama put down people like her by saying that they cling to their guns and their religion. She's going to go out there and she is going to be a rock star in the states that are going to decide this election -- Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan -- because, you know what, John, they like their guns and they like their religion too. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before I turn to you, Clarence -- and I'm very anxious to --

MR. PAGE: Quickly, quickly. (Laughs.

)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to hear what you have to say --

MR. PAGE: Don't leave me hanging, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Governor Palin is an authority on oil and natural gas. Alaska includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In this McLaughlin Group June '08 sound bite, Governor Palin says this about energy drilling in the refuge.

GOV. PALIN: It is our oil. It is federal land, though, so we need Congress to see the light and quit relying on unstable and these foreign regimes that aren't real friendly to America, asking them to increase production for America's security needs and for our energy needs to be met. That's ridiculous. It's nonsensical.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: John McCain favors drilling in Alaska, but not in the wildlife refuge. So will this vice president give him the cover he needs to extract billions of barrels of oil in that huge reserve in ANWR? I ask you.

MR. PAGE: I don't think John McCain is that interested in drilling in ANWR. I think he's using the oil drilling issue to try to make himself look good to people who are concerned about oil prices, as we've discussed numerous times on this program before.

But John, if Barack Obama's got a thin resume, you can read the newspapers for this young lady's resume. I'm sure she's a fine mom, is a fine governor for Alaska. But the very notion of her being a heartbeat away from the presidency does a mockery to this election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's the only one of the three senators who are running for public office, either as vice president or president -- we have three members of the United States, none of whom have had executive experience. She's had executive --

MR. PAGE: This reminds me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She has two years of executive experience.

MR. PAGE: This reminds me of when Illinois Republicans, desperate for an opponent for Barack Obama, chose Alan Keyes. I mean, it was so condescendingly laughable, it actually brought down other Republicans like Phil Crane.

MR. LOWRY: That's not fair. That's really --

MR. PAGE: It is fair, because this is condescending to women, Rich.

MR. LOWRY: She is a serious --

MR. PAGE: Let me make the point.

MR. LOWRY: No, Clarence, she is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. PAGE: This is condescending to women in the belief that we just find a woman -- I mean, there are so many other Republican women who would have had so much more stature.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did he pick her?

MR. LOWRY: She fits McCain's profile. She is a maverick who fought a corrupt Republican establishment in Alaska. That's a huge part of the appeal. And I don't think people vote experience at the bottom of the ticket. It's very strange to have Democrats now caring about experience when they have the top of the ticket that has extremely thin experience, one year in the Senate before he basically started running for president.

MR. PAGE: He's got more experience in national politics than both her and Abraham Lincoln before he became president.

MR. LOWRY: Well, Abraham Lincoln was a serious guy with decades --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get this straight. I thought it was your view, because of Cheney and Bush, that experience doesn't count. Isn't that what Obama's saying? Now, all of a sudden, experience counts.

MS. CLIFT: Experience does count.

MR. PAGE: Well, you know, when Bill Clinton says the other night, "They said the same thing about me in '92," that had some resonance to it, because people remember the Bill Clinton years with a great deal of fondness, frankly.

MR. LOWRY: Clarence, by your standards, Sarah Palin has as much experience as Abraham Lincoln, who had one term in the House and then some time in the state legislature.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor. MR. LOWRY: So if that's your standard, she meets it.

MS. CLIFT: This is a pick on the par of Dan Quayle, where the first President Bush went for the youth vote. And Dan Quayle had a lot more experience on the national stage than this woman does. Now, maybe she'll perform fine, but I thought the (burble ?) factor was pretty high this morning.

MS. CROWLEY: I hope --

MS. CLIFT: And she doesn't apparently know very much about foreign policy or --

MS. CROWLEY: I hope my --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How is she going to do in a debate?

MS. CROWLEY: My dream is that the Democrats continue to go down this road, because the guy at the top of their ticket raises still a lot of questions, despite his very effective week this week in Denver. Look, Sarah Palin is a reformer, unlike Barack Obama, who has packaged himself as a reformer. He blocked bipartisan reform in Chicago that retained the Daley machine in power.

MR. PAGE: He passed legislation in Springfield, in Illinois, that the machine people opposed.

MS. CROWLEY: He is not the reformer and he's not the change agent. Sarah Palin and John McCain --

MS. CLIFT: He --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think her two years as an executive up there in Alaska trumps 143 days of Obama in the Senate?

MS. CLIFT: It does not trump the last 18 months that Barack Obama has been running and has been on the national stage. This is not --

MS. CROWLEY: She has been governing.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: She's been governing. He's been running.

MS. CLIFT: It did not trump his singular experience in attaining what he has. It does not trump the country's feeling, the fact that he is, as President Clinton put it, on the right side of history. This is a woman plucked for blatantly political reasons, an attempt to appeal to women --

MS. CROWLEY: Oh, and Joe Biden was not? MS. CLIFT: -- and it will set off the women wars.

MR. PAGE: Oh, wait for that debate.

MS. CROWLEY: Joe Biden's choice was a complete reaction to the fact --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One question --

MR. PAGE: Aren't you looking forward to that debate?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that Barack Obama has zero experience in foreign affairs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica -- Monica --

MR. PAGE: Aren't you looking forward to that debate, the Biden- Palin debate? I'll bake the popcorn. I look forward to it.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, you know, Joe Biden can't bludgeon her because she's a woman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you mention the Palin-Biden debate?

MR. PAGE: This has nothing to do with the fact that she's a woman. She's just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Palin-Biden debate? What do you think is going to happen there?

MS. CROWLEY: It is going to be very interesting, because here she's got sort of the Hillary effect working in her favor, where Joe Biden cannot go in and bludgeon her to death because she is a woman. He's got to be very careful in how he handles her in the debate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, his problems are greater than hers in a debate, for those reasons alone, that he's debating a woman.

MR. PAGE: It seems like Lloyd Bentsen -- (inaudible) -- Dan Quayle.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Does Sarah Palin give the Republican ticket more breadth than the Democratic ticket? Rich Lowry. Do you want to help on this? MR. LOWRY: Sure, more life experience and some executive experience. And this is an election where McCain has to take risks if he is going to win. Every risk has its potential down side, but this was a good one to take.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying that senators don't have experience?

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.) They talk. Senators talk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have senators been successful in winning the presidency?

MR. LOWRY: You have a talk ticket on the Democratic side. You have Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The quality they share most is being able to talk and loving hearing themselves talk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who was the last senator to win the presidency?

MR. LOWRY: JFK.

MS. CROWLEY: John F. Kennedy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John F. Kennedy. What year?

MS. CROWLEY: 1960.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: 1960. How many years ago was that?

MS. CROWLEY: Senators do not win the presidency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And all of them --

MS. CLIFT: A senator's going to win this time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have senators sought the presidency since Kennedy?

MR. LOWRY: Of course they have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: This is not a serious choice. It makes it look like a made-for-TV movie. And if the media reaction is anything, it's been literally laughter in many places.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where is that?

MS. CLIFT: In very many newsrooms.

MS. CROWLEY: This is a fabulous choice. I'm hearing from a lot of Hillary supporters, including my own sister, who says this is a dynamite pick and it could influence the way they vote. So don't discount this woman. By the way, when she played high school basketball, her nickname was "Sarah Barracuda." Do not underestimate this woman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she nervous?

MS. CROWLEY: No. Well, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the Obama-ite women?

MS. CROWLEY: No, I think that the Obama ticket might be a little wary about how many women, not the hard-core Democrats who are still going to vote for the Obama ticket, but the swing voters, especially in these key states, that Sarah Palin and her husband can both --

MS. CLIFT: If you're an evangelical Christian who believes in overturning Roe v. Wade, you're going to do fine with her. But if you were a Hillary supporter and you were there not because of Hillary but because of the issues she stands for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get this straight. Are you saying --

MS. CLIFT: -- they will not vote for John McCain because Sarah Palin is on the ticket. You have just said vice presidents don't matter.

MR. LOWRY: There are two kinds of Hillary voters, though, I think. There are the real hard-core feminists who, at the end of the day, were not going to vote for the Republican ticket no matter what, because of the abortion issue.

MS. CLIFT: Those were 18 million hard-core feminists.

MR. LOWRY: There are a lot of working-class voters and working- class families, though, who are the types of voters who voted for Hillary who could be swayed by this sort of pick, and if McCain picked up --

MR. PAGE: Rich, with all due respect, National Review's expertise on Democratic women has been pretty appalling in the past. I wouldn't bank on it now.

John, ask me. I know about Democratic women. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you a question.

MR. LOWRY: How much do you know about Democratic women, Clarence?

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) I'm married to one, for one thing. But go ahead. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Sarah can deliver the evangelicals --

MR. PAGE: Oh, yeah, she will.

MR. LOWRY: They love her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that counts for anything?

MR. PAGE: Well, not much these days. I'll tell you, Rick Warren, I think, is really the wave of the future for evangelicals in politics, and they're a little more even-handed about this sort of thing.

MR. LOWRY: And he wasn't available for the ticket.

MR. PAGE: Well, you know, she does help to solidify that end of McCain's base.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what are we talking about? What percentage --

MR. PAGE: And he needs that desperately.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What percentage of the electorate are we talking about?

MR. PAGE: That's what it's about, but he's sacrificing people at the other end who remember that Lloyd Bentsen-Dan Quayle debate and how, even though that Democratic ticket lost, the stature of Bentsen was so much greater than Quayle's. It was even greater than Dukakis in some ways.

MR. LOWRY: Yeah, what did you get out of that? What did you get out of that? What did the Democrats get out of that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the evangelical --

MR. LOWRY: Bentsen won the vice presidential debate.

MR. PAGE: If he had been head of the ticket, it might have been different, right?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get back to the evangelicals. If she can deliver the evangelical vote, that's enormous.

MR. LOWRY: This was a trick, John. This was a trick. It was a bold choice that didn't alienate the base, because it wasn't a Ridge or a Lieberman, a pro-choicer. He managed to find someone who's pro- life and bold at the same time.

MS. CLIFT: It's an "Entertainment Weekly" choice. It is not a serious choice for -- MR. LOWRY: You guys are so condescending.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is --

MR. PAGE: Don't you love it?

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: Condescending to a woman. How about that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, of course she brings more breadth; A, her gender, and B, she's not a senator.

Issue Two: The Coronation.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, Democratic presidential nominee): (From videotape.) With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States. Tonight I say to the people of America, the Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land, enough.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes, and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit cards, bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

The failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush. (Cheers, applause.) America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did Obama's acceptance speech cover all the bases he needed to cover in Denver? Clarence.

MR. PAGE: It's hard to think of any he didn't cover. There were over two dozen policy positions I counted. He amazingly worked it into a conversational tone without sounding like a laundry list. I think that the big issue of experience that has haunted him in the past was one that I thought he handled well. I might have put more emphasis on it.

MS. CLIFT: Right. He presented his bio. He also put some meat and potatoes on hope and change with the programmatic proposals. He showed some steel because he took the fight right to John McCain after weeks of people wondering whether he was tough enough. And he said he's looking forward to a fight over who has the temperament and the judgment to be president. So I thought that was a significant move ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he saying more than it said when he mentions temperament? (Laughter.) MS. CLIFT: Yes, that will probably be fleshed out in the future weeks?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, R-A-G-E?

MR. PAGE: Everybody's waiting for McCain to blow his stack.

MS. CLIFT: R-A-G-E. Okay, yes, perhaps.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what you're really talking about. Okay --

MS. CLIFT: Well, the reckless quality to John McCain's comments.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To develop that point -- targeting McCain.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment. But, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war. That's not the judgment we need.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Barack Obama correct when he says that McCain refuses to end the war? I ask you, Rich.

MR. LOWRY: No, he's not. I mean, John McCain wants to end the war, but he wants to end it on successful terms. I thought, though, this was a very effective speech. It was very combative; more grounded than usual, and that's what he needed to be.

I think there are three things that he had to do in this convention, in this speech -- sound moderate on the hot-button issues, which he did; sound tough on foreign policy, which he did; and connect with economic issues. And this was a Bill Clintonesque focus on the economy and on the middle class, and that's exactly where he has to be.

MS. CROWLEY: I agree. I do believe that it was a very effective speech. And I think he had to do all of those things, plus remind voters who he is, where he came from, and try to convince voters who are still uneasy about him that he is trustworthy enough to be entrusted with the keys to the kingdom. I'm not sure he closed that part of the deal, but he did go very far in sort of persuading people that he is of presidential stature.

The problem for him in this particular speech is that the first half of the speech was essentially partisan. He did go after McCain. He showed some steel.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it was a partisan Democratic convention.

MS. CROWLEY: Listen, I'm not taking issue with that. I think he did do the right thing. The problem for him was in the second half of the speech -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear it before, that first part of the speech?

MS. CROWLEY: Not particularly; not with any strength and authority from Obama before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a little repetitive.

MS. CROWLEY: But the problem for him is that he ran for the last 18 months, and, in fact, the second half of his speech on Thursday night was that post-partisan guy. And I'm not sure for how much longer he can sustain both.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get this in -- a multiple choice. Was the staging and substance of Obama's speech, A, way over the top; B, slightly excessive; C, just right; D, par for the political course; E, understated, the setting and the -- (laughter) -- Rich.

MR. LOWRY: I say E, because there wasn't the Blue Angels flyover. (Laughter.) Actually, I gave it a B. I was there. I think it probably played pretty well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think that in that outdoor amphitheater he lost touch? Anyone would lose touch --

MR. LOWRY: I don't think so. I thought it was going to be much worse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with the feedback from the audience.

MS. CLIFT: That was not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you have to be in an enclosed area, really?

MR. LOWRY: I thought it worked. I'm sorry, John.

MS. CLIFT: It worked. He managed to turn that cavernous setting into an intimate experience for the people at home in their living rooms, and I think for the people there as well. But this is about organizing. They got the data from 84,000 people who are going back out into the states talking to four or five neighbors. This is a guy who won on the strength of his organizing ability, and that's what he's putting into play in this presidential election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No feedback from the audience deficiency?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, look, the whole event was a little bit over the top, but I think it was totally suitable for the kind of historic night it was. And let's face it; whether you support Barack Obama or not, the first African-American at the top of the ticket is a huge deal.

MR. PAGE: And John, you know, this is TV. You've got to go big on TV.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: It was amazing.

MS. CLIFT: John knows that. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: You know that John, yeah. What was amazing -- you know, like here, when you frame the camera on the speaker, it's like you're in a living room almost, if your living room has pillars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I guess you're right. Orson Welles all the way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Hillary the Unifier.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY, former Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I am so honored to be here tonight. I'm here tonight as a proud mother, as a proud Democrat -- (cheers, applause) -- as a proud senator from New York -- (cheers, applause) -- a proud American -- (cheers, applause) -- and a proud supporter of Barack Obama. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Let's assume a McCain-Palin win on the Republican side. Let's assume, after four years, McCain says he's not going to run for re-election. Let's assume Sarah becomes the Republican nominee for president, his vice presidential nominee. Let's assume Hillary becomes the Democratic candidate for president.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who would win that election? (Laughter.) If it's so funny, Rich, give me an answer.

MR. LOWRY: What can we assume -- what happened -- give me some more assumptions. What happened in the McCain administration? (Laughter.) Was there success?

MS. CLIFT: Is McCain at 27 percent approval?

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.) I just need a little more information to work with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the assumption is that she gets the Republican nomination to run in four years.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, that's a big assumption too. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And she's facing off Hillary, who's got the --

MS. CLIFT: That's probably three or four assumptions too far. (Laughter.) But I would think that Hillary Clinton would have more stature in that debate, because I would assume she would be emerging as a larger-than-life legislative leader challenging the McCain White House, or perhaps working with John McCain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think she's going to grow with exposure? It's quite clear that you think that she's going to be stunted.

MS. CLIFT: Sarah Palin? It depends what the vice president trusts her with. What do you think he would entrust her with?

MS. CROWLEY: Energy policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The energy situation.

MS. CROWLEY: Energy policy, number one.

MS. CLIFT: All right, climate change, okay. If she succeeds in controlling greenhouse gases --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe gun control.

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- and gets Al Gore's endorsement, maybe I'll vote for her. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: I think Sarah Palin has the ability to be a real sleeper campaigner on this trail. And if she is elected with John McCain, she could be a real sleeper vice president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Bill's backing.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Everything I learned in my eight years as president and in the work I have done since in America and across the globe has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job. (Cheers, applause.) With Joe Biden's experience and wisdom, supporting Barack Obama's proven understanding, instincts and insight, America will have the national security leadership we need.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How does this endorsement speech rank against the totality of Bill Clinton's speeches? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think it was one of his finest, and it goes a long way to redeeming some of the missteps that he had during the campaign, to put it kindly. He reminded us that he still has his political skills, that he can be generous in defeat. And saying that Barack Obama is on the right side of history fed into the whole generational change that this convention represented. MS. CROWLEY: I loved -- in the video that they played before Hillary Clinton spoke, they identified Bill Clinton as Hillary's husband. Look, nobody does it better. Even Barack Obama, who's a great oratician, even he doesn't sort of rise to the ability of Bill Clinton, who really, I think, in this speech, I think he felt dissed throughout this campaign, and he said, "In this speech, I'm going to take Barack Obama to school." And he really -- he was the best that I've ever seen him.

MR. PAGE: I think the best thing was the Obama people let him do his own thing. I think they wanted him to talk about national security, but let Bill Clinton be Bill Clinton. He does do it better than anybody. And he argued Obama's case, especially on the experience thing, better than Obama has.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The structure of the speech, the content of the speech, the delivery of the speech, the --

MR. PAGE: It was not (poetic ?), John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One week from this weekend, which ticket leads by what?

MR. LOWRY: Obama by 1.8.

MS. CLIFT: Dems by three.

MS. CROWLEY: Dead even -- a draw.

MR. PAGE: McCain-Palin by two. It won't last, though.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain by four.

Happy Labor Day. Bye bye.

END.

an. By the way, when she played high school basketball, her nickname was "Sarah Barracuda." Do not underestimate this woman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she nervous?

MS. CROWLEY: No. Well, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the Obama-ite women?

MS. CROWLEY: No, I think that the Obama ticket might be a little wary about how many women, not the hard-core Democrats who are still going to vote for the Obama ticket, but the swing voters, especially in these key states, that Sarah Palin and her husband can both --

MS. CLIFT: If you're an evangelical Christian who believes in overturning Roe v. Wade, you're going to do fine with her. But if you were a Hillary supporter and you were there not because of Hillary but because of the issues she stands for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get this straight. Are you saying --

MS. CLIFT: -- they will not vote for John McCain because Sarah Palin is on the ticket. You have just said vice presidents don't matter.

MR. LOWRY: There are two kinds of Hillary voters, though, I think. There are the real hard-core feminists who, at the end of the day, were not going to vote for the Republican ticket no matter what, because of the abortion issue.

MS. CLIFT: Those were 18 million hard-core feminists.

MR. LOWRY: There are a lot of working-class voters and working- class families, though, who are the types of voters who voted for Hillary who could be swayed by this sort of pick, and if McCain picked up --

MR. PAGE: Rich, with all due respect, National Review's expertise on Democratic women has been pretty appalling in the past. I wouldn't bank on it now.

John, ask me. I know about Democratic women. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you a question.

MR. LOWRY: How much do you know about Democratic women, Clarence?

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) I'm married to one, for one thing. But go ahead. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Sarah can deliver the evangelicals --

MR. PAGE: Oh, yeah, she will.

MR. LOWRY: They love her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that counts for anything?

MR. PAGE: Well, not much these days. I'll tell you, Rick Warren, I think, is really the wave of the future for evangelicals in politics, and they're a little more even-handed about this sort of thing.

MR. LOWRY: And he wasn't available for the ticket.

MR. PAGE: Well, you know, she does help to solidify that end of McCain's base.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what are we talking about? What percentage --

MR. PAGE: And he needs that desperately.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What percentage of the electorate are we talking about?

MR. PAGE: That's what it's about, but he's sacrificing people at the other end who remember that Lloyd Bentsen-Dan Quayle debate and how, even though that Democratic ticket lost, the stature of Bentsen was so much greater than Quayle's. It was even greater than Dukakis in some ways.

MR. LOWRY: Yeah, what did you get out of that? What did you get out of that? What did the Democrats get out of that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the evangelical --

MR. LOWRY: Bentsen won the vice presidential debate.

MR. PAGE: If he had been head of the ticket, it might have been different, right?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get back to the evangelicals. If she can deliver the evangelical vote, that's enormous.

MR. LOWRY: This was a trick, John. This was a trick. It was a bold choice that didn't alienate the base, because it wasn't a Ridge or a Lieberman, a pro-choicer. He managed to find someone who's pro- life and bold at the same time.

MS. CLIFT: It's an "Entertainment Weekly" choice. It is not a serious choice for -- MR. LOWRY: You guys are so condescending.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is --

MR. PAGE: Don't you love it?

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: Condescending to a woman. How about that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is, of course she brings more breadth; A, her gender, and B, she's not a senator.

Issue Two: The Coronation.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, Democratic presidential nominee): (From videotape.) With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States. Tonight I say to the people of America, the Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land, enough.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes, and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit cards, bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

The failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush. (Cheers, applause.) America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did Obama's acceptance speech cover all the bases he needed to cover in Denver? Clarence.

MR. PAGE: It's hard to think of any he didn't cover. There were over two dozen policy positions I counted. He amazingly worked it into a conversational tone without sounding like a laundry list. I think that the big issue of experience that has haunted him in the past was one that I thought he handled well. I might have put more emphasis on it.

MS. CLIFT: Right. He presented his bio. He also put some meat and potatoes on hope and change with the programmatic proposals. He showed some steel because he took the fight right to John McCain after weeks of people wondering whether he was tough enough. And he said he's looking forward to a fight over who has the temperament and the judgment to be president. So I thought that was a significant move ahead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he saying more than it said when he mentions temperament? (Laughter.) MS. CLIFT: Yes, that will probably be fleshed out in the future weeks?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, R-A-G-E?

MR. PAGE: Everybody's waiting for McCain to blow his stack.

MS. CLIFT: R-A-G-E. Okay, yes, perhaps.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what you're really talking about. Okay --

MS. CLIFT: Well, the reckless quality to John McCain's comments.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To develop that point -- targeting McCain.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment. But, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war. That's not the judgment we need.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Barack Obama correct when he says that McCain refuses to end the war? I ask you, Rich.

MR. LOWRY: No, he's not. I mean, John McCain wants to end the war, but he wants to end it on successful terms. I thought, though, this was a very effective speech. It was very combative; more grounded than usual, and that's what he needed to be.

I think there are three things that he had to do in this convention, in this speech -- sound moderate on the hot-button issues, which he did; sound tough on foreign policy, which he did; and connect with economic issues. And this was a Bill Clintonesque focus on the economy and on the middle class, and that's exactly where he has to be.

MS. CROWLEY: I agree. I do believe that it was a very effective speech. And I think he had to do all of those things, plus remind voters who he is, where he came from, and try to convince voters who are still uneasy about him that he is trustworthy enough to be entrusted with the keys to the kingdom. I'm not sure he closed that part of the deal, but he did go very far in sort of persuading people that he is of presidential stature.

The problem for him in this particular speech is that the first half of the speech was essentially partisan. He did go after McCain. He showed some steel.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it was a partisan Democratic convention.

MS. CROWLEY: Listen, I'm not taking issue with that. I think he did do the right thing. The problem for him was in the second half of the speech -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear it before, that first part of the speech?

MS. CROWLEY: Not particularly; not with any strength and authority from Obama before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a little repetitive.

MS. CROWLEY: But the problem for him is that he ran for the last 18 months, and, in fact, the second half of his speech on Thursday night was that post-partisan guy. And I'm not sure for how much longer he can sustain both.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get this in -- a multiple choice. Was the staging and substance of Obama's speech, A, way over the top; B, slightly excessive; C, just right; D, par for the political course; E, understated, the setting and the -- (laughter) -- Rich.

MR. LOWRY: I say E, because there wasn't the Blue Angels flyover. (Laughter.) Actually, I gave it a B. I was there. I think it probably played pretty well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think that in that outdoor amphitheater he lost touch? Anyone would lose touch --

MR. LOWRY: I don't think so. I thought it was going to be much worse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with the feedback from the audience.

MS. CLIFT: That was not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you have to be in an enclosed area, really?

MR. LOWRY: I thought it worked. I'm sorry, John.

MS. CLIFT: It worked. He managed to turn that cavernous setting into an intimate experience for the people at home in their living rooms, and I think for the people there as well. But this is about organizing. They got the data from 84,000 people who are going back out into the states talking to four or five neighbors. This is a guy who won on the strength of his organizing ability, and that's what he's putting into play in this presidential election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No feedback from the audience deficiency?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, look, the whole event was a little bit over the top, but I think it was totally suitable for the kind of historic night it was. And let's face it; whether you support Barack Obama or not, the first African-American at the top of the ticket is a huge deal.

MR. PAGE: And John, you know, this is TV. You've got to go big on TV.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: It was amazing.

MS. CLIFT: John knows that. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: You know that John, yeah. What was amazing -- you know, like here, when you frame the camera on the speaker, it's like you're in a living room almost, if your living room has pillars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I guess you're right. Orson Welles all the way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Hillary the Unifier.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY, former Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I am so honored to be here tonight. I'm here tonight as a proud mother, as a proud Democrat -- (cheers, applause) -- as a proud senator from New York -- (cheers, applause) -- a proud American -- (cheers, applause) -- and a proud supporter of Barack Obama. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Let's assume a McCain-Palin win on the Republican side. Let's assume, after four years, McCain says he's not going to run for re-election. Let's assume Sarah becomes the Republican nominee for president, his vice presidential nominee. Let's assume Hillary becomes the Democratic candidate for president.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who would win that election? (Laughter.) If it's so funny, Rich, give me an answer.

MR. LOWRY: What can we assume -- what happened -- give me some more assumptions. What happened in the McCain administration? (Laughter.) Was there success?

MS. CLIFT: Is McCain at 27 percent approval?

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.) I just need a little more information to work with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the assumption is that she gets the Republican nomination to run in four years.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, that's a big assumption too. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And she's facing off Hillary, who's got the --

MS. CLIFT: That's probably three or four assumptions too far. (Laughter.) But I would think that Hillary Clinton would have more stature in that debate, because I would assume she would be emerging as a larger-than-life legislative leader challenging the McCain White House, or perhaps working with John McCain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think she's going to grow with exposure? It's quite clear that you think that she's going to be stunted.

MS. CLIFT: Sarah Palin? It depends what the vice president trusts her with. What do you think he would entrust her with?

MS. CROWLEY: Energy policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The energy situation.

MS. CROWLEY: Energy policy, number one.

MS. CLIFT: All right, climate change, okay. If she succeeds in controlling greenhouse gases --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe gun control.

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- and gets Al Gore's endorsement, maybe I'll vote for her. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: I think Sarah Palin has the ability to be a real sleeper campaigner on this trail. And if she is elected with John McCain, she could be a real sleeper vice president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Bill's backing.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Everything I learned in my eight years as president and in the work I have done since in America and across the globe has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job. (Cheers, applause.) With Joe Biden's experience and wisdom, supporting Barack Obama's proven understanding, instincts and insight, America will have the national security leadership we need.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How does this endorsement speech rank against the totality of Bill Clinton's speeches? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think it was one of his finest, and it goes a long way to redeeming some of the missteps that he had during the campaign, to put it kindly. He reminded us that he still has his political skills, that he can be generous in defeat. And saying that Barack Obama is on the right side of history fed into the whole generational change that this convention represented. MS. CROWLEY: I loved -- in the video that they played before Hillary Clinton spoke, they identified Bill Clinton as Hillary's husband. Look, nobody does it better. Even Barack Obama, who's a great oratician, even he doesn't sort of rise to the ability of Bill Clinton, who really, I think, in this speech, I think he felt dissed throughout this campaign, and he said, "In this speech, I'm going to take Barack Obama to school." And he really -- he was the best that I've ever seen him.

MR. PAGE: I think the best thing was the Obama people let him do his own thing. I think they wanted him to talk about national security, but let Bill Clinton be Bill Clinton. He does do it better than anybody. And he argued Obama's case, especially on the experience thing, better than Obama has.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The structure of the speech, the content of the speech, the delivery of the speech, the --

MR. PAGE: It was not (poetic ?), John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One week from this weekend, which ticket leads by what?

MR. LOWRY: Obama by 1.8.

MS. CLIFT: Dems by three.

MS. CROWLEY: Dead even -- a draw.

MR. PAGE: McCain-Palin by two. It won't last, though.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: McCain by four.

Happy Labor Day. Bye bye.

END.