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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, JANUARY 16, 2009 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 17-18, 2009

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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: U.S. President number 44.

PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: A mine field of economic international and domestic issues faces President-elect Obama. But his team is in place and ready: State, Clinton; Defense, Gates; Treasury, Geithner; Justice, Holder; Homeland Security, Napolitano; Energy, Chu; Health and Human Services, Daschle; Education, Duncan; Agriculture, Vilsack; Labor, Solis; Transportation, LaHood; Interior, Salazar; Veterans, Shinseki; National Intelligence Director, Blair; CIA, Panetta; National Security Adviser, Jones; U.N. Ambassador, Rice; EPA, Jackson; OMB, Office of Management and Budget, Orszag; Commerce, formerly Richardson, currently vacant.

The Obama inner circle is made up of mostly D.C. insiders -- but not Geithner; he's a Wall Streeter -- many Clintonistas, and is politically centrist, many even right-leaning. In Obama's transition, November 4 to January 18 -- that's fewer than 80 days -- the president-elect -- (inaudible) -- vetted and filled 25 top posts. That averages to about one post every three days.

Question: What strikes you as noteworthy about this team? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think the very fact that Barack Obama came in and did what he said he was going to do. He created what, inside the Democratic Party, is basically a center-right moderate coalition. He brought in all the stars in the party or offered them jobs. Richardson, of course, was lost. And I think, John, he is -- an awful lot of people are very impressed with the way he's conducted himself through the transition, the team he's put together, the weight of the team and its experience. And I think they're very, very hopeful.

John, this is -- I haven't seen a transition like this until a generational -- since a generational transition from Eisenhower to Kennedy, where everybody said -- of course, those were good days for everybody, 1960 -- but everybody was looking forward with great hope and anticipation, although Barack -- I think there's tremendous apprehension as to whether Barack Obama's administration can handle what's on the plate.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, what strikes me is that for a candidate who campaigned on change, there's an awful lot of continuity in this Cabinet, the A-list players. Clinton, Gates, Geithner are all people who've been around, and we pretty much know what they think.

What we suspect, however, is that they are the ones who will implement the vision that Obama sets down, and, in fact, may give him some political cover to go a little more to the left than their positions would suggest.

I think the biggest area of change is in the environment. I think he really does have people positioned to seriously confront climate change. And with Tom Daschle at Health and Human Services with a dual position in the White House, I think there's going to be a real serious push for health care reform, if not an entire overhaul.

So I think it's a Cabinet that everybody is pretty much applauding. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Obama's transition hiccup.

Pay-to-play stink bomb; former incoming Commerce Secretary Bill Richardson, subject of a grand jury investigation surrounding potential corruption charges, nomination withdrawn.

Item: Pay-to-play stink bomb number two; incoming Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He allegedly earmarked $9 million in congressional money to campaign donors for their pet projects last year; confirmation hearing next week.

Item: $34,000 snafu. Incoming Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner failed to pay $34,000 in his own payroll taxes to the IRS between '01 and '04 and had a maid working for him illegally; confirmation hearing next week.

Item: Warren Commission. The Tuesday invocation of Rick Warren, evangelical pastor, Saddleback's debate moderator, the same-sex marriage foe -- not foe of the preference or status -- irks the gay community.

Item: "And here's to you, Bishop Robinson." Obama invited Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of the Episcopal diocese of New Hampshire, to offer the invocation at the inaugural kickoff at the Lincoln Memorial. With gays, theoretically, Robinson neutralizes Warren.

Item: The Burris Supremacy. Roland Burris has gained his Senate seat, despite Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who some say now has egg on his face. Burris is connected to Obama through incoming Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who apparently supplied names of Obama's Senate seat replacement to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, arrested on federal corruption charges. On Thursday, Reid welcomed Burris into the chamber. Obama echoed Reid's views throughout this without criticizing Burris.

Question: Have these transition hiccups, individually or collectively, taken the bloom off Obama's November election rose? Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: You know what? If Barack Obama didn't have so much good will entering the presidency, these wouldn't just be hiccups. These would be tornadoes. Look at what happened to Bill Clinton in his transition -- Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood disqualified for some of the same things plaguing some of Obama's Cabinet choices.

Listen, I heard Pat singing the glories of this transition, but I think we're watching two different transitions. You've got Leon Panetta going into the CIA, who has no experience whatsoever in intelligence; Eric Holder going to be the attorney general, who in many cases -- and this is not just Republicans have problems with him; the Democrats do; the pardons of the FALN terrorists, the pardon of Marc Rich and so on. And then you've got Geithner. I mean, Timothy Geithner -- we're about to put Willie Nelson in charge of running the IRS, a guy who doesn't pay his taxes as Treasury secretary. If this had been John McCain and his Treasury secretary had been put up and it was found out that he didn't pay his taxes, Eleanor would be possessed by the devil. There are so many people who are willing, including Republicans -- (laughter) --

MS. CLIFT: Eleanor's already --

MR. PAGE: Hang on, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Eleanor's already possessed by the devil. (Laughter.)

MS. CROWLEY: I know. Yes, I know.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The liberal devil.

MS. CROWLEY: That's right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, do you think Obama's beginning to look like an ordinary politician?

MR. PAGE: I'm sorry, I thought I was tuned in to Fox News for a moment there.

No, I think he doesn't look ordinary at all. You kind of lost me, Monica, after you said that Obama's built up this extraordinary good will. That part is true, no question about it.

MS. CROWLEY: It is true.

MR. PAGE: And it has helped insulate him --

MS. CROWLEY: Which is why he's been able to get a lot of these choices through --

MR. PAGE: Right, it has helped insulate him from a lot of these --

MS. CROWLEY: -- that would cause any other president a lot of problems.

MR. PAGE: -- other controversies. I think, though, that what strikes me, though, about these Cabinet picks, John, is how non- ideological they are. Hello. I mean, this is what's been dividing the country now for so long. A lot of Barack Obama's popularity on both sides of the aisle has come from the fact that he's gone for competence rather than ideology, and it's been showing itself.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's part of the split. But would you not concur that there is a real split in the Democratic Party, and this is why --

MR. PAGE: Oh, I'm shocked, John.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- this is why Obama goes with the tried and the true?

MR. PAGE: I'm shocked -- a split Democratic Party. But they're not --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's got --

MR. PAGE: He didn't go for --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he doesn't have unity in the Democratic Party, how can he possibly face these somewhat insurmountable problems? MR. PAGE: John, reports of Democratic disunity in this case have been wildly exaggerated.

MS. CROWLEY: Right on. Right.

MR. PAGE: There's been some pundit complaints -- Huffington Post, other places. But if you ask them, "Are you still with the guy?" "Oh, yeah."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is true.

MS. CROWLEY: Of course.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you read Nation Magazine, which leans --

MR. PAGE: Nation too.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- left, they have problems, but they're with him.

MR. PAGE: They're with him.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're with him on the expectation of big money --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- from the government.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you're right, but let me tell you something. Once you start making decisions -- let's take foreign policy -- what do you do about Gaza? Are you going to tell the Israelis to get out of Gaza? Are you going to attack Iran? Are you going to double the number of American troops in Afghanistan? Are you going to get out of Iraq? Are you going to have to stay? Once the decisions come down, that's when the divisions come again.

But I will say this. He has made a tremendous effort, including that little visit over with George Will and his friends -- (laughter) -- to reach out or at least say, "Look, you all are critics. You're not enemies. We're social friends and political adversaries."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, you write columns. You weren't there.

MS. CROWLEY: Neither was I. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: He's not going that far. He's not going that far out, John. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: He's made enemies of everybody he didn't invite, though. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's afraid of you. Obama's afraid of you.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And the problems of these Cabinet members, they really are pretty minimal. And Eric Holder, all he had to say was "Waterboarding is torture" and he bought himself a lot of good will in the U.S. Senate.

Now, Geithner, I must say, what bothers me -- not paying the taxes -- all right, you could argue it's complicated and so forth. But taking as a deduction his kids' overnight camping --

MS. CROWLEY: Sleep-away camps, yeah.

MS. CLIFT: -- sleep-away camping -- suggests a guy who's kind of -- you know, the rich, they're always such cheapskates.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean?

MS. CLIFT: But, you know, I think it's minimal. And I think, you know, the proof of the pudding will be in how he does his job.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, you mentioned Guantanamo. Again, that's another one. Once you make a decision, what are you going to do with these 60 nutballs down there? Are you going to let them go?

MS. CROWLEY: I agree with you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: And Obama --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is this? What are you saying?

MS. CROWLEY: On Guantanamo Bay.

MR. BUCHANAN: What I'm saying, another decision he's going to have to make -- and he said he's going to close Guantanamo -- very nice, no waterboarding -- you wait till a Mumbai happens on American territory.

MS. CROWLEY: Ah, but you know what?

MS. CLIFT: Don't blame it on the closing of Guantanamo.

MS. CROWLEY: I agree with you, but here is the political genius of Obama. He gave a wide-ranging, long interview to The Washington Post this week, and buried in it was he said, well, he is looking forward to closing Guantanamo Bay by the end of his first term -- not first month or first year; first term. Now, how is the left going to react if, in fact, he goes four years before he closes Guantanamo Bay?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know that the proudest votes of George Bush in his term is that there has been no major terrorist attack -- MS. CROWLEY: Exactly.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- on any city, which we're going to get into in a minute.

MR. PAGE: In the U.S.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, if there is an attack in this term of this president, it would invite invidious comparisons.

MR. BUCHANAN: Leon Panetta will be on the spot.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, not only that, but in comparison to the attack-free Bush administration for seven years, correct?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but 9/11 happened on the Bush watch. Let's not forget that. He conveniently skitters over that.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, but the whole set-up --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the planning of it was years before.

MS. CROWLEY: Of course.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: During the Clinton administration.

MS. CLIFT: It always goes back to the Clinton administration.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, exit question.

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- mentioned that, didn't he?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rate Obama's transition team as compared to his political campaign. Is he, A, equally brilliant as last November the 4th was; slightly less brilliant; C, significantly worse; D, dramatically worse; E, other? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: For the last time, I'm going to give him an A, John. (Laughter.) It's an excellent --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Geithner?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got problems. He had problems in his campaign. He made mistakes there. But it was a hugely successful campaign and a very successful transition, no matter what you say. The good will --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it --

MR. BUCHANAN: There's good will all over the place for this guy.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a miracle that he got 25 posts filled -- that's the ones we've recognized --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, we got --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and some others --

MR. BUCHANAN: So did Nixon, and he probably did it faster.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think so?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. Remember, December 10th we had all Cabinet officers.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where were you operating then, out of the hotel in New York?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think we had moved down to D.C. by then, John. (Laughs.) DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he tends to get compared to previous Democratic presidents, and it's much smoother than the Clinton or the Carter transitions. And overall, these are excellent picks. I give him an A as well.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Listen, Barack Obama ran on his judgment because he didn't have a whole lot else to run on. And yet we take a look and so many of these Cabinet picks have serious problems. Hillary Clinton is going to get through, but she's up to her eyeballs in conflicts of interest. Eric Holder we talked about. Geithner we talked about. Leon Panetta we talked about. There are a lot of these picks that are problematic, and those chickens eventually might come home to roost.

MS. CLIFT: I'm glad somebody is with the 27 percent of the country that supports George Bush --

MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.) This transition is not --

MS. CLIFT: -- and doesn't think the president is doing well.

MS. CROWLEY: -- (inaudible). And I'm not the only one who believes that. There are a lot of Democrats who have problems with these choices as well.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The sainted Hillary will sail through.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MS. CROWLEY: Absolutely. I didn't say otherwise.

MR. PAGE: It's an A. I mean, there were some glitches here and there, but considering how he got an early start on this and he did it quite methodically, it's quite remarkable there are as few glitches as there are.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He sees the limits of political power and he recognizes them the way Abraham Lincoln did. And that means that you don't make the perfect the enemy of the good. And he wants unity in the Democratic Party because he wants all the backing he can get. What did you rate him as? What did you rate the transition as?

MS. CROWLEY: Oh, I said worse than he ran his campaign. I think he ran his campaign better than he's running the transition.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to give it a letter grade?

MR. BUCHANAN: Give it a letter grade. MS. CROWLEY: Oh, you want me to letter grade it. I would give it a C+.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: C+.

MS. CROWLEY: C+.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is A.

Issue Two: Bush Unbound.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) I've thought long and hard about Katrina. People said the federal response was slow. Don't tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush held his last press conference this week and he was forthright, even about errors in his own judgment.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Clearly putting a "Mission Accomplished" on an aircraft carrier was mistake. I believe that running the Social Security idea right after the '04 elections was a mistake.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He acknowledged unintended consequences, and bad ones, which he called "disappointments."

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Abu Ghraib obviously was a huge disappointment during the presidency. Not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment. I don't know if you want to call those mistakes or not, but they were -- things didn't go according to plan; let's put it that way.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: In a TV address on Thursday night, the final sayonara.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I have been blessed to represent this nation we love, and I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other -- citizen of the United States of America.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: There have been no major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11. But there have been other major attacks -- London, Madrid, Bali, Istanbul, Moscow, Casablanca, Saudi Arabia, Beslan in Russia, and other cities. So does seven years of no-terrorist-attack status in the U.S. eclipse and -- (inaudible) -- any and all shortcomings, real or alleged, of the Bush-Cheney administration? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it does not. But it is a tremendous achievement. All of us after September 11 expected it. We talked about it. We said we shouldn't talk about where they're going to hit. They never hit. I think they not only stopped some. My guess is the tremendous job that a lot of American agencies have done -- Defense Intelligence, CIA, FBI, Secret Service, these guys -- have probably deterred al Qaeda from saying, "Look, we can't handle it."

However, these other things suggest that Bush has a point when he says you do have a global terrorist network and that you've got to be secure and we've got to work together. But you can't take that away from George Bush.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama, in the point that you made, that buried in that Washington Post article is that he's not going to take those prisoners out of Guantanamo and not shut it down until, what, the end of his first year?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's saying he's going to shut it down, but he's going to be careful with what he does with the people who are there. This is a man who's going to -- like Lincoln, he's going to keep the progressive goal in mind, but he's going to move prudently, judiciously. That's the way he's behaved through his campaign --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he gets terrorism --

MS. CLIFT: -- through the transition.

And, look, he has, I'm sure -- Barack Obama has no illusions about the enemies out there that want to get us. The difference is, how do you confront those enemies? And President Bush is asking us to believe that whatever he's done in compromising civil liberties, in possibly sanctioning waterboarding, has all been done to avoid these attacks, and that if he hadn't done it, we would have been attacked. It is an argument that is inherently untestable. He can't prove it. We can't refute it. So I'll give it to him. And I'm just glad now -- (laughter) --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- citizen Bush gets to go back to Texas. Bye-bye.

MR. BUCHANAN: Thank you very much. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you not think that in all of the conversation and publicity attaching to Obama, there has been lost the central question, the central objective, the central concern of the president of the United States about terrorism?

MR. PAGE: No, there hasn't. I think the arguments have been on the margins, like waterboarding, Guantanamo, specific kinds of things like --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're associated with Bush.

MR. PAGE: -- torture and holding without trial. Obama and Eric Holder agree that these people in Guantanamo ought to have trials. They shouldn't be kept out there as long as they have been.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. PAGE: And that doesn't mean that, even if we have another terrorist attack, that that's the reason.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you take a listing of the current polling on issues that Americans are concerned about, terrorism is not where it used to be. Terrorism comes in about ninth or tenth or eleventh.

MR. PAGE: That's the price of success, the price of success at keeping -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should it be borne out by Obama that his principal concern is to keep this country safe? Have you heard that from Obama?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, listen, I'm not downgrading Obama's commitment to keeping us safe. He understands what the role of commander in chief is. The challenge for him is that, whether or not you can prove or disprove that all of the things that Bush put into place over the last seven and a half years that have kept us safe, whether it's Guantanamo, rendition, aggressive interrogation --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Waterboarding.

MS. CROWLEY: -- waterboarding, which we only did three times, and in each one of those cases produced intel that saved American lives, or --

MR. PAGE: That's questionable.

MS. CLIFT: How do we know that? (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: -- or the FISA wiretaps, which this week it was ruled by a federal appeals court, a secret court, that those federal wiretaps, the warrantless wiretaps, were legal, and Bush acted constitutionally. So the challenge for Obama is whether or not he's going to keep all of those things in place. If he does not and we are hit again, he is finished.

MR. BUCHANAN: If we get hit again, John, let me tell you, this country in 10 seconds will go back to Jack Bauer rules if we are hit hard. They say, "Protect us and do what you have to do."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Democratic left left is concerned about three issues. One of them is amnesty. They want amnesty for the 12 million illegals in the United States. You know that --

MR. BUCHANAN: John McCain --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that backs into the terrorist question.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, John McCain -- you know, they're having this big function for John McCain, Obama is, on Monday night. John McCain, my prediction is, will lead Obama's amnesty plan for the 12 (million) to 20 million illegal aliens.

MR. PAGE: The pathway to citizenship. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meaning amnesty, automatic amnesty?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, they'll have it all -- you've got to go back for a week and do all this and that. But it's amnesty. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you're not dis in favor of a path to citizenship, are you?

MR. BUCHANAN: I am in disfavor of a path to citizenship.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want them -- what, do you want them all to get --

MR. BUCHANAN: I want the businesses prosecuted, and they will go home.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question, multiple choice. What is the most damaging to the Bush legacy: A, Bush's character; B, the Iraq war; C, the economy; D, Abu Ghraib and torture; or E, something else? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the Iraq war and Katrina broke the Bush presidency.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The Iraq war, taking us to war on false trumped-up information, a needless war that has created a geopolitical situation in the Middle East, empowering Iran, that leaves us less safe.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: No, I think that because the surge, which the president put into place despite all of the arguments against it and the political ramifications against it, he did it. And Iraq seems to have gotten its sea legs, at least somewhat. I think the economy is the one -- the economy, and the imposition of massive government intervention.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: If you go back, you see his polls began to slide after Katrina. That undermined the whole notion of keeping us safe -- never recovered.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All of the above. They all constituted the cement kimono.

Issue Three: Ode to Michelle.

The following words are from interviews taken in May 1996, 13 years ago, for a book on American couples by photographer Mariana Cook at the Obamas' home in Chicago's Hyde Park. They are in published in this week's New Yorker Magazine and are lightly truncated here.

This is Barack talking about Michelle. "Michelle is a tremendously strong person and has a very strong sense of herself, who she is and where she comes from. But I also think in her eyes you can see a trace of vulnerability that most people don't know, because when she's walking through the world, she is this tall, beautiful, confident woman. There is a part of her that is vulnerable and young, sometimes frightened, and I think seeing both of those things is what attracted me to her.

"And then what sustains our relationship is I'm extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself, and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time, she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways. And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start, because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings. It's that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person."

Question: What kind of first lady will Michelle Obama be? Clarence Page.

MR. PAGE: I think she will be a conventional first lady in many ways, but also one who cares a lot about issues like education, family health care. But she's not going to be a co-president. I think she feels comfortable --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's a lawyer. She's a lawyer.

MR. PAGE: Oh, you know, so was Hillary Clinton, and she learned the co-president approach was not -- didn't go over that well with the public.

The public really wants to see a touch of the traditional, which I think she carries very well.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hostess and charity?

MR. PAGE: Oh, sure, she'll do all that. Well, she's worked in charities in the past and --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not a full partner?

MR. PAGE: Well, not a legislative partner, so to speak, or executive partner, because we don't elect first ladies for that purpose.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who would you see, Pat, or Monica or Eleanor, as her being similar to in previous first ladies?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think that what she ought to model herself on is an outstanding first lady in Laura Bush, who is a mother and who is a wife and, at the same time, supportive, and, at the same time, she was out there in these libraries --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle is no Laura Bush.

MR. PAGE: They have a lot in common.

MS. CROWLEY: What do you mean?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who do you think she's going to be? I think she's going to get -- Laura Bush, in the interview that she gave with Larry King, made it very clear that she was not involved in public policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I don't think Michelle is going to be getting involved in that. I think she's going to -- Laura Bush did a lot of things related to public policy, but she wasn't involved in any decision-making process.

MS. CLIFT: Laura Bush is a very nice person and a very gracious person, and she's done a lot in establishing a book festival in Washington. But she never -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And literacy. And literacy.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, and literacy. But she never rocked the boat. I would hope that we will hear a little more from Michelle Obama. I think she has a lot of influence over her husband. From those words that you read, you can see how much he trusts her. He trusts her judgment. She will be in on everything. She's not going to be separately crafting a policy --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that sounds --

MS. CLIFT: She will work with military families, which is what she did in the campaign.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that sound like Pat Nixon?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, Pat Nixon was very traditional.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat Nixon did not absent herself from public policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, she went down to that Peruvian earthquake and everything, and she had some causes.

MS. CROWLEY: She did a lot of humanitarian --

MR. BUCHANAN: But that's merged a bit, and what it's merged into is the Laura Bush role as opposed to the Hillary Clinton role.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Congratulations to Chesley and his crew -- awesome.

Bye-bye.



END.

these are excellent picks. I give him an A as well.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Listen, Barack Obama ran on his judgment because he didn't have a whole lot else to run on. And yet we take a look and so many of these Cabinet picks have serious problems. Hillary Clinton is going to get through, but she's up to her eyeballs in conflicts of interest. Eric Holder we talked about. Geithner we talked about. Leon Panetta we talked about. There are a lot of these picks that are problematic, and those chickens eventually might come home to roost.

MS. CLIFT: I'm glad somebody is with the 27 percent of the country that supports George Bush --

MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.) This transition is not --

MS. CLIFT: -- and doesn't think the president is doing well.

MS. CROWLEY: -- (inaudible). And I'm not the only one who believes that. There are a lot of Democrats who have problems with these choices as well.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The sainted Hillary will sail through.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MS. CROWLEY: Absolutely. I didn't say otherwise.

MR. PAGE: It's an A. I mean, there were some glitches here and there, but considering how he got an early start on this and he did it quite methodically, it's quite remarkable there are as few glitches as there are.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He sees the limits of political power and he recognizes them the way Abraham Lincoln did. And that means that you don't make the perfect the enemy of the good. And he wants unity in the Democratic Party because he wants all the backing he can get. What did you rate him as? What did you rate the transition as?

MS. CROWLEY: Oh, I said worse than he ran his campaign. I think he ran his campaign better than he's running the transition.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to give it a letter grade?

MR. BUCHANAN: Give it a letter grade. MS. CROWLEY: Oh, you want me to letter grade it. I would give it a C+.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: C+.

MS. CROWLEY: C+.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is A.

Issue Two: Bush Unbound.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From videotape.) I've thought long and hard about Katrina. People said the federal response was slow. Don't tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Bush held his last press conference this week and he was forthright, even about errors in his own judgment.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Clearly putting a "Mission Accomplished" on an aircraft carrier was mistake. I believe that running the Social Security idea right after the '04 elections was a mistake.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He acknowledged unintended consequences, and bad ones, which he called "disappointments."

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) Abu Ghraib obviously was a huge disappointment during the presidency. Not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment. I don't know if you want to call those mistakes or not, but they were -- things didn't go according to plan; let's put it that way.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: In a TV address on Thursday night, the final sayonara.

PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) I have been blessed to represent this nation we love, and I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other -- citizen of the United States of America.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: There have been no major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11. But there have been other major attacks -- London, Madrid, Bali, Istanbul, Moscow, Casablanca, Saudi Arabia, Beslan in Russia, and other cities. So does seven years of no-terrorist-attack status in the U.S. eclipse and -- (inaudible) -- any and all shortcomings, real or alleged, of the Bush-Cheney administration? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it does not. But it is a tremendous achievement. All of us after September 11 expected it. We talked about it. We said we shouldn't talk about where they're going to hit. They never hit. I think they not only stopped some. My guess is the tremendous job that a lot of American agencies have done -- Defense Intelligence, CIA, FBI, Secret Service, these guys -- have probably deterred al Qaeda from saying, "Look, we can't handle it."

However, these other things suggest that Bush has a point when he says you do have a global terrorist network and that you've got to be secure and we've got to work together. But you can't take that away from George Bush.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama, in the point that you made, that buried in that Washington Post article is that he's not going to take those prisoners out of Guantanamo and not shut it down until, what, the end of his first year?

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's saying he's going to shut it down, but he's going to be careful with what he does with the people who are there. This is a man who's going to -- like Lincoln, he's going to keep the progressive goal in mind, but he's going to move prudently, judiciously. That's the way he's behaved through his campaign --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he gets terrorism --

MS. CLIFT: -- through the transition.

And, look, he has, I'm sure -- Barack Obama has no illusions about the enemies out there that want to get us. The difference is, how do you confront those enemies? And President Bush is asking us to believe that whatever he's done in compromising civil liberties, in possibly sanctioning waterboarding, has all been done to avoid these attacks, and that if he hadn't done it, we would have been attacked. It is an argument that is inherently untestable. He can't prove it. We can't refute it. So I'll give it to him. And I'm just glad now -- (laughter) --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- citizen Bush gets to go back to Texas. Bye-bye.

MR. BUCHANAN: Thank you very much. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you not think that in all of the conversation and publicity attaching to Obama, there has been lost the central question, the central objective, the central concern of the president of the United States about terrorism?

MR. PAGE: No, there hasn't. I think the arguments have been on the margins, like waterboarding, Guantanamo, specific kinds of things like --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're associated with Bush.

MR. PAGE: -- torture and holding without trial. Obama and Eric Holder agree that these people in Guantanamo ought to have trials. They shouldn't be kept out there as long as they have been.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. PAGE: And that doesn't mean that, even if we have another terrorist attack, that that's the reason.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you take a listing of the current polling on issues that Americans are concerned about, terrorism is not where it used to be. Terrorism comes in about ninth or tenth or eleventh.

MR. PAGE: That's the price of success, the price of success at keeping -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should it be borne out by Obama that his principal concern is to keep this country safe? Have you heard that from Obama?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, listen, I'm not downgrading Obama's commitment to keeping us safe. He understands what the role of commander in chief is. The challenge for him is that, whether or not you can prove or disprove that all of the things that Bush put into place over the last seven and a half years that have kept us safe, whether it's Guantanamo, rendition, aggressive interrogation --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Waterboarding.

MS. CROWLEY: -- waterboarding, which we only did three times, and in each one of those cases produced intel that saved American lives, or --

MR. PAGE: That's questionable.

MS. CLIFT: How do we know that? (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: -- or the FISA wiretaps, which this week it was ruled by a federal appeals court, a secret court, that those federal wiretaps, the warrantless wiretaps, were legal, and Bush acted constitutionally. So the challenge for Obama is whether or not he's going to keep all of those things in place. If he does not and we are hit again, he is finished.

MR. BUCHANAN: If we get hit again, John, let me tell you, this country in 10 seconds will go back to Jack Bauer rules if we are hit hard. They say, "Protect us and do what you have to do."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Democratic left left is concerned about three issues. One of them is amnesty. They want amnesty for the 12 million illegals in the United States. You know that --

MR. BUCHANAN: John McCain --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that backs into the terrorist question.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, John McCain -- you know, they're having this big function for John McCain, Obama is, on Monday night. John McCain, my prediction is, will lead Obama's amnesty plan for the 12 (million) to 20 million illegal aliens.

MR. PAGE: The pathway to citizenship. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meaning amnesty, automatic amnesty?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, they'll have it all -- you've got to go back for a week and do all this and that. But it's amnesty. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you're not dis in favor of a path to citizenship, are you?

MR. BUCHANAN: I am in disfavor of a path to citizenship.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want them -- what, do you want them all to get --

MR. BUCHANAN: I want the businesses prosecuted, and they will go home.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question, multiple choice. What is the most damaging to the Bush legacy: A, Bush's character; B, the Iraq war; C, the economy; D, Abu Ghraib and torture; or E, something else? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the Iraq war and Katrina broke the Bush presidency.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The Iraq war, taking us to war on false trumped-up information, a needless war that has created a geopolitical situation in the Middle East, empowering Iran, that leaves us less safe.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: No, I think that because the surge, which the president put into place despite all of the arguments against it and the political ramifications against it, he did it. And Iraq seems to have gotten its sea legs, at least somewhat. I think the economy is the one -- the economy, and the imposition of massive government intervention.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: If you go back, you see his polls began to slide after Katrina. That undermined the whole notion of keeping us safe -- never recovered.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All of the above. They all constituted the cement kimono.

Issue Three: Ode to Michelle.

The following words are from interviews taken in May 1996, 13 years ago, for a book on American couples by photographer Mariana Cook at the Obamas' home in Chicago's Hyde Park. They are in published in this week's New Yorker Magazine and are lightly truncated here.

This is Barack talking about Michelle. "Michelle is a tremendously strong person and has a very strong sense of herself, who she is and where she comes from. But I also think in her eyes you can see a trace of vulnerability that most people don't know, because when she's walking through the world, she is this tall, beautiful, confident woman. There is a part of her that is vulnerable and young, sometimes frightened, and I think seeing both of those things is what attracted me to her.

"And then what sustains our relationship is I'm extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself, and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time, she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways. And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start, because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings. It's that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person."

Question: What kind of first lady will Michelle Obama be? Clarence Page.

MR. PAGE: I think she will be a conventional first lady in many ways, but also one who cares a lot about issues like education, family health care. But she's not going to be a co-president. I think she feels comfortable --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's a lawyer. She's a lawyer.

MR. PAGE: Oh, you know, so was Hillary Clinton, and she learned the co-president approach was not -- didn't go over that well with the public.

The public really wants to see a touch of the traditional, which I think she carries very well.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hostess and charity?

MR. PAGE: Oh, sure, she'll do all that. Well, she's worked in charities in the past and --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not a full partner?

MR. PAGE: Well, not a legislative partner, so to speak, or executive partner, because we don't elect first ladies for that purpose.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who would you see, Pat, or Monica or Eleanor, as her being similar to in previous first ladies?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think that what she ought to model herself on is an outstanding first lady in Laura Bush, who is a mother and who is a wife and, at the same time, supportive, and, at the same time, she was out there in these libraries --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle is no Laura Bush.

MR. PAGE: They have a lot in common.

MS. CROWLEY: What do you mean?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who do you think she's going to be? I think she's going to get -- Laura Bush, in the interview that she gave with Larry King, made it very clear that she was not involved in public policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I don't think Michelle is going to be getting involved in that. I think she's going to -- Laura Bush did a lot of things related to public policy, but she wasn't involved in any decision-making process.

MS. CLIFT: Laura Bush is a very nice person and a very gracious person, and she's done a lot in establishing a book festival in Washington. But she never -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And literacy. And literacy.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, and literacy. But she never rocked the boat. I would hope that we will hear a little more from Michelle Obama. I think she has a lot of influence over her husband. From those words that you read, you can see how much he trusts her. He trusts her judgment. She will be in on everything. She's not going to be separately crafting a policy --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that sounds --

MS. CLIFT: She will work with military families, which is what she did in the campaign.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that sound like Pat Nixon?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, Pat Nixon was very traditional.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat Nixon did not absent herself from public policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, she went down to that Peruvian earthquake and everything, and she had some causes.

MS. CROWLEY: She did a lot of humanitarian --

MR. BUCHANAN: But that's merged a bit, and what it's merged into is the Laura Bush role as opposed to the Hillary Clinton role.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Congratulations to Chesley and his crew -- awesome.

Bye-bye.



END.