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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2009 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 21-22, 2009

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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Fix or Fog?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) In the end, all of us are paying a price for this home mortgage crisis. And all of us will pay an even steeper price if we allow this crisis to continue to deepen -- a crisis which is unraveling home ownership, the middle class, and the American dream itself.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The American dream fading? Two hundred and forty thousand home foreclosures in seven weeks since January 1; 9 million American families at risk of losing their home.

President Obama unveiled his plan this week to address the crisis. Up to 5 million homeowners are, quote-unquote, "under water," meaning that their mortgages are worth more than their home. These homeowners will soon be able to get their mortgages rewritten, all thanks to Barack Obama and the feds.

Here's how it works. Method number one: New mortgage terms. Mortgage goliaths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will get $100 billion each to refinance home loans at today's low interest rates, the idea being to lower monthly payments for homeowners who cannot afford their current monthly mortgage bills owing to collective indebtedness.

Method number two: Bank incentives. Obama's plan provides $75 billion for up to 4 million homeowners who are at the very brink of foreclosure. The $75 billion comes as incentives for banks to change mortgages, to make them more affordable to the homeowner.

Criticism of the plan abounds. First, simple justice.

BEN STEIN (economist, New York Times columnist): (From videotape.) To change the terms of the loans, to cram down loan modifications to banks, to tell people that if you bought a house that's more than you can afford, we're going to have the honest guy who lived within the rules, within the boundaries of his income, bail you out, that's a problem.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Second, don't defeat the market. The real estate market is currently a zombie market, and an artificial floor to it will keep it zombied.

MR. STEIN: (From videotape.) This idea of creating an artificial floor for housing prices is what's going to keep this a zombie real estate market and keep there from being enough transactions to get the market revved up again.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What about renters, those who rent the homes they live in? And what about those homeowners who pay their mortgages? Both make up 91 percent of Americans. Are they supposed to subsidize the 9 percent of their neighbors who borrow irresponsibly? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Our old friend Ben Stein is exactly right. This is a real injustice, John. And I understand why Barack Obama is doing it, but there are a couple of problems with this thing. What it does, it is keeping people in homes that they cannot afford, which is bad. And secondly, it's creating an artificial floor under the real estate market when it may be difficult for a lot of folks.

We have got to find the real bottom here, and when you do that, then the real estate market will start coming back. I think he's interfering with the market, and I think it's overall a mistake. And the American people are outraged.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Housing prices and wages must correlate. This picks up your point, Pat. NICOLAS RETSINAS (Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies): (From videotape.) You can modify all the loans you want. You can try to refinance loans. But if you don't have money coming in through your pay, through a sort of weekly paycheck, you can't pay anything.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is a sharp downward correction in the nation's housing market a necessary step in our economic recovery?

MS. CLIFT: I think we've already seen that. Look, all the yowling about the stimulus plan was that the president attacked the wrong part of the economy first, that he needed to go to the source that was creating the problem, the subprime loans, which have now crossed over into all the other aspects of the housing market.

So I really don't like the implication in this whole set-up that these are irresponsible homeowners. We have people who are losing their jobs, people who cannot continue to carry mortgages. We have people who were victimized by an overly eager and greedy mortgage market that may have gotten them into situations with these ballooning mortgages.

But the bottom line is everybody suffers if we can't correct this. And you can't keep bailing out Wall Street and having ordinary people being shut out of their homes. You'd have a revolution in this country.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we're all very sympathetic with people who cannot pay their mortgages. But the question is, do you take those who have paid their mortgages and force them to underwrite those who have not paid their mortgages?

MS. CROWLEY: I think what you're seeing in a lot of the polling that's going on about this is that a majority of Americans are really opposed to this from a fundamental fairness point of view. Again, you point out, 91 percent of Americans who are either renting or paying their mortgages fully and on time every month are now going to be subsidizing a lot of people who were either irresponsible borrowers or they went to irresponsible lenders.

And for those people who are either paying their mortgages in full, on time, or people who are renting to save and sacrifice so that they can buy a home that they can afford, the message to them is that it wasn't right; it wasn't appropriate for you to play the game according to the rules as you found them, because those who didn't play or tried to skirt the game and skirt the rules are now being subsidized by honest taxpayers and mortgage payers, who honestly should not be footing the bill for all of this irresponsibility.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence. MR. PAGE: Honest. Irresponsible. You know, people out there are out of work. They're losing their homes. And if my next-door neighbor right now goes bankrupt, moves out of the house and leaves it empty, my house value is affected going down, just like it was affected going up by my neighbors selling their homes at higher prices.

I don't know what polls you're seeing, but the people I talk to -- I just came from Ohio, which is economically devastated right now, and people are grateful for the fact that Washington is sending some help. They know it's not going to be enough, and aid to the state as well as to industries that need help right now. But, you know --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know that --

MR. PAGE: -- people are happy that Washington is at least acting as the employer of last resort, if I can use that term.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know that the debt that occurs when mortgages cannot be paid --

MR. PAGE: Right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is one species of debt. There's also credit card debt and there's car payment debt and other forms of debt.

MR. PAGE: I know a lot about debt, John, more than I ever expected to know. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the point is, if they can't pay their mortgage, maybe they have been also unfortunate or they have been irresponsible in acquiring credit card debt, so they can't pay their mortgage.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. PAGE: We know about irresponsible subprime people. Most of them are gone off the market already. I mean, the fact is, most of the people right now are trying very hard to pay their mortgages. Some of them are falling between the cracks because they're losing work. It's happening all around us. Unemployment is going up.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to --

MR. PAGE: And people are looking for some kind of a prop.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know, you -- look, Clarence --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the taxpayers who are not in debt, by reason of mortgage or by reason of credit card or car payments, do you want to exact from them and force them to pay for those who are in debt? Is that the new American way?

MR. PAGE: Well, the new American way is debt. The debt load of the average American is much higher than it was before. Savings is at a very low level.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. PAGE: And if you want to encourage savings right now, you want to pull money out of the economy. We're trying to put money into the economy right now. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you set an artificial floor, as has been pointed out by Stein and others --

MR. PAGE: Well, what floor, John?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: An artificial floor by this forced payment and not letting --

MR. PAGE: Well, what's your alternative?

(Cross-talk.)

MR. PAGE: Go to the bottom line.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You need to let it slip.

MR. PAGE: The bottom line is tax cuts for people who aren't making enough to pay taxes right now. I mean, that is not a remedy for the situation we're in.

MR. BUCHANAN: Clarence, here's the way -- here's the bottom line. Look, that fellow living next door to you who can't afford his house, he moves out of the house. The price of yours goes down. That's your -- if you want to help him, provide assistance in his renting a place for his family. We ought to have a social safety net, but you can't keep an artificial price of housing up. It is eventually going to reach --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can make a comment during the exit question. Do you think that this proposal was motivated, the advancement of it, by Obama that the political incentive was that he wants to make sure that people understand that he is operating at the level of individuals and not just banking institutions, as TARP was principally dedicated to? And in order to do that, they have devised this whole drama, what has developed into a drama, of how to pay the mortgages in order --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's two parts.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for the political advantage of conveying to the American citizen that they're operating at his level.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got two motivations. One -- both are legitimate. One is he thinks the mortgages are the real problem and we've got to put a floor under them. Secondly, he realizes we're bailing out these banks, and people can't stand it. And average guys, as Clarence says, are losing their homes, so we've got to do something for these folks as well. I understand it, but I think it's simply the wrong approach. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that an artificial floor defeats the objective of re-establishing the housing industry.

MR. BUCHANAN: We've got to get them down to what they're worth. They're valuable. They're not like somebody's paper. Houses are valuable.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: You've got to find a floor somewhere. And, look, there are a lot of smart people in this administration looking at this. Nobody knows exactly what's going to work. This is their best shot. And it's gotten pretty good reviews. The head of JPMorgan Chase called the plan elegantly crafted.

Sure, there are going to be some people who are going to be resentful that they didn't get personal assistance, but overall it's to prop up a housing market which actually was the trigger for the collapse that we're in. We cannot ignore it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we could all say on this panel -- we could all say it's elegantly crafted, but I think those words -- (laughs) -- are open to a different interpretation.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think the --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's beautiful as to the look.

MR. PAGE: Everything's open to interpretation.

MS. CLIFT: The head of JPMorgan Chase, when he uses those words, they mean more to me than coming from you, John.

MS. CROWLEY: The role of the federal government is not to establish a floor for housing prices and start setting mortgages and buying and subsidizing mortgages. That is not the role of the government.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: It defeats the return of the market, does it not?

MS. CROWLEY: It undermines the market. It's going to end up --

MR. PAGE: The government's been subsidizing mortgages for years, Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: This plan is going to end up prolonging this housing crisis. And another thing: The source of the public frustration with this plan is that the federal government is going in as a savior when the federal government created this problem in the first place with the Community Reinvestment Act, holding a gun to these banks' heads -- MR. PAGE: Don't blame the CRA.

MS. CROWLEY: -- and saying, "Go make the loans."

MR. PAGE: You're just blaming poor folks.

MS. CROWLEY: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Let her finish.

MS. CROWLEY: -- started the Community Reinvestment Act.

MR. PAGE: That's just wrong.

MS. CROWLEY: They held a gun to these banks' heads, told them to make these loans to people who had no --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Crammed it down their throats.

MR. PAGE: No, the banks were delighted to do it.

MS. CROWLEY: -- opportunity to pay them back, and they knew it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, quickly.

MR. PAGE: Come on. Nobody held a gun to their head. The banks were delighted --

MS. CROWLEY: Of course they did.

MR. PAGE: -- because as long as everybody was making --

MS. CROWLEY: Of course they did. Clarence --

MR. PAGE: Monica, as long as everybody was making money, including us, you know, everybody was happy.

MS. CROWLEY: It was liberal social engineering --

MR. PAGE: That bubble got bigger and bigger, and now it's collapsing.

MS. CROWLEY: -- that created this housing problem.

MR. PAGE: Don't talk while I'm interrupting, Monica. (Laughter.) Now that the bubble is collapsing, everybody's pointing fingers, blaming everybody. But five, 10 years ago, everybody was delighted. You know, don't blame poor folks.

MS. CLIFT: The chutzpah of people proclaiming now we should return to the free markets after what we have witnessed since last fall is really mind-boggling. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: The government intervention in the housing market is going to create and prolong this problem.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe that foreclosure has pumped up this conversation as much as it has?

MR. PAGE: John -- you pumped us up, John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't pump you up.

MR. PAGE: -- as well as this fine coffee here. (Laughs.) DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I'll tell you, when you saw that guy on CNBC over at the Chicago Board of Trade, he went up and ripped this thing up. "We're bailing out losers. We ought to help the winners."

MR. PAGE: That's the Chicago Board of Trade -- winners and losers.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's middle America, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Go on the campaign trail with that, John.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's middle America.

MR. PAGE: Winners and losers -- that's Rush Limbaugh talk. The fact is, you know, people are on the down slope, through no fault of their own.

MS. CROWLEY: No, but the government --

MR. PAGE: And people are looking for Washington to do something.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama is bailing out Obama's constituents, and he don't care about the Chicago Board of Trade.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. PAGE: Not just Obama's constituency.

MS. CLIFT: Obama --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're going to come in next week with a bank bailout, okay? And this bank and these big institutions are -- people are saying, "Well, what about the little guy?"

Issue Two: Nation of Cowards.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: (From videotape.) Though race- related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we average Americans simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial. Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eric Holder was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month as our nation's attorney general, the first of African- American descent. General Holder is now one of the four high-profile blacks in Obama's Cabinet, along with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and EPA head Lisa Jackson. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Holder to be U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and later to be deputy attorney general. Additionally, General Holder clerked for the NAACP, its legal defense fund, and a member of the inner-city mentoring organization Concerned Black Men, plus BA and JD degrees from Columbia University.

What point was Holder making? Clarence Page.

MR. PAGE: Well, I think the obvious point was that while we have made great racial progress, we still tend to go home after work to largely separate lives and that there are so many aspects of different points of view between blacks, whites and other racial groups that we don't talk about it.

I wouldn't have used the word cowardly. I'm too cowardly for that. (Laughter.) But I would say, and I have said numerous times, that we're too polite. Rather than say things that are on our mind about race, unless we're with somebody who we know really well, we usually keep racial talk within our own race. And what Eric Holder is saying is, "Be brave. Get out there and be more candid across racial lines."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the president would have said this? You were with him, by the way.

MR. PAGE: I think the president -- yeah, I was -- I got the chance to fly to Chicago on Air Force One last week. And I just love saying that, John. I got to fly on Air Force One. And I have two words to say: Really cool. That's what it is. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's cool?

MR. PAGE: No, the plane. I love the plane. (Laughs.) It's just like the movie, you know.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much time did he spend with you?

MR. PAGE: He spent 55 minutes with us, me and four other columnists. And we talked mostly about, you know, is bipartisanship dead or not and what's going to happen now.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did he say?

MR. PAGE: He says that he thinks that the stimulus, because it dealt with these core issues on both sides -- you know, should we cut taxes or should we have more government spending -- that it just polarized everybody. He's going to continue his outreach, maybe invite more people back to the White House for more Super Bowl-type parties or whatever. But he thinks as we get into the budget and into other issues down the road, he'll have a chance to get more Republicans crossing over. So we'll see what happens. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, what's your view on the attorney general using the word "cowardly"?

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with Clarence. I think it's a very interesting subject, because there's not great social -- there's considerable voluntary social segregation after working hours, at churches and things like that, at clubs and parties. And it's an interesting subject.

But he did a very stupid thing. If you want to have a conversation, you don't start it off by calling the people you want to talk to a nation of cowards.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think he was addressing both races too. He wasn't singling out white people. And I'm projecting now, but this was a Black History Month event, and there's been a lot of congratulations with both races, self-congratulations. And I think he wanted to remind us that all the problems are not behind us and that this is something we should talk about.

He has celebrated his own rise to prominence. I mean, he's a product of public schools in Queens in New York. And he said all of the things that make us proud. And so this is just a little reminder that there are some things that we don't exactly do yet.

MS. CROWLEY: Right, but language is very important. And if he wants to start this conversation, which is an important one, maybe he should start by spearheading an anti-political correctness movement so that the races do feel that they can talk to each other openly and honestly and not feel like they're going to be painted as a racist.

And, you know, again, the language is important because he needs to make sure that he's not going to erase the real historical triumph of Obama's election, which is that people don't see him as a black man. They see him as president of the United States.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that --

MR. PAGE: Who happens to be black. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I don't think Holder has that within his power.

MR. PAGE: Right, right. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: Starting a conversation --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that what goes on is colonizing more than it is discrimination? I mean by that, it seems to me it's evident in the Latino community that they tend -- Latinos like to be with Latinos. And that is true --

MR. PAGE: Everybody likes to be with people who are like them.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think we're tribal.

MR. PAGE: Yeah, tribalizing. That's what it is.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is not necessarily --

MR. PAGE: It's not colonizing. It's tribalizing.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's ethno-nationalism.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So if he's talking about personal interaction, that is certainly different from when we group up.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. And it's got -- MR. PAGE: No, it's not, John. It's not different. What we're talking about -- I'll give you a chance, but we're talking about what sociologists call homopholy; birds of a feather flock together.

MR. BUCHANAN: They do.

MR. PAGE: That's natural.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, is that okay?

MR. BUCHANAN: That is --

MR. PAGE: The American way -- what's happened in America, Irish or whatever other group you're talking about is, you know, second and third generations mainstream. But, you know, first generations typically hang around with their own kind, so to speak.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's what I'm describing.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the older you get, the more you tend to associate with folks. When you're younger, there's a lot more interaction. I lived up at the International House in New York. When you get older -- and there's nothing wrong with voluntary association. That's what freedom is all about. And he's got a good point, but there's no role for government in voluntary free associations of people.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: He didn't call for a role of the government.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the election of Barack Obama towers so far above what is being criticized by Holder that it makes the case --

MR. BUCHANAN: The election of Barack Obama confirms what I have always believed about this country, America. Among the western countries and world countries, we are the least racist of them all.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where does Holder's statement leave the post- racial society?

MR. BUCHANAN: Holder ruined his point by coming around -- we're all talking about "nation of cowards."

MR. PAGE: At least we're talking.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Clarence --

MR. PAGE: At least we're talking. (Laughs.) He provoked a conversation by using that word.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we living in a post-racial society? MR. PAGE: It's not post-racial, but it's multi-racial. And I think what Holder is saying is -- I'm not so sure about that government role. He is attorney general. And I think what we're seeing here, too, is a departure from the previous administration that had a very light touch around civil rights matters and had a lot of complaints about their Civil Rights Division. I think he's sending a signal that we're going to have a stronger Civil Rights Division under Obama.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it could be said that we're not living in a post-tribal society, but we are living in a post-racial society?

MR. PAGE: I think he's saying that we're not post-racial. Race still matters.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but we're living in a society where young people in particular are not as ethno-conscious as their elders were.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Take a look at California. I mean, you take Asians and African-Americans and whites who are all going to their own fraternities, their own eating clubs.

MS. CROWLEY: That's true.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is coming back --

MS. CROWLEY: And that was the point he was making.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tribalism --

MS. CLIFT: They're marrying each other.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tribalism is coming back.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Monica in.

MS. CROWLEY: Eleanor is right --

MR. PAGE: There's a lot more mixed marriages in California.

MS. CROWLEY: Eleanor is right that we are seeing a lot more of that assimilation and integration. However, the point that Holder was making, which is also true, if you go into high schools or colleges, you see that different ethnic groups click off -- blacks, whites, Asians.

MR. PAGE: That's always been true. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: That's not recent. MS. CROWLEY: They're self-segregating. So the point here is it's not legal segregation; it's a cultural segregation.

MR. PAGE: They also self-segregate, though, by jocks, by heavy metal, by hip-hop, et cetera.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly.

MR. PAGE: That's high school.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a quick answer. Is Holder's statement ultimately overstating a problem?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not a -- I don't think it is really a problem. The big sort, this book has come out. People are moving more and more not only racially and ethnically --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he overstating? Whatever he's doing, is it an overstatement?

MR. BUCHANAN: Ideologically they're --

MS. CLIFT: He's not --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, it's an overstatement.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it an overstatement?

MS. CLIFT: He's not overstating it.

MS. CROWLEY: It's an overstatement, yes.

MS. CLIFT: Frankly, it's white people who are worried they're getting left out of this new black majority that's coming along.

MR. PAGE: I like what she's saying here. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it an overstatement, as it stands?

MR. PAGE: Actually, it's candid. He's being candid. I will tell you --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's (flagrantly ?) an overstatement.

Issue Three: Grease the Skids?

(Videotaped clip of John Travolta singing "Greased Lightning" from the movie "Grease.")

Greased lightning? Try greased skids. GM and Chrysler are on the skids, the financial skids. They are both deeply in debt. And it gets worse. In December, GM got $13 billion from the U.S. Treasury. In February, eight weeks later, they're back asking for another $16 billion, bringing the GM total bailout to $29 billion.

In December, Chrysler got $4 billion from the U.S. Treasury. In February, eight weeks later, they're back asking for another $5 billion, bringing the Chrysler total bailout to $9 billion in taxpayer money.

Americans don't like this volume of bailout spending to underwrite the failing Chrysler and GM. Polls in December and again this week show that over six in 10 Americans, a consensus, oppose using taxpayer dollars to save the U.S. auto industry as we know it.

Question: Is the bailout for GM good for taxpayers? Monica Crowley. MS. CROWLEY: Well, as you can see from those numbers, the American taxpayer is fed up with these bailouts. Between the bank bailouts, the bailout for Detroit, the stimulus package, there's bailout fatigue across the board.

Here we go again with the Detroit big three, by the way. They went back in November. They said, "This is what we need." Now they're back again. And if anybody thinks they're not going to come back a third, fourth, fifth time for even more money -- you know, in a free market, if that's still what we have here in America, there's got to be some consequences for failure.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Monica, you don't --

MS. CLIFT: I think they're also fed up with a recession that might go into a depression. Number one, I think, for national security reasons alone, I think we should have a domestic automobile manufacturing capability. Secondly, I think the cost of these car companies going under and the ripple effect, you're talking about 3 million jobs.

In a perfect world or in another world, it would be fine to let them go, but not when you have the kind of job losses that we're having now. So, again, the administration is going to look at this and see if -- they'll have to get congressional approval, but I think there's a good shot that GM at least will be --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's pick up that point. Lightning or skids?

Oldsmobile, Buick Skylark, Mustang, Gran Torino, Thunderbird, and, of course, the grandfather of them all, the Model T. When one of these striking icons from the '50s drives by, there's the "wow" factor still. Then there's our grand U.S. interstate highway system, 50,000 miles long, threading its way over plains, through deserts, of course mountains, from sea to shining sea, the longest highway system in the world, and with Americana in view all along the way -- art museums, classic diners, idyllic towns, and post-industrial decay; the American automobile at the center of our heritage, our culture, our (psyche ?), our DNA. Well, kiss it goodbye.

Question: From icons like Jack Kerouac with his "On the Road" and John Steinbeck with his "Travels With Charlie," the depiction of romance on the American road and in American literature, would either of them be able to write these novels today?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, first --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you understand the meaning of it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, "Travels with Charlie" was a novel. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The automobile is a poisonous vehicle. It emits exhaust --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's what they say now. But, look, the American people love cars. If they get a little bit of money back, they'll go back into their SUVs. There's a love affair with them. We need General Motors, quite frankly.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: There still is the love affair?

MR. BUCHANAN: There's a world market --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think the romance is now cold?

MR. BUCHANAN: America has got a market of 17 million, normally. There's a world market of 100 million. We can't give that up, because Japanese and Koreans and Chinese are coming in, undercutting us, trying to kill our industries. We should save our industries.

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



END.


on the down slope, through no fault of their own.

MS. CROWLEY: No, but the government --

MR. PAGE: And people are looking for Washington to do something.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama is bailing out Obama's constituents, and he don't care about the Chicago Board of Trade.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. PAGE: Not just Obama's constituency.

MS. CLIFT: Obama --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're going to come in next week with a bank bailout, okay? And this bank and these big institutions are -- people are saying, "Well, what about the little guy?"

Issue Two: Nation of Cowards.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: (From videotape.) Though race- related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we average Americans simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial. Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eric Holder was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month as our nation's attorney general, the first of African- American descent. General Holder is now one of the four high-profile blacks in Obama's Cabinet, along with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and EPA head Lisa Jackson. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Holder to be U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and later to be deputy attorney general. Additionally, General Holder clerked for the NAACP, its legal defense fund, and a member of the inner-city mentoring organization Concerned Black Men, plus BA and JD degrees from Columbia University.

What point was Holder making? Clarence Page.

MR. PAGE: Well, I think the obvious point was that while we have made great racial progress, we still tend to go home after work to largely separate lives and that there are so many aspects of different points of view between blacks, whites and other racial groups that we don't talk about it.

I wouldn't have used the word cowardly. I'm too cowardly for that. (Laughter.) But I would say, and I have said numerous times, that we're too polite. Rather than say things that are on our mind about race, unless we're with somebody who we know really well, we usually keep racial talk within our own race. And what Eric Holder is saying is, "Be brave. Get out there and be more candid across racial lines."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the president would have said this? You were with him, by the way.

MR. PAGE: I think the president -- yeah, I was -- I got the chance to fly to Chicago on Air Force One last week. And I just love saying that, John. I got to fly on Air Force One. And I have two words to say: Really cool. That's what it is. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's cool?

MR. PAGE: No, the plane. I love the plane. (Laughs.) It's just like the movie, you know.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much time did he spend with you?

MR. PAGE: He spent 55 minutes with us, me and four other columnists. And we talked mostly about, you know, is bipartisanship dead or not and what's going to happen now.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did he say?

MR. PAGE: He says that he thinks that the stimulus, because it dealt with these core issues on both sides -- you know, should we cut taxes or should we have more government spending -- that it just polarized everybody. He's going to continue his outreach, maybe invite more people back to the White House for more Super Bowl-type parties or whatever. But he thinks as we get into the budget and into other issues down the road, he'll have a chance to get more Republicans crossing over. So we'll see what happens. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, what's your view on the attorney general using the word "cowardly"?

MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with Clarence. I think it's a very interesting subject, because there's not great social -- there's considerable voluntary social segregation after working hours, at churches and things like that, at clubs and parties. And it's an interesting subject.

But he did a very stupid thing. If you want to have a conversation, you don't start it off by calling the people you want to talk to a nation of cowards.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think he was addressing both races too. He wasn't singling out white people. And I'm projecting now, but this was a Black History Month event, and there's been a lot of congratulations with both races, self-congratulations. And I think he wanted to remind us that all the problems are not behind us and that this is something we should talk about.

He has celebrated his own rise to prominence. I mean, he's a product of public schools in Queens in New York. And he said all of the things that make us proud. And so this is just a little reminder that there are some things that we don't exactly do yet.

MS. CROWLEY: Right, but language is very important. And if he wants to start this conversation, which is an important one, maybe he should start by spearheading an anti-political correctness movement so that the races do feel that they can talk to each other openly and honestly and not feel like they're going to be painted as a racist.

And, you know, again, the language is important because he needs to make sure that he's not going to erase the real historical triumph of Obama's election, which is that people don't see him as a black man. They see him as president of the United States.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that --

MR. PAGE: Who happens to be black. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I don't think Holder has that within his power.

MR. PAGE: Right, right. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: Starting a conversation --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that what goes on is colonizing more than it is discrimination? I mean by that, it seems to me it's evident in the Latino community that they tend -- Latinos like to be with Latinos. And that is true --

MR. PAGE: Everybody likes to be with people who are like them.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think we're tribal.

MR. PAGE: Yeah, tribalizing. That's what it is.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is not necessarily --

MR. PAGE: It's not colonizing. It's tribalizing.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's ethno-nationalism.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So if he's talking about personal interaction, that is certainly different from when we group up.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. And it's got -- MR. PAGE: No, it's not, John. It's not different. What we're talking about -- I'll give you a chance, but we're talking about what sociologists call homopholy; birds of a feather flock together.

MR. BUCHANAN: They do.

MR. PAGE: That's natural.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, is that okay?

MR. BUCHANAN: That is --

MR. PAGE: The American way -- what's happened in America, Irish or whatever other group you're talking about is, you know, second and third generations mainstream. But, you know, first generations typically hang around with their own kind, so to speak.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's what I'm describing.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the older you get, the more you tend to associate with folks. When you're younger, there's a lot more interaction. I lived up at the International House in New York. When you get older -- and there's nothing wrong with voluntary association. That's what freedom is all about. And he's got a good point, but there's no role for government in voluntary free associations of people.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: He didn't call for a role of the government.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the election of Barack Obama towers so far above what is being criticized by Holder that it makes the case --

MR. BUCHANAN: The election of Barack Obama confirms what I have always believed about this country, America. Among the western countries and world countries, we are the least racist of them all.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where does Holder's statement leave the post- racial society?

MR. BUCHANAN: Holder ruined his point by coming around -- we're all talking about "nation of cowards."

MR. PAGE: At least we're talking.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Clarence --

MR. PAGE: At least we're talking. (Laughs.) He provoked a conversation by using that word.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we living in a post-racial society? MR. PAGE: It's not post-racial, but it's multi-racial. And I think what Holder is saying is -- I'm not so sure about that government role. He is attorney general. And I think what we're seeing here, too, is a departure from the previous administration that had a very light touch around civil rights matters and had a lot of complaints about their Civil Rights Division. I think he's sending a signal that we're going to have a stronger Civil Rights Division under Obama.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it could be said that we're not living in a post-tribal society, but we are living in a post-racial society?

MR. PAGE: I think he's saying that we're not post-racial. Race still matters.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but we're living in a society where young people in particular are not as ethno-conscious as their elders were.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Take a look at California. I mean, you take Asians and African-Americans and whites who are all going to their own fraternities, their own eating clubs.

MS. CROWLEY: That's true.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is coming back --

MS. CROWLEY: And that was the point he was making.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tribalism --

MS. CLIFT: They're marrying each other.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tribalism is coming back.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Monica in.

MS. CROWLEY: Eleanor is right --

MR. PAGE: There's a lot more mixed marriages in California.

MS. CROWLEY: Eleanor is right that we are seeing a lot more of that assimilation and integration. However, the point that Holder was making, which is also true, if you go into high schools or colleges, you see that different ethnic groups click off -- blacks, whites, Asians.

MR. PAGE: That's always been true. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: That's not recent. MS. CROWLEY: They're self-segregating. So the point here is it's not legal segregation; it's a cultural segregation.

MR. PAGE: They also self-segregate, though, by jocks, by heavy metal, by hip-hop, et cetera.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly.

MR. PAGE: That's high school.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me a quick answer. Is Holder's statement ultimately overstating a problem?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not a -- I don't think it is really a problem. The big sort, this book has come out. People are moving more and more not only racially and ethnically --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he overstating? Whatever he's doing, is it an overstatement?

MR. BUCHANAN: Ideologically they're --

MS. CLIFT: He's not --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, it's an overstatement.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it an overstatement?

MS. CLIFT: He's not overstating it.

MS. CROWLEY: It's an overstatement, yes.

MS. CLIFT: Frankly, it's white people who are worried they're getting left out of this new black majority that's coming along.

MR. PAGE: I like what she's saying here. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it an overstatement, as it stands?

MR. PAGE: Actually, it's candid. He's being candid. I will tell you --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's (flagrantly ?) an overstatement.

Issue Three: Grease the Skids?

(Videotaped clip of John Travolta singing "Greased Lightning" from the movie "Grease.")

Greased lightning? Try greased skids. GM and Chrysler are on the skids, the financial skids. They are both deeply in debt. And it gets worse. In December, GM got $13 billion from the U.S. Treasury. In February, eight weeks later, they're back asking for another $16 billion, bringing the GM total bailout to $29 billion.

In December, Chrysler got $4 billion from the U.S. Treasury. In February, eight weeks later, they're back asking for another $5 billion, bringing the Chrysler total bailout to $9 billion in taxpayer money.

Americans don't like this volume of bailout spending to underwrite the failing Chrysler and GM. Polls in December and again this week show that over six in 10 Americans, a consensus, oppose using taxpayer dollars to save the U.S. auto industry as we know it.

Question: Is the bailout for GM good for taxpayers? Monica Crowley. MS. CROWLEY: Well, as you can see from those numbers, the American taxpayer is fed up with these bailouts. Between the bank bailouts, the bailout for Detroit, the stimulus package, there's bailout fatigue across the board.

Here we go again with the Detroit big three, by the way. They went back in November. They said, "This is what we need." Now they're back again. And if anybody thinks they're not going to come back a third, fourth, fifth time for even more money -- you know, in a free market, if that's still what we have here in America, there's got to be some consequences for failure.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Monica, you don't --

MS. CLIFT: I think they're also fed up with a recession that might go into a depression. Number one, I think, for national security reasons alone, I think we should have a domestic automobile manufacturing capability. Secondly, I think the cost of these car companies going under and the ripple effect, you're talking about 3 million jobs.

In a perfect world or in another world, it would be fine to let them go, but not when you have the kind of job losses that we're having now. So, again, the administration is going to look at this and see if -- they'll have to get congressional approval, but I think there's a good shot that GM at least will be --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's pick up that point. Lightning or skids?

Oldsmobile, Buick Skylark, Mustang, Gran Torino, Thunderbird, and, of course, the grandfather of them all, the Model T. When one of these striking icons from the '50s drives by, there's the "wow" factor still. Then there's our grand U.S. interstate highway system, 50,000 miles long, threading its way over plains, through deserts, of course mountains, from sea to shining sea, the longest highway system in the world, and with Americana in view all along the way -- art museums, classic diners, idyllic towns, and post-industrial decay; the American automobile at the center of our heritage, our culture, our (psyche ?), our DNA. Well, kiss it goodbye.

Question: From icons like Jack Kerouac with his "On the Road" and John Steinbeck with his "Travels With Charlie," the depiction of romance on the American road and in American literature, would either of them be able to write these novels today?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, first --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you understand the meaning of it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, "Travels with Charlie" was a novel. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The automobile is a poisonous vehicle. It emits exhaust --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's what they say now. But, look, the American people love cars. If they get a little bit of money back, they'll go back into their SUVs. There's a love affair with them. We need General Motors, quite frankly.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: There still is the love affair?

MR. BUCHANAN: There's a world market --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think the romance is now cold?

MR. BUCHANAN: America has got a market of 17 million, normally. There's a world market of 100 million. We can't give that up, because Japanese and Koreans and Chinese are coming in, undercutting us, trying to kill our industries. We should save our industries.

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



END.