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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANEL:
PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC;
ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK;
MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR;
JAMES WARREN, MSNBC

TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2009
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 25-26, 2009

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: 100 Days.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you've bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Barack Hussein Obama's first 100 days' benchmark as president of the United States are over. Those 100 days overlap two grueling and still open-ended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus an ongoing recession; the second 100 days, from April 30th, next week, Thursday, to August 7 -- all of May, all of June, all of July and the first week of August -- the second 100 days.

What awaits President Obama in these three months and one week? Plenty. First, the honeymoon is over. This is solid marriage time. "No question that Obama has seized the moment, but the presidency gets harder in the second 100 days. The euphoria and the energy of a new administration kind of wears off. It now becomes a more regular way of operating," unquote. So says President George H.W. Bush's former chief of staff, Samuel Skinner.

"From the standpoint of Congress, the president will have to taper the volume of his proposed legislation. The president will have to sequence some of this. He really will have to continue to be very purposeful and focused on what he's trying to accomplish. It's a long drive down the field. He's just got to be very steadfast," unquote. So says Mack McLarty, President Clinton's chief of staff.

Question: Are there any danger signals from Obama's style of government in the first 100 days? Then we'll get to the second 100 days. Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think, yes, John. I think Barack Obama went much further to the left and much more boldly than I anticipated he would. We doubled the money supply. And, quite frankly, he's got a $1.8 trillion deficit; a real potential for a boom in the economy, and all of a sudden an inflationary bust.

But the big problem he's got, John, coming right up is he doubled down in Afghanistan, and it's looking very much like Pakistan may be a situation where the government goes down; the military marches in. Here is an Islamic country with 60 nuclear weapons. I think he's got some very grave problems on his plate and foreign policy that are not his fault but that could very well come in on him within the next 100 days.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I would argue with your ringing declaration that the honeymoon is over. The first 100-day polls show that his approval ratings are in the 60s and his personal approval ratings are in the 70s. So I think the country still has confidence in him as someone they are hoping can stabilize the economy. And there's an upbeat sense in the country that we are on the right course, which is a dramatic change.

But the next 100 days are going to be a lot harder. He's got to tee up health care reform. He's got to get the energy bill moving through Congress. And you've got Iraq is not quiet on that front. And Afghanistan, when the summer season for fighting and killing gets underway, we could get some body bags from there, which is going to strain the country's patience as well. But I think he's established himself in the office as a leader and he's off to a very good start.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before we move on, Eleanor makes a point with regard to whether or not the honeymoon is over. Let's compare him to Reagan. Reagan at this time got an approval rating of 67 percent. His disapproval rating was 19 percent.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he'd been shot.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama got an approval rating of 64 percent and he got a disapproval rating of 28 percent. In other words, his disapproval rating is about 50 percent higher than Ronald Reagan's at this time -- two very popular presidents.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is enormous among Republicans.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but as Pat --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat finish. Go ahead.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama's negative rating among Republicans is enormous, and the gap between Republicans and Democrats is 65 points.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what does that mean? Does that mean he's failing to get independents and he appears to be --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's still fairly strong --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he appears to be catering --

MS. CLIFT: He's doing well with independents.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to his own party?

MR. BUCHANAN: USA Today has him at only 56 percent. But clearly he's got Democrats solidly with him. There's been a little bleeding in the moderates. But the Republicans have abandoned him completely.

MS. CLIFT: Right. Republicans --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The point of this is his disapproval ratings are 50 percent higher than Reagan's.

MS. CLIFT: And Republicans have devolved to their most conservative base, and they've decided that their only future is unified opposition against this president. And President Reagan was shot early in his term. It was a transforming moment. He handled it beautifully, gracefully. The country loved him.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think his approval ratings were because he was shot? Is that what you're saying?

MS. CLIFT: They had an impact in the way the country felt about him.

MR. WARREN: Yes. Yes, yes.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to any of this, or do you want to move on?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, there was also a Pew Research poll that showed Barack Obama was the most polarizing new president in American history. And I think it's in large part to the point that Pat raised, which is that he looks like -- and your question about his governance style -- it looks like he's governing from a far left position.

Look, you've got a trillion-dollar economic stimulus that is now rife with fraud. The independent commissioner on this said there is fraud happening all over the place in the trillion-dollar stimulus. You had a half-trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill that was loaded with so much pork. All of this gave rise to the tea parties that we saw over the last week or so.

There's a real sentiment out there of an out-of-control government -- not just the Democrats in the White House and the Congress, but also Republicans that are going along with his massive spending. Underneath all of this, percolating under all of the Republicans and the Democrats, including Obama, is this sense that the government is out of control.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before I go to you, James Warren, let's talk about the three kahunas.

At least three big domestic agenda legislative issues are in the offing.

The economy. Despite recent gains, Obama faces, one, weak banks; two, rising joblessness; three, a crushing deficit of over $1 trillion.

Health care -- legislation for health insurance to cover all Americans. The hope is that that could be voted on as soon as eight weeks from now.

Energy, notably a carbon trading bill that would increase our use of wind and solar power and decrease our use of oil and coal, plus wider utilization of natural gas.

Question: Obama has an ambitious legislative agenda -- major overhauls, revamping the nation's health care system, reregulating the financial industry, reinvigorating education. Is he overloading Congress in the next 100 days? I ask you.

MR. WARREN: Probably is. But I think more important is the fact that he is taking dramatic moves in a bunch of areas. You just take something like energy. These guys are actually serious about figuring out a way to cut our dependence on oil, first and foremost, and coal, secondly. And they're very serious about it. Plus they're pretty darn serious, if you talk to folks in some of these departments and talk to folks in OMB, about figuring out ways -- anticipating folks on the right questioning them -- figuring out ways to assess how effective they're actually going to be.

So they mean business on that. They mean business on things like early childhood education. They want to transform the system. But, first and foremost, in the next 100 days the problem is an economy whose outcome and whose turnout of recession no sane person can possibly really predict at this point.

There is a bizarre, a historically abnormal confluence of factors here. It's not just joblessness. It's idle productive capacity. And throw in the bank failures. There is nobody -- and there are a lot of folks out there, even on the right, who will concede, even free marketers, that somehow the market has failed here, and they're not sure how to fix it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, we ought to also look at the foreign policy challenges of the president's next 100 days.

One, Afghanistan/Pakistan. In about two weeks, Obama meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif ali Zardari. Jihadist radicals are on the rise in both countries -- big problems.

Two, Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak all make separate official state visits within the next six weeks. Obama hopes that the Middle East peace process will be kick-started.

Three, China. This summer Obama hosts talks with China in Washington to bond on joint solutions and action programs on the world's economic crisis, global terrorism and climate change, carrying forward the China talks of his secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and of his own G-20 summit agreements with China.

Eleanor, what do you think of these opportunities that he has?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I will quote the Pew Research poll, which basically says that the president is not a polarizing figure. It's that Democrats love him so much that the numbers are totally weighted. But on foreign policy, the Pew poll also finds that people think that he's balancing America's interests, along with taking into concern the interests of our allies.

And so, yeah, I mean, he's got a lot of problems here, and they're testing him. They're holding journalists in North Korea and in Iran. But it seems to me that he has put America's foot forward into the world, and he's got a good secretary of State. And the most scary thing is developments in Pakistan, where you have --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we not all agree that Obama has seized the momentum in his first 100 days? Can we agree on that?

MS. CLIFT: Oh, absolutely.

MR. BUCHANAN: He has, John.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We agree on that? Do you agree on that?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, there's no doubt about that.

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, I agree. The question is what direction he is taking the country in. I mean, when we talk about foreign policy --

MS. CLIFT: The one he talked about in the campaign --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see any erosion that's taking place in that towards the end of the 100 days?

MR. WARREN: No.

MS. CLIFT: No.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that going on?

MS. CLIFT: No erosion.

MR. WARREN: No.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any flattening of it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, John. I'll tell you what it is.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it that I've grown accustomed to your face?

MR. WARREN: No.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: No?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the erosion is taking place on the issue, as Monica said, of government spending and big government and out of control and bailing out banks. But let me tell you, Pakistan could go down in the next 100 days. Afghanistan is going badly. Iraq, as Eleanor said, has heated up. He's going to get nothing from Netanyahu.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you grade Obama's first 100 days?

MR. BUCHANAN: By his own yardstick, I give him an A. But I'll tell you, you're going to find out in the second 100 days whether it all comes crashing down.

MS. CLIFT: I give him a B+ because there's a lot of outcomes that haven't come in yet. But, look, this isn't about the failure of government. And the Republicans are on the wrong tack talking about big government. This is a failure of capitalism.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: He's trying to save capitalism.

MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And if government -- that is not a laughing matter.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, it is.

MR. BUCHANAN: You mean, government succeeded and capitalism has failed?

MS. CLIFT: People are looking to Washington --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: People are looking to Washington and to government for help. And to argue to get government out of the way makes no sense in this political climate.

MS. CROWLEY: But you talk about saving capitalism.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to grade him? What do you grade him as?

MS. CROWLEY: I will grade him. But listen, John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your grade?

MS. CLIFT: I gave him a B+.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, go ahead.

MS. CROWLEY: You talk about saving capitalism. He's trying to nationalize health care, nationalize the energy sector.

MS. CLIFT: He's not nationalizing health care.

MS. CROWLEY: He's done a ham-handed effort to nationalize the financial sector, federalizing education. There's no saving capitalism going on. His apology tour on three continents makes the United States look weak.

MS. CLIFT: Monica --

MR. WARREN: The answer --

MS. CROWLEY: I give him a C.

MS. CLIFT: You ought to check the dictionary --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let James in. He's our guest.

MS. CLIFT: You ought to check the dictionary and understand what "nationalize" means.

MS. CROWLEY: I certainly do, Eleanor. I majored in it. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you give him?

MS. CROWLEY: I said a C.

MR. WARREN: The well-reasoned empirical answer to this, Monica, from the heartland is he gets an A. The fact is he's not trying to nationalize everything. You look at the criticism from the left and you realize that, in fact, he hasn't gone anywhere near there. He's booted one CEO, the guy from GM, and that is it. He's not nationalizing the auto industry. He's not taking over Wall Street. And I think he's been rather moderate the way that goes. And I think stylistically --

MS. CROWLEY: Come on.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him go.

MR. WARREN: The most fascinating thing is the way Professor Obama is using the traditional bully pulpit as if it was some teaching lectern. And I think that at this point is resonating --

MS. CROWLEY: That's part of his problem.

MR. WARREN: -- that is resonating America. But what could the undoing be? That's obvious. It's the economy. He does not own the cause, but he certainly now owns the solution and what is going to happen.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You have to grade him on what he inherited and on these grave situations around the world. He was very sure-footed. And when you put all that together, the degree of difficulty involved in the assignment, I give him an A.

Issue Two: A Policy of Torture?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it's appropriate for them to be prosecuted.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The legal opinions to which President Obama refers are secret memos authored by Bush administration attorneys that assess the legality of what they describe as enhanced interrogation techniques. Others describe them as torture.

Enhanced interrogation techniques -- hereafter designated EI techniques -- include, quote, "facial slapping, cramped confinement, stress positions, sleep deprivation, waterboarding," unquote.

President Obama's chief of staff enucleated the Obama administration's core position on torture, EI implementors -- what is effectively a de facto pardon.

WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF RAHM EMANUEL: (From videotape.) This is not a time for retribution. It's a time for reflection.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: With this language, does Obama effectively pardon any Bush White House official who exacted information from a suspected terrorist through enhanced interrogation, which is described by others as torture, on which they acted? James Warren.

MR. WARREN: First of all, does Rahm Emanuel know that he enucleated on national television?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he publicly did do that. But where was he? I thought we had the --

MR. WARREN: No, the fact is -- no, I don't think they're going to be --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said it very tightly, but he was really talking to the first part of what Obama said. I want to get to the second part.

MR. WARREN: No, I don't think he's going to issue any pardons. It's going to be a pretty tricky situation for the attorney general, Mr. Holder, to deal with. I think, by and large, what Obama did in releasing those memos -- although, as Robert Gates, the Defense secretary, apparently argued in the White House, there was an inevitability of these things coming up.

But nevertheless, letting them out, not redacting much, I think was very admirable; tricky issue of accountability and whether or not you should go after folks. I understand where he's coming from. I'm one who really does think there should be an independent fact-finding truth commission of some sort. Obama doesn't think so. I think there are some factual disputes here about what happened.

(Cross talk.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.

MR. WARREN: And I do wonder, John -- let me just say this --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. WARREN: -- I do wonder, if the shoe were on the other foot and there were Americans who were the victims of those sort of coercive techniques, whether we would be okay with a country saying, "Well, we don't want to look in the rear-view mirror; we want to look forward," as Mr. Emanuel enucleated.

MS. CLIFT: Obama would prefer not to get wrapped up in an investigation that would be partisan and that would interrupt his agenda on Capitol Hill. But it's too late for that. Passions are inflamed about this. There's got to be some sort of inquiry that is set up.

And it's not only the release of the memos that have inflamed this. The former vice president is running around the country, you know, basically saying that memos have been revealed selectively, and if the full truth were known, the Bush administration would be exonerated. And by the way, if we don't waterboard and we get hit again, it's his fault.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat. Hold on. I want to get this in, because this is the other half of what Obama said. It's very important. Thus far he's only spoken about those who participated in the action of enforcing what was doctrine. Now he talks about the doctrine itself -- splitting the difference.

Mr. President, what about the formulation of the torture EI policy doctrine on the basis by which Bush administration officials exacted information?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Attorney General Eric Holder, we ask you, should those who formulated the guiding principles of torture/EI be prosecuted?

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: (From videotape.) We're going to follow the evidence wherever it takes us. We'll follow the law wherever that takes us. No one is above the law.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: EI is enhanced interrogation, to repeat that.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that is the way it's described by the Bush administration. Question: Is it appropriate for the president to make pronouncements about who should be prosecuted and who should not be prosecuted? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Whether it is or not, as Eleanor said, this cat is out of the bag and he can't walk it back. He has opened the door to prosecution of the lawyers, like John Yoo and Bybee, who's a federal judge. However, you cannot prosecute lawyers for giving honest opinions without going after the people who made the decisions and ordered the waterboarding done. And the one that did that ultimately is the decider himself, George W. Bush, in addition to --

MS. CLIFT: I don't --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it. Hold it. Hold it, Eleanor.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what's going to happen. Those committees up there, the left committees, are going to drag all this stuff out. They're going to say, "These are war crimes." They're going to ship it down over to Holder. And I think Holder is not going to be able to resist an independent counsel.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow.

MS. CLIFT: Pat is having night visions of Watergate revisited. Look, I don't know that this opens the door to prosecutions. It does open the door to the fact that Eric Holder is the one who makes the decision, and then there's prosecutorial discretion and then what happens after that. But there's got to be some sort of an inquiry. And if they can style it like the 9/11 commission, that would be --

MS. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, I want to let Monica in. Let's let Monica in here.

MS. CROWLEY: This White House has bungled this over the last --

MS. CLIFT: It's not his decision --

MS. CROWLEY: Excuse me.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her in. Let her in.

MS. CROWLEY: This White House has bungled this entire question from the beginning flip-flopping all over the place over the last week. They created this chaos. Now they're going to have to deal with it. They're trying to split the baby by saying, "Well, we're not going to go after the guys who carried it out, but we will go after those who drafted the legal opinion."

That's because Obama is totally beholden to the far left. They're the ones who got him elected, and that's where his heart is. On the campaign trail he called this torture and illegal. He believes in going after these people. And you know what?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way --

MS. CROWLEY: These enhanced interrogation tactics --

MS. CLIFT: Torture --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the CIA says --

MS. CROWLEY: Excuse me.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The CIA says --

MS. CROWLEY: Putting a caterpillar on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed isn't exactly torture.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the American people want to know whether it works. And the CIA says quite definitively --

MS. CROWLEY: It does work.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that it does work where other means fail to extract information by which terrorists could perform heinous acts.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that.

MR. WARREN: Right. And I also know, Monica and John, there's clear factual dispute about the effectiveness of these techniques. And if you want to bury this stuff, fine, go bury it. But the trick is going to be, can you have a full accounting and avoid a congressional circus?

MS. CLIFT: Right, exactly.

MR. WARREN: And maybe -- do you put somebody, say, like John McCain in charge of some commission?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Vagabonds of the Sea.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) We face a wide range of unconventional challenges -- stateless terrorist networks like al Qaeda, the spread of catastrophic weapons, cyber threats, failed states, rogue regimes, persistent conflict, and now we have to add to our list piracy.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pirates -- high seas pirates, what Joseph Conrad called, quote, "those colorful vagabonds of the sea." They are on the scene, no longer relegated to Gilbert & Sullivan musicals or Hollywood blockbusters. Remember this?

(Videotaped clip of pirate-themed musical.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're gone. Now pirates are a serious issue facing the young Obama administration. This week in a New York federal court, a Somali teenage pirate faces trial on charges of piracy, the first time that's happened in the U.S. in more than 100 years.

How numerous are these evil vagabonds? From a world perspective, pirate attacks on merchant ships have doubled in the first quarter of this year. And piracy is not limited to the waters off the coast of East Africa, where Somali pirates hijacked an American merchant ship earlier this month, with Navy SEAL sharpshooters killing three of the pirates holding hostage the ship's captain, Richard Phillips, who heroically survived.

Tanzania, on Africa's coast, is also rich in these marine criminals. Worldwide, more than a dozen ocean regions spanning three continents are piracy-ridden areas near Bangladesh, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Malaka Straits, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brazil.

Since U.S. boats go everywhere, this world menace is a U.S. menace. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says 24 nations will meet in New York within a month to crack down on this high seas terror. President Obama has vowed to stop piracy.

Unfortunately, his secretary of Defense says we'll be arriving late for the party.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: (From videotape.) I wish I could give you kind of a one-two-three, "Here's what we're going to do." But the truth of the matter is I don't think we know yet.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why is piracy off the Somali coast so hard to control, Monica Crowley?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, this is not a new phenomenon. This is essentially the third Barbary war. The first one was taken apart by Thomas Jefferson. The second one was taken apart by James Monroe and John Madison. And they were all Democratic presidents. Now we've got another Democratic president facing the exact same thing.

It's so hard to control because, listen, these guys are rogues. They're out there. And it's paid off for them. A lot of these shipping companies have paid the ransom, so it's actually a very profitable enterprise for them.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We sent our Navy over there. What was the year, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: The year was -- twice we did.

MS. CROWLEY: 1803.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: 1800? 1801?

MS. CROWLEY: 1803.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: 1803?

MS. CROWLEY: 1803, yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Also Stephen Decatur went there later, and -- they went in there twice, John. But let me tell you what the problem is, John. The problem is Somalia is a failed state. There's no government.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget Somalia. It's a worldwide phenomenon.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is worldwide, but pirates need a base of operations they can go back to and enjoy their loot and a government --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat, our U.S. vessels navigate through those waters.

MR. WARREN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the piracy war, wherever it is in the world, is our war.

MR. WARREN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, it is.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MR. WARREN: Pat's got one element. Yes, a failed state, but also totally unregulated waters, a ton of illegal fishing. The Somalians themselves are ripped off to a tune of what's estimated to be about $300 million in fish taken off their coast. And finally you've got a bunch of violent vigilantes. The world has got to come together and somehow deal --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. WARREN: -- with the craziness of Somalia, not just getting their sort of faux government, but a bunch of other --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about these snotty, high-brow intellectuals who are dismissing it as a very small percentage of international trade? It's not a small percentage, is it?

MS. CLIFT: Well, first --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And is Obama right in including it in that list? Is he right?

MS. CLIFT: Well, it was in the headlines when he said that, and there was a hostage --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that why he put it in?

MS. CLIFT: Probably yes.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't believe it belongs in there?

MS. CLIFT: Because it has been treated as a manageable cost of doing business in these unregulated waters, over a million square miles of water. Now that it's escalated, people are probably going to have armed guards on the ships. And these are mostly teenage boys. And I think they're going to be able to manage it, John. It's not as big as Pakistan.

MR. BUCHANAN: If they start killing people, you're going to get --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's your president who said it. He put it in the list.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, if they start killing --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a thing to worry about, a serious thing to worry about.

MS. CLIFT: He has to deal with it, yes. And he did.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you worried?

MR. BUCHANAN: If they start killing people, the American Navy will make a visit to the land by air power.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pakistan is in political collapse. It will become a failed state. Yes or no? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Military takeover.

MS. CLIFT: I sure hope not. I'm not going to bet for failure on that one -- too dangerous.

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, this is -- I agree, but it is going to be a cataclysm, yes.

MR. WARREN: Dictionary definition of failed state is Somalia. Answer: No.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is that Musharraf will be back to lead the country and it will make the curve.

Bye-bye.

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s been rather moderate the way that goes. And I think stylistically --

MS. CROWLEY: Come on.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him go.

MR. WARREN: The most fascinating thing is the way Professor Obama is using the traditional bully pulpit as if it was some teaching lectern. And I think that at this point is resonating --

MS. CROWLEY: That's part of his problem.

MR. WARREN: -- that is resonating America. But what could the undoing be? That's obvious. It's the economy. He does not own the cause, but he certainly now owns the solution and what is going to happen.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You have to grade him on what he inherited and on these grave situations around the world. He was very sure-footed. And when you put all that together, the degree of difficulty involved in the assignment, I give him an A.

Issue Two: A Policy of Torture?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it's appropriate for them to be prosecuted.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The legal opinions to which President Obama refers are secret memos authored by Bush administration attorneys that assess the legality of what they describe as enhanced interrogation techniques. Others describe them as torture.

Enhanced interrogation techniques -- hereafter designated EI techniques -- include, quote, "facial slapping, cramped confinement, stress positions, sleep deprivation, waterboarding," unquote.

President Obama's chief of staff enucleated the Obama administration's core position on torture, EI implementors -- what is effectively a de facto pardon.

WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF RAHM EMANUEL: (From videotape.) This is not a time for retribution. It's a time for reflection.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: With this language, does Obama effectively pardon any Bush White House official who exacted information from a suspected terrorist through enhanced interrogation, which is described by others as torture, on which they acted? James Warren.

MR. WARREN: First of all, does Rahm Emanuel know that he enucleated on national television?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he publicly did do that. But where was he? I thought we had the --

MR. WARREN: No, the fact is -- no, I don't think they're going to be --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said it very tightly, but he was really talking to the first part of what Obama said. I want to get to the second part.

MR. WARREN: No, I don't think he's going to issue any pardons. It's going to be a pretty tricky situation for the attorney general, Mr. Holder, to deal with. I think, by and large, what Obama did in releasing those memos -- although, as Robert Gates, the Defense secretary, apparently argued in the White House, there was an inevitability of these things coming up.

But nevertheless, letting them out, not redacting much, I think was very admirable; tricky issue of accountability and whether or not you should go after folks. I understand where he's coming from. I'm one who really does think there should be an independent fact-finding truth commission of some sort. Obama doesn't think so. I think there are some factual disputes here about what happened.

(Cross talk.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.

MR. WARREN: And I do wonder, John -- let me just say this --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. WARREN: -- I do wonder, if the shoe were on the other foot and there were Americans who were the victims of those sort of coercive techniques, whether we would be okay with a country saying, "Well, we don't want to look in the rear-view mirror; we want to look forward," as Mr. Emanuel enucleated.

MS. CLIFT: Obama would prefer not to get wrapped up in an investigation that would be partisan and that would interrupt his agenda on Capitol Hill. But it's too late for that. Passions are inflamed about this. There's got to be some sort of inquiry that is set up.

And it's not only the release of the memos that have inflamed this. The former vice president is running around the country, you know, basically saying that memos have been revealed selectively, and if the full truth were known, the Bush administration would be exonerated. And by the way, if we don't waterboard and we get hit again, it's his fault.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat. Hold on. I want to get this in, because this is the other half of what Obama said. It's very important. Thus far he's only spoken about those who participated in the action of enforcing what was doctrine. Now he talks about the doctrine itself -- splitting the difference.

Mr. President, what about the formulation of the torture EI policy doctrine on the basis by which Bush administration officials exacted information?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Attorney General Eric Holder, we ask you, should those who formulated the guiding principles of torture/EI be prosecuted?

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: (From videotape.) We're going to follow the evidence wherever it takes us. We'll follow the law wherever that takes us. No one is above the law.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: EI is enhanced interrogation, to repeat that.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that is the way it's described by the Bush administration. Question: Is it appropriate for the president to make pronouncements about who should be prosecuted and who should not be prosecuted? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Whether it is or not, as Eleanor said, this cat is out of the bag and he can't walk it back. He has opened the door to prosecution of the lawyers, like John Yoo and Bybee, who's a federal judge. However, you cannot prosecute lawyers for giving honest opinions without going after the people who made the decisions and ordered the waterboarding done. And the one that did that ultimately is the decider himself, George W. Bush, in addition to --

MS. CLIFT: I don't --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it. Hold it. Hold it, Eleanor.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what's going to happen. Those committees up there, the left committees, are going to drag all this stuff out. They're going to say, "These are war crimes." They're going to ship it down over to Holder. And I think Holder is not going to be able to resist an independent counsel.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow.

MS. CLIFT: Pat is having night visions of Watergate revisited. Look, I don't know that this opens the door to prosecutions. It does open the door to the fact that Eric Holder is the one who makes the decision, and then there's prosecutorial discretion and then what happens after that. But there's got to be some sort of an inquiry. And if they can style it like the 9/11 commission, that would be --

MS. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, I want to let Monica in. Let's let Monica in here.

MS. CROWLEY: This White House has bungled this over the last --

MS. CLIFT: It's not his decision --

MS. CROWLEY: Excuse me.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her in. Let her in.

MS. CROWLEY: This White House has bungled this entire question from the beginning flip-flopping all over the place over the last week. They created this chaos. Now they're going to have to deal with it. They're trying to split the baby by saying, "Well, we're not going to go after the guys who carried it out, but we will go after those who drafted the legal opinion."

That's because Obama is totally beholden to the far left. They're the ones who got him elected, and that's where his heart is. On the campaign trail he called this torture and illegal. He believes in going after these people. And you know what?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way --

MS. CROWLEY: These enhanced interrogation tactics --

MS. CLIFT: Torture --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the CIA says --

MS. CROWLEY: Excuse me.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The CIA says --

MS. CROWLEY: Putting a caterpillar on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed isn't exactly torture.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the American people want to know whether it works. And the CIA says quite definitively --

MS. CROWLEY: It does work.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that it does work where other means fail to extract information by which terrorists could perform heinous acts.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that.

MR. WARREN: Right. And I also know, Monica and John, there's clear factual dispute about the effectiveness of these techniques. And if you want to bury this stuff, fine, go bury it. But the trick is going to be, can you have a full accounting and avoid a congressional circus?

MS. CLIFT: Right, exactly.

MR. WARREN: And maybe -- do you put somebody, say, like John McCain in charge of some commission?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Vagabonds of the Sea.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) We face a wide range of unconventional challenges -- stateless terrorist networks like al Qaeda, the spread of catastrophic weapons, cyber threats, failed states, rogue regimes, persistent conflict, and now we have to add to our list piracy.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pirates -- high seas pirates, what Joseph Conrad called, quote, "those colorful vagabonds of the sea." They are on the scene, no longer relegated to Gilbert & Sullivan musicals or Hollywood blockbusters. Remember this?

(Videotaped clip of pirate-themed musical.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're gone. Now pirates are a serious issue facing the young Obama administration. This week in a New York federal court, a Somali teenage pirate faces trial on charges of piracy, the first time that's happened in the U.S. in more than 100 years.

How numerous are these evil vagabonds? From a world perspective, pirate attacks on merchant ships have doubled in the first quarter of this year. And piracy is not limited to the waters off the coast of East Africa, where Somali pirates hijacked an American merchant ship earlier this month, with Navy SEAL sharpshooters killing three of the pirates holding hostage the ship's captain, Richard Phillips, who heroically survived.

Tanzania, on Africa's coast, is also rich in these marine criminals. Worldwide, more than a dozen ocean regions spanning three continents are piracy-ridden areas near Bangladesh, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Malaka Straits, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brazil.

Since U.S. boats go everywhere, this world menace is a U.S. menace. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says 24 nations will meet in New York within a month to crack down on this high seas terror. President Obama has vowed to stop piracy.

Unfortunately, his secretary of Defense says we'll be arriving late for the party.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: (From videotape.) I wish I could give you kind of a one-two-three, "Here's what we're going to do." But the truth of the matter is I don't think we know yet.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why is piracy off the Somali coast so hard to control, Monica Crowley?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, this is not a new phenomenon. This is essentially the third Barbary war. The first one was taken apart by Thomas Jefferson. The second one was taken apart by James Monroe and John Madison. And they were all Democratic presidents. Now we've got another Democratic president facing the exact same thing.

It's so hard to control because, listen, these guys are rogues. They're out there. And it's paid off for them. A lot of these shipping companies have paid the ransom, so it's actually a very profitable enterprise for them.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We sent our Navy over there. What was the year, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: The year was -- twice we did.

MS. CROWLEY: 1803.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: 1800? 1801?

MS. CROWLEY: 1803.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: 1803?

MS. CROWLEY: 1803, yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Also Stephen Decatur went there later, and -- they went in there twice, John. But let me tell you what the problem is, John. The problem is Somalia is a failed state. There's no government.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forget Somalia. It's a worldwide phenomenon.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is worldwide, but pirates need a base of operations they can go back to and enjoy their loot and a government --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat, our U.S. vessels navigate through those waters.

MR. WARREN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the piracy war, wherever it is in the world, is our war.

MR. WARREN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, it is.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MR. WARREN: Pat's got one element. Yes, a failed state, but also totally unregulated waters, a ton of illegal fishing. The Somalians themselves are ripped off to a tune of what's estimated to be about $300 million in fish taken off their coast. And finally you've got a bunch of violent vigilantes. The world has got to come together and somehow deal --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. WARREN: -- with the craziness of Somalia, not just getting their sort of faux government, but a bunch of other --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about these snotty, high-brow intellectuals who are dismissing it as a very small percentage of international trade? It's not a small percentage, is it?

MS. CLIFT: Well, first --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And is Obama right in including it in that list? Is he right?

MS. CLIFT: Well, it was in the headlines when he said that, and there was a hostage --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that why he put it in?

MS. CLIFT: Probably yes.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He doesn't believe it belongs in there?

MS. CLIFT: Because it has been treated as a manageable cost of doing business in these unregulated waters, over a million square miles of water. Now that it's escalated, people are probably going to have armed guards on the ships. And these are mostly teenage boys. And I think they're going to be able to manage it, John. It's not as big as Pakistan.

MR. BUCHANAN: If they start killing people, you're going to get --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's your president who said it. He put it in the list.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, if they start killing --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a thing to worry about, a serious thing to worry about.

MS. CLIFT: He has to deal with it, yes. And he did.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you worried?

MR. BUCHANAN: If they start killing people, the American Navy will make a visit to the land by air power.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pakistan is in political collapse. It will become a failed state. Yes or no? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Military takeover.

MS. CLIFT: I sure hope not. I'm not going to bet for failure on that one -- too dangerous.

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, this is -- I agree, but it is going to be a cataclysm, yes.

MR. WARREN: Dictionary definition of failed state is Somalia. Answer: No.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is that Musharraf will be back to lead the country and it will make the curve.

Bye-bye.

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