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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT TAPED: FRIDAY, MAY 1, 2009 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 2-3, 2009

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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: H1N1 Alert.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) Keep your hands washed. Cover your mouth when you cough. Stay home from work if you're sick, and keep your children home from school if they're sick.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Swine flu, now officially named H1N1. The WHO, World Health Organization, last Wednesday raised its global pandemic alert level to five on a scale of six, its second-highest level. Level five means a pandemic is, quote, "imminent," unquote.

MARGARET CHAN (World Health Organization director-general): (From videotape.) All countries should immediately now activate their pandemic preparedness plans. It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: U.S. health officials say we're ready. The U.S. has a stockpile of 50 million doses of antiviral drugs. Also President Obama has budgeted $1.5 billion to fight the outbreak.

Swine flu began in Mexico, near the city of Veracruz on the Gulf Coast. Some in the United States have called for the closing of the Mexican-U.S. border, but President Obama says no; it's too late.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) From their perspective, it would be akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out, because we already have cases here in the United States.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is the reasoning of President Obama correct that closing the U.S.-Mexican border is the equivalent of closing the barn door after the horses are out? H1N1 outbreaks have already occurred in the U.S.

Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, the president is dead wrong on this, John. He is -- I understand why he's not closing the border, but let me tell you, the disease is virulent and serious and lethal in Mexico, where something close to 200 are dead. Nobody in the United States has died. It seems a milder strain. Very, very few have even gone to the hospital. People at St. Francis, that prep school, all healed.

However, John, if this virulent, lethal strain suddenly hits the United States, Barack Obama better move immediately to end all airline flights into the country from Mexico City, all buses coming in. And quite frankly, he ought to take some real restrictions, if, however, that means if the lethal strain hits the United States. But it has not done that yet.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Obama's logic, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, I think Pat would welcome any chance to close the border with Mexico, given most of his attitude. So let's put this in perspective.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he wants to annex Mexico. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: No way. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I don't think so. Look, the president is trying to strike the right attitude between appropriate precaution and getting people unnecessarily worried. The strain is a bit more lethal, it seems, in Mexico, although they're now saying that they're tracing this back further. It may even have started in California. There may have been a lot more people sickened with it in Mexico, but the symptoms weren't that severe. Exactly why some young adults have died of this in Mexico and the people contracting the disease here and elsewhere in the world have not been that sickened is a bit of a mystery.

But I think what you do is you take precautions. You don't want to cripple the world economy for a new strain of flu that looks like it might not be that deadly. But nonetheless, you have to be prepared. You don't want to do what Gerald Ford did in 1976 and get everybody vaccinated and then discover the vaccinations are sickening people.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And an epidemic in Hong Kong, the SARS flu strain, took quite a few lives, and it cost about what would be the equivalent of $450 billion. Do you think the economics of this plays any role in a faceoff possibly between the economics involved in closing the border?

MS. CROWLEY: Oh, sure. I think that's a primary reason why they don't -- they're not interested in closing the border. And the question is, as Eleanor points out, the strain that's in the United States now is relatively mild compared to what we've seen in Mexico and other places where this outbreak has happened. The question is whether or not it will mutate or change into something a lot more dangerous.

To President Obama's credit, during his press conference this week he gave President Bush credit for developing the infrastructure to deal with such an outbreak; that is, stockpiling Tamiflu and some of these other drugs to handle something like this.

But on the question of closing the border, remember what we did in the late 19th century and early 20th century when we had these massive waves of immigration coming to the United States, mostly from Western Europe and Eastern Europe -- the Irish, the Poles and so on. They were brought into Ellis Island and they were sequestered, and they were screened for every possible communicable disease, from TB to any kind of thing that might be contagious.

And if you remember in the second Godfather movie, the young Vito Corleone comes from Italy and he's quarantined because he has polio and he's screened for all these other diseases. We don't do that anymore in the United States. And given this outbreak, maybe that's something we ought to revisit.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, please. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I'll tell you, where I think the economics do play a role is in terms of what's happening to the Mexican economy. They've shut down all the schools. They've shut down a huge number of their public gathering places, be they bars or theaters or what have you. The economy is falling off the edge of a cliff. And that is going to drive a lot of people in our direction willy-nilly. And I don't know when that part of it ends in Mexico.

So we have to look at it very carefully, I agree, as long as it doesn't get to a more lethal level. It's very difficult to close the border. But we have to expect that that's not --

MS. CLIFT: But also, this is --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- wait a minute, Eleanor. This will feed right into your thinking, I'm sure, Eleanor. Do you think that the Obama -- the Democrats are already thinking about the 2010 election?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In this context?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, in this context of -- well, no one's going to blame Obama for the flu, but they certainly don't want to lose any seats in the Congress. They want to --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think that's an issue at this point.

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But I do think that this whole issue will explode if it turns out that we have a much more lethal version of that virus.

And what happens to that virus, it tends to get more lethal in the warmer weather. That's going to be the real thing. It mutates.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: My point is --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't see how it affects politics.

MS. CLIFT: Actually --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if the economy is affected by a big outlay in trying to close the border.

MS. CLIFT: Well, they're taking all of the precautionary steps. And the best good news now is this virus is responsive to the antiviral drugs. So you stockpile the drugs and you get ready. The notion that they would be calculating 2010 congressional results based on a public health emergency is really bizarre thinking.

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's the danger, John.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think all these factors have to be weighed.

MS. CLIFT: What is appropriate --

MR. BUCHANAN: Mort has got the danger --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. What is appropriate politically is that this president has learned from what President Bush didn't do during Katrina, and that was to respond --

MR. BUCHANAN: Mort's point is very valid. Here's the point. It is not lethal now. But if it comes back this fall, which they anticipate it might, the average flu each year takes 35,000 lives, okay, in the United States. If that starts happening this fall, it will be an enormous political crisis for Barack Obama, enormous, and he will have to start moving on that border. And Mort is right a second time --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he blame it on Bush? MR. BUCHANAN: No, no.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he blame that there are inadequate supplies of Tamiflu or Relenza?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me tell you, the second point is Mexico is losing oil revenue, remittances. Its tourism is shutting down.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is the first real crisis that Obama has faced on which his judgment is dependent alone.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. And that's why he'd better stay right on top of it on that border issue.

MS. CLIFT: His judgment --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a pestilence scale from zero to 10, zero meaning no threat to public safety and 10 meaning the return of the black death or the bubonic plague, how serious is H1N1? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a one or two here, but it is an eight in Mexico.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. And in Mexico they've dealt with it very efficiently. Their public health is getting high marks. And the fact that they recognized this and told everyone and told the global community, they deserve credit for how they're handling it. It is a tragedy what it's doing to their economy, definitely.

MS. CROWLEY: In the United States, I would say it's about a four in its current form. But if it mutates and becomes a much more aggressive virus, you're going to have a much more serious situation.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, I think it's about a one or a two. It can mutate. That's when the real danger begins. It'll go to numbers above 10 if we start losing 50,000 to 100,000 people, as Pat says.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or in the next flu season.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I give it a six because of the next flu season possibility.

MS. CLIFT: But we normally lose 37,000 every year, and nobody makes a big deal about it.

MR. BUCHANAN: It'll be a big deal this year. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Specter the Spectre.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D-PA): The Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right. I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy. And therefore I have decided to be a candidate for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forty-five years ago, Arlen Specter was politically registered as a Democrat. He then switched his party registration, becoming a registered Republican. Coincidentally, the Democratic South was beginning its tidal shift to the Republican voting column. This meant that Senator Specter, as a Republican, would be riding the same Republican wave that delivered the White House to the GOP in five of the next presidential six races.

Well, on Monday Senator Specter switched back. He's a Democrat again, welcomed by the head of the party in fortuitous timing, in Mr. Obama's press conference, so that the party's leader could welcome him. Specter's vote will be critical as Obama hopes to advance his agenda for massive health care reform and climate change legislation.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Let me start off by just saying I'm thrilled to have Arlen in the Democratic caucus. I have told him that he will have my full support in the Democratic primary.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What political principle motivated Specter's switch from Republican to Democrat? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: First of all, it's self-preservation. I mean, he looked at the primary and he was going to get beaten by a man of the farther right, Pat Toomey, former president of the Club for Growth, former member of Congress, who would likely lose in November and lose the seat for the Republican Party. So it's about his own self- preservation.

But he's also looking at the politics of Pennsylvania, and he's more in step with his state than he is with his party. And I would think that Republicans might notice that the last Republican congressman from New England was defeated last November, that Colin Powell made some pretty scathing comments about where the party had gone, and the fact that they're down to 40 seats in the Senate and they're basically reduced to the South and some Mormon areas of the West and parts of Appalachia.

They don't look like a vibrant party anymore. They need some rethinking to do. Instead they issue press releases that say, "Good riddance" and "Don't let the door hit you on the way out" and "Why don't you take John McCain with you?" I mean, that is not how a majority party should think.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, to paraphrase Henny Youngman, take my senator, please. (Laughs.) Look, this says less about the state of the Republican Party than it does about Arlen Specter. This move was all about Arlen Specter and trying to preserve his political position. He's been in politics his whole life. He believes in government. He loves government -- not exactly a big loss for the Republican Party; in numbers, yes.

But this guy, his heart is with the big-government, big-spending programs of the Democrats, and certainly of President Obama. So of course, you know, he -- whether or not he stayed in the Republican Party, he was going to go along with the programs and the initiatives of the Democrats anyway.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is a turncoat posing as a martyr. Look, nobody drove him out of the party. The reason he left the party is because he voted for the stimulus bill. Only three Republicans in either house voted for it. So a conservative challenged him. He was going to get beat and he ran away. He chickened out, cut a deal with Eddie Rendell.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Mort? Is he the political equivalent of Bernie Madoff? (Laughter.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You're sure going to inspire me for here. But I'm going to jump over that, if you don't mind, because I don't want to start crying. But I will say this.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How are you doing?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I mean, whatever else you want to say about him, he does speak to the real problems of the Republican Party.

They are really losing traction as a national party, and they have a huge agenda ahead of them to get back to be a national --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's their leader?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Republican Party?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know whom I would pick.

MR. BUCHANAN: Like 1965, they're leaderless. John, this is 1965.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: At this point there isn't --

MR. BUCHANAN: After the wipeout of Goldwater --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's as bad as Mort says it is.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, in numbers it's not as bad as 1965. When we came in '65, we had a vision of a national coalition we could put together. Demographically, the Republican Party is looking at a horrible, horrible situation. It's getting worse and worse and worse.

MS. CLIFT: Right. And --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, new GOP blood.

If Senator Specter had remained a Republican, he would have faced a daunting challenge for the Republican nomination. Republican former Congressman Pat Toomey would have opposed him in that GOP primary next year.

FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): (From videotape.) This is a very serious act of betrayal. I mean, he has been at least nominally a Republican for 30 years -- taking Republican contributions, taking Republican support. And then, after -- you know, right through last Friday, when he was insisting that he wasn't going to switch parties, and then we discover that, well, we know what his word is worth now. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: If it comes to a showdown between Toomey, Republican, and Specter, Democrat, in November next year, which candidate is more likely to win? Monica Crowley.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, in 2004, when Arlen Specter was being challenged from the right by the same guy, by Pat Toomey, President Bush and a bunch of the other national Republicans, including John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell, raced to Arlen Specter's side because they didn't want to lose the seat. Well, guess what -- they lost the seat anyway.

Republicans keep losing, not because they're too conservative but because they have lost sight of their first principles of limited government --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CROWLEY: -- controlling the size of government, and cutting taxes.

MS. CLIFT: You know --

MS. CROWLEY: They need to get back to that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they should characterize Obama as a big spender and big on taxes.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, they don't have to characterize him as that. That is --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think that is a formula for being a permanent minority.

MS. CLIFT: Right. Exactly.

MS. CROWLEY: No, but Mort --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, this country still -- to become a majority party, you have to have the center.

MS. CROWLEY: You've got --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And they are, in that format, not --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a political integrity scale, zero to 10, zero being Rod Blagojevich, 10 being Honest Abe Lincoln, where does Specter stand? Pat Buchanan. MR. BUCHANAN: I have no questions about the man's integrity. I think he's got integrity as an individual. But as for political opportunism, he is right up near the top, John.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he's an opportunist.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: And opportunist and politician go together -- (laughs) -- like --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do you place him? Give him a number.

MS. CLIFT: I give him a six or a seven. He's pretty direct. He said he shifted because he looked at the landscape and he --

MS. CROWLEY: Politicians as opportunists? Wow, there's gambling in Casablanca. He's like a one or a two.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I'd give him a six or a seven. I don't hold him to the highest standard.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three -- the answer is six or seven.

Issue Three: Filibuster Wall.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): (From videotape.) What this means, if we are not successful in Minnesota, as you know, is that the Democrats, at least on paper, will have 60 votes. I think the danger of that for the country is that there won't automatically be an ability to restrain the excess that is typically associated with big majorities and single-party rule.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is referring to the filibuster option; namely, the practice and protection for a minority of senators to talk continuously in the Senate chamber in order to stop the majority from carrying a vote.

JIMMY STEWART (from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"): I had some pretty good coaching last night. And I find that if I yield only for a question or a point of order or a personal privilege, that I can hold this floor almost till doomsday. In other words, I've got a piece to speak, and blow hot or cold, I'm going to speak it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The majority needs 60 votes -- 60 out of 100 senators, three-fifths of the total required to stop a minority of senators from holding up a vote. So, to repeat, in order to prevent big majorities from exerting single-party rule, the filibuster exists. And it takes 60 senators to break a filibuster. It takes a minimum of 41 to maintain a filibuster and freeze all legislative activity. In recent years, the mere threat of a filibuster was enough to block a vote. Democrats now have 58 votes in the Senate. If Democrat Al Franken wins the marathon recount in Minnesota, with Specter that would give the Democrats the magical 60th vote, the number needed to block Republican filibusters and push the Obama agenda through Congress.

Question: President Obama presents the Republican Party as the party of no; they don't have anything constructive to say. Does the filibuster play right into that negative image of no, broadening and deepening the no? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. No, I think it is going to be a problem for the Republican Party if they just stand there and talk. And actually now they're going to have no ability to stop, assuming Al Franken wins in Minnesota, which he will. So it's going to change the whole political dynamic of the country over the next two years. But it'll put a lot more pressure on the Obama administration to deliver. And if they don't deliver on the economy, that number will change.

MS. CLIFT: Well, you make it sound like the filibuster has this really noble history. Actually, it was used in the '60s by the southern Democrats to kill the civil rights legislation. And it's really gotten out of hand, because they don't even have to get up there and stand there and talk; just the threat of a filibuster. And we're in a majority-rule nation.

Why do we have to have a super-majority for everything? So --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who filibustered most recently? Al Gore. Al Gore?

MR. BUCHANAN: The greatest of them all are Jimmy Stewart and Strom Thurmond, John. They're the two great filibusterers of all time.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's got the record?

MR. BUCHANAN: Strom Thurmond does; I think 23 hours up there without having to go to the bathroom.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, get to the point, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The point is that the Republicans may have to stand up and speak continuously, because I think Obama is moving the country very far to the left. And they ought to be on the no side, because in 2010 no might look pretty good.

MS. CLIFT: Boy, a filibustering --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: -- Republican Party will kill whatever support they have left.

MS. CROWLEY: There is a challenge here for President Obama, and that is getting the moderate Democrats in the Senate, people like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln, to go along with the agenda. So it's not 100 percent guaranteed. And the other danger is overreach.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it time for McConnell to hit the mute button when it comes to complaining about the filibuster? Yes or no. Pat Buchanan. One word.

MR. BUCHANAN: No. You've got to keep the weapon.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the Democrats helped the Republicans keep the weapons -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: -- when the Republicans were threatening to get rid of it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should McConnell stop using filibuster options?

MS. CLIFT: He's not the best face for the Republican Party.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CROWLEY: No, no, because the Republicans have very few weapons at this point. So keep it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So hold on to that weapon.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Sure. They have to hold on to it. Otherwise they'll be completely --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they can hold on to it, but should he keep repeating it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, not every time. They've got to use it selectively.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's the only thing they've got.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's not a bad weapon. I'd keep it right out there on full display.

Issue Four: Pakistan and the Bomb.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I'm confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure, primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Despite the reassurance about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, President Obama signaled that Pakistan itself may be in hot water -- hot water which could hurt American interests.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan. The civilian government there right now is very fragile. We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge national security interests in making sure that you don't end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Todd pressed Commander-in-Chief Obama about a possible U.S. role in Pakistan.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

CHUCK TODD (NBC News): Are you saying in the worst-case scenario -- PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm not going to engage in --

Q -- the U.S. military could secure this --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.

(End videotaped segment.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: This past weekend, while in Baghdad, Secretary of State Clinton addressed the nuclear bomb security issue.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From videotape.) If the worst, the unthinkable, were to happen and this advancing Taliban, encouraged and supported by al Qaeda and other extremists, were to essentially topple the government for failure to beat them back, then they would have the keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What is the meaning of Obama's words, quote, "Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure, primarily, initially," unquote. Should the U.S. begin to draw up plans to invade Pakistan on the basis of that, those words?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think we should. But I'm sure we have contingency plans to go in and remove the nuclear weapons. We know where they are. And at this point the Pakistani army actually would probably cooperate with us, given the fact that the senior officers were all trained in the United States and understand what this is about. But to leave them in the hands of a radical government means we're going to have to go in there. And the other problem is a year, a year and a half from now, there's going to be another radical government with nuclear weapons called Iran.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the fragility of the Pakistan government? Can you speak to that, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, it is very shaky. It doesn't have a real hold on the allegiance of the people. But when Obama says primarily and initially, John, what he is saying is we're relying not on that government; we're relying on that army.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Primarily and initially.

MR. BUCHANAN: All on the army if something happens. But quite frankly, if that army is in control, I think the army will take over. But I don't think, if the army takes over, the United States can go in there and try to take away its nuclear weapons militarily. That would be an act of insanity. You'd have to rely on the army.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The army has been the bulwark there for some time, through recent governments. They haven't all been strong. And the issue of Pakistan's nuclear weapons is also not a new issue. Several past presidents have kind of looked the other way. But I'm sure there are all kinds of private deals and safeguards put in place. How reliable they are, I wouldn't like to put them to the test.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the limits of the U.S. support of Pakistan?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think what the president was getting at there in those comments is that there may already be American-Pakistan coordination, military coordination, to make sure that those nuclear weapons are safeguarded.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm sure.

MS. CROWLEY: Absolutely. And, look, Pat referred to the army. That's 100 percent true. The bad sign, as the Taliban encroaches onto Islamabad, is that the government -- the army, rather -- is now backing up to defend government buildings. So rather than being prepared to go fully on the offense against the Taliban forces, they're now being pushed into a defensive position. That does not bode well.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But the army -- 80 percent of the military forces in Pakistan are deployed to protect them against India. Only 20 percent are deployed to protect them against the Taliban. That's going to change, because they're now --

(Cross-talk.

)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: But when the radicals basically stormed another community city, I think the military now realizes that the internal threat is greater than the threat they face from India. And the military incursion this last week, the White House is praising it as --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Obama sending a signal -- excuse me. Is Obama sending a signal to the Pakistani army that he, Obama, favors or would look (silently ?) on a coup d'etat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: On a coup d'etat by the army.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Admiral Mullen told the military when he was over there, "In the worst situation, you've got to move and you've got to go in there." But a lot of those soldiers, John, come out of the madrasas.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that mean -- does this mean --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's one of the big problems we've had. We have stopped training the senior Pakistani military officers. We've lost a whole decade of relationships with the Pakistani military, just below the top level.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Swine flu in Mexico will kill immigration reform for the next two years.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Not since Ronald Reagan put a priority on naming a woman to the Supreme Court in 1981 will there be so much pressure on President Obama to name a second woman now to the Supreme Court.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica Crowley. MS. CROWLEY: The Taliban will continue to march toward Islamabad. They'll also move to the northeast and go southbound and go to the Kashmir border with India.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you, General Crowley.

MS. CROWLEY: You're welcome.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Uh --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Mort.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Hezbollah is going to, in effect, control the election in Lebanon in June, and that will give great momentum to both Syria and Iran and scare the Arab countries, who are already nervous.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama will lose the waterboarding debate because all waterboarding is not the same.

Bye-bye.



END.

ipeout of Goldwater --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's as bad as Mort says it is.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, in numbers it's not as bad as 1965. When we came in '65, we had a vision of a national coalition we could put together. Demographically, the Republican Party is looking at a horrible, horrible situation. It's getting worse and worse and worse.

MS. CLIFT: Right. And --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, new GOP blood.

If Senator Specter had remained a Republican, he would have faced a daunting challenge for the Republican nomination. Republican former Congressman Pat Toomey would have opposed him in that GOP primary next year.

FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): (From videotape.) This is a very serious act of betrayal. I mean, he has been at least nominally a Republican for 30 years -- taking Republican contributions, taking Republican support. And then, after -- you know, right through last Friday, when he was insisting that he wasn't going to switch parties, and then we discover that, well, we know what his word is worth now. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: If it comes to a showdown between Toomey, Republican, and Specter, Democrat, in November next year, which candidate is more likely to win? Monica Crowley.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, in 2004, when Arlen Specter was being challenged from the right by the same guy, by Pat Toomey, President Bush and a bunch of the other national Republicans, including John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell, raced to Arlen Specter's side because they didn't want to lose the seat. Well, guess what -- they lost the seat anyway.

Republicans keep losing, not because they're too conservative but because they have lost sight of their first principles of limited government --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CROWLEY: -- controlling the size of government, and cutting taxes.

MS. CLIFT: You know --

MS. CROWLEY: They need to get back to that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they should characterize Obama as a big spender and big on taxes.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, they don't have to characterize him as that. That is --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think that is a formula for being a permanent minority.

MS. CLIFT: Right. Exactly.

MS. CROWLEY: No, but Mort --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, this country still -- to become a majority party, you have to have the center.

MS. CROWLEY: You've got --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And they are, in that format, not --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a political integrity scale, zero to 10, zero being Rod Blagojevich, 10 being Honest Abe Lincoln, where does Specter stand? Pat Buchanan. MR. BUCHANAN: I have no questions about the man's integrity. I think he's got integrity as an individual. But as for political opportunism, he is right up near the top, John.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he's an opportunist.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: And opportunist and politician go together -- (laughs) -- like --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do you place him? Give him a number.

MS. CLIFT: I give him a six or a seven. He's pretty direct. He said he shifted because he looked at the landscape and he --

MS. CROWLEY: Politicians as opportunists? Wow, there's gambling in Casablanca. He's like a one or a two.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I'd give him a six or a seven. I don't hold him to the highest standard.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three -- the answer is six or seven.

Issue Three: Filibuster Wall.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): (From videotape.) What this means, if we are not successful in Minnesota, as you know, is that the Democrats, at least on paper, will have 60 votes. I think the danger of that for the country is that there won't automatically be an ability to restrain the excess that is typically associated with big majorities and single-party rule.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is referring to the filibuster option; namely, the practice and protection for a minority of senators to talk continuously in the Senate chamber in order to stop the majority from carrying a vote.

JIMMY STEWART (from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"): I had some pretty good coaching last night. And I find that if I yield only for a question or a point of order or a personal privilege, that I can hold this floor almost till doomsday. In other words, I've got a piece to speak, and blow hot or cold, I'm going to speak it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The majority needs 60 votes -- 60 out of 100 senators, three-fifths of the total required to stop a minority of senators from holding up a vote. So, to repeat, in order to prevent big majorities from exerting single-party rule, the filibuster exists. And it takes 60 senators to break a filibuster. It takes a minimum of 41 to maintain a filibuster and freeze all legislative activity. In recent years, the mere threat of a filibuster was enough to block a vote. Democrats now have 58 votes in the Senate. If Democrat Al Franken wins the marathon recount in Minnesota, with Specter that would give the Democrats the magical 60th vote, the number needed to block Republican filibusters and push the Obama agenda through Congress.

Question: President Obama presents the Republican Party as the party of no; they don't have anything constructive to say. Does the filibuster play right into that negative image of no, broadening and deepening the no? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. No, I think it is going to be a problem for the Republican Party if they just stand there and talk. And actually now they're going to have no ability to stop, assuming Al Franken wins in Minnesota, which he will. So it's going to change the whole political dynamic of the country over the next two years. But it'll put a lot more pressure on the Obama administration to deliver. And if they don't deliver on the economy, that number will change.

MS. CLIFT: Well, you make it sound like the filibuster has this really noble history. Actually, it was used in the '60s by the southern Democrats to kill the civil rights legislation. And it's really gotten out of hand, because they don't even have to get up there and stand there and talk; just the threat of a filibuster. And we're in a majority-rule nation.

Why do we have to have a super-majority for everything? So --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who filibustered most recently? Al Gore. Al Gore?

MR. BUCHANAN: The greatest of them all are Jimmy Stewart and Strom Thurmond, John. They're the two great filibusterers of all time.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's got the record?

MR. BUCHANAN: Strom Thurmond does; I think 23 hours up there without having to go to the bathroom.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, get to the point, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The point is that the Republicans may have to stand up and speak continuously, because I think Obama is moving the country very far to the left. And they ought to be on the no side, because in 2010 no might look pretty good.

MS. CLIFT: Boy, a filibustering --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: -- Republican Party will kill whatever support they have left.

MS. CROWLEY: There is a challenge here for President Obama, and that is getting the moderate Democrats in the Senate, people like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln, to go along with the agenda. So it's not 100 percent guaranteed. And the other danger is overreach.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it time for McConnell to hit the mute button when it comes to complaining about the filibuster? Yes or no. Pat Buchanan. One word.

MR. BUCHANAN: No. You've got to keep the weapon.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the Democrats helped the Republicans keep the weapons -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: -- when the Republicans were threatening to get rid of it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should McConnell stop using filibuster options?

MS. CLIFT: He's not the best face for the Republican Party.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CROWLEY: No, no, because the Republicans have very few weapons at this point. So keep it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So hold on to that weapon.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Sure. They have to hold on to it. Otherwise they'll be completely --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they can hold on to it, but should he keep repeating it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, not every time. They've got to use it selectively.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's the only thing they've got.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's not a bad weapon. I'd keep it right out there on full display.

Issue Four: Pakistan and the Bomb.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I'm confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure, primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Despite the reassurance about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, President Obama signaled that Pakistan itself may be in hot water -- hot water which could hurt American interests.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan. The civilian government there right now is very fragile. We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge national security interests in making sure that you don't end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Todd pressed Commander-in-Chief Obama about a possible U.S. role in Pakistan.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

CHUCK TODD (NBC News): Are you saying in the worst-case scenario -- PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm not going to engage in --

Q -- the U.S. military could secure this --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.

(End videotaped segment.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: This past weekend, while in Baghdad, Secretary of State Clinton addressed the nuclear bomb security issue.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From videotape.) If the worst, the unthinkable, were to happen and this advancing Taliban, encouraged and supported by al Qaeda and other extremists, were to essentially topple the government for failure to beat them back, then they would have the keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What is the meaning of Obama's words, quote, "Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure, primarily, initially," unquote. Should the U.S. begin to draw up plans to invade Pakistan on the basis of that, those words?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think we should. But I'm sure we have contingency plans to go in and remove the nuclear weapons. We know where they are. And at this point the Pakistani army actually would probably cooperate with us, given the fact that the senior officers were all trained in the United States and understand what this is about. But to leave them in the hands of a radical government means we're going to have to go in there. And the other problem is a year, a year and a half from now, there's going to be another radical government with nuclear weapons called Iran.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the fragility of the Pakistan government? Can you speak to that, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, it is very shaky. It doesn't have a real hold on the allegiance of the people. But when Obama says primarily and initially, John, what he is saying is we're relying not on that government; we're relying on that army.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Primarily and initially.

MR. BUCHANAN: All on the army if something happens. But quite frankly, if that army is in control, I think the army will take over. But I don't think, if the army takes over, the United States can go in there and try to take away its nuclear weapons militarily. That would be an act of insanity. You'd have to rely on the army.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The army has been the bulwark there for some time, through recent governments. They haven't all been strong. And the issue of Pakistan's nuclear weapons is also not a new issue. Several past presidents have kind of looked the other way. But I'm sure there are all kinds of private deals and safeguards put in place. How reliable they are, I wouldn't like to put them to the test.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the limits of the U.S. support of Pakistan?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think what the president was getting at there in those comments is that there may already be American-Pakistan coordination, military coordination, to make sure that those nuclear weapons are safeguarded.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm sure.

MS. CROWLEY: Absolutely. And, look, Pat referred to the army. That's 100 percent true. The bad sign, as the Taliban encroaches onto Islamabad, is that the government -- the army, rather -- is now backing up to defend government buildings. So rather than being prepared to go fully on the offense against the Taliban forces, they're now being pushed into a defensive position. That does not bode well.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But the army -- 80 percent of the military forces in Pakistan are deployed to protect them against India. Only 20 percent are deployed to protect them against the Taliban. That's going to change, because they're now --

(Cross-talk.

)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: But when the radicals basically stormed another community city, I think the military now realizes that the internal threat is greater than the threat they face from India. And the military incursion this last week, the White House is praising it as --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Obama sending a signal -- excuse me. Is Obama sending a signal to the Pakistani army that he, Obama, favors or would look (silently ?) on a coup d'etat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: On a coup d'etat by the army.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Admiral Mullen told the military when he was over there, "In the worst situation, you've got to move and you've got to go in there." But a lot of those soldiers, John, come out of the madrasas.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that mean -- does this mean --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's one of the big problems we've had. We have stopped training the senior Pakistani military officers. We've lost a whole decade of relationships with the Pakistani military, just below the top level.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Swine flu in Mexico will kill immigration reform for the next two years.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Not since Ronald Reagan put a priority on naming a woman to the Supreme Court in 1981 will there be so much pressure on President Obama to name a second woman now to the Supreme Court.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica Crowley. MS. CROWLEY: The Taliban will continue to march toward Islamabad. They'll also move to the northeast and go southbound and go to the Kashmir border with India.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you, General Crowley.

MS. CROWLEY: You're welcome.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Uh --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Mort.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Hezbollah is going to, in effect, control the election in Lebanon in June, and that will give great momentum to both Syria and Iran and scare the Arab countries, who are already nervous.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama will lose the waterboarding debate because all waterboarding is not the same.

Bye-bye.



END.