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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 22, 2009 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 23-24, 2009

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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Cheney Versus Obama.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: (From videotape.) After the most lethal and devastating terrorist attack ever, seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Former Vice President Dick Cheney called up the record this week, the tragic and defining historical record of what happened seven and a half years ago and has not happened since -- the horror of 9/11. The key to preventing attacks in the modern world is what former Vice President Cheney talked about on Thursday in a direct rebuke of the Obama administration; namely, deterrence, keeping terrorism at bay.

Barack Obama favors a more diplomatic approach and an emphasis on the, quote-unquote, "rule of law." To do this, he has taken steps to repair what he feels is America's tarnished world image.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) To protect the American people and our values, we've banned enhanced interrogation techniques. We are closing the prison at Guantanamo. We need not sacrifice our security for our values, nor sacrifice our values for our security, so long as we approach difficult questions with honesty and care and a dose of common sense.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Obama criticized George Bush's policies and practices, especially, quote, "enhanced interrogation techniques," unquote.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) What's more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Mr. Obama, is waterboarding torture?"

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I do believe that it is torture.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Mr. Cheney, is Mr. Obama right?"

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: (From videotape.) Critics of our policies are given to lecturing on the theme of being consistent with American values, but no moral value held dear by the American people obliges public servants to sacrifice innocent lives to spare a captured terrorist from unpleasant things.

And when an entire population is targeted by a terror network, nothing is more consistent with American values than to stop them. The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts had failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why is Obama so determined to shut down Guantanamo? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's determined to do it, John, A, because he believes, correctly, that it's become an image in the world like Abu Ghraib and sort of a metaphor for American abuse of Muslim prisoners and others, and it hurts our reputation. There's no doubt it's become that, rightly or wrongly. Secondly, he wants to shut it down because he made a commitment during the campaign without thinking through the consequences.

But John, let me say this. Richard Cheney destroyed the administration with this speech, in my judgment. He not only put a ring around his own, what he's done -- that it was successful, that they got seven and a half years of security, that he's proud of everything he did. He ripped into the Democrats who are now, John, divided between Pelosi, who's in trouble, the left wing, which is unhappy, the center, which is behind Barack Obama, and Harry Reid and the others, who are running like wildebeests in the Serengeti away from their president.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was the contrast between the two that was more powerful than anything that preceded it, the fact that they were almost back to back?

MR. BUCHANAN: That was -- what we got was the debate we did not get in 2008. It was terrific on both sides. Obama is elegant, but he's much more abstract. But Cheney is concrete, hard, down to earth. I think Cheney clearly won this one on one with Barack Obama, and I think a lot of other folks do. And his polls are surging.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he make Obama look squishy, like a bleeding- heart liberal?

MR. BUCHANAN: He made Obama's thing like it was -- you know, his policy was a consensus of the Harvard Law Review and checked out by the ACLU.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Pat's always had a fondness for the brawler.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And this was Dr. Doom against the steely intellectual.

MR. BUCHANAN: Steely? (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Look, we did have this debate. We had it in the fall and it was resolved in the presidential election. Maybe John McCain didn't press the other side as hard as Dick Cheney did, because John McCain favored closing Guantanamo and he opposed torture.

I would also like to point out that President Bush said that he would like to close Guantanamo. So Cheney is out there positioning himself in the event that there is another attack over the next four or eight years, that he can then say there's cause and effect, because Obama backed off some of the Bush policies; therefore, the Bush policies are vindicated. It's pretty shameless politicizing, I think, of national security policy.

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, but President Obama's -- MS. CLIFT: Plus one more thing -- one more thing.

MS. CROWLEY: -- entire speech was political.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me -- one more thing.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, Eleanor, quickly.

MS. CLIFT: Cheney is fighting George W. Bush as much as he is Barack Obama, because he was waging these same arguments in the last two years of the Bush administration and losing --

MS. CROWLEY: Look, Cheney --

MS. CLIFT: -- against people like Secretary Gates.

MS. CROWLEY: Cheney -- finally somebody is hitting back. I mean, you take a look at the Republican landscape, you hear crickets and you see tumbleweeds. Dick Cheney is out there very strong, defending policies that have a 100 percent perfect track record for having kept this country safe. And there is a huge discrepancy between what Obama says and what he said this week and what he is doing.

What he is doing is essentially embracing so many of the Bush counterterrorism policies -- indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping, military tribunals, rendition. And while all of the focus is on Guantanamo Bay because it's become this big lightning rod, Obama has another problem, because at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, there are 600 detainees who don't nearly have the habeas corpus rights, the access to lawyers and due process that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay have.

By doing the surge in Afghanistan, you're going to see more detainees transferred into Bagram. So now he's going to have a real problem on his hands, because how is he going to square that circle?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bagram is essential to our aircraft in the region.

MS. CROWLEY: Right. But they're holding detainees, enemy combatants there, over 600, where there are only 240 at GITMO.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think Obama made Cheney look like Torquemada, do you -- too eager to torture? MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.) No, because you know what? Torture, as a legal proposition, is a specific intent crime. You have to have the specific intent to cause lasting physical damage. And by all accounts, the waterboarding -- there was a doctor present. The Bush administration took --

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

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where will most people come down, Mort?

MS. CROWLEY: -- care to make sure that it was done properly.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where will most people come down?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think most people will come down in favor of what Obama is saying.

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The election was about that, like it or not. But that does not diminish the power of what Cheney was saying. The fact is that there is a serious issue here, and there will be many occasions -- for example, when you have what is called the ticking time bomb -- where you have to make the choice. And Cheney highlights that choice. That's why this debate, as Pat said, was really welcome.

What do you do when you have somebody who has information about where this bomb is going to go off in four or five hours and a lot of Americans might get killed? Do you use, quote-unquote, "enhanced interrogation techniques," or do you not? Everybody now knows that we're not going to use them, and they'll just hold on.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who were the advisers that gave Obama the advice to open up the CIA file? And Panetta did so. Who gave him that advice? What bad advice that was to be caught up in all these weeds, because he's losing this battle, is he not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think he's not losing the battle, but he certainly is not winning the battle, because there is such --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, who's giving him the bad advice?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- there is such dismay with everything that happened in and around Iraq that this is sort of a dimension of it. Abu Ghraib, in a sense, poisoned Guantanamo just as much as Guantanamo poisoned Abu Ghraib.

I don't know who's giving that advice, but we are -- and he has to know this, because it was just outlined -- there are a whole series of things that he's done now in which he recognizes that the security of the American people, for which he, Obama, is responsible -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's moving himself left --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, he's moving himself right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- further than he already looked.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's moving right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Who was more convincing, Obama or Cheney? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Cheney was so much more concrete, and he had examples and anecdotes. And as Monica said, he has a record -- seven and a half years we weren't hit at all. They only waterboarded three guys, for heaven's sakes.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he was blunt. Have you ever heard a blunter speech?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. I mean -- well, it was blunt and straightforward. He was Cheney --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well-reasoned? Factual?

MR. BUCHANAN: It was an immensely well-reasoned --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: If you loved Dick Cheney before, you loved him then. If you detested him before, you detest him now.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who was more convincing?

MS. CLIFT: He doesn't change any minds. Barack Obama outlined the case. And one of the most powerful lines that he had was the problems that we're looking at now legally were not created by his decision to close Guantanamo. They were created by the decision to open Guantanamo.

And the Supreme Court has said that you have to give the people at Guantanamo military tribunals. The Bush administration couldn't figure out how to do it, so they released a lot of them. Five hundred were released, and 14 percent of them have gone back to terrorism.

MS. CROWLEY: According to an unreleased Pentagon report this week, one out of seven detainees who have been released went back to the battlefield.

MS. CLIFT: Under the Bush era.

MS. CROWLEY: Right. And that's why we don't want to make the same mistake twice. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the coordination between the recession and --

MS. CLIFT: He's trying to find --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment, please.

MS. CLIFT: He's trying to construct a legal framework here.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the recession, the harder it gets for people to undertake, the lower Obama's standing is going to be, and that too plays into this picture?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I mean --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They almost want Obama to suffer.

MS. CLIFT: No, they don't.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we at that point?

MS. CROWLEY: I don't think so.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we at that point?

MS. CROWLEY: No, no.

MS. CLIFT: No.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And therefore, they're waiting for Cheney to give them another solar plexus blow.

MS. CROWLEY: No, I wouldn't quite go that far, no. But you asked about the distinction between Cheney and Obama. The reason Obama gave this speech this week was because he has been put on the defensive. His speech was almost plaintive. Cheney came out. He was sober and precise in his critiques. He came armed with the facts. He's got a legacy to defend, and he's still defending the country.

MS. CLIFT: It was full of misstatements.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama's negatives are going higher, okay, and that's a coordinate of, I believe, the financial situation --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: For sure.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- as much as anything else. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you can't trace this clearly just to Cheney.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no. We're talking now about a different thing. It's not -- let me just say, I don't think it's the issue of Guantanamo, which everybody agrees has become a symbol and should be shut down. The issue is the enhanced interrogation technique, to use it to save American lives. If you eliminate them, which he said he's now going to ban them, I think there is a real issue there that Cheney was addressing.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to the question --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not the issue of Guantanamo, I might say.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer to the question is that Cheney was more convincing, but as to why he was more convincing remains an issue.

Issue Two: Let a Thousand Reactors Bloom?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I firmly believe it is in Iran's interest not to develop nuclear weapons, because it would trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and be profoundly destabilizing in all sorts of ways. Iran can achieve its interests of security and international respect and prosperity for its people through other means.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met this week at the White House. There was little doubt as to what was a primary order of business; namely, Iran's nuclear development. Mr. Obama continued to deliver a message of diplomacy to Tehran.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) And so what we're going to do is try something new, which is actually engaging and reaching out to the Iranians. It hasn't been tried before, so we don't want to prejudge that.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Israeli leader then weighed in on Iran's nuclear power issue. Listen for the word "military."

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (Israeli prime minister): (From videotape.) In this context, the worst danger we face is that Iran would develop nuclear military capability. So in that context, I very much appreciate, Mr. President, your firm commitment to ensuring that Iran does not develop nuclear military capability.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: An Iranian nuclear weapon is an existential threat to Israel and to all, says Mr. Netanyahu. PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: (From videotape.) But if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could give a nuclear umbrella to terrorists, or worse, could actually give terrorists nuclear weapons. And that would put us all in great peril. It threatens the moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East. It threatens the U.S. interests worldwide.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The explicitness of the word "military" may be seen to signify that civil nuclear energy is okay for Iran, but military nuclear energy is not okay for Iran. Is that what Netanyahu is saying? I ask you, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. And that's been, by the way, American policy all along. The real problem is, how do you stop them going from the civil nuclear capabilities to the military nuclear capabilities.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that that has been sufficiently emphasized?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yes. The United States has said they support that and --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about Israel.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Even Israel, absolutely. I think -- look, they don't want to have any nuclear capability on the part of Iran, but that they're willing to accept. The question is, how do you control it? And nobody has figured out a way to make sure that it doesn't transform itself from civil into military. And then it becomes a whole other ballgame.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, don't you see the outlines of a resolution of this Iranian problem, this nightmare?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. The Iranians have said all along that's all they're doing, that it's just a civil nuclear program. Not a person in the world with a room-temperature IQ believes them, okay? We all know that that is the case.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, does that mean you stop the nuclear before it becomes even civil?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007, the United States, 16 agencies said the Iranian nuclear program, military, has been shut down. MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, that's --

MR. BUCHANAN: There's no evidence of diversion of the uranium, industrial-grade uranium. There's no evidence they created a cascade to make any nuclear-possible material. Bibi Netanyahu cleaned Obama's clock. The whole thing's sitting there about Iran when it's supposed to be about Palestine. He got a seven-month deadline where Obama says, "If we don't get fruitful talks, then we start up the escalator.

" I mean, Bibi won this thing hands down.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did he win it? How did he win it? He himself --

MR. BUCHANAN: He got --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- qualified the nuclear program okay for civil electricity.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's work on the assumption that, first of all, Iran right now is suffering terribly financially. All of the cars are old cars. They (belch smoke ?).

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The gasoline is rationed. They want to sell their oil.

MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody knows that, John. What he won was --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Therefore, they want to use nuclear energy for their immediate electrical needs. Do you understand?

MR. BUCHANAN: Bibi went home with a seven-month deadline. If Iran doesn't come across, then we go up the escalator toward war.

MS. CLIFT: That's not a hard deadline that the president has to abide by. But second of all, it's not in his interest to keep talking if Iran is, in fact, secretly developing a nuclear weapon.

MR. BUCHANAN: Where is the evidence of that?

MS. CLIFT: That estimate you referred to came back --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me break in here. Let me break in.

MS. CLIFT: The suspicion is --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Listen to what Mr. Netanyahu said. Listen again. PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: (From videotape.) In this context, the worst danger we face is that Iran would develop nuclear military capabilities.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Military capabilities. Do you understand what I'm saying or do you agree that there may be a resolution here.

MS. CROWLEY: I understand the distinction you're trying to make. Ronald Reagan's old adage, "Trust but verify" -- well, how are you going to go down that road? You're dealing with the world's number one terrorist regime. They have been working on the nuclear fuel cycle since the 1980s.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Mossad is the number one intelligence group in the world. They can't find out?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: The IAEA is all over the place in there.

MS. CLIFT: Well, if they actually let inspectors in on the ground and give them --

MS. CROWLEY: Right.

MS. CLIFT: -- free rein, possibly --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: 24/7 IAEA inspections -- 24/7. They'll agree to that.

MS. CLIFT: Well, we don't know that they'll agree to that. And we'll have to see if the president can convince them that it's really not in their interest --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And then they get a little booty on the side --

MS. CLIFT: -- to go down the nuclear --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a little bit of money on the side for an international recognition.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what they want.

MS. CROWLEY: They are not going to give up their nuclear weapons. John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the deal -- (Cross-talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what's going to happen, John -- because you've got this seven-month thing, there are attacks going on. The Iranian ayatollahs said they've been attacked from Kurdistan into Iran. The Iranians have retaliated. There's talk about trucks in the Sudan being hit. All these incidents are designed to go to seven months. At the end of that, the Israelis come and say, "Okay, you've got nothing. Now let's move."

MS. CROWLEY: And the question is --

MS. CLIFT: And Obama does not have to go along with that.

MS. CROWLEY: -- does Obama want to --

(Cross-talk.)

MS. CROWLEY: Obama wants to pursue this policy of --

MS. CLIFT: Sanctions --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let --

MS. CROWLEY: Obama wants to pursue this policy of engagement and talking. On its face, there's nothing wrong with having a conversation. The question is, if those talks fail, what are you prepared to do? Are you going to go with more aggressive sanctions? Would you go down the road to actual military action to take out those sites? Those are unanswered questions.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Now, what he'll --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I think they're going to answer --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor in.

MS. CLIFT: They have been answered. The military route is on the table. But I do not really see this administration undertaking that, because --

MS. CROWLEY: But it's only because --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: -- because it would not solve anything. It would just disperse the weapons. It would radicalize the population.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would be the effect on Israel if Israel were to try to something military? Is that what you're talking about?

MS. CLIFT: Well, if Israel were to try something militarily -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: She's talking about the United States.

MS. CLIFT: -- they would need -- they need the backing of America. America is virtually their only friend in the world.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Obama pulls this off --

MS. CLIFT: They're not going to --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is this going to be a jewel in his crown?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Can I get -- yes, of course it would be.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it be the dominant jewel in his crown?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: One way or the other, it's going to be the dominant issue that's going to determine his presidency, in my judgment. What he is going to do at the end of seven months is then go to the Russians and the Chinese, who have not really --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- not supported us on the sanctions, and say, "Look, we tried engagement. We failed. Now you've got to give us really tough sanctions, because if you don't" --

MR. BUCHANAN: What if they don't? What if they say no?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just a minute. Let me finish my sentence.

MR. BUCHANAN: What if they say no?

MS. CLIFT: We're not there yet.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: "And if you don't," he says, "then we only have one option left, and that's" --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They can also deal diplomatically with Iran.

MR. BUCHANAN: And that is war?

MS. CROWLEY: We -- hang on.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: Some kind of constraint, absolutely. The United States is going to have to decide --

MR. BUCHANAN: What threat are they to the United States of America?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Amongst other things, they can dominate -- the Shi'a can then dominate the Arab world.

MR. BUCHANAN: So what?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, to you it may not be a difference, but to the --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Shi'a or Sunni, it doesn't make any difference --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: All our allies in the Middle East --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about a terrorist haven over there?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you crazy? Those guys would be destroyed in 10 minutes by Israel.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will Obama see enough progress from Iran by the year's end to go forward with strengthening the relationship, or will the attempt to negotiate with Tehran be futile? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The war party will foul this up so that there will be no progress.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The war party over there.

MR. BUCHANAN: Over there and over here.

MS. CLIFT: Which is the war party over here?

MR. BUCHANAN: The neocons.

MS. CLIFT: The neocons.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: The neocons are out of --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The neocons are washed up, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: -- power. They can never --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're on the beach like a beached whale. MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the Israelis are (one ?).

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's go.

MS. CLIFT: You can never go wrong predicting failure in the Middle East. But I think there is some hope here. And let's give Obama and let's give an emboldened Ahmadinejad, when he wins the election, a chance to make something happen.

MS. CROWLEY: President Bush had been talking to the Iranian government for years; the Europeans, through direct diplomacy, for years. And you know what, John? Those talks have failed.

MS. CLIFT: It's a different administration.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: ElBaradei said we have been trying to control Iran's nuclear program for five years. All they are is five years closer to a nuclear weapon.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Every administration in the last 30 years of the United States has tried to deal with Iran and failed.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama has all the cards in his hand and he will play them. It will work.

Issue Three: Words of Steele.

MICHAEL STEELE (chairman, Republican National Committee): (From videotape.) We're going to take the president head-on. The honeymoon is over. (Applause.) The two-party system is making a comeback, and that comeback begins today.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele addressed the GOP's annual meeting this week. Fifty state RNC chairmen attended, plus more than 100 other state-level movers and shakers. These Republicans had elected Steele as their chairman of the party five months ago, January '09.

It is commonly stated and believed that Republicans today are leaderless, adrift. Steele thinks otherwise. He says, in so many words, there is, in fact, already a leader of the GOP. That leader will restore Republicans to power in one and a half years. His name: Barack Hussein Obama.

MR. STEELE: (From videotape.) This new Democrat president has ushered in a new era of left-wing, old-school, top-down, Industrial Age, bureaucratic big government, the likes of which we've never seen. He's taking us in the wrong direction and bankrupting our country. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the most recent Wall Street Journal survey, the majority of economists say that even if a recovery begins this year, it will take many years to regain the lost ground in job growth, in house value, and in net worth and in stock value.

If that's true, none of Obama's panaceas and placebos and good ideas will work. That means a Republican Congress comes into being in 2010, and that means the nation will be rescued from Obamian socialism, with historical capitalism restored to its rightful standing and eminence.

Obama's collective failures will elevate Republicans to become the spokespersons for capitalism, for private wealth, health care for all, with no government fiddling around with it, lower deficits, lower spending, less smothering national debt. Obama to the rescue -- that's what some think.

Are you one of those who think that way, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. I do not think that way.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know the way he thinks. I have to say, no matter what he says --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a convergence of circumstances that work in the Republicans' favor --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and it makes Obama both the hero and the criminal. Do you understand?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'll just say this. I think the biggest -- the Achilles' heel of the Obama administration going forward is the fact that their stimulus program is not going to work. The country is going to have double-digit unemployment next year, and it's going to redound unfavorably --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who takes the rap? Who takes the rap?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Now he can blame it on Bush. Next year he can't blame it on Bush. Next year it'll be Obama's problem.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is what Obama -- Steele's got a point. Obama's policies are uniting the GOP, and if they fail, it will propel the GOP. What Obama's got going for him, however, is his demeanor and appearance and delivery is very, very moderate and centrist. His policies are -- MS. CLIFT: The country is --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute, now. I'm looking for subtext here. I'm looking for subtext.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know what else Steele is saying. He's saying that you've got two kinds of Republicans. You've got your straight-arrow Republicans like Buchanan, and then you have the others. Which side is Steele coming down on? Where is Steele placing his bet? I ask you.

MS. CLIFT: What are the others? The non-straight arrows are the more conservative than Pat or --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, they're less conservative.

MS. CLIFT: -- less conservative?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you call those squishy Republicans, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: RINOs.

MS. CROWLEY: RINOs.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: RINOs. What does RINO mean?

MR. BUCHANAN: Republican In Name Only.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican In Name Only -- the RINOs.

MS. CLIFT: Right. Well, look --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's not coming down on that side.

MS. CLIFT: No. Michael Steele is more moderate, actually, than his party allows him to be. And he's been ridiculed --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stick to core principles. That's what he's saying.

MS. CLIFT: But he's been ridiculed by his own party. He's powerless within the Republican sector.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: Yes or no, Michael Vick will be playing in the NFL this fall.

MR. BUCHANAN: He'll be given a shot.

MS. CLIFT: I have no use for Michael Vick, but a lot of his dogs have been rehabilitated -- good for the dogs. MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, I agree. Yes, he will be playing.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He will not, but his dogs will be playing.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He will be playing.

Bye-bye.

END.

b regimes in the Middle East. It threatens the U.S. interests worldwide.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The explicitness of the word "military" may be seen to signify that civil nuclear energy is okay for Iran, but military nuclear energy is not okay for Iran. Is that what Netanyahu is saying? I ask you, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. And that's been, by the way, American policy all along. The real problem is, how do you stop them going from the civil nuclear capabilities to the military nuclear capabilities.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that that has been sufficiently emphasized?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yes. The United States has said they support that and --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about Israel.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Even Israel, absolutely. I think -- look, they don't want to have any nuclear capability on the part of Iran, but that they're willing to accept. The question is, how do you control it? And nobody has figured out a way to make sure that it doesn't transform itself from civil into military. And then it becomes a whole other ballgame.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, don't you see the outlines of a resolution of this Iranian problem, this nightmare?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. The Iranians have said all along that's all they're doing, that it's just a civil nuclear program. Not a person in the world with a room-temperature IQ believes them, okay? We all know that that is the case.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, does that mean you stop the nuclear before it becomes even civil?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007, the United States, 16 agencies said the Iranian nuclear program, military, has been shut down. MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, that's --

MR. BUCHANAN: There's no evidence of diversion of the uranium, industrial-grade uranium. There's no evidence they created a cascade to make any nuclear-possible material. Bibi Netanyahu cleaned Obama's clock. The whole thing's sitting there about Iran when it's supposed to be about Palestine. He got a seven-month deadline where Obama says, "If we don't get fruitful talks, then we start up the escalator.

" I mean, Bibi won this thing hands down.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did he win it? How did he win it? He himself --

MR. BUCHANAN: He got --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- qualified the nuclear program okay for civil electricity.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's work on the assumption that, first of all, Iran right now is suffering terribly financially. All of the cars are old cars. They (belch smoke ?).

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The gasoline is rationed. They want to sell their oil.

MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody knows that, John. What he won was --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Therefore, they want to use nuclear energy for their immediate electrical needs. Do you understand?

MR. BUCHANAN: Bibi went home with a seven-month deadline. If Iran doesn't come across, then we go up the escalator toward war.

MS. CLIFT: That's not a hard deadline that the president has to abide by. But second of all, it's not in his interest to keep talking if Iran is, in fact, secretly developing a nuclear weapon.

MR. BUCHANAN: Where is the evidence of that?

MS. CLIFT: That estimate you referred to came back --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me break in here. Let me break in.

MS. CLIFT: The suspicion is --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Listen to what Mr. Netanyahu said. Listen again. PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: (From videotape.) In this context, the worst danger we face is that Iran would develop nuclear military capabilities.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Military capabilities. Do you understand what I'm saying or do you agree that there may be a resolution here.

MS. CROWLEY: I understand the distinction you're trying to make. Ronald Reagan's old adage, "Trust but verify" -- well, how are you going to go down that road? You're dealing with the world's number one terrorist regime. They have been working on the nuclear fuel cycle since the 1980s.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Mossad is the number one intelligence group in the world. They can't find out?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: The IAEA is all over the place in there.

MS. CLIFT: Well, if they actually let inspectors in on the ground and give them --

MS. CROWLEY: Right.

MS. CLIFT: -- free rein, possibly --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: 24/7 IAEA inspections -- 24/7. They'll agree to that.

MS. CLIFT: Well, we don't know that they'll agree to that. And we'll have to see if the president can convince them that it's really not in their interest --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And then they get a little booty on the side --

MS. CLIFT: -- to go down the nuclear --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a little bit of money on the side for an international recognition.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what they want.

MS. CROWLEY: They are not going to give up their nuclear weapons. John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the deal -- (Cross-talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what's going to happen, John -- because you've got this seven-month thing, there are attacks going on. The Iranian ayatollahs said they've been attacked from Kurdistan into Iran. The Iranians have retaliated. There's talk about trucks in the Sudan being hit. All these incidents are designed to go to seven months. At the end of that, the Israelis come and say, "Okay, you've got nothing. Now let's move."

MS. CROWLEY: And the question is --

MS. CLIFT: And Obama does not have to go along with that.

MS. CROWLEY: -- does Obama want to --

(Cross-talk.)

MS. CROWLEY: Obama wants to pursue this policy of --

MS. CLIFT: Sanctions --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let --

MS. CROWLEY: Obama wants to pursue this policy of engagement and talking. On its face, there's nothing wrong with having a conversation. The question is, if those talks fail, what are you prepared to do? Are you going to go with more aggressive sanctions? Would you go down the road to actual military action to take out those sites? Those are unanswered questions.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Now, what he'll --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I think they're going to answer --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor in.

MS. CLIFT: They have been answered. The military route is on the table. But I do not really see this administration undertaking that, because --

MS. CROWLEY: But it's only because --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: -- because it would not solve anything. It would just disperse the weapons. It would radicalize the population.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What would be the effect on Israel if Israel were to try to something military? Is that what you're talking about?

MS. CLIFT: Well, if Israel were to try something militarily -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: She's talking about the United States.

MS. CLIFT: -- they would need -- they need the backing of America. America is virtually their only friend in the world.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Obama pulls this off --

MS. CLIFT: They're not going to --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is this going to be a jewel in his crown?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Can I get -- yes, of course it would be.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it be the dominant jewel in his crown?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: One way or the other, it's going to be the dominant issue that's going to determine his presidency, in my judgment. What he is going to do at the end of seven months is then go to the Russians and the Chinese, who have not really --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- not supported us on the sanctions, and say, "Look, we tried engagement. We failed. Now you've got to give us really tough sanctions, because if you don't" --

MR. BUCHANAN: What if they don't? What if they say no?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just a minute. Let me finish my sentence.

MR. BUCHANAN: What if they say no?

MS. CLIFT: We're not there yet.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: "And if you don't," he says, "then we only have one option left, and that's" --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They can also deal diplomatically with Iran.

MR. BUCHANAN: And that is war?

MS. CROWLEY: We -- hang on.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: Some kind of constraint, absolutely. The United States is going to have to decide --

MR. BUCHANAN: What threat are they to the United States of America?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Amongst other things, they can dominate -- the Shi'a can then dominate the Arab world.

MR. BUCHANAN: So what?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, to you it may not be a difference, but to the --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Shi'a or Sunni, it doesn't make any difference --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: All our allies in the Middle East --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about a terrorist haven over there?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you crazy? Those guys would be destroyed in 10 minutes by Israel.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will Obama see enough progress from Iran by the year's end to go forward with strengthening the relationship, or will the attempt to negotiate with Tehran be futile? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The war party will foul this up so that there will be no progress.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The war party over there.

MR. BUCHANAN: Over there and over here.

MS. CLIFT: Which is the war party over here?

MR. BUCHANAN: The neocons.

MS. CLIFT: The neocons.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: The neocons are out of --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The neocons are washed up, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: -- power. They can never --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're on the beach like a beached whale. MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the Israelis are (one ?).

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's go.

MS. CLIFT: You can never go wrong predicting failure in the Middle East. But I think there is some hope here. And let's give Obama and let's give an emboldened Ahmadinejad, when he wins the election, a chance to make something happen.

MS. CROWLEY: President Bush had been talking to the Iranian government for years; the Europeans, through direct diplomacy, for years. And you know what, John? Those talks have failed.

MS. CLIFT: It's a different administration.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: ElBaradei said we have been trying to control Iran's nuclear program for five years. All they are is five years closer to a nuclear weapon.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Every administration in the last 30 years of the United States has tried to deal with Iran and failed.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama has all the cards in his hand and he will play them. It will work.

Issue Three: Words of Steele.

MICHAEL STEELE (chairman, Republican National Committee): (From videotape.) We're going to take the president head-on. The honeymoon is over. (Applause.) The two-party system is making a comeback, and that comeback begins today.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele addressed the GOP's annual meeting this week. Fifty state RNC chairmen attended, plus more than 100 other state-level movers and shakers. These Republicans had elected Steele as their chairman of the party five months ago, January '09.

It is commonly stated and believed that Republicans today are leaderless, adrift. Steele thinks otherwise. He says, in so many words, there is, in fact, already a leader of the GOP. That leader will restore Republicans to power in one and a half years. His name: Barack Hussein Obama.

MR. STEELE: (From videotape.) This new Democrat president has ushered in a new era of left-wing, old-school, top-down, Industrial Age, bureaucratic big government, the likes of which we've never seen. He's taking us in the wrong direction and bankrupting our country. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the most recent Wall Street Journal survey, the majority of economists say that even if a recovery begins this year, it will take many years to regain the lost ground in job growth, in house value, and in net worth and in stock value.

If that's true, none of Obama's panaceas and placebos and good ideas will work. That means a Republican Congress comes into being in 2010, and that means the nation will be rescued from Obamian socialism, with historical capitalism restored to its rightful standing and eminence.

Obama's collective failures will elevate Republicans to become the spokespersons for capitalism, for private wealth, health care for all, with no government fiddling around with it, lower deficits, lower spending, less smothering national debt. Obama to the rescue -- that's what some think.

Are you one of those who think that way, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely not. I do not think that way.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know the way he thinks. I have to say, no matter what he says --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a convergence of circumstances that work in the Republicans' favor --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and it makes Obama both the hero and the criminal. Do you understand?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'll just say this. I think the biggest -- the Achilles' heel of the Obama administration going forward is the fact that their stimulus program is not going to work. The country is going to have double-digit unemployment next year, and it's going to redound unfavorably --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who takes the rap? Who takes the rap?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Now he can blame it on Bush. Next year he can't blame it on Bush. Next year it'll be Obama's problem.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is what Obama -- Steele's got a point. Obama's policies are uniting the GOP, and if they fail, it will propel the GOP. What Obama's got going for him, however, is his demeanor and appearance and delivery is very, very moderate and centrist. His policies are -- MS. CLIFT: The country is --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute, now. I'm looking for subtext here. I'm looking for subtext.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know what else Steele is saying. He's saying that you've got two kinds of Republicans. You've got your straight-arrow Republicans like Buchanan, and then you have the others. Which side is Steele coming down on? Where is Steele placing his bet? I ask you.

MS. CLIFT: What are the others? The non-straight arrows are the more conservative than Pat or --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, they're less conservative.

MS. CLIFT: -- less conservative?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you call those squishy Republicans, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: RINOs.

MS. CROWLEY: RINOs.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: RINOs. What does RINO mean?

MR. BUCHANAN: Republican In Name Only.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican In Name Only -- the RINOs.

MS. CLIFT: Right. Well, look --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's not coming down on that side.

MS. CLIFT: No. Michael Steele is more moderate, actually, than his party allows him to be. And he's been ridiculed --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Stick to core principles. That's what he's saying.

MS. CLIFT: But he's been ridiculed by his own party. He's powerless within the Republican sector.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: Yes or no, Michael Vick will be playing in the NFL this fall.

MR. BUCHANAN: He'll be given a shot.

MS. CLIFT: I have no use for Michael Vick, but a lot of his dogs have been rehabilitated -- good for the dogs. MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, I agree. Yes, he will be playing.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He will not, but his dogs will be playing.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He will be playing.

Bye-bye.

END.