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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2009 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 4-5, 2009

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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Happy Fourth.

FORMER PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: (From videotape.) A tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds, living in harmony and peace.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: In 1989, 20 years ago, our 40th president saluted America. Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the UK, also recognized our exceptionalism. "Americans and Europeans alike sometimes forget how unique is the United States of America. No other nation has been built upon an idea -- the idea of liberty."

Question: Is the spirit of American exceptionalism alive and well across the land this 4th of July? Rich. MR. LOWRY: Yes, very much so across the land. But I worry about Washington, John. If you look at American exceptionalism, the hallmarks of it vis-a-vis other western nations -- a real focus on individualism and self-reliance, a crusading sense of mission around the world, and a really healthy distrust of government. And Barack Obama and the Democrats are cool or hostile to all three aspects of that exceptionalism and have the biggest opportunity in decades to move us in a more Euro direction.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Look, I think the election of Barack Obama affirmed America's exceptionalism, and I think the country really feels good about itself -- still feels good. And the things that make us unique -- freedom of speech, the fact that we have separation of church and state, and the fact that we are an immigrant nation where people can come from all over and be welcomed and be part of the American experience -- you really can't do that in any other country.

But it's how we export those beliefs that have gotten us into trouble. And I think when you talked about the crusading liberty or crusading, that is now associated with invading another country without a good enough reason. And I think Barack Obama is reformulating how we are reacting to the rest of the world, and he's exporting our ideals in a very different way.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's pause right there. Obama salutes the 4th.

After the Reagan/Thatcher comments two decades ago, Barack Obama also saluted American exceptionalism.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) The United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question -- Obama also salutes values and American exceptionalism in that same quote. Did the election of a president of color -- and I think you were referring to this -- redeem America's standing as an exceptional country?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I don't think there was any redeeming to be had. In fact, Eleanor mentioned the invasion of Iraq, but that was done to liberate the people of Iraq from under the jack boot of a crushing tyranny; Afghanistan, the same thing.

The United States has done more good for more people and has been more generous than any other nation on the face of the earth. We're only turning 224 years old this year, John. For such a young country to be built upon this idea of freedom, individual freedom, and as Rich points out, distrust of government -- you know, when you played that clip of Obama, I think he was at the G-20 there. He was asked by a European member of the audience, "Do you, sir, believe in American exceptionalism?" And he said, "Yes, I do, the way, well, the Brits believe in British exceptionalism" --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MS. CROWLEY: -- "or the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." And my fear is that Obama doesn't really believe that America is so unique and that what he is trying to do in importing this kind of European brand of socialism to America economically is that he is -- he actually considers America one of many countries rather than a very unique country.

MR. PAGE: Let me put your fears to rest, my dear Monica. Let me put your fears to rest. He recognizes that we are an exceptional country. That's why he loves America as much as anybody on this panel does. Everybody has different interpretations of what that exceptionalism is.

No question, we are a nation that, in my mind, is bound by one ideal of opportunity. The pursuit of opportunity was what this land was founded on. And it's not that our founders were so anti- government. They were anti-government that got in the way of your opportunity, got in the way of individual achievement. That's why they overthrew one government and formed a new one of their own.

But I think that when America -- the world knows that we're the superpower. They don't like for us to get too full of ourselves, though. You know, when Obama won, I think just the very fact that there was this strong contrast between Barack Hussein Obama and George Walker Bush, chosen by the same electorate, that the world could see this is a real democracy and that we do care about opportunity here.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's raise the voltage here. Another president speaks to this subject.

It was Bill Clinton who most sharply said why this 233-year-old nation of ours is so independent, so different -- because without it, and only it, the world cannot last.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) America stands alone as the world's indispensable nation.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you are. We're indispensable to the world.

MS. CLIFT: I wonder what --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to defend that statement?

MR. PAGE: I don't think the world wants to do without us, because you just look at how they keep turning to us for leadership.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I wonder -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: In what sense does the world depend on us if we disappear?

MR. PAGE: Well, look at, for example, the European nations criticizing Iran while we have been a little more guarded in that, because we know that the world expects us to actually do something, to follow up those words with actions.

(Cross talk.)

MR. LOWRY: Can I address this Clinton statement? Because when he talked about the indispensable nation, that was a phrase that was really filtered through a prism of liberal internationalism that ran right through Wilson, through FDR, through Kennedy, through Carter and through Clinton. And Barack Obama is turning his back on that tradition.

And going back to one of Monica's points --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean by that?

MR. LOWRY: Look at what Clarence is talking about Iran. Who is coolest to the Iranian aspirations? It was Barack Obama at the same time the Europeans were stepping up. If you look at Obama --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean because of Obama's sluggish condemnation --

MR. LOWRY: Sure.

(Cross talk.)

MR. LOWRY: Look at Obama abroad. No American president has ever established as much critical distance between himself and his country as Obama has abroad, especially in that Cairo speech.

MS. CLIFT: That verges on slander. Does anybody here seriously think that Barack Obama does not stand with the expression of a desire for legitimate counting of an election in Iran?

MR. LOWRY: Yeah. It took him about a week --

MS. CLIFT: And when you talk about --

(Cross talk.)

MR. LOWRY: -- while the Europeans were faster.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. When you talk about we're backing away from crusading liberalism, what do you want us to do, attack Iran?

MR. LOWRY: No, of course not -- just stand up forthrightly --

MS. CLIFT: Barack Obama believes this country is exceptionalism enough that we can recognize that other countries are exceptional as well, which is why he made that speech in Cairo and recognized all the contributions that the Muslim world has made --

MS. CROWLEY: Well, before that speech in Cairo, though -- MS. CLIFT: -- and that this is a struggle against extremism.

MS. CROWLEY: -- before that speech, he made speech after speech on foreign soil apologizing for the United States, apologizing for perceived injustices --

MR. PAGE: Well, you (need not ?) switch the topic now.

MS. CROWLEY: -- and evils on behalf of the United States.

MR. PAGE: The fact is, conservatives don't want us to meddle overseas --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MR. PAGE: -- until we don't meddle. And they say, "Barack Obama, why aren't you meddling in Iran's affairs?"

MS. CROWLEY: He shouldn't apologize on behalf of the United States.

MR. PAGE: What happened? When Obama --

MS. CROWLEY: He should be proud of this country.

MR. PAGE: -- listened to the right and ratcheted up the rhetoric, what happened? The Iranians immediately began to blame all their troubles on us.

(Cross talk.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Relinquish, please. Relinquish. Exit question --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- saying what you wanted him to say.

MR. LOWRY: He was saying nothing for a week.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ronald Reagan extolled America in 1989. The 20th century -- that century was called the American century. Will this century, the 21st century, also be an American century, or will it be called the Chinese century? Rich Lowry.

MR. LOWRY: It'll be called the American century. We have -- this run will keep on going. The Chinese have a lot of problems -- unstable political system. I think eventually they'll pay a price for it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think we have a lot of problems?

MR. LOWRY: We are the most pluralistic, open and dynamic country in the world, and that's our fundamental strength. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're not in decline? We're not in decline?

MR. LOWRY: Maybe the tiniest bit relative to the rest of the world. But, look, compared to where we were after World War II, when the rest of the world was devastated, yes, there's been a small secular decline.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what do you think?

MR. LOWRY: But we're still the greatest country in the world.

MS. CLIFT: The story about the (shorthand ?) of the 21st century is unfolding. What will the definition be -- economic power? I don't know. I mean, I still think America does stand strong and proud in this world. And to say that President Obama is not proud of America --

MR. LOWRY: No one's said that.

MS. CLIFT: -- after all -- that's exactly what you said.

(Cross talk.)

MR. LOWRY: Nobody said that.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please stick with the question.

MS. CROWLEY: No one said that.

MS. CLIFT: She said that about 30 seconds ago.

MS. CROWLEY: I did not say that.

MS. CLIFT: A man who has gotten the gifts from this country that he has gotten, to question whether he is proud enough and patriotic enough is sheer partisan politics.

MS. CROWLEY: That's not we're saying. Eleanor, I will not have you slander me. That is not what I said.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica, go ahead.

MS. CROWLEY: Getting back to the exit question --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will the 21st century be the American century?

MS. CROWLEY: It will remain the American century.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MS. CROWLEY: The United States is the indispensable power. We have the full portfolio of power, from military to economic, despite our problems. And the United States will remain the bulwark for freedom around the world, despite Obama's lollygagging on Iran.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. PAGE: I think because of his lollygagging on Iran is part of the reason why we shall remain a superpower. And, you know, China is actually held back by their own repressive regime. And you look at all the creativity in China.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't see that regime modifying itself as far as capitalism is concerned?

MR. PAGE: They're still trying to figure it out, because they still keep putting a lid on the Internet. They keep putting a lid on innovation. They don't take care of their own people.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it's not the rigor it was 10 years ago.

MR. PAGE: You know, the fact is that people -- the creative minds in China are following our model.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is --

MR. PAGE: If this is the Chinese century, it won't be the kind of China that we know right now.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it won't be China because China is too brittle and it'll go the way of the Soviet Union, probably --

MR. PAGE: The regime.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- but not certainly. The 21st century will be the American century, and it will be the best yet.

Issue Two: Ambassadors Then, Ambassadors Now.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) When it comes to hiring people in my administration, the litmus we'll apply will not be based on party or ideology but on qualification and experience.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Except for U.S. ambassadors, sir. Big donors get plum spots. Since the 1960s, about one out of three U.S. ambassadorships have been given to big donors to the president's political campaigns. President Obama is no exception. Twelve of his 34 ambassador nominees thus far, with about some 140 yet to go, have been big campaign contributors.

Obama's choices for ambassadors to France and London each raised between $300,000 and $500,000 for the Obama presidential campaign. When asked about Obama's choices, this exchange occurred between White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and a White House correspondent.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

Q Traditionally the posts in Paris and London do go to personal friends of the president as opposed to career diplomats. What is Mr. Rivkin's qualifications to be ambassador to France? Does he speak French?

ROBERT GIBBS (White House press secretary): He does. Q Is he a close personal friend of the president?

MR. GIBBS: He does. He is a friend of the president. I think the president saw him in the last few days. Again, as I said, I'll be happy to give you a bio for Charlie.

Q We got the bio that you put out. It doesn't address that.

Q And Mr. Sussman for Great Britain -- for the United Kingdom --

MR. GIBBS: He speaks English.

(End videotaped segment.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: At the time when the country was founded, a different set of ambassadors were on the scene -- Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, ambassadors to London and Paris. Appointments were different in those days from what is happening today, as noted by the president of the American Academy for Diplomacy. Quote: "The practice of rewarding donors is a remnant of the spoils system we abolished in the civil service. It is a dismal testimony to the importance of money in our electoral system."

Question: Is it a form of political corruption for wealthy campaign contributors to be able to buy an ambassadorship? In other words, pay for play. Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: I don't know if I'd call it corruption, but it's the way the game is played by Republican administrations and Democratic administrations.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that justifies it?

MS. CLIFT: And John, did we have this discussion when President Bush was in office or President Reagan was in office? I don't think so.

But, look, when the Founding Fathers were around, those ambassadorial posts to France and England were really critical posts. Today they're mostly entertainment venues. So I don't think any harm is really being done. And critical --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So no serious work is done at the ambassadorial level. Is that we're hearing?

MR. PAGE: Well, in fact, yes.

MS. CLIFT: No, I didn't say that. Critical posts like the ambassador to Iraq have gone to Christopher Hill, who is a very experienced Foreign Service officer.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. MS. CLIFT: I'd love to change the system, but I don't think it's going to happen because it's a way for presidents to reward their political donors, and that's the way the game is played. And I don't see any serious --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they equivalently buying inside access, these ambassadors?

MS. CROWLEY: Sure. Sure.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And, if so, is that a quid pro quo, and is it corruption?

MS. CROWLEY: Of course it's a quid pro quo, and it's been done for decades and decades now. And, in fact, the more money you give, you're trying to score a better ambassadorship, right? You don't want to get stuck in, like, some back water, so you give more and more money so that maybe you might be appointed to the Court of St. James or Paris.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the pluses?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, the pluses are you get a great gig. You get a cushy residence.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, what are the pluses for the president and the country?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, if you plan on running for re-election, you're going to want those donors to give back to you when you run in four years.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So there's a political payoff.

MS. CROWLEY: Of course. But it works both ways.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and it's not just limited to ambassadors. Other appointments, Cabinet appointments, can, in fact, involve --

MS. CROWLEY: At times, yes.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- big donors. But I still want to get to the pluses of an ambassador being able to buy the appointment, so to speak. Aren't they mostly his friends?

MR. PAGE: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And aren't his friends very candid with him, and don't they tell him -- don't they, in other words, have a rapport with that circle? In other words, that's exactly the kind of person they would like to have on hand in a country informing them of what's really going on with the leadership of the country. MR. LOWRY: John, Eleanor is right. These posts that are bought are in countries that really don't matter very much.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. PAGE: Ironically. (Laughs.) Ironically.

MR. LOWRY: What matters is the Middle East, Asia, really serious countries where you have turmoil --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not London?

MR. LOWRY: -- and it really matters.

MR. PAGE: Not Paris. Not Rome.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: London is one of the two capitals of the world -- New York and London.

MR. LOWRY: Paris not particularly important; Bahamas not particularly important. It's the Middle East and Asia that really matter, the big countries in Asia.

MS. CLIFT: Right. And --

MR. PAGE: John, ask any correspondents, which I have been in a number of these countries, and they'll tell you if you really want to know what's going on, you don't go to the ambassador. You go to the consul.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong --

MR. PAGE: And that's especially true in places like Paris and London.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with having bureaucrats run the ambassadorships? What's wrong with it?

MR. PAGE: Let me say something about Mr. Rivkin on Mr. Rivkin's behalf. I mean, he used to be in charge of the country -- of the company that gave us the Muppets. He knows how to communicate -- (laughter) -- across cultural lines, John, and how to build commerce.

MR. LOWRY: And he speaks French. What else do you need? (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: And he speaks French.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Should the practice of appointing ambassadors based on their campaign donations be outlawed? Yes or no.

MR. LOWRY: No, absolutely not. These are political appointees. He can appoint whoever he likes. It does show that all the rhetoric about changing the ways of Washington from Obama was boob bait for the liberals. (Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about a Jefferson and an Adams in those positions?

MR. LOWRY: Well, we'll never see their likes again. Benjamin Franklin, the most important diplomatic achievement ever in American history --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean to say if he combed the country, he couldn't find, maybe even with --

MR. LOWRY: -- getting the French on our side in the Revolutionary War. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the editorial rooms of the National Review, he couldn't find --

MR. LOWRY: Sorry, I was talking during the first part of that question.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- top-notch people to pick --

MR. LOWRY: Sure, we could. Sure, we could.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- precisely because they would make excellent ambassadors.

MR. LOWRY: Sure.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or would they?

MR. LOWRY: Maybe not quite on a John Adams/Benjamin Franklin/Thomas Jefferson --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You prefer to let them buy their way in.

MR. LOWRY: Look, John, most -- you know, they buy an ambassadorship to the Bahamas. Who cares?

MS. CROWLEY: How do we get that gig? (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: I do on vacation. (Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. Do you want to eliminate the practice or not?

MS. CLIFT: It's not worth worrying about. It doesn't rise to that level. And besides, we've had some pretty good ambassadors who paid their way in -- Pamela Harriman in France in particular.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: And these countries want people sent to them that are friends of the president and that they get a lot of social cachet from. That's what it's about.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you be brief?

MS. CROWLEY: Yes. It is done this way because there is a dearth of Thomas Jeffersons.

MR. PAGE: You know, Jimmy Carter says our whole campaign finance system is legalized corruption. So that's the real issue here. As long as we have private finance -- and I don't see that ending -- then we're going to have people complaining every four years that the system ain't going to change. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The present practice should be retained, and it should be retained because I don't think we want all bureaucrats in all ambassadorships around the world.

Issue Three: Check Your Facts, Chris.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): (From videotape.) You've got a shrinking Republican Party. Instead of waking up and saying, "We've got to look for a different solution; we've got to look for positive ideas," they keep trying the old thing. And that old playbook means they're going to keep shrinking further and further.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not so fast, Congressman. A new Gallup poll says that more Americans identify themselves still as conservative -- 40 percent. That's more than any other ideological group. So the claim by many Republican leaders, namely that America remains a center-right nation, is true.

Also look at President Obama. On the personal level, he's very popular, very well-liked. Seventy-five percent say so. They like Barack as a person, says an NBC poll. But on his policies, the president scores far differently -- the economic stimulus, the bailout for auto companies, the health care plan. Polls show public discontent with all of these Obama offerings.

So many Republicans insist that not only will they recover but that they will cream the Democrats in next year's midterm elections.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): (From videotape.) We're in a regrouping period of time. And I think we'll be back. There's always pendulum swings in politics. I think you'll be surprised in 2010 with the kind of comeback that we're going to make here in the United States Senate.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Are the obituaries for the Republican Party premature? Yes or no.

MR. LOWRY: Yes, they are, John. If we are really seeing a sea change in Americans' relationship to the government, you wouldn't see the kind of numbers we're seeing about concerns about the deficit, doubts about Obama's health care plans.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.

MR. LOWRY: This thing is very much in play.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: James Carville is sending out fund-raising appeals, saying, "It could happen again. Remember, we had a young president, we had big Democratic majorities, and look what happened in '94." It's a great fund-raising vehicle. But I don't think the Republicans are going to come back in any great numbers. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: The majority of independent voters are now very concerned about the deficit and the debt and the Democratic leadership. So I think the overreach by the Democrats is going to play to the advantage of the Republicans.

MR. PAGE: I agree. The pendulum swings back and forth, and you're going to see people who naturally have some skepticism. But, no, I remember when the Democrats were out in the wilderness like the Republicans are now. It happens.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: As Mark Twain said, "Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated," so too with the Republicans.

Issue Four: Independent Women.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I've seen Michelle, the rock of the Obama family, juggling work and parenting with more skill and grace than anybody that I know.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've come a long way, baby -- maybe. True, this year a woman was nominated for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

But since the nation's founding, the number of women nominated to the court has been only four.

Under President Obama, there is more gender news. The president has named seven women with Cabinet rank: Hillary Clinton, secretary of State; Hilda Solis, secretary of Labor; Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security; Christina Romer, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; Lisa Jackson, administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; Kathleen Sebelius, secretary, Health and Human Services; Susan Rice, U.N. ambassador.

A new White House council was also formed -- the Council for Women and Girls -- chaired by Obama's Chicago counselor and confidante, Valerie Jarrett. Among other top advisers of the president is First Lady Michelle Obama.

Where does Obama rank on high-level female nominees as compared to his two predecessors, Bush and Clinton? Obama tops both with seven. Clinton named six, Bush four women. That's at this point in their presidency.

Question: Do women bring unique qualities to the table as senior governmental appointees? Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think they do bring a different set of perhaps values, and I think this cuts across party line as well. I mean, you mentioned how many Cabinet members Bush had who were women. You also have Elizabeth Dole.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, values?

MS. CROWLEY: You have female governors; Sarah Palin.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean their values are higher?

MS. CROWLEY: No, I'm saying different set of values based on their own life experiences, whether they're mothers, whether they're sisters. They might even be grandmothers.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're all politicians.

MS. CROWLEY: What it's about is about their life experiences. But that should not come into play. It should be about their expertise in certain areas, whether it's for the Supreme Court or a Cabinet position. It should not be solely based on gender.

MS. CLIFT: Well, women supposedly bring different qualities. We're better consensus-builders. We give more empathy; not true of all women, I might add. (Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is all wiped out when you have to campaign --

MS. CLIFT: You know, but women --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for office, whether it's -- you're doing the same thing that a man does.

MS. CLIFT: Women do not have to apologize for wanting a seat at the table when you're more than half the population. And I don't sense that women are disappointed in this administration. The disappointment lies, actually, with the gay community. They feel the president hasn't moved fast enough. And that's where the discussion is.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's see if this doesn't give you a better sense of balance -- more gender.

Of the U.S. population, women make up 51 percent. But women still lack even a remotely proportional political presence. Take the national legislatures worldwide. The U.S. ranks 70th -- the U.S. Senate, 17 percent female, 83 percent male; the U.S. House of Representatives, also 17 percent female, 83 percent male. Worldwide, the U.S. Congress's percentage of women -- 17 percent, that is -- is 1.5 points under the worldwide average.

Question: How do you account for the lack of women in Congress and the Senate? I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) I would say, John, we're seeing the results of a shortage of women in the pipeline. But you look ahead at the changing demographics; more and more women are coming up the pipeline. Women outnumber men on the college campus right now. But we men are still remarkably good at loading women with a lot of domestic chores, taking care of the sick, the kids, et cetera, and the family.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, when --

MR. PAGE: They're more likely to take a mommy break.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- are women going to get a just representation, at least 40 percent, 30 percent? Right now it's 17 percent.

MR. PAGE: The biggest factor in their favor is the fact that not only do they outnumber men in general, but they also vote at a higher rate than men. That, too, will have an impact. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you concerned about this?

MS. CLIFT: I think it's evolving and it's going to take time. But oddly --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the current state is deplorable?

MS. CLIFT: Let me answer the question. Oddly enough, the lagging behind in politics is partly due because women now have so many other options. And in politics, you have to put your family on display. You have to release your income tax returns. It's all- consuming. And politics in the eyes of, you know, some women, they still think it's kind of dirty. They want to wait till it gets cleaned up. It'll never be cleaned up. (Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know about that. I don't know about that.

MS. CLIFT: So it's not -- and women are not brought up to think of themselves as entering politics. I think that's changing. I think -- I meet a lot of young girls today who are --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're making careers in the military. They're making careers in business. They're making careers where they never made them before. Isn't it only a question of time before they propel themselves into politics?

MR. LOWRY: Yeah. You asked when it'll be 40 percent in the House. Fifteen or 20 years. You look at the figures and it's just been a steady tick upwards in the House.

MS. CROWLEY: And especially in the governorships -- Sarah Palin, right? You had Hillary Clinton running for president last year.

MR. LOWRY: She's just saying that to upset you, Eleanor.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Rich.

MR. LOWRY: Health care sinks beneath the waves on concerns over its cost and people losing their private insurance.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: No health care?

MR. LOWRY: No.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: A seven-and-a-half-billion-dollar foreign aid bill for Pakistan went through the Senate with complete Republican support. It signals a new day in Republicans' attitude to how important Pakistan is and the role that foreign aid plays. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Iran just replaced Saudi Arabia as China's top crude oil supplier. So look for a lot more cooperation between the Chinese and the Iranians.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even more than now?

MS. CROWLEY: Even more than now.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: You're getting a lot of -- (inaudible) -- these days.

I predict Obama's numbers will fall down to the low 50s before the year is out, but he will recover. But it's going to be a contest for the midterms.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict the U.S. dollar will not lose its AAA credit rating.

Bye-bye. Happy Fourth.



END.

bassadorial level. Is that we're hearing?

MR. PAGE: Well, in fact, yes.

MS. CLIFT: No, I didn't say that. Critical posts like the ambassador to Iraq have gone to Christopher Hill, who is a very experienced Foreign Service officer.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. MS. CLIFT: I'd love to change the system, but I don't think it's going to happen because it's a way for presidents to reward their political donors, and that's the way the game is played. And I don't see any serious --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they equivalently buying inside access, these ambassadors?

MS. CROWLEY: Sure. Sure.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And, if so, is that a quid pro quo, and is it corruption?

MS. CROWLEY: Of course it's a quid pro quo, and it's been done for decades and decades now. And, in fact, the more money you give, you're trying to score a better ambassadorship, right? You don't want to get stuck in, like, some back water, so you give more and more money so that maybe you might be appointed to the Court of St. James or Paris.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the pluses?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, the pluses are you get a great gig. You get a cushy residence.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, what are the pluses for the president and the country?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, if you plan on running for re-election, you're going to want those donors to give back to you when you run in four years.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So there's a political payoff.

MS. CROWLEY: Of course. But it works both ways.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and it's not just limited to ambassadors. Other appointments, Cabinet appointments, can, in fact, involve --

MS. CROWLEY: At times, yes.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- big donors. But I still want to get to the pluses of an ambassador being able to buy the appointment, so to speak. Aren't they mostly his friends?

MR. PAGE: John --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And aren't his friends very candid with him, and don't they tell him -- don't they, in other words, have a rapport with that circle? In other words, that's exactly the kind of person they would like to have on hand in a country informing them of what's really going on with the leadership of the country. MR. LOWRY: John, Eleanor is right. These posts that are bought are in countries that really don't matter very much.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. PAGE: Ironically. (Laughs.) Ironically.

MR. LOWRY: What matters is the Middle East, Asia, really serious countries where you have turmoil --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not London?

MR. LOWRY: -- and it really matters.

MR. PAGE: Not Paris. Not Rome.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: London is one of the two capitals of the world -- New York and London.

MR. LOWRY: Paris not particularly important; Bahamas not particularly important. It's the Middle East and Asia that really matter, the big countries in Asia.

MS. CLIFT: Right. And --

MR. PAGE: John, ask any correspondents, which I have been in a number of these countries, and they'll tell you if you really want to know what's going on, you don't go to the ambassador. You go to the consul.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong --

MR. PAGE: And that's especially true in places like Paris and London.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with having bureaucrats run the ambassadorships? What's wrong with it?

MR. PAGE: Let me say something about Mr. Rivkin on Mr. Rivkin's behalf. I mean, he used to be in charge of the country -- of the company that gave us the Muppets. He knows how to communicate -- (laughter) -- across cultural lines, John, and how to build commerce.

MR. LOWRY: And he speaks French. What else do you need? (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: And he speaks French.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Should the practice of appointing ambassadors based on their campaign donations be outlawed? Yes or no.

MR. LOWRY: No, absolutely not. These are political appointees. He can appoint whoever he likes. It does show that all the rhetoric about changing the ways of Washington from Obama was boob bait for the liberals. (Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about a Jefferson and an Adams in those positions?

MR. LOWRY: Well, we'll never see their likes again. Benjamin Franklin, the most important diplomatic achievement ever in American history --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean to say if he combed the country, he couldn't find, maybe even with --

MR. LOWRY: -- getting the French on our side in the Revolutionary War. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the editorial rooms of the National Review, he couldn't find --

MR. LOWRY: Sorry, I was talking during the first part of that question.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- top-notch people to pick --

MR. LOWRY: Sure, we could. Sure, we could.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- precisely because they would make excellent ambassadors.

MR. LOWRY: Sure.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or would they?

MR. LOWRY: Maybe not quite on a John Adams/Benjamin Franklin/Thomas Jefferson --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You prefer to let them buy their way in.

MR. LOWRY: Look, John, most -- you know, they buy an ambassadorship to the Bahamas. Who cares?

MS. CROWLEY: How do we get that gig? (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: I do on vacation. (Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. Do you want to eliminate the practice or not?

MS. CLIFT: It's not worth worrying about. It doesn't rise to that level. And besides, we've had some pretty good ambassadors who paid their way in -- Pamela Harriman in France in particular.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: And these countries want people sent to them that are friends of the president and that they get a lot of social cachet from. That's what it's about.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you be brief?

MS. CROWLEY: Yes. It is done this way because there is a dearth of Thomas Jeffersons.

MR. PAGE: You know, Jimmy Carter says our whole campaign finance system is legalized corruption. So that's the real issue here. As long as we have private finance -- and I don't see that ending -- then we're going to have people complaining every four years that the system ain't going to change. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The present practice should be retained, and it should be retained because I don't think we want all bureaucrats in all ambassadorships around the world.

Issue Three: Check Your Facts, Chris.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): (From videotape.) You've got a shrinking Republican Party. Instead of waking up and saying, "We've got to look for a different solution; we've got to look for positive ideas," they keep trying the old thing. And that old playbook means they're going to keep shrinking further and further.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not so fast, Congressman. A new Gallup poll says that more Americans identify themselves still as conservative -- 40 percent. That's more than any other ideological group. So the claim by many Republican leaders, namely that America remains a center-right nation, is true.

Also look at President Obama. On the personal level, he's very popular, very well-liked. Seventy-five percent say so. They like Barack as a person, says an NBC poll. But on his policies, the president scores far differently -- the economic stimulus, the bailout for auto companies, the health care plan. Polls show public discontent with all of these Obama offerings.

So many Republicans insist that not only will they recover but that they will cream the Democrats in next year's midterm elections.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): (From videotape.) We're in a regrouping period of time. And I think we'll be back. There's always pendulum swings in politics. I think you'll be surprised in 2010 with the kind of comeback that we're going to make here in the United States Senate.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Are the obituaries for the Republican Party premature? Yes or no.

MR. LOWRY: Yes, they are, John. If we are really seeing a sea change in Americans' relationship to the government, you wouldn't see the kind of numbers we're seeing about concerns about the deficit, doubts about Obama's health care plans.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.

MR. LOWRY: This thing is very much in play.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: James Carville is sending out fund-raising appeals, saying, "It could happen again. Remember, we had a young president, we had big Democratic majorities, and look what happened in '94." It's a great fund-raising vehicle. But I don't think the Republicans are going to come back in any great numbers. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: The majority of independent voters are now very concerned about the deficit and the debt and the Democratic leadership. So I think the overreach by the Democrats is going to play to the advantage of the Republicans.

MR. PAGE: I agree. The pendulum swings back and forth, and you're going to see people who naturally have some skepticism. But, no, I remember when the Democrats were out in the wilderness like the Republicans are now. It happens.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: As Mark Twain said, "Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated," so too with the Republicans.

Issue Four: Independent Women.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I've seen Michelle, the rock of the Obama family, juggling work and parenting with more skill and grace than anybody that I know.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've come a long way, baby -- maybe. True, this year a woman was nominated for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

But since the nation's founding, the number of women nominated to the court has been only four.

Under President Obama, there is more gender news. The president has named seven women with Cabinet rank: Hillary Clinton, secretary of State; Hilda Solis, secretary of Labor; Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security; Christina Romer, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; Lisa Jackson, administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; Kathleen Sebelius, secretary, Health and Human Services; Susan Rice, U.N. ambassador.

A new White House council was also formed -- the Council for Women and Girls -- chaired by Obama's Chicago counselor and confidante, Valerie Jarrett. Among other top advisers of the president is First Lady Michelle Obama.

Where does Obama rank on high-level female nominees as compared to his two predecessors, Bush and Clinton? Obama tops both with seven. Clinton named six, Bush four women. That's at this point in their presidency.

Question: Do women bring unique qualities to the table as senior governmental appointees? Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think they do bring a different set of perhaps values, and I think this cuts across party line as well. I mean, you mentioned how many Cabinet members Bush had who were women. You also have Elizabeth Dole.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, values?

MS. CROWLEY: You have female governors; Sarah Palin.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean their values are higher?

MS. CROWLEY: No, I'm saying different set of values based on their own life experiences, whether they're mothers, whether they're sisters. They might even be grandmothers.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're all politicians.

MS. CROWLEY: What it's about is about their life experiences. But that should not come into play. It should be about their expertise in certain areas, whether it's for the Supreme Court or a Cabinet position. It should not be solely based on gender.

MS. CLIFT: Well, women supposedly bring different qualities. We're better consensus-builders. We give more empathy; not true of all women, I might add. (Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is all wiped out when you have to campaign --

MS. CLIFT: You know, but women --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for office, whether it's -- you're doing the same thing that a man does.

MS. CLIFT: Women do not have to apologize for wanting a seat at the table when you're more than half the population. And I don't sense that women are disappointed in this administration. The disappointment lies, actually, with the gay community. They feel the president hasn't moved fast enough. And that's where the discussion is.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's see if this doesn't give you a better sense of balance -- more gender.

Of the U.S. population, women make up 51 percent. But women still lack even a remotely proportional political presence. Take the national legislatures worldwide. The U.S. ranks 70th -- the U.S. Senate, 17 percent female, 83 percent male; the U.S. House of Representatives, also 17 percent female, 83 percent male. Worldwide, the U.S. Congress's percentage of women -- 17 percent, that is -- is 1.5 points under the worldwide average.

Question: How do you account for the lack of women in Congress and the Senate? I ask you, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) I would say, John, we're seeing the results of a shortage of women in the pipeline. But you look ahead at the changing demographics; more and more women are coming up the pipeline. Women outnumber men on the college campus right now. But we men are still remarkably good at loading women with a lot of domestic chores, taking care of the sick, the kids, et cetera, and the family.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, when --

MR. PAGE: They're more likely to take a mommy break.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- are women going to get a just representation, at least 40 percent, 30 percent? Right now it's 17 percent.

MR. PAGE: The biggest factor in their favor is the fact that not only do they outnumber men in general, but they also vote at a higher rate than men. That, too, will have an impact. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you concerned about this?

MS. CLIFT: I think it's evolving and it's going to take time. But oddly --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the current state is deplorable?

MS. CLIFT: Let me answer the question. Oddly enough, the lagging behind in politics is partly due because women now have so many other options. And in politics, you have to put your family on display. You have to release your income tax returns. It's all- consuming. And politics in the eyes of, you know, some women, they still think it's kind of dirty. They want to wait till it gets cleaned up. It'll never be cleaned up. (Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know about that. I don't know about that.

MS. CLIFT: So it's not -- and women are not brought up to think of themselves as entering politics. I think that's changing. I think -- I meet a lot of young girls today who are --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're making careers in the military. They're making careers in business. They're making careers where they never made them before. Isn't it only a question of time before they propel themselves into politics?

MR. LOWRY: Yeah. You asked when it'll be 40 percent in the House. Fifteen or 20 years. You look at the figures and it's just been a steady tick upwards in the House.

MS. CROWLEY: And especially in the governorships -- Sarah Palin, right? You had Hillary Clinton running for president last year.

MR. LOWRY: She's just saying that to upset you, Eleanor.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Rich.

MR. LOWRY: Health care sinks beneath the waves on concerns over its cost and people losing their private insurance.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: No health care?

MR. LOWRY: No.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: A seven-and-a-half-billion-dollar foreign aid bill for Pakistan went through the Senate with complete Republican support. It signals a new day in Republicans' attitude to how important Pakistan is and the role that foreign aid plays. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Iran just replaced Saudi Arabia as China's top crude oil supplier. So look for a lot more cooperation between the Chinese and the Iranians.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even more than now?

MS. CROWLEY: Even more than now.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: You're getting a lot of -- (inaudible) -- these days.

I predict Obama's numbers will fall down to the low 50s before the year is out, but he will recover. But it's going to be a contest for the midterms.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict the U.S. dollar will not lose its AAA credit rating.

Bye-bye. Happy Fourth.



END.