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, OCTOBER 2, 2009 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 3-4, 2009
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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Iran Detente.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) This is a constructive beginning, but hard work lies ahead. We will do our part to engage the Iranian government on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect, but our patience is not unlimited.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tensions have cooled for now. The Iran-U.S. talks in Geneva this week yielded two hopeful outcomes. Number one, Iran will open its underground uranium enrichment facility to U.N. inspectors. That facility was exposed to the world last week in Pittsburgh by President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Number two, Iran agreed to further talks over its nuclear program, a program that may be a path to the bomb. Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany participated. These face-to-face talks between the U.S. and Iran took place at the highest level of direct diplomacy in three decades, stretching back to the Iranian revolution of 1979, when the U.S. embassy in Tehran was stormed.
Also at the end of the week, Iran conceded on a major issue, low- enriched uranium. Iran agreed to ship the low-enriched uranium out of the country to be processed for medical usage, perhaps by them later.
Question: Is this a major breakthrough, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: I would say yes, conditionally. If Iran follows through and lets the IAEA inspectors into that heretofore secret plant to look at it in the next couple of weeks, as they promised, and if we can take a huge slice of that basically two tons of low-enriched uranium out and we enrich it to a high level for medical research, that takes away all the feedstock they would have for a first atomic explosion. So that is big news.
And what makes it especially dramatic, John, is people were expecting Iran to come in, a lot of folks, come in and stonewall and talk about world affairs and the rest of it. It suggests that Ahmadinejad realizes he's in a bit of a box and they are going to be forthcoming. And I think it is good news. And I think really right now I don't see any prospect, if we continue down this road, of tougher sanctions, and certainly no prospect of a military attack.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, it looks like a diplomatic coup. But after 30 years of estrangement and lots of broken promises by the Iranians, I think the president was appropriately subdued. He was not at all triumphal in his presentation of this. President Reagan used to say, "Trust, but verify." The Iranians have said they're going to do some things. Let's see if they do them. And I think the administration is still laying the groundwork for tough sanctions in case this doesn't pan out.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's another reason why he said it in a subdued fashion. They haven't crossed the goal line by any means, have they?
MS. CROWLEY: And I think there's an understanding here that we've been talking to the Iranians in various forms for 30 years, and for 30 years they've been working on a nuclear fuel cycle and have been stonewalling with lies and deception. So I don't think we should get too excited about this.
Look, a couple of things. First of all, on the Qom inspections, this is one secret facility that all of a sudden everybody knew about just about two weeks ago. The Iranians have actually acknowledged now -- they've disclosed that there are other secret locations that they have not yet disclosed. And this is a big red herring, and we fell for it, because everybody, like lemmings off a cliff, ran after the Qom facility and said, "Oh, it's great. We can inspect now."
The other part about this, about the low-enriched uranium being shipped to Russia, this only makes sense if they are disclosing all of the enriched uranium that they currently have. If they have secret stockpiles of it that they're not disclosing, and given that this is a terrorist state, I think it would be safe to assume that they're not disclosing everything. Then this is also a hollow development.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Russia the big story here, Russia doing the enrichment?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you have to believe --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because Russia had that close -- is close to Iran.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. Russia is very close to Iran. They have joint economic interests in natural gas and in energy. China also has huge investments in the oil development, in energy development in Iran.
The real issue there -- there must have been some back-channel -- this dialogue and discussions; the Iranians must have had a sense that Iran would be under pressure from both Russia, China and the other big three countries. But the big issue is we knew that this Qom facility existed for months, so we must also know where a number of the others are. And whether they have additional enriched uranium, even if it's low-enriched uranium, is the big issue.
Nevertheless, it is still a major step forward. And I can't imagine that if Iran now balks at this thing and plays games with it, the reaction in the rest of the world will be overwhelming. They will not be able to escape serious sanctions.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's another tribute to Obama, because he modified the location or the content, the technology, of the Poland and the Czech Republic installations. And Russia is paying back that obligation. Is that correct?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know. I mean, there clearly must have been some connection with that. And I have a feeling that when that was done, there was a dialogue when Obama was in Russia in which this was at least privately discussed, not to connect the two, so that whatever happened would happen significantly later, and with a gap of time so it wouldn't look as if it was just a payoff.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pretty cool, huh? Pretty cool? MR. ZUCKERMAN: If he did it that way, absolutely.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Give him credit where it's due.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the pressure now off Obama to levy tough sanctions against Iran or to take preemptive military action against Iran? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: We're a very long way from military action, John, because, quite frankly, the Iranians, from all we know, are very, very far away from having an atom bomb. However, I think Eleanor is right. The president has got the sanctions, and I think he's willing to toughen those sanctions up. He wants to bring the Russians and Chinese along by negotiating. But if the Iranians are serious and they go along with the deadline they said they will on the inspection at Qom and on moving that low-enriched uranium out of there, there will be no sanctions.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the big story is the Russian development, the fact that they will now serve as a middleman in doing a positive -- in a positive way; and the fact that world opinion is now pretty much aligned against Iran. So they've got to think long and hard if they want to defy the world. And if you now give them enough incentives to see what they can get if they enter the world community, that might be appealing to them. I think there's enormous potential here, but again, 30 years of estrangement don't get wiped away with one seven- hour meeting.
MS. CROWLEY: Well, I also think we need to deal in reality. We're dealing with the world's greatest exporter of terror, a supporter of al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, a regime that is killing American troops in Iraq to this very day, and also a regime that for 30 years has sought nuclear weapons. I don't think it's realistic they're going to give it up.
I think we're going to see yet another cat-and-mouse game. They're going to go to the nuclear bomb the way North Korea did, which is concede -- look like they're offering concessions and then renege. And then the next thing you know, just like with the North Koreans, they're going to test a nuclear --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you taking --
MS. CLIFT: I must say --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.
MS. CROWLEY: Pardon me -- they're going to test a nuclear weapon. We saw the same path with North Korea. And remember, North Korea was under severe economic sanctions for a very long time. The people were starving, and the regime didn't care.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you taking into consideration --
MS. CROWLEY: So sanctions are -- it's a little ridiculous here to assume -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that Obama is not through -- Obama is not through with Iran at this point? He's going to continue diplomatic relations.
MS. CROWLEY: And it's still an open question as to whether or not the Russians or the Chinese will go along. And there are a lot of --
MS. CLIFT: One sentence --
MS. CROWLEY: -- loose holes here for them to make sure -- because, remember, the Russians helped the Iranians build their nuclear program.
MS. CLIFT: One sentence. If they've been striving for a nuclear weapon for 30 years, they're awfully slow learners. (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, no, I don't think that's a fair assumption. The fact is, however, this is definitely a positive development. We don't know exactly whether it'll lead to victory as we would define it. But nevertheless, it's the first major step, and a commitment that cannot be walked back from very easily.
MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know, John --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Big deal, because Obama is going to continue these diplomatic efforts he's making towards Iran.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it gives diplomacy a chance to work.
Issue Two: Chicago for the Summer Olympics? No Dice.
The International Olympic Committee said no to the U.S. The decision was made in the first round of a three-round ballot.
Question: Does the Olympic negative validate the argument that Obama is a strong starter but a weak closer? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) That's a pretty strong determination to make. Look, he went over there. He tried. He tried to get the jobs for America and for Chicago. The fact that he didn't pull it off has a lot to do with the financial plans that the other countries have made, the fact that Latin America has never had an Olympic Committee.
I certainly wouldn't extrapolate that therefore health-care reform goes down; he doesn't send troops to Afghanistan. I think it has absolutely no bearing on anything else, except it took 24 hours out of his life and it was pretty hard on his body, but hey.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, he was in a box. He was in a terrible box. Daley and all the folks in Chicago had terrible pressure on him. They said, "We're close to winning this thing, and if you don't go over there and we lose it, you'll be responsible." So what the White House decided was basically "If we go and lose it, we'll be better off than if we don't go and we lose it." I think he made the right call going, but he's got egg all over his face.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you noticed he stayed on the ground over there. I don't think he overnighted.
MR. BUCHANAN: Four hours on the ground, and he's back.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's why it was such a fast trip, because he knew the negative was coming.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: He would have stayed overnight and shaken a lot of hands.
MR. BUCHANAN: He brought McChrystal with him to prove that he could still be president during a four-hour junket.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right, because he sat on Air Force One and he conducted his business --
MS. CLIFT: He didn't bring McChrystal with him.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with McChrystal, as we'll see in a moment.
MS. CLIFT: McChrystal was in Europe. He was in Europe.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he was arranged to be in Europe.
MR. BUCHANAN: (He went into ?) Copenhagen.
MS. CLIFT: He was in Europe, and he met him in Copenhagen.
MS. CROWLEY: Until --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, quickly.
MS. CROWLEY: Until this weekend, he had actually spent more time promoting the Olympics for Chicago than he had spent talking to his commanding general in Afghanistan.
Look, the fact that he failed on this mission, it doesn't solely lie with Obama, but it does show poor advance work on the presidential staff. And it also shows a bad set of judgment, I think, on the priorities here, because, remember, the decision came down on Friday, the same day that we saw the unemployment rate tick up to 9.8 percent. The optics of this trip were very bad indeed.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the street talk is developing that Obama talks good, but the results are not there --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you know --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- across the board.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- I have to say, there may have been some risk that if Chicago lost and he didn't go, but the worst risk, it seems to me, is to have the president go and then to lose it. That's the worst of all possible outcomes. Where the judgment on that comes from is beyond me, because the last thing in the world you want to send the president into is something where you lose on something like this. So I think this was a big mistake. It's not a terminal mistake. It's not going to affect Afghanistan.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The odds were long. Rio was favored. We heard about that in advance. I was going to predict it last week, but I spared you, Pat, because --
MR. BUCHANAN: The odds were not long.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- your record is so inferior.
Issue Three: On the Road.
MR. BUCHANAN: The odds were not long. They were not long.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I've got to have effective, tough partners with integrity and vision who feel accountable not to special interests in Washington but feel accountable to the folks who sent them there.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Barack Obama, president of the United States, champion of his party and leader of the free world, is stumping for Democrats. The election is 13 short months away. In both the House and the Senate, Democrats hold big majorities. But those majorities may be at risk. How do Democrats keep control of the Congress? The key, they say, is Obama.
Here's the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen. Quote: "Voters are going to have to hear not just from members of Congress. They're going to have to hear directly from the president," unquote. Van Hollen believes the 2010 election will not only be a referendum on Congress but, quote, "it will also be seen as a midterm report card on the Obama administration."
Question: If the midterm elections were held this year, would the Democrats retain their majority in the House? Monica Crowley.
MS. CROWLEY: They would retain their majority, but there would certainly be a significant slippage of seats for the Democrats. And again, this is if the election is held, like, four weeks from today. The reason I suspect that the Republicans will have significant gains next year is because when you look at the generic ballot, the Republicans now have surpassed the Democrats. This is a generic congressional ballot. The Republicans --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meaning what? Meaning what?
MS. CROWLEY: Meaning that just a generic Republican up against a generic Democrat for the Congress in anybody's district, Republicans are now pulling ahead by four points. That hasn't happened in decades. And the other part of the equation is that Republicans are out-fundraising Democrats by a significant amount.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you further define generic ballot?
MR. BUCHANAN: Generic ballot? Yeah. "Would you prefer to vote Republican now or Democratic now?"
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right. "What is your preference?"
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's the thing. I think he's going to lose about the way Reagan did in 1982, about 26 seats in the House. He's not going to lose the United States Senate. But there are reasons for this, John. In the last election, Obama's election, African-Americans came out 13 percent, larger than they ever had. Young people came out. They drop off in off-year elections, and white older guys like the chairman here of our panel, they're coming out. They're very energized, and so they're going to vote Republican.
MS. CLIFT: The Democrats have --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say this.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Obama's got a lot of problems going into next year. And the most serious one, it seems to me, is we're going to have a very high unemployment rate, a very weak economy. He will not be able to blame it on Bush. The country will have forgotten the Bush administration more or less at that point, and he is going to be held responsible for it. That's the bread-and-butter issue --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the real indicator -- you ought to know this -- that the Democrats are in trouble?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The real indicator the Democrats are in trouble? The fact is that the stock market is going up while unemployment is going up. If I were the Democrats, I'd be very uneasy, but it's the wealthy doing well.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's one.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The other is fundraising. The fundraising of the Democrats has plummeted. Why?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Democrats have had it -- well, because a lot of the wealthier people are contributing to the Republicans.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because they're unhappy. People are unhappy with the Democrats. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, people are unhappy. But the Democrats have a much better grassroots fundraising operation, as Obama showed last year. They understand how to work the Internet in terms of fundraising.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also your class, the CEOs, have turned against -- the ones who were sympathetic to him in the beginning, they turned against him.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree. The business world --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The big executives are against Obama.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The business world has moved against him. They're very disappointed in his program. But a lot of constituencies are. The young -- the enthusiasm for the young has dropped off. The elderly are very upset because of the Medicare cuts in the health-care program.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will Barack Obama --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The industrial workers are upset because --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Obama resilient?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We're going to -- it all depends how it works out.
MS. CLIFT: The election --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. The election is a year away, and they will be looking at unemployment rates and they will be looking at his popularity numbers. And they'd better be better next year.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let's hear --
MS. CLIFT: And the Democrats that are vulnerable are the Democrats who won in red-state districts, and they're the ones that are giving the Democrats the majority. That's where the danger is.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's hear from Van Hollen's U.S. Senate counterpart. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and U.S. senator from New Jersey, faults his own party for being asleep at the switch over the summer months.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): (From videotape.) To be honest, we needed to be more aggressive in August. There's no question that some momentum was lost at that period of time. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Democratic momentum was lost, Chairman Menendez says. But hope has already arrived. It comes from the economic recovery now in the making, he says.
SEN. MENENDEZ: (From videotape.) We already see the indicators that move us in the right direction. Does anyone think that a year from now, 14 months from now, that we will not be in better shape than we are today?
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Menendez right, Pat Buchanan?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, he is not, John, because of what Mort said. The stock market is up nicely in the last quarter, but unemployment has gone up this past month. And if that continues, that's what people vote on, not the fact that some of us are doing very well in --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Unemployment went up a tenth of a point, Pat.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, but --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's gone up to 9.8 percent.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- another 250,000 jobs.
MS. CLIFT: It's a jobless --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her in.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. It's a jobless recovery.
And that's where I think the president has made a mistake in his messaging, if you will. People care the most about jobs and the lack thereof. He's got to tie health care to jobs -- jobs, jobs, jobs. He ought to put a sign on his --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you remain positive, don't you?
MS. CLIFT: I think --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're not giving up. You're not throwing in the sponge.
MS. CLIFT: The economy's going to go up. (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And one other thing. Roughly 70 percent of Americans own homes, and home values have continued to decline. They've lost 33 percent of the value of homes. That's the biggest single asset on the balance sheet of the average American family.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, here's to you, Mr. Paterson. The White House is trying to elbow out the governor of New York State, Democrat David Paterson, former lieutenant governor under then-Governor Eliot Spitzer. Paterson replaced Spitzer when Spitzer resigned under duress last year.
The White House, notably party leader Barack Obama, want Paterson out of the gubernatorial race in 2010. Paterson's approval ratings in New York are low, very low. Seventeen percent of voters, one out of six, think he's doing a good job. And more than three out of five, 63 percent, say Paterson should not run for New York governor next year. He's a drag.
Paterson says let the voters decide, not the Democratic Party boss, Barack Obama.
NEW YORK GOVERNOR DAVID PATERSON (D): (From videotape.) Let me just tell you at the outset, I am running for governor in 2010. I don't think that this is an issue other than for the people of the state of New York to decide.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is the involvement of the White House in political primaries typical? Mort. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it's not typical. But in this particular case, not only did they get involved, but they got involved in the most clumsy way imaginable. The whole thing was leaked to major newspapers like the Daily News, just to pick one out of the air. And it was just so embarrassing.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's your newspaper.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, I just forgot about that. Yes, thanks for mentioning that.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, that was political malpractice of a high order how they got into it. It was stupid. But obviously --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They humiliated him.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- presidents do get in there some way. "We can give you this."
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's going to stay in?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They didn't (attack ?) Charlie Rangel.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think Cuomo's going to --
MS. CLIFT: Cuomo will --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- be the next governor of New York.
MS. CLIFT: I agree. Cuomo is the next --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Cuomo is looking surprisingly good?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think he will win. He will beat Paterson if Paterson stays in.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But will he beat Giuliani?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
MS. CLIFT: Yes. (Laughs.)
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Cuomo now in full bloom?
MR. BUCHANAN: He's in full bloom.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yeah.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember when Cuomo first appeared? No one knew who he was.
MS. CROWLEY: He is having -- MR. BUCHANAN: I'm not talking about Mario.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not talking about Mario either. I'm talking about the son.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. He's done very well.
MS. CLIFT: Everybody --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: In the polls, he's way ahead of any alternative.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The attorney general. He's soon to be governor, right?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: Everybody in New York knows Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general. And he's very ambitious, and he's well-positioned to be the next governor.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: A very quick roundabout exit question: Are the 2010 midterms shaping up to be a repeat of the 1994 midterms, when the party in power lost control of both the Senate and the House? Yes or no.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, not either house.
MS. CLIFT: No.
MS. CROWLEY: It's the economy, stupid, and the Obama White House is not staying on top of the economy. That is going to be the decisive issue for next year.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's ruinous for Obama and his party.
MS. CROWLEY: And it's ruinous for Obama and his party.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. No, they will not take over the House, but it'll be a blow to Obama's administration.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think they're going to take over the House.
MR. BUCHANAN: Obama will not give McChrystal his troops, and McChrystal may resign.
MS. CLIFT: In the event that Senator Byrd has to step down, the governor of West Virginia will name a place-holder, making, I think, a total of four place-holders in the Senate. MS. CROWLEY: Now that Putin got the missile defense shield killed in Eastern Europe, the first thing the Russians are going to do is extort Eastern Europe on its energy supply.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, just expanding on what Pat said, not only will McChrystal resign, but there'll be a big, big uprising of hostility in the military to the Obama administration, because they support McChrystal's view of the Afghan war.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: We all grieve over the loss of William Safire --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, we do.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with Helene and the family members.
I predict that Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and current talk-show host, will announce his candidacy for president within four months.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Nixon Care.
PRESIDENT RICHARD M. NIXON: (From videotape.) We will establish a new system that makes high-quality health care available to every American.
I shall propose a sweeping new program that will assure comprehensive health-insurance protection to millions of Americans who cannot now obtain it or afford it.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Universal health care. President Richard Nixon, January 30, 1974, 35 years ago, in his State of the Union address called for it -- health care for every American. That was 19 years before President Clinton did so and 35 years before President Barack Obama.
Richard Nixon wanted to change a system that he saw as too expensive, too inaccessible, too variable. He also envisioned a system that could produce high-quality medical care, advancement in medical facilities, and new effective drugs.
President Nixon wanted the federal government to be involved, but he did not want the federal government to take it over.
PRESIDENT NIXON: (From videotape.) Government has a great role to play, but we must always make sure that our doctors will be working for their patients and not for the federal government.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The bill moved some distance through Congress, but the AFL-CIO and the United Auto Workers successfully lobbied lawmakers to hold out for a single-payer system, effectively defeating the measure.
Question: Has any nation created a universal health-care system that is not dominated by the government? I ask you, Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think there are some that are relatively not dominated. Canada is an example of that, frankly.
MR. BUCHANAN: No. There's one.
MS. CLIFT: Sweden.
MR. BUCHANAN: Switzerland.
MS. CLIFT: Switzerland.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tell us about that. MR. BUCHANAN: Switzerland, because it's a small country, 7.5 million. It has a mandatory health-care system. People have to get it. But it's private and it's done through private insurance companies, John.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The private industry supplies it.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but Richard Nixon -- let me tell you, in January of 1974, John, our primary concern was not national health care, as I recall from the Nixon White House. That was right after the Saturday night massacre and they were coming after the tapes, John.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, President Nixon did have a different brand of conservatism and Republicanism, and he introduced the first national health care in California as a congressman in 1947. He grew up poor. He lost two of his brothers to tuberculosis because they couldn't afford to get the care. And that marked him; also Environmental Protection Agency, wage and price controls, affirmative action. He was the last liberal maybe in both parties, but certainly in the Republican Party.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Swiss devote 11 percent of their GDP to health care. We devote 18 percent. Yet the outcomes, the health outcomes in Switzerland, are superior to our outcomes. What do you make of that?
MS. CROWLEY: Well, but in the United States also we've got the best doctors. We have the most innovation, which is why anybody with resources in the world comes to the United States when they have a serious problem for medical care. The Nixon plan --
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they make more money, right?
MS. CROWLEY: The Nixon plan was -- yeah, the incentives are there for innovation, and the risks and the rewards are here in the United States on medical care.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But not the outcomes.
MS. CROWLEY: But on the Nixon plan, it was an interesting hybrid of public and private, because he did want an employer mandate. He wanted to mandate all employers, big business as well as small business, to provide health insurance. He also was trying to get a large portion of Medicaid into the private insurance system. But he also wanted tighter regulation of insurers.
And I'll tell you a quick story. When, in 1993, President Clinton is first in office, a couple of months in, he invited President Nixon down to the White House to discuss basically American foreign policy. Clinton greets him at the door, brings him upstairs to the residence. The elevator doors open and Hillary Clinton is standing there, and immediately she launched into a whole soliloquy on health-care reform. And she said to President Nixon, "Mr. President, you had quite a health-care reform proposal in 1974. And had you survived in office, you would have been light years ahead of where we are today." And the next day Nixon said to me, "Well, I may have survived in office if she hadn't been trying to impeach me." (Laughter.) She was a young lawyer on the House Impeachment Committee.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, I do think that this is going to be a major issue for this country going forward, but it's not going to go, in my judgment, the way Obama is doing it. You're going to have to deal with cost control first, because it's going to break the bank. And then you'll have to deal with how we extend health care.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the difference with Switzerland, Switzerland is a homogeneous population. It is very, very small; per capita income. We've got scores of millions of very poor people, immigrant people, that we have to take care of that Switzerland does not.
DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Swiss have co-payments that they make. The government makes co-payments through the public purse. That helps a lot. What else pays for --
MS. CLIFT: We have co-payments in this country too. (Laughs.) That's hardly a panacea. But, look, the biggest problem with health care is figuring out how to pay for it, and they're still struggling with that on Capitol Hill. But I think there's a consensus emerging that they will get insurance reform and they will probably get some kind of cost containment. This is a boondoggle for the health care industry.