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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, NOVEMBER 20, 2009 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 21-22, 2009

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DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Poll Pain.

FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R): (From videotape.) There are a lot of decisions being made that I, and probably the majority of Americans, are not impressed with right now.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Majority is right. For the first time this year, the percentage of Americans that approve of President Barack Obama's presidency has slipped to lower than half, 48 percent. Since taking office, Obama's highest majority rating was 69 percent, January of 2009, seven days after his inauguration. This current Obama chill may have fortified Ed Henry of CNN to pose this audacious question to the new president this week. (Begin videotaped segment.)

ED HENRY (CNN): Can you envision a scenario where you don't run for re-election?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If I feel like I've made the very best decisions for the American people, and three years from now I look at it and my poll numbers are in the tank, you know, because we've gone through these wrenching changes -- you know, politically I'm in a tough spot -- I'll feel all right.

(End videotaped segment.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is President Obama saying more than he says in this response to Ed Henry? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't think so. I think this is like Ronald Reagan saying, "Hey, look, if it doesn't work out, I can go back to the ranch and chop wood and I'll be perfectly happy." I think he's saying something like that.

But his problem, John, is that he's in very serious trouble for this reason. The economic policies do not appear to be working, with unemployment at 10.2 percent and now people talking about a second dip to the recession.

Moreover, every single foreign policy, none of them has borne fruit. He was insulted pretty much in China. You take a look at Afghanistan; he doesn't know what to decide there. His heart is not in that war. He's not a war leader in that sense. The Iran thing is coming acropper. The Israeli thing, he was a failure. Netanyahu -- he capitulated to Netanyahu.

Across the board, he's produced nothing, John. All he's got at best are incompletes. And this is the reason, quite frankly, his polls have him down at 48 percent. And the American people are not anti-Obama. All the hopes and expectations, none of them have been realized.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm looking for a meta-message, something that's below the surface, something that's embedded in his answer. Can you respond to that? Is he talking, for example, to the moderates in his party, saying, "Unless you give me a health-care bill, I'm not going to be around in 2012"?

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's certainly the message to Democrats on Capitol Hill. If they come up empty-handed on health-care reform after a year of negotiation, that would be a suicidal walk for the Democratic Party. Maybe that's the message.

But, look, I think that this president, the expectations for him were wildly unrealistic. All of the issues that you just ticked off, from Israel to Afghanistan to an economy in a deep hole, it's unrealistic to think that he would solve them all in a year. So he's got a lot of balls in the air. He hasn't yet delivered on many of his promises.

Ronald Reagan was at 48 percent at the end of his first year, dipping also, I think, from up in the 60s, and he went on to get re- elected with 49 states. But the anger is spilling over. And I think the secretary of Treasury's appearance on Capitol Hill last week, where he was hammered by Democrats and Republicans -- I think people are beginning to look for a scapegoat. And the economy is the number one issue, and what we've gotten is a trickle-down recovery when we need a bottom-up recovery. And I think that's really the core of the anger.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that he really wants one term and that's it? And, if so, what historical precedent would he have where a president, before he became president, said, "I'm running for one term and one term only"? If you don't answer that, Buchanan will. Am I right?

MR. BUCHANAN: James K. Polk.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's right. He's right. Polk, James K. Polk, said, "I only want one term." Do you -- Buchanan says he -- I mean, not Buchanan. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Of course, he gave us the entire Southwest, California and the Oregon Territory, so he did okay in one term.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat, your time may have come, really.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: So you're saying that Obama's precedent is James Polk? I don't think he wants that precedent, John.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he --

MS. CROWLEY: Look, I think every American president, once they get in that office, they want a second term, and they will move heaven and earth to try to win a second term. All of this is true.

His poll numbers are coming down for one main reason. It's the economy, stupid. We've got the 10.2 percent unemployment. When you factor in all the people who have stopped looking for jobs because they're discouraged, people whose unemployment benefits have run out, and the underemployed, those who are working part-time rather than full-time, it's closing in on 18 percent. And they see a president who is off in the weeds doing health care.

Listen, they are tired of big spending, high tax, you know, all of these policies that Obama is putting in place, when he's not seemed to be focused on getting job creation going in this country. That's why his poll numbers are crashing.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are a lot of turkeys out there. China turned out to be a turkey for him. What else is a turkey?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The economy is a turkey.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. But I think, in a broader sense, I think he has sort of shifted the country and the role of the government in our economy and in our society beyond where the country really is. If it had worked, it would have been one thing. It's not worked.

His programs -- the stimulus program turned out to be much less than it should be, no matter how they sold it. They said unemployment would never get above 8 percent. Well, we're at 10 and a half percent or 10.2 percent. But beyond that, as Monica was saying, it's really closer to 18 to 20 percent in real terms. One out of every five families has a family member who's unemployed.

The mood is really very bad. And that's going to be the dominant thing. They want the jobs, jobs, jobs. He was trying to boil the ocean.

He was trying to do too much, and he lost --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's cheer it up here; back to Palin -- Palin on the economy.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) I think our economy is not being put on the right track because we're straying too far fundamentally from the free-enterprise principles that built our country.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Will Governor Palin's critique resonate beyond her conservative base? I ask you, Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely, because when you look at the poll results from Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania of two weeks ago, you see that independents are now breaking for the Republicans, two to one. Independents that gave Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt, independents who voted for him, now are saying, exactly as Mort said, that all of these big-spending, big-government, high-tax, anti-growth policies are having an adverse effect.

These people are out of work. And, look, they don't care that he was in China last week. They don't necessarily care all that much that the Iranians are even closer to having a nuclear weapon, although all of that stuff does factor in in the perception of Obama as a weak leader.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The independents may be breaking for Republicans, but they're not breaking for Sarah Palin. And if this is a lead-in to discuss the Palin phenomenon of this week, when she's out there selling her book, I think she is to be taken seriously because she has created a political brand and she can raise money, and that's the definition of modern politics. But where she takes that, I'd keep an eye on what Republicans want her to campaign with them. She wasn't in New Jersey or Virginia. People who have to count votes do not view her as particularly useful.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat. Let's hear a little more Palin; Governor Palin on Afghanistan. MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) It frustrates me and frightens me and many Americans that President Obama is dithering around with the decision in Afghanistan.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is President Obama beginning to look indecisive? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, our former colleague, Tony Blankley, who is very much a hawk on Iraq and very much a hawk on Afghanistan, has said, "Look, it is time, really, to pull our troops out," for this reason. Barack Obama, quite clearly his heart is not in this war. He's been at it three months, agonizing over whether we should send in more troops and how many troops. That is not the way a leader goes to war. You don't send young 19-year-olds to their death with that kind of leadership in a war. In that case, it may be better to pull out and pick somewhere else, because we're going to get visited by those folks again.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he should be more like Bush-Cheney and how we got into Iraq, right?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think we should have gone into Iraq. I disagreed with --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they went in fast.

MR. BUCHANAN: What I'm saying about Blankley is there's a guy who was solid a hawk as you want who's saying, "It's not working over there. Their heart's not in it. If that's the case, get out."

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about our ambassador over there, Eikenberry? Has Eikenberry got cold feet?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you know, I think there are a lot of people who are very nervous going into Afghanistan, frankly, including me. And I think Pakistan's got a very fair point. You know, if the chief executive officer of this country doesn't have his heart into it, we have a very different problem to deal with. And the fact -- what has happened and the way that he came out in favor of it as --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Came out?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: His strategic review on March the 27th, he said, "We've got to go into Afghanistan in a big way," on a counterinsurgency program.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, but he also said --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute. And he said it was a war of necessity in August, okay. And here we are now, a couple of months later, and he's looking at it again and saying, "You know, we're worried about the Karzai government." Anybody who thought the Karzai government was anything but what it is -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Governor Palin --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- is ridiculous.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Governor Palin, how do you rate Obama on a scale of one to 10? Be brief.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) A four.

(Laughter.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you for that brevity.

MR. BUCHANAN: Authenticity. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How close is Sarah Palin's four rating to the public's rating? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Obama's personal rating, I think, is up a seven or eight. He's a very likable guy, and I don't detect any, except on certain areas, any animosity toward him. But in terms of performance, people are saying, "What is the matter with him?" He doesn't seem like a strong leader. He's diffident. I mean, he's takes this abuse over --

MS. CLIFT: Can we get another view here? First of all, there's likely to be health-care reform passed that he can celebrate in his State of the Union address next year. He's going to make a decision on Afghanistan before the end of the month. He will explain it, whether it's coming out --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you know that? How do you know that?

MS. CLIFT: Because that's what White House aides have been telegraphing. So he's got to make a decision on that. He's going to have a job summit. There will probably be a jobs bill legislatively in the Congress early next year.

MS. CROWLEY: Here's the problem.

MS. CLIFT: It's way too early to write --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm not writing him off. He gets a four.

MS. CLIFT: -- the benediction for this White House.

MR. BUCHANAN: He gets a four, Eleanor.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: In point of fact -- MS. CLIFT: (They'll ?) renegotiate later in the year. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: His rating is 48 percent. That's 4.8 out of 10. So Palin's right on the money.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's down a lot. He's lost a huge portion of the independent voters. And actually, if you break it out by -- disaggregate it, he gets 67 percent of the Hispanic vote, 93 percent of the African-American vote, and the white vote, which is going to really have a huge effect on the congressional election, is a 41 percent approval rating and a 49 percent disapproval rating. That's the politics that he has to --

MS. CLIFT: Okay, that's me and John on this set. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Governor Palin's new book is out. Is her new book tour the beginning of a political comeback? Yes or no.

MR. BUCHANAN: She's already come back, John. She's just about the comeback of the year. Is she going to run for president? If I had to bet now, I would say no.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I don't know whether she'll ever run for national office.

I suspect she doesn't know. But she's making a lot of money and she's enjoying this time of life. And let's see where it goes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Meow. (Laughs.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You remember what her father said about you in that interview. I think it was -- I'm not going to say --

MS. CLIFT: Sarah Palin's father is talking about me?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, talking about his daughter. The mother and father talk about her.

MS. CLIFT: About her. Okay. I'm sure he's very proud, as well he should be.

MR. BUCHANAN: She's not retreating. She's reloaded.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: She wants to win. She wants to win.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he said --

MS. CLIFT: Win what?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- she's not retreating; she's reloading.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please continue.

MS. CROWLEY: Right, right. Sarah Palin is dynamite. She's well on her way to rehabilitating her image. She can do whatever she wants in the future. And here's the difference between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama. Sarah Palin was governor of a state. She had executive experience. Barack Obama was a legislator. He had no executive experience. And we're certainly -- that's certainly showing now, and it's being reflected in his poll numbers. He loves to talk us to death -- job summits, summits on Afghanistan. Where has he been for the last year?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've got a question; that is the genuine deep- felt odium that some people, many people, hold this lady in. Now, what is -- can that ever change? MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, look, the fact is --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they numerous enough to defeat her?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It all depends what she's trying to do. If she's just trying to be a celebrity and sell books, there won't be a problem.

MS. CLIFT: That's fine.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If she tries to run for the presidency, I think there are a huge number of people in this country who think she's not qualified to be president.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And I agree with that, by the way.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question for you. Do you think the more you see of Sarah Palin, the less you like her? Do you think people are that way? The ones who dislike her now, the less -- the more they dislike her later?

MS. CLIFT: I think people have made up their minds. They either love her or they don't like her. And I think she has as much trouble with the Republican establishment; I think they see her --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is --

MS. CLIFT: -- as trouble for their chances to win the majority.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is what the philosophers call datur tertium. There is a third possibility, that they really don't know; they're just trying to still evaluate her. Isn't there a lot of that out there?

MS. CLIFT: They're not -- asked if she is prepared to be president, to be commander in chief, it is overwhelmingly the answer is no.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: She has populist appeal.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's too early to tell.

Issue Two: Terrorist Trial in New York.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: (From videotape.) I'm not scared of what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has to say at trial, and no one else needs to be afraid either.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind behind the horrendous 9/11 Twin Towers crime. Mohammed will be put on trial in a civilian court in New York City, not a military court. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has so decided. Republicans disagree with General Holder. They say that putting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial before a civilian court in New York City is very dangerous. They also think it defies logic.

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ): (From videotape.) How could you be more likely to get a conviction in federal court when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has already asked to plead guilty before a military commission and be executed?

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: General Holder says the decision is his to make.

ATTY GEN. HOLDER: (From videotape.) The determination that I make on where I think we can best try these cases does not depend on the whims or the desires of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He will not select the prosecution venue. I will select it, and I have.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The Nuremburg Nazi trials took place before a military tribunal. Why isn't that historic precedent being maintained with our terrorists, al Qaeda terrorists, namely a military, not a civilian, trial? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is a horrible, horrible mistake by Holder. If you try him in a civil court in the United States in a criminal trial, the very first question is, "Were his Miranda rights violated when, after he was captured, they threatened to kill his family and waterboarded him 87 times?"

MR. ZUCKERMAN: A hundred and eighty-seven.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can get John McCain up there to say, "One question: Senator McCain, do you consider waterboarding torture?" "Yes." "If my client was waterboarded 187 times, was he tortured?" "Yes." Headline, New York Daily News: "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tortured, says John McCain."

John, they are risking having this thrown out of court. I don't know why a judge wouldn't throw it out of court. This is a war crime he committed, not a crime in the United States against individuals by an American citizen.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is Obama letting it go by?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think they thought this through. This is an act of --

MS. CLIFT: The attorney general is familiar with courtroom procedures. He has examined this. He has suggested that there is evidence that has not been presented. KSM actually admitted his guilt before he was waterboarded.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Khalid Sheikh -- MS. CLIFT: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And why should we be afraid to put the American trial system before the world? It speaks well of us that we are doing this. The rest of the world looks at military trials as kangaroo courts. This is an opportunity to score propaganda points for the American judicial system. And to give this guy the dignity of calling him a warrior for a cause -- he's basically a common murderer, and he should be treated as such.

MS. CROWLEY: No, he is not. These were acts of war. Look, this is the single most irresponsible decision probably made by any commander in chief in wartime. We have used military tribunals since George Washington and Revolutionary War. The Supreme Court has upheld their constitutionality.

Secondly, Eric Holder said something striking in his testimony. All of this that we hear from the left that we're going to have a shining example of the American judicial system for the rest of the world to see -- Holder said if he is acquitted or if a liberal federal judge overturns a conviction, we are not going to allow this guy to go free. In other words, he is not going to be released and he's going to be detained in any event.

MR. BUCHANAN: And that's --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MS. CROWLEY: So what is the point?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a show trial.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, let me in here. Can New York handle the danger, General Holder?

ATTY GEN. HOLDER: (From videotape.) Our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm, and our people are ready.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: One out of four people in the world, approximately, is Muslim. If you take that population and you take one-thousandth of 1 percent, you've got 15,000 Muslims. One of those Muslims -- several of those Muslims could be crazy, like the crazies that we've seen. What about the danger of inviting that by staging this in New York?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, I think that is one of the negatives of this whole thing. It's going to turn New York once again into ground zero in terms of terrorist attacks. I'm not saying that New York can't handle it. We have, I think, the most extraordinary police force, and they may be able to handle it. But why put New York through this again is my question. I just don't understand the rationale behind it.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And I do not see --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see this as a stimulant for some kind of horrible reciprocal action by a percentage of Muslims in the world who are crazy?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I agree. I think that is one of the risks that is involved with this thing, and particularly when you stage it all in New York --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why invite that when you can try them in Guantanamo?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not trying to justify it. New York is the media capital of the world. This is going to become just a huge, gigantic, you know, promotional story. And he's going to get up there and his lawyers are going to get up there, and we're going to -- DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get out on this question.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can fill it in, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, we can't --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: If you were Mayor Bloomberg, would you be preparing extra security precautions? The answer is yes. If you were mayor Bloomberg, would you try to prevent this from happening instead of welcoming it as he is?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, he's welcoming it. But I'll tell you this. The defense attorney is going to say, "This jury pool has been contaminated by all the publicity in the world on 9/11. I want to move it out of Lower Manhattan." And if you don't move it, they've got a cause for appeal.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying Holder made the right decision in staging this in New York?

MS. CLIFT: Holder made the right decision. And I don't understand why Republicans in particular are so worried about terrorists. They want to send people off to die to fight terrorists, but they don't want them tried --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't see this as a political --

MS. CLIFT: -- in a federal court where New York City has successfully done this in the past.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's trying to say this has been a political issue and Republicans have (resolved it ?) against the president.

MS. CROWLEY: This is an ideological issue. This was an ideological decision made by President Obama and his attorney general, number one. Number two, the whole argument from the left has been for eight years that Guantanamo Bay has been a big recruiting pool. To Mort's point, this propaganda platform that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to have in civilian court will be the ultimate jihadist recruiting tool.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, I mean, I think that's one of the dangers of it. It's going to cost a minimum of $75 million. For what? For this guy? We should have found some other way to deal with it. There are too many risks. And the thing -- who knows who you can get in a jury pool, by the way, in New York.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he needs only one person.

MR. BUCHANAN: Of his peers.

MS. CLIFT: The judge writes the rules. He doesn't have to allow this to become a show trial. It could be a propaganda trial for American values around the world --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And it would be; I agree.

MS. CLIFT: -- where we're trying to change our image, where we don't hold people in a brig forever. We give them --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: My view is that Holder erred.

Issue Three: Life, Liberty and Lawsuits.

REP. MARK KIRK (R-IL): (From videotape.) Congress should enhance the effective reforms of many states by enacting lawsuit reforms for our entire country.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The lawsuit reform Congressman Kirk is talking about is medical-malpractice reform. A malpractice lawsuit occurs when a patient sues a doctor, alleging bad treatment. Today the very threat of a malpractice lawsuit causes doctors to prescribe heavily -- more tests, more procedures, more X-rays, more MRIs -- just to protect themselves from malpractice litigation. Doctors call it defensive medicine.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): (From videotape.) Because of the constant threat of these suits, doctors are forced to order costly but unnecessary tests and procedures just to protect themselves.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republicans argue that none of the five health- care bills forwarded by Senate and House Democrats addresses this bloating malpractice abuse, which, if addressed, would cut health-care budgets significantly.

REP. KIRK: (From videotape.) Lawsuit reform can save billions in health-care costs alone.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Democrats don't want malpractice reform. They say malpractice lawsuits collectively add up to a paltry $50 billion, whereas the health-care costs every year add up to $2.5 trillion. But the president defends those Democrats in a metaphor that some see as slippery.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, silver bullet or not, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is not waiting on Washington. Mississippi statute now prevents those who claim malpractice from choosing where to file lawsuits -- the venue. That means that claimants are prohibited from searching for jackpot courts, jackpot juries, jackpot judges. Mississippi also put a cap on damages. Governor Barbour lays out his program's success.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR (R): (From videotape.) The number of medical-liability suits against Mississippi physicians has gone down 91 percent from the peak. Premiums are down about 60 percent.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Should the Senate, like Governor Barbour, make tort reform part of the overall health-care bill? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I believe it is going to be. And I think you cut off the president's comments. That was the State of the Union address. He said he doesn't believe it's a silver bullet, but he does favor some experimental efforts going forward. And I think that's -- there will --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: It's not going to be enough for you guys -- (laughter) -- but there will be something. There will be --

MR. BUCHANAN: A little experiment. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. There will be something. There will be a foot in the door on this issue for Republicans; not as much as you guys want, but more than Democrats have been willing to --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, please.

That's not a foot in the door.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What --

MS. CLIFT: I'm sorry it's so insulting, but I think that's what will be there.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is ridiculous. It's just --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president didn't call for tort --

MS. CLIFT: He did call for tort reform. He said, yes, he supports --

MR. BUCHANAN: He said, "We're going to try little pilot programs."

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a phony, John.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, it's a phony?

MR. BUCHANAN: They're going to put a few pilot programs, see if this works. Look, this is a huge thing. Haley Barbour did a great job. This is huge. It costs doctors -- it not only raises their insurance rate; they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for insurance. They practice defensive medicine. They send you out to get a second MRI. And it's an integral part of cost control.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is being protected by this kind of --

MR. BUCHANAN: Trial lawyers.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The trial lawyers.

MS. CROWLEY: Trial lawyers.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Trial lawyers. Why do the Democrats want the trial lawyers?

MS. CROWLEY: Because -- (Cross talk.)

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

MS. CROWLEY: Because the Democrats are so deeply in bed with the trial lawyers. They're under the covers with the comforter pulled up.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The trial lawyers make more money --

MS. CROWLEY: Trial lawyers are the biggest profession --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- when there's no tort reform.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MS. CROWLEY: Trial lawyers are the biggest industry --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that money is recycled.

MS. CROWLEY: -- and profession that donates the biggest amount of money to the Democratic Party.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh. Do you hear that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, of course it's true.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But the worst thing of it all is what Pat was referring to, which is defensive medicine. A lot of doctors are trying to prevent themselves from being sued everywhere and get huge awards against it. There's no standards on the basis of which people determine whether or not they acted appropriately. So they take all these extra tests in order to protect themselves.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: So some of that trial-lawyer money that they make is recycled.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's estimated --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- at $80 (billion) to $100 billion when you put it all together.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the juries --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's a huge amount of money every year.

MR. BUCHANAN: Juries are voting billion-dollar awards and stuff like this. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's ridiculous. You've got to get it under control.

MS. CLIFT: And those awards --

MR. BUCHANAN: Pain and suffering is the key. Get that under control and you got it.

MS. CLIFT: And those awards generally get whittled down. And I think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor finish.

MS. CLIFT: Look, I mean, I favor some controls here, definitely.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. Don't overextend yourself. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: I do. No, I do favor some controls here. But I think you guys are --

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, what's the --

MS. CLIFT: The way our Congress works, we have the best Congress that money can buy. If the Democrats have the covers pulled with the trial lawyers, a lot of the Republicans are not supporting health care because they're in bed with the insurance companies.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you --

MS. CLIFT: So let's not act like only the Democrats are craven. Everybody's craven.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to suggest to the president that he come out forthrightly in favor of tort reform?

MS. CLIFT: He has come out as forthrightly as the democratic -- little "d" -- political process will permit him.

DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The unemployment rate will exceed 11 percent before it recedes. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, by winter's end.

MS. CLIFT: I sure hope not.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. DR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

Gobble-gobble.



END.