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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; MARTIN WALKER, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL TAPED: FRIDAY, JANUARY 8, 2010 BROADCAST DATE: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 9-10, 2010

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Screw-Up.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) America's first line of defense is timely, accurate intelligence that is shared, integrated, analyzed and acted upon quickly and effectively. That's what our intelligence community does every day. But unfortunately, that's not what happened in the lead-up to Christmas Day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So said the president in his public statement Thursday. In a private meeting on Tuesday with 20 trusted top officials, he was more frank and angrier. Quote: "This was a screw- up that could have been disastrous. We dodged a bullet, but just barely," unquote. The stern words of the U.S. commander in chief were caused by, quote-unquote, "systemic failure" -- his language -- that prevented officials from gaining the data to stop a Christmas Day al Qaeda terrorist plot. A 23-year-old Nigerian citizen named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a transatlantic flight in Amsterdam, headed for Detroit. Abdulmutallab carried deadly explosives concealed in his underwear. The plane crossed the Atlantic. And in the approach to the Detroit runway, Abdulmutallab tried to detonate the bomb. It failed. He was then overpowered by passengers and arrested. Catastrophe was averted, powerful enough to have killed all 300 passengers, had it occurred on the plane.

Abdulmutallab was apprehended, indicted, and will be tried in a civil court, not a military one.

Question: Abdulmutallab could have been detained as an unlawful enemy combatant in a military prison, where he then could have been interrogated by the FBI and others. Instead he was given a Miranda advisory that he need not say anything to anyone until his attorney was present.

Was this the worst screw-up, that particular feature, that he was treated as a civilian and not an enemy combatant, the worst screw-up of all?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, John, this is one of the endemic problems of the Obama administration, in my judgment. The president said, two weeks after this Christmas attempted bombing, "We are at war with al Qaeda." This was a warrior from al Qaeda who was coming into this country to perpetrate an atrocity and slaughter 500 -- 300 people. He failed. And instead of treating him as a prisoner of war attempting an atrocity, you know, we call the -- give him his Miranda rights and call in a lawyer.

But, John, the Obama administration has got a more serious problem. This was a massive screw-up, as the president said. He said, "I am responsible." A, there is no accountability here. No one has been held accountable. And secondly, this has emphasized the fact that the Democratic Party, historically weak on national security and the war on terror, now has a president who is perceived as weak on national security.

I think the president has been hurt. They've been (perceived ?) behind the curve. And, John, all these guys going on vacation over Christmas, the day this bombing occurred, I think it's a real blow to the Obama administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: People generally do go on vacation over Christmas. And you're right that it took them 72 hours basically to get their act together and for the president to show the sternness and the determination that he evidently does feel when this country is attacked.

Secondly, this was a system that was put in place during the Bush administration, and we are very lucky that this was a wakeup call, and we now see where the flaws are. The president deserves commendation for owning up to the lapses and for identifying them and pressing ahead to repair them.

Thirdly, trying him in a civilian court -- it's my understanding that he was talking up a storm from the moment he was arrested. And the way we handle this sends messages to the rest of the world. We don't want to create more jihadists. And trying him in our system, which is among the best, if not the best justice system in the world, is an appropriate way to go. And I don't recall the uproar from Pat or anybody else when Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was tried in a civil court and is now languishing in a high-security prison in America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, hold on, Monica.

Reaping what he has sown. President has been consistently critical of the CIA and what Dick Cheney, former vice president, characterizes as enhanced interrogation, which Mr. Obama as president outlawed. The president denies that he's witch hunting.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I have the utmost respect for the CIA. I don't want witch hunts taking place. I've also said, though, that the attorney general has a job to uphold the law. But I continue to believe that nobody's above the law.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Attorney General Eric Holder, acting on President Obama's directive, has announced an investigation to see whether the CIA denied the civil rights of 9/11 actors such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during the Bush-Cheney presidency.

Holder said that the investigation, begun in April '09, would be sweeping and -- (inaudible). It is still underway.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: (From videotape.) We're going to follow the evidence wherever it takes us. We'll follow the law wherever that takes us. No one is above the law.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: When President Obama was a senator, his liberal rating, on a zero to 100 scale, was 100 liberal. As a card-carrying liberal, is President Obama ideologically hostile to the CIA and the intelligence community? I ask you.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, the Founding Fathers, when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, guaranteed the American people for generations to come life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There's a reason they put the word life first, because you can't enjoy liberty and the pursuit of happiness if you are dead. I was gratified to see that President Obama, at least in part of his statement on Thursday, made a statement and an acknowledgement that the United States is at war, in a statement that could have been written by Dick Cheney and delivered by President Bush.

The 9/11 commission, as you'll recall, John, said al Qaeda and these extremist elements are at war with the United States. We were not at war with them. He has finally made that acknowledgement. The problem is, as you pointed out right there, is that he has given mixed signals to the intelligence and law enforcement communities, where he's treating this essentially as a criminal-justice problem in giving these foreign combatants, enemy combatants, the full panoply of constitutional rights to which they are not entitled.

On the other hand, just this week he has remanded another Gitmo detainee into a military tribunal. So there doesn't seem to be a very consistent approach when you're taking the worst of the worst, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, giving him constitutional rights, bringing him to New York City to have a circus atmosphere of a trial.

Look, on the one hand, he's prosecuting this war very effectively with the military component; that is, escalating the drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Yemen.

I've given him credit for that. But on the other hand, closing Gitmo, shutting down enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding, which could have extracted more information out of this Nigerian terrorist, those kinds of mixed signals actually, I think, are undermining the effort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin.

MR. WALKER: But he hasn't closed Gitmo. The bizarre thing about this is that here we are discussing in the States whether Obama is being a liberal. If you look at the Arab press, if you look at the international press, what you're getting overwhelmingly is the claim that there's been no real change, despite the Cairo speech of Obama, that this is the Bush administration (mach two ?) -- in the drone attacks that are being carried out, in the pursuit of the war in Afghanistan and so on, in the refusal to close down Guantanamo.

And the point is, you can be right both ways on this. Pat is absolutely right to say that this was quite the wrong way to handle this particular guy, except it was the same way, as Eleanor says, the Bush administration handled the shoe bomber, Reid. The difficulty is, on the one hand, we are meant to be the good guys in the West. We're meant to have a rule of law. We're meant to say, "No torture." We're meant to believe in human dignity and in the proper rule of law. On the other hand, we are facing an utterly, utterly ruthless and implacable enemy, and at some point we have to start behaving as though we're serious and are combating them.

I think Obama has done a pretty good job of trying, on the one hand, to be serious about fighting this, and on the other hand, to try and hang on to the very best of American principles.

MS. CLIFT: I think being serious doesn't mean you have to behave the way the enemy does. And the president believes, and I agree with him, that Gitmo has been a wonderful recruiting tool for the jihadists.

MS. CROWLEY: That's false.

MR. WALKER: One in five --

MS. CLIFT: And how we handle -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: How we handle the people that we capture sends messages to the world --

MS. CROWLEY: They don't care, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: -- about whether --

MS. CROWLEY: The enemy does not care.

MS. CLIFT: -- about whether -- and it sends messages to Americans too -- can we uphold our constitutional liberties and defend what we stand for as a country?

MR. BUCHANAN: But it's intellectually --

MS. CLIFT: We do not have to waterboard and torture --

MR. BUCHANAN: I didn't say waterboard.

MS. CLIFT: -- and hold people through terror tribunals.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you, Obama, however --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama, however, is intellectually incoherent. We brought this fellow in. You read him his Miranda rights, okay? You get him a lawyer. And the president of the United States says he's a known terrorist. He's convicted him in his own mind. Are we to presume that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is innocent? He was waterboarded 183 times. Were his Miranda rights violated? Of course they were.

MS. CLIFT: He will get due process --

MS. CROWLEY: And waterboarding --

MS. CLIFT: -- and he will be convicted.

MS. CROWLEY: Waterboarding extracted a lot of very critical, actionable intelligence --

MS. CLIFT: That's not true.

MS. CROWLEY: -- from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. That is true.

The other point about Guantanamo Bay being this big recruiting tool -- first of all, they hit us on 9/11 before Guantanamo Bay even existed. Secondly, the United States and the West continues to get hit by al Qaeda terrorists even after Obama has said he's going to close it -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we -- hold on.

MS. CROWLEY: -- and he has stopped enhanced interrogation techniques.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Can we --

MS. CLIFT: Can I intrude on your --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, hold on, Eleanor. Hold on for one minute. Can we stay away from waterboarding, please?

These are the actions Obama took which signaled to the CIA to back off: One, he restricted the CIA's use of rendition to preempt terrorism. Two, he closed secret CIA interrogation center abroad. Three, he banned waterboarding. Four, he's closing Guantanamo. Five, he ordered captured unlawful combatants to be read Miranda rights. Six, he is trying KSM, Khalid Sheikh --

MR. BUCHANAN: Mohammed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Mohammed and other terrorists like Abdulmutallab in civil courts, with full constitutional rights. Seven, he ordered Holder to reopen criminal probes and prosecute CIA officers for harsh interrogations. Eight, he issued no diplomatic demarche or protest against Italy for convicting 23 U.S. CIA and military officials in absentia for rendition, our guys. And eight -- nine, rather -- finally, he unleashed Holder to prosecute Bush policymakers like John Yoo for their counterterrorism policy views.

MS. CLIFT: None of that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to that?

Hold on, Eleanor.

Do you want to speak to that?

MR. WALKER: Yes. I mean, I think this absolutely plays into this whole area of moral and judicial confusion, where I think it was best summed up when the Supreme Court during the Bush administration decided that, yes, people who were in Guantanamo did deserve some kind of due process.

In other words, it's not just a question of politics here, of Obama versus Bush. There is an independent judicial tradition taking place which the Supreme Court tried to establish.

MS. CROWLEY: But Martin --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica. MS. CROWLEY: -- the Supreme Court also ruled that enemy combatants held by the United States could be held indefinitely without due process --

MR. WALKER: They did.

MS. CROWLEY: -- for the length of the war.

MR. BUCHANAN: In military trials --

MR. WALKER: They did. But they said that they have to have --

MR. BUCHANAN: But the key thing, Martin, is, look, we get these fellows. What you want out of this fellow when you got him is immediately information, intelligence. You've got to be tough with him; no waterboarding.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat --

MR. WALKER: Which is what we got from Abdulmutallab.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You got that, but --

MR. WALKER: He was singing like --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear, Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: You're violating his Miranda rights when you do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear the list that I just read?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I did.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you persuaded that Obama --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think -- I agree with some of the things Obama did. I agree -- okay, waterboarding, that's out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it adds up to a negative opinion by Obama --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's a mixed bag.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a suspect opinion by Obama of the intelligence community?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's a mixed bag, John, and I think Obama is moving -- is being forced to move to a hard line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know of any president, until you go back to the '80s, or any action like the Frank Church thing that has been so aggressive towards the CIA?

MR. BUCHANAN: Toward the CIA?

MS. CLIFT: Can I get in here on this?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the last time that happened was under the Carter era, and that was a disaster. MS. CROWLEY: Right.

MS. CLIFT: The list of particulars you read, not a single one of them has anything to do with the Christmas Day attempted take-down of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, but it has to do with the CIA and the treatment of the CIA by the administration.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. And you're defending the CIA. There were screw-ups here. The CIA probably was part of it. They are fixable human screw-ups. And they also need better software.

MS. CROWLEY: This is --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that these were fix-ups?

MS. CLIFT: No. What went wrong on Christmas --

MR. WALKER: I think it was a terrible --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. What went wrong on --

MR. WALKER: It was a terrible --

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish. What went wrong on Christmas Day was a combination of human screw-ups in several agencies and a failure of computer software to link them. I want to remind you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm taking a larger view of the CIA and Barack Obama.

MS. CLIFT: -- the bombing failed. The bombing failed.

MR. WALKER: The CIA --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him in.

MR. WALKER: The CIA's record, frankly, has not been terribly good since 2001-2002 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In what --

MR. WALKER: -- just as the CIA's record was pretty bad in the 1980s. The CIA is a huge, massive bureaucracy which trips over its own feet. This latest disaster in Afghanistan, where a failed double agent is allowed to come into a meeting with almost the entire CIA senior staff in Afghanistan and blow them all up, they didn't even search the guy before he went in. These are elementary failures of tradecraft. It's extraordinary. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think that's exactly right, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What, that the CIA is its own worst enemy? Is that what you're saying?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, CIA is -- right, it's made a number of foul- ups. It had information. It should have stopped this thing. But the truth is, you said people made horrible mistakes. Why aren't heads rolling, for heaven's sakes?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to say something positive about the CIA?

MS. CLIFT: Because they are all explainable individual mistakes that then entered into a daisy chain. I don't know that any underling's head is going to roll here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, Monica, quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: Okay, look, I want to get to the bigger point that you were trying to make, John, by reading off that litany of Obama decisions. It is about creating an environment where people in the CIA and in the military are afraid to take aggressive actions against these enemy combatants --

MS. CLIFT: That's not true.

MS. CROWLEY: -- on the battlefield.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They'll be punished and their ladder will be cut out from underneath them.

MS. CROWLEY: And because they're getting mixed signals. Is this a law-enforcement operation or a military operation? Are they running around the battlefield with plastic baggies to collect evidence?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about that? Not only esprit de corps, but also your success within the CIA.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, CIA --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will be limited and perhaps nullified if you go beyond --

MR. BUCHANAN: You get too tough --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- these --

MR. BUCHANAN: You get too tough and you might need a lawyer. That's the problem. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- exactly.

MS. CLIFT: That's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the best way for the U.S. to resolve the ongoing problem of terrorism an officially sanctioned assassination program with regard to al-Awlaki? Now, we haven't gotten to that yet.

MR. WALKER: But we have one, John. It's called the drones attack.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. WALKER: Five hundred twenty-eight Pakistani civilians --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. That's part of a war.

MR. WALKER: -- killed in the last two years.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's what you do in a war, not a criminal- justice system.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you hear this acid humor we're getting from this man?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he's exactly right.

That's what you do in war. You don't --

MR. WALKER: If Abdulmutallab had been in Pakistan, he'd have been killed by a drone by now. Here he gets his Miranda rights.

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't send drones after --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, briefly, tell us about al-Awlaki and his connection with Hasan and the killing of the 13 fellow soldiers.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is another thing, John. This is another foul-up. There was apparently a connection between Major Hasan over there and this Awlaki guy, and him, and maybe -- and also with this latest guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He worshiped at al-Awlaki's mosque in Fort Hood, Texas, near there --

MS. CLIFT: Right. It also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or in Virginia.

MS. CLIFT: It also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And then al-Awlaki shows up in Yemen.

MS. CLIFT: Right. But it also tells --

MR. WALKER: Where Abdulmutallab goes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there anything more --

MS. CLIFT: It also shows us --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- behind this than just a mystery story?

MS. CLIFT: It also shows us how al Qaeda is unable to put together the huge, spectacular operations with 19 trained terrorists. They're using these lone wolves, which are hard to find, and they can certainly wreak a lot of terror.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Democrats' Sturm und Drang. SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT): (From videotape.) After 35 years of representing the people of Connecticut in the United States Congress, I will not be a candidate for re-election this November.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Dodd announced this week that he would not run for a sixth term in the U.S. Senate. He's retiring from politics. Dodd's announcement came one day after Byron Dorgan, another Democrat, announced that he would not run for Senate re-election from North Dakota. He would not seek a fourth term.

In the House of Representatives, 10 Democrats say they are bowing out this year: Democrats Davis, Meek, Abercrombie, Moore, Melancon, Hodes, Sestak, Gordon, Tanner, Baird.

Why are Democrats opting out of the Obama midterm elections? To avoid a bloodbath? Well, historically a president's first midterm election has led to major losses for his party in those elections. In 1982, Republican President Ronald Reagan's first midterm election, Republicans lost 26 seats. More notably, in 1994, President Clinton's midterm first election, Democrats lost 54 seats, with Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, seizing both the House and Senate in landslides.

Republicans are the preferred choice in 2010 polls. More importantly, polls also say that the GOP is the more popular choice of independent voters -- a big deal. Democrats are awash in grief.

CELINDA LAKE (Democratic pollster): (From videotape.) It's a tough time for Democrats, frankly. Our voters are less enthusiastic than Republicans and independents.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Celinda. It's not over till it's over. Today's Democrats have one saving grace. Fourteen Republicans have bowed out of the 2010 races, which may be the reason why Republicans are not ready for a victory lap.

Question: Will Republicans take over Congress this year, Martin Walker?

MR. WALKER: No, they will -- I think they will gain three, four, maybe five seats in the Senate, but they will -- which means that the Democrats will not be able to get to end filibusters and to bring down cloture. But I don't see the Republicans winning a majority in either House.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Dodd thing helps the Democrats. This fellow Blumenthal's up there in Connecticut; much stronger candidate than Dodd. Quite frankly, the Democrats will probably retain that seat, better chance. North Dakota is a problem. I think the Republican governor will wind up with that seat.

John, I think the Republicans will gain maybe a little more than 26, but they won't gain the 38, 39 they need for -- MS. CLIFT: Right --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the Democrats going to be filibuster-proof?

MS. CLIFT: Twenty- to 30- --

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MS. CROWLEY: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MS. CLIFT: Twenty- to 30-seat loss in the House is sort of standard. If it goes above that, it's a problem. But it would be highly unusual if the Democrats were able to keep their 60 votes. It's theoretically possible, but --

MS. CROWLEY: The numbers are very steep for the Republicans, but nothing is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very what?

MS. CROWLEY: Steep for the Republicans to take over both chambers. But I will say that when you look at the generic polling for the congressional ballot, Republican versus Democrat, Republicans are running an astonishing eight points ahead. And the reason is because independents, that broke two to one for President Obama and the Democrats last year, are now breaking two to one for the Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. I'm a little surprised that Martin sounds so self-assured when he says that the Republicans will not take over, in view of the fact that we're going through an anti-incumbency rage in the country that will reach peak strength by the elections in the fall. Yes or no?

MR. WALKER: I think the economic recovery could be playing for the Democrats by then. The bulk of the stimulus money is still to be spent. I think unemployment will be coming down. I think there'll be some sort of feeling that the worst is over. And that's going to help the Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama could help it along for the Democrats by a second stimulus?

MR. WALKER: I think he probably could, and I think it might be needed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. WALKER: I think it's going to be needed, because -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the editorial opinion in this country would support a second stimulus when you have tea parties springing up all around?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. WALKER: But when you've got over 10 percent unemployment, the rules change.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the Democrats -- if the Democrats need it, they will do it, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: No-Good Noughties.

We're in the first decade of what was supposed to be the second American century, and the pessimists are in full flight. The 18 noughties, 2000 to 2009, add up to a grim list. So says Patrick J. Buchanan in his popular newspaper column. Buchanan presents several reasons to believe that America's days of leading the world are kaput, mostly due to self-inflicted wounds.

Here's Buchanan. The headers are mine. One: Productivity plummets. Quote: "The United States began the century producing 32 percent of the world's gross domestic product. We ended the decade producing 24 percent. No nation in modern history, save for the late Soviet Union, has seen so precipitous a decline in relative power in a single decade," unquote.

Two: Surplus, no; debt, yes. Quote: "The United States began the century with a budget surplus. We ended with a deficit of 10 percent of gross domestic product, which will be repeated in 2010."

Three: Manufacturing, no; outsourcing, yes. Quote: "Between one-fourth and one-third of all U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared in 10 years, the fruits of a free-trade ideology that has proven anything but free for this country."

Four: Taking bin Laden's bait. Quote: "After September 11th, the nation was united behind a president as it had not been since Pearl Harbor. But instead of focusing on the enemy who did this to us, we took Osama bin Laden's bait and plunged into a war in Iraq that bled and divided us."

Buchanan, you owe me big time -- big time.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, thank you, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there anything you want to retract here publicly?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I would say, in terms of world production, there's no -- look, the United States remains the first military- economic-political-cultural power on earth, but there's no doubt that soft power and hard power are receding. The United States had a terrible decade, almost a lost decade. And, quite frankly, the trend is continuing, and it has not been turned around.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there is any overall -- well, you only heard snippets, but do you think there's any overstatement in Buchanan's pessimism?

MR. WALKER: Yes, the very first point he made about the share of world output. That's entirely to do with GDP figures, which are based upon currency movements. Quite simply, in 2000 the dollar was rising very high. Right now it's pretty weak. These things can turn around very, very fast.

The second point about Iraq, I think, is absolutely right. It was a misbegotten, mistaken war, badly fought, badly planned, huge costs of all kinds. However, people have, since the 1920s, been talking about declinism. It's not happening. The U.S. is going to bounce back. No country has got the resilience of this country. No country has got the dominance of the world's universities.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, hold on, Pat.

Gideon's trumpet. Gideon Rachman, Financial Times columnist, shares Buchanan's pessimism. Quote: "The Obama administration is facing an unexpected and unwelcome development in global politics. Four of the biggest and most strategically important democracies in the developing world -- Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey -- are increasingly at odds with American foreign policy.

"If you look at the four most important democracies in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the greater Middle East, it is clear that none of them can be counted as a reliable ally of the U.S. or of a broader community of nations. They are all countries whose identities as democracies are now being balanced or even trumped by their identities as developing nations that are not part of the white, rich western world."

Eleanor, do you have thoughts on this pessimism?

MS. CLIFT: Well, this sounds like Pat Buchanan's domestic cultural war set up on a global basis. I think there's always been tension between the brown part of the world and the white, rich part of the world. And I think that's going to come to a crisis point over issues like climate change. And globalization, the positive part of globalization, has been way oversold, but it is inevitable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did she --

MS. CLIFT: And I disagree with some of Pat's conclusions --

MR. BUCHANAN: Very good, Eleanor. Keep going.

MS. CLIFT: -- that we should pull up the drawbridge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, the president said no individual will be blamed with regard to -- should be blamed with regard to the intelligence failures. Do you think he'll fire anybody?

MR. BUCHANAN: Heads will roll.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think he'll fire anybody.

MS. CROWLEY: No, I do not think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah. MR. WALKER: I think at least one person ought to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who?

MR. WALKER: Leiter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm with you, Martin.

Bye-bye.



END.

: Right.

MS. CLIFT: The list of particulars you read, not a single one of them has anything to do with the Christmas Day attempted take-down of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, but it has to do with the CIA and the treatment of the CIA by the administration.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. And you're defending the CIA. There were screw-ups here. The CIA probably was part of it. They are fixable human screw-ups. And they also need better software.

MS. CROWLEY: This is --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that these were fix-ups?

MS. CLIFT: No. What went wrong on Christmas --

MR. WALKER: I think it was a terrible --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. What went wrong on --

MR. WALKER: It was a terrible --

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish. What went wrong on Christmas Day was a combination of human screw-ups in several agencies and a failure of computer software to link them. I want to remind you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm taking a larger view of the CIA and Barack Obama.

MS. CLIFT: -- the bombing failed. The bombing failed.

MR. WALKER: The CIA --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him in.

MR. WALKER: The CIA's record, frankly, has not been terribly good since 2001-2002 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In what --

MR. WALKER: -- just as the CIA's record was pretty bad in the 1980s. The CIA is a huge, massive bureaucracy which trips over its own feet. This latest disaster in Afghanistan, where a failed double agent is allowed to come into a meeting with almost the entire CIA senior staff in Afghanistan and blow them all up, they didn't even search the guy before he went in. These are elementary failures of tradecraft. It's extraordinary. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think that's exactly right, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What, that the CIA is its own worst enemy? Is that what you're saying?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, CIA is -- right, it's made a number of foul- ups. It had information. It should have stopped this thing. But the truth is, you said people made horrible mistakes. Why aren't heads rolling, for heaven's sakes?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to say something positive about the CIA?

MS. CLIFT: Because they are all explainable individual mistakes that then entered into a daisy chain. I don't know that any underling's head is going to roll here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, Monica, quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: Okay, look, I want to get to the bigger point that you were trying to make, John, by reading off that litany of Obama decisions. It is about creating an environment where people in the CIA and in the military are afraid to take aggressive actions against these enemy combatants --

MS. CLIFT: That's not true.

MS. CROWLEY: -- on the battlefield.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They'll be punished and their ladder will be cut out from underneath them.

MS. CROWLEY: And because they're getting mixed signals. Is this a law-enforcement operation or a military operation? Are they running around the battlefield with plastic baggies to collect evidence?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about that? Not only esprit de corps, but also your success within the CIA.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, CIA --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will be limited and perhaps nullified if you go beyond --

MR. BUCHANAN: You get too tough --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- these --

MR. BUCHANAN: You get too tough and you might need a lawyer. That's the problem. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- exactly.

MS. CLIFT: That's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the best way for the U.S. to resolve the ongoing problem of terrorism an officially sanctioned assassination program with regard to al-Awlaki? Now, we haven't gotten to that yet.

MR. WALKER: But we have one, John. It's called the drones attack.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. WALKER: Five hundred twenty-eight Pakistani civilians --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. That's part of a war.

MR. WALKER: -- killed in the last two years.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's what you do in a war, not a criminal- justice system.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you hear this acid humor we're getting from this man?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, he's exactly right.

That's what you do in war. You don't --

MR. WALKER: If Abdulmutallab had been in Pakistan, he'd have been killed by a drone by now. Here he gets his Miranda rights.

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't send drones after --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, briefly, tell us about al-Awlaki and his connection with Hasan and the killing of the 13 fellow soldiers.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is another thing, John. This is another foul-up. There was apparently a connection between Major Hasan over there and this Awlaki guy, and him, and maybe -- and also with this latest guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He worshiped at al-Awlaki's mosque in Fort Hood, Texas, near there --

MS. CLIFT: Right. It also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or in Virginia.

MS. CLIFT: It also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And then al-Awlaki shows up in Yemen.

MS. CLIFT: Right. But it also tells --

MR. WALKER: Where Abdulmutallab goes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there anything more --

MS. CLIFT: It also shows us --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- behind this than just a mystery story?

MS. CLIFT: It also shows us how al Qaeda is unable to put together the huge, spectacular operations with 19 trained terrorists. They're using these lone wolves, which are hard to find, and they can certainly wreak a lot of terror.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Democrats' Sturm und Drang. SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT): (From videotape.) After 35 years of representing the people of Connecticut in the United States Congress, I will not be a candidate for re-election this November.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Dodd announced this week that he would not run for a sixth term in the U.S. Senate. He's retiring from politics. Dodd's announcement came one day after Byron Dorgan, another Democrat, announced that he would not run for Senate re-election from North Dakota. He would not seek a fourth term.

In the House of Representatives, 10 Democrats say they are bowing out this year: Democrats Davis, Meek, Abercrombie, Moore, Melancon, Hodes, Sestak, Gordon, Tanner, Baird.

Why are Democrats opting out of the Obama midterm elections? To avoid a bloodbath? Well, historically a president's first midterm election has led to major losses for his party in those elections. In 1982, Republican President Ronald Reagan's first midterm election, Republicans lost 26 seats. More notably, in 1994, President Clinton's midterm first election, Democrats lost 54 seats, with Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, seizing both the House and Senate in landslides.

Republicans are the preferred choice in 2010 polls. More importantly, polls also say that the GOP is the more popular choice of independent voters -- a big deal. Democrats are awash in grief.

CELINDA LAKE (Democratic pollster): (From videotape.) It's a tough time for Democrats, frankly. Our voters are less enthusiastic than Republicans and independents.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Celinda. It's not over till it's over. Today's Democrats have one saving grace. Fourteen Republicans have bowed out of the 2010 races, which may be the reason why Republicans are not ready for a victory lap.

Question: Will Republicans take over Congress this year, Martin Walker?

MR. WALKER: No, they will -- I think they will gain three, four, maybe five seats in the Senate, but they will -- which means that the Democrats will not be able to get to end filibusters and to bring down cloture. But I don't see the Republicans winning a majority in either House.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Dodd thing helps the Democrats. This fellow Blumenthal's up there in Connecticut; much stronger candidate than Dodd. Quite frankly, the Democrats will probably retain that seat, better chance. North Dakota is a problem. I think the Republican governor will wind up with that seat.

John, I think the Republicans will gain maybe a little more than 26, but they won't gain the 38, 39 they need for -- MS. CLIFT: Right --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the Democrats going to be filibuster-proof?

MS. CLIFT: Twenty- to 30- --

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MS. CROWLEY: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MS. CLIFT: Twenty- to 30-seat loss in the House is sort of standard. If it goes above that, it's a problem. But it would be highly unusual if the Democrats were able to keep their 60 votes. It's theoretically possible, but --

MS. CROWLEY: The numbers are very steep for the Republicans, but nothing is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very what?

MS. CROWLEY: Steep for the Republicans to take over both chambers. But I will say that when you look at the generic polling for the congressional ballot, Republican versus Democrat, Republicans are running an astonishing eight points ahead. And the reason is because independents, that broke two to one for President Obama and the Democrats last year, are now breaking two to one for the Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. I'm a little surprised that Martin sounds so self-assured when he says that the Republicans will not take over, in view of the fact that we're going through an anti-incumbency rage in the country that will reach peak strength by the elections in the fall. Yes or no?

MR. WALKER: I think the economic recovery could be playing for the Democrats by then. The bulk of the stimulus money is still to be spent. I think unemployment will be coming down. I think there'll be some sort of feeling that the worst is over. And that's going to help the Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama could help it along for the Democrats by a second stimulus?

MR. WALKER: I think he probably could, and I think it might be needed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. WALKER: I think it's going to be needed, because -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the editorial opinion in this country would support a second stimulus when you have tea parties springing up all around?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. WALKER: But when you've got over 10 percent unemployment, the rules change.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the Democrats -- if the Democrats need it, they will do it, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: No-Good Noughties.

We're in the first decade of what was supposed to be the second American century, and the pessimists are in full flight. The 18 noughties, 2000 to 2009, add up to a grim list. So says Patrick J. Buchanan in his popular newspaper column. Buchanan presents several reasons to believe that America's days of leading the world are kaput, mostly due to self-inflicted wounds.

Here's Buchanan. The headers are mine. One: Productivity plummets. Quote: "The United States began the century producing 32 percent of the world's gross domestic product. We ended the decade producing 24 percent. No nation in modern history, save for the late Soviet Union, has seen so precipitous a decline in relative power in a single decade," unquote.

Two: Surplus, no; debt, yes. Quote: "The United States began the century with a budget surplus. We ended with a deficit of 10 percent of gross domestic product, which will be repeated in 2010."

Three: Manufacturing, no; outsourcing, yes. Quote: "Between one-fourth and one-third of all U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared in 10 years, the fruits of a free-trade ideology that has proven anything but free for this country."

Four: Taking bin Laden's bait. Quote: "After September 11th, the nation was united behind a president as it had not been since Pearl Harbor. But instead of focusing on the enemy who did this to us, we took Osama bin Laden's bait and plunged into a war in Iraq that bled and divided us."

Buchanan, you owe me big time -- big time.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, thank you, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there anything you want to retract here publicly?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I would say, in terms of world production, there's no -- look, the United States remains the first military- economic-political-cultural power on earth, but there's no doubt that soft power and hard power are receding. The United States had a terrible decade, almost a lost decade. And, quite frankly, the trend is continuing, and it has not been turned around.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there is any overall -- well, you only heard snippets, but do you think there's any overstatement in Buchanan's pessimism?

MR. WALKER: Yes, the very first point he made about the share of world output. That's entirely to do with GDP figures, which are based upon currency movements. Quite simply, in 2000 the dollar was rising very high. Right now it's pretty weak. These things can turn around very, very fast.

The second point about Iraq, I think, is absolutely right. It was a misbegotten, mistaken war, badly fought, badly planned, huge costs of all kinds. However, people have, since the 1920s, been talking about declinism. It's not happening. The U.S. is going to bounce back. No country has got the resilience of this country. No country has got the dominance of the world's universities.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, hold on, Pat.

Gideon's trumpet. Gideon Rachman, Financial Times columnist, shares Buchanan's pessimism. Quote: "The Obama administration is facing an unexpected and unwelcome development in global politics. Four of the biggest and most strategically important democracies in the developing world -- Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey -- are increasingly at odds with American foreign policy.

"If you look at the four most important democracies in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the greater Middle East, it is clear that none of them can be counted as a reliable ally of the U.S. or of a broader community of nations. They are all countries whose identities as democracies are now being balanced or even trumped by their identities as developing nations that are not part of the white, rich western world."

Eleanor, do you have thoughts on this pessimism?

MS. CLIFT: Well, this sounds like Pat Buchanan's domestic cultural war set up on a global basis. I think there's always been tension between the brown part of the world and the white, rich part of the world. And I think that's going to come to a crisis point over issues like climate change. And globalization, the positive part of globalization, has been way oversold, but it is inevitable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did she --

MS. CLIFT: And I disagree with some of Pat's conclusions --

MR. BUCHANAN: Very good, Eleanor. Keep going.

MS. CLIFT: -- that we should pull up the drawbridge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, the president said no individual will be blamed with regard to -- should be blamed with regard to the intelligence failures. Do you think he'll fire anybody?

MR. BUCHANAN: Heads will roll.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think he'll fire anybody.

MS. CROWLEY: No, I do not think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah. MR. WALKER: I think at least one person ought to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who?

MR. WALKER: Leiter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm with you, Martin.

Bye-bye.



END.