THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, JANUARY 29, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JANUARY 30-31, 2010
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Obama Rebooted.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) The worst of the storm has passed. But the devastation remains.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama, in his State of the Union speech this week, described the economic devastation that continues in the wake of the nation's worst economic recession in 75 years.
Here's the devastation.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those who'd already known poverty, life's become that much harder.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: President Obama faced three imperatives this week: The Democrats -- they were dispirited, they needed rallying; the independents -- they were alienated; and the Republicans -- they needed wooing.
President Obama had to do this with his State of the Union address. Did he satisfy all of these political constituencies? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, you can't satisfy them all, because the tea- party types, the independents who were with him, are very anti- government. The progressives are pro-government, big programs. You can't satisfy both of them. He sort of lectured the Republicans. I don't think he really satisfied any of them, John.
But to your key point, I hope the president is right when he says things -- that we're really out of this thing. But I believe we're in a bubble. I think the back-to-back 10 percent deficits and the doubling of the money supply has created another bubble. I'm afraid it's going to pop, and I think we could head downward into what people call that W and that sort of recession. I hope not, but it looks to me very bad, because, I mean, the consumer has not gone back into the stores.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do you want to say anything about the 5.7 percent increase in the GDP that just came through for the last quarter?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think that's a very good sign that the recovery may be on its way. But, you know, Pat is right. There may be some IEDs out there still, namely in the housing market. I think if Mort were here, Mort Zuckerman, he would be talking about another round of foreclosures.
But on the president's speech, he, I think, did a good job reminding the many millions of people who voted for him and who believed in him that he hasn't really been captured by alien forces, that he is ready to do a better job leading. I think I said on the show last week he behaves as though he's joined the government instead of leaving the government. So I think he showed a willingness to use the tools that he has as a president.
I think he reminded the Democrats that they shouldn't be running for the hills, that they should stick together. And I think he called out the Republicans for their obstructionist tactics. And I think putting the spotlight on them, saying, "If you've got your 41 votes and all you're going to do is just block everything," that that's not leadership. So I think he did a good job in the speech. You know, the way forward is still unclear. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Eleanor is raising the judgment bar on Obama? And what's going on with Eleanor? (Laughter.)
MS. CROWLEY: You can ask Eleanor that question.
MS. CLIFT: Eleanor is a journalist.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah.
MR. PAGE: And she has a high bar.
MS. CLIFT: Remember. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't need any reassurance of that.
MS. CROWLEY: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.
Okay -- jobs, jobs, jobs.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I realize that for every success story, there are other stories of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from. That is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is President Obama reordering priorities, putting the job stimulus bill on the front burner and the health reform on the back burner?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes. And I'm gratified to see that it's finally dawning on the president that unemployment and the job situation in this country should be paramount for this president. Look, when he entered office, unemployment was at 7.2 percent. It's only increased over the last year. Now it's at 10 percent. When you add in those who are underemployed, part-time, those who have stopped looking for work, it's closer to 18 percent.
The reason why his job-approval numbers have come down, the main reason, is because the American people know, have known all along, that this is the number one issue -- the economy, deficit, the exploding national debt, and, of course jobs. And what they have seen out of this president over the last year is this man off in the weeds doing health-care reform, which now looks like in more of a state of chaos than it's ever been, doing cap and trade, off into Copenhagen, doing things that were not paramount bread-and-butter issues that really matter to the American voters.
What he is doing now is trying to reset the agenda. It may be too late.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Hey, big spender. PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the trillion dollars that it took to rescue the economy last year. Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why the spend-now-pay-later plan? Why doesn't the president propose his freeze on this year's budget?
MR. PAGE: Well, the reasons are half-political and half- practical. As a practical matter, he wants to get spending out there because he wants to try to stimulate the economy and not cut things off the way Roosevelt did halfway into his recovery plan, and you got that double dip right afterwards.
It's partly political because he is a liberal, he is a Democrat, and they believe in spending more money right away.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we also have another event this year. We have an election in November.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah.
MR. PAGE: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe that's --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, here's --
MR. PAGE: Maybe that's part of it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe that's the timing of the freeze.
MR. PAGE: Well, you know, Monica's right in that people have not seen Obama addressing the economy and jobs enough.
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's the problem --
MR. PAGE: A president can only do so much. But they at least want to know the president is engaged with them and feels the pain.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, here's his problem --
MS. CLIFT: Well, it's stunning --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Eleanor. MS. CLIFT: It's stunning to me that the White House lost such control of the message. Health-care costs rising on an unsustainable basis feeds into the economic problems that we have. And certainly climate change and a green economy is the way forward. That they didn't create a narrative that this is all part of this country's economic recovery, really it's criminal negligence.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, the fact that they didn't do this linkage.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. They didn't connect the dots.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They weren't more didactic and present it to the people. I couldn't agree with you more.
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's the crisis. Here's the crisis of the party of government. When you talk about a freeze on spending, that's good fiscal conservatism. And here are the progressives out there saying, "Where, in heaven's name, is health care? Where's cap and trade? Where is the progressive era you promised us?" And so Obama's moving back and forth between these folks that want to cut the government and these folks that want to grow the government. He's got a hellish problem.
MS. CROWLEY: Pat is absolutely right. The State of the Union looked like the state of confusion, because if he wanted to tie the economy to health care and cap and trade, the reason he lost the disconnect is because, in the middle of this great recession, he wanted to go forward with a $2.5 trillion health-care entitlement and cap and trade, which would be tantamount to the largest tax increase in the history of the world. He couldn't connect all of those things, given the economic dire straits.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what about --
MS. CROWLEY: And when it comes to the discretionary-spending freeze, he's only talking about 13 percent of the federal budget, and he's freezing at levels that he's already increased 24 percent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about --
MR. PAGE: Of course, the other parts --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. What about the --
MR. PAGE: -- are the parts people really like, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. MS. CROWLEY: All of the entitlements are exempt.
MR. PAGE: That's the big part of the budget, though.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the mountain of debt that Obama inherited?
MS. CROWLEY: Well, but he misstated it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a true mountain, was it not?
MS. CROWLEY: He misstated it. At the State of the Union on Wednesday night, he said a trillion-dollar deficit. That is not true. In 2007, the deficit was at $170 billion. Over 2008, when Bush was still president, it exploded to $450 billion because of TARP and the recession. That didn't give the president an excuse to blow it up to over $1.3 trillion.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me --
MS. CROWLEY: That's what the American people are very concerned about.
MR. BUCHANAN: He's got two of them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We want to point out that the TARP legislation is Bush's legislation.
MS. CROWLEY: Yes, but Bush only spent $350 billion of the $700 billion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, you --
MS. CROWLEY: He left the other part for Obama.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you ought to know better.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was this political oratory okay, or was it demagogic and dangerous? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Liberals loved it. This Supreme Court decision overruled 100 years of legal doctrine on this particular issue, and it does open the door for corporate contributions, and union contributions as well. But it seems to be generally agreement --
MR. PAGE: And possibly overseas. MS. CLIFT: And possibly overseas. So I think the president, if he had not remarked upon it, it would have been an omission.
I also want to point out that the White House has allowed its critics to conflate the short-term deficit spending that he did to dig us out of the hole and pull the economy back from the brink of destruction with the structural deficits, which are a serious problem and will have to be considered. But the spending he did this year -- last year -- was essential.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, the Supreme Court last Wednesday night sat in its usual setting, in front of the speaker.
But Samuel Alito may have represented the anger or the frustration, or both, of the court majority over an Obama misrepresentation of fact. Notice Justice Samuel Alito wincing and forming the words "Not true" with his lips.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape) -- that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was Justice Alito referring to?
MR. BUCHANAN: Here's what he was referring to. Obama misspoke horribly. Corporations cannot deliver contributions directly to candidates. Foreign corporations are forbidden by the Foreign Agents Registration Act --
MR. PAGE: That's in dispute.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- of 1946.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.
MR. BUCHANAN: And they cannot contribute directly. What they can do is American corporations can contribute to political action committees and they can contribute to campaigns and things like that, and that is it. He misrepresented --
MR. PAGE: It's in dispute, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- what the Supreme Court said.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So foreign companies were not involved.
MR. BUCHANAN: They cannot --
MR. PAGE: We don't know that, Pat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're treating American corporations as they should, like persons.
MR. PAGE: John, we don't know that. John, it's possible, say, Hugo Chavez and Citgo, his American-Venezuelan subsidiary, if they're chartered in the U.S., it may be an American company under the law. We don't know.
MS. CROWLEY: First of all --
MR. BUCHANAN: But he can't go directly --
MS. CROWLEY: -- have you ever seen the head of the executive branch --
MR. PAGE: If it's an American subsidiary --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Let her in. Let her in.
MS. CROWLEY: Have you ever seen the head of the executive branch egg on the legislative branch to jeer the judicial branch? It was unpresidential and it was graceless --
MS. CLIFT: FDR. (Laughs.)
MS. CROWLEY: -- of the president to do. And if FDR did it --
MR. PAGE: It depends on where you sit, my dear. (Laughs.)
MS. CROWLEY: He was also wrong --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're saying it was --
MS. CROWLEY: It was graceless.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- without any grace.
MS. CROWLEY: It was graceless.
MR. PAGE: Well, it was graceless of a Supreme Court justice --
MS. CROWLEY: He was also wrong.
MR. PAGE: -- to make faces at the president.
MS. CROWLEY: He was also wrong on his facts.
MR. PAGE: It depends on where you sit.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, please relinquish.
MS. CROWLEY: The Supreme Court --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question, part two.
MR. PAGE: Not true, John.
MS. CROWLEY: It's not true. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Assign a letter grade -- assign a letter grade from A to F for Mr. Obama's State of the Union speech -- one grade for style and one grade for substance, in that order. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Style, I'd give him a C+. I'll tell you why -- because I think he's lost the mystique of the presidency. I thought it was sort of a rally. He was scolding people, and people were yelling, getting up and down. It was a mess. It was undignified.
In terms of substance, I think he probably -- I'd give him a B. He probably came and did what he wanted to do. I thought the end was excellent when he gets up there. He's very good at that. He started off back and forth. Somebody said it was like a tennis match reading that prompter. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you taking into consideration that he was on the tail wind of a serious defeat, unexpected defeat, in Massachusetts of the Democratic candidate --
MR. BUCHANAN: I gave him --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he had to rise above that? Obama was wounded going into that.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, I gave the guy a B, all right?
MR. PAGE: (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: That's a high grade for me.
MR. PAGE: He's grading on a curve too. (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think a case can be made you're still underscoring him, considering the circumstances --
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I mean, as I say, I thought --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- under which he gave the State of the Union?
MR. BUCHANAN: -- he started off terrible and he ended very strong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I think he gets an A+ on style. (Laughter.) He was relaxed. His ripostes back and forth were clever when he had a list of tax cuts and remarked he thought he'd get a little applause on that, and you saw the Republican leaders finally come to their feet. I think he reclaimed the presidency. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: And on substance, I give him, you know, a B. It's not really a place to lay down, you know, hard lines.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's this riposte business? Was that cleaned up afterwards, or what?
MS. CLIFT: His asides.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His asides.
MS. CLIFT: The things that weren't on the teleprompter.
MR. BUCHANAN: He was funny. He was funny.
MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.) You won't be surprised to know Eleanor and I were watching two totally different speeches.
On style, I give him a D, because I thought he was defensive and petulant and petty in that slam to the Supreme Court.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MS. CROWLEY: And also the slam to his own moderates in his own party in the Senate, you know, putting the House against the Senate. It was so unpresidential.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama's little bit --
MR. PAGE: They deserved it. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Do you think Obama's --
MS. CROWLEY: Not from that podium.
MR. PAGE: The Blue Dogs deserved it.
MS. CROWLEY: Not from that podium. But in terms of substance of the speech, it looked like a slap-dash effort --
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CROWLEY: -- because I think a lot of it was written before the Massachusetts race, and he was expecting more of a victory here. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Style.
MR. PAGE: My turn? You know, Mario Cuomo said we campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Obama tried to combine the two. He had to. He's campaigning, but he's also governing.
I was going to give him a B, but you forced me into an A, Monica, to try to raise his average here.
MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.)
MR. PAGE: I mean, he did what needed to be done. He said what needed to be said. And that's going to be a little clunky putting all that together, but --
MR. BUCHANAN: Was it not unpresidential?
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. BUCHANAN: Wasn't unpresidential?
MS. CLIFT: No, it was --
MR. BUCHANAN: It was campaign mode. But that's not presidential.
MS. CLIFT: It played --
MR. PAGE: Come on, now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor, please.
MS. CLIFT: Every survey said it played very well around the country. The Washington insiders didn't like it.
MR. PAGE: Right.
MS. CLIFT: Democrats, it could have put them on the spot, and Republicans because it is exposing their party-of-no tactics.
MS. CROWLEY: The Republicans have such a small minority, they can't stop anything.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is he gets a double A.
Issue Two: Political Potpourri.
Item: Republican response to the Obama State of the Union.
VIRGINIA GOVERNOR BOB MCDONNELL (R): (From videotape.) We have serious concerns over the recent steps the administration has taken regarding suspected terrorists. Americans were shocked on Christmas Day to learn of the attempted bombing of a flight to Detroit. This foreign-terror suspect was given the same legal rights as a U.S. citizen and immediately stopped providing critical intelligence. As Senator-elect Scott Brown has said, we should be spending taxpayer dollars to defeat terrorists, not to protect them. (Applause.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has a star been born? I ask you, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Bob McDonnell is a star in the Republican Party. He won a very good victory. He turned around Virginia. But he looks to me, John, like a very young man. And this was a nice speech, but it wasn't on a presidential level, if you will, I don't think.
I think they ought to abolish the political answer to the State of the Union, because the president is chief of state. He's the head of a whole branch of government. And the idea of having somebody from the other party respond to the chief of staff, I've always thought was ridiculous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What'd you think of the --
MR. BUCHANAN: I thought it was a good -- I mean, look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What'd you think of the Jefferson quote?
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, he gave a good speech, and I think he's a coming force, but I don't think he's a force in the immediate future of the Republican Party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Item: Big U.S. growth. The U.S. economy grew at the fastest rate in six years during the month of October, November and December. The rate was 5.7 percent, as pointed out a moment ago, the last quarter of 2009. That's up 2.2 percent for July, August and September.
Question: Does this 5.7 percent growth for October, November and December produce a flashback effect to Wednesday night's State of the Union and put a shine on it that may linger through to the midterm election 10 months away, Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Oh, I don't know that I would draw that big a construct, but I think it does provide some wind at the back for the Senate. He called upon the Senate to pass a jobs bill. The House has already passed it. It's full of tax breaks for businesses. It's things that the Republican Party should support. If they filibuster it, like they did filibuster the commission on deficit reduction, I think that will expose them as a party that really is committed to the president's failure.
MS. CROWLEY: A lot of Democrats voted against that commission, by the way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, that word, "like" they did -- it should be "as" they did. MS. CLIFT: As they did. I stand corrected.
MR. PAGE: (Laughs.)
MS. CROWLEY: A lot of Democrats voted against that commission too. On the GDP, it's good news. I hope it's sustainable.
But that's the big unanswered question, whether or not we can sustain this rate of growth. I mean, we could call it government domestic prop-up, because so much of this was government spending pumped down into the economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of McDonnell by the way?
MS. CROWLEY: Oh, we're switching gears? Okay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, why not? I want a flashback.
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)
MS. CROWLEY: I think of McDonnell as --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As what?
MS. CROWLEY: -- as quietly impressive. And, look, after all of the bells and whistles of President Obama and also Scott Brown and Sarah Palin on the other side, the electorate, you know, in the next few years might want somebody a little bit more low key. So if he plays his cards right, he could really come on as a strong force.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this is a triple win for --
MR. PAGE: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a triple win for the GOP because of these two guys, these two governors, and what happened in Massachusetts.
MS. CROWLEY: And Scott Brown. Don't forget about him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Item: The terror trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The Obama administration is now considering taking the trial out of New York. What's the story, Clarence?
MR. PAGE: Well, the story here is that all of a sudden Mayor Bloomberg is getting very nervous about the cost involved and the inconvenience there in New York. It's intriguing. I mean, it's spurred all kinds of speculation, which we would never do on this show. But if we did, we might wonder, does Bloomberg know something or was Obama really thoroughly consulted in the first place by Holder before doing this? MS. CLIFT: Yeah, it looks like the Defense Department wasn't willing to pony up the billion dollars that Bloomberg said that it would cost. And it looks like a likely possible compromise is to have a federal trial, but do it on a military base, which would placate both sides.
MR. BUCHANAN: It would be absurd to have that thing in downtown Manhattan, John; the security problems. All you need is one terrible explosion there. It would be a disaster for the country. Frankly, it would cost Obama his presidency if it happened.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What price does Obama pay if the administration moves the trial to a military base?
MR. BUCHANAN: He pays nothing. I'll tell you this. If they turn this trial into a circle and the lawyer for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is walking out there putting America on trial every day, he's going to pay a hellish price.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, that cost could be far greater than any cost --
MR. BUCHANAN: The political cost --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of his changing his mind and moving it.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, people will agree with changing it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is he overruling? Is it the attorney general?
MR. BUCHANAN: He's overruling Holder.
MR. PAGE: Right.
MS. CROWLEY: Come on, Holder didn't go and freelance this decision. This was Obama's decision. But, look, we're missing the big point. As important as the cost and the disruption to Lower Manhattan would be, the bigger point is that these terrorists should not be tried in civilian court anyway.
MS. CLIFT: The biggest --
MS. CROWLEY: And by treating it as a law-enforcement issue --
MS. CLIFT: The biggest point --
MS. CROWLEY: -- instead of acts of war is a huge mistake. That's the big point.
MR. PAGE: They are criminals. MS. CLIFT: The biggest point --
MS. CROWLEY: They're not. They're terrorists -- acts of war.
MS. CLIFT: -- is that the military tribunals are untested. There's only been one conviction and one plea bargain under those, and it's not certain that they are constitutional.
MS. CROWLEY: Of course they are. We've had them since George Washington.
MS. CLIFT: And during the Bush years --
MS. CROWLEY: Of course they are.
MS. CLIFT: -- during the Bush years, they tried almost 200 terrorists in federal court quite successfully.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I get the impression you want him tried in New York. Don't you think he's an enemy combatant and he doesn't deserve American citizen status?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes.
MR. PAGE: I wasn't trying civilian court. I don't necessarily -- it doesn't have to be in New York.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you want --
MR. PAGE: Because we've got to restore --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think he's an enemy combatant --
MR. PAGE: We've got to restore our justice system.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- as was the Nigerian?
MR. PAGE: You know, these are very fuzzy distinctions between terrorists and domestic criminals.
MR. BUCHANAN: Clarence --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you realize we're fighting terror in the United States?
MR. PAGE: It has worked in the past. It worked for Richard Reid. It should work for this Nigerian.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about that? How about that -- (inaudible) -- for Reid?
MR. BUCHANAN: Do you think his -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Reid was tried in a civil court.
MR. BUCHANAN: I know it was. That was a mistake. Hold it. That was a mistake.
And, look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was a mistake?
MR. PAGE: That was a mistake?
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, it was a mistake. Let me tell you something.
MS. CLIFT: Why? Why?
MR. PAGE: They convicted him.
MR. BUCHANAN: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been waterboarded 187 times. Do you think his Miranda rights were violated?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wants to flatten down what it means --
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- before the waterboarding.
MR. BUCHANAN: He'd been tortured.
MS. CROWLEY: John --
MR. PAGE: I'm glad you concede that now.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, 187 times is torture.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want to flatten down what it means to be an American citizen. That's what you want.
MS. CLIFT: No, that raises --
MR. PAGE: That's a side debate, John. The point is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you're taking an enemy combatant, you're de facto flattening down the rest of the --
MS. CLIFT: No, it raises it up.
MR. PAGE: This is a slippery slope to more and more tribunals. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Digital Rehab.
(Videotape of teenage girls texting and surfing the Internet.)
TEENAGE GIRL: (From videotape.) It's just funner than homework. You just, like, shake it and it changes music.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For these children, it's rehab time, believe it or not -- not drug rehab, not alcohol rehab -- another addiction, digital addiction, digital rehab. The first detox center for Internet addicts opened its doors last August for computer-related addictive behaviors in Fall City, Washington, for both adults and youth.
Young people today spend a lot of time with their hand-held electronic devices -- cell phones, iPods, BlackBerrys, sometimes laptop computers and TV sets. Electronic media are the newest drugs of choice of America's youth between the ages of eight and 18.
VICTORIA RIDEOUT (Kaiser Family Foundation vice president): (From videotape.) Kids are spending an average of more than seven and a half hours a day, seven days a week, using media. That's more than 53 hours a week. I mean, that's a full-time job.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That adds up to an hour and 17 minutes more media intake than five years ago. And it's not only multihours. It's also multitasking. And get this: Some youngsters can achieve simultaneity besides sequentiality. In other words, they can do four things at once: Facebook and Twitter on their computers, talk to their friends on their cell phones, watch television on a hand-held TV, all at the same time -- the McLaughlin Group, doubtless, on the TV -- all while listening to Lady Gaga on their iPods.
Question: What's the scientific evidence of the emotional impact of constantly socializing through electronic devices? Clarence Page.
MR. PAGE: Well, it's somewhat in dispute, but there's little question that it's affecting attention spans. It's affecting relationships. It's making it more difficult for young people to be engaged by that homework. As the young lady said, it's less fun than the video games. But the extent of the scientific impact is still being studied.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about this wanting to have a friend or increase your number of friends that call you? Is that obsessional?
MS. CROWLEY: That is -- well, that's an outgrowth of these social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and it be in constant communication.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have any friends?
MS. CROWLEY: I have a lot of real friends. MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) Thank you.
MS. CROWLEY: Virtual friends -- I don't do the Facebook or the Twitter thing yet. But a lot of people do, and a lot of people find it -- it's very gratifying to stay in touch with people who don't live close by you. But I will say that in terms of young people, teenagers and even younger, there is some scientific evidence to suggest that all of this media interaction, BlackBerrys and video games, actually does improve eye-to-hand coordination. It's making the brain react faster. So there may be some, some, educational value to all this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you understand this?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, John. I was thinking of that. You and I grew up even before the television age. And, quite frankly --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is socializing --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- radio and books and things like that and cards and games you played, I think it was interacting with people. It seemed to me it was an awful lot better for socializing and maturing people than sitting there with these little --
MR. PAGE: And engage the mind too.
MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, after the younger generation, the '50s, they all had a TV set. I mean, they're watching TV six hours a day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think when they grow to be adults, they're going to be able to take care of our government needs by having a political life? Will they be able to write a speech? Will they be able to shake hands?
MR. PAGE: No, but great pilots for electronic drones.
MR. BUCHANAN: I've seen a lot of deficiencies. Young people have got a lot of great qualities, but you see a lot of deficiencies that older generations have.
MS. CLIFT: Every time there's a new technological instrument out there, everybody gets all worried that we're going to turn our children into intellectual dwarves. And, in fact, people are doing pretty well. And I think you can make the case that people are worried about too much television, and I think parents probably should control television, just as they have to control this. But I don't think it's that big a deal, frankly. I think it opens the universe to young people, and it's kind of wonderful.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hyperconnectivity due to peer pressure is bad. You don't believe that -- hyperactivity.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I would like -- I mean, I would like that everybody has access to computers, if you're talking about that. I don't want some people left out. MS. CROWLEY: Here's the one thing --
MS. CLIFT: But I don't think there's that much of a battle among young people to outdo each other with their --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there peer pressure?
MS. CROWLEY: I don't think -- I mean, I agree with Eleanor. I don't think this is a major catastrophe. But what I do think is missing is that when kids spend so much time in front of an electronic device, they're not outside playing -- just raw, innocent play. I mean, my mother used to throw my sister and me outside, and the screen door would close and we'd be outside all day on nice days. And I think a lot of kids are missing that genuine --
MR. PAGE: Moderation in all things.
MS. CLIFT: The rising obesity among young children -- now, maybe that's something to really worry about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting. That's interesting.
MS. CLIFT: And maybe that's a spinoff of this other stuff.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye.