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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; CHRYSTIA FREELAND, FINANCIAL TIMES TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 13-14, 2010

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Whiteout, Blackout.

WASHINGTON, D.C. MAYOR ADRIAN FENTY: (From videotape.) This is the key fact. We average 15 inches of snow per season. We're at 60.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: One word can describe the nation's capital this week: Paralysis. Washington was smothered by two snowstorms that immobilized the District. All transportation dead: Trains, subways, buses, airports; thousands of people without electricity.

The city of Washington is a tourist mecca, an international metropolis. It's the treasury of the nation's heritage, housing its original Declaration of Independence and its original Constitution. And there's the National Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery, the Phillips Collection, the Portrait Gallery, the Museum of American Art, the Museum of Africa Art, and, of course, the multiple and preeminent Smithsonian museums -- among them the Hirshhorn and the National Air & Space Museum. Washington is also the home of the Holocaust Museum. They were all blanketed in snow.

As a federal city, Washington has 300,000 federal employees in administrative, judicial, legislative and regulatory agencies. Their lost productivity will cost about half a billion dollars, some $500 million, thanks to Mother Nature. What a mother.

Question: Is the inability of Washington to dig out of a snowstorm an international embarrassment?

Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it certainly is, John. In defense of Fenty and Washington, D.C., we've had two of the worst snowfalls in my lifetime back to back in a matter of days.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You moved out. You moved to Virginia.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm right across -- I've got about three feet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You live in your little mansion.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me say this about D.C. Look, I grew up in D.C. This is unprecedented snowfall. Their equipment -- they're not prepared for it. But D.C., quite frankly, John, is a very poorly run city. It doesn't make things. It doesn't produce things. It doesn't create things. It's just a citadel of government. It's not run well. It's something of an embarrassment to the nation. Home rule has not been a smashing success. I know what Eleanor's going to say, but --

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely. I live in the District. I pay taxes in the District.

MR. BUCHANAN: God bless you.

MS. CLIFT: And I am --

MR. BUCHANAN: God bless you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: I am satisfied --

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, let her finish.

Go ahead, Eleanor. MS. CLIFT: I am satisfied with the way they have tried to clear up the largest snowfall in recorded history in Washington. And folks like you who live in Virginia, you use the city like an ATM machine. You don't pay any taxes. You don't help. And if the District of Columbia had set aside money to prepare for this kind of snowfall, it would have been regarded as wasteful government spending.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me make one point, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is a -- this city voted 6 percent for McCain. It doesn't have a single Republican anywhere, single conservative anywhere. This is the citadel of liberalism, and it's a failed city.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: Well, and snow is not Democratic or Republican. It is Mother Nature's event.

MR. BUCHANAN: We clean it up in Virginia.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CROWLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you a question --

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, please.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- about the Founding Fathers.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the Founding Fathers are at fault here? Because they were terribly worried about Washington and whether there would be a concentration of power here by people who would take over the government. True, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: True.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they called it a district. They would not elevate it to state status.

MS. CROWLEY: Right. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But at the same time, Washington is the capital of the states of the nation. It serves as the federal capital of all 50 states.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So is it not a confused picture? But has it not been tainted by the way the fathering (sic) fathers wanted to downgrade it, and it somehow became part of the ozone?

MS. CROWLEY: So let me get this straight.

You're blaming George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin for the fact that Washington could not dig out of two back- to-back blizzards?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where does Washington get its income?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, maybe it's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who pays Washington's taxes?

MS. CROWLEY: The folks of Washington plus the folks of the nation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CROWLEY: That money comes in as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CROWLEY: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is a national -- this is the national capital of the states.

MS. CROWLEY: Right. But the Founding Fathers -- you asked about them. This is why they created a federal system where you had a lot of states' rights and states' power, and that whole question is coming up.

Look, we often forget that Washington, D.C. is a southern town, because in the United States we often forget that, but it's still a southern city. So when something like --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Founding Fathers wanted that. This was --

MS. CROWLEY: But not because of snowstorms, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was mostly underwater.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was swampland.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was swampland. MS. CROWLEY: Swampland.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They wanted it that way.

MS. FREELAND: John, the lack of snow plows in Washington, D.C. is not about the Founding Fathers. It's about Washington's geography. I'm Canadian, so it's very tempting to mock American capital cities that can't deal with a few inches of snow. But actually, I'm with Pat and Eleanor in saying that the cost-benefit analysis --

MS. CLIFT: Fifty-four inches of snow. (Laughs.)

MS. FREELAND: -- just is not -- no, but, you know, the cost- benefit analysis just is not in favor of Washington having the snow- cleaning infrastructure of an Ottawa or a Montreal. It's just not that common.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the German --

MS. FREELAND: And the one thing, John, I'm a little surprised by is that you're so troubled by government workers taking a few days off. Is that really such --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I didn't quite say that.

MS. CROWLEY: I say that's a great thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think some of those government workers worked from home, in fact.

MS. CLIFT: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not blaming them as scapegoats here. If anything, I think it's the way the Founding Fathers wanted it. They wanted a relatively tame situation where we would go to Congress. Congress gives us the budget. Congress gets the money from the states, and, you know, I think had somehow seeped into the way we do business here.

MS. FREELAND: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But notably the influence of the Congress here. We have to get the Congress's okay.

MR. BUCHANAN: The point is we got a few years ago, and some of us opposed it who grew up here, home rule. D.C. folks run this city now. You've got your elected mayor, your elected council. They control the schools. They control everything. And in a lot of areas, including snow removal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they've got to go to Congress with their hands out. "You've got to give us our tribute for the year." MS. FREELAND: This isn't about home rule.

MR. BUCHANAN: They give them more than any other --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Like many --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Snow is one thing. Terror is another.

What's the lesson of February snow, 2010, FSTT? Is FSTT serving as an early-warning signal? Do we now see what it would be like if al Qaeda, for example, were to strike Washington with a serious concussion or even a less serious one? Is that possible?

(Begin videotaped segment.)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): What is the likelihood of another terrorist attempted attack on the U.S. homeland in the next three to six months -- high or low? Director Blair?

DENNIS BLAIR (Director of National Intelligence): An attempted attack, the priority is certain, I would say.

SEN. FEINSTEIN: Mr. Panetta.

LEON PANETTA (CIA director): I would agree with that.

SEN. FEINSTEIN: Mr. Mueller.

ROBERT MUELLER (FBI director): Agree.

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Another panel just released its report, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism, chaired by former U.S. senator from Florida, Democrat Bob Graham. The commission's official report says that the likeliest WMD attack to the U.S. will not be nuclear; rather, it would be biological -- botulism, anthrax -- germ warfare.

FORMER SENATOR BOB GRAHAM (chairman, Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism): What we are talking about is a terrorist putting a slurry of anthrax in the back of a truck with a dispensing device which makes it almost invisible driving it through a major American city and potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hundreds of thousands. That's more than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Mr. Chairman, how probable is that time frame for a biological strike somewhere on planet earth? MR. GRAHAM: (From videotape.) It is higher than just a straight slightly more than 50-50 that, someplace on earth, a terrorist group will use a weapon of mass destruction between now and the end of 2013.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was that just prognostication?

MS. CLIFT: John, I think you've spent too much time being snowbound this week that you've --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- been fastening on these terrorist scenarios.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You hear these experts talking.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Snow is white. Anthrax is white. That's the commonality, I guess.

I don't -- I think people who've lived through this storm in the city have come to remind themselves that there are some survival techniques you need to have. We are fortunate to have government functioning snow plows, information.

And unless the terrorists figure out how to harness Mother Nature -- and I don't think she's interested in 72 virgins in the afterlife -- I don't think there's any connection here between --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you a question.

MS. CLIFT: -- snowfall and the kind of conjecture that you're raising.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were a terrorist and you were contemplating a lucrative target, is there another nation besides the United States that you would think of as providing the enticement, the lure, of the United States as a terrorist target?

MS. CLIFT: Europe has been dealing with terrorism for a long time.

MS. FREELAND: But it depends on what the political goals of the terrorists are. It's not so much about the vulnerability of the country. It's about who are you trying to attack.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you see --

MS. FREELAND: And as it happens, America is the prime target of al Qaeda.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The point of using the snowstorm is, how do we react when we have a relatively simple problem of snow? We shut down. Suppose there were a terrorist attack of almost any magnitude in this city that worked its way up? We saw what happened in Twin Towers. We saw how the unexpected happens. Are we sufficiently aware, especially when you have these experts say it's highly probable within three years --

MR. BUCHANAN: They hit the Pentagon, for heaven's sakes, on 9/11, and we handled it. Was the city shut down a little bit? Sure, it was. But we were more shut down by this snow. I agree with Eleanor. Al Qaeda couldn't make it up I-95, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think of what Bob Graham had to say about estimating -- MR. BUCHANAN: What, are they going to be driving around in a truck with haz-mat suits? The anthrax would kill the driver.

MS. FREELAND: Yeah, the other problem with having these experts speak about the likelihood of an attack is your bias is always going to be to say the attack is more likely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?

MS. FREELAND: Because no one wants to be the idiot who, if the attack happens, you have the clip played by the McLaughlin Group showing that you're the idiot who says there's not going to be an attack.

MS. CROWLEY: I want to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you hear what she's saying?

MS. FREELAND: That is --

MS. CROWLEY: But I want to back you up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got to hump it up. Do you understand? You don't want to be a pansy in this thing.

MS. CROWLEY: I know. I know. But I want to back up your original point here, because I do think there's a little bit of a national-security implication to what we saw in Washington, D.C., because if a snowstorm can paralyze the city, imagine what a coordinated terrorist attack would do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CROWLEY: Now, the bigger question is that a lot of people in the region were without power. You remember the blackout of 2003. That was a cascading power failure that affected New York City, Philadelphia, and 10 states. Just think about it this way, that the terrorists could make a calculation that if there are major population centers -- Washington, D.C., New York and so on -- that are without power, that they could exploit that.

MS. CLIFT: Which is why --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also --

MS. CLIFT: Which is why people in the national-security business worry about cyber attacks and everything else. And what we didn't test in this snowstorm is the capacity of hospitals to handle injuries.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I feel better now. I feel much better after listening to you, Eleanor, and I -- MS. CLIFT: Thank you, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I feel that I don't want to give a doomsday scenario.

MS. CLIFT: Thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But on a doomsday-scenario probability scale, zero to 10, how probable is Graham's 2013 bioterrorist apocalypse? Zero to 10.

MR. BUCHANAN: I would say very small. But the probability of another thing like Madrid or London, these low-tech attacks, I've always wondered why we haven't had one here in the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Well, we've got you on tape on this.

MS. CLIFT: We had an attempted one on Christmas Day, and I'm sure they're going to keep trying. So the probability is high, but let's not read too many connections from a snowfall.

MS. CROWLEY: I listened to the intelligence chiefs. I think there was a little CYA there when they came out publicly last week and told Dianne Feinstein and the rest of the nation that there's a 100 percent probability of an attempted attack, whether or not it succeeds. And what methods they use is an open question. We know that al Qaeda and other radicalized groups have been trying to acquire nuclear, biological and chemical weapons for at least 10 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what do you think of Graham?

MS. CROWLEY: Look, I think he's putting a warning shot out across the bow, and I think we ought to be paying attention to all of it. But this is why we pay the intelligence officials top dollar here, to watch all this stuff for us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. FREELAND: I think there is absolutely no connection between Washington's response to the snowfall and Washington's vulnerability to a terror attack.

MS. CLIFT: Thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's too close to call.

Issue Two: Romanian Roulette.

ROBERT GATES (secretary of Defense): (From videotape.) Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was Secretary of Defense Robert Gates four months ago, echoing the commander in chief, who announced in mid- September that he was scrapping the U.S. missile defense system in Europe as it was; namely, missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic.

These installations would, theoretically, shoot down any nuclear missile. The Russians saw the system as a threat. Their offensive warheads that make up their parity, essential to the MAD doctrine -- mutually assured destruction -- would, they thought, be put off kilter.

When President Obama dropped the installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, his move to reset the U.S.-Russia relationship was back on track.

That was then, September '09. This is now, February '10, some five months later. Here is the president of Romania, Traian Basescu, announcing that Romania will host our missile shield. Note the words "a plan by Washington."

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TRAIAN BASESCU (through interpreter): (From videotape.) Romania's Supreme Defense Council approved a plan by Washington to deploy terrestrial interceptors on its territory as part of the missile shield to protect Europe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Commander-in-Chief Obama reached the Romanian soil agreement last week. Russia's reaction: Harsh. Russia Foreign Minister, the extremely skilled Sergey Lavrov, demanded a, quote- unquote, "exhaustive explanation from Washington." And Russia's ambassador to NATO said, quote, "How can we stay calm when alien military infrastructure, U.S. military infrastructure, has come to the Black Sea area?" unquote.

And get this: The editor of Russia's National Defense Magazine said that Russia should warn Romania that if elements of the U.S. missile shield are located on its soil, those shield elements will be viewed as legitimate targets for a missile attack.

And Russia's equivalent to the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, warned against a parity disruption. "We view it very negatively, because it could weaken our missile forces."

Question: Why have the Russians raised the Romanian missile defense as this big an issue? I would ask you, Chrystia.

MS. FREELAND: Well, I think that this is part of something we've seen Putin pushing quite aggressively, which is an idea that Russia wants to re-establish its traditional sphere of influence. What they're saying is, "Actually, we believe that we have a say over what happens not only in the former Soviet Union, but also in Eastern Europe," particularly as far as security goes.

Personally, I think that Western Europe and also the United States should push back against that quite forcefully. I don't think that the Central and Eastern Europeans should be subject to a Russian sphere of influence. But what we're seeing coming out of Moscow is an assertion that "This is our historic sphere of influence and we are going to say, you know, we have a stake in this."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you a couple of questions. You were in Russia recently.

MS. FREELAND: I was in Ukraine. I was in Yalta in September.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. You know the Russian scene. You were stationed there for the Financial Times. Is it not true that for the last two decades, with the exception of very recent years, Russia has been going through stress and strain and has not looked good, whereas, in the last couple of years, Russia has done a fantastic turnabout, that its economy has straightened up and it has overcome a lot of its domestic problems? Is that true?

MS. FREELAND: I totally disagree with that. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?

MS. FREELAND: I disagree not with the first assertion, but with the second one. I think that actually right now Russia internally is remarkably weak. And when you consider how high the price of oil has been recent -- not in the most recent time, but over the past decades, the Russians have squandered that natural wealth. And actually, Russian President Medvedev has been talking about that and has been saying --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. FREELAND: -- "We had this wealth and we haven't restructured our economy."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you not seen --

MS. FREELAND: This is the reason why --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. FREELAND: -- the Russians are so worried about the color revolution --

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got a worse --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Aren't they expecting --

MS. FREELAND: -- because their regime feels very fragile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a 6 percent -- aren't they expecting a 6 percent GDP growth rate for this year?

MS. FREELAND: If you had as much oil as the Russians did, you could have that too. The big question is, why are investors more interested in Brazil, India and China than they are in Russia?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Russia --

MS. FREELAND: This is a squandering of economic opportunity.

MR. BUCHANAN: Russia is in a terminal crisis. They lose 750,000 people a year. Their population is shrinking from 150 million in 2000 to about 114 million in 2050. This is a terminal crisis. She is right. This is being covered up by oil and gas and sales and money. There is no real economy over there.

But I do agree with this. Look, they are paranoid about what goes on in Romania. We should not be sticking anti-missile missiles in there, which give them an excuse to react.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They also -- MS. CLIFT: Well, I must say this comes to me as a surprise, because I would assume, when they withdrew the missiles from Poland, that the administration must have wired this. And I'm thinking some of this reaction is pro forma, because Russia is also saying that they're more worried about Iran's behavior. And they're really softening, along with China, on agreeing with us on applying sanctions. And that's a much bigger subject.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let Monica in. Let Monica in.

MS. CROWLEY: Look, we have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The real problem here is they are using the signing of the START treaty, which is a very important treaty for both sides, and it is also the bedrock of a relatively smooth relationship with Russia that we could have, were it signed. They are not signing the START treaty because they object to the fact that we are now going with Romania, and the installation in Romania gives us a port on the Black Sea --

MS. CROWLEY: John, that's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- et cetera, et cetera.

MS. CROWLEY: No, the negotiations for the START treaty, which expired in December -- we've had two months without a START treaty; the world has not collapsed. The negotiations will continue.

The Russians smell blood. President Obama was so eager to reset the relationship with Moscow that he caved on the initial missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. We said we were going to redo that. We're going to redo it in Romania. And now the Russians think if they put the screws to Obama, he'll cave there too. He should not. Those fragile democracies -- Poland, the Balkan states, the Ukraine -- we've got Georgia -- they are very worried that the United States is throwing them to the Russian wolf.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A quick one-word exit-question answer. Russia is back, yes or no? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Not really.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: Russia wants to be thought of as a superpower, and they're not there yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, that's a no.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No? MS. CROWLEY: Yes, they're behind every state-based threat the United States faces.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no, Russia is back?

MS. FREELAND: They want us to think they're back, but internally they're very fragile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that's a no.

MS. FREELAND: That's a no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a no.

The answer is yes.

Issue Three: Palin's Palm.

SARAH PALIN (Former Alaska governor and former Republican vice presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I've got to ask the supporters of all that, how's that hopey-changey stuff working out for ya?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sarah Palin, Republican vice presidential candidate '08, pulls no punches. As keynote speaker of the first tea- party convention, she stated her case against President Barack Obama.

There was no sugar coating, even of herself.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) This is about the people, and it's bigger than any king or queen of a tea party, and it's a lot bigger than any charismatic guy with a teleprompter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mrs. Palin questioned whether the president was the right person to lead the nation in the war on terror.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) To win that war, we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: During a Q&A, Governor Palin used notes written on her hand to stay on track.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) We've got to start reining in the spending. We have got to jump-start these energy projects.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House spotted Palin's palm and lampooned it.

ROBERT GIBBS (White House press secretary): (From videotape.) The entire -- I wrote a few things down. (Laughter.) I wrote, "Eggs, milk and bread." Then I wrote down "Hope and change," just in case I forgot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was it smart politics or was it dumb politics for Press Secretary Gibbs to mock Sarah Palin? Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think he should leave it to the professionals. Jon Stewart and Letterman were doing a fine job. And Sarah Palin is self- destructing all by herself. The latest poll has 71 percent of Americans thinking she's not qualified to be president. And she has the highest negative rating that she's ever had. She's become a caricature of herself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about -- do you think she's affecting Obama's ratings with these criticisms? He's slipped below 50 percent.

MS. CLIFT: No, other people are taking care of that too. (Laughs.) MS. CROWLEY: Look, Robert Gibbs is the spokesman for the president of the United States. We're not talking about a campaign here. This is the White House. He had the White House sign hanging behind him. And to pull this kind of gag was really beneath the office of the presidency. I can't say I'm surprised at Gibbs, because he has no class. But what this does tell you is that they fear the force of Sarah Palin.

Eleanor's full of wishful thinking here. This woman is dynamite. She may not be president someday, but she's got a real force, not just within the Republican Party and not just within the conservative movement, but among a lot of independents. She's got a real emotional connection, and that's what they fear most.

MS. FREELAND: I don't think that it was a problem because it was inappropriate for the press secretary to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking Gibbs here.

MS. FREELAND: Gibbs, yes. But I think it was a political misstep, because I think Sarah Palin's primary appeal is she speaks to Main Street. She speaks to the American people, who maybe don't have fancy degrees, who don't work on Wall Street, and who feel really left out by the economy right now.

Sarah Palin is an excellent populist politician. And by making fun of her, I think Gibbs actually plays into what is her political DNA. I also think it works against the soccer mom. I mean, I actually have a weakness of writing things on my hand. I have to plan my daughter's birthday party and I have that on my palm. And I think all mothers who do that sort of feel like, you know, that's not very --

MR. BUCHANAN: It was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, furthermore, what about --

MS. CLIFT: I can't imagine a mother planning to forget her child's birthday party --

MS. FREELAND: No, but --

MS. CLIFT: -- and having to write that on her hand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's talk a little bit about --

MS. FREELAND: I mean, he put his grocery list --

MS. CLIFT: But you don't mock -- do you mock Obama --

MS. FREELAND: -- because that was meant to laugh at moms.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I get a question in to the other male on this panel? MR. BUCHANAN: Right. It was snarky and it was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- just talk about the phenomenon of writing on the hand. First of all, she didn't write -- it's been described as answers to questions that she had primed.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whereas there were no answers on her hand. These were categories of subjects she wanted to get into it.

MR. BUCHANAN: All of us --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you used a checklist --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and a minimum number of words? "One, two, three, four, five; these are the points I want" --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. You might --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and then spoken extemporaneously to it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. You might have it in your pocket or something. You might have a piece of paper or something like that -- make sure you make these three big points.

That was snarky and stupid of Mr. Gibbs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everybody does that.

MS. FREELAND: And it plays into the elitist --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but let me say this about Sarah Palin.

MS. FREELAND: -- stereotype that she is playing a game.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, let me -- but, look, let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, she also --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sarah Palin --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- burlesked Obama. She said that he relies on a teleprompter.

MR. BUCHANAN: She is very effective against Obama for this reason. If you take the -- what is killing Obama is he's losing -- blue-collar white voters who don't have a high-school education are just leaving him en masse. They bet on him. And some of those who have a college education -- and they love her.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I want to ask you a question, and that's about the tea party, the audience that she was addressing. Is Gibbs also estranging the tea party? And he can't really afford to do that.

MS. CLIFT: I wouldn't give that much power to what Gibbs said. But I would look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But she is obviously auditioning --

MS. CLIFT: I would look at the anger that Sarah Palin is channeling. And the tea-party convention looked exactly like one of her rallies in the presidential election, the real Americans. And she goes to specific places in the country where people do feel like they've been left out. And she's effective at that. Where she takes it, I don't know. But I don't think it's to the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica, do you feel left out? Do you feel left out?

MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.) By this administration? Sure. And Sarah Palin, she does speak for a lot of people --

MS. FREELAND: I don't think Monica --

MS. CROWLEY: -- 75 percent --

MS. FREELAND: -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: I love Sarah Palin. I think she's dynamite.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: If Harry Reid loses his Nevada Senate re-election bid eight months from now, he will be succeeded as majority leader by New York Senator Chuck Schumer. True or false?

MR. BUCHANAN: You betcha.

MS. CLIFT: There'll be a race, but Schumer will win.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely, Chuck Schumer.

MS. FREELAND: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is absolutely.

Happy Valentine's Day, Chrystia. Bye-bye.



END.

s for at least 10 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what do you think of Graham?

MS. CROWLEY: Look, I think he's putting a warning shot out across the bow, and I think we ought to be paying attention to all of it. But this is why we pay the intelligence officials top dollar here, to watch all this stuff for us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. FREELAND: I think there is absolutely no connection between Washington's response to the snowfall and Washington's vulnerability to a terror attack.

MS. CLIFT: Thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's too close to call.

Issue Two: Romanian Roulette.

ROBERT GATES (secretary of Defense): (From videotape.) Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was Secretary of Defense Robert Gates four months ago, echoing the commander in chief, who announced in mid- September that he was scrapping the U.S. missile defense system in Europe as it was; namely, missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic.

These installations would, theoretically, shoot down any nuclear missile. The Russians saw the system as a threat. Their offensive warheads that make up their parity, essential to the MAD doctrine -- mutually assured destruction -- would, they thought, be put off kilter.

When President Obama dropped the installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, his move to reset the U.S.-Russia relationship was back on track.

That was then, September '09. This is now, February '10, some five months later. Here is the president of Romania, Traian Basescu, announcing that Romania will host our missile shield. Note the words "a plan by Washington."

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TRAIAN BASESCU (through interpreter): (From videotape.) Romania's Supreme Defense Council approved a plan by Washington to deploy terrestrial interceptors on its territory as part of the missile shield to protect Europe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Commander-in-Chief Obama reached the Romanian soil agreement last week. Russia's reaction: Harsh. Russia Foreign Minister, the extremely skilled Sergey Lavrov, demanded a, quote- unquote, "exhaustive explanation from Washington." And Russia's ambassador to NATO said, quote, "How can we stay calm when alien military infrastructure, U.S. military infrastructure, has come to the Black Sea area?" unquote.

And get this: The editor of Russia's National Defense Magazine said that Russia should warn Romania that if elements of the U.S. missile shield are located on its soil, those shield elements will be viewed as legitimate targets for a missile attack.

And Russia's equivalent to the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, warned against a parity disruption. "We view it very negatively, because it could weaken our missile forces."

Question: Why have the Russians raised the Romanian missile defense as this big an issue? I would ask you, Chrystia.

MS. FREELAND: Well, I think that this is part of something we've seen Putin pushing quite aggressively, which is an idea that Russia wants to re-establish its traditional sphere of influence. What they're saying is, "Actually, we believe that we have a say over what happens not only in the former Soviet Union, but also in Eastern Europe," particularly as far as security goes.

Personally, I think that Western Europe and also the United States should push back against that quite forcefully. I don't think that the Central and Eastern Europeans should be subject to a Russian sphere of influence. But what we're seeing coming out of Moscow is an assertion that "This is our historic sphere of influence and we are going to say, you know, we have a stake in this."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you a couple of questions. You were in Russia recently.

MS. FREELAND: I was in Ukraine. I was in Yalta in September.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. You know the Russian scene. You were stationed there for the Financial Times. Is it not true that for the last two decades, with the exception of very recent years, Russia has been going through stress and strain and has not looked good, whereas, in the last couple of years, Russia has done a fantastic turnabout, that its economy has straightened up and it has overcome a lot of its domestic problems? Is that true?

MS. FREELAND: I totally disagree with that. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?

MS. FREELAND: I disagree not with the first assertion, but with the second one. I think that actually right now Russia internally is remarkably weak. And when you consider how high the price of oil has been recent -- not in the most recent time, but over the past decades, the Russians have squandered that natural wealth. And actually, Russian President Medvedev has been talking about that and has been saying --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. FREELAND: -- "We had this wealth and we haven't restructured our economy."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you not seen --

MS. FREELAND: This is the reason why --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. FREELAND: -- the Russians are so worried about the color revolution --

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got a worse --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Aren't they expecting --

MS. FREELAND: -- because their regime feels very fragile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a 6 percent -- aren't they expecting a 6 percent GDP growth rate for this year?

MS. FREELAND: If you had as much oil as the Russians did, you could have that too. The big question is, why are investors more interested in Brazil, India and China than they are in Russia?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Russia --

MS. FREELAND: This is a squandering of economic opportunity.

MR. BUCHANAN: Russia is in a terminal crisis. They lose 750,000 people a year. Their population is shrinking from 150 million in 2000 to about 114 million in 2050. This is a terminal crisis. She is right. This is being covered up by oil and gas and sales and money. There is no real economy over there.

But I do agree with this. Look, they are paranoid about what goes on in Romania. We should not be sticking anti-missile missiles in there, which give them an excuse to react.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They also -- MS. CLIFT: Well, I must say this comes to me as a surprise, because I would assume, when they withdrew the missiles from Poland, that the administration must have wired this. And I'm thinking some of this reaction is pro forma, because Russia is also saying that they're more worried about Iran's behavior. And they're really softening, along with China, on agreeing with us on applying sanctions. And that's a much bigger subject.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let Monica in. Let Monica in.

MS. CROWLEY: Look, we have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The real problem here is they are using the signing of the START treaty, which is a very important treaty for both sides, and it is also the bedrock of a relatively smooth relationship with Russia that we could have, were it signed. They are not signing the START treaty because they object to the fact that we are now going with Romania, and the installation in Romania gives us a port on the Black Sea --

MS. CROWLEY: John, that's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- et cetera, et cetera.

MS. CROWLEY: No, the negotiations for the START treaty, which expired in December -- we've had two months without a START treaty; the world has not collapsed. The negotiations will continue.

The Russians smell blood. President Obama was so eager to reset the relationship with Moscow that he caved on the initial missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. We said we were going to redo that. We're going to redo it in Romania. And now the Russians think if they put the screws to Obama, he'll cave there too. He should not. Those fragile democracies -- Poland, the Balkan states, the Ukraine -- we've got Georgia -- they are very worried that the United States is throwing them to the Russian wolf.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A quick one-word exit-question answer. Russia is back, yes or no? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Not really.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: Russia wants to be thought of as a superpower, and they're not there yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, that's a no.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No? MS. CROWLEY: Yes, they're behind every state-based threat the United States faces.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no, Russia is back?

MS. FREELAND: They want us to think they're back, but internally they're very fragile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that's a no.

MS. FREELAND: That's a no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a no.

The answer is yes.

Issue Three: Palin's Palm.

SARAH PALIN (Former Alaska governor and former Republican vice presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I've got to ask the supporters of all that, how's that hopey-changey stuff working out for ya?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sarah Palin, Republican vice presidential candidate '08, pulls no punches. As keynote speaker of the first tea- party convention, she stated her case against President Barack Obama.

There was no sugar coating, even of herself.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) This is about the people, and it's bigger than any king or queen of a tea party, and it's a lot bigger than any charismatic guy with a teleprompter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mrs. Palin questioned whether the president was the right person to lead the nation in the war on terror.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) To win that war, we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: During a Q&A, Governor Palin used notes written on her hand to stay on track.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) We've got to start reining in the spending. We have got to jump-start these energy projects.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House spotted Palin's palm and lampooned it.

ROBERT GIBBS (White House press secretary): (From videotape.) The entire -- I wrote a few things down. (Laughter.) I wrote, "Eggs, milk and bread." Then I wrote down "Hope and change," just in case I forgot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was it smart politics or was it dumb politics for Press Secretary Gibbs to mock Sarah Palin? Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think he should leave it to the professionals. Jon Stewart and Letterman were doing a fine job. And Sarah Palin is self- destructing all by herself. The latest poll has 71 percent of Americans thinking she's not qualified to be president. And she has the highest negative rating that she's ever had. She's become a caricature of herself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about -- do you think she's affecting Obama's ratings with these criticisms? He's slipped below 50 percent.

MS. CLIFT: No, other people are taking care of that too. (Laughs.) MS. CROWLEY: Look, Robert Gibbs is the spokesman for the president of the United States. We're not talking about a campaign here. This is the White House. He had the White House sign hanging behind him. And to pull this kind of gag was really beneath the office of the presidency. I can't say I'm surprised at Gibbs, because he has no class. But what this does tell you is that they fear the force of Sarah Palin.

Eleanor's full of wishful thinking here. This woman is dynamite. She may not be president someday, but she's got a real force, not just within the Republican Party and not just within the conservative movement, but among a lot of independents. She's got a real emotional connection, and that's what they fear most.

MS. FREELAND: I don't think that it was a problem because it was inappropriate for the press secretary to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking Gibbs here.

MS. FREELAND: Gibbs, yes. But I think it was a political misstep, because I think Sarah Palin's primary appeal is she speaks to Main Street. She speaks to the American people, who maybe don't have fancy degrees, who don't work on Wall Street, and who feel really left out by the economy right now.

Sarah Palin is an excellent populist politician. And by making fun of her, I think Gibbs actually plays into what is her political DNA. I also think it works against the soccer mom. I mean, I actually have a weakness of writing things on my hand. I have to plan my daughter's birthday party and I have that on my palm. And I think all mothers who do that sort of feel like, you know, that's not very --

MR. BUCHANAN: It was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, furthermore, what about --

MS. CLIFT: I can't imagine a mother planning to forget her child's birthday party --

MS. FREELAND: No, but --

MS. CLIFT: -- and having to write that on her hand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's talk a little bit about --

MS. FREELAND: I mean, he put his grocery list --

MS. CLIFT: But you don't mock -- do you mock Obama --

MS. FREELAND: -- because that was meant to laugh at moms.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I get a question in to the other male on this panel? MR. BUCHANAN: Right. It was snarky and it was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- just talk about the phenomenon of writing on the hand. First of all, she didn't write -- it's been described as answers to questions that she had primed.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whereas there were no answers on her hand. These were categories of subjects she wanted to get into it.

MR. BUCHANAN: All of us --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you used a checklist --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and a minimum number of words? "One, two, three, four, five; these are the points I want" --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. You might --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and then spoken extemporaneously to it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. You might have it in your pocket or something. You might have a piece of paper or something like that -- make sure you make these three big points.

That was snarky and stupid of Mr. Gibbs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everybody does that.

MS. FREELAND: And it plays into the elitist --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but let me say this about Sarah Palin.

MS. FREELAND: -- stereotype that she is playing a game.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, let me -- but, look, let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, she also --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sarah Palin --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- burlesked Obama. She said that he relies on a teleprompter.

MR. BUCHANAN: She is very effective against Obama for this reason. If you take the -- what is killing Obama is he's losing -- blue-collar white voters who don't have a high-school education are just leaving him en masse. They bet on him. And some of those who have a college education -- and they love her.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I want to ask you a question, and that's about the tea party, the audience that she was addressing. Is Gibbs also estranging the tea party? And he can't really afford to do that.

MS. CLIFT: I wouldn't give that much power to what Gibbs said. But I would look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But she is obviously auditioning --

MS. CLIFT: I would look at the anger that Sarah Palin is channeling. And the tea-party convention looked exactly like one of her rallies in the presidential election, the real Americans. And she goes to specific places in the country where people do feel like they've been left out. And she's effective at that. Where she takes it, I don't know. But I don't think it's to the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica, do you feel left out? Do you feel left out?

MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.) By this administration? Sure. And Sarah Palin, she does speak for a lot of people --

MS. FREELAND: I don't think Monica --

MS. CROWLEY: -- 75 percent --

MS. FREELAND: -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: I love Sarah Palin. I think she's dynamite.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: If Harry Reid loses his Nevada Senate re-election bid eight months from now, he will be succeeded as majority leader by New York Senator Chuck Schumer. True or false?

MR. BUCHANAN: You betcha.

MS. CLIFT: There'll be a race, but Schumer will win.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely, Chuck Schumer.

MS. FREELAND: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is absolutely.

Happy Valentine's Day, Chrystia. Bye-bye.



END.

s for at least 10 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what do you think of Graham?

MS. CROWLEY: Look, I think he's putting a warning shot out across the bow, and I think we ought to be paying attention to all of it. But this is why we pay the intelligence officials top dollar here, to watch all this stuff for us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. FREELAND: I think there is absolutely no connection between Washington's response to the snowfall and Washington's vulnerability to a terror attack.

MS. CLIFT: Thank you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's too close to call.

Issue Two: Romanian Roulette.

ROBERT GATES (secretary of Defense): (From videotape.) Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was Secretary of Defense Robert Gates four months ago, echoing the commander in chief, who announced in mid- September that he was scrapping the U.S. missile defense system in Europe as it was; namely, missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic.

These installations would, theoretically, shoot down any nuclear missile. The Russians saw the system as a threat. Their offensive warheads that make up their parity, essential to the MAD doctrine -- mutually assured destruction -- would, they thought, be put off kilter.

When President Obama dropped the installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, his move to reset the U.S.-Russia relationship was back on track.

That was then, September '09. This is now, February '10, some five months later. Here is the president of Romania, Traian Basescu, announcing that Romania will host our missile shield. Note the words "a plan by Washington."

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TRAIAN BASESCU (through interpreter): (From videotape.) Romania's Supreme Defense Council approved a plan by Washington to deploy terrestrial interceptors on its territory as part of the missile shield to protect Europe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Commander-in-Chief Obama reached the Romanian soil agreement last week. Russia's reaction: Harsh. Russia Foreign Minister, the extremely skilled Sergey Lavrov, demanded a, quote- unquote, "exhaustive explanation from Washington." And Russia's ambassador to NATO said, quote, "How can we stay calm when alien military infrastructure, U.S. military infrastructure, has come to the Black Sea area?" unquote.

And get this: The editor of Russia's National Defense Magazine said that Russia should warn Romania that if elements of the U.S. missile shield are located on its soil, those shield elements will be viewed as legitimate targets for a missile attack.

And Russia's equivalent to the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, warned against a parity disruption. "We view it very negatively, because it could weaken our missile forces."

Question: Why have the Russians raised the Romanian missile defense as this big an issue? I would ask you, Chrystia.

MS. FREELAND: Well, I think that this is part of something we've seen Putin pushing quite aggressively, which is an idea that Russia wants to re-establish its traditional sphere of influence. What they're saying is, "Actually, we believe that we have a say over what happens not only in the former Soviet Union, but also in Eastern Europe," particularly as far as security goes.

Personally, I think that Western Europe and also the United States should push back against that quite forcefully. I don't think that the Central and Eastern Europeans should be subject to a Russian sphere of influence. But what we're seeing coming out of Moscow is an assertion that "This is our historic sphere of influence and we are going to say, you know, we have a stake in this."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you a couple of questions. You were in Russia recently.

MS. FREELAND: I was in Ukraine. I was in Yalta in September.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. You know the Russian scene. You were stationed there for the Financial Times. Is it not true that for the last two decades, with the exception of very recent years, Russia has been going through stress and strain and has not looked good, whereas, in the last couple of years, Russia has done a fantastic turnabout, that its economy has straightened up and it has overcome a lot of its domestic problems? Is that true?

MS. FREELAND: I totally disagree with that. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?

MS. FREELAND: I disagree not with the first assertion, but with the second one. I think that actually right now Russia internally is remarkably weak. And when you consider how high the price of oil has been recent -- not in the most recent time, but over the past decades, the Russians have squandered that natural wealth. And actually, Russian President Medvedev has been talking about that and has been saying --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. FREELAND: -- "We had this wealth and we haven't restructured our economy."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you not seen --

MS. FREELAND: This is the reason why --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. FREELAND: -- the Russians are so worried about the color revolution --

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got a worse --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Aren't they expecting --

MS. FREELAND: -- because their regime feels very fragile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a 6 percent -- aren't they expecting a 6 percent GDP growth rate for this year?

MS. FREELAND: If you had as much oil as the Russians did, you could have that too. The big question is, why are investors more interested in Brazil, India and China than they are in Russia?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Russia --

MS. FREELAND: This is a squandering of economic opportunity.

MR. BUCHANAN: Russia is in a terminal crisis. They lose 750,000 people a year. Their population is shrinking from 150 million in 2000 to about 114 million in 2050. This is a terminal crisis. She is right. This is being covered up by oil and gas and sales and money. There is no real economy over there.

But I do agree with this. Look, they are paranoid about what goes on in Romania. We should not be sticking anti-missile missiles in there, which give them an excuse to react.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They also -- MS. CLIFT: Well, I must say this comes to me as a surprise, because I would assume, when they withdrew the missiles from Poland, that the administration must have wired this. And I'm thinking some of this reaction is pro forma, because Russia is also saying that they're more worried about Iran's behavior. And they're really softening, along with China, on agreeing with us on applying sanctions. And that's a much bigger subject.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let Monica in. Let Monica in.

MS. CROWLEY: Look, we have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The real problem here is they are using the signing of the START treaty, which is a very important treaty for both sides, and it is also the bedrock of a relatively smooth relationship with Russia that we could have, were it signed. They are not signing the START treaty because they object to the fact that we are now going with Romania, and the installation in Romania gives us a port on the Black Sea --

MS. CROWLEY: John, that's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- et cetera, et cetera.

MS. CROWLEY: No, the negotiations for the START treaty, which expired in December -- we've had two months without a START treaty; the world has not collapsed. The negotiations will continue.

The Russians smell blood. President Obama was so eager to reset the relationship with Moscow that he caved on the initial missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. We said we were going to redo that. We're going to redo it in Romania. And now the Russians think if they put the screws to Obama, he'll cave there too. He should not. Those fragile democracies -- Poland, the Balkan states, the Ukraine -- we've got Georgia -- they are very worried that the United States is throwing them to the Russian wolf.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A quick one-word exit-question answer. Russia is back, yes or no? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: Not really.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: Russia wants to be thought of as a superpower, and they're not there yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, that's a no.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No? MS. CROWLEY: Yes, they're behind every state-based threat the United States faces.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no, Russia is back?

MS. FREELAND: They want us to think they're back, but internally they're very fragile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that's a no.

MS. FREELAND: That's a no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a no.

The answer is yes.

Issue Three: Palin's Palm.

SARAH PALIN (Former Alaska governor and former Republican vice presidential candidate): (From videotape.) I've got to ask the supporters of all that, how's that hopey-changey stuff working out for ya?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sarah Palin, Republican vice presidential candidate '08, pulls no punches. As keynote speaker of the first tea- party convention, she stated her case against President Barack Obama.

There was no sugar coating, even of herself.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) This is about the people, and it's bigger than any king or queen of a tea party, and it's a lot bigger than any charismatic guy with a teleprompter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mrs. Palin questioned whether the president was the right person to lead the nation in the war on terror.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) To win that war, we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: During a Q&A, Governor Palin used notes written on her hand to stay on track.

MS. PALIN: (From videotape.) We've got to start reining in the spending. We have got to jump-start these energy projects.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The White House spotted Palin's palm and lampooned it.

ROBERT GIBBS (White House press secretary): (From videotape.) The entire -- I wrote a few things down. (Laughter.) I wrote, "Eggs, milk and bread." Then I wrote down "Hope and change," just in case I forgot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was it smart politics or was it dumb politics for Press Secretary Gibbs to mock Sarah Palin? Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think he should leave it to the professionals. Jon Stewart and Letterman were doing a fine job. And Sarah Palin is self- destructing all by herself. The latest poll has 71 percent of Americans thinking she's not qualified to be president. And she has the highest negative rating that she's ever had. She's become a caricature of herself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about -- do you think she's affecting Obama's ratings with these criticisms? He's slipped below 50 percent.

MS. CLIFT: No, other people are taking care of that too. (Laughs.) MS. CROWLEY: Look, Robert Gibbs is the spokesman for the president of the United States. We're not talking about a campaign here. This is the White House. He had the White House sign hanging behind him. And to pull this kind of gag was really beneath the office of the presidency. I can't say I'm surprised at Gibbs, because he has no class. But what this does tell you is that they fear the force of Sarah Palin.

Eleanor's full of wishful thinking here. This woman is dynamite. She may not be president someday, but she's got a real force, not just within the Republican Party and not just within the conservative movement, but among a lot of independents. She's got a real emotional connection, and that's what they fear most.

MS. FREELAND: I don't think that it was a problem because it was inappropriate for the press secretary to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking Gibbs here.

MS. FREELAND: Gibbs, yes. But I think it was a political misstep, because I think Sarah Palin's primary appeal is she speaks to Main Street. She speaks to the American people, who maybe don't have fancy degrees, who don't work on Wall Street, and who feel really left out by the economy right now.

Sarah Palin is an excellent populist politician. And by making fun of her, I think Gibbs actually plays into what is her political DNA. I also think it works against the soccer mom. I mean, I actually have a weakness of writing things on my hand. I have to plan my daughter's birthday party and I have that on my palm. And I think all mothers who do that sort of feel like, you know, that's not very --

MR. BUCHANAN: It was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, furthermore, what about --

MS. CLIFT: I can't imagine a mother planning to forget her child's birthday party --

MS. FREELAND: No, but --

MS. CLIFT: -- and having to write that on her hand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's talk a little bit about --

MS. FREELAND: I mean, he put his grocery list --

MS. CLIFT: But you don't mock -- do you mock Obama --

MS. FREELAND: -- because that was meant to laugh at moms.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I get a question in to the other male on this panel? MR. BUCHANAN: Right. It was snarky and it was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- just talk about the phenomenon of writing on the hand. First of all, she didn't write -- it's been described as answers to questions that she had primed.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whereas there were no answers on her hand. These were categories of subjects she wanted to get into it.

MR. BUCHANAN: All of us --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you used a checklist --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and a minimum number of words? "One, two, three, four, five; these are the points I want" --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. You might --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and then spoken extemporaneously to it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. You might have it in your pocket or something. You might have a piece of paper or something like that -- make sure you make these three big points.

That was snarky and stupid of Mr. Gibbs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Everybody does that.

MS. FREELAND: And it plays into the elitist --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but let me say this about Sarah Palin.

MS. FREELAND: -- stereotype that she is playing a game.

MS. CROWLEY: Exactly.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, let me -- but, look, let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, she also --

MR. BUCHANAN: Sarah Palin --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- burlesked Obama. She said that he relies on a teleprompter.

MR. BUCHANAN: She is very effective against Obama for this reason. If you take the -- what is killing Obama is he's losing -- blue-collar white voters who don't have a high-school education are just leaving him en masse. They bet on him. And some of those who have a college education -- and they love her.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I want to ask you a question, and that's about the tea party, the audience that she was addressing. Is Gibbs also estranging the tea party? And he can't really afford to do that.

MS. CLIFT: I wouldn't give that much power to what Gibbs said. But I would look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But she is obviously auditioning --

MS. CLIFT: I would look at the anger that Sarah Palin is channeling. And the tea-party convention looked exactly like one of her rallies in the presidential election, the real Americans. And she goes to specific places in the country where people do feel like they've been left out. And she's effective at that. Where she takes it, I don't know. But I don't think it's to the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica, do you feel left out? Do you feel left out?

MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.) By this administration? Sure. And Sarah Palin, she does speak for a lot of people --

MS. FREELAND: I don't think Monica --

MS. CROWLEY: -- 75 percent --

MS. FREELAND: -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: I love Sarah Palin. I think she's dynamite.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: If Harry Reid loses his Nevada Senate re-election bid eight months from now, he will be succeeded as majority leader by New York Senator Chuck Schumer. True or false?

MR. BUCHANAN: You betcha.

MS. CLIFT: There'll be a race, but Schumer will win.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely, Chuck Schumer.

MS. FREELAND: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is absolutely.

Happy Valentine's Day, Chrystia. Bye-bye.



END.