THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 20-21, 2010
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Bye-Bye, Bayh.
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN): (From videotape.) I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives. But I do not love Congress.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: U.S. Senator from Indiana Evan Bayh, a Democrat, will not run for re-election eight months from now. Fifty-four-year- old Bayh will have served 12 years in the Senate. The senator explains why he is not seeking a third Senate term.
SEN. BAYH: (From videotape.) There's much too much partisanship and not enough progress, too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous national challenge, the people's business is not getting done. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That partisanship in the Senate is real. Senate Democrats last year voted Democratic 91 percent of the time, a Senate record. Senate Republicans, with similar partisanship, threatened filibuster 100 times, also a Senate record. That gridlock is a major reason why the job approval rating of Congress itself is below 20 percent.
Question: Senator Bayh described that so-called gridlock. But is it gridlock? Has it been gridlock, properly speaking, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think it's a little worse than that, quite frankly, when you see what caused Senator Bayh to leave was basically that bipartisan commission to deal with the deficit. The problem is we're running a 13 or 11 percent deficit of GDP. It is an enormous thing, John, $1.6 billion.
And the crisis is this, that the Republicans won't give anybody a dime in new taxes, the Democrats aren't going to cut their entitlement programs, and that leaves basically the big defense budget sitting out there. And these two are at sword's point, and there's no solution to that right now, just as the Chinese are starting to sell American Treasury bills.
So I think the United States is headed for a fiscal crisis. I think Senator Bayh got out because he doesn't see any resolution to this. And I think he sees the country basically economically and fiscally going over the cliff.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The idea behind gridlock is that you have two parties in opposition. But really, this has been a stiffing by the Democratic Party in keeping the Republicans out of the conversation. Isn't that true? So there's no gridlock.
MS. CLIFT: That's not how I view it, John. I look at it as one party, the Republican Party, deciding that their future and their regaining power rests on Obama failing. And so they have refused to give him any victories. And Pat mentioned the bipartisan commission. He says that's why Bayh left.
That was a bipartisan commission to address the fiscal problems that the country faces, because the Republicans don't want to raise taxes and the Democrats don't want to cut entitlement programs. So you have gridlock over this issue. And you had seven Republicans who had co-sponsored legislation to create this commission, then vote against it after the White House supported it.
So I think if you're worried about the ability of this country to be governed, you almost wish for the other party to take over one or both houses of Congress so that they will have some stake in governing instead of just resisting everything.
MS. CROWLEY: I love -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was this a Democratic steamroll or was this gridlock?
MS. CROWLEY: This is not gridlock. It's absurd to suggest it was gridlock when the Democrats, until just very recently, had 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, held the White House and held a huge majority in the Congress.
The reason why the Democrats' agenda has been stalled is not due to the Republicans, who have these minuscule numbers in the Congress, but because all of the chaos has been on the Democratic side -- on health care, on cap and trade, on all of the things that are important to this president.
Look, I love it. When liberals can't get their agenda through, they blame that the system is ungovernable. James Madison put the system of checks and balances in place to slow down very unpopular legislation that a huge majority could try to push through.
Evan Bayh left. He's trying to -- centrists like Bayh don't just voluntarily bite the dust unless his party has been hijacked by the left. And what you're seeing now is a liberal crackup of the kind you saw in the 1960s after the Great Society, after Jimmy Carter, and after Clinton's first two years, when he moderated. Centrists are being run out of the Democratic Party, and that's why Bayh has taken a bye.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, U.S. senator, New York? The New York Times reports that Mort Zuckerman is considering a bid for the U.S. Senate seat in New York.
Mort, you can answer that previous question later, but what's the story? Have you made any decision?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. It's hard for me really to respond to this story, because it all happened while I was skiing in Aspen.
Let me just go to the issue, though, that you were talking about before, because I think that is a real issue facing this country, which is the inability, somehow or other, to fashion policies that are addressing the real problems that this country is facing. And I think it's a combination of two things, and one of them certainly is the fact that when the Democrats had such a large majority in the House and in the Senate, they basically boxed out the Republicans. But the Republicans are also not cooperating on any level.
So you have really a very, very serious issue now, because I believe this country is in the worst fiscal and economic condition than we've been in, really, since the Great Depression. The fiscal deficit that Pat refers to is 10.6 percent of GDP. From 1933 to 1936, the fiscal deficit was 5 percent of GDP. And in those days, from America, we Americans provided the funding. Now 50 percent of the money is provided by international sources, particularly China and India -- Japan, excuse me.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We're in real trouble on that.
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me follow up on that, John. Mort is exactly right here. Look, the problem is not the health-care reform bill, as big as people think, or cap and trade. Frankly, a majority of Americans are against those. The problem is the gigantic deficits that we're facing, trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. But it's not going to happen, because we're either going to default on the debt or interest rates are going to start up, as they already have, or you're going to have a run on the dollar and inflation. And there is no solution to that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the percentage of the GDP involved here? What percentage is the deficit of the GDP?
MR. BUCHANAN: Ten percent in 2009, 10.6 percent or 11 percent this year, nine-point-something next year. Those are historic figures.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For us or for the world?
MR. BUCHANAN: For us.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: In the next five years, we will have deficits -- by the projections of this administration, we will have deficits of eight and a half trillion dollars.
MS. CLIFT: But there's a difference --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is unprecedented for us.
MS. CLIFT: There's a difference between the short-term spending and the short-term deficits --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree with that.
MS. CLIFT: -- and the long term. And for political reasons, the president's critics have conflated them both and terrified people about this impending crisis --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no --
MS. CLIFT: -- when the government needs to continue spending now to get us out of the recession and get jobs created.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But Eleanor --
MR. BUCHANAN: Next year he's got to come up -- they've got to come up with a program. Here's what's going to happen. Obama will come up with a program --
MS. CLIFT: He will.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- more taxes and entitlement cuts. And the Republicans will say, "No new taxes" and the Democrats will say, "No entitlement cuts." And then we are in the soup.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, before we leave Mort Zuckerman as a possible U.S. Senate candidate from New York, these are reasons why he should take the plunge, and they have nothing to do with Mort directly, but indirectly they do. These are prevailing conditions of the time.
Anti-incumbency. 2010 is an anti-incumbent year, good for anybody who's going to challenge the establishment.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Independent status. If he runs as an independent, that's in this year.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Independence has a magic that puts someone against the background of the people rather than against the background of a political party. And both parties, I think, are in disfavor.
Career politicians. They're out, and Mort is not a career politician.
No carpetbaggers. He's anything but a carpetbagger. He'd be running against a carpetbagger.
And business expertise. We need Mort to run the country financially.
MR. BUCHANAN: Frankly, it is a good year for Republicans. I know the brand is down, but look what's happened. The tea-party people, they are moving all to the Republicans, not because they love Republicans but because they want to take down Democrats. And the only way to do it, unless you've got a tea-party guy, is Republicans.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You ran for president three times?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it was three, yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you had to make the decision to run --
MS. CLIFT: You think?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You made the decision to run. Did you get the yellow pad out?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you get the yellow pad out and you put it down. But you know what you do? You throw it away. That decision, it's a decision of the heart, not the head.
MS. CLIFT: You have to decide whether --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak any further about your candidate and your decision-making? MR. ZUCKERMAN: Actually, I have not spoken about it, because I really haven't thought about it all that much. I just came back from Aspen, and that's all I've been thinking about. No, but seriously, about this thing, what we have to do, find some way, some way, to establish an operating center in this country to resolve these problems. And on both sides of the aisle, you have an enormous resistance to that.
I think Pat's absolutely right. The Democrats don't want to cut the spending and the Republicans don't want to increase taxes. There has to be more people ready to reach out to the middle and make a solution.
MS. CLIFT: Which is why you needed the Congress to vote for that bipartisan commission, because then they would have voted up and down and it would have had some chance of succeeding.
Look, I've come -- maybe I'm just bracing for all the Democratic losses that are expected, but I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that unless the Republicans take over one or both houses of Congress, they have no vested interest in governing and they will continue this kind of obstruction. And the Democrats may have a majority, but embedded in that majority are a lot of Evan Bayhs, who are not going to go along --
MS. CROWLEY: Look, I --
MS. CLIFT: -- with the president's programs. And the Democrats have not been able to rally --
MS. CROWLEY: As the only other person -- as the only other person sitting on this panel, besides Mort, who lives in New York State, I will say that those of us who live there would be very lucky to have Mort Zuckerman as our U.S. senator.
Look, we really need grownups in this government. You look at the president. You look at his team. There are no grownups here. You can pick on both sides of the aisle for this, but we really need some mature leadership, some real business expertise. And, look, the Democrats have got to be hearing the call of the American people. This is still a center-right country. What we want out of Republicans and Democrats is deficit reduction, spending cuts, tax cuts and jobs.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Tiger's Apology.
TIGER WOODS: (From videotape.) I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How are you impressed by Tiger's apology? Monica. MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think he needed to do it. I mean, a long time has transpired here; what, four months since that car accident over Thanksgiving weekend. And he has sustained a lot of professional damage. He took himself off the PGA tour. It's a question of when he's going to seek to play again. Some people speculate he may play in the Master's coming up this spring. We don't know that yet.
But, you know, he was sustaining a lot of damage from his corporate sponsors -- Accenture and a lot of others. Nike stayed by him. But I think that the main effort here is twofold: One, to stanch the bleeding of the corporate sponsorships, try to retain as many of those and as much revenue coming into himself and his whole brand as possible. And the other part of this is personal. And he may, in fact, be trying to save his family.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: It was a contrived statement that was pretty obviously drawn up by his public-relations advisers. But he said all the right things, and he may even mean them. And I think the game --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pretty tough, Eleanor. Pretty tough.
MS. CLIFT: The game of golf needs him. The networks who are sponsoring the big golf tournaments need him. I think the bottom line here is he will be back, probably later this year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he had to apologize, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: It was narcotized, it was pro forma, but it was necessary.
He's got to get this behind him. He's got to make this statement. I don't doubt that he probably feels a tremendous amount of personal remorse for what he's done to himself and his reputation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it was superfluous. He didn't have to do it.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think he absolutely had to do it. I don't think he could have appeared in public without having done something like this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. He couldn't have played golf. People would have been picketing him in various sorts of ways. He had to do something to respond to it, because it was so egregious. And frankly, you know, he was a genuine icon in that industry. He had to do something.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's 34 years old. Twenty years from now, when he's 54, do you think he could parlay this into a political career?
MR. BUCHANAN: Parlay this? I don't think so.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Parlay his fame into a political career.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Well, I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know he plays golf, and he's known exclusively for that. But he's a very smart man, is he not?
MR. BUCHANAN: This is terribly damaged goods.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm going to put it this way --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Twenty years from now?
MR. BUCHANAN: Twenty years from now. MS. CLIFT: He'd have to be a lot --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, if I'm around 20 years from now and I do decide on it, I would like to run against him. That much I will tell you.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: He's a good golfer, and he's not comfortable before --
MR. BUCHANAN: He's a great golfer.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: A great golfer.
MS. CLIFT: A wonderful golfer. He's not comfortable before a television camera, and he's not much of a people person beyond the women that he was with. He doesn't strike me at all as having the personality of a politician.
MS. CROWLEY: You know, and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he does not, not right now, but, you know, he's 34 years old.
MS. CROWLEY: America --
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)
MS. CROWLEY: Right. And America is the land of second chances. And we also have very short memories here, and in 20 years that sex scandal could actually be a badge of honor for him, should he choose to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think you're onto something there, Monica.
Issue Three: Tehran's Nuclear Payload?
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From videotape.) We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament, is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The military dictatorship that the U.S. secretary of State refers to is Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The guard has a role in every critical function, practically, of Iran -- transportation, infrastructure, telecommunication, energy, missile defense. The guard is also deeply enmeshed in Iran's nuclear program that many believe is not civilian in nature but military in its origin and development. But Secretary Clinton went further. She believes that the guard last year enhanced its power when it led the crackdowns against critics who were protesting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election victory. The guard turned the country into a military state, the demonstrators think.
Secretary Clinton offered this U.S. message to those who object to what they see as a de facto Iranian military dictatorship.
SEC. CLINTON: (From videotape.) Inside Iran, it's important for anyone who can hear this discussion to realize that the United States sees what's going on.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iran's President Ahmadinejad extended this reply to the U.S. secretary of State.
IRANIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (through interpreter): (From videotape.) I think Ms. -- what's the name? -- Clinton -- these comments that she's making, they're not wise.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, said on Thursday that it was worried that Iran was working on a nuclear payload for a missile. Isn't that old news, Mort?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it's not old news that they finally acknowledge it. They have been very reluctant to make that kind of inference. This is the first time they've really done this. And it really tells you -- they even, in fact, have extended it beyond what we, the United States, have said about what they're doing. So it is actually a very, very important statement, because it does eliminate any of the usual doubts that the Iranians have consistently tried to create.
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, come on, Mort. Listen, this is a clear overstatement. The U.S. intelligence agency statement still stands that they're not working on a weapon. The quadrennial review which came out did not say they're working on a weapon. Their centrifuges are cracking and breaking down. What do you call him -- Gibbs himself said they can't enrich to 20 percent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about --
MR. BUCHANAN: Albright says the whole program is disintegrating and collapsing. IAEA is in the pocket of the United States now --
MS. CROWLEY: Oh, come on, Pat.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- and Israel. And ElBaradei was an honest guy, and now we've got this guy in our pocket. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let her in.
MS. CROWLEY: We're talking about the United Nations nuclear agency here, Pat, finally, as Mort points out, finally saying, "Duh." The Iranians, which is the number one terrorist exporter, the number one terrorist state in the world, is working on a nuclear weapon. We have known this. Mort and I have known this. U.S. intelligence has stonewalled this. That 2007 NIE --
MR. BUCHANAN: In other words --
MS. CROWLEY: -- that you pointed out, Pat, was a political document. It was not a national --
MR. BUCHANAN: You trust the U.N. more than the American CIA?
MS. CROWLEY: It was meant to undermine President Bush and stall any kind of military action.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to go back to Mort on this, because I think he knows something that we don't know, and that's what Netanyahu said. Didn't Netanyahu say explicitly that Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear capability of the kind that the IAEA is worried about? It cannot tolerate it, which means that it would attack Iran and destroy the capability, to the extent that it can, because much of it could be underground? Iran, I'm talking about.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: What Netanyahu and many other Israelis have stated is that this is an existential threat to Israel, and it is. So the question is, what can they do about it?
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They do not want to be the cutting edge of whatever is to be done about it, because it should --
MR. BUCHANAN: And what Defense Minister Ehud Barak said is "The Palestinian problem is a far greater danger to us than any Iranian weapon." And he just said it two weeks ago, contradicting Netanyahu.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that, Mort? What about that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do think that the Israelis have to resolve, in some appropriate two-state solution, the Palestinian-Israeli problem. It requires --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It takes two to tango.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- at an absolute standstill now?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is, but not because of the Israelis, okay? The Israelis are prepared to negotiate. And nobody -- let me just say about that -- I've said this many times -- the two sides are much closer in terms of the substance of the agreement. The politics of getting to that place are the problem. And in this regard, I have to say the United States has not been helpful, because they have driven the parties further apart and more deeply into the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How? How?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: By coming out with a program of a freeze of all the settlements that it was absolutely impossible for any Israeli government to do it.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Secondly, if I may so, and now it's put Abu Mazen into a place where he can't back away from it. For 15 years he negotiated without -- the Palestinians negotiated without a settlement freeze. Now they're reluctant to do it because they're going to get attacked. MS. CLIFT: We started this discussion on Iran. And talking about the Israeli-Palestinian plight is an almost intractable issue. But going back to Iran, the administration spent the last year trying to find an opening with the regime. The regime in Iran is divided. It's more isolated. And now they're trying to work through Saudi Arabia to try to get them to provide more oil to China so they can get China to sign on with sanctions. It's a very complicated diplomatic game.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Iran more isolated now?
MS. CLIFT: And I do not see warfare --
MR. BUCHANAN: Iran is more isolated. Iran is no threat whatsoever to the United States of America.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a probability scale, zero to 10, how probable is an Israeli strike against Iran within the next six months?
MR. BUCHANAN: I would put it at zero.
MS. CLIFT: I wouldn't put it at zero, but I don't believe they would get the blessing of the U.S., and they really do need the blessing of the U.S. to get the air rights to get to. So I would put it at a three.
MS. CROWLEY: We've lost a year where the Iranians have been able to press their nuclear program because Obama's been off in the weeds trying to do this ludicrous policy of engagement that has now become a complete failure. The United States has been talking to Iran indirectly and directly for years through the Europeans. It has all come for naught. Imagine the concessions that they can get if they have a nuclear weapon.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, he's in pain. He's in pain.
MS. CROWLEY: There would be nothing to stop them from doing it.
MR. BUCHANAN: We talked --
MS. CROWLEY: Excuse me. There is nothing --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- to the Russians for 40 years.
MS. CROWLEY: There is nothing that is going to stop them --
MR. BUCHANAN: For heaven's sakes. MS. CROWLEY: -- from acquiring a nuclear weapon, absent a military strike. I do not know if the Israelis are going to do it or the United States.
MR. BUCHANAN: They don't -- they've got one big pile of low- enriched uranium. If they took it all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the Chinese dealing with Iran?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, sure, they're dealing with Iran.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are the Russians dealing with Iran?
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, they're dealing with them. But, look --
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- sanctions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MR. BUCHANAN: They are years away from a bomb. Even if they took all this pile of low-enriched uranium, high-enriched, blew it up, they have nothing left.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.
MS. CLIFT: This love with the easy military strike -- didn't we learn anything from Iraq?
MS. CROWLEY: Nobody said it was going to be easy, but it's going to be the only option --
MS. CLIFT: It's a lot tougher --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is --
MS. CLIFT: When you're talking, you're not dropping bombs on each other.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is no strike from any direction.
Issue Four: Nuclear Energy a Panacea?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We're going to have to build a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in America.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama thinks America's energy future is nuclear. He says that nuclear power is the nation's best hope of ending its dependence on foreign oil, and at the same time reducing the nation's carbon emissions, which many believe causes global warming. And then President Obama put our money where his mouth is. PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) We are announcing roughly $8 billion in loan guarantees to break ground on the first new nuclear plant in our country in three decades.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the first installment that will climb to over $54 billion for nuclear power. But the nuclear-power industry is still considered a pariah by environmentalists.
ERICH PICA (CEO, Friends of the Earth): (From videotape.) There are reactors across this country that have tons of waste just sitting there, waiting for something to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Chief among nuclear electricity's problems, the vexing issue of nuclear waste. Nuclear waste continues to pile up at over 100 nuclear power plants that were not intended for long-term storage.
But Mr. Obama's 2011 budget reduces the funding for the national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada native, rejoiced in that decision.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID (D-NV): (From videotape.) And if someone had said just 10 years ago, five years ago, that Yucca Mountain would be dead, people wouldn't have believed it. And to have a president, in effect, zero it out of his budget and pull the license application is a dream come true for so many thousands and thousands of people in Nevada.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Over the past 23 years, the federal government has spent $10.4 billion in Yucca Mountain.
Can Yucca be revived as the nation's nuclear waste repository? Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, I think it can be. I mean, certainly it'll be a lot easier if Harry Reid isn't the next majority leader of the U.S. Senate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's protecting it.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, of course he's protecting it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they're protecting it just until the November election, and then --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I mean, look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Reid is either re-elected or not elected, that will determine it?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say, in the broadest terms, we absolutely need a nuclear power plant program in this country. Virtually every other major country in the world has them, and they're very, very successful and they're safe, and we can do it.
We had -- as a result of Three Mile harbor (sic/means Island), we had a huge political reaction to it. And everything in nuclear power plant construction has gotten involved in litigation to such a degree, it makes it almost impossible. We have to do something to deal with our energy crisis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me pick up this angle -- "the president's utility." That's how Exelon, a Chicago-based nuclear power company, describes itself -- the president's utility. Exelon is America's largest generator of nuclear energy. It also has been one of President Obama's biggest campaign contributors, and that's since the start of his political career in the Illinois Senate. That's according to a lengthy study in Forbes Magazine.
David Axelrod, one of Mr. Obama's key advisers, is a former Exelon consultant. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is also a former Exelon consultant. If President Obama's climate-change bill passes the Senate this year, Exelon will reap an additional revenue reaching up to $1.1 billion per year. Question: Does the Obama White House expect any payback from Exelon? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, clearly they're very close together, but that doesn't bother me in the least. A lot of these fellows are big- timers and they're involved with businesses and stuff.
The good thing about Obama, John, is he is going for nuclear power. Frankly, my only criticism is that I think it's too timid. I think this country ought to be building like the Chinese, Eleanor was saying earlier, 20 or 50 nuclear power plants; really get going with this. But I think Obama's moving in the right direction on offshore drilling, on nuclear power plants and on clean coal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: This is hardly a bunch of nuclear moguls who have taken over the White House, so I think that is a red herring. Look, the president is going against his own base. Environmentalists do not like this. Democratic activists do not like this. And I thought he made a good case saying that 10 years from now we would be importing this technology if we didn't start it now. So I think it's an essential. But nuclear waste is still a problem, and he acknowledged that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forced prediction: The bloom is off the Obama rose and it won't be back. Yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: You betcha.
MS. CLIFT: No. He comes back.
MS. CROWLEY: It's gone for good, baby.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes to the first part, no to the second part.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me figure that out now. The algebra is -- the answer is to that yes; it won't be back.
Don't forget to check our new website. Bye-bye.