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"THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP" HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, THE WASHINGTON TIMES; ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTON POST TAPED: FRIDAY, MARCH 19, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MARCH 20-21, 2010

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: High-Octane Villainization.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) They're telling their investors this. "We are in the money. We are going to keep on making big profits, even though a lot of folks are going to be put under hardship."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rather than go to Asia next week, President Obama stayed home to twist arms and pass his health-insurance reform bill.

The Obama program is designed to help 31 million people get health insurance. It calls for regulating rates for those who already have it. Obama has been trying to get popular support for his bill, villainizing alleged greed merchants, currently pointing the finger at health-insurance companies, focusing his arguments on the accusation that the health-insurance industry is helping drive up health costs from the current $2.5 trillion to a 2019 figure of $4.5 trillion.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) We can't have a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people.

Insurance companies continue to ration health care based on who's sick and who's healthy, on who can pay and who can't pay. When a whole bunch of potential employers just tell you, "You know what? We just can't afford you," or, "You know what? We're going to have to take thousands of dollars out of your paycheck because the insurance companies just jacked up our rates."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the insurance companies argue that rising costs have more to do with doctors and hospitals increasing their salaries and costs. Relative to hospitals, doctors, pharmaceuticals, insurers have a small piece of the health-care pie, however.

KAREN IGNAGNI (CEO, America's Health Insurance Plans): (From videotape.) There's been an effort, through that villainization campaign, to distract away from the underlying point we've been making. But focusing on 4 percent of health-care expenditures, which is what we represent, to basically fund a trillion-dollar piece of legislation, we are kidding ourselves in terms of whether or not that will work. It won't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Why is President Obama villainizing, demonizing insurance companies? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it's crude and nasty, but it works, John. That's why he's picking on these folks. He also has demonized the doctors. They also -- when you had normal Americans out there protesting in the summer, they're thugs and Nazis. Nancy Pelosi, what did she call them? Harry Reid called them evil-mongers. She said they're un-American.

They're running it through the Congress. What are they doing? Fifty votes in the Senate. They've got this deem to pass in the House. What, have they got the Louisiana purchase and the Cornhusker kickback?

It is really the naked face of big government in a power grab, John. And that face, I'll tell you, in the fall is going to get a good punch in it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this dirty pool on his part?

MS. CLIFT: Pointing out the practices of the insurance companies is not dirty pool. It's the way our system is set up. Insurance companies make money when they deny people coverage. And they have been raising their premiums to the point where a lot of people can't afford them anymore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, so is the rest of the industry. That's what Karen Ignagni is saying.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got a hospital problem. Their rates are going up.

MS. CLIFT: The bill, when it is passed, will put restrictions in place throughout the industry and put a system finally in place of insurance exchanges, which will create some competition. And don't feel sorry for the insurance companies. They're going to get 32 million more customers, which will allow them to spread the risk and keep premiums at a reasonable point for the rest of us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, can I -- let's feel sorry for the surgeons. All together now: Class warfare? Villainize away.

Insurance companies are not the only group Mr. Obama has villainized to move legislation, critics say. There are also the surgeons.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) If a family-care physician works with his or her patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they're taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance. But if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that's $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 immediately the surgeon is reimbursed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica, is it responsible behavior for Mr. Obama to drive a political wedge between the traditional trust between patient and surgeon, patient and physician?

MS. CROWLEY: No, of course not. But, look, this bill is so hated by the American people, it's so roundly rejected by the American people, that the president has had no choice but to throw the spaghetti against the wall and see what might stick.

So far we have had four rationalizations for this bill. He started out by saying we need this to have universal coverage, to cover the uninsured. Then he moved on to lower health-care costs. Then that didn't work. Then he moved on to "Well, we're going to do this for deficit reduction." That didn't work. And now he's settled on demonizing the insurance companies and the doctors.

None of this has worked. In fact, every time he's gone out there trying to make one of these arguments, his personal poll numbers come down and the opposition for the health-care bill rises. All of these attacks on, whether it's the insurance companies -- nobody's here defending the insurance companies, but all of these attacks --

MS. CLIFT: You just did. (Laughs.

)

MS. CROWLEY: -- all of these attacks -- I didn't defend the insurance companies.

MS. CLIFT: I think you did.

MS. CROWLEY: But actually, I find his attacks on them quite appalling when they're making between 3 and 5 percent profit. And do you know the insurance organization that turns down more claims than anybody else? It's Medicare. It is a government-run insurance organization.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to add to the list of villainized victims of Barack Obama, some say, namely the bankers? The bankers are also a target of his.

MS. HUFFINGTON: Not enough. Not enough.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He should target them all?

MS. HUFFINGTON: Absolutely, because if there is one group that is more hated by the American people than the bankers, I don't know what it is. Remember, the big bankers brought us to the verge of a financial meltdown, and now Wall Street has recovered and Main Street is still suffering, with millions of unemployed, millions of foreclosures, bankruptcies. And they're doing extremely well. They're not lending. Lending is down by $100 billion by the big four banks.

We started a movement called Move Your Money, encouraging people to take their deposits from the big banks and put them in their community banks, their credit unions, that can actually lend to small businesses and create jobs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: There is a bill before the Senate, and we will, I think, get to financial regulation as well. But we've conveniently avoided mentioning the news of the week, which was the Congressional Budget Office analysis that the health-care reform bill will actually reduce the deficit by $138 billion over 10 years and $1.2 trillion in the second year (sic/means second 10 years). And the example where you made fun of the president talking about the physician who cares for people as opposed to a physician who does procedures, the bill --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I quoted him. I didn't make fun of him.

MS. CLIFT: Well, but you said that this was somehow unethical. The bill will actually begin to create a medical system where doctors are rewarded for caring for a patient, as opposed to doing procedures.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, John --

MS. CROWLEY: We've got --

MS. CLIFT: This is all necessary to get costs under control.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the attack on surgeons -- look, some of us are alive today because of surgeons.

MS. CLIFT: It wasn't an attack on surgeons.

MR. BUCHANAN: Come on. It was an outrageous thing. He acts as though they're complete opportunists.

MS. CLIFT: It's about -- it's reimbursement.

MR. BUCHANAN: He acted as though these guys are opportunists; they can't wait to slice you open for money, whereas primary-care --

MS. CLIFT: He didn't say that. He didn't say that.

MS. HUFFINGTON: He was talking about the way the system works.

MS. CLIFT: Exactly. Let Arianna make this point.

MS. HUFFINGTON: That's what he was talking about. It was about the reimbursement system --

MS. CLIFT: Exactly.

MS. HUFFINGTON: -- and how basically, in the end, it's not in the interest of the patient. I mean, it's the whole system that he's taking on.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he said surgeons are going for the money.

MS. HUFFINGTON: That was the example he gave.

MS. CROWLEY: Eighty percent of doctors oppose Obamacare. There has to be a reason for that. And Eleanor mentions the CBO. Nobody believes those numbers. In fact, the CBO doesn't believe those numbers. The Democrats were dancing in the streets on Thursday when the numbers came out, but the truth is the CBO -- MS. CLIFT: Speak for yourself when you say nobody believes that the --

MS. CROWLEY: Nobody believes --

MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible).

MS. CROWLEY: Not even the CBO, not even the Democrats, Eleanor, believe those numbers. In fact, you had a lot of Democrats coming out saying, "We're not buying this." And the CBO said this is only a preliminary estimate because we don't have all the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How essential is it --

MS. CLIFT: Relax. It's going to pass, fellows, and you're going to have to live with it. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is an exit question to this segment. How essential is it for Obamacare to pass -- to be passed by the Congress and become statute for Obama to do well, for Obama's party to do well this year?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he doesn't get it passed, is the party lost?

MR. BUCHANAN: If he doesn't get it passed, the Democratic Congress is a failure for this year, undoubtedly. This is the primary issue. And Obama is certainly temporarily a failure. This is his signature issue, John. He put 14 months in it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: A lot of the anger at Washington today is because the government can't seem to perform. And if this doesn't pass, it's hard to see how anything else will pass. And then the Republicans can run against the Democrats as the party that can't govern. So it is critical, and I think they're going to pull it off.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No matter what form it takes.

MS. CLIFT: What do you mean, what form it takes? They're using legitimate parliamentary --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Any health care will do it because of the political necessity.

MS. CLIFT: Not any health care.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just give us something.

MS. CLIFT: It's a bill that they've talked about and debated for a year. It's not some spaghetti that was just tossed up against the wall.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the Democratic Party saying, "Give us something; give us something so we can win in November"?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what about the American people? Where does that leave them if they're saddled with health care?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I think --

MS. CLIFT: Saddled with health care?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, saddled with this bill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With this kind of health care, with Obamacare.

MS. CROWLEY: Saddled with this bill.

MS. CLIFT: It's what they want.

MS. CROWLEY: Look, you've got between 55 and 60 percent of the American people opposing this bill. They do want reform. They don't want a brand new $2.5 trillion entitlement that we cannot afford. So I think the rank-and-file Democrats are saying, "Look, you've got to give us something here that we can take back to our districts." You've got Blue Dog and swing-district Democrats that are saying, "Look, I'm between a rock and a hard place." And the Democrats put themselves there, John. They're between a rock and a hard place. Either they're going to get fired in November --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: -- or they're going to support a bill that the American people hate. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Arianna, is Obama putting -- is he putting a political win over the public good?

MS. HUFFINGTON: Well, first of all, I need to dispute what Monica says, because if you take the individual elements of the bill, you know, people want change. They don't want to be dropped off their insurance policies when they get sick. They don't want their premiums to rise as they've just been rising over the last few weeks -- 39 percent in California, over 50 percent in Illinois.

Now, I think personally that the White House is overestimating the significance of passing this health-care bill, because I think the biggest issue in the midterm elections is going to be jobs and not health care. And unless the economy recovers and people start getting jobs, I don't think the passage of the health-care bill is going to make a difference.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, in the last --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the commitment they have made to health care has built the issue into a critical issue. If he doesn't get it passed --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he's -- what's the Shakespearean play where you're wounded by your own sword? What's that Shakespearean --

MS. HUFFINGTON: Hoisted by your --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is it?

MS. HUFFINGTON: Hoisted by your own petard.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's it -- hoisted by their own petard.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you're right about one thing.

MS. HUFFINGTON: It's going to pass.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let her finish.

MS. HUFFINGTON: It's going to pass, so that's not the issue. The issue is, after it passes, the emphasis on jobs has to be so much bigger than it has been so far, because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's why he wants to get it out of the way as soon as possible, and he's not going to Indonesia.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John -- MS. HUFFINGTON: My fear is that there isn't the same kind of passion for major legislative reform after the health-care bill. That's my fear.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, in the last analysis, this is about power. You're exactly right. It has gotten to where now one side is going to lose and the other is going to win, and the Democrats are being brought aboard saying, "You're not giving those right wingers, McConnell and those guys" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the people are not involved.

MR. BUCHANAN: The people are no longer involved, exactly.

MS. CROWLEY: Here is why --

MS. CLIFT: The people are involved because it expands health- care coverage to 32 million people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: His Fair Lady.

First Lady Michelle Obama is now polling higher than her husband. Seventy-one percent of Americans have a favorable view of Michelle Obama, says Pew. Thirty-nine percent have a favorable view of the president, says The New York Times.

The first lady has also been increasingly in the media spotlight. Last week she spoke at the Smithsonian when she conveyed the gown she wore last year at the inaugural balls, adding it to the museum's First Lady collection.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: (From videotape.) I'll never forget the moment that I slipped on this beautiful gown. I remember how just luscious I felt as the president and I were announced onto the stage for the first of many dances.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Michelle Obama is almost twice as popular as her husband. Is that typical for first ladies? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The last five first ladies have had higher poll ratings than their husbands, because they typically do not take on controversial issues. Even Hillary Rodham Clinton, who undertook a health-care reform plan, still polled higher than her husband.

And Michelle Obama has balanced the sort of policy issues and the style issues very well. She hasn't crossed over whatever that line is that first ladies aren't supposed to go beyond. And taking on childhood obesity, it's a serious health issue in this country. But she hasn't really confronted any, you know, lobbyists. I don't think there are lobbyists for fat children or anything like that. So she's wading into an issue that everybody wants to embrace, and she's handled it gracefully. And she's also handled the entertainment aspect of the White House very well. MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Betty Ford and Laura Bush I have here; their poll numbers were consistently higher than their president husbands. But Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton were less popular than their presidential spouses.

MS. CLIFT: Not throughout.

I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you account for that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. No, I can't -- initially, Nancy Reagan was seen as extra-glamorous. She had all these dresses she was getting. And then she turned it around with the "Don't ask, don't tell," and I think became more popular.

Eleanor Roosevelt was enormously --

MS. CROWLEY: You mean "Just Say No."

MS. CLIFT: "Just Say No."

MR. BUCHANAN: "Just Say No."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who led Ronald into astrology?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: Look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did that contribute to Ronald Reagan's --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, that was after --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there anything to it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there was something to it. Don Regan wrote all about it in his book. But usually the first ladies are more popular, John, as I say, except for Hillary briefly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you follow any astrology at all? Is your moon going into your house?

MS. CROWLEY: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: The house of Jupiter and all that. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: But John -- MR. BUCHANAN: We're not allowed to do that, John, in our church.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is anybody here -- are you into that?

MS. CROWLEY: No. (Laughs.)

MS. HUFFINGTON: John, just remember how incredibly polarizing Michelle Obama was during the election. This is an amazing transformation, when she was caricatured by the opposition as this angry black lady and there were all these rumors about a tape that existed where she talked about whities. And here she is now. She has demonstrated that she can balance, you know, being an amazing mother, taking on issues that are really important but not divisive. And also the style element obviously appeals to people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, more on Michelle.

Childhood obesity. Last month, President Obama signed a memorandum on childhood obesity. He put Michelle in charge. The first lady has made childhood obesity her top priority, as other first ladies have done with their prime interests.

This week the editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham, asked the first lady whether foods like Twinkies should carry health-warning labels.

MRS. OBAMA: (From videotape.) That strikes me as extreme, because, you know, a Twinkie is not a cigarette, you know. And what -- you know, what parents need is just information about what's in the Twinkie, you know. And our kids would be pretty upset. And I am not supporting -- (laughter) -- that. So all the kids out there, right --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Last October, First Lady Obama organized the first White House Healthy Kids Fair.

MRS. OBAMA: (From videotape.) I plan on jumping a little rope and doing a little hula-hooping. So if you want to join me, let's get going.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the first lady's interest in childhood obesity is going to make her popular? Not with the fat kids, right?

MS. HUFFINGTON: She's already -- first of all, she's already popular. Second, this is not a minor issue. This is a major sort of national epidemic that has huge health-care implications, both for these children's lives as they grow older and for our health-care system, which is being burdened by premature cases of diabetes and all these other diseases. So prevention is really what this is all about, and it's a key issue.

MS. CLIFT: She's also trying to reconnect people to their food source by creating a garden on the South Lawn of the White House, actually growing a rugola there, but teaching them that real food comes from the ground. And, you know, some kids look at that and say, "Ooh, that's nasty. That's got dirt on it." And they want to run to a fast-food place. So there's a lot of education that needs to take place, not only at the White House but in the school systems.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about tying up traffic on H Street and I Street with the farmers' market? Is she going to go back to that --

MS. CLIFT: She did that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and affect the rest of us in the city? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: For an hour, you can deal with it, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know about that? Huh? Oh, has that kind of been blissfully and quietly abandoned?

MS. HUFFINGTON: No, no, no. Well, you know, she -- (inaudible) -- haven't been as affected by the farmers' market. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: John, I think the first lady has been very smart to take on this issue. It's a critical issue. She's getting to kids when they're young, before they can become obese adults and have all of the attendant health problems.

But Arianna is right. We forget that during the campaign she gave the opposition a lot of ammunition -- sitting in Jeremiah Wright's church, saying this was the first time that she was proud of her country. She realized that she didn't want to be a detriment to her husband once he got into the Oval Office.

MS. HUFFINGTON: Monica --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on.

MS. CROWLEY: And she has turned into a huge asset for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Is she going to play a role --

MS. CLIFT: Maybe those issues were --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Is she going to play a role in whether or not President Obama seeks a second term?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think so. And John, here I will say something.

I think Obama does not look like he is really enjoying this job. I do agree --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? How do you deduce that?

MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I just -- he does not -- I mean, it looks like it's a great burden for him and he does not like --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he's bored by it?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I don't know if he's bored --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bored by the issues. Remember, he's an intellectual. Intellectuals -- you know, "I handled that issue. Now tell me something I don't know."

MR. BUCHANAN: There's a lot of stuff, like he doesn't get along with a lot of foreign leaders. He doesn't make an effort on these things. He's been widely criticized.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, that is such an exaggeration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her in.

MS. HUFFINGTON: I think right now Pat is practicing astrology. I think he's just looking into his magic astrological crystal ball.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think he has settled into this job magnificently. He has kept his cool, despite all the criticism. And I think now he's on the verge of getting a pretty major achievement.

MR. BUCHANAN: What do you think, Monica?

MS. CLIFT: And while he hasn't cozied up to any foreign leaders --

MS. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: Let me finish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Monica in before we go to predictions.

MS. CLIFT: While he hasn't cozied up to any foreign leaders and looked into their soul, I think his arrangements around the world are just fine.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let Monica in.

MS. CROWLEY: I --

MS. CLIFT: I don't think he's ready to resign.

MS. CROWLEY: I do not think this man particularly enjoys the job.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Justice or Revenge?

Paul Warner Powell was executed this week in Virginia. Ten years ago, Powell was charged and convicted with the murder of a 16-year-old girl, Stacie Reed. He was also charged and convicted of rape and the attempted murder of Stacie Reid's 14-year-old sister, Kristie Reid.

Powell boasted in a letter to a Virginia prosecutor that he, Powell, killed Stacie Reed after she refused to have sex with him. That letter put Powell on death row. He died by electrocution in Virginia's electric chair, 100 years old.

Powell was the 11th person nationwide to receive capital punishment by any procedure this year -- now, two and a half months' expired, roughly one execution per week in the U.S. He was also the 1,199th person to be executed in the U.S. in the last 34 years since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.

Question: Can you make the case that capital punishment satisfies the expectation of justice in a way that life imprisonment does not? Arianna.

MS. HUFFINGTON: Well, that's not really what justice is about. Justice is not about satisfying our basest instincts. We are all a mixture of base instincts and the better angels of our nature. And the problem with the death penalty is, A, that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It appeals to the baser instinct.

MS. HUFFINGTON: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what you're saying.

MS. HUFFINGTON: Well, of course it does. But it should not, because the problem right now -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it's part of distributive justice. That's the thought.

MS. HUFFINGTON: No, it's not. First of all --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The state can kill, in certain circumstances. Self-defense -- there's no self-defense involved here, however. Well, why is it doing it? Revenge? No. There must be something in the nature of justice that permits it. It's not doing it for an evil reason.

MS. HUFFINGTON: It's doing it because of politicians, who are too cowardly to stand up to public opinion and say that we should not be still using, in 2010, the death penalty, especially right now, with growing evidence of so many -- 259 innocent men and women have, after their conviction, have been actually --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which figure is that, 259?

MS. HUFFINGTON: Two hundred fifty-nine. This is completely -- the Innocence Project, multiple evidence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All anti-capital punishment folk.

MS. HUFFINGTON: Not at all. These are facts. These are facts -- 259, after their conviction, people have been proven innocent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, this is a philosophical question to you. Do you think the state has the power to take human life or to expose it to death except in instances of national security? For example, the military -- it can kill the enemy. Do you think the state otherwise has the power to take any human life?

MS. HUFFINGTON: No, I think it should put people like this despicable killer and rapist in jail for life. That's what the state should do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the maximum it should do.

MS. HUFFINGTON: That's the maximum it should do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Philosophically.

MS. HUFFINGTON: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no justification for the state killing except to expose soldiers --

MS. HUFFINGTON: Except for self-defense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- their soldiers in battle to a proven military enemy. MS. HUFFINGTON: Except for national-security reasons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: National security.

MS. HUFFINGTON: And this is not a national-security reason.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the national security is shaky on the ground of a preemptive war, correct?

MS. HUFFINGTON: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Shaky ground.

MS. HUFFINGTON: Any war of choice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the Iraq war a preemptive war?

MS. HUFFINGTON: It was a war of choice, not of necessity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was a war of choice.

MS. HUFFINGTON: And therefore, it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it was also, some argue, a preemptive war.

MS. HUFFINGTON: No, it was not. It was a deeply immoral war, deeply immoral.

MS. CLIFT: But we are a nation of laws, and the Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty, although a number of states, on their own, are opting out of it. And Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you comfortable with the death penalty?

MS. CLIFT: I'm not in favor of the death penalty, but this fellow --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you comfortable with the death penalty?

MS. CLIFT: -- who was just executed is pretty despicable. And when you read about the young woman who he raped and terrorized --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- and how he sent her letters over the years continuing to terrorize her -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that --

MS. CLIFT: -- you can understand why she, who says she was opposed to the death penalty, now supports it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that --

MS. CLIFT: So there are individual cases.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- capital punishment --

MS. CLIFT: But as a rule, I'm opposed to it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- defeats the proposition of the sacredness of life itself? Do you follow me?

MS. CROWLEY: Yeah, I do follow you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you're administering capital punishment, you're cheapening life, and we should not cheapen life.

MR. BUCHANAN: False. False.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No?

MR. BUCHANAN: The complete opposite.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why? Why?

MR. BUCHANAN: What you're saying is we're so concerned about our innocent people that if you take a life, we'll take yours.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you protecting anybody? Can't you lock that person up in Leavenworth, in maximum security, so he cannot move?

MR. BUCHANAN: Why should you spend $10 million keeping the guy fed, clothed, housed, educated, medicated for 40 years?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why not?

MS. HUFFINGTON: It's actually --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you are cheapening the concept of life itself by taking life --

MR. BUCHANAN: You are saying that life is so valuable, we will kill you if you take it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you are not in a position of self-defense. You do not have that -- MR. BUCHANAN: You are defending --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The only time you can take life is when you are defending yourself.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's false. The state has the power of the sword.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Israel-U.S. clash will die down temporarily, but it's going to come back, because General Petraeus and the Pentagon are concerned about the United States being perceived as Israel's poodle.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Once health-care reform passes, and if the Congress can keep performing and pass a series of jobs bills, President Obama's approval rating in the next several weeks will surpass the 50 percent mark, and that will help his party in the fall.

MS. CROWLEY: Hmm. Good luck with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: The Federal Reserve left rates unchanged this week, but I predict that they will start raising rates in the third quarter by a quarter-point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good idea?

MS. CROWLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Arianna.

MS. HUFFINGTON: I predict that Senator Ted Kaufman from Delaware is going to emerge as a major leader in the Senate in the area of financial reform, challenging Chris Dodd over the details of his bill and looking for something really substantive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. President Obama will choose Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace the Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

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END.