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, APRIL 9, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF APRIL 10-11, 2010
Copyright (c) 2010 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500 1000 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please visit http://www.fednews.com or call(202)347-1400
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Straighten Your Posture.
DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: (From videotape.) The Department of Defense is releasing the Nuclear Posture Review, a report that outlines a balanced and comprehensive approach to dealing with the role of nuclear weapons in America's national security.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Nuclear Posture Review. The review focuses on three types of weapons of mass destruction: Nuclear, biological, chemical.
First, nuclear. If a country uses a nuclear weapon against the U.S., a U.S. retaliatory nuclear strike is an active option. Second, biological-chemical weapons of mass destruction. If a country were to attack the U.S. with a biological or chemical weapon, a U.S. nuclear strike is off the table if two conditions are both met: One, the nation attacking the U.S. with germs or chemicals has no nukes; two, the same nation attacking the U.S. with germs or chemicals is ostensibly abiding by its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments.
Secretary of Defense Gates outlined the U.S. non-nuclear response to a biological or chemical attack if both conditions are met.
SEC. GATES: (From videotape.) If any state eligible for this assurance were to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies or partners, it would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secretary Gates also isolated North Korea and Iran as exempt from the assurance of a non-nuclear response.
SEC. GATES: (From videotape.) We essentially carve out states like Iran and North Korea that are not in compliance with NPT, and basically all options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How much of a policy shift is this? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a major policy shift, and it's a very foolish, lawyerly shift. Before the Iraq War, Desert Storm, James Baker called out Tariq Aziz and he said, "If you use chemical or biological weapons on our invading troops into Kuwait, we will use everything on you." And they didn't use those particular weapons. He's making a terrible mistake.
Secondly, Eisenhower, 1953, sent word to the Chinese, "You stop the war in Korea or we take the lid off the weapons use." We got a truce in six months.
Third, 1958, war in the Taiwan Strait, Eisenhower says, "Shut it down or it's going to go up the stairs," in other words, threatening the possible use of atomic weapons. And he made peace.
All three times these subtle or hidden threats worked. And he's given up our ambiguity.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you get the point about ambiguity?
MS. CLIFT: I get the point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He surrendered ambiguity, and that's a strategic ambiguity. MS. CLIFT: We live in a different world. We don't live in a bipolar world where we're worried about some Soviet general launching a weapon from Minsk. We're worried about nuclear material floating in on a boat launched by perhaps some terrorist group.
What this president is looking for is more certainty, clearer rules, more engagement with other countries around the world. And that is what this Nuclear Posture Review is telegraphing.
The purpose of nuclear weapons in today's world do not make the U.S., or indeed Russia, safer. They are an incentive for secondary players and rather rogue nations to accumulate them. And he's trying to reverse that. You do find some bipartisan pressure now towards his goal of a nuclear-free Europe.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: This change in American nuclear doctrine is another piece of evidence that this president considers American power a problem in the world rather than a solution. You do not telegraph to your enemies what you are prepared to do and what you are not prepared to do. This is commander in chief 101. You set out to keep your enemies off balance, constantly making strategic calculations about what the commander in chief will do to you.
There is a reason why the United States was able to keep the peace for all the decades of the Cold War, because our enemies knew that perhaps the American commander in chief just might nuke 'em. And this goes all the way back to Harry Truman, who actually did nuke our enemies at the end of World War II and brought that war to a close.
You do not strip the United States of our superiority, which he's also trying to do through the START agreement. And you also don't strip the American superpower of its ability to keep peace in the world. And that's what this does.
By the way, he also carved out -- as you pointed out, he carved out special exemptions for Iran and North Korea. That's smart. But you know what? It sounds very familiar. It sounds like the axis of evil; another piece of evidence that Bush was right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think any --
MS. CLIFT: What is the situation where you would envision the U.S. using a nuclear weapon?
MS. CROWLEY: You don't -- Eleanor, it doesn't matter. You don't take any option off the table.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort --
MS. CLIFT: It is not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
Okay, ladies, hold on.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, let me just say one thing about this. It's certainly going to create a lot of incentive for people to develop biological and chemical weapons, because that's going to be, shall we say, the weapons du jour. Those are going to be very difficult, I might add, to trace back to individual countries. So I actually happen to be in favor of reduction of nuclear capabilities and weaponry. A lot of them are old weapons, old rockets, and I'm not sure that they serve quite the same purpose that they did.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we're doing that now --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But it's not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the START treaty.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not only that, but we -- when Bush, who favored some of this reduction as well, I might add, but he had three exceptions. One is for nuclear -- for biological and chemical agents, and for a very major conventional attack. So you keep at least that option. So in a sense, I think he went further than that. It's my understanding that Gates was opposed to the elimination of that exception.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of the ambiguity?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that this is going to be an inducement of any kind for Iran to come around in view of the fact that we're not forbidding them, with a nuclear attack, from using germ weapons against us? MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think this is going to change any piece of Iran's policy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Cheney's world.
MS. CLIFT: No, the U.S. conventional military fire power is so overwhelming in the world that any attack on us could be answered. Any biological attack could be answered by that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not sure that's the point. We're talking about deterrence.
MS. CLIFT: And what is the state that would be doing this?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about deterrence.
MS. CLIFT: We're talking about terrorists.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Cheney's world.
Let's remember that, treaty or no treaty, there exists a supervening authority that the president holds, and only he or she holds that authority if the United States is attacked with a nuclear bomb or a nuclear warhead.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: (From videotape.) When you take the oath of office on January 20th of 2001, as we did, you take the oath to support and defend and protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The president of the United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States. He could launch kind of a devastating attack the world has never seen. He doesn't have to check with anybody. He doesn't have to call the Congress. He doesn't have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is former Vice President Cheney correct, namely, that the president has the authority to respond to a nuclear attack on the U.S. with a retaliatory nuclear attack on the aggressor nation? I ask you, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: That's exactly right. That's what Jack Kennedy told the Soviet Union he would do if nuclear missiles were fired out of Cuba against any city in the Western Hemisphere. There would be a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union, which he alone could have ordered.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the commander in chief doesn't have to go to anybody else in order to make that judgment and call for the action. MR. BUCHANAN: But here's the thing. I think the president does have the power to do this initially to retaliate. But I do think, once the first exchange goes, I think you've got to go to Congress to get the authority to wage continual war under the Constitution. I think the president's got the power to do pretty much anything he wants.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, suppose there is a matter of time involved.
MR. BUCHANAN: Then the president acts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president can act.
MS. CLIFT: But this discussion --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, this is a very tender question. Let me hear from you.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I -- A, I think the president has that power. And B, because of the world that we live in, that power --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meaning what?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, where you have the capacity for a devastating nuclear attack --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the second one.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And a second, yes. But we have to be able to respond, absolutely, quickly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he can do it on his own authority by going to no one --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- not the chiefs of staff, nothing.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, amongst other things, what if you do this while most of the missiles are in the air? You can't wait for --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he can call up NORAD and say, "Okay, go with it."
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.
MS. CLIFT: That was more a propos to the world we used to live in when there were two superpowers and we were living on trigger's edge.
What we live with now are terrorists and the likelihood of non- state actions where you don't know who is launching whatever. And the proper response is not a president acting on his own and showering bombs. This is a scenario that is not likely to happen, while many other scenarios are likely to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.
So on the basis of the improbability --
MS. CLIFT: And that's what this president is addressing --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of the scenario --
MS. CLIFT: -- the real world. The real world of terrorists is what we're looking at.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let her in. Let her in.
MS. CROWLEY: The Founding Fathers deliberately vested the commander in chief with that power so that he could act with dispatch in immediate crisis situations. But Obama's whole strategy --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you approve? Do you approve of this?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes, of course.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's an enormous power.
MS. CROWLEY: Oh, of course it is, but deliberately so and appropriately so. But Obama's whole approach here is to try to set an example --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MS. CROWLEY: -- for the rest of the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.
MS. CROWLEY: And the United States will not follow.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the case of a nuclear attack on the U.S. by another country, would President and Commander in Chief Barack Obama push the button in retaliation, or would he shrink from using the retaliatory nuclear weapon? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: I hope he would use the weapons, if he used them, against their forces and not their cities. I don't know whether Obama would do it. My guess would be he would have to. He would sit down. He would have to do it -- nuclear attack. MS. CLIFT: This is not the scenario we're going to face. This is political gimmickry designed to make President Obama look somehow weak because he's trying to put us on a path to a world where we can lessen our reliance on nuclear weapons. The danger of nuclear material is from loose nukes and unsecured material. And there will be a summit in Washington early next week where over 40 heads of state --
MR. BUCHANAN: Big stuff.
MS. CLIFT: -- will be here talking about trying to rid us of this really Frankenstein of history.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the big --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her in. Let her in. We'll get back to you.
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me talk about the summit very quickly.
MS. CROWLEY: Okay.
MR. BUCHANAN: The summit -- let me talk about it. The big issue in the summit -- Mort and I were talking about it -- is Netanyahu is not coming to the United States, because a trap is being laid at this summit by Egypt and Turkey, which are going to call for a nuclear-free Middle East. Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons. It signs the NPT. It allows inspections. Israel does the same. Then they ask Barack Obama, "Are you for a nuclear-free Middle East? Will you join us in this?"
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know that --
MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it. I'm sorry, Monica. Monica didn't get a chance to respond.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, first of all, we have to establish that Israel has the bomb, because the charade goes on with regard to -- and it's an accepted charade -- about DeMonen (sp). Can you tell us anything about DeMonen (sp)?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I can tell you that it's a very well-known name in Israel. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean because it has a nuclear research center?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look -- yes, it has a nuclear research --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no doubt that Israel has the bomb.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, there's always a constructive ambiguity which they deliberately keep, and have for many years, for all kinds of good reasons, as you know. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that ambiguity -- you call it ambiguity, but you're the only one who sees it as ambiguity. I mean, you can pretend it's ambiguity.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I didn't say it was just ambiguity. I said it was constructive ambiguity. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's become, however, a term of derision in describing Israel because it is an obvious -- not an illicit, but it's an obviously -- it's kind of a charade?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, they are 7 million people in a sea of hostility, okay.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And they want to make sure that people understand there is the possibility of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, why don't they present that case -- why not present that case to the world?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think, on many levels, they've tried to. Sometimes they've succeeded.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have they signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, they have not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that your point?
MR. BUCHANAN: South Africa had a secret bomb also, John. No, they have not signed the Nuclear --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you recommend that they sign it?
MR. BUCHANAN: If I were Israel?
MS. CLIFT: The purpose of the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No?
MS. CROWLEY: The purpose of that is international pressure to disarm Israel. To answer your exit question, if I could just get in very quickly, the potential scenario, God forbid, is that Iran or North Korea or any other rogue state -- there are a lot of them seeking nuclear weapons, like Venezuela and Syria -- that they either launch against the United States or they pass off the materials to a terrorist. MS. CLIFT: Sarah Palin --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, Buchanan put us off the track here. We were talking about the psychology of Barack Obama.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does anyone on this set feel that, given an attack by a nuclear power on the United States with a bomb, that Barack Obama is psychologically deficient in being able to say, "I will nuke that nation"?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I believe he will, because otherwise we suffer a first strike --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You believe that.
MS. CLIFT: What nation is this bomb coming from?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- a first strike -- just a minute.
MS. CLIFT: He asked me a question. What nation is this bomb coming from?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if it's a nuclear bomb, presumably, and it's an attack on us, it's an enemy nation.
MR. BUCHANAN: He would have to obliterate them or --
MS. CLIFT: Well, let's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, let's establish that they know --
MS. CLIFT: Let's get this down to reality.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's say he knows definitively that the bomb is coming from this nation. It's a hostile bomb.
MS. CROWLEY: North Korea; Iran; Pakistan, if Pakistan is overrun.
MS. CLIFT: By then, Sarah Palin will be president. By the time --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. I think she's declining to answer the question. MR. BUCHANAN: He would obliterate the country or he would be impeached.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MR. BUCHANAN: He would obliterate the country that attacked us, one way or another, or be impeached.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we all agree, except Eleanor, who's declining to answer.
MS. CLIFT: No. The Nuclear Posture Review says that you will respond to an enemy nation, right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's not the question we're --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're saying whether or not --
MS. CLIFT: Well, that's the question I'm answering. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, he's a deal maker. And thank God he is a deal maker. He's a good deal maker. And I think he also --
MS. CLIFT: And he would think long and hard --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He always thinks that a deal can be made.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You have -- no president can withstand a first- strike capability and not respond.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We all believe that he would take the action of any commander in chief under those circumstances; namely, he would retaliate in kind.
Issue Two: Even Barack Is Counted.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Age: 48 years old -- old man.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. Census is in full Census mode. The decennial Census profiles the population of the country. Census forms have been sent to 120 million households. The bureau wants Americans and legal residents to give their most personal information -- name, address, marital status, income, date of birth, race. Even illegal aliens are encouraged to fill out a confidential Census form, and they have been given their assurance that their anonymity will not be disturbed by the Census-taking.
Census information will be used to determine where federal funds should go and whether states should continue to have the same number of congressional districts or gain some or lose some. The federal government is the custodian of personal information of every resident in the nation. So should we be concerned about our privacy?
ROBERT GROVES (U.S. Census director): (From videotape.) One of the proudest things I think I can say is we have a set of laws that protect the confidentiality of your answers to the nth degree. And that's a good thing for us.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not everyone is convinced.
KEVIN GUTZMAN (professor, Western Connecticut State University): (From videotape.) Well, we don't have any reason to think they would keep this kind of thing secret. There's never been any success in any government effort to keep this kind of information secret.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The professor may have history on his side.
Item: World War II. The federal government used Census information to intern thousands of Japanese and Japanese-Americans.
Item: Post-9/11 terrorist attacks. The Census Bureau in 2004 gave information on Arab-Americans to the Department of Homeland Security. That history may be why nearly half of all Americans are not confident that the federal government will keep their personal information confidential. In fact, 49 percent doubt it.
Question: The Census Bureau has a track record on safeguarding data. How good are the safeguards? Monica.
MS. CROWLEY: Well, you just laid out a pretty -- some pretty difficult examples here for the Census. But, look, I think, by and large, over the years they have done a pretty good job at keeping the material confidential.
The problem is, you know, if you think there are worries here about the Census keeping your information confidential, wait till the federal government gets hold of your health records.
First of all, there is a lot of potential for fraud. There was a big story last week about the Census sending out duplicate forms. I filled out my Census, and I believe everybody should. It's a constitutional requirement. You should do it. It's all about the allocation of funds and also redrawing congressional districts. So everybody should do it. I didn't find the questions particularly intrusive. I did think it was a little race-obsessed. But apart from that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A little what?
MS. CROWLEY: Race-obsessed. I found the form a little race- obsessed. I don't think they need all of that information about your race. But setting that aside, the potential for fraud -- after I mailed in my Census, two days later I got a second form. And there was a story last week about how they made a mistake and sent out duplicate forms to millions of people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. No, I had the same experience, actually. I do think it's perfectly okay. You know, we need this kind of information for all kinds of purposes. It's the only way to get it. And there's no other agency that's going to be able to do this on a national basis. It's one of the, you might say, complications of living in a modern state.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard of ChoicePoint?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: ChoicePoint. You can get all kinds of data with that.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, there are many places where you can get data.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can get far more data there.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, there are all kinds of -- your credit cards, all that information gets distributed. This is much less, in many ways --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Credit bureaus do this all the time.
MS. CLIFT: You know, a lot of life is about tradeoffs. And actually there's a lot good that the Census does. And the risk of losing valuable information is really quite minimal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do we --
MS. CLIFT: And the same thing is true of the health-care guarantees that we're going to get as a society.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Privacy is gone. Privacy doesn't exist.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The computer has made that perfectly clear, if any additional proof was needed.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you're exactly --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But then you have ChoicePoint that collects it. You have credit bureaus.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, you're exactly right. MS. CLIFT: So why don't you buy stock in ChoicePoint? That's the American way. (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: I filled out the Census form. It was very simple. It took about 10 minutes to do it. I didn't find it intrusive at all.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think privacy is gone?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think you are right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is privacy gone?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think you are right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a happy surrender?
MR. BUCHANAN: It is -- look, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The younger generation says, "What difference does it make?"
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It makes a difference.
MR. BUCHANAN: Your telephone records are forever. Your tax returns are in there forever. Your medical information is out there. It's all out there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is your privacy gone?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't feel it's gone. I mean, I've never felt my privacy was gone. The only thing that I was worried with Pat was whether or not he had enough space --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can be hacked.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- to get his income into it. That's what I worried about.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His income? What about thine? Is it still two, two and a half, or --
MR. BUCHANAN: Where are you on the 400 list, Mort?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the billion dollar --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) He dropped. I'm sure he dropped. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Which is more likely to compromise your privacy, the data your doctor will soon put into electronic medical records or the data the Census Bureau collects every 10 years? Pat Buchanan. MR. BUCHANAN: No question -- the doctor's data.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but the doctor's data can also save you from taking medicines that contradict each other and from having to visit several different specialists. Like I said, life is a tradeoff.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you can call from Hong Kong and say, "I've got a seizure or a heart attack," and you can get it sent to you immediately, and the cardiologist there can save your life.
MS. CLIFT: That's a good thing.
MS. CROWLEY: And now, under Obamacare, your medical records will be available to the secretary of Health and Human Services and the millions of people in that bureaucracy, as well as the IRS, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MS. CROWLEY: Can't wait for that.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I think there's no doubt the medical records are much more of a risk in many ways.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think there's a risk on either side.
Issue Three: Obama's Volte-Face.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) We're announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration, but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America's natural resources.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama last week announced that he was lifting restrictions on U.S. domestic offshore oil drilling. Offshore oil drilling along most of the Atlantic coastline and Alaska had been banned for two decades. The removal of the ban will now open up 1,000 miles of the Atlantic coastline, from Delaware to central Florida, the north coast of Alaska and the eastern Gulf of Mexico, to oil and natural-gas exploration.
It also signaled an about-face, a volte-face, from his position on energy policy when he campaigned for president two years ago.
THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) When I'm president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida's coasts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So why the switch? Mr. Obama claims it's to make American energy independence no longer reliant on foreign oil. Question: What accounts for Mr. Obama's flip-flop on offshore drilling? I ask you, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think you could probably also find it from the campaign where he actually did open the door to that. And this is a concession, obviously, to the other side in the hopes that he's going to get cooperation for a larger climate-change treaty. And the initial reaction from the Republicans is "Oh, you didn't open up enough drilling," and they rebuffed him.
But behind the scenes, there's work going on. You've got John Kerry, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Joe Lieberman working together. I don't think it'll come to fruition this year, but I think next year there will be a lot of pressure on Congress to act on climate change, in part because the EPA will start issuing regulations. And the business community would rather have legislation than regulation. So this is a building project.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --
MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you, the EPA starts issuing regulation saying carbon dioxide's a poison, starts shutting down business, that will be the end of Obama. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Is Obama a triangulator?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision, including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling. Now, on the other side, there are going to be some who argue that we don't go nearly far enough, who suggest we should open all our waters to energy exploration without any restriction.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is this statement Obama's first attempt at Clinton-style triangulation, Monica?
MS. CROWLEY: Well, it may be, but only if he really follows through, because he left out huge swaths of proven oil reserves where we know that we can drill, and drill immediately. And it's not going to be tied up with years of exploration --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Like where? MS. CROWLEY: -- and environmental suits. Off of the East Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of California, and also in Alaska, which Sarah Palin has been arguing for for a long time.
But, look, you asked a question about why he did this. Number one, to try to get cap and trade through the Senate, where it's the Democrats from coal-producing states like West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania who are holding it up; and number two, because gas now has climbed to over $3 a gallon. It might be headed to $4 a gallon. We're heading into the summer driving season. And the last time gas was that high was the summer of 2008. President Bush got blistered for that. And Obama's trying to do a preemptive strike here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has the tragedy in West Virginia weakened the case of those senators?
MS. CROWLEY: I don't know, because it's still such a huge part of the economy in those states.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, take a look at energy. Look, what did you -- when you were a boy, Grand Coulee Dam, Hoover Dam were built, the greatest dams in the world. We invented nuclear power. We've got enormous reserves of coal. We've got a lot of oil. And we can't make ourselves energy-independent.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MR. BUCHANAN: Something's wrong with this country.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We are at the point in this country where nobody can take a short-term cost for a long-term national gain. That's what's going on. It is ridiculous that we are spending vast amounts of money giving it to the worst people in the world to pay for oil when we have the oil within us.
MS. CROWLEY: Right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And this has become an issue that has been so overblown, it's just a real tragedy for this country.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we have to remember that it's 125 miles off the coast.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that's a pretty substantial clearance area.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but there's --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.
MS. CLIFT: The environmental case also to be made that you don't want to drill everywhere. MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not arguing there isn't --
MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody agrees with that.
MS. CROWLEY: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A lot of this is a tradeoff.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not an environmental issue.
MS. CLIFT: Well, people do agree with it, and they happen to be Democrats.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It has become a political issue. And it's become a political issue garnered by a very small portion of the people. And the national interest is being sacrificed.
MS. CLIFT: But it's also a political --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Crush the environmentalists.
How many opportunities will President Obama have to appoint Supreme Court justices before the end of his first term? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: He's got Stevens. He's going to get one more.
MS. CLIFT: He's got Stevens. He may get a second.
MS. CROWLEY: Yes, I agree. He'll have a grand total of three.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He'll have three before his term is ended.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He will have three before his term is ended.
Don't forget to friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.