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"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, MAY 21, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF MAY 22-23, 2010

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Primary Colors -- Red and Blue.

U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE RAND PAUL (R-KY): (From videotape.) The mandate of our victory tonight is huge. What you have done and what we are doing can transform America. I have a message, a message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We've come to take our government back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The winner of the Kentucky Republican Senate primary was Rand Paul. Who is Rand Paul, and what does his victory tell Republicans? Pat Buchanan. MR. BUCHANAN: Rand Paul is a doctor. He is the son of Ron Paul, the libertarian candidate who ran in the Republican primaries; did very well in the debates but didn't do that well with the numbers.

But Rand Paul, John, is the most interesting candidate in this race, because he is the pristine example of what's happening in America. It is anti-Washington. It is anti-establishment, Republican as well as Democrat. Mitch McConnell's specially picked fellow, a good candidate, Rand Paul beat him by 25 points.

He's not only anti the welfare state. He is anti an interventionist foreign policy. In other words, he believes we ought to have only -- have wars that are declared. I think he's going to have problems and already is having them because of his libertarian beliefs. He's been critical of aspects, for example --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- of the Civil Rights Act.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Pat sum up Rand Paul, or do you want to say something about him?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I think he sums him up, actually, even more than I knew about him or cared to know. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, I think he --

MS. CLIFT: I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I think it is absolutely a phenomenon, though, that he's able to do this well. And I don't know whether it says that much about him or about the weakness of his alternative.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he rode the tea-party wagon. And he's not only for small government. He's for no government. And when he was asked about his views of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I think it came up because he held his victory party in a members-only exclusive country club. And he said if he were voting in 1964, he would have reworked that part about making businesses desegregate. And he's walked back from that position.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm.

MS. CLIFT: But I think it's made some people a little uneasy about where this man comes from and is he a throwback to an era that America does not want to relitigate and relive. MS. CROWLEY: Well, believe me, the Republican Party does not want to be catapulted back 45 years. And he did step in it with his comment about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He made a mistake that political newbies often make. We'll see if he learns from this mistake.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has he explained it away?

MS. CROWLEY: But I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has he explained it away?

MS. CROWLEY: He's tried to explain it away, yeah, and I think he's done a pretty good job of doing it. But the bottom line is that he is now, well, I would say the third-biggest victory by the tea- party movement, which I argue is no longer just a movement; it is actually mainstream America at this point -- Scott Brown; Bob Bennett, the Republican who lost his renomination bid in Utah; and now we've got Rand Paul. So this is a force to be reckoned with. And remember, it is largely based on government spending.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tea party.

MS. CROWLEY: Size of government and government spending.

MS. CLIFT: Rand Paul makes the race in Kentucky competitive. The Democrats were prepared to go down, losing that. They've got a good candidate in the state's attorney general, I believe. And I think that's now a competitive race. Rand Paul is not mainstream America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we saying that Kentucky is competitive?

MR. BUCHANAN: Rand Paul is ahead of his opponent -- I think it's Conway --

MS. CROWLEY: By a lot.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- by 25 points.

MS. CROWLEY: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he's no doubt been hurt by this dispute over the Civil Rights Act. I think he's cleaned it up. He doesn't call for repeal of it. He says it stands.

It's the law of the land.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to describe the dispute?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. Well, he basically has a libertarian point of view that the government of the United States can strike down state laws that discriminate, but if an individual business, the famous Ollie's Barbecue, if they discriminate on their own, does the federal government have the power to come in and trump --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His distinction focuses on --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- property rights?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His distinction focuses on property.

MR. BUCHANAN: Private --

MS. CROWLEY: Private property.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Private property.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- business versus public policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Now, is there anything in the Founding Fathers that suggests that private property deserves not that kind of emphasis --

MR. BUCHANAN: Jefferson. Jefferson's Declaration of Independence comes from Locke, and he talked about not just -- not the pursuit of happiness --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did he say in the Declaration?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's called life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But it used to be property.

MS. CLIFT: This is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It used to be property.

MS. CLIFT: This is a classic states' rights issue. And I think the federal government has -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excellent point.

MS. CLIFT: -- imposed its views on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's an excellent point.

MS. CROWLEY: And there is a very critical distinction to be made.

MS. CLIFT: We won't want --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Let her finish.

MS. CROWLEY: There's --

MS. CLIFT: I want to say --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, quickly.

MS. CLIFT: He also wants to repeal the Americans with Disabilities Act, and he also wants to cut --

MS. CROWLEY: No, he does not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, are we sure of that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We're not so sure of that.

MS. CROWLEY: No, no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just --

MS. CROWLEY: Rand Paul -- let's not mischaracterize his statements here. He is on the record as saying he's against repealing the ADA. But there's a really critical distinction to be made between libertarians and conservatives. Rand Paul is a libertarian. Conservatives believe that, yes, there is a role for government if, in fact, that government or its citizens are being treated in a sub-human way. That's what the Civil Rights Act was all about. Rand Paul has got some difficulties with it, but I think he cleaned it up okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Pennsylvania.

REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA): (From videotape.) This is what democracy looks like -- (cheers, applause) -- a win for the people over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The winner of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary was Congressman Joe Sestak, who defeated Arlen Specter. Who is Joe Sestak, and what does this victory tell us about the Democrats? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I want to say a word about Arlen Specter to begin with. It's a rare feat when you have the base of each party angry at you. He had the Republican base angry at him and the Democratic base angry at him. But he was a real litigator, and he put in a solid 30 years on Capitol Hill, and I think he will be missed.

I think Joe Sestak is a stronger candidate in the fall for the Democrats. He's a three-star retired admiral, Navy admiral. He served in the Clinton administration. And he's got sort of an edgy anger at Washington. And the whole Democratic establishment was against him. He won. He's sort of the Rand Paul, I guess, of the left. He is the man for this particular moment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we all agree he's a very attractive candidate.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He was 20 points behind Arlen Specter a couple of months ago. But he ran a terrific commercial, because he had a quote from Arlen Specter. Besides George Bush and Arlen Specter making nice to each other, which wasn't exactly popular, he basically had a quote of Arlen Specter saying that he had changed parties so that he could be re-elected. (Laughter.) And he said, "Well, it at least saves one job -- his." And that was a devastating commercial.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How are you impressed by this candidate?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, two things. First of all, the Republicans have been trying to get rid of Arlen Specter for a long time, and he actually did it to himself here by switching parties. That's number one. I think that was really a referendum, as Eleanor said, about how neither party trusted Arlen Specter.

But also, I think it's also a commentary on the clout of President Obama, because he is now 0 for 4. Every time he has gone into a state to campaign and support and endorse a candidate, whether it was in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and now in Pennsylvania --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The governors there.

MS. CROWLEY: -- those Democratic candidates have lost. So I think it's a real commentary --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, Obama --

MS. CROWLEY: -- on his reduced influence.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Obama is the political kiss of death. MR. BUCHANAN: John, in western --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You bring him in, you're gone.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, western Pennsylvania --

MS. CROWLEY: Could be.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- a Democratic candidate ran in the Mon Valley out there -- pro-gun, pro-life, anti-Obamacare, anti-tax. The Republicans -- it was one district up. This Democrat won by 15 points --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Fifteen points.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- running against Washington and Obama as a Democrat.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, we're going to --

MS. CLIFT: Yes, but that was a district that the Republicans said they were going to carry and it was going to be emblematic of their taking over the House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it's --

MS. CLIFT: He opposed -- he opposed repealing health care. The Republican wants to repeal health care. And he ran on not outsourcing jobs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: And he fits that district perfectly, which is how you get a majority, Pat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sestak -- Sestak is going -- MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sestak is going places.

Okay, Arkansas. Incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln defeated her challenger, Bill Halter, but she did not get the 50 percent needed to win the nomination outright. She now faces a runoff on June 8th against challenger Halter, who may have the big mo.

ARKANSAS LT. GOVERNOR BILL HALTER (Democratic U.S. Senate candidate): (From videotape.) We had a very straightforward message of putting Washington back on the side of middle-class Arkansas families, standing up for them against powerful special-interest groups.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What is the message of the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary? Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, Blanche Lincoln, the incumbent senator, who was by all accounts a very moderate Democrat, now is forced into a runoff because she couldn't win 50 percent of the vote against the lieutenant governor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But she did have a margin of what over this guy?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Two points.

MR. BUCHANAN: Two.

MS. CROWLEY: Two points.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two? Only two?

MS. CROWLEY: Two points. But she didn't score 50 percent. In three weeks they'll have to do a runoff. But I think that result is actually the direct anti-incumbency tidal wave that we're seeing here. But remember, a lot of the Democratic left very annoyed by some of these moderate Democrats, which is why MoveOn.org and a lot of the far-left groups --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Blanche do --

MS. CROWLEY: -- are putting up left-wing candidates like Sestak and Halter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Blanche do wrong by their standards?

MR. BUCHANAN: She played ball with the opposition. Anybody who's played ball, like Bennett, with the opposition -- Charlie Crist in Florida plays ball --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Bennett voted also for TARP. MR. BUCHANAN: But John, that's it. If you play ball with the opposition, the base of your party comes after you to kill you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow.

MS. CLIFT: It's also a red state that's probably going to go to the Republicans this fall, so --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Blumenthal busted.

CONNECTICUT ATTORNEY GENERAL RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (Democratic U.S. Senate candidate): (From videotape.) Now, on a few occasions I have misspoken about my service. And I regret that, and I take full responsibility.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal this week was accused of lying about having served in the U.S. military in Vietnam. Blumenthal claims that remarks of his Vietnam service were accidental, a few misplaced words. So now Blumenthal, once favored to win the seat, is in a virtual dead heat.

Here's what Blumenthal said.

ATTY GEN. BLUMENTHAL: (From videotape.) We have learned something very important since the days that I served in Vietnam.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is there any back story on Blumenthal and his falsification on having served in Vietnam? Is it possible that he can stay in the race and possibly win? I ask you, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it is possible. I think he will stay in the race, and he still has a very good chance to win. One of the things about Blumenthal and his campaign, he for years has been going around to all the veterans' groups. He's been a great advocate of them. However, this is something that is really over the line. He will lose some votes. I don't know how many he will lose. And a lot depends on who runs against him and whether --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have they exegeted his speeches to see whether he did this before?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, he did.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: My understanding is that --

MR. BUCHANAN: He also apparently said he was head of the Harvard swim team or something. But to Mort's point, he apparently has gone to virtually every funeral of any vet --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right. MR. BUCHANAN: -- who was killed. And so he's got a lot of vet support, and he's got some backing.

And he's got a good record --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, he's become kind of a (psycho ?) on this issue? Is that what you're saying?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: When he --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) No. He does a good job going to funerals of Americans killed --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, maybe he's identifying --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: When he made his retraction here, he had a dozen veterans standing behind him, supporting him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Mort, why did The New York Times splash his face the way they did on page one?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it's hard for me to quite make the same editorial judgments as The New York Times does, as you know. I really don't know why they did it. I guess they didn't have anything else to put on the front of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it was --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- the splash on the front page.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- over the edge?

MS. CLIFT: Look, it's a hot story.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It was a huge story. It was a huge story. And they made --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean a Connecticut story, a local New York story?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a national story, John.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no. The New York Times, as was said before, really has a great distribution in Connecticut, so it's a big part of their audience. MR. BUCHANAN: Also, if you lost Connecticut, you could lose the Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, are they selling papers or do they think that the merits of this story require or justify that kind of placement?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think -- here we are talking about The New York Times.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We are.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They're very happy about that, don't you think? So they were the ones --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They broke the story. They had the story.

MS. CLIFT: The story --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did they do the research on it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it was the opposition that gave them that material on it.

MS. CLIFT: The story --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And she admitted to that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, she admitted to it.

MS. CROWLEY: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's the head of the World Wrestling -- she was.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right. She is. And she's still involved in wrestling, as you may have seen from this story.

MS. CLIFT: Right. Blumenthal is emblematic of a generation of privileged young men who didn't want to go to Vietnam. He got five deferments. And now, as we look back and we really praise our troops, now he wants to align himself with the valor of the people who did go. And so I think his biggest mistake or error was in not mentioning the five deferments. He really didn't want to go. Then he did serve in a unit that never left the States.

But I don't think his misspeaking disqualifies him from public office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do not? MS. CLIFT: No. And I think he probably will survive.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, but it points to not just public character but personal character. And there are certain things you do not concoct stories about. One of them is unearned valor, especially in reference to a war where the United States lost over 58,000 men and women in uniform.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he can stay in the race?

MS. CROWLEY: I think he will stay in the race. But when you look at the polls, he's really taken a hit. He was running about 15 points ahead of all of his Republican challengers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MS. CROWLEY: Now that lead is down to two or three.

MR. BUCHANAN: It puts that state -- it puts the Senate seat in play, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Who's Responsible for Spilling the Oil?

INTERIOR SECRETARY KEN SALAZAR: (From videotape.) That responsibility, I will say, starts first with the Department of Interior and the Minerals Management Service.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What action will you take, sir?

SEC. SALAZAR: (From videotape.) We need to clean up that house.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That house is the Minerals Management Service, the MMS, a piece of the Department of the Interior. The MMS is responsible for evaluating the extent and value of leasable minerals. The MMS also develops and enforces safeguards against mineral fraud, waste and abuse.

The MMS, quote-unquote, "encourages using the best and safest technology." But Secretary Salazar says the MMS could have done more to ensure that the equipment used on offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico had, in fact, met federal standards.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): Do you believe that Minerals Management has adequately regulated blowout preventers?

SEC. SALAZAR: No. The answer is no.

(End videotaped segment.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Salazar also, in effect, admitted that the MMS had a cozy relationship with oil companies. That's because the MMS, by its charter, not only regulates oil companies, but also collects royalties from those same oil companies.

The Obama administration has already announced that it would split the regulatory section of the MMS from the royalty-collecting section. And Salazar has already shaken the MMS tree.

SEC. SALAZAR: (From videotape.) There have been people who have been let go. There have been people who have been referred for prosecution.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meanwhile, the oil from the spill has now reached the Louisiana wetlands and has begun to enter the loop current that moves from the Caribbean, south of the Florida Keys, north up the east coast of Florida.

The Salazar mea culpa was not enough for some senators who blame not only the tiny MMS, but also the Obama White House power center.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): (From videotape.) The American people are also furious that the government has allowed this to happen with no real plan in place.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does this U.S. government admission limit the liability of the commercial companies -- BP, Transocean, Halliburton and Cameron? Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it does not. I doubt if it does at all. It doesn't mean that the U.S. government may not be held liable in some way, but clearly these commercial companies are going to be liable for every bit of what they did. And, in fact, British Petroleum has already announced that they will accept what they call all -- what was it --

MS. CROWLEY: Legitimate claims.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- legitimate claims.

MS. CROWLEY: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Believe me, there's going to be a lot of legitimate claims. They cannot walk away from that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, Professor Obama, tell us about the technology of oil rigs.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn't come from the oil rigs. They came from the refineries on shore. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Those remarks were uttered about two and a half weeks before the Gulf rig explosion. How politically damaging is this Obama erudition? Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, the president was right when he made those remarks. And even in view of this oil spill, which is extremely tragic, environmentally and economically, he is still right, because these oil spills have been once in a very, very great, long time. It's a tragedy. It's an accident. But offshore oil drilling has become extremely safe. He was right about that.

MS. CLIFT: John, he was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Let her finish.

MS. CROWLEY: But the political liability to his administration is going to be whether the MMS was, in fact, blowing through environmental regulations in order to fast-track a lot of these contracts with BP to do this offshore oil drilling.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know whether this increases the financial liability of the U.S. government --

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- by reason of what he said, in part.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's a simple statement. Whether it's true or false is irrelevant. The government has -- they have contracts. But I'll tell you this, John. What it does destroy, I think, is the political credibility of the government. And the competence of the government is on the line here, and people are losing more confidence in government as a consequence of this horror show. It is almost another Katrina.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This liability is going to climb into the billions.

MR. BUCHANAN: That has nothing to do with legal cost, what he said.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. The president, at the very beginning of this, or two weeks in, anyway, when it was clear that it was a monumental disaster, said there's a lot of blame to go around, including the federal government.

This is a regulatory apparatus that has been inherited from the previous administration, and maybe going back to Clinton and before. Now, granted, it would have been nice if they had spotted the shortcomings. Instead Capitol Hill, the members of Congress, both parties and this administration took the assurances of BP that it was unlikely that a spill would happen, and if it did, it would be very small; they could contain it.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Let me finish.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We do not know --

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- what the obligation of the government --

MS. CLIFT: Mort, let me finish.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, you're not finished.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, come on.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What you're saying is wrong, okay?

MS. CLIFT: You shut me up enough.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You do not know what the government's obligation is. That's all I'm saying. You cannot make that statement.

MS. CLIFT: All I'm saying is that we now have a futuristic television movie where you have a hole in the bottom of the ocean spurting oil. And it's an ecological disaster. And I agree, it's also a political disaster.

MR. BUCHANAN: And it's getting worse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe Obama's Katrina, which was a crisis of government emergency response?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not at that level. George Bush was horribly damaged personally by his performance there. But certainly government is hurting as bad as Brownie's agency was hurt in Katrina.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this the end of --

MR. BUCHANAN: Offshore drilling?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- sea-bed oil drilling?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's the end of offshore drilling permits and new drilling for a good while.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it the end of Obama's plan to tap into that sea bed all the way from Delaware down to Florida?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would say for a year or two it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is? Only for a year or two?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think we've got to go back to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think the American people have had enough with sea-bed oil drilling --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think --

MS. CROWLEY: No. The polls --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and that we should just let it go?

MS. CROWLEY: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: You're going to shut down all those wells? No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Shut down the wells.

MS. CROWLEY: No way. No.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no.

MS. CROWLEY: No, that's not happening.

MS. CLIFT: No governor in any state that borders on it is going to approve it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a state question?

MS. CLIFT: You've got Charlie Crist in Florida, who's running. He's going to look for a constitutional amendment --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. MS. CLIFT: -- to ban it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out.

MS. CLIFT: The Bush administration, they dithered.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're over time.

MS. CLIFT: This administration didn't dither. They were overwhelmed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm interrupting because we're out of time.

MS. CROWLEY: You asked whether or not this was Obama's Katrina.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MS. CROWLEY: You asked whether this was Obama's Katrina. It is not there yet. But this well is exploding oil, thousands of barrels into the ocean every single day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Quickly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it's --

MS. CROWLEY: So it is a slow drip, drip, drip. And it could be his Katrina.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it his Katrina?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is not Obama's Katrina, absolutely not.

MR. BUCHANAN: Not yet.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is a whole different --

MR. BUCHANAN: Not yet.

MS. CROWLEY: Not yet.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It may be. But we don't know enough about it yet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It may not be his Katrina, but I think it could mark the end of sea-bed drilling.

MS. CLIFT: Sea-bed drilling. I would agree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Blair Bagged.

ADM. DENNIS BLAIR (former Director of Central Intelligence): (From videotape.) We've had a lot of success in knocking down the terrorists, so that I have pretty high confidence that the kind of thing they did on 9/11 we'd be able to stop. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Admiral Dennis Blair resigned his position as Director of National Intelligence, a position created by George W. Bush with Congress in 2005.

Question: What's the political significance of the Blair exit? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I don't know if there's political significance. I think the job is very difficult to fulfill. You're supposedly there to coordinate, connect the dots between 16 intelligence agencies.

He clashed -- Blair clashed with Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA. Then you have to get up bright, 3:00 in the morning, and get this all together and brief the president first thing in the morning. And so chemistry comes into play. I think the chemistry between him and the president wasn't very good. And I think they were looking for a scapegoat after the Christmas Day bombing when clearly somebody didn't connect the dots. And I think the finger of blame landed on him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we want to point out that the CIA is not to be buried. And I'm not accusing you of burying it, but when you mentioned 16 agencies, the CIA stands head and shoulders above them all.

MR. BUCHANAN: The CIA won the fight, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is tasked by Congress, it is tasked by the presidency, to cover the --

MR. BUCHANAN: They won the fight.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: The CIA won the battle over Blair. Blair's problems -- Eleanor states them correctly also.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's Leon Panetta.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. We had Major Hasan down at the Fort Hood massacre. You had the Detroit bombing, the Times Square bombing. He's supposed to be connecting the dots. The president's come under tremendous fire for these. And he apparently does not have that rapport. He gets there --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With whom?

MR. BUCHANAN: With the president.

MS. CLIFT: Obama.

MR. BUCHANAN: He gives the briefing -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or with Panetta?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- the briefing in the morning to the president of the United States. He does the, what is it, PDIF or president's daily brief?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: And he gives --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought Panetta was doing that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Blair does it.

MS. CROWLEY: Blair.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's why CIA --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Panetta is there?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: Panetta and Blair were in a battle over this power.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I understand. Who did the briefing for Nixon? Wasn't that the CIA director?

MR. BUCHANAN: Kissinger. Yeah. Helms comes in, but Kissinger is always -- Kissinger did most of the briefings or he'd send Haig in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: Look, Dennis Blair is a fine man. He is also one of the few grownups on national security in this administration. And he was one of the few hawks on national security. So the clashes that he was having with the rest of the Obama team handling national- security issues, from the president to the attorney general, Eric Holder, to the secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, were fierce. He was losing a lot of those battles. There was a lot of frustration happening. And this firing -- and it is a firing, because Obama asked for his resignation -- this firing comes on the heels of a scathing Senate report about the Christmas Day bombing that found 14 failures, 14 different instances where intelligence agencies and others should have prevented the guy from getting on the plane. So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And getting in the country.

MS. CROWLEY: And getting in the country over Detroit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is more than turf war.

MS. CROWLEY: A lot of it is turf war, but a lot of it is ideological too. You've got hawks and doves going up against each other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which really did the deed? Which really did the -- is it --

MS. CROWLEY: I happen to think -- I happen to think it was more ideological than personal, because when you look at the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra, he said that Blair resigned over Obama's policies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, isn't Panetta, if it was involved -- if there was a turf war involved, isn't he a savvy political insider who knows his way around and Blair does not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There are very few as savvy as Leon Panetta and very few as well-liked as Panetta. He's an absolutely centerpiece of Washington. But I'll tell you, you can't take out, in this kind of a job, the personal chemistry. He meets with him every morning. If the chemistry --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who meets with whom?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Blair --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president meets with Blair.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The president meets with Blair every morning and gives him a briefing. It usually takes from half an hour to an hour. It's an intelligence briefing on all the national security --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't they have the CIA doing that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Because he is now -- they used to have the CIA doing it.

MR. BUCHANAN: They did it before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know. But, you know -- MS. CLIFT: It's too inbred.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, this is -- they've decided that, based on what happened with the CIA, that they had to redo -- I mean, after all, 9/11 they considered was a huge violation of our national security. And so this all came out of that. And they decided they would integrate all of the different intelligence agencies. And this is -- he is the personification of it. But it is not working.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We do know that Panetta and Blair clashed.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We do know there were recommendations for covert action by Blair.

MR. BUCHANAN: Blair wanted to take over the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Panetta was not crazy about those. Do we know that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Panetta wanted to keep the station chiefs of CIA naming the top agents in country. Blair wanted that authority. John, Leon Panetta is such a good bureaucrat. He survived two years as assistant secretary for civil rights in the Nixon HEW.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: We tried to get rid of him I can't tell you how many times. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And if you had to choose between Panetta and Blair, you would definitely go with Panetta, which is not to take anything away from Blair.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye.

END.