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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: BP Blame Game.

ADM. THAD ALLEN (national incident commander): (From videotape.) This is a siege across the entire Gulf. This spill is holding everybody hostage, not only economically but physically. There will be oil out there for months to come.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The, quote-unquote, "months" that Admiral Thad Allen appears to be referring to are the months it will take to drill two new wells called relief wells. An estimated two and a half months, mid-June to late-August, those relief wells will theoretically steal the oil from beneath the current escape route and divert the gusher to two new intercepting wells, which in turn will catapult it to waiting container ships. This blueprint is stabilizing. But with up to 50 million gallons already in the water, a partial stoppage of the oil in place, and more reduced leakage to come, the crisis goes on, endangerment spreads, and most of it poisonous. Some critics are asking, where's the president -- not the BP president, but the U.S. president -- during this hemispheric crisis?

MITT ROMNEY (former Massachusetts governor and former Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) We learned today he hasn't even spoken with the chief executive officer of BP. How can it be that the person who's actually doing the work to try and cap this spill hasn't even spoken to the president of the United States? It's the president's job to be leading this entire effort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Governor Romney contrasted Obama with other crisis managers -- Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York, 9/11; JFK, U.S. president, Cuban missile crisis.

MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) That's what leaders do. Hey, look, these guys at BP have done some very bad things, and they ought to pay through the nose. And there may well be criminal liability. But now is the time for action, not the time just for rhetoric and talk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Romney says blame is one thing; management is another.

MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) He has instead spent his time blaming people. I frankly think that he's shown that in a crisis setting, where there's a deepwater oil spill, he's out of his depth. He just has not had the experience to actually lead. He's a great speaker, but not a great leader.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Romney right? Is Obama a great speaker but not a great leader? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: The truth is, Romney has nailed it, John. And that's what the country thinks right now. That was extraordinarily effect. And Rudy Giuliani is exactly right. Remember, Rudy became the personification of New York defiance. He was involved, engaged, five press conferences a day, all over this thing.

And what Romney is doing here -- and I think it's one of the best things he's done in a long time -- is indirectly, passively contrasting himself --


MR. BUCHANAN: -- as an executive, a business guy who makes decisions, on top of things, with this diffident lawyer, if you will, who hadn't even called the head of BP in something like 60 days. Can you imagine Lyndon Johnson? The first day that happened, the second day, that guy would have been in Johnson's office. He would have had him by the lapels and been in his face, saying, "What in the bleep is going on and what are you going to do about it?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what about this?

MS. CLIFT: I do agree that the president was too deferential to BP in the early going. He believed in their assurances that they could get this under control. And he also believed in the technology. He couldn't believe that, you know, we can send a man to the moon; we can't plug a hole in the ocean. The thing is, we know more about the surface of the moon than we know about the floor of the ocean.

But you talk to the governors on the ground in the Gulf, Republican governors. They are saying this president is doing everything he can. The bureaucracy is slow because it is bumping up against the enormity of this spill, which is the biggest environmental disaster we have faced.

And you can fault this president for not having enough in the way of theatrics early on. But he's making his fourth trip to the Gulf. He met with the families of those who were killed in the explosion. The BP executives are coming to the White House next week. And, you know, you can shape the BP executive by the lapels. Does anyone believe that BP is dragging their feet on this? They've got as much at stake as the president does, certainly, in plugging this hole.

MS. CROWLEY: But the question is about presidential leadership. And in a crisis, leaders lead and politicians give speeches. President Obama has given a number of speeches, but he hasn't taken a step back and been able to do what a true leader does, which is see a big picture, marshal the resources, delegate responsibility, and take control of the situation. That's why this week Gallup has him down to 44 percent job approval.

The criticism of the president is not ideological. It is about leadership. Americans hire a president to take control, not when times are good, but to lead when times are bad. And frankly, President Obama always seems a little bit stunned any time there's an unexpected or unpleasant development in the world, and he seems wholly unequipped to deal with it.

This is why there was so much criticism during the campaign of him, because he lacked any executive experience whatsoever. This is why Americans, over the last 50 years, have generally elected governors to the presidency rather than senators, because when you're in the Senate, you can pass off blame onto 99 others. When you are a governor, when you are the head of a company, you are the one who has to take the responsibility and marshal the resources and lead. And we have not seen that from this president in this crisis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think this is strategic as far as he sees it?

MS. CROWLEY: I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is to not associate yourself too closely -- let BP --

MS. CROWLEY: You know what? Yes, you're absolutely right. He has spent almost eight weeks now in this crisis trying to keep it at arm's length. Why? Because he doesn't want the blame and he doesn't want the responsibility. It's a political calculation.


MR. PETHOKOUKIS: You know, but when he hasn't kept it at arm's length, when he's actually made a decision, that's a problem, because the decisions have been the wrong decisions. He ignored Bobby Jindal when he wanted more of those barriers built. The Dutch government said, "Listen, we've got loads of skimmers. We have the greatest technology" -- totally ignored them. (He) had no idea what was going on at MMS, had no idea. Did the woman get fired? Was she still there? He had no idea.

So when the public has seen him in action, they've seen him fumbling. And that's why that criticism by Romney is going to resonate, because people at home, they see the exact same thing, that he seems diffident. He seems detached, which plays, of course, into the stereotype of him, that he's a community organizer, no executive experience. That's what we feared, and this is what we're seeing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, it's British Petroleum.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) What I don't want to hear is when they're spending that kind of money on their shareholders and spending that kind of money on TV advertising, that they're nickel and diming fishermen or small businesses here in the Gulf who are having a hard time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, so is BP having a hard time. The value of BP's U.S. stock has been cut in half since mid-April. Richard Lambert, the director general of the CBI, the U.S. (sic/means UK) equivalent to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents UK employers, says that the White House strategy is misplaced. Quote: "Apart from anything else, BP is a vital part of the U.S. energy infrastructure. So the U.S. has an interest in the welfare of BP as much as the rest of the world," unquote.

Thirty-five percent of BP is owned by U.S. shareholders. Director General Lambert said he was disturbed by the president's implied criticism. Quote: "Obviously this is a matter of concern. Politicians getting heavily involved in business in this way always is."

David Cameron, the UK prime minister, is now also in the act. He emphasized through an aide this week, "BP is a global company," unquote.

In a word, UK industry appreciates the gravity of the spill but warns, quote, "There is a danger there will be a prejudice against British companies worldwide," unquote.

Many Brits are uneasy because they think that the, quote-unquote, "attacks" on BP are dictated by our November midterm elections, which President Obama desperately wants and maybe needs to win. So the U.S. broader strategy is Obama-brand villainization, with BP in its crosshairs, and its manipulation of the blame game, whereas the real story is that BP is suffering from a hemispheric and tragic accident which the U.S. regulatory service, the MMS, if it had fulfilled its obligation, would have prevented.

Question: Beating up on BP may well play with domestic audience. Is it bad international global politics? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, there's no question that BP is responsible for this leak, and it could not or did not contain it. It didn't know how. The government has failed too. And BP should have been hit. But I will say this. What Obama and the government is doing now, they're not doing very well, and they just keep beating up on them and beating up on them. And they're driving down the stock. They're doing nothing to resolve this problem. All they're doing -- they look like politicians --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let Eleanor in.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- because that's what they are is politicians.

MS. CLIFT: I can't imagine there are many places in this country, except maybe for a boardroom of BP over in London, that is taking this line, "poor BP." They are guilty of, at the very least, negligence; probably criminal negligence. If an American company did this in the North Sea, what do you think the response of Europe would be? They'd want to nationalize that company. I think this president, if anything, has been way too measured and taken BP's assurances too easily. And I think -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that, Monica?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there is a danger now that this is tipping into a real international incident, because you have now the British government being called upon; the prime minister, David Cameron, being asked to be a lot more strident in his resistance to the attacks coming out of this White House.

Look, this is nothing new coming from this president. He needs an enemy, John. He has demonized the banks, demonized Wall Street, demonized health-care companies, demonized Fox News, demonized the Republicans. So this is his default position -- demonize.

What the White House should be doing -- there will be plenty of time to assign blame, do the lawsuits, do the culpability. But right now they should be working as partners to try to plug the damn hole --


MS. CROWLEY: -- and get the area cleaned up.

MS. CLIFT: BP had their attorneys out on the ocean hours after the explosion, trying to get workers to sign statements. The lawyers have been involved from the beginning.

MS. CROWLEY: That's not my point. My point is that they should be working together --

MS. CLIFT: Well, my point is they have --

MS. CROWLEY: -- rather than demonizing each other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: He is not demonizing BP.

MR. BUCHANAN: What good does it do --

MS. CLIFT: He is basically --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think we have any liability in this at all? Do you think --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that BP should pay all the bills?

MS. CLIFT: BP needs to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: May I read something?

MS. CLIFT: Yes. And they -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: May I read something?

MS. CLIFT: May I finish my point? They have minimized the amount of oil coming out of that hole because the fees have to do with the amount of oil. And they get tripled if there's negligence and quadrupled if there's criminal negligence. So we're talking in the billions of dollars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let me read something in the interest of elucidation, not in the interest of a personal opinion.

MS. CLIFT: Okay. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is from the government manual on what the Minerals Management Service does. It assesses the nature, extent, recoverability and value of leasable minerals on the Outer Continental Shelf. The service conducts extensive environmental studies and consultations with state officials prior to issuing leases, easements or rights of way. Once permits or other approvals have been issued, inspectors conduct frequent inspections of offshore operations and environmental studies, personnel, collect data to ensure that marine and coastal environments are kept free of pollution.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clearly there's responsibility there.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't issue the permit --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- when you're going a mile down --

MS. CLIFT: And the papers that BP submitted assured that they could take care of the walruses and the polar bears in the Gulf.

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: They knew for a year and a half --

MS. CLIFT: They cut and pasted from other jobs.

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: They knew for a year and a half there was a problem there --

MS. CLIFT: So there was lying there.

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: -- and they didn't do anything about it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who did? Who did?

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: The Clinton administration -- I mean the Obama administration. They knew for a year and a half -- I've got Clinton on the mind. Obama -- they knew for a year and a half that there was a problem there. They had a year and a half. They didn't just get into office last week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we should take some of the liability.

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: This is like the financial crisis all over again. We all know the banks were responsible, but what about the regulators? They didn't do their job in the financial crisis.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. John, the point is --

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: They didn't do their job here.


MS. CLIFT: Feed that line to the Republican candidates.

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: I don't -- (inaudible) -- but it's true.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think, when this comes to a court of law, you don't think that the BP lawyers are going to quote the obligations of the MMS --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to say, "You have liability too"?

MS. CLIFT: They may try it, but --

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, get back to your question. Look --

MS. CLIFT: -- BP is not going to walk away from this crisis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it, Eleanor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Buchanan in.

MR. BUCHANAN: The thing is, what benefit from beating the company to death? Now, they're responsible officials, but they've got thousands or millions of shareholders. They've got lots of people who are working who are innocent people involved. Let's go after the head guys that did it, but don't beat this company down to where you destroy the thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was this an accident? MR. BUCHANAN: I think it was an accident, but it was a mistake, because -- was there neglect? I think yes.

MS. CLIFT: There was negligence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think neglect?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think there was, because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the part of MMS?

MR. BUCHANAN: On the part of BP. They were not prepared to cut that thing off.



MS. CROWLEY: And MMS. But look, there is plenty of time to do the investigation and assign culpability. We still have tens of thousands of barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. We should be working together here and not assigning the blame game.

MS. CLIFT: They are. They are working together. They are working together.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

MS. CROWLEY: It's a huge waste of energy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it your felt intuition that this stream of oil coming from the seabed is permanently unstoppable?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think it will be stopped when they get the couple of extra wells in there, and they can probably cap the main one leaking. But John, this is years and years of damage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, to get the extra wells, they have to drill down for a mile.

MS. CROWLEY: They're doing it now.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're going to do that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, if BP couldn't do it, what makes you think they can do it?

MR. BUCHANAN: They're doing it. Two wells are going down right now, which should go in in August, release the pressure, and then they can cap the other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe that? MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. And I do believe there's going to be years of damage, and parts of it will never recover.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it will be stopped --

MS. CLIFT: Yes. And BP --

MR. BUCHANAN: It will be stopped.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- someday.

MR. BUCHANAN: Someday.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In your lifetime.

MR. BUCHANAN: In my time. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: BP only wanted to do one relief well, and the administration forced them to do a second one in case the first one doesn't work. So let's hope one of the two work, because I think confidence in BP has certainly eroded.

MS. CROWLEY: Do you know BP and the government have gotten 35,000 ideas from entrepreneurs and thinkers and engineers right now?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.

MS. CROWLEY: They can't process all 35,000. But one of these ideas eventually is going to work. The problem is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long is it going to take?

MS. CROWLEY: Who knows? I mean, now they're --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it take to Thanksgiving or Christmas?

MS. CLIFT: August. August.


MS. CROWLEY: They're now talking August --

MS. CLIFT: August is when the relief wells -- MR. PETHOKOUKIS: That relief well is no sure deal, let me tell you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean by that?

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: That's a very narrow target with that relief well; you know, a few inches that way, a few inches that way. It's like the size of home plate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then what happens? Then what happens?

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Oil keeps on coming. Let's bring out the nukes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, they could multiply --

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the gushing component -- the gushing force?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not inches. You're not serious about inches.


MR. BUCHANAN: You're not serious about inches. I mean, as long as they hit the same reservoir of oil --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the relief --

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: It is still a fairly narrow space that they're going to have to -- there's no guarantee -- this could go on to Christmas. And that's why I was joking, you don't want to talk about the nuclear --

MS. CLIFT: The technology of the relief well has been proven as much as anything can be proved. I think --

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Not at 5,000 feet.

MS. CLIFT: -- the odds are good that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this accident beyond science, that is, the rectification of science?

MR. BUCHANAN: You mean, is it an act of God?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No. Is it just beyond the ability of science --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it is not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to intervene? MR. BUCHANAN: It is not beyond our ability, even if it takes a long time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's beyond the present level of our science.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is. It's never happened before.

MS. CROWLEY: They would have plugged it by now.

MR. BUCHANAN: They would have had it done. They would have had it done. But they've got a number of ideas. They've got more ideas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: My thinking is that, at best, August is an early date.

Issue Two: Hear Them Roar.

Women dominated the U.S. primaries this week, and the numbers are in.

California: Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, won the golden state's Republican Senate primary.

CARLY FIORINA (California Republican U.S. Senate candidate): (From videotape.) People all across the nation are looking west and saying, "Holy cow."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican Fiorina will confront sitting Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer in November's general election, five short months from now.

Also in the golden state, another executive, the former CEO of EBay, Meg Whitman. She won California's Republican governorship primary.

MEG WHITMAN (California Republican gubernatorial nominee): (From videotape.) Here's the really good news. I don't owe anyone anything.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whitman's opponent will be Jerry Brown, California's former governor and attorney general.

In Nevada, Sharron Angle won her Republican primary with the help of the tea party.

SHARRON ANGLE (Nevada Republican U.S. Senate candidate): (From videotape.) We need to say to Harry Reid, "You have failed and you are fired. "

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican Angle will now oppose Majority Leader in the Senate Democrat Harry Reid.

In South Carolina's Republican primary for governor, State Representative Nikki Haley shut out Congressman Gresham Barrett by almost a 30-point margin, but not the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff a week from next Tuesday, June 22.

NIKKI HALEY (South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate): (From videotape.) People love the fact that South Carolina showed it was going in a different direction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All in all, party primaries were held in 11 states: Arkansas, California, Iowa, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, New Jersey, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota and Virginia.

Of the 111 primaries that took place, 76 women ran in those primaries. Forty-eight out of those 76 women won their race. That's 63 percent of women who contested the race won.

Question: How do you account for the number of successful women candidates in Tuesday's political primaries? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think conservative Republican women were really the stars this week. And I credit in part Saint Sarah. She's on the cover of Newsweek this coming week. She's credited with empowering and emboldening conservative women and maybe reshaping the religious right. And I think that looks good in primaries. I don't know how it will play in the fall when you have a broader electorate.

I think the two women in California are genuine businesswomen. They spent enormous amounts of money. Whitman spent, I think, $80 million, which works out to about $80 per vote. And they're going to position themselves as outsiders and businesswomen who are running against classical political insiders.

But Carly Fiorina, who's running for the Senate, got a rocky start when she was caught on an open mike making fun of Barbara Boxer's hair, saying it's "oh so yesterday." And these two Republican women are also social conservatives in a state that's very pro-choice. MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CROWLEY: Absolutely not. That's not true.

MS. CLIFT: So maybe those issues will be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat.

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: They are pro-choice.

MS. CLIFT: -- (cast ?) as "so yesterday."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the article on Palin snarky?

MS. CLIFT: Article on Palin snarky? No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, the Newsweek article.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John, let me talk about Palin.

MS. CLIFT: I think it reports a genuine trend. Maybe it's snarky in your view. It's about as snarky as we just were towards President Obama. Put it that way. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John, let me tell you about the Palin thing. Palin just endorsed and brought up from nothing Nikki Haley from 5 percent to be governor of South Carolina, the second primary. She endorsed the guy, Terry Branstad, who won in Iowa. He's going to be the governor. She's endorsed the governor of Texas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, she brought the tea party in.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, what I'm saying, John, is she is playing a strategic game of endorsing both moderates and conservatives. That'll help her --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she directing the tea-party stream?

MR. BUCHANAN: Your tea party, forget. She's looking at 2012.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I understand that. But de facto, is she bringing the tea party in?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. Then she's got Rand Paul and Ron Paul. She's got the libertarians.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: First of all, I need to correct something that Eleanor said. Meg Whitman is not a social conservative. She is pro- choice down the road. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: What interests me the most is that there are CEOs as women running, because --


MS. CROWLEY: -- there is a real hunger among the electorate, whether it's men or women, for people who know how to run things getting into high office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And have wealth.

MS. CROWLEY: Well --

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: You would think, after this huge financial meltdown, people wouldn't like CEOs. They wouldn't like the wealthy. That's not true. They still trust CEOs.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: The Comeback Kid.

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D-AR): (From videotape.) Your message is loud and clear that Washington, Washington needs to work for us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Arkansas incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln defied the odds and won in her Democratic runoff this week against challenger Bill Halter, 52 percent to 48 percent. She did it with presidential help -- not Obama help, Clinton help. Bubba campaigned for Lincoln on the trail and on the tube.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) If you want to be Arkansas' advocate, vote for somebody who will fight for you. Vote for Blanche Lincoln.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does this make Bill Clinton the comeback kid, or is Blanche the comeback kid?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, Senator Lincoln was struggling, And she had the endorsement of the current president of the United States, Barack Obama. That fell flat. So she called in the big guns, and Bill Clinton came down to the home state, his home state, Arkansas, and showed Obama how it's done. (Laughs.) And he was able to really help get her over the finish line in her primary. She will probably go on to lose in November. She's running 25 points behind the Republican.

But what she did very cleverly, which is a big warning sign for Democrats, is that she made the issue big labor. Big labor poured $10 million into this race backing up her opponent, a much more liberal guy, the lieutenant governor. She made the issue big labor, and then she took big labor and defined it as a proxy against unpopular Washington, and, by extension, unpopular Obama agenda. MS. CLIFT: Big labor --

MS. CROWLEY: And she did that very cleverly.

MS. CLIFT: Big labor is not popular in a right-to-work southern state, granted. Bill Clinton will be the most requested Democratic surrogate, especially for moderate Democrats. He's campaigned now with Harry Reid, who now has a chance, possibly, to hold on to his seat.

Blanche Lincoln won because she positioned herself as standing up for the people against the big banks. She's got -- she's the architect of the toughest provision to control and regulate the derivatives. And I don't know whether that's going to survive. But the Democrats, in an effort to prop her up, are going to promote her policymaking.

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: That's the lesson --

MS. CLIFT: And she's a better --

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: That's the lesson they took. That's the lesson they've taken.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. She's a better candidate now than she was before.

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Go after the banks.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the big issue --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask James this --

MR. BUCHANAN: The issue, John, is Obama.


MR. BUCHANAN: The big issue is Obama was irrelevant. He was AWOL. He was missing. Nobody cares about it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you saw what he did in California --

MR. BUCHANAN: John -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- when he went out there with Coakley.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me tell you something. Obama is --

MS. CROWLEY: Massachusetts.

MS. CLIFT: Massachusetts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Massachusetts.

MR. BUCHANAN: Many people in the Democratic Party think Obama is an absentee landlord. I would predict in 2012 he will have a challenge from the left for sure --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get back --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- and maybe something bigger than that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get back to the Clintons. We know that Bill Clinton cannot run again, notwithstanding the time that's lapsed between his finishing office. Do we want a Clinton back in the White House? Do you think that this -- people are comfortable -- would be comfortable with Hillary? And how formidable a candidate would Hillary be, say, against another woman, in fact, a Blanche Lincoln?

MR. BUCHANAN: Against Obama?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we'd have two women heading up each party.

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Well, listen, I think Hillary Clinton -- I think, had she been able to defeat Barack Obama, you know, she probably would have done, I think, actually, even better than what Barack did against John McCain. I think she would love to have the job, even if it's the number two job, being the vice president. You're only a heartbeat away. I think she would go with it. I don't think Joe Biden's going to be there for another term. I don't think he's going to be the nominee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: So there's going to be a space for her if she wants it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the Republicans need a woman on the presidential ticket this go-around?

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Listen, the knock against them is that they don't have a diverse party. But, listen, it's not that they necessarily have to have an affirmative-action thing where they'd need to have a woman. I think there's going to be plenty of very strong, qualified Republican women in 2012, in 2016. And I don't think we're going to see a Republican ticket for a long time without a woman on the ticket. MR. BUCHANAN: John, I don't know that you're going to get a woman on the ticket, because the only one you mentioned, I think, is Carly Fiorina. But I will say this. The idea of Obama being in trouble and either not running or going and dropping Biden for Hillary -- or if he stands down, Hillary running -- these are small possibilities. But I think they're real possibilities, and they are growing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's --

MS. CLIFT: You put a negative -- you put a negative spin on it. But to look at it the way it's being talked about in Democratic circles is that you use your vice president to set up your successor. And Joe Biden is likely not going to run for president because he's a senior citizen, and that Hillary could replace him as vice president. I think that is plausible; small plausibility, but it's within the realm of reality.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the condition of the Democratic Party?

MS. CROWLEY: Well, look, I think there's a real civil war going on on the other side. The Democrats like to say, "Oh, look at all the conflict going on on the Republican side." Sure, there is some. But the real civil war is going on on the Democratic side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If President Obama seeks the nomination to run for president as the standard bearer of his party in '12, will he get it?

MR. BUCHANAN: He could -- he could get it. He could be defeated. But if he is, they would lose the general.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He could be defeated?

MR. BUCHANAN: He could be defeated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has that happened before historically?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. Even Teddy Roosevelt didn't succeed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: Right. And Ted Kennedy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Garfield?

MS. CLIFT: Ted Kennedy couldn't get the nomination --

MR. BUCHANAN: Garfield was shot.

MS. CLIFT: -- away from Jimmy Carter. He gets the nomination, then he runs. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In his second term or his first term?

MS. CROWLEY: Because Ted Kennedy couldn't answer the question, "Why do you want to be president?" You know who can? Hillary Clinton.

MR. PETHOKOUKIS: Tell me what the unemployment rate is. If it's sitting at 9-plus percent, I think anything's possible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he will voluntarily probably decide not to run.