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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW; MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 27-28, 2010

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Tea Party Pilgrims.

Thanksgiving weekend, we salute the pilgrims who came to this country in 1620 to escape state interference in religious matters. Like the early pilgrims, some say, modern-day tea-party members want to escape state intervention in personal matters.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): (From videotape.) Barack Obama's government has clearly betrayed our trust, the trust of the American people. And once again, I think the government will be fearing the people, and liberty will be refreshed in our country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The tea party came to shake up Washington, and they did it in spades. Three weeks ago, the tea partiers are said to have been essential to Republicans gaining recontrol of the House of Representatives and picking up six seats in the U.S. Senate, 47 seats to the Democrats' 53 at present.

That was the November 2 election. Now the execution -- changing how Congress works with Republicans in control of the House and in near-equilibrium with Democrats in the Senate. Two-term Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is a tea-party pioneer and co-founder of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. Bachmann says, in effect, Republican Party regulars need cleansing and purification, and tea partiers can provide that.

The tea party is not a single entity. It is 10,000 separate grassroots entities. So says The Wall Street Journal.

Question: Is the tea party a de facto third-party movement? And, if so, what are its core principles? Patrick.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not a third-party movement. It very wisely has moved into the Republican Party, and that's where it's going to remain. Its core principles, as of now -- I think they're going to be much broader than that -- dealing with the deficit and the debt and the budget and reducing the size of government.

They don't have power now, John, but they have enormous influence by virtue of the fact they purged Specter, Charlie Crist, and they purged Mike Castle in Delaware. And Boehner and the Republicans hold the positions of office, but they're influenced by the fact that these guys delivered the Congress to them. And secondly, they can purge people who are true moderates or who are RINOs, which is why you're going to see --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: RINO?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- which is why you're going to see --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's a RINO?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's Republican in name only.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, go ahead, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's a lot of dead ones. All right, but the point is that you're going to see Boehner and the Republicans move toward the tea party in a merger, which means they're really going to be at odds with Barack Obama. That's why you're going to have a deadlock.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this a merger or an annexation?

MR. BUCHANAN: No --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And, if so, if the latter, who's annexing whom? MR. BUCHANAN: What it is is the tea party are basically the true believing Christians, if you will, who came in and said, "You people have been sinning."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What makes you think it's a union?

MR. BUCHANAN: What they're doing is teaching the Republicans that "You have been sinning and you've got to get right."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's a comfortable union?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. It's natural.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Any party that has one wing purging other members of the party is not going to be a majority party for long. You have one group of, as Pat put it, I guess, the Christians telling everybody else --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- they should leave the tent of the sinners.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: And Michele Bachmann, who you highlighted in the lead-up to this, talking about this issue, she's a total media creation. But she has no power within the Congress. People within the Republican Party were not going to support her for a leadership post. She had to step down because she couldn't win.

And then you look at the heroes or the stars that emerged from this election -- Rubio in Florida; he totally says he's not affiliated with the tea party. And the tea party is targeting Scott Brown for defeat in Massachusetts because he's not far enough to the right and pure enough for them. I don't think that's a winning strategy over the long term.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're doing pretty well right now. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: It makes Pat smile for the moment, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there a bottom line there? What's your bottom line, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: That the tea party is an insurgent group within the Republican Party, and the Republican Party is now struggling to absorb it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? MR. LOWRY: I don't think there's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, welcome.

MR. LOWRY: Thank you.

I don't think they're struggling that much. I mean, if you look in the House, this leadership is not a Bob Michel leadership. It's not even a Denny Hastert leadership. Boehner and Eric Cantor are quite conservative in their own rights. They rallied the entire conference to oppose the stimulus and health care.

So if you're looking for huge divisive fights, they're just not going to be there. And Bachmann, the reason why she didn't win, one of the reasons she didn't win, that wasn't a true tea party- establishment fight. Jeb Hensarling, who is going to be in that position of conference chairman, is a down-the-line stringent fiscal conservative. So as he says, he was tea party before the tea party wasn't cool.

Basically what the tea party is, John, it's very strong conservatives. They belong within the Republican Party. That's always where they've been. They have conducted some cleansing activities, as Pat puts it. But basically it's a natural alliance.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean it's all duplicative of what's already there.

MR. LOWRY: No, I mean, it's new energy and some new people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Well, let's talk about the American Spectator. You've heard of that magazine?

MR. LOWRY: I have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a great magazine, isn't it?

MR. LOWRY: Certainly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it competitive with the National Review?

MR. LOWRY: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we'll see. MR. LOWRY: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is what they outlined as it including: 25 percent cut in federal spending. This is what she brings to the mix; that is, Palin. A balanced budget for 2011 without tax hikes; return of unspent stimulus funds -- get a load of that -- and TARP repayment.

Now, are those the conditions of the tea party?

MR. LOWRY: No, I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the reform that Bachmann is talking about?

MR. LOWRY: Balancing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's something new, isn't it?

MR. LOWRY: Balancing the budget by 2011. And we're in fiscal year 2011 right now. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Turn over your bank account, everybody. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, do you see anything -- first of all, do you think that this is a fractious relationship between the two entities? Or do you think it's smooth? Where is this thing going?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, what they have really responded to is a widespread feeling in the country that the government is too big, it is spending too much money, and we're getting involved in programs that a lot of the country doesn't think is going to work, particularly the health-care program, which really has an approval rating, after it's passed, not at the growing numbers that the Obama administration thought, but at declining numbers; a 34 percent approval rating for their major program, which, in fact, alienated the center of America and brought them into the conservative wing.

The tea party was the most vociferous of this. So they really do reflect a major, major change and sensibility in the American public. And that is why they're not a rebel group. But what they do have -- both what Pat was referring to was right -- they have a new verb in the world. It's called primary. "We're going to primary you." They are prepared to run people in the primaries against other Republicans -- it's the last thing in the world Republicans want -- if they are not conservative enough, particularly on the issues of the size of the government and fiscal spending.

MS. CLIFT: You're going to have people like -- Orrin Hatch of Utah is facing a right-wing challenge. You have stalwarts like Olympia Snowe. Of course, they're going to get at her from the right. And Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas is looking at a challenge. I just don't think that's good for any party that's supposed to be a big tent. If you want to be a majority party, you've got to be a big tent.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's let our guest in here.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Republican Party in 2006, 2008, it failed. All those people in Congress did not stand up for their principles. These people are saying, "We will." Do they make some mistakes? Sure, they do. But the energy and fire and the new blood is a very healthy thing.

MS. CLIFT: I'm not saying that's not -- that is a healthy thing. But they do not have a program to deliver on their promises.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get back --

MS. CLIFT: The notion that they're going to balance the budget without touching any of the sacred cows that matter to them is a falsity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we get back to core principles here --

MR. LOWRY: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the core principles of the tea party? One is strict constructionism -- (inaudible). The second one is limited government. And the third is fiscal conservatism -- f-i-s-c-a-l, fiscal.

MR. LOWRY: Yes.

MR. LAUER: Now, is there anything that's lacking in that regard in the existing traditional Republican Party?

MR. LOWRY: Well, that's supposed to be what Republicans have been for all along. But as Pat was alluding to, especially that congressional majority, towards its demise in 2006, had lost its way on a lot of those issues, including spending. So this is really returning the Republican Party to its roots.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it only spending?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. LOWRY: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's only the debt that's --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not only economics, John. MR. LOWRY: There are also social -- every one of these tea-party candidates is also pro-life. So there's more emphasis at the moment on fiscal conservatism, but they're also social conservatives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did they arrive at the anti-abortion position, particularly Sarah Palin?

MR. BUCHANAN: They're traditionalist conservatives, John. Also they are militantly anti-amnesty. You saw this firestorm arise a couple of times as soon as Obama starts moving for amnesty.

You saw it behind the Arizona law.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with amnesty from a conservative point of view?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm talking about the tea party. I'm talking about me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, give me --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's my kind of conservatism, not George Bush's. John, they've got a lot of other things too. They're worried about stagnant wages for 30 years. They're worried about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why are you attacking George Bush?

MR. BUCHANAN: Because I think George Bush represents a kind of conservatism --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Like what?

MR. BUCHANAN: -- that's passe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Like what?

MR. BUCHANAN: Amnesty. He's for open borders. He's for free trade. He's for intervention. They aren't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MS. CLIFT: This is a Buchanan potential campaign -- (laughter) --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Democrats have tried to demonize or satirize the tea party as too old, too white, too male, and vagrantly racist. You caught that during the campaign.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In so doing, have the Democrats permanently estranged the 40 percent of voters who say they support the tea party? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John, it was just stupid calling them evil- mongers, as Harry Reid did, and un-American, as Nancy Pelosi did. But there are a number of issues on which the Democrats can win these folks on the trade issue, where they're becoming very, if you will, you know, economic patriots is one issue the Democrats can win on.

It is a stupid thing to start smearing and attacking these people when they simply came out to protest Obama's record.

MS. CLIFT: President Obama has been calling new members of the Congress and tea-party people and basically saying he agrees with them on eliminating earmarks, which is one of their promises. And let's see if they'll fulfill that, because --

MR. BUCHANAN: They'll do that one. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: The mainstream Republicans on Capitol Hill don't want to give up --

MR. BUCHANAN: National Public Radio is the first earmark that's going.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to push their agenda on Capitol Hill, the tea party's agenda?

MR. LOWRY: Well, you have about 90 members, so this will be a balance of power in the House. But as I was saying earlier --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rand Paul? Rand Paul will?

MR. LOWRY: Well, he will in the Senate, yeah. But look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jim DeMint?

MR. LOWRY: I think the most effective members are going to be -- I would refer to them as mainstream tea-party types -- Rubio, Toomey, Ron Johnson from Wisconsin. They'll be extremely effective. They were able to reach out in the middle when they won their races in those states. Those are the guys to look to in the long term.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rubio from Florida, right?

MS. CLIFT: He --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's one thing here that we have to take into account, which really gives an impetus to the tea party, which is the weak economy. The so-called Reagan Democrats, which were white working-class people, who deserted the Democratic Party and went to the Republican Party, it's really a reflection of what's going on in terms of their jobs and the loss of the value of their homes. This is something that is at this point blamed on the Democrats. That's one of the reasons why they've moved over. So a lot's going to depend on how the economy goes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's going to be a happy union, the tea party and --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I absolutely do.

MS. CLIFT: They have --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Sure. They're all --

MS. CLIFT: They have no real --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But they have one thing -- excuse me -- they have one thing in common is they both can't stand the Democrats and they both can't stand Obama and what he stands for.

MR. LOWRY: And the key thing now --

MS. CLIFT: They have no realistic plan -- they have no realistic plan to deliver on their promise to cut the deficit. And if they fritter away their time trying to repeal the health-care bill, that could backfire on them because they're not focusing on job creation. And they have no plan for job creation either.

MR. LOWRY: The key thing, John -- the key thing --

MS. CLIFT: There's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. LOWRY: -- in American politics is independents are closer to the tea party right now than they are to the Obama Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The two sides' common animosity, intense and, they believe, quite justified towards Obama will unite them.

Issue Two: Palin in Overdrive?

FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R): (From videotape.) What an honor. We stand today at the symbolic crossroads of our nation's history.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is a price to becoming an icon. The price is overexposure, and overexposure can kill. Sarah Palin may be in jeopardy of paying this price, some say. Palin played a big role in the midterm elections three weeks ago. She endorsed 52 candidates for the House of Representatives; 37 of them won. She endorsed 10 candidates for the U.S. Senate; six of them won. Palin continues her exposure on the airwaves. She has been retained by Fox News as a regular contributor. Two weeks ago she debuted her own new reality show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska." It portrays the family-oriented side of the conservative pundit.

Many speculate that Governor Palin will run for president as the Republican nominee in 2012. But some believe that she could do more harm than good for the Republicans.

An AP poll says that adult Americans of all political stripes see Sarah Palin as the most polarizing of Republican presidential candidates for 2012. Forty-six percent of all adult Americans view her favorably, and 49 percent view her unfavorably.

Question: Is Sarah Palin more polarizing than Barack Obama? Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Sarah Palin is very popular among a small slice of the American people. And even the people who love her don't necessarily think she's qualified to be president. But she is a phenom. And anybody who can turn a failed vice-presidential bid and a half-governorship into a cottage industry deserves, you know, my admiration on the one hand.

I think if she did win the nomination, it would be the best thing for Barack Obama, because in the matchups that you see right now, she's the only one that he handily beats. I mean, she is too far to the right to win an election in this country. But I think she could win the nomination. And if she doesn't run, I would be surprised.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know whether your figures are right. Polls show that Obama is equally polarizing, with his favorable/unfavorable ratio about one to one. So what's the difference in polarization?

MR. LOWRY: They're equally polarizing at the moment. This is the key thing. Obama was not that polarizing when he was a candidate and before people got a really good dose of him. So that's a significant obstacle to Sarah Palin.

I believe she's running. I think there are a couple of key tests. One, can she demonstrate mastery of the issues? Two, can she organize a really cohesive and effective campaign? Three, can she be a little less thin-skinned at every bit of criticism? And four, will her head-to-head numbers against Obama even out, or will she go ahead a little bit? But she's a formidable political force in the Republican Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think she has the credibility to be a presidential candidate, and I don't think she's going to gain it. But the one thing that Obama is going to have to deal with, and it is going to be laid at his doorstep -- and I'll repeat it again -- is the economy. You sit there with a real unemployment rate that's close to 20 percent, housing prices continue to drop, and a mood in the American public that a lot of them are losing the middle class. I don't think Obama can recover that no matter who the opponent is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. True or false: Barack Obama is the Democratic equivalent of Sarah Palin, and vice versa? Telegenic, each on the end of his own party's ideological spectrum, both ultimately too lacking in experience to be an effective president. True or false?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Obama is now as polarizing a figure as Sarah Palin is, almost. I agree here that he was not when he was running for president. An awful lot of people wanted to take a chance on Obama. In a way he was a unifying figure. But I do agree they're pretty close right now.

Sarah Palin's problem is the Goldwater problem. She's got this enormous --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Goldwater.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- passionate following.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Barry Goldwater.

MR. BUCHANAN: But after Jack Kennedy was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who was he, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: He was our first conservative champion after Jack Kennedy was shot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What kind of a vote did he get in the general election?

MR. BUCHANAN: He got about 38 or 39 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought it was close to 33.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. Johnson won with about 61 percent. And he got the same vote basically McGovern got and George Bush Sr. got.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there should be a lesson there for you.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: To Repeal or Not To Repeal.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): (From videotape.) We've got an obligation to those who gave us more authority in the Congress than we had last Congress to try. I don't think we can simply ignore the commitments we made to the American people to try and repeal and replace this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: After their victor, Republicans are ready to take action to revoke the health-care legislation that became law in March, seven months ago. During the midterm election three weeks ago, a Rasmussen poll found that 55 percent of voters want to repeal the health-care law.

Prominent Republican congressmen have not minced words when talking about Democrat Obama's health-care bill. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell calls it, quote, "a 2,700-page monstrosity that took over one sixth of our economy," unquote.

The incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, putatively, is Paul Ryan. He calls it a, quote, "fiscal and economic train wreck for the country and for health care itself," unquote.

Republicans will need a vote of two thirds in both the House and the Senate to override an Obama veto. As for the patron of the bill, President Obama has not ruled out changing, tweaking, the existing health bill. Get this.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) Now, if the Republicans have ideas for how to improve our health-care system, if they want to suggest modifications that would deliver faster and more effective reform to a health-care system that, you know, has been wildly expensive for too many families and businesses, and certainly for our federal government, I'm happy to consider some of those ideas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Do the Republicans have the power to repeal Obamacare? If so, what is the clear legislative pathway to do so? Quickly; 15 seconds each. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, they can't repeal it, John, because the president has the power of veto and he would veto that. What they can do is defund parts of it. But I think their main hope, if they want to bring it down entirely, are these lawsuits by the attorney general of Virginia, Cuccinelli, and others. If they can knock out the individual mandate, it's non-severable. The whole thing goes down to the bottom of the sea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: They have no credible plan to replace the health-care bill, yet they talk about controlling costs. They have no credible plans. And I've said that about eight times in this show. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Say it again. (Laughter.) MS. CLIFT: So they can -- they'll hold symbolic votes. It's all about politics. It's to keep in people's minds what they don't like about the health-care plan, which doesn't even go into effect until 2014, to try to influence the 2012 election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you trying to tell me that there's no credible plan?

MS. CLIFT: That's right. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

Quickly, Rich.

MR. LOWRY: A repeal bill passes the House. It dies in the Senate. Then they'll try to chip away at some of the funding of it. And you'll see it struck down in Florida, the individual mandate.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'll say this about no credible plans. Repetition does not diminish the prayer, John. (Laughter.) They do not have a credible plan. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Thank you, Mort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think I'm with Rich on this.

Issue Four: Church and/or State?

(Begin videotaped segment.)

FORMER SENATORIAL CANDIDATE CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R-DE): Where in the Constitution is separate of church and state?

THEN-SENATE CANDIDATE CHRIS COONS (D-DE): The First Amendment. The First Amendment establishes the separation, the fact that the federal government shall not establish any religion.

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three weeks ago, Christine O'Donnell was the Republican Senate candidate in Delaware. This exchange with her opponent, Democratic candidate Chris Coons, is where some say O'Donnell lost the election.

How wrong was she? Let's take a look at the First Amendment. Quote: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," unquote.

Christine O'Donnell's alleged blunder exhibits that there is some confusion regarding what the Founding Fathers really meant. In the same election, November's midterm, there was a voter proposition on the ballot in Oklahoma to ban the use of Islamic law, the Sharia, in any Oklahoma state court. Seventy percent of Oklahoma voters voted in favor of this proposition banning it. The law has been put on hold after a Muslim Oklahoma citizen filed a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma. He claims that the law violates his constitutional rights. A decision on this law will be made in the U.S. district court in Oklahoma later this month.

This event is one of several that emphasizes differences in how Americans view and tolerate religious freedom of behavior and expression. Recall Florida Pastor Terry Jones. Fewer than four months ago, he threatened to burn the Quran, the Muslim book of faith. It became not only a national but an international issue. Top U.S. officials, including U.S. President Barack Obama and his secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, publicly rebuked Jones's plan.

What was the intent of the founders on the separation -- not the separation, but the distinction between church and state?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the purpose of the First Amendment --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The intent.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the intent was to prevent the Congress of the United States from establishing a state religion such as they had the Anglican religion in England. It was not to prevent the states -- at the time of the revolution, nine states had state religions. And at the time of the Constitution, three states did. It was to keep the government of the United States out of this issue. And basically it was to allow the people and the states to decide themselves these issues.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Judaism a state religion?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it is not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is -- does France have a state religion, namely Catholicism?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't actually know that they have it enshrined as a state religion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think they do.

MR. LOWRY: Their state religion is secularism in France, basically.

MR. BUCHANAN: Anglicanism is a state religion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about constitutionally.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think there is a constitutional --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Founding Fathers did not want anything like the state dictating what a religion was. MR. BUCHANAN: You've got the church --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But we have the military chaplains. They get paid by the state. There is some intermingling between the two.

MR. LOWRY: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When you use the phrase separation of church and state, it sounds like they're in opposition.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, what they want --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that true or false?

MR. BUCHANAN: What they want to do --

MR. LOWRY: This is the key thing. This is what O'Donnell was getting at. Some folks want to take Thomas Jefferson's language from a letter to the Danbury Baptists about a wall of separation, import it to the First Amendment, and conclude from that that government can have nothing to do with anything touching on religion, even if it's ecumenical or non-coercive, like the Pledge of Allegiance, for instance. So this is the ACLU interpretation and agenda on the First Amendment.

MS. CLIFT: All right. And then there's the --

MR. LOWRY: And Christine O'Donnell was correct to push back.

MS. CLIFT: And then there's the religious-right view, which would like prayer in the schools and would like more intrusion of religion. But we live in a very multicultural society.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two worthy gentlemen, Mr. Simpson and Mr. Bowles, submitted a debt-reduction plan for the monstrous debt of this country. Do you think Congress will pay attention to it, Pat? Yes or no.

MR. BUCHANAN: I say yes, because there's a lot of good ideas in it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: They will if they can get 14 of the 18 members on the commission to sign off on a proposal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Rich.

MR. LOWRY: The Republicans are pretty favorably disposed to it. It'll be part of the conversation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort. MR. ZUCKERMAN: I believe it will be taken seriously and it will get --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will you try to pump it up with your various --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with your various organs? I mean, your --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So to speak, yes. (Laughter.) I believe very strongly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is one can only hope; about a 50-50 chance.

Out of time. Happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble.

END.