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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; JONATHAN CAPEHART, WASHINGTON POST TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2011 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 26-27, 2011

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Issue One: Gadhafi Crackdown.

LIBYAN PRESIDENT MOAMMAR GADHAFI: (From videotape, through interpreter.) I am a fighter, a revolutionary. I will die as a martyr at the end.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Libya this week, thousands of protesters demanded that the Libyan head of state, Moammar Gadhafi, surrender his dictatorial power. Libya is a big nation, sandwiched between Egypt and Tunisia on the Mediterranean Sea. Gadhafi has been in power for more than 40 years, since 1969.

Gadhafi is not stepping down. He is cracking down -- cracking down on protesters. Libya's security forces are shooting protesters in the streets, shooting to kill. Death toll estimates have ranged from 1,000 to 300. But Gadhafi's hold on the country is slipping. The protesters gained the eastern section of the country in five Libyan cities.

Throughout Monday and Tuesday, President Obama was silent on the Libyan crisis. Late on Wednesday, Mr. Obama broke his silence with carefully chosen words.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) First, we are doing everything we can to protect American citizens. That is my highest priority. In a volatile situation like this one, it is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice and that that has been our focus. The entire world is watching.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What's the reason why President Obama has been hesitant to speak out against Gadhafi? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it was a very weak statement, John. But the reason he's been hesitant to speak at all is that there's 6,000 Americans, something like that, as of Friday, still in that country in various places. You've got a megalomaniac over there who's responsible for the Lockerbie massacre. He could attempt reprisals against Americans, the shooting of Americans, a hostage-taking and all the rest.

But this crisis, John, Gadhafi is approaching his end right now, and my view is a lot of people are pushing for American intervention. But if anybody's going to go in to stop some kind of massacre going on or he starts using poison gas, it really ought to be a NATO operation, and the Italians and the others ought to go in first for this reason. This used to be an Italian province. We've got no vital American interests there. It was put together basically by the Italians, you know. The eastern part of it that's broken away, the Italians captured in 1912. Rommel left in 1943.

This is -- I mean, this is a problem for the international community. If somebody's got to move, we should help. But we should not take the lead and go do another --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's what he said. That's what he said.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, but I do agree with folks who say --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Multilateral.

MR. BUCHANAN: But I do agree that it was a very, very weak statement, weaker than anybody else has delivered; the Europeans, for example.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor. MS. CLIFT: I think the president is handling it tonally just right. First of all, there are Americans over there. He's dealing with a lunatic personality, a personality who has chemical weapons. You don't want to do anything to set off those trip wires or create a hostage situation.

Secondly, I think, you know, this is not a fight that America is in the middle of. This is more of a European concern. And the president is right that you have to speak with one international voice. I'm sure if there is a NATO operation, if it does get to that, if they do want to pursue a no-fly zone, the U.S. will be right in the middle of that.

You almost wish that we had a sort of standing peacekeeping force that could be dispatched, but we don't. And the U.S. doesn't want to own this crisis because there's too much anti-American sentiment over there. And a U.S. intervention could come back and really hurt us in the end.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the Europeans want a big influx, a huge influx of Libyans --

MS. CROWLEY: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- into their territory?

MS. CROWLEY: No, obviously not. But I disagree. I think this is an example crying out for American leadership. Actually, over the last two years there have been two crystal-clear examples that have just cried out for American presidential leadership. One started nearly two years ago with the Iranian revolt. That is ongoing. And the second now is Libya.

You are dealing with two regimes in Iran and Libya that are enemy regimes of the United States, state sponsors of terror, exporters of terror. And the peoples in those two countries are crying out for some sort of moral support.

Nobody is asking for the 10th Infantry Division to walk through Tehran or walk through the streets of Tripoli. But the president of the United States absolutely in this case should have come out with a much more morally clarifying statement and much earlier than he has. And as for the 6,000 Americans, what he ended up doing, Obama, was treating them as if they were already hostages by backing off and not doing anything immediately.

Remember, President Reagan called Moammar Gadhafi in 1986 "the mad dog of the Middle East." Well, compared to this, President Obama is like the chihuahua of the West. Where is the presidential leadership?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jason, do you think the president's speech on this was measured and appropriate? MR. CAPEHART: I think the president's speech was measured. I think it was appropriate. I agree with both Pat and Eleanor -- I think this might be a first -- that, you know, I think tonally the president has gotten it right, but I also think that the United States -- and President Obama is mindful of this -- cannot go into this alone.

One, the United States doesn't have the same leverage in Libya as it did in Egypt. And also, again, as Pat said, this is a European affair.

If anything is going to be done, it's going to have to be done through the international community. It cannot be led by the United States, and it's going to have to be led by the Europeans.

And just one other word of caution. As we saw happening in Egypt, there are lots of things that are happening behind the scenes, out of the public view, that we don't know about yet. So while everyone is criticizing the president for not doing anything, I think down the road we're going to hear about all sorts of things the administration has been doing behind the scenes to get a handle on the situation, to protect American lives on the ground, to protect not only American interests, but European interests, because, let's not forget, I mean, Libya has got oil.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, more Moammar.

Moammar Gadhafi spoke to the Libyan people on Thursday by telephone. His one-hour message was transmitted by Libyan TV and rebroadcast on the Al Jazeera website. Gadhafi tried to shift the blame to another outlaw, Osama bin Laden, and a supply of drugs for the uprising. He also minimized his role in Libya's government.

PRESIDENT GADHAFI: (From videotape, through interpreter.) Once they drink these pills, they let them go out on the streets and start committing criminal acts. The requests are not theirs. The requests come from bin Laden. I have become more of a symbolic leader. There are institutions that handle the issues of the state.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Obama bin Laden in any way behind the Libyan Gadhafi putsch, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) This one he didn't do. And I don't think Nescafe is responsible either, although its sales are going to go down. Obama -- I mean, what's his name -- Gadhafi said they were putting it in the Nescafe, these pills. But, no, he is not, John.

But, you know, the United States of America, I think it's important here, unless there's a massive bloodbath or chemical weapons are not used, that we let the Libyans win their own revolution against these individuals. They do it themselves on their own. Then, if they want folks to come in and help them rebuild their country, aid and things like that, I think that's vitally important -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- that we don't win their revolution for them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think you're going soft on Osama? Remember, he was responsible for 9/11, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: But listen, there's no doubt that what-you-call- him hates him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gadhafi hasn't perpetrated a 9/11.

MR. BUCHANAN: He sure has, a little 9/11, Lockerbie. That is his baby, 100 percent.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's true. That's true.

MS. CLIFT: -- the only way Osama bin Laden enters into this picture is if part of that country does become an ungoverned state, and it could become a haven for terrorists. I mean, that is an outcome that we don't want. But this is an unhinged personality. And the president is trying to balance American national security interests, because he has actually been an ally. He gave up his weapons-of-mass-destruction program under the Bush administration. And he's been playing ball with us. And so -- and he's controlling a lot of oil. So this is one of those tightrope situations.

MS. CROWLEY: Well, we don't have any evidence that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda per se are behind this. But Gadhafi may actually have a point in that there is the hidden hand of Islamism moving through all of these revolutions, definitely in Egypt from the very beginning in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood. You have Iran making mischief in Bahrain. And now in Libya you have an al Qaeda affiliate operating in the east called the Libyan Islamic Liberation Group.

So bin Laden is not directly this per se, but you cannot exclude the influence of some very dark --

MS. CLIFT: That's more paranoia than --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to carry that down?

MR. CAPEHART: Yeah. No, no.

MS. CROWLEY: It's the fact. It is the fact.

MR. CAPEHART: I mean, come on, we're talking about Moammar Gadhafi, who's laying blame on Osama bin Laden. And from what I understand, Gadhafi and the Libyan regime, whenever anything goes wrong in that country, they blame al Qaeda. It's this umbrella name for anything and anyone who's against the regime. So, you know, I'm going to take what I just saw in that clip as just a madman proving he's a madman.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's deranged, John. The guy's -- but that's what makes him especially dangerous.

MS. CROWLEY: But that's not the question. That's not the issue.

MR. BUCHANAN: But the point is --

MS. CROWLEY: The issue is, who is orchestrating or at least having a hidden hand in running or managing --

MR. CAPEHART: Obama bin Laden has had --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CROWLEY: I'm not saying it's bin Laden. I'm saying it's the Islamists.

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

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.)

MS. CROWLEY: No, it's the facts, Eleanor. Wake up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is now the time to topple Gadhafi through decisive U.S.-European action?

MR. BUCHANAN: Decisive Libyan action. Let the Libyans do it first. If there's a horror show that starts up there, have the Europeans go in, with the Americans backing them up. If they start killing Americans, shoot down his planes. But don't go in unless our own people are imperiled.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think it's awfully hard for the world to stand by if this really does turn into a horror show from the skies. But I'm with Pat in the sense that I think this is not an American show. This is mostly a European show. And it has to be collective NATO action. And I think over the weekend, after we finish taping this show, there's going to be a lot of conversations going on, and things could change very rapidly.

MS. CROWLEY: And I think if it does come --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? Do you think it's time to topple him now? MS. CROWLEY: Absolutely. I think, you know, he's been in power 42 years too long. But I think if we do have military intervention, it will be a NATO operation. But the United States will play a vital role, because if you have a huge humanitarian crisis here, this is on moral grounds and on economic grounds.

Jonathan points out Libya is a major oil producer.

You've seen gas prices go through the roof. If this crisis is ongoing, that global and U.S. economic recovery is going to be very jeopardized, along with his re-election chances.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to take over the government?

MS. CROWLEY: In Libya?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CROWLEY: Nobody knows. And that's why we need to wake up to the fact --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is that an argument against toppling -- is that an argument against toppling him now?

MS. CROWLEY: Gadhafi is a terrorist in word and deed. He needs to go. He is not an ally of the United States, unlike Hosni Mubarak.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that Libya is a clan society and that --

MR. BUCHANAN: Tribal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Gadhafi is -- tribal, but it's clannish. And that means a lot of clans, and that means a lot of centers of power, not unlike Afghanistan, for example --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and elsewhere.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, there's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the point is this. If it's a clan society and there's no warlord running that society, as Gadhafi was, what's going to happen to that society? Is it going to be a cancerous ongoing sore that really should be eradicated now?

MR. CAPEHART: Well, we really don't know that yet. But what we're seeing -- eastern Libya has already torn away from Gadhafi. So we're starting to get a view into what a new Libya could look like. But again, this is -- I agree with Pat -- this is something that has to be led by the Libyan people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's on the ground over there?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is three provinces of the Ottoman empire. In the east, you've got Cyrenaica. You've got Fezzan in the southwest. And you've got Tripolitania. You're right. And the reason that guys in the east now can't get to the west to help them -- I talked this morning on television with Richard Engle -- there's a tribe in the center of the country which is strongly pro-Gadhafi.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Engle think that Gadhafi should be taken down?

MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody thinks he should be taken down.

MS. CROWLEY: Yes, of course.

MR. BUCHANAN: But they --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Taken down now.

MR. BUCHANAN: It could come apart.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Topple him now.

MS. CLIFT: He came to power --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is topple him now.

MS. CLIFT: He came to power in a military coup.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He will just go on and on and on.

Issue Two: Organizing for America?

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER (R): (From videotape.) As more and more protesters come in from Nevada, Chicago and elsewhere, I'm not going to allow their voices to overwhelm the voices of the millions of taxpayers from all across this state who know we're doing the right thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The, quote-unquote, "right thing" is Republican Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker's state budget bill. The bill is designed by Governor Walker to close Wisconsin's projected $3.6 billion deficit for fiscal year 2012 and 2013. The budget bill would save $1.7 billion.

Here's how he breaks it out: One, no layoffs; avoid 1,500 immediate state worker layoffs and 10,000 to 12,000 long-term layoffs. Two, underwrite education. Wisconsin public schools gain $1 billion in savings.

Three, protect workers' rights; no mandatory union membership, no forced union dues -- up to $1,000 in savings per worker.

Four, pension plan pay-in. Workers contribute 5.8 percent of their paycheck to a pension plan. Their current contribution to a pension plan: Zero.

Five, health insurance pay-in. Workers contribute 12.6 percent of their paycheck to their health insurance plan, up from a current 5 percent.

Six, no collective bargaining rights for unions except in the instance of wage negotiations. Governor Walker says that an end to collective bargaining would save the state $30 million in the remaining fiscal year.

Seven, protect bargaining for public safety unions. Firefighters, policemen and state troops retain all of their collective bargaining rights.

President Obama last week weighed in on the situation while he was in Milwaukee. Quote: "Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions."

Question: Is Republican Governor Scott Walker's intention to close the $3.6 billion Wisconsin budget shortfall or to crack down on Wisconsin's state worker unions? Jonathan Capehart.

MR. CAPEHART: Both. There's a serious budget problem in Wisconsin. But at the same time, Governor Walker tipped is hand in carving out the public safety unions from his collective bargaining gambit, and also not taking yes for an answer when the public service unions said, "Yes, we'll do the 5 and 12. Yes, we'll pay into our pensions and pay into our health care." And he went on "Morning Joe" and said, "I'd love to negotiate, but there's no one to negotiate with."

MR. BUCHANAN: You've got to stop -- they call it collective bargaining. It is collusive bargaining. What you've got is these unions put enormous amounts of money in. They get their buddy in the governor's chair, then they get together. They cut a deal, give them a sweetheart contract, and give it to the taxpayers.

What this governor, Walker, is saying, "Those days are over. We've got somebody representing the people now, and this is going to be an adversary proceeding, you folks and us."

MR. CAPEHART: Those days are over unless you're police or firefighters. MS. CLIFT: Since when does Scott Walker represent the people? He's representing --

MR. BUCHANAN: He got elected.

MS. CROWLEY: He got elected.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: He's representing the monied interests that helped him get elected --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: Oh, Eleanor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: -- including lots of money from the Koch brothers. The unions have capitulated. They've said they would go for the higher commitments to the pension funds, higher health premiums. And he's saying no, he wants to wipe out their right to bargain.

This is drawing a line in the sand for 2012. It's the Republicans trying to dismantle the fundraising arm and the political arm of the Democratic Party.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: And it's going to do --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Monica in.

MS. CLIFT: It's going to do for the Democrats exactly what the Republicans did for the Democrats when they went after --

MS. CROWLEY: Oh, I don't think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CLIFT: -- immigrants. And now they're going after working people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: I don't think so. I don't think so. Look, Governor Walker got elected on the platform of through any means necessary getting Wisconsin's fiscal house in order. He ran on this platform. He got elected; nearly 60 percent of the state assembly, Republican; 60 percent, almost, of the state senate, 60 percent Republican. All voted in on this very platform.

The state is broke. There is no money. The gravy train is over. Pat is right that the system --

MS. CLIFT: It's not about money.

MS. CROWLEY: Excuse me -- that the union negotiation, the collective bargaining system, is incredibly corrupt, because the unions sit on both sides of the bargaining table, and nobody has been representing the taxpayer.

And, you know, this battle is really about two other big things. It's about the debate over the proper size and role of government, number one, and number two, the battle between the "gimme" entitlement culture, John, and the American tradition of self-reliance.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the --

MS. CLIFT: The "gimme" --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Organization for America, OFA? Does that ring a bell with anybody?

MR. CAPEHART: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama has made a terrible mistake. He went back to his community organizing role --

MS. CROWLEY: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- came all out with these union guys. Let me tell you, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, wait a minute. Wait a minute. You know that the OFA --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got his --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is now mobilized --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's mobilized.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and they've sent people there.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And this is Obama's political entity brought in to win him the election. MR. BUCHANAN: His organization --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that appropriate behavior?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's -- look, he can do it, sure. But he's a community organizer.

MR. CAPEHART: It's not coming out of the White House.

MR. BUCHANAN: The key here, John, is this is going national. The battle --

MS. CROWLEY: His campaign --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's okay behavior?

MR. BUCHANAN: The battle of Wisconsin is the first battle of the battle for America. They're demonstrating in every capital.

MR. CAPEHART: The first battle for America?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. The unions are demonstrating in every capital in the country this week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: And corporations are still doing fine in America, and they've --

MS. CROWLEY: Corporations are private sector.

MS. CLIFT: -- got the same kind of --

MS. CROWLEY: Private sector, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: -- cozy -- the same cozy relationship with politicians, which is much more insidious --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will you let --

MS. CLIFT: -- in the private sector --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let our guest in.

MS. CLIFT: -- more insidious.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jonathan, do you think there's the makings of an editorial here?

MR. CAPEHART: Which piece? (Laughs.

) Which piece, John?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this piece we're on now, that Obama is utilizing his still-standing OFA to mobilize the crowd, to get the crowd there --

MR. CAPEHART: There's no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for taking his position.

MR. CAPEHART: There's no question that no other issue -- not the health care fight, not anything -- has mobilized the progressive movement and those folks who were volunteering for OFA during --

MR. BUCHANAN: On the left.

MR. CAPEHART: Yes, the left -- volunteering during the 2008 campaign than this. And, you know, I don't like the inference that this is something that's being directed -- that OFA has an office sitting there in the White House. That's not the case.

MS. CROWLEY: This is his campaign arm.

MS. CLIFT: It's like the Republicans' --

MS. CROWLEY: Come on. This is who it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the field director is sending out his communication. "Show up. Bring your signs."

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. CAPEHART: Are you implying that that's illegal, or just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it's not illegal.

MR. CAPEHART: Okay. I just want to make that clear.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is Obama's concurrence behind that. Is that inappropriate behavior for a president of the United States?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. MS. CROWLEY: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: No. No. No. Listen, the left --

MR. CAPEHART: Personally, I don't think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think so. You think it's okay.

MR. CAPEHART: Personally, speaking for myself.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: The left is furious that President Obama has not actually gone to Wisconsin.

MR. CAPEHART: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: And they're playing the tape of him from the campaign saying, "I will put on comfortable shoes" --

MR. BUCHANAN: Look at the tactics, John.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, Pat. I want to finish.

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

MS. CLIFT: Saying he wants to walk with the strikers. And they're going to play that tape over and over again.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: And if only this were happening in the summer of 2012; it's a little too early --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, as far as his re-election is concerned, that this is a mistake?

MS. CLIFT: He's a Democrat, John. He's in favor of unions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Either driven by Obama or concurred with by Obama that his political entity is back in at a gathering like this --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- where you have a legitimate problem with the budget, the state budget.

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me talk for a second.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's going to happen in November? MS. CROWLEY: As soon as Obama balances the federal budget, then he can come in on state budgets and what governors are trying to do.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you cannot let these folks -- what are they doing? They've got teachers on wildcat strikes bringing kids in. They're crowding legislatures. Legislators are leaving the state. This kind of tactic cannot be allowed to succeed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Gay Marriage.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) With respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be able to get married, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama this week addressed the subject of gay marriage, two persons of the same gender marrying each other. He has decided that his administration will no longer defend the constitutionality of the law that was enacted by President Clinton in 1996, almost 15 years ago.

This law is called DOMA, D-O-M-A, the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA defines marriage as, quote, "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife," unquote. DOMA denies federal benefits and inheritance rights to gay and lesbian couples, even if the couple was married in a state where gay marriage is legal -- currently Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Two and a half years ago, President Barack Obama was more traditional in his views on what marriage is.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what has changed Mr. Obama's view? It could be the self-described shellacking he took in last fall's midterm election, which many political analysts attribute to a lackluster turnout by the Democratic base. To prevent a repeat performance when he runs for re-election in 2012, some say Mr. Obama is rattling his liberal supporters with policy changes like the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and his reversal on gay marriage.

Question: Is Obama also -- Mr. Obama -- baiting the Republicans to divert their attention from the economy to social issues at this particular time? Do you follow me?

MR. CAPEHART: Can I take that question, John?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You may.

MR. CAPEHART: No. Here's the reason why this issue is coming up now. There are two cases in the 2nd circuit, New York and Connecticut, that have a filing deadline of March 11th. The significance of this is that in that particular circuit, there is no case law, no precedent, as to whether cases where sexual orientation is at issue, whether they can be argued on a rational basis or heightened scrutiny. In every other circuit, there's rational basis. Here there isn't.

Therefore, the administration and the defense, the plaintiffs, have to answer the question, should there be rational basis for review of these cases or should there be heightened scrutiny? The administration was under an obligation from the court to answer the question. That's what's happened. The administration has simply answered -- it was asked a question. It has answered a question. And now it's the court that decides how those cases will be viewed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that if we were not doing this issue, we would probably do the budget. The budget is coming next week, and it could involve the shutdown of the United States Congress.

MR. CAPEHART: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a big issue. We're not doing it. You know why? Because he put this in front of us, so we're going to go with this, because this is important. What he's done is he's managed to divert the press attention this whole weekend so that the budget is not discussed and he doesn't go in with anything that's going to appeal --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- going to appeal to those in Congress --

MR. CAPEHART: John, there's nothing stopping you from doing the budget. It's a huge deal. It's not like the folks in the White House decided, "Hey, let's throw this issue out there to divert attention."

MS. CLIFT: The reaction --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He has this card in his pocket. He can play it when he wants it.

MS. CLIFT: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He plays it on the threshold --

MR. CAPEHART: He's got a two-week deadline. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you understand what I'm saying?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is controlling page one and controlling the debate.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is a diversion. But the key question here, John, he's told the Justice Department not to defend a federal law. When Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: When Republicans get in, what are they going to say -- "Don't defend 'Obamacare' at the Justice Department"? That is an outrage.

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

END.