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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW; CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2011 BROADCAST: WEEKEND, APRIL 9-10, 2011

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Ryan's Rumble.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): (From videotape.) For too long, Washington has not been honest with the American people. Washington has been making empty promises to Americans from a government that is going broke.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan this week unveiled the GOP's budget proposal for 2012 and beyond. The Wisconsin Republican developed the plan, dubbed it, quote-unquote, "Path to Prosperity," with advice from Alice Rivlin, former head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Budget Chairman Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" framework begins with austerity.

Item: Roll back federal spending, whether it's green energy -- solar, wind, geothermal, et cetera -- to farm subsidies and discretionary spending and domestic and defense spending will be cut back to 2008 spending levels and frozen for five years.

Item: Cut federal payrolls through hiring freezes and attrition. The federal workforce would be cut by 10 percent.

Item: Reform Medicare. For those today under the age of 55 -- that's today -- Medicare would be transformed to a system of, quote, "premium support," unquote. Beginning roughly 10 years from now, in 2022, Medicare would pay a portion of the premium for private health insurance plans chosen by the seniors themselves.

Item: Reform Medicaid; make it a block grant to the states directly.

Item: Overhaul the tax code. Business and individual tax breaks would be eliminated, with top corporate and personal income tax rates -- get this -- capped at 25 percent.

Over a 10-year period, Chairman Ryan's proposal cuts 6.2 trillion -- that's "t" as in "Thomas," trillion -- dollars from President Obama's budget. On Twitter, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lampooned the Ryan "Path to Prosperity" as, quote, "a path to poverty for America's seniors and children and a road to riches for big oil," unquote.

Question: What impact will Ryan's budget proposal have on the national debate over today's federal deficit? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, they're going to demonize Ryan and they're going to basically demagogue his plan. And I don't think his plan is really going to go anywhere in the United States Senate. But I do think this. He has laid out a marker here, a very serious plan about serious issues. It's got a growth factor to it which is very important, and it's got some very serious cuts that everybody knows we're going to have to make somewhere down the road.

I don't think the Ryan plan is going to become law, and I think he's going to be basically -- the Republicans aren't going to get it through. But I think one thing they will have done here is they will have laid down a marker for the future, John. When and if I think this crash that's coming comes and the Democrats have rejected it, the Republicans will be able to say, "We told you so. We tried. We told you it would take pain. You didn't do it. Now here's what's happened." I think that's what's being done. They're setting their position now very tough against what's coming down the road.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's this crash business? MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, I think you're going to have a run on the dollar one of these days. The Chinese are stopping buying our debt. The Japanese are going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, how is that going to occur?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you, the Fed is going to stop its quantitative easing in June. They stop buying $100 billion in debt. And so we've all got to buy $125 billion every single month --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think -- gold? We should go into gold?

MR. BUCHANAN: I've already been there. (Laughter.) I'm deep in there, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, run for cover.

MS. CLIFT: Pat writes books about the end of the West.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I think there's a little hyperbole here.

MR. BUCHANAN: Death of the West. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Paul Ryan's budget is not going to go anywhere because even Republicans aren't going to fully support it. It's -- I give him credit. He's a serious legislator. But it's a deeply flawed document. It makes wild claims about reducing unemployment. At one point he said two-point-something percent. And then the Heritage Foundation, where he allegedly got the number, quickly scrubbed that number from their website and adjusted it up to four-point-something percent, which he can't really document.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MS. CLIFT: So there are wild claims that he can't back up. And second, two thirds of the heaviest cuts come from the poorest people in this country, and he rewards people at the top, which would only accelerate the distance between the super-rich and everybody else in this country.

So it's a starting point for a conversation which we need to have. And, you know, I think he's given -- politically, he's given the Democrats a great gift, because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Rich --

MS. CLIFT: -- his comments about Medicare and Medicaid are simply too good to not demonize. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What'd you think of that, the Heritage -- who scrubbed first? Was it the Heritage Foundation or was it Ryan?

MR. LOWRY: I think it was the Heritage Foundation.

My understanding, Heritage had that 2.8 number in there, and instead they went to 4. But the idea that anyone can project with any precision what the unemployment rate is going to be in 2015 is just ridiculous. So I think Ryan would have been better just to leave that all to the side.

But what we have here, John, is we have set up a conflict of visions, obviously. We have an unsustainable fiscal situation in this country. There are two ways to go. One is ever higher taxes and price controls on health care to try to control the cost of health care, which is basically the Democratic plan, but they're too cowardly to be explicitly about it. Or we can get spending under control, take first steps to getting these entitlements under control with no tax increases and with no price controls. And that is the Ryan plan, which will become the lowest common denominator for Republican presidential candidates in 2012.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? So it's going to be present in every primary.

MR. LOWRY: Well, not every candidate will endorse every jot and tittle of it, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How can they --

MR. LOWRY: -- it will be the standard by which candidates will be judged.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, so --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: Pat's chuckling over here.

MR. BUCHANAN: Don't do it. (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's going to be -- we're going to see this again, again and again in every primary. What about -- MR. LOWRY: It'll be the basic benchmark for Republican policy. It is comprehensive. It is compelling. Every conservative worth his salt has endorsed it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember --

MR. LOWRY: So it will be very difficult for candidates to get away from it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember the presidential commission called Simpson-Bowles commission?

MR. LOWRY: I do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happened to that?

MR. LOWRY: Well, this may have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does Ryan do to the Simpson-Bowles commission?

MR. LOWRY: -- the best-case scenario politically. And I think it's likelier, as Eleanor says, they'll just -- and Pat says -- Democrats will just demagogue the hell out of this and hope the conversation goes away. But the best-case scenario politically is Ryan makes Bowles-Simpson look more centrist and creates at least political momentum within the halls of Congress to go toward something like that.

MR. PAGE: You think Bowles-Simpson was liberal?

MR. LOWRY: Compared to Ryan.

MR. PAGE: Oh, come on, now.

MR. LOWRY: It's centrist.

MR. PAGE: Ryan is reverse Robin Hood. This is Reaganomics on steroids. I mean, the guy has tax breaks for the rich and all the pain is shifted to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, senior citizens, et cetera.

Eleanor is right that this -- and you're right, too -- this is the beginning of a conversation, and Democrats shouldn't run from it. Both sides have been cowardly in addressing specifics about the deficit. It's just that there's more anxiety on the right. But the left, with the exception of Dick Cheney and a few others who have said deficits don't matter, especially when there's something they want to buy, there hasn't been that sense of panic. And there's no need to panic.

I wish Ryan had left Social Security out, which he should. Social Security is not insolvent, contrary to those who say it's bankrupt and blah, blah, blah. But sensibly, Medicare does need to be dealt with, one way or the other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Medicaid --

MR. PAGE: And whoever does it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Medicaid is a block grant.

MR. PAGE: Medicaid is block grant, which means you're going to -- well, not now, but under Ryan's plan it would be, which means you're going to have some shortfalls.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't see --

MR. PAGE: You're going to have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't see anything in the Ryan plan that you like?

MR. PAGE: Oh, I see a lot of it that I like. I just see a lot that I don't like too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's going to go away, or do you agree with him that this is going to be kind of a benchmark in every primary coming up?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MR. PAGE: It's going to be in the platform, where it'll be ignored, like most platforms are.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. PAGE: But this is a moral document. It does set priorities --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. PAGE: -- for what the Republicans are about --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let's talk about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Do you --

MR. PAGE: -- just like the Democrats' platform sets priorities for them. I think Simpson-Bowles made a lot of sense and tried to balance the pain on both sides.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Clarence --

MR. PAGE: Unfortunately, they haven't acted on it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think a star has been born here?

MR. PAGE: Oh, young Ryan?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. PAGE: Well, why not? Everyone else is running for president -- running for the Republican nomination. Why shouldn't he? (Laughs.

)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he's running for the nomination?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. John, let me tell you --

MR. PAGE: The fact is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think a star has been born?

MR. PAGE: Well, he lacks charisma on that score.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. PAGE: But he's great with numbers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the American people are telling -- feel that Ryan is telling it like it is?

MR. PAGE: I think there's going to be a backlash against Ryan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do they think that he is --

MR. PAGE: There's going to be a backlash, John. Remember that woman at that town hall who said, "Keep the government's hands off my Medicare"? You know, those folks are going to say, "What?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ryan is perceived by the American people as a wonk. But he's a wonk that tells the truth, and he's a smart wonk.

MR. PAGE: He's a conservative wonk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. PAGE: He's a conservative wonk.

MS. CLIFT: No, the headlines he got --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, he is. Yes, he is. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, he is?

MS. CLIFT: The headlines he got --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but let me talk about the politics --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, hold on, Eleanor.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- of 2012. I think that if you're a presidential candidate in 2012, what I would say is "Paul Ryan" -- just as you said -- "this is a guy of courage. He's got some vision. He's got some good ideas in there. I don't embrace them all, and there are some things in there I'm really going to go for. But I'm going to look at -- I'm going to have my own plan." But do not embrace the Ryan plan if you're a presidential candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that you could successfully argue Ryan out of any position that he has, or would he argue you out of your position?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, listen, I don't have -- I would cut defense. I would cut foreign policy. I would do a lot of things. I would say Social Security is -- you've got to make changes there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he could give you arguments that would cause you --

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, he's a very bright --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to change your mind?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's a bright fellow, John, and he probably could.

MS. CLIFT: He's a hero --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think he could debate you and successfully convince you --

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll give him the benefit of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that you were less perfect than he was?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would give him the benefit of the doubt. He'd do a good job. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: He's a hero to a small segment of the electorate, and that is the conservatives who think that liberal programs are the fault of everything that's going wrong. The rest of the country depends on those liberal programs. And he wants to turn Medicare into what is called a premium support -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: -- program. And he's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with that?

MS. CLIFT: Well, what's wrong with it is the government then pays a certain premium as health care costs go up --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any way -- is there any way --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Is there any way --

MS. CLIFT: As costs go up, the recipient then bears the cost. He touts support from Alice Rivlin, who has said she does not support --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there --

MS. CLIFT: -- the plan as he has put it forward.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any --

MS. CLIFT: And also he gets credit for all this courage, but he doesn't touch anybody over the age of 55 because they're the ones who vote. (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: Well, you just said -- oh, come on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's one explanation. Is there anyone who's going to be a truth teller and a perceptive truth teller who is not going to have to address --

MS. CLIFT: The deadline --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?

MS. CLIFT: Of course. But the headlines he got this week are all about his claims that cannot be --

MR. LOWRY: John --

MS. CLIFT: -- documented.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I'm saying --

MS. CLIFT: He got terrible headlines --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he invaded a territory, the entitlement territory, that no one goes into.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As long as I've been doing this show, they have never gone into that. He went into it.

MS. CLIFT: The Simpson-Bowles commission went into it, and President Obama, he created that commission. And Paul Ryan voted against their product. So how bold is that? He voted against it because it didn't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Simpson-Bowles committee was holding on to --

MS. CLIFT: -- because it didn't repeal "Obamacare." He's an ideologue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- big government, big government.

MS. CLIFT: He's an ideologue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This guy wants to shrink the government, the federal government, really shrink it.

MR. LOWRY: John --

MR. PAGE: With a hatchet.

MR. LOWRY: With all due respect, Eleanor, you're talking out of both sides of your mouth, because five minutes ago you were saying how this is going to get demagogued, and so it's politically vulnerable. Then you turn around and say he's not politically courageous. Of course he's politically courageous even to touch these programs for people under 55. And this is the key thing about Medicare. Medicare is a driver of health care inflation in this country. And what Ryan is trying to do is inject an element of market competition into health care --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. LOWRY: -- that's not there now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: And that's why --

MR. LOWRY: Medicare is a giant check-writing operation --

MS. CLIFT: And that's why --

MR. LOWRY: -- that drives fraud and costs up.

MS. CLIFT: And that's why Medicare is the most popular and the most efficient program in this country.

MR. LOWRY: It's not efficient. It is not. No one --

MS. CLIFT: And he wants to --

MR. LOWRY: No serious health care economist would say Medicare is efficient.

MS. CLIFT: Well, our whole health care --

MR. PAGE: But the funny thing is, though --

MR. LOWRY: That's ridiculous.

MS. CLIFT: Our whole health care system --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MS. CLIFT: -- isn't efficient. You can't blame it all on Medicare.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- on the merits --

MR. LOWRY: And Medicare is a huge part of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On the merits, is "The Path to Prosperity" a sound plan -- that's his plan -- for cutting the deficit, a sound plan?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it is sound. I think it's courageous. And I don't think it's going anywhere for the simple reason -- take a look at Clarence and Eleanor and their response. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I'm saying --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)

MR. BUCHANAN: -- that represents --

MR. LOWRY: It's the party of no over here.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A rational and substantive debate is another question.

Eleanor.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's the Democratic Senate. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: It's not fair to put the whole burden of deficit reduction on poorer people in this country. There is no revenue increases here. He doesn't go after oil subsidies. He doesn't -- he keeps tax breaks in place and adds more to the wealthy. It is not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that true?

MS. CLIFT: It is not a document that can sell --

MR. PAGE: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute --

MR. LOWRY: If you look at Medicare --

MS. CLIFT: -- in a country where not everybody is rich.

MR. LOWRY: If you look at the Medicare reforms, an element of it is means testing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. LOWRY: He's going to give more to people who are poorer and sicker.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. LOWRY: Why are we giving Medicare to people that are upper middle class or better? Paul Ryan is actually courageous enough to take that on and is getting attacked for it.

MR. PAGE: Medicare should be dealt with, as is making the taxes more simplified. But that's the kind of debate that -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the --

MR. PAGE: -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Social Security?

MR. PAGE: It's not a crisis, John; 2037. It's solvent till then.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's got a problem.

MR. PAGE: And even then --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Solvent till then?

MR. PAGE: All you got to do is lift the caps. That's all you've got to do. Why are there caps on Social Security?

(Cross talk.)

MR. LOWRY: That's always the answer -- raise taxes.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a 15 percent tax; 12 percent tax increase. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think --

MR. PAGE: I know you don't want to save Social Security, but that's the way to do it.

MR. LOWRY: I do --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. A wonk star has been born.

Issue Two: Architect of Atrocity.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: (From videotape.) We simply cannot allow a trial to be delayed any longer for the victims of the 9/11 attacks or for their family members who have waited for nearly a decade.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Commander in Chief Barack Obama has given up plans to try, in a civilian court, the architect of the 9/11 twin towers atrocity, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Mohammed will be tried by a military court at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention facility. The decision was announced on Monday by Attorney General Eric Holder.

This is one of the highest-profile policy reversals by the Obama White House. When campaigning for president, Senator Obama then sought both to close Guantanamo and to treat detainees on the same legal basis as an ordinary U.S. citizen. After his election two years ago, Mr. Obama again pushed for Mohammed to be tried in a civilian court in New York City, a trial that would have cost an estimated 1 billion -- that's "b" as in "boy," billion -- dollars.

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was outraged at the idea, on both cost and security grounds. But Congress passed a law that forbade the transfer of all Guantanamo detainees, present and future, to U.S. soil for detention and for trial. So the trial location problem went away.

Holder on Monday said that Congress forced the administration's hand, and he was perceptively angry.

ATTY GEN. HOLDER: (From videotape.) I know this case in a way that members of Congress do not. I've looked at the files. I've spoken to the prosecutors. So do I know better than them? Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: New York Republican Congressman Peter King lauded Congress's decision denying 9/11 co-conspirators a civilian trial.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R-NY): (From videotape.) The American people have realized how wrong it was to hold a civilian trial anywhere in New York or anywhere in the continental United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it smart politics for Attorney General Holder to kvetch that he knows better than members of Congress when it comes time to prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think it is, John. (Laughs.) Look, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it was political immaturity on his part?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, I really do. Look, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a foreigner, an alien, a mass murderer who killed Americans. He's not like McVeigh, who was an American citizen, or even, you know, Charlie Manson. This guy is a foreigner. In combat, regular combat and war, John, he would be taken out for this kind of atrocity, put up against a wall and shot. And that's under the rules of Geneva. He ought to be tried as what he is, and he's going to be tried right where he should be, right down there at Guantanamo Bay. MS. CLIFT: Well, appropriately, we did not line him up and shoot him. And I think we have tried foreign-born terrorists in this country, and they're successfully being held in maximum-security prisons. And I think that the attorney general wanted to let the public know that this is a congressional decision. With Congress's approval rating at something like 11 percent, I think kvetching about a congressional decision does not hurt you. (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: Not about this one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- and I'm not arguing for this, but I think it should be raised -- that if he is -- if he is euthanized by capital punishment, that he will live on forever as a martyr in the terrorist and the aborning terrorist community, and that it would be better for him to be incarcerated for the rest of his life in Guantanamo or somewhere, rather than kill him?

MS. CLIFT: He can be incarcerated on American soil. I haven't noticed any terrorist --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's the answer to my question with regard to --

MS. CLIFT: -- breaking out of prison.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would he be converted to a martyr if he dies?

MS. CLIFT: I'm not wild --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He will never be forgotten; whereas if he lives, he will be forgotten.

MS. CLIFT: -- about capital punishment, and I don't think that's in the cards for him. I think he will be incarcerated probably for the rest of his life, getting free medical care.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean on the grounds that I'm saying; otherwise it would make him a martyr that would live forever if he's killed.

MR. LOWRY: John, even if that's true --

MR. PAGE: He's not exactly a religious hero.

MR. LOWRY: Even if that's true, he deserves a death sentence. And it's an unfortunate collateral effect that you can't help.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, really?

MR. LOWRY: Yeah. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. LOWRY: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Since when did politics become --

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- an unfortunate collateral effect?

MR. LOWRY: This isn't politics. This is justice.

MR. PAGE: This is politics.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you'd be right --

MR. PAGE: If this was Bush and Cheney going to try KSM in New York --

MR. BUCHANAN: Your argument would be right --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him --

MR. PAGE: If this was Bush and Cheney wanting to try KSM in New York, there wouldn't be any kind of a reaction from the right.

MR. LOWRY: Yes, there would.

MR. BUCHANAN: There sure would.

MR. PAGE: You know, really --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bloomberg said, "We can't do that. It'll cause riots."

MR. PAGE: He had a bunch of other -- he tried other terrorists here on American soil and there wasn't a peep. I've love to see Eric Holder and Peter King --

MR. LOWRY: So you're saying Chuck Schumer was playing politics by attacking Eric Holder's plan.

MR. PAGE: -- in a boxing ring; two New Yorkers together just going at it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about --

MR. PAGE: But that's what this is about. You know, this is about a lot of emotions being played to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to see them in a bar --

MR. PAGE: We've got a serious problem here -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you rather see them in a bar or in a wrestling match or in a boxing ring?

MR. PAGE: I'm not going to go into details. Send it to committee. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: John, your point is well taken if this were Obama bin Laden. I would agree with you, because Osama bin Laden is an enormous figure, and you ought to put him in jail for the rest of his life. I don't think KSM is a really charismatic figure. He's not on T-shirts like Che Guevara. But I think if it were Obama bin Laden, I would agree with you; life imprisonment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, that's all I need, Pat. I wanted that approval. (Laughter.)

Issue Three: Sesquicentennial.

April 12, 1861 -- 150 years ago this coming Tuesday -- Confederate shots rang down on the Union military base in Charleston, South Carolina, Fort Sumter. After 34 hours of shelling, the fort fell. The American Civil War began.

Eleven southern states seceded from the Union; first South Carolina, then, in the order of secession, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. These states were agrarian societies then, dependent on slaves working the fields, economic entities with cultural hierarchies the states were unwilling to give up.

Together they formed the Confederate States of America. They elected Jefferson Davis as their president, opposing President Abraham Lincoln, who governed the Union. The military general of the Confederacy was Robert E. Lee. Ulysses S. Grant served as general of the Union.

The bloody conflict ended four years later, almost exactly to the day, April 9, 1865. When the fighting did finally stop, Lincoln's Union forces had won. Six hundred thousand Americans died. Slavery was abolished. The Union held.

Question: Is the Union altogether intact today? Secessionist echoes, if not movements, still occur.

Item: Alaska. The Alaska Independence Party wants a referendum to permit voting for independence for Alaska.

Item: Hawaii. Native Hawaiians want to secede from the mainland.

Item: Vermont. Fifteen percent of Vermonters want to secede. Item: Texas. Eighteen percent would vote to secede. Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry hinted at the possibility of a Texas secession. Quote: "I believe the federal government has become oppressive. I believe it's become oppressive in its size, its intrusion in the lives of its citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state."

Rich Lowry, what do you think of the condition of the Union?

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.) I think it's pretty strong, John. But if it's my vote for any state to go, I say Vermont.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: Why Vermont?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want Vermont.

MR. LOWRY: Definitely; Vermont over Texas any day of the week.

MS. CLIFT: I say --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So the Union is OK.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is semi-comical, but it's a semi-serious question.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there are a lot of movements, John, but, look, there's going to be no geographic secession. That's out of the question. It was decided in 1865. But there are a lot of movements. You mentioned Hawaii. There's a movement to establish -- and it went through part of Congress -- to establish a state legislature which was people of Hawaiian blood alone because the state had been taken away from them. You get a lot of these movements like this; Vermont, these small movements and stuff --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- the League of the South. But it's not going anywhere in terms of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- seceding and breaking up the country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the case can be made by a state that the federal government is too big and the taxation is too great? "We ought to get out of the federal government. We ought to get out of the Union --

MR. PAGE: Sounds familiar, John. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and go our own way."

MR. PAGE: Sounds familiar.

There was a very fierce debate in the 1850s about that, in fact, and it was settled in 1865, like Pat said. But, you know, it's funny, though --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But since then, the --

MR. PAGE: I think a lot --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- government has, what -- it's incalculable the extent to which --

MR. PAGE: John, you know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in relation to state power, that this federal authority has grown.

MR. PAGE: Well, I've got to say, you sound like Rick Perry. I mean, the fact is, nobody ever lost a vote in Texas, as far as I know, by advocating for the "republic of Texas," quote-unquote -- a very serious thing. Folks in the rest of the country don't realize how much this means to some states. When I moved from the land of Lincoln down to the Virginia area, I was amazed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is there that could prevent this from ever happening today?

MR. BUCHANAN: The U.S. Army. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Common sense.

MR. BUCHANAN: The U.S. Army, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. Army. Not only that, but what?

MS. CLIFT: And the --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Air Force. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The National Guard.

Predictions. Pat. MR. BUCHANAN: Tough time for Israel this fall. The general assembly in September -- the general assembly will vote to recognize the Palestinian state as sovereign on the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza; overwhelming vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow.

Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The confrontation over the 2011 budget will expose the deepening fissures between Speaker John Boehner and his majority leader, Eric Cantor.

MR. LOWRY: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker does not get recalled because we're seeing Wisconsin -- the left's bark is much worse than its bite in its backlash against the union reforms.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Donald Trump is not going to run for president, but he'll do a TV show with Sarah Palin -- kvetching with the stars. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The New York Times has a pay wall where you have to pay to read The New York Times online. I predict that it will fail within a year.

Bye-bye.

END.