The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Patrick Buchanan, MSNBC; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Rich Lowry, National Review; Mortimer Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report Taped: Friday, July 15, 2011 Broadcast: Weekend of July 16-17, 2011

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Clash of the Titans.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) What's required here in Washington is that politicians understand now's not the time to play games. Now's not the time to posture. Now's the time to do what's right by the country.

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): (From videotape.) There is no reason for this debate and this discussion to go past August the 2nd. All it takes is a little courage to actually cut spending and put America on a path to fiscal sanity.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Friendly titans clashing -- the president of the United States and the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. At issue: The legal limit on the amount of money the U.S. federal government can borrow at this point in time; in other words, the debt ceiling.

The ceiling, or limit, is now $14.29 trillion. The White House and Congress have until August the 2nd to raise the debt ceiling. Two weeks from this coming Monday, midnight, is the deadline. Without upping the ceiling, the U.S. will be unable to borrow the money it needs to pay its obligations; then this catastrophe.

BEN BERNANKE (Federal Reserve chairman): (From videotape.) Fairly soon after that date, there would have to be significant cuts in Social Security, Medicare, military pay or some combination of those.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner had been working on an agreement, but that deal ran into one key obstacle: Taxes. The president wants to hike taxes on wealthy Americans.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) The best place to get those revenues are from folks like me, who have been extraordinarily fortunate, and that millionaires and billionaires can afford to pay a little bit more.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Speaker Boehner says tax hikes will hurt the economy by draining business capital dedicated to hiring new workers. Tax hikes, Mr. Boehner says, are a nonstarter.

SPEAKER BOEHNER: (From videotape.) The American people understand that tax hikes destroy jobs; no tax increases ever on the table.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: If there is a gap between hitting the ceiling and raising it, will that cause a double-dip recession? Pat Buchanan.

PATRICK BUCHANAN: I don't think it would -- I don't know that it would cause a double-dip recession, John. It would really hit the markets hard. But it's not going to happen. They're going to pass the debt ceiling, I believe. The president's not going to get any new taxes. The Republicans can't give them to him and survive, quite frankly, in the House.

So I think what you're going to get is an increase in the debt ceiling and maybe some small budget cuts. But this has been an historic opportunity that the Republican Party had to use this debt ceiling to place cuts and send them down to the White House again and again and again, give the president these cuts. And frankly, they could have rolled back the federal government. And they have failed to do it, and they have lost the opportunity because they're too deeply divided. I'm not even sure, John, a debt ceiling can get through the House. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Treasury will likely collect in tax receipts in August approximately $172 billion. That will leave a shortfall of expenditure over revenue of about $130 billion. What's going to happen?

ELEANOR CLIFT: It would be catastrophic if they did not raise the debt ceiling. But I agree with Pat; they're going to do it. And they're going to behave the way Washington typically behaves in these situations. They will do the very least that they have to do. And they will, to use the famous Washington phrase, kick the can down the road.

I agree this was an historic opportunity, and it may not be entirely lost. There's still a couple of weeks left. And the Republicans just didn't know when to say yes. All they had to give was not raising the upper tax rate. All they had to do was close some of those tax loopholes.

You can't have a negotiation where one side does all the compromise and the other side gets their own way. And I think politically the president has driven that point home. And I think he wins this political skirmish. And I think the Republicans are going to regret the fact that they overreached this time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the impact on world markets?

RICH LOWRY: Well, I don't -- if you met the deadline, you wouldn't have to default. You would have to cut government expenditures immediately by about 40 percent. And that's just not plausible. The problem here, Republicans don't have an alternative. That's why they're losing.

Pat's absolutely right. They can't get 218 votes for anything at the moment out of the House. If they had voted $3 trillion of cuts with a $3 trillion increase in the debt limit -- and they have lots of cuts to play with, because they already voted for $6 trillion with the Ryan budget -- they would be in a much stronger position. Instead, Obama's been beating the hell out of them the last week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a good idea to raise taxes now?

MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I do believe it is a good idea, not for economic reasons but for political reasons. I think it is an outrage for this country not to be able to deal with this issue, even the way they have dealt with it.

If they get up to the point, the last minute, where they have something to do with raising the debt ceiling -- this country has acted like a bunch of buffoons, like a banana republic; all of these people -- you know the old line, if there's a light coming at the end of the tunnel, a politician will be able to buy more tunnel. I mean, it just goes on and on. And it's a disgrace what is going on in this country. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got an article in the Financial Times for Friday of this past week.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Friday of this week. What's the content of the article?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The content of the article is basically saying that you cannot deal with the problem of the fiscal curve in this country, which is terrible, by raising taxes. You've got to have substantial cuts, both short term and long term. And if we don't do it, we're going to be faced with a huge economic crisis and a crisis of confidence in the effectiveness of our government.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: And we are not -- we are simply not doing that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would it extend the recession?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. If we don't do it, you mean?


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, absolutely. Even if we do it, it's going to have some effect on the economy, and it's not going to be positive. That's why it has to be phased in in some kind of intelligent way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, President Obama says Republicans have not produced a real debt-reduction plan.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I have not seen a credible plan, having gone through the numbers, that would allow you to get to $2.4 trillion without really hurting ordinary folks. And the notion that we would be doing that and not asking anything from the wealthiest Americans or from closing corporate loopholes, that doesn't seem like a serious plan to me. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan says there is a plan that has been passed, the House-endorsed Ryan plan.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI): (From videotape.) Well, I already passed the plan. We proposed over $6 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. We proposed a plan that actually balances the budget, reforms the entire tax code by getting rid of all these loopholes to grow the economy, and pays off our deficit. The president has yet to submit an actual plan that actually fixes this budget problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does this cut the ground from underneath President Obama's position?

MR. BUCHANAN: It does. John, you know, this is what I can't understand. The Republicans have passed the Ryan plan, which cuts $6 trillion. All they have to do is take $1 trillion of it, or something like that, put it onto the debt ceiling, the cuts that even Democrats would take, and send it over to the Senate and send it to Obama.

MR. LOWRY: There is a reason why --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.


MR. BUCHANAN: And I don't -- send it to Obama. If somebody shuts down the government, he will have to do it by vetoing it.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I'd like to point out that the Ryan plan did not reduce the deficit. The numbers soared over time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we sure of that?

MS. CLIFT: It also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we sure of that?

MR. LOWRY: It brings down the deficit over time. It doesn't balance it immediately by any means.

MS. CLIFT: Immediately. And it --

MR. LOWRY: But this --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: And it transforms Medicare into a voucher program --

MR. LOWRY: No, no. Look, you wouldn't -- MS. CLIFT: -- shifting --

MR. LOWRY: Hold on --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. LOWRY: Go ahead.

MS. CLIFT: Let me finish.

MR. LOWRY: All right. Go ahead.

MS. CLIFT: Shifting the costs from the government to individual seniors. Every Republican ran away from it.


MS. CLIFT: They voted for it, but they hate it.

MR. LOWRY: John --

MS. CLIFT: The polls show it's a nonstarter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's listen to what Rich has to say on this.

Go ahead, Rich.

MR. LOWRY: This is the thing. The Medicare reforms are outside the 10-year window. So you can put those aside. In the first 10 years, there are $6 trillion of cuts, about $2 trillion of domestic cuts. Republicans -- Pat is absolutely right -- they have this huge pool of cuts to play with, to pair with the debt-limit increase. They cannot do it because there are 30, 40, 50 guys who will not vote for a debt-limit increase in any form.

That means that John Boehner has zero leverage. If he's going to get something through the House at the moment, he needs Democrats. That gives the game to President Barack Obama. It's a really tough situation for the House leadership.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that Barack Obama has another motive for keeping this dispute going, that he wants to keep something else out of the news?

MR. LOWRY: No. No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And, if so, what is that?

MS. CLIFT: John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What is it?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First of all, you've got NATO complaining that we are not doing our fair share -- (laughter) --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not a joke. It's not a joke. There are things he wants to keep off page one.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If there's one issue that could dominate the politics of the day, if it weren't for this, it's the terrible unemployment numbers, which is really a huge --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what he's trying to keep off page one.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know what he's trying to keep --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think he's acting --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The press is all over this. The press is --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, nobody cares about that. Look, the president, I believe --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The press works in a pack. You know that.

MR. BUCHANAN: I believe the president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're following his lead. MR. BUCHANAN: Let me make an historic --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is he doing it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me make an historic statement. I think the president is acting in good faith.

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he wants a big deal.

MS. CLIFT: And I --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think he will take cuts the Democrats won't want and take taxes. I think he -- because his presidency and the future of the country, he believes, depend on it.

MS. CLIFT: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean he's fundamentally the perfect liberal.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He set up the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Vagrantly socialistic. Is that what you're saying?

MR. BUCHANAN: Vaguely socialistic, yeah. (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He set up the Simpson-Bowles commission. And when they came out with their report, he said he would --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is that report?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is a report that deals with the long-term deficit problems --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- of this country. Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They recommend taxation, do they not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They had a whole series of recommendations. And the president said, "I will stand by what they did," except they're still waiting for him to stand by it.

MR. LOWRY: He's never -- he's never taken this seriously, not in his own budget, not in his budget speech revising his budget, not when Bowles-Simpson came out with their thing, not at the beginning of this debate, when he wanted a clean debt-limit increase -- MR. BUCHANAN: But Rich --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. LOWRY: So that he is winning -- so that he is winning a debate over the fiscal future of the country --

MS. CLIFT: That's right.

MR. LOWRY: -- is astonishing and ridiculous.

MS. CLIFT: He's winning --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's keeping something else off page one. What is it?

MR. LOWRY: No, this is a genuine --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The unemployment problem --

MS. CLIFT: John, you cannot --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- doesn't even figure in this.

MS. CLIFT: You cannot keep unemployment off the front page. It doesn't have to be on the front page. People are living it in this country every day. This ongoing impasse does not help Barack Obama in terms of how people feel about the economy. He's got to get past it. He wants a big deal. It would be good for his re-election. I believe John Boehner wants to do the right thing, but he can't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't see how he gains --

MS. CLIFT: -- control --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- from a deal that increases taxes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John, let me ask Rich --

MS. CLIFT: He can't -- excuse me --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- a question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that again?

MR. BUCHANAN: I want to ask Rich a question.

If Boehner had gone along with the revenue increases of $300 (billion) to $400 billion, do you not agree that Obama would have come forward with his big deal and gone ahead with it? I think he would have.

MR. LOWRY: No, I do not believe the cuts would have been real. I think Tim Geithner wants real cuts, because he realizes the market wants to see two things -- the debt limit increase, and two, some real measures to take care of the debt. I think Obama politically wants fake cuts. I think you get the tax increase and then all the cuts would evaporate at the end of the day.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How serious is that dispute? Is Geithner on his way out?

MR. LOWRY: Oh, I don't know about that. I just think --

MR. BUCHANAN: He said he wanted to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Geithner on his way out?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, he said he's going to leave, and he would not say he would stay till the end of the term; just, quote-unquote, "for the foreseeable future." So he's -- I believe he's definitely going to leave.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he was told politely by the White House chief of staff, "You know, it's time for you to move on."

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, not at all.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. They can't get a replacement. They couldn't get a replacement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think he's getting under Obama's skin?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. He wants to leave. He wants to leave.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think he's getting under Obama's --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He wants to leave. MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He would be a big loss for them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wants to leave because he's been told his time is up.

MR. BUCHANAN: No. You couldn't --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no. That's not the case.

MR. BUCHANAN: You couldn't get a new secretary of the treasury through.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the former governor of New Jersey?

MR. BUCHANAN: You mean -- former governor of New Jersey?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's his name?

MR. BUCHANAN: The -- it's the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Come on, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: What's his name?

MR. LOWRY: Corzine?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Corzine. Jon Corzine.

MR. BUCHANAN: Corzine.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MR. LOWRY: The Goldman Sachs guy?


MR. LOWRY: The Goldman Sachs guy?

MR. BUCHANAN: Goldman Sachs.

MS. CLIFT: No way.

MR. BUCHANAN: Get him through. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: If this legislation or a reasonable facsimile gets passed by both houses of Congress, will it be an historic event? Pat Buchanan. MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, I think if they got Obama's big deal, it'd be historic. I don't think they're going to get a small deal. I think they're going to get some baby cuts and they're going to get an increase in the debt ceiling.


MS. CLIFT: If they increase the debt ceiling, OK, disaster averted. But it's hardly historic.

MR. LOWRY: Yeah, you'll get a fizzle, and it'll happen probably August 1st.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If they got a $4 billion -- $4 trillion cut in expenses to go along with it, it would be a historic event. They're not going to get it. I don't believe that either.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort is right on both scores.

Issue Two: Rupert On The Run.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

Q: Do you walk this fast all the time?

RUPERT MURDOCH (chairman and CEO, News Corporation): Only when I'm running away from you guys.

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch didn't only deliver the news this week. Murdoch was the news, and continues to be the news. The owner of News Corp., a $32 billion media conglomerate, is in the eye of a world storm.

The rap is hacking. Murdoch's journalists have been hacking into the cell phones, apparently, of the owners and users of those phones. Police reports say there could be as many as 4,000 victims.

Murdoch's journalists also invaded confidential medical records. One of those victims is the former prime minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown. Two of Murdoch's newspapers reveal private medical records of the son of Gordon Brown and the young boy's history of cystic fibrosis, which his mother and father had been treating as a family matter.

GORDON BROWN (former United Kingdom prime minister): (From videotape.) I can't think of any way that the medical condition of a child could be put into the public arena legitimately.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The international uproar over Murdoch's newspaper hacking killed a pending Murdoch broadcasting deal; namely, to purchase British Sky Broadcasting, a deal valued at $12 billion. The sitting U.K. prime minister, David Cameron, plus the British public, sidelined the planned merger.

DAVID CAMERON (United Kingdom prime minister): (From videotape.) What has happened at this company is disgraceful. It's got to be addressed at every level, and they should stop thinking about mergers when they've got to sort out the mess they created.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On this side of the Atlantic, lawmakers in the U.S. Congress called for hearings -- House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King and the Senate Intelligence Committee member Jay Rockefeller.

SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV): (From videotape.) You know that the Department of Justice and all kinds of other federal agencies are going to be going after this very hard. And we will too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Democratic Senator Robert Menendez has called for the Justice Department to probe allegations that a Murdoch newspaper proposed hacking the cell phones of 9/11 victims' families. How incendiary is that allegation? Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, if it's true, it certainly is incendiary. And all of these things -- the hacking that has taken place in England has actually delegitimized his company. He was forced, in a very gutsy move, to shut down a major newspaper, the News of the World. And he is now being investigated by as many parliamentary committees as possible. They've stopped the major transaction that he's been working on to take 100 percent control of BSkyB, which is the major cable company in England. So he's got his hands full.

And it's amazing to me how fast this has all happened for a man who was really the premier media baron in the world and has now run into an overwhelming number of attacks on his company and on the failures of the company to, shall we say, conform by the honorable rules of journalism.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the hacking is bad business, nasty business, no doubt about it. And they're going to prosecute people over there in England for it. And as Mort says, if they're doing it over here, he's got a real problem.

But I'll tell you, people have seized upon this and they've seen Rupert Murdoch. They've now got him in their gun sights, people who don't care a thing about hacking but who hate Fox News, who hate the conservative -- The Wall Street Journal and the other publications he's got. And they're going to go after him, frankly, the way, in the Watergate days, they came after Richard Nixon. They're after other game than the hacking. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's got a motion picture in it, Pat, too -- "Avatar" and a lot of other --

MR. BUCHANAN: They want to take him down.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I'm glad you raised Watergate before I did, because this does remind me of the sort of the drip, drip, drip. And they're asking the questions, "What did he know, and when did he know it?" And possibly could he go to jail over this?

This is a man who's been feared, certainly in the U.K., and revered to some extent in this country for what he has accomplished, but also feared. Suddenly the fear factor is gone, and it's open season on Rupert Murdoch. He's done -- The Wall Street Journal is a jewel in the American newspaper world, and he's done fine with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He has improved the quality of that.

MS. CLIFT: But his involvement in politics in this country is disturbing to people on the progressive side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's no evidence that --

MS. CLIFT: So naturally there's some --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no evidence --

MS. CLIFT: -- there's some glee.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that Woodward and Bernstein hacked.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right? Am I right on that?

MR. BUCHANAN: They did try --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They met people in the garage --

MR. BUCHANAN: They did try to break into the grand jury, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- underneath Pennsylvania Avenue.

MS. CLIFT: I'm talking about the corruption --

MR. BUCHANAN: They did --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not hacking.

MS. CLIFT: I'm talking about the corruption in the White House -- MR. BUCHANAN: They did try to penetrate the grand jury.

MS. CLIFT: -- and the corruption. I'm not talking about the investigators.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh. What's that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Bernstein and Woodward tried to penetrate the grand jury, and Edward Bennett Williams got them off.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about hacking?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. (Laughs.) I'm talking about getting to the grand jurors.

MS. CLIFT: So Pat turns --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's more --

MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: That's more illegal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's more unlawful?

MS. CLIFT: So Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's equally.

MS. CLIFT: Pat, however many years later, is now --

MR. BUCHANAN: He remembers.

MS. CLIFT: -- turning the blame on Woodward and Bernstein. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I'm saying that Murdoch -- they're really after the destruction of Rupert Murdoch now, and by a lot of people who really don't care about the hacking.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, there is the --

MR. BUCHANAN: They like the fact they got away with --

MS. CLIFT: I think people who don't like Rupert don't like hacking.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There is a culture --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her in.

What did you say? MS. CLIFT: The people who don't like Rupert Murdoch don't like hacking into private phones from a media baron any more than they would from the government.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's not why they're after him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also the --

MS. CLIFT: It is the opening gambit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's also the horror of the murder of a 13- year-old young girl.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the family was trying to reach her by her cell phone, and her cell phone had been hacked into.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They eliminated some of the telephone messages that were kept on the phone. It was all horrible no matter what, whatever they were trying to accomplish. It was one of the things that just erupted in that country and caused --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Everybody could identify with that. So there were cases that were really inexplicably horrible, to be honest. The fact is that he became the dominant -- the dominant media figure in England, which a lot of people didn't like. The media culture in England was very, very rough and brutal. And it changed the whole nature of politics in that country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is this the beginning of the end for the Murdoch dynasty, or will Rupert bounce back? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Murdoch empire, I think, John, has reached apogee, clearly reached its peak level, and it is coming down. I don't know how far this is going to play out, but I think it's going to take a long, long time. And there are a lot of people in this country who are out to get him.


MS. CLIFT: Well, he's moving already out of the newspaper world, and he wanted to get bigger in television. And it's stopped that growth. So I think he's hit a wall. There's an internal investigation at News Corp., run by Joel Klein, who's a very respected person. So let's see what they find out. But there's more trouble ahead for the Murdoch family and for the dynasty that he hoped to put in place.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, you live up there in New York, near New Jersey. Did you know that Frank Lautenberg, United States senator, has called for an investigation about the hacking of the 9/11 victims' families?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Well, the reason for that is that, under American law, you can't hold a license to a television station if you have a criminal conviction. And so if there is a criminal conviction in England for the company at large, it might affect his ability to own and run television stations here. This is a man who, after all, started Fox cable, which is now the dominant cable news. So he's got real exposure here, which is absolutely astounding.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: American Classic.

FORMER FIRST LADY BETTY FORD: (From videotape.) There are women all over the country like me. And if I don't make this public, then their lives will be gone. They're in jeopardy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Former First Lady Elizabeth Ford passed away a week ago. Betty Ford died peacefully in her home in Palm Desert, California at the age of 93. Her husband, Gerald Ford, served as the 38th president for two and a half years, filling out the remainder of President Richard Nixon's second term in 1974. President Ford died five years ago.

As first lady, Betty Ford advocated for many social causes, such as early detection for breast cancer and other women's rights generally. Perhaps her most memorable public service was that of destigmatizing alcoholism, treating it as a physical chemical addiction, not a moral weakness, a character flaw.

A year after her husband left office, defeated by Jimmy Carter in the `76 election, Betty Ford announced that she had suffered from alcoholism for many years. In 1978, at the age of 60, she checked herself into California's Long Beach Naval Hospital. Her treatment was successful. She became more of a crusader. In 1982, she brought into existence an alcohol and drug clinic, the Betty Ford Center, in Rancho Mirage, California.

Alcoholics and other drug addicts from almost everywhere have or had been treated at the Betty Ford Center, including Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Cash, Kelsey Grammer, Marlee Matlin, Chevy Chase, Ozzy Osbourne, Steven Tyler and Stevie Nicks. More than 90,000 people have sought treatment for alcoholism and other drug addictions at the Betty Ford Center. Question: Did Betty Ford utilize her position as first lady to advocate for more women in politics in addition to what she has done in these various other fields? Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: She was only in the White House a short time because her husband was defeated by Jimmy Carter. But she testified on Capitol Hill in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment. And she was just an inspiration for women in both political parties. And it's hard to remember, in the `70s a woman who had breast cancer wanted to hide. And the fact that she went public with her mastectomy was huge in those days.

And at her funeral service, which was this past week, she had Rosalynn Carter speak -- again, the wife of the man who defeated her husband -- and Cokie Roberts, whose father served in the House when Jerry Ford was the Republican leader and Cokie's father was the Democratic leader, just to remind us that there was a time when people from the two parties not only got along; they did business together and they were friends. It was an important message for today, and she planned her funeral five years ago.

MR. LOWRY: John, I think she --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She saved a lot of lives with that mastectomy, because millions of women now get breast exams.

MS. CLIFT: Well, lots of people rushed to get mammograms right after that became public. That's right.

MR. LOWRY: She was a very interesting figure, because, on one hand, she was very progressive. On the other hand, she was very retrograde. The progressive part Eleanor's been talking about -- very forward-looking, changed views about alcoholism and breast cancer, extremely important and wonderful work. On the other hand, she was the first lady from the Rockefeller wing, the establishment wing of the Republican Party, that was slowly going extinct and is now totally extinct.

MS. CLIFT: I don't call that retrograde. I call that reasonable. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know, to Rich's point, I mean, I think she and Jerry Ford are two beloved figures, but to Richard's point, that's right; I was at the `80 convention up there, and the ERA had suddenly become very controversial. She marched, as I recall, in the streets of Detroit for the ERA. But now the Republican Party was moving into a Reagan party, and that was really yesterday.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Greece defaults before the end of the year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor. MS. CLIFT: President Obama's $86 million campaign fundraising haul should put to rest the notion that progressives have abandoned him.

MR. LOWRY: If Rick Perry stays out -- and I think there's still a chance that he does -- Michele Bachmann will be leading or tied in national polls by the end of the summer.



MR. BUCHANAN: She does now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's she competing with?


MR. LOWRY: Mitt Romney.


MR. LOWRY: But if Perry gets in, it's a big blow to Bachmann.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: The next president of Egypt will be Amr Moussa, former foreign minister, and one who's, by and large, hostile to America and very hostile to Israel.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Former New Jersey Democratic Senator and former Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine will be considered to replace Tim Geithner as treasury secretary.