The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Pat Buchanan, MSNBC; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner; Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report Taped: Friday, October 21, 2011 Broadcast: Weekend of October 22-23, 2011
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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Gadhafi Slain.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) So this is a momentous day in the history of Libya. The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Moammar Gadhafi, the man who ruled Libya for 42 years, is dead. Gadhafi was killed by anti-Gadhafi rebels who took the last holdout of Gadhafi and his forces, the Libyan city of Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown. Also, jubilant Libyans took over Libya's capital, Tripoli, and its powerhouse commercial city, Benghazi, to celebrate Gadhafi's fall with cries of "Allah Akbar" -- God is great. The fall of Libya comes just two days after a surprise visit to Tripoli by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From videotape.) I am proud to stand here on the soil of a free Libya. This is Libya's victory, and the future belongs to you.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secretary Clinton pledged economic and political support to post-Gadhafi Libya. Libya's liberation is seen as another jewel in the foreign policy crown of President Barack Obama. Those achievements include the successful killing of al-Qaida leaders Anwar al-Awlaki and second in command Atiyah al-Rahman, plus earlier, of course, Obama bin Laden.
The president's overall approval numbers have been generally low, except for a majority of Americans who currently approve of his job on fighting terrorism, 61 percent.
Question: Which world leader deserves the greatest credit for Gadhafi's ouster, France's Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain's David Cameron, or America's Barack Obama? Pat Buchanan.
PAT BUCHANAN: Barack Obama does, John, because the United States was the indispensable power there. The Brits ran out of cruise missiles on the first day.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he slow to join the group?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, he was not slow to join the group. The Americans in the first 10 days did all the heavy lifting. Then we backed off. But we provided the surveillance. We provided the drones.
Let me put it this way. I don't think Moammar Gadhafi would have lost that conflict if the British and French had had to act alone along with the rebels. America was the indispensable power. So Barack Obama, I believe, deserves credit.
But John, Gadhafi is an evil individual, and he probably got that grisly death maybe he deserved. But what's going to happen now -- here's a country of 140 tribes divided between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. It's not a unified country. And they have no --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just answer the question, will you, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: -- experience of democracy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we move on? We don't want a history of --
MR. BUCHANAN: I've answered it. What I'm saying is we kill the devil we know, and now we might find seven devils we don't know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, who deserves the most credit? What about Sarkozy? ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wasn't he first on the scene?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I give Sarkozy a lot of credit. He really pressed to go in there. And I think if he hadn't pressed, the question may not have even arisen in the U.S. But the president did take advantage of the fact that the U.S. is the best and largest military power in the world.
And I think he has put together what could be called the Obama doctrine, and that is marrying brutal, lethal force, when necessary -- and he introduced the drones into that conflict, and they made the difference -- and then marrying that with this more nuanced, collegial effort among allies in terms of boots on the ground, in terms of military hardware.
And this president has made a number of very risky bets in foreign policy, and they've paid off; not the ones that Pat just rattled off, or including those. Remember the pirates when the SEALs went in and snipers and took out three of the pirates in a little rowboat or lifeboat?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) It was a great victory.
MS. CLIFT: That was (easy ?) or gutsy calls this president has made in foreign policy, and he deserves a lot of credit. He may not get very much.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan Ferrechio. Welcome, by the way.
SUSAN FERRECHIO: Thank you.
I agree with both the first guests. They're absolutely right. I think Sarkozy definitely gets credit for pushing this operation. But like Pat was saying, it's the United States that puts the real power behind this NATO operation.
But I think the people that really deserve the credit are the Libyan people, who got out there and started this and got this movement going and shed a lot of blood and made a lot of sacrifices. So I think if they were listening to this conversation right now, they'd want to be taking credit themselves for sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the next steps for Libya? Do you want to get into that?
MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think implicit in what Pat was saying is the fact that we don't know which tribes are going to take over and we don't know how that government's going to evolve. We're not going to have that much of an influence on what's going to be going on internally. We did use military power. I mean, just think, though. We had all of NATO's power focused on this country. It took us five months to beat a ragtag army. So it wasn't exactly an easy thing to do, and we didn't have that much military force there.
The tribes are going to make the difference, not us.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, we had the ambassador -- not the ambassador -- the president of Norway in Washington this week.
MS. CLIFT: The prime minister.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?
MS. CLIFT: The prime minister.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, is he the prime minister? Excuse me, the prime minister; quite correct. It's a different form of government. It's not as we are here. But do we want to salute the Norwegians for the role that they played in NATO in the bombing of Gadhafi?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Norway was out there a lot, right?
MR. BUCHANAN: It was how many planes have they got? About six or something?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what I thought. But every time you'd pick up a news report, you'd see Norway out there --
MR. BUCHANAN: But, look, John, NATO --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because we thinned out our forces later on.
MR. BUCHANAN: But without -- no, no, without --
MS. CLIFT: The president said --
MR. BUCHANAN: Without the United States, NATO, everybody that was involved, would not have accomplished this without the Americans. And I agree the Libyans certainly took most, almost all the casualties. But the United States was the indispensable foreign power. MS. CLIFT: The president --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But do you maintain that Obama was ready, willing and able? Or did he have to be dragged in kicking?
MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with Eleanor. I agree with Eleanor. They came in hard the first 10 days, and then he backed off and say you do it and we'll be behind you, and we'll provide all these other things.
MS. CLIFT: He backed off --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MS. CLIFT: -- not because he wanted to; because this is -- he doesn't want to shoulder the whole burden.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think --
MS. CLIFT: This operation cost a little bit more than a billion dollars and cost not a single American life. It was a war of choice, just as Iraq was a war of choice. And look at the cost of the war of choice in Iraq. Bush made a gamble and it didn't pay off. This president made a gamble and it paid off --
MR. BUCHANAN: Let's see what happens as a result, Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: -- handsomely.
MR. BUCHANAN: Do you think the result is going to be really good? I'm not so sure.
MS. CLIFT: How would you have kept Gadhafi in power if that was the alternative?
MR. BUCHANAN: I wouldn't even have started the war. I wouldn't have started the war.
MS. CLIFT: The war has had a successful end, and --
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, we don't -- he's dead --
MS. CLIFT: If we stood aside while he massacred people --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Now, this is not a debate. This is a group discussion. Could we move on?
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Will the killing of Gadhafi and President Obama's planned withdrawal of nearly all 39,000 troops from Iraq by December boost Obama's chances of winning re-election? Pat Buchanan. MR. BUCHANAN: I think the Iraq thing, getting out of Iraq -- I credit him very much there, too. I think he did the right thing.
I agree with Mort, who said before that, look, these things have a very short shelf life. We don't know what's going to happen in Iraq. We don't know what's going to happen in Libya. It could be a mess. So I don't know, John. But I do think he did the right thing in Iraq, and I credit him for Libya.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think the staying power of the Gadhafi story is so dramatic --
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that it will have staying power?
MR. BUCHANAN: It won't last two weeks.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Nor did --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: He'll --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the answer?
MS. CLIFT: He'll get a little bit of a bump. But this is critical, because the Republicans are trying to portray him as another Jimmy Carter -- feckless, overwhelmed by problems at home and abroad. This takes away half the narrative. It keeps him in the game. He has had a foreign policy string of successes that are truly historic.
MS. FERRECHIO: And I'll add to that. The notion that he's going to take all the troops out of Iraq is really good right now for getting the loyalty of his base, getting people out there to vote for him who are really pure Democrats, who really wanted this war to be over. If he had left the troops in Iraq, I think it would have been harder for him to get the base out to vote for him. And that's who he needs to get out for the 2012 elections.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think the diehards in -- on the ground already in Libya are strong enough to take over the election? The Tunisian election did not go that well.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: We don't know in Libya. There are 140 tribes. I forget how many exactly there are. We don't know who's going to emerge as the strongest one. We don't know what's going to happen in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood. We don't know what's going to happen in Iraq because of the Shia-Sunni battle. The government is now Shia, a supporter of Iran, not of ours.
So we don't know how all this is going to play out. I'm not saying they made the wrong decision. It's too early to, as we say, celebrate and light the candles. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that this is a terrific boost for the president. There is a critical mass where he seems to have established that critical mass for himself as being a wise, a prudent, and a careful but a courageous leader.
Don't you think?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I hope so. I mean --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So I think --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- so far, so good.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's a big success on his part.
MR. BUCHANAN: On foreign policy, he's done a good job. I mean, I've got very few criticisms of his foreign policy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go ahead.
MS. FERRECHIO: But the nation's not focused on foreign policy right now.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.
MS. FERRECHIO: And that's his problem. They're focused on domestic policy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this is true. But somehow the drama of this particular story in Libya --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. Look, when we --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you disagree with that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do. When we got Osama bin Laden, he had a nine- or 10-point jump in the polls, and I said then in two months it's going to be gone, because this country, and rightly, is focused on the economy and jobs.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, don't forget, Gadhafi came here for the first time this past year. He spoke at the U.N. He got some publicity then. He's kind of awakened something that I think has more staying power than the usual foreign policy story.
Issue Two: Cain's 9-9-9 Versus Romney's 5-9. HERMAN CAIN (2012 Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) The reason that our plan is being attacked so much is because lobbyists, accountants, politicians, they don't want to throw out the current tax code and put in something that's simple and fair.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Herman Cain, the Republican candidate for the 2012 presidential election just 13 months from now, had the political bull's eye squarely on him. Cain spent nearly 30 minutes during Tuesday night's debate defending his tax plan, the 9-9-9 plan.
That plan would deep-six the current IRS tax code with its -- get this -- 70,000 pages. Cain wants a triple flat tax -- a 9 percent flat tax on corporations, a 9 percent flat tax on individuals and a 9 percent flat sales tax on bought goods.
The plan was fiercely attacked in the debate by nearly all other contenders for the Republican presidential nomination; notably the front runner, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR AND 2012 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MITT ROMNEY: (From videotape.) I want to reduce taxes on middle-income families. I like your chutzpah on this, Herman, but I have to tell you, the analysis I did, person by person, return by return, is that middle-income people see higher taxes under your plan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Romney plan, entitled "Believe in America," spans 160 pages, encompassing 59 points. The highlights: One, income taxes -- keep tax rates at their current reduced levels enacted under President George W. Bush and renewed last year by President Obama.
Two, capital gains taxes. Eliminate capital gains taxes for anyone earning less than $200,000 a year.
Three, corporate taxes. Cut the taxes on corporate profits from the current 35 percent to 25 percent.
Four, constitutional amendment, a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would cap federal spending at 20 percent of U.S. GDP.
Question: Which plan makes more sense for our economy, where 70 percent of growth comes from consumer spending? Pat, is it Romney's cuts or is it --
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, no. The -- Cain puts a 9 percent sales tax on. That would be a disincentive to consume. However, his tax cut -- my tax rate would go, as yours would, or Mort's would, from 35 (percent) down to 9 (percent). So that would give us a tremendous amount of money that wouldn't go to the government.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it would affect Mort?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, listen, and so some of us would go out and spend it. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort's a billionaire.
MR. BUCHANAN: I might not. Most people would spend it. You know, the problem with Cain's thing is there's no way you're going to get a 9 percent sales tax through the Congress of the United States.
MS. CLIFT: It's unworkable and unfair. And when Republicans across that stage think it's unfair and it mistreats the poor and the middle class, you know there really is something wrong with it. It's gotten a lot of attention because it's simple, it's catchy and he's a great salesman. But his tax plan is going nowhere.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does Romney understand what it takes to amend the Constitution --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- how involved that is?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: If you want to get his tax plan through with a constitutional amendment, even I will be old at that point.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I mean, it's -- but, look, there's no --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A convention --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Here's what is important.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- all 48 -- all 50 states.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: What is important is everybody understands we've got to do something drastic with the tax code. It's counterproductive to the economy. If we want to stimulate the economy, we've got to absolutely eliminate all the special privilege and special benefits. Many of them are given to people who don't deserve it. And simplify the tax rates. And that would stimulate -- stimulate both the consumers and business. It's the one thing we can do without increasing our debts and deficit.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know. You know, this sounds good. There's too many details. There's too many loopholes, et cetera. Baloney. Those things have been very carefully thought through. They've gone piecemeal through Congress. I'm serious about that.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: They've been greased by --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When corporations make withdrawals or take exception to being taxed, it's some kind of an instigation to stay here in the United States and not go to China. MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, with all due respect, I do think that many of these particular amendments were put through by specific lobbying groups and groups with --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what? So what?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: So what? So it's unequal. It's unfair.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A, lobbyists are respectable.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And it benefits --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secondly, they tell you things about your public policy that even you don't realize. Thirdly, they represent the legitimate interests of corporations, which are persons. Remember that.
MR. BUCHANAN: Your position is we've got a great tax code?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, I'll tell you what --
MS. CLIFT: I gather you're not with the 99 percenters on Wall Street who think that all this corporate power that's manipulating the tax code is not a good thing for most of the American people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you raised a good question.
What do you think of this OWS, Occupy Wall Street, movement?
MS. FERRECHIO: Well, I think right now they need to -- they're avoiding having any kind of specific message. I mean, they get out there and they say, you know, pay my --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: College tuition.
MS. FERRECHIO: -- college tuition, and they say that the banks are stealing houses. But people, you know, took loans out for those houses, and the banks gave them the money. So they're probably not stealing. So they're certainly a sympathetic group. You know, they're kids who got out of college who can't get jobs. But, you know, their message is a little bit muddled right now. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is true they made it right, the banks did, with TARP.
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, yes. Look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they're paying -- some of them are paying that back, are they not?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, there's no doubt rich people made money dealing -- basically gambling with paper. Then when they went under, they got bailed out --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's a gamble. It's a gamble. They have risk involved.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's unearned.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They have risk.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a feeling of unearned wealth, and that's the problem. But I will say this. The reason they don't define themselves by taking stands is because then they will divide themselves.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you handle that personally, the problem of unearned wealth -- you personally?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, if you're --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MR. BUCHANAN: If you're paid the minimum wage on the McLaughlin Group, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: -- you don't have that problem. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: What are Republicans leaning towards -- reforming our existing tax structure or adopting the new Cain formula?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think everybody's for the reform. I think that Mort talked about get rid of deductions, exemptions, all of it; reduce the corporate rates and the personal rates.
MS. CLIFT: Everybody's for reform, but it takes years to put a package like that together. It's not going to reinvigorate the economy now, when we need it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And well it should. MS. FERRECHIO: There's an opportunity for tax reform now. We've got this supercommittee in Congress to at least get the conversation going. And that's where Herman Cain gets credit. Clearly the country is interested in this. So the next president, whoever that is, be it the incumbent or someone new, is probably going to have this on their agenda.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree with Pat's agreement of me. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I agree with Pat's agreement with you, but I also concur with you.
Issue Three: One for One Thousand.
(Begin videotaped segment.)
Q: You actually do look fine. How are you?
GILAD SHALIT (Israeli soldier): I'm very excited.
(End videotaped segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gilad Shalit is a first-class sergeant in the Israeli military. He's now 25 years old. This week Gilad Shalit was a free man. Shalit returned to a hero's welcome in Israel after being held hostage by the Palestinian militant group Hamas for five years.
Under an exchange agreement -- in diplomatic parlance, a swap deal -- the Palestinian Hamas swapped Shalit, whom they were holding, for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons -- 1,027 Palestinians.
Question: Is this prisoner exchange the start of reset in relations between the Palestinians and the Israelis? Susan Ferrechio.
MS. FERRECHIO: I don't see how it can be the start when a lot of the people they're going to let out are probably going to kill more Israelis, and that's just going to make things a lot more difficult between the two regions. I just don't see how letting out terrorists and having them kill more Israelis is going to be more helpful.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it really is commendable that the Israelis go all the way to retrieve their wounded and get back their soldiers. I think it's ideal. But I will say, just 1,000 of these people -- and some of these guys are mass murderers -- letting them go -- and I think Susan is right -- it's going to result in many more dead Israelis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: First of all, this is a glimmer of confidence the two sides were able to put this together, and I think that's positive. There's an opening here that maybe can be exploited. There's a long history of these kinds of prisoner exchanges, always unbalanced.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: The Israelis can say one of ours is worth a thousand of them, and the Palestinians can say they got their people back. The down side is the Palestinians may think that if they --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: -- capture more Israeli soldiers, but I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Hamas has already --
MS. CLIFT: -- Netanyahu --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: -- Netanyahu is a crafty politician. He may have gotten some concessions. You have a security fence there now. The Israelis don't feel quite as vulnerable.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, I've got a problem with Netanyahu. Ten years ago he published his views on the subject in his book, "Fighting Terrorism." Quote: "Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists. Worse, by leading terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse," unquote; Benjamin Netanyahu. What do you have to say about that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, clearly, in one sense, this is inconsistent with that. Surprise, surprise. When people get into office, they have different views of things. But the issue here from the Israeli point of view is that this is not a settler. This is a soldier. And they have an ethic in that army that they have to do whatever it takes to get their soldiers back. It would have been different if he was a -- the hostage was a civilian. And that's something that had a big effect.
Having said that, as a former chief of staff said, you know, my heart says yes, my head says no, because you are right and everybody else is right. It exposes not only Israel to much more in the way of kidnapping, but it emboldens Gaza -- I mean, Hamas. It strengthens Hamas, the last people you want to strengthen. And, frankly, it's going to weaken the PLO, which is exactly what you don't want.
So there are many complications to it, but ultimately 79 percent of the Israelis supported it because they wanted to get this soldier back. He became everybody's son, everybody's child, over the last five, six years because of an unbelievable campaign organized by his family to, in fact, get -- every Israeli government has tried to get the release going.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it wasn't a product of a TV campaign.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no. But there was on television -- they had (buses ?) in front of them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It was -- they were -- they may -- and, look, the family was unbelievably --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, on merits, Netanyahu did the right thing?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: In terms of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, no, I do not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Obama and Occupy Wall Street.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I understand the frustrations that are being expressed in those protests. In some ways, they're not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the tea party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The protests President Obama is talking about are the Occupy Wall Street, OWS, protests. OWS protesters have been protesting for weeks against Wall Street at its big investment banks and big corporations. The protesters believe that Wall Street corporations cause the ongoing economic unemployment crisis. These protests have now taken place in -- get this -- 250 cities in the U.S., also in other cities throughout the world -- London, Rome, Sydney, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Taipei, Toronto.
OWS has recently released a list of their demands, which include, one, government-subsidized health care for every American; two, $20 an hour minimum wage, as opposed to the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour; three, a guaranteed living income for all; four, debt forgiveness for all Americans -- forgive student debt, forgive credit- card debt, forgive mortgage debt.
Many believe that President Obama is taking cues from the OWS movement in order to rally his liberal anti-business base. PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) They're going to have to explain to working families why their taxes are going up while the richest Americans and largest corporations are getting a sweet deal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is it politically risky for President Obama to embrace the cause of these disillusioned progressives? Mort.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think he's trying to rechannel the angry in the country against Wall Street or the wealthy or what have you instead of against his administration. But as you can see from the programs that were put forth, they're totally preposterous. They're impossible to make work.
This isn't to say that we shouldn't do some things. And these are people, I think, who are concerned about a simple thing; namely, the future ain't what it used to be, as the phrase goes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan, let me ask you this. There's a pollster by the name of Doug Schoen. He's a Democratic pollster, and he's highly regarded. He did a poll on the Occupy Wall Street movement, and he says, quote, "It is dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people, and particularly with swing voters, who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health care reform," unquote.
Do you understand that?
MS. FERRECHIO: I think that President Obama is right to try to channel -- like you said, channel the argument away from him and channel it at, you know, the financial industry, the big banks; just try to get the attention off him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For political reasons.
MS. FERRECHIO: Absolutely. He's lost the independent vote. He's not going to get it back in 2012. So he needs to get the base on his side. But the problem with these folks, these Occupy Wall Street folks, is their message is just all over the place. The things they're asking for are impossible to achieve.
MR. BUCHANAN: They've got two big problems. One, as Mort says, this is utopian nonsense drawn up by some -- by some sophomore at a junior college or something. But here's the real problem is, John, these guys, as they keep marching and marching and marching with no specific demands, the weather's going to get bad, and to get attention, they're going to start breaking the law and they're going to start breaking --
MS. FERRECHIO: They're already breaking the law.
MR. BUCHANAN: They are. And then the American people will recoil and repel against them. MS. CLIFT: I didn't hear --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He'll lose the center.
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he'll get the left, but he'll lose the center if he stays too close to them.
MS. FERRECHIO: He's already lost the center.
MS. CLIFT: Can somebody come in here who has a positive word to say about the Wall Street protesters? I don't know why you all are so worried. These are people --
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's Obama that should be worried.
MS. CLIFT: I don't agree. This is the only energy there is on the left. And they are reflecting a lot of anger in this country. I agree these demonstrations could get out of hand.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know what --
MS. CLIFT: But corporations, politicians, are starting to listen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know what percentage of the OWS people are unemployed?
MS. CLIFT: Well, they're the ones who are able to get out. And there's a legion of unemployed, and they're very respectable people, unlike the way they've been characterized.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifteen percent are unemployed, marginally above the 9.1 percent national average, but not the national youth average. Does that mean anything to you?
MS. CLIFT: What it means --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is all Doug Schoen.
MS. CLIFT: What it means to me, this is a spontaneous outpouring. The Democrats didn't organize it. Special-interest groups haven't gotten in there. The unions are trying to figure out how they can plug in, and some of the progressive groups, as well they should, because --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan --
MS. CLIFT: -- the tea party had an enormous impact in 2010. They could have an impact in 2012 if they begin to channel what they want. And they could organize around jobs and income inequality, not the list you put on the screen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this true or false? If Obama aligns himself too closely with Occupy Wall Street, it will only reinforce the perception that he, Obama, is too left of center for average voters. Forty-one percent of Americans say they are conservative. Thirty-six percent call themselves moderate. And only 21 percent call themselves liberal or progressive.
MS. FERRECHIO: I don't think that message needs to be reinforced. I think he has delivered that message loud and clear through the first few years of his administration. People know where he stands now, whereas they weren't too sure when he took office. And now he needs to win over the people that he knows he can win, which are the people on the left.
MR. BUCHANAN: This is going to drag him to the left, and that's where he does not want to be.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were giving advice --
MS. FERRECHIO: That's where he is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were giving advice to him, Susan, what would you tell him to do on OWS?
MS. FERRECHIO: Go for it. Go for it. He's not going to win the independent voters in 2012.
MS. CLIFT: That is not a prediction you could make now with any certainty. I'll wager that one.
MS. FERRECHIO: OK.
MS. CLIFT: OK. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Give me the date when Cain's ratings will fall behind Romney's.
MR. BUCHANAN: Second week in November.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: By Thanksgiving.
MS. FERRECHIO: November.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah -- the end of October.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer: Christmas.