Share

The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Pat Buchanan, MSNBC; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Susan Ferrechio, The Washington Examiner; Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune Taped: Friday, October 28, 2011 Broadcast: Weekend of October 29-30, 2011

-----------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright (c) 2011 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500 1000 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please visit http://www.fednews.com or call(202)347-1400
-----------------------------------------------------------------


JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Rich Man, Poor Man.

FORMER REPRESENTATIVE ALAN GRAYSON (D-FL): (From video.) The rich have been getting richer. The poor have been getting poorer. That's just the way it's been for the past 30 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Former Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson is angry. There's too much money at the top of our culture, not enough at the bottom. The gap between the rich and the poor is deeper and wider than ever before. Grayson is right. So says the authoritative nonpartisan CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, released last week in their report. Over the past 30 years, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans had incomes that rose by -- get this -- 275 percent. The average salary for that top 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans for one year of work was $352,000, whereas the middle 60 percent of Americans, aka the middle class, saw their income increase by just 40 percent. The average salary for a middle-class American rose to just under $50,000 a year.

Why this enormous income gap? One major reason is that U.S. workers without a college education cannot compete with the Chinese, the Indian, or other workers around the world that are better educated and cheaper.

Question: Is it a fallacy that the rich just get richer, Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN: No, John. What's happened to the American economy is a dramatic historic transfer from manufacturing and production power to a financial capital where people buy and sell and trade paper.

The second thing that's happened, John, is this. We dropped the U.S. economy. We had the highest wages in the world and strict regulations into a global economy with countries with the lowest wages you can imagine and no regulation, so production and manufacturing, all those jobs left the United States and went to China, Asia, other countries around the world.

That's why the middle class, the blue-collar workers, have had arrested incomes for something like 30 years: Because we've done that to the American people, John. And I'll tell you, last -- take the first decade of the 20th (sic) century. We lost 6 million manufacturing jobs, one in every three we had, and 55,000 factories. That's what happened to the American middle class. They were sold out by both parties, in particular the Republican free traders.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, Pat is right. The income disparity is a result of policies, deliberate policies that go back to the Reagan era. And it's a trend line then that was dramatically accelerated after the Bush tax cuts. And the opposition Wall Street crowd in New York and other cities and places around the country get credit for putting this issue on the top of the political agenda. I don't think we would be talking about this if we didn't have people camped out in Zuccotti Park in New York.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

SUSAN FERRECHIO: There's some fallacy in that argument. I think the Tax Foundation put out some interesting statistics this past week that showed the upper-income distribution has actually shrunk a little bit because people earning the most were hurt the most in this past recession that started in 2007. So the number has gone down a little bit over the past five years, and that's not pointed out in the study too. So there's that issue to think about, and there's also the fact that there's more wealth at the top of the spectrum now. But since Clinton came, the tax rate -- people paying taxes at the lower end has gone down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's some more learned thinking on this and polling. The top 1 percent, those making $380,000 and up in 2008, suffered the largest income shock in percentage terms of any U.S. income group.

CLARENCE PAGE: Shockingly up or down?

MS. CLIFT: Shockingly. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Shockingly down. While true, in good times their incomes rise more than average, in bad times their incomes fall far more dramatically, by a factor of three times the average.

MR. PAGE: Know why?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that -- is that redemptive at all of the wealthy?

MR. PAGE: You know why? Because -- (inaudible) -- their wealth comes from investments. Look what's happened to investments over the last two or three years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what do investments involve?

MR. BUCHANAN: Stocks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Risk. Risk.

MR. PAGE: So what, John?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it could go either way.

MR. PAGE: Yeah, life is risky, so just take care of yourself now, right?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MR. PAGE: That's a complete reversal of the way we've been -- since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, we have believed in a certain amount of fairness about both tax policy and about the benefits of the economy.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, 40 percent --

MR. PAGE: The broad global changes that have happened since the mid `70s -- MR. BUCHANAN: Forty percent, John, of all the wealth and income came from finance. This is just -- it's casino. You're trading paper, bonds, stocks --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. PAGE: You've got it.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- hedge funds, all the rest of it. You're not making things and selling things. We used to produce 96 percent of everything we consumed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: Right. And they call --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the top 1 percent are chiefly bankers and Wall Street financiers?

MS. CLIFT: Well, they call themselves job creators, but I don't see the jobs.

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: They've had a wonderful decade and we've had negative job creation for the first 10 years of this decade. And they've made money doing exactly what Pat says. They've shuffled papers around and they've come up with creative new ways of securitizing things and getting insurance on them.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MS. CLIFT: It's a huge scam.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I talked to the head of --

MS. CLIFT: And they got away with it because there was no regulation. And this --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I talked to the head of MIT, who was a former Nixon fellow, and he told me, you know what. Our guys used to go into engineering and all these things. They're all going to Wall Street now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well -- MR. BUCHANAN: -- because that's where all the money is made.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The top 1 percent that we're talking about are Hollywood celebrities -- in this order -- athletes, university and college presidents -- get a load of that --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- doctors, CEOs, and Silicon Valley moguls and bankers and the financiers.

MR. PAGE: I hope you aren't resentful, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No talk show hosts.

MR. PAGE: I hope you aren't resentful, John.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, one should have been in there at least, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did they miss you, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. FERRECHIO: So Occupy Wall Street gets credit, but what's their solution? Redistribute the wealth.

MR. PAGE: It doesn't matter. What's the tea party solution? The fact is Occupy Wall Street has changed the conversation. And that's valuable in itself, just like the tea party --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to get --

MR. PAGE: -- shifted the conversation in their direction.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to get to that, Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Well, please do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, hold on.

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's the bad news. Now, here's the good news.

One, stock markets up all over the world on Thursday. The markets soared. The Dow closed up 339 points in the U.S. Two, U.S. GDP growth up, July, August and September, 2.5 percent growth; nearly double the growth rate for the previous three months, 1.3 percent.

Three, Greece debt deal. The deal will cut the amount of debt that the debt-ridden Greece will be obliged to pay back -- 50 percent. Not bad, huh, Pat?

Are these the first indicators of a U.S. economic rebound, Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't think it's time to break out the champagne just yet, but I think the president must be feeling a little bit more confident that his policies that he put in place are beginning to work. But a lot of this has to do with Europe and the fact that they apparently have come to a plan forward. The irony is they have to go to the Chinese hat in hand to get the money to put into this default fund so they can bail out the western economies. And I think it's a real signal that the center of gravity in the globe is moving from Washington, D.C. to China.

MR. BUCHANAN: The key question, John, is those bonds now. It's not a good deal for the folks who got the Greek bonds. They lost 50 percent of them the other day. If that happens, John, in Portugal, but most especially in Italy, we're going to be right back in the pot.

MR. PAGE: And the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

MR. PAGE: -- (inaudible) -- work out, too, as to compensation with the credit default swaps.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: That's absolutely right. Let's see. The devil's in the details on this plan. Everyone thinks it's not good enough, but it's something to get us straightened out in Europe. What's going to happen in Italy? What's going to happen in other big countries? But it's clearly sent a signal to the markets. Things rebounded this week. So, you know, we'll see where we go from there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: What will be the OWS impact on the presidential race 12 months from now? In other words, is Occupy Wall Street likely to be transitory, or is it likely to be enduring? Pat, exit question.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to be very damaging to the president for this reason, if he gets too close to it, because it's going to end very, very badly with these folks in the winter. And they're not going to be getting publicity and they're going to be acting up and acting badly, like the worst of the demonstrators in the `60s. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean overnight camping, stuff like that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, not just overnight camping. They're going to start fighting with the cops.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, there was one fight with the cops in Oakland, and an Iraq war veteran was hit with a projectile in the head and he's still in critical condition. I don't know who you blame for that, Pat, but I know how I view it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Blame the person who threw --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it have enough staying power? Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: And secondly -- I think they have staying power. Secondly, the suffragists who stood in front of the White House, they thought they would go home when it got cold. They heated bricks for them to stand on. I think these people have some staying power.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: There's just not that many of them. You know, we were talking earlier. There were hundreds of thousands of people who marched in protest of the war in Iraq in 2004. We're talking, you know, a couple of hundred people camped out here and there in Washington, D.C. So staying power -- I guess in the media we'll probably keep reading about them. But I think also, once winter comes along, I think you're going to see some of these people head home, and it might get even smaller.

MR. PAGE: But the issue is still going to be there.

MS. FERRECHIO: What kind of impact can they have?

MR. PAGE: The issue's still going to be there. And don't measure their success by their numbers out in the street.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. PAGE: Measure it by the way the conversation has changed. The fact that we're talking about wealth gap right now instead of just talking about -- where are we going to cut now? Where are we going to stop spending now? That's all we've been talking about for the last several years. All of a sudden now we're seeing the conversation shift. And early polling shows the occupation -- Occupy Wall Street group, among those who have been following the news, has been more popular than the tea party. Now, that goes up and down as well. But part of the tea party's problem is they're victims of their own success right now. And so all these movements go through certain cycles.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's transitory unless they spawn a third-party candidate. And this might be just the time for it, if it ever occurs.

Issue Two: Slip or Slur?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From video.) I expect all of you to march with me and press on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama recently delivered an address at the annual awards dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus, the CBC, an organization of 43 black members of Congress. President Obama's CBC speech gained a lot of attention, largely because of what Mr. Obama had intended to be a rallying cry.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From video.) Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Critics accused the president of using language that deepens any stereotype of black Americans as passive, complaining and/or lazy. TV host Tavis Smiley blasted Mr. Obama for the perceived slur, the "shake it off, take off your slippers, stop grumbling" language, words that Smiley argues Mr. Obama would never use with Latino, Jewish or gay Americans.

TAVIS SMILEY (TV talk show host): (From video.) Would he ever say to our Hispanic brothers and sisters on immigration and their concerns, stop grumbling, stop crying, stop complaining? Did he say to gays and lesbians, stop grumbling, stop complaining, stop crying? How does he get away with saying this to black folk when he would never form his lips to ever say that to any other constituency?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, how do you want to address this?

MR. PAGE: Well, I think, first of all, for those of us who were in the room at the Congressional Black Caucus, there was a lot of love in that room, first of all. I want you to know that while you're going to have people saying, well, he shouldn't have said that, blah, blah, blah, still he had the crowd with him.

Number two, everybody who knows Tavis Smiley knows that he and Cornel West have had criticism of Barack Obama since before his election for not being close enough to the liberal progressive agenda that they follow. So I'm not -- I mean, I've known Tavis and I've known Cornel for 15, 20 years. I respect all of them. But they have disagreements without being disagreeable, shall we say.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of the New York Times poll, according to the September New York Times poll? Ten percent of African-Americans say Obama has not met their expectations. If this 10 percent sit it out in 2012, it could cut badly into Obama's African-American support.

MR. PAGE: I think 10 percent is too low. I think they were being nice to the pollster. There's a lot of discontent among black folks that he hasn't been more effective --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will they stay home --

MR. PAGE: -- than he has.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- on voting day?

MR. PAGE: No. (Laughs.) No. Put that out of your mind. You may not get that 96 percent --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. PAGE: -- turnout you got before, but it's going to be a very high turnout.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How critical was the black vote in his election?

MR. PAGE: How critical it was -- well, you're talking about -- in close states, of course, it's very important.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Electoral College.

MR. PAGE: So -- well, yeah, absolutely. And so is --

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, you know, the African-American --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. The African-American --

MR. PAGE: Well, the black and the Hispanic vote are both very important. But what's really crucial is suburban swing voters.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you hear on the street?

MR. PAGE: What I hear on the street? Well, I hear discontent, like even, you know, back in Chicago, people saying why isn't he more of a Chicago-style politician? Why isn't he tougher? That's why you've been hearing tougher language coming from him --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. PAGE: -- more populist language lately. But still, I think people are more pleased now than they were a couple of months ago. And that's across his base, not just black folks.

MS. CLIFT: Well, Karl Rove wrote a column months ago why Obama's going to lose, and he zeroed in on North Carolina and the percentage of the black vote he got there; and if a slightly diminished turnout, his -- Obama's margin there was very small.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's holding up there. Obama's --

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's the point. I mean, I think Clarence is right. African-Americans want this president to succeed, as do most Americans. And he has that as an advantage going into this election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: But there's a difference between wanting him to succeed and supporting him when you're talking to a pollster on the phone and then getting out and voting. And so the enthusiasm that brought so many people to the polls three years ago, that may not be there this time around, and that could cost him.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Barack Obama won the black vote, 24 to 1. McCain got the same share of the African-American vote as David Duke got running for governor of Louisiana. African-American voters gave Barack Obama 25 or 26 percent of all his votes. The question is, are they going to come out as they did and be 13 percent of the electorate, or will it drop off a little bit and will his percentage go to 90 percent, which in that case would be a victory for the GOP?

MS. CLIFT: And can a Herman Cain --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: -- on the ticket make any kind of difference? I think Republicans --

MR. PAGE: Yeah, who you're running against makes a big difference.

MS. CLIFT: -- are dreaming of that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, another possible Obama debacle? ARMANDO NAVARRO (Political Activist): (From video.) He does not have my vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Latino political activist Armando Navarro voted for President Obama in 2008. But he will not vote for him in 2012. And Navarro's frustration has trickled down to the Latino population at large. Why?

Item: Immigration. The president promised to make immigration reform -- that is, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants -- a priority in his first year. Mr. Obama has completed nearly three years in office, and no path.

Item: Unemployment. The overall U.S. unemployment rate is 9.1 percent. The U.S. Latino unemployment rate is 11.3 percent.

Item: Poverty. The overall poverty rate is 15 percent. The Latino poverty rate is 25 percent.

Item: Youth poverty. There are more Latinos under 18 living in poverty than any other ethnic group, 6.1 million. Less than 50 percent of Latinos back the president. That's nearly a 20-point drop from the figure in 2008, when he won the presidency.

Question: The Democrats controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate from 2009 through early 2011, this year. Why didn't President Obama deliver on immigration reform, both to keep his promise and to keep his Latin American constituency? Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, it was a very simple technical reason in the Senate is that they couldn't get the number of votes to clear a filibuster, which is 60 votes. You don't just need a simple majority. Had he had that support, a little bit beyond 60, he might have been able to push it, though there are some moderate Democrats who might not have supported it either.

So the real problem was he didn't have enough Democrats. And then, even among his own party, some of the moderates aren't so keen on it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He disagrees with you.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. I agree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?

MR. BUCHANAN: Amnesty, John, is a killer. It almost killed John McCain in 2007.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What kind of amnesty? MR. BUCHANAN: Well, when you talk about a path to citizenship, you mean taking the 11 (million) to 20 million illegals and putting them on a path to citizenship; in other words, they're not going to be sent back. They're going to be legalized. That is amnesty to every conservative. And amnesty --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How is that objection cleared by the path itself and the requirements of the path?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, because what you're doing is basically -- you're here now; you're illegal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long does it take on this path?

MR. BUCHANAN: Even if it takes three or five years, people don't want it because you're making illegals legal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They could be the children of illegal immigrants.

MR. BUCHANAN: If they're born here, they're automatic citizens. And they want anchor babies stopped too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, they weren't born here. They were born there, and they came here as children.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're illegals.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So?

MR. PAGE: Pat, you're opposed to --

MS. CLIFT: Any -- excuse me. Any --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you're going to leave it that way the rest of their lives.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: Any --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many of those do you think there are in the United States?

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleven (million) to 20 million.

MS. CLIFT: Any disappointment --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what do you think of that? Do you want them all to be illegal?

MR. PAGE: Pat's not crazy about it. MR. BUCHANAN: They're still illegal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, they (marry here ?). They get their automobile licenses.

So what? So what?

MR. PAGE: Pat wants to kick them out. That's what it is.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Any --

MR. PAGE: He wants to kick them out.

MS. CLIFT: Any disappointment that Hispanics might have in President Obama is more than overcome by attitudes like Pat Buchanan --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: -- has just expressed. And just listen to the Republican debates. They boo when the subject of immigration reform comes up. They're trying to outdo each other as to who can be tougher on immigrants.

MR. BUCHANAN: Then why doesn't Obama talk about it if it's such a good issue?

MR. PAGE: He's going to talk about it because --

MS. CLIFT: He doesn't have to talk about it. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: I just did a column on Hispanic feelings about Obama. They're mostly disappointed and even angry about the high deportation rate, which has gone up, something that Homeland Security brags about. In fact, he has deported more in his term than Bush did during his entire term.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MS. FERRECHIO: He's changed that policy now. He's only going to target violent offenders and get those out of the country --

MR. PAGE: Well, that's what he --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- and leave everybody else.

MR. PAGE: That's what he said before -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why isn't anybody talking about --

MR. PAGE: -- but there's a lot of nonviolent offenders.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why isn't anybody talking about what these technically illegal are, what they contribute to science, what they're contributing to medicine --

MR. BUCHANAN: Because you'd lose the election, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- what they're contributing to law, what they're contributing --

MR. PAGE: Among Republicans you would.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to the highest level of our society and how we need them because the so-called white population, if that can be defined --

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the white population is shrinking?

MR. PAGE: Have you read Pat's book, by the way, about -- I absolutely --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's worried about it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

MR. PAGE: I absolutely agree with you, John. But the fact of the matter is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we should welcome these people to save our --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. PAGE: I agree with you. But for both sides, the system is currently broken and it's not being fixed because of gridlock --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. PAGE: -- being generated by Republican intransigence.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. Sorry to interrupt. Exit question: President Obama proposed this week to ease refinancing for homeowners whose mortgages are underwater. Will this gain back his Hispanic support? Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. And the immigration should be cut, John, because we have 25 million unemployed and underemployed, and you're bringing in workers? MR. PAGE: Well, they're leaving. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're not bringing them in. We're raising the ones who are here illegally or grown up to be illegal, and live with it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tell them -- send them home and tell them to file your papers and get in line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come on, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: The state --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That would ruin the economy. It would depress it even more.

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These guys are at the top of their profession, some of them.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're agricultural workers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's go, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Immigrants, whether they're legal or illegal, have not ruined the economy. The state of Alabama is a wonderful little pilot project here. They have a tough anti-immigration -- you ought to stop anyone you suspect of being -- kids are dropping out of school. They're leaving the fields. The business is collapsing in Alabama. That's what happens if Pat's ideas go into effect.

MS. FERRECHIO: The mortgage program is not going to help anyone. Economists have already determined that. So I don't see how Hispanics would like it. It's not going to help them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: Which program? I'm sorry now. (Laughs.) Did we just switch?

MS. CLIFT: Mortgage -- underwater.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Underwriting of the mortgages.

MR. PAGE: Oh, underwriting mortgages with the Hispanic vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, you know, what's been proposed, that new legislation.

MR. PAGE: Well, I'm in favor of it. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You are?

MR. PAGE: Anything that helps the mortgage market.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it won't have much effect.

Issue Three: Mormonism -- Religion or Cult?

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R) (Republican Presidential Candidate): (From video.

) The concept that we select people based on the church or the synagogue they go to, I think, is a very dangerous and enormous departure from the principles of our Constitution.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mitt Romney says that his Mormonism should not bar him from winning the White House. Governor Romney, a devout Mormon, has been a target of Texas evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress. He says that Mr. Romney's Mormon faith is not a religion. It's a cult.

ROBERT JEFFRESS (Pastor, First Baptist Church of Dallas): (From video.) In my estimation, Mormonism is a cult. And it would give credence to a cult to have a Mormon candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So if Republicans were to nominate Mitt Romney, a self-identified Mormon, as their official GOP candidate to run for U.S. president, that would credentialize a cult, says Jeffress. But Mormons point out that their religion, Mormonism, is a faith, not a cult.

Item: Jesus. Quote: "Mormonism is indistinguishable from Christianity," unquote. So says the Mormon church. They believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the second person of the Holy Trinity, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Item: Mormon population. Nearly 6 million Americans practice Mormonism in the United States, and 17 million worldwide, including the United States.

Item: Tax-exempt status. Mormonism is exempt from taxes on expenditures, exactly as are other religions, like Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism. That tax-exempt status is a further guarantee that Mormonism is a religion and tax-free in it expenditures, not what a cult gets by way of being tax-free.

Item: No polygamy -- one man and one woman, not one man and many women, as used to define marriage in Mormonism. The Mormon church outlawed, in fact, polygamy in 1904.

Question: Will Mitt Romney's Mormonism diminish Romney's chances to become U.S. president, Eleanor Clift? MS. CLIFT: I think some evangelical Christians may have a problem with it. But frankly, between "The Book of Mormon" being a huge success on Broadway, a Mormon church ad campaign about "I am a Mormon" where they have posters on the side of buses, the "Big Love" series on HBO, it's kind of cool these days to be a Mormon. And I think it's taken -- some of these entertainment shows have taken some of the mystery out of Mormonism. And so I think, broadly speaking, in the general election it would be no problem for Mitt Romney.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the play on Broadway reductively an apologia for Mormonism, a defense of Mormonism? It's --

MR. PAGE: It's a comedy, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a comedy. It's a comedy, I know. But is it reductively redemptive of Mormonism, so to speak?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think it invites humor. They make fun of some traditions. But you could do that for every --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are Mormons making fun of their own tradition?

MS. CLIFT: You could do it for every religion. And there are some leaps of faith in every religion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You never see Patrick --

MS. CLIFT: Religion is a leap of faith by definition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does he make fun of in Catholicism?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Well, no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you make fun of the pope? Never.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what the problem with Mormonism is. Eleanor's touched on one of them. Three fourths of the Baptist ministers agree that it's a cult, one thing. And so he's got a problem in the South, although he should win because of Obama in the South.

But here's what's going to happen, John. The media are going to do specials and all these other things on Mormonism. And there are some beliefs in Mormonism that are extraordinarily controversial, and I think they will highlight those. And people don't know anything about it. And I think they could use those to damage Romney.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We haven't had a Jewish president. We haven't had a Hindu president.

MR. BUCHANAN: Muslim.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about an atheist? MS. FERRECHIO: I don't think an atheist --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Could be elected.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- could be elected.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Could be elected.

MR. PAGE: You may have already had one.

MS. FERRECHIO: Because, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought -- wait a minute. I thought that religion was a private matter, and the separation of church and state exists.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, anyone running for president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If it's a private matter, why does it make a difference if an atheist is an atheist --

MS. FERRECHIO: Because people --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- as far as the presidency is concerned.

MS. FERRECHIO: People want to believe that their president believes in God.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. But people won't vote for him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But why do they think?

MR. BUCHANAN: They won't vote for him, John. He wouldn't be disqualified. They just wouldn't vote for him.

MS. CLIFT: Clarence --

MS. FERRECHIO: There's a difference between going to church and --

MS. CLIFT: Clarence just made the right point here. We may have already had an atheist president. We don't necessarily know it.

MR. PAGE: Yeah. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, does --

MS. CLIFT: People's beliefs are private.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why are both of you equating atheism with a lack of spiritual values? What they deny is the existence of a god. They don't deny nor do they not practice spiritual values, spiritual extending beyond there being a god. Do you understand?

MS. FERRECHIO: Yeah.

MR. PAGE: Well, I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Tom Wolfe's great quote about how a cult is any religion that doesn't have political clout, because that's what we're seeing here. The Mormons are -- certainly in Utah nobody calls it a cult. And it's like a -- this whole debate is like, you know, how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MR. PAGE: The fact is it comes down, as that minister you quoted said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, did you hear me? I --

MR. PAGE: That minister said -- people asked him, but are you going to vote for Obama over --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I moved this --

MR. PAGE: -- Romney? He said, oh, no, Romney wins if it's against Obama. That's what it boils down to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I thought I moved this well beyond Mormons. I'm talking about an atheist.

MR. PAGE: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about someone with spiritual values that are civic --

MR. BUCHANAN: He wouldn't be elected, John. He wouldn't be elected. The people would vote against him if he was an atheist. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Because they think that an atheist does not have spiritual values as well as denying the existence of God. Those are not --

MR. BUCHANAN: They want --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Those are not identical.

MR. BUCHANAN: They want someone who is basically a Christian. And Mr. Romney says he's a Christian.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The supercommittee will fail and the slicer will be put into effect. Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: You've got it.

MS. CLIFT: No.

MS. FERRECHIO: No, it won't fail. It'll come to agreement.

MR. PAGE: They'll come to an agreement. It'll be a two-stage agreement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These last two panelists are correct. They will come to an agreement.

Bye-bye. Trick or treat.

END.