The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Pat Buchanan, MSNBC; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Tim Carney, Washington Examiner; Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune Taped: Friday, November 18, 2011 Broadcast: Weekend of November 19-20, 2011
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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Down Under.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) Thank you, Madam Prime Minister, for your generous welcome, your friendship and your partnership. I am thrilled to be down under.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama traveled this week to the Australian military base in Darwin on Australia's northern coast. The president met there with Australia's prime minister, Julia Gillard, to salute the 60th anniversary of ANZUS, the Australian-New Zealand- United States security treaty. ANZUS came into being in 1951 as a mutual defense pact. An attack on one nation would trigger a retaliation by all three countries. The ANZUS commemoration came on top of a new military agreement between the U.S. and Australia. That agreement will deploy 2,500 U.S. Marines and U.S. naval ships to Darwin. The move is intended to counter the growing military presence of China.
Question: Was China's reaction to our announcement of the Marine base in Darwin, was it too strident a reaction for China, a putatively friendly trading partner, to have made? Pat.
PAT BUCHANAN: John, the Chinese provoked our reaction by their stupidity and their belligerence. They have said that the American fleet must get out of the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Straits of Taiwan, the Yellow Sea. They have frightened all these countries in Southeast Asia, and even Japan and others, who are now deciding maybe we don't want the Americans to go home.
So Obama is marching into this opening. And this base in Australia is part of it. And what you've got is sort of a low-key cold war beginning. But I will say this. The Chinese communists are themselves responsible for their stupidity. They are alienating virtually every neighbor they have.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How far away is China from Australia?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you've got, I bet, 3 (thousand), 4,000 miles. But let me tell you what China does.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long would that take for one of our long- distance bombers?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they've got a new bomb that goes -- (laughs) -- you can get any --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Never mind the bomb. If you want to carry --
MR. BUCHANAN: They can go anywhere in an -- a new bomber can go anywhere in an hour.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Pat, do you remember how upset we became with the Russian fleet down off the coast of South America?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, John, we've had a 7th Fleet in the Far East since the Cold War began. What are you talking about?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, Pat is right that the U.S. presence is welcomed there, in part because of China's growing power and the nervousness of everybody in that neighborhood. But I thought the Chinese statement was actually quite restrained. If China had brought 2,500 of its military personnel to South America, we would go ballistic in this country. So I think they appropriately had to say something. And I don't think either country wants a cold war. And so I think the trading relationship between these two countries has to continue. China is a huge market. And I don't think the president intends to embark on a cold war here, but he is asserting himself as the first Pacific president after a string of presidents whose ancestors came from Europe and when Europe was the dominant area of the world. The 21st century is going to be very different.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do the Chinese have a presence in South America today and in the Caribbean?
MS. CLIFT: Oh, yeah. They're there looking for resources. And they're everywhere.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Friendly with Chavez?
MS. CLIFT: They're friendly with whoever will give them natural resources. They have a huge population that they've got to support.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I was in Bogota about three months ago and sniffing around for Chinese and talking to people who know the whole -- that whole part of the world.
MS. CLIFT: And how are they regarded?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't see that many Chinese.
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MS. CLIFT: Well, you may not see that many --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'd like to know what the facts are.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the Brazilians are unhappy with them too, because the Chinese are getting very bellicose, John, and very demanding. And the Brazilians are unhappy with them and a lot of people are.
TIM CARNEY: I just wonder -- I wonder when sort of the empire gets to stop expanding. In other words, we keep putting soldiers in new places. We've had the people in Japan since World War II. We have the 30,000 in North Korea. Germany, we're not shrinking our bases there. In other words, we keep adding new bases.
And if this is because the geopolitical world is realigning, why doesn't that ever mean that we get to build down other places? We get to bring them home when there's a war -- Iraq, Afghanistan -- but we just keep expanding and expanding and expanding. And the word for this is imperial overstretch. I don't know that Australia is a mistake, but I do know we expand and we never contract. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that causes an equal and opposite reaction on the part of the Chinese, that we are the expanding entity in the world? We're all over.
CLARENCE PAGE: We've always said that. But they, too, are expanding. They're looking for opportunities around the world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what? They're in Africa too?
MR. PAGE: It sounds almost -- oh, absolutely. They've been in Africa. I ran into them when I was there back in the `70s. The fact is, China -- we call them communists, but they're really state- sponsored capitalism is what it is. It's -- the state runs enterprise, essentially. And so they operate around the world --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is --
MR. PAGE: -- in much the same way as the old colonial powers.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a point well taken. The Chinese embassy in town and other Chinese around the country, you ask them about what kind of philosophy -- how would they describe it today? You know what they call it? They call it market socialism.
MR. PAGE: I know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Market socialism.
MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --
MR. PAGE: I've been there. I know. You're right.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, where they made a mistake --
MR. PAGE: That's what it is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They do not use the word communist nor will they acknowledge that they're communist.
MR. PAGE: That's right. MS. CLIFT: They don't use capitalism and they don't use communism. And they are trying to find something in between.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Market socialism.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, but where Tim is exactly right is this. The Chinese, with this bellicosity and, you know -- you get out of these waters, get out of those; those are our territorial waters -- they've given Obama and the Americans an opportunity to re-up and get back into Asia full speed. And the United States, which was withdrawing, is probably going to stop withdrawing.
I agree with him. I think we've got to downsize it and tell those countries, you take care of yourselves; the Chinese are your problem in the South China Sea. You negotiate with them. And if they take over the whole South China Sea, that is your problem, not ours.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want to solve this problem by a de facto acquiescence to what the Chinese are telling us to do?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, they're not telling us this to do. They are telling us to get out of there. I would send the fleet in there still and maintain our rights. But what I wouldn't do is start building up new bases.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- there you are. He's turned on us. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: Talk about having your cake and eat it too.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, that's right.
MR. BUCHANAN: You can't let them throw you out of international waters.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, just arguing against yourself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's going through his Kissinger phase. (Laughter.)
Exit question: Assign a letter grade, A to F, to Obama's Asian summitry. Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: I would give him a B+ for what he wants to do, but I'm not sure it's the right thing for what America should do.
MS. CLIFT: It's an A+ for his summitry and for U.S. national interest. We've been a Pacific power since 1942, and we shouldn't be turning around and going home now. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he have a preliminary agenda? Yes, he did.
MS. CLIFT: His preliminary agenda is job creation. These are huge markets over there as well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he set it in advance?
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, he did.
MS. CLIFT: He's been transparent about what he wants and what he accomplished.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the summit full of successes?
MS. CLIFT: You've just named two of them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Concrete results.
MS. CLIFT: Right. Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely.
What do you give him?
MR. CARNEY: I'll give him a B. He also handed out a big subsidy to Boeing when he was out there in Bali so they could, you know, sell a jet to Bali. I don't like that sort of thing, so he loses some points for that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Bali -- Boeing is in --
MR. CARNEY: Yeah, Boeing is selling --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the United States, in Washington.
MR. CARNEY: -- to them. And so --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they're also setting up a plant in Mississippi.
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's bad for Obama to give an award to Boeing, an American corporation?
MR. CARNEY: I believe in the free market and not in subsidies.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, so this has nothing to do with China.
MR. CARNEY: No, it has to do with Obama. He went over there and handed out a subsidy. MR. PAGE: He gets an A. Obama's done very well in foreign policy. You can tell by the fact that he's made so few headlines lately. And it's not -- his headache is that his foreign policy successes are having almost no impact on his approvals as far as going into this next election.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He obviously gets an A for all of the reasons that were given by Eleanor Clift a moment ago under the extraction of McLaughlin. You got it? (Laughter.)
Issue Two: Supercommittee Showdown.
SENATOR PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): The clock is running out, but it hasn't run out yet. We still have time, but we have no time to waste.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey is a member of the debt reduction supercommittee. The supercommittee was created by Congress in August with one task -- cut the U.S. national debt, now at $15 trillion, over the next 10 years by at least $1.2 trillion.
Twelve members sit on the supercommittee panel -- six Republicans, six Democrats. Senate Republicans: Kyl, Portman, Toomey. House Republicans: Hensarling, Camp, Upton. Senate Democrats: Baucus, Kerry, Murray. House Democrats: Becerra, Clyburn, Van Hollen.
A simple majority of this 12-member supercommittee, seven out of 12, most vote yes on the supercommittee bill by November 23rd, this coming Wednesday, so it can reach the full Congress for a final vote. But even if Congress fails to pass the bill -- get this -- it makes no difference, because an automatic trigger will go into effect. That means if Congress votes no, the national debt will still be reduced through automatic cuts worth $1.2 trillion. Half of those cuts would come from defense, half from domestic programs, including Medicare.
Many believe that the supercommittee will not reach its Thanksgiving Eve deadline. Why? Taxes. Democrats don't want a deal that doesn't include tax increases. They want to boost government revenues. Republicans don't want a deal that includes tax increases. They argue that corporate taxes suck capital away from businesses that would otherwise hire new workers.
Question: How much has the national debt risen since President Obama took office in the -- three years ago? MR. BUCHANAN: John, there's been three straight deficits of $1.3 trillion. My guess is it's about $4 trillion. And by the time he runs for re-election, it'll be $5 trillion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me hear the numbers again -- a billion?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I said $1.3 trillion average deficit for three years is about $4 billion -- trillion. And it'll be $1 trillion more --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the percentage increase under Obama?
MR. CARNEY: Almost 50.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Almost 50 percent.
MR. CARNEY: It was about $10 trillion, and now it's about --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, closer to -- about 40 percent; a little over 40.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but he got a pretty good head start with George W. Bush, with two wars that weren't paid for, a prescription drug plan that wasn't paid for, and huge tax cuts that we couldn't afford when we passed them, and we certainly can't afford them now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When Bush --
MS. CLIFT: So let's put that in context.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When Bush took office, the national -- the public debt was $5.7 trillion.
MR. BUCHANAN: Public debt?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The public debt.
MR. BUCHANAN: That's different than the national debt, you know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The national debt. The national debt. You don't permit the interchange, but everybody else does.
MR. BUCHANAN: They're different.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The national debt was, what, $5.7 trillion?
MR. BUCHANAN: The national debt was $10 trillion. It's now $15 trillion. The 50 percent increase is exactly right, John. The public debt is what is held by corporations, foreign countries, sovereign funds, individuals, guys like Clarence who got it in their retirement accounts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Bush's -- MR. PAGE: Very little. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- eight years, the debt increased -- it almost doubled, did it not?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but it was probably from $5 trillion to $10 trillion.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's correct.
MR. CARNEY: Yes. And now it's gone up from about $10 (trillion) to about $15 trillion. And so the --
MR. BUCHANAN: One term.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.
MR. CARNEY: The supercommittee's talk of $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over a decade is less than 10 percent. What is that, 8 percent, over the course of a decade? It's --
MS. CLIFT: And the Republicans are arguing among themselves as to whether they can break this no-tax pledge that was put out in the mid `90s by Grover Norquist.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: And Pat Toomey, who was former president of the Club for Growth, an anti-tax guy who's on the supercommittee, put forth a plan that volunteered $300 billion in increased tax revenues. And everybody said, ooh, he crossed some of the lines that he wasn't supposed to.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: But if you look at the plan closely, he puts the $300 billion on the table and then he takes back a lot more by reducing the top rate to 28 percent. And all the other deficit committees started out by eliminating the Bush tax cuts to the very rich. So we're back again to a fight over the Bush tax cuts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is the problem a bipartisan problem? That is, it was created by the two parties.
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
MR. PAGE: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's bipartisan, is it not?
MS. CLIFT: Yes. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Doesn't that tell you something from the word go?
MR. PAGE: What does it tell you, John?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have a spendthrift nation.
MR. PAGE: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we've got a spendthrift Congress. And we can only blame ourselves.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but we're going to have our credit rating downgraded and borrowing money is going to be a lot more expensive. This is really courting disaster if they don't come up with an agreement.
MR. BUCHANAN: We are headed for a day of reckoning, no doubt. I don't think they're going to get any agreement even if they get it in the supercommittee. I don't think it'll go through the Congress. The decision is going to come in the election of 2012. And if Obama's re- elected, I think we're Italy.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) And if --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Italy?
MS. CLIFT: And if Obama --
MR. BUCHANAN: Because we're going to have another -- we'll have a deadlock for four years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Arrivederci, Silvio. Silvio's gone.
MR. PAGE: But you're right, though. It should be decided in the next election.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Berlusconi.
MR. PAGE: But you're right, though. It's going to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Newt Nicked.
FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER AND 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): (From videotape.) When they walked in and said to me, we are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that's what the government wants us to do, I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich became embroiled this week in a controversy involving the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, aka Freddie Mac. Freddie Mac buys mortgages from banks and sells them to investors as securities. That frees up capital for banks to issue more mortgages; namely, long-term fixed-interest-rate mortgages.
What's the connection with Gingrich? Gingrich worked for six years with high-level officials at Freddie Mac. Gingrich was paid to coach Freddie Mac officials on how to talk to conservative lawmakers to garner their support to keep Freddie Mac alive. Gingrich's total compensation for his services to Freddie ranged between $1.6 (million) and $1.8 million.
Gingrich says he acted as an adviser to Freddie Mac but never lobbied lawmakers on Freddie Mac's behalf.
MR. GINGRICH: (From videotape.) I offered strategic advice over a long period of time. Someone was saying, how do you explain what you're doing and how you're doing it? But I did no lobbying of any kind.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Critics accuse Gingrich of political hypocrisy for taking money from Freddie Mac as a private citizen and then blaming Freddie Mac for causing the housing crisis when he was a presidential candidate. Others accuse Gingrich of using his political experience -- namely four years as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives -- to cash in.
So says Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney. Quote: "This cavalier attitude towards the monetization of public service will likely irritate conservatives, who fume at the cronyism and corporatism of the Obama administration. Republicans won't rally behind another politician who confuses free enterprise with getting rich," unquote.
Carney, are you prepared to live by your imputed statement there?
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. And Newt's statement that he never did lobbying doesn't hold up to any normal definition of the word lobbying. I've been talking to Republican Hill staffers who were there in 2003 while Newt was being paid by drug companies, and they were saying he was rallying Republicans to vote for the prescription drug bill that the drug companies supported. So he didn't register as a lobbyist, but what he did by any normal definition of the word was lobby. And he was lobbying for corporate welfare and Freddie Mac and the drug stuff and in ethanol. And that's one reason why --
MS. CLIFT: He didn't do anything illegal, I'm sure, and he stayed on the opposite side of being a registered lobbyist. But the problem is that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have been turned into this big devil by the right, and it turns out that he's been in bed with them. He wants Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, who chaired the banking committees in the Senate and the House, he said they should go to jail for being in bed with Freddie Mac. MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: Well, it was a crowded bed. (Laughter.) Gingrich was there as well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Is there any legal --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me say something about this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any legal rap that would stand up in court against Gingrich?
MR. PAGE: No. She just said that. It's not.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not criminal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She said that. Are you saying that?
MR. CARNEY: The only --
MR. BUCHANAN: He may have violated --
MR. CARNEY: (Inaudible) -- prosecuted for violating the lobbying disclosure act. If he spent more than 20 percent of his time lobbying, yes. I don't think that's the issue.
MR. PAGE: That's not the issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it illegal not to register as a lobbyist if you are provably, in fact, lobbying?
MR. CARNEY: You have to spend 20 percent or more of your time on lobbing activities.
MR. BUCHANAN: But John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he able to deny that truthfully?
MR. CARNEY: He did so much. He was teaching history classes, I'm sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As a cover?
MR. PAGE: You're missing the point, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MR. PAGE: You're missing the point. Newt wasn't on their payroll to do strict lobbying, so to speak. He was mainly there to help ease the way toward contacts on Capitol Hill and enhance Fannie and Freddie's image overall. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that OK?
MR. PAGE: And that's what Democrats have done too; Bill Daley and Rahm Emanuel.
MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John, when you put --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean without declaring themselves to be lobbyists.
MR. PAGE: You try to make a criminal case, John. We have a political campaign.
That's what's important here, you see. And Tim is exactly right. They have made a bete noire out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac all these years. And this is not new. This is the thing. You see, because Cain's campaign suddenly collapsed, now a lot of his supporters are looking to figure out where to go, and they kind of forgot why they didn't vote for Newt in the first place. And now here they are, back with Newt --
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me get into this, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. We've got to clear something up here, and that is the judicial aspect, that is the legal aspect, of lobbying.
MR. BUCHANAN: There isn't any criminal -- there's no criminal --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's no criminal --
MR. BUCHANAN: There's no criminal problem here. Let me say this --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a civil problem?
MR. BUCHANAN: When you're paying --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can he go to jail?
MS. CLIFT: No. No.
MR. BUCHANAN: When you're paying Newt Gingrich $1.6 million, you're not buying strategic advice. You're buying Newt.
MR. PAGE: Right. Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: And that's exactly what they did, John. I don't think there's any criminal liability. I agree with the lobbying law --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, they wanted to buy off Newt?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, they wanted to buy Newt. We want a guy to give us entree to all these other guys to make our case here and there. MR. CARNEY: To get conservative creds.
MR. BUCHANAN: To get conservatives to go along with big government.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the theory of that? Did that work, in fact?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it worked -- it definitely worked on Medicare Part D.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Newt has name value.
MR. CARNEY: It won over lots of -- lots of reluctant conservatives on the Medicare drug bill.
MS. CLIFT: He's doing what a lot of people in Washington do, and it's what the rest of the country hates. So he has become a symbol of what he's allegedly running against.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know whether this -- I don't know whether this is reductively a cover-up or an expose.
Issue Four: Arrivederci, Silvio.
Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, resigned this week, bringing to an end an historic 17-year political career. For 11 of those 17 years, Berlusconi served three terms as Italy's prime minister. He agreed to step down if the Italian legislature passed measures to bring down Italy's $2.6 trillion public debt. That $2.6 trillion debt is larger than the total Italian GDP,$2.1 trillion.
But the 75-year-old former prime minister is still Italy's prime media mogul, with three national television stations, a publishing house, an advertising agency, and at least two newspapers. Forbes Magazines sets his net wealth at $8 billion.
His critics fault the former prime minister on several counts.
Item: Media dominance. Berlusconi was accused of using his media to inflate his bio.
Item: Business corruption. Berlusconi has been accused of tax fraud, false accounting and bribery.
Item: Liaisons dangereuses. Mr. Berlusconi is currently on trial for allegedly paying for sex with an underage woman, who denies any such arrangement.
But supporters of Berlusconi say that he has brought one major benefit to Italian politics: Political stability. Berlusconi was the nation's longest-serving prime minister after World War II. Before Berlusconi came to power, the average life span of an Italian premiership was less than a year.
Question: Will Italy's sovereign debt crisis define Berlusconi's political legacy? I ask you, Tim.
MR. CARNEY: I think the debt crisis is amazing, as we saw in those numbers, but -- as was his record with the women, which probably is what people will remember long after that, unless, of course, it is Rome that sort of fittingly brings down Europe. If Europe collapses, I think Berlusconi could become a curse word. If this is just Italy collapsing, you know, it would be a different story.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, the lady involved, she denies the legitimacy --
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. CARNEY: But there are many other ladies besides the one you put up on that screen.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. CARNEY: I mean, that was --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they going to come forward?
MS. CLIFT: Actually, scandal will define his legacy. But it will be really almost with a smile, because throughout all of this he's been amazingly popular in Italy. And he survived a no-confidence vote. He still leads the largest party in Parliament, so he can still play a role if they go forward. And the irony is that he was brought down by the markets, who he has had such faith in. I mean, he's the ultimate capitalist. And it was their decision rendered on him that forced him to step down.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me make a small point here. Between -- this was not continuous service on Berlusconi's part, these multiple terms. There was space in between. So the Italians had the opportunity to think it through again, but they kept putting him back and taking him out of retirement and reinstalling him to office.
MR. BUCHANAN: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that carry an additional meaning?
MR. BUCHANAN: That's a very good point, John.
MR. PAGE: It doesn't hurt to have control of the major media.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is a good point? MR. BUCHANAN: It's an excellent --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is it a good point, Pat?
MR. BUCHANAN: Because if the people had him in there and saw what he was doing and knew who he was and put him back in there --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- it speaks to the character of the Italian nation. He's going to be a disaster for this reason. This 120 percent of GDP debt is going to bring Italy down. It's going to bring the Eurozone, the entire Eurozone, down. I don't know about the EU itself. But in that and these women and all this other, it's a metaphor for the corruption of the West, John, this man.
MS. CLIFT: But to assail the Italian people --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Italy on the brink --
MS. CLIFT: Please.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of an economic precipice?
MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to bring down the Eurozone and we're going to get back an Italian lira.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. PAGE: Everybody loves a rascal until -- when times are good. When times are hard, they turn against them. Berlusconi had built up nice coalitions, helped along by being the media magnate of the country. But even the Catholic Church, which he had curried favor with for a long time, turned against him here amid the money crisis. So sex is one thing. The money is another. That's what brought him down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. You're telling me the Catholic Church follows the money?
MR. PAGE: No, I'm saying that they saw the money crisis going on. So everybody turned against Berlusconi, including the church, because he has been -- he had pressed for the social conservative issues that the church wanted.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this, in combination with the Greek disaster -- MR. BUCHANAN: Italy could come apart. You've got the northern alliance over there, the Lega Nord, which is trying to break away. You have this whole thing collapse, his country could come apart.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the total impact of that region, including Greek --
MR. BUCHANAN: Greece.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the Greeks, and the problems in Germany and elsewhere, having on the U.S. economy?
MR. BUCHANAN: Obama will not be re-elected if the Euro goes down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Major foreign policy issue of the 2012 campaign will be should we go to war with Iran.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Newt Gingrich won't win Iowa, but he will get one of the three tickets to go on to New Hampshire coming out of Iowa.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tim.
MR. CARNEY: I think Ron Paul will get one of the three tickets to come out of New Hampshire -- to come out of Iowa into New Hampshire.
MR. PAGE: A new insider-trading ban on Congress is the sleeper issue that's going to come awake in the next year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Vladimir Putin is prime minister of Russia now. He will run for -- to become president in March and he will win, and it's a six-year term.