The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Pat Buchanan, MSNBC; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Rich Lowry, National Review; Chrystia Freeland, Thomson Reuters Taped: Friday, January 20, 2012 Broadcast: Weekend of January 21-22, 2012
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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Marianne and Callista.
MARIANNE GINGRICH (ex-wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich): (From videotape.) I said to him, Newt, we've been married a long time. And he said, yes, but you want me all to yourself. Callista doesn't care what I do. He was asking to have an open marriage, and I refused.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich this week was at the center of a political firestorm. Marianne Gingrich, Newt's former wife, told ABC News that her husband had asked her over 10 years ago to engage in an open marriage. Marianne would remain married to Newt while Newt had a mistress. That mistress then is his wife now, Callista Gingrich. Newt denies Marianne's charges. FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): (From videotape.) Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How will this affect Newt Gingrich in the presidential race? Pat Buchanan.
PAT BUCHANAN: Well, John, as a result of Newt's response, which was very tough and indignant and angry that a personal scandal of his dating back 12 years, which was sort of tawdry, would be brought up as the first question in the debate, the way he knocked it out of the park and expressed his indignation, brought him a second surge in South Carolina and brought him up to tie with Mitt Romney in the polls in South Carolina. I think it's going to give him a surge that'll take him into Florida.
But I'm afraid of this. In the longer run, Newt has been very weak with women. And in the longer run, like Mark Sanford, former governor of South Carolina's wife said I couldn't vote for Newt Gingrich, women are going to look at this and say how did this man treat his first wife? How did he treat his second wife? How does he behave in his personal life? And I think, in the long run, it's going to be an almost prohibitive factor for the nomination of Newt Gingrich for the Republican Party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So Newt is weak with women, you mean, in their voting practices.
MR. BUCHANAN: He's extremely weak with women, no doubt about it. And Mitt Romney is very strong among women.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Weak -- Newt gets the weak woman vote. (Laughter.)
ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, there's a gender gap with Newt. If you look at the breakdown of votes even in the Republican primary, they go to Mitt Romney. They do not go to Newt Gingrich. And it doesn't just have to do with this. It has to do with his whole bombastic style. I mean, he is just not somebody who appeals to a woman. He doesn't seem like a consensus builder.
But the voters in South Carolina loved it, the fact that he came out there, that he attacked the press. Republicans hate the press more than they hate the breaches of virtue that have been in Newt's past. So I think he managed to turn this into an asset, if you will.
And I think the powers of rationalization that people have -- I mean, when Sarah Palin's pregnant, unwed daughter stood on the stage at a convention, the reaction of the voters in that hall was isn't it nice they're going to keep the baby? So, you know, I think people can explain away whatever they want when they support somebody, and I think that's what they're going to do with Newt Gingrich. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rich.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: But I think Pat is right. I mean, I think, in the medium term, this is really going to hurt Newt Gingrich with women. And I think it should. You know, I'm all for people having private lives which are private and being judged by their public record. But if you are running as a social conservative, if you are a person who is putting the way people live, their personal lives, as part of your platform, then I think it's fair enough for you to be judged on your personal life.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)
RICH LOWRY: Ordinarily, John, you'd think if an ex-wife goes on TV and says you requested an open marriage, that's a torpedo beneath the water line if there ever was one. But the timing of it, just two days before the South Carolina vote, the moderator, John King, asking about it immediately, the first question, and Gingrich hitting it out of the park, didn't -- may have been a short-term benefit to him.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. LOWRY: But over the medium and long term, this is just another indication of the baggage Newt Gingrich has.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there --
MR. LOWRY: As one of my colleagues pointed out, he has more ex- wives than all the prior presidents of the United States combined. It's really hard to see that guy getting the nomination.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there also an historical inconsistency, if not conundrum, you know, in the record of previous presidents while president? We've had a recent president that we all know whom I'm talking about.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Franklin Roosevelt had, what, one or two --
MR. BUCHANAN: Missy LeHand and Lucy Mercer --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: While he was president.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- among others, and Princess such and such.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the famous Thomas --
MR. BUCHANAN: Five --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Thomas Jefferson? MR. BUCHANAN: Five of the seven Democratic presidents -- John, five of the last seven Democratic presidents had affairs. And only two of them, Carter and -- who was the -- one other one I can think of -- did not. You know, you go back to Grover Cleveland. This has all happened.
But this has come out --
MS. CLIFT: But they didn't go on television --
MR. LOWRY: The ex-wives weren't going on TV, though. (Laughs.)
MS. FREELAND: And there's also a difference. If you are making, as part of your politics, which Newt Gingrich absolutely does, that you are a social conservative, you stand for these values, then I think it's fair game. Otherwise I would say we should stay out of people's marriages.
MR. BUCHANAN: What you're saying is --
MS. CLIFT: They're aspirational values for Newt. But Newt Gingrich did legitimately lead the Republicans to power in Washington. He is seen as an historic conservative figure. And I think that counts for something.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about --
MS. CLIFT: And people are still resisting Mitt Romney. And what's happening to Newt has a lot to do with the lack of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's also the relative sensitivity --
MS. CLIFT: -- lack of love for Mitt Romney.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of the woman voter versus the man voter in this instance, when the sociology reports that women cheat as much as men do.
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't -- look, there's a lot of --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you know that, Eleanor?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well --
MS. CLIFT: Well, not first-hand, but -- (laughter) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I send you to the sociological studies that -- MS. CLIFT: Look, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley fought back those kinds of charges, and the voters very clearly signaled that they were not interested in that.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Rich --
MS. CLIFT: And Democrats supported Bill Clinton and rationalized lots through Bill Clinton.
MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know, Rich is right.
MS. CLIFT: I stand by my earlier point. If you like a political figure --
MR. BUCHANAN: If it appears as a cheap shot --
MS. CLIFT: -- you forgive a lot.
MR. BUCHANAN: If it appears as a late shot --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- by ABC and a cheap shot, and then bring this up -- although John King, John, is a good guy. He's a fine reporter. He's an honest guy. He's a straight character. You might ask whether you should have led with that question.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, it was a mistake. It was a mistake.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think it was a mistake on John King's part to lead with it.
MS. FREELAND: You had to ask the question, though. It would have been --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Mitt's tax brouhaha -- Mitt Romney's tax brouhaha.
FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R): (From videotape.) My income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney was asked this week what tax rate he was paying on his income. His answer --
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) It's probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Governor Romney has a net worth of $250 million. He's definitely in the top 1 percent of the American wealth population. On one hand, this shows his business experience. On the other hand, he's more vulnerable to populist attacks. Which impact is the more powerful? Eleanor Clift. MS. CLIFT: He's going to become the vehicle through which the American public learns just how rigged our tax system is. He says he paid close to 15 percent. That could be under 15 percent. He may have paid less than that over some years. He's also apparently got some offshore investments in Cayman Islands.
He also may not want everybody to know how much money he gives to the Mormon church, because Mormons take their responsibility to tithe seriously. So he has lots of reasons, perhaps, to conceal his tax returns.
But he must have known this was coming, and he is being asked about the comparison with his father. And this is a dutiful son, an eager-to-please son, who I think had a serious case of father worship, and justifiably so. And to watch him in the debates is painful, because he does not know how to respond. He squirms. He -- well, it's painful.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: It's campaign malpractice that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, Eleanor, tell us what you really think. (Laughter.)
OK, Romney's roost, to pick up her point.
MS. CLIFT: I'm doing it in sympathy.
FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR GEORGE ROMNEY (late father of Mitt Romney): (From videotape.) I've been poor. I've worked from the time I was 12. My parents were driven out of old Mexico when I was only five. My people are revolutionary refugees. They had to be fed by the United States government and housed by the United States government. I know what poverty is. I've been up through it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, tell us more about Mitt Romney's father, whom we just saw on the screen.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he did -- they did come out of Mexico, I think, at the time of the revolution, and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was governor of what state?
MR. BUCHANAN: Governor of Michigan for six years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two terms.
MR. BUCHANAN: Six years. But he was president of American Motors, and the Nash Rambler was the car that was associated with his father. His father went into New Hampshire in 1967 late, and I was with Richard Nixon, and we went in against him in 1967. We went in in `68 and we beat --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happened?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, we beat --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You wiped him out.
MR. BUCHANAN: We wiped him out. We beat him -- had him beat seven to one when he quit the race. His father was a very energetic guy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Nixon think of George Romney Sr.?
MR. BUCHANAN: All I remember, John, is looking out the motel window. I said, sir, he's getting so excited, he's going to be coming up the street looking for a debate. He was really -- and we wouldn't debate him. And we would have Nixon go in for two or three days and take him to Key Biscayne. And we ran a terrific campaign. But his father was a good man. Nixon put him in the Cabinet as HUD secretary.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Romney, who's now running for president, has any of the father's DNA? Of course he has the DNA.
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, sure, he does. He's very driven. He's a handsome man. He's a successful man.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he as committed as his father was?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, he is. His father was a tremendously committed --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tremendous guy, and he grew up very poor.
MR. BUCHANAN: His father came -- they came out of poverty. But his father, like Mitt, got rich very, very fast.
MS. CLIFT: But his father --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me let -- MS. CLIFT: -- was truly self-made.
MR. BUCHANAN: He was self-made, yeah.
MR. LOWRY: Yeah. That's why, if you go --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. LOWRY: If you go listen to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail, the stories he tells about his family are all about his dad and his dad rising in the world, because Mitt doesn't have access to those stories about himself.
But the tax thing, to go back to Eleanor's point, is utterly confounding, because you could have seen this coming a mile away. And it's been Romney's weakest moments in all the debates, the last two debates, when he's been asked about his tax returns, when this usually fluid speaker starts stammering and falling all over himself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Look at the Rockefellers. I think wealth is a plus --
MR. BUCHANAN: It is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the political arena --
MR. BUCHANAN: It helps --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- by reason of appearance.
MR. BUCHANAN: It is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you understand?
MR. BUCHANAN: It is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These people have made it the American way.
MR. BUCHANAN: It is, John. Jack Kennedy wore it well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: FDR wore it well. But Mitt Romney does not seem in touch. They're going to make him the poster boy of inequality and vulture capitalism. Unless he turns it around the way he started to turn it around --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. That's --
MR. BUCHANAN: He can turn it around.
MS. CLIFT: The American way is not Bain Capital. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm going to ask this exit question. What should Romney do about the tax issue? Should he release his tax returns now and get the issue behind him, or wait until April, as he says he's going to do?
MR. BUCHANAN: The sooner he gets it out, the better. And he should go out, John, and make the case that, look, I went out in the private enterprise system --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- and succeeded, and you can as well.
MS. FREELAND: And he should also call --
MS. CLIFT: And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, let --
MS. FREELAND: He should also call for -- sorry, Eleanor; just one quick point. He should also call for a repeal of the special tax treatment of carried interest --
MR. BUCHANAN: Carried interest.
MS. FREELAND: -- the reason that he gets the 15 percent. The private equity guys would hate him, but it would be very popular with both Republicans and Democrats.
MS. CLIFT: He should say I've done this.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: It's all legal. And I want to change the system.
MS. FREELAND: Exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rich, should he get it out now?
MR. LOWRY: He should release them now. His excuse that he hasn't prepared his 2011 tax return is not good enough. He should release past tax returns. And Newt and the late Rick Perry were right about this. Republican primary voters deserve to see what's in there now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is the sooner the better on getting the returns out.
Issue Two: The Bear Is Back.
Almost exactly 20 years ago, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev stepped down from power. The Soviet communist alliance dissolved. Fifteen states emerged from the alliance's dissolution. Alphabetically: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.
Today, 20 years later, the former Soviet Union alliance is undergoing an ingenious reincarnation, but with no communism. Vladimir Putin, the prime minister of Russia, is calling for a new economic alliance with four of the former Soviet republics: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan. Russia will serve as the engine of the alliance, and Vladimir Putin staying at the throttle.
The name of this new Russian collectivity is -- get this -- the EU, the Eurasian Union; in other words, an EU II, with the European Union the EU I, if you will, consisting of 27 countries. This Eurasian Union -- we'll call it the EU II -- will serve as an economic bloc to compete with the EU I and with China and with the U.S.
The Eurasian Union will pivot on free trade. The five nations will enjoy free exchange of goods across their borders, no tariffs, no export quotas. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is backing the Putin plan. He says EU II will not make the mistakes of EU I.
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT DMITRY MEDVEDEV: (From videotape, through interpreter.) We won't repeat the mistakes of the European Union in our integration. We're conscious of what we're doing. We understand who are we integrating with. The European Union took a shot in the dark.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Putin trying to capitalize on the Eurozone's woes? Chrystia.
MS. FREELAND: I think Putin is desperately trying to save his skin. The action in Russia right now is the Russian establishment has been astonished by the public reaction to the parliamentary election, that Russians came out on the streets. Everyone had written the Russian people off as too apathetic and too much prospering from the Putin years. And they went out there.
I was in Moscow last week. The Kremlin is absolutely terrified. And the predictions are that either Putin is going to seek some kind of a foreign distraction -- but the joke in Moscow is there's no one left to declare war on -- or that there is going to be another Khodorkovsky-esque show trial, that he will find someone inside his government, because corruption is such a source of popular rage, and put that guy on trial.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that he can sell the Eurasian Union as a distraction for the complaints about the parliamentary election that they've just gone through and that some of the public -- it's not all the public, right? Do you think the groups we've seen on television are representative of the public at large in Russia? MS. FREELAND: In the big cities, they are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the big cities?
MS. FREELAND: In the big cities --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That he stole --
MS. FREELAND: -- the level of discontent is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That Putin stole the election.
MS. FREELAND: That Putin stole the election. And more importantly, you know, the powerful slogan in Russia has been that this is the party of crooks and thieves and the public sense that corruption is endemic, that it goes from the police officer who you have to bribe up to the very, very top of government.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --
MS. FREELAND: It's just driving people completely crazy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, who gets the credit for this change in attitudes towards corruption that now exists, when Putin has been in office? Does he not -- did he not engineer, in a sense, his own destruction if he rigged the election? Do you follow me?
MS. FREELAND: Yes.
MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In other words, he educated the public to have character. The public has character, so they kick him out.
MS. FREELAND: Two things happened in the election. One was they turned out to be very ineffective dictators. And this is the other complaint you're hearing inside Kremlin circles. They're saying if you're going to rig an election --
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on for a minute.
MS. FREELAND: -- do a good job.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Let's see where this thing is moving to. Mikhail Prokhorov is Putin's presidential challenger. Here he is.
MIKHAIL PROKHOROV (Russian presidential candidate: (From videotape.) Because I think it's really a window of opportunity. It's just in there. It's a hot debate in Russian society. And maybe it's first time for the last 20 years. And for me, maybe it sounds a little bit corny, but I love my country. And really I see a lot of problems, and I know the answers. And to quote Abraham Lincoln, government should be of the people, by the people and for the people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was you sitting in there on that videotape. That was your interview.
MS. FREELAND: That was my interview.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you gave us a piece of that videotape to run.
What's the story on Mikhail Prokhorov?
MS. FREELAND: So people -- the question is, is he a puppet of the Kremlin or is he a real challenger?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he have money?
MS. FREELAND: He has $18 billion. That's what his --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eighteen billion dollars.
MS. FREELAND: -- fortune is estimated at, yes. Mitt Romney is a piker compared to Mikhail Prokhorov.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a U.S. -- excuse me -- he is a Russian citizen.
MS. FREELAND: Yes, he is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct? But he spends time in the United States.
MS. FREELAND: Not that much. But he is the owner of the Nets.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Nets.
MS. FREELAND: That's the reason --
MS. CLIFT: The New Jersey Nets.
MS. FREELAND: The New Jersey Nets, that are going to be the Brooklyn Nets.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --
MS. FREELAND: And he did tell me if he is elected president, he's going to move the NBA to Russia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think -- MS. FREELAND: So watch out.
MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that he and Obama could play a basketball game together, on opposite sides maybe?
MS. FREELAND: I think Prokhorov would win, actually.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?
MS. FREELAND: He's a pretty fit guy, yeah; not disparaging the president.
MS. CLIFT: He's six feet, eight inches tall.
MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John -- let's get back to Russia, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he going to go anywhere with this idea?
MS. CLIFT: It's not certain that he can even get on the ballot --
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: -- and that he's a legitimate contender.
MS. FREELAND: No, no. He's going to be on the ballot.
MS. CLIFT: And the question is -- I don't think Putin is going to allow it to go forward unless he's pretty sure that he's going to win.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.
MS. CLIFT: And I think this guy --
MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --
MS. CLIFT: -- is either a puppet or he's very (brave ?).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The election is for president of Russia. It's coming up in March. And it is designed to succeed Medvedev.
MS. FREELAND: That's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct? So that's ahead of us by --
MS. FREELAND: Yeah. And the election will -- just to be clear, the election will happen. I think there's no way that Putin doesn't allow the election to go through. He needs it. He needs it to become president.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's going to win that election?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, take a look at the --
MS. FREELAND: I think Putin will win. The question is --
MS. CLIFT: Putin will win the election.
MS. FREELAND: -- how much do they have to falsify --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can this guy win the election?
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, for heaven's sakes.
MS. FREELAND: I don't think so.
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MS. FREELAND: I think it's unlikely. But I think the thing is we should be very careful at -- remember Egypt. Once you move into these --
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. FREELAND: -- revolutionary situations, when you have people on the streets, anything can happen. The next protest is February 4th. And I think what Prokhorov is counting on is he wants to be a player in the game.
MR. LOWRY: I think Egypt --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me let Rich in.
MR. LOWRY: I think Egypt is a good analogy in another respect; where Hosni Mubarak -- where he went too far is when he anointed his son to be his successor. And Putin himself coming back, instead of being the puppet master and putting himself back in power, may similarly have been just a step too far for the people to take.
MR. BUCHANAN: Russia suffers, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will this save the career of Vladimir Putin by getting this guy in to run against him?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think ultimately --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or -- (inaudible). MR. BUCHANAN: Putin will win, but Russia's problem is what's called hyper mortality. They've lost 10 million people since independence. They're scheduled to lose 25 million more by the middle of this century. It is a dying country.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why?
MR. BUCHANAN: Its population is dying.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MR. BUCHANAN: The fertility rate of the women is about --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?
MS. CLIFT: Why?
MR. BUCHANAN: Because it's part of western civilization --
MR. LOWRY: Spiritual decline.
MS. CLIFT: It's run in a corrupt way, and they're smothering small "d" democratic impulses.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Keystone Killed.
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): (From videotape.) The president won't stand up to his political base, even in the name of creating American jobs. And now Canada is going to have to look to other nations, like China, to sell its oil reserves to.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: House Speaker John Boehner is talking about the Keystone pipeline. The Keystone oil pipeline is a project that would have built an oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Texas and Louisiana, spanning 1,700 miles, half the length of the entire U.S.- Canada border. The pipeline would have pumped more than 800,000 barrels of Canadian oil a day to U.S. refineries in these two states, Texas and Louisiana. That would have equaled 20 percent of the oil the U.S. imports every day.
Keystone would have created as many as 20,000 new jobs. That's why union members loved the prospect, notably LI, Laborers International.
DAVID MALLINO (Laborers International): (From videotape.) These would be some of the highest paid construction jobs of this nature -- high wage, high benefits, health insurance, pension benefits.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Obama administration began a review of the environmental impact of the Keystone pipeline in January of 2009, the first month of Mr. Obama's presidency. That review continued through last November, 2011, when President Obama announced that he would not have a final decision until 2013, which, by the way, would have come after the 2012 presidential election, nine months from now. Congress last December set a hard deadline for the president to deliver a final answer, February 21, 2012. But on Wednesday of this week, 2012, President Obama rejected the construction of the pipeline in -- get this -- an email statement to registered journalists. President Obama says he needs more time to contemplate a final decision on any pipeline environmental risk. Mr. Obama called the February 21st congressionally set deadline, quote, "rushed and arbitrary," unquote.
Question: Mr. Obama complains about the do-nothing Congress. Should he worry more about countercharges that this is a do-nothing White House? What about that, Rich?
MR. LOWRY: Absolutely. This is the biggest shovel-ready project, ready to go, in the country. It would have cost the taxpayers absolutely nothing. It's been studied for three years straight by the State Department, which was ready to green light it, no environmental problems. And he's rejecting it entirely for political reasons. He owes an apology to every single one of those thousands of construction workers --
MS. CLIFT: You're leaving out --
MR. LOWRY: -- who would have been able to work on this.
MS. CLIFT: You're leaving out some relevant facts. First of all, it was the Republican governor of Nebraska who sent a letter to the State Department in August saying that the route through Nebraska threatened their water aquifer. And there is now an alternative route that is being discovered, and then they will have to do the environmental impact on that.
This project will go forward in 2013, and a lot of --
MR. LOWRY: Because of politics.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.
MR. LOWRY: Why 2013? Because of politics.
MS. CLIFT: No, because of the environment.
MR. LOWRY: There are hundreds of miles of pipeline under that aquifer.
MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --
MR. LOWRY: It's been totally made up. MS. CLIFT: I get to talk now. You've made your case.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor in, and then I want to go back to you.
MS. CLIFT: You've made your case. A Republican governor asked for an environmental impact statement on an alternative route, and they're coming up with the alternative route. This project will go forward in 2013, and environmentalists will not be happy, because they don't like the tar sands oil --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her in. Let her in.
MS. CLIFT: Because I'd like to finish my statement, OK?
MS. FREELAND: I haven't had a chance to say anything. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Go at it.
MS. FREELAND: No, I was going to say --
MS. CLIFT: I wanted to -- excuse me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let her in. Let her in.
MS. CLIFT: Please let me finish.
MS. FREELAND: Let her in? (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: The tar -- environmentalists do not like tar sands oil because it takes a lot of energy to process it.
MS. FREELAND: OK, so, first of all --
MR. LOWRY: It's going to be developed no matter what.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, let Eleanor --
MS. CLIFT: The fight will go on.
MS. FREELAND: Eleanor, so, first of all, we call it oil sands oil, not tar sands oil. Second of all, I agree with you that there is a Nebraska issue. But what the president should have said is I support this pipeline. I believe in building. I believe in these jobs. And actually, I believe we need fossil fuels.
MS. CLIFT: I think he said all those things. MS. FREELAND: No, he should have said --
MR. LOWRY: He doesn't believe we need fossil fuels.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me get in, all right?
MS. FREELAND: He should have said I am committed to building this pipeline. They should have started building it --
MR. BUCHANAN: Take a look at your map.
MS. FREELAND: -- and not catered to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, go ahead.
MS. FREELAND: -- this small environmental constituency.
MR. BUCHANAN: Take a look at your map. All the states it goes through are red states, OK?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: The environmentalists are against it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: He went with the environmentalists. He ditched the red states.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: 2013, he will agree to the pipeline. It will move forward.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know what the Canadians are going to do?
MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to do the Chinese thing. That's a bluff.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Florida Republican primary. Who wins? Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: The winner of the South Carolina primary. (Laughter.)
MS. CLIFT: That's a copout.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: I'm going to go for Mitt Romney.
MR. LOWRY: Mitt Romney, very narrowly.
MS. FREELAND: Mitt Romney. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mitt Romney, and not narrowly.