The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Pat Buchanan, MSNBC; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Rich Lowry, National Review; Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report Taped: Friday, February 10, 2012 Broadcast: Weekend of February 11-12, 2012

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Santorum Streak.

FORMER SENATOR RICK SANTORUM (Republican presidential candidate, R-PA): (From videotape.) I don't stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rick Santorum this week made it three for three. Republican presidential nominee hopeful Santorum won all three primaries: Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado.

The breakout. Missouri: Santorum, 55 percent; Mitt Romney, 25 percent; Ron Paul, 12 percent. Newt Gingrich was not on the ballot. Minnesota: Santorum, 45; Paul, 27; Romney, 17; Gingrich, 11. Colorado: Santorum, 40; Romney, 35; Gingrich, 13; Paul, 12.

Why did Santorum score so big? He tells us why.

MR. SANTORUM: (From videotape.) Health care, the environment, cap and trade, and on the Wall Street bailouts, Mitt Romney has the same positions as Barack Obama and, in fact, would not be the best person to come up and fight for your voices for freedom in America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Associated Press says Santorum gained 55 certain delegates, which puts him second in the delegate count behind Mitt. Romney won 12, Santorum 72 delegates.

Question: What accounts for Santorum having won four out of eight caucuses and/or primaries? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: Perseverance, first. Secondly, he's an authentic conservative. He's had some lapses, but he's clearly one of the most conservative in the race. Third, you had Michele Bachmann, you had Perry, you had Cain, you had Newt, all vying for the conservative title, collapsing. He's the last man standing against Mitt Romney.

And here's the real reason, John. Mitt Romney has been unable to close this deal with the conservatives. He's been unable to sell them. The tea party conservative evangelical right is desperately resisting this arranged marriage with Mitt. It is astonishing, quite frankly, that Mitt hasn't been able to close it. And that's what Santorum's got going for him.

But I will still put my money, in the long run, that Mitt takes it. But it is going to be a long, long haul now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Newt kaput?

MR. BUCHANAN: Newt is -- they did the wooden stake thing at the crossroads. He can't come back, I think, a third time; a souffle. It was Mrs. Roosevelt's daughter said a souffle -- you cannot get a souffle to rise a second time.


ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, I think this ensures the best case for Romney is that he gets the nomination, but he limps toward it. I think Romney took his foot off the gas. He ignored these three primary -- one primary, which wasn't going to yield any delegates, and two caucuses. And I don't believe any delegates were awarded.

The turnout was extremely low -- less than 6 percent in Missouri, less than 2 percent in Minnesota, less than 1 percent of the registered voters in Colorado. These were states Romney won four years ago. He assumed he could just waltz through them.

So Santorum has this second surge, I guess, if you count his first surge after Iowa, because of the dissatisfaction with Romney, and also because the social issues came galloping back into the campaign.

One, the economy is looking better, so you stake your whole campaign on the economy -- that's not looking so good; secondly, the Susan B. Komen Foundation having to back down after an uprising when they wanted to cut off Planned Parenthood. And then the fight over contraceptives without co-payments under the Obama health care has suddenly awakened the social conservatives, and now they have a vehicle in Santorum.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Santorum did his retailing politicking; 22 appearances in Colorado.

Hold on, please. I want to talk about Romney a little bit, and then you can come next. I know you're chafing at the bit.

RICH LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Romney salutes Santorum.

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR AND 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MITT ROMNEY (R): (From videotape.) This was a good night for Rick Santorum. I want to congratulate Senator Santorum. I wish him the very best. We'll keep on campaigning down the road. But I expect to become our nominee, with your help.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why so confident, Mitt? Answer: Electability. In a matchup with sitting president Barack Obama, it's even steven -- Obama, 48 percent; Romney, 48 percent. So says Gallup.

You understand, that's a leap ahead to this coming November.

MR. LOWRY: I do. Thanks for explaining it, though.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to cue off that?

MR. LOWRY: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Were you surprised by that?

MR. LOWRY: Yeah. This is the thing with Romney. There's a resistance, as Pat pointed out, to him among conservatives. And so far he has only won in the states where he is basically a favorite son, like New Hampshire, or where he has made the rubble bounce with nuclear negative attacks against his opponents. And he did not do that against Santorum in these states.

I think the outcome here makes a brokered convention much more a possibility. If Santorum stays strong in the Midwest, if Gingrich retains some strength in the South, you could see Mitt squeezed below 50 percent of the delegates, which, one, would make it likelier that Santorum is eventually the vice presidential nominee, and also make it likelier, although still a long shot, that you would get someone like Jeb Bush at a convention.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did you like Romney's salute to Santorum?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think it was --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it was polite. It was gracious.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it smooth?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It was reasonably smooth. I would also say that it was kind of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it sincere?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yeah. No, he really meant it. He was so happy that Santorum won. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You say he was happy.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, there was -- sincere. How sincere are these politicians in these moments in their career --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- when they have to concede to somebody whom they think is an absolute non-actor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He could have acted like Gingrich and not said anything.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Nobody could act like Gingrich.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)


MR. BUCHANAN: John, right after he did that --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But here, let me --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- the super PAC started bombing around the clock. (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say one thing. What you have now are millions of dollars being spent by the Republicans to destroy each other. I'm amazed that Romney still has 48 percent national support. I think when you get into a campaign and he's the nominee, it'll be very different.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's look ahead, as we did with Santorum, and take a look at Santorum vis-a-vis Obama, 2012 -- that's only eight months away -- and what the electability factor is, OK? Here we go.

Hypothetical November matchup poll now: Obama, 51 percent; Santorum, 45 percent. In a presidential election, that's an Obama landslide against Santorum.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's good news for the Republicans, John. Look, if Romney now is running even with Obama after they've been butchering each other through 20 debates, campaigns, super PACs, all that, and he's even, I mean, they ought to be -- I mean, Reagan at one point was 30 points behind Carter, I think. I think they've got a fighting chance still to win this thing.

MS. CLIFT: Of course they have a fighting chance. But you can't argue that the primaries so far are strengthening Mitt Romney. They've exposed all kinds of weaknesses, which he has been unable --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's when they ought to be exposed.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but they're not going to go away, Pat. He didn't form a collective second skin over everything. He's very vulnerable.


MS. CLIFT: He's a flawed candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does what happened this week going to have any effect on Obama's bid to be re-elected president -- Obama's new rule on contraception? Can you -- let's listen to this.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services, no matter where they work. So that core principle remains. But if a woman's employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company -- not the hospital, not the charity -- will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he slipped out through the side door?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: No. No. This was a huge -- the original policy was a huge unforced error and miscalculation. I didn't think they realized the kind of reaction they were going to cause among the bishops of the Catholic Church, most of whom are not fire-breathing conservatives. And this --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Recap -- recap the original.

MR. LOWRY: This is a fig leaf.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was the original?

MR. LOWRY: Well, Congress passes a law which has a vague provision saying you have to cover preventive services, and then it's left to Archbishop Sebelius to come up with this policy, which is that religious institutions that aren't exactly churches have to provide this kind of insurance coverage, including contraceptives and sterilization, for their employees, even though it violates their religious convictions. You're going to have monks running Catholic schools having to buy this kind of insurance. And this is a formalistic fig leaf that does nothing to fix it, is a huge --

MS. CLIFT: Can we get the other side?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a moment. Just a moment.

MR. LOWRY: -- political liability for the president.

MS. CLIFT: Can we get the other side.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish.

MR. LOWRY: And he will either fully back down or get slapped down by the courts, because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, before I go to --

MR. LOWRY: -- it's a clear violation of federal law.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before I go to Eleanor, that sarcastic reference you made to Archbishop Sebelius -- who is Sebelius?

MR. LOWRY: You picked up on that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is Sebelius?

MR. LOWRY: It's the secretary of HHS. And this is another problem with --

MR. BUCHANAN: She's a nominal Catholic.

MR. LOWRY: -- another problem with "Obamacare."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's Obama's secretary of HHS.

MR. BUCHANAN: Trinity girl.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Health and Human Services.

MR. BUCHANAN: Trinity girl, nominal Catholic. Look, John, when they antagonize and enrage and get the bishops of the Catholic Church, a lot of whom grew up in Democratic families and are not hostile to Obama, fighting him as though this is a religious war for two weeks, he has been badly damaged, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: First of all, when those two get out of their pulpits, it's nice to be able to -- (laughter) -- (inaudible). I don't think Secretary Sebelius --

MR. LOWRY: I thought my brother Pat was doing quite well.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've been doing all right in your little pulpit over there at the beginning, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think Secretary Sebelius considers herself a nominal Catholic, as you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. What was that all about?

MS. CLIFT: I think that was an insult. That was a little --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Slash and run?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think she's pro-choice on abortion. How can you be that and be a traditionalist Catholic?

MS. CLIFT: She is pro-choice, as a lot of Catholics are. And I would point out that the Institute for Medicine, which ruled that contraceptives are part of preventive health care, is responsible for similar laws in 28 of our states. And many Catholic institutions --

MR. LOWRY: Oh, good. So forget about all the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MS. CLIFT: The moral teachings of the Catholic Church go back 2,000 years. But on contraceptives --

MR. LOWRY: So the Institute for Medicine trumps the Catholic Church when it comes to Catholic institutions?

MS. CLIFT: On contraceptives --

MR. LOWRY: On the basis of what authority does the Institute of Medicine trump the longstanding moral teachings --

MS. CLIFT: Rich --

MR. LOWRY: -- of the Catholic Church when it comes to what Catholic institutions themselves --

MS. CLIFT: Rich, when you --

MR. LOWRY: -- should do?

MS. CLIFT: -- put on your collar, you can come back and lecture me.

MR. LOWRY: I'm not even Catholic.

MS. CLIFT: But that's enough.

MR. LOWRY: I'm not even Catholic.

MS. CLIFT: That's enough.

MR. LOWRY: I just believe in religious liberty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a second.

MS. CLIFT: It is part of preventive care, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a second. What about the root of the Constitution? Isn't there freedom of religion?

MS. CLIFT: -- and women --

MR. LOWRY: Yeah, there is.

MR. BUCHANAN: He is trampling -- his problem is he's -- this time Obama is trampling on God's turf. Look --

MS. CLIFT: Oh, please.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he get out of that by moving --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the bill over to the insurance company?


MR. BUCHANAN: You just saw it. That is a partial capitulation, which is not enough, but it's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, it's not enough? Why can't the insurance companies figure it out?

MS. CLIFT: Exactly.

MR. BUCHANAN: Get them out of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They distribute that blame all over the place.

MR. BUCHANAN: Get them out of our Catholic institutions is what the demand is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of his side-door exit?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I thought it was partially effective. I don't think it really dealt with the main issue. I think he's been hurt politically, which was what that was all about. And I think that will last, because you have people, particularly in the church and in the sermons that they're going to be delivering, that is really going to affect the Catholic vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much money is at stake? How much money?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not money.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not money.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I know it's not money. It's principle and so forth. But how much is it -- (laughter) --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Where does the money come from? It certainly doesn't come from sales.

MS. CLIFT: I can answer that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much -- (inaudible) --

MS. CLIFT: I can answer that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- involved in distributing contraceptives --

MS. CLIFT: I can answer that, please.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we going to go through the same old litany of IUD is all right? Are we going to go through the morning-after pill? Are we going to go through the whole rehearsal?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I am familiar with the moral issues. I'm not familiar with the commercial issues --

MS. CLIFT: Well, I am.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- with the distribution of IUDs and contraceptives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: These are pharmaceutical issues and the operational issues.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. I am. It costs a woman about $600 a year for contraceptive services. The insurance --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much a year?

MS. CLIFT: Six hundred dollars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where does that go?

MS. CLIFT: The insurance companies are happy to provide this free, because in the end it's cheaper for them than to provide other services when people do not use contraception. And no religious institution gets to dictate public policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: They do in their churches and they do in their schools. They do in their --

MS. CLIFT: In their churches --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They do in their hospitals.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- hospitals. They do in their orphanages.

MS. CLIFT: Not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor --

MR. BUCHANAN: Those are Catholic institutions.

MS. CLIFT: Not when they employ hundreds of thousands of other people who are not Catholics.

MR. LOWRY: Should churches --

MS. CLIFT: And they are entitled --

MR. BUCHANAN: You are forcing the church to do something it believes to be immoral.

MR. LOWRY: So should churches themselves --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's where you've got a problem, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: No, they're not --

MR. LOWRY: What is your principle for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I can't believe we're back to birth control.

Issue Two: The War With Iran Over There.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

DEFENSE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA: The United States -- and the president has made this clear -- does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. If they proceed and we get intelligence that they're proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon, then we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop them.

SCOTT PELLEY (CBS News): Including military steps.

SEC. PANETTA: There are no options that are off the table.

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says that if Iran proceeds to acquire a nuclear weapon, the U.S. will use any means to stop them. But some ask, where's the beef? There's no evidence that Iran has even decided to get a nuclear weapon, they say. In fact, the respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz says, quote, "Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb, according to the intelligence assessment of Israeli officials," unquote.

Also neither the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, nor the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, is willing to assert that Iran now has a nuclear weapons program for sure.

Iran says that its nuclear program is for civilian energy, not for a nuclear bomb. Iran also says that it's held meetings with the United Nations nuclear watchdogs -- that's the IAEA -- which discussions the IAEA describes as, quote, "constructive," unquote.

The IAEA will visit Iran next month. But the supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, says that veiled threats, if actualized by the United States, will come at a price.

IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER ALI KHAMENEI (through interpreter): (From videotape.) The U.S. military threats against us are to their detriment, and a real war will harm them 10 times more. The more they threaten us, the more harmful it will be for them. They should know and of course they know that in return for such war threats and oil embargo threats, we have our own threats to make in proper time, if deemed necessary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, he's the holiest of the imams. He speaks with great authority. He's well above Ahmadinejad. Do you think that's worrisome?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think it's anticipated. I mean, there's nothing surprising about that. I don't think he's got quite the backup, shall we say, to support what he's saying.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Why? Because there's no doubt that they have to be aware that they are taking a very, very big gamble with going ahead with nuclear weaponry. And this is -- there's no mystery. This has been predictable for a long, long time. And it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a much higher level of escalation on Iran's part, his saying that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They've been saying that in different forms, you know, for quite a while.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not at that level.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not at the level of the imams, and he is the number one imam.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, he is. But, look, whoever said it, everybody knows it reflects the values, the policies of the imams and the leader, Khamenei in particular. So there's no doubt about that. Something like that does not get said casually. He's just raising it in verbal terms to a different level.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. We've been discussing the war over there with Iran. Let's talk about the war with Iran over here.

VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ (through interpreter): (From videotape.) We know that Iran has been one of the targets of the Yankee empire for a long time. It's one of the reasons for our solidarity with you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met last month with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. It was Ahmadinejad's fifth trip to Venezuela in the last several years. The Venezuelan trip was part of a four-nation tour last month of Latin America -- Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador.

The tour apparently was intended to showcase Iran's mounting influence in our hemisphere, Latin America, right in the backyard of the U.S. That's on top of reports that Iran's elite military unit, the Quds Force, the same Quds Force that was implicated in the plot late last year to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., is operating in Latin America.

The chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, said at hearings last week that Iran's presence in Latin America is troubling to the U.S.

REPRESENTATIVE ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-FL): (From videotape.) These alliances can pose an immediate threat by giving Iran a platform in the region to carry out attacks against the United States, our interests and our allies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Attacks against the United States. In that connection, there's the nightmare scenario, spelled out at the hearing by Miami University scholar of Cuba affairs Jose Azel.

JOSE AZEL (University of Miami senior scholar): (From videotape.) My worst nightmare would be a nuclear Iran and a Venezuela willing to accept deployment of those weapons in Venezuelan territory, for example. It is within the realm of possibility.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You got what he's saying --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that Iran, operating in South America, might nuke the United States.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, that's not what he's saying.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. What he's really saying is they can launch terrorist attacks. That's what they're referring to. Nobody's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the ultimate terrorist attack? A nuclear bomb.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me put it this way. If Iran --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Remember, those nuclear bombs can come in suitcases.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If Iran puts nuclear weapons in Latin America or South America, you will have a major outbreak of war against Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you taking this seriously?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you taking it seriously?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not as you describe it.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's frivolous.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think it's frivolous.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think they're talking about having nuclear weapons or rockets --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you have been taken in.


MR. BUCHANAN: This is war party propaganda.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Five times he's been here --

MR. BUCHANAN: Castro --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Ahmadinejad.

MR. BUCHANAN: Castro's 85. Chavez has got terminal cancer. Ahmadinejad --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All the more reason why they can set up a nuclear installation in Cuba.

MR. BUCHANAN: Clapper, the head of national intelligence, says they don't got a nuclear weapon. They haven't made a decision to build on. Panetta said the same thing. National intelligence said we're not sure they're even moving to a nuclear weapon. The point is there's a war party in this city which is trying to drive this country into a pre-emptive war --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hey, did you hear --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- on Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the chairwoman of the committee say what she said?

MR. BUCHANAN: You think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They could launch attacks from there.

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you going to -- they don't have a nuclear bomb. They're not going to build one. And they're going to launch --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you making fun of her?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it's war party propaganda to the nth degree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: War party.

MS. CLIFT: I agree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think the consequences are?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think they're trying to get us in a war with Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They could at least have more focus down there and make sure we know what's going on.

MR. BUCHANAN: They haven't decided to build a bomb and they're going to fire it at us?

MS. CLIFT: Let's talk about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I am not fear mongering here. I just want -- I just think this is an angle we have not considered, that Iran --

MS. CLIFT: No, we have not --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Well, we have considered --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You heard what the imam said.


MS. CLIFT: We have considered the fact that Iran can fight back --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course we have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From over here.

MS. CLIFT: -- which is why this country and why opinion is divided in Israel about whether there should be a military attack. There's sanctions on Iran right now. The rial has lost half its value. Europe has not -- has said they're not going to import their oil. The squeeze is really being put on them. Let's give that some time to work.

MR. LOWRY: But it hasn't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, during that time they may decide we're going to try a little retaliation to maybe make the Americans ease up in another way, turn the screws on them.

MS. CLIFT: Retaliation?


MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- for them, John?

MR. BUCHANAN: How and what?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You just saw it. You just saw it.

MR. BUCHANAN: A nuclear weapon is going to come out of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're ridiculing it. I know I find that it's fetched, but I'm not sure how farfetched it is.

Issue Three: Manning to Manningham.

AL MICHAELS (NBC Sports): (From videotape.) Four-man rush. Eli throwing into traffic on the sideline. They're going to rule it a catch by Manningham.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A super catch by New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham from quarterback Eli Manning sealed the Giants' victory in this year's Super Bowl -- Manning to Manningham -- Giants 21, Patriots 17.

This 46th Super Bowl was the most-watched program of any kind in U.S. television history. But behind this record breaker lies a sobering issue: Trauma, concussion trauma, induced by football -- head concussions.

The NFL is so concerned by this grim reality that during last Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI, the league tested a new technology to detect concussions immediately. A special chin strap was attached to the Patriots' running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis. The strap under Green- Ellis's chin was equipped with lights that blinked red if the strap took a hit of such intensity a head concussion could result.

The U.S. Congress is also interested in football concussion phenomena. Here's an excerpt from one hearing almost two and a half years ago, chaired by Michigan Representative John Conyers. Conyers is asking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the long-term effects of concussions.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN CONYERS (D-MI): I just asked you a simple question. What's the answer?

NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL: The answer is the medical experts are no better than I would with respect to that. But we are not treating that in any way and delaying anything that we --

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This issue is really deadly, in fact. In February 2011, former Chicago Bears running back Dave Duerson committed suicide. He shot himself in the chest. He left a note saying, quote, "Please see that my brain is given to the NFL's brain bank," unquote. He wanted this so his brain could be researched for concussion data. Duerson had earlier revealed that he had indeed suffered multiple concussions. Doctors had said so. The concussions had caused migraine headaches, mood swings, insomnia and depression. This is why he chose not to shoot himself in the head.

Question: By what right is Congress able to conduct hearings on concussions in the NFL? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: They can conduct hearings on anything they want, John, but I take the implication of your question. I think Congress, which is the least popular institution perhaps in the United States, you know, holding hearings on the most popular institution, the NFL, I think, is absurd. I think they ought to stay out of it. I think it's a serious problem. I think the NFL ought to deal with it. But I don't think the Congress of the United States ought to be conducting hearings.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There is a very serious issue here. It's not so much NFL football. It's high school football. I am told that there's an estimated 100,000 concussions every year in high school football. So they've got to find a way to deal with that problem. That's a very serious issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, I've got something to tell you. It's bigger than even you think.

Concussions in football are not just an issue for the NFL. Lots of young Americans, even starting at age six or seven, play football. A 2010 study by Purdue University and Indiana University, published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, found an estimated 43,000 to 67,000 high school football players suffer a concussion every season. A lot of these injuries go unreported. The total number could be much higher.

By the way, Congress gives the NFL an antitrust exemption. That's the reason why Congress is legally entitled to get in.

MR. LOWRY: Well, they can have a hearing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you follow me?

MR. LOWRY: -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So will you rethink this in the light of that?

MR. LOWRY: John, this is the thing. This story is about those former players and their suffering, really heartrending.

I don't think the teams or the players themselves can be trusted to police this. I think the NFL eventually is going to have to have some arbiter at each game deciding whether someone should be pulled from the game or not.

MS. CLIFT: Actually, that hearing, I think you said, was two and a half years ago. And the NFL since then has really stepped up to the plate in terms of research, better equipment, and they do have people policing the fields and so forth. But I take your point. Kids who play football are not getting the attention that the NFL players are getting. And we know a lot more about what happens to your brain. I personally could do without football. But people in this country love football even more than they love the Catholic Church, Pat. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you going to do away with football now, Eleanor? (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. I mean, it's not going to happen, so I'm reconciled to that. But I think we really do have to get better at protecting --

MR. LOWRY: Yeah, we could have the Institute of Medicine --

MS. CLIFT: -- people's brains and heads.

MR. LOWRY: -- run the NFL too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Congress could prohibit, in the light of the fact that there's so much --

MR. BUCHANAN: Congress should stay out of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Congress should stay out of it?

MR. BUCHANAN: As far as legislation is concerned.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There will be no military involvement of the United States in Syria. True or false?

MR. BUCHANAN: True for the --

MS. CLIFT: True.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- immediate future.


MS. CLIFT: True.

MR. LOWRY: True.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Answer: True.