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The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Rich Lowry, National Review; Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune Taped: Friday, February 24, 2012 Broadcast: Weekend of February 25-26, 2012

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Obama the Populist.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We've got to do something to help families be able to afford and students to be able to afford this higher education.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama says that college education must become more affordable for all American students.

Private universities have seen their tuitions rise over the past decade by 29 percent. They charge roughly $160,000 board and tuition for a B.A. degree. Public universities, funded by state tax dollars, have seen their tuitions rise in the last decade by 72 percent, nearly doubling in 10 years to roughly $120,000 for a B.A. degree. So Mr. Obama has unveiled his plan to make college more affordable through loans, i.e. Perkins loans, named after the long- serving 1980s chairman of the House Committee on Education, Carl D. Perkins from Kentucky.

Perkins loans are administered by the U.S. Department of Education. They are offered at a low interest rate of 5 percent, $5,500 a year for college, $8,000 a year for graduate school. Mr. Obama wants to increase the funding for Perkins loans in aggregate from $1 billion a year to $8 billion a year. That's a 700 percent taxpayer build-out.

Question: Here's a trick question for you, so think outside the box. You know what that means, Pat. Think outside the box.

PAT BUCHANAN: I'm going to try to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. What makes college less affordable for today's middle class? I ask you, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's a supply-and-demand situation. You've got to have a B.A. degree, it seems, to really get a good job. Everybody knows that. Socially, if you haven't gone to college and gotten a B.A. degree, you're considered sort of semi-second-class citizen. And so there's an enormous number of America's young, probably half of America's young, desperate to get into college. That's the demand side.

On the supply side, a lot of these professors have now got enormous salaries. They've got teaching assistants in there. They've got administrators and all of this. Then you've got these huge pots of federal and state money pouring in, which frankly simply drives prices higher and higher and higher.

I think education, John, in America is -- part of education; there are some outstanding schools -- but education is one of the biggest rackets going on in America today.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: It's the biggest racket that everybody needs to have a piece of if you want to make it in this society. And the fact that the costs have gone up is in part because the taxpayer money, the state money, is not there to fund it. And professors make exorbitant salaries. Maybe it's some of the most elite institutions. But I don't believe that's widespread.

I think it's expensive because providing classrooms and teachers and the campus accommodations -- I mean, everything has gone up. And college education now costs about three times what it did a couple of decades ago. And people cannot afford that on their own, just like they can't afford health care on their own either. I mean, this is the way the society has developed. And this president understands that if you invest money in young people to get degrees, that that is money well spent. And so he's doing the right thing.

It's also good for his politics, because young people are part of his coalition and they need those loans. And one of his most significant achievements was getting the banks out as a middleman in the making of student loans. Banks were making a pile of money. So student loans are cheaper today. They're still hard to pay back, but student loans are cheaper today than they were.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, follow the money: Bigger loans, then bigger tuitions.

Ohio University economist Richard Vedder says more loans distributed will not bring down tuition costs.

RICHARD VEDDER (Ohio University): (From videotape.) If you drop money out of airplanes, or the equivalent, over students' houses, they're going to take that money and the colleges are going to be aware of that and they're going to raise tuition fees a good bit. So I'm not sure that we're dealing with the root cause of the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Vedder added that increasing Perkins loans funding by 700 percent will put the U.S. in a deeper ditch of public debt, a ditch that is now -- get this -- $15 trillion deep. That's "t" as in "trillion."

MR. VEDDER: (From videotape.) And what we're really doing with, say, the student loan program is we're borrowing money, often from overseas folks, like Chinese investors, who lend money to the U.S. government, who in turn then lend it to often middle-class and even upper middle-class students. We have a nation that has got enormous broader macro debt problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, you know that gentleman, do you not?

CLARENCE PAGE: He was one of my professors at Ohio University. That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of what he had to say?

MR. PAGE: Well, I've learned a lot more from Richard Vedder since I was a student than while I was a student, but that's another story.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to tell us more about that?

MR. PAGE: No, he's right. What, about my college days? Anytime, John. No, but Dr. Vedder believes that there is this spiraling of costs related to salaries, related to a number of things that could be made more efficient. He likes online education. He likes other alternatives that should be tried more.

At the same time, you know, I come from a generation -- me and my cousins, we were the first in our family to go to college back in the `60s and `70s. It was so much easier to work the summer in the steel mill, get the tuition to go to school at a good school like Ohio University the rest of the year. The steel mills are gone. That industrial America is gone. It's much harder for a blue-collar kid. And the tuition there now is 10 times what it was when I went to school.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To support --

MR. PAGE: So that's the real problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To support that with a couple of -- a little documentation, pay and benefits for private college and university professors rose 14 percent in the same decade that middle-class incomes fell 7 percent. The average pay in these institutions is now over $100,000 for a professor, although one professor at Stevenson University in Maryland makes $1,491,655 annually.

MR. BUCHANAN: The lectures must be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that what he's talking about?

RICH LOWRY: Yeah, it is. Over the last decade you've had tuition go up 5 or 6 percent a year. Does anyone believe that college educations are really getting 5 to 6 percent better every year? No, they're not. These schools, most of them are run fundamentally for the faculty, for the alumni and for the trustees more than they are for students.

Tons of money is poured into tenured faculty, some of whom you make $150,000 a year, don't have to do much teaching, instead write for obscure journals. Then the alumni want the sports teams and the trustees want something else. And there's a wonderful book about this called "Academically Adrift" that just came out that showed 42 percent of college kids the first two years show no advance in their critical thinking whatsoever because there are so many idiotic classes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. MS. CLIFT: Part of the --

MR. LOWRY: It's the core system that is broken and needs to be fixed. President Obama's right that it's broken. He doesn't know how to fix it because he's just having more federal subsidy captured by --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do you fix it? How do you fix it?

MR. LOWRY: One -- a huge thing is to innovate. And Pat's right about the supply-and-demand problem. You have more people wanting to go to college, but you have limited seats. So you have colleges; their ranking in the world depends on excluding people. If you have more online education, you can scale up this education they're providing at a very low cost.

MS. CLIFT: I'm certainly for innovation, but we're looking at a president who's trying to get more people into community colleges, a president who's working with a set of statistics that show that if you don't have a college education, some post-high school training, that you really have a tough time in this economy.

And then we have a Republican Party that wants to run against all the elites. And so I think suddenly turning college professors into the newest scapegoats is really not where --

MR. LOWRY: But they should do more teaching.

MS. CLIFT: -- where we ought to go when we talk about education.

MR. LOWRY: They should do more teaching.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat in.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, look, many -- look, in the hard sciences, fewer and fewer Americans in there. You've got the Asian- American kids and you've got foreign kids in there, and there's all these gut courses and silly courses and all the rest of it.

Look, the federal government has an interest in having scientists and engineers and others. But some of the -- the rest of this stuff, I really think they really should not finance a lot of this stuff because it's junk, and they're there for four years to get a B.A. They learn nothing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And it's very --

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- liberal arts. That's not junk.

MR. PAGE: The fact is, my dad was right. Just get that diploma. It doesn't matter whether --

MR. BUCHANAN: But it's meaningless. MR. LOWRY: That's not true.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's meaningless in too many cases.

MR. PAGE: You know what, Pat? The fact is that -- Eleanor, you're actually being soft on the projections, because all the income stagnation has been among those who don't have a college degree, or at least a couple of years of schooling beyond high school. And that's been true since the early 1970s. So just the fact that you got that diploma is going to mean you're going to have more --

MR. LOWRY: It does matter what you learn.

MR. PAGE: -- (inaudible). And if you want to learn something seriously, go to grad school. This is the way a lot of people are doing it.

MR. LOWRY: No, no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we all --

MR. LOWRY: That's the wrong attitude. Spending four years at college does not make you any smarter or better or more disciplined.

MR. PAGE: It'll get you a job, though.

MR. LOWRY: Getting a good college education is important, but 40 percent of kids that go to college now don't get a degree after six years. This is a broken system.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: A $7 billion increase in student loan funding, is that good public policy or bad public policy? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I just think you're going to flood more money in there and it's going to raise the prices and all the rest of it, John. But that is -- frankly, $7 (billion) or $8 billion in this education industry, which is about a trillion dollars, is peanuts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's a bubble?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's peanuts.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it's a bubble?

MR. BUCHANAN: Student loans -- yeah, there's an enormous amount of student loans that are in de facto default.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we --

MR. BUCHANAN: People go to college, spend the student loan, and then they can't pay them back. MS. CLIFT: And our president --

MR. BUCHANAN: And we pay them back.

MS. CLIFT: We're not paying them back. Our president is restructuring that to make those loans affordable and to get the banks out from making big money.

The $7 billion is money well spent. It goes to the neediest people. And everybody on this set went to a good college. And whatever their progeny is, they work very hard to get them into a good college.

MR. LOWRY: That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about the University of Virginia. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you going to --

MR. LOWRY: The University of Virginia.

MS. CLIFT: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's the answer to the question?

MR. LOWRY: It's bad policy. It'll just feed the spiral of tuition. There's more college debt now than there is credit-card debt, and this just feeds that problem.

MR. PAGE: It's good policy, but it shouldn't be monolithic. We do need to be more innovative. We do need to look across the board at the entire system. It's quite archaic. It really hasn't been changed since World War II.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's archaic and it's a bubble and --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- pays for the GI Bill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- declining middle-class incomes, and it fails to take that into consideration. So I think it's going to just -- it's eventually going to have to burst.

Issue Two: The Veep Candidates.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): (From videotape.) The president of the United States looks like he's a really good father, looks like he's a really good husband, but he is a terrible president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican Senator Marco Rubio is a freshman U.S. senator from Florida. He's a GOP up and comer and a favorite of the tea party. The senator is also a leading candidate for the number two slot on this year's president-vice president Republican ticket.

Let's assume that the presidential candidate is Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. Who else besides Marco Rubio could be the veep running mate for either?

Here's a few names: Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, a GOP rising star. Governor Haley is of Indian -- that's India, as in the nation -- extraction. Her parents today are successful U.S. entrepreneurs.

Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, who endorsed Romney, an unusually popular Republican in a Democratic state.

Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor who delivered the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address. Daniels' rebuttal has been deemed clear, cogent, very persuasive, and statesmanlike.

Other potential running mates include South Dakota Senator John Thune, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.

Question: Let's assume that the presidential primaries are protracted and they are divisive. What imperative does that impose on a presidential nominee when selecting a running mate? Do you understand the question?

MR. LOWRY: I do. I believe so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Answer the question.

MR. LOWRY: You want to unite the party. And if you're Mitt Romney and you won in a protracted battle, it means there's not much enthusiasm for you, which hasn't been evident to this point. So you want to excite the party. Now, who you pick to do that is another question entirely. If we get a brokered convention scenario and Romney -- the delegates he needs are held by Rick Santorum, it's obvious we'll have a Romney-Santorum ticket.

If Romney just wins, the two candidates that create the most excitement are Marco Rubio -- the question is whether Rubio would actually win it -- and Chris Christie. Christie, the problem -- he's really light up the campaign trail, at least initially. The question is, would the tea party be happy with his positions when they really get a close look at them, because he is a Northeastern Republican, although a right-leaning one.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why would Rubio not want it? MR. LOWRY: Well, the question is, would Rubio think I have enough star power and enough chops and I'm young enough that I can do this under my own power? I don't want to be lassoed to a candidate who may lose this time around. I want to have a fresh swing at it myself in `16.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, if the ticket looks like a loser, why would anyone want to get on board? The most obvious ticket is Romney- Santorum. I mean, they're battling it out here towards the end. They come from two ends of the party. And if they can make up, maybe the rest of the party can.

Now, what if Santorum gets the nomination, which is not unthinkable at this point? Then I can't imagine Santorum-Romney.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: But I can imagine Santorum-Tim Pawlenty. And Pawlenty dropped out early, supported Romney. He's a Midwestern guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's experienced.

MS. CLIFT: He's a working man's guy. You could have sort of the all-blue-collar ticket. And I think that could be an interesting combo.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you know, in 2008, McCain was frankly a boring candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who?

MR. BUCHANAN: John McCain. And the conservatives --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: Conservatives were disillusioned.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The war veteran.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, he went to Vietnam. The point is, when he picked Sarah Palin, it was a sensational pick, probably the most dramatic we've ever seen. He went from eight points down to five points ahead --

MR. PAGE: For three weeks.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- in about -- for three weeks. Of course, Lehman Brothers finished him.

MR. LOWRY: It was a good three weeks.

MR. PAGE: A good three weeks. MR. BUCHANAN: The point here, John, is -- the point is you've not only got to unite the party if Romney gets the nomination; he's got to excite the base of the party, which is not excited about him. And frankly, I don't know anybody that does that. The best one for that, if Rubio is out, is Chris Christie, I think. And if not him, I would look at a real conservative. I mean, I think John Thune is an impressive --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does Rubio bring with him, in all probability?

MR. PAGE: Well, Rubio brings several things. He was tea party- endorsed. He's -- but he had a lot of appeal to people who are not tea party and middle-of-the-road folks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What else?

MR. PAGE: He's, oh, a Cuban-American; can't forget that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Latino. He brings the Latino vote.

MR. PAGE: Absolutely. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that big?

MR. PAGE: -- a very attractive speaker and all. He has the potential of being the Hispanic Barack Obama, if you will, as far as the ticket is concerned.

MR. BUCHANAN: He brings Florida.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rubio doesn't make many mistakes either.

MR. LOWRY: No.

MR. PAGE: Not so far.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's also quite audacious, is he not?

MR. PAGE: Well, how do you mean audacious? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I mean, like --

MR. LOWRY: Running against Charlie Crist for that Senate seat --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Running against Crist.

MR. LOWRY: -- was audacious. But the way he's conducted himself in Washington has been very impressive. He's never gotten out in front of himself, and he's just given a series of really wonderful speeches.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't forget that Latino vote.

MS. CLIFT: And he doesn't necessarily -- MR. BUCHANAN: He gets the Cuban vote, John. He does not necessarily get the Mexican vote.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, he'll get the Latino vote.

MR. BUCHANAN: But I'll tell you, Eleanor's point is well taken in this sense. If Santorum comes rolling in -- let's suppose he's got 30 percent of the delegates -- it's very tough to pass over him.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: But the thing is, Christie, with the gay rights amendment, gay marriage amendment on the ballot in New Jersey and him being popular, may be able to pull New Jersey --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- out of the Democratic pile --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- which would be phenomenal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rubio brings something else. What is it?

MR. BUCHANAN: Florida.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Catholic.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Catholic.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but he has a very conservative view on immigration. He's kind of anti-immigration. So he brings the Cuban vote. But, broadly speaking, Hispanics are not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've got news for you.

MS. CLIFT: -- necessarily going to flock to him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That position is a plus. Think about it.

MR. PAGE: Not with the Hispanic vote.

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.) I don't think so. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, it's sufficiently there, but it's not there, you know?

MR. PAGE: Not the Hispanic vote. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. There are four Republicans now in the running: Santorum, Romney, Paul -- that's Ron Paul -- and Newt Gingrich. Will it be a four-man race all the way to the convention? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it'll be a three-man race, with one corpse, and that would be Newt Gingrich, being dragged to the convention.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think that's right, except if Gingrich does well on Super Tuesday in some of those southern states, he may be --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Back again?

MS. CLIFT: -- a corpse with some pulse. (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: Newt wants to go to the convention. And the only thing that stops him would be if he utterly runs out of money and has to go into deep debt to do it.

MR. PAGE: I think Romney's negative ads against Santorum are going to finish off the Santorum campaign. It's going to be Romney pretty well clinched and clear to the convention, unless the tea party can find somebody else to run against him. They're going through the list, I think.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, once again you've vaulted into the truth.

Issue Three: Drone On.

Drones are pilotless robotic aircraft -- no humans on board. Drones are controlled remotely by ground operators at a computer screen, sometimes as far away as Colorado. A drone is one of two basic types -- a surveillance drone, conducting reconnaissance, what the action is on the ground; and a predator drone, one that can carry and drop lethal payloads -- missiles, bombs.

Surveillance drones, not predator drones, are what America is flying over the airspace of Iraq, the sovereign nation of Iraq. Iraqis don't like drones flying overhead. They regard surveillance drones as an infringement of their sovereignty. Quote: "Our sky is our sky," say the Iraqis, "not the U.S.'s sky." That's surveillance drones.

As for predator drones, both the Obama administration and, before him, the Bush administration used predator drones to attack al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in six countries, flying drones over Afghanistan, over Iraq, over Libya, over Pakistan, over Somalia, over Yemen. Critics of the drones call the drone strategies, both surveillance and predator, illegal and unethical. Here's why.

Item: War with no notice. U.S. drone missions are per se acts of war without a declaration of war by Congress.

Item: Sovereignty infringement. Currently the U.S. is flying drone missions over foreign nations, thus violating the sovereignty of these nations without the permission of their governments.

Item: War crimes. The number of people that have been killed by U.S. predator drones totals over 3,000. Seven hundred eighty of those dead were innocent civilians -- 780 -- meaning that for every three presumptive terrorists killed, one innocent civilian is killed. So the kill ratio, non-terrorist to terrorist, is 33 percent. So reports the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a think tank in London, cited by The New York Times.

Question: Granted drone attacks are likely to become a permanent feature of American anti-terrorism policy, should there be a pre- strike -- that's pre-drone strike -- judicial determination that any given individual is an appropriate target? Do you follow me?

MR. PAGE: I do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If the drone is targeting on an individual, then there must be a judicial determination to establish the legitimacy of that target.

MR. PAGE: I understand the argument, and it's a proper legal argument. But I don't think it's going to really matter, because there aren't that many targeting -- there aren't that many episodes in which one individual is targeted without there being some other individuals nearby anyway.

The fact of the matter is this is a tactic of war. It is -- and it is controversial as such. But it's also remarkably practical as far as the military calculus goes, as far as the effectiveness of the strikes, as far as the lack of civilian casualties, actually, compared to sending in ground troops and taking that kind of action. There's really no political down side for President Obama as a practical matter. And I think that you're right. We're going to see more of them happening.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're pretty good --

MR. LOWRY: But there's no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. You're pretty good at the military calculus. MR. PAGE: Well, that's the military calculus, right. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. What about the PR calculus?

MR. PAGE: Well, diplomatically --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The PR calculus.

MR. PAGE: Diplomatically --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: PR, public relations. How do we look around the world --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- flying these drones around?

MR. PAGE: Well, as far as --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How do we look?

MR. PAGE: As far as PR and diplomatically --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't care how we look. Do you care how we look?

MR. PAGE: It's not that bad. It's not that bad.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not that bad?

MR. PAGE: It's not as bad as you might think, compared to --

MR. LOWRY: Would you prefer the B-52s, John? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- overhead, flying around the world in all these countries, it doesn't look bad?

MR. PAGE: Once again, it's less than a ground invasion, you know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, that --

MR. PAGE: -- as a practical matter.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that these are suggesting we could invade you.

MR. LOWRY: Well, John --

MS. CLIFT: You're lumping in -- MR. PAGE: Take the example of Yemen, for example, you know, where the president in Yemen has publicly deplored drones but privately --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- in this country to get surgery now.

MR. PAGE: Right. Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.) What about him? What did he do?

MR. PAGE: Privately, the Bush administration and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did he do? He's in the country to get surgery.

MR. PAGE: That's correct.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What were you going to say about him?

MR. PAGE: Well, I was going to say, after 9/11 he took President Bush's invitation and became a friend, not an enemy. But, you know, as far as --

MR. LOWRY: Hey, John, there's no --

MR. PAGE: -- public relations are concerned --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does anyone see my point about drones, American drones? Do you?

MS. CLIFT: I see part of your point. Drones, coupled with good intelligence, are transforming modern warfare. But it does not come without cost, because it makes warfare even more impersonal and it ratchets up the down side.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: And -- wait a second -- and in Pakistan, the new Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: -- a woman --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MS. CLIFT: -- named Sherry Rehman, who is a protege of Benazir Bhutto's, says she's going to publish every month a report that shows the number of dead in Pakistan as a result of NATO action. So Pakistan is -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe the good thing is --

MS. CLIFT: -- playing hardball here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- they're flying at such heights, no one can see them.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's good.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat, you've got 25 seconds.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the Syrian civil war will turn into a proxy war, if you will, between Shia and Sunni. There will be people coming in from Iraq. It'll turn into a conflict -- greater conflict between the United States, Russia and China, who will veto any action. And it's also, in a sense, an ethnic conflict with the Druze, the Kurds and the others seeking sort of to break away. This could be almost like the Spanish civil war was in the 1930s.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Kudos to the Congress for finally doing something on a bipartisan basis and extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. But once they get that done, the Congress is going to give this president lots of reasons to continue to label them the do- nothing Congress, because they will not come together on anything after that. They probably won't even be able to get a transportation bill done, which is really a serious issue for infrastructure.

MR. LOWRY: John, I have a momentous prediction for you today. "The Artist" will win the best picture at the Oscars in what will be the best news for silent film in about a century.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "The Artist."

MR. LOWRY: "The Artist."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's "The Artist" about?

MR. LOWRY: It's a delightful little movie about a silent -- I don't want to ruin it for everyone -- but a silent film star who has trouble in his careers when talkie -- in his career when talkies come on the scene, and mayhem and hilarity and heartbreak and romance ensue.

MR. PAGE: If "The Artist" wins, you're going to be viewed as the great guru of this panel.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, it's been said by others. Others have predicted it. MR. PAGE: Well, I think it's a long shot myself, but we'll see.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, do you have a prediction of your own?

MR. PAGE: Oh, yes, my prediction. Look for the caucus system to be questioned heavily this year after Iowa and Maine, places where there have been questions about the count. Unlike the regular primary system, where you have professionals out there working in the precincts, the caucuses rely on volunteers. And it causes a number of problems that people are raising questions about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that the new head of the World Bank will be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Bye-bye.

END.