The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Tim Carney, Washington Examiner; Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune Taped: Friday, March 30, 2012 Broadcast: Weekend of March 31-April 1, 2012
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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Supreme Guessing Game.
The Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare," went before the Supreme Court this week for an unprecedented six hours of argument over three days. The most controversial aspect of the law is known as individual mandate. It obliges -- commands, if you will -- all U.S. citizens to buy health insurance. If he or she decides not to do so, he or she pays a fine, approximately $1,000 per year.
The high court justices were troubled. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy asked the solicitor general, who was defending "Obamacare," why the insurance net is being thrown so wide. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY: (From audiotape.) That changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in a very fundamental way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Justice Antonin Scalia wants to know whether physical exercise like pushups could be mandated next.
SUPREME COURT JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA: (From audiotape.) Everybody has to exercise, because there's no doubt that lack of exercise causes illness, and that causes health care costs to go up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The justices also wanted to know whether it was legal for the court to remove one key element of the law but keep the rest of it. Justice Ginsburg responds.
SUPREME COURT JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG: (From audiotape.) Why shouldn't we say that the choice between a wrecking operation, which is what you are requesting, or a salvage job?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is the goal of controlling health care costs sufficient to grant Congress the power to force people to enter a market they don't want to enter? Pat.
PAT BUCHANAN: The question, John, is right to what you're talking to. Is it constitutional to force people to buy a product they don't want to buy? Can the federal government do that even for some noble purpose? And that's the question here.
And the individual mandate, which is that, was mocked and ridiculed by five of the justices, certainly. And Kennedy you saw (in on it ?). They virtually depantsed the solicitor general right there in the chambers. And what I think is going to come out of this -- the key is Kennedy still. I think the four conservatives are going to go to knock this thing down. And will Kennedy go with that fifth vote? What happens after that? Will they get Breyer?
But I do think this. I think that's going to happen. The question then that follows is, the Supreme Court then -- does the whole law go down? The Supreme Court automatically becomes an issue in this election. And I'm not sure which way that goes or which way the defeat of this whole bill goes, who it helps and who it hurts.
The central opinion right now is that the conservatives -- it's a win-win for them. I'm not altogether sure that it is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, the extent to which the debate becomes about health insurance versus health care, I think, helps the opposition. And I think that the government's lawyer was nervous. He didn't seem fully prepared, amazingly so. And I don't think he fully confronted the questions that he -- were posed before him. But the answer to, you know, how far can this go is that insurance or health care is a unique market. And I don't -- rare is the individual who will not, at some point in his or her life, encounter the health care system. And so, therefore, it seems to me semantics whether you're going to confront this market before it actually goes into effect or that you can somehow preclude it at this point.
They should have called the mandate a personal responsibility provision, because really what it's about is not allowing people to use the emergency room as their point of contact with health care, not pay the bills, and make the rest of us pick up the cost.
TIM CARNEY: I don't agree that that's what it's really about. It's really about getting healthy young people, who would either want no health insurance or very high-deductible, low-premium health insurance, getting them into the pool, because this is the only way to make it --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much would that cost?
MR. CARNEY: Well --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've seen $4,000 as a figure.
MR. CARNEY: And I think for a lot of young, healthy people --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They would get about $800 on average in services.
MR. CARNEY: Yeah. And so it would make a lot more sense to buy --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they're paying for those with pre-existing conditions.
MR. CARNEY: And so what it is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're paying for contraception.
MR. CARNEY: Yes. And that's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're paying for other medical needs.
MR. CARNEY: That's exactly why health insurance companies were the first ones to propose the individual mandate right after Obama got elected.
MS. CLIFT: That's how insurance works. (Laughs.)
MR. CARNEY: No, but insurance works by you insure against things that could happen to you, and so you go -- what you're talking about is a redistribution -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The insurance you're talking about is optional insurance. This is mandatory insurance.
CLARENCE PAGE: John, Tim, if that's your strongest argument --
MS. CLIFT: Do you know anybody who --
MR. PAGE: -- you've got the wrong argument --
MR. CARNEY: No, my strongest argument is liberty.
MR. PAGE: -- because you're already paying for Medicare. And that -- I'm sure --
MR. CARNEY: And that's -- and we consider that to be welfare.
MR. PAGE: Well, that's a precedent right there. It's constitutional, isn't it? So what's the difference between paying for your elder care or paying for your health care right now?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the --
MR. PAGE: It's a difference of form, not substance. That's why you have got good arguments on both sides here. By the way, the early days of this country, men were required to buy a musket -- (laughs) -- under federal law. General Washington --
MR. BUCHANAN: Under state law is my guess.
MR. PAGE: Sorry?
MR. BUCHANAN: My guess is it was state law, not federal law --
MR. PAGE: In order to comply with the 2nd Amendment --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- since we didn't have a federal government. (Laughs.)
MR. PAGE: -- in order to raise a militia, yeah.
MR. CARNEY: So get an amendment to the Constitution.
MR. PAGE: I mean, there are precedents here for forcing you to buy something. MR. BUCHANAN: But the question is -- you've got a good point here on this.
MR. PAGE: Yeah.
MR. BUCHANAN: If the individual mandate goes down at the federal level, does it go down in "Romneycare" in Massachusetts too if it violates the Constitution, this individual mandate?
MR. CARNEY: No.
MR. PAGE: But "Romneycare" is actually -- actually, there are some differences in "Romneycare." It's a complicated question. And I don't excuse it the way Mitt Romney does, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about -- hold on, please. Hold on. What about public opinion? I show here that "Obamacare" hovers around 75 percent, although some provisions are popular. Does this suggest Obama miscalculated in pressing for wholesale reform?
MR. PAGE: I think --
MS. CLIFT: No. You can't reform the health care market by tweaking this and not tweaking that, because insurance companies aren't going to excuse people with pre-existing conditions. They're not going to promise not to cut you off unless they get --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with incremental health reform?
MS. CLIFT: -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with incremental reform?
MR. BUCHANAN: That's what we're going to get.
MS. CLIFT: Which increment would you do? (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's what we're going to get if the whole thing goes down.
MS. CLIFT: No, no. If the mandate --
MR. PAGE: If. That's an if.
MS. CLIFT: If the mandate goes down, I believe the exchanges, which are market exchanges, regional and in states, they will be competitive. The Kaiser Foundation did a survey which shows that the mandate only affects 6 or 7 percent of the population. That's still about 18 million people.
MR. BUCHANAN: But what you're saying is piecemeal -- MS. CLIFT: And -- excuse me.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- parts of it will survive.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. And a majority of those people would get a federal subsidy. So I think "Obamacare" survives with or without the mandate.
MR. BUCHANAN: Not if you get Romney in the White House.
MR. PAGE: (Laughs.) Yeah, so he says.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: I don't think they'll pass -- there won't be the votes on Capitol Hill to give President Romney anything he can sign.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was "Obamacare" the major factor in the defeat --
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
MR. CARNEY: In the 2010 elections --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the 2010 elections, when the Republicans --
MR. CARNEY: No doubt about it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- swept in there, this was really a repudiation of "Obamacare." Yes or no?
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely.
MR. BUCHANAN: The tea party was built by "Obamacare."
MR. CARNEY: It was built by "Obamacare." And you saw that the Democrats who lost, a lot -- I mean, a lot of them were the ones --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They lost the House.
MR. CARNEY: -- who voted for it. And so "Obamacare" was the number one thing. Now --
MS. CLIFT: Just about every member of the tea party --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What impact will it have on the presidential race if the Supreme Court tosses out "Obamacare" as unconstitutional?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, here's one. First, it'll make the Supreme Court a major issue in the campaign. Secondly, it will moralize enthusiastically the conservatives. But the people defeated, the Democrats and the others, if this whole thing goes down and Obama -- you know, they can say, look -- it could energize those folks as well.
My guess is the president, however, does not want to campaign in the fall on an issue, "Obamacare" per se, that is as unpopular as you say. But some of the aspects of it, like pre-existing conditions, have a huge majority.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does it look like Obama will have exceeded his presidential mandate?
MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, the Republicans will say the guy acted -- he's a constitutional lawyer who acted unconstitutionally.
MS. CLIFT: Wait till --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did he do it?
MR. BUCHANAN: Because that was the big centerpiece of Obama's administration.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did he think he could make the hurdle?
MR. BUCHANAN: Because the Democrats --
MR. PAGE: It's not unconstitutional yet, John.
MR. BUCHANAN: The Democrats thought it was the Social Security of this generation.
MS. CLIFT: If you called it a tax, everybody is tax-phobic. If you called this a tax, it would be perfectly constitutional.
MR. PAGE: By the same token --
MS. CLIFT: They tried to find something that was politically palatable. And frankly, before the right captured all the dialogue, virtually every constitutional expert expected that this would be upheld and that the law, which was brought on behalf of 26 red states and the National Federation of Independent Business, was so politicized, it looked frivolous. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a lose-lose proposition, meaning that if the court -- if the court upholds it and it invalidates the opposition, charges that Obama overreaches his authority, and if the court throws it out, it still looks like he's going to overreach?
MR. PAGE: Well, if the court throws it out, he's going to have sympathy from people who suddenly -- you know, folks with college-age kids, like me, who suddenly are going to find that their health care coverage is lost.
MS. CLIFT: If you have --
MR. PAGE: Pre-existing conditions. Most of "Obamacare" is very popular, actually, if you go down issue by issue. The Kaiser polls and others show this. So if you take away the mandate, it's not really clear, like Pat says, that Obama is necessarily going to lose.
MR. CARNEY: And I think Obama --
MS. CLIFT: If you have a --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know. If he wins, it's going to recharge the opposition against it. People are going to -- if they rejected it before, they're going to go to Romney.
MS. CLIFT: If you have --
MR. PAGE: Romney doesn't mind debating in favor of "Obamacare," if that's going to be an issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. PAGE: He does not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. PAGE: It's his signature issue, John. How can he run away from it?
MS. CLIFT: If you have --
MR. BUCHANAN: He's run away -- Obama has run away from it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Russian Roulette.
(Begin videotaped segment.)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I understand. I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you. (End videotaped segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was intended to be a private exchange between outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Obama. But thanks to an open microphone, it was broadcast to the world. At a nuclear security summit last Monday in Seoul, Korea, Mr. Obama revealed his willingness to cut a deal with Russia on the placement of anti-missile defenses in Eastern Europe after this year's November election.
The missile defense system was first proposed by President George W. Bush to protect European cities against Iranian missiles. It was vigorously opposed by Russia. So the first systems are currently scheduled for deployment in Romania in 2015 and in Poland in 2018. Mr. Obama says he will have more flexibility after the election this year.
Republicans were quick to seize on the flexibility comment.
FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R, Republican presidential candidate): (From videotape.) This is a president who is telling us one thing and doing something else, and is planning on doing something even more frightening.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Governor Romney went on to characterize Russia as America's number one geopolitical rival, a charge that drew a rejoinder from Medvedev that this is 2012, not the 1970s, the height of the Cold War.
Congressional Republicans are calling for a, quote, "urgent explanation," unquote, of Mr. Obama's comments to Mr. Medvedev. Here's the exchange again.
(Begin videotaped segment.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I understand. I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.
(End videotaped segment.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Mr. Obama's rapprochement or reset of U.S.-Russian relations is his foreign policy priority. How much further is he likely to take that reset in a second term?
MR. BUCHANAN: This is a gaffe of really the first order, John. He has confirmed the suspicions of every conservative and traditionalist and neocon in America that after his election, all this nonsense I've been supporting in my first term goes out the window and we got the new and the real -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: -- Obama. He has scared the daylights out of them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, now, wait a minute. Wait a minute.
MR. BUCHANAN: I think that what he said is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that kind of exchange understood --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- that missile system is gone. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's to say that he means that? Is it even interpreted by Medvedev as to be literal?
MR. BUCHANAN: Look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't they allow a certain cushion --
MR. BUCHANAN: He said --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for diplomatic --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- tell Vladimir to cut me some slack till I get elected, and then we can do business. (Laughs.)
MS. CLIFT: I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, so he's also -- so this is my price. You've got to be good to me on this and cut me some slack.
MR. PAGE: He didn't say that.
MR. BUCHANAN: I'll pay you guys back later on.
MS. CLIFT: OK, it's a gaffe to hand Pat Buchanan and Mitt Romney an issue; I agree with that. But frankly, I'm relieved that he has this kind of a personal relationship with a major Russian leader, who can pass a message and say basically what's true.
In an overheated political campaign, this is not an issue he's going to talk about. He wants to protect the START treaty and the reduction of nuclear weapons that he has negotiated. And the Russians are threatening to scuttle it because they think the NATO missiles are aimed at them. That is something that is eminently workable outable. (Laughs.) And he will do that after he's elected. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does this --
MS. CLIFT: This is negotiation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, does this flexibility mean some kind of a grand bargain that we can only go into after I'm assured of reelection, because it's too dangerous now?
MR. PAGE: No.
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. CARNEY: Every second-term president -- every second-term president wants to do some big thing where he's bringing about world peace. And whether it was Bill Clinton's weird little efforts at --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what's the answer to my question?
MR. CARNEY: -- bringing about -- it means that Obama would like to have a grand bargain, would like to have some foreign policy legacy, like the guys who tried to make peace in the Middle East their foreign policy --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Maybe he doesn't even know where flexibility would lead.
MR. CARNEY: No, I --
MR. BUCHANAN: He knows where it'd lead.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's the grand bargain? I don't get it.
MR. BUCHANAN: The neocons -- let me give you one. The neoconservatives clearly are pushing for war on Iran. What he is basically saying is we can do business on a lot of things. And I'll tell you, if Obama's reelected, I would bet there's going to be no war on Iran. However, if Mitt Romney is elected, there could very well be one. I think he's signaling --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you got that figured out?
MR. PAGE: That's a campaign slogan for Mitt Romney to carry with him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you got that figured out?
MR. PAGE: Well, yeah. If that's going to be Mitt Romney's campaign slogan, I think he's in trouble.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he says, you know, I'm not going to let them move to nuclear weapons. MR. PAGE: Right. Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, how damaging is this --
MS. CLIFT: Vote for Romney. (He'll bomb ?).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How damaging is flexibility, the use of that word, to Barack Obama's reelection?
MR. PAGE: You mean, with this gaffe, you mean?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The expose of it.
MR. PAGE: You know, I mean, this is not going to win him any support among those who already don't support him. Like Pat said, the paranoid wing says, ah, there, you see, they're going to give away --
MR. BUCHANAN: I didn't say the paranoid wing, Clarence. (Laughs.)
MR. PAGE: Well, I don't want to -- I'm not quoting you directly; paraphrasing -- what I call the paranoid wing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the non-paranoid wing is not --
MR. PAGE: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- going to be upset by this --
MR. PAGE: No, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and become paranoid.
MR. PAGE: They see him as being pragmatic, frankly, you know, trying to deal -- you know, diplomacy is five-sided chess. You've got to try to give yourself as much flexibility as you can.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he's got a secret foreign policy agenda.
MR. CARNEY: And what else --
MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- that agenda? Well, all agendas are secret.
MR. CARNEY: What else does he have --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, not necessarily.
MR. PAGE: Of course they are held in confidence, right?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's already got the reset in place with Russia. So, you know, why is he -- MR. PAGE: It's not all in place. It's in motion.
It's with the negotiators right now.
MR. CARNEY: What else does he need -- what else does he need flexibility? What else in the second term -- we all know, on gay marriage, that he's going to finally evolve and be pro-gay marriage --
MR. PAGE: That's not a foreign policy issue.
MR. CARNEY: -- in his second --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We don't know what foreign policy shifts Obama has up his sleeve.
MR. CARNEY: Well, and I'm saying domestic policy too. It reminds us all --
MR. BUCHANAN: Take the issue of Israel.
MR. PAGE: Well, how about Romney? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: The Pope and the In-Fidel.
Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba for three days early this week. The pontiff met with Cuba's former leader, revolutionary Fidel Castro, a former Catholic altar boy. The conversation was about books and how Catholic liturgy had changed over the years.
The pontiff also urged Cuba's current leader, Fidel's brother, Raul Castro, to allow for greater freedoms for Cuba's people and for the Catholic Church. On Wednesday, the pontiff held an open-air mass in central Havana that attracted 300,000 people, including some 800 Cuban-Americans, largely from Miami, on a, quote-unquote, "pilgrimage to see the pope."
Prior to arriving in Cuba, the pope critiqued the Castro brothers' Marxist economy, saying it, quote, "does not correspond to reality," unquote. Pope Benedict also took a swipe at the U.S. for its 50-year-old embargo against Cuba, saying the situation in Cuba is, quote, "worsened when restrictive economic measures imposed from outside the country unfairly burden its people," unquote. Question: Pope Benedict's visit comes 14 years after the first famous papal visit to Cuba in 1998 by Pope John Paul II. Did Pope Benedict measure up to Pope John Paul? Tim Carney.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I know a lot of people who were upset with John Paul's visit in 1998 that he didn't come sort of rattling the saber at Cuba in the way he had gone into Eastern Europe, when -- to go behind the Iron Curtain and try to bring down the Soviet empire.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But John -- but this pope did.
MR. CARNEY: This pope -- well, I mean, he fired as much -- directed as much ammo at the United States as he did at Fidel Castro there. And there's stronger critiques I could think of that would be very accurate than simply to say this does not correspond with reality. It is an evil dogma that the communists preach, and it does not respect human liberty. And whatever the U.S. policy should be towards there, there needs to be a very firm message. And I hope that the holy father delivered that message.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see the friendly exchange between the pope and the way he clasped the hand of Fidel Castro --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and they began reconstructing what's happened to the Catholic liturgy over the course of the --
MS. CLIFT: I think the pope is a diplomat, and he handled this very well. And I would just hope that his words about the embargo might be taken seriously by American Catholics. And I'd like to see some of the American priests go to the pulpit and try to energize people on this issue instead of ragging away on the contraceptive issues. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The pope called for a lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba. What did you think of that?
MR. PAGE: Well, I think the earlier pope was in favor of that as well. But the difference between this visit and the earlier one is -- and especially in regard to the pope's support to the movements over in Eastern Europe -- is that the people in Eastern Europe were really poised and trying very hard to overthrow the Soviet domination.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. PAGE: It's not the same situation in Cuba.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the --
MR. PAGE: Besides that, Fidel is moving from the scene now --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. MR. BUCHANAN: John, the embargo --
MR. PAGE: -- and they're in transition now to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you this question.
MR. BUCHANAN: OK.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The question I want to ask you -- do you think that that lifting of the embargo is going to go over well with Cuban- Americans --
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the call made by the pope? Do you think Marco Rubio is going to rejoice -- a Catholic, by the way, and apparently a fine Catholic -- is going to rejoice hearing that, when Marco Rubio is being considered --
MR. BUCHANAN: No, they're not. No, they're not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for vice presidential running mate with Romney?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, they're not. And if you're running in Florida, you should probably be hard line on this. But let me say this. Look, the Cold War is over. The Soviet empire is gone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?
MR. BUCHANAN: The point is, I think we ought to begin to engage with the Cuban people. They've got a fascist regime --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor lifting the embargo?
MR. BUCHANAN: I favor moving steadily, step by step, the way we did with China --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have been doing that.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- the way we did with --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have been doing that under Mr. Obama.
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's been torpor. And I think we ought to engage. In other words, the regime -- separate the regime from the people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he was indicating that when he was talking to the head of Russia, that he's going to be flexible in his foreign policy; he's going to lift the embargo? MS. CLIFT: Well, that's another --
MR. BUCHANAN: I think he was talking about missiles there. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I mean, we move from missiles to the embargo. Is that what's next?
Issue Four: Super PAC Gusher.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was two years ago in his State of the Union address. President Obama scolded the Supreme Court, sitting directly in front of him, because it had ruled on how much money U.S. corporations and labor unions can spend on political advertising.
The ruling is called Citizens United. It says that the amount of money spent on political advertising is unlimited if the money goes only indirectly to support the candidates. So now we have super PACs -- super political action committees.
Here's what super PACs can bring to a political campaign: One, prodigious money. Unlimited funds can be raised and spent by a super PAC. Two, candidate uninvolved. A firewall must separate the super PAC and the candidate; namely, how much money, when and where super PAC funds are spent, is not under the candidate's control. Mr. Obama, as stated above, severely criticized the high court in a public forum. Many said that the condemnation was a flagrant insult to the court, and uttered in a totally unsuitable venue.
Now, two years later, Mr. Obama emerges with his own super PAC, named Priorities USA Action. Here's Priorities USA Action with an ad attacking Governor Romney.
ANNOUNCER: (From videotape.) Mitt Romney may have no experience fighting terror, but he does have some experience with foreign countries -- sending our jobs to them.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, in the beginning of February, it was announced that the Obama 2012 campaign would assist Priorities USA Action, his de facto super PAC, in fundraising, including having White House and Cabinet officials appear at fundraisers, prompting The New York Times to editorialize, quote, "The announcement fully implicates the president, his campaign and his administration in the pollution of the political system, unleashed by Citizens United and related court decisions," unquote. Question: President Obama was against super PACs before he was for super PACs. When did he change his mind? And you must feel embarrassed by this.
MS. CLIFT: I'm not in the least embarrassed. He's still not for super PACs. But he recognizes reality. And when he saw the sums of money that Mitt Romney's super PAC dropped on Newt Gingrich and then on Rick Santorum, there's no way that he can match that if he stays out of the super PAC business. And so Priorities USA Action is the Obama super PAC. And frankly, it hasn't raised that much money. Bill Maher's million-dollar donation sort of makes up the bulk of the donations. And so --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So even on merits, he's not --
MS. CLIFT: Obama's campaign is raising money from a lot of small donors. It's in much better shape than Romney.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe --
MR. CARNEY: That's not really true.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe --
MS. CLIFT: But the big donors that gravitate to those super PACs --
MR. BUCHANAN: These are --
MS. CLIFT: -- are going to run the campaign.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She can say with a straight face that Obama is innocent --
MR. CARNEY: I think she's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He condemned it openly in front of the court.
MR. CARNEY: I also think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said it was a bad decision.
MR. CARNEY: And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said it was going to corrupt American politics.
MR. PAGE: And he still says so.
MS. CLIFT: Well, it's true. He's right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then he sends his minions loose to do what he knows he can't do under the law, but it is a promotion. It's not a promotion. It's a milking of the super PAC. MR. CARNEY: And he's doing it more than Romney or Gingrich or Santorum are, because they don't have Cabinet --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.
MR. CARNEY: They don't have minions actually working for them --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.
MR. CARNEY: -- that they're paying, who send out and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who can do favors for them if they give money to the super PACs.
MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know that he's lost --
MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
MR. BUCHANAN: -- these are weapons of mass destruction. They have changed the field of battle, like machine guns and poison gas. They put Newt in a cemetery with this thing, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence --
MR. BUCHANAN: And then he came back from the dead, and then they put him in there again, Restore Our Future by Romney.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, he has got to do it or he's finished in the election.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is there any place you can hide now?
MR. PAGE: Who?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any place you can hide?
MR. PAGE: Hide from whom? For what?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For an answer to this situation with your leader, Mr. Obama.
MR. PAGE: We got our answer four years ago, John --
MS. CLIFT: Exactly. MR. PAGE: -- when Obama said he was going to take matching funds. And then, when he saw how much he could raise without taking matching funds, he said never mind. And he raised funds on his own.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MR. PAGE: That was the end, John, of those Watergate-era campaign reforms, those that created PACs in the first place. It changed everything.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was sermonizing the Supreme Court to their face.
MR. PAGE: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You saw the expression on Alito's face.
MR. PAGE: Like Eleanor says, this is reality. You play on the field as it is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And what does he do? He proceeds to take --
MR. BUCHANAN: He's got to survive, John.
MR. PAGE: To survive, you've got to play with the rules as they are laid out. You can oppose super PACs while still understanding you're not going to be a patsy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: "Obamacare," the individual mandate goes down, but it's a split decision. The other parts are saved.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: The Palin effect raises the bar for any woman who might be considered to be Mitt Romney's running mate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Interesting.
MR. CARNEY: If Mitt Romney is leading in the polls, he will -- by a lot -- he will pick Rubio as his running mate. Otherwise he'll go with someone safer.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No kidding.
Clarence. MR. PAGE: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's recall will be viewed as a signpost and a turning point in favor of the Obama administration nationally.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The current Sunni-Shiite friction will erupt into open conflict in Egypt and other Arab springers before fall of this year, 2012.