The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Rich Lowry, National Review; Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post Taped: Friday, April 27, 2012 Broadcast: Weekend of April 28-29, 2012

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Romney-Rubio 2012.

FORMER GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (From videotape.) Tonight is the beginning of the end of the disappointments of the Obama years. It's still about the economy, and we're not stupid.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican candidate Mitt Romney won five primaries on Tuesday: Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island. Mr. Romney has no competition now. Both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have dropped out of the primary race to be the Republican Party's official nominee for president, to be finalized at the GOP convention in Tampa four months from now. By the time he reaches Tampa, Romney will have chosen his vice presidential running mate. Who will it be? Many GOP leaders hope it will be this man, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who campaigned with Romney this week.

Republican leaders want to increase the party's appeal to Hispanic Americans, sometimes called Latin Americans, who constitute 16 percent of the U.S. population. Republican leaders want to narrow the huge gap between Romney and Obama with Hispanic voters, who favor Obama, in states like Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia. They hope to win at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in November.

Quote: "We are going to engage Hispanics and Latinos like we never have before. Latinos are clamoring for change, and the Republican Party is here to offer them the change they are looking for." So says Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Here's Marco Rubio in action, lecturing at the brainy Brookings Institution think tank on Wednesday.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): (From videotape.) Yes, there are more countries able and willing to join efforts to meet the global challenges of our time. But experience has proven that American leadership is almost always indispensable to its success.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What are the pluses that Senator Rubio would bring to the ticket, Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN: He's young. He's Hispanic. He's from Florida. He could probably bring Florida. He's a conservative. He's a very attractive candidate, John. But I don't know that he's going to get it. I think he's created a problem for himself. He's moved with the neoconservatives.

In the speech over at the Brookings Institution, he not only, you know, said that Putin basically was a weak leader. He also said we ought to, you know, get involved in Syria and maybe militarily we're going to have to attack Iran. He's with Joe Lieberman and McCain and Lindsey Graham and that crowd. And I don't think that's a winner right now.

And I also think when you saw them together, it looked like he was too young and I think too callow to be the vice president of the United States. I think Romney's going to go with someone who's perceived as heavier and older, and the primary consideration, can he be president of the United States on a moment's notice.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does the bomb make him look even younger? Do you understand the question?

MR. BUCHANAN: The bomb?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The bomb, the big bomb.

MR. BUCHANAN: You mean the hydrogen bomb? (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Does that make him look younger --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there's no question --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because of the responsibility? Do you get it?

MR. BUCHANAN: When I saw him there alongside Romney and you see him speak, you say is this fellow ready --


MR. BUCHANAN: -- to be commander in chief and to control the American nuclear arsenal? And I would say not yet.


ELEANOR CLIFT: Yeah, he's junior varsity. He's a talented guy. He's charismatic. He's got a future. He's running for something. He's got his biography out. He's even hired a private detective to investigate his own background to make sure he knows all the skeletons are out there.


MS. CLIFT: But I don't think he's running for vice president. I think he's running for 2016.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's 40 years old.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. And he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How old was Jefferson when Jefferson ran?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forty-seven? Do you know?

MS. CLIFT: It was before my time. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know?

MR. BUCHANAN: He was older than that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Older than 47?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, he was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who was the youngest president? The Constitution says --

MR. BUCHANAN: The youngest --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- 35 years of age is the minimum age.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, the youngest president was Teddy Roosevelt. The youngest vice president was Richard Milhous Nixon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How old was Teddy Roosevelt?

MR. BUCHANAN: Forty-two when he became president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forty-two.

MR. BUCHANAN: And Nixon was 39 when he became vice president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This young man is 40 years of age.

MR. BUCHANAN: He would be vice president, John.


MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Let me let Rich in here.

RICH LOWRY: No, I agree with Pat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Believe it or not, we're going around with some order.

MR. LOWRY: The optics are wrong. He looks a little too young. And the Rubio people -- you talk to them; you get a sense they're really not interested in it. He's taking advantage of this moment to get all the attention and publicity he can, but they give the sense they're perfectly content for him to develop himself as a national leader from the Senate.

And also I just think Romney is going to go so safe and so conventional on this, one, because there's a huge part of the Republican Party that doesn't want a surprise pick again. And also Romney is priding himself on being the very deliberate decision-maker, and he doesn't want to mess this up.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In 1980, President Reagan picked George H.W. Bush to be his running mate and he rejected Jack Kemp. How old was Kemp at the time?

MR. BUCHANAN: Kemp would have been -- 1980 -- well, you know --

MS. CLIFT: Well, this would have been -- this decision is about more than age, John. I mean, I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Constitution sets age as a minimum.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How can you say --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How can you say it's not about age?

MS. CLIFT: Because that's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Founding Fathers thought of age when they --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, 35 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- wrote the Constitution.

MS. CLIFT: But that's not the only requirement is all I'm saying. He --

MS. HUFFINGTON: It definitely would be --

MS. CLIFT: He doesn't -- Rubio doesn't inspire confidence as an instant president. He is a talented young guy. And as Rich said, he needs time to develop himself. Romney is going to go safe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would he deliver ideological balance to the ticket?

MS. HUFFINGTON: No, I think what he would deliver is probably Florida. There's no question that right now the GOP has a major problem with Hispanics. There's no question the positions they've taken on immigration, including Romney's comments about self- deportation, are really problematic. And Romney himself has said that if they can't court Hispanics back, they're doomed. So that's really the main thing he brings to the ticket, especially because he does have this DREAM light act, which deals with the immigration problem.

And I completely agree with Pat, though. I think his speech was unbelievably troubling. I mean, the idea that somehow nothing can go wrong in the world without America --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MS. HUFFINGTON: -- being involved, and the fact that he didn't mention Iraq, made him seem really out of touch with where the American people are at the moment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you forgetting a big engine in this race? The big engine is the tea party still, correct?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's one of the --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The tea party likes --



MR. LOWRY: But John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that make a difference in your calculation?

MS. HUFFINGTON: You can't be elected president just with the tea party. And they have the tea party. In the end, the tea party isn't going to vote for Obama.

MR. LOWRY: Yeah, that's absolutely right. That's one of the myths coming out of the Republican primaries is that Romney had a huge problem with these very conservative voters, who are just going to be with him no matter what against President Obama. So Mitt Romney does not need a choice that shores up his base.

MS. CLIFT: They're going to be motivated by their hatred of Obama. But Rubio serves a useful purpose for Romney, because he is the go-to guy now for Republicans on trying to tweak the DREAM Act so that they can vote for it. What he wants to do is offer kids who are brought here illegally by their parents student visas to go to school. And then after they graduate, they can apply for a green card and then get in line for residency. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --

MS. CLIFT: So it's a more palatable way to give legitimacy to the many millions of people in this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, the "Ax" man. Here's David Axelrod, senior adviser to President Obama's reelection, describing rival Romney.

DAVID AXELROD (Obama campaign senior strategist): (From videotape.) He has this moniker of businessman. And people assume that because of that, that somehow he'll bring some magic elixir to the economy. But when they get under the hood and see what he's actually proposing -- more massive tax cuts for the wealthy, fewer rules for Wall Street, deep cuts in the things we need to grow, education, research and development, energy -- I think people are going to say, hey, we've seen this movie before and it didn't work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with having a businessman or a CEO, a chief executive officer, in the Oval Office, which has never happened in the 233-year history of this company -- country?

MS. HUFFINGTON: He didn't say there was anything wrong with having a CEO. What he said is that the fact that you are a CEO, have been a CEO, doesn't mean that you are going to be good at running the economy. The question is, what are the policies he's proposing?

And, you know, I think Obama is very vulnerable when it comes to the economy. Despite all the ideas that somehow we're doing better, people are not really feeling that we're doing better. Unemployment is still unacceptably high. The question is that Romney has not come up with clear, unambiguous alternatives.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, a CEO is good at governing. Is Obama good at governing? You see what's happening --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the secret security right now.

MS. HUFFINGTON: That's not the problem, the Secret Service.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MS. HUFFINGTON: But I think there is a lot more evidence about why Obama hasn't been as good as people thought --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the country --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a matter of governance with regard to the Secret Service?

MS. HUFFINGTON: But it's not really something that has to do to Obama. You know, the Secret Service --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It doesn't have anything to do with Obama?

MS. HUFFINGTON: The Secret Service has 6,500 people, and 12 of them are in trouble. That's not exactly a major problem.

MS. CLIFT: As I recall, George W. Bush had an MBA from Harvard. So you're talking business experience. He allegedly brought it to the White House.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John --

MS. CLIFT: But I do think that Romney was a talented businessman in the private sector. And if he can convince the American people that's what we need, that's going to be a positive.


MS. CLIFT: But I haven't seen the business plan. He relies on --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're getting into this.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: -- the broad rhetoric -- are you better off today than you were four years ago? -- ripping off the Reagan line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Multiple choice --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. Multiple choice exit --

MS. CLIFT: It's rhetoric. It's not a plan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: What's the top political imperative in picking a vice president? Is it, A, to unify the party? B, to add a major state to the Electoral College column? C, to have a ready successor? Or D, to do no harm? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think what Romney wants is to have someone who is perceived as presidential, number one -- they can step into the Oval Office; second, who helps him in a major state, like an Ohio or a Florida that he's got to win; and the other considerations have got to be there. I mean, look, you can't put up somebody --


MR. BUCHANAN: -- who people say, uh-oh, that guy can't do the job.


MS. CLIFT: I think he's going to double down on gray-haired competence, that he wants people to know the economy is now in safe hands; you can sleep at night. And I suppose your do no harm comes closest to that.

MR. LOWRY: Yeah, it's going to be entirely C and D. And it's going to be D, no harm, because it's going to be C, someone that people think is ready.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does the best vice president ever bring anything really in terms of --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- voters?

MR. LOWRY: No. I think --

MR. BUCHANAN: LBJ brought the presidency to Jack Kennedy.

MR. LOWRY: That's an exceptional case. Usually --

MR. BUCHANAN: He brought Texas and the presidency.

MR. LOWRY: Usually do no harm is a very good rule.



MS. HUFFINGTON: I agree with Rich. It's got to be C and D, especially because Romney's going to react to the Sarah Palin pick, which was neither C nor D. And that's what he's going to go for.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The worst vice president does not really become a distraction to the campaign, and the best vice president doesn't really bring that much to the ticket.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, what about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So I think it's D. You want somebody in there who will do no harm.

Issue Two: Secret Service Uproar.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) These guys are incredible. They protect me. They protect Michelle. They protect our girls. They protect our officials all around the world.

So a couple of knuckleheads shouldn't detract from, you know, what they do. But what these guys were thinking, I don't know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quote-unquote, "knuckleheads." That's President Obama's word to describe Secret Service agents who consorted with prostitutes at the time of the Summit of the Americas conference in Cartagena, Colombia, two weeks ago.

Twelve agents were investigated by the service, led by 29-year veteran Director Mark Sullivan. Three agents were reprimanded, nine terminated. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee this week had questions for Mr. Obama's Cabinet secretary for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): The misconduct we've heard about, did that pose any risk to the president's security when in Colombia or to national security?

HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY JANET NAPOLITANO: Mr. Chairman, that was my first question to Director Sullivan when he called me. And the answer is no. There was no risk to the president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As to whether the Cartagena conduct was an isolated incident for the service, Secretary Napolitano said that two and a half years of records reviewed as of midweek showed no similar behavior.

So was it an isolated dalliance, or was it standard behavior? That's the key question in the unfolding Secret Service scandal. There are new reports that what happened with prostitutes in Colombia did happen elsewhere. Allegations of misbehavior by agents surfaced this week about President Obama's trip last year to El Salvador.

An investigative reporter for a CBS affiliate, KIRO TV, Chris Halsne, investigated on site. Halsne reports that a government contractor who worked with the Secret Service described to him rowdy scenes in a San Salvador strip club. Vanloads of Secret Service agents and their U.S. military escorts had descended on the club, drinking heavily, and getting, quote-unquote, "intoxicated," quote- unquote, "wasted," into the wee hours of the morning, paying strippers for sexual favors in the club, with some agents escorting the women back to their hotel. Agents told the concerned subcontractor, quote, "No worries. Agents do it all the time," unquote.

Question: Will President Obama be forced to replace senior White House advance staff -- in the White House, that is; get that -- over the next six months, before November's election? Rich Lowry.

MR. LOWRY: I kind of doubt it. You know, we'll see where this goes. It's certainly a lurid story. These agents disgraced the Secret Service, disgraced the country. But one of the reasons they are just idiots is these prostitutes come into the hotel, they leave their ID at the front desk, so we know every -- who every single one of these prostitutes were. They've all been checked out. There are no indications it was anything beyond, you know -- (laughter) --

MR. BUCHANAN: For what? (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: -- agent conduct with the oldest profession. And the El Salvador thing, they're looking into to. You know, the people there on the ground are denying everything that happened. The reporter is not revealing his sources. So it shouldn't surprise us that men do these sort of things. They should be fired summarily when it does. But I do not think it's a scandal that's going to reach into the higher echelons of the White House.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you know, the White House advance -- there's a number of agencies here. You've got the Secret Service. Then you've got WHCA, White House Communications Agency, which is not basically -- they're White House-attached. Then you've got the White House advance office. In our office, you know, Ron Walker ran that under Nixon, and we had guys running that under Reagan.

Nobody in the White House advance office has been implicated in any way; one individual, I believe, for WHCA, the communications guys. But, look, these are basically young guys in a strange town. When the boss gets out and leaves, they all go out and drink and party before they take off and after they've done their job and they're coming in. I think you're going to get a lot more of this kind of thing.

MS. HUFFINGTON: And also remember, the only reason this came out is because one of the guys had agreed to pay $800 and then he only wanted to pay $30, which I understand about this whole idea of saving money by government employees.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point? What's the point?

MR. BUCHANAN: It was a conservative. (Laughs.)

MS. HUFFINGTON: So this thing would never even have come up --

MR. LOWRY: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, this is almost an audit question.

MR. LOWRY: It must be a Republican, another penny-pinching Republican.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you all identifying -- you're minifying this. You're all minifying it.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, I think you can.

MS. CLIFT: It's the definition of knucklehead that they didn't just pay the woman, plus the fact prostitution is legal there. And, you know, these are, as you said, mostly young guys.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: It's kind of a macho field.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a little more --

MS. CLIFT: And what they do on their time, I don't care.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a little more than --

MS. CLIFT: But when they're on the taxpayers' dime, they should know better.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a little more to the story. Colombia's summit -- we talked about that -- 12 Secret Service agents disciplined or removed for consorting with prostitutes before Obama's arrival. They were then removed; 11 Department of Defense personnel under investigation.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then you have the visit to El Salvador. We just talked about that. Then we have the --

MS. CLIFT: Years ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Moscow trip in 2000. Wall Street Journal reported White House staff, advance and Secret Service, both White House people and Secret Service, went to the Hungry Duck strip club --

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- known for live sex acts on stage.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was a regular place to stop on Sundays, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No involvement with prostitutes. Then you've got Defense Secretary Panetta apologizing in Brazil this week for an incident in which a prostitute was shoved from a car by three Marines assigned to the U.S. embassy after a dispute over money, breaking her collarbone.

MS. HUFFINGTON: I understand --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now she's suing on the basis of the collarbone.

MS. HUFFINGTON: I understand why you think that's a good story. You know, it has sex. It has the president of the United States, although not connected directly. It has possibilities of national security threats. But you know what? Honestly, it's a non-story.


MS. HUFFINGTON: It's a non-story. There are 6,500 --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, if you get --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the idea that these prostitutes could be Russian spies and they're collecting information --

MR. LOWRY: They checked out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to give to Russia?

(Cross talk.)

MR. LOWRY: They checked them out.


MR. LOWRY: They checked each of these prostitutes out. Now, you read that list and it kind of makes you think that security guys --

MS. CLIFT: They waterboarded them. (Laughs.)

MR. LOWRY: -- should never go to a Latin American country again. But, you know, the reason why --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're bored all the time. They're waiting around for something to happen. It doesn't happen. They get bored.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John, have you been to a port --

MS. HUFFINGTON: They should be watching the McLaughlin Group.

MS. CLIFT: They should get a Kindle. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: -- when the U.S. fleet comes in and the sailors come rolling in? They know every spot to go to.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, the Senate Judiciary Committee reviews the performance of the Secret Service. Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the committee, said this on Friday.

SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): (From videotape.) The inspector general of the Homeland Security would be the one to make sure that the Secret Service investigation is thorough. Inspectors general have a great deal of independence, and they are the ones that ought to be doing this, unbothered by anybody else in the department or the administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why did Senator Grassley call for this?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you why. The Secret Service --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is that --

MR. BUCHANAN: The Secret Service was under Treasury. They moved it under Homeland Security.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is that?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's the building right next door to NBC. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: Department of Homeland Security.


MR. LOWRY: It's unworkable bureaucracy.

MR. BUCHANAN: Janet Napolitano --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you ever hear about it?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's got all the agencies under it and it's a ridiculously --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Another bureaucracy.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a monstrous bureaucracy. Let me say about Secret Service, nobody on the president's detail has been involved in this. These are a lot of guys they're sending in and out to do advance work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. BUCHANAN: So you should not talk about the president's detail.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is Senator Grassley, who has been on this case, on a political witch hunt? And he's a very powerful man. He's a dedicated man. He's served for, what, 30, 40 years in the United States Congress?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, Iowa.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do his concerns about White House involvement in the prostitution scandal have merit?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think he's talking generally Secret Service. Yes, they ought to look at it, because there's a real possibility individuals could be compromised. This may be widespread. It maybe ought to stop. Homeland Security is the place to do it, unless and until something goes into the White House.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this is a har-de-har-har story?

MS. CLIFT: No, I --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's got that aspect also.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, you said that last week.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's part of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I said there will be a special counsel. I continue to say that --

MR. BUCHANAN: Special prosecutor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because it is so involved. And it does involve, in all probability, White House staff.

MS. CLIFT: I agree with --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: White House staff, the president's staff.

MR. BUCHANAN: Nobody --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president says all they are is knuckleheads. I don't know --

MR. BUCHANAN: Nobody in the White House advance office --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- anything about it.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: -- is involved.

MS. CLIFT: I mostly agree with Arianna. It's a non-story. And I think Senator Grassley -- it's a fine suggestion. Have the inspector general look at it. Inspector generals do good jobs everywhere.

MR. LOWRY: Senator Grassley is –

MS. CLIFT: That's a perfectly orderly way to deal with it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. We need to get out.

MR. LOWRY: Grassley is not making accusations. He's just asking the question.

MS. CLIFT: Absolutely.

MR. LOWRY: This story will dissipate rather than get bigger.

MS. HUFFINGTON: But, you know, we should have the same kind of demand for accountability when it comes to the financial crisis or Afghanistan or Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. HUFFINGTON: We're having all these demands for heads to roll over this one little incident.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the press is going to kill it by ignoring it?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: Ignoring it? I wish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this going to die from inanition, which is induced by the press?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. (Laughs.)

MS. HUFFINGTON: We have spent half the show on it. Are we ignoring it? I think the solution is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they susceptible -- are they susceptible to being shaken down for information which could be used by an enemy?

MR. LOWRY: That's why they shouldn't be consorting with prostitutes. Everyone agrees about that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Back to School.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) We only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago. That wasn't that long ago. And that wasn't easy, especially because when we had Malia and Sasha, we're supposed to be saving up for their college educations and we're still paying off our college educations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama says that college education must become more affordable for all American students. But get this: One month from now, student loan interest rates will double from 3.4 percent to 6.4 percent, a move the White House estimates will impact 7 million families.

So Mr. Obama visited three universities this week -- the University of North Carolina, the University of Colorado and the University of Iowa -- all in an effort to gain the attention of young voters and their parents before the 2012 presidential election six months from now.

Private universities have raised their tuitions over the past decade by 29 percent. That's private universities. They charge, on average, $160,000 board and tuition for a B.A. degree. And 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 about $120,000 for a B.A. degree.

So Mr. Obama has unveiled a plan to make college more affordable through loans administered by the U.S. Department of Education. They are offered at a low interest rate, 5 percent -- $5,500 a year for college, $8,000 a year for graduate school.

Mr. Obama wants to increase the funding for college loans in aggregate from $1 billion a year to $8 billion a year. That's a 700 percent taxpayer build-out.

Question: Is Barack Obama pandering to the youth vote? Arianna Huffington.

MS. HUFFINGTON: Well, what he's saying needs to be done. My concern is that he has not done it while he's been in the White House. I mean, right now student loans come up to $1 trillion. It's more than our credit-card debt. And you have almost half of young people who are recent graduates who are either unemployed or underemployed.

So this is a major crisis. It's a combination of the student debt plus the fact that people can't get a job. And they're going back to live with mom and dad again. So this is really a major crisis. And what Obama is saying is really not affecting the current unemployed indebted graduates. It's about the future.

MR. LOWRY: Correct.

MS. CLIFT: The battle this week --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got 65 percent of the vote of youth --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the last go-around for his presidency. MS. CLIFT: Right. And the battle --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he have that today?


MS. CLIFT: He still -- he's way ahead --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's ahead, but he's not 65 percent.

MS. CLIFT: He's way ahead of Romney. Well, it may not be two to one, but it's close. And the battle this week is over the Republican Congress's budget and how it's now -- the student loan rates are going to double by July. And when the president campaigned on that, Romney immediately said I agree with him. And the Republican Congress said, oops, we also agree. And they hustled up some legislation.

And everybody now agrees, except they don't agree on how to pay for it. So the Republicans have come up with this bright idea that they'll take the money out of the "Obamacare" prevention and public health fund, which, guess what --


MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MS. CLIFT: Wait a second, Pat. I'm not done.

MR. BUCHANAN: We're almost done.

MS. CLIFT: Which essentially funds a lot of programs for women's health. So this is like a gift --


MS. CLIFT: -- to the Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Those Republicans.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: They systematically --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They're Republicans.

MS. CLIFT: -- tick off every constituency.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Republicans are so resourceful figuring that out. MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the Obama administration, I think, does not know how to deal with Romney. First they've got the class warfare thing. Then they say he's a flip-flopper. Now he's a radical right- wing extremist. But the constant attacks on Romney, what do they tell you? They can't win this running on Obama's record and Obama being a great president and we need the second term. It is all negative coming out of the Obama --

MR. LOWRY: It's all small ball.

MS. CLIFT: They can win it running on Romney's record.

MR. LOWRY: It's entirely small ball.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bye-bye. Out of time.