The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek;
Rich Lowry, National Review:
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, May 25, 2012
Broadcast: Weekend of May 26-27, 2012







JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: W's Tax Cuts.

Sweeping tax cuts are one of the most popular features of the George W. Bush presidency. He signed them into law in 2001 and 2003. The cuts lowered the rates on personal income tax rates. In 2010, the year the cuts were due to expire, President Obama signed legislation extending them for two years. Now the expiration date is up at the end of this year, December 2012. And if they expire, personal income taxes will go back up.

Here's what will happen. Those in the 10 percent bracket will see their taxes go up to 15 percent; those in the 25 percent bracket, back up to 28 percent; the 28 percent bracket to 31 percent; the 33 percent bracket to 36 percent; and 35 percent to 39.6 percent.

This news makes taxpayers squirm. But unlike 2010, there is no bipartisanship in sight. Republicans want to extend all of the tax cuts to all of the brackets to prevent the hikes. Democrats also want to extend the cuts, but not extend them for those making $200,000 or more annually. Those people would see their taxes go up.

Republican House leader John Boehner vows to make sure that won't happen.

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): (From videotape.) Any sudden tax hike would hurt our economy. So this fall, before the election, the House of Representatives will vote to stop the largest tax increase in American history.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, warned that if action is not taken before the end of this year to extend the tax breaks, the economy will suffer when taxpayers are blindsided by a $310 billion increase, what wags on Capitol Hill are calling, quote-unquote, "Taxmageddon."

But Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a letter to Senate Republicans, wrote, quote, "Once Republicans are willing to abandon their commitment to more tax breaks for multimillionaires, I am confident that we can reach an agreement. Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans' blind adherence to tea party extremism is making it impossible to reach this sort of balanced agreement before the election," unquote.

Question: Is Congress gambling with the economy over taxes? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: Well, here's what's going to happen, John. The Republicans are going to pass -- extend all of the Bush tax cuts, probably this summer, all or --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On all those layers that we described in --

MR. BUCHANAN: All of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the setup, right?

MR. BUCHANAN: Frank Sinatra -- all or nothing at all. Then you go over to the Senate and Harry Reid's going to pass the tax cut extensions for everybody but Mort Zuckerman over here --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)

MR. BUCHANAN: -- the guys making more than a million bucks a year. And you're going to have a deadlock there.

If Mitt wins, I think quickly, in January, if not before, all the tax cuts are extended. But if President Obama wins the election, you've got a real deadlock there where the Republicans are going to say it's all or nothing and Obama's going to say we're going to get the millionaires and we're going to raise taxes on them. So you really would have a deadlock then.

The proper answer, as Eleanor will tell you, if you vote for Mitt, clear it all up. Right?


ELEANOR CLIFT: First of all, this is all election-year positioning. Nothing is going to actually happen before the November election. Then we'll see where we stand. And even if President Obama is defeated, he still has his veto pen until he's replaced in January. And the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire by the end of the year. So if the Congress wants to do otherwise, he can veto it. So you can kiss those tax cuts goodbye --


MS. CLIFT: -- at least for a while. And the Democrats are now redefining the middle class as anybody who makes under -- earns under a million dollars a year. That's quite a middle class, which shows how dependent Democrats are too on Mort and his friends for campaign contributions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is --

MS. CLIFT: Not necessarily Mort personally.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is reductively pyrotechnic electioneering.

MS. CLIFT: It's election rhetoric, right --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Election rhetoric, and also --

MS. CLIFT: -- to excite the two bases and their phony votes. The votes are not going to count for anything.

RICH LOWRY: Nothing -- Eleanor's right. Nothing's going to happen. But we do have in store European-style austerity. You have the sequester coming. You know, so you have spending cuts with huge tax increases on top of them unless something is done.

And Eleanor, I wouldn't be so sure Obama's going to veto a deal if he loses the election. The entire political environment will be different. And what you want is not --

MS. CLIFT: I didn't say a deal. If there's a deal, that's a whole other story, Rich.

MR. LOWRY: If Romney wins the election, Congress will do something, some holding action that is congenial to what he wants to do. The whole political environment will change. And what you want to do, John, over the long run, you want a sensible tax system, lower rates, less deductions and less loopholes, spending -- some reasonable, prudent spending restraints, and then reforming entitlements over the long term. In other words, you want to do what Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are talking about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this kind of electioneering is dangerous in view of what's happening in the Eurozone and with China also faltering a little?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: China's faltering a lot. The Eurozone's on the edge of a cliff, with a very high probability --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Except Germany.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Except Germany, but it doesn't make a difference. The entire southern part of Europe is literally hanging by a thread in terms of a major depression in that part of the world.

Having said that, I happen to be in favor of tax cuts on people like Pat Buchanan and myself --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- not in that order, of course. But I think it's absolutely essential that everybody contribute to the solution of the fiscal problem that we're in, however the timing works. So I'm in total favor of increasing these taxes and joining it with expenditure cuts, particularly on some of the major entitlement programs.

MR. LOWRY: But if you just --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But we're not going to get it on --

MR. LOWRY: But Mort, if you're just raising taxes --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just a minute. We're not going to get it alone. We're not going to get -- it shouldn't be done alone. It should be a package deal. It's just another signal of a dysfunctional government and a government that simply doesn't function.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Mort, even the Democrats are now saying -- they've moved up from $250,000 to $1 million; only folks above a million.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's outrageous.

MR. BUCHANAN: First, you get peanuts for it, and you're taking the discretionary capital of, frankly, like yourself, people -- the most successful people in the country, who do all the investing and take all the risk and everything, taking it from them and giving it to the government. How does that help?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, it only helps in the following way. If you join it properly with expenditure cuts, you have a chance to bring the fiscal hole of this country into some kind of reasonable balance.

MR. BUCHANAN: But it's peanuts -- peanuts with that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's no such thing as peanuts, OK? You're talking about several hundred billion dollars just on the tax cuts over a period of 10 years, OK?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's all of the tax cuts.

MR. LOWRY: Just for millionaires?


MR. LOWRY: The Fed gives away so much of the revenue; you can't come close to balancing anything.

MS. CLIFT: Mort's right. Peanuts here, peanuts there, pretty soon you have a whole sack. And the White House is not in favor of bumping it up to a million dollars, for whatever that's worth.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Senate is. And the House --

MS. CLIFT: But you cannot -- but you cannot put together a package that does not raise any taxes, which is what Romney's out there campaigning on.

MR. BUCHANAN: If he wins, he can.

MS. CLIFT: You would have to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: If he wins, he can. There will be a revolution in this country. Look what's -- people will hit the streets. You cannot --

MS. CLIFT: He'll have four years to work on it. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: You cannot bleed all the social programs --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- raise expenditures for the Pentagon beyond what the Pentagon even wants and not raise any taxes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me get in here. Do you think Harry Reid is presenting this with Obama kind of pulling the ventriloquist's string? In other words, this is soak the rich, which is appealing, he thinks, to the general public, who are not in your class. And that is not only intrinsically unfair. It's undemocratic. It's un-American. But it is also a tactic that Obama is encouraging on the part of Reid.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He may be doing that. I have to say that if I were to be -- tell you the real -- what motivates this whole thing, frankly, are campaign contributions. That's the way I look at it, OK?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean by that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Who's going to be giving the Democrats enough money at this stage of the game to combat all the -- all of what this campaign is going to be looking like, which is going to be one of huge expenditures.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, he wants to --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And all I'm saying to you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he wants to pull the sub-donations that are sub-level donations?

MR. BUCHANAN: That's why, Mort, they're going from $250,000 to a million.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: To a million. That's exactly right.

MR. BUCHANAN: They get -- all those people making between $250,000 and a million are voters. And that's why Harry Reid's saying let's give them -- extend their tax cuts and only get the super-rich.

MS. CLIFT: And raising the tax rates and putting them back to where they were during the boom Clinton years is hardly soaking the rich. It's not even a light rinse, for goodness' sakes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not even a question of soaking the rich.

MR. LOWRY: You can cut rates --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's a question that if you're going to do anything about this, you've just got to have everybody contribute to the solution, including the wealthy people.

MR. LOWRY: You can cut rates --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I've always believed that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that the essence of what we are as Americans?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. That is the essence of what we are.

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about competition.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about success.


MR. BUCHANAN: Point of order.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I think that's a part of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a political maelstrom scale -- do you know what that is, Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. "Wrrr."


MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Zero to 10 --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's the whirlpool.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- zero meaning "wrrr," very bad weather, 10 meaning batten down the hatches for the mother of all political storms, rate the atmosphere for the lame-duck session on taxes, zero to 10.

MR. BUCHANAN: If Obama wins, you're going to have a clear brutal deadlock. If Romney wins, it's going to be a piece of cake.


MS. CLIFT: If Romney wins, it's not going to be a piece of cake. It's going to be brutal --

MR. BUCHANAN: Just wait, Eleanor. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- whichever party wins.

MR. LOWRY: If Obama wins, it's an eight on the scale. If Romney wins, it's about a two.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I share Rich's view. I think if Obama wins, it'll be one whole difference and it'll be much, much worse. And if Romney wins, obviously he will have a mandate, and people will follow along with him, as they should.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's a 10.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think you should all --

MR. BUCHANAN: You think Obama's going to win?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- batten down the hatches, close the door, get the children inside. Big storm.

Issue Two: Another Kennedy Tragedy.

Another tragedy for the Kennedy family. The former wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was found dead at his Westchester estate. Mary Richardson Kennedy was 52 years old and mother of three of Robert's children. Her death by hanging was reported as an apparent suicide associated with alcohol and drug abuse.

Tragedy is not foreign to the Kennedy dynasty. Joseph P. Kennedy, JFK's oldest brother, died in World War II, age 29, 1944.

Kathleen Agnes, JFK's sister, nicknamed Kick, died in a plane crash in France, 1948.

President John F. Kennedy, the nation's 35th president, assassinated in Dallas, age 46, 1963.

Robert F. Kennedy, JFK's brother, RFK assassinated in Los Angeles, age 42, 1968.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy accidentally drove into a tidal channel on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts that resulted in the drowning of his secretary, Mary Jo Kopechne, 1969. Five years earlier, Kennedy survived a plane crash that killed the pilot and his aide.

David A. Kennedy, RFK's son, died from a drug overdose, age 28, 1984.

Michael L. Kennedy, RFK's son, died in a skiing accident, Aspen, Colorado, 1997.

John F. Kennedy Jr. died while piloting his plane, plunging into the Atlantic Ocean near Martha's Vineyard, age 38, 1999. His wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, also died in the event.

Question: What's the background of Mary Richardson Kennedy's untimely death? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, speaking to friends of the Kennedy family immediately after the event happened, they basically said she had struggled with depression for much of her adult life and that she also had problems with alcohol and drugs.

And so I must say, after watching that series of tragedies that you just put on the screen, I remember Senator Ted Kennedy, the late Senator Kennedy, used to say he really resisted the notion that there was some sort of Kennedy curse. He would say our family is blessed, and a lot of these challenges that we've had, other families experience as well. And Mary Kennedy's tragic end has prompted her best friend, Kerry Kennedy, to write about bringing more attention to the problems of clinical depression.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, to pick that point up --

MS. CLIFT: So the Kennedys, as always, try to take tragedy and make something good come out of it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Kerry Kennedy, in the New York Post, last Thursday she wrote a moving essay about clinical depression and the need for treatment and focus on clinical depression as a widespread problem in the United States, which her sister suffered from.

OK, the torch has passed.

JOSEPH P. KENNEDY III (Democratic congressional candidate, 4th district of Massachusetts): (From videotape.) This campaign, any campaign, is going to be about the issues and about who goes out there and earns it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meet the newest Kennedy on the political scene, 31-year-old Joseph P. Kennedy III. He's the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and the son of former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II. And let's not forget his great-uncles, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy. Joseph is running for the 4th district congressional seat in Massachusetts that is being vacated by Barney Frank.

Here's the bio: Age, 31. Undergraduate, Stanford University; studied industrial engineering. Harvard Law School; while at Harvard, worked with Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, providing free legal services to low-income people. Peace Corps, Dominican Republic, two years, 2004 to 2006. Cape & Islands, Massachusetts district attorney office, prosecutor, two years. Middlesex district attorney's office, Massachusetts, assistant district attorney, 2011 to 2012.

Question: Is Kennedy a shoo-in for Barney Frank's former seat? I ask you --

MS. CLIFT: They don't automatically hand a seat to a Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy tried to get a Senate seat in New York and she was rebuffed. This young man is doing his homework. He's got good credentials. And the Kennedy name in a congressional district should give him a leg up.

MR. LOWRY: Yeah, you have to --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yeah.

MR. LOWRY: -- favor him. It's a Democratic district. It's going to -- it's a presidential year. There's going to be a big Obama turnout. But his opponent, Sean Bielat, is quite an impressive young man himself. He ran first time around, very spirited run, last time around, very spirited run to Barney Frank.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did he lose by, 20 points?

MR. LOWRY: I think it was closer than that; former Marine. But he's got his work cut out for him in this district, running against this kid, who looks like a caricature of a Kennedy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know if you've seen some of the earlier reaction, but some people have said it's a Kennedy. He's only running on his name. He brings nothing to it. He has no experience.

MR. LOWRY: That'll be the Bielat --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think he's got a pretty good record of public service.


MR. BUCHANAN: He's very young. But I will say this, John. You've got to go back to the 1960s. John F. Kennedy was an unbelievable story. He was assassinated. Then Robert Kennedy, during our campaign with Nixon, was assassinated.

The Kennedy myth and everything about that was enormously powerful then. It has dissipated over the years. You've got to realize that folks --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's still --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- over 50 years old, they don't remember any Kennedy ever in power.


MR. BUCHANAN: But in Massachusetts, in a congressional district --


MR. BUCHANAN: -- I think Rich is right. You've got to say the guy is the favorite.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's a very liberal, very traditional Democratic district. The Kennedy family is still a great name in Massachusetts. He will do very, very well. And I can't see that he loses that.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the seat has been redistricted to some extent. It's not as securely Democratic as it was when Barney Frank held it. He's going to have to fight for it, but he looks --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Which he will. He's done hundreds of appearances --

MS. CLIFT: -- like he knows how to do that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- at local groups.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he's working hard.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's a very, very hard-working --

MS. CLIFT: Agreed.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- young guy, and I think he'll do very well.

MS. CLIFT: Agreed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do we have to say about Bain Capital and what Romney is now doing in his arguments against Obama?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you know, Bain Capital is now being presented by the Democrats as if this is some sort of capitalist attempt to, shall we say, rip off the business community or the businesses that they're in for their private gain. It's like advertising, OK. It's one of the things that happens in business. It's both good and bad. I think Romney did it very, very well. And it's a very real, in my judgment --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama is saying --

MR. LOWRY: The ads are --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The ads are totally dishonest.

MR. LOWRY: They're totally dishonest.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree with that.

MR. LOWRY: There's a reason Cory Booker --

MS. CLIFT: Can we get the other side in here?

MR. LOWRY: -- denounced them. GS Steel, which is sort of the paradigmatic case they're making against Romney, they took this company over. They kept it for eight years. They poured about $100 million in it. They made every legitimate effort to make a go of it.

MS. CLIFT: Romney --

MR. LOWRY: And it collapsed at the same time the entire steel industry was being decimated.

MS. CLIFT: Romney opened the door to this. He said he's a job creator.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He is a job creator.

MS. CLIFT: He can create -- no, that is not what Bain Capital does.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me.

MS. CLIFT: They have a --


MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They do things in --

MS. CLIFT: They have a function in our capitalistic system, but their primary function --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we have --

MS. CLIFT: -- is to make money for their shareholders. It is not to create jobs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we may have video for --

MS. CLIFT: So it is fair game to ask --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Romney and --

MR. LOWRY: So does the Obama campaign --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you want to say?

MR. BUCHANAN: I want to say this, John --

MR. LOWRY: -- really think that Mitt Romney as president is going to take over steel companies and close them down? It's absurd.

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama's problem is this. His ads are attacking equity capital and Bain Capital as vampire capitalism in the days, and at night he is going back and raising money. And Cory Booker and a number of Democrats are saying, are you nuts? You're destroying the people that are coming into our communities and helping us out. And this is the heart of Obama's campaign, and it is under fire.

MS. CLIFT: Taking their money and then asking if these are the set of skills you want to run the country are two different things. And besides, Pat, vampires do their best work at night.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, there you are.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the vampires are getting ticked off. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say this. Mitt Romney was a brilliant businessman and manager. He brought in terrifically talented people. I know the company very well. It was in Massachusetts in a very big way when I was there. He's an outstanding businessman. So he was also outstanding --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama's point is very simple, though. He says Romney cannot shoehorn his way in, saying he has executive experience on the basis of his experience at Bain Capital.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's nonsense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that true or false?

MR. LOWRY: He was also governor of --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's absolutely false.

MR. LOWRY: He was also governor of a state.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You don't run a company like that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was the governor of a state.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: A state --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was Romney --

MR. LOWRY: Can I get a word in here?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was Romney successful as governor of Massachusetts?


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, he was successful.

MR. LOWRY: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would he have gotten another term?

MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know the answer to that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why didn't he run for it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know the answer to that.

MS. CLIFT: He was -- Massachusetts was number 47 in job creation when he was governor.

MR. LOWRY: Because the unemployment rate was already so low.

MS. CLIFT: Why doesn't he talk about it?

MR. LOWRY: The unemployment rate was already low --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Very low.

MR. LOWRY: -- and it went down further.

MS. CLIFT: So where are the job creation skills that he supposedly --

MR. LOWRY: What the federal government needs --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has Obama or Biden -- has Obama or Biden had any executive experience?

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama spent his whole life in tax-supported, tax-subsidized institutions. He knows nothing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's got zero. Does Biden have any executive experience?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. And Obama's experience is from Saul Alinsky and his friends.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's political.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, he's been in universities.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He does not have executive experience.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got no private-sector experience.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The claim to fame of Romney is he's had executive experience in the area of business.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Therefore, he can --

MR. LOWRY: And government.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he can be very serviceable in America in its current state of affairs.

MR. BUCHANAN: And Obama has failed.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And let me tell you one other thing, OK?


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Obama has terrible relations with the Congress. He doesn't know how to deal with these people to establish a relationship to help him through on the legislation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because he can't talk in economic terms?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, just -- look, there was a story, a front-page story in The New York Times. He hasn't had a one-on-one meeting with Mitch McConnell the first 18 months of office. That is almost preposterous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, the sad truth is there aren't many members of Congress who do have very much experience in the economic sector --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In business, right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the financial sector.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And Romney does. I mean, I'm not saying he's going to be the best --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This might be just what the country needs at this time. We've never had a CEO as president of the United States.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What we need is somebody who understands macroeconomics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Coy Colin.

RETIRED GENERAL COLIN POWELL (former secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff): (From videotape.) It's not just a matter of whether you support Obama or Romney. It's who they have coming in with them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Former Secretary of State and four-star General Colin Powell is not ready to renew his presidential endorsement of Barack Obama. Powell is a registered Republican, but he endorsed Democrat Obama in 2008 over Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and prisoner of war.

Powell's endorsement caused an uproar in his Republican Party, especially for describing then-candidate Obama as a, quote-unquote, "transformational figure." But this week Powell declined to back either Obama or Romney.

GEN. POWELL: (From videotape.) The beautiful part of being a private citizen is you can decide when you want to throw your weight, if you want to throw your weight. I'm still listening to what the Republicans are saying they're going to do to fix the fiscal problems we have, to get the economy moving. And I think I owe that to the Republican Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How important would General Powell's endorsement be for second-term presidential candidate Barack Obama?

MR. LOWRY: Not at all. Not at all. It'll be a zero. It had some impact last time around because it created -- added to the sense that Barack Obama was this unifying, transformational, in Powell's words, figure. This time it'll have zero impact whatsoever. And I can guarantee you he's not going to endorse or vote for Mitt Romney.


MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president, President Obama, is going to request Powell to support him publicly. Don't you think that's going to have an impact on General Powell?

MR. LOWRY: He's going to publicly ask Powell --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He won't do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no, no. He will ask Powell to go public --

MR. LOWRY: He will if he knows that he's going to get it. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: John, focus on his motivation.

MR. LOWRY: He'll only do that if he knows he's going to come out publicly and endorse him.

MR. BUCHANAN: Focus on the motivation, John.

MS. CLIFT: Powell is --

MR. BUCHANAN: Here's the motivation. Look, you saw Powell in the opening statement. It depends on who he brings in with him. Powell is part of a realist foreign policy group with George H.W. Bush, Jim Baker, Scowcroft, who are at war with the neoconservatives. And Powell is not a fan of the neoconservatives. And they are moving into Romney's camp. And it is a huge, blazing sub rosa issue right now. And Powell is saying it depends on who they bring in with them. His concern is foreign policy.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: He doesn't know anything about the economy.

MS. CLIFT: I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Reductively, what kind of policy does the general want?

MR. BUCHANAN: He wants a strong American defense but a noninterventionist foreign policy and no more wars.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Noninterventionist.

MR. BUCHANAN: The Powell doctrine.


MS. CLIFT: He has publicly criticized Romney for going after Russia as one of our global enemies. He said let's get real, Mitt. He's worried about the takeover of the neocons. And he's a nominal Republican. He doesn't want to come out for Obama now and have Republicans yelling at him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you mischaracterizing, accidentally or deliberately -- I don't know --

MS. CLIFT: Mischaracterizing what?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the position of Romney on Russia?

MS. CLIFT: No, I think I'm characterizing it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What did Romney say about Russia that you think is venomous?

MS. CLIFT: He says it's one of our --

MR. BUCHANAN: The greatest danger --

MS. CLIFT: -- greatest global enemies.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- to the United States, our adversary.

MR. LOWRY: It was a stupid statement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's kind of moved away from that, has he not?

MR. LOWRY: It was a stupid statement. He should have taken it back immediately. And he's paying a price for it now.

MS. CLIFT: But it reflects the people around him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he not (equivalently ?) take it back recently?

MR. LOWRY: He did not take -- he hasn't taken it back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you aware of this?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I am aware of it. You know, I agree. I think it was a stupid statement, without question. But, you know, as I say, I've had enough exposure to Romney and the people around him. I don't think that this is a kind of extremist foreign policy that he has. He's not extreme on anything, frankly. He's just a centrist and a moderate on most issues.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Mort, it's who he brings in with him.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I agree.

MR. BUCHANAN: There are people who want --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't disagree with that.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- war with Iran --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think General --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- who are pushing into that camp.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think General Powell might like about Romney?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- a lot about Romney. I mean --

MS. CLIFT: He's not going to support him. I agree with Rich.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I doubt if he's going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean on the international scene.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If that is his position on --

MS. CLIFT: The China position, his taunting of China, how he's going to, quote, "stand up to China." You know, how is he going to do that? I think that makes Colin Powell uncomfortable. Powell is a very cautious diplomat. I don't think he likes the rhetoric coming out of the Romney camp, which is all about kowtowing to the party's right wing.

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that a miscalculation --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Eleanor is dead right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Romney is doing that? And is that a miscalculation on Romney's part?

MS. CLIFT: (Usually you ?) say I'm dead, so --

MR. LOWRY: Is he catering to the far right? Well, he had to win the -- he had to be conservative enough to win the nomination --

MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah.

MR. LOWRY: -- in order to win the presidency.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The next president of Egypt will be Amr Moussa. Yes or no?

MR. BUCHANAN: No -- the Brotherhood man.

MS. CLIFT: Looks like it.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes.

The McLaughlin Group salutes our fallen heroes this Memorial Day weekend.