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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel:

Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;

Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report;

Michelle Bernard, Bernard Center


Taped: Friday, September 7, 2012

Broadcast: Weekend of September 8-9, 2012

Copyright � 2012 by Federal News Service, LLC, 1120 G Street NW, Suite 990, Washington, DC 20005-3801 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, LLC. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Transcripts Database or any other FNS product, please email info@fednews.com or call 1-202-347-1400.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Forward Together.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) Madam Chairwoman, delegates, I accept your nomination for president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, the first time I addressed this convention in 2004, I was a younger man -- (laughter) -- a Senate candidate from Illinois who spoke about hope; not blind optimism, not wishful thinking, but hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty.

Eight years later, that hope has been tested by the cost of war, by one of the worst economic crises in history, and by political gridlock that's left us wondering whether it's still even possible to tackle the challenges of our time. And on every issue, the choice you face won't just be between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The Democratic political imperative was to re-energize the base and to persuade the disillusioned 2008 supporters to give the Obama-Biden ticket a second chance. Did President Obama succeed in that? Pat.

PAT BUCHANAN: No, he did not, John. He had a -- they had a terrific convention. It was lively. It was more exciting than the Republican convention. You had some terrific speeches. Kerry was excellent. The first lady was excellent. Bubba was terrific in that. Ms. Granholm -- I don't know what happened to her. (Laughs.) She was exciting.

But the president of the United States was stale. He was flat. He was repetitive. It was the same thing we've been hearing over and over again. And I think it was a real letdown at the end of the convention. And I think that has given, quite frankly, the Republicans another chance, really, to turn this thing around and win this thing.

So I think he could have closed the sale, the president could, if it had been a tremendous speech and a program in there and something to look forward to. But it was the same old speech.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he was melancholy?

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, John, I don't know what it was. But he started off and I just said this is boring. I mean, this is not the Barack Obama --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- that you know. He wasn't the Barack Obama of Denver, and it certainly wasn't the Barack Obama of Boston.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he going through the motions? Did you feel that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, I think what's happened is he's been on that road for a year saying the same things over and over again. And it just didn't seem fresh or exciting or gripping.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Ah, those Republicans. They'll never be pleased.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I thought the whole imperative was that Barack Obama is all about soaring rhetoric. There's no substance. I think the speech was more workmanlike than soaring rhetoric. I think it was sober. I think it was down to earth. I think it was totally appropriate. And he's building on the policies that he's put in place.

I think his speech was probably informed by knowledge of the weak job numbers that were going to come out. I thought he made his case that Americans need to be patient, that he nor Bill Clinton nor George Washington or Abe Lincoln or any of the other luminaries who occupied that office could have repaired this economy in the time that he's had.

I think that he's made that case and he's -- he and all the other speakers, who all did a very fine job, basically have constructed this race now as a clear choice and not a referendum on what Barack Obama didn't accomplish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So did he pitch it to the disappointed?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, he was pitching to everybody whom he thought he could get. But I will say, when he was running for office, the man spoke in poetry, and when he was in office he spoke in prose. This sounded to me like advertising copy. I just never got any energy out of it at all. And I agree, these were cliches that I had heard him utter over and over and over again. It was disappointing. And, I mean, I think it was reasonably effective. It just didn't carry the day.

MICHELLE BERNARD: I'm stunned. I thought his speech was fantastic. I thought the temperament that he had matches the economy that we are in. But if you listen to the words that he said, there was something there for everyone, even when he made references to Scripture at the very end, when he talked about how we are in this together, how we don't leave one -- you know, somebody behind.

I mean, I thought that he absolutely delivered, particularly for people who are feeling dejected, who have been left behind in this economy. There was something for you to listen to, to hold onto, and to feel that we are going to make this together and we're going to go forward as a nation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's hear some more from him. OK, Obama on jobs.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. (Cheers, applause.) And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It'll require common effort and shared responsibility and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.

I've worked with business leaders who are bringing jobs back to America, not because our workers make less pay, but because we make better products -- (cheers, applause) -- because we work harder and smarter than anyone else. And after a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last two and a half years. And if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. You can make that happen. You can choose that future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How viable is President Obama's manufacturing job creation claim? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's done pretty well reviving manufacturing. It's not the manufacturing of old. It does require people with more sophisticated job skills. But he's also putting in place community college curriculum that will build this kind of workforce.

This is, frankly, the Clinton agenda. And Clinton, I think, gave the finest speech at the convention, where he really did lay out all the arguments against the Republican critiques. And he sold the Obama agenda because it was his agenda, and it's about these investments, which Republicans call spending, but it's investments in education and infrastructure. It may bore Pat Buchanan --

MR. BUCHANAN: It doesn't bore me.

MS. CLIFT: -- watching at home on TV.

MR. BUCHANAN: It didn't bore me. Let me talk about manufacturing.

MS. CLIFT: But this is how you build an economy. It's not with some big, soaring rhetoric.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me talk about manufacturing. In the first decade of the 21st century, the country lost between five and a half (million) and 6 million manufacturing jobs; 55,000 factories disappeared. Is it crawling back? Yeah.

But I think if you look at Barack Obama there, he hopes his program and ideas are going to work. I get a sense that he doesn't know whether they're going to work, that he has nothing new in the toolbox, that he has tried it all, and there is nothing new he can do. And his own policy, I think, is rooted in hope.

MS. BERNARD: But don't you think when he made the statement that the American public elected him not to just tell them what they wanted to hear, but to tell them the truth -- I think maybe he was gilding the lily a little bit on manufacturing in the sense that I don't believe -- I don't think anyone believes manufacturing will ever come back the way we knew it in the past.

But when he talked about having -- being able to educate the American public so that we are able to have the jobs, to be able to take the jobs that are out there, I thought that was very important for people to hear and for him to basically say this is my plan going forward; you have to be educated enough to be able to take the jobs of the future.

MR. BUCHANAN: But is that a reason for saying, my goodness, let's put him back in the presidency --

MS. CLIFT: No, but Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- after the disaster of four years?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, Pat is the right in the sense --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have to say --

MS. CLIFT: -- he laid out all of these goals, but he didn't say how he would accomplish them. And we all know there's a Republican minority-majority on Capitol Hill that's going to obstruct everything he does. He's counting on the election, as he puts it, to break the fever.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say one thing. When he announced his stimulus program, he said unemployment will not get above 8 percent; it'll be below 6 percent. By his own terms, that program was a failure.

MS. CLIFT: He didn't say that personally. His adviser did.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: His programs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: OK. We went above 10 percent in terms of the unemployment. We've had I don't know how many weeks; 42 weeks where the unemployment rate has been above 8 percent. So by -- on his own terms it was a failure. And there are many things he could have done with that program that would dramatically improve the program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, let's get the numbers.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think it's a failure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get the numbers. On Friday the economic numbers were released. In August the economy added 96,000 jobs while unemployment fell to 8.1 percent from 8.2.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Eight-point-three.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eight-point-three. What do these numbers tell us?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, in the first place, the only reason the numbers went down from 8.3 to 8.1 is not because we created a lot of jobs. It is because a lot of people left the labor force, so the numbers change; the fraction changes.

We have had a very, very weak recovery of jobs in the last three or four years, despite the fact that we have had the largest financial -- economic stimulus program, over a trillion dollars every year, the most active monetary policy. We've had zero policy rates for the better part of four years. And yet it has not worked.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So we have a real problem here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK -- Obama's friends.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Now, our friends down in Tampa at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America. But they didn't have much to say about how they'd make it right. They want your vote, but they don't want you to know their plan. And that's because all they had to offer is the same prescriptions they've had for the last 30 years. Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another one. (Laughter.) Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So was that sarcasm?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, it also -- there's -- it's valid, it's good, it's funny, because there's a lot of truth in it. Look, for the last four years we have also had the Bush tax cuts in place, as well as the Fed pumping out the money, as well as Obama's stimulus program, all of these things. None of them have worked.

I think Eleanor is right in this sense. I don't think Obama knows exactly what's going to work and what he can get through. I don't think the Republicans are all that confident that their ideas are going to get this thing moving again, because the Bush tax cuts haven't in the last four years.

MS. CLIFT: And whatever their ideas are, other than less regulation, more tax cuts, they're not revealing them, because they know that their ideas would require higher taxes on the middle class --

MS. BERNARD: Which they can't do.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is --

MS. CLIFT: -- cut back dramatically on programs. And I thought Bill Clinton made a very effective point when he talked about their plans to scale back on Medicaid. Medicaid pays a lot of nursing home bills --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

MS. CLIFT: -- for elderly people. This is not -- these are not programs that don't matter.

MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody's afraid of cutting programs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we've reached a point of the promises that he did not keep in his first term. He vowed in 2008 to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It's still open. He pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of the first term, but he added $5.4 trillion to the U.S. debt. He claimed that the $825 billion stimulus would keep unemployment rate below 8 percent. It has topped that for the past 42 months. He promised to end the ugly partisanship in Washington --

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- then presided over one of the worst partisan divides in modern history. He pledged in 2008 to enact health care reform that would cut the typical family's premium by up to $2,500 year, but "Obamacare" didn't cut premiums for most families.

MS. CLIFT: John, this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are two more, Eleanor -- two more. Now, pay attention. (Laughter.)

He pledged to generate 10 percent of U.S. electricity from renewables by 2012 but did not achieve the goal. Finally, he assured unions he'd enact a card-check law that would make it easier to unionize workers, but he didn't do it.

MR. BUCHANAN: You can't do everything.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor speak.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: This is like reading for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee, or something. I have a card here. I'm going to read off the promises he kept, all right?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sure.

MS. CLIFT: Ended the war in Iraq, ending the war in Afghanistan, health care reform --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the war in Afghanistan is not quite --

MS. CLIFT: -- ending "don't ask, don't tell."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not quite over.

MS. CLIFT: I mean, you know, it depends on the eyes of the beholder. Democrats in that hall and Democrats for the most part are very happy with a lot of the things this president has done, and they have some understanding of what he's up against. And I think he has some understanding of what he's up against also, which he didn't have when he first got in this office. And if he gets reelected --

MS. BERNARD: Can I add --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, wait --

MS. CLIFT: He's learned a lot about how to be a president. And I think he's learned how to exercise power. I think we will see a very different Barack Obama the second four years than we did in the first term.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this audience grew even more to like him. And it was pretty uniform, was it not?

MS. CLIFT: Well, yes. I mean, they liked him to begin with. And his wife did a superb job --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, how do you know they liked him to begin with?

MS. CLIFT: Because every poll --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because they --

MS. CLIFT: -- shows Democrats like their president, and a lot of people in general, not just Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, a lot of Democrats are disappointed in him, the way that a lot of Republicans are disappointed --

MS. BERNARD: There has been --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the Republican leaders.

MS. BERNARD: There has been an enthusiasm gap.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, it's not a crusade like it was in `08, but Democrats are plenty eager to keep Mitt Romney from --

MR. BUCHANAN: He doubled --

MS. CLIFT: -- the Oval Office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?

MR. BUCHANAN: The stock market, as Mort can tell you, has doubled in value since he's come in. Isn't that true, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not enough, though.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, what I'm saying, as Eleanor -- some things have turned out well. Look, the stock market's up -- is above -- as high as it's been in I don't know how long.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The reason --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this a plus for --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me. The --

MR. BUCHANAN: The corporations --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the president?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is a plus.

MR. BUCHANAN: Corporations are flush with cash, but they're not investing it all.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And one of the reasons why the stock market is doing so well is because the economy is so weak, and therefore the Fed has lowered interest rates to unprecedented lows. And that means when you have 1 percent money, stocks go up. OK, it increases the value of the dividends of stocks.

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you saying it's another bubble?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not because --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a bubble?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In part it is a bubble, because if interest rates go up, which they will at some point, you'll see the stock market going down. So it's not -- with all due -- the stock market does not reflect any great sort of success. It reflects actually the inverse of a failure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- you get that? It reflects the inverse of a failure.

MR. BUCHANAN: The inverse. (Laughs.) That sounds like a success.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Work on that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not the way I meant it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Measured against President Obama's convention address four years ago -- pay attention to this -- was this week's speech better, worse, or about the same in its impact?

MS. BERNARD: It was a completely different speech than what we saw in 2008. And for where we are in 2012, it was significant. It was effective. It was compelling. He did exactly what the country needed to hear him do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think the first speech was a better one. Four years later, with all the problems that we have, I think he gave an excellent speech to deal with it, but it was a totally different atmosphere in which he had to speak.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: You're both right. I agree with both of you. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it was -- compared to Denver, I think it was flat. It was stale. And it did not succeed. And he had a golden opportunity, I think, to just about win that election with that speech, and he didn't do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it was slightly diminished from Denver.

Issue Two: Bubba Backs Barack.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president's reelection was actually pretty simple, pretty snappy. It went something like this. We left him a total mess. He hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.

I like the argument for President Obama's reelection a lot better. Here it is. He inherited a deeply damaged economy. He put a floor under the crash. He began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for innovators. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, are we where we want to be today? No. Is the president satisfied? Of course not. But are we better off than we were when he took office? (Cheers, applause.) Then listen to this. Listen to this. Everybody's forgotten -- everybody's forgotten. When President Barack Obama took office, the economy was in free fall. It had just shrunk 9 full percent of GDP. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Are we doing better than that today? The answer is yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Bill Clinton's argument persuasive? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. He went on and on in that hall. And I think if the delegates had nominated him for a third term, the country might even have agreed. He is the explainer in chief. He can take these complex arguments. He can boil them down. And he always talks to the audience like he believes they're smart. And I thought he did a magnificent job.

And the fact that Barack Obama defeated his wife in the primaries and there was allegedly all this bad blood, that he can go out there and really give his all for this president is really -- says something significant about him as a person. And frankly, there's some self- interest there, too, because whether Obama wins or loses, Hillary Clinton is pretty well positioned.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: And Bill Clinton has entered the world of senior statesman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was Clinton breaking any new ground there?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. But he is an outstanding trial lawyer on behalf of Barack Obama. He would take -- here's the Republican case and he would state it pretty clearly, and then he would state the answer. It was done extremely effectively. It was done with humor. There was no slash and burn in there. And he was -- I mean, he is the best advocate for Barack Obama's policies, bar none, including Barack Obama.

MS. BERNARD: He was --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There is a real problem.

MS. BERNARD: Bill Clinton was -- I thought he was fantastic. I love your line about him being the best trial lawyer on the issues. If you couple what Bill Clinton did during the convention over the past week with where the Democratic Party is with what Barack Obama said and the feeling that Barack Obama left the delegates with, which is that there is a place for everyone in this country to succeed, it was a home run between the two of them.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Here's where I disagree --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- I have to say. His argument has a fatal flaw. Bill Clinton's argument has a fatal flaw, which is not that it's -- it's not that it is better than it was before. You spend $5 trillion; it better be somewhat better. If the money had been properly spent in the right ways, we would have been in much better shape. The stimulus did not stimulate enough. And that was the fundamental problem and what was flawed about his program. That's -- and, by the way, this is not --

MR. BUCHANAN: It was still --

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

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is not something that I --

MR. BUCHANAN: Mort, it was still a good defense, though. Wasn't it a good defense?

MS. CLIFT: And if the --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it was a good defense.

MS. CLIFT: And if the Republicans had passed his jobs plan which he sent up a year ago, we'd be in a better position also.

MS. BERNARD: And if there was not an obstructionist Congress.

MS. CLIFT: And he's generous enough that he had all those bouquets for Republicans -- George W. Bush for PEPFAR, for the senior Bush --

MR. BUCHANAN: But, you, Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: -- for Dwight Eisenhower and the role of government.

MR. BUCHANAN: You sound like you're making excuses for failure.

MS. CLIFT: Not excuses, no. This was a strong defense for the role of government.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, I mean, you sound like -- I mean, this is his problem is that people are coming forward saying, look, we didn't do this, we didn't do this, we didn't do this. Here's why, here's why.

MS. CLIFT: At the convention --

MR. BUCHANAN: But that's an argument to defend against failure.

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- everything he has done. You're the only one reading failure into this.

MS. BERNARD: It's not an argument for defending failure.

I think everyone who watched it will take away from it --

MR. BUCHANAN: Clinton did a great job.

MS. BERNARD: -- what Clinton and Obama said was you can't fix it in four years. I don't think there's anyone who believes Mitt Romney --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask another --

MS. BERNARD: -- can fix it in four years.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask this question.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He could have done a lot more in four years than he did is all I can say.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was this reductively --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't want to go into all the -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- using the old playbook, the standard playbook of the Democratic Party, which is blame Bush?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because that's where it started.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- ultimately --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's where the Clinton argument started.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what was inherited by Barack Obama.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. Look, he did a great job --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you follow me?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Clinton, what he's saying is, look, it didn't work out as well as we thought. Here are the reasons. He's a trial lawyer, but he's defending the guy who's not totally innocent. The problem with Obama is, John, that the country has decided, look, we would like to change. We don't like the way the country is going. And what it's going to come down to, they've got to demonize the alternative, Mitt Romney, as utterly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- unacceptable, out of touch --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Well, that was --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- rich man, all that stuff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was --

MS. BERNARD: But it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was implicit in the --

MS. BERNARD: I disagree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- basic premise --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of Bill Clinton.

Issue Three: Barack's Better Half.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: (From videotape.) Barack and I were both raised by families who didn't have much in the way of money or material possessions but who had given us something far more valuable -- their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice, and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves. (Applause.)

When we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. Yeah, we were so young, so love, and so in debt.

Barack knows the American dream because he's lived it. And he wants -- (applause) -- everyone in this country, everyone, to have the same opportunity, no matter who we are or where we're from or what we look like or who we love.

I have seen first-hand that being president doesn't change who you are. No, it reveals who you are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was there a tone of pleading in what you just heard from the first lady? Pleading.

MS. CLIFT: I wouldn't call it pleading. I wouldn't even call it a speech. It was so much bigger and better than that. It was this intimate conversation she had with the American people. The warmth she brings and the authenticity is truly remarkable.

She wasn't a public personality, really, before she came to the White House. And I don't think she was all that eager to embrace all the roles of being first lady. But, boy, she has really figured it out in the causes that she has embraced and in the way she presents herself. It's not only Democrats who love her. I mean, the American people broadly across political lines really have embraced this woman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very moving testimonial to her husband's character.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It was a moving testimonial. She did it wonderfully. I thought it was frankly the best speech of the convention. And I have never heard her speak in any way like this. It was really a revelation, as I'm sure it was to most of the American public. And she was magnificent. I thought she was just -- she just blew everybody away.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you know, remember back to the famous New Yorker cartoon.

MS. BERNARD: Absolutely. That's what I was thinking.

MR. BUCHANAN: They had Angela Davis, the fist pump and the hairdo, and they had all that on her. And her image was that of sort of a militant and harsh and maybe not so happy about America early on.

Her improvement has been extraordinarily dramatic, I think, over the last four years. I agree, it was extremely authentic on her part and really seemed to really -- people use the phrase from the heart. This really did seem to come from the heart. And I think it was the best speech of the convention.

And frankly, there's a contrast with what we talked about with Obama where he seemed to be so much higher up in Denver than he was here, where the difference is this -- I mean, she was at her peak. She's at her apogee. It was a tremendous, tremendous speech, the best one of the convention.

MS. BERNARD: She has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The better one? The better one?

MR. BUCHANAN: The best.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The best.

MR. BUCHANAN: Best of the convention.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I would agree with that.

MS. BERNARD: I would have to --

MR. BUCHANAN: The better of the two.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which convention was the better, the Republican convention or the Democratic convention?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the Democratic convention had a lot more energy, fire --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- everything to it.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, and the Democratic --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we all agreed on that?

MS. CLIFT: The Democratic convention --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know where you stand.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. But the Democratic convention -- and when you look out on the floor, that's what America looks like --

MS. BERNARD: Looks like.

MS. CLIFT: -- today and where it's going. When you looked out on Tampa, that -- to quote Lindsey Graham, the Republican Party is running out of angry old white men. I mean, there is a demographic challenge here that the Republican Party has yet to figure out how to deal with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did the Republican Party make a fundamental error in gearing the convention to winning the votes of the undecided? Do you follow me?

MS. BERNARD: I follow you. I think that the Republican convention -- that was one of their many mistakes. I think the largest mistake that we saw coming out of the Republican convention was that the most exciting figure was Ann Romney.

I think that the overtures that they made to get the women's vote was important. It needed to be done. They focused on that, quite frankly, I believe, more than they did on undecideds. But we didn't -- there was nothing that came out of the Republican convention that excited us, that made all of us feel that we are a part of the fabric of the nation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the focus on the Democratic convention also on pursuing the female vote?

MS. BERNARD: Oh, absolutely.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. (Laughs.)

MS. BERNARD: Listen to the president. If you remember the president's speech during the convention, every time he spoke in a certain way, he never said he. He said she. Everything at the Democratic convention was appealing to women, but it was also appealing to Hispanics, to African-Americans, to anyone who feels disenfranchised in this country --

MS. CLIFT: I also thought --

MS. BERNARD: -- and in this economy.

MS. CLIFT: -- there was an unabashed --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If I could join in on this thing --

MS. CLIFT: -- an unabashed champion of liberal values at this Democratic convention in a way that I don't remember in conventions past.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me say one thing.

MR. BUCHANAN: They threw God out --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: They put her back in -- her back in.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have to disagree with you.

MS. CLIFT: They put her back in.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The most exciting --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean they were on full and exuberant display and the devil can like it or not like it?

MS. CLIFT: No, they just weren't defensive about it. I mean, they're pro-choice. That was front and center a lot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What will be the size of the convention bump that Barack Obama will get from this convention?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it'll take him right to 50 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Which means between five and seven points.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think it'll be less than that, and it'll go down within a matter of 30 days afterwards because the unemployment numbers are going to get worse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle.

MS. BERNARD: I think he's going to be close to 50 percent. But I think the election is going to be decided on demographics, not the economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he will reach 50 percent.

Bye-bye.

END


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Full Transcript
09/09/12
10:18am


The McLaughlin Group
Host: John McLaughlin
Panel: Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report; Michelle Bernard, Bernard Center
Taped: Friday, September 7, 2012
Broadcast: Weekend of September 8-9, 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Federal News Service, LLC, 1120 G Street NW, Suite 990, Washington, DC 20005-3801 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, LLC. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Transcripts Database or any other FNS product, please email info@fednews.com or call 1-202-347-1400.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Forward Together.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) Madam Chairwoman, delegates, I accept your nomination for president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, the first time I addressed this convention in 2004, I was a younger man -- (laughter) -- a Senate candidate from Illinois who spoke about hope; not blind optimism, not wishful thinking, but hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty.

Eight years later, that hope has been tested by the cost of war, by one of the worst economic crises in history, and by political gridlock that's left us wondering whether it's still even possible to tackle the challenges of our time. And on every issue, the choice you face won't just be between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The Democratic political imperative was to re-energize the base and to persuade the disillusioned 2008 supporters to give the Obama-Biden ticket a second chance. Did President Obama succeed in that? Pat.

PAT BUCHANAN: No, he did not, John. He had a -- they had a terrific convention. It was lively. It was more exciting than the Republican convention. You had some terrific speeches. Kerry was excellent. The first lady was excellent. Bubba was terrific in that. Ms. Granholm -- I don't know what happened to her. (Laughs.) She was exciting.

But the president of the United States was stale. He was flat. He was repetitive. It was the same thing we've been hearing over and over again. And I think it was a real letdown at the end of the convention. And I think that has given, quite frankly, the Republicans another chance, really, to turn this thing around and win this thing.

So I think he could have closed the sale, the president could, if it had been a tremendous speech and a program in there and something to look forward to. But it was the same old speech.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he was melancholy?

MR. BUCHANAN: You know, John, I don't know what it was. But he started off and I just said this is boring. I mean, this is not the Barack Obama --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- that you know. He wasn't the Barack Obama of Denver, and it certainly wasn't the Barack Obama of Boston.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he going through the motions? Did you feel that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, I think what's happened is he's been on that road for a year saying the same things over and over again. And it just didn't seem fresh or exciting or gripping.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Ah, those Republicans. They'll never be pleased.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I thought the whole imperative was that Barack Obama is all about soaring rhetoric. There's no substance. I think the speech was more workmanlike than soaring rhetoric. I think it was sober. I think it was down to earth. I think it was totally appropriate. And he's building on the policies that he's put in place.

I think his speech was probably informed by knowledge of the weak job numbers that were going to come out. I thought he made his case that Americans need to be patient, that he nor Bill Clinton nor George Washington or Abe Lincoln or any of the other luminaries who occupied that office could have repaired this economy in the time that he's had.

I think that he's made that case and he's -- he and all the other speakers, who all did a very fine job, basically have constructed this race now as a clear choice and not a referendum on what Barack Obama didn't accomplish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So did he pitch it to the disappointed?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, he was pitching to everybody whom he thought he could get. But I will say, when he was running for office, the man spoke in poetry, and when he was in office he spoke in prose. This sounded to me like advertising copy. I just never got any energy out of it at all. And I agree, these were cliches that I had heard him utter over and over and over again. It was disappointing. And, I mean, I think it was reasonably effective. It just didn't carry the day.

MICHELLE BERNARD: I'm stunned. I thought his speech was fantastic. I thought the temperament that he had matches the economy that we are in. But if you listen to the words that he said, there was something there for everyone, even when he made references to Scripture at the very end, when he talked about how we are in this together, how we don't leave one -- you know, somebody behind.

I mean, I thought that he absolutely delivered, particularly for people who are feeling dejected, who have been left behind in this economy. There was something for you to listen to, to hold onto, and to feel that we are going to make this together and we're going to go forward as a nation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's hear some more from him. OK, Obama on jobs.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. (Cheers, applause.) And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It'll require common effort and shared responsibility and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.

I've worked with business leaders who are bringing jobs back to America, not because our workers make less pay, but because we make better products -- (cheers, applause) -- because we work harder and smarter than anyone else. And after a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last two and a half years. And if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. You can make that happen. You can choose that future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: How viable is President Obama's manufacturing job creation claim? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's done pretty well reviving manufacturing. It's not the manufacturing of old. It does require people with more sophisticated job skills. But he's also putting in place community college curriculum that will build this kind of workforce.

This is, frankly, the Clinton agenda. And Clinton, I think, gave the finest speech at the convention, where he really did lay out all the arguments against the Republican critiques. And he sold the Obama agenda because it was his agenda, and it's about these investments, which Republicans call spending, but it's investments in education and infrastructure. It may bore Pat Buchanan --

MR. BUCHANAN: It doesn't bore me.

MS. CLIFT: -- watching at home on TV.

MR. BUCHANAN: It didn't bore me. Let me talk about manufacturing.

MS. CLIFT: But this is how you build an economy. It's not with some big, soaring rhetoric.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me talk about manufacturing. In the first decade of the 21st century, the country lost between five and a half (million) and 6 million manufacturing jobs; 55,000 factories disappeared. Is it crawling back? Yeah.

But I think if you look at Barack Obama there, he hopes his program and ideas are going to work. I get a sense that he doesn't know whether they're going to work, that he has nothing new in the toolbox, that he has tried it all, and there is nothing new he can do. And his own policy, I think, is rooted in hope.

MS. BERNARD: But don't you think when he made the statement that the American public elected him not to just tell them what they wanted to hear, but to tell them the truth -- I think maybe he was gilding the lily a little bit on manufacturing in the sense that I don't believe -- I don't think anyone believes manufacturing will ever come back the way we knew it in the past.

But when he talked about having -- being able to educate the American public so that we are able to have the jobs, to be able to take the jobs that are out there, I thought that was very important for people to hear and for him to basically say this is my plan going forward; you have to be educated enough to be able to take the jobs of the future.

MR. BUCHANAN: But is that a reason for saying, my goodness, let's put him back in the presidency --

MS. CLIFT: No, but Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- after the disaster of four years?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, Pat is the right in the sense --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have to say --

MS. CLIFT: -- he laid out all of these goals, but he didn't say how he would accomplish them. And we all know there's a Republican minority-majority on Capitol Hill that's going to obstruct everything he does. He's counting on the election, as he puts it, to break the fever.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say one thing. When he announced his stimulus program, he said unemployment will not get above 8 percent; it'll be below 6 percent. By his own terms, that program was a failure.

MS. CLIFT: He didn't say that personally. His adviser did.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: His programs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: OK. We went above 10 percent in terms of the unemployment. We've had I don't know how many weeks; 42 weeks where the unemployment rate has been above 8 percent. So by -- on his own terms it was a failure. And there are many things he could have done with that program that would dramatically improve the program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, let's get the numbers.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think it's a failure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get the numbers. On Friday the economic numbers were released. In August the economy added 96,000 jobs while unemployment fell to 8.1 percent from 8.2.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Eight-point-three.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eight-point-three. What do these numbers tell us?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, in the first place, the only reason the numbers went down from 8.3 to 8.1 is not because we created a lot of jobs. It is because a lot of people left the labor force, so the numbers change; the fraction changes.

We have had a very, very weak recovery of jobs in the last three or four years, despite the fact that we have had the largest financial -- economic stimulus program, over a trillion dollars every year, the most active monetary policy. We've had zero policy rates for the better part of four years. And yet it has not worked.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So we have a real problem here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK -- Obama's friends.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Now, our friends down in Tampa at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America. But they didn't have much to say about how they'd make it right. They want your vote, but they don't want you to know their plan. And that's because all they had to offer is the same prescriptions they've had for the last 30 years. Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another one. (Laughter.) Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So was that sarcasm?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, it also -- there's -- it's valid, it's good, it's funny, because there's a lot of truth in it. Look, for the last four years we have also had the Bush tax cuts in place, as well as the Fed pumping out the money, as well as Obama's stimulus program, all of these things. None of them have worked.

I think Eleanor is right in this sense. I don't think Obama knows exactly what's going to work and what he can get through. I don't think the Republicans are all that confident that their ideas are going to get this thing moving again, because the Bush tax cuts haven't in the last four years.

MS. CLIFT: And whatever their ideas are, other than less regulation, more tax cuts, they're not revealing them, because they know that their ideas would require higher taxes on the middle class --

MS. BERNARD: Which they can't do.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That is --

MS. CLIFT: -- cut back dramatically on programs. And I thought Bill Clinton made a very effective point when he talked about their plans to scale back on Medicaid. Medicaid pays a lot of nursing home bills --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well --

MS. CLIFT: -- for elderly people. This is not -- these are not programs that don't matter.

MR. BUCHANAN: Everybody's afraid of cutting programs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we've reached a point of the promises that he did not keep in his first term. He vowed in 2008 to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It's still open. He pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of the first term, but he added $5.4 trillion to the U.S. debt. He claimed that the $825 billion stimulus would keep unemployment rate below 8 percent. It has topped that for the past 42 months. He promised to end the ugly partisanship in Washington --

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- then presided over one of the worst partisan divides in modern history. He pledged in 2008 to enact health care reform that would cut the typical family's premium by up to $2,500 year, but "Obamacare" didn't cut premiums for most families.

MS. CLIFT: John, this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are two more, Eleanor -- two more. Now, pay attention. (Laughter.)

He pledged to generate 10 percent of U.S. electricity from renewables by 2012 but did not achieve the goal. Finally, he assured unions he'd enact a card-check law that would make it easier to unionize workers, but he didn't do it.

MR. BUCHANAN: You can't do everything.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor speak.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: This is like reading for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee, or something. I have a card here. I'm going to read off the promises he kept, all right?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sure.

MS. CLIFT: Ended the war in Iraq, ending the war in Afghanistan, health care reform --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the war in Afghanistan is not quite --

MS. CLIFT: -- ending "don't ask, don't tell."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not quite over.

MS. CLIFT: I mean, you know, it depends on the eyes of the beholder. Democrats in that hall and Democrats for the most part are very happy with a lot of the things this president has done, and they have some understanding of what he's up against. And I think he has some understanding of what he's up against also, which he didn't have when he first got in this office. And if he gets reelected --

MS. BERNARD: Can I add --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, wait --

MS. CLIFT: He's learned a lot about how to be a president. And I think he's learned how to exercise power. I think we will see a very different Barack Obama the second four years than we did in the first term.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this audience grew even more to like him. And it was pretty uniform, was it not?

MS. CLIFT: Well, yes. I mean, they liked him to begin with. And his wife did a superb job --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, how do you know they liked him to begin with?

MS. CLIFT: Because every poll --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because they --

MS. CLIFT: -- shows Democrats like their president, and a lot of people in general, not just Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, a lot of Democrats are disappointed in him, the way that a lot of Republicans are disappointed --

MS. BERNARD: There has been --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the Republican leaders.

MS. BERNARD: There has been an enthusiasm gap.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, it's not a crusade like it was in `08, but Democrats are plenty eager to keep Mitt Romney from --

MR. BUCHANAN: He doubled --

MS. CLIFT: -- the Oval Office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?

MR. BUCHANAN: The stock market, as Mort can tell you, has doubled in value since he's come in. Isn't that true, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not enough, though.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, what I'm saying, as Eleanor -- some things have turned out well. Look, the stock market's up -- is above -- as high as it's been in I don't know how long.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The reason --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this a plus for --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Excuse me. The --

MR. BUCHANAN: The corporations --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the president?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is a plus.

MR. BUCHANAN: Corporations are flush with cash, but they're not investing it all.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And one of the reasons why the stock market is doing so well is because the economy is so weak, and therefore the Fed has lowered interest rates to unprecedented lows. And that means when you have 1 percent money, stocks go up. OK, it increases the value of the dividends of stocks.

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you saying it's another bubble?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not because --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a bubble?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In part it is a bubble, because if interest rates go up, which they will at some point, you'll see the stock market going down. So it's not -- with all due -- the stock market does not reflect any great sort of success. It reflects actually the inverse of a failure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- you get that? It reflects the inverse of a failure.

MR. BUCHANAN: The inverse. (Laughs.) That sounds like a success.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Work on that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not the way I meant it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Measured against President Obama's convention address four years ago -- pay attention to this -- was this week's speech better, worse, or about the same in its impact?

MS. BERNARD: It was a completely different speech than what we saw in 2008. And for where we are in 2012, it was significant. It was effective. It was compelling. He did exactly what the country needed to hear him do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think the first speech was a better one. Four years later, with all the problems that we have, I think he gave an excellent speech to deal with it, but it was a totally different atmosphere in which he had to speak.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: You're both right. I agree with both of you. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it was -- compared to Denver, I think it was flat. It was stale. And it did not succeed. And he had a golden opportunity, I think, to just about win that election with that speech, and he didn't do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it was slightly diminished from Denver.

Issue Two: Bubba Backs Barack.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president's reelection was actually pretty simple, pretty snappy. It went something like this. We left him a total mess. He hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.

I like the argument for President Obama's reelection a lot better. Here it is. He inherited a deeply damaged economy. He put a floor under the crash. He began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for innovators. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, are we where we want to be today? No. Is the president satisfied? Of course not. But are we better off than we were when he took office? (Cheers, applause.) Then listen to this. Listen to this. Everybody's forgotten -- everybody's forgotten. When President Barack Obama took office, the economy was in free fall. It had just shrunk 9 full percent of GDP. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Are we doing better than that today? The answer is yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Bill Clinton's argument persuasive? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. He went on and on in that hall. And I think if the delegates had nominated him for a third term, the country might even have agreed. He is the explainer in chief. He can take these complex arguments. He can boil them down. And he always talks to the audience like he believes they're smart. And I thought he did a magnificent job.

And the fact that Barack Obama defeated his wife in the primaries and there was allegedly all this bad blood, that he can go out there and really give his all for this president is really -- says something significant about him as a person. And frankly, there's some self- interest there, too, because whether Obama wins or loses, Hillary Clinton is pretty well positioned.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: And Bill Clinton has entered the world of senior statesman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was Clinton breaking any new ground there?

MR. BUCHANAN: No. But he is an outstanding trial lawyer on behalf of Barack Obama. He would take -- here's the Republican case and he would state it pretty clearly, and then he would state the answer. It was done extremely effectively. It was done with humor. There was no slash and burn in there. And he was -- I mean, he is the best advocate for Barack Obama's policies, bar none, including Barack Obama.

MS. BERNARD: He was --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There is a real problem.

MS. BERNARD: Bill Clinton was -- I thought he was fantastic. I love your line about him being the best trial lawyer on the issues. If you couple what Bill Clinton did during the convention over the past week with where the Democratic Party is with what Barack Obama said and the feeling that Barack Obama left the delegates with, which is that there is a place for everyone in this country to succeed, it was a home run between the two of them.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Here's where I disagree --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- I have to say. His argument has a fatal flaw. Bill Clinton's argument has a fatal flaw, which is not that it's -- it's not that it is better than it was before. You spend $5 trillion; it better be somewhat better. If the money had been properly spent in the right ways, we would have been in much better shape. The stimulus did not stimulate enough. And that was the fundamental problem and what was flawed about his program. That's -- and, by the way, this is not --

MR. BUCHANAN: It was still --

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

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is not something that I --

MR. BUCHANAN: Mort, it was still a good defense, though. Wasn't it a good defense?

MS. CLIFT: And if the --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it was a good defense.

MS. CLIFT: And if the Republicans had passed his jobs plan which he sent up a year ago, we'd be in a better position also.

MS. BERNARD: And if there was not an obstructionist Congress.

MS. CLIFT: And he's generous enough that he had all those bouquets for Republicans -- George W. Bush for PEPFAR, for the senior Bush --

MR. BUCHANAN: But, you, Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: -- for Dwight Eisenhower and the role of government.

MR. BUCHANAN: You sound like you're making excuses for failure.

MS. CLIFT: Not excuses, no. This was a strong defense for the role of government.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, I mean, you sound like -- I mean, this is his problem is that people are coming forward saying, look, we didn't do this, we didn't do this, we didn't do this. Here's why, here's why.

MS. CLIFT: At the convention --

MR. BUCHANAN: But that's an argument to defend against failure.

MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- everything he has done. You're the only one reading failure into this.

MS. BERNARD: It's not an argument for defending failure.

I think everyone who watched it will take away from it --

MR. BUCHANAN: Clinton did a great job.

MS. BERNARD: -- what Clinton and Obama said was you can't fix it in four years. I don't think there's anyone who believes Mitt Romney --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask another --

MS. BERNARD: -- can fix it in four years.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask this question.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He could have done a lot more in four years than he did is all I can say.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was this reductively --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't want to go into all the -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- using the old playbook, the standard playbook of the Democratic Party, which is blame Bush?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because that's where it started.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- ultimately --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's where the Clinton argument started.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what was inherited by Barack Obama.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right. Look, he did a great job --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you follow me?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, Clinton, what he's saying is, look, it didn't work out as well as we thought. Here are the reasons. He's a trial lawyer, but he's defending the guy who's not totally innocent. The problem with Obama is, John, that the country has decided, look, we would like to change. We don't like the way the country is going. And what it's going to come down to, they've got to demonize the alternative, Mitt Romney, as utterly --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- unacceptable, out of touch --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Well, that was --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- rich man, all that stuff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was --

MS. BERNARD: But it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was implicit in the --

MS. BERNARD: I disagree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- basic premise --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of Bill Clinton.

Issue Three: Barack's Better Half.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: (From videotape.) Barack and I were both raised by families who didn't have much in the way of money or material possessions but who had given us something far more valuable -- their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice, and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves. (Applause.)

When we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. Yeah, we were so young, so love, and so in debt.

Barack knows the American dream because he's lived it. And he wants -- (applause) -- everyone in this country, everyone, to have the same opportunity, no matter who we are or where we're from or what we look like or who we love.

I have seen first-hand that being president doesn't change who you are. No, it reveals who you are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was there a tone of pleading in what you just heard from the first lady? Pleading.

MS. CLIFT: I wouldn't call it pleading. I wouldn't even call it a speech. It was so much bigger and better than that. It was this intimate conversation she had with the American people. The warmth she brings and the authenticity is truly remarkable.

She wasn't a public personality, really, before she came to the White House. And I don't think she was all that eager to embrace all the roles of being first lady. But, boy, she has really figured it out in the causes that she has embraced and in the way she presents herself. It's not only Democrats who love her. I mean, the American people broadly across political lines really have embraced this woman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Very moving testimonial to her husband's character.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It was a moving testimonial. She did it wonderfully. I thought it was frankly the best speech of the convention. And I have never heard her speak in any way like this. It was really a revelation, as I'm sure it was to most of the American public. And she was magnificent. I thought she was just -- she just blew everybody away.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you know, remember back to the famous New Yorker cartoon.

MS. BERNARD: Absolutely. That's what I was thinking.

MR. BUCHANAN: They had Angela Davis, the fist pump and the hairdo, and they had all that on her. And her image was that of sort of a militant and harsh and maybe not so happy about America early on.

Her improvement has been extraordinarily dramatic, I think, over the last four years. I agree, it was extremely authentic on her part and really seemed to really -- people use the phrase from the heart. This really did seem to come from the heart. And I think it was the best speech of the convention.

And frankly, there's a contrast with what we talked about with Obama where he seemed to be so much higher up in Denver than he was here, where the difference is this -- I mean, she was at her peak. She's at her apogee. It was a tremendous, tremendous speech, the best one of the convention.

MS. BERNARD: She has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The better one? The better one?

MR. BUCHANAN: The best.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The best.

MR. BUCHANAN: Best of the convention.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I would agree with that.

MS. BERNARD: I would have to --

MR. BUCHANAN: The better of the two.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which convention was the better, the Republican convention or the Democratic convention?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the Democratic convention had a lot more energy, fire --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- everything to it.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, and the Democratic --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we all agreed on that?

MS. CLIFT: The Democratic convention --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We know where you stand.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. But the Democratic convention -- and when you look out on the floor, that's what America looks like --

MS. BERNARD: Looks like.

MS. CLIFT: -- today and where it's going. When you looked out on Tampa, that -- to quote Lindsey Graham, the Republican Party is running out of angry old white men. I mean, there is a demographic challenge here that the Republican Party has yet to figure out how to deal with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did the Republican Party make a fundamental error in gearing the convention to winning the votes of the undecided? Do you follow me?

MS. BERNARD: I follow you. I think that the Republican convention -- that was one of their many mistakes. I think the largest mistake that we saw coming out of the Republican convention was that the most exciting figure was Ann Romney.

I think that the overtures that they made to get the women's vote was important. It needed to be done. They focused on that, quite frankly, I believe, more than they did on undecideds. But we didn't -- there was nothing that came out of the Republican convention that excited us, that made all of us feel that we are a part of the fabric of the nation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the focus on the Democratic convention also on pursuing the female vote?

MS. BERNARD: Oh, absolutely.

MS. CLIFT: Yes. (Laughs.)

MS. BERNARD: Listen to the president. If you remember the president's speech during the convention, every time he spoke in a certain way, he never said he. He said she. Everything at the Democratic convention was appealing to women, but it was also appealing to Hispanics, to African-Americans, to anyone who feels disenfranchised in this country --

MS. CLIFT: I also thought --

MS. BERNARD: -- and in this economy.

MS. CLIFT: -- there was an unabashed --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If I could join in on this thing --

MS. CLIFT: -- an unabashed champion of liberal values at this Democratic convention in a way that I don't remember in conventions past.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me say one thing.

MR. BUCHANAN: They threw God out --

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: They put her back in -- her back in.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have to disagree with you.

MS. CLIFT: They put her back in.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The most exciting --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean they were on full and exuberant display and the devil can like it or not like it?

MS. CLIFT: No, they just weren't defensive about it. I mean, they're pro-choice. That was front and center a lot.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What will be the size of the convention bump that Barack Obama will get from this convention?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it'll take him right to 50 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Which means between five and seven points.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think it'll be less than that, and it'll go down within a matter of 30 days afterwards because the unemployment numbers are going to get worse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle.

MS. BERNARD: I think he's going to be close to 50 percent. But I think the election is going to be decided on demographics, not the economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he will reach 50 percent.

Bye-bye.

END