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, September 28, 2012
Broadcast: Weekend of September 29-30, 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 or call 1-202-347-1400.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: D-Day. That's "d" for debate, "d" for determinator.

Tuesday night, next week, 9:00 to 10:30, hours from now. Location: Denver, Colorado, University of Denver. Participants: Democratic Party-endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama, Republican Party-endorsed presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Debate subject area: Domestic policy. Debate moderator: Jim Lehrer. Structure: Six 15-minute segments. Three focus on the economy; four, five and six, health care, the role of government, and governing.

Procedure: Each candidate gets two minutes to respond to a
question posed by Jim Lehrer. Time remaining is given to freewheeling discussion of segments. Risk factor: Dangerous, sometimes lethal.

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: (From videotape.) Are you better off than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we're as strong as we were four years ago? And if you answer all of those questions yes, why, then, I think your choice is very obvious as to who you'll vote for.

If you don't agree, if you don't think that this course that we've been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest another choice that you have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jimmy Carter practically gagging, some say.
Question: Who will win the debate on Tuesday? Can Romney pull a Reagan? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: That's exactly what he's got to do, John. Reagan came into that debate with sort of a caricature. Here's an out-of- touch old geezer who's got 1930s values and views, cowboy, really not very knowledgeable. And he knocked that dead by his appearance and the way he handled himself.

Romney comes in and he's similarly caricatured, partly from his own mistakes, partly because of what the Democrats have said about him, partly because of the merciless attacks of the media on him.

And so what he's got to present is another person up there other than this caricature, someone who's a fighter, who's competent, who's tough, who takes the measure of Barack Obama, who says, look, we can't take four more years of this and we're not going to, and here's where we're going.
And if he comes in there tough and confident and destroys that caricature, I think he can still wake up this country, and I think there's still a chance he can turn it around. He's got to win it, though, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama's campaign staff is telling everybody it sees how good Romney is at debating.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, each --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What tactic is that?

MS. CLIFT: Each of the campaigns sent out a memo basically saying how good the other guy is and stressing all their guy's flaws. And ironically, they're both right. I mean, each of them -- these are both talented debaters. Obama has some advantages. He's debated in the general-election stage before. Romney has the advantage of having simply debated more over the last year.

So I think it's kind of an even stage there. But the situation is not comparable to Reagan versus Carter. The economic metrics when Carter was running for reelection were extremely negative, much more negative than they are today. And just this last week polls show that the public has more confidence in the president's economic views and vision and program than Romney. So he's lost the one advantage that he once had.

Secondly, there were a lot of independent undecided voters in 1980 who had lost faith in Carter and were just waiting to see if they could feel confidence in his challenger. There are so few independent voters. This is an election that's about mobilizing the bases. So going after the independent vote is not a big prize.

Having said all that, in the memo put out by David Axelrod, he pointed out that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is who? Who is who?

MS. CLIFT: He's the campaign guru on the Obama side.


MS. CLIFT: He points out that five of the last six challengers won the first debate. And I think the temptation by the media is going to be to say that Romney did what he had to. He's in the game, because we want a race.

RICH LOWRY: I'm not so sure about that. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: We want the race to continue. We want the race to continue. What else do we talk about for the next several weeks?

MR. LOWRY: I don't know. All I've heard for weeks and weeks is that it's all over.

This debate is obviously extremely consequential. The debates in the Republican primaries were very consequential, even though there were so many of them, because it's the one source of truly unfiltered information you can get. And Romney handled himself quite well. He's an adept debater.

But the problem is it isn't a 1980 situation. The theory going into this race about these debates on the Romney side is basically he just has to show up and reassure people. That's what his whole convention was about. But that's -- he has a much higher bar than that. He needs to convince people that his program is a better answer for the country. That's what he has to do. It's not going to be easy to do in a debate because there's going to be lots of flak and lots of distractions coming at him. And the president himself is quite an adept debater.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he had Clinton at the convention.

MR. LOWRY: Yeah. Well, that's -- that comes down to the two theories of the race. One was right. One was wrong. The Romney theory: Just tell people it's OK, even though the president's a very nice guy, to vote against him, because everyone's just primed to vote against him. The Democrats went into their convention realizing they needed to make a substantive case and tear down --


MR. LOWRY: -- Romney's agenda.


MR. LOWRY: Romney needs to build that agenda up again.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you observed, Mortimer, how much the president relies on a teleprompter? And, of course, Romney probably less so, but he's been out there in the field. Obama really hasn't been debating and he doesn't have a teleprompter during a debate.

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, he won't have a teleprompter, but let's face it. He is a very articulate public speaker, and I'm sure he's practiced and will practice enough so that he doesn't need a teleprompter.

But I have a slightly different view of what Romney has to do. Romney has to establish himself as a credible candidate and a credible occupant of the presidency. And that is not something he has really done just yet. But if he does, if he comes across forcefully enough and with enough clarity on his program, then a lot of people will look and say, hey, OK, this guy, I think, can be the president.
What do we think about Obama? And Obama's got huge negatives. With all due respect, I think the economy is in terrible shape. In fact, it's in the worst shape it's been since the Great Depression. And nothing has happened to improve it.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: So Obama is really vulnerable on the major issue, which 70 percent of the country thinks is the major issue.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I would argue that, quote, nothing has been done to improve the economy -- I think that's very debatable, and I think the American people would disagree with that if we believe the polls.
But Romney is a man at war with himself. He has to go in and he has to be the aggressor here. He has to take the fight to the president. But he also has to prove himself more likable. And those two objectives are at odds with each other.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does he have to --

MS. CLIFT: He also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does he have to project?

MS. CLIFT: He has to project a credible program that will sell the American people on the idea --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does he have to project about himself?

MS. CLIFT: Let me -- the whole likability thing. But I think that's summed up in one word.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He has to project confidence in himself --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- confidence in his ideas.

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Strength. And strength.

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish my thought.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And strength.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And strength. He has to project strength.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's no doubt about it.

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish my thought, please.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We all want to finish your thought.

MS. CLIFT: Please. He needs to project a credible economic program that would sell the American people that he would be better than the current occupant.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he has to --

MS. CLIFT: He hasn't done that. And he can't --

MR. LOWRY: That's the single most important thing.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hold it, Eleanor. You've got --

MS. CLIFT: And he can't --

MR. LOWRY: Absolutely right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right --

MS. CLIFT: And he can't do that --

MR. LOWRY: Eleanor is right, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: -- without offending the base.

MR. LOWRY: Let her answer. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Pat -- let Pat in. Let Pat in.

MR. LOWRY: The program is the most important thing.

MR. BUCHANAN: His problem is not confident -- confidence. His problem is, is he one of us? Does he really understand us? He's got to do a number of things. And Rich is right. He's not only got to say, look, this guy -- Obama basically is a good guy. He has failed. He's got no new ideas. For the second term we're going to go down the same road. We can't do that. Here is where we're going, my friends.

MR. LOWRY: That's the key sentence.

MR. BUCHANAN: And you've got that, but also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should he be --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He also can't --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- friendly and tough.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should he be pugnacious towards the
president --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. That never works.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in correcting the president's pictures about him?

MR. BUCHANAN: Use the Reagan sense -- use the humor, the sort of dismissal type of humor in his approach to the other guy.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me say one thing. It's like saying, you know, never go to a doctor whose office plants have died, OK? Here you have a president, OK, whose programs have failed. Whatever his programs are, they have failed. The employment numbers aren't better. The economy isn't growing except at a nominal rate. They just reduced the rate of growth in the economy to 1.2 percent, which is a nominal increase. So don't tell me his programs are working.

MS. CLIFT: It's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

MR. LOWRY: Hold on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

MR. LOWRY: People know that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's got to concentrate on --

MR. LOWRY: People know that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- swing voters, swing voters.

MR. LOWRY: I think there are more --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How does he get the swing voters?

MR. LOWRY: I think there are more swing voters than Eleanor thinks, because if you look at the Democratic convention, it persuaded people.


MR. LOWRY: You look at Romney's 47 percent remark. It hurt, and persuaded people the wrong way.

MR. BUCHANAN: There are soft voters.

MR. LOWRY: And the key thing is not just saying that the president has failed. It's convincing people that Romney's program is better.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is hopeful.

MR. LOWRY: And people don't believe that yet.

MS. CLIFT: He has not put out any credible program. He talks in platitudes. And because he is afraid of offending his base, he can't come up with a credible program because he can't --

MR. LOWRY: It's much more credible than the president's second term.

MS. CLIFT: -- say taxes will be raised.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The president's program --

MR. LOWRY: The president does not have a second-term agenda besides raising taxes.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he's got to put the word --

MS. CLIFT: The president has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: The word he's got to put out there, if you elect me, we have hope for a better time in the next four years than this guy can conceivably offer because of the mess he delivered in his first four years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Obama can put Romney on the defensive?


MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can Romney put Obama on the defensive?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to have to. (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It all depends how -- both of them could put the other on the defensive. The real question is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is going to fight for that and just proceed as though it doesn't exit?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no. They're both going to fight for that. But the whole point is now, whatever -- two thirds of the country think the economy's heading in the wrong direction. This is -- there's a huge -- 23 percent -- 23 million people are out of work. People have lost 40 percent of their net work and 40 percent of their income.

MS. CLIFT: And they're more optimistic --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If you can't --

MS. CLIFT: -- about this president all of a sudden. (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They may be. They may be. It all depends which poll you look at.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Mahmoud Versus Bibi.

IRANIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (through interpreter): (From videotape.) The policies of the world's main centers of powers are based on the principle of domination and the conquering of others. These centers only seek supremacy and are not in favor of peace and definitely not at the service of the nations. Continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bit of reality.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, railed against Israel and the West and their interference with his country. The U.S. and Israel have repeatedly warned Iran not to build a nuclear bomb. Iran insists that its nuclear energy is not weapons-grade but for peaceful purposes like medical treatments.
On Thursday, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had none of it.

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (From videotape.) So at this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs, and that's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program. Red lines don't lead to war. Red lines prevent war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The prime minister has urged the U.S. to set clear nuclear thresholds for Iran, red lines, he says, meaning if Iran crosses a red line, military action will be taken by Israel.

Question: In a column in The Wall Street Journal this week, Alan Dershowitz called on Obama to forget about Netanyahu's red line based on a quantifiable amount of enriched uranium, and instead declare a black line. The U.S. will not tolerate Iran to be in possession of nuclear arms. So who's right, Netanyahu and his red lines or Dershowitz and his black line? Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, the Israelis feel that if -- Bibi Netanyahu was pointing out that if you get the nuclear capabilities within 15 days of being able to launch rockets against Israel, that's a disaster for Israel. It's an existential threat. And the warning time that Israel will have if a rocket is fired is between 10 and 12 minutes. So you fire a number of rockets and one of them lands, it's the end of Israel. So it's an existential threat. And that's what Bibi's worried about.

Alan Dershowitz has a different way of measuring it. But I at this point would rather trust Bibi's interpretation, since he is the prime minister.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's all based on physics and whether or not he is right in all of this.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think anybody will disagree with the description of the way Netanyahu was describing the evolution and the development of fissionable material that is necessary for atomic weapons.
He was a lot clearer this time, by the way --

MR. BUCHANAN: But John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- and delayed it until the middle of next year for --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Iran has no nuclear weapons program. There is no nuclear weapons program, according to 16 United States intelligence agencies in 2007, reaffirmed in 2011. Even the Israelis are now saying we think the Americans were right. They don't have a nuclear weapons program. The ayatollah has said nuclear weapons on Iran's part would be immoral, unjust and un-Islamic.
So why are we now considering talking about a war on a country to deprive it of weapons of mass destruction it does not have?

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, the big news out of Netanyahu's speech was he basically reaffirmed the fact that Israel has no intention of attacking Iran before the November election.


MS. CLIFT: I think there was concern that there'd be this November surprise. And I think that the intelligence agencies in this country and in Israel agree that Iran has not made the decision to go nuclear.


MS. CLIFT: And what Netanyahu wants to do is if they get close, that he wants a preemptive attack.


MS. CLIFT: Let's talk about it after the election. I think Netanyahu's attempts to insert himself in American politics have really backfired.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just to pick up Pat's point --

MR. BUCHANAN: There already --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- you may be correct.

MR. BUCHANAN: There is already a black line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The reason why he gets it now is -- look at this, page one of The New York Times.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's a cartoon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's not a cartoon. That's Bibi Netanyahu.

MR. BUCHANAN: With a cartoon.

MS. CLIFT: With a cartoon of a bomb.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. That's -- well, he --

MR. BUCHANAN: There is a black line.

MR. LOWRY: It's a photo of a cartoon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, we've got The Wall Street Journal, your newspaper, Pat. There he is, Bibi Netanyahu explaining.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then we have The Washington Post right here --

MR. BUCHANAN: And there are a lot of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- front page, four columns, Bibi Netanyahu explaining it.

MR. LOWRY: John, I thought it was --

MR. BUCHANAN: There is no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about it?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you what. There is a black line. The United States -- Obama has said they will not be allowed to get nuclear weapons. Obama's already got that on the record. So there is -- what this (means ?), black line already exists.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, President Obama, as he points out, puts responsibility for any military action against Iran -- he puts it on the United Nations. Watch.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power. But one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. And that's why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meaning that we are members of the United Nations. If the United Nations decides to use military force, then we will go along with the United Nations --

MR. LOWRY: The United Nations is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because we're --

MR. LOWRY: The United Nations is --
(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: America has made -- the U.N. is worthless. America has made a statement that we will not tolerate Iran with nuclear weapons.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama is --

MR. BUCHANAN: Obama has said so. That's it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama is parking this load right over on the United Nations.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he not?



MS. CLIFT: No, no.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you hear what he said?

MS. CLIFT: That was the forum for the speech. That's it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think so. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said the United Nations will take care of it, in so many words. (Laughter.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no. That's not what he said. He
basically said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we're members of the United Nations.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, we are. But he was clearly saying what the United States would do, not what the United Nations would do.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: At least that's the way I interpret it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he going to rely --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: When he said "we," he didn't refer to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this physics or is it optics on the part of Netanyahu? Is it physics?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it's physics.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's also optics.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, of course it's optics, because actually, when you have something that looks like an atomic bomb --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- smells like an atomic bomb and can blow you up like an atomic bomb, it no longer becomes optics, but it does become physics.

MR. LOWRY: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Didn't you say at the beginning suddenly this emerges as a big, what, edge-of-the-election issue?

MS. CLIFT: If it's optics --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it's now, John --

MS. CLIFT: -- it failed; it failed. Jon Stewart had the perfect approach on it. I mean, this cartoonish image of a bomb -- he drew a giant magnet to pull the bomb out. I mean, you know, that was silly.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's move on. Let's --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- they kicked it over into the new year. The whole thing has been kicked over into the new year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has it been kicked over to a new administration?

MR. BUCHANAN: There may not be --

MR. LOWRY: That depends.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- a new administration. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There may be one. There may be one.

MR. LOWRY: And that may be part of his calculation as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That may be part of the -- well, we know that the -- we know that the Romneys and the Netanyahus had dinner together.

MR. LOWRY: Well, John --

MR. BUCHANAN: That doesn't mean we're going to war. (Laughs.)


MR. LOWRY: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, Iran is one challenge. Palestine is another.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on the prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, those who reject the right of Israel to exist.

The road is hard, but the destination is clear: A secure Jewish state of Israel and an independent, prosperous Palestine. (Applause.) Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama at the U.N. on Tuesday revived an issue that used to be front and center -- Israeli-Palestinian peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been focusing on Iran, while talks with the Palestinians stalled.

This week Israel's minister of defense and former prime minister, the widely respected Ehud Barak, refocused attention on the Israel- Palestine issue. He urged that Israel withdrew settlements from the West Bank, the home of 2.5 million Palestinians. In the (ideal order ?), he said, quote, "It is better to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, but if that does not happen, we must take practical steps to start a separation."

Question: Is the renewed push for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in the cards? Yes or no, Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think there'll be an agreement, but I think what Ehud Barak is doing makes an awful lot of sense. It's what Sharon did when he pulled the Israelis out of Gaza. And it's what the Israelis originally did when they formed the state, leaving the West Bank for the two and a half million Palestinians.

So I do think, actually, there is going to have to be something, and I think this is one approach, because the Palestinians are not prepared to negotiate.

MR. LOWRY: This will be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In dollar terms, how much would that cost?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What do you mean, how much would it cost?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The removal of the settlements of the --

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to --

MS. CLIFT: They're not removing the settlements.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to do it, John.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They're removing -- there are a number of
smaller settlements.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The major settlement blocks, which are very close to the current Israeli border, will stay with Israel. And the rest of it, they're just going to have to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Israel will pick up that tab. Am I right?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, Israel will. That's exactly right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's an enormous outlay.

MS. CLIFT: They'd also pick up that land.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it realistic? Is it realistic?


MR. ZUCKERMAN: It is realistic.
Compared to what, though? Compared to the alternative --

MR. BUCHANAN: No, John, it's not.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- of building up --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to speak to this?

MR. LOWRY: Abbas --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him in.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right.

MR. LOWRY: Abbas was more correct on this when he said the Palestine issue is at the bottom of the global agenda. And if this ever happened, it would be an absolute last resort and represent Israel just throwing its hands up, the way it did with Gaza. And you might very well have the same result when you did it. You have a little terrorist state there in Gaza.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is a reason --

MR. LOWRY: The PA is corrupt and ineffectual.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, Bibi --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but why does -- why does --

MR. BUCHANAN: He threw it out there, John. Bibi Netanyahu opposed the withdrawal from Gaza. Do you really think he's going to pull settlers, tear them off the West Bank and say get out of there and give that back to the Palestinians? Get real.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this an effort to pull us off some kind
of a track that we're on?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, this is Barak's own little gambit.

MR. LOWRY: There's no track.

MS. CLIFT: Right. And the Palestinians --

MR. LOWRY: There's no track. I mean, the Obama administration tried very hard to get on a track.

MS. CLIFT: -- oppose it as well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is it they don't want us to --

MR. LOWRY: So there's no track.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is it they don't want us to talk about, on the edge of this election of a new president -- of a president? Not a new president -- a president.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know what they don't want us to talk about. I know what they do want us to talk about, which is --

MR. LOWRY: Iran.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- to talk about this kind of plan and to show that they're prepared to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: To talk about it now?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What they really want us to talk about here is about Iran. That's exactly right, because that is the existential threat to Israel.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, if there is a second term, Obama will go along with the idea?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: With this idea here?


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me put it this way.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm willing to put a lot of money on this,
John, whichever way you want to bet it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Egypt -- Friend or Foe?

Since the historic Camp David Accords, Egypt has been treated as a U.S. ally and a cornerstone of our Middle East diplomacy. Presidents Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were frequent guests at the White House.
In a recent interview with Telemundo, President Obama said this regarding Egypt. Quote: "I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy," unquote.

In addition to the $1.3 billion annually in military aid, Egypt recently received another $1 billion in loan forgiveness from the U.S. But Egypt's Morsi is not meeting with Obama during his U.S. visit.

Question: Is the U.S.-Egyptian relationship in trouble? Rich Lowry.

MR. LOWRY: Of course it is. I mean, we're somewhere in between an ally and a foe. But Morsi came here, and his speech was basically a declaration of independence from us.
And I thought the most interesting theme from the U.N., besides Bibi and the bomb, was this debate over free speech between the West and the Muslim world. And I think the administration has been very weak on this and the administration should be leading a western bloc that is as coherent and committed to free speech as the Muslim bloc is to trying to impose blasphemy laws.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the president made that point in his
speech, that --

MR. LOWRY: It's not enough just to say it. You should have a major diplomatic effort.

MS. CLIFT: -- offensive speech -- that offensive speech should be treated with more speech, that you can't put it out. But this is not the tradition in that part of the world, and we can't expect them, within months of taking over --

MR. LOWRY: But we shouldn't work with them -- we have played footsie with this effort.

MS. CLIFT: -- to put this in place.

MR. LOWRY: We have played footsie with this effort --

MS. CLIFT: We played footsie with the dictators too.

MR. LOWRY: -- in the past diplomatically. And the reaction to the video has been shameful.

MS. CLIFT: I think it's my turn to speak.

MR. LOWRY: The notion that the video justifies any of this that happened over there --

MS. CLIFT: Are you going to --

MR. LOWRY: -- the idea that you're taking the video maker at midnight for questioning down at the police station --

MS. CLIFT: Are you finished with your soap box yet, Rich?

MR. LOWRY: -- this sends the exact -- exactly the wrong signal.

MS. CLIFT: Are you defending that video, even --

MR. LOWRY: No. I'm defending free speech.

MS. CLIFT: There are limits. Oh, you just did. The limits in this country --

MR. LOWRY: I didn't defend. What did I say that defended the video?

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. We have limits in this country. You don't shout fire in a crowded theater.

MR. LOWRY: So you want to ban that --

MS. CLIFT: They want limits --

MR. LOWRY: You want to ban that video?

MS. CLIFT: I didn't say that.

MR. LOWRY: I remember when liberals were in favor of free speech.

MS. CLIFT: I didn't say that.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, what you got --

MS. CLIFT: But I think maybe -- would you like to --

MR. LOWRY: I just asked you a question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You'd better moderate this debate, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: Would you like to replace Romney on the debate stage? (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, let me just say that I think what Morsi is saying is, look, you Americans' values, they may justify insults and blaspheming the prophet. We don't believe that.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: We kill people like that over in our country when they do that. And if you all are going to do that repeatedly, you are not going to be a friend of the people in the Islamic world and you're not likely to be treated as friends. That is --


MR. LOWRY: But that's an impossible standard for a free society to meet.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's an irreconcilable.

MR. LOWRY: It's an impossible standard.

MR. LOWRY: What I'm saying, Rich -- you're right. It's irreconcilable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please, will you relinquish?

MS. CLIFT: Right.


MS. CLIFT: It's the way the world works, Rich. Get used to it.

MR. LOWRY: Wait, wait.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's talk about --

MR. LOWRY: How does the world work?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's talk about the --

MR. LOWRY: Most of the world doesn't respect free speech.

MS. CLIFT: Not according to everything you say. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's talk about the former head of state
over in Egypt.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. He's in excellent physical condition, according to his doctors. What is going on?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, nobody quite knows what the definition of excellent physical condition is, because he obviously was very ill for quite a while. But he's no longer a factor in Egyptian politics. I mean, the fact is he's been replaced by Morsi. There was an election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Morsi is from the --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's the Muslim Brotherhood, OK?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Muslim Brotherhood.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And what we supported, frankly -- what you had in Egypt was a democratic election of a totalitarian regime, because the Muslim Brotherhood are not democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct me if I'm wrong on the numbers, but the amount of foreign aid we give them, if you add it all together, is $1.3 (billion) plus another billion and a quarter.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that's about the upper end of $3 (billion) --

MR. BUCHANAN: Two (billion dollars).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- three (billion dollars) something -- three (billion dollars), four (billion dollars) or five (billion dollars).

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But the critical issue there is who controls the military. Morsi has replaced over 70 generals. He's put in all of his own people. That's the real force in Egypt, OK? And we no longer have access to that. We did through Mubarak.

MR. BUCHANAN: But you can't cut them off, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama is --

MS. CLIFT: We need them.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You can't cut them off. I think Pat's absolutely right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that there's anything at work that's going to try to expunge the possible growing inclination to believe that Barack Obama is the author of the Arab spring, and therefore he has a disaster on his hands?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, well, the Arab spring is a disaster for the Arabs, frankly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember how he went over there to speak --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in Egypt?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He went there first, OK. And he's never been to Israel. So he's gone there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Egypt is the most powerful --

MR. LOWRY: But that had nothing to do --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- member of that whole part of the world.

MR. LOWRY: The Cairo speech had nothing to do with the rise of the Arab spring.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree. I'm not saying it did, OK? What happened here was some kind of almost a natural explosion, in part because the Mubarak regime was quite corrupt. Well, this regime will have its own play at that. So I don't know how stable they are, but they can stay around for a long time --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But Mubarak was --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- because they control the military. That's the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a very good friend of Israel, was he not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He was a very -- he was the strongest
supporter of the Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty and agreements.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: November 24th, Catalonia will vote to secede from Spain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I said that last week.

MS. CLIFT: Republican super PACs will start shifting money away from Romney next week and putting it into Senate campaigns, including Todd Akin in Missouri.


MR. LOWRY: Republican Todd Akin will lose in Missouri, but just barely.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: The decline of the second-quarter GDP down to 1.2 percent means that we're going to have very poor economic numbers and unemployment numbers for the rest of this year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will be reported that the assassinated U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, knew that he was on an al-Qaida hit list and inadequately protected before September 11th deadly attacks that killed him.