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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin
Panel: Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Tim Carney, Washington Examiner; Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report
Taped: Friday, October 26, 2012

Broadcast: Weekend of October 27-28, 2012
 
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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Our Land.
 
Monday night's third and final presidential debate was on foreign policy and the most sensitive and dangerous foreign policy issue, which is the bomb.
 
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) As long as I'm president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.
 
FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R, Republican presidential nominee): (From videotape.) A nuclear Iran, a nuclear- capable Iran, is unacceptable to America. When I'm president of the United States, we will stand with Israel. And if Israel is attacked, we have their back.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama and Governor Romney were largely in agreement on a range of foreign policy concerns, particularly those centering on the Middle East -- the ouster of former President Mubarak of Egypt; the 2014 exit date for Afghanistan; the killing of terrorists with drones. For 90 minutes, Romney and Obama echoed each other.
 
Question: Is bipartisanship now back in style, at least when it comes to foreign policy, in a presidential debate? Pat Buchanan.
 
PAT BUCHANAN: No, it's not, John. But what the debaters are moving toward is consensus. They're moving toward the position where the American people are at. They're very -- both very pro-Israel. They're going to stand beside them. They're both very hawkish toward Iran, although they don't want war in the Middle East again. They don't want boots on the ground. They both say we've got to do nation- building now here at home, because that's the consensus where the American people are at, basically, John. But I wouldn't call it bipartisanship.
 
Romney won this debate -- I mean, he may have lost it on points, but he won it because he contradicted the image that Barack Obama and the Democrats have sought to portray of him as sort of a reckless character who's going to be bombing people and putting troops into Syria. And so that's why I think you're seeing this steady momentum of Romney, which, as of today, puts him five points up in the Gallup poll.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
 
ELEANOR CLIFT: We saw Romney the shape shifter again. And you can cite the national poll all you want, but the election is all about Ohio. And the president is still doing well there.
 
Mr. Romney went into this debate not wanting to win, and he didn't, but he went in wanting to reassure people that he wasn't going to go back to the George W. Bush policies -- no more Iraqs. And he also wanted to assure women that he was not a warmonger, talking about a peaceful planet and gender equality in the Middle East.
 
It's astounding how he has shifted his policies. And in fairness, he's got two sets of advisers. He's got some reasonable people working for him and some neocons, who would like to re-enact the Bush years. And I think he hears from both.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm. (Acknowledging.)
 
MS. CLIFT: And the realists and the traditionalists won out, certainly, in this debate.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I noticed you characterized him as Mr. Romney. The president did that also during the debate.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: Well, Governor Romney. I --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you trying to deny him his honorific, which trails him after he leaves office?
 
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) He's tried to deny his governorship years --
 
TIM CARNEY: (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: -- for a long while. So I'm just helping him out. (Laughs.)
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think --
 
MR. CARNEY: I thought --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of Mr. Romney's performance?
 
MR. CARNEY: I thought Obama was lucky that Romney didn't feel in a position to hit Obama, President Obama, on his weaknesses. I thought President Obama went into Libya without congressional authority. That was illegal. President Obama has done this drone war where he's got a kill list of people who he himself decides, well, this guy might be a terrorist, so we're going to kill him -- judge, jury, executioner, bam.
 
There's all sorts of weaknesses in Obama's record. But to attack it, you would have to attack him from the more dovish side. And Romney felt that he couldn't do that as a Republican.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that President Obama's and Governor Romney's positions on foreign policy are pretty much identical?
 
MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think they are identical to some extent for the purposes of this campaign. I don't think they're going to be identical in terms of execution. I think each side had a particular agenda here. Romney's agenda, frankly, was not to look as if he was attacking the president publicly on this thing in a nasty way and trying to come across as a decent man who's sort of, you know, not a warmonger, just looking to have a pragmatic approach to it. And I think he succeeded.
 
Obama made his points, I thought, actually a little bit too aggressively, and in a hostile manner, I thought, in that debate.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he glare at him, at Romney?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know whether I'd call it glare, but it certainly wasn't a friendly look. But I don't know that I'd go as far as --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he was trying to disarm Romney by the intensity --
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think he --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of that glare?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think he --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I think he was trying to provoke him, John.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. But I'll tell you, I think Mort is exactly right. He was trying to provoke and push and prod Romney to come off as reckless. But the president hurt himself in this sense. He's depreciating the two assets he's got, which is the presidency, where it's really, you know, head of state, and secondly, the likability thing. He was very tough. He probably won the debate on points, but he's now sort of down at the same level as Mitt Romney --
 
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he had some great lines that make him more likable to his base. And he had to fight. Every focus group you watch --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Playing Battleship, was it? (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. That was a great line. Every focus group you watch, people worry that he doesn't have enough backbone and he's not tough enough. He has to show that, especially after that first debate.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm. (Acknowledging.)
 
MS. CLIFT: Secondly, why didn't Governor Romney prosecute the case on Benghazi? Pat and everybody else has been fulminating about it for the last two weeks. He wisely stayed away from that --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
 
MS. CLIFT: -- because it's a pretty made-up story, frankly. And he's going to leave that to surrogates to fight.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, it's a made-up story?
 
MS. CLIFT: They're trying to pretend that the White House was lying and covering up --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: -- which shows a complete ignorance of how intelligence is gathered and how government operates.
 
MR. CARNEY: The White House explicitly said --
 
MS. CLIFT: There's no "there" there. Well, let's -- we're going to go off on this story again.
 
MR. CARNEY: They explicitly said we have no intelligence indicating there was a terrorist attack. Sure, the sum of intelligence might have been different earlier on than later, OK, but they said we have no intelligence indicating there was a terrorist attack. But they did have some. They had intelligence on both sides. So, yes, they were being --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: They misled the country.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to get into that next week, where I have a document that I want to produce. (Laughter.)
 
OK, the Obama-Romney exchange on Syria.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) What we've done is organized the international community, saying Assad has to go. And we're helping the opposition organize. But ultimately, Syrians are going to have to determine their own future.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) I don't want to have our military involved in Syria. Our objectives are to replace Assad and to have him place a new government, which is friendly to us. And I want to make sure they get armed and they have the arms necessary to defend themselves, but also to remove Assad.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The candidates agreed that Assad must go. Is seeing Assad go the best outcome in Syria? Mort.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, without question, I mean, but he's not going to leave gently, as going gently into the night. It's very easy to say we're going to leave it up to the Syrian people, but it's the Syrian military and the Syrian intelligence forces of Assad that have all the weapons.
 
And so it's a completely unbalanced approach, and therefore it's an effective way of policy, of trying to get him out. We're going to have to find other ways to pressure Assad and to pressure his supporters not to support him.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know how complicated the population is in Syria.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yeah.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got also Sunnis and Shia.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And Alawites.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you've got Alawites. Then you've got about half a dozen others. There are about 20 Jews living in Syria. Is that correct?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Formerly --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Small population.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Formerly there were Jews.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it is so complicated that some may think -- now, what is the new -- which we hear nothing about -- the new assigned person by the U.N. to go into Syria and see if he can't work out a deal, which might take the form of partition?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, any form is going to be better than what's going on now, which is a huge number of people have died. Over 30,000 people have died. I mean, this is really a tragedy for the Syrian people. And nobody knows quite how to intervene in a way to push Assad out. They thought they had a better chance. They thought he was on the run. But he doesn't seem to be. And nobody's willing to go in there and take --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do the Israelis want to see Assad go?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Israelis do want to see Assad go. What they don't want to see is the Muslim Brotherhood to take over in Syria.
 
(Cross talk.)
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what guarantee is there against that? Don't you think a partition might be the way to go? Split up Syria.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's fine, if that's -- but there's no way of doing that.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It could be a disaster, John.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, it could be --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the Kurds will break loose then and they'll get with the Kurds in Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq, try to create an independent Kurdistan, and the whole area is at war.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what are the Kurds going to do, just stand there and accept that?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: No, they want to --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Turks are not going to accept it.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, yeah, but Turks won't accept an independent Kurdistan in Syria as well as Iraq.
 
MS. CLIFT: You know, one reason that Romney, I think, was less bellicose in this debate is that he's now getting security briefings. And he understands a little better, maybe, how complicated all these issues are. He was much more direct about wanting to see the Syrians armed until stories began appearing that the arms were ending up in the wrong hands.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Right. You've got surface-to-air missiles.
 
MS. CLIFT: Right.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, but Romney concurred with Barack Obama in thinking that Assad must go. What I'm attacking is the proposition, is that the best way?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It's inevitable.
 
MS. CLIFT: I would not like to see the U.S. propping up Assad. (Laughs.)
 
MR. BUCHANAN: But the --
 
MS. CLIFT: That's ludicrous, John.
 
MR. CARNEY: The point is that you don't know what --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you jump too deeply into that pond --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: What's going to succeed him, John?
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: What comes after --
 
MR. CARNEY: Exactly.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: -- Assad?
 
MR. CARNEY: You have no idea what will replace him.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: You've got the Muslim Brotherhood there. You've got -- al-Qaida is on our side. You've got jihadis pouring in from all over the place. But again, if he doesn't go soon, this thing is spreading into Jordan. It's spreading into Lebanon.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It's spreading into Turkey.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- there were five boys that were produced by the seniors in that family -- five boys -- and he was one of them. He was studying dentistry in London.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: He's got a brother who is a ruthless -- maybe Mort knows more about it, but who I understand is a very ruthless character who did not get --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Married; lovely wife. Correct?
 
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Lovely wife, yes.
 
MS. CLIFT: But people have given up on him as a, quote, "reformer" a long time ago.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's not a reformer. He's a thug. He's just a plain thug.
 
MS. CLIFT: He's directed -- if there's any goodness left in the man, he's been directed by everybody else.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: If he goes down, his people go down. John, the Alawites go to the wall. They're 12 percent. They're Shia. The Sunni have been living under their control. They're 70 percent.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a civil war?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a sectarian civil war, yes.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If it's a civil war, we're going to stay out.
 
MR. CARNEY: No, we didn't stay out of Libya. We don't always stay out of civil wars. The question --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we going to stay out?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I think we're being pulled in --
 
MS. CLIFT: We went into Libya for humanitarian reasons.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: -- because it's spreading.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's any sentiment in the United States to go into Syria?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: There's none in the United States, and I'm against it, but I do think we could get pulled in, because the whole thing is spreading. The Turks are going to be involved.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Turks are not going to be involved.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: They're --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president has spoken emphatically about that over there.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: They're involved right now.
 
MS. CLIFT: Well, the --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they're involved because there's a penetration of a border here and there. What is that?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, it's not only that. They've got an Alawite community in Turkey which is upset. They've got Kurds in Turkey who are rising up. This whole thing is in real danger of spreading into the entire -- across that entire region.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: China Syndrome.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) China's both an adversary but also a potential partner in the international community if it's following the rules. So my attitude coming into office was that we are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) That's why, on day one, I will label them a currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where they're taking jobs. They're stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Our trade with China suffers from two realities and the disparity between them, namely, China's trade surplus and America's deficit. This problem drew similar responses from both candidates. President Obama emphasized his record of bringing cases against China to the World Trade Organization, the WTO, for seeking redress for unfair trade practices.
 
Governor Romney emphasized his plan of levying tariffs against Chinese imports to the U.S. if China persists in refusing to follow international trade rules.
 
Question: Are both President Obama's and Governor Romney's positions on China solid and presidential in scope and in content? Tim Carney.
 
TIM CARNEY: No. This is -- it's silly politics. This is what every politician does. They campaign like Pat Buchanan, frankly, as a protectionist, as a nationalist, and then they go ahead and they govern as free traders, as internationalists. OK, these guys are not going to wage a trade war in China. This is tough talk to try to win Ohio. That's all it is.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to defend yourself?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, I am economic patriot or economic nationalist. And Obama's using my phrase, economic patriotism.
 
But I do believe Romney has gotten himself out to a point with this currency manipulator that he's going to have to follow through on it. I do agree with Governor Romney here.
 
Look, the Chinese and these people are themselves economic nationalists. They steal our property. You know, they do everything the guy -- almost criminal activity in international trade, which is what it is. And the United States does not have a way to fight back. And we ought to go back to tariffs and then take the tariff revenue and cut taxes on our own manufacturers.
 
MS. CLIFT: Getting tough on China is campaign rhetoric on Romney's behalf. If he gets elected, some smart advisers will sit him down and say we can't do this. Maybe he'll call them names. That's about all he'll do. They're our bankers. We're not in a strong position. And you start a trade war, and who pays the price? American consumers and the American economy, with more expensive --
 
MR. CARNEY: I like Eleanor's --
 
MS. CLIFT: It's a total nonstarter.
 
MR. CARNEY: -- free-market (call ?) here.
 
MS. CLIFT: Thank you, Tim.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: They've got an enormous trade surplus at our expense.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, what's the answer?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, the fact is, Romney is right in this sense. They have consistently, for decades, kept their currency devalued in order to magnify their exports, to be able to sell them at cheaper prices. We have been protesting that for decades. Whether Romney can do anything about it, I don't know. But on that point, everybody knows that he's right.
 
The real question is, as we all know, how do you deal with China in this way without getting into a trade war, which would be damaging to both sides? And that's going to take some real diplomacy and pressure from a president.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In a trade war with China, who wins, Mort?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, both lose.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: We do.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I mean --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: We do. We've got a trade deficit with them of $400 (billion) -- or $300 billion a year.
 
MR. CARNEY: You can no more win a trade war --
 
MS. CLIFT: No. (Laughs.) Right.
 
MR. CARNEY: -- than you can win an earthquake. Everybody loses.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Tell that to Alexander Hamilton. (Laughs.)
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Nobody will win -- nobody will win in a trade war, but we've got to find some better way of balancing the trade, because, as Pat says, we have run huge deficits in trade with China for decades. And a good part of the reason is not just because they have a very low wage cost, including for a lot of American products, but the fact is that they keep their currency low in order to magnify their exports.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, the U.S. cannot win without China, and China cannot win without the United States.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't disagree with that.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it's true.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But both can lose.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I think we would both damage ourselves.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?
 
MS. CLIFT: It's a symbiotic relationship, and I think the Chinese leadership understand that this is largely --
 
MR. CARNEY: Eleanor's right.
 
MS. CLIFT: -- rhetoric.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor's right. Symbiosis rules.
 
Issue Three: Pugnacity Rules.
 
Throughout this week's presidential debate, there were flare-ups. Challenger Mitt Romney described what he sees as how sitting President Barack Obama, during his four years, has conducted himself overseas.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) And then the president began what I've called an apology tour of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute, says President Obama. that's BS.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) On Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Who was more pugnacious in this debate, Romney or Obama? Mort, again.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know if -- which one was more pugnacious, but I thought Romney won that little exchange. I thought he came across a lot better than the president did.
 
MS. CLIFT: Well, I beg to differ. I mean, this business of the apology tour is a big lie that Romney has been promoting. He titled his book to that. Every fact checker that looks -- I know you laugh at the fact checkers. And if they say it enough times, everybody who's going to vote for Romney is going to believe that the president apologized.
 
MR. CARNEY: No, because he --
 
MS. CLIFT: They've been pushing this narrative ever since he made a speech in Cairo, as though that, in and of itself, is somehow condescending to the rest of the world.
 
MR. CARNEY: All the fact checkers found that he never actually said I'm sorry for what we did. So maybe groveling tour was a better word. In France he said, oh, you know, Americans have not realized this magnificent European Union and we've been too dismissive and derisive and arrogant.
 
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
 
MR. CARNEY: And then he also went ahead and he made comments along the lines of, oh, well, in Iraq, just basically attacking the Iraq war on foreign soil.
 
MS. CLIFT: Well -- (laughs) --
 
MR. CARNEY: He goes out and he says we have not been -- and we've dictated to other countries.
 
MS. CLIFT: Oh, yes.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --
 
MS. CLIFT: And Romney's direct approach with the allies was so much better, just telling them everything they did wrong. (Laughs.)
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, another flare-up.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now down to 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. That's unacceptable to me.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Horses and bayonets.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As far as bayonets are concerned, my research shows that there are 663,000 bayonets in service --
 
MR. CARNEY: (Laughs.)
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the military, in the Pentagon.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I wouldn't be surprised.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Six hundred sixty-three thousand.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And they're all sharp, too, the weapons.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
 
MS. CLIFT: And they all cost $600.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: -- Romney made a very good point.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's actually, I believe, The Wall Street Journal.
 
Go ahead.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Romney made an excellent political point. Look, Reagan had a 600-ship Navy. It's now down to fewer than 300. Also the American people, if we're talking straight politics, you tell them we're going to build up our ships, that's very positive with the American people in terms of defense. And I do think you ought to have a 300-ship Navy, because we're going to be bringing the troops home, John.
 
MS. CLIFT: First of all -- (laughs) -- the president is right when he says you don't count ships; you count the effectiveness of the Navy and of the entire military force. And what Romney is doing is he's appealing to the shipbuilding facilities in Virginia. It's campaign rhetoric. It's not a realistic defense --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah.
 
MR. CARNEY: Eleanor again -- once again, Eleanor is right.
 
MS. CLIFT: Thank you, Tim. (Laughs.)
 
MR. CARNEY: It's military-industrial Keynesianism that you see from lots of Republicans. George Allen's doing it in Virginia, and now Romney's doing it in Norfolk --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: But you do the --
 
MR. CARNEY: -- and in Florida, saying --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Find the votes.
 
MR. CARNEY: -- we need more ships to make more jobs.
 
(Cross talk.)
 
MR. CARNEY: You sound like Obama when you're saying we need more ships to make more jobs.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, let me speak as an isolationist. We do need ships to defend American interests abroad.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we have enough, as Obama says we have?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't -- I think we ought to modernize the Navy and stay at 300 ships. But I do think we ought to bring the troops out of places like the Middle East, Central Asia, all those places; bring them home.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The current batch of ships we have are so big and so powerful --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: We used to have 15 carriers. We've now got 11.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and so multi-usable that we don't need all those ships. That's what he seems to be saying, in effect.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: We need 10 ships with every aircraft carrier. What are you talking about?
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about what Obama's repudiation is, his rebuttal of Romney.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I think Romney won the exchange on the Navy --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: -- politically.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I do.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the ships.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
 
MS. CLIFT: Politically --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow. Exit question: What was the most defining moment in the third and final debate? Pat Buchanan.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It was bayonets and horses, I guess, John. And that tells me that Barack Obama was fairly petty --
 
MS. CLIFT: No, it was when the president --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: -- and (prodding ?).
 
MS. CLIFT: It was when the president said, when he visited Israel as a candidate, he didn't take along fundraisers and he didn't hold fundraisers there.
 
MR. CARNEY: It was Obama's juvenile joke about the 1980s called and they want their foreign policy back, combined with bayonets, showed him to be running a frivolous campaign, to try to distract from real issues.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think I'll go with you.
 
Issue Four: Give Peace a Chance.
 
We note the passing this week of former presidential candidate and long-serving U.S. Senator George McGovern. The South Dakota senator was a World War II veteran and prominent peace advocate. At the height of the Vietnam War in 1972, Senator McGovern ran against incumbent President Richard Nixon. He lost in a landslide, but went on to a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Senate.
 
Senator McGovern's spirit may have fortified Mitt Romney during the debate.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) Let me step back and talk about what I think our mission has to be in the Middle East, and even more broadly, because our purpose is to make sure the world is more -- is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they're going to have a bright and prosperous future and not be at war. That's our purpose. And the mantle of leadership for promoting the principles of peace has fallen to America. We didn't ask for it, but it's an honor that we have it.
 
But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong. And that begins with a strong economy here at home.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does Romney make a credible peacenik? Tim Carney.
 
MR. CARNEY: I think he does, not for the sort of peace-and-love George McGovern type reasons, but because he is a -- he's technocratic. He's risk-averse. He looks at data before he makes decisions. He's not ideological like George W. Bush was. He won't be motivated by this Wilsonian vision of, you know, bringing democracy to the world.
 
So I think on the score of keeping us out of unnecessary wars, I believe Romney.
 
MS. CLIFT: If Senator McGovern has a political or intellectual heir on that debate stage, it would be Barack Obama, who was talking about we need to nation-build at home. Remember, come home, America was the McGovern slogan.
 
I went to his 90th birthday in Washington here in July, and he was frail but he was very feisty and looking forward to turning 100. Now, that didn't happen. But his legacy -- he joined with Bob Dole on food issues, and Bob Dole wrote a really beautiful tribute to McGovern. These two men really got along. And McGovern was never bitter about the defeat that he suffered, much of it because of the dirty tricks on the part of Richard Nixon. And when Nixon's presidency --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: He was (designed ?) to get him nominated. (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: -- unraveled, he had every right to say I told you so, but he never did.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute.
 
MS. CLIFT: He soldiered on.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He worked with Richard Nixon, and so did I.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but --
 
MS. CLIFT: Right. And you worked to make sure that McGovern didn't get a fair shake. (Laughs.)
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't do anything like that.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know some people --
 
MS. CLIFT: Some other people might have. (Laughs.)
 
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the dirty tricks, frankly, the Segretti things, were done to knock off all the competitors to Senator McGovern, because we wanted to see him nominated.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Segretti. There's a name from the past.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. But let me say this, that Senator McGovern was -- he was too -- I mean, you take a look at some of his rhetoric back in `72 -- "I'll crawl on my knees to Hanoi" and things like that -- turned off an enormous number in the country and the center Democrats.
 
But he was basically a good man. He was a bomber pilot in World War II. He hated war. And I do think his leadership was something like Goldwater's. He was the representative of a movement, culturally and socially, that has come to dominate American culture now, even though its time had not yet come in 1972.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With American veterans, Romney polls stronger than the president. Can you explain that?
 
MR. CARNEY: Well, yeah. I mean, veterans do tend to be more Republicans. And I think that he's seen as a capable, smart man who will make prudent decisions.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have an all-volunteer army. That's been the case for how long?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Forty years, since Nixon. We did it in the Nixon White House, John. He campaigned in 1968 on all-volunteer army, in our libertarian moments.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you read any of the recent pieces on the manner in which we have failed to take care of those who have come back with various disorders? Have you read some of those?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, there's been --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are really heart-wrenching.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They are heartrending. It's very difficult -- very, very difficult challenge.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And maddening. And maddening.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.
 
MS. CLIFT: Well, there's a huge --
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, we should find a way, obviously, to take care of the people who serve this country in war, and indeed in peace, in the military in every way that we can.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about post-traumatic syndrome.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We talk about a variety of mental disorders.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a good reason not to get in any more wars, is it not?
 
MR. CARNEY: Amen. Amen.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You betcha. Now, who is -- and we've established --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I liked Romney's statement. I thought it was excellent.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Romney -- as I said earlier, don't you think he enjoys more widespread support from the community of veterans here and veterans' families --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: He's taken up the Reagan-Eisenhower peace through strength, which is exactly the right position for the party.
 
MS. CLIFT: But the people he's got advising him, many of them do want to bring back --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I know that. (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: -- some of the bellicosity of the Bush years. And, you know, I don't trust anything Romney says --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
 
MS. CLIFT: -- because he --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
 
MS. CLIFT: -- changes his positions according to what the market will bear.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Next Friday will be the final before-the-election report on unemployment in America. It's now at 7.8. I predict, as per Mort Zuckerman, that it will be at 8.0 or 8.1.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you read what the president -- the former president of General Electric said about those numbers? He said that California had not predicted its numbers, and the number 7.9 -- was that it? --
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Seven-point-eight.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- 7.8 -- was bogus.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Jack Welch -- Jack Welch said the boys of Chicago --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jack Welch was proved to be right, because California has since said they didn't get in their numbers, and it's all based on state --
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- statistics that are compounded.
 
Yes.
 
MS. CLIFT: Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Indiana, has underscored nervousness among women about what a Republican takeover of the Congress and a Republican in the White House might mean for women's reproductive rights.
 
MR. CARNEY: Obama nevertheless will lose a significant chunk of the women's vote compared to `08.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Most of the continuing opportunities for employment will be part-time jobs with low wages.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that Italian stocks will stabilize and rally, very much like Ireland, which has become Europe's poster child for reinventing itself. That's Ireland.
 
Bye-bye.
 
(C) 2012 Federal News Service
 
END
 
 
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Full Transcript
10/28/12
09:57am

 
The McLaughlin Group
Host: John McLaughlin
Panel: Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Tim Carney, Washington Examiner; Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report
Taped: Friday, October 26, 2012
Broadcast: Weekend of October 27-28, 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: Our Land.
 
Monday night's third and final presidential debate was on foreign policy and the most sensitive and dangerous foreign policy issue, which is the bomb.
 
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) As long as I'm president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.
 
FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R, Republican presidential nominee): (From videotape.) A nuclear Iran, a nuclear- capable Iran, is unacceptable to America. When I'm president of the United States, we will stand with Israel. And if Israel is attacked, we have their back.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama and Governor Romney were largely in agreement on a range of foreign policy concerns, particularly those centering on the Middle East -- the ouster of former President Mubarak of Egypt; the 2014 exit date for Afghanistan; the killing of terrorists with drones. For 90 minutes, Romney and Obama echoed each other.
 
Question: Is bipartisanship now back in style, at least when it comes to foreign policy, in a presidential debate? Pat Buchanan.
 
PAT BUCHANAN: No, it's not, John. But what the debaters are moving toward is consensus. They're moving toward the position where the American people are at. They're very -- both very pro-Israel. They're going to stand beside them. They're both very hawkish toward Iran, although they don't want war in the Middle East again. They don't want boots on the ground. They both say we've got to do nation- building now here at home, because that's the consensus where the American people are at, basically, John. But I wouldn't call it bipartisanship.
 
Romney won this debate -- I mean, he may have lost it on points, but he won it because he contradicted the image that Barack Obama and the Democrats have sought to portray of him as sort of a reckless character who's going to be bombing people and putting troops into Syria. And so that's why I think you're seeing this steady momentum of Romney, which, as of today, puts him five points up in the Gallup poll.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
 
ELEANOR CLIFT: We saw Romney the shape shifter again. And you can cite the national poll all you want, but the election is all about Ohio. And the president is still doing well there.
 
Mr. Romney went into this debate not wanting to win, and he didn't, but he went in wanting to reassure people that he wasn't going to go back to the George W. Bush policies -- no more Iraqs. And he also wanted to assure women that he was not a warmonger, talking about a peaceful planet and gender equality in the Middle East.
 
It's astounding how he has shifted his policies. And in fairness, he's got two sets of advisers. He's got some reasonable people working for him and some neocons, who would like to re-enact the Bush years. And I think he hears from both.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm. (Acknowledging.)
 
MS. CLIFT: And the realists and the traditionalists won out, certainly, in this debate.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I noticed you characterized him as Mr. Romney. The president did that also during the debate.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: Well, Governor Romney. I --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you trying to deny him his honorific, which trails him after he leaves office?
 
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) He's tried to deny his governorship years --
 
TIM CARNEY: (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: -- for a long while. So I'm just helping him out. (Laughs.)
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think --
 
MR. CARNEY: I thought --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of Mr. Romney's performance?
 
MR. CARNEY: I thought Obama was lucky that Romney didn't feel in a position to hit Obama, President Obama, on his weaknesses. I thought President Obama went into Libya without congressional authority. That was illegal. President Obama has done this drone war where he's got a kill list of people who he himself decides, well, this guy might be a terrorist, so we're going to kill him -- judge, jury, executioner, bam.
 
There's all sorts of weaknesses in Obama's record. But to attack it, you would have to attack him from the more dovish side. And Romney felt that he couldn't do that as a Republican.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that President Obama's and Governor Romney's positions on foreign policy are pretty much identical?
 
MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think they are identical to some extent for the purposes of this campaign. I don't think they're going to be identical in terms of execution. I think each side had a particular agenda here. Romney's agenda, frankly, was not to look as if he was attacking the president publicly on this thing in a nasty way and trying to come across as a decent man who's sort of, you know, not a warmonger, just looking to have a pragmatic approach to it. And I think he succeeded.
 
Obama made his points, I thought, actually a little bit too aggressively, and in a hostile manner, I thought, in that debate.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did he glare at him, at Romney?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know whether I'd call it glare, but it certainly wasn't a friendly look. But I don't know that I'd go as far as --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he was trying to disarm Romney by the intensity --
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think he --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of that glare?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think he --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I think he was trying to provoke him, John.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was he?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. But I'll tell you, I think Mort is exactly right. He was trying to provoke and push and prod Romney to come off as reckless. But the president hurt himself in this sense. He's depreciating the two assets he's got, which is the presidency, where it's really, you know, head of state, and secondly, the likability thing. He was very tough. He probably won the debate on points, but he's now sort of down at the same level as Mitt Romney --
 
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he had some great lines that make him more likable to his base. And he had to fight. Every focus group you watch --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Playing Battleship, was it? (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. That was a great line. Every focus group you watch, people worry that he doesn't have enough backbone and he's not tough enough. He has to show that, especially after that first debate.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm. (Acknowledging.)
 
MS. CLIFT: Secondly, why didn't Governor Romney prosecute the case on Benghazi? Pat and everybody else has been fulminating about it for the last two weeks. He wisely stayed away from that --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
 
MS. CLIFT: -- because it's a pretty made-up story, frankly. And he's going to leave that to surrogates to fight.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, it's a made-up story?
 
MS. CLIFT: They're trying to pretend that the White House was lying and covering up --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: -- which shows a complete ignorance of how intelligence is gathered and how government operates.
 
MR. CARNEY: The White House explicitly said --
 
MS. CLIFT: There's no "there" there. Well, let's -- we're going to go off on this story again.
 
MR. CARNEY: They explicitly said we have no intelligence indicating there was a terrorist attack. Sure, the sum of intelligence might have been different earlier on than later, OK, but they said we have no intelligence indicating there was a terrorist attack. But they did have some. They had intelligence on both sides. So, yes, they were being --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: They misled the country.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're going to get into that next week, where I have a document that I want to produce. (Laughter.)
 
OK, the Obama-Romney exchange on Syria.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) What we've done is organized the international community, saying Assad has to go. And we're helping the opposition organize. But ultimately, Syrians are going to have to determine their own future.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) I don't want to have our military involved in Syria. Our objectives are to replace Assad and to have him place a new government, which is friendly to us. And I want to make sure they get armed and they have the arms necessary to defend themselves, but also to remove Assad.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The candidates agreed that Assad must go. Is seeing Assad go the best outcome in Syria? Mort.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, without question, I mean, but he's not going to leave gently, as going gently into the night. It's very easy to say we're going to leave it up to the Syrian people, but it's the Syrian military and the Syrian intelligence forces of Assad that have all the weapons.
 
And so it's a completely unbalanced approach, and therefore it's an effective way of policy, of trying to get him out. We're going to have to find other ways to pressure Assad and to pressure his supporters not to support him.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know how complicated the population is in Syria.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yeah.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've got also Sunnis and Shia.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And Alawites.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you've got Alawites. Then you've got about half a dozen others. There are about 20 Jews living in Syria. Is that correct?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Formerly --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Small population.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Formerly there were Jews.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it is so complicated that some may think -- now, what is the new -- which we hear nothing about -- the new assigned person by the U.N. to go into Syria and see if he can't work out a deal, which might take the form of partition?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, any form is going to be better than what's going on now, which is a huge number of people have died. Over 30,000 people have died. I mean, this is really a tragedy for the Syrian people. And nobody knows quite how to intervene in a way to push Assad out. They thought they had a better chance. They thought he was on the run. But he doesn't seem to be. And nobody's willing to go in there and take --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do the Israelis want to see Assad go?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Israelis do want to see Assad go. What they don't want to see is the Muslim Brotherhood to take over in Syria.
 
(Cross talk.)
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what guarantee is there against that? Don't you think a partition might be the way to go? Split up Syria.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's fine, if that's -- but there's no way of doing that.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It could be a disaster, John.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, it could be --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the Kurds will break loose then and they'll get with the Kurds in Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq, try to create an independent Kurdistan, and the whole area is at war.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what are the Kurds going to do, just stand there and accept that?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: No, they want to --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Turks are not going to accept it.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, yeah, but Turks won't accept an independent Kurdistan in Syria as well as Iraq.
 
MS. CLIFT: You know, one reason that Romney, I think, was less bellicose in this debate is that he's now getting security briefings. And he understands a little better, maybe, how complicated all these issues are. He was much more direct about wanting to see the Syrians armed until stories began appearing that the arms were ending up in the wrong hands.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Right. You've got surface-to-air missiles.
 
MS. CLIFT: Right.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, but Romney concurred with Barack Obama in thinking that Assad must go. What I'm attacking is the proposition, is that the best way?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It's inevitable.
 
MS. CLIFT: I would not like to see the U.S. propping up Assad. (Laughs.)
 
MR. BUCHANAN: But the --
 
MS. CLIFT: That's ludicrous, John.
 
MR. CARNEY: The point is that you don't know what --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before you jump too deeply into that pond --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: What's going to succeed him, John?
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: What comes after --
 
MR. CARNEY: Exactly.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: -- Assad?
 
MR. CARNEY: You have no idea what will replace him.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: You've got the Muslim Brotherhood there. You've got -- al-Qaida is on our side. You've got jihadis pouring in from all over the place. But again, if he doesn't go soon, this thing is spreading into Jordan. It's spreading into Lebanon.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It's spreading into Turkey.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- there were five boys that were produced by the seniors in that family -- five boys -- and he was one of them. He was studying dentistry in London.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: He's got a brother who is a ruthless -- maybe Mort knows more about it, but who I understand is a very ruthless character who did not get --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Married; lovely wife. Correct?
 
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Lovely wife, yes.
 
MS. CLIFT: But people have given up on him as a, quote, "reformer" a long time ago.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's not a reformer. He's a thug. He's just a plain thug.
 
MS. CLIFT: He's directed -- if there's any goodness left in the man, he's been directed by everybody else.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: If he goes down, his people go down. John, the Alawites go to the wall. They're 12 percent. They're Shia. The Sunni have been living under their control. They're 70 percent.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a civil war?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a sectarian civil war, yes.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If it's a civil war, we're going to stay out.
 
MR. CARNEY: No, we didn't stay out of Libya. We don't always stay out of civil wars. The question --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are we going to stay out?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I think we're being pulled in --
 
MS. CLIFT: We went into Libya for humanitarian reasons.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: -- because it's spreading.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there's any sentiment in the United States to go into Syria?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: There's none in the United States, and I'm against it, but I do think we could get pulled in, because the whole thing is spreading. The Turks are going to be involved.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Turks are not going to be involved.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: They're --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president has spoken emphatically about that over there.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: They're involved right now.
 
MS. CLIFT: Well, the --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they're involved because there's a penetration of a border here and there. What is that?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, it's not only that. They've got an Alawite community in Turkey which is upset. They've got Kurds in Turkey who are rising up. This whole thing is in real danger of spreading into the entire -- across that entire region.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: China Syndrome.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) China's both an adversary but also a potential partner in the international community if it's following the rules. So my attitude coming into office was that we are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) That's why, on day one, I will label them a currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where they're taking jobs. They're stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Our trade with China suffers from two realities and the disparity between them, namely, China's trade surplus and America's deficit. This problem drew similar responses from both candidates. President Obama emphasized his record of bringing cases against China to the World Trade Organization, the WTO, for seeking redress for unfair trade practices.
 
Governor Romney emphasized his plan of levying tariffs against Chinese imports to the U.S. if China persists in refusing to follow international trade rules.
 
Question: Are both President Obama's and Governor Romney's positions on China solid and presidential in scope and in content? Tim Carney.
 
TIM CARNEY: No. This is -- it's silly politics. This is what every politician does. They campaign like Pat Buchanan, frankly, as a protectionist, as a nationalist, and then they go ahead and they govern as free traders, as internationalists. OK, these guys are not going to wage a trade war in China. This is tough talk to try to win Ohio. That's all it is.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to defend yourself?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, I am economic patriot or economic nationalist. And Obama's using my phrase, economic patriotism.
 
But I do believe Romney has gotten himself out to a point with this currency manipulator that he's going to have to follow through on it. I do agree with Governor Romney here.
 
Look, the Chinese and these people are themselves economic nationalists. They steal our property. You know, they do everything the guy -- almost criminal activity in international trade, which is what it is. And the United States does not have a way to fight back. And we ought to go back to tariffs and then take the tariff revenue and cut taxes on our own manufacturers.
 
MS. CLIFT: Getting tough on China is campaign rhetoric on Romney's behalf. If he gets elected, some smart advisers will sit him down and say we can't do this. Maybe he'll call them names. That's about all he'll do. They're our bankers. We're not in a strong position. And you start a trade war, and who pays the price? American consumers and the American economy, with more expensive --
 
MR. CARNEY: I like Eleanor's --
 
MS. CLIFT: It's a total nonstarter.
 
MR. CARNEY: -- free-market (call ?) here.
 
MS. CLIFT: Thank you, Tim.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: They've got an enormous trade surplus at our expense.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, what's the answer?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, the fact is, Romney is right in this sense. They have consistently, for decades, kept their currency devalued in order to magnify their exports, to be able to sell them at cheaper prices. We have been protesting that for decades. Whether Romney can do anything about it, I don't know. But on that point, everybody knows that he's right.
 
The real question is, as we all know, how do you deal with China in this way without getting into a trade war, which would be damaging to both sides? And that's going to take some real diplomacy and pressure from a president.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In a trade war with China, who wins, Mort?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, both lose.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: We do.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I mean --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: We do. We've got a trade deficit with them of $400 (billion) -- or $300 billion a year.
 
MR. CARNEY: You can no more win a trade war --
 
MS. CLIFT: No. (Laughs.) Right.
 
MR. CARNEY: -- than you can win an earthquake. Everybody loses.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Tell that to Alexander Hamilton. (Laughs.)
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Nobody will win -- nobody will win in a trade war, but we've got to find some better way of balancing the trade, because, as Pat says, we have run huge deficits in trade with China for decades. And a good part of the reason is not just because they have a very low wage cost, including for a lot of American products, but the fact is that they keep their currency low in order to magnify their exports.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, the U.S. cannot win without China, and China cannot win without the United States.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't disagree with that.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it's true.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But both can lose.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I think we would both damage ourselves.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: True or false?
 
MS. CLIFT: It's a symbiotic relationship, and I think the Chinese leadership understand that this is largely --
 
MR. CARNEY: Eleanor's right.
 
MS. CLIFT: -- rhetoric.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor's right. Symbiosis rules.
 
Issue Three: Pugnacity Rules.
 
Throughout this week's presidential debate, there were flare-ups. Challenger Mitt Romney described what he sees as how sitting President Barack Obama, during his four years, has conducted himself overseas.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) And then the president began what I've called an apology tour of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute, says President Obama. that's BS.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) On Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Who was more pugnacious in this debate, Romney or Obama? Mort, again.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know if -- which one was more pugnacious, but I thought Romney won that little exchange. I thought he came across a lot better than the president did.
 
MS. CLIFT: Well, I beg to differ. I mean, this business of the apology tour is a big lie that Romney has been promoting. He titled his book to that. Every fact checker that looks -- I know you laugh at the fact checkers. And if they say it enough times, everybody who's going to vote for Romney is going to believe that the president apologized.
 
MR. CARNEY: No, because he --
 
MS. CLIFT: They've been pushing this narrative ever since he made a speech in Cairo, as though that, in and of itself, is somehow condescending to the rest of the world.
 
MR. CARNEY: All the fact checkers found that he never actually said I'm sorry for what we did. So maybe groveling tour was a better word. In France he said, oh, you know, Americans have not realized this magnificent European Union and we've been too dismissive and derisive and arrogant.
 
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
 
MR. CARNEY: And then he also went ahead and he made comments along the lines of, oh, well, in Iraq, just basically attacking the Iraq war on foreign soil.
 
MS. CLIFT: Well -- (laughs) --
 
MR. CARNEY: He goes out and he says we have not been -- and we've dictated to other countries.
 
MS. CLIFT: Oh, yes.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK --
 
MS. CLIFT: And Romney's direct approach with the allies was so much better, just telling them everything they did wrong. (Laughs.)
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, another flare-up.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now down to 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. That's unacceptable to me.
 
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Horses and bayonets.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As far as bayonets are concerned, my research shows that there are 663,000 bayonets in service --
 
MR. CARNEY: (Laughs.)
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in the military, in the Pentagon.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I wouldn't be surprised.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Six hundred sixty-three thousand.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: And they're all sharp, too, the weapons.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
 
MS. CLIFT: And they all cost $600.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: -- Romney made a very good point.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's actually, I believe, The Wall Street Journal.
 
Go ahead.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Romney made an excellent political point. Look, Reagan had a 600-ship Navy. It's now down to fewer than 300. Also the American people, if we're talking straight politics, you tell them we're going to build up our ships, that's very positive with the American people in terms of defense. And I do think you ought to have a 300-ship Navy, because we're going to be bringing the troops home, John.
 
MS. CLIFT: First of all -- (laughs) -- the president is right when he says you don't count ships; you count the effectiveness of the Navy and of the entire military force. And what Romney is doing is he's appealing to the shipbuilding facilities in Virginia. It's campaign rhetoric. It's not a realistic defense --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ah.
 
MR. CARNEY: Eleanor again -- once again, Eleanor is right.
 
MS. CLIFT: Thank you, Tim. (Laughs.)
 
MR. CARNEY: It's military-industrial Keynesianism that you see from lots of Republicans. George Allen's doing it in Virginia, and now Romney's doing it in Norfolk --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: But you do the --
 
MR. CARNEY: -- and in Florida, saying --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Find the votes.
 
MR. CARNEY: -- we need more ships to make more jobs.
 
(Cross talk.)
 
MR. CARNEY: You sound like Obama when you're saying we need more ships to make more jobs.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, let me speak as an isolationist. We do need ships to defend American interests abroad.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do we have enough, as Obama says we have?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I don't -- I think we ought to modernize the Navy and stay at 300 ships. But I do think we ought to bring the troops out of places like the Middle East, Central Asia, all those places; bring them home.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The current batch of ships we have are so big and so powerful --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: We used to have 15 carriers. We've now got 11.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and so multi-usable that we don't need all those ships. That's what he seems to be saying, in effect.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: We need 10 ships with every aircraft carrier. What are you talking about?
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about what Obama's repudiation is, his rebuttal of Romney.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I think Romney won the exchange on the Navy --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: -- politically.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, I do.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the ships.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Yes.
 
MS. CLIFT: Politically --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow. Exit question: What was the most defining moment in the third and final debate? Pat Buchanan.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It was bayonets and horses, I guess, John. And that tells me that Barack Obama was fairly petty --
 
MS. CLIFT: No, it was when the president --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: -- and (prodding ?).
 
MS. CLIFT: It was when the president said, when he visited Israel as a candidate, he didn't take along fundraisers and he didn't hold fundraisers there.
 
MR. CARNEY: It was Obama's juvenile joke about the 1980s called and they want their foreign policy back, combined with bayonets, showed him to be running a frivolous campaign, to try to distract from real issues.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think I'll go with you.
 
Issue Four: Give Peace a Chance.
 
We note the passing this week of former presidential candidate and long-serving U.S. Senator George McGovern. The South Dakota senator was a World War II veteran and prominent peace advocate. At the height of the Vietnam War in 1972, Senator McGovern ran against incumbent President Richard Nixon. He lost in a landslide, but went on to a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Senate.
 
Senator McGovern's spirit may have fortified Mitt Romney during the debate.
 
MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) Let me step back and talk about what I think our mission has to be in the Middle East, and even more broadly, because our purpose is to make sure the world is more -- is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they're going to have a bright and prosperous future and not be at war. That's our purpose. And the mantle of leadership for promoting the principles of peace has fallen to America. We didn't ask for it, but it's an honor that we have it.
 
But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong. And that begins with a strong economy here at home.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does Romney make a credible peacenik? Tim Carney.
 
MR. CARNEY: I think he does, not for the sort of peace-and-love George McGovern type reasons, but because he is a -- he's technocratic. He's risk-averse. He looks at data before he makes decisions. He's not ideological like George W. Bush was. He won't be motivated by this Wilsonian vision of, you know, bringing democracy to the world.
 
So I think on the score of keeping us out of unnecessary wars, I believe Romney.
 
MS. CLIFT: If Senator McGovern has a political or intellectual heir on that debate stage, it would be Barack Obama, who was talking about we need to nation-build at home. Remember, come home, America was the McGovern slogan.
 
I went to his 90th birthday in Washington here in July, and he was frail but he was very feisty and looking forward to turning 100. Now, that didn't happen. But his legacy -- he joined with Bob Dole on food issues, and Bob Dole wrote a really beautiful tribute to McGovern. These two men really got along. And McGovern was never bitter about the defeat that he suffered, much of it because of the dirty tricks on the part of Richard Nixon. And when Nixon's presidency --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: He was (designed ?) to get him nominated. (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: -- unraveled, he had every right to say I told you so, but he never did.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute.
 
MS. CLIFT: He soldiered on.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He worked with Richard Nixon, and so did I.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but --
 
MS. CLIFT: Right. And you worked to make sure that McGovern didn't get a fair shake. (Laughs.)
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't do anything like that.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know some people --
 
MS. CLIFT: Some other people might have. (Laughs.)
 
MR. BUCHANAN: John, the dirty tricks, frankly, the Segretti things, were done to knock off all the competitors to Senator McGovern, because we wanted to see him nominated.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Segretti. There's a name from the past.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. But let me say this, that Senator McGovern was -- he was too -- I mean, you take a look at some of his rhetoric back in `72 -- "I'll crawl on my knees to Hanoi" and things like that -- turned off an enormous number in the country and the center Democrats.
 
But he was basically a good man. He was a bomber pilot in World War II. He hated war. And I do think his leadership was something like Goldwater's. He was the representative of a movement, culturally and socially, that has come to dominate American culture now, even though its time had not yet come in 1972.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With American veterans, Romney polls stronger than the president. Can you explain that?
 
MR. CARNEY: Well, yeah. I mean, veterans do tend to be more Republicans. And I think that he's seen as a capable, smart man who will make prudent decisions.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have an all-volunteer army. That's been the case for how long?
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Forty years, since Nixon. We did it in the Nixon White House, John. He campaigned in 1968 on all-volunteer army, in our libertarian moments.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you read any of the recent pieces on the manner in which we have failed to take care of those who have come back with various disorders? Have you read some of those?
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, there's been --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are really heart-wrenching.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: They are heartrending. It's very difficult -- very, very difficult challenge.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And maddening. And maddening.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.
 
MS. CLIFT: Well, there's a huge --
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, we should find a way, obviously, to take care of the people who serve this country in war, and indeed in peace, in the military in every way that we can.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about post-traumatic syndrome.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We talk about a variety of mental disorders.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: It's a good reason not to get in any more wars, is it not?
 
MR. CARNEY: Amen. Amen.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You betcha. Now, who is -- and we've established --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I liked Romney's statement. I thought it was excellent.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that Romney -- as I said earlier, don't you think he enjoys more widespread support from the community of veterans here and veterans' families --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: He's taken up the Reagan-Eisenhower peace through strength, which is exactly the right position for the party.
 
MS. CLIFT: But the people he's got advising him, many of them do want to bring back --
 
MR. BUCHANAN: I know that. (Laughs.)
 
MS. CLIFT: -- some of the bellicosity of the Bush years. And, you know, I don't trust anything Romney says --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
 
MS. CLIFT: -- because he --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
 
MS. CLIFT: -- changes his positions according to what the market will bear.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Next Friday will be the final before-the-election report on unemployment in America. It's now at 7.8. I predict, as per Mort Zuckerman, that it will be at 8.0 or 8.1.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you read what the president -- the former president of General Electric said about those numbers? He said that California had not predicted its numbers, and the number 7.9 -- was that it? --
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Seven-point-eight.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- 7.8 -- was bogus.
 
MR. BUCHANAN: Jack Welch -- Jack Welch said the boys of Chicago --
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jack Welch was proved to be right, because California has since said they didn't get in their numbers, and it's all based on state --
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- statistics that are compounded.
 
Yes.
 
MS. CLIFT: Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Indiana, has underscored nervousness among women about what a Republican takeover of the Congress and a Republican in the White House might mean for women's reproductive rights.
 
MR. CARNEY: Obama nevertheless will lose a significant chunk of the women's vote compared to `08.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.
 
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Most of the continuing opportunities for employment will be part-time jobs with low wages.
 
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that Italian stocks will stabilize and rally, very much like Ireland, which has become Europe's poster child for reinventing itself. That's Ireland.
 
Bye-bye.
 
(C) 2012 Federal News Service
 
END