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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel:
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek;
Ryan Grim, Huffington Post;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, December 7, 2012
Broadcast: Weekend of December 8-9, 2012

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

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The Cliff Dwellers.

On New Year's Day and during the first week of January, the U.S. economy will be hit by $600 billion of automatic tax increases and automatic spending cuts, the phenomenon known as the fiscal cliff. If that happens, it will trigger a recession or worse.

So President Obama is taking action and insisting that Republicans agree to increase the existing marginal tax rates on the wealthiest top 2 percent of U.S. taxpayers. And, of course, there's more to the deal. But there'll be no negotiations on that big part of the deal unless that tax on the wealthiest 2 percent is negotiated now.
The president could not be more emphatic in stressing the indispensable element of surmounting the cliff is that super-rich revenue.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We're not insisting on rates just out of spite or out of any kind of partisan bickering, but rather because we need to raise a certain amount of revenue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, here's John Boehner, the Republican House speaker.

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): If you look at the plans that the White House has talked about thus far, they couldn't pass either house of the Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republicans propose raising $800 billion in extra revenues, and that revenue should come through tax reform and closing loopholes. Happy New Year.

Question: Patrick, look into the crystal ball and tell us about this January 1 monetary nuclear bomb. Are we going over the cliff, Patrick?

PAT BUCHANAN: I think -- I believe we may not be going over the cliff. I think this week has led me to believe there are the terms of a deal, John; the $800 billion Boehner offered. I'm sure he will go up a bit. He won't go to 39 percent on tax rates. Republicans are willing to go, I think, toward 37 percent.

The truth is, Republicans are capitulating all along the line here, John. They're more afraid of going over the cliff than Obama is. And I fear that the Republicans are going to reestablish their reputation as the tax collectors of the welfare state.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has President Obama's position hardened over the past few days?

ELEANOR CLIFT: I don't know. I'm just thinking how sweet it is, what Pat just said. I agree with everything you said. I think it's always dangerous to be complacent that there's going to be a deal, given the stakes and the hardened political lines. But ever since the speaker put revenue on the table, the Republicans have been breaking rank. And I think they really don't want to go down protecting the tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.

And you do see the beginnings of a deal. They'll probably drag it out a bit longer, because each side wants to show their base that they're fighting very hard. But I think reasonableness may descend on Washington, and it's something that we should all applaud.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ryan Grim, do you think we'll have reasonable connection on this?

RYAN GRIM: I don't think so. There was another meeting on Thursday, and the White House made it very clear that they're not giving much. The White House feels very burned by the 2011 debt- ceiling negotiations. They feel like they have the leverage. And they're leaving it up to Boehner to capitulate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that President Obama feels that he has unilateral control of the press -- of the purse?

MR. GRIM: No. But they think that they have enough leverage that they can force Republicans to put the debt ceiling into any package that they eventually come up with. And if they don't, he feels like there is some other way that he can force them to deal with this issue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If this is a power-of-the-purse issue, then it falls on Congress, not on the president. The president would be overstepping his power. But does he want to have unilateral control de facto of the purse?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think he wants unilateral control. What he wants to do is to force the Republicans in the House to do what he wants. It is, as you say --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which means he wants control.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I mean, it's a political issue, OK? The Republicans have their own abilities to lean back against the Democrats on all of this and against Obama, and I suspect they will to a point. And if he pushes it too far, if Obama pushes it too far, then at some point this thing will blow up.

What has to be done is it has to be private negotiations, not everybody talking about the red lines in public, because that locks everybody in. It's just done in the worst possible way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to give you the key differences now between the two sides. There are four, and I'll read for the sake of going fast.

Obama wants unilateral power -- that's my reading -- to increase the debt ceiling. The GOP says no.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number two, Obama wants $1.6 trillion, Eleanor, in new taxes. The GOP says $800 billion.

Number three, Obama wants spending cuts deferred. GOP wants specific cuts agreed to now.

Number four, GOP wants wide entitlement cuts. Obama says no.

I'll give you a number five. Number five, Obama wants new stimulus money.

The GOP says no.

MS. CLIFT: OK, which one do you want me to address?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know whether those are all resolvable before the new year.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, they are resolvable. On the debt limit, it was a Republican idea when President Bush was in the White House that the president should have the power to raise the debt limit, which is to pay bills that have already been accrued and that the Congress could override it; the Congress could object.

And Mitch McConnell put that bill forward on the floor this week, thinking he was going to embarrass Democratic leader Reid. And Reid said let's go ahead and vote it. And so then McConnell filibustered his own bill --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: -- because he got afraid the Democrats had the votes for it. So that's the kind of maneuvering that's going on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me --

MS. CLIFT: It's childish.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, childish, very childish.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, former Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott told CNN's Anderson Cooper how he had a working relationship with his Democratic counterpart, Tom Daschle. The two did something called compromise, a concept that facilitates lawmaking and seems foreign in today's Congress.

Watch.

FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER TRENT LOTT (R-MS): (From videotape.) I had a red phone where, when I picked up that phone, it rang only one place -- on Tom Daschle's desk. And when he picked it up, I knew I was talking to Tom Daschle, not his staff, not my staff. Sometimes he and I had to lead when our conferences were not ready to move.

I remember one time I called him. I stepped out from a conference meeting and I said, Tom, you know we need to do this. I'm having problems. He said I am too. I said let's do it. He said let's go. I'll see you on the floor. We went up on the floor of the Senate. We called the bill up and we passed it by sundown. You've got to do that every now and then, even though you might catch a little flak from some of the people within your conference. It's called leadership, Anderson.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just to clarify, a red phone was on Republican leader Trent Lott's desk and a red phone was on Democratic leader Tom Daschle's desk. When the red phone rang on Daschle's desk, he knew it was Lott. And when the red phone rang on Lott's desk, he knew it was Daschle -- not any intermediaries, no staff. It was the man himself.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So why can't both chambers of the U.S. Congress have a similar system? And why is it that they are not enacting legislation in this Congress?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll tell you why. One reason -- (inaudible). The last great deal, John, was at Andrews Air Force Base, when George H.W. Bush in 1990 broke his pledge and he agreed to raise taxes, tax rates from 28 to 35 percent. He broke faith with the Republican Party. He did not get the spending cuts he was promised. And after that, they lost seats in the Senate in 1990 and George Bush was primaried in `92 and he lost his presidency with 38 percent of the vote. The Republican Party is walking right down that same road today.

MS. CLIFT: Well, and that was a good deal --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask --

MS. CLIFT: It was a good deal for the country. And frankly --

MR. BUCHANAN: It wasn't a good --

MS. CLIFT: And frankly, that's what Speaker Boehner is
worried about. He's worried that if he makes this kind of deal and works with Nancy Pelosi and works with the White House, that he could lose his speakership over it. But he's been moving in this last week. He's been removing recalcitrants from committee assignments. He's been
exercising the powers that he should --

MR. BUCHANAN: Purging. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- as a leader.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama's not just sitting there. He has come forward asking to raise the debt ceiling. Are you following that?

MR. GRIM: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that, and what do you think the Congress thinks of that?

MR. GRIM: Well, it has to be raised.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, that's the power of the purse, clearly.

MR. GRIM: The power of the purse is the power to spend. Congress has already authorized and appropriated all this money. Now it wants to come back in and prevent the government from paying the debts accrued by Congress itself. So there is something absurd in Congress coming in behind and saying all of this money that we appropriated, we don't want to pay for that. We're going to default on our national debt, sparking a local crisis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he has the power to raise the debt ceiling, the de facto power to do it, is that causing a malbalancing, a bad balancing, between the executive branch and the legislative branch?

MR. GRIM: Not at all, because the Congress still has the power of the purse. If they don't want to spend money, then they don't have to spend money. All this does is say that the Congress cannot --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So raising --

MR. GRIM: -- unilaterally default on the federal debt.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the debt ceiling does not trespass in that area.

MR. GRIM: What they want to do is they want --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not the power of the purse.

MR. GRIM: It's not. What they want to do is they want to extend what McConnell gave for a year, which is that the White House can raise the debt ceiling and then Congress can disapprove it with a two- thirds vote.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. GRIM: So they're still -- if they're that upset about it, they can weigh in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me give one question here that would relate to you very well, Mr. Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Mort.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Martin -- (laughs) -- Martin Feldstein offered his plan this week to raise tax revenue by capping deductions at 2 percent for those making over $250,000 a year.

MR. BUCHANAN: Two percent?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two percent.
That's the figure I have here.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Raise taxes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Two percent --

MR. BUCHANAN: Two percent?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for those making -- raise tax revenue by capping deductions at 2 percent.

MR. BUCHANAN: At 2 percent of income?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no.

MR. BUCHANAN: That'll cause a revolution.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no.

MR. BUCHANAN: I'll start it. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: You'll be there with your pitchfork. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said it would raise $400 (billion) to $500 billion over a decade, assuming that child deductions were still allowed. That's more than half of the GOP revenue goal.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What he wants to do is to put a limit on the amount of offsets you can have applied to your income if you're in the upper ranges of the income spectrum, OK. The top 2 percent is what he's talking about. And that -- there is something to that.

I think, whatever the program is, it seems to me we must do something about it, because otherwise if we have -- the debt ceiling is the critical issue, because if we get up there -- and we're going to get up there sometime between now and February -- you can have another great collapse in terms of the confidence of the American dollar. That would be a huge, huge issue for the United States.

So we must be in a position where -- it is not that we've authorized the spending of the money; we just don't have the money. We're running a deficit of $25 billion every week. And we don't have the -- we're going to run right into the debt ceiling.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, this is going to be revisited next week.

Issue Two: Syrian Nightmare.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command, the world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama this week warned the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, not to use Syria's chemical weapons against his own people.

Rebel Syrians are waging an offensive against other Syrians, largely Assad's government forces. Unnamed U.S. officials say that Syria has even gone so far as to load the precursor ingredients of sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into the aerial bombs.

Whether this activity is to protect the chemicals from advancing rebel forces or for Assad to actually use them against rebel forces is not clear, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton points out.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From videotape.) Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons or might lose control of them to one of the many groups that are now operating within Syria.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Syria adamantly denies it intends to use chemical weapons against its own people, whether rebel or non-rebel. Quote: "Syria stresses again, for the 10th, the 100th time, that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide. We fear there is a conspiracy to provide a pretext for any subsequent interventions against Syria by these countries that are increasing pressure on Syria," unquote. So said Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Miqdad.

It should be noted that the rebels who are fighting the troops of Assad are themselves part of the same country.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And therefore, the foreign minister is saying we would never use them against our own brothers.
Now, do you believe him, or what do you think?

MR. BUCHANAN: I tend to believe the Syrian foreign minister for this reason, John. If they did use these weapons -- the Americans would strike if they used them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean by strike?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think we would go air strikes after the chemical weapons themselves.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are we going to do, blow up the weaponry --

MR. BUCHANAN: You're going to try to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and distribute the gas, the sarin?

MR. BUCHANAN: We've probably got to -- no, we and the Israelis and the others have probably got them targeted. I think you would go after them and hit them. The problem is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's easier said than done.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, it is. And you don't got them all, and if you did that, maybe they figure we're going down, and they start firing them. So the best thing to happen is to have the Russians or the guys that got real influence in there tell these guys, do not do this or we leave you and everybody abandons you, and you're going down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it possible that the putting of this gas inside these cylinders, as I understand it, that are, quote-unquote, "bombs," is a way of making the gas movable so that it can be prevented from going into the rebels' hands, because they might use it?

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, as we're assessing the deputy foreign minister's credibility, he says if we have these weapons. He denies they have these weapons. And our intelligence --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He didn't deny it. He didn't deny it.

MS. CLIFT: He said if we have -- I think he's saying they don't have them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, he set up an if clause.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That doesn't mean he's denying it.

MS. CLIFT: All right. Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hypothetically.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah -- well, yeah. I wouldn't rest all my strategy on his credibility. I do think the Syrians are sending us a message -- back off, because we do have this weaponry. And I think the president is sending a message back that we can play this game, talking about bringing the Patriot missiles up to the border, putting troops along there.

This is psychological warfare right now. And the fact that the Russians are backing away from their backing of Assad is a very important development, which shows that there is possibly a diplomatic settlement to this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you believe the -- not only the president, but Mr. Panetta, secretary of defense, also is in the act, saying there would be retaliation. Do you believe that? And what would be the consequences of that?

MR. GRIM: I think everybody believes that. And I think the deputy foreign minister believes it too, which is why the key phrase there was we wouldn't commit suicide. He knows that if they use these weapons that there would be a massive retaliation on the part of the United States. And I don't think we should undermine his credibility just because he said if.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. GRIM: You know, Israel, for instance, doesn't admit that it has nuclear weapons. That's accepted in that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think, rather than us, NATO would be interested in getting involved?

MR. GRIM: I think Pat's right that if they used those weapons, they would be completely isolated and it would be a coalition of everyone across the globe.

MR. BUCHANAN: The only two NATO forces you've got are the Turks there and the Americans. The Americans have the air power. And the Israelis in the neighborhood have it, but they don't want to get involved or shouldn't get involved. But only the Americans could do that. And frankly, I don't think we could blow up all of those weapons.

MS. CLIFT: But you have a desperate --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you notice the migration -- not the migration -- yeah, the migration of the secretary of state on Assad? She originally said of him that he's respectable. She said something else in an --

MS. CLIFT: That's a long time ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MS. CLIFT: That's a long time ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A long time ago, correct, but that's what she said. Secondly, she said -- not secondly, thirdly -- I forget what she said secondly, but thirdly she said that he should stay with the tide of history. You remember that? And now she's -- she hasn't really cut him loose, because she says that there's a possibility that others might get them. She's just said that in that bite we played.
Do you understand?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah. I mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So she's being somewhat nuanced about this still, not quite as outspoken as the president himself.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, perhaps. But I think the message is still pretty clear, that if there is a recourse to chemical weapons, there's going to be a huge response on the part of not only the United States, but others. And the fact is that the whole tenor of that war is now shifting --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- against Assad and his forces, because we are arming every one of those groups. The only risk we have --

MS. CLIFT: But the thing is --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just a minute.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're at the airport, John.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The only risk we have there is that a lot of the opposition to is al-Qaida. So we're a little bit worried that they're bad alternatives.

MR. BUCHANAN: This is moving very fast, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.

MS. CLIFT: The thing is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: More turmoil, different country -- Egypt.
The presidential palace in Cairo is the scene of violent clashes between supporters of President Mohammed Morsi and his opponents. Morsi has been in office since June, only four months, but he has angered opposition forces by granting himself sweeping new powers.

Mr. Morsi is aligned with Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood. He has proposed a new constitution, one with little input from one side, the secular forces that swept Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, from power in February 2011, nearly two years ago.

Morsi says a referendum will be held December 15th on the Egyptian constitution. It will be up to the Egyptian citizens to vote yes or no. But Morsi opponents dismiss the move as a ploy, including his opponent, Mohamed ElBaradei, one of Morsi's highest-profile opponents and former head of the U.N.'s nuclear regulatory agency.

MOHAMMED ELBARADEI (National Salvation Front): (From videotape.) We will continue to push until we get a proper mechanism to develop a democratic constitution.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the key question?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the key question is, is Morsi's presidency in danger, John? And you've got some real strong forces against him. Everybody's united against him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where are the armed forces, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Behind him is the Muslim Brotherhood, and lately there's an indication the armed forces apparently protected him at the palace.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct.

MR. BUCHANAN: If you get the Muslim Brotherhood and the armed forces together, he stays in power.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Bear in mind what he did. There were 70 generals that were all Mubarak's people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He replaced every one of them. So they're now Morsi's people. So the army is going to support him, because he's put in all of his people to run the army.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ryan.

MR. GRIM: Not all of his people, though. And the armed forces are still somewhat aligned with the judiciary, which is also packed with Mubarak-era people. Morsi has taken them on. But seeing the reformers in the street is almost a hopeful sign in the sense that --

MS. CLIFT: Having watched what happened to Mubarak, I think Morsi's got to be concerned. He's got to find some way to let a little air out of this balloon.
But the fact that he's got the military with him --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: -- suggests that he's got this thing, if not nailed down --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's --

MS. CLIFT: -- battered down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's grieve over the good old days of Hosni Mubarak.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I'm not grieving over that. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the president, to his credit, the first speech that he gave in his first year in office was right over in Cairo, right?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whomping up the young people.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Afghanistan Angst.

Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, 11 years. The stats: Current force, 66,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan; force drawdown guidelines -- gradually, through all of next year and all of the following year. That's 2013 and 2014. Residual force projection after December 2014: 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. troops, beginning January 2015.

In the last five years, the number of U.S. generals that have led the U.S. and the NATO forces in Afghanistan is five -- five years, five generals. In fact, since the American invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, 11 years ago, the number of generals that have commanded U.S. and NATO is over twice as many generals as years -- over 22 generals.

The dollar cost of the Afghanistan war to the U.S. taxpayer: Over half a trillion dollars; $641 billion by the end of 2013.

OK, the worst toll, the human toll: To date, Americans killed in Afghanistan, 2,156; Americans injured or mentally ill, 18,109; suicide, nearly one a day. And in 2012, more active-duty military killed themselves than were killed on an Afghan battlefield this year.

Question: Drift -- is the time to cut and run, like, now, Ryan?

MR. GRIM: It was yesterday. The president of Afghanistan blames us for all the instability. The Afghan soldiers shoot at our men and women over there. There's nothing left to accomplish. Just go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about Karzai. Karzai sometimes impresses people like a worm because of the way he's treating us when we've lost what we've lost over there.

MR. GRIM: It was just revealed that he and his family are running the central bank that is a complete Ponzi scheme. And he responds to that by blaming the United States for it and for the rest of the instability around the country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've defended Karzai, have you not?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, not -- I mean, he's there and he's the thing on which we have to try to build. He's going to be gone in 2014, John. But the American objective --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, gone? His term is up?

MR. BUCHANAN: His term is up, yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At the end of `14.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's going to leave in 2014.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's two more years.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. But I tend to agree that the bulk of the United States troops should be withdrawn rapidly. But the talk is over how many guys we leave there, because the one objective we want is we do not want it to become again a haven for al-Qaida to plan terrorist attacks on the United States.

MS. CLIFT: When I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How has President Obama described this war?

MS. CLIFT: Well, when I think of Afghanistan, I think of the 14- year-old girl that the Taliban shot because she wanted girls to go to school. So I think we're going to get out of there, but I think we stick to the president's timetable and we get out in an orderly fashion

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you know --

MS. CLIFT: -- which would be the end of not next year, but 2014.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know the president and you admire the current president. He said that he deemed Afghanistan a, quote, "war of necessity," unquote.

MS. CLIFT: It was --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this still a war of necessity?

MS. CLIFT: It was a war of necessity when we got in. It was bungled early on. And too many young people have paid the price. And a lot of Afghan people have paid the price.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama --

MS. CLIFT: It's not a happy story.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- should pull the troops out?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I do think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's the commander in chief.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think we are there only because we have been there. We are not accomplishing very much at this stage of the game. This is a ridiculous continuation, putting American soldiers at risk. The Afghanis are just as dangerous to us now as were any one of the rebel groups.
I think Pat was right. At one point we thought this would be a haven for al-Qaida, and that's why we went in there. But I don't think that's an issue anymore that should justify what we're doing. It's not worth the cost.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think they're there.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're all over the place.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They're all over the place.

MR. BUCHANAN: Everywhere else.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but I think that their numbers in Afghanistan have evaporated.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're down to 50 or 100, they say.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're in Pakistan. They're all over the Middle East.

MS. CLIFT: But it's a pretty repressive regime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama, the commander in chief, should get us out now.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat, be quick.

MR. BUCHANAN: Detroit goes into bankruptcy before the new year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: To avoid fiscal cliff, will be cut the week between Christmas and New Year's.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ryan.

MR. GRIM: We go over the cliff and get a deal right after New Year's.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The economy's going to remain very weak, despite the solution of the fiscal cliff.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ryan's right on the cliff, by the way.
I predict that the U.S. will be effectively out of Afghanistan by December 31st, 2013.

Bye-bye. (c) Federal News Service 2012

END