The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek;
Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, January 25, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of January 26-27, 2013

Copyright © 2013 by Federal News Service, LLC, 1120 G Street NW, Suite 990, Washington, DC 20005-3801 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, LLC. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Transcripts Database or any other FNS product, please email or call 1-202-347-1400.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Benghazi Revisited.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From videotape.) I take responsibility. And nobody is more committed to getting this right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the details of that responsibility this week at two congressional hearings -- one in the Senate, one in the House -- on what happened at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya four and a half months ago, on September 11th.

Four Americans were killed in the attack, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. Secretary Clinton became emotional as she described the scene at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

SEC. CLINTON: (From videotape.) I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters, and the wives left alone to raise their children.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Libya, before the attack, Ambassador Stevens cabled the State Department, asking for more security. At the hearing, the secretary was asked about how this request and others like them from the U.S. embassy in Libya were handled.

SEC. CLINTON: (From videotape.) The specific security requests pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department. I didn't see those requests. They didn't come to me. I didn't approve them. I didn't deny them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hearing this, Senator Rand Paul on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said this to the secretary.

SENATOR RAND PAUL (R-KY): (From videotape.) Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Ron Johnson charged the administration with falsifying details of the assault.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

SENATOR RON JOHNSON (R-WI): We were misled that there were supposedly protests and then something sprang out of that; an assault sprang out of that. And that was easily ascertained --


SEN. JOHNSON: -- that that was not the fact.

SEC. CLINTON: But, you know --

SEN. JOHNSON: And the American people could have known that within days, and they didn't know that.

SEC. CLINTON: With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans.

SEN. JOHNSON: I understand.

SEC. CLINTON: Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.

End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is she right? What difference does it make? Or is she wrong?

PAT BUCHANAN: I think it does make a difference, John. But I think she handled herself extremely well.

Look, there are three questions. Why was security not provided, despite the pleas? Why was help not sent to these guys over seven hours of attacks? And who's responsible for the massive cover-up and fake stories about this video, anti-Muslim video?

And she said, to the third, I had nothing to do with the walking points. I have nothing to do with the military. I take responsibility for the lack of security. However, all these memos and cables that came, they all didn't come into my office personally, but I take responsibility.

I think she handled it well, John. And the issue, I think, is pretty much gone now. And the Republicans did not succeed --


MR. BUCHANAN: -- in what they were trying to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How would you describe Hillary Clinton at the House and the Senate hearings? What kind of an adjective would you use?

ELEANOR CLIFT: I would say she was commanding. I would say she was presidential. She came across very much as someone who was shouldering responsibility, but she also avoided taking any of the blame. That was a very good balancing act. And she handled all of the questioning. And I thought she brought some reality to this.

The Republicans say, oh, the State Department could easily have known what was happening. First of all, what we've learned since is this outpost was basically a CIA operation. You don't talk about these things in public. The right wing had this fantasy that they were watching the demonstrations and the attack unfold in real time on video. I mean, none of that happened.

And she, I think, really turned back the notion that this was a manipulative event on the part of the administration to deny that this was a terrorist attack. I mean, this was basically something that happened in a very chaotic situation. The Republicans tried to turn it into Watergate, and it didn't work.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.) She also waited a few months, which is not what Susan Rice did. And Susan Rice got into deep trouble.

SUSAN FERRECHIO: I disagree with a little bit, though --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In other words, she held off before saying anything about this for a couple of months.

MR. BUCHANAN: She had nothing to do with the aftermath, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who didn't?

MR. BUCHANAN: Susan Rice. That's all the aftermath.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't understand me. Susan Rice went on television early --

MR. BUCHANAN: She was sent out to do it, and Hillary had nothing to do with it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She did. And Hillary waited and waited, and she did -- and that helped her in the presentation.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, she escaped the heat. She escaped the initial heat of all this. And she had a lot of time to think of a good way to kind of get out of the blame game here. And really this hearing -- I think the worst thing about this hearing was, aside from the politics, is we still walked away without any answers here.

I mean, there are, yes, four dead Americans, and one of whom was pleading for extra help, extra security from the State Department, and he didn't get it. And there were no clear answers as to why. All we got out of it was that Hillary Clinton was not to blame.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hillary Clinton has traveled almost a million miles since she's been secretary of state. That means she's been absent from the State Department. However, with modern technology, that should be no problem. But there is something missing when there is no physical presence.
Do you think that she ought to be -- there should be some -- this is a serious question -- there should be some evolution either in our thinking about the role of the -- no other person in her position has traveled that much and been away that much. Should she be -- should that be a presidential envoy, special assignment, special condition, separate from a Cabinet position?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: You know, in that particular role, dealing with our foreign policy, there is no substitute for having the secretary of state develop personal relationships and get a direct feel from the people that she is trying to deal with and trying to move towards an American position, whatever that may be.

So I don't think you can do it. I don't think you can send a substitute. It just goes with the territory. The secretary of state has to be prepared to travel all around the world. Those personal relationships are critical for the ability of the United States to bring people along with her.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She stands alone. No other secretary of state has ever traveled that much.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, they've been traveling --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They've never been away that much.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Maybe not that much, but secretaries of state have been traveling a heck of a lot more --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- over the last --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying that she has redefined the secretary of state position and role?

MS. CLIFT: No, no, no.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No. I think what she does, OK, is a part and has been a part of the secretary of state's role.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not to the extent that she has. I bet they haven't even traveled a quarter of --

MS. CLIFT: She surpassed --

MR. BUCHANAN: John -- you ought to have somebody there, John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They have more things for them to do.

MS. CLIFT: She surpassed -- she surpassed a predecessor. I think it was Madeleine Albright who held the record previously --


MS. CLIFT: -- but only by a small --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was her record? What was Albright's record?

MS. CLIFT: Hillary just passed --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Two hundred ?) thousand miles?

MS. CLIFT: Hillary just passed that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is a million miles.


MS. CLIFT: Hillary -- excuse me. Hillary just passed that record in the past couple of months. So it's not that big a deal.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, what you're saying --

MS. CLIFT: It's not about -- Pat, please.

MR. BUCHANAN: OK, go ahead.

MS. CLIFT: I would like to finish.

In terms of the accountability here, there was an accountability board she appointed that reported -- that calls for, like, 29 different reforms, which goes step by step where it was broken down. And maybe she should have read those cables. And I would hope that John Kerry --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She doesn't have to read them if they're sent to her by --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me talk --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the enhanced technology we have.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me talk to your point, if we can.

MS. CLIFT: She had a million cables, she pointed out. She's not going to read every cable.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me talk to your --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, but the cable was addressed to her. We have a copy of the cable --

MR. BUCHANAN: But John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- on this broadcast.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me talk to your point. You're exactly right. If she's going to do this million miles of travel, there ought to be an executive deputy of hers at the State Department, in the building --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm sure she had that.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- who's responsible.

All right, why didn't he have -- he or she have the cables and read them?

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Those people lost their jobs because they didn't perform.

MS. FERRECHIO: The problem with fighting over this -- this is all the nitty gritty here. The overall problem with what happened in Libya was that the Obama administration didn't want us to be heavily armed there because we were trying to develop a relationship, and they wanted to look as though we were, you know, on friendlier terms.


MS. FERRECHIO: And that had a lot to do with it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's get into that.

Africa -- what's the big picture?

SEC. CLINTON: (From videotape.) Benghazi did not happen in a vacuum. The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region. Instability in Mali has created an expanding safe haven for terrorists, who look to extend their influence and plot further attacks of the kind we saw just last week in Algeria.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happened last week in Algeria, North Africa, was the murder of at least 37 hostages, including three Americans, after militants attacked a natural gas plant in the eastern part of the country. The al-Qaida splinter group, called the Signers with Blood Brigade, led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed responsibility.

Question: Is the volatility in North Africa an outcome of the Arab spring, or does it predate the Arab spring? Patrick.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, some of it predates the Arab spring. But what this shows and what the Hillary thing was about is the complete disaster of what we did in Libya. We dumped over this corrupt dictator, and all these forces moved out of there. They went in -- the Tuareg rebels went into Mali. You've got al-Qaida in the Maghreb now moving all through that region. They're in Mauritania. They're in Niger.
And the point of the whole thing -- and when you go back to what happened in Benghazi, John, the point of this is that the administration covered up the fact that al-Qaida was not on the run. It was not on the path to defeat. It was responsible for what happened in Benghazi. And it is all over the place now.

MS. FERRECHIO: We're letting the French handle things now. I think it's more kind of leading from behind on foreign policy. And it's incredibly dangerous because, as Pat was saying, al-Qaida is not on the run. They're on the rise. And nothing's being done about it. And North Africa is a very unstable place.

MS. CLIFT: Al-Qaida central has been virtually decimated. But the -- what they espouse, there are cells all over the place. And I think the administration is -- you have to be engaged, but you handle it in a different way. They're not going to put boots on the ground. They're going to assist the French. The French have more of an interest in Mali than we do.

And you're going to see more use probably of drones, which is controversial in and of itself. But the administration is not ignoring this area. And all of the critics are out there saying do this, do this, do this. Like what? Nobody really has any great answers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have a question for you. Africa is rich in natural resources. The Chinese know that. The Chinese have penetrated a lot of Africa. Are we missing the boat?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know that we're missing the boat. But certainly China is in a very different position than us, and they have the people who can go in there and live in that kind of environment and work in that kind of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does that mean?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It means it's a much more difficult --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does it mean about the Chinese you're talking about?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They have a huge appetite for the kind of natural resources, and they're willing to pay for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And we don't?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, no, we do, but we have other sources, OK, than the Chinese do. And the fact is that this is something that gives them a primary call on a lot of the resources of that region. They put in a lot of money. We haven't been willing to do that, nor have we wanted to put boots on the ground.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we've got two reasons for being there. One, Africa, as you point out, is the central front with al-Qaida; number two, these resources that we really have not been attending to in any fashion resembling the Chinese.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's correct.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that true?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Chinese will deal with anybody. They're right there in the Sudan, anyplace -- they will go and deal with anybody.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They were in Africa --

MR. BUCHANAN: They put cash on the barrel head.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're all over Latin America. They're all over Africa, John. They are dealing in a commercial mercantile way with these regimes.


MR. BUCHANAN: And we have a foreign policy that deals supposedly with values.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Enough of Africa.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Change of venue -- Israel. Meet Yair Lapid.
Benjamin Netanyahu won a reelection, but it was a squeaker. A new arrival on the scene is TV personality, author, journalist and politician Yair Lapid, who leads Israel's Yesh Atid Party.

Question: Mort, why has Netanyahu lost steam, and what's behind the emergence of Yair Lapid?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, this is a very interesting evolution in Israeli politics. There's no doubt but that this election, in fact, was a defeat for Netanyahu. And I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meaning what? He won the election.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He may be the next prime minister. His party went down from 40 --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is -- Yair?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no -- Netanyahu.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Netanyahu's party, his own party, went down from 42 seats to 31 seats.

So, in fact, his party, the Likud Party, had fewer seats. This guy came out of nowhere. It's his first time running for office and he got 19 seats. He became the most -- the second-most important party in the -- out of nowhere. And so he has become the star of this thing, OK. And Netanyahu is going to have to make a deal with him and form a coalition.
All of Israeli politics are splintered, but it's never been anything like this. And now Netanyahu is going to have to move, if I may say so, because he had so much pressure from the far right. This is now a center-right. It's going to be a much more pragmatic and a much more open government.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long is his term until --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's five years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- they call for --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's nominally --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It can be as much as five years, but it almost never lasts five years because the coalitions --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How long do you think he's going to be prime minister?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think he'll be prime minister for the next three years at least.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happened to Olmert?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What happened to Olmert? I thought he was going to do something.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, listen, Olmert -- in my judgment, if Olmert had been the prime minister or Sharon had been the prime minister or Rabin had been the prime minister, you would have had a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you're going to have --

MS. CLIFT: Lapid did not exactly come out of nowhere. He had been a popular on-camera broadcaster. His father created a centrist party. He looks like an Israeli George Clooney, and he's really captured the imagination of the young. In part -- his main issue was that the ultra-orthodox should not be exempt from military service.


MS. CLIFT: And so I think he's a critical player here going forward.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I just want to know whether Netanyahu has --

MS. CLIFT: And a two-state solution is still alive and well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- reductively proved this is it for him.



MR. ZUCKERMAN: It (may be ?) good for him. No, no, no. I think Netanyahu may be on the way out. I think we'll see how this government works. But Netanyahu --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he's going to put together a coalition --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- is under very, very different political pressures from within his own cabinet. You're going to have -- it's not going to be from the right now, OK? It's going to be from the center.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to be from the right. Look, you've got Lapid. You've got -- Lapid's party is going to be there. Netanyahu is going to be there. His own partner in there, who's a far rightist, and Naftali Bennett or the Shas Party is going to be there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a coalition coming of the good, the bad and the ugly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Inauguration Day.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forbears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we could not walk alone, to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Inauguration Day, Monday, President Barack Obama gave his second inaugural address to the nation. It ran 18 minutes and was delivered before a throng of hundreds of thousands assembled on the National Mall.
Question: Was President Obama's speech unabashedly liberal?

I ask you, Susan Ferrechio.

MS. FERRECHIO: Of course. It was -- everything he said, from talking about gay marriage, immigration reform, all these things are part and parcel of the liberal agenda. It was -- if anything, a lot of people were saying -- and I was reading -- if you were reading Twitter at the time, people were saying, wow, this is surprising that he's really willing to go right into gay marriage. He's the first person in an inaugural speech to say the word gay. I mean, it was very liberal.

MS. CLIFT: Well, this is the problem the Republicans face. If they think all these great issues of the day are solely the province of the Democratic Party and liberalism, they're never going to win another election. I think the president did a great job rooting these ideals and these values in the great traditions of the past, in references to the Founding Fathers --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- in talking like Dwight Eisenhower did --

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: -- when he was president. It was a stirring speech --

MR. BUCHANAN: If you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- that will go down in history.

MR. BUCHANAN: If you think the Stonewall riot in a gay bar in Greenwich Village can be traced all the way back to Bunker Hill and the Founding Fathers, you don't read what the Founding Fathers believed or said.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, let's play another bite.

MS. CLIFT: -- revolution --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's play another bite of the president.

MS. CLIFT: -- is a word that ties us together, Pat.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me. Let's play another bite of the president -- a living document.

The president alluded frequently to the U.S. Constitution, the nation's founding document, one that the president made clear is not set in stone.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) We have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time. But it does require us to act in our time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Given this passage, is there any doubt in your mind that President Obama's view is that the U.S. Constitution is antiquated?

MS. CLIFT: I wouldn't say antiquated, but I would say that it's past time for people to hide behind the Constitution and fail to face the challenges of today. And the most immediate issue that comes to mind, of course, is gun violence. And to rely on a Second Amendment that basically talks about creating militias to put down rebellions --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- to apply that today to an unfettered right to have assault weapons with, you know, 30 or 60 rounds so you can go out and gun down little children --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- that then the Constitution can be interpreted in a more elastic way.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think he's doing us a favor by reminding us that it is a living document and it must be accommodated --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to the conditions of today?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But that doesn't necessarily it has to be ripped apart or ignored in any respect.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree with both sides of what you just said. But it is a living document. It has been evolving throughout the history of this country. The courts ultimately are going to be the deciders, as we say, over how far it can go and how far government can go, but that there is no doubt but we have allowed this Constitution and nurtured this Constitution as a living document because conditions change in the country.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, he is claiming -- I mean, Eleanor calls it his revolution. And she's right. But the roots of this revolution on gay rights and modern feminism and all the rest, they go back to the 1960s. They do not go back to the Constitution of the United States --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- which was written by people who did not believe in equality.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they consistent with the Constitution?

MR. BUCHANAN: The word equality is not in the Constitution, it's not in the Bill of Rights, and it's not in the Federalist Papers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that mean it's excluded from the thinking --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's not excluded.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of the Founding Fathers.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Eleanor's talking about -- the revolution is a modern thing and it can't be traced --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he --

MS. CLIFT: No, it's not a modern thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he mean that, as a living document, you can find it in the Constitution, but it's not going to be obvious?

MR. BUCHANAN: He can put it in the Constitution by subterfuge, but it's not there.

MS. CLIFT: Well, revolution is not a modern thing. Revolution goes back to the beginning of this country. And when you --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And you cannot have a document --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Susan in.

MS. FERRECHIO: The tone, when talking about the Constitution during that speech, was a little bit dismissive, like, yeah, there's a Constitution, but look, we can work around it. I mean, that's just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you share that view? She used the word dismissive. Do you think it was --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think she's exactly right. I think she's exactly right.

MS. CLIFT: I thought it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think so?

MS. CLIFT: No. It was reverential towards our beginnings --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do think --

MS. CLIFT: -- and our Constitution and our forefathers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think so?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it dismissive at all?

MS. CLIFT: No -- reverential. (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What happens -- this is a constitutional document, so we have to --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- pay it appropriate reverence.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: But it cannot be frozen.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Otherwise our country would come to a halt on so many ways. So it is the role of government, and ultimately the role of the courts, as we saw in the 1930s,
OK --


MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- to allow for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In point of fact -- in point of fact, we
have treated it as a living document.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But it works.

It works nevertheless --

MR. BUCHANAN: Works. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because the seeds of these -- of, for example, the women's right to vote and all of that. All of that is there, but it's -- so it's not really antiquated in the form of buried.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's living, but -- and that's the point he wanted to make.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: If we didn't allow it to be interpreted in some ways in the context of the modern times --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, I think he --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- it would become an antiquated document.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he was right on.

Issue Three: Combative Women?

DEFENSE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA: (From videotape.) General Dempsey and I are pleased to announce that we are eliminating the direct ground combat exclusion rule for women.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, announced this week an end to the 18-year, 1994 prohibition that excludes military women from military combat. In so doing, the U.S. joins other western countries. Germany, Italy, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Serbia, Switzerland, Israel, even New Zealand, already allow women in combat rules and frontline positions.

Out of the more than 6,400 total Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least 130 American women have been killed in the line of fire, and the number of American women wounded is over 800.

Soon women will be able to fight back on the front lines and in elite special forces, but women will have to meet the same strength standards as men if they choose a combat role.
Senator John McCain, Vietnam war hero and tortured as a prisoner of war, favors the women in combat roles, but adds this. Quote: "It is critical that we maintain the same high standards that have made the American military the most feared and admired fighting force in the world, particularly the rigorous physical standards for our elite Special Forces units," unquote.

Allowing women in combat roles will open up more than 200,000 jobs to women, mostly in the Army and Marine Corps. The plan is to be drawn up by May and implemented over three years. Combat experience, by the way, is considered a prerequisite to jobs in the top military brass.

Question: Will the new Pentagon policy on women in combat adversely affect military readiness, yes or no? Susan Ferrechio.

MS. FERRECHIO: I think the jury is still out. It really is interesting. Some in the military have said this could be a problem, could create tension on the front lines, could change the dynamic. I think what Senator McCain said -- you know, if you read closely what his comments are, that, you know, we still have to maintain our superlative status as a military, and we can't let, you know, policy changes get in the way.

And, of course, I empathize with women out there who want to be on the front lines fighting, but I think, first and foremost, we have to preserve our superior military and make sure that this doesn't change that dynamic in some way, which is good.

MS. CLIFT: When --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan, did you see that list of countries that now have women in this role?

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, who's got the number one military in the world? Not those countries. Our military is. So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because women are excluded --

MS. FERRECHIO: No, but because of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- from that --

MS. FERRECHIO: We've managed to stay number one, and I just was saying we need to stay number one and not let policy changes get in the way.

MS. CLIFT: Women have proven themselves on the battlefield. And the nature of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan have made this lifting of this ban inevitable. Women are now attached to combat units. They're not assigned to combat units. This means they're out there. They're dying. They're getting wounded. But they're not eligible --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- for promotions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye.

(C) 2013 Federal News Service