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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel:
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek/The Daily Beast;
Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, March 22, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of March 23-24, 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 info@fednews.com or call 1-202-347-1400.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: U.S.-Mideast Reset.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) But make no mistake. Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel's right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel's not going anywhere. (Cheers, applause.)

And today I want to tell you, particularly the young people, so that there's no mistake here, so long as there is a United States of America, atem lo levad. (Cheers, applause.) You are not alone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Barack Obama addressed a young audience this week in Israel's capital, Jerusalem, at its convention center on his first presidential visit to Israel. The speech was upbeat, even rousing, but the language measured, even guarded, with State Department edits poking through.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Peace is possible. (Applause.) It is possible. (Cheers, applause.) I'm not saying it's guaranteed. I can't even say that it is more likely than not. But it is possible.

I know there must be something exhausting about endless talks about talks and daily controversies and just the grinding status quo. I'm sure there's a temptation just to say, ah, enough; let me focus on my small corner of the world and my family and my job and what I can control. But it's possible. Negotiations will be necessary. But there's little secret about where they must lead: Two states for two peoples. (Cheers, applause.) Two states for two peoples.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Was President Obama's speech to college students in Israel and the trip itself designed to reset U.S.- Israeli relations that were badly strained in President Obama's first term? Pat.

PAT BUCHANAN: Yeah, John. And you're right. It's an Israeli- U.S. reset, and I think it was a great success. I think the president's speech was outstanding to the young Israelis. I think it was full of realism, and I think it was idealism as well.

What he has done, he's walked away from the idea that Israel's got to stop building settlements. And as a reality, there's not going to be any Palestinian state as long as you've got the present Israeli government with Netanyahu, Lieberman, Naftali Bennett and those folks in power.
But I do think there's been a reset in relations with Israel, but John, with the whole Middle East. Look at the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Gaza. The Jordanian king is in trouble. Syria is about to collapse in anarchy. You've got Hezbollah in Lebanon.

I think that whole area is moving in the other direction. And if I were the president of the United States, I believe what he wants to do and he ought to do is get out of Dodge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, I can't remember a time, certainly in my lifetime,
where there was a peaceful status quo in the Middle East. It's always been a cauldron. And I think the president is right to give a boost to the two-state solution. And you're right that he basically is saying that --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- the Israelis don't have to stop building settlements in order for the talks to proceed. But his concept is that the pressure will bubble up from these young populations and that if he can get the peace talks going and you can establish boundaries, that the settlement issue will be solved from that.

So I think it is a new approach. He didn't go over there with a peace -- peace pan -- peace plan in his pocket. But I think he certainly has revived a sense that peace is possible, which is his word. And he has established or cemented the bonds with Israel, and that's appropriate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was the U.S. relationship with Israel strained in the first term?

SUSAN FERRECHIO: Absolutely. I think there was evidence that the president was giving short shrift to Israel, many occasions where he wasn't talking to Netanyahu when he should have been in person. And more importantly, I think, about the speech is he was talking to the Israelis, but he was talking beyond them too, I think, about just generally the need for peace in the area.

It wasn't just a pro-Israel speech, you know. He did say -- he didn't say the settlements were a great thing. He said that they don't promote peace in the area either.

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

MS. FERRECHIO: You know, he didn't say you have to get out. He said they're not helping the situation either. So I think he was talking not just to the Israelis, so I don't think it was just a total pro-Israel trip.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was anybody offended by his remarks in any way?

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, I'm sure that some of the Palestinians were offended, because they, I think, liked the atmosphere that existed before in which there was a perceived tension between the United States and Israel. That is now gone.

I think the real question is now, will there be any dialogue? There have been many attempts to get a dialogue going between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the usual issues, and the Palestinians refused. And I can say that with direct personal knowledge.

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

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Whether this changes or not, we're going to find out. There are new players, particularly John Kerry, involved. And I think he'll be very effective in that part of the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did -- has it been sufficiently noted that the president met with Abu Abbas (sic/means Mahmoud Abbas), or sometimes called Abu Mazen, the head of the Palestinians?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, there's no problem. That's not the problem. Nobody expects the president not to meet with Abu Mazen.
Abu Mazen is the key player --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, while he was there on this trip.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, however he meets with him, how many times he meets with him --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has it been underplayed in the U.S. press?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm sure it has been underplayed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was it a brief meeting? Do you know anything about it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I do not. It was a very brief meeting, but I just do not know anything about it. I do know what the reaction was within Israel and within the leadership of Israel. And I think they felt we finally have an environment in which we can talk constructively.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about a two-state solution.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's some talk over there about a one-state solution. Read The Economist. One-state solution is a bad idea, correct?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I think it's a bad idea.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It should be two states.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Israel is never going to go for a one-state --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They'll never --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- solution, because they would soon be outnumbered by the Palestinians, who would vote the Israelis out of power.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They will be outbred by the Palestinians, irregardless of whether it's one state or two states.

MR. BUCHANAN: Eventually they would be outnumbered.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, they will not, John. Those numbers --

MR. BUCHANAN: Then you'd have a binational state.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- are dramatically overstated --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- and exaggerated.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, the Palestinians have a higher rate of population growth.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And the theory is that at some point they will overtake the Israelis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: About 30 years.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It'll take 50 years, if that.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's very close.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, it's not.

MR. BUCHANAN: There are five and a half million Palestinians.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, let's -- let me move it forward.

Barry and Bibi Bromance.

From the moment the president arrived at the airport in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, there were smiles and jokes all around shared between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two leaders held a press conference outside the prime minister's Jerusalem residence, where he and the president bantered with the press until it got boring.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And I want to express a special thanks to Sara, as well as your two sons, for their warmth and hospitality. It was wonderful to see them. They are -- I did inform the prime minister that they are very good-looking young men, who clearly got their looks from their mother. (Laughter.)

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (Laughs.) Well, I can say the same of your daughters. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is true. You see how the young lady from Channel 1, she had one question? She's very well behaved, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD (NBC News): I've got one for you and --

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: These are (Talmudic ?) questions. They have --

MR. TODD: Apparently -- I thought I had four questions.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: -- reiterations, yes.

MR. TODD: Passover starts in a couple of days. I get four questions, right?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Look, this is not a kosher question, but don't hog it. (Laughter.)

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What explains the public display of bonhomie? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Well, first of all, the political equation has shifted. Before the November election, I think Netanyahu thought he was in charge. I mean, he was rooting for Mitt Romney, and lots of talk about potential attack on Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: And the president has since won an election pretty convincingly. Netanyahu has lost some ground at home. And I thought, reading the pool reports that come back from the reporters following them, Netanyahu was complaining about all of the challenges he's facing putting together his new government.

And Obama basically said, well, talk to me about it; look what my problems are on Capitol Hill. And Netanyahu said, yeah, but we have more moving parts over here. Moving -- the parts in our country don't move at all. That's the problem. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I had my doubts throughout whether or not he was going to shift Netanyahu's opinion on him. I felt that from the -- you remember that photo of Netanyahu and Obama sitting on the couch on the White House?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Oval Office.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you remember that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure -- very tense and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, and --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- being lectured.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the whole body posture and so forth. But some of the video emerging from this trip was so authentic. And even the words of Netanyahu describing Obama and what he means -- what Obama means to him in this relationship --

MS. CLIFT: Seemed heartfelt.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and how a true friend -- a true friend. It was very authentic.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I think it was. And I think they did have, for the first time, really, the kind of environment and personal contact within that environment that made this all possible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And they both know, and certainly they know how important a good personal relationship is on an issue as complicated and as difficult here. That is an essential way to be able to resolve it --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- when you talk with each other.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let's get beyond --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to give Obama credit for working it out --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let's get beyond the bonhomie.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just a minute -- working it out that way?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, absolutely. I think they both deserve the credit, but I think the president here made a major step forward, A, in the visit -- he had not visited before -- B, in the tone that he brought to the visit --

MS. CLIFT: It also --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let's --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- and C, in terms of the dialogue --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know Netanyahu well. Netanyahu has some rough edges.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama's rough edges he can pretty carefully conceal.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't agree with that.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, why don't we talk about something serious?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But, then again, we all have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: Talk about something serious. The real question --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you mean, serious? Psychology plays a big role in this.

MR. BUCHANAN: There are two questions here. Is Obama going to be persuaded to go into Syria? And can Netanyahu convince him to move militarily against Iran? That's the big stuff, not -- the bonhomie is all --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- subsidiary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they don't get to the big stuff sometimes if they get the wrong drift in the bonhomie level.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's -- the bonhomie is to get to the big stuff.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the bonhomie --

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

MS. FERRECHIO: Yeah, I do. And I think that Pat's exactly right. How far is Obama really willing to go to put his money where his mouth is on helping Israel? I would say at this point that all looked well and good and friendly, but I don't see him going far enough.

MS. CLIFT: I don't know that there's a gap between --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor in. Quickly.

MS. CLIFT: I don't know that there's a gap between them on Syria. I think Netanyahu is just as wary of --

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, no one's --

MS. CLIFT: -- entering Syria too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you seen, by the way --

MS. CLIFT: But the bonhomie did not prevent the president from going over Netanyahu's head and talking to the Israeli public.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: And there is a gap --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: -- between what the people want and what the leaders want.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, here's what I want to know --

MS. CLIFT: And the same thing is true --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- about Syria.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What I want to know about Syria is do they have chemical weapons?

MR. BUCHANAN: They've got them.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you see that intriguing report from a reporter who's been over there for years? He reported on this for The Independent, which I believe is an English newspaper, now available on your computer, who says they do not have -- they do not have any chemical weapons.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the United Nations --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, that -- yes, right.

MS. CLIFT: -- is investigating a report that they used them.

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

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I want to speak to one very important issue here, which is when the president said our policy is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. The word prevention is really critical. There's a difference between prevention and containment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct. That's correct.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he publicly --

MR. BUCHANAN: But Mort --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- and specifically stated that in --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I caught those words, too, when I read that transcript.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Mort --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's a very important public statement.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- there's a difference --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, so you're saying --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Once the United States --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- there was no assertion on Netanyahu's part or either part that in the Syrian conversation there was no discussion of weapons of chemical origin.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm sure there was. That's a separate issue. It never became public.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why would that be a separate issue?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Because Syria is different from Iran.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the chemical weapons were supposed to have been moved in to help the Hamas in Lebanon, and Israel struck.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. As I said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I will not find out about that until I go there and talk with them.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But the issue --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know what I'm talking about.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I know exactly what you're talking about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, they (bombed ?).

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The key issue here --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- and the president stated it, and his people know if the president states that, he cannot walk away from that commitment.

MR. BUCHANAN: But you said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're over. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Wait a minute. You said prevent. Our position is we're going to prevent them from getting nuclear weapons. I mean, Netanyahu's is prevent them from getting a nuclear weapons capability, which they have right now. There's a dramatic disagreement, and there's an effort to push the American position to Bibi's position --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not sure --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- in which case --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he said exactly that.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- nuclear weapons capability.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to see the exact wording, because I think it was extremely carefully wrought, and he alluded to going into that assertion.

MR. BUCHANAN: Nuclear weapons --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Gun Ban Blowback.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. (Cheers, applause.) The families of Newtown deserve a vote. (Cheers, applause.) The families of Aurora deserve a vote. (Cheers, applause.) The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In his State of the Union address, President Obama made an impassioned plea for gun control. This was backed up by a White House task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden. Biden's goal was to pressure Congress to vote yes or no on full gun-control legislation. This includes Senator Dianne Feinstein's proposed ban on 157 models of assault-style weapons.

This week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stripped Feinstein's gun ban from the bill for strategic reasons, so that the Senate will take it up next month. The pared-down legislation focuses on school safety and gun trafficking.

At New York City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who heads Mayors Against Illegal Guns, implored Congress to bring back the assault weapons ban as an amendment to the stripped-down legislation.

NEW YORK CITY MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I): (From videotape.) The only question is whether Congress will have the courage to do the right thing or whether they will allow more innocent people, including innocent children, to be gunned down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The mayor was flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, who reminded the audience that Congress had passed a ban on assault weapons in 1994 and could do so again. The vice president also turned to a mother of one of the school teachers killed in the Newtown, Connecticut massacre.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: (From videotape.) You know, it's time for the political establishment to show the courage our daughter showed. It must be awful being in public office and concluding that, even though you might believe you should take action, that you can't take action because of a political consequence you face. What a heck of a way to make a living. I mean it sincerely. What a heck of a way to have to act.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What made Harry Reid decide to drop Dianne Feinstein's assault-weapon ban from the gun-control bill? Are you following me?

MS. FERRECHIO: Yes. He never intended to have it in there. I don't understand why everyone's interpreting this as a big shocking development. From the very beginning, Majority Leader Reid said that he wasn't committed to putting this in the bill, because he knew it had no chance of passing in the House. It's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With it in the bill.

MS. FERRECHIO: Correct.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If he took it out of the bill, then it would have a chance to pass.

MS. CLIFT: It could sink the whole bill, in other words.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, it could sink the whole bill --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sink the bill.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- which has other elements.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he took it out --

MS. FERRECHIO: There's only so far --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with a view to --

MS. CLIFT: He never intended --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- the Congress can go --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to know what Harry Reid's intention was. To get the bill passed, right?

MS. FERRECHIO: To get a gun-violence bill passed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Correct.

MS. FERRECHIO: It didn't necessarily have to have the assault- weapon ban or the gun-magazine limits in it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right -- which was Feinstein's content.

MS. FERRECHIO: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he says I'm going to get rid of that, because if that's in there, it will kill the bill.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, there's other reasons, too, that are --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was that in the -- he wanted the passage of the bill.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, that's not really what's going on here. What's happening is if he were to put all that together in one package, it would force some very politically dangerous votes for vulnerable Democrats who are up for reelection in 2014.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Right.

MS. FERRECHIO: He could lose his majority.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MS. FERRECHIO: The Democratic Senate could become the Republican Senate. And that is what this is about.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. So that was his driving motivation, to preserve the Democratic Senate --

MS. FERRECHIO: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and his Democratic state.

MS. FERRECHIO: Yes. And secondly, he never had any intention of putting it in the bill. So this whole -- it's a farce to say he took it out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he didn't do it --

MS. FERRECHIO: He never (got ?) it in there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He didn't do it because he disagreed with the content of Feinstein.

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, he may.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He disagreed --

MS. FERRECHIO: He's a gun owner from Nevada.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He got it through in order to get the bill passed.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me explain it to you. He did it for this reason. If he put up the bill and forced his own conservative senators to vote for it, that would -- Democrats -- that would hurt them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: If they voted against him, it would hurt them with their base. And if it got over to the House, it's not going through anyway. So he spares his Democrats --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- a vote, which is lose-lose either way.

MS. CLIFT: Right. But Senator Feinstein is going to press for a vote and it's going to be an amendment.

MR. BUCHANAN: Good.

MS. CLIFT: And there probably will be --

MR. BUCHANAN: Good.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Well, probably will be a vote.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: But over the next two weeks, when they're home on their Easter break --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Do you think --

MS. CLIFT: -- there are -- excuse me -- there are grassroots groups that have grown up -- you know, Mothers Against Guns -- who are going to put some pressure on these red-state Democratic senators. And maybe there's a small possibility that they will understand there are votes on the other side. It's not only all about the NRA.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

OK, media reaction. Take a look at how the New York Daily News on its cover reacted to the stripping of the assault-weapons ban from the Senate bill. The pictures you see are the 20 children who were killed by one gunman at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in December.

Mort, do you want to speak to this? This is your newspaper.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it is my newspaper. And I will tell you --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was that Friday's edition?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. We got more reaction to that story, both in New York City and in its environs and nationally, than of any front page we've had in several years. It had just a huge effect. And I think there is a lot of resentment in the country that this bill has been denuded of that one thing that Harry Reid took out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Explain the cover. Explain the cover. There were all pictures of the --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There were pictures --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- slain children.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, 20 -- there were 20 pictures of that, and basically it said, "Shame on U.S." And "us" was "U.S." So it meant the United States.

And that was the whole point of this thing, that this could not get passed by a serious and responsible body.

MR. BUCHANAN: They dropped the -- they dropped the high-capacity magazines as well as the assault-weapons ban -- both of them.

MS. CLIFT: Well, you know, it's all about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, congratulations, Mort, on doing that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, thank you very much. The editor deserves the credit. And it was a great, great front page for a paper like the New York Daily News.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It spoke volumes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it really did. And it had just a national impact. It was just extraordinary

MS. CLIFT: Well, you know --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: My fear is that that whole episode has begun a slow evaporation in its --

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in its memory. I mean, it has to be called up with the flux of forces in our society. But that -- the way you portrayed it becomes a feature of --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- helping the recollection.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It'll be repeated over and over, because it just captured what this was all about --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What beautiful children.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- which is 20 beautiful children were killed. And it would never have happened if they didn't have those ability to fire that many bullets out of that gun.

MS. FERRECHIO: You know, Mort --

MS. CLIFT: Politically, it's all about intensity.

MS. FERRECHIO: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: And the intensity has always been on the side of the gun owners and the NRA. And since Newtown, for the first time, there's intensity that's felt on the side of people who want --

MS. FERRECHIO: But are we really having --

MS. CLIFT: -- measures to prevent gun violence. We'll see if it can be translated into votes on Capitol Hill.

MS. FERRECHIO: You pass this law --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her speak.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- and there's a quarter of a billion guns still out there.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MS. FERRECHIO: How does this save anyone's life? I mean, what about the video games that that kid was obsessed with? What about the 10-year-olds who are going home and playing those games every day? Why aren't we talking about Hollywood violence?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look at the movies. They use those guns in every single --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean portrayed aggression.

MS. FERRECHIO: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: Because you can't fix everything doesn't mean you --
(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'll tell you one thing, OK.

MS. FERRECHIO: (Inaudible.) Why not? Why can't we fix those things?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What we're about here is if you go to the movies and you see it, OK. It doesn't mean you have a gun. The whole purpose here is to eliminate the guns that, in fact, cause these.

MS. FERRECHIO: But you're not. You're eliminating --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- (new ?) guns. What about the ones that are already out there?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think there should be --

MS. CLIFT: There are (fewer ?) guns now than there were a number of years ago. It's going down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- perhaps a redistribution or also something else included besides withdrawing hardware, and that is the incidence of mental illness in the United States? Should there be more research on that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, absolutely.

MR. BUCHANAN: Background checks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's mentally sick?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely, there should be.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's background checks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Background checks.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There should be --

MR. BUCHANAN: Background checks --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, background checks, but also focusing on comprehensive measures to detect and treat dangerous mental illness.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Without question.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you keep guns away from them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Going For Broke.

If your dreams of a golden retirement age seem to have become transmuted into tin by the global economic crisis, you're not alone. A new report shows that only two thirds of American workers are saving for retirement, down from three out of four in 2009. More than half say they have saved less than $25,000. Five years ago, slightly less than half had so little saved for retirement. Worse yet, only 3 percent of employees today have traditional pensions, down from 28 percent in 1979.

The upshot: Twenty-eight percent of Americans have no confidence they will be able to retire comfortably. Making the squeeze worse, even those with employer-provided pensions could be in trouble. Increased longevity, plus lower interest rates on investments, mean corporate pension plans face a double squeeze and possible insolvency.

Question: Will this bad news about retirement savings put increased pressure on Social Security? And, if so, what are the implications for the ongoing federal budget debate? I ask you, Susan Ferrechio.

MS. FERRECHIO: This is one of the most important issues of our time, and it's really not getting any attention. Look at -- let's look at the formula here. People are having -- have less money as they get into old age, which means they're going to be more dependent on a government whose entitlement programs are not sustainable. And no one in Congress or in the White House is willing to do anything about it.

That is a combination for disaster. We're going to need more money from the government. They're not going to have it. People are living longer. No one's willing to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare and Social Security, do anything at all to this, because it's just too devastating politically. So the question is, what are people going to live off of when they're old?

MS. CLIFT: This isn't the fault of the people who want to protect Social Security. This is the fault --

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, how are you protecting it by killing it?

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me -- of a corporate business establishment and a Republican Party that is supposedly against redistribution of wealth, but through their policies have managed to redistribute wealth all to the top. We've had the 401K'ing of America, so many people have watched those sums go down. And they're very dependent on Social Security. So those programs have to be protected.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the baby boomers are retiring today at a rate of 10,000 every single day, 3.65 million in a year.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's their maximum age?

MR. BUCHANAN: At 65 -- they reach 65 at 10,000 a day. Susan's exactly right, though. I think this is going to put tremendous pressure against any reform of Social Security in terms of changing, you know, the CPI and all the rest of it. My own -- and also, same thing with Medicare.

My guess is the Democratic Party is going to dig in its heels against any kind of reform of the entitlements. And I wonder if the Republican Party has the strength to do it or whether it's even going to be done, in which case we are really headed for a major, major crisis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The money is not going into retirement. It's not going into consumer spending. Where's the money going?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, the money isn't there. There's not enough money.

MS. FERRECHIO: There's no money. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And the other thing is that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about rising prices?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Well, inflation -- we've had a very, very low level of inflation because the economy's been so weak. But one other thing that is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about food and gas prices?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- (inaudible) -- is the defined-benefit lifetime retirement programs. Those are gone. So you're not -- you just don't have enough money, if you're retiring, to live off of it. And the government is now broke, in effect. They can't step in and make this up. And so we're --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much are they paying down in the government debt?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, the government debt is actually not going down, if I may say so. We're going to have a deficit this year of a $1,300,000,000,000, which is $25 billion a week. It's the worst deficit that we've had. And nobody knows --

MS. CLIFT: Social Security is easy to fix. You just lift the cap. Right now if you make, I think, over -- is it over $107,000 or something? Then you don't pay anymore.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Immigration reform passes the House. Republicans kill it in the Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow.
Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Illinois will become the next state to legalize gay marriage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What state?

MS. CLIFT: Illinois.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Illinois.
Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: I say immigration reform is going to run into big trouble in Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MS. FERRECHIO: Mm-hmm. (Affirmative response.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think the economy is going to remain weak and it's going to put a great deal of pressure to have a new infrastructure bank.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that President Abe of Japan, trying to revitalize his economy by loosening its grip on inflation, will overshoot. He will go into debt -- it will go into debt crisis and produce global hyperinflation.

Bye-bye.
(C) 2013 Federal News Service

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