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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

Broadcast: Weekend of March 30-31, 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: GOP Eastering?

REINCE PRIEBUS (Republican National Committee chairman): (From videotape.) We're a little bit too math-focused and not focused on people's hearts, so that we don't relate to, I think, average Americans more than we should -- stuffy old guys too much. And it really is painful to hear, because reality is that we've got a very young party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: After failing to win the White House five months ago, the Republican Party has begun a $10 million analysis of how to resurrect itself. The party especially wants to reach minority voters, who voted by huge margins for President Obama last November -- 93 percent of African-Americans, 73 percent of Asian-Americans, 71 percent of Hispanic Americans.

The GOP is holding listening sessions across the country to figure out why minority voters were turned off by the party's 2012 message. It's also sending canvasses to areas Republicans rarely go. By order of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, the party issued a 100-page blunt assessment of its problems that details why, when it comes to the presidential level, the party leaves the impression that it, quote, "does not care about people," unquote.

Question: Is this public Republican soul searching a bad idea? Is it overkill? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: Well, there's nothing wrong with soul searching, John, but they'd better look at reality. African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans are now roughly 40 percent of the entire population and 30 percent of the electorate, and they vote 80 percent Democratic. And they are growing, whereas the white population, which votes three to two Republican, is diminishing.

The problem is, for the Republican Party, as more America becomes -- looks more and more like the state of California geographically -- or demographically -- it will look like California politically, where we have not a single statewide office. Our congressional delegation is two to one outnumbered. The state legislature, both houses, is two to one outnumbered. And the Republicans are down to 31 percent of the vote.

This is inexorable. And one of the problems is the Republican Party has never dealt with mass immigration, legal or illegal. And you've got 40 million newcomers in this country in the last 40 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the Republicans need a 100-page study to figure out why they lost the election?

ELEANOR CLIFT: They could probably do it in a few paragraphs. But I commend Reince Priebus for doing this. I think it took a lot of courage on his part to admit to all of the negative stereotypes about the modern Republican Party. And they're going to go the way of the Whigs if they don't recognize the new American electorate.

And he has some substantive reforms that make sense -- fewer debates. I mean, that was great entertainment watching the Republicans, but they made it very difficult for Mitt Romney to appeal to a broader electorate because of the positions he had to take to get through the primaries.

An earlier convention might help. Now, hiring people to go out into the country, that borrows a little from Howard Dean's 50-state strategy, and that's a good thing. But hiring people who are comfortable in various districts in this country reminds me a little bit of the tobacco industry when they, back in the day, hired all these gorgeous young people to go out and promote tobacco.
I mean, the problem that the Republican Party has --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- is what they're selling is toxic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I don't see what's wrong with canvassing, finding out way. But I think it's pretty clear why, and that's because of Bill Clinton's speech at the convention, where he blamed the economic distress of the country right on the back -- and he did it so beautifully.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he drew one bright line with the Republican Party. But there are so many differences between the two parties where the Republicans are on the wrong side --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- that even Bill Clinton couldn't part the seas to that point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Obama has a winner with health care with this particular population? Do you follow me?

SUSAN FERRECHIO: Well, of course, because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And Obama had it, but the Republicans had nothing comparable to it.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, and part of the issue, too, is that this -- "Obamacare" will cater to people who are lower-income --

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

MS. FERRECHIO: -- and who need it as a new entitlement, so absolutely. And it played a much bigger role in helping Republicans win -- Democrats win than Republicans calculated. And part of what they argue, and I think it is a correct argument, is that Republicans want to get rid of "Obamacare," but they've never come up with their own plan for what to replace it with. It's a good argument. It's one they continue to make right now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In this polling that's begun, health care plays a big role in why he did as well as he did.

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Oh, for sure. Health care is a huge cost that a lot of people and a lot of families are facing, and don't see how they are going to be able to gain health care, so they're looking for somebody to help them out. This was a program that really worked for them.

But I'll say something else about it. If you look at the minority population, both the Hispanic community and the Asian community generally and instinctively are conservative rather than liberal. In that sense, they're not beyond the reach of the Republican Party if they found some way to talk to these communities.

And that's something which just didn't take place in the last election, to my surprise, actually, because Romney --

MS. FERRECHIO: But it took --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- was very good at that --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- place under --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- when he was a governor.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- George Bush, and it helped him win many more Hispanic voters than Mitt Romney did. He used Hispanic outreach, and it definitely helped him pick up votes. I think Republicans are looking back at that --

MR. BUCHANAN: He got 40 percent of it.
John, take a look at it geographically. Democrats have won 18 states and the District of Columbia in six straight presidential elections. Among those 18 are four of the mega-states -- California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York. And they've won in Ohio and Florida twice. The whole country is trending Democratic. And when -- (inaudible) -- 9 (million) or 11 million Hispanics or illegal immigrants are made American citizens, by three to one they're going to vote Democratic, and there goes Texas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. The GOP is old. Is youth the answer to the GOP need?

SENATOR RAND PAUL (R-KY): (From videotape.) The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The GOP, or Grand Old Party, is just that -- old. So says Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, age 50. Paul gained international status when he filibustered for 13 hours the White House's legal rationale for drone killing. Paul's filibuster took heat from Republican old-guard members like John McCain, who referred to Paul as a, quote-unquote, "wacko bird."

In fact, Paul was the star at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, held two weeks ago. CPAC has become a testing ground for politicians who are eying a presidential run. This year was no different. And in this month's CPAC straw poll, there's an inkling of who will be running for president in 2016.

Here's the results of the straw poll: Rand Paul, 25 percent; Marco Rubio, Florida senator, 23 percent; Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator, 8 percent; Chris Christie, New Jersey governor, 7 percent, despite not being invited to CPAC; Paul Ryan, Wisconsin representative and 2012 vice presidential candidate, 6 percent; Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor, 5 percent; Dr. Ben Carson, Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, 4 percent; Ted Cruz, Texas senator, 4 percent; Bobby Jindal, Louisiana governor, 3 percent; Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate, 3 percent; other, 14 percent.
By the way, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a speaker at CPAC, asked that his name not be placed on the ballot.

Question: How could the recommendations in the GOP report change the playing field for the GOP 2016 contenders, looking ahead?

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, one of the most important recommendations is the one aspect that the party really controls, which is the primary schedule. They're talking about changing the primary schedule in a way that really favors the more established candidates and would hurt up-and-comers, smaller candidates who need the primary system and debates.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't get it. Why does a change of schedule do that?

MS. FERRECHIO: Because if there are fewer primaries and if there are fewer debates, it favors those with more money up front. It doesn't give as much time or as many opportunities --

MS. CLIFT: You want to force a quicker decision.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- for breakout candidates like Rick Santorum was in the last election.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean more getting-to-know-you time.

MS. FERRECHIO: That's exactly right. And the smaller primaries, the smaller caucuses, favor candidates like Santorum, and the next election would more likely favor a candidate like Rand Paul. So they don't like this at all. Rand Paul just showed he is a real up-and- comer in the party --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Rand Paul --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- but he divides the party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Rand Paul make a mistake by saying, yes, he thought he would run? Did he not say that at CPAC --
MS. FERRECHIO: He's hinted several times --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- either publicly or privately? Did he give it to the press?

MS. FERRECHIO: Yes, he's hinted several times that he's considering running for president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Considering. I've seen that. But this was almost a firm yes.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, he's running.

MS. FERRECHIO: He's running.

MS. CLIFT: He's running. And he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they're starting too early? You've run for president how many times? Two? Three? Four?

MR. BUCHANAN: Three. Three.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Three times.

MR. BUCHANAN: Last time --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Well, you know the routine.

MR. BUCHANAN: Last time very badly, John. (Laughs.)
No, here's the thing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you also --

MR. BUCHANAN: Usually you start out --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You also (splintered ?) the party.

MR. BUCHANAN: Usually you start out in March after the midyear elections. But Rand Paul -- one of the things he's saying is, look, when I go to Iowa, I want to get my message out. And if I go to Iowa or I go to New Hampshire, it's going to get tremendous attention. That's why I'm doing it. They are starting -- he is starting very early, no question about it. But everybody knows Marco Rubio --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he look too hungry? Does he look too hungry?

MR. BUCHANAN: Marco -- he and Rubio are in the game.

MS. CLIFT: Rand Paul --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Rubio is number two. Rand Paul is number one.

MR. BUCHANAN: I would guess nationally Rubio is probably number one.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the two of them --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they starting too early? I meant that literally.

Do they --

MR. BUCHANAN: The media -- look, the media does it themselves. They go right after these guys and elevate them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know they do. Why? Because they're bored by the present administration?

MR. BUCHANAN: Because they love this contest and they want to get it going again.

MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah. Free media --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this something really new, though, four years ahead of an election?

MS. FERRECHIO: You know why? It's all about the media. The news cycle is just in overdrive. It's on steroids. So everything is sooner, faster, you know, shorter. And, you know, that's why we're seeing everybody talk about it now. The day after the election, people were talking about 2016.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, have you run for president?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Have I? No. I'm waiting to be called.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are getting the call?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm waiting to be appointed, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has it been raised? It was raised with you, was it not?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, yes, it was, primarily in my home -- the president of the local housing authority.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, what is happening, it seems to me, is that the Republicans had better, fairly early, get a comprehensive kind of policy that is going to have a broader appeal than they had in the last election. And that, I think, is in the works. And they're going to also have to find, in my judgment, some new candidates. And if they do that, they will have a better chance. Otherwise, because of the minority population and the growth of the minority population, they're going to have real problems in getting to be a national party.

MS. CLIFT: That's why they --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Has every president been a Christian?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think so, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't it time for a little development there?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There are some people who think so, John. I mean, if the Republicans continue to put forth candidates who are almost predictably losers --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- at some point something's going to break.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there are a few closet atheists in there.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Well, they -- there I would disagree with you. If you're implying that somehow or other the Republicans don't need the help of the Lord, then you're wrong.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Jewish possibility?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, that's always possible. I mean, it has not happened. It's happened at the state level, but never at the national level.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think it could happen? And if it -- do you think anti-Semitism, to the extent that it exists -- or has evaporated, which I think is the case -- do you think that that would -- or would it be a plus? For example, the mayor of New York.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The mayor of New York would make a terrific president, despite the fact that he thinks so strongly about Coca- Cola, or whatever it is.

MR. BUCHANAN: He wouldn't even carry New York City, John.

MS. CLIFT: He'd never get through the Republican primaries. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: If he ran against Obama, Obama would carry New York City against him --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, we don't know that.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know about that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know that.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, the mayor --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know that.

MR. BUCHANAN: The mayor of New York spent $100 million and beat an unknown fellow from Harlem by five points. He's going to beat Obama?

MS. CLIFT: The mayor of New York --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He was unknown --

MS. CLIFT: -- is doing a terrific job on gun issues.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: And that's -- and that's what --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's doing a terrific job --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: As a mayor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (inaudible).

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right. He has now --

MS. CLIFT: On gun issues --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's doing a terrific job --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: As a mayor, that's right. He has now --

MS. CLIFT: He's looked at the presidential field --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see what he's narrowed the debt of New York to?

MS. CLIFT: He's looked at the presidential field --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Oh, he's done a fabulous job with New York --

MS. CLIFT: -- and backed off at least twice.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- I mean, without question.

MR. BUCHANAN: Where's he going to win?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's an extraordinary man.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's completely independent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He also acquired a personal fortune.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, he's got great ideas.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's extremely smart. And he's fearless.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And if they don't like my taking my position on excessive sugar --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's correct.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, he's an ultra-liberal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or excessive salt, so what? I'm still going to do it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he also knows how to bring good people into government. He put together a terrific administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly.

MR. BUCHANAN: But Mort --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So he was an outstanding guy.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mort, he's a nanny-state liberal who would
not carry a single state --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right.

MS. CLIFT: And I love him for it. But he's not going to be a presidential candidate --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: -- in the Republican primaries. My prediction. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know why you're slurring the nanny state. I think there's a lot to be said for it.

Issue Two: China Cyber-Saboteur.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems.

JAMES CLAPPER (director of national intelligence): (From videotape.) These capabilities put all sectors of our county -- country at risk, from government and private networks to critical infrastructures.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In the State of the Union address in January, and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's Senate briefing this month, the Obama administration is going all out to alert the nation to the ongoing danger of cybersabotage.

Cybersabotage is distinct from hacking. The purpose of cybersabotage is primarily to destroy critical systems, not to steal. And cybersabotage is more dangerous than terrorism. So says DNI Clapper. And that's not all. Attorney General Eric Holder and his DOJ staff have catalogued a list of cyberespionage thefts of corporate and trade secrets by China's People's Liberation Army personnel working out of a complex in Shanghai.

U.S. government agencies are aware. They know that they are targets of Chinese hacking, as are America's biggest corporations, like Lockheed Martin and Google.

This comes in the wake of revelations of Chinese government hacking at The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as other influential media.

Question: What would cybersabotage by a foreign power look like? Susan Ferrechio.

MS. FERRECHIO: You know, it worries me very much, the idea that, you know, we'd lose power. You know, they could sabotage our utilities. Our Internet would go down; the possibility of our, you know, national defense being threatened. This is a whole new frontier that no one has really put a lot of thought into. And it's something -- you know, thank goodness the government's jumping in.

But there's another side to this. There's another side to this. This is going to result in less privacy for Americans. This idea that in order to make sure the nation is secure on the Internet that they've got to -- you know, there's going to be more monitoring. There's a report out this week about more monitoring of private-sector email and Internet activity. That's another -- the other side of this coin that we need to really be worried about.

MS. CLIFT: The banking system in South Korea was just shut down this week as a result of North Korea interference. So, I mean, we're seeing these things happen in real time.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I was at a briefing five years ago on all of this. You can't imagine how vulnerable we are; all of our air traffic, for example. That whole system could break down. Our trains -- you know, all of the clearance of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Electricity.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: People suffering and dying from hypothermia.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And crashes, and everything like that, OK? A huge portion of this country -- never mind all the power systems -- is dependent upon a serious functioning of it.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, look what we did, with the Israelis, to the Natanz nuclear plant that the Iranians got. You racked it all up, ruined the thing. They just targeted one thing with one simple straight attack. Now, imagine that in all the power plants in the United States --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- telephone system, telegraph, all of these things, Internet, dropping that whole thing down, even for a number of -- I mean, a number of days and you stop the American economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. This is called asymmetrical warfare. But I want to move on.

OK, warfare without war declaration. Cybersabotage hacking alarms foreign policy experts. They fear that international rules of conduct forged over two centuries can be undermined by cybertechnology.

Here's a quote from Zbigniew Brzezinski, a preeminent foreign policy expert and former U.S. national security adviser. Quote: "Leaders can now use long-distance air drones for lethal strikes across national borders. Computer viruses can disrupt the military- industrial assets of rivals. A rogue but technologically sophisticated state can now gain the capacity to launch a non-lethal but paralyzing cyberattack on the socioeconomic systems and most important state institutions of a target country. The world community is witnessing an increasing reliance by states on covert acts of violence without declarations of war," unquote.
Mort, how important is that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think it's critical to our national security. People are not fully aware how much risk there is in all of these new systems that we've put in place. But as I say, you could break down any kind of safe air travel, train travel. A huge portion of our economy would come to a screeching halt.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wall Street.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, Wall Street for sure. It's not the only thing.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you know, we --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: All of our electric utilities. All of these things could be brought down in a matter of moments.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, you know --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And that is hugely dangerous for us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Heating in homes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, everything.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, after World War I, remember, everybody used poison gas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: But the way the Americans stopped it in the Second World War is they said, look, we've got all this poison gas. Nazis or the Japanese, you start using this stuff and we will dump more of this on you than you can imagine. Frankly, I think you're going to get down to the point where you've got deterrence, that if you do this, all hell is going to break loose.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the concern within --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's going to be a lot more difficult to figure out who's doing it to us.

MR. BUCHANAN: We can -- well, they spotted South Korea.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The concern within the administration is intense. And it reminds me of the way the Clinton administration was focused on al-Qaida in the `90s. You know, a small group of people knew what was out there and what was looming. And I think people are very aware of this in this administration. The treasury secretary, Jack Lew, was in China this week. And one of the discussions that he's having over there is -- I mean, China is behind some of this -- is to try to work out --

MR. BUCHANAN: China's a rogue nation on this stuff.

MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah, but they're --

MR. BUCHANAN: China's a rogue nation. They're doing this.

MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah, but they're also a big emerging economy and they have a stake in not having this turn into chaos either.

MR. BUCHANAN: But they're operating by robber-baron rules.

MS. CLIFT: There's room for agreement there between the U.S. and China.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jack Lew, Obama's treasury secretary, just completed a two-day China trip in which he warned about the -- he warned the Chinese about cyberattacks. China's new premier listened but refused to acknowledge the Chinese government's role in rehearsing --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, this is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- cybersabotage.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- where you've got to retaliate against them. We go over there and plead with these guys. They're operating by robber- baron rules. They manipulate their currency. They do all kinds of rogue-state things in commerce. You've got to hit them with some sanctions one of these days.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. And to reinforce what you said, given that Xi Jinping, the new president, has endorsed China's goal of military supremacy over the United States, it is clear -- is it clear that China is on a war footing?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't believe they are on a war footing. They are on a commercial war footing. That's what they're -- they're all focused on their domestic economy and growing their domestic economy. And, by the way, it's working pretty well. And they now have an extraordinary technical capability in order to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Superior to ours.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: At this point, in terms of hacking, in terms of controlling --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not hacking -- sabotage --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, in --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- cybersabotage.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, right. That -- I think they're superior to us.

MS. CLIFT: We don't know that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We're probably pretty good too. We don't know.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're engaged in theft, John.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They're engaged in this on an ongoing basis. I suspect practice makes perfect, or at least practice makes better.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you had any consultation with friends in your power league who are aware of the possibilities of cyberhacking, cybersabotage, and are worried, very worried about this?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course. And it's not only, by the way, from China. There are a lot of people within the United States who are involved in this kind of stuff, trying to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do you think there's superior talent today?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In terms of doing this, the Chinese are clearly the number one in the world.

MS. CLIFT: A smart person with a computer could be in any country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Old School Blues.

Add America's aging schools to the list of U.S. infrastructure woes. The U.S. Green Building Council, or USGBC, is a nonprofit organization that advises governments on how to build energy-efficient or, quote-unquote, "green" buildings.

The council has issued a new report that provides a shocking price tag on rebuilding the nation's elementary and secondary schools just to bring them up to their original working order: The cost: 271 -- get this -- billion dollars. That's for repairing the basics, like fixing leaky roofs and dripping pipes and insulating windows and walls to keep classrooms from freezing temperatures.

But that's not all. Schools need modernizing as well as repairs. So the price tag is even higher. In fact, it doubles to 542 -- get this -- billion dollars, over half a trillion, to upgrade heating and cooling systems and provide electrical outlets to classrooms, to service computers.

There has not been a national assessment of the country's school facilities since 1995, 17 years ago. Then the Government Accountability Office under President Bill Clinton issued an assessment. Despite that GAO report, nothing was done.

Bill Clinton, in fact, wrote the forward to this year's USGBC report. Quote: "Nearly 20 years later, in a country where public education is meant to serve as the," quote, "'great equalizer,'" unquote, "for all of its children, we are still struggling to provide equal opportunity when it comes to the upkeep, maintenance and modernization of our schools and classrooms," unquote.

Question: Is this report the latest attempt to funnel public money into green-energy subsidies? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, John. Look, I don't think that is the highest priority. There's no doubt that these public schools -- and they're tremendous institutions in this country -- are breaking down to a great degree and they need to be built up. But the idea that you've got to make them all green is preposterous. I think that's a luxury you don't need. But you do need to build them up. And the main people that you do it, local and state.

MS. CLIFT: Green isn't a luxury. It's the way of the world and it's how we're going to adjust to a warming planet. And here in Washington, in the National Building Museum, there is an exhibit of what they call the green schools movement. It's across the country. And 40 schools are displayed. They're public and their private. A dozen of them are in the Washington area. People strive to get that LEED designation. You save money over the long run. This is a worthy cause and the way --

MS. FERRECHIO: Here's the problem with --

MS. CLIFT: -- building developers and school systems, anybody who's writing any kind of proposal for tomorrow. It's the future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, one of these schools cost $232 million. Another is priced at over $100 million -- for one school.

MS. CLIFT: I'm sure they don't all come in that expensive. And you can't have local communities fund all of the schools --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: -- because you would have such wide disparities because of living patterns.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MS. CLIFT: Ross Perot made an issue of that in Texas.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'd be happy to --

MS. FERRECHIO: The problem is --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- give you (the loan ?) of my fact-finding (power ?).

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) OK. Well, we'll meet up in the parking lot afterwards, John. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, spread the word.

MS. CLIFT: OK.

MS. FERRECHIO: The evidence right now does not support any connection between a green school and school performance. They've already done studies on it. There's absolutely no correlation at all. And, on top of that, the cost of these schools is much higher from the outset. And they're actually using more electricity.

The problem, Eleanor, is that we need money in schools. We desperately need money to get kids a better education.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the status of public faith in government, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's low and headed lower.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Frustration that government can't respond; when you have 91 percent of the public wanting background checks and the Congress can't deliver.

MS. FERRECHIO: Completely tied to jobs and the economy. If that goes up, their faith in government rises with it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, but right now they're -- I would say that faith in government is declining, and it's going to continue to decline for the next several years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the Bible series on television is helping, a little bit, faith in government.

Happy Easter. Bye-bye.

(C) 2013 Federal News Service

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