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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, April 12, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of April 13-14, 2013

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Doubling Down on Debt.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) For years, the debate in this town has raged between reducing our deficits at all costs and making the investments necessary to grow our economy. And this budget answers that argument because we can do both.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama's $3,788,000,000,000 budget blueprint is a game changer.

Here are highlights from the 2,500-page document.

Item: Taxes up $1 trillion over 10 years. That's on top of this January's $600 billion tax hike.

Item: Domestic spending up $1.058 trillion total; repeals the sequester's cuts, funds preschool, highways, green energy.

Item: Defense spending down $500 billion; bases closed, weapons canceled, thousands of jobs cut, higher medical fees for veterans.

Item: Social Security crimped; new cost-of-living formula, the so-called chained CPI, costs retirees $130 billion over 10 years.

Item: Medicare cut $370 billion; doctors lose pay, seniors pay higher premiums and fees. These cuts are on top of the $700 billion "Obamacare" cut from Medicare's budget.

Item: Public debt doubles. Public debt soars from 40.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2008 to 78.2 percent of GDP in 2014.

Under Obama's budget, by 2020, the national debt ceiling will exceed $25 trillion.

Question: Is this budget the basis for serious negotiations with the Republican leadership, or is it a political ploy? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: No, I think he did throw out a card, John, with the Social Security chained CPI. But I don't think it's going to go anywhere for this reason. The president's got tax increases in there that the Republican House simply cannot abide and go home and survive. He's not going to get those tax increases.

Secondly, this chained CPI already has got a firestorm inside the Democratic Party against him for going after Social Security and Medicare. So I think he's put this out here.

But, John, the real long-term problem is that Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security eat up more and more and more of the budget. You mentioned defense and discretionary spending go down less and less and less. And I think it's -- you know, this is no New Deal or no New Frontier or no Great Society. It's a timid budget, I think. And also it's a grim budget for the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The CPI is the Consumer Price Index.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Make your point again about that.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, chained CPI, what it is -- Social Security now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Chained.

MR. BUCHANAN: Social Security now is indexed; cost-of-living increase. We did it in the Nixon administration.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: It was our idea. You tie it to wages, however, wage growth. And Republicans say it should be tied to prices. Chained CPI is sort of a mixture, as I understand it, of the two; in other words, the increases every year in spending for Social Security will not go up quite as rapidly as they did. But it's only a cut of 1 percent in total Social Security in 10 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he going to leave it that way?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Republicans -- Republicans might go for this, but Democrats won't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, it's a radical budget. It's not a radical budget, actually. It's a reasonable budget. And the tax increases he's calling for are capping deductions and closing loopholes, which is what Mitt Romney ran on and what Republicans have supported in the past. So this is well within the bounds of negotiations that have already gone on.
Secondly, it is unprecedented for a Democratic president to lead the charge on trimming entitlements. And, yes, he's getting push-back from his party. The reason that the president has put that out there is to see if the Republicans can say yes to anything. They have demanded this chained CPI. They've demanded that he aggressively go after entitlements. And now they're sitting back and they're not so sure they want to say yes to anything.

So what the president is doing is looking for a third column of Republicans, outside of the leadership. He's had dinner with a dozen. He's had some success on other issues, peeling off Republicans on guns, peeling them off on immigration, and creating this column of Republicans that he can work with in the Senate that, if they can then get something passed in the Senate, they can put pressure on the House, where Democrats would carry the day on passing something in the House. It is a path. It's a risky path, but it's there. And I think the president's working it really hard, and he's got the Republicans on the defensive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you a smoker?

SUSAN FERRECHIO: No, I'm not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know the president wants to put a sin tax on cigarettes?

MS. FERRECHIO: There's already been many taxes on cigarettes.

This, Republicans would argue, is a tax on people who really are the lower wage earners --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's going to pay for --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- the working class.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- universal preschool. Isn't that a good objective?

MS. FERRECHIO: Which studies have shown it really does absolutely nothing to advance children academically beyond the third grade.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it the ultimate nanny state?

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, ask Mayor Bloomberg what he thinks of the tax. I think we are becoming more of a nanny state. The problem is we are expected to cover health care costs for people as they get older. And on the other end, we don't want to tax them or do anything to affect their health when they're younger. But this is a tax on working-class Americans, though. It's like a 94-cent tax on cigarettes for people who earn $40,000 a year on average.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't mean to delay on that. Do you have any larger point on the whole package?

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, on the whole budget itself, the president put out entitlement reform. When has that ever happened? But the question is whether it can move anywhere. Republicans say they would go for a change in the cost-of-living adjustment if it was part of a larger deal on tax reform. It is not. So what it will amount to is a tax increase. Already a Republican or two has come out and said this is going to be a tax increase. But it does throw out the idea of entitlement reform. They are trying to strike a deal --

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

MS. FERRECHIO: -- on entitlement reform. They've been having dinners. They've been talking. Here it is in formal form --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- entitlement reform.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in 15 months we're going to have an election and we're going to reelect the House of Representatives. Do you think that any of this is geared to win that election away from the Republicans and for the Democrats?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think, without question. I mean, that's the nature of the game, I suppose. There's no doubt but that this is intended, in a sense, to give the American public the feeling that the president is trying to really do something about the deficit and making some gestures towards a compromise.

In fact, I don't believe that's the case. It's less than 1 percent of what we're talking about in terms of what we need to do. And we're just so far from dealing with this issue. People who follow this know this. And this is the sad part of it, because sooner or later it's going to blow up in our faces.

And the only question is why can't -- you talk about the cost-of- living index. It's an inaccurate -- the way that we do it now is an inaccurate cost of living. They're supposed to get cost of living. It's just the wrong formula. This is considered to be a concession? That's ridiculous, just ridiculous. And we are so far from getting the budget deficits under control. That's equally ridiculous. So I'm totally dismayed by all of this.

MS. CLIFT: You call it ridiculous, but --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is big-government spending --

MS. CLIFT: -- it's a concession.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- involved here with a demonstrable lack of demand. Is that what I see here?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, let me just say to you, I believe if you had a serious -- I think there should be a significant reduction in the kind of benefits, special benefits, and special provisions that help the wealthy.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Mort is exactly right, John.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's got that as part of this package too.

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me tell you what they ought to do. Mort is exactly right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. I'll get you in just a minute.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the point over here?

MR. BUCHANAN: Mort is exactly right. You not only ought to index COLAs for inflation. You should have a two-year moratorium on all indexation for folks like me. You should increase the age of retirees to whatever it is, maybe 18 months or more.

What we need is a Margaret Thatcher in there who's willing to take the heat; I mean, who's obviously disliked by a lot of people. But if we don't get somebody like that, John, we are really headed down the road to a disaster.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: So he hasn't gone as far as you all want. He's put something out there, and he's getting back --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's a good thing.

MS. CLIFT: -- and he's getting back basically a slap in the face, because the Republicans don't want to own these cuts either. They're unpopular --

MS. FERRECHIO: That's not true. You know, the Republicans gave him credit --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, please.

MS. FERRECHIO: The Republicans credited him for putting it on the table.

MS. CLIFT: The chairman of the Republican Campaign Committee said they were going to run after Democrats for trying to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, which is so blatantly hypocritical, even Speaker Boehner --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Under the U.S. Constitution, the president proposes. The Congress disposes, meaning Congress alone holds the power of the purse, not the president. What should Congress do with the Obama budget -- use it as a starting point or shelve it and start all over again from scratch?

MR. BUCHANAN: If I were the Republicans in the House, I would accept this initial offer on Social Security and see if we couldn't go further and work to get a deal. I would not slap him in the face the way Craig Sheldon did, I guess.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You would go along with the --

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, look -- I don't say go along with it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- (inaudible) -- on Social Security?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, I think we really need something on Social Security, really to save the system and to stop draining everything else, yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's an untouchable.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that's why we've got a problem.

MS. CLIFT: Actually --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. FERRECHIO: It's going to eventually be non-existent if we don't touch it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We can live with untouchables.

MR. BUCHANAN: You can live with it, John, but the guys who are 30 years old can't.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, actually, Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. It actually is doing fine. All they would have to do is raise the cap and get a little bit more money out of people at the high end, like Pat and a lot of other people.

MS. FERRECHIO: (Inaudible) -- so there's no more people --

MS. CLIFT: But Medicare and Medicaid are a problem, and they do have to be reined in.

I think this is a starting point. The president has found some Republicans, particularly in the Senate, who are willing to work with him. And you've got other budget milestones coming up over the summer. They've got to come up with something around the debt ceiling. So, yes, I think they are going to get a deal.

MS. FERRECHIO: They may get something on Social Security or some mild reform on Medicare, probably not much beyond the chained CPI.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It'll politically damage them.

MS. FERRECHIO: I think it'll be a neutral effect, because both sides will be in it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard of the AARP?

MS. FERRECHIO: Yes, I have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you know the power of the AARP?

MS. FERRECHIO: I do. I think that they can probably be convinced to buy in on this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you do?

MS. FERRECHIO: He convinced them on health care reform.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to make a bet on that?

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, he got them in on health care reform, so I think anything is possible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't touch Social Security.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I agree, at some point we're going to have to raise the eligibility age for Social Security.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That may be a little bit different. It's a little bit more subtle, and that could conceivably work.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Other than that --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's not subtle.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Given the longevity -- that's going to be very --

MR. BUCHANAN: It ain't subtle, but it needs to be done.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It doesn't hit seniors.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, it hits the people who are about to be seniors.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But they're pretty far removed --

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the baby boom --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are they really going to focus on it?

MR. BUCHANAN: You've got 70 million baby boomers who are headed into retirement right now over the next 18 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's a sizable number.

MR. BUCHANAN: Sizable number of votes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think we've -- have we exhausted it?

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think we've exhausted it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, we have not. It's going to come up again and again and again because it is the central issue facing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On this program? You want to bet on that?

Issue Two: Call China.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you this as a hypothetical question that could become a reality. North Korea is continuing to resist, even by today's (basis ?). The feeling is it's on the threshold of getting the bomb, if it doesn't have the bomb. If it is discovered with certitude that they have the bomb, could you see the United States taking unilateral action?

FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER MARGARET THATCHER: Well, I think, first, the United States would probably go and consult with China, which has great influence over North Korea, as you know. You need to have a look at all of the other surrounding circumstances, including the views of South Korea, which, after all, is next door.

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nineteen ninety-three, the Lady Margaret Thatcher, 20 years ago. Great Britain's esteemed iron lady died this week, but her wisdom lives on. North Korea now has its nuclear weapon. This year, 2013, marked North Korea's third nuclear test in seven years. The bomb yielded anywhere from six to nine kilotons of TNT.

North Korea is continuing to amp up its bellicose threats. So in the last two months, the U.S. has counter-amped, deploying stealth fighter jets, stealth bombers, U.S. warships, radar platforms and more in the environs of the North Korean coast. In fact, we do it every March and April.
Ship and air movements are part of the annual U.S. joint military exercise with South Korea, a key ally to the U.S., maneuvers now in their 16th year. The exercises take place in the sphere of influence of North and South Korea, an area around which a nation views as a region under its control.
Question: So who's provoking whom? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I think the provocateur here is clearly North Korea. Now, we've held our annual exercises with South Korea, but this is the first time he's threatened nuclear war. He has canceled the truce with the United States. He's going to bomb Austin with atomic weapons.

He is doing this consciously and deliberately, and we're not sure why. One reason people argue is that he wants to get street cred with the military in his own country. He's only 29 or 30 years old. But the United States, I think, is fairly -- we haven't handled it perfectly -- is fairly blameless in this situation.

And the problem, John, is a very simple one. How does this guy crawl back off the ledge he's crawled out on? He doesn't have the expertise his father and grandfather did, and he is way further out than they ever were.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can anyone recall an analogous situation where the United States became concerned with dalliance in our backyard and told -- well, the instance was Russia -- to get out of our backyard? It's our sphere of influence. So, too, in this instance over in Korea, there's a sphere of influence there, and the sphere of influence is on the part of North Korea. It's their sphere of influence. And we are over there provoking them, de facto, by our exercises with South Korea.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, I do think that the role of the United States here is not the provocateur, if I may say so. This has been going on for a long time. We realize there's some -- I don't know quite how to describe him, the new leader of North Korea, who is very young, as Pat says, who's very inexperienced, trying to establish his credibility with the military in North Korea, but playing a very dangerous game there, because this is not going to end well for North Korea.

MS. CLIFT: Well, he's more bellicose than his father and his grandfather were, and he's not as skilled at brinkmanship. So there is some cause for alarm. But, look, we have deterred North Korea for 50 years. We're going to continue to deter them. If they were to launch any kind of attack, they would be so repudiated, and I don't think they're suicidal. They want to maintain their power. And I think the administration is handling it pretty well. I mean --

MS. FERRECHIO: What's different is --

MS. CLIFT: -- this is not like the Cuban missile crisis --

MS. FERRECHIO: Well --

MS. CLIFT: -- which I think you were referring to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, I'm referring to --

MS. FERRECHIO: It's different than it was 30 years ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- 2008. Russia and Venezuela conducted joint maneuvers. Russia sent Venezuela -- you know, below our southern border -- Russia sent two Tupolev-160 strategic bombers, 1,000 troops, four warships, including the Peter the Great missile cruiser.

The move by Chavez and Putin was widely regarded as provocative, following in the wake of Russia's war with Georgia and tensions with U.S. military visits to Tbilisi. We're being provocative over there with North Korea.

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do we do that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, this -- you know where this comes from. This comes from a war that happened called the Korean war, and we were determined to make sure that doesn't happen again.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we kicked the Russians out of our sphere of influence.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, and we also --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what they're trying to do over there.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We also did it with Cuba, as you recall.

MS. CLIFT: And we're --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, we did.

MS. CLIFT: And we're a superpower, and we're going to have a presence in --

MR. BUCHANAN: But John --

MS. CLIFT: -- that part of the world.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We take the same principles that apply to us --

MS. CLIFT: Get over it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the same formula, and it suddenly doesn't work in North Korea --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me agree with you.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- when we're right in the waters of North Korea.

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John, let me agree with you.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We are not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What?

MR. BUCHANAN: Let me agree with you. I think that 60 years after the end of the Korean War and 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the United States should have moved its ground forces completely off the Korean peninsula and maintained air and naval support in backing up our treaty, because to this nut ball in North Korea, the presence of 28,000 Americans sitting right up on his DMZ, as close to Seoul, Korea as, frankly, Dulles Airport is to Washington, he considers that a provocation. And I think he wants to provoke the Americans and get them off the peninsula, get him to recognize them, get foreign aid and all the rest of it.

I do agree with you that we ought to get off the peninsula, but we can't do it in the middle of a crisis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you recognize the legitimacy of the sphere of influence of nations?

MR. BUCHANAN: This is China's sphere of influence, not the United States.

MS. CLIFT: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it not a common understanding, stated or unstated -- most unstated, but still there --

MR. BUCHANAN: But the problem --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that does control the activities of countries?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a little tiny country of 22 million, and we're a country of 310 million.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we can assert ourselves wherever we want.
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is bully America.
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is bully America.

MS. CLIFT: North Korea has a million-man army, so I don't think they're that worried by our --

MS. FERRECHIO: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me, please -- by our little --

MS. FERRECHIO: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: -- 28,000 troops over there. And we're not going to turn tail and run and leave our allies behind. And the U.S. foreign policy is to have some influence in Asia. We're shifting from the Middle East to Asia. So if you want to make all these changes, you're going to have to deal, I think, with a future president, maybe around 2050.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know that North and South Korea were at war, and an armistice was created, and the armistice is still in force. So North Korea and South Korea -- does that element -- as North Korea looks at South Korea and South Korea is then viewed as in bed with the United States in conducting these exercises, and so it all becomes even more enraging to the North Koreans?

MS. FERRECHIO: Why is no one here talking about the fact that North Korea is developing nuclear weapons at an increasingly -- increasing rate? They're going to be developing more and more as time goes on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: For its own defense.

MS. FERRECHIO: They now say that they're taking aim at Japan and Japan will be their first target. You know, when does --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, well --

MS. FERRECHIO: Why should the U.S. not be there to at least show our strength and power in defense of our ally, Japan?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, why shouldn't South Korea, if this is the case, South Korea and Japan, who are very powerful, rich nations, far stronger than North Korea, build their own nuclear deterrence?

MS. CLIFT: I think we had some dealings with Japan at one point --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is what is in the process of being created.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's exactly what's going to happen, John, because this guy is -- he doesn't have it yet, but he is getting close to being able to put nuclear weapons on intercontinental ballistic missiles. He may be two or three years off.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This, on my part, is not an apologia for North Korea by any means, but I do see that we are exerting a, what -- we are exerting a kind of taunt against them. And it's only serving the interests of those -- it's not serving their interests. They just --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's like Chinese troops on the Mexican border, are you saying?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think there's some comparison to that.
Exit question: On a nuclear proliferation scale, zero to 10, zero meaning zero proliferation -- North Korea negotiates and gives up its nukes -- 10 meaning no negotiations and a regional nuclear arms race, what's the most probable outcome of this crisis? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to give up their nukes. They never will. But I do think South Korea and Japan will be moving toward a nuclear capability themselves.

MS. CLIFT: They have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: They have a very minimal nuclear capability, which they won't give up. And I think the challenge now for this president and the future president is to keep that arms race from developing, because I don't think the other countries really want to get into it.

MS. FERRECHIO: As of right now, I don't see them letting up on their trying to develop nuclear capability. I think we see signs now that they're going to keep trying to advance it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, North Korea is definitely going to pursue its nuclear capabilities, whatever it is. The real danger is what calibrated reactions can be to that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Iraq War, Ten Years Later.
One of the most symbolic images from the U.S. invasion of Iraq was the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in central Baghdad, with an American flag draped around Saddam's head.
The U.S. Marine who did the draping is named Edward Chin.

EDWARD CHIN (former U.S. Marine): (From videotape.) My captain comes over and he's got, like, this package. He hands it to me. He's, like, you know -- tells me there's an American flag in there. And when I get up there, you know, he's, like, show the boys the colors.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: After the showing of the colors, the statue was toppled. At the base of the statue, helping to pull it down, was Iraqi blacksmith Kazem al-Jabouri. Al-Jabouri on that day was angry because the draped flag was not an Iraq one. Today he no longer lives in Iraq, but in Beirut, Lebanon, because Baghdad is dangerous. And al-Jabouri's views on the war have radically changed.

KAZEM AL-JABOURI (Iraqi exile): (From videotape, through interpreter.) Saddam Hussein, he said, maybe held us a hundred years back. But now we have been pushed back almost 300 years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In fact, al-Jabouri now says that if the statue of Saddam still existed, he would re-erect it. American Ed Chin disagrees with that view. Chin thinks Hussein was a tyrant, but Chin understands why Iraqis feel hopeless over the war.

MR. CHIN: (From videotape.) There are probably a lot of questions from them, you know. Why did we do it? You know, what were we there for? And it'd be very hard for me to answer those questions too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: U.S. combat troops were in Iraq from March 2003 to December 2011, nearly eight years. Four thousand, four hundred and twenty-two U.S. troops were killed; 31,926 were wounded in action. At least 134,000 Iraqis were killed. Millions were displaced, and Iraq's infrastructure destroyed.

War operations cost the U.S. $806 billion. That figure climbs even higher to $1.7 trillion with the U.S. government providing care to our veterans disabled by the war, both physically disabled and psychologically disabled.
Question: Iraq today has a democratic form of government instead of a dictatorship. Does that justify America's intervention? I ask you, Susan Ferrechio.

MS. FERRECHIO: I think there's really a question of what kind of democracy there is in Iraq right now. I mean, I've read all kinds of accounts that women's rights have been actually set back even further than they were under Saddam Hussein and that there's so much division amongst the three main groups there, religious and political and otherwise, that things there are still pretty much a mess.

I don't think -- I think the reasons for going in there -- of course, everybody questions why we were there, obviously, but I think the larger question is, you know, what we did after we got to Iraq and the poor job in executing the effort to try to get the country in shape. It's not in shape.

I'm just not sure what the United States can really do about it right now.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: We went in under false pretenses. And the footage that you showed, that was an American public relations ploy where they tore down the statue, put up an American flag. That's the tip-off. If it had been an Iraqi uprising, they would have put an Iraqi flag up there.

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

MS. CLIFT: And basically we have spent all this money, squandered lives, American and Iraqi, in order to embolden Iran. I think it is the biggest foreign policy blunder, maybe even in U.S. history. I can't think of anything --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Eleanor -- Eleanor is right. It was the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history. That's Bill Odom, General Odom, who died.

John, what did we do? We attacked, invaded and occupied a country which did not threaten us, did not want war with us, did not attack us, to do what? To deprive it of weapons it did not even have. What is the moral justification for those 134,000 --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And, in addition to that, we were not able to control now access through Iraq, which Iran is taking advantage of to supply the Middle East with weaponry.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: He is not the best-looking attorney general in America, but Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia, I think, is going to win the governorship now because Terry McAuliffe has got some real problems, the Democratic candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: The Newtown families and Gabby Giffords are in the gun debate to stay. And over time their voices will be more powerful than the NRA. The culture of guns is beginning to go through a transformation in this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: I predict that the Senate will pass a limited expansion of background checks on gun purchases within this -- within the week.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you approve of that?

MS. FERRECHIO: I don't approve or disapprove. It's going to be a very limited expansion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Spoken like a true journalist.
Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The suggestions that the Federal Reserve Bank is going to cut back on QE2 or all of the monetary easing is absolutely over with. They are definitely going to continue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that the stock market will hit 16,000 by September 1.

Bye-bye.

(C) 2013 Federal News Service

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