The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin
Panel: Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek/The Daily Beast; Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report; Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

Broadcast: Weekend of August 31-September 1, 2013

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Labor Pains.

Much of President Obama's focus this summer has been on the middle class and, quote-unquote, "better bargains" for it in terms of education, living standards and, most notably, jobs.

During a series of speeches on the middle class, President Obama chose an warehouse as his venue. Amazon announced it was adding 5,000 new workers to its processing centers.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) We should be doing everything we can as a country to create more good jobs that pay good wages, period.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But how good are the jobs at Amazon warehouses? Many are temporary. The conditions are hard. And on average, the pay is $11 an hour. So the White House was asked, prior to the Amazon visit, whether these were the kinds of jobs the president wanted to create.

Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council, responded for the president. Quote: "We should not denigrate any job or any work. People work at different jobs throughout their lives. Families piece together sometimes two incomes to have a degree of middle-class security," unquote.

Question: Was an Amazon warehouse the proper venue to talk about the middle class? Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN: Well, it's the proper place to talk about the American economy, John. The American economy has moved in the last 20 years or 30 years from a manufacturing production economy to a service economy. Service jobs involve far less pay than the old manufacturing jobs did.
The truth is, the country has moved more toward finance and away from production. And that leads to massive inequality. And I believe the basic reason you got it is because corporate America and middle America's economic interests diverged. And the Republican Party and the Democratic Party went with the side of corporate America moving their factories out of this country and bringing in low, cheap products. And they've destroyed an awful lot of jobs and they've changed America, and not for the better.


ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, I agree with Pat that there's no significant labor movement in this country, and we really could use it. I think corporate America is the bull in the china shop. And the China metaphor there is also meant.
But when I look at the setting with Amazon, if you're the owner of an independent bookstore, you're not going to like the fact that the president chose this setting. But Amazon is the wave of the future. They did announce recently they're creating 4,000 jobs. They're setting up these distribution centers. And the phrase that's used is bricks and click. And they have acknowledged that they do support some sort of Internet tax. And so they're sort of on the progressive end of understanding how the Internet fits in with our tax system.

And Jeff Bezos, who's the genius behind Amazon, is one of many sort of Silicon Valley, California startup -- West Coast startup types. And they're getting heavy into politics. They have big lobbying operations. They're getting into policy. Jeff Zuckerberg with Facebook is a force out there on the side of immigration reform. He'll weigh in on other policies. They're almost like, you know, another government out there. So I think, in that sense, I mean, this is recognizing the future. The future is here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you apparently did not read Sarah O'Connor's piece in the Financial Times for the 9th of February. She says workers were paid a minimum wage to do jobs one described as sort of like a robot, but in human form. Apparently it's a mile long, that assembly line, often walking 10 and 15 miles a day in the warehouses; very negative article.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I didn't -- I missed the article, but I look forward to those workers forming a union and maybe improving their working conditions.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about you, Mort? Are you big on unions --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in your position?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- I do support unions, frankly, because I think they do represent the working population. And they need that kind of collective organization in order to bargain fairly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can I quote you on that?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, I've said it a long time. But the fundamental issue here is that roughly 65 percent of the jobs in America are what you would call information processing. And sooner or later, machines and computers are going to be able to replace a lot of those jobs. That's an inevitable consequence of technology.

And if you look at the job market, we are creating approximately -- I don't know -- 200 (thousand) -- 170,000 jobs a month. When Reagan was president, it was 270,000 jobs a month. And if you adjusted it for population, it would be the equivalent of creating 400,000 jobs a month. So we're in a totally different job-creation mode as an economy.

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

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And if you look at the other statistics -- I have one here -- it typically took 25 months to restore employment to the peak over the start of a downturn. Here we are, five years into an economic downturn, and our population has grown by 31 million and our labor force by 11.4 million. And we're 4 million fewer jobs than we were at the beginning.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How awful.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So that is really terrible numbers on the job- creation front.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before I can get an awful report from you also, Clarence -- (laughter) -- and we all drown in this pessimism, OK, the numbers game.

Item: Unemployment drops from 7.6 percent in June to 7.4 percent in July. This is the lowest unemployment level since January 2009, President Obama's first month in office four and a half years ago.

That's the good news. Now the not so good.

Item: Unemployment higher than pre-recession levels. The great recession began almost six years ago, in December 2007, and continued through George W. Bush's final year in office, 2008. President Obama inherited the recession in 2009, and it lasted for another six months. It officially ended in June of 2009, the first year of Mr. Obama's first term.

When the recession hit in 2007, unemployment was at 4.7 percent. Today it is at 7.4 percent. So unemployment is still 2.7 percent higher than what it was before the great recession, 2007 to 2009.

Item: Job losses. During the 2007-2009 recession, 8.7 million jobs were lost. But since its 2009 end, 6.7 million jobs have been created over the four-year period, 2009 to 2013. That means we are still at a deficit of 2 million jobs.

Do you have the impression we're sitting here as five auditors?

CLARENCE PAGE: (Laughs.) I hope not. I think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to do anything with these numbers before we all collapse of boredom?

MR. PAGE: Well, first of all, I want to say I really enjoy Pat in his populist mood, because you're absolutely right about what's happened to working-class Americans amid industrial change. All of us who have worked in print and media have seen what happens with the seismic changes that are because of companies like Amazon and the new Internet economy that we are in.

But this is also -- it also offers a lot of opportunities; Jeff Bezos taking over The Washington Post, for example. Bezos understands distribution. He knows how to get books out right away. The Post knows how to get newspapers out right away. This is the future economy now, ordering stuff over the Web and then getting it shipped.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, let's talk about the workers. The largest employer in America, `40s, `50s, `60s, General Motors used to be number one. Ford, I think, was number two.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Now it's Wal-Mart and and McDonald's.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: Look at those guys. I mean, look, they're good jobs for kids coming out of school and others. But you've got grown people, you've got retired people and others taking these jobs. It's turned into a service economy. And the great industrial-production nation --

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think Wal-Mart --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- has exported its factories to China.

MS. CLIFT: Wal-Mart --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also, is there job security, or do they come and go according to sales?

MR. BUCHANAN: They come and go.

MS. CLIFT: Wal-Mart in particular, I think, would refute what you just said. There are many jobs in their structure, and those can be good-paying jobs. But there's a conflict going on right now in the District of Columbia, where the local council wants them to pay a living wage, not a minimum wage.


MS. CLIFT: And Wal-Mart is saying if they're made to do that, they're not going to come in at all.

MR. BUCHANAN: They'll leave town.

MS. CLIFT: And so the mayor is faced with a very difficult -- I suspect he will veto the council's resolution, because he wants the jobs. And the folks need the jobs. And they're not in a position right now to demand the higher wage, sadly.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, a job in America is the most important for the family structure, for the economy, for every part of American life. And we have had now a transformation in the nature of employment. Over 60 percent of the jobs that are being created now are part-time jobs -- part-time jobs. A, the average compensation for part-time jobs is $25,100. And they don't have health care, more often than not. So you have a --

MR. BUCHANAN: But your friends at the Fed are responsible for a lot of the suffering going on. Look what the Fed is doing. It keeps the interest rates at zero. The banks borrow at zero and then put out the loans at 3, 4 percent.

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

MR. BUCHANAN: And old folks, who are going to rely on interest income to live on, are getting zero percent income on their savings. Look, this economy --


MR. BUCHANAN: This economy is being structured for the rich.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we draw any --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we draw any perverse comfort from the fact that the BRICs -- that's Brazil, it's --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- India, it's China and --

MR. BUCHANAN: India's in desperate trouble, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's correct. That's what I'm saying.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- because of what the Fed's doing now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They are in trouble with the job situation too. And so is Russia.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's because the Fed --

MS. CLIFT: Well, and China -- China, which was the big powerhouse, 3 million college grads this year and last year don't have jobs. I mean, the challenge of what kind of jobs we're going to create for a growing population --


MS. CLIFT: -- is being faced the whole world over.


MS. CLIFT: I'd be in favor of reducing the work week and sharing jobs.

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- recover too slowly. This is the problem.

A lot of these problems would be alleviated if we had a booming economy --


MR. PAGE: -- if there was a larger supply of jobs. Then it's easier to negotiate with the Wal-Marts --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MR. PAGE: -- and other people. And the actual minimum wage begins to rise just by economic pressure. The problem is our recovery -- I mean, Mort hit it on the head. The recovery is just too slow. But a lot of that is because of uncertainty right now with so many changes going on. People -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The economy has been growing at a 2 percent rate for the last four years.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The average rate of growth for every previous four-year recovery from recession is 4.1 percent, and that in the context of the biggest -- the largest fiscal and monetary stimulus in our history.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: So something is happening to the competitiveness of the American economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Should we blame this on Ben Bernanke?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no. Ben Bernanke saved the economy.

MR. BUCHANAN: He saved the banks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He didn't just save the banks. He saved the financial system.

MR. BUCHANAN: He saved --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And without a financial system, the economy does not work.

MR. BUCHANAN: He saved the top 400 and he saved the banks, Mort. And you would understand that.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I understand the economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you take -- can you understand this? China, India, Brazil, even Russia, have relied on foreign capital flows under Bernanke's easy-money policy.

MR. BUCHANAN: And it's coming out, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's coming out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now he's going to shrink that, so they're going to start losing money.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: All the -- look, there are recessions going on all around the world. We're in a global recession. This is the worst we've had since the great recession, OK? Or the Great Depression maybe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm getting overcome with boredom here. Exit question, multiple choice: What is the principal cause of America's economic malaise? Is it a financial crisis brought on by Wall Street? Is it, B, a housing bubble brought on by Washington politicians? Is it C, a trade crisis brought on by China's admission to the WTO? Is it D, excessive government and consumer debt, or E, none of the above?

MR. BUCHANAN: All of the above.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All of the above.

MR. BUCHANAN: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Proportionately?

MR. BUCHANAN: All four of them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the proportion?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think the globalization of the American economy and the end to the nationalization of the American economy is behind it all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think we could survive without --

MR. BUCHANAN: We survived --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a flourishing international economy?

MR. BUCHANAN: We survived for 200 years before we got into the global economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hear that?

MR. PAGE: You didn't have --

MS. CLIFT: Housing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Spoken by a true patriot.

MS. CLIFT: The recent great recession was caused by the housing bubble bursting and the greed on Wall Street.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Chinese?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, the Chinese is representative of one problem that we have, which is that we have a tremendous transformation of the global economy. They're much more competitive in a lot of the products that we used to make.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: But the real problem for this economy is we're in a tremendous technological revolution that has changed the whole nature of manufacturing and employment.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, can we at least agree on the reality that the world is interrelated --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- in a way it never has been before?
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- denied that earlier.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You tended to deny it earlier.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it is.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, we're not denying it.

MR. BUCHANAN: And I don't like it.

MR. PAGE: I think we agree that the world is changing. We cannot roll back the clock on globalism.
Sorry about that. The last time we tried to do it in the past, we brought about recession. Besides, consumers here love global trade because it makes things cheaper.


MR. PAGE: And, OK, it undercuts jobs. The economy is going through changes. But, you know --

MR. BUCHANAN: The consumers' brothers and sisters don't make them anymore.

MR. PAGE: There are ways to boost working-class America --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. PAGE: -- and help make them consumers as well, better ways than trying to build trade walls.

MS. CLIFT: Congress --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And one way is to --

MS. CLIFT: Congress could do something here too.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And one way is to improve education.

MR. PAGE: Absolutely.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The rate of unemployment for educated people is 4 percent.

MR. PAGE: That's right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What we need is to have a transformation of our educational system.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did we get into education?
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: 2016 Wannabes.

It's Labor Day weekend in Washington, and everyone has fled, including the 535 members of Congress. Hordes of government workers are also gone, at the beach or at the pool -- anything but laboring.

So who's left in the nation's capital? We are -- political geeks and wonks. And guess what we're doing -- prognosticating, as in who will the Republicans nominate for president in 2016? After all, the next presidential election, 2016, is only 1,102 days away. The only requirement to be on this list is that each of these contenders has at some point woken up in the middle of the night to this.

("Hail to the Chief" is played.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, the putative 2016 Republican lineup, alphabetical order: Jeb Bush, former Florida governor; Scott Brown, former Massachusetts senator; Dr. Ben Carson, retired pediatric neurosurgeon; Chris Christie, New Jersey governor; Ted Cruz, Texas senator; Peter King, New York representative; Rand Paul, Kentucky senator; Rick Perry, Texas governor; Marco Rubio, Florida senator; Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator; Donald Trump, real-estate mogul.

Question: Who on this list is the top contender for the GOP nomination? Clarence Page.

MR. PAGE: And the answer is Jeb Bush, but not immediately. You're going to see -- just like with Romney, you're going to see scrambling on the right for anybody but Jeb out there. But eventually Republicans tend to respect seniority, and in the big states, Florida and the rest down the line. I think he's going to come back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know who's leading in the polls now, don't you?

MR. PAGE: Of course I do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who is it?

MR. PAGE: You know, it might be -- well, you've got --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know or you don't know?

MR. PAGE: I'll just say, which poll? Which poll? (Laughter.) You're going to get somebody like --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What difference does it make?

MR. PAGE: You're going to get somebody like Rand Paul or Ted Cruz or Donald Trump --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: None of the above. None of the above.

MR. PAGE: -- none of which are going to get the nomination.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Chris Christie --

MR. PAGE: But you're going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Chris Christie is leading in the polls.

MR. PAGE: OK, well, Chris Christie has got to get past the right wing, quite simply. And I think he and Jeb, if they're both in the race, they're going to divide that vote. It's going to be an interesting contest. But so will Ted Cruz and Rand Paul in Iowa and New Hampshire. So it's going to --

MS. CLIFT: Rand Paul has --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the negative on Chris Christie is he's in favor of gun control, and the other negative is he's put his arm around the shoulder of Barack Obama.

MR. PAGE: There's other negatives too. He's kind of soft on abortion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was the storm, Sandy. Remember that?

MR. PAGE: He's an eastern -- well, he's an eastern Republican, meaning he's pretty liberal for the tea party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. He comes across as a liberal, not a moderate. True?


MR. PAGE: No, he's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, no, no?

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

MR. BUCHANAN: He's not a liberal.

MR. PAGE: Well, to the tea party people, he does. That's the problem he has.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Many Republicans --

MR. PAGE: He's got to get through --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm sure he does, to some Republicans. I think he's got -- he and Jeb Bush, to my mind, are the two most likely Republican candidates. And he --

MR. PAGE: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who are you supporting?

MR. BUCHANAN: I disagree.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not supporting anybody.
But I think those are the two --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're keeping the neutral position of the journalist, correct?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.


MS. CLIFT: Pat and I disagree.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think -- look, I think that the top two candidates right now are Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. They've got fire. They've got tremendous followings. They've got real energy. Clarence is correct. They could very well split the vote.

I don't see -- Jeb Bush, he's a good man and he's a good governor, but he doesn't have the charisma and the cowboy stuff that his brother did, which made his brother, who may not be as good a governor, a very --

MS. CLIFT: Right. If the --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And there could be two Pauls competing for the nomination, father and son.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: No. (Laughs.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No? That wouldn't happen?


MR. BUCHANAN: The dad supports the son, to my knowledge, John.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: But those -- right now I would say those are the two front runners.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why hasn't anybody mentioned --

MS. CLIFT: Rand Paul --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why hasn't anybody mentioned the Donald?

MS. CLIFT: Because he's --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's not going to run. He'll be --

MS. CLIFT: -- a fringe player under the best scenario. Rand Paul, because he calls himself a libertarian, will do well on college campuses. You know, he wears blue jeans. I guess he plays in a band. He's got some charisma for young people. I think he does have the energy of the party. Ted Cruz is just too mean-spirited.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he's very -- you've got a right-wing --

MS. CLIFT: He is not a friendly person.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- socially conservative tea party. They cheer this guy and come out of their chairs when he speaks.


MS. CLIFT: Rand Paul.

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean Cruz.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's hear more from Cruz, Senator Ted Cruz. Here he is, blasting "Obamacare."
SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-TX): (From videotape.) This thing ain't working. And I'll tell you right now, the single biggest fight in Washington, and I think the most important fight, is the fight to defund "Obamacare." The continuing resolution, which funds the federal government, expires on September 30th. I've publicly stated, along with a number of other senators, under no circumstances will I vote for a continuing resolution that funds even one penny of "Obamacare." (Applause.)

MR. BUCHANAN: (Applauds.) (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So Cruz is somebody to keep your eye on, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he's going to do battle in the near future, John. They're going to try to defund the continuing resolution to get "Obamacare" out of it and, if necessary, let the government shut down. That's going to be the battle.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, that's a winning strategy for the Democrats. (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The Democrats. I agree.

MS. CLIFT: Cruz on.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who's the most conservative who's interested in the presidency -- (inaudible)?

MR. BUCHANAN: I would say, straight conservative, you've got Santorum and Cruz.

MS. CLIFT: Right. And --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Santorum and Cruz.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're the most conservative.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Rand Paul's a libertarian.

MS. CLIFT: You can have fun in that phone booth that Republicans occupied before Reagan came along.

MR. BUCHANAN: That phone booth produces some nominees -- (laughs) -- including Ronald Reagan.
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- Jeb Bush and slowly creep up and take the nomination?

MR. BUCHANAN: You don't slowly creep up in the Republican Party primary process, John. You either do it or you don't.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There must --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that Bush could do it.

MR. BUCHANAN: You know --


MR. BUCHANAN: -- if you had it all split up -- if the conservatives were all split up and you had one guy, but you've got Christie there.
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- favorability is rebounding. Do you know that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Who? Well, Jeb Bush is --


MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Jeb Bush is a good man.

MS. CLIFT: He would be this version of Jon Huntsman.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was a terrific governor of Florida.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but his time --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There must surely be a number of people in the Republican Party who want to win. And if they want to win, they're not going to be nominating the people --

MR. PAGE: That's why --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- that Pat is talking about, because they're sure losers.

MR. PAGE: That's why the party has respected seniority, just like with Mitt Romney. He lost in the early primaries, but there's a silent majority of Republicans out there who say, hey, we want to win. And they tend to gravitate towards --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And that's what Christie is saying.

MR. BUCHANAN: Clarence --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We are in politics to win.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know, Mort --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And if we can't win, we shouldn't be in politics.

MR. BUCHANAN: But, Mort, they lost with Romney, they lost with McCain, they lost with Dole --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- moderates all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which of the following --

MS. CLIFT: Right. But they would have lost bigger if they had a conservative.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please relinquish.

Exit question: Which of the following GOP governors, past or present, is the most likely to throw his or her hat in the ring: Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, John Kasich, Tim Pawlenty, Scott Walker or Nikki Haley? Who will run? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Scott Walker and John Kasich are the two likely that I see that might get in.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah.

MR. BUCHANAN: There's a lot of people I know for Scott Walker.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You like Walker?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, those two --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I like him. I think he's terrific. I don't know that he's a national candidate.

MS. CLIFT: Those are two successful governors, states that are swing states, and they've been auditioning on cable TV. So, yeah, I think they're both interested in --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think having been a governor --

MS. CLIFT: -- being a national candidate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- is a big card to play?

MS. CLIFT: Of course it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is a big card to play.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, but not the governor of Alaska, especially not a governor who resigned --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The governor of Wisconsin is OK.

MS. CLIFT: -- her office. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You said Wisconsin.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, governor of Wisconsin.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Scott Walker, I think, is the one governor whom I think will go in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he can win?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, if he gets the nomination, he's got a shot at it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he personable?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, he's personable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's very smart.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he's been a very effective governor.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is he Roman Catholic?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That I don't know.

MR. BUCHANAN: He could win the general election if he were nominated. I mean --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he have twins?

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do I have the right guy?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's not good on unions. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: Scott Walker and John Kasich are both being pushed heavily --

MS. CLIFT: John Kasich has twins.

MR. PAGE: -- to run. And why not go for it, you know, because --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who can win?

MR. PAGE: -- it doesn't get any better than this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who can win?

MR. PAGE: I don't think either one can win this time around. But again, Republicans appreciate seniority. You've got to run once to get your name out there and experience, and then you run the second time in order to win. So it wouldn't surprise me if they both got in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that after four years of Obama in his second term that people will be ready for a Republican?

MR. PAGE: You know, I think, after a couple of losses, Republican or Democrat, they're ready to elect a winner -- to nominate a winner, excuse me.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is it's too close to call.

Issue Three: Nicaragua's Canal.

For 99 years, since 1914, the Panama Canal has connected the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean via the Caribbean. Bisecting the Central American isthmus, it has been a key maritime shipping lane. The 48-mile-long waterway transits nearly 5 percent of the world's trade. More than 1 million vessels have traversed it.

While the French began building the canal, the Americans finished it and administered a swath of it, the U.S.'s so-called canal zone, up until 1999, 14 years ago.
Well, Panama being the only canal in town may change. Further north on the isthmus, in Nicaragua, the government just inked a deal to build a new canal that will connect the two major oceans. This time a Chinese company will build it, and then administer it. A Hong Kong-based company called HKND, under CEO Wang Jing, a Chinese telecommunications billionaire.

The Nicaragua canal will be 82 miles longer than the Panama Canal, at least 130 miles long, and cost an estimated $40 billion to build. This map shows the likely cost for it and how its capacity will be bigger than the Panama Canal. Wang Jing wants to begin construction by the end of 2014 and complete it five years later, 2019, an audacious goal.

Question: Let's assume that there is a future standoff between China and the United States and the U.S. restricts China from using the Panama Canal. Then China has a Nicaraguan canal for easy passage for China's navy and nuclear subs for ready access to the Atlantic and Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.

So is the building of the Nicaragua canal a matter of U.S. national security? That's not an otiose question, Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, if the Unites States is in a position where we're closing the Panama Canal to the Chinese -- (laughter) -- I don't think we're going to have a problem with Nicaragua. (Laughs.) And the Nicaraguan canal will be no problem shutting down at all for the United States Navy. But you are talking about then, that kind of situation, a wartime situation.

But let me talk to the Nicaraguan canal. I don't think we should oppose the Nicaraguan canal. We have expanded just recently the Panama Canal. It can take much larger vessels than it used to, more vessels. And if these folks want to build a Nicaraguan canal, let them go ahead and do it.

MS. CLIFT: And on what grounds would we oppose it anyway? And it's been in the talking stage for years, and more than a year it's being implemented. It's straight out of Hong Kong and China. And both China and the Nicaraguans are happy that it's been mostly on the business pages, because they're aware of the sensitivities. And it's the result of really a decade of China on the march around the world --


MS. CLIFT: -- figuring out where they should be. And this
would give them easy navigation in waters --


MS. CLIFT: -- near the U.S.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, what I'm --

MS. CLIFT: They're thinking smart.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think my contention is getting through, or my proposition. I won't call it a contention.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Geostrategic reason for it. You got it?

MR. PAGE: I got it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's why China wants to build it, China wants to own it, et cetera.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that?

MR. PAGE: I think you've got a great movie plot here for a future -- (laughter) -- movie about the battle for the canal.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what they used to say about World War II.

MR. PAGE: John, let's get serious here. Number one, we do need a second canal. It would be a good idea, because while the Panama Canal has been expanded, it won't take the new supertankers. And this would cut a lot of miles off of shipping.


MR. PAGE: At the same time, Nicaragua has not approved the canal. They've approved a study to look at whether they ought to approve the canal project. And even if they do approve it, we're talking about a decade from now. So we've got plenty of time --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, they don't want the Nicaraguans to build it.

MR. PAGE: Who?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wang Jing wants the Chinese to build it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course he does. I would say that it has less than a 1 percent chance that it'll be financed. I don't think there's a chance that I would -- I wouldn't bet $10 that he's going to be able to build it.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Chinese are going to finance it with cheap financing.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, no, no, no. There's no such thing as cheap financing, John, at $40 billion. OK? It just doesn't exist.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Forty billion dollars?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he wants Chinese firms to do it -- to build it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of course he wants --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's all in house. It's all China.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There's not a house in China. He doesn't belong to the whole group of --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you think that they practice capitalism over there?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I do think they practice capitalism.

MR. PAGE: Yes, they do.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And the reason why --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think he can get a cheap bid on building the Nicaraguan canal from Chinese firms?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I do not.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Sorry, out of time. Bye-bye.

(c) Federal News Service 2013