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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel: Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek/The Daily Beast;
Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner;
Guy Taylor, Washington Times

Taped: Friday, September 6, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of September 7-8, 2013

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Stop Red Lining Us.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) First of all, I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent, and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama set a precedent this week by being the first sitting American president to visit Sweden. During a joint news conference with the Swedish prime minister, Mr. Obama did his best to internationalize the red line. But Prime Minister Reinfeldt said Sweden could only support military action against Syria if it were authorized by the United Nations.

The U.N. sent a team of inspectors to Syria to verify the use of the nerve gas sarin. Eight years ago, in 2005 also, the U.N. Security Council authorized sanctions against Syria. Resolution 1636 punished Syria for a terrorist attack in Lebanon that killed the then-former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri.

But chemical weapons being so horrific may have struck a nerve in world opinion, enabling President Obama to elude the U.N. and build international support against Syria unchallenged by the U.N.

By the way, the U.N. was the brain child of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who conceived of the world body, the U.N., as a way to prevent a third world war. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill joined him in the effort.
The U.S. is the largest contributor to the United Nations. Get this: $4.3 billion this year alone, constituting 22 percent of the U.N.'s budget.

Question: Let's assume Congress authorizes unilateral military action against Syria. Should Commander in Chief Obama then take the case to the United Nations before using unilateral force? Mort Zuckerman.

MORT ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think he should. In fact, I don't think he should have taken it to the Congress either. This is a presidential decision, as far as I'm concerned. It's a matter of leadership by this president on an issue that deals with our national security.

And what's happening in Syria, as far as I'm concerned, is also something that is not nearly as important as what's happening in Iran. That's where the real issue is going to happen, because Iran is a country that is developing nuclear weapons and actually threatens us in the most serious ways.
So I think the U.N. would just compound the problem of going to the wrong places for the support for what the United States should and should be doing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, first of all, I wouldn't assume that he's going to get authorization from the Congress. It's a very heavy lift. You have a huge majority of Republicans opposed on a variety of reasons, including the fact that they don't like this president. You have a lot of Democrats who were elected on antiwar platforms who are not eager to vote for intervention. So this is far from a done deal.
But as far as going to the U.N., this administration has gone to the U.N. repeatedly to try to get resolutions of disapproval for the way that Assad is conducting war against his own people, and they've been unsuccessful. Russia and China are on the Security Council, and they're implacably against anything that would condemn Assad.

So it would be a futile effort. And the president, in his remarks in Sweden, called the Security Council, or the U.N. machinery at this point, an instrument of paralysis.

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

MS. CLIFT: And so I think it doesn't hurt to go, but the president is not -- if he does go ahead with this, it's going to be waiting on the U.N.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Russia and China are --

MS. CLIFT: And I'm a fan of the U.N., by the way. But I think, in this particular instance, we know what they're going to do.

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

MS. CLIFT: And I don't think they should have the power.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Russia and China are members of the five-nation panel of permanent members of the Security Council.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MS. CLIFT: That's right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are about 150 members of the Security Council itself. Is that correct?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Of the general assembly.

MS. CLIFT: General assembly, right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: There are, I think, 11 or 12 members of the Security Council.

That's all.

SUSAN FERRECHIO: And let's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Altogether?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah.

MS. FERRECHIO: Let's talk about Russia's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or are there 15?

MS. FERRECHIO: -- Russia's role with Syria. Russia is behind the Syrian government --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- and is playing a role in arming the Syrian government. So you have this clash of two sides here on the U.N. Security Council. So the idea of the president going there just seems pretty futile.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Welcome, Guy Taylor of the Washington Times.

GUY TAYLOR: Thanks, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You cover the State Department.

MR. TAYLOR: I do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How's the secretary of state doing?

MR. TAYLOR: I think the secretary of state has actually been far more active and effective with Middle East policy than Hillary Clinton was. He's -- you could make the argument that he's actually derailed the Obama administration's Asia pivot, away from Asia and back toward the Middle East.
So the question is whether or not he's truly on the same page as President Obama with regard to Syria.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, really?

MR. TAYLOR: I think so. I don't think --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the secretary of state is not representing the president of the United States?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: But John --

MR. TAYLOR: I'm not saying he's not representing. I think he's made it very clear in public statements that he's representing. The question is whether he was ready to do a strike on Syria with support from --

MS. CLIFT: He's with Mort.

(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John --

MR. TAYLOR: He was arguing for it. He just did not want to have to --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He called --

MR. TAYLOR: -- go to Congress with it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, he called -- John Kerry called what happened in Syria a moral obscenity, OK. And he -- the president at that point looked like he was going to be very, very proactive in this thing. And now what happened was, when he made the decision, however, not to make the decision by himself but to go to the Congress, who did he make it with? Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, and Susan Rice.
John Kerry, his secretary of state, and Hagel, his secretary of defense, were left out of the decision-making process, which is almost unbelievable.

MR. TAYLOR: John Kerry, unlike most of the people in the administration, recognized that the Iranian nuclear issue and the Syrian civil war and Hezbollah's involvement in it are the two sides of the same coin. And he recognizes that pushing the issue with threats of a U.S. strike will draw the Iranians out of their own political crisis and possibly make room on the nuclear negotiations.

MS. CLIFT: Well, the president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the significance of red lining?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, I think, you know, it's a style of kind of expressing American heroism in foreign policy. We say you cross that red line and we're going to come play police and tell you you can't do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Now, listen to what Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense, said.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN (Fox News): We have the president saying that there is a red line. He says he didn't draw it; it was drawn by the international community. You've got a Congress --

DONALD RUMSFELD (former secretary of defense): He did draw it.

MS. VAN SUSTEREN: He is saying that it's one that's drawn by the international community, by international standards, by Congress, by the American people.

MR. RUMSFELD: This president has tried to find a way to blame everybody or anybody for everything. And leadership requires that you stand up, take a position, provide clarity, and take responsibility. And I can't imagine him saying that he didn't draw the red line.

(End videotaped segment.)

MS. CLIFT: Whatever he's saying, he has zero credibility. Donald Rumsfeld -- let's put up the classic picture of Donald Rumsfeld shaking the hand of Saddam Hussein a week before Hussein used chemical weapons on --

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, there's pictures of Kerry having dinner with --

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Let me finish.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- Bashar al-Assad. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I want to finish -- use chemical weapons against the Iranians, chemical gasses that we probably supplied. And for the man to have -- who had led such a disastrous effort in Iraq to be passing judgment on this commander in chief --

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

MS. CLIFT: -- is a moral obscenity. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.

MS. FERRECHIO: You don't even need --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. I want to get this red-line business straightened out. Obama's original red-line statement -- to refresh our collective memory, here is what President Obama said about a red line and Syria just over one year ago, in August 2012.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation. But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That's an issue that doesn't just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us.

We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.
We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is what President Obama said then, in 2012, about a red line the same as what he is saying today in 2013 about a red line? Susan Ferrechio.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, there you have it. He's talking about a red line. He's setting a red line. We discussed it a year ago on this very show. Now here we are. He's saying I didn't set that red line. You don't even need Donald Rumsfeld to make the case. It's just very obvious. He set a red line.
And then he said, wait a minute, I didn't set a red line. The reason -- he had to say that to save face; the press, everyone asking him, is his credibility on the line? He's trying to say, hey, it's not my responsibility now. That's why he's thrusting the decision over to Congress --

MS. CLIFT: He's trying to say to the world --

MS. FERRECHIO: -- because he's saying it's everybody's --

MS. CLIFT: -- this is a red --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor. Let her finish.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- it's everybody's credibility. It's not my credibility. He doesn't want it on his shoulders. That's why Congress is being left to vote on this. He's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I've got one question for him before I go to you. Is he falsifying?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, to his credit, when he set the red line, which he very clearly did set, he did not say what comes on the other side of it. He did not explicitly say that it results in a U.S. military strike.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now he's saying I didn't set the red line. It was set by Congress.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: He's trying to --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He said --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait. Let Mort in.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He did say the red line. He said it will change my calculus.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You're right. He didn't say how it would change his calculus, but clearly he wasn't going to just stand by as a neutral observer of the passing scene. There was clearly an implication that he was going to do a lot more.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It sounds like --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And now he is saying --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- he has a red-line rap on him, and he wants to get rid of the red-line rap.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's exactly right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he'll say anything he has to say to do it --

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- instead of living by what he said originally, which is what Rumsfeld said.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That has been the general reaction to it, exactly that. There was a kind of feeling -- he really said red line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Now he's saying, well, I didn't really mean red line. It's the world's red line.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's an international red line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's not my conscience to --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's not me, right.

MS. CLIFT: He's trying to depersonalize it, that it isn't only his red line that's been crossed, that this is something that should outrage the entire world, that 189 nations signed the chemical weapons treaty. This has been a taboo that has been respected, you know, since World War I, and that it's not only Barack Obama and his personal credibility, which is on the line, but it's the U.S., it's the world community, whether we allow this kind of, again, moral obscenity to go unchallenged.

So if you want to keep picking apart his language, you can. But he's standing up there now.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's the one that's picking apart his own language --

MS. CLIFT: Well, he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- two years ago and today, and working out this resolution.

MS. CLIFT: He is following up on it. He is a president who is now standing up, trying to get support against two parties that are very reluctant. So, I mean, he's not backing away.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why isn't he successful in what he is saying about the seriousness of this issue for the American people?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, first of all, because he spent two years using the United Nations Security Council for diplomatic cover, not to do anything in Syria, because he needed to win a second term in the White House. And the way to do that was to run again as an antiwar president.

So for him now to say we're not going to the United Nations, we're going to strike Syria, I think has shocked a lot of people, including the Iranians and the Israelis. Everybody's looking at this and saying what is the U.S. -- where is Obama coming from on this?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the people in the State Department, the dedicated striped-pants set, what are they saying?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, I think what they're saying is that Hillary Clinton was on board with the Obama approach of going to the United Nations Security Council and playing it out with the Russians. And now we have a very different player in the secretary of state, who is interested in pushing forward with a policy that's a lot more aligned with John McCain, Lindsey Graham --

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. TAYLOR: -- and the more aggressive --

MS. CLIFT: -- and you also have those --

MR. TAYLOR: -- conservative approach.

MS. CLIFT: You also have those pictures of those kids being gassed.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's right.

MS. CLIFT: And you have, you know, flying into the sky. Now you have the humanitarian hawks, and they're all throughout this administration.

This president is an antiwar president. He is reluctant about this. He didn't want to get involved in Syria. He still doesn't want to get involved in Syria, and he's trying to wall this off.

MS. FERRECHIO: He's trying to have it both ways, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: He's trying to --

MS. FERRECHIO: That's right. He is an antiwar president. He doesn't want --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's --

MS. CLIFT: He's calling for a limited engagement, military engagement, much like we did in Kosovo and Bosnia, not an extended war. And it worked in those two places. Of course there's some risk, but it may work here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: "Obamacare" Showdown.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) I have agreed to give this talk today because I'm still amazed at how much misunderstanding there is about the current system of health care, how it works, how it compares with what other people in other countries pay for health care and what kind of results they get and what changes are actually occurring now and are going to occur in the future.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Former President Bill Clinton has been given a nickname by President Obama. He has been dubbed the, quote-unquote, secretary of explaining stuff. This week the new secretary set about explaining big stuff, namely "Obamacare," also called the Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress in 2010.

Now, three years later, the hour is nigh, October 1st, three weeks away. And there's a big White House PR push to educate the American people about the law. Polls show that they don't know enough about what's what. Besides Mr. Clinton, the White House is enlisting U.S. government officials, plus DJs, librarians, insurance companies, even celebrities, to help spread the word.

On October 1, people who do not have health insurance must buy it. They can enroll for health insurance by examining health care exchanges, a kind of health insurance mini-marketplace set up online in every state, where people can shop for a health insurance plan tailored to their needs, and then enroll it. That's key -- enroll in it.

If someone does not have health insurance by the year 2014 -- less than four months from now, by the way -- he or she will be penalized. How? By the IRS. The penalty for the first year is $95 per adult, or 1 percent of family income, whichever sum is greater. That fine goes up the longer one stays unrolled. By 2016, say, the 1 percent penalty could go up, as well as the $95 per adult, climbing as high as $695 per adult.

One main idea behind "Obamacare" is that if everyone pays in, it will keep insurance costs low for everyone. But the lack of young people, who currently do not have health insurance, may be reluctant to buy it, is a particular worry for the White House. The number of people under age 65 who do not now have health insurance is 57 million.

Question: President Obama waived the Affordable Care Act mandate for employers to provide insurance starting in January. He waived it. Why don't the White House also waive the individual mandate now taking effect?

MS. FERRECHIO: Because the entire --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You get that grammar?

MS. FERRECHIO: Yeah.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "Why don't the White House," meaning those at the White House.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, if you don't have the individual mandate, the entire law will fall apart, because it's based upon everybody, as you said, enrolling, because you can't insure the uninsured unless those who are healthy are also insured, so that everybody can pay a reasonable rate, and that the insurance companies can survive because they're not just paying for people who are sick.

But the problem with this is that the next few months is going to be very critical to see whether or not these health care exchanges are set up properly state to state. We're hearing lots of rumors that things are not going very smoothly.

It's difficult to get an answer about how far along they are in getting this ready -- we're just a few weeks away -- and whether or not you can get young people to enroll if they only have to pay a $95 fine. In exchange, they would have to pay several hundred dollars a month in some instances for health insurance when they all feel healthy and like they don't need it. So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Guy, are you following this?

MS. FERRECHIO: -- there's all kinds of potential pitfalls here.

MR. TAYLOR: I think, though, the bigger issue that was touched on in the introduction there is how is it that the American people still don't understand this law that's been around for several years now? I can remember back in -- when it was called "Romneycare" originally, back in
Massachusetts, that that program also had difficulty being sold to a much more liberal population in Massachusetts.
Why has the Obama administration not put out a comic book or something that's on every coffee table across the country --

MS. CLIFT: Well, that's a very good --

MR. TAYLOR: -- that boils this down --

MS. CLIFT: That's a very good idea.

MR. TAYLOR: -- into a really simple -- well, I've actually had this conversation with Jonathan Gruber, who was an adviser on "Romneycare" at MIT and then was brought in to advise Obama on the Affordable Care Act before it was passed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was the upshot --

MR. TAYLOR: And he said it was a good idea. But where is it?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was the upshot in Massachusetts on "Romneycare"?

MS. CLIFT: It's working well.

MR. TAYLOR: I think that they had troubles --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Getting it lofted.

MR. TAYLOR: -- with hospitals suing insurance companies and
what not. But over time the program has paid for itself, and it's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If we do that on a national --

MR. TAYLOR: -- (inaudible).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that the way we have to go on the national level?

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. But President Clinton's message --

MR. TAYLOR: It's very popular among the middle class in Massachusetts.

MS. CLIFT: President Clinton spoke from Little Rock, Arkansas. His speech was live streamed. He spoke for the better part of an hour. But he really wasn't talking to ordinary people and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meaning what?

MS. CLIFT: He was talking to the Republican politicians who are trying to sabotage this law in the various states. The law includes a job for people called navigators to help people enroll. In some states they're trying to license those navigators to make the job difficult.

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

MS. CLIFT: And his point was that if you don't like the law, fine, but it's here to stay. And if you're an elected official, you take an oath to follow the law. And you should try to fix what's wrong with this law -- and there are some problems -- instead of trying to sabotage it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: That the president's message.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you familiar with this Republican sabotage rap that she's talking about?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I'm not surprised by it. Let me put it this way. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean Republicans are capable of it?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Only the --

MS. CLIFT: It's in 21 states.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- people with the best thoughts and the best good will on the Republican side are prepared to try and sabotage it. But there is a real issue that Clinton points out. We have -- only 87 percent of our people are coverage, roughly, and 100 percent of others. But it takes up 18 percent of our GDP and only 12 percent in the other countries.

We have the most expensive health care with the least coverage of any major country. Something has to be done about it. It's going to break the bank in virtually every state and in this country.

MS. FERRECHIO: Well, the problem --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And that's what he's trying to deal with.

MS. FERRECHIO: The problem with the health care law -- and this may be just the practical sense of whether it can actually survive -- is that, even for people with the lowest level of coverage, the bronze coverage, they're still paying several hundred a month in some states --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MS. FERRECHIO: -- for the coverage, but their deductible and what they end up paying overall for health care is still going to be pretty astronomical.

(Cross talk.)

MS. FERRECHIO: But we're not doing a lot --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This is why you have --

MS. FERRECHIO: But we're not --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- a huge amount of part-time employment, because people in part-time employment do not have the obligation of getting involved in the health care program.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But is the law itself extremely complicated? I believe it was one time said that all of the packages together of the law are about six feet high.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that correct?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. I don't know if it's six feet, but it's incomprehensible --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, if you were --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- literally incomprehensible.

MS. CLIFT: It's not incomprehensible.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If you were younger, what would you do? You'd pay the fine, $250? Is that the fine?

MS. FERRECHIO: It's $95.

MS. CLIFT: No, the fine is $95. It's not --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ninety-five dollars just to not have to go through this?

MS. CLIFT: Young people --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: A lot of people are doing just that.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. CLIFT: I don't think $95 is that much money. Young people are buying car insurance. They know they have to have that. And every young person is a blink of an eye away from a major illness or an accident.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MS. CLIFT: And, you know, and then what? Do we charge them when they hit the emergency room?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have to say --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Pay the 95 bucks and move on.

Issue Three: When I Am 64.

DIANA NYAD (world-record swimmer): (From videotape.) All my life -- I don't know where it came from -- but I've believed in dreaming big. I just -- it doesn't satisfy me to have small dreams. And I can't tell you what a big, big dream this is out here.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It was an astonishing feat. Diana Nyad on Monday reached shore at Key West, Florida after -- get this -- swimming 103 miles from Cuba. The staggering journey took 53 hours. Nyad had a team to keep her on course, guide her to Florida. She swam alone through shark-infested waters without an anti-shark cage. She swam through swarms of jellyfish that stung her face, even though she wore a special mask. And she swam at times through rough waters that made her swallow seawater, causing her to repeatedly retch.

To make it all the more amazing is Ms. Nyad's age. She is 64 years old.

Question: There's a lesson here for all of us. What's the lesson?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The lesson is if you have a dream, keep working at it. She had this dream since -- this is the fifth time that she tried this. It's the most extraordinary story of physical -- not only physical achievement, but mental determination and strength. It's absolutely miraculous.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's part of the story.

MS. CLIFT: Well, in the previous segment we talked about young people feeling invincible. Well, I guess if you're 64 you can feel invincible too. I mean, it's extraordinary. That's 101 miles, not 101 laps. I can't even get across the pool width-wise a couple of times. It's just such extraordinary willpower.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the --

MS. FERRECHIO: It's not just willpower. I think the lesson here too is I think, as we get older, a lot of us sort of retreat from physical activity. And it should be the opposite. As we get older, we should be doing more to stay physically fit. This woman was obviously staying fit and swimming and exercising.

I certainly have -- I have an aunt in her 70s now who bikes, you know, 25 miles every week. That's -- we can do it if we just don't give up and think we're getting old; we should all just, you know, shrivel up and not be lifting weights and going to the gym.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's a bigger point here. What's the bigger point?

MR. TAYLOR: Cuba is so close that you can swim it.

MS. FERRECHIO: (Laughs.) That's right.

MR. TAYLOR: How is it that, after all these years, we're still so far apart geopolitically?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is that the case? I thought we were going to -- they are now going to be able to trade exports with the United States.

(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Neither of the Castros -- neither of the Castros can swim. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll tell you why the state of affairs is as it is, because your generation is older than the generation coming along, say, in their teens, late teens, even early 20s. They don't know anything about Cuba. They don't know the history of it. They don't know anything about the Castros.

MR. TAYLOR: Well, unless they're personally involved through their family, they don't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we have the presidential aspirant down in Florida, and he (reveals ?) and talks about Cuba. Who am I talking about?

MS. CLIFT: Marco Rubio.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Marco Rubio.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Marco Rubio.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That's true too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The other -- what is really notable about this is this is the fifth time that she tried, and five is the charm. Do you understand?

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So any other digits you've been working with, whether it's out in Vegas or wherever -- marriage -- it could be --

MR. TAYLOR: How many times have leaders in Washington seriously tried to thaw relations with Havana?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know what the interim was between her last effort and this effort?

MR. TAYLOR: A few months, wasn't it?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A few months? No, no, no, no, no.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Four years, I think.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many years?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Four years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many years?

MS. FERRECHIO: She didn't try it in a while.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think it was four years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thirty years.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: She hasn't done it -- no, no.

MS. CLIFT: No, it's not 30 years. She tried it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She was retired from distance swimming for 30 years before her comeback. I have the facts right here.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you've made --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thirty years.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but I remember her fairly recently attempting this and giving up partway along the way. And I thought that would be the last we'd hear of her. So this kind of came up out of the blue.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She retired from distance swimming, so that gives you a little cushion in there for her --

MS. FERRECHIO: In her 30s.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- reassertion of her interest in performance in distance swimming.

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But that -- the interim was 30 years. What does that tell you?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It tells you that distance swimming --

MS. CLIFT: It tells you she's Rip Van Winkle on top of everything else.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- is not exactly a popular sport.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just because you're out of the game doesn't mean that you can never get back in. That's what it means.

Predictions. Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Part-time employment is going to grow from 25 percent of the workforce to close to 50 percent of the workforce, in part because of the problems of health care obligations.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it all bad?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not all bad, but that's terrible, because the average compensation for part-time --

MS. CLIFT: Thanks to tax --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Thanks to tax subsidies under "Obamacare," insurance premiums will be affordable even for young, healthy people.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Susan.

MS. FERRECHIO: Syrian resolution does not pass Congress.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Guy.

MR. TAYLOR: Syrian resolution does not pass, but Obama goes forward with the strike anyway.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Australia's election this coming week for prime minister, the incumbent, Labor Party's Kevin Rudd, will be defeated in a major upset by the conservative candidate, Tony Abbott.

Don't forget you can watch the McLaughlin Group on the Web at any time, day or night -- McLaughlin.com.

Bye-bye.

(c) 2013 Federal News Service

END